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    • "Ain't hardly nothin' to do but hunker down till she blows herself out." The man squatted, "Rance, is the name. Been watchin' you, doin' a fine job. You'll do Wheeler, you'll do. Try and get some rest, might end up bein' a long night. Least you won't be ridin' drag come daylight, there's a plus for ya."   He stood and made his way to his shelter to await the grub that was coming.   @Bongo
    • Meanwhile, in the main house, Reb Culverson was visiting with his old friend Fightin' Joe Hooker, who was the ramrod for the fledgling Montana Territory Stockgrowers Association, Northern District. He was there to convince ranchers to join and support the organization, hoping it would take root.   "And just what good is this here association ya got started?" Reb asked.   "It'll give us a voice in the territorial government, Reb, that's what it'll do. Once that happens we'll be able to git us some sortta range police to protect the herds, and the ranchers." Hooker responded. "Rustlin' might not be the threat it was, but you know as well as me, it can come back."   "You get anywhere with Lost Lake, 'er that cow thief on the Evergreen?" Reb asked.   "Can't say as I have, startin' with the smaller spreads an' workin' my way up to them two. I'm well aware of both spreads, and the men that own 'em."   -------------0------------   They swept down out of the trees whooping and hollering and firing off a couple of shots as they closed on both sides of a big group of cattle, just as they had planned. The  lone night hawk knew he had no chance of stopping the raiders, or of saving the cattle while he watched the chunk of the herd moving toward and then into the trees at a run.  He emptied his Colt at the raiders, the whipped out his Winchester  and levered several shots in the area where they had disappeared.   He could not know that one of his shots had found its mark. A man that had just joined took a slug in his back and toppled from his horse. Toole and the men continued to drive the cattle toward the dry riverbed as planned. It was an acceptable loss.   The sound of the shots, mere pops at the distance to the main house and the bunk house alerted everyone, and men boiled out of the bunk house guns in hand, only to watch the night man shooting after the rustlers.
    • Out on the boardwalk they stopped, "So we managed ta git a deal right off, thet's good, it is. Now all we gotta do is convince ol' Wentworth to free up the money so's ya don't have ta use yers right off." Amos commented, "Seems a fair deal but like you say, minin's not no sure thing."   "John and Mary are good folks. It's not a sure thing, but you saw the vein, went to the floor and it looks rich," Speed responded. "And it looks to be wider where they stopped digging. I can't wait to get it assayed to see what we've really got our hands on."   "And it should assay out pretty good from the looks of it, though I know so little about copper ore." Alice admitted.   "Well, you saw the copper ore, which is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding rock due to its reddish, mottled appearance. And that surrounding rock is granite which is not easy to work, but it can be done, and, if we have hit it, the veins could be as much as a mile long, a mile wide, and a mile deep!" Speed explained with a grin. "With that equipment we'll be able to not only dig deeper, we'll be able to tunnel, and we have the property to do just that."   "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" Amos exclaimed. Might oughtta buy up what ground ya can aound 'er, jest ta be certain!"   "First things first, let get on up to the bank." Speed suggested.
    • Justus was more than happy to have a chance to get out of the bulk of the wind, although he knew this was far from over.  And he knew they'd be hacking up dirt for days.     With the picket lines set, he moved over to help put up the shelters for the night, pretty quickly deciding that it was a fool's errand...they were all going to be miserable until this let up.   Squinting, he looked out toward the herd, not able to see but a few in the dust, it looked like they had been swallowed by the big, dirty cloud, and weren't even there.  In fact, he had the eerie sensation that all that was left in the world was this small circle of men and horses.   "Ya need me ta do anythin' else?" he called over the din of the wind.   @Flip
    • Doc Gilcrest walked into the bunck house to see Carson on his feet, dressed. "I may not be able to ride, but I can darn sure walk some. Tired of layin' in that bed."   "I reckon you kin do thet, sure 'nough. No body said ya had ta lie there if'n ya didn't want to. Yer stitched up plenty good. Jest leave thet hog leg where she's hangin' fer now, don't need the weight in thet wound."   "So anybody come sniffin' around?" He asked.   "Not so's you'd notice. There's four men down there keepin' watch, but it don't look like Lost Lake's lost any sleep over their man, that is if'n they even know he's gone." Gilcrest offered.   "He seen that brand an' went ta shootin'!" Carson reflected. "I jest shot straighter. Had no choice in the matter. Fool could'a rode on, but, well, that just ain't what happened. Hell of a mess."   "Oh I dunno. So far nobodies come huntin', the boss ain't upset over it, neither's Granger, so you got nothin' ta worry on 'cept gettin' better."   "I should'a been more careful, but maybe there just wasn't no way to be more careful. Up on the side of that mountain is the purdiest view a man could look at. You can see fer miles, see right where they got them cows of theirs. Now that ain't gonna be no easy matter to get to any of 'em. They're deep on Lost Lake range. Gonna be hard to get at, an' worse to get out. We'll lose some men tryin' this one, that's for sure!'   Gilcrest rubbed his chin. It wasn't like Carson to go on about the prospects of a job.

