II. Horse Thieves

by Sevenstars

2. Confrontations
Mary Travis cast a final measuring look around her new office, threw a lightweight dark-gray shawl about the shoulders of her purple dress with its embroidery of black bugles, gathered up her sturdy hickory-splint marketing basket, and set off at her usual brisk, swinging, almost mannish stride on the two-hundred-yard journey to Randolph and Gloria Potter´s general store. The log-and- stone house she had taken over for herself and Billy had been one of the first private dwellings to be raised in the settlement; she didn´t know its full history, but Gloria and Inez had told her that the last owners had gotten fed up with the wild character of the place and moved on to Denver as soon as spring made travelling practical that year. The original section consisted of one big log room, which was now a combination kitchen, parlor, and dining room, with two small rock bedrooms added on later and a pantry sandwiched between them. A lean-to room had been tacked on at the side; the previous owners had used it as their bedroom, leaving the two rock rooms for their children, but it would function equally well for the press and the other adjuncts of the paper once a door was cut in it to save people tramping through the family quarters when they came by on business. The logs were solidly chinked and had been coated over, inside and out, with whitewash homemade from lime and water mixed; the roof was clapboarded, the floors puncheon, and the chimney and fireplace were stone. There was a dry cellar beneath and a low loft over, and some attempt had been made to give it beauty with a red honeysuckle at the door, morning- glories laced through the snake fence that defined the yard, and bleeding-hearts in a double line along the lane. Unpeeled sapling poles upheld the roof of the veranda. Out back was an abandoned truck patch, an outhouse, a floored and clay-daubed chickenhouse (the poultry, having no nearby trees in which to roost at night, would quickly learn to retreat there for the sake of the perching facilities it offered, and could be shut up against vermin), and a reasonably substantial shed built of rock, poles, and sod, with a sheet-iron roof, in which Billy´s pony and later, perhaps, a cow and a buggy horse could be housed. The nearest neighbors were the Negro healer Nathan Jackson and his half-Sioux wife Rain, who had built themselves a soddie house, using a grasshopper plow, which cut the sod deep and square and kept its wiry roots intact. Its main block measured sixteen by twenty-four feet and was used as their private quarters, with a projecting ell at the left front to serve as a dispensary-office for Nathan on one side; when Rain´s baby, which was due next month, got old enough to need a room of its own, the deficiency would be easily remedied by simply pasting a wing on and cutting a doorway through the party wall.

“Mary! You´re going to the store?”

The blonde woman turned and smiled at the lovely halfbreed girl, who was making her way down her own narrow board path, a basket similar to Mary´s over her arm. “Yes,” she agreed, “I thought I´d better start stockpiling a bit. I´ve still got some of the staples I bought when we left Topeka, and I know Mr. Potter pre- orders for the winter and rents warehouse space from Mr. James, but I´m not sure how his supply will hold out, especially if we get a bad season. I doubt he was counting on two new families when he made up his first orders this year.”

“I´ll walk with you, if you don´t mind my slowing you down a little,” said Rain, who at eight months gone was a good deal less graceful than she had been when Mary first met her.

“I know how you feel,” she observed, eyeing the younger woman´s dress and thinking, as she had several times before, how chaste and practical the clothing of Indian women seemed--perhaps not quite as modest as that of whites, but certainly easier to move and work in. It was fashioned of two pieces sewn together across the top, leaving a slit for the head to pass through, with open half-sleeves hanging angel- fashion and a line as straight as a ruler from one opening to the other. The skirt had a very slight flare from the waist down, and the hem, which stopped two or three inches short of the joint of the foot, was cut to present a concave arch at front and back, with a square-tipped lappet at each corner. Most of the shape was derived by pulling the garment in with a belt; Rain´s at present reminded Mary of the line in the old folk-song “Careless Love”--“...But now I wear my apern high...” Though the girl owned several garments traditionally made of buckskin, Nathan delighted in presenting her with the bright-colored white-man cloth she loved, and this dress, while cut in the Indian fashion, was made of a rich brown calico liberally scattered with red- centered flowers in yellow and white. A blanket was fastened capelike at her neck with two large rawhide buttons so her arms would be free for work, and belted around her waist to make pockets for carrying things. Bright ribbons held her corkscrew-waved hair back out of her face but didn´t confine it.

“Where´s Billy?” Rain asked, falling in beside the older woman.

“Reuben Potter took him exploring along the river,” Mary replied. “His father made sure he knew how to swim, so I´m not too worried about him. High water season has gone by now anyway. Where´s Nathan?”

