1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 65:



            "Oh! They are beautiful, Lenore. Really they are. Thank you so much."


            Clara was looking at a set of framed drawings.


            "I saw you yearning over the photos one day, Clara. It used to be easy to copy old ones, pretty much, but even if someone could figure out how to do it now and get the chemicals, it would probably cost the earth and the sky. But I’ve always had a knack for sketching, so…"


            "I didn’t even know you could do this, honey child," Wes said.


            Lenore glanced over at her grandmother, who was sitting on the other side of the room talking to Uncle Chad and Chandra. They were looking at something else. She wiggled a little uncomfortably. "I got it from Gran, I suppose. She knew that I liked to draw, back when I was in school, but she never really encouraged me. Not the way she encouraged Chip to play violin, later on. The reverse, if anything. She sure made a fuss when I said once that I might like to go to a school of design rather than to a regular college. I found out later – a lot later – that she actually went over to the high school and asked my counselor to tell me that it was a bad idea, if I brought it up."


            Now Wes looked across toward his mother, frowning.


            Lenore didn’t notice. "So don’t make a big production about these, please. I sneaked over and made the sketches from the photos while she was out doing her Red Cross stuff, on the excuse that I was checking the tops of her cupboards and other stuff she can’t really reach any more. She wanted to be sure the maid was cleaning them. ‘Trust but verify.’"


            "This, though…" Clara drew her index finger along some fine cross-hatching. This is not – not a ‘knack’ as you say. You have been taught. Did you apprentice with someone?"


            "Well, I took college classes at Fairmont State off and on. Over six or seven years, I got about four semesters worth of classes in, I guess. None the first couple of years after I finished high school, but after that, since my schedule at work was pretty flexible, I took a couple of courses every now and then. And if I was on campus anyway for something I should take for work, like retailing or business applications, and there was an art class, or an art history class, available that day, I would take one." She looked a little defiant. "I was working and paying the tuition myself. It isn’t as if I was wasting Dad’s money."


            "I’d have liked you to finish college," Wes said. "In anything. Underwater basket weaving would have been fine. I had a savings account for it in your name, ever since you were tiny." He laughed. "For that matter, it’s still there in the bank if you ever need it. One for Chandra, too. I wouldn’t have minded if you chose a design school. There were good ones, up-time. It wouldn’t have been wasting anything."


            "Yeah, I guess. But Gran said… well, that she had majored in art and then never used it, really. She said that only genius pays you back if you get a degree in art, not just a little flair like hers or mine. And Mom went along with her. She didn’t think it was practical, even though commercial art actually pays pretty well if a person is good at it. I couldn’t really see spending the money if I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a degree when I got it. Not nursing, for sure. Not teaching. And getting a degree wouldn’t have helped me advance at the store unless I wanted to sit in an office all day, which I didn’t." Lenore reached over, took the sketches, and wrapped them back up. "Here. This will protect them while you’re carrying them home."


            The family was passing most of the presents around the room, so everyone could admire them. Lenore dropped the sketches down into Clara’s tote bag. "Maybe it’s one reason that I liked learning these seventeenth century handwriting styles so much." A wide smile suddenly lit up her long, thin face. "Some of them are so elaborate that they are almost like drawing the words more than writing them. Every letter or filing that came to my desk because no one else could read it was an adventure."


            She looked toward the double doorway leading into the hallway. Bryant was standing there, scowling at them. Her smile faded.




            "I like this bridge. I like the way it blows in the cold wind when there is snow coming like tonight."


            "You are a risk taker at heart, considering how many packages we are carrying. All right, we’ll cross on the suspension bridge."


            In the middle of it, Clara stopped.


            "Brr," Wes said.


            "We have another present, Wesley. One more than we opened at your mother’s house."




            Clara turned around, putting down her bag and circling his neck with her arms. "You have given it to me. In less than half a year, I will give it back to you."


            She kissed him. "We are going to have a baby. I am sure of it, now. I have felt movement and also Kortney Pence said so, yesterday morning. So we will have all three of the purposes of marriage."


            "What three purposes of marriage?"


            "Oh, Wesley. I am not trying to convert you, like the up-time men who are going to class with Pastor Kastenmayer at St. Martin‘s now to be confirmed next spring, but I do wish you would at least read the small catechism. Every Lutheran knows that there are three purposes of marriage."


            "Which are?"


            "The procreation of children, of course. Which now we are doing."


            "That’s one."


            "Mutual companionship and support, which we also have already. And I will need to bring a cradle to the consular affairs office after the baby is born."


            Wes didn’t blink. He could live with a cradle in the consular affairs office. And, obviously, would.


            "That’s two. What’s three?"


            She smiled up at him. "The third is that it is a remedy for lust."


            "I can endorse that. We have been polite to a lot of people all evening. Shall we go home and remedy something?" This time, he kissed her.


            Clara was quite relieved to discover that he would not expect them to forego the third purpose of marriage between the time he was notified of her pregnancy and the time she weaned the child. Some men thought that way. Apprehension about this possibility was one reason she had put off telling him about the baby as long as she reasonably could. So she happily kissed him back, for quite some time, in spite of the stiff wind that was blowing down Buffalo Creek.




            "Is that actually your father and his Kraut woman making out on the suspension bridge, right in the middle of town?" Bryant Holloway asked.


            "Looks like Dad and Clara to me."


            "You weren’t sucking up to her tonight, were you? Not a bit, of course. Insinuating yourself. Currying a little favor?"


            "I like Clara. She’s nice. She’s nice to us. Really. She goes out of her way."


            Bryant was looking at the couple on the bridge. "They should be ashamed of themselves."


            "All they’re doing is kissing each other." Lenore protested. "Wearing a batch of winter clothes. And they are married."


            "Barely in time, if the gossip that Lola picked up is true."


            "What gossip?"


            "She went in to Leahy Medical to find out if she’s pregnant."




            "What did you expect, the way they…"


            "Act like married people in love? Clara turned thirty-eight a couple of weeks ago. We had a birthday party for her. You weren’t back yet. If you really want to know, then – yeah, Chandra and I have been sort of expecting that a half-sister or half-brother would turn up one of these days. Or both. Or more, if they manage to squeeze them in."


            She laughed. "I’ve got to grant that they’ve apparently been pretty efficient about it, though. I suppose we’ll get the news officially in a day or so."


            "I don’t like that tone of voice. You’re talking back. Again. You’re getting to be more and more like your sister."


            "What’s Chandra ever done to you?"


            "She spent at least an hour this evening trying to get me to talk about what Nathan has been doing in Frankfurt and quizzing me about why he decided not to come to Grantville for a visit. If he thought it was any of her business, he would tell her himself. And nagging me to tell her why he doesn’t want her to go with him. He’s given her his reasons, and that’s actually more than she deserves. If he doesn’t want her to come, then she should do as he wants and stay here without all this griping."


            Lenore stopped walking. "Since when doesn’t a wife deserve to know her husband’s reasons for how he treats her?"


            Bryant turned toward her.


            She pushed the baby stroller so that it was between them. "We’d better get Weshelle home. I have her all covered up, but this wind is chilly."