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Lunch at Lick Skillet


Aurelian Redmond
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Mature Content: No

With: Lenora Lutz, Aurelian Redmond
Location: Lick Skillet Diner
When: June 1876
Time of Day: Just past 11:00 AM

 

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Aurelian had to go into town that day to bring in some bridles and reins to be repaired, the blacksmith did such things too and better than he himself could plus took barter for payment. He would pay him in produce. After dropping off the items at the smithy, he then proceeded to the Lick Skillet for the lunch appointment with Miss Lutz. Clara was not working that day not that it mattered. He was there to discuss farming matters with the woman. He was just grateful it didn't have to be Granny Miggins.

 

Emeline had to wait on customers besides prepare the food in the kitchen but she was prompt and efficient even as Clara always proclaimed the woman to be. He ordered a bowl of stew and a coffee, this place made better coffee than back at home. Then he sat back to await the woman's arrival, he was perhaps a bit early.

 

 

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Aurelian wasn’t early, Leonora was late. She knew she was late: why, she’d had to hang around in that hardware store for what seemed like an eternity, constantly checking the clock on the wall and fending off helpful approaches by the clerk, to ensure that she was late. Her first words to Aurelian as she entered the diner and approached his table were the inevitable ones. 

 

“Oh! Am I late?” 

 

While Aurelian assured her that she wasn’t, Leonora scanned the room to see who was waiting on today. With relief she saw the woman who owned the place was somehow managing to do all the waitressing and prepare all the food on her own: Bad for her, good for Lee: that meant that Clara wasn’t on today and she would be able to talk to Aurelian in private. 

 

“What a pity Clara isn’t working here today!” she lied, managing to look suitably crestfallen.

 

The owner approached and asked what they would like.

“I’ll have whatever this gentleman is having!” smiled Lee at the woman.

 

“How did you get on at the blacksmith?” Leonora asked Aurelian, by way of small talk, before she eased her way into more pertinent questioning.

 

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"Am I late?" the woman began as she approached the table.

 

"No, not really," Aurelian wasn't bothered even if she was less than prompt.

 

“What a pity Clara isn’t working here today!” she lied, managing to look suitably crestfallen.

 

"She does the occasional day off, something I encourage her to do. That girl is such a hard worker, I feel badly for her at times," he explained.

 

The owner approached and asked what they would like.

 

Aurelian smiled, "Like I said before, the stew and a coffee." 

 

“I’ll have whatever this gentleman is having!” smiled Lee at the woman.

 

Emeline then flitted off, she was quite busy this time of day. But it meant business was booming, which was a good thing of course.

 

“How did you get on at the blacksmith?” Leonora asked Aurelian.

 

"Fine, just dropped some things off for repair. And how has your day been thus far, Miss Lutz?" he smiled.

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“How did you get on at the blacksmith?” Leonora asked Aurelian.

 

"Fine, just dropped some things off for repair. And how has your day been thus far, Miss Lutz?" he smiled.

 

“Well, I can’t complain, Mister Redmond: Corn is up, feedstuffs are down.” It was unclear whether that actually was the state of the market, or it was just her way of saying ‘everything is grand’. “I’m glad to hear that the blacksmith is trustworthy, there was a rumor going around that the man can’t even form decent horseshoes. We are fortunate that our hand Ned can shoe horses.”

 

The coffee arrived and Leonora played mother. “Cream? Mr Redmond.” She enquired, pretty sure he’d prefer it strong, dark and powerful, just like his handsome good looks.

 

“We used to have a very strong Farmers’ Union here: it did wonderful work in promoting our rights and fostering co-operation.” Leonora continued, talking shop before she got the real purpose of her meeting him. “Lloyd Sidwell and my brother-in-law were the leading lights, but they’re both gone, of course.” She sighed, remembering the fate of the former owners of Redmond’s farm. “Oh, those poor Sidwells. Well, anyway, I was hoping to revive the meetings and activities of the Union, would I be able to count on your support in that Mr Redmond?”

 

She blew on her coffee and took a sip.

 

image.png.3199d0e7f5f11c494a2dfc5ff03e9369.png

 

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"His horseshoes are fine. Although I did have another fellow help shoe my work horse back in fall. But I have no complaints about the blacksmith," Aurelian assured the woman.

