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An Official Visit


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Mature Content: Only in words not actions

With: Clara, Jacob and Lorena Lutz, Granny Miggins
Location: Miggins Farm
When: Early June, 1876
Time of Day: Mid afternoon

 

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When her father had suddenly informed her that if she wanted to see Jacob more often, he would agree but those times needed to be chaperoned. Clara was stunned and not happy about it, least at first. But then she thought she would at least be able to see and talk with Jacob more often. But the lack of privacy....well, lest she get too upset, she had to admit her father and Lenora Lutz had legitimate reasons to for this decision. Thing is it was too late! They had shut the barn door after all the horses were out of the barn! But she could hardly protest that to her father so she meekly agreed to the new conditions.

 

Now this afternoon, the girl was going to visit the Miggins place for the very first time. She was of course delighted to see Jacob, but this also meant she would be formally introduced to Jacob's older sister and far far scarier, none other than Granny Miggins who had a town wide reputation as .........anyhow might be charitable to just say  'formidable'.

 

Aurelian had driven her there in the family wagon but informed the girl he was not even going to get off the vehicle but instead ride off and pick her up four hours from now. He told her to tell the Lutzs and Miggins that he was really busy and needed to get to town. He confided in his daughter though that the real reason was he wanted nothing to do with Granny! Clara understood. Honestly she felt the same way but this was going to be unavoidable in her case. Hopefully Jacob would protect her.

 

Dressed in a clean sober colored brown dress with shoes cleaned and wearing a head covering as polite society expected, the girl then approached the front door of the place and knocked.

 

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Dressed in a clean sober colored brown dress with shoes cleaned and wearing a head covering as polite society expected, the girl then approached the front door of the place and knocked.

 

The door to the Miggins’ homestead creaked open immediately and there stood Jacob looking as pleased as punch to see her. He must have been there all the time – waiting for her Pa to leave and for her to knock. He offered his arms for a quick cuddle before they entered, he knew by now – even despite their intimacies – not to just go ahead and hug her. She had to chose to hug him.

 

In the back somewhere, two female voices could be heard: one old, croaky, but strong and resonant; the other younger, warmer, milder.

 

“Who the Hell’s that a bangin the door down?! Get my shotgun!”

“Oh Granny, that’s just Jacob’s young lady visiting with us!”

“Christ, not that ugly Coltrane creature!”

“Oh no, it is Clara Redmond, Mr. Aurelian Redmond’s daughter. Mr. Aurelian Redmond and I have arranged this little social visit.”

“Oooh! Mister Aurelian Redmond this, Mister Aurelian Redmond that, why don’t you just marry the feller?! Well is he comin’ in? I wanna ask him why he refused my God damn Barbed wire!!”

 

Jacob nodded encouragingly to Clara.

 

“We’re in luck, Grandma’s in a good mood today.” He assured her.

 

As they entered the sitting room, the Miggins Place was big enough to have separate sitting and dining rooms, the old lady in her rocker tipped her head up so she could  examine Clara through her spectacles and Leonora put her embroidery down and gave the newcomer an encouraging smile.

 

“At least this one’s pretty enough!” declaimed Nellie Miggins “Well sit down, girl, sit down! You’re makin’ the place look untidy!”

 

“Did your Father bring you, Clara?” asked Lee in a friendly voice.

 

“Mr. Aurelian Redmond!” reminded Granny, mimicking Leonora’s adoring way of saying the name.

 

@Wayfarer

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The door opened and her heart skipped a beat at the mere sight of him. She also smiled, actually smiled.

He held his arms open for a hug? Reluctantly she shook her head 'no'. This was not the time or place for such emotional displays. His sister and the dreaded Granny Miggins were inside.

 

"Good day, Jacob, thank you for inviting me," Clara stated formally. She already hated this whole chaperone claptrap.

 

Sure enough womens' voices. Goodness gracious, Granny wanted her shotgun! She would shoot an invited guest? She well understood why her father had not wanted to go in with her.

 

Jacob nodded encouragingly to Clara.

 

“We’re in luck, Grandma’s in a good mood today.” He assured her.

 

Clara frowned, "I would hate to see her bad moods."

 

The young pair now braved the interior of the home.  There were the womenfolk. The younger smiled but Granny surprised her with a sort of compliment. Until...

 

“Well sit down, girl, sit down! You’re makin’ the place look untidy!”

 

"Thank you , ma'am," Clara nodded meekly and took the open seat furthest from the old woman.

 

“Did your Father bring you, Clara?” asked Lee in a friendly voice.

 

“Mr. Aurelian Redmond!” reminded Granny, mimicking Leonora’s adoring way of saying the name.