“He was called out to the Carlton ranch to see to a broken leg. He thought he´d be back in time for supper.” Though primarily a Doctor of Botanic Medicine, with a diploma from a training course in Cincinnati to prove it, her husband had some elementary skill at surgery, and since he was, apart from the surgeon at the Fort, the only thing resembling a doctor for a hundred miles in any direction, most of the local inhabitants had decided it was better to ignore his color and accept him for his knowledge rather than risk dying of infection or sickness. Already he had saved a good score of lives. He planned to start up a good herb garden next year and grow his own medicines; meanwhile he had to make do with what he could buy at Potters´.

At the tie rail outside the store a lean buckskin-clad figure turned from fastening a blaze-faced black horse as the flicker of their reflections in the display window warned it of their approach. “Miz Travis...Rain.”

“Why, Vin!” Mary exclaimed in surprise. “Whatever brings you into town so soon again?” He had ridden in with Josiah Sanchez to help the Travises get moved into their cabin, but that had been less than a week ago. From what Mary knew of the long-haired hunter, he tended to be uncomfortable in towns, and she wondered that he would subject himself to one such a short time after his last visit.

“Come t´see Chris,” Vin Tanner explained, putting his hand under Rain´s elbow to help her negotiate the step up to the store´s front gallery.

Mary tilted her head. “Then shouldn´t you have gone to the Fort?”

For a moment she saw something-- unease?--flash through the young man´s Pacific-blue eyes, but it was gone again as quickly, giving way to a serenity she never ceased to marvel at in one so heavily armed and clearly competent at all wilderness skills. “Naw. He ain´t there. He´s here,” with a nod toward the store´s double doors, which stood open to the pleasant September breezes.

“How do you know?” Mary asked.

He shrugged. “Jus´ do. Ain´t rightly nothin´ you´d understand.” His hand went briefly to the little buckskin bag that hung by a thong around his neck. Josiah had told Mary, somewhat reluctantly, that it was his “medicine”--objects he believed had the power to protect him, to call the spirits to his assistance, and to serve as a conduit for any messages they might want to send him. He stood aside for the women to enter the store before him, and Mary automatically glanced around to see if Chris Larabee really was there.

“Well, ´mornin´, Miz Travis!” Buck. If he´s here, then Vin is right--the Captain is close by. The big sergeant was standing at one of the dry-goods tables, riffling his way through the stacks of hickory, calico, gingham, chambray, flannel, cotton, and denim men´s shirts it held. Piled neatly on the counter behind him were several pairs of folded pants--striped, plaid, solid-color woollen and corduroy, plus a small stack of plain black whipcord ones- -and two or three richly colored vests, one a particularly bright red, along with three black shirts and a pearl-gray one. He had shed his usual forage cap and was wearing a shallow flat-brimmed plainsman´s hat with a long jaw strap hanging from the brim, tilted back on his thick black hair and looking fresh out of stock.

“Buck. Aren´t you out of uniform?”

“Huh? Oh, you mean the hat.” Wilmington´s indigo eyes flicked past her to the hunter lingering shyly in the background. “Well, I´ll be d--doggoned, look who the cat drug in! Chris! Looks like you won´t be needin´ to pay Ezra´s Indian boy to ride out to Wells, Vin done come in all by himself.”

At the saddle-and-gun counter near the back right of the room, Chris Larabee turned from examining several handguns lain out on the countertop, his solemn face relaxing briefly in an expression of gratification and welcome. “Hey, cowboy,” he said.

“Who you callin´ a cowboy?” Vin´s response was a playful half-growl, and even without turning around Mary could imagine the hint of a smile curving his lips and lighting his eyes.

“Got the hat for it, don´t you?” Larabee retorted. “What brings you in?” he added, as the hunter edged past the two women and moved gracefully up the aisle to join him, cougar-skin moccasins silent against the flooring. Randolph Potter, who had been bringing guns out of the display case for the officer´s inspection, nodded politely and greeted the young man by name.

Vin shrugged as he reached the older man's side. “Felt like you´s needin´ me for somethin´.”

“Well, I was,” Chris agreed. “At least, I wanted to have a talk with you. Mr. Potter, we´ll take two of these Remington .44´s, and a couple of Remington Navy revolvers, and this Root´s Colt .28, though I wish Remington made something in that caliber; we both like Remingtons better, the top strap and the brace under the back make them sturdier. And this Sharps four-barrel .32 derringer, I think--Buck, do you want a boot gun?”

