This story is purely for fun. I own nothing and will make no profit from playing with LANCER. I do wish the people who do own LANCER would put it out on DVD. I’m sure they would earn some profits.
I don’t own the title or the bit of poetry either. They belong to the incomparable Gordon Lightfoot. I think the song, Sit Down Young Stranger fits Scott Lancer surprisingly well.
Thanks to my beta Lyn; all remaining mistakes are all mine.
Except a little bit on Youtube I’ve not seen Lancer for over 40 years but I remember the Lancer brothers. They were my first serious TV crushes. It has really been fun to read many of the stories on this site. This story is just my take on Scott and how he was feeling when it looked like he was fitting in so well on the ranch. I would welcome any feedback.
Sit Down Young Stranger
say you been out wandrin'
They say you travelled far
Sit down young stranger
And tell us who you are
Scott Lancer spent the day lost in his own back yard. The truth was that it had only been his for three weeks and it was a very big backyard, 100,000 acres. Neither fact made Scott any more sanguine about having no notion of how to return to the hacienda.
When Scott announced at breakfast he was going to spend his Sunday, the one day of the week when every moment wasn’t packed with labor, “taking a look around”, his father had offered to send one of the hands with him. Scott shook his head and said, “I’ve a good sense of direction. I won’t get lost.”
Famous last words, thought Scott.
He knew how it had happened. Taking a look around had not been his reason for riding out that lovely, cool April morning. His head ached with too many emotions, too many questions and new experiences. He had learned as a boy the best way to clear his head was physical activity. Riding had always been his favorite way. Many times, particularly since the war, Scott had ridden straight out into the New England countryside without a destination. It was remarkably hard to get lost where every crossing had a signpost to Boston.
As he’d saddled the horse Scott recognized the irony of spending his day of rest on horseback. If he had any sense he would have collapsed onto his bed and slept until dinner time. He’d been up everyday before the sun. He’d followed every order the old man had given. He’d done more hard labor in three weeks than he’d done in his entire life unless his life in the army could be considered labor. He had muscles aching he hadn’t known existed. The night before he’d thought sheer exhaustion would keep his mind quiet. But sitting across from Murdoch Lancer at the breakfast table was all it took to set his thoughts awhirl.
Once they’d gone through the main gate, he’d nudged the horse into a steady lope; he changed their direction randomly, going to the right for a while and then to the left. He’d given himself to the motion; happy to be doing something at which he knew he excelled.
He didn’t know what to make of how he felt when he first saw the valley called Lancer. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but he’d seen other beautiful landscapes. Perhaps he had reasoned it has something to do with it being called Lancer. The feeling was still with him, a feeling of regaining something of great value that had been lost. It was as if he had been desperately searching for this place for years; as if he heard a voice say, “This is your home, Scott, your real home.”
Scott wasn’t given to fancies like that. He’d been raised and educated to be practical and rational. He was a Yankee and proud of it; Boston had always been his home. But since the war there had been times when he couldn’t get his breath; Boston’s narrow fog filled streets would close in upon him.
His acceptance of his estranged father’s invitation had been mostly out of curiosity. And if he were honest with himself because going to the other side of the country would put off making a decision about what to do with himself in Boston. Now that he had finished at Harvard he couldn’t spend the rest of his life dallying with debutants. He had to do something of value but none of the schemes his grandfather had proposed for his joining the family business held any appeal to him. The trip to California had been just another delaying tactic. He had not come looking to change his whole way of life; not come looking for his home.
Yet the moment the girl Teresa had stopped the buckboard and gestured to the valley below Scott took a deep breath of the clear, dry air and felt oddly calm. He knew then that this place was what he wanted. Why he couldn’t say, only that it was. And he really did hear a woman’s voice telling him it was home.
It wasn’t that easy. The old man said they would earn it if they stayed. Earn it with broken bones at the rate he was going. The fight with the land pirates had been hard, frightening but familiar. Scott knew how to be a soldier. But now that the danger was past he was faced with far too many unknowns.
