Madeline watched along with Mrs. Mulligan and Mr. Duprie as Duncan and Cozette finished the written test her mother had prepared for them. A week had passed since her trek alongside Mr. Berg down to Clear Creek. She’d not seen him much since then. Between his duties as town blacksmith and helping the Triple C out in his free time he hadn’t been able to help with the lessons. But today was different and soon Mr. Berg would join them.
They had gathered in the saloon for the morning lessons not only because it provided the room they would need, but it had the only piano in town. Madeline wiped her hands on the skirt of her dress in anticipation. Today her mother was going to teach Cozette and Duncan how to dance, and it just so happened that Mr. Berg already knew how. Which of course made Madeline all the more curious as to his past. What brought him to America from Norway? Where was his family? What did his family do in Norway? He told her mother very little of his past other than where he was from and how his father had insisted he learn proper English. But he also had impeccable manners, perhaps even better than the Cooke brothers. From what class did his family come from? Or was he simply well schooled?
“Oh dear, dear, dear. Cozette, you have the duties of a parlor maid and housemaid mixed up,” her mother said then turned to Duncan. “Your Grace, you also have incorrect answers. It is the butler who is to remain in the front hall in the afternoon to receive and announce visitors, not a footman. I’m afraid you both will have to study a little harder.”
“I wish you wouldn’t refer to me as ‘Your Grace’ just yet.” Duncan said.
“But you must become accustomed to the term, as do you, Cozette.” She told them. “I’ll prepare another test. You may have a day to study. Now enough of all this, let us move on to our next lesson.” Her mother looked about the saloon. “Where is Mr. Berg?”
Madeline stood. “I left the note you wrote at the livery stable and Thomas Turner said he also passed word along to Mr. Berg what time he was needed.”
“Well, perhaps he is merely detained. Let us begin without him.” Her mother once again glanced about. “Mrs. Mulligan, you don’t happen to know how to dance do you?”
“I know how to dance some, but not the kind of dancing you need to be teaching them. I wouldn’t be a very good dance partner I’m afraid.”
“Papa,” Cozette began. “You can do … the dance.” Cozette happily turned to Mrs. Van Zuyen. “My Papa, he knows the dance.”
“Ma Petite!” Mr. Duprie exclaimed. “You speak true sentence!”
“Full sentence,” Mrs. Van Zuyen corrected. “Very well done, Cozette. Do you know the quadrille, Mr. Duprie?”
Mr. Duprie looked sheepishly at her. “Oui,” he spoke slowly. He began to fidget in his chair.
“Excellent. I shall require your assistance. Madeline, take your place at the piano please.” She glided about the room and pushed back a few stray chairs. Duncan and Mr. Duprie had moved several tables and most of the chairs out of the way earlier.
“I’m familiar with the dance but haven’t danced in many years.” Duncan told her as he accompanied Cozette to where she stood.
“Then I suspect you’ll remember the basics at least. Mr. Duprie?”
Mr. Duprie jumped at his name. “Oui?”
“Please join us. I’ll need your help until Mr. Berg arrives.”
Mr. Duprie’s eyes widened. He pulled his furred hat further down upon his head, slowly rose from his chair, and went to join them. Mrs. Van Zuyen quickly instructed everyone where to stand then took her position next to him. She immediately stiffened before she glanced discreetly about, then let her eyes settle on Mr. Durpie’s buckskin clad form. “Oh dear …”
“Is something wrong?” Duncan asked.
“Nothing,” she answered while obviously holding her breath.
Duncan frowned at the action and tossed a dagger of a glare at Mr. Duprie then just as quickly smiled knowingly. It was all Madeline could do to sit at the piano. She knew well how bad the man smelled and wondered how long her mother would be able to hold out.
“Madeline, if you please, two-four time and slowly so Cozette can get a feel for the music.”
Madeline turned to the keys and began to play. She could hear the shuffle of feet behind her as her mother, Mr. Duprie and Duncan moved while Cozette watched.
“Stop right there, Maddie. Cozette, watch your father and I demonstrate the first steps. When ever you’re ready Maddie.”
