William stood near the Markham quarters, hoping again to catch a glimpse of Thankful.
He lit a cigar and took a small sip from his flask. William bathed in nostalgia as the sun came up and the air filled with the sweet sounds of reveille, morning call and stable duty. Screaming children raced out with barking dogs into their yards to watch their fathers on the parade grounds as the flag flapped in the wind in front of headquarters. . There Thankful was with the little girl marching beside her, off to the commissary store.
“Thankful!” William called half limping, half running. The little girl waved. “Hello, Lydia,” he said with a warm grin. The girl grabbed his hand and hung off of it. It challenged William’s balance, and he laughed.
“Lydia, stop it now. Mr. Weldon will fall,” Thankful said, but when she saw that William enjoyed himself, she said no more.
Mrs. Markham called Lydia back to her at the front door and waved to William. He waved back before turning to Thankful. “I’m sorry that Fahy won’t be staying with you. I don’t think he should come along.”
“Of course you’re sorry, Willy. You hate the lieutenant and care only about yourself,” Thankful said.
“You’re right. I don’t like him, but you do, for some reason and . . . and I want you to be happy and well taken care of.”
Thankful played with her apron strings. “I never should have followed you out here—I had big ideas.”
“Go home then, Thankful. There, in your condition and all, you’ll be taken care of properly.”
“My condition?” Thankful’s eyes were big and full of unspoken shame and fear. “What do you accuse me of?”
“Thankful, why didn’t you wait, for pity’s sake?” William said, taking her hand.
“You’re a fine one to talk!” Thankful whispered pulling her hand away. “Why didn’t you wait?”
“What would I have to wait for?” William asked.
“For the right girl.”
“There’s no such thing.” William took a miserable puff of his cigar.
“William, you’re infuriating! Mr. Fahy will soon be my husband and . . .”
“And you should have waited till your wedding night! That’s how I imagined it . . . I mean. . .” William stammered as Fahy walked up.
Thankful crossed her arms and turned away from the lieutenant, her chin set in anger. William counseled her, remembering how hard it was for his mother to watch his father go into the field. “Thankful, don’t let him go without making up.”
“Don’t lecture me, William,” Thankful replied.
“Bill, I don’t need your assistance with my fiancée,” Fahy stated. “That Kenyon is looking for you—self-righteous bastard—hope he’s paying you well. We can fleece those Indians at cards, I hear.”
“Mr. Fahy, you won’t gamble and take advantage of those poor souls!” Thankful said.
“No, of course not, sweetie,” Fahy said with a wink. “I was only joking.” He turned to William. “I guess you’ll fill up on tizwin if you can—though Crook has ordered the tribe to stop making it.”
“Mr. Kenyon is against alcohol—I promised . . .” William started, but Fahy interrupted with a chuckle.
“This I have to see!” Fahy said. “Kenyon won’t have much power over you or the Indians. He’s a kill-joy anyway. I intend to skip off and visit pals of mine who say there’s a vein of coal for the taking at the edge of the reservation.”
“Oh, Thankful, it’s just a lark. The Indians don’t need the coal anyhow. I’ll be back in a week’s time probably. Not enough hours to get into any real trouble.” He twisted his mustache and kissed Thankful before pulling a letter from his jacket. “I’ll miss you, my dearest.”
“Good-bye Thankful,” William said his boots kicking up sand as he left them. “Take care.”
Fahy groaned as he watched William go. “Land sakes, what luck to be sent to distinguish myself with such a bunch of misfits!” he complained.
“Lieutenant, you worry me,” Thankful pouted. “I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.”
“This is a peach of an assignment. Don’t worry,” Fahy said, running his big hand over her cheek. “You seem under the weather. Mrs. Markham is working you too hard. I’ll speak with her when I come back.”
“Yes, maybe.” Thankful turned the love letter in her hands. “Won’t you watch over William?”
“Damn it, Thankful. Are you mine or Bill’s? Because I’m not too sure.”
“Pierce Fahy, what could Willy want with me—or me with him?”
“Thankful, that’s not a proper answer.”
“Do you like Miss Peckham?” Thankful asked.
“No—not like you think . . . I . . .” he said, tightening his belt.
“How do you think I think?” Thankful asked.
Fahy laughed. “My sweet lady, you’re trying to catch me out and it won’t happen. I’m devoted to you. Are you to me?” he asked, pulling on one of Thankful’s stray curls.
“I do love you, Mr. Fahy,” she said.
“Won’t you give us a kiss before I go? Don’t be huffed at me—I’m a soldier; this is what I do.”
“My father was always away from us and he regrets it now,” Thankful said.
“I’m not your father and we have no children yet.” Fahy pulled her close. “Oh, Thankful, one day we’ll settle down, but not yet. Won’t you wait?”
“I suppose I must, now.”
“Now?” Fahy’s smile disappeared. “You act as though you’re suddenly not happy here.”
Thankful began to cry.
“Oh, my little pet, don’t cry,” Fahy said and wiped her face. “When I come back we’ll go to a nice dance—like always. Be a good lass. I hate to see you cry! I promise to buy you something fine in Tucson. We’ll make a pleasure trip when I get some leave.”
“How is it you can always be so generous on a lieutenant’s pay? Surely you must deprive yourself. Please don’t.” Thankful sniffled.
“A girl as pretty and nice as you should have fine things. Poverty doesn’t suit you—and reflects poorly on me, I might add. A man shouldn’t marry unless he can afford it,” Fahy explained.
“Can you afford it? I mean—the jewelry and this stunning ring and the other things—well, I feel like a princess, but . . .”
“I want to give you as much as you’re used to,” Fahy said, in a disgruntled tone.
Thankful blushed. The little jewels he gave her were trifling compared to what she had at home. “Mr. Fahy, when you give me your time and attention that’s more than I’m used to and I love it, but I want to feel I am not just an—ornament.” She blushed all the more, realizing how vain it sounded.
Fahy laughed, patting her face. “You’re not just an ornament! You are–you will be my wife and the gorgeous mother of my children someday.”
“And that’s it?”
“What’s wrong with that?” Fahy asked. “You’re never satisfied no matter what I do and now we’re bickering on our last morning together and right before the biggest opportunity of my career so far.”
“You treat Miss Peckham as a friend. . .” Thankful said.
“Yes. She’s like a man in a way. Peckham has lots of stimulating ideas—but she’s not you.”
“So you don’t think I’m stimulating?”
Fahy put his arm around Thankful’s waist. “You are quite stimulating. Why are you making trouble now?”
Thankful gazed up into Fahy’s dark eyes. A wave of loneliness came over her. “Lieutenant, it’s like you don’t know me at all. I want to be friends and go on adventures together.”
“Oh, you and your bloody adventures! I’m under constant pressure to entertain you. Grow up, Thankful. Maybe you can learn something from Miss Peckham. She’s a toad compared to you, but she isn’t constantly demanding something from me!”
“I demand nothing! I had hoped you enjoyed my company. I only wanted to be true friends!” Thankful sobbed and tried to run off, but Fahy grabbed her arm.
“Thankful, please, let’s not do this, sweetheart. I adore you. I didn’t mean to hurt you—it’s just—you are so sensitive lately—so different.”
“Mr. Fahy, I wanted to tell you . . .”
Miss Peckham burst in between them and locked her arms in theirs. “Greetings, lovebirds!”
***FEATURED IMAGE: Julia Margaret Cameron photo of Mrs. Herbert George Fisher (Paul Cava Gallery)
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”