From the 1880 Federal Census:
Charles J. BrownChapter 8
Home in 1880: Pembina, Pembina, Dakota Territory
Estimated birth year: abt 1845
Relation to head-of-household: Brother-in-law
Father's birthplace: Virginia
Mother's birthplace: Virginia
Neighbors: View others on page
Marital Status: Single
Deaf and dumb:
Idiotic or insane:
James Robb 34 [head of household]
Mary E. Robb 24
Annie E. Robb 6M
Eliza R. Brown 59
Charles J. Brown 35
Matilda A. Tuschimsky 16
Mary A. Keyes 21
John Kabernagle 28
Herbert L. Norton 25
Oscar Close 35
James Smith 22
It was after 7 p.m. when Charley got back to town. When he crossed the bridge he found the toll-taker absent from his post -- the lad probably not wanting to miss the Saturday night excitement. The weekend crowd on the main street area was at a fever pitch because of the tragedy. Approaching his saloon he found it necessary to crowd his horse in among others at the hitching rail.
Untying the pigging strings on his saddle he removed his saddlebags, bedroll and canteen. After sliding his rifle from its scabbard, he unlocked the door leading to his upstairs rooms to place his gear just inside the door. After re-locking the door he entered the saloon.
Inside, he found men standing two-deep at the bar. Boisterous groups surrounded the billiard tables and he noted with approval that his partner had put on two extra bartenders. He almost laughed aloud. Judas, I'll bet John thinks he's in Heaven. A sobering thought came when he realized that it was today’s tragedy that had brought about this false prosperity. Pushing slowly through the congested room he eased around the corner of the bar to find breathing space. John, who was at the opposite end of the bar, waved to get his attention. He was pointing toward the card tables in the rear of the room. "Someone there wants to see you," he shouted.
Wending between the customers his eyes caught sight of a gaunt looking man seated at one of the tables wearing a dilapidated, floppy-brimmed, gray felt hat. Can't be! Charley thought, that can't be Eugene! Then recognition came. By gosh! It’s him! He found his voice rising in excitement at seeing his cousin, "Eugene! When did you get here?"
Piercing blue eyes peered up at him slyly from under the edge of the hat-brim. "That you, Charley? You invited me to come West, when I got here, you were gone. What kind of a reception is that?" He stood slowly, extending his hand. "Why it's been 13 years -- I see you aren't the skinny kid anymore. Your partner tells me you're one of the high mucky-mucks of town."
Charley noted the cards, the money on the table, and shook his head in mock dispare. "Gene, you haven't changed a bit! Still up to your old poker-playing tricks." Addressing the others seated around the table, he smiled. "This close-mouthed codger is my cousin Eugene. Just call him Gene. He used to skin us of all our money when we were kids. Keep an eye on him. He's honest, but he's a good at what he does."
Eugene advised soberly, "Charley, if I was you, I'd get over to that big hotel in the next block and greet your Mother. We've been here two days and she's ready to have a fit."
"My gosh, she's really here?"
"She's here. Took the trip like the lady she is -- loaded with baggage and two big trunks -- just like a woman."
"Where are you staying?"
"I'll be back in an hour or so. I live upstairs and there's an extra bed for you. Don't go away, I'll be back." Easing through the throng he stopped briefly at the end of the bar to speak with his partner, "My Mother is at Geroux's hotel. I'm on my way. My horse is tied outside. When you have time will you ask someone to take it over to Mason’s? Have him tell Joe to give the bay a good rubdown and a bait of oats. It's been a long, hard day."
During his brief walk to the hotel he thought about possible changes in his mother. She must be fifty-four now; Pa would have been fifty-seven. An insidious thought came: I wonder if she's as domineering and caustic as she used to be? He remembered long ago the many times his mouth had been washed with soap and rag when he swore, and the many times her index finger had snapped against the back of his head when he failed to instantly obey. He shook his head in frustration, finding himself having second thoughts. Maybe I made a mistake in bringing her out here!
Geroux was at the hotel desk when he entered. He smiled, pointing toward the dining room. "Your Mother is at supper."
Passing through the curtain-draped doorway he found the dining room well occupied, but quiet, with muted conversation. Gazing around the room he recognized most of the occupants. Then his eyes settled on a light-haired woman seated with Mrs. Geroux and two other ladies. Her features slowly came to mind. The years had made changes, yet she was still an attractive woman. Her golden hair was now sprinkled with grey and fine webs showed on her cheeks. In addition, he noted the years had added weight. Shrugging off his appraisal, he approached the table. His mother was speaking with another woman when he placed his hand upon her shoulder.
