Frontier General Store




The sound of a rap on the door surprises Nikolas. With the pouring rain, he can't believe that there is anyone coming calling. Realizing it might be Zander or someone down the valley with a problem, he opens the door. "Yes? Who is there?"

"Well that's a fine howdy do. Considering I'm doing you a favor."

Nikolas steps back to let the person in and out of the shadows. "I think I would recall asking for one."

Taking off her hat and standing there in soaking wet coat, Emily runs a hand over her braided hair squeezing a bit of water out of it as she does so. "Weren't you the one that told your aunt to have the horse sent back if she planned on staying awhile? I'd no more got back from camp and I was sent right on back down here. By the way, the horse is all settled already."

"Master Nikolas, was that Mr. Zander at the door?" Mrs. Lansbury comes to the from from her rooms. "Is everything alright? Oh my word! You are soaked to the skin!" She bustles over to the young woman.

"Nah, it's just my coat and it's just going to get wet again on the way home."

Mrs. Lansbury looks at Nikolas kinda hard but not saying anything. Nikolas takes the hint. "You will of course stay until the rain has stopped. Mrs. Lansbury will make tea and a meal."

"I wouldn't want to put you out ma'am." Emily says politely.

"It would be no trouble at all. I'll go put the kettle on now." Mrs. Lansbury turns sharply back to the kitchen.

Emily looks after her in some amazement. "Wow. I know that you didn't find her around here."

"Mrs. Lansbury is a family retainer and has traveled with us extensively."

"Family retainer." Em makes a face. "Okay... I guess we have our share of those too. Folks that have been around since the beginning. Only I normally don't call them retainers. I call them family. But that's just me I guess. But then the only bloodlines I'm interested in are horses." Emily shrugs.

"It would appear then you are as much a product of your environment as am I." Nik also shrugs. "May I take your coat. Perhaps you would like to warm yourself by the fire?" Emily allows Nikolas to assist her with her coat holding her saddle bags out of the way as he helps with one sleeve and then the other. Taking the coat Nikolas hangs it on a coat tree by the door. Nik looks at her hip with distaste. "Do you really think you are going to be needing that?"

"This?" Emily pats the colt .44 on her hip. "Probably not. But it's handy to have out on the range. It's easier to get to than a rifle even if the rifle is better for stopping power. Bears, wolves, coyotes, snakes... varmints. Don't worry I know how to use it."

"I never suspected or intended to imply that you did not." Nikolas indicates the mantle over the fireplace. "I am also... proficient with firearms. The first week out here my uncle and I were... surprised by a grizzly bear while out in the woods."

Emily smiles at him indulgently. greenhorns "You mean a black bear right?" Emily picks a bear that is about a third of the size of the grizzly. Course any bear coming at ya looked big.

Nik lifts a brow knowing he is being patronized. It is a familiar feeling first from birth by Stefan and the rest of his family and then even more so once arriving in the valley. And while he tolerates it when he knows his knowledge lacking, this isn't one of those times. "Why don't we have our refreshment in the library." He leads the way. There between three high back chairs and filling most of the floor space of the library that is lined with shelves and books is the pelt of the grizzly. "It's not quite as big as the bear that my uncle shot on the Kamchatka peninsula. But we were lucky."

Emily whistles. "Extremely lucky. Normally the grizzly's stay to the high country although it was probably drawn to the river. Bears are fishing fools." Em looks around the room. "This is nice. I guess you Cassadines travel with all your comforts."

"The books were delayed in arriving but it gave the carpenters time to put up the book cases." Nikolas comments. "I am aware of the opinion of those that have been in Montana longer than I. That we are soddies, greenhorns, crazy..." Emily blushes on the last one. "Ah. Nailed that one." Nikolas nods.

"You people don't get it. I went back to school back east. I know that 160 acres seems like a lot to people but out here it is nothing." Emily explains. "You can't raise enough crops, raise enough livestock, to support a family on 160 acres. Maybe ten times that amount and even then it will be tight. And the winter here... it's brutal. Not just cause it's damn cold but because it can go from hot water freezing before it hits the ground to thinking it's spring in one day!"

