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    • "Ain't hardly nothin' to do but hunker down till she blows herself out." The man squatted, "Rance, is the name. Been watchin' you, doin' a fine job. You'll do Wheeler, you'll do. Try and get some rest, might end up bein' a long night. Least you won't be ridin' drag come daylight, there's a plus for ya."   He stood and made his way to his shelter to await the grub that was coming.   @Bongo
    • Meanwhile, in the main house, Reb Culverson was visiting with his old friend Fightin' Joe Hooker, who was the ramrod for the fledgling Montana Territory Stockgrowers Association, Northern District. He was there to convince ranchers to join and support the organization, hoping it would take root.   "And just what good is this here association ya got started?" Reb asked.   "It'll give us a voice in the territorial government, Reb, that's what it'll do. Once that happens we'll be able to git us some sortta range police to protect the herds, and the ranchers." Hooker responded. "Rustlin' might not be the threat it was, but you know as well as me, it can come back."   "You get anywhere with Lost Lake, 'er that cow thief on the Evergreen?" Reb asked.   "Can't say as I have, startin' with the smaller spreads an' workin' my way up to them two. I'm well aware of both spreads, and the men that own 'em."   -------------0------------   They swept down out of the trees whooping and hollering and firing off a couple of shots as they closed on both sides of a big group of cattle, just as they had planned. The  lone night hawk knew he had no chance of stopping the raiders, or of saving the cattle while he watched the chunk of the herd moving toward and then into the trees at a run.  He emptied his Colt at the raiders, the whipped out his Winchester  and levered several shots in the area where they had disappeared.   He could not know that one of his shots had found its mark. A man that had just joined took a slug in his back and toppled from his horse. Toole and the men continued to drive the cattle toward the dry riverbed as planned. It was an acceptable loss.   The sound of the shots, mere pops at the distance to the main house and the bunk house alerted everyone, and men boiled out of the bunk house guns in hand, only to watch the night man shooting after the rustlers.
    • Out on the boardwalk they stopped, "So we managed ta git a deal right off, thet's good, it is. Now all we gotta do is convince ol' Wentworth to free up the money so's ya don't have ta use yers right off." Amos commented, "Seems a fair deal but like you say, minin's not no sure thing."   "John and Mary are good folks. It's not a sure thing, but you saw the vein, went to the floor and it looks rich," Speed responded. "And it looks to be wider where they stopped digging. I can't wait to get it assayed to see what we've really got our hands on."   "And it should assay out pretty good from the looks of it, though I know so little about copper ore." Alice admitted.   "Well, you saw the copper ore, which is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding rock due to its reddish, mottled appearance. And that surrounding rock is granite which is not easy to work, but it can be done, and, if we have hit it, the veins could be as much as a mile long, a mile wide, and a mile deep!" Speed explained with a grin. "With that equipment we'll be able to not only dig deeper, we'll be able to tunnel, and we have the property to do just that."   "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" Amos exclaimed. Might oughtta buy up what ground ya can aound 'er, jest ta be certain!"   "First things first, let get on up to the bank." Speed suggested.
    • Justus was more than happy to have a chance to get out of the bulk of the wind, although he knew this was far from over.  And he knew they'd be hacking up dirt for days.     With the picket lines set, he moved over to help put up the shelters for the night, pretty quickly deciding that it was a fool's errand...they were all going to be miserable until this let up.   Squinting, he looked out toward the herd, not able to see but a few in the dust, it looked like they had been swallowed by the big, dirty cloud, and weren't even there.  In fact, he had the eerie sensation that all that was left in the world was this small circle of men and horses.   "Ya need me ta do anythin' else?" he called over the din of the wind.   @Flip
    • Doc Gilcrest walked into the bunck house to see Carson on his feet, dressed. "I may not be able to ride, but I can darn sure walk some. Tired of layin' in that bed."   "I reckon you kin do thet, sure 'nough. No body said ya had ta lie there if'n ya didn't want to. Yer stitched up plenty good. Jest leave thet hog leg where she's hangin' fer now, don't need the weight in thet wound."   "So anybody come sniffin' around?" He asked.   "Not so's you'd notice. There's four men down there keepin' watch, but it don't look like Lost Lake's lost any sleep over their man, that is if'n they even know he's gone." Gilcrest offered.   "He seen that brand an' went ta shootin'!" Carson reflected. "I jest shot straighter. Had no choice in the matter. Fool could'a rode on, but, well, that just ain't what happened. Hell of a mess."   "Oh I dunno. So far nobodies come huntin', the boss ain't upset over it, neither's Granger, so you got nothin' ta worry on 'cept gettin' better."   "I should'a been more careful, but maybe there just wasn't no way to be more careful. Up on the side of that mountain is the purdiest view a man could look at. You can see fer miles, see right where they got them cows of theirs. Now that ain't gonna be no easy matter to get to any of 'em. They're deep on Lost Lake range. Gonna be hard to get at, an' worse to get out. We'll lose some men tryin' this one, that's for sure!'   Gilcrest rubbed his chin. It wasn't like Carson to go on about the prospects of a job.