About horses he knew just about everything there was to know. About cows he knew nothing. The youngest vaquero on the ranch could out cowboy him without breaking a sweat. That included Johnny; probably included Teresa.
Just the memory of his first attempt at roping made his cheeks burn. It had looked so easy when the rest of them tossed their lassos as they rode into a herd of cows. Johnny could pick out a steer, gallop after it and bring the heavy rope down over the animal’s head time after time.
Scott had been wise enough not to make his first attempt from a galloping horse. He stood in the corral and swung the rope round and round. His object was nothing more dangerous than the fence post. He ended up with the large loop of rope settling over his own shoulders to the delight of his younger brother and several vaqueros. He tried until his arm felt like it would fall off with little more success.
When he had started out from Boston Scott had been uncomfortably aware that he didn’t know what to expect in California. His father had turned out to be startlingly familiar, a harsh, unbending man who expected to get his way. A man carved from Scottish granite in the way Scott’s grandfather had been carved from New England granite
“You’ll get no apology from me,” Murdoch Lancer had barked at their first tense meeting.
Scott thought immediately of Captain Brittle under whom he had served in the cavalry. “Never apologize, it is a sign of weakness” was the old man’s favorite saying. Scott had trusted and respected Captain Brittle more than any other man alive except General Sheridan.
In an instant he decided that he would treat his father as he had treated senior officers; with respect, without expectation of favors. Life with his grandfather had been good training for the army. It looked like life in the army would prove to be good training for life with Murdoch Lancer. And that’s what his father had wanted, a soldier. Lancer had been under threat. Murdoch was willing to offer Scott a third share in the ranch if he would dedicate himself to fight for the land as he had once fought for the Union.
It would please neither of them but Harlen Garrett and Murdoch Lancer were a lot a like. The great difference being that while his grandfather rarely lost his temper, Murdoch’s temper was constantly just under the boil. And Johnny was always ready to supply the heat to bring it to a boil.
One thing Scott had never speculated on was an unknown brother waiting for him in California. Communication with his father had been very rare over the years of his growing up; even so one would expect to be told of a sibling by even the most distant of parents. Of course even if Scott had known about him his imagination could never have conjured up Johnny.
Hot headed, dangerous, impetuous, and young; everything about Johnny made Scott feel staid even though there couldn’t be more than five or six years between them.
Thus far nothing in their relationship had been easy; some times it wasn’t even civil. Even so when Scott saw Johnny shot from his horse in the midst of the final confrontation with the land pirates getting the boy out of harm’s way became more important to him than winning the battle or his own survival. It was more than helping a fallen man; that was a feeling he was familiar with from the war. This was something else, something much more.
Why? Shared blood couldn’t account for it, could it? Especially when they shared the blood of a father neither of them knew.
Johnny Lancer or Madrid or whatever the hell he was going to call himself did not want a big brother. He’d made it clear to Scott that he’d done well enough without him so far and he would continue to do so
Except, thought Scott, with Murdoch Lancer.
Almost before he’d spoken with his father Scott had been cast into the role of referee between these two in a bare-knuckles clash of tempers. Murdoch and Johnny sparred over everything. Scott found himself intervening when it was evident Johnny was being backed into a corner that his only way out of was to simply throw a leg over a horse and ride straight to Mexico.
Clearly the old man wanted the boy to stay and it was just as clear to Scott that Johnny wanted to stay, but they couldn’t get through a meal without growling at each other.
“Do they think I don’t have a temper?” muttered Scott, “Does that old man really think I have no questions or feelings about being ignored for nearly a quarter of a century? Maybe if I started wearing a gun I would be taken seriously.”
It was at that point in his reverie that Scott pulled the horse to a stopped and took a healthy gulp of water from his canteen. He was starting to feel hungry and decided it was time to head back to the house for lunch. He looked around and realized he was lost.
