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Sagas of the Wild West

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An Overdue Visit


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Mature Content: No

With: Kate Bowen, Pastor and Mrs. Evans, Shade Thornton
Location: Kalispell, then Lost Lake Ranch
When: Saturday - mid September 1875
Time of Day: Morning

 

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Kate took one last look in the mirror and nodded firmly.  She was wearing a dark brown dress with navy blue  accents on the cuffs and collar.  It was not her favourite dress but it was one befitting her position as teacher.  She had wanted to wear one of her more colourful outfits but thought better of it.  After all, she had only talked to the man one and that was just before his encounter with the bear.  It was too early...well it was just too early.

 

Today's trip to Lost Lake Ranch under the guise of meeting the two young Thornton children would allow her to get to know him a little bit better.  When Pastor Evans told her that he was going to visit Shade Thornton to see how he was recovering and that Mrs. Evans was going to visit the housekeeper, she initially tried to think of way to join them.  Thankfully, Pastor Evans mentioned that it would be a good opportunity for her to see the countryside and to meet the children.

 

In a way, the ride out would be beneficial in helping her to know what the surrounding country was like and who lived where.  But, if truth be told she was more interested in seeing Shade again.

 

Once again, she stopped.  Her thoughts were getting way ahead of the reality of the situation.  For all she knew, he wouldn't even remember who she was.  With his injuries and running a ranch, he probably never gave her a passing thought.

 

A knock at the door alerted her to the fact that the Pastor was ready to leave.  Grabbing her coat and bag, she made her way out of the room.

 

To be continued...

 

(OOC: @Stormwolfe I will do another post about the trip to the ranch before arriving.  You can do a post if you want for Shade.)

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It was another beautiful Montana day. The sun was out, but the approaching fall could be felt in the air, making it very pleasant. Too nice to stay inside. Mary Miller, the ranch's housekeeper, had informed Shade that they were having guests. Pastor Evans and his wife were coming for a long-overdue visit. Shade did not know the reverend and his wife since he attended Mass at the abbey, as did most of the household.  Mary and Sage, her husband and night foreman, attended church in town, of course. Still, the visit was not untoward or unexpected. Shade had heard good things about the pastor and his wife.


Shade could not help the fact that his thoughts turned to the pretty young school teacher that he had met in town before the bear hunt. She had mentioned that she was boarding with the Evans'. So, that is not exactly what she had said, but it was inferred when she told him that he could send word to her there when a good opportunity for a visit presented itself. Mary's words made him wonder if Mr. and Mrs. Evans' boarder would be accompanying them. He could not help but hope so. He would like to get to know her better.


His rambling thoughts were interrupted by Cody and Nettie as they brought some elaborately folded paper animals to show him. Harriet Mercer's colleague and, probably, protector, had shown them how to make the paper animals at some point in time. Now, they were busy making their own paper animal ranch. Shade smiled and examined the little horse carefully, praising his nephew on how good it was. He pointed at the box of colored chalk, "Why don't you color them?" Shade delved back into his school memories when he actually did some landscape and horse sketches. "You can combine some colors to get another." It would make a mess because they would have to use their fingers, but it would be fun and a learning adventure for them.


The twins chattered excitedly at one another and started work on the project their uncle had suggested. Shade had never imagined himself so settled and so content with being settled. His duties as the twin's guardian and surrogate parent meant the world to him. It had also made his thoughts turn toward settling down in other ways. He had gone, almost overnight, from being a drifter and practically an outlaw to being a wealthy ranch owner and guardian of two five-year-olds. Would that change in status matter to...


Wait! Shade shook his head fiercely. He had only met Miss Bowen once and very casually at that. Still...would a genteel schoolmarm be willing to overlook some of his past exploits? Shade wouldn't mind finding out...
 

Tags @JulieS

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Kate listened as Pastor Evans and his wife pointed out various places along the way.  It was a little bit overwhelming trying to remember who lived where but at the least she now had a good idea on who lived on this side of town.

 

At the beginning of the trip, Mrs. Evans had asked her husband if the people at Lost Lake knew of their impending visit.  He had told her that he had sent a note back with Ben Hall, one of the ranch hands who did attend their church when he was able.  Ben had been in town collecting the mail and some supplies for the ranch.

 

Pastor Evans remarked that even though he hadn't met Shade Thornton, he had been impressed by what he had heard about the man.  Knowing that things needed to be settled at the ranch was one of the reasons why Pastor Evans had taken so long to go out there.  His wife, Jemima, who was good friends with Mary Miller, the housekeeper, bristled with excitement as she told Kate that she hoped to get a few of Mary's recipes to try out.

