Word count: 13,308
“Sorry about the rough ride, Edouard. I hope you and Emilie won’t regret your visit to this part of California,” commented Scott Lancer as once again the carriage wheel struck a hole in the dirt road.
“You forget, mon ami, that Emilie and I have braved much worse than this. We are just happy that we are able to see you once again and meet ta famille of course.”
The blond Lancer smiled at his friend who was sitting beside him. Edouard and his sister Emilie had recently returned from France which they had reluctantly left due to impending war with Prussia. Neither of them were admirers of Napoleon III and feared that their beloved homeland would be devastated in the violence to come.
“I was surprised to hear that you didn’t stop in Boston to see your aunt. She must have missed the two of you while you were away.”
The petite woman in the seat behind the two men laughed, “Tante Agathe? I do not believe that she even realizes we were gone for a year.”
“Emilie,” her brother gently chided, “Tante Agathe is a good woman, but I do admit she is what some might call etrange.”
“Edouard, you know that all she thinks about is her place in society. She has been trying to find un mari pour moi depuis longtemps! And you, she fears that you will allow the Winslow name to die out!”
“Alas, I fear you are right. Of course, notre ami Scott, could do the honorable thing and honor his pledge to you.”
The carriage came to an abrupt stop. “Wait a minute, Edouard. You know I was seven and Emilie was an older woman of eight when I told her we should get married.”
The woman’s dark eyes flashed before she dimpled in remembrance, “Older woman mais oui, I have carried the broken heart all these years because of M. Lancer. Such a cruel man.”
“Now, don’t go talking like that around Johnny. He’ll never let me hear the end of it.” Scott put the carriage into motion again.
“I was most surprised when your telegram reached us in San Francisco. To think that you have a brother you did not know about!”
“It was a surprise to me too. In fact this whole year has been kind of overwhelming. Leaving Boston, finding I have another family, and then becoming involved with Lancer.”
“Ton grandpere, he must be lonely without you, Scott.” Emilie was well aware of Scott’s importance in Harlan Garrett’s life. She and Edouard had visited the Garrett home many times while they were growing up.
“I suspect he is, but he…wouldn’t say that in a letter. He mostly talks about Boston. In fact that’s how I knew you were in San Francisco. He met your Aunt Agatha and she said that the two of you were crossing the country to visit San Francisco and then going to New Orleans. Fortunately, she did remember the name of your hotel.”
Emilie gave a delicious trill. “She can remember much when she chooses. Certainement, we are most grateful to her for the home she has given us since Papa et Maman died.”
“I was always amazed at the difference between your aunt and your father. He was a fine man. My grandfather still talks about some of the chess games the two of them had. I’m afraid my skills don’t measure up to those of Thomas Winslow.”
“Cheri, Edouard and I were most fortunate in our parents. It was a true love match. That is what I wish for myself and Edouard, of course, although I am not certain that any female is worthy of my brother.”
“Emilie! Scott, excuse my sister, s’il te plait. She treats me comme un garcon.”
“It’s alright, Edouard, you forget I remember Emilie when she chased after us, wanting to play in all our games. She can’t do much to surprise me.”
“Oui, that was many years ago. Emilie has always been so much like our mother, always wanting to see and do whatever a man does. I suspect it was because maman grew up in France. Her family was most strict. They did not like it when she met papa and went off to make a new life with him.”
“I know,” Scott reminded him. “I remember how we talked about how similar our backgrounds were.”
“C’est vrai. And now you have found your papa and a brother as well. Tu es heureux, n’est-ce pas?” the young man questioned.
“Oui, tres heureux. Peut-etre, il y a beaucoup d’apprendre, mais je veux les connaitre.”
Emilie clapped her small hands. “Bien, you still remember ton francais.”
“Well, I must admit I’m rusty, but maybe I can practice while you’re here. I hope you’re planning to stay for awhile,” Scott assured them.
“You are sure that your father does not mind having visitors? We do not wish to cause une probleme.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. Teresa will be delighted to have a young woman to talk with, especially one who knows about Parisian fashions. She doesn’t have much chance to talk with girls her own age.”
“She is your father’s ward, n’est-ce pas?”
“Yes, her father worked for Murdoch so Lancer has been her home all her life.”
“Tu appelles ton pere, Murdoch?”
“Yes, I still don’t feel comfortable referring to him as Father. Twenty years can’t be dismissed overnight.”
Edouard glanced back at his sister. The two were well aware of the fact that Murdoch Lancer had had little influence in his son’s life.
“Et ton frere?”
“Johnny? He doesn’t, well, most people are amazed to find out that we’re brothers. He takes after his mother who was from Mexico.”
“Il parle espagnol?”
“Oui. He’s been trying to teach me a few words, but I confuse them with French and then I give up!”
“Zut, zut, mon ami. That is not the Scott Lancer I know. He does not give up.”
“I have changed some since we last met. Perhaps living out here has changed my perspective on things.”
“I can see that you dress differently, but I suspect you are the same man—a man of honor, a man I am proud to call mon ami.”
“Merci, Edouard, j’espere que oui.”
The drive continued on for a few more miles until they reached the overlook where Scott stopped. In silence the two visitors gazed upon the white hacienda that Scott now called home before Edouard remarked, “C’est magnifique, cher Scott. Tu dois etre fier.”
“I guess I am proud, even though I really haven’t been here very long. Murdoch sent for Johnny and me to help him against a man named Pardee. After he was defeated, the three of us became partners.”
“Eh bien, I think I made a mistake when I was young, cheri. Peut-etre, I should have accepted your proposal all those years ago. I could now be chatelaine of all this,” Emilie teased as she spread out her hands to encompass the view.
“Well, right now Teresa rules all of us with an iron hand so shall we finish our journey? I’m anxious to see what you think of my family.”
“Bien sur, we are most anxious to meet them and I am sure that they are curious about the two friends of your past.” Dark eyes twinkled as the carriage moved down the road towards the great gate of Lancer.
Scott helped Emilie Winslow down from the carriage. The top of her head barely came up to his shoulder and her brother wasn’t much taller. Both were spare of figure, but generous of heart and most importantly, they reminded him of Boston. Scott wasn’t often homesick for the city of his birth, but there were times when he did miss all that he grown up with.
“Shall we go? I’m sure that you both would like to clean up and rest.”
“Merci, do you think all of your family will be here?”
“Could be. Johnny might be in town. He’s got a new girl and he tries to visit her whenever Murdoch gives him an hour off.”
“He does not have a fiancée?” Emilie questioned.
“Not Johnny. He prefers to keep the women guessing.”
Scott held the door open for his guests to enter the great room. To his surprise, Johnny was there as well as Murdoch and Teresa. After introductions were made, Teresa led Emilie to the room where she would be staying while Edouard sat down with the men for a glass of whiskey. Taking a sip, he pronounced the liquor to be most fortifying.
Murdoch paused for a second and then remarked, “Scott mentioned that he has known you and your sister for many years.”
“Oui, son grandpere lived not too far from our house. Of course, at that time our parents were still alive. When they died, our aunt came to live with us. She is a…kind woman, but once Emilie and I were old enough we took advantage of the money that our papa left us and started to travel. We have spent the last year visiting some of our mother’s relatives in France.”
“Is that why you have a French accent?” Johnny took a sip of the amber beverage then put it down.
“Oui, we always spoke French at home. My father spoke it fluently too. We are as proud of our French heritage as that of our American upbringing.”
“Even the fact that the French tried to impose themselves on Mexico ?” Johnny added.
“M. Lancer, neither my sister nor I sympathize with the actions taken by the Emperor, then or now. That is one of the reasons we have returned home so that we would not caught in the middle of a war.”
“Mr. Winslow, I’m afraid we don’t hear as much of world events out here as back east so we hadn’t heard about war in Europe.” Murdoch glanced over at his older son who sat there impassively.
“I am not surprised M. Lancer. France declared war last month and now it appears that the Prussians will invade. I fear for my mother’s homeland. You must understand how we feel after what happened in this country not long ago.”
“Yes, well, we were isolated from much of the violence of the War.”
“But surely, when your son fought in it?”
“I…I wasn’t aware of that until recently.”
“Of course, excuse me, I did not mean to give offense. To those of us who lived in the east, those four years will never be forgotten. After the great battles, we would anxiously wait for news of our friends. I always feared that one day I would find Scott’s name on one of those lists.”
“Edouard….” Scott began.
“I regret the memories my talk must cause you, mon ami, but it is true. There were many times when Emilie and I would go over to your grandfather’s house to wait with him. He always seemed to receive the news first. I shall never forget the day when the wire came saying that you had been captured.”
“He never told me you were there.”
“Perhaps because he had had a premonition of…what is the word—catastrophe? When he found out you were still alive, he was overcome with relief.”
“You didn’t fight in the War yourself, Mr. Winslow?” The sapphire-eyed man leaned back in his chair waiting for an answer.
“Malheureusement, I was not acceptable to the Army because of my lungs although I do not regret it any many ways. I would have been a most timid soldier, unlike your brother. I remember even as a boy he enjoyed playing with the lead soldiers. He always insisted I should be Bonaparte at Waterloo while he was the Iron Duke.”
“So that’s why you didn’t fight for France either, Mr. Winslow?”
Edouard glanced over at the dark-haired man. “As I have said, M. Lancer, I am not in sympathy with the Emperor. He has tried to return France to the glory of his uncle, but putting a Hapsburg on the throne of Mexico was a mistake as is deciding to fight the Prussians. I fear the consequences of such actions.”
Before another comment could be made, Teresa and Emilie returned to join the men. “Murdoch, Emilie has been telling me about their trip to New Orleans. It sounds like a wonderful place to visit.”
“We intend to visit our family there. Many of our mother’s relatives went there to live after the Revolution. Le grandpere de maman preferred to stay in France. He died at Borodino fighting for the Emperor,” Emilie explained.
“It’s in Russia, Johnny.” Scott informed him. “Napoleon invaded with well over a half million men and returned to France with something like 5,000.”
“I don’t understand why countries go to war at all,” Teresa mumbled. “We never seem to learn.”
“Teresa, war is a terrible, but sometimes there are worse things,” the tall rancher observed.
“But you told me that you had never been in a war, Murdoch,” the brown-haired girl protested.
“S’pect you might call that little fracas we had with Pardee a war.”
Scott smiled at his brother. “It might qualify as a skirmish, Brother, but I suppose it doesn’t matter what you call it. The point is that men died. I guess everyone has to decide for themselves what is worth dying for.”
“Well right now, the only thing I’m interested in fighting for is my dinner. Teresa, is it about ready? I’m starving and I’ll bet our…guests are hungry too.”
“Give me thirty minutes, Johnny. Perhaps you could show Mr. Winslow to his room, Scott? He might like to clean up before we eat.”
“Merci, Mademoiselle. The road from the train was long and dusty and my friend wanted to make sure we saw all the lovely holes.” Scott punched his friend lightly on one arm, but gestured for him to follow.
Teresa started to excuse herself to go to the kitchen, but Emilie insisted on going with her. She was interested in seeing Teresa’s domain.
That left Johnny and Murdoch in the great room. “Sure hope she’s not gonna talk Teresa into makin’ them echos. You know how I hate them.”
“Relax, Johnny, I’m sure Teresa won’t do that. She heard enough about snails when you were interested in that Madeline.”
“Yeah, Madeline was French too and look what she did—dumped me for another man. I guess I’m just worried ’cause sometimes Teresa gets these fancy notions in her head, like all them sauces she was usin’ for awhile.”
“Johnny, you just have to be patient. Teresa gets tired of cooking the same things so it’s no wonder she likes to try new ones.”
“Mebbe so but I told her all about the dishes I like and how many of them has she made?”
“Well, not all of us can eat chiles the way you do. Scott for one.”
“But he can eat them echos, can’t he? So what does that say?”
“Son, the Winslows are only going to be here a few weeks so I think we can be polite to them. I’m sure they aren’t going to insist on turning the kitchen upside down.”
“Better not or there will be a war, I can promise you that!”
Johnny got to his feet to head to his room. He had just noticed that his hands were none too clean and didn’t want to face Teresa’s ire. He had just closed the door when there was a knock. Opening it, he found Edouard Winslow standing there. In rapid Spanish he apologized to Johnny saying that he was sorry that he had disturbed the man. He had mistaken Johnny’s room for Scott’s. Replying in Spanish, Johnny directed him to the proper door. Winslow gravely thanked him and then went to visit with his friend before dinner.
Dinner that night was a festive affair with wine flowing freely. Even Teresa who didn’t usually indulge had a glass. Her face flushed with warmth, she chattered with Emilie and Edouard about living in Paris. She had naturally seen pictures of the City of Lights and heard about it from Scott, but it still seemed like a magical place.
After dessert, she and Emilie left the men in the great room while they went to Emilie’s room to look at all the outfits the older woman had brought with her. Teresa was overwhelmed by the dresses that the visitor displayed. For well over an hour the two sat on the bed and chatted about fashions and all the places where Winslows had traveled.
When the clock in the great room chimed 9:00, the two girls emerged from the room to find the gentlemen still talking. Seeing them, Murdoch remembered that the work day started early so he rose to his feet and announced that it was late, but assured the younger men that they were welcome to stay up; however, before they could reply, Teresa cleared her throat and made an announcement, “Emilie has asked me if I would join she and Edouard on their journey to New Orleans and I have accepted.”
“Emilie!” Edouard Winslow broke into fluent German, aiming his biting words as his sister. The young woman’s face paled as her eyes dropped to her slender hands.
Scott, whose German was even rustier than his French, watched in amazement as his friend berated his beloved sister. He had never seen Winslow speak in such a manner to anyone. Then one of the nearly unintelligible words penetrated his memory—a terrifying word: ‘gelbfieber’.
“Edouard, what’s this about yellow fever?” Scott demanded.
The slight man turned around to face his friend. “I…I apologize for my anger, mon ami. Emilie should not have asked Mlle Teresa to join us without discussing it with me.”
Taking Teresa’s hand in her own, Emilie spoke up. “Scott, please do not be angry with Edouard. He is right. In my eagerness to have Teresa be with me on our trip, I had forgotten about la fievre jaune. It would not be right to endanger Teresa in this way.”
Teresa tried to pull away from Emilie, but the petite woman was stronger than she appeared and held on. “Cherie, please you must forgive me, I did not mean to upset you. Edouard has often said I speak without thinking.”
The brown-haired girl stopped the struggle, but her eyes still spoke of her hurt. “You don’t have to apologize. If your brother doesn’t wish me to go then I won’t.”
Edouard, who topped Teresa only by an inch or two, moved back to Teresa’s side. “Please, mademoiselle, it is not that. I would be most happy to have you with us. Emilie needs the pleasure of conversation with a woman such as yourself. It is just that we planned to make our way slowly to New Orleans because of the danger of yellow fever. My relatives sent us a letter saying that this is likely to be a bad year so they urged us to visit when the air becomes cooler. That is why we planned to visit San Francisco first and then make our way back slowly. Of course when Scott contacted us, we decided to visit here too.”
“I see. I didn’t realize that yellow fever was such a danger there.”
“Oui, mademoiselle. Some years are worse than others. It is a horrible disease and I would not wish to endanger you or my sister. We had planned to spend the holidays there and I am sure that you would not wish to be away from your family at such a happy time.”
“Oh no, of course not. I couldn’t possibly be away from Lancer that long.” She glanced at the three men who comprised her family. “Heaven knows what this place would be like when I returned.”
Murdoch smiled at his ward. “Teresa, I’m sure you’re disappointed, but Mr. Winslow is right. I couldn’t sleep at night if I knew you were in danger. Perhaps one of these days, I’ll be able to take some time off and take you to New Orleans myself. After all, those two,” gesturing towards his sons, “should be able to keep an eye on Lancer for awhile.”
“Of course, Murdoch. I understand. If you’ll excuse me now, I think I’ll go to bed. Good night everyone.”
Emilie’s dark eyes followed the young woman before she too asked to be excused.
The four men stood there in silence for a long moment. “M. Lancer, please forgive both of us. We did not mean to hurt Mlle Teresa. As close as I am to Emilie, I sometimes forget that she needs the friendship of other women. She meant no harm.”
“I understand, Mr. Winslow. I sometimes forget that Teresa has little opportunity to be with friends too. She’ll get over the disappointment.”
Winslow gave them a fleeting smile. “Perhaps I shall retire as well. I am feeling the tiredness of our journey.”
“I’ll come with you, Edouard. There’s something I want to speak to you about,” Scott remarked.
“Eh bien. Good night, gentlemen.”
Johnny walked over to the decanter to pour himself another drink. “You believe him?”
Murdoch’s head came up. “What do you mean? Believe him about what?”
“Why didn’t they tell Scott that they were coming out here if they’re supposed to be such good friends of his? He didn’t even know they were here until his grandpa sent that message.”
“I have no idea, Johnny and I really don’t think it’s our business. Scott seems pleased to see them.”
“Yeah, right up until Edouard started in on his sister. You think he’s sweet on this Emilie?”
“I don’t know and I have a feeling that Scott wouldn’t appreciate our interference.”
“‘Spose not but there’s somethin’ not right about that fella.”
“Why? Just because he didn’t serve in the Army?”
“That’s just part of it. Somethin’ about him makes the back of my neck itch,” Johnny admitted.
“Is that why you asked him those questions?”
“Well, they’re only going to be here for a short time as I said so I don’t think they can do much damage.”
“Already made Teresa unhappy.”
“Johnny, all of us have times when we’re discontented with what we have–even you–or at least I’ve always assumed that’s one of the reasons you decided to accept my offer.”
Sapphire eyes shuttered over. “Guess that’s true.”
“That’s one of the reasons I left Scotland. I wanted more from my life. I found it and I think it’s only fair that Teresa has that chance too. She just has to remember that getting hurt is also part of finding out what you want.”
“Can’t argue that.”
“Good to hear it. Now, I’m going to bed. See you at breakfast. I suspect Scott will want to show his friends around the ranch tomorrow.”
“S’pose so. See you at dawn.”
The dark-haired man sat down in one of the chairs as the clock began to chime the hour. He knew that he should get some sleep, but he also knew there was no point at that moment. The tension of the evening was still thrumming in his blood. Sitting in the chair, he felt his body relax under the influence of the alcohol. Not long after his eyes closed, they jerked open. His reflexes reacted to the fact that someone was in the room with him.
“Please forgive me, monsieur, I did not mean to disturb you,” Emilie apologized. “I could not sleep and Teresa mentioned that there are books out here.”
“Murdoch’s got quite a few on the shelves. So does Scott. Help yourself.”
“Gracias, usted es la mayoria de las clases.”
“So you speak Spanish too?”
“Mais oui, my brother and I speak French, Spanish, and Italian. Edouard also speaks German quite well as you heard. My German is not as fluent as his. He does not enjoy speaking it, however, since it is the language of the enemy. He uses it mostly when he is…upset with me.”
“We have traveled much over the years which is fortunate since he makes use of his talent as a translator.”
“In Boston, his services are used by those who need their documents translated. Since the War, there is much call for such knowledge.”
“But you said that you just came back from France ?”
“Oui, his health has been not good so we went to France so that he could rest. Does that answer your questions?”
“Some of them.”
“If you have other questions, senor, you just have to ask.”
You say what you think don’t you, Senorita Winslow?”
“Si, my parents raised me to be so. I truly did not mean to hurt Teresa if that is what you are thinking. She is most kind and I thought she would enjoy seeing New Orleans with us.”
“S’pose she would, but not at the price of dyin’.”
“We all risk that every day, n’est-ce pas? You, I suspect have faced death many times, just as Scott has. I will never forget the sight of all those graves on that peaceful hill in Virginia. Mon Dieu, what we do to others and to ourselves.”
“He tell you about bein’ in the War?”
“He…he has spoken of it to Edouard and Edouard has spoken of it to me. I think Scott has not accepted all that happened during those years.”
“And what about you?”
“I do not know what you wish me to say. Should I be the type of woman to faint at the mention of blood and entrails? Many females served as nurses during the War. I did not go to the battlefield, but I did help with those who survived the trip back to Boston. It was not…pleasant, but it was necessary.”
“You’ve had an exciting life, Senorita Winslow.”
“For a woman, yes, but I suspect you have also experienced much of life, senor. From your questions to my brother, it would seem that you fought in Mexico.”
“Did my share.”
“Then it is no wonder that you did not like the idea that we might sympathize with the Emperor’s cause in Mexico –your mother’s homeland was in danger just as our mother’s is now.”
“Yeah, I remember her telling me about what happened in the 40s and then it happens again.”
“Ah yes, first the Americans and then the French. Mexico has suffered much. It is difficult when a country is weak and is desired by the strong. At least Mexico had a strong man to lead them this time. I have heard men speak of Juarez as another Lincoln.”
Johnny’s eyes dropped. “I’ve heard that too, but seems like he forgot the people who helped him defeat the French.”
“You did not approve of what he did with the land he took from the Church?”
“Had friends who thought he was a great man then he started giving all the land to men who already had land. Didn’t make sense. Decided to do something about it. Almost got shot for it.” The words tumbled out as images of that day in front of the firing squad filled his mind.
“It would seem that you and Scott have much to draw you together. You have faced what is terrible in life and now I hope the two of you can find peace. He is important to Edouard and me and we are most grateful that he has found happiness here.”
“Then why didn’t you let him know you were coming out this way? Why did he have to learn from Garrett?”
“Senor Johnny, I do not believe that is your concern. Now, I shall return to my bed. Scott has promised to show us Lancer tomorrow. Buenas noches, senor.”
The next morning at dawn Murdoch and Johnny Lancer ate their breakfast in the kitchen. Teresa had dished up and then left them to eat. Neither man had mentioned her red-rimmed eyes before leaving to start the work for the day. Scott had already cleared it with his father that he would take the day off to show his guests around the ranch, but would return to work the next day.
At 8:00 the Emilie Winslow appeared in the kitchen where Teresa was preparing another batch of biscuits. It was obvious to the older woman that the girl was still upset over her missed trip to New Orleans so she took a seat to wait for her brother and Scott who did not keep her waiting long.
Scott, well-accustomed to Teresa’s ways by this time, walked over to the stove and began to collect the breakfast items for the Winslows to begin. “I can do that, Scott,” Teresa protested.
“I know you can, but if I help you then you can sit down with us and we can talk.”
“Teresa, all of us know how disappointed you are about the trip. Edouard and Emilie are truly sorry this has happened and have come up with a solution, well, at least a partial-solution.”
“I don’t understand. What about the yellow fever?”
“Cherie, it is not possible to go to New Orleans for some time as we said, but there is no reason that you cannot travel to San Francisco with us for a few weeks. In that way we could become better acquainted and go shopping. Then when we are ready to begin our journey to the South, we will bring you back to Lancer.”
“That…that’s not necessary. I’m not a child. I don’t need pity.”
