Here are the first three chapters of the first of the Triple Creek Ranch books. This is from
Triple Creek Ranch—Unbroken
The blazing sun was well past mid day, and the air was hot and heavy. The fields were green with rows of fast drying hay turning golden brown. Soon it would be time to load the hay wagons, and Jenelle shook her head at the thought of the long, hot days before them. A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts and opening it she found a neighbor boy.
“Pa and I were just in town and picked up your mail for you, Mrs. Mavrich. Pa didn’t think you’d be getting there this week.”
Jenelle smiled. “Why thank you, Ted. I’m sure we won’t. Not with Norman trying to get the fences fixed so they can move the horses. Tell your Pa we’re much obliged.”
Waving, Ted ran back to the wagon which was waiting for him at the end of the lane.
Thumbing quickly through the mail, Jenelle paused and looked at the last envelope with a frown.
“This looks important,” she murmured dropping the rest of the mail on the table and stepping out into the heat.
“Norman,” Jenelle called.
Norman looked up from the fence he was mending. Wiping the sweat from his face with his handkerchief, he straightened his back.
“This just came.” Jenelle waved an envelope. “It looked important, so I brought it out.”
A quick glance at the postmark and Norman was tearing the letter open. Rapidly his eyes scanned it before he spoke.
“Grandmother is dead.”
“Oh Norman,” Jenelle’s voice as well as her face was full of sympathy. “That letter is from—?”
“Her lawyer.” His face grew perplexed.
“Is it your sister?” she asked softly.
Norman looked up from the hole his boot was making in the dust. “I’m her only kin. Darling, Orlena is only twelve, yet she was such a terror the last time I saw her, I’m almost afraid of her.”
Jenelle didn’t speak but waited in silence for her husband to continue.
“The lawyer says that she was in boarding school last year, but since I am now her legal guardian, I have to decide what to do with her.” He sighed as though suddenly weary.
“Why don’t we bring her here?”
“You aren’t serious.”
“I am. I’ve only met her once, but if what you say of her is true, she needs help. Can’t we try to help her?”
“Sweetheart, you’re an angel!” And he kissed her. “You know, don’t you, Darling, that I have to go to the city for at least a few days to get Grandmother’s affairs settled.”
“And bring Orlena home,” his wife added sweetly.
Norman smiled. “And that.” He frowned thoughtfully at the fence post. “Let me finish this here and then I’ll be in to make plans. You had best get in out of this sun.” He gave Jenelle another kiss and returned to work.
Early the following morning found Norman and Jenelle at the station in town. The train would be leaving in a few minutes giving the couple time for a few last words of farewell.
Turning to his wife, Norman asked for the second time, “Are you sure you’ll be all right with me gone?”
A light, merry laugh was her answer as she turned bright, blue eyes to meet the grey ones of her husband. “I’ll be just fine. I won’t worry about anything on the ranch except for the house and the chickens.”
“That’s right. Let Hardrich take care of the rest. He’s the best foreman anyone could ask for. Uncle trained him well.”
A warning whistle sounded from the train, and the conductor called, “All aboard!”
“I must go, Darling. Be careful driving home.” Norman gave her a tender embrace and grabbed his valise. “I’ll wire when I know what train I’m returning on. But,” he called back to her as he stepped on the train, “have Hardrich meet me if you aren’t feeling well.”
Jenelle laughed and waved her handkerchief. Did he think she would really let the foreman drive to meet her returning husband? And sister? For a moment Jenelle paused wondering what that sister would be like.
With a blast of steam, a shriek of the whistle and a roar of the engine, the train moved off down the track toward that distant city, away, each second farther away, from the young and beautiful wife standing alone at the station waving her small white handkerchief. Turning slowly back to the light spring wagon after the train had disappeared, Jenelle started the horses for home.
Silently he handed her his card and after a quick glance at it, she allowed him to enter the house. All was quiet as he stepped into the dark hall. The housekeeper was coming down the stairway and upon catching sight of him, gave an exclamation of delight. She had long been in the service of his grandmother, and when Norman used to come and visit as a child, she was the one who had made him feel at home.
