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    • "It's just to your right.  Would you like some help?"  There!  An offer, but Frances' choice.   Miss Grimes flicked her stick to the right and struck the package, bending down to retrieve it. "Oh, thank you, Mrs Pike, I have it." she smiled picking up the package and feeling it over for tears. "I hope none of it is peeping out, it is some undergarments and an old dress that needed repairs. I can sew but it's a laborious process for me, and we will be on our way to Kalispell tomorrow."   She managed to bundle up everything in one arm, packages, stick, and stuck out the other to somewhere near Emeline again.   "Goodbye, I hope to see you in Kalispell when you return" she did not shy away from using the 'S' word "And I shall certainly look up Mrs Connolly at the Diner."   @Bongo 
    • "Oh..."  Emeline gasped as the girl dropped her package, and started to bend down to get it, but then hesitated, wondering if perhaps she even wanted help, or might feel insulted at the offer, that it would imply that she couldn't do for herself.   "It's just to your right.  Would you like some help?"  There!  An offer, but Frances' choice.   @Javia        
    • He took Frances' hand and gently shook it, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Grimes."   "And you, Mr. Simons." she smiled sweetly.   "If you are interested in joining the ladies group my aunt Rebecca Wentworth will be running, I can get her to send you an invitation or she can personally come to see you."   "Oh, that sounds wonderful, I shall have to see if, er..." stammered the blind girl, and Crabbe could guess why.    "And it doesn't cost anything to join, does it, Ben?" Lorenzo put in.   "It sounds absolutely wonderful Mr. Simons" said Frances, now much more firmly "Please, just an invitation, I mean, just knowing when and when your Aunt would be holding the meetings would be all I need. I shall find it with no problem. What a kind thought, thank you, Mr. Simons."   At the sound of Ben munching, she decided that she had probably outstayed her welcome at his tableside and said "I shall leave you to your repast, Mr Simons, thank you again."   @JulieS    
    • "First off, proper grammar, it is 'like a blind person' not people," Clara pointed out , "And secondly we are here in this kitchen to cook proper meals for paying customers. That is a responsibility I take most seriously. Kindly be more....adult."   "Ain't it funny, Clara, I'm always makin' mistakes like that when I talk in my regular voice, but when I do 'personations of folk, I can speak right if I needs to. Listen to this:..." the gangly, scruffy teenager suddenly stood up ramrod straight at the frying pan and repositioned the spachelor in her hand like she was holding a dainty quill, then started to speak in a refined, maybe even pretentious voice, very unlike her own, with no trace of a southern accent:   "Arabella, would you please desist from precipitating those most distastful and less that utilitarian anecdotal confabulations. I find them most distressing!" All right, the words might not make sense, but anyone who knew Clara would have recognised the rhythm and tone of her voice.   @Wayfarer
    • "There ain't no 'we', Ara, this is between me n' the cowpoke here. You did not knock and I did not say you could come in," Caroline now pointed out as calmly as she could.   "I know..." replied Arabella sadly "An' I know I promised to do all them things but..." she shook her head a little "when I heard all them terrible horrible rotten things what happened to you, I was just so shocked and sad and angry that some low down bastard could do that to my sweet, pretty, lovely little Caroline, I just... well my soul kinda flew out to you, and my big ol' feet foller'd right along behind it."   She reached across and hugged her again and kissed her on top of her head again. Brendan then put in his two cents' worth.   From there, he looked down at Caroline. "Hey. What I was tryin' to say...goin' to say...is that...I understand."   "Good ta know, hon. Just wait a minute and we can continue this conversation once Ara leaves the room, shuts the door, and assures me she won't be listening in anymore. Got that?" Caroline eyed the teenager.   Arabella nodded compliantly enough, but then twisted in the bed so she was face to face with Brendan, whom she stared straight in the eye.   "But before I go, Brendan Connolly, you gotta tell me that you forgive me for all them silly things I said before and all them silly things I did cause even Caroline's forgiven me and she's the one I did and said them things to and we gettin' on all right now and I found out some stuff which made me change and I'm a better person now and it just ain't fair that you're still treatin' me so mean and, and..." she gulped down a sob and a lone tear appeared in the corner of her eye.   "... I really want you to be my friend again..." she wiped away the tear "... please."   @Bailey @Wayfarer

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Again, he couldn't help smiling. She had no idea of the oddity she presented and just seemed like she was glad he was here. Which was pretty nice, considering he definitely wouldn't be welcome at Evergreen anymore and no one else in town ever seemed overjoyed to see him...except maybe Caroline.

 

But how could they dance like this? There wasn't any music. And Bridget was...well...practically naked and only had one leg. "Yes...but your leg." He put his hand on her left knee because she didn't really have a right knee.

 

He had realized that this was what Arabella had been referring to at the dance when she'd said Bridget wasn't constructed for fast dances. How did she manage waltzes? Did she have a peg leg, like a pirate in a story would? 

 

Suddenly he had an idea. "Here. Hold on." He took her hands and guided them around his neck, then stood up, wrapped his arms around her waist - almost like they were dancing - and spun around slowly, not even bothering to do the box-like waltz step that they had enjoyed so much at the dance.

 

'How's that for a dance?" he said, smiling at her.

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But how could they dance like this? There wasn't any music. And Bridget was...well...practically naked and only had one leg. "Yes...but your leg." He put his hand on her left knee because she didn't really have a right knee.

