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    • Justus kept a close eye on the man as he approached, reassured by the fact that he was being allowed to approach, and that there was no sign of aggression.  He stopped a few feet away.   "Evenin', sir."  Justus nodded with an easy grin, relieved that it seemed this was a friendly bunch.  Most men on drives were, but Justus had learned young that it was best to assume the worst, then be happily surprised.   "Just what are you up too?" It was Dallas, and he was one to ask questions first, rather than just shoot a fellow. "You might oughtta ride on in like a man. There'll be plenty of grub, and you'll be welcome to it." He smiled.   "Thank ya, sir, I might do just that."  While he didn't want to seem too eager, there was no denying that he was grateful for the offer.   "You out here on yer own? Mount up an' I'll ride in with ya jest so's you don't get shot er nuthin'!" The he laughed.   "Yes, sir, I'm alone."  Swinging into the saddle, Justus patted Mule on the neck, then fell into pace beside the man.  "I do appreciate this, sir, I'll work for it, sir, help th' cookie with dishes or some'at."  A thankless job, but it wouldn't do him any harm, and he wouldn't feel so much like mooching.   "Oh, m' name's Justus Wheeler, sir.  I'm headed north, nowhere in particular."   @Flip
    • Mature Content:  Might well be violence.   With: Turk Flagg, Caroline, and who knows else Location: Star Dust Saloon When: Sept/ 1876 Time of Day: Early evening     Now Turk had never been to this part of Montana previously but  seemed like a nice enough quiet town. Actually peaceful towns were not exactly good for his sort of occupation but then he had not ridden in with any specific job in mind.  He was between jobs, just last week he'd delivered a prisoner to a small town south of Kalispell, the man had been a wanted rustler. Fellow whined the whole way back right up to jail that he was innocent. Turk then just pointed out he was neither judge nor jury, tell it to someone who cared. Least he had some cash in his pocket. And where better to spend a bit of it then in the town's only saloon apparently. Least only one he could spot.   Entering into the place thru the swinging bat doors, he took in the joint. Decent enough, he'd seen many worse, some better. On this weekday night it was not crowded but there were a few folks at the bar and some others gathered around tables, most tables holding card games. He didn't go for cards though and on those rare occasions when he had, he usually lost money. Nope, keep it simple, get a drink or two or four.   As he sidled up to the bar, the bartender was presently occupied with another customer so he paused to take a second scan of the place. And who should he see but...................   "Caroline?  Caroline Mundee," he made sure he said those words loud enough the woman could hear him as she  a good distance away, holding a tray of drinks.   Caroline not only picked up on her name but recognized the voice and turned to see just to make certain. The look on her face made it plain she knew the speaker alright as she broke out into a wide smile.   "Well, I'll be !  Gimme a minute," she called back then hurried to finish her on duty errand, duly placing the tray in front of four card players, "Here ya are, boys. Enjoy!"    Turk nodded and just leaned with his back against the bar, watching her every move. She sure was as pretty as the last time they'd seen each other. He never took his eyes off her as she then approached and in a few seconds the two embraced in a quick but heartfelt hug.   "Turk! I had heard rumors you were dead," Caroline declared when they broke it up.   "Nope, I can truly assure you that I am not. Yer lookin' fine as always," he grinned.   Caroline looked past him for a moment, "Ralph, break out one of the good bottles and pour us two shots, will ya, hon?"    "Shit! How much that gonna cost me now?"  Turk knew her routine alright, they'd become friends in Helena when she worked a saloon there.   "Nah! On the house! I'm real glad ta see you again," Caroline then leaned into the bar next to him, they had some catching up to do alright.              
    • Four good men was all he needed, and Granger knew just the men for the job. Men that would kill anyone that threatened the ranch in any way, shape, or form. Of course, that went doe any number of of the Evergreen hands, the men he wanted would be the worst, and most dangerous of the hands Elias Steelgrave employed   The first one he ran on to was the stocky built Dutch, the only name they knew him by, but that was enough. He rode up next to the man, "Dutch, Mister Steelgrave has a job for you."   Dutch looked to him, knowing if the old man wanted him for a job it wouldn't be nurse maiding no cows. "Sure Granger, what's he got in mind?"   "Might be some Lost Lake men trailing Carson, they need to be stopped." It was quick and blunt.   "Right up my alley, Granger. Start now?" Dutch asked.   "I'll Get Treach, Watts, and Deckerd. Mister Steelgrave wants you boys to be sure they start it."    "Easy as pie. If you want I'll go for 'em, know right where they are and well just head that way." Dutch offered with a grin that was far from friendly.   "Sure Dutch, go ahead. Anything happens, you hightail it back here." Granger  replied to which Dutch nodded and spurred his horse.           Dutch                                      Treach                             Watts                       Deckerd
    • The conversation with Misses Thornton-Carlton had been informative, though she had not said when these hands from the Lost Lake would be in town for supplies. In New Mexico Territory they generally went once a month, unless they were in need of something or they got word an order had come in, which was rare, the Apaches saw to that. No one was willing to take the chance . But this here might be different. The Lost Lake was not so far from town as the Lazy S was to Lordsburg, nor as dangerous.   So, the hotel looked to be the place he'd stay until these hands rode in, and it would certainly give him a chance to meet some folks, like she said, see who his allies were. And from, what he had learned so far, the trouble ran deep between the Lost Lake and this Evergreen Ranch, and then toss in the son and his pack of animals. Things could get terminal real quick. This was shaping up to be far more than he had bargained for when he left New Mexico. But he was there now, so he could run, or stay, and Tyrell Thornton was not much for running.
    • Speed took the time to let Alice and her father know where he was going, and why, then mounted up and started out for the fort. He'd not been there, he had seen it in passing, and it was a welcome sight with the Indians out. He understood that the Military had no jurisdiction in town, and likely they might not be willing to help, yet, then again, they might. Protecting citizens was their job. And just because the ones Speed was asking them to protect were in town with active lawmen, A large contingent of outlaws  posed a significant threat.   The outlaws, be it Cases' gang or Elias' riders, or both together, it would be more than a handful lawmen could handle, even with the townsfolk defending their town. True, most had served in the War Between the States, but that had been over ten years ago, and true they had fought Indians and outlaws, yet these men were settled down now and past getting into gun trouble. And maybe it wouldn't come. Maybe Neither Steelgrave wanted to tangle with the town and it's people. Yet going to talk with the Army made sense, even if they couldn't really help out right then.
Franklin Fortner

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"Thankee, Miss," Horace said instinctively, and then took off his hat and held it down at his side.  "That's awful nice to say."  And with his left hand he reached for his drink on the bar, while his right hand moved his hat in front of his crotch.

