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Prairie's Children, Chapter 8
Submitted by Starla Anne on Sat, 04/12/2008 - 11:06
By Starla Anne Lowry
The next morning, Ruth Ann decided that she needed to see how Patricia felt after a night's rest.
"Josh, why don't you go and open the store for me?" asked Ruth Ann. "I'll be over in a few minutes. I want to see how Patricia is doing."
"Okay, but please stay out of trouble," replied Josh. "Messing in family affairs is not the thing I would get messed up in."
Ruth Ann sat on the side of the bed and shook Patricia lightly. "Wake up, sleepy head. It's morning. It's a beautiful day."
Patricia stirred, opened her eyes, and trembled until she suddenly realize where she was and what had happened.
Seeing some fear in her eyes, Ruth Ann softly stated, "It is okay. You are safe. I have even brought you breakfast."
Patricia started to straighten herself up in the bed and sharp pain shot through her chest. She screamed a little and quickly repositioned herself on her back.
"It is a bruised rib. I know it hurts," said Ruth Ann.
"Yeah, it does -- terribly."
Lizzie Jane speared a small piece of an egg with a fork and told Patricia, "Open your mouth. I will make it a lot easier to eat." She followed that with a sip of black coffee.
Feeding Patricia small bites, the women began to chit-chat.
"How did you know who I was?" asked Patricia.
"I saw you in the store with some other women and I heard they call your name -- so, I just remembered, I guess," said Ruth Ann shrugging her shoulders just a bit.
"Yeah," smiled Patricia. "They were the other wives."
"Other wives? Your husband has more wives than you?"
"Oh yes, I am the youngest."
"How old is your husband?"
"57 years old and you are nineteen?"
"Yes. He and my daddy are good friends and he has done a lot for my family -- loaning them money and, you know, things like that, so I was promised to him when I was born."
"And you did not have any say in it?" Ruth Ann had never heard of pre-arranged marriages.
"No, that is just the way things are."
"Do you love him?"
"Love?. A wife belongs to her husband. She bears his children and takes care of his needs and the home. I don't know about this 'love' of which you speak. A wife only loves her children."
Ruth Ann was shocked. Here was a young girl with her whole life in front of her and was married to a man she did not love just because she had been given to him by her parents. Her job was to have babies and take care of him.
"He beat you up and you are a wife. How does he treat his children?"
"Oh, the boys he makes into men and the girls -- well, they learn to be wives and he gives them away in marriage as soon as they get old enough."
"How old do they have to be to be given away to be married?"
"Oh, I think the youngest usually is about 13. I was 15."
"15 years old? Have you given him any children?"
"Yes -- three. I am with child now."
Ruth Ann sat on the side of the bed for a moment with her mouth open. This girl needed help, but what could she do? What Patricia had told her was shocking beyond description.
"Why did he beat you?" asked Ruth Ann.
"I spoke without permission," was the reply as the girl began to cry.
"Well, you rest awhile. I need to run to the store for awhile, but I will be back and bring you lunch. I don't think your husband knows where you are, so you will be safe," stated Ruth Ann. She needed time to think things over. Something had to be done, but what? She was very angry and her heart held compassion for the girl.
Ruth Ann relayed the information to Josh. He just shook his head and replied, "Well, you got yourself in a mess again, haven't you?"
"She came to me for help. What was I supposed to do? Turn her down," argued Ruth Ann.
"Well, no", admitted Josh. "But this is family affairs and folk don't set kindly about anyone messing with family."
"I know that, but this girl wants out. She did not choose the marriage. Her folks chose it for her!"
"But, have you thought there are kids involved? You said she had three children by him already. A mother loves her children, you know."
"I know, but..."
"Let's talk to Marshall Hickok about it."
Marshall James Hickok did not give much hope in solving the matter. Patricia was a wife and she belonged to her husband. Even though the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled that polgamy violated criminal law, the subject was a 'hot potato', of which local law officials or courts did not want any part.
"If the man comes after his wife, I certainly will not stop him," concluded the remarks of Marshall Hickok.
"Well, I certainly will!" declared Ruth Ann.
As Josh and Ruth Ann walked down the street, Josh stopped, took Ruth Ann by the shoulder and turned her to face him. "Now don't you start getting any ideas that you are really a gunslinger. The good Lord or something has been watching over you the last couple of times. Just about any cowhand could outdraw you without any problem."
"I don't care. You don't abuse me and I am not going to let him abuse her," was Ruth Ann's reply.
Ruth Ann walked away in an angry stride while Josh just stood there watching her. He loved Ruth Ann and she was right. He had never abused her and could not understand why any man would abuse his wife. But, he also knew that Ruth Ann had a mind of her own and she was as stubborn as an ornery old mule. He just hoped that she would not get in too much trouble.
It was lunch time, so Ruth Ann continued her walk toward the boarding house to check on Patricia. She found Patricia in the kitchen eating a meal that Mrs. Hammer has graciously prepared for her.
"How are you feeling, Hon?" asked Ruth Ann.
"Oh, I feel some better -- sore though," as she winched as she moved her chest. "I hear that Chuck has been asking about me around town."
"I haven't heard anything. If he gets you, he will have to do it over my dead body," declared Ruth Ann.
"Oh, no -- I don't want you mixed up in this..."
"Well girl, I am already mixed up in it -- up to my ears."
Ruth Ann's stern facial expression turned to a smile and she said, "Well, I have got to get back to the store and take care of things there. See you tonight."
She leaned over and kissed Patricia on the forehead, walked toward the door, turned around one time to face Patricia, smiled again, and departed.
Patricia smiled to herself. At least she had one friend. However, she was determined to keep Ruth Ann out of her problem. It was her's alone and she had to deal with it herself.
She thought aloud to herself, "If I had the money, I would catch a stage and leave."
Mrs. Hammer heard her and replied, "Honey, the stage leaves in about an hour, going east. I will see that you are on it."
Patricia smiled. Well, she had two good friends.
True to her word, Mrs. Hammer paid the fare as far as Kansas City, Missouri, gave the girl a few dollars until she could get settled somewhere and Patricia boarded the stage. Patricia had stopped by the store to let Ruth Ann know the good news, so Ruth Ann was present to bid her a pleasant good-bye, too.
As the stage went out of sight, Ruth Ann said to Mrs. Hammer, "I hope her husband doesn't find her."
A tall male figure stood in front of the saloon watching the event. He flipped a cigarette into the street, mounted his horse, and rode out of town, following the stagecoach.
---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.
© 2008 by Starla Anne Lowry