A Just for Fun Fiction
Looking up, Felicity watched their interaction. She could see his jaws were tight. Evidently, this young thing's company wasn't welcome.
"You said I could have seconds. I'd like that now please."
He arched his brows, but called out to the waitress, "Another plate for the lady please."
Of course, he wouldn't do it quietly, but had to embarrass her. Then she noticed his plate still had plenty left. He had eaten slowly while she probably had inhaled her food in a most undecorous manner.
Finally after nearly eating all of her second plate, she looked up and saw he watched amazed. She shrugged her shoulders. "It was good," was all she could say after swallowing the last of her coffee. "Except for the coffee. It wasn't very fresh."
"There is something else I need to mention."
She just looked at him warily.
"Grannie Biddle might need a little watching. I'm hardly comfortable leaving her alone during the day, and certainly not when we go on the cattle drive."
"Can't be too hard unless she bites," Felicity poked fun with a straight face.
He grinned, "She doesn't have enough teeth to hurt a little thing like you, but could gum you to death."
Mrs. O'Reilly acted shocked. "Did you say that Amos King hired you? I'm shocked. He's so particular about females that the only one allowed at his ranch up till now is poor old Granny Biddle. There's plenty of tales about Mr. King and women, that's for sure."
"This is where you've been staying?" he scowled.
"Yes, and I'm thankful I had some kind of roof over my head. Beggars can't be choosers." she replied with a sniff.
There was a tall arching gate over the entrance, but they weren't there yet. Finally, a ranch house, barn, and other outbuildings came into view. The horses in a corral perked up their ears and watched curiously as they drew near. Cowhands stopped what they were doing to stare. Then a huge dog came bounding up barking. If dogs could grin, that's what this one was definitely doing. Felicity glanced over at her employer. His face finally relaxed and fell into a true smile as he greeted his dog.
"Hey, there Beast." The dog barked a retort, then waited for them to pass so he could leap up in the back of the wagon. He came up and laid his head on Mr. King's shoulder.
"Aren't you the good dog," she smiled letting him sniff her hand before scratching behind his ear.
"You like dogs?" The man acted surprised.
"I love dogs," she answered still petting Beast. "Beast is a funny name but it fits."
He looked at her with a quirked eyebrow. "You're the first to say that. Well, here we are."
Felicity looked around at the well cared for spread. It was impressive, but not overwhelming. Then when a wiry, bent elderly woman toddled out to the porch, she was in love with the place.
"Grannie, this is Miss Laird," he said. "Felicity, this is Grannie Biddle."
The old woman crinkled a smile and said, "Welcome! It will be nice to have a lady around for company not just a crusty old bachelor."
"Now Grannie...." Mr. King protested. "Don't get started."
Felicity had jumped down without any help and gently grasped the woman's outstretched hand.
"Nice to meet you, Grannie. Just call me Felicity."
"That's a nice name, and may you bring felicity into this house," Grannie said with a twinkle in her eye. "Is this a visit or have you come to stay for a spell?"
"She's going to cook and help you with the cleaning, Grannie. I know you and I are tired of eating Sam's grub from the bunkhouse."
"Hash, hash, and more hash! Anything this little lady whips up has to be better than that!" Her laugh sounded like it crinkled.
"Let's hope so," she heard Mr. King mutter as he walked by carrying her trunk.
The interior seemed dark after being out in the sunshine, and it took a minute for her eyes to adjust. She followed the man as he said, "This way," leading through a dining room to a spacious kitchen. There was a very small room off to the side hardly bigger than a pantry, but it was still better than where she'd been laying down her head. Mrs. O' Reilly only had a lean-to where she'd made space for her.
"Amos, Amos, Amos, I hope you don't scare her away offering her this wee bitty bedroom, when there's a perfectly good..."
He cut her off. "Grannie, this is what she agreed to. So don't start..."
She chuckled and waved her hand at him as she walked out of the kitchen. "I know, I know, I'm not allowed in here. At least you finally got some sense and brought a woman out here."
He cleared his throat, which made her crackle another laugh. "I'll shut my lips. I know when my opinion isn't wanted."
"This will be fine," Felicity said to him as he tried to figure out how to make her trunk fit into the cramped space. "If we move out the nightstand, maybe it will fit there," she suggested.
"I think you are right." When he had done that, he stepped back out and said, "Do you think you'll be settled enough to wrangle supper for us?" I can bring in a nice roast out of the smoke house. But if you'd rather catch yourself a chicken..."
"A roast sounds good, thank you. If I hurry and get it in the oven, it will be ready for supper." Her mind was already picturing the meal she would fix. She'd been helping her mama in the kitchen since she was knee-high, but that brought painful memories of loss.
Already she was feeling this was her kingdom, Felicity's kingdom, home on the range.
Grannie came in and sat on a chair by the little kitchen table pouring herself a glass of milk. "Care for some?" After Felicity declined, she went on, "I can't tell you how glad I am that you are here," she said, "and not just for the food. "I won't go into it all, but my poor Amos has been burned so many times, but he keeps coming back like a cat with nine lives. So don't judge him if he's a little abrupt. He says he's sworn off women, but we'll see."
"What happened? He's a successful rancher and isn't bad looking," she added with a blush.
"Let's see, how did it all begin," Grannie said as her cloudy eyes looked off in the distance."
"His first love was with a Miss Hazelton. They were young things. He never told me if he'd asked for her hand, but I believe she held his heart. Then there was the measles epidemic about ten years ago, and she died before he could say his goodbye since her house was quarantined."
"That is so very sad," Felicity said blinking back tears. Any loss hit too close to home.