 

Caroline just smiled, letting the fellow take a good slurp of his drink.

 

 Frank slipped to the far side of Caroline and whispered.  "Be real nice to this one."

 

Caroline wasn't really sure why her boss thought this farmer was so important, she must be missing something going on but she nodded, then whispered, "Sure thing."

 

No sooner had Potee put his glass down when Caroline was grinning right in his face, "I'm a nice gal and you seem like the nice sort. I admire a hard workin' farming man. It can't be easy." 

 

"That drink went down fast, you could probably use another I'm thinkin', hon. Oh and I wouldn't mind one too. Lot of gentlemen offer me drinks ya know."

 

 

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Arabella chatted endlessly.  Curiously, it was not annoying to Maude.  It gave her a chance to calm down and square away her feeling about her headstrong husband who was about to gamble away what little money they had.  He was just there, beyond the kitchen.  Who knew?  Perhaps he'd already fallen victim to cardsharps.  It was all too horrible.

 

The girl prattled on about the heat of Virginia AND the cold of Virginia.  Her biographical sketches were jaw-dropping,.

 

"Oh this heat ain't nuthin compared to Virginia!" Arabella had to go one better. "Mind'ya, when I lived there, we didn't have too many clothes betwixt us all, so that kept things cool. An' anyhow, since I got buried in all that snow before Christmas, I ain't felt properly warm since. Always cold as the grave!" she wittered on.

 

"How horrible for you!" exclaimed Mrs. Potee.  Talk of graves tended, though, to make her even more righteously resolute.  "But we have nothing to fear, do we, Dear?"

 

When Arabella handed her a glass of water, she said, "Water Bright is my One delight!"

 

"How lovely!" Maude said, complimenting the girl's sentiments.  "It always reminds me of God's instruction to Moses, in Exodus, "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”"

 

Maude stopped her sermon, raised the glass and drank fully.  It was sweet and cold, and she offered up a prayer of thanks.

 

It was impossible for Maude not to share her worries about her husband Horace, though she worried that informing the girl of their disagreements bordered on gossiping.  But she made it plain that gambling and drinking liquor was sinful.

 

"Oh, I just don't bother sinning in the first place!" Arabella interjected, but it seemed that Maude wanted to get something off her chest. 

 

She fanned some more.  "I'm afraid that Mr. Potee (she never referred to him as Horace when not with blood family) has been bitten by the gambling bug.  I tried everything to dissuade  him, but alas.  It is the ruination of many a good man.  That, and demon liquor.  Honestly, they should close every distillery in the Country."

 

Arabella gasped "OH NO! Not gambling?! Oh, Mrs P. that's the worst thing. All the card games round here are fixed! The fellers got so many Aces stuffed up their sleeves they can't bend their arms, and whenever one sneezes a Royal Flush drops out their trouser leg! I had a friendly game of Happy Families with Mr Crabbe the other day and he'd got Mrs Bun the Baker's Wife shoved down the front of his trousers! I mean, you wouldn't wanna eat her loaves after where she's been a hidin'!" she declared.

 

Maude held her hand to her mouth and giggled.  The girl was a delight... but still, her thoughts went back to Horace.  Her trembling fingers went to her mouth.  "I do hope he will be all right."

 

"Yeah, well... sometimes hope ain't enough. We should pray!" Mrs Potee's fellow church-going nut proposed, and Arabella put down the potato and knife and clambered onto her knees on the kitchen floor, closed her eyes and clasped her hands.

 

"Oh Lord God in Heaven and your son Jesus Christ the Lord! Hear the prayer of your two wretched daughters, Maude Potee and Arabella Sumter Mudd. Yes, it's me again. We beg your help, Oh Lord to save a wretched sinner, Mr Potee, whose first name I don't know, but you do cause you know everything. Anyhow, he is in an awful fix, he has fallen by the wayside, he has obeyed the wrong command, in short, he's took to drink and gambling. Please, please, please God, stop him doin' these awful things, that he may return to the bosoms of his wife and little girl, an' I don't mean them kind of bosoms, and I lost my train of thought there but please, please God, at least make them card sharps fumble up their nasty tricks, like Mr Carbbe did, when Mrs Bun gave him that there paper cut. Erm..." she opened one eye and looked at Mrs Potee:

 

"You got anything you wanna add, while he's listening?"

 

Maude had been sitting with eyes shut, her elbow on the table, and her hand held against her forehead.   At the invitation, she opened her eyes and made sure they were still alone.  One never knew;  there was an occasional whoop or hollering from beyond the kitchen.

 

"Dear Lord in Heaven, from who all mercies flow.  We pray that you keep watch over your far flung flock -- even out here in Kalispell where every sin is at liberty to flourish.  Please help us stay on the straight and narrow, even your servant Horace Potee.  We fight the temptation of gambling and bowing to King Liquor, for we all know that no King rules here save Jesus Christ."

 

When Maude opened her eyes, tears rolled down her cheeks.

 

 

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 Frank slipped to the far side of Caroline and whispered.  "Be real nice to this one."

 

Caroline wasn't really sure why her boss thought this farmer was so important, she must be missing something going on but she nodded, then whispered, "Sure thing."

 

No sooner had Potee put his glass down when Caroline was grinning right in his face, "I'm a nice gal and you seem like the nice sort. I admire a hard workin' farming man. It can't be easy." 

 

"Oh!  Heck no, ma'am.  The mule's on his last legs, aphid, or some damned bug has gotten to some of the crops, plus I keep gettin' visits by saddle bums who keep tryin' to chase me off my homestead.  Why the hell they bother with me, I don't know.  I'm thinkin' it might be ranchers wanting to water and feed their herds on my land."

 

Frank looked to Hiram Priest who sat at his table, rolling a wad of tobacco from cheek to cheek as he listed to Potee expound.  When Priest made eye contact with him, Frank ever so imperceptibly nodded.

 

"That drink went down fast, you could probably use another I'm thinkin', hon. Oh and I wouldn't mind one too. Lot of gentlemen offer me drinks ya know."

 

"Sure thing, Miss!" he answered as grandly as a dirt farmer could.  "Bartender!  Another one for me and one for the lady."

 

Horace, emboldened by the whisky, began again about the tough times and the poor treatment he'd experienced.

 

"Nobody's gonna chase me off my place like I was a flock of geese.  I'm there to stay and the only way I'm gonna leave is in a pine box."  A chuckled rose from one the tables, and Horace spun around to see if he could spot the person who'd done it, but all eyes were down and all smiles smothered. 

 

He drank some more, and wiped his lips with the sleeve of his shirt.

 

Franklin looked grave.  "Claim jumping .. or I guess homestead jumping sounds like a serious offense, mister.   But maybe they were just cowpokes passing through and trying to have a little fun?"

 

Horace scratched his head.  "I dunno.  I dunno." he repeated.  "Anyway, I ought'n to be bothering you with my troubles, Miss," he said to Caroline.  "You must get a lot of complainers comin' in here and you're probably tired of it."

 

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"Dear Lord in Heaven, from who all mercies flow.  We pray that you keep watch over your far flung flock -- even out here in Kalispell where every sin is at liberty to flourish.  Please help us stay on the straight and narrow, even your servant Horace Potee.  We fight the temptation of gambling and bowing to King Liquor, for we all know that no King rules here save Jesus Christ."

 

"Amen!" intoned Arabella. 

 

When Maude opened her eyes, tears rolled down her cheeks.

 

"Oh, don't cry, Mrs P.!" consoled Arabella, once she'd opened her eyes too and taken a gander at the salty streams running down Maude's sallow cheeks. She put her arm around her and gave her a little hug before helping her back to her feet and sitting her on the dining room chair.

 

"That was a 'double header' - if the Good Lord didn't hear that prayer, why, he must be going as deaf as Aunt Sal in his old age! Still, you gotta make allowances, I mean, it's nearly six thousand years since He first created the Earth, that's a long time to be stickin' around for listenin' to us sinners prayin' and a wailin'. But he'll stir his sticks and help us eventually." she tried to comfort the poor woman. 

 

"Mebee we could sing a hymn to help things along: what's your favourite, Mrs P.?" she asked, starting to peel the potatoes again, slicing lustily into the one that was supposed to look like Mr. Potee with all the visceral frenzy of a girlish Jack the Ripper.

 

@Preston

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From his vantage point on the other side of the room, Ben watched as the vultures began to circle Horace Potee.  He couldn't hear much of what was being said due to the noise levels in the saloon, but he knew what was going on.  Having frequented many saloons and other establishments he had seen this sort of thing play out a thousand times.  Whatever it was that Potee had, it looked like Fortner was eager to get his hands on it.  Like so many other saloon owners, Fortner was also willing to use his employees, especially the female ones to soften up the prey before they devoured it.

 

Having only met Potee and his wife in passing, one Sunday morning at church (when he has Aunt Rebecca had insisted on him accompanying her shortly after their arrival in Kalispell), he felt sorry for the man.  Poor Potee didn't know it but he was already done for unless somebody came to his rescue.  For a moment or two, Ben considered doing just that but decided against it.  He needed to find out more about Fortner before tackling the man head on and it was no use causing any trouble...not yet anyway.  Besides Potee probably knew or at least should have known what he was getting into the moment he walked into the Stardust.

 

Ben leaned backed in his chair a little, nursing his whiskey as he continued to watch.

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It worked, it worked the vast majority of time she made the move.

 

"Sure thing, Miss!" he answered as grandly as a dirt farmer could.  "Bartender!  Another one for me and one for the lady."

 

"Oh thank ya, yer too kind," Caroline beamed as Ralph poured another round for Potee and brought up a special bottle to fill up a new shotglass for the saloon gal.

 

"You can call me Caroline, hon," she offered.

 

The farmer was becoming a bit fortified as it were from the second drink, "Nobody's gonna chase me off my place like I was a flock of geese.  I'm there to stay and the only way I'm gonna leave is in a pine box."

 

"Aww, don't talk like that. Yer gonna be fine," Caroline tried to be supportive.

 

Franklin looked grave.  "Claim jumping .. or I guess homestead jumping sounds like a serious offense, mister.   But maybe they were just cowpokes passing through and trying to have a little fun?"

 

Caroline now thought she knew why Fortner called that trio of skunks his employees, it was all making more sense now.

 

Horace scratched his head.  "I dunno.  I dunno." he repeated.  "Anyway, I ought'n to be bothering you with my troubles, Miss," he said to Caroline.  "You must get a lot of complainers comin' in here and you're probably tired of it."

 

Caroline sipped her 'whiskey', "You ain't botherin' me none. The only customers I don't like is the mean kind. And they don't get to stay in the place fer long, trust me. Yer just fine, hon. My advice is just relax and don't go gettin' all upset about things. Life goes on."

 

 

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"Oh, don't cry, Mrs P.!" consoled Arabella, once she'd opened her eyes too and taken a gander at the salty streams running down Maude's sallow cheeks. She put her arm around her and gave her a little hug before helping her back to her feet and sitting her on the dining room chair.

 

Maude was never embarrassed by her displays of emotion;  They came from the a heart devoted to her God.

 

"Thank you, m'Dear," she managed to say before sitting solidly in her chair.  "Oh this heat is almost unbearable," she added, again fanning her face with her hand.

 

"That was a 'double header' - if the Good Lord didn't hear that prayer, why, he must be going as deaf as Aunt Sal in his old age! Still, you gotta make allowances, I mean, it's nearly six thousand years since He first created the Earth, that's a long time to be stickin' around for listenin' to us sinners prayin' and a wailin'. But he'll stir his sticks and help us eventually." she tried to comfort the poor woman. 

 

"He helps us all, and what is time to He who created it?"  Maude always had a rejoinder when talk moved to the spiritual.

 

"Mebee we could sing a hymn to help things along: what's your favourite, Mrs P.?" she asked, starting to peel the potatoes again, slicing lustily into the one that was supposed to look like Mr. Potee with all the visceral frenzy of a girlish Jack the Ripper.

 

"Oh there are so many, .. er ... Anabella?  One of my favorites is Bringing In the Sheaves.  Oh, and I also like A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."  Her hand went swiftly to her bosom.  "Can I please beg you for a touch more water?"

 

Maude's eyes scanned the kitchen and took in all the details; a barrel of flour with the top set aside, onions and sprigs of rosemary and tarragon hanging from hooks high up on the wall, and a broom leaning against a counter.  Its bristles so bent, thin and worn that did look to Maude as though it couldn't sweep anything very effectively.  There was a large steaming kettle on a wood stove.  These made the heat near tropical, and quite foreign to Maude Potee, a child of the West.

