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First Sunday in the Valley




"...Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."

Gia reads from the Good Book Genesis chapter two. Marcus closes his eyes and lets his sister's voice wash over him. It had been a hard week on all of them. A hard trek that took months, after a hard life but this was a constant. Every Sunday, after morning chores and breakfast, they'd make their way to church. Now in the absence of a church, Gia would read from the Good Book. There were certain things that had to be done, for God had charged them with the care of the animals and the fields, but if resting on the seventh day was demanded by God well that was just fine by him. God would surely forgive him if some of the contemplations on this Sunday are of his earthly plans rather then creation.


Over at the Spencer homestead, they are also taking the day off but the Spencer's aren't a particularly religious family. Today is for catching up on things that had slid because of all the efforts to get the cabin put together. After all the morning chores, Laura had set up her wash tub for heating water to wash hair and bodies. Bobbie has a skilled touch as a barber, trimming hair and shaving beards.
After Luke gets cleaned up with the heated water he kicks back and lets his sister shave him of the weeks growth. It is set up like an assembly line, Luke then Lucky.
Then it's Lulu's turn to have her hair scrubbed with the still soft soap that had been made earlier in the week, rinsed well with warm water and the final rinse of warm water with a capful of vinegar to cut any remaining soap residue. Then Lulu is passed off to Carly who gets her dried off and dressed in clean clothes, combs out the baby's hair and quickly braids it. Once the guys and Lulu are cleaned up and refreshed, Luke takes his son and daughter down to the river to go fishing, letting the women have some privacy for their own grooming needs.

Carly groans. "Oh mama, I have been waiting for this all week." Bobbie's fingers work the lathered soap into her daughter's scalp. Laura comes after Bobbie with the water rinse and then the vinegar rinse. Carly starts towel drying her hair, combs it out and then braids it to keep it out of her way. Then she takes Laura's place rinsing the other woman's hair after Bobbie washes it. That little tablespoon of vinegar in warm water is a necessary step in the process because any soap left in the hair would itch and actually attract dirt in the coming week.

Bobbie is the last one to get her hair washed. "I swear sometimes I wish I could just cut it all off like Luke or Lucky." She looks up from toweling dry her hair, it springs in vivid red curls down past her shoulders. "Imagine all the time we'd save." Laura and Carly laugh knowing that while Bobbie is not serious, it was something they'd all contemplated in weak moments. Luckily their weak moments had never coincided and there had always been someone there to take the scissors out of the other's hand.


While Sarah and Elizabeth are emptying the wash tub. Audrey contemplates what has been preying on her mind ever since being called on it by her granddaughter. She'd done wrong, and it nags her. She picks up the Good Book and silently asks for guidance then allows it to fall open and reads a passage from James aloud.

"But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

"Forgive me, Lord." Audrey mutters. "And thank you for reminding me that it isn't enough to speak the gospel. I must also walk Your path. It's not my place to judge the Spencer's or others, that is a task left to God."

Elizabeth comes into the cabin and hears Audrey talking to herself. "Are you okay, Gram?"

"I'm fine. Just needed a little reminder of how blessed we are to have each other." Audrey closes the Bible. "Will you ride up to..." She thinks about it for a moment. "...Zander Smith's place and invite him to Sunday dinner? He needs to know he's not alone out here."

"I'll go right now." Elizabeth takes off her apron and grabs her coat and heads out to the corral.


Nikolas contemplates the blisters on his hands and picks at them absently. It's a first for him. Well there was the time when he was a child when he'd learned the concept of hot. But this is a first, blisters from work, from manual labor. And yet there is a feeling of satisfaction that he hadn't realized before in his life. Because of him, Zander Smith's cabin was now taller than the future occupant. The only thing left to do was the roof.

"Where is that delivery of our things from the railcar?" Natasha complains interrupting her nephew's thoughts. "It should have been here by now. My books..." She pauses and broadens the statement. "... Our comforts should have been here by now."

"Sister, I am sure that the delivery will not happen today." Stefan says easily from in front of the fire. "If it has not arrived tomorrow then we will send a man to check on the delay. Nikolas, you've been often absent in these last few days."

"I was exploring down the valley and investigating the progress of the homesteaders there. They are... interesting. Zander Smith, our closest neighbor, is from a place called Florida. It never freezes there and they grow things year round. He lived on the edge of a... swamp where he'd trap alligators."

"I have seen pictures of the creatures." Stefan is fascinated. "A water predator. How would he trap them?"

"Baited them with pieces of chicken. But it is a risky business, there are evidently some down in Florida called Lefty because they have lost limbs to the creatures. And they eat something called mudbugs. It is considered a delicacy."

"Fascinating." Stefan sets up the chess board that always travels with him. "Come, we will have a game while you entertain us with stories of these peasants. It will be a pleasant distraction for your Aunt from the delay in her books."


"What are you thinking, Marcus?" Gia asks her brother as she joins him down by the river.

"Just making a list." Marcus puts an arm around his sister's shoulders. "And thinking of everything that can go wrong."

"Give yourself a headache why don't ya!" Gia punches her brother in the side.

"It's spring, Gia, and we're still chipping ice off the water barrel in the morning. What is winter going to be like here? What have I gotten us into?"

