Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter IX

September 12 witnessed the most violent thunderstorm of the summer. The morning had been a scorcher without a breath of wind, not uncommon weather for the season. Early in the afternoon low, gradually darkening clouds appeared in the west bringing a gentle, misting rain. By two o'clock the wind drove out of the southwest with an ever-increasing velocity, accompanied by a distant rumbling, indicating the approach of an electrical storm.

Charley, lackadaisically tending bar in an almost empty saloon, began counting the seconds between occasional flashes of lightning and the resulting clap of thunder. Knowing sound traveled roughly 1000 feet each second, he judged the squall was still nearly five miles somewhere to the southwest. Occasionally glancing out of the saloon windows he noted the ever-diminishing light outside as the dark ominous clouds approached. Gradually the rain increased until it seemed an endless torrent, making it nearly impossible to see neighboring stores just across the street.

George West, a machinery salesman, spoke up. He was engaged in a casual game of rummy with Mack Brown, the newspaperman. "Going to be a soaker, Charley. The people will appreciate the new plank sidewalk you businessmen put along the street."

"Doc Cavalier gets the credit for that, George. He planked north to the corner, then talked the rest of us into doing this block. The trouble is we should do something about cross-walks at the corners."

The thunder gradually grew louder as the crest of the electrical storm approached, changing to a series of violent, rippling, staccato-like explosions. A sharp, loud snap came, followed by a thunderous ground-shaking roar.

Mack Brown looked up, startled. "Judas, that was mighty close!"

West nodded, "Too darned close!"

Charles silently agreed, hoping no damage had been done. It was only minutes later when Howard Vaughn, the County Clerk of Court, residing in the Customs House next door, rushed in. He shouted, "Fire! Fire!”

Glancing wildly at Charley, he cried, "Lightning must have struck the roof of my building, my walk-up upstairs is a mass of smoke and flames. I fear it's beyond saving. Since your building has a common wall with mine, you'd best save all you can before the fire spreads to you!"

Charley turned to West and Brown. "Get all the help available! Tell them to bring pails!" To Vaughn, who was exiting the door, he cried, "Is there any hope of saving anything in your upstairs?"

Vaughn hesitated, then shook his head negatively, "Not a chance, the smoke is too thick; the fire is spreading too fast; it's not worth the risk -- only my household stuff up there anyhow. It's the county records downstairs I've got to try and save, especially the citizenship and court files. There might be time to move some of them. Thank the Lord my wife is visiting in Grand Forks."

Charley, knowing his store was safe for the moment, followed Vaughn to his door. "Lets get at it, I'll help you as long as possible."

Entering the door of Vaughn's building they found the downstairs already filling with lung-irritating smoke. What portion they could see of the tin-patterned ceiling was darkening progressively, the paint beginning to blister, the heat becoming intense. Hurriedly they seized heavy file cabinets and the boxes nearest the door, carrying them hurriedly onto the wet plank sidewalk. Moments later a muffled explosion upstairs forced the door at the head of the interior staircase open, showering them with hot, burning embers.

"Judas! That does it!" cried Vaughn. "We won't be able to save any more; this heat and smoke is just too much."

Charley nodded, realizing it was foolish to further risk their lives. "Let's check my upstairs, maybe I can save some of my furniture."

Reaching the top of his outside staircase he opened the door to find a faint trace of smoke along the upper edges of the north wall. Crossing to feel the wallpaper, he found it already warm to the touch. Snapping and crackling sounds could be heard on the far side. "Start in the kitchen, grab pans and we'll load up what dishes we can!"

Sounds of thudding footsteps could be heard on his outside staircase brief moments before several men burst into his living room. The powerful voice of Kabernagle thundered above the other excited voices. "Grab everything you see, get it all out onto the street." Seeing Charley, he cried, "You clean out your quarters and I'll see to the bar downstairs. We've time for that. We're lucky for this downpour, otherwise we might lose the whole block, maybe the whole downtown. Lyon's grocery next door is sided with tin. I think we can stop the fire there." Grimly he shook his head, "No chance of saving our building though."

Within minutes the interior of their building was stripped clean and men began moving the furniture and other contents across the now water-soaked, muddy street. The fire bell, located a block west, could be heard, ringing wildly. Charley noted two of his boisterous helpers standing across the street laughing; they were holding bottles of liquor in their hands. He had no qualms, knowing they had helped save the entire inventory and contents of the saloon. A sudden thought came: He realized that he and John had better get their remaining inventory secured before it magically disappeared.

Minutes later Charley and John dejectedly watched as their building succumbed to the fire. Finally John said, "Well, one good thing, they managed to get all three billiard tables outside. They're still in the rain, but tipped to the side. We'll have to re-felt them and have them varnished."

"Guess all we need now is a new building. We won't have much other expense. At least we've got $1000 insurance on the building, maybe should have had more."

"Yea, we talked about it. Oh hell! Win a few, lose a few!"

Meanwhile, they found that Mrs. Fisk, who owned the hotel nearby, had taken over the supervision of their property. She organized bystanders to move it into the entrance of her hotel.

Because of the saturated roofs the fire seemed strangely confined to the interiors of the two buildings. Men stood around helplessly, holding water pails that were of little use.

The eaves of the Customs Building leaked small, spurting plumes of smoke, indicating apparent air leaks. Fire and smoke now streamed from the two front windows of the building, all signs of glass long gone. Minutes later the upper front windows of the saloon darkened and occasional flickers of flame could be seen in the interior. With a sudden surge the two windows exploded outward, clearing the way for long tongues of flame that rapidly reached high above the roof.

Despite the constant rain, the flames managed to eventually creep through the north edge of the Customs building. Fortunately, both the roof and siding of the Lyons building adjoining their saloon was sheeted with heavy tin, which deflected large quantities of water down between the walls of the buildings. To all appearances the water was acting as a fire barrier.

Eventually the north wall of the Customs building slowly leaned into the fire, the roof collapsing inward. Moments later the common wall between the two buildings also folded, followed by the roof and south wall of the saloon. Charley looked with awe at the now exposed metal clad side of the Lyons building, realizing that the shiny metal reflected the heat from the wall, seemingly making it impervious to the fire.

Kneeshaw, Pembina's acting magistrate. stood quietly under a large black umbrella. As Charley turned, Kneeshaw said grimly, "Between you and Vaughn, you nearly put me out of business."

"Hell, William! John and I are out of business. The store you run for Bill Lyons is safe. Thank heaven our building is partly insured. Has the county any insurance on the old Customs House?"

"Some, I believe, but probably not enough. Anyway, the new courthouse will be finished next fall. We'll have to make do until then. Charley, why don't you and John get your mess cleaned up as soon as the fire is out. Contract with Nixon for a new building. I'll bet he can have one up for you within a month. I hear his carpenters are at a slack time."

At that moment Marguerite crossed the street from the direction of the hardware store. Gazing at the collapsed ruins of the two buildings that were still a mass of orange flames, she said, "What a shame Charley, I hope no one was hurt."

He noted the pensive look on her face. "Nope, no thank goodness. I heard the snap and thunder clap as it struck the building next door, but Vaughn wasn't aware his building was on fire for some time. Perhaps he wasn't inside, I just don't know. We did save everything from our building, but most of the county records have been destroyed. We saved a few files that were near the door, but darned few.

“Now I've got to go inside and thank Mrs. Fisk. She's moved most of our furniture and supplies into her hotel for safekeeping."

"I'll go along. I'd have been here sooner, but Lucien is away; I had to stay at the hotel desk."

Entering Mrs. Fisk's open doorway they found Charley's furniture piled helter-skelter in the lobby, leaving little room to squeeze by. As the small, business-like, woman appeared in the hallway, she smiled and said, "Charley, your inventory of bottle goods, tobacco and the rest I've locked in my back room." She indicated the furniture with a sweep of her hand, "I imagine when things settle down you'll move this elsewhere -- no hurry though." Glancing down at the carpet she cried out in dismay, "My Lord, how will I ever get that muddy mess off the carpet?"

"Send us the bill, John and I will pay for the cleaning and any damage. This is putting you out; I can't clutter you up like this."

"Nonsense, in times of strife we take things in stride. If someone complains, they can go elsewhere." She sniffed in disdain at the thought.

"Well, first thing in the morning then. I'll find storage elsewhere."

Marguerite grasped his hand. "I've got to get back to the hotel. I left the desk untended, just couldn't stand the suspense any longer."

