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Authors: Lauraine Snelling

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Pearl (33 page)

BOOK: Pearl
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Opal stopped in front of him. ‘‘You want to be my partner?’’

‘‘Ja, that will be good.’’

‘‘Now remember, don’t drop it. This is really sticky stuff.’’ Cimarron turned in time to bump into Jed Black.

‘‘You will be my partner?’’

‘‘I-I guess.’’

‘‘He likes her,’’ Opal whispered to Carl as she pulled their glob of sticky candy from the butter-smeared pan and started to stretch it. ‘‘Ouch, it’s hot.’’

Butter running down his fingers, Carl took hold of the glob and pulled, looping it back to Opal when it started to sag.

‘‘Quick.’’ Her giggle made him smile.

‘‘I’m glad to see you here.’’ Ruby made her way over to them with Rand, looping their batch over as they came.

Pearl and Milly scrambled to catch theirs before it hit the floor.

‘‘This would be a fun thing for the schoolchildren to do for Christmas.’’ Pearl looped the lightening strands again.

‘‘Good. At least now we know how.’’

‘‘We made taffy every winter and snow candy too.’’ Cimarron and Jed stretched theirs a couple of feet. ‘‘You can twist this too.’’ She looped hers back and twisted it, like wringing out sheets.

‘‘Oh no.’’ Daisy grabbed hers up from a quick trip to the floor.

‘‘Just brush it off. It’ll be all right.’’

One by one the pairs pulled and twisted and, as the candy turned light, laid their contributions on the butter-covered pan again.

‘‘As soon as it finishes cooling, we’ll whack it into smaller pieces and have us a treat.’’ Cimarron took up the cleaver. ‘‘Remember, the slivers are the best part.’’

Carl found himself standing next to Pearl. She smelled good. He’d noticed that one time at the table but now even more so.

‘‘That was fun,’’ she said.

‘‘Ja, thanks to Opal, I came. Good thing.’’

Pearl took the wet towel Cimarron handed around and wiped the sticky off her hands. ‘‘Here. By the way, I meant it when I said I have books to share if you want something new to read. I just finished
Uncle Tom’s Cabin,
by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Have you read it?’’

He shook his head. ‘‘But I would like to.’’ He looked down, then at her. ‘‘That is most generous of you.’’
She has beautiful eyes
. He’d worked on a building for a man named Hossfuss in Chicago. Could she be related to him, and if so, what was she doing out here in Little Missouri?

Ask her
. The sense prompting him sounded more insistent the third time.

‘‘I heard you are from Chicago.’’

‘‘Yes.’’

‘‘I worked on a building for a Hossfuss there once.’’

‘‘Really?’’

He wasn’t sure if that was a question or a statement. ‘‘Ja, he expected good work, used good materials, not cheap, like some I know.’’

My land, we are actually carrying on a conversation. Do I tell him
that is my father? Do I ignore this?
‘‘Mr. Hossfuss has several buildings. Which one were you working on?’’

‘‘A warehouse down on the docks. One of my first jobs without my father.’’

‘‘Your father taught you the trade?’’

‘‘Ja, he was a good craftsman.’’

‘‘And your father is still in Chicago?’’

‘‘No, he died. I’ve been living in Minneapolis with my mor, but she went to care for her sister, so I came west.’’

Pearl stuffed down her apprehension. ‘‘I had a falling out with my father, so I came west too.’’
Ran away from home, but that
doesn’t sound very grown up
. ‘‘Do you like music?’’

‘‘Here’s some candy.’’ Opal held out the tray, switching the candy in her mouth to the cheek so she could talk.

‘‘Is it good?’’ Pearl asked.

‘‘Bery. Bery.’’ She sucked and got it back in her cheek. ‘‘Very.’’

‘‘So we can say our taffy pulling was a success?’’ Pearl picked out a piece and laid it on her tongue. ‘‘Umm.’’