 

"I haven't seen you in church, lately, Dear," Maude said.  There was no hint of disapproval in her tone, just a statement of fact.  "I suppose they keep you quite busy here.  Don't they?"

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Franklin looked grave.  "Claim jumping .. or I guess homestead jumping sounds like a serious offense, mister.   But maybe they were just cowpokes passing through and trying to have a little fun?"

 

Caroline now thought she knew why Fortner called that trio of skunks his employees, it was all making more sense now.

 

Horace scratched his head.  "I dunno.  I dunno." he repeated.  "Anyway, I ought'n to be bothering you with my troubles, Miss," he said to Caroline.  "You must get a lot of complainers comin' in here and you're probably tired of it."

 

Caroline sipped her 'whiskey', "You ain't botherin' me none. The only customers I don't like is the mean kind. And they don't get to stay in the place fer long, trust me. Yer just fine, hon. My advice is just relax and don't go gettin' all upset about things. Life goes on."

 

Horace did something he hadn't done in a long, long time;  He smiled.  It wasn't exactly a winning smile what with two missing teeth; an incisor and a front tooth, but this girl made him feel so good, so manly and even a bit desirable. 

 

"I hope they treat you good here, ma'am .. er.. miss," he ventured, now a knight defending a princess.

 

Frank, who'd been leaning on the bar and facing towards Ralph, said, "She'll get every penny she earns.  You can count on that Mr. Potee."

 

By now the farmer was beginning to feel the effects of the two drinks.  "I don't know where they make this panther juice, but it beats the homemade stuff from jug that someone hands me.  "Barkeep! ", he said now with a touch of bravado.  "Another drink for me and the lady!"

 

Potee's burst of bonhomie caused Hiram Priest to a pause, mid-play, and watch the mark carefully.  A slight smile creased his lips.

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"Oh there are so many, .. er ... Anabella?  One of my favorites is Bringing In the Sheaves.  Oh, and I also like A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."  

 

"Oh you know all the latest ones Mrs P.! Yeah, I know both of them!" beamed Arabella and gave Maude a quick burst of the former hymn, written a mere two years ago, and making the common mistake:

 

"Bringin' in the sheep

Bringin' in the sheep

We shall come rejoicing

Bringing in the sheep"

 

Well, the words might be wrong, but Arabella had a nice signing voice which clearly affected Mrs Potee: Her hand went swiftly to her bosom.  "Can I please beg you for a touch more water?"

 

"That water don't cool you down, Mrs P. Here, I'm gonna make you a nice cup of tea, don't worry, it ain't unpatriotic no matter what they say. See, it's hot, so it makes you sweat and that cools you down. Look at me..." by way of illustration, she held up her arm to display a nice big dark sweat patch on the armpit of her grey smock. 

 

"I haven't seen you in church, lately, Dear," Maude said.  There was no hint of disapproval in her tone, just a statement of fact.  "I suppose they keep you quite busy here.  Don't they?"

 

"Oh they work me like a slave" declared Arabella as she put the tea into the pot and poured in some boiling water. "And my friend Cookie really was a slave and she says it weren't half so bad being a real slave as workin' here, 'cept Mr Fortner don't whip us. But anyhow, yeah, I'm not surprised you noticed I weren't there last Sunday, what with me usually puttin' out the prayer books, an' playin' the harmonium and doin' the responses..." Arabella, raised on 'enthusiastic' Southern Camp Meetings had a habit of shouting out 'I hear you brother!' 'Praise the Lord!' and "Testified!" at seemingly random times during the Reverend Evans' otherwise dry and tame services "... an' collectin' up all the hymn books at the end."

 

She gave the teapot a swirl, to encourage the flavor out. 

 

"Anyhow, last Sunday, I did a act of charity, just like what Jesus woulda done" being a Methodist, Arabella made sure she did a Christ-like Act every day of the week and twice on Sundays, even if her interpretation of what constituted a 'Christ-like Act' might be open to theological debate. 

 

"See, this friend o' mine Bridget Monahan, you know, that simple girl with the wooden leg and the ginger hair? Well, alongside them there problems, she's also a Catholic...." Arabella fair whispered that last unwelcome word "... so some Sundays I takes her up to the Mission Church near the lake. Don't worry, I don't go in with her myself, well, not since that Father Ignatius feller banned banned me, just cause I made a few corrections to their 'Catholic Ladder' picture they got there - do you know, it shows Protestants not gettin' into heaven! Well believe me sister, I got my pencil to that there picture and drew us taking the direct route!"

 

"Also, I went in the little box with Bridget to help her, and that old Ignatius feller says through the chicken wire 'Confess your sins child' and I says 'she ain't sinned, it's you what's goin' round dressed up like a lady, you're the one ought to be kneelin' on dried peas and saying hail Mary." 

 

As she chatted on, the tea brewed and Arabella poured a cup for Maude.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"I hope they treat you good here, ma'am .. er.. miss," Potee ventured.

 

"Awww, how sweet of you to worry about little ol' me, but I'm treated just fine," Caroline smiled.

 

Frank, who'd been leaning on the bar and facing towards Ralph, said, "She'll get every penny she earns.  You can count on that Mr. Potee."

 

Caroline glanced for just a second toward her boss and gave the faintest of nods.

 

By now the farmer was beginning to feel the effects of the two drinks.  "I don't know where they make this panther juice, but it beats the homemade stuff from jug that someone hands me.  "Barkeep! ", he said now with a touch of bravado.  "Another drink for me and the lady!"

 

Ralph did as was told, being sure to use two different bottles though for pouring the two drinks. Naturally Caroline got the colored water which she promptly reached for before the man could accidentally take it. It was a long practiced routine between the veteran bartender and the youthful but still veteran saloon gal.

 

Caroline raised her glass, "Thank ya, hon. Yer a peach."

 

She also thought he was an idiot but it was a long standing rule, the customer was never turned down long as he could pay.

 

Potee's burst of bonhomie caused Hiram Priest to a pause, mid-play, and watch the mark carefully.  A slight smile creased his lips.

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"Bringin' in the sheep

Bringin' in the sheep

We shall come rejoicing

Bringing in the sheep"

 

Mrs. Potee smiled faintly, and offered up a silent prayer.

 

Well, the words might be wrong, but Arabella had a nice signing voice which clearly affected Mrs Potee: Her hand went swiftly to her bosom.  "Can I please beg you for a touch more water?"

