“I can’t believe Brendan is getting married,” Alex said, re-reading the letter they had received from the hotel desk clerk. “How did this happen?”
Rose laughed. “Did you think it couldn’t?”
“But it’s so sudden!”
“Says the man who met his girl in December and took her as his bride the following June.”
“Have you forgotten that we’ve been travelling for over a year?”
“Then, I guess I can believe it. We covered a lot of territory in that year.”
“Spain, Morocco, Algiers, Athens, Cairo, France, so many exotic places.”
“Just as you wanted.”
“Yes,” she said, going to him and resting her chin on his chest, looking up at him. “Just as I wanted.”
“Are you glad to be back in Sacramento?”
“I am, for the most part, but, I’m eager to get to the ranch.”
“I love hearing you say that,” he said, tipping her chin up further and kissing her on the mouth.
“When is the wedding?” she asked.
“December 12th the letter says. My mother’s favourite holiday. No surprise, that. They will be married in Mother’s own little chapel, just as we were.”
“That’s less than a month away. Do your parents know we have returned to California?”
“No. I thought we would surprise them … do you think that’s a good idea?”
“I think that’s a lovely idea,” Rose responded.
“Are you ready to move back to the ranch, or do you want to remain here?”
“Let’s just go for a few weeks and then come back. Perhaps we can find a flat where we can be comfortable enough when we’re here, but not making it so much of a permanent place.”
“I like that. I’m anxious to get started on the house.”
“That little meadow that you bought is so perfect for the house, facing the Sierras.”
“I’m glad you like it,” he said, slipping his arms around her waist.
“I think we must have set a record for the world’s longest honeymoon,” Rose said.
“A working honeymoon, though,” Alex reminded her.
“Sort of, anyway. It was difficult for me to see that we are more advanced in women’s rights than any country in the Mediterranean.”
“Maybe our next travels can be in the Northern climes, so that you can have other standards to which you can compare.”
“Our next travels?”
“I’ll do anything to keep my bride happy,” Alex said.
“Admit it; you enjoyed travelling as much as I did.”
“I don’t deny it at all. I’m so glad we got to see the North African coast, so I could see for myself all those things depicted in Mr Vincent’s paintings: the sea, the bazaars …”
“You even got to see camels …”
“With their bells.” Alex smiled, picking up a chain of stamped-brass bells.”
“It will be fun to invite people to our home so that they can see all the things we’ve gathered.”
“And next time we’ll have elk and reindeer bells.”
Rose laughed. Alex still thought of her laugh as tinkling fairy bells. He ran his hand over the top of her head. “Bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells.”
“Yes,” she said, “a line from Poe. Hmmm, maybe some bells and a reading of the first two stanzas of ‘The Bells’ might be appropriate for Brendan’s wedding.”
“It might. I never know what Brendan will or will not like. Even though I suspect his fiancée will have most of the say over the ceremony, perhaps we can present the idea to the both of them.”
“I remember all the bells at our ceremony.”
“People mentioned that they could hear them in town from the ranch.”
“Brendan’s won’t be quite so glorious, though, as it will be Advent, so the bell ringing will be restricted to inside the chapel.”
She pulled away and walked over to the dresser drawers before turning back to him. “How long do you think we’ll stay?” she asked.
“As long as you like,” Alex answered.
“Or as short as I like?”
“Yes, or as short as you like.”
“I suppose Mr McClatchy would like it very much if I did some restaurant reviews to use in my column while I’m here. I’ll see how many I can arrange over the next week.”
“You really are anxious to go.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen snow. I saw it on the tips of the Sierras when I came to Mahoka Hills, but I’d like to see it close up on snow-frosted pines.”
“Then Big Trees it is,” he said. “That’s a most excellent place to see the snow in December.”
“I’m just going to hang a few things and leave the trunks packed until we leave,” she said, turning back to the chest of drawers.
Rose was finally able to visit the Wongs’ restaurant, so she could write about the workings in the kitchen and find out about some of the more exotic ingredients in their dishes. Mrs Wong was so happy to see her. They brought tea, and Mrs Wong was an enthralled listener to the tales of Rose and Alex’s travels.
To complete her three stories for the week, Rose visited a beautiful, new, hotel restaurant. She got to observe, and to talk to the chef there who revealed plenty of little tips that would make her column exciting.
