Frontier General Store
Stefan passes the General Store of Charlestown and continues down to the field behind the Scott rooming house. They'd made good time on the trail. And while he discounted Ms. Spencer's tales of her sister-in-law's elbow and rains coming, he saw little purpose in sight seeing on the way into town. He looks down the street in both directions. He notices the evidence of the changes. "The town appears to have grown in our absence."
"It's all the miners." Gia leans forward in the carriage between Bobbie and Stefan. "The Quartermaines are majorly importing men hoping to make their fortune in either the gold or coal mines. And having the railroad right here..."
"Yes, I see your point."
Bobbie is aghast at the rapid changes. "Lucky thought that there would be twice as many rooming houses and saloons. But I think he was off. If I'm not mistaken there are three saloons." Bobbie turns to Gia and Liz. "I want you two to stick together like glue. Some man starts saying more than howdy you keep on walking. Hell if it's only Howdy you keep right on walking when you say it back." She mutters to herself. "I should have brought my pistol."
Stefan hears the comment as he is assisting Bobbie from the wagon. "You believe there will be trouble."
"You heard Gia. The Quartermaines are importing men. And anything in short supply is precious." She glances back at Gia and Liz. "Very precious. And people will do stupid things to get it." Bobbie straightens her skirts and goes around to the back of the wagon. "Before we introduce ourselves to the Scott's I need to check the general Store and see what prices they are charging. Girls." Gia and Liz accompany Bobbie to the store. Bobbie gives hard glares to anyone that lingers in looking a little too long. Stefan unhitches the horses and puts them in the Scott's corral. Then going around to the front of the rooming house he introduces himself to Baldwin Scott, the proprietor.
"You're from the valley!" Mr. Scott realizes. "Did you bring Mrs. Taggart with you?"
"Her daughter accompanied us on this trip as well as Mrs. Spencer, a neighbor."
"Dang. My wife was looking forward to seeing Mrs. Taggart again."
"I will need.. two rooms please. One for myself and one for Mrs. Spencer and the girls."
Baldwin bites his lip and narrows his eyes. He was breaking his own rules by renting to unmarried women but with the other rooming house in town... and the bounty that the women from the valley brought with their cooking skills and if he wasn't mistaken fresh produce he really doesn't want to be annoying them. "We should be able to come to an arrangement."
"Baldwin...." A dark haired woman comes from the kitchen hearing voices in the front room. "We have a guest."
"This is Mr. Cassadine from the valley."
Hannah looks behind Stefan which Stefan notices. "The women decided to go to the General Store first to pick up any mail that might be waiting for the families."
Hannah grabs her coat. "I'll be back in a bit."
"But we have a guest, there are rooms to be prepared..." Her husband protests.
"I'll be back in a bit." Hannah keeps moving.
"I have need of a hired man. I thought perhaps since your establishment is a focal point of the community you might have a recommendation." Stefan brings the proprietor's focus back to him.
"Tough to come by." Baldwin replies. "Nobody can match the wages of the mines or the Quartermaines."
"Nobody except me. If you will tell me the going rate, I will begin the negotiations from there. We are on a rather tight time frame..."
Hannah sets a brisk pace to the General Store keeping her eyes open for any sign of the visitors from the valley. She increases her pace when she sees a young black woman standing outside of the General Store. Her long black hair is pulled back under a red bandana topped by a leather broad brim hat. "Gia!" The girl looks over at the sound of her name. "Hello! I'm Hannah Scott. Your mother told me so much about you."
"Just the good stuff, I hope." Gia says wryly knowing better.
Hannah makes a tilting motion with her hand then laughs. "Tell me Sarah's grandmother sent produce out. And that it looks great."
"Hell of a lot better than what he's got." Gia tilts her head in the direction of the store. "And that's even after a two day trip. Let me go get Liz, Sarah's sister, and we'll talk."
"And your mother... she said something about a neighbor making soap..."
Having negotiated the price before and knowing what contracts have to be filled by Mrs. Spencer, Gia hesitates. "Well that is going to be kinda dear." Gia warns Hannah. "Mrs. Spencer only sent a bit over what is already spoken for. Let me go get Liz and we'll talk." Gia tries to leave again.