Carl had started to turn the offering down but smiled too when the flavor hit his tongue. ‘‘Ah, good.’’

Conversations died as everyone sucked on their candy, but smiles grew and soon giggles.

Charlie came through the swinging door in search of hot coffee for the card players. ‘‘Looks like more fun in here.’’ He swapped coffeepots, snagged a bite of taffy from the plate, and waggled his eyebrows as he left the room.

‘‘Ja, I like music, especially fiddles.’’

Pearl turned back to him, a smile lighting her eyes. ‘‘Symphony?’’ ‘‘Not heard many, but all right.’’

‘‘Piano?’’

‘‘Ja, ’bout anything.’’

Pearl cast about for more questions, anything to keep him talking. ‘‘Do you sing?’’

‘‘In church, ja.’’

‘‘You seem to have a nice voice.’’

‘‘It don’t scare the crows away.’’

She hesitated for a moment, wanting to laugh but not to hurt his feelings. But when one eyebrow cocked and his eyes twinkled, she let herself chuckle. ‘‘That is very good.’’

‘‘Ja?’’

How come he could communicate so much with one word? Laugh at himself, laugh with her, and continue their conversation, all with one word—ja.

How like home. She thought to how hard her father worked to fit in with the other businessmen and society. He had fought to rid himself of his accent, but still the
ja
would happen at times. Were they going to write back? Was she still a member of the family, or had they disowned her?

Where did you go? Did I say something that offended you?
Carl watched her eyes, blue with clouds scudding across them.

When she returned to her smile, he breathed a sigh of relief. He liked being around a woman who helped him laugh.

‘‘When will you start teaching?’’

‘‘We are talking about having some classes now for adults who need help with their reading and arithmetic. But for the children, we start in early September.’’

‘‘Where?’’

‘‘In the cardroom.’’

‘‘Not many children?’’

‘‘Not yet. Maybe ten or twelve. But more people are arriving, so we shall see. I hope we can have a schoolhouse by next year.’’

‘‘Ja, if we get the supplies, we can do that.’’

She enjoyed listening to the sibilant
s
’s, the rhythm of his speech, but even more the tone of his voice. Rich and mellow. She’d be willing to wager that he would be a fine addition to the church choir. Now if only he would come to the practice.

I wonder if our church at home would ship us any old hymnals they
have. Or perhaps
—the thought made her heart leap—
take this
church on as a mission
.

‘‘Good night, Mr. Hegland. You have given me an exciting idea.’’ And what about the school? Wouldn’t some of those she knew in Chicago like to help with a frontier school?

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

August

If Ruby ever saw another empty jar, it might be sooner than she wanted. August could most appropriately be called canning and drying month. With the garden in full production and the wild fruits bursting off the branches, they made chokecherry jam, jelly, and juice; crabapple pickles, butter, and jelly; cucumber pickles and relish; canned peas; canned, dried, and pickled beans and corn; canned, jellied, jammed, and dried strawberries, raspberries, and June berries. They also canned, smoked, and dried fish, venison, rabbit, and grouse.

‘‘We won’t go hungry come winter. That’s for certain,’’ Ruby said, stretching, then retying her apron strings.

‘‘I think we’d can a polecat if we could catch it.’’ Cimarron stared at the jars ready to move down into the cellar as soon as Charlie finished putting up more shelves. A person could hardly turn around down there as it was.

In the fall they would move carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, and potatoes into the bins, covering some with sand to keep them fresh. They’d buy barrels of apples to store and can applesauce and apple pie mix, and make apple butter from the peelings. Anything that couldn’t be used would go back into the ground out in the garden.

Cornstalks and shucks from the cobs were dried for pallets, and thanks to the abundant waterfowl, they had down and feathers to stuff in quilts, pillows, and feather beds.