“Mademoiselle, we only wish you to take pity on us. My sister and I are quite close, but she is, after all, only a woman and I need to rest my poor ears from her constant chatter. I ask you to take pity on me so that I do not have to listen to descriptions of the latest fashions that she has brought with her from Paris.”
“And I ask you to take pity on me. My brother is an educated man, but he cares nothing for what is truly important in life.” Emilie’s dark eyes twinkled, but she placed one hand on her brother’s and squeezed.
“I don’t need to go to… San Francisco to discuss the latest fashions with you. You’ll be here for another few weeks and….”
“Cherie, let us be honest with each other. I realize that I have hurt you because of my thoughtless invitation without considering your position. You see my brother and I have been together for so long that sometimes we forget to include others in our lives. Scott can tell you this is so because it took him many weeks before we would include him in our games when we were young.”
“Weeks, Emilie? I was almost ready to shave before you let me use your sled!”
“Scott Lancer, tu es terrible. I remember well that you were only nine or perhaps it was ten.”
Scott winked at Teresa. “Oh that’s right.”
“Eh bien cheri, I have put up with much from you and my brother over the years, but I could not have had two finer men to be my protectors.” Turning back to the girl, she went on, “Teresa, perhaps you do not know this but Scott once fought a duel for my honor.”
“Emilie, you promised that you’d never tell anyone about that!” Scott shouted.
“Tais-toi, cheri, Teresa is not just anyone. She is your sister. She needs to know what you are to Edouard and me. Perhaps then she can see that we are sincere in wanting to know her and have her know us. I have never had a sister, but perhaps it is not too late.”
“All right, tell her, but it really wasn’t a duel, you know!” Scott down in one chair and began to sulk.
“Your handsome face is not so handsome with your lower lip that way, mon ami,” Emilie teased.
Teresa snickered when Scott stuck his tongue out at the Frenchwoman.
“You see my charming champion took exception to some words one of my admirers said to me one day. Tante Agathe had just arranged my first party and invited some of the eligible men. One of them was most taken with me, but alas, he became too familiar. He even wanted me to run away with him. Somehow Scott found out about what the man intended and well, he stopped him from ruining my reputation.”
“Did he shoot him?” Teresa’s brown eyes opened wide.
“No, but the man had the bruises, noires et bleues, for many days.”
“He was just fortunate that it was Scott who took care of him. When I returned to Boston and found out what the scoundrel had done, I was ready to shoot him.”
Teresa glanced over at the small man. “I…I can’t believe you would have done that Mr. Winslow.”
“There is nothing I would not do for Emilie, mademoiselle.”
“He’s a good shot too, Teresa, almost as good as Johnny. Of course, I’m still better than him with a rifle.” Scott’s chest visibly puffed up.
Edouard Winslow snorted politely. “Perhaps that is true, mon ami, but that is only because of your being a horse soldier. Gentlemen use handguns.”
“Horse soldier? I was part of the U.S. Cavalry. We practically won the War single-handed.” Scott sniffed with a superior air.
“Emilie, I wish to apologize to you.” Teresa leaned forward to take the other woman’s hand.
“To me, but why?”
“If you grew up with these two, you must have even more patience than I need to have with the three Lancers.”
The two women laughed heartily while the two men commiserated with each other about the need of women to stick together.
“So, mademoiselle, dare we hope that you will join us for a few weeks in the beautiful city by the bay?”
“I’ll talk with Murdoch, but I’m sure he’ll agree. I…I really appreciate this. I love Lancer, but sometimes I do feel like a prisoner, even if a rather spoiled one.”
“Eh bien, what do you say that we now go out and see this beautiful prison together?”
“Teresa, why don’t you come too? After all, you know it better than anyone and your horse could do the exercise,” Scott asked.
Eager to be out in the sunshine instead of doing laundry, Teresa quickly agreed. “I’ll go change and we can leave. I know Maria won’t mind if I leave the dishes for her. We’ll be back in time for me to make dinner.”
“And I shall help you, cherie, I do not cook much myself, but I know some excellent recipes.”
“Got any for les escargots, Emilie? Johnny loves escargots,” Scott announced.
“Vraiement? I would not have thought so, but perhaps I can recall one before we leave.”
As soon as Emilie and Edouard left to dress for their ride, Teresa stamped on Scott’s foot. “You know Johnny hates snails!”
“I know, but I couldn’t resist. You can even tell him that you put chiles in them!”
“You’re evil,” was her only reply, however she couldn’t help but laugh at the image of Johnny’s face when he saw a platter of snails for dinner.
The rest of the day was quite pleasant for the four young people as they cantered across the ranges. The Winslows were suitably impressed with the picturesque beauty of Lancer and also the work that had created it, but finally all were forced to return as the sun began to sink in the sky.
Maria had started dinner so there was not much to do for which the two women were most grateful. Their day in the saddle had made them feel dirty and tired.
Overjoyed to see the spicy stew which was one of Maria’s specialties, Johnny had seconds and thirds while the others settled for one plate or two of the delicious dish.
After dinner, the five people settled in the great room where Teresa hesitantly brought up the topic of the proposed visit to San Francisco. To her surprise Murdoch was more than agreeable. He had often felt guilty that Teresa did not have the opportunity to travel that many young women did and certainly the golden city did not present the dangers that New Orleans would.
The only one who said nothing was Johnny. Seeing the happiness on Teresa’s face, he was reluctant to be the one to object so he decided to speak with Scott later. Perhaps, Scott could tell him something that would reassure him that the trip was not a mistake.
The whole household turned in early that night what with work and their long rides. Ten minutes later Johnny showed up at his brother’s door, knocked and entered.
For a long moment Scott just stared at the troubled young man then he gestured for him to sit down. “C’mon in, I’ve been expecting you.”
“Well, I saw your face when you heard Teresa mention that the Winslows want her to go to San Francisco with them.”
” Boston, I know they’re your friends, but well, are you sure this is a good idea?”
“They won’t let anything happen to her.”
“It’s not… that exactly. It’s just we don’t know much about them.”
“Johnny, I’ve known them since we were little. I’d trust both of them with my life.”
Johnny’s eyes flickered with anger. “Then why didn’t they tell you they were coming out to California ? Why did you have to find out from Garrett?”
Scott gave his brother a wry smile. “Is that what you’re troubled about?”
The dark-haired man nodded.
“They didn’t tell me for the best of reasons—they didn’t know where I was. You see they left for France last summer, long before I received the invitation to come to Lancer. Then they returned through New York and started their trip west. Edouard sent a letter to my grandfather’s house since he thought I was still living there. When Grandfather realized what had happened, he contacted Agatha Winslow and she told him the name of the hotel where Edouard and Emilie would be staying. The rest you know.”
“He speaks Spanish.”
“Yes, he does plus three or four other languages. He used to make a living doing translations before they went to France. He’s always been clever that way.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Puzzlement entered the cerulean eyes. “I didn’t know you’d be interested. Lots of people speak more than one language—you for example.”
“She…Emilie does too.”
“Right again. Their parents believed that women should have the same advantages as men so they encouraged them to learn together.”
“She’s kind of outspoken, isn’t she?”
“You’re telling me. She’s always been that way. Once she sent a letter into the Boston paper berating the fact that many of the citizens waved the flag and sent their soldiers and then when they returned from battle, wounded and in need of help, pretended that they didn’t exist. It caused quite a stir according to Grandfather.”
“I’ll just bet it did. Well, I guess, maybe I could be wrong about them. Just never met a woman who knows so much about politics and stuff. Caught me by surprise.”
“Emilie is one of a kind alright. The only woman that she comes close to is SPIN.”
“Yeah, well, if she put you in your place, she’s all right with me.”
“She did that more than once, just like Teresa does to you!”
“What? Nobody puts Johnny Madrid Lancer in his place.”