"Mr. Cassadine arranged for two rooms at my place. One for him and one for the three of you."
Gia's jaw drops and she stops in her tracks turning around. "Your husband rented a room to me?!"
"Oh honey, you and your friends are staying in the family section. That Mr. Cassadine, I'll put in one of the front rooms. Everyone thinks they are the best."
"Facing the street?" Gia grins.
"Exactly." Hannah nods with a twinkle in her eye. Liz and Bobbie come out of the store. They'd already placed their orders to be picked up the next day. Gia does the introductions and together they walk over to the carriage that Stefan had parked in the shade behind the rooming house. Hannah ohhs and awwws over the produce. "Oh my carrots didn't come up at all this year. I'll take the whole bushel of these." She makes an offer for the bulk of the produce and a couple pounds of cheese.
"We working the same deal as you had with my mom?" Gia asks.
"Oh yes you are! It's my birthday present from my husband. That and the rooms. I'll find some other excuse next month. I didn't know exactly when you'd be coming but Mrs. Taggart said a month so I've been on the lookout. Let me take these into the kitchen." Hannah grabs the bushel basket and stacks the other purchases on the top of it and starts toward the kitchen.
"Elizabeth and I will go start the dinner, if you want to take care of Miz Laura's contracts."
"I'll be back as soon as I can. I know you want to get that produce sorted out. Either to the other rooming house or to the store." Bobbie fills a tote with Laura's soaps and the other things made for sale.
"And I have to get to the stockyards while there is still some daylight." Elizabeth warns.
"You girls do not leave the rooming house until I get back." Bobbie warns. "Or I'll skin you both. And when you do-- you stick together at all times."
"Yes, Miz Bobbie." Both of them say together. Bobbie hurries off.
Elizabeth looks after her. "I hope you know what you're doing. Sarah and Gram normally handle most of the kitchen duties. I'm strictly spud peeler. Although I have been known to get a compliment or two on my brownies."
"I've got a plan. Mama sent along a menu. We just have to adjust it depending on what Mrs. Scott has." Gia and Elizabeth go into the kitchen. Once there, they shed their coats and hats. They'd both been prepared for this by Flo and Sarah and so have their aprons with them to protect their clothes. Hannah as soon as she has put the produce away in her root cellar and ice house joins Gia to conference on the menu.
Bobbie rushes thru her errands hurrying back to the rooming
house. She clutches her small purse to her carefully. There is enough cash
money in there to buy the little extras maybe even a pair of shoes for Lulu
although that might have to wait. Definitely coffee and cigars for Luke. Once
Mr. Taggart got his tobacco crop in hopefully there would be one less thing
that they would have to get from the store.
Maybe a few yards of muslin to make some undergarments for the women. Some flannel for shirts for Luke and Lucky, although with the weather being so nice the men had taken to working shirtless like Mr. Taggart. It stretched out the laundry days as the shirts didn't get as filthy stinky as if they'd been working in them fourteen hours a day for seven days. Come winter they wouldn't be making these trips to the store, so everything has to be taken care of now. And the more things they could sell the better they'd be set without hitting their savings which had dwindled with the provisions already. But it's money well spent. You can't eat money. But just to be on the safe side either Lucky or Luke would have to come to town next month to win some money at the poker tables.
"I'm back!" Bobbie announces after rapping on the back door and then entering without waiting for a come in.
"The meat loaves are in the oven." Gia announces.
"And the potatoes are ready to be be boiled now. They'll need to be mashed." Liz adds. Both of them strip off their aprons and hang them on the pegs by the back door. "It shouldn't take us long. We've been talking." Liz hands Gia her hat and grabs her own. She eyes the broad brimmed leather enviously. Her straw hat kept the sun off but it didn't do much for the rain. Both of them had given up bonnets as soon as practical and neither of them were willing to go back to them even while in town. Let someone say something. The girls leave before Bobbie can change her mind and tell them they can't go without her.
