cup, and brung it over to me and the nun. âHere.â He thrust the soup toward her. âYou should eat.â
âGracias.â I helped her up, and she ate the soup like a wild dog fighting for supper. Famished.
While she ate, I did some fast talking. âI told SeÃ±or de la Cruz about you asking me to guide you to Anton Chico. How you fell on a rock, cut yourself, and didnât tell me. And I guess I shouldnât have give you that little popgun.â I turned toward de la Cruz, smiling. âThought it would be good, for her protection, and all.â
I looked back to the Sister. The pepperbox was gone.
She handed me the empty cup, the spoon rattling inside. âMay I have some more?â
Well, I just went back to the fireplace, ladled in some more soup. When I come back, Sister GeneviÃ¨ve was sitting up. Sheâd pulled up her dress and was examining the fine bandaging job the farmer had done. Not a drop of blood on them white strips, but that had to be on account of my needlework. She had also lowered her hood.
âThank you, SeÃ±or de la Cruz.â She sounded perfect French again. âMy leg feels so much better.â
She give that old gent a look that no nun Iâd knowed had ever give me. I could practically see de la Cruzâs beard melt. I even saw his smile. The farmer had forgotten all about that gun sheâd stuck in his face, all about my lies, all about everything but just what a beautiful woman she was.
âAs I said, Sister, it was nothing.â
âBut it was!â She said that with pure emotion.
âWell, it was the least I could do, Sister. Will you tell the priest at Anton Chico to remember me?â
âMost certainly. And I shall never forget you.â
Me? I was seething. Them two talking like I wasnât in the room. Her praising him for all his kindness and hard work, but it had been me whoâd fished her out of the Pecos, had stitched up her leg before she bled out like a stuck pig. I pulled the crucifix from my vest and gave it to her. âSorry it broke.â
She took it, but didnât look at the pin Iâd snapped off, didnât look at nothing but that giant farmer.
âWeâd better be on our way,â I told her.
âPardon me,â Jorge was saying. âBut your leg should rest. You should spend the night here then leave in the morning. Already, the day is late, and Anton Chico is twelve miles or so downstream. Please, rest here for the night. I know it is not much, but . . .â Shrugging, he grinned like a teenage schoolboy.
Finally, GeneviÃ¨ve Tremblay sought out my advice.
âI heard the train just now,â I said, all conversational-like. Hoping sheâd get my drift.
She didnât. Or if she did, she ignored it.
âHeading to Las Vegas,â I said.
She ate more soup.
âWonder if Sean Fennâs on it.â
She kept right on eating.
I got her meaning. Turning to Jorge de la Cruz, I said, âI reckon it would be good to rest here. Maybe I can catch some trout in the river. Cook some up for supper.â
It is what I done.
Didnât get thanked for that, neither.
Hereâs one of the first mistakesânot counting falling off the train and into the Pecos RiverâSister GeneviÃ¨ve made. She smiled too often at Jorge de la Cruz. Oh, not that he got any manly notions, not as old as he mustâve been, but he just couldnât let that lovely nun out of his sight.
Next morning, after cooking us a fine breakfast, he insisted that he would escort us down to Anton Chico. It was too far to walk, he said, for a woman of the cloth with such a fresh wound to her limb. So I saddled the two mules that Iâd had to unsaddle the previous night, and the big farmer helped GeneviÃ¨ve Tremblay into the saddle, practically barreling me over to do the deed. Made sure she was comfortable, handed her a canteen of water and a sack of