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An Official Visit


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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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"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.

 

“HA! Well, that answers THAT question!” said the old battleaxe, with an air of finality. As far as she was concerned, Clara’s refusal to swear was an admission of guilt. “And I reckon from now on in, child, we’re part of the same family whether we like it or not!” she added, nodding toward Clara’s belly.

 

As if to add weight to Granny’s interpretation of the Redmond girl’s refusal to fess up, Leonora’s voice could now be heard wailing and moaning in the other room, where she had evidently come out of her swoon.

 

“Oh, Clara with child! How could you Jacob?! After all my warnings! Oh, What will Aurelian say?!”

 

Granny crossed her arms, her sympathetic smile was now tinged with a note of triumph. She suddenly hollered out. “Jacob, get on in here! Granny needs to talk to you!”

 

It seemed Jacob couldn’t get out of Lee’s blabber-mouthed company quickly enough, even Granny’s fork-stabs were preferable to that.  He caught Clara’s eyes as he came sheepishly back into the kitchen, and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I told Lee ‘cause I thought she could help.” He explained quietly, letting the cat out of the bag for sure now.

 

The old woman actually cackled now.

 

“What? That wet Nellie?!” she almost choked with mirth “She’s worse than useless! In fact, we’re going to have to lock her in her room before this ‘uns Pap comes back here, or she’ll tell him fer sure!” she predicted. “I presume he DON’T know!? Good. Well let’s keep it that way for now.”

 

She rubbed her somewhat bristly chin, and looked at Clara with a more serious mien.

“Now, we ain’t got time fer all o’ this false modesty, Missy, we got a wedding to arrange. Now, how far gone are you? You got the morning sickness yet? And most importantly, who the Dickens knows about this thing?!”

 

“We’re keepin’ the baby Granny!” Jacob blurted suddenly.

 

She looked like she was about to reach for the fork again.

 

“Well of course you’re keepin’ the baby, you damned idiot!” she pointed at Clara’s midriff “That child’s a Miggins!! And we look after our own!!!” Jacob knew better than correct her about the little one being destined to be a Lutz, best keep the formidable old bat on side.

 

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“HA! Well, that answers THAT question!” said the old battleaxe, with an air of finality.

 

"It does not, it only means I refuse to answer," Clara contested the implication gamely.

 

“And I reckon from now on in, child, we’re part of the same family whether we like it or not!” she added, nodding toward Clara’s belly.

 

And who said that Clara liked the possibility of just that either, Jacob was the lone member of this family she cared about.

 

Leonora’s voice could now be heard wailing and moaning in the other room, where she had evidently come out of her swoon.

 

“Oh, Clara with child! How could you Jacob?! After all my warnings! Oh, What will Aurelian say?!”

 

Clara could not help but blanch a bit at that question too, what would her father say???

 

Granny crossed her arms, her sympathetic smile was now tinged with a note of triumph. She suddenly hollered out. “Jacob, get on in here! Granny needs to talk to you!”

 

Clara braced for yet another possible confrontation with her and the old woman if she once more went after Jacob.

 

  Jacob caught Clara’s eyes as he came sheepishly back into the kitchen, and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I told Lee ‘cause I thought she could help.”   

 

He what? How could he do that? Their secret and he just ups and reveals it? Clara was disappointed in her shining knight right about then. His abject fear of his grandmother and now this!

 

"What? That wet Nellie?!” Granny almost choked with mirth “She’s worse than useless! In fact, we’re going to have to lock her in her room before this ‘uns Pap comes back here, or she’ll tell him fer sure!” she predicted. “I presume he DON’T know!? Good. Well let’s keep it that way for now.”

 

Clara felt defeated right about then, her lying was exposed for what it was. This visit was a disaster.

 

Granny then declared,  “Now, we ain’t got time fer all o’ this false modesty, Missy, we got a wedding to arrange. Now, how far gone are you? You got the morning sickness yet? And most importantly, who the Dickens knows about this thing?!”

 

Before Clara could consider if she was going to answer that ............

 

“We’re keepin’ the baby Granny!” Jacob blurted suddenly. Clara was glad at least the boy was brave enough about that.

 

“Well of course you’re keepin’ the baby, you damned idiot!” she pointed at Clara’s midriff “That child’s a Miggins!! And we look after our own!!!

 

Least they did not need to argue with the woman about that point because Clara would never yield on that central  matter. The baby was hers and Jacob's and no one could make any decisions regarding it. 

 

"That child will also be a Redmond too and I am the mother so I will make the decisions.....with Jacob of course," Clara wanted Granny Miggins to know that.

