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The dance was in full swing and going well. The floor was not overly crowded thanks to Ezra Hale's superb planning in laying it all. He had learned from years past that the dance was a very popular event. A standard-sized dance floor would not nearly accommodate everyone, so he had made this one half-again as large as its predecessors. This year, refreshments were served at the edge of the food tent instead of setting the table up on the floor, leaving more space for dancing. Picnic tables and benches for seating were scattered on the ground around the perimeter of the dais so those taking a break could relax and watch the dancing. After only three years, the Kalispell Founder's Day Celebration was becoming the talk of the region and the event of the summer season. Shade finished the lively square dance with a flourish and returned the lovely Annie Boone to her husband, thanking Gabe for allowing him to dance with his wife. He sauntered off the dance floor and toward the long punch table, surreptitiously surveying the on-hand choices for the next dance. Unlike many men that protested they could neither dance or enjoyed dancing, Shade was both a good dancer and liked it. His mother had made sure both of her sons could acquit themselves well on the dance floor. After many years of living life on the drift, Shade had looked forward to the weekly socials and town gatherings for companionship and a bit of fun. This was his first opportunity to really meet the majority of Kalispell's residents, and he had enjoyed it so far. Without hesitation, Shade headed toward the young lady that he hoped would agree to the next dance. He also hoped that dancing would soften her up for an offer he wanted to make to her. Of course, he thought wryly, softening Clara Redmond up with a simple dance was highly unlikely. He would need to be on his toes, not hers, figuratively and literally. Clara looked pretty in a dress of a reddish-brown color that Shade knew was technically called maroon. It offset the rich dark brown of her hair. Clara Redmond was going to grow into a beautiful young woman, he thought. Shade reached out to gently tug one of the dark plaits hanging over her shoulders, "Miss Clara, would you like to dance?" They had agreed to call one another by their first names earlier but chose to be more formal, so that she understood he was taking the request seriously and not presuming anything. Big crowd, good food, bunch of folks dancing away with each tune but for Clara, no luck thus far. One boy who might have been her age had been staring at her for awhile but when he might have been ready to head her way, another friend of his tugged him away and they both headed outside, no doubt for some sort of juvenile boy mischief Clara sourly noted. She would have turned him down anyhow...or so she told herself now. Just then a slight tug on one of her pigtails, having its desired effect, she spun about convinced it was her little brother playing that same old trick which never failed to amuse him. Probably because it always drew her angry reaction which is what her father had been trying to tell her. Ignore him was his bright idea. Parents.............. But it was Shade and her glare vanished even as she stopped before even launching any of her angry invective at what was now obviously NOT her brother. "Shade. Is that how you sneak up on a lady where you come from?" she inquired but it had sunk by then he was asking her for of all things.......a dance! She had seen him out there, dancing away with various women, both he and his varied partners seemingly enjoying themselves and really he was quite the dancer....well for a man of course. "Me?" she swallowed, momentarily at a loss for words, not something that happened to her much. "Well.....yes, I suppose.....I do not know how to square dance though I should warn you. It all looks rather complicated," she admitted truthfully. Shade smiled at the girl, his eyes warm and friendly, "Truthfully, I prefer the country waltzes to the square dancing. We can have a glass of punch and wait for one of those if you like." The band had played several square dances and Ezra, who was doing the calling, had taken a break. It was likely they would perform some different style of dance music when they restarted. That brought a smile to the girl's pert features, "Oh me too. My mother taught me the waltz, I can do those." The two of them sidled over to the punch bowl, Clara hoping everyone was looking at them so they could see she had a man at her side, paying attention to her. Pausing at the bowl, she decided it would be proper for the gentleman to provide the drinks and waited, heart pounding. Shade picked up the ladle and one of the punch glasses. He deftly filled it and offered it to Clara before filling another one for himself. Once they had their drinks, he gestured toward a couple of chairs where they could sit and wait for their dance. Once settled, he