Or Give Me Death

Or Give Me Death by Ann Rinaldi Read Free Book Online

Book: Or Give Me Death by Ann Rinaldi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann Rinaldi
with her."
    "Pa! Anne is the contentious one! She won't come for lessons! She roams about all day like a savage, and when she isn't doing that, she's in the kitchen with Pegg, learning the old Negro religion, all superstition and blood. She's sassy and disobedient, and she vexes me whenever she can."
    He eyed me. "I thought you and your sister got on uncommon well. All that talk of books and poetry you had between you."
    "She's changed."
    "Children do. You are the elder. You must give her good example. She has no polite education. I depend on you to teach her innocence and propriety."
    "Pa, Anne has as much of that as a water moccasin."
    "Which is why you must give her a superiority of understanding. If you expect her to please you, you must appear pleased with her. Don't concern yourself with harmless trifles. She'll come round. I'm depending on you, Patsy."
    And who do I depend on? I wondered. My eyes filled with tears.
    "You have authority over her because I give it to you," he said. "Authority corrupts, like power. In this instance it will corrupt you, Patsy. It's you I am concerned with."
    Oh, he could turn things so his argument always appeared palatable!
    "I drank the tea," I told him. "Some of Mama's tea."
    He scowled. "I thought we agreed on no tea in this household. I count on you to give good example."
    "I drank it because I had to know if Mama was right, if Pegg was poisoning her."
    His eyes widened. "Foolish girl," he said. But gently, and in admiration. And I needed that from him now. "You could have become sick."
    "I wished for it, Pa. I wished to become sick. It would have meant Mama was not going mad."
    He fussed with the cinch again. "You heard the doctor. What's wrong with your mother is not confined to a teacup. And cannot be bled from her."
    I did not tell him about my other cup of tea. I never would. "Pa, there's something else."
    He waited.
    "I want to marry MyJohn."
    "You are to wed him."
    "I mean sooner than we planned. So he can live here with us. It's more important than ever."
    Now he commenced to pick up his horse's hooves, one by one, to examine them. "No, Patsy," he said as he set down the first hoof. "You're too young."
    "Mama was wed at sixteen. You were eighteen."
    He picked up the second hoof. "Do you think I'm not sensible of the fact that our youthful marriage is a goodly part of what has happened to your mother?"
    "Pa, don't say that."
    "I shouldn't have to." The third hoof was examined. "Surely, you've watched her over the years, working, sacrificing, bearing children, and being alone with them in my absence."
    The fourth hoof. "Some women can remain serene and peaceful in their families. Others need amusing books, plays, balls, assemblies."
    "Mama never needed those things."
    "How do we know? Because of a youthful marriage and motherhood, she never had them! No, Patsy. Marriage means children, responsibility. You need more time to be young. To enjoy the balls, the routs, the assemblies."
    "I'm past that, Pa."
    "Well, you shouldn't be." He mounted his horse and sat looking down at me. "I no longer think youthful marriages have anything to recommend them."
    "I'm old enough to take care of the young ones in your absence. To run the house."
    "But any time you wish a weekend away to accept an invitation, you have it. Let marriage wait, Patsy. Stay young awhile longer. I ask you to wait."
    "How long?"
    "Two more years."
    "Two more years!" I stamped my foot. I looked up at him dismally. "It isn't fair! It was supposed to be one! MyJohn and I love each other! How can you ask us to see each other every day and stay chaste and good?"
    "I can because you are my dear girl. And because it is eminently sensible."
    You didn't, I wanted to say. You didn't with Mama. But I did not dare.
    It came to me then, clear as a bell. "Are you saying what I think you are saying, Pa, that being her daughter, I'll come to Mama's end when I wed and have children?"
    He did not answer. "Give yourself more time" was all

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