Frances no longer rose early with the roosters. He didn’t seem to stir until the sun was fully up. His bedtime changed too, most days he was in bed before the sun went down. Antonio noticed Frances drifting farther away into his own world. A world that included Ruth, his beloved. Antonio did his best to keep things going like clockwork on the land. He rose early and put the teapot on. Each morning he made Frances a cup of warm ginger tea with lemon and a dash of cinnamon, just the way Ruth used to make it. Then he would head out to take care of the animals and land. Later, Antonio would come back after he thought Frances was up and fix him a boiled egg and a slice of bread with preserves. He knew if he didn’t fix something for him to eat Frances would whittle away to nothing. His appetite was not what it used to be. Antonio knew Frances was feeling down since Ruth had passed and he felt helpless in his efforts to comfort him. Each time he attempted to tell Frances he needed to see a doctor Frances waved him off and told him he was just fine the way he was. They would end up sitting by the fire while Antonio read to him. After Frances went to bed Antonio would finish up his work around the land. Frances wasn’t the only one drifting away, Chowder stayed most of the day in his favorite spot on the front porch. In the evenings he would move slowly into the house. Antonio rubbed his head one morning and told him he loved him. By the time he came back from the field that evening Chowder didn’t look up or move an inch to greet him, he was gone. Antonio and Frances buried him next to Ruth.
One day Antonio was especially surprised. It was like Frances was a different person. He seemed a little more alive. He appeared to be on a mission. He was focused and didn’t let anything get him off track of what he was trying to do. That morning they had a big breakfast that Frances had made himself. Antonio asked him, “What happened to you?” Frances just waved him off and said he had to put some things in order. After Antonio did a few things with the animals Frances told him to get himself ready, they were going into town. Antonio didn’t argue with him. He was glad to see him coming back to his old self.
Once they were in town Frances introduced Antonio to a few people. There was Lady Charlotte at the general store. She bought their produce every last week of the month. Next, there was Earl Myers. He was the town banker. Earl took care of most of the business in town. Frances said he was very trust worthy and was raising his son to follow in his footsteps. Last, Frances directed Antonio down the road to Clergyman Paul’s house.
“When I’m gone Antonio Paul will be like a father to you. He has been my good friend for years and have never let me down.”
Antonio knew what Frances was talking about, but he didn’t like it one bit. He went on to talk about how Paul had three beautiful daughters to choose from when Antonio was ready to marry, and they are homemade he added. Antonio felt like something was being dumped in his lap. He was not ready for Frances to leave him, nor was he ready to get married. When they arrived at Paul’s, Paul escorted them into the lounge room and requested one of his daughters to bring them some tea. Frances got straight to the point.
“Paul I need you to look out for my son when I’m gone, it won’t be long. You know how things should go, we discussed it before.”
Paul shook his friends hand in agreement and they drunk their tea while talking about times past. Antonio braced himself for the day he would be alone. He wondered what would become of him, then he remembered what Frances was preparing him for all along, to carry on the legacy. In his heart Antonio could feel the rumbling of a quiet storm.