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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.

Still Life


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Mature Content: Some disturbing literary imagery.

Author: Arabella Sumter Mudd

With: Caroline Mundee.
Location: Stardust Saloon.
When: Mid May 1876
Time of Day: 10.45 AM.

 

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It was a bright May morning when the door of the funeral parlor cracked open and out darted a black wraith, no, a sparse woman in elegant widow’s weeds: sable dress, gloves, shiny black pointed toes peeping out from under her skirts as she ran, black poke bonnet hiding her face. Widows should walk at a stately funereal pace, but this mourner fair flew across the street and down the boardwalk to the Stardust Saloon, where she disappeared around the rear.

 

Up the back stairs this angel of death zoomed with an unearthly silent tread and burst into Miss Caroline Mundee’s bedroom where, of course, at this time in the morning, the sultry singer was still abed.  “Quick! Help me out o’ this dress before Mr. Ralph or Miss Matild or Cookie see me!!” Arabella hissed at the sleepy headed Caroline as she pulled off a pair of exquisite black point lace gloves and then wrestled with the ribbon bow of her bonnet under her chin. “Undo me at the back!” she yelped sotto voce. To be honest, these were the finest, most beautifully made clothes she had ever worn in her life, but she needed to get them off and hidden away as soon as possible!

 

@Wayfarer

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Caroline woke up with all the sudden commotion in her room. For just an instant she was startled by this black clad stranger until she saw the face. Arabella? She might have known. Sitting up she watched for a moment as the girl whipped off gloves and tossed a hat.

 

  “Quick! Help me out o’ this dress before Mr. Ralph or Miss Matilda or Cookie see me!!”

 

"Loudest and liveliest dead person I ever saw," Caroline smirked.

 

“Undo me at the back!”

 

"Shouldn't you go back to your coffin?" the saloon girl quipped but threw off her cover and then moved to sit sideways on the bed.

 

"Here!" she waved the girl closer and then began on the stays.

 

"Why on earth are you dressed like a dead person?" she really wanted to know.

 

 

 

 

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"Loudest and liveliest dead person I ever saw," Caroline smirked.

 

“I won’t be alive long if they catch me like this, I been helpin’ Mr Crabbe out!” cried Arabella, still panting from the run.

 

“Undo me at the back!”

 

"Shouldn't you go back to your coffin?" the saloon girl quipped but threw off her cover and then moved to sit sideways on the bed.

 

“Don’t talk t’ me about coffins! I’m an expert on ‘em now. Oh darn this thing!” Arabella snatched and grabbed at the whalebone corset that was fair near breaking her lower ribs and was done up in some kind of gordian knot round the back. “I don’t know why Bridget ‘sisted on trussin’ me up in this contraption, I ain’t got nuthin to hold in, in the first place!”

 

"Here!" she waved the girl closer and then began on the stays.

 

"Why on earth are you dressed like a dead person?" she really wanted to know.

 

“I ain’t dressed as a dead person...” Arabella corrected, twisting her head around to examine Caroline in her nightie, “... you are, in that shroud! I’m dressed as a mourner. I been helpin’ Crabby out with his dead people photy-graphs. You know, that little Mortimer girl, Olivia, as died Tuesday of the quinces.” (she meant the Quinsy)  “All o’ Six years old, prettiest little darlin’ thing you ever did see. I had to help her Mama get her all dressed up again like when she was alive, in her best party frock an’ little shoes and we did her hair up, all pretty like. You never saw anything quite so affectin’ Caro’.” Arabella explained as the stays finally sprang off, and she got to work on the boots.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“I ain’t dressed as a dead person...” Arabella corrected, twisting her head around to examine Caroline in her nightie, “... you are, in that shroud! I’m dressed as a mourner. I been helpin’ Crabby out with his dead people photy-graphs. You know, that little Mortimer girl, Olivia, as died Tuesday of the quinces.”

 

"Oh right, mourner. Yeah, I get it now," Caroline nodded, "Think it's quinsy though."

 

   “All o’ Six years old, prettiest little darlin’ thing you ever did see. I had to help her Mama get her all dressed up again like when she was alive, in her best party frock an’ little shoes and we did her hair up, all pretty like. You never saw anything quite so affectin’ Caro’.”