Grannie went on. "It took a couple of years, but then he started seeing a Miss Beasley. He eventually did ask for her hand, and she accepted. They were the talk of the town. However, when they began planning the wedding, it came out that she expected him to convert to Catholicism. Why that had not come up before then is beyond me. It comes from young people leaving off going to the Lord's house and just keeping company with each other instead. Well, when he put his foot down, she stepped away and gave him back his ring. I personally thought that was a good thing. Nevertheless, it wounded him and made him a little skittish."
"I don't blame him," she said.
So everyone was surprised when he took up with a Miss Howard. She was a beauty. She already had a lot of beaus vying for her, but my Amos caught her eye. They saw each other so often that people had them married off with a whole passel of kids in their minds. When he finally brought her out to the ranch, Beast bounded up all happy to see her. But she screamed. And screamed. And screamed. It seemed she didn't care for dogs a bit. End of that story."
Felicity couldn't help but laugh. "Sorry, I just wish I could have seen Mr. King's face."
"He didn't go to town much after that, waiting for that hullabaloo to settle down. Finally, he met a Miss Price. He was so reticent that she had to woo him. And she did, or so it seemed. But she was just using him. She knew her daddy would approve of Mr. King for a husband, but she was planning all along to run off with some cowhand she was sneaking around with. Imagine that!"
"She's probably living in some soddy then. Cowboys don't make much. She gave all this up for that? I hope she's happy," Felicity said.
"Silly woman. Good riddance!" Grannie said. "I'm just getting started, but all this gossip is making me tired. I think I'll go lie down."
Felicity got too busy preparing supper after that to have time to think of much else. She hoped Mr. King approved of her cooking because this was heaven compared to what she was doing before.
She set the table for two in the dining room, for Mr. King and Grannie Biddle. Felicity planned to eat at the kitchen table by herself. Her stomach clenched in nervousness when she heard his boots coming.
"What's this?" he barked.
"What?" She spun around.
"We only use the dining room when I have company. Grannie and I eat here in the kitchen."
"Oh," she said. "I'll go get the rest of the dishes."
"No, just serve up the food. I'm starving! I'll bring the rest back in here."
"You got some bee in your bonnet, Amos?" Grannie said wandering in.
"She thought we were going to eat in the other room is all, but it looks like supper is ready."
Felicity brought the platter of roast beef and carrots, a bowl of greens with bacon and a vinegar dressing made in the special way her mother had taught her. Since they'd already had mashed potatoes earlier in the day at the restaurant, she made cream of corn instead. Felicity had made yeast rolls and brought out the honey butter she'd mixed up to go with it.
Mr. King's eyes looked over the table and whistled, "This looks like hog heaven."
Grannie swatted at him. "Is that all you can say? Shame on you."
But he sat down and put out his palm and waited for Grannie to put her wrinkled hand in his.
Then he blessed the food.
But then he stared at her. "Well?"
"I don't like having anyone hovering over me like a buzzard. Sit down, Miss Laird."*
Felicity brought over her plate and slid into a seat like a scolded schoolgirl.
"Do you want coffee, Mr. King," she finally asked.
"Maybe after supper. Not now. This water is good. I was parched." Then he fell silent digging in.
Grannie almost sang with her mouth full, she so enjoyed the meal. Felicity noticed, however, that she had cut her meat into miniscule bites probably since she didn't have many teeth left. She'd have to remember that and make sure that whatever she cooked was always tender.
"Isn't this delicious, Amos?"
He grunted, so Grannie poked him with her fork.
"Where's your manners?"
"It's good. I just hope the coffee's fresh," he teased barely hiding a smirk as he dished her words back from their earlier meal at his restaurant.
"I didn't have time to make a pie, but I did bake some apples. I'll serve your coffee then," she offered.
"Girl, this is some good eating! You're the best thing we've had in this kitchen yet," Grannie said, and that includes me."
"I doubt that," Felicity scoffed.
"Grannie, you did all right," Amos said.
"Don't try and humor me, young man. You know I couldn't cook like this."
He leaned over and kissed her pasty cheek. "I grew up into a big strong man with what you fed me, so I'm not complaining." Then he tipped his chair back on two legs. "Were you bragging about some baked apples, Miss Laird?"
"Coming right up."
She passed the first test. She'd made her employer happy with her first bout of cooking.
The next day, Felicity got up before light and made Mr. King a big breakfast, but he ate it on the run. He just slapped his bacon and eggs into his biscuit , wrapped it in a napkin and was almost out the door before he hollered, "Thanks."
Grannie got up a couple of hours later. Felicity sat down with her while she ate to sip a cup of coffee.
"So how long have you worked for Mr. King?" she asked.
"Since before he was in cloth nappies. I worked for his father. They'd taken me into their home after my husband and son died of cholera. I'm blessed as his folk have always treated me like family. I never would have believed that I'd live this long. It's just Amos and me now. I'd always hoped that I'd live long enough to see him married and settled." She sighed. "I've prayed and prayed. Life's been rough on him in the matters of the heart."
"You'd told me about the first four. Were there more?"
"Oh, yes, dear. "Next was a Miss Tuttle. She came out from Chicago as a mail-order bride."
"No! I can't imagine Mr. King ordering a mail-order bride!" Felicity was flabbergasted.
"Well, he didn't exactly, but his sister had done it secretly for him. I tried to talk her out of it, but she thought it was a romantic idea. Miss Tuttle was a complete surprise when she stepped off the train. Amos was a gentleman and brought her out to the ranch, but the gossip was soon all over town. She seemed nice enough, just kind of sickly. As it turned out, she had morning sickness and already had a babe in the oven. She'd failed to mention that in her letters between Miss King and Miss Tuttle. Oh my! That took a long time to settle down, I tell you. He gave her a return ticket to Chicago after making sure her parents were willing to take her back."
