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Sagas of the Wild West
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A New Broom Sweeps Clean or The Littered House on the Prairie


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Well, Clara got what she wanted, though hardly what she had hoped to hear, from Jemima about the true nature of Jacob's job.  He was out there mingling with INDIANS! Jemima said peaceful ones but could a person ever really trust them? 

 

Though part of Jemima's story did not sound right. The Indians weren't as stupid as the other girl made out they were. Hadn't they just wiped out Gen. Custer and the 7th cavalry and Custer had been a brilliant leader in the Civil War, her father said so.

 

"I think you might be incorrect there. I have heard stories of how the Indians cut the telegraph lines so they can ruin our signaling as such," she felt compelled to point out.

 

The fact that Hector was with Jacob gave Clara no confidence either, she thought him quite an idiot. How Jacob could be friends with that boy was beyond her.

 

Jemima now joined in on criticizing Arabella as she kept chomping down the pickles, saying her mother had sent them specifically for her (Clara) in case of cravings. So that meant Mrs. Wigfall knew about her being pregnant too? Did the whole town know the truth?

 

"So did your brother tell you when they expected to be back home?" Clara asked even more worried now than before.

 

Plus had not Jacob promised her to always tell the truth to her?  But he had lied.

 

 

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"I think you might be incorrect there. I have heard stories of how the Indians cut the telegraph lines so they can ruin our signaling as such," she felt compelled to point out.

 

Jemima shrugged.

 

"Maybe the clever ones like Sitting Bull'd know to do it." she wondered, somewhat idly. 

 

Arabella shuddered "Oh do be quiet about indians. I'm scared of 'em!" she said, reaching for another pickle and then withdrawing her hand under Clara and Jemima's withering glare. "Why, the thought of being captivated and scalped by them and killed and tortured and..."

 

"Will you shut up!" snapped Jemima "Can't you see she's worried sick now, thanks to you and your big mouth?!"

 

Arabella shrugged and looked at Clara. "Sorry."

 

Jemima now joined in on criticizing Arabella as she kept chomping down the pickles, saying her mother had sent them specifically for her (Clara) in case of cravings. So that meant Mrs. Wigfall knew about her being pregnant too? Did the whole town know the truth?

 

"So did your brother tell you when they expected to be back home?" Clara asked even more worried now than before.

 

Jemima shook her head. "Depends where the Indians are, they move around now and again." she looked up at Clara, her ugly, piggy little eyes meeting the other woman's beautiful lustrous brown eyes that Jacob had understandably fallen in love with. 

 

"Listen, Missus... Clara..." This was odd for Jemima, trying to comfort the woman she had long ago decided she hated, but to whom she now felt a deep empathy "Jake obviously didn't wanna tell you exactly what the thing was, because it sounds worse than it is and he wouldn't wanna worry you needlessly. These Indians are friendlies, they get bribed by the company as well as the government to keep it that way. There'll be more danger on the journey to and fro' than at the Indian camp: and Jake's a good woodsman who can look after himself and a crack shot with that rifle, too. He's a fine rider and can hold his own in a fight..." 

 

These were the arguments not to worry that she had rehearsed in her mind to assuage her own fears and they came easily. The next part did not. 

 

"... and, well, when a man loves a woman as much as I know Jacob loves you: then Hell or High Water won't stop him coming back home safe to you." She said stoically and with that same old unemotional look on her face. 

 

Arabella, on the other hand, suspecting how much this last statement must have cost the plain, lovelorn girl, gripped Miriam's hand under the table , she had a tear welling in her eye and only the Jewish girl was close enough to hear her mutter under her breath. "Oh, Jemima."

 

 

 

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Arabella shuddered "Oh do be quiet about indians. I'm scared of 'em!" she said, reaching for another pickle and then withdrawing her hand under Clara and Jemima's withering glare. "Why, the thought of being captivated and scalped by them and killed and tortured and..."

 

Clara took in her breath, not her Jacob. She'd already lost her mother to Indians, no not her husband too.