He was in a lovely little hollow of long lush grass with a narrow creek running through it. The gently rising hillsides were sparely covered with trees he didn’t know the names of. It was a beautiful spot to be lost in but the very last thing Scott wanted was for his father to send the vaqueros out to look for him. If that happened he would have to pack his trunks and slink back to Boston in disgrace.
He stepped down from the horse and looped the reins around his arm. Wading through the long grass he went to the creek and filled his canteen. The horse pushed forward and stuck her nose into the water. She drank noisily.
Scott straightened and looked towards the sky. The sun was directly over head. No wonder he was hungry, it had to have been six hours since his breakfast.
The horse raised her head and looked at him with solemn dark eyes.
“I don’t suppose if I climbed up you would just turn around and go back the way we came?”
The horse simply stood quietly, waiting for him to mount and tell her where to go.
“Of all the idiotic things to do,” he muttered as he hung the canteen back over the saddle horn. He dug into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small hard leather case. From it he took a compass.
Patiently he lined the compass up. He knew that the ridge that separated Lancer from Morro Coyo was to the east of the hacienda. Once he had the ridge in sight he felt confident that he would be able to find the rough track that led to the house.
It took him over two hours to find the road. Another man might be pleased to have found his way in unfamiliar county so quickly with only a compass. Not Scott Lancer. He was angry with himself for getting lost in the first place. By the time he trotted the mare under the archway to the main house and barns he was hot, dusty, thoroughly disgruntled and very hungry.
Because it was Sunday the normally busy stable yard was deserted. Wearily Scott led his horse into the barn, untacked and brushed her. It wasn’t the horse’s fault he was too preoccupied to pay attention to where he was going.
As he went through the front door to the house he heard the grandfather clock in the great room strike 3:00. Dinner would be at 6:00. Breakfast was a long time ago.
He’d hoped to discover his father or even better Teresa in the great room. He was reasonably sure that either of them would ask if he had had anything for lunch. The room was empty. Scowling he remembered that Teresa had gone with Cipriano and his family to Morro Coyo to attend church. Since it took several hours to get to the little town Scott suppose they would spend most of the day there; he only hoped that dinner would not be late because Maria, the cook and Cipriano’s wife, had gone with them.
His father was probably resting. Although Murdoch tried to hide it Scott was sure that he was still having a lot of pain in his back and left leg. A Sunday afternoon nap would be a rare treat for Murdoch.
Only God knew where Johnny was. He’d left last night with a bunch of the vaqueros for a Saturday night in town. Scott wasn’t sure which town they had headed towards; there were several within a three hour ride depending on which direction they took. No one had invited him to come along.
Scott hung his hat on a peg and slipped his carbine rifle into a rack near the front door. He rubbed absently at his growling belly and looked towards the back of the house.
The good thing was no one seemed to have missed him. The bad thing was it was hours until dinner.
Scott knew the kitchen was at the end of the hallway in front of him. He hadn’t actually been in the kitchen. Maria always served the meal at the table in the great room. In fact Scott had been in very few kitchens in his life. He was used to formal homes that were divided between the family and the servants. In his grandfather’s house the kitchen had been ruled by a large woman called Mrs. O’Malley for as long as Scott could remember. He never ventured into her domain. It had been impressed upon him as a child that it would be disrespectful and possibly dangerous to do so.
He’d noticed at Lancer no one seemed very concerned about trespassing on Maria’s territory. Teresa was in and out of the kitchen all the time. Scott had caught sight of Johnny more than once coming out of the kitchen with a biscuit or a slice of pie or one of those corn pancakes rolled around slices of beef that smelled of peppers and tomatoes. Just the thought made Scott’s mouth water although he had not yet tasted what appeared to be a teat to Johnny.
Scott knew that Johnny was a great favorite with Maria. He’d heard her calling him a Spanish version of his name. No doubt she had been charmed by his smile. A bright happy, full out smile that Scott had seen directed at Teresa, Maria and many others on Lancer but never at himself or their father. The most they got was a cheeky grin but more normally a sullen glare.