Needless to say, "He felt burned five times and swore he was love-crossed and would remain single for the rest of his days. Then Miss Nelson arrived from Kansas City to visit her sister. She chased him all over town, to the ranch and back, until she wore him down. He finally asked her out to dinner at the hotel. And lo and behold, the silly chit proposed to him!"
"Oh my! What happened?" Felicity was on the edge of her seat in fact. She'd never heard such tales before in her life!"
"Poor thing didn't have much upstairs and didn't understand that a man wouldn't sell his ranch and follow her back to Kansas City and to her mama. Oh, what a fit she threw in that hotel! From what I hear, dishes and food flew. My Amos got on his horse and high-tailed it back to the ranch in record time. He did not show his face in town for almost a year after that. He says he'll never so much as look at another woman." The elderly woman just tsked. "But the Lord just keeps nudging me to pray for him to find a wife. I tell him that too reminding him that I won't be here forever, and he just growls." Grannie chuckled. Then she smiled slyly. "We'll see."
"Don't tell me you are going to try to set him up with someone, Grannie. He's such a bear that I doubt he'd take kindly to that."
"No, dear. It's all in God's hands, but I think He's already working on it." She thanked Felicity for her company and breakfast. She then left humming. The woman liked to shuffle about her flower garden before it got too hot. Felicity kept her eye on her checking looking out the window from time to time. She hurried to help her up the porch steps when Grannie started back to the house.
"Thank you dear. You are a keeper." Her cool hand patted Felicity's arm. "I think I'll go and sit down now in my rocker. I'm a little tired."
"Call me if you need anything, Grannie."
"I will dear. I can't tell you how nice it is to have you here."
She'd sent Mr. King's lunch with him as he was going to be working in the far corners of his ranch today. Grannie said she wasn't hungry and only wanted crackers to nibble on with her glass of milk. Felicity was happy to bring it to her.
Felicity had a stew going on the back burner made with left over roast beef. She had time to make a pie, peeling and cutting up apples adding just the right amount of brown sugar and cinnamon. Remembering how he liked cream on his pie, she made sure to bring some in from the little brick house built over a finger of the stream which had shelves to keep food cool.
It was dusk when Amos rode in all dusty and dirty. He stripped down to his levis and tried to wash the worst off him at the basin outside by the back door. Slinging water off his hair, he found a clean shirt hanging in the mud room and came in buttoning it up. He figured they would have already eaten but hoped there would be a plate warm for him. So he was startled to see the small table set and waiting.
"You waited?" he asked.
"Of course. The stew has kept just fine. Go ahead and sit down, and I'll dish it up."
He sniffed. "Do I smell pie?"
"Yes, sir." She couldn't keep a smile off her face. It had been a pleasure making it.
"Walking into a room smelling this good is enough to make a grown man cry for happiness."
"Your restaurant serves good food, but I don't think it compares to a good meal made at home,"
Grannie said as she walked in from the front of the house.
"I don't think you'll hear me arguing, Grannie," he responded. "How are you feeling today?"
"I'm just fine, honey, especially since Felicity is here to keep me company. Her good cooking is just icing on the cake."
Felicity blushed. It had been a long time since she had felt appreciated. But Mr. King just looked at her as if he couldn't make heads or tails of her.
He waited for her to sit with them, then put out his hand, not just for Grannie, but to hold her hand as well to pray. He gave it a slight squeeze before he let it go. Felicity kept her eyes anywhere but on his for most of the rest of the meal. Her family, though Christians, did not hold hands before prayers. It unsettled her.
As if reading her mind, Grannie said, "Back when Amos and Elise were little tykes, they ate in the kitchen with me. We always held hands like that at meal times, and somehow we never quit. Little did they know that I held their wee hands in order to keep them from snitching food before we had thanked the Lord for it."
"I didn't know that Grannie. Is that why you still hold my hand at the table?" he teased.
Grannie's dry laughter cackled. "I just let my secret out after all these years."
It was so joyful that the laughter invited them to join in. The meal was pleasant. It was hard for her to realize the difference a couple of days could bring after eating Mrs. O'Reilly's scraps. She hoped he would like her pie. It was still slightly warm. She cut him a large slice and set the cream on the table beside him.
He put a big bite in his mouth and grinned while chewing. She brought Grannie a small slice and then sat down with her own. Grannie made her happy sounds, but Mr. King tilted his head in order to catch her eye.
"This is delicious Miss Felicity. Thank you. It has been a long time since we've had such a treat here in our home, wouldn't you say, Grannie?" He addressed the older woman but kept his eye on her. "Where did you learn to cook like this?"
"My mother was a good cook and made it her life's mission to teach me."
"Well, she did a superb job, dear one," Grannie said waving her fork in the air.
Speaking of her mother was always dangerous for her bringing tears to her eyes. "Thank you both. You're very kind." She blinked hard.
"Just truthful," her boss said. She appreciated his bluntness and was getting used to it.
When he stood up rubbing his stomach, he thanked her again and asked, "Do you think you could send a piece of that pie in my lunch tomorrow?"
"I might slip one in," she answered while whisking dishes away in order to hide her smile that she had pleased her boss.
"Just to let you know, we'll be going on the roundup next week and will be gone for a couple of weeks. After branding, then we'll drive the culled cattle along with our neighboring ranchers' herds to the next county where the cattle yards are. Do you two ladies think you can get along while I'm gone? Hal will be staying here at the ranch if you need anything. You can make a list of groceries for him ,and he'll go to town for you."
"We're big girls, Amos. Don't worry about us," Grannie teased. "I'm just pleased as punch to have Felicity to keep me company, though we surely will miss you."
He looked at Felicity before darting his eyes away. "Miss Felicity, could you come to the parlor when you are done here. I'd like to speak with you."
