Chapter 5: Gluttony
Alice stared wearily at the empty wood shed. With all the distractions the past couple of days, neither she nor Will had remembered to split the logs for firewood. The small amount of wood that remained from yesterday had been used up keeping the fire going to cook the stew and bread they’d have for supper that night.
Today was Thursday, which made it ‘Churn Day’, so Alice had spent most of the day alternating between her usual daily chores and making butter. While it wasn’t as strenuous a chore day as say, Wash Day, once she got started with it, churning and skimming the cream did require her constant attention. She was done with that task for the day, the butter and buttermilk safely stored in their root cellar until she needed them.
Mark and Will would be returning from the range with the herd any time now, and she picked up the axe. Hopefully she’d get enough logs split before the boys got back that they’d have enough to last them through the night.
A short time later, the familiar sound of many hooves tracking on rough dry ground and occasional moo indicated the arrival of their small herd. Alice sighed as she lowered the axe and rested it on the ground, leaning on it for a moment while she studied the small pile of split wood she’d produced. It was a start, but they’d need more before turning in for the night.
She looked northward, watching the cattle plod over the hill followed by the familiar forms of Will and Mark on their horses… and a third rider on a black horse.
Stopping just short of uttering a very unladylike curse, Alice hefted the axe one last time before sinking it into the splitting block. It was bad enough that she’d had trouble keeping that damnable man out of her thoughts all day, but now, to have to endure another strained conversation with him? What did he want this time?
Hopefully, to tell us he’s on his way back to wherever it is he’s from, she thought to herself. It was accompanied by a flicker of disappointment that she quickly squelched.
Alice made her way back to the small house, crossing her arms and watching the man and two boys expertly guide the cattle into the corral. They worked together as a team with such ease it was almost as though they’d been doing so for years, instead of for the first time ever. Dan would have worked with the boys in this same way if he’d still been alive.
Her eyes misted with tears when she considered that, and she drew in a long slow breath to rein in her sadness. Her husband had been gone for nearly two years and the worst of her grief had faded to an occasional dull ache. The times she thought about her boys losing their father and the impact that had on their lives were when she missed him the most.
By the time they finished penning up the cattle, Alice had her emotions under control again. Mark’s eyes were bright and excited as he guided his horse into the yard ahead of the other two and dismounted. He had the presence of mind to see to his horse first, but from the frequent grins he kept casting over his shoulder at her, he was itching to tell her something.
Will rode up and climbed off his horse, Joshua Mason only a few beats behind. Her older son nervously avoided meeting her gaze as he walked the short distance to the trough.
The man himself gave her an easy smile, giving that characteristic tip of his hat as a greeting. "Mrs. Evans."
"Mr. Mason," returned Alice, her voice even and cool. "What brings you back over to our neck of the woods? Did Mr. Hollander send you?"
"No, Mr. Hollander didn’t send me," Joshua immediately responded, his blue-green eyes meeting hers and his expression more serious. "I don’t deliver messages for Mr. Hollander, not the kind of messages he sends, anyway."
He may have been an outlaw and possibly even a cold-blooded killer, but Alice couldn’t help the slight smile of relief that appeared on her lips at his words. "That’s good to know." She glanced over to where her sons were still watering their horses. Noting that William still refused to meet her eyes, she hazarded a guess, "Will invited you?"
A chuckle escaped Joshua at her insight, "I happened to run into him while out riding the range, and he asked if I’d help bring the herd in."
"I see," Alice said, pursing her lips and arching one disbelieving eyebrow at him. "And you say you just happened to run into him."
His answering smile was wide and unrepentant. "Yes ma’am. It was quite a coincidence how that happened."
Mark had finished watering his gelding while the two adults spoke and loosely looped the reins around the fence before walking over to them. By now, he was almost squirming with excitement from holding in whatever it was he had to tell her. Unable to keep silent a moment longer, he grinned up at her. "Guess what, Ma?"
"What?" Alice gave her youngest son an indulgent smile, gamely playing along.
"Mr. Mason told Will and me the funniest thing ever, ain’t that right, Will?" His older brother had walked up behind him, but where Mark’s dark green eyes danced with humor, Will’s eyes were angry and worried.