 

"Awww, that is sad. Kid never got a fair chance in life," the saloon girl sighed," That's the thing though, never know when any of us are gonna meet our maker. Treasure the time we got, I say."

 

 

 

 

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"Awww, that is sad. Kid never got a fair chance in life," the saloon girl sighed," That's the thing though, never know when any of us are gonna meet our maker. Treasure the time we got, I say."

 

“Ain’t that the truth! This time next week it could be me or you old Crabby’s takin’ a picture of, propped up in front of that camera thing he’s got.” She shuddered in agreement. Boots finally off, she started to stow the whole outfit in Caroline’s wardrobe. “Don’t mind me hidin’ this all in here do you?” she asked a little rhetorically. It was no use ‘hiding' anything in her wardrobe, she only had two dresses.

 

Now that she was reduced to a tatty chemise and a pair of patched and worn pantalettes, along with a pair of black woollen stockings that were more darning than original material, with her hair mussed up where she’d pulled off the bonnet, she looked more like the same old Arabella. She jumped, uninvited, into Caroline’s bed and proceeded to tell her more about her morning’s adventures.

 

“Oh Caroline, that poor child’s mother, when she came in, you ain’t never seen anything so pitiful the way she was wailin’ and cryin’ over her little girl. And you know me, weren’t too long before I was crying buckets too, and then we gave each other a hug and then I said let’s say a little prayer together and then I started to ask her all about little Olivia and she was tellin’ me such funny stories about little things she’d done and said in life, and we was laughin’ and then we started to cryin’ agin,  and all this time old Crabby’s getting madder and madder sayin’ he was ‘losin’ the light’ or something.” She recalled, burrowing herself into the warmth of Caroline’s blankets.

 

She jumped up in bed suddenly, remembering something else of vast importance to relate, at least to her mind. “Oh, and when we was actually taking the family snap, I had to stick my hand through a curtain at the back to hold the little girl’s head up, it did loll so, and Mr Crabbe got hoppin’ mad again because he realised you could see my hand and he had to use up another glass plate to take another picture. But later on he said it would actually look pretty good, like a ghostly hand of a angel touching the child’s face. An’ next time he wants me to wear a di-aff-a-nus white nightie to pretend to be a angel for real and he says he can make it look like I’m all see-through and ghostly with a…” what had he called it “… a ‘double exposure’. An’ I said ‘Mr Crabbe’ by the sound o’ that there di-aff-a-nus nightie, I reckon I might be given ya the wrong kind of exposure’!”

 

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"You can hide that stuff in there, nobody is gonna go thru my wardrobe, not if they know what's good for 'em," Caroline smiled.

 

She admired the kid's gumption plus she just wanted to earn some more money, Caroline could understand ambition.

 

Once mostly undressed the girl hopped onto Caroline's bed then began to chatter away. Well, she knew Arabella enough by now to know this might take awhile. So Caroline sat down next to her and let her talk. Though she had never been a mother the saloon girl's heart went out to that poor mother losing a sweet young child like that. And the photography session sounded downright creepy in her opinion. She'd have to talk to Crabbe someday about all this.

 

Arabella did lose her though on whatever sort of nightie she was supposed to wear? She never heard of that word but the girl didn't seem too excited over the concept.

 

"Just tell him 'no'. Actually, child, yer gonna have to explain what yer talking about now. I never went to school and there are a lot of words I don't understand ya know," Caroline admitted.

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"Just tell him 'no'. Actually, child, yer gonna have to explain what yer talking about now. I never went to school and there are a lot of words I don't understand ya know," Caroline admitted.

 

“What, Di-Aff-A-Nuss?” asked Arabella “Oh, that’s easy. See, I was round playin’ at Bridget’s onct, and Mr Crabbe says ‘Oh dear, I want to take some Tablows’ and I says ‘What’s Tablows?’ and he says ‘Thems scenes of historical times, recreated for the camera’ and I say ‘Well how bout Joan of Arc bein’ crisped at the stake?’, because that’s my friend Clara Redmond’s very favorite and he says ‘Good idea Arabella, but who can star as Saint Joan in this picture?’ and I says ‘Well, why not me?”

 

She looked at Caroline and asked “You followin’ this?” what with her never having been to school.