 

The coffee arrived and Leonora played mother. “Cream? Mr Redmond.”

 

"No thank you, I like it black," Aurelian held up one hand waving off the offer.

 

She then launched into something he had only heard a few rumblings about, a farmers union that used to be active in the locality some time back. But plainly it wasn't anymore and that was cause for concern. She also seemed to regard Mr. Sidwell in past tense.

 

"Excuse me, are you saying that Mr. Sidwell is deceased? They went back east was the last I heard," he was curious now.

 

He purposefully did not address the topic of him joining this union.

 

 

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"Excuse me, are you saying that Mr. Sidwell is deceased? They went back east was the last I heard," he was curious now. 

 

“Mr. Sidwell?” Lee shook her head “… the whole family!

 

A sad nod and two words, “Canned apples”, was all the explanation of this mass extermination she felt necessary to offer.

 

He purposefully did not address the topic of him joining this union.

 

“So, about the Farmer’s Union…” she continued “The concern will not be an onerous burthen upon you at all: it will merely involve helping to organise the meetings and securing a suitable venue as well as the taking and printing up of the minutes and any forms of circular that might be necessary, oh, and securing speakers for some of the extraordinary meetings…” she shut up for a second to take another sip of the coffee.

 

“At the first meeting we will vote in the officers: I cannot help but feel that a gentleman of your intelligence and forceful character would be ideal as Chairman.” She smiled.

 

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The Sidwells died of canned apples? The whole family? There were only Mr. and Mrs. Sidwell. And they were heading directly back east. How did this woman even find out such alarming news? But before Aurelian could ask any questions, the lady brought up a new and, to be honest, almost as unpleasant topic.

 

“At the first meeting we will vote in the officers: I cannot help but feel that a gentleman of your intelligence and forceful character would be ideal as Chairman.” She smiled.

 

He then sipped his coffee, figuring the best way to let her hopes down was to do it clearly and immediately, no beating around the bush.

 

"You know you would make a fine recruiting officer for the army but there was one thing I learned in my military days and that was never, ever volunteer for anything. That and given my rather precarious situation situated smack dab between two of the biggest ranches in Montana means I have no wish to join anything which might just antagonize them. So..............no thank you, I am not joining at this time. And - if I do join in the future it will be at a time of my choosing."

 

"So I'm sorry, Miss Lutz, but good luck with it," he smiled pleasantly enough but the tone of voice during his answer made his views quite definitive.

 

 

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"So I'm sorry, Miss Lutz, but good luck with it," he smiled pleasantly enough but the tone of voice during his answer made his views quite definitive.

 

Leonora’s face at Mr. Redmond’s flat refusal to help rebuild the Farmers Union, at least at the current time, was a picture, running the gamut of all the emotions from surprise, slight annoyance, sadness, and finally, and perhaps surprisingly, a smile, as she looked down thoughtfully at her coffee.

 

“I guess I’m being a little pushy, aren’t I?” she looked back up at him with those sparkling blue eyes illuminating her pretty face. “Please forgive me, Mr. Redmond: I’ve been out of the world for a whole year, I feel like I’ve fallen behind, perhaps I’m in too much of a hurry to catch up.” She philosophised.

 

“Maybe we should talk about something else then, other than farming.” She took a sip of coffee, drawing the subject to a coda. When she put the cup back down on the saucer with a clink, it signalled round two.

 

“You said at Church that Clara sometimes mentions my brother, what does she say?” she asked, with an air of mild curiosity.  

 

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“I guess I’m being a little pushy, aren’t I?” she looked back up at him with those sparkling blue eyes illuminating her pretty face. “Please forgive me, Mr. Redmond: I’ve been out of the world for a whole year, I feel like I’ve fallen behind, perhaps I’m in too much of a hurry to catch up.”

 

"No, don't worry about it. You weren't pushy, I would just call it.......enthusiastic," Aurelian smiled.

 

She then thought they should move onto other topics which was fine with the man who nodded.

 

“You said at Church that Clara sometimes mentions my brother, what does she say?” she asked, with an air of mild curiosity.  