The amiable expression had faded from Joshua Mason’s face, and he turned away, taking the opportunity to lead his mount the short distance over to the trough.
Alice was starting to get a very bad feeling about this. "Did he now?"
Nodding eagerly, Mark said, "Yep. He told us--get this, he said that Mr. Hollander was gonna start courtin’ you." The boy doubled over, laughing helplessly.
She was sure she’d misheard him and gave Mark all of her attention. "Hollander is what?"
Will spoke up for the first time, his face stony. "He said Hollander’s gonna try and get you to marry him."
Alice stared agape at Mark and Will with incredulous disbelief for so long that her younger son stopped laughing and started looking worried.
Mark studied her face and apprehensively noted, "Will, she ain’t laughing. Why ain’t she laughing?"
"Cause it ain’t funny, Mark," Will growled.
Regaining her voice, Alice lifted her chin and called to Joshua, "Is it true? What they’re saying? Does he really…" she couldn’t complete the sentence out loud. The mere thought of marrying Hollander and all that entailed, of having to endure not just the man himself, but his touch, his kiss…. She almost retched and actually had to cover her mouth with her hand, swallowing the bile back.
Joshua took his time in replying. He drew his horse away from the water basin and hitched it to the fence before walking back over to the ranch house. "Yes, it’s true," he eventually answered, giving a slight nod to back up his words, his eyes serious and almost sympathetic.
That look from him suddenly ignited her anger. Her spine stiffened and her eyes flashed with fury, not just at Joshua Mason—at Ben Wade—for having the nerve to pity her, but because Glen Hollander had the gall to even think she would consider marrying him. If Alice had to blame one person for Dan Evans’ death, it wouldn’t have been Ben Wade, but the rich landowner Glen Hollander. He had had lied to them, dammed up their creek, burned their barn and driven them to such desperation that Dan had little choice but to take that asinine escort job. It was either that or lose everything that meant anything to her husband—including their son.
Mark actually took a step back at the fury on his mother’s face, muttering a nervous, "Uh-oh."
Will stood his ground, though he also seemed to be debating retreat in the face of her ire.
"William, Mark, you’ve got chores to get finished before supper," Alice grated out. "I’m sure Mr. Mason needs to be getting back to Mr. Hollander’s ranch for supper."
"Actually," Joshua scratched the side of his face, "I’ll be heading into Bisbee for my meal tonight. It’s too late for me to make it back to the Bar-H in time to eat."
"You could eat supper with us. Ma’s makin’ stew, we always have plenty of that," Mark swiftly suggested. Half a beat later, he made the mistake of looking at his mother again, and drew in a quick breath at her expression. "Ah, I’m gonna go get the rest of my chores done…" He hurried off before he could get into more trouble, collecting his horse from where it was tied to the corral fence and leading the animal to the barn.
Will backed up half a step and gave his mother a wary look before inputting, "Mark’s right. You should stay for supper. Bisbee’s a long ride aways." He hastily made his way over to his sorrel gelding and headed off toward the barn as well.
Alice glared at her sons as they beat a hasty retreat, but the damage had been done. She was far too gracious a hostess to withdraw the invitation outright, once it had been given. Turning to a bemused Joshua, she tilted her chin slightly as she spoke, "Mr. Mason, you are welcome to join us for dinner, but I’m sure the Bisbee boarding house can offer up meals that are far more to your liking than plain old stew."
A slow easy smile appeared on Joshua’s face and he said, "Now Mrs. Evans, I’ll remind you that I’ve had your cooking before, and I’m fair sure it’s better than boarding house food, hands down. Stew sounds delicious."
She could have spit nails at the situation her sons had introduced but gave Joshua a civil nod instead. "Very well, then." Alice turned and went into the house.
A few moments later, Joshua followed her inside, removing his hat as he walked through the door.
The hearty aroma of seasoned meat, potatoes and carrots cooking filled the little house. Alice went to the stove, picking up the poker and using it to stir the coals up a bit more to ensure the bread would bake evenly. Setting it aside and protecting her hand with a potholder, she used a long metal ladle to stir the stew. She was still fuming with anger and glanced over her shoulder at their ‘guest’.