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Mature Content: No

With: Jay Ryker, Arabella Mudd, A chorus of Imaginary Can Can Dancers
Location: Stardust Saloon
When: Early January 1876
Time of Day: Morning

 

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Mr. Flandry had left very, very strict instructions. If anyone came into the saloon while he was changing the barrel or whatever bit of barmanly duty it was he was doing in the cellar of the place, she was to call him immediately. She was not to serve drinks to customers, she was not to accept payments or extend credit on a bar tab, she was not to touch the till or anything else behind the bar. And, most importantly, under no circumstances whatsoever was she to spark up an ‘interesting conversation’ about any subject under the Sun, past, present or future!

 

Mr. Flandry had hidden the shotgun away entirely.

 

Apart from that, she was totally in charge of the front of house of the saloon for the next ten minutes.

 

She moved a small wooden box that used to contain some unknown something that was the “Product of Chester, PENN.” over to where she was stood behind the bar, so that her head peeped clearly over the top of the ornate wooden structure. So, this was what it was like to stand in Mr. Flandry’s position, she thought to herself:  overseeing the entire saloon, dealing with customers, looking out for trouble, and stopping it before it began. Phew! What a job, and what a man, to be able to do it with all his customary and well assured élan.

 

Arabella tipped her head back, trying to look over the top of her own scalp at the gigantic mirror behind her that reflected the whole of the room, and nearly fell off her box with a yelp when the saloon doors creaked open.

 

“Good Morning and welcome to the Stardust Saloon! How might I be of service to you this fine day?” she squeaked, righting herself on the wobbly box. Oh gosh darn it, she’d forgotten to call Mr. Flandry! Oh well, she decided to carry on for a bit and call him if things started getting a little difficult.

 

@Jack

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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It had been weeks without a drop. Jay was never a big drinker but on occassion a glass of whiskey or two was very welcome. Saloons were usually filed with folks, who like to gamble, talk, listen to a piano or meet some nice ladies if present.

None of that was the case for this place. It was empty and Jay almost wished he hadn't entered. Maybe it was too early. The only person present was a girl behind the counter, Perhaps the owners daughter.

 

He pushed on as he decided to have a drink nevertheless.

"Good morning to you, too. Where are all the people of this town? Do you not have any drunks?" He joked and made his way to the bar, where he let his gaze wander around the place before he turned to the girl.

"Are you alone?"

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"Good morning to you, too. Where are all the people of this town? Do you not have any drunks?" He joked and made his way to the bar, where he let his gaze wander around the place before he turned to the girl.

 

Arabella didn’t want the customer to think that the saloon was lacking in any essential elements, and quickly spoke to counter the notion that they were drunk-less.

 

“Oh, we got plenty of drunks!” she assured him “They’re all sleepin’ it off right now, but you should have been here last night. We got all sorts of drunks: good drunks who want to be your best friend, bad drunks who always want a fight, sleepy drunks, drunks as like to dance about when they’ve had too much red-eye and a fair sprinkling of maudlin drunks too. Maudlin drunks is my favourite, cause they always wants me to play the pianna and sing ‘em songs about Mothers and Home.”

 

Well, that ought to put paid to any rumours about the Saloon being full of sober old biddies.

 

“I reckon the only folks in here who ain’t drunks in this place is me, cause I’m a Methodist, and Mr. Flandry cause, well, I guess it’s like workin’ in a candy store: when it’s easy to hand, you don’t fancy it.”

 

"Are you alone?"

 

“Course not, silly!” she laughed “You’re here, too!” What a funny question.

 

“Now, what can I get you, cowboy? How about a nice sarsaparilla?” she offered, as that was the only drink she knew how to make, and the only one she was allowed to make. She’d very often mix up a sarsaparilla when she was thirsty, sometimes with Mr. Flandry’s permission. The only problem was that it was completely non-alcoholic.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Her joke about not being alone actually made him laugh even though he suspected that it wasn't a joke considering how oblivious and innocent she seemed. "A sarsaparilla? What do I look like to you? 13? Gimme a whiskey,....please."

He lowered himself onto a bar stool and took off his hat to place it on the fairly clean counter. Then he ran a hand through his greasy blonde hair and studied the bottle in front of the mirror behind the bar.

"The old mirror trick..." He muttered to himself.