 

“Hop!” she smiled. She spent a lot more time hopping around than using the false leg, really, and she got along fine with that, indoors. When she was in the house Fa and Crabbe encouraged her to leave off the leg: Fa because he was worried her thigh would get sore where the straps went round, Crabbe because he said the constant squeaking noise was ‘irritating’. In her previous existence she’d only had a crutch, Crabbe had paid some clever feller in Butte to put the leg together. He’d been too clever, in fact: when the leg had gone wrong during polka practice with Arabella, even Mr. Fa couldn’t put humpty-dumpty together again, and only the mechanical genius of the Englishman Ryker had saved the day.

 

Suddenly he had an idea. "Here. Hold on." He took her hands and guided them around his neck, then stood up, wrapped his arms around her waist - almost like they were dancing - and spun around slowly, not even bothering to do the box-like waltz step that they had enjoyed so much at the dance.

 

Bridget loved it, and her tinkling laughter filled the room. As they ‘danced’ she started to sing. Well, singing might not be what some might call it: it was all horribly off key and rhythm fantastically out of kilter, and the words were so misheard and mangled as to make the song almost unrecognisable.

 

🎼 🎶 We shouler gun an marchy marchy way,
From Back stir Stree, we marchy Aveyeeay,
We drum a five how sweely theydee play,
Wen we marchy marchy marchy dee Mulligy Garr!
🎶

 

What was remarkable was that, in song, the noodle headed girl could actually string more than four words together at once. Little did the handsome cowboy realise that he had inadvertently provided a massive breakthrough in the effort to allow Bridget’s mind, which had rewired itself, best it could, after her traumatic head injuries, to break on through to the other side, to the world where everybody else lived.

 

'How's that for a dance?" he said, smiling at her.

 

“We dance real good!” she beamed. Four words! FOUR WORDS, count ‘em! It was a pity her usual speech therapists, Mr. Fa and Arabella weren’t there – they would have been dancing a jig too, at the sound of those four consecutive syllables.

 

“We show sing-y lady!” she suggested, meaning Caroline.

 

 

 

*Mulligan Guard (1873)

We shoulder'd guns, and march'd and march'd away,
From Baxter Street, we march'd to Avenue A,
With drums and fife how sweetly they did play,
We march'd march'd march'd in the Mulligan Guard

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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His recounting the gruesome past was not finished yet though so he now proceeded to explain the real villain responsible for much of the outrages perpetrated on poor Bridget. Caroline listened intently.

 

"Long story short, when we got there, it was the doctor that’d operated on her. Her family had skipped town years ago, after she’d had her accident, couldn’t pay the bill. He’d had her out to beg fer, ooh, what, ten years, here and there. That’s ten years’ worth of beatings on her back. He started the next round on her as soon as we got in there.”  He gave an involuntary sneer at the thought of it, and then nodded to the lead topped walking stick leaning in the corner.

 

“I beat him to death with that thing. Right in front of her. Shouldn’t have done that.”

 

"Eh, you lost yer temper, I woulda too. I ain't sheddin' a tear for the son of a bitch," Caroline said dismissively.

 

"And how aware really is Bridget most times? Who knows maybe she even was glad you got rid of that man who beat her so much? We can hope so."

 

"Hey, don't you worry about revealin' all this to me. I would never ever tell if any authority ever asked me about any of this stuff.  I'll keep yer secret to my end of days. You did ther right thing. And then you didn't just abandon the poor kid. You've taken care of her...well best as you and Fa are capable of. '

 

"I'm proud of you...I am," she suddenly moved forward and then gave him a full on kiss on the lips before stepping back, "Yer a hero................kinda."  Then she grinned.

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“I beat him to death with that thing. Right in front of her. Shouldn’t have done that.”

 

"Eh, you lost yer temper, I woulda too. I ain't sheddin' a tear for the son of a bitch," Caroline said dismissively. 

 

Crabbe nodded. “Oh no doubt: I wish I hadn’t been so mad, I’d ha’ made it last longer.” He replied, looking seriously into the distance before flicking his eyes back to Caroline through those thick glasses. “I mean I shouldn’t have done it in front of her.”

 

"And how aware really is Bridget most times? Who knows maybe she even was glad you got rid of that man who beat her so much? We can hope so."

 

“Oh, she knew what was happenin’, I mean, she’s pretty dumb but, yeah she knew. We just try not to talk about it in front of her, it ,er, it gives her the nightmares. See, she wets the bed when she has the nightmares and boy, I’m glad its Charlie does the laundry.” He ruminated. “So, double murder in Deadwood. Between you and me, I cleaned out that place… the feller was hiddin’ a good bit of gold under his mattress, and torched the place, then I got us both outta there. Charlie tidied up our business in Deadwood; our claim he’d been working was all played out anyway and joined us in Butte.”

 

"Hey, don't you worry about revealin' all this to me. I would never ever tell if any authority ever asked me about any of this stuff.  I'll keep yer secret to my end of days. You did ther right thing. And then you didn't just abandon the poor kid. You've taken care of her...well best as you and Fa are capable of.'

 

Crabbe shrugged this off, he didn’t handle praise very well.

 

“Well, I beat a feller to death who irritated me and then couldn’t shake a one legged idiot girl, don’t reckon that’s nuthin’ to be proud of!” he sniffed.

 

"I'm proud of you...I am," she suddenly moved forward and then gave him a full on kiss on the lips before stepping back, "Yer a hero................kinda."  Then she grinned.

 

“What the Hell Mundee, you been drinkin’?!” spluttered the habitual conman as if he’d just been kissed by the ugliest, rather than arguably the prettiest girl in Kalispell. "Don't go gettin' all mushy on me!"

 

“And anyway, what if old puppy eyes there … Brendan, Mr Connolly whatever he's called, had come in then?! I mean, I assume you two are… well, ain’t ya?” He had never seen Caroline get close to a man in Helena, not in a sexual way (he’d certainly tried himself and never got anywhere near) but had taken satisfaction that he wasn’t alone: she kept her cards close to her chest and her knees firmly together, that one.

