The Scholar (Emerson Pass Historicals 3) - Page 82

This was all true, and I’d felt the same way many times. “Isn’t that a separate thing, though? Loving a man and committing to a marriage doesn’t mean we’re condoning the way the world is. We can still believe these things even during partnership with a good man who loves us.” Theo had said I would have a say in my own life. Why shouldn’t I believe him? He’d shown me only kindness and patience. “With the right man, we can enjoy a lot of freedom. Viktor seems like a man who would take you as you are.”

“I suppose I should be more open to the idea. Everyone seems to think so anyway.” Resting her chin on her knees, she looked over at me. “What do you think I should do?”

“I think you should do whatever you wish. However, if you decide you don’t want to marry, then you must let Viktor go. He deserves to be happy with Emma or whomever if you don’t want him.”

She peered out at the water. “I know you’re right. I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to do either one.”

“You are. Trust me.”


Cymbeline and I were still wet from a second swim when we walked in through the gate to the lawn. Our happy mood changed the moment we stepped onto the grass. At the bottom of the back porch stairs, Quinn knelt over my mother, who lay crumpled on the grass. It took me a moment to understand. Mother wasn’t moving. Quinn’s shoulders were shaking. I let out a cry from somewhere deep inside and began to run.

I fell on my knees next to Mother. Her eyes were closed. She looked peaceful.

“Louisa, I’m sorry,” Quinn said. “I found her this way. She’s not breathing.”

“She’s gone,” I said numbly as I picked up Mother’s hand and brought it to my face. She was already cold. How long had she been here while I was down at the creek having fun? “What happened to her?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Quinn said. “I’ve been out all morning, and when I came out to the porch to see where you all were, I found her.”

“We were down at the creek,” Cymbeline said.

A shadow came over us. I looked up to see Alexander. He dropped to his knees next to me. I began to sob. “I wanted to say goodbye this time,” I mumbled through my tears. Why was it like this again? My parent gone without warning.

Quinn put her arms around me. “I’m sorry, Louisa.” I collapsed against her and let her hold me as more tears came.

The next hours went by in a blur. Dr. Neal arrived at some point to examine Mother. We all knew it was too late to do anything. As if I were watching a play, I heard him say that Mother’s heart must have simply stopped. Then the undertaker arrived and took Mother away. Where was Theo? I’d asked Dr. Neal, and he’d said he was out in the country somewhere helping a sick family. No phone, he said, but he promised to send him home the moment Theo returned to the office.

I went back to the cottage and lay down on the bed. My dress was still damp from our impromptu swim. How could I have been having fun while Mother was dying? Thinking only of myself. I was a selfish, selfish girl.

What was I even doing here? Pretending to be part of the Barnes family as if I belonged? I was a nobody without a family, just as I’d been before the Linds took me in. Always at the mercy of people’s charity. Theo had offered to marry me out of pity. I could see that now. His kind heart couldn’t stand the thought of Mother and me being homeless and stricken with poverty. I couldn’t let him do it. Not now that Mother was dead. I would find my own way. I had to leave. Get out of here and run away. Maybe to Denver where I could start over where no one knew me.

But what would I do? I had no money and no skills. I’d had to beg before when I was a child. I could do it again if I had to. Anything would be better than relying on Theo’s pity.

An image of Flynn and Shannon as they’d stood together in the kitchen flashed through my mind. I’d been kidding myself thinking Theo and I would ever be like them. Shannon Cassidy was vivacious and pretty and competent. I was worthless.

Run, mouse, run.

Pa’s voice echoed through my mind. He’d always told me how pathetic I was and that I’d never make it without him. I’d wanted him to be wrong, but if the Linds hadn’t taken me in, I would have died.

You were a child. Incapable of taking care of yourself.

But wasn’t I still this way? Without Theo I would be out in the cold, dark world alone. The Linds were no longer here to rescue me. Taking me in had caused them both to die younger than they should. I’d caused them too much trouble and money. They were dead because of me. I would not ruin the best man I’d ever known. Not Theo.

I got up and wandered around the house, picking up objects and setting them back down again, wondering what to do next. Finally, I decided. I went to the closet and pulled out my suitcase.



* * *

I was in great spirits by the time I returned to the office that afternoon from my rounds out in the countryside. The moment I entered the lobby, however, I could see something was wrong.

Dr. Neal, his hair every which way, came out of his office. “Mrs. Lind passed away this afternoon.”

No. No, it couldn’t be. Not this, not now, when Louisa and I were making progress. She would be devastated. I cursed under my breath, not loud enough for Nurse Kelley to hear, who hovered near her desk.

Tags: Tess Thompson Emerson Pass Historicals Historical
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