 

Clara winced just slightly but only addressed his sister, "Yes he did, ma'am. And he wanted me to tell you that he did not escort me all the way to the door because he had important matters to attend to....at the bank. You know how early those banks close."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“We’re in luck, Grandma’s in a good mood today.” He assured her, slightly let down that she hadn’t given him even the briefest of embraces, but also understanding that she must be feeling a little on edge visiting their somewhat unusual family set up. Sometimes he felt nervous coming back here himself!

 

Clara frowned, "I would hate to see her bad moods."

 

“You and me both!” he joked, nervously as they went in and Granny ordered Clara to sit while Leonora enquired after Mr Redmond.

 

Clara winced just slightly but only addressed his sister, "Yes he did, ma'am. And he wanted me to tell you that he did not escort me all the way to the door because he had important matters to attend to....at the bank. You know how early those banks close."

 

“They’re NEVER open when you want ‘em!” exclaimed Mrs Miggins “And as soon as they DO bother to open, they go and get themselves ROBBED! Your Pa put money in that bank … um…”

 

She frowned, and for one horrible moment both Jacob and Lee paled, thinking Granny might call Clara ‘Joanna’ by mistake, the name of his last girlfriend.

 

“… Clara? Well, he’s a braver man than me and that’s saying something!” she finished. “Oh well” the old harridan glanced over at Leonora derisively “Looks like you put your best frock on for nothing!”.

 

“Oh Grandma, you know I wear this old thing all the time.” Replied the Lutz girl, her cheeks blazing bright red again. For someone with a weak heart, she sure managed to pump that blood up to her face at the slightest intimation of her interest in Clara’s father.

 

Granny next turned her attention to Jacob, still standing in the room by the door. The chair Clara was occupying was more of a small settee, and the Matriarch of the household now looked at the lad and pointed to it. “What you standin’ around like a bean pole for? Go and sit next to the poor girl. She’s come all this way here to see ya!”

 

Jacob perched gingerly next to Clara, feeling bizarrely ill at ease.

 

Lee, feeling the awkwardness of the ensuing silence tried to make conversation, smiling at Clara and saying “Oh Clara, I have been telling your Father all about my plans to start up again the local Farmers’ Union!”

 

Granny Miggins muttered something under her breath that sounded very much like “The poor bastard.”

 

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“They’re NEVER open when you want ‘em!” exclaimed Mrs Miggins “And as soon as they DO bother to open, they go and get themselves ROBBED! Your Pa put money in that bank … um…”

 

“… Clara? Well, he’s a braver man than me and that’s saying something!” she finished.

 

"To be accurate, it was an attempted robbery and it failed miserably. No one lost their deposits," Clara risked an interruption and then correction also.

 

“Oh well” the old harridan glanced over at Leonora derisively “Looks like you put your best frock on for nothing!”.

 

"Oh Grandma, you know I wear this old thing all the time," Miss Lutz asserted in some embarrassment.

 

"It looks nice," Clara complimented the woman.

 

Now the old woman turned her verbal fury on her grandson “What you standin’ around like a bean pole for? Go and sit next to the poor girl. She’s come all this way here to see you."

 

Clara could not help herself but instantly came to Jacob's defense, "I beg to differ, he is not a beanpole."

Then the subject of Granny Miggins and Clara's disagreement took a seat next to her. A part of her wanted to reach out and hold his hand but that would only make things worse. And then they all sat there.

 

      Lee, feeling the awkwardness of the ensuing silence tried to make conversation, smiling at Clara and saying “Oh Clara, I have been telling your Father all about my plans to start up again the local Farmers’ Union!”

 

Granny Miggins muttered something under her breath that sounded very much like “The poor bastard.”

 

"Yes, he mentioned that," Clara simply nodded and left it at that. Her father had also told her there was no way he was going to get himself and thus the farm involved such a thing  given their precarious location.

 

Clara had not been in favor of this chaperone arrangement from the moment her father revealed it. And what was now going on was exactly why. She had come to spend time with Jacob, they truly had a lot to talk about but it had degenerated (as she suspected it would) into a forced conversation with the ladies. Poor Jacob could never be himself anywhere close to the domineering granny. She made a mental note she would not be visiting a second time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

 
 
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"To be accurate, it was an attempted robbery and it failed miserably. No one lost their deposits," Clara risked an interruption and then correction also.

 

“Yeah, but what about that Whitefish Union Bank job last October?!” countered back Granny Miggins in a flash. “Tom Love’s boys, got away with the who safe-full! Killed a man too, in cold blood. Course, not Tom Love himself, he’s a gentleman, but his half mad sidekick ‘English Fred’. Oh, he’s a bad one. Not like that nice Englishman, Mr. Ryker, who helped us put up our barbed wire fences.” She lied happily, knowing full well that Jay Ryker and “English Fred” were exactly one and the same man.

