Search this Topic:
Feb 9 11 3:14 PM
This was my attempt to recreate the flavour of reporting in the 1870s. I found a number of articles from the period describing the culture around fencing at that time. I was struck by how often detailed descriptions of physical characteristics were given. They suited my narrative purposes very well, but I realized that they were probably there because newspapers at this time did not include photographs. If there were any illustrations they would probably be in the form of engravings. This time, I decided to take a bit of artistic liberty (and because it was fun to tinker with photoshop) and added an anachronistic group shot. Otherwise, these were my more realistic sources:
REGIS SENAC (dressed in black)
AND FENCERS OF THE NEW YORK FENCING CLUB
Pepe Llulla (from his obituary of March 7, 1888, Daily Picayune, New Orleans)
“About a week ago he came on a visit to New Orleans from his island home on Grande Terre, and on Sunday was taken ill. He gradually grew worse and finally peacefully passed away. While comparatively few were intimate with him, for he was a reserved man, there is scarcely a citizen who did not know him by name. This had become legendary even in his lifetime. He was a native or Port Mahone, Minorca, where he was born in 1815. He soon after became a common seaman, and finally entered the service of some merchant whose vessels plied between New Orleans and Havana. He soon after abandoned seafaring and settled in the Crescent City [New Orleans], with a Spaniard, who conducted a sailors’ boarding house. Here Pepe soon became a consummate master in the use of the knife, and after visiting the fencing schools of New Orleans became astonishingly proficient with the foil and saber. In those days there were a large number of maitres d’armes in the city, where the passions of society were regulated if not restrained by the duel, and Llulla became the protégé of L’Alouette, an Alsatian, who appointed him as his assistant. When L’Alouette died Llulla succeeded him as teacher in the fencing hall. After embarking on various enterprises he purchased the Louisa Cemetery. In later days he bought two adjoining squares and also converted them into cemeteries. [All together, these properties eventually became the St. Vincent cemetery. Wagging tongues claimed that the purpose of the cemetery was to bury the victims of Llulla’s many duels.]
During half a century Llulla was the confidant and trainer of New Orleans duelists, and figured as second in more than a hundred encounters. His formidable reputation as an expert did not save him from the necessity of having some twenty or more affairs of his own. In 1853 he took up the cause of Spain in his own person and challenged all Cuban revolutionaries. These challenges were accepted by a number, who, upon knowing the character of Llulla, failed to come to terms. ‘Pepe’ Llulla’s courage, daring and patriotism met with congratulations and salutations from the home country and from the colonies. Among the many missives which reached the valiant Spaniard was one from Madrid, sealed with the royal seal and inclosing the gold cross of the Order of Charles III and a document conferring knighthood upon the gallant son who had fought so well for Spain. .
In his last days ‘Pepe’ Llulla led the modest and retired life, though he had not lost any of his courage and valor.”
OTHER 19th CENTURY FENCERS:
William Staber - The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper of August 11, 1871, mentions Staber as a prize winner at a fencing demonstration held at the Turner Hall in the Eastern District.
Gilbert Rosière was a fencing master who went to New Orleans before the Civil War and taught fencing to many Creole gentlemen. He opened a school of fencing which developed into the "Orleans Fencing Club." The city directory of 1872 gives the address of the club as 150 Royal Street.
Peter Robin – The 1870 census for Houston included one Peter Robin and listed his occupation as "fencing master." According to the census, Robin was 45 years old and had been born in France.
Régis Sénac was instructor of fencing in the French army before settling in New York. In the 1870s his fencing school was located on Broadway, near 43rd Street, above a theatre. After the French Revolution, the traditional privileges granted to members of the prestigious Académie d’Armes were revoked. The Académie was not re-established until 1886. As a consequence, many French fencing masters left France to set up fencing schools abroad.
ATHLETICISM IN THE 19th CENTURY
In chatting with the real ‘Jonas’, I learned that the intense preparation that we have come to expect from athletes today was not quite the norm in the late 19th century. I’ve been to several fencing championships (as a spectator) and I realize that the preparation, concentration and physicality of today’s fencers is quite different from those of 150 years ago. Today an athlete will train more intensively, pay special attention to diet, and also train psychologically for a bout. However, rather than focusing on speed and dramatic blows, the action in classical fencing was less intensely physical and concentrated more on subtlety of skill which did not require the same muscular stamina and power. For these reasons, neither Maximo nor Jonas are overly preoccupied with the toll the journey might have taken nor with the need for much practice time other than a general loosening up. I did keep in mind that Maximo has a natural edge over the other fencers (of course!). Although class distinctions are not as much of an issue here as they were back in Trujillo, Maximo still leads a far more physical life than most of his opponents who are city folk. His blacksmithing and recent time spent riding the cattle trails have given him the strength and stamina for a much more aggressive style of fencing. Although he consciously chooses not to fence in this way, the fact that he does have an additional reserve of strength is a natural and logical advantage.
A fencing manual, written by William Hope in 1707 lists some guidelines for fencing bouts which provide a few insights into the evolution of athleticism and sportsmanship:
"Do you think that's the way it is with our dreams
and our nightmares? That we have to keep
feeding them for them to stay alive?"
...for all else is dust and air.
Lady Elena of the Cottage
Feb 9 11 3:16 PM
Feb 10 11 1:09 PM
Sunday, July 9, 1871
The Rocky Mountain News, carefully folded in half so that the photograph would not be creased, lay neatly arranged on a large tray which also held plates of ham, scrambled eggs, buttered toast, an assortment of jams and jellies, and a pot of coffee. The tray had been strategically placed at the foot of the bed. An anxious little face watched intently while restless little fingers played with the edge of the tray, ready to react should the occupant of the bed stretch and stir and threaten to upset it.
Maximo lay dead to the world. He had barely moved since he’d collapsed onto the bed, feeling every strained muscle, ligament and joint gratefully sink into the generously padded mattress. The faintest hint of dawn had already begun to colour the horizon when his admirers and well-wishers had finally relinquished their hold on him and he’d been able to carry a slumbering Joaquin into a waiting calash.
Having settled Joaquin for what little remained of the night, Maximo had found himself alone with his thoughts. For a few minutes he’d indulged in looking at himself in the mirror, still dressed in his tailcoat and extravagant vest. He had indeed cut a fine figure and had found it remarkably easy to slide into the manners and customs of Denver’s high society. No one seemed to have judged him as anything but their equal. After one final, satisfied look, he had peeled away the layers of formality and slipped into his nightshirt, feeling that he was also slipping back into his real self. But despite his fatigue, for a while he had lain sleepless, a broad grin fixing itself on his lips. He could not remember ever having felt such a giddy joy in his adult years, this most childish pleasure in feeling proud of a performance that he knew had been exceptional, both on the fencing strip and later among the throng of socialites. The attention that had initially been unnerving took on a different light as it became clear to Maximo that it was entirely well-intentioned, and that the multitude of compliments were sincere with no hidden barbs. Despite his new comfort with the adulation of strangers, he was relieved to discover that Mr. Steinhauer had very deliberately sat him next to Señor Pepe Llulla during the banquet. The two Spaniards had enjoyed a most enlightening conversation, Don Pepe gleefully narrating his adventures and misadventures in New Orleans, where duelling seemed to be second nature to most of its male inhabitants. Don Pepe also spoke of Señor Felipe de Ribera, the compatriot and fencer who had been unable to stay for the Grand Assault. Don Pepe felt it had been a pity that Maximo had not had a chance to cross swords with him as Don Felipe’s style had some things in common with Maximo’s. It would have been a most interesting bout. Don Felipe was a frequent visitor to New Orleans and Don Pepe entreated Maximo to come and visit some day and perhaps share a few bouts with his fellow Spaniards. Maximo and Don Pepe parted on the most amicable of terms, regretting that there was so little time to further an acquaintance that already felt like a budding friendship. They warmly shook hands and sincere wishes were exchanged that they might one day meet again. It was with such gratifying thoughts that Maximo finally lost consciousness and let dreams take over, his fantasies in sleep little match for the realities he had just experienced.
Joaquin had woken shortly after nine o’clock, his few brief hours of sleep disturbed by the inner excitement that had not quite subsided. It had only settled for a little while before rising again and bringing Joaquin back to wakefulness and a flood of memories of the night before. He’d held his own during the banquet, seated at a table set aside for the few youngsters who had been deemed mature enough to accompany their parents to the gala evening. After the meal, Maximo had made a few attempts at escape, trying to use Joaquin’s bedtime as an excuse. But since time and again it was pointed out to him that the child was a model of good behaviour, was clearly enjoying himself and therefore should be allowed to stay longer, Maximo relented. But even when he did begin to show real signs of fatigue, Joaquin refused to leave, insisting that there were still many people wishing to speak to Maximo and that he might offend them if he left so early. Joaquin eventually wrenched a compromise from Maximo, agreeing to retire to the much quieter salon where he could doze on one of the settees should he feel the need. Less than an hour later, he did feel the need and was profoundly asleep when Maximo finally collected him, not even waking when he was placed into his own bed at the hotel.
But now Joaquin had no need for his bed. All he wanted was to talk to Maximo, relive all of the events, get Maximo to tell him about what he’d felt when he was fencing, how exciting it was to get so many hits, and go over all of the surprising moves he’d never seen him do before. But Maximo was frustratingly silent except for the deep steady breaths that indicated he wouldn’t be waking anytime soon. For a moment, Joaquin entertained the idea of making some sort of noise, accidentally dropping a book or knocking into a chair, but quickly thought better of it, not wanting to risk displeasing Maximo in any way. And then he found a more practical channel for his restlessness that satisfied his need for action and even provided the thrill of a small adventure. He dressed quickly and very quietly - as he now definitely did not want to wake Maximo - and with even greater stealth stepped out into the hall and carefully closed the door behind him.
In contrast to the quiet haven of their room, the rest of the hotel was bustling with activity. Not much notice was taken of the boy who alone made his way to the reception desk and patiently waited until someone noticed him. Eventually, the diminutive customer peering over the edge of the counter was spotted. But as soon as he was recognized he was given all the attention he required. The clerk smiled at the boy’s precocious confidence as he made his request, but he dutifully made a note of what was needed by the guests in room 33 and asked the young gentleman to wait while the items were assembled. The clerk saw to it himself and soon returned with a large tray which he offered for Joaquin’s inspection before he carried it upstairs, suppressing a smile as he obediently complied with entreaties to be especially quiet. He took the tray into the room, laid it on a small table by the window, and carefully tiptoed back out. Before taking his leave, the clerk handed Joaquin the newspaper he had carried folded under his arm.
