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While his demeanor appeared to be easy and relaxed as he leaned against a post in front of the Belle-St. Regis Hotel, Jonah was actually a bit nervous. Not that he particularly was intimidated or enamored by the lady he was waiting for, but still, the 'date' was important to him getting settled in town here. And he was interested in making a good impression where a lady was involved! Having just come from Sunday services at the Methodist church, he was in the best clothes he had -- dark slacks, white linen shirt with onyx cufflinks, a black and maroon brocade vest under a maroon jacket and a narrow black bowtie. His flat-brimmed hat sat on his head at a bit of a cocky angle. (Think Ezra Standish!). Unlike many people, though, he was comfortable in the clothes, and quite honestly would dress dapper all the time if he could afford it. As he waited for Miz Harriet, he looked over the town, allowing as how it seemed like it was going to be the change of pace that he really needed!
Shade reined Lakota in, pulled his hat off and ran a hand through his thick dark hair to loosen the sweat. He unhooked his canteen from the saddle horn and took a long drink of water before soaking his bandana and wiping his face with it. He had spent the day riding fence along the ranch's southern border. It was time to ride for home. He was looking forward to dinner and relaxing in the evening. With that in mind, Shade touched his heels to Lakota's flanks and headed the horse toward the river and the road home. They had just crossed the Chogun at one of its lower fords when Lakota threw up his head, his nostrils flaring in and out with the scent of something he did not like. At about the same time, Shade saw the vultures circling overhead in the adjacent meadow. He sighed and patted the horse's glossy neck, "Guess our dinner will have to wait for a bit," he told the animal. A few yards beyond the road, the wind shifted bringing with it the smell of some large decomposing animal. Lakota's reluctance to continue forward was palpable, but Shade kept him moving. The reason for the horrible smell soon became apparent. Lying in the thick meadow grass was the half-eaten carcass of one of Lost Lake's cows. Shade dismounted from Lakota's back and dropped the reins to ground tie the big horse. Reaching across the saddle, he slid his Winchester from its scabbard and levered a round into the chamber just in case the killer or killers were still in the vicinity. Cautiously, he approached the downed animal. The vultures took little notice of him and he of them. They and the insects that consumed the dead were nature's cleaning crew after all. Shade stopped where he could see the animal's wounds, the stench of rotting flesh driving him to again remove his bandana. This time he tied it around his lower face to help filter the noxious odors. Picking up a stick, he used it to fend off a few of the more determined vultures, telling them as he moved closer, "Go on, you can have it back in a minute." After examining the carcass, Shade walked around the animal, widening out in a gradual spiral. The thick meadow grass made tracking nearly impossible and then he got lucky, spotting a muddy spot where other animals had trodden a small area into a patch of mud. The track he saw was very distinct, a firm imprint that left no doubt about what had killed the cow. Shade crouched and laid his hand next to the track in the mud. It was definitely the track of a bear, but like no bear Shade had ever seen or heard about. The depth of the track suggested the animal was half-again as large as a grizzly. Standing up, he walked back to the carcass and gingerly examined it again. Sure enough, its neck was broken, and the spine was bitten clean into. Shade walked back to Lakota and returned the rifle to its scabbard. Grabbing a hank of mane, he vaulted into the saddle. Lost Lake riders would have to go armed, and they would need to get word to the other ranches that there might be an unusually large killer grizzly in the area. Setting heels to flank, Shade sent Lakota toward Ishmael's Gate at a brisk canter.
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.