Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat - Part Five (Visitor) Sun Mar 26, 2017 7:28 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Five - VisitorHeyes slept for 36 hours straight. Dr Albright looked in on him but Heyes didn’t wake. The boys ran up and down the landing laughing before being told to shush. Heyes didn’t wake. Mary fussed around him, feeling his forehead to see if he was hot, straightening the bedcovers, checking his bandages. Heyes didn’t wake. A bird singing loudly in the tree outside his window, however … Heyes woke with a groan.
“Do you have to be so cheerful?” he said, grumpily.
He tried to move, to sit up. Nope, that hurt. Not doing that.
He lay still, listening to the sounds of the house. Mary talking furiously to one of the boys. Harry. He smiled ruefully. Of course, it was Harry. That boy was trouble with a capital T. Had been since before he was born. Then he heard Susan saying something. Man she could talk when she wanted – a constant chatterer. He wondered where she got that from? He raised his eyebrows, waiting. Then … ah yes squealer! Billy was a boy of few words – yet.
He wondered what the time was. Mid-morning he guessed by the light coming in the window. But what day was it? He felt as though he had slept for a long time. Probably for the best. He had been in bad shape when they brought him home.
“Damm fool Heyes! Falling off your horse like that,” he shook his head at himself. “Great, now you’re gonna be laid up for a while.”
Even so it was nice just laying here doing nothing. Not that he could do very much. Every time he did some part of him hurt. He let his mind wander. He lay staring at the ceiling, thinking about what happened to make him hurt so much. He could have been more injured than he was. He was lucky to be alive. He knew that. If Wheat hadn’t been there … He didn’t allow his mind to take him there.
“Yeah, now I owe you my life.”
Heyes tried again to sit up. Nope. Still hurt. He fell back with a sigh as the door opened.
Mary came in carrying clean clothes and started to put them away. She didn’t notice at first that he was awake. He watched her with a smile and then gave a small cough. When she turned from the wardrobe, she started and his smile widened.
“Oh, you’re awake!”
“Yeah, haven’t been for long,” he said as she came over to the bed. His voice sounded, croaky and rough, through lack of use.
“How do you feel?” she asked, with concern and smoothed his hair back. She sat on the side of the bed.
He considered. “Not sure. Okay I suppose. If I don’t move too much.”
“You’re not supposed to move too much. Ben wasn’t sure if you had any internal injuries. He’s given me strict instructions to make sure you stay lying down.”
“How long for?”
“Until sees you next and he says it’s okay.”
“That’s a bit vague isn’t it?”
“He’s coming this afternoon. I’m sure when he looks at you, he’ll be able to give you a better estimate.”
“Are you in pain?”
Heyes rolled his eyes. Of course, he was in pain but he bit off the retort before it started. “I ache all over but it’s bearable,” he sighed, wanting to play it down. “How do I look?”
“Unshaven, bloody, unwashed, smelly,” Mary smiled. “But lucky to be alive.” She swallowed hard and tenderly touched his uninjured cheek. “Wheat told me what happened. If you’d been alone …”
Heyes fumbled for her hand and squeezed it. “But I wasn’t,” he said, firmly. “Can I have some water please?” he asked, wanting to distract her from that topic of conversation.
“Yes of course.”
Mary moved for the jug of water, filled a glass and then supported his neck so he could drink.
She returned to sit on the bed again and took his hand.
“I was so frightened Josh,” she admitted. “When I saw Wheat in Lom’s office … all the way in the buggy I kept thinking …”
“Mary, don’t … . If I’d gone to Salt River by myself I woulda gone by train. We had to ride.”
Heyes sighed. “Because the Devil’s Hole Gang robbed that line more’n once. Wheat … is still a wanted man. He coulda been recognised.” He looked at her hard until she nodded. He squeezed her hand and smiled. “Wheat saved my life, Mary. Stopping my horse. Riding to get help.” Heyes swallowed. “I owe him.”
Mary nodded. “We both do.” She brushed his matted hair back. “He’s told me you’ve asked him to be manager of the Salt River store.”
“Ye-ah. I did before this happened.” Heyes widened his eyes and rolled them. “It’s a gamble. I know that.” Then he remembered. “Hey! Is there any news from the Capitol?”
“Yes. The Governor has offered Wheat the same deal Jed and you had.”
“Keep outta trouble for a year and he’ll see?”
Mary nodded and got up. “I should leave you to sleep some more. You look tired.”
“Really? How long was I asleep before?”
Mary smiled. “A day and a half.”
Heyes’ eyes widened. “Wow! Don’t think I’ve ever slept that long in one go in my entire life!”
“You needed it. And it wasn’t entirely all your idea. Ben gave you some laudanum.”
“Oh yeah,” he nodded, remembering. “He did.”
“He’s left me some if you want it?”
“No. I don’t like that stuff – makes me drowsy.”
“And is that a bad thing in your state?”
“Probably not but I think I can sleep some more without it.”
Mary nodded. “Okay.”
She leaned over and kissed him gently on the lips.
“I’ll make sure the children don’t disturb you.”
“What have you told them?”
“Just that Pappy had an accident and needs to sleep for a good long while.” Mary grinned. “Wheat has been looking after them,” she told him with aplomb.
Heyes looked at her wide-eyed. “Wheat … has been looking after the children? MY children?” He growled when she nodded.
“Yes. He’s surprisingly good with them. Billy wasn’t too sure at first but he and Harry were soon climbing all over him. Wheat appears to be loving it.”
Heyes winced. “Yeah, I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Mary,” he said, slowly. “Wheat tends to pack all sorts of dangerous weapons about his person.”
“And I made him hand them all over to me. I have a very odd selection of things in my kitchen drawer right now.”
Heyes still looked doubtful. Then realising there was nothing he could do about it right now he waved his hand in the air and sighed, smacking his lips.
“You can check them over later after Ben has been.”
“Okay,” he sighed, resigned that Wheat … WHEAT was looking after his children.
Mary went to the door. She turned as she remembered. “Oh! By the way. I spoke to Jed. He’ll be here the day after tomorrow.” She started to close the door.
“What …? MARY! Owh!” Heyes fell back gasping. He winced, put a hand to his chest as she walked back to the bed. “What d’you mean? You … you spoke to him!” He was astonished.
“Yes,” Mary said, smugly. “I went to the Town Hall and asked to use their telephone. I said it was an emergency. They helped me find the right number and dial. Make the right connection.”
“What … ?”
“It’s really very good. It’s almost like he’s in the room with you. Except of course, you can’t see him. And he can’t see you. We should consider getting one. It’ll be nice to speak … .”
“Back up!” He squeezed her hand hard to stop her talking. “Why did you … telephone ...” He smacked his lips. “The Kid?”
“Because I thought he ought to know. That you’ve had an accident and that you’re hurt. He was getting the train yesterday afternoon.”
“He didn’t need to do that. It’s a long way …”
“What about your business? Ted and Russ can’t manage the Porterville store on their own yet.And someone needs to take care of the setting up in Salt River. Somebody you trust. Wheat can help but …”
“I’ll be up in a day or two.”
“Oh no you won’t.”
“Oh yes I will,” Heyes said, pre-empting pantomime as we know it by several decades.
“Ben says this might be a long haul.”
Heyes groaned. “I’ve a busted arm is all!”
“No that’s not all. Ben is concerned about your right foot and lower leg. If you haven’t broken bones then you’ve got ligament damage for sure. And if that wasn’t all. You’ve broken two ribs. That should slow you up, if nothing will.” She pulled up the sheet. “And you’re going to go some lovely colours before this is out. Look!”
Heyes looked. Above and below the binding round his chest, he could see flowering bruises and nasty looking scrapes. “Yeah,” he sighed. He smacked his lips in defeat. “Okay. I’ll stay put until Ben has seen me. See what he says. How does that sound?” he said, sourly.
Mary looked doubtful. “Better.” She got up. “I’ll leave you to sleep if there’s nothing else?”
“Yeah there is.” He twitched his finger at her and smiled mischievously. “How ‘bout a kiss for a poorly boy?”
The kiss she gave him made him moan for an entirely different reason than his hurting places. He kept her close. “Thank you for coming to get me,” he whispered, keeping her close.
Mary smiled. “If I hadn’t … what do I know about hardware?”
He grunted a grin and then winced. “Yeah, I knew there was a reason you kept me around.”
“Now.” Mary straightened the bed. “Go to sleep.”
Ben came late in the afternoon. He smiled when he saw Heyes was awake.