 

 

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“Well of course you’re keepin’ the baby, you damned idiot!” she pointed at Clara’s midriff “That child’s a Miggins!! And we look after our own!!! 

 

"That child will also be a Redmond too and I am the mother so I will make the decisions.....with Jacob of course," Clara wanted Granny Miggins to know that.

 

“Well, o’ course you’ll both make them decisions together” agreed Granny “And I’m about to tell you what them decisions’ll be! Now come on, stop shilly-shallying’ who we got to deal with.”

 

Jacob shrugged ”I reckon Arabella’s worked it out.” He guessed, not knowing if Clara had any more intelligence on that front than he did.

 

“Ara… oh, that dreadful girl with the harmonium! D’ya reckon she’d tell anyone? She seems like a blabber-mouth to me!” Granny asked. Then Jacob said the oddest thing.

 

“Nah, she’s loyal. She’s almost as much in love with Clara as I am.” He smiled goofily at Clara, not even thinking about what he’d just revealed about the pot girl.

 

“Oh, one of those, eh?” Granny shook her head “Hmmm, them types often do get religion pretty bad. And here was me thinkin’ she was sniffin’ around that old fossil Evans. All right, well she might come in useful when we need to get a pastor over here to conduct the ceremony. Not Evans though, maybe that new one. He looks like he’d do anything for money or booze. Anyone else you told?”

 

Jacob shook his head genuinely. Granny looked at Clara over her glasses. “Well child, you told anyone else?” her blue eyes might be old and rheumy, but her gaze was as steely and direct as it had ever been, and she also reminded Clara of something. “Now come on, Clara, I know now that you’re too good and honest a girl to make a good liar … who’d ya tell?!”

 

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“Well, o’ course you’ll both make them decisions together” agreed Granny “And I’m about to tell you what them decisions’ll be! Now come on, stop shilly-shallying’ who we got to deal with.”  

 

Clara frowned, the woman was impossible! This was never going to work between the two of them.

 

Jacob shrugged ”I reckon Arabella’s worked it out.”

 

"Nonsense!" Clara simply did not believe that.

 

Granny was not thrilled to hear that guess either and she and Jacob carried on back and forth. Though there was one part Clara did not get.

 

"She’s almost as much in love with Clara as I am.” He smiled goofily at Clara.

 

"That is silly," Clara scoffed.

 

It seemed that was it for Jacob's knowledge of those in the 'know' as it were so Granny's attention was focused on her once more demanding as always.

 

“Now come on, Clara, I know now that you’re too good and honest a girl to make a good liar … who’d ya tell?!”   

 

Finally Clara relented and went with the truth, "Just Emeline....Mrs. Blakesley at the LickSkillet. I work for her and she is just wonderful. Like the mother I no longer have." 

 

 

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"She’s almost as much in love with Clara as I am.” He smiled goofily at Clara.

 

 "That is silly," Clara scoffed.

 

“Being in love with you could never be silly” countered Jacob in saccharine tones while staring dreamy eyed at Clara. Granny made a noise like she was trying not to suddenly throw up.

 

Now that it was all out in the open, Jacob felt a lot less worried, somehow: what he’d been dreading had happened and, well, here they all were, still alive and unharmed, except for a few minor fork wounds. Granny was a tyrant, it was true, but at least she was doing something to put things right, something he knew he should be capable of but… he just lacked the experience and certainty and drive of the mad old woman.

 

Look at her, even now she was pushing on relentlessly with her interrogation of Clara, she was a strong determined woman. Just like Clara. Oh God! Did Clara remind him of Granny?! He shook his head and tried not to think of that one!

 

“Now come on, Clara, I know now that you’re too good and honest a girl to make a good liar … who’d ya tell?!”  

 

Finally Clara relented and went with the truth, "Just Emeline....Mrs. Blakesley at the LickSkillet. I work for her and she is just wonderful. Like the mother I no longer have."

 

“Good!” nodded Granny. “I mean good you told me, not good you told her!” She shook her head. “Ohh, I can see why you told Emeline Blakesley, same reason this beanpole went and told his wet blanket of a sister: thought he’d get a sympathetic hearing. Hmm, well I know Emeline Blakesley, oooh, she’ll have been kindness itself, probably gave you a hug and told you everything’d be all right and stuffed a slice of pie inside you. Am I right, or am I right? Problem is, she’s well meanin’ and well meanin’ folks is dangerous to tell any secrets to!”

She rubbed her chin thoughtfully.

 

“Wouldn’t be surprised if she’s telling your Papa all about the thing right this very minute.”

 

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