Maria and everyone else on the place were polite to Scott. A few of them he may even have impressed with his daring, well, reckless ride on Barranca that first morning. He knew he had won some approval by showing his fighting skills during the confrontation with the land pirates. But it was more than evident that Johnny was the Lancer son the people of the ranchero were happy to have home.
Scott recognized the tinge of self pity and tried to push it away. A third of the ranch was his. He could win them over—given fifteen or twenty years, he thought with a sigh.
Getting lost had disconcerted him. Maybe he was fooling himself into believing that he belonged. Now that the threat was passed what did he really have to offer on a cattle ranch? A wry smile twisted his mouth- He was good at math; maybe Murdoch would let him do the books.
Damn it, he was a third owner of the house as well as the land. The food in that kitchen was as much his as Johnny’s. Besides Maria was in Morro Coyo. She’d never know he’d been in her kitchen. He just wanted something to eat.
Resolutely he walked down the hall and opened the heavily carved door. He stepped into a cavernous room with a huge fireplace at one end, a heavy iron cookstove, several tables, two pie safes and a set of stairs against the wall.
A woman stood at the end of one of the tables. She was short, a little stout. She wore a black dress, covered with a white apron. Around her shoulders was a shawl of brightly colored stripes. A thick plait of iron gray hair hung down her back. She had her hands in a large bowl as if she had been interrupted mixing something. She was looking towards him and repeated, “Patron?”
Scott thought the translation of Patron might be “boss” and he knew the woman was asking if it was Murdoch she heard. He’d been introduced to this woman although he couldn’t remember her name. He knew she was Cipriano’s mother and that her eyes were clouded with cataracts.
Her voice had a slight quaver that might be fear-not that he was his father but that he wasn’t. It had only been three weeks since the attack on the hacienda. A nearly blind old woman would have much to fear from the likes of the Pardee gang.
“No,” he said loudly, “it’s Scott. Scott Lancer.”
He frowned. I sound like I’m trying to prove I’m allowed in here.
Mariah had realized the footsteps were not the Patron’s. She had long known his step and even now with the bump of the walking stick she could recognize it. She’d known too that it wasn’t the young one; he wore spurs that made a cheerful tinkling sound.
“Aha,” said the old woman, dusting off her hands and coming towards him. Several sentences in Spanish followed.
Spanish was the language of Lancer. Teresa and Johnny slipped between English and Spanish as easily as slipping through a door between rooms. Even Murdoch spoke enough to give orders.
Scott Lancer could read Latin, decipher basic Greek text, speak fluid German and passable French. But he didn’t have enough Spanish to know if the old woman was welcoming him in or telling him to get out.
“I’m, uh,” he began, thinking how it was all part and parcel of the day he was having.
Mariah realized at once that the boy could not understand her. Instead of talking she pulled a ladder-backed chair out from the table and pointed at it. She knew he had not been at the table when she’d served the Patron his meal at midday. She was sure he was in the kitchen because he was hungry.
He moved slowly towards her. She heard the scrape of the chair legs against the tile floor as she crossed the kitchen to take a blue willow ware cup from a shelf. Using the edge of her shawl to protect her hand she picked up the coffee pot and carefully poured the dark liquid. Then she carried it back to the table and set it in front of him.
“Thank you, a, gr-grac—“
She laughed softly. He was trying so hard. “Gracias,” she said slowly and clearly.
He repeated the word. Mariah nodded.
While Scott sipped his coffee and watched her moved confidently around the kitchen, she set a skillet on the range. She chopped an onion, a pepper, a tomato and a long thin pod Scott didn’t recognize. She put it all in the skillet. Then she took a handful of what she had been mixing in the bowl when he came in. She kneaded and flattened the dough.
This had been Mariah’s kitchen many years before it became Maria’s. She had been born on the ranch long ago when it belonged to the younger son of a Spanish nobleman. In those days the house had been filled with children. But fortunes changed and the family went away. The ranchero was left to the peasants who farmed the land. Mariah’s world was small, she did not know or care who owned the land then. She raised her children and sometimes would walk through the grand house; sorry that it was empty, full of dust.