 

Then again, he’d recognised the writing on the letter to Bridget as hers, for Caroline and Lorenzo corresponded sporadically, most notably of late when the place in Helena had closed and she’d written to him asking if there were any prospects in Kalispell.

 

That part, her writing to Bridget on Brendan's behalf had somewhat bamboozled him, to be honest.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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So he robbed the bastard too and came out with a decent haul? Again that did not perturb the saloon girl, not like the dead man had any use for any of it. Caroline just shrugged. And then actually praised his dramatic rescue of poor Bridget, violence, robbery and all. No one else had helped the poor thing including her family. On a whim, she added a nice big kiss.

 

"What the Hell Mundee, you been drinkin’?!” spluttered the habitual conman as if he’d just been kissed by the ugliest, rather than arguably the prettiest girl in Kalispell. "Don't go gettin' all mushy on me!"

 

"Can't a gal offer her appreciation for a good deed?" she countered, a bit affronted by his poor reception of her gesture, "I ain't gonna fuckin' marry ya!"

 

"And anyway, what if old puppy eyes there … Brendan, Mr Connolly whatever he's called, had come in then?! I mean, I assume you two are… well, ain’t ya?”

 

"Are what? A couple? Sleepin' together? Cuz we ain't. We're friends. He needs a friend especially lately. I can kiss anyone I damn well want to," Caroline set him straight.

 

"Besides, even though I told him that the so-called letter he got from Bridget was actually Arabella's work, he still wanted me to write Bridget back. And I did then, fer a friend. Even before I saw.........well, this.........I thought it was a big mistake. If he's lookin' for a steady gal or god forbid, a wife, he can't seriously be considering young Bridget."

 

 

 

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It was surprising how much more comfortable Bridget seemed when they were dancing. And she could talk, too. Well, not talk. She was singing, but it couldn't really be called singing either. Whatever it was, she seemed to feel more at home. It might have been the dancing, it might have been being in her room where she felt safe, or it might have been...

 

Brendan blinked as the thought hit him. Was it him? Was there something about him that made Bridget be able to talk and express herself better? His thought coincided with the end of the Mulligan Guard song and the dance.

 

"We dance real good!” she beamed.

 

Brendan grinned at her. "Yeah, we do. Real good." He stopped spinning around and set Bridget down on the bed again. Carrying her was odd; a little bit like a sack of potatoes but with an extra leg. He pulled the edges of her robe closed and tied the sash loosely around her waist, and once again caught sight of her mangled right side.

 

He squatted beside her bed and sat back on his heels, his mouth pulled to one side in thought. There was no reason at all that he should feel anything for Bridget. But he did feel something. He just wasn't sure what that feeling was or what to do about it?

 

We show sing-y lady!”

 

He looked up, startled. "Sing-y lady? Oh, Caroline. Well...uh..." He rubbed the back of his neck, suddenly embarrassed. Dancing alone with Bridget was one thing, but doing it in front of Caroline would be another. "She an' Crabbe are talkin'. Important."

 

He pointed downstairs as Crabbe had earlier and then mimicked a moving mouth using his fingers to illustrate his words.

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"Can't a gal offer her appreciation for a good deed?" she countered, a bit affronted by his poor reception of her gesture, "I ain't gonna fuckin' marry ya!"

 

“Well, thank the Lord for that!” countered Crabbe. Ironically, they were like a bickering old married couple when they were together.

 

"And anyway, what if old puppy eyes there … Brendan, Mr Connolly whatever he's called, had come in then?! I mean, I assume you two are… well, ain’t ya?” 

 

"Are what? A couple? Sleepin' together? Cuz we ain't. We're friends. He needs a friend especially lately. I can kiss anyone I damn well want to," Caroline set him straight.

 

“Well go kiss anyone you damn want to! What the Hell you tellin’ me for?” he slurred back. Mr. Fa was in the kitchen, keeping well out of this ‘conversation’. He hated it when there was sexual tension in the air.

 

Crabbe tottered over to the whiskey bottle and brought it back to the table, frowning at its diminished contents. He was gentleman enough to refill her glass first, but selfish enough to give himself just a little bit more than her.

 

"Besides, even though I told him that the so-called letter he got from Bridget was actually Arabella's work, he still wanted me to write Bridget back. And I did then, fer a friend. Even before I saw.........well, this.........I thought it was a big mistake. If he's lookin' for a steady gal or god forbid, a wife, he can't seriously be considering young Bridget."

 

Arabella’s rôle as an amanuensis for the crippled girl was apparently known already to the bespectacled and slippery Crabbe.

 

“Oh sure, they was workin’ on it round here the other day. I think Charlie suggested a couple of lines, too, some mystical shit about him bein’ like a Golden Dragon. Don’t think that made it in there, though. I kept out of it; as you know, my heart’s proof against any notions of romance…" He found himself, as ever, transfixed by the singular, unusual beauty of the girl sitting in front of him: she seemed to possess a glowing halo of light around her - but maybe that was just the whiskey, or his glasses needed a wipe.

 

"Say, considerin’ that she reckons they work her like a slave morning till night at that Saloon, and she’s been banned from coming here on pain o’ death, your little friend Miss Mudd seems  to spend most of her time around here, or palling around town with Bridg’.” He changed the subject away from that of love. Ever since Helena he had worked to harden his heart against falling for Mundee.

 

And he was clearly quite unaware of Caroline’s massive falling out with her pianist.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Some other world has all the Sunshine.

