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Lucinda Dietrich

The Wedded and the Widdowed

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Mature Content: No

With: Lucinda and Clara
Location: Lickskillet Diner
When: July 10, 1876
Time of Day: Mid-afternoon

 

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Lucinda had waited long enough and searched hard enough for a job. There were very few jobs that she was suited for out west, and time and time again her thoughts returned to Emeline's offer. Finally, almost a month after she had arrived in Kalispell, she set off for the diner, tiptoeing down the stairs so as not to disturb Mrs. Wigfall or any of her offspring.

 

She had already heard from Mrs. Wigfall...or maybe it was Jemima...that Emeline had gone off with her new husband to set up their new home, leaving Clara Lutz in charge of the diner. Clara Lutz, Aurelian's daughter. Lucinda's cheeks flushed as she remembered how googly-eyed she'd been around Aurelian that Sunday.

 

She took off her hat as she entered the diner, inhaling the warm, foody smell. "Mrs. Lutz?" she called, venturing toward the kitchen. She'd deliberately come at a time she thought would be un-busy so that Clara would be free to talk. Although based on how Jemima liked to talk about other people when she was around, if she was close to Clara, she'd probably have been disparaged already. But hopefully the mention of Emeline would outweigh anything the morbid Jemima had told Clara.

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Both breakfast and lunch time had been suitably busy, the diner was a popular place for the locals, Emeline had established that. Clara was - she hoped - ably filling in for the woman until she and her husband returned from their wedding trip. At this time in the afternoon though customers were much fewer as a matter of fact the tables were empty. So Clara was taking advantage to wash some of the dishes when she heard the oh so familiar tinkle of the front door bell. Glancing up at the clock, she quickly wiped off her hands on a dishtowel, laid it next to the sink, and out she went to greet the latest customer.

 

It was a single woman,  well dressed, quite striking really but also not really familiar to her. Oh, wait perhaps she had seen the lady at Sunday services? Yes, that was it. But knowing the name or having ever spoken to her, no.

 

"Good day, ma'am, welcome to the Lick Skillet. How may I help you?" she greeted the woman with a nod of acknowledgement plus a hint of a smile too (coming from a young lady who had always found it difficult to indeed smile or laugh and that was even before seeing her mother brutally murdered by Indians before her very eyes.

 

 

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Lucinda smiled as Clara emerged from the kitchen. The girl was so young, and so solemn, even though the expression on her face was pleasant. She had been slightly nervous about asking the new Mrs. Lutz for work - never having asked anyone for work before - but how could she be scared of a woman as young as Clara was?

 

"Well, actually, I was hoping that I might be able to help you." She held her hat with both hands so that it touched her knees. "My name is Lucinda Dietrich. I don't know how much Emeline told you, but I'm new in town. I helped Emeline wash dishes one night and she told me that if I couldn't find work, to come back here."

 

She paused, unsure of what to say next. Up until now she'd just been filling Clara in, but now she actually had to ask for work. How did one do that?

 

"Could...could you use an extra hand in the kitchen? Or out here?"

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"Well, actually, I was hoping that I might be able to help you," was the woman's response.

 

"Oh?" Clara didn't understand.

 

"My name is Lucinda Dietrich. I don't know how much Emeline told you, but I'm new in town. I helped Emeline wash dishes one night and she told me that if I couldn't find work, to come back here."

 

Clara blinked but found her voice quickly, "Hello, well.....honestly she did not tell me anything about you or even mention that name."

 

But she didn't want to be unfriendly, "Oh yes, I am Clara Re...Lutz. Nice to meet you." She almost used her maiden name there, still not quite used to that little detail of being married. There were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence broken by the newcomer.

 

"Could...could you use an extra hand in the kitchen? Or out here?"

 

"Well...indeed I have been doing the work of two by myself since Emeline  departed on her trip with her new husband.  So it is not like I could not use the help but.........."