“Hell, yeah, pard, why not?” Buck had gone back to examining shirts, as if he hoped Mary was going to forget her remark about his hat.

“All right,” said Chris, “make that two Sharps derringers. We won´t be needing saddle guns; we already have Spencers for our private hunting arms.”

Wilmington looked up and grinned. “Talk for yourself, pard. Mightn´t do no harm for one of us anyways to have a good long-shootin´ buffalo gun. Mr. Potter, I´ll have that Big Fifty I was lookin´ at, and the twelve-gauge; I can cut her down for easy handlin´.”

Potter lifted a hand in acknowledgment and turned to the rifle rack to lift the specified weapons off their braces. “You´ll be wanting ammunition,” he observed. “I´ve got cased mould sets that will cover the Remingtons, or would you prefer paper cartridges?”

“Paper, if you´ve got them in all the right calibers,” Chris decided. “Four or five boxes for each gun, and caps, of course, and shells for the shotgun. Bar lead and a bullet mould for the buffalo gun, right, Buck?”

“You got it,” Wilmington agreed, pulling a blue-flowered calico shirt out of the stack.

“Sounds like you boys is gettin´ loaded for bear and road-agents,” Vin murmured.

Larabee gave him an unreadable look. “Put all that on the bill, Mr. Potter, and we´ll settle up as soon as Buck gets finished playing peacock,” he said. “Come on outside with me, Vin, I´ve got an offer to make you.” He touched his black slouch hat to Mary as they edged past her. “Mrs. Travis.”

“Captain.” Mary pivoted in place to watch as the two lean men strolled out, a frown furrowing between her brows as her journalistic instincts were awakened. She took from her basket the orders she´d made up for newsprint and ink--she had some left over from the Topeka Clarion News, but the Jamesburg version would need more before the winter was up--and slipped them through the post office´s letter drop, then moved slowly past Buck and back to the grocery counter, where Rain was already consulting with Mrs. Potter, whose husband had produced a tablet and paper from a pocket and was adding up the prices of the guns and their accessories.

“Good day, gentlemen,” came a cultured Southern drawl from the gallery, and Ezra entered with Inez Rosillos on his arm. He escorted her back to the grocery counter and greeted Mary and Rain with a smile and a sweep of his soft black hat. “I am indeed favored by fortune,” he declared, “to find myself in the same establishment with not one, but three of the most enchantin´ visions ever to grace our unpresumin´ community. Ladies. Inez, my dear, please take as much time as you require to choose your purchases. Mr. Potter, if I might impose upon you for a moment of your time, I wish to replenish my supply of ammunition, .36 and .22 caliber. And I believe I have been informed that you recently received a new shipment of books?”

Buck slung his selection of shirts onto the pile on the countertop and came over to greet Inez with a broad grin and a polite touch of his new hat´s brim. Once he was past his reaction to the fight with Harper´s gang and the stress of telling the story of the deaths of Chris Larabee´s wife and son, he had homed in on the Mexican women like a bear to a fresh hive. Since she spent most of her time in the restaurant kitchen, he literally hadn´t known of her presence in town until that day, and now he was making up for lost time. She´d already chased him out of the kitchen with a skillet on at least two occasions that Mary knew about; he actually seemed quite proud of the experience. “Darlin´, you´re lookin´ lovelier every time I set eyes on you,” he purred. “And, hey, don´t I smell Yardley´s soap?” He shut his eyes and took a deep whiff of air, delight wreathing his hearty handsome face. “Damn, I do. Ain´t nothin´ like that lavender. You washed your hair this mornin´, didn´t you? All for ol´ Buck?”

“I did not do it for you, Señor Buck,” the Mexican woman replied evenly. “How could I, when I did not know you would be here?”

“Oh, you knew,” Buck declared. “All the ladies know when ol´ Buck is on his way in. They maybe don´t know they know, but they feel me, same way Vin feels Chris.”

Inez wrinkled her nose in a perfect imitation of Ezra´s favorite expression of disdain. “The only thing I feel en conexión con usted, Señor Buck, is that I am tormented.”

“Awww!” Buck clapped a dramatic hand over his wounded heart. “You know, that really hurts. I ain´t ever been in the business of vexin´ women--at least none that ever said I was.”

“Well, now you have met one who is honest,” the Mexican woman told him. “Go and find your Señorita Blossom, and perhaps she will soothe your pride, eh?”