“Master Norman, you have come at last!”
“Yes, Mrs. O’Connor, I’m here. I know I should have come sooner, but it is hard to get away from the ranch.”
Mrs. O’Connor nodded. “Of course it is, but where is your wife?”
“Much to my regret, I had to leave her. You see, I only got the letter yesterday, and I can’t stay long.”
“Well, we can talk later. Mr. Athey is in the library, and I know he is anxious to talk to you.”
Norman started toward the library door, but paused and asked, “Where’s Orlena?”
“I’ll see if I can’t get her to come down to supper. She has hardly left her room since it happened. I don’t know if her grief is real or only a show.”
“Ah, Mr. Mavrich, I’m glad you have arrived safely.” Mr. Athey stood up and held out his hand as Norman entered the library. “Although I regret that the necessity for your coming had to be these circumstances,” he added.
Norman smiled. “I wish I could have come more often, however, ranch life doesn’t exactly lend itself to absences very often.”
The two gentlemen sat down in the great leather armchairs by the desk. Rows of shelves lined with books of every sort nearly filled two of the walls from floor to ceiling of the room while three large windows in heavy draperies served to lighten the room when the drapes were opened as they were now.
“What are the facts, Mr. Athey? Give me the basic thoughts and then we’ll go on to fill in the details.”
“Very well. It is really quite simple. Your grandmother left this house for your sister when she reaches twenty-one years of age. She also willed her a large sum of money to be held by you until she reaches that age. She had purchased years ago, a piece of land on which a mine was opened and has been in operation for some time now. That land, with all the profit of the mining outfit has been left to you. You, as I mentioned in my letter, I believe, are Orlena’s only natural relative and therefore her only legal guardian until she reaches the age of twenty-one. This leaves you with the sole responsibility of deciding where she will live, what schools she shall attend and so forth. That is Mrs. Mavrich’s entire last will and testament in a nutshell. Oh,” he said, reaching for a file lying on the desk. “I almost forgot.” Thumbing through the papers with which the file was crammed, he at last pulled out a sealed envelope and, holding it out to Norman, remarked quietly, “This was to be given to you in person.”
Norman took the envelope and looked at the handwriting on the front. There was no doubt it was from his grandmother. The fancy curves and flourishes adorning his full name on the front was proof enough of that. Slowly he turned the thing over in his hand wondering what she had written.
Mr. Athey pulled out his watch and looked at the time; then he arose. “I’m afraid I will have to depart. I have another meeting which requires my presence, and I’m sure you must be tired after your trip. When would you like to meet again and finish this business?”
“Would this evening be convenient for you, Mr. Athey? I don’t like to be away from the ranch longer than I have to, and—”
“I completely understand, Mr. Mavrich. This evening will be entirely satisfactory for me. Until this evening then,” and with another handshake, the lawyer quietly departed leaving Norman alone in the library.
For several minutes he sat lost in thought, fingering the envelope in his hands, pondering what he had heard. Then, as though he had been suddenly awakened, he stood, walked to a window and looked out, then turning, he too left the room.
It was an easy task for him to find Mrs. O’Connor and learn that Orlena was still in her room and that his own room was ready for him.
Mounting the stairs, he passed down the hall, the thickly carpeted floors giving back no sound of his footsteps. For a brief moment he paused beside his sister’s room and listened. On hearing no sound within, he continued to his room, entered, and shut the door behind him.
Everything about him brought back memories. “Nothing has changed since I was here last,” he murmured softly, running his hand over the ornately carved desk and fingering the rich fabric of the bedspread. He sighed. “How I dreaded coming here. Everything was so stiff and proper, Orleana was a—” he cleared his throat rather ruefully and left his sentence unfinished as he sat down by the open window watching the sun play across the floor and the cover of the bed. A little, warm puff of air blew in stirring his brown hair and causing the envelope still in his hand to sway.
“I almost forgot about this. I wonder what she has to say this time, “ Norman mused, his brow a thoughtful frown while he broke the seal and pulled out the single sheet of delicate paper.
