Emilie looked up at the sound of a wagon entering the yard. She had been on her hands and knees attempting to free the garden from the persistent weeds that refused to go away. She rose to her feet slowly and stretched her aching back as she shielded her face from the sun and tried to recognize her visitors.
Two men approached much too quickly in her opinion, and she was just about to take them to task for their speed, when she noticed that one man wore a white collar. Brushing the soil off her hands, she rubbed her hands along the side of her skirt and walked toward the wagon which had now come to a full stop a few feet from where she stood.
Both men alighted from the wagon, and the one wearing the collar, stepped forward first and extended his hand.
“You must be Emilie,” he said with a friendly smile, “I have heard much about you from the community. Please let me introduce myself. I am Pastor Sharp from the Lutheran Church in town,” he said as he pumped her hand in greeting.
“Welcome, Pastor Sharpe.”
He turned slightly and included the man who stood beside him. “This is Mr. Milton, from the Children’s Aide Society.”
“Welcome to you as well, Mr. Milton. Could I offer you gentleman a cool drink? It is a hot day, isn’t it?” she turned and preceded them into the house. Beckoning them to take a seat at the table she fussed at the counter, and poured them some cool tea that she had saved for Karl, and with unsteady hands placed their drinks on the table before them.
“Are the Bell children around?” the Pastor asked, as his eyes swept the room.
“No, they are all over at Frederich and Annie Barnes’s today. Annie had a new litter of pigs born yesterday and so the children all went over to have a look. Is there some reason why you ask for them?”
The Pastor looked to his companion for a minute and then returned his attention to her.
“I’m afraid we have some very sad news of their father.” He said softly, noting the stricken look that appeared on her face.
Emilie lowered herself into the nearest chair and waited for him to continue.
“Charles Bell was found dead in his room at the Sanitarium early this morning; it appears he committed suicide sometime in the night.”
“Oh Dear Got, No!” Emilie whispered in horror, clasping her hand around her throat and shaking her head in disbelief.
“I’m sorry, it is most unfortunate, but we all know that he was a very disturbed man,” the Pastor added sadly.
Mr. Wilton, who up until now had sat silently listening to their conversation, cleared his throat and spoke. “I’m afraid that now the Bell children are considered orphans, and will need to be removed and transferred to an orphanage.”
“NO!” Emilie yelled this time, as she jumped up from the table so forcefully that her chair fell on its side. “You are not going to take these children to an orphanage,” she shrieked, “They have a home here with us!”
This can’t be happening, she thought to herself, as she watched the men exchange a glance. Her heart slammed against her chest, and for a moment she couldn’t catch her breath. Surely they could not just come, and take a family away without warning. No, they could not, she told herself, and what’s more, she was not going to let them!
“Miss Freiheit, is it?” Mr. Miller addressed her firmly, “You are only the housekeeper here, are you not? I understand that you have looked after the Bell children for many months now, and it was wonderful that you were able to do that; but you are not married to Karl Wright, this is not your home, and as his housekeeper, you do not have any right to object to this arrangement.”
“No Right! How dare you tell me I have no right! I was the one who opened my arms to this family, only hours after their Mother was taken from them; I was the one that held them when they cried, comforted them when they woke from a bad dream. I have been the one they have turned to for the last six months – I certainly do have the right – how dare you say that I don’t!”
“What is going on here?” Karl stood just inside the doorway, as still as a statue, his eyes going from his distraught housekeeper to the two men who sat at his kitchen table.