As Mrs. Fisk left the room Charley put his arm around Marguerite's waist, drawing her close. She felt his kiss too perfunctory, it had little feeling. Realizing the strain and tension he must be under, she tightened her arms around his neck, kissing him fiercely. Her obvious concern and affection surprised him and for long seconds their embrace was held. Finally breaking away, she smiled, "Stop by when you have time."

"I'll do that soon, perhaps even sooner if John can be persuaded to go over to Geroux's for a bracer. Lord knows I could use one!"

Outside, Charley found the crowd of onlookers thinning, perhaps due to the remaining light drizzle, but more probably due to the fact that a further fire threat seemed unlikely.

A few men standing in the muddy street were busy throwing water on the smoldering plank sidewalk.

Approaching John, who seemed morosely studying the now darkening ruins, Charley said, "We're both soaking wet. Let's go over to Geroux's and I'll buy. It's not the end of the world; we'll build a better store and have it up before late fall."

John shrugged, "Might as well." Then he turned to smile as if suddenly awakening, "You know, my wife and daughters have been plaguing me for a visit to St. Paul for months. By golly, I've finally found the time!"

Returning to her hotel desk after pausing momentarily outside the door to shake and fold her umbrella, Marguerite slipped off her muddy shoes as she mused over Charley's loss. She knew the store was only a portion of his income, he was not strapped by the fire. She also realized they would have less time together, since now he would be involved in rebuilding his business. In addition, there was the immediate necessity of finishing the harvest and plowing of his farm along the border.

As Charley promised, he and John entered through the lobby on their way to the bar. Marguerite smiled at the pair, "Don't feel down in the dumps. If you'll take your drinks to the dining room I'll join you in a few moments." Somehow, she felt it necessary to inveigle Charley into staying for supper. It would give them a chance to talk about the future. After joining the two men a few minutes later, she listened quietly while they discussed plans for their new building.

John finally stood up. "I have to get home for supper. Funny, I didn't see the wife or girls at the fire. I thought the ringing of the fire bell would bring everyone out." Raising his hand in a farewell gesture, he added, "I'll see you at Nixon's yard about nine tomorrow morning."

"Now that he's gone what would you like for supper?"

Marguerite reached to cover his hand with hers.

"I'm a little antsy with the fire and all. Too bad we lost the county records."

"Yes, but it's in the past and no one is to blame.

It’s supper time, how about a steak?”

"Naw, lets get a menu from Birdy; I'm not that hungry." Seeing the waitress was busy, Marguerite arose, returning with a menu. Moments later the waitress arrived and took their order. As she left Marguerite looked at Charley quizzically, "Where will you stay now? I can arrange a room for you upstairs."

Charley looked up intently, "You know that's not a good idea."

"Why not?"

"We'd be the talk of the town. Since you work here people would think that arrangement mighty cozy."

"I don't see why." She felt a sudden anger growing.

"It would reflect on both of us. Best I get a room over at the American House. McLellen will give me a good rate."

Marguerite reflected on the idea, knowing Charley was right. "Fine, then that's settled." The spate of anger she felt, faded. She knew Charley would not change his mind.

"After we eat I'll pick up my rig at the stable. It'll only take a moment, then I'll take you home."

"We'd best not tarry too long. The ferry may close."

"That's no problem; the river is so shallow we can ford it in the buggy without even getting our feet wet. They've had to dig out a channel to keep the ferry operating."

"Yes, but by tomorrow morning I'll bet the river will be up several feet!"

"We've plenty of time yet." He remarked languidly.

"What will you do for dry clothes?" She asked. "Oh, I know, we’ll dry them when you take me home.”

As Charley walked to Nixon's lumberyard the next morning he noted deep wheel-ruts in the street with pools of water glittering in the bright sunlight. Choosing his path carefully, he avoided most of the mud as he crossed the street. Inside the open lumberyard door he found John speaking with Nixon.

As Kneeshaw had predicted, they found Nixon amiable and willing to build their new store.

After a discussion of dimensions and details of the plans, Nixon said, "I'll get a crew cleaning up by this afternoon. It's a simple building, so give me about forty days. It might be too late to apply paint this fall, but that can wait until spring. I'll order new double-sash windows with storms, also a double cased outside door. With heavy felt paper lining under the siding you'll find a big saving in coal. A dry peat moss cover over your upper ceiling will also make a big difference. Its good insulation and quite a few builders are using it now."

