“Sure’n you took your time, Aldon,” Molly said in her inherited brogue. With her thumb and finger, she rubbed the bridge of her nose where her glasses usually rested. Aldon slipped into the room to find them for her before she had to ask him to.
“The missus screamed her head off at poor, dear Mr. Solano all evening,” Molly said, putting on the glasses when Aldon came back with them.
“You know what it is, boyo. Have we not been hearing it since Master Enrico wrote he was coming across the sea? His train arrives at noon tomorrow and the missus isn’t happy with the way the house looks. You and your brothers never cared what a house looked like, that’s certain sure. It’s clean, but it’ll never be as fancy as what he’s used to. Palaces, they are, the schools he goes to in Switzerland, or so I’ve heard. Well, don’t just stand there. Where’s the girleen?”
“I’m calling her Miss Morgan.” He stepped out of the way, as Molly brushed past, “but I reckon when she gets to know us better she’ll let us call her Elizabeth like in her letter.”
“Maybe we’ll call her Miss Hoity-toity,” Molly said moving along the corridor at the speed of a freight train.
“You have to go easy with a filly like her,” he said, hoping his aunt, who prided herself on saying exactly what she thought, would be courteous to the tired young woman downstairs.
“Aldon, you must begin as you mean to go on. You can’t be too chummy with the help or they take advantage of you.” Her words flowed back as her lace-up shoes hit the bottom stair and she strode toward the kitchen. “Come on, let’s meet this filly.” She settled into a sedate walk, patting her crown-braid as he paused at the closed swinging door. When he reached around it to push it open, she entered then stopped short at the entrance. “Well, I never,” she said.
Miss Morgan was slumped over the kitchen table asleep and snoring gently. Aldon stared in wonder. He never knew a lady could snore.
“Ha,” Molly poked the slender back and Miss Morgan jumped to her feet standing at attention.
“I’m ready,” Miss Morgan said, her eyes wild. Did she think she was somewhere else, he wondered.
“I got some stew on the stove,” Molly spoke loudly as if to a simpleton. “Get plates and spoons and help yourselves.”
Aldon went to get stew for both of them leaving Miss Morgan to figure out where she was and what was going on. “I wonder if you would consider going to church with us tomorrow,” he said, dipping a mug into the stew and emptying it into the bowls. He took them to the table and Miss Morgan sat down.
“I guess…” she hesitated.
“You can go to the Community Church with Aldon or the Catholic Church with Mr. Solano and me,” Molly sat across from her, lowering her chin and studying the girl over the tops of her glasses.
“My mother tells me I was born in a convent home,” Miss Morgan said. “So maybe I’m a Catholic. My grandparents are Scottish Presbyterian, though.” She closed her eyes and rested her head back on the top rung of the chair.
“You don’t have to go to church, though,” Aldon said concerned now about her exhaustion. “You might want to sleep in.”
“No, no, I’ll be fine,” Miss Morgan said. “There’s a God up there somewhere, and I’d like know what he wants from me, if anything.”
When they had finished Molly’s delicious beef stew, he asked Miss Morgan to come along so he could show her where she would sleep.
“The car will be ready to go at seven in the morning. Molly attends early mass and I practice with my pastor before the service begins.” He looked at Molly, “You want her in my old room?”
“Yes, but first take her to the Solano’s rooms, knock on the door, and introduce her, but watch out the missus doesn’t get to talking. She’s as lonely as a stray dog.” Molly got the dishrag and wiped the table, which they had left as clean as when they started eating.
Upstairs, Miss Morgan slowed to look at the framed paintings on both sides of the hallway. Aldon waited remembering that when the Solanos moved in last year, the Signora ordered a tool with which to cut mats and a load of frames to put the pictures in. She demonstrated claiming that all self-respecting artists can frame their own work and set him to it so she could have more time to paint. He kept up with the demand because he made it his after-supper job in the evenings. Now that it was spring again and they were preparing to push the cattle into the mountains, Lia – Signora would have to stockpile her artworks or go back to framing them herself until the push was over.
The boss’s wife had asked him to pose for her, but he knew he never would unless it was out-of-doors, and Chief was in the picture. He had to admit she was an excellent painter, and he wouldn’t mind having a portrait of his fine Appaloosa, especially if he could afford to buy it. When he tapped on the door, the woman opened it wearing a black, satin kimono with a big red poppy on it and her hair tumbling, shiny as obsidian, to her waist. Aldon looked away and introduced Miss Morgan without glancing at the Signora again.