“No? I guess that was somebody else she had out washing the windows a couple of weeks ago then.”
“Oh that,” Johnny mumbled, “that…I was doing her a favor, that’s all.”
“If you say so, Brother, now it’s getting late and I do have to get back to work tomorrow.”
“Oh Lord, I just remembered Murdoch wants me to put in some new fencing. I’m going to be too tired to take Carmelita to the dance tomorrow night.”
“I’d be glad to take her for you!”
“No deal, Boston. You can take Emilie!”
And that’s just what happened. Edouard and Emilie enjoyed the dance very much. Teresa was delighted to discover that Edouard was an excellent dancer. After that he was much in demand most of the evening since so many of the young males refused to get out on the floor.
The next ten days went by quickly. On some days Edouard would ride out with Scott to help at some of the less strenuous work like surveying while Emilie stayed at Lancer with Teresa. To Johnny’s astonishment, he even decided that sometimes a dish made with a sauce could taste good when Emilie prepared ‘Saute de Lapin au Vin Blanc’* although his favorite discovery was croissants. Emilie made them several mornings and Johnny was heard to comment that they were almost as good as scones.
For Scott the Winslow visit was a particular pleasure. He knew it might be quite some time before he would see his friends again, once they were on their way back east, but at least they had agreed to stay for a week when they brought Teresa home.
The day was hot and sunny when Scott, Johnny and Murdoch watched as the stage left, carrying Teresa, Emilie and Edouard to San Francisco.
Murdoch casually draped his arms over the shoulders of his two sons as they walked down the dusty street to the livery stable to pick up the carriage and horses for the return to Lancer. “So which one of you is going to do the cooking while Teresa’s gone?”
The two younger men stopped dead to stare up at the tall man. Together, they uttered one word, “Maria.”
“Well yes, I suppose she can do some of it, but she’s already told me she needs some time off next week because one of her cousins is going to have a baby and she promised to watch the other children. So you two have one week to decide who takes her place.”
“What was that Johnny?”
“I said I’ll do it, but Scott just better not complain if I put a few chiles in the food.”
“Few? The last time you cooked something, there was a forest fire fifty miles from here!”
“Was not, well, there was but only because of a lightning strike!”
“So you say,” replied Scott with an authoritative air.
“Enough, you two. I have the perfect solution. Both of you will cook and then I’ll sample each of them.”
Two sets of blue eyes narrowed.
“That settles it then. You didn’t know my name is Murdoch Solomon Lancer, did you?” The rancher could hardly keep from laughing. It was so seldom that his sons were totally speechless.
The first week of Teresa’s absence went well. The weather was good, the beeves were cooperative, and Maria made a variety of dishes so that everyone had plenty to eat.
Then two hours after Maria’s departure, disaster struck.
Deciding to try his hand at croissants, Johnny fired up the cook stove, but to his dismay the lard he had used began to melt in great pools which dripped and dripped and dripped. It took him an hour to clean up the oven and there was a thick cloud of smoke in the kitchen. Furious, the dark-haired man abandoned his domain. Even branding had to be better than that.
An hour after Johnny’s departure, Scott stopped by to start work on the books which he had delayed doing while the Winslows were visiting. The smell in the kitchen quickly alerted him to a problem. Realizing that there would be no dinner that night unless he took a hand, Scott carefully perused what Teresa had left in the pantry.
One hour later the blond man had a pot of soup simmering on the stove. He had grabbed several jars of the vegetables that Teresa and Maria had put up, but it looked bland so he went out to the garden and found some fresh vegetables to add to the mix. Adding some water, he stood back with hands on hip, “Good job, Scott and healthy too!” the older Lancer son congratulated himself.
Since he was sure that Teresa had said that soup took a long time to cook, he decided to start on the books. Murdoch would be astonished that not only had Scott made dinner, but he had also finished the task put to him.
Twenty minutes later, he went out to check on his soup. Taking a sip, he realized he had forgotten to add salt or pepper. Knowing Johnny’s tastes, he added a good handful of both. Then he went back to the books.
Unfortunately, he ran into problems so it was sometime later before he remembered to go look at the soup again. The water had boiled down considerably so he started to add more water as he stirred. Most of the vegetables were now stuck to the bottom of the pan. With vigor he scraped out the vegetables which weren’t burnt and put them into another pan and added more water.
It was then that he remembered the first pan. Pushing at the scorched vegetables with one finger, he made a chef’s decision. Scott took the pan outside and buried it. Teresa would never miss it.
Just in time, Scott returned to the kitchen where he found a hungry Johnny. “Dinner ’bout ready, Brother? See you been busy.”
“Sure have once the smoke cleared. What were you doing in here?”
“Me? Well, thought I’d surprise you and make croissants. Didn’t quite work out,” the younger man conceded.
“Well, I guess the soup is ready. Just have to wait for Murdoch. Will you keep an eye on it? I’m just about done with the accounts and I want to show them to Murdoch when he arrives.”
“Sure. Go ahead. Nothin’ I like better ‘n seein’ a man do some honest work.”
“Thanks,” the blond replied with sarcasm.
As soon as Scott was in the great room, Johnny took out one of Teresa’s big wooden spoons to dip into the pot of soup. Scooping up some of the vegetables at the bottom, Johnny took a huge bite. The vegetables spewed out of his mouth to land over much of the stove. “What the hell?” The congealed mass tasted of pure salt with a spice of pepper! “Can’t the man even make soup?” Swiveling around on his booted heels, he started into the great room, but one heel hit a spot of melted lard which he had missed earlier and down went the croissant baker with a whoop of pain.
Scott ran in immediately to find his brother rubbing his butt with one hand. “Gotta problem, Brother?”
“Didn’t quite catch that, Johnny.”
“I said you’re just lucky that I don’t figure on doing all the work myself or I’d put a bullet in you!”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Tryin’ to poison a man with that soup of yours. How much salt did you throw in it?”
“Not much. Well, I suppose when it boiled down, maybe it concentrated some. How do I know? I’m not a cook!”
“That’s obvious,” Johnny sniffed.
“Well, what about you? You almost burned the house down!”
“Did not! It was just some smoke!”
“So you say, Nero!”
Johnny wasn’t quite sure who Nero was, but he knew an insult when he heard it so he launched himself at the blond. For a minute or two the two wrestled around without any punches landing. Oblivious to all but trying to get the upper hand, the brothers didn’t even notice when Ramon rushed in, halted in his tracks and then pleaded, “Senors, please, your father, he has been hurt. Cipriano asks that you come and help.”
“Johnny, will you get your hands off my pillow? It doesn’t need fluffing!”
The younger Lancer stared defiantly at the cross bear in the bed, “You don’t yell at Teresa when she does it for you!”
“No, I don’t because she only does it once and then she has the good sense to leave me alone. All I need is a glass of whiskey and some rest. This isn’t the first time my back has given me trouble and it won’t be the last!”
Johnny grumbled but backed off. He knew that Murdoch was telling the truth since the patriarch had experienced occasional twinges since his recovery from Pardee’s near lethal bullet. However, this occasion was more serious since he had taken a fall as a result of a spooked horse. The two Lancers had quickly ridden out to meet the wagon carrying their father. By the bite of his tone, they immediately realized that the injury wasn’t serious, but obviously painful. Murdoch was not the type of man to cut himself much slack when it came to injuries so part of the anger was due to his perceived notion that he was wasting time and money by staying in bed.
“Murdoch, here’s some coffee and there are a few oatmeal cookies left. I thought you might be hungry.” The older Lancer son stood in the doorway—out of throwing range.
“Coffee?” the tall man questioned.
“Well, there might be a touch of whiskey in it too,” Scott conceded.
That brought a smile to the lined face. “Good. I’ll just drink it and get some rest and by tomorrow, I’ll be up and around. Say that reminds me, what’s for dinner tonight?”