Turning in surprise, she gazed up at him momentarily, then stood quickly to hug him. She was smiling as his arms enveloped her; he could feel the intensity of her emotion, her arms clenched around his neck and she rained kisses upon his cheek. Releasing him, she looked him over slowly from head to foot. "You're just as tall as ever, and you've filled out like your Father." She turned to the other ladies. "Please forgive me, but I haven't seen my son for years." She laughed almost breathlessly, "We've so much to talk over." Grasping her small reticule, she turned to Charley. "Let's go up to my room."
Facing the other ladies at the table, Charley bowed briefly and said, "Please excuse us." Taking his mother's arm, he led her to the wide staircase leading to the second floor.
"Gene is somewhere about the town," she said. "His room is next to mine. We arrived Wednesday morning on the train and the depot agent was kind enough to bring us over to this hotel." She handed him her room key as they reached the top of the staircase.
"I met Gene a few minutes ago and hurried over to see you. Tell me about your trip and how everyone is back home."
Entering her room she sat on the edge of the bed while he moved a chair from the dresser. She smiled, "I can't get over your size. You were always so thin and active. You look like your Father now."
"And probably take after him too," he smiled. "Pa was sheriff of Berkley County for 12 years before he died. Now, I'm the sheriff here -- have been since '75. Oh, I farm a bit, have a quarter section of land along the border, also I'm half owner of a sample store. My partner is John Kabernagel, one of my best friends. Speaking of being active," he said ruefully, "I still am. Just got in from a trip dealing with Indians. On our way home we ran into a prairie fire and were delayed. I was with an Army unit so had to investigate the matter, then report to the fort. How was your trip to Dakota? It must have been tedious."
"We left Harper's Ferry on Sunday evening and traveled in one of Mr. Pullman's sleeping cars all the way to St. Paul. The further trip to St. Vincent took 20 hours and there were no facilities for resting. Have you been able to find accommodations for me?"
"I have a house in mind; it's new, just completed. Fortunately, it's still vacant. It's quite large and has two stories, but perhaps that's to the good. There are seven rooms, including a fine front parlor for entertaining, a good-sized kitchen, a privy and small stable. The pump in the kitchen is hooked to a well. You may even be able to rent out the upper floor. If so, it will require an outside staircase. I'll take you over to see it tomorrow morning, say after 9 o'clock. By the way, how is Charles Harris doing in his new medical practice at Charlestown?"
"I don't think he's happy there. There are too many doctors in the town and there is little cash due to the war. The carpetbaggers have taken over everything of value and the freed blacks are stealing what's left."
"I've written him, telling him of the territory and how it's opening up. The only doctor hereabout is military, and not obligated to serve civilians. Thank goodness, he does though. He's a man with a conscience."
His mother appeared hollow-eyed and tired. He noticed the beginnings of swollen knuckles on her hands and the small wrinkles surrounding them. The long ago freckles on her arms had deepened to tan blotches interspersed with lighter shades, the result of aging. He noted her facial features still retained evidence of her former beauty, but there was just a touch of deepening folds beneath her eyes. He knew his father had led her a hard life, he being a dedicated churchman and harsh disciplinarian. His habits have somehow worn off on her too, he realized.
Rising to his feet, he said, "You must be tired. I'll come by the hotel tomorrow morning." He was smiling. "We can look at Nixon's house after breakfast."
"Wonderful! I do feel worn-out, although it's still early in the evening. Will you be seeing Eugene again later?"
"Yes, I'll be working until closing time at the store."
Returning to the saloon he donned an apron and began washing the stack of glasses in the zinc sink. Business had slowed somewhat so he relieved one of the extra bartenders. An occasional glance toward the poker table told him that his cousin was doing well. He had a substantial stack of coins and bills in front of him. At 1 a.m. John rapped a heavy beer mug on the bar and shouted, "Time! Time!"
Gene approached Charley as the last customers left. He stood silently watching his cousin wash glassware until Charley tossed him a towel. "If you're going to stand around, make yourself useful."
By 1:30 the bar was ready for the morning opening and Kabernagle bid them goodnight. Charley picked up a nearly full bottle from behind the bar, and then turned to Gene. "Might as well come upstairs with me. We'll have a lick and talk things over. There's a spare bedroom and the sheets are clean."
