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    • James smiled back, forgetting again that she could not see it.  Truthfully he would be hard pressed to stop himself from doing such things even in her presence but for those who had sight, they would struggle to imagine how she lived as well as she did without it.  It was as ingrained in him as it was for her doing without.  Because he’d been raised at all-male boarding schools, the young British man had very limited experience with the fairer sex, this was simply a fact, one that James had no trouble acknowledging.   When she joked with the Marshall regarding being weighed down with metal coins, James chuckled at her jest, stopping suddenly as something occurred to him.  “I say!”  He exclaimed, then rushed on, “Have you ever given thought to folding each kind of bill in a different way so that you can tell which is which?”  He caught his breath then, waiting to see what she or the Marshall thought of his latest idea.  If she needed his assistance in the folding, he'd be happy to help her.   As she suspected, James was obvious to the fact that she was gently flirting with him, taking everything at face value, his inexperience with the fairer sex once again rearing it’s head.  He caught something of the heat that colored her cheeks, and the errant thought passed through his mind that she might be falling ill.  Not uncommon so soon after the passing of a loved one.
    • He tried to make it sound important enough that she should be interested in local politics but really what good did being interested do her? She could not change anything. She could not vote so to hell with it. The people she lived with, worked with were what was important to her. But she wasn't going to argue with him about it.   "Sure, I reckon," Caroline shrugged.   Then handsome young soldier...correction, officer now launched into a nice long tale of his family roots. It was fascinating really he knew all that much about his family history and those who came before. She didn't know a damn thing about such things in her own life. She was pretty damn sure the woman she called Ma had been the one to give birth to her but she was not positive. And there was even more doubt about her father or step father. No matter, they had been a family and stuck together til two out of three died. So now it was just her. Well, her and her saloon family.   "Interestin'," she nodded, enjoying the way he told the story as much as the actual story.   "So you see, in a hundred years time... the president of the United States will be tracing his roots back to a beautiful saloon singer in old Kalispell and a tramp in the street'll be vaguely aware that he is descended from the once great Greenes of Vermont." He shrugged. "Who cares, rich man, poor man, beggar man thief." he looked into the depths of her blue eyes "... or lady, baby, gypsy, queen."   "Not gonna happen that way. I'm never gonna get married and I ain't gonna have any children so no one is descendin' from me, hon. But I liked yer tellin' of it," she liked him, this dinner date had turned out better than she had figured it would.          
    • "Ah yeah, the mayor's election. Why should I care who wins? I can't even vote in it, "Caroline waved it off. Oh she would clap for and cheer on Mr. Priest whom her boss was pushing to win but she personally did not give a damn.   Greene shrugged. "Maybe not, but the person who's elected could make your life a lot better or a whole lot worse. You ever hear of a abomination that goes by the name of a 'dry county'? The poor b... er, denizens of a place like that probably didn't realise until too late what they were voting in." he laughed, although it was no laughing matter: reformers and prohibitionists were even in these early decades starting to make their voices heard.    He then mentioned being interested in listening to her and Ara perform.   "Please do. I don't want to sound like I'm braggin' but most folks say I've got a real nice singing voice. I admit my dancing is not that special but I just show them a little leg.......or more than a little...and they clap alright," she informed him.   "I can imagine!" he smiled. But it was a nice smile. A friendly smile. Not the sort of lascivious smile that indicated that he already had been imagining... frequently.    They talked of the famous Dance.   "Yeah, must have been before I arrived in town. No local dances for me yet...besides I got a feelin' my sort would not be welcomed at any such town affair. Those things are for proper folks."   Greene frowned. He didn't like to think of this beautiful woman being denigrated in any way: though he was not unaware of the snobby often hypocritical attitude of those who felt them selves a cut above the type of folks who worked in certain professions, including soldiers - at least the non-commissioned kind. Sometimes with good reason, often times not.   "You know, one of my aunts once had our family tree drawn up, just like the noble families of Europe. The fellow who did it even drew it like a tree, leaves, and apples, and all. We're real Vermont blue-bloods, you see, despite the green name. Aunt Mary-Anne expected our forefathers to have come across on the Mayflower, or with Captain Smith to Jamestown."   He smiled happily at the memory of it.   "Imagine her delight when the feller delivered our family tree and revealed that the first Greene to set foot on American soil was an indentured servant, a virtual slave, who'd been transported here for, get this, stealing apples from some rich lord's orchard!"    He enjoyed the memory of his snobby aunt's discomfort for a moment then returned to the present.   "So you see, in a hundred years time... the president of the United States will be tracing his roots back to a beautiful saloon singer in old Kalispell and a tramp in the street'll be vaguely aware that he is descended from the once great Greenes of Vermont." He shrugged. "Who cares, rich man, poor man, beggar man thief." he looked into the depths of her blue eyes "... or lady, baby, gypsy, queen."   @Wayfarer        
    • "Debate, you dumb bitch, it's called a debate," Caroline mumbled under her breath but the woman figured it out just then too.   Priest wasn't going to be rushed though. He would reveal all later was all he would promise. In that way the man was a true politician, promises a whole lot, she'd see if he actually delivered on anything. The politicians in Chicago had been crooked, the mayor of Helena had been well meaning but a bumbling fool, and the one here in Kalispell was ......well, she didn't even know who the hell that was, he was pretty much invisible. The town seemingly had been run by that one council member before he lit himself on fire.   Just then they got themselves a trio of new customers, rough looking lot but a customer was a customer. Fortner invited them to have a drink and they promptly bellied up to the bar. Of course Ralph was there, waiting to hear what they'd like.   "Three whiskies," one of the men said, after reaching into his coat and putting down some coinage.   "Sure nuff, comin' right up," Ralph nodded and reached for one of the cheap bottles, he was a pretty good judge of customers' taste and proclivities. He poured three shots of the powerful liquor.   Caroline swung into saloon girl mode too, sashaying up to the one lined up at the bar closest to her, gifting him with a bright smile, "Welcome! Have a long ride, did ya, hon?"    
    • He gazed up at the domed ceiling and was awe struck at it's beauty. He was taken aback by the obvious talent that it took to create such a beautiful thing. "Dang near as pretty as you, Em." was his comment. "Took 'em a while to get that done. Never seen the like."   And that was a fact. There had been nothing that he had seen before to compare to the glass domed ceiling, nothing. He suddenly felt out of place, something odd for him to feel, at any time, in any place, but it struck him here in this place. The sheer beauty of it touched him. What man could accomplish given the opportunity   "Now 'at's somethin'. Best we see what other marvels they got in this place. May not have time ta see everything." He pointed out. @Bongo
Franklin Fortner