Scott paled, “Dinner? You won’t want dinner if you eat the cookies.”
“Man can’t make dinner off a plate of cookies!” the Scot protested.
“Uh, no sir.”
In the corner, out of Murdoch’s direct vision, Johnny dramatically drew one finger across his throat. Scott got the message.
“Uh, well actually dinner is stew. I’ll just go heat it up.”
Johnny straightened up. “I’ll come with you, Brother. Might need help warmin’ up that stew.”
“Thanks, Johnny, but you stay here and keep Murdoch company. Maybe a game of checkers would take his mind off his pain.”
Murdoch’s face lit up. There was nothing he enjoyed more than defeating his sons at checkers. “Scott’s right, son. He doesn’t need help and I think we can manage one game before the stew is ready.”
“Right.” Johnny followed his brother out of the room to find the checkerboard. In a low voice he murmured, “I’ll get you for that.”
Scott gave him a nervous smile. “What are you complaining about? I’m the one who has to find some stew somewhere.”
Just as the checker game came to an end with Murdoch once again the victor, Scott reentered his father’s bedroom, carrying a tray loaded with a bowl of stew, fresh bread and hot coffee.
Murdoch almost smacked his lips. “Umm, that smells good. You did a fine job, Scott. I’m going to enjoy this,” as he tucked into the meaty liquid.
Johnny’s nose was visibly twitching. The stew did smell wonderful. “Hope you’ve got enough of that for me too, Brother. Workin’ hard all day makes a man hungry.”
“Sure Johnny, go on into the kitchen, there’s a bowl waiting for you. I’ll stay here with Murdoch.”
Not one to procrastinate when food was around, Johnny made a quick getaway.
Scott sat down to wait while his father devoured the meal before him. When the man was finished with all but his coffee, Scott broke the bad news. “The bank made an error on one of our accounts. I think I’d better ride into town tomorrow and make sure it’s straightened out.”
“What? Are you sure the error is theirs? “
“Yes, sir. I’ve checked and double-checked.”
“Very well then. Go in first thing in the morning. While you’re there, you might as well pick up any supplies we need. Johnny can stay here since I won’t be able to ride.”
“He’s not going to like that. He hasn’t seen Carmelita in a week.”
“I’m sure he can manage to get along until the weekend.”
“Yes, sir. Would you like anything else?”
“No, I think I’ll try to get some rest. My back is a bit painful.”
“I think there’s some laudanum in the kitchen if you need it.”
“I do not need laudanum,” the tall man replied adamantly.
Scott picked up the tray to return it to the kitchen and to inform his brother about the next day’s plans. There he found Johnny finishing off his second plate of stew while talking to Rosa, Ramon’s wife—and provider of the stew.
“Senor Scott, would you like a plate of stew?”
“No, thank you, Rosa. I’ve got to finish the ledgers before I go into town tomorrow. I’ll have something later.”
“Why are you goin’ into town tomorrow?” Johnny asked.
“I have to go to the bank and pick up supplies.”
“Want some company?”
“Murdoch wants you to stay here. I think he wants you to keep an eye on the men working to clear that stream.”
“Aw, I wanted to see Carmelita. She’ll have forgotten what I look like.”
“He said you could have the weekend off to make up for it.”
“He did? His back must have made him delirious!”
Scott smirked in agreement and then announced to Johnny, “I’m off to do some honest labor. You can do the dishes.”
The next morning Scott rose early and headed out. He didn’t relish wrangling with the bank manager, but it had to be done. Deciding to stop at the general store first, he left his order which would be filled by the time he was done at the bank and had a beer at the saloon. In fact, the timing was almost perfect as he quaffed the second beer in celebration of his masterly defeat of the pompous bank manager, who seemingly believed that any money deposited in his bank truly belonged to him to be doled out as he saw fit.
At the last minute before pulling out, Scott remembered to stop by the post office to pick up the mail. The handful of envelopes was hardly worth stopping for until Scott realized that one was a telegram. Opening it, the young man scanned the words. Less than thirty minutes later he was on the road to San Francisco.
Filthy dirty from his effort to clear the stream of a deep-rooted obstruction, Johnny Lancer was ready to chew bullets. He had not intended to go into the stream himself; but when of the new hands had slipped and been dragged under, Ramon had jumped in to save the boy. As a result, the two men had returned to Lancer to clean up and receive medical attention. Wanting no more delay, Johnny had pitched in to help. By the end of an hour the obstruction was cleared, but almost all of the workers were covered in mud and soaked with water.
Riding back to the hacienda, Johnny wanted only three things: a hot bath, a drink, and for Murdoch to be asleep when he arrived home. The last thing he wanted was a cross-examination by his father. Wearily, he climbed down from Barranca’s broad back. With a little bit of luck he could make it into the bath house before anyone saw him.
Unfortunately, his luck was out of town as he heard a voice shouting his name, “Johnny! Johnny!”
Looking up he saw Tom Miller driving the Lancer buckboard, filled with supplies. “Johnny, glad you’re here. Scott asked me to drive out here with these supplies.”
The sapphire eyes blinked. “Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know. He gave me this note to give you and your father. He said he had to go to San Francisco and didn’t have time to tell you about it.”
At the word San Francisco, Johnny’s stomach clenched. Something had happened to Teresa. “Th-thanks. Just leave the buckboard. I’ll get one of the hands to take care of it.”
“Fine. Sure hope it isn’t bad news.”
Johnny didn’t even notice Tom ride off on the horse which had been hitched to the buckboard. Holding the letter in one dirty hand, he walked inside and stopped in front of Murdoch’s open door.
“Good Lord, what happened to you?” Murdoch demanded.
Johnny ignored the question, handing the note to the invalid. “Tom Miller dropped this off. It’s from Scott. He’s gone to San Francisco.”
” San Francisco ? But….” Murdoch ripped open the envelope and read the brief note. “He says that there was a telegram from Teresa. There was some kind of accident, but Teresa is definitely not injured. He’ll send us a telegram from San Francisco when he gets there and knows more.” He handed the note to Johnny.
Johnny read it through twice, but there was no more information to be gleaned from the brief contents. “Damn! Why didn’t he tell us what happened? I knew Teresa should never have gone with them!”
Murdoch winced as he shifted in the bed. “Now just a minute, son, Scott said that Teresa wasn’t injured and if it was one of the Winslows who was hurt then naturally he would be in a hurry to get to San Francisco.”
“Yeah, well, I still don’t like it.”
“I may not be too happy about it either, but I think we have to give Scott the benefit of the doubt. He did what he felt was best. Now we just have to be patient.” Murdoch glanced over at his younger son. Johnny was not known for his patience so he knew they were in for a difficult time until more news came through. Truthfully, he felt some unease himself since Teresa was in an unknown city with virtual strangers. Hopefully, Scott would reach the city by the bay in record time.
Four anxious days later another telegram was delivered to the white hacienda. This one was even more chilling: “Edouard dead. Emilie, Teresa, and I traveling Boston for burial. More on arrival.”
” Boston ? What the hell is he doing?” Johnny demanded when he read the wire.
Murdoch, who was now more ambulatory, rubbed his eyes. He had spent the day going over the books since his back was still quite stiff and painful. “I’m not sure, Johnny, but I assume that Edouard Winslow is to be buried in Boston so Scott would want to go with Emilie.”
“Okay, okay, that I understand, maybe, but why Teresa? She should have come back to Lancer!”
“Son, you’re asking me something I don’t know. Perhaps Emilie needed help?”
“She has Scott!”
“And I’m sure Scott is a good friend, but sometimes only another woman can understand.”
Johnny’s face looked like a thundercloud. “She’s not a woman yet.”
