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A New Broom Sweeps Clean or The Littered House on the Prairie


Jemima Wigfall
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Mature Content: No, but unpleasant scenes of domestic cleaning activities.

Author: Jemima Wigfall

With: Clara Lutz; Miriam Kaufmann; Arabella Mudd.
Location: Shack on the Miggins Homestead.
When: Later June 1876.
Time of Day: Around 11am.

 

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How did she do it? How DID she do it?

 

As she pulled Bridget Monahan's little pony and trap up to the doorway of the Shack that Granny Miggins had pointed out to them, a good mile away from the main house and half hidden by bushes and trees, Jemima twisted around and looked at Miriam and Arabella lolling around in the rear of the small vehicle with their legs dangling over the back ("We've gotta sit in the back while you drive the pony cause Miriam gets sick otherwise"). All the cleaning equipment and the nice food they'd brought with them, and Jemima's gun, were piled up on the front seat next to her. 

 

How did she do it?

 

One) Arabella had persuaded her own employers and Mr. Pettigrew that it was URGENT that they, all three, be given the day off so they could go and help out a young newly married girl who was 'on the point of nervous collapse' trying to turn a wreck of a shack into a family home.

 

Two) Arabella had persuaded that big soppy scardy-cat Miriam to leave the safe confines of Kalispell and risk the 'Injun Infested' journey to the Miggins place to help. "Don't worry, 'Mima'll protect us, and if there's too many Injuns to kill, she said she'll save the last three bullets for us so as we can blow our brains out: and don't worry you won't be brave enough, cause I don't mind blowin' yours out for ya, 'fore I do mine!"

 

Three) Arabella had persuaded Miriam's parents, whom, after one visit she now familiarly referred to as Papa and Mama, to allow her to go ('Such a pretty, clever girl our Miriam has now for a friend yet! And this crack-shot Jemima? Such a wonder!") 

 

Four) Arabella had convinced Bridget to lend them her pony and trap despite wanting desperately to go along on the jaunt herself. "But Bridget, there ain't no room fer you, and 'sides, you bein' a cripple, you wouldn't be any help at all!" she had explained sensitively.

 

Five) Somehow Arabella had persuaded HER to waste a day helping out the woman who had stolen her man... sorta. 

 

She was woken from her reverie by the sound of the mouthy Southerner banging on the shack's front door (only door actually) somewhat gingerly: it looked like it might splinter if she knocked too hard. "Clara? Clara? ... CLARA!!!"

 

She made up vocally for the quietness of the knocks.

 

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@Wayfarer

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Clara had her hair up in a bun behind her and her sleeves rolled up as she continued her efforts to try and make this abandoned cabin SOMEWHAT liveable for the hopefully FEW days she and husband, Jacob were going to need to live there. It really wouldn't be that unbearable given that she knew soon she would be living upstairs from the Lick Skillet thanks to Emelines generous offer.

 

Still the place was a wreck, the roof had holes in it - so far it had not rained, thank the Lord, the only two windows were boarded up making it dark as a cave in the place, and the door positively rattled with a gust of wind. Everything had been layered in dust so deep one could have written in it with a finger. Oh and it was obvious various animals had gotten within and lived there for awhile. There was one table and two chairs as the extent of furniture. Oh yeah, a bed frame but nothing more. So they were sleeping on blankets on the floor, when they were not awakened by ants and even more crawly insects. Clara had never much minded spiders until that first night when she awoke to find a large one on her nose. Needless to say Jacob woke up to a loud scream.

 

The chimney had half collapsed, clogging the fireplace so what cooking they had done was over a simple campfire twenty yards from the ruin....errr...cabin. Which was tolerable because the truth was they had brought almost nothing to eat, splitting two eggs and a thick crust of bread between them.

 

Now Jacob was gone, off on some new job he had signed on for with the telegraph company and it involved him being gone for a few days and nights at a time. So all this cleaning was on her, that is when she wasn't still doing her work shifts at the diner.

 

The young woman was so busy she did not even hear the horse or buggy sounds as it pulled up just outside the place but she certainly heard the loud bellowing of one Arabella Mudd to go along with a hard pounding on the door.  Oh heavens, that all she needed now was a visitor and it being Arabella, a visitor who would no doubt want to talk on and on until the cows came home. Yeah, like Clara wished they really did have a cow or two.

 

Letting the washrag sink back into the water bucket, she sighed and arose from her knees, thankfully she wore her oldest work dress (well, it's not like she had that many dresses period) because it was filthy.

 

"Coming!" she cried out not that it silenced Arabella.

 

Pulling open the door, it did not open completely as the door or maybe even the floor of the cabin had shifted at some point  preventing a smooth opening and closing of the door. she saw not just Arabella but the Wigfall girl and ...who was that?

 

"Hello, Arabella, what brings you way out here?"