 

"Will you shut up!" snapped Jemima "Can't you see she's worried sick now, thanks to you and your big mouth?!"

 

Arabella shrugged and looked at Clara. "Sorry."

 

"I would appreciate less dwelling on that sort of thing, Arabella," Clara addressed her first then glanced to Jemima, "And thank you for you telling me what is really going on and then also understanding my  feelings."

 

She had a new respect for the girl. Then Jemima tried to walk back the danger and risk.

 

"Listen, Missus... Clara...Jake obviously didn't wanna tell you exactly what the thing was, because it sounds worse than it is and he wouldn't wanna worry you needlessly. These Indians are friendlies, they get bribed by the company as well as the government to keep it that way. There'll be more danger on the journey to and fro' than at the Indian camp: and Jake's a good woodsman who can look after himself and a crack shot with that rifle, too. He's a fine rider and can hold his own in a fight..." 

 

"Maybe, I certainly never saw that side of him," Clara had to admit but wanted to believe.

 

"... and, well, when a man loves a woman as much as I know Jacob loves you: then Hell or High Water won't stop him coming back home safe to you."

 

"Thank you for that but I think how you feel about a person or the burning love you have for them is no determinant of whether you will actually survive a danger. My mother loved me so much and when Indians attacked she was killed by them. And I was right there, I saw it happen and could not do a thing about it," Clara's mind went right back to that brutal day, the horror seemed like it would never really leave her.

 

 

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As Clara and Jemima talked about Jacob, Arabella couldn't help thinking that they both sounded terribly grown up compared to her and Miriam. Was there a line you crossed, suddenly, one day, when you stopped thinking and speaking like a silly little girl and became an intelligent woman? Some women never seemed to reach that point: look at Mrs Orr, that silly old fibberty-gibbet! Maybe she was, herself, reaching that cusp of life. More and more often, she managed to stop and think before saying something idiotic and potentially upsetting to other people. That happened again now.

 

"Thank you for that but I think how you feel about a person or the burning love you have for them is no determinant of whether you will actually survive a danger. My mother loved me so much and when Indians attacked she was killed by them. And I was right there, I saw it happen and could not do a thing about it," Clara's mind went right back to that brutal day, the horror seemed like it would never really leave her.

 

Jemima couldn't argue with the logic of that, so answered it with a simple statement of faith "He'll be all right." coupled with that tight little smile which, coming from someone who never smiled, was an unexpected totem of reassurance.

 

Arabella's knee-jerk reaction was to remind everyone that her mother was dead as well, and it was worse for her because her Pappy and little brother were dead too. Her second thought was to tell them all about her mother's painful, lingering, semi-delirious death after child-birth and how she, Arabella, had mopped her fevered brow and uttered prayers of comfort, little heroine that she was. The latter story would have been especially cruel to mention in front of the pregnant Clara.

 

But she stopped herself, and sort of tripped over the cusp.

 

As they sat there in silence, she quietly said, instead, "Let's say a prayer for Jacob." 

 

Jemima nodded and put her hands together. Arabella followed suit, closed her eyes and said: 

 

"Oh God, please hear our prayer and protect and look after our brother Jacob Lutz and bring him safely back to all those who love and care for him, especially his wife Clara, and his family Nellie and Leonora and his friends Jemima and Miriam and Arabella, in this God we trust." then she suddenly remembered "Oh, and bring back Hector safe too, I guess. Amen." 

 

Both Arabella and Jemima sat in a sort of glazed but happy daze of contemplation for a few seconds. For religious nutcases like themselves, this short, heartfelt prayer was as good as sending out a detachment of the 2nd Cavalry to protect the boys.

 

@Wayfarer

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Jemima paused then simply stated, "He'll be alright". Then gave an odd sort of smile not that Clara was one to criticize smiles, it was not something that came easily to her either although - since she met Jacob, she was getting better at it.

 

Arabella then actually came up with a pretty sensible idea (for once) and suggested they all say a prayer for her husband, Clara immediately nodded and folded her hands into prayer, bowing down her head too.

