Chapter 8 Suspicions
Dulcina must have been very persuasive in her message to Peter, for I did not see him at all that day. I was more embarrassed than ever before, and I did not go back home till every trace of sunlight was gone.
My parents were still awake, and I dutifully apologized to my father. He responded in kind, though I could still see the anxiety and hurt in his eyes. In hopes of living without fear of another argument, I made a suggestion. “I believe this is just a topic we will continue to disagree on. Let’s not discuss it unless absolutely necessary.”
He hesitated before answering. “Agreed.”
“Good…I am sorry for seeking out the traders, and for saying those things today.” I tried to make it sound like I meant it.
“You are wrong in many ways, but in one you are right. I am afraid, not of the stories, but of what is behind them.”
I opened my mouth with the words on my tongue. Are not the traders behind the stories, or the tricksters who call themselves sorcerers? It is probably both. But I sealed my lips before they could escape. Instead, I bade my parents a goodnight and went to bed.
The next morning, I nervously picked up the yoke and walked outside. I did not see Peter outside our cottage, and he was still not there when I ladled the milk into one of the elders’ pints. Just when I lost hope, I felt a soft tap on my arm and the yoke being removed from my shoulders. “I will carry it today, if you do not mind.” Peter stated, smiling. “You have been working hard this week.”
“I thought I already had a day off, and you do not have to do this.”
“I want to.”
I grinned slightly as we continued to the next cottage. “Grammarcy, I thought you were not coming.”
“I think a few of us slept in this morning.”
“All right, my father and I. We stayed up late last night.”
When he did not explain further, I shrugged and repeated, “Grammarcy.”
“You are welcome.” The smile slid off his face. “I was worried when I did not see you there yesterday. Dulcina hinted that you might have been in trouble. If I caused…”
“It was not your fault, Peter. It was mine, and I should not have done it. My father was right…in that way.” I shrugged. “Our differences are becoming more relevant though.”
“I am sorry.”
I sighed as we turned towards the large wooden door of Allistar’s home. “Foolish, that is what I am. First I willingly disobey, and I cause trouble…”
“Maggie,” He interrupted. “We all have flaws, and I think you are being a little hard on yourself.”
“You have no idea.” I shook my head.
“I have done things I am not very proud of either, but that does not mean I cannot stand up and try again. We recognize what we did as wrong…we learn not to do it again, and we move on. We have nothing to fear Maggie, not even ourselves. We put our focus on Adonay, on what He has for us.”
“I wish you could tell that to my father. He…” I was interrupted when the door swung open. Dulcina came bounding out sloppily dressed, her hair in a frizzy mess, and eyes bright with excitement. My jaw must have dropped to the ground when she ran past us with a slight, “Hello!”
“Where are you going?” I cried out.
“The traders, before they leave! I need more of that…” Her voice faded as she disappeared around the corner.
“She seems excited.” Peter observed.
“Enough to not even curl her hair? Impossible!” I laughed, sticking the image of her new, undignified characteristics in my mind. “Please do not think ill of me, but I want to tease her about this later.” He looked at me in a reproachable manner. “Maybe not. I will laugh about it though.”
“She did look funny.” He agreed. He gestured towards Allistar, who was standing at the doorframe looking up and down the street.
“We have your milk.” I told him as we approached.
“Grammarcy.” He mumbled as he held out his pint. After I finished ladling the usual amount, he closed the door without another word.
As we continued on, I asked Peter if he would tell me a little more about the Book of Adonay. “You already told me about the Exodus, but where did they go after that?”
He smiled, and his eyes twinkled slightly. It was becoming our favorite topic, and I think he was amazed by how much I asked. It delighted him.
I listened quietly as he continued the story of an entire race of people who were delivered from slavery. My ears prickled slightly when he mentioned that it was during that time that Adonay gave His law. “What was in the law?” I asked.
“Many things, the most well-known are the first ten.”
“What are they?”
He opened his mouth, but the words seemed to lodge in his throat. “I know them, just give me a moment to remember.” He snapped his fingers. “Curse that day we left…wait…I remember. The first is that we worship no one but Adonay.”
“Easy enough, I think.” I smiled.
“We do not make idols.”
