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

Here Endeth the Lesson


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Mature Content: For the love of God. let us hope not!

Author: Leonora Lutz

With: Redmonds, Lutz, any other Church-going folk.
Location: Kalispell Methodist (Community) Church. (open to all denominations)
When: Mid 1876
Time of Day: End of Sunday Morning Service.

 

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It had been a long, long time since she had been in this situation.

 

Standing in a dour, serious Church service, absolutely dying to burst out laughing. She tried everything: biting her lip, digging her nails into the palms of her hands, thinking of the saddest most pitiable things that she could imagine. It was not helping. She could only hope that anybody spotting the tears rolling down her cheeks would suppose that they were caused by some sort of divine rapture, rather than the hilarious noise coming from the harmonium as they all sang number 528 on the board, “Nearer my God to Thee”. She somehow felt sure that the strange skinny teenage girl playing the battered, foot pumped, keyboard instrument was doing it on purpose, the one Jacob had described to her, in her sickbed as “The Reb”, making sure that in the interludes between the verses, she played a particular deep, faulty note on the thing that sounded for all the world like someone breaking wind. And not just a polite whispery one; a full bodied, underwear-destroying RASP!

 

By some miracle of the aforementioned deity, Lee got to the end of the hymn without shrieking with laughter at the funny sound. The amazing thing was nobody else seemed to notice it! Was it just her? Maybe she was irreligious. She’d certainly come close enough in the last year to making it to the Pearly Gates and finding out if the elevator ride was Up or Down. Now she felt so much better. She’d put on weight, as well. Too much weight, her Grandmother said! Her heart would always be weak, but what did they say? ‘Cracked pots last longest’ - so she might be around for a few years yet for all her 25 years.

 

Since last she’d been well enough to be in Church there were many new faces, many old ones gone. Two new ones she guessed at, as they all filed out of the church, shaking hands with Pastor Evans. She nudged Jacob as he took her arm in support.

 

“Is that her? The famous Clara?” she asked him, a twinkle in her eye. “And her Father, I suppose?”

 

“Uh-huh.” Nodded Jacob, at his most taciturn. But his neutral face changed to horror as she let go his arm and rushed forward to catch up to the tall, dark haired man with the neat Napoleon, walking out of church with his beautiful dark eyed daughter.

 

“Oh, is it Mister Redmond?” she asked precipitously “Mister Aurelian Redmond?” she specified, looking up at him with those enormously round blue eyes.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Yes, the music was wretched alright, Clara had to concede that much but she was used to it by now. She had heard Arabella was really good with the piano over at the saloon not that she ever entered that sort of place to listen. A proper lady should never set foot in such places. But whatever her musical talent, nothing Arabella could do made that instrument in church sound anything better than awful. However God allowed it all to happen so was she had to be accepting.

 

Mercifully when the service ended, she accompanied her father, Aurelian Redmond, on out the door. Earlier she had cast a few glances in the direction of none other than Jacob. Since their last time alone with each other, nothing similar had followed unfortunately.  She missed the boy, well he certainly wasn't a boy anymore then was he though. Should they risk at the very least a quick chat when services were over? She certainly hoped so!

 

Aurelian shook hands with the minister on the way out and then, accompanied by his daughter, headed on outside. For the moment his mind was on nothing more than looking forward to a big breakfast.  The pair didn't get far though before...

 

“Oh, is it Mister Redmond?” a young woman now asked precipitously “Mister Aurelian Redmond?” she specified, looking up at him with those enormously round blue eyes.

 

He stopped then, "Yes, I am Aurelian Redmond. And this is my daughter, Clara."

 

"I apologize but I do not know who you are... miss?"

 

Clara silently agreed with her father as she eyed the woman. Wait! She had been inside services right next to Jacob! Was this his sister maybe? There was little family resemblance in all honesty.

 

Clare-Monroe001.jpg

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He stopped then, "Yes, I am Aurelian Redmond. And this is my daughter, Clara."

