Inside the cabin, we sat on benches at the table and eyed the two large rolls with cinnamon and sugar showing through the tops. The fire was down to ashes and would soon be out.
Mrs. Jacobs lifted a metal coffeepot from a hook, poured coffee into tin cups, and set them in front of us. "There you go." She stood, looking at us expectantly.
Levi took a sip of coffee and reached for a roll. He broke off a piece and a broad smile brightened his face. "I'm guessing every woman in the territory is after you for the receipt for these."
Levi looked to be sincere and not just polite, so I followed his lead and didn't tell him the word was recipe, like my ma would have corrected me. The roll was dry and a bit tough on the outside, but the inside was soft and filled with butter, sugar, and cinnamon. "Sure thing. I don't think I've ever had better," I said to be polite.
Mrs. Jacobs straightened and smiled. "Why Mr. Levi, thank you so much for the compliment," she said, ignoring me.
"Now, Mrs. Jacobs, I told you yesterday, plain Levi will do."
"Well, then, you must call me Elizabeth since we will be traveling together."
Levi nodded and took a bite of his roll. Crumbs caught in his mustache and beard. He wiped them away with his sleeve. Gripping the handle of the tin cup, he cast a glance around the room.
I followed the path of his eyes with my own, taking in the New York Tribune-lined inside wall that ran halfway down the main room, and the sleeping loft above. Other furnishings in the main room included a rocker and a bed. Even stripped bare of personal effects, it was easy to see the now-dead Mr. Jacobs had put a lot of work into the home.
Levi shook his head. "Shame you have to leave it. Don't you have relatives who could come? Brothers? Cousins?"
"Everyone's settled. Of course, we were, too, before Wallace decided he wanted to move to Kansas Territory and make it a free state." She blinked. "Wallace was a man of high ideals." She stared into the fireplace, her face going slack. Then she gave herself a little shake and looked at Levi. "Yesterday, I was sure I'd had enough of this place and never wanted to see it again. Today, I'm not so sure, but we can't stay without a man to work the land." She tilted her head. "You come through Pawnee often, Levi?"
"About three times a month."
"Would you be willing to stop by here and spend the night? The Dotsons say they'll keep an eye out, but if someone was here a few nights a month, it would make land grabbers less likely to take over the place, thinking it was abandoned." She leaned forward, hands clasped in front of her. "I would be grateful, and it would be good for you, too. Surely, it is more comfortable than the boarding house in town. Treat it as your own while you are here."
Levi cast another look around the room like he was giving the offer some serious thought. "What about those Dotsons you got watching the place? First thing I know, they'll be at the front door with shotguns."
"Their place is on our way to the trail. We can stop for a minute, and I'll introduce you." She reached out and touched his hand. "I know it is a lot to ask, but it would give me such peace of mind while I'm gone."
He looked at the hand on his, and I noticed for the first time she wasn't wearing a wedding ring. I sat quiet, watching this whole scene play out, trying to keep my mouth from dropping open at how forward she was. I'd always seen men go after women, but Mrs. Jacobs was the hunter here. She clearly had Levi in her sights, which amazed me. She seemed so neat and proper, and for all that Levi was a nice man, he was as shaggy as a buffalo and smelled a little like one, too. Still. . . .
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish