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    • "I plan to start nothing where women are concerned until I meet one that I like and one that acts her age," he replied in a slightly miffed tone.   “Well, let’s just hope the two of ‘em never meet!” chuckled Arabella, nudging Bridget, who laughed, despite not really getting the joke.   “Anyhow, I always act my age – nearly Sixteen!” declared the driver of the buggy. Indeed, in a mere 354 days, she would reach that august age.   “Back home in the Old Dominion, I’d ‘a’ probably been wed by now!” she added.   Despite her ironing board figure and girlish ways, ever since it had happened a few months ago, she had considered herself a young woman, rather than a mere girl.   "Besides, I thought we were on a trip so that Miss Monahan could attend mass and not some sort of confessional."   “Oh, don’t you know nuthin’?!” she tsked “Confessional’s exactly what we’re goin’ up there for. She’s gotta confess all her terrible sins to the priest feller before she's allowed to go to Mass and eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus.” Without Bridget seeing, she caught Charlie’s eye and, screwing up her face, gave a dismissive shake of her head, to show that she thought the whole thing was a bunch of nonsense, theologically speaking. Miss Arabella Sumpter Mudd was no friend to the foolish notion of transubstantiation.    “Course, I’m a Methodist m’self. Say, what’s your denomination, Charlie? You know that there priest is going to have a whole bunch of religious questions to ask you, don’t you?” she asked in a serious tone of voice.   @JulieS  
    • After hitching their horses, Mike and the rest of the Lost Lake hands surveyed their surroundings.  The crowd was starting to build up and a couple of the hands headed over towards the tent where the beer was being served.  A few of them headed over to where the food was.  Some of them went inside leaving only Mike, Charlie and Marty to decide what to do.   After a minute or two, Marty tapped Mike on the arm and pointed towards the barn entrance.  "Over there boss, a couple of the Evergreen crew.  Remember them from that fight last year at the fair."   Even though it happened before he had arrived in Kalispell, Mike had heard what had happened last summer.  He also knew the story behind the so-called feud between Evergreen and Lost Lake.  "Okay, just make sure you and the others stay clear of them."   "Oh, I plan to...otherwise all bets will be off and I intend to win this time," Marty replied before heading off to warn his friends.   Mike turned to Charlie, "Speaking of bets.  What time did you put down?"   Charlie, who was distracted by something over where the food was being served, quickly turned his attention back to his brother, "Nine thirty."   Mike smiled, "Isn't that a bit a optimistic?"   Shaking his head, Charlie answered, "From what I hear it isn't.  Besides Sam put down nine forty-five."   "I suppose you could be right but I'm hoping you're not.  Wouldn't mind winning that pot myself."  Taking one last good look at what was going on, Mike straightened his jacket, "I think I'll head inside and try my luck there. I'll see you later."   He patted Charlie on the back before walking towards the barn.
    • Brendan shifted his weight under Clara's scathing stare. He stuck his thumbs in his suspenders and met Clara's eyes, setting his mouth stubbornly. "Brendan Connolly.”   That name sounded Irish, like Bridget’s. Oh, well, he couldn’t help that, Arabella supposed. Maybe he was a Catholic and could take her and Bridget to the Catholic mission tomorrow. She was going to ask him, but for once she couldn’t get a word in edgeways.   “And I didn't set you up. The hands set me up."   “Sure, the hands set him up!” Arabella agreed, not having a clue what this was all about, but trying to pour oil on troubled waters. Considering that she was her ‘bosom friend’ Clara never actually did  tell her much about her life.   "Still wanna dance with me after hearin' that? I'll take a polka with you and a slow dance with Miss Ginger there, if she's 'con-struct-ed' for it."   “Hey don’t call her that!” Arabella corrected the man, for these were the days when having red hair was considered ugly in a woman. “You wouldn’t like it if we made fun of your bow legs, now would you?” He didn’t really have bow legs, unlike most cowboys, but he wouldn’t know that. Unlike women, men didn’t spend a lot of time examining their own bodies, looking for imperfections. “I mean, they ain’t too bad, but you still couldn’t stop a pig in an alley.”   Arabella caught Bridget’s eye and nodded toward Clara, as if to say, to the elective mute, ‘have a word with her’, while she grabbed hold of Brendan’s arm and dragged him away from the scene of conflict.   “Step over here a second, Mr. Cowboy Connelly, and I’ll show you where we got the beer tent set up” she offered brightly, and as soon as they were a few steps away, hissed “Well, what the Dickens was all that about? You two looked fit to start a range war back there, even before this shindig’s begun. Tell me what happened between you two.” she asked with frown on her youthful features.   Meanwhile, Bridget’s contribution to all this was to rustle up to the incandescently furious looking Clara, bustle to bustle, and whisper in her ear “Is that man bad?”
    • Harem?  While it was true he couldn't remember some parts of last night, he was pretty sure that there wasn't a lot of kissing involved.  Maybe the two girls were having a joke at his expense but he couldn't be one hundred percent sure.   "I plan to start nothing where women are concerned until I meet one that I like and one that acts her age," he replied in a slightly miffed tone.  "Besides, I thought we were on a trip so that Miss Monahan could attend mass and not some sort of confessional."   @Javia
    • "They'd hafta find us first," she grumbled, surprised but not that he knew what she was going to say.  "I'll give yer way a chance, an' I reckon if anyone could untangle this, it'd be Miz Mercer.  Ought we ta find her now, get this started?"  Then she'd have to find Weedy and finally talk to him, although she suspected he suspected, how could he not, what with his mother gone so long this time?   "Not lookin' forward ta talkin' ta Weedy, but best get that done before he hears from someone else."  Wouldn't take long for word to spread, and even though there might not be any malicious intent, someone might ask him questions that would be awkward, especially if he hadn't been told.   @Flip
The Old Ranger