"Be back before dinner!" Bobbie calls after them. They wave but don't look back. Bobbie sighs and starts unbuttoning her coat. She grabs one of the aprons and puts it on going over to check on the dinner. Hannah comes into the kitchen after preparing the rooms they'd need and straightening up the ones that are already occupied. Bobbie looks at her face and shakes her head. "What happened?"
"I have everything set aside for beef stew. That's what Mrs. Taggart made last time. The men really loved it and were looking forward to it."
"Gia had other plans." Bobbie shakes her head. "She's hardheaded like my Caroline. Which is good and bad. I don't worry about her being in town the way I do about Mrs. Hardy's girls. She said meatloaf?"
Hannah nods. "It smells wonderful already. And how can I complain? Mrs. Taggart sent along a packet of flavoring spices. Gia ground up the stew beef, some scraps of pork I'd set aside for flavoring greens, added a couple of eggs and bread I was about to put out for the chickens it was so stale."
"I think Florence wants you to know she is not a one dish woman. Don't think she likes repeating herself. Okay. So meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy..."
"I was thinking some of the carrots you brought and if I don't get some of the peas out of my garden..."
Bobbie looks around and sees the fixings around. This kitchen is huge and it had to be to be feeding 15 to 30 people every single day. "Apple cobbler? That should be able to cook and cool as soon as the meatloaf comes out."
"I'll go out and pick some peas." Hannah nods. This truly was a luxury not having to cook and getting to spend some time with other women.
Gia hitches the horses to the Cassadine carriage. It would be easier than trying to haul around the bushels of produce still to be sold. Most of the townies had their own gardens and wouldn't be in the market. So they don't stop there but instead go to the other rooming house and pull around to the kitchen. After they leave there... "Don't tell Miz Bobbie."
"Don't tell her what?" Liz asks curiously but she soon discovers what.
Gia's next stop is the saloon. Then she moves on to the next one and the next one. Each saloon had a small kitchen too but they made their money off of beer and whiskey. After they finish there, they head to the far side of the town where the Chinamen live. The next stop is the rail station. Gia checks in with the rail master on people coming and going. Trade items coming and going and any news from back east. The very last stop is at the stockyards adjacent to the rail station. There Gia sets the brake on the carriage and pulls the map out of her pocket and makes a note of all the information that the rail master had given her.
"You worthless, legless piece of shit!" One of the stockmen grabs a small dog by the scruff of the neck and throws it thru the air. The dog is yelping before it ever hits the ground. He reaches for his rifle.
"Oh my GOD!" Elizabeth is out of the carriage and racing toward the guy. "What do you think you're doing?! How can you be so cruel?!"
"Cruel? I'm going to put that critter out of my misery. Get out of the way." The stockman goes to push Elizabeth aside as she is between him and the small dog.
"I won't let you." Elizabeth steps back in his path. "You'll have to shoot me first!"
"Oh dang." Gia mutters to herself and climbs down from the carriage. "Great! Start a fuss right before we have to deal with this guy." She walks over and stands companionably by the stockman. "It is kinda funny looking. I've never seen anything that looks like that-- it's a dog right? The good Lord certainly didn't bless him in the leg department and he's got no tail! Liz, you should let the man shoot him. That poor thing has got to be embarrassed; it's so lacking."
"Gia!" Liz protests and kneels down next to the shivering animal that somehow knows it's days, no minutes, are numbered.
"Definitely a freak of nature." Gia nods. "How did you end up with it? Wait let me guess... somebody bugged out and dumped him on you."
Figuring he can shoot the dog later when he isn't getting the attention of two fine looking young females, the stockman puts his rifle to his shoulder. "You might say. Took in a flock of sheep and that critter came along with. Didn't think much of it-- kinda entertaining like you said. It's been worrying the other animals. Got a bull that has damn near tore the corral apart it's so pissed off. Pardon my language."
"Well I can surely see your point." Gia flatters. She draws the man's attention to her and makes a little hand motion behind her back to Elizabeth.
"I can tell from the way you talk, Missy, you aren't from around here. Out here in Montana critters that worry cattle get shot. It's the way it is." The stockman says righteously.
"Cause cattle are money, and it can't be good to have them spooked. You know I think I remember you! I bought a sow from you a couple of months ago."