Well that sent her stomach churning. She wondered if he'd found fault with something she'd done. She still had her apron on and was wringing it.
"Go ahead and sit down. I just realize that I had not spoken to you about your salary." He stuck his hand out offering her several bills.
"I hadn't expected this much, sir," she almost stuttered.
"I'll pay you on the first of every month, but I thought you might need some cash of your own while I'm gone in case you might want to sew up another dress or two."
Felicity felt first shame then a grasp at pride. "I don't need much, Mr. King, but thank you. May I leave now?"
"Sure," he waved her off turning to his desk where papers were strewn.
Regardless, the next time Hal poked his head in to see if they had a list for him to take to town, Felicity said, "I need enough yardage to make a dress, and some thread and buttons."
He sputtered, "Don't you want to pick it out yourself? I've never done that before and couldn't begin to take that chore on." He looked desperate enough to run to the border.
"Just ask the man at the mercantile. I'm sure he's sold plenty of it to know what to do."
"Don't you want to pick it out, miss? I always thought ladies were choosey about that sort of thing."
"I'm sure the shopkeeper will do an adequate job of it. It's just a work dress to wear under my apron."
"Whatever you say, ma'am." He skedaddle it out of there with her list shoved in his back pocket and her money in his pocket.
Granny was chuckling. "You sure stumped him, Miss Felicity! He looked more scared of you than a rattlesnake."
"It's just a dress," she grimaced. She hated to admit that Mr. King had been right. She did need a new dress as hers were worn thin and were tired and ragged. It still galled her though that he'd mentioned it.
Grannie couldn't see to sew, but she helped Felicity cut out the pieces using her oldest dress torn apart for a pattern. Felicity was pleased with the new material. When Hal came back with a bundle wrapped in paper holding it out to her like it was a rabid skunk, she was nervous. What if the shopkeeper had chosen a bright red fabric? Or one with a huge pattern? But thankfully, he'd chosen a brown fabric with small pink rosebuds splayed across it.
She had it ready for going to meeting the next Sunday. "Do you go to church, Grannie?"
"I don't much any more, dear. The ride does me in, not to mention sitting in those hard pews."
But I do miss it. Why don't you see if you can get Amos to take you in to town for the service. He has always insisted on staying home with me, but goodness, it makes me feel guilty keeping him away from the Lord's house."
Felicity now understood why she'd never seen Mr. King in church. "I'd be glad to stay home with you so he could go," she offered.
"Go where?" her boss walked in asking.
"Why don't you take Miss Felicity to church today, Amos?" Grannie put on her irresistible smile.
But he resisted it. "I can have one of the boys hitch up the wagon for her, but I'm staying home with you. You have driven a wagon before, right, Miss Laird?"
"No, my pa always drove, but I'm sure I can get the hang of it."
He shook his head. "I'll ask one of the men to take you in and bring you back."
"That's not necessary..." she began to say, but he cut her off.
"I don't want to hear it from Grannie here if I didn't help you get to church."
"I fried up chicken ahead of time and made potato salad so our dinner won't take long to put on the table when I get back. Thank you."
When she walked out on the porch hugging her mother's Bible, the cowboys eyed her appreciatively. Since they had the day off, they were lounging about with nothing better to do than look her over. Felicity felt herself blushing from their stares and even heard a wolf whistle.
"That's enough, men. Have you forgotten how to treat a lady?" Mr. King growled. He'd picked the oldest cowpoke on the ranch to take her to town. Several cowboys suddenly were saddling up in order to accompany her to church while her boss scowled. "Keep watch over her Pete. Don't let those galoots bother her none."
"Sure, boss, but I can't keep them from looking," he chuckled. "Why even an old geezer like me knows a pretty woman when I see one."
"Do I have to pull you off that wagon seat, Pete?" her boss growled.
"No, sir. I've got my blinders on like a buggy horse. Why I can't even see the pretty little lady sitting right here beside me!" he chuckled before slapping the reigns and leaving her boss in the dust.
Still, there was a trail of cowboys behind them with an occasional one being bold enough to pull up beside her trying to tempt her into conversation.
She hardly glanced over at them, saying just enough to be halfway polite from pure rudeness. Pete laughed. "You can't blame the boys for trying, miss. By the way, how are you and the boss man getting along? He hasn't been in the company of a woman for awhile now. He seems to bite their head off."
"We manage," she answered shortly. Pete kept quiet the rest of the way with a grin playing at his lips.
The cowboys jostled each other coming up the steps after her until they slid in beside her and Pete filling a whole row. Eyebrows were raised. Only Mrs. O'Reilly came up to greet her.
"How's it going for you out at the ranch, Felicity?" she asked looking over the men in her pew.
"It's going fine. Grannie Biddle is good company."
"And Mr. King's not?" the woman nodded sagely.
A couple of the cowboys snorted at that comment then coughed to cover it up.
"I didn't say that, Mrs. O'Reilly. Did you find someone to help you?"
"Yes, but she's not the hard worker you were," she sighed. "I'd better find my seat It's nice seeing you. A new dress?"
Felicity nodded blushing.
"Very pretty," Mrs. O'Reilly said then left.
"Now, there's a good looking woman," Pete leaned over and whispered probably loud enough for the preacher to hear up front.
It was all she could do to keep from giggling. As they sang hymns, she noticed some of the cowboys had fairly fine singing voices, with only a couple off key. Why did those who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket sing the loudest?
Of all things, the preacher had them open to the book of Amos. She saw the cowboys sitting up straighter listening. One elbowed the man next to him and whispered, "I never heard tell that our boss was in the Bible."
"Where else did you think he'd get a name like Amos?"
