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    • Montgomery the Pocket Gopher had proven to be lots of fun. Once out of his cage he had proceeded to run up Jemima’s arm and onto her head, and the homely looking girl had had to bend forward to allow Weedy to lift him off and give him a cuddle. Despite his vicious looking incisors, he never nipped at his human overlords, they who knew where the peanuts were kept!   Jemima had something else she wanted to show the diminutive lad, and beckoned him over to a glass tank, a miniature version of the one that Lamia slept in. She pointed to a small, anonymous looking spider in there, sitting grumpily under a bit of decorative tree bark.   “See that, that’s a fiddleback spider: they’re the most poisonous spiders ever. And if it bites you a great big ulcer grows on you and you die a horrible screaming death, foamin' at the mouth and blood spurtin' out of your ears and nose!" she said proudly, as if she were personally responsible for the tiny animal’s toxicity.   “And one time she escaped and we had to look all over for her, and eventually we saw her on the back of the Professor’s neck! And Mrs O’ screamed and near fainted, but I got a jam jar and coaxed it on in there and the Professor said I was the bravest girl he’d ever met!”     @Bongo
    • Her smile was a bit wistful as she added, "There's times I wonder if I wasn't born in th' wrong time an' th' wrong britches."   F. Falmer Browne gave an indulgent smile to this but said nothing. He would have to admit to himself that when he had first lain eyes on Miss Adelaide Chappell, now sat before him in all the becoming trappings of a woman, virtually dressed as a man on her wagon-driving expeditions in and out of town, he had wondered. True, male attire was handier for her trade, but she seemed to go that way at most hours of the day, except for very formal functions like the Ladies (so called!) Society Meeting of this morning.   When he had lived in the vast metropolis of New York, that Sodom and Gomorrah of these disunited United States, he had seen two types of women dressed as men: the first were demimondes of the stage, who dressed as ‘boys’ in fanciful tights to merely titillate their audiences (usually successfully, Browne had to admit) with a well-shaped leg, and secondly, some women of the more bohemian quarters who dressed as men because, apart from their physical form, they were men, in their own minds.   Walking with a friend down Broadway, he had seen two such women, walking arm in arm, and his friend had remarked “See those creatures, Browne? Disgusting! God must weep when He sees such sinful animals on parade. The police should arrest them and some Judge put the filthy animals to hard labor on the treadmill.” Browne had, cowardly he now knew, consented, but really wondered if it was not God Himself who had played such a rotten trick on them. At least in New York, teeming with every nation and type under the Sun, two such ‘creatures’ might find each other. For any man or woman ‘that way inclined’ out here in a small town like Kalispell, such proclivities must result in a lonely and loveless life indeed.   Addy’s talk of Jay Ryker and their evident love for one another did Browne good to hear, despite a slight pang of jealousy: it meant that this lovely woman was not destined for a life of loneliness. There must be others in town, though, hidden and trapped in their unusual sexuality, who were destined to ever drink from the well of loneliness.
    • "Oh, well certainly. If you would rather talk there. Anyplace is fine with us," Clara would have agreed to discuss it even if he had suggested the middle of a river. She just wanted to get it done!   The four of them shuffled back to the rear of the church and through the little-used back door, into the main part of the building where the pews were neatly rowed and the pulpit stood empty at the far end.   The man then offered, "I could fix something to drink? Tea perhaps?"    "No thank you, we do not wish you to have to make a fuss on our account," she gently shook her head in the negative.   “Ooh, It’s no fuss Clara! I’ll fix that, Brother.” Arabella gushed obsequiously “You three will want to talk privately.”   She would also, perhaps a little too optimistically at this point, fetch out a blank marriage certificate, for she knew where Pastor Evans stored them. In fact, she’d had a good root through most of the drawers and cupboards in his little office, off the vestry, and found some amazing and interesting stuff. Her favourites were a collection of pictures in a little book which, she assumed, the good Pastor must have confiscated off some sinful parishioner in the past.   @boshmi @Wayfarer
    • "All right, if this has anything to do with getting rid of ol' Klutz, then I'll do it," he said in a slightly slurred tone.  The whiskey was now starting to affect his speech, "Clara's gotta see that I'm the better man."   Crabbe nodded. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was hoping to get out of this situation, but he had made a living, the last six years of his life, by exploiting other men’s passions, and this young feller had passion in spades. Lorenzo recognised it for the sort of dangerous, jealous, twisted, brooding passion that so often haunts the hearts of men where women are concerned, and knew it would have to be handled with kid gloves to benefit himself any.   “Problem is, he’s ensorcelled her with these here love poems.” Lorenzo slyly took up a theme that Charlie himself had mentioned. “You attack him, she’ll just cleave tighter to the stupid lookin’ bastard.” He’d never seen this Klutz feller, but it didn’t harm to insult him in Charlie’s presence.   “We gotta work on her.” He said, thinking fast. “First of all, we gotta make you a more attractive proposition, er, make her kinda jealous of you, see? Make ol' Clara see you in a better light. Hmmm, you know any girls? I mean, not like Arabella, pretty girls.”   @JulieS
    • "Well." Thomas declared, sitting upwards in his chair. "I wonder what Arabella has gotten up to. I do hope I haven't complicated anything by bringing her along. Your wife seemed... er... unenthusiastic about her presence."   As if on cue, there was a crashing noise from the distant kitchen and Arabella’s voice sounded an “Ooops!”, but nonetheless, the two women presently appeared, carrying coffee and cake.   “Now, how are you two boys getting along?” asked Arabella, as if Thomas and Gideon were two five-year olds on their first playdate. Mrs Evans attended to the domestic stuff while Arabella jumped up and down, plexing her fingertips together with excitement.   “What do you want me to play on the harmonium, fellers?!” she asked excitedly, just hoping it wasn’t that well-known mondegreen “Bringing in the Sheep” which required notes that the poor old instrument could no longer sound. Arabella always had to substitute other notes in the same chord which made her playing sound like she’d invented jazz forty years too early.   @JulieS @boshmi
Caroline Mundee