 

"How much did she say you would be paid? And, pardon my boldness but I feel it necessary to ask - how much do you know about cooking and especially baking?"

 

 

 

 

 

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"Oh."

 

Well, that was awkward. Lucinda hadn't expected Emeline to pass everything on to Clara, but it would have made things easier if she had. Clara was so serious, and her questions were so probing that Lucinda actually began to feel nervous, which was ridiculous, because the solemn-faced girl had to be at least ten years younger than her.

 

"Well, she didn't actually offer me an official job. She just said to come back here if I couldn't find something. It was more of a...a charitable act, you see." She bent the brim of her hat back and forth in her hands, trying to decide on her answer to Clara's next question.

 

"I grew up in a wealthy family, so I'm still learning about cooking. I can bake bread and biscuits, but both end up burnt more often than not." She paused for just a second, then forged ahead. "I'm boarding with the Wigfalls, and Jemima seems to think I would make a good waitress. Or dishwasher. But Jemima doesn't work here, so you might want to take that with a grain of salt."

 

That was stretching the truth and embroidering it, too. Jemima had given Lucinda plenty of advice if she did get hired to work at the diner, but hadn't expressed any opinions on which jobs at the diner she would actually be suited for. However morbid and mannish she might be, Jemima was very observant, and Lucinda felt sure that Clara would know that. The question was: was Jemima's falsified diagnosis good enough for Clara to hire Lucinda?

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"Well, she didn't actually offer me an official job. She just said to come back here if I couldn't find something. It was more of a...a charitable act, you see."

 

"Oh, yes I understand," Clara approved of such charitable acts and was not surprised in the slightest at Emeline's kindness.

 

"I grew up in a wealthy family, so I'm still learning about cooking. I can bake bread and biscuits, but both end up burnt more often than not," the woman was being honest at least.

 

Oh dear, that simply would not do. Clara instead nodded and kept listening, poker faced, that was easy enough for the normally solemn girl to do.

 

"I'm boarding with the Wigfalls, and Jemima seems to think I would make a good waitress. Or dishwasher. But Jemima doesn't work here, so you might want to take that with a grain of salt."

 

"I know Miss Wigfall. Hard worker, a bit......free with her opinions," Clara left it at that.

 

"But my employer is a fine judge of character and if she invited you back, she must have judged you worthy. So how about this then for employment? I will hire you to wash dishes, sweep and wash the floors for ........say.....one week? Then if you decide you wish to stay.."

 

Actually Clara really meant if she judged the woman was a willing enough worker but she wasn't going to say that.

 

"Then we can discuss you being a waitress. Perhaps leave the baking and cooking then to me?" Clara thought this all quite reasonable. Now it was up to Lucinda.

 

clara-image.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"One week?" Lucinda broke into a smile at Clara's offer. That was better than she'd hoped for. The most she'd hoped for was a trial day, and the least was a flat-out no. "That would be quite generous, Mrs. Lutz."

 

She held out her hand to seal the deal with a handshake, since that seemed to be what people did out here. Men, anyway. Back home it would not have been proper for women to shake hands, but out here...Lucinda had an inkling it was different out here.

 

"I can start today. Right now, if it's convenient. I know it's not terribly busy right now, but I'm sure you have dishes I can wash."

 

She smiled at the younger woman, showing one of her dimples. She had had enough of sitting around in her room reading, enduring the Wigfall's spats at the table and in the parlor and...well, wherever there happened to be more than one Wigfall at a time. Even if her fingers shriveled up like an old woman's face, it would be better than being spied on by Hector.

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The woman seemed quite pleased with the terms of the offer so the two ladies shook hands to seal the deal. Her father always said that a handshake out west was the equivalent of a signed contract back East. Clara did not think the courts would agree with that assessment however.

 

"Good, then glad to have you. I can use the extra hands," Clara was quite satisfied too with the outcome, least so far. It remained to be seen if the woman was a good worker or not.

