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Each Dawn I Die


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"You were? Really?" Wyatt found that revelation fascinating enough, unsure why she had roomed with the dead.

 

“Why sure” Arabella affirmed, for the first time she was having to say out loud what had actually happened to her in the last week or so and sort out what she definitely remembered, and what was probably only feverish dreams. “I definitely remember a house falling down on my head,” she counted the events off on her fingers “Then I was rescued by this gentleman, oh, he was ever so handsome, Clara!” This time she did turn around a little to glance at the older girl, handsome men were articles that only another woman could appreciate. “Then I think I was on some kind of a wagon; and then I woke up with dead folks either side of me. A old lady and a, oh, a very beautiful young girl, all dead and cold like a snow princess.”

 

"So how badly were you hurt they stuck you with dead folks? I mean you look fine now. Mostly..." Wyatt pressed the issue.

 

Arabella frowned and then nodded “Well, that’s a good question, Wyatt. I can’t remember rightly what happened, but I reckon I need to find out and give that joker as stuck me in there a fright back. I know!...” she grinned “... I could dress up like a ghost in a white sheet and pop out at him and say ‘you put me with the dead and now I am a ghost come to haunt you!’” she said this in a high pitched, wobbly sort of ghost voice. But then she frowned again “Aw no, that’s no good, he’ll just say ‘well, if you’re a ghost, you musta been dead when I popped you in there.’ Hm. Oh well, I’ll think up another joke we can play on that scamp, I’m good at thinking up funny jokes, Wy old man.”

 

"You know Clara almost died once herself. An Injun shot an arrow right into her chest," he loved telling folks that exciting fact.

 

Arabella gasped a gasp of delighted horror and twizzed round to behold the spectacle of one who had received such an exciting injury. “What, right in the …” she dropped her voice to a whisper “..bumps?”

 

"You should ask her to show it to you? It's quite the scar," Wyatt beamed, gross stuff like that appealed to boys his age.

 

“Well, I should say so, Wy old man! I got a scar on the bottom of my foot a mile long where I trod on broken glass oncst, but a scar from a Injun arrow, well, that trumps my ace and no mistake!” Arabella conceded.

 

"Wyatt! Did I not tell you to leave the room? And shut the door behind you also. Honestly," Clara glared.

 

“See ya, Wy!” the girl in the bath tub waved.

 

When he’d gone, Arabella twisted round excitedly to face Clara. “Hey, your brother’s cute, I wish he was five years older, did you see the way he was goggling my ’bustle’, by crikey, I hope he ain’t fallen in love with me, cause … well … can I tell you a secret?”

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Wyatt listened with interest as the girl talked of a house crashing down upon right on her head! She apparently had a head like a rock because he could see no damage well except for a few scratches. The boy, on occasion, took things a little too literally.  And then she was rescued by a handsome man. He immediately hoped this conversation wasn't going to go all sickeningly romantic and boring.

 

As for this so called handsome fellow, Clara withheld comment on that one. Right about now she didn't have a lot of trust in handsome men.

 

And then the girl seemed to have woke up in a barnful of dead people. Even Clara had to admit that would be quite the shock, the poor child. She now silently vowed to try and be a bit more patient with Arabella given all she had been thru.  Then Wyatt had to go and tell the girl about her being wounded by the Indians.  Well, that got Arabella all excited yet again.

 

“What, right in the …” she dropped her voice to a whisper “..bumps?”

 

Before Clara could answer, Wyatt had to chime in, "She doesn't really have much of those."

 

"Wyatt!" snapped Clara angrily.

 

"So far," he quickly tried to make up for that gaff, a bit too late.

 

Clara now insisted he get out and close the door behind him and Wyatt realized she meant it. Not wanting to be assigned extra chores he obliged, "Alright, I'm goin'."

 

“See ya, Wy!” the girl in the bath tub waved.

 

"Umm, sure," Wyatt still didn't quite know what to make of this rather strange newcomer.

 

Arabella now turned to face Clara.

 

“Hey, your brother’s cute, I wish he was five years older, did you see the way he was goggling my ’bustle’, by crikey, I hope he ain’t fallen in love with me, cause … well … can I tell you a secret?”

 

"He was NOT goggling your anything. And I believe you mean 'ogling'," Clara  corrected her.

 

"And as I know Wyatt, he is more likely to fall in love with a horse as any girl," she dryly pointed out.

 

Only vaguely curious, Clara humored the child, "You may tell me your secret if you wish."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"And as I know Wyatt, he is more likely to fall in love with a horse as any girl," she dryly pointed out.

