- 5 . The Window’s Rancher – 04
- 6 . The Widow’s Rancher – 05
- 7 . The Widow’s Rancher – 06
- 8 . The Widow’s Rancher – 07
- 9 . The Widow’s Rancher – 08
- 10 . The Widow’s Rancher – 09
- 11 . The Widow’s Rancher – 10
HOW dare you change the price on me. We’ve already agreed and I’m not paying any more.”
Diggory heard the shouting as he rode into Tupper Bell’s front yard. Several chickens squawked as he passed by, flapping their wings and scurrying in all directions.
Five small boys sat around the yard, every one of their gazes fixed on the man and woman standing next to the animal pens by the large barn.
Diggory slipped off his horse and handed the reins to one of Tupper’s sons. Which one, he wasn’t sure. They all favoured each other with their badly trimmed hair and dirty faces.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
The boy sighed and glanced up.
“Pa’s talking to Widow Bennett. She’s not happy with him.”
From the volume of Nadia’s yelling, he’d guessed that already. Deciding to see if she needed help, he sauntered in the direction of the pens.
Nadia was glaring at the wiry old farmer, looking ready to do battle.
“You dirty, good for nothing . . .”
“Mrs Bennett,” Tupper said softly, “you say we agreed, but that’s not the way I recall it.”
Hands on her hips, she continued to glare at the man.
“I seriously wonder if you’ve ever said a truthful word in your whole life. You are the most abhorrent man I have ever met.”
Tupper’s smile dropped with practised ease as he asked, “Why would you want to do such a thing when you’re here to buy yourself a goat? It doesn’t do to be rude to the seller.”
“It does when the seller is trying to back out of an already agreed price. We spoke last week and you agreed the price. Yet now you want more money.”
“That’s because today is my youngest boy’s birthday. Everyone knows a father always sells an animal for extra on a birth date if he doesn’t want to tempt the devil to steal his child’s good luck. Last week you asked me on a Wednesday. And that’s the only day of the week I give discount. On a Friday it would depend on my mood.”
“Stop treating me as though I am stupid. We had a deal. That makes you a cheat and a scoundrel.”
“Such words coming from you pains my heart,” Tupper said, clutching at his chest and gripping his dirty shirt in his fist.
He turned slightly and caught sight of Diggory walking towards them. Relief and mischief danced in his old eyes.
“Ah, I’m afraid I have to leave you for a moment, Mrs Bennett.”
Nadia stopped talking and stared at him a moment. Her already riled temper jumped up to a new level as he walked away. “Where are you going? I was here first.”
Tupper waved a dismissive hand.
“I need to speak to Mr Rorke. It’s important men’s business.”
She rushed after the man and glared in Diggory’s direction.
Tupper reached out a hand in greeting.
“Dig, my old friend, how are you?”
Diggory shook the farmer’s hand and turned his gaze to Nadia, her cheeks pink with temper and her eyes blue pools of fury.
“Mrs Bennett, you look radiant today.”
Nadia pinned him with her best scowl and turned to Tupper.
“Mr Bell, we were discussing the goat.”
“Yes, we were,” he agreed. “But first I have other matters to deal with.”
“But we haven’t finished.”
“I’m afraid Mr Rorke must come first.” She frowned.
Tupper expression suggested she should know the answer.
“Because he’s a man, of course.”
“What?” She gasped, placing her hands on her hips again. “Are you telling me you’re going to deal with him first simply because I am a woman and he is a man?”
“Yes.” He nodded.
Diggory tried to keep a smile from developing, but it was hard when he glanced at Nadia. She literally throbbed with outrage.
Her eyes flicked to the corner of his mouth and focused on the spot where his smile desperately tugged for escape.
“Don’t you dare open your mouth, Diggory Rorke.”
He gave her his best innocent expression.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am. I’m just standing here patiently waiting. And happy to do so.”
“You are not to say a word until he has finished selling me this animal for the price we agreed last week. I don’t care what day of the week it is. I am paying what we agreed and no more.”
“I can wait.” He shrugged.
He wasn’t in a hurry and watching her try to outwit Tupper was entertaining. Very few people managed to get the old farmer to stick to his original price. He was infamous for his cunning and often unprincipled business dealings.
“There’s no need, Dig,” Tupper said. “Mrs Bennett hasn’t made up her mind whether she wants the goat or not.”
“I told you last week I wanted it.”
“Yet you’re quibbling over the price.”
“Only because you’ve raised it up from the one we agreed on. I am fed up with the men in this town trying to cheat me over every single thing.”
The man started to splutter.
“A man could take umbrage at your words.”
“As I could with you treating me like a fool.”
“Not a fool,” he insisted. “Just a woman.”
Her gasp echoed in the air. Her eyes darkened with anger and her back stiffened with indignation.
“You can keep the animal. I’ve decided I don’t want the mangy thing.”
Tupper’s confidence turned to confusion.
“I think I’ll go see Grandma Mary and buy one of hers. Rumour has it her stock is far better than yours. The only reason I decided to buy from you was because her place is so far out. But after hearing all the tripe falling from your deceitful mouth, it’ll be worth the extra effort.”