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Sagas of the Wild West
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Grin and Bear It


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As unorthodox as she was, Addy wasn't adverse to having her chair held, nor a door opened, and to that end she gave Mr. Browne a chance to open the saloon doors for her.  But the big doors to the front of the barn were something else, and she took it on herself to push one of the huge pair aside, flooding the open breezeway with light and eliciting eager nickers from the barn's occupants.

 

"Wagon's there," she nodded, "an' once ya check that over, I'll introduce ya to th' horses.  Ya got a saddle mount'a yer own?"  If he didn't have a horse, she could just bring Arabesque, the mare was accustomed to being ponied behind wagons.

 

@Javia

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F. Falmer Browne was as impressed with Addy’s barn and selection of transportation impedimenta, including the draught animals who pulled the things as he was with Addy herself.

 

“Splendid! Splendid!” was all he could say as he peered about the place with a quick and intelligent eye. “A veritable Aladdin’s Cave!”

 

"Wagon's there," she nodded, "an' once ya check that over, I'll introduce ya to th' horses.  Ya got a saddle mount'a yer own?"  If he didn't have a horse, she could just bring Arabesque, the mare was accustomed to being ponied behind wagons.

 

The slightly eccentric older gentleman approached the vehicle in question, hands clasped behind his back, head bent forward slightly, in a pose of complete and curious absorption – as if he was seeing, for the fist time, some fabulous beast of lore. He ducked down, quite lithely for his age, and came up again smiling broadly at Addy, a look of supreme satisfaction on his face at the condition of Miss Chappel’s springs.

 

“May I?” he asked, indicating that he would like to climb up onto the land ship.

 

Whilst happily bouncing there, he answered her question about the horses. “Yes, I would like you to take care of all the arrangements around horses, equipment, even hiring another hand if you think it meet, Miss Chappel. I leave all in your hands, no expense spared.”

 

He was clearly very pleased with the bounce on the wagon as well that of its driver.

 

“You know, I have many times observed you, reins in hand, piloting this very vehicle. If it is not too impertinent of me, may I ask from whence you obtained these skills, so unusual in an attractive young lady?” the old masher asked.

 

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Attractive?  Well, there was something odd about the man, and this just proved it! 

 

Grinning, Addy shrugged, not finding it too odd that he'd seen her, in particular, around town, after all, she stood out, there was no doubt on that.

 

"Oh, I grew up around critters," she explained, "my pa an' brothers worked with mules, an' I just took right to it!"  She shrugged as she reached to stroke a big, fuzzy nose that poked over a stall gate.  "'Course, now, I was th' little one, an' seven brothers...was just a natural thing ta do."

 

Looking up at the man, she added, "Started drivin' ambulance durin' th' war, fer th' Confederacy," she wanted that clear, not that it made a difference then, nor now, "an' after that come here from Tennessee ta drive stage."

 

So, there was her part of it, now for his.  "What's this tender cargo yer wantin' ta get?  Won't engage in nothin' unlawful, just so ya know."

 

@Javia

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"Oh, I grew up around critters," she explained, "my pa an' brothers worked with mules, an' I just took right to it!"  She shrugged as she reached to stroke a big, fuzzy nose that poked over a stall gate.  "'Course, now, I was th' little one, an' seven brothers...was just a natural thing ta do."

 

Falmer Browne smiled wistfully at Addy’s reminiscences of her early, happy-sounding childhood. It made him think of a time, a magical time in his own early youth, a Christmas morn in the old family place in Amherst about 1822. Five or six years old, ripping open the wrapping paper on his present, a little whip and spinning top, while his mother fussed about the place tidying away the paper and his father sat jovially in his armchair, pulling on a long briar pipe. It fair brought a twinkle of a nostalgic tear to his eye and a maudlin smile to his lips beneath his grey moustache.

 

But Addy’s life story was moving on…

 

Looking up at the man, she added, "Started drivin' ambulance durin' th' war, fer th' Confederacy," she wanted that clear, not that it made a difference then, nor now, "an' after that come here from Tennessee ta drive stage."

 

She had driven an ambulance, in the war?! He gave a thoughtful frown and jumped down from the wagon.

 

So, there was her part of it, now for his.  "What's this tender cargo yer wantin' ta get?  Won't engage in nothin' unlawful, just so ya know."

 

He shook his head pensively, and murmured “No, no, it is just some rather delicate scientific instruments.” But it was clear that there was something on his mind.

 

“Miss Chappel, you have seen the full horrors of war. It matters not which side of that dreadful conflict you served on: all did their duty gallantly, as they saw fit. Well, almost all.” He jerked his head in a sort of nervous twitch, as if he was steeling himself to reveal something awful.

 

“Some people did not do any sort of duty, except to themselves. I was one of those. I was rich Miss Chappel, as rich as Croesus, I might add. I didn’t need more money, but I took it. I invested in steel, iron, armaments, black powder, even uniform cloth… death, injury, destruction! The more bloody the battles became, the more gold poured into my coffers.” He stood, shame faced, staring at the ground. Then he looked up at her, there were tears starting to brim in his old eyes.

 

 “I was on the docks in New York, Miss Chappel, at the end of the war, watching the unloading of some cargo that would bring me in even more filthy lucre, when I saw the first steamboat bringing back the prisoners from Andersonville. Human skeletons, starved almost to nothing, mere … rags and tatters of men. Most had died on the steamer, killed by the shock of being fed properly for the first time in years. They blamed the Confederate commander of the camp, Wirz. They hanged him for it. I watched it. They should have hanged ME, Miss Chappel. Jesus forgive me, they should have hanged me!!” he sobbed, his shoulders shaking, pulling out a hanky and squeezing it to his eyes.