"Sounds like crazy should then be a citizen requirement to go along with the weather." Nik jokes. "There is no need to be concerned about my family. We have resources that the others do not. How would Zander put it. We have not placed eggs..."

"Put all your eggs in one basket." Emily corrects.

"Exactly. But you are not alone in your opinion. I have already been informed by another citizen of the valley that he believes we will be the first to leave the valley."

Emily frowns. "Why?"

"Because we are not like them. And while I have no desire to be like them. I recognized the point he was making and have made... adjustments. And you need not be concerned about us weathering the winter. For the Cassadine, the winter will actually be the easiest part. While not familiar with the labors common in the valley, we are more than familiar with the the harshest of winters. And as you can see..." Nikolas waves a hand. "There is plenty to entertain us."

Mrs. Lansbury bustles in with a tray carrying a pot of tea and two bowls of soup and rolls with fresh butter and sets it on the table between two of the high back chairs. Then she goes over to another chair that is on the far side of the room and pulls needles and yarn out of her apron pockets. Sitting down, she starts knitting. Nikolas looks at her knowingly. Mrs. Lansbury was always one for insuring proper behavior. She would only leave if ordered out. Emily sits down by the table drawn by the fragrance of the hot soup. Remembering her manners she pours Nikolas a cup of tea into the fine bone china. "Sugar? Cream?"

"As it is please." Nikolas takes the seat across from her. Emily hands it to him and then seeing the napkins there on the table unfolds one onto her lap and daintily but with greed consumes the soup and tea. After seeing her in the saloon and then again on the trail, the fact she is wearing pants all these things counter indicated the company manners that the young woman is displaying. Nikolas takes his own napkin and shakes it open. Miss Emmie is a puzzle. One he means to solve.





Audrey lights the lantern and sets it on the table in the cabin. She hated doing it but the dreadful weather had cut into the daylight making it artificially dark. Sarah pulls out some embroidery she is doing for the bed linens and sits with her grandmother. The tea is on and they'd have some quiet time until it's time for bed. Audrey pulls out her journal.

July 8, 1883. It's rained steadily for the last two days. Elizabeth should be on her way back from town. The crops we planted at the end of April are bearing fruit. I was careful to not plant everything at once but instead constantly so there will be a steady supply of produce. We haven't had dried beans in over a month but rather a diet of milk, bread, cheese, eggs and greens from the garden. I have already started harvesting herbs and have them in bunches hanging from the rafters. I do love the smell of drying herbs. The herbs I dried starting back in June I have already put in the jars the Spencer's found on their foraging trip. Some of the plants won't bear this year, the foxglove, the rhubarb, but instead need a year to settle in. I miss my roses.

Audrey closes the journal resolutely. There were too many entries about her missing her roses. "Darling, I know it's early but I think I'm going to turn in. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to get back in the gardens. It will still be too wet to hay."

Sarah nods and sets aside her embroidery. "Lets save the lamp light for when we really need it." She goes over to the woodstove and eases the dampers down so that the fire will go all night but not put out any significant heat.





Not caring that it is raining since he rigged a tent over the site, Taggart puts the finishing touches to the smokehouse. He wanted it to be a pleasant surprise for Gia when she got back from the store that it would be done. Then he'd get started on the root cellar while it was still wet and the soil soft. As soon as the dry set in again it was back to haying.

Flo had picked out the spot for her next year's garden and was using it for a compost pile now spreading pig waste and scraps in it. She liked moving the garden spot around seldom planting the same thing in the same spot twice. It was a lesson she'd learned picking cotton. Land got bored when it grew the same stuff over and over. And bored land didn't nourish the plants.
The chickens despite being stupid creatures had sought the shelter of their coop although there were a couple underneath the porch dining on bugs and collecting the little pebbles they needed to aid in their digestion. Florence comes out to the smokehouse carrying a covered basket with bread cheese and some fresh veggies. "Time for you to take a break." She insists.

"I'm about done here, Mama."

"You surely are." Flo nods. "How are the pigs looking?"

"Didn't see them." Marcus shrugs. "But something is eating the grain I'm putting out."