gave the girl a once-over with his deep blue eyes, "I hope you did not take any hurt from the scuffle in the drinks tent?" "Thank you kind sir," Clara took the glass offered to her then and followed him over to the chairs on the side of the dance floor, the current dance was another square dance so they had agreed to wait for something more suitable....that is something she could do. "That? I am fine. Few bruises," she gave it a shrug then continued, "You worry about me too much. I will have you know I was shot in the chest by an Indian arrow. Close range. The doctor thought I was going to die, said as much to my father. But father replied that I was too stubborn to die...pretty much the right of it." "However you took a few shots I see. You should be blocking those with your fists or arms not your face," she smiled. Shade blinked at Clara and then laughed quietly. The girl definitely had moxie! "You're right, ma'am, I should have made a better job of it." He winked at her, "You sure you want to be seen on the dance floor with such a disreputable varmint because it sounds like they are playing our dance?" The band had finished the square dance and had struck up a slow, lilting country waltz. Clara sipped her punch, honestly she wasn't even paying any attention to how it tasted, her full focus was on Shade. "I thought those days were behind you. And besides you promised me a dance and you will not get out of it that easily," Clara replied. Sure enough the music had changed, glancing from Shade for a second, she could see various couples now commencing steps like her mother had taught her. Of course that had been in their own home and there hadn't been any actual music. She suddenly stood and placed her glass down upon the chair then held out her hand for him to take and lead her on out there. Try as she might to actual all calm and reserved, her heart was racing. She was going to dance with a man! "Those days are never completely behind you," Shade said solemnly as he stood up. He took both of their glasses to the table and then returned, offering his arm to Clara. "Dance with me." He smiled at her. "My pleasure," she beamed. The floor was not horribly crowded as most of the dancers had gone to sit down or get refreshments after the enthusiastic square dances. Shade twirled Clara into the country waltz, stepping close but not overly so. Despite a life on the drift, he had been raised well and taught to be a gentleman. For the moment, the rough cowboy took a back seat to the gentleman rancher.
Just her luck that it would be raining... Even clad in her long oil slicker, Addy wasn't much protected from the rain, and water sheeted off her hat, down her long coat, soaking the hem of her wool skirt, not that it mattered much, the muddy ground was doing a fine job of weighing the skirts down as she checked over the harness that secured the four huge draft horses to the red Concord coach that she was about to drive to Kailspell. It wasn't that she didn't trust the man who had hitched the team, but ultimately, it was her responsibility to see to the safety of the coach and the passengers it carried, so here she was, running her hands over the polished leather, her eyes following the path of her fingers. As she was doing that, Hank, the station manager, was loading trunks on top of the coach -- those would be covered with an oil cloth to keep them dry -- while the passengers waited in the relative protection of the station overhang. There was a couple...together, but not attached, from the way they spoke quietly to each other, and a young woman with a babe in arms who was going to meet up with her husband, as well as a middle-aged man with a satchel that he insisted on keeping with him...a light load, less fuss... Finally, the luggage was loaded and the stage checked over, so Addy opened the door. "All right, folks, climb on in, best get this goin'." "Very well then," Matilda nodded then glanced over to the bearded man sitting next to her, looking quite bored about it all. All the passengers got up at the same time. "Hold the door for the young lady," Matilda directed Ralph who complied with a nod even giving her a smile as the young miss hurried for the stagecoach door. Meanwhile Matilda adjusted a waterproofed cape , leastwise her fine Eastern boardwalk dress wouldn't get wet...make that too wet as she headed out the, her shoes splattering in the mud. Traveling by stage was unpleasant enough but then to make it worse they have to get this godawful weather. The downpour did function to hurry the foursome along and very soon all of them were seated inside the confines of the coach. On the side closest to the driver sat the two women, opposite them both men. "Ready!" Ralph called on out for the sake of the driver who had looked and sounded for all the world like a woman? "There's buffalo robes under th' seats if ya need 'em," Addy announced as she shut the door. Sure, it was middle of Summer, but this was Montana, and anything