 

In the mirror he spotted the piano that she'd been talking about. "So you play?" Music had always been a wonder to him. He loved to listen to people sing and play. Sometimes that was a very bad idea because it sounded like cat music, at other times it could take him away to splendid places.

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Her joke about not being alone actually made him laugh even though he suspected that it wasn't a joke considering how oblivious and innocent she seemed. "A sarsaparilla? What do I look like to you? 13? Gimme a whiskey,....please."

 

“Oh, sure, er…” she scanned the bottles in front of her: there were fancy bottles labelled Dewar’s Scotch and Old Kentucky Bourbon, but no sign of anything labelled Whiskey. There were also bigger bottles with hand written labels such as ‘Red Eye’ and ‘Coffin Varnish’. The contents looked a very similar color to the liquid in the fancier bottles. Still, no sign of whiskey. She didn’t notice the bottle sitting right behind her. “Now where is that pesky bottle?!” she muttered, pretending she knew what she was looking for and buying time.

 

In the mirror he spotted the piano that she'd been talking about. "So you play?" Music had always been a wonder to him. He loved to listen to people sing and play. Sometimes that was a very bad idea because it sounded like cat music, at other times it could take him away to splendid places.

 

“Oooh, yes!!” Arabella seized the opportunity to avoid breaking the bartender’s rules about not serving any customers while he was absent down below. She jumped off her box and almost disappeared from the Englishman’s view as she ran around bar to the front, her boots drumming on the wooden floorboards as she whizzed around.

 

She appeared and skipped over to the upright piano which had once been a splendid looking instrument, but had now seen too many days and nights in the company of drunken, brawling cowboys and other revelers. It was still more or less in tune though and, like the harmonium in the church, Arabella had worked out which bum keys to avoid if possible.

 

She jumped onto the piano stool and shouted “Let’s have a song before you start drinkin’, you’ll appreciate it more sober!” As she was already in place, it was hard to say ‘no’ although, to tell the truth, she reckoned men appreciated a good tune more when they were completely sozzled.

 

“What’s your favourite song, Tex?” she asked the native of the British Isles. She hadn’t recognized his accent, he was probably from somewhere outlandish like Dakota or Wisconsin, but a lot of cowboys who came in had driven herds up from Texas, so she tended to call any stranger she didn’t know by the name of ‘Tex’ – and this feller looked wild and woolly enough to be a cowboy.

 

“If you can hum it, I can play it!” she boasted “I can play by ear. That don’t mean I bang my head on the keyboard – that’d be ridickulus!” she closed her eyes and laughed. “No, silly, that just means I can hear a tune and just about find the right ones of these black and white keys to play it out. It’s one of my greatest gifts.” she informed him proudly.

 

“Come on then, cowboy, what’s it to be? ‘I come from Alabama with a Banjo on my Knee’? ‘Beautiful Dreamer?’ ‘Camptown Races?’” she quizzed him.

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Jay squinted his eyes at the her when she couldn't find Whiskey in a long row of bottled containing the requested drink. Then he squinted at the bottles, wondering whether he was reading the labels wrong.

"I mean..." He was about to point to one of the Kentucky Straight Burbon bottles when she dashed away to round the bar and tell him all about her musical skills.

Jay had grown up in a fairly well of British family, when he was younger, with fine instruments like cellos, violins and pianos around. It was onlylater that his father had lost their wealth.

He leaned across the bar and reached for a bottle and a glass to pour himself a drink while her back was to him. A quick sip confirmed that it was really whiskey and tasted just as horrible as he remembered it.

 

"I know how a piano works, darling." He shook his head with amusement at the over eager young woman, who confused him again by calling him Tex. Did she not know that a Texan sounded drastically different from a Brit, even from one, who was trying to mask his accent?

"I'm Jay....just call me Jay. Do you know the song Bonnie Bell?" He tried his best to hum the tune. It was older but perhaps she knew it.

 

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"I'm Jay....just call me Jay. Do you know the song Bonnie Bell?" He tried his best to hum the tune. It was older but perhaps she knew it.

 

She didn’t know that tune, but the name sounded vaguely familiar: then she remembered. Reaching up, she opened up the lid of the instrument, which let you look inside at the fascinating sight of the different thicknesses of taut wire, and the little hammers that beat upon them when you hit a key. There was also a cunning space to store sheet music, and she rifled through the hotch-potch of items there and pulled out the one labelled “Bonnie Bell by Thomas Spencer Lloyd, New York 1860.”

 

Arabella pulled a face: she didn’t know the tune by ear so would have to read the dots. That was all right with slower tunes, like the hymns she played on the harmonium in church, but if this thing had a sprightly pace, it would be tough going. Oh! It said Ballad on the front, that would be all right, nice and slow.