Joshua absently ran a hand through his short dark hair, brushing away the worst of his ‘hat-hair’, as he looked around. Little had changed since the last time he set foot in the small house.
"Mr. Mason, may I ask you a question?" Alice inquired, her jaw still tight with anger.
"Of course. And please, call me Joshua," he replied, giving her one of his more charming smiles.
The smile went to waste, for she didn’t even look at him, focusing all of her attention on stirring the stew. She lifted the ladle, leaving a tiny bit in the large bowl of the spoon and blew across the surface. When it was cool enough, she tasted it, gave an approving nod and kept stirring. "Mr. Mason, do I look like some kind of wilting flower?"
Joshua blinked at the unexpected question. "Excuse me?"
Now she looked directly at him, her green eyes icy and hard. "I asked if I look like some kind of wilting flower? Like some Boston socialite who faints at the slightest sign of trouble and has to be fanned and plied with smelling salts to come around? Does that kind of woman survive here in the Arizona Territory? Especially when she’s a widow?"
It was a rhetorical question, but he answered anyway, resting one hand on the back of a chair as he regarded her. "No. No, you don’t seem like that kind of woman."
She closely examined his face, looking for any sign of prevarication, but found none. That mollified her to a certain degree and she shook her head with a weary sigh. "How is it that you know that, having been around me for what, a few hours at most? And Glen Hollander has been our landowner for years."
"Because Glen Hollander is stupid. I ain’t." From another man it would have seemed like bragging, but from Joshua Mason it was a simple statement of fact.
They stared at each other a long moment, and for Alice, the small ranch house suddenly seemed even more cramped than usual. Forcing herself to turn back toward the stove, she began stirring again, "Supper will be done shortly. I’ll call when it’s done, if you want to see to your horse or something." Hopefully he would take her subtle hint and leave her in privacy to finish cooking, because she wasn’t sure she could handle him standing there watching her.
His eyes lingered on her trim figure before Joshua turned to leave. A red bound Bible lying on a small table next to the rocking chair caught his eye. He bent to pick it up, opening it to the title page and stared at the simple pencil sketch of Dan Evans there, the one he’d drawn so long ago, when he was another man.
Alice saw him looking at the book and for a few moments, she debated not saying anything. However, that simple drawing had come to mean a lot to her family, regardless of who it’d been drawn by, and it felt wrong to ignore that when the artist himself was right there in the room. "It’s the last picture we have of Dan," she quietly informed him as she took a few steps toward him, and then pointed out a picture of a thin serious soldier that hung on the wall by the hutch. "He had this one made from when he was in the War." She mustered a small sad smile, "We kept saying we were going to have a photograph of all of us made, together, as a family, but we just never got around to it. Anyway, thank you for that, for drawing it, I mean."
Joshua slowly closed the Bible and put it back down. Without looking at her, he said, "I’m sorry for the part I played in his death. I did my best to stop it from happening, but…" his voice trailed off.
She waited for him to finish, but when he didn’t, she cast her eyes downward and said, "Will told me what happened. Thank you for at least trying." She paused before adding wryly, "Most men wouldn’t have."
He nodded, acknowledging the truth in her words. Putting his hat back on, he adjusted the brim, turned toward her long enough to touch his fingertip to it in a gesture of gentlemanly respect and walked out the door.
She walked across the room and picked up the Bible, flipping it open to the sketch of Dan. It was startling how accurately her husband had been depicted, from the stubborn set of his eyebrows to the light yet prepared grip of his hand on the shotgun across his lap. Alice brushed her fingertips across the image and a wistful smile touched her lips.
When she heard the sound of an axe chopping wood, she quickly closed the book and replaced it on the table. Walking over to the doorway, Alice found herself staring at Joshua, who had his back to the door as he swung the axe with ease, expertly splitting the logs into firewood.
She considered asking him to stop, but thought the better of it. Did it really matter who chopped the wood, as long as it got done? She decided to accept the fact that sometimes there were distinct advantages to having a man around. Alice watched him for a few moments before heading back to finish up dinner.
Alice called them in to eat a little while later and noted with amusement that this time Joshua waited until after grace had been said before he dug in, though his table manners still left something to be desired.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, and Mark alternated between spoonfuls of stew and peeking at Joshua. "Mr. Mason, can I ask you a question?"
