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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!"
Pronto Pike had left Virginia City Nevada and headed north for Montana, Kalispell Montana to be exact. But Pronto Pike would not make a direct line from Nevada to Kalispell, no, he would swing west to see an old friend somewhat farther north. True, he’d then have to turn east, then south to reach this new town Cap had told him about. The ride was a long one, but Pronto was in to hurry to get anywhere. The big strike? Well, he’d had enough of boom towns, and with his one-third interest in the Yellow Jacket mine, he was more than comfortable as a man of simple tastes, and few needs. Though, should he like what he saw in Kalispell, well, he could invest in land, or perhaps a business. The thought of his own spread was a sobering one. He’d never had more than what fits in his saddlebags, war bag, or, was rolled up in his soogan. Oh, he’d had two or three horse remuda a time or two. But mostly one horse, his guns and maybe a change of clothes. So having a place to light and set other than another man’s outfit seemed a stretch. The trip to his friend Nolan Woods’ place coved both desolate and beautiful country. It included working on a number of spreads for twenty-five dollars and found, meals and a bunk. The money was spent on supplies when in a town along the way. Nolan Woods lived on five hundred acres. His intent had been to run cattle, but since there was a herd of buffalo that called the range home, he had held off convinced there was more than enough time to get back to work. Pronto stayed a week, then saddled up and rode out, swinging due east toward a trail that would lead him to this Kalispell town.