Seth just finished doing the weekly books for the saloon. It had been another very profitable week. When the Crystal Palace opened, he did worry a bit. But Rosalind assured him that most of the men in town didn’t want to pay exorbitant prices for cheap liquor. Nor did they care about crystal glasses or linen napkins. As always, Rosalind knew best.
As Seth was wiping some glasses, he saw a tall, blonde stranger enter the saloon. The man looked around and headed for the bar.
“Howdy,” he said smiling. “I’m Grady Long and I’m a gambler. I don’t cheat. I have a Colt; but only use it to defend myself. I’m not a drinker, I’m not loud, and I’m not mean.”
Seth extended a large hand. “I’m Seth and I run the place. I appreciate your honesty. As long as you play a clean game, you’re more than welcome.”
“Are you planning on staying awhile or just traveling through?”
“I’ll be darned if I know,” Grady shrugged. “When I was young, all I did was travel. I thought if I stayed in one place too long, I’d never want to leave. Now I seem to like lingering in a town for a few days.”
“What’s wrong with staying put?”
“That I haven’t figured out yet,” Grady said smiling broadly. Both men laughed. Seth understood the feeling. He liked this gambler. He had a relaxed, calm presence not too many poker players had.
“If you’re looking for a place to stay, The Crystal Palace is up the road. It’s expensive, but you wouldn’t want for anything. If you’re looking for something less ostentatious, Belulah has a nice boarding house. She lends rooms out for a few dollars. Clean towels and sheets.”
“Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.”
“By the way, the town has a dance every Friday night. Most of the people come—with or without a partner.” .
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Peaches saw Grady enter the saloon. When he left, she moseyed over to the bar.
“His name is Grady Long. He’s a gambler.”
“You don’t say. Hmmm. Nice looking fellow. His clothes aren’t shabby and he’s clean.” Seth chuckled. “What? A girl can hope.”
“Honey, you don’t have to hang on hope every time a guy pushes through those doors. You know Lewis would take you away from here any time you wanted.”
“I know, Seth.”
“He probably saved your life the other day.”
“That’s a bit of a stretch.” She wondered if anyone heard her call out when Ben pointed his gun at Lewis. Why did she care? What unnerved her was the fact she DID care. It made her irritable and insecure. Why couldn’t Lewis just find a nice farm girl?
“Why don’t you like Lewis?” Seth asked.
“It’s not that I don’t like him. He’s not what I need. What am I gonna do on a farm? Milk pigs? Pluck sheep?”
Seth pursed his lips to prevent an escaping laugh. “With the right man, you can learn anything that needs to be done—EXCEPT those things.”
“You milk cows and pluck chickens.”
Peaches rolled her eyes. “See? I don’t want to be a farmer. I want…”
“I know—a rich man who’ll take you away from Tucson.”
“I want to wear nice dresses and eat at fine restaurants and travel. I don’t want to be poor.”
“Don’t be fooled. Lewis isn’t poor,” Seth said.
“And he’s not for me. I’d only make him miserable. Now, Mr. Long—I think we’ll get along just fine.” With that, she marched her long legs over to one of the poker tables and sat down.
Cort could hear the excitement on the street. It always puzzled him. Even though the dance was weekly, it was always met with the enthusiasm accorded a yearly event.
As he walked past the telegraph office, he saw Miss Grey and Miss Prescott with their heads together looking in a shop. Morgan was correct–they were both nice looking women. Miss Grey had a more petite cuteness and Miss Prescott had a classic attractiveness. He tipped his hat when he passed them.
Cort continued walking up the street until he reached the millinery. There were a few customers at the other end of the shop.
“Howdy, Cort,” Mattie called out.
“Mattie, I see you’re no worse for wear.”
“No, I’ve faced worse men. He was a bit on the dim side. I had the devil of a time trying to get that gun out from under my skirt though.”
Cort smiled, visualizing her predicament. “I can get you a holster.”
“I’m sure my customers would love that,” she laughed.
“Well, I was just checking in.”
“Thanks, Cort. And thanks for getting me the gun in the first place.”
He turned to watch two women trying on a large, blue hat with big flowers. “Why?” he asked.
Mattie chuckled. “There are things that make a woman feel special. Hats are one of those things.”
“Don’t they hurt your neck?”
“No, they aren’t heavy—some just look it. Now, that blue bonnet might be a bit of a load to carry. It’s nothing I’d wear; but as long as someone will buy it, I’ll sell it.”
“Good business policy. I’m off to check on Mrs. McGintry.”
“I don’t think she’s home. She was in here buying a hat about an hour ago. I think she might be with Mr. Baumberger.”
“He’s a very interesting person. Done a lot of traveling. It sounds as though she’s doing fine.”
“Right as rain,” Mattie smiled.
Cort waved as he walked out the door.