From Two Crows Sorrow
Laura Churchill Duke
Things are not going well between Theresa and her husband, William. His behaviour has moved from offensive to threatening.
By the time Theresa and William made it to the Steadmans’, dusk was starting to settle over the Valley. “I want to get back home before it’s completely dark,” he said, looking at his pocket watch. “It’s already six o’clock, and we need to change the horse and have our dinner. So, don’t dawdle with Mary.”
Theresa stepped wearily down from the carriage and up onto the Steadmans’ front porch, where Mary was waiting with open arms. “I’ve just heard the news from my Joseph,” she whispered. “He’s not home much before you arrived. I’m awfully sorry this is not over yet. Will you be all right?”
Theresa just nodded and came into the kitchen, where Mary had a fine meal spread out on the table.
“Come, sit,” Mary said, “and I’ll give you a cup of tea while the men change the horses. Look: Eva is here for a visit, too.”
“So lovely to see you, Mrs. Robinson.” Eva Burke stood up from the table to shake Theresa’s hand.
“Mrs. Burke.” Theresa held it limply and only for a moment.
For the remainder of the time before they ate, Theresa sat wringing her hands, staring into space, never once touching her tea. Mary and Eva exchanged worried glances. What had happened to her dear friend, once so full of strength and confidence? She seemed hollowed out, a shell of her former self.
Mary drew a deep breath, about to say some words of comfort, but Theresa stiffened as she heard the men return to the house.
Without a word of invitation, William dived into his meal as if he realized he wouldn’t have had another meal like this, had he been sent to prison. “You’re a good man, Mr. Steadman,” he said between mouthfuls, “to agree to come with me again tomorrow. Not many can see through the absurdity of those charges!”
“You must be awfully glad to sleep in your own bed tonight.”
“Oh, by Jove you are right.” William reached out, put his arm around his wife’s shoulders and squeezed her. Theresa sat motionless, continuing to stare at her lap. “Now, if I could just keep her away from the rest of her blasted family, we’d have a good and happy life. She’s just swayed by the whole lot of them. Aren’t you, dear?”
“Well, I’m sure she couldn’t possibly be,” Mary said.
“But she is. She should not be turning against me, for I am her husband. She’s a damn fool.”
From the other side of the table, Eva gasped. Being newly wed, she couldn’t understand how a husband could speak of his wife so harshly.
“Surely not,” Mary said. She looked over at Theresa, who was still staring blankly and wringing her hands as if she were unaware of any conversation happening around her.
“I had plenty of love and respect for my wife,” William said, “right up until she turned against me and gave evidence against me.”
“Indeed,” Joseph said.
William focused on Mrs. Steadman. “You don’t believe me when I say I treat my wife well and that I am a good and kind husband to her.”
“Oh, yes. I mean, no, not at all, Mr. Robinson,” stammered Mary.
“Well, I invite you to our home. Come back with us tonight and stay a few days and you will see just how well I treat my wife.”
Mary scrambled for an excuse. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly, what with Eva visiting.” She just wasn’t sure she was ready to spend that much time with Mr. Robinson.
“Excuse me, please,” Theresa said. She pushed her chair back and stood with a glassy look in her eyes as if she were completely unaware of where she was. “I must retire from your company for a moment before our journey home.” She went through the kitchen to the rear door leading to the privy.
“I have no more respect for her now than I have for an Injun’s dog,” said William plainly.
Mary gasped, quickly covering her hand over her mouth. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
William stood, pushing his chair back so hard it scraped across the wooden floor. “I will be the last one to eat potatoes and salt there, you mark my words. Before I leave the North Mountain, I will leave a memorial there that they will remember Bill Robinson by.”