Logan set the gelding to a slow walk as he crested the hill and looked down at the valley below. A thin wisp of smoke swirled in the afternoon sun, doubtless a cook fire. Dinner would be started. He sighed and shook his head. He hated to ruin everyone’s dinner, but the news about Jacob wouldn’t wait.
He spurred the horse on to a run, enjoying the feel of the powerful animal under him, the roll and jump of the muscles of the beast as he fell into the familiar rhythm. The sprawling adobe house crouched in the warm sun, the windows open to catch the slightest breeze.
He passed Hector and the hands working hard in the fields closest to the house. The cattle were looking fat and sleek, not an easy task in the heat, but Hector’s men did wonders under his leadership. Logan spared a thought for Jed, how proud he would be of the man Hector became. For that matter, he was proud of his foreman too.
As he approached, he saw Jane and the girls were tending the garden. If it grew any larger, they would have to start calling it a “field”, not a garden, but the plants she grew were in too great a demand and people that made medicines and elixirs were knocking each other out of the way to buy her harvests.
“MOM!” Logan could hear Lisa calling and pointing to him. It gave him the advantage of finding Jane quickly. She stood and turned, holding her hand up against the sunlight to look at Logan’s approach. She was as breathtaking and lovely since the day he’d wed her.
“EVERYONE!” Logan yelled at the top of his lungs. “EVERYONE!” He waved his arm, trying to gather the girls around him.
The triplets surrounded their mother, looking like four identical images, each in their plain dresses that they used for their chores. The garden was forbidden territory for any of the hired hands or the help in the house. Jane probably wouldn’t have let the girls work with her in it if … no, that thought died on his mind. She doted on the girls and was proud when they wanted to help. Emily was already as good as her mother in growing the delicate plants.
“I’m afraid we’ve lost Jacob,” Logan said solemnly.
“What do you mean?” Jane eyed him suspiciously, but then, he never could get anything past her. “He’s leaving tomorrow.” She looked around as if she could see her oldest boy lurking around the corner.
“He’s leaving tonight.” Logan grinned. “A telegram arrived for him; apparently, they want him sooner than later.”
“But … tonight?” Jane looked at her stained dress. “I’m …”
“I have even worse news, my dear.” Logan took off his hat. “Apparently, Jacob doesn’t wish to be alone since the brothers he’s working for are willing to pay to relocate his wife …”
“WIFE?” Jane shot back, and then gasped as the full import of the announcement struck her. “You don’t mean …”
“Yup.” Logan’s grin split his face. “He’s asked Mary Anne and she said ‘yes’. They’re getting married tonight before the train leaves.”
“TONIGHT!” Jane crumpled her fists and looked at her girls for support. “To … I never heard of such a thing! What about the church, the … the …” She looked to Lisa and Jill and Emily and finally down at herself. She collapsed a bit then and shook her head, laughing. “That boy. Of course, he has to be married today, all at once.” She spun on Logan and wagged a dirt-encrusted finger. “Just you remember, Mr. Reeves, there will be no wedding with us dressed like this!”
“Train leaves tonight,” Logan reminded her.
“Ah … FINE!” Jane turned and clapped her hands once. “EVERYONE GET CHANGED, put on your best! And …” she spun back, “that includes you, Mr. Reeves. Don’t give me that about your suit, you wore that in this morning, you get changed into your Sunday best … Well, come on. HECTOR!” She bellowed the name.
Hector came jogging from the direction of the barn, his long lanky frame loping over the ground. “Yes, Missus?”
“Hector! Jacob is getting married tonight!”
“Really?” Hector grinned. “Congratulations!”
“Never mind that. Get the large wagon and get yourself changed. You’re going to drive us.”
“Ah …” Hector looked behind him at the barn where he had a thousand jobs to finish. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Jane,” Logan said as he dismounted. “I can drive a wagon as well as any.”
“Nonsense. How would that look? No. You ride in style for your son’s wedding.” She patted his shoulder and groaned at the dirt that left behind. Under her breath, she added, “Besides, you know Hector was like an uncle to Jacob, but the man would never take time off to attend the wedding. This way, it’s part of his job.”
Logan barked a laugh. “You do have a wonderful way of getting what you want out of folk.” He cupped her cheek and kissed her.
“Yes, yes I do, now go get changed.” She shot him an evil grin and lifted her skirt to run into the house. She stopped and put her hand to her mouth.
OH!” She turned back to him. “Jeffery. Someone has …”
Logan held up his hands to calm her. “I already sent word to the sheriff’s station. Jeff will wait for us there. He doesn’t have time to change, I’m afraid, but it’ll have to do.”
“Oh for … he’s going to his brother’s wedding dressed like a … I swear I will still take Jacob over my knee for doing this to us at the last minute. It’s a shame his sister Anne lives too far to make it here in time. Being twins, it seems wrong somehow for one to marry without the other here, though I suppose it’s fair enough given how she married Harold somewhat in haste herself.”
“Wasn’t really Jacob’s idea. When the wire came, he got excited and popped the question and …” Logan shrugged as if to indicate that the rest was inevitable. He handed off the reins to one of the ranch hands who led the mount away. He held out his arm, and Jane took it, laughing, treading through the garden like a queen, bare feet squishing the mud between her toes and her soiled dress belying the grand effect of their stride.
Getting ready took longer than he expected. The suit he picked out was the wrong one, though the right one Jane chose for him seemed no different at all than the first. Still, she was probably right; years of experience had shown that she was the more fashion-conscious of the two.
The wagon was one that he’d bought on impulse. Raising a large family required larger vehicles, and this one could comfortably seat eight people. It actually came in handy in the years since he’d bought it; politics seemed to have a certain image and that cart fit the bill. Despite the dignitaries and the important visitors he’d had in those seats, none were as precious as his children, and even then, it was Jane that completed the wagon. It was Jane that completed his life. After twenty years, it was still a honeymoon, and he sat back in the rear seat and smiled and waved as people stopped to stare at the Reeves as they passed.
The girls were resplendent; they looked as though they were heading to a fancy ball and had been preparing for it forever, rather than having been out tending plants that very afternoon. They inherited that ability from their mother, from soil-encrusted to lace and pomp without a moment’s pause.
“Logan.” Jane put her hand on his arm. “Where are we going? Hector is heading to the church.”
“No …” Logan cleared his throat and looked down a moment. “No, he’s not. See, the train is on a tight schedule and …”
Jane reared back to stare at him, aghast. “Our son isn’t going to be married in a church?”
“Father Sanchez will still preside, it’s still a legal wedding, it’s just taking place …”
“Where?” Jane’s voice was like ice.
“TRAIN STATION!” Hector called out helpfully. Jane looked up and looked around in disbelief.
“The train …”
“I don’t care about trains and their schedules, our son is not getting married in a train station!”
“Well, why not?” a rough voice said behind her. “Apparently, my daughter is!”
Jane spun, and her face lit up like dawn breaking over the clouds. “John!” She reached out and allowed the mayor to help her down, though, in truth, Mayor Brown was getting up in years and was little practical help. For a man of his size, however, the fact that he only depended on a cane was remarkable.
Jane kissed the man on the cheek and went to greet his wife, the mother of the bride.
“John!” Logan grinned and hopped out of the wagon to shake the man’s hand.
“Logan. I have to warn you that I am swearing out a warrant for the arrest of your son, Jacob.”
“Oh?” Logan’s eyebrow rose, and his mouth began to twitch with the effort of not smiling.
“Yes. Your rouge son is trying to kidnap my only child and drag her to some godforsaken land called Dayton. And for what? To hook up with some … bicycle repairmen?” He shook his head in disbelief.
“Well. Makes us related then, doesn’t it?”
Mayor Brown started and looked at up him. “Say. I guess it does at that. Might actually be handy that.” He grinned and lay a finger on the side of his nose, “Call in a favor or two, you know.”
“Might work both ways.” Logan laid his hand on the heavy man’s shoulder. “Having the ear of the mayor is no small thing.” Mayor Brown harrumphed and shook his head. The large man snorted and looked up at the platform. He nodded that way, and Logan and Jane followed the direction he indicated.
“There you are!” Jane snapped at her oldest boy. He beat Anne by a strong five minutes. Her voice was sharp with the stress of last-minute details, but there was a sense of pride in there too. Jacob did look very sharp in his new suit, and the glasses that he wore seemed to shine a bit brighter. Maybe it was Jacob that glowed – he was standing next to a very pretty girl who obviously worshiped him.
“You know, Mayor …” Logan laid an arm on his friend’s shoulder. “It amazes me that something so pretty could be your child.”
Mayor Brown grinned. “Her looks she got from her mother,” he said, “but her stubborn streak is all from me.” He blinked and turned back to Logan. “Someone might want to warn that boy of yours.”
“Up here!” Jacob called. Every move was impatient and bursting with energy. “Up here. The train won’t wait for us; we need to hurry!”
“Alright, alright!” Mayor Brown waved the young man off. “We’re coming.” His progress was slow, the cane was as much hindrance as help mounting the stairs, but soon the entire wedding party was in place.
“Wait,” Logan asked Jacob. “Where is Enrique?”
“Over here!” A strong baritone called out. Father Sanchez came forward to shake Logan’s hand and to receive a warm embrace from Jane. “I wouldn’t dare miss this.” Enrique laughed. “Jacob would never have forgiven me.”
“Speaking of … where is Jeff? I’d thought he’d be here.” Jane looked around the gathering crowd, searching for her second son with a worried frown.
“He’s coming,” Enrique assured her. “Antonio and Emily are coming with him as soon as Antonio gets the jail closed up.” He looked a question at Logan. “Is he really going to retire as sheriff? He’s been here longer than the boys have been alive.”
“Well, he was with Pinkerton … what five years? A bit more? Then twenty here … I think the man deserves a break. He’s still strong, and the best horseman I’ve ever seen.”
“Retire?” Mayor Brown laughed. “No. Antonio has plans for that ranch that would curl the nose hair on her father if he was still alive. Phase out the cattle, concentrate on the … what they …”
“Horseless carriage.” Mrs. Brown slid into the conversation with years of practiced skill. “He’s going to make and sell and repair them. I think it will be a wonder.”
“Wonder?” her husband groused. “Lose his shirt is what. That’s nothing but a toy, mark my words.”
The train whistle blew; one short, sharp sound. Jacob’s face grew pale. “That’s a ten-minute warning.” He searched the area frantically. “Where are they?”
“No use fretting,” Jane tried to calm him, but she too was straining her neck to search for her other son.
“You know,” Mayor Brown tapped Logan on his side, “I would think that the territorial governor could hold up one little train for a few minutes.”
Logan shook his head. “I try that, and I won’t be territorial governor much longer. Even the President interrupts the railroad at his peril.”
“Father!” Jill cried and pointed. A wagon barreled down the road heading for the station as if running from a wildfire. The horse blew and whinnied as it dragged the carriage behind it, not liking getting so close to the steam locomotive huffing so close.
Jeff was whipping the reins, urging the horse to greater speed, and the crowd parted hastily to give them room.
“Your boy is riding too damn fast!” Mayor Brown snapped.
“That’s the sheriff’s problem, isn’t Mayor?”
Brown gave him a scalding look. “Where is Antonio?”
Logan nodded. “In the back seat, I think.”
The carriage came to a halt so near the platform that the horse shied and the two wheels on the far side rose off the ground before landing with a thud. Jeff was out of the driver’s platform so fast the horse hadn’t regained its feet yet.
“Thank you, Jeff,” Antonio called from the back, his voice sounding strangely off. “I’ll drive from now on.”
Emily seemed to be frozen between fear and laughter, her bright eyes shone with amusement, but her expression was one of terror. “Antonio,” she whispered. “You’re driving from now on.”
Antonio climbed out of the carriage and gave his wife a hand getting down. She grabbed the edge of the carriage in her free hand and stood still, trying to catch her breath. Antonio held his hand out in case she collapsed, but all at once, she fell to fit of giggling. “OH! Let’s never do that again!” She turned to where Jeff was standing, already on the platform with the rest of the wedding party. “And if you ever try and show our boys how to drive like that, I will shoot you myself.”
“We were late.” Jeff sounded more like a sulky boy than a deputy sheriff.
“All right!” Jane ran down the steps to embrace her oldest friend and lead her back up to the rest. “We’re all here Enrique.”
Antonio started to tend to the horse, but the animal was breathing heavily and in no mood to wander off after that run through town. He gestured once to the reins that hung slack in the driver’s seat and shook his head, jogging up the steps and joining in with the rest.
“Dearly belov …” Enrique began.
“Ring!” Jacob spun to his brother.
“Ring!” Jeff slapped his vest as if to try and find the lost jewelry.
“Ring.” Logan reached into his pocket and handed the small box to Jeff. “It was in your room,” he whispered to Jacob.
“Thanks.” Jacob smiled tentatively and looked back at his bride. Logan tried to hold back a smile. The bride hadn’t seen it yet; Jacob had purchased it some time ago but had been waiting for the right time to propose. That telegram was, apparently, the right time.
“Dearly beloved,” Enrique repeated rather forcefully. The gathering subsided into a respectful silence, broken only by the busy sounds of the train station, the conductor shouting out “FIVE MINUTES!” and a few dirty looks from pedestrians who had to dash for safety from Jeff’s driving. Probably just as well Antonio wanted to retire to the ranch, getting votes to become sheriff again wasn’t going to be easy after today.
Enrique rushed through the formalities but slowed down once he reached “… do you, Jacob John Reeves take this woman Mary Anne Brown to be your lawful wedded wife?” To give his boy credit, he only stammered once when agreeing. Jeff stood next to him, best man and best friend and only brother. They couldn’t look more different, not that such things had affected the closeness of their relationship. Jacob had the sallow, eager look of an intellectual, a mechanical engineer just starting in the world, Jeff had the swarthy, lanky athletic build of a boxer. Jacob stood slightly hunched in his suit; Jeff stood with a great sloppy grin on his face in a pair of dungarees and chaps. Similar enough in features with the classic Reeves nose, it was like looking at one man and two life choices.
Logan swelled with pride in his boys, and he started a little when Jane’s hand slipped into the crook of his elbow. He smiled down at her.
Mayor Brown was looking every day of the last 20 years, but he too had a great smile on his face and … Logan blinked. Was that a tear in the corner of his eye?
In an instant, the little boy he’d carried and taught to shoot and ride and track and work was gone, and a married man stood before Logan, his charming and blushing bride at his side. Even Mayor Brown smiled as Jacob kissed his one and only daughter.
She ran to him then as Jacob edged toward the train. “Daddy, I … I can’t get that dance with you.”
“You’ll be back.” The mayor said it as though it was already decided. Mary Anne nodded, but her face was clouded over. Logan looked away. He knew what the girl was thinking. How long would it be? John was already dependent on a cane, and getting around was harder and harder. How long would it be before she could manage to come back? How would his health be then?
Logan took Jane’s hand from his elbow and turned to the train. He held up a hand, catching the conductor’s eye. Then he lifted his index finger.
“By the power of the office of the governor of the Arizona Territory, I have held the train for one dance.” He said it with all the pomp and seriousness he could muster.
The mayor looked at his friend, his eyes moist. Enrique began to hum a sweet tune, and the rest of the wedding party took it up.
Logan pulled Jane close, tucking her snugly into his arms. Never had he felt so much love or pride in his life. He bent his head to kiss the top of his wife’s head.
Behind them, the train belched smoke and ash. “May they always have what we do now,” Logan whispered in his wife’s ear, before taking up the tune anew, as men and women stopped to watch a man dance with his daughter on her wedding day.