“Here, your father might also want to see this.”
Although the newspaper provided Joaquin with a few more minutes of distraction, it only compounded his restlessness and impatience when Maximo still did not show any signs of waking. Joaquin carefully perched himself at the edge of the bed and for several minutes simply stared hard at Maximo, willing him to wake, but to no avail. Frustrated, Joaquin stood up abruptly and this time, the change in weight on the mattress seemed to have an effect. Maximo began to roll over.
“Careful!” Joaquin quickly grasped the tray and raised it out of harm’s way. Maximo’s eyes popped open, startled by the cry. But as he blinked the scene into focus, it was all Maximo could do to prevent his own cry of sheer delight, not only at the treats laid before him, but especially by the sentiments that had inspired such a thoughtful kindness.
“What’s all this? Is it for me? You went to fetch this all by yourself?”
Joaquin replied with vigorous nods, his pleasure mounting by leaps and bounds as he saw just how happy and impressed Maximo was. Maximo raised himself against his pillow, the better to take the tray Joaquin held for him. He found himself grinning again, the giddy joy that had visited him the night before returning in full force. As Maximo settled the tray, Joaquin took the newspaper and thrust it into hands.
“Look, Máximo, look! There’s even something about me!”
The grin quickly vanished as Maximo gingerly took the paper and began to read. As agreeable and rewarding an experience as the evening had been, he had been relieved to see the end of all the attention. But it seemed he was not to escape it entirely, at least not quite yet.
“Please read it out loud? I’ll pour your coffee for you.”
There was nothing Maximo could do but humour the boy who was so effectively tugging at his heart. He began to read in a quiet voice, pausing from time to time to unfasten yet another button on his nightshirt, relieving the discomfort of the waves of warmth that swept from his neck up to his cheeks. Joaquin listened attentively even as he devoured his own portion of the breakfast.
“What is a coup de Jarnac?”
Maximo was glad for the interruption and tossed the paper aside.
“Did you notice when Mr. Crocker suddenly aimed for my thigh?”
“Yes. But why did he do that? You don’t get points below the waist.”
“Exactly. It’s a low blow. Three hundred years ago, the Baron of Jarnac fought a duel and won because he tried an unusual move, aiming low. It was acceptable then in real duels, but not now. Mr. Crocker was trying to catch me off guard, trying to distract me.”
“It didn’t work!”
“No. That’s what happens to a young buck who thinks he can take advantage of a tired old man.”
“That’s because he doesn’t know you.” The two grinned at each other, but the admiration in Joaquin’s expression soon made Maximo drop his eyes and look away. He noisily cleared his throat and returned to the newspaper.
“’The subscriber has also had the opportunity to...’” Maximo paused, his eyes quickly scanning ahead to the next few lines.
“Go on,” Joaquin urged him.
“’To observe Mr. Meridio’s young son..’” Maximo put the paper down and looked hard at Joaquin. “You don’t mind...?”
Joaquin shook his head.
“The reporter didn’t know. And he’s talking about what I’ve learned from you. Mr. McGregor says that really good teachers should care about their pupils and be like parents to them.”
Maximo knew that the simplicity of the explanation belied much deeper emotions, but at present this was all the expression these feelings needed. Again he picked up the paper and continued reading. But soon he paused and reddened once more, this time when the narrative turned to his dancing skills.
“Go on, read it.” This time Joaquin was evidently aware of Maximo’s embarrassment, and respect for his elder did not prevent him from giggling. “I watched you. You were really good!”
“Well... Your mother taught me many useful things...”
‘And what would his mother think?’ Elena would probably find his discomfort just as amusing as Joaquin did. But the dance had been perhaps the most trying part of the evening for Maximo. Mr. Steinhauer, as master of ceremonies, made a point of introducing Maximo to almost every lady present. The introductions invariably led Mr. Steinhauer to point out that the lady in question happened to have an opening in her dance card for the next number, and that perhaps Mr. Meridio might care to dance? To which Maximo had no choice but to offer his arm and ask ‘Will you honour me with your hand for a quadrille?’ There followed a steady stream of ladies, including Mrs. Steinhauer, Mrs. Brand, Mrs. Sigi, and a wide assortment of blushing daughters who readily honoured Mr. Meridio. Maximo was quite sure that the only lady who had not danced with him was Mrs. Rankin, the Minister’s wife. If some of the younger ladies seemed a little too pressing, Maximo excused himself by saying he had to check on his son, clearly an excuse no one could deny, criticize, or argue against, and it made his status as a very married man quite clear to anyone under any misconception. A dance had even been requested by the Baroness Richtofen. Maximo couldn’t help but smile at the memory. He’d had the impression that though she didn’t quite flaunt her title, the Baroness seemed to feel she had been doing him quite an honour. What might the Baroness have thought if she knew he regularly danced with a Marquis’ daughter?
Maximo finished the article and gladly returned it to Joaquin who curled up in an armchair to read it yet again. Trusting this would keep Joaquin entertained for a little while, Maximo washed and dressed and turned to setting some order to the room, gathering the clothing that had been hastily shed the night before, assembling the various components of their evening outfits and carefully folding all into neat piles. Next he turned his attention to his swords, removing from their case those he had used for fencing and replacing them with the ones that were for show. The finely tempered steel blades attached to elegant hilts were the pride of his swordsmithing skills. But it was through the use of his simple foils and rapiers that he had felt a much more profound sense of pride. These were the weapons that now received a meticulous polishing before being set aside. The rapier had sealed his reputation and Maximo thoughtfully ran his finger along the inscription he etched into all his swords: no me saques sin razón, no me envaines sin honor. He carefully buffed the words. ‘Do not draw me without reason, do not sheath me without honour,’ he repeated to himself and reflected that he had done exactly that.
Maximo’s musings were interrupted by a knock at the door. A bellboy announced that a gentleman was in the lobby hoping to have a word with Mr. Meridio. Joaquin jumped up at the chance for further distraction, but Maximo gently herded him back to his seat and put the newspaper back into his hands.
“Wait here. I won’t be long.” It was with no particular enthusiasm that Maximo left the sanctuary of their room, fearing that he would have to face yet another well-intentioned admirer. He was not wrong.
“Merrick, my old friend!”
Maximo froze in mid-step before he had reached the bottom of the stairs. Below him stood a tall, slim man, looking up at Maximo with a smile that deeply etched the many creases that lined his finely chiselled face.
Throwing the restraints of decorum aside, Maximo hurried the rest of the way to firmly grip William Munny’s hand and share a warm embrace. Maximo clapped a hand on the shoulder of his former trailboss.
“I was about to say this is quite a surprise, but I should have realized there was a chance I might see you. I came across Mr. Duff yesterday.” Maximo began to apologize for not having thought to make enquiries about Mr. Munny, but this thought was quickly dismissed by Munny who instead turned the talk to an exchange of news. Their conversation had barely begun when Mr. Brand appeared at their side.
“May I offer the gentlemen a table in the saloon?”
Noticing for the first time that there were a few onlookers glancing curiously at them, Maximo realized the reason for Mr. Brand’s thoughtful invitation. But he declined the offer, preferring to head for the less public privacy of his own room. But the ingratiating Mr. Brand persisted.
“Then should I have drinks sent up?”
“Well... perhaps, yes.” Maximo noticed the slight raising of Munny’s brows and responded with a quirked smile. “Lemonades I think would be best for the heat, and for this time of day.”
Leaving the bustle of the lobby behind, Munny followed the man who for two years he’d known as Merrick. Even though for months now he had been aware of Maximo’s true identity, the friendship had been forged with Merrick, the quiet, introverted companion, who smiled easily but never laughed, and who had always shown unflagging loyalty to his boss and trail mates, often using his powerful build to defend them on the trails or in the saloons. Munny had always sensed a shadow over Merrick’s reticence and it was in Parson’s Ridge, less than a year earlier, when this gathering storm had burst and nearly taken Merrick with it. Munny had been present when Merrick had plunged to the depths of despair, when he had turned to drink in a futile search for relief through numbness and oblivion. And then it had all changed. Doña Elena. He recalled her name now. All had made sense at last. And the change in Merrick had been remarkable. As they climbed the stairs, Munny stared at Merrick’s back, reflecting that the trim haircut was very much at odds with the vivid image he still carried of Merrick’s generally shaggy appearance, always sporting longish hair and fallow beard. It was before Munny left Parson’s Ridge that Merrick’s dramatic transformation of appearance and spirit had taken place, and Munny knew it was due to Doña Elena. He had yet to ask, but he hoped that what he had seen so far of Merrick was a sign that she was still a part of his life. The answer to this unspoken question soon came to him. As Munny was let into Merrick’s room, he came face to face with a child.
“Mr. Munny, this is Joaquin, my stepson.”
A broad smile brightened Munny’s features as the pieces of the story finally assembled. He recognized the boy, grown taller now, as Doña Elena’s son. This was the child who had been kidnapped, but when Munny had appealed to Merrick to join the rescue party, he had refused. Merrick’s reasons still remained unclear to Munny, but what he saw now seemed proof enough that they no longer mattered. The young gentleman was dutifully offering his hand. Munny shook it and then turned to the father.
“You are married. My belated but most heartfelt congratulations.”
The lemonades arrived, chairs were set at the table by the window, and stories were shared. Munny had in fact spotted Maximo on his way to the Turnverein. As the sighting was so unexpected, he had followed at a distance until he was sure, but even then was reluctant to intrude. Munny apologized to Joaquin for not having recognized him right away. At the door of the hall he had noticed the Grand Assault advertisement and had made enquiries within. He was quite surprised to learn of Merrick’s involvement as he had never known anything about his trailhand’s abilities as a fencer. Munny and other curious people were told that for $1 they could watch the bouts, but only from the doorway of the hall. Munny had had no hesitation in paying the fee. For the next few minutes, Maximo once more was treated to the admiring comments of someone quite astonished to see the extent of his fencing skills. But this time, even though Maximo’s hand rose to tease his beard and thus hide the warmth in his face, the compliments were truly gratifying because they came from a dear and respected friend.