Into the Lion's Den


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Mature Content: No

With: Sarah Thornton-Carlton and whoever else happens to be in the saloon.
Location: Stardust Saloon
When: Summer (late July/early August) 1876
Time of Day: Early Afternoon (Weekday)

 

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Sarah took a slow and steady step into the saloon so that she could gently open and close one of the swinging doors.  The last thing she wanted was to make an undignified entrance by having both doors hitting her in the back.  Looking around the room as her eyes slowly adjusted, she could see an array of people.  Thankfully, it was not too crowded at this time of day and hopefully she would have her business done by the time the more exuberant crowd came in.

 

Her business was to interview Hiriam Priest, who apparently spent a lot of time here.  Priest was one of the candidates in the upcoming mayoral elections and it was her job to write about him.  So far, Priest hadn't said much about what his platform was but that was understandable since he was new in town having only arrive a day or two before nominations were closed.  That was about a week or so ago and even the other contenders hadn't done much except talk to a few people and speak at one or two social events.

 

However, her articles for the Kalispell Union weren't going to be about what the candidates were standing for or what their plans for Kalispell were, that was McVey's job.  She was going after the human-interest aspect...to find out what sort of men they really were.  Very little was known about Priest, and she intended to find out what made him tick.

 

As she continued to look around, she could see several men who could be Priest.  Since she wasn't one to frequent the saloon, she had no idea of what he looked like as not many people had seen him outside of here.  There was one person that would know and that would be the bartender, so she started to make her way towards him.

 

@Wayfarer @Preston @Javia

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Arabella gave an audible gasp and nearly dropped the nice clean glasses that she was carrying in from the kitchen when she saw the respectable Mrs Thornton-Carlton walk into the Saloon that day. However, she managed to keep a grip on the jars and quickly intersperse herself between the elegantly dressed reporterix and Ralph's bar. 

 

"Oh! Don't do it! Don't do it, Mrs Lady!!" she cried, looking up at the female writer, who stood so very  statuesque and tall, a model of propriety, compared to the scruffy little pot washer in her crumpled and stained smock and pinney. 

 

"Think! The demon drink is not the answer! Hard licker and a dissolute lifestyle is NEVER the answer, no matter what has happened!" The little teetotaller Methodist girl was (unsurprisingly) banned from carrying on her temperance campaign within the bar itself, but this felt like an emergency.

 

"Perhaps you have fallen by the wayside, been lost in the shuffle of life, no doubt some scoundrel of a man is to blame, but there is a way back: Jesus will help you! Here..." she needed to reach into her apron pocket but her hands were full of glasses "...oh, hold on up there a second, I need to..." she placed the glasses on the bar and with freed hands pulled out a tatty religious tract "... here, heed the word of the Lord. Let me drag you from this den of iniquity!" she tried to press the temperance literature into Sarah's elegantly gloved hands and grab her arm to pull her out of the Stardust at the same time. 

 

"Come on!" she cried urgently "Before you end up a fallen woman like Mrs Adams over there or dressed in harlot red, flashin' yer ankles to the fellers like ol' Mundee!" 

 

 

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Ralph looked up when the batwings swung open, he always did to assess what new sort of customer might be entering the premises. Usually they were cowpokes or townie regulars and the vast majority were men too. Now this one though....he had never seen her before and frankly she looked far too well heeled and proper to wander into a saloon. She approached the bar then and her eyes went straight to him. Fair enough.

 

"Ma'am, can I....." he started.