Flo frowns at that one but shrugs it off. She examines the smokehouse. "I figure three good sized hogs."

Marcus nods. "Enough to keep me busy for the winter that's for sure and the Spencer's too. Figuring they'll be getting whatever lard we don't need for cooking and such for Miz Laura to make her soaps. Three hogs in November when it turns cold and then about three months later when we have a warm spell another three."

Flo nods in agreement. "Figure Miz Laura might as well be saving her ashes now to make lye. How much trouble you figure Gia is getting in?"

"None, if she knows what is good for her."

"I'll be so nice when we don't have to buy anything from the store... when we can get what we need right here."

"That's gonna take a fair amount of time." Marcus sighs and goes over to sit next to Flo on the grass that the smokehouse butts into. "Certain things we're always going to have to buy: flour, sugar, salt and the like. Even if we grew enough beets for sugar, or enough wheat for flour. We don't have the mills to grind it down and I didn't see one in the town when I was there."

"Well I'm planning on putting up so much produce that you're going to have to build onto the cabin for a pantry." Flo brags. "The only thing that is going to hold me back is the number of canning jars! We'll know for sure what we need for the winter by that last trip to the store in September. Figure six months worth. Everything that everyone says about the winter months... got to plan on that much. You're going to have to dig me the biggest damn root cellar in the valley."

"Zander's will be bigger."


"All he is growing is stuff that can be root cellared. Smart I figure as he doesn't have you around to can for him."

Flo shakes her head. "That boy needs a woman, needs a family."

"He'll do alright."

"Alright isn't good enough. We all came here to thrive."





Carly comes out and joins Lucky in the pole barn where the cows and horses are eating. There is a space in the back where the grain is stored and where the men store their tools. Lucky is honing the haying scythes to a sharp edge. It made the task that much easier if the tools are sharp. "I wish it weren't raining." Carly balances on a saw horse.

"Why do I think it's got nothing to do with being so anxious to get back to the haying? And everything to do with not wanting to be be under the same roof with Dad?"

Carly gives Lucky the evil eye. "He had no right."

"Jason Morgan had no right."

"Jason had what I gave him and no more." Carly say bitterly before continuing. "I'm a grown woman, Lucky! Hell come spring I could go file for 160 acres of my own and tell Luke where he can shove that .44!"

"Let me guess-- it wouldn't be the back of Morgan's neck?" Lucky shakes his head. "Damn it, Carly. I would have done the same thing as Dad did. The guy didn't come around to the front door. He didn't introduce himself to your family. He was sneaking around...."

"I was sneaking around not Jason! I wanted something just for me! Something that made me feel special. Jason did that and Uncle Luke ruined it!"

"If Jason is any kinda man then he'll be coming around the front door. Carly, I got nothing against the guy... really. I appreciate his giving the heads up on the cattle drive. He didn't have to, and I figure he did cause of his knowing you. I have no problem with Jason Morgan courting you. And I'll back you to the wall with Dad on that. Courting... using the front door... coming to Sunday supper. Sneaking around..." Lucky shakes his head. "Forget it."

"Why can't you be on my side?"

"I am. Didn't you just hear? Jason comes along the front door and hell I'll pour him the first 'shine off of Dad's still. I'll give up the drumstick on the Sunday dinner. You are too important, too precious to be selling yourself short by sneaking around!" Lucky says emphatically.

"But I miss him!" Carly breaks into tears. Lucky gives her a hug. "What if he doesn't come back?"

"Then he's a low down yellow bellied coward, not fit to lick your boots. Carly, Men outnumber women out here... well not in the valley but out here in Montana 10 to 1-- hell 100 to 1 maybe. You can have the pick of the litter. You don't need to settle for some cowpoke."

"Jason isn't like that."

"We'll see."





Zander settles his hat low on his brow to keep the rain off his face as he walks back from his trap line. Come summer there is nothing much there. The critters had food aplenty to bother being tempted by the little something he left by the traps. But it would be cruel to leave anything in the trap even overnight so every night last thing he was out here walking, looking for rabbits or other creatures that had been unwary. Annabelle keeps him company staying right on his heels. She's a good dog only running off when the temptation is too much for her and never while on the trap line.