It was close to noon when Munny rose to take his leave, just in time for the arrival of Mr. Haley who had come to make sure Maximo had not shied away from presenting his swords at the Turnverein. As both the hall and the stockyards were located in the same general direction, Munny joined the fencers for part of the way. They retraced the walk of the previous day along Larimer Street and this time Maximo remarked a few strollers who tipped their hats to him. He found it strangely comforting to see that this amused Mr. Munny, who did not fail to notice Maximo’s surprise every time it happened. Munny clearly understood just how singular this situation was for a man once so accustomed to the solitude of the trails. They parted a few blocks from the hall, with the firm resolution that they should see each other again soon, a very real possibility since Parson’s Ridge lay so close to the cattle trail.
“My friend, it is a joy to see you such a happy man.” Munny firmly shook Maximo’s hand in both of his.
“I have much to regret but even more to be thankful for.”
And with the reassurance he heard in these words, Munny went on his way.
To Maximo’s relief, it was only a small group of Denver denizens that was waiting for him at the Turnverein. Maximo recognized them all from the previous night, including Lieutenant Colonel Kautz who had not spoken much to him then but who now took particular interest in the sabres among the various weapons laid out before him. Mr. Haley had arranged for a table to be set up, its surface covered with a velvet cloth, the better to show off the glistening blades. Whenever modesty held Maximo back from extolling the qualities of his work, Mr. Haley was quick to provide every detail. Again much was made of Maximo’s skill. It was very evident not only in the ornate detailing of his weapons but most obviously in the unusually high quality of the steel, particularly noticeable in the distinctive forging patterns along the blades. There were several insistent offers to purchase his swords on the spot, but Maximo respectfully declined. These were not for sale but he would be happy to discuss personalized commissions. The compromise was well received and arrangements continued over the meal which was held in one of the smaller salons. The large hall was still being stripped of its festive finery in order to be transformed back into a gymnasium.
After the luncheon, the group began to disband, some leaving, others remaining to continue isolated conversations. Having bid farewell to the table companions closest to him, Maximo found himself alone with Joaquin, momentarily free to decide how to entertain themselves. They seized the opportunity and wandered out of the salon, heading towards the main hall to watch the proceedings. The transformation was almost complete and a group of youths were already availing themselves of the equipment. Parallel bars and pommel horses had been moved to the centre of the gymnasium, and the fencing piste had been left in place. Three young men were in fencing attire and were taking turns sparring with each other. Maximo and Joaquin watched from a distance for a while before quietly making their way closer to the action. It was not long before Maximo was noticed and recognized, to the great surprise and delight of the aspiring fencers. They were quick to ask Mr. Meridio for his impressions and comments and it was not long before Maximo found himself removing his jacket and agreeing to an impromptu lesson. He was handed a mask and foil and took each student in turn. Maximo was soon so immersed in the lesson that he did not notice Mr. Haley and Lt. Col. Kautz who had entered the hall. Kautz watched intently, noting with satisfaction Maximo’s patience and judicious corrections and recommendations. Kautz leaned over to Mr. Haley and whispered.
“I could find much use for a man such as Mr. Meridio.”
“Yes. But he is a man very much attached to his home and family. I think it would be difficult to convince him.”
Jonas and Kautz continued to watch, from a distance, until the lesson came to an end, punctuated by enthusiastic expressions of gratitude from the young men. It was Joaquin who tugged at Maximo’s sleeve and pointed out that Mr. Haley and the Lieutenant Colonel were approaching.
“Mr. Meridio, you do have a teacher’s gift and patience,” Kautz glanced approvingly at the three erstwhile pupils who now continued to fence on their own.
“Thank you. It is Joaquin who keeps me well trained in that discipline.” Maximo smiled and patted Joaquin’s shoulder.
“I have also been most struck by the quality of your sabres.”
“I am glad you approve of them. I have only recently begun to create them. They are variations on a design for Captain Aubrey.”
“Captain Aubrey is a very fortunate man.” Kautz had been glancing at the young fencers but now turned and squarely faced Maximo. “Mr. Meridio, I will come straight to the point. My interest is very specific. I am the commanding officer at Fort Stanton. It is less than ninety miles south of Parson’s Ridge. I am in need of a trainer and supplier for the infantry and cavalry. I was wondering if you would consider taking on this position.”
“Sir, your offer is most...” Maximo was already shaking his head, but Kautz did not let him finish.
“Mr. Meridio, your name was already known to me before I had this opportunity to see you. I believe you are acquainted with Colonel Morrison?”
“He is a frequent visitor to Fort Stanton. During his last stay, he told me all about the Rufus Kent incident. It seems that you essentially commanded a small army, and very effectively according to Colonel Morrison. I am in need of a man such as you to help with the training. You are an expert in sword exercises and even though you may not be a military man, I have no doubt that you know how to command respect and discipline. These are all the qualities I am looking for.”
“But fencing is not...”
Kautz waved the objection aside.
“Fencing, as you demonstrated here yesterday, may not be practiced all that widely, yet. But surely you are aware that many of the best military academies in the country now consider fencing an essential part of training. I aim to ensure my men are trained to the same standards.”
At last Kautz let his argument rest and waited for an answer. Maximo could feel the intensity of a man not accustomed to being turned down. But there was no choice. The Lieutenant Colonel would have to be disappointed.
“Sir, you do me a great honour with this offer, but with all my heart I must decline. I have my position as blacksmith in Parson’s Ridge which keeps me fully occupied. Most of all, I am needed by my family.” Maximo drew Joaquin closer to his side. “My son and infant daughter. These are the obligations that I must attend to first.”
Though clearly disappointed, Kautz simply nodded.
“I quite understand and it is very commendable of you to have such a sense of duty. But I would entreat you to think upon it further, discuss it with your wife.”
“My answer will be the same, especially after I speak to my wife.” Maximo smiled wryly. “But may I offer my services in Parson’s Ridge? I could take a few commissions for sabres and it would honour me to give personal lessons to any officer passing through the town.”
“I see that you are a firm man in your resolve, Mr. Meridio. So be it. I will keep your offer in mind. You shall be hearing from me again and I hope that some day I may see you in Fort Stanton.” To Maximo’s relief, he did not press the matter any further and with a brief bow and salute, Lt. Col. Kautz took his leave.
“I’m glad you said no.” Joaquin had taken Maximo’s hand, clinging to it with increasing tightness as Kautz had spoken.
“Joaquin, you know there was no other answer I could have given.” Maximo knelt to straighten Joaquin’s jacket and gave him a reassuring pat on the cheek. “But I am surprised he was not more insistent. I do not think he is the sort of man who is turned down very often.”
“I took the liberty of forewarned him that your father had other duties.” Jonas winked at Joaquin and received Maximo’s grateful acknowledgement. They had returned to the salon where they were now alone save for the staff clearing away the remains of the luncheon. There was nothing left to do but for Maximo to collect his swords. All of his obligations now complete, the adventure was at an end. As Mr. Haley helped store his swords, Maximo felt the imminence of the final parting and his reluctance to have it happen quite yet.
“Mr. Haley you have been a most attentive host. Would you join us for dinner?”
“It would be my very great pleasure.” Jonas was clearly very gratified by the offer. “Could I make a suggestion or did you already have a particular establishment in mind?”
“I had thought that since we all have a long day of travel tomorrow, a quiet dinner in our hotel room would be preferable.”
“Excellent idea!” Jonas and Joaquin chorused in unison.
The threesome strolled leisurely back to the hotel, revisiting the parts of Larimer Street that were already familiar and, continuing to walk beyond, discovering another three blocks of shops clamouring for their custom. Again they resisted temptation and only crossed the threshold of George Agger’s Cash Grocery House, which touted the ‘largest stock of fancy groceries in the upper part of the city.’ They purchased provisions for the journey, replacing the cheese, biscuits and cured sausages that Elena had originally packed and now were long gone.
By six o’clock their appetites demanded attention and they turned their steps to the hotel. Mr. Brand was most obliging with the request that a simple supper for three be sent up to the room, and they were soon settled by the window, enjoying their meal and the bittersweet pleasure of a last evening together. Now that the experience was complete, Maximo honestly admitted to Mr. Haley that he’d had serious misgivings that had dogged him throughout the journey to Denver. But now he could say with equal honesty that he had no regrets and nothing but gratitude for Mr. Haley. Thanks to him, Maximo had not only rekindled a true talent and passion, but had been given the opportunity to do so in ideal circumstances. Gone were the emotional burdens that had plagued Maximo, the latent anger and resentment that had little to do with the normal antagonism of healthy competitiveness. Even if Maximo’s performance had not placed him among the best in the exhibition, it would not have diminished the pleasure and deep satisfaction he felt on a profoundly emotional level. And he had Mr. Haley to thank for this revelation and for putting this joy within his reach.
“Thank you, Mr. Haley,” Maximo laid down his fork and reached over to warmly grasp the arm of a man he now considered a cherished friend.
“It’s Jonas,” was the reply to this gratitude. He looked pointedly at both Maximo and Joaquin. “I believe it was providence that kept me in Parson’s Ridge overnight instead of continuing my journey. I owe you my thanks as well. I know this was not easy for you, Mr. Meridio.”
“It’s Maximo.” The quirked grin sealed the familiarity. “I thank you for giving me the push I needed, Jonas.”
The conversation continued late into the night, even though the intention had been to turn in early - they all had long train journeys ahead of them. Jonas was heading back to Montreal where his students were waiting for him to resume lessons in his own salle d’armes. Still, the students would have to wait a while longer since Jonas’ return journey would be a lengthy one. He would be taking a train early the next day in the opposite direction from Maximo and Joaquin, heading to Cheyenne, there to take the Central Pacific Railroad towards Chicago. He had business to attend to in Chicago before heading out for more of the same in New York. From there, he would finally be heading directly north, home to Canada.
Maximo jumped at the opportunity that suddenly presented itself. Jonas gamely agreed to carry a letter to New York for him. Maximo quickly took a few minutes to pen the last paragraph of the detailed letter he had been composing for Leila, sharing his recent experiences and emotions while they were still so fresh. A few months earlier, Leila had followed much the same route as Jonas would, passing through Chicago and now currently residing in New York, continuing her service as a companion to Miss Magnolia Grant until she could find suitable passage on a ship to Lisbon.
