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   Chapter 2 NO.2

Deny Thyself By LadyRosabella Characters: 18350

Updated: 2017-12-20 15:39

Hurry Rosa. We'll be late to work if we don't leave right away." Evlyn called as she pinned an escaping curl back into place.

"Okay. Let's go." Rosa said snatching her apron off the back of the chair as she hurried out the door. Evlyn pulled the door shut and followed Rosa down the stairs. "Callie's going to be there before we are and she has further to go!"

"I'm sorry I overslept." Evlyn apologized for the zillionth time. "Tired as I was, I couldn't fall asleep until late."

"Look there!" Rosa called pointing to a large sign on the door of the diner. "What is that?" They quickened their pace to join Callie who was standing at the door reading the sign. Huge block letters read:



-Mayor Manass

"Out of business!" Rosa exclaimed. "How dare he go out of business and not tell us!"

"He did." Callie said. "By way of this sign."

Evlyn felt as though her world were tumbling down around her. Since she came to town a year ago she made this thankless job her life. She didn't even have a pat on the back to show for it. All she had now were her friends. She would lose one when Callie left with the wagon train. "What will we do now?" Evlyn wondered aloud.

Rosa snorted angrily. "If you're desperate enough you'll tear the sleeves off your dress, unbutton it to down to here and go over to the saloon. What else is there to do in this town?"

"Nothing." Evlyn murmured brokenly. "I went through this a year ago before he offered me work at the diner. Oh, how I wish we had enough funds to open our diner."

Callie shook her head sadly. "That's impossible."

"Never mind that!" Rosa declared with a bright smile. "I have our problem solved, Evlyn."

"You have?"

"Yes! We're joining as Callie and Benjamin's family and going west."

"West!" Evlyn repeated in complete shock. After last night's conversation, she had never assumed Rosa would come up with such an idea as that.

"That's wonderful!" Callie cried clapping her hands in delight.

"I'm glad 'ya find my sign such happy news. I was 'fraid ya'd throw a fuss and sech." Mr. Manass said. The girls turned to find the mayor standing behind them. Dried cheese caught in his beard; his hands were in the pockets of his filthy jeans.

"We're well rid of the place." Rosa informed the mayor firmly. "In fact, we are going West with the wagon train tomorrow."

"Tomorra, 'ya say." Mr. Manass nodded. "Well, I hope ya'll make it alive." He turned and sauntered down the sidewalk.

"Let's hurry." Callie urged, her beautiful brown eyes gleaming with excitement. "We have so much to do so you're ready to leave with us tomorrow!" The first thing on the girl's list was to get permission from Benjamin, Callie's giant of a husband. While Callie was dainty, fair and angel- like in appearance; her husband was six-foot six and had hair as black as night. Two people could never be so different. Nor so much the same. Benjamin was the gentlest man since the turn of the century. Soft mannered and a pleasant expression forever on his face, he and Callie made the perfect couple. Since the time Evlyn had met him, she had never seen either him or Callie raise their voice or become provoked. Meek and mild is a very apt description for this affectionate couple.

Benjamin rubbed his jaw as he considered the girls petition. "Single women aren't allowed on a wagon train unless under the protection of their father." He gently reminded them.

"We know." Evlyn assured him. "But the train is a small one, and we want to join you and Callie. Wouldn't the master allow you to put us under the protection of your family?"

"I don't know. I haven't heard of any exceptions. If you were to marry..." Benjamin trailed off eyeing Evlyn.

"No." She shook her head firmly. "I won't marry to be permitted on a wagon train. If you can't agree to protect us then I'll just stay here."

Benjamin looked at his wife. "The wagon train is probably safer for single women then this town is." Finally, he nodded. "Alright. I'll speak to the wagon master about it. If he agrees, you girls should pack light and share our wagon. I'll sleep underneath the wagon. Agreed?"

"Agreed." Evlyn said shaking his hand as a mutual sign.

"The only way we can pack is light." Rosa assured him. "We haven't much to take besides ourselves."