 

Maybe that world is just a figment of a poet’s imagination or a philosopher’s musings: but in this perfect other world Brendan and Bridget walked a flower bordered path in a fresh, grassy green park. These two were the perfect Brendan and the perfect Bridget: the best versions of themselves they could ever have been, physically, intellectually, morally. Perfect Brendan was not so different from real Brendan: oh he could read and write, and his skills were perhaps less disparate, his actions a little more certain: but he was just as handsome, essentially good and fun-loving.   

 

Bridget was not only beautiful in form: her two dainty feet, peeping out from under her skirts as they walked in this never-never land, were indicative of all the perfect charms that lay above. She was bright as a button, this perfect version of herself: her conversation clever, but never pedantic, her tinkling laughter a delight to the ear, her teasing of the handsome man at her side tinged with the deep love she felt for him which covered the whole spectrum from earthy desire to intellectual harmony. They were soul mates, these two perfect ideal forms, created for one another.

 

In real life, Brendan had, by dint of birth and circumstance, lost maybe one or two of his ideal attributes. Bridget had lost just about all. But the soul was there, her soul, dissolved and scattered around her broken mangled earthly form, trying as best it could to regroup, reform, and scratch its way to the surface like a beautiful girl who had been prematurely buried alive in some hideous nightmare of an Edgar Allan Poe novel. Or, perhaps a more pleasant simile, she was like Michelangelo’s beautiful statue David, but trapped forever within an ugly square block of roughly quarried marble.

 

“We show sing-y lady!”

 

He looked up, startled. "Sing-y lady? Oh, Caroline. Well...uh..." He rubbed the back of his neck, suddenly embarrassed. Dancing alone with Bridget was one thing, but doing it in front of Caroline would be another. "She an' Crabbe are talkin'. Important."

 

He pointed downstairs as Crabbe had earlier and then mimicked a moving mouth using his fingers to illustrate his words.

 

She smiled at his attempts to communicate with her, with the care and love it showed. All the Kings Horses and all the King's men couldn’t put Humpy Together Again. That’s what Arabella called her sometimes: if she took a tumble ‘Come on Humpty Dumpty!’ she’d call as she helped heft her up. But there was something about Brendan the Horse Whisperer that was perhaps able to do what all the King’s Horses and all the King’s men could not. Some might say ‘he can communicate with dumb brutes’ but others, more insightful, might describe him as having an affinity with simpler souls, too good for this tawdry world.

 

Whichever it was, Bridget did something she had never done before, she reached forward and bestowed a soft, perfect, chaste kiss upon his lips.

 

And in that far off non-existent world with all the Sunshine, Perfect Bridget stopped in the middle of their walk in the perfect park, turned, and gave Perfect Brendan that exact same perfect kiss.

 

@Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“Well go kiss anyone you damn want to! What the Hell you tellin’ me for?” Crabbe slurred back.

 

"I just did kiss who I wanted, ya idiot! Thought you might like it, obviously I am very wrong. I won't make that mistake again, you can rely on it," Caroline glared, "I thought you kinda liked me."

 

She moved on past that little spat to explain about how Arabella had been behind that letter and Brendan damn well knew it as Caroline outright told him. He had still wanted the letter written to Bridget so - to be a good friend to the young cowpoke, she agreed to write it. Even if she thought it was a mistake.

 

"Hell, if it just gives the poor girl a little happiness, then that's a good thing, right? Goddamn, I feel so bad fer her," Caroline just shook her head.

 

"So anyhow, if the time comes you ever need my help regardin' her, you just ask. I will do whatever I can, you got my word on it," she promised him.

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"I just did kiss who I wanted, ya idiot! Thought you might like it, obviously I am very wrong. I won't make that mistake again, you can rely on it," Caroline glared, "I thought you kinda liked me."

 

“Well of course I like you, y’damn idiot!” barked back Crabbe angrily, sounding more like he was telling her he hated her. Their eyes met and then they both looked away quickly and suddenly there were all sorts of other much, much more important things to discuss.

 

She moved on past that little spat to explain about how Arabella had been behind that letter and Brendan damn well knew it as Caroline outright told him. He had still wanted the letter written to Bridget so - to be a good friend to the young cowpoke, she agreed to write it. Even if she thought it was a mistake. 

 

"Hell, if it just gives the poor girl a little happiness, then that's a good thing, right? Goddamn, I feel so bad fer her," Caroline just shook her head.

 

“Hmmm” Crabbe grunted noncommittally. There was much more to say on this whole Brendan and Bridget business, but he preferred to discuss it when he was back downstairs with them: what the Hell were they doing up there anyway?

 

“So anyhow, if the time comes you ever need my help regardin’ her, you just ask. I will do whatever I can, you got my word on it,” she promised him.

 

“Oh fine, you can take her shopping, then. That gal costs me a fortune. See, if I don’t buy her what she wants, she just goes on back there and steals it. Hangover from her beggin’ days, I guess. Oh, and mean! I tried to borrow a couple of cents from her t’other day, for the shoe-shine boy. Jesus, I never seen anyone with two legs run that fast, let alone a body with just the one.” He grumbled, but with an undertone of sneaking admiration for the half-witted girl’s little foibles.

 

@Wayfarer @Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Brendan had been kissed lots of times, lots of ways, and under lots of different circumstances. Bridget's kiss was certainly the most chaste one he had had in a while, and it surprised him. Normally he could tell when a kiss was coming. Desire was one of the things about people he could actually read. But this kiss from Bridget was unexpected. Not completely unexpected - after all, he had seen the adoring way she looked at him - but still surprising.

 

He made a muffled noise of surprise as her lips touched his, and his hand instinctively found its way to the side of Bridget's face, where it rested, almost hovering, for the remainder of the short kiss. And it was short, almost like a goodnight kiss on the forehead a child gets from a mother.

