MoboReader > Short stories > Deny Thyself

   Chapter 5 NO.5

Deny Thyself By LadyRosabella Characters: 15073

Updated: 2017-12-20 15:40

"Easy, now." Callie smoothed hair away from Evlyn's face. "How are you feeling, honey?"

Evlyn's eyes slowly focused on Callie's face. "Where am I?" She asked trying to work moisture back into her mouth.

"You're in the wagon, dear. You've been unconscious for a little while. How do you feel?"

Evlyn attempted a shrug. "Kind of woozy. How long have I been out?"

"Two days. You've been in and out." Callie patted Evlyn's shoulder. "Do you remember anything?"

"I remember Benjamin saying that he was going to pull the nail out, but nothing past that." Evlyn shrugged. "My foot doesn't really hurt though."

Callie laughed. "I'm not surprised. Between Linda Gurtslinger and me, we've been treating that foot like royalty!"

Evlyn frowned. "I'm sorry I've caused so much trouble. I haven't been pulling my weight around here."

"Well you certainly can't pull anything very well with only one foot. Besides, Benjamin has confined you to strict bed rest until he is certain the danger is past."

"Danger? All I did was step on a nail."

"According to Benjamin, he's seen people die from infections caused by wounds similar to yours. And you, young lady, have three nail wounds in that foot not one."

"Three nails? In one foot?"

"Good, you do listen." Callie teased. "Anyways, you're not permitted outside this wagon until Benjamin okays it." Callie stood up and began to rummage around in the wagon. "Here's some food, you must be famished."

"Thanks." Evlyn said as she shifted so she could sit up. She accepted the plate holding a biscuit and some beef jerky. "How long does he figure it will be?" She asked as she chewed a piece of jerky until it was tender.

Callie shrugged. "He said you'll be out of immediate danger in eight days, but you'll still be in danger for a while after that. We've been cleaning it and changing the bandages three to four times daily. So far, Benjamin says everything looks good."

"Well that's a relief." Evlyn said as she bit into the biscuit. "What is the danger that he speaks of?"

Callie bit her lip. "Mrs. Gurtslinger will be here soon for her shift." She said trying to change the subject.

"Callie. What did Benjamin say?" Evlyn set the biscuit aside and focused fully on Callie's expressive face.

"He said the danger is death at worse, disability at least. But that's only if you get the infection he's worried about. We're doing everything exactly as he says to prevent that."

"Death?" She shifted the pillow behind her back. "I almost died?"

"Not yet. And not any time soon if we can help it." Callie took the plate from her friend. "We shouldn't have talked about this. You need to focus on getting better." She set the plate aside. "Here now, you lay down and rest."

Evlyn obediently laid back and allowed Callie to tuck a quilt around her. "Just rest now." She murmured in a soft soothing tone.

Evlyn opened her eyes quite a while later to find Mrs. Gurtslinger reading a book beside her.

"Good morning, dear." Mrs. Gurtslinger said setting her book aside. "Do you think you could manage some food?"

Evlyn nodded and pushed herself into a sitting position. "I'm surprised to find you here."

"Didn't Callie tell you we were taking shifts?" Mrs. Gurtslinger asked as she arranged a plate of food.

"She did." Evlyn said as she accepted the plate of food. "But I thought you were angry with me."

Mrs. Gurtslinger turned a look of surprise on her face. "Angry at you? Dear, whatever gave you that impression?"

"When Callie had me invite you to dinner you started yelling at me. I'm sorry if I assumed incorrectly, but I thought you were angry with me."

"Goodness! Dear, I know you're a little confused about life and what you want. I was trying to help you."

"I'm confused about life?" Evlyn asked. She was unaware that she had given that impression to other people.

"Well, you never told me so, but I was sure of it when I heard of your actions." Mrs. Gurtslinger patted Evlyn on the shoulder. "But it's going to be alright, dear. We will work this out and have you seeing the light in no time."

Evlyn frowned. "Seeing the light?"

"Yes." Mrs. Gurtslinger leaned forward and pressed a motherly kiss to Evlyn's forehead. "Dear, I know you had a bad family life with your father, but that is no reason to deprive your husband and children of what they need most. Namely, you."


"Evlyn, dear. When you find a good man, he is worth more than all the men and gold in the world. There is no need to keep searching for something better when something wonderful has already found you. Do you understand, dear?"

"I think I do." Evlyn nodded as understanding made itself clear. "I really do, Mrs. Gurtslinger." She reached over and patted the older lady's hand. "Thank you."