“Ain´t my pride wants soothin´, darlin´,” said Buck with a smirk.

“Buck!” came Larabee´s voice from the porch. “Come out here a minute.”

Wilmington sighed. “Duty calls,” he said in a tone of pretended resignation. “Ladies.” With another touch of his hat he turned and headed toward the door.

The grocery counter was a long, heavy, homemade sectional piece that extended all the way to the door of the side room where the feed was kept. Bins on the back side tilted in and out, holding flour, salt, sugar, rice, coffee, tea, dried fruits, beans, cornmeal, oatmeal, and dried peas; smaller drawers and glass compartments held pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and other spices. Ranged along the top were a big iron coffee grinder painted bright red, with two large balance wheels and an enormous scoop beneath; a wooden box of Malaga raisins; a spice grinder; a pair of large brass scales; a strong round of cheese on a rotating platform with a hinged cleaver, under a fly- specked wire cover; baskets of eggs and of chunks of maple sugar; and rows of big tin-lidded glass jars containing pink and white striped peppermints dropped in rows on sheets of paper, Chinese rock candy on strings, black licorice whips, horehound and lemon drops, wintergreen pinks, wax gums, chewing gum, red-hots, lemon zanzibars, cinnamon candies, bonbons and chocolate drops, sacks of maple-sugar candy, Jackson balls, candy hearts, candy apples, cookies, conical chocolates filled with an almost insoluble fondant, cinnamon, peppermint, wintergreen, and horehound stick candy, very expensive “gibraltars” in peppermint, lemon, or checkerberry wrapped in soft white paper, and dark, sticky, vaguely burnt-tasting “black jacks.” Close by was the meat counter, with a chopping block, a roll of smooth, heavy brown stock paper mounted on its steel cutter, a ball of string in a hanging metal cage overhead, a crank-operated slicing machine, and a big wooden cooler where beef quarters and smoked products were displayed behind glass windows. On the floor in front stood barrels of flour in two grades (white and middlings), buckwheat flour, sugar in three grades (fine white for seven and a half cents a pound, light brown, and very dark), molasses also in three grades (Louisiana and Georgia ribbon cane syrup, blackstrap, and humble sorghum), rice, corned beef, apples, potatoes, pickles, cider, vinegar, salt pork (with a big stone on top to keep the meat under the brine), salt mackerel in two grades (large and small), coarse meal and salt, flaky round St. Johnsbury crackers, tar, lamp oil, rum, brandy, gin, whiskey, and gunpowder; large boxes of big square soda crackers; kegs of salt fish, pickled meat, butter, and fine-cut chewing tobacco; crocks of apple butter, tubs of lard, and bolted meal and bleached flour in twenty-four-pound “small sacks” gaudily lithographed with their trademarks. Behind the counter the wall was laddered with shelves of different heights to accomodate bags of flour, salt, and coffee, jars of preserves and bigger ones of butter, buckets of hulled corn hominy covered with mosquito netting, stacks of canned goods, beef, jerky, dried stockfish, long rolls of sandwich meat, sausage, beans, baking soda and baking powder, sardines in tins, dried fruits and vegetables, yeast, cornstarch, bottles and crocks of honey, extracts and flavorings, tapioca, syrup, molasses in five- gallon jugs, vinegar, gunpowder tea in large foreign-looking cases lined with lead, bottles of ketchup, cayenne, and cream of tartar, patent oleomargarine, and long, brown, fruity-smelling strips of plug tobacco, which could be cut at conveniently marked lengths by a hinged blade. Cabbages, carrots, and similar sturdy vegetables occupied a divided bin, with sacks of potatoes, turnips, onions, and longneck squash close at hand. Whole codfish, salted and dried, hung by their tails alongside hams, shoulders, bacon slabs, and strings of peppers.

“Have you gotten Señor Ezra´s chicory coffee yet, Señora Potter?” Inez inquired. “Oh, muy bueno! I will have two pounds, por favor, and two jars of the quince marmalade--sí, and a box of the baking chocolate, he has asked if I cannot make a chocolate layer cake--”

Mrs. Potter chuckled. “You are spoiling that man to death, Inez dear.”

“And so? If I feed him well perhaps he will stay. I have never had so good a patron since I left La Mesilla.”