 

Lee’s eyes glanced at Clara with an interest that made the big black pupils of her eyes visibly dilate, before she swivelled those expressive orbs back to Aurelian. “You have a beautiful daughter, Mister Redmond.”

 

"I apologize but I do not know who you are... miss?"

 

“My name is Lutz, Leonora Lutz, for my sins.” She introduced herself and thrust out a hand at the man. That was an unladylike thing to do, perhaps, but since her brush with death, she felt she couldn’t wait for the slow cogs of propriety to get things done.

 

“My brother Jacob and I have the Miggins Place…” she indicated a gangly and somewhat uncomfortable looking youth behind her, who was looking every which way, other than directly at Aurelian and Clara, like he thought making eye contact with them would somehow magically inform everybody present what exactly had transpired between the pretty brunette and himself. “… further out of town than you, I understand you’ve bought Lloyd Sidwell’s place?” Lee carried on.

 

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At that point, a helpful little minx called Arabella Mudd poked her head out of the door behind them and in that raucous voice of hers shouted “Hey, Hayseed, Clara! Come and help me collect up the hymnbooks, will ya?!”

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"Why thank you, miss, I always tell her that too she is a hard one to convince," Aurelian smiled even as Clara blushed at the sudden compliments.

 

The woman then introduced herself and stuck out a hand for a shake. Aurelian was bemused but honestly did not think any worse of the woman for it and they shook.

 

"Nice to meet you, Miss Lutz," Aurelian smiled, he knew the family name alright, Clara had talked quite a bit about the boy, Jacob.

 

“My brother Jacob and I have the Miggins Place…” she indicated a gangly and somewhat uncomfortable looking youth behind her,  “… further out of town than you, I understand you’ve bought Lloyd Sidwell’s place?”

 

"Yes, Clara has told me all about your brother, Jacob," he smiled.  Little did he know she hardly told him ALL.

 

"And I did, I got a great deal from Mr. Sidwell, it seemed him and his wife had decided they no longer wanted to continue with frontier life but instead they went back East. I hope it all went well with them," Aurelian explained.

 

ooc: I'm gonna break this thread up now as there are now two different conversations in different locations.

 

 

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Clara snuck a look at Jacob as her father and his sister commenced their conversation but the boy was looking everywhere but at her. Could he look any more guilty?

 

At that point, a helpful little minx called Arabella Mudd poked her head out of the door behind them and in that raucous voice of hers shouted “Hey, Hayseed, Clara! Come and help me collect up the hymnbooks, will ya?!”

 

Perfect!  Clara decided to take advantage of the opening Arabella gave her (and Jacob too).

 

"Oh, excuse me, Father, Miss Lutz," she then headed back to the church as she and Jacob now fell in together. They only had seconds to go before they would be in church with Arabella and no secrets could be shared with that chatterbox around.

 

"I miss you so much," she hissed, wanting to reach for his hand but having the self control not to what with all the people around.

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"Oh, excuse me, Father, Miss Lutz," she then headed back to the church as she and Jacob now fell in together. They only had seconds to go before they would be in church with Arabella and no secrets could be shared with that chatterbox around.

 

"I miss you so much," she hissed, wanting to reach for his hand but having the self control not to what with all the people around.

 

“And I miss you too, but why’s my sister talking to your Father?!” Jacob hissed.

 

He was totally confused and suspicious, Lee hadn’t mentioned anything about this before. He was antsy to know what the heck she was talking to him about back there, but at the same time relieved not to be standing there with GUILT written in red letters on his face.

Arabella was ready to receive them with two tall, slightly wobbly looking towers of hymnbooks neatly stacked on the front pew.

 

“Ooops, I forgot I already collected them up!” she grinned “But can you two take them into the vestry at the back there?” she asked with suppressed, conspiratorial mirth. “I’m gonna stay here and keep vigil … religious vigil that is!” The scamp was fixing them up with a little tryst.

 

Jacob needed no further prompting, grabbing his pile of tottering leather bound books and encouraging Clara to do the same with a hasty “C’mon!”