"I don't know. I got my name from my Uncle Charlie."
She almost snickered, but was curious as to what the preacher would preach about. He began by saying, "Amos was a herdsman, not a prophet, but God still used him to speak for Him." Then he read,
Most of the cowboys decided to stay in town and sauntered over to the saloon. Just a couple of the men were scared straight after hearing the morning's sermon so that they headed back to the ranch.
Pete said, "That sermon put me in the mind of Mr. King. He's gone from sunshine to the dark. It's as if he's been chased by a snarling female lion, only to run right into the path of a she-bear. Then when he thinks he's finally safe, and is panting leaning up against his wall, a snake bites him. If it wasn't for bad luck, that fella wouldn't have any luck at all. Here's a song the boys and I made up about it, but you have to promise not to tell on us." He stared her into promising.
"It's an original ditty we cowboys are known to sing around our campfires under the stars with someone composing a new verse every now and then, just so long as the boss can't hear. Her goes.
She knew she should have made him stop, but he was grinning and so was she.
When he was done, she laughed hard and almost clapped, but stopped herself just in time. She asked, "Does Mr. King know about your song?"
"No, and you won't tell him neither, will you."
"Not me. I promised. But it won't stay a secret forever. He's sure to hear someone singing it some time or other."
"Not from my lips," But I might have to make up a new verse about the mountain lion, the she-bear and the snake..." He became lost in thought mouthing some words then shaking his head. "It'll come to me pretty soon." Then he was lost deep in his composing.
Felicity enjoyed the quiet and her surroundings. The meadow larks were singing and the locusts were strumming while a bullfrog was erupting from some muddy bank. Dragonflies spun through the air ever so often and grasshoppers almost jumped as high as the bed of the wagon. She pulled her skirts in closer not wanting one to land on her petticoat.
All through dinner, the words to the song kept running through her head making her smile.
"Looks like going to church today made you happy. What did the preacher preach on today?" Grannie Biddle asked.
"Believe it or not, he preached from the book of Amos. It was quite enlightening. He spoke of seeking good, not evil, of how Amos interceded and God changed His mind."
Grannie asked, "Did he mention lions, bears and snakes?"
"Yes, ma'am." she smiled glancing over at Amos.
"I love it when Scripture gives one a vivid picture to ponder, don't you?" Grannie kept on knowing she would get a rise out of Amos.
Felicity managed to say, "Yes, ma'am," trying hard to not crack a smile.
Amos looked up and scowled. "Glad I wasn't there," he mumbled.
"Quite a few of the cowboys sat through the service," she added hiding her grin behind her
napkin thinking of the cowboys whispering during church.
"I hope it did them some good," Grannie said. "Lord knows we all need it. Maybe you can read to me from the passages the pastor preached from later on today. That would be a blessing."
"I'd be happy to," she assured the sweet old lady.
Amos scooted back from the table throwing his napkin down, "Thanks for the good lunch." Then he walked away.
Grannie, snorted then began laughing. "He can't hardly stand to listen to the book of Amos being read, especially the part about the lion, the bear, and the snake."
After being shocked, she joined in laughing. The poor man did have the misfortune of being named after that prophet. It wasn't his fault. Nor was his string of broken relationships much his fault.
"Did you know that two years ago during roundup, he had to shoot a mountain lion when he found it with a fresh kill of one of his calves. It was snarling, ready to pounce. It's a good thing that he is a good shot," Grannie said. She went on. "Then last year he was riding through the woods when he came upon a bear running on his two hind legs carrying one of his calves. He shot the bear and saved the calf that time. He said that was an amazing sight seeing the bruin running upright like a giant hairy man."
Felicity's eyes grew wide. "You don't think, I mean, God wouldn't bring about this Scripture in his life, do you?
"God can do what He wants, but it is not unheard of to come across a mountain lion or a bear around here since we are in a mountain valley," Grannie answered. "I think it was just coincidence, but his cowboys might get a little spooky about it now that they have heard the Scripture in Amos." Grannie sighed.
Still, Felicity couldn't keep from worrying about snakebite while he was out on the roundup. In fact, as she handed him half a pie wrapped in a big bandana to take with him, the last thing she said to him was, "Keep a sharp lookout for rattlers while you're out there."
"When they hear the vibration of the herd pounding the ground a-coming, they want to skee-daddle away from us as fast as they can. It's never been a problem." He grinned at her concern, and was secretly pleased to have someone caring about him. Of course, Grannie Biddle did, but that didn't count. He leaned over and kissed her wrinkled cheek. "Be good, Grannie." She slapped at his hands chuckling. Then he went over and almost put his hand on Felicity but put his hand back down at his side and hung back. "You can rely on Hal. He'll help with anything you need." Then he leaned over and whispered in her ear. "I'd appreciate it if you'd stay home with Grannie next Sunday. I don't like her left alone."
She nodded then turned to find herself so very close looking up and seeing herself reflected in his pupils. Neither of them moved for a moment, not even blinking, then he backed away, tipped his hat and left. They wouldn't see him for at least two weeks. Felicity sighed.
"Grannie's eyesight wasn't that poor and she smile to herself. Time will pass more quickly the busier we are. If you pick more blackberries, you can put up enough to keep us in jam from here till next year. It's you who will need to watch for rattlers while you are out picking. They like the shade under the vines to eat enough berries to stain their forked tongue purple."
Felicity chuckled. "Maybe I'll pick for just a little while each morning." She didn't want to leave Grannie for too long. It would be terrible to face Amos if she let anything happen to the sweet woman whom she'd grown to love. In fact, she could rise early before Grannie got up in the morning to go berry picking.
