THE BLACKSMITH'S BRAVERY
Ladies' Shooting Club, Book 3
Susan Page Davis
About the Book
Griffin Bane picked up the big bay’s foot. He stretched the gelding’s hind leg back and rested the hoof on his leather-aproned knee. Reaching with his long arm, he pulled a rasp from his toolbox. The horse had chipped its hoof so badly that the nails had come loose. As he filed away at the remaining clinches on the nails, a shadow blocked his light.
“Ethan.” Griffin didn’t have to look up to recognize the sheriff ’s voice.
“Scout lost a shoe. I wondered if you could tend to him.”
“Did you find the shoe?”
“Yeah, got it right here.”
Griffin glanced up at the worn shoe Ethan held. Bent nails dangled from the half-dozen holes on each side.
“Front foot,” Griffin noted.
“Yep. There’s some bad footing out Silver City way. I rode up there yesterday.”
Griffin grunted, placed the rasp in his toolbox, and pulled out the shoe pullers. “Reckon I can do it after this one.” As he fitted the pincher ends under the edge of the horseshoe he was removing, he added, “Got to do the coach horses first.”
“That’s all right. I plan to stay in town this morning.”
“Is his foot all right?”
“I think so. He’s not limping.”
Hurried footsteps echoed on the boardwalk that ran up the street from the feed store. They pattered softly on the ground after they reached the spot where the walkway ended. Griffin looked up. The dark-haired girl from the Spur & Saddle --- Vashti --- scurried toward them.
“Morning, Mr. Bane. Morning, Sheriff.” She stopped a couple of yards away.
“Miss Edwards,” said Ethan, tipping his hat. Griffin grunted. Odd green eyes she had, almost like aspen leaves.
“Miss Bitsy wanted me to buy her a ticket to Boise. She’s got business there and wants to take the afternoon stage, but you weren’t at the office.”
Griffin clenched his teeth and twisted the pullers, prying the remaining nails out of the bay’s hoof. The shoe came off, and he tossed it on the ground near Vashti’s feet. He reached for the hoof nippers and began clipping off the ragged horn around the edge of the hoof. “Tell her I’ll be up to the office in a couple of hours. I’ve got two horses to shoe, but I’ll be there in plenty of time before the stage leaves.”
“All right.” Vashti didn’t move.
Griffin clipped all the way around the hoof and exchanged the nippers for a rasp so he could smooth the surface of the hoof wall before he put a new shoe on. “You want something else?” he growled.
“No, sir. I’ll tell her.” Vashti turned away and hurried back up the street.
“Pretty thing,” Ethan said.
“I’m surprised at you, Sheriff, you being married and all.” Ethan grinned. “I said that on your behalf.”
“Ha.” Griffin finished smoothing the horse’s hoof and set it down. He straightened and tossed the rasp into the toolbox, then pressed both hands to the small of his back.
“You getting the rheumatiz, Griff? A young fella like you?” Griffin grunted. At thirty-five, he didn’t think he ought to be having old folks’ ailments. “Reckon it’s all the hours I spend bent over.”
Around the corner of the smithy from the livery stable came Marty Hoffstead, who had lately been working for Griffin, though he never had much to show for the hours he claimed he put in.
“Kin you come look at the brown wheel horse? I think he’s favoring his off forefoot.”
Griffin sighed. “I hope you’re wrong, because I don’t have a replacement for him today for the stagecoach team. I’ll come look when I finish this job, but then I’ve got to reset the shoes on the sheriff ’s paint.”
Marty nodded. “Oh, and Ned came over from the boardinghouse. Says Bill’s got the heaves and he’s shaking all over. Doesn’t know if he can make the run to Boise this afternoon.”
“Wonderful.” Griffin lifted his eyes skyward and shook his head.
“I’ll probably end up driving myself. Again.” He frowned at Marty.
“You tell Bill if he’s not dead, he’d better be on the box of that coach at two o’clock.”
“I’ll tell him, but I wouldn’t count on it.” Marty walked away.
