Idaho Fairytale Bride (Rocky Mountain Romances Book 2), page 7
Morgan went to the house and Tex led Dancer to the barn and tied him to the hitching post in front of the stalls. He noticed one of them had been made into Arthur’s bedroom, complete with goose feathers and a bone with a dog’s gnaw marks on it.
He also noticed Miss Jensen grooming Compass.
“Good evening, Tex. I’m so happy you brought Compass back—I was terribly worried about her. We all were.”
“I’m glad we could find her for you.”
“She looks none the worse for the wear. It doesn’t look like she has any wounds other than a few scratches and a chipped hoof, and it’s just a tiny little chip that can be easily rasped smooth.”
“Well there is one very strong possibility that you might want to keep a watch on her for.”
“She may very well give you a new addition along about this time next year.”
She stopped brushing Compass and turned her gaze toward him. “A baby? Oh, I always wanted a baby!”
Even in the dim lantern light, he could see her blushing.
“Uh, horse. A baby horse...foal, I mean.”
What did she really mean?
Maybe the schoolteacher act was just that—an act.
* * *
Moriah managed to avoid Tex the rest of the week, although he didn’t make it easy. He always had to fetch something in the shed while she collected eggs in the chicken coop next to it. He’d set up the woodworking equipment in the barn so invariably when she went to groom or saddle Compass, he’d be there building something—woodwork for the new house, he’d said.
Wilbur didn’t even give her fair warning that Tex was around anymore. In fact, the blasted bird did whatever geese do near Tex as often as he stayed by her. A traitor goose—that’s what he was.
Saturday, the whole place buzzed what with the ladies bringing food baskets for the school fundraiser as well as other foods to round out a hearty dinner for the men, who came armed with hammers and saws to build the house.
“I have wallpaper and carpet ordered,” Grace said as she laid boards across a couple stumps to make a table. “I’ll be happy once our new house is made into a home, but I don’t look forward to all the work to get it that way.”
“You’ll be working on it for a year,” Edith agreed. “Moriah and I will be happy to help you with sewing curtains and such. Neither of us is worth a hoot at hanging wallpaper, but we’ll do it and anything else you need help doing.”
“You don’t need to worry about the wallpaper—Tex will do it. He’s an artist when it comes to that sort of thing. He does all the finish work on Morgan’s projects, too.”
Forrest and Cy Gardner waved as they trotted up to the Jensen house. Cy dismounted and Forrest headed to the new Dillon house site on down the driveway. Behind them, Daisy Richards and Hazel Gardner pulled in with a wagon full of supplies. And geese. Loud geese. Geese that didn’t seem too happy to be crammed together in one small cage.
Wilbur ran out to meet the wagon, flapping his wings and honking. Cy nearly tripped over him on the way to hand his wife and daughter off the wagon.
“I hope that’s a happy honk,” Moriah thought out loud. “I guess we’ll find out when we open the cage door.”
“Are you planning to let them run free?” Edith asked. “For they might run off if they don’t know this is their home.”
“Maybe we should keep them in the side of the chicken coop—that is, if they don’t eat everything we have stored there. I should move all the grain to the shed, else they eat the entire winter’s supply.”
“The shed’s full,” Grace pointed out. She untied her apron. “I’ll go find my son and have him make space. Most of the boards will be needed at the building site, but some are for cabinetry, and we don’t want that expensive wood used for studs or some such.”
Moriah went out to greet Daisy and the Gardners. “I hope you’re feeling well,” she said to Daisy.
“Much better. I saw Doc Mabry and he confirmed our suspicions. We’re looking at a new addition to the Richards family in February. Isn’t that exciting?”
She and Moriah hugged.
New addition. That’s what Tex had said, only he referred to Compass’s possible pregnancy.
Moriah still flushed bright red every time she thought of what a muddle she’d made of herself.
“I don’t have time to empty out the shed right now, Ma,” Tex said as he carried a bucket of nails to the pile of boards where his pa was about ready to get the men started on exterior walls. “We have a dozen men ready to work and they’re standing around, waiting for us. Every one of them has work to do at home so we need to make good use of their time.”
“Of course you have time,” Grace said. “Someone else can carry that bucket. Morgan has supervised building projects since before you were born. The house is in quite capable hands, and you can certainly take thirty minutes to help Moriah.”
Helping Moriah? She hadn’t mentioned that little tidbit. “I’ll have to tell Pa.”
“I’ll take care of your father.” She motioned toward the Jensen farmstead. “You get your fanny over there right now—she’s waiting.” And then Ma winked.
Tex sure didn’t need to be told twice and grinned back. “Never keep a lady waiting, I say.”
He threw his hammer in the toolbox and tightened Dancer’s cinch. As he mounted, he saw Wilbur and Prince bounding toward him with Arthur bringing up the rear. Actually, Prince bounded but Wilbur flapped—none too quietly, either, for his honker and his flapper seemed to be hooked together. The boy’s arms flailed as he dodged sagebrush and Prince, who ran excitedly back and forth between Wilbur and Arthur.