 

“Anyhow, I got all dressed up to be old Joan tied to a stake, and Mr Fa had painted up some pretend flames and everything, and Mr Crabbe give me this nightie to wear, but I was standin’ there at the stake all ready to be tomartyred, and I says ‘Hey Mr Crabbe, this night dress is near enough see-through, surely that ain’t right!’ and he says ‘It ain’t see-through, it’s just di-aph-a-nuss!’ and I says ‘what’s that mean?’ and he says ‘di-aph-a-nuss means it just looks see-through, but really it ain’t!’ and I says ‘oh!’.”

 

She lay in bed and gave a low chuckle.

 

“He he, old Carbby’s gonna be hoppin’ mad if'n he develops them there pictures and it turns out that old nightie was see-through after all! Them pictures’ll be no use to him at all, and he’ll have to throw the whole lot of ‘em away!”

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Once Caroline asked, Arabella was happy enough to try and clear up the confusion over the word but her roundabout beginning was a bit hard to follow, try as Caroline might.  Tablow? Least she had heard of Joan of Arc, some Frenchie who got burned at the stake for being a witch. Not that she believed that load of tripe.

 

She looked at Caroline and asked “You followin’ this?”

 

"Yeah, you wanted to be Joan gettin' burnt up, got it," Caroline only mostly got it but Arabella charged on.

 

Finally it became clear. The gown the kid was wearing might well have been giving viewers a look at her female parts. Though Caroline thought a person would have to have good eyes to see much of the girl's breasts such as they were. Obviously she was not about to say it aloud though.

 

"Ohh, I get it," Caroline nodded, it was all clear - finally.

 

“He he, old Carbby’s gonna be hoppin’ mad if'n he develops them there pictures and it turns out that old nightie was see-through after all! Them pictures’ll be no use to him at all, and he’ll have to throw the whole lot of ‘em away!”  

 

Arabella was quite amused. Caroline did have to point something out though.

 

"I ain't so sure, kid. I can tell you for a fact that there are men out there who would be more than happy to pay money for them kind of pictures and worse. There was a parlor in Chicago that sold photographs of topless whores. Maybe even people who weren't whores."

 

"But enough of that, this ain't a fit subject for us to be talkin' about, hon," she smiled.

 

 

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"I ain't so sure, kid. I can tell you for a fact that there are men out there who would be more than happy to pay money for them kind of pictures and worse. There was a parlor in Chicago that sold photographs of topless whores. Maybe even people who weren't whores."

 

“REALLY?!” asked Arabella wide eyed, shocked, but more in an interested than horrified sort of way.

 

“Well, Mr. Crabe’s pictures ain’t for givin’ folks tawdry thrills, they’re more for ‘artistic connoisseurs’ and ‘historical interest’ he says. Or ‘Instructive’. He had this one good idea about teachin’ Red Indian squaws how to dress up properly like white women by getting a lady to model takin’ off all her different bits of clothes one by one. And he’d take a picture of each time a item came off. Then he’d print ‘em in backwards order and that’d show them squaws how to get dressed. Good idea, huh?” she asked, impressed by the notion herself.

 

“I offered to be the model for that, it seemed like such a good and kind thing to do fer them poor heathens, but after seein’ me in that there Di-aff-in-uss see-through nightie, he said he was lookin’ for a lady with more of a ‘womanly’ figure. I suggested Miss Bowen, the School Mistress. You know,  she’s got some pretty big…” but Caroline cut her off.

 

"But enough of that, this ain't a fit subject for us to be talkin' about, hon," she smiled.

 

Why ain’t it?” pouted Arabella, sitting up in bed. “Oh Caroline, you treat me like I’m a baby, but I ain’t as green as I’m cabbage lookin’. I’m experienced. You know a couple of nights ago, a boy kissed me …” she whispered the last bit “… down there! … under the stairs!”

 

She flopped back onto the pillow and nodded knowingly, waiting to see la Mundee’s reaction to this amazing piece of news.

 

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"REALLY?!” asked Arabella wide eyed, shocked, but more in an interested than horrified sort of way.

 

"Yes, really," Caroline was not certain about how the girl had just reacted though. Was she intrigued?