The lantern he'd left out on the eaves of the shoddie is still lit with moths and such flying around it. Taking the lantern down, he opens the door to the soddie looking first before going in. Always looked first before going in. Didn't want the first time he didn't to be the time when there was a bear, snake or varmint in his place. "Home Sweet Home." Zander sighs. Putting the lantern on the barrel by his bed that he used for a bedside table, Zander strips off his clothes down to his long johns hanging them up by the woodstove to dry. He turns the damper down on the woodstove to preserve his wood. Walking the line was a good way to wind down from the day and get his thoughts in order so nothing would disturb his sleep. Zander crawls into bed pulling the quilt over him. Annabelle circles once, twice, three times and then collapses on the rag rug that had been foraged by the Spencer's and given to him. Zander reaches over and turns out the lantern.





The chickens are the first in the valley to wake and make their presence known. From there the chores start. Lulu makes a quick run to the outhouse before heading to the chicken coop opening up the door to let the chickens out. One by one they peek out of the coop and start down to the garden where after the rains a fine breakfast of slugs and worms awaits. As soon as they march out of the chicken coop, Lulu sneaks in with her basket to collect the eggs.
Carly heads out to the corral to milk the Holsteins. It was easier when her mother is home it would go twice as fast. It had gotten to the point where they were ahead enough with the fresh milk that they needed that Laura had taken to making cheese once a week. That had been the chore the day before while it was raining. And Laura much preferred cooking with butter than with lard preferring to use the lard for making soaps and stuff for sale. About 5 gallons of milk later Carly takes it to the cabin setting it in the usual spot for it to cool and the cream to separate to the top for collection to make butter. She doesn't say a word to Luke but instead turns right back around to let the cows out of the corral. They meander up to the rich grass of the upper pasture. They'd come back on their own come time for milking.





Audrey walks the kitchen garden. It's muddy from the soaking it's had over the last couple of days. There would be no need to water today. Maybe not even until tomorrow afternoon! What gives her pause is the peas that are trellised up the half moon stays of their old wagon. They are loaded and ready to be picked. More than they could eat really unless it was peas morning, noon and night. Audrey looks over the rest of the garden. She really doesn't want to be using up all her remaining canning jars on the peas. Not when she doesn't know how many are going to be brought from town with Elizabeth. Besides canned peas never tasted as good as fresh and were the very last thing eaten from the canned produce back in New York. There had to be another way.

"What are you thinking, Gram?" Sarah asks her as she hands her grandmother a basket to harvest the ripe items from the garden.

Audrey looks over to the herb dryer that Zander had built for her one Sunday. Some of the herbs she harvested where better dried by the leaf and not in bunches from the rafters. And the premise of the dryer was easy enough-- sheets of cheesecloth stretched around branches and then separated by a few inches so that the hot July temperatures could dry them. They had plenty it wouldn't hurt to experiment. They were going to go to waste anyway... well nothing would go to waste they could always feed them to the animals. After all they had bought dried peas in St Louis to travel with them across country. They cooked up faster than beans... "Darling, I want to dry some peas. Just to see if it works." Audrey looks toward the west where the rains normally came from. "I think we might have a few days of dry hot weather. And a pea is not as big as a leaf of thyme..."

Sarah nods seeing the sense in that. "They have to make dried peas some way. Lets. If it works it will save us a ton of canning jars... cause if it works for the peas..."

"By Sunday we should know if Zander should build us another dryer. And if the next trip to the store should include more cheesecloth." With that the two women take to stripping the plants of the ripe pods. Once the harvesting was done, then Sarah would take the animals up to the upper pasture. The sheep and cows could stay up there on their own but the goat needed to be moved around from his staked spot. And it would take a couple of days anyway for the grass to be dry enough to hay.





Zander sets the chickens loose from their coop to let them forage and then grabs his hoe to work out in the garden. Now would be the perfect time after the rain had loosened up the soil around the weeds. He wishes he'd known that the Spencer's had a still before sending all those beets into town although the cash money from the beets would surely come in handy. But Luke could probably have used the beets as a practice run for his still before the corn crop came in. He shrugs it off as an opportunity lost. Oh well the beets that he'd sent off to town had been the thinnings from his garden anyway and not much to be concerned about. But it was something to consider. Come spring any excess left over from the root cellars... potatoes and such could be turned over to Luke for his still. Nothing need go to waste.





