This Land Is My Land

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Chapter 5

Submitted: June 12, 2019

Reads: 14

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Submitted: June 12, 2019

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Following Jake’s directions, Keira and Sarah easily found the guest house. Architects would describe the dwelling as Neocolonial, two stories, plus three dormer windows in the roof. With three steps to reach a covered porch set out with two wicker rocking chairs and a matching coffee table, an extended balcony with patinated copper coach lights attached to the balustrade completed the front facade. The painted white wooden siding, in pristine condition, presented a marked contrast the neighboring residences. A matching wicket fence separated the property from the road. Beside the gate was a sign which read Bed & Breakfast. In the window another announced Vacancies.

Mrs. Rogers extended a warm welcome as the pair entered the large hallway, with stained hardwood floors, wainscot paneling extending half-way up the walls. On the left-hand side, a grandfather clock quietly tick-tocked away the seconds as its pendulum swung back and forth. A tall glass display case occupied the opposite wall, featuring a collection of miniature china dolls.

The landlady was in her mid-forties, sensibly clothed in a plain grey dress, over which she wore a white apron. “Excuse the mess,” she apologized as she led them up the wide ornate staircase. Neither Keira nor Sarah could figure what was amiss, everything dust free and in its place.

The two young women were asked if they required separate rooms. The price would be the same if they elected to share a twin. Sarah snored. Consequently, Keira was quick to accept.

“I’ll leave you to freshen up,” Mrs. Rogers told them. “Bathroom is down the hall. Dinner is at seven. Seeing Jake sent you, there will be no extra charge.”

“Are you sure?” Keira asked.

“Of course. I’ll enjoy your company. I hope you like stewed rabbit and dumplings.”

* * *

“Ick,” Sarah declared as soon as their hostess was out of earshot. “Perhaps we should find someplace else to eat?”

“Such as?” Keira countered. “I don’t recall passing Restaurant Row anywhere. Just pretend you are eating chicken.”

Unconvinced, Sarah went to take a shower. Keira decided to return to the ground floor. She wanted to take a closer look at the dolls’ collection.

* * *

“These dolls, they all are in wonderful condition,” Keira told Mrs. Rogers, who had come out of the dining room after setting the table for dinner. “How long have you been collecting them?”

“That one there,” she pointed, “was given to me by a great aunt for my seventh birthday. At  the time I remember thinking I preferred a Barbie Doll. It was years later, after I married, only then did I appreciated the gift. I acquired this one,” Mrs. Rogers pointed to a doll with black hair modeled into the china head, with blue glass eyes, “from a garage sale. I think I paid five dollars for it.”

Over the next few minutes, Keira received a potted tutorial. “By the 19th century, porcelain had become the favored material for doll heads, and starting in the 1830s, high-quality china dolls hit the market. Most of these were made in central Europe, and often the assembly work was done by individual families, which is why many antique china dolls are not marked.

Between 1850 and 1870, dolls were produced with the extravagant hairstyles worn by Parisians were all the rage. After 1870, the molded hair was replaced with wigs, which were thought to be more natural in appearance. In the 1880s and 1890s, these dolls tended to feature bushy hair with bangs covering the forehead.”

Of course,” Mrs. Rogers continued, “as a material for a child’s toy, china was never ideal, so easily chipped or even shattered if the doll was thrown to the floor. In the 20th century, although more practical, plastics largely replaced porcelain for most dolls. Shame really. There’s something about porcelain. Those in pristine condition show how well they were cherished, I’m my opinion.”

“Fascinating,” Keira declared. “I hope you don’t think me rude but how much is one of those worth?”

“In today’s market, anywhere between a couple of hundred dollars to three of four thousand. They have to be without damage or repair. Are you thinking of buying?”

“No,” Keira replied but I’m studying history at Cornell University. You would make a very good lecturer, Mrs. Rogers.”

“I’ll stick with my B&B if it’s all the same to you. I gave up big city living long ago.”

The grandfather clock began the lead-up to chiming the six o’clock hour.

“Goodness me. I’d better get back to the kitchen or well be having bread and jam for supper.” Keira smiled as Mrs. Rogers scurried away, spending a few more minutes studying the collection, before going back upstairs. Hopefully, Sarah had  had enough time to vacate the bathroom.

* * *

Sarah surprised herself, deciding she like cooked rabbit. Dumplings she had never had before either. Together with potatoes. carrots, celery, and onions, they had been cooking in a broth thickened with corn starch. The meal was delicious.

Mrs. Rogers, quizzing them on where they were going. When she was told they were on their way to Sarah’s sister’s wedding, unexpectedly Mrs. Rogers opened up about her marriage to, George, a Philadelphia banker, living together for twelve years in a house far too big for the pair of them. They had no children. Then one January, her sister-in-law was visiting. Sadly, both her sister-in-law and her husband were killed in the same automobile accident. Bad weather and icy roads were deemed the cause. Mrs. Rogers decided to move away for the harsh winters when she found that the sister-in-law, a spinster, had left her estate to her brother, which of course came to her. Hence, she moved out of the city and now lived in her late sister-in-law’s house.

Sarah, never one to exhibit a modicum of tact, asked Mrs. Rogers why she had never remarried.

“And become the wife of a dirt farmer? Not my scene. A good decision too,” Mrs. Rogers declared. “With the state of things around here, farms are being foreclosed left, right and center. Mark my word, young ladies, men are more trouble than they’re worth, with the exception of George. May he rest in peace.”

Desert was apple pie and custard, followed by cheese and biscuits. Keira told their hostess if they had been dining at a posh New York restaurant they would not have tasted better food.

Mrs. Rogers blushed. Turning the conversation to her guests, she asked about Cornel and their plans after graduation.

“My father, he’s the CEO of a small pharmaceutical company, is expecting me to join him as an intern,” Sarah said. “One day, he hopes, I might take over his job. I don’t mind telling you, I find the whole prospect rather daunting”

“I suppose so. It must be hard deciding how much to charge poor people for the medications,” reflected the landlady.

Before Sarah could leap to her father’s defense, Keira announced she had been nominated to continue at Cornell University as a graduate student.

“You said history, earlier. Can you be more specific?” Mrs. Rogers asked.

“Native American. I will be researching he Indian Removal Act of 1830  and events that followed.”

“The First Nation, you mean. They were treated the same way as all the underprivileged of this fair land. They got the short end of the stick.”

“I thought your late husband was a banker,” Sarah remarked.

“That doesn’t make me a staunch capitalist, you know. But let’s not spoil the evening getting bogged down in economics and politics. Before I go and wash the dishes, Keira, I have something that will interest you. Wait here just a moment.”

Two minutes later, Mrs. Rogers was back. In her hand she held a journal, the leather scuffed, the binding cracked, some loose pages haphazardly tucked at the back, held together by rubber bands. “Here, it’s yours. And don’t say no. I’m not an academic, therefore I have no use for it.”

“Thank you,” Keira said, beginning to slip the bands off.”

“I shouldn’t do that here,” Mrs. Rogers advised. “Last time I did that, I had papers all over the floor. Now be off with the pair of you. I have work to do.”

Both young women got up from their chairs., thanked their hostess for the meal and made for the hall. Keira stopped at the doorway. “Ms. Rogers, this journal, from its condition it looks old?”

“Oh, yes, my dear; very. There’s a date written on the inside cover; 1876.”

“That’s the start of the Indian Wars. The US Calvary virus the Sioux, Lakota, and Cheyenne.”

“Mrs. Rogers smiled an all-knowing smile. “Precisely. I see you know your history.”


© Copyright 2019 James G Riley. All rights reserved.

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