A New Day - New Challenges

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"You know this fella?" Fortner asked her.

 

"Yeah, he is Ben...S something. I've only used his first name. He's a local gambler and sort of a business promoter. He comes in to play poker on occasion, " Caroline replied then greeted the man as he came up to them.

 

"Hullo hon, warm one out there ain't it?" she smiled for Ben.

 

"Hey! Got news for ya. Meet the new owner of the Star Dust, Mr. Frank Fortner," she decided to handle the introduction.

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"Hullo hon, warm one out there ain't it?" she smiled for Ben.

 

Ben smiled as he tipped his hat, "Good day, Miss Mundee...and yes it is a warm one today."

 

He didn't mind that Caroline couldn't remember his full name as the lady probably had a lot of names to remember.  Knowing the names of the men who came here often was a part of the job for her since it probably made it easier for her to make them buy a few drinks.  Besides, he was all for keeping a low profile here and if people didn't remember his name, then all the better.

 

"Hey! Got news for ya. Meet the new owner of the Star Dust, Mr. Frank Fortner," she decided to handle the introduction.

 

"So, I heard," he answered before turning to Fortner.  Holding out his hand, he said, "Nice to meet you, the name's Ben Simons."

 

@Preston

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Frank stood back and appraised the stranger, head to toe.

 

"Hey! Got news for ya. Meet the new owner of the Star Dust, Mr. Frank Fortner," she decided to handle the introduction.

 

Fortner smiled, confident and sure.

 

"So, I heard," he answered before turning to Fortner.  Holding out his hand, he said, "Nice to meet you, the name's Ben Simons."

 

Frank reached out with his right hand and took the offered one.  Simons' grip was strong and the hand was warm.  The name sounded vaguely familiar but he couldn't place it exactly.

 

"Mr. Simons," Frank said. "A pleasure, I'm sure.   We hope you find the Star Dust your home away from home.  I aim to keep what's good about it, and make improvements around the edges.  If you like games of chance, we are planning some card rooms in the back, and away from the distractions."  He eyed Arabella.

 

"Ralph," he said to the barkeep.  "Set one up for Mr. Simons, will you?  On the house."

 

A figure moved into his peripheral vision.  It was aging but sure footed Judge Priest. 

 

"Wait a minute," Frank called to the older man, stopping him on his way to his reserved table.  "I want you to meet someone."  He nodded toward Simons.  "This is Ben Simons.  Ben, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Hiram Priest,  some time Judge, some time Mayor."

 

Priest rolled a wad of tobacco from one cheek to the other.  "Well, how do you do,  Mr. Simons?"  He asked cordially.  "In town for long?"

 

 

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Ralph watched and of course listened in on the conversation, introductions and all. He knew Ben of course, he'd served the man drinks before. He knew most of the customers unless they were new.

 

"Ralph," Fortner said to the barkeep.  "Set one up for Mr. Simons, will you?  On the house."

 

"Sure," Ralph nodded and poured a whiskey for the man, he even remembered what brand was Simon's usual order.

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"Mr. Simons," Frank said. "A pleasure, I'm sure.   We hope you find the Star Dust your home away from home.  I aim to keep what's good about it, and make improvements around the edges.  If you like games of chance, we are planning some card rooms in the back, and away from the distractions."

 

"Well, the Star Dust is a nice place and it's good to know that there will be changes, especially the prospect of somewhere a bit more quieter to play a game of cards.  It can be a noisy here at times considering this is the only establishment that most of the local ranch hands come to.  Most of them can't afford the bar at the hotel."

 

"Ralph," he said to the barkeep.  "Set one up for Mr. Simons, will you?  On the house."

 

"Sure," Ralph nodded and poured a whiskey for the man, he even remembered what brand was Simon's usual order.

 

"Thanks," Ben replied.  He didn't get much of a chance to say anything else to the bartender as Fortner grabbed his attention again.

 

"Wait a minute," Frank called to the older man, stopping him on his way to his reserved table.  "I want you to meet someone."  He nodded toward Simons.  "This is Ben Simons.  Ben, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Hiram Priest,  some time Judge, some time Mayor.

 

Some time Mayor?  That introduction in itself was one to make you wonder.  Did this Priest fellow have plans to run in the upcoming election?

 

Priest rolled a wad of tobacco from one cheek to the other.  "Well, how do you do,  Mr. Simons?"  He asked cordially.  "In town for long?"

 

"Long enough," Ben said with a smile.  He decided to do some fishing and find out if Priest was really interested in running or it was just an off the cuff remark, "From what your friend, Mr. Fortner said you've been both a judge and a mayor.  This town is pretty covered where judges are concerned with Judge Robertson looking after any civil matters and circuit Judge Bryant looking after the criminal ones, so that leaves mayor."

 

After taking a sip of his whiskey, that had been left on the bar by Ralph, he continued, "What I mean to say, is that you're probably already aware that we have a mayoral election happening soon.  So, if you're planning to try your luck here, you best get a move on.  Nominations close at five o'clock today."

 

@Javia @Preston @Wayfarer

 

 

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Priest rolled a wad of tobacco from one cheek to the other.  "Well, how do you do,  Mr. Simons?"  He asked cordially.  "In town for long?"

 

 

"Long enough," Ben said with a smile.  He decided to do some fishing and find out if Priest was really interested in running or it was just an off the cuff remark, "From what your friend, Mr. Fortner said you've been both a judge and a mayor.  This town is pretty covered where judges are concerned with Judge Robertson looking after any civil matters and circuit Judge Bryant looking after the criminal ones, so that leaves mayor."

 

Horace nodded and pulled at his chin in the classic gathering-thoughts gesture.
 

"Both good men from what I've heard, Mr. Simons.," Priest began.  "Being a Judge in these parts can be a special challenge.  You get everything from disorderly conduct cases to cattle rustling to claim jumping.  Of course, sprinkle in some shootings and  you have a full docket."  He eyed Simons, head to foot.  "I was Mayor of Bottleneck for two terms back before the War, then things went to Hell.  Then in 1866 I ran for Mayor of Valley City, and won.  Then was Mayor of Walhalla until a couple of years ago."  He chuckled.  "Ah!  Walhalla.  The damn fool who founded it was near illiterate.  He meant to register it as Valhalla, but mixed up his "V" with a "W". "

 

Then, as if already in the office, Priest continued to espouse the need for rule of law, fair elections, and the importance of rallying the citizens in common cause.

 

After taking a sip of his whiskey, that had been left on the bar by Ralph, he continued, "What I mean to say, is that you're probably already aware that we have a mayoral election happening soon.  So, if you're planning to try your luck here, you best get a move on.  Nominations close at five o'clock today."

 

"I'll be go-to-hell", the older man exclaimed.

 

Fortner slapped Priest on the shoulder.  "Looks like Mr. Simons came in at the right time.  Best high-tail over to City Hall and put your name in the hat.  I can tell you that I'll do everything I can to rally support for you at the Star Dust."

 

Priest nodded in agreement.  "I expect you're right."   And at that, he left through the swinging doors.

 

"He's a good man, Ben." he said to Simons.  "Hell!  He had my back yesterday when I was confronted with a drunk cowhand."  He cleared his throat as if to wipe a slate clean and moved on to another subject.  "What's your game?  Poker?"

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As her attempts to impress Mr. Simons as to her theatrical assets had fallen on fallow ground, Arabella had taken a friend's advice to 'play hard to get' and virtually ignored the fancy dressed gambler who had come into the saloon. She had big ears, though, and heard everything as she sat and played the piano.

 

"He's a good man, Ben." he said to Simons.  "Hell!  He had my back yesterday when I was confronted with a drunk cowhand."  

 

Arabella deliberately played a few wrong notes at this point. Just a little reminder that not everybody was completely happy at the death of the admittedly no-good Mr. Grimes. Even to the point that she had deliberately tried to intervene to stop the shooting of one of the Stardust's regulars by an outsider.

 

"He cleared his throat as if to wipe a slate clean and moved on to another subject. "What's your game? Poker?"

 

The girl played on, half listening to the men talking, half wondering about the old man Priest. She was sure that there was some sinister connection between the would be Mayor and the new owner of the Saloon.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"I'll be go-to-hell", the older man exclaimed.

 

Fortner slapped Priest on the shoulder.  "Looks like Mr. Simons came in at the right time.  Best high-tail over to City Hall and put your name in the hat.  I can tell you that I'll do everything I can to rally support for you at the Star Dust."

 

Priest nodded in agreement.  "I expect you're right."   And at that, he left through the swinging doors.

 

Ben watched Priest high tail it out of the saloon.  Well, that at least answered one of his questions.  He would have to inform Cousin Matt about his new rival and his associate.  This led him to another lot of questions.  From what he just saw, Fortner had some influence over Priest, how much he wasn't quite sure of.

 

"He's a good man, Ben." he said to Simons.  "Hell!  He had my back yesterday when I was confronted with a drunk cowhand."  He cleared his throat as if to wipe a slate clean and moved on to another subject.  "What's your game?  Poker?"

 

"Mostly," Ben answered as he turned to look at Fortner, "it depends on what's going on.  Blackjack or Faro will do just as well."

 

Pausing, he took another sip of his whiskey, before continuing, "Kalispell isn't exactly the gambling capital of the west, so I've been dabbling in few other things as well.  I found the town lacked entertainment, so I'm converting an old boarding house into a small theatre."

 

He grinned, "Don't worry, I'm not looking at competing against the Star Dust.  I'm aiming for the more respectable and well-healed part of town.  I think both of our ventures will do handsomely here if we, mind the pun, play our cards right."

 

@Preston

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"He's a good man, Ben." he said to Simons.  "Hell!  He had my back yesterday when I was confronted with a drunk cowhand."  He cleared his throat as if to wipe a slate clean and moved on to another subject.  "What's your game?  Poker?"

 

"Mostly," Ben answered as he turned to look at Fortner, "it depends on what's going on.  Blackjack or Faro will do just as well."

 

Franklin nodded.  "I figure we can accommodate most games of chance.  Of course,..and I know it's important to a gentleman like you, ..we will insist on everything being above boards.  We'll run an honest house.  He turned to his barkeep, "Ain't that right Ralph?"

 

Franklin Fortner gave Ben Simons a sidelong glance.  He appeared to be a careful man.  Simons, Simons, Franklin repeated in his mind.  The name seemed familiar, but he couldn't remember if the familiarity involved fame or infamy.  He figured only time would tell.

 

The object of his interest spoke up.

 

 "Kalispell isn't exactly the gambling capital of the west, so I've been dabbling in few other things as well.  I found the town lacked entertainment, so I'm converting an old boarding house into a small theatre."

 

"Is that a fact!?" Fortner expounded.

 

He grinned, "Don't worry, I'm not looking at competing against the Star Dust.  I'm aiming for the more respectable and well-healed part of town.  I think both of our ventures will do handsomely here if we, mind the pun, play our cards right."

 

Fortner threw his head back and followed a gusty chuckle with, "Nothing wrong with healthy competition for the hard-earned money floating around Kalispell.  Is there?  I don't think it'll hurt either of us.  Hey ... but you're not lure away some of our talent?  Are you? We've got it in spades.  There's little Miss Arabella, our piano player, and then there's Miss Caroline, the Montana Nightingale. 

 

(Already, Fortner had been thinking of ways to promote the Star Dust.  One of them was to promote and advertise the lovely Caroline.  He'd settled on "The Montana Nightingale", and was planning on having a likeness of her on posters with that moniker printed above it.  Maybe The Montana Queen would do?)

 

He may have appeared jovial, but Fortner was not looking to lose his moneymaking attractions.

 

[As this was going on, Hiram Priest was at City Hall, putting down his $20 to have his name put on the ballot for Mayor.  He was an old hand at his paperwork.]
 

 

 

 

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Franklin nodded.  "I figure we can accommodate most games of chance.  Of course,..and I know it's important to a gentleman like you, ..we will insist on everything being above boards.  We'll run an honest house.  He turned to his barkeep, "Ain't that right Ralph?"

 

"Always has been, boss," Ralph nodded, not that gambling was his department. He served drinks and saw to it troublemakers were dealt with.

 

 

***

 

 

Caroline had been silent so far, just listening to the two men converse. That was until Ben Simons went and said.........

 

"Don't worry, I'm not looking at competing against the Star Dust.  I'm aiming for the more respectable and well-healed part of town.  I think both of our ventures will do handsomely here if we, mind the pun, play our cards right."

 

Caroline frowned and interjected, "Wait a minute. Are you sayin' we aren't respectable? I take offense to that. Especially coming from of all people - a card sharp."

 

Fortner was far more affable about the whole thing though.

 

Fortner threw his head back and followed a gusty chuckle with, "Nothing wrong with healthy competition for the hard-earned money floating around Kalispell.  Is there?  I don't think it'll hurt either of us.  Hey ... but you're not lure away some of our talent?  Are you? We've got it in spades.  There's little Miss Arabella, our piano player, and then there's Miss Caroline, the Montana Nightingale."  

 

"Don't worry, boss, I like it here, I ain't goin' anywhere. Besides seems I ain't respectable enough," Caroline answered.

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Ben nodded, "I have to admit that are some so-called respectable people that I wouldn't be caught dead with but when it comes to money, I'm willing to overlook their faults."

 

Turning to Caroline, he smiled charmingly, "However, you Miss Mundee are much more than respectable, you are remarkable. The way you easily adapt to the situation and the clientele that come in here every night takes a lot of grit. You have more mettle in your little finger than a lot of women will ever have in a lifetime."

 

Picking up his whiskey, he continued, "If you ever tire of working here, I will be more than glad to welcome you over at The White Rose Theatre."

