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Jelly’s Reluctant Passage To India by Sharon

Word Count 2,615

This story is based on the Lancer episode “Welcome to Genesis”, which opens with Murdoch, Scott and Jelly bedding down for the night in a campsite far from the ranch. When Jelly goes to check on the restive horses, he is suddenly and viciously attacked by a mountain lion. By the time that Murdoch is able to safely get off a shot, and the animal flees, Jelly is badly injured and bleeding. 

The Lancers bring their friend to the nearest town, Genesis, where they are taken in by a widow, Sarah Lockwood. As there is no doctor in Genesis, Murdoch rides off to Cold River to fetch the one who works there. In his absence, Mrs. Lockwood explains to Scott that due to a devastating accident in the local mine; Genesis is a town of women and children. Her son Billy, survived but sustained permanent injury to his legs in the incident.

In Cold River, Murdoch finds Dr. Theodore Banning—behind bars in the local jail. The man has been arrested for practicing medicine without a license, or, perhaps more accurately, because he failed to cure the son of the man who “owns” the town, one Judah Abbott. Murdoch removes the doctor from the sheriff’s custody at gunpoint, promising to return the prisoner. After Banning’s escape attempt fails because he returns for his rather beat up medical bag, Murdoch finally brings the handcuffed doctor into Mrs. Lockwood’s home.

Released from the manacles, Banning tries to negotiate his payment for operating on the weak and unconscious Jelly, but Scott steps in: “Mr. Banning. . . I don’t know what kind of arrangement you possibly have made with my father, but I don’t have any arrangement with you. I only know one thing—he’s dying right now, and if you don’t go to work and pull him through I’ll deliver you back to Cold River, feet first, if I have to. . . .” He draws his gun to emphasize the point.

With Mrs. Lockwood’s assistance, Banning successfully performs the necessary operation and then spends the next day treating the citizens of Genesis.

.

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“Jelly’s Reluctant Passage to India”

“To the student of civilization, India is one of the most interesting countries in the world. Now, it has always been one of the most fertile and populous regions on the globe. . .”

“Jelly, how’re you feeling?”

Even though for most of the day he’d had to look at Murdoch’s stern expression every time he’d managed to get his eyes open, Jelly Hoskins wasn’t entirely sorry to see that the Boss was back now, interrupting Scott’s reading. Scott meant well, he’d even said that he’d selected the History of India on purpose because “Hump” came from there, but a man who was feeling as poorly as Jelly was just couldn’t be expected to be paying much attention. At least it gave Scott something to do, instead of just sitting there with a worried look on his face.

Jelly tried to explain to Murdoch exactly how he was feeling. “Well, I’ll tell ya. Didya ever see a warthog stuck in the mud some, barely able ta keep his nose up, but at the same time wallow around a little bit?” Murdoch shook his head “no”, but there it was, that was the closest Jelly could come to describing it. Then the Boss said something about getting ready to travel the next morning. Jelly was happy to hear that, he figured he’d start feeling better just as soon as they’d headed out for home. But then Scott wanted to know how many people were going to some place called Cold River, three or four, and Murdoch said four and of course Jelly couldn’t tell from Scott’s face if that was a good thing or bad.

Once Murdoch went back downstairs, Scott just sat there, thinking, staring off into space while he absently rolled one blue sleeve, then the other, up higher on his forearm. Jelly looked up at the ceiling, sighing loudly, then he studied his feet sticking up under that green blanket, wiggled ‘em around for a bit, until finally he just had to say something. “Well, you gonna keep readin’ or not?”

Scott smiled self-consciously, opened the book back up, and then started in again . “The majestic northern mountain ranges, the Himalayas in the east and the Hindoo Kush in the west have served as barriers to limit the contact which India has had with other civilizations.” Scott abruptly stopped, then began turning the pages. “Let’s see if I can locate something you might find more interesting, Jelly.”

Jelly couldn’t help but roll his eyes at that, then quickly glanced over at Scott to see if he’d caught it.

<< Scott ain’t never put on any high falutin’ airs, even if he’s smart as a steel trap’n collige edjucated ta boot. Dang if he ain’t even sometimes willin’ ta listen t’advice from an old horse wrangler.>>

In spite of himself, a small sigh escaped and Jelly’s eyes darted once more to see if Scott had noticed. He hadn’t, his attention was still on that infernally thick book. <<Yup, I’ve given that boy some real good advice>> Jelly thought with satisfaction . << Johnny too. But there jist ain’t no talkin’ to the two of ‘em if they’re together. Always tryin’ ta git my goat—- as if I’d give ‘em the satisfaction! >>

Scott was still murmuring strange India names to himself—“Akbar the Great . . . . .the Golden Age of the Guptas, . . . . . here’s a chapter on Flora and Fauna.” Scott looked up and smiled. “Plants and Animals.”

Jelly forced himself to smile back. “That sounds real nice, Scott. I’m feelin’ a bit tuckered, so I might rest ma eyes a bit, but I’m lissenin’, so you kin jist go right on readin’.”

“Sure, Jelly.”

For a while, Jelly did listen as Scott read about some of the different animals to be found over in Inda:

“ Mongooses are fierce, active hunters that attack nests in order to feed upon the eggs. They also consume a variety of small burrowing animals. Above all, the mongoose of India is widely renowned for its ability to kill snakes, including cobras. It lives in arid rocky or brushy areas, or in cultivated pastures. The Indian grey mongoose is easily tamed and is often kept as a pet and destroyer of household vermin . . . .”