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This was an unexpected little adventure in Miriam's view as she dangled her legs next to those of her new but bosom friend for life, Arabella, while the buggy bumped along the rough dirt trail. She had been amazed how Ara had managed to even sweet talk her parents into allowing her to go on this errand of mercy. Especially given the whole terrible Indian business where those red skinned savages had slaughtered the whole 7th cavalry. Fortunately Miriam figured there had to be at a minimum of six more cavalries the government could use to chase those red men and bring on just revenge.

 

Miriam was looking forward to meeting this Clara as she certainly had already heard much about the girl as Arabella filled her in on so many details of Ara's recent past. It seemed she was nearly dead when a building fell on top of her, then almost buried alive thinking she had expired, and that's how Ara had met this Clara who had labored heroically to nurse her back to health. Ara said too that Clara was just a bit older than her but yet she was already married? Goodness, that seemed.....awful early in one's life to do such a thing?  To some farm boy she met at a dance only a few months earlier? He must be quite the impressive specimen of manhood or maybe just a very nice fellow.

 

Miriam had also been wanting to meet some town girl named Bridget and who owned the buggy they were using but Ara said the girl was such that she was incapable of such work or almost any work when it came right down to it. She had lost a leg - how sad, poor thing.

 

The rather intimidating Jemima was however along with them, Ara assured Miriam this was all the protection they would need from marauding Indians and Miriam believed it too.  Though the whole spiel of blowing people's brains out was a bit ....well, less reassuring though by now Miriam well knew to take some....much of what the girl said with a grain of salt. But regardless, Miriam was in a light hearted mood, content to spend what would have been a work day with her friend, Ara.

 

Upon arrival they clambered from the buggy and trooped up to the front door, Miriam gawking at the condition of this place. People lived in something this dilapidated? Seemed awful strange, a girl would get married for this?

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Pulling open the door, it did not open completely as the door or maybe even the floor of the cabin had shifted at some point  preventing a smooth opening and closing of the door. she saw not just Arabella but the Wigfall girl and ...who was that?

 

"Hello, Arabella, what brings you way out here?"

 

"Howdy Clara! We'uns has all come to help you clean up this place!" Arabella beamed, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. 

 

At that point Jemima hollered that she needed to tie up Janella and was going to have a look around the back of the shack: presumably to see what structural problems there might be that might need shoring up. Arabella just waved at her, she had more important fish to fry: the big introduction between two of the most important people in her life.

 

"Clara, this is my new friend Miss Miriam Kaufmann of New York, Miriam, this is Mrs Clara Anne Lutz, formerly Miss Clara Anne Redmond, of Redmond Farm." she'd been practicing that and thought it sounded so formal and pretty and grand. 

 

"Miriam's a professional seamstress; why, I thought that she would be invaluable if'n we need to run up a few curtains!" she added, wanting to laud her new best friend's skills. 
 

Invaluable’ - she had been practicing that word, too, and hoped that the blue-stocking Clara would be suitably impressed by it.

 

"Ooooh" Arabella suddenly remembered and reached out to touch Clara's tummy "How's baby Arabella?!" she whispered, like Miriam wouldn't hear, standing right next to them.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Howdy Clara! We'uns has all come to help you clean up this place!" Arabella beamed.

 

Clara blinked in surprise but stammered out a quick, "Oh...ummm, well thank you then."

She would have normally invited her guests in but not in this dump. Even though they obviously already knew of the situation or they wouldn't be here. Question was how did they know all this? She had not told anyone...

 

But Ara was into introductions now, well one anyhow.

 

"Clara, this is my new friend Miss Miriam Kaufmann of New York, Miriam, this is Mrs Clara Anne Lutz, formerly Miss Clara Anne Redmond, of Redmond Farm."

 

New York? And she ended up in Kalispell? Interesting. Clara nodded acknowledgement and even tried to give her a proper smile, that was never an easy thing for the solemn girl.

 

"Hello, Miss Kaufmann."

 

So this was the magnificent Clara, Miriam smiled back. If Ara thought so highly of her then she must indeed be worthy.

 

"Hello Miss Red...oops, I mean Mrs. Lutz," Miriam stumbled on her reply wouldn't you know it.

 

"Oh just call..." Clara started but Arabella had more to say  (shocking I know).

 

"Miriam's a professional seamstress; why, I thought that she would be invaluable if'n we need to run up a few curtains!"

 

Professional seamstress? She looked fifteen, sixteen, maybe seventeen at best, Clara thought but then who was she to think such things, here she was a married woman at sixteen.

 

"That's wonderful but no, I am not going to bother that much with this old place. You see it is just temporary until Jacob and I move into the apartment upstairs at Lick Skillet. I would never want this place for anything ...on a long basis that is," Clara explained.

 

"Don't blame you," Miriam nodded.

 

"Ooooh" Arabella suddenly remembered and reached out to touch Clara's tummy "How's baby Arabella?!" she whispered, like Miriam wouldn't hear, standing right next to them.

