Currently reading: Novella: By The Fire (The Stranger) – Chapter 8
Novella: By The Fire (The Stranger) – Chapter 8
Posted on 22nd December, 2017 - By Jonathan Hezzlewood
Injured, The Stranger must continue on his journey, with the aim of getting the two children – currently under his care – to a family relative.
By The Fire (a tall tale of Stranger times): Chapter 8
“Does it hurt?” Jayne asked; as he helped her into the saddle. Her hair blew forward across her shoulders and face as she spoke, she parted her hair to the sides uncovering a beautiful smile.
“Tender.” The stranger replied, holding his hat firmly on his head. “But I’ll mend.”
“I want to learn to fight.” Called James from behind Jayne. “Where’d you learn to fight like that? To fight an armed man barehanded…” The boy trailed off, deep in thought, his face held in awe.
He checked his saddle atop of Ricochet. “War.” The stranger answered the first part of the boy’s question, before adding. “Fighting has its uses. Better to avoid confrontation if you can though.” He secured the bedroll and bent, wincing as he placed the money in his boot. Six dollars for their spare horse, sold to the stable owner that had sheltered them overnight.
“Well Mister Jones.” Came an abrupt nasally voice from behind.
The stranger turned to face the Doctor. A clean and well-presented man compared to others he had known. Shorter than himself, coming in at about five-five. Tidily dressed and clean shaven, with fine wire spectacles hanging low on his nose.
The Doctor placed his bag at his feet, and continued. “You need to be taking it easy for the next few days, no strenuous acts.” The Doc’s eyes flicked to the parlour house adjacent and leant closer, speaking quieter now “And any… female companionship should be kept to a minimum until you are healed.”
“Where’s Clement?” Came the agitated voice of Mister Littleton. The stranger’s eyes looked to the front door of the hotel. Albin Littleton was talking to a startled Miss Pibern – who had been discreetly looking on from the entrance.
The Doc rolled his eyes and dropped his head; sighing into his chest and continued. “Any sudden twists will cause it to tear, so try to avoid confrontation wherever possible.”
Miss Pibern answered Mister Littleton and then walked back in to the hotel, giving the stranger one last look over her shoulder before disappearing in to the building.
Albin Littleton stepped forward, his stance changing from demanding to an attempt at more casual; that just came off as plain timid. His tone had also calmed upon realising the stranger’s presence. “Doc, when you have a moment. Don’t be forgetting about my…” He paused for thought. “My medical predicament for which your advice I be requiring.”
The Doc muttered. “Advice? Keep it in your pants.” Before speaking aloud in response to Albin. “I’ll be along in a moment. Just seeing to Mister Jones here first of all.”
“Of course, of course.” Albin force a laugh, looking at the stranger, and nodded. “Mister Jones.”
“Mister Littleton.” The stranger acknowledged, tipping the rim of his hat between thumb and forefinger. Albin walked back into the lobby of the hotel.
“I keep tellin’ that dumb son of a, if you keep dipping in the poisoned well, well y’can expect to get bitten.”
Doc Redmond opened his bag and retrieved a small glass bottle of red-brown liquid. “Should help with the pain.” He handed it to the stranger.
“It’s all I can afford to give I’m afraid, but it should help.” He closed his bag. “Take a sip every few hours or so-“
Doc Redmond lowered his spectacles to the tip of nose as the stranger screwed back the cap, threw back and swallowed, shuddering at the bitter aftertaste.
“Yeah, not the sweetest tasting is it? If you can procure some, might be worth mixing with brandy or sherry. Failing that, an average drop of red-eye may help make it more tolerable.”
He looked at the label as the Doctor spoke.
— POISON —
Three months old: 1 drop. One year old: 2 drops.
Four years old: 6 drops. Ten years old: 16 drops.
Twenty years old: 25 drops. Adults: 30 drops.
Each fluid ounce contains:
40% Alcohol | 47 grains Opium | Tincture
— BEWARE —
“Thankyee.” The stranger replied once more.
“Not at all Mister Jones. What you did was commendable. Just a shame you didn’t get there before poor Missus Neely…” The Doctor left the sentence open, upon realising the presence of children.
Another gust of wind blew down the valley and into town. Ricochet snorted impatiently.
“DOC! Doctor Redmond!”
The stranger watched as the Doc turned to the call. A portly, red faced man wearing a badge spoke again through heavy breaths. “Doc. We’ve got a–nother body. Up by the mi–nes. Hage has asked you ac–company me there.”
“Ahh, very well.” The Doc turned back to the stranger. “Mister Jones, I am required elsewhere it would seem.” He extended his hand. “Safe travels.”
The stranger shook Ciril Redmond’s firm grip. “And you.”
The Doc picked up his bag; fastening the clasp, and lifted the hat from his head acknowledging the children, before turning and walking back toward his office, with the dumpy deputy in-tow. “We’ll take my wagon up to the…” Doctor Redmond’s voice faded into the clamour of people going about their morning routine, accompanied by what seemed to be the start of the autumnal winds, soon to become frost-covered mornings and winter storms.
The stranger lifted himself into his saddle; Ricochet standing firm. The wound – the Doc had sewn – pulled, burning. He pocketed the bottle of Laudanum.
Ricochet moved forward, following the road North-West out of town. In the direction of Darkwell, the ‘Sorrow Hollow’ in-between.
Albin Littleton watched as the figures faded into the distance.
“Is it true that that Mister Jones was a gun-tipper? I hear folks were say-”
“Yes the man shot from the holster.” He turned to Miss Pibern, cutting her off.
She placed the tray of tea and cakes on the sideboard. “And that he then went on to save those children and sto-”
“Yes yes, he saved those and maybe the lives of others had the thief gotten to the top floor!”
“Some would say he was a-”
Miss Pibern jumped in her skin as Albin cut her off once more, his voice loud and curt. “Nobody cares what you or others think! The man was rude and impolite.”
She walked back across the room leading to the lobby. Stopped, and turned adding. “He was polite to both myself and to Mister Poteet.”
“The niggur?! That-”
Willa Pibern spoke over the top of him. “If anyone is impolite Mister Littleton it’s you.” Her voice still soft, she turned to leave the room, holding back the angry tears poking at the backs of her eyes.
“Send Doctor Redmond through if you please?”
Amused, Willa stifled the urge to smile, although she knew her voice had betrayed her. “Doctor Redmond left, headed from town on his wagon with Deputy Hudson.”
“Goddammit!” Albin paced from the window, stopping to lean on the sideboard and faced the wall. Resting his palms on the top he dropped his head. “Son of a bitch.” He cursed aloud once more.
“Will that be all Mister Littleton?”
“Yes.” He answered abruptly. Willa turned and started to the lobby, only to stop once more when Albin changed his mind. “In fact no, that’s not all. There’s one more thing.”
“Yes Mister Littleton?”
Albin thrust his arm across the sideboard, pushing the tray – that was home to a pot of tea, cup and saucer, and a small plate of cakes – to the ground; sending hot liquid splashing up the wall and spilling across the floor. “Clean that up.”
To Be Continued…