âYou haf decided to buy da Peterson place,â the banker stated with the thick Scandinavian accent that was becoming more familiar to Jake each day. âYou probably know by moving dare, you vill be a neighbor to Sigrid Dunn?â
Jake was suddenly embarrassed. He hoped the man did not detect it.
âMrs. Luther Dunn?â he questioned. âIâŚdo know where she lives.â
âI heard you ver talking to her after church Sunday last. Did she remember you?â
Jake floundered. âRemember me from where?â
The banker laughed at him.
âYou are da Jacob Kearney who lived south of Dallas vid your grandparents after your father died, are you not? You vent to school vid my brothers und sisters und me for a summer term, back ven Miss Oleson vas teaching. Da school vas half full of Thorsbakken children at da time. Do you remember it?â
Jake thought back to his early school years when he felt so different from the other children, for they had to be taught the English language. While Jake was fluent in English and could read well, he struggled with other studies as a result of moving often and having little formal education.
âI remember having to sit up in front of the classroom where the teacher could keep an eye on me. I didnât like it, âcause I was surrounded by five little girls.â
âMy sister Sigrid vas von of dem,â the banker commented as he carefully tamped tobacco into a pipe.
âYour sisterâŚ Thatâs the Sigrid whoâs going to be my neighbor?â
âYou must remember her, Mr. Kearney! I gave you a sound beating da day I vent behind da building und caught you kissing her!â
A wide grin broke across Jakeâs face.
âShe was kissing me! And I got a broken nose so bloody the teacher nearly fainted. You were a lot bigger than me back then.â
âI vas many years older,â the banker said laughingly. âI am Peter. I vas da oldest of children in school at da time. Und I considered it my duty to protect my little sister.â
Jake studied the plump girth of the man who was now shorter than himself.
âI scarcely remember the beatinâ I took,â he quipped. âAnd beinâ I was only about nine years old, I donât think I even liked girls at the time. But I have to admit, I thought more than once about that sassy little girl as I got older.â
It was the bankerâs turn to assess his client, who was nearly six feet tall and sported bulky muscle on a sturdy frame.
âI vood certainly not be giving you a beating dese days, Mr. Kearney,â the man said soberly. âIf I had it in mind to beat anyvon, it vood be dat cussed, greedy husband of Sigridâs.â
Peter studied his pipe for a time and then continued thoughtfully, âSigrid is just another of his possessions. He seems more concerned vid his horses dan he is vid her und da girls. But Sigrid is tough und stubborn. She vill go tru life like a martyr before she vill svallow her pride und get rid of him. It is just as vell, I tink, da manâs business keeps him avay from home most of da time.â
The banker lit his pipe, sending puffs of smoke wafting toward the roomâs high ceiling.
âShe vas sixteen or seventeen ven dey married,â he explained. âDa folks ver happy, for Luther vas from a vealty family. Ven dey first came to Dallas, tings seemed to go vell vid dem, but now, everting has become business for him.â
âHow does drivinâ a stagecoach keep a man so busy?â
âHe seldom drives a rig. He owns dem. Coaches und freight vagons. Dey vork in all da towns round here. He has many teams und drivers to ten to.â
Jake studied the banker in silence for a time as he considered what the man was telling him. He had come to Barron to withdraw enough money from his newly opened account to buy the Peterson place, but this unexpected talk of Sigrid had his mind reeling and his heart beating wildly. He had liked kissing her when they were school kids together and knew heâd do it again if he had the chance.
âI reckon I donât like Luther Dunn any more than you do,â Jake confided to the portly man who sat across the desk from him. âAnd Iâd like to tell you something about him.â