"Little Britches" Universe

Disclaimer: No infringement is intended in regard to The Magnificent Seven, owned by MGM and Trilogy. No profit is being made from this activity.
Thanks: To J. K. Poffenberger and S Berry, the originators of the Little Britches Universe, who have kindly opened it for all of us to play.

Nettie Wells bumped into the back of the young boy as she came out of the General Store.

"Don’t stand in the middle of the boardwalk like that Vin. You’re making the place untidy."

The small figure turned at the voice, unconcerned at the light-hearted reprimand. He greeted Ms Nettie with a small smile, but quickly turned his attention back to the two people across the street.

"Why the serious face Vin?" Nettie asked, turning the boy back toward her. The blue eyes flickered across the street once more. When Chris Larabee was in town his young shadow was never far behind, but Nettie thought this was a little more serious than just keeping track of his hero.

"Mr Chris talks a lot to Mrs Travis don’t he?"

"Doesn’t he, and yes he does, but that’s not a little boy’s concern."

"She’s got a son of her own don’t...doesn’t she?" he asked timidly.

"Yes. Billy’s away at school. He’s living with his grandparents at the moment."

"He’s got grandparents too?" Vin was a little awed by this unknown boys good forturne.

Nettie Wells could see the thoughts churning behind those eyes. He’d barely got a foothold in his relationship with Chris Larabee, still uncertain of those who could take it all away.

"Those are Mr Chris’s concerns Vin." She grasped him by both shoulders turning him toward her. "You just trust him and he’ll do right by you."

"Ya think she’s a good Ma? She’s always been nice to me."

Oh, Nettie thought. Perhaps Mary wasn’t a threat to his new relationship with Chris, but to his old one with his own Mother.

"Was your Ma a good Ma?" Nettie prompted carefully as Vin rarely spoke of his mother.

"The best!" Nettie was rewarded with a truly beautiful smile from the boy.

Nettie called to the couple across the street. "Chris ! I’m taking this one back to help with a few chores."

Chris waved at the two of them, pleased Vin was growing so comfortable around more of the adults in the town.

"I’ll swing by and collect him later Nettie. You behave yourself Vin." He waved them off, confident that Vin would do just as Nettie asked. He was considering asking Nettie to take a more permanent role in Vin’s life. The boy still remained wary of many people, but he’d taken to Nettie at first sight. She’d make a perfect grandmother.

Nettie scooted Vin toward the wagon.

"I’ll drive," he offered eagerly as he clambered up onto the seat.

"You’ll move over and hand me the reins young man," she scolded.

Vin shrugged. He tried every time. Eventually someone would give in and let him drive.

"So, what was your Ma like?" Nettie prompted.

"I don’t remember much about her. Remember she smelled of flowers. Remember how she’d brush out my hair after she’d washed it." Nettie ran her fingers down the soft blonds strands herself. She’d been at Chris Larabee to get the boy’s hair cut, but Chris was adamant that Vin could decide for himself.

"Don’t remember her face real well any more. That’s bad. I try, but they took the locket from me so I don’t have a picture any more. I can’t seem to keep her in my head."

Nettie sighed at the trials life sometimes placed on the young. "That’s not bad Vin. That’s just how your memory works. How you feel is more important than what you see." One of Vin’s earlier comments suddenly struck her. "Who took your locket?"

"Headmaster at the orphanage. He took everyone’s things to pay for food. No one was allowed to keep anything. I tried to tell him it was important, but he didn’t like that."

Nettie could imagine what he’d received for attempting to hold into the jewellery. Chris had mentioned that the boy had been treated badly. She knew not to try to hug Vin, so she contented herself with a gentle pat on his back.

"Well, you just remember she loved you Vin. That’s all that matters."

Nettie steered the wagon into the front yard. Vin jumped down eagerly and ran around the wagon to help Nettie step down.

"I’ve got a few chores around the barn for you, then I think I can find some milk and cake in my kitchen."

She was rewarded by a huge grin and sparkling eyes. Vin adored Nettie’s kitchen. He was rarely allowed to play there, but when he helped unpack supplies he always found all sorts of spices, grains, preserves and fruits. Not like Mr Chris’s kitchen. Ms Nettie had a real kitchen that always smelled of fresh bread. Vin ran off to the barn, eager for his cake reward.

