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The Blue Bonnet

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Charles often walked from his cabin to the constable’s, but had not been in the stable in the year since he arrived at Blue Snow Falls. Considering he was just beginning to be comfortable around the gentle stallion who was the constable’s work partner, it was understandable that he would not enter the building.

But this bright spring morning, Constable MacKenzie was taking care of maintenance that could not be done until the snow had melted. “Good morning, Doctor!” he called from the roof. “I’ll be down in a moment!”

“Take your time! No need to tumble from the roof after getting through the winter without breaking something,” Charles smiled. The fact he enjoyed the view of the constable’s well-formed legs in worn dungarees had nothing to do with the caution.

At the snort from the fenced turnout yard, Charles turned, very slowly, to check on Miss Mae’s position and posture. The stallion turned his head to eye the doctor, and thankfully, seemed relaxed. It had taken all winter for Francis to teach Charles what that looked like in a horse, to give him some sense of safe caution around the oddly-named horse, instead of constant panic.

While the horse and doctor were watching each other, the constable had come down from the roof, “That should hold better than the temporary patch, though I ought to see about more insulation before next winter.”

Miss Mae nickered, and butted his head against Francis’s shoulder when the constable got close enough to the fence. “You’re welcome, Miss Mae,” he said, rubbing the horse behind his ears. “I still have some work to do yet on the gear, would you like more time in the yard?”

Another enthusiastic snort with ears up and tail flagged, Miss Mae pranced briefly before heading to the center of the yard and enthusiastically rolling.

“That is the sign of a good mood?” Charles asked.

Francis chuckled, leaning on the fence to watch his horse shake off the dust and make the circuit of the yard, only to be distracted by a butterfly. “It’s been a hard winter, but that makes the spring all the more appreciated.” He turned with a sigh, “There’s still more to be done before I put the last of the winter gear away.”

“Anything that I could do to help?” Charles knew he did not yet have the skills needed to take care of most of the gear, but he found Francis to be a good teacher.

“You could help me air out the winter blankets,” Francis pointed to the stack by the door. “It still isn't quite warm enough to wash the lot of them and expect them to dry, but getting them out in the sun and wind will help.”

Charles picked up the stack, and happened to glance up. Beside the door hung a lady’s bonnet - not the sort of sturdy sunbonnet the local women used to work in the barn or garden, this was the sort of whimsical confection ladies in Montreal would wear to tea, all satin and bows, with a mass of net veiling. He frowned at the hat, but then shook his head and took the blankets out to the fence.

His mood shift was detected by Miss Mae, who left off chasing the butterflies to approach him with a soft whicker. Charles gave a closed smile to the horse, but did not reach out, still wary of the teeth. “Just realizing I may have misread the situation.” he told the horse softly. He continued on with his task, until all of the blankets were spread out in the sun.

It did not matter that his breath still caught in his throat when he saw Francis washing up at the pump. Charles schooled his features to be pleasant, but not quite as open when the constable came over, pulling on his shirt.

“I have a new tin of those ginger biscuits, would you like to stay for tea?” Francis’s face was flushed.

Likely from the exertion, nothing else, Charles thought, but nodded, “Yes, that would be nice, I’ll be there in a moment.”

Taking a few moments to calm his mind as he washed his hands, Charles made his way to the cabin, determined to behave himself.

However, Francis was as adept at reading Charles as Miss Mae was.

“Is there something wrong, Charles?” the constable asked, before putting the entire plate of ginger biscuits on his friend’s side of the table.

“I am conflicted,” he admitted with a sigh. “It is terribly rude of me to ask, but cornflower blue does not seem to be your colour.”

“Cornflo- wait, you mean Miss Mae’s hat?” Francis asked, his head tilted in confusion.

Charles blinked at him. “You mean your stallion, who you call ‘Miss Mae’ because he likes it better than what they called him at the farm, also has a taste for ladies’ millinery?”

Francis chuckled, rubbing at the scar on his nose, “Ah, well - he didn't care for the hat’s former owner, and kept stealing it off her head. But the veils do keep the black flies out of his eyes and ears.”

“So very practical,” Charles smiled. “Though I cannot quite believe the paragon of equine virtues has a history of stealing hats.”

“He really disliked her,” Francis said, pouring the tea, and blushing brick red.

Resting his chin on his hand, Charles murmured, “Oh, there has to be a story there.”

“Yes, well - one of Beardmore’s nieces got it into her head that she was going to come north to, erm,” Francis hunched his shoulders forward, “to find a husband.”

“And she didn't immediately fall for Jacques Boudreau?”

Francis gave a small giggle as he relaxed, “No, not quite.”

“Let’s see, she set her cap for someone young, with a good job that did not rely on luck or weather, and had all his teeth?” Charles teased gently.

“Afraid so, without taking her… target’s preferences into consideration,” Francis nodded. “She also had the idea that once married, she would convince her husband move her ‘back to civilization’, because she couldn't see any reason why anyone would stay here.”

“And I bet she didn't realize she doomed her plan as soon as she said that,” Charles murmured.

Francis stared into his cup of tea, “Miss Mae picked up on my mood being in the mud whenever Miss Alice pushed her suit. So he took to antagonizing her whenever possible. When she stood on the steps of the post office and declared in front of half the town, ‘Either that beast goes or I do’, Mrs Beardmore stepped in and offered to help her pack.”

Charles laughed, “Knew I liked Mrs Elsie’s attitude for a reason!”