The man thoughtfully regarded Mark as he slowly chewed a bite of meat, twirling his spoon between nimble fingers. "I don’t know, I’d say that depends on the question."
Alice hesitated in buttering a slice of bread and gave her son a sidelong glance. There was no telling what he’d ask, and he had about as much tact as a herd of stampeding longhorns.
"Are you rich?"
The question made Alice sigh with irritation, and she speared her youngest son with a quelling glare. "Mark, it’s rude to ask questions like that."
Joshua chuckled though, unoffended. Straightening in his chair from the hunched position he’d been eating in, he began going through all of his pockets and pulling out loose change and crumpled bills. He counted up the bills first, then the coins, announcing with a grin, "Let’s see… that adds up to 35 dollars and 26 cents."
Alice was amused by how he chose to handle the prodding question though she sincerely doubted that small amount of money was all Joshua Mason had to his name.
Mark had his own suspicions as well, because he watched the man collect his money and return it to his pockets and observed, "Maybe you don’t have enough pockets to hold all your money. Rich people don’t carry around all their money all the time." His next question wasn’t long in coming though. "You don’t like Mr. Hollander much, do you?"
"No one likes Hollander," Will muttered before slurping up some broth.
Joshua leaned forward, resting his forearms against the edge of the table as he picked up his spoon and lowered it into the large bowl. After swirling it around a couple of times, he confessed, "No. No, I don’t like him very much at all."
"If you don’t like him, then why’re you workin’ for him? You bein’ rich and all?" the boy inquired, his green eyes wide with curiosity.
"Mark, who Mr. Mason chooses to work for is none of our business," Alice chided gently, though it was a question she herself would have liked to know the answer to. Will seemed to be the only one at the table uninterested in hearing the response, and she found herself wondering what the man and boy had talked about when they had ‘happened’ to run into each other earlier that afternoon.
He answered anyway, of course. "I was curious," Joshua admitted, though he directed his words at Alice, meeting her eyes from across the table.
"Curious?" the boy echoed with confusion, looking from Joshua to his mother. "Bout what?"
"He wanted to know if Hollander was keeping his word to Mr. Butterfield," Will explained as he tore a piece of bread in two and dipped it into his bowl.
A confused Alice was struggling to make sense of his words as she stared at Joshua from the opposite end of the table. So basically he was checking in on them, like he owed it to Dan? Why now? Why at all? Once again, she found herself wondering what exactly had transpired between Ben Wade and Dan Evans in those last moments before the outlaw had boarded the 3:10 to Yuma. Mark’s voice brought her back to the present.
"He did at first, but I guess he changed his mind, cause he dammed up our creek again," her younger son was saying. "But Ma said Hollander was gonna fix it ‘fore the end of the week. Is that true?"
Joshua nodded, glancing at her son. "Yes, it’s true, I heard him say as much yesterday when we were on our way back to the Bar-H."
William snorted, "We’ll see how long that actually lasts for. Shame it was Lester Holmes that got killed and not Hollander, that’d have made things a lot easier for everyone." He seemed to reconsider his words and clarified, "Not that I’d miss either of ‘em."
"Lester Holmes is dead?" Alice’s gaze involuntarily flickered from Will to Joshua, and when he caught her glance, he shook his head in exasperation.
"For the love of… Lester Holmes died from getting snake bit! Why is it that when I’m around and someone up and dies, people just naturally assume I had something to do with it?" Joshua demanded with sardonic amusement, throwing his napkin on the table in a show of disgust.
Alice lifted a hand to her face in an attempt to hide her embarrassment, and Will burst out laughing. It was true, the moment he said that Lester was dead, she immediately thought Joshua had killed him. Possibly for just being stupid. For Lester Holmes, that would have practically been a mercy killing.
Being too young and naïve to recognize sarcasm, Mark stared wide-eyed at Joshua and reminded him very seriously, "Because you’ve killed people before."
Will stopped laughing almost instantly.
The ironic smile faded from Joshua’s face and his blue-green eyes were serious as he nodded gravely at Mark, conceding, "Yes I have." He returned his attention back to his meal, picking up his napkin again and holding it in one hand while using a crusty piece of bread in the other to sop up some stew.