“Where are you headed?” Tex asked his son, once they got within hollering distance of each other.
“We got geese, Pa! Lots of ’em.” His little legs sped toward Tex, only stopping when he clung to Tex’s stirrup, panting. “Miss Jensen said Wilbur was lonesome and needed some lady friends. They’re gonna lay eggs and make baby geese. I’m not sure how you get a baby goose out of an egg, but that’s what she said. I looked in my egg at breakfast and there wasn’t no goose in there.”
Tex dismounted and hugged his son. “Your grandma told me about the new geese. I’m headed to the shed to make room so Miss Jensen can move the grain into it. You want to come help?”
“I would, but Grandpa told me he’d give me a penny if I handed nails to him while he’s running the hammer. Paying jobs have to come first—that’s what you always say.”
“That’s right.” Tex petted Prince, who’d jumped up and rested his forelegs on Tex’s waist. “You and your crew better get to work.”
“I expect Wilbur will want to get acquainted with the goose ladies, but Prince will help me—if he doesn’t smell any rabbits to chase.”
Arthur ran to the building site with the animals alongside when they weren’t darting this way and that. Tex mounted up and hurried on toward the shed. He didn’t want to spend the time clearing it out today, but whatever Miss Jensen needed, he’d figure out a way to get done. If that meant working on the house by lantern light to get the thing built, then so be it.
He got there just in time to see Moriah’s blue bustled backside sticking out of the chicken coop door. Now that was a welcome he appreciated. She appeared to be tugging at something.
“Can I help you out?” he offered, resisting the urge to give her a little love pat, for the desire he had for her wasn’t returned. Yet.
“Oh!” She straightened and turned around. “I didn’t know you were there.”
He hopped off Dancer. “Ma told me you needed some help so I came right over.”
“Thank you—I know you’re quite busy today.” She held the chicken coop door open so he could see inside and pointed at the bags of grain. “I just need a clear spot on the shed to put those so I can move the geese in here. I expect a couple yards square ought to hold all the chicken feed.”
“Deal. Those fifty-pound bags of chicken feed to pose a bit of a challenge for me. I can probably get the rest myself, though.”
As he led Dancer to the barn, he could hear the geese in the cage honking and squawking to get out. He couldn’t blame them, for they had nowhere to move around in the small cage, and they were likely hungry as well.
When he returned to the shed, he said, “We better get busy.” He put his hand on the back of her waist to escort her to the shed the way he normally would escort a lady to church, then realized he probably shouldn’t have done that. But she didn’t protest and he didn’t move his hand. In fact, he wished they’d had farther to walk.
When they got to the shed, he opened the door and went in to study the situation. “Quite a bit of the wood in here can go to the building site if it doesn’t rain in the next few days.”
“Then we can stack it outside the door and I’ll fetch it later after the men use the lumber that’s in our wagon now.”
“All right, let’s get started.” She inched past him, for the aisle was too small to accommodate both him and her skirts. “If we clear the front area to the right of the door, that should be sufficient to hold everything.”
Tex carried the heavier lumber and she carried the smaller, lighter wood. He made two piles—one for boards that’d be used that day, and one for lumber for finish work.
“Be careful with those small boards,” he told her as she picked up some small pieces of walnut wood. “I’ll be using them to build the cradle for the Richards, so I don’t want the corners nicked.”
“A cradle?” She stopped, her arms full. “I thought you built houses.”
“Not often. Pa is the one who’s the master carpenter—he builds houses, barns, shops, any other building someone needs. I help him when I’m not busy with my jobs, but mostly I design and carve filigree and moldings. I make the cabinets and counters, too.”
“That all takes a lot of skill.”
She sounded impressed—he hoped so. While he wasn’t one for bragging, he wanted to make her comfortable enough to talk to him for longer than five minutes.
“Constructing a building that doesn’t lean to the side takes just as much skill—although Pa has to be better acquainted with the structural aspect. We all have things we do best. Arthur tells me that you’re a great teacher.”
“Teaching mainly requires patience.”
He took another load out. “That’s interesting,” he said when he came back into the shed, “because woodworking requires patience.”
And so did courting, especially when the skittish filly he desired was a dedicated spinster schoolteacher.
She carried another load outside and returned for more. “Did you name the mustang colt that you brought back when you rescued Compass?”
“No, Arthur wants to pick out the name. He’s convinced that the colt is his, but he’s six years old and I sure don’t want him working with a wild horse. I’ll have to give him another one more suited to his age and riding ability—maybe explain to him that he can’t ride this one for a year. That ought to do it.”
“Why can’t he ride him for a year?”
“For one thing, it’s best not to mount a horse until their third year. For another, it’ll take me nigh onto a year to train him right. I think the buckskin will turn out to be one of the best horses around and I don’t want to cut corners with his training.” He pointed to a box of her things. He didn’t know what the box contained, but it wasn’t heavy. “This can go over to the back corner.”
“Good, you have your reasons.” She moved the box to the corner and then sat on it and wiped her forehead with her hankie. “Arthur will want to know them. That’s the first thing I learned when he started school—he’ll almost always do what’s expected of him as long as he knows and understands the reasons.”