 

"That water don't cool you down, Mrs P. Here, I'm gonna make you a nice cup of tea, don't worry, it ain't unpatriotic no matter what they say. See, it's hot, so it makes you sweat and that cools you down. Look at me..." by way of illustration, she held up her arm to display a nice big dark sweat patch on the armpit of her grey smock. 

 

It was true.  Maude had known through hard work that sweat cools a body down.  But tea on a day like this?  Still, she kept her mouth shut.  After all, the girl was trying her hardest

 

"I haven't seen you in church, lately, Dear," Maude said.  There was no hint of disapproval in her tone, just a statement of fact.  "I suppose they keep you quite busy here.  Don't they?"

 

Arabella then launched into a speech about her juggling life between work and church.  Surprisingly, it took Maude's  attention away from her own troubles, at least for a spell.  The girl had a zest for living, there was no denying that, and Maude made some mental notes and comparisons between this girl and her own daughter.

 

"You are a dedicated disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ," Maude intoned. It was the highest compliment she could bestow.  "This would be a better town if more people had your devotion."

 

Arabella gave the teapot a swirl, to encourage the flavor out. 

 

Tea was beginning to sound better and better to Maude.  And while Arabella was deep its preparation, she listened as carefully as she could to Arabella's chitchat which, Maude had to admit, bordered on gossip.

 

"See, this friend o' mine Bridget Monahan, you know, that simple girl with the wooden leg and the ginger hair? Well, alongside them there problems, she's also a Catholic...." Arabella fair whispered that last unwelcome word.

 

Maude's had when to her mouth.  "Oh dear.  A Papist," she responded.  The word getting caught in her throat like a crosswise chicken bone.

 

"... so some Sundays I takes her up to the Mission Church near the lake. Don't worry, I don't go in with her myself, well, not since that Father Ignatius feller banned banned me, just cause I made a few corrections to their 'Catholic Ladder' picture they got there - do you know, it shows Protestants not gettin' into heaven! Well believe me sister, I got my pencil to that there picture and drew us taking the direct route!"

 

Maude giggled.  "You mean like Jacob's ladder?" she asked.

 

The words that spewed out of Arabella's mouth were a validation of all the negative views that Maude held about Catholics.  Her father, Jedediah, and her mother, Ann Mariah, were Yanks through and through, and they warned her about Catholics --- and Jews as well.

 

Finally the cup of tea arrived.

 

"Thank you, my dear," Maude said, bringing the teacup to her lips.  It was very hot and it was a miracle that the liquid did not raise a welt on the roof of her mouth. 

 

"I am worried about my Horace," she confessed to Arabella.  "This very minute he's in that lion's den," she tipped her head toward the door that separate the kitchen from the hallway that led to the saloon floor.  "Every sin is at liberty to flourish there.  It's a nest of malignants.   I only wish that there was someway we could get him out of there without causing a scene.  Because I know, sure as Eve tasted the forbidden fruit, he will get swindled somehow, some way."

 

She took another sip.  "Oh this is quit good."

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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"I am worried about my Horace," she confessed to Arabella.  "This very minute he's in that lion's den," she tipped her head toward the door that separate the kitchen from the hallway that led to the saloon floor.  "Every sin is at liberty to flourish there.  It's a nest of malignants.   I only wish that there was someway we could get him out of there without causing a scene.  Because I know, sure as Eve tasted the forbidden fruit, he will get swindled somehow, some way."

 

"Hmmm" Arabella responded; sympathetically, but not particularly usefully. The truth was, if a man wanted to do something, his wife couldn't stop him, except by psychological means: and Mrs Potee didn't exactly throb with the sort of bold self confidence and nagging power to do that. 

 

She took another sip.  "Oh this is quite good."

 

Arabella seized on the topic to divert attention from her impotence to help with the woman's erring husband. 

 

"Oh, I'm glad you like it!" she beamed "And I reckon you'll be sweatin' real soon. I don't mind if folks say it's traitorous to drink tea: my great, great, Grandaddy Richard Mudd was a hero of the Revolution: he extinguished himself at the great Battle of Camden, South Carolina."  she repeated parrot fashion some much treasured family tradition. "And we're pretty sure he was on the American side, so no one can accuse me of bein' unpatriotic." she announced primly.

 

"Course, I ain't no relation of that Doctor Mudd feller, the one that helped the dashing and handsome Mr. John Wilkes Booth after he shot poor President Lincoln, except my Mamma used to pretend we was related to him, cause she was red-hot Sessesh, o' course. How 'bout you, Mrs. P. You got any famous ancestors? What was your maiden-name before Mr. Potee swept you off  of your feet and made a honest woman of you?!" Arabella asked nosily.

 

 

  

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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I hope they treat you good here, ma'am .. er.. miss," Potee ventured.

 

"Awww, how sweet of you to worry about little ol' me, but I'm treated just fine," Caroline smiled.

 

Frank, who'd been leaning on the bar and facing towards Ralph, said,

I hope they treat you good here, ma'am .. er.. miss," Potee ventured.

 

"Awww, how sweet of you to worry about little ol' me, but I'm treated just fine," Caroline smiled.

 

Frank, who'd been leaning on the bar and facing towards Ralph, said, "She'll get every penny she earns.  You can count on that Mr. Potee."

 

Frank appreciated Caroline's smarts and her savvy.  It promised to be a great partnership.

 

Horace was filled with bonhomie.

 

"Barkeep! ", he said now with a touch of bravado.  "Another drink for me and the lady!"

 

Ralph performed his drink-pouring ritual with the speed and accuracy of a magician performing some art of leisure-de-main. 

 

Caroline raised her glass, "Thank ya, hon. Yer a peach."

 

She also thought he was an idiot but it was a long standing rule, the customer was never turned down long as he could pay.

 

Horace felt appreciated and sought-after.  It had been ages since he'd felt that way.  His usual existence of listening to Maude chide him over some perceived, unholy, misdeeds had gotten tiring for the hardworking homesteader.  Now, there he was, in the Star Dust Saloon tickling the fancy of Miss Caroline. -- and visa versa.

 

"Didn't I hear that you know your way around a song?" he asked his hostess.  I bet you sing like an angel.  I used to do a bit of singing myself." (He did not confess that the only singing he did was in a church choir).

 

Fortner turned away and smothered a grin and, in doing so, spotted Hiram Priest taking in Potee's grandness by slowly, sadly, shaking his head. 