 

“Granny shot one of them!” said Jacob, a little proudly.

 

“Missed one, you mean. That was when they came back a month or two later. Burnt Whitefish to the ground. I’d ‘a plugged him too, if ‘n I’d had the right specs on! Forgot ma shootin’ glasses at home.” She grumped.

 

“Oh well” the old harridan glanced over at Leonora derisively “Looks like you put your best frock on for nothing!”. 

 

"Oh Grandma, you know I wear this old thing all the time," Miss Lutz asserted in some embarrassment.

 

"It looks nice," Clara complimented the woman.

 

Lee smiled happily at Clara. She didn’t get many compliments.

 

Now the old woman turned her verbal fury on her grandson “What you standin’ around like a bean pole for? Go and sit next to the poor girl. She’s come all this way here to see you. 

 

Clara could not help herself but instantly came to Jacob's defense, "I beg to differ, he is not a beanpole."

 

“Oh! Beg to differ, do you Missy?! Well, beg away, if you think that boy ain’t no beanpole you need glasses worse than me!” the ancient crone countered. “Hmmph! Begs to differ!” she grumbled to herself as she rocked back and forth on the chair in a sort of mesmerising frenzy.

 

Lee, feeling the awkwardness of the ensuing silence tried to make conversation, smiling at Clara and saying “Oh Clara, I have been telling your Father all about my plans to start up again the local Farmers’ Union!”

 

Granny Miggins muttered something under her breath that sounded very much like “The poor bastard.”

 

"Yes, he mentioned that," Clara simply nodded and left it at that. Her father had also told her there was no way he was going to get himself and thus the farm involved such a thing given their precarious location.

 

“Come on!” Suddenly Granny Miggins was hefting herself out of her rocker and motioning Leonora to do the same. “Let’s go fix some vittles’!” she said, making her way to the kitchen.

Leonora looked confused. “But I thought Ned…”

 

“Come on ya big Gooseberry!” chided Granny, as Lee stood up tentatively, put her embroidery down on the chair and followed the matriarch in a sort of daze, looking back at Clara and Jacob with a worried look like she thought they would jump on each other in a fit of carnal lust as soon as they were left alone.

 

Instead, Jacob just let out a sigh of relief and flopped back in the settee.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Granny Miggins went on to discuss the goings on some months back in Whitefish, focusing on a far more successful bank robbery. Clara shrugged but held her ground verbally.

 

"Whitefish is not...was not I should say, Kalispell. Our town bank is safe and secure," she replied calmly.

 

“Oh! Beg to differ, do you Missy?! Well, beg away, if you think that boy ain’t no beanpole you need glasses worse than me!” the ancient crone countered. “Hmmph! Begs to differ!” she grumbled to herself as she rocked back and forth on the chair in a sort of mesmerizing frenzy.

 

Now Clara certainly did not need glasses, her eyesight was sharp, and the realist in her knew that indeed Jacob was quite thin. But to her nothing wrong with that. She had been up close and personal that day with his body and found it a most pleasant experience. But she could see how agitated the old bird was so decided not to respond.  There was just a smattering of further small talk when Granny Miggins stirred.

 

“Come on!” Suddenly Granny Miggins was hefting herself out of her rocker and motioning Leonora to do the same. “Let’s go fix some vittles’!” she said, making her way to the kitchen.

 

Jacob's sister seemed both surprised and a bit alarmed even but obediently followed and then it was simply her and Jacob. Clara waited a moment, eyes fixed on where the women had gone. When it seemed they were indeed doing what Granny had said they would, Clara then turned to Jacob and stood up to lean over for a quick kiss of the boy on his smooth cheek.

 

"I miss you," was her simple and yet ardent admission.

 

 

 

 

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Clara waited a moment, eyes fixed on where the women had gone. When it seemed they were indeed doing what Granny had said they would, Clara then turned to Jacob and stood up to lean over for a quick kiss of the boy on his smooth cheek.

 

Jacob was more than pleasantly surprised, especially after Clara had been to reticent about hugging him at the door when she had arrived at the more far flung Miggins homestead.

 

"I miss you," was her simple and yet ardent admission.

 

He grinned, which didn’t match too well with his reciprocal “I miss you, too.” But he was too overjoyed to be alone with her for the first time in an age to do otherwise. “But pretty soon we’ll be able to be together forever!” he added, looking forward to their future.

 

“Can I … take your hand?” he asked “How are you?” he asked, meaning the obvious. He was assiduous in mentioning how he wanted to marry her and for them to live together before asking if she was still pregnant.

 

He somehow knew she was, anyway. He had heard talk of pregnant women ‘glowing’ (as well as puking in the morning, apparently: he had been fortunate not to have witnessed that) and she certainly fit that bill: there was something rosy about her beauty today.