Charley agreed, "That'll help, 'cause coal is mighty dear. We also want both chimneys to have clay inner liners in case of a chimney fire. Don't forget, the staircase is to go on the outside, on the south side of the building, fully enclosed, the same as before. Also we want lightning rods."

The adjoining building lot was quickly sold and stood only a week before the purchaser began the frame construction of an even larger building. The structure was to extend much further back toward the alley. Apparently the new owner was well advised, for it was rumored the contractor was ordered to sheet the exterior with a new, brick-patterned metal siding.

A building boom seemed in the making, for in addition to the two new buildings on Cavalier Street, Howard Vaughn began building a home just east of the livery stable. Frank Myrick, not to be outdone, began a new livery in the rear of his store building.

Their new building was nearly completed by October, the contractor putting extra carpenters on the job. All that remained for occupancy was the installation of interior accoutrements. Both Charley and John patiently awaited the arrival of the new custom-made mahogany bar from Minneapolis. It was to be twenty feet in length, with a matching, mirrored, back-bar.

As the two men prowled the interior of the building with Nixon, the builder said, "Another couple of weeks and you can move in." He smiled, "I've put up those lightning rods you wanted, one on each end of the roof. It's cheap insurance."

John smiled wryly, "Like locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen."

Charley and Marguerite were invited to the open house and dance at the new home of Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn on a Thursday evening. Charley apologized to Marguerite when they had lunch at Geroux's. "I'm stuck to take a mental patient to Sioux City on Wednesday morning. Why don't you attend for us, it should be fun."

"It won't be if you're not there. Besides, your mother will probably be invited; I'm not going to let her create a scene."

"She wouldn't dare, just avoid her."

"No thanks! I'll sit it out. I'll not take a chance on spoiling Mrs. Vaughn's party. They've been such good friends."

With the hostler from Mason's livery driving the rig, Charley appeared at Fort Pembina early on Tuesday morning. All signs of the heavy rain of weeks ago had completely disappeared; thin clouds of dust arose from the hooves of horse and buggy wheels. Entering the fort hospital Charley encountered Ira Hocking, the doctor's assistant.

"Here to gather up your nut, Charley?"

"That I am. He was supposed to be ready at seven; the train leaves for Minneapolis in about an hour. Is he going to be a problem?"

"No, he's elderly, quite docile, but short a lot of shingles upstairs. Want to take him in a jacket?"

“Is it necessary?”

"Don't believe so. He hasn't created any physical problem. Give me a moment to get him, he's ready."

"Where does he hail from?"

"Somewhere south of Drayton. His relatives brought him in -- claim they can't put up with him anymore."

Moments later Hocking reappeared, leading a grizzled, decrepit-looking man. Handing the commitment papers to Charley, Hocking added, "He'll not cause trouble, he's meek as Moses."

"Fine, I'll load him up." Taking the man's arm the oldster agreeably allowed himself to be led outside and assisted into the buggy. He was subdued, apparently with no interest in his destination.

After Charley left the fort, Dr. Appel arrived to take sick call. "What time is Charley due here to pick up the patient?"

"He's been here and gone. Left about ten minutes ago."

"Did you tell him of the man's predilection?"

"Oh gosh, I forgot!"

Appel began to chuckle, "No harm done, Charley will no doubt find out soon enough." He looked to Ira, still grinning, "He'll probably cuss you plenty."

Dismissing his driver at the St. Vincent depot, Charley purchased the necessary tickets and boarded the train. He was pleasantly surprised to find his man promptly fell asleep, dozing almost the entire twenty hours of the trip, awaking only to eat sandwiches and fruit hawked by a porter on the train. Upon questioning his charge, Charley was unable to elicit any meaningful conversation; he was only too glad the man could at least express his wishes at toilet time. Arriving in Minneapolis the following morning Charley felt grimy and exhausted. The hard seat cushions and the need to keep an eye on his man had deprived him of any prolonged sleep. He found the Minneapolis depot crowded and after a complaint from his charge, Charley escorted him to the door of the men's room. Walking to the newspaper stand nearby, he purchased a copy of the Globe newspaper. While glancing at the front page he suddenly heard loud laughter and the excited shriek of a woman. Turning his head, there stood his patient, just outside the toilet door -- stark naked!

