The House of Everard: part one
The House of Everard
Micah, lost to his parents in 1862. Dead fourteen years…nearly as many years now, as he had lived. Killed at a place called Middle Creek. Though his father did not believe the truth had ever been told. But to whom would he have written, and to what place would he have ridden? So as to have learned—
That men are stupid, that they will conceal to no purpose what is readily intuited. Micah was dead. His parents were told that this was so. Colonel Williams, under whom Micah had served, avowed it. And it was his sad duty; he felt a deep regret…
Verbena was an impractical woman, who believed in sprites.
They’d had no body to bury. Richard Everard rested in a stand of pigweed, here at Sanderson’s father’s house, his back against a soft old plank broken in two, slanted over tumbling bricks that once had supported the steps.
An easy chair for a man broken in two. He watched Gremot’s wagon come up, saw it pass by. He even lifted a hand to Ziegler. They were not enemies, he and Ziegler. At Cookesville’s fringe the houses grew poorer, smaller; they merged deeper into an entangled mutuality with poke and poison ivy. Next to the derelict ruin where Richard loitered, was a yellow-painted shanty, leveled against the hill, standing on posts of differing lengths. He heard the door at the back of Sanderson’s place swing on its hinges.
“You oughta done flagged down Ziegler. Seen him go by just now.”
“Mr. Sanderson, my sons will find me along the road.”
They would find him keeled over, Richard thought, find themselves mercifully unburdened. And it was what he’d meant. As he labored, falling to his knees and rolling himself upright, his heels kicking clouds from a termite hill and finding purchase at last on the side of a bleached stump, he met Sanderson’s eyes. Sanderson looked square at this circumstance of Richard’s—circumstance was all it was, this inability to stand on his own feet—his face expressionless, the butt of his musket burrowed in the dirt. He knew Richard’s mind. That was why, although he bore a sympathy for the man W. A. Gremot employed as overseer, he did not want Richard on his property.
Richard Everard walked under a torturing sun, and saw thunderclouds piling above the summit of Gremot’s hill. Richard and Lawrence might not come along today. The storm might break, long before their father had plodded home. And if he missed Ebrach, he would not mind very much. He was not certain he could be civil to Ebrach.
Nine years ago Gremot had said to him, “I count nothing against your wages for the use of the stead. Give you a place to get your family settled in. And you can do as you like, as far as repairs and additions.”
He’d seen a hope of redeeming himself for the sake of his sons. Above all things, he had not meant to enslave them. A sober man, expiating his sins, Richard had given all his daylight hours to Gremot. He hadn’t known the bargain he was striking. The old home place of the Sanderson clan, nothing to do with Gremot, other than that he now owned it, had needed knocking from its foundation…
The House of Everard
(2017, Stephanie Foster)