could happen! She climbed into the driver's seat then gathered the ribbons and clucked to the big animals, who threw their chests into the harness and in a moment the coach was moving. Tethered behind was her own mount, a little bay mare...this was Addy's last run out of this particular station, she was going to relocate to Kalispell and run the swing station there, so she had her possessions, such as they were, with her. In the coach, the young woman let out a little gasp as the coach started moving, then blushed. "I'll never get used to that," she muttered by way of apology, adjusting the infant in her lap. "At least this is the last leg. I'll be glad to done with any sort of travel!" "Can't blame you there." The man chuckled, then nodded to the pair across from them. "I'm Jonah Danforth. Pleased to be traveling with you." "Long trip then, not many would try it with a babe to also tend to I'd venture?" Matilda nodded acknowledgement to the young mother. Ralph eyed the amused other male passenger like he was sizing him up for...well, something. Then with a barely noticeable shrug he decided to reply. "Mr. Danforth, I'm Ralph Flandry late of Chicago and this is my business associate, Miss Matilda Devereau, " he got right to the introductions. Matilda flashed a well practiced smile, "Pleased to make your acquaintance." "Sir, Ma'am." Danforth tipped his hat, then glanced at the young woman. "Miss Devereau is right, this is daunting enough without a babe to tend to...and they say that women are the 'weaker' sex." He chuckled. "Women are quite hardy, more than most men, I believe!" Lucky for him, he included that last line or Matilda would have given him an earful. "Thank you." The woman blushed, adjusting her hold on the baby slightly. "I'm Mrs. Ernest Ford. My husband works in Kalispell...he went ahead to make certain everything was set up for us." "Your baby is beautiful," Matilda smiled more at the infant than the woman. She could not help but recall her own baby. "I'm sure you'll be happy to see him." Danforth smiled, then glanced at Ralph. "Might I inquire as to your business?" "You might. We bought the saloon in Kalispell. It's going to be the Stardust Saloon once we get there, even got a brand new painted sign for up on the stage roof," Ralph declared. "Ah, a saloon." Danforth smiled and patted the bag at his side. "That will keep me in business as well...I'm a doctor, you see, and saloons, well..." Ralph wasn't sure he liked that comment much but he was determined to be on his best behavior here in the close confines of a long already uncomfortable ride. Besides it wouldn't do to punch the man out with a sleeping baby a couple feet away. "Doctor, every town needs at least one," Matilda smiled. She'd let him ponder if she meant doctors or saloons. Danforth shrugged, then glanced at Mrs. Ford. "And if you ever need anything for your beautiful daughter there, I am at your disposal." -------------- As the stage rolled on, the wheels splattered up mud on the pretty red paint, the going was actually fairly smooth, and Addy hunkered down, resigned to the rain. At least it was better than snow, and she hoped that they would drive out of it as they descended from the mountains, although judging from the warmth in the air, it was likely to be on the hot side farther down. Resigned to the rain, and all the trouble and clean-up that was going to come along with it, Addy started hum a little ditty -- no sense in pining -- and her mood lightened. After all, she was doing what she loved, wasn't tied down by the constraints of family and home, out in nature... Well, all right, she conceded in her mind as she rounded a bend only to find the road blocked by a downed branch. It really wasn't much, just enough to be in the way so that she'd have to move it. They had stopped for some reason, there was no town out there and not even a way station? Ralph peered out the window, now what and his hand went to grip his revolver handle though he did not pull it. Sighing, she set the brake, then clamored down from the seat. "Gonna be just a minnet, folks," she called. "Rain's let up, mostly, if any of ya need a pee break!" "I am fine," Matilda let the group know, Ralph shook his head in the negative also. Her boots squashes as she mucked through the thick mud and once the suction threatened to keep her boot, and she had to reach out a hand against the rump of the nearest horse to stop herself from falling. "Sorry, Mike," she muttered to the horse, but that didn't stop him from swatting his tail around, the bristly ends catching her in the face! "No oats fer you tanight," she grumbled, pushing away and shaking her head. Matilda glanced out to see what the driver was doing then spoke to Ralph, "Get out there and help her. Road's blocked with some tree branch." "Me?" Ralph blinked. "No...the baby....of course you. Get out there, I'm not getting this dress dirty," Tildy prodded him with a glare. Ralph sighed, knowing arguing with that woman was futile