 

He searched her face and eyes for signs of what was going on inside her head. What was going on inside there? Did she know how confused he was at the moment? "Thanks, Bridget," he said softly, brushing one thumb over her cheek.

 

He suddenly remembered that Crabbe and Caroline were waiting on him downstairs. "Hey, I've gotta go now." He stood slowly, tucking a strand of Bridget's red hair behind her. "But I'll come back another day." He gave a little wave and took a step back from the bed.

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In Some Other World, the kiss was returned, and love was sealed. In this world:

 

"Thanks, Bridget," he said softly, brushing one thumb over her cheek.

 

Thanks Bridget.

 

"Hey, I've gotta go now." He stood slowly, tucking a strand of Bridget's red hair behind her. "But I'll come back another day." He gave a little wave and took a step back from the bed.

 

Bridget sat back. She didn’t know why she had felt compelled to do it, kiss him. She didn’t know what she had expected to happen. She merely knew that suddenly the Sun had gone down outside and the room was illuminated only by the false half-light of the lamp. It cast a muted glow onto Brendan. He didn’t look real in this light, he was like a photograph, one of Lorenzo’s daguerreotypes: recognizable, the right size and shape but … like looking at a tintype, patently not the real person.

 

She felt confused, he had seemed so real to her when he held her and danced with her a few seconds ago, but now. She reached out a hand as he slipped away out of the room. She waved, looking like an animated dummy.   

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Crabbe snapped back at her that he did like her but he had a funny way of showing it. Caroline decided to move on back to the point of discussion, poor young Bridget. She made her very genuine offer then.

 

“Oh fine, you can take her shopping, then. That gal costs me a fortune. See, if I don’t buy her what she wants, she just goes on back there and steals it. Hangover from her beggin’ days, I guess. Oh, and mean! I tried to borrow a couple of cents from her t’other day, for the shoe-shine boy. Jesus, I never seen anyone with two legs run that fast, let alone a body with just the one.”

 

"Can't blame her none, she didn't have much and people like that treasure what they do have. I got enough money, I can buy her things so she don't hafta steal. I wonder if she might enjoy watching me sing and dance? She seems to like music and songs n' such. I would have her seated close to the bar so Ralph could keep a close watch on her if any customers got ....well overly friendly with her. So don't worry," Caroline replied.

 

"Oh, and if you wanna come on inta the place from here on in, it'll be safe. I will talk to Tildy and clear it for ya. You two just hit it off badly first time, she ain't one fer keeping grudges. Just don't piss her off is all," she sweetened the deal.

 

 

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"Can't blame her none, she didn't have much and people like that treasure what they do have. I got enough money, I can buy her things so she don't hafta steal. I wonder if she might enjoy watching me sing and dance? She seems to like music and songs n' such. I would have her seated close to the bar so Ralph could keep a close watch on her if any customers got ....well overly friendly with her. So don't worry," Caroline replied. 

 

“I reckon it’s them you’ll need to protect!” Crabbe started to banter, but then drew himself in a little, perhaps the drink was making him maudlin but he gave a little sad smile to himself and looked at Caroline seriously.

 

“You know, she would really love that. Do you realise that our little cracked nut hangs around outside that ol’ Saloon every single night at five just to hear you sing? Why she’s more crazy about you than them fellers as throws their silver dollars away on buying you cold tea in a whiskey glass.”

 

He looked at the real whiskey in his own glass ponderingly but, for once, didn’t take a giant gulp of it.

 

“It, er… well it means a lot to me that other folks’re nice to the poor girl… you, and Arabella and ol’ Mr Puppy Eyes up there.”

 

"Oh, and if you wanna come on inta the place from here on in, it'll be safe. I will talk to Tildy and clear it for ya. You two just hit it off badly first time, she ain't one fer keeping grudges. Just don't piss her off is all," she sweetened the deal.

 

Crabbe appreciated the offer, but he thought he was pretty safe to enter the saloon these days.

 

“Yeah, I did kinda sneak in t’other day, tell the truth, and I managed to avoid getting my hair parted by your Mr. Flandry, but puttin’ a good word in for dear old Lorenzo Crabbe with the boss lady might not go amiss. Yeah. You could tell her all about me bein’ a reformed character and all the good work I do  for charity and such-like. I mean, I know I’m no saint, but…”

 

He broke off as the door upstairs closed and they could hear footsteps coming down the stairs.

 

“Oh, here’s Connolly now.” Lorenzo jumped up to greet him. “Another drink, Mr. Connolly, before we get down to business?” Crabbe asked.

 

@Bailey @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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As Brendan reached the bottom step, he slowed and narrowed his eyes slightly. He wasn't sure what Crabbe and Caroline had been talking about before, but didn't want to ask them to recap. Maybe what they'd been talking about wouldn't have been important to him. But the way that Crabbe broke off when he had started down the stairs...

 

"Another drink, Mr. Connolly, before we get down to business?” Crabbe asked.

 

He wasn't used to being referred to with Mr. in front of his last name, and it felt strange. But it also felt...good, in a way. Like he was someone important. It made him want to stay and listen to whatever Crabbe had to say.

 

"Yeah, sure. Uh, I mean, please." He sat down beside Caroline across from Crabbe and cut his eyes at the saloon singer. Well, she was a lot easier on the eyes than Bridget, that was for sure, even fully clothed. If he could get Caroline to let him in her bed, he could forget about Bridget. Maybe. But he'd already tried and Caroline had made it very clear that she wasn't letting him or anyone else into her bed.

 

"What is this business you're talkin' about?"

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"Another drink, Mr. Connolly, before we get down to business?” Crabbe asked.

