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    • "We'll have to get on over to the dinning room them. Afraid it's liable to be a bit more like Kalispell than Frisco." He said. "But it'll be good food, just not what we've been used too. Will be up on the hill, for sure.  I was told this is the best hotel because it was a ways out across the river from town, and it was solid built."   "The wealth on the hill is such that all most everything around it is growing at a fast pace. You'll really see that when we visit the Capitol, Carson City. Supposedly discovered by Kit Carson and General John Freemont on their way to Sacramento in. At least Freemont named the river after him back in '43 or '44. Nothin' was there then."   "All that made me hungry too, let's go eat an then take us a walk across the river, or along it, which ever you want." @Bongo
    • That did not take long. Cookie rang the triangle and shouted his best but in the end he sent the kid to roust all but the closest to him. Rance joined young Wheeler in the line, a bit out of the wind, but mostly in it for the moment. It seemed calmer up by the wagon.   "That had ta be bad back there. The wind drivin' the dust an' the smell, but should this wind let up you'll be on flank, left flank, then right, then back to the drag. It'll be me, Dallas, an' Dixie. eatin' dust tomorrow. But at least we got hot grub, won't always be that'a way out here though, every trip is different."   And they moved up steadily. @Bongo
    • "Nothing to discuss? I am surprised, Jonah. Why, if we have time for breakfast, there will be much to discuss regarding the hospital as well as the start of the orphanage. Hopefully that the railroad will be completed, or close to it by then." She smiled brightly. "Things will be different by then."   "My hope is that we get through all of this without my fathers interference causing delays, or real problems with the builders. You know we could get well into October before the snow flies, but I'm not counting on that. The winter will stop construction until the thaw." She stated, but the smile was still there, "But it will be well underway!" @Bongo
    • "Pleased ta meet ya, Rance."  Justus gave the man a nod, then lined up with the others for grub.  Maybe he could get some sleep despite the wind.  He surely was tired enough, and until there was something that concerned him, he didn't need to be concerned.   First, though, a full belly!  As the line progressed, he he nodded to the kid who was the cook's help.  "Times like this, I bet yer glad ya don't have ta be on th' downwind end of a herd'a cows!"   @Flip
    • "It's good to know you'll have the best working on the project, you've come this far, you don't need to risk the quality with less than the best working on it."  Even though he had no doubt that the crew would be excellent, it was reassuring to know that the man hand picked for the job would actually be on site overseeing it.  That way, too, he'd be there if Leah needed to discuss anything with him, and Jonah had a good feeling that was going to happen!   He grinned and took a sip of coffee.  "Just think, this time next year it will all be over!  We'll have a fine hospital with the best equipment...and nothing to discuss over breakfast!"   @Flip  

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Mature Content: Possibly?

With: Brendan, Arabella, Bridget, Crabbe, and maybe Charlie Fa
Location: Stardust Saloon/the old funeral parlor
When: July 28,1876
Time of Day: Afternoon

 

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Brendan's conversation with Caroline had stuck with him for the past three days. All of it, but especially the parts about Bridget. Even though he knew deep down that she was right - he shouldn't marry Bridget - something kept him thinking about the redhead.

 

Finally he decided he needed to talk to her...or at least try to. He clomped down the stairs and peeked into the saloon, searching for Arabella. What with all the recent changes in ownership at the saloon, he had tried to draw less attention to himself. Since the staff was all staying, and Caroline was part of the staff, he felt pretty secure, but you never knew.

 

"Arabella!" He finally spotted her and waved her over, already second-guessing himself. He must really be desperate if he was asking Arabella for help. Even though he had finally forgiven her for the things she'd said about Caroline, was she really the best person to ask? But she knew Bridget, and would know when a good time to talk to her without Crabbe around would be.

 

@Javia

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The saloon dogsbody and general drudge (as well as star piano player) was very pleased that Brendan was talking to her again: but now, really? When she had an armful of crumpled and less than fresh smelling clothing which needed her immediate attention? 

 

"Howdy, Cowboy? What's the story? You wanna help me with this here dirty laundry? I tell ya Mississippi, if I lay in and give Mr. Flandry's inexpressibles the treatment they really need with that old washboard, I'm gonna go right through 'em, and then I'll be up all night darnin' the darn things!" she expressed herself on the condition of Ralph's trapdoor union suits quite freely. 

 

"And Mr. Fortner might look pretty fancy on the outside, but these here socks of his could just about stand up and walk to the washtub on their own, I reckon."

 

She carried on walking to the scullery, where a washtub, washboard and mangle awaited her attentions. If Brendan wanted to talk, he'd have to follow her in there.

 

@Bailey

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"I ain't keen on doin' laundry." Brendan brushed off Arabella's request for help, softening his refusal with a grin. "You'll do a right good job of it, though."

 

Actually, he wasn't keen on doing any sort of work right now, but that was beside the point. It was nice to be lazy, and he'd been being lazy since he'd started living at the saloon, but there was always the nagging feeling that he ought to be doing something to make money. He couldn't stay in Caroline's room forever.

 

He followed her into the scullery and leaned against the wall, prepared to stand and watch her work. "You know Bridget pretty well, right?" he asked with no preamble.

 

He couldn't just come out and say "Crabbe asked me to marry Bridget," because if he told Arabella that, it could very well be all around town before the day was out. What he needed was to fish for information discreetly, which wouldn't be too hard. This was Arabella, after all. He just needed to prompt her, and then all he would have to do is stand and listen.

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If Arabella seemed completely unaware that Brendan was following her around the place for no particular reason, it was down to good acting on her part. He was up to something, or wanted something, or... well... something! Oh God! No! He wasn't going to ask her if he should ask Caroline to marry him, was he?!! In fact "Oh God! No!" would be her answer.  

 

He followed her into the scullery and leaned against the wall, prepared to stand and watch her work.

 

She started getting together the hot water and the washtub and the washboard and the soap flakes and ordering what needed to be washed first. She felt sort of tense.

 

"Guess you like watchin' girls do the laundry, huh?" she laughed nervously. Say, he wasn't going to try anything was he?! She was sort of aware that he was blocking the entrance to the narrow scullery room. She started scrubbing. Funny, she never got nervous round a mob of men, like in the bar-room, but all alone like this... No, hold on there, partner, she knew how to handle men. That was her proud boast. What was she worried about? Why if he....

 

"You know Bridget pretty well, right?" he asked with no preamble.

 

All Arabella's tension flowed right on out of her and, presumably into the washtub.

 

"Oh!!!!" she sighed gratefully. Phew. Is that what this was all about? She enjoyed the relief for a second, then let the sadness flow in. Bridget. She took a deep breath and from her kneeling position turned her dark blue eyes up to Brendan's brown. 

 

"Yeah. Why?" she asked simply. 

 

@Bailey

 

 

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As Brendan slouched against the wall, he rolled his shoulders to try to get rid of the odd tension he was feeling. But it wasn't his body, it was in the room. Arabella wasn't quite as carefree as she'd always been, and some of the tension in the room must be from her.

 

He tilted his head to one side, debating whether or not to answer her question. Sure, if the girl was shapely like...well, like Caroline, he'd enjoy watching her do laundry. But even though Arabella was filling out a little, he wasn't watching her in that way. He'd never in a million years think of her that way. She was just plain old Arabella.

 

His "hook" didn't exactly land the way he wanted it to. Instead of going on a ramble about Bridget, Arabella stopped what she was doing and asked him why. Why? How could he answer that? Should he answer that?

 

He cast his eyes over the rest of the laundry equipment while he thought of an answer. At first his words didn't come out right, but as he continued, he regained control of his thoughts. "Well...uh...well...you know we wrote letters to each other. 'Course you do. You wrote those letters yourself, didn't you? Well, I can't...can't stop thinkin' about her. And...I was hopin' you'd tell me about her."

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He cast his eyes over the rest of the laundry equipment while he thought of an answer. At first his words didn't come out right, but as he continued, he regained control of his thoughts. "Well...uh...well...you know we wrote letters to each other. 'Course you do. You wrote those letters yourself, didn't you?"

 

Arabella shook her head innocently as she scrubbed. "Uh-uh, I just translated is all. Ever' little idea in that letter come out of Bridget's sweet lil' noodle." If she had known what was coming next, she might have said something different. 

 

Well, I can't...can't stop thinkin' about her. And...I was hopin' you'd tell me about her."

 

Plop! The soap dropped into the water. Shlump. Followed by Mammy Cookie's unmentionables. "You can't stop thinkin' about her?!"

 

In the blink of an eye she was at his side and dragging this previous 'threat' into the scullery with her and hissing in his ear.

 

"You mean like in 'you can't stop thinkin' about her'?!!" she popped her head out of the door to make sure no one was about and then whipped it back in to continue her urgent whispering to the handsome cowboy.

 

"What about Caroline?!" however, she immediately waved that away "Nah, you're right, she good fer a fumble but not exactly marryin' material. But Bridget.... oh, Brendan, where do I start?"

 

She frowned. The obvious objections came to the surface and fizzled. The true one eventually was left there floating, like the last apple in the water in an apple bobbing competition. She looked at Brendan and his sad, lovelorn face. He was like a God damned lost puppy.

 

How could she ever have been scared of him? He was sensitive, he saw something in the dumb, crippled, mysterious, beautiful redhead which nobody else saw. Nobody else, she fancied, except herself. She looked at him and smiled and straightened his braces (well, he didn't have a collar or a tie).

 

"Listen, Mississippi... can I tell you a fairy story?"

 

@Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“Really?” Brendan was just a tad bit skeptical about all the contents of Bridget’s letters being original, especially the stuff about Bridget being a red-hot kisser. Just the same, his heart skipped a beat.

 

Arabella seemed very surprised that he couldn’t stop thinking about Bridget. She repeated the phrase and grabbed his arm, seeming almost appalled at his revelation.

 

”Yeah, I can’t stop thinkin’ about her! And what about Caroline?” He demanded. “I know she ain’t the marryin’ kind.” Arabella was right about that, and about Caroline being “good for a fumble”. 

 

He regarded her suspiciously as she straightened his suspenders. The last story he’d heard about a girl’s childhood - Caroline’s - hadn’t been pleasant, and he had a sneaking suspicion that Arabella’s story was just what he’d heard from Crabbe and Caroline. 

 

“Does it have a happy endin’?” he said finally.

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Arabella slid her back down the wall of the scullery until she was seated on the hard stone floor and patted the place next to her for Brendan to sit by her side and hear her 'fairy story' or whatever it was.

 

“Does it have a happy endin’?” he said finally.

 

"That's up to you." she answered, with an air of foreboding. 

 

"See, onct upon a time there was this here Knight, like a knight in shinin' armour: cept this knight's armour was a kinda rusty colour" she couldn't help adding, patting the material of the brown tinged trousers of the cowpoke sitting next to her. 

 

"And he was out doing errands one time, a-ridin' through the woods and the forest, and he came upon this great big ugly old tower, as tall as anything and with thick walls and a locked portcullis. That's a type of door they had in them days. And that knight, he looked up, and do you know what he saw? He saw a window high up and he just caught a glimpse, just a little magical glimpse of the most perfect, prettiest, clever, wonderful princess you could ever imagine."

 

She patted his hand absently.

 

"Anyhow, that knight, he just fell in love with that princess right there and then, just from that little glimpse of her at the window. And he decided he would wait until that princess reappeared again or popped her head out or come on out through the portcullis and then he'd ask her to marry him and they'd live happy ever after."  she continued, holding his hand now. 

 

"Well, he waited and he waited and he waited. And that Princess, she never come out through the door, and she never poked her head out the window, he'd just hear her tinklin' laughter, real quiet, far far away, or see a glimpse of her at the widow every now and again. Well, he waited and he waited, and eventually he just died of old age sittin' right there on his horse, waiting for that princess to show herself. See, she never could get out of that tower."

 

She was squeezing his hand now.

 

She craned her neck to look at him. 

 

"I see her, too. Now and again. Sorta out the corner of my eye: the girl that Bridget should've been, but for all them horrible things as happened to her. And she is lovely. Ever' thing you could ever want in a... in a lover. But that girl... she's like that princess. She ain't ever comin' out, she's locked inside a broken shell. You gotta leave Bridget behind you, you gotta forget her and live your life Brendan." she said, sadly.

 

@Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Brendan stared at the knees of his trousers as Arabella began to tell her story. It did begin like a fairy tale, but it didn’t have a happy ending. He hated sad endings. 

 

“I can’t just forget about her!” He burst out, jerking his hand away. “Arabella, she’s like a…a little puppy you’d find on the boardwalk! I can’t forget about her. I’ve gotta do something ‘cause…well, ‘cause Crabbe said he’s dyin’!” 
 

With that spectacular piece of news spread, he balled his hands up into fists and stared at the space between his boots.


If it weren’t for the fact that Crabbe was dying, he might have been able to countenance forgetting Bridget. She’d be well-off with the smooth-talking man, even if he didn’t really care about her very much. But Crabbe’s possible death meant that Bridget would be alone in the world, and might end up in the situation Crabbe had found her. Unless Brendan, Caroline, and anyone else who cared about the redhead could find a solution. 

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“I can’t just forget about her!” He burst out, jerking his hand away.

 

"Well you just gotta!" she countered, grabbing it back again. 

 

“Arabella, she’s like a…a little puppy you’d find on the boardwalk! I can’t forget about her.

 

"But there's stuff you don't know about her" Arabella said vaguely. She didn't know that Brendan already knew the horrible truth about the waiflike girl and the terrible injuries that scarred her body. She felt that if he knew, he would give up the idea of being with her... in that way. But she also felt it was not her place to reveal her secret.

 

"And, you don't have to be the one to look after her, she's got Mr. Crabbe and..."

 

"I’ve gotta do something ‘cause…well, ‘cause Crabbe said he’s dyin’!” 

 

Now it was Arabella's turn to let go of Brendan's hand, and she did so like it was diseased.

 

"Lorenzo?!" she gaped. 
 

With that spectacular piece of news spread, he balled his hands up into fists and stared at the space between his boots.

 

Arabella stood, dazed.

 

"Lorenzo?" she repeated. She took a couple of breaths. Her head span and spots danced before her eyes. "I think I'm gonna be sick!!" she cried and threw herself down on the floor, getting her head over a pail just in time for it to catch the full return of her breakfast as she made the most horrendous heaving noises. "Huuuuurrghghg!!!" [pause] "Huuuuuurrghghg!!!" [pause] "I think that's all... Hurrgghghhh!"

 

She eventually lifted her face from the bucket, looking a ghastly shade of pale green and the acrid smell of vomit filling the room.

 

"Well, thanks! Don't bother holding my hair outta the way!!" she chided Brendan. Another girl would have thought to have done that for her, she reckoned.

 

So, Lorenzo was dying? What would happen to Bridget? It was a poser all right: but in her heart of hearts, she couldn't see how a footloose and handsome cowboy like Brendan could look after a crippled and irreversibly simple-minded girl like Bridget for the rest of his, or her, life. With the best will in the world that adorable lost puppy would become a weight and a burden; Crabbe had said exactly that a heap of times; and a man like the handsome Mr. Connolly would attract other women, then what would become of his poor, half-form of a wife. 

 

"Sorry, that twern't nice for you to see!" she grimaced. Good job she wasn't trying to impress the cowpoke with her charms!

 

@Bailey

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“I know what happened to her, Arabella,” Brendan said quietly. 

He knew, and that was the reason he couldn’t stop thinking about Bridget. Anyone who’d been through what she had didn’t deserve to end up back on the streets. 

 

His news about Crabbe’s supposed death was an even bigger shock to Arabella than he’d thought it would be, and it shocked the breakfast out of her. He looked away while she vomited, trying to block out the horrible heaving noises. 
 

Finally she was finished. He looked back at her. “Huh? Oh, sorry.” He hadn’t thought about her long hair getting in the way. 
 

“No, it weren’t nice.” He grinned a little bit. “Arabella, your face looks like green cheese.” 
 

Maybe green cheese didn’t actually look like her face, but her face was green. Now was the time to make his move. He stood up.


“I’m goin’ to talk to her. I want you to come with me.”

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Arabella's head was, frankly swimming. Lorenzo dying? Brendan in love, it seemed, with Bridget? Well, he couldn't stop thinking about her, that spelled l.o.v.e. in her book. Phew! 

 

At least he did his best to make her feel better. 

 

"Arabella, your face looks like green cheese.” 

 

Not that his best was that great. 

 

"Thanks!" she said sarcastically. "And yours looks like... ah, let's face it, it looks all stupid and handsome like it always does!" she shrugged. Even she had to admit that.
 

 He stood up.


“I’m goin’ to talk to her. I want you to come with me.”

 

She jumped up. She had mixed feelings about this, everything had gone topsy-turvy and was moving way too fast. The only thing more unsettling than the idea of going with the good-looking cowpoke to see her half-witted, crippled friend was the idea of him going on his own, and her not knowing what happened between the two of them. 

 

"Wai-wai-wait! All right Mississippi, I'll come with, just hold on and let me get decent." she implored him. 'Getting decent' didn't take too long, as it involved pulling on her poke bonnet and shawl and grabbing her shopping basket. "Don't want folks thinkin' we're walkin' out together" she muttered. She swilled out her mouth with water, too, to remove the sick taste. 

 

She found Brendan ready to go. 

 

"Listen, she won't be at home this time of day" she told him "She'll be all gussied up and wanderin' round town lookin' through folks windows by now" Arabella calculated. The act of 'getting decent' had given her time to reflect.

 

Gosh, if Brendan knew 'all about' Bridget, he must also know about the surgical corset that kept her up straight during the day. And the terrible scarring on her body. He was so handsome, she reflected, he could have had the most beautiful girl in town - scratch that, he DID have the most beautiful girl in town, Caroline. She couldn't believe he was that way about Bridget, it... why, it was so noble. She was welling up inside, she could feel it. It was all so romantic, and she just felt so proud of Brendan: proud of him for him seeing the beauty, the real pure beauty, in her idiot friend.

 

"All righty. You ready?" she asked.

 

@Bailey

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Stupid and handsome? Brendan crossed his arms and shook his head bemusedly. Yes, he was handsome. But was he stupid? Of course he wasn't.

 

He gave Arabella time to get herself "decent," whatever that meant. When she finally showed up again, he leaped up from the chair he'd been slouching in. "Ready? I've been ready." He scoffed and headed for the door, and was out on the boardwalk before what she'd said had fully sunk in.

 

He turned back to her. "She won't be at home?" he echoed, reinforcing the stupid look on his face. He'd wanted to talk to Bridget at home because...well...it would be easier to say what he needed to say without the possibility of people coming around.

 

He stuck his hands in his pockets and frowned at the boards beneath his feet. Maybe he should have talked to Caroline before he decided to see Bridget. Maybe he should have talked to Crabbe. But Bridget was the one whose future was at stake, and he wanted to talk to her.

 

Well, he could at least get Arabella's input on his idea. He looked up at her, squinted at her basket, and asked, "You think we could find someone who'd...adopt Bridget?"

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He gave Arabella time to get herself "decent," whatever that meant. When she finally showed up again, he leaped up from the chair he'd been slouching in. "Ready? I've been ready." He scoffed and headed for the door, and was out on the boardwalk before what she'd said had fully sunk in.

 

"Hm! Well that's what's called 'a lady's prerogative', we can take as long as we need to make ourselves look our best!" she instructed him. Truth to tell, Arabella still looked like something the cat dragged in, even in her best bonnet and shawl. If this was her best, not looking her best must be very tatty indeed.

 

But off they went, this odd little couple: the tall handsome cowboy, and the undersized and plain spittoon scrubber. 

 

He turned back to her. "She won't be at home?" he echoed, reinforcing the stupid look on his face. He'd wanted to talk to Bridget at home because...well...it would be easier to say what he needed to say without the possibility of people coming around.

 

"Uh-uh" Arabella shook her head. "Let's try the General Store first: she likes lookin' through the window at the candy. She's barred from actually goin' in since she walzed in there and ate a whole bunch of it onct without payin': right in front of the man behind the counter, too. Now if she wants to buy from there, me or Jemima has to go in and get it for her." she explained.

 

Well, he could at least get Arabella's input on his idea. He looked up at her, squinted at her basket, and asked, "You think we could find someone who'd...adopt Bridget?"

 

"Whoa there, Nelly!!" Arabella skidded to a halt and slowly, and somewhat balefully, turned her head and looked way up at him with a frown on her pale little face. 

 

"Just a cotton-pickin' minute cowboy! Number one: no, no one's gonna adopt her! They can't find folks to adopt cute little babies and toddlers, never mind a growed-up, one-legged, gingerbread-haired, candy-guzzlin' knot-head like our Bridg'. Why d'ya think they're building an orphanage round here? And, er, Number two: I thought you wanted to marry her!" 

 

That had seemed the obvious conclusion when he said 'I can't stop thinking about her'. He hadn't said 'I can't stop thinking about getting her adopted'!

 

She fixed him with her hardest basilisk stare. 

 

"What exactly did Lorenzo say to you?" she asked, her voice replete with suspicion.

 

@Bailey

 

 

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Brendan knew, as he listened to Arabella, that his suggestion had been a bad one. Deep down, he'd known before he said it. Finding someone to adopt Bridget would be like finding someone to adopt a three-legged horse. Impossible.

 

"I just thought..." He began, but once Arabella got going, there was no stopping her. He did try to jump in again at her Number Two (I thought you wanted to marry her), but got nowhere with that, either.

 

"I didn't..." He closed his mouth and jammed his hands into his pockets. It wasn't that he didn't want to marry her. He couldn't stop thinking about her, and felt somehow drawn to her, but those things were separate from the desire that he had figured would go along with wanting to marry someone.

 

He squirmed under Arabella's intense stare, and squirmed some more. He had the feeling that he really ought to have Caroline along right now. Caroline could tell Arabella when to shut up, and could tell him when not to say anything else stupid.

 

"He...uh...he said he was dyin'. That's what he said." Glancing up, he met Arabella's baleful stare and the words tumbled out of their own accord, all mushed together. "Andhewantsmetomarryher."

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"He...uh...he said he was dyin'. That's what he said." Glancing up, he met Arabella's baleful stare and the words tumbled out of their own accord, all mushed together. "Andhewantsmetomarryher."

 

That made the skinny girl frown. "He wants you to marry her. Hmmm." she shook her head. Bridget could tell them nothing useful, and as for Crabbe...

 

"I don't know, Mississippi, Lorenzo's not as bad a feller as he likes to make out he is, but he is kinda slippery, Caroline'd tell ya the same. I mean, I got a kinda funny relationship with that feller... I, er... well anyway, at the end of the day I'm not sure I trust him far'n I kin throw him." 

 

She thought for a long hard second. 

 

"Got it! Come with me, big boy. I know who we can talk to." she announced, dragging him off the main High Street of Kalispell and down a back alley until they came to the back door of the Old Funeral Parlour where Crabbe and Bridget lived. To Arabella's suprise, the person she wanted to talk to was already there, dressed for the trail and just putting the finishing touches to loading a mule. 

 

The little fat Chinese man looked up at Brendan, but he didn't have to look down too far at Arabella, they were pretty much the same height.

 

"Charlie Fa wonder how long it take Arabella Mudd and Big Handsome Cowboy to come to him. You nearly Miss Charlie. Charlie going to New York." he announced.

 

Arabella selfishly forgot everybody else in an instant and blurted. "Oh, please take me with you!!" Charlie chuckled and shook his head. "You go one day, Arabella Mudd. It not your time yet." No, of course it wasn't, and she felt a little ashamed at her outburst: they were here for Bridget and Brendan, how could she forget them so quickly and easily? 

 

The Chinaman looked again at Brendan. "I know why you come. It true. Crabbe be dead soon." the next part was less expected "Miss Bridget be dead soon. Bad idea to make Big Handsome Mr Connelly marry. Ruin two lives." 

 

Arabella gasped at this prediction, Bridget seemed well, considering her various conditions, but Mr Fa knew all sorts of mysterious medical type stuff: he could even calm Bridget's terrible phantom leg pains by shoving big long needles into her stump. One time he even cured her own really awful period pains: just by touching the side of her leg above the ankle.

 

She frowned and jerked a thumb between herself and Brendan "Will WE be dead soon, too?!" she asked. 

 

@Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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So Brendan had been right to want Caroline with him when he'd talked to Lorenzo. Caroline had never mentioned anything about Lorenzo being slippery, but now that he thought about it, he could see what Arabella meant.

 

But he didn't have long to think about what that might mean for the stipend Crabbe had promised him, because Arabella was off down an alley with him in tow. He was surprised to see Charlie Fa, and was just the tiniest bit flattered by the moniker given to him. "Big Handsome Cowboy." That sure did sound good.

 

Brendan gaped at Fa's prediction about Bridget dying, too. His heart thumped as he stared down at the Chinese man, his whirling thoughts nearly blocking out Arabella's next question. As soon as he could string words together, he demanded, "What d'you mean Bridget'll be dead soon?"

 

Was it some sort of disease she'd caught from Crabbe? And if it was, was it catching for big handsome cowboys? He felt all right. Well, he felt kind of dizzy and disoriented at the moment, but that was because he'd just been told poor Bridget was going to die.

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Brendan gaped at Fa's prediction about Bridget dying, too. His heart thumped as he stared down at the Chinese man, his whirling thoughts nearly blocking out Arabella's next question. As soon as he could string words together, he demanded, "What d'you mean Bridget'll be dead soon?"

 

Mr Fa was puzzled by the B.H.C.'s puzzlement. "Charlie Fa mean that very soon... she die." he explained, as simply as he could. "He means what will she die of?" Arabella interjected.

 

The Chinese man frowned "Perhaps she die of a Tuesday, perhaps she die of a Wednesday, the book not give detailed answer!" he answered, starting to weary somewhat of these pointless questions but cheerfully staying to try and answer.

 

She frowned and jerked a thumb between herself and Brendan "Will WE be dead soon, too?!" she asked. 

 

Charlie shook his head.

 

"Already say! Arabella Mudd live long life like tortoise; big success on stage; big hit in New York. Charlie Fa see her there one day. Many years from today. Year of White Dog." he predicted, like he was arranging to meet up for coffee and biscuits the next day. 

 

"How bout him?" she asked next, grabbing Brendan protectively round the arm.

 

Charlie frowned at Brendan and then did some odd calculations on his hand, counting off his finger joins with the thumb of the same hand. He shook his head.

 

"No. He no big success on New York stage!" he said sadly "But he meet us in New York, same time, Year of White Dog - if he follow right destiny, no marry Bridget Monahan. He marry her, it upset Heaven, three grave in Boot Hill not two."

 

@Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Brendan frowned at Arabella, then at Charlie. Neither of them was helping him understand the matter any more than he already did. Charlie's predictions for Arabella were favorable, so why couldn't Bridget's fate be better?

 

The worst part about it was that he didn't understand why Bridget was going to die, or how it was going to happen. He restrained himself from grabbing the little man by the collar and shaking him for as long as he could, but he finally could not hold back any longer after Charlie mentioned three graves.

 

He tore his arm away from Arabella and stood toe to toe with Charlie, looking down on the shorter man. "Listen here. I want to know what...what will make Bridget die? Is she sick?"

 

He hoped he was getting his point across. Just because Charlie spoke in broken English didn't mean he couldn't understand, but things were only getting more muddled right now.

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He tore his arm away from Arabella and stood toe to toe with Charlie, looking down on the shorter man. "Listen here. I want to know what...what will make Bridget die? Is she sick?"

 

"Yeah, she seems so full of life right now!" chimed in Arabella.

 

Charlie wasn't fazed by the big cowboy stepping in on him. He was no Alistair Fang, but he could defend himself against a slow moving westerner. 

 

"Sure, she happy now: she come to Kalispell, she make nice friends: show off girl Arabella Mudd; monkey girl Jemima Wigfall; promiscuous girl Dolly Kaufmann; handsome cowboy man Brendan Connolly. Happiest time of life. But you seen outside of Bridget Monahan..." indeed, both of them had, at different times seen Bridget's horribly scarred and deformed torso "... inside even worse. And heart get strained. Where you think blood made?" he asked them both.

 

Arabella had never thought about this, she assumed everybody just had the blood they were born with. "Er, in yer nose?" she guessed: she was thinking about the nosebleeds you got, especially if you picked it too much.

 

"No, in leg. She only got one leg, not much blood, more work for heart to do. Heart get strained. She have more fits, more pain, she get lot worse. Crabbe not believe Fa either, he take Bridget to 'Merican doctor, he say same." a cloud of sadness passed, yea, even over Charlie's 'inscrutable' Chinese face. 

 

"This time next year: Crabbe dead, Bridget Monahan dead. No use pretend they not." he glanced back at the Old Funeral Parlour. "This house of dead now, bad luck. Charlie Fa go now."

 

@Bailey

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Brendan didn't know where blood got made, but was pretty sure it wasn't the nose. People did bleed lots from their faces, but they also bled a lot from their chests. Your chest was where your heart was, and your face was where your mouth and eyes were. If you got shot either place, you were a goner. 

 

He frowned at Fa as he digested this new information, his own heart aching at the thought of the strain on poor Bridget's heart. If both Fa and a doctor had said the same thing, they must be right. It was only a matter of time for Bridget.

 

He clenched his fists and stared at Fa. "So you're just gonna leave her? You're gonna up and leave her and Crabbe when they both need you?"

 

It wasn't right. Didn't Fa have some sort of Chinese medicine that could help Bridget, or at least slow things down? He didn't know about the acupuncture, or how long Fa had been caring for Bridget.

 

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Arabella was just staring at the ground, trying to take it all in. Brendan was still interrogating the Chinese man.

 

He clenched his fists and stared at Fa. "So you're just gonna leave her? You're gonna up and leave her and Crabbe when they both need you?"

 

Mr Fa remained impassive: he didn't see the world the same way as these Americans. His universe was predicable, fortune undulated up and down, the crests needed to be exploited, the troughs born patiently. Bridget and Crabbe: they had enjoyed quite a time together, the three of them. Great Harvest. Good Fortune. But neither had existed once, and neither would exist in the future. What was there to mourn? There was no loss. Both would just return to the universe, the great chaos, as he would himself one day.

 

"Nothing more to do. So long." Fa said simply and he and the mule set off. 

 

Brendan looked about to remonstrate further, but Arabella gently held his arm.

 

"Don't bother, Mississippi... we'll do it. When Lorenzo's gone. We'll look after Bridget; you and me and Miriam and Caroline and even 'Monkey Girl Jemima Wigfall..." despite the tragic nature of their talk, she couldn't resist revisiting that moniker. 

 

"We'll give her the best life possible while she's still here: that's more important than any silly old marriage. Yeah?" she looked up at him; he had such soft sensitive brown eyes and although she knew he could be oddly callous at times, she knew that he could also feel deeply. 

 

@Bailey

 

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Brendan watched as Fa rode away, his mind whirling. It didn't take much to confuse him, and he was confused as all get-out now. But one thing was clear: he couldn't marry Bridget.

 

When Arabella took his arm, he stared at her, trying to glean some comfort from her words. It was a good sentiment, but none of the people she'd mentioned - including him - had a lot of money or an ideal place for Bridget to live.

 

But he nodded his head and finally mumbled, "Yeah. Yeah." He turned around, stuck his hands in his pockets, and trudged away from the funeral parlor with a feeling of defeat. He'd been all set to either do verbal battle with Crabbe or have a heart-to-heart talk with Bridget, and Fa had taken all the wind out of his sails.

 

It wasn't until they were out on the main street again that he thought to ask Arabella, "Who's Dolly? And what's promisc...whatever?"

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But he nodded his head and finally mumbled, "Yeah. Yeah." He turned around, stuck his hands in his pockets, and trudged away from the funeral parlor with a feeling of defeat. He'd been all set to either do verbal battle with Crabbe or have a heart-to-heart talk with Bridget, and Fa had taken all the wind out of his sails.

 

"Wait fer me!" Arabella ran after him and put her arm through his. She didn't care what people said. These were the days when a man and woman wouldn't walk arm in arm unless they were sweethearts, whereas two pals, be they two men or to women would happily walk arm in arm or even hand in hand. Brendan was her pal, and they were a pair of pals worried about another pal, and that should make them double pally.

 

It wasn't until they were out on the main street again that he thought to ask Arabella, "Who's Dolly? And what's promisc...whatever?"

 

"Oh Dolly, he he, that's just my pet name for Miriam Kaufmann, you don't know her, but she's my... my bosom friend. And 'promiscuous' - that just means she makes lots of promises!" Arabella lied, before muttering under her breath 'just a pity she don't keep 'em all!' She would keep Miriam as far away from Brendan as possible: after all, if she was willing to 'experiment' will silly old Hector Wigfall, she might be more than willing to experiment with the undeniably handsome Mr. Connelly. 

 

Miriam had promised to be good from now on, of course, but Arabella figured that she might promise not to scratch, but she couldn't promise not to itch. 

 

A meandering drunk staggered past, either on his way to the Saloon for opening time, or still trying to get home from last night. 

 

"Howdy Mister O'Toole!" greeted Arabella cheerily, still arm in arm with Brendan.

 

The old Irishman nearly toppled over in shock, but turning hollered back, in pleasant, if slightly slurred tones "Mornin' Reb! Say, who's your boyfriend, y'make a nice couple!!" before he reeled off down the street.

 

This made Arabella laugh, she looked up at Brendan and said "He must be drunk, if he thinks a nice lookin' feller like you'd be courtin' a goofy toothed, plain faced, sidegogglin' ol' scarecrow like me!"

 

@Bailey

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Brendan waited until Arabella caught up with him, and let her take his arm even though the height difference made it a little awkward. Arabella still had some growing to do, height-wise and figure-wise, before people would mistake them for a couple. Of course, anyone who knew Arabella rather well would know that she and Brendan would never be a couple.

 

"Lots'a promises. Got it." He kept his reply short, but not curt. He wasn't angry, he was just so darned confused.

 

Thankfully, a passerby broke into his thoughts with a holler. Apparently Mister O'Toole didn't know Arabella very well, since he thought she and Brendan were a couple. Arabella found it funny, and even Brendan cracked a grin.

 

"Aw, you're not so bad. You're a sight prettier than when we met at that barn dance." He nudged her, still grinning, but then the grin faded. "'Sides, I don't have much sense when it comes to who I...find attractive."

 

Was that the right word for what he'd felt for Bridget? No, not really. It wasn't love, either. It was...something he would never be able to find a word for.

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