“I will do my best to deliver this personally,” said Jonas as he carefully tucked the letter into his pocket book. “It will be a pleasure to meet another member of your family,” he added when Maximo protested that it was enough to post the letter in New York.
Joaquin had done his best to keep up with the adult conversation, but eventually he began to visibly droop. The final farewells could be postponed no longer. Joaquin was gently roused by Maximo until he was lucid enough to courteously shake hands and extract a promise from Jonas that he would definitely stop in Parson’s Ridge on his next round of travels.
“I will be watching for you.” Jonas extended his left hand which Maximo clasped vigorously, the two fencers offering affectionate tributes to each other. “I hope more opportunities will present themselves for you, Maximo.” Jonas turned to Joaquin and gave him a parting wink. “And I will also be watching for this young man. He has a promising future.”
Maximo slowly closed the door behind Jonas and faced Joaquin’s suddenly dejected expression. He reached for the slightly quivering cheek and tenderly stroked it.
“I know what you’re feeling, Joaquín. We’ve had a wonderful time, but enough is enough. We have a long trip ahead of us, but just think that quite soon you’ll get to live this adventure all over again when you tell Mamá and Alma.” Maximo took Joaquin into his arms.
“We’re going home, little man. I can’t wait.”
Feb 10 11 1:13 PM
LIEUTENANT COLONEL AUGUST VALENTIN KAUTZ
Feb 11 11 1:47 PM
Monday, July 10
They made their escape without too much fuss. Maximo and Joaquin rose early for their eight o’clock train departure and lingered in the hotel only long enough to consume a light breakfast. They were, however, not able to avoid Mr. Brand who waylaid them just as they were heading for the exit. He begged but a few minutes of their time while he arranged for a lunch to be packed for them – Colorado Springs would have nothing to compare with the meal his hotel could provide. Maximo refrained from mentioning the surprising quality and efficiency they had discovered in Sandy’s Diner, and instead accepted Mr. Brand’s solicitude with good grace.
Although travel by train had lost some of its novelty, a sense of anticipation simmered within the now seasoned travellers. They were going home, and somehow home had become a destination that held as much excitement as Denver once had. They had so much to tell! And in the sharing of these experiences, they would re-live them once more, savouring the discoveries and triumphs with vivid descriptions created for Elena and anyone else who would care to hear of their adventures.
The first few hours on the train were filled with Joaquin’s banter, repeatedly going through his mental list of incidents, making sure no detail would be forgotten in his narrative. And while Joaquin nattered on, Maximo reflected that a different man and child were returning home. He had recovered a part of himself he’d reconciled long ago to leaving behind. There was an unmistakable sense that, in some way, he had been made whole again. But it was not the change in himself that he was most grateful for. Most of all, he felt he had finally earned more than the respect of his adopted son. The proof was in Joaquin’s conversation which frequently begged Maximo to describe, yet again, how he’d easily dominated his opponents in foil, how Mr. Sénac had declared him the victor and, of course, the incident with Charlie Crocker. Maximo gamely complied, providing the simple statement of facts while Joaquin peppered them with embellishments. But it was not Joaquin’s description of his prowess that moved Maximo to his core: it was the look in the child’s eyes which gazed deeply into his own and which laid bare the most sincere admiration and... love.
And throughout the journey, when the tedium of travel quieted Joaquin enough to let him slumber, he did not just rest against Maximo’s shoulder but draped his arms around his neck and laid his head on Maximo’s chest, falling asleep in his stepfather’s embrace. Again and again Maximo’s heart swelled to the point of exquisite pain. It mattered little to him that he had been judged the most outstanding talent of the exhibition; the child whose arms clung to him was Maximo’s greatest triumph, his greatest prize.
The stages of the journey, having already been experienced once before, came and went both more quickly for their familiarity and more slowly because of the awareness of the still great distance to be covered ahead. In defiance of Mr. Brand’s assessment of Colorado Spring’s amenities, Maximo and Joaquin enjoyed another satisfying meal at Sandy’s Diner and kept the packaged lunch for their supper. They arrived in Pueblo in mid afternoon where the stagecoach was patiently waiting for them and four other passengers with whom they would continue the day’s journey late into the night. It was during a stop at a particularly decrepit home station that Maximo and Joaquin prudently chose to stay in the coach and consume the frankly delicious meal of cold-cuts, fruit preserves and pastries that Mr. Brand had provided.
The coach driver, a Mr. Sinclair, had indicated that he had no intention of driving through the night at any point of the journey. He was clearly not of the same mettle as Baldy Green, but Maximo and Joaquin did not protest – a night spent sitting in a lurching coach was an experience they had no need to repeat. Accordingly, they arrived in the hamlet of Cucharas sometime around midnight and were shown into a self-described hotel, a twin to the Road’s End Inn, respectable and clean enough for a decent night’s rest.
The following day saw them retracing their journey, again stopping at La Veta for their midday meal before facing the challenging pass through the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It was this area that the cavalry from Fort Garland had been patrolling the previous week, but there was no sign of military presence now. This, together with the fact that Mr. Sinclair drove alone, no shotgun rider by his side, Maximo took as a sign that the suspected dangers of a few days earlier had not materialized. And yet, in order to allay his own lingering concerns, Maximo tried to engage Mr. Sinclair in conversation, but the driver merely shrugged aside any worries and shrugged again when Maximo asked to ride up top.
The precaution seemed to have been unnecessary as a few uneventful hours later they cleared the mountain pass and Fort Garland came into view. Their previous stay in the fort had been only a brief meal stop, but today there would be time for a leisurely supper as they would also be spending the night. Once again they were led to the dining hall which was already substantially occupied. At the officers’ table Maximo recognized Colonel Granger and Captain Jewett who also noticed him and nodded in recognition and greeting. In a far corner of the room, Maximo spotted Mr. Sinclair speaking to another familiar man: Mr. Jameson, Mr. Green’s shotgun rider. Their conversation was brief and as Mr. Jameson exited the hall passing near Maximo’s table, he acknowledged their previous acquaintance, nodding and touching his hat to Maximo who returned the greeting. The exchange between Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Jameson left Maximo pensive throughout the meal, his thoughts weighing its possible significance.
After their supper, the travellers were taken to a section of the barracks reserved for occasional visitors. Maximo had just finished installing Joaquin in an upper bunk when a young Private approached him, saluted and requested Maximo accompany him to the Commanding Officer’s quarters. After being reassured that Joaquin would be safe without him for a few minutes, Maximo followed the Private.
“Good to see you again, Mr. Meridio,” Col. Granger extended a hand in welcome and invited Maximo to sit down. “I’ve asked to see you because I’m afraid we have renewed troubles on this section of the trail.” Col. Granger explained that though things had been quiet since Maximo had last passed through the fort, only this afternoon they had received news of a coach held up by road agents. It had been carrying passengers and a cargo of groceries, and though there had been no casualties, luggage and cargo had been removed at gunpoint. A patrol had been sent out but had yet to return with any further report on the situation.
“Your coach is designated for mail transport – there are urgent dispatches that cannot be delayed. I probably don’t have to tell you that this may make you a target.”
“I noticed Mr. Jameson in the dining hall. Will he be accompanying us?”
“Yes, but even though he should be a deterrent, I wanted to alert you to the situation. Mr. Jameson appreciated your assistance last time you travelled together. An extra pair of eyes – and guns – would be welcome.”
Maximo assured Col. Granger that he would be vigilant and ready should he be needed, but though he appreciated the warning and the added presence of Mr. Jameson, he was hardly reassured. By the time Maximo returned to the barracks, Joaquin was already too sleepy to be too inquisitive and simply muttered a good night. For Maximo, it was not such a good night as he lay wakeful, running through his mind possible scenarios of attack and defense.
By the time the coach was on its way at six o’clock the next morning, Maximo was already on high alert. They had taken on two additional passengers and there was no choice but to pile the luggage conspicuously high. Heavy mail bags were tucked into the boot of the coach but were still visible to anyone on the lookout. It was with a distinct feeling of unease that Maximo settled Joaquin inside the crowded coach and then climbed to the top, finding a small space for himself among the clutter. Knowing glances and nods were exchanged with Jameson, Maximo cradled his gun, and the coach set off on its journey.
The sun had already risen, but the mountains to the east kept the trail in relative darkness. When the occasional ray of sunlight pierced through, it only enhanced the starkness of the long, early morning shadows. From experience, Maximo knew all too well that these contrasts of light and dark were used to advantage by hidden highwaymen who would keep the blinding light of the sun behind them. If they were attacked, their assailants would probably be coming from the east. With this is mind, he had made sure to settle Joaquin on the furthest side of the coach.
They had been travelling over an hour, Maximo scouring the hillsides and horizon incessantly, when his ears and not his eyes claimed his attention. Blended into the rattle of the coach wheels he thought he heard another sound. Finding its source, he moved closer to Jameson, tapped his shoulder and covertly indicated the steep hillside some distance ahead, high up to their left. A very faint trail of fine dust was barely visible, glittering in the filtered sunlight. Its cause seemed to be a small slide of pebbles and earth. It could have been simply the natural shifting and settling of stones – or not. Just in case, guns were quietly cocked, and eyes darted about even more intent on piercing the patches of light and shadow. Shielding their eyes from the intermittent flashes of sunlight that cleared the crest of the hill between stunted bushes, Maximo and Jameson tried to pick out any other, more telltale signs of imminent danger. They were therefore not as startled as Mr. Sinclair when another small but damning avalanche of rocks scurried down the hillside just yards ahead of them.
Instinctively, Mr. Sinclair pulled hard on the reins, but Jameson shouted at him.
“No! Keep going – as fast as you can!”
Maximo looked up and immediately understood the wisdom of Jameson’s order. Their assailants had not intended to reveal their presence so soon. They were too far up on a hillside that was much too steep for horses to safely clamber down. They had probably been lying in wait, scouring the trail from the ridge, intending to let them pass and come down behind them some distance ahead, where the hillside sloped more gently downwards. Now that their position was revealed, they made no effort to hide themselves any longer.