"Yeah, sure. Uh, I mean, please." He sat down beside Caroline across from Crabbe and cut his eyes at the saloon singer. 

 

Lorenzo rummaged around and brought out a new bottle the same brand of whiskey, he must've had a whole crate of the stuff around there. He poured the young cowboy a generous bumper of the golden liquid and handed it over before slumping back into his own seat.

 

"What is this business you're talkin' about?"

 

"Well, Mr. Connolly, the thing is this... er, well, to get straight to the point, I'd be mighty obliged to you if you'd marry Bridget, er, Miss Monahan, that is, and as soon as possible, too." he said, brushing a piece of imaginary lint off his trousers distractedly, as if the idea that he had just imparted was a thing of no moment at all. 

 

"Well now, you wouldn't have to actually do anything with her, if you get my drift. Not even sure you could if you wanted to, to be honest, Doctor says she, er, well, she ain't quite right 'down there' y'know.  No, no, you wouldn't even have to live with her. Just give her your name, basically, and you'd get a yearly stipend of an agreed amount and, er, well that can be monthly if you prefer. You wouldn't exactly inherit her fortune when she dies..." Crabbe seemed to imply that such an eventuality, Bridget dying way before Brendan, was a distinct possibility "... but aforementioned stipend wold continue for the rest of your life."

 

He seemed to have this odd arrangement all worked out in his head down to the last detail, but the reason for it was nowhere to be divined.

 

 

 

 

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Brendan nodded in thanks as Crabbe handed him another glass of whiskey. He drank this one more slowly and so was still drinking when Crabbe finally came out with his proposition. His head shot up and he choked on the whiskey.

 

"What!" He shot out of his chair. The word marriage, for someone like him, was almost as terrifying as the threat of jail. "But we didn't do nothin'! We just danced that one..."

 

Wait. Crabbe was still talking. He wouldn't have to do anything with her? It seemed that this was not a shotgun wedding, as he had assumed it to be. This was something else, something that didn't have to do with what he and Bridget had done or not done. He should have been relieved, but he was not.

 

"What d'you mean, she ain't right down there?" he demanded, more out of morbid curiosity than anything.

 

He would have asked more questions, but Crabbe's proposition came with a...a stipend? Was that money? Marry Bridget and then get money from Crabbe for the rest of his life? That didn't sound like too bad a deal. But the question was why was Crabbe doing this? Palming Bridget off to a man she'd only danced with once?

 

"So...you're sayin'...I marry Bridget and you'll give me money for the rest 'a my life?" He glanced at Caroline to make sure he was understanding and that she didn't think anything underhanded was going on.

 

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Caroline had been quiet for a bit (yes, unusual for the never shy young lady) content to let Crabbe deal with this very unusual situation. When Brendan glanced at her at first, she just returned it with a noncommittal look and played with her whiskey glass in one hand. But then her old friend launched into his spiel and - alright - what he was proposing was ...........well, certainly not what she would have ever expected. The cowpoke marry Bridget?????

 

Brendan reacted pretty much the same, with surprise and utter confusion. Caroline frowned toward Crabbe. What game was he playing here? And what was in it for him?

 

As for Brendan's initial question, Caroline wasn't going to be anything but blunt, "He means she can't have babies, probably can't even have sex. She's too damaged."  She could have tacked on mentally damaged too but she'd said enough.

 

"So...you're sayin'...I marry Bridget and you'll give me money for the rest 'a my life?" He glanced at Caroline.

 

Alright then, she felt compelled to jump in now with both feet. It all felt very wrong.

 

"Wait a damn minute here. You just got done complainin' ta me about how she is always costin' you money wanting things and makin' it sound like she's drivin' you to the poor house and now SUDDENLY you can afford to just pay out money on a regular basis to my friend here?" she snapped.

 

"And what about the two people themselves?  Brendan is young yet, with a lot of his life ahead of him and yer gonna stick him with ....and don't take this wrong, I think the girl is a sweet thing...but stick him with a crippled idiot for the rest of his life?"

 

She could go on but paused to let Crabbe try and talk his way out of this one.

 

 

 

 

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As for Brendan's initial question, Caroline wasn't going to be anything but blunt, "He means she can't have babies, probably can't even have sex. She's too damaged."  She could have tacked on mentally damaged too but she'd said enough.

 

"Er, yeah, summit like that." confirmed Crabbe. "I took her to this doctor in Butte, he checked her all over. She can't, ahem, 'satisfy a man'." he said, being a little bit more mealy mouthed than the straight talking Caroline. 

 

"So...you're sayin'...I marry Bridget and you'll give me money for the rest 'a my life?" He glanced at Caroline.

 

"That's about the size of it." shrugged Crabbe, as if that was all the explanation that were needed "Well, not me personally, some bank will." 

 

"Wait a damn minute here. You just got done complainin' ta me about how she is always costin' you money wanting things and makin' it sound like she's drivin' you to the poor house and now SUDDENLY you can afford to just pay out money on a regular basis to my friend here?" she snapped.

 

"Ah well..." Lorenzo became suddenly animated "Me and Charlie have got some interestin' irons in the fire that're going to pay out big over the next few years. Don't you worry Mr. Connolly, soon as you say you're in, I'll explain the whole financial situation to you plainly and we even go along to see Mr Wentworth at the bank to talk about how this guaranteed income'll come in. You'll be rakin' in the dollars safe as houses." he cooed reassuringly

 

"And what about the two people themselves?  Brendan is young yet, with a lot of his life ahead of him and yer gonna stick him with ....and don't take this wrong, I think the girl is a sweet thing...but stick him with a crippled idiot for the rest of his life?"