Callie smiled and couldn't help but wrapping her arms around her husband in a hug. "Will you ask the wagon master now please?"

Benjamin nodded. "Right now." He said dropping a kiss to her forehead.

"This will make the trip so much more enjoyable!" Callie rejoiced. "What could be better than going west with my husband and my best friends?"

Evlyn smiled fondly at her friend. "Add a little one to that list and your joy will be complete."

Callie blushed as she dropped a hand to rest on her slightly rounded stomach. "Perfect and complete." She agreed. "Come. Let's go and pack your things." The girls hurried back to the boardinghouse, each praying that the wagon master would show mercy and allow them to join under the protection of Benjamin.

Peter stood nearby as Benjamin Wyss spoke with Gurtslinger. Wyss' request didn't seem unreasonable. He would take responsibility for the girls and if they followed the rules and behaved, everything would be fine. Peter felt a tinge of pleasure when his boss said the girls could come as long as they didn't cause any trouble. If they did, they'd be dropped off at the first town they come too.

Peter liked to think of Tyrone Gurtslinger as a reasonable man. He was tough but kind. He also knew what you were capable of and expected no less. That was an important part of a wagon train. One man could not be responsible alone. To make it work, every family had to work with the other families and each had to pull their own weight. By the end of the journey, it was often a sad affair. Everyone was reluctant to part with his or her newly acquired family. That's what a wagon

Train became like after traveling so long and through so many problems and joys, a family.

Peter loved working with the train and he hated it. It was hard. Many who started with dreams of California ended buried alongside the trail, their dreams long gone. He hoped no illnesses or accidents saddened this trip. And he prayed the Syrins gang stayed as far away from the wagon train as physically possible.

The sun rose as the groggy but excited families began the long journey to California. The oxen pulled wagons left the confines of the muddy town and ventured toward the great unknown. Peter rode on horseback alongside the wagons. He waved occasionally to the excited families, all the while keeping an eye out for any problems or potential mishaps.

Two thousand miles was a long ride, it wasn't long before excited womenfolk, and children abandoned the stuffy wagons and took to walking on the trail. Most of them stuck together, conversing as they walked about their dreams of California and their families. Children ran ahead of their mothers, meeting with other children who became fast friends.

Smiling with satisfaction at the excited group, Peter looked behind him and his eyes landed on a single young woman walking amongst a group. Her blonde hair was pulled back neatly, though the curls evidently resisted. Her bonnet swung with her steps from its place on her back. The cornflower blue dress she wore highlighted her eyes that sparkled as she laughed with

The women she walked with. Peter dropped back a bit, turning his horse slightly so he could observe her with better ease. Something about the young woman struck him as very familiar, though he couldn't place the feeling.

When she turned her head slightly and her eyes met his, Peter knew he had to discover whom this woman was. She seemed so familiar and yet a stranger. Peter smiled and tipped his hat at the women. "Mornin'. Enjoying the trail so far?"

"Oh yes!" The women chorused with excitement.

The blue-eyed woman giggled. "This is proving to be an enlightening experience. One of the men explained to me the fine art of driving oxen."

Peter cocked a brow, delighting in the sweetness of her voice. "Do tell." He invited with a smile.

"Well, " The woman hesitated for a second before continuing. "He said that you walk on the left side. You have to yell "Gee" to turn left, and "Haw" to turn right. "Git-up" makes them go forward and "Whoa " stops them. He said that sometimes you have emphasize the words with a snapping whip and occasional swear words."

Peter broke out into laughter as the women tittered. "Well, now we know who can drive the wagons if the men wear out." He grinned at the blue eyed- woman, "Though I do imagine you would find a more convincing way to urge the teams on then by swearing."

The woman smiled back. "I dare say we would. Though I hope I won't have to drive oxen anytime soon."

"I'll try to prevent that for you." Peter tipped his hat to the ladies. "See you around." He turned and trotted up towards Gurtslinger's horse leaving the happy females to their own conversations. "Tyrone. Can you identify that woman wearing the blue dress? The o

ne with the blonde hair?"