As Mr. Sinclair now whipped the horses into a full gallop, three men on horseback revealed themselves, trying to force their mounts down the hill. But the animals were far too sensible and stubbornly resisted, forcing their riders to stay on the narrow ledge. As the would-be highwaymen struggled to keep from tumbling down the hill, Mr. Sinclair managed to surge ahead. Having lost the advantage of a surprise attack, the threesome had no choice but to give pursuit. Galloping along the hilltop, they drew their guns and aimed.
The first bullet whistled over the coach and resulted in even more frenzied hollering and whipping from Mr. Sinclair. He knew he had to gain as much distance as possible while he had a chance. Once the hill sloped down, the lightly loaded horses would have little trouble in catching up. Another bullet flew and missed but this time, with the coach further ahead and less sunlight in their eyes, Jameson and Maximo hesitated no longer. Their guns responded in unison.
Jameson aimed for the first man and hit his mark squarely in the chest, sending the rider lurching to one side and off his saddle. At the same time, Maximo had set his sights on the second horse. He winced as he pulled the trigger and deliberately sent an innocent creature to its death. But with this shot, both horse and rider collapsed and were immediately struck from behind by the third rider who was jolted from his mount as it too lost its footing. Men and horses rolled down the hill, striking bushes and rocks, crashing down the steep incline until they at last lay in an insensible heap on the trail.
Although satisfied that the danger was at an end, Jameson did not discourage Mr. Sinclair from continuing his urgent cries, keeping his horses at a gallop for another couple of miles. Not wanting to wait for the coach to slow, Maximo gripped tightly to the luggage railing and gingerly lowered himself over the side. He peered through the window and Joaquin immediately reached out and seized his arm.
“Máximo! You’re alright!” Joaquin gripped Maximo with all his might. Maximo squeezed back.
“I’m alright, chico. And you?”
Joaquin nodded vigorously but his eyes were abnormally wide as he turned to look at the other travellers, some still cowering on the floor. “I think they’re alright too.” He managed a small but reassuring grin for Maximo.
They were somewhat ahead of schedule when they arrived at the San Luis swing station about two hours later. As they pulled up, they saw that they were not the only customers. The Fort Garland patrol was milling about. Jameson leapt off the coach before it came to a stop and stormed up to the officer in charge. To his credit, Jameson did not raise his voice but his contained anger was apparent in his stiffened shoulders and clenched fists. Although Jameson’s back was turned to him, Maximo could easily read the increasingly troubled emotions on the officer’s face. Clearly, Col. Granger was going to be very displeased. As Jameson continued to press his point, Maximo turned to Joaquin and took him aside.
“Come here for a minute. I need to say something to you.” Maximo knelt down next to Joaquin. Intrigued and a little unnerved, Joaquin stood close to him.
“I know this has been quite an adventure, and I know just how much you’re looking forward to telling Mamá about everything that’s happened, but...” Maximo swallowed hard, struggling to find the words for a request that rankled his conscience but felt necessary nevertheless.
“Perhaps this is an adventure she wouldn’t enjoy? Perhaps this one should be our... little secret?”
Joaquin’s nerves, having the resilience of a nine-year old, had already settled. He immediately nodded his understanding and grinned conspiratorially.
“Our little secret.”
Fresh horses were quickly harnessed, giving the last team much deserved rest and nourishment after the unexpected exertion. Mr. Sinclair, having refreshed himself in his own way, seemed composed enough to continue the journey without delay. His lack of hesitation was probably due in part to the patrol officer having decided to escort the coach as far as New Mexico territory, the officer perhaps hoping to atone for some of his shortcomings before facing Col. Granger. Jameson seemed satisfied enough with the arrangements and made no further comment to the officer before setting off. He did, however, have something to say to Maximo.
“Mr. Meridio, why don’t you sit inside for a while, spend some time with your boy?” Jameson gave Maximo a wry smile as he tipped his head towards the cluster of soldiers. “I think the lot of them together might manage to be almost as vigilant as you.” Maximo gratefully accepted the suggestion and squeezed into the coach. The main seats were occupied by two middle-aged couples and two elderly men, all on their way to tend to business in Santa Fe, leaving Maximo and Joaquin to, yet again, make the best of the limited comforts of the middle bench.
The day continued without further incident, the coach making steady progress southward. Although the ever-present hills could still hide dangers, the valleys they travelled through were broader, making an ambush less likely. When they left Colorado behind and with it the patrol, Maximo did not return to his post on the roof, but did maintain an attentive vigil from the window. Though attractive, the monotony of the landscape did not offer much to distract and make time pass more quickly but, as the sense of possible danger eventually faded, Maximo was content to let his thoughts wander further afield. And, whichever way they turned, there seemed to be only pleasant pastures.
For his part, Joaquin happily whiled away the hours thanks to the book Maximo had purchased for him at Chain and Hardy’s Parlor Bookstore. It had not taken long for him to become thoroughly engrossed in George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, a book that was fresh from the presses according to the shopkeeper and already very much in demand. The more Joaquin read, the more he was taken far away to the imaginary world of Princess Irene and her loyal friend Curdie, the miner boy. But even as Joaquin descended into the mysterious and frightening underworld of the goblins, there was a strangely familiar ring to the tale. Beyond the fantasy, the story was about an unlikely friendship between a miner boy and a princess, made possible because they saw each other as equals. Joaquin put his book down and looked at Maximo who continued to stare out the window and did not notice. In this very real world, Maximo was the miner boy and Joaquin’s mother was the princess. They too were from very different worlds but, just like Curdie and Irene, it was deep inside where they were not so different and where it really mattered who they were. Joaquin settled back into his reading. He hoped very much that the book would have a happy ending.
San Cristobal came into view in the early evening. As Maximo had suspected, this was to be their supper stop although, from their last visit, he knew this decrepit home station had little to offer that could be considered remotely edible. Just in case there had been a miraculous turnaround during the past week, Maximo peered into what passed for a dining room. One brief look at the same cook in the same filthy apron was enough. Maximo made an immediate about-face and herded Joaquin back into the coach. Having earlier calculated travel times and distance and concluded that San Cristobal would likely be their meal stop, Maximo had wisely kept most of the cheese, biscuits and sausages they had purchased in Denver for this particular stop on the journey. They weren’t quite enough for a full supper, but at least their stomachs were temporarily placated.
Before them lay the trail to Los Luceros, seventy-five miles of arid terrain which they would not cover until close to midnight. The tedium of the journey was broken only by brief stops at the swing stations and Maximo and Joaquin were now feeling the true weariness of travel – it had completely lost the novelty of the journey out to Denver. Their travelling companions were not particularly talkative and mostly kept to themselves, lost in their thoughts or reading newspapers. Maximo’s own thoughts had been sufficient for most of the journey so far, but now he decided to follow Joaquin’s example and took out his own reading material. Mr. McGregor had lent him Journey to the Centre of the Earth, highly recommending it as an engrossing tale that was sure to provide much needed distraction. Maximo had managed only a few chapters on the way to Denver, having found it difficult to concentrate and keep his mind from wandering to the unknowns that lay ahead. But the current journey was beginning to feel just as long as what Professor Lidenbrock had endured, now that Maximo was experiencing the full brunt of homesickness.
Two more days of travel were yet to be suffered.
Evening fell gradually and a small oil lamp was lit, but the dim light was a strain on already weary eyes. Books and newspapers were stored away and it was not long before, mercifully, Maximo and Joaquin and most of their companions were rocked to sleep. It was therefore with some surprise and pleasure that they came back to consciousness only once the coach had come to a full stop in Los Luceros’ town square, now subdued under the stillness of midnight. It was not without a slight pang of guilt that Maximo fully roused himself – he had so easily fallen asleep and left their safety entirely in Mr. Jameson’s hands. But at every swing station, Jameson had rejected Maximo’s offer to ride with him, pointing out that this very open stretch of road was avoided by thieves. The only reason Jameson was still with them was because he was expected in Santa Fe. Feeling somewhat refreshed despite the lateness of the hour, Maximo set about assisting Mr. Sinclair with the luggage the passengers would need for the night. They had come to a stop in front of a small inn whose owner stood expectantly in the doorway.
The voice came from behind and Maximo and Joaquin turned to discover Luis Ortiz, local sheriff and son-in-law of Señora Maria Marta Lucero.
“Señor Ortiz – a pleasure to see you again.” Maximo shook hands with the young lawman. There was something indeed pleasantly familiar about seeing Cort’s counterpart keeping an eye on the late night activities in his town. “You are on your late night rounds?”
“Yes, and Mr. Sinclair is punctual as usual. But I’m also here because Doña María specifically asked me to keep an eye out for the coach – in case you were on it. And now that you are safely arrived, I’ve been instructed to escort you to our home.”
Maximo’s protests only brought a broad smile from Ortiz.
“Mr. Meridio, I think you know by now that my mother-in-law is very insistent about having her way. A guest bedroom has been ready for you since yesterday.”
The prospect of a proper bed was too much to resist any further and Maximo and Joaquin willingly accepted with good grace.
Doña Maria was still awake and bustling about in the kitchen when they arrived and she received them as old family friends.
“Señor Meridio, Joaquín! I am delighted you accepted our invitation.” She gestured to the table where a simple meal had been laid out. “I know it is late, but since I also know that your last meal stop was that horrid San Cristóbal station, I’m sure that you are in need of a bit of supper.” Again, there was little Maximo and Joaquin could do but accept the kindness they were offered. They sat down to a light but highly restoring meal. Doña Maria and Don Luis kept them company, enquiring about their impressions of Denver. It was Joaquin, now wide awake, who was more than willing to provide the details, many of which resulted in Maximo focusing intently on the contents of his plate, avoiding the admiring gazes around him. But Doña Maria and Don Luis were well versed in social graces and understood Maximo’s discomfort – in their eyes, it enhanced their opinion of his character. Before Joaquin could launch into another chapter of their adventures, Doña Maria cleared the table.