 

Crabbe nodded and pointed at Caroline. "See, Mr. Connolly, see... this is what I love about Mundee, she's got brains, she thinks ahead... that's right, you don't wanna be stuck with no cripple gaumin' up your works fer the rest of your natural life. No, no, no, why there'll be enough money splashin' round to put her up somewhere, hire some folks to look after her, why you won't even have to look at her again if you don't want to."

 

He stood up and straightened his fancy vest.

 

"The only thing that matters is that she's married and no fortune hunter can come wheedlin' around trying to get at her money and leave her destitute again. See, kids..." he'd stopped looking directly at them and was now staring off into the distance "... it's all up with me. I ain't too long for this world. Doctor's given me a year at most." He held up a warning hand. "Don't ask Mundee, let's just say the clue's in the name. But the fact is, I can't rely on Charlie, he's... why, he's a lot older than he looks, you know. And if I can't guarantee that Bridg' is gonna be safe and sound after I'm gone, then, well, the alternative ain't too nice to think about." he said cryptically. 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Brendan was glad he had brought Caroline with him. Apparently Crabbe had told her some things he hadn't let him in on yet, and those things contradicted with what he had told Brendan so far. Caroline called Crabbe out on it, and Brendan folded his arms as he listened to the man's explanation, his expression skeptical but interested. All this money Crabbe was talking about was tempting, but it just didn't make sense. Even he knew that you couldn't just produce money out of thin air, but Crabbe seemed certain that his "irons in the fire" would pan out.

 

He didn't really care that much about how long Crabbe had to live, but it did mean that Bridget wouldn't have anyone to care for her. And that made him want to take care of Bridget more than he already did.

 

But there was another thing that stuck in his craw about this whole deal: Crabbe's attitude about his ward. Earlier he had been concerned with Bridget's welfare - the tears he had shed while showing Bridget off to them were evidence of that - but now he didn't seem to care about her at all.

 

He took a step forward, arms still crossed, frowning. "Answer me this, Crabbe. If you care about Bridget so much, how come you're willin' to marry her off to someone and tell 'im he don't have to look at her again? Huh? "

 

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"Ah well..." Lorenzo became suddenly animated "Me and Charlie have got some interestin' irons in the fire that're going to pay out big over the next few years. Don't you worry Mr. Connolly, soon as you say you're in, I'll explain the whole financial situation to you plainly and we even go along to see Mr Wentworth at the bank to talk about how this guaranteed income'll come in. You'll be rakin' in the dollars safe as houses." he cooed reassuringly

 

"Guaranteed income? Irons in the fire? How many times have these get rich schemes of yers failed? You've never hit it big, unless you've hidden it from me," Caroline didn't believe this talk one bit.

 

Crabbe nodded and pointed at Caroline. "See, Mr. Connolly, see... this is what I love about Mundee, she's got brains, she thinks ahead... that's right, you don't wanna be stuck with no cripple gaumin' up your works fer the rest of your natural life. No, no, no, why there'll be enough money splashin' round to put her up somewhere, hire some folks to look after her, why you won't even have to look at her again if you don't want to."

 

"Well you sure don't like me for my kissing, that's for sure," she huffed although, in truth it was nice he did notice she might be uneducated but she was  plenty smart enough. As for the last part, that was so unkind to even suggest that for poor trusting Bridget.

 

"That's an awful thing ta say," she frowned.

 

"The only thing that matters is that she's married and no fortune hunter can come wheedlin' around trying to get at her money and leave her destitute again. See, kids..." Crabbe stopped looking directly at them and was now staring off into the distance "... it's all up with me. I ain't too long for this world. Doctor's given me a year at most."

 

"What?" Caroline wasn't sure she heard him right? Was he gonna up and die now?

 

The man held his hand up as if to stop whatever it was Caroline was going to say or in this case, ask!

 

"Don't ask Mundee, let's just say the clue's in the name. But the fact is, I can't rely on Charlie, he's... why, he's a lot older than he looks, you know. And if I can't guarantee that Bridg' is gonna be safe and sound after I'm gone, then, well, the alternative ain't too nice to think about."

 

"Oh my god, no," Caroline did not want to believe this tragic news.

 

Brendan took a step forward, arms still crossed, frowning. "Answer me this, Crabbe. If you care about Bridget so much, how come you're willin' to marry her off to someone and tell 'im he don't have to look at her again? Huh? "

 

For the moment Caroline just sat there, staring at her old friend. This had come out from nowhere. Sure they squabbled a lot but Caroline always considered the man one of her dearest friends. And now this....

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Guaranteed income? Irons in the fire? How many times have these get rich schemes of yers failed? You've never hit it big, unless you've hidden it from me," Caroline didn't believe this talk one bit.

 

"Hey, we did all right in Deadwood" Crabbe countered, a little disgruntled that Caroline though him such an endemic loser. "Me and Charlie worked our claim until it stopped paying out and got a tidy little bundle out of it, thank you very much! But even the biggest pile o' silver dollars is a finite thing, it only ever gets smaller. And if I did keep that hidden from folks, well... there's a lot of gold diggers of another sort out there." he added, not directly pointing the finger at the singer, of course.

 

Crabbe nodded and pointed at Caroline. "See, Mr. Connolly, see... this is what I love about Mundee, she's got brains, she thinks ahead... that's right, you don't wanna be stuck with no cripple gaumin' up your works fer the rest of your natural life. No, no, no, why there'll be enough money splashin' round to put her up somewhere, hire some folks to look after her, why you won't even have to look at her again if you don't want to."

 

"Well you sure don't like me for my kissing, that's for sure," she huffed although, in truth it was nice he did notice she might be uneducated but she was  plenty smart enough. As for the last part, that was so unkind to even suggest that for poor trusting Bridget.

