by DiVoran Lites
Chapter Forty Four
Now that they were home from round-up, it was time for Signora Solano’s musicale. While the ladies primped, Aldon asked Ellie’s grandfather to help take the dining room and kitchen chairs into the big front parlor. Seraphina, who had been roaming the house looking for something to do, asked if she, and the kitten she clutched to her chest, could help. Aldon glanced at the older man who grinned and winked. Aldon could read Mr. Morgan’s heart then, and knew he was remembering his granddaughter’s childhood.
“Sure you can. Dust with this.” Mr. Morgan took a large white handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to Seraphina, who put the kitten down and began to run the cloth over the baseboards. The kitten, doing his part, crouched, wiggled, and pounced making Seraphina’s giggles tinkle through the room like a merry brook.
Loud voices alerted Aldon that his cousins had arrived with Eva and Olga from town. When he heard the chiming of the young women against the roar of the men, he thought back to two small pigtailed girls arriving for the beginning of school not knowing how to speak English. As he strode to the back door to greet them all, he recalled that the girls had worn home-made traditional German costumes for school plays. They’re wearing them still he thought as he approached. But bigger sizes and more filled out. From the way the girls clung to Dieter’s and Joe’s arms, Aldon sensed that their bachelor days were limited. Instead of teasing with a knowing look, he stifled his envy.
Dieter, who was as tall as Aldon and much beefier, jammed his shoulder against his cousin’s, delighting in putting him off balance so he’d have to take a step. Dieter had been doing that since they were ten years old and Aldon had never thought it funny.
“Did you call Sheriff Oates?” Dieter asked.
“Come out here, for a minute,” said Aldon knowing there would be no talking to the boys as long as they were showing off in front of the girls. Joe followed telling his date to go on in and take his tuba with her. She hefted it willingly, as a stout housewife would hoist a basket of laundry.
The men followed Aldon to the barn where he turned suddenly and said, “I wish you’d keep your mouth shut, for once.”
“What are you goin’ on about? We got to bring in the Sheriff or get up a posse to go up the mountain after them squatters. Somebody coulda got hurt, plus they’re don’t you know they’re the ones what stole those five cattle we’re missing.” Dieter always spoke his mind. Aldon only hoped none of the other men would hear him. If they did, and formed a posse, he could see a lynching in the future.
“Yeah,” said Joe. “We got to do somethin’ ”
“Okay, here’s what I’ve been thinking,” said Aldon. “Number one, we can’t do anything about finding those fellows in the dark. Number two, they aren’t going anywhere; they’re not what you’d call adventuresome types. They’ve been on that mountain their whole lives, I doubt if they’d know how to read a map or buy a train ticket.”
“We goin’let them go?” Joe asked.
“No, I’ve already told you, we’ll let the sheriff deal with it. We are not going outside the law and we’re not going to tell anyone. You got that? So don’t’ say another word about it.” He felt better after making sure they wouldn’t stir up trouble he wasn’t ready to handle. To change the subject he asked where they had found the tuba and the accordion they had brought.”
“Ma took it in her head to clean the attic and when she found the instruments, she told us to get rid of them, but instead we fixed them up. We had to order some new bellows ‘cause the mice had been at them, but then we didn’t have no trouble putting them back together.”
As they went through the kitchen and into the front parlor, Aldon wondered where Ellie was. He hoped she was all right and that she would be down soon. He tried never to worry, but the thought that she was leaving dug worry holes in his brain. Knowing nothing in life would ever compare with the simple happiness of being in her company, he was overwhelmed with grief and an awful helplessness.
Finished with their conversation they went back to the parlor where last-minute practicing and tuning of instruments were almost deafening. As Mrs. Fitzgerald and her son, Kenny, settled themselves at the piano the room grew still. Coleen and Kenny both played by ear, and they had practiced together most of the boy’s life. Their duets were now the sensation of Clifton. When they began the lively, “By the Sea,” everyone began to clap.
Ellie came in as the piece ended and Aldon, who had been standing by the piano checking out the crowd, rushed over to greet her. He wanted to hug her, but didn’t dare for fear that she would be angry with him for making another scene.
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