In the late afternoon they all arrived at a sort of compound, with a half dozen houses and several outbuildings and a large garden. Children were scampering between the yards. Mr. Harris took them to his own house, where Eden’s sister, Myrna, whom everyone called Minna, came to greet them. Another woman who introduced herself as Susan Bell had prepared a large dinner for everyone. It was too many people to eat indoors and so the entire company of thirty or more sat around an expansive but rough wooden table in the long evening shade on the east side of the largest of the houses eating and laughing and talking in terms Eleanor only half understood.
To Eleanor’s great astonishment, Sophia Abington was there. She almost seemed more at home in the desert, Eleanor thought, than she had for the few days she had been in Paris. She and Eden were at an ease with each other that had the effect of both relieving and worrying Eleanor. It was clear that all was well between them, though neither had written this news to Paris. Was Paris—Boston even—no longer to be part of their lives, then? Surely Sophia and Eden did not intend to stay in Arizona. It was impossible to contemplate.
Eden sat beside Eleanor and laughed and talked with everyone, putting children—some white, some Negro—on and off her knees throughout the meal. The food was rustic, Eleanor thought, but fresh and quite good. After dinner, one of the men—Mrs. Bell’s husband, Eleanor thought—took out a violin and played a jaunty tune to which the children all danced. In a moment, he was joined by a man with a guitar. Someone produced an Irish whistle, someone else a mandolin. Before long, most of the adults were dancing too. At length, even Eden rose, grabbed her sister’s hand and led her in some kind of country dance with a lot of twirling and skipping and weaving between other couples.
The entire thing answered to Eleanor’s idea of a Bohemian wedding party and didn’t end until well after the stars were out. “Do they do that every evening?” Eleanor asked Eden as they walked into the house.
Eden laughed, “of course not. That was a welcome party—for you. We’re usually too busy for all that.”
“You didn’t welcome me that way,” Sophia teased.
“You didn’t wire us with a warning, like El did,” Eden countered.
But that was all Eleanor heard of the story of Sophia’s appearance on the ranch.
Now, on the doorstep of the Smith’s house, Joe turned to Eleanor and said, “This is not what you are used to, I’m sure, but we hope you will be comfortable here.”
Lillian showed Eleanor to a narrow room beside the kitchen, with a small bed, a washstand and a little hearth on one side, but shelves filled with colorful jars on the other. “It’s the pantry when we don’t have a guest,” Lillian said with a smile. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, it will suit me perfectly,” Eleanor said with just the suggestion of a bow as Lillian handed her a candle and bid her goodnight.