“To My Grandson Norman Mavrich,” he read.
“When you read this, I will be in my grave and beyond the capability of trying to undo what I have done. I see now what I wouldn’t see before, namely that I have, with my own hands and thoughtlessness spoiled your sister, Orlena. And now that I see what I have done, I am leaving her in your care. You tried to tell me, to show me the future, but I refused to listen. I have given Orlena everything she wanted if at all possible and always sided with her, often against you, in years past. I regret it deeply now and trust that you can forgive an old lady for her pride. I was so sure I knew how to raise a girl, though as you know, I never had but one son, your father. Well, I failed, miserably. Can you find it in your heart to try to undo the harm I have caused? Perhaps it is too late, but would you, for my sake, try? Your uncle raised you well after your parents’ death. Hiram was never like me, and I wanted nothing to do with him after he bought that ranch. He was poor except for what he earned by hard work while I was rich. Yet my riches didn’t bring happiness, not true happiness, to me or Orlena. Do what you can, Norman. For my sake, for the sake of your parents, and for the sake of your sister, I beg you, do your best to rescue Orlena from herself.”
For a long time, Norman sat with the letter in his hand, staring into space. So, his grandmother had realized what she had done to Orlena, yet it was up to him and Jenelle to try and help her. He wondered how hard it would be. After all, he hadn’t even seen his sister for over a year, and the last time he saw her was only for two days. What would she think of living on a ranch? A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he tried to picture Orlena milking cows or feeding chickens.
At last he roused and began to make himself presentable for table. He had no dinner jacket, only his best Sunday clothes which his wife had so carefully packed for him. These he donned, wishing she were here with him and wondering what she was doing.
These pleasant thoughts were interrupted by the dinner bell.
Again, as Norman passed down the hallway, he paused before his sister’s door. Was she already at the table? Shrugging, he made his way down the broad stairway and into the dining room. There he found Mrs. O’Connor.
“I hope you had a nice rest, Norman,” that good woman said. “You weren’t wanting anything, were you?”
“Everything was quite comfortable, Mrs. O’Connor. Thank you. But,” he raised an eyebrow and looked questioningly at the housekeeper, “is Orlena—?”
“That I do not know. She won’t answer my knocks on the door. I even told her you had arrived, but as well I might have been talking to the china cabinet for all the reply I got.”
Norman’s brows drew together. Then, as one of the servants entered, he addressed her. “Go up to Miss Orlena’s room, please, and say her brother awaits her in the dining room.”
The maid dropped a curtsy and departed.
Softly drumming his fingers on the back of a chair, Norman waited. Would Orlena come? He rather doubted it. But he would wait a little while and see.
In a moment, the maid was back. “Please sir, Miss Orlena asks that you excuse her tonight.”
Norman nodded, though he sighed to himself. “I don’t think this will be very easy.” Aloud he said, “Then, Mrs. O’Connor, you will join me for supper, won’t you? I’m afraid it would be too lonely to eat by myself.” His smile was bright and Mrs. O’Connor was happy to accept.
The meal, full of talk, of news and reminiscences, was a pleasant affair and helped dispel the feeling of oppression Norman always felt in his grandmother’s stately mansion.
Hardly had the meal been concluded, when Mr. Athey was announced. Norman led the way to the library and shut the door behind them.
It was late when Mr. Athey departed, and Norman, after seeing the lawyer to the door, made his way through the darkened house to his room where a light had been left low. Closing the door and leaving the light dim, he slowly prepared for rest. His mind was busy with all he had heard and the decisions which must now be made. It felt like months ago that he had left his home. Surely it couldn’t have been that morning!
At last, turning out the light, Norman dropped to his knees beside the bed. There, after spending much earnest time in prayer, he was filled with peace and, dropping wearily into bed, fell instantly to sleep.
“I did get a response out of Miss Orlena this morning, Norman.” Mrs. O’Connor was bustling around the breakfast room preparing for the morning meal while the grandson of her late mistress looked on.