 

"I can start today. Right now, if it's convenient. I know it's not terribly busy right now, but I'm sure you have dishes I can wash."

 

"Well, certainly if that is your desire. Yes indeed there are dishes to be washed alright, it seems to be never ending even," Clara admitted then added, "Follow me into the back."

 

She led the other woman into the back room with it's double size stove and many shelves. There was a sink too of course and a pump to provide water, it was all quite modern really.

There was also a long wooden table where most of the baking was prepared.

 

"If you just wash and dry, I can put the dishes away then later as I can hardly expect you to know where everything goes," Clara directed.

 

"So, if it is not too bold a request, tell me a little about yourself, Miss Dietrich? Or would it be alright for me to call you Lucinda? And please...........call me Clara. Mrs. Lutz makes me sound so old."

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Lucinda followed Clara into the kitchen, once again basking in the hominess of it. She set her hat to one side and worked the handle on the pump a few times to prime it, then started filling the sink.

 

"I can put things away if you'll tell me where they go later. That way I'll learn faster." She reached for the box of soap flakes with one hand and kept pumping with the other, then sprinkled the flakes in the water when she had enough. 

 

She nodded at Clara's request - or requests. Calling the girl Clara wouldn't have seemed odd normally, but this girl...young woman, really, was now her employer. And she was so serious, like a woman twice her age.

 

"You may call me Lucinda if you'd like," she said as she picked up a few dishes. "I'll try to remember to call you Clara." She dunked the plates into the water and glanced back at Clara. "What is it you'd like to know? I'm from back east, but then I suppose everyone here is, too. And I'm a widow."

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"You may call me Lucinda if you'd like," the new employee said as she picked up a few dishes. "I'll try to remember to call you Clara."

 

"Lucinda, a distinguished sounding name," Clara nodded.

 

The woman dunked the plates into the water and glanced back at Clara. "What is it you'd like to know? I'm from back east, but then I suppose everyone here is, too. And I'm a widow."

 

"I do not mean to pry at all, just like to know the people I am going to be with on a regular basis is all," Clara informed her.

 

"Back east then? We...I mean my family came from Pennsylvania. My father and little brother have a farm a few miles outside of town."

 

Now as to her regrettable marriage status, Clara continued, "Oh sorry about your loss. Do you have children?" 

 

"I am rather newly married myself, back in spring. Jacob Lutz, from a farm outside of town too. Though he does not wish to make farming his livelihood. He is now working for the telegraph company."

 

She was not visibly showing yet though she thought she could notice the difference in her belly size when she stood undressed in front of the mirror. So she decided not to mention the pregnancy to the newcomer. Certainly later if the woman works out and lands the job on a regular basis. There would come a time when Clara could no longer hide the obvious afterall.

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"Oh, don't let that fool you." Lucinda turned partway around from the sink and showed one of her dimples again as she smiled. "I was never nearly as distinguished as my parents would have preferred me to be."

 

"I'm from Pennsylvania, too. I lived in Harrisburg until I married. And no, I don't have any children." She turned back toward the sink to hide the way her face fell. Maybe she just wasn't meant to be a mother. But surely there had to be a less painful way for God to break the news to her than letting her lose three children. Why hadn't He kept her from getting married in the first place?

 

She scrubbed at some potato starch stuck on a plate and listened as Clara transitioned into talking about her recent marriage.

 

"Emeline told me you'd been recently married. Has your marriage been all sunshine and roses so far?" She glanced back with a knowing gleam in her eye. "Or have you two hit some bumps in the road already?" 

 

The blissful stage of marriage lasted longer for some couples than others, and poor Clara and Jacob probably had had their blissful period cut short simply because of the way things worked out here. There was never really any time to just enjoy life out here. You always had to be thinking about survival.