 

A horrified Clara slapped Arabellas's hand aside, "The baby is not going to be named Arabella and that is final. And it is fine."

 

She quickly glanced at this newcomer, embarrassed for actually she was not showing yet and Arabella could have kept it secret but of course not now.

 

"Are you new to Kalispell, fresh from New York, Miriam? Oh and please call me Clara."

 

Miriam got it now alright, this girl was married because she was pregnant already, out of wedlock no doubt. Her own parents would be so horrified they would certainly disown her. Of course maybe this was why she was out here in a shack that was only fit for a torch.

 

"Yes, my father wanted to start his own business up back in New York and get the family out of such a huge crowded and frankly filthy place so he decided to go west. Well, here we are...out west enough apparently," Miriam answered figured she had better say something about the ....baby. But keep it safe.

 

"Congratulations, about the baby I mean," it then dawned her maybe she should also add  'and good luck too" but she stopped right there. The girl was going to need it!

Miriam-Square.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arabella watched wide eyed, looking from one to the other with a grin of delight as the two women met: it was like seeing Grant meet Lee or Queen Victoria meet Lewis Carroll!

 

"Hello Miss Red...oops, I mean Mrs. Lutz," Miriam stumbled on her reply wouldn't you know it.

 

"Oh just call..." Clara started but Arabella had more to say  (shocking I know).

 

"Miriam's a professional seamstress; why, I thought that she would be invaluable if'n we need to run up a few curtains!"

 

Arabella wanted Clara to know that Miriam had her qualities. 

 

"That's wonderful but no, I am not going to bother that much with this old place. You see it is just temporary until Jacob and I move into the apartment upstairs at Lick Skillet. I would never want this place for anything ...on a long basis that is," Clara explained.

 

"Don't blame you," Miriam nodded.

 

"Oh, isn't that wonderful Miriam, Clara will be living in Kalispell, we'll all be able to see each other ALL the time!"

 

"Ooooh" Arabella suddenly remembered and reached out to touch Clara's tummy "How's baby Arabella?!" she whispered, like Miriam wouldn't hear, standing right next to them.

 

A horrified Clara slapped Arabellas's hand aside, "The baby is not going to be named Arabella and that is final. And it is fine."

 

The pot-girl screwed up her lips and, bending over, peered at Clara's midriff as if she was hoping to see through at what the little baby was up to. Then it was back to being a fascinated spectator at their conversational tennis match. 

 

"Are you new to Kalispell, fresh from New York, Miriam? Oh and please call me Clara."

 

"Yes, my father wanted to start his own business up back in New York and get the family out of such a huge crowded and frankly filthy place so he decided to go west. Well, here we are...out west enough apparently," Miriam answered figured she had better say something about the ....baby. But keep it safe.

 

"Congratulations, about the baby I mean," it then dawned her maybe she should also add  'and good luck too" but she stopped right there. The girl was going to need it!

 

"Oh, Clara's gonna make such a wonderful Mother, Miriam, and her husband Jacob is gonna be a wonderful Father: they're both so clever and good looking! And he is such a  good husband, too. He was the one that told me all about them having to live here a spell and how worried he was about leavin' her all alone with all this mess to tidy up. Well..." she turned to Clara now "...that's when I had this here idea of us three comin' over to to help out, and Jemima stayin' over a couple of nights while me and Miriam go back with Uncle Ned." 

 

At that point the aforementioned Wigfall girl appeared. She gave Clara a nod.

 

"Y'got tiles off and a collapsed chimbley, Missus." she informed the new Mrs Lutz of what she was  already aware. "We can fix them once we've cleaned up. Let's have a look inside." she said in a business-like manner.

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Oh, isn't that wonderful Miriam, Clara will be living in Kalispell, we'll all be able to see each other ALL the time!"

 

Clara looked almost alarmed at that declaration, "Well, not all the time. I have to work and you all have jobs too."

 

Arabella gushed on,  "Oh, Clara's gonna make such a wonderful Mother, Miriam, and her husband Jacob is gonna be a wonderful Father: they're both so clever and good looking!"

 

Miriam listened of course, she was a good listener, but she had no clue how being good looking made one a wonderful parent?

 

"And he is such a  good husband, too. He was the one that told me all about them having to live here a spell and how worried he was about leavin' her all alone with all this mess to tidy up."

 

Clara now realized how these girls found out about this but said nothing.

 

Arabella turned to Clara now "...that's when I had this here idea of us three comin' over to to help out, and Jemima stayin' over a couple of nights while me and Miriam go back with Uncle Ned." 

 

"Umm, no...no, she is not staying overnight," Clara frowned.

 

Speaking of Jemima, she now returned from the back of the building such as it was.

 

"Y'got tiles off and a collapsed chimbley, Missus." she stated.

