Chapter 17: Rough Ride
The drought wore on. Weeks turned to a month and still there was no rain. Wesley fought hard to keep our plot of land alive, as much as he could at any rate. We weren't without options or means but he was determined to ride this out. As we were faring better than many others, I agreed to stay for now. I dug into our stores and had to get a little creative occasionally with dinner depending on what was available but the children didn't notice or mind.
"The rain will come Lizzie." Wesley told me every night after all but little Alex had gone to bed.
"It will." I replied with less certainty. I had no doubt that the rain would return eventually and that the drought would end but I wasn't sure we'd be able to stay here until then.
We had the means to pack up and move, even start over if needed. Highland Park was thriving in England and being rented to a small family. The excess rent was building into a tidy little nest egg along with the rest of the inheritance from my father's death. Nevertheless, Sheardin was home and in Sheardin we stayed. And it wasn't all bad...
But the drought wasn't the only thing threatening our small town. One day while I was in town, I saw my nephew Alan looking distraught. "Alan?" I called to him from across the street. "What's the matter?"
"Oh Aunt Lizzie!" he said rushing into my arms. He'd grown into a handsome young teenager and was very tender. he adored his three little sisters.
"What is it Alan?" I asked stroking his hair.
"It's Pa!" Alan cried. I knew he'd grown very close to John Garrett, his step-father, over the years. "He's sick Aunt! Very sick!"
"With what? Have you fetched the doctor?" I asked looking concerned.
"Ma says he'll be fine and the doc has been by to see him this morning. But I've never seen someone so sick Aunt!" he said distressed.
"Well if your mother and the doctor aren't too concerned, I imagine he'll be alright Alan." I said giving him another comforting hug. "But I want you to come tell me how he is, alright?"
He nodded, still looking distressed.
"Come, I'll take you home." I said squeezing his hand.
A couple days later we had a town meeting at the church. Of course not everyone was there, so many had left because of the drought and according to Tessa, John Garrett wasn't the only one sick.
Doctor Rheyer addressed us first. "There is a sickness here, and it's catchin'. I've seen several patients this week alone. In general, recovery is probable but it's a rough ride. So if anyone in your family starts getting sick, keep them away from others as much as possible, 'specially young children and elder folk. Call for me and I will come as soon as I can but treat the fevers and try to keep your ill comfortable."
The Reverend stood up. "The school will remain closed for the time being so not to spread it amongst the children." he said looking sad. "Little Helen Gallagher passed away last night from this so please remember her family in your prayers." We just gotten a new school teacher and the girls had been eager to go back and be with their friend.
On the way home the girls peppered us with questions about the illness, school being closed, Helen, and so on. We answered what we could and deferred what we couldn't. I got busy with dinner while the girls worked on letters and reading. Wesley went out to tend to the few animals we had left.
We were half way through dinner when Sarah started coughing. I thought she had swallowed her dinner wrong but her racking coughs continued. I exchanged a concerned look with Wesley as he patted her on the back.
Before she stopped coughing, Rachel started coughing as well. I laid my hand gently on her forehead and had to struggle to not look panicked. She had a high fever. Wesley felt Sarah's head and looked at me grimly as he nodded.
We let them finish their dinners and then hurried them up to bed and away from their young siblings. I read them several stories and after they drifted to sleep in their beds, I drifted into a fitful sleep in the chair. Wesley slipped out of the house to consult with the doctor.