The doctor led Thankful and Buck through the short, cool hallway to the adjacent room reserved for hopeless cases. There lay the lieutenant asleep.
“He’s not dead, is he?” Buck asked from the doorway, craning his neck to see.
“No, Buck,” the doctor replied and turned to Thankful. “You may want to say your last goodbyes—just in case.” The doctor left them alone.
Buck squeezed Thankful’s hand. “We must try to have faith.”
Thankful glanced his way. He brought her to the top of the bed and spotted a chair around the other side to sit in himself.
“He looks perfectly well, doesn’t he, Buck?” Thankful asked and ran her fingers along his face. “What shall we do?”
“I guess we could pray or something,” Buck suggested, his color rising.
Thankful looked up at him in surprise. He shrugged in embarrassment.
“You lead us. I’d feel, well, idiotic,” Buck said.
Thankful took his extended hands. “Buck Crenshaw, you begin to worry me,” she said, regarding him with skepticism.
They bowed their heads. Buck concentrated hard to keep his head from spinning.
Thankful began, “Dear Lord …”
“Jaysus! God almighty! What’s all this?” Fahy suddenly shouted.
The Crenshaws jumped and Thankful screamed. “Oh, dear! We thought you were sleeping! Oh, lieutenant, this is awful!” Thankful cried. “Don’t you dare go and die on me! I’m going to have your little baby. I was saving it as a surprise, my sweetheart!”
For a second, Fahy forgot himself and a flush of excitement coursed the lines of his weather-beaten face until the reality of his situation came back. “But, Thankful, you wanted lots of children …”
“No, dear, that was you. You’re all I need. We’ll be all right. How are you feeling?”
“I don’t feel a damned thing,” he said. “I’m fucked in a cocked hat.”
Thankful kissed his forehead. “I wish you would mind your language, Mr. Fahy. You’ll always be a hero to me—the hero who saved my brother!”
Buck spoke. “Well, Fahy was drunk when he did it, and really, we were fine.”
“Buck Crenshaw!” Thankful cried.
“What is he doing here? Haven’t you done enough damage?” Fahy shouted.
“Only as much as you’ve done yourself!”
“Buck, now’s not the time!” Thankful sobbed. “Poor Mr. Fahy—Willy and Buck have been immature and reckless. Please don’t judge them harshly. We must focus on getting you well.” Thankful took his hand in hers and kissed it.
“Thankful, where’s your ring?” Fahy asked.
“Oh, it’s not important.”
“Of course it is!”
“Where is it, sis?” Buck pressed.
“Lieutenant, the ring you gave me … well, it was stolen. Of course no one believes that you had anything to do with it. When the men from the 24th Infantry came into camp, an officer from Fort Sill recognized the ring as the very one taken from his wife only last year.”
Buck whispered, “Fahy, you scoundrel, you said it was all the way from Ireland!”
“Yes, yes! It was! That’s what I was told—when I bought it!” Fahy said. “Thankful, please, believe me.”
“Buck, you’re behaving shamefully! Of course I believe you, lieutenant. I don’t give a fig about expensive things.”
Fahy glared at Buck. “You bastard.”
“Seems the army knows about the fixed scales and such,” Buck said. “I’m sure nothing will come of it though.” He stalked off. His first venture out of bed brought him into struggle and strife.
Thankful turned to Fahy. “Oh, I had so hoped that Buck had changed. I’m sorry I ever let him come visit you. I suppose I thought he might be inspired by you—a real and true officer.”
“You’ve thought too much of me, lovey. And now look—I’m useless. They say I’ll never walk!” Fahy cried.
“Never?” Thankful gasped, but regained her composure. “My sweet, we’ll make do somehow. My father will help. We’ll go back home.”
“No! How can I meet your family this way? And you with child and starting to show! They’ll figure what we’ve done and they’ll blame me.”
“Buck knows, and he’s still speaking to me—after the initial shock …”
“You told Buck? When?”
“Does anyone else know?”
“Bill Weldon knew before me?”
“Miss Peckham, I think, told him.”
“Miss Peckham knew? For Christ’s sake! When were you going to tell me?”
“You were distracted by Miss Peckham and then your trip. I wanted it to be special—so I waited.”
“Well, now it’s goddamned special, isn’t it? I can’t support you or a child! Why did this have to happen to me? Why do I always get the short end of the stick?”
“Oh lieutenant, but I love you.”
“You don’t love me! You never have. If you could, you’d escape but for the baby.”
“Pierce Fahy, don’t dare say it! Don’t lie!” Thankful began sobbing.
“I have nothing to offer you now.”
“But surely the army will take care of you.”
“A lieutenant’s pay at half is nothing … and the scales—those bloody scales!”
“Scales? You make no sense,” Thankful said.
“Those damned savages had it in for me from the start! Now they accuse me of fixing the scales—it’s that missionary Kenyon’s doing. I know it!”
“He’s dodgy, Thankful. Kenyon’s turned everyone against me. Sure, he’s admitted to all sorts of perversions and crimes. But he puts people like your William under his spell. I only tried to help Bill out the other night—to get him from under Kenyon, but in the end they were all against me.”
“Please, quiet down. You must stay peaceful. No one wants to hurt you—you’re just upset—rightly so. We must believe in miracles.” She wiped his brow “You’ll be healed.”
“And how many other spontaneous healings have you been witness to?” Fahy asked tenderly and wept.
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”
Featured Image: Edward Burne-Jones – The Beguiling of Merlin