 

"Yes, thank you Jemima, I already know that," Clara wondered if the girl thought her blind?

 

"We can fix them once we've cleaned up. Let's have a look inside." "Jemima said in a business-like manner.

 

Miriam seemed a bit alarmed, "Oh dear, I can clean but I have no idea how to fix a roof?"

 

Would they not need shingles?

 

"We do not need all that fixed up, as I have said, Jacob and I are staying here but a few days and nights at most, not long term tenants," Clara repeated herself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Arabella turned to Clara now "...that's when I had this here idea of us three comin' over to to help out, and Jemima stayin' over a couple of nights while me and Miriam go back with Uncle Ned." 

 

"Umm, no...no, she is not staying overnight," Clara frowned.

 

"When'd she tell you that?!" asked Arabella, confused.

 

Speaking of Jemima, she now returned from the back of the building such as it was, and reported on her findings.

 

Miriam seemed a bit alarmed, "Oh dear, I can clean but I have no idea how to fix a roof?"

 

"I'll do that." Jemima assured the little seamstress with her usual blunt tone and unsmiling face. But Clara didn't seem too keen on any of this fixer-upper-ing.

 

"We do not need all that fixed up, as I have said, Jacob and I are staying here but a few days and nights at most, not long term tenants," Clara repeated herself.

 

Jemima looked daggers at Arabella "She doesn't want us here, let's go." she said flatly.

 

"No, no, no! Course she does! Don't yuh Clara?!" she said in a panicky voice. "An' I promised Jacob, Oh Clara, he seemed so worried about leaving you on your own with all them Injuns about in this tumble-down ol' sidegogglin' shack, and I said you couldn't have a man stay with you cause that ain't respectable, but I knew where I could get the next best thing!"

 

Jemima folded her arms at this description. 

 

"Thanks!" she said sardonically.

 

@Wayfarer

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"When did she tell you that?"

 

"She did not, this is me saying 'no'," Clara thought that was quite obvious.

 

Miriam confided she had no roofing skills, unsurprising really for a young lady, neither did Clara.

But on the other hand why bother? Why make these girls work - and roofing was hard work, anyone knew that, for maybe....MAYBE two nights, three at the most? Clara would feel terrible.

So she turned down the offer, as she believed it her right.

 

Jemima looked daggers at Arabella "She doesn't want us here, let's go." she said flatly.

 

"You do not know what I want," Clara quickly pointed out.

 

"No, no, no! Course she does! Don't yuh Clara?!" Arabella said in a panicky voice.

 

"And you also, Arabella, you do not know what I want," Clara almost repeated herself word for word. It seemed everyone knew what she was thinking and yet none of them did.  Well, the mousey new girl excepted, she looked somewhat upset at the bickering which seemed to be what it was turning into.

 

"An' I promised Jacob, Oh Clara, he seemed so worried about leaving you on your own with all them Injuns about in this tumble-down ol' sidegogglin' shack, and I said you couldn't have a man stay with you cause that ain't respectable, but I knew where I could get the next best thing!"

 

Clara gave a flustered and very dramatic sigh then held up one hand to signal to all of them that she wanted the floor.

 

"Let us get something straight here. I am so tired of people telling me what I want instead of doing the simple act of just ASKING me what it is I really do want. This is my home, however short lasting it may be and I am quite used to managing such things as I did it for my family ever since my mother died."

 

"So first off Jacob told me nothing about any of this, he did not even inquire how I might like it or not like it. He just assumed. Then you showed up here and at first I was truly happy to see you and then when you offered to help clean up the place. A kind and most Christian thing for you ladies to do."

 

"But then you kept on going on, telling me what was going to happen, then even declaring what is I want. Did you ever think, even for an instant, Arabella to just come up here and ask a simple   'Clara, would like you like some help. We are here to help you."  Not tell me everything like you know my mind and my desires."

 

She turned to Jemima, "You are welcome here, it was nice of you to come but I would like it if I can have help cleaning the inside of the place up. Not the roof, not the chimney because that is  a prodigious amount of hard work that I would feel guilty imposing upon you. And what if you got hurt? That would a terrible thing."

 

Then it was back to Arabella, "I am sorry I had to engage in such polemics but it needed saying. I value your friendship, I do not value being dictated to and then being told what I want. If you feel I am being ungrateful, then of course it is your choice to leave but I would be sad for that to be the outcome of what started as a generous gesture of friendship by you and you too Jemima, and of course Miriam here."

 

Miriam's brown eyes went straight to Ara.

 

 

 

 

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By the end of Clara's long speech, the other three girls were left standing agog, aghast and adrift. The first to recover her wits was Arabella who turned to Miriam and then Jemima with a frown of her face, then back to Clara. She held up a hand. "Hold it right there a second Clara, we need to have a conflab. Girls!" She waved the other two toward her and a little away from the annoyed Mrs Lutz.

