The table was still spread with the evening meal when an unexpected visitor arrived. Clara and Harris scrambled to cover their mischief-making scheme, the parchments and wax seals strewn around the room.
“Bendiciones todos.” A short round man in a brown cassock stood at the door. It was Padre Romo from th e Mission, come to give a blessing to the Ortega house, as he had done on many occasions.
“You see, Mother Mary has answered my prayers.” Alicia welcomed the arrival of their family friend and spiritual leader, Padre Romo.
“I come forth in the peace of our Lord, with greetings from your family, young ladies.” Padre Romo bowed to the sisters. Seeing Captain Harris, he switched from Spanish to English. “How blessed we are that you are here, Captain. You will soon join the Ortega family in holy matrimony, yes? No?” Harris fidgeted and pushed his chair away from Clara.
Alicia wondered how the padre knew just when to arrive. He always seemed to know the business of the family. She retreated to the ramada to collect more food.
“Where’s that extra plate?” Alicia grabbed the china plate Mama used for company. Nina appeared from the garden carrying a different plate. When had Nina disappeared to the garden and why?
“No more chicken tonight, just quail,” Nina said.
“Chicken, quail, the padre won’t notice the difference.” Alicia saw Nina sneak some quail onto a plate but did not say anything. Nina often ate alone, away from the family.
Back in the sala, the padre waved a hand to bless the meal, then continued to chatter. His comments were full of news from the parish, the pueblo, and from the Presidio.
“Did that husky trapper bring some special game for dinner?” Fresh quail was a favorite dish of Padre Romo’s. He was more interested in the meal than the stranger, but Nina began to blush.
How did the padre already know about the trapper? Is that why Nina was in the garden with a plate? Alicia knew she would have to explain this to Clara.
“What trapper are you referring to?” Clara’s voice was full of suspicion. “Alicia, do you know about this?”
“I know nothing about anyone.” Alicia lied, picturing the man who made Nina show him the Mission gate.
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