There was snow everywhere. Marta and I were breaking trail down to the sheep station with gifts for the people down there. The old year was past and with the coming new year, we had a few rewards for people. It was good to see the lights of the station as we came out of the woods onto a brushed path.
Sensa met us on the path with "Hello, Papa Indio. We hoped you'd come today." I had not forgotten that I was her name-father. Deodato and Jacob had asked me to preside over her naming ceremony.
"Sensa, it is good to see you with rosy cheeks playing outside. Are you over your sickness now?". Sensa had been laid low a week ago with a mysterious fever, but Abe had put her to rights.
"Oh yes. Dr. Abraham give me some horrid tasting stuff, and I got better."
"I've tasted some of his remedies myself, and I'd rather be healthy than take any more of them.
By this time we had reached the veranda, and Sensa dragged us into the warmth with our bundles. As we doffed out winter gear and laid aside our packages in the mud room, Sensa called out, "Father, Rudi, the seniors are here."
As we walked into the vestibule, Rudi came in with cups of mulled wine. "Here is something from 'Stasia to warm your insides. Enjoy."
We followed Rudi into the main room and found a large gathering of the shepherds and hunters. There was a general hubbub of greeting.
Anastasia grabbed Marta, and hustled her off to the station kitchen where the women were working on something that certainly smelled savory and spicy. The men were left with the older children. I gathered all the young ones were either asleep or with their mothers.
"A happy new year to you all", I said. "The previous year was quite successful, and this gathering certainly looks prosperous."
Rudi looked happier than he ordinarily does. "She's not showing yet, but we are pretty sure 'Stasia is with child."
"Good news. What has Louisa said?"
"We haven't consulted her yet. You know that we had no problems with Trudi. I am hoping for a son this time. We'll need a boy soon to look after the home sheep fold."
"Now that's a mercenary attitude. You know he'll have to be at least six before he can do that even with Shep or his own dog. And speaking of Shep, did you ever find him a mate?"
"He sure did", put in Max. "You remember that pair of feral dogs we tamed for the hunt? Well, the female got herself involved with Shep, and there is a litter of pups about a year old down in the barn. You should go see them. Very nice and quite tame."
"Do you think they'll be herding dogs?"
"Without doubt", said Rudi. "They herd the children whenever they get a chance. Any one of them will do it. In a pack, they can be quite insistent. Know anyone who wants a pup?"
Just then, Serpina walked into the room and announced in a formal voice, "Dinner is served".
The ladies all came in, and we formed a line, two by two, to proceed to the dining room. You would think we were the highest nobility rather than a bunch of outcasts.