 

Miriam, Mima and Bella got into a huddle, from which snatches of whispered conversation drifted on the breeze toward Clara.

 

"... no, she can't be havin' her time of the month if she's pregnant .... no, she said she didn't want the chimbley fixin' .... crazy when they're havin' a baby... curtains runnin up .... what's polemics then? ..." At the end of this conference, they all looked around at her, worried, and then did 'One Potato - Two Potato" to decide which one of them was going to parley with the crazy woman. Arabella tried to fix it so Jemima got the job, and ended up with the final fist herself. They all turned round and smiled at the object of their pity.

 

"Clara... Mrs Lutz. We three girls has come out here to help you if you want. Would you like us to do any little thing for you? Please do tell us if'n you would like us all to do any little thing at all." she said in a queer, soothing, sing song voice, and then nodded furiously at Jemima, who was doing her horrible approximation of a smile.

 

"Er, oh, and we won't mend the roof or rebuild the chimbly or fix the polemics unless you ask us to." she said reassuringly.

 

Arabella then nudged Miriam "Tell her about the nice food we brung." she whispered: hoping that their proffered viands might calm the savage beast.

 

@Wayfarer 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Though it was rather rude to have their little huddle and leave her there, she so obviously knew the subject matter. Clara waited it out, picking up only tiny bits of what was being said.  At length Arabella approached her once more and started up.

 

Clara took every word with much more than a pinch of salt. It was even said in such a sickly sweetish tone, smacking of insincerity.

 

"Please do tell us if'n you would like us all to do any little thing at all."

 

"Well, I must say..." Clara started but Arabella wasn't quite done.

 

"Er, oh, and we won't mend the roof or rebuild the chimbly or fix the polemics unless you ask us to."

 

Fix the ???? Clara wasn't going to even bother. She wanted to get out her main answer now.

 

"So now you are going to be condescending then? I could take umbrage but frankly, beggars cannot be choosers and in this current state of mine, I am most decidedly going to simply take you up on your offer. Thank you all of you," Clara nodded and opened the door as far as she could so they might enter in.

 

Arabella then nudged Miriam "Tell her about the nice food we brung."

 

"Huh? Ohhh, certainly....I'm sorry," Miriam was taken aback for a few seconds before smiling up at the taller Clara, "We thought you might be hungry so we brought along a lunch basket with fried chicken and some pickled cucumber plus corn bread biscuits. Hope you like it?"

 

Clara nodded and even returned the smile as best she could, "Thank you, ladies. I will admit to being quite famished."

 

"Anyhow please come in and perhaps you can assist me with cleaning the floors and dusting everything. Oh and if you find any more dead animals, chucking them out," she remarked.

 

"More dead animals?" Miriam was wide eyed.

 

 

 

 

 

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"So now you are going to be condescending then? I could take umbrage but frankly, beggars cannot be choosers and in this current state of mine, I am most decidedly going to simply take you up on your offer. Thank you all of you," Clara nodded and opened the door as far as she could so they might enter in.

 

'Condescending'? 'Umbrage'? Clara's new helpmates looked at each other: this might require another huddle. But luckily Clara then used sign language by opening the door to them, and they knew that she was graciously allowing them to clean her house.

 

Arabella then nudged Miriam "Tell her about the nice food we brung."

 

"Huh? Ohhh, certainly....I'm sorry," Miriam was taken aback for a few seconds before smiling up at the taller Clara, "We thought you might be hungry so we brought along a lunch basket with fried chicken and some pickled cucumber plus corn bread biscuits. Hope you like it?"

 

"And don't worry, we didn't cook any of it!" Arabella assured her: after all, Clara didn't know Miriam at all, she knew Arabella only too well, and Jemima just looked like the sort of person you wouldn't want to have griddlin' your chitlins. "It's all from Mammy Cookie, Mrs Wigfall and Rachel. Oh! That's Miriam's Mama, we're on first name terms you know..." Arabella boasted "... like a third daughter, I am." she beamed, closing her eyes, shaking her head in a sort of ecstasy and unconsciously mimicking Mrs Kaufmann's Yiddish speech patterns and intonation. 

 

Clara nodded and even returned the smile as best she could, "Thank you, ladies. I will admit to being quite famished."

 

"Oh, well, wait 'till you taste Rachel's fried chicken! It's a traditional Jewish dish, you know!" lectured Arabella, who was more obsessed with Hebrew culture than the whole five members of Miriam's family put together. "... except we call it kosher schnitzel!"

 

"Anyhow please come in and perhaps you can assist me with cleaning the floors and dusting everything. Oh and if you find any more dead animals, chucking them out," she remarked.

 

"More dead animals?" Miriam was wide eyed.

 

They hadn't been in there five seconds before Arabella let out a dreadful scream and tried to clamber onto a rickety table. "WAAAAAAAAA! There's a great big spider on the floor!!" she yelped "Quick, kill it!!"

