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Robert Cullen

A Chance Encounter

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Scene Rating: PG
Scene Type: Joint Scene
Characters: Robert Cullen, Cecilia Atwood
Location: Kalispell, Montana
Timeline: July 1875

Originally published on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 @ 12:28am


Robert didn't spend a lot of time in town, not because he didn't like the place but because he lived a few miles outside of the community and that was also where he spent most of his daylight hours panning for gold. Just once he had gotten a small amount of the precious stuff sifted from a creek bottom, but that gave him only enough money once he exchanged it to tide over his personal expenses for a few weeks. No, the idea was to strike it rich so there was nothing he could do but keep searching. On this day though, he had stopped in at the General Store to buy some more beans and salt pork. He had eyed the coffee but decided it was too expensive when he could drink water for free. Someday though. 

On his way back to where his mule, Abercrombie, was hitched up the young Irishman paused for a brief second to peek into the local saloon. It was so tempting to take what few coins he had left and buy himself a drink....just one drink. His father had drank himself to death, in the end, so liquor was not unknown to him naturally enough, and on occasion, he did imbibe, but fortunately, he was not an alcoholic and really didn't wish to go down that downward spiraling road.

"Hey, get outta the way or go on in, make up yer damn mind," came a harsh voice behind him.

Robert turned to see a man probably a good five-six years older than he wearing one of those blacksmith aprons with rolled-up shirt sleeves showing thick arms. He was dirty and sweating no doubt from engaging in some blacksmithing just prior to heading for this place. The man had a scraggly red beard, shorn red hair, hard eyes, and a few missing teeth in that big mouth of his. He was obviously in a bad mood.

"Beggin' me pardon," Robert excused himself in that Irish accent of his, granted he had lived most of his life in the states but around his family they'd still were greatly influenced by the parents who had spent a large part of their lives in the home country, Ireland.

The young drifter stepped aside, having decided he would not take a drink this day, mostly decided by this surly fellow's attitude. The man glared at him though instead of walking into the saloon.

"Oh lordy, have we got us yet another damn Irish in town? Whole country is overrun with you sorts," he snarled.

Robert had no idea why exactly all the hostility but on the other hand he had run into such before throughout his travels. Some folks seemed to have it in for the Irish in particular amongst all the immigrants. Maybe because there were so many of them? 

"I don' be livin' in town, but if I did, there would be no law agin' it, would there?" Robert was shorter and lighter than this fellow, but that didn't mean he was afraid of the man.

The redhead took that as a challenge, maybe it was too, "Don't you go jawing to me, you little bastard or I'll take you and stuff your Irish carcass in that there barrel."

He pointed a meaty finger to some empty barrel in the nearby alley then instantly followed that up with a one-handed push into Robert's chest.

"Tell me.....you take after the animals you work with, do ya? You sure do remind me of a jackass," Robert stood his ground but tensed for what he was quite certain would be the hothead's reaction.

Sure enough, it was on now, neither were about to back down.

"Step in that alley, Papist, and I will learn you a hard lesson in manners," the smith snapped.

"If you be insistin' then, let's do it," Robert flashed a defiant smirk then the two of them left the front of the saloon to end up facing each other in the alley.

The blacksmith threw off his apron and readied himself, "I'm gonna enjoy this."

Robert assumed a fighting stance, fists up in front of his face, "Is this a fight or a conversation...mate?"

For the moment neither of them noticed they had attracted an audience of one in the alleyway entrance.

Cecilia walked through the market, basket in hand. The manager of the general store had promised her the delivery of more spices today, and she didn't want to miss out. They had long since run out of cinnamon and nutmeg in their larder, and the sugar was dwindling as well. She had promised her Pa an applesauce cake to go with supper, and she wasn't about to disappoint her daddy.

The footpath boards echoed beneath her heeled boots as she followed the course toward the general store. She slowed her pace as she came upon the saloon, desperate to get a look inside. However, the sound of a scuffle nearby drew her attention instead. Quietly, Sissy peeked around the corner into the alleyway. 

Her eyes widened, and a gasp escaped her as she viewed the scene. "That ain't a fair fight!" she cried out before she could stop herself. She clapped her gloved hand over her mouth to stifle any further outbursts. The burly, tawny-haired man looked as if he might clobber the other once and that would be the end of him. 

She doubted either would pay her any mind as they both made ready to tear the other apart.

There was a startled female voice then, both mens' eyes swiveled to the alleyway entrance, and there was a well dressed young lady with a gloved hand over her mouth, no doubt shocked at this sight of conflict. Robert couldn't help but smile at her, even at this instant sighting he could see she was around his age and quite fetching to gaze upon too.