 

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She back sat down on the stool, but now the Englishman was actually humming the melody, she realized that he’d made a bit of a silly mistake.

 

“Oh, I know that tune Mr. Jay, but it ain’t called Bonnie Bell, it’s called The Smiling Spring. I know that one, it’s just an old timey song, that’s easy!” and indeed, it was a old, old Scottish folk melody, affixed to the words of one of Robbie Burns’ more Anglophonic poems at the end of the last century, which had travelled at the side of settlers who had left old Caledonian highlands to cross the seas and settle in the still virgin and verdant bosom of the new world.

 

It might have, like those settlers themselves, adapted, taken on local characteristics fitted to its new environment and even changed its name, but it was still the same basic song, and the girl, who somewhere forgotten in her blood, carried the very same race memories as Jay of that sceptred isle that both their ancestors had once called home, played out the simple melody and sang to an uncluttered accompaniment, that ancient air in a clear bel canto voice.

 

🎶 The Smiling Spring comes in rejoicing,

And surly Winter grimly flies;

Now crystal clear are the falling waters,

And bonny blue are the sunny skies.

Fresh over the mountains breaks forth the morning,

The evening gilds the Ocean's swell;

All creatures joy in the sun's returning,

And I rejoice in my Bonny Bell. 🎶

 

For a raw country girl, singing in her untutored voice and banging out an accompaniment extempore on a decrepit piano in a saloon in the territories, it was a pretty good performance. She smiled happily as she played on and hummed the melody, for the words of the second verse escaped her. She might not have smiled so happily had she known that behind her back, Mr. Jay was secretly guzzling the whiskey.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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He wet his lips when the whiskey had burnt down his throat. After a bit of confusion about the song, the girl finally knew what he was talking about and started playing the tune.

The old piano sounded almost harsh compared to some of instruments Jay had heard in England. So did her voice but she knew how to hit the right notes and she sang from her heart.

Something inside of him was suddenly moved as he stood still and listened very carefully. It was as if a long moment of joy filled him, taking him back to his home that he had left so long ago.

Jay's heart was filled with joy by the singing and playing of this young lady. A smile tugged on his lips when he heard the words and decided to sing along. His own voice was much deeper,a whole octave actually but they were a good match.

 

When the song ended he clapped his hands and nodded. "Thank you. That was lovely."

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When the song ended he clapped his hands and nodded. "Thank you. That was lovely."

 

Arabella clapped her hands with delight “Ha ha, that was nice when you sang, too. Now let’s have somethin’ more jolly!” she was so obsessed with music and performing it, that she didn’t even turn round and so remained in ignorance of Jay’s whiskey snaffling activities.

 

“Listen, I been tryin’ this one out!” she cried and started into a somewhat inaccurate and heavy handed version of Offenbach’s Galop Infernal. To be fair, she only knew the music from the singing of some drunken revelers a week ago who had demanded that she give them a dance and when she demurred, citing her pot collecting duties, for she was usually more than willing to ‘shake a leg’, one of the men, the town’s undertaker, had climbed on a table and executed a drunken version of the dance himself, before falling off to the general hilarity of the company, and getting escorted outside by Mr. Flandry.

 

“This here’s called the Can Can!” she yelped excitedly as she ploughed out the upbeat tempo “You ever heard o’ that Mr. Jay?! I read in the papers that some ladies back East dance it and kick up their legs ‘n’ show their unmentionables! Can you imagine that? And I reckon we should get some Can Can dancers here, and I reckon lots of new customers would come in to see such a curious thing, don’t you?”

 

She wanted to pitch the idea to the Saloon management. She'd sneak it into conversation with  Mr. Flandry first because, although he was a saturnine and taciturn sort of a man, he somehow seemed more open to her exciting and brilliant new ideas than Ms. Devereau, who had quickly fallen into the habit of issuing a peremptory “No!” almost as soon as Arabella opened her mouth about anything. As for Cookie, she had just looked on with a sort of bemused horror when Arabella had demonstrated the dance to her in the kitchen last Saturday.

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Of course he had heard of the Can Can. He was a traveler, who spent a lot of time in pubs and saloons plus he had been part of Thomas' gang.

The Can Can was every non married mans delight. Who didn't like to peek under womens skirts? It was a very enticing dance.

That this little girl was playing it was a little irritating, though. Did she aspire to be a Can Can dancer?

 

It was fun to hear the tune nevertheless and put a big grin on his face as he clapped along and whistled the famous tune.

"That would be a splendid idea. You'd be making a fortune. People would come from near and far...and it's not that uncivilized...I think it's French!"

Jay knew that no saloon owner in his right mind would cart in French dancers...but who knew. Maybe the local girls wanted to swing their legs in unruly ways. He poured himself another glass and had a sip. "You could be playing the piano...Maybe dance a bit, too?"