 

Jemima bent down and gently picked up the admittedly large Hobo-spider in her cupped hands to carry it outside. "No, don't kill them, its bad luck" she admonished the panicking girl, who was now screaming again because she was nearer the roof and cobwebs were brushing her face.

 

"Anyhow, how come you're so scared of a few insects [sic] you told me you spent fourteen years growing up in a tumbledown shack on a mountain!" Jemima frowned at the quaking Arabella.

 

"I did!" she wailed "And I spent fourteen years screamin'!"

 

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Clara listened to Arabella describe the cooks, she'd have to trust those women knew what they were doing. One was a professional cook, granted for a saloon, and the other two mothers. That had to count for something.

 

"Sounds good. Let us get some work done now," as long as they were here, Clara wasn't going to waste their precious time here with idle chatter.

 

A big spider frightened Arabella into near blind panic and ear ringing sound levels but Jemima handled it adroitly. Clara would have just stomped on the creature.  As Clara half expected Ara would probably be not all that useful, what with her fear of spiders in a place like this and her proclivity to just chatter away about any old topic instead of working. Miriam and Jemina were much better though.  They actually were making a lot of progress until...

 

"Might be able to get some fresh water? This stuff is almost black now," Miriam pointed out  tilting the bucket so that Clara could see.

 

"Yes, but there is no well about, there is a small creek about a few hundred yards to the east, you could get some there," Clara answered.

 

Soon Jemima and Miriam were off to fill up three buckets thus giving Clara and Arabella with a bit of private time.

 

"This was very nice of you to show up like this. The new girl seems very nice," Clara remarked, knowing that would be more than enough to spark Arabella into more conversation.

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"This was very nice of you to show up like this. The new girl seems very nice," Clara remarked, knowing that would be more than enough to spark Arabella into more conversation.

 

Arabella gave a veritable gasp of agreement. "Oh Clara, isn't she WONDERFUL!!?" she asked grasping the slightly older girl's hand. She gave a sigh of ecstasy and looked up to the heaven from whence, she believed, Miriam had descended.

 

"She is so beautiful and clever and shy and talented... I heard Mr. Pettigrew say he'd never seen anyone who was self taught sew like her, and when she's all trained up, why, she'd be able to get a job in one of the big fashion houses in New Orleans or New York or Paris or Helena or anywhere!" she panted, having forgotten to breath while executing this veritable eulogy.

 

"Course, I'd have to go with her!" she added, suddenly looking worried at the idea of being separated from the seamstress.

 

"Oh, and her family. Such a family you never met!" she expanded, somehow, either subconsciously or on purpose slipping into Mrs Kaufmann's Yiddish speech-patterns again and emphasising what she was saying with the same sort of hand movements. "The mother: a paragon; the Father; you never met so hard-working; the son; such an artist, and the little sister, a blessing, such a shayna punim!"

 

Clara looked at her a bit strangely at all this kvelling about her new friend and, it seemed, adoptive family. Arabella thought she knew what the problem was, and quickly moved to quell Clar's fears.

 

"Oh... course... all that don't mean I ain't your bosom friend no more, I mean, I don't want you to feel all jealous of Miriam. I ... I can have two bosom friends, can't I? I mean you got Jacob now and I got Miriam, so it's even-stevens, ain't it?!" she assured the new Mrs Lutz, who was probably seething with rage that Miss Kaufmann had displaced her in Arabella's most ardent affections.

 

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As Miriam and Jemima walked down to the creek until, about half way there, the older girl stopped and caught the younger by the arm, so that she skidded to a halt and their buckets clanked together. 

 

"Hold it" said Jemima with that serious, narrow eyed look on her face that made it look like she was permanently scowling at the world and all it contained. "I've been wanting to say something to you and now's about the best time, I reckon."

 

She put down her buckets and drew herself up to her full height and crossed her arms. "It's about you and her." she said, nodding a head back to the shack, but without taking her eyes of the shy little Jewish girl. 'Her' was Arabella, presumably, for Clara was still really a stranger to her.

 

"Plumbing up pretty good friends, ain't ya?" she asked, or rather stated, looking deep into Miriam's eyes, as if trying to bore into her very soul. Then she said it.

 

"You more'n friends?"

 

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Goodness, Arabella sure gushed on and on about this new girl. Apparently well on the road to be the finest seamstress west of the Mississippi? And then Arabella realized she might have to go with her to her new homes.

 

"Well, that may be so but give it a few years. You both are a bit young for gallivanting about the country," Clara advised, this coming from a pregnant bride of sixteen.

 

"So she is Jewish, I recognize some of the terms you been saying. I think her family might well be the only Jews in Kalispell," she mused, she had nothing against Jews even though there were some folks who said they were Christ's crucifiers. Certainly not this family of course.

 

Arabella was suddenly afraid Clara would be distraught, jealous, something over her budding new friendship. The truth was far from it.