"Instead of looking at it that way... why don't you remember what you got us out of?" Gia counters.

"You're sounding like Mama there, girl." Marcus grins but his contemplations are eased by the reminder. He grows serious again. "I think it would be best if when the Spencer's head back to town for provisions you go with them instead of me. You and Mama can make a list of the things we'll need and I know you'll keep an eye out for cheats and nobody can squeeze a dollar the way you can. Cash money is not going to be growing on the trees."

Gia nods. "Mama wants a smokehouse."

Marcus sighs. "Let me get a roof over our heads first. Although the spot Mama picked for her garden has enough rock in it to build two smokehouses. Pigs I think."


"We've got the milk cow for milk, butter and cheese but I think we should concentrate on hogs to make money. That way we won't have to winter all of them like getting another cow, and it will give Mama something to smoke."

"Speaking of something to smoke... don't think I haven't noticed the only planting you've done so far." Gia teases.

"It might not grow this far north." Marcus says guiltily. "But I wanted a little something from home. And it's just a few plants."

"Yeah, just enough for you." Gia nods then shrugs. "And if it does take well then tobacco has always been good for trading. I'm sure the miners in town would rather have something local rather than paying more for the cigars that have to be brought in by rail."

"See and this is why you should be the one going into town." Marcus nods. "You're always thinking of ways to make hard currency, goes right along with your hard headedness."



Grabbing at the collar of his Sunday best, Zander tries to get a little room to breath. He'd been surprised to get the invitation to Sunday dinner at the Hardy's but welcomed a chance to get know his neighbors and to have something other than his own cooking. "I just want to thank you again, Mrs. Hardy, for inviting me to dinner." He says again after the food is on the table and the blessing given.

"It's our pleasure, Mr. Smith. We traveled across with the Spencer's and the Taggart's but didn't really get a chance to met you or the Cassadines. I do believe in knowing my neighbors."

"Where are y'all from?" Zander asks.

"Upstate New York. After my husband passed, I was ready to make a change and Montana is a progressive state that allows women to own property, maybe soon even vote. The girls' parents were killed in an influenza epidemic winters ago when the girls were just babies. They were ministering to the afflicted and came down with the ailment."

"I'm very sorry for your loss." Zander says awkwardly.

"It still pains us but we have to go on." Audrey changes the subject. "Elizabeth tells me you are about ready to put a roof on your cabin. You've made quick work of building."

"Nikolas Cassadine has been helping the last few days. It's made things go more quickly. He said something... maybe since you're from New York you can tell me.... How cold do you figure it's going to get in the winter here?"

"It's not something that they talked about when they were giving the property away." Audrey says wryly. "But I assume we have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I've seen winters in New York where there were nine feet of snow on the ground and that was dropped in the course of a few days."

"Tying a line between the house and the privy so you can find your way to and back." Elizabeth adds.

"Getting a lot of reading done because it was impossible to get out of the house for weeks on end." Sarah puts in her two cents worth in.

"You mean it. It's actually possible for it to snow so hard and so much that it will collapse a roof?!"

Audrey glances up at the canvas covered hole in their ceiling. "Yes. It is possible."

"Dang. I thought Cassadine was pulling my leg." He shakes his head. "I can't even imagine it. He also said something about having to cut a hole in ice to go fishing?"

Elizabeth nods. "Grandpa loved to go ice fishing on the lakes back in New York."

"I don't think it's something we'll have to worry about here." Audrey counters. "I think that the river is swift moving enough that while it might ice along the shore the ice won't be deep enough for it to be safe to stand on."

After dinner, Elizabeth and Sarah clear the table and start doing the dishes. Zander walks outside. He sees a few small saplings that have been stacked along the side of the house. He takes off his coat and taking an ax starts cutting the saplings into firewood for the women. Audrey comes out. "Mr. Smith, you don't have to..."

"It's my pleasure to do it for you and your granddaughters, ma'am. And I do have an ulterior motive." He pauses for a moment. "I really appreciate you extending the invitation, a man does get tired of his own cooking..."

"You're welcome anytime, Mr. Smith. I've missed having a truly appreciative audience for my skills."

"Then let me make myself useful."


It had been a good day down at the river and the Spencer's enjoy the bounty eating picnic style: trout dusted with corn meal, biscuits, beans, and even breaking out a tin of peaches for a taste of something sweet. After the filling meal and in the warm afternoon sunshine, Lulu is soon asleep using Foster as a pillow. Luke isn't far behind deciding to kick back and enjoy the day pillowing his head in Laura's lap using his cap to protect his eyes.

While Bobbie and Laura converse, Carly rises to her feet. "I'm going to go for a walk."

Bobbie looks around at the sleeping crew including the dog. "Take my pistol with you." She says quietly. "It might not stop a bear but we'll know you're in trouble."

Carly goes into the tent she shares with Bobbie and grabs the small pistol from under Bobbie's bedroll. It isn't famous like a derringer but it's definitely a pocket pistol. She shoves it in her apron pocket and starts walking toward the back of the property. She carries a basket for show. She'll find something to stick in it... maybe dandelions or something but that is not why she is going for a walk.


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