Mrs. Gurtslinger couldn't keep the joy she felt from radiating from her face. "Oh, honey, I'm so glad I could help. I really am fond of you."

Evlyn ate a bit more of the food before speaking again. Mrs. Gurtslinger had returned to her book with a satisfied smile on her face.

"Mrs. Gurtslinger, the rest of the women didn't treat me very nicely that same day when I asked their families to join us. Do you think they were angry at me for the same reason as you?"

Mrs. Gurtslinger nodded her face serious. "I'm afraid so, dear. Put your worries aside though. I promise I shall explain to them your recent thoughts and I'm sure they'll be alright with you then. Okay?"

"I guess so." Evlyn frowned down at her plate of cold beans. "I just can't understand why my trust issues with men would make all the women angry at me."

"Umm..." Mrs. Gurtslinger paused a moment before leaning forward to check Evlyn's forehead for fever. "Did you say trust issues, dear?"

"Yes. I know Peter McCain is fond of me, and I certainly like him too. But I didn't think my being hesitant to trust him would upset the whole train."

Mrs. Gurtslinger's eyes widened until they resembled full moons. "Peter McCain? Oh my. Oh my, my! Dear we have not been talking about the same things! Not at all!" She said wringing her hands.

Evlyn's brow wrinkled in confusion. "Are you sure? You gave me wonderful advice, telling me not to let my previous experience with family life interfere with the family life I could create. You said that when I find a good man I have nothing left to search for!"

"Dear! I wasn't talking about Peter McCain. I was referring to your husband and your four children."

"My what!" Evlyn sat up bolt straight.

Peter rode up beside Gurtslinger's horse. "Trail up ahead looks clean. There's some water a ways up. Might be a good place to stop for the night."

Tyrone Gurtslinger nodded. "We'll stop there then." He tilted his head at his friend. "You've been quiet lately."

"Nothing wrong with that." Peter replied, hoping that Gurtslinger wouldn't press it but at the same time knowing that he would.

"Nope, nothing wrong with it. If it's your nature. Quiet isn't yours." Gurtslinger leaned back in his saddle, stretching his muscles a bit. "What's up, son?"

"Nothing unusual." Peter was hoping that short uninformative answers would thwart Gurtslinger's interest. No such luck.

"This has something to do with the Riebe girl you liked, doesn't it?"

Peter turned toward his friend, feeling all of his anger and resentment start boiling up to the surface of his emotions. "Her friend, Rosa, just told me that Evlyn's married. Married! And she never even told me. Never even hinted at it!"

Peter held a hand up to keep Gurtslinger from speaking. "No. Wait, it gets better. She has four children! Four children and a husband! She abandoned them to work at a brothel in California! Can you believe that?" He knew he was raising his voice, and he should keep it down. But this was the great outdoors, what better place to vent your frustrations about the female species.

Gurtslinger frowned as he thought Peter's words through. "Peter." He finally spoke. "Abandonment and a brothel is a serious matter. I don't think I can be clean of conscious if I let her continue on this wagon train. After all, this train doesn't allow any old rift raft. We have moral standards."

"I know." Peter muttered. He hated himself for liking the girl in the first place. He should have known such an attraction only leads to trouble.

"Evlyn Riebe has two choices. She can either leave our train and find another way west. Or she can return to her husband and children."

Peter nodded. "I suppose." Silence followed Peter's words. When he looked up, he saw Gurtslinger looking at him. A certain look in his eye that could only mean trouble. Peter's eyes widened. "Oh, no! You let her on this train, Gurtslinger. It's your job to kick her off."

"Peter, I'm not suggesting that you tell her for my benefit. I think you need to tell her. If you're the one you kicks her off the train it will provide a bit of closure for you. Understand, boy?"

Peter glared at his friend. "You don't care about my closure. You just hate throwing people off your train. Especially women."

Gurtslinger nodded vigorously. "You got that right!" He agreed. "Will you talk to her, then?"

"I don't want to." Peter said.

"I know." Gurtslinger paused. "When will you talk to her?"

Peter sighed. "When we stop for the evening."

Gurtslinger smiled. "There's your courage, boy. Remember, only a small man is afraid of a woman."

Peter glared at the trail boss. "You are not building my confidence."

Gurtslinger laughed. "Sorry. Let me think. There's got to be a saying that fits your situation. Okay, I've got it. How about: "They can't hurt you unless you let them."

Peter shook his head. "That one makes me feel depressed."