And then the Patron came and with him his beautiful lady.
Scott watched as the old woman slapped the dough, now as flat as a French crepe, on to a griddle. The aroma of the frying vegetables was making his mouth water. He was thankful that she was obviously going to feed him. It heightened his sense of irritation that he could neither ask for food nor thank her properly for it.
In the oven there was a roast for dinner. She pulled it out and deftly cut off several slices; then pushed the roasting pan back into the oven. She dropped the slices of beef on the griddle where they sizzled.
Finally Mariah put the beef and the vegetables on to the now fried dough and folded it up. After putting it on a plate she brought it to Scott.
“Fajita” she said firmly.
“Gracias.” He said carefully, watching her face to see if he’d gotten any where close to the proper pronunciation.
She smiled broadly.
She wished that she could see him clearly. She wanted to know if he looked like his mother. She had asked her son but Cipriano just shrugged and said, “Mama, it was so long ago. I remember she was kind, she was lovely. But what she looked like-she had pale hair and eyes. That’s what I remember. The boy, he has pale hair and eyes. Maybe he looks like her. A little, maybe, he looks like the Patron. The other one, Johnny, he looks like his mama. Her I remember. Except for his eyes. They are blue like Patron’s.”
Yes, everyone remembered Maria Lancer and her beautiful little blue-eyed, black-haired baby boy, Dona Maria with her temper and her demands. Dona Maria who brought the Patron so much more sadness.
In these last few weeks, since the danger had passed, her family had filled their evening talk with stories of Johnny Lancer. The men admired his prowess with the gun and with horses. They told stories they had heard about his past. Stories that made Mariah worry. He sounded too much his mother’s son to bring the Patron any joy. The girls, silly things including her daughter-in-law Maria who was old enough to know better, talked of how handsome he was; how brave. Maria had been his nursery maid when he was a baby and it was almost as if she had gotten one of her own back.
Mariah would asked, “What about the other one, Senor Scott?”
The men would nod and say, “He rides well. He thinks like the Patron. He plans. Good in a fight. But he knows nothing of our ways. Doesn’t know what end of the steer to feed,” and they all laughed. “They say he has a rich family in the east. Why would he stay here?”
“He is handsome but quiet; too serious,” the girls would answer then start talking about Johnny’s smile.
Mariah squinted at Scott. She saw enough to know he was tall and slender; too slender she thought. She would talk to Maria about feeding him up. She heard him gasp.
Scott’s mouth was on fire. He suspected it had something to do with the green pod. His eyes were watering. He panted, trying to cool his mouth.
The old woman laughed
“Al igual que su mamá, pero la señora aprendió a mi cocina.”
Scott caught the word mama. He stared at her for a long minute. Then taking a deep breath he said, “Did you know my mother? Catherine, Catherine Lancer.”
“Si, si, La Senora, La Dama Catherina.”
Scott felt his breath caught in his throat. Silently he cursed his lack of a common language with the old woman. She had known his mother, here in California. She had known the woman Catherine Garrett had become.
Scott had grown up in the midst of Catherine’s family and friends in Boston. His grandfather always spoke of her as the good, dutiful daughter seduced away from her happy home and loving father to die in the wilderness. As he’d gotten older Scott had come to see his grandfather’s view of his mother as sentimental; the way the old man wanted to believe she was rather than how she really was. Others in the family, his mother’s cousins, used words like serious, bookish, a bit of a bluestocking, kind, brave, clever, a good friend. They all agreed that she was rather plain but had a smile that could light up a room and an infectious laugh.
Scott knew that his mother’s closest friend had been Cousin Rosemary. After the war he had finally gotten up the courage to ask her why his mother had married a poor Scottish immigrant and gone to the other side of the continent with him.
Rosemary had taken both of his hands in hers and said, “Oh, Scotty, because they were perfectly matched; Cathy would have gone to the moon if Murdoch Lancer had asked her.”
