The sun was low in the west when Nell finally reached the lodge. Looking down on his purchase, Rev. Jackdaw felt sick. The place didn’t look like it could survive the next good windstorm. He started down the miserable drop on foot. After the long, jolting ride from Omaha, each step of the short descent radiated new pain in his back.
The slope was worse than he remembered. The only way to fix it was to hire a man with a couple of mules and a heavy drag. No money for that. No money to fix the chimney or roof either. In his passion to keep Effie at a distance, he’d let Widow Deet swindle him.
He kicked at a runnel. He was too smart to be fooled again by squawks. Whether it was Widow Deet, Ma, or the wicked Miss Myra. The only schooling he had came from Miss Myra. Sitting at her kitchen table once or twice a month, always with a penny or a few eggs Ma had sent for her, it was Miss Myra who taught him his numbers and started him writing in journals. Sliding a ledger across her table, telling him to write out a Bible verse or what had happened to him so “the truth wasn’t lost.”
Sitting on her stool all those years ago, he’d trusted her and looked forward to that writing most. An hour longer in the kitchen where something good smelling always baked, free of Mister and his brothers. At home, he was a freak in his dress, his face twisted with scars not yet muffled by time and age, but at Miss Myra’s his writing seemed atonement for his sins. First was the sin of showing a weakness for horses when the Bible stated man must have dominion over the animals. Second was causing his father to lose three fingers on his right hand.
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