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Posted (edited)

Mature Content: Mild Horror

Author: Arabella Mudd

With: Redmond Household
Location: Redmond Homestead
When: Mid December 1875
Time of Day: Three Hours and Twenty Minutes after Midnight 

 

content-divider.png

 

It was the same blood-curdling scream that had woken up the whole household at the exact same time in the wee small hours of the morning for the last two nights. The first time, it had woken everybody up, and the whole trio had crowded in, bleary eyed and attempting to fight the hard-to-suppress anger that all suddenly awakened folk feel. But the girl was no more awake or lucid than she had been in the late afternoon when she had been brought there, all wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy in the little buggy.

 

The second night was a repeat performance, only made remarkable by the exact same timing of that unearthly shriek, twenty minutes past three of the clock in the morning. But the girl was just the same: an incoherent, burning, shaking, pinched faced little skeleton, the candlelight gleaming on the sweat beads of her pallid brow.

 

The third night was the charm. The scream awoke all three of them again, of course: only the dead could sleep through that ear-piercing cacophony. But everybody expected that someone else would go, and so it was that only one set of footsteps that pattered along the corridor outside the door. However, this time, within the room, the girl was sitting up shivering in bed: awake, terrified, and repeating the Lord’s Prayer in a rapid recitative, scarcely stopping to draw breath, as if by leaving no gaps between the holy words, whatever evil she so mortally feared would not be able to sneak through her line of defense.

 

"... hallowedbethynamethykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven..."

 

As the door creaked open, she let out a scream almost as powerful as the ones that had struck the fatal hour on each of the nights that she had tossed and fretted beneath the Redmond's roof beams.

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Aurelian had been willing to take the child into his home after all she had been thru. One of the survivors of the Whitefish disaster, it seemed she had been on the very brink of death before being dug out of a collapsed building then thought expired upon arrival at Kalispell and her frail body committed to the barn where they were keeping the rest of the retrieved corpses until the ground would allow burial once more. One did not have burials in winter Montana. The minister had come to Aurelian and asked if he might do the charitable thing and house the poor thing under his roof at least temporarily until either some possible relatives might be located or at the least, a more permanent residence decided upon - all resting of course on her actually pulling thru this horrifying circumstance. Of course Aurelian agreed, he thought of what his wife would have said and that made his answer an easy one.

 

These first few days and, especially, the nights were not easy. She was not really conscious enough to be coherent at all and to make matters worse, she would scream like a banshee each night waking the whole family up. Wyatt was annoyed enough to ask if they might not keep her in the barn at night with the cow and horses. Fortunately older and more Christian sentiments prevailed and he was admonished to never suggest such a thing again.

 

Now on this third night, once more came the screams. Clara's eyes snapped open and she gave a dramatic sigh then called out to her father, "I will check. Stay in bed." She heard a barely audible thanks from the man.

 

Rising out from under the blanket and off the floor, the girl fumbled for the lantern and a sulphur match. She had been sleeping on the farmhouse floor so the girl could have her bed.  She did not begrudge the poor thing that given what all must have happened to her in that hellhole of a town. Once she had her necessary illumination she approached the bed. Only this time it was a different situation that greeted her first glance. The girl was definitely awake. As for coherent, that was still up for debate.

 

"... hallowedbethynamethykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven..."

 

Unfortunately Clara's entry had moved the door open further and this triggered yet another eardrum splitting scream. Biting back a few unChristian thoughts, Clara paused to speak then.

 

"It is alright. You are safe here. Please, calm yourself," she announced as calmly and clearly as she could.

 

"And ..... stop with the screaming," was her fervent plea.

 

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)

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Biting back a few unChristian thoughts, Clara paused to speak then.

"It is alright. You are safe here. Please, calm yourself," she announced as calmly and clearly as she could.

 

Arabella’s head shot a glance sideways in fright and then a look of incredible relief spread across her terrified little face. “Oh, I thought it was the Old Lady again.” she sighed to herself more than to the girl who had just entered.

 

"And ..... stop with the screaming," was her fervent plea.

 

The girl in Clara’s bed heard the voice but didn't really comprehend it. She shook her head ever so slightly, trying to focus and remember how she had gotten here. Her eyes adjusted to the light from the lamp and she looked at the girl holding it properly for the first time. She had the glossiest dark chestnut brown braids you ever saw, and the roundest prettiest brown face, and the shawl wrapped around her shoulders against the cold was just the very zigzaggy pattern you might expect to see on the reservation. After months of not seeing any red men on her journey West, here was a genuine Wild West Injun Squaw, just like in the books.

 

She sat up in the bed and raised her right hand. “How!” she boomed, trying to recall the parlance of plains, learned through countless games of cowboys and Indians back home in the South East. “Me pale face girl!” she announced truthfully enough, drawing a circle around her face, which was very pale indeed. She pointed to the far wall at the end of Clara’s bed “Me come from big Mountain, many Moons walk!” she further explained to just about the worst person in the Territories to mistake for a native of these lands. 

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the sick child sat up in the bed and raised her right hand. “How!”

 

What? Clara raised one eyebrow.

 

"Me pale face girl!” the other girl announced.

 

Why was she talking like that? You'd think she was trying to parley with a savage Indian, Clara wondered.

 

“Me come from big Mountain, many Moons walk!”