 

“The vestry” was a rather grandiose term for an oversized broom cupboard, but anywhere that Jacob could be alone with Clara was a palace. The stack of hymnals collapsed like the tower of Babel as he shoved it too hastily onto the bookshelf, wanting to grab Clara and kiss her greedily on the lips as soon as humanly possible.

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"And I did, I got a great deal from Mr. Sidwell, it seemed him and his wife had decided they no longer wanted to continue with frontier life but instead they went back East. I hope it all went well with them," Aurelian explained.

 

“Oh, you didn’t hear, then…” began Lee, but at that point her brother and Mr. Redmond’s comely daughter were called back by the queer little harmonium playing waif to help with some ecclesiastical housekeeping chore. She had never seen Jacob so keen to do a chore before in her life.

 

She watched the two of them file back into the church, keeping studiously apart from each other.

 

Leonora looked back at the Father, searching his deep brown eyes. His manner was reserved, but those eyes were sharp, missed nothing: except maybe what they didn’t want to see.

 

“Jacob told me how you and Clara took the little harmonium player in last Christmas, when she was at death’s door, and nursed her back to life.” The joke might be that, after the noise of the instrument, they had done the community a disservice; but Lee’s heart was full of vicarious gratitude: around that time, in the black night of  Winter, she had been at the brink of death herself, nursed back from the precipice, barely,  by the loving hands of brother, grandmother and friends. That the Redmonds had done this for one who was neither kith nor kin nor even known to them touched her soul.

 

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“And I miss you too, but why’s my sister talking to your Father?!” Jacob hissed.

 

"How do I know? I might have been able to find out but Arabella called me away," Clara thought she was stating the obvious. Well, she did hurry to respond because, after all, it meant some time to see Jacob again.

 

 

Arabella was ready to receive them with two tall, slightly wobbly looking towers of hymnbooks neatly stacked on the front pew.

 

“Ooops, I forgot I already collected them up!” she grinned “But can you two take them into the vestry at the back there?” she asked with suppressed, conspiratorial mirth.

 

"I know where the vestry is," Clara frowned, what was this girl up to now.

 

“I’m gonna stay here and keep vigil … religious vigil that is!" Arabella announced.

 

Jacob needed no further prompting, grabbing his pile of tottering leather bound books and encouraging Clara to do the same with a hasty “C’mon!”

 

"Very well," Clara scooped her half of the books, almost dropping them in her haste.

 

“The vestry” was a rather grandiose term for an oversized broom cupboard. Jacob just dumped his books without much care. That would never do for Clara though, who carefully set her stack down then even straightened a few out of place volumes before deciding it was satisfactory. Then facing Jacob.

 

"You look as handsome as ever," Clara actually smiled at the sight of him. For the moment her father and his sister were forgotten.

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The Lutz woman was about to say something but that train of thought seemed to be derailed when Clara and her brother were called into church by the Mudd girl. When Miss Lutz continued it seemed to be on a new topic.

 

“Jacob told me how you and Clara took the little harmonium player in last Christmas, when she was at death’s door, and nursed her back to life.”

 

"Oh that, well it was the Christian thing to do," Aurelian shrugged, "And actually young Miss Mudd just needed some warmth, rest, and some nourishing meals to bounce back. Youth are resilient you know."

 

"Besides Clara had made it her personal cause to save that girl, so Miss Mudd would not have dared die. When Clara puts her mind to something, she is a sight to behold," he grinned, it was so obvious the man was very proud of his daughter so some bragging should probably be expected from him.

 

 

 

 

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"You look as handsome as ever," Clara actually smiled at the sight of him. For the moment her father and his sister were forgotten.

 

Once they were safely in the Vestry with the door closed behind them, Jacob wanted to get busy canoodling with the alluring Clara, looking, if anything, even prettier than ever in her Sunday best; but being a woman, she wanted to talk.