 

“Well, Mr. Crabe’s pictures ain’t for givin’ folks tawdry thrills, they’re more for ‘artistic connoisseurs’ and ‘historical interest’ he says. Or ‘Instructive’. He had this one good idea about teachin’ Red Indian squaws how to dress up properly like white women by getting a lady to model takin’ off all her different bits of clothes one by one. And he’d take a picture of each time a item came off. Then he’d print ‘em in backwards order and that’d show them squaws how to get dressed. Good idea, huh?”

 

"Ummm, not sure I believe him on all of this. Arabella, now me and Crabbe are friends, we been friends for a good time now but I say this in all honesty - do not always trust that man."

 

Arabella went on though until finally Caroline forced a change of subjects.

 

"But enough of that, this ain't a fit subject for us to be talkin' about, hon."

 

“Why ain’t it?” pouted Arabella, sitting up in bed.

 

"Yer too young still, give it more time," Caroline doubted a girl like Arabella would listen to her in the end but she would have at least tried.

 

“Oh Caroline, you treat me like I’m a baby, but I ain’t as green as I’m cabbage lookin’. I’m experienced. You know a couple of nights ago, a boy kissed me …” she whispered the last bit “… down there! … under the stairs!”

 

Caroline blinked, well it wasn't that surprising, the older Arabella got the more the menfolk and boys would be all over her. And it could be a terrible thing too, like what had happened to her. She was younger than Arabella when she herself had been attacked.

 

"I don't think yer a baby. I think yer a friend and I'm always gonna say what I think friends can say to each other. Friends don't always just agree on everything. But................a boy huh?" she had to smile.

 

"As in a real boy? Not a thirty year old cow - boy?" she wanted to make sure.

 

"Was he handsome? And ....nice to you?"

 

 

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"I don't think yer a baby. I think yer a friend and I'm always gonna say what I think friends can say to each other. Friends don't always just agree on everything. But................a boy huh?" she had to smile.

 

“Course a boy! I wouldn’t kiss a girl would I?!” Arabella laughed. Geez, was that another hole in her stocking toe she could feel? She flopped a leg out of bed to have a look.

 

"As in a real boy? Not a thirty year old cow - boy?" she wanted to make sure. 

 

“Nah, a boy boy. I’m through with all them old fellers I kept fallin’ in love with. I reckon I was just pickin’ on them cause they was sorta, you know…” the word she wanted was ‘unobtainable’ “…I could never have ‘em. I suppose I was sort of scared to ever actually kiss a boy … man … despite all the practicin’.” Sure enough, here was her great big toe popping cheekily through the material. Darn, more darning!

 

"Was he handsome? And ....nice to you?"

 

“Handsome? Sure! It was Billy, you know, Evergreen Billy. An’ he weren’t no more mean and nasty than usual. To be honest, I think he just kissed me cause I was there… he’d been watching you doing all your stuff with your dumplin’s bubblin’ over and flashin’ your well turned heel. I reckon you’d got him so up and rarin’ to go he’d a kissed anyone he met with first! Even Cookie!” she collapsed into giggles “… or Ralph!”

 

When she’d stopped giggling and tucked the hole in her stocking between two of her toes, so she could pretend it wasn’t there, she looked up at Caroline.

 

“Ol’ Evergreen Billy. Prettiest boy in the whole o’ Montana, pressing his lips against mine, pressing his beautiful pale body against mine.” She shook her head a little “And I didn’t feel a thing.”

 

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Caroline heard her out, one thing about spending time with the girl, you better learn to expect to do a lot of listening.

 

“Handsome? Sure! It was Billy, you know, Evergreen Billy."

 

"Nope, I can't say as I do."

She had mingled with so many customers every night and she only pretended to make a point of learning their names. But yeah, the Evergreen ranch, she'd heard about that place. And nothing good. Still, their money was American so...

 

 

"An’ he weren’t no more mean and nasty than usual. To be honest, I think he just kissed me cause I was there… he’d been watching you doing all your stuff with your dumplin’s bubblin’ over and flashin’ your well turned heel. I reckon you’d got him so up and rarin’ to go he’d a kissed anyone he met with first! Even Cookie!” she collapsed into giggles “… or Ralph!”

 

Caroline chuckled, "He does sound like quite the desperate fella. You know Ralph'd up and shoot him I bet."

