Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Departure for Home Chapter 35, Part 3

Their walk to the livery was longer than any they had taken before but although it was cold, the sun was shining and it was beginning to feel like spring.  Ellen’s new clothes swished pleasantly around her legs and the cape draped beautifully.  Slade wore his new work suit and looked very handsome.  It was a wonderful day for strolling through the old town.

Their things had been stacked in the wagon and the horses were being harnessed.  Slade helped Ellen onto the wagon seat and then went to check on buying a team of mules.  Happily the mules in the back pen were for sale and Slade was able to pick a team to his liking.  He did take the extra time to ask the liveryman to hitch them to a cart and let him drive them briefly.  When they showed themselves to be amenable and obedient, he discussed cost and they came to an agreement. 

The mules were tied to the back of the wagon and the horses hitched to the front.  Ellen and Slade set out for the store. 

Senor Montalvo had stacked their supplies on the back dock of the store.  Slade sent Ellen to browse the shop while he and the storekeeper carefully packed the things into the bottom of the wagon and redistributed the things already loaded in the wagon.. Surprisingly the entire load filled it compactly and made only a small heap above the railings on the side.  Slade had room at the back to fit their traveling things in snuggly.  He covered the whole with a large tarp tied down securely on the sides. 

As soon as Santos came they could leave. 

When Slade entered the store itself, Ellen was sitting on the edge of the window sill, looking decidedly tired.  As she saw Slade she put a smile on her face and stood up, but he wasn’t fooled. 

“We will go and get you some tea and you can sit in the window of the little café next door and watch the people go by.  You must rest for a while.  I don’t want to start the trip with you so tired.” 

“I am spoiled!  I’ve gone for months and months without tea. Even at home when Alejandro and my father were with me still, I seldom had tea.  And now you’ve gotten it for me every day since we’ve been in Santa Fe!

“But it would taste good.”  Ellen smiled at herself.  “And a real chair would be good, too.”

Slade took her arm and led her out and around to the café.  The lady who owned it may have been Spanish, but she prided herself in serving some Anglo favorites.  And one of those preferences was tea!  She had also taught herself to make the little cakes and cookies they liked.  When Ellen was sitting comfortably with her tea and a plate of little sweet biscuits, Slade told her he had to finish at the store and left her.

He returned to the general store, hoping against hope the keeper would have what he wanted.  When Slade told him of his problem, the tendero smiled broadly.

“I only have four, senor, but maybe one will serve!”  He turned to a tiny safe behind the counter and brought out four tiny boxes.  Each one contained a ring.   Two were set lavishly with gemstones, but the other two were plain bands, one engraved deeply with  flowery vines and the other a geometric design.  Slade chose the flower engraving immediately.  He held it up and peered at the size wondering if it would fit.  Ellen had very slender hands.

“Yes, senor,” the shopkeeper immediately knew his thoughts.  “The senora has tiny hands; I’m sure it will fit her.  I have had that one for a very long time because it is too small for most of those looking for a ring.”

Slade grinned with relief and embarrassment.  He used almost the last of his own cash to purchase the ring, thinking ruefully to himself how foolish it was to separate the money he carried.  But somehow he felt better using his own cash rather than the money Ellen had put in his pockets.  She had been adamant that it was all their money, but for this he was determined to split hairs.   He put the little box in his inner jacket pocket and secured the button. 

He told the shopkeeper that they would be next door at the restaurant when Santos returned.  He left their animals tied at the back of the store with their wagon and returned to Ellen and her tea. 

She was chatting happily with Beatriz and the Comandante stood near the door smiling complacently at the women.  When Slade came in he greeted him cheerfully.

“Our ladies are content to talk of dresses and tea!  I had to stand away or I would have died of boredom!

“Are you ready to leave already?  Beatriz was hoping you would take another day.  She is never one to hurry, except today she was hurrying me because she was afraid of missing Elena. 

“Your new wife is looking more rested but she is still a little white.  Are you sure she is ready to make the journey?”

“She says so, my friend,” Slade answered.  “We are only waiting for Santos to return.  She is determined to get started.  And I am, too, I must say.  I’m not a ‘city boy,’ I have to admit!

“How well do you know Santos?  Is he dependable enough to be left with this job?  I’d hate for her to be betrayed by someone she trusts.”

“Never fear,” Ortega-Garcia responded.  Santos is as honest as men come.  Given time, he will build the hacienda back to where it was, perhaps even better.  I only hope that his authority to be the foreman is not questioned by anyone.”  The Commandante frowned.   

“There were several who were anxious to support the false Aguilar’s claim.  They had something perhaps to gain by that support.  Perhaps he had promised them some part in the income from the property.

“I will give Santos my support, but it would be better if there were a member of the family present.  You would be the best man for the job, but you will be too far away.” 

“We must make a decision soon then.”  Slade said.  “Ellen has been through a great deal.  I would hate for her to lose the only thing she has left from her former life.  But she insists on returning to our tiny house.  I left it in safe hands, except the man is an Indian and might face the same problem there. 

“She thinks there are too many bad memories there now, but when the horror has faded I think she will be more ready to return.  Could we make it known around town that Santos is Ellen’s designated overseer?”

“Yes,” Ortega-Garcia answered.  “We will tell the Sheriff and the members of the bank.  Gutierrez already knows and so does Senor Montalvo.  I will make it known among the other patrons in the area.  Once it is widely known that Ramirez is the appointed legal representative of the Senora, there should be less of a problem. 

“You must make plans, however, to return frequently.  When the Senor and Senora are gone for long periods rumors develop and problems arise.”

“I will take your advice seriously, my friend.”   Slade answered.  “Now, maybe we should collect our wives.  They will sit chatting all day!”

The two men went to their wives’ sides and in a few minutes left the café.  Outside they found that Santos had been waiting for several minutes at the general store for their return.

After greeting the man and discussing the prospects for repairs and upkeep, Slade said to his wife.

“Ellie, I believe it would be good to go with Santos to the Sheriff’s office.   Senor Ortega-Garcia has pointed out that there may be those who will oppose his management of your property and his right to arrange for repairs and employees to carry them out.  Since we cannot be present for most of the time we will need to secure Senor Ramirez’s rights before the legal representatives of the community.  What do you think?”

“I hadn’t thought of that, but yes, we can go to Sheriff Cisneros.  Maybe we can also let the Padre know.  If enough reputable men are aware of our arrangement there will be a smaller chance of problems,” Ellen answered. 

“We already have the written documents in place so I think simply stopping by the sheriff’s office and then the church will take care of the requirements.”

They took their leave of the Ortega-Garcia’s in front of the store and arranged for Santos to meet them behind at the loading dock.  In a matter of minutes they had stopped at the sheriff’s office and introduced Santos Ramirez as their designated overseer at the ranch.  They made sure that he understood that no other arrangements would supersede these in place unless one of them met with him in person to convey any change in plans.

Along the road heading southwest, they met with Padre Navario to make the same introductions, then Santos headed back to his house in order to begin organizing his move to the ranch. 

Finally, Ellen and Slade were alone and driving toward home.

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