 

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Jacob was quick to assure her that he missed her also, she believed him. Clara had total trust in the boy by now. She was going to need it too given what was staring both of them in the face for the future.

 

“But pretty soon we’ll be able to be together forever!” he added.

 

She nodded, "I do hope so."  Sadly she lacked his confidence.

 

“Can I … take your hand?” he asked, “How are you?”

 

"You may," Clara held it out but did sneak a worried glance toward where the women left the room. She had no idea how much time they'd have together alone like this.

 

"I am good but if you mean about ....." she didn't need to voice it, "Yes, I am virtually positive. We need to make all our plans assuming we will indeed be having a baby....our baby."

 

 

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"You may," Clara held it out but did sneak a worried glance toward where the women left the room. She had no idea how much time they'd have together alone like this.

 

Jacob took it gladly. Clara’s hand; he studied it closely, like it was the deepest, most important book he could ever read. He felt her warmth and imagined that warmth extending up her arm and filling the whole rest of her body. He wanted to be with her, naked, warm, cocooned together all alone some place. That couldn’t be, not yet, but the feel of her warm hand in his was like a small tangible part of that future paradise.

 

"I am good but if you mean about ....." she didn't need to voice it, "Yes, I am virtually positive. We need to make all our plans assuming we will indeed be having a baby....our baby."

 

Jacob nodded, that confirmed what he already knew, and had accepted weeks ago.

 

“I haven’t told anybody yet” said Jacob, looking into her eyes. “I’ve thought pretty hard about how to tell your Father. Come up with a dozen different ways of saying it. Tell him outright, ask for your hand and just hope he says ‘yes, and let’s make it tomorrow’, all sorts of different ways and means and… I don’t know that any of them will make it easier for him, or us…” he looked at her brown eyes under those beautiful straight eyebrows that always made her seem even more serious than she usually was.

 

“I might tell Lee first, just to see how that goes. Then go see your Pa. Might be better if it’s when you’re not there. I want him to … well, I want to take the first assault, if you get what I mean?” Although this was a difficult subject, it felt so good just to be able to talk about it with Clara. So far, he’d only had the farm animals to unburden himself upon. Buttercup the horse had lost count of the number of times she’d been told ‘Congratulations, Mr Redmond, you’re going to be a Grandfather’! this week.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Just the simple act of the boy taking and holding onto her hand was very comforting to the girl. Clara felt so alone so vulnerable now that she had this secret that she could not yet share with anyone. Other than Jacob of course. She also felt so grateful that he was not abandoning her but was loyal to the core. His support meant everything. He could have just be horrified by her news and coldly denied any responsibility, there was no way Clara could prove anything if he had. But - she had been right about Jacob from the very beginning, he was a good person. Unlike a fairly long list of other men she could think of.

 

Clara now informed him of her certainity she was indeed with child. It did not rattle him in the slightest.

 

"I haven’t told anybody yet” said Jacob, looking into her eyes. “I’ve thought pretty hard about how to tell your Father. Come up with a dozen different ways of saying it. Tell him outright, ask for your hand and just hope he says ‘yes, and let’s make it tomorrow’, all sorts of different ways and means and… I don’t know that any of them will make it easier for him, or us…”

 

Clara's features showed her worry, "Oh, I do not know...if that is such a good idea. You telling him first."

 

It was her father, Clara felt it incumbent upon her to deliver the shocking news.

 

“I might tell Lee first, just to see how that goes. Then go see your Pa. Might be better if it’s when you’re not there. I want him to … well, I want to take the first assault, if you get what I mean?”

 

"How will your sister take this?" Clara was most afraid that the woman would immediately tattle to Granny and then there would be ....heck to pay.

 

"Assault? Oh good heavens, my father is a kindly man. We are truly close and while I know he is going to be very hurt by this, and no doubt angry, I honestly do not think he would harm you. "

 

However one never knew for certain so she added, "Might be best though if I am there, to step in should the worst happen."

 

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Clara's features showed her worry, "Oh, I do not know...if that is such a good idea. You telling him first." 

 

It was her father, Clara felt it incumbent upon her to deliver the shocking news.

 

Jacob shook his head slowly and with great certainty. “It’s got to be me, Clara” he said seriously “I got you this way, I want to marry you, I’ve got to be a man, and I’ve got to face this  with your Pa man to man. I can’t hide behind your skirts or Lee’s or even Granny’s: tempting though that is, believe me. If I’m to be worthy of you, then I’ve got to do this alone.” He said with a firmness he perhaps didn’t really feel when he woke in the wee hours of the morning and went through the possible conversations and their outcomes in his head.