While Vin worked at his chores, Nettie thought about their brief conversation on the ride home. She thought of something that might help and started sifting through the items that had collected in her bureau drawer. She finally found what she was looking for. A small egg shaped container carved from oak. She unscrewed the two halves and emptied out the pendant that normally resided there. Giving it a quick polish with a cloth she took it out to the dining table.

Vin still hadn’t returned, but she knew he’d continue on any job he could find unless he was told to stop. She stepped out to the porch and called him back to the house. The running feet slammed up the stairs and into the front room.

"No running in the house. You go back outside and wash-up at the pump."

Nettie held the milk and cake aloft as an offering. Vin dashed outside and splashed water around all the parts he figured Ms Nettie might check. He sighed at all this bother. Mr Buck never made them wash-up before they got treats. He ran back to the house, skidding to a stop by the front door tread, then stepped sedately through. Nettie smiled at the show of good manners.

Vin was settled and onto his second glass of milk so Nettie decided to ask her question.

"Did your Ma have a favorite color Vin?"

"Blww.’ He smiled mischievously at the silent scolding look. The mouthful of milk and cake was finally swallowed, so he tried again. "Blue".

Nettie went over to a box at the side of the room and picked out some narrow blue ribbon and a pair of scissors. Vin eyed the approach of the scissors and ribbon warily. He knew Ms Nettie was always at Mr Chris about his hair but cutting it or ribbons was not going to happen. He reached up and pulled his hair back.

"You can’t cut it Ma’am." Vin didn’t like to say no to Ms Nettie, but she just couldn’t cut it.

Nettie smiled at the suspicious look her scissors were receiving.

"I only want a tiny piece Vin. You can even hold the piece of hair in front of you so you can see what I’m doing." Nettie tried not to laugh as the blue eyes almost crossed attempting to focus so close to his face. Nettie quickly snipped off a short length and tied the ends together with the blue ribbon, finishing it with a neat bow. Vin watched curiously, his eyes widening in wonder as the little timber egg on the table magically separated in Netties hands.

"Now Vin," she explained, seeing that she had the boy’s rapt attention. "You’ve said your Ma liked blue, and she loved your hair. This is a keepsake." Nettie folded the hair into the egg and screwed it closed. "When you want to think on your Ma, sometimes it helps to have something to hold onto." She place the little egg in his hands and closed his fingers around it.

Vin sat frozen, staring at the gift in his hands. Nettie saw his eyes fill with tears, but he wouldn't let go of the gift to brush them away.

"Thank you," he gasped out quickly, offering a quick kiss to her cheek as he ran for the door. Nettie rose to follow him, worried at how upset he had become.

Unfortunately Chris appeared, riding into the front yard. Vin halted his flight at the sight of his hero, but was unable to contain his tears. Nettie quickly stepped around him, tucking him behind her and passing a linen handkerchief back to the sniffling figure she protected.

"I hope he wasn’t too much trouble Nettie." Chris was concerned at Vin’s unusual behavior.

"He’s never any trouble Chris. He’s done a good afternoon’s work here, so go a little easy on him when you get home."

Chris heard the gentle warning even if he didn’t quite understand its reason. Vin reappeared from behind Nettie’s skirts a little red-eyed. He slid the damp handkerchief back into Nettie’s hand with a mumbled thanks.

Chris noticed the item that Vin held clenched in one hand.

"What have you got there Pard?"

"Ms Nettie gave me a keepsake," he pronounced carefully. "Its a keepsake for my Ma."

"That's very thoughtful of her." Chris now understood the red eyes. "Did you thank her properly?"

The blond head nodded mutely. Chris smiled his thanks to the warm-hearted woman before him. He knew he was right in his earlier thoughts. He’d speak to her soon about the boys.

Chris swung up into the saddle and pulled Vin up behind him. The narrow arms wrapped tightly around his waist, the object in Vin’s hand pushing uncomfortably into his stomach. He reached down and covered the smaller hands with one of his own and headed toward home.

The End

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