Her last visit was to a Mexicali restaurant, rumoured to be the best of its kind in town. Rose was fascinated to find out that Mexican food was varied by locale. Because of the prolific vegetables available to them, the Mexicali food was quite different from any other that she had experienced.
She couldn’t believe it when just a few days later they found themselves at the train station waiting for the train to Angel’s Camp.
After fourteen months, the scenery was a sight for sore eyes. As beautiful as every bit of the Mediterranean was, there was nothing, anywhere, like California, and especially in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
When they arrived in Angel’s Camp that evening, they checked into the Angel’s Hotel.
“More Mark Twain fame here,” Rose remarked. “Supposedly this was where he heard the tale that he turned into the ‘Jumping Frog of Calaveras Story.’”
“No Mark Twain room, though?” Alex asked, teasingly.
“I’m not even going to ask,” Rose replied.
The next morning, while Alex went to the cartwright’s to buy a new buggy for their them, Rose dug through the books she had brought with her for their stay. She smiled as she passed the Beecher sisters’ book The American Woman’s Home. It was a masterpiece for the domestic aspects of living, raising children, keeping house, and providing food for the home. Someday, though, she would write her own book for the American Woman, and, while not neglecting the obligations of the wife and mother at home, hers would include horizons beyond those things.
She found what she was looking for in a second stack–two copies of Twain’s first novel, Tom Sawyer. She had a reading copy for herself and Alex, and an unread copy which she had purchased for the library at the ranch.
The writing was excellent, the story realistically typical of young boys. If she had any wishes, Rose would wish that the villain hadn’t been associated with Indians and so profaned. She remembered Alex telling her that he never understood why the Northern Army sent the same men who had just triumphed in a war to free slaves to the West with the mandate to slay Indians.
It appalled her to think that so many intelligent people, around the world, she had witnessed, were so prejudiced against anyone other than their own.
The fact that Alex was so different, she supposed came from being both of Mexican and Irish descent and having grown up surrounded by Mexicans, and had likely suffered prejudice against himself a few times.
He had seen Mexicans and Indians working with the Union soldiers, and he had seen both slaughtered. That was another reason she was sure, why he had simply chosen to remain at the ranch to shut out the rest of the world.
But if one was human, wasn’t it better to live and move in the world to better understand the heart of man? Instead of dwelling on it, as Alex was wont to do, it seemed better to her to take at least one step in the direction of bettering things for others.
It had boggled her mind, as they travelled, to see that her reaching out to women was such a tiny part of the picture, but a seemingly effective part nonetheless.
Alex returned, having had success in finding a buggy with which he was happy, and having purchased two horses as well, they were ready to set off for the ranch. She was glad they had eaten a hearty breakfast. She was surprised and thrilled when they checked out of the hotel to find that the new buggy had a hard top and sides, as well as a partial front. The one they had at home had a folding top on it which was great for spring and summer weather, but not very appropriate for winter.
He had also purchased two carriage robes, mostly to keep Rose’s feet warm. It would be a little warmer this afternoon, she hoped, but right now it was cold and drizzly.
Even with the inclement weather, it was beautiful. Once outside the town, the road grew narrower, and tall pine trees lined the road.
Carolina, Brendan’s fiancée was a surprise. Rose had envisioned a younger version of Teresa, short and plump with a pretty, round face.
Instead, Carolina was tall, nearly as tall as Brendan, with high cheek bones with a gracefully tapered face from cheeks to chin. Her nose was long and angular, and she had almond-coloured skin.
While not the chatterbox that Rose could be, neither was Carolina as reserved as Teresa.
Rose thought it odd that Carolina, while not shy at all, seemed to give her some deference.
“Brendan may be the elder son, but you are the first wife. She will feel more on an equal footing with you once they are married, but that also depends on you. If you expect deference, she will give it to you.”
“Until she’s the first mother,” Rose said. “That could go back and forth forever. I would much rather we be equals.”
“That’s something you two will have to resolve between yourselves. Don’t ask my mother; she was raised in an era where one’s place in the family meant everything. This is still my mother’s home, but how you work it out will be on your own terms.” He stood up from lacing his shoes. “Why did you say, ‘until she’s the first mother’?”
Rose looked away and shrugged. “I still have more things that I want to do before we have children.”
Rose got to know Carolina quite well during the preparations for the wedding. She began to see some reserve in Carolina and decided that perhaps it was simply a part of their culture.