Picking up his rifle and gear inside the door, Charley led the way up the dark staircase. At the top, he advised, "Hold it until I can see better." Striking a match, he led the way into his living room. Dropping his equipment on a sofa, he tilted the chimney of a kerosene lamp and touched the flame to the wick. Picking up the lamp he led the way to the kitchen. After lighting a second lamp, he opened the kitchen window. Turning, he asked, "Are you hungry?"
"Nope, but I'll partake of some of what's in that bottle. It'll be my first drink of the evening. Never touch it when I play cards. Only fools do -- then they get careless. Say, have you found a place for your Mother?"
"Yup! A new house -- good sized, I hope she'll like it. There are mighty few places available. You might as well stay with me until you're settled. There's still some land up for grabs, but none close by. LaMoure, a friend of mine, mentioned that a few quarters are still available for homesteading just east of Hamilton. It's pretty far out though, nearly 15 miles. You thinking of getting back into the bee business?"
"It'll take some time," Gene said thoughtfully. "Have to make boxes and find honey trees to get bees for a start. They've invented a new prepared wax now, pressed out like bee cells. It's said to speed up honey production. I'll have to find a place of my own with room for a shed. Might do a little farming too if I can find some land."
Charley put two glasses on the table, pouring a generous measure into each. Picking up his glass, he held it up toward Gene. "Here's a toast to your future success! I'll introduce you to our land agent early Monday morning. His name is Nelson. He'll know what's still available for homesteading, also other properties that may be for sale. If you're able to homestead, are you planning to live on the land, or in town? I'd recommend your living in town because there's no shelter on the open prairie and our winters can be mighty severe."
"Isn't there any land available that already has tree cover?"
"The only forested areas are along the rivers; that's already been grabbed up. However that's another way to get land title to a quarter section, plant trees. It's called filing a tree claim. Its hard work, but a lot of farmers do it to gain an additional quarter of land after homesteading a first quarter.
"Is there any chance Charles can be talked into coming out here? I wrote him at the same time I did you, but I got no answer."
"I spoke with him before I left, he's undecided. There are too many doctors practicing in Charlestown and he's not doing well. People keep going to the old army doctors and most of them are quacks that never went to a medical school. They're just a bunch of damn frauds. However, age seems to have its advantages."
"I know what you mean. We had a fine doctor in town, but he died of diphtheria a year ago. Now our only doctor lives out at the fort; he's contracted to the Army. He's a gentleman though, treats any and all, but is overtaxed. Charles could develop a good practice here."
Eugene pondered aloud, "The war took nearly everything our family had. I'll write Mother and my sisters, Pauline and Josephine. If anyone can talk Charles into moving out here, it will be the girls. If everything works out as I plan, and when I'm secure, I'll send for all three. There is darn little future for them back there."
Charley tiredly poured them each another half glass of whiskey. "Gene, I've ridden my horse over sixty miles today and I need sleep. After this shot I'm hitting the bed. Your room is the one nearest the stairs. I'll leave the other lamp for you."
Eugene gazed casually around the room, noting that every piece of furniture was old and showed wear. Charley evidently hadn't gained much appreciation for the finer things in life. Just like Charley, he thought, he’s too practical. A woman would certainly make a lot of changes in his life!
On Thursday morning while performing her housekeeping chores at Geroux's hotel, Marguerite was held in abeyance. The woman residing in room 201 rejected all efforts to clean her room until nearly noon. When finally allowed entrance the woman graciously complimented Marguerite upon her appearance. Marguerite sensed it as a sop tossed her way for the inconvenience the woman had caused.
"You are certainly an attractive young lady. You have a certain aura of appeal and comeliness about you. What is your name?"
"I'm Marguerite Grant. I live in St. Vincent, just across the river."
The woman was inquisitive, "Are you from a large family? Do you have brothers and sisters?"
"Only one sister. She is married to a farmer in Minnesota."
"I am Mrs. Brown, my dear. Do you know the sheriff? He is my son."
Marguerite was startled at this disclosure, and felt her face warming. An immediate question came, has someone informed her that Charley and I are lovers, or is this a coincidence? She evaded the question by asking, "Are you visiting in town, Mrs. Brown?"
"No, I plan on buying a house and living here permanently. I arrived only yesterday; I was accompanied here by my nephew."
Instinct told Marguerite to be cautious. Tongue in cheek, she said, "I know of Sheriff Brown. He is said to be a fair man."
"Does he have any lady friends?"
Marguerite attempted to evade the question. "I suspect he is a normal man. He must have lady friends."
