Darkling by R.B. Chesterton Read Free Book Online

Book: Darkling by R.B. Chesterton Read Free Book Online
Authors: R.B. Chesterton
“Yes, she’s an emotional teen, but in two years she’ll be away in college, far from my ability to help her. She has to start using her head.”
    I couldn’t argue with that logic and didn’t want to. “I’ll pick up Erin when we pass the stables. I’m ready to start the lessons.”
    â€œI’m going into town for supplies. I thought I’d let Margo and Annie prepare dinner tonight.”
    I swallowed. It wasn’t the game plan I’d have chosen, but Berta was the boss.
    â€œI’ve been thinking, Mimi. The children and I really dragged our feet when Bob moved us here. Listening to Annie’s stories about the old hotel made me realize that we don’t really know the history of our home or the hotel. I’m going to stop by the library and see if there are any books on Coden. It might be a good project for the children. Annie can learn the truth about Belle Fleur and the Paradise Inn along with the children. Put that ghost story stuff to bed. I know Annie doesn’t mean any harm, but I don’t like to see Donald so scared.”
    â€œThat’s an excellent idea.” I was instantly caught up in the potential of the project. While Cora had told me many tales about Coden and the landmarks here, I’d never actually thought to explore the facts through research. In high school, we’d studied Alabama history, but Coden had hardly gotten a mention. “We’ll battle the ghost stories with facts. It’s a wonderful lesson in combating superstitions with knowledge.”
    Berta’s fingers combed through my dark hair. “You’re an unexpected blessing, Mimi. We were so lucky when we ran into Cora and she told us you were graduating as a teacher. I don’t think I could have found anyone better.”
    Her praise made me dizzy. “Learning can be exciting. If I teach the children that, they’ll never lack for an education.”
    â€œYou make lessons fun. That’s a gift. No matter where you end up teaching after these children are grown, you’ll be a star.”
    â€œThank you, Berta.” It was a big compliment, but it also rattled me. I’d never thought that the Henderson children would grow up and my services wouldn’t be necessary—that I would become their past. Of course it was the natural course of life, but it still made me sad.
    â€œHey, did I upset you?” Berta asked.
    â€œOf course not. I just stepped into the future for a moment. It was a little disconcerting.”
    â€œWell, soon enough you’ll be immersed in the past. I’ll get all the books I can find at the library.”

    â€œTell us about the gardens, Mimi.” Erin grabbed my hand and held it as we walked beneath the live oaks that formed a canopy over the path. I’d decided to head for the natural springs, an area filled with plant and aquatic life. The swamp lilies, an amazing plant with white blossoms that smelled of heaven, were in bloom. The marshy land was also a primo location to find the native Alabama birds, and to that end I’d brought along my binoculars. It was also the habitat for moccasins, the most deadly of Alabama’s snakes. There were rattlers aplenty, but they at least gave a distinctive rattle. The cottonmouths and copperheads were sneaky. They hid and then struck without warning.
    â€œOne reason Henri was drawn to Coden was the climate and the vast assortment of plants that grow here. We get more rain than any other place in the United States. While it makes humidity a problem, it’s great for plants.”
    â€œI hate it here.” Margo lifted her hair off her neck. “My hair is already starting to frizz and we haven’t gotten out of the yard.”
    I ignored Margo’s whining. “The swamp lilies, or Cahaba lilies as they’re also known, were going to be one of the premier perfume plants of the Desmarais family’s plan to create exotic

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