 

"Oh that! Nothing bad, that is for certain," he chuckled, "Clara is most taken by Jacob. She told of how smart she thought him, how he is quite the reader, and even a poet. And she also praised what a gentleman he is which has not been the case for a few of the young men she has had to deal with in the past year or so. To her, your Jacob is a breath of fresh air."

 

 

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Leonora listened to Aurelian with rapt attention, and it was hard to tell if she was agog at what he was saying or the man who was saying it. Or maybe both.

 

"Oh that! Nothing bad, that is for certain," he chuckled.

 

She looked relieved and, smiling, took another sip of coffee.

 

"Clara is most taken by Jacob. She told of how smart she thought him, how he is quite the reader, and even a poet. And she also praised what a gentleman he is which has not been the case for a few of the young men she has had to deal with in the past year or so. To her, your Jacob is a breath of fresh air."

 

“Well” she replied “I can assure that the feeling is mutual. Clara is clearly such a very pretty girl, but it seems to be more than that. My brother never ceases to talk of your daughter’s good sense, wide reading and… sense of humor.” She didn’t know if this last might be a surprise to her Father.

 

She frowned now, as if pensive about bringing up something which might not tinkle in Père Redmond’s ears quite so pleasantly.

 

“Jacob has had … dalliances… with a couple of young ladies before. But nothing like this. I…” she realised that her cheeks were blazing red now and she had to force herself to look up and meet his gaze. “… I can’t help wondering if the two of them might have reached... an understanding. And, you must know Mr Redmond, that once a boy and a girl have reached an understanding, then further consequences are … unfortunately… a possibility!” Oh, to be able to simply call a spade a spade!

 

Despite her embarrassment at having to speak of such things to a man, and an attractive man at that, she struggled on: “Would it not be a sensible of us to encourage the two of them to meet together as often as possible under our supervision, lest, left to their own devices, secret and ungoverned… trysts might arise.” She couldn’t help feeling that her own pretty face must be an alarming shade of crimson; all this having to talk of understandings and trysts and consequences.

 

She, who had never had any of these things.

 

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Well”  the woman replied “I can assure that the feeling is mutual. Clara is clearly such a very pretty girl, but it seems to be more than that. My brother never ceases to talk of your daughter’s good sense, wide reading and… sense of humor.”

 

Of course Aurelian basked in hearing compliments about his beloved daughter and smiled, "Well, it's sort of a dry sense of humor - I believe they call it."

 

He had for some years now gently prodded her to be less serious even grim at times about things and develop a sense of humor. Apparently she was beginning to do so. Excellent!

 

“Jacob has had … dalliances… with a couple of young ladies before. But nothing like this. I…” she realised that her cheeks were blazing red now and she had to force herself to look up and meet his gaze. “… I can’t help wondering if the two of them might have reached... an understanding. And, you must know Mr Redmond, that once a boy and a girl have reached an understanding, then further consequences are … unfortunately… a possibility!”

 

Aurelian tried not to frown. Dalliances? That could mean a lot of things, most of them not good. Well not good when it came to his daughter anyhow. He wasn't a hypocrite though his memories went back to when he was a young man and interested in girls.  Also he caught on right off to what Lenora was going on about. Still this was Clara, his Clara, not other young ladies.

 

"Well, I get your point but I am quite confident that Clara has too much common sense to do ....well, such a thing. I doubt she has ever even kissed a boy yet," he interjected.

 

“Would it not be a sensible of us to encourage the two of them to meet together as often as possible under our supervision, lest, left to their own devices, secret and ungoverned… trysts might arise.”

 

He now cleared his throat, then answered, "I do think you are worrying a bit too much about these two. They've only been to a dance together where they met and seen each other in the diner or at Sunday church services after all. Still, I do have to say there's merit in your idea. And if we set the rules, I'm confident they'll abide by them."

 

Well, at least his Clara would, she'd never had any............dalliances.

 

 

 

 

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He now cleared his throat, then answered, "I do think you are worrying a bit too much about these two. They've only been to a dance together where they met and seen each other in the diner or at Sunday church services after all. Still, I do have to say there's merit in your idea. And if we set the rules, I'm confident they'll abide by them."

