"Northern spy? Dumb name for an apple if ya ask me," Caroline observed, "But sure, enough about apples then. Not like I have anything to add to the subject anyhow other then they taste good. Well, when they ain't all mushy or rottin'."
"Actually, when Northern Spies turn, they can be used for cider making or..." he dramatically clapped his hand over his own mouth to stop himself talking about apples.
They decided on what to eat, and the young officer mooted the idea of coming back again. as a patriotic duty.
"Oh lordy, patriotic duty huh? Well I do consider myself a patriot. I thought Mr. Lincoln was a swell president. Too bad those poor loser rebs shot him."
"Worst thing that ever happened to the South, that's for sure." ruminated Greene "But I don't know about Ol' Abe. Maybe it's best to go out like that, when you're on top. I mean look at Grant: he was the idol of the North when the war ended. If he'd gone out then, he'd be held in as high esteem as President Lincoln is today. But now look, after all these scandals and the Whiskey thing..." he looked philosophical "Some men are at their best in peace, some in war."
"If they'd have let women in that war, Ida joined. Course I was about 7-8 years old then," she grinned.
"Wouldn't fancy Lee's chances against even a half-sized Miss Mundee!" he said, giving her the benefit of his 'vast' military experience and all he had learned at West Point. "Or you could have gone as a cantinière!" he suggested. Then an odd memory buzzed around him, like an annoying fly: something he had witnessed months ago.
"Say, didn't I see your funny little friend dressed up as one of those particular 'ladies' one time?" he frowned.
"Oh, he'd get on with my old man, and my Grandpa, too. They're Cavalry through and through. Me, I'm more the sitting in a restaurant with a pretty girl type."
He made a weak joke about the family orchards which fell as flat as an apple pan dowdy.
"Mostly I eat'em in pies," she smiled.
Joe feigned a serious and professional frown "Ooooh, you need Cookers for that: Northern Spy or Gravenstein. But please don't get me stated on apples: of all the subjects I can be boring about, that's the worst." he informed her, self-effacingly.
They decided on what to eat, and the young officer mooted the idea of coming back again.
"Oh so you think we're gonna be doin' this regular?" she raised one eyebrow.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am, but it may be necessary for you to accompany me again until we've tried every dish on this menu... at least three times. It'll be long arduous hours of having to listen to me droning on about apples and balloons and remount requisition forms, but you'll be doing your patriotic duty and helping the Army out immeasurably." he babbled on.
His mother had once advised him 'Now, when you're with a girl, Joe, don't just go on about yourself. Ask her some questions about herself' but he couldn't help thinking that with Caroline Mundee 'questions about herself' had Can of Worms written all over it.
"I'm sure it's quite a bit better than army food, leastwise from what Ralph sez when he served in the army," Caroline commented then smiled as she focused on one dish in particular.
"Ralph, that's the barkeep at your place right?" he checked. "He probably served in the war, that's a different story. The chow at the Fort isn't too bad, especially for the officers." he could have gone on to tell her that as he was now based in town, near the telegraph office where he could send in his weather balloon reports, Army food wasn't even an issue. But he didn't want to just sit there droning on about himself. Also, she didn't think he would be very impressed by his little weather balloons, they weren't exactly glamorous, like a cavalry charge.
"Hey, I think I got my choice. Roast duck. I mean I've had chicken and I like that but never tried duck. Kind of pricey though," she glanced for his reaction.
"Have two!" he laughed. "Money no object, you've gotta know my family owns half the orchards in Vermont. You think I'm bragging? Never heard of greene Apples?" he boasted in a jocular manner.
"Yeah, let's try the duck. Hmm, maybe a Beaujolais with that." he hummed and hawed at the wine menu. "And if we don't like it, we'll come back tomorrow and try something else!" he grinned.
"So you sayin' I'm a thief? Just cuz I work in a saloon? " Caroline took umbrage but then waved it off with a smile, "I know, just teasin'. Well, ya better be just teasin'."
Joe was taken a little a-back. Caroline was touchy. His careless joke had hurt her, stung her in a sensitive place. She'd laughed it off sure, and saying sorry would only make it worse. But lesson learned.
"Ah, this place isn't bad for little town like Kalispell, is it? In fact it's very nice. Mind you, that's probably due to you, you sort of light up a room." he informed her.
"Wait! Why did my dress catch on fire?" she quipped, he sure was laying on the compliments with a trowel.
"Well, you probably know that already, being in the entertainment business."
He'd touched her again, but this time in a good way. Another lesson learned.
"I don't wanna sound like I'm bragging but I am good at what I do. But that's when I'm performin', doin' my job. Here and now, I'm just plain Caroline Mundee, the girl who was happy to be asked out on a date."
"Well good! Let's talk about now. What do you like the look of on the menu?" he said jauntily. He was getting a sense that Caroline Mundee was a far more complicated character than perhaps he had banked on. He knew she was pretty, he knew she was funny, he knew she was talented. There was a shadow there, though. Shadows were cast by the past. He was determined to keep everything in the present. Now. Now was the only time that mattered.
"Hey, this isn't bad." he said, having a look himself.
"There you are, sir. I shall notify the waiter and he shall attend upon you in a moment," the man gave a curt nod and left them there.
Joe watched the pompous fellow go with a sort of wry grin on his face. "Kinda likes to talk you through it doesn't he?" he laughed lightly, moving to pull Caroline's chair out for her by pure gentlemanly instinct.
Caroline glanced at Joseph, "Well, least he didn't led us right out the back door. That's something."
The young officer laughed out loud at this, and once his lady was seated he did likewise. "Just don't steal the silver!" he added, picking up a fork "Well, silver plate" he amended, examining a fork and toying with it as he continued to speak.
"Ah, this place isn't bad for little town like Kalispell, is it? In fact it's very nice. Mind you, that's probably due to you, you sort of light up a room." he informed her. "Well, you probably know that already, being in the entertainment business."
"Oh my! That's a great line, I like it!" Caroline beamed, she liked smart men. Besides too often she dealt with stupid ones or at least ones stupid drunk.
"Really? Oh geez, I think I might have set the bar too high for the rest of the evening!" he sighed in mock resignation.
"I hope you don't mind me not being in uniform!" Joseph asked Caroline as they crossed the street to the Hotel.
Caroline smiled up at the taller man, "Well, tell ya the truth, I had kinda figured you might wear a general's uniform to really impress me."
He tipped his head a little and looked at the beautiful blonde quizzically. Somehow, that was as good as laughing out loud at her her quips.
"To be honest, I noticed that you never wear a hat and I wanted us to match. I'm not allowed to do that in uniform: I'd be improperly dressed." he explained. "Hence the old ill fitting and out of fashion civvies."
"Nah, yer fine. You got the face, you'd look dashing in any outfit," she assured him.
"Hmm, that's true." he nodded, laughing at himself. "Say, you'd get on well with my mother, she thinks I'm the most handsome feller in Vermont. Mind you, that's a pretty small place compared to Montana."
"I'm warnin' ya though, we might just get kicked out of this hotel dining room if some folk recognize me. My sort are not welcome in such places," she did have her trepidation about it all but the man was in charge of a date, the woman just went where he led. That's how things worked.
"Oh, they hate beautiful women, do they? We'll see about that." he misunderstood on purpose. They both knew what he meant. Scion of a well heeled family that looked down on just about everybody who didn't have a pedigree stretching back to the 17th Century, when Vermont hadn't even been settled, in his family's book, a saloon girl was no lower than a bank manager's daughter or some other mercantile type. This was the West, he'd wait a long, long time for a socially suitable young lady to drop from the skies.
This left him free to fall for girls based on their looks and charm alone, and Caroline Mundee had both in spades. And if Mother and Father didn't like it: they shouldn't have made him join the Army in the first place, so there.
They reached the hotel. A boy opened the door for them and Joseph tipped him a couple of cents. Not too much. As a green 2nd Lieutenant in a unit full of grizzled veterans, he had to make every effort to impress, but in this social milieu he was right at home, although, obviously, he wanted to impress Caroline, too.
"I'd like your best table for two in the restaurant, please." he said to the clerk on duty at the front desk.
"Wish me luck, hon! Not that I need it, I can handle any man," Caroline was back to her usual confident self and out of her room she went straight away down the stairway.
"In that case, good Good Luck to the Lootenant!" quipped Arabella, clapping her hands with delight at the beauty of her friend as she flounced out of the room, then ran behind her to watch her descend the stairs in grand style.
The Lieutenant, dressed in civvies, waited for the gay looking blonde at the foot of the steps, grinning ear to ear.
"Well, well, there you are! Looks like you are dressed like ...........what? A spy?" she teased him as they stopped short of each other.
"Well, if I'm a spy, I like what I'm spying" came Joseph's rejoinder "You look completely beautiful!" He offered her his arm to walk her out of the bar, apparently deaf to the hoots of the other patrons and blind to anything or anyone else in the place apart from Caroline.
As they exited through the swing doors someone complained "Who's gonna sing fer us tonight then?" and Arabella's raucous voice sounded "Better go up and put ma red dress on, boys!" but how well that suggestion went down, they never found out.
"I hope you don't mind me not being in uniform!" Joseph asked Caroline as they crossed the street to the Hotel.
Caroline laughed, "Well, that name is quite a mouthful, lieutenant. I hope it is alright with you if I just settle for calling you Joseph or Joe?"
"Joe's plenty all right with me, Miss Mundee." he grinned a ready smile.
"As for me, none of this Miss Mundee nonsense, call me Caroline," she added, "I think it is a beautiful name, do you not?"
His eyes played over her coquettish features. "Very beautiful" he sighed in agreement.
"So then dinner it is. Have you been to the local eatery? Their bakery goods are simply delicious. Doubt they serve a five course meal or champagne though. We will just have to endure a common meal," she quipped.
"Pie and coffee at the diner? For the beautifully-named Caroline?" Lt. Greene shook his head. "I hope you'll allow me to escort you to the Belle-St. Regis Hotel Restaurant, where all meals are at least ten courses long, the champagne flows like the Flathead River at Columbia Falls, and the Maître d' looks down his nose at rich and poor alike with equal scorn!" he declared.
His eyes narrowed as he tried to remember one last fact. "Come to think of it, they might even have a fellow there who tortures a cello, just for the further edification of the diners." Well, surely, that put the icing on the cake!
"Well, lieutenant, I never go out to dinner with a man whose name I do not even know," she suddenly announced in a deadpan.
He clicked his heels in a sort of Teutonic salute. "Joseph Wilberforce Greene, Junior... of the Vermont Greenes, of course. At your service, M'am." he said equally earnestly. "And to whom do I have the pleasure of presenting myself?"
"Oh my name is Caroline Mundee....I'm the singer at the saloon. Fair warning, that makes me dirt in the eyes of many proper folk in this leafy burg," she added.
"Ha! They think that's low?" he laughed with bitterness "They've clearly never met a 2nd Lieutenant who's the only officer in his posting who didn't serve in the war and has just had the signal honor of being transferred to Signal Corps duty: raising and lowering little party balloons into the sky twice a day." he sighed. "Why, Miss Mundee, I positively dream of being raised one day to heights of respectability enjoyed by saloon singers!"
"Oh the fight's starting again!" he said suddenly. Hector Wigfall was dinging his triangle.
Joseph gazed down at the beautiful blonde: like any excuse was necessary! "We never finalised our bet!" he smiled.
"Well, I guess we got a minute before the next round? So back to our conversation. Lemme make it quick. If you wanna take me out for dinner, just go ahead and ask me. Yer a gentleman and I'm a lady so why does it need involve some sort of wagering?" she got down to business quickly.
The solder tipped his head. This girl liked straight talking. She could have it.
"All right. You're beautiful. Can I take you out to dinner?" he asked, bluntly enough. She didn't know his name, he didn't know hers. He didn't need to. In the words of the Bard, a rose would smell as sweet by any other name. After telling him to ask her, he half expected her to say "no", and laugh in his face. Arabella's voice screamed deafeningly nearby "Get up Charlie, get up! What ya doin' down there on the floor?!! Well at least bite the varmint's ankles while you're down there!!" but he didn't break his gaze into Caroline's mysterious blue eyes.
Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.
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