 

“Yeah, I know, so do you, I mean, you look beautiful! And of course I’m handsome: every time I read a book and there’s some feller in love in it, he’s always handsome! Now, how about a little kiss for this handsome feller?” he smiled, his eyes flashing even in this very pleasantly dark pantry. Time was going to be fleeting, as factor which added to the thrill of it all; that and the thought that at any moment the door might fly open and there could stand Clara’s stern looking Father, his sister, Pastor Evans, the whole dog-gone congregation!

 

Maybe that pest Arabella had gone to fetch them and this was all some nasty prank she was playing on them both, just because he still owed her 15 cents. But nah, she was a pest, but she was a sort of ‘romantical pest’ who was evidently determined to help them in their endeavours to get at least a little spooning in. He didn’t even care if she was listening at the door outside (which she wasn’t, although she did hover near, lest a warning was required).

 

Jacob put his hands on Clara’s trim waist and suddenly felt he was back at the lake again. He looked into her eyes and moved in for a kiss.

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"Oh that, well it was the Christian thing to do," Aurelian shrugged, "And actually young Miss Mudd just needed some warmth, rest, and some nourishing meals to bounce back. Youth are resilient you know."

 

“That’s very modest of you, but then, good Samaritans usually are modest.” Lee smiled warmly, listening to Aurelian speak, trying in the few short minutes she knew that she would spend with him, to read him, somewhat. She knew a little about him, from what Jacob had told her, second hand from Clara, and from Grandma’s scurrilous and generally hostile gossip: for in truth, Nellie Miggins didn’t even have a good word to say about herself, let alone anybody else. She knew he was a widower, quite recently, too. She wondered if that’s why he’d moved himself and his family out here.

 

"Besides Clara had made it her personal cause to save that girl, so Miss Mudd would not have dared die. When Clara puts her mind to something, she is a sight to behold," he grinned, it was so obvious the man was very proud of his daughter so some bragging should probably be expected from him.

 

“Mudd?! Poor girl, what a name!” Leonora couldn’t help laugh, which was a very unchristian thing to do. “But, yes, you must be very proud of Clara: beautiful, intelligent, determined: she will be quite the catch for some young man one day.” She said innocently, dipping her toe in the water to see how cold or warm it might be.

 

“Oh, Mr. Redmond, how I do run on!” Leonora changed the subject. “What I really wanted to ask you about was more, well, farming advice really. I have been quite unwell for over a year and there is so much needs doing at our place. Jacob does his best, of course, but he cannot control Grandma, and she has made some, well, curious innovations. She thinks all the problems in the world can be solved with barbed wire, shotguns, and yelling. And I am such an ignoramus about these matters. Would you be adverse if I were to call on you sometime… chaperoned, of course… and ask you for some advice?” she asked, those enormous, hypnotic eyes staring unblinking into his.

 

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@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Yeah, I know, so do you, I mean, you look beautiful! And of course I’m handsome: every time I read a book and there’s some feller in love in it, he’s always handsome! Now, how about a little kiss for this handsome feller?” 

the boy was simply incorrigible.

 

That didn't mean Clara wouldn't be cooperative, up to a point.

 

"I guess," she nodded as he put his hands on her waist and made his move.

 

She welcomed the kiss and pressed it right back with some enthusiasm, she too remembered that time on the lakeshore when they were both naked and.......

 

When the kiss was over, Clara had to say something, it was too important for her not to be able to tell him before this little moment got interrupted by Arabella or the minister or heaven knows who.

 

"Jacob, I have to tell you something of utmost critical import. I have not had my ...bleed ...since that day."
 

She dearly hoped he knew what that meant, he was a very bright young man. But if not, she would have to explain it to him for this was potentially disastrous news. For if her foreboding was correct, her life would never be the same.

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"That’s very modest of you, but then, good Samaritans usually are modest.”

 

Aurelian shrugged, "I believe it was our late President Lincoln who once said most people have a lot to be modest about. I fit in that category."

 

"Mudd?! Poor girl, what a name!” Leonora couldn’t help laugh.

