THEIR SUITE WAS A WELCOMED SIGHT. Ellen was close to exhaustion and even Slade had to admit he was tired. He walked to the rope hanging by the fire place and tugged it a couple times. Ellen kicked off her shoes as she stepped inside the bedroom door. She loved her new clothes but longed for the old comfortable ways of home. She pulled off the shirtwaist and skirt to don her pretty robe. Slade came in as she was tying the sash around her waist.
He smiled to see her bashfulness when she caught sight of him over her shoulder. “It’s all right, Mrs. Slade. I’m allowed to watch my wife changing her dress. I love watching her--no matter what she is doing.”
He walked across and wrapped his arms around her waist to kiss the side of her neck. How wonderful it was to be able to nuzzle her ruffles aside and kiss the top of her shoulder.
“I’ve ordered some coffee and something for us to eat before we start packing for tomorrow,” he told her as they went back to the fire in the sitting room. There they snuggled in the warmth until a knock at the door announced their food.
With the tray came a brief note from the Commandant’s wife inviting them to dinner in the hotel dining room later in the evening. Ellen wrote a happy response to send back by the messenger. Slade asked the maid to have them called an hour before they were due to dinner.
“Beatriz is the sweetest woman! You will like her, Eli. I know she chose the hotel dining room to allow us to rest as long as we can. She is just that considerate! The Commandant dotes on her.”
“Well, I’m famished.” Slade said. “Breakfast was a long time ago and it will be quite a while until we are to meet the Ortega-Garcia’s for dinner”
He pulled the small table to the front of the settee. There was cold fried chicken and white bread with butter on the tray with some apples kept carefully over the winter. A silver pot of hot coffee with cream and sugar accompanied them. They ate their combination lunch and afternoon snack quickly.
Afterwards, Ellen put her feet up on the sofa and leaned against her husband. Slade propped his stocking feet on the stool beside the fire. Within in minutes they were both asleep, packing forgotten.
THEIR MEAL WITH THE COMMANDANTE and his wife was a quiet affair. It became a celebratory event when the couple discovered the young people had been married. Beatriz was just as kindly as Ellen had foretold. She asked about the ranch on the slope of the mountain and wanted to know all about Joseph and his grandparents. She was interested in their wedding and plans for the future.
“I’ve told Eli,” Ellen said when the topic came up, ‘that I would much rather go back to our little house in the mountains. I may be able to return to the rancho later, but right now I only want it repaired for Don Francisco’s brother if should he decide to take up residence. If not, well, we will decide what to do later.
“At the moment I don’t believe I can bring myself to face all the horrible memories there. Every room is filled with terror. I’m not sure I could enjoy returning yet.
will take good care of it, I’m sure.” Santos
“I entirely understand,” Senora Ortega-Garcia answered. “I don’t believe I could return quite so soon after what you experienced with that horrid bandito. And now all these months later, to be awakened from a sound sleep with him standing over you! And then you were so brave as to shoot him!
“You have my highest esteem, querida!”
“I’m afraid the shooting was absolutely spontaneous self defense, senora,” Ellen returned. “I was so frightened that when my hand closed on the shotgun, I acted without a thought.
“Thank the Lord that Slade taught me to shoot it. I was so frightened. I’m afraid I was hysterical beyond describing for a short while.
“I am content to have the house and Los Llanos repaired and made beautiful again. Maybe later we can visit.”
The conversation passed on to descriptions of their ranch and the conveniences that Jacob had built into the little house. Ellen described the warmth of the stove and the fireplace and told how happy she was to be able to use the tiny cook top of the stove for some things instead of having to cook over the open flames all the time.
The senora had never cooked over a fire or a stove in her life, but she was able to imagine the difficulties involved. When she heard that Ellen had learned to milk a cow and drive a wagon she was even more admiring.
“That is so wonderful, querida! I cannot imagine myself ever being so self-sufficient! I am afraid, as much as I admire you, that I am too old to learn such things now.” She sighed with what seemed to be a genuine regret.
“Perhaps someday when you are settled, de Ortega will bring me to visit you and you can show me all of these amazing things. Imagine! Water that flows into the house and keeps things cold! How convenient! And a tank that always has hot water!” She shook her head.
“My dear Beatriz,” the Comandante said, “you will never dip hot water or put milk in a cold well! You would splash it over yourself or fall in the cold!”
Beatriz sighed, “One can always dream.” And she smiled smugly at her husband.
Conversation moved to other things and Ellen inquired how long Ortega-Garcia considered that it would take for word to arrive from the remaining Aguilar brother.
‘I would not expect word for a year. It may possibly arrive sooner, but better to anticipate a longer time than to be constantly worrying when it hasn’t arrived. It should take a great deal less time, but there are many disruptions between here and
. The actual voyages aren’t so long, but the travel before and between and after
is arduous. Spain
“And we don’t know if el Senor Aguilar is still living.”
Ellen accepted the statement calmly. The remaining Aguilar brother was nothing to her except a name. She was only contacting him through a sense of right. “I hope to hear something definite one way or another. I wouldn’t mind keeping the land but I sincerely feel that the Aguilar heir should at least be made aware that I’m more than willing to cede it to him if he desires.
“After that we can make better plans.”