"I hope he travels with quality folks; I'll have to ask him."
"Would you like your bed linen changed? It will only take a moment."
"No, just remake the bed and do what is necessary to clean the room. I will be leaving for lunch soon."
Marguerite had a premonition of disaster. Quality folks indeed! My heavens, if this is Charley's mother, no wonder he ran away from home and now evades marriage. She seems quite domineering and stuffy. Hurriedly she tidied the room and departed, her housekeeping work done until 5 p.m. when she would help serve supper. She questioned herself, how should she approach Charley about this? Should she even mention meeting his mother?
She knew he had gone west to the hills on Monday and probably wouldn't be back until the weekend. On Sunday Ian and Susan planned a final fall outing and she intended to invite Charley if he returned in time.
On Friday morning she hesitated until nearly noon before again knocking on the door of room 201. When Mrs. Brown opened the door and allowed Marguerite inside, she asked no further questions, seemingly engaged with her appearance. Some inner sense told Marguerite to avoid any conversation, so she hastily completed her necessary chores.
Early on Saturday morning, her day off, she entered Susan's back door to find her sister and brother-in-law at breakfast.
"Charley back yet?" Ian inquired.
"I haven't heard a thing; he thought he'd be back sometime today."
"Gee, I hope he makes it in time for our picnic." Susan murmured. "I hope tomorrow won't be cold and overcast. After all, it's getting pretty late in the fall."
Marguerite could barely contain herself; she began to smile. "Wait until you hear the news at the hotel. Believe it or not, on Wednesday morning Charley's mother arrived on the train; she's staying at Geroux's."
"You're kidding!" Susan's eyes grew.
"I've cleaned her room twice and she pumped me about Charley. Wanted to know if he had lady friends, quality lady friends."
"She sounds a bit vain." Ian commented.
Marguerite felt a bit distressed. "She's that all right. Charley told me that was one of the reasons he ran away from home. He said she ruled the roost."
"Oh, Marguerite, perhaps she's not as bad as you think. Every mother wants the best for her sons and daughters." Susan seemed sympathetic.
"I'm not worried about her, but if Charley arrives late today, he'll probably work with John in the saloon tonight. I can't chase in there to invite him to the picnic, he'd be embarrassed."
"He'll be at early mass tomorrow. You'll see him then," Susan suggested.
"I hope so, but his mother may take up much of his time. She's no doubt also a Catholic, and he'll feel he has to attend services with her. Gosh, I wonder what she'll say when she finds out I'm his quality friend? Me? Why I'm part Indian!"
The two girls broke into laughter.
It was two o'clock that afternoon when the church bells rang frantically, calling for men to fight the prairie fire. Wagons hastily loaded with civilians and railroad workers sped to the scene. Because of the high wind no hope was held to stop the fire. The day was spent preventing the edges of the fire from spreading further, and in assisting locals whose buildings had been burned out.
Charley, together with his cousin Gene attended early mass the following morning. Because of the horrible tragedy of yesterday, the church was crowded. The two men were finally able to squeeze into a pew directly behind the girls. When Marguerite reached back over her shoulder, she beckoned; Charley leaned forward to hear her whisper, "See you after church. Will you picnic with us this afternoon?"
During the remainder of the service he wondered just who she meant. When church was over he met the girls outside the door. Marguerite wore a wide-brimmed straw hat, and carried a small parasol that she was twirling with almost a flourish. When he introduced Eugene to Susan and Marguerite, he noted the surprised look on his cousin's face. He also noted the quick interest and attentiveness Eugene showed. His cousin was voluble.
"Charley may be unlucky at cards, but he's certainly lucky at love!"
Marguerite felt herself blushing; Susan laughed aloud, and then said, "Charley's a bit bashful, but I can see you're not."
Charley broke in, "I've got to take mother to see the house Nixon has for sale. I'll most likely have lunch with her, but I'll break away to meet you soon afterward. Where are you planning to picnic?"
"Out at Fern Valley; there'll be Ian, Susan, you and I." Suddenly she remembered Eugene's presence. Turning to him, Marguerite asked abashedly, "Would you like to join us? We have plenty of food."
Smiling, he shook his head. "An extra man on a picnic would be a wet blanket. 'Sides, I want to walk about the town and get acquainted."
She smiled, feeling relieved. "Some other time then." At that moment Ian appeared in his buggy. He had come to pick up the girls. After introducing Eugene to Ian, the two men assisted the girls onto the buggy seat. As Ian drove away, Eugene commented, "Where did you find that beauty? She's lovely -- seems mighty likeable!"