“Ah! Good you’re awake. How do you feel?”
“Better than the other night.”
“Mary said you slept all the way through until this morning.”
“Sleep is good for you. Nature does most of the repair work when we’re asleep.”
Heyes nodding. “How much longer will I have to stay in bed?” Then seeing the look of doubt on Ben’s face added. “Can I sit up at least?”
Ben pursed his lips, thoughtfully. “Let’s examine you properly and then we’ll talk about it a bit more.”
Heyes rolled his eyes but submitted to a thorough and painful examination. At the end of it,Heyes felt as though he’d been pummelled all over again but he knew it was necessary. Ben had to determine if the injuries he could see where the only ones.
“You’re lucky, Joshua,” he said, fastening his shirt cuffs. “I think you’ll be bruised and stiff for a good while but I don’t think you have any internal injuries.”
“Great. Does that mean I can sit up now?”
“Yes I should think so. Let me get Mary and we’ll help you.”
Heyes growled at the implication that he needed help but waited patiently for Ben to come back with Mary.
“Slowly,” Ben cautioned as they started to raise him. “He’s likely to get a little dizzy, having been lying down for so long.”
Heyes groaned as they pulled him up. Mary quickly arranged pillows behind him before they leant him back.
“There how does that feel?” Ben frowned in concern.
Heyes blinked. “Um, feel a little light headed.”
“It’ll pass in a moment. Here have some water.” Ben handed him a glass of water. Heyes sipped at it gratefully. Who knew just sitting up would be so exhausting?
“Hmmm,” said Mary.
The two men looked at her.
“Something wrong, Mary?” Ben asked.
“He’s got nothing on,” she mouthed.
“Ah!” Ben smiled.
Despite himself, Heyes reddened.
“What does he normally wear in bed?”
It was Mary’s turn to redden. “Er …. He doesn’t … er … well all of the time …. Er … Long johns and Henley?” she forced out as a question, wincing. Heyes widened his eyes and rolled them. She took a deep breath. “I’ll have to find him a nightshirt,” she smiled at Ben, brightly. “Yes.” She was determined. “That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go find him a nightshirt!”
She fled the room, leaving Ben and Heyes looking at each other uncomfortably.
“She’s worried about the children seeing this,” Heyes winced in explanation and nodding at the splint on his arm. “It might scare ‘em.”
Ben nodded, trying not to smirk. Heyes and Mary’s marriage had been a true love match and even after eight years it was apparent to the town that it was still was.
“I take it I can see them?” Heyes asked when Ben didn’t say anything.
“Oh, yes, yes. So long as they treat you gently,” he said, knowing how boisterous young children could be.
After Ben had gone, Mary was back. She held up a white nightshirt triumphantly.
“Look what I found! Do you like it?”
Heyes looked at it with distaste. He pursed his lips and tilted his head this way and that in consideration.
“Not my colour,” he declared finally.
Mary sniffed in disgust and flung it over his legs.
“Well you’re going to have to wear something. You’re not decent.” He opened his mouth to speak but she went on, picking it back up. “And look the sleeves are wide enough to go over the splint. Come on.” She gathered up the neck, preparing to help him on with it.
“This ain’t mine!” It dropped over his head and he frowned in irritation. Mary had his uninjured arm folded back and was attempting to thread it through the sleeve. He growled. He felt like a child. “Who’s is it?”
“It’s Papa’s. He left it here at Christmas and I’ve been meaning to give it back to him.”
“He won’t mind. Can you lift this arm?”
Heyes sighed and grimaced as he raised his injured arm. He winced as Mary threaded his arm and splint into the nightshirt. Then she pushed him forward and pulled it down at the back.
“There!” she smiled when he was resting back against the pillows again, a disgusted look on his face. She started to button him up, glanced at him and wisely deciding not to go all the way to his throat. “Much better. Hmmm. Might get you one of your own.” She smirked, mischievously.
“I am not wearing a nightshirt in bed,” he growled through gritted teeth.
“Oh but you seem to be.” She got up quickly. “I’ll get you washed up and then you can see the children.”
Heyes gave her the look. “Yeah,” he growled and watched her walk to the door. “Mary?”
She looked back.
“D’you always flirt with your patients?” he smiled faintly. Mary beamed back. “No. Just the ones I’m married to.”
