From The Hillside
Esther May stayed behind the chaparral and spied as men from the village untied the humiliated Chews Loud. His father, Tsúyé, leader of the Black Rock People, was clearly agitated, but Esther May couldn’t hear what he said.
One of the men trotted back up the trail toward the Apache encampment. The other three abruptly sat down cross-legged—stone-faced, not looking at Chews Loud. All conversation seemed to have stopped.
Esther May’s legs were cramping. She’d been scrunched up behind the brush for over an hour since she and Abuela tied Chews Loud to the tree. But she had to see if her rough treatment of the chief’s son would cause retaliation.
Shortly after hurrying away, the runner returned, leading Tsúyé’s horse. The three Apaches rose; Tsúyé motioned for Chews Loud to stand and handed him the reins.
Two men helped Chews Loud mount. He rode off, head bowed, shoulders slumped, and with his fanny exposed.
The four Apaches turned toward the village.
In The Lieutenant’s Quarters
Esther May felt heat on her cheeks as she made her request to Lieutenant Bodkin’s striker.
“Um, Private Franks? Char—I mean the lieutenant, said I could use his tub. If it’s not too much trouble, would you heat up some water?”
To her relief, Private Franks carried on like it was a regular part of his day. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll fetch in towels too.”
With a consideration Esther May didn’t expect to find at a military post, he asked, “Would you like me to ask your Apache lady friend to stand at the door?”
Private Franks Is First Class
Charles certainly had top-notch help. With his broad shoulders and a touch of gray in his hair, Private Franks had skills not learned from a Manual of Arms.
“I would appreciate that. Thank you. It’s a considerate gesture.”
Franks grinned. “I was a striker for Colonel Barr and his family. They had two girls. I learned to post one as a lookout to avoid embarrassment.”
Esther May wanted to ask Franks more about the military life, especially anything revealing about Charles, but a bothersome situation niggled at her.
That Other Matter
“You know—” She wanted to ask Franks first name but decided not to get too familiar since she was about to strip. “—there’s a dead man down by the tent.”
Private Franks received the news by cocking an eyebrow. “One of ours?”
“An Apache named Snake Bite.”
Franks nodded. “I’ll see the information is passed along. Your water will be ready directly.”
In The Tub
Abuela didn’t stand at the door like a proper English maid. She came in, sat by the tub, and pulled out two knives from Esther May’s bag. Both of them had wooden handles of Mexican manufacture: blades that could no doubt tell grisly stories. One still bore traces of blood. Abuela held it up, twisting it as she inspected the edge.
“Two braves tried to steal Riding Woman. One is dead. One is banished in shame. Now, she owns their knives. The Black Rock People will bother Riding Woman no more.”
“Banished, you say? Will Chews Loud get to come back?”
“No. He is no longer Tsúyé’s son. To claim so would make Tsúyé live in shame too. Chews Loud must find another People.”
Esther May’s thoughts were interrupted as Abuela rose and stared into the tub.
“Abuela! Dang, it. We’ve bathed together a lot in the streams. Why do you always have to give me baldfaced eyeprints?”
“I’ve never seen anyone so white. It’s like you’re a different person in your private skin.”
Esther May made a shooing motion. “Well, get on out of here. I’ve gotta make this tender hide ready for the Lieutenant.”
Things are looking up for Esther May. Should she stay or go? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
It’s nice to grab a quick shower before heading out for an engagement, but it wasn’t so easy in the past. Check out this article with pictures for bathing in the west.
To read the series, click here for the first post. This will be Tales Old Roy Told. Tap the down arrow in the Archive box to open the list. After Tales Old Roy Told, work upward.
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