"Don' worry yerself none, miss, I'll be tryin' ta go easy on 'im," he declared.

That quip cost him though as the blacksmith's assistant took advantage of his opponent's distraction to land the first punch, a solid jab right to Robert's face. The young Irishman recoiled back and could already feel the blood coming from his nose. Seeking to press his advantage the other bigger man began throwing more punches. A few Robert blocked, especially an attempted haymaker to his face but a couple others hit him with brute force in the ribs and shoulders. Robert knew it was time to stop taking it and start dishing it out.

Of course, Cecilia was going to worry! The brute was going to maul the Irishman, and she couldn't do a thing to stop it. 

She shouted for the man to watch himself, but it was too late. The burly man landed a punch. 

"Stop it! Both of you!" she cried, stepping into the alleyway. Her hands had balled into fists so tight that she cracked the woven handle of her basket. 

Sissy stomped her foot indignantly as the men, the brutish one especially, refused to listen. It was with great frustration that she did the unthinkable. She chucked her basket straight at the large man's face and hit him square in the nose. 

"Wha?" the blacksmith's assistant wasn't hurt by the wicker basket, but it did serve a purpose as it was just enough distraction to give Robert the opening he was looking for and he did not miss his golden opportunity either. First, he lashed out with a hard jab into the man's face then followed up with a step forward and planted a completely unexpected knee right between his opponent's legs. Stunned and in pain, the man dropped to his knees his hands going down, way too late, to protect his aching groin. Robert wasn't quite finished yet though. Given his fighting experience, you keep on your opponent til it's clear cut he's down, and it's finished. He aimed a roundhouse right and connected with the fellow right in the side of his face. The man crumpled into the alley, down and out. The fight was over just like that.

Rubbing his knuckles from that punch, Robert paused to assess his opponent's condition, the guy was still breathing, thank the Lord. It was time to clear on out of the alley, but first, there was the young woman to address as he turned to face her.

"Sorry, miss...you hadda see that. Jus' wanna say I dinna start it is all," he wanted her to know, as he now wiped his still bleeding nostrils with the sleeve of his shirt, the blood had spattered over the front of his shirt too. But the nose didn't feel broken, so he figured he got off lucky.

"Nice throw," he added with a grin.

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Cecilia stood there in shock. What she meant as an aid in the lithe man's escape turned out to be the brawny man's downfall.

"Oh, foot!" she cursed as the smaller of the two men beat the tar out of the other. She winced watching the ruddy-haired man get pummeled, feeling like a fool for interfering.

However, before she could find a way to intervene, the brawl had ended with the burly man knocked out cold on the ally floor.

"You ain't right!" she snapped at the Irishman, "Perhaps it is you who is the brute after all!"

She knelt next to the large man, checking for breath. Satisfied that he would merely wake up with a splitting headache, she exited the alley.

"Are you hurt badly?" she asked Irishman, a gloved hand coming to his chin to tip back his head to inspect his nose. "You're a right mess." Sissy declared, taking back her hand and pursing her lips.

Robert blinked, for someone who had helped him there at the sacrifice of her little wicker basket too, she certainly appeared to be unhappy with the result. He did have to smile a little though, "First time anyone ever called me a brute, missie. But I don't argue with a lass."

He watched as she checked over the bearded man and like him, seemed satisfied the man was alright, well except for the part about being unconscious. Those were the risks though when you pick a fight. It could have just as easily been him on the ground there, and Robert realized it full well. Then she came right up to him. He braced himself for a possible hard slap across his face for....ummm, daring to defend himself? But her anger seemed to have eased as she used one gloved hand to tip his head up for a quick inspection of his face.

"No miss, I been hurt a whole lot worse'n this little scrape. All the blood just makes it look worse'n it is. I'll be fine," he assured her.

"You're a mess in the head too, I think," Sissy chuckled, shaking her head. She had only meant to help the Irishman escape the blacksmith's assistant, not knock him out.

Cecilia plucked a clean white handkerchief from her pocket. "Here, allow me," she said, gently wiping the blood from his face. 

The sound of a deep groan made the young lady peer back into the alleyway. The red-haired man was coming to. 

"We ought to skedaddle before he awakes!" she told the Irishman, her voice sounding a bit frightened. Cecilia worried what might happen to both of them should they stick around much longer.

Actually, he had been knocked a bit witless on occasion with a hard punch or fall, but his head was fine right now, the chuckle though gave it away she wasn't quite serious. Amazingly, she used a nice hanky of hers to begin wiping blood from his face, he had not expected such attention. She was so obviously above his station in life. Then his defeated opponent made some noise and that spoiled that, she wanted to leave quickly, though that did make sense, he didn't want to hang around in case the man had friends. 