"She's a wonderful woman too!"
Eugene hesitated, "Perhaps I shouldn't ask this, but hasn't she a little Indian blood in her?"
"Yes, and that's my problem." Charley sighed.
Eugene's eyes snapped, "You're a darn fool if you let that bother you!"
Charley's mother was enthusiastic about the house. "Its fine, but I really don't need all that room upstairs. Could an outside stairs be added so I could rent the upper floor? You'd know more about that than me." Then she queried, "What is this man Nixon asking for the house?"
"He wants $1250 cash and that seems fair. It's got an outside cistern to hold rainwater from the roof. The pump in the kitchen is hooked to it. In the winter we usually melt river ice for cooking and drinking purposes. According to Doctor Flint at the fort its good policy to boil all well and ice water used for drinking purposes. He says it prevents typhoid, and in most cases cholera."
"Son, I have two bank drafts that I'll have to deposit tomorrow. Can you arrange for an attorney to take care of the legal matters of the house?"
"I'll see Bob Ewing tomorrow. You'll need to have an icehouse built. I'll see to it. What are you going to do for household goods?"
"The hotel will have to do for a few days until I can find time to buy the basics. Doesn’t any local store handle furniture? I brought necessary linens along with me."
"Most of what you'll find in the stores is durable, but not plush. You may want to order from a St. Paul house. However, that's no problem; rail delivery is prompt."
"Where is Eugene?"
"After church we had breakfast together, then he wanted to see the town. I have a hunch he's looking for a place of his own. Let's go back to the hotel, it's nearly time for lunch."
His mother was inquisitive, "Are you busy this afternoon?"
"Yes, Mother, I am. My work keeps me mighty busy."
"Do you have a lady friend? Are you contemplating marriage in the near future?"
Her pointed questions irritated him. He looked her in the eye. "Mother, that's my personal business. I won't be questioned about my innermost thoughts."
She studied the determined look on her son's face speculatively. I'm sure he has a lady friend he plans to meet this afternoon. In retrospect, she recalled his secretiveness and independent nature as a youth. He hasn't changed a bit, she realized. He's always been headstrong and independent, a copy of his father. He proved that when he joined the Army and went off to war at 16 years of age. He'll never tell me anything of his personal life, but I'll find out eventually. I'll make friends and meet his associates. Nothing can be hidden from me, for long.
While eating lunch with his mother Charley contemplated the pleasant afternoon ahead. Fern Valley, as it was called, was only a short distance southwest of town. It lay on a low, shady shelf along the Pembina River, free of burdock, nettles and sundry weeds. The shaded area favored only the growth of finely textured, pale green, native ferns.
He was jolted out of his reverie by the approach of the local telegrapher, Nelson E. Nelson, who leaned over his shoulder to hand him a telegram.
"This came in late yesterday and in the excitement I set it aside and plumb forgot it. It's from Winnipeg and concerns a horse thief. Sorry, it just slipped my mind!"
After briefly introducing the telegrapher to his mother, Charley opened the telegram. It read: Sheriff Brown, Pembina, Dakota Territory. Valuable riding horse stolen, bay with white front stockings, suspect named Nesbit, believed headed south to border. s/R.C.Sinclair, c/o Magistrate, Winnipeg.
Excusing himself, Charley arose from the table and retrieved his hat from an adjoining chair. "I may see you again this evening, Mother. Meanwhile, I've urgent business to attend to.
He knew that if the thief had passed through town, he more than likely had crossed the river on the Pembina toll bridge. The operator there would surely remember the horse since there was little traffic on a Sunday. The bridge attendant was a young lad, the son of the bridge owner. His wore ragged trousers, long outgrown in length, exposed his long, thin shanks. Bare elbows protruded from his worn shirtsleeves, a shirt brazenly open in the front, due to missing buttons.
"That horse hasn't crossed here today, sheriff. I've been here since daylight, and Jim was supposed to be here at noon. If you see him, tell him to get over here or Pa will whip his ass."
"George, it's possible the man has taken another route, but keep a sharp eye will you? It's a stolen horse and I want the rider."
"I'll tell Jim if he ever gets here."
"You do that. Remember, it's a bay horse with white on the forelegs. Don't try to stop the man, he may be dangerous. Just get word to me."