 

“I might tell Lee first, just to see how that goes. Then go see your Pa. Might be better if it’s when you’re not there. I want him to … well, I want to take the first assault, if you get what I mean?” 

 

"How will your sister take this?" Clara was most afraid that the woman would immediately tattle to Granny and then there would be ....heck to pay.

 

Jacob just puffed his cheeks and blew out a whoosh of air. He wasn’t scared of what she would say; just aware that he had let her down and that he didn’t want to add this burden to her already troublesome existence.  

 

"Assault? Oh good heavens, my father is a kindly man. We are truly close and while I know he is going to be very hurt by this, and no doubt angry, I honestly do not think he would harm you."

 

Jacob just shook his head, this time staring into the distance. The man could be sympathy and understanding personified, the thought of telling him made his tummy leap, his heart pound and his legs turn to jelly. Ironic, that’s how seeing Clara made him feel. Same symptoms, but the different circumstances made all the difference.

 

However one never knew for certain so she added, "Might be best though if I am there, to step in should the worst happen."

 

He quit staring into his future fears, and turned to the girl he was with right now, in this very moment and said the only thing he could say when looking at Clara’s beautiful face: “I love you.” 

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Jacob, nobly in Clara's estimation, was insisting he should have to be the one to notify her father about what had occurred. While it was so like him to be like that, Clara had her doubts of the wisdom of that course of action.  For now they choose to disagree but without arguing. He on the other hand could not even venture a guess how his sister might accept  the news. All of this was just nerve wracking. A part of her just wanted to get it over with, even if the adults ended up furious. It was a given already they would be so disappointed.

 

Clara then decided to at least throw in her belief that she should be present if Jacob did face her father, just in case. She had never seen her father lose his temper but then he had not never found out his daughter lost her virginity. Jacob did not refuse her idea but looked at her for a quiet moment.

 

“I love you," he said softly but she just knew it was in total sincerity.

 

"And I love you too. If we can just somehow get through all this ...well, I truly believe we can make a go of it, our future life.  As a family," she nodded.

 

Then out of the clear blue she suddenly asserted, "And lest anyone bring it up, I will not, I absolutely will not give up this baby. It cannot be an option. This is our child, no one can take it away from us."

 

It was something which had been lurking in her fears.

 

 

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Then out of the clear blue she suddenly asserted, "And lest anyone bring it up, I will not, I absolutely will not give up this baby. It cannot be an option. This is our child, no one can take it away from us."

 

It was something which had been lurking in her fears.

 

Jacob went wide eyes, he hadn’t even thought of that as something that might happen.

 

“Oh God, no! We’d… run away first!” he said urgently. “Do you really think that’s something they might try and do to us?” he gasped, alarmed.

 

Just then, the door from the kitchen burst open and Jacob leaped up in fright, letting go of Clara’s hand like it was made of red-hot iron. It was Granny. She jerked a thumb toward the kitchen. “Go help your sister!” she ordered Jacob, who looked worried: like somehow this was the ‘grown ups’ plan to snatch their baby going into immediate operation! He shot Clara what he hoped was a comforting smile. “I’ll be right back!” he said, walking backward toward the kitchen door.

 

Once he was gone, Granny sat back down in her rocking chair and rocked herself back and forth with nonchalant ease while drinking in the prim looking but certainly feisty Miss Clara Redmond.

 

“So” she finally said “How long you and our Jacob been seein’ each other?”  

 

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Oh God, no! We’d… run away first!” he said urgently. “Do you really think that’s something they might try and do to us?” he gasped, alarmed.

 

"It is not unheard of, at least back in Pennsylvania," Clara recalled a local girl who left home after rumor had it she was with child then returned some months later - alone. Clara's mother had told her that the parents had given the baby to a family who could afford it. Clara hadn't thought much about it until just now.

 

Just then the redoubtable Granny Miggins re-entered the room and barked at Jacob to help his sister in the kitchen. The boy jumped to obey, it was plain to see the oldster's complete domination of these younger folks. Respect one's elders to be sure. But this was more like fear!

 

Once he was gone, Granny sat back down in her rocking chair and rocked herself back and forth with nonchalant ease while staring at Clara who tried to simply sit there and act calm, fighting off the unease she felt.

 

“So” she finally said “How long you and our Jacob been seein’ each other?”

 

"We met at the barn dance. He asked me for a dance. We hit it off immediately. Jacob is a wonderful young man," Clara answered.

 

Clarawithhat.jpg

 

 

 

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 “So” she finally said “How long you and our Jacob been seein’ each other?” 

 

"We met at the barn dance. He asked me for a dance. We hit it off immediately. Jacob is a wonderful young man," Clara answered.

 

“Mmmm” the old lady ruminated on this.