“I’m afraid we’ve been keeping you up long past your bedtime, Joaquin.” Doña Maria gently grasped the slender shoulders and steered Joaquin towards the back rooms. “We’ll have time to talk some more tomorrow, but for now you need your rest.” She lit a small oil lamp and showed Maximo and Joaquin into a simple but efficiently furnished room. The two beds, covered in colourful quilts and generous pillows, tugged at the weary travellers. It did not take long to shed their dusty clothes and slip into blissful comfort. Maximo’s only concern was that it would be difficult to leave this comfort come the morning. Fortunately, their departure was scheduled for later than usual, at eight o’clock, and would forgive a few minutes of lingering indulgence.
A gentle knock at seven o’clock preceded the appearance of Don Luis, discreetly peering in to confirm that at least Señor Meridio was already awake. Maximo had in fact been awake for a while, but had not hurried to disturb the tangle of sheets, limbs and tussled hair in the next bed. However, their departure could be delayed no longer. Short work was made of a plentiful breakfast and bags were quickly readied for the walk to the town square. Don Luis was remarking on Maximo’s wisdom, travelling so light, when Doña Maria stepped between them.
“Señor Meridio, please accept this.” Doña Maria was handing him an odd package, about a yard long, wrapped in fabric.
“Doña María... I... you really mustn’t...”
“It’s not for you,” she smiled mischievously placing the package in Maximo’s arms. “It’s for your wife.” She loosened a fold in the fabric to reveal a cluster of slender twigs. It was a small lilac tree, its root ball and branches safely wrapped inside the burlap bundle.
“Doña María... I don’t know what to say...” But then Maximo did find the words. “This will mean so much to her.” He carefully refastened the wrapping. “I know Elena doesn’t have any regrets about leaving Trujillo, but there will always be a sense of loss... for both of us. This is a reminder of one of the good things we left behind. We will cherish it, Doña María. Thank you for your hospitality and your understanding.” Maximo brought the lady’s hand reverently to his lips in a gracious and aristocratic tribute. “Señora.”
It was with a real pang of regret that Maximo and Joaquin waved their farewells as their coach rolled out of the town square. Restored by their excellent night’s sleep, Maximo and Joaquin were not so averse to sitting on the central bench, especially after they’d taken one look at their travelling companions and known immediately that they’d had to endure very lumpy bunk beds and meagre breakfasts. At least this day’s journey would not be so taxing. They would reach Santa Fe by mid afternoon and since Cal’s coach would not arrive until the following day, Maximo and Joaquin were looking forward to a few leisurely hours to visit the city.
A quick meal stop broke up the five hour journey and although the home station was clean and well-stocked, Maximo and Joaquin also made short work of sweet treats Doña Maria had insisted they accept to help make the journey more pleasurable. By a little after three o’clock they were rolling through the streets of Santa Fe which presented a far more lively atmosphere than they had previously witnessed in the midnight hours. The streets were teeming with people and Mr. Sinclair patiently made his way through the bottlenecked traffic that eventually spilled into the Plaza. This time, a very wide awake Joaquin eagerly helped with the luggage, anxious to settle in and join the bustle. Thanks and farewells were given to Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Jameson, and though their services had been sincerely appreciated, both Maximo and Joaquin were looking forward to riding the home stretch with Cal, whose conversation and driving promised to keep them entertained.
At the Exchange Hotel they were given the same room they’d occupied a week earlier, and its familiarity enhanced the sense that they were getting ever closer to home. It was both a comfort and a source of anxious anticipation. But for now, they had a leisurely afternoon ahead of them, and as soon as they had settled and washed away the dust of the journey, they set out to explore the city.
Their previous arrival at midnight had revealed nothing of the scene that now lay before them. In the darkness, their concern had been to avoid drawing the attention of the rowdy crowds that were milling about the saloons around the Plaza. But now, in the radiant brightness of a midsummer afternoon, it was clear that Santa Fe had attractions to suit a variety of tastes. The Exchange Hotel was situated on the southeast corner of the spacious Plaza. As the centrepiece of the city, it seemed natural to follow the Plaza’s contours and explore the various establishments that bordered it. Maximo and Joaquin turned to their left, drawn by the interesting range of shops. They strolled among the crowds, weaving their way through customers, piles of wares set outside for better display, and seemingly endless caravans of lumber laden donkeys. The many bare stretches of land on the slopes of the mountains visible in the distance attested to a thriving timber industry. As they strolled along, the range of shops revealed the interesting array of speculators that Santa Fe had drawn. Dry goods stores alternated with jewellery stores, a bank, a boarding school, a hardware store, and several cigar and liquor establishments.
Having reached the next corner of the Plaza, and quickly becoming weary of the commercial activity around them, Maximo and Joaquin opted to cross the street to the welcoming greenness of the city park. This public garden showed evidence of considerable civic pride. Its contours were protected by a low, white picket fence, clearly kept in good repair. Within its borders, dozens of mature trees grew in pleasant symmetry, shading patches of well-tended grass, as well as the many strollers enjoying a respite from the scorching sun. At the centre of the Plaza stood a dramatic monument in the shape of an obelisk placed on a pedestal. It effectively drew the attention of the newcomers. Joaquin satisfied their curiosity by hurrying ahead to read the inscription at its base, revealing that it honoured the Union soldiers killed in the battle of Glorieta Pass in 1862. Maximo had learned enough of his adopted country’s history to know this had been a key battle for New Mexico. He paused for moment of silent tribute, feeling a real affinity for the fallen – his own country had seen centuries of strife within its own borders before arriving at its present, very fragile peace.
The seriousness of the moment was broken when the strains of musical instruments tuning up suddenly turned their attention. Towards the north side of the Plaza, an elegant gazebo sheltered several members of a military band who were soon offering cheerful melodies to a rapidly gathering audience. Maximo and Joaquin were glad to join the crowd and lingered to listen to a few numbers before continuing their exploration. This side of the Plaza was bounded by the distinctive portico that ran the length of the Governor’s Palace, home not only to the governor and his family but also to the district court. The crowds were thinner in this area as there were no shops to lure attention, but the east side of the square fully compensated by providing no less than four saloons and two gambling halls. Maximo gently picked up the pace, finishing the circuit around the Plaza and passing once more by their hotel before heading eastward along San Francisco street.
Even though the western end of the street was the main commercial thoroughfare, the eastern stretch of San Francisco was characterized not by its shops but by being lined with private dwellings. Most did not rise beyond the first storey and, instead of the stone and brick so prevalent in Denver, the smooth adobe walls and continuous porticos gave the city a decidedly different character. Joaquin seemed curious enough about everything they saw, but Maximo decided to add a little kindling to his interest.
“We’re going to see something special.”
“It’s just a bit further. Tía Leila told me to be sure to see this if we ever visited Santa Fe.” Intrigued, Joaquin eagerly grasped Maximo’s hand and skipped along beside him.
“Look.” Maximo was pointing straight ahead at what seemed like an impasse at the very end of the street.
“All I see is piles of earth and stones.” Joaquin walked on his tiptoes, craning to extend his view.
“Look beyond that. What do you see?”
“It looks like they’re putting up a new building.” Joaquin screwed up his face, concentrating on the fragmented structure he could just make out in the distance. “It looks like a church.”
“It’s more than a church. It’s a cathedral.”
“A cathedral!” As Maximo had expected, Joaquin was duly impressed. In Trujillo they had four ancient and sizeable churches, but none had a claim to the distinctive title. This was a fact not lost on Joaquin.
“But Trujillo is bigger and it doesn’t have one. Why do they get one here? “
The hint of indignation in Joaquin’s tone made Maximo smile, but he was quick to educate and clear the misconception.
“This cathedral is not only for the people of Santa Fe but for all of New Mexico. Right now, the closest cathedral is hundreds of miles away in Mexico.”
In her letters, Leila had described at length the major building project and especially the peculiarities of its construction. The image she had painted was vivid, and although Maximo already had a vague picture in his mind of what to expect, the reality that confronted him was still remarkable.
They had arrived at the end of the street and, as Joaquin had noticed earlier, there was a large pile of rubble that had to be circumvented before they could reach the façade of the building. They skirted the mound and stood before a new stone wall, already very high but its uneven top was clearly incomplete. What was finished, however, was quite impressive. A broad doorway was framed by concentric arches of alternating white and reddish stones, supported by columns embedded in the wall. To either side of the door, smaller double arches echoed the main design.
“They’re like the ones on the bell tower of Santa María in Trujillo.”
Maximo nodded. The same connection had come to his mind.
“Let’s see what’s inside.”
Joaquin looked at Maximo, wondering at the strangeness of this statement. ‘It’s a church. What did he expect there to be?’
As they approached, the heavy wooden door swung open giving way to a group of visitors leaving the building. They nodded to the newcomers and held the door open for them. Maximo and Joaquin stepped inside.
Except, they were not inside.
Although there were walls on either side and behind them, there was no roof over their heads. And about twenty feet ahead, a second façade rose from the ground. They looked up and contemplated the extraordinary sight of a church within a church. Maximo and Joaquin stood open-mouthed. The new cathedral was gradually wrapping itself around the Parroquia, the old parish church.
“Tía Leila described this to me, but I hadn’t been able to really imagine it.” Maximo was staring at the wall of adobe bricks in front of him, not quite as tall as the first, but impressive nevertheless. It was crowned by two solid bell towers, and between the towers a large clock peered down at them. Directly ahead, another large doorway beckoned to them. They crossed the threshold and entered the building that had served the community for over a century and a half but had now begun a dramatic transformation.
This time, nothing unusual challenged their expectations. The Parroquia consisted of a single nave, but it was spacious and its whitewashed adobe walls added to the sense of airy lightness. Above the altar stood an elaborate wooden altarpiece, its gilded and painted contours framing several sacred images. No service was in progress, yet several of the faithful were scattered throughout the pews, focusing on quiet, personal contemplation. Again, following Leila’s description, Maximo led the way, skirting the pews to the left, silently leading Joaquin to the far end of the church. As it happened, the church did hold a surprise. At the head of the church, branching off to the left of the nave, was a sizeable chapel. As Maximo and Joaquin entered it, their attention was immediately drawn to a stunning work of art, another altarpiece, a counterpart to the main altar, but carved entirely in stone. Only a couple of other worshippers occupied the chapel and Maximo and Joaquin quietly sat down a few pews behind them.
During the course of his adult years, Maximo had not spent much time in church. The clergy in Trujillo had been too beholden to the generosity of its patrician population and had not looked kindly on Maximo and Elena’s social transgression. And when Maximo had been most in need, he had found the church unwilling to give him the moral guidance and comfort he sought. His years of exile had done nothing to heal the growing rift and Maximo had strayed considerably.