Annual Spring Dance (Preparations)

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Mature Content: No

Author: Wide Open

With: Whoever posts
Location: Kalispell
When: April 1876
Time of Day: Varies

 

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Excitement was building in the small frontier community. April meant winter was finally over and summer lay ahead. For farmers it was time to prepare the fields for planting. For ranchers their herds could now fatten on pasture land buried by snow during the winter. People could move around more, travel more now that the roads were not blocked by snow. And April also meant the annual Spring Dance where the town gathered for socializing  in a festive setting. Besides dancing there was plenty of food and drinks for all.

 

But it did not happen without some organizing to set this whole affair up. A committee was formed each year to handle the myriad details of preparation. Many local citizens pitched in to help in whatever way they could. Donations of all sorts of foodstuffs were promised, usually a local ranch or two provided a cow for the meat. Individuals would bring in bakery goods and many side dishes. Local musicians gathered for practices - though many had performed at prior dances and were well accustomed to each other. The Stardust Saloon was providing a few barrels of free beer and pitching a small tent where hard liquor could be purchased.

 

The actual locale of the dance that evening would be Mr. Horace Simkin's large barn, normally used for hay and other feed storage but blessed with a strong wood floor unlike most barns. It was located just outside of town proper and Simkins was proud to have his place host such festivities (and he always said as much to anyone who would listen).

 

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Townsfolk could easily walk there, those who needed to come further had hitching posts and a corral for horses plus plenty of open space to park buggies and wagons. A large fire pit out back of the barn was where the butchered beef was roasted on spit.

 

All of this was the material side to this grand event, but there was far more to the Spring Dance than just that. The weeks then days prior to that glorious Saturday evening, people were making their own arrangements as to just who was going and of course who were they going with!  Nervous or maybe confident males were formally requesting the ladies of the community for them to accompany them that night. Shirts, trousers, dresses were washed, shoes polished. Everyone wanted to look their best.

 

Yes sirree, it was going to be a hot time in the old barn that night come April 22nd.

 

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When Arabella ran, screaming and yelling and waving her hands, through the back kitchen door of the saloon and into the barroom at the front (an extreme display, even for her) Messalina, the Stardust Saloon’s cook, could only assume that: a) the town was under Indian attack, b) Thomas Gage Love and his band of outlaws had returned to re-rob the town’s bank, or c) the whole cotton-picking town was on fire and about to go up in a puff of smoke, just like Whitefish.

 

With a cry of “Mercy alive, child, what is it now?!” she waddled after the girl and found her dancing around in front of Mr Flandry breathlessly singing a song, the lyrics of which seemed to consist of a monotonous recitative of “Can you do the polka? I can do the polka! Can you do the polka? Yes, I can do the polka!” and when this had been repeated enough times, along with the accompanying capering, to convince any poor onlooker that Arabella could indeed ‘do the polka’ she span round and round with a high pitched cry of “Weeeeeeeeee!!!” before collapsing on the floor in a dizzy heap and somehow catching enough breath to shout “THERE’S GONNA BE A DANCE!!” and give out a rebel yell that was probably louder, and given with more gusto, than any that Mr Flandry had heard during the late War.

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Ralph weathered the storm that was the child's histrionic performance until she collapsed then announced there was going to be a dance. He already knew that, Matilda was on the town dance committee and was planning on providing beer and selling the hard stuff out of a tent. Combine fun with some profit too.  She was a better businessman than most men he knew of.

 

"Well, I'll be out front now, manning the bar," he calmly announced in a tone that definitely signaled it was not a subject up for debate.

 

And with that he left the young girl with the poor frazzled cook.

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Mr Flandry didn’t even comment on the dance! She hadn’t expected him to get that excited about the event, but still, he could have said something. What she didn’t realize was that the thing would probably just mean more work for the barman of the saloon: supplying the booze and selling out the hard stuff; and it never even occurred to her that she herself might be required to work as well: she just saw, in her mind’s eye, a night of glittering romance, heady music, and fun, and mischief, and showing off how good she was at dancing.

