Other Characters by this Player
There's nothing here yet
He didn't look stupid! Brendan beamed. Some people said he was stupid, but of course they were wrong. He watched the bustle of Caroline's dress as she made her way to the bar, waited on their drinks, and back again, except when she was coming back he was looking at her bust rather than her bustle. Both were quite nice to look at.
"Here ya go, hon! I know you only said one but a big strapping fella like you ain't gonna be satisfied with one glass of beer. And beer makes me piddle too often so I settled for a cheap whiskey."
"Gee, thanks." Brendan grinned, basking in Caroline's praise - until he realized he had to pay for both beers, but it still didn't dampen his spirits too much. He dug in his pockets until he found the equivalent of thirty cents, and then on impulse dug out an extra dime. "Here ya go, Miss Mundee," he said genially, "a little somethin' extra."
He was a little surprised at the way she downed her whiskey, but he'd met a few other girls who could drink it that easily. He drunk his beer at a slightly more sedate pace.
"So," he said after a minute, "how'd you end up here in Kalispell? Or is it too long of a story to tell over two beers?"
Brendan was enjoying the attention from the attractive Miss Mundee. She made him feel like he wasn't just a cowhand. She made him feel like he was somebody important, like a mayor or something. And she had accepted his offer of a drink, which made him feel even more important.
"And as for that drink, you most surely can. But certainly yer gonna drink with me? What would you like then? A beer or some of the hard stuff? We got the cheap stuff fer a thin dime and then some better stuff...from back East for a quarter a shot. And we got the real top shelf stuff for....well, not sure you can afford that."
"Sure, I'm gonna drink with you," Brendan said with a grin. "I wouldn't pass up the chance to buy Miss Mundee a drink and drink with her at the same time. Why, that'd be plumb stupid, and I ain't stupid." He ran his fingers through his forelock and shook his head at the ridiculous notion that he might be stupid. He wasn't stupid.
"As for what I want? Well, that depends on what you want, but I'd rec-commend a beer to wet your throat for your next set. Singin's an awful thirsty job, seems like." And beers were less expensive.
Finally Arabella was willing to take him to meet Caroline Mundee, but she had some advice for him first; advice that shocked Brendan. "A quarter fer a drink!" He was astounded and horrified. "Why not just a whole dollar, then? I'll just have to rely on my wits." Not that that would be a problem, he thought proudly.
She tried to clean off his face, which was entirely unnecessary and probably made him look ridiculous to anyone who happened to be watching. He squirmed as if he was a much younger boy and Arabella was his mother. "Awright, awright, leave off, Arabella," he finally pleaded, and amazingly she did.
Arabella's introduction was everything he could have hoped for, although being referred to as "nice" maybe wasn't what one wanted to hear when trying to woo a woman in a saloon. But Arabella's introduction hastened the departure of Mike Wentworth. Brendan watched as he kissed Caroline's hand, trying to refrain from making a disgusted face.
"I'd be happy t' take your place," he said with a smirk. More than happy; he'd be just tickled pink to take the place of the man who, by all accounts, he should dislike.
But wait, Wentworth was smirking, too. Why? Suddenly the smirk was gone from the Lost Lake foreman's face and his hand was on Brendan's shoulder. "Make sure you remember that she's a lady or you'll be hearing from me."
"A' course she's a lady!" he sputtered, starting to twist away from Mike, but he was already off to the bar, leaving him alone with the lady in question. There should have been a sense of triumph now that Mike was gone, but Mike's obvious warning had dampened the victory. But only slightly. He was here with Caroline now, and Mike wasn't.
"Well then, umm..Brendan ...I forgot yer last name but then I ain't much on last names...take a seat. Don't stand there like yer my butler or somethin. If you got somethin' to say, I'm listenin.'" Caroline's smile was bright and genuine, and it made Brendan feel a lot better about his chances with her.
"Thanks. And it's Connolly," he said with a grin as he slid into the chair Mike had recently vacated. "You might wanna remember it. Anyway, I wanted t' tell you your singin' was right heavenly. It...oh, shoot, I near forgot the reason I come over here. Miss Mundee, c'n I get you a drink?"
@Wayfarer ( @Javia and @JulieS if your characters are both going to stick around and see how this turns out...and possibly play a trick on Brendan?)
Brendan dug in his pocket for a dime and slid it over the counter, then took a big gulp of his beer. It hit the spot, and he sighed appreciatively as Arabella began speaking.