"Right." The stockman had remembered her instantly. "You live over in the valley. How did that turn out for you?"
"Ten little piggy's on their way to being nice fat hogs. We're going to need a boar though."
"Let me show you what I've got." The stockman extends an elbow to her.
Gia slides her arm thru his and looks up at him flatteringly. "Why I'd surely appreciate that." She ohhs and ahhs over the selection until Elizabeth gets back. Elizabeth gives a little nod that Gia catches. "I'm tempted, I tell you true." Then she sighs. "But I think I'm going to have to wait and think on it. I know we're going to have to get a boar this year but the folks I'm traveling with have no patience for moving so slow back to the valley. And Mr. Cassadine would kill me if I put a pig in his fine carriage."
Elizabeth has made her way to where the goats are kept. "Excuse me could you tell me how much for that Nanny goat there and her kid?" Gia and the stockman go over to that pen. They dicker for a bit on the price of the Nanny and once the deal is done. Elizabeth and Gia take the goat and kid, letting the stockman know they can handle it from there.
"How long you in town for?" The stockman asks them both.
"Just for the day we have to be heading back tomorrow." Gia replies.
"Don't know looks like you might be here awhile." The stockman indicates the threatening sky. "Can't imagine you'll be wanting to make the journey in the pouring down rain. And I don't figure that from the looks of it that it will be letting up any time soon."
"Oh dear." Elizabeth looks at the sky. "Looks like Mrs. Spencer's elbow was on the money. Gia, we should get back."
"It was nice talking to you." Gia smiles. "I'll make sure that I can buy a boar next month." The girls hurry off. Elizabeth ties the goat to the back of the carriage and climbs up. Gia sets the carriage in motion. "Where is it?"
Elizabeth looks behind her to the back seat of the carriage. "Still there. I figure it knew I was trying to save it's life."
"I don't know for how long though. If that dog starts worrying the critters back in the valley it will get shot." Gia warns.
"The stockman said that it came in with a flock of sheep. I figure it was just protecting the sheep. That's a good thing. You don't think he's going to have us arrested for stealing that dog do you?" Elizabeth worries.
"Stealing a dead dog? That dog was two minutes away from landing in the scrap heap. But just to be on the safe side. You better keep that dog a secret until we are clear out of town." Gia yahs to the horses and heads back to the rooming house. This trip has worked out well so far. They barely had any produce left to sell to the store. They'd take care of that tomorrow when they picked up their orders on the way out of town.
Gia and Liz beat the rain to the rooming house. Just barely. They walk into a kitchen that is still in preparation for the dinner fixings. The peas and carrots are on the stove. And Bobbie has just poured the water off of the potatoes. Liz puts on her apron and grabbing the masher starts whipping the potatoes into submission. Bobbie adds a little butter and milk and then goes back to the stove to make gravy.
Gia washes her hands and then asking where everything is and how many are expected goes to set the table. She sees Mr. Cassadine sitting by the fireplace frowning as he makes notes in a journal. "Not going well?"
"I'm afraid that Mr. Scott was quite correct. The pool of suitable candidates is extremely shallow, a puddle really."
"Don't mind my saying but you're looking in the wrong place. Men come here to sleep or to eat but if they are socializing they go to the saloons. That's where you'll get the real skinny on who is looking for work and who is just looking for their next beer." Gia suggests. "Miz Laura was right; it's started raining. Dinner will be in twenty minutes."
Stefan acknowledges that he has received the information with a nod. Gia goes back to setting the table. As soon as she is done with that, there are serving dishes to put out along with milk and water to drink. Hannah calls the men to dinner. It doesn't take long they've been hanging around since word had gone out that the women from the Valley were cooking. No disrespect to Hannah's efforts just something different. Mr. Scott and Stefan join the other guests at the table. Hannah and Bobbie serve the meal while Gia and Liz start cleaning up the kitchen. As soon as the pots and pans are scoured and fresh water put on to boil, they sit down to their own dinner in the kitchen with Bobbie and Mrs. Scott.