 

She scrambled to her feet and ran past Cookie, shrieking “I gotta tell Clara!!”

 

Pretty soon she was creaking open the back door of the Lick Skillet. It wasn’t usually locked, even if Clara and Ms Emeline were both out front for some reason. She poked a nose in. By some misunderstanding, Arabella had become convinced that Ms Em was something of an ogress and, having never spoken to the woman, had never been disabused of the notion.

 

So it was that she crept into the wonderful workshop where perfect pies were prepared, belly-filling buns baked, and marvelous muffins manufactured. The smell rivaled that of the kitchen of her very own, very dear Mammy Cookie. Unlike that cuddly lady, though, Ms Blakesley would probably give her a clip round the ear if she caught her here.

 

“Clara?” she whispered as she crept into the kitchen, virtually on tiptoe, “Clara! I got somethin’ to tell ya!”

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Clara had not even been planning on attending the upcoming town dance. Oh she had enjoyed the last one alright but that was when Shade danced with her.  Now however she had been tossed aside for that Jezebel school marm, the latest object of the rancher's obviously flitting affections. No, she would not be humiliated by standing there against the wall watching him cavort about on the dance floor with THAT WOMAN.

 

And what would be her other options? Charlie Wentworth? Hardly, he despised her, liked nothing better than to do his best to belittle her and toy with her feelings even though she had tried very hard to be nice to him too. That left a couple of those Evergreen cowpokes. Billy or Brendan.  A more likely chance of a blizzard in mid July. Handsome they might be but they were also louts and possibly dangerous ones at that. Anyone working for the Steelgraves could not be trusted.

 

So why should she waste her time and effort to attend some frivolous dance?

 

Her gloomy reflections were interrupted by a familiar voice behind her. Turning about it was Arabella. Now what? She had told the girl before she was welcome to visit by coming in the front door of the place so she could be waited on like any other customer but was not to be sneaking in the back. Waste of breath telling that child anything though.

 

"Arabella, why are you here?" she sighed.

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As Arabella started to poke her nose in the kitchen door, she felt something rub against her boots and the bottom of her skirts. Looking down she noticed a familiar man-about-town who was regularly voted the town’s second most annoying personage by those who didn't appreciate the beauty of the feline form.

 

“Frank'!”  Arabella frowned, looking down at the fluffy cat, “You know you ain’t allowed in here!” she admonished the feline, even though it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Arabella would stop and pet just about any critter alive: cats, rabbits, turtles, hairy caterpillars, even small dogs, although anything bigger than a dachshund would usually set her running away in terror.

 

She decided that the best way to stop the curious tomcat getting into the kitchen was to pick the incorrigible scavenger up. So, after first giving Frankie a tickle just bellow and behind the ears, to lull her victim into a false sense of security, she hefted him up with a grunt. Fluffy didn’t necessarily mean light: it had clearly been a successful morning's scrounging for the pot bellied furry piggy.

 

“Hush now! If Miss Em catches us, we’ll both be chopped up and put in a pie!” she warned the mewing cat. “Clara? Clara?”

 

"Arabella, why are you here?" she sighed.

 

The girl jumped and the cat took fright too, trying to crawl over Arabella’s shoulder and down her back, with a good set of claws dug in through the material of her dress and into her skin for traction, but Arabella gave Frankie another few deft tickles behind the ear, and he calmed and even emitted a few throaty purrs.

 

“I come to talk to ya about the dance!” whispered Arabella excitedly “And Frank was trying to get in!” she explained about the fluffy article lolled over her shoulder, who was even now sniffing the air for signs of meaty pie fillings.

 

“What we going to wear? Who d’ya wanna dance with? We need to plan it all out and practice dancing! I ain’t been to a dance in ages, my legs is all rusty!”

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Even though the girl was looking for, and one would think, expecting Clara's presence, she was startled when Clara spoke up. The cat she was trying to hold reacted in the same fashion. That was Emeline's cat too?

 

“I come to talk to ya about the dance!” whispered Arabella excitedly “And Frank was trying to get in!”

 

"He was trying to get in for the past hour and now magically he got his wish. You carried him in," Clara pointed out.

 

“What we going to wear? Who d’ya wanna dance with? We need to plan it all out and practice dancing! I ain’t been to a dance in ages, my legs is all rusty!”

 

"Glad to see you are all aflutter about the dance," Clara sighed, "As for me, I have no plans to attend. It is a foolish waste of time and I cannot be bothered with it."

 

And then perhaps even unwittingly, she got to crux of the matter, "Besides no boy has asked me. And I am certain no one will."

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"He was trying to get in for the past hour and now magically he got his wish. You carried him in," Clara pointed out.

 

“Oh, Frankie, Frankie, Frankie!” cooed Arabella, cuddling the tom, who blinked his eyes in sure indication of relaxation.