The Same Old Song and Dance

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Mature Content:  Probably not

With: Caroline, any of the saloon staff and any customers present
Location: Stardust Saloon
When: Last Weekend of April
Time of Day: Evening

 

So far things had been going just swell, Matilda had to admit. Her singer/dancer hire had begun work the day after being hired earlier in the week and results were good so far, very good. That very first night the saloon regulars liked what they had heard and just as important SAW up on that stage. And in a small town word got around fast enough too. There was this pretty young gal at the Stardust and she could strut her stuff and sing like an angel (not that anyone had ever heard an angel sing) too. A side perk was between songs she made a point of mingling with the menfolk at the bar and around the tables too. She had a big smile and said all the right things, made each man who chatted with her feel like she valued them as the most important person in the room for those few precious moments.

 

Matilda had taken no chances and had paid Phineas McVea to use his printing press to run off a whole passel of circulars advertising the arrival of the FAMED MISS MUNDEE to the Stardust. Those bills were then tacked all over Main Street so all could see the news. She knew that Saturdays was when the saloon drew the biggest crowds as lots of the ranches let their cowboys blow off some steam that evening. She hoped the place would be packed.

 

And it was!

 

***

Caroline knew what to expect also and she was ready to shine. She wore the most low cut dress she owned, a bright red one that tempted the menfolk with just a glimpse of cleavage and the sleveless garment showed off pale white bare arms. Her hair was up and her face accented with eye liner and lipstick just like those fancy East coast performers. Why even her fingernails were brightly painted a red to match the dress. And that smile of hers, why it lit the place up.

 

But Caroline was far more than looks, though she had that in spades too. She had a great voice and she showcased her range with a wide variety of songs ranging from a romantic ballad to some more lively and definitely bawdy numbers.

  And when the selection called for dancing, she did that too with a nice combination of energy yet grace too. In the risque ones, she made it a point to lift her dress at tactical moments to let the customers get a glimpse of her shapely (and bare) legs which drew hoots and hollers of approval. When a few wags would inevitably shout something up at her, she often was quick with a funny retort.

 

After her first set already she had men surrounding her to buy her drinks, which she only agreed to if they bought ones for themselves too. They toasted her, they praised her, they asked a whole bunch of questions of her some of which she ignored but most she answered without ever seeming to reveal a lot about herself.  No one seemed to mind.  At one poker game she boldly sat on the lap of one player and even gestured which card he should discard in his hand.  He did and he won the hand too. (Of course she actually had nothing to do with that but some might say the new gal brought the fellow luck).

 

Caroline basked in the limelight, this was what she lived for. She would never strut on a Washington DC playhouse stage or do Shakespeare in New York for the upper class but here she was a star. Life didn't get any better than this.

 

Yet she did not forget what she deemed to be other essentials to the job. She made a point that everyone paid for their drinks, she praised the place's fine owner, Miss Devereau, she chatted with Ralph in the few instances she had a bit of time not taken by customers, and after each song/dance, she made it a point to acknowledge as she declared, "my wonderful little piano player, Arabella Mudd" as a windup just before the applause sounded.

 

(Anyone who wishes can start up a thread with her as she would make it a point to mingle with as many folks as possible. Just go for it and I will respond   😃 

 

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Mike took a good look around the crowded saloon and smiled.  The Saturday night crowd was bigger than usual, no doubt to the new attraction the Stardust had on offer.  Word had gotten to Lost Lake a couple of days ago about the new gal singing at the saloon and most of the hands were eager to see what it was all about.  Sam had gone off to see if he could find a good spot to watch the show.  Charlie had volunteered to stay put at the ranch.  Well, volunteered was a bit of understatement, it was more of a case of wanting to avoid Arabella Mudd and somehow getting tricked into taking another trip out the mission.

 

Another smile came onto his face as he knew that the trip to the mission, had knocked some sense into Charlie and the trouble he could get himself into when he drank too much.  Hopefully it was the kick in the pants that Charlie needed to curtail his drinking.  It was one thing, he could be thankful for where Arabella was concerned.

 

Before he could do anything else, the music started and Miss Mundee took to the stage.  As he watched, he remembered when he had first met her.  It was a couple of years ago at some saloon in Dodge City.  He couldn't remember the name of it but it had been the first one he had gone to after arriving in town at the end of a long cattle drive.  All he knew was that he was in the right place at the right time.  Caroline (who he later found out was adamant about being able to look after herself) had found herself in a spot of trouble.  After helping her to get out the situation, the two of them had spent the week together just as friends.

 

There was something about Caroline that reminded him of his sister, Mary.  It was that sort of relationship that developed between them, him being the older brother and someone to talk to that didn't take advantage of the situation.  Caroline had confided in him a little, probably because of the fact that he wasn't staying in town for long and she never expected to see him again.

 

Now, here they were in the same place for the foreseeable future.  He would make a point of saying hello if she came up to him. There would also be offer of help if she ever needed it and he would leave it at that.  For now, he was going enjoy the rest of the show.

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When she wasn't performing as in musically, she mingled, it was an important part of her job. Caroline had just finished chatting with a rather inebriated customer who kept asking her if she wanted to marry him. Another man asked the drunk what was he gonna do with his current wife. The fellow waved his hand and assured Caroline his wife wouldn't mind.

 

"Oh hon, I will have to think it over but I will let you know, huh," she chuckled and added, "Say that glass looks empty, you should get that filled up."