After the dinner dishes are put away and the kitchen put to rights. Hannah sits down at the kitchen table with the girls and Bobbie. She's brought her knitting. Liz grabs her own then realizes. "I'll be right back. I have to check on the goat." She looks around the kitchen. "And I'll just take this pail of scraps out too."
"I'm sure the goat will enjoy the vegetable parts at least." Bobbie says absently.
Gia smiles at Liz knowingly. Yeah, the goat might enjoy the vegetable parts but she knows darn well who is going to be getting the left over gravy and little pieces of meat that hadn't been sopped up by the guests. "So Mrs. Scott, why don't you fill us in on Everything that has happened in the last month here in Charlestown?"
Elizabeth grabs the pail after putting on her coat and heads out to the carriage. Sheltering under the wheels are the dog and the goats. She spills out some of the food scraps for all of them although the kid is more interested in Nanny than the table scraps. The dog falls on the food ravenously. While the critters are occupied, Elizabeth goes over to the well and draws a pail of water. From the well she can see the front of the rooming house and can see Mr. Cassadine heading for the saloon. As soon as the dog is done eating it lays back down on the grass. Elizabeth bends over and pats it on the back. "I have to go back in." She says quietly. "You take care of them, and I'll see you in the morning." The dog licks her hand. "You are a smart one, aren't you? It's like you understand every word I'm saying." Elizabeth rises to her feet and gives the dog instruction. "Mind the goat." Then she heads back into the house.
The next morning Gia is the first one up of the girls. She
crawls from the bed that she'd been sharing with Bobbie and Liz. It was bigger
than the bed that she shares with Flo back home and it wasn't all shoved
against the wall so you had to crawl out over the person you were sharing
with. Miz Bobbie had been particular making sure that she was sleeping on the
side next to the door. The sun is just making an appearance in the window. Gia
uses the weak light to rise and dress. She gathers her hair up and ties it
back with the red bandana. Then putting on her boots goes down the back stairs
to the kitchen. First things first. Got to put on water to boil.
She picks up a pail and goes to the back door. It's still raining. Sighing she looks at the heavens. "Good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise." This was going to slow them down. They'd could travel in the rain. Hell they'd be better sheltered in the carriage than in a wagon but fording the creeks on the way to the valley would be a chore. Collecting water from the well she pours a bit into a bowl Liz had set aside for the dog and the goats. "Liz will be back with your breakfast as soon as she wakes up." Gia pats the dog. "You're not a bad thing are ya? I was just talking mean to get over on that guy. You're going to like it at the Hardy's place. They've got cats" Gia says with a clear emphasis. The dog's ears perk right up at that.
When Gia arrives back in the kitchen carrying two pails of water, she is greeted by the rest of the women. Liz is still yawning. Liz covers her mouth and then stretches tugging at her corset. This was one of the things that she didn't miss about town. The sheep didn't care if she wore a corset or not. Okay so her waist wasn't going to be 16 inches. She'd leave that to Sarah. She'd rather be able to put in a full day in the garden, or helping Mr. Taggart with the fence and firewood than passing out like a real lady would. But Miz Bobbie had insisted for while they were in town that they had to be ladylike. "Miz Hannah, if you want I'll help with the milking?"
"That would be lovely." Together Hannah and Liz leave to milk the Scott's Holsteins and Liz's goat.
Bobbie takes the water from Gia, putting some of it in the tea kettle and pouring some into the oversized coffee pot, and then putting the last of it in two pots on the back of the stove. One for making oatmeal and the other heating for whatever needed to be done. Gia checks the stove and then the woodpile and frowns. "I'll go get some more wood. What is that Mr. Scott doing?"
"Not our business, Honey."
"Maybe not but I tell you my brother would never let the firebox get this empty."
"That's cause your brother is a saint and everyone knows it." Bobbie smiles. "My brother would never wake up early to fill the kindling." But he'd be out there long after dark to make sure it was stocked just so he could get a little extra shut eye in the morning.
Gia pauses at the back door. "I figure rain or shine we should be out of here as soon as we get Miz Hannah set for the day."
"I agree. There are too many things waiting on us back in the valley."
