I blame the 27th TBP OLWG prompts: “She sighted down the barrel,” “She blinked her eyes rapidly,” and “Like a house on fire” for putting me in mind of coming up with another chapter in the Victor & Hugo saga.
Part …?/George Davenport, Part II
Catherine furiously blinked as sweat dripped down her forehead into her eyes. The stranger coming up from the south meadow was perfectly sighted down the barrel of her rifle. She dared not move.
“Who’s that, Momma?” The girl-child asked.
Catherine called out from her fixed position just in front of the porch. “Thomas! Get sister back inside, and stay away from the door and windows like I told you, do you hear me?!”
Thomas stepped forward from inside the cabin and yanked on his sister’s arm. She squealed in protest and punched him in the chest.
“None of your fussing, girl!” Catherine scolded, not turning, afraid of losing the approaching stranger from her sight. “The both of you, now! Inside and keep still!”
The children stepped back into the cabin as instructed. Confident they’d made it far enough inside, Catherine took several long strides forward.
“You there!” she yelled. “Stop! You’re on private land!”
The stranger stopped. “Mrs. Samuels?” he called out.
“Yeah, what do you know about it?”
“Ma’am, you are expecting me. I wrote to you a few months back. You invited me to come out to Rocksberg. I’m George Davenport, the gentleman from Philadelphia.”
Catherine slowly lowered her rifle and took a full look at the stranger. “Your telegram said you were coming out on next month’s wagon.”
“Yes, I know, and I do apologize. I was able to get passage on an earlier train from New York. I ought to have sent word, but I…Ma’am?” George paused, “I wonder if you wouldn’t mind if I came in a little closer? It’s rather difficult to yell from out here and carry on a conversation.”
Catherine did not immediately respond. As she considered, the stranger slowly lifted an arm and then gave a small wave. “Hello,” he called out.
Catherine instinctively turned around to see Thomas and Eliza—now holding the baby—standing on the porch. “What did I say ’bout stayin’ inside?! Shoo! Now!” The children reluctantly moved again back into the cabin.
Turning her attention back to the stranger, she waved him forward. When George was close enough, she put up a cautionary hand. George abruptly stopped.
“I have identification,” George offered.
“No need,” Catherine said. In later years she would tell George she knew he had to be the fancy city lawyer from Philadelphia whom she invited to help her in her plight to keep her husband’s land. Nobody she ever knew, not even the men her father brought around from the Hudson Bay Company, nor the railroad men, or the territorial government’s men dressed the way George Davenport was dressed that first day he came walking up onto the Samuels’ property—what with his fine dark blue wool suit, bright white starched shirtwaist and collar, silk ascot, spats, bowler hat, walking cane, groomed hair and beard, and great coat draped over his arm.
Catherine continued, “You’ll have to forgive me, Mr. Davenport, but since my husband’s gone missing, I got only myself to look out for the place and to protect my children.”
“I’m very sorry, Mrs. Samuels. It was reckless of me not to send word from town that I had arrived sooner than previously arranged.”
Catherine laughed. “Ain’t nobody would’ve done, even if you asked.”
“Oh? Even if I paid?” George asked, getting in on the joke.
“Well, if’n you paid, then I believe that’d be something, I suppose,” Catherine said, again with a little laugh. “Still, when anyone got around to delivering your message, now, that’s altogether another matter.”
George let out a gaffaw and then took a bold move toward Catherine with an extended hand. Unaccustomed to such a gesture of camaraderie from a man, Catherine could only again laugh. George held his stance, a broad smile across his face.
“It’s beautiful country out here, Mrs. Samuels. Truly beautiful,” George finally said.
Catherine transferred her rifle to her other side, wiped her trigger hand on her apron, and coyly gave his extended hand a single, polite shake with hers. “That it is, Mr. Davenport. And I thank you for sayin’ so.”
Thomas watched his mother’s exchange with the finely dressed stranger from his hide in the corner of the kitchen by the window. In all his days, he’d never seen his mother laugh.
Haven’t read the Victor & Hugo saga? Click on the Victor & Hugo menu tab above for links to the various chapters by tnkerr and LRose.