Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Elias Story #4

     Elias sat holding a somewhat cool cloth on Cecelia's forehead. He was sweating and uncomfortable, both from the heat and from being cooped up indoors. Hannah had asked him to stay this afternoon and help out as she had her sick baby Ellis to look after. Elias looked around the small, smelly, stifling room, at the crowded cots and all the sick people. Most were shaking, lying with their eyes closed, but a few were groaning and moving around restlessly. Several cots made strange clicking sounds on the wooden floor as the occupants shook. Elias saw women he knew from town and nearby farms looking after their own, plus the ones who didn't have anyone to tend them. They were all at the log church in town, which was being used as a makeshift hospital. It was late summer and as the sickness raged, church was being held outdoors as people came to pray each evening.
     Looking back at Cecelia he felt relief that she was still and asleep. He noticed the doctor moving around giving some white powder and then a spoonful of water to the sick folks. He knew the powder sometimes made people worse, and he watched as the doctor only stopped and gave it to adults and the bigger children. The dreaded ague came each midsummer, and last year their one year old sister Ella had died. Now Cecelia was sick, and Hannah was rocking baby Ellis in the corner. Elias gently took the cloth from Cecelia, and dropping it in the basin on the floor he stood abruptly. He hated being around the sick, as it reminded him of Modder. He stretched and squirmed, then sat back down on the stool. He looked out the only window at the gathering clouds and knew that before nightfall a storm would be upon them.
     Elias wished for a distraction, and suddenly one appeared, but not one of his liking. One of the women started wailing, and the sound raised the hair along the back of his neck. He suddenly wanted nothing more than to bolt out the door. The other women quickly gathered around her, laying comforting arms around her shoulders, but she would not be comforted, and finally had to be pulled outside. Elias could see a small child in the cot they left behind, lying unnaturally still, and he could still hear the woman's moans through the thick walls. He took a deep breath and turned back to stare at eight year old Cecelia. She still slept, though her breathing came hard and uneven, and her face was blotchy and bright with fever. The doctor had told Hannah and Fadder that she was a strong and healthy child and should come through just fine, but now Elias wasn't so sure. He reached down, wrung the wet cloth, again laying it across the plastered strands of hair on her brow. He wished there was more he could do to relieve her. The narrow wood cot was low to the floor and Cecelia looked crooked and uncomfortable lying there. On the floor beside the cot was a white basin of lukewarm boiled water, and another basin for when Cecelia was sick. There had not been much use for that one today, as she hadn't eaten in over a week. Elias didn't mind washing it out, as it gave him an excuse to go outside and just breathe.
     Elias looked up as he heard the first crack of thunder. The air was thick with heat, pain, and sick smells and pushed against his face and nose. He thought of Fadder haying and wished he could be out helping him in the fields. He hoped the crew of men finished before the rain came. He stood up once again, and then his eyes were drawn to Hannah in the corner. She made no sound, but by the way Ellis lay drooped across her lap and her head lay on her chest, Elias knew that they had lost another baby. The closer women gathered around her, and one took the precious bundle from her lap. Elias felt a wave of helpless frustration well up, but also a reluctance to go near the dead baby. He heard the cot moving behind him and turned to see Cecelia struggling to sit up and shaking all over.
     "What is it Elias? What's happened?"
     "Lay back now, 'tis nothing much."
He pushed her back and pulled the thin blanket over her shaking arms. She looked at him with her clouded blue eyes, knowing full well that he wasn't telling her the whole truth. However, she must have decided she didn't really want to know, as she did not repeat her question. He sat by her side and again wetted down the cloth. Through her quivering lips she asked,
     "Elias, if I die do you think I will be with Modder?"
     "Do not talk about dyin, Celia. You will get better soon and be back at the farm as usual." He awkwardly patted her shaking arm under the sheet.
     "But do you?" she persisted in asking him again.
     "Yes, I think that any of us will join Modder when our time comes" he said thoughtfully. "Now drink some water and rest."
      He held her up while she sipped at the water, but between her shakes she didn't get down much. He noticed that her lips were bluish, and her breath came in short gasps until her laid her back down.      
      Suddenly a loud roaring sound swept over them, and Elias looked to see hailstones pelting down past the window. He jumped up and ran to the door. The hail was thick, sizzling as it streaked through the hot air, and the ice balls pounded the ground furiously, as if to take revenge on the stifling heat. A huge roll of thunder and a loud crack of lightening overhead underscored the intensity of the storm and the room and the sickness. Elias was sharply aware that their crops and their lives were in danger.

In memory of:

Ella Vista Williams  1850-1851

Ellis Williams  1852-1852

*Augue was the English word for Malaria.
The Williams lived in the Black Swamp area of Ohio, and each summer the mosquitoes would transmit the disease.


Peter Jones said...

My, so sad. Malaria every year? Did they stay in that area? They weren't permanent there, right?

Anonymous said...

Love the stories and the blog. Hope to meet you someday. I am a descendant of Thomas Williams and live in Eugene Or. Found this article about the wagon train
Trever Williams