After putting up beautiful jars of jam, Grannie helped her cut out another dress for her to sew. She'd had the material packed away in her room. It was a lovely green plaid. It might be a little more difficult to match the pattern up, but she enjoyed sewing and listening to Grannie's stories, many of which were Amos' childhood.
Grannie ran her crooked fingers over the plaid saying, "I don't know why I never did this fabric up. I guess, I never had cause for a new dress and then forgot all about it until now."
"It's beautiful, Grannie. Now I will have two nice dresses." Felicity's thoughts kept drifting to her boss, wondering if he would like her in it when he came back home.
Towards the end of two weeks, Felicity's head was full of what she would cook for Amos' welcome home dinner. Somehow in her head, he'd turned from Mr. King to Amos. It must have been all that learning from the Bible. She was startled to hear a horse riding up in a cloud of dust. She picked her skirt up and ran to the porch. Grannie came up behind her more slowly. It was Pete.
He jumped off his horse and wiped sweat off his brow with his arm. "Boss is hurt." He was winded and it took him a moment to go further. "Snakebite."
Fear pierced her stomach and her heart squeezed so that she grabbed her shirtfront. "Where is he?"
"We had just sold our cattle and were heading back to our camp just outside of town. I guess when he stepped off his horse, a rattler had been sunning on a rock close by and struck him just above his boot. He whipped out his pistol and shot the fool thing before it could strike him twice.
We tied the wound off tight, and got him back into town as fast as we could. He wasn't looking too good when I left, but he insisted that us boys head back to the ranch. I felt real bad about leaving him there by himself."
Felicity sucked in a breath. "You left him all alone?" She didn't even realize she was crying.
"I knew you'd want to know, so I rode on ahead of the other men." Pete wiped his forehead with a bandana.
Hal had come up, "Now that was the puniest excuse to leave a man who was down that I ever heard. He wasn't in his right mind and probably didn't know what he was saying. You should have left somebody behind with him."
Pete hung his head. "I almost turned and went back feeling right bad about it. I was just trying to follow boss' orders."
"There's a time to obey orders and a time to protect him from himself," Hal hit his hat against his leg in disgust to hide his worry."
"How bad is he," Grannie asked? She had turned too pale. Felicity made her sit in a porch chair.
"I'm going. Does the train go from her to there?"
"Yes, ma'am, in fact it does. In fact, it will blow on into the station shortly after noon. If you hurry, I can get you there."
"Grannie, how would you like to go visit your friend Daisy?" The gentle woman had told her how she wished she could visit like she used to. The would be the perfect opportunity. In order to be more persuasive, Felicity went on, "That way, I can send a telegram after I get there and can determine how Mr. King is. It would get to you faster if you were in town. No telling how long they could find somebody to ride out here to deliver it."
"Yes, dear. I think you should go. I will go into town and wait to hear from you. Daisy has been after me to come stay with here sometime. I'll just need to pack a few things."
Felicity helped her pack a carpet bag, then she packed her own slapping in her clothes as fast as she could. However, she carefully packed her new dress. It hadn't taken more than a quarter of an hour to get ready. Hal and Pete had a buggy hitched up and waiting. Pete just picked up Grannie as if she were a feather and gently sat her down on the buggy seat. Felicity climbed in the back. Hal was going to drive them to town.
Pete and Hal had the buggy ready when they stepped out. Felicity didn't even know they had a buggy. Hal sat holding the reigns while Pete just picked Grannie up as if she was as light as a sunbeam and gently set her down beside Hal. Felicity climbed into the back seat. Pete threw their bags in and Hal instantly took off.
"Oh, no!" Felicity moaned. "I don't have any money, not for a train ticket or for a hotel room, or for food."
Grannie chuckled and opened her draw-string bag and pulled out a generous amount. I brought this since I knew you'd need it."
"I'll pay you back, Grannie, I swear!" she promised with her throat tight from the kindness Grannie had just shown her.
Before Grannie could answer, Hal spoke up. "This is ranch business. The boys had no call to leave the boss there alone. It will come out of the ranch account. I'll see to it that Miss Biddle gets her money back."
"Pshaw, since I can't go myself, the least I can do is send Felicity there to be with him."
The rest of the way in, Hal gave her instructions on the best hotel to stay in and where to eat, since the cowboys went to the cattle yards there every year. He even told her how to find the doctor's."
"And don't go anywhere after dark by yourself, ma'am. No matter what. It wouldn't be safe."
"Yes, dear, promise me you'll remember and do as Hal says. I don't want to worry about two of you, the ones I care about the most in this world."
That made Felicity want to just break down and bawl, but she couldn't. They were at the train station.
"I'll let you off here first since the train will be coming any time now. Then I'll see that Miss Biddle is safely taken to her friend's house. It's a nice thing you are doing for Mr. King. He hasn't had a lady treat him right in a long, long while." He set her bag down on the platform
while she gave Grannie a kiss and another promise to send a telegram as soon as she knew how Amos fared.
Before he left, Hal took both of her hands and made sure she looked him in the eye. "If anything should happen, just let us know and one or all of us will be there before you know it, okay? If you need me, just send word." He winked and let her hands go.
Felicity waved once more then went in to purchase her ticket. Not five minutes later, the train's whistle could be heard before it came in sight around the bend. Felicity had never been on a train, and didn't quite no what to expect. It was a little intimidating when it pulled up with a cloud of steam swallowing its ironsides for a moment. She just lined up with the other passengers and saw how they handed their ticket to the conductor. So, she did likewise. He smiled and handed her stub back to her and helped her up the steps. It wasn't until after she found a seat that she looked down and noticed that she still wore her kitchen apron. With a beat red face, she quickly took it off and stuffed it in her bag then looking around to see if anyone noticed. Most were too busy getting themselves settled.