 

"Excuse me? Ummm...." Clara was seldom stumped for words but she was at this instant.

 

"What is your name?" she decided to start with first things first then move on to details.

 

"My name is Clara," she tapped herself on the chest with her free hand.

 

 

 

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)

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"Excuse me? Ummm...." Clara was seldom stumped for words but she was at this instant.

"What is your name?" she decided to start with first things first then move on to details.

 

Disappointment must have shown on Arabella’s face: this squaw was one of them educated Indians that lived on a reservation and sowed corn and went to church like civilised folk. That made sense, she reflected sadly; after all, they were in a house not a teepee. And here she’d been hoping that they would get to dance around a totem pole and then they’d tie her up and be just about to scalp her, and then the cavalry would come and rescue her, and they’d all sit round afterwards and smoke the peace pipe and eat bisons. Bisons? Bison! But that was not to be.

 

"My name is Clara," she tapped herself on the chest with her free hand.

 

“Hello ‘Clara’” replied Arabella, wondering what the Indian girl’s real name was, probably something wonderful like Running Bear or Rain Falls In Face “My name is Arabella Sumter Mudd, of the Virginia Mudds.”

 

To most folks, that would have been a more than adequate answer, but this being Arabella, a few further details were required.

 

“Of course, nobody calls me Sumter, except Pappy sometimes called me Sump for short, but he didn’t like that name really, that was my Mammy’s fancy, what with her being red hot sessesh, and all and always wandering around the place singing The Blue Bonnie Flag and whatnot. And do you know when Mr. John Wilkes Booth shot the President, she let out a cheer when she heard about it and my Pappy he told her off about that, and he was right, because that was a very evil thing Mr. Booth did, but still, if you ever saw a picture of him, you would have to admit that he was an awful handsome man.”

 

The girl had several days’ worth of talking to catch up on and seemed to possess an ability to so without having to once catch her breath.

 

“And that reminds me about something else: do you know when Mr. John Wilkes Booth shot Mr. Lincoln, he jumped twenty feet down to the stage and he hurt his foot, and he shouted Sic Semper Tyrannis – see, that’s Latin, Clara, and that means ‘Take that you dirty carpetbagging Yankee’ – anyhow, he hobbled off and he found this doctor called Dr. Mudd, yes Mudd, just like me, and he says ‘I hurt my food when I shot President Lincoln’ and that Dr. Mudd, he says ‘You are a wicked man, but I must treat you, as I am a Hippocratic Oaf’ and he pulled off his boots, Mr. Wilkes boots that is, not his own, and even though them dogs was barkin’ what with all that running around and assassinating people, he up and fixed that old broken foot.”

 

She took a deep gulp of breath and segued straight into the next portion of her soliloquy.

 

“Anyhow, then some Yankee sojers come along and caught Mr Booth and the Officer there, he says ‘Don’t shoot, men, we must take him alive!’ but this one sojer didn’t pay him no mind, and he shoots Mr Booth dead. Pckew! Urgghh!” she mimicked someone being shot and flopped back into the pillows. Then she shifted up a little and patted the cleared space for Clara to come and sit down next to her on the bed, she needed to whisper the next bit.

 

“And the Officer, he says to that sojer as shot Mr Booth, he says ‘Damn you, you have cost me a promotion!’ And I know I just said ‘Damn you’ but I was just telling you what he said, so it don’t count as cussing when I do that. Anyway, they gathered up all them folks as helped Mr Booth and they was all hanged.” She illustrated this by holding a fist up by her head, as if pulling on a rope, tipping her head to one side with her tongue lolling out and crossing her eyes.

 

"‘But Dr. Mudd’, they said ‘You helped a wicked man, but you only did it because you are a Hippocratic oaf, so you will not hang, you will go to a desert island and your name will be forever held in infamy” and when my Pappy read that in a newspaper he said ‘Ho ho ho, he is Dr. Mudd, and now his name is Mud!” and my Mammy turned and said “Well so is yours, you silly old fool!” and we all laughed and laughed, even Pappy.” she closed her eyes and mouthed laughter, to illustrate the point.

 

Talking of Pappy reminded her what he’d said about not always talking about yourself, Arabella, and how it was polite to ask other people about themselves, even if they weren’t as interesting as you. She reached out for the other girl’s hand and asked, in patronizing tones:

 

“So, tell me ‘Clara’, do you miss living in a wigwam?”

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)

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Her introduction of herself then got a name back from the young girl.  Arabella. Definitely a southerner, not just the name but the accent. However it also seemed to bring out a virtual torrent of conversation out of young Miss Arabella. Well, not really conversation because that would assume a certain back and forth between two people. This was - what had the term been in Congress? Oh yes, a filibuster. Clara just stood there trying to keep up.

 

Good gracious! Not merely southern but a raging Confederate diehard. A frown came over Clara when the subject turned to President Lincoln's murder. Her father had fought for the Union during the war. To hear Mr. Lincoln's murderer praised so was ...... disgusting.

 

The girl also had her facts wrong.

 

"I know it is Latin. And it means 'thus always to tyrants'," Clara interjected though whether it even got thru to the child was doubtful as she kept blathering on.

 

There was more.

 

"No, Hippocratic oath ..... not oaf," she corrected softly, doubting it would do any good.

 

When the girl talked of Booth being shot, Clara shrugged, "Only what he deserved." 