 

A grin appeared on his face as he looked over to the new owner of the Star Dust, "Don't worry Fortner, I have no plans on stealing her...unless she wants me to.  So, with that in mind, I propose a toast to the delightful Miss Caroline Mundee, may she always grace Kalispell with her lovely presence wherever she goes."

 

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Well, that was it. Arabella's attempt at playing 'hard to get' had lasted two minutes and... counting... 43, 44, 45 seconds exactly! She finished playing Mr. Fortner's requested tune with a crash of discordant notes and slammed down the piano lid with an enormous bang. 

 

"Well that's nice ain't it!!" she hollered, loud enough for even the aging and deaf Sally Adams to hear loud and clear without her tin ear horn in place. Arabella was standing in front of Ben Simons now with a look of complete outrage on her little face and the tears squirting from her eyes. "I give you my best Lady MacBeth and you just thowed it in the dirt an'... an' she's just stood standin' there an you offer her a part in your plays, well... you can just... you can just go get lost, Mr. Simons...." she twisted on the spot and in her rage and and broken hearted upset shouted "You can all get lost! I'm goin' to work fer Mr. Jolly, least them dead folks treat me with some respect!!"

 

And with that she marched out of the swing doors with a slam.

 

Then she marched back in again.

 

"Forgot mah hat!"

 

She marched through to the back kitchen to get her bonnet and shawl, wiping away a driblet of snot with the back of her hand as she did so. The sound of the back door slamming made the whole saloon shake.

 

Old Miss Adams looked quite delighted with the scene. "Oh, those Southern Belles! Always so full of vivacity and fire!" she cooed, before removing her reading glasses and waddling up to Simons.

 

"So Sir, you are the scoundrel who has upset our dear little Arabella! It is outrageous, outrageous I say! You insult one of us, you insult all of us!" she reasoned incoherently "However, maybe you could buy me a drink, and I might forgive you." 

 

Tess2.jpg.f0c205010d2d424cadc98570f57f69

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As he watched Arabella's dramatic exit, Ben was mildly amused but didn't show it.  Arabella was on the verge of becoming a diva with her antics and he didn't want her on his payroll if that was the case.  Maybe his aunt could knock some sense into her and polish her up a bit.  If Rebecca could do that, then he would seriously think about hiring her.

 

He didn't have much time to dwell on it as Arabella stampeded back in to get her hat and before he knew it Sally Adams came up to him.  Since he was a lot taller than Miss Adams, when he looked down to address her, her couldn't fail to see her considerable assets.  A feeling of nervousness overcame as he remembered the few times Sally had approached him and how he managed to get away each time.  Now that Grimes was gone, she would be looking for a new benefactor.

 

It wasn't that he didn't like women, it was just that he preferred his be sober and a bit less forthcoming.  A woman who had secrets to discover was far more alluring to him, then somebody like Sally Adams who had nothing to hide and who was willing to give it all away for any price.  Besides, Sally scared him for some reason and that was more than enough. Smiling graciously, he took a step back and looked over to Ralph, "A drink for the lady."

 

Hoping that would placate her, Ben turned to Fortner, "Before we were rudely interrupted, we were about to toast Miss Mundee, shall we proceed or we will save it for another time?"

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Fortner was enjoying the banter with Ben Simons, Ralph and Caroline about a future competition for the loose money in Kalispell, and whether he was going to poach the saloon's talent for his new theater project.  Sadly, it turned into a bit of a fracas.

 

Suddenly Arabella, who'd been dutifully playing with the ivories, slammed the piano's cover down.   The percussion caused the morning patrons to jump --- all heads turned as she flounced over to the bar.

 

"Well that's nice ain't it!!" she hollered, loud enough for even the aging and deaf Sally Adams to hear loud and clear without her tin ear horn in place. Arabella was standing in front of Ben Simons now with a look of complete outrage on her little face and the tears squirting from her eyes. "I give you my best Lady Macbeth and you just thowed it in the dirt an'... an' she's just stood standin' there an you offer her a part in your plays, well... you can just... you can just go get lost, Mr. Simons...." she twisted on the spot and in her rage and and brokenhearted upset shouted "You can all get lost! I'm goin' to work fer Mr. Jolly, least them dead folks treat me with some respect!!"

 

Frank went, "Whoa .. whoa," and, when he caught her eye, he slowly shook his head at her.  It was one thing to be extravagant and say cute, outlandish things, but it was another thing to insult patrons.  She'd even unwittingly enlisted the help of Sally Adams who finally shut up after Ben offered her a drink.  That was always the best way to control a drunk. 

 

That wasn't the way to do business.  The new proprietor crossed his lips with his index finger and said, "Now come on, Arabella.  Get off your high horse and calm down.  I show you respect, now don't I?"

 

There were raw feelings everywhere, it seemed. 

 

Before all this had transpired, the center of attention was Caroline Mundee.  She was the prized bauble on the Christmas tree, and it pleased Frank that she said she would stick around.

 

Hoping that would placate her, Ben turned to Fortner, "Before we were rudely interrupted, we were about to toast Miss Mundee, shall we proceed or we will save it for another time?"