 

“I call him Frank, after my third favorite outlaw, Mr Frank Younger. The was another brown tabby one, Cole, but I think he’s been run over by a wagon cause I ain’t seen him lately. Anyway, Mr Cole Younger is my second favorite outlaw, but my favorite outlaw is Mr Tom Love, he’s the most romantical outlaw there is! And even though he’s a ‘Tom’ I ain’t named a pussy cat after him yet. Hey, ain’t it funny when you say a word a whole lot of times? Outlaw, outlaw, outlaw. Huh! Anyways, talking about romantical, how ‘bout this here dance?”

“What we going to wear? Who d’ya wanna dance with? We need to plan it all out and practice dancing! I ain’t been to a dance in ages, my legs is all rusty!”

 

"Glad to see you are all aflutter about the dance," Clara sighed, "As for me, I have no plans to attend. It is a foolish waste of time and I cannot be bothered with it."

 

Arabella frowned at this display of non-logic by the usually cerebral Clara.

 

“Sure it’s a waste of time, that’s why I wanna go! I wanna waste my time that way, being waltzed and polka’d and Schottisched about the dance floor by a whole succession o’ handsome men, an’ all the time Mr Wentworth standin’ there in the corner, in a jealous fury, an eventually he comes stompin’ across the dance floor an tears me from some handsome swain’s embrace and says ‘out the way sonny, this is MAN’S work!’, and sweeps me right off o’ my feet. An .. an … an you don’t wanna go?!!” she shook her head, uncomprehendingly.

 

"Besides no boy has asked me. And I am certain no one will."

 

Arabella looked at her supposed intellectual superior with sad, sad sympathy.

 

“Oh Clara, Clara, Clara. Don’t you know that the only boys as ever asks a girl to a dance are the ones who you don’t want to ask you? The one you want never does. You just gotta be there and ready to bushwack the one you DO want. Now, who’ve you got your eye on right now?” she asked, serious faced.

 

She needed this essential piece of information to start to plan the campaign on a grand strategic level. Individual battle tactics could be dealt with later, but in general, when dealing with romance, she followed the cast iron rule of General Nathan Bedford Forrest – ‘Git thar fustest with the most mostest.’

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"Outlaws are scum," was Clara's abrupt assessment on the girl's silly affectation for such men. However the child came from the south, what could one expect from such folk.

 

Needless to say, Arabella saw the upcoming dance quite differently and listening to her go on, the child was wildly optimistic on her chances with menfolk. But it did not change the older girl's mind in the slightest.

 

"Yes, I do not want to go, I believe I stated that already," Clara asserted.

 

"Oh Clara, Clara, Clara. Don’t you know that the only boys as ever asks a girl to a dance are the ones who you don’t want to ask you? The one you want never does. You just gotta be there and ready to bushwack the one you DO want. Now, who’ve you got your eye on right now?” Arabella asked, serious faced.

 

"Bushwhack? I am not about to do any such thing," Clara rolled her eyes.

 

"Besides I do not have my eye on anyone. All the boys....young men I know are louts and/or ruffians. I have better things to do with my life," she declared.

 

 

 

 

 

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"Outlaws are scum," was Clara's abrupt assessment on the girl's silly affectation for such men. However the child came from the south, what could one expect from such folk.

 

“Hmph!” hmphed Arabella “I suppose you think Robin Hood and The Black Arrow are ‘Scum’ then, and Dick Turpentine!” She meant the folklaw hero-highwayman Dick Turpin. “Tom Love’s a gentleman, listen…” she fished out the latest newspaper clipping he had on the exploits of the man who had robbed the town’s bank last year from her apron pocket.

 

She read the apposite part of the clipping out in her slow, methodical, frown-browed way:

 

“… blah blah blah, Mr Love, in his letter, further explained that the man he shot in Kalispell last year had deserved it as he had been rude to a lady in the bank and begged one of the robbers to shoot her instead of him. Mr Love had then declared ‘For that ungentlemanly conduct, you shall die like the dog you are, you d___d coward’ and thereupon had plugged him one right between the eyes. Mr Love further el-lu-ci-date-ed” she pronounced the unfamiliar word syllable by syllable “… that the rougher element of his outlaw gang, a notorious and brutal killer identified by witnesses as ‘English Rodger’ had been expelled, as Love would not stand mere wanton murderers in his company.”

 

Arabella looked at Clara triumphantly “And that’s in the newspaper, so it must be true!” she crowed.

 

Then back to business about the dance, but Clara was being obstinate, and her reply to Arabella’s question about who the prim pie-maker was pie-eyed about at the moment just made the little Reb’s own eyes roll.

 

"Besides I do not have my eye on anyone. All the boys....young men I know are louts and/or ruffians. I have better things to do with my life," she declared.