And yet now, as he gazed upwards at the remarkable carvings, it was something other than their exceptional artistry that seemed to reach out to Maximo. Just as the arches outside had rung a familiar bell, so the abundant use of stone reminded him of the one church in Trujillo that he had sometimes favoured. The church of Santiago was a relatively nondescript building, tucked away in a quieter part of town, its entrance an unpretentious doorway in the middle of a rough and bare façade. But just as Santa Fe’s parish church hid a treasure, so did Santiago keep within an altar elaborately carved in stone and stretching its solid arches into the ceiling. To Maximo, this solidity and constancy within a humble exterior had suggested what a true, virtuous soul should be. If only Santiago’s priest could have imparted the same guidance. Although he seemed to have judged Maximo less harshly, he had done little for him other than not chase him away.
But Maximo was no longer in Trujillo and now the Virgin and Child and six venerable figures looked down upon him. Predominant among the saints was James, the centremost and largest figure, dramatically poised on horseback and wielding a sword. Maximo smiled to himself – how appropriate! But among the others, it was Saint Ignatius of Loyola who seemed to look most benignly upon him. Saint Ignatius was the founder and spiritual father of the Jesuit brotherhood and thus also to Cort. And it was through his former Jesuit cousin that Maximo had at last come to see his own faith in a very different light.
It was because of Cort that Maximo sat on this pew and felt he belonged. Cort had revived Maximo’s faith, not because he was a fiery preacher wielding punitive rhetoric, but because he was precisely the complete opposite, and still so clearly a man of true faith. In Maximo’s eyes, Cort practiced his beliefs with a sincerity that escaped the preachers in Trujillo. Cort’s faith was rooted in personal tragedy and redemption, for which he had offered the ultimate gratitude by joining the Jesuit brotherhood. And though he was no longer a man of the cloth and shied away from the trappings of ritual and ceremony, the moral compass Cort kept within did not waver. God was his personal guide – no need for another. The judgment of others did not matter.
Maximo sat gazing at the altarpiece, wondering what judgment was being passed on him, feeling that perhaps, for the first time in a long time, he would not be found so wanting. And for the first time in a long time, he found that he had nothing to ask – all he wanted was to offer gratitude. He did so, in wordless prayer but from the depths of his soul. He knew the message would not be lost, and, secure in this knowledge, he slipped in one request. It was clear to Maximo that Cort was suffering, that something was lying heavily on his heart, not just Catherine’s prolonged absence, but something more recent and more unsettling. He prayed that Cort would find the courage to trust him and share this burden.
Joaquin had imperceptibly slipped his hand into Maximo’s. They had been sitting together in unusual silence for far longer than Maximo knew, but Joaquin had not questioned it and not shown signs of impatience, sensing Maximo’s need to be lost in his thoughts. But now, having reached a measure of peace within himself, Maximo was once again aware of the rest of the world and in particular of the little fingers threaded between his own. Joaquin was looking intently at him, saying nothing, patiently waiting for adult guidance. Maximo recognized the silent request, gently squeezed the small hand, and signalled that it was time to go. Maximo slid out of the pew, slowly lowered onto one knee and crossed himself – a gesture he had not performed for over a decade.
Friday, July 14, 1871
An early supper at the hotel dining room – far from the saloon and billiard hall - and an early night ensured that Maximo and Joaquin were refreshed and alert by the time Cal’s coach pulled up at the front door, just shy of six o’clock in the morning. Cheerful greetings were exchanged as were essential news. Yes, Elena and Alma were fine and very impatient to have their men home again, and no, Cal was not yet a new father. For a few blissful minutes while they loaded their luggage, it seemed that Maximo and Joaquin might be the only passengers. But just as Cal was doing a final check of the harnesses, four harried figures rushed out of the hotel. A couple and two children, a boy and a girl younger than Joaquin, breathlessly tossed their belongings at Cal who sighed deeply but did not complain. As soon as they spotted the new passengers, Maximo and Joaquin had the good sense to quickly climb into the coach, at last claiming for themselves a much deserved seat with comfortable back support. The family clambered in after them. Required pleasantries were perfunctorily exchanged and the coach began to roll.
For the first hour or so, the travellers rode in silence, Maximo and Joaquin having quickly settled to their respective novels, and the Dosett family making up for what had clearly been too short a night. Mr. and Mrs. Dosett slumbered on the seat with the little Miss between them, and Master Dosett lay sprawled on the bench. Even while reading, Joaquin stole the occasional glance out of the corner of his eye, appraising his peers. He noticed the fastidious outfits of the young Dosetts, the boy’s tightly buttoned vest and the frilliness of the girl’s petticoat not ideal for travelling in mid-July heat. He concluded they were probably on their way to visit relatives and thus expected to be on their best appearance and behaviour, and so Joaquin spared a sympathetic and charitable thought for them. As the heat rose and the atmosphere inside the coach began to feel close and stifling, the drowsy family stirred and woke. Their waking signalled an end to the peaceful journey.
Miss Dosett immediately remarked on the heat, tugging at the large bow around her collar and squirming in her seat. She was studiously ignored by her parents, Mrs. Dosett staring determinedly out the window, and Mr. Dosett burying his nose in his newspaper. Master Dosett chose to distract himself by straddling the middle bench and pretending it was his pony, spurring it on with kicks and whoops. Having failed to attract her mother’s attention, Miss Dosett resorted to intoning a plaintive cry, very low at first but then rising to compete with her brother’s racket. To all this, the adult Dosetts remained impervious. Not so Maximo and Joaquin who stole sidelong glances at each other, eyes widening with each increase in decibels. Having tired of his horse, Master Dosett stood up and began pacing from one side of the coach to the other. Though the coach lurched and the boy struggled to keep his balance, his parents seemed blind to his dangerous behaviour. But Maximo was on high alert. Still, this did not save him when the child lost his balance and fell heavily into the bench, sliding it straight into Maximo’s knees. Maximo barely managed to swallow the painful cry that welled in his throat. He contained his agony out of a sense that the boy was about to get enough grief from his parents and there was no need to compound their embarrassment.
“Sebastian!” Mrs. Dosett’s tone seemed to suggest admonition, but it was barely raised above the din of the coach. And though Sebastian paid no heed and turned his back on his mother, Mrs. Dosett seemed unaffected by this insolence and did not even look at Maximo to offer surrogate apologies. Once the throbbing in his knees subsided, Maximo raised his foot and pressed it against the bench, wedging it into his heel. Sebastian gave him the dirtiest look he could muster but said nothing, cowed by the steely glare Maximo threw back at him. Joaquin gave up on the furtive glances, stared squarely and menacingly at Sebastian, and offered Maximo his solidarity by planting his own boot on the edge of the bench.
They rode in this defensive manner for another four hours, enduring more jostling and tantrums, all studiously ignored by the parents until, mercifully, they arrived in Galisteo and the family spilled out, definitively, leaving the coach in blissful silence.
“You alright in there?” Cal was peering in the window, smirking. “You can come out now, the coast is clear.”
Maximo and Joaquin had remained in the coach, waiting for the Dosetts and their luggage to be well clear before emerging themselves and heading to the home station for an early lunch. The mother and daughter team that had so efficiently tended to their appetites on their previous stop in Galisteo once again did not disappoint. The savoury and abundant meal quickly dispelled the unpleasantness of the morning, leaving Maximo and Joaquin well restored by the time they climbed back into the coach. Again they were not alone, but this time their companions were two miners on their way back to the Midas Touch mine after a brief furlough. The clean but tired suits they wore were clearly the best they possessed, but if their clothing lacked in quality, the men did not lack for manners. They tipped their hats to their fellow passengers, refrained from putting their feet up on the bench, and settled to their own private, unobtrusive, musings.
As they pulled out of Galisteo, Joaquin was thrilled to hear Cal raise his voice and slap the reins. It didn’t take long for the team to respond and soon the four fresh horses had brought the coach to full gallop speed. Joaquin tossed his book aside and stuck his face out of the window, grinning from ear to ear, wind and dust ignored, willing the horses to go even faster. But Cal, though prone to what felt like literal flights of fancy, was judicious in the treatment of the horses in his care and did not press them beyond endurance. As a result, it seemed to Joaquin that all too soon they slackened their pace to a trot, still swift and steady, but painfully slow for one who now ached to be home. By the late afternoon, Maximo and Joaquin were both experiencing an intense restlessness, inexorably growing with every passing mile, distracting to the point that eventually neither Mr. Verne nor Mr. MacDonald were able to retain their readers’ interest. The novels were set aside and all attention was diverted to the landscape ahead, as if the harder they stared the sooner they would be drawn to it.
At last, Antelope Springs came into view and the modest home station offered the standard fare of bread, beans and bacon. Maximo and Joaquin made short work of their meal, but their haste was not shared by their companions who, though not out of malice, took the allotted half hour to finish theirs. When Joaquin quietly confided his impatience, Maximo responded by pointing out that the miners’ reluctance to speed the journey was perfectly understandable since they were heading back to arduous work. Soon enough they were back in the coach and braced to face the last seven hours of the journey.
Another couple of swing stations brought them to the vicinity of the Midas Touch mine where polite goodbyes were exchanged with the miners. It was with ill-concealed delight that Maximo and Joaquin climbed back on board, revelling in the luxury of having the coach to themselves, not so much for the physical comfort but for the ability to speak without restraint. The earlier hours of silent travel dissolved into excited conversation, their shared agitation both fuelling and placating their anxiety. By the time night fell, they decided that it would be wise to try and sleep for at least a little while. They would arrive in Parson’s Ridge no earlier than midnight and alertness at that time was of the essence. They managed to doze for some time, but all too soon they lit the lamp and resumed their conversation. It was close to ten o’clock when they felt the coach slow and begin to make a very marked turn to the south. They were arriving at the last swing station.
It seemed that Cal was keenly aware of his passengers’ impatience and Maximo and Joaquin noticed, with much gratitude, that the fresh horses were harnessed with even greater alacrity than Cal had managed at earlier stations. Though he gleefully shouted “All aboard!” when he was done, Cal knew that his passengers were already ensconced in their seats, having hopped out only to briefly exercise stiffened limbs. He rewarded their diligence with another all-out gallop. At last they were on the home stretch.