Studying the labels on the canned goods, Mary heard a quiet intake of breath from Rain and turned to see what had attracted her attention. Immediately to their right, soundless as a ghost, an Indian warrior had appeared, with a pack of dressed deerskins slung over his shoulder. He was, Mary thought, a young man, no older than Vin, though with the weathered impassive faces of Indians it was sometimes hard to tell. He had the height, the angular features, and the notably dark skin she had come to learn were typical of the local Arapahoes, and the heavily fringed, simply beadworked design of his buckskin leggings and moccasins supported the impression, along with his beaver-fur braid wrappings, which were the kind most favored by that tribe. A dark blue blanket was thrown toga fashion over one shoulder and around his body, trimmed with a broad band and disc of beadwork. A single eagle feather in his hair pointed straight up--the sign that he had performed some act of exceptional courage. Around his neck hung a broad band of otterskin, the long tail arranged to hang down his back, with almost three dozen fiercely curving grizzly claws pierced through the bead-edged strip of flannel that bound it, and a nickel-silver cross, quite conventional in its appearance except for being fully twenty inches long from top to bottom and wide in proportion.

Randolph Potter tucked Chris Larabee´s tally into his vest pocket and came around to attend to this new customer. Cheyenne was said to be the most difficult of the Plains languages, and few white men fully comprehended it, but the Arapaho tongue was harsh and guttural, and very demanding to learn or understand. On the other hand, Sioux and Crow were the “stock trade languages” of the Northern Plains, Comanche of the southwest country, and most Indians could get by in one or another. If not, there was the sign-talk, at which the Crow, Cheyenne, and especially the Kiowa were accounted best, closely followed by Arapaho and Blackfoot. Owing to the simplicity of its grammar and the fact that it required no twisting of the tongue around unfamiliar sounds, it could be easily mastered by whites as well as Indians, and a long and complex conversation could be carried on, in rapid, graceful movements of the hands, without uttering a sound. Trading as he did with the red men on a regular basis, Potter had of necessity acquired a basic command of this form of speech. //It is good to see you, my friend,// he signed. //Do you wish to trade?//

The Indian didn´t reply. He slung the pack onto the counter, but his eyes were on the three women. They passed briefly over Rain, pausing only long enough to take in the distinctively tribal cut of her dress, the beadwork of her moccasins, and the heaviness of her body; lingered a moment on Mary´s pale hair, and moved to settle on Inez--her bright-colored skirt and the chemise draped low over her shoulders, richly embroidered around the neck and sleeves and trimmed with lace, picking up the tone of her skin; the long colored cotton scarf thrown shawl-wise over her head and crossing her left shoulder, making her newly-washed hair seem darker and glossier; her cleanly-cut features and lissome grace, and the silver cross hung on a chain at her throat, exactly like his own but much smaller. At first she met his fixed regard steadily, calmly, without defiance or challenge, but after a minute Mary could sense a shift in her emotions, a disconcerted feeling. The Mexican woman´s tongue flicked out over dry lips and she tried to back a step or two away, only to come up against the barrels that fronted the counter. The Indian´s bright black eyes shifted as if he were making some sort of comparison between her and the other women, and then he reached out slowly and slid his first two fingers under her crucifix, lifting it delicately away from her skin and studying it with apparent great interest. Inez´s breath caught briefly at his touch, though it didn´t linger.

Without sound or warning Ezra was suddenly there, left arm sliding around the woman´s shoulders, right flicking his blue clawhammer coat back from the Navy Colt holstered at his side, emerald eyes narrow and bright with warning. He said nothing, but his gaze moved from the warrior´s face to the cross and back. For an instant Mary thought the Indian´s control slipped, though she couldn´t imagine why; at least his own eyes seemed to widen ever so slightly as he scanned the gambler´s richly-hued coat and buff nankeen pants, his bright red ascot with the emerald stickpin in it, the frilled chest and ruffled cuffs of the immaculate white shirt under his florally-embroidered silk vest, the rings and goldstone cufflinks he wore and the glittering array of ornaments on his watch chain. He let the cross drop back against the woman´s skin and met Ezra´s eyes again, slitted black on brilliant green, and then his lids drooped like shutters and he turned away to face Mr. Potter.

“Are you quite uninjured, my dear?” Ezra asked quietly. “He did nothin´ to offend you, I trust?”

“Yo soy ileso, Señor Ezra--only shaken, a little.” Inez pulled the cotton scarf more closely around her, as if to ward off a chill.

“He seemed interested in her cross,” Mary observed.

