It had been two months since I had received the letter from my Uncle Angus McLeod in the Arizona Territory. I read the missive over and over again from the time it reached my small cottage just outside of the Scottish village of Dunnlauden.
He was opting to give up ranching. He needed to go back to Scotland, see to his affairs. Since I was the last of his living kin, though on the other side of the Atlantic, he needed me to please come. I agreed, and so I put myself on a ship that took me to Boston. I took the train out West to Arizona. Where it was agreed that I would look after his beloved Hacienda, Las Glorias, at least until I could find a way to hire someone to look after the place, or sell it for him. whichever he would bid me to do once he was back home in the Highlands. It was probably for the best that I was not fixing to stay permanently. No. I insisted to myself. I was definitely not at all fixing to stay.
The ride from the train station Tuscon to Tombstone was hot and dusty and the stage coach ride jostled us along. I had not packed much in the way of things, one large trunk and a valise only. By the time we pulled into Tombstone, my body ached as I had not ached before. I had forgotten, in my years of travel, just how unpleasant land travel could be by comparison to going by sea. Even a storm upon an ocean did not make me ache in such a fashion as train and stagecoach travel did.
As we pulled up to the stage stop in the centre of town, I looked out and saw the haggard face of my Uncle Angus. His eyes looked sunken and tired, and he leaned against a cane, clearly as if he were struggling to breathe. His skin looked sallow and yellow like weathered parchment, and I knew at a glance he was quite unwell. The driver helped the other passengers alight from the coach, and at last I was offered a hand down. As soon as I had cleared the last coach step, I rushed forward into my Uncle Angus’ arms. He seemed so thin and frail, and not the burly Scot I had once known as a girl. He seemed shrunken now, and in my new boots, I stood at least an inch taller than he was.
“Let me get a good look at you, Lass,” Angus choked back tears of joy at seeing me, “You’ve grown into a bonny willow now, haven’t you?” his brogue was still as thick as ever.
“I have just grown older, Uncle,” I held him close, blinking back the tears “I am not the barefoot niece you left so long ago in Cape Wrath.”
“Aye, that you’re not, Fanny Fae,” he said, taking me by the hand, “We’ll send Jonas on ahead with your baggage, and then you and I can take our time in town. There are some other matters I need attend to.”
Uncle Angus introduced me to Jonas Witherspoon, his foreman. Jonas was only a shade younger than my Uncle’s fifty years, and well groomed. He seemed competent enough and had an iron grip of a handshake, which I expected that he held back on since I was a woman.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss MacKay,” Jonas tipped his hat stiffly,” I should be back to get you and Angus by late this afternoon. We aren’t that far out, Miss.”
With a hand from two other men nearby, he loaded up my belongings and took up the reins of the buckboard and drove out of sight, leaving me to stand in the middle of Allen Street with my Uncle.
“Well, Lass,” Angus said, taking one more long look at me, “We’ve much to discuss and I’d best introduce you to your new home.”
Tombstone, to my mind, was little more than an overgrown mining camp. It had become so very much a boomtown in so short a time, that it had been a wonderment, for good or for ill. The mining and the profiteering was not the reason why my Uncle had come to this place, but long before to pull the dream of a mad Spaniard from the ruins and rebuild the legendary Hacienda. Uncle Angus had done so successfully, and he had done it in spite of the odds.
As my uncle and I took our dinner, I listened carefully to him along with trying to take in the sights of this new place that would be my home. I wanted…. Hell, even I didn’t know what I wanted at that point. I was so far away from the green rolling hills of Scotland! It was often rainy and overcast back home, and this desert climate was a different type of heat that I had never before experienced. It was a heat that made you feel as if you were baking and your skin was whithering before your own eyes.