 

“I remember that dance. Couple o’ months ago now, isn’t it?” she asked rhetorically, she knew damn well how long ago it was.

 

“Hmm, two months” she said, examining Clara over her glasses “I reckon you’ve put a little weight on since then. Good, can’t be doin’ with these scrawny girls with no meat on their bones. Hmmm, nice healthy glow about you, child.” She smiled knowingly to herself. “And you two are courting, steady, are you?” This time it was a real question.

 

Suddenly there was an anguished feminine scream from the kitchen and Jacob burst through the door.

 

“Granny, it’s Lee, she’s fainted!!” he cried.

 

“Oh shit, not again!” grumbled Nellie, getting out of her rocking chair. “Clara, come with me! Jacob, you fetch the smelling salts!” she ordered, like General Sherman directing his men.

 

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"I remember that dance. Couple o’ months ago now, isn’t it?”

 

"Yes," Clara nodded.

 

“Hmm, two months” she said, examining Clara over her glasses, “I reckon you’ve put a little weight on since then. Good, can’t be doin’ with these scrawny girls with no meat on their bones. Hmmm, nice healthy glow about you, child.”

 

"I work at the diner, perhaps I have gained a few pounds, Miss Emeline's cooking is excellent," Clara had a ready excuse.

 

She smiled knowingly to herself. “And you two are courting, steady, are you?”

 

"Jacob is the only boy I have ever courted...been courted by," Clara would only speak for herself.

 

Suddenly there was an anguished feminine scream from the kitchen and Jacob burst through the door.

 

“Granny, it’s Lee, she’s fainted!!” he cried.

 

"What?" Clara was not surprisingly startled by this sudden development.

 

“Oh shit, not again!” grumbled Nellie, getting out of her rocking chair. “Clara, come with me! Jacob, you fetch the smelling salts!”

 

Clara stood immediately then hurried into the kitchen right behind Granny Miggins.

 

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“Granny, it’s Lee, she’s fainted!!” he cried.

 

"What?" Clara was not surprisingly startled by this sudden development.

 

“Oh shit, not again!” grumbled Nellie, getting out of her rocking chair. “Clara, come with me! Jacob, you fetch the smelling salts!”

 

Clara stood immediately then hurried into the kitchen right behind Granny Miggins.

 

Nellie had taken a cushion from her rocker in with her and, as Jacob rushed past the other way,  she thrust this into Clara’s hands as they looked down at the prone figure of Leonora on the kitchen floor. There were carrots everywhere. “All right Clara, you put this under her head, I can’t get down there with these legs. I’ll fetch over the chair.”

 

From the sitting room, Jacob was shouting “I can’t find ‘em! Where are they?!” Granny yelled back the age old reply to such questions “They’re where you left ‘em, o' course!”

 

Granny half carried, half dragged the chair across the floor with a loud scraping noise and set it up near Leonora’s feet. She nodded approval at Clara’s efforts with the cushion. “Good. Now, on the count of three, we’re going to lift her feet onto the chair. That’ll bring her round. All right, Clara?” Granny was watching Clara carefully, as if all of this was some kind of aptitude test she had set up to gauge the girl’s mettle, although Leonora clearly really was in a dead faint.

 

“Here we go…” there was an almost audible cracking of bones as Granny bent down and got hold of Lee’s ankles from her side. “… one, two, three, hup!”

 

At that point Jacob re-appeared, smelling salts in hand, staring at Leonora, in her strange position, like a ghost. Granny was actually chuckling now “He, he! Good job your pappy didn’t come in to visit, Clara, she’d ‘a been mortified if he’d seen her like this, flashin’ her ankles! He, he, he.” But catching sight of Jacob, her smile faded: “What you lookin’ so squirrel about, boy?! Ain’t like she don’t do this at least twice a week!”

 

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Clara had a pillow thrust into her hands and immediately realized what was expected of her though Granny gave her a quick command anyhow.

 

“All right Clara, you put this under her head, I can’t get down there with these legs. I’ll fetch over the chair.”

 

"Of course," Clara knelt down and gently lifted Lenora's head until she could slide the pillow under it.

 

“Good. Now, on the count of three, we’re going to lift her feet onto the chair. That’ll bring her round. All right, Clara?”

 

"Oh for goodness sake, I can lift her feet myself, don't you strain yourself," Clara assured the woman but Granny insisted on helping.

 

Nonetheless Clara did the lions share of the lifting and placing at the count of three. It was definitely not a two person task in her opinion.

 

Granny was actually chuckling now “He, he! Good job your pappy didn’t come in to visit, Clara, she’d ‘a been mortified if he’d seen her like this, flashin’ her ankles! He, he, he.” But catching sight of Jacob, her smile faded: “What you lookin’ so squirrel about, boy?! Ain’t like she don’t do this at least twice a week!”