"You are welcome to stay another day." Nikolas tells Emily as she saddles her horse.

"I have to get back to the house. Grandmother will start to worry if I'm gone an extra day and will send someone after me." Emily gives the horse a knee to the gut to expel air since her horse always sucks wind to prevent the tightening of the girth. Emily reefs on the girth and then tightens it down. Emily flips down the stirrup from the saddle horn. "I figure I'll meet them about halfway already."

"Miss Emily..." Mrs. Lansbury comes out of her kitchen carrying Emily's saddle bags that she'd appropriated. "I packed you a snack and filled your canteen from the rain barrels."

"Thanks much." Emily nods taking the saddle bags from the woman and fastening them to the back of her saddle with her bedroll. "I'll give your regards to your aunt." Emily tells Nikolas. She is momentarily surprised when Nikolas gives her a leg up onto her mount. It's not something she is particularly used to having not needed one since she was ten. With a wave, Emily takes off at an easy lope down to the gate and then up the side of the fenced property to the back range.

"She seems like a lovely young woman, if you can get by her wearing pants." Mrs. Lansbury says even as she watches Nikolas silently watching Emily's figure fading into the distance.

"The pants are practical considering her lifestyle. The amount of riding she does I'm sure side saddle would be... dangerous."

Mrs. Lansbury sighs and looks back down toward her garden. Time to get to work. "If you don't need me, sir..."

"I think the question should be reversed, Mrs. Lansbury. What do you need me to do to assist you this morning?"

"I'll be just fine in the garden this morning, Master Nikolas. I think the soonest you'll have to fill the barrels again will be tomorrow."

"Very well then. If you have need of me, I will be in the woods chopping fire wood." Nikolas says with a nod.





The travelers back to the valley are a day late. It isn't unexpected by the people waiting for them but it's still worrisome. Most have one eye to the road wondering when they are going to show up. Wondering when to go looking for them. Finally Audrey sees Mr. Cassadine's carriage coming down the valley and lets loose that bit of breath she'd been holding since Elizabeth went into town. As soon as she thinks they can see her she waves and moves down to the gate of their property. Stefan pulls into the gate pausing as he does so. Elizabeth takes the moment and jumps down from the carriage turning around and grabbing the dog. They are both caught up in Audrey's welcome home hug. The squirming dog gets Audrey's attention. "What do you have here?"

"It's a sheep dog."

"It doesn't look like a sheep dog."

"You'll see, Gram. I know he's short but he came in with a flock of sheep and he's been so good on the trail with the Nanny goat..."

"You got the goat too! My word!" What about my canning jars?

"The dog was free-- sorta."

"Well let me take a good look at him." Audrey insists. Liz puts the dog down. "My word." She says with a hint of dismay. She truly had never seen such an... ugly dog.

"You'll see, Gram." Liz says confidently. She wraps her arm around her Grandmother's waist. "You'll see." The dog falls into a heeling position at Elizabeth's ankles already deciding who he'd be minding.

The others had already started off loading the supplies that Audrey had ordered stacking them neatly on the front porch. Gia grabs the lead off of the goat's halter and ties it to the corral for the Hardy's to sort out later. Audrey walks up on the carriage and sees the saplings tied to the back for the first time. "Oh apple trees, how lovely! Who are they for?" And I wish I had known...

"Mr. Cassadine bought them for Zander for his birthday." Liz explains as she finishes off the off loading process. "Thank you, Mr. Cassadine. I had a wonderful time." Liz says politely.

"Your company is always a pleasure, Miss Webber." Stefan makes a small bow. He assists Bobbie and Gia back into the carriage before climbing in himself. Yahing to the horses he sets the carriage back on the path up the valley. Meanwhile the nanny goat has grown impatient with constantly being tied and has chewed through the lead and starts meandering off with her kid right by her. And since she'd been tied to the back of the wagon for the last three days makes as if to follow it.