 

Leonora was pleased beyond measure, not only that her plan to protect her brother from the possible consequences of his boyish ardour for the Redmond girl had been accepted but, though she would never admit it, that the handsome Mr. Redmond had listened to her, and taken her ideas on the matter seriously. This was an especial relief after he had rejected her more agricultural proposals.

 

Her happiness spread to her face, and she beamed widely. “Oh, I am so glad. Clara must come and visit us at the earliest possible convenience!” she said enthusiastically.

 

“Did you attend the dance, Mr. Redmond?” she enquired. She wasn’t just making polite conversation, she would so dearly have loved to have gone, had her health permitted. "I imagine that many, many ladies would have asked you to mark their card."

 

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His agreement lit up Miss Lutz's face.

 

“Oh, I am so glad. Clara must come and visit us at the earliest possible convenience!” she said enthusiastically.

 

"I'm sure she will be delighted," Aurelian lied.  He knew his daughter and spending time with the likes of Granny Miggins was not something she would desire. But the girl would get to see the boy and that was the point of all this.

 

"And I would like to meet Jacob too. I actually haven't yet," he quickly added, that part was true.

 

“Did you attend the dance, Mr. Redmond?” she inquired.

 

"I did with both my children, Clara worked the bakery booth for some of the time," he answered.

 

 "I imagine that many, many ladies would have asked you to mark their card."

 

That got a chuckle, "Then you would be wrong. I did dance... once... but mostly I talked farming and such with other farmers. Or recalled the war with fellow veterans. Oh, and the food was excellent. Had a few plates of that I will confess."

 

 

 

 

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"I imagine that many, many ladies would have asked you to mark their card."

 

That got a chuckle, "Then you would be wrong. I did dance... once... but mostly I talked farming and such with other farmers.

 

So, he was interested in talking about agriculture, but just not belonging to any sort of formal organisation. She tipped her head with interest.

 

“Or recalled the war with fellow veterans. Oh, and the food was excellent. Had a few plates of that I will confess."

 

“You were in the war.” She said softly. “I somehow knew that you must have been. You do not seem like the type to shirk at home when what is right has to be fought for.” She cooed admiringly. She could just imagine him in uniform, probably a dashing cavalryman, cutting down ugly and traitorous secessionist rebels left and right, adoring darkies raising their hands in praise, lifting up a little pickaninny baby to kiss him their thanks. She didn’t believe the tales that Ned, that self-styled ‘old piece o’ contraband’ told them about the approach of Sherman’s army at the end of the war, about how no-one, white, black or mulatto; man woman or child, was quite safe from the raiding parties that burnt a scorched path, 40 miles wide as they waded through the Southland.

 

Shame on him, ungrateful wretch.

 

Even if there was any truth in his wild stories of misconduct by some Union troops, Mr Redmond, she was sure, had been a perfect gentleman in his conduct.

 

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"You were in the war.” She said softly. “I somehow knew that you must have been. You do not seem like the type to shirk at home when what is right has to be fought for.”

 

"Well, in the beginning there was a wave of patriotic emotion and thousands volunteered for the great adventure, sacred cause, whatever," he shrugged but also smiled.

 

"I was one of those. I volunteered for the cavalry though not actually all that good a horseman. I learned soon enough though," he added.

 

"I stayed in for the duration too. I don't know, maybe I've always just been stubborn. My darling wife would definitely say I was the stubborn sort," there was this look in his eyes every time he mentioned her.

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"Well, in the beginning there was a wave of patriotic emotion and thousands volunteered for the great adventure, sacred cause, whatever," he shrugged but also smiled.

 

“Sacred cause.” She confirmed, softly, with a nod.

 

"I was one of those. I volunteered for the cavalry though not actually all that good a horseman. I learned soon enough though," he added.

 

“I imagine you looked magnificent upon your steed.” Lee smiled, picturing a magnificently uniformed Aurelian, smile gleaming, atop a Bucephalian grey stallion.

 

"I stayed in for the duration too. I don't know, maybe I've always just been stubborn. My darling wife would definitely say I was the stubborn sort," there was this look in his eyes every time he mentioned her.