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It was fun to hear the tune nevertheless and put a big grin on his face as he clapped along and whistled the famous tune.

 

Arabella was mighty pleased that the stranger was enjoying her playing so much and kept on with renewed vigor, la la la-ing the melody along with his whistling.

 

"That would be a splendid idea. You'd be making a fortune. People would come from near and far...and it's not that uncivilized...I think it's French!"

 

“Oh, Mr. Jay, them Frenchies ain’t civilized! They eats frogs an’ snails an’, as if that ain’t enough, just of late they’ve taken to snafflin’ up rats. Why, do you know that folks in Paris hardly eat nuthin’ else but rats. And as fer ladies showing their bloomers when they dance, well that ain’t civilized, but you’re right, it sure is exciting!”

 

Jay knew that no saloon owner in his right mind would cart in French dancers...but who knew. Maybe the local girls wanted to swing their legs in unruly ways. He poured himself another glass and had a sip. "You could be playing the piano...Maybe dance a bit, too?"

 

The young girl laughed. “Well, I’m no mean dancer, Mr. Jay, in fact I’m one o’ the best dancers in Virginia, and that probably makes me the best dancer in the Montana territories! I can do the waltz and the polka and the schottish and the Paul Jones, oh and just all of em! Don’t think no-one’d pay to see my legs though: Mammy Cookie says they’re like a pair o’ pipe cleaners!” she admitted with a note of jollity in her voice.

 

“No, I’d never go to France. They’re Cath’licks, too." she added for good measure. "I’d go to England, see all them castles and knights in armour and meet the poor old Queen. I’m in mournin’ just like her!” she added, remembering the black crepe armband she was sporting on her sleeve while merrily playing the Can Can on the piano.

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Jay laughed out loud about her comment about her pipe cleaner legs. "That sound hilarious. I'm sure they are fine...let's try those legs of yours."

He encouraged the girl by holding out his hand for a dance. "As a proper Englisman I know how to walz...do me the favour."

Jay pulled took her hand and kept a proper distance when the turned and twisted around chairs and tables in the empty saloon.

"I'd go to France anytime. Sounds like my kind of place." Again he laughed. Jay never expected to have such a good time on a fine afternoon as the only customer of an underage bartenderess.

"So where is the actual owner really? Did you just make him up?" His tongue had gotten a little loose thanks to the tree shots of whiskey.

 

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Jay laughed out loud about her comment about her pipe cleaner legs. "That sound hilarious. I'm sure they are fine...let's try those legs of yours."

 

Arabella jumped a little at this request and hit a couple of off key notes. He wanted to see her legs?

 

He encouraged the girl by holding out his hand for a dance. "As a proper Englishman I know how to walz...do me the favour."

 

Oh! He wanted to try her legs as in, have a dance with her. Well, that was all right, except, of course, she couldn’t play the piano and dance at the same time. “All right, we’ll have to hum the music though.” She reasoned out loud. Not able to leave the tune half way through a phrase, she waited until she could decently wrap it up with a neat little coda, and then twiddled around on the adjustable piano stool.

 

Jay pulled took her hand and kept a proper distance when the turned and twisted around chairs and tables in the empty saloon.

 

"I'd go to France anytime. Sounds like my kind of place." Again he laughed. Jay never expected to have such a good time on a fine afternoon as the only customer of an underage bartenderess.

 

Arabella laughed and said something along the lines of “Well, you must be mighty uncivilized too, Mister!” as she allowed him to take her small pale right hand in his left and put his right arm around her waif-like body. He was over a foot taller than she and she had to crane her neck up to look at him.

 

Arabella was just about to launch out on one of her long winded dissertations all about the art of the waltz, and how he would need to be careful not to tread on her toes, when she glanced at the bar and gasped in horror as she noticed the glass and the half empty bottle of whiskey.

 

“Oh, Mr Jay, you have ruined me! The owners’ll kill me when they see!!” she cried in alarm at what he’d done.

 

"So where is the actual owner really? Did you just make him up?" His tongue had gotten a little loose thanks to the tree shots of whiskey.

 

What? He thought she was alone?! What was he planning to do, exactly? She felt her heart beating like a rubber ball bouncing around the inside of her rib-cage and a wave of panic swept over her as she struggled to extricate herself from his, unbeknownst to her, entirely innocent embrace.

 

“Help! Leave go of me, Sir, you are drunk! Release me this instance* you dastardly man!!” she yelped, as heavy footsteps suddenly sounded behind them.

 

 

*Sic

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Ralph heard the piano playing, the girl wasn't half bad at it, not at all.  He was almost back when he suddenly heard the child again only this time crying out in some sort of distress? What the hell now?

