As winter faded in spring’s glory, the Matheson’s grew accustomed to the new house. The newly-hired gardener began to work in earnest on the landscape. The servants initially had stiff muscles from cleaning the much-larger house. Shae had to walk farther to search out Mrs. Klein or Mr. Canton. There were also three times more visitors than they received when they lived so far out of Davies.
However, it was nice to see Mr. Matheson every evening, instead of just the weekends. McClure visited a bit more often too. As did Aunt Martha, who had many criticisms on the décor. As far as Shae was concerned, it really was quite a beautiful house, and she was grateful for her life there.
Lucy was well enough that she walked about the house. The stairs tired her, but she only took to those a couple of times a day. Most of her time was spent in the library reading, or in the sitting room learning to play piano. When she grew tired, they set her up to nap on a couch in the library, while Shae read to her heart’s content. In her opinion, Mr. Matheson had chosen the books well. They were on a variety of interests, which suited Shae’s busy and curious mind.
The evenings were spent entertaining guests or visiting associates of Matheson’s. His plans for a political career had started, now that Lucy was feeling so much better. He still made sure to take time out to spend with her. He even suggested that they go out for a picnic to the park across the street. Shae was helping Lucy prepare for the outing. There was still occasionally a chill in the air, and it had been a damp spring as well.
Just as Shae was buttoning up the last of the buttons on Lucy’s boots, her husband walked into Lucy’s room.
“Are we ready? The picnic awaits. And I, for one, can’t wait to eat.”
“Lucy is ready. I’ll just grab my overcoat and meet you at the front door.”
Shae hurried to her room, and grabbed the coat, putting it on as she made her way down the staircase. Matheson was holding the picnic basket, and Lucy was beaming up at her.
And they headed out to the picnic.
At the park, after they had eaten their fill of Mrs. Harrison’s fried chicken and accompaniments, they lounged on the blanket. The day had warmed up more than they had expected, so they were enjoying the sun. Birds were chirping, and in the distance you could hear children playing. Near-by a lilac bush filled the air with its perfume. Lucy sighed contentedly, her head in Shae’s lap.
“What a lovely day!” she exclaimed. “I’m so happy to be outside again.”
“It is lovely,” Shae agreed.
“When I was sick, I would pretend I could see out the window. But in my mind I didn’t see the winter. I pictured springtime with the green grass and the apple trees blossoming. I pretended we had a picnic, just like this. Sometimes I could pretend like that, then other times, I didn’t even want to breathe anymore, I was so tired.”
Shae glanced at Matheson. He was looking with sadness at his daughter, as she continued.
“But this is much better than anything I imagined. This is real beauty. I feel so happy. I feel loved.”
“You are loved,” Shae replied.
“I know. I love you too, Shae. And I love you, Father.”
Mr. Matheson seemed a bit shocked by Lucy’s affection for Shae. It had been expressed several times over the past few weeks to her, but he hadn’t heard it because he’d been too busy. He swallowed hard.
“I love you too, my Lucy girl.”
“Did you know that I had the most wonderful dream when I was sick? I dreamed that Jesus was sitting beside me on my bed. He asked me if I knew who He was. I said “of course, I did”, because I saw His hands had scars. And then I told Him that I was thankful that He died on the cross for me. He told me that He loved me. Then I woke up.”
Shae and Mr. Matheson didn’t know what to say. They weren’t regular church-goers, until they moved into Davies. The countryside had no church near-by. They’d started attending on Sunday mornings soon after the move.
“Beth in “Little Women” prayed a lot. So I decided to pray a lot whenever I was tired. I liked Beth. It was sad when she died.”
“Yes,” Shae replied, swallowing back tears.
Those moments reading about Beth were hard, as she had been busy nurturing Lucy’s soul away from death’s door. She smoothed back Lucy’s fly-away golden curls. She was thankful to God that Mr. Matheson and her had this day with Lucy.
“Father, I think I’m ready to nap. Can we go back home now?”
“Certainly,” he said, rising from the ground.
They packed up, went home, and tucked Lucy in for a nap.
After that “blissful day”, as Lucy called it, little-by-little she grew weaker. She slept more. She sat in her window seat in her room and looked out at the garden. Her breathing, while not as labored as it had been a couple of months previous, wasn’t easy. However, her health had never plummeted to the level of danger that they feared it would. So, a few weeks after the picnic, when they had just begun to think she would begin to recuperate, Lucy died in her sleep.
Shae was the one who had found her first, her cheeks cold, but having a serene smile on her face, as if she had been dreaming something pleasant when her heart stopped beating. Feeling for a pulse, she found none, and made her way to Matheson’s door. With tears running down her face, she knocked on it. Again, she had to knock twice before he answered, his hair wild and half-asleep. One look at Shae’s face and he knew.
“Lucy,” was all he said, as he shut himself in his room. Shae heard his muffled sobbing.
Not knowing what else to do, she wiped the tears off her face. She had to be the strong one. She searched for Mrs. Klein and informed her of Lucy’s passing, asking her to make preparations for the wake. She sought out Mr. Canton, asking him to send for the doctor, and to please see to Mr. Matheson’s needs in a half an hour’s time. She also relayed that Mr. McClure should be informed of the Fairy Princess’s passing. Shae started laying out Lucy for the wake. She didn’t have time to mourn properly. Everything rested on her shoulders.
The next few days were a blur, as Shae saw to the needs of the household. Mr. Matheson kept himself confined to his bedroom or his study. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. Even McClure was turned away that first day. He expressed his regrets to Shae with tears streaming down into his red beard. He informed her that he would be at the wake and burial, and went on his way.
It seemed it all would never end. People coming in to express condolences, to weep over her tiny body, and to place blame wherever they could in order to make sense of the tragedy. The day after the burial, it was finally silent in the mansion. Like a tomb, Shae thought, morbidly.