Gurtslinger turned in his saddle and squinted back at the women. "Do you think I have eyes like an eagle, boy?"

"The one walking by the red-headed lady." Peter persisted determined that he must know the blue eyed woman's name.

Gurtslinger looked back again and focused on the female of Peter's choice. "I could be wrong but it looks like one of the women under Benjamin Wyss protection. Riebe, I think her name was Emily Riebe. Or maybe it was Evlyn Riebe." The older man shrugged. "It was something like that." He narrowed his eyes at the woman in question. "Why? Has she done something wrong?"

Peter looked back at the woman. "Riebe." He repeated. "No wonder she seemed familiar." He looked back at his boss. "No, she looked familiar. Evlyn Riebe. I knew her back in my hometown. After my ma passed away, Mrs. Riebe would bring baked goods and stews over to us. They were real kind folk, excepting for her Pa. He was a tough one." He shook his head in wonder as he

Looked back at Evlyn. "I haven't seen her in a long time. She sure grew up."

Gurtslinger looked back at the woman again. "I suppose. To be honest I'm partial to my own wife." He grinned. "Now there's a nice-looking woman!"

Peter nodded without hearing Gurtslinger's words. "I'll see you at noon." He said as he went back to work.

Tyrone Gurtslinger shook his head, amused by Peter's words and actions. "Well, it took a while, " He said to his horse. "But I think a female finally turned Mr. McCain's head. One thing is for sure and certain. This wagon train will be one you don't forget soon."

The sun rose to the center of the sky, and the travelers stopped for the noon meal and a brief rest. So far, everything was as it should be. No major troubles had arisen yet and for that, Peter was thankful. However, he was not fooled. This was the first day. Everybody was fresh and eager. They hadn't had to bury loved ones, deal with aching bones, eat cold beans, endure wet chilling nights, or leave family heirlooms alongside the trail to lighten the animals load.

An air of excitement filled the air as the ladies prepared the first meal they would eat on the trail. Scents of biscuits and bacon filled the air. By the middle of the journey, they wouldn't be eating anything that extravagant, but for the first few meals it could be expected. Peter sat on the grass beside Gurtslinger and his wife while he ate his noon meal.

Mrs. Gurtslinger was a medium sized woman with brown eyes and mousey brown hair. She had a big heart and enjoyed playing mother hen to all the ladies and children on the wagon train. Though she was weary of traveling, she always wore a smile and dished up the men large helpings of food. Whether it is cold beans and dry biscuits or ham and hot cakes, she never complained. Neither did Gurtslinger. He knew a good thing when he saw it, and Mrs. Linda Gurtslinger was a good thing.

Gurtslinger and his wife conversed during their meal but Peter didn't pay much attention. His mind was on other things. Other people. There she was! She had a bucket and was headed for the river. Setting his tin plate aside, Peter stood up and stretched. "Dinner was good as usual." He complimented Mrs. Gurtslinger.

She smiled at him. "Glad you enjoyed it. What are you doing?" She asked as he started rummaging in the wagon.

He withdrew his head and hand. In his hand was a fishing pole. "Thought I'd do a little fishing. See you later!"

"Be back in twenty minutes or we leave without you!" Gurtslinger called after him.

"Now why do you suppose he'd go fishing in the middle of the day? He's never done that before." Linda commented to her husband.

"Yeah, well. We're gonna be seeing him do a bunch of stuff he's never done before." Gurtslinger said as he reached for his tin cup of coffee.

"Why do you figure that?" His wife asked.

"Mr. Peter McCain isn't fishing for fish. He's following Miss Riebe down to the river." He smiled at his wife. "An accidental run in, if you recall from our courting days."

She laughed and patted his cheek. "Oh, yes. I could never forget."

Peter ran down to the river with his fishing pole. He got there just a few seconds after Evlyn did.

"Afternoon." He greeted her. He sat down on a rock and tossed his line into the river. "Nice day for some fishing."

