How much had she missed just lying in bed? Her chores! She was sure the two milk cows would be lowing in pain by now. She scrambled down the stairs and stopped short when she saw the buckets of milk Ben had left by the kitchen door. Close by was a bucketful of water with a washcloth hanging on the edge. She took a deep breath and checked the porch to see how the kittens had fared overnight.
The kittens pounced on her hand as she reached into the crate. In gratitude for unknowingly risking their lives, she brought them into the kitchen and set them on the floor along with a saucer of the cream Ben had milked for her this morning. Agnes scratched behind their ears and considered releasing these two from the barn and making them a permanent addition to the household. While the kittens enjoyed their breakfast, Agnes gratefully dipped the washcloth into the bucket and cleaned her face.
“River’s running again.”
Agnes startled and dropped the washcloth in the bucket with a splash. Ben had entered without her even knowing. She composed herself and turned to face him. She thought about how she was glad he was seeing her with a clean face and then immediately thought about how silly that was.
“It’s not at the level it was, but at least it’s flowing. No more mud baths. At least not til the end of the summer anyway.” Ben was smiling at her. She wondered what he was thinking. She was never good at guessing. Maybe about how ridiculous they had looked after gathering the water yesterday. “And the well looks to be all right too.” He paused, still grinning at her.
I should say something, Agnes thought. “Yes,” she said hollowly.
Was that all she had to say? Goodness, woman, she thought: speak! Ben waited for her to continue. “Yes, that’s good news about the river.” Another pause. “And the well.” She felt so chagrined she had slept the morning away. “And thank you for the water and doing my chores.” Agnes trailed off. Ben really was a good man. She reached down and picked up one of the kittens to cover her awkwardness.
Is this what love was? This doing for others? Letting her sleep, fixing the outhouse.
Ben picked up the other kitten and ran his fingers down its back. “I thought I might hitch up the wagon and head over to Old Man Torgensen’s place today. That couple should know that people are talking. And then I thought I’d head into town afterward. I want to pick up some lumber to finish fixing that outhouse. See how people are doing, maybe get more news about the river.”
“That sounds good.” Agnes thought about all that she needed to do here on the farm while Ben was in town.
“Would you like to come with me?” Ben glanced at Agnes briefly and he turned his attention to the kitten in his arms, suddenly almost self-conscious.
They didn’t often go places together. Church was one of the few places they accompanied each other. It fulfilled their religious duty and let them socialize enough with the folks in town. They each had their separate responsibilities on the farm. But, uncharacteristically, Agnes was eager to go. She wanted to see if the camaraderie she felt with Ben yesterday would remain.
How will the visit to Old Man Torgensen's place go? Will Agnes and Ben's camraderie turn to more? Come see tomorrow!