The sun had barely broken above the horizon but it was enough to set the fields to sparkle in a dazzling dewdrop display. The air felt fresh and cool, blown by a light breeze that gently bathed them with the heady scent of spring. While there were yet a few durable revelers whose muted laughter occasionally punctuated the early morning peace, the world was still mostly silent, entertained by the intoxicating world of dreams.
Emerson eyed the crew as they huddled near the wagon which had been parked behind the barn. He noticed how everyone seemed to be shuffling uneasily as they waited for an opportunity to slip away before the Ibbses woke up and demanded Lottie as payment for the ride to the farm. Yet, one member of the crew was still unaccounted for.
“Where’s the squire?” Emerson whispered to Junie.
“I think he’s in that hay wagon with Daisy,” Junie replied, pointing to a rickety wooden cart near the corner of the barn. Emerson furrowed his brow as he made his way to the cart and peeked over the side. He started to chuckle when he spied the two teenagers snugly entwined in the back.
“Squire, I hate to break up your roll in the hay but I need you to come harness Daisy’s asses.”
“Ye be takin’ that mechanical girl with ye?” Daisy asked, without looking up from what she was doing. “Gomer Ibbs is gonna be right upset with that.”
“Yes,” replied Emerson, “but she’s not mine to give away.”
“Then best be as hasty as ye can,” warned Daisy, as she adjusted the front of her blouse while Malus untangled himself from her charms. “Them Ibbses be nice folk an’ all, but they gots them some right nasty tempers.”
Five minutes later Malus was almost done harnessing the two asses to the wagon.
“Ya be all set ta get to where ya need ta go,” said Cleetus as he checked the tightness of the straps. “Heed what Daisy done said ‘bout bein’ hasty; and just so’s none of us here on the farm bears any of that bad Ibbs temper personally, we be tellin’ ‘em ya done stole the asses, understood?”
“Got you,” replied Emerson, nodding. “I like how you think, Cleet.”
“Sorry ’bout that dang bale, Sir Emerson,” said Cleetus. “If you had been a day earlier we’d be all set see.”
“Nothing to be done about it now,” said Emerson. “If Rugbottom has it, we’ll track it down. I’ll even pay whatever markup he has the gall to charge without question. Victor is paying after all.”
“Make sure ta keep ridin’ west ‘til ya hits the Curdles Way,” Cleetus said, giving some final instructions. “You’ll come across the train tracks first, just go another five minutes past them and you’ll be back onto the Curdles. Turn north – that be yer right – when ya comes to it an’ ye’ll be good to go.”
After a final round of waves, hugs and hushed goodbyes so as to not alert anyone to their getaway, the Gangplankers quickly climbed into the wagon and took their seats.
“I threw a couple of jugs of the the White Cane moonshine ye two be so fond of inna the back of the wagon,” said Cleetus. “That oughta keep ya fer a bit.”
With that the wagonload of New Babbagers set off once again, headed west en route to the mining town of Falun.