 

As they continued along the road that lead to Lost Lake, Kate also took all of the different colours and smells.  Summer was slowly turning into fall and some of the trees had already started to lose their leaves.  Today's visit might be the only chance she could get to come here before winter set in.  Teaching school during the week and preparing lessons on the weekends left very little time for going on long trips to the outlying ranches.  There were a few more ranches and farms on her list to visit.

 

Saddened by the thought that this might be her only visit to the home of someone who was starting to figure prominently in her life, she immediately vowed to make the most of it and to learn as much as she could about him.  Maybe a long winter would give her time to think and work out what she would do, if anything at all.

 

A comment from Pastor Evans, alerted her to the fact they were nearing their destination.  She would put these next few minutes in getting herself composed and hopefully hide how eager she was to see him again.

 

@Stormwolfe

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"Mr. Shade," Mary admonished firmly, but with an amused note in her voice, "they will get chalk dust all over their clothes." She shook her head and added, "I believe our guests have arrived." Mary headed toward the doors that faced out into the home's large courtyard.


Shade knew that Mary was not truly concerned. After all, it was Saturday, and the children were clad in their play clothes. "Come on," he said and held his hands out to the twins. "Let's greet our guests, then you can continue your coloring projects." Cody and Nettie were too well-behaved to show how little they wanted to be interrupted. Taking their uncle's hand, they went with him to the courtyard.


Fortunately, although he was still noticeably limping, Shade's leg was healing well. This was a good thing since he did not want to be the object of too much concern or sympathy. He was not used to being "fussed" over, and it made him more than a little uncomfortable. They reached the courtyard, and just as Mary had said, their visitors were arriving. Shade considered his sense of hearing to be exceptional. Mary, however, seemed to be able to hear as well as a dog!


While waiting for their guest to alight from their conveyance, Shade's eyes scanned the small party, unable to stop his eyes from lighting up when he spotted the person he was hoping would be with the reverend and his wife. The woman was every bit as pretty as he remembered, and he found himself impatient for the formal introductions to be said. Would he and Miss Bowen have an opportunity to converse privately? Probably not. Mary was a stickler for social etiquette.
 

@JulieS

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Kate had been too busy gawking at the house that she almost didn't see Pastor Evans come around to help her off the buggy.  Growing up in Chicago she had seen and lived in some big houses but never expected to see one out here.  Even when she was teaching in Avoca, the houses of the local ranchers were modest compared to this.  Whoever built this one must have had a great vision for what he wanted this place to be.

 

After getting off the buggy, she looked down as she straightened her coat and dusting it off slightly.  As she raised her head, her eyes went over to where Mrs. Evans was being greeted by a woman and that is when she saw him.

 

Her first reaction was to stand still.  She wasn't sure what to do next.  Knowing that it might seem odd, she began to move towards the group at the front of the house.  There were two children with Shade, as well as the woman, she now assumed as the one that Mrs. Evans had come to visit.

 

Mary Miller, seeing that the visitors were now all present, introduced Pastor Evans and his wife to Shade.  Pastor Evans then in turn, introduced Kate to Mrs. Miller and Shade.  Not knowing whether it was wise or not to say she and Shade were already acquainted with each other, she just smiled.  Besides she was a tad nervous at being so close to him that she couldn't say anything at all.

 

@Stormwolfe

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As the introductions were being done, Shade offered his own smiles and greetings in turn. When the pastor introduced Miss Bowen, his smile deepened, lighting the shadows in his dark blue eyes, "Miss Bowen, it is a pleasure to see you again." Shade gave the reverend and his wife a nod, "Miss Bowen and I met very briefly at the general store in Kalispell before the bear hunt," his explanation made it clear that their meeting had been fleeting.

 

Feeling a gentle tug on his hand, Shade looked down at his niece, "I am being informed that more introductions are in order. Pastor Evans, Mrs. Evans, Miss Bowen - these two imps are my wards and my niece and nephew - Cody and Antoinette, Nettie, Thornton." The twins murmured polite greetings, but Cody moved closer to Shade. He was still nervous about meeting new people.

 

Nettie, however, had no qualms. She loved attention and loved visitors, "Miss Mary made an angel food cake but says we have to have a real lunch first."

 

@JulieS

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Kate smiled at the girl.  "I think your Miss Mary cares for you very much.  You are very lucky to have someone to make angel food cake as it is only for very special people and their friends."