The ensuing silence was almost oppressive, and Alice struggled to focus on eating her food.
Few boys the age of her sons would be content to let the silence go on for long, and of course, hers were no exceptions to that rule. This time it was Will who spoke. "Were you in the War?"
Joshua hesitated a fraction of a second before responding, "Yes, I was in the war." The barest of smiles touched his lips and he straightened in his chair. "I was in Company D, of the 1st Colorado Cavalry."
A slight frown touched Alice’s forehead as he named his unit. For some reason it sounded familiar, but like most women, she wasn’t very knowledgeable about the different units and divisions and where they’d been stationed during the War. She’d been in her early teens at that time, and most of her memories from living in Boston during the War centered around the Abolitionist movements that her parents had been heavily involved in, though both of her older brothers had served and died in the 11th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
William, and Mark to a lesser extent, both found the War interesting enough that they soaked up every tidbit of information they could on the subject. Judging from the way they nearly dropped their spoons when Joshua gave his unit, they had definitely heard of it.
"You served under Colonel Chivington?" Will asked, jaw slack with shock.
Now that was definitely a name Alice had heard before. Colonel John Chivington was the Union officer who had orchestrated the Sand Creek Massacre, which was possibly the worst ever attack on Indians in United States history. The battle, if it could even be called that given how many unarmed Indian men, women and children had been killed, had been headline news on nearly every newspaper from California to Boston in late 1864 and early 1865, despite the victories of the Union Army in the East.
"Colonel Chivington may have been the commanding officer of the 1st Colorado Cavalry, but I served under Captain Silas Soule," Joshua grimly informed them. Clearly, in his eyes, there was a distinction between the two.
From what Alice could remember though, there had been. Captain Soule had led Company D, and had been the only officer serving under Chivington who had ordered his men not to open fire and stand down, despite the direct order of his commander.
She suddenly recalled back to the last time Joshua, then Ben Wade, had been their house. During that tense but brief meal, he had said he knew the Pinkerton agent, Byron McElroy, had killed dozens of men, women and children, not just Indians, but miners and the like as well. She found herself wondering if he’d witnessed some of those murders first hand.
"That’s enough questions for one night," Alice stated firmly just as Mark opened his mouth to start in with another question. "I think it’s time to let Mr. Mason eat in peace. How can he get a bite in edgewise when you two’ve been after him like a pack of dogs on a three legged cat?"
The analogy had Joshua’s eyes crinkling with amusement, and the serious mood in the small house had lightened again.
Will had the grace to look abashed, though he hadn’t been nearly as inquisitive during the meal as his brother had. Mark tried not to sulk and failed miserably, staring sullenly into his bowl.
Alice finished eating a few minutes later and got to her feet, heading over to the stove. She lifted the lid off the pot to see how much was left. "Does anyone want another helping? Mark? Will?" Both boys shook their head, and she extended the invitation to their guest. "Mr. Mason?"
"No thank you," he answered as he used a piece of bread to sop up the rest of the drippings in his bowl. Mark was favored with a mischievous sidelong glance as Joshua quoted what was obviously some verse from the Bible, "’Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh, for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty.’" He leaned toward the boy and softly confided, "I don’t want to take any chances on being poor."
Mark blinked and then giggled. Admiringly, he said, "You sure know a lot of Bible verses, Mr. Mason. I bet you know even more than verses than Preacher Newsome."
"That’s cause Preacher Newsome only knows the verses about hellfire and damnation," Will sniffed, scraping his spoon across the bottom of the bowl and eating the lone sliced carrot that remained. "I read the Bible, and it ain’t all about goin’ to Hell."
"Of course it’s not," Alice readily agreed as she poured some hot water from a kettle on the stove into the dish wash basin. "There’re many stories and parables… some verses are almost like poems. Preacher Newsome just prefers those verses because…"
"Cause he’s tryin’ to scare people into Heaven," Will bluntly stated, rising to his feet and collecting his empty bowl and spoon from the table.
Turning her head toward the dishwater, Alice hid a smile. It wasn’t very charitable, but Will’s assessment of their local reverend’s sermons was quite accurate.