A gentleman sat across from her. She wished he had not, Felicity did not want to make polite small talk with a stranger. She glanced at him and saw he was looking at her. She clamped her lips into a tight line biting them together. Instead, she kept her eyes looking out the windows as the train took off in a shudder. It picked up speed as the scenery sped by. Her mouth was open in wonder.
"Your first time on a train, ma'am?" He was dressed in an expensive suit with a citified hat on his head.
"Yes sir." She didn't give him more than a cursory glance before once again being absorbed by the view. A boy on a horse tried to race alongside the train, and she gasped as the train pulled ahead leaving the boy left behind corralled by a fence.
Her mind went over everything Hal had told her. She would go to the doctor's infirmary first, then would send a telegram. Next she'd go register for a room before returning to stay at Amos' side. At least it was all within a couple of blocks according to Hal.
"Where are you heading?" the man asked boldly.
She looked at him wide-eyed and told him, before thinking better of it.
"Do you have someone waiting to meet you?"
Felicity thought about moving to another seat, and cast her eyes about. "Yes, I'm expected." It was just a little stretching of the truth, since Grannie Biddle, Hal, and Pete all expected her to get off there. Amos had no idea she was coming, however. She closed her eyes to once again pray for him.
"Are you alright, miss?" the man would not leave her alone.
"I was praying." She tried to give him a cold shoulder, but he didn't take the hint.
"You're one of those religious types." He smirked. "I was hoping you'd let me buy you supper at the Grand Hotel when we got there. I do so hate to eat alone."
"No thank you sir. I'm meeting a Mr. King."
He seemed to know the name. "The rancher?" Then he chortled and had the audacity to say, "I hear he is the man with the worst luck with women. So are you next on his list?"
This time she turned her whole body away and did not dignify his rude comments with an answer.
The man snorted, "Guess so. So you are having a little rendezvous with the infamous Mr. King?"
At that insult, she stood up, grabbed her bag and held onto the back of the seat until she walked down the aisle swaying to the train's dance with the tracks. She found an empty seat by a nice looking older woman. She nodded and asked, "Is this seat taken?"
"No, please have a seat." She smiled and went back to her knitting. "How far are you going, dear?"
When Felicity told her, then the woman offered, "if no one is waiting for you at the station, I'm sure my husband would be glad to take you somewhere, if it's not too far. Was that man bothering you?"
Felicity was relieved. "Yes, ma'am. I would be grateful. I just need a ride to the Dr. Peterson's office. I'm going to see a patient there."
"Oh, dear! I hope this someone is alright."
At the kindness, Felicity blinked back tears. The lady handed her a handkerchief. She had forgotten hers. "Thank you. Yes, he was bit by a rattlesnake. I just got word."
"You poor dear. I'll make sure my husband takes you there right away. I'm Mrs. Stewart, by the way."
"Felicity Laird," she smiled tremulously.
The lady patted her hand which had crunched her hankie. "I'll be praying for him."
Felicity began smoothing the handkerchief she'd smashed into a wrinkled mess. "I'm sorry. Here's it back."
"You may keep it, dear."
"Thank you very much."
She learned a lesson on the train. A little kindness goes a long way, while rude, untrustworthy men were everywhere. It didn't matter if they were dressed up in a slick suit with a derby hat or in greasy shirt and suspenders smelling of stale whiskey. It made her long to see Amos. Now there was a wonderful man. She sighed and said another prayer that the Lord would be gracious and allow him to survive." The train clacked down the tracks while the woman's knitting needles clicked away. Felicity relaxed and found herself telling Mrs. Stewart all about it, about Amos, about the lion, the bear, and now the snake just like in the Bible. She told her about Grannie Biddle and about the ranch. She even told her how she'd been orphaned, had worked as a laundress before being hired by Mr. King. She just didn't tell her about Amos' long list of love interests gone sour.
It was near dusk when they got there. She would have to hurry in order to get to the doctor's then the telegraph office and the hotel. Once she stepped off the train, she was surprised to still feel the rhythm of the train in her wobbling legs. Mrs. Steward introduced her to her husband. "Allow us to see you there. Then we'll wait until you check on your friend's condition. Then we'll see you to the telegraph office, and the hotel. Then, if you feel you must, we'll take you back to the doctor's.
"Just don't walk back to the hotel unattended, Miss Laird," Mr. Stewart warned just like Hal had done. "It wouldn't be safe for a pretty young woman like yourself."
"Thank you. I'll just sit with Mr. King, if the doctor will let me tonight."
"I'll speak to him. If he does not think it wise, then I'll insist that he sees you back to your hotel. He's a friend of ours, a gentleman, very nice indeed. I'm sure he would be happy to accommodate you,"
Felicity was so relieved. Grannie Biddle must be sending up some pretty special prayers since they were spilling off of Amos and splashing over on her as well. "Thank you so much. You are very kind."
"We have a daughter about your age who is off to boarding school. In fact, I had just seen her there and was coming home on the train," Mrs. Stewart confided. "I would hope someone would do the same for her."
Felicity wanted to chew all her nails off, she was so nervous to hurry and see Amos. He had to be alright. He just had to!" They were there in no time at all.
Mr. Stewart helped her down and walked her in. "Dr. Peterson, this young lady is here to see a Mr. King."
The doctor looked at her under bushy eyebrows. "Let me guess. You are Felicity. He spoke of you, mostly in his delirium, but now that he's taking a turn for the better, I'm sure he will be very happy to see you."
"Felicity? Is that you?" She hesitated for only a moment before she waved aside the canvas curtains and found her man. He grabbed her hand as if she was his lifeline. "What are you doing here?"