 

"That's an awful thing ta say," she frowned.

 

Crabbe just shrugged. Bridget was strangely lovable, but looking after twenty four hours a day, seven days a week was pretty wearing. They hadn't lived that yet.

 

"The only thing that matters is that she's married and no fortune hunter can come wheedlin' around trying to get at her money and leave her destitute again. See, kids..." Crabbe stopped looking directly at them and was now staring off into the distance "... it's all up with me. I ain't too long for this world. Doctor's given me a year at most."

 

"What?" Caroline wasn't sure she heard him right? Was he gonna up and die now?

 

The man held his hand up as if to stop whatever it was Caroline was going to say or in this case, ask!

 

"Don't ask Mundee, let's just say the clue's in the name. But the fact is, I can't rely on Charlie, he's... why, he's a lot older than he looks, you know. And if I can't guarantee that Bridg' is gonna be safe and sound after I'm gone, then, well, the alternative ain't too nice to think about."

 

"Oh my god, no," Caroline did not want to believe this tragic news.

 

Again, Crabbe was able to give a nonchalant shrug: a combination of the booze and a wish to look brave in front of her, perhaps, he had also had a deal of time to come to terms with it himself, and of the two philosophical camps, he happened to fall into the 'probably serves me right' category.

 

Brendan took a step forward, arms still crossed, frowning. "Answer me this, Crabbe. If you care about Bridget so much, how come you're willin' to marry her off to someone and tell 'im he don't have to look at her again? Huh? "

 

For the moment Caroline just sat there, staring at her old friend. This had come out from nowhere. Sure they squabbled a lot but Caroline always considered the man one of her dearest friends. And now this....

 

Brendan's slightly aggressive tone braced Lorenzo up a little and he stood erect at his full height now looking the young cowboy square in the eye.

 

"I'm just a realist, Mr. Connolly. Right now I can see that you're a tolerably decent feller who has a touching regard for my ward. I cannot guarantee to myself that that is how you will feel about her in a year's time, or two years' time, or ten years' time: it's incumbent upon me to ensure as far as possible that her future is a safe and happy one no matter what happens, and that includes the possibility that you may tire of her, Sir!" 

 

You could always tell good whiskey because it made you more eloquent the drunker you got.

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Crabbe's words were not what Brendan wanted to hear, and the confrontational way that he had stood up was not what he wanted to see. And it didn't help that he didn't know what the word "incumbent" meant, but he had gotten the gist of the man's message.

 

He didn't like the light Crabbe was painting him in, even if it was just theoretical. And maybe what got him so much is that it wasn't just theoretical. He was a cowboy, and up until this point had been a drifting one. Marriage for him didn't make sense because he would get tired of whoever he had married, regardless of whether she had one leg or not. But hearing Crabbe voice his tendencies - even if he was guessing - was uncomfortable. His frown deepened and he pointed his index finger at Crabbe.

 

"Look here. I like Bridget, even though it don't make sense. An' I want what's best for her. But I can't just up an' marry her! I'm sleepin' on Caroline's floor, dammit, and that's no way for a gal to start married life. An' even if I did find another job somewhere, it wouldn't be a place fit to bring a wife!"

 

It addition to all the logistics that would have to be figured out for this to work, he felt like he was being boxed in to this and didn't like it. He turned to Caroline, hoping she would back him up even though she seemed to be in shock at the news of Crabbe's impending death.

 

"You wouldn't marry a ranch hand, would you?" he demanded. "No privacy even if there was somewhere besides a bunkhouse for you to sleep. It just don't make sense, even for you."

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ooc: Sorry, lost track of this one.

 

Caroline was still listening but the shock of hearing her old friend was a dying man was foremost in her thoughts. There had not been a hint of this until just now. But in the meantime Brendan and the man went back and forth on this crazy scheme to marry him off to Bridget.

 

Suddenly the young cowpoke was addressing her directly. She snapped out of it.

 

"You wouldn't marry a ranch hand, would you?" he demanded. "No privacy even if there was somewhere besides a bunkhouse for you to sleep. It just don't make sense, even for you."

 

"Even for me? Oh thanks!" Caroline raised one eyebrow at that line.

 

"And you already know I ain't marrying anybody. My career doesn't go with marrying anyone least til I get too old to perform and by then no one would want me. I told you once before, I can't afford to get pregnant in my line of work."

 

 

 

 

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"You wouldn't marry a ranch hand, would you?" he demanded. "No privacy even if there was somewhere besides a bunkhouse for you to sleep. It just don't make sense, even for you."

 

"Even for me? Oh thanks!" Caroline raised one eyebrow at that line.

 

This, at least, gave Crabbe a grim chuckle "he he, even for Mundee." he repeated. 

 

"And you already know I ain't marrying anybody. My career doesn't go with marrying anyone least til I get too old to perform and by then no one would want me. I told you once before, I can't afford to get pregnant in my line of work."

 

Lorenzo waved his hands in the air as if dispelling a cloud of off topic hot air. "Well, we ain't talkin' about your nupt'ls Mundee, we're talkin' about young Mr. Connolly here" he reminded her. "Now, look son, I ain't askin' fer an answer right now, I ain't askin' to know tomorrow, just you think on it and let me know when you're sure." he said, trying to avoid a knee-jerk 'no' from the handsome cow-poke. 

 

"Just keep this in mind: with a guaranteed income, you don't have to be a cowboy anymore, if you don't want to be, you could open a store, breed horses, go prospectin' , anything. Why, you could be whatever you wanna be. You just think on that." he smoothly described a veritable land of Cockayne.

 

@Bailey @Wayfarer

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About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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