 

"I got me forty acres out north of town," Potee continued on his quest to impress Caroline.  "I got two heifers  and the strongest mule in the whole Montana Territory.  I can plow a acre before lunchtime."  He held his arm out and then brought his fist back to his ear in the classic pose to show muscle."   Then, in a daring bit of suggestiveness, far beyond his usual, he added, "Do you like muscle?"

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Hiram kept an eye on the unwary Mr. Potee.  It was quite a performance he was putting on for the benefit of Caroline.  "Pathetic" was the word that kept intruding into his thoughts.

 

He listened to the description of all that he and his homestead had to offer and, all the while, the poem by Thomas Hood came to mind.

 

Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold
Molten, graven, hammered and rolled,
Heavy to get and light to hold,
Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold,
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled.

Price of many a crime untold.
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!

 

The erudite and learned, former, Judge was one to reckon with.  There was no telling what he might have achieved in life had it not been for his lecherous heart and averous soul.

 

Now their plans were coming into focus - finally, with the loudmouth homesteader walking right into their trap.

 

His eyes swept from  right to left and he spotted Ben Simons.  What was on his mind?  What was he after?  He would have to find out more about him once he was elected as Mayor.  He'd have his minions find out about the dandy ... weak spots, maybe.

 

But back to Potee.  If they could just swoop him up in a game poker.

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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"Didn't I hear that you know your way around a song?" Potee asked her,  " I bet you sing like an angel.  I used to do a bit of singing myself."

 

"Oh I sing like an angel, if I do say so but trust me, they ain't the sort songs angels probably sing, hon," grinned Caroline.

 

Fortner turned away and smothered a grin and, in doing so, spotted Hiram Priest taking in Potee's grandness by slowly, sadly, shaking his head. 

 

The liquor got him talking now, Caroline figured it would. She just swallowed her latest colored water, sober as schoolgirl.

 

"I got me forty acres out north of town," Potee continued on his quest to impress Caroline.  "I got two heifers  and the strongest mule in the whole Montana Territory.  I can plow a acre before lunchtime." 

 

Caroline nodded, "Impressive but I bet the mule does the hard work."

 

The farmer held his arm out and then brought his fist back to his ear in the classic pose to show muscle.  Then, in a daring bit of suggestiveness, far beyond his usual, he added, "Do you like muscle?"

 

"On some men, sure!" Caroline nodded, she did not add  'young men more my age.'

 

"I like smart men too though, hon."

 

 

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She took another sip.  "Oh this is quite good."

 

 

Arabella seized on the topic to divert attention from her impotence to help with the woman's erring husband. 

 

"Oh, I'm glad you like it!" she beamed "And I reckon you'll be sweatin' real soon. I don't mind if folks say it's traitorous to drink tea: my great, great, Granddaddy Richard Mudd was a hero of the Revolution: he extinguished himself at the great Battle of Camden, South Carolina."  she repeated parrot fashion some much treasured family tradition. "And we're pretty sure he was on the American side, so no one can accuse me of bein' unpatriotic." she announced primly.

 

"No one could accuse you of that, my dear. 

 

"Course, I ain't no relation of that Doctor Mudd feller, the one that helped the dashing and handsome Mr. John Wilkes Booth after he shot poor President Lincoln, except my Mamma used to pretend we was related to him, cause she was red-hot Sessesh, o' course. How 'bout you, Mrs. P. You got any famous ancestors? What was your maiden-name before Mr. Potee swept you off  of your feet and made a honest woman of you?!" Arabella asked nosily.

 

Maude Stiffened.

 

"Mr. Booth was an assassin, dear.  He killed our wonderful leader, Abraham Lincoln.  He is probably in Hell as we speak.  There is no purgatory for men such as he.  However, I am not to judge.  Am I? "

 

Just then a voice from the saloon arose.  "Barkeep!  Another drink for me and the lady!"

 

Maude winced.  It was Horace. Oh you fool! she thought.

 

"Well dear, my Great Grandfather, Samuel Abbott, was a soldier in Roger's Rangers, the famous Indian Fighters.  He was with Major Rogers during the Battle on Snowshoes.  That was up near Lake George.  And he was on the trek to the Indian village of St. Francis, killed them all.  Then he almost died on the trip back."   She shook her head sadly.  "Some of them resorted to Cannibalism because they were starving.  I don't know why the good Lord puts men through tests like that."

 

 

 

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The liquor got him talking now, Caroline figured it would. She just swallowed her latest colored water, sober as schoolgirl.

 

"I got me forty acres out north of town," Potee continued on his quest to impress Caroline.  "I got two heifers  and the strongest mule in the whole Montana Territory.  I can plow a acre before lunchtime." 

 

Caroline nodded, "Impressive but I bet the mule does the hard work."

 

"Well we both work our asses off," Horace started, then... "oh, excuse the language, we both help each other.  How's that?"  The truth was, the hardest working creature on the homestead was the long suffering Maude.  But, for some reason, he wanted to keep his wife out of the conversation.

 

The farmer held his arm out and then brought his fist back to his ear in the classic pose to show muscle.  Then, in a daring bit of suggestiveness, far beyond his usual, he added, "Do you like muscle?"

 

"On some men, sure!" Caroline nodded, she did not add  'young men more my age.'

 

"I like smart men too though, hon."

 

Frank spoke across Caroline and to Horace.

 

"So tell me, Mr. Potee.  Do you like the Star Dust?  As a new owner, I'd like to know."

 

Horace felt honored to be "Mister'd" by the owner of the establishment.  In fact, it was turning out to be a great day for him.  He was hobnobbing with the elite!  That included the lovely Caroline who, in Horace's mind, was quite taken with him.

 

"Sure do, sir.  Sure do.  Hell, I'd like to ditch my homestead and find a job in town!  That way I can just cross the street and treat myself to this red eye!"  All this was said loudly.  It prompted low snickers from some of the other patrons.  It also was heard way off in the kitchen where Maude buried her head in her hands.  Most important of all, it was heard by Hiram Priest, who licked his lips like a predator ready to devour some helpless prey.

 

"Tell me, er .. Mr. Potee.." began Frank.

 

"Horace!  Please." Potee begged.

 

"All right, Horace." Frank corrected.  "You look like a man of the world, one who doesn't need to be coddled by anyone.  Do you ever partake in games of chance?"

 

"Miss Caroline?"  Horace asked the star of the Star Dust.  "Do I look like I can manage my way around a poker table?"

 

 

 

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"Mr. Booth was an assassin, dear.  He killed our wonderful leader, Abraham Lincoln.  He is probably in Hell as we speak.  There is no purgatory for men such as he.  However, I am not to judge.  Am I?"