Climbing the hill from the bridge, Charley stopped briefly at his quarters to pick up a jacket, knowing that it would cool rapidly in the late afternoon. After saddling his horse at the stable, he stopped momentarily to alert the hostler about the stolen animal.
Following the section line road west for two miles he turned south to the river. On the high bank ahead he found Ian's buggy parked under a large elm. Dismounting, he ground-reined his horse, and then loosened the saddle girth. He noted Ian has wisely tied the reins of his horse to a spoke of one buggy wheel. Walking into the profuse growth of chest-high ferns he noted a few already turning an ugly brown-black, the result of the shortening days and ever-cooling nights of the late season. Leaves of golden and yellow hues were already matted on the ground from the occasional tree.
He found Ian and the girls at a small clearing on the edge of the high bank overlooking the river. They had spread a large wool blanket on the ground between two trees. Ian was reclining against the larger tree, Susan lying back in his arms. Marguerite seemed busy removing food from a large basket. She smiled up at him. "We heard you coming. You sounded like a moose."
Charley dropped to the blanket. "Not many of them left around here -- haven't seen one in months."
"What took you so long to get here?"
"It's not yet two o'clock. Also I ran into a small matter of a horse thief supposed to be coming across the line from Canada. Anyway, he evidently hasn't come through town."
"Probably turned toward Walhalla or maybe to the east,"
Ian suggested. "Say, I hear your Mother is in town."
"News travels fast. How did you know?"
"I told him." Marguerite caught Charley's eye. "I cleaned her room on Thursday and Friday. She asked if I knew you."
Charley looked amused. "And what did you say?" Marguerite tossed her head back. "She also asked me if you had lady friends, quality lady friends."
He caught the sudden glint of anger in her eyes. "You didn't take her seriously, did you?"
"Seriously enough to realize she won't approve of me."
Susan sat up abruptly. "Now you two quit that! We came to picnic, not start a fight!"
"There won't be any fight," Charley said. "My Mother doesn't control me and never has. I'm my own man; I've always made my own decisions.
He crabbed sideways to move alongside Marguerite, and then reached out to pull her close. Smiling, he said, "The best way to quiet you down is to kiss you. I'm going to do just that!"
Her pretended struggle lasted only seconds, and then she succumbed to his ardor. Susan lay back contentedly against Ian. She was smiling when she turned to wink at her husband.
After moments, Maguerite broke away to remove plates from the basket, distributing food on each. Gazing at Ian and her sister, she said plaintively, "If you two lovers want to eat, move a little closer. Charley, get the glasses from the hamper and open the lemonade. If any of you want something stronger, there's a bottle of Mom's dandelion wine in the basket." She turned to Charley. "There's nothing fancy, just fried chicken, potato salad, sweet pickles and odds and ends."
Susan stood, stretching out her arms. She had removed her shoes and stockings and began pirouetting on the edge of the blanket. She looked down at her complacent husband.
"If we only had music, I'd love to dance!"
Ian rose to his knees and leaned forward to pick up a plate. "There's to be a social in Emerson next weekend. Maybe we can make it." He reached out to grasp a second plate, handing it to Susan. "Lets eat before the chicken gets cold and the ants show up."
Susan turned to him. "No ants silly, it's been too cold for them. They've gone to earth for the winter."
Charley neglected the lemonade to open the bottle of wine. As he cut out the cork with a penknife he looked to Marguerite longingly. She hesitated in her eating to stare back. He felt embarrassed at the sudden turn of passion that surged through him, knowing Ian and Susan could read his thoughts. How lovely and demure she looked. Her dark eyes almost devoured him, and the long, dark lashes and the heavy braids that hung down each side of her full breasts completed the picture. He realized she would age well, still look beautiful as the years passed. Her fine bone structure and golden complexion would always give her a young, virginal look. He wanted to express his total feeling, but it was shyness and a personal guilt that prevented it.
Sated with food they lolled on the blanket, Charley's head resting in Marguerite's lap. Ian and Susan had moved back to the tree, both were relaxed, almost lethargic.
Rising, Charley grasped Marguerite's hand, drawing her to her feet. The sudden move caught her off balance as he pulled her close. A sudden surge of excitement enveloped her as he kissed her, almost crushing her against his chest. Breaking free, she took his hand, tugging him from the blanket. Silently they moved through the ferns for some distance before she sank to her knees, drawing him down. Sliding her arms around his neck she became aware of the sudden heat and desire, a desire she was prepared for.