‘‘We’re going to need an entire room for a linen closet pretty soon.’’ Daisy stacked ironed pillowcases on a shelf. With the hotel full all the time now and all the new beds, due to the addition and the bunk beds, they were no longer buying sheeting and hemming their own. Ruby had found a supplier and ordered what they needed.

Late one afternoon a squad of soldiers rode into town, including Private Adam Stone. When he walked in the front door, Milly burst into tears, then threw herself into his arms. When they returned from a long walk after supper, she glowed brighter than the rising sun.

‘‘I have a surprise for you,’’ Ruby announced the next morning. ‘‘It should come on today’s train.’’

‘‘What?’’ Opal rolled her eyes. ‘‘I know, if you told us, it wouldn’t be a surprise.’’

Ruby tweaked her little sister’s nose.

‘‘Can we eat it?’’

‘‘Not likely.’’

‘‘Good, that means we don’t have to can it.’’

Everyone chuckled at the look of relief on Opal’s face.

‘‘Come on, honeybun, you at least get to go fishing.’’ Cimarron dumped the bread dough out on a floured board and began kneading. ‘‘Tonight we go shoot grouse, so don’t be gone too long.’’ Now that the young were full grown, they were going to shoot the roosting grouse out of the trees. Cimarron was such a clean shot that she could get a dozen or so before the other grouse in the tree got restless and started fluttering away. Opal and Milly then picked up the dead birds, and back at the hotel, plucked the breast feathers and cleaned them before stuffing pillows or feather beds. Baked grouse had become a favorite meal at Dove House.

‘‘Wish you’d teach me to shoot.’’ Opal propped her chin up with both hands.

‘‘I will if Ruby approves. I think every woman should be able to shoot as well as a man. You never know what kind of critters you might meet up with in this country. The ranchers use two rifle shots in quick succession as a call for help. Many lives have been saved that way.’’

Ruby continued to roll out sour-cream cookie dough. She often wondered if Cimarron wished she’d had a gun the day she was attacked. Should she let Opal learn to shoot? Should she herself learn to shoot? Did she want to learn? Not in this lifetime. But Opal did, so why should she let her feelings keep Opal from learning something she wanted? Besides, they could have been practicing without her knowledge, but Cimarron refrained.

The inner argument waged back and forth. Should she, shouldn’t she? It made such good sense. Opal was too little. Besides, they didn’t have a gun, other than Charlie’s. She looked to her little sister who was leaning forward, almost panting in her eagerness. ‘‘I’m sorry, Opal, but I just can’t give you permission to shoot a gun. Not yet. How about next summer?’’

Opal shrugged, a frown wrinkling her face. ‘‘How come I’m never big enough for the fun stuff, but I’m big enough to clean rooms and help can?’’

‘‘Good question. One I suspect every child since Cain and Abel has asked at one time or another,’’ Pearl, who had agreed to help with chores for her room and board, said with a nod. ‘‘I know my brother did.’’

‘‘And you too?’’ Opal asked.

‘‘No, I was always the good child.’’

‘‘Is it bad to want to do new things?’’

‘‘No, no, of course not. But some people are more adventurous than others.’’

‘‘Am I adventurous?’’ Opal looked around the group who had all burst out laughing. ‘‘Does that mean yes?’’

Ruby tried to stem a chuckle and had to cough on it. ‘‘Opal, dear, you were born adventuring. Bestemor could never keep up with you. Said you turned all her hair gray overnight.’’

‘‘I didn’t.’’

‘‘Nope, but you have to admit—’’ ‘‘Let’s not tell any of those stories, okay? I haven’t broken anything for a l-o-n-g time.’’

‘‘I know.’’
And for that I am exceedingly grateful
. The last thing Opal had been called on the carpet for was a visit to Belle’s room and the demise of a perfume bottle. The whole building had been odoriferous for a week. Belle’s room still wore a fancy smell in spite of the cigarillo smoke.

‘‘You know, when I learn to shoot, besides doing the fishing, maybe I could bag rabbits too.’’

BOOK: Pearl
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