“Oh? And what did my sister have to say?”
“That she would be down to breakfast with you.”
Norman’s eyebrows raised in surprise. Perhaps things wouldn’t be so hard after all. Could Orlena herself be wanting to change? Norman found himself, for the first time since he had arrived, looking forward to seeing his sister.
At that moment, the door opened, and Orlena entered. Though she was only twelve, Orlena Mavrich somehow managed to give the impression that she was at least sixteen by the way she carried herself and the fine, young lady styles she wore. At boarding school she, like the other young ladies, had been made to wear a uniform, but here in her grandmother’s house where she was allowed to do much as she liked, she dressed as she pleased. This morning her dress of rich black silk with the rows and rows of plaiting, ribbons and lace, as well as a slight train, gave her brother a start.
Who was this? Surely not his little sister! What could their grandmother have been thinking to let this child wear such ridiculous clothes? If the truth be known, Old Mrs. Mavrich would never have allowed such a get up, but upon her death, Orlena gave orders that she must have a proper mourning dress. None dared go against her wishes and thus the dress came to be.
Mrs. O’Connor watched Norman’s face as he gazed in unconcealed astonishment. She saw his brows draw together and his mouth slowly settle into a frown. In the past this brother and sister had clashed nearly as often as they spoke, but always Mrs. Mavrich had been there to somehow smooth things over. At least, to smooth things for her beloved granddaughter. In vain Mrs. O’Connor had offered suggestions. Now, however, there was no one for Orlena to fly to if her will was crossed in any way, and the good housekeeper could only wait, wondering what would happen. She didn’t have long to wait, for Orlena broke the silence.
“So, Norman, you have decided to come for a visit after Grandmother is dead.” She gave a sniff and dabbed at her eyes with a fine, lace-trimmed handkerchief.
Swallowing back a retort he knew he would regret, Norman forced himself to smile and say calmly, “I wish I could have come at a more pleasant time, but ranch life wasn’t made for frequent absences.”
Orlena continued with a slight pout on her pretty face as she was seated at the table, “I suppose you will have to rush off as usual to that ridiculous ranch tomorrow. Or do you have to go today?” Without giving her brother a chance to so much as agree or disagree, she went on. “You never do stay long. I sometimes think you must not like me. I don’t see what you find to interest you way out in the middle of nowhere. Now, if you would only move to the city I’m sure you would soon become a brother I could be proud of showing to my friends. Why don’t you stay in town, Norman?”
“You forget I’m married, Orlena.” The reply was slightly cold although Norman was striving to keep his temper under control.
“Oh well, of course you can send for your wife. I think it is about time I met my sister again. Why didn’t you bring her with you? Is she afraid of the city? I have heard all country girls are.” How fast Orlena’s tongue could fly.
Mrs. O’Connor, watching the brother and sister, could see the growing set of Norman’s face and caught a glimpse of the flash in his eyes which he tried to keep directed towards his plate. As for Orlena, her pert mouth and the haughty toss of her head made the housekeeper predict to herself that Orlena was setting herself up for a clash of arms with her brother. She knew who would win in the end, for Norman had the upper hand this time in that he was now Orlena’s guardian, but who would triumph in this first skirmish was yet to be seen.
At last Norman broke in to his sister’s chatter. “Orlena, suppose you eat and let me talk for a little while seeing as how I have finished and you have scarcely begun.”
A sniff came from across the table. “How can I eat when I miss Grandmother,” whimpered Orlena. “You don’t know what it is like to be left all alone to the mercy of servants who think they can do what they please now. I have been perfectly miserable. There was no one to talk to and—” another sniff ended the complaint.
“I am very sorry for the loss of Grandmother,” began Norman, trying to speak kindly.
“And I didn’t think you would ever come,” whined the spoiled child across from him. “Why do you have to go back to that horrid, old ranch and—”
“Orlena! Be quiet.” The stern voice startled her into silence, but only for a moment.
“Oh, how can you talk to me that way?” she wailed. “You don’t love me. No one does!” and with her handkerchief to her eyes she rushed out of the room slamming the door behind her.