With a few choice epithets Charley rushed the man into the lavatory, bearing him roughly through the spring-loaded door. "What in hell are you trying to prove?"

His charge smiled at him with an innocent look.

The door swung open violently to admit a burley officer of the law. "What is going on? Who is this dunderhead without any clothes? Are you two trying to pull a fast one?"

"No, darn it! He's a patient I'm taking to Sioux City. I'm the sheriff from Pembina County, up in Dakota Territory. When I went for a newspaper this nut took off all his clothes. They sure didn't tell me he'd do that." Charley displayed the commitment papers, then bent to retrieve the man's clothing scattered on the floor. "Here now, put your clothes back on. I don't want any more foolishness from you." He was forced to help the man dress, his charge seeming to have little interest in doing so.

The depot policeman obviously enjoyed the situation; breaking into a smile. "I've seen everything now. Wait until I tell the boys down at the station. Say, think you'll have any more trouble with him? Want me to watch him for awhile, and give you a break?"

Charley shook his head in disgust, knowing he should have expected the unexpected. "No, I'm sorry it happened. It won't happen again."

Arriving in Sioux City late that evening the sheriff hired a hackney to deliver his charge to the mental institution. Due to the late hour he pounded on the heavy door for long minutes before a light could be seen and the man on duty appeared.

Accepting the commitment papers from Charley, he perused them briefly, and then said, "Did you read these?"

"Never bothered, they're for you."

"Same old thing. This poor bastard has advanced syphilis. His brain is gone. We've got several more just like him in here."

It was Saturday before Charley arrived back at St. Vincent. Stepping from the car he ran into Carl Gooding, the depot agent. "Your fancy new bar arrived by freight yesterday. We sure had a time getting it out of the boxcar. John was over with the drayman to pick it up. Reckon you two will be back in business soon. Need a ride over to Pembina?"

"Naw, I'll walk it -- appreciate the offer though.”

"Charley!" The shout came from across the street. It was Ian McLaren, he had just come out of Lapp's store. Joining together, Ian asked, "Been away long?"

"Only a few days. Had to take a mental case to Sioux City."

"Walk over to the house with me. We'll hitch up the buggy and I'll give you a ride home."

"That's not necessary."

"It's about those mules they're going to sell at the fort. I need to talk to you. We could use another team and you know the teamsters out there. They'll level with you, and tell the good animals from the bad. I sure don't need to buy someone else's troubles."

"I'm thinking of bidding on a pair too. Gosh! I forgot the sale is on Monday -- how about tomorrow?"

"It'll have to be after church -- best after dinner, say about three o'clock. Why don't I bring the girls along and pick you up at the American House?"

"Yup, three o'clock will be fine. We can look over the critters, and then take the girls out to supper. I want to show Marguerite our new building; we should be open in another few days. I'm kinda anxious to see the new bar; it was expensive, set us back almost $500."

"Wow! That's a lot of hay."

"Well worth it if it brings in customers. Competition is mighty stiff. Cripes! You've got eleven saloons in St. Vincent alone. That cuts the trade a'plenty."

Arriving at Ian's home they went directly to the barn. Whiled Ian harnessed the horse Charley tugged the buggy from its storage shed. At that moment Susan came from the house.

"What are you two planning?"

Charley smiled, "Ian insists I need a ride to Pembina. It's so far away, almost a half mile."

"Then he's got something else in mind; he's not that generous with me." She was smiling, and then turned to Ian as he approached with the horse. "Where are you headed?"

"Just giving this poor old man a ride to Pembina. Incidentally, we've decided to take you and Marguerite to supper tomorrow night. Isn't that nice of us?"

Charley explained, "We're going out to the fort tomorrow afternoon to look at the mules they're selling on Monday. We thought you girls might like to go along. We'll take you to supper afterward."

"Then I suppose, you and Marguerite will disappear after we eat!"

"It's quite possible." Charley broke into a smile.

"Are you stopping at the house to ask Marguerite?"

"I could, but will you ask her for me?"

"Okay, I'll do your dirty work. But we get to pick the restaurant."

As Ian backed the horse to the buggy, Charley bent to hook the tugs. Turning, he said, "It's a deal, you girls get to rule the roost."

When they arrived at the fort corral the next afternoon they found the area apparently deserted.

"Where is everyone," Susan queried.