 

“Ol’ Evergreen Billy. Prettiest boy in the whole o’ Montana, pressing his lips against mine, pressing his beautiful pale body against mine.” She shook her head a little “And I didn’t feel a thing.”

 

"Sounds like a bit more than a kiss and.........wait...not sure I follow? So you didn't like him doin' those things to you? Cuz he forced himself on you?" she wondered.

 

 

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 “Handsome? Sure! It was Billy, you know, Evergreen Billy." 

 

"Nope, I can't say as I do."

 

“Oh, you DOOoooo!” Arabella corrected her “Evergreen Billy, he comes in with Mr. Greer, the big fat one with the head that’s all bald and not bald, all at the same time. You know!”

 

"An’ he weren’t no more mean and nasty than usual. To be honest, I think he just kissed me cause I was there… he’d been watching you doing all your stuff with your dumplin’s bubblin’ over and flashin’ your well turned heel. I reckon you’d got him so up and rarin’ to go he’d a kissed anyone he met with first! Even Cookie!” she collapsed into giggles “… or Ralph!” 

 

Caroline chuckled, "He does sound like quite the desperate fella. You know Ralph'd up and shoot him I bet."

 

“Unless he’d been watching you too!” Arabella laughed out loud. All of a sudden she had a bizarre vision in her head of a saloon full of rough and ready cowboys: all getting over-excited by Caroline’s act and kissing and cuddling each other to relieve the tension. This weird scene reminded her of her and Billy kissing.

 

“Ol’ Evergreen Billy. Prettiest boy in the whole o’ Montana, pressing his lips against mine, pressing his beautiful pale body against mine.” She shook her head a little “And I didn’t feel a thing.”

 

"Sounds like a bit more than a kiss and.........wait...not sure I follow? So you didn't like him doin' those things to you? Cuz he forced himself on you?" she wondered.

 

Arabella glanced at la Mundee, there had been a weird edge to her voice then, and she felt a strong to reassure her that, no, it hadn’t been like that, not at all.

 

“No! O’ course not!” she frowned “Oh, all right! You forced it outta me – I kissed HIM!” She looked a little embarrassed.

 

“I wanted to see what it was like.” She admitted. “Wanted to see how it made me feel. Well...” she shrugged "... now I do."

 

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“Oh, you DOOoooo!” Arabella corrected her “Evergreen Billy, he comes in with Mr. Greer, the big fat one with the head that’s all bald and not bald, all at the same time. You know!”

 

"If you say so, hon," Caroline shrugged. Not like there were a lot to choose from but yeah, there were a few young handsome lads amongst the customers on occasion. Arabella pressed on with her story.

 

“No! O’ course not!  Oh, all right! You forced it outta me – I kissed HIM!” the girl looked a little embarrassed.

 

Caroline understood, she saw nothing wrong with it. Arabella was young and curious like all young gals. Why she herself had been fascinated with boys when she had been 13  which then rebounded upon her in disaster. Why tell that to Arabella though.

 

“I wanted to see what it was like.” the girl admitted. “Wanted to see how it made me feel. Well...” she shrugged "... now I do."

 

"So curiosity satisifed then? Good fer you," Caroline smiled but Arabella had made it clear already she had not been exactly enthralled about the lad.

 

"If he is not yer type, you can always find someone who is down the line. Lot of boys in this world, don't need to get attached to the first one, believe me," she advised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 “I wanted to see what it was like.” the girl admitted. “Wanted to see how it made me feel. Well...” she shrugged "... now I do."

 

"So curiosity satisfied then? Good fer you," Caroline smiled but Arabella had made it clear already she had not been exactly enthralled about the lad.

 

The girl shook her head. She was more curious, if anything. Curious about herself. “Why wouldn’t I fall fer a boy like that, Caroline? Why wouldn’t I?” she wondered out loud.

 

“If he is not yer type, you can always find someone who is down the line. Lot of boys in this world, don’t need to get attached to the first one, believe me,” she advised. 

 

“Hmmm” replied Arabella, unconvinced. She sat up suddenly and then fell back, mimicking a dead faint.