Before them lay twelve miles, the twelve most interminable miles Maximo had ever experienced, even on the most arduous stretches of the cattle trails. Both he and Joaquin were now far too restless to concentrate on reading and even conversation became sporadic. It was during one of these extended lulls that they became aware of a noise, almost imperceptible at first, but then quickly growing in intensity. By the time they realized what it was, the downpour was already upon them, pelting rain hard enough into the coach to soak seats and passengers within seconds. As they scrambled to fasten the heavy canvas coverings over the windows, Maximo heard a shout from above. Bracing himself, he thrust his head outside.
“Maximo!” A bare-chested Cal was handing him a tight bundle - his jacket and shirt - for dry-keeping. Maximo grabbed it and tossed it inside.
“Don’t you have an oilskin?”
“Nah. I’m fine. Quite refreshing, actually,” Cal grinned. The downpour was welcome, not an inconvenience. The wide brim of his hat kept the rain off where it counted most.
As was common at this time of year, the cloudburst was intense but did not last long. The stillness of the night returned, broken only by the rhythmic and complex sounds of carriage and horses, muffled in part by the sodden ground. The canvas coverings were raised from the windows. Maximo and Joaquin took lungfuls of altered air, breathing in the earthy aromas released by the damp. The wetness seemed to cling to the atmosphere, dimly lit by the sliver of a moon which once again peered from behind a receding cloud. Then, looking a little more attentively, Maximo and Joaquin realized that the haze in the horizon was catching another brightness, mirroring it into a gentle glow - the lights of Parson’s Ridge.
Hastily, Maximo returned Cal’s clothing, tended to his own and Joaquin’s sartorial needs and, skilfully brandishing his comb, neatly added the finishing touches to their presentability. A little distance before the outskirts of town, Cal slowed the coach to a steady walk, conscious that a good number of citizens were already fast asleep. The town was in fact quieter than usual, the rain having chased late night revellers inside. They were now on the main street, rolling silently but for the soft lapping of the wheels through lingering puddles. They came to a stop in front of the hotel porch. The only townspeople who were about were the only ones who mattered. Elena, followed closely by Cort with Alma in his arms, was flying off the porch. The wait was over.
Joaquin had leapt out first from the coach and clung convulsively to his mother while Maximo stood back, patiently waiting his turn, delighting in the image and the intensity of emotion between mother and son reunited. When at last Joaquin released her, Maximo and Elena faced each other, needing no words at present, but needing very much to feel the touch so sorely missed. They exchanged a public but tender kiss which a vague sense of propriety kept them from prolonging. But then their arms folded around each other, gently wrapping at first, then straining to hold even tighter, allaying at last all of the unspoken fears that had coloured every second of separation.
“Mamá, lets go home?” Joaquin’s tentative request came after patiently waiting for his mother and Maximo to make the move but then realizing that, left to themselves, this was not likely to happen all that soon.
The spell was broken, but it was a happy return to a sweet reality. Maximo turned to Cort who carefully placed the sleeping bundle into her father’s arms. Maximo gently kissed his infant daughter, wary of waking her, but did not resist pressing his face to the top of her head, feeling the softness of her downy hair against his cheek. How he had missed this tender touch...
Cal had finished unloading their belongings and Cort was quick to shoulder them before Maximo could protest.
“You already have your hands full.” Cort nodded to both Maximo and Elena who once again was at the mercy of the little arms tightly wound around her waist. Maximo and Elena had no argument left and so the little troop at last headed homeward.
Main Street was quiet, the hotel and Marshal’s office having the only brightly lit windows. Even the Tumbleweed seemed more subdued than usual. Maximo was grateful that they had not drawn any notice to themselves. He’d had his fill of being the centre of attention and was looking forward to returning to the pleasant routines of an ordinary life. As they veered southward towards their home, Maximo expected that the stillness would be even more complete since all the shops on his street closed promptly at suppertime. He was therefore mildly surprised to see that the lights in the newspaper office were ablaze. Curious, he turned his steps towards it only to find that Cort, having stepped a little quicker, was blocking his way.
“Maximo, I think you shouldn’t...” Cort’s words drifted away, seeing that he was only succeeding in kindling his cousin’s curiosity and apprehension. He sighed and stepped aside. “I guess it’s best if you know...”
His brow furrowed with real worry now, Maximo walked up to the office, holding Alma tightly to himself as if for mutual protection. There, prominently displayed in the middle of the window was the front page of the July 9 Rocky Mountain News.
“Randy contacted the Denver newspaper.” Cort offered the explanation he knew wouldn’t lessen Maximo’s mortification. “Apparently, the editor was very happy to oblige and sent a copy of the paper with the first post. It arrived this morning and, as you can see, Randy couldn’t wait to display it and he’s been hard at work all day, setting the story to publish it in the Gazette tomorrow.”
Maximo’s head slowly drooped. He closed his eyes, and took a slow, deep breath.
Both Elena and Cort sheepishly smiled and nodded.
“We are all so proud.” Elena’s smile broadened as she gently pulled Maximo away and set him homeward bound once more. “You should also know that I just barely managed to convince Snuggie not to make a fuss tonight. But I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to protect you from whatever will be waiting for you at the Tumbleweed tomorrow. The town badly needs something to celebrate.”
Maximo took another fortifying breath. He suddenly felt quite defenseless. His remarkable parrying skills would be useless against an onslaught he could not avoid. But his initial dismay began to dissipate as he considered more thoughtfully the motives behind Randy and Snuggie’s actions. They were profoundly gratifying acts of friendship. Maximo knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that in Parson’s Ridge the attention he would receive would be nothing but well-intentioned – he was home and among friends. He wiped the frown from his brow and gave Elena a resigned but reasonably content smile of reassurance.
A final few steps down the street brought, at last, the true end to the journey. The modest house before them seemed to glow, its windows brightly lit with welcoming expectation. They climbed the steps to the porch and Elena carefully pried Alma from Maximo’s arms, shepherded Joaquin inside, and left Maximo to help relieve Cort of his load. Though there was not much to the task, they lingered over it, yearning but hesitating to start a conversation that could, no doubt, have lasted for several hours more. Cort pushed the last of the suitcases through the door and turned to do the same to Maximo.
“I could easily keep you talking here all night, Max, but it’s very late and your family is anxious to be with you again.”
“You are also my family, primo,” Maximo offered the quirked smile which was immediately mirrored by the face that was so singularly similar to his own.
“Go to them, Max.” Cort spread his arms and they embraced with the warmth of brothers. “It’s good to have you home.”
Feb 11 11 1:57 PM
THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, by George MacDonald
Once again, I’ve taken a bit of literary license, this time concerning the publication date of the book. It actually was not published until 1872, but since the dates are so close and because it happens to be a book I read when I was Joaquin’s age and absolutely loved, I just couldn’t resist using it.
MacDonald was a Scottish novelist, poet and Christian minister. He was in the united States on a lecture tour in the winter of 1872-73. MacDonald, who did not believe in predestination but rather that everyone is capable of salvation, encountered problems in the parishes where he preached as this ran counter to some of the thinking at the time. As a result, he gave up preaching and instead turned to writing. He lectured primarily in New York and Boston, and his most popular topic was Robert Burns [and I just happen to be editing this note on Robbie Burns day, Jan. 25, 2011!].
JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH by Jules Verne was published in French in 1864 but its first English edition came out in 1871. This early edition shortened and altered the original text and changed the names of the main characters who became Professor Hardwigg and his nephew Henry instead of Axel. I’ve used the original French character Professor Lidenbrock, which is also the name that appears in subsequent English editions.
CATHEDRAL OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI – SANTA FE
The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built 1714-1717, itself on the site of an earlier church built in 1626 but destroyed in 1680). This was the first cathedral to be built in New Mexico. The new cathedral was built around La Parroquia which continued to hold services throughout the years of construction and was dismantled once the new building was complete. Influenced by the French-born Archbishop Lamy and in sharp contrast to the surrounding adobe structures, Saint Francis Cathedral was designed in the Romanesque style. The towers were originally planned to be topped with dramatic 160-foot steeples, but due to lack of funds these were never built.
Of the original Parroquia, only the north chapel remains. Today it houses a large wooden altarpiece which surrounds the statue of Our Lady of Peace (also known as la Conquistadora – she survived the Pueblo Revolt of 1680). But in 1871, it was a remarkably large, elaborately sculpted stone altarpiece that occupied the entire north chapel of the Parroquia. This altarpiece was originally housed in the church of Our Lady of Light (also known as the Castrense chapel) which was located on the south side of the Plaza. It was removed and taken to the Parroquia in 1859 when Archbishop Lamy sold the underused church in order to raise funds for the new cathedral. The stone altarpiece remained in the new cathedral once it was finished but was moved in the 1930s to its current location in the Cristo Rey church, also in Santa Fe.
Feb 11 11 2:02 PM
Feb 11 11 2:05 PM
I’m all done - I finally got that out of my system and it felt great, really very therapeutic....
And now back to real life and to the all too real stack of papers I can’t ignore.... *sigh*
Feb 24 11 1:39 PM
Lady GigglesFluffernutter to the Sun King
Feb 28 11 10:46 AM
Hi Giggles!As you can see, I kinda posted and ran!That really was my little window of opportunity and now I'm swamped with other commitments. I really do love teaching but I sooooo hate the grading part - it makes me feel loopy after a while... I'm officially on March "break" right now but I'll be spending it mostly catching up reading papers. At least I'm sitting on a comfy couch watching the lovely snow fill up the streets that I don't have to go out on....As for the research, that's the other part that I love about teaching and writing. I already have other ideas rattling around for more P'sR research, but in the meantime, this last story arc has spawned an investigation of the French pastry cook/fencing master in Montreal in 1816, and I've been asked to write a short article about him for a local history journal. It's sooooo tempting to do that instead of the grading....Speaking of which....*sigh*.......
Mar 24 11 5:55 AM
Keeper of the KiltedKinsmen
Don't you hate it when you explain your giraffe by accident?~Craig FergusonThe secret to great hair for men is to look like you just came from the stable, not the salon. ~Nathan Fillion
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.