Cousin Rosemary was the only one in the family to ever say his father’s name with a smile on their face. Everyone else took his grandfather’s position that Murdoch Lancer had stolen Catherine away from where she belonged.
Now here was this old woman with the clouded eyes who had known his mother and he didn’t have a way to ask her any of the questions that burned in his heart. Questions that he would never be able to ask his father for Murdoch Lancer had slammed the door on the past with a few harsh words. “It’s past, good or bad, right or wrong, It’s past and gone.”
Mariah heard the eagerness, the hope, in his voice. She wanted to tell him about his mother. She knew the Patron. She knew he was not capable of opening his heart and telling this boy all of the memories stored away. She understood why. She had lived a long time and known much sorrow. Among her sorrows was Senora Catherina’s death. For a long time she feared that if she had only gone along when the senora left the ranch so heavy with child she might have been able to save her. But only God knew. And now that she was old she wanted to remember the happy times like the first time the senora tasted a jalapeño pepper.
She thought of what her grandson had said about Senor Scott not knowing their ways, about believing he would go back to that far off place, Boston. It pulled at her heart. This boy should have grown up here, here in her kitchen. Even if God had to take the mother, the baby should have grown here in the place his mother had made for him. Mariah had missed this child, mourned this child as she had mourned his mother; as she had mourned her own lost children. Oh, she knew she had been lucky. Four of her children had grown to have children of their own. They gave her such joy, not like the poor Patron. Even so La Senora had been so happy expecting this child; she had such plans for him growing up on the ranchero. That should have happened even without her.
Yes, she wanted to tell him about his mother. She could tell Teresa and the girl would then tell the boy in English. But it wouldn’t be the same. Mariah had known Catherine Lancer; had worked beside her; had listened to her dreams for her child.
Mariah sighed softly. She was too old to learn English. If he were truly his mother’s son he would learn Spanish as she had. Then Mariah would tell him the stories his father had no words to tell.
Scott chewed slowly. The fajita was like no food he had ever eaten. Only good manners had prevented him from spitting the first bite out. He was glad that he hadn’t. The flavor was strong and hot but it was satisfying too.
“No wonder Johnny has a temper like a volcano if this is what he grew up eating,” he said softly as he took another bite.
“Es bueno?” Mariah asked, standing close to him. For the first time in a long time she was upset by her failing sight. She wanted to see his mother in him.
“A, bueno? Well, it is good. Bueno could mean good, I suppose,” he murmured, frowning. Then he said with enthusiasm, “Es bueno!”
He was rewarded with a wide smile on the wrinkled face.
“You are very kind to feed me. I’m sorry to have caused you any trouble,” he said slowly. He shook his head slightly. It was so like him to fall back on his good manners when he was uneasy.
The smile widened. “Su voz es como su mama.”
Scott drew his eyebrows together in a puzzled frown. He’d almost understood that comment. At least he did if the Spanish words were close to the French. Voice, like, mama. She might have said his voice was like his mother’s. He doubted that; no one had ever suggested his mother was a baritone.
Then his face cleared. His accent; his Boston accent was like his mother’s. The old woman must have really known her well to remember his mother’s speech after all these years.
“I wish I knew how to ask about my mother. You see I want to know if she was happy. If she regretted her choices or if, oh, I don’t know. I just want so badly to believe she was happy here at least for a little while.” He sighed heavily. “You don’t understand me, do you? You have answers, the old man has answers; but I don’t know how to ask the questions.”
Mariah sat down at the table. She listened closely to him. She reached out and touched his hand. He did not pull it away. She took it in both of hers.
“I want to make a success of my life here. I know simply being Murdoch Lancer’s son doesn’t make me ready for this life. I’ll work hard. Your son, he’s good to me. He’s watching out for me. I hate that he has to but I don’t know what I’m doing. I can ride, I can shoot a rifle. I know how to do a great many other things but I’m afraid none of them are any use here.”