Heyes nodded as she closed the door. Perhaps being stuck in bed wasn’t going to be so bad after all. He knew why she was doing it and he was grateful, in more ways than one. He viewed being helpless and injured as an unmanly thing. Mary was just reminding him that she still loved and desired him. Mary’s flirting would be fun!-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The children visited briefly. Excited to see their father they bounced too much on the bed and were far too noisy for the injured man to endure for very long. With regret on both sides, Mary had to call a halt and usher them out again.
When she came back, she brought Wheat with her. Wheat looked nervous.
“I’ll leave you two alone. Not too long please. Joshua needs to rest. The children rather tired him out.”
“Yes ma’am they do that,” Wheat grinned ruefully as she left. He turned to Heyes. “So, hows ya doing?”
“Not too bad. Considering.” It was awkward between them.
“Well ya look a lot better than the last time I seen ya.”
Heyes smiled. “Yeah, I guess I couldn’t look much worse.” He searched for something to say. He had a lot to say but didn’t know how to begin. “Did er … did Mary tell you that the Kid’s coming?”
“Yeah, yeah it’ll be nice to see ole Kid agin.” Wheat cleared his throat. “Now that he’s all citified.”
“He acclimatises real well.”
“Gets back into western ways.”
“Ah! Is he … does he … y’know?” Wheat motioned pulling a gun out of a holster.
“No. Don’t think he even practices these days. Um, folks back East know who he is, Wheat. Call him Jed Curry but here … he’s still Thaddeus. Remember that Wheat, huh? ‘Cos of me. I’m not ready to have it known too widely yet that I’m Hannibal Heyes.”
Wheat rubbed his chin and nodded. “Bit confusin’.”
“Yeah, but that’s the way it’s gotta be.” Heyes smiled. “Mary tells me that the Governor has given you the same deal me and the Kid had.”
Wheat nodded slowly. “Yeah, how ‘bout that huh?”
“So er … you best think ‘bout what we call you.”
“Can’t call you Wheat Carlson.” By the look on Wheat’s face, Heyes realised that Wheat hadn’t considered that. “Best think of a new name, Wheat.”
“Yeah. Hmmm. Right then. I’d er … best go an’ do that,” he said, sidling to the door.
“You saved my life, Wheat. Thank you.”
Wheat grinned. “Ah! T’weren’t nothin’. ‘Sides ya’d offered me a job. Had to make sure ya’d be around to make good on it, didn’t I?”
Heyes smirked despite himself. “Yeah you did. So … are you gonna do it?”
“Well …” Wheat swallowed hard. “As ya asked an’ I ain’t got nuttin’ else on at the moment, sure. I’ll give it a go.” He shrugged, looking everywhere but at Heyes.
“Thanks Wheat.” Wheat made for the door. “Oh Wheat?”
Wheat looked back.
“What have you been telling my children?”
Wheat shrugged. “Nuttin’ much. Jus’ a few entertaining stories ‘bout how life was in the Gang y’know. I didn’t let on they were true. They’re jus’ stories, Heyes.”
Heyes looked doubtful. “Yeah just remember they are children. Leave out the blood and gore, huh?”
“Hmmm,” Wheat frowned. “Ya sure? Your boy Harry seems to like …”
“I don’t care! No blood and gore! And watch your language too. Harry is very impressionable. The last thing I need right now is a small boy cussing like an ornery ….” Heyes waved his hand as he tried to think of a word but gave up. “Alright?”
Wheat nodded and fled. Heyes leant his head back and sighed. No doubt that wouldn’t be the end of it. His children, especially Harry, were going to be corrupted and there was nothing he could do about it.
Heyes was happy to stay in bed for the rest of that day. He thought about trying to shuffle to the edge and throwing his legs over. Then he sighed. He realised that would be too painful right now. The next morning however, Heyes decided that as the Kid was due to arrive that afternoon he would try and get up. He got as far as the side of the bed before Mary caught him. Which was just as well as he suddenly had no idea how he was going to get any further.
“Oh no you don’t, Mr Heyes! You get back into that bed right now.” She stood arms akimbo.
“Mary, I’ve got things to do,” he protested. He tried to grope his way to his feet. Not easy when his right leg had no intention of bending. The room whirled. “Oh!” He bounced back onto the bed.“Perhaps you’re right. Owh!”