Gia nods and leaves. Stefan enters the kitchen. He looks as if he just climbed off a wedding cake with his crisp white shirt and his sharp black suit with the polished boots. Bobbie takes one look at him and shakes her head. "Didn't get much sleep. Someone put a pea under your mattress?"
"One would think that after a certain hour that the... traffic would desist."
"That's the thing about a town that is mostly saloons. It doesn't keep normal hours. The girls and I slept like babies. Didn't wake up until the chickens started up this morning." Bobbie takes pity on him. "The coffee is about ready. The tea is going to take a bit longer."
"Coffee is fine." Stefan sighs knowing he should go back out to the dining room and at this point really not caring as he pulls up a chair at the kitchen table. He rationalizes his behavior as being an experiment to find out if Nikolas was correct that food is more flavorful at a kitchen table.
"Any luck with your hired man?" Bobbie inquires but keeps moving getting things ready for the breakfast.
"He will be meeting me at the General Store."
"Then you had a successful trip." Bobbie congratulates. Then she sighs. "I'm ready to go home. I've had enough excitement."
After the horses are hitched to the carriage, Stefan assists
everyone into the carriage including the short legged dog. The goat is hitched
to the back of the carriage and would set the pace on the way back. Although
once loaded down with the supplies of the valley and with the foul weather the
pace would be slow enough. The rain has slowed to a drizzle. They make their
way to the General Store. There Bobbie and Gia sell the last of the produce
and there isn't much to the storekeeper and start loading the orders onto the
carriage: flour, sugar, salt, vinegar, coffee, molasses, beans, honey, dried
apples, lard, sides of bacon, tins of goods, ammunition. Soon the foot well of
the carriage is filled as well as the trunk compartment.
Bobbie picks up the Spencer extras-- cigars, tobacco, penny candy, lengths of fabric and then 'cause she couldn't resist and they were right there... a couple small five gallon hardoak barrels. They'd be perfect for pickles.
Liz picks up the Hardy family extras-- another journal for Audrey who always made detailed notes of everything. The canning jars: quarts, pints and half pints. The shaving mirror for Zander's birthday.
Gia eyes what Bobbie and Liz are doing and does a compromise: a few canning jars, one of the hardoak barrels, tobacco for Marcus. They'd been able to salvage some of the canning jars from the abandoned cabins. It really bothers her to be buying a side of bacon. That wouldn't be happening again after November. Same with the tobacco although she knows it takes awhile for the tobacco to cure.
Stefan buys few things from the general Store. Most of the larger items he'd wanted he'd ordered from back east and they would actually be delivered out to the property in a couple of weeks. Instead he assists the women in balancing the load in the carriage and getting everything situated. The new hired man strolls up leading his horse. Stefan greets him but waits to do the introductions until all the ladies are present.
"Oh Dang." Liz bites her lip.
"Miss Webber?" Stefan inquires.
"I bought this for Zander for his birthday. You know, from me Sarah and Gram. And I'm wondering if I should turn it back in."
"Turn it back in?"
"I think he might like these better." Liz examines the saplings outside of the general store their root balls covered with burlap. "He's got so few trees on his place really. And I know that apple trees could stand the winter... if they transplant well."
"I have yet to purchase a gift for Mr. Smith." Stefan suggests. "Allow them to be a present from Nikolas and myself. I will of course give you credit for the suggestion."
"So Zander will get both." Liz considers and then nods. "I think that's a great idea. It's an investment in the future really. It's telling him that he'll be here long enough to see fruit on the trees. Cause that could take a couple years."
Stefan goes into the store to make the purchase. The store keepers son assists him in anchoring the two trees to the back of the carriage. It is the last transaction of the trip. As soon as he comes out he sees that the women have already taken their places in the carriage. Gia and Liz are balanced on top of the load with Liz keeping a firm hand on the rope around the small dog's neck. "Ladies, may I introduce you to Mr. Roscoe. He will be working for my family thru the winter. Mr. Roscoe, this is Miz Spencer, Miss Webber and Miss Taggart."
"Ladies," Roscoe tips his hat.
uhoh Bobbie thinks. Her rat bastard detector had just gone off.
Stefan climbs up into the carriage and with a quick click of his tongue sets the horses on the road out of town.
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