 

"Yes," agreed Fortner, who picked up his glass and raised it.  "Attention!" he called out. 

 

A couple of cowpokes turned to see what else was transpiring that morning.

 

"Ben Simons and I are about to make a toast.  Please join us if you wish."  He paused while mugs and glasses shot upwards, then continued.  "Here is to the charming, the talented and the lovely Caroline Mundee:  The Montana Nightingale!"

 

There was clapping and cheering.

 

"Arabella," Frank said through the tumult.  "Can you play something in honor of our Miss Caroline, like She's a Jolly Good Fellow, something like that?"

 

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"However, you Miss Mundee are much more than respectable, you are remarkable. The way you easily adapt to the situation and the clientele that come in here every night takes a lot of grit. You have more mettle in your little finger than a lot of women will ever have in a lifetime."

 

Caroline smiled, basking in the compliments. Actually he was laying it on a bit thick. She had not been seeking such adulation, she simply wanted to be 'respectable'

 

"Awww, thanks, Ben. Sorry for callin' you a card sharp then," she returned the niceties. Even if he was most likely a card sharp, she thought.

 

Ben doubled down then,  "If you ever tire of working here, I will be more than glad to welcome you over at The White Rose Theatre."

 

That offer set off Arabella. It was Arabella's ardent dream to become an actress, not Caroline who was quite content with the life she already had.

 

"I give you my best Lady Macbeth and you just throwed it in the dirt an'... an' she's just stood standin' there an you offer her a part in your plays, well... you can just... you can just go get lost, Mr. Simons...." she twisted on the spot and in her rage and and brokenhearted upset shouted "You can all get lost! I'm goin' to work fer Mr. Jolly, least them dead folks treat me with some respect!!"

 

"Oh come on, hon! He was just tryin' to be nice but you know I ain't interested in no theatre job," Caroline hoped to stop her but she only came back for her hat and then tromped out on out.

 

Fortner spoke up too but it was too late, she was gone. 

 

ooc: Javia told me this so that's why I'm writing it like I am, just so you know  :)

 

Ben now wanted to toast her with a drink and Fortner picked up on the cue and before you know it they all were raising the glass to her. A nice gesture but again a bit of overkill, she didn't really want all that, not with Ara so hurt.

 

"Thanks boys! Yer all sweet. I do appreciate it but I will be back in just a bit," she announced to them all but looked straight at her employer with the last part.

 

"I gotta go talk with her, she didn't mean no offense to anybody, she's just upset. Lemme handle it," Caroline requested but didn't wait around for an answer instead following right out the way Ara had gone.

 

 

 

 

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Caroline eventually found Arabella sulking somewhere and talked her into coming back as only Caroline could. The moody teenager pulled off her bonnet and shawl and heaped them on the piano, and then sat back on the stool, but with a miserable scowl on her face: in stark contrast to the jolly tune that Mr. Fortner bade her play. 

 

Sally Adams, on the other hand was in seventh heaven: another free drink and she hadn't had to do a stroke of work yet! She felt inspired to raise a glass.

 

"If Miss Mundee is too modest to acceptyour toast, Sir..." she slurred "....Here's a toast to all of you then: Mr. Fortner, the wonderful new owner of the Stardust Saloon! Mr Simons, the manager of the new theatre! Mr. Flandry, the finest barman in the world! Miss Mundee, the songbird of the stardust, and most of all... all of our wonderful customers!! All of them 'Jolly Good Fellows!'" she trilled: to be fair, many of them were as much her patrons as they were patrons of the saloon.

 

She started to warble in a strained mezzo-soprano.

 

"For they are jolly good fellows

For they are jolly good fellows..."

 

Never before had For He's a Jolly Good Fellow been played with such a vicious edge on the pianoforte. 

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With all the carrying-on, Sally Adams would not be ignored nor outdone.  With a florid face and in a cloud of belched liquor to scent the breezes, she began.

 

"If Miss Mundee is too modest to accept your toast, Sir..." she slurred "....Here's a toast to all of you then: Mr. Fortner, the wonderful new owner of the Stardust Saloon! Mr Simons, the manager of the new theatre! Mr. Flandry, the finest barman in the world! Miss Mundee, the songbird of the stardust, and most of all... all of our wonderful customers!! All of them 'Jolly Good Fellows!'" she trilled: to be fair, many of them were as much her patrons as they were patrons of the saloon.

 

She started to warble in a strained mezzo-soprano.

 

"For they are jolly good fellows

For they are jolly good fellows..."

 

Never before had For He's a Jolly Good Fellow been played with such a vicious edge on the pianoforte. 

 

Frank cast an eye to see where Arabella had gone or if she was still in his employ, but in walked Mr. Priest who walked write up to Fortner.

 

"I'm signed up.  I'm on the slate," he said through his chaw. 

 

"Wait a minute!" he shouted while waving Sally Adams down.  "I've got an announcement to make!"  Then, with an arm around Hiram Priest's narrow shoulders, he continued.  "Mr. Hiram Priest here," he said, pointing at the man with his free hand, "..is running for Mayor of Kalispell!   And I'm here to tell you that we couldn't make a better choice.   Now I haven't know this man very long, but as some of you know already, he saved my life yesterday by  plugging a drunken cowpoke who was about to slap leather with me.  Since then I've found out that he's been a Judge before .. and a damned good one, I hear.  And he's also been Mayor of towns from Missouri and up into the Dakota territory."