Not until the distant slam of Orlena’s door was also heard, did Norman move. Then, after a deep sigh, he began to drum his fingers on the table, a habit he had when perplexed. Looking over at Mrs. O’Connor, he gave a slight smile. “That didn’t go so well. What do I do now?”
Mrs. O’Connor wisely kept silent knowing that no word of hers would be needed and Norman didn’t expect an answer.
Rising from the table, he slowly moved from the room with head bowed. Had he spoken in haste things which he should repent of? Going back over the few words he did speak, Norman didn’t think so. How was he to talk to Orlena? It must be done, and the sooner things were clear between them, the better it would be for both brother and sister. Before going to Orlena’s room, Norman slipped into his own and again spent some time in prayer.
Soon after, Norman knocked gently on his sister’s door.
“Who is it?” crossly demanded Orlena.
“It is me, please open the door, Sis.”
“Go away, I don’t want to talk to you!”
“But we need to talk. Come on, Orlena,” was the patient reply, “either let me in or go with me to another room were we can talk alone.”
For a long minute all was still. Norman wasn’t at all sure if Orlena would open the door or not.
“What if I don’t want to talk to you?” The question, though still somewhat testy, held an element of wonder in it, as though Orlena really wanted to know if her brother would let her have her own way or not.
“Then I’m sorry, for I must talk with you.” There was something in Norman’s voice which seemed to compel compliance though it was neither stern nor harsh.
Slowly the door opened and Orlena appeared with a pout.
“Do you want to talk here or somewhere else?” Norman asked gently.
Orlena shrugged, then held open the door into her little sitting room.
It was only after they were both sitting, Orlena curled up in a chair like a little kitten ready to spit and scratch if its fur was rubbed the wrong way, and her brother in a chair opposite, that Norman began.
“I’ve been going over affairs with Grandmother’s lawyer,” he began slowly, “and things are going to change, drastically I’m afraid. For one, this house is going to be closed. There is no need to keep it open and pay for the help needed to run it when none of us will be here. Mr. Athey is going to see if he can find a family to rent it until such a time as we might want it again.” Pausing a moment to look at his sister, Norman was surprised to find her seemingly indifferent to this news. Encouraged by this he continued, waiting and bracing himself, however, for the explosion he felt sure would come sometime, though uncertain which news would be the match to light it.
“You will be leaving with me, in two days, for the ranch—”
Orlena bounced from her chair, eyes flashing. The match had been lit.
“I’ll do nothing of the kind!” she fairly shouted. “I wouldn’t go to that old place if you paid me all the gold in China!”
Norman’s quiet voice was a marked contrast to Orlena’s angry one as he replied, “Good, because no one is going to pay you anything. Just the same, you are coming to live with Jenelle and me on the ranch.”
“Who says so?”
Orlena glared at her brother. “I won’t go. You can’t make me. I’m going to Madam Viscount’s Seminary.”
“Orlena, I’m your legal guardian and you are coming to the ranch.”
Then Orlena gave way to a tantrum just as she used to when as a five-year-old, her will had been thwarted. She screamed and cried, stomping her foot and throwing whatever she could lay her hands on in her anger until Norman, grasping her shoulders, pushed her into her chair and held her there.
“Orlena, that is enough!” Never had Norman’s voice been that stern.
The screaming stopped, but Orlena continued to cry and struggle. “I didn’t get a sister, I got a wildcat,” muttered Norman between tightly clenched teeth. His temper was roused and it was all he could do to keep from shaking the girl before him. All he could do was silently pray for help, for he had no idea what to do. Had it been a brother instead of a sister, Norman would undoubtedly have administered a severe chastisement.
It was several minutes before Orlena quieted down enough for her brother to draw up a chair before hers. “I know you don’t want to go with me,” he began slowly, searching for the right words, “but I’m afraid you have no choice. Jenelle is waiting for you, and I think if you are willing to give it a chance, you will learn in time to like it.”
A glare was the only reply he got.
“I can’t leave the ranch, I have too many responsibilities, and I can’t leave you by yourself.”