"Sure Mississip’, I’d introduce ya right now if ya like. Least your old pal ‘Bella’ can do for ya!” she smiled, oh so innocently. Well, she didn't seem to outright hate the nickname, but
"Gee, would ya?" He began, but Arabella wasn't done.
Brendan leaned forward to better hear Arabella's secret that she was going to share with him.
"When she’s in here in the evenin’, she’s on. She’s kinda… acting like. Pretending to be someone she ain’t. It’s like when I’m playing the piana, it’s ... it's hard to explain. Anyhow, what I’m getting at is this. If you can get off of that there ranch one mornin’ in the week, ‘bout ten or eleven, that’s when we’d be rehearsin’ in here. If you come in then, you could get to know the real Caroline Mundee."
The real Caroline Mundee? Well, that was an attractive offer. But that would mean he would have to wait, and he didn't like waiting on something like that.
"Well..." he hedged, scratching his chin, "I ain't exactly a mornin' person...and if I'm up in the mornin' I'm busy with the cows. Maybe you could introduce me and then if I can come in to town this week it's a...a extry time I'll get to see her."
After Arabella's enthusiastic greeting, Brendan tried to get his breath back. For a skinny girl, she had quite a grip in her arms. But no sooner had he succeeded in catching his breath than Arabella playing host.
“Welcome to the Stardust Saloon! What do you want to drink? Mr. Flandry don’t let me serve drinks, usually: says I fill ‘em up too full, but we’re so busy tonight, he don’t got any choice!” she beamed.
"Eh, just a beer. And don't you worry none about filling it up too full, now." He leaned against the counter again and watched her with a grin. Of course Mr. Flandry didn't want her to fill them up too full. It was better for business.
As she fixed him his drink, she had an urgent query “Well, Bren’, did you catch the show? Did ya see me playin’ the piana? I was good, wasn’t I?” she asked breathlessly.
Brendan's mouth dropped open and for a moment he looked quite stupid. "Huh?" Arabella had been playing the piano? Arabella had been present at the same time Caroline was dazzling the saloon with her talents? This called for some fast thinking.
"Oh, yeah, I saw the show. And you were playin' the piano, weren't you? You certainly was...uh...well, you was there, yeah. It was somethin' to hear."
He'd barely noticed the piano at the beginning of the show, and by the time it was over, he had forgotten all about it. He wasn't sure whether that was due to Arabella's skill at playing along with a singer, or to Caroline's ability to capture a crowd.
"Say, if you're playin' piano for Miss Mundee, you oughta know her well enough to give me an introduction. How's about it, Bella?" He gave her a winning smile along with a new nickname. It was better than Reb, that was for sure.
The Lost Lake hands were not the only ones who had heard about the Stardust Saloon's new attraction. Brendan was there with a few other hands, but he was sort of by himself since Billy and Greer hadn't come into town. They were doing...something else.
This Caroline girl was quite the singer and quite good-looking. Good-looking everywhere, it turned out when she revealed the upper parts of her legs during her set. Now that was a woman. He looked around, half-expecting to see Clara dressed in similar get-up so he could compare the two. But of course she wasn't there. She probably didn't believe in drinking.
When he glanced back, he had lost his chance to talk to her. She was over being regaled by Charlie's brother, who he had learned after the dance was the foreman at Lost Lake. Well, damn. They were already nice and friendly with each other, and he wasn't sure that interrupting would be a good idea. Sure, he wanted to talk to Caroline, and he wanted to keep Mike from having her, but was it really a good idea to butt in right now?
There had to be some way...he glanced at the bar and saw the back of Arabella's head. Aha.
He went up to the bar, and, ignoring Ralph, leaned on the counter until Arabella came back with some clean glasses. "Psst! Arabella! Reb!" That was what some people called her, wasn't it? He followed that salutation up with a little upward whistle like he would use for getting a horse's attention.
He must be desperate if he was coming to Arabella for help, he realized with a regretful shake of his head.
Well, it was a surprise to Brendan to hear than Arabella lived at the saloon. It was honestly almost a deterrent from going to the saloon, but not quite. He knew he would end up there eventually. He shrugged and drained the last of his beer as he watched Arabella. She did fit in somehow with the rowdy men, and he didn't understand it.
He knew did not want to help Arabella with Charlie. For all he knew, this was some ploy to get him to come along to the mission, too. But Charlie was drunk, and did seem like he needed some sort of help, especially after backtalking his brother? Maybe the man was his father? In his muddled brain, he couldn't tell.