 

"Oh! Don't do it! Don't do it, Mrs Lady!!"

 

Ralph rolled his eyes but knew better than to try to talk over the chatterbox teenager. Oh geezus, what was she doing now?  Bible thumping about the evils of drink. Right in the saloon itself, Matilda would have been furious. But then Tildy was gone, hopefully happier in San Francisco than she was here.

 

Now Ara was making it worse, laying hands on the woman.

 

"Ara!" Ralph snapped, there were boundaries and she was definitely way past them now.

 

Of course her histrionics were drawing attention of what customers there were in the place to this unseemly display.  Caroline had been standing over a card table watching two regulars play and chatting but now she too turned to see what drama was there now.

 

"Come on!" Arabella cried urgently "Before you end up a fallen woman like Mrs Adams over there or dressed in harlot red, flashin' yer ankles to the fellers like ol' Mundee!" 

 

Caroline flushed angrily, did she just call her....?

 

"Excuse me, boys" she said as she left the table and went straight for the embarrassing scene created by all things, an employee who should know better by now!

 

She was fast alright when she wanted to be and almost in a blink she was right behind the drama queen that was Arabella. Reaching out to grip the girl hard by one skinny upper arm, Caroline hissed, "Let's go inta the kitchen...now."

 

 It was not a suggestion but an order, the look in her eyes was seething.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Before Sarah could ask the bartender about Priest, a whirlwind came out of nowhere...

 

"Oh! Don't do it! Don't do it, Mrs Lady!!"

 

Don't do what?  Sarah was a bit perplexed and was about to ask what it was she shouldn't be doing when the girl spoke again.

 

"Think! The demon drink is not the answer! Hard licker and a dissolute lifestyle is NEVER the answer, no matter what has happened!"

 

Not knowing what to say, Sarah just blankly stared at the girl. 

 

"Perhaps you have fallen by the wayside, been lost in the shuffle of life, no doubt some scoundrel of a man is to blame, but there is a way back: Jesus will help you! Here..." she needed to reach into her apron pocket but her hands were full of glasses "...oh, hold on up there a second, I need to..." she placed the glasses on the bar and with freed hands pulled out a tatty religious tract "... here, heed the word of the Lord. Let me drag you from this den of iniquity!"

 

Well, the girl had a point...a saloon could be a den of iniquity, but she wasn't here about that.  The next thing Sarah knew was that girl grabbed her arm and was trying to give her something.  The girl seemed eager to get rid of her.

 

"Come on!" she cried urgently "Before you end up a fallen woman like Mrs Adams over there or dressed in harlot red, flashin' yer ankles to the fellers like ol' Mundee!"

 

The girl's next statement bought on the appearance of an older woman, who by the way she was dressed was obviously an employee of the saloon.  The newcomer was probably Mundee, as Sarah knew who Mrs Adams was.  Mrs Wilson, the wife of the General Store owner pointed her out to her the other day.

 

As for Mundee, she didn't seem particularly happy...

 

"Let's go inta the kitchen...now."

 

Not wanting to be dragged into the kitchen along with the young girl, Sarah put her free hand up in a stopping motion, "Before you leave to speak to your friend, may I have my arm back?"

 

@Javia @Wayfarer

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As Arabella let go of Mrs Thornton-Carlton's arm and was dragged off, kicking and screaming, by Caroline for a good dressing down in the kitchen (Arabella actually secretly enjoyed such dramatic scenes) a few men went to move in on the pretty new stranger in the bar. However, they were forestalled by Mrs Adams who, drawn by the squeaky voice of the young Virginian, high pitched enough to cut through her tinnitus, and seeing the blurred figure of another woman in the place, had drawn out her seeing glasses and espied a well dressed young doxy standing at the bar. 

 

She hustled over.

 

"Hey you, this patch is taken! Go sell your stuff elsewhere!" she warned off the competition.

 

Then she screwed up her eyes and groped around in the whiskey sloshing around her skull and found a memory floating on top of it there.

 

"Oh, hold on, you're that writer lady ain't ya?" she slurred. "Sarah somethin' somethin'. Yeah, I heard of you, guess you've come in here to write a story about us poor, common people for your fancy magazines, huh?" she guessed "Lookin' down your nose at how we're all boozed up and de... degenerate!" Didn't know where she'd pulled that word from! Pretty good, she thought. 

 

She was about to call her out to the gang in the saloon, but then an idea hit her, she shifted gears to a more friendly tone "Hey, you wanna write a story about me?" she smiled sweetly. "Oooh, I could tell you stories that'd make your readers' hair curl! Let's get a couple o' drinks and sit down over there an' I can tell you aaaaall about it. mine's a whiskey, straight... double." she purred.

 

@JulieS @Wayfarer @Preston

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"Hey you, this patch is taken! Go sell your stuff elsewhere!" she warned off the competition.

 

Sarah shook her head slightly, "I have no intention of taking over your patch or any other."

 

Knowing that this was Sally Adams, Sarah decided that the best thing would be was to ignore her.  She was about ask the bartender where Mr. Priest was when Sally interjected again.

 

"Oh, hold on, you're that writer lady ain't ya?" she slurred. "Sarah somethin' somethin'. Yeah, I heard of you, guess you've come in here to write a story about us poor, common people for your fancy magazines, huh?" she guessed "Lookin' down your nose at how we're all boozed up and de... degenerate!"

 

All Sarah could do was smile meekly.

 

Hey, you wanna write a story about me?" she smiled sweetly. "Oooh, I could tell you stories that'd make your readers' hair curl! Let's get a couple o' drinks and sit down over there an' I can tell you aaaaall about it. mine's a whiskey, straight... double." she purred.

 

Again Sarah shook her head, "Unfortunately, I won't be able to interview you today. Perhaps I can talk to my editor, Mr. McVey and tell him that you are interested in telling your story and talk to you another day.  As it is, I have my orders and I am here to see someone else."

 

She smiled again, hoping that her answer would placate the woman.  The best thing for now was to get her story and leave as soon as she could.  Turning to the bartender, she leaned slightly forward and asked, "Could you tell me where I could Mr. Hiriam Priest?"

 

@Preston @Wayfarer @Javia

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Ralph was listening to Sally pester the newly arrived lady, someone who wrote for the newspaper he now realized.  He also noted how the hooker was attempting to do the very same job that Caroline did and frowned. But the newcomer turned her down flat .

Turning to the bartender, she leaned slightly forward and asked, "Could you tell me where I could  find Mr. Hiram Priest?"

 

"Sure ma'am. He is sitting at that table over there, " Ralph pointed in the proper direction,  "the old fella shuffling the card deck."

 

While the reporter headed over to Priest, Ralph had something to say to Sally Adams.

 

"Hey...word of warning.  You aren't supposed to be bothering the customers and especially drummin' up drinks. That job belongs to Caroline and you damn well know it.  Don't let her catch you doin' that either.  Trust me, you don't want her mad at you. She could make it very painful. And that is my only warning."

 

 

 

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Again Sarah shook her head, "Unfortunately, I won't be able to interview you today. Perhaps I can talk to my editor, Mr. McVey and tell him that you are interested in telling your story and talk to you another day.  As it is, I have my orders and I am here to see someone else."

 

"McVey?!" queried Sally "Huh!" she didn't look to impressed by that idea, and was quickly losing interest in the woman, now she knew she wasn't a rival hooker. Mrs Adams tended to live very much in the present tense: promises of the future gain didn't really float her boat. She needed a drink now, or a customer who would give her money for one. 

 

She smiled again, hoping that her answer would placate the woman.  The best thing for now was to get her story and leave as soon as she could.  Turning to the bartender, she leaned slightly forward and asked, "Could you tell me where I could Mr. Hiriam Priest?"

 

Turning to the bartender, she leaned slightly forward and asked, "Could you tell me where I could  find Mr. Hiram Priest?"

 

"Sure ma'am. He is sitting at that table over there, " Ralph pointed in the proper direction,  "the old fella shuffling the card deck."

 

While the reporter headed over to Priest, Ralph had something to say to Sally Adams.

 

"Hey...word of warning.  You aren't supposed to be bothering the customers and especially drummin' up drinks. That job belongs to Caroline and you damn well know it." 

 

Sally screwed up her eyes to focus them on the big bearded barkeep and then waved a dismissive hand at hm. "Oh I ain't drummin' up drinks, I need a drink!" she informed him, lurching a little sideways. She was pretty well oiled already. 

 

"Don't let her catch you doin' that either.  Trust me, you don't want her mad at you. She could make it very painful. And that is my only warning."

 

Sally leaned against the bar to steady herself and shook her head. "No, no, no ,no ,no..." she slurred. "Me and Calorine... we're like that..." she held up her crossed fingers. "See, she does the drinks number, little Alabella she plays the piana, and I entertain the gentlemen who're feelin' a little lonely." She was telling him what he already knew of course, but drunk people tended to do that. 

 

"See..." she leaned over the bar now and tried to wave him closer in to him, as if to impart some great secret, as her low cut dress struggled to contain her bulging assets. 

 

"These fellers you got in here right now're either never been lonely or they're just a great big bunch o' pansies cause I can't pick up a trick fer love nor money." she confided sadly. It didn't occur to her that it might be more the quality of the merchandise on sale, rather than a lack of appetite by the buying customer base, that was causing a fluctuation in the market.

 

@Wayfarer

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Meanwhile in the kitchen, much to the eye-rolling and head shaking exasperation of Mrs McMahon, who was trying to prepare food for the customers (a nice tasty salty beef stew), Caroline and Arabella were squaring up for this evening's 'scene'. 

 

"Aw!! What you pulling me along for like that?!" screeched Arabella "You broke my arm! I can't play the piana now! You've ruined me!" she squealed like a stuck pig, tears running obligingly down her cheeks.

 

Messalina's personal theory was that Arabella had some sort of salt-water reservoir where her brain ought to be, so readily and copiously was she able to turn on the eye-faucets. When she had aired this theory out loud to the girl herself, Arabella had shaken her head from side to side, to see if she could hear the water sloshing about, which at least proved the first part of the theory - that there was no brain there.

 

Now it was Caroline's turn: the talented blonde singer would get really, seriously angry with Arabella over something: sometimes becoming quite upset. Then there would be more tears from Arabella, promises to be good. A rueful acceptance of her promises. Hugs. And then they would go out and play their parts successfully in the Saloon. It had almost become a ritual. Caroline could have possibly done without it, but Arabella seemed addicted.

 

Messalina waited to hear what the odd little Southern girl had done to press Caroline's buttons tonight.

 

@Wayfarer

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"Aw!! What you pulling me along for like that?!" screeched Arabella "You broke my arm! I can't play the piana now! You've ruined me!" she squealed like a stuck pig, tears running obligingly down her cheeks.

 

"Oh shut up and stop yer bawlin'. I didn't break your arm. But if I wanted to I could snap one of those sticks of yers easy," Caroline glared at her.

 

"Had I been dealing with an adult I would have asked you to accompany me inta th kitchen but I was dealing with you. A rotten little brat who still hasn't grown up."

 

"What have I told you a million times - we got us a job to do...we're professionals. Have I not taught you to take all this seriously? And then you go on like that out there?  The evils of liquor?  It's our fuckin' job to sell drinks! "

 

 

 

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"Oh shut up and stop yer bawlin'. I didn't break your arm. But if I wanted to I could snap one of those sticks of yers easy," Caroline glared at her.

 

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me!" replied Arabella primly and nonsensically. "Anyhow, you didn't have to drag me like a dawg!" 

 

"Had I been dealing with an adult I would have asked you to accompany me inta th kitchen but I was dealing with you. A rotten little brat who still hasn't grown up."

 

"I can't help being small!" the girl protested, picking the easiest thing to deal with "And you're only..." she stood on her tip-toes so she was the same height and held up her thumb and forefinger an inch or so apart "... that much bigger'n me! Why you wanna get so mean?"

 

"What have I told you a million times - we got us a job to do...we're professionals. Have I not taught you to take all this seriously? And then you go on like that out there?  The evils of liquor?  It's our fuckin' job to sell drinks! "

 

Arabella put her hands over her ears and screamed! "She said the bad word, she said the bad word!" 

 

Messalina had had enough, she got a big wooden spoon and swatted Arabella across the fanny with it, which really did make her scream . "Ow, what's that fer?!!" she screeched "SHE was the one what said the bad word!" 

 

Messelina was bubblin' up now like her big ol' pot of stew.

 

"That's for rilin' up Miss Caroline every single night!" the put-upon cook exclaimed before turning on Caroline "And I should give you one for letting her! Don't you know she does this for attention? Now will you two make up like you always do and git out of my kitchens so I can COOK?!!" she yelled.

 

"Yeah but this lady come in an'... OW!!!" Messalina raised her spoon for a third whack but Arabella was already running yelling from the kitchen holding her behind protectively. 

 

The large black woman wiped the sweat from her brow, looked at the spoon and then at Caroline.

 

"Guess that makes me as bad as you - rising to it!" she huffed. 

 

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@Wayfarer

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"Ow, what's that fer?!!" Arabella screeched "SHE was the one what said the bad word!" 

 

Caroline rolled her eyes, "Like you never heard that before, we work in a saloon."

 

"That's for rilin' up Miss Caroline every single night!" the put-upon cook exclaimed before turning on Caroline "And I should give you one for letting her! Don't you know she does this for attention? Now will you two make up like you always do and git out of my kitchens so I can COOK?!!" she yelled.

 

"What?" so the woman was blaming her now? Letting her? Caroline had to concede though maybe Messalina had a point about Ara doing this sort of thing for attention. 

 

"Yeah but this lady come in an'... OW!!!" Messalina raised her spoon for a third whack but Arabella was already running yelling from the kitchen holding her behind protectively. 

 

The large black woman wiped the sweat from her brow, looked at the spoon and then at Caroline.

 

"Guess that makes me as bad as you - rising to it!" she huffed. 

 

"I never claimed to be no saint but I'm tryin' my best to teach her the business. I don't think I been unfair to her, right from the start...I never picked any fights with her. And what about her wages? I was the one who stuck up for her and told Matilda that unless she paid Ara proper for her piano playing, I'd up and quit," Caroline felt compelled to defend herself here.

 

"And now she goes and bad mouths the saloon and goin' on about the evil of drink and all that nonsense. I mean we got a new boss now. What if Fortner decides he isn't gonna put up with her acting up with the customers? And kicks her out? I pulled her out of there for her sake," Caroline sighed.

 

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"I never claimed to be no saint but I'm tryin' my best to teach her the business. I don't think I been unfair to her, right from the start...I never picked any fights with her. And what about her wages? I was the one who stuck up for her and told Matilda that unless she paid Ara proper for her piano playing, I'd up and quit," Caroline felt compelled to defend herself here.

 

Messalina just laughed and shook her head "You think that child's interested in money? She never spends a dime, least not on herself. She don't like you for all the nice things you done for her, she loves you for all the fights and spats and making up afterward. It's just high drama that child craves."

 

"And now she goes and bad mouths the saloon and goin' on about the evil of drink and all that nonsense. I mean we got a new boss now. What if Fortner decides he isn't gonna put up with her acting up with the customers? And kicks her out? I pulled her out of there for her sake," Caroline sighed.

 

"Well, you just let her stew in her own juice next time." advised the cook "And don't worry about Mister Fortner: I seen the way he looks at that girl and I don't know who she reminds him of, but I reckon it must be someone very special the way he 'forgives her her trespasses'".

 

"Well, that's all right for now, but that girl's growin' up. Pretty soon now she's gonna be just like springtime: bustin' out all over! She ain't interested in men, I know that, and you certainly know that: but they're gonna get interested in her; when that time comes, that's when she's gonna need a eye keepin on her and her chesnuts pullin' out the fire: by you and me both."

 

Messalina looked about to go back to her pots and pans, but then she stopped and frowned a little at the confident, ballsy blonde. 

 

"And how are you doing?" she asked, with only the slightest tinge of concern in her voice. 

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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High drama indeed! To Caroline it was just high frustration. And so far she had no answers for it either.

 

"Well, you just let her stew in her own juice next time." advised the cook "And don't worry about Mister Fortner: I seen the way he looks at that girl and I don't know who she reminds him of, but I reckon it must be someone very special the way he 'forgives her her trespasses'".

 

"Hope yer right, but knowing Ara it won't be long before she does something to tick him off," Caroline half predicted, then sighed, "I get so mad at her, but I don't wanna lose her. I know, I'm an idiot."

 

The cook had a point about as Ara matured, she was going to attract the older boys and young men. She also knew Ara was not interested in them - period. But they would be coming after her. Hopefully Fortner did not have a taste for younger gals.

 

"And how are you doing?" asked Messalina suddenly.

 

"I'm good, why do ya ask?" Caroline wasn't sure what brought that on?

 

 

 

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"Hope yer right, but knowing Ara it won't be long before she does something to tick him off," Caroline half predicted, then sighed, "I get so mad at her, but I don't wanna lose her. I know, I'm an idiot."

 

"I ain't arguin' Miss Caroline!" replied Messalina with serious face but a twinkle in her eyes as she recommenced her work.

 

"And how are you doing?" asked Messalina suddenly.

 

"I'm good, why do ya ask?" Caroline wasn't sure what brought that on?

 

"Just askin'" replied the older woman. "See, when something's bothering Arabella there, the whole town knows about it, when something's bothering a girl like Miss Caroline Mundee, well I reckon nobody knows about it but herself." She was busy preparing some vegetables for the stew now, but her whole attention was somehow obliquely on the ostensibly not-a-care-in-the-world saloon singer. 

 

"What about that Mr Connolly feller. Is that gettin' serious? Or don't gettin' serious fit in with your plans?" she asked "Oh! Tell me to mind my own business if you please. But some of us worry about you, whether you like it or not."

 

"Me and Arabella, and I reckon Mr Flandry, too."

 

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"Just askin'" replied the older woman. "See, when something's bothering Arabella there, the whole town knows about it, when something's bothering a girl like Miss Caroline Mundee, well I reckon nobody knows about it but herself."  

 

"Like you said, that's cuz she loves drama. Me....I'm more .....calm," Caroline declared.

 

"What about that Mr Connolly feller. Is that gettin' serious? Or don't gettin' serious fit in with your plans?" she asked "Oh! Tell me to mind my own business if you please. But some of us worry about you, whether you like it or not."

 

"Me and Arabella, and I reckon Mr Flandry, too."

 

"Brendan? He's a good friend is all. I don't wanna git married, he don't get married. So we're in complete agreement there," Caroline smiled.

 

"And well..........sometimes I don't think Ara really does care about me, certainly not like I care about her.  Heard her tell folk that her mentor is that old fart who owns the dress shop. Talk about a slap in the face. Shows ya how much of an influence I am," Caroline sighed.

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"Brendan? He's a good friend is all. I don't wanna git married, he don't get married. So we're in complete agreement there," Caroline smiled.

 

Messalina nodded her approval. She knew that Caroline and Brendan were close: sleeping in the room right underneath Caroline's (or, at least, trying to sleep!) she couldn't help BUT know! But she saw in the young cowboy a wild roan, not the sort of young colt who could be tethered to the cart of marital servitude. Her husband James had been the same: wild and young and free, despite his status as a slave. 

 

"And well..........sometimes I don't think Ara really does care about me, certainly not like I care about her."

 

"Oh, she cares about you, Miss Caroline, she cares about you probably more than anyone else in this here blamed freezing cold town! Even more'n me or Mr Flandry or that scrap o' nuthin' Jew girl she hangs around with, down at the drapers. For now." this last phrase seemed to carry some import. 

 

"You know, Miss Caroline, I grew up on a plantation with another little girl my age, the Master's daughter, Miss Many Anne McMahon: and boy, did we love each other to bits. There wasn't nuthin' I wouldn't do for her and there wasn't nuthin' she wouldn't do for me. That old rascal of a Master'd raise his stick to me and she'd just jump right in front of me an dare him to give me a whuppin'." she smiled happily at the remembrance, but then her grin collapsed.

 

"When we was eighteen, Miss Mary Anne got married and moved far, far away: left me there alone, never heard from that gal again. That's when my bad times begun. But I always thought, 'she still thinks of me like I think of her, one day she'll come back for me, one day I will be saved'" the older woman shook her head "Took me a long time to realise the truth, and that was the day I started to look out for myself. And here I am."

 

Somehow feeling she'd gotten off topic, she brought things back to the source of Caroline's irritation.

 

"See, Arabella's just like that Miss Mary Anne: maybe that's why I loves that little pest so much, but when she's gone, and gone she soon will be, mark my words, I don't expect her to think too much about her poor old Mammy Cookie, or even about Miss Caroline Mundee: even if she does love you more'n anyone else in the world right now." she warned. Caroline clearly didn't even think the last part was true.