Liz starts after the goat but then stops. She leans down. "Go get me that goat." She points to the nanny. The dog's huge ears perk right up and he goes chasing after the goat racing low to the ground getting in front of it and not letting it pass. The goat finally gets frustrated and turns around toward the cabin. Since the goat isn't moving fast enough to the dog's thinking he gives it a little nip on the heels. The goat picks up the pace and is soon herded into the pen where Liz has the door open. As soon as the goat and her kid are in the goat pen, Liz shuts the door and fastens it. Then she leans down to praise the dog.

"Darling, I think you did just fine." Audrey shakes her head. "Now lets get the supplies put up and I can tell you everything you've missed. And once Sarah comes down from the pasture, you can fill us in of all the news from home."

At the Taggart place, Roscoe leans down from his horse to open the gate. Stefan pulls thru. Like the trip to the Hardy's before, pulls right up to the porch. There is nobody to greet them and Stefan frowns. Gia is unconcerned having noticed that the wagon is gone. "They're out haying." She climbs down. "Which means I'll get to surprise them when they get back!" The supplies had been carefully loaded into the carriage with offloading in mind. Stefan and Roscoe unload the heavy items onto the porch while Bobbie and Gia do the breakables... the canning jars and such. Gia had packed her personal purchases into the five gallon oak barrel.

"You want me to bring these into the cabin for you, Miss Gia?" Roscoe offers.

Gia sees Bobbie's minute shake of her head. "No, I have it from here. I know y'all are ready to be home too." She says to Stefan. "Thanks for the lift to town." Stefan nods and bows. Then Gia turns to Bobbie. "Send Carly on over if she gets a free minute after she gets y'all's stuff put up."

"Her first free minute." Bobbie agrees. But she is worried about what has happened in her absence. She climbs back into the carriage not waiting for Stefan and impatient to get home. Roscoe swings back onto his horse. Bobbie catches him eyeing the property, the same way he'd eyed the Hardy's property and the hair goes up the back of her neck. If Marcus and Flo are out haying then Luke and Lucky probably are too and she really wishes they weren't. She wants this guy to know that the Spencer homestead is stocked with men who carry guns and know how to use them.

At the Spencer place, Foster sets off the alarm that the travelers are back. Lulu comes running but Laura grabs her by the scruff of the neck and makes her wait on the porch so she doesn't get trampled under any hooves. "Run and tell Daddy that Aunt Bobbie is back." Lulu goes running off to the upper pasture. Laura gives Bobbie a hug as she steps off the carriage to the porch. "You're late."

"The creeks were high on the way back." Bobbie explains. "Where is Carly?"

"Not now." Laura makes a little motion with her hand.

Bobbie frowns. "Is she still here?" She holds her breath waiting for the answer.

"Yes. But..."

Bobbie groans. "That was what I was afraid of." She stops speaking as Roscoe and Stefan near. "Lets get this wagon unloaded. I know you're anxious to get home."

"You'll probably run into Nik at Zander's place." Laura tells Stefan. "He's been helping Zander with his haying. They came to a bargain. Zander will be helping you as soon as he gets his in."

This motivates Stefan to move a little faster in the offloading of the goods knowing that his nephew is just at the next property. Soon everything is set on the porch for the women to put away and he and Roscoe are back on the road up the valley. At the Smith place, Stefan spies his nephew and Zander not out haying but instead taking a break after bringing in a load of hay. Zander comes up to the carriage and pats the horses letting them know he is there. "We were starting to wonder if we had to send out a search party. One more day and we'd have gone looking for ya." Zander eyes the newcomer on the horse.

"Zander, Nikolas, this is Mr. Roscoe. He will be working up at our place for the winter."

"Mr. Roscoe." Nikolas and Zander nod. Zander's eyes narrow as he sees the way that Roscoe is eyeing his place and is grateful that it looks as humble as it does.

"Miss Elizabeth Webber informed me that you have a birthday coming up. I hope you will accept these as a celebration of that day." Stefan informs Zander as he comes around to the back of the carriage.

Zander grins. "You brought me trees?!"

"Apple trees."

"Thank you kindly." Zander's grin widens. "It's a wonderful present." He helps with the offloading of his supplies. Not a canning jar in sight but rather bags of flour, lard, sugar, salt and coffee. A side of bacon and some tins.

"Gia took charge of the sale of your produce and pelts. You'll have to get together with her for the accounting." Stefan says as the last of the supplies are brought into the cabin and he walks back out into the bright daylight rather than the dim, cool soddie.

Zander nods. "Think top priority will be to get these into a good spot so they can start putting down roots. I'll get with Gia later."

"Zander, I'm going to head back with Stefan." Nikolas climbs up in the carriage next to Stefan. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Once back on the path, Stefan broaches the subject. "Have you made peace with your Aunt."

"No. She left the same day you did to stay with the Quartermaines."





"... and so your sister and I discovered that you can dry peas in the herb dryer that Zander built. I don't think I'd want to try anything big but rather small things... as small as a leaf of thyme." Audrey bustles around the kitchen area of the cabin putting things away. Dumping the flour and sugar into their proper barrels and then reserving the fabric bags they came in. Sarah would be able to fashion something out of it. Maybe even stretch it out on branches to make another herb dryer. She muses.

"Or maybe something sliced as thin as a leaf." Elizabeth suggests interrupting Audrey's thoughts. Gram had told her to have a seat but she'd been sitting long enough and wants to be moving around. "You know like the dried apples." Elizabeth indicates the small bag of dried apples that she'd brought back for a treat. Gram could do wonders with a dried apple, making pies or turnovers. "It doesn't bother me at all to have dried peas though. You remember that bag of peas we bought in St. Louis. I swear that it was a good portion rocks! I think that the shopkeeper used it to weight the bags. We had to pick thru it every night before putting the peas to soak or risk breaking a tooth!"

"It's with good reason that Gia is so suspicious of the shopkeepers." Gram nods. "I think she takes it too far but there are so many unscrupulous people out there that would take advantage." Audrey changes the subject. "I saw what Mr. Cassadine brought Zander for his birthday. Two apple trees. What an amazing idea. I had no idea that the store stocked trees."

"Think it's one of those specialty items." Liz can see the wheels turning in her grandmother's head. "Next spring, Gram. It'll give you time to pick out the perfect spot for an orchard."

"Am I that obvious?"

"Only to someone that loves you."





"...They aren't talking to each other." Laura tells Bobbie after the others have left and before Luke and Lucky get back from the haying. "Carly has not said a word to Luke in four days!"

"She won't be able to keep that up." Bobbie sighs. "It's not in her nature. What happened exactly?"

"I don't know exactly. Nobody is talking. I think Lucky knows but that is it. The only person whose head Carly hasn't bitten off is Lulu's. And that is 'cause Luke laid down the law. Either Carly takes Lulu with her or she doesn't go roaming. Course the way that Luke caught Carly doing whatever she was doing was cause he spotted Lulu fishing down by the river. But another thing that is not in Carly's nature is for her to not wander. And she knows having Lulu with her is better than having Luke glued to her side. Lulu has been in clover ever since it happened. She knows that Carly is not happy but the baby is happy to go foraging."

"Oh dear." Bobbie protests. She notices that Laura has discovered the five gallon oak barrels. "How are the cucumbers doing?" She suggests slyly.

Laura's eyes are twinkling as she looks up. "About as good as the dill. I think you timed those barrels about perfect. I take it we're going to be having pickles this winter. I saw that Mr. Cassadine took on a new hired man..."

Bobbie shakes her head but keeps moving putting things away. There were other things she'd rather be doing. "If I had known, I would have bought a lock for the door. Talk about putting a fox in the chicken coop."

"Did he do something? Say something?" Bobbie's grim tones have Laura stopped in her tracks.

"No, but he put the hair up on the back of my neck. He's bad news. Didn't like the way he was eyeing Gia and Elizabeth. He's just... bad news."

