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Dancing the Night Away


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Mature Content: No

With: Various Lost Lake Ranch household characters.
Location: Blackbird Lodge (main house)
When: April 22, 1875
Time of Day: Early afternoon

 

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Blackbird Lodge, the main house on Lost Lake Ranch, seemed to have a light and jovial air about it. Today was the annual spring dance in town, and most of the adults were getting ready for it. Sage and Mary Miller, the night foreman and the home's cook and head housekeeper, were staying overnight to watch after the children. This had the six-year-old twins excited since Sage and Mary's children would be sleeping over as well. 


Shade Thornton stood at the sideboard that served as a liquor cabinet in the great room. He had just poured himself a very small shot of Scotch. He gently moved the glass in a circular motion and watched the dark amber liquid swirl around. He was looking forward to the dance and getting off the ranch. The family had booked several rooms at the Belle-St. Regis so they would not have to make the harrowing trip back to Lost Lake in the dark. Shade was also looking forward to seeing his sweetheart, Katherine Bowen. He had made time to go into town as often as the winter weather allowed, but it never seemed often enough or for long enough. With the advent of spring, that should change...hopefully.


And it was the remote location of the ranch and the life it imposed on the people that lived there that made Shade hesitate where Kate was concerned. Was it fair to ask her to make such a radical change to her life? She was a teacher and really loved her work. True, there were children at the ranch that needed teaching too. There were Cody and Nettie, his niece and nephew, and some of the hands with families who lived in housing on the ranch. He shook his head and took a swallow of the Scotch, enjoying the rich, peaty taste of the aged liquor.
Just then, a rustling sound on the main stairway made him look over and up...

 

~ to be continued in the next post .... ~

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hgrace10.jpgHarriet Mercer paused on the wide landing of the house's main staircase. She was not trying to make a grand entrance into the parlor. No, Harriet was trying to make sure, after a winter spent mostly on the ranch, that she was not going to trip and fall headfirst down the stairs in all of her town dance fineries. The last thing she wanted to do was land face-first at Shade Thornton's feet.

 

In a rustle of dark emerald satin, Harriet reached for the banister and began carefully descending the stairs. So far, so good, she thought. Her main fashion faux-pas would be her choice of shoes. The emerald-colored velvet slippers matched her dress perfectly, right down to the wide black satin ribbon that wrapped around her ankle and was carefully tied into bows. However, her slippers were flats and not heeled. Harriet disliked wearing heels unless they were on her riding boots, where they served the purpose of not allowing her feet to slip through the stirrups. At least her gown covered any footwear fashion failings.

 

She managed a sigh of relief upon reaching the main floor of the house upright and in one piece. Glancing over at where Shade Thornton was standing, she took note of the sparkle of humor in his dark blue eyes. Undoubtedly, the annoying man had somehow managed to read her thoughts as she descended the stairs in what she considered majestic style. However, he simply raised his whiskey glass to her and smiled.

 

"You look lovely tonight, Miss Harriet," he said in his deep, low-pitched voice.

 

"Thank you," Harriet replied, taking quick note that he was at least clad in dress clothes himself, even if they were the cowboy-version rather than what would be acceptable in San Francisco or Boston.

 

"Would you care for a sherry while we wait?" Shade asked, holding up the cut-crystal decanter. He waited for her to nod before pouring a small amount into a delicate stemmed glass.

 

Harriet took the glass and looked around, finally deciding to lean against the arm of one of the big easy chairs. "Are you coming in the carriage with us?"

 

Shade shook his head, "No, I'll be ridin' in. Depending on how long it takes us, I may have to ride ahead to meet Kate and escort her to the dance."

 

He looked away as he explained, and Harriet smiled. Shade still seemed painfully shy when talking about Kalispell's pretty schoolmarm that had caught his eye. She could not blame him, really. There were things she didn't talk about either.

 

They fell silent, but for once, it was not uncomfortable. Neither she nor Shade seemed willing to risk changing the pleasant energy that enveloped the house.

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Quentin stood in front of the mirror in his room and tugged at the cuffs of his shirt. He had to admit it just felt odd to be dressing up like this. Back when he lived in San Francisco this was his normal day and evening wear. The black pants had a faint shiny black stripe down the outside of each leg to where they draped over his polished black boots. The vest Quentin wore was shinier and a little more showy then the rest of the suit. The starched white dress shirt lacked the ruffle on the front like most fashion of the time. Quentin always thought those ruffles to be a bit foppish.

 

Quentin moved over and picked the shoulder holster up off the bed and shrugged into it. This was something he had always worn and the weapons it carried had saved his life more than a few times. Quentin rolled his arms and made sure the fit was as comfortable as he remembered. He snapped the end of the holster to his belt and then the other side to keep everything stable under his coat. Quentin then pushed his short compact Colt into the holster under his left arm and then picked up the double edged dagger and slid it into the upside down hanging sheath under his right arm. Quentin smiled at the smooth ivory hand of the dagger. It had been a gift from a gambler friend of his.