 

“Help! Leave go of me, Sir, you are drunk! Release me this instance* you dastardly man!!” Arabella yelped.

 

Some man was standing with her, well it seemed like she had just pulled away from the jasper and she was clearly upset. 

 

"I'd watch yourself, mister. If I have to use my gun I will kill you, make no mistake on that," Ralph now warned the man as he stood in a perfect position behind the pair.

 

Even if the man spun around quickly, he'd have his revolver out of it's holster and he would gun the fellow down.

 

"Girl, move aside, fast!" he added a quick order, wanting to get the child out of the line of fire.

 

 

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Jay had a nice buzz going but he wasn't drunk enough to notbnotice the change in her attitude. That joyful tone went out the window when she saw how much he'd drunk.

"I'm going to pay for it. Don't worry." He tried to calm.hercdown when she suddenky called for help that appeared out of the blue in the form of an older threats ing sounding man.

Instinctively Jay slowly raised his hands away from his gunbelt.

"Sir...I meant no harm. We were dancing because your daughter told me she's the best dancer in the state and she had encouraged me with some pretty music. A walz is all I wanted. I swear. There's no need for any shooting. Take my gun. " He was adressing the gun owner behind him but his eyes were fixed ob the girl, hoping she'd correct her mistake.

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"I'd watch yourself, mister. If I have to use my gun I will kill you, make no mistake on that," Ralph now warned the man as he stood in a perfect position behind the pair.

 

"I'm going to pay for it. Don't worry." He tried to calm her down when she called for help that appeared out of the blue in the form of an older threatening sounding man.

 

Instinctively Jay slowly raised his hands away from his gunbelt.

 

Arabella greeted the sight of Mr Flandry with a mixture of relief, that someone had come to rescue her from her imagined molester, and horror: that there was a loaded gun pointing in her general direction; for these were early days for her at the saloon, and the situation appeared to be one of extreme and shocking peril. Given a few months in the place, come Spring, she would be ducking the loud reports of revelers' six-shooters, while scarcely batting an eyelid, as she collected up the whiskey glasses and beer pots.

 

"Girl, move aside, fast!" he added a quick order, wanting to get the child out of the line of fire.

 

She needed no second biding and, letting out a loud shriek of terror, ran past Ralph and around the back of the bar where she stayed, bawling her head off and occasionally peeking over to see what was happening.

 

"Sir...I meant no harm. We were dancing because your daughter told me she's the best dancer in the state and she had encouraged me with some pretty music. A waltz is all I wanted. I swear. There's no need for any shooting. Take my gun. " He was addressing the gun owner behind him but his eyes were fixed on the girl, hoping she'd correct her mistake.

 

“I ain’t his daughter!” Arabella corrected through her sniffles, even though it wasn’t perhaps the most important thing to straighten out in the present situation, and even then she couldn’t help modifying that statement with a quiet “But I wish I was.” She took another big sniff to clear the snot that was running out of her nose and told her side of the story.

 

“I did [sniff] tell Mr. Jay I was good at dancing and playing the pianna, but I never said he could drink all that there whiskey, an’ when he asked me if I was alone, I thought he was gettin’ all …” she wasn’t sure what the word was “… ornery!” Well, that was the truth and Jesus forgive her if it wasn’t.

 

She’d made a mess of things all right, and just after Mr. Flandry had trusted her to do something responsible for the first time. The thought of that, of letting him down, set her to weeping and wailing again, and she had to raise her apron up to blow her nose on it and wipe away the tears from her reddened eyes.

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Least the man was no fool, he raised his hands - wise choice.

 

"Sir...I meant no harm. We were dancing because your daughter told me she's the best dancer in the state and she had encouraged me with some pretty music. A walz is all I wanted. I swear. There's no need for any shooting. Take my gun."  

 

Ralph countered, "I don't want your gun. Just leave it in the holster and don't you put your hand on it or I will shoot. And don't turn around til I tell ya to, ya hear?"

 

The child was all tears and drama....wimmen. But she had the presence of mind to get out of the line of fire like he asked, give her that much. Now she started giving her side of things.

 

“I did [sniff] tell Mr. Jay I was good at dancing and playing the pianna, but I never said he could drink all that there whiskey, an’ when he asked me if I was alone, I thought he was gettin’ all …” she wasn’t sure what the word was “… ornery!”

 

Ralph glanced at the bottle on the bar and empty shot glass. How did those get there?

 

"Just calm down, Arabella. It's alright now.  So besides being ...ornery.... did he try and lay hands on ya? I mean besides dancing," Ralph felt he needed to know more here to try and get a grasp of what exactly all did occur?