“We do not misuse His name.” At this point another person, one of the young men of our village, went running past us. Peter watched him for a moment before he continued. “We remember the Sabbath Day.”
“What day is that?”
“Uh…the seventh I believe.”
“How do we remember it?”
“It is supposed to be a day of rest…but I am unsure…” We came to the next cottage. Somewhere in my mind, I registered that this was the last one for the day. When we left, I urged him to tell me about the rest. “Honor your mother and father.”
My insides gave a twinge of discomfort. “Uh huh, right…what is the next one?”
“Err…one of them was to not steal.”
“MAGGIE!” My mother’s voice pierced the air.
Not again. Those thoughts must have been very visible on my face, for Peter stated in a slightly stern manner. “I am sure they do it for your own good.”
“Of course, Peter.” I said rather sarcastically.
“They are your parents.”
“I am sure of that too.” Despite himself, he smiled. I shrugged. “I do love them, but there are times when…I do not understand them.”
He nodded. “There is something my father once told me.”
“What was that?”
He opened his mouth, but he was interrupted by another, “MAGGIE!”
“Tell you what.” Peter said quickly as he gave me the empty buckets. “Come by my cottage this evening. You can learn far more from him than from me, and I want them to know you better.”
“I would be delighted.” I reached up and kissed him. “Grammarcy, Peter, for everything.”
He touched my cheek. “Grammarcy…go…quickly.”
I had only taken a few steps when my father came running towards me. “Father!” I cried. “What are you doing away from the fields?”
He hesitated, glanced at Peter, and looked at me again. “Nothing, just checking.”
“It is hardly the first time I have been late.” I stated, almost laughing. “Whatever is the matter?”
“Nothing!” He snapped. “That is what you, and the others say. That is what everybody says before the storm comes.” He paused. “Do you think anything is wrong, Peter?”
“I would hope not…but if there are signs they should not be ignored.”
“If there are signs?” He growled. “I see signs, but does anybody else? No.” Without another word he walked away.
I shook my head. “The traders always make him rather jumpy. I better go back home before my mother runs out as well.” I expected Peter to agree with me, but when he kept silent I turned to face him. His eyebrows were drawn together, and a look of confusion of uncertainty covered his face. He could have been in the midst of solving a disturbing murder mystery. “Peter?”
“What?” He started.
I gazed at him for some time. “Am I missing something? Is there more to this than I realize?”
It was a few moments before he answered, but he erased his mysterious countenance. “Not that I know of…it…should be impossible. We are too far away.” He shrugged. “I will see you this evening?” I nodded, and we turned our separate ways
I was given a rather long lecture from my mother about not coming when called when I came inside and placed the yoke in the corner. I apologized and grabbed an apron to help her with cooking. Sometime later, she asked me to fetch spices from around the back. I grabbed the wicker basket and swiftly trotted out the door and around the back. “Basil, parsley, thyme.” I muttered as I examined our small plot of ground. A few yards away was the border between the forest where the traders packed and the fields where our farmers worked. The sounds of grunts, groans, complaints, and pick axes filled the air.
As I reached down and plucked a number of leaves of parsley, a number of excited voices tickled my ears. A few of the farmers had stopped their work and were watching Allistar, who was pointing furiously towards the traders’ camp. I caught sight of my father marching towards the group, anticipation as visible as the nose on his face.
I moaned as temptation reared its ugly head. What would I give to hear what they were talking about? Temporary peace is what I would give. I shoved the curiosity to the back of my mind. Let them have their arguments. I have had enough to last a while. I plucked a few more leaves, then searched for the basil.
Just as I reached for the light, green leaves, another form caught my eyes. Frederick walked rather briskly toward the group. As he went past our cottage, he glanced in my direction. “Afternoon, Maggie.” He said with a slight nod.
“Afternoon, Frederick.” I was not sure if he heard me.
“What is going on?” He called out to the crowd.
Allistar yelled back at him, but I could not understand what he said. I was pretty sure I heard “Dulcina” and “traders” in the jumble of words.