 

The little Virginian girl was strangely fascinated by Wilkes Booth: he resonated with her, perhaps, because he was willing to do just about anything to be famous.

 

"Oh, I don't know, he might have repented of his crime, just before them sojers shot him." suggested Arabella "But you are right about Mr Lincoln, and he was the idol of my Pappy, cause he was a abolitionist and used to work for the underground railway, 'fore he got found out and had to high tail it out of Monroe. Well, my Mammy and my Pappy never did agree on much, that's fer sure. But going back to Mr Lincoln, I think the saddest thing of all is... well, he never did get to see how that there play ended, did he?"

 

Just then a voice from the saloon arose.  "Barkeep!  Another drink for me and the lady!"

 

Maude winced.  It was Horace. Oh you fool! she thought.

 

Arabella heard it too, and winced. How quickly were a chuckle-headed idiot and his money parted. "So, you was gonna tell me about your famous ancestors" she reminded Maude, to distract her from the painful words leaking from the saloon.

 

"Well dear, my Great Grandfather, Samuel Abbott, was a soldier in Roger's Rangers, the famous Indian Fighters.  He was with Major Rogers during the Battle on Snowshoes.  That was up near Lake George.  And he was on the trek to the Indian village of St. Francis, killed them all.  Then he almost died on the trip back."

 

"Still, I bet that taught them dirty redskins, huh?" nodded Arabella earnestly. 

 

She shook her head sadly.  "Some of them resorted to Cannibalism because they were starving.  I don't know why the good Lord puts men through tests like that."

 

This was a subject of great interest to Arabella, and she didn't mind saying so.

 

"Guess what, Mrs Potee, sometimes I imagine if we all ran out of food in Kalispell and I had to become a cannonball and eat someone, and I could choose anybody at all to eat, who would I pick? You ever play that game? Oh, it's heaps of fun. Like, I wouldn't pick Mammy Cookie, well because I love her, but also because I don't prefer the dark meat on a chicken, and Jemima Wigfall'd be too chewy. Caroline... Miss Mundee in there... I reckon she'd be nice to eat because she's white as a chicken breast and she's pretty well marinated a lot of the time." It was probably somewhat indicative of Arabella's other appetites that all the people she considered eating were of the female persuasion. 

 

@Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Sure do, sir.  Sure do.  Hell, I'd like to ditch my homestead and find a job in town!  That way I can just cross the street and treat myself to this red eye!"  All this was said loudly. 

 

"We only sell the best stuff," Caroline smiled, that was a lie - their range of beer and liquor went from expensive high end stuff to just plain awful but cheap.

 

"Tell me, er .. Mr. Potee.." began Frank.

 

"Horace!  Please." Potee begged.

 

"All right, Horace." Frank corrected.  "You look like a man of the world, one who doesn't need to be coddled by anyone.  Do you ever partake in games of chance?"

 

Caroline knew where this was going, it was a typical setup.

 

"Miss Caroline?"  Horace asked the star of the Star Dust.  "Do I look like I can manage my way around a poker table?"

 

"Horace," she nodded, "Ain't that hard, hon. You just gotta walk on over there and sit down. But as for poker, I don't know the game, don't play it. Figure it's a game for menfolk. "

 

 

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Arabella launched into some family history, something about abolitionists, but Maude could only think about the fool Horace must have been making of himself only a few feet away.  Then the girl's final sentence was like an arrow, piercing her sensibilities.  "

 

"But going back to Mr Lincoln, I think the saddest thing of all is... well, he never did get to see how that there play ended, did he?"

 

Maude shook her head.  "I'm sure that was the last thing on his mind, young lady.  And that poor Mrs. Lincoln.  What she must have endured."  (Women carrying burdens was at the top of her mind that day.)

 

Just then a voice from the saloon arose.  "Barkeep!  Another drink for me and the lady!"

 

Maude winced.  It was Horace. Oh you fool! she thought.

 

Arabella heard it too, and winced. How quickly were a chuckle-headed idiot and his money parted. "So, you was gonna tell me about your famous ancestors" she reminded Maude, to distract her from the painful words leaking from the saloon.

 

They then shared more family history, and it allowed Maude to get her mind off the abomination occurring beyond the kitchen wall.  She was able to proudly portray the men in her family in heroic light.  Then she touched on the rumor that some of the ragtag troop who managed to escape the French and Indians on the long trek back from St. Francis, resorted to cannibalism.

 

This was a subject of great interest to Arabella, and she didn't mind saying so.

 

"Guess what, Mrs Potee, sometimes I imagine if we all ran out of food in Kalispell and I had to become a cannonball and eat someone, and I could choose anybody at all to eat, who would I pick? You ever play that game? Oh, it's heaps of fun. Like, I wouldn't pick Mammy Cookie, well because I love her, but also because I don't prefer the dark meat on a chicken, and Jemima Wigfall'd be too chewy. Caroline... Miss Mundee in there... I reckon she'd be nice to eat because she's white as a chicken breast and she's pretty well marinated a lot of the time." It was probably somewhat indicative of Arabella's other appetites that all the people she considered eating were of the female persuasion. 

 

Mrs. Potee's hand flew up to her mouth, covering it, preventing even the words she heard from slipping past her lips.

 

"Oh dear!" she finally managed.  "You should wipe those thoughts clean from your mind, Ana ..er Arabella.  I would rather give up the ghost than too dabble in anything as horribly evil as cannonball,..er. cannibalism."  The girl had her quite flummoxed.  "Walk in the path  righteousness.  Stay on the right side, sister.  Stay on the right side of the road.  Look out for old man Satan.  He's on the wrong side wait'n"  She paused and giggled.  "I did a rhyme.  Oh lord, you're a singer.  You could put that to music."

 

Maude suddenly felt dizzy and her arm shot out putting her hand flat on the tabletop. 

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"Horace," she nodded, "Ain't that hard, hon. You just gotta walk on over there and sit down. But as for poker, I don't know the game, don't play it. Figure it's a game for menfolk. "

 

 

Horace beamed.  Now they were talking.

 

"Well, I got me some cash in my poke, like to think, maybe, I could turn it into something more?"  He looked to where she pointed, and then back to her again,  dazzling her with what he thought was a roguish smile.  In truth, is was an advertisement cautioning against poor dental hygiene. 

 

Frank shrugged.  "I don't know, Horace.  Me and some the boys are pretty shrewd card players.  I wouldn't want you to come out of it a poor man."