 

Just then another very familiar female voice entered the conversation as Matilda came down the stairs from her second floor office. Her eyes took in the ........... whatever the hell this was. The girl sobbing , Ralph with a gun on a man with his hands up. A man she had never seen before.

 

"Alright, what the hell is going on here then?" she demanded with a glare once she reached the ground floor.

 

Matilda-again.jpg

 

"Ain't quite sure myself," Ralph had to admit.

 

 

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"Just calm down, Arabella. It's alright now.  So besides being ...ornery.... did he try and lay hands on ya? I mean besides dancing," Ralph felt he needed to know more here to try and get a grasp of what exactly all did occur?

 

“No.” she sniffed truthfully. She might be prone to exaggeration and self-dramatization, but when things got serious she knew to tell God’s honest truth. “I think I just got scared.”

 

"Alright, what the hell is going on here then?" she demanded with a glare once she reached the ground floor.

 

Arabella wanted to dive under the bar, but felt it might have looked like she was guilty of something. Being in the line of fire of a gun, or having some drunken fellow maul her, were nothing compared to the prospect of being in trouble with Ms. Devereau, when it came to pure unadulterated terror.

 

It wasn’t just the fact that, on her say so, she could be thrown back out onto the street, a homeless and penniless orphan; there was just the pure force of her personality combined with the feeling that she could somehow never do anything quite right for the woman.

 

Well, anyway, she certainly decided to let Mr. Flandry or Mr. Jay explain all this mess, only hoping that the former would describe the situation in a way that would present her in the best possible light to the feisty Saloon owner, she doubted that the latter would. She herself just stood there sniveling and wringing her apron in a heady combination of distressed confusion and self-pity.

 

Mr. Jay had done her wrong by stealing the whiskey, but what Mr. Flandry had asked her about him laying hands on her ‘more than dancing’ made her worry that maybe, in her panic, she’d accused him of something terrible that he was innocent of.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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This was the last thing he expected or wanted to be caught in: Accused of putting his hands on a minor, a crime he clearly didn't commit as opposed to everything else he had actually done. How ironic.

He kept his hands up and his back to the man. "Please don't shoot. I've done nothung wrong...I mean the girl told you. I did NOT touch her....only danced with her."

He now glared at the sniffling kid when a woman came down the stairs. Jay raised his eyes to meet hers. She was pretty but had a stern look on her face. Clearly no humor, he thought.

"As I said...I will pay for what I drank....that's how it works  in a bar, correct?"

 

Hopefully they wouldn't accuse him of stealing.

 

"Can I lower my hands? The money is in my jacket...left inside pocket."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ralph wasn't worried about the damn drinks, he only wanted to know one thing and asked the blubbering child a very specific question to find out. He got his answer.

 

"No. I think I just got scared," was her simple and brief (especially for her) answer.

 

"Dammit then," Ralph lowered the gun.

 

The man was still plenty nervous and considering the situation he had just been put in, it was understandable. He was now offering to pay for the drinks he apparently snuck only wanted to lower his hands so he could reach his money.

 

Matilda spoke for Ralph then, "You can put your hands down.  I admittedly came to this dance late but it sounds like no harm was done. Just some child's foolishness."

 

This was EXACTLY why she had not wanted Arabella mixing with the clientele, saloons could be rough places not fit for children.

 

She stepped closer to the man, clearly unafraid, "Call those drinks on the house. All even then, mister?"

 

It did not do to have unhappy customers and word of mouth might only make it worse. She had a business to run.

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"Dammit then," Ralph lowered the gun.

 

Arabella just stood there behind the bar, red-faced that she was at the centre of this embarrassing mess, and that she had let Mr. Flandry down. As a fellow woman, at least Ms. Devereau might understand just why she had panicked in that way.

 

Matilda spoke for Ralph then, "You can put your hands down.  I admittedly came to this dance late but it sounds like no harm was done. Just some child's foolishness."

 

Some child’s foolishness?! The girl’s mouth gaped at the injustice of it all, she hadn’t been the one stealing drinks! At least they would hold that against him, surely? Then came the denouement of her bitter humiliation.

 

She stepped closer to the man, clearly unafraid, "Call those drinks on the house. All even then, mister?"

 

Arabella could only gasp at this gross miscarriage of justice and utter a quiet but audible “But … that ain’t fair!” she’d gone from upset and crying to feeling surly, angry and hard done to. She looked at Mr. Jay through narrowed eyes: oh, he’d fooled Ms Devereau all right, even Mr Flandry wasn’t aiming a gun at him any more, but she knew he was a snake in the grass, and she’d get even with him one day.

