Thieving Gossip
Chapter 5, page 1




don't tell anyone.

Washo was gone. Chased off by John Morgan's posse, hung by a lynch mob, swinging, swinging from a sycamore tree. Bridget, so old now, wrinkled in her out-moded maid's outfit, said he jumped off the bluff and drowned in the rushing Bears River, still deep with snow melt.
   Washo was a good swimmer, she knew that, a strong swimmer who could hold his breath a long time. Perhaps he had flown like a hawk over the river bluff, keening at this pursuers, shifting shape in mid-air from man to bird and then, later, back again. Or maybe he had used his gypsy tricks and disguised himself to escape, laughing and singing down the steep mountain road. Perhaps now he was planting vineyards of jeweled grapes across the valley, a dream his Hungarian grandfather had taught him?  
    But Washo wouldn't want the bundle. She didn't want it, but there it was, needing to be held and cradled, aired from it's box in the dark tower, walked through the shadows until finally, it slept for a time.
    Bridget left in 1915, her bags full of gold jewelry and valuable ornaments forgotten nearly as soon as they were pulled from postage-marked boxes. Her departure deprived the locals of fascinating stories that entertained with a lurid shiver "She walks all day, up and down the halls, talking to her self. Lily this, and Lily that she'll say and sometimes..." with a lowered voice, her audience in thrall, Bridget would whisper "Lily, don't tell John. Lily, you can't have Washo, you can't! And she carries a wee bundle in her arms...."
    Memories of actual events faded quickly in the new century. Trapper's mansion became spooky with neglect, shutters hanging askew, trim darkening from lack of paint, grime accruing in black streaks. A Mexican couple from town traveled daily to attend to the grounds and household. They spoke little English and so the rumors of hauntings and ghostly wanderings grew elaborate.
    Alone, always alone, she counted her latest delivery. Brooches from Montgomery Ward's. Hats from Bergdorf Goodman's. Shoes and furs from Macy's. She studied catalogs carefully, circling items, making lists, calculating totals, ordering cushions and statuettes and books to fill the rooms for Papa.
   "You will come with us to San Francisco," Elaine had said, barging into her room. "You can attend a Ladies Academy there and receive an education."
    She lay with her face pressed into a pillow, trying not to breathe, trying to faint again. "Your gentleman friend John Morgan will be there. His father has sent him to Stanford."
   "No! You bitch! You god damn whore!" she had shrieked, tearing her red face from the pillow, saliva flying at Elaine. "I will stay here!" She remained in her bed for a week, until the carriage full of trunks and bags, her father and Elaine, rolled down the drive and away from her, forever.

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