Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
I was a bit overwhelmed at this point. Events had speeded up after the slow lazy travel days of the last two months. Taking his hand, I mumbled, “A pleasure to meet you, Colonel.”
Turning to his followers, he introduced the others. “Sergeant Major Young, you’ve met. If there is anything you need, Just see him, He has my full confidence. He is my strong right arm, literally.” turning to the older gentleman to his left “This is Major James Gaunte. He is the Regimental executive officer. The administrative brain of our organization. Next to him is Major Surgeon Doctor Julian Blanchard. He is our Regimental medical officer, your boss, so to speak.”
A round of handshakes were exchanged. I was starting to become a little self-conscious about my clothing. I was still dressed for travel. I was dusty, thirsty, and hungry. “Colonel Anderson, not to be rude, but is there somewhere I can get cleaned up? it’s been a long hard road. While I can think of nothing I’d rather do than sit around and gossip, I need a bath, clean clothes, and dinner.”
It was with satisfaction that I saw a blush come to several of the men’s faces. I felt a tug on my arm and looked that way. “Missy, you come with me.” it was Miko. Standing next to her was Corporal Wheaton. “You go ahead with Miko, Ma’am.” He said. “I’ll head over to the livery and see to your luggage. Don’t mind these military folks. They sometimes don’t think right.” he glared at the assemblage of superior officers, while Miko hustled me into the Hotel Majestic.
For the next hour, I luxuriated in a tin bathtub on the third floor of the Majestic. If the water changed a half degree, Miko fussed until it was just right. Then she scrubbed me down with sponges. First concentrating on my hair. Then the rest of my body. By the end of the process, not only did I feel clean, but I was so relaxed that if it hadn’t been several hours since I had that delicious slice of cherry pie, I would have gladly fallen asleep right there.
Miko would hear none of it. She opened the door and told Corporal Wheaton. “Corp-o-rol food, please.”
“Well, the Colonel is expecting dinner. But I think I can find something to tide the lady over.”
Fifteen minutes later, a knock at the door brought Miko. As she looked at the selection offered, she beamed “Domo Corp-o-rol Domo Arigato.”
She brought in a plate of what looked like folded bread sandwiches. “Missy? you eat, you like.” she picked one of the sandwiches up and demonstrated how to eat a ‘Taco.’ I immediately fell in love. The combinations of tastes and textures were nothing like I had previously eaten. The three tacos offered were quickly consumed. With my appetite somewhat satisfied for the moment, Miko quickly finished getting me ready for an audience. That’s what it felt like. She had pawed through my clothing, looking for what she deemed appropriate. Unsatisfied, she selected what she considered the best available.
Looking me over with a critical eye from all sides, Miko was marginally satisfied.
Miko and Corporal Wheaton escorted me to the Majestic’s dining room. Colonel Anderson, Major Gaunte and several others were seated at a table more or less at the center of the crowded dining room.
As I approached the table, Colonel Anderson and the others rose. “Doctor Barrow, I’m sure that you remember Major Gaunte, and Doctor Blanchard.” For the next 10 minutes he introduced the other members of his staff. I couldn’t remember any of them. But I knew that as time went by, I would be able to put names to faces.
The rest of the evening was basically small talk about the Regiment, Wilkins and the social activities in both of those areas. After dinner and coffee, I offered that I was tired and needed to get rested up for the following day.
My sleep that night was deep and untroubled. That is until about midnight when I had to rise and put on my long handles. It was getting chilly.
The next morning Miko and myself were, in my opinion, awakened brutally by Corporal Wheaton. He threw the door open with a loud shout and started banging a copper pot, yelling at the top of his voice. “Rise and shine, ladies. It’s a new day, and the world is breathlessly awaiting your appearance.”
If hadn’t been the sheer terror of such an awakening, I might very well have rolled over and gone back to sleep. As it was, I bolted out of bed and in sheer panic, looking around me. I could tell looking out the window that the sun had not yet risen. I wasn’t sure of the time, but this wasn’t morning. Morning meant sunshine, warmth. eggs over easy, crispy bacon and hot toasted bread with dairy fresh butter. This was a crazed maniac disturbing the peace and quiet of my slumber.
Once I recognized my surroundings, I called out, “Corporal Wheaton, what is the matter with you?”
“Good morning, Ma’am. I felt that, since you have joined the Regiment, you need to get used to the time schedules that we operate by. Now, you have 10 minutes to take care of your morning routines and get dressed. In 10 minutes, I will meet you in the hotel’s dining room. It seems that the barbarians that run this place refuse to rise before 6 am. So, We have brought our own food service staff. I will have them hold your breakfast until you are ready. You will have 10 minutes for breakfast. Then we will get you prepared for your travel to the Hacienda. Without another word, and answering no questions, He turned and walked out of the room.
Miko and I looked at each other, totally confused. One of the things that Wheaton had done the previous evening was have my traveling clothes cleaned, pressed and neatly folded. There was also a similar set for Miko. Following the corporal’s orders, we dressed and proceeded to the dining room. It was filled with men from the Regiment. Their clothing easily identifed them. It was also apparent that they had already finished their meals. It seemed that our appearance was the trigger needed for them to begin the functions of their day.
As we sat at the only free table, Corporal Wheaton came from the kitchen and, with a hint of reproach said, “You’ll need to do better ladies.” placing the plates in front of us he retreated to the kitchen. Four junior members of the Regiment came out and started clearing the other tables. Quite self-conscious, Miko and myself ate our breakfast while these men cleaned up around us. When we had finished, we were again joined by Corporal Wheaton.
“So, ladies, I assume that you are packed and ready for the trail?” Miko and I blankly looked at each other and then back to the corporal. He slowly shook his head. “Alright, ladies, let’s go upstairs and get you ready for travel. Hopefully, we’ll get home before breakfast tomorrow.” Acting as if the burdens of atlas were riding his shoulders, he slowly trudged back up the stairs to our room.
Thirty minutes later, I had all of my luggage and baggage loaded and in the wagons. I didn’t see much of the Regimental people beyond Corporal Wheaton and the detail packing my property. But when we were finished, Wheaton called over to the young Mexican that had been with Sergeant Major Young that first day. My god, was that just yesterday?
“Pablo, let em know, son.”
The boy grinned at Corporal Wheaton “Yes, Corporal.” he raised the bugle to his lips, moistened them, and blew a complicated tune. Within moments crowds of men started appearing, and after mounting their horses formed into ranks on the streets in front of the hotel.
As soon as they were in position, Colonel Anderson and his command group came from the saloon across the street. They had their signature dusters and slouch hats on. Colonel Anderson was tugging on a pair of leather gloves. Stepping up to the horse being held for him, he thanked the youngster holding the reins.