"It's Sunday, everyone's day off. The soldiers not in town are probably sleeping. I'll check the teamster’s shack. As Charley stepped from the buggy and opened the screen door to the bunkhouse, O'Brien, the only man in the building, looked up from his letter writing. "What's up Charley? We got trouble?"

"None Nat, just jumping the gun on the sale tomorrow. I wanted a tip on the teams that are to be sold."

The teamster grinned as he pushed his chair back. "That's going to cost you when you get your new bar open."

Charley smiled, "That's fair. Both Ian McLaren and I figure to bid for a team. Neither of us wants to buy a kicker, biter or balker. Can you show us around?"

The teamster leaned over the desk to put a stopper in his inkbottle, and then carefully put his writing away. "I can do that -- you're being smart! He moved to the door, "We haven't gotten around to number them for the auction. We'll probably do that early tomorrow morning. Think you can remember their markings?"

Stepping outside, they approached the corral as Ian drove the buggy alongside the fence. Dismounting, he joined Charley and O’Brien as they approached the pole corral. After introducing Nat to the girls the men turned to the animals. Both Charley and Ian listened intently while Nat described the merits of the mules. The two men picked and discussed their preferences, selecting alternates, knowing the bidding would be brisk.

"We'll sell the culls first," Nat said. "There are about ten of them. Then the bidding will pick up, but there are nearly forty animals, all told."

"Appreciate your knowledge, Nat." Charley turned to Ian. He was smiling. "Maybe we'll be bidding against each other."

Ian laughed, "No matter, there are enough to go around. I only need a pair. I won't bid against you on those grays if you don't bid on that pair of roans." He nudged Nat as he grinned. "If I get those roans, I'll owe you."

After thanking the teamster, Ian turned their buggy to the road between the laundry and officer quarters. "Where do we go now?" he asked.

Susan looked to Marguerite, "Why don't we just see the country. It's a beautiful day and it's not yet five o'clock. By the way, where are we eating supper?"

"It's your choice." Charley turned to Marguerite, "Haven't you girls decided?”

"I've a better idea. I want to see your new building. You promised to take us inside."

"Not much to see, it's nearly a copy of the old one. We've moved the bar to the south wall, but the upstairs is much the same. We figure to open on Wednesday if all goes well. They should have everything done by them. I've already had my stuff moved in upstairs, even bought new furniture. What I had before was pretty shabby. I figure on moving in tomorrow. These weeks at the American House have given me darn little privacy. I kind of like being back in my own place." He paused to glance at Marguerite.

She returned his look slyly. "It sounds like you, the lonely, bachelor sheriff. That's your main problem."

Susan was embarrassed. Worried about an argument starting between the two, she changed the subject. "How did you make out on your farm this fall, Charley?"

"I only had 80 acres of wheat on my quarter this year, the rest was fallow. Guess it came out to nearly 3000 bushels."

"Not bad for 80 acres," Ian commented. Don't imagine you have time for any more land."

"As a matter of fact I hired most of the work done. Oh, I seeded the piece, but hired the plowing and harvesting done. I'm small time compared with you, your father and the boys."

Ian smiled, "We've lots of mouths to feed, but we did harvest nearly 700 acres this fall. We have over double that in land between Pa, the boys and I, but there's a lot of sod that we haven't had the time or equipment to break."

Crossing on the new toll-free, iron bridge recently completed across the Pembina River, Ian turned the team toward Charley's new building. Turning in the middle of the street he skillfully pulled alongside the plank sidewalk.

After assisting the girls from the buggy Charley unlocked the front door of the building. Stepping inside and hesitating, Susan exclaimed, "This is the first time I've ever been in a saloon."

Charley smiled, "John and I call it a sample store. It's the latest name for a saloon."

Ian let out a long whistle as he gazed at the gleaming expanse of mahogany. The mirrored back bar ran full-length with spaced, display shelves. He exclaimed, "You even had a brass rail installed."

"We didn't order that, it came attached to the bar. The brown linoleum on the floor is John's idea. It'll make it easy to clean up the dust. I'd pour us all a libation before we eat, but the bar hasn't been stocked yet. Glancing at his watch, he said, "It's nearly time for supper, have you two girls decided where we eat?"

Marguerite protested, "I'm not deciding until you show us your new quarters and furniture!"

"Let's do that after we eat. I've got playing cards upstairs. We can whip up a game of whist or cribbage if you like."