“Why not?” she demanded.
Norman’s eyebrows rose. “I think you just showed a good display of why not. If you can’t control yourself from exhibitions of that sort when something doesn’t suit your fancy, then you are not old enough to stay by yourself anywhere.”
“What about school?” The question was petulant.
“That hasn’t been decided yet.”
“Well, I’ll have you understand one thing here and now, Norman Mavrich,” Orlena’s voice became that of a haughty princess, “I am going to attend Madam Viscount’s Seminary as I did last year. Nothing you can say or do will prevent me.”
Wisely, Norman held his tongue and refrained from replying. He hoped desperately that she would forget about that place before school started again, for one thing he knew for certain, she was not going back to Madam Viscount’s Seminary!
Finding no reply coming from her brother, and assuming that he had surrendered to her in regards to school, she yielded to her curiosity and asked, “What else is going to change?”
“Well,” he longed to say, ‘your clothes’, but wasn’t sure if it would be wise yet, so he merely said, “Those are all the major changes. We will be packing a few trunks to ship out to the ranch, but we don’t have room for everything. Mr. Athey along with Mrs. O’Connor, will take care of the details of the house. I think we had better stir ourselves so that the necessary packing can be done before we have to leave.” Norman rose from his seat as he talked, then, looking down at his sister, he added gently, “I hope you will enjoy the ranch, Orlena. You and I haven’t spent much time together and don’t know each other all that well; perhaps that is mostly my fault for not coming to visit much. Now we have a chance to fix that and I hope we make the most of it.” With those last few words, he quietly withdrew from the room, leaving his sister silent.
How Norman ever lived through the rest of that day and the following one was never quite clear in his own mind. He knew he was constantly busy helping pack, answering hundreds of questions, trying to keep his temper with Orlena and a multitude of other things, but at last he was seated beside his sister as the train pulled away from the station. They were heading home.
The thought of seeing Jenelle again and getting away from the noise and bustle of the city kept Norman quiet and, though he kept a careful watch of his sister’s comforts, his mind was preoccupied. What would Orlena think of the ranch? What would Jenelle think of Orlena? Perhaps that was a more important question. Norman knew his sweet wife was longing to be a sister and friend to Orlena, but if she knew what she was really like— He never let himself finish the sentence, partly because he had no idea what he would do if Jenelle decided that Orlena was beyond help, and partly out of a longing that Orlena had only been putting on an act when he used to visit. That last was a vain hope, and deep in his heart he knew it was, yet how anyone could be so selfish and stuck-up was beyond him.
Sitting beside her quiet brother in a traveling suit of the latest style, Orlena pouted. She had done nothing else it seemed since she had first been told she must go live on a ranch. If she had to go, she would at least make it very clear to everyone that she did not like it. Since Norman was either ignoring her on purpose or hadn’t noticed her disgust, she fell to wondering what her new, well, she wouldn’t call it home, was like. She would only be staying there for a few months before going back to her boarding school. What would it be like living in the country that she saw only through train car windows?
With a shriek of its whistle and a hiss of its brakes, the train pulled to a stop at the little station where Jenelle Mavrich stood waiting. Eagerly she watched the few passengers alight. As Norman swung himself off and then turned to assist his sister down, Jenelle hurried over to them.
“Darling!” And Jenelle found herself once more in her husband’s arms while he bent and kissed her. For a moment neither of them remembered the silent, aloof sister standing in disgust as she looked at her surroundings.
At last Jenelle freed herself with a little laugh and turned to the figure in black. “You must be Orlena. Welcome to Rough Rock. I’m Jenelle.” And she kissed her new sister with warmth. “You don’t know how delighted I have been knowing that you were coming. Norman, can you get the bags? I’ll take Orlena to the wagon.” Linking her arm through Orlena’s, Jenelle led the way over to the wagon talking in that sweet, pleasant way of hers though not a word had Orlena vouchsafed in answer to even her greeting.
