She had suffered a really bad spell, the worst in a long time. Nelson & Cora.
July 7, 2013
A VG Serial: Nelson & Cora
McGinnis Plantation, Kentucky, 1866
George and Nelson gathered their clothes and papers from George’s apartment. It didn’t take long to prepare for the trip back to the plantation. George would have to discuss with their father how to handle the sharecroppers claims against him, and Nelson was trying to figure out a way to ask about the escaped slaves.
Thoughts of Cora floated in and out of Nelson’s mind. He couldn’t escape them, but he didn’t want to.
It was late afternoon when they arrived home. Mattie met them at the door. She couldn’t hide the relief on her face.
“Mattie, what’s happened? Is Gert okay?” Nelson asked.
He pushed through the door, not giving Mattie a chance to respond. “Gert? Where’s my favorite girl? Gert? We’re home.”
There wasn’t an answer. Nelson turned to look at Mattie. “Where is she? Where’s Gert?
Mattie started to answer him, but George cut her off.
“Oh my god, Gert. What happened? What has happened to you?” George said.
Gert was standing at the stairs. Nelson and George ran to her as soon as they saw her.
Mattie yelled. “Stop! You have to stop, boys. Stop now!”
Nelson and George stopped short of grabbing Gert and hugging her to them. Mattie walked slowly up the stairs and patted Gert’s hand.
“We have to be gentle, boys. Gentle as can be,” Mattie said. She led Gertrude back to her room.
“Miss Gertrude’s been through quite an ordeal. Doctor says we have to keep her peaceful. Quiet as a mouse.” Mattie continued to help her.
Nelson tried not to let his repulsion show. George took another step towards Gertrude. “Gert, sweet girl. Can I help you? Can I carry you?” George asked.
Gertrude tried to lift her arms, but she couldn’t. George picked her up in one gentle, careful move. He carried her into her room and laid her in her bed.
Nelson stood frozen at the top of the stairs. He watched his younger brother carry their cousin like a limp rag doll. Gertrude was whimpering.
Nelson turned to face Mattie.
“Mattie, what in the hell happened?” he said.
“I know you’re angry, Mr. Nelson. I knew you and George would be so angry. I wanted to send for you. Mr. Randall wouldn’t allow it. He said Miss Gertrude would be all right.
He said not to bother you. He said the doctor would take care of her. That’s what Mr. Randall kept saying,” Mattie said.
“What happened to her, Mattie?” Nelson asked. He was trying to keep his anger under control.
Mattie looked at her feet. “Mrs. Analisa had a real bad spell the other night,” Mattie said.
“What?” Nelson asked. “What did you say?” He was screaming.
Mattie motioned for Nelson to follow her back down the stairs.
“It’s best if we talk about this away from Miss Gertrude’s room. Loud noise would be real bad for her right now,” Mattie said.
George came down the stairs behind them.
“What happened to her? Unless you tell me she fell off a horse, someone is getting a beating,” George said.
“Oh boys. Oh, I wish I could tell you that. But, that wouldn’t be the truth. Wouldn’t be the truth at all,” Mattie said and started to cry.
“Get back to Mother, Mattie. What happened? What did she do? Did she do that to Gert? Where’s Father?” Nelson wanted to get all the information he could from Mattie before she fell apart.
“Mrs. Analisa had a real bad spell. The worst one in a long time. Worst one since she lost the baby,” Mattie said.
“Go on,” George said. He looked like he was going to bolt from the room.
“Miss Gertrude, she didn’t mean anything. She was just asking Mr. Randall about town. She was only asking when both of you would be home. Mr. Randall was talking about town and how he would take her with him next time. I was sitting in the kitchen, like always. But, I knew. I knew something was getting ready to happen. Just felt it in the air,” Mattie said.
“Mattie, I swear, if you don’t tell me what happened to Gert, I’m going to tear this house down around you.” Nelson’s anger was getting the best of him.
Mattie started crying harder. “I’m sorry. I got up and ran in there as soon as I heard the first crash. I swear. I went as soon as I heard it,” Mattie said. “Mrs. Analisa, she was standing up, just standing right on top of Miss Gertrude, holding that candlestick over her head, swinging away. I haven’t seen anything like it.
Swinging right into her face,” Mattie covered her own face with her hands. Her shoulders shook from crying.
George swallowed hard.
Nelson asked, “What did Father do?”
Mattie took a deep breath. “Mr. Randall must’ve been in shock. That’s all I can say.
Must’ve been shock. He sat there, holding onto his fork, sitting there staring at Mrs. Analisa. Never did move,” Mattie said.
“How many times did she hit Gert?” Nelson asked.
“Nelson, my god. What kind of question is that?” George said. He looked at Mattie.
“What did the doctor say?” George asked.
“The doctor said that Miss Gertrude had to stay in the bed until she healed up. Has to stay quiet. The blows to her throat, the doctor said those almost killed her,” Mattie said.
“How many times did Mother hit her, Mattie?” Nelson asked again.
“Why do you keep asking that? It looks like many times, Nelson. Okay. It looks like Mother hit her many, many times,” George screamed at his brother.
“Mattie, I need to know. Think about it. How many times would you say Mother hit Gert? How many times do you think she hit her before you came in the room? How many times did you see her hit Gert before you could stop her?” Nelson asked.
Mattie looked at Nelson and started counting.
“Maybe twice before I came in,” Mattie said. She started crying again.
“You better not start back crying until you finish answering me,” Nelson said. He had never spoken to Mattie that way before.
Mattie nodded her head. “Two more times before I could get the candleholder away from her. I saw two more times. Maybe four times altogether, Mr. Nelson,” Mattie said.
“Twice before you came in and twice more before you could stop her. Father watched her hit Gert four times. Sat there and watched it happen four times and did nothing,”
Nelson said. “Held onto his damn fork.”
George stared at his brother. The way he was talking, he sounded like their father.
“What has Father said about it since it happened?” Nelson asked.
“I said I wanted to send word to you boys about it,” Mattie said. Nelson stopped her.
“Yes, you said that. What else has Father said?” Nelson asked.
Mattie continued. “He said for Miss Gertrude to do what the doctor said. That I am to sit with her every day. He said that Miss Gertrude is to rest. That the doctor will come back in a few days to check on her.”
“What has Father said to Gert?” Nelson said.
“He hasn’t been to see Miss Gertrude since the doctor left,” Mattie said.
“Where’s he been?” George asked.
“Mr. Randall’s been here. But, he hadn’t been up to see Miss Gertrude. She hasn’t been out of bed since it happened except now, just now to see the two of you,” Mattie said.
“I am going up to see Gert now. Alone. George, go back to town and get a doctor. I don’t care what he says or what he wants for his trouble, but you find him and bring him here now,” Nelson said.
George put his coat on again. If he could find a doctor, it would be morning before he could return.
Nelson turned to Mattie. “Start a fire in the kitchen and find something for me to eat. And, Mattie, make some coffee. It will be a long night for all of us,” he said.
Nelson started up the stairs, stopped and went back in the kitchen.
“Four times, Mattie?” he asked.
Mattie shook her head and began to cry again, quietly, as she worked on starting a fire
in the stove.
Nelson walked up the stairs. His shoulders slumped forward and his feet were heavy.
Chapters of the serial are published on Sunday.
You can learn more about Nelson & Cora on Amazon.