 

“Ugghh!” Arabella grunted, waving her hand around the kitchen “What, like making pies for Ms Blakesly all day long?! That ain’t livin’ that’s just makin’ a livin’! Livin’ … why, that’s falling in love and having your heart broken and running all about the place and dancing and laughing and crying and kissing boys and praying and bein' mischievous and getting forgiven by Jesus and, oh, I don’t know … all things you can do goin’ to a dance and you can’t do sitting at home reading a book about Jonah Vark!”

 

She took a deep breath after that little lot.

 

“Besides” she added, mentioning the mysterious new friend whom Clara had yet to meet.  “I can’t go with Bridget any more, we broke her leg practicing the Polka – so you see, you GOTTA come with me!”

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"We know that there's four of you who don't want go to the dance but there are still twelve that do.  Since we need another four to stay behind the only way to do this fairly is by lottery."

 

Mike looked over at the hands gathered in the bunkhouse.  The annual Spring Dance was a popular affair and most of the men were eager to go.  He could see that they were all in agreement about whether or not they go would be a game of chance.  He picked up the upturned hat that was on the table.  "Inside this hat are twelve pieces of paper.  Four of them have a cross on it.  If you get one of those you're staying behind."

 

Ben raised his hand, "You part of this too?"

 

"Yes, me included," Mike answered in a slightly sarcastic tone, "Afterwards if you want to negotiate with one another than that's up to you."

 

As the men made their pick from the hat, the reactions to what they got ranged from joy to displeasure.  Charlie, who even though still doing chores around the main house had already started his training, smiled as he looked at his piece of paper.  He glanced over at Sam, who had obviously drawn one of the pieces with a cross on it. Seeing that Charlie was going, Sam got up but before he even reached his brother, Charlie put a hand up, "I'll save you the trouble.  There's no way I'm giving this one away."

 

Sam frowned before going over to Mike.  "Well?"

 

Mike smiled, "Sorry, it's a no from me as well."

 

After a few minutes, Mike raised his voice, "All right, men.  Now that we've got that sorted out, it's time for those of you on duty tonight to get out there. Don't want ole Sage thinking that we've gone and forgotten all about him.  Remember, to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity."

 

The men who had been assigned night duty, left the bunkhouse with a few of them trying to wrangle a deal that would let them go to the dance.  Those left behind spent the remainder of the evening catching up on their mending or socialising with the others.

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"Who broke their leg?" Emeline asked as she came in from the root cellar, where she'd been collecting some onions and dried herbs.  She smiled at Clare, then glanced at the young woman.  "Looks like Frankie has taken a shine to you, young lady.  Now, I know he can't dance a polka, but he is pretty talented."

 

As she set the things on the table, she looked the girl over, than asked Clara, "Who is your friend?  Is she helping, or just keeping Frankie out of the way?"

 

@Wayfarer; @Javia

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Clara dismissed the other girl's arguments with a simple, "I enjoy working here. And I am being paid for it."

 

Then the child mentioned somebody named Bridget whom Clara did not recognize.

 

Her employer now made her appearance, Clara smiled right back. It was amazing really and doubtful Clara even realized it but she actually was doing more smiling as they grew accustomed to each other. The young lady loved her time spent with Emeline.

 

"Some girl who was dancing with Arabella. How one could break their leg doing such a simple thing is beyond me..." Clara left it at that but shrugged.

 

Emeline did not know Arabella so it seemed appropriate for a quick introduction.

 

"Oh this is Arabella Mudd, she stayed with this for a short time after the Whitefish tragedy. And this is Mrs. Emeline Blakesley."  Frankie was already known to both parties now.

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"Who broke their leg?" Emeline asked as she came in from the root cellar, where she'd been collecting some onions and dried herbs.  She smiled at Clare, then glanced at the young woman. 

 

“Some girl who was dancing with Arabella. How one could break their leg doing such a simple thing is beyond me..." Clara left it at that but shrugged.

 

“Oh, Mam!” said Arabella, curtseying, somewhat wary of Ms Blakesly, never having met her before, although she’d seen her through the windows of the diner from afar. “It was my friend Bridget Monahan, but … ooof!” Frankie had turned around in Arabella’s arm and sniffed at her ear, which sent a tickly shiver down her spine.

 

"Looks like Frankie has taken a shine to you, young lady.  Now, I know he can't dance a polka, but he is pretty talented."

 

“Oh, he can dance the polka all right!” Arabella assured the lady and launched into a dance around the kitchen with the unimpressed fluffy grey and white cat putting up with it for a few seconds before digging his thick back claws into Arabella’s bony chest and launching himself over her shoulder, running down her back and scarpering out of the back door.

 

“Can you do the Polka? Yes I can do the .. YOWIIEE!!” cried the girl as the cat made his deft escape. “Oh tarnation, there goes my day-colly-targy!!” she yelped, referring to her now scratched chest.  She had rather fancied, in her imagination, turning up at the ball in an alluring low-cut ball gown displaying a pure white décolletage, although she hardly had the figure for it.