“You likely know more about the school kids than their parents do.”
“That’s true. For instance, I know that you read fairytales to your son every night when he goes to bed. And I also know that he has a firm belief that we will all live happily ever after.”
Tex pulled up a box and sat beside her. “You say that as if you don’t believe it.”
“I used to.”
“I’d rather not say. But I’m happy with my life now and I enjoy the children.” She stood. “We better get on with it so your father won’t think you deserted him.”
He stood, too, sorry she wanted to end the conversation. Someday he’d find out what had soured her on men and marriage. They were in close quarters and he had to lean back against the stacked boxes while she turned sideways to scoot by him. He caught her by the waist and gazed into her eyes.
“Moriah, I truly believe we all have someone with whom we can live happily ever after.”
She didn’t bolt, and that was a good sign.
“Then what happened to your wife?”
“She died of yellow fever. I likely would have lost Arthur, too, if I had left him with her. But she was ill and I had to go out of town on a job. She said she was too sick to go, so I told her I’d stay but she begged me to leave and take Arthur with me. Ma came along to take care of him.”
“So you weren’t home when your wife died.”
“No, Moriah. I’m ashamed to say she died alone, with only the neighbors watching over her, and I don’t know how well because one of them died, too.”
“That’s such a tragedy—I’m sorry for your family. But you still have Arthur—he might’ve gotten sick, too, if you’d stayed. And it sounds as if you wouldn’t have been able to save her even if you had been home.”
“Both of those things are true, but no one should die alone, and I’ll always be sorry for leaving her, but grateful I still have my son.”
He’d blathered on too long. Too maudlin. And now Moriah likely wouldn’t want him at all after knowing what he’d done.
* * *
Moriah had time to think while she arranged the chicken coop to make room for the geese. She didn’t know why Tex would feel guilty about taking his child and leaving his wife under such circumstances, for a mother would do anything to make sure her baby was safe. She certainly would.
After spreading straw over the entire floor and arguing with the hens that they should, indeed, have roommates, Moriah went to fetch the cage.
But apparently someone had needed the wagon on account of the cage was perched on the handcart, which was entirely too heavy and unwieldly for her to push over to the chicken coop. She’d have to enlist more help, and that likely wouldn’t happen until the men took a break for the noon meal—which was also the box social.
In the house, her mother stood at the stove and stirred gravy.
“Where are all the ladies?”
“A few are in my room prettying up for the box social, and the rest are up at the building site.”
“I need about four of them to help me with the goose cage. I can’t get it over to the chicken coop myself.”
“I’ll help.” Edith reached for her bonnet.
“Thanks, Mama, but the two of us can’t do it—we still need a few more helpers, and one of them can’t be Daisy since she’s in a family way and all.”
“You’ll have to wait until the men come in for the box social.” She put the bonnet back and took up a wooden spoon. “Those geese can stay in the cage a couple hours longer.”
“I best go give them some food and water. At least they’re in the shade.”
After Moriah took care of the geese, who glared at her when she didn’t let them out, she went back in the house and straight to her bedroom t
“You need to learn to share,” Moriah said as she petted the cat’s head. “But I’ll only be a minute and I’ll be out of your way.”
She put on her second-best dress, an emerald green linen with an apron front and drapery in the back over her bustle, then placed the matching bonnet over her carefully coiffed hair. She hoped the dress would catch Tex’s eye.
No, she didn’t.
Yes, she did.
No, no, no.
She had no business even thinking such a thing for two reasons. First, there was the contract. And second, was Tex really any different than another handsome man who jilted her at the altar? What a fool she was.
Even so, she wanted to look her best for the box social. After all, the money raised would go toward school supplies and any funds left would go into the building repair account. In another year, the roof would need to be fixed. When one final mirror check satisfied her that she could do no better, she returned to the kitchen.
“The men are washing up and the ladies have the tables all set up,” Edith said. She stood back and eyed Moriah top to bottom. “My, you look pretty today.”
The dog barked and the cacophony of goose honks spelled mayhem, especially when Arthur burst through the door. “Is Grandma in here? I think Prince and Wilbur are in big trouble.”
Moriah ran out of the house. Wilbur and Prince both hopped around the goose cage, Wilbur flapping and honking, and Prince wagging and barking. Quick as a blink, the geese escaped their prison one by one. The lead goose turned and ran-waddled toward Wilbur, squawking with glee. Which scared poor Wilbur. He flared his wings and took off the other direction, heading for the barn as fast as he could go.
Not wanting to miss the fun, Moriah expected, the other five geese chased Wilbur as well. The barn door was closed so he took a sharp right, running toward the corral. The buckskin ran to the other side of the corral but he wasn’t safe there, for Wilbur ran right to him. The young mustang galloped around the pen, neighing and snorting. When all the noisy geese and Prince milled wildly in the corral as well, the colt must’ve decided he’d had enough and jumped the fence.
Other author's books:
- Much Ado About MustangsMuch Ado About MinersIdaho Fairytale Bride (Rocky Mountain Romances Book 2)
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