She again played, wanting very much to watch but couldn’t as the piano faced the opposite wall. After a moment she suddenly felt a distinct presence behind her. Mr. Berg had arrived.
“You play beautifully,” he told her as he casually leaned against the piano and watched her.
Madeline blushed at the compliment and continued to play. “Thank you, Mr. Berg. Are you ready to dance?”
She looked up at him a scant moment before returning her attention to the keys. She could still hear the shuffling of feet behind her. “When did you learn how to dance?”
“Many years ago. My… my father insisted I learn.”
“Do you know the quadrille my mother is trying to teach the Duke and Duchess?”
“Of course, that and a great many others. Perhaps I should show you sometime?”
Madeline hit a bad note, cringed and continued on. “Sorry,” she called out.
“Do I make you nervous, Miss Van Zuyen?” He asked in a teasing tone.
“Not at all, whatever gave you that idea?”
He smiled, that wonderful warm smile of his just as she glanced up from the keys. And there it was. A light in his eyes she’d not seen before, a wondrous, happy light of pure joy. A look she’d not seen in any man’s eyes, at least not one aimed at her.
“Mr. Berg,” her mother called across the saloon. “How nice of you to join us. Would you come here please?”
He pushed himself away from the piano, his eyes still on Madeline’s. “Promise me a dance, Miss Van Zuyen,” he said in a low tone before he walked away.
“Would you be so kind as to dance with … oh dear … I seem to have miscalculated.” Mrs. Van Zuyen said. “Madeline, do come here. I’m afraid we shall have to demonstrate without the music.”
Madeline got up from the piano and went to her mother and the rest.
“Now you and Mr. Berg can demonstrate along with Mr. Duprie and myself. Cozette, watch carefully dear.”
Cozette and Duncan went to stand next to where Mrs. Mulligan sat and knitted. Just as they turned to watch, Mrs. Van Zuyen counted out a beat and both couples began to dance.
“One and two and three and four ...” she continued as they performed the quadrille.
Cozette giggled in delight and clapped her hands at the sight. Duncan too smiled.
“Sure is fancy,” a voice said from behind them. Wilfred came to stand next to them. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“You are not at all familiar with the quadrille?” Duncan asked.
Wilfred spit into a nearby spittoon. “No, done seen it before. What I ain’t seen is the likes of Duprie dancing all fancy. Man sure is light on his feet.”
“One and two and three and four …”continued Mrs. Van Zuyen.
Duncan chuckled and continued to watch. Mr. Duprie was indeed a good dancer and obviously knew the quadrille well. Duncan also noticed how Mrs. Van Zuyen turned her face away from him now and then. He frowned again. “I wonder what Mr. Duprie looks like under all those whiskers and buckskins…”
Wilfred turned to him as Mr. Mulligan came to stand next to them. “You aim to find out?” Wilfred asked.
Duncan stood and rubbed his hand across his chin. “Might be interesting.”
“Might also be good insurance,” said Mr. Mulligan.
“Insurance?” asked Wilfred.
“You know,” he began in a low voice, “The way Duprie looks at Mrs. Van Zuyen and she him. I bet she’d be sure to stay on as our new school teacher if’n she saw Duprie all fancied up and smelling pretty.”
The three men looked at one another. Mrs. Mulligan snorted behind them and continued to knit.
“What? You think it can’t be done?” Mr. Mulligan asked her over his shoulder.
“My papa, he no have … bath in long time,” Cozette added with a shake of her head. “You best tie him up first … he stay… in tub longer that way.”
It was all the men could do to not burst out laughing. “And here I thought our wives would be talking about this, not us,” chuckled Duncan.
“If you men think any of us women are going to tackle cleaning him up, you’ve got another thing coming.” Mrs. Mulligan tossed out behind them.
“We outta get Berg to help. Duprie can’t possibly fight him off!” Wilfred suggested.
“Indeed.” Duncan stated and watched as the two couples continued to dance before them. Mr. Berg obviously just as good at the dance as the others, which made all of them wonder. How did a simple black smith come by such things?