She didn’t understand the words. It didn’t matter. His voice held weariness, sadness and loneliness. It was not the voice that he spoke to the others in; not the vaqueros, or his brother, and certainly not his father. That voice was strong and commanding.
They’d told her he had been a soldier in the gringos’ great war in the east. He has a soldier’s bearing her son had said. Did those fools realizes how young he must have been as a soldier? He was still little more than a boy.
“I don’t expect Murdoch Lancer to care for me the way a father loves a son. I know he knew Johnny as a child. It must make him less of a stranger; make him easier to connect to in spite of his temper. Johnny is young and he has had a harsh life. He needs a father.”
She heard Murdoch and Johnny; those names gave her an idea of what he was talking about. It wasn’t jealousy she heard now in his voice. It was longing.
Mariah held tight to his hand. A good hand; long fingered, strong; a hand like his father’s.
“I’ll work for it. I will be worthy of what’s been given to me, the opportunity to own this land. I don’t need his love. I need his respect.”
Scott stopped speaking. He blushed to the roots of his fair hair. What was he thinking pouring his heart out to an old woman who couldn’t understand a word he said?
“I’m sorry, I--”
“Esta es la casa de La Senora,” she said slowly, squinting to try to get a good look at him. “Es el hogar que ella hizo por ti. Bienvenido a casa, Scott Lancer.”
Scott tried to teased the meaning from her words. Casa was house. It was the Senora’s by which she meant his mother. Bienvenido was almost the same as welcome in French; Welcome to the house or was it Welcome home to his mother’s house.
There were voices in the courtyard outside the kitchen door.
Mariah let go of Scott’s hand and stood, stiffly. Briefly she touched his cheek. It was a gentle gesture.
Scott had been well cared for as a child; prehaps even deeply loved by the woman who his grandfather had found to be his wet nurse when his mother died. Returning to Boston with them she had stayed as his nanny until she died of comsumption when he was six. The old woman’s touch brought her to mind.
He watched her with bewilderment. He felt terribly young and at the same time more comfortable than he’d felt since he’d first set foot in the haceineda. This old woman believed that he belonged here. She welcomed him not out of need as his father had but simply because he was his mother’s son.
Mariah went to the stove to get the coffee pot. She poured him another cup.
Through the kitchen door came Maria, her two daughters and Teresa.
“Hola, Abuela Mariah,” they all called including Teresa.
They stopped short when they saw Scott sitting at the table. Maria and her daughters ducked their heads and said softly, “Senor.”
Teresa crossed the room to him and said, “Hello, didn’t expect to find you here.”
Before Scott could answer Mariah said, “Mi hijo tenía hambre. Yo le daba de comer.” Then she began to bustle about the kitchen.
Embrassed now Scott stood and nodded to the women. He carried his coffee cup with him into the hall. Teresa came after him.
“How did you do that?” she asked with her dark eyes dancing with curiosity.
“Do what?” he asked causiously.
He stepped aside to allow Teresa to proceed before him into the great room. Her smile broadened. Scott was always doing things like that, treating her as if she were some great lady. Teresa knew that he wasn’t even thinking when it happened; his manners were as natural to him as breathing.
“Charm Abuela Mariah. She takes pride in being very stern with all of us. You should have heard her fussing at Johnny yesterday for coming in looking for something to eat just before dinner.”
“Abuela Mariah?” he repeated slowly.
“Abuela, it means grandmother. It is what everyone calls her even your father. She was born here back when this was part of Mexico. Did you know she is Cipriano and Miequel’s mother?”
“Yes, I knew that,” he said, nodding. “What makes you think I charmed her?”
Teresa’s dark eyes widened. “She said you were hungry so she fed you. She called you –my boy, just like she calls her grandsons.”
Scott glanced back at the kitchen door.
Teresa watched open-mouthed as a change came over him. Scott smiled; not the tight lipped self-satisfied smile she’d seen when the papers were signed that made him part owner of Lancer; not the grin he would flash at Johnny when he won an argument. This was a real smile that reached his blue-gray eyes; it took years off his face and lit up the room.