“Maybe not in years, but I think you’re underestimating her. When Teresa’s father was killed, she comforted me as much as I did her. I’m not sure I would have survived if it hadn’t been for her care. Something like that can make a girl grow up mighty fast.”
“I just don’t like it that she’s going to Boston. What if Garrett makes trouble?”
Murdoch sighed, “Johnny, I know you’re disturbed by all this. I am too, but we have to be rational. Harlan Garrett can’t force Teresa or Scott to stay there if they want to return to California.”
“Why wouldn’t they?”
“I didn’t mean it that way. In a way I’m glad that Scott’s grandfather is there.”
“What? You hate him. I know you do.”
“Maybe I do, but I also know that Scott has just lost someone very close to him. At least he’ll have someone in Boston who cares about him.”
For a long moment Johnny just stood there. “I guess you’re right. Scott thought a lot of Edouard. He must be hurtin’.”
The next two weeks were some of the longest in Lancer’s memory. Life went on but the two Lancers were on edge waiting for some kind of news about the return of Scott and Teresa. Finally, it came in another telegram which simply announced their immediate departure from Boston.
Although relieved to know that the two young people were on their way home, the tension over the sparsity of news was evident in the bickering between father and son. Just when the two men had virtually stopped speaking to each other, a letter arrived from Scott, detailing Emilie’s desire for the burial to take place in Boston so that Edouard could be buried beside their parents and that she had requested Teresa’s presence as a chaperone for the long trip. Her Aunt Agatha was rather a prude and would not want her to make the trip alone, even if Scott was an old friend. Scott also apologized for his abrupt departure and the lack of news, but said he preferred to wait to tell his brother and father the details until their return.
That night Johnny and Murdoch slept better than they had since Scott’s departure for San Francisco.
Then one autumn day a carriage drove under the great gate and halted at the door to the hacienda. Without waiting, Teresa jumped down and ran inside, only to find just Johnny sitting there. “Where’s Murdoch?” she demanded.
Astonished to see her after so long, he uttered one word, “Outside.”
Returning the way she came, she caught sight of the tall man and rushed towards him, flinging herself into his arms.
Standing in the doorway, Johnny watched them for a second before moving aside to let Scott carry in the baggage. After dropping off Teresa’s luggage in her room, the blond walked into his own room and did the same with Johnny at his heels. Turning to the younger man, Scott swayed slightly, “Johnny, I know there’s a great deal to be said, but right now I…I can’t. Later alright?”
Johnny was about to insist when he heard Murdoch and Teresa enter the great room so he just nodded.
Murdoch had one arm wrapped around his ward in a protective manner. “Johnny, Teresa needs to take a hot bath and a rest before she talks to us. Will you tell Maria to put dinner back an hour so she can?”
“Sure.” It was only early afternoon, but judging by the pale face with shadows under her brown eyes, Teresa had not slept well for many days.
“Johnny, did you talk to Scott?” the young woman whispered.
“No, he said he needed to wait. He looks terrible.”
“He…I don’t know what we would have done without him. These last weeks have been a nightmare.” Tears formed at the edge of her eyes.
“No need to talk now, honey. You go take your bath and then rest for an hour or two. Plenty of time to tell us all about it later,” the rancher assured her.
Left together in the great room the two Lancers sat in stunned silence for long moments until Johnny spoke up, “You think they’re gonna be all right?”
“Why wouldn’t they be? They’re just tired and…grieving.”
“Maybe but Scott’s lost weight. S’pect he must look like he did when he came out of that prison camp.”
“Probably been too busy to eat. Maria will fatten him up.”
“It’s not just that. The two of ’em seem…haunted.”
A startled look cross the older man’s face. “Haunted? That’s a strange word to use.”
“Mebbe but somethin’s botherin’ them ‘n it’s more’n just a man dyin’.”
“Well, we’ve waited this long to find out. I believe we can wait a few more hours.”
“Have to, won’t we? Scott’s sure not gonna tell us unless he wants to.”
Murdoch couldn’t deny that remark. There were many things he still didn’t know about his older son.
Three hours later Teresa emerged from her bedroom, wearing a clean dress and smelling of soap. Giving the two men a shy smile, she sat down. “I’m surprised you’re just sitting here,” she admitted, “I didn’t know Johnny could sit still that long.”
Johnny flushed. “Just came in a few minutes ago. Was out checkin’ on Ramon and Bob.”
“He’s a new hand, honey. They had a little tussle with some kind of tree roots or something.”
“Oh.” She hesitated. For some reason this all seem foreign and yet she knew she loved Murdoch more than anyone alive. “How’s your back, Murdoch? Scott mentioned that you fell.”
“It’s fine now. Still gives me a twinge, but when you’re my age, what can you expect?”
“I guess so.” Her smile faded. “I wonder if Scott’s up. I…I want him here when we talk. Maybe I’ll go tap on his door.”
“No need, I’m here.” With their concentration on the young woman, Johnny and Murdoch had missed the door opening to Scott’s bedroom. Quickly, he took a seat on the couch next to Teresa.
This was the first good view the oldest Lancer had had of his older son and it struck him that Johnny might be right about the haunted look. Clearing his throat, he quietly said, “Tell us whenever you’re ready.”
Teresa glanced over at the man sitting next to her. Scott took her hand, squeezing it gently. “It’s okay, Teresa. They’ll understand.”
The brown-haired girl nodded and then turned to face the other two Lancers. “We…Emilie,… Edouard, and I had a wonderful time that first week. We went shopping and to some restaurants. At night Emilie and I talked about everything—including you three.
She was fascinated to hear about my life here at Lancer and how having two brothers had changed it; but don’t worry, I didn’t tell her the whole truth.” The smile on her face didn’t reach her eyes as she remembered what happened next. “Then one day Edouard saw a small article in the paper about Sedan. He…he was devastated. That night Edouard didn’t join us for dinner. She explained to me what the defeat would mean to France. I could see that she was disturbed too, but she made light of it so that my trip wouldn’t be ruined.
“The next day we were out walking in one of the gardens. It was so beautiful and sunny. Then…” her voice dropped to a whisper, “I don’t really know what happened. I was crossing the road with Emilie when I heard a shout and felt someone pushing me then there was a scream. I must have been somewhat dazed from falling because it took me a moment to get up. When I did all I could hear was Emilie crying Edouard’s name over and over.”
“Teresa?” Murdoch could see the tears dripping down his ward’s face.
“It’s all right, Teresa, I’ll finish telling them,” Scott told the distraught young woman. “From what Emilie told me later, there was some kind of runaway carriage which was headed right for Teresa, Edouard saw it and pushed her to the side, but he slipped when he did so and hit his head on the curb or something. Evidently some passersby helped them to get Edouard to a doctor, but he…died soon after without waking up.
“Emilie told me that she would never have managed without Teresa’s help. After Teresa sent me the telegram, Emilie told her that she wanted to take Edouard back to Boston so that he could be next to their parents. When I got there, I tried to persuade Teresa to let me send her back to Lancer with a woman who they had met at the hotel. She said that she’d make sure Teresa arrived home safely, but well, Teresa insisted on going along and I couldn’t fight the two of them.”
The young woman looked over into the sapphire eyes. “Johnny, I had to go with her. She was so…brave. She even arranged the…embalming so we could get Edouard home. I could see she was just holding together for that one reason. I was sure she would hate me, but she never said one word about it being my fault.”
“It wasn’t your fault, honey. Accidents like that happen all the time.”
“Maybe they do, Murdoch, but I’ll never forget that Edouard saved my life at the cost of his own.”
Silence filled the room until Scott continued on with the story. “After I sent you the telegram about Edouard, we took the first train that would make connections to Boston. Emilie said very little the whole time, but I knew she was happy to have us both there. One night we talked some about what would happen when we got there. Financially, I knew she would be fine because my grandfather is executor of Thomas Winslow’s estate. I was just worried about what would happen when she would be left alone with only her aunt.”