"Okay. How about: "God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight."

"Nope, that one makes me think that I got in the way of the person God meant this assignment for." Peter sighed. "You're not going to find any words to give me courage, Gurtslinger. Just drop it."

"One more try, then I promise I'll quit."

"One more." Peter relented, knowing his friend wouldn't drop it until he had it out of his system.

Gurtslinger cleared his throat before speaking his final quote. "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Peter cocked a brow at his friend. "Really? That was your last choice?"

Gurtslinger shrugged. "If you wanted better words of wisdom you should've given me twenty-four hours to prepare."

Peter laughed as he shook his head. "Mrs. Gurtslinger must never find life boring with you."

Gurtslinger laughed. "Get along, boy! Haven't you got things to see to?"

Peter nodded. "Pray for me." Were his final words as he went to make sure none of the wagons was having trouble.

"Where did you ever get the notion that I was married?" Evlyn asked.

"Dear, all the women know. Why, Rosa herself told me that you were married with four children. She said that you left your family to work in a brothel in California."

Evlyn's eyes widened even more, if that were possible. "A what!" She leaned forward and clasped Mrs. Gurtslinger's hands between her own. "Oh Mrs. Gurtslinger, you didn't believe that of me! You couldn't!"

Mrs. Gurtslinger nodded, a mournful look on her face. "I'm afraid I did. Are you saying that it isn't true?"

"Mrs. Gurtslinger, I will swear before the almighty living God that I have never been married! Callie and Benjamin can back up my claim."

Mrs. Gurtslinger face broke into a smile as she leaned forward to kiss Evlyn's cheek. "Oh, Evlyn! I believe you! I am sorry that I ever doubted. I should have come to you the moment I heard the story."

Evlyn shook her head. "I wonder why Rosa would tell you such a tale. It's not like her to make up lies."

Mrs. Gurtslinger shrugged. "Could she have gotten confused? Perhaps you said something to give her the wrong impression."

Evlyn leaned back on her pillows. "I don't know. It upsets me too much to even think of it."

Mrs. Gurtslinger pulled the blanket up around Evlyn. "Now, now then. You rest and as soon as we stop for the night I will make sure everybody knows the truth."

"Thank you." Evlyn murmured letting her eyes drift closed. What would possess Rosa to say such things? Rosa had a very changeable personality, but to spread rumors about her best friend. It was ridiculous and unthinkable. Still, she must have done it. Mrs. Gurtslinger said that she did. Accustomed to the bumps and thumps of the covered wagon, Evlyn let sleep claim her. Mrs. Gurtslinger went back to her book, a maternal smile softening her age-wrinkled face.

Catching sight of Rosa, Callie quickened her pace. "Wait for me, Rosa!" She called, slightly breathless.

Rosa glanced over her shoulder, a tight smile on her face. "Callie. Should you be walking?"

Callie forced a laugh as she sidled up next to her friend. "I'm pregnant, not crippled." She whispered, careful that no passerby's could hear her comment.

Rosa shrugged. "If you insist." She conceded a bit testily. "I'm never had to deal with your kind before, so don't mind me if I'm ignorant."

Callie took a deep, slow breath before speaking. "Rumor has it that we'll be stopping at a river tonight. Will you help me wash the laundry?"

Rosa wrinkled her nose at the menial task but knew better then to voice his distaste at the task. "Of course. What good is a river if we can't wash something in it?" Despite herself, a bitter laugh accompanied her words.

Callie put her hand on Rosa's shoulder. "Rosa, " she said in her soft manner. "What's troubling you?"

"Nothing." Rosa said, exhaling noisily. She licked her lips then turned to face Callie. "Look, not everybody is as good and pure as you are, Miss Goody-Two Shoes."

"Rosa!" Callie gasped; hurt radiating from her pale features.

"I know, I know." Rosa interrupted, before Callie could say more. "I shouldn't have said it. But it's true Callie. You act perfect all the time. You never say or do the wrong thing. You never experience anger. Other people, real people aren't like that. They make mistakes, big ones. They have problems. Real problems, not your I don't know what to make for dinner' kind of problems.

The point is, Callie-." Rosa paused, turned away from Callie, and resumed walking.

"Rosa!" Callie called as she again caught up with Rosa.

Rosa turned to Callie; a tight, hooded expression covered her face. Whatever she had been about to say, she had thought better of and locked it up tight. "Forget it, Cal. Forget everything I said. Just go solve your dinner problem and forget you even saw me this afternoon."






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