There was a loud rumble that came from the woods. The first wagon was leaving, its wheels raising the dust of the road. Its white canvas disappeared among the trees, soon to travel over the Betach Mountains. With each passing moment, another wagon followed suit. Before long, the only sign of the train was the distant dust and the fading rumble.
Allistar and many of the others watched the proceedings with scowls on their faces. Frederick had the same anxious look as my father. He glanced towards me, and then whispered to my him. Father glared at him, and shook his head. As the farmers began returning to their work, and as Frederick started walking back to his section, my father followed him. When they passed the cottage, I heard my father state accusingly. “You know something about this! I know you do.”
It took me a few minutes to realize I was still hunched over with my hands on the basil. Waking myself from the trance, I grabbed the basil, retrieved the thyme, and ran inside while trying to suppress my ravenous curiosity.
“What took you so long?” Mother asked.
I shrugged. “I was distracted. The traders left, and Allistar was rather excited about something.”
“I do not know, and I did not want to make Father upset by eavesdropping on him.”
“He was in the excitement.”
“Listening and talking about it is a better description.” I pulled out one of knives and began chopping. I wonder if this has anything to do with Dulcina’s strange behavior this morning.
The rest of the day was uneventful. I continued to help Mother with luncheon preparation until Father came in. I had hoped that he would tell me what all the fuss was about, but he seemed determined to not bring it up. He ate quickly, and left the house without saying more than a few words. After that, Mother and I baked more bread, tried to sweep the endless dirt out of the house, and prepared dinner. Throughout that time my mind was making up countless reasons for the Allistar’s behaviors. Maybe one of the traders cheated him? That was probable. Perhaps one of them stole from him? Possible, or they stole from Dulcina. The more I thought, the more inclusive of Dulcina they were. The last one was the most horrible. Dulcina had eloped with the traders and was now on her way to who knows where. (I am ashamed to say I actually hoped it was true.)
When Father finally came in, I was determined to find out what happened. When we sat around the table, I tried hinting towards it by saying, “What was Allistar talking about?” When he looked at me and cocked his eyebrow, I added, “I was out gathering spices, and I noticed he seemed excited.”
“Just something about his daughter. Apparently she over spent their funds.”
“Oh.” To my disappointment, he did not explain further. “What did she buy?”
“The sleeping draughts, not that it is any of your business.” He dipped his spoon into porridge and shoved it into his mouth.
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, I brought up another topic. “Peter has invited me to visit his family this evening.”
“Oh.” No emotion touched his voice.
“I plan to, so it may be a little while before I come home.”
“A few hours after sunset, no more.”
There was another few moments of silence. Mother was the next to break it. “I think it might be nice to have Peter’s family visit here again. We have not had them here since they first arrived.”
“Been too busy.” Father muttered. He laid his spoon on the table.
“What? Are you not hungry?”
“No, not really.” He turned towards me and asked in a somber tone. “Maggie, if someone in this village were to offer you one of those sleeping draughts, would you take it?”
Surprised by the question, I said, “I suppose if it actually gives a person a goodnight’s sleep, I would.”
“Would you if I told you not to?”
I frowned, not sure where he was going with this conversation. “I would wonder why.” He sighed and bowed his head. “Why?” I urged.
“No reason, really.” He muttered. Unexpectedly, he stood up and picked up his bowl. “Your mother and I can take care of the clean-up. You can go visit Peter.”
“What?” My surprise was equally apparent on my mother’s face.
“It is fine,” Father stated, “you may go visit Peter. I will expect you in a few hours, if not before. Do not go…running off.”
I smiled, stood up and embraced him. “I may have sought out the traders, but I have no plans to run away, not without your blessing. I love you too much for that."
He held me so tightly I could hardly breathe. It reminded me of the way my mother hugged me when the boy was dying. When I could no longer hold my breath, I pulled away. I finally embraced Mother, thankful that she was not so strong. “Enjoy yourself.” She whispered.
“Will do.” Without another word, I raced out the door.
Peter’s home was about three cottages away from us. It was much like our own, except it had a shingled roof instead of a thatched, was smaller due to only having one room, and prettier than the others. I could not be sure what made it more attractive than the others, but I was inclined to think it was the tranquility and royalty of the people who lived inside that created this mysterious beauty.