 

"My father has seen womens' ankles," Clara calmly pointed out, "He was after all married.

 

But Granny was busy barking at Jacob.

 

"Goodness, so this happens a lot?" Clara was shocked. Something serious must be wrong with Jacob's sister?

 

 

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"My father has seen womens' ankles," Clara calmly pointed out.

 

“Has he, by Gum?” replied Granny “Well, he’d better not try and see mine!”

 

"He was after all married.”

 

 “Hmm!” Granny grumped “Not much fun fer a feller to look at his wife’s ankles!”

 

Granny was busy barking at Jacob. Despite her usual irreverent manner, she did look a bit worried about Leonora, as if maybe this was a worse case of the fainting fits than usual.

 

"Goodness, so this happens a lot?" Clara was shocked. Something serious must be wrong with Jacob's sister?

 

“She’s got a weak heart” explained Jacob, bending down and trying to get the cap of the smelling salts in their tiny little bottle.

 

“More like a weak mind!” countered Mrs Miggins as the septuagenarian went to the back door that led to the outside. She cracked it open and shouted.

 

“Ned! Ned! Get in here and carry Miss Lee into the parlor. ‘Nother one of her fits!”

 

Jacob finally got the cap off and wafted the bottle under the recumbent Leonora’s nose; she immediately started to cough and splutter and come out of her unconscious state. Like a sleeper who wakes with a vague foreboding that something is terribly, terribly wrong, she half opened her eyes, looking up at the people above her, trying to remember what awful news she had just received.

 

Her eyes cast about, past the concerned looking Jacob, then Granny at the back door, and then … Clara. She gave an audible gasp and then started to babble incoherently “Clara! Clara! With child! No! No!” and started to swoon away again.

 

“WHAT’S THAT?!!” bellowed Granny Miggins striding over. “SHE’S PREGNANT?!!”

 

“No, Granny.. I … “ Jacob’s words were cut off as the old lady slapped him sturdily across the ear and looking for a carving knife, but finding only a fork to hand on the draining board, picked it up and started to jab at the terrified teen with it.

 

“You dirty, no good son of a bitch! I told you I’d slice ‘em off with a rusty butter knife if you got any girls in trouble!!!” she yelled furiously, pursuing Jacob, who retreated in disorder and tried to hide behind Clara.

 

Just then a middle aged black man appeared at the back door to be greeted by the sight of a strange girl standing in the kitchen, Miss Leonora lying on the floor with her feet on a chair, and Granny trying to kill Jacob with a fork.

 

“Howdy folks, so what’s happenin’ all up in here today?!” he smiled genially, it was just another typical scene in the Miggins household as far as he could tell.

 

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"She’s got a weak heart” explained Jacob, bending down and trying to get the cap of the smelling salts in their tiny little bottle.

 

“More like a weak mind!” countered Mrs Miggins as the septuagenarian went to the back door that led to the outside. She cracked it open and shouted.

 

"That is cruel," Clara frowned at the old crone.

 

“Ned! Ned! Get in here and carry Miss Lee into the parlor. ‘Nother one of her fits!”  

 

Jacob then deftly positioned the smelling salts under the woman's nostrils and sure enough, she regained consciousness, though obviously looking confused. Until she met eyes with Clara.

 

Lenora gave an audible gasp and then started to babble incoherently “Clara! Clara! With child! No! No!” and started to swoon away again.

 

"What? No!" Clara was not just shocked but spooked by how on earth did the woman suddenly know that?

 

“WHAT’S THAT?!!” bellowed Granny Miggins striding over. “SHE’S PREGNANT?!!” 

 

“No, Granny.. I … “ Jacob’s words were cut off as the old lady slapped him sturdily across the ear and looking for a carving knife, but finding only a fork to hand on the draining board, picked it up and started to jab at the terrified teen with it.

 

"Wait a minute!" Clara tried to compose herself and get these folk to calm down at the same time.

 

“You dirty, no good son of a bitch! I told you I’d slice ‘em off with a rusty butter knife if you got any girls in trouble!!!” she yelled furiously, pursuing Jacob, who retreated in disorder and tried to hide behind Clara.

 

Clara couldn't believe it would come to this? However her instant concern was Jacob's physical safety. She stood her ground and glared at Granny.

 

"Hold up! You put that down or I will knock you on your keester!"

 

A big negro fellow she had never seen before, then stepped into the house.

 

“Howdy folks, so what’s happenin’ all up in here today?!” he smiled genially,

 

 

 

 

 

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Clara couldn't believe it would come to this? However her instant concern was Jacob's physical safety. She stood her ground and glared at Granny.

 

"Hold up! You put that down or I will knock you on your keester!"