"Oh dear." Laura bites her lip. The hair on the back of Bobbie's neck is as reliable as her elbow. If Bobbie said that the man put up the hair on the back of her neck then the man was no good. The only time Bobbie had ignored that instinct she'd ended up with DL Brock. "I don't know whether we should warn Carly or not in the mood she is in. She's so mad right now she might seek him out."

"I'll figure a way to ease around it." Bobbie nods. "Believe me I'm used to easing around things with Carly." She sighs. "That's the last of it."

Laura checks the items she has on the stove. The heat is on low to keep things slow cooking. Satisfied that nothing is going to be boiling over or otherwise making a mess in the next few hours. "Let's go check on the cukes."





Zander waves at the Spencer ladies as he walks past their place down to the Taggart's. They are hard at work in the garden. "How is your elbow feeling this fine day, Miz Laura?" He calls out.

"Just dandy, Zander. Just dandy." Laura calls back.

"It's good to know." Zander waves again and keeps walking. He finds Gia down by the river filling the barrels they used to irrigate the garden. "Let me help you with that."

"Thanks." Gia says gratefully passing the barrel to Zander who puts it with the others on the small cart that Marcus had roughed together. Together they pull the cart up to the garden space. Gia puts the barrels out at the proper interval so that they'll be ready for the afternoon watering. "You did pretty good in town. Sold the pelts to the store and the beets around town. You get those apple trees in the ground?"

"Found the perfect spot for them." Zander nods. "So did you put the money on my books at the store?"

"Just enough to cover your bill. Miz Bobbie put your windows on order for pick up next month." Gia shakes her head. "I don't like leaving money in other people's hands you know? I've got the leftovers up at the house."

"Where are your mother and Marcus?" Zander asks.

"I figure they are out haying. Marcus would hay by moonlight I swear."

"Got to get it in."

"How are you doing at your place?"

"I already have stacks for the stock I have that will last the winter." Zander shrugs. "Just have the horses to take care of there. Everything that is left is going to be extra for trade. Nikolas was a big help once he got the hang of things. Figure that I'll be spending afternoons over at his place for awhile to return the favor. They've got all those horses to feed over the winter. And now one more."

"Mr. Roscoe." Gia nods. "Miz Bobbie doesn't like him. She didn't say anything but I could tell."

"Didn't make a good first impression on me either. He's got sly eyes. Don't think I'd ever play cards with the guy. But I'll be able to tell if I'm prejudging the man unfairly when I go up to the Cassadine place to help with their haying."





"And this will be your room." Mrs. Lansbury shows Mr. Roscoe the small room that is off of the kitchen and juts out from the back. One wall of it backs up to a stone chimney from the fireplace in the library. It's only door opens to the outdoors and not into the house. The room is small and plain-- just a place to sleep. "All of your meals will be taken in the kitchen. Or if you prefer I can kit them up for you to eat here."

"Whatever works best for you, ma'am." Roscoe puts his saddle bags on the bed. This was a hell of a lot nicer than the bunk house up at the Quartermaine spred that he had shared with twenty other cowpokes.

Not one to let there be misunderstandings, Mrs. Lansbury sets the rules from the start. She points to the rest of the house. "That is my responsibility. I take care of everything that has to do with the house or the Cassadines." She points out toward the rest of the property. "That is yours. The care of the animals, the tending of the fields and the firewood. Be ready each morning with your plan for the day. Master Stefan will accept your suggestions then and set the priority for his property."

"Got it."

Mrs. Lansbury hesitates and then decides to give the man a clue. "Mr. Roscoe, there is one sure way to be set from the property without reference. Do not speak to Miss Natasha unless you are spoken to first."

"Who is Miss Natasha?"

"Master Stefan's sister. She is currently away visiting. Dinner will be ready in an hour." Mrs. Lansbury turns from the doorway and walks the few steps to her kitchen door.

Nikolas is waiting there in the kitchen. "Did you get him settled?"

"I did." Mrs. Lansbury goes over to the stove and lifts a few lids. "But shouldn't you be speaking with Master Stefan about everything that happened in his absence?"

"Uncle never lets me get beyond Aunt Natasha going to the Quartermaines." Nik says ruefully. "He is... annoyed."

Mrs. Lansbury delicately snorts at that one. "You think?"


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