 

The man now turned toward the bartender to do just that and Caroline took advantage to slip off. She was confident he wouldn't remember a word of that whole conversation when he woke up the next morning. She then continued roaming about the room. That's when she saw a face she had not seen in quite some time, not since....yes, Dodge City! Even thru the haze of the smoke she recognized him and headed toward the man.

 

"Well, well, if it ain't Mike. Mike ...Wentworth, right? Been awhile, hon," she grinned and held open her arms for an expected hug.

 

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Arabella had tied her best ribbon in her hair for Caroline’s ‘Big Night’, but that was it. She knew better than to risk her one good Sunday dress around Saturday evening’s beer spilling, tobacco spitting crowd. It was ironic: Caroline Mundee, the young woman who had barged into her life, stolen her dream job,  invaded her bedroom, nay even her very bed, the person whom, if she could have picked anyone to be tarred and feathered, she would have picked, this  … this … Jezabel, was now the focus of her rapt attention; she was doing her darndest to make her sound good. The hatred and the angst had to be pushed to one side for the moment as the piano playing scullion did what they’d rehearsed and modulated her volume with the foot pedals so that the tinkling piano gift-wrapped and presented Caroline’s undeniably beautiful voice. rather than warred with it or tried to dominate it.

 

She’d played her part, done her job professionally, and with a little bow from the stool at the final acknowledgement "my wonderful little piano player, Arabella Mudd" she could get back to hating her, at last. There’d be another set to play later on, but for now she wanted to get out of Caroline’s presence: she’d be stuck with her all night after all: snoring and murmuring in her sleep and taking up three quarters of the bed! And as for that gun under the pillow!

 

Well that was the plan, but as she got up to go, she noticed Mr Wentworth was there. She stayed herself, tidying up her sheet music as a delaying tactic while she wondered what to say to him. She actually had a good reason to talk to him now, since his younger brother had accompanied her to the lakeside mission house.

 

She rehearsed greetings. “Oh (surprised) hello, Mr Wentworth! How’s Charlie after his trip to the Mission?” or maybe more serious and concerned “Good evening, Mr Wentworth, how is Charlie, did he enjoy his trip to the Mission.” Or maybe just a curt and quick nod to show she wasn’t fawning over him: “Mr Wentworth!” Hmm, maybe just play it by ear. She got up and made her way to the door to the back rooms but made sure she passed by him.

 

Urgh! There was the odious Caroline approaching him! Mike wouldn’t have anything to do with a hussy like that! But Arabella skidded to a halt, open-mouthed in shock, as the wanton singer actually held her arms out to him!! Oh this was going to be good: she was about to enjoy watching her upright and moral hero have absolutely nothing to do with her.

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"Well, well, if it ain't Mike. Mike ...Wentworth, right? Been awhile, hon," she grinned and held open her arms for an expected hug.

 

Mike smiled, went forwards and scooped Caroline up in a big hug. After he had placed her feet back on the floor, he held out her at arm's length.  "Caro, you look great."

 

Looking around the room, Mike noticed most people were ignoring them and only one or two were taking an interest in his interaction with the saloon's newest star.  For a moment, he wondered what Sam was making of this moment, if he had indeed seen it.  If Sam was watching, he had no doubt he would be answering a lot of questions later on.

 

However, that was something he wasn't worried about right now.  Turning his attention back to Caroline, he smiled again, "I think I have enough to buy you a glass of champagne.  I don't know what type they serve here exactly but I'm sure it's good.  Matilda Devereau doesn't skimp too much on what she serves here.  If it isn't up to your standards, then we can always try the hotel.  I know where the owner keeps the good stuff."

 

He gave her a quick wink, before taking her by the hand and leading to nearby table that was being vacated right at that moment.

 

@Wayfarer @Javia

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Mike smiled, went forwards and scooped Caroline up in a big hug. After he had placed her feet back on the floor, he held out her at arm's length.  "Caro, you look great."

 

"Of course I do! Because when the time comes I don't look great anymore, I won't have this job," she laughed, but she had a point. A lifestyle and career like this usually was not a long one. No matter, it was always her nature to live in the moment and the future be damned.

 

"Who you looking around for, dearie? Your wife? Did you finally let some lucky woman rope you in?" she teased.

 

Turning his attention back to Caroline, her old friend smiled again, "I think I have enough to buy you a glass of champagne.  I don't know what type they serve here exactly but I'm sure it's good.  Matilda Devereau doesn't skimp too much on what she serves here.  If it isn't up to your standards, then we can always try the hotel.  I know where the owner keeps the good stuff."

 

"Champagne? Damn! You really are happy ta see me," she seemed surprised for an instant, "We got some but it costs a pretty penny."

 

"And, Mike, you know I can't just waltz over to no hotel.....I'm working now," she felt compelled to point out the obvious but did accompany him over to a suddenly emptied table.

 

"So, I can't stay long, gotta get back to makin' the rounds but tell me, how you been? You look handsome as ever. I take you work at some local ranch?"

 

God, she hoped it wasn't the Evergreen ranch. Addy had said that place was trouble and the owner a dangerous man.

 

@JulieS

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Mike smiled, went forwards and scooped Caroline up in a big hug. After he had placed her feet back on the floor, he held out her at arm's length.  "Caro, you look great."

 

Arabella stopped and blinked and stood with her mouth open, completely dumbfounded. Somebody said something in her ear but she didn’t hear them.

 

Her bête noire and her dream man were talking and laughing, and he was leading her to a table, and they were sitting to together and laughing some more and…

 

She didn’t even realise she was doing it, she walked slowly toward them both in a shocked trance: no fuss, no tears, no emotion at all. She just floated on over there and stood like a sleep-walker at the side of their table. She looked at Caroline, and then she looked at Mike and then she looked back at Caroline and then, sort of staring off into the distance, tilted her head like a curious puppy.