 

“Oh, Mr. Redmond. Your poor wife. I … I am sorry if this conversation has made you sad.” She went to reach out a hand to his but realised that this was too bold and quickly pulled it back. Her eyes glimmered a little with sympathetic tears. “They say it is better to have loved and lost that to have never loved at all, Mr. Redmond, but when I witness how much you miss your dear wife, how you look when you talk of her… I think that I am lucky never to have known such love.” She sighed.

 

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“I imagine you looked magnificent upon your steed.” Lee smiled.

 

Aurelian chuckled, "Three days on campaign and we looked bedraggled and my magnificent steed was never nothing more than a smallish mare who had the annoying habit of sometimes not wanting to stay in march column. She had a mind of her own, that one."

 

He happened to mention his wife and of course he well remembered the love of his life but he was used to dealing with it by now. That elicited, unintentionally actually, quite some sympathy from the woman.

 

“Oh, Mr. Redmond. Your poor wife. I … I am sorry if this conversation has made you sad.” She went to reach out a hand to his but realised that this was too bold and quickly pulled it back.

 

Aurelian of course noticed the quickly withdrawn gesture but gave no reaction and certainly did not take any offense.

 

Her eyes glimmered a little with sympathetic tears. “They say it is better to have loved and lost that to have never loved at all, Mr. Redmond, but when I witness how much you miss your dear wife, how you look when you talk of her… I think that I am lucky never to have known such love.” She sighed.

 

"They do, huh? Well, don't worry about me. She will live forever in my memory but one has to keep living, keep moving forward. And I have my children. Clara actually looks quite a bit like her. She had the same dark hair and hazel eyes.  She was a striking woman," he revealed.

 

"As for yourself, Miss Lutz, there is another saying. Never say never. You may some day find someone or that someone finds you," he opined.

 

 

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Leonora laughed at Aurelian’s description of his not-so-magnificent steed and his bedraggled state during the war, and then chided him that “You must let us ladies cherish our illusions, Mr. Redmond.” But when talk turned to Mrs Redmond, that victim of a vicious Indian murder, the smiles faded away.

 

Her eyes glimmered a little with sympathetic tears. “They say it is better to have loved and lost that to have never loved at all, Mr. Redmond, but when I witness how much you miss your dear wife, how you look when you talk of her… I think that I am lucky never to have known such love.” She sighed.

 

"They do, huh? Well, don't worry about me. She will live forever in my memory but one has to keep living, keep moving forward. And I have my children. Clara actually looks quite a bit like her. She had the same dark hair and hazel eyes.  She was a striking woman," he revealed.

 

“She must have been lovely indeed if it is her looks that Clara has inherited.” Lee agreed.

 

"As for yourself, Miss Lutz, there is another saying. Never say never. You may some day find someone or that someone finds you," he opined.

 

The young woman with the pretty face and the light brown hair smiled philosophically and shrugged a little shrug. Then came beef and biscuit stew which Leonora ate delicately enough, but managed to demolish at a similar rate of knots to Aurelian. Not for nothing did Granny, Jacob and the rest of the family call her ‘The Glutton’. It helped that the stew was delicious, with no lumps of fat or gristle.

 

“Very filling.” Said the young woman once they were finished, for eating hadn’t left much time for talking.

 

“So, we are agreed.” Concluded Leonora, dabbing her lips with a napkin “We shall arrange carefully chaperoned visits for our young friends.” She described them mawkishly, hoping that a stronger word would not be needed if they were carefully watched.

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"Far from me to ruin your cherished illusions then," Aurelian was quite amused, war was nothing like the woman imagined but why change the subject to such a grim topic.

 

Lenora pleased him greatly when she complimented Clara for her looks and of course included his dearly missed Katherine in that too.  He nodded, "Someone had to get the looks in the family."

 

Their stew showed up then and both of them tucked right into it. Lenora was a fast eater but Aurelian really had more on his mind than such things as he too enjoyed his bowl. He also agreed with her assessment of the meal, "Yes, indeed."

 

“So, we are agreed.” Concluded Leonora, dabbing her lips with a napkin “We shall arrange carefully chaperoned visits for our young friends.”

 

"Yes, it's a good idea. Though I would not call them our friends as much as our family. They might not be happy about this but we have their best interests in mind. I shall inform Clara. I have faith she will cooperate, she has always been a most obedient child," he declared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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