by DiVoran Lites
Chapter Forty Six
When Aldon realized he was shivering, he thought he’d better get the quilt over his legs. He found the board Nancy used to cut food on and set himself up on the cot. In a few moments warmth crept into his body and he began writing his letter to God.
Dear Heavenly Father,
The line-cabin is chilly, but I don’t mean to complain. I came away so fast after seeing Ellie and Enrico that I forgot my jacket, my bedroll, and my sidearm. When Molly took me to see what was going on between the two of them, she had my best interests at heart, but, Lord, I wish I’d never seen it. Sir, now that I have a chance to start thinking instead of only reacting, I know I’m as desperate as a misused bronc and as unseeing as a newborn kitten. I need your help.
As you know, heavenly father, we got a letter from Bill that told us he was heading home. I’m sure you know that he has a wife and that he has been married for almost a year. I wish I had known he’d be here to take care of the ranch, Nancy and Molly. I could have asked Ellie to marry me. I could have gone to California and got a job as wrangler with the movies. It’s all too late. Ellie will be gone. Joe and Dieter will marry, but I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I should have told Ellie that I love her. I don’t care if she is a mehanician from back East, a flapper, or a society lady. She is smart, kind, loving, and wonderful, and I was a fool to miss my chance with her. Protect her, please, Lord, or Enrico Solano, will break her heart. She doesn’t deserve that. It helps to talk to you. I know you hear, and I know you will answer, thank you.
Now, as always when he was finished telling the Lord how he felt, and asking him for help, he began to feel his spirits lift. A different concern seeped into his mind. He recalled a pastor once quoting someone who said, “Do the next thing.” What was the next thing? Oh, yes, he had to deal with the rustlers. He sat with the pencil in his hand until he could think out a plan. Suddenly the whole story was clear. He jumped up and checked the cabin, then seeing again his letter, picked it up. He turned it over, and read Ellie’s list again. Knowing no one could see him, he lifted it and gently kissed the place where it said, Glacier Lilies. Then as he scanned his own writing, more peace flooded back into his soul. Folding the paper into a small packet, he snapped it into the breast pocket of his shirt where it would be safe. He could read it again if he started to slide into the quicksand of self-pity. He whispered another prayer to the only person in the cabin with him, the Holy Spirit.
He grabbed his hat, and ran out to Chief. He was so embarrassed to see that he had left him saddled and uncombed, that he promised him to ride gently and to dish out some extra oats when they got to town
As he rode he tried to put thoughts of Ellie out of his mind. One thing he did know, though: he still loved her. But I also know, Lord, that it won’t do any good to try to hang on to her, even in my mind. She has made her choice and I have to live with it.
His God assignment, as he saw it, became more urgent as he headed down the mountain. He must see Sheriff Oates to talk before someone from the round-up, probably Dieter, got on the party line and told the whole valley about the attack. Aldon knew the men who lived here, and knew they’d deal harshly with the young rustlers. They would, without thought or conscience, become outlaws to protect their livelihood.
He and Chief picked their way down the upper slopes and onto the road past the ranch. The sun had begun its slow ascent over the peaks but as he passed the ranch, he knew he didn’t want to wake anyone. Maybe Ellie was already in the kitchen, but he wasn’t ready to see her, so instead of stopping for an automobile, he urged Chief who was acting frisky to move past the ranch at a canter.
He rode through the sleeping town to the church where Quentin Rudd had recently risen from his bed. The pastor invited Aldon to stay for breakfast, but all he’d come for was to tell him where he’d be in case anyone was looking for him.
When he stopped at the Fitzgeralds, he asked Mr. Fitzgerald to take Chief to the livery, unsaddle him and comb him down. He walked the few blocks to the railroad station and boarded the train when it came. He slept a little. When the train pulled into the Artesia station, he got down. Soon he was on the main street of Artesia, leaning against the hitching post across the street from the Sheriff’s office, waiting for Oates to come down and unlock the door.
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