Dust Devil

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Authors: Parris Afton Bonds
right.” he said as he carried her from the house and placed her on the seat of the buckboard.  It was a statement, not a question.
    She nodded, brushing away the tears that continued to stream down her cheeks.
    "The heat – it was necessary we bury the baby now.”
    For a moment she forgot that Lario was an Indian, the hated enemy. She placed a hand on his arm. "Thank you,” she said simply.
    The half-closed eyes searched her face, searching there for what he must have heard in her voice.
    At that moment she hated anyone seeing her, knowing that under the unforgiving sunlight she must look haggard, but she reasoned that by now she had no looks to lose, and so met his scrutiny unflinchingly.
    He drove the wagon to the edge of the knoll. Beneath the gigantic, twisted cottonwood was a small mound of freshly turned earth. "I thought you would like him here,” he said solemnly.
    She went rigid. Then, blanket gathered around her, she stumbled from the wagon and fell on her knees in the dirt. Child of her flesh! Deep breaths expelled from her body as she steeled herself against the tears that threatened yet once again. She had failed Stephen. Her body had failed the child. And she had failed Cambria.
    She thought of the wooden cradle waiting in her bedroom. And the pile of baby clothes she had sewn and knitted. And her shoulders heaved with unspent tears.   A wave of horrible loneliness, a feeling of desolation, washed over her
    Some minutes later she was aware of Lario lifting her, cradling her in his arms as he carried her back to the wagon. Her head was resting just above his heart, and she could feel the regular, reassuring beat beneath her cheek.  Wrapped in the blanket and held securely by his arm, she was relieved of any effort of any kind.  It was enough to lie with relaxed muscles.  With a start, she was fully aware of whose arms were around her and upon whose chest her head was resting.  Her heart beat with sudden fierceness.  What was the matter with her?  Why did she not shrink from the pressure of his powerful arms and the contact of his warm, strong body?
    Only later, as she sat alone in her darkened study looking out at the shadowed turn of earth beneath the great tree, did she wonder how he was aware that the cottonwood, like Cambria, was a special source of strength and peace and security for her.
    * * * * *
    Stephen kissed her forehead, and his mustache and beard tickled her skin. "I should have insisted you get more rest, dear. Are you all right now?”
    "I’m fine, Stephen. Really.” She glanced through the sweep of her lashes to see how he took the loss of the baby. The tone of his words was noncommittal. She stretched out a hand, grabbing his as he turned away. "There will be other children, Stephen.”
    His eyes looked as empty as abandoned mines, and her heart went out to him. "Rita delivered a daughter last week,” he said. "Inez Rosamaria Victoria Sanchez y Chavez.”
    So, Rita had named the child for her. A burden doubly difficult to bear at the moment, Rosemary reflected despondently. "How did everything go in Santa Fe?”
    The black eyes seemed to gleam with life again. "Excellent, Rosemary. When Caden’s term expires, he’s agreed to be our delegate to Congress. And you remember that old nester down on the Wild Cat Camp — while I was at the Governor’s Palace I was able to buy off the auction block his fifty head of cattle and the cabin — a ramshackle place it is.”
    She had never seen the old man but had heard often enough Stephen’s damnation of the nester and the Homestead Act which threatened Cambria’s land-grant rights. "Why were they on the auction block? Why didn’t he sell his holdings outright?”
    "His credit was overextended. And no one seemed to want to buy his holdings — so he was forced to auction.”
    She bit her lip. "I see.”
    He rose to leave but halted at her bedroom door as he remembered something else. "You be recalling that young chap you traveled with

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