Wiping her eyes, Teresa remarked, “I know Emilie appreciated your concern, Scott. The night before the funeral she told me that even though she had lost her best-beloved brother, she still felt she had a brother in you. She said that she was happy that you could be with your grandfather and not have to stay alone since she knew how much Edouard meant to you. There’s just one thing I wanted to ask you. At the cemetery, the headstone, what does ‘Le jumeau de mon coeur’ mean?”
“The twin of my heart. Emilie was ten minutes older than Edouard,” Scott replied.
“They were twins?” she gasped. “Emilie…she never said that.”
“At one point in their lives, they had a brief separation. Edouard felt that she treated him like a child. He yelled at her for acting like his mother. After they were reunited, I think they made an effort to play down that part of their relationship. In the last few years they were as close as ever.”
“Senor Lancer? I have brought in some coffee and cake for all of you. Senor Scott and Senorita Teresa must be hungry after their long trip,” Maria moved hesitantly into the great room carrying a tray.
“Gracias, Maria. I’m sure we all appreciate it.” The pale faces of the two arrivals certainly testified to their need for sustenance.
For the next ten minutes, all conversation centered on Lancer and food to give the story tellers a respite. “Johnny, I’ll try to make you some croissants later in the week. Emilie gave me the recipe. I’ll just have to make sure that I have enough butter.”
“Yes, that’s the essential ingredient, why?”
“Oh nothin’, just wondered.”
Taking one last sip of coffee, Teresa stood up to take the tray back to the kitchen. She had sat so long on the train and in the carriage that she felt like a callous had developed.
As soon as she was out of the room, Johnny leaned forward to ask Scott, “How’s she really doin’? Never seen her like this.”
“She’ll be fine, Johnny. It will just take time. There’s no doubt it was a difficult situation for her, but we talked some on the train. The girl we knew when we arrived here has grown up.”
“Don’t you think it’s about time?” Startled, all three men looked up at the figure in the doorway. “I’ve enjoyed being the protected little sister, the almost-daughter, but that can’t last forever. Losing my father was hard, but I had Murdoch and now the two of you. Seeing Emilie at the funeral, standing there by the grave of the one person she truly loved made me realize how blessed I am.”
Murdoch stood up and walked over to wrap his arms around his ward. “We’re the lucky ones, Teresa. Without you here, I’m afraid we’d be much less than we are. We all need someone to love us unconditionally.”
Tears started to drip down her cheeks again. “I’m…I’m sorry I’m being so emotional. It’s just that I’m tired. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go talk to Maria for awhile. I know there’s a great deal to catch up on. Scott can finish the story. There’s not much more to tell.”
“Go ahead, honey. We’ll be here if you need to talk to us.”
Scott leaned back against the couch. He was glad that Teresa had left. There were some things he needed to tell his father and brother that Teresa didn’t know.
“The funeral lasted only a short time. Edouard was never very religious. Truthfully, he was almost as anti-clerical as Juarez. In fact, he asked me if that was one of the reasons that Johnny didn’t like him.”
“What? When did he say that?”
“You remember your little confrontation with him that first night of their visit? Well, he thought you might have been against Juarez for that reason. I explained about your opposition to the landowners so he then he understood. We laughed together about his fear that you were some kind of spy for Mexico.”
“Spy, me? I thought he was.”
“Well, he was, but that was during the War.”
“He said he didn’t fight in the War. Just what’s goin’ on here?”
“He didn’t fight with a carbine although he did learn to shoot quite well. He did some work behind enemy lines as a spy. His appearance was quite deceiving. Many people underestimated him because he was small and thin. They would tell him things and not even know they were doing it. He then would pass it on to the proper authorities.”
“But he said he was in Boston during the War?”
“He was for most of the time. His health wasn’t good and he needed to return to Boston for long periods.”
“Knew there was somethin’ ’bout him, but I thought he was spyin’ for the French.”
“Johnny, he loved France, but he was totally devoted to the United States. That’s one of the reasons he went to France last year.”
“You’re not makin’ sense, Boston.” Johnny looked over at his father to see if he was making understood all this. Murdoch just shrugged at him.
“I didn’t know any of what I’m about to tell you. Jim West told me.”
“He’s a friend of mine from during the War. He works for President Grant. When I saw him at Edouard’s funeral, I, well, I was interested so I took him out for a drink and he told me that he was there as the President’s representative. You see Grant remembered Edouard’s wartime service and when it became obvious that there was going to be trouble between France and Prussia, he asked Edouard to go to France as his observer.”
“So he was a spy?”
“No, just an observer. Grant was worried, considering what Napoleon III had tried to do in Mexico so he wanted someone there who spoke the languages. Emilie went too to make it look more like a rest cure. When it became obvious that war was imminent, they came home.”
“Wasn’t he worried that he was putting Emilie in danger?” Murdoch asked.
“Some but Emilie Winslow always could get her own way. She just refused to be left behind. That’s why she took it upon herself to interrogate you, Johnny.”
The sapphire eyes blinked. “You know about that?”
“She told me when we were in Boston. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her here at Lancer before she did so that night. She resented your questions to her brother so Emilie decided to check you out.” Scott paused for a second. “Did you think you were the only protective person in the world? Anyway, Emilie had almost decided you were just what you seem until you asked about why they hadn’t contacted me. That disturbed her. She thought you might still be harboring resentment against them for their French background and were trying to make some connection because of their stay in France. She asked me to apologize to you. In fact, Emilie gave me something for you. She said it could be your contribution to the book shelves.”
Puzzled, Johnny sat there for a moment. “Bookshelves?”
“You told her that the shelves contained my books and Murdoch’s. She thought you might enjoy having one all your own.”
The youngest Lancer smiled, “Real nice of her. What’s the book?”
“Don Quixote by Cervantes. It’s in Spanish.”
“What’s it about?”
“A man who tilts at windmills.”
“You’re joking, aren’t you?”
“No, but I admit that there is more to it than that. I think you’ll like it.”
“Well, I’ll sure give it a try. Windmills, huh? Least they don’t shoot back.”
Murdoch rose to his feet. He still had difficulty sitting still for long periods. “Johnny, I think I’m going to see how Teresa’s doing? Scott, I’m sure there’s a great deal to talk about, but we’ll have time in the coming days. You look…weary, why don’t you lie down awhile before dinner. Johnny will get you up in time.”
“Good idea, Murdoch. C’mon, Boston. Little shuteye will do the trick.”
Scott followed his brother into the bedroom then he slumped down on the bed. At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to sleep for weeks. Still he sat there for a moment, hesitating. “Johnny, Edouard was a good man and a good friend. Except for my grandfather, there was no one in Boston I was closer to. I just wish you could have known him the way I did.”
“Yeah, guess I could have cut him some slack when he came here. Just didn’t know what to expect. Never met anybody like those two. Hope Emilie’s going to be all right.”
“She told me that she has offered her services to the government for translations. She wants to carry on with Edouard’s work. I expect she’ll meet some opposition because she’s woman, but if anybody can do it, it’s Emilie Winslow.”
“You got that right, Brother. They really thought I might be a spy, huh? Guess I could be since I’m good with a gun and speak a coupla languages.”
“Just remember what happens to spies if they’re caught.. I don’t think you should press your luck.”
“Gotta point there, Boston. Now, I’ll let you get some sleep. Oh say, where’s my book, I think I’ll go read a few chapters before dinner. Don’t think Teresa’s gonna ask for my help.”
“Me neither. I just hope she never finds that pan,” Scott replied drowsily.
“Never mind, Johnny. I’ll see you later.” The blue eyes closed in sleep.
* Saute de Lapin au Vin Blanc’ – rabbit stewed in white wine sauce
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