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The two men left Mark’s store laden with their purchases.

“Why don’t we stop by the inn and put these away and then head out again. Even with two of us there’s only so much we can carry.” With that they headed to the inn.

“My goodness! Did you buy Mark out of everything then?” Ruth, as James recalled, exclaimed as they entered.

“Not quite. We’re going to head to Matthew’s before it gets much later.” Mortimer explained as he headed up the stairs.

“Phillip readied your usual room. I hope you won’t mind, but we’re working on fixing up the rest of the rooms while it’s not so busy. I’m afraid you and Mr. Sharp will have to share for the night.” Ruth seemed nervous.

“Not to worry, Ruth. It’s no trouble. I’m sure we’ll manage for the night.

Considering the life he’d led out West, James had become accustomed to bunking down with others, but rarely did sleeping in the presence of others constitute sharing a small hotel bedroom for the night. He put it out of his mind as they reached the second floor and the door to their room.

The room was tastefully, if simply, decorated and held two small beds, matching bedside tables, a tall wardrobe on the wall opposite the beds, and two small chests o’drawers. Each man placed their purchases on their beds and James straightened to look closer at the room.

“There are certainly worse places I can remember staying in,” he remarked as he turned back to Mortimer.

“They don’t see many guests starting around this time of the year. Most everyone nearby will make a trip before winter sets in and the passes become impassable with snow and ice.” Mortimer explained. “Let’s get back out to Matthew’s before it gets much later. Anything else we need after that we can get in the morning before we set out.”

They trooped back downstairs and into the cool evening air. Lamplighters had lit the few gas streetlamps in the tiny town while they had been inside. Although there were not many people out and about, there was still the same welcoming feeling to the place despite darkness settling in. The two men made their way across the street to a small but well-lit store with a few mannequins in the windows displaying well-made trousers, shirts, dresses, and the like. The sign on the door advertised ready-to-wear garments as well as tailor-made ones.

“Welcome! How can I...Mortimer! What a delight to see you, old friend!” James was surprised by the rather cultured sounding English accent which greeted them. Where Mark was tall and burly, Matthew was short and slightly built, and he seemed to radiate an infectious energy.

“It’s been ever so long since you were last in town. Is everything all well at your cabin? I hope the winter won’t be as horrid as it was last year.”

“Everything is doing well, Matthew. We came to stock up on the usual supplies, and James is sorely lacking in suitable clothing.”

“Oh, I’m sorry! Do forgive my rudeness. I’m Matthew Whiteacre. Welcome to Boone!” Matthew enthusiastically shook James’ hand, grinning all the while. James shot a look at Mortimer, who was grinning at James’ shock. Matthew often had that effect on people.
“Now, what can I do for you two? I should have everything you need here, although you might want to see Mark for coats and the like.”

“Thank you. We stopped by Mark’s place first since he has a habit of closing a little earlier than everyone else, these days.”

“Ah, I’m afraid that might be my fault. He somehow took it into his head that I needed more help in the evenings. While I certainly don’t mind the company and a little assistance, the man is rather hopeless when it comes to tailoring. Although, I will admit he’s handier with knitting needles than I’ve ever managed to be.”

Mortimer nodded in agreement. “I had noticed he has a larger stock of hats and scarves than he used to. Well, James needs proper winter undergarments, thicker trousers, and shirts.”

James felt he should speak up before the two men decided to do his shopping for him. He was well old enough to select and buy his own clothing.

“If you’ll just point me in the right direction, I’ll find what I need and let you get back to what you were doing.” He glanced at the table Matthew had clearly been working at before they’d entered.

“Oh, it no trouble at all. As I’m obviously not from around here myself, it’s easy for me to see you’re also new to the area. If you don’t mind some advice from Mortimer and I, we’ll be glad to help you pick what’s more suitable. It wouldn’t do to leave with items not meant for our winters.” With that, Matthew took James by an elbow and led him over to where the trousers and shirts were; Mortimer followed with amusement still plain on his face.

James felt less like a person and more like a glorified coat rack as Matthew began pulling trousers and shirts off the racks, muttering to himself all the while.

“Yes, yes, this’ll do nicely. Hmm...just the right color. Your complexion is best suited to lovely warm colors. Mortimer does better with cooler ones. Yes, this brown is perfect. Oh, here, these are the warmest undergarments I make. Just wonderful for the long, cold winter. They’ll hold up nicely too. I think a few warmer undershirts to go with the pants and regular shirts.” The clothes were piled higher and higher in James’ arms. He chanced a glance at Mortimer, who was still a mostly silent observer throughout all of Matthew’s frenzied rushing to and fro in the little shop, and saw he was watching it all with a strange sort of fondness.

“Well, I think that’s you all set. I really have probably picked out too much, but I don’t often get new customers and it’s been rather too quiet lately.”

“Shouldn’t I try these on?” James raised his arms a bit, indicating everything he was holding.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, James. Matthew has a gift for being able to size someone at a glace. I think you only measure someone if you’re making something custom, right?”

Matthew flushed a bit and nodded. “I haven’t needed to measure someone or have them try on ready-made clothes in years now. Now, making a tailored suit is a different matter all together. It just doesn’t do to make one without the proper measurements.”

James turned to Mortimer and peered at him over the mound of clothes. “Are you sure I need all this? It’s a lot of trousers, shirts, and such for one man.”

“Better to have too much than too little. It also takes longer for cloth to dry in the winter, so it’s better to have more to wear as the rest dries.”

James took him at his word and carried everything to the counter. Matthew rang everything up and had it all wrapped and ready in no time; chattering away all the while.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, James, and it was wonderful to see you again, Mortimer. I wish you a safe and warm winter since I doubt we’ll see you until the spring.” Matthew waved at them cheerily as they left and made their way back to the inn.

As they put away their purchases, Mortimer having bought a few trousers, shirts, and winter undergarments as well, in the inn, James turned to him.

“Is he always that...friendly?”

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him calm unless he’s measuring and sewing. I suppose I should have warned you about him. He’ll be a bit embarrassed by now; he never realizes it until later how overwhelming he might have been. Mark is just about the only one who can be around him for more than an hour. Matthew is usually calmer if Mark is around. They’ve been close friends since Matthew first moved to the area some years ago.” Mortimer left it at that as he finished putting everything in their travel packs.

James let his hands do the work as his mind drifted and he mused over Mortimer’s explanation. It sounded to him like Mark and Matthew were somewhat more than “close friends”, but it wasn’t his business to pry into personal affairs so long as no one was being hurt. It seemed to him that the world could do with more friendship and love, so who was he to voice his suspicions.

“We have a little more time before Ruth and Phillip will serve dinner, so we might as well take a walk around the town. Unless you’d prefer to stay in for now.” Mortimer had pulled out his watch as he spoke.

“Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the place before we set out in the morning.” James straightened and headed toward the door, grabbing his coat as he went. With that, the two headed back out into the night.