 

The fact that it was she who had declared the man innocent of nothing worse than impatience was forgotten: in her mind she just knew that his coming had made her appear foolish and irresponsible in the eyes of those whom she wanted to impress: that was a crime that could only be expiated by cold solid revenge of some girlish nature.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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It was the lady of the house who finally allowed him to lower his hands. Thank goodness. Unthinkable what could have happened if the sheriff had been called because of this childs exagerated and foolish accusation.

He thanked them for not charging them for the drinks but when he saw the scowl that the girl was giving him, he walked over there until he could face her very closely. Then, in a low voice he told her.

"You should really watch what you're saying and doing. You encourage a man to sing and dance with you and then pretend he had ill intentions. You can very quickly ruin someones reputation like that."

And to top it off he shook his head and added. "Why would I want to put my hands on you, you're still a child."

 

He then took his hat from the counter top and tipped it to greet the owner and his wife.

"Have a good day, sir, mam!"

With that he left before any more bad blood could arise. He'd probably not return to the saloon any time soon. Not with Arabella being there.

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Matilda watched the man walk out, waited til he was gone then turned to the girl and Ralph. She sighed then addressed the child.

 

"Arabella, did I not tell you may not mingle with the customers. If you are to be my employee then I expect you to do as you're told. This is precisely why I gave you such orders. Look what almost happened to that man because you got scared."

 

"I know you think I am stern, hard on you even but I have my reasons. I have a responsibility as owner of this business but I also have a responsibility to protect you. Ralph and I will never allow you to be harmed by anyone. I want you safe. Do you understand, child?"  she talked to the girl but not in harsh tones.

 

 

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He thanked them for not charging them for the drinks but when he saw the scowl that the girl was giving him, he walked over there until he could face her very closely. Then, in a low voice he told her.

 

"You should really watch what you're saying and doing. You encourage a man to sing and dance with you and then pretend he had ill intentions. You can very quickly ruin someones reputation like that."

 

Arabella shook in fear as the angry man approached her, even though the bar was between them and Mr Flandry and Ms Devereau were there to protect her.

 

And to top it off he shook his head and added. "Why would I want to put my hands on you, you're still a child."

 

The girl literally jumped at this last verbal slap in the face, then could only hang her head and cry at the drubbing she had been given.

 

He then took his hat from the counter top and tipped it to greet the owner and his wife.

"Have a good day, sir, mam!"

 

"Arabella, did I not tell you may not mingle with the customers. If you are to be my employee then I expect you to do as you're told. This is precisely why I gave you such orders. Look what almost happened to that man because you got scared."

 

“Yes Mam” she nodded, without looking up, the snot and the tears running down her face, although she did try and retard the former with a loud snorting noise and a couple of smaller subsidiary sniffs.

 

"I know you think I am stern, hard on you even but I have my reasons. I have a responsibility as owner of this business but I also have a responsibility to protect you. Ralph and I will never allow you to be harmed by anyone. I want you safe. Do you understand, child?"  she talked to the girl but not in harsh tones.

 

The girl standing on top of the box lifted her red, tear-filled eyes, looked at the two adults, the nearest things she had to parents in her lonely life right now, and dragged a worn-out sleeve across her face. “You mean … I don’t have to pack my things and leave?” she asked incredulously. She thought that she would get kicked out after this, for sure. It was probably just as well she didn’t have to pack up her things, as she didn’t have anything to pack up, not to speak of.

 

It would be over a week before Arabella would get into trouble again. Some reckoned that this was a world’s record: others maintained that there had been an eleven day period when Miss Mudd had been as good as gold, but opponents argued that that little oasis of peace and quiet had been on account of her getting the mumps and it didn’t really count.

 

Either way, she was chastened, and never left the bar unattended again or danced with a man without a chaperone in the room or played that Scottish folk song on the pianna. And boy, did she spend an awful amount of time over the next few weeks sneaking around back lots, and dashing along the boardwalks of Kalispell at a high rate of locomotion to avoid coming face to face with one Mr. Jay Ryker of England.

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"Yes Mam” the girl nodded, without looking up, there were tears and sniffling.

 

Matilda wasn't telling her this to have her cry but to make a point and to once more clarify the expectations the woman had for Arabella if she was going to stay under this roof. But she also wanted to stress that now that the girl was a part of this, she would be safe and protected. Neither Matilda nor Ralph would allow anyone to harm that child.

 

The girl standing on top of the box lifted her red, tear-filled eyes, looked at the two adults  and dragged a worn-out sleeve across her face. “You mean … I don’t have to pack my things and leave?” she asked incredulously.

 

"No of course not! I promised to keep you and take care of you and I keep my promises. You are staying until you are old enough to make your own decisions and then you are free to go whenever you decide, Arabella," Matilda declared forcefully.

 

"Now, stop your crying, you're too old for that," she directed, "And go to the kitchen and find something useful to do. Scoot!"

 

ooc: End thread here then?

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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