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"Reckon we all did what we thought we had to."  Addy shrugged, watching the man, seeing the guilt.  "Sometimes it's better ya not engage in somethin' ya've not go a aptitude for...ya go out playin' soldier when yer heart ain't in it, yer as like ta get folks killed as not."

 

She stepped forward and put a hand on his arm...awkwardly.  "Can't change what's past, Mister Browne, only can do yer best goin' forward, right?"

 

She wasn't much one for philosophy, but her pa had imparted a good deal of practical wisdom that had been reinforced by life.  Besides, she just wasn't one to overly fret on what couldn't be changed.

 

@Javia

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She stepped forward and put a hand on his arm...awkwardly.  "Can't change what's past, Mister Browne, only can do yer best goin' forward, right?"

 

Falmer Browne blew his nose with a loud rasp. “Quite right, Miss Chappel, quite right.” He patted her hand with his own. “After I saw Wirtz hanged, I returned home and considered doing the very same to myself for, indeed, I deserved such a fate as much as he. But what good would that do? It was the coward’s way out of my misery." he stood in contemplation for a second, recalling that darkest of dark moments in his life. Then he sighed.

 

"Instead I considered the money I possessed, my early training in the sciences, and determined to dedicate all of my considerable resources, and the remainder of my life, to putting things right: to try and ensure that men on this continent would never starve as those poor wretches in Andersonville had starved!”

 

As he spoke, he kept his hand upon hers, resting on his arm.

 

He patted it again and let it go.

 

“You are a very wise woman, Miss Chappel.” He said, considering her.

 

“Now, about that young lad who lives with you…”

 

@Bongo

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"Well, it's good yer usin' yer money an' talents ta make things better fer folks."  She wasn't really sure how he might accomplish his goals, but they were, indeed, lofty and honorable.  "Might could be why th' good Lord spared ya, no matter how th' means."

 

But then, the question...

 

“Now, about that young lad who lives with you…”

 

"What of him?"  Her demeanor had changed in an instant, and she regretted that she didn't have her pistol on her!  "He ain't none'a yer concern, ya wanna do business'er not?"  She was starting to have second thoughts...

 

@Javia

 

 

 

 

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 “Now, about that young lad who lives with you…”

 

"What of him?"  Her demeanor had changed in an instant, and she regretted that she didn't have her pistol on her!  "He ain't none'a yer concern, ya wanna do business'er not?"  She was starting to have second thoughts...

 

Falmer Browne gave an audible “Whaaa!” and jumped back, thinking the formidable, if beautiful, young woman was about to deck him. “Please, let me explain…” he stammered, startled at Addy’s reaction to his innocent introduction of the subject of his new neighbor’s young ward, Weedy.

 

“Our gardens conjoin, you see” he realised that in his voice sounded nervous, like he was trying to hide something, but pushed on. “Your young fellow was looking in at my greenhouse windows, no doubt intrigued by the exotic flora I have growing there, lemon trees and what have you. I’m afraid that my sudden appearance there rather alarmed him and he ran away. I only wished to say…” in his haste to explain everything to the amazonian woman before him, he had rather forgotten to breath, and had to stop to take in some air.

 

“I only wished to say that you and your young friend are very welcome to visit at any time and look around my collection of herbalia. You could, perhaps, come around for High Tea one evening around Five O'Clock, should we say?” he invited them cordially. Young friend. He didn’t make a guess at the unmarried young woman’s relationship with the lad, in case it was an embarrassing one, … such as son.

 

@Bongo

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Addy relaxed ever so slightly, still glaring at the man as she tried to assess Mr. Browne's intentions...and translate what all he'd just yammered on about.

 

"Flowers?  He did come in one afternoon, all excited 'bout flowers, but I didn't pay him much mind."  After all, Weedy was a boy, he got all worked up over guns and horses and the like, not flowers.  And truth be told, she'd noticed the odd house of glass on the next property, but had been far too busy to pay it much mind.

 

"Tea, ya say?"  Why in a ground hog's belly button anyone would have tea was beyond her, but the man had asked politely, and it didn't seem neighborly to turn him down.  "I reckon we might could do that.  This before 'er after ya wanna go ta Helena?"  Either would give her some time to figure out just what he was up to, and if Mexico was in her future!

 

@Javia

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"Tea, ya say?"  Why in a ground hog's belly button anyone would have tea was beyond her, but the man had asked politely, and it didn't seem neighborly to turn him down.  "I reckon we might could do that.  This before 'er after ya wanna go ta Helena?"  Either would give her some time to figure out just what he was up to, and if Mexico was in her future!

 

“Oh, I should say the sooner the better! As soon as humanly possible. This afternoon, if you like. It will be an opportunity to get to know each other a little better before embarking upon so potentially egregious and exhausting an expedition.” He smiled, happy that she seemed willing at least to visit him in his ramshackle nursery-cum-laboratory-cum-bachelor’s household. “We usually take high tea around 4pm, tea, cakes, fancies, the usual sort of thing. My housekeeper, Mrs O’Houlighan, is an excellent baker.”

 

He was curious as to why Miss Chappel was so very guarded at any mention of the young lad who lived with her. Perhaps he was indeed the fruit of some ill famed past liaison, and the father or father’s family wanted custody of the little b… boy. In his experience, the opposite was usually true, and the farmer who had sown the seed wanted nothing to do with the resultant crop. But still, none  of his business, and a topic he would steer well clear of from hereon in.

 

@Bailey

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