Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles by author Paul Lintern. It is set in 1831 and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of a young girl.
“Our dearest daughter,” Elizabeth read, then looked at Amelia, and said, “Isn’t that the nicest way to begin?”
Amelia smiled, “I am their only daughter.”
“Still, it’s lovely,” Elizabeth said, then continued the letter.
“We trust that you are finding Ohio as beautiful and peaceful as we have heard it can be. Boston has become an oven, as it does in the summer, but some mornings are still pleasant. Your father and I plan to vacation in the country, at your grandfather’s farm, where your Uncle Roscoe is taking good care.”
“That’s mother’s brother,” Amelia said.
“Does he have children?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes, but they are all grown. I’m the youngest in our whole family, by many years,” Amelia said.
“You get lots of attention,” Elizabeth said.
“And lots of parents telling me what to do,” she replied.
Elizabeth smiled and continued, “We enjoyed receiving your first letter, along with Peggy’s letter, and long to hear tales of your adventures there. Charles says it is a charming place, with many opportunities to ride, explore and learn important frontier skills.”
“Like surviving snake bites,” Amelia said.
“O dear,” Elizabeth said. “We don’t know what to say to them about that. We did not send a message because even today, at its best travel, it would only be halfway there. We decided to wait until the episode is over, and thank God it is for the good. But even so, we didn’t want to worry them and have them send for you, only to find you perfectly healthy when someone arrived.”
“You mean, you would rather me be sick?”
"No, I guess that didn’t come out right, did it?” Elizabeth blushed. “No, we want you healthy, but we must make sure you are strong so you can make the trip home safely, when Charles arrives back in a month.
“Even if we sent a message to him today, it would be almost a month before he would get here.”
Amelia liked Elizabeth. She was older, like her mother, but part grandmother and part big sister at the same time. And, she liked to read Mr. Emerson.
“Why have you never remarried?” Amelia wondered aloud, not necessarily meaning for Elizabeth to hear.
“Oh, I have asked God that many times, dear, not that I really want a husband -- they are a lot of work, you know -- but not that I wouldn’t mind.
“I used to busy myself with raising my son, and helping with Peggy’s sons, but now they are on their own, and the others seem to have plenty of parents around. I just want to fit into the family wherever I’m needed.
“But of course, if you have someone in mind,” Elizabeth chuckled.
She kept reading the letter to Amelia, with news of neighbors and businesses, social events and church activities, children who had traveled or gotten in mischief, her father and the ships that were sailing in his company.
Every word awakened a vision in her mind and allowed her to travel home, something she could do at a moment’s notice. She realized her parents could not imagine Ohio, not with her best writing, unless they actually came here.
“I am ready to walk somewhere,” Amelia said, when the letters were read.
About that time, Autumn walked up from the barn so it was natural that the two would stroll off together. They walked slowly across the lower pasture to the edge of the woods then onto the path that would lead to the creek that fed into Fleming Falls, then to Black Fork. They wouldn’t be swimming, however.
Autumn seemed quiet. Amelia would say something about the festivities the day before, or the letters Elizabeth had read, or the squirrels that were playing in the tree in front of them, and Autumn would nod, or give a half-smile, but not talk.
Finally, Amelia said to her, “Squirrel got your tongue?”
Autumn stopped, seemed to attempt a smart comeback, then drew a deep breath and said, “I am so sorry that I didn’t help you.”
Amelia was puzzled, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I stepped away as soon as I saw the snakes, but I didn’t pull you back with me. By the time I realized you were not moving, I was too scared to run past the snakes to get you. Even when you screamed, I just stood there,” Autumn said.
Amelia replied, “I didn’t think that. It’s not your fault. I should have run.”
“But I should have grabbed you as soon as I saw one. If I had been thinking of us both instead of just me, you would not have been bit,” Autumn said as tears started streaming down her face.
“All my life I’ve wanted a sister, and now, this summer, God gave me one, and I almost let you die. Can you ever forgive me?”
Amelia was stunned. In her own hurt and fear, she did not realize that others might be suffering, too. The Zeiters’ are my family now, she thought. That means they also feel pain like a family, too. Elizabeth, Uncle Jacob, Aunt Peggy, Autumn, all must have suffered so those three days while I was dreaming about being back in Boston.
“I have always wanted a sister, too. And God gave me you. I am sorry I was not smart enough to run away from a nasty reptile with fangs,” and with that, Amelia stuck her front teeth out, like fangs, causing Autumn to make a silly snort of laughter mixed with sobs. They leaned into each other with a hug, both careful not to disturb Amelia’s bandaged arm.
As they hugged, Autumn said, “Can I say one thing more?”
“Sure,” Amelia said.
“That bandage really smells bad.”
And this time they burst into full fledged laughter and decided Aunt Elizabeth would be anxiously watching the pasture for their return from the woods. They turned around and strolled home, laughing at squirrels on the way.