 

 “Oh, you will, will you?!” she shouted, looking at Jacob cowering behind Clara and Leonora spark out on the floor “Well, I’m glad SOMEONE round here’s got some backbone!”

 

A big negro fellow she had never seen before, then stepped into the house.

 

“Howdy folks, so what’s happenin’ all up in here today?!” he smiled genially,

 

“I’ll tell you what’s happenin’! She’s fainted, She’s pregnant, and he…” she pointed an accusatory fork in Jacob’s direction and seemed lost for words for a second “… he writes poetry!!!”

 

“Howdy Miss, I’m Ned!” he beamed in Clara’s direction, apparently unfazed by the latest doings of the ramshackle family he’d been virtually adopted into. “We’d better get Miss Lee onto the sofa.” He suggested practically. “Come on give me a hand here, Jake.” He directed the boy. Get him out of the way of that vicious looking fork, too. Saying that, Granny was discarding the weapon now, and the two men of the household got on with lifting Leonora and carrying her through to the other room.

 

The old woman looked at Clara. She remembered another girl like her: different looking, blonde, blue eyes, a little slighter, and in the dress of another era: 1814, the Empire style was still in then, or a rough frontier approximation of it: high waistlines, just under the breast, then a long line down to the hem, not much use to hide a rapidly growing belly.

 

“C’mere child.” She beckoned Clara “We need to talk. Now, who knows about this outside of the circle?” By which she presumably meant the Miggins family circle.

 

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“Oh, you will, will you?!” Granny shouted, looking at Jacob cowering behind Clara and Leonora spark out on the floor “Well, I’m glad SOMEONE round here’s got some backbone!”

 

Clara was a bit surprised to hear that but said nothing, determined to not stoke the old woman's anger again. Plus someone new had entered the place, a smiling negro gentleman who plainly was curious what was going on.

 

“I’ll tell you what’s happenin’! She’s fainted, She’s pregnant, and he…” Granny pointed an accusatory fork in Jacob’s direction and seemed lost for words for a second “… he writes poetry!!!”

 

"And it is not very good poetry either," Clara's dry humor couldn't help itself. She loved Jacob but ...

 

Wait! She  almost let another part of that statement go!  Lenora knew, how she had no clue but she knew. But Clara wasn't about to give in so easily to her secret, their secret including Jacob.

 

"And I am not with child," she asserted but the words and tone lacked conviction.

 

"Hello, Ned," Clara nodded at the introduction then watched as the man and Jacob carried the poor stricken Lenora onto the couch. Granny had also put down the fork, thankfully.

 

"C’mere child.” She beckoned Clara “We need to talk. Now, who knows about this outside of the circle?”

 

"Miss Lutz is mistaken. I have no idea where she even got the idea that I am pregnant. She was fine then she fainted and when she wakes up, she accuses me of being pregnant? "  Clara defended herself.

 

 

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"C’mere child.” She beckoned Clara “We need to talk. Now, who knows about this outside of the circle?”

 

"Miss Lutz is mistaken. I have no idea where she even got the idea that I am pregnant. She was fine then she fainted and when she wakes up, she accuses me of being pregnant? " Clara defended herself.

 

They were alone. Nellie looked at Clara thoughtfully, and then her face – so used to scolding or scowling or laughing mockingly at the hypocrites of Kalispell and those she just plain didn’t like – that old wrinkled face did something it hadn’t done in a long, long while, years maybe: it broke into a small, tight, but sympathetic smile.

 

“All right, all right, now there, there. I'm sure it's all just a big misunderstandin’. But just, well Clara, just to put old Granny Miggins’ mind at rest completely here, would you swear to me on your poor dead Mother’s soul that you ain’t pregnant?

 

She tipped her head, again looking with sympathy at the girl, regretting that she had to put her through this: but time was of the essence: she had a wedding to arrange.

 

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Was that a smile on the old woman's face? Clara almost suspected a trap. She had no idea a simple visit would turn out to be such a disaster. The girl really did love Jacob but his family, well they were going to be a real bear to deal with it seemed, only further complicating what was already a mess of a situation to begin with.

 

“All right, all right, now there, there. I'm sure it's all just a big misunderstandin’. But just, well Clara, just to put old Granny Miggins’ mind at rest completely here, would you swear to me on your poor dead Mother’s soul that you ain’t pregnant?” 

 

Clara blinked. Putting it that way was so unfair!  Normally Clara valued the truth and detested lying but on rare occasions it could be justified, she was a practical girl. But to swear like this, dragging her mother into it?  Still, Clara's stubbornness came to the fore.

 

"And who are you to demand that I swear on my mother's soul to satiate your curiosity? You may order around everyone else here but I am not part of your family. I do not have to do anything of the sort," Clara stood her ground.

 

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