 

 "And, Mike, you know I can't just waltz over to no hotel.....I'm working now," she felt compelled to point out the obvious but did accompany him over to a suddenly emptied table.

 

"So, I can't stay long, gotta get back to makin' the rounds but tell me, how you been? You look handsome as ever. I take you work at some local ranch?"

 

They didn’t even notice her. Of course they didn’t notice her. It was so obvious now.

 

"And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith" Acts 9:18

 

“I’d better … I’d better collect some pots.” She muttered distractedly to herself and floated away like a ghost.

 

She started to collect empty glasses up, and take them back to the kitchen and wash them up and dry them up and take them back to the bar and then collect some more up and take them back to the kitchen and wash them up and dry them up and take them back to the bar and then collect some more up and take them back to the kitchen and wash them up and dry them up and take them back to the bar…

 

This was her, this is what she was, this is what she’d always be. She wasn’t going to be a famous singer or an admired actress or a glamorous spy or a newspaper agony aunt or a vivandière in a war or a girlfriend or a fiancé or a wife: thank you Jesus, thank you for showing me the light, thank you for making me see the truth! Feeling sorry for yourself Arabella? She stood by the third sink full of glasses and paused a second to pinch herself on the arm, hard. That would teach her to feel sorry for herself.  

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Mike grinned, "So many questions and as always so little time.  I have a few of my own but first I'll answer yours."

 

Leaning forward, he went on, "First of all, I wasn't looking for my wife as I still haven't found one who can tolerate me but my brother...well the one I came here with tonight.  I'll introduce you to him sometime. As for the champagne, I think you're right, it might be a bit too much for now but I promise to buy you one day. Instead I'll buy you a drink after your next performance."

 

"So, I can't stay long, gotta get back to makin' the rounds but tell me, how you been? You look handsome as ever. I take you work at some local ranch?"

 

"I'm foreman over at the Lost Lake ranch,  A few of the boys are here tonight and I would be obliged if you would keep an eye on them once you get to know them.  I don't know how much you know about the situation around here but anything you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.  I know Matilda and Ralph keep a pretty tight rein on this place but they can't be here all of the time."

 

A thought suddenly crossed his mind.  "This might be too soon to ask since we're just renewing our friendship but the ranch keeps me busy and I can only get into town once maybe twice a week but there is someone I would like you to keep an eye on."

 

@Wayfarer

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"These local women must not only be blind but stupid if they haven't snagged you up yet, dear heart," Caroline grinned, "Yer far too modest."

 

"Don't worry about the champagne, let you in on a secret..." she lowered her voice and eased in closer to his face, "I don't even like the stuff. Gimme a good shot of bourbon or scotch anyday. "

 

Then he explained where he worked and what he did. She was glad it was not that Evergreen ranch.

 

"Foreman? Well good fer you! Bet yer a good one too," Caroline sat back but patted him on the hands in a supportive gesture.

 

"An eye on 'em? I don't know...well, regardless who folks are I do always try to do my best to prevent trouble breaking out on the floor. More times than I care to remember I found myself stepping in the middle of fights to separate the hotheads. Took a few punches for it too," she shrugged.

 

"This might be too soon to ask since we're just renewing our friendship but the ranch keeps me busy and I can only get into town once maybe twice a week but there is someone I would like you to keep an eye on."

 

"Oh yeah? Who might this be? That brother you mentioned?" she was curious.

 

 

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The Lost Lake hands were not the only ones who had heard about the Stardust Saloon's new attraction. Brendan was there with a few other hands, but he was sort of by himself since Billy and Greer hadn't come into town. They were doing...something else.

 

This Caroline girl was quite the singer and quite good-looking. Good-looking everywhere, it turned out when she revealed the upper parts of her legs during her set. Now that was a woman. He looked around, half-expecting to see Clara dressed in similar get-up so he could compare the two. But of course she wasn't there. She probably didn't believe in drinking.

 

When he glanced back, he had lost his chance to talk to her. She was over being regaled by Charlie's brother, who he had learned after the dance was the foreman at Lost Lake. Well, damn. They were already nice and friendly with each other, and he wasn't sure that interrupting would be a good idea. Sure, he wanted to talk to Caroline, and he wanted to keep Mike from having her, but was it really a good idea to butt in right now?

 

There had to be some way...he glanced at the bar and saw the back of Arabella's head. Aha.

 

He went up to the bar, and, ignoring Ralph, leaned on the counter until Arabella came back with some clean glasses. "Psst! Arabella! Reb!" That was what some people called her, wasn't it? He followed that salutation up with a little upward whistle like he would use for getting a horse's attention.

 

He must be desperate if he was coming to Arabella for help, he realized with a regretful shake of his head.

 

@Javia

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Arabella was sometimes accused, by less sensitive souls, of being over-dramatic. However, she was actually very calm as she continued her glass collection and washing routine, while deciding upon the most effective way of killing herself the next morning. After flirting with ideas of rope, gun, poison and Conestoga Wagon, she had finally settled on filling her apron pockets with rocks and drowning herself in that lovely lake by the Mission where she and Charlie Wentworth had experienced that, to her, mystical and religious experience.

 

She could just imagine the remorse that everybody in Kalispell, especially Mike ‘Traitor’ Wentworth would feel as she was borne into town, beautiful in death, on some sort of sombre bier, covered in white and blue silk, with lilies clutched in her stiff, little dead hands. She could almost hear his sobs of anguish, and everybody’s sighs of regret that they hadn’t been nicer to her in the brief, all too brief, time that she had walked amongst them. Why, those folks were so sad about her in her daydream that she nearly started to cry herself, all over the nice clean glasses she was stacking.

