Augie Dechantagne came running through the parlor and like a freight train. “Mama! Mama! I shot a velociraptor!” He dived toward the couch, landing not on his mother, but instead in the lap of Cissy who sat next to her.
“You did what?”
“I shot a velociraptor!”
Yuah’s eyes shot daggers at the boy’s uncle, who followed him into the room, and who was in turn followed by a lizzie burdened with at least six assorted rifles and another with several large canvas bags slung over his shoulder. “He’s not even three years old.”
“Don’t get yourself worked up,” said Radley Staff. “I didn’t give him the weapon. I simply let him look through the sights and pull the trigger while I held it.”
“Quite appropriate,” said Iolanthe from her seat across the room, her eyes glued to the paper in her hand. “A Dechantagne man must be proficient in firearms.”
“You should have seen the blood shoot out!” continued the boy. “How many did we get again, Uncle?”
“Only four,” said Staff, who then turned to the lizzies. “Put the gear away in my den.”
“I hope you at least made sure the guns were unloaded in the house,” said Yuah.
“I certainly hope you didn’t.” Iolanthe at last looked away from her paper. “What’s the point in having rifles if they aren’t ready to be used?”
“Yuah is right,” said Staff. “Safety first. But the best way to be safe is to ensure the children have a good working knowledge of firearms and know when and when not to touch them.”
“Ready for a nap?” Cissy asked the boy. “Sister is already asleep.”
“I’m hungry,” said the boy. “Can I get a biscuit?”
“Go get one from the kitchen,” ordered his mother. Then she stood up. “I certainly can use a nap. I shall see you all at tea.”
Making her way up the long sweeping staircase, Yuah snapped her fingers at Narsa, who followed her into her bedroom and helped her remove her day dress and then unfasten her corset. Waving for the lizzie to go, she unfastened her own hip bag and draped it over the chair, before stretching out on the bed.
“What are you still doing here?” she called, seeing the lizzie out of the corner of her eye. “Oh, it’s you again.”
It wasn’t Narsa hovering just outside Yuah’s bedroom door, but Cissy. She seemed to be making a habit of hovering outside doors.
“What do you want? I’m not doing anything.”
“I whatch you,” said Cissy.
“Yes, yes,” replied Yuah. “Go ahead and ‘whatch’ me.”
* * * * *
Baxter stared down at Odval’s grave. He had carried her body all the way back across the island to bury her in the little meadow just above the rocky shore where he had first found her. He hadn’t gone to so much effort when his own mother had died. He had only known the Enclepian woman for a few weeks, but her death hurt him more than any other, of the many deaths that had touched him in his life. He knew in his head that he was pained less for her loss than the selfish realization that he would now be all alone on the island, but his heart hurt just the same. He hadn’t loved her. He had barely known her. But he was going to miss her.
The neatly piled earth looked like a new grave, but there was something missing. The naval officer spent the day looking for just the right stone to serve as a marker, carefully placing it just above the edge of the mound. He didn’t write on it though. It was too much effort to carve, and for that matter, he didn’t know enough about her to know what to say. He skirted the edge of the meadow, along the rocky ridge, and found several dozen small white flowers, which he picked and placed in a pile next to the stone. Nodding in approval, he turned and walked back toward his home by the little lake. He wondered just how long it would be his home.