 

“Well, he oughta meet my friend Melissa Cartlidge, she’s a girl as looks like a horse!” blurted out Arabella, perhaps a little unkindly. It was also noteworthy that poor Melissa seemed to have been demoted from her former exalted position of ‘bosom friend’.

 

Only vaguely curious, Clara humored the child, "You may tell me your secret if you wish."

 

“Oh!” the girl in the bath jumped up excitedly, but then frowned and leaned towards Clara seriously “But you gotta swear on the most sacred thing you hold dear that you won’t tell a livin’ soul!”

 

She looked round furtively, to make sure that there were no other people in the small room that she somehow hadn’t noticed before, and then proudly announced “I’m in LOVE!!!” and splashed backward into the tepid water, curling herself into a ball and rocking from side to side chanting “I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love!” with a smile on her face. Then she stopped, a thought arresting her motion and, lying in the bath, cast her beady eye upon Clara.

 

“Have you ever been in love, Clara Anne Redmond?” she asked with a suspicious note in her voice, sounding like a cross-examining lawyer at a trial.

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"That is rather cruel to say that of the poor girl," Clara gave her opinion after Arabella insulted some apparently ugly girl she knew, "And a friend at that."

 

The topic moved on to Arabella's excitement about wanting to share with her some grand secret. Clara had her doubts it was anything all that pulse pounding but she would go along with it. No doubt it was going to entail another long story.

 

“Oh!” the girl in the bath jumped up excitedly, but then frowned and leaned towards Clara seriously “But you gotta swear on the most sacred thing you hold dear that you won’t tell a livin’ soul!”

 

"I can make no such promise, solemnly swearing should be reserved for nothing but the most serious and solemn matters. Go on, though, I am not a chatterbox about other's lives," Clara gave the best she could.

 

"I'm in love!"

 

And that was it, repeated a few more times for good measure. But that was the gist of it alright. Leave it to Arabella to be so dramatic about it. Clara remained unmoved.

 

“Have you ever been in love, Clara Anne Redmond?”

 

"Of course not, I am but fifteen and have yet to be courted. Assuming I even wish to dabble in such foolishness. I hardly need boys falling all over themselves for me," Clara announced.

 

Part of that was certainly a lie. She had been very taken with Shade and to some she might have even been willing to admit she was madly in love with him. But he betrayed her for that hussy school marm. And even worse did not have the decency to even tell her. She was still angry about it and hurt too. However she was determined to get past it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Have you ever been in love, Clara Anne Redmond?”

 

"Of course not, I am but fifteen and have yet to be courted. Assuming I even wish to dabble in such foolishness. I hardly need boys falling all over themselves for me," Clara announced.

 

“Oh, you’re missing out, child! I been in love heaps and heaps of times! Oh, an’ it’s a wonderful feeling, especially all the crying over 'em that you get to do.” Arabella sighed. “But they was all just boys, this is the REAL THING!” she said the last two words in such a way that if, for some unimaginable reason, an amanuensis was employed in transcribing her words, he would feel compelled to style them both in block capitals.

 

“Oh, he’s SO handsome, and darlin’ and strong.” She cooed, thinking about the object of her affection. “Are you sure you never been in love?” she returned to the subject again, like it was nagging at her, disrupting her own daydreams of HIM. She looked at Clara critically. Pretty? yep, Serious Looking? Yep, Healthy? Seemed so. A normal healthy girl and never been in love? It seemed inconceivable.

 

“Well, has any young gentleman ever been in love with you?” That was the other side of the game, wasn’t it? “You’re so sweet lookin’, I bet heaps of boys has been head over heels in love with you, Clara. Why, Melissa Cartlidge had scores o’ admirers and she weren’t half as pretty as you.”

 

“Well, if you ever take to fallin’ in love, then you just ask fer advice from ol’ Aunt Arabella, I’m pretty much the biggest expert in all of Virginia about affairs o’ the heart.”

 

Well, enough about Clara, there was more for Arabella to talk about herself.

 

“Well, ain’t ya gonna ask me all about the feller I’m in love with?” The water was getting cold, but the conversation was getting warmer, so she decided to stay in the bath a little longer.

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Arabella now thought that she was missing out on life if indeed she had not yet fallen in love. It seemed the younger girl was quite the veteran at it. The child was certainly full of whims in Clara's opinion and also fond of exaggeration.

 

"So you say," was all Clara would concede to.