 

Horace straightened.  "Why I'm one of the shrewdest card players this side of the Missouri River."  What then followed was spun from sheer fantasy.  "I've played my way from St. Joe to Dodge City to Bozeman.  I've sat across from Doc Holliday until he emptied his last dollar out of his pockets."

 

"Impressive, Sir!" Franklin praised.  "Say, Ralph!  Set us up with another round, - on the house."

 

Horace sidled nearer to Caroline. 

 

"I understand if'n you don't play cards, but will you watch me take some fellers to the cleaners?"

 

 

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Maude shook her head.  "I'm sure that was the last thing on his mind, young lady.  And that poor Mrs. Lincoln.  What she must have endured."  (Women carrying burdens was at the top of her mind that day.)

 

Arabella nodded glumly. "And now she's as mad as a hatter." she intoned. "Still, least she got to see the end of the play!"

 

The conversation moved on over potted family history and even the idea of cannibalism and who would make the tastiest meal in town.

 

Mrs. Potee's hand flew up to her mouth, covering it, preventing even the words she heard from slipping past her lips.

 

"Oh dear!" she finally managed.  "You should wipe those thoughts clean from your mind, Ana ..er Arabella.  I would rather give up the ghost than too dabble in anything as horribly evil as cannonball,..er. cannibalism."  The girl had her quite flummoxed.

 

Arabella shrugged "Why not? It don't say nuthin in the Bible about not eating folks. In fact, Book of Genesis says Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Course, it also says you mustn't spill any human blood or eat the kids, but if you was careful... Hmmm, nobody'd wanna eat me though, I'm all just skin an' bone!" she declared, looking at her arms curiously.

 

"Anyhow, I onct heard that in fancy restaurants you can get something called 'steak tartan' - guess it must be from Scotland - and that's nuthin but plain raw meat, and you can just eat it like that, and ever time I think on that, I wanna sneak up on my friend Caroline and take a great big tasty bite outta her..." but Mrs Potee interrupted her at that point with an inspired call:

 

 "Walk in the path  righteousness.  Stay on the right side, sister.  Stay on the right side of the road.  Look out for old man Satan.  He's on the wrong side wait'n"  She paused and giggled.  "I did a rhyme.  Oh lord, you're a singer.  You could put that to music."

 

Arabella laughed "Aw, you're a hoot, Mrs P. You're gonna put Stephen Foster out o' business. Oh, 'cept I guess he's already out of business, what with him being dead an all, too. Wonder if his wife's in the mad house, long with Missus Mary Todge Lincoln?!"

 

Maude suddenly felt dizzy and her arm shot out putting her hand flat on the tabletop. 

 

The short Virginian girl gasped "Oh heck, you all right Mrs Potee?!!"

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Even her boss seemed to make an attempt to talk him out of it, that being joining a card game. But the man had been imbibing too much too fast.

 

Horace straightened.  "Why I'm one of the shrewdest card players this side of the Missouri River."   I've played my way from St. Joe to Dodge City to Bozeman.  I've sat across from Doc Holliday until he emptied his last dollar out of his pockets."

 

Caroline would have bet her last dime that was all horseshit but did not let on. If the man wanted to play the fool, wasn't her place to stop him.

 

"Impressive, Sir!" Franklin praised.  "Say, Ralph!  Set us up with another round, - on the house."

 

"Comin' right up," Ralph complied, he too knew what was going on. None of his business though.

 

Horace sidled nearer to Caroline. 

 

"I understand if'n you don't play cards, but will you watch me take some fellers to the cleaners?"

 

"Oh well, hon.....I can't spend my whole time with one customer ya know. Gotta spread myself around but sure...........I can watch  ya for a bit. Guess I wanna see how an expert card sharp like you does it?"

 

That last line was dripping with sarcasm but she sold it with a sincere looking warm smile.

 

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Arabella laughed "Aw, you're a hoot, Mrs P. You're gonna put Stephen Foster out o' business. Oh, 'cept I guess he's already out of business, what with him being dead an all, too. Wonder if his wife's in the mad house, long with Missus Mary Todd Lincoln?!"

 

Maude set her teeth.  "Mrs. Foster drove her husband into poverty.  She was a spendthrift and not a good steward of their finances."   Her thoughts wandered, again, to what could possibly be happening in the saloon.  What's going on?

 

Maude suddenly felt dizzy and her arm shot out putting her hand flat on the tabletop. 

 

The short Virginian girl gasped "Oh heck, you all right Mrs Potee?!!"

 

"Water!  Tea!  Something please," Maude gasped.  "I have to go in there," she then announced.  "I have to stop Horace from taking the Devil's hand and being led to ruin.  He is either going to drink our money away or gamble it away."  She looked strained and then added, "Piss it away!"

 

She rose with pioneer-woman-dignity.  "Is this the door?" she asked, pointing to one of two doors, the other leading into a pantry.

 

 

 

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"I understand if'n you don't play cards, but will you watch me take some fellers to the cleaners?"

 

"Oh well, hon.....I can't spend my whole time with one customer ya know. Gotta spread myself around but sure...........I can watch  ya for a bit. Guess I wanna see how an expert card sharp like you does it?"

 

That last line was dripping with sarcasm but she sold it with a sincere looking warm smile.

 

A blush crept underneath Horace's suntan.  "Oh shucks, Ma'am.  I understand.  I can't have you all to myself!"  His voice was rising, and when he turned to take the newly offered drink, he staggered a bit.  "Oops!  Almost lost the whole shebang."  Then, with the drink in his hand, he made a loud toast.  "Here's to Miss Caroline!!  The finest lady in the whole State of Montana!"

 

He belted back the drink.

 

There were a few whoops and hollers from the saloon's patrons.

 

"Now .. where's this card table?  I'm hankering to steel some money from babies!"

 

Hiram Priest looked at Horace from over the top of his spectacles.  The man is playing right into our hands.

 

"Well sir," Franklin said with a hand on Horace's shoulder.  "That table ought to do," he answered, pointing to a table that was near Hiram Priest's table.   "And that gentleman seated there is a judge, so you can count on a fair game.  Isn't that right, judge?"

 

Hiram nodded sagely as he rolled his wad of tobacco from one cheek to the other.

 

"Well let's get going!" Horace gushed excitedly.  "And come on, Miss Caroline.  you can watch some."

 

Fortner looked Caroline in the eyes and nodded his assent slightly and secretively.

 

 

 

 

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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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