but so sooner had opened the door when he noticed she was basically finished with the wet muddy task. He sat back down and then reached for a cigar. "She's done it already. Think I'll have a smoke to celebrate," he reached for his matches box. While he was of a mind with Ralph and had no desire to get out and wallow in mud, Jonah was a gentleman and would have gone to help of the driver had needed it. But then Ralph announced that she had cleared the problem and he settled back. Moving the debris took a few minutes, and it wasn't too difficult, in fact, Addy was feeling pretty proud of herself when gravity intervened and her boot stuck again, only this time she was too far away to grab anything for support and she pitched forward into the mud. "Dang nabbit! Now, there just weren't no call fer that!" Struggling to her feet, she stomped back to the coach, climbed back to the box and continued on. ++++++++ Addy had been right, as the coach descended from the mountains, the sky cleared and the weather warmed, although even after shrugging out of the muddy slicker, Addy was still pretty much drenched, especially around her shoulders and neck where water had dripped from the brim of her hat. But it was getting warmer, so that would dry, and what didn't now could be laid out in front of the fire at the station stop in a couple hours. Inside the coach, it was starting to get a bit stuffy, but the passengers were fortunate, they could open the curtains without being choked by dust since the road was still damp. Tall trees provided shade, so for now, the journey had become rather pleasant. "I will be glad to get to this...Kalispell," Jonah muttered, "even though it's smaller than what I'm accustomed to, I'm looking forward to the change...Omaha was getting to be...stifling." "Never been there," Matilda shrugged. If Ralph had been he would have said so. The baby had started to fuss, even after being discretely fed, and he reached in his bag, pulling out a peppermint stick. "Here, Ma'am, try this." As Mrs. Ford smiled and muttered her thanks, he held the small paper bag to the other passengers. "There are lemon drops, peppermints, licorice...the best medicine of all!" Matilda reached for the bag, "I will have a lemon drop, thank you, Doctor." "No thanks, unless you got some whiskey flavored candy in there," Ralph waved it off. Danforth chuckled and shook his head. "Short of butter rum, and I don't have any of those." Actually, he was a little surprised that the man didn't have a flask, and had there not been ladies present, he would have offered his own. Once they reached the station, if there wasn't the offer of liquor... "And Ma'am," He turned his attention to Matilda, "you have not missed a thing by never going to Omaha, and if you had the urge to roam, I'd suggest San Francisco, or even Sacramento." It was only a few minutes later that the stage slowed to a stop and the driver called down, "This is fer th' night, folks!"
Speed Guyer had finally arrived in the town of Kalispell, a long trip indeed. First thing was to secure lodging, which had been easy enough. A room at the White Rose Inn and Boarding House. Somewhat cheaper than the Belle St. Regis and he had a room overlooking the street. Next stop, the bank to have his funds forwarded to Kalispell. Then he took a ride to familiarize himself with the town and it’s immediate area, keeping an eye to possible mineral deposits. The ride took the better part of Friday, but what it yielded was the feeling that this might be the place where he’d settle for the immediate future. He put the roan up at the livery and proceeded to the boarding house. That evening he learned of the Founders Day Celebration the following day, and that sounded good, a festival atmosphere would be great after the long weeks on the trail. Also that evening he arranged for a bath to wash the trail from his body. Following that, he brushed out his suit. He would dress in clothing meant for town life, and not the trail. Though he had brogans, he preferred boots, as he would still likely use his horse to get about. Once he was ready for the morning, he climbed into a real bed for the first time in nearly a month. In moment Henry Speed Guyer was fast asleep. Come the morning Speed had breakfast and obtained a copy of the latest newspaper, which he took to his room and read cover to cover. The best way to get all the local news, happenings and opinions. He was in no real hurry to get to the fairgrounds, as it was evident the celebration would go well past the evening. Instead, he spent most of the afternoon re-reading items that had stuck with him. There was some talk of mineral deposits in the area, and there was mention of a prospector by the name of Robert Cullen. Speed would certainly need to meet with this fellow and see what information he might be willing to impart to him. Satisfied, he folded the newspaper and laid in on the table in his room and decided to get his horse and ride out to this celebration.