Cornelius Tells Her Tale

The Murder Weapon

The Breaking Point

As the seconds marched away with no response from Ragtail, Cornelius clasped her hands together and searched his face.

“I just told you that I killed my husband and you have nothing to say? Everyone else starts prying for all the details.”
Ragtail hooked his hands onto his suspender straps and regarded the slim woman recovering in her bed. For some reason, he liked talking with her.
“I figgur you’ll tell me if’n you want me to know. Otherwise, I reckon yer mate will still be dead and nothing’s changed.”
“You saved my life, Eb, and I find myself wanting to tell you about it. Then you can decide if you saved anything of value.”
She pointed to the chair. “You may as well have a seat. I’m not likely to attack.”
Her smile was sad, but it gave Ragtail a feeling he didn’t understand. He took the chair.
“We married young and he was the sweetest man I’d ever known,” Cornelius said. “He was a hard worker and saved up what he could. His father left him a little inheritance and with that, we bought a small place.”
She checked to make sure Ragtail was listening.
“He wanted a lot of sons to help on the farm and, I guess, to carry on his name.”
She sighed and inspected her hands, lapsing into an undisturbed silence. Ragtail became aware that Kettie had slipped inside the door. He waited for Cornelius to continue.
“As time went on and I didn’t produce children, he became angry. He said I was a disgrace to women.
He started hitting me. It got worse as the years passed. He punched and kicked me like he was trying to beat a child out of me. If he had something in his hand he hit me with that.”
Ragtail felt the heat on his face. He gripped the chair seat to keep his hands from flailing about.
“One day I was in the barn pitching hay for our milk cow and he hit me in the back with a shovel. Hard.”
Cornelius frowned and shook her head.
“I don’t know what happened then. The next thing I remember is I’m holding on the fork handle and there’s about six inches of tines stuck in his belly. He had a confused look on his face and he sunk straight down dead.”
She covered a small cough.
“He never closed his eyes, just hunkered in the dirt looking stupid. I’ve wondered if he was confounded by what I did, or if he had a glimpse of the afterlife.”
She quit flexing her fingers, raised her chin and looked Ragtail in the eye.
“I didn’t give him his legacy so I took his front name as mine to carry it on as long as I last. He got mean but I had no right to end his life. It wasn’t mine to take. So now I’m asking, do you think you did right in saving mine?”
What’s your take on Cornelius? Leave a comment.

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.
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