 

“Oh well, at least I can show you what happened to Bridget now!” she announced, lifting her skirts and displaying a pair of skinny legs in white pantalets that came just bellow the knee. “See, she was all right when she was doin’ like this!” she said hopping about on one leg and swinging the other back and forth in a kicking motion.

 

“But when she tried this…” Arabella carried on hopping, but waggled the foot from left to right this time “… there was this funny noise and her foot and shin dropped off! And she fell on the ground! Like this … urrgghh.” She fell to the ground, mimicking Bridget’s collapse.

 

As she set the things on the table, she looked the girl over, than asked Clara, "Who is your friend?  Is she helping, or just keeping Frankie out of the way?"

 

"Oh this is Arabella Mudd, she stayed with this for a short time after the Whitefish tragedy. And this is Mrs. Emeline Blakesley."  Frankie was already known to both parties now.

 

Arabella clambered to her feet.

 

“Howdy Ms Blakesley!” the girl beamed “I’m surprised you ain’t heard of me, I’m Clara’s bestest and most bosom friend. I was just tellin’ her about this here dance at the big barn, and the noodle headed ninny don’t want to go! Did you ever hear of such foolishness? I bet you’re goin’ Ms Blakesley, ain’t ya?!”

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It was all Emeline could do not to burst into laughter at the girl's antics, but she managed to keep a straight face as she nodded.  "Oh, well, I can see how one could break their leg doing that!  Fortunately, I do know how to polka...I can muddle through a few dances." 

 

That was something she hadn't really discussed with Barnabas, although she knew he could at least waltz, but things like a polka or mazurka, she wasn't sure.  Of course, it had been a few years since she'd done much by way of dancing, but she figured she could pass.

 

"Oh, indeed, Clara has told me quite a bit about her new friend, I just hadn't realized that would be you!"  Emeline grinned, glancing at Clara...she would keep any conversations they had had confidential.  "And yes, of course I'm going to the dance, but I'm to be married soon, so I am going with my betrothed.  And besides, we're providing some of the food."

 

So, she figured Clara was going, at least to help with that, but she wasn't going to make any commitments for the young lady.

 

@Wayfarer; @Javia

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Arabella proceeded to explain how the other girl broke her leg, all retold in that over dramatic obviously overstated manner of the girl.  Clara wanted to believe it but the cynical part of her had doubts. No matter.

She also declared to Emeline that she, Clara, was her 'bestest most bosom' friend. Gosh, her grammar was awful. Clara glanced toward the woman and the look in her eyes silently signaled - no, that wasn't really true. It suddenly struck Clara then that she didn't actually have any friends in this world any more than she had any boys interested in her. It was sobering.

 

When Arabella criticized her decision to forego the upcoming dance, Emeline responded.

 

"And yes, of course I'm going to the dance, but I'm to be married soon, so I am going with my betrothed.  And besides, we're providing some of the food."

 

Clara was happy for Emeline, she really was but, in truth, she just could not warm to the man whom Emeline was marrying. There was something about him that seemed......untrustworthy or even risky. But far be it from her to tell someone how to live their life. Emeline also brought up the fact that the diner was responsible for some of the food to be served at this dance. Oh right, she hadn't considered that.

 

"Well.....of course if you need me there to help, I would not refuse," she instantly assured the woman but thought on it a few seconds before adding, "Say, would I be getting paid for that evening then?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"And yes, of course I'm going to the dance, but I'm to be married soon, so I am going with my betrothed.  And besides, we're providing some of the food."

 

Frankie had decided to sneak back into to the kitchen and try his luck again, but the ear-splitting scream that Arabella emitted on hearing of Mrs Blakesley’s upcoming nuptials sent him scampering, his ears buzzing, and he gave the whole thing up as bad job. He headed off to the wagon stables to have a stand-off with Buster instead.

 

Even though she had only just met her, Arabella had thrown a pair of delirious arms around Ms Em with an excited cry of “Oh that’s WONDERFUL news!!!” Then she stood back, taking it in that MRS Blakesley was getting married. She held both her hands to her heart and assumed a far-away, misty-eyed, distant stare, off into the regions of fancy.

 

“'She thought she would never find love twice, but then he came along!' Oh Ms Blakesley, it’s just like a romantic novella!”

 

Then she snapped back into focus “Oh! And there’ll be so much to do! Flowers and arranging the wedding breakfast and the dress! Oh, THE DRESS!! Now some folks’ll say it’s a pity you can’t wear white, but I think it’s better ‘cause then you can pick any color you want, Prussian Blue’s a-la-modey this year, they reckon, I heard Ms Deveraeu say so, and the music: I can help with that, you know that girl as always plays the harmonium in church on Sunday; well, that girl’s me! I’d better start practicin’ the wedding march.”

 

She took a deep breath. “This is so darlin’! You’re getting married, Missus B.” she’d already decided that Blakesley was too big a mouthful for a girl like herself, who had a lot to say, and was in an awful hurry to say it.

 

“… and old party-piker Clara there’s GOTTA go to the dance to serve up the pies. That all’s made my day, I don’t mind tellin’ you!”

