Charlotte looked up from her vegetable patch at the sound of Karl shouting to her from the paddock. He was on the back of Sawyer and had just outrun Timothy on Tripp. Bourbon was chewing slowly on some oats, as if to say that such gallivanting around was far beyond her. Charlotte laid aside her basket and walked over to the fence, just as Karl came riding over, breathless and with a smile on his face.
“Did you see? Did you see? Sawyer outran Tripp,” he said, proudly jumping down from the horse’s back and patting his mane.
“Well now, that’s quite a turn up. Is Tripp growing tired in his old age?” Charlotte asked, as Timothy shook his head.
“He beat me this time. But Tripp’s still got some fight him, haven’t you, boy?” he said, patting the horse’s mane, as he jumped down from his back.
“I told you Sawyer would be the fastest horse in the county,” Karl said. “Didn’t I?”
“You did, son,” Timothy replied, shaking his head.
“I want to take him on an adventure. We’ve only been as far as the state line. I want to go further and see the world. Like you did when you were younger,” Karl said, as the three of them walked back towards the ranch house.
“I was eighteen, you’re not yet sixteen, son,” Timothy replied. “Give it time and then when you’re older, you can decide.”
“I know I want to,” Karl replied, “but I wouldn’t stay away as long as you did. I’d miss you both too much.”
“And we would miss you,” Charlotte said, as they came to the veranda.
“Who knows, I might join you,” Timothy said, “if you wouldn’t mind your old man coming along.”
“I’d like it,” Karl said.
“I wouldn’t,” Charlotte said, indignantly. “I’d be here all by myself.”
“You have Josephine and David, little Samson, too,” Timothy replied. “Don’t worry though, I’m only pulling your leg, but a few days away might be exciting.”
“Oh look, here’s Josephine now,” Karl said, pointing down the track.
Charlotte turned to see her sister-in-law with David and the baby coming down the track towards them and she hurried down the steps to meet them.
“This is a nice surprise. We were just about to have dinner. Won’t you join us?” she said, tickling baby Samson’s chin.
“That would be nice. We haven’t sat down together for a few days. I’ve just been so busy with the baby and now my little dress-making shop is taking off, I’ve got hardly enough time to think,” Josephine said.
“Come on in,” Charlotte said, leading them all inside.
“I think you get taller every day, Karl,” Josephine said. “You must be nearly as tall as Timothy now.”
“And today is the day I rode faster than him and Tripp,” Karl said, grinning broadly.
“I told you, he’ll be a deputy one day,” David said, as Charlotte began laying plates out on the dining room table.
“Maybe,” Karl said. “It could be exciting.”
“Could be?” David said, “Being a deputy is just about the most exciting job you can have. I’ll get you signed up one day.”
“He’s got a little more schooling first,” Charlotte said.
“I hate school,” Karl said, sitting down next to Timothy, as Charlotte brought a ham through from the kitchen, eyed with interest by Tabitha who had just raised her head from sleeping by the stove.
“Now, Karl, that’s no way to talk about Mrs. Cole’s schoolhouse. She’s been awfully good to you all,” Timothy said, raising his eyebrows.
“But I want an adventure,” Karl said.
“Well, how about this for a distraction. Next week, the county fair is coming to Coppertrails. I saw the posters in town this morning,” Josephine said. “They have all manner of stalls, acrobats, side shows, there’s even a man who breathes fire, or so they claim.”
“We haven’t had a fair in Coppertrails for years. They always seem to make straight for Crosskeys,” Charlotte said, as baby Samson began to cry.
“Well, not this time,” Josephine replied, bouncing the baby on her lap.
“It’ll no doubt bring all manner of troublemakers in—these things always do,” David said.
“Oh, come now, David, you love the fair just as much as anyone,” Josephine said, and her husband nodded.
“I like the candy apples,” he said, sheepishly.
“Candy apples?” Karl said, and David looked at him in surprise.
“You’ve never had a candy apple?” he said, and Karl shook his head.
“Well then, we better make sure you get along to this fair,” he replied.
“We’ll all go, it’ll be a lovely outing,” Josephine said, and the rest of them agreed.
A week later, Charlotte, Timothy, and Karl set off for the fair. They were to meet Josephine, David, and Samson on the trail into town and Charlotte was dressed in her Sunday best with her arm slipped into Timothy’s. Karl ran on ahead and he talked of little but the excitement of the fair, which all Coppertrails was anticipating with great expectation.
“I hope I don’t get accosted by any fortune tellers,” Charlotte said, as they walked along the track from the ranch.
“Just tell them you’ve already got a good enough fortune as it is and you don’t need to lose it by crossing their palms with silver,” Timothy replied.