 

He smiled too, "Oh, I've heard worse. In my company in the war, we had a Walter Shitsellburger."

 

“But, yes, you must be very proud of Clara: beautiful, intelligent, determined: she will be quite the catch for some young man one day.”

 

"Well, I admit to a rather strong bias but I think you're right. She has only recently become interested in boys to be honest. I mean I know it is all rather inevitable but......a part of me wants her to stay my little girl forever," he smiled.

 

But of course the woman had not approached for such chat and then revealed her business.

 

"Farming advice, sure, shoot!" he was most willing to hear her out.

 

"Well.....I have to tell you I myself would never invest my limited money on barb wire. You do know that ranchers, any ranchers I know hate the stuff. Things could get violent, dangerous if they decide to take it out on your family. Have you already put it up?" Aurelian had a worried look now.

 

She then surprised him with a request to visit him to discuss farming? And with an escort? Oh lord, not Grandma Miggins, no one should have to have that foul tempered woman under their roof.

 

"Well, could we just not meet at say...the Lickskillet instead for a meal and a friendly talk?" he decided to suggested, "You would not need an escort there."  

 

 

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"Jacob, I have to tell you something of utmost critical import. I have not had my ...bleed ...since that day."

 

He understood immediately. In everyday parlance: she thought she might be pregnant.

 

He’d been waiting for it, on and off, since that moment on the lakeshore. Not that there wasn’t now numb shock, white faced fear, the vision of a yawning chasm of unavoidable fate widening its maw before him. But he was ready for it, he rode the punch. He was relieved in some ways. He was also, God this was strange, oddly euphoric about the news. She and he were bound now by a knot even tighter than that which had joined them on that muddy shore.

 

‘Utmost critical import’ he had to smile at that, even amidst the slightly whiting out of his vision and the clamour of blood rushing through his ears. He put his arms around her, and pulled her close to him, his lips at her ear. “I promise you” he whispered breathlessly, like he’d had the wind knocked out of him by a punch to the gut “I will always be with you, for as long as you want me; and I will always love you, and our baby… our babies.” It was no time for half measures, and scared as he was, he knew that she needed him to sound firm, strong and committed to her. In truth, he needed to hear himself being that way, too.

 

He pulled back a little, so that he could look at her. He smiled reassuringly.

 

“Listen, if you… miss again. We’ll have to do something about it, I mean, tell someone. Don’t feel…” he frowned, not sure if this was coming out right “… don’t feel this is bad. It’s not, it’s beautiful… it’s what I always dreamed of… being with you. It’s all coming sooner than we might have wanted, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” He was talking about himself too much.

 

“How do you feel?” he asked, squeezing her hands. He didn’t mean physically, he meant emotionally.

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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He smiled too, "Oh, I've heard worse. In my company in the war, we had a Walter Shitsellburger."

 

She bit her lip to supress an unladylike smile at this disgraceful sounding name and shook her head. “You’re making that up!” she accused him playfully. “I’m half German and I never heard a name like Sh… well like that one before. Maybe it was his nom de Guerre, in which case more fool him for not picking a better.”

 

Talk then drifted to Clara, and her accomplishments.

 

“But, yes, you must be very proud of Clara: beautiful, intelligent, determined: she will be quite the catch for some young man one day.”

 

"Well, I admit to a rather strong bias but I think you're right. She has only recently become interested in boys to be honest. I mean I know it is all rather inevitable but......a part of me wants her to stay my little girl forever," he smiled. 

 

“My late Papa was just the same, my poor brother-in-law had the Dickens of a time of it when he was courting my sister, Papa used to sit on the stoop with a shot gun waiting for him.” she recalled. Actually, the handsome Mr. Redmond sounded more sensible upon the matter than she might reasonably have expected. 

 

Lee moved the talk to agriculture, and had gotten to the point of getting to go and visit Aurelian at his house, where she hoped to be able to talk more seriously of her concerns and hopes around the growing relationship between her brother and his daughter, when something she said evidently gave him cold feet, though she could guess not what.

