Jill woke first and sat quietly to watch Ethan sleep. She thought about what life might be like with something to hold on to other than her own wits. She knew she should not think that way but she could not help it. She had been alone for too long, an unhealthy long time, and she was unaccountably attracted to this young man, child though he was. Full of youth and life, Ethan knew how to laugh. Her life was so serious. She longed to be able to laugh again.
Ethan opened his eyes, smiled at her and sat up on his elbows. He winced and reached for his upper arm but that just made Jill’s smile deeper and stronger. She did like him. She could not help it.
“This world had trains and telegraphs, but no internal combustion engines, and so no Wright Brothers, yet. “About 1875,” she said. She put the place in his time frame with the hope that his grasp of history would help.
“So we ought to be able to find the wire we need.” Ethan concluded and Jill nodded. She truly was glad that he was smart.
“So I was thinking, after graciously thanking our hosts for their hospitality, we walk to Hill Town. It should be simple enough to get what we need.”
Ethan got all of the way up when they heard the front door close down below. He stepped to the railing and turned his back on Jill to look over the edge. “I decided last night that this earth hopping might be a tricky and dangerous business.”
“World hopping.” Jill corrected Ethan’s terminology but did not disagree with the rest.
“Good thing my wife is the most brilliant and confident woman in the universe,” he said, and he reached his hand back for hers. Jill could not see the expression on Ethan’s face, but decided that was just as well since it meant he could not see her face, either. She gave him her hand even as she thought, how little he knows.
When the couple came down the stairs, Lars was going back out the front door.
“Ah.” Lars smiled and paused. “Our sleepy ones.” He caught Jill’s eye. “I should have gotten your husband up two hours ago for a ride to the fields to work off the toll.” He laughed, stepped outside and shut the door behind him. Jill suddenly felt embarrassed about sleeping so late, even if it was just seven o’clock. She should have made more effort to conform to the culture.
“Auch!” Angelica waved off the apology and went to the kitchen to prepare some food for her guests while Kirsten plopped down in her Papa’s chair.
Jill paused where she stood, part way between the front door, the kitchen and the fire. She watched while Ethan took a seat in front of the fire and rechecked the contents of his briefcase, now that he knew how important the laptop was. Poor Ethan, Jill thought. She was sure this was the strangest first date he had ever been on. She sighed for his sake before she had a truly impish idea. She still looked at Ethan when she leaned over Kirsten’s chair and whispered in the girl’s ear.
“We didn’t sleep until very late.” Jill pointed to her lip and bit it.
Kirsten glanced at Ethan and turned crimson. Ethan raised a curious eyebrow. Jill knew he would ask later what she said, but for the present, she just smiled at him and took the seat next to her girlfriend. Ethan looked straight at her but shook his head in bewilderment and set down the briefcase between his feet.
Breakfast was good, all eggs, biscuits and plenty of bacon, but after breakfast they learned that Lars had loaded up the wagon and hitched up the horse for a trip to town. They were going for a ride and Angelica and Kirsten were coming as well, to shop.
Jill caught Ethan’s nervous glance. They both knew it could get tricky if they were asked too many questions about a town they had never been to; but she patted Ethan’s hand to reassure him and he nodded once to indicate that if it came up, they would think of something. Jill knew that their explanations for things at times might get extremely thin, but she felt confident that Ethan’s experience in marketing and public relations would not let him down.
The road, if that two-rutted, rock-strewn excuse for a horse path could be called a road, left them all shaken. Angelica sat up top beside Lars on the springboard, which shielded her, and Lars from the worst of the bumps. Kirsten rode in the back with Jill and Ethan, and since Kirsten seemed to take her beating in stride, Jill tried to mirror that same attitude.
In only an hour of bumps and jumps, they started to see houses, neat wood framed buildings set out in straight rows on both sides of the improving road. A short while later, they came to the edge of the town and crossed the railroad tracks beside the train station where two freight cars were linked to a steam engine that sent up occasional great billows of smoke. Downtown was only one street long, but it was long enough to receive traffic from a dozen residential roads. It looked to Jill like a picture out of some Victorian album. She pointed out several things that were peculiar to Victorian architecture and Ethan nodded but held his tongue. She was glad about that. He was learning.
Lars guided his horse into a barn-like structure where a gangly young boy caught the horse by its bridal. “Just water and a bit of feed.” Lars said. “We will be going home in the afternoon.” The boy nodded and held the horse steady while Ethan and Jill followed Kirsten down and out of the wagon, slowly. They were all bruised.
“I think we better go to the station first and see what time the train can take us back to New Amsterdam.” Ethan suggested while he stretched out the kink in his back. Jill hugged Kirsten and gave her some womanly advice about marriage, and she hugged Angelica as well.
“I never expected to find an Anglish person here.” Jill said.
Angelica took a quick step back. “I used to be Anglish,” she said softly, and she looked down at her own dowdy boots and turned one toe in the dirt.