by DiVoran Lites
The wagon swayed as Aldon took the reins to drive the mules onto the shelf road. He and Ellie were returning home the way they had come. The only other choice they had was to pick their way over a meadow strewn with rocks and runoff channels, either dried or filled with water, and Aldon had said the obstructions were camouflaged by grasses and wildflowers, and could trap a wheel or a hoof in an instant.
“Oh, my goodness! Look how far it is down to the creek. If either of us tumbled off the wagon we’d surely break our necks.” Ellie clung to the wagon seat until her knuckles turned white.
“Don’t look down. Look up there at timberline, instead. Anyhow, we’re almost over the shelf road where you’ll feel safer.”
“Why don’t trees grow up there,” she asked, looking where he had pointed.
“We think it’s the altitude.” Aldon said. “Hey, we’re here.” The mules pulled the wagon off the shelf road and onto a level trail.
They arrived back at the ranch at four o’clock in the afternoon. Ellie was looking forward to a bath, and maybe a short rest, so Aldon let her off at the door saying he would unhitch the mules and take them home to Joe’s family.
When Ellie entered the kitchen, Molly was waiting for somebody to talk to about the day’s work.
“We caught three fat hens and butchered them. We saved the feathers for pillows. We dredged the pieces in eggs and flour and fried them. Now wait,” she held up her hand when she saw that Ellie was losing interest,. “that’s not all. We brought a peck of potatoes in from the root cellar and peeled, cut, cooked and mashed them. We’re bushed. Kate’s resting and I need your help finishing the supper.”
At six-o’clock, the back door opened and in came Aldon and Kenny.
“It’s about time you got here. Supper’s ready.” Molly said looking at Aldon, her eyes soft with a mother-like love. Ellie was reminded that Molly had never married or had children, and was suddenly glad that she’d been around to help rear Aldon, she was a good woman at heart, and she had helped to turn him into a special kind of man.
Aldon took Molly in his arms and waltzed her around the small amount of leftover space in the kitchen. When they got to the stove, Aldon stopped to admire the chicken and to peer into the other pot on the stove.
“Fried chicken and peas in cream sauce with new onions. Molly’s the best cook in the world.” He shot a glance at Ellie who smiled and nodded at his exuberance.
“Now, who’s been kissin’ the Blarney stone?” Molly put her head down, trying to look modest, but when she looked up, her shining eyes showed her pride.
“You’ve mentioned that Blarney Stone before, but I never thought to ask what a Blarney Stone was.” Aldon said.
“I do believe it’s about buttering people up and some bit rock in Ireland, but I really don’t know. My family just says it. None of us has been in Ireland for over a hundred years.” As Molly bustled over to check on the peas, the door from the dining room swung open and young Mr. Enrico walked in.
He came straight to Ellie, grabbed her hand, and kissed it. “Ciao, Signorina, how are you? Please tell me about your drive.” He continued to hold her hand.
Ellie looked at Aldon and caught sight of a scowl that would make a dog crawl under the table. When he realized she was reacting to his dour his expression, he forced a smile.
“Come on Kenny; let’s get washed up for supper.” Aldon and Kenny went out letting the screen door bang behind them. Ellie could hear their footsteps going up the side stairway.
“Signora Solano wants Aldon, Ellie, and the bambina to eat with us in the dining room.” Enrico dropped Ellie’s hand. “She says we will talk about the musicale we’re planning. The Fitzgerald boy will remain in the kitchen with the rest of the help.”
“Yes, Sir,” Molly said, her eyes narrowed in resentment. Ellie knew she must have been looking forward to having Aldon and Kenny to herself at the supper table.
“Check what we need in there.” Molly told her.
When Ellie came back, she reported that the Signora wanted them to serve tea right away and that they needed to think of a way to seat Seraphina tall enough so she’d be able to feed herself.
“Tea!” Molly put her fists on her hips and shook her head. “Get out some books and cover them with a towel for the bairn. Her highness wants to train her to be a great lady. That’s probably the reason for the tea party. Oh, well, I’ll put the kettle on, and you see to the cups and saucers. When you finish, go ahead and get into your prettiest dress. You’re dining with royalty tonight.”
“All I have is my suit skirt and blouse, or one of my work dresses.
“Oh, I’d say the blue skirt and white shirtwaist. They like to dress up and that’s the best you have, which is plenty good enough.” Molly grabbed a dishtowel, wrapped it around the handle of the chicken skillet, and slid it into the warming oven.