 

Then someone had to go and spoil it all by cheering her up!

 

“Psst! Arabella! Reb!" That was what some people called her, wasn't it? He followed that salutation up with a little upward whistle like he would use for getting a horse's attention.

 

“Uh?!” The scrawny teenager span around looking for where the whistle had come from and her eyes lit on Brendan, making his first visit to the saloon.

 

“Mississippi!!” she yelped, and gave a short scream, wheeling around the bar and circumventing a rather rotund man in a squashed derby.

 

“Out the way, fatty!” she yelled, dodging the human obstacle and throwing herself around the handsome cowboy. They did not  know each other that well, really, only having met at the Barn Dance;  but they possessed the sort of bond that comes only when two people, together, hand in hand, have survived the Galop Quadrille.

 

“Welcome to the Stardust Saloon!” she formally greeted him, throwing out her arms and knocking Dutton Peabody’s hat off. “What do you want to drink?” she asked excitedly, running back around the other side of the bar “Mr. Flandry don’t let me serve drinks, usually: says I fill ‘em up too full, but we’re so busy tonight, he don’t got any choice!” she beamed.

 

As she fixed him his drink, she had an urgent query “Well, Bren’, did you catch the show? Did ya see me playin’ the piana? I was good, wasn’t I?” she asked breathlessly.

 

@Bongo

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Oh yeah? Who might this be? That brother you mentioned?" she was curious.

 

"It's a brother," MIke smiled, "but not the one that's here tonight. It's my youngest brother, Charlie and well...he's still quite young and he still hasn't learned how to control how much he drinks.  You remember me telling you about how downright mean we can get when we've had too much.  We've all been down that path and now it's Charlie's turn and we don't want him doing anything he will regret or maybe get put in jail for later on down the track.  So if you can help out, it will greatly be appreciated."

 

@Wayfarer

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After Arabella's enthusiastic greeting, Brendan tried to get his breath back. For a skinny girl, she had quite a grip in her arms. But no sooner had he succeeded in catching his breath than Arabella playing host.

 

Welcome to the Stardust Saloon! What do you want to drink? Mr. Flandry don’t let me serve drinks, usually: says I fill ‘em up too full, but we’re so busy tonight, he don’t got any choice!” she beamed.

 

"Eh, just a beer. And don't you worry none about filling it up too full, now." He leaned against the counter again and watched her with a grin. Of course Mr. Flandry didn't want her to fill them up too full. It was better for business.

 

As she fixed him his drink, she had an urgent query “Well, Bren’, did you catch the show? Did ya see me playin’ the piana? I was good, wasn’t I?” she asked breathlessly.

 

Brendan's mouth dropped open and for a moment he looked quite stupid. "Huh?" Arabella had been playing the piano? Arabella had been present at the same time Caroline was dazzling the saloon with her talents? This called for some fast thinking.

 

"Oh, yeah, I saw the show. And you were playin' the piano, weren't  you? You certainly was...uh...well, you was there, yeah. It was somethin' to hear."

 

He'd barely noticed the piano at the beginning of the show, and by the time it was over, he had forgotten all about it. He wasn't sure whether that was due to Arabella's skill at playing along with a singer, or to Caroline's ability to capture a crowd.

 

"Say, if you're playin' piano for Miss Mundee, you oughta know her well enough to give me an introduction. How's about it, Bella?" He gave her a winning smile along with a new nickname. It was better than Reb, that was for sure.

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Ah,  she was right, sorta. It was a brother of Mike's but not the brother present at the bar. He sure seemed to have a lot of brothers. Of course, she had been an only child so even three seemed a lot of boys. And apparently this brother couldn't handle his liquor and got mean? Even admitted he once was like that. Caroline was dubious.

 

"Aww, Mike, I never saw you mean. You always were the perfect gentleman," she remarked in all sincerity.

 

"And believe me I've run inta mean men in my life," she assured him.

 

"But alright, I will do what I can for him but no promises. He gets mean in here and I've heard that Ralph is the one who deals with troublemakers. And I've heard Ralph can be ....well, fierce is how it was told to me," she had to point out.

 

"I don't even know what this Charlie looks like. I can't go around asking very drunk ..'oh hey, your name Charlie'. "

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The Beer glass was full nearly to the brim and the head on it puffed up dangerously, until Arabella reached under the bar and brought forth a ruler-like instrument that she whipped over it, sending the froth a few feet through the air and onto someone’s foot.

 

“Here ya go, that’s one thin dime, one tennnnth of a dollar!” she cried like a circus hawker.

 

As she handed him his drink, she had an urgent query “Well, Bren’, did you catch the show? Did ya see me playin’ the piana? I was good, wasn’t I?” she asked breathlessly.

 

"Oh, yeah, I saw the show. And you were playin' the piano, weren't  you? You certainly was...uh...well, you was there, yeah. It was somethin' to hear."

 

“Hmmmm.” Arabella eyed him, narrow eyed. It would be kinda odd if Brendan was the only man in the bar who had been listening enraptured with her tinkling on the keys instead of goggling at the ‘painted lady’. Still, he had at least done his pathetic best to pretend to be in the former classification.

 

"Say, if you're playin' piano for Miss Mundee, you oughta know her well enough to give me an introduction. How's about it, Bella?" He gave her a winning smile along with a new nickname. It was better than Reb, that was for sure.

 

Arabella opened her eyes as wide as she could and tipped her head to one side, which was her way of saying ‘don’t Bella me, cowboy, I can see right through you like a candy store window’ She was going to tell him right there and then not to be fooled, that she slept with Miss Caroline Mundee and most of what he thought he saw in her was made up of powder, paint and a good deal of upholstery. But then an evil thought entered her head.

