“Well now! I got here just in time! I smell breakfast!” Helen announced as she removed her overcoat placing it over the back of a chair.
Hannah was mortified but relieved that Helen mentioned only breakfast. She rushed to the stove to prepare an extra plate.
“Bring me a cup of that coffee Henry. You know, our neighbor Marjorie called to tell me about the fire.”
“Oh yes, the fire and the storm. It was a bad one.” Henry handed her a cup of coffee adding, “Thank goodness for Marjorie and Joseph. They were here within minutes. The house might have been damaged if not for them!”
Helen patted the chairs on her left and right, motioning Henry and Hannah to join her at the table. She smiled at Hannah, “Oh yes…” she continued, a lilt in her voice, “Marjorie did mention that awful storm and the fire. Such good neighbors, don’t you think Hannah?
Hannah startled at the mention of her name, “Yes ma’am. They have been very helpful, especially Marjorie.
Helen continued, “Well, I must say I’m glad to be rid of those monstrous trees. The house looks much better from the street without them,” she paused eying the two of them while taking a sip of coffee, “But if you must know, it is the other fire smoldering under this roof that brought me here. I had to come see for myself. Tell me, how are you two getting on? When I left, I must say I was worried…”
Henry glanced at Hannah’s flushed face. Her eyes met his, pleadingly. Hoping to change the subject Henry asked, “And how is dear Aunt Millie? I hope she is doing well…”
“Oh, she’s fine Henry. She’ll outlive us all. You didn’t answer my question brother dear.”
”We’re getting on just fine Helen. I didn’t realize how badly I needed a housekeeper. Hannah has done a fine job. I should thank you for making the arrangements to bring her here.”
“And…?” Helen pried.
“I’m not sure what Marjorie told you, Helen. You know Marjorie. She’s a dear, but full of stories.”
“Yes, I do know Marjorie.” Helen looked at Hannah, “Tell, me Hannah, how are things going? Has my brother changed that dark attitude of his.”
Avoiding eye contact Hannah spoke softly, “Things are fine Helen. Henry has been very kind. A gentleman.” Looking directly at Helen, hoping to change the subject, Hannah added, “I was able to get the garden cleared and the soil turned and I’ve been working on a plan for planting come spring.”
Helen tapped her fingers on the table. These two were hiding something. She knew it. She felt it. Marjorie did have a tendency to exaggerate, but sitting her between the two of them allowed her to see things for herself. Not to mention that she found them locked in each other’s arms, laughing when she arrived. She was growing impatient. “Henry, a word with you…” she stood up and walked into the parlor.
Henry stood to follow her, pausing to squeeze Hannah’s hand reassuringly. “Yes, sister dear, I’m coming.”
Once in the parlor, Helen glared at her brother, “I need you to be honest with me Henry. I know what I saw when I came in the door. You had best not be taking advantage of that dear girl.”
Insulted and hurt Henry lashed back, “I can’t believe you think I would be such a scoundrel Helen. I can assure you that I have been a gentleman when it comes to Hannah.<
“People are talking Henry. I have eyes and ears here you know. And what I saw with my own eyes when I walked in this morning. Well…”
“Well nothing, Helen! Not that it is any of yours or anyone else’s business, I am quite fond of Hannah. This much is true. But let me be clear, nothing improper is happening under this roof. If this is the reason you came, to catch us in some scandal, I am afraid you wasted the trip. When are you leaving, by the way?”
“I’m planning to spend a few days Henry. I have business in town.”
“Well, of course, you are welcome, but I ask that you stop your prying and meddling, especially with Hannah. She has been extremely patient with our family spats. I don’t want to lose her.”
“You see nothing Helen. As I said, I didn’t realize how badly I needed a housekeeper before she came.”
“As you wish Henry,” Helen acquiesced, “I’m glad things are working out so well.” Helen knew to choose her battles with Henry. She decided then and there that she might need to extend her visit a bit longer.
Part 23 of an ongoing fiction series. To read previous entries, click HERE.