"For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry." - Time Tested Beauty Tips
Millers Pond Stage Depot was crowded round supper time, was there ever a time when it wasn't.? Still, Cody managed to find a seat at one of the tables. It was in the back of the room, but Hickok was the only one with an issue about doors, so it didn't matter much to Cody.
"Well, if it ain't one of Teaspoon's boys."
Cody looked up and grinned at the large woman before him. "Howdy, Mrs. Sims, it's good to see you again."
The woman of the place gave him a wide nearly-toothful smile. "It's good to see your money, Billy. Please tell me you got some money on you, 'cuz I'd hate to throw you out on your bottom."
He waggled a finger at her. "Oh now, don't you get your pretty little knickers in a twist, Mrs. Sims." He dug his hand into his haversack and held out a couple of coins. "This should take care of the bill I got waitin' and the meal I mean to eat tonight."
She weighed the coins in her hand, her eyes growing wide with the weight of his gold. "Well now, who you done robbed for this little treasure, boy?"
Cody leaned on the table the fringe from his jacket trailing dust over the worn wood. "Now you see here, Adelaide Sims, I'm not a man who takes to a woman, even one as beautiful as you callin' me a thief."
The woman smoothed her muted calico dress over the ample curves of her figure and turned a bit into the lamplight for effect. "I know I'm beautiful, Billy… you don't have to state the obvious." She suddenly leaned over the table and knocked his hat back off his head and onto his back. "Still, one must have manners. No hats or gloves at the table."
A couple of trapper s at the end of the table chuckled over his set-down. Cody waved them off.
"Fine, Mrs. Sims… you have it your way." Cody sat up and brushed a few errant strands of hair back from this face. "I'm ready for the finest vittles your cook's got warmin' on that there stove." They both turned to look at the old woman bent over the stove.
"Fine. You got yourself a meal Billy Cody and a good one." She dropped the coins into her drawstring purse. "Especially since you brought me money."
She was gone a moment later and Cody set his palm over his middle when his stomach was loud enough to be of notice to the men at the table. They gave him a pointed look. "Sorry there, folks… been on the trail all day and if I have to say so, anything's better'n the jerky and hard tack in my saddle bag."
They both nodded, but it was the younger man that spoke. "Better this than nothin' I suppose."
The elder spoke after a piece. "Like them poor folk come in with the Marshal."
"Who?" Cody swung around to get a look at where the old man was pointing. Huddled in the opposite corner of the room, farthest from the stove were a young woman and two children that looked as though they were a few days out of their gowns. If it wasn't for the hungry look in their eyes he wouldn't take much more than a passing notice of them. "What's with them? The Marshal-"
The younger of the two must have remembered something of propriety and lowered his voice. "They was comin' hereabouts on one of them schooners and their pappy done gone get himself kilt by some men lookin' to rob 'em. Marshal came on a bit too late to save the man or their money.
"Now the only thing they got goin' for 'em is that the Marshal sent word for their family to send tickets for 'em on the stage back."
Cody shook his head as the mother clutched one child to her chest and started crying silent tears so her child couldn't see them on her face.
Just then a large wall came between them. A large wall… nope, just Mrs. Adelaide Sims come to bring him food. She slapped it down with such force; some of the stew leapt up and splattered his coat. "What's you lookin' at them poor trash for, Billy?"
He looked up into her eyes with an open question. "The family?"
She leaned down into his ear and he had a good whiff of her watered down perfume. "I let 'em stay in here, keeps 'em out of the cold and rain, but they ain't got nothin' of worth for me to trade for food. Marshal said he'd ask the preacher man what to do with 'em, but I ain't got the time or the money to-"
She stepped back as Cody got up from the table, lifting his plate and mug as he went.
"Where you goin', boy?"
Cody paused for a moment and looked over at the young family. "Adelaide, I've known you ever since I started with the Express and I've known you to be a hard woman who had a soft spot for silly drifters like me… but I ain't never seen you like this." He headed over toward the children and their mother.
He set the plate down in front of the woman and gave his mug to the older boy, nodding in encouragement as he stepped back from the table. The woman cried pitiful tears of thanks as she broke the roll in two for the boys and offered up the tightest of smiles for him.
Mrs. Sims was there when he turned around. "What do you think you're gonna do for a meal now, William Cody. I ain't givin' you no more credit after you wasted that food on that woman."
He gave her a smile that belittled the hungry groan that came from his belly. "I guess I better find the tack and jerky in my saddle bags. That'll be just fine for me."