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Well given her self-deprecating response about distinguished, leastwise the woman was not one of those arrogant sorts.  Clara smiled, just a little, at her crack. Turned out she had lived in Pennsylvania too, interesting! She was married in Harrisburg but no children. Ohh, Clara wondered if it was by choice or if God had not blessed the couple with a child.

 

"Oh I see, well, nice to talk with a fellow Pennsylvanian," Clara stuck to saying something on the safe side.

 

"Emeline told me you'd been recently married. Has your marriage been all sunshine and roses so far?" She glanced back with a knowing gleam in her eye. "Or have you two hit some bumps in the road already?" 

 

Clara thought that a strange remark and indeed question too. It begged the question whether Lucinda's marriage had been a less than good one?

 

"Well, neither of us expected all sunshine and roses, we are both realists. But we have gotten along well. We had a few arguments of a sort but settled and made up right after. I am deeply in love with Jacob. And determined to be the best wife and mother I can be," Clara answered her.

 

 

 

 

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Lucinda set a clean dish to the side and picked up a new one as she listened to Clara. The girl was very wise for her age. Many girls got married as young as she did, but not all of them seemed to be as mature as Clara was. "That's good." She smiled. "I don't know if anyone's told you this, but arguing and making up after an argument is better than not arguing at all." 

 

She'd been simultaneously excited and frightened when Francis decided to go west, and they had argued. They had argued on the arduous journey, too. But they had always made up, and their marriage had been stronger for it. Which was why she felt so lonely now.

 

"Do you and Jacob live close to your father?" She couldn't remember whether Clara knew that she'd met Aurelian already, so she didn't want to pry too much. Her question was a reasonable one: it would be good for a young couple like Clara and Jacob to be close to their families.

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"That's good." Lucinda smiled. "I don't know if anyone's told you this, but arguing and making up after an argument is better than not arguing at all."

 

"No one specifically but I do believe it to be simply common sense. But thank you for verifying it," Clara nodded, "My parents argued on occasion but mother always won. As it should be."

 

She smiled a little, it was her attempt at humor, she was often told she was far too serious about everything and was trying on occasion to lighten up.

 

The woman now had a question, "Do you and Jacob live close to your father?"

 

"No, not really. I mean father lives on the farm, it's a few miles outside of town...to the west. And I...I mean Jacob and I live here in town, in fact right upstairs. Emeline lived there until recently but her new husband has a ranch almost finished outside of town and she is going to live there then. She kindly allowed us to use the upstairs then. It is the generous sort of person she is. "

 

 

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Lucinda tilted her head back and laughed at Clara's humor. The girl was more witty than she seemed at first glance. "Yes, Clara, that's how it should be. Oh, gracious." She put a hand to her cheek, leaving a smear of soap suds which she then had to wipe away with her sleeve.

 

"That must be quite nice to live where you're working. Do you miss living with your parents? When I moved out here with Francis, I knew I'd probably never see my parents again. I cried myself to sleep the first night that we stayed on our land."

 

Her eyes lost their sparkle for a moment as she remembered how utterly lonely those first few nights had been, even though she'd had her husband beside her. But she blinked a few times and then smiled bravely at Clara.

 

"But you can visit your father if you want, so there's no need to fret." She washed the last dish and grabbed a towel to start drying them off. As she did, she was struck with a lightning bolt idea. If Clara did hire her on a more permanent basis, and she did go to visit her father at some point, she might be able to accompany the younger woman...and visit with Aurelian.

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The woman's past was quite a different one than hers, it seemed she never saw her folks again and yes, that would be very sad. She and her father were close, plus there was her little brother. For all their squabbling, they were faithful siblings.

 

"Ah, that had to be rough on you indeed," Clara commiserated.

 

"But indeed I can visit the farm and he actually often stops by the diner too just to check on me and chat..........not that I would describe my father as the 'chatty' sort," she shrugged at that thought.

 

"In fact, if he does not show up today, I would imagine he will on the morrow. I will make it a point to introduce you two then," she suddenly thought that would be splendid idea.

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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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