 

She turned her attention to the boy.  Seeing that he was a little shy, she just smiled and said hello.  Knowing that she would have to wait until the boy opened up a bit more.  Having lunch and spending a little time with him might do that.  One thing she did know was that she didn't want to give the impression that she was using him to get to his uncle.  A slight frown appeared on her face as she mentally chided herself at the thought that this visit was nothing more than getting to know a local resident and his wards, who were close to school age, a bit better.

 

Looking over to Pastor and Mrs. Evans, she replied to Shade's comment, "Yes, it was very brief and quite unexpected."

 

Turning back to Shade, she felt a bit awkward.  Not knowing quite what to say, she blurted out, "I was sorry to hear about your accident.  I had heard that the injuries were rather terrible.  It is good to see that you are recovering well."

 

@Stormwolfe

 

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Shade smiled easily, "Thank you. My injuries were not as severe as first feared, fortunately. Please, come inside. Mary thought we might like to have lunch on the front terrace." He was careful not to draw undue attention to Cody. He didn't have to worry about Nettie on that score.


Nettie took Katherine's hand firmly in her own, "I will show you," she stated adamantly and tugged the woman toward the house, all the while chattering about doing the paper folding and coloring. Shade smiled and fell in behind with Pastor Evans while Mary and Mrs. Evans chatted and followed.


Earlier that morning, Mary had gotten a couple of the ranch's hands to move the table they used for outdoor dining so that it caught the sun. With the leaves barely beginning to change to their autumn colors contrasting sharply with the intense blue of the lake, and the snowcapped mountains beyond, the view was spectacular. Mary mentally preened just a bit, proud of working in such a beautiful home and location. She then chastised herself for such prideful thoughts.


"I will get lunch laid out," Mary said and peeled off toward the kitchen. 


Shade nodded and gestured at the outdoor seating area, "Please, make yourselves comfortable." He separated his hand from Cody's and Nettie from Katherine, "Go on, get cleaned up for lunch." Both children made their polite excuses and darted off. "Oh...uh...Pastor, Mrs. Evans, Miss Bowen, do you want to wash the trail dust off?" Shade could not help a bit of awkwardness. He was not accustomed to hosting guests.
 

@JulieS

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After accepting Shade's offer to wash the trail dust off, Kate followed Pastor and Mrs. Evans to the room where they could freshen up.  Part of her wanted to stay behind to talk to Shade and get to know him better as it might be the only time they could be alone.  However, her own sensibility and etiquette made her decide not to.

 

When she and the Evans returned, the two children were already seated, and Mary had begun to place the food on the table.  Mrs. Evans delighted at the spread her friend was putting on, remarked that it wasn't very often that she got the chance to have a meal in such a genial location.  Pastor Evans quickly agreed before going over to the children and chatting with them.

 

Mary had come out again and when she had finished placing another platter of food on the table, she asked Mrs. Evans to come with her as she wanted her opinion on something...Kate couldn't quite hear as she had been occupied with looking at the scenery in an attempt to avoid talking to Shade.

 

Nerves were now starting to get the better of her.  She had no idea of what was going on.  One minute, she wanted to be alone with Shade and the next she wanted to be as far away as possible.  Now that they were the only two who were standing around doing nothing, well it was a bit unsettling.  Deciding that going into schoolteacher mode was the only thing she could do, she turned to Shade, "I am glad that weather has cleared after the rain we had the other day.  It would have been a shame to miss all of the wonderful scenery."

 

@Stormwolfe

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Finally, Shade and Katherine were alone for a few moments, and he could not think of a good conversation opener. His head was buzzing with things he wanted to say, questions he wanted to ask her. Shade wanted to know everything he could about the lovely woman standing near the terrace railing with him.  Why had she come to  Montana? Was it only to teach school, or had she been leaving something behind? Poetically, he wanted to believe it was fate.


Shade's mind had been on getting the supplies for the bear hunt when he met her the first time. He had felt drawn to her during their brief meeting, but it was only while he was recovering from the injuries he had gotten on the hunt that she had started to really occupy his thoughts. The more he thought about that meeting in the general store, the more he felt some elusive quality to it that had never happened to him before.


Now, here they were, and he was as tongue-tied as a schoolboy. Fortunately, Katherine broke the awkward silence. Shade sighed inwardly with relief and gratitude. The last thing he wanted was for her to feel as if he was not interested in talking to her.


"I didn't realize how much I missed this until I got home," Shade replied, waving a hand at the mountains and the deep lake below. "May I get you something to drink? A glass of lemonade?" He inquired politely.

 

@JulieS

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