 

"Oh God, please hear our prayer and protect and look after our brother Jacob Lutz and bring him safely back to all those who love and care for him, especially his wife Clara, and his family Nellie and Leonora and his friends Jemima and Miriam and Arabella, in this God we trust." then she suddenly remembered "Oh, and bring back Hector safe too, I guess. Amen."

 

"Amen," Clara mouthed, having forgotten about Hector until Ara mentioned him. 

 

Miriam, had not done more than lower her head to stare quietly down at the wooden newly washed cabin flooring. She noted it was still in pretty wretched condition. But in her own way she asked Jehovah to bring this girl's loved one back....and Hector of course.

 

The girls should probably be going soon, it had been a fast moving afternoon of much hard effort. Miriam's folks would be expecting her.

 

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After the prayer, and more food - Mammy Cookie, Mrs Wigfall and Mrs Kaufmann sure were a sainted trio of talented cooks - the two younger girls took the plates and cutlery to the creek to wash up and, miracle of miracles, Clara actually agreed to Jemima helping her to fix the roof up as best they could with fallen shingles and planks of wood.

 

Once they'd managed to get Jemma actually up there, the task was not as herculean as envisaged and in fact they had completed it even before Miriam and Arabella had returned. The two of them had been gone ages, what on earth were they up to? Jemima could hazard a shrewd guess, but kept her council.

 

Instead, she had a question for Clara, as she brushed down her rough smock with her hands.

 

"Well, that ought to hold off any rain." she started, looking at the sky where the odd cloud was drifting and the Sun starting to wend its way down to the horizon, though dusk was some hours away yet.

 

The girls should probably be going soon, it had been a fast moving afternoon of much hard effort. Miriam's folks would be expecting her.

 

"Ned'll be here soon. He was going to take those squirts home while I stayed the night. I know you... well, I know you didn't like the idea, but seein' as Arabella promised Jacob that I would I thought I'd... well, I thought I'd offer again. It's no trouble to me, sorta holiday in a way, and two girls can look after themselves better than one. Well, there it is." Jemima said, with a sort of shrug which spoke volumes. She didn't think the new Mrs Lutz would want an old female friend of her husband hanging around, even if she was far too frowsy to offer any kind of a threat to her conjugal happiness.

 

@Wayfarer

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"Well, the main hole anyway, the roof is still............well, thanks to you we did what we could, thank you again," Clara nodded as they studied their handiwork from the ground.

 

"We shall not live here long and then we will be living above the diner," Clara looked forward to that very much, talk about a short trip to work.

 

"Ned'll be here soon. He was going to take those squirts home while I stayed the night. I know you... well, I know you didn't like the idea, but seein' as Arabella promised Jacob that I would I thought I'd... well, I thought I'd offer again. It's no trouble to me, sorta holiday in a way, and two girls can look after themselves better than one. Well, there it is."

Clara thought on a few seconds, she no longer just had herself to worry about here but also the baby. And one could not deny Indians were a risk. The paper had stated confidently the army was chasing them north and would crush them but plainly Custer thought that too.

 

"Very well, since you put it that way. But I absolutely forbid you to do any more work around here for me. I am just fine. Oh and while I did not say so before I am armed too. Father's Dragoon Colt and, trust me, I do know how to use it," Clara gave in.

 

Not that she EVER had but that need not be imparted to Jemima.

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"Well, the main hole anyway, the roof is still............well, thanks to you we did what we could, thank you again," Clara nodded as they studied their handiwork from the ground.

 

Jemima nodded and gave a sniff of agreement. It was a serviceable repair as long as they didn't have any kind of a storm over the next few days and nights.

 

"We shall not live here long and then we will be living above the diner," Clara looked forward to that very much, talk about a short trip to work.

 

The husky young woman turned her eyes to Clara. She had a question about that, but she would ask later. There was something more pressing she needed to ask. 