 

“I know, let’s play Pretend! I’ll pretend to be a girl that’s dead, and you can pretend to be a naughty undertaker feller who wanted to kiss and cuddle me when I was alive, but never got a chance, and now I’m all in your power and you can kiss and cuddle me all you like!” she suggested bizarrely. It was just the sort of game she used to play with Melissa Cartlidge back in Virginia. She hadn’t had a good game of Pretend since she’d come out West. Clara was too serious for such childish games, and Bridget too stupid to do it properly. Maybe Caroline would indulge her. It was worth a try!

 

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“Hmmm” replied Arabella, unconvinced. She sat up suddenly and then fell back, mimicking a dead faint.

 

Of course by now Caroline was used to the girl's dramatics and didn't believe it for an instant. It was just the girl's way, people were all different was Caroline's way of looking at things.

 

"I know, let’s play Pretend! I’ll pretend to be a girl that’s dead, and you can pretend to be a naughty undertaker feller who wanted to kiss and cuddle me when I was alive, but never got a chance, and now I’m all in your power and you can kiss and cuddle me all you like!”  the girl suddenly  suggested.

 

Damn! Where did that come from? Caroline blinked and gave a look of surprise too.

 

"Excuse me! How did you come up with that? I can tell you I ain't about to pretend to be some perverted man who wants to play with dead folks.  That is just plain odd, girl," Caroline made a point about not sounding angry though. She mostly tried to never be judgemental of folks.

 

She suddenly leaned in and sniffed near Arabella's mouth, "You ain't been drinkin' by any chance?"

 

"I mean I've done some pretty stupid things on occasion when I've been drunk. Yer too young to be drinkin' already."

 

Truth was though she had started when she was younger than this one. Now she couldn't stop. Well, no, she COULD stop of course but she didn't want to.

 

 

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"Excuse me! How did you come up with that? I can tell you I ain't about to pretend to be some perverted man who wants to play with dead folks.  That is just plain odd, girl," Caroline made a point about not sounding angry though. She mostly tried to never be judgemental of folks. 

 

“Don’t you never play ‘let’s pretend’?” asked Arabella. Seems like nobody round here did.

 

She suddenly leaned in and sniffed near Arabella's mouth, "You ain't been drinkin' by any chance?"

 

“No Ma’m! I signed The Pledge! I’d show you my little Blue Ribbon, but I lended it to Charlie Wentworth, to give him courage.” She said nobly.

 

"I mean I've done some pretty stupid things on occasion when I've been drunk. Yer too young to be drinkin' already."

 

“I’m never letting my sweet lips be sullied by the demon drink!” declared Arabella, sitting up and getting off the bed. “’Cept the other day at the hotel, but that don’t count cause the punch was spiked. Did I tell you how Addy Chappel dragged me outta that place and darn near broke my wrist?  Oh I did, didn’t I. Anyway, I’d best get on.”  She ruminated, standing up in her shambolic undergarments. She scratched her head intensely (so much for Dr. Theosophus T. Mirabeau’s Miraculous Nit Shampoo, 5 cents the bottle).

 

“So… I guess you don’t want to play where you’re the dead girl and I’m the nau… no, I guess not.” She tried one last time for a bit of fun. The playful girl figured that Caroline would have to be the one who’d ‘been drinking’ before she would join in any of her imaginative parlour games.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“Don’t you never play ‘let’s pretend’?” asked Arabella.

 

That was an easy one to answer for Caroline, "Nope."

 

When Caroline suspected Arabella might have been drinking to suggest something so ....strange, the girl vehemently denied it. And signed some stupid pledge too. Caroline rolled her eyes at that.

 

"Did I tell you how Addy Chappel dragged me outta that place and darn near broke my wrist?  Oh I did, didn’t I. Anyway, I’d best get on.”  Arabella ruminated, standing up in her shambolic undergarments.

 

"You did and I know Addy and she is a nice lady so you must of done somethin' wrong. Your wrist was fine, that was your rich imagination," Caroline was unconvinced about that tale of the girl's.

 

"So… I guess you don’t want to play where you’re the dead girl and I’m the nau… no, I guess not.” the girl was relentless.

 

"Geezus!  Enough with the dead people. Just go, hon. See ya later, kid," Caroline now waved her off.

 

She did like the girl but sometimes that child was just plain........odd.

 

Finis?

Oui, Finis!

 

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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