Crinkling his nose, Mark said, "I can’t ever get past ‘Jehowzawuzum begat Elizeka, and Elizeka begat’… whoever he begat. All those ‘begats’ are sooooo boring. I did like the story of Noah and the ark and all the animals. That musta been one big boat, is all I know. Oh! And I like the story about Daniel in the den with the lions." He peered at Joshua, "How many verses in the Bible do you know?"
"All of them," Joshua said matter-of-factly. As they stared at him with disbelief, he stood and picked up his bowl and spoon, shrugging, "I got a knack for rememberin’ things I read. If I read it, I can remember it. Comes in handy sometimes."
Alice couldn’t imagine what that’d be like, being able to remember every single thing she ever read in her life. It’d certainly take away the pleasure of rereading her favorite books and stories.
"All of them? Like, the whole thing? Every single chapter?" Mark didn’t sound as though he believed it was possible. "Ok then, what’s… Mark 2:5 say?" He may not have known what the verse actually said, but the boy surely knew that there was a chapter of the Bible named after him, and it was long.
Joshua promptly answered, "’When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of their palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.’" As he finished quoting, he held out his hands and gave a mocking half-bow.
Will dropped his dishes into the wash basin and walked across the room to pick up the red bound Bible. It took him a few moments to thumb through for the reference, but when he found it, he looked at his brother, "That’s exactly what it says, word for word." The teenager flipped back through some pages, randomly selected another verse with his finger and quizzed, "What’s II Chronicles 4:18?"
"’Thus Solomon made all these vessels in great abundance, for the weight of the brass could not be found out.’" Joshua paused and added, "That whole chapter’s about when King Solomon built his temple, actually. The temple vessels, to be exact."
When Will’s nod indicated that the man had quoted correctly, Mark was suitably impressed. "Wow, you must be the smartest man in the whole world!" he exclaimed, staring at Joshua with amazement.
His mother was struggling not to stare at Joshua with a similar expression. While she wasn’t sure if Joshua was the smartest man in the world, he certainly was the most complex man she’d ever met. He continually defied her expectations.
Abruptly realizing he was still standing there holding his bowl and spoon while they tested his memory skills, Alice apologized, "I’m sorry, I’m not being much of a hostess, am I? Here, let me take those," and held out her hands. She glanced up at his ruggedly handsome face as he handed her the dinnerware and her curiosity got the better of her. "What’s your favorite verse then? Or passage?" It seemed a simple enough question, but at the same time she hoped it would give her a slightly better understanding of him.
He didn’t answer straight off, just stared down unblinkingly at her with those probing blue-green eyes that seemed to peer into the very heart of her, into her soul, rooting out every hope and fear and wrong-doing and secret desire she’d ever had, or ever would have and laying them bare…
"Ma?" Will’s slightly worried voice broke the silence.
Alice forced herself to look at her son and mustered a reassuring smile for him, though she didn’t trust herself to say anything out loud just yet. For good measure, she took a step back away from Joshua, from this stranger, this man who was dangerous for all kinds of reasons... and some of them had nothing to do with his criminal past.
Mark, luckily, had not picked up on the tension in the room. "You got the whole entire Bible memorized, and you don’t got a favorite?" he sounded almost disappointed.
Alice had just turned toward the dish basin when Joshua closed his eyes and began quietly reciting:
"To every thing, there is a purpose, and a time to every season under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace…
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life."
Will and Mark were utterly rapt as they listened to him quote the passage from beginning to end, and Alice could hardly blame them. The verses already had a certain simple beauty to them. When spoken aloud in Joshua’s rough yet soothing voice, the words were given a whole new element that seemed to offer strength, hope and comfort all at once. She found herself moved almost to the point of tears, the bowl and spoon held slack and forgotten in her hands.
When he finished, opening his eyes and looking at them, naturally Mark was the first to speak. "Wow!" he exclaimed, "If the preacher did a sermon on stuff like that, I bet more people would come to church!"
"I remember reading that," Will stated, putting the red Bible down on the table again. "It’s in… um… Ecclesiastes, right?"
Joshua favored the tall teenager with an approving smile, "That’s right."
