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Each Dawn I Die


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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 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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?”

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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