 

As for the girl using  'damn', Clara had heard far worse when her father had accidentally hit his thumb with a hammer some time back. While she was above using such coarse language, it was not really an issue to worry over.

 

It seemed - FINALLY - the girl had run out of verbal steam as she related her family enjoying sharing a laugh. However Clara did not even crack the slightest of smiles though.

 

"I guess you had to be there," was her dry reaction.

 

Earlier the child had indicated Clara should come and sit next to her on the bed but Clara had ignored that gesture.  Whilst Arabella had been unconscious, Clara had sat beside her several times. She had gently washed the girl's face - speaking of washing, the girl was going to need a proper bath and soon too - and combed her hair to get out the bits of wood and dirt from when she had nearly been buried alive. Clara always was very conscientious about hair care, what with her long braids it was a lot of work.  But now that the girl was chattering away, Clara had no desire to go any closer. Christian charity had it's limits.

 

Arabella reached out for Clara's hand. Clara did not extend hers.

 

“So, tell me ‘Clara’, do you miss living in a wigwam?”

 

"Wigwam? Why on earth do you think I ever lived in a wigwam? That is an Indian dwelling.  You are inside our home, it is a farmhouse. And before that, we lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania," Clara was astonished at the child's ignorance.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)

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“O!” Arabella’s mouth made the same shape as the sound.

 

“Why, I though you was a little Indian girl!” she said, surprised. Furrowing her brow, she peered hard at Clara’s face and shawl. “Well, you sure do look like a little Indian girl!” she declared.

 

“Well, if you’re a little white girl, then we can definitely be bosom friends!” she confided.

 

“Course, I could be bosom friends with a little Indian girl, I reckon, if I had to. Fact is, she’d be always a-hankerin’ to scalp me when I wasn’t looking, but apart from that, it wouldn’t bother me if she was red, green or blue!” she declared airily.

 

Sitting up a little in bed, she gave Clara a concrete example of the unusual color blindness her Methodist father had inculcated into her conflicted little brain. “Now you take my bosom friend back in Virginia, Miss Melissa Cartlidge, she was white most times, but then one day, she comes sidlin’ up to me and she says ‘Oh Arabella Mudd, I can no longer be your bosom friend, as I have just discovered that I am a Octoroon, and you will no longer wish to associate with me’ and I says right back ‘Why Melissa Cartlidge, I don’t pay no mind to that, nobody's perfect -  why I’m half Abolitionist on my Pappy’s side!’” And with that she gave Clara a knowing nod.

 

She picked at the over-sized nightdress she was wearing.

 

“Who does this nightie belong to?” she asked simply.

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“Why, I thought you was a little Indian girl!” the child said, surprised.

 

Clara was horrified, "I most certainly am not!"

 

Furrowing her brow, she peered hard at Clara’s face and shawl. “Well, you sure do look like a little Indian girl!” she declared.

 

Clara glared, "I am not little, I am most definitely not one of those savages, and finally I am a young lady not a girl."

 

It was always a sorepoint with Clara to be regarded as a child. She had left her childhood behind a long time ago, when her mother was killed.

 

“Well, if you’re a little white girl, then we can definitely be bosom friends!” the child now decided quite arbitrarily.

 

The stranger was assuming that Clara would even have any desire to befriend this ...annoying scamp. But, for the moment anyhow, Clara kept her opinion to herself. And the girl wasn't finished yet apparently in making her point about friendship. So Clara had to endure yet another boring story.

 

"And what is wrong with being an abolitionist?" Clara was certain she would have been one but she had just been born when the war began back in 1861.

 

Arabella picked at the over-sized nightdress she was wearing.

 

“Who does this nightie belong to?” she asked simply.

 

"My brother, Wyatt's. One of mine would be too big for you, you would drown in it. Wyatt is your size, he is twelve,"  Clara answered, bracing herself for the expected caterwauling about to ensue. It seemed gratitude was not a part of the girl's vaunted southern upbringing. She had yet to hear a word of thanks.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)

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"And what is wrong with being an abolitionist?" Clara was certain she would have been one but she had just been born when the war began back in 1861.

 

Arabella’s head was starting to droop a little now, all this talking had worn her out. Still, she struggled to answer Clara’s question with her usual fulsome amount of detail.

 

“Why, nothing at all, but Pappy says it’s easy for you Northern folks to be Abolitionists but if you’d tried that in Monroe, Virginia in ‘61, and they’d a done you like they did my Pappy.” She yawned. “See, my Pappy was a conductor on the Railroad in Monroe…” she hunkered down in the bed but was palpably fighting the sleep which reached and pulled at her. It wasn’t so much that she wanted to carry on talking to this little girl that was so kind and sweet and interested in her, it was more that she was afraid that if she once fell back to sleep, the old lady would come for her again.

 

Grunting herself back awake, Arabella picked at the over-sized nightdress she was wearing.

“Who does this nightie belong to?” she asked simply.

 

"My brother, Wyatt's. One of mine would be too big for you, you would drown in it. Wyatt is your size, he is twelve."

 

“Oh, why that’s wonderful” sighed Arabella, perking up a little “A sweet, bonny little boy of twelve!” If little Johnnie had lived just a little longer, just a little longer. She examined the nightshirt in more detail, pulling at the front. “Are little boy’s nighties different to little girls’?” she wondered out loud and then pulling the neck out peered inside it, as far as she could in the dim light, as if that would answer the question. “Peeewweee! I stink like a polecat!” she exclaimed, sounding more interested in the noisome phenomenon than distressed, and flopped back into the bed, her eyelids closing.

 

“I’m too scared to go back to sleep.” she admitted, turning her head to Clara. She gave a little smile. “Will you tell me a nice story?”

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Well, it seemed she wasn't so much against abolitionists as remembering some sort of consequences her father apparently suffered for advocating such a noble and proper cause. Clara would have asked but did not want to hear yet another longwinded circulatory tale that would no doubt only go off on yet another tangent so she kept her mouth shut.

 

She did however answer the child's question about the nightie, explaining it belonged to her younger brother. Fortunately the girl was pleased to hear it.

 

“Oh, why that’s wonderful” sighed Arabella, perking up a little “A sweet, bonny little boy of twelve!”

 

"Not sure I would use those adjectives to describe him but you can meet him later," Clara replied dryly.

 

The girl mused as to whether there were differences in nighties due to gender. Most families never bothered. As long as something still fit any child, male or female, they were utilized til the things wore out. One only needed them to sleep in not wander about in public after all.

 

"No, they cover both males and females, they are utilitarian," Clara explained.

 

“Peeewweee! I stink like a polecat!”

 

"Yes, you are rather fragant in an unpleasant sort of fashion but that is hardly your fault after all you have been thru. I will see to it you get a proper hot bath after you get a good sleep," Clara promised.

 

The girl flopped her head back onto the pillow in dramatic fashion, " I’m too scared to go back to sleep.” she admitted, turning her head to Clara.

 

"You are safe here, you just had a nightmare no doubt. They cannot harm you," Clara sympathized as she had had her own nightmares for a long time after her mother died. But she got past it.

 

The child gave a little smile. “Will you tell me a nice story?”

 

Clara blinked then had a question of her own for the girl, "A story? May I ask how old are you? You look about twelve maybe. I stopped telling Wyatt bedtime stories by the time he was five."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)
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"Yes, you are rather fragant in an unpleasant sort of fashion but that is hardly your fault after all you have been thru. I will see to it you get a proper hot bath after you get a good sleep," Clara promised.

 

“A real bath? Oh, that sounds wonderful!” cooed Arabella, though she did make a mental note to make sure that taking part in this promised bathing experience wouldn’t turn her into no Baptist or nothing. Clara tried, rather tersely, to quell Arabella’s fear over the terrible dreams that had tortured her in her fever fits.

 

The child gave a little smile. “Will you tell me a nice story?”

Clara blinked then had a question of her own for the girl, "A story? May I ask how old are you? You look about twelve maybe.”

 

“Why, I am fourteen years of age” objected the Southern girl “I just got a ‘rangy’ figure, is all!”

 

“ I stopped telling Wyatt bedtime stories by the time he was five."

 

Arabella could hardly believe her ears at this miserable revelation. “You don’t tell stories no more?! But stories are so very wonderful, they’re like a whole different life where things is always exciting and happy and gay, or else sometimes they’re scardy and bad things happen, but you can enjoy them scardy things cause you know they ain’t real.” She shook her head, trying to imagine a life without stories. “I like stories about all sorts of things: cowboys and Indians; Bonnie Prince Charlie; ones where a lady spy gets captured by the sojers, and they tickle her feet till she tells them the secrets; ones about castles, and princesses, and knights in armor. Are you interested in knights in armor, Clara? Because I’m telling you right now: I am powerful interested in them fellers, I don’t mind tellin’ you.”

 

She just had to accept that this poor creature lived in a world without stories. It made her sad.

 

“Oh well, maybe you could read me the bible some, or, oh I know, why you must be tired too…” she put her head on the pillow and closed her eyes, her free hand patting the space that she had cleared for her on the bed.

 

“Why don’t you get into bed with me, and we can have a nice cuddle?” she offered innocently.

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“A real bath? Oh, that sounds wonderful!” cooed Arabella.

 

"Yes, a real bath. Wonderful or not, you need one," Clara nodded.

 

As for the girl's request to hear a bedtime story, that seemed a bit immature of her. And turned out Clara had actually underestimated the child's age.

 

“Why, I am fourteen years of age” objected the Southern girl “I just got a ‘rangy’ figure, is all!”

 

"Fourteen?" Clara frowned, and the older girl thought she was lacking in the bosom area, she didn't feel quite so badly now - Arabella was flat as a board.

 

The girl now gushed about stories and how wonderful they were. Clara thought so too - when she was a young child. But then it hit Clara that perhaps stories meant the same as books to her? Now when it came to books, Clara did love fiction. Oh and nonfiction too.

 

" I recently read a fine tome on Joan of Arc. Now she was truly an amazing young woman. I would have loved to have met her," Clara became a bit more upbeat sounding.

 

And just then the child appeared to be running out of steam at last and looked like she was settling back to sleep. Clara would be fine with that. However  ....

 

Her free hand patting the space that Arabella had cleared for her on the bed.

 

“Why don’t you get into bed with me, and we can have a nice cuddle?” she offered innocently.

 

Clara was wide eyed. Now the girl, of course, could not know it but Clara had a deep aversion to such a thing or anything like it when it came to physical contact with other people. Even her father realized she was uncomfortable with fatherly hugs and no longer attempted it, sadly.

 

"No thank you, I actually am quite exhausted and would like to go back to my pillow and blanket and finish my sleep. We can talk more tomorrow," she forced a wane smile.

 

 

 

 

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"I recently read a fine tome on Joan of Arc. Now she was truly an amazing young woman. I would have loved to have met her," Clara became a bit more upbeat sounding.

 

If Clara was hoping that Arabella would soon nod off back to sleep, then this was one of the worst possible names to drop; the girl, for all her tiredness, fairly jumped up in the bed, which creaked dangerously at the shock.

 

“Oh I just love HER!” she squealed “I pretend to be her lots, especially the part where she gets burned alive!” She frowned, as if considering her next words very carefully. “But, now, my Pappy says it’s rude to correct a body when they make a mistake, but I feel I should let you know it ain’t called a ‘Tome’, it’s called a ‘Pome’. See, if the words in a story rhyme, why that’s called a Pome, but if they don’t, why child, that’s just called a book or a story. You might want to try and remember that, else you might look a little foolish.” That cleared up, she returned to the subject of St. Joan herself.

 

“Now, I got some burnin’ questions you might be able to answer, Miss Clara, having read that there Pome. Firstly, I always wondered: was she called Jonah by her Pappy and Mammy, since she was a baby, cause that’s a man’s name! Or is that a nickname them Frenchies gave her later on, because she liked to dress up like a boy? Furtherly, what exactly are ‘orleens’ cause in that there story, it says she was entirely made up of ‘em.”

 

Questions about Joan of Arc over, Arabella seemed set to go back to sleep and, seeing as Clara didn’t want to join her in bed, no doubt due to her being ‘fragant in an unpleasant sort of fashion’ and all, the girl contented herself with wrapping her arms around the plump down-filled cushioning beneath her head.

 

“Ohhh well, I’ll just cuddle up with my pillow and pretend it’s someone nice…. Pappy, or Rosie, or Melissa, … or Johnnie, … or Clara….” And she was gone to the land of Nod, snoring away, well, let’s say ‘gently’.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Ahh, so the girl knew of the French saint, Joan even being a favorite of hers. That tipped the scale a bit more in the child's favor. They at least had that in common but of course Arabella did not stop there.

 

"But, now, my Pappy says it’s rude to correct a body when they make a mistake, but I feel I should let you know it ain’t called a ‘Tome’, it’s called a ‘Pome’. See, if the words in a story rhyme, why that’s called a Pome, but if they don’t, why child, that’s just called a book or a story. You might want to try and remember that, else you might look a little foolish.”

 

Clara's eyes narrowed, "Are you questioning my vocabulary skills?"

 

That was a direct affront to the older girl's pride. However Arabella plowed right on, babbling most nonsensical questions about the life of the saint. Oh dear, her actual grasp of history was shaky at best.

 

"Joan is our version, Jeanne is how they would say it, the female version. I am not familiar with the intricacies of the French language but apparently they use male and female names more interchangeably than we would. I have read about many French males who have the name Marie...like one of their middle names. They seem to like to have long names, the French," Clara tried her best to clear things up.

 

"And she did not LIKE to dress as a boy, it was necessary to assume male garb if she was to command French soldiery in the war against the English. And when she was called Maid of Orleans....that is M  A  I  D not

M A D E. Maid like maiden. And Orleans was a French city...well it still is. New Orleans was named after the original French one."

 

The impromptu French history lesson seemed to have once more settled down the child who finally was conceding to the necessity of some sound sleep, the Good Lord willing.  Fortunately she did not insist on Clara joining her in bed because that was never going to happen. The girl including her name among the so called 'nice' people mollified Clara - just a little. But at least from Clara's point of view, the road to 'bosom friends' was still going to be a very rocky one.

 

Clara then quietly beat a hasty retreat and settled back down on the floor to get some blessed sleep of her own.  It had been a long day and no doubt another one awaited on the morrow.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)
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Arabella opened her eyes to a new dawn. Sure, it was still dark at this time of year until quite late on into the morning, but she somehow knew it was time to get up, and that the Sun was there, somewhere outside, struggling to reach the horizon and beam his sunshine and goodness down upon this undeserving world, and already causing enough of a glow to light the sky a purple blue in the East.

 

She could see just enough of the room to know it was neat, sparse, orderly. Somehow she knew it must belong to the serious looking girl she had met last night: it seemed an age ago, even though it must have only been a few hours since she had talked with her. Oh! They had talked about all sorts of wonderful things. Clara. Clara, Clara, Clara. She wondered idly if Clara would like to play at Jonah Vark later. She’d even volunteer to be Jonah, and Clara could be the cruel Guard who tickled her feet until she’d admit to being a witch and then burn her at the stake. Oh, that would be so fine, to be able to play again.

 

But now she had more pressing needs, and ones that necessitated actually getting out of the warm, snugly bed. She twisted a little and popped her little white tootsies out, Lord it was cold! Still, ‘needs must when the Devil drives’. She sat up and lowered herself onto the floor, her feet landing on a rough rug that ameliorated some of the chill beneath her toes. She crouched down and lifted the bedspread to peer and then feel under the bed. The clinking noise of china flooded her heart with relief as she found the object she sought.

 

The operation only took a wee moment, and by the time the next person came into the room, she was back in bed and sitting up like a queen ready to receive visitors.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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As usual Clara had been up early in the morning, she had the usual daily chores to do plus now she also had to take care of their guest and further her recovery. Waking up Wyatt, she told him to go milk the cow. Her father was already awake and he would see to it the horses were fed and watered. When they were done, they  could have breakfast which she would be making.

 

Periodically she had peeked into the room - HER room - to see if the child was awake yet. Finally there had been some stirring. Clara then lugged the portable tub into the room, greeting the girl as she did so.

 

"Good morning, Arabella. Hope you had a restful sleep," she announced in all sincerity. She of course wanted what was best for the girl, however annoying she might be. The disaster had not been her fault.

 

Stopping short of the bed, she was satisfied the tub was now in a central position.

 

"I have a busy morning planned for you. Last night I had stated you would eat breakfast then take a bath. I have changed my mind, as befitting a lady's perogative. I will have you take your bath first then you can eat breakfast at the table with the family. My reasoning should be apparent, you yourself mentioned your present situation."

 

She probably could have been more blunt and simply said the girl smelled. But she was trying to be nice.

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"Good morning, Arabella. Hope you had a restful sleep," she announced in all sincerity. She of course wanted what was best for the girl, however annoying she might be. The disaster had not been her fault.

Stopping short of the bed, she was satisfied the tub was now in a central position.

 

Arabella hopped out of bed; her legs were a little stiff and weak after a week of overuse followed by nearly a week of just lying in bed, but her excitement at seeing Clara, and the novelty of the object she was dragging into the room, overcame that and no mistake.

 

“Morning Clara!” she beamed “What we doin’ today!? Is that there a bath?!” They never had a fancy tub like that at home. There was a trough outside the barn and a creek at the bottom of the field, that did just fine in the Summer months. In the Winter, when it could reach below freezing up on Clinch Mountain, they was of no use then. If one of the family started to stink up the place in December or January time, the only recourse open to the rest of the family was to pray for Spring.

 

"I have a busy morning planned for you. Last night I had stated you would eat breakfast then take a bath. I have changed my mind, as befitting a lady's perogative. I will have you take your bath first then you can eat breakfast at the table with the family. My reasoning should be apparent, you yourself mentioned your present situation."

 

“Present what now? … oh!” Arabella confirmed this by pulling her top open, like she had done last night and taking a loud sniff “Yep! Still 'fragrant in a unpleasant sort of fashion'!” she informed Clara, parroting the pompous turn of phrase used by the older girl a few hours before. This was another of Arabella’s adorable habits: the events of the last two weeks apart, she usually had the memory of an elephant, and was apt to adopt any stray phrase she heard that struck her fancy, whether she fully understood what they meant or not.

 

She frowned at the bath tub. “Say, how do I use this here utilitarian object?” she asked “I know I get in it, but where’s the water come from?”

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"Morning Clara!” the girl beamed “What we doin’ today!? Is that there a bath?!”

 

"What else do you think it would be?" Clara looked puzzled for an instant but then explained her change of mind as to the plans for the morning at least. Bath then breakfast.

 

"Yep! Still 'fragrant in a unpleasant sort of fashion'!” at least the child agreed.

 

"All you have been through, it is no surprise," Clara did sympathize.

 

“Say, how do I use this here utilitarian object?” Arabella suddenly asked “I know I get in it, but where’s the water come from?”

 

"You bathe in it. That is once I fill it up with water. That is where most of the work comes in.  But I have already started," Clara now explained.

 

"I have some water boiling on the stove and then I will also be adding well water at about a ratio of one bucket hot to two normal temperature.  It will take awhile but it shall be worth it."

 

"Do not take your nightie off yet. I shall be right back," she added.

 

Sure enough in a very short time the older girl was back toting two buckets filled to the top with well water and then proceeded to dump one then the other into the tub. She would follow that up with the first of heated water containers from the stove. It was indeed a lot of effort which was why baths were not a frequent occurance and would be even less so when winter hit hard.

 

 

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"All you have been through, it is no surprise," Clara did sympathize.

 

The girl in the nightshirt nodded, but to tell the truth, she couldn’t remember what exactly she had been through, her last definite memory was about a week after they’d buried Pappy, out on some lonesome plain in a place that she would never be able to find again, even though she had stared and stared at the surroundings at the time, trying to memorise as much as possible, that one day she might recognise the place again. But it had been beautiful, open Montana country and completely unmemorable.

 

After a less than a week of crying and carrying on and talking her head off to the strangers she was now with, she had woken one morning, wrapped in her little checked blanket by the dead embers of a campfire, to find the entire wagon train gone. It was curious that her little sack of belongings had been dumped right next to her sleeping form on the grassy swale next to her, but still she had waited a whole day for them to remember her and come back.

 

After that, things became a little hazy. She remembered: walking at night, following the Drinking Gourd, as Pappy had often talked about the slaves doing that to reach freedom, but she had stumbled a lot; walking by day, but getting very lost until she had seen the Star of Bethlehem that had guided her to the town; there were memories of a house falling on her head; of seeing Jesus and her family on the other side of a river; a long, long, long trip in a freezing cold wagon; a handsome man carrying her; an enormous underground cave with giant mushrooms and a little old naked man with a long white beard covering his unmentionables; waking up next to dead people in  a barn; and a run in the snow in a completely deserted town.

 

What she had or hadn’t really been through was hard to work out at this point in time. She decided to concentrate on the bath.

 

Clara described the long and complicated method by which the tub would be filled, at the end of which Arabella was none wiser, but determined to find a dictionary at some point in the future and look up this word “rayshee-oh” which sounded mighty pretty and in dire need of being included in her own conversations.

 

"Do not take your nightie off yet. I shall be right back," she added.

 

Arabella pulled the garment back down and waited, and when Clara returned with the first buckets, jumped off the bed again.

 

“Can I help?!” she offered enthusiastically “I might look a little rangy, but I’m right strong!” [she wasn’t]. “Why  my Pappy says I’m tough as old boots!” then a thought struck her “Say, where are my boots?” she looked around and then bowed down and lifted up her nightdress to look through her legs, in case they were behind her.

 

“Well, never matter!” she cried brightly “I can go to the well barefoot, like that old Chinese pheasant that the wicked Chinese Queen saw walking on the ice, and she said ‘how come he can walk so on the ice and not feel the cold?’ and she took that pheasant home to her castle and, do you know what? She had the Royal doctor saw off that poor feller’s feet so they could examine them things to see what make them so doggone comfy to walk on. But I reckon he was just used to it. Hey, maybe we could play that later?”

 

To be fair on the girl, the rambling story had started off as a helpful offer, it just kind of got lost a little, somewhere around the beginning.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Now suddenly the child wanted to help carry the water. Clara would have none of that. The girl might just end up spilling a bucketful onto the floor just making more work.

 

"No, Arabella, you are a guest here and besides you are my patient. Only yesterday you were bed ridden and spent more time unconscious than conscious. I can do this, I have done it many times," she turned her down calmly but firmly.

 

"Oh your boots, they're tucked in the corner. I was going to clean the mud and ashes off them but have not gotten around to it yet."

 

Arabella then launched into one of her stories, she also seemed to be saying 'pheasant' rather than peasant but Clara just decided to let it go. It was quite obvious to Clara by now that, despite the girl's misplaced confidence, her grasp of English was not as firm as she reckoned. As to Arabella wondering if they could then play this odd story of hers, Clara did not even dignify that with an answer.

 

It took a few more trips but finally the tub was at least half filled, that would have to do. Clara tested the water with her hand.

 

"It is warm but not hot. Very well then, you may remove your gown and get in," Clara also had come up with what was left of a bar of tallow soap. Soap was a luxury for many folk but Clara thought this a worthwhile use for it on this day. She also extended a wash cloth to the girl.

 

"I can get your back for you when you are ready," she offered.

 

 

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"Oh your boots, they're tucked in the corner. I was going to clean the mud and ashes off them but have not gotten around to it yet."

 

The girl didn’t fully understand her own mixed feelings about that piece of news. Her brain told her that this was good news – a body needed a pair of boots to kick around in, after all. She’d pretty much gone barefoot when she was a child of the mountain, but for treading on rough stones or cold snow or fields strewn with cattle chips, all of them were made a whole lot easier for a pair of good sturdy boots.

 

On the other hand, ‘mud and ashes’: the boots were a tie to her old life and the mixed, muddled and morbid memories of the way that old life had ended; if she put the boots on would she somehow find herself back in that nightmare? She pushed the dark thoughts down by returning her attention to the exciting tub of tepid water that was rapidly filling under Clara’s ministrations.

 

It took a few more trips but finally the tub was at least half filled, that would have to do. Clara tested the water with her hand.

 

"It is warm but not hot. Very well then, you may remove your gown and get in," Clara also had come up with what was left of a bar of tallow soap. Soap was a luxury for many folk but Clara thought this a worthwhile use for it on this day. She also extended a wash cloth to the girl.

 

“Oooh!” Arabella squeaked, taking the flannel “What if someone comes in?” she asked as she pulled the voluminous ‘utilitarian garment’ over her head, although she actually sound more excited and intrigued about such an eventuality, rather than worried. 

 

The sight that her body presented was a sobering one. It wasn’t so much dirty, her simple smock had absorbed most of the filth and grime of her misadventures, it was just so unbearably thin and pale. The child looked akin to one of the ghastly scarecrow figures that had shambled out of Andersonville ten years ago, and the mass and volume of the black hair hanging down her back only seemed to exacerbate the mortuary aspect of her appearance. Still, she was a lively little corpse, and jumped into the tub quicker than you could say ‘Jack Robinson’.

 

“Ohhhhh!” she sighed in ecstasy “You were right! Not too hot and not too cold, just like the Baby Bear’s porridge!” she tucked herself down in the tub, displacing the water to make it go as high as possible over her body and drank in its warming effects. “This here bath is beautiful” she cooed, dragging out the last word for as long as possible.

 

"I can get your back for you when you are ready," Clara offered.

 

“Ooh!” Arabella sat up straight with alacrity “I’m ready!!” she yelped, this was going to be an interesting experience. “I just thought” she ruminated aloud “I never seen my own back, what’s it look like?”

To tell the truth, the back bones of the emaciated girl, like her ribs, stuck out so much that a good xylophone player could have beaten out a tune out of them.

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The girl certainly was not shy about shedding the nightie and slipped right into the bathtub then although she did ask what is someone came in. Clara was not worried about that but shrugged and moved to shut the bedroom door tightly.