 

"Heard her tell folk that her mentor is that old fart who owns the dress shop. Talk about a slap in the face. Shows ya how much of an influence I am," Caroline sighed.

 

Although Messalina couldn't help but chuckle at the singer's description of the master tailor, she was serious in her reply.

 

"Oh, why she's just using ol' man Pettigrew, and that Mr Jeems Vaughn. she wants to learn all she can from them: nice speaking and manners and the like, but she'll just burn them up like a paper of matches and leave a little pile of ash behind. That's it, she just uses people up: me for food and a mother to hug, that little Jew girl for, well, you know them things she gets up to, Mr Flandry for a Daddy, and you: you're the most important to her, because you give her excitement, and that child just lives for excitement and fuss and crying and falling out and making up again."

 

It sounded like Messalina didn't even like the girl, but she had something to add. "That might not make no logical sense to that hard Yankee head o' yours, Miss Caroline: but my soft old Southern heart feels it and knows it: we don't love that girl cause she always does or says the right thing, or cause she 'means well despite her bad behaviour' or because she'll write to us every day when she goes away. We just love her 'cause we love her."

 

Mrs McMahon seemed to have finished describing her personal philosophy on the matter.

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Meanwhile, Sarah made her way across the room to where Hiriam Priest was sitting.  The man was playing cards...no doubt it was solitaire and looking like he wasn't very interested in what was going on in the saloon.  She was sure if it was an act or he really didn't care.  Maybe after the interview, she would know for sure.

 

Standing at the opposite end of the table, she gently cleared her throat to get his attention, before saying, "Mr. Priest? My name is Sarah Thornton-Carlton and I represent the Kalispell Union.  We are interested in doing some human-interest stories on the men who are running for mayor.  Since you are one of those men, could answer a few questions so that our readers can get a better idea of who you are and what you stand for?"

 

@Preston

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Caroline listened to Messalina's sad tale of her relationship with some white girl when she was young. In the end, the black woman had been abandoned, forgotten, or so it seemed. Caroline believed it. The cook then related that to Arabella's behavior and so called 'love'. The saloon girl just gave a shrug.

 

"I don't agree. Not sayin' you don't make some good points but....well.........I just believe that real love don't work that way. But hell, it don't really matter I reckon. Arabella does what she wants to do, pays no real heed ta me 'cept when it works for her. Like I said, I've tried my best. I can't do any more to show her, teach her, ...mentor her," she smirked that last term.

 

Then she sighed, "I'd rather not talk about it if that's alright with you, hon."

 

Caroline flashed a quick smile, a sort of sad one though, her eyes showed her heart really wasn't in the gesture. Then turned and headed for the stairway.

 

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"I don't agree. Not sayin' you don't make some good points but....well.........I just believe that real love don't work that way. But hell, it don't really matter I reckon. Arabella does what she wants to do, pays no real heed ta me 'cept when it works for her. Like I said, I've tried my best. I can't do any more to show her, teach her, ...mentor her," she smirked that last term.

 

Messalina gave Caroline a sympathetic look: in her philosophy, which was heavily tainted by the central tenets of a strangely rarely practiced religion called Christianity, the exact opposite was true: the only real love was that which was given despite, not because, of the treatment meted out to the giver by the object of that love. If Jesus could love those who condemned him, taunted and tortured him, yea, finally murdered him in his earthly form, then could not she forgive and love those who had trespassed against her.

 

If Messalina loved and prayed for Arabella Mudd, she also loved and prayed for Miss Caroline Mundee and Mr Ralph Flandry and found it easy to do so. Mr Frank Fortner, well, she was still working on that one: it was hard to love and pray for a body who hadn't really shown who he was yet!

 

Then she sighed, "I'd rather not talk about it if that's alright with you, hon."

 

The old cook nodded, and gave a lopsided smile "I get it, Miss Caroline. Now you get along and get yourself all ready. But just remember, you ever want to talk about just anything: I ain't goin' anywhere and I got ears made just right for listenin'." she offered. 

 

Caroline flashed a quick smile, a sort of sad one though, her eyes showed her heart really wasn't in the gesture. Then turned and headed for the stairway.

 

Caroline gone, Messalina shook her head and carried on making her sauce, only hoping that Caroline hadn't gone up to her room to hit another kind of sauce. 

 

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