 

Now though Arabelle was certain this time it was the real thing. Of course it was, Clara just stood there eying her and letting her ramble on. Wait ... she was back to asking her another question.

 

“Are you sure you never been in love?” she returned to the subject again.

 

"Yes. As in I have not. Not been in love," Clara assured her.  Whatever that had been with Shade, no, it was definitely not 'in love'.

 

"Well, has any young gentleman ever been in love with you? You’re so sweet lookin’, I bet heaps of boys has been head over heels in love with you, Clara. Why, Melissa Cartlidge had scores o’ admirers and she weren’t half as pretty as you.”

 

Clara paused then replied barely audibly, "So you think I am pretty. I look in the mirror and find I am quite plain."

 

"Last festival we had a dance and only one person asked me to dance and that was an older man. No one my age even gave me a second look and I had a dress on I had sewed myself," she recalled, but no, she was not bitter.

 

“Well, ain’t ya gonna ask me all about the feller I’m in love with?”  Arabella practically demanded.

 

Clara's first thought was to simply say  'no' but that would be unkind especially since the girl had complimented her just seconds earlier.

 

"Very well, who are in in love with then?" she sighed.

 

 

 

 

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Clara paused then replied barely audibly, "So you think I am pretty. I look in the mirror and find I am quite plain."

 

“Why, then you been lookin’ in the wrong mirrors, girl! Sure, you’re as pretty as a picture; boys oughta be jumpin’ on you like a dog on a bone!” she was genuinely shocked that the girl, young woman, thought so little of her perfect little face. And she had bumps!

 

"Last festival we had a dance and only one person asked me to dance and that was an older man. No one my age even gave me a second look and I had a dress on I had sewed myself," she recalled, but no, she was not bitter.

 

“OOOOOHHHH!” sighed Arabella with relief. Boy, was this Yankee gal ignorant in the ways of amor.

 

“That’s because you’re TOO pretty, silly. Don’t you know that’s what scares boys off? See, they’re all there admirin’ you and fallin’ in love with you, an’ so forth, but they think, ‘why she’s too pretty fer me, if I go and ask her for a dance she’ll think I’m not good enough for her and turn me down and then I’ll be a laughing stock’, so they never ask you. ‘Cept that old feller, he knew you was too pretty fer him, but probably just thought he might overawe you with bein’ so old an’ all.”

 

She’d got it all worked out.

 

“Now me, I ain’t pretty as you, but I’m pretty enough for ‘em to still like me. I got funny teeth, see:” she put her little fingers in each side of her mouth and pulled her lips apart, displaying her teeth like a snarling dog. They were a bit wonky.

 

“So they thinks, ‘why that Arabella Mudd ain’t so very ugly, but she’s got them funny teeth and she ain’t got no bumps, and that there eye’s a mite lazy, so she can’t be too fussy-like, maybe she’d spark a little with me’ so they takes a chance and asks fer a dance or a kiss, and by crikey, it’s nice to be asked, even if you don’t like ’em!”

 

She took a deep breath.

 

“Next time we go to a dance or a party or a cotillion or a fair or what not, you tell me what feller you like and I’ll fix him up with ya, either that or make sure they play a Paul Jones, so you get to dance with him any old how. Oncest you get him in yer arms, that’s when ya GOT him!” she hissed, bright eyed, like a General describing his plans for an ambush.

 

Phew! Well, enough tactics.

 

“Well, ain’t ya gonna ask me all about the feller I’m in love with?”  Arabella practically demanded.

 

Clara's first thought was to simply say  'no' but that would be unkind especially since the girl had complimented her just seconds earlier.

 

"Very well, who are in in love with then?" she sighed.

 

“Oh Clara, he is just so very, very wonderful, but I don’t even know his name! It’s the gentleman that saved my life when that there house fell on my head. He pulled me out of that snow so romantic-like and then carried me to safety in his big strong arms. He is a little older than me, I'll allow, maybe even…” she winced a little “… thirty?”

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The child was adamant that she, Clara, was definitely pretty. Now that made Clara feel good though she had to take into account the holder of that opinion. It would certainly carry more weight if Arabella were instead an eligible young male.

 

"Kind of you to think so, Arabella, I appreciate it," Clara was sincere.

 

Arabella then gave her theory as to why someone like Clara was not asked to dance on that last occasion. A part of it did have a certain logic to it. Come to think of it, her father once recalled that when he first met his wife, Clara's mother, he had been almost too shy to approach such a beautiful woman. Still, under no circumstances would Clara equate herself to her mother in that category. She had been stunning.