Evlyn glanced up at the sky. "It is at that." She agreed. She eyed his pole curiously. "Do you fish a lot?"

Peter nodded. "Quite a bit. There was a time fish was the only thing I ate."

Evlyn nodded, still looking at his pole in an odd way. "Then you must be pretty good at fishing. Do you often catch a lot?"

Peter tossed her a lazy grin. "Why all the questions? Are you going to take up fishing?"

Evlyn shook her head. "Not today. I have dishes that need to be washed." She picked up her bucket and turned back towards the wagons.

"I remember you."

Peter's softly spoken words stopped her in her tracks. It was several seconds before she turned around. A silent panic was revealed in her eyes. "Remember me? How can that be when I don't know who you are and you don't know me?"

"I remember you." Peter repeated. He laid his fishing pole beside him and propped his elbows on his knees. "Evlyn Riebe. Only child of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Riebe." He tilted his head to look at her. "You don't know me?" He questioned.

Evlyn shook her head. Her teeth were worrying her bottom lip. "Should I?" She whispered.

Peter rose to his feet and extended his hand. He was mildly surprised when Evlyn flinched. She took two small steps away from him. "My name is Peter McCain. I am the third eldest of the thirteen children. My family used to have a cabin near your families."

Evlyn nodded and gave him a hesitant smile. "Luke, James, and Peter." She said naming the three eldest children.

"You remember." Peter said, somewhat surprised.

"I remember your family." Evlyn assured him. "I used to help Mama bake things for you."

Peter nodded. He was thrilled that she remembered and that he could talk with a person from his past. She was the first familiar face he had seen in several years. "How's your mama?"

Evlyn glanced down at the ground. She chewed her bottom lip for several seconds before making a reply. Finally she said, "She met with an unfortunate event, and she's no longer with us."

"Unfortunate event?" Evlyn looked so troubled by the mention of her mother that Peter hated to ask. However, he had to know what happened to the delightful woman who had treated him like a son for so many years. "Evlyn, what happened to your mama?"

Evlyn brushed hastily at her face. Was she wiping at a tear? "She was killed."

Peter studied Evlyn for several seconds. He knew enough of the Riebe family to know that Mr. Riebe was not a gentle or kind man. He had seen the kind of problems Mr. Riebe had often brought to his family; but to kill his own wife. Peter struggled to remember all that he could about Mr. Riebe. Could he have done it? "Evlyn." His eyes locked onto hers as he tried to convey his sorrow and concern. "Was it your father?"

For a second he thought she would deny it. Then she nodded her head and wrapped her arms around her body. Hugging herself obviously brought her a measure of comfort. "Did you leave home because of your father?"

"I don't regret it." Her voice shook, when she looked up at him her eyes were red, tears were streaming down her face. "If I had stayed I would've had the same fate as my mother. He didn't care about my mama and little sister. He didn't care about me." She completely lost her composure. Her throat tightened, choking off her words. Her shoulders continued to shake uncontrollably as great sobs racked her body.

"Evlyn." Peter pulled her close to him, wrapping her in a hug of love and comfort. "I'm sorry. Evlyn, I'm sorry." He whispered as his hand cradled the back of her head. Suddenly, Evlyn jerked away from him.

"Don't touch me!" She shouted. "Nobody touches me! Ever!" Turning she stumbled on the path and fell.

"Evlyn! Wait!" Peter called. He ran after her, but she jumped up and ran back to the camp leaving her bucket beside Peter.

Peter sat on the ground beside his fishing pole and Evlyn's bucket of water. He shouldn't have questioned her about her family. Evidently, Evlyn hadn't recovered from her mother's death or her father's actions. Nobody ever touches her? Peter pursed his lips thinking of her words and trying to understand the emotions behind them. He had a feeling that she had a problem with men. Touching her, especially since he was a man, had been a very bad idea. Even though his intentions had been good, he caused her to panic. She was still suffering from the scars her father had left on her heart and body.







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