 

“Sure Mississip’, I’d introduce ya right now if ya like.” She smiled “least your old pal ‘Bella’ can do for ya!” she smiled, oh so innocently.

 

“But listen…” she beckoned him forward over the bar, to speak more secretly with him. “When she’s in here in the evenin’, she’s on. She’s kinda… acting like. Pretending to be someone she ain’t. It’s like when I’m playing the piana, it’s ... it's hard to explain. Anyhow, what I’m getting at is this. If you can get off of that there ranch one mornin’ in the week, ‘bout ten or eleven, that’s when we’d be rehearsin’ in here. If you come in then, you could get to know the real Caroline Mundee.”

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Aww, Mike, I never saw you mean. You always were the perfect gentleman," she remarked in all sincerity.

 

"And believe me I've run inta mean men in my life," she assured him.

 

Mike smiled, "No you never...I had myself all sorted out by the time I met you.  Generally, we're not that mean unless we're pushed or have good reason to be.  It's something to do with the way alcohol addles our disposition or our brains, no-one knows for sure.  If we consume an excess amount it sets something off and it not's pretty.  Charlie's young and he's been in college for the last couple of years with no real supervision and I'm afraid it's becoming a bit of a problem.  Thankfully, he has enough sense not to drink on the job so we've got to keep watch on him when and where we can.  We've got the hotel covered and Charlie wouldn't dare do anything there or Matt would have his hide.  So his only option is to come here, and due to work commitments Sam and I can't be here all the time.  That's where your help will be invaluable.  It won't be all the time just the times when we're not here and he is."

 

But alright, I will do what I can for him but no promises. He gets mean in here and I've heard that Ralph is the one who deals with troublemakers. And I've heard Ralph can be ....well, fierce is how it was told to me," she had to point out.

 

"I don't even know what this Charlie looks like. I can't go around asking very drunk ..'oh hey, your name Charlie'. "

 

"Don't worry, I'll make sure you meet Charlie.  I plan to be with him the next time he comes here and if I'm not, Sam will be.  Which reminds, I better introduce you two.  How about after your next performance?"

 

@Wayfarer

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Caroline listened to Mike tell the sad tale of his younger brother. A college educated man too at that and already was well on his way to being an alcoholic. Pity but she saw it enough in her career. It never really bothered her conscience though that her job involved pushing drinks of folks. In the end she believed the only one responsible for drunkeness was the drinker. No one was forcing it down their throats.  Only because it was Mike and the man was an old friend, did she agree to try to help though she pointed out that she didn't even know the jasper.

 

Mike had that already figured though, "Don't worry, I'll make sure you meet Charlie.  I plan to be with him the next time he comes here and if I'm not, Sam will be.  Which reminds, I better introduce you two.  How about after your next performance?"

 

"Alright, fair enough. That sounds good and speaking of my next performance, I really need to get back to wandering the floor. Mingling with the customers is an important part of my job. Don't want my new boss getting cross with me," she then stood up.

 

"And ya know.....someday you could buy me a dinner? Not here....I mean the beef stew is good but this ain't no restaurant. I noticed a diner down the street though. We could go there," she suggested.

 

Unless of course he did not want to be seen in public with the likes of her sort in his home town. Most likely the proper folk in town looked at saloon folk as trash. She had experienced it all too often. And she would understand, he no doubt had a reputation to worry about.

 

 

 

 

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Brendan dug in his pocket for a dime and slid it over the counter, then took a big gulp of his beer. It hit the spot, and he sighed appreciatively as Arabella began speaking.

 

"Sure Mississip’, I’d introduce ya right now if ya like. Least your old pal ‘Bella’ can do for ya!” she smiled, oh so innocently. Well, she didn't seem to outright hate the nickname, but

 

"Gee, would ya?" He began, but Arabella wasn't done.

 

But listen…

 

Brendan leaned forward to better hear Arabella's secret that she was going to share with him.

 

"When she’s in here in the evenin’, she’s on. She’s kinda… acting like. Pretending to be someone she ain’t. It’s like when I’m playing the piana, it’s ... it's hard to explain. Anyhow, what I’m getting at is this. If you can get off of that there ranch one mornin’ in the week, ‘bout ten or eleven, that’s when we’d be rehearsin’ in here. If you come in then, you could get to know the real Caroline Mundee."

 

The real Caroline Mundee? Well, that was an attractive offer. But that would mean he would have to wait, and he didn't like waiting on something like that.

 

"Well..." he hedged, scratching his chin, "I ain't exactly a mornin' person...and if I'm up in the mornin' I'm busy with the cows. Maybe you could introduce me and then if I can come in to town this week it's a...a extry time I'll get to see her."

 

@Javia

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"Well..." he hedged, scratching his chin, "I ain't exactly a mornin' person...and if I'm up in the mornin' I'm busy with the cows. Maybe you could introduce me and then if I can come in to town this week it's a...a extry time I'll get to see her."

 

“Oh, the impatience of youth!” said the fifteen year old, rolling her eyes. “Come on then!” she humphed, rounding the bar again. But before they proceeded to the den of the scarlet queen, she drew Brendan close again for another confidential tête-à-tête.

 

“Now listen, cowboy” she started “I’m gonna let you in on a secret…” she looked around to make sure they weren’t being overheard – a pointless exercise in the crowded saloon.

 

“If she says buy me a drink, it’ll cost ya a quarter for a ten cent shot, that’s a nickel extra for the house and ten cents down for her. So, don’t buck when you see the bill, cause that’ll make you look cheap! And that there drink, it’ll most probably be just plain old cold tea, cause she can’t afford to get squiffy when she’s playing the game, so don’t expect it to get her all drunk so she falls in love with you, see?” she advised conspiratorially.