While they were talking, Alice slipped the dishes into the wash bin and used the moment to collect her thoughts. Light was fading rapidly in the house, and Alice noted with dismay that it was already nearly dark outside. She took a deep breath and turned to face Joshua. "Mr. Mason, thank you for joining us for dinner. I hope all the questions didn’t offend you."
"No need to worry. I’m pretty hard to offend," he confided, that sly half-smile on his lips. "Thank you for invitin’ me."
"Thanks for helpin’ us bring the herd in, Joshua, and glad you could join us for dinner," Will squared his shoulders as he spoke in a bid to appear older and more mature than his sixteen years. "Come on, Mark. We got cattle that need feedin’."
Mark sighed and got to his feet. "I’m a’comin’, I’m a’comin’… Mr. Mason, I’m glad you stayed and ate with us. It was fun," he told the man, peering up at him as he put his granger hat on and went through the doorway at a trot, just ahead of Will.
Joshua was a half a step behind them, putting on his hat. He paused long enough to turn toward Alice, tipping the brim just so as he said, "Ma’am," in that relaxed drawl.
"Mr. Mason," Alice returned, inclining her head with as much formality as she could muster.
His grin broadened before he headed out the door.
Heaving a sigh of relief as tension released from her shoulders and spine, Alice began cleaning up the remnants of dinner. She’d only just started in on the dishes when she heard the sound of someone chopping wood again, and this time she didn’t bother going to look.
BACK HOME NEXT
Traditionally, women did different chores on different days of the week. Monday was Wash Day, Tuesday was Iron Day, Wednesday was Mend Day, Thursday was Churn Day, Friday was Clean Day, Saturday was Bake Day and Sunday was Rest Day. Only, of course, there were still plenty of daily chores, namely cooking, hauling wood and water, and taking care of the family, that had to be done on a daily basis. My grandma was born in 1922, and I remember helping her iron every Tuesday when we went up to visit, and clean on Fridays.
This chapter includes a lot of scripture from the King James Version of the Bible and I hope that readers don’t think that it was overdone. While I tried just having Joshua quote tidbits of the passage from Ecclesiastes, I felt that it really lost its efficacy when not quoted in whole, so you guys get to read it all. The KJV was pretty much the only English translation of the Bible in the 1880s available for common folk. Interestingly, unlike modern versions of the Bible that are typically translated from the original Hebrew and Greek text, the KJV was initially translated from Latin.
The following verses are quoted in this chapter:
II Chronicles 4:18
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11, 12
In regards to whether or not Ben Wade had an eidetic memory, I honestly have no idea. I found it interesting that when he picked up the red Bible in that hotel room, he never once opened it to read or flipped through the pages before settling in to sketch Dan Evans. It seemed strange to me, given how much scripture he quoted in the movie, so then I theorized, “Well what if he didn’t bother opening it, because he already knows it verbatim from cover to cover?” From there, the leap to him having an eidetic memory seemed pretty darn plausible.
The Sand Creek Massacre took place in late November, 1864, and involved the 1st Colorado Cavalry, the 3rd Colorado Cavalry, and the 1st New Mexico Volunteers. The commanding officer of the troops, Colonel James Chivington, ordered his men to attack hundreds of Indian men, women and children, who were not only encamped under an American flag that was supposed to give them protection from the military, but also were flying a white flag of truce. One officer, Captain Silas Soule, refused to follow the order and told his man in Company D of the 1st Colorado Cavalry not to fire. The rest of the units followed Chivington’s orders and opened fire, killing between 150-200 Indians. After the ‘battle’, Chivington’s men scalped most of the victims and mutilated the bodies, wearing the fetuses of pregnant women and male and female genitalia as trophies.
Though initially reported as a victory by the Union army in the Indian Wars, as the truth about the massacre was revealed, largely due to the testimony of Captain Soule and the men serving under him, public opinion turned in favor of the Indians. Chivington was forced to resign as commander of the Colorado Militia and eventually court-martialed, though he was never truly punished for ordering his men to fire. One of the men who had served under Chivington during the Sand Creek incident would end up murdering Captain Soule, some say he had been ordered to kill Soule by Chivington himself, though this was never proved.
The site of the massacre is memorialized at the Sand Creek Massacre Historical Site in Eads, Colorado. And yes, I’ve been there in real life, in case that wasn’t obvious.