"Aye, I agree, miss. You go your way, I mine. Thankye again for yer kindness," he flashed a sincere smile and started to walk away. It had certainly been an interesting day this one! Worth the punches even.

"Well, ain't you just precious!" she scoffed, hands coming to her hips. Part of her wished to retrieve her basket so she might have something to chuck at his head as well. 

"Ummm, if you say so," Robert shrugged and took another few steps, but she wasn't done. 

"Now wait just a cotton pickin' minute," Sissy called after him, "Is that any way to thank a lady?" She quickly caught up to him and reached out to stop him.

He came to a stop.

"Won't you help me carry my things home from the general store? I was on my way there before I wrecked my basket," she asked, her tone sweet. She might have batted her lashes at him too, though she doubted she needed the effect.

"Your things?" Robert considered the size of that now-ruined basket, it hadn't been very big. Certainly, she didn't have that much to carry? 

"You want me to go with you inta the store then take your things back to your house?" he wanted to be certain he was grasping this rather stunning request. She said it herself - he was a mess, his hands were bloodstained but most important of all, she was obviously a proper fancy young lady way above being seen in mixed company with the likes of his lowly self.

"Yes. How else do you plan to thank me for savin' your hide?" she smirked at him, "You would have lost the brawl without me, you know."

She couldn't hide her grin as she awaited his retort for injuring his ego.

"Is that what ye think, miss?" he just rolled his eyes.

"C'mon now, don't keep me waitin'." she smiled at him and slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow. 

This gal was definitely not taking 'no' for an answer. They both could get into trouble for this? 

She took note of his bloodstained hands and tutted at him, "Maybe we ought to stop at the bathhouse first before I let you put your paws all over my sugar?"

"Bathhouse? I can't afford to pay for no bath. I live near a stream, and I use that...no cost," he quickly pointed out. Money was very tight for him, every penny even.

Cecilia frowned at him and released him from her gentle hold. "It's not every day a girl makes a new friend 'round her own age."

They were suddenly friends? What was she up to? They were of two different worlds. Robert would be even more suspicious except ...well, she was rather pretty.

"It was gonna be my treat, but I understand," she said, the disappointment evident in her voice. She let out an inaudible sigh and stepped away from him.

"Your treat?" the young man repeated her words.

"I reckon I'll see you around then." She rubbed her pout together and gave him a small nod of her head before turning her back on him.

Pa's applesauce cake wasn't going to make itself!

"Ummmm, wait ...ahh, miss..." Robert paused, why he didn't even know her name or her his.

She paused and nodded in answer to him, "I didn't expect a young man who fights in alleyways to afford a proper bath." Sissy wasn't just a pretty face. She knew she was well off than most, but she wasn't stuck up about it. 

That was a mite unfair, he considered. He'd witnessed many menfolk settle their disputes with fights, and they were of all classes. But he chose not to argue. 

The Irishman seemed like a jovial spirit, and although he was probably more trouble than he was worth, she wanted to know him. Cecilia wanted to know the man she'd broke her basket for.

"Might I ask yer name given we are....or were....friends already?" he truly was curious. He had never met anyone like her, that was for certain.

"Cecilia Atwood," she answered, "And yours?"

"Miss Atwood," he nodded, he would have removed his hat, but he didn't have one.

"Robert....Robert Cullen...tis a pleasure ta meet ya, Miss Atwood," once more he smiled, hoping his charm might make up for his less than impressive appearance.

She couldn't help but return his smile with one of her very own. She found his charm alluring, and she was drawn to it.

"Likewise," she replied. "You know, I am pleased it wasn't you knocked unconscious in that alley back there. Though, I do hope you're more careful. I wouldn't want to see that handsome face of yours broken."

"I am a mite pleased about that too, miss," he still wasn't sure if he should call her by her first name, she was a proper young lady after all.

Sissy smoothed her hands over her patterned cotton skirts and glanced up the street towards the general store.

The girl couldn't help the frown that wormed its way back onto her face. The saloon alley wasn't far off, and if they didn't get into a or business or off the street before too long, the brute might attempt round two, or worse.

"Perhaps I ought to go. I wouldn't want to keep you from your own business, Mr. Cullen..."

"Oh...ummm, yes...sure. Thankye agin for the help and .....well, who knows....tis a small place, this town....we might just see each other agin I'm thinkin'," Robert stumbled over his thoughts but got it out. Thinking...he meant hoping! Unlikely though, she'd forget him by the next day more likely.

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About Sagas of the Wild West

Sagas of the Wild West is a roleplaying game set in the American Wild West. It is based on the classic television and movie westerns of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. The stories evolve around the women and men in a fictional version of Kalispell, Montana.



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