 

“Well.....of course if you need me there to help, I would not refuse," she instantly assured the woman but thought on it a few seconds before adding, "Say, would I be getting paid for that evening then?"

 

“Oh, Clara, Clara, Clara: don’t you know it says in the Bible that ‘love of money is the root of all evil?’" quoted Arabella, wagging an admonishing finger. "You should just be glad that you’re helpin’ Mrs B. get together enough pennies for her trousseau: you know, her pretty little ‘hope chest’." she giggled, thinking of all the fancy frillies that would contain.

 

"Say, though, you won’t be Mrs B. any more I guess: what’s this fellers moniker? I mean, pardon my asking Mrs B., but who IS this dashin’ and handsome groom what’s swept you off of your feet?!”

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"Oh, well, um..."  In recent memory, Emeline could not recall being quite so dizzy and disoriented, and she didn't even know where to start.  She gave Clara a desperate glance, but saw there was no aid coming from there!

 

"Yes, if course I will pay Clara to help at the dance, it's what happens with employees," she commented evenly, "and..."  What else was there?  "As for my dress, I've been working on it all Winter, and it is nearly done, and the arrangements are nearly arranged for the ceremony..."

 

But could she disappoint the girl and squash her enthusiasm, so Emeline just nodded and muttered, "We'll see what can be arranged, any help is certainly appreciated."

 

There was something else...Oh, right!

 

"The gentleman's name is Barnabas Pike, he is from Nevada, and he is a deputy.  We have some property up by the falls where we're building a house and starting a horse ranch." 

 

Why was she offering so much information?  Oh, well, no harm done, right?

 

@Wayfarer; @Javia

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Clara could tell that Arabella was way too high strung for Em to be comfortable with, well she always had that same reaction so she well understood it. Arabella meant well, Clara did not dislike the child but something about her was so.... wearing, tiring. Meanwhile Clara felt her and Emeline were much more peas in a pod. The woman struggled thru with her answers though, most of them for Arabella of course.

 

Clara smiled, a little, when Emeline assured her she would be paid for her presence at the dance, she figured as much for the woman was always more than fair with her.

 

"Thank you, I will go then," Clara nodded. If she had to be a wallflower at this silly affair, at least she would make some money at it.

 

Now Clara knew the man's name, she had seen a number of times now when he dropped by the diner while she was working. There was obvious attachment between the pair. However one nugget of information surprised her.

 

"He is a deputy? I did not know that," Clara blinked.

 

She also had another question, "If you are starting up a horse ranch, what about the diner?"

 

It suddenly hit her she might just be out of a job if Emeline chose to live on the ranch and close this town business.

 

 

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"Thank you, I will go then," Clara nodded. If she had to be a wallflower at this silly affair, at least she would make some money at it.

 

“Yipppiee!” cheered Arabella, throwing her arms in the air triumphantly and jumping up and down on the spot. “First the dance, then Mr an’ Mrs Pike’s wedding! Sorry, Deputy Pike! And then, who knows? In a year or two, a whole bunch o’ minnows!”

 

"He is a deputy? I did not know that," Clara blinked.

 

“Sure, I know the feller you mean now, Mrs B.” piped up the Southern girl, thinking of the only man she’d ever seen wearing a lawman’s badge in Kalispell, Marshal Guyer. “Old boy, long scraggly grey hair? Oh well, never mind: it’s amazing what a good wash an’ a shave an’ a new suit’ll do to a feller’s appearance. Besides, everyone’s gonna be looking at you, not him, on the big day.”

 

She also had another question, "If you are starting up a horse ranch, what about the diner?"

It suddenly hit her she might just be out of a job if Emeline chose to live on the ranch and close this town business.

 

“Oooh! I know!” shouted Arabella, jumping up and down again “Me and Clara can run it for ya! She can make the pies, and I can be out front, showin’ people to their seats and asking them what all they wanna be a-scoffing!”

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"Mr. Pike is neither a drunkard nor a slouch," Emeline politely informed the young girl, wondering just who she was yammering on about.  Goodness, but Arabella's jaw was getting plenty of exercise, and Emeline was still in a tizzy at it all!  "And yes," she chuckled, "he will clean up for the wedding!"

 

"I haven't decided what to do with the cafe just yet," this she addressed to Clare.  "I've been meaning to discuss it with you, but haven't had the opportunity."  And it was not something she wanted to talk about with the well-meaning child there, especially since she still wasn't certain on her decision.  When she and Barnabas had first talked about it at Christmas, she hadn't know Clare all that well, but in the following months, she'd found that the young lady was competent and mature beyond her years.

 

"At any rate, there will be plenty of notice once I make my decision, and that is still a while in coming, as the house is barely started...and we still need to be married."