It was only a matter of a few minutes before Norman joined them with the bags which he stowed in the back of the wagon. After he helped his wife and sister onto the wagon seat, he picked up the reins, clicked to the horses and they were off for the Triple Creek Ranch.
Sitting silent and half afraid, Orlena grasped the side of the seat until her knuckles turned white. She had never ridden on a wagon like this before. It swayed and bumped over the rutted road. And the dust! It fairly seemed to smother her though neither Norman nor Jenelle appeared to notice it at all.
“Orlena,” Norman said at last, looking over Jenelle’s head to his sister. “You can see the ranch when we reach the top of this hill. It will only be a few moments before we reach home.”
Turning her lip up in disgust at the word “home,” Orlena nevertheless looked out at the wide sprawling ranch buildings, pastures and fields as they stretched before her and was, to her annoyance, impressed at the vastness of it all. She had never dreamed her brother owned so much. When she was at school it would be something to tell her classmates, something she could boast about: how large her brother’s ranch out west was. But now she was going to have to live here!
The wagon pulled to a stop before a good sized house. It wasn’t a typical ranch style house for it had been built as a farm house long before Norman’s great-uncle Hiram had begun his ranch. Two stories high, and nearly surrounded by shade trees, the house looked pleasant and inviting to weary travelers. At least it did to Norman. His sister gave it a scornful look and turned up her pert nose.
“Welcome home, Orlena,” Jenelle smiled brightly. “I’m sure you must be tired from your trip, so let me show you to your room. Your trunks arrived yesterday, and I had Hearter take them right up. I didn’t have time to unpack for you, but I thought you might enjoy doing that later.” As Jenelle spoke, she led the way into the cool front room and up the stairs to a small but cozy and quite comfortable room. It was a corner one with windows on two sides looking out over the barn yard on the one side and a large field on the other.
Still silent, Orlena walked about her new room, noticed the light curtains tied back with bits of pink ribbon, the bed with its patchwork quilt and the rag rug beside it, noticed also the small closet and toilet stand in one corner and the chair and writing table in another. Everything had been made as dainty and pretty, as clean and neat as her sister-in-law’s hands could make things. Yet, in her eyes, when compared to the splendor of what she had left only that morning, Orlena thought she might as well have been sent to sleep in the barn!
She didn’t say these things, only thought them, but her expressive face betrayed somewhat of her inner feelings. Jenelle didn’t speak either but watched this young girl with feelings of deepest pity and love.
Coming in with Orlena’s bags, Norman set them down and said, turning to his wife, “I’m hungry, what is smelling so good downstairs?”
Jenelle laughed, “Your supper. Mrs. Carmond kindly lent me Flo for the day to get ready for you both. She made supper so that I might meet you at the station. But, Dear, you should freshen up a bit before we eat.”
“That does sound pleasant. Orlena, we’ll leave you to do the same.”
“If you need anything, just call me,” Jenelle added gently before shutting the door after them.
Alone in their own room on the other side of the house, Jenelle looked thoughtful. “Norman,” she began at last.
“Hmm,” came the somewhat distracted response.
“Orlena seems very quiet. I don’t think she has said more than two words since your arrival on the train.
Vigorous splashes of water from the washstand, where Norman was busy washing the dust of travel off his face, prevented any reply.
Jenelle continued, “Does Orlena talk much or is she always quiet?”
Turning abruptly, unmindful of the water running down his face and dripping onto the floor, Norman stared at his wife. “Talk?” he gasped. “Does she talk? She can talk faster than I can rope a calf! And once she starts, she doesn’t stop!” Then, suddenly realizing the mess he was making, he grabbed a towel and buried his face in it.
“I predict,” he added a moment later, looking at his wife in the mirror as she perched schoolgirl fashion on the bed and leaned against the post, “that in a few days you’ll be wishing she would stop talking so you can think.”
Jenelle only smiled.
Dropping the hairbrush he had been using, Norman suddenly stepped across the room, put a finger under Jenelle’s chin and lifted her face up to look deep into her blue eyes which sparkled with life, joy and love. “Sweetheart,” he whispered tenderly, “I love you.”