“Come on. In you pop,” Mary said, patiently holding back the bedcovers.
Heyes fixed her with a glare. He hesitated, sighed and swung his legs back with difficult. He tried not to wince and grunt. To preserve his modesty he grabbed at the hem of the nightshirt and tugged it down. Nightshirts were tricky things. He settled back against the pillows, submitting to her ministrations.
“Is this how it’s gonna be?” he asked, irritably. “You’re gonna treat me like one of the children?”He was trying to be angry but failing miserably. Mary knew it and smiled knowingly as she straightened the bed.
“Well if you will behave like a child …”
He growled. “I’ve got a business to run.”
“So have I. Hats don’t sell themselves you know.” She sat on the edge of the bed. “But I’vedecided that looking after you is more important. The least you can do is let me.”
Heyes grunted. “What time is the Kid arriving?”
“He telegrammed from Cheyenne. He’ll be on the 2:30 train. I’ll go and pick them up.” She straightened the bedcovers as she spoke, ignoring Heyes’ irritated expression at her fussing.
“He’s bringing his valet,” she mouthed.
“Ha!” Heyes burst out and then put his hand to his chest. He knew that was the Kid’s life now. He had been to Boston and seen the magnificent splendour he lived in. Met the beautiful heiress wife the Kid had run out on him to marry. Played with the two boys, the younger one the same age as his Billy. How the Kid’s life had changed. Heyes shook his head. “What’s his name?”
Mary looked blank.
“He was okay, I seem to recall. For an Englishman. Have we got room?”
“He can have the box room. John is clearing it out now.” John was their liveryman-cum-gardener. He lived above the stables at the end of the drive.
“Ha! That’s a job and a half. We’ve been here less than two years. How have we managed to accumulate so much STUFF?”
“We had children,” Mary said, simply.
“Yeah,” Heyes sighed and rested his head back against the pillow. “Stuff,” he said, wistfully. “I came to Porterville with everything I owned in just a saddlebag.”
Mary stroked his cheek and smiled. “You look tired.”
“I’m not tired, Mary! I’m fed up!” he snapped. He groaned. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I’m not a very good patient.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
He shook his head, sadly. “No. Just feeling sorry for myself.” He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “Perhaps I need a kiss?”
The kiss had all the signs of turning into something a little more passionate. Heyes grinned at her mischievously. “Well something still works …”
“Now who’s flirting?” Mary sat back and looked at him. “Stay in bed today and let’s see how you are tomorrow. Jed’ll be able to help you get up.”
Heyes nodded. “Okay.”
At two thirty, Mary was standing on the platform. The train was late and the one before had been cancelled. As the train pulled in, there were more people waiting to meet it than usual. The platform was crowded and a hive of activity, as everyone was hurrying, greeting friends and relatives, cases unloading and loading – hopefully not the same ones! And the noise! She was a country girl and this sort of hubbub was more suited to bigger towns and cities. She found it quite unsettling.
She was also anxious. Although the Heyes family had spent Christmas in Boston a few years ago before Billy was born she didn’t know Jed well. Her memories of him when he first came to Porterville with Josh all those years ago were sketchy at best. Perhaps she wouldn’t recognise him. Perhaps he hadn’t caught this train in the end.
As the throng started to clear, he caught sight of a man. For a moment, he could have been her husband. Same height, build and hair colouring. The only difference his clothes were obviously in the eastern style, a long dark coat and a derby hat. He was supervising the unloading of cases. Then she heard his voice.
“Yes, and the small brown valise. Yes that one at the back. No. To the left. No your other left. That’s it,” said an English voice. “Thank you.”
Mary smiled to herself. That must be Jed’s “man”. So where was Jed? She turned and stopped.The train was about to depart and getting up steam. A cloud enveloped the platform. When it cleared, stepping down from the train as it began to move, was a man dressed in an expensively tailored three-piece suit of dark grey. Over his arm he carried an outer coat. His shoes were the finest tooled leather. Under his bespoke derby, his hair hinted at blond and curly. He carried a briefcase and he was looking in the opposite direction. Everything about him spoke of wealth and privilege. However, when he scanned back round, Mary could see that his eyes were blue. Then as his face broke into a broad grin, there was no mistake. Jed “Kid” Curry had arrived in Porterville.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname