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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.

Soirée for your Loss


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Mature Content: No.

Author: Arabella Mudd

With: James Vaughn, Worcester Pettigrew & Arabella's Chaperone
Location: Mr. Pettigrew's Lodgings above the dress shop
When: Sunday, 21st May 1876
Time of Day: 7pm.

 

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If Mr James Vaughn, late of England, had hoped that his invitation to a Sunday evening Soirée at Mr. Pettigrew's lodgings, along with the girl whose life he had saved the previous week, would be forgotten about in the hurly-burly of the ensuing week, he was to be disabused of the notion by the insistent rapping on his door a good half hour before the allotted time.

 

The girl, or perhaps young lady would be a better term, was togged up in her very best finery: to wit, a jet black dress, more fit for a funeral than a Sunday frolic, black bonnet, black shawl, a black clutch bag (empty) and, the only flash of colour, a lovely blue cameo broach that Arabella had found down the back of a dresser when cleaning out Mrs Devereu's room ready for Mr Fortner to move in. She had decided that Mrs Devereu, with whom she had never really got on, had left it specially for her, to say 'sorry' for telling her off so often in the past. 

 

"Come on Jeems!!" she shouted through the crack in the door. "We gotta be early cause Mr. Pettigrew said I need to take along a chaperone and she's meetin' me there and if I ain't there when she gets there then she's gonna need a chaperone!!" 

 

She put an eye to the crack in the door and then the keyhole.

 

"You even awake?!" she yelled. "Yooohooo, Jimmy?! JEEMS!!!" The last yell was loud enough to wake the dead.

 

@Nova

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

Not that he would’ve admitted it there was a part of James that really hoped something, anything would come up to cancel the dinner at the old man’s home.  But as the rapping at his own door proved he was not to be so lucky.  Good manners had required that he be ready, even if not exactly willing.  Dressed in his second-best outfit, James had been sitting on the stool beside his bed in the loft of the little house he’d rented.
 
Hearing her voice James laid down the book he’d been reading, making his way to the ladder and climbing down with care, for the wood wasn’t exactly the smoothest a fact he’d learned the hard way.  He knew he needed to do something about that, but what he really didn’t know, short of wrapping each rung in fabric thick enough to prevent being jabbed.  
 
As Arabella yelled louder, James winced but didn’t dare hurry because of the risk of splinters from the ladder.  “I’ll be there in a moment.”  He called back, raising his voice a little, not that he came close to matching her volume.  He didn’t know she was peeking at him through the cracks and the keyhole but had he known, he’d have been shocked.  That was not the behavior of the proper young ladies from his home country.
 
Another wince, this time equal parts for the volume of her yells and the fact that she once again called him by something else other than his name.  Crossing the main floor, James opened the door.  "Good afternoon Miss Arabella.  As I said before my name is James.”  He offered her one of his bashful smiles, hoping this time she could retain the fact that his name was not Jimmy.  "We'd best hurry.  Wouldn't want to be late."  James was too embarrassed to look and see if any of his neighbors were watching after the way she's been yelling so loudly.  He offered her his arm and started down the road toward the main part of the tiny town.

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Arabella saw a distorted view of James approaching through the sliver of the door crack. He seemed to dither so she called him again. 
 
Another wince, this time equal parts for the volume of her yells and the fact that she once again called him by something else other than his name.  Crossing the main floor, James opened the door.  "Good afternoon Miss Arabella.  As I said before my name is James.”  He offered her one of his bashful smiles, hoping this time she could retain the fact that his name was not Jimmy.

 

She thought he was correcting her Southern pronunciation: after all, the purpose of the evening to 'Pygmalion' her up into something presentable in society, or at least on the stage. "I do beg your puddin' James." she tried her best to say it the way he did, and gave a little curtsey.

 

 "We'd best hurry.  Wouldn't want to be late."  "Yup!"

 

"Now, don't be nervous, James." Arabella reassured the shy Englishman as they walked arm-in-arm: mainly because she was sorta nervous herself. "It's just gonna be you me an' old man Pettigrew. We can probably have a nice time if'n we put our mind to it. I hear tell he's gotten a right nice piana in his diggins there - it's in tune and everything!" she said, patting his arm. 

 

However, when they got to the dress-shop, they were quickly intercepted by a furtive looking Jemima, who had been kept on late to help get a cold collation ready and tidy up Pettigrew's rooms, which were always spotless anyway. The tough looking frowsy Wigfall girl dragged the pair of them inside.

 

"Listen" she hissed, rolling her piggy little eyes upstairs "It's not just Pettigrew up there, thought I'd better warn you!"

 

"That ninny Anæsthesia Orr's sitting up there on her lazy backside and some feller I never saw before: a real cissy looking namby-pamby dandy..." Jemima looked James up and down "...,no offence."

 

"Hey James ain't no cissy!" Arabella defended her saviour roundly "He just looks like one."

 

Jemima sidled round so that she was blocking the doorway out of the dress emporium: in her estimation, both Miss Mudd and Mr Vaughn both looked ready to bolt. "Come on then, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the sooner I deliver the two of you society butterflies to this 'soiree' the sooner I can go home!" she said, all but pushing them forwards, through the back of the store and up the stairs to Pettigrew's private rooms. 

 

Jemima opened the door at the top and announced them.

 

"Miss Arabella Sumter Mudd and Mr James Vaughn." she said, executing the most clumsy curtsy in history.

 

Inside Pettigrew stood to greet his visitors as did the fancy looking man sitting beside him. The beauteous Anæsthesia remained seated, of course. 

 

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@Nova

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

Taking care to avoid splinters was hardly dithering so when she called his name again, James kept moving, though he didn’t hurry for good reason.  “Be right there.”  He called back smothering the urge to sigh.
 
“Quite all right.”  He said, then gave a little bow in response to her quick curtsy.  “Shall we be off then?”  The sooner they arrived the sooner this evening’s outing would be done so he could go home again.
 
James swallowed since he wasn’t exactly nervous, but he was more than a little apprehensive since he really hadn't wanted to attend Mr. Pettigrew’s little gathering in the first place.  “Are you planning to play the piano this evening?”  James asked politely when she patted his arm with the hand resting in the crook of his elbow.
 
James bit back a yelp as the shop girl, or so he assumed practically dragged them both through the door.  “Warn us?”  He looked up as if he could see through the room’s ceiling to those above.  He choked when Arabella said that he just looked like a cissy, then managed a brief comment in response to both of the young women, “None taken.”  
 
James admittedly didn’t really want to be here, but bolting would be ungentlemanly so he was stuck.  When Jemima began herding them, he moved between Jemima and Arabella so that she was protected.  As they reached the top of the stair, James drew Arabella to the side so Jemima could wiggle past and announce them. 

James let Arabella precede him, his gaze sweeping over the trio in Pettigrew’s quarters above his shop.  The man he hadn’t met before hardly seemed the sort he should worry about so he relaxed a little, waiting to be introduced properly.

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James swallowed since he wasn’t exactly nervous, but he was more than a little apprehensive since he really hadn't wanted to attend Mr. Pettigrew’s little gathering in the first place.  “Are you planning to play the piano this evening?”  James asked politely when she patted his arm with the hand resting in the crook of his elbow.

 

"I dunno!" replied Arabella, honestly enough "What even is a swaray?" she asked. If folks played painas at swarays, she reckoned she'd play one. She hoped so, it would be interesting to play one that might possibly be totally in tune: no more dodging Middle C#!

 

Soon they were up in Pettigrew's sumptuous living quarters and being introduced.
 
"Miss Arabella Sumter Mudd and Mr James Vaughn." she said, executing the most clumsy curtsy in history.

 

The blonde girl looked snootily across and smirked a little at Jemima's provincial attempts at social niceties. She then raised a hand languidly toward James to kiss or shake or sniff or, well, something. He was a well bred Englishman, if he didn't know what to do with the thing, nobody did. 

 

The handsome young man with the black hair, on the other hand, instead of laughing at her, smiled a gleaming smile and gave a heartfelt "Thanks Jemima." which certainly grabbed Arabella's attention, as did his next move, which was to scoop up her own hand and kiss it, with an accompanying murmur of:

 

"Mr Pettigrew told me you were talented Miss Mudd, but he neglected to tell me that you are also beautiful: you look lovely in black, I do hope that you are not too deeply in mourning to enjoy yourself tonight."