For the whole of the meal, I did not speak too much. Instead, I found myself thinking about the Marshal, by the name of Wyatt Earp that he had introduced me to. He was tall and handsome. His reddish hair and piercing blue eyes betrayed his own Celtic origins, but his bearing was as arrogant as half of the landed gentry I had known throughout the British Empire. Granted, it was only a first meeting between two strangers, but it was that bearing that he had, and the airs that he wore that grated on my nerves. As the Marshal had taken leave of my Uncle and I, my eyes followed him and the back of my neck prickled, leaving me to wonder what had just taken place in our short introduction. .
I stared absently at the oysters that were on my plate, swimming in a sea of garlic and butter as my Uncle continued on. I nodded on occasion to give the indication of my listening, but my thoughts were obviously not where the conversation was taking place.
“Frances Moira MacKay,” Uncle Angus cocked his head at me, his weather gnarled fingers brushed over the back of my hand gently, “are you alright lass?”
“Yes, yes,” I gifted him with a smile, “I am sorry, Uncle. “I said, “I think I may be more tired from my journey than I thought.” It was barely the truth, but it was not a lie. Certainly I did not want him to worry about any misgivings I may have had in the few hours that I had actually been in Tombstone.
“We really should get you home and settled then, Lass,” he said taking a smallish sip of his wine, “There’ll be plenty to do over the next week or so, before…..” his voice trailed off and he gave me a wan smile, “before I set out for home. “ He eased back in his chair with a faraway expression of his own, and for a moment his features had eased from the paunched look that they had taken on in the past few years, “It will be good to see Dunnlauden again.”
“Aye,” I nodded taking up his hand and giving it a squeeze, “ It will be good to see the legendary Hacienda at long last.”
“Oh, that, my girl, “he said with a twinkle as the waiter brought us our check for our meal, “that’s nothing short of Heaven itself.”
The Hacienda Las Glorias was built nearly a century-and- half ago by a mad Spanish governor who loved his homeland. He was always enamoured of the high red adobe walls that were of the legendary Al Hambra palace that was neatly tucked among the rocky foothills of Grenada. In his time as governor of Spain’s occupied Western lands in the New World, the governor of these lands built as close an approximation as his imagination and his deep pockets would allow. The Moorish-styled square towers and smooth, plain walls disguised the treasures that were held within.
The house was impressive but even more astonishing is that the walls surrounding the main house, stables and other outbuildings also closed within them the most exquisite gardens in all of Arizona. Tucked among the fountains and sparse arrangements of native cacti were fuchia and irises of every colour. Herbs gave off their pungent scent in the desert sun, and the effect was that of a cottage garden of incredible size and variety. In the centre of one alcove just where my own balcony overlooked was an unimaginably large Mimosa tree that gave off the sweetest scent I had ever known. In the evening as the sun was setting behind the lapis blue of the Dragoon mountains that loomed in the distance, I would pluck the feathery light pink flowers and set them in a bowl in my room to fill a bowl filled with water on my dressing table or night stand. What was even more delightful about this particular tree is that it would bloom throughout the year. Truly it was a miracle in this place that was almost desolate in comparison to the lands from which I had come.
Later on, I was given a crash-course in what was needed to run the Hacienda.. My Uncle Angus first showed me the various parts of the operations of the ranch that were necessary. I was introduced to both household staff and ranch hands. One thing was certain, behind their curtsies and colloquialisms, I was now in charge, and all looked to me to ensure the survival of not only the Hacienda Las Glorias, but their very livelihoods. Even as my Uncle departed with Jonas for the final time to carry him to the train in Tucson, and then on to the ship that would take him home to Scotland, all of those faces looked to me. I was overwhelmed and somewhat daunted. I had not even allowed myself the full grief of a tearful goodbye to my Uncle that I knew full well I would probably never see again.
Muse: Fanny Fae
Fandom: Historical / Folklore / Mythology
Word Count: 1709
OOC Note: This is a rework of an earlier piece and part of Fanny’s history and her relationship to her Uncle Angus McLeod, which was written long before her appearance on Livejournal in October, 2003.