Lure of the Craton Mountains (Part Three)

Fred Craton entered the room again and carried several bandages and a bottle of disinfectant. Elenor winced as the disinfectant stung on the raw flesh of her wounds but she gritted her teeth. Fred gently bound her feet with the bandages making sure the twisted ankle was properly supported.

Elenor’s hair had fallen loose during her walk through the forest and hidden the wound on her neck. Blood had had begun to dry in her hair and Fred stood quickly to lift it from her neck. Fred moved quickly yet gently to clean the area where the glass had cut into her skin.

Elenor felt a wave of nausea flow through her body once more as the antiseptic seeped into her wound. The smell was making her head throb and she bent over without realizing it. She took deep breath and closed her eyes. Elenor felt something pat her head slowly and draw back the hair from around her face.

Fred knelt on the floor in front of her and continued to pat her head gently. He must have taken the antiseptic away because the smell slowly faded and his gentle pats made her feel relaxed. When Elenor had calmed down and the nausea was less strong, Fred got up and bound her neck. The bandage felt different than the ones on her feet and the cloth was soft like a scarf. Elenor barely felt Fred’s touch as he wrapped it around and when he finished, he exit the room with the First Aid Kit.

Fred entered the room again and walked through to the kitchen. He busied himself putting a metal jug on the wood fire stove to boil water and set up a large plunger with coffee.

Elenor watched curiously as he then took a loaf of bread from under a tea cloth and started slicing thick pieces. He then retrieved a porcelain jar from the cupboard and started spreading homemade butter on each slice generously. Strawberry jam was his next choice and then he placed two sandwiches on a plate and then paused and took them off again. He then drew a knife from a knife block and sliced each sandwich into four small triangles. Fred put the triangles on a plate and then carried it over to the coffee table next to Elenor.

The towels she had used and also the one wrapped around her, were sopping wet and Fred frowned. Fred then made his way into one of the rooms again and was out of sight.

It was all very surreal, almost dreamlike, sitting in the rocking chair of a place she’d never been. She was even being brought triangle sandwiches and given a warm foot bath. Then again the whole day had been weird starting with the gloomy rain and Lacey’s sudden outburst.

Fred strode back into the room several minutes later, just as Elenor was getting sleepy. He came beside her and bent, picking her, the towels and everything up in one swoop. Elenor was immediately awake and squirmed slightly.

“Where are we going?” Elenor asked carefully.

Fred didn’t answer instead walked through a hallway and into a bedroom. The bedroom was very feminine in decorations and a large flowery doona was spread across the bed. On one of the bedside tables a pitcher of water sat with several towels and a bar of soap. Several clean towels were laid on the edge of the bed and Fred deposited Elenor on them gently. Beside her on the bed laid out neatly was a clean dress. The dress was soft blue in colour and was made out of soft wool.  It had long sleeves and Elenor could sense that it would be warm and comforting.

Fred opened one of the draws of the bedside table and coughed awkwardly. Elenor noticed several ladies undergarments and Fred was looking away, studying the bedpost as if it were a master carving. Elenor smiled slightly and grabbed a couple of things out of the draw and closed it, tucking the items underneath one of the towels she was sitting on.

“Thank you,” Elenor stated, offering Fred a warm smile.

Fred’s beard moved and his white teeth flashed as he returned a smile. He then glanced around the room one more time before heading to the door. Fred exited the room and closed the door behind him. Elenor froze as she heard the door lock from the other side, but took a deep breath.

He’s probably just trying to make me feel like I have some privacy, Elenor thought, retrieving the undergarments from under the towel.

Despite this thought, Elenor still hopped on one leg over to the door with the undergarments and a towel. She winced as her twisted ankle shot pain up her leg but she gritted her teeth. Elenor then leant against the door and undressed awkwardly. She then wrapped herself in the towel she had brought with her and hopped back over to the bed.

Elenor bathed her arms and legs, getting rid of any leftover mud and then washed her face. She then slid into the dress and instantly felt comfortable. The dress was a couple of sizes too big for her but that just added to the comfort.

Slowly Elenor’s vision started to darken and the pillow looked incredibly inviting. Unable to keep herself upright any longer Elenor lay down and let her eyes close.

I’ll just rest for a moment and then I’ll get up, Elenor thought tiredly.

________________________________________________________________

The candle that had been lit on the bedside table had been snuffed out and the room was dark. The only light emanated from a slight crack in the doorway where the door had been left slightly ajar. The air around Elenor’s face as she slowly awakened was cold, yet her body was toasty warm. Elenor sleepily noticed that although the blankets below her hadn’t moved, an extra blanket had been laid over her.

A male voice drifted through the crack in the door and Elenor blinked slowly. She wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep, but the voice piqued her curiosity. The voice was deep and calm but every now and then a laugh would ring up the hallway. The voice would pause every now and then as if listening to another person, but Elenor couldn’t hear the other person speak if they were.

Soon enough, Elenor’s curiosity got the better of her and she sat up slowly. Taking care not to make herself black out due to getting up too quickly, she took her time swinging her injured foot off the bed. Her foot felt numb, yet Elenor figured that was better than the sharp pain she’d been experiencing earlier. A blotchy purple bruise was peeking out from the edge of the bandage, which had slightly loosened while she slept.

Supporting herself via the bed, Elenor stood on her good foot and gathered courage for the journey. One hop at a time, she reached the door and pulled it open.