 

@Wayfarer; @Javia

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Well if Emeline had hoped to keep her upcoming marriage a secret at least til closer to the actual event, letting it leak to Arabella ended any chance of that. Arabella's over the top enthusiastic response also portended she would no doubt jabber this news to everyone she would meet.  And the girl just like that threw herself into the preparations quite uninvited by the woman too.

 

"Minnows? They are not fish, child," Clara rolled her eyes.

 

Clara now couldn't help but voice her concern about the diner and what was going to become of it. Left unsaid was what would happen to her job there, her livelihood. Clara couldn't help herself but to inquire on it.

 

"Oooh! I know!” shouted Arabella, jumping up and down again “Me and Clara can run it for ya! She can make the pies, and I can be out front, showin’ people to their seats and asking them what all they wanna be a-scoffing!”

 

"Hardly, we are not old enough, there is truly a lot of work involved," Clara was far more cirumspect on the matter.

 

"I haven't decided what to do with the cafe just yet," this Emeline addressed to Clara.  "I've been meaning to discuss it with you, but haven't had the opportunity."

 

"Fair enough then. But yes, let us chat further - in privacy," Clara glanced at the younger girl after those words.

 

 

 

 

 

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"Minnows? They are not fish, child," Clara rolled her eyes.

 

“Aw, I know that, but I don’t know what baby Pikes is called!” countered the little chatterbox.

 

"Mr. Pike is neither a drunkard nor a slouch," Emeline politely informed the young girl, wondering just who she was yammering on about.  Goodness, but Arabella's jaw was getting plenty of exercise, and Emeline was still in a tizzy at it all!

 

“Oh, I know he ain’t a drinker!” replied Arabella, confused as to how that had come up, as she hadn’t said he was. “He don’t hardly never come into the saloon.”

 

"And yes," she chuckled, "he will clean up for the wedding!"

 

“Phew, that’s a relief!” beamed Arabella.

 

Then talk turned to the future of the diner, once Mr & Mrs Pike and all the putative little minnows were safely ensconced in their dream ranch.

 

"I haven't decided what to do with the cafe just yet," this she addressed to Clare.  "I've been meaning to discuss it with you, but haven't had the opportunity." 

 

"At any rate, there will be plenty of notice once I make my decision, and that is still a while in coming, as the house is barely started...and we still need to be married."

 

"Oooh! I know!” shouted Arabella, jumping up and down again “Me and Clara can run it for ya! She can make the pies, and I can be out front, showin’ people to their seats and asking them what all they wanna be a-scoffing!”

 

"Hardly, we are not old enough, there is truly a lot of work involved," Clara was far more cirumspect on the matter.

 

"Fair enough then. But yes, let us chat further - in privacy," Clara glanced at the younger girl after those words.

 

Arabella looked about the place suspiciously and then leaned in toward the other two womenfolk. “Good idea!” she whispered conspiratorially “We don’t know who might be listenin’ in right now!”

 

The conversation seemed to have reached an impasse, and when even Arabella didn’t have anything to say, it must be time to depart.

 

“Well, I’ll be seein’ ya pardners!” she suddenly yelped and flounced out the door, wondering who to tell first about the upcoming nuptials.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"Oh...my...goodness..."  Emily watched as Arabella flounced away, making certain that she had truly flounced and wasn't coming back, then she let out a breath and laughed.  "Goodness, but she...takes a lot of energy!  I pity the poor man who catches her eye when it's time."

 

Then she focused more on Clare.  "I'm glad you'll be helping at the dance, your assistance here has been invaluable."  The two worked well as a team, and Clare had shouldered a lot of responsibility.  "I really can't imagine giving this place up, I love it here, and I've put in a lot of work, but once the ranch is ready, I'll have work to do there."

 

Smiling, she shook her head.  "There's still plenty of time, and right now we need to concentrate on the dance.  I'm thinking that it will be best to make a lot of small snacks that are simple to eat instead of something more like a meal...maybe smaller versions of our savory and fruit hand pies?"

 

@Wayfarer

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Clara actually gave a sigh of relief as Arabella left the building. Glancing at Emeline her feelings were much the same.

 

"I agree. She means well but she wore me out when she stayed at the farm. She is the very epitome of the term 'chatterbox'," Clara nodded.

 

Emeline appreciated her agreeing to attend the dance to help with the work and threw her a compliment too. Though hardly necessary Clara was not averse to hearing praise, normal enough.

 

"You gave me an opportunity when you hired me, I take my job seriously," she assured the other woman.

 

"I really can't imagine giving this place up, I love it here, and I've put in a lot of work, but once the ranch is ready, I'll have work to do there."

 

"I suppose so. I have really enjoyed my time here too. The work is pleasant enough and best of all, I have gotten to know you," Clara complimented her back.

 

But for now they needed to come up with a plan for the dance. Emeline gave her take on it.

 

"Yes, I agree but might I also suggest baking some cookies. They would be easier to eat on the move, a few bites and they are gone. Everyone likes cookies," Clara suggested.

 

 

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About Sagas

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

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