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Sagas of the Wild West
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Each Dawn I Die


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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’.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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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