“The banks are holding at the moment, but if it gets any higher we may have to start digging a channel for the runoff,” the male voice said clearly.

Elenor leant against the wall for support and hopped down the hall as quietly as she could. Her barefoot made only a slight pad on the wooden floorboards as she finally made it to the doorway to the lounge room. Elenor couldn’t see anyone in the lounge, so she peeked cautiously around the corner.

Fred was chopping up what looked like carrots on a board and then tossing them into a small pot. He had changed clothes, Elenor noticed, and was now wearing a flannel shirt and jeans.

“If Dad and Mum aren’t back soon I’ll go out as search party and find them. Mum shouldn’t have gone out in her condition, but she hates being at the house alone,” the male voice came again.

Fred looked up from the task at hand and gazed in the direction of the dining area. Elenor had to move a bit further in order to see the dining area and she did so cautiously.

Leaning over the table studying a map was a young man who Elenor guessed was in his mid-twenties. He was also wearing a flannel shirt but the sleeves were rolled up revealing toned muscles and tanned skin. Dark hair was cut short for convenience and a frown was furrowed on his brow as he scanned the map.

 “What about you? How was the eastern side holding up?” the man asked.

Elenor looked at Fred, wondering if he had told the other man about her presence yet. Fred finished putting the carrot pieces in the pot and placed it on the stove. He then reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a folded piece of paper. Fred dropped it on the table in front of the other man and then went back to the stove. The man at the table unfolded the piece of paper to reveal another map. He scanned it for only a moment before making a displeased click with his tongue.

“That’s a large landslide, luckily we were aware of its instability and got the cattle in from that range,” the man was talking again.

The man then folded both maps and slapped them down on the table. He stretched and let out a tired yawn. To Elenor’s horror he then began walking towards where she was spying from.

“I’m going to go wash up now,” the man called back to Fred.

Elenor began to hurriedly hop away from the doorway, knowing full well she wouldn’t be able to get to the room before he reached the doorway. At the last second she spun back around, hoping that it looked like she was only just heading down the hall to the lounge.

The surprise on the man’s face was evident and he stopped midstride.

“Shi-,” the man cursed. “Shiitake mushrooms, you scared the life out of me.”

His not so subtle cover-up of swearing made Elenor smile slightly and she just stood awkwardly on one foot. The man stood trying to recover his thoughts and Fred rounded the corner seconds later.

“I found her hurt on the mountain,” Fred explained.

Finally he speaks! Elenor thought

He had a soft voice, nothing at all like his gruff exterior and he spoke simply. Although grateful for the explanation, Elenor wasn’t quite sure it was enough.

“Ah, were you running from a bear and tripped?” the man asked with a friendly smile.

“I scared her,” Fred replied simply.

“Ah so a bear did scare you,” the man teased again. “Really Fred you need to shave that beard off, otherwise all the young maidens will end up here with hurt feet, bemoaning the fact that they thought they were being attacked by a giant bear.”

Fred grunted and Elenor raised an eyebrow.

“I’m hardly bemoaning, besides it was the shock of running into the owner of the land I was trespassing on that made me run,” Elenor said, crossing her arms.

“That’s true you are taking this all very well,” the man said.

“Fred has taken very good care of me, despite my half scaring him to death by running into him earlier, and despite making his jacket muddy, and despite him having to carry me all the way here.”

“Now, you’re more talkative!” the man said with pleasure. “My job here was successful.”

Elenor could have sworn she saw Fred roll his eyes and she smiled.

“I’m Elenor Morten,” Elenor introduced, holding out her hand while she balanced on her leg.

“Scott Craton,” the man returned, shaking her hand. “And since I doubt he’s been vocal enough to introduce himself, this is my Uncle Fred.”

Fred walked up to Elenor and hooked an arm around her waist. Elenor lent on his arm as she hopped to where she was earlier seated in the lounge. Scott shook his head as he watched them.

“Are you two having a mental conversation right now that I’m not a part of?” Scott asked.

“No, I just know she’s hurt badly,” Fred answered with as few words as possible.

“Not badly, it’s just a twisted ankle,” Elenor said, wishing for no more attention on her.

“And a scratched neck?” Scott asked with a frown.

“It’s nothing,” Elenor said before changing the subject. “I’m sorry for intruding, I’ll be sure to leave as soon as the rain has subsided.”

“Feel free to stay, it’s no trouble to us, though it was a surprise,” Scott said. “Beside’s your father is a friend of ours and I know he wouldn’t want you wal- hopping down the mountain with this storm.”

“Well as long as you don’t mind me being totally happy to have Fred bring me sandwiches every now and then, I guess it will be fine,” Elenor joked.

“Of course he wouldn’t mind. And you know you can just call him God-“

“I’m no God,” Fred interrupted, slapping a hand on Scott’s shoulder.

“You’ve got the majestic beard for one though,” Scott said with a laugh. “Now excuse me I’m going to wash up.”

Scott left and Fred went back to cooking, leaving Elenor to ponder the last few minutes. She didn’t have long to think however before the front door flew open. A flurry of cold wind blew through the entryway, causing Elenor to shiver. Two figures entered their coat collars turned up and hands tucked in their coats.

“By golly, the wind just about knocked us over as we were walking back,” a female voice said with a lively tone. “I felt like Dorothy when she was on the way to Land of Oz.”

If another person turned up at the house, Elenor wondered if she’d been transported to the Land of Oz. There just didn’t seem to be even one dull moment in this household.

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