 

The girl moved on to assessing her own self and how despite falling short in some categories she was apparently much more successful with the menfolk. Like Clara could swallow that one! Arabella followed with advice for the next dance.

 

"I have not even decided if I will be going. Seems like a waste of time and I always have so many things to do," Clara shrugged. Like she wanted to stand there like a wall flower while Shade cavorted about the dance floor with that Jezebel school marm?  Hardly!

 

Well the girl wanted her to ask who the child was in love with so to hopefully bring an end to this painfully long discussion, Clara asked.

 

“Oh Clara, he is just so very, very wonderful, but I don’t even know his name! It’s the gentleman that saved my life when that there house fell on my head. He pulled me out of that snow so romantic-like and then carried me to safety in his big strong arms. He is a little older than me, I'll allow, maybe even…” she winced a little “… thirty?”

 

"Wait! You do not even know his name? And he is thirty or thirty years older than you? Goodness!" Clara was aghast.

 

Either was too old. Of course had she paused for some introspection, Shade was a good deal older than her. But that had been different. She was an adult even if most folks did not see it.

 

 

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Clara’s revelation that she wasn’t sure whether she would go to the next dance gave Arabella’s heart a little flip both ways: it sounded like there was a dance on the cards: that was good! But if Clara didn’t go, then maybe she wouldn’t be able to go. That was bad.

 

She told the other girl what little she knew about the sweetheart of all her dreams, but Clara seemed disappointed at the paucity of firm intelligence on the objective at hand.

 

"Wait! You do not even know his name? And he is thirty or thirty years older than you? Goodness!" Clara was aghast.

 

Arabella closed her eyes and chuckled her gurgly chuckle out loud. “No, no! He ain’t thirty years older than me, silly billy! That’d make him…” there was an embarrassingly long pause before she could work it out “… add the … why, that’d make him Fifty years old or summit!" she couldn't hold back another chuckle. "No, he IS about thirty, well, I dunno, give or take. Let’s say I marries him in two years’ time, lemme think: I’ll be sixteen then, he’ll be thirty two, well, that’s still serviceable.”

 

She wrinkled up her brow and studied on the other issue, that of his utter anonymity.

 

“Now, I don’t know his name, but I reckon I can track that handsome devil down. I got clues: he was with lots of folks, and they all knowed him and did what he said, so I reckon he’s a … oh NO!!!” her excited little face fell, and she opened her mouth wide. “Oh Clara, what if he’s married, or already got a gal?!” she put her hand to her lips in horror. “Oh, Clara, if he’s already wed, why, I…. I’ll just DIE!” she groaned and fell back dramatically swooning into the bath with a splash, then added, more matter-of-factly “Kin I get out now? This here baths gettin’ cold.”

 

To be fair, the December chill, even inside the house, was enough to have rapidly cooled the already tepid bathwater.

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“No, no! He ain’t thirty years older than me, silly billy! That’d make him…” there was an embarrassingly long pause before she could work it out “… add the … why, that’d make him Fifty years old or summit!" Arabella chuckled.

 

Clara did not share that amusement for one thing, the child was off on her arithmetic.

 

"You are fourteen and if he would be thirty years older that would be forty-four not fifty," she helpfully corrected. This girl was as bad at numbers as Wyatt, sad really.

 

“Now, I don’t know his name, but I reckon I can track that handsome devil down. I got clues: he was with lots of folks, and they all knowed him and did what he said, so I reckon he’s a … oh NO!!!”

 

"Now what?" Clara braced herself for the next spate of dramatics.

 

Oh Clara, what if he’s married, or already got a gal?!” she put her hand to her lips in horror. “Oh, Clara, if he’s already wed, why, I…. I’ll just DIE!” she groaned and fell back dramatically swooning into the bath with a splash.

 

"Tragic," Clara fairly dripped with sarcasm, "Not the you dying part but if he has a woman in his life. By that age they usually do. Trust me."

 

Arabella then asked, “Kin I get out now? This here baths gettin’ cold.”

 

"Most certainly, you have been in there long enough and spilled enough of it to wet my entire bedroom floor. Stand up then, let me get a towel," Clara informed her.

 

The efficient housekeeper that she was, Clara had one sitting close on a shelf and held it out to the girl.

 

"Here, I trust you can dry yourself off?"  She almost added 'without drama' but that would setting expectations way too high!

 

 

 

 

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