 

"Quentin, always carry a knife...they never expect a knife and a knife never runs outta bullets..." He could still hear the raspy brogue of O'Rourke the day he gave him the dagger. Quentin moved over and picked up the pocket watch. Quentin wound the stem, then looped the chain into his vest and dropped the silver watch into the pocket. He tugged his frock coat off the back of the chair and slid into it, making a few motions to settle it better on his shoulders and arms. He then picked up his hat, a different one than the one he wore most days around the ranch. The shorter brim a nod to the fact it was seldom used to deal with the elements. Quentin looked at the man in the room's mirror and took a breath. It was a different man in a lot of ways, but still a lot of the same man who now lived at Lost Lake ranch. Quentin turned and strode out of his room and out the hallway to the second floor landing  and the stairs leading down to the first floor.

 

Quentin heard voices as he walked down the stairs, Shade and Harriet coming into view as he descended the steps, still holding his hat in his hand. "I think I would like one of those as well..."

 

Tag @Stormwolfe for Shade and Harriet

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Sarah took one last look in the mirror as she smoothed down the material of her skirt.  This was the only, what would be termed out here, fancy dress she had brought with from San Francisco.  The plan was still get some new ones made in town but she was in no rush.  The clothes she had were adequate for life here on the ranch.

 

The dress she had on was a dark cream afternoon dress with red trim.  Back home, she would have worn something else but then the dances here would not be the like the balls she had been to on many occasions and she liked that.  In fact, she was liking life out here much more than she would have hoped she would.  The few days, she had initially decided to stay for stretched in weeks and then months due to the winter.

 

After his initial wariness, Shade had started to accept her as part of the family, especially when he realised that she had no hidden agenda and was completely self-sufficient financially.  During her stay, she had also started to teach the two children what she could.  She was no teacher, but she could help them with their reading and writing, as well as stories about other places and people.  Both Cody and Nettie had welcomed her even though they missed their old nanny, who had abruptly left shortly before her arrival in Kalispell.

 

Satisfied with the way she looked, Sarah made her way downstairs.  She could hear Quentin, Harriet, and Shade talking.  Smiling graciously, she reached the bottom of the stairs, "I'm sorry, I seemed to be the last one down.  I hope I haven't kept you waiting."

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

"You're not holding us up, Sarah," Shade replied as he poured a shot of whiskey and handed it to him. He nodded toward the sherry decanter, "Sarah, would you like a small glass of sherry before we head out?"

 

Harriet took a sip of her sherry and smiled, "Heavenly," she said on a breathless sigh. "Lovely gown, Sarah, and you're looking quite handsome yourself, Quentin. Perhaps we will outshine everyone at the dance." Her twilight gray eyes sparkled as she spoke.

 

@JulieS  @Longshot 

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Quentin took the whiskey with a nod to Shade and he leaned his head back and threw it down with hardly a breath. He let air hiss back out through his teeth as he set it down on the mantle. "Thanks...I needed that." Quentin then turned at Sarah's words when she approached.

 

"Looking lovely this evening, Sarah...I doubt you will get much rest at the dance..." Quentin turned as Harriet spoke and he came up short, setting aside his own nervousness as he took in the view of her. "You are simply a vision tonight, Harriet. Between you and Sarah no one will even notice Shade and I walked into the room." Quentin then turned and looked at Shade. "Well, no one but that lady you've been stepping out with..."

 

@Stormwolfe and @JulieS

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Sarah shook her head at the offer of the sherry.  Instead, she was quite eager to get going to the dance.  The dance itself would be a good story to write about for Harper's Weekly.  They were always interested in stories about life here in the west, especially the social occasions.

 

She thanked everyone for their compliments and then returned them.  "Harriet, I think you will have many admirers as that colour suits you perfectly. As for you Quentin, this is the first time I've seen you in suit since Christmas and I think you should wear them more often."

 

Turning to Shade, she smiled, "And as for you cousin, I think that your school teacher will be very pleased."

 

Looking over to the clock that was on the mantle, she noted the time, "I suppose we must be going soon if we want to spend plenty of time at the dance."

 

@Stormwolfe @Longshot

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Harriet flashed a smile at Quentin, managing not to blush. Their relationship had changed since the cattle drive in September the year before. Although they still quarreled and bickered, it was now underlaid with a feeling of genuine friendship and, perhaps, something more. Neither had yet to openly declare deeper feelings for one another. Harriet was in no rush for it to happen. Instead, she was content to allow things to progress at whatever pace seemed right.

 

On 10/27/2020 at 2:43 AM, Sarah Thornton-Carlton said:

Looking over to the clock that was on the mantle, she noted the time, "I suppose we must be going soon if we want to spend plenty of time at the dance."

 

"You are correct, Sarah. We should get on the road," Harriet agreed. Shade quickly gathered their glasses and set them in the kitchen. The carriage and his horse were already waiting in the courtyard.

 

To be continued in the Main Street Forum and the Let's Dance thread.

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