 

"Ned'll be here soon. He was going to take those squirts home while I stayed the night. I know you... well, I know you didn't like the idea, but seein' as Arabella promised Jacob that I would I thought I'd... well, I thought I'd offer again. It's no trouble to me, sorta holiday in a way, and two girls can look after themselves better than one. Well, there it is."

 

"Very well, since you put it that way. But I absolutely forbid you to do any more work around here for me. I am just fine. Oh and while I did not say so before I am armed too. Father's Dragoon Colt and, trust me, I do know how to use it," Clara gave in.

 

"Good." Jemima rewarded Clara with one of her rare tight little smiles. Altogether, they were a pretty dour pair: this was not going to be a night of hilarity by any stretch of the imagination. 

 

In stark contrast, Arabella and Miriam came back from the creek full of the joys of spring, laughing and giggling as they stumbled over the rough ground and nearly spilling the crockery. Before old Ned could whisk them away back to Kalispell, Arabella expressed great delight that Clara had relented in letting Jemima stay.

 

"Oh, Clara Anne, I'm just so relieved! I couldn't 'a looked Jacob in the eye if anything had happened to you after I promised him that  'Mima would stay over!" she gushed, throwing her arms awkwardly around Clara while trying not to squash her tummy as they got ready to leave. 

 

Next to that pair, Jemima was giving Miriam a curt business-like nod "See you Wednesday." she said flatly, that was the next time both of them were working together at the same time at Pettigrews. And then... the flood of goodwill and friendship that the circumspect Wigfall daughter had been holding back like a dam until she was sure that she liked Miriam.

 

It poured forth like a deluge.

 

Sniff. "I'll show you how to work the Willcox & Gibbs."

 

Yes!!! The new fangled Willcox & Gibbs treadle operated sewing machine! The Holy Grail of modern, high quality, industrial level sewing technology!

 

@Wayfarer

 

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"Oh, Clara Anne, I'm just so relieved! I couldn't 'a looked Jacob in the eye if anything had happened to you after I promised him that  'Mima would stay over!" Arabella gushed, throwing her arms awkwardly around Clara while trying not to squash her tummy as they got ready to leave. 

 

Clara tensed and stood there like a pillar, "Yes, of course you are."

 

Next to that pair, Jemima was giving Miriam a curt business-like nod "See you Wednesday."

 

"Yes, you will. You take care now," Miriam nodded with a smile.

 

Sniff. "I'll show you how to work the Willcox & Gibbs."

 

Miriam was familiar with that machine alright, as she told her employer but she had not gotten to try it. Least not so far. And in truth, she certainly did want to try it! What seamstress wouldn't?

 

"That would be wonderful........we need to get Mr. Pettigrew's permission though," Miriam pointed out, never one to rock the boat.

 

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Miriam was familiar with that machine alright, as she told her employer but she had not gotten to try it. Least not so far. And in truth, she certainly did want to try it! What seamstress wouldn't?

 

"That would be wonderful........we need to get Mr. Pettigrew's permission though," Miriam pointed out, never one to rock the boat.

 

Jemima just screwed up her face in distain. "He won't give us any trouble!" she predicted confidently. To tell the truth, Pettigrew seemed scared of the thing: it represented a new world and a new way of doing things. It was the future and Jemima thought that she and Miriam were young enough to want to grasp it.

 

They made their goodbyes, Arabella squealing and squeezing Jemima like she was never going to see her again; Jemima peeling her off herself with a look of mild annoyance and calling her a 'lunatic skeeter'.  Once Ned and the girls had disappeared from view (Clara and Jemima had been able to watch them go until the cart had become a mere dot on the horizon), Jemima had tended to Bridget's little donkey and made sure it was tied up with grass enough to nibble nearby and water.

 

When she returned to the shack, which did look a little more like a home now, albeit a very temporary one, it was eerily still. She came in and saw Clara, all alone in the late afternoon shadows.

 

"Quiet without 'em." she said, just to fill the melancholy vacuum of sound.

 

@Wayfarer

 

 

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