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Prairie's Children, Chapter 7
Submitted by Starla Anne on Fri, 04/04/2008 - 20:10
By Starla Anne Lowry
Ruth Ann was busy replacing merchandise when she heard someone come in with a "A very pleasant good morning!" Glancing over her shoulder, she recognized a woman she had seen at church the previous Sunday.
"Hello, my name is Susie Johnson," the lady said in introducing herself.
"Hello," replied Ruth Ann.
"We were very pleased to see you in church and a few of our group wondered if you would like to become a member of our ladies' circle. We are a church society and hope to bring some sanity to Abilene in an attempt to make it a respectable town. We need young, fresh blood like you."
The question caught Ruth Ann by surprise. She wanted to say 'yes', but suppose they found out about her reputation? Would they ever believe that nothing really happened like the rumors reported?
"Well -- ah, I don't really know. Maybe I am not good enough," answered Ruth Ann. That was not an exaggeration. That is how she considered herself.
"Certainly you are. You joined the church. I think you were sincere because you wanted to do the right thing." replied Mrs. Johnson.
"Mrs. Johnson, if you don't mind, would you give me time to think about it? I mean -- well, this is so sudden and unexpected. I just don't know what to do."
"Well, okay. I hope you don't turn us down. I am a good judge of character and I believe you would make a good member", responded the smiling lady. The women shook hands and Ruth Ann watched as Mrs. Johnson left the store, thinking surely that Ruth Ann would accept her invitation.
Ruth Ann immediately went to the stock room. "Josh, could you come up front a minute?"
Josh appeared. "What's up?" he inquired.
"A lady from the church came by and asked me about joining their women's circle. I did not give an answer because I was afraid that they would not want a gunslinger in their group."
"Well, at least you would be in upper society -- for awhile, at least." Josh smiled and added, "but I understand. I think we ought to continue with our plans to save some money and go somewhere far away. You mentioned once about going to Alabama. Do you still want to go there?"
"Yes. I have some relatives in Blountsville."
"Well, I cannot think of anywhere any better to lose a reputation like you have," smiled Josh.
"I don't how to turn her down. I don't want the ladies to think hard of me."
"Well, I am sure you can find a way. But, it is kinda nice to have a wife who is thought good enough to be part of society," Josh added with another big smile.
Josh and Ruth Ann become more involved in church activities as the weeks went by. Ruth always seemed the first with food at the fellowship suppers. She seemed to volunteer for everything that came along unless it had something to do with teaching. She realized that she needed to be taught. The ladies could not understand why she had refused the invitation to be an official member of their circle.
Josh and Ruth Ann's interest in learning caught the attention of the church and they soon became known as the perfect couple. Josh did not hang around the saloon and Ruth Ann, as pretty as she was, did not try to flirt with the men. They treated everyone with respect and received respect in return.
It was on a late Saturday afternoon that Patricia Morris came into the store. She was covered with bruises and crying.
"What's happened?" asked Ruth Ann. "You look terrible."
"Can I stay in the storeroom for the night?"
Seeing that the girl need some medical attention, Ruth Ann replied, "No, you are going home with me -- right now. It is about closing time anyway."
Ruth Ann called Josh and began to collect the money from the drawer. By the time Josh arrived, Ruth Ann had the lock in hand to secure the store.
"Josh, please carry this young lady over to our room. I will be right behind you," requested Ruth Ann.
"My goodness, what happened?" asked Mrs. Hammer as as the trio entered the boarding house.
"I don't know," replied Ruth Ann. "I am putting her to bed and going to get the doctor."
"Please, I don't want to see the doctor," pleaded Patricia.
"Hush, we will talk about that after we get you to bed."
Josh whispered to Ruth Ann, "I will go and find the doctor."
Sitting Patricia on the edge of the bed, Ruth Ann began removing her clothes. Not only did she have bruises, but some lacerations and what seemed to be bruised or fractured ribs. Ruth Ann carefully washed the injuries and placed bandages where needed.
"Now, tell me all about yourself. You are Patricia Morris. Right?" asked Ruth Ann.
"How old are you, hon?"
Ruth Ann thought to herself, 'About a year older than me'. She asked, "What happened?"
"It was my husband, Chuck. He came in drunk and was not satisfied with anything I had done." Patricia began to cry. "He beat me and beat me and would not stop. I begged him to, but he wouldn't. I am scared. I know he will come looking for me."
"Well, you are safe here. Josh and I will make a pallet on the floor, so you can have the bed all to yourself," stated Ruth Ann.
Josh arrived with the doctor. He was an elderly man wearing a black hat and coat and carrying his medical bag. Using his stethoscope to listen to various sounds coming from Patricia's body, the doctor determined that her ribs were bruised, but there there didn't seem to be any fractures. He gave her a bottle of pills to help her relax and asked if she wanted to go to his office to rest.
Ruth Ann spoke up. "She will be okay here. I was just telling her that Josh and I would sleep on a pallet. We are young and it will be okay. We have slept on the ground many times."
Mrs. Hammer came up to check on Patricia and, being told of the situation, seemed satisifed with the sleeping arrangements that Ruth Ann had suggested. "If you need anything, let me know," she said as she left.
"Okay," replied Ruth Ann.
Before bedding down for the night, Josh whispered to Ruth Ann, "I guess you know that the girl's husband will be looking for his wife, don't you? What will you do then?"
"I guess what I have been doing since I left home -- stand up for her like I stood for you and those girls over in Ellsworth."
"Listen! You are running from a reputation you don't want, so don't be adding to it here," demanded Josh.
"I will not stand by and let that man mistreat Patricia anymore. It must stop!"
"Well," said Josh after thinking about what Ruth Ann had said. "This is only a temporary stop anyway, I guess." Smiling, he added "I cannot blame you. But, please let me deal with the husband first."
"Fair enough. But, if you can't handle him, maybe I can -- one way or the other."
---To be Continued
All characters and places, except historical persons and places, are fictitious and any resemblance to other places or persons, living or dead, are coincidental.