 

“Now let’s have a look at you, y’handsome brute!” she said, straightening his collar and spit-washing a smudge from his face like a mama seeing her little boy off to school. “Hmm, you’ll do!” she decided and dragged him by the hand over to where Caroline and Mike were chatting at a table.

 

“Hey Caroline!” she yelled, butting into their conversation, facing the saloon singer and totally ignoring the now hated Mr Wentworth. “This here’s my friend Brendan Connolly! He didn’t want to come over and bother you, but I wanted you to meet one of the really nice fellers around these parts.” She beamed, patting him on the arm.

 

“I’ll go and get the music ready for your next performance, leave you two to get to know each other!” she said, before giving an acid glance to the oldest Wentworth brother and adding tartly “I wouldn’t want a hang around and be a gooseberry!” And with that she scuttled off, hoping that Caroline would fall for the handsome cowboy and give Mr Michael Wentworth a taste of his own medicine.

 

@JulieS @Wayfarer @Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"And ya know.....someday you could buy me a dinner? Not here....I mean the beef stew is good but this ain't no restaurant. I noticed a diner down the street though. We could go there," she suggested.

 

Mike smiled, "I can do better than that.  I'll take you to the hotel.  As long as you're on your best behaviour, which I have no doubt you will be, then owner won't mind.  I can't speak for anybody else who may be there on the night but what they think doesn't matter to me.  My friends and family know who I am and they know that I only have dinner with women that I admire and respect."

 

He was about to get out of his chair when Arabella Mudd turned up with the young fellow from Evergreen, who Charlie had made friends with at the dance.

 

“Hey Caroline!” she yelled, butting into their conversation, facing the saloon singer and totally ignoring the now hated Mr Wentworth. “This here’s my friend Brendan Connolly! He didn’t want to come over and bother you, but I wanted you to meet one of the really nice fellers around these parts.” She beamed, patting him on the arm.

 

“I’ll go and get the music ready for your next performance, leave you two to get to know each other!” she said, before giving an acid glance to the oldest Wentworth brother and adding tartly “I wouldn’t want a hang around and be a gooseberry!” And with that she scuttled off, hoping that Caroline would fall for the handsome cowboy and give Mr Michael Wentworth a taste of his own medicine.

 

"I was just leaving, so if Caroline is willing, you are welcome to take my place."  Turning to Caroline, he took her hand and gave her a quick wink, "Until later, my dear."  Raising her hand to his lips he gave it a light kiss before letting it go.  A smirk appeared on his face before he schooled his features to a more serious look.

 

Turning back to Brendan he placed his hand on his shoulder, "Make sure you remember that she's a lady or you'll be hearing from me."

 

With that Mike headed back towards the bar, with a grin slowly creeping back on his face.   He hoped Caroline had remembered that jasper at the saloon in Dodge.  The boy couldn't have been more than seventeen but he already fancied himself some sort of ladies man and he was out to make a conquest.  In order to help get the boy back on track and realise that Caroline was out his league, they had both conspired to play a trick on him.  The boy had fell for it but the Evergreen hand was a lot older so Mike wasn't sure he would fall for it.  If he didn't then it would be no great loss.

 

@Javia @Wayfarer @Bailey

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"Hotel?" Caroline looked surprised for an instant until he explained further that he meant dinner at the hotel, that was better.

 

"You mean I gotta behave? I don't know, Mike, behavin' ain't one of my strengths," she grinned.

 

Just then who showed up but none other than saloon orphan and towing a cowboy too. Now what?

 

“Hey Caroline!” she yelled, butting into their conversation, facing the saloon singer and totally ignoring the now hated Mr Wentworth. “This here’s my friend Brendan Connolly! He didn’t want to come over and bother you, but I wanted you to meet one of the really nice fellers around these parts.” She beamed, patting him on the arm.

 

"Oh yeah?" Caroline eyed the young man, a handsome devil this one. Though it was a bit...suspicious that he was friends with this child. After all relatives you're stuck with but friends you choose.

 

“I’ll go and get the music ready for your next performance, leave you two to get to know each other!” the girl said, before giving an acid glance to the oldest Wentworth brother and adding tartly “I wouldn’t want a hang around and be a gooseberry!”

 

"I got a few minutes yet," Caroline had just glanced at the clock above the bar.

 

And then she was gone, flouncing off in that manner of hers, leaving behind this cowboy and Mike, who was leaving anyhow.

 

"I was just leaving, so if Caroline is willing, you are welcome to take my place."  Turning to Caroline, Mike took her hand and gave her a quick wink, "Until later, my dear."  Raising her hand to his lips he gave it a light kiss before letting it go.

 

Caroline had to chuckle, "Ohh, fancy. Yeah, hunt down that brother of yers."

 

Turning back to Brendan Mike placed his hand on his shoulder, "Make sure you remember that she's a lady or you'll be hearing from me."

 

Caroline was once again amused but added nothing to that. Let the cowpoke make of it what he will. Speaking of which...

 

"Well then, umm..Brendan ...I forgot yer last name but then I ain't much on last names...take a seat. Don't stand there like yer my butler or somethin" she flashed him a very genuine looking bright smile as she gestured with her hand toward one of the chairs.

 

"If you got somethin' to say, I'm listenin'," she declared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finally Arabella was willing to take him to meet Caroline Mundee, but she had some advice for him first; advice that shocked Brendan. "A quarter fer a drink!" He was astounded and horrified. "Why not just a whole dollar, then? I'll just have to rely on my wits." Not that that would be a problem, he thought proudly.