 

"No one is going to come in. My father and brother are busy with chores outside," she announced in addition.

 

As Arabella sat down into the tub, Clara was a bit disturbed how scrawny the poor thing was. She looked like she had been starving. Whoever she had been staying with Whitefish had not bothered to feed her properly but granted, Whitefish had been a den of iniquity.

 

"Oh my poor dear, you need to eat more, put on some weight. Do not be afraid to ask for seconds at the table these upcoming meals, " she could not help but comment and advise.

 

As soon as she offered to scrub the girl's back, Arabella claimed she was ready.

 

"Very well," Clara nodded and knelt down next to the tub.

 

“I just thought” Arabella ruminated aloud “I never seen my own back, what’s it look like?”

 

"Like any one else's back not that I am an expert on such things," Clara secured the soap.

 

"Rather easy to see your skeletal structure though. We need to fatten you up some," Clara then started washing the girl's back.

 

 

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"Oh my poor dear, you need to eat more, put on some weight. Do not be afraid to ask for seconds at the table these upcoming meals, " she could not help but comment and advise.

 

Arabella nodded, but it was perhaps fortunate that when it came to it, she wasn’t really that hungry. One of the side effects of malnutrition was lack of appetite. It was only later on, when she had regained her strength, that she became the terror of the dinner table, snaffling up every crumb in sight. Thus it was that she did not suffer the fate of those Union prisoners, living skeletons,  who, liberated from the starving conditions of the Andersonville prisoner of war camp, stuffed themselves silly at a banquet on the paddle steamer home and were carried off as corpses when the ship docked.

 

As soon as she offered to scrub the girl's back, Arabella claimed she was ready.

"Very well," Clara nodded and knelt down next to the tub.

“I just thought” Arabella ruminated aloud “I never seen my own back, what’s it look like?”

"Like any one else's back not that I am an expert on such things," Clara secured the soap.

 

“Oh!” said Arabella “Not like a lovely white swan, then?” Ladies’ necks and décolletage were usually like lovely white swans in stories.

 

"Rather easy to see your skeletal structure though. We need to fatten you up some," Clara then started washing the girl's back.

 

Arabella nodded at this advice, then closed her eyes and just enjoyed the moment: not just the warmth of the soothing water and the cleansing of the fatty soap, but the touch of another human being.

 

“Clara” she eventually piped up. “What’s all your other names? Seein’ as you ain’t a little Indian girl after all, I got to thinking that you must have a couple more in your apron pocket somewheres. Oooh, no, don’t tell me yet, I wanna guess! I think you’re called … urm … Clara-Belle Bodine.” What made her pick that twee agglomeration was anybody’s guess.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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“Oh!” said Arabella “Not like a lovely white swan, then?”

 

"No, that would not be the image which comes to mind," Clara left it at that.

 

The girl sat still and let Clara work the washcloth and soapy water up and down her back, she had washed her brother enough times she had grown adept at it.

 

"Clara” she eventually piped up. “What’s all your other names? Seein’ as you ain’t a little Indian girl after all, I got to thinking that you must have a couple more in your apron pocket somewheres. Oooh, no, don’t tell me yet, I wanna guess! I think you’re called … urm … Clara-Belle Bodine.”

 

"All my other names? Oh, you mean middle and last name? Well my full name is Clara Anne Redmond. Clara Belle sounds like a name for a cow," the older girl replied.

 

"My mother picked Clara because that was a favorite aunt of hers' name and then Anne was the Christian name of my father's mother. Sadly all of them are gone now. My mother died a little over a year ago, she was murdered by Indians," she sighed.

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"All my other names? Oh, you mean middle and last name? Well my full name is Clara Anne Redmond. Clara Belle sounds like a name for a cow," the older girl replied.

 

“Clara Anne Redmond. Clara Anne Redmond.” Arabella said it out loud a couple of times to try it for size, as she sploshed around in the water. She secretly thought that Clara-belle Redmond had a much better ring to it, and that there were too many ruh ruh ruhs in Clara’s real name, but for once the little flibbertigibbet kept her trap shut; she knew folks was precious about their names, even those as said they didn’t like the one they’d be given.

 

“Oh, that’s a beautiful name!” she lied, and made a mental note to ask Jesus to forgive that little white ‘un.

 

“Did your Mammy and Pappy chose them just because they sound nice, or have they got some special meanin’ Like, my Pappy chose Arabella after a beautiful English princess who he read about in a book and, you know what? Some cruel ol’ Queen starved her to death in a Tower! Pappy was a romantical sort, see? And Mammy, she called me Sumter after Fort Sumter, what with her bein’ red hot sessesh and all. How about you?”

 

"My mother picked Clara because that was a favorite aunt of hers' name and then Anne was the Christian name of my father's mother. Sadly all of them are gone now. My mother died a little over a year ago, she was murdered by Indians," she sighed.

 

Arabella drew in her breath in a horrified gasp and managed to somehow scrabble around in the close confines of the tub and then, before you could blink an eye, threw herself bodily at Clara: wet, soapy arms clinging around her neck, and the waif’s pinched little face buried into the older girl’s shoulder. It was then that the earthquake began, except it wasn’t an earthquake, it was Arabella sobbing her eyes out and rocking back and forth like a mother comforting a baby. She clung and clung and cried and cried, this seemed to be what she planned to do for the rest of eternity.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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