Charley gradually lay back, forcing the ferns to become matted beneath them. He began to explore every part of her, thrusting the openings of her blouse aside to expose the golden breasts between which he thrust his head, kissing them feverishly. Finally, fully exposed to his view, he almost gasped at her beauty.
Grasping his head she pulled him down upon her, wanting him to quench the building fire within her, a fire that took long minutes to satisfy. At the culmination a brief prayer ran through her mind. “Lord, make my womb be fruitful; I want a child!"
An hour later they broke apart and returned to find Ian and Susan locked together in sleep. They had covered themselves with a second blanket. Dropping to her knees Marguerite began gathering the plates, scraping the remains noisily to the side.
Susan awoke and began tickling Ian. "The party is over, the lovers have returned." She shivered briefly, "Gosh, it's getting chilly!" Scrambling to her feet she assisted repacking the basket. Charley stood sheepishly by as he contemplated Ian's questioning gaze. A guilty feeling came, which he tried, unsuccessfully, to cast off. He would have liked to have ridden back in the buggy beside Marguerite, but realized it was impossible; the single-seat on the Democrat was barely wide enough for three. At times he rode beside the buggy, close to Marguerite, exchanging warm glances with her. When the road narrowed, he was forced to drop behind.
It was nearing noon the following day when he walked past Scribner and Johnson's Ragged Edge Saloon and spotted the bay horse with the white stockings. He guessed it at 1050 pounds and about 15½ hands. Even from across the street he realized the quality of the animal and its approximate value. The highly polished saddle was of an English style; the bridle hardware obviously of the best.
Removing the badge from his vest as he crossed the street, he tucked it into an inside pocket. Opening the light screen door he entered, noting the surprised look on the face of Johnson, who was tending bar. Shaking his head negatively at the saloon owner, he prevented the customary greeting. The lone patron standing at the bar cast a casual glance in his direction, and then appeared disinterested.
Charley ordered a beer, and then began sipping it casually as the bartender watched with a sudden interest, suspecting something was in the wind. Turning to the stranger, Charley commented, "You must be from across the line. I don't believe I've ever seen you before."
The man turned slowly. "Just got in this morning."
Charley moved closer to the man, "Might your name be Nesbit?"
The expression on the thief's face hardened, then determination set in. Wildly he swung his heavy beer mug at Charley's face as he spun to flee. The sheriff had been awaiting the reaction and ducking the missile, grasped the thief by his coat sleeve. Swinging him around, Charley planted a heavy fist into the man's face. Blood erupted from the stunned man's nose as silent moments passed. Finally Nesbit cried, "You bastard, you've broken my nose!"
The sheriff grasped his shoulder, propelling him toward the door. "You started it, I just finished it. If you behave yourself when I get you to the jail, I'll get you a plaster for it."
Turning to Johnson, he smiled, "Oscar, I'll send someone to pick up the bay horse tied out front. It was stolen in Winnipeg. This man is a horse thief."
"You sure raise hell with my business, Charley. He's the only customer I've had all morning." Johnson smiled wryly.
After pausing briefly at the jail to lock Nesbit up, Charley stopped at the telegraph office to notify the magistrate in Winnipeg that the thief had been apprehended and horse recovered. Proceeding to his saloon, he began slicing cold cuts from a roast John's wife, Hannah, had prepared. While relating his luck in finding the thief to his partner, he mused aloud, "It's really Jud's problem as U.S. Marshal, but the county commissioners won't want the expense of feeding and guarding the prisoner. Since Jud is out of town I'll take Nesbit to the federal court in Fargo, tomorrow. Before I forget it I'd better take that horse over to Mason's corral."
It was decidedly cool on Tuesday morning when deputy Bill Moorhead drove the sheriff and his prisoner to catch the train at the St. Vincent depot. Charley had taken the precaution of handcuffing his man prior to boarding the cars. Now, he seated Nesbit next to the window in the passenger coach. Seating himself alongside Nesbit, he propped his feet across on the opposite seat and said softly, "Behave yourself and everything will go well. Make trouble and you'll serve more time. We'll be arriving in Fargo before supper, then I'll see you properly fed."
The conductor evinced interest in the prisoner when he came along to punch their tickets. "See you're going to Fargo, sheriff. What's the man done?"
Charley looked up, disgruntled at the interruption. "He won't be any problem to you." From his brief reply it was obvious to the trainman that the sheriff wanted privacy.
"I hope not," the trainman replied hastily as he moved on. He knew rejection when he saw it.