 

"No, I do not harbor such thoughts. Not at all. I am happy for you to find such a good friend. And it does not change our friendship either. Friendship can be for life," she declared.

 

 

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Miriam came to an instant halt upon Jemima's command, the bigger older girl had something she suddenly wanted to say. Who was Miriam to refuse to hear her out. In truth Jemima was quite intimidating to the petite brunette.

 

"It's about you and her..." clarified Jemima.

 

"Arabella? Of course, what?" Miriam clutched her lone pail.

 

"Plumbing up pretty good friends, ain't ya?" Jemima stared at her like she was preparing to pounce almost. 

 

"Yes," Miriam nodded, big eyed.

 

"You more'n friends?"

 

Miriam seemed puzzled, "Excuse me. Not sure what you mean?  We have agreed to be best of friends, yes. I don't know what more than friends means?"

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"Well, that may be so but give it a few years. You both are a bit young for gallivanting about the country," Clara advised, this coming from a pregnant bride of sixteen.

 

Arabella shook her head. "Uh-uh! I'm just counting the days! Come next April I'll be sixteen years big an' I'm gettin' gallivantin'!" she announced proudly. "An' Miriam will already be sixteen, too. Oh, we're virtually twins, 'cept she's Jewish."

 

"So she is Jewish, I recognize some of the terms you been saying. I think her family might well be the only Jews in Kalispell," she mused, she had nothing against Jews even though there were some folks who said they were Christ's crucifiers. Certainly not this family of course.

 

"Yeah, and if anybody says they don't like 'em cause of it, I'll bash 'em!" threatened Arabella with a look of serious intent on her face as she held up a very weak looking arm and fist. Such a threat might have been more pungent coming from someone like Jemima.

 

Arabella was suddenly afraid Clara would be distraught, jealous, something over her budding new friendship. The truth was far from it.

 

"No, I do not harbor such thoughts. Not at all. I am happy for you to find such a good friend. And it does not change our friendship either. Friendship can be for life," she declared.

 

"Oh Clara, that's so poetical!" melted the younger girl "I'd give you a hug but I don't wanna squash the baby!" Still, it would have been nicer if Clara had been just a little bit jealous!

 

"And you mustn't worry too much about Jacob bein' away on that  hair-raising perilous job o' work he's on, too much worry by Mommy will be bad for baby, too." she pontificated.

 

"Oh, is it still all right to call him Jacob now that you're wed: it might be too familiar, maybe I should call him Mr. Lutz or you'll get jealous of me and think I'm getting over-friendly with your awfully wedded husband..." she rattled on, oblivious that she'd just let on about how this gig with Hector Wigfall was one fraught with danger. 

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"You more'n friends?"

 

Miriam seemed puzzled, "Excuse me. Not sure what you mean?  We have agreed to be best of friends, yes. I don't know what more than friends means?"

 

Jemima sniffed . This was a bad habit, always giving a little sniff before she spoke, and it always gave the impression that she was either pissed with the person she was speaking to or trying to 'sniff out the truth'. In most cases, both were true: but actually the sniff was more to do with having a permanently runny nose. 

 

[Sniff] "Yes you do." she said, bluntly. "I know Arabella, and I know all her little secret ways and how she 'ain't right'. I know what she's like about other women and I reckon you do too, by now." Jemima had seen the two of them together, like a pair of barnacles they were. Wouldn't be surprised if she caught the pair of them getting all kissy together in Mr. Pettigrew's stockroom.

 

She looked the innocent looking little seamstress up and down with a withering stare.

 

[Sniff] "You two in love with each other?" she asked baldly.

 

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Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Well, you could indeed pass as sisters to be honest, you both have the dark hair and are quite petite," Clara actually agreed there with Arabella, for once.

 

Ara's threat to punch anyone who picked on that family for their Jewish background was hardly intimidating though Clara also agreed at least with the sentiment.  Clara had nothing against Jews, the negroes, why even the Irish. She was quite tolerant well except when it came to the Indians - but then they were brute savages.

 

Fortunately she was spared a hug from Ara thanks to her pregnancy, Clara was getting better about such contact, why she positively craved it from her husband and even Emeline. But her list was short. Then the girl mentioned Jacob's  'perilous' job?  Plus another bit about possible jealousy?  Honestly....

 

"That is LAWFULLY married husband. And what do you mean perilous job? Jacob said it is quite simple just involves him being away for a stretch of time," Clara frowned.

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 "Yes you do." Jemima said, bluntly. "I know Arabella, and I know all her little secret ways and how she 'ain't right'. I know what she's like about other women and I reckon you do too, by now."

 

Miriam frowned, "She most certainly is right, she is a fine person."   Not that she exactly knew what 'right' meant coming from Jemima though she had a hunch.

 

Arabella had indeed shared her secret with her but Miriam was a friend and not about to break such a sacred confidence.

 

"She is no different than you or I around other women. Why almost all our customers are women, you know that. There have been no complaints from any of them either.  So - as I just said - I have no idea what you are going on about," the mousey girl summoned up some gumption to face down this other girl.

 

And she dearly hoped she wasn't about to be punched in the face for it, she wouldn't put it past the scary Jemima.

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"Well, you could indeed pass as sisters to be honest, you both have the dark hair and are quite petite," Clara actually agreed there with Arabella, for once.

 

"Oh I know!" Arabella enthusiastically agreed with Clara agreeing with her. "We're just like two peas in a pot! And Mirm's helpin' me to make a smock just like hers so we'll look even more the same-y!" she filled Clara in with her latest plans to make her and the Jewish girl blend into one. However, her information about Jacob's new job seemed to come as a surprise to the older girl.

 

"That is LAWFULLY married husband."

 

"Glad to hear it." nodded Arabella, not realising she was being corrected. "Else you'd be 'livin' over the brush' I mean, I guess it's bad enough you got your roof rusted before your weddin' day, but that's all water under the bridge now..." rambled Arabella, but Clara had honed in on the part about the 'dangerous mission'.

 

"And what do you mean perilous job? Jacob said it is quite simple just involves him being away for a stretch of time," Clara frowned.

 

Arabella just shrugged. "I dunno, that's just what Jemima told me, you'll have to ask her." she said truthfully. 

 

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"She is no different than you or I around other women. Why almost all our customers are women, you know that. There have been no complaints from any of them either.  So - as I just said - I have no idea what you are going on about," the mousey girl summoned up some gumption to face down this other girl.

 

Jemima looked the brave little dormouse up and down, gave a slow knowing nod and a sniff that out sniffed all her previous sniffs.

 

"Nahhhh, she ain't right. She likes girls in a 'wrong way' and I reckon you're the girl she likes. And what's more, I reckon you like her right on back. And if I'm right, well I only got one thing to say to you, Miss Miriam Kaufmann..." she dropped her buckets and put a hand on each of Miriam's shoulders, her piggy little eyes staring into the lustrous brown orbs of the Jewish girl.

 

"You'd better both just... well just don't go breaking each other's hearts, that's all. It's hard to find real love in this world, some of us've never found it and ain't ever likely to. Just you both take care of each other and if anybody ever gives you any trouble over it, you just tell me and I'll bash 'em up for yuh!" she declared, letting go of Miriam and reaching down for the buckets.

 

"Now come on, this water ain't going to fetch itself!" she chided, as if it had been Miriam's idea to stop and talk about these things in the first place. "Dunno what's getting into everybody these days, all this soppy talk going around!" she chuntered, walking at a brisk pace toward the creek.

 

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"Bearing a resemblance to each other does not necessitate you having to try and dress alike?" Clara wondered aloud but knew better than to try and convince the girl of anything. And it was none of her business anyhow. But she did have to point out the correct use of the word 'lawfully', not that it seemed to do any good.

 

"Else you'd be 'livin' over the brush' I mean, I guess it's bad enough you got your roof rusted before your weddin' day, but that's all water under the bridge now..."

 

"Arabella!" Clara was stunned she would say that to her face so matter of factly, the girl really needed to learn to rein in her opinions at times. 

 

But something else focused her attention, the bit about Jacob being involved in a dangerous enterprise?

 

Arabella just shrugged. "I dunno, that's just what Jemima told me, you'll have to ask her." she said truthfully. 

 

"Oh I most certainly will," Clara declared. She wanted answers, sure answers not wild rumours.

 

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"Nahhhh, she ain't right. She likes girls in a 'wrong way' and I reckon you're the girl she likes."

 

"I have no idea what you mean, besides there is nothing wrong with a girl liking a girl, it is called friendship," Miriam continued to defend Ara.

 

"And what's more, I reckon you like her right on back. And if I'm right, well I only got one thing to say to you, Miss Miriam Kaufmann..." she dropped her buckets and put a hand on each of Miriam's shoulders, her piggy little eyes staring into the lustrous brown orbs of the Jewish girl.

 

Miriam tensed, so was this when the bigger girl was going to get physical with her? She just froze, too frightened to try and defend herself. Turned out nothing like that though.

 

"You'd better both just... well just don't go breaking each other's hearts, that's all. It's hard to find real love in this world, some of us've never found it and ain't ever likely to. Just you both take care of each other and if anybody ever gives you any trouble over it, you just tell me and I'll bash 'em up for yuh!"

 

"Oh....ummm, well....." Miriam had not expected that from Jemima, it was as if a completely different person suddenly took over the bigger older girl's body.

 

"That was kind of you to say," she paused to try and come up with something more but failed miserably.  Jemima, for all her intimidating looks and usually words too, was acting very nice!

 

"Oh but please....don't bash anyone over us. I would hate to see anyone get hurt," she now pleaded.

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