Élucide: part four
The women moved, after dinner, to the screened porch; following, Sarah came no further than the head of the steps. She waited here, effaced until called on, standing where the bannister met the wall.
“Look how the clouds are coming in.”
Mrs. Horace ignored the gestured-to settee, and crossed to the window.
“Fern, your Mr. Ebrach takes some getting to know. I haven’t made up my mind about him.” This, with her eyes on the weather. Then, twisting her shoulders round, she tilted her head and spoke in an audible whisper. Mother bent as though to hear.
Now, aloud: “You had better have Sarah fetch Sanderson. I’d wash away, If I had more lemonade, anyhow.” Reaching for Mother’s elbow and leading her aside, Mrs. Horace said another thing, her voice too low this time for Élucide to make out.
Sanderson was the Horaces’ general man, who came out mornings from his bedroom on the back side of their house, coaled the stoves and lit the fires, swept the front porch and walk, and tinkered through the day at odd jobs round the place, as the mood took him, and the season demanded. Wherever in the county need was reported, by such outriders of the faith as Cleome Towson, Dr. and Mrs. Horace paid their calls, upon the unredeemed alcoholic and the isolated bereaved. There was no stopping the mission: not for deluge, blizzard, shotgun…or reputation. Sanderson thus served the Horaces also as coachman and protector.
He was a connection, bearing the resemblance of a younger brother, to the Gremots’ Sanderson. Both men were known by their surname, their Christian names property only of their clan and the tax man. The Sanderson brothers (if they were brothers) were not on terms with each other. The Horaces’ Sanderson had never been seen to lift a friendly hand (and the Horaces would dislike it if he had) when passing his relative’s compound at the head of River Road. The Gremots’ Sanderson could not be kept from leaving his hillside perch, descending the hand-hewn steps that split the rock face…then, as he passed near the ’stead, falling into company with Lawrence and Richard; his excuse for venturing to the summit, that Richard had business with Papa, and that he was Richard’s friend. On such pretexts Sanderson often could be found loitering in the Gremots’ garden.
“Don’t speak to Sanderson.”
(2017, Stephanie Foster)