 

"Well, could we just not meet at say...the Lickskillet instead for a meal and a friendly talk?" he decided to suggest, "You would not need an escort there." 

 

“Oh, That would be charming!” she smiled. No it wouldn’t – Clara would be there! The whole point was to talk about the spoony couple out of their earshot, so that some remedial action could be put into effect before anything became too messy. Little did she know that particular boat had been well and truly missed.

 

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Did he actually have a little smile as she made her revelation?

 

He put his arms around her, and pulled her close to him, his lips at her ear. “I promise you” he whispered breathlessly,  “I will always be with you, for as long as you want me; and I will always love you, and our baby… our babies.”

 

She stood there frozen for just an instant, she still had deeply personal issues about contact such as hugs or even handshakes, and surprisingly it included contact with Jacob even not to mention her father and brother. But she melted into his embrace when she heard his words and could sense the emotion, the honesty in his tone of voice. If she had any fears of him abandoning her to having this child alone, that vanished. She was right about Jacob, he was a good person. And the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

 

More emotional people would probably be crying about then but that was not Clara. She did sniffle and whisper, "Thank you, thank you, Jacob."

 

He pulled back a little, so that he could look at her. He smiled reassuringly.

 

“Listen, if you… miss again. We’ll have to do something about it, I mean, tell someone. Don’t feel…” he frowned, “… don’t feel this is bad. It’s not, it’s beautiful… it’s what I always dreamed of… being with you. It’s all coming sooner than we might have wanted, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

 

She knew what he meant, she understood the sentiments behind the words but she wasn't sure she could put it that way. A baby out of wedlock was something that would mark them for life, especially her. The life she had now she could no longer have. The future, even one with him at her side, was going to be hugely challenging, maybe even overwhelming plus they would be responsible for another life which totally depended on them.

 

"How do you feel?” he asked, squeezing her hands.

 

"Honestly? I feel very worried and more than a little overwhelmed by all the implications. Our lives are going to change completely. And, once I know for certain....we are indeed going to have to tell people. Your family and mine just for starters. I mean....it is all so much to think about," Clara sighed.

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"How do you feel?” he asked, squeezing her hands.

 

"Honestly? I feel very worried and more than a little overwhelmed by all the implications. Our lives are going to change completely. And, once I know for certain....we are indeed going to have to tell people. Your family and mine just for starters. I mean....it is all so much to think about," Clara sighed.

 

He nodded. “It’s a shock and no mistake. I never really imagined what exactly our wedding day would be like, just that I wanted it to happen one day; but I know girls are big on that sort of thing. Well, things might just have to be a little more ‘down home’ that you’d hoped for but … well, I suppose what I‘m saying is, it’s in our hands to be happy or sad about whatever life throws at us.”

 

As if feeling the need for some philosophical support, he added:

 

“What did old Abe Lincoln say? ‘People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ Well, I made up my mind to be happy a long time ago, just so long as I could be with you.”

 

He wanted to kiss her again, squeeze her, make sure she knew he meant every word he said, but there was suddenly a loud thumping at the door and it opened and Arabella flew in with a cry of “Someone’s coming! It’ll look less fishy if we all come out together!” She panted for breath and looked at them both, especially Clara, with a weird look on her face, sort of a little let down, as if she’d just caught Pastor Evans with his fingers in the collection box for the poor (again). She’d clearly heard. Arabella never usually shut up, but she was silent now as, with a brave little grimace on her face, she dared to break Clara’s touching taboo, and gave her an eloquent little pat on the arm. That pat spoke even more than the pot girl's mouth ever could. It said “Well, turns out my idol had feet of clay after all, but a friend in need is a friend indeed and I’m gonna keep my big mouth shut and my big heart open for you, Clara Anne Redmond.” Or words to that effect. 

 

“Don’t I get a pat on the arm?” asked Jacob.