Pretending to doze, Charley was aware of the tenseness in his prisoner. He knew Nesbit was awaiting the opportunity to make a break for freedom; it was only a matter of time, and the right circumstance. At Detroit Lakes, east of Fargo, they were forced to change trains to catch the local going west to Fargo. Immediately after boarding the car, and before the train pulled out of the station, Nesbit turned to Charley. "Gotta go to the crapper; I'm about to explode."
Charley smiled knowingly, "Hold it a few more minutes. You can't use the toilet until the train is in motion." Minutes later the sheriff escorted his prisoner to the toilet and waited outside the door for Nesbit to perform his ablutions. Over the noise of the clacking wheels, and the rumbling and shaking of the train Charley thought he heard the sounds of glass being broken. Trying the door, he found it locked on the inside. Pounding on it vigorously, he shouted, "Nesbit, open up! Unlock the door!" Finally, after long seconds of being ignored, he raised his boot to kick at the lock. The bronze latch snapped and the narrow door crashed inward. Nesbit was frantically attempting to squeeze through the small window. Grasping his arm Charley savagely dragged him back inside just as Nesbit was nearly free. The culprit smiled defiantly, "Well, it was a good try, and I'll do it again if I have a chance."
Charley was disgusted with himself. "Yes, and now you'll do extra time in jail for attempting to escape. I'll see to it, since I'm probably stuck to pay for a lock and the window repair!"
Charley's mother, Eliza, wasted little time becoming acquainted in the community. Firmly established in her new home, she immediately became active in church affairs. She soon gained acceptance at occasional afternoon teas and evening soirees. She listened graciously to all conversation and gossip, relegating herself to the position of an agreeable, but passive participant.
It was while attending an afternoon tea at the Seward home that her ears perked up at the mention of Charley's name, spoken at a nearby table.
"When is the sheriff going to marry that Grant girl? He's been escorting her about for nearly two years now."
A garrulous voice answered. "Oh, he'll never marry her, she's just a breed. You know how single men are, any available tramp will do."
All conversation suddenly ceased; all ears waited expectantly. Suddenly an angry, spirited voice spoke up. Eliza recognized the speaker as Mrs. Mostyn, a local portrait painter and instructor in art.
"She is no tramp! She's a lovely girl! She's also a beautiful girl and smart as a whip! She's been taking art lessons from me and the oils she's completed are remarkable. Why, they're good enough to sell! She'll go a long way! Furthermore, she could have any man in town if she chose!” Mrs. Mostyn turned angrily to the nearby table.
"Hershlet! If you can't say anything nice about Marguerite, bite your tongue!"
Eliza heard sudden audible gasps of shock that arose, and noted several faces that turned toward her in sympathy, indicating their embarrassment. Yet, two or three of the faces showed a feral delight at Eliza's discomfort.
She pretended indifference throughout the remainder of the party, but she would well remember her chagrin.
Her temper arose slowly and her face warmed when she realized: Why, that's the girl who cleaned my room at Geroux's hotel when I first arrived in Pembina! That Charley would shame me so! To stoop so low as to consort publicly with a breed girl! Her indignation finally gave way to practicality. At least he hasn't married her! Deeply upset, she determined to do everything possible to disrupt their association, even to the point of virtually destroying the girl verbally if need be. I'll nip this in the bud she determined!
Thanking her hostess at the conclusion of the party, she was surprised to find Mrs. Mostyn waiting for her at the outside gate.
"Eliza, we were all embarrassed by Hershlet's big mouth. She's a tongue-wagger with little common sense. Perhaps her cattiness comes from the fact that her husband left her months ago. It's said he supports her financially, but refuses to live with her. She's a bit pathetic. Be that as it may, I meant what I said about Marguerite Grant. I don't know how you feel about so-called Indian taint, but there are good and bad people in every race. She and her sister, Susan, are exceptional. Both have persisted in their schooling, and both are hard workers. They've had to be; their so-called father is no-good. It's well known around town that Charley escorts Marguerite occasionally. Heavens, I know several mothers who have pushed their daughters at Charley without any success.”
Tugging on her gloves, she noted the bitter look on Eliza's face. A look that spoke eloquently of her disgust and disappointment.
"Well, enough of my meddling". She looked up at the waning sun as she turned away, "It was a beautiful day, but it's getting quite chilly now."
The shame Eliza felt seemed to burn throughout her fully. I'll have no breed for a daughter-in-law! If Charley marries her that girl, I'll have nothing to do with her.