Rebecca couldn't remember a time when she hadn't done exactly what was expected of her--until now.
"James, you and Louise act as though I'm going into the wilderness to live in a tent. Have you forgotten I have a house there?" Rebecca glanced out the window. A rented, covered wagon, loaded with her possessions, stood at the end of the walkway, ready for her departure. Now all she had to do was say good-bye to her brother and sister--again. For even at this late date, her siblings were still trying to talk her out of leaving.
"It's been years since you've seen that place. How do you know it's still standing?" A frown creased her brother's brow. "Besides, those people are different from folks you've always known. They're clannish, superstitious, and suspicious." He stacked his objections like a barricade.
"What will you do for entertainment, Rebecca?" Louise chimed, twisting her linen handkerchief about her index finger. "You're leaving at such an awkward time. The bridge tournament is next week. Whatever will we do?" The handkerchief became damp and limp as Louise's agitation grew. Louise could always be counted on to get to the heart of things. One more set of whist or one more garden social, and Rebecca would scream. Love for her sister stifled her protest. Instead, she laughed softly. "Where's your sense of adventure?"
Noticing the stricken looks on their faces, Rebecca realized they were like two slices of plain white bread, filling and nourishing, yet tasteless. And she'd been sandwiched between them since birth. Then, taking pity on the pair, she tried to reassure them.
"James, you have control of my business affairs. You've agreed to find renters for the house, to forward my mail and bank drafts. You've made excellent investments with the remainder of my funds. What else is there?"
"Family," her sister replied.
"Family, Louise? You have a family. James has a family. I lost my husband thirteen years ago. Now, with Mama and Papa gone, I have no..."
"You have us. You know we love you," James reminded her.
"Then wish me well."
Social blinders firmly intact, they skirted the real reason behind Rebecca's decision to rearrange her life. To do so would give it credence, and that, neither was willing to do. Guilt was their weapon of choice and they dished it up in double portions.
"What will our friends think? Judge Rice's daughter going God knows where, to care for the sick and diseased, handling corrupt flesh, and washing the bodies of strangers." Louise's plump body shuddered visibly at the thought.
"I don't care what they think!" Rebecca stepped to the window and pulled back the lacy curtain. Jimmy Johnstone, her young driver, waited beside the wagon. "It's time I started living for myself," Rebecca said, turning.
"Sister, that's selfish. You should think of someone other than yourself."
"I am thinking of others! It's for others I'm going to the hill country. There, I won't face the restrictions of social stigma." She unleashed her pent-up passions and flung their objections back at them. "No one will know, or care, who I am. They won't have prejudices against a woman nursing and caring for their sick. I'll finally be free to practice what I learned so many years ago. I've waited so long--too long--to use it." She looked first at James, then Louise, silently imploring them to understand her need.
Louise busied herself mopping tears with her crumpled hanky. James held Rebecca's gaze, refusing to relent in his attempt to dissuade her. This emotional tug of war would get them nowhere. Besides, they meant well and she didn't doubt they were genuinely concerned for her safety. Maybe she shouldn't have been so blunt with them. After all, even the missionaries, who taught her the truth about faith healing and how to care for the sick, had refused to allow her to go into field service with them. Apparently, even they had restrictions on unattached females. So be it. She would go where she was needed, on her own.
"James." Rebecca softened her voice, but held her brother's gaze while she spoke. "Contrary to what you think or say, I don't believe the people of Big Grassy valley won't accept me, once they know why I'm there." She smiled faintly, hoping to draw him away from his stubborn stance. "After all, this is 1895, not the Dark Ages."
In all fairness to her brother and sister, she was also thinking of herself. She simply must share with others what she had learned. "Please, both of you, try to understand." She looked at her sister. "I have to do this. I want more out of life than to be a sponge, soaking up the leftovers of life."
Louise dabbed at her eyes and hiccuped. James threw his hands up as if in surrender. Rebecca hugged them both, dropped her house key in James' hand, and dashed out the front door before either had an opportunity to object further.