 

"Oh no, that's all right Mister, I just work part time at the undertakers that's all!" she beamed, enjoying being the centre of attention "You haven't lived until you've had a Jolly funeral!" she trotted out their latest slogan. 

 

"Wise words, Miss Mudd, wise words indeed" he agreed. "I presume you already know Miss Orr, Miss Mudd," 

 

Arabella smiled at Anæsthesia and found herself curtsying under the pretty, doll-like young woman's cold patrician stare. "Yeah, but I'd like to get to know her better." she heard herself saying, and then was glad that Miriam hadn't been there to hear that admission.

 

Now it was Anæsthesia 's turn to wither under the saloon girl's bold appraisal. She turned her reddening face and fanned herself furiously. What a very peculiar girl!

 

Finally the two young men shook hands.

 

"Lewis Reeve" the dark haired fellow said simply "I understand you're a fellow lawyer, Mr Vaughn? I'm glad to hear it - the one thing the world is surely in need of is more lawyers." 

 

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@Nova

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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  • 3 months later...

“It’s just a fancy term for a party.”  James told her absently, still feeling like he’d rather be anywhere else right about now.  He just hoped that he didn’t look the way he felt inside.
 
Taking the lady’s extended hand in his, James lifted it just high enough to brush his lips lightly over her knuckles, before releasing it and stepping back half a pace.  Dealing with Arabella often flustered him, but he found himself feeling just as ill at ease around the young blonde lady as he had back in the drawing rooms of the British Nobility.
 
Blinking at the notion of a lady working at a funeral home, let alone the slogan Arabella shared with the group, James let out a nervous chuckle, his gaze darting from one person to the next seeking their reactions to what Arabella had just said.
 
James shook hands with the other young gentleman, managing a smile that was close to normal rather than rather appearing sick around the edges.  “I was studying to be, though I have not yet passed the bar.”  He acknowledged, then offered an attempt at a joke, “That’s not what William Shakespeare said about those in our professions.”

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"Oh no, that's all right Mister, I just work part time at the undertakers that's all!" she beamed, enjoying being the centre of attention "You haven't lived until you've had a Jolly funeral!" she trotted out their latest slogan. 

 

Blinking at the notion of a lady working at a funeral home, let alone the slogan Arabella shared with the group, James let out a nervous chuckle, his gaze darting from one person to the next seeking their reactions to what Arabella had just said.

 

"Well, I hope to wait a little bit longer before I try one out!" chuckled Mr Pettigrew who, although he seemed the supremely calm and jovial 'mein host' on the surface, was paddling his little duck feet furiously beneath the surface of the water to keep things moving along swimmingly. He swiftly moved on to introducing Reeve to Vaughn, as the subject of funerals might be upsetting to the recently bereaved Miss Orr. 

 

"Lewis Reeve" the dark haired fellow said simply "I understand you're a fellow lawyer, Mr Vaughn?"


James shook hands with the other young gentleman, managing a smile that was close to normal rather than rather appearing sick around the edges.  “I was studying to be, though I have not yet passed the bar.”  

 

"I'm glad to hear it - the one thing the world is surely in need of is more lawyers."

 

He acknowledged, then offered an attempt at a joke, “That’s not what William Shakespeare said about those in our professions.”

 

"Ha! Really?" Laughed Reeve.

 

"Well, Mr Vaughn, I believe the character who said 'let's kill all the lawyers' was actually a murderer, wasn't he?" put in Pettigrew. It's from Henry IV, isn't it?"

 

Arabella and Anæsthesia, unread airheads both, just gaped open mouthed, unable to contribute to this intellectual conversation. Well, that was unfair, Arabella read lots of reports about outlaws and murders and hangings in the newspaper and Anæsthesia consumed every single word of her regular journal The Young Lady, but neither of these sources of reading matter equipped them for conversations about Shakespeare or the law.

 

Still, not having anything useful to say never stopped Arabella speaking before, and this was no exception.

 

"Well, no one better try and kill my James, he's just the nicest man alive, ain't ya James?" she asked and grabbed onto his arm protectively.

 

"Do you know he's helpin' this poor blind girl what's called Frances Grimes, cause her brother got shot and I was there and tried to get in the way but my friend pulled me away. I mean, helpin' a poor blind girl like that, Ain't that just the noblest thing you ever heard of, Miss Orr?" Arabella gushed, and indeed, Anæsthesia did look impressed, gazing up at James with those big luminous blue eyes and gasping:

 

"That is a very kind thing to do Mr Vaughn. Mister Reeve is assisting me in a similar manner after the death of my dear departed Papa." 