I smiled as I stepped through the gate and prepared to knock on the door. It opened before my hardened knuckles could rap the wood, and I nearly knocked Peter on the forehead. “Oh!” I laughed. “Sorry Peter.”
He chuckled, though it was rather strained. His eyes had lost the usual sparkle. “I was just going to look for you…”
“Is something wrong?” I asked in alarm. “Is your father well?”
“He is well, I think.” Peter said. He closed the door behind him. “Can we talk in private for a moment?”
He led me away from cottage and towards the woods. The sun had disappeared below the horizon, leaving behind the dim, gray light of twilight. One by one, candles appeared in dark windows, lighting our way and illuminating small patches of our surroundings. I shuddered as a cool breeze swayed the trees. When we reached the area close to where the traders had camped the night before, he stopped and faced me. “I am not exactly sure how to say this.” He said. He took in a breath. “We…my father decided…we are leaving.”
Slowly, I let the words sink in to my mind. “Were you found out?” I asked.
“No,” he stated. “I do not know what he is planning to do. I think he wants to see what we have been missing. The traders’ news about the village…was disturbing. We were under the impression that the invasion had not effected anybody except us. If what the traders say is true, then we were wrong.”
“It was the leaders who...destroyed the village?” I asked skeptically. “Father said he thought it was the sorcerers, not that I believe him.”
He opened his mouth, but closed it again, as if he was at lost for words. Finally, he said hesitantly, “I think…he wants to find out if what they are saying is true. If it is not, we will come back here. If it is…” He stopped again. “Listen, we will probably not be able to do anything about it. We will be stopping at places along the way to see if there are other Adonites, or people who want to know about Adonay, but that is all. At most, we will be gone a few months.”
I frowned. “When are you leaving?”
“Good.” I turned around and headed straight towards his cottage. My mind was made up. I was determined and stubborn as an unmovable rock. Nothing was going to change it now.
He was surprised by my reaction. I did not hear him follow until I was a hundred yards away. “Maggie?” he asked when he caught up to me. “What are you doing?”
“You will see.”
He was not satisfied with my answer. He quickly moved in front of me and stopped, but I dodged him and continued walking.
“You started a promise, but refused to finish it.” I turned and faced him. The warm glow from one of the windows cast a golden light on his face. His expression was blank, but I could still see behind the innocent mask. He remembered. “Would you like to finish that promise now? I would like help in convincing your parents in letting me come along.”
“No.” He said. “I do not think it is a good idea.”
“Why not? I like the idea.”
“I am…pretty sure that we will not be gone long. If we were, that is all the more I reasons to why you should stay. You have a family here, friends. Besides, Father did not say anything about going back to Tipharah, if that is what you are thinking.”
“I do not care where you are going. I have nothing here to keep me. I…believe my parents would understand. I want to go with you; I want to be wherever you are.”
“It could be dangerous. We have no idea what we will find. I do not want anything or anyone to hurt you.”
“You will hurt me if you leave, Peter.” Silence met my words. “Believe when I tell you this. Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you stay, I will stay. Your family will be my family I would only stay away if you truly did not want me.”
He did not respond immediately. His eyes had wandered to the ground, and I could not read his expression. For a moment, I was afraid I had overstepped my bounds, till he took my hand. “I, Peter, promise to never say I do not want you by my side.” He reached into his pocket, opened my hand, and dropped something onto my palm. My breath nearly caught when I saw the blood red color of Brone’s pin. The metal felt cold in my hands, and the Rubicund stone gleamed in the fiery light.
I stroked the engraved letters. “Grammarcy.”
“You are welcome.” He touched my face. “I understand why…and I agree. You should come with us.”
I enclosed my hand over his. “Will we need to convince your parents?”
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “How quickly can you prepare?”
“Meet us at our door…a few hours before sunrise. I will take care of the rest.”
Without another thought, I reached up and kissed him. After I pulled away, I said excitedly, “See you soon.”
He nodded, but when I turned away and began running back towards my home, I failed to see the smile slide off his face, or hear his whisper, “Adonay, am I doing what is right? Please, I pray that she will be protected.” All I was aware of was my hand slipping the brooch to my pocket, and my mind dreaming of adventure.