 

Franklin stood back and began clapping, and he looked to Caroline and Ralph to back him up.

 

 

 

 

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If Ara's piano accompaniment was less than her usual fine quality, the old whore's singing was far worse. Caroline was not happy about it either. Back when Matilda was in charge, the hookers were allowed to ply for customers even if they were not allowed to seal the deals within the saloon but it was made clear they kept a low profile. Caroline let Sally slur her way thru the number but did not join in just downed a shotglass of her own. Although if good ol' Sally kept that up, Caroline was going to have to take her in the alley and have a little discussion.

 

Fortunately, her new boss interrupted the song with an announcement.

 

"Mr. Hiram Priest here," he said, pointing at the man with his free hand, "..is running for Mayor of Kalispell!   And I'm here to tell you that we couldn't make a better choice.   Now I haven't know this man very long, but as some of you know already, he saved my life yesterday by  plugging a drunken cowpoke who was about to slap leather with me.  Since then I've found out that he's been a Judge before .. and a damned good one, I hear.  And he's also been Mayor of towns from Missouri and up into the Dakota territory."

 

Caroline  never gave a rat's ass about politics, she couldn't even vote anyhow. However Fortner was much more ardent.

 

Franklin stood back and began clapping, and he looked to Caroline and Ralph to back him up.

 

Caroline noticed and immediately started up her own clapping, she certainly looked genuinely enthused. Ralph applauded also both of them being the loyal veteran employees that they were.

 

 

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Caroline  never gave a rat's ass about politics, she couldn't even vote anyhow. However Fortner was much more ardent.

 

Franklin stood back and began clapping, and he looked to Caroline and Ralph to back him up.

 

Caroline noticed and immediately started up her own clapping, she certainly looked genuinely enthused. Ralph applauded also both of them being the loyal veteran employees that they were.

 

There followed some claps from the scant number of patrons, it was, after all, not even noon yet.  Still, Fortner was buoyed by the response and stepped back while pushing Hiram forward.  The old roué enjoyed it all;  He was in his element.

 

"Fellow citizens," he began.  "I thank you for your support!   And, if you do me the honor of making me the next Mayor, I'll do right by each and every one of you.  It'll be my duty to keep law and order in the streets, and my aim to make Kalispell a place where you can all prosper.  I just want you to know that I'll be giving a speech in that vacant lot down the street, probably in a few days.  There you'll hear of some of my plans."

 

Frank smiled.  This guy is good, he thought.

 

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While Fortner and Priest were making their speeches, Ben was mentally taking notes.  The two newcomers to town were obviously unaware of his relationship to one of the other mayoral candidates, his cousin Matt.  Still, it was better to learn all he could now before they did find out because he seen all of this before.  It was a common play to go somewhere where you weren't known, make a dramatic entrance and then set about what you really came here to do.  Ben had a feeling that the mayoral race was not the main reason they were here, just something they were cooking up on the side.

 

It then occurred to Ben that when they finished with whatever bought them to Kalispell in the first place was done with, they would concentrate all their efforts on the mayoral race.  The last thing Kalispell wanted or needed, was two hustlers like Fortner and Priest in charge of the town. He needed to learn more about them before he would leave to let Matt know about his competition.

 

Drinking what was left of his whiskey, Ben looked over to where Sally was and was relieved to see her caught up in the aftermath of the singing and congratulating.  Hearing the mention of plans, Ben stepped forward, "You wouldn't mind giving us a hint on these plans? I've already heard a few from the other contenders and I wouldn't want you to step on their toes by saying something they've already covered."

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Hearing the mention of plans, Ben stepped forward, "You wouldn't mind giving us a hint on these plans? I've already heard a few from the other contenders and I wouldn't want you to step on their toes by saying something they've already covered."

 

Arabella span on her stool.

 

"More to the point, Mister Priest, what are you? A nice clean living Democrat, or some God-forsaken, devil horned, dyed in the wool Republican?!" she asked, her political opinions (pointless as she didn't hold the vote due to her age and sex) set in stone by her Southern upbringing. 

 

Then a really horrible thought crossed her mind, horrible enough to make her jump off the piano stool.

 

"Say, you ain't no dirty Greenbacker are ya?!" she cried. She wasn't over-sure what a Greenbacker was, but she'd read somewhere that 'Beast Butler' was one, and that was bad enough for her. 

 

"You know, whoever runs on the Democrat Ticket'll get the votes of ever' dislocated Southerner round here I reckon: there's me, 'cept I cain't vote, obvious, urr... Mr Pettigrew, Mr Crabbe, Mr Connolly, Mr McVay... oh, there's tons!" she offered, helpfully.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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ooc: Don't wait on me, my chars are listening but neither have anything to say at the moment. Enjoying the thread though. 🙂

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Hearing the mention of plans, Ben stepped forward, "You wouldn't mind giving us a hint on these plans? I've already heard a few from the other contenders and I wouldn't want you to step on their toes by saying something they've already covered."