“Looks like you could use more help around here,” Ethan noted.
“You’re telling me. Ever since I took over the stage line, I’ve been running nonstop. Can’t get anyone to work the forge, and I can’t get enough help running the livery. And keeping good drivers? Let’s not even get started on that.”
“Maybe you should advertise for help.”
“Maybe so.” Griffin scooped up the horseshoe he’d just removed from the coach horse and stalked into the smithy.
At half past eleven, Vashti scurried about the dining room of the Spur & Saddle with a wet dishrag, making sure all the tables were clean. Already a few folks had come in for lunch and seated themselves. Bitsy Moore, who owned the establishment with her husband, sauntered over to the table where Mayor Peter Nash and his wife, Ellie, sat.
“Good morning, folks. What’ll it be?”
Bitsy could charm anyone with her sunny smile. Though Vashti reckoned Bitsy was twice her own age --- approaching fifty --- she still showed signs of the pretty woman she’d been. Her reddish hair had faded, but she no longer dyed it. She wore one of the satin gowns she’d purchased back when the Spur & Saddle was a saloon, but she’d recently added a creamy lace insert across the top of the bodice. Bitsy had gone more modest since she got religion, and she insisted the hired help adjust their fashions, too. She kept her bright lip color and rouge and her flamboyant jewelry. Bitsy did enjoy decking herself out.
“What’s Augie cooking today?” Ellie asked.
“Thought I smelled fried chicken.” Peter smiled hopefully at Bitsy.
“Oh yeah, he’s got fried chicken. Venison stew, too. Biscuits and sourdough bread. And we’ve got us some carrots and Hubbard squash.”
“I fancy the squash, myself.” Ellie smiled across at her husband.
“Of course, Peter never cared for winter squash.”
“Bring me the fried chicken. You got potatoes with that?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Mayor.”
“Good. And the carrots.”
Vashti scurried behind the serving counter that had been made out of the old bar. She poured two glasses of water. Bitsy paused beside her on her way into the kitchen to give Augie the Nashes’ order.
“Before it gets busy, could you run across and see if Griffin’s got the ticket office open yet? I don’t want to get there at the last minute and not have my ticket.”
“Yes’m.” Vashti delivered the water glasses with a smile to the
Nashes and ducked out the door and across the street. She hiked up her skirt and ran past the emporium and across the alley to the stagecoach office. The big blacksmith had shed his apron and was tacking a notice to the wall beside the door.
“Mr. Bane, Miss Bitsy sent me for her ticket to Boise.” Vashti halted beside him, panting.
He looked up. “Oh sure. Just a second.” He hammered a final tack into the poster and went inside. “You got the money?”
“Yes.” Vashti stared at the notice he’d posted:
Help Wanted Stagecoach drivers Blacksmith Livery stable hands Inquire within
She pulled in a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and stepped inside. Griffin sat at the desk, fumbling at the ticket book with his big hands.
“You said she’s going through to Boise?”
“That’s right. On business. Taking the two o’clock.” Griffin wrote in the book and tore out the ticket. “Three dollars and six bits.”
Vashti handed over the money Bitsy had given her that morning.
“I noticed that poster you put up.”
“Uh-huh.” Griffin gave her the ticket. He put the ticket book in a drawer and, in the process, knocked his pen off the desk. He bent to retrieve it.
“It says you’re hiring.”
He sat up and squinted at her. “That’s right. I need some more manpower.”
She ignored the man part and plunged on. “Mr. Bane, I’d love the chance to drive. I learned how when I was a kid, and I’ve always been good with horses. I know I could do the job.” His jaw dropped.
“If you’ll give me a chance, I can take the stage through. I know I can, easy as pie.”
Griffin stood and stared down at her with such a thunderous expression that Vashti faltered to a stop and waited.
“You want to drive?”
He threw back his head and laughed.
Excerpted from THE BLACKSMITH'S BRAVERY: Ladies' Shooting Club, Book 3 © Copyright 2017 by Susan Page Davis. Reprinted with permission by Barbour Books. All rights reserved.
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