Spirit of Love
A High Chaparral short story
By Kate Pitts
Moving quietly, so as not to disturb her slumbering husband, Victoria Cannon raised herself up in bed and peered anxiously around the dark bedroom. Something had woken her, but what?
The shuttered windows kept out most of the light from
outside, but the silence of the house, broken only by her husband’s soft breathing
and, from the room down the hall, the sound of her brother-in-law’s snoring,
It was far too dark to make out much more than the outlines
of the furniture, but nevertheless
Chiding herself for being so foolish, and deciding that it must have been a dream that awakened her, she lay back down in the bed, snuggling up against the warmth of John’s body, and closed her eyes. Feeling safe there, cosy and warm, she was just on the point of drifting off to sleep, when she heard it. A faint, musical chiming, far away and almost ethereal.
Was that what had woken her, she wondered, suddenly
wide-awake and a little irritated. Was it not the sound of wind-chimes? There
had been wind-chimes at the Chaparral once, a long time ago. They had belonged
to John Cannon’s first wife, Annalee. John had taken them down and packed them
away after his marriage to
Padding softly along the corridor and across the darkened
great room of the house, she headed for the door. All the time the wind-chimes
continued their tinkling, the sound growing louder and louder. Almost
Outside, waxy moonlight illuminated the landscape, bright
after the dimness of the house. All was still, and silent. The sound of the
chimes had stopped. Baffled,
“Mrs Cannon?” The deep voice startled her, making her heart race wildly for a moment before she realised the speaker was the ranch foreman, Sam Butler.
“Oh, Sam, you scared me. I did not see you…” she said softly, a hand pressed to her chest to quieten her breath, ragged from the fright he had given her.
“I was just around the side of the house. Heard the door open…” his brow furrowed in concern at the look on her face. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
“Yes. Yes, I am fine,”
Sam looked puzzled. “What kinda noise ma’am?” he asked. “I been on watch the past coupla hours and I ain’t heard nothing. Well, just the horses stampin’ around a bit, and some snorin’ from the bunkhouse.”
“I thought I heard…” she began, then stopped abruptly. How silly it would sound to say that she had heard the sound of non-existent wind-chimes. She shook her head. “Never mind, Sam. I think I must have been dreaming.”
“Well, there sure ain’t any noises out here now,” he grinned, teeth white in the moonlight.
“No,” she agreed with a light laugh. “And I think I had better return to bed.”
“And I gotta go wake
“No, they ain’t got back yet.” Sam grinned again, as he
thought of his friends enjoying a night off in
With a nod and a smile she agreed with the foreman’s assessment, “Knowing my dear brother, you are quite probably correct,”
Sam laughed, bidding her goodnight once more, and headed off
towards the bunkhouse,
The sound made her whirl around, frightened eyes scanning
the yard and she saw, in the deep shadows by the barn, a movement. Squinting
About to yell for help, she bit back the words as the figure
moved, gliding forward until it was illuminated by the full light of the moon.
The night air suddenly cold through her thin nightwear, she shivered, her eyes fixed on the woman, who was holding her arms out towards her, in silent entreaty.
Who was she?
“Senora?” she called softly, scared that speaking loudly might frighten the woman away. “Do you need help? Please, come inside.”
But instead of moving toward her, the woman turned her head,
looking out into the darkness of the night. When she looked back her expression
was one of sorrow, and once again she held out her arms, this time using her
hands to beckon
For a moment she hesitated, but compassion overcame caution and she stepped forward, walking slowly towards the woman.
“Madre de Dios! Fantasma!”
Catching up the long skirts of her nightdress she turned and ran for the house, knowing, deep inside herself, that something was very wrong.
Hastily lighting a lamp she wasted no time in returning to
the bedroom and starting to get dressed. From the bed, John grunted sleepily,
roused by the light of the lamp. “
“There is no time to explain,”
Confused, but seeing from his wife’s face how urgent this was, John silently obeyed.
“Good evening my sister,” he acknowledged her merrily, obviously slightly the worse for drink. “What are you doing up and about so late?”
“He’s not here…?” suddenly sobering, Manolito’s brow creased in a worried frown. “But he left hours ago. He said he had somewhere he needed to go and then he would be getting on home.”
“Somewhere to go?” John asked, as he came out to join his wife in time to hear Mano’s words. “Where?”
“I think I know where,”
“In the middle of the night?” John growled, though anxiety edged his words. “Why would he want to do that?”
“Because today is her birthday,” Mano said simply, “and he knew you wanted him to ride out and check the herd tomorrow. He would not have time to go if he did not go tonight.”
John groaned and shook his head, obviously distressed at not realising what day it was, “I can’t believe I could have forgotten.”
“Mano and I will go,” John told her firmly. “You stay here and wait.”
They brought Blue back a little while later. It appeared that his horse had been spooked by something as Blue was riding away from Annalee’s grave, and he had been thrown and knocked unconscious. They had found him laying on the rocky ground, Soapy the horse standing over him protectively.
By the time they had carried him into the house, and settled him in his bed, Blue was coming around. It would need to be confirmed by a doctor, but Victoria was quietly confident that he wasn’t too badly hurt, though already a mass of bruises were beginning to colour his body where he had hit the ground.
“How did you know where he was?” Manolito asked his sister
curiously, as John left Blue’s side to order one of the hands into
Manolito nodded, still puzzled but accepting her explanation and taking it that she was referring to herself. She wondered how he’d react if she told him the truth, that it was Blue’s own mother who had summoned help. Her spirit still watching over her son.
“Gracias, Annalee,” she whispered as she reached down and gently adjusted the covers around her stepson and, in reply, came the faint distant tinkle of the wind-chimes.
© Kathleen Pitts, August 2004
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