Charlotte smiled. Her fortune had been good, both with Timothy and thanks to her inheritance from Jay Hooper. She sold the house in Widesdale, and made provision for Liddy, who had taken up a position in a town not far from Coppertrails and often paid her a visit. Charlotte was a wealthy woman and she used her wealth to do a lot of good in Coppertrails, not least in establishing an orphanage, which cared for many of its less fortunate children.
“Come on, Charlotte, we’ll miss all the fun,” Josephine called to her and Timothy as they reached the trail where she waited.
“All right, we’re here,” Charlotte replied, as Karl ran on ahead once more.
“He wants to see his friends. I think the whole town will be here,” Josephine said, as she walked arm in arm with David.
She had baby Samson cradled in a sling over her shoulder and he woke up just as they were coming to the fair ground.
“Do you want me to take him?” David asked, and Josephine nodded.
“Would you? I want to get Karl his candy apple,” Josephine said, passing the baby to David and hurrying off in search of her adopted nephew.
The fairground was busy and Charlotte recognized all manner of folks from the town and surrounding country. Reverend Cole and his wife were there, along with the mine kids who had all grown just as much as Karl in the last few years and who were setting off together to explore the fair.
“Well, good afternoon, Mrs. Dawson, Mr. Dawson, Sheriff Rivers. What fun this is,” Reverend Cole said, tipping his hat.
“Lawless, too, by the looks of it,” David replied.
“We all need a little fun sometimes,” the reverend replied, winking at him.
“I love to see all the excitement of it,” Charlotte said, looking around her with interest.
The stalls were doing a roaring trade and all manner of games and amusements were set up next to where the main performers would be on stage later that day. There were some acts performing already and a man had just run barefoot across a set of hot coals, much to the delight of those watching.
“How does he manage that?” Reverend Cole said, shaking his head.
“Oh, I think he does it with wax,” Timothy Cole replied.
“Wax?” Charlotte said.
“On the soles of his feet.”
“But I wouldn’t recommend you try it yourself, Mrs. Dawson,” the reverend said, laughing and slapping his thigh.
Charlotte and Timothy wandered off together through the fair, leaving David talking with Reverend Cole, and Timothy won a penny whistle and some homemade fudge for her at the ring toss stall. They found Josephine and Karl by the candy apple stand and Karl almost found it impossible to talk, his mouth was so stuck together with the candy
“The… se… are… deli… cious,” he said, as Charlotte laughed.
“That’s his second one,” Josephine said, mischievously.
“Oh, Karl, you’ll never eat your dinner,” Charlotte said, shaking her head.
“That is his dinner and you know he’ll eat more than both of us again,” Timothy said, laughing, as Karl attempted to speak again.
Charlotte couldn’t help but smile and the four of them walked through the fairground, sampling the attractions and watching the sideshows. It was a lovely afternoon and Charlotte couldn’t have felt happier than she did with her family and surrounded by her friends.
“I think I know what I want to be,” Karl announced, as he stepped back from trying his hand at the coconut shy.
“Oh, yes?” Timothy asked.
“I want to work here at the fair. It looks like so much fun—you could spend every day at the fair and eat all the candy apples you like,” he said.
“I think there’s more to it than that, son,” Timothy replied.
“Didn’t you follow a dream? You didn’t know what it was going to be like when you left Coppertrails and you were away for ten years,” Karl said, and Timothy nodded.
“You’re right, I did follow a dream. It was my heart and not my head that led me. Maybe you will come work on the fair one day then, son,” he replied.
“I want it to be now,” Karl said.
Timothy smiled, as they came to stand with David and Reverend Cole. Charlotte looked at him, wondering what he was thinking. He’d been broody lately, as though he were thinking something through and weighing up the decision.
“What is it?” she asked, and he cleared his throat.
“Well, you know, I’ve been thinking, maybe Karl’s right. Maybe we do need an adventure and I don’t mean alone, I mean together, the three of us, maybe even Tabitha could come, too,” he said, laughing.
David and Josephine looked at him in surprise and baby Samson started wriggling in David’s arms.
“But you said…” Charlotte began.
“Well, I’m saying differently now. Let’s do it, let’s hit the trail and see where it takes us. It’ll be just like the old days, for me at least, and for the two of you it’ll be an adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your lives,” Timothy said.
Karl let out a yippee and jumped up in the air in delight, as Charlotte smiled and looked up into Timothy’s eyes. That same flame seemed to burn there, the one she’d seen in those first days when they’d both returned to Coppertrails. The flame of adventure and the desire for new places and to see the world.
“Well… I suppose it might be fun,” she replied, as he put his arms around her.
“It will be, because we’ll be there together, and what adventures we might have,” Timothy replied.
“You mean, you’re leaving us?” Josephine said, and Timothy and Charlotte shook their heads.
“Not at all,” Charlotte said. “Wherever life takes us, you know that we always come back to Coppertrails in the end!”
Readers who read this book also liked...