He sidled up beside Charlie and nudged him. "Y'know, when the cards're stacked against ya, there comes a time when it's best to fold. It was nice meetin' you."
Brendan, Charlie, and Arabella (and maybe Benjamin Barlow, but I think he has made his escape?)
Brendan had just started to forget his mistake (or multiple mistakes, rather) with Clara and was just beginning to feel the effects of the combined four? five? six? beers he had inhaled along with Charlie and the Lost Lake hands.
Then who should come marching up but Arabella, holding onto the arm of that army captain who'd been dancing with Bridget. Brendan, rather fuzzily, thought that he should go check on her, but he focused on the more immediate problem. "Oh, Lordy, here comes Arabella," he muttered in warning to the other hands.
But thankfully, the girl went up to Charlie instead of him. And it seemed he had promised Arabella to go to a Catholic mission with her and Bridget? Or at least Arabella thought he had promised that? Brendan shook his head. He really needed to steer clear of Arabella, or he would wind up promising her the moon.
“Do I smell or sumthin?! My men always run away from me! I mean, look at me: I can sing, I can play the pianna and tell funny jokes; I can dance, I can turn cartwheels; I’m interestin’ to talk to, I’m… pretty.” Her voice faltered at the last part, but she rallied and frowned again “What wrong with all o’ you fellers anyhow?!” she demanded and then looked down at their empty glasses. “What is it, boys, five beers?”
"Uh..." Brendan echoed Charlie's first response to Arabella, because what else could you say to her? How could you tell her that she was much too young - and talkative - to be the object of any normal man's desire? But there was one of her questions he could answer...or try to answer.
"Five beers...I reckon? Could be more, but once it gets past ten..." He shrugged and held up his fingers to illustrate his counting method. It was a joke, of course, so he followed it up with a slightly dopey version of his normal smile.
"What are you doin' here? This ain't no place for little girls."
Brendan and Charlie
So making assumptions about Clara was a risky business, and not one that Charlie advised. Brendan was learning that the hard way. And Charlie's tale about how Clara up and left the Thornton kids didn't paint her in a more favorable light. It seemed irresponsible, even to Brendan who liked to get out of work whenever he could.
"I guess it would take a lifetime to figure out Clara and that's too long. What isn't long is the line at the bar. Care for another?"
Brendan had had time to finish his beer by the time Charlie finished dishing up everything he knew about Clara. And he didn't even know the half of it! He wasn't sure if he should finish his story about his first meeting with Clara. He looked at his empty glass and nodded.
"I think I do. But I ain't even told you the worst part about meetin' Clara yet. C'mon." He grabbed Charlie's arm and headed for the beer table. "So there I was, ridin' down to say hello to what I thought was a real friendly gal. I even offered to help her with the laundry. And then she ups and points her Colt at me!"
"Well," he continued, "I did some quick thinkin' and quick talkin' and things was goin' a little better, but then the hands I come over with took a shot at us...at Clara, I guess. They missed, but it sure didn't make things better between us. But you know what? She defended me earlier when that deputy started askin' too many questions about what happened that day."
Brendan and Charlie
So this thing the Lost Lake hands were cashing in on had to do with fighting? Brendan was intrigued, watching silently as one of the other hands alerted them to a ruckus - but not necessarily a fight. The news of this ruckus made Charlie happy, but Marty didn't let him celebrate prematurely.
After the other three hands had left, Charlie turned to Brendan. "While we wait I'd like to hear this long story of yours about Clara. I get the feeling it wasn't a pleasant experience."
Brendan sighed. Well, it had to come out. "It weren't. Wasn't. It was pretty near my first day, and I was ridin' the property lines with..." He stopped and debated mentioning Billy and Greer, then decided it would be better at the moment to let sleeping dogs lie. "...with two of the hands, an' we came to the Redmond farm. Bil - uh...the hands told me the Redmonds were squatters."
If he had to tell the story, he might as will give it some flair. He leaned forward and lowered his voice dramatically. "Now me bein' new to the area and to the ranch, I didn't know 'bout the Redmonds actually ownin' the farm...an' I didn't know that Clara was...what'd you say...prickly? The hands told me she was 'right friendly,' and so nat'rully I rode down to say howdy."
He sipped his beer and gave Charlie a chance to react or ask questions to what he had told him so far. After all, that was what good storytellers did.