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Will Jamison and The Black Swan Mine Chapter 13 A Surprise Visitor

Story ID:2162
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Medlin Iowa USA
Year:1895
Person:Will Jamison
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Chapter 13

A Surprise Visitor



Emily waited for Will to come above ground at the end of his shift so they could walk home together. Will waved when he saw her and hurried over to her. Emily pointed to a flowering shrub by the side of the dirt road. "Look Will, spring seems to have slipped into Medlin without anyone noticing."

Will's feet slowed. "Well, I guess it did. Some of the trees have leaves, and the grass is nearly green again, isn't it?" He inhaled deeply. It even smelled like spring.

"It's always the best part of the year," Emily raised her arms skyward and twirled around, smiling. "You've hardly noticed a thing these past few weeks since Mike left. I wish he would write."

"You know Mike. He probably thinks about us as much as we do him, but he'll never sit down and write a letter. He avoids writing much of anything."

"I remember. Maybe he'll answer the letter we sent him one of these days. On another subject--Miss Duncan told me you aren't getting much of the schoolwork done since I started bringing it home for you. Does your Gran suspect anything?"

"She doesn't pay much attention when I go out back. She'd be surprised if she knew the old hollow log was our postal station, wouldn't she? The hardest part is stuffing it all in my shirt under my jacket and smuggling it upstairs."

"It's a good thing Freddie knows how to keep a secret," Emily bent over to inspect some wild violets growing on the side of the road. "So, why aren't you getting more schoolwork done?"

Will picked up a smooth stone, closed one eye and threw it. The stone sailed through the air and landed dead center on the tree stump he'd aimed for. "I start out every night, but I get too tired. It's not that being a trapper is such hard work, Em, but the days are long, and I have chores to do at home, too. I do what I can. Tell Miss Duncan that, will you?"

"Maybe it's going to go more slowly than we thought," Emily said.

Their fathers fell into step behind them as they approached their houses.

"Guess what?" Will said. "Freddie's late tonight. He had to get his mules settled down. That means I get to use the water to clean up before he does. We'll see how he likes third time 'round water!" He waved at Emily and dashed up the back steps.

'Think you'll beat me to it, do you?" Da laughed and grabbed Will's arm.

The moment they stepped inside the porch, they stopped chattering and stared at each other. Hearty laughter came from the kitchen followed by a murmur of voices and more laughter.

Will opened the kitchen door and peered in. Da was only a step behind him.

Gran and a strange man shared the kitchen table, the brown teapot between them, cups and saucers shoved aside. Both were bent over giggling. Gran raised her head and spied them in the doorway.
"Here now." She wiped her face with the hem of her apron. "What are you doing
in my kitchen still dirty?"

Da glanced back at the empty tub. "Will, you'd best pump some water for this tub. Your Gran seems busy."

The stranger spoke to Gran. "Where's your manners, Maggie? Aren't you going to tell these two who your visitor is?" His deep blue eyes twinkled, and he patted his large
stomach with both hands.

"Maggie?" Da echoed. "Never in my life have I heard you called anything but Margaret."

"Oh dear." Cheeks pinking, Gran swept up loose tendrils of her hair with her hands. 'This great hulk of a man is my brother, Jack. He popped up today without a word of warning, all the way from England." She moved behind her brother and placed work-reddened hands on his broad shoulders. 'This is my Rob and our Will," she told her guest. "They look pretty good when they clean up, which they had better do right now. Close your mouth, Will. Did it never occur to you that I might have a brother same as you?"

"No, ma'm, I mean, yes ma'm," Was this his Gran? He turned to the sink and pumped, watching the water flow into the bucket. He ducked his head to hide his mirth.

Supper was a grand affair that night. The gloom that had hung over all of them since Big Mike's accident lifted, floating softly away without notice.

Gran served big bowls of beef stew and golden brown biscuits, feather-light and dripping with butter and honey. She put out some of her pickled peaches, which she kept for special occasions. For dessert Gran surprised them with apple dumplings swimming in cream.

Freddie reacted much the same as his father and brother when he met Uncle Jack. He was so surprised that he never gave Will a bit of sass about the third time 'round water he used that night.

Will studied Uncle Jack carefully. He was large boned and tall like Big Mike Riley had been, but he was fatter. He was fair-skinned and had thick white hair, once blond like Will's, he told them. He wore a brown and white checkered suit and a dark green vest. A gold watch chain crossed his portly stomach, and on his right hand, he sported a gold ring with a dark red ruby in the center. This brother of Gran's could stand side by side with Oliver Boardman and come out the finer looking of the two.

Uncle Jack interrupted Will's thoughts. "Never know I was a miner like you once upon a time, would you?" He cocked his head to one side and grinned.

"You were a miner?" Freddie spooned up the last bit of cream in his bowl. "I don't believe it."

"I was down in the pits every day, same as you. Your Gran can tell you that.
But, I had a stroke of luck and got out. Never went back either."

Will sat up straighter. "How did you get out, Uncle Jack?"

Uncle Jack laughed his hearty laugh. "Now that is one story you'll not get out of me, so I'll thank you not to ask again."

Gran's chin lifted a bit. "Did you do something wrong, Jack? Is that how you came into this money you told me of?"

"Now, Maggie, I was just lucky, like I said before, but the how and why of it is not for telling. Settle yourself, Mags," Uncle Jack finished, pulling a long face at her.

Will and Freddie collapsed with laughter. Gran smiled quietly.

"How long can you stay with us, Uncle Jack?" Will asked once he had gained control.

"Long as I'm welcome, lad." The big man leaned over and mussed Will's hair with his hand. The red stone gleamed next to Willís fair head.