When the day came, Carolina was dressed in a straight cream-coloured gown which emphasised her tall, lithe figure. Woven through the gown were turquoise and gold ribbons. In her hands, she carried three red roses, and on her head, instead of the high crown mantilla, as Rose had seen before, Carolina had chosen to wear a gold headdress.
Rose looked at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the chapel wall. Carolina’s gold headdress reminded her of the luminescence surrounding the Lady. She wondered if that was the purpose of it.
As the wedding Mass continued, Rose began to think of her and Alex’s wedding. It seemed so long ago. June before last? But she remembered every detail of it: Alex so handsome in his navy-blue formal coat with heavy gold embroidery, with matching waistcoat and pants with a gold-embroidered strip down the side. She wore a blue silk damask dress with white boots and gloves. The emerald and sapphire necklace which Alex had given her when she had said yes to him was the piece-de-resistance. On her head, she wore a simple, matching, blue-lace mantilla out of respect for Teresa.
Of course, the priest wasn’t supposed to have married them as she was a long-lapsed Catholic, but she promised she would study with him after the fact. Guiltily, she realised she still had not done that. But she would. She would do a lot of reading and know what she was signing on for before she committed. She felt that if she didn’t go through with it, it would have repercussions, but perhaps discussions with the priest would be good.
She hadn’t been able to receive the Sacrament during their Wedding Mass. She looked up now and saw Carolina, in front of Brendan, ready to receive. Brendan came to her side, and they received the Sacrament at the same time. She felt a pang of remorse now about not having been able to share that with Alex at their wedding. It seemed a very intimate act.
Christmas was soon upon them, and it seemed even more alive and festive with Brendan and Carolina. Brendan smiled more than she had ever seen him when she had lived at the ranch.
It was easy to be happy here, surrounded by love and family. Since it was a mild winter this year, the men who remained at the ranch during the season helped Alex to begin building their home. The frame was up now, and the roof was on, to protect against the winter weather.
The bank had been built while they had been in Europe. Brendan, as bank president, rode into town and back every day to do his work. He seemed to be truly in his element.
Since the men were gone all day, Rose and Carolina did a lot of the house tasks together, and Teresa taught Rose to cook. Carolina already had a better handle on the cooking end of it, but they also experimented with new dishes, special holiday dishes and the regular fare that the men loved.
It helped Rose to keep up with her column on cuisine.
She started imagining all the things that she and Carolina could do in the coming year that would help Rose to have plenty to write about.
Rose wanted to learn about the fruit and nut groves, about gardening. It was funny. She had not had much of a desire to do those things before, but it seemed a natural now.
After dinner that evening, she and Alex retired to their suite.
“Are you restless?” he asked.
“Restless how?” Rose responded.
“Do you wish to be back in Sacramento? I recall you saying we would come out here for a few weeks and then go back to Sacramento.”
She searched his face trying to discern his own desires in the matter.
“I do remember saying that,” she said, “but I do really love it here. Carolina is a friend to me like no other I have had. It’s nice to work together, to confide in each other, to plan projects to which I am very much looking forward.”
“And Mr McClatchy?”
“He seems content with my columns, and I’m going to start another once the house is finished. He promised to keep me apprised of upcoming women’s rights conferences, and, of course, I’m still corresponding with the leaders of the movement. Ellen Sargent did say she would like to get together with me, and that I could come alone or bring you.”
“Which would you rather do?”
“Oh, I suppose you do have your uses,” she said, mimicking the remark Ellen had made on the last day of the conference. “I would rather travel with you if your schedule allows it.”
“Perhaps we could go in the spring.”
“Perhaps,” Rose said, “just before the last frost.”
“Before the last frost?”
“After that, Carolina and I will be working on our gardening projects.”
Alex grinned. “From suffragette to domestic diva,” he said.
“You should be glad I love you,” she said, “and that I know you are probably teasing me. Otherwise, I would think that I’ve taught you nothing.”
“You’re such a serious girl,” he said, pulling her into his arms. “Of course, I was teasing. Do you want me to let go of the suite then?”
She nodded. “If I change my mind later, we can find another one.”
“I love that you love it here, and that all of you get along so well.”
Having been in situations where women did not get along at all—even in the rights movement—not a lot of them saw eye to eye. Perhaps even more so there. They were individuals who sought independence and freedom of thought and action, so it really didn’t surprise Rose that each would have her own ideas about what needed to be done. But back in Chicago, it was about social place and social standards, and one wife trying to step on another to wedge her way in—mere frippery compared to the iron-willed rights-seekers. She wondered what Carolina would think if she were exposed to it. Rose had yet to even broach the subject with either of the women.