She brushed his hair out of his eyes and whispered, "Somebody needed to be here for you. How are you. You've had us all so worried." She couldn't stop from touching him as if to make sure he was there and would be alright. She brushed her hand down across the stubble on his cheek. Then she found she needed to wipe her tears off his face."
"Sorry." But she wasn't. He looked so much better than she'd hoped.
"I still can't believe you came." He was stroking her cheek and twisting the hair that fell around his fingers.
She didn't know if she'd just bent too close or if he pulled her face down, but before she knew it, he was kissing her.
"I'm feeling a lot better now," he said grinning enjoying watching her cheeks blush.
"I need to send a telegram to Grannie Biddle. She's staying in town with her friend Daisy. I promised I'd send one as soon as I got here."
"You're coming right back though, right?" He looked like a lost boy.
She smiled in pure happiness. "Yes, of course, but I will need to also check into the Grand Hotel first."
The doctor came in. "As you can see, he's taking a turn for the better, but I still want to keep him a couple of more days to make sure infection doesn't set in or that the poison hasn't caused any other complications. Mr. and Mrs. Stewart are waiting to take you where you need to go, Miss Laird. Then he winked at Amos. "It looks like you'll have a good little nurse beside you. I'll see you when you get back. I'm also arranging to have a supper tray for you brought here as well. The patient might feel like eating by now."
"I'd rather eat her cooking, doc, but I'm hungry enough to eat about anything."
"We'll start you on some broth, but if that sets well, I've also ordered a light meal as well."
She squeezed his hand which he had not yet surrendered hers. "I need to go send Grannie a telegram, Amos." Her heart aught at the look in his eye.
"Hurry back. I've been on my lonesome too long as it is, at least ten years give or take a few."
Felicity's eyes grew round. She wasn't sure what to think. "Thank you, doctor. I'll be back soon."
"Tonight, when it's time to turn out the lights, I'll see you to your hotel, ma'am," the doctor reassured her.
"Thank you." She looked over at Amos one more time, and he winked at her. She blushed again.
Felicity found Mr. and Mrs. Stewart waiting in the buggy. He got out and helped her up like a gentleman. "So how's our patient?" Mrs. Stewart asked when she was settled.
"I do believe he's on the mend. But the doctor wants to keep him a couple more days to make sure."
"Well, I'm sure that young man was most certainly glad to see you," Mrs. Stewart said with a glance at her husband as they smiled at each other.
After sending the telegram and securing her room, they escorted her back to the doctor's office.
"I don't know how to thank you. I could not have been able to do all this before dark if I was on my own. You have been a God-send."
"It's just wonderful to know that the young man will recover, even more so now that you are here." Mrs. Stewart kissed her on her cheek and Mr. Stewart once again helped her down and opened the door to the doctor's office.
She found Amos sitting up scowling at the bowl set in front of him. "Now all I can think of is your friend chicken or pot roast. Instead, here I am sipping broth."
Felicity laughed. "At least you survived to eat again."
She walked over next to his bed. Bend down, there's something on your...he caught her head and drew her down into another kiss. "I'll be alright as long as I can taste that," he grinned. He tried to sit up straighter and groaned.
"What's wrong?" she asked worried.
"It's just pain. I told the doctor that I don't want any more Laudanum. I don't want to get addicted to it. I've known good men who have done so and ruined their lives. He grimaced.
"Is there something else you could take for the pain?" she asked worried.
"A bottle of whiskey might do it," and he winked at her again, "but I don't want that either. I'm not a drinking man."
"I'm glad." They ate in happy communion, relaxed in each other's company. He told her about the cattle drive, and she told him about the quiet times back on the ranch. The doctor had brought a tray in for her to eat as well..
Amos whispered, "Let me have a bite of that chicken."
She shook her head no and kept chewing daintily.
"Please!" he implored her.
"Oh, okay, but just one bite," he took the biggest bite in the world and moaned in happiness.
"I haven't eaten in two days, he said after he'd chewed and swallowed. He went on to say, "I thought I might I might survive the snakebite only to die of hunger. He eyed her roll.
"Oh, here. If it makes you sick, don't blame me," she whispered not wanting the doctor to hear her sneaking his patient food.
When they had finished, she set the tray with their dishes aside and he grabbed her hand. "I still can't believe you came."
"Did you want me too?" she asked.
"In my dreams," he answered. The doctor asked me when I came out of my delirium, who Felicity was. I told him you were the most beautiful girl in the world and the best cook in the territory. He grabbed her hand. It fit just right. She scooted her chair over closer to his bed. Once again, she was stroking his face until his face relaxed some of his pain lines. He closed his eyes.
"Are you going to sleep? Do you need me to leave?"
"No!" He squeezed her hand. "I'm just enjoying your touch. It's good medicine."
So she continued to rub the stubble on his cheeks, the pain lines on his forehead, his brow and eyelids gently, before running her hand through his hair.
"I'm in heaven, Miss Laird. I think I'm going to have to marry you."
He opened his eyes. "Marry me, Felicity. As soon as the doctor lets me out of here. We can have a day or two in the hotel before we head back. I haven't been able to think of anything but you the whole time I was on the trail drive. I was surrounded by all my ranch hands, but was still terrible lonesome."
"Me neither. I missed you something terrible. Yes, I'll marry you." She thought of her new dress in her carpet bag.
"Now that I've got the lion, the bear and the snake out of the way, I'm ready to go on with my life," he chuckled. After all there's still a good verse in Amos that fits, and he quoted...
*I didn't know Siri liked listening to my stories, but while reading a rough draft aloud to my husband and was at the line that said, "I don't like anyone hovering over me like a buzzard," Siri broke in surprising us by suddenly saying,, "Excuse me, but I don't understand hovering over me like a butt..." Hmm. I didn't even know my phone was on. Siri is one strange buzzard, not butt.