 

"Well that's a fine question, young man," Priest began cautiously.  "One has to proceed with ..."   but his flow of speech was cut short when Arabella shouted from across the room.

 

"More to the point, Mister Priest, what are you? A nice clean living Democrat, or some God-forsaken, devil horned, dyed in the wool Republican?!" she asked, her political opinions (pointless as she didn't hold the vote due to her age and sex) set in stone by her Southern upbringing. 

 

Priest stared at her from over the top of his glasses.  He wasn't used to being questioned, especially by one so young and seemingly inexperienced.   He frowned, and so did her employer, Franklin Fortner.

 

Arabella continued.  Only her youth prevented her from appearing as a fishwife. 

 

"Say, you ain't no dirty Greenbacker are ya?!" she cried. She wasn't over-sure what a Greenbacker was, but she'd read somewhere that 'Beast Butler' was one, and that was bad enough for her. "You know, whoever runs on the Democrat Ticket'll get the votes of ever' dislocated Southerner round here I reckon: there's me, 'cept I cain't vote, obvious, urr... Mr Pettigrew, Mr Crabbe, Mr Connolly, Mr McVay... oh, there's tons!" she offered, helpfully.

 

"Arabella!  Enough!" barked Fortner.

 

There was a pause while everyone, employee and patron, was shocked at Franklin's imperative. 

 

Hiram shook his head.  "I got no problem answering the young lady's question.  It's a good one."  He looked across the floor to where Arabella stood waiting for an answer.  "So you're asking me what political affiliation I might be, a Democrat or a Republican?   And that's a good question so I'll tell you.   I'm an American.  More to the point, I'm a Montanan.  Your head is filled with worryin' about yesterday - Republican, Democrat.  But look at it this way.  We're all on a journey.  We're all on a train headin' for better times.  So don't pack a trunk of junk filled with yesterdays because tomorrow, tomorrow'll be filled with sunshine."

 

It was near lyrical, and Hiram looked out at the slack-mouth audience.  "You oughta put that to music," he said to Arabella.

 

But Ben needed answering but he'd start from scratch.  "Your name, again?"

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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"Arabella!  Enough!" barked Fortner.

 

Ben was just surprised as everyone else in the place.  They were all used to Arabella and her ramblings that they didn't pay her no mind.  If Fortner wanted to be on good terms with everyone, chastising an employee, even if it was Arabella, in public wasn't the way to go about it.  Arabella, despite her faults, had people who genuinely cared for her.

 

Hiram shook his head.  "I got no problem answering the young lady's question.  It's a good one."  He looked across the floor to where Arabella stood waiting for an answer.  "So you're asking me what political affiliation I might be, a Democrat or a Republican?   And that's a good question so I'll tell you.   I'm an American.  More to the point, I'm a Montanan.  Your head is filled with worryin' about yesterday - Republican, Democrat.  But look at it this way.  We're all on a journey.  We're all on a train headin' for better times.  So don't pack a trunk of junk filled with yesterdays because tomorrow, tomorrow'll be filled with sunshine."

 

Priest's answer to Arabella's questions seemed to ease the situation and now they were paying attention to what he was saying.

 

"Your name, again?"

 

He smiled.  "It's Ben Simons and I was asking about some of your plans for Kalispell and I'm sure the good voters here would like to know as well."

 

Then he gave a wide sweeping gesture to acknowledge the other people who were there.  It seemed that there were a few who were getting more interested in their conversion as some of them responded with "yeah" and "what he said."

 

@Preston @Javia

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Priest gave a long rambling exposition on... well, what was it about? Something about living in the past and being from Montana and golden sunshine. It all sounded very fancy and uplifting, give him that. Priest was a good politician, he didn't really say much, but he said it in a crowd pleasing way. 

 

It was near lyrical, and Hiram looked out at the slack-mouth audience.  "You oughta put that to music," he said to Arabella.

 

"Hmm, and you oughta answer the question!" she murmered to herself. 

 

"Oh, I'll do just that Mr. Priest!" she answered more brightly.

 

"So, what is he?" asked a nearby cowpoke, who was as bamboozled by the old man's speechification as the rest of them. "He's a Republican!" Arabella hissed a reply "Wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole!" Hmmm, if Priest wasn't a Democrat, maybe one of the other candidates would be.

 

"Your name, again?"

 

He smiled.  "It's Ben Simons and I was asking about some of your plans for Kalispell and I'm sure the good voters here would like to know as well."

 

Then he gave a wide sweeping gesture to acknowledge the other people who were there.  It seemed that there were a few who were getting more interested in their conversion as some of them responded with "yeah" and "what he said."

 

"They should have a whatayacallem!" yelled Sally Adams suddenly "A debate! All of them, whatayacallem, Can'idates!" she laughed. "I remember seein' Douglas and Lincoln in Freeport waaaaaay before the war. Douglas whupped his ass. Course, that's before he had that beard. Beard helped a lot, y'know. Much better with the beard."

 

It was a good idea, even if rather eccentrically expressed. 

 

@Wayfarer @Preston @JulieS

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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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