 

Arabella used words, rather than gestures this time. “You idiot, Hayseed!” she fired the words at him: it was clear that she held him responsible for this fine kettle of fish. Also, to an extent, herself. She’d introduced them, she should have known that anything she touched would turn to the very opposite of gold.

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“You’re making that up!” she accused him playfully. “I’m half German and I never heard a name like Sh… well like that one before. Maybe it was his nom de Guerre, in which case more fool him for not picking a better.”

 

"Maybe I am remembering it wrong, it was a long time ago, the war, and I've tried to forget most of it," Aurelian admitted with a light shrug. Some sights were burned into his memory forever though.

 

The woman wished to talk agriculture though and the topic moved to arranging for that rather unexpected discussion. Aurelian did not mind such a meeting but he was damned if he was going to agree to an arrangement that might mean he had to allow the ferocious Granny Miggins inside his home. So instead he suggested the Lick Skillet, the food was good, it was in public and Miss Lutz would need to bring that dried up old harpy along.

 

"Oh, That would be charming!” she smiled.

 

"Capital! I don't get into town often but I need to see the blacksmith on Wednesday this week. Would you be able to make it? Not the blacksmith's of course, the Lick Skittle?" he asked amiably.

 

 

 

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Clara listened raptly as Jacob said all the right things, it was clear he was determined to stick it out with her and even rather enthusiastic about where it was leading. Marriage.  If she really was going to have a baby, the best of all possible outcomes would be for them to be married as soon as possible before she was openly showing, or heaven forbid, already giving birth. Up until this happened, Clara had entertained no serious thoughts about marriage, in fact for a long time felt fated to die a spinster, unappealing to any suitor. Then one dance and one fancy ball dress (not even her own but provided by kindly Emeline) had changed everything. She got herself a boy alright. However she not counted on what soon followed after. They had such fools that afternoon at the swimming hole. And she would certainly not put the blame on Jacob, yes he made the first moves but she went along with it, eagerly even. It was almost sickening to think what a hypocrite she was.

 

There was suddenly a loud thumping at the door and it opened and Arabella flew in with a cry of “Someone’s coming! It’ll look less fishy if we all come out together!”

 

Clara stepped back from Jacob an instant protest on her lips, "We were not doing anything improper."

 

Strangely Arabella was speechless as the girl stared at her. Clara wondered if Arabella somehow knew what had happened? Had she been listening at the door maybe? Something was different with her. But the girl approached and lightly patted the older girl's arm. As in supportive? Now Clara was silent too, not sure what to say.

 

“Don’t I get a pat on the arm?” asked Jacob.

 

Arabella used words, rather than gestures this time. “You idiot, Hayseed!” she fired the words at him.

 

"Please, he is not an idiot. And he's not Hayseed, his name is Jacob," instantly Clara came to his defense, she almost added    'he's going to be my husband' but there was no way she was ready to utter such a declaration out loud yet.

 

 

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"Please, he is not an idiot. And he's not Hayseed, his name is Jacob," instantly Clara came to his defense, she almost added    'he's going to be my husband' but there was no way she was ready to utter such a declaration out loud yet.

 

Arabella swivelled her gaze from the boy back to Clara, meeting her gaze clearly and evenly. “I know.” she said, and had Clara completed her sentence she might well have said the same thing. There was something about the two of them, so strangely mismatched to unseeing eyes, that made them belong naturally together. She was the gooseberry standing between two lovers, no matter how helpful she was trying to be, that was who she was now. Out in the cold again.

 

“Come on” she said, pointing to door “And fer Heck’s Sake, try and look like you’ve been stacking hymn books!!”

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Clara was a little surprised Arabella took her stern correction so well, she had expected some argument but was glad when the girl did not.

 

“Come on” the younger girl said, pointing to door “And fer Heck’s Sake, try and look like you’ve been stacking hymn books!!”

 

"How exactly is one supposed to look like when stacking hymnals?" Clara frowned but nodded once to Jacob then headed on out. They really hadn't done anything wrong now. That had already happened quite a while back.

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