 

"Well, that's pretty nice and all, Mr Reeve" agreed Arabella, then jerked a telling thumb at Miss Orr "... but she ain't blind!"

 

@Nova

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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  • 4 weeks later...

When introduced, James was quick to offer his hand for the customary shake before letting it fall back to his side
 
“Yes sir.”  James told their host with a slight smile and incline of his head.  “Dick the Butcher was not the most moral of men in the play about Henry the Fourth.”
 
James flushed when Arabella made her statement, latching onto his arm.  “Thank you, my dear.  That’s very sweet.”  James patted the small hand wrapped around his forearm.
 
Never one for being the center of attention, James flushed again, waving his free hand.  “I’m merely doing my Christian duty as a gentleman should.”  He said, “As anyone here would had Miss Grimes come to your place of employment seeking help.”  When Miss Orr turned her gaze his way, her blue eyes wide and shining, James resisted the urge to squirm, barely.  His lips curved in a quick smile before he dropped his gaze from hers.
 
“Blind or no, I’m sure Mr. Reeve’s aid has proved invaluable, in her situation.”  Like the other young lady, James’ father had passed away not that long ago so he had sympathy for her loss.

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Mr Pettigrew was pleased, very pleased indeed. This is what he missed most of all: a gathering of young gay genteel people: all right, it wasn't exactly up to the standard of the soirees of his youth in his native New Orleans, but it was a hundred times better than roughing it in the Stardust with cowboys and ruffians. Mr Vaughn and Mr Reeve were handsome and intelligent, Vaughn a little shy perhaps, but he was sure to come out of his shell given a little time and a suitable supply of liquid refreshment. Miss Orr was so very pretty, it was easy to overlook the fact that she was as thick as two short planks in the brains department. And Miss Mudd was... well, a 'diamond in the rough' he liked to think.  


“Yes sir.”  James told their host with a slight smile and incline of his head.  “Dick the Butcher was not the most moral of men in the play about Henry the Fourth.”

 

Ah, yes: Mr Vaughn was living up to expectations: well read indeed! "Ah! You are clearly a man of some erudition as well as charity, Mr Vaugh!" Worchester said, unctuously.
 

Never one for being the center of attention, James flushed again, waving his free hand.  “I’m merely doing my Christian duty as a gentleman should.”  He said, “As anyone here would had Miss Grimes come to your place of employment seeking help.” 

 

"Well I didn't." admitted Arabella "When she first come into the saloon, I went and hid cause I was kinda scared of her. Not just them googly eyes what she's got, I's sorta scared I'd do or say the wrong thing, y'know?" she frowned in memory. 

 

"But that's not the situation now?" asked Reeve.

 

"Oh heck, no, we're just the biggest pals ever!" chirped Arabella 
 
As the conversation carried on, James mentioned that, as with his help for Miss Grimes, Reeve was providing invaluable assistance to Miss Orr. 

 

"Well, to tell you the truth, Vaughn, and I'm sure Miss Orr won't mind me divulging this: I do have some ulterior motives. In tying up Anæsthesia's father's affairs, I've been able to take over a number of briefs myself. I might not have charged Mrs Orr for my services, but I've not been entirely selfless." he admitted with frank candour.

 

Miss Orr looked at Mr Reeve adoringly as he said this and Arabella's first instinct was to assume she was spoony about the handsome young lawyer from Helena. But somehow her woman's instinct for these things told her no: there was something else going on there, but what the Dickens it was, she hadn't a clue!

 

"So, how about you" Reeve asked James directly "Have you found any paid legal work in Kalispell yet? Because if you're not too busy, there's a couple of cases I could do with some input from an English Law expert. You know Montana has no Code of her own yet: California and Nevada Codes are cited a lot in water and mineral claims cases, anything else, I'd say English precedents are cited about as much as U.S. cases." Reve babbled on in legalise. 

 

Arabella hadn't got a clue what the men were talking about, so she whiled away the time staring a little open mouthed at Anæsthesia's pretty face and nice frilly dress - and that young lady squirmed a little under the odd scrutiny. 

 

@Nova

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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