Jelly hadn’t ever heard of a “mongoose”; it really didn’t sound very much like Dewdrop at all. <<Waall, exceptin’ maybe for the part ‘bout havin’ a purely evil temper. . . .>>

Even though the information about the elephants was kind of interesting, Jelly had to work hard to stifle a yawn or two. He’d seen an elephant one time, in a traveling circus.

“The massive Indian elephants are used extensively throughout the country as beasts of burden, but especially in the teak forests, where they carry logs with their trunks. In the sixteenth century, the Emperor Akbar used elephant cavalry in battle. Training and handling of these beasts requires great skill. Elephants can charge at speeds of thirty miles per hour, trampling everything in their paths . . . .”

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Moving slowly in the sweltering heat, Jelly dodged one branch as he fought his way through the jungle, only to have a second one practically knock his cap right off of his head. He snatched at the brim, lifting it from his head to swipe at his forehead with one frayed sleeve before replacing the sweat soaked hat. If only it weren’t so dad-blamed hot! Hotter n’ Hades, that’s what it was, and he couldn’t figure out what he was doin’ out here in the middle of a jungle anyway. And not another soul in sight, though it sounded as if there were plenty of big ol’bugs buzzin’ around.

Finally, he stepped out into a clearing and right into the middle of a road. He looked one way, and no one was comin’, but when he looked in the other direction, squinting somethin’ terrible against the sun, danged if he didn’t see Scott ‘n Johnny ridin’ on a coupla elephants! He whipped off his cap and called out to ‘em: “Hey there fellas! Johnny! Scott!” ‘Stead of answerin’ the two of ‘em seemed like they was kinda talkin’ t’each other and then, grinnin’ like fools, they started racin’ those elephants.

Jelly just stood there, hands on hips, shaking his head. If that didn’t beat all. You jist never knew what them two would do next. They was real good riders, both of ‘em, but racin’ elephants?! Then, suddenly, Jelly froze right to the spot, couldn’t move atall, as he realized that those boys were comin’ right at him and they weren’t gonna stop!! He couldn’t even tell who was winnin’ the race, cause all he could see was the legs of that lead elephant and then he was lying on the ground, trampled, felt like maybe he’d been stepped on by a whole herd of them animals.

He looked up and somebody was leanin’ over him, appeared to be Johnny, and he was laughin’. “You don’t look too good, Mr. Simon.”

“Now, Johnny, I ain’t Mr. Simon, you musta got me confused with somebody else. . . . “

“Oh, surely you’ve heard of ‘Simple Simon’. . . .So, Johnny, is he going to be okay?” That was Scott, Jelly couldn’t see him, but at least Scott sounded a mite worried. But then it was Murdoch’s grim face looming over him.

“Serves him right for stealing Teresa’s pearl necklace!” And then the Boss was stomping him, hard in the ribs and Jelly tried to explain once more how sorry he was ‘bout that and why he’d hadta do it and then he heard Scott’s voice again, sayin’ “Jelly, take it easy, take it easy” and that’s when Jelly Hoskins woke up.

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“Jelly– it’s all right, you were having a dream.”

Jelly’s eyes flew open. His first thought was how bad his ribs felt and his second thought was how bad he felt that he’d taken that jewel box of Teresa’s. He sighed, which made his ribs hurt a little bit more. He looked up at Scott’s worried face and he knew the boy didn’t still hold it against him, no matter how angry he’d been on that miserable ride the two of them had taken to the Spanish Wells jail. Scott hadn’t said two words the whole time, just the one, “Why?”, and Jelly hadn’t been able to tell him then, couldn’t take a chance on anything happening to his boys.

But once the Lancers had found out about Toogie and the rest, they just couldn’t do enough to help. And the Boss, he’d even asked Jelly to stay on, given him a job. Jelly’d apologized six ways to Sunday to Teresa about that necklace and everything else, especially about running her ragged baking all those biscuits.

Seeing that Jelly was sweating, Scott reached for a cool cloth to dab on his forehead, being careful not to rub at the lengthy gouge near his friend’s left brow.

“Jelly, are you okay?”

Jelly closed his eyes again. “I guess I feel ‘bout as okay as any man can feel when his ribs hurt like he’s been trampled by a whole herda el-, . . . a whole herda. . . . . wild horses.”

“Perhaps I should go ask Dr. Banning to come up and take a look at you.”

Jelly’s eyes came open at that. Dr. Banning had seemed like a fine doc, but Jelly still worried that maybe the man had taken out something important, something he might be needing later on. “No, no needa that, but you can jist tell me what that doc said. . . am I in real bad shape, Scott?”

“Now Jelly,” Scott said mildly, giving the older man a knowing look. “What did Murdoch say when you asked him ?”

“Waal, like I’m fool enough ta waste ma time askin’ him anythin’!” Jelly blustered up at his young friend. “ ‘Sides,” he added, “I knowed you’d tell it to me straight.”

Although relieved that Jelly was sounding much more like his old self, Scott still allowed a soft sigh of his own to escape. He glanced down at the open pages of The History of India for a moment, before looking up to meet Jelly in the eye. “Well, . . .Dr. Banning . . .seems optimistic that you’re going to pull through just fine. He did say the next few days would tell. He’s concerned about . . . infection, or pneumonia. But we know how tough you are, Jelly.”

“Take more’n one skin ‘n bones cat to finish me, I guess.”

Scott looked away at that, an unhappy expression on his face. With a flash, Jelly knew exactly what it was that was eating at him.

“Lookin’ after them horses was my job.”

There was a short silence before Scott conceded the point. “I know that, Jelly. It’s just that. . . well, . . . I don