 

She tried to clean off his face, which was entirely unnecessary and probably made him look ridiculous to anyone who happened to be watching. He squirmed as if he was a much younger boy and Arabella was his mother. "Awright, awright, leave off, Arabella," he finally pleaded, and amazingly she did.

 

Arabella's introduction was everything he could have hoped for, although being referred to as "nice" maybe wasn't what one wanted to hear when trying to woo a woman in a saloon. But Arabella's introduction hastened the departure of Mike Wentworth. Brendan watched as he kissed Caroline's hand, trying to refrain from making a disgusted face.

 

"I'd be happy t' take your place," he said with a smirk. More than happy; he'd be just tickled pink to take the place of the man who, by all accounts, he should dislike.

 

But wait, Wentworth was smirking, too. Why? Suddenly the smirk was gone from the Lost Lake foreman's face and his hand was on Brendan's shoulder. "Make sure you remember that she's a lady or you'll be hearing from me."

 

"A' course she's a lady!" he sputtered, starting to twist away from Mike, but he was already off to the bar, leaving him alone with the lady in question. There should have been a sense of triumph now that Mike was gone, but Mike's obvious warning had dampened the victory. But only slightly. He was here with Caroline now, and Mike wasn't.

 

"Well then, umm..Brendan ...I forgot yer last name but then I ain't much on last names...take a seat. Don't stand there like yer my butler or somethin. If you got somethin' to say, I'm listenin.'" Caroline's smile was bright and genuine, and it made Brendan feel a lot better about his chances with her.

 

"Thanks. And it's Connolly," he said with a grin as he slid into the chair Mike had recently vacated. "You might wanna remember it. Anyway, I wanted t' tell you your singin' was right heavenly. It...oh, shoot, I near forgot the reason I come over here. Miss Mundee, c'n I get you a drink?"

 

@Wayfarer ( @Javia and @JulieS if your characters are both going to stick around and see how this turns out...and possibly play a trick on Brendan?)

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"Thanks. And it's Connolly," he said with a grin as he slid into the chair Mike had recently vacated.

 

"Of course it is, hon," Caroline grinned as she locked eyes with the young man, she had that sort of focus which often made the customer believe they were her whole world at that moment.

 

"You might wanna remember it. Anyway, I wanted t' tell you your singin' was right heavenly. It...oh, shoot, I near forgot the reason I come over here. Miss Mundee, c'n I get you a drink?"

 

She had absolutely no clue why on earth she would want to remember his name but did not think it worth asking. Besides he moved on with a compliment, she liked compliments.

 

"Why thank ya, I try hard," she nodded.

 

"And as for that drink, you most surely can. But certainly yer gonna drink with me? What would you like then? A beer or some of the hard stuff? We got the cheap stuff fer a thin dime and then some better stuff...from back East for a quarter a shot. And we got the real top shelf stuff for....well, not sure you can afford that," she quickly gave him some choices. 

 

What she would pick for herself would well be decided by what the customer chose for himself. Not like she would be drinking it anyhow, she had a lot of tricks for seemingly downing drink after drink and never getting drunk. Given on a busy night like this, it would not be unusual to have eager customers, like this fella here, buy her 40-50 drinks and actually downing that much would be ...well, impossible. Caroline was good but she couldn't do the impossible.

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Brendan was enjoying the attention from the attractive Miss Mundee. She made him feel like he wasn't just a cowhand. She made him feel like he was somebody important, like a mayor or something. And she had accepted his offer of a drink, which made him feel even more important.

 

"And as for that drink, you most surely can. But certainly yer gonna drink with me? What would you like then? A beer or some of the hard stuff? We got the cheap stuff fer a thin dime and then some better stuff...from back East for a quarter a shot. And we got the real top shelf stuff for....well, not sure you can afford that."

 

"Sure, I'm gonna drink with you," Brendan said with a grin. "I wouldn't pass up the chance to buy Miss Mundee a drink and drink with her at the same time. Why, that'd be plumb stupid, and I ain't stupid." He ran his fingers through his forelock and shook his head at the ridiculous notion that he might be stupid. He wasn't stupid.

 

"As for what I want? Well, that depends on what you want, but I'd rec-commend a beer to wet your throat for your next set. Singin's an awful thirsty job, seems like." And beers were less expensive.

 

@Wayfarer

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"Sure, I'm gonna drink with you," Brendan said with a grin. "I wouldn't pass up the chance to buy Miss Mundee a drink and drink with her at the same time. Why, that'd be plumb stupid, and I ain't stupid."

 

"And you sure don't look stupid to me," Caroline nodded.

 

"As for what I want? Well, that depends on what you want, but I'd rec-commend a beer to wet your throat for your next set. Singin's an awful thirsty job, seems like."  

 

"Awww, how sweet of you , hon, to think of me," she beamed a smile, "Lemme go get you that beer of yours."

 

Up she went, wound her way thru the crowd, though having to stop more than once to exchange words with other customers. Arriving at the bar, she leaned in toward Ralph.

 

"One beer ....aww hell, I'll talk him inta two, make it two. And then pour me a shot of my special stuff," she requested.

 

Ralph smiled then reached below the bar for a specially marked bottle, it was labeled whiskey but it was nothing more than a mix of water and tea which looked the right color. Once a shot glass was filled she put that and the pair of beers Ralph drew for her on a tray. Then it was winding her way back thru the crowd until she was back with Brendan whatever his name.

 

"Here ya go, hon! I know you only said one but a big strapping fella like you ain't gonna be satisfied with one glass of beer. And beer makes me piddle too often so I settled for a cheap whiskey," she announced setting the tray down.

 

"That'll be twenty cents for the beers and a dime for shot," she informed him even as she then downed the so called liquor of hers with one hard gulp whilst sitting down once more.

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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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