“He saw she was the only one of us who wore one,” said Rain. “All the Plains tribes give ground to the white who wears a cross. It´s holy to them also, a sign often of the sun--or the morning star; do you see his moccasins?” Mary glanced down reflexively and noted that they were beaded with an equal-armed cross design, with a red square at the center and arms by turns white, yellow, and blue, narrow black bands dividing the colors from each other. “That kind of cross represents the morning star to the Arapaho.”

Ezra levelled a glare at the warrior, who was now exchanging statements in sign language with Potter. “You are upset, my dear. Let us return to the restaurant and you may lie down in your rooms for a while. My chicory coffee and chocolate cake can afford to be tabled until you have regained your self-possession.”

He escorted her out, and Gloria Potter turned her attention to the other two women. “Rain? Is that everything you need? What can I get for you, Mary?”

“I think I´d like to sit down for a while,” Rain decided. “You get what you need, Mary.” She retreated to the shoe-company bench near the dry-goods counter and eased her swollen body onto it, keeping a cautious eye on the Arapaho. Her own people had long enjoyed friendly relations with his tribe, and she knew he had recognized her for Sioux; she didn´t fear him for her own sake. But it bothered her that he seemed less fascinated by Mary´s pale hair than by Inez.

Mary had taken her shopping list from the bottom of her basket. “I´d like a small sack of flour, Gloria,” she said, “and ten pounds of bacon, two dozen eggs, a box of matches...four pounds of coffee, a half- pound of Flowery Pekoe tea, two pounds of cornmeal, two pounds of rice, two pounds of salt, and six pounds of beans...a pound of onions...I´ll need about forty pounds of potatoes, but I don´t think I can carry them. Oh, and two gallons of coal oil, and four bars of laundry soap. And I think I´ll take a couple of cans of peaches, and the same of tomatoes.”

“That will be seven dollars sixty-five cents,” Gloria calculated. “Aaron--” that was one of the clerks-- “can deliver the heavy things tomorrow morning, if you don´t need them right away. Did you have anything planned for dinner? We got some nice prairie hens in. Seventy-five cents the brace. And mallards and teal, twenty-two and fifteen cents each. Or dressed chickens, nine cents a pound; we´ve got three-pound fryers and six-pound broilers, whichever you´d like.”

Mary considered. “Prairie hens, I think. They´re a bit expensive, but I think it would be nice to have something a little special, to celebrate getting settled. Gloria, can you recommend anyone who might have pig carcasses for sale at butchering time? The two of us should be able to get by very nicely on a single pig--two twenty-pound hams, thirty pounds each of bacon, shoulder, and loin, five of ribs, a couple of four-pound rib- and loin-end roasts, ten pounds of sausage, four of ham hock, four of liver, two and a half of salt pork, two of trimmed pigs´ feet for pickling, thirty-five or so of lard, half that of chops, five of fresh side pork, a pound and a half of pork rinds for frying or scrapple, a heart to stuff and bake, a sweetbread, two kidneys, headcheese, and a tongue to pickle and serve cold.” She smiled at Gloria´s evident astonishment at her familiarity with the yield. “When my husband was running a newspaper in Topeka we got about half our pay in farm produce, including butchered pigs. What we didn´t need for ourselves we´d trade to the store for cash or goods. And a veal calf too, I think, about two hundred and twenty-five pounds dressed and hung. With that nice cellar our cabin has, we´ll have no difficulty storing them. I may be in the market for a fresh heifer in the spring, but I think for now I´d rather just find someone with cows who´s willing to sell us milk delivered. We´ll definitely want some chickens; Billy is old enough to look after a small flock, and a dozen laying hens should supply the two of us with all the eggs we´ll need.”

“I can ask Mrs. McGovern if she can put you on her list. Her sons deliver the milk for seven cents a quart. And I´ll talk to some of the ranchers and see if any of them can supply you with the meat. I´d guess the pig will run you around thirty-five dollars, and the calf a bit more.”

“That would be so good of you. As for the milk, we´ll probably be needing five to eight quarts a day, counting what we´ll want for immediate drinking, cooking, cream for butter and so on. With a little boy in the house--”

“Oh, I know. After all, I have one myself--luckily we have two cows of our own.” Gloria was bustling about behind the counter as they talked, gathering up the items Mary had requested and setting them out on top. “There, that's everything, isn´t it?”

Mary checked her list. “Yes, that´s fine. You´ll send Aaron over with the heavier items?”

“First thing tomorrow. Now let me run down cellar and pick out one of those hens--”


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