Rose leaned over, cupping the warm earth in her hands. Today, she was planting her butterfly garden. Yesterday, she and Carolina had planted a kitchen garden for them, and tomorrow they would begin thinning the rows in the vegetable garden.
She felt the sun on her back. She sat down, turning her face to the Sun, and leaning back on the wall. She closed her eyes and relished a moment alone, something rare here on the ranch. She was either with Carolina or Alex. The family took many meals together, and the men enjoyed each other’s company after dinner, smoking on the porch. She and the other two women would be involved in some project or other.
She wanted to study and write. She had thought about asking Alex to take her back to Sacramento, but there was so much she could study and write about here. She always felt as though she had to be doing something to participate in the household chores.
She brought it up with Alex after they arrived home that evening. His eyes flew open in surprise.
“Rose, I promised you that if we came here to live, that you would never have to do anything you didn’t wish to do, and that you would have a cook and housekeeper.”
“I—I suppose I thought you meant after we had children.” He shook his head. “Well, how do I bow out now after we established all of this over the last year?”
“I thought you wanted to be doing all of this.”
“I do, very much, but I find myself needing some time to study and write.”
“Then think no more about it, my dear. Just explain it to Teresa or to Carolina as you expressed it to me. No one is going to mind, in fact, I know my mother is excited that you are a published writer.”
She suddenly looked brighter. “I used to think about doing a history of California women with Teresa helping me, and Carolina could provide an even different perspective.”
After a little while, he said. “So, what’s going on with the movement?”
“Oh!” she said, her eyes sparkling. “Aaron Sargent introduced the legislation to Congress in January, not to be able to deny the vote to anyone regardless of sex.”
“And …?” Alex wanted to know.
“Congress shot it down by a fair margin, but at least it’s out there. He has promised to keep submitting it over and over until it is ratified. Still, however, I’m concerned about the rights of single women in so many states.”
“Marriage resolved your own dilemma, but I realise many don’t have that, nor want that fallback. Why don’t you do more research on it and write essays for The Bee? They might even be picked up by other papers.”
Rose laughed. “You make it sound as though I never need to leave the ranch again.”
“Perhaps not, but I believe I shall desire to leave the ranch whether going near or far.”
Alex stopped fearing the world beyond the ranch and ceased to fear himself. He knew his dream of the Mi-Wok shaman had started that journey—had released him and opened his eyes. His dream to see the North African coast had been realised. That all seemed so long ago.
“We’re going to have an Easter baby!” Rose cried out, jumping up as Alex came in the door.
“We’re what …?” Alex asked.
“We’re having an Easter baby.”
“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. I think I missed something here. You’re expecting?”
“I am. We are,” she said with a glowing expression.
“When did this happen?” he asked, still dumbfounded.
“I expect sometime in June,” she said.
“June? And you’re just now telling me?”
“Your mother made me promise not to say anything until the first three months were passed. If a baby makes it the first three months, it is most likely to be healthy.”
“Let me sit down,” Alex said, “I need to breathe.”
Rose laughed and twirled around.
He pulled her onto his lap. “You’re okay with this?”
“I’m more than okay,” she said. “I’m very excited.”
“But I know you haven’t fulfilled all of your dreams yet.”
“My dreams have changed, flowed with the times.”
“I can still study and write,” she said. “Except, perhaps, right after the baby is born.”
“Alex,” she said, “do you recall that day I showed you the illustration of the two of us, where we were both looking outward, and there was a small, empty centre where we had nothing in common?”
“I do,” he responded, “and do you recall ….”
“How you redrew the diagram to widen our worlds, to bring us in towards each other, and to someday be able to establish the things we shared?”
“If you hold the drawing in your mind, we are filling up the centre now, and it will keep expanding. We have so many things together. And now this,” she said, putting his hand on her belly.
He held her close to him, kissing her face, their tears mingling.
“I have been very content here these last several years. It’s not like we never went anywhere, we travelled to the women’s conferences around the U.S., and one even in Paris. I got to write my first book, and have it published.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “The Public Invisibility of a Single Woman. A deep-sounding title.”
“That deep-sounding title is what enabled me to sell it all over the world.”
He nodded in agreement and squeezed her hand to show her he was proud of her.
He laid his hand across her belly. “What shall we name him?”
“Him? I’m quite sure she’s a girl.”
He chuckled. “Well, if it’s a boy, then, I’d like to name him Lorenzo.”
“Yes, I’ve always thought it to be a very strong and musical name. Lo-ren-zo!” he rang out in his best operatic imitation. Then he repeated it in a spoken voice. “Lo-ren-zo. Lo-ren-zo, Lo-ren-zo, Lo-ren-zo.”
He had her giggling and practically slipping onto the floor until he caught her.
“All right, then. Lorenzo it is. But if it’s a girl, I would like to name her Guadalupe.”
“She’ll be called Lupe, of course,” he said.
“I’m counting on it. Or Teresa. I want her to be named Guadalupe Teresa O’Connor.”
“That is one name I would not even try to argue against,” he said.
And so, it was that little Guadalupe Teresa came into this world in March of 1881, just in time to be christened at the Pascua.
By 1883, little Lorenzo Alejandro followed his sister into the world. That same year, James McClatchy passed away, and his son, C.K. became President of McClatchy Newspapers. He continued his father’s work in championing the labourer, the environment, and remaining dedicated to the cause of Universal Suffrage.
Aaron Sargent passed away in 1887, just eight years after he first introduced the bill for voting equality for women. However, his colleagues and crusaders marched on, presenting the bill in Congress every year until it was finally ratified in 1913, after the death of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Ellen Clark Sargent.
Ellen was an ardent crusader for women’s rights, even after her husband passed away. None of the stalwart women who had worked so hard for so many years ever got to vote.
When Lupe and Lorenzo were 12 and 10, Rose and Alex decided it was time to introduce them to the world beyond California, so they made plans to attend the Chicago World’s Fair. Rose was hesitant at first to return to Chicago, but once she had time to think about it, she decided she would like to show her family where she grew up. One of the things that Chicago wanted the world to see, and Rose wanted to experience for herself, was that it had literally risen out of the ashes from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Chicago was different at every turn, and Rose felt that she was a tourist as much as anyone there. She heaved a sigh of relief after their first day. She was not returning to a place of sorrow and bitter memories, but a place renewed, just as she was. It had been nineteen years since she had been in Chicago. She had even foregone invitations to conferences there over the years, but somehow, with her husband and children with her, she felt a strength she had not before.
The children were fascinated as much with Lake Michigan as they were the Fair.
Just before the monumental turn of the century, Guadalupe and Lorenzo had left the nest. There were many Women’s Colleges now, and Lupe had earned her way into college with her writing. She wanted to take photography classes and to major in journalism. Rose was so proud of her following in her footsteps but taking it a step beyond.
Lorenzo had decided to take a year of travel before college started for him, so he went to Europe with a group of young men where they re-created the European Grand Tour for themselves.
Brendan and Carolina had three children, not much younger than Alex and Rose’s. They had moved to Mahoka Hills for several years, so that Brendan could be closer to the work he loved, but they had returned to the ranch shortly after Alex’s father passed away to manage the ranch, and to take care of Teresa.
On New Year’s Eve in 1899, Alex and Rose found themselves in a Grand Ballroom in a new hotel in Sacramento. They whirled around the floor with the same ease as they had when they were young. During the last dance of the evening, Alex held Rose as close to him as he could.
“In these twenty-five years, have you ever regretted anything?”
“Nothing,” she said. “And the next twenty-five will be even more glorious. Although I sense we will have to wait awhile for grandchildren.”
“Probably,” Alex responded, “but one never knows.”
“How about you, have you regretted anything?” Rose asked him.
“Only …” he said, and Rose’s heart skipped a beat, “that I did not find you ten years earlier to spare you all the pain with Thomas.”
“Ah, you must never think of that, my love,” she said, kissing the palm of his hand. “All of that made me what I was when you met me, and part of that made me into the woman that I am today.”
As midnight struck, and the band launched into “Auld Lang Syne,” and the crowd went wild, his eyes shone as he looked at her glowing face. “You are still as beautiful as ever,” he said into her ear.
His boyish smile and the curling hair on his forehead made him look the same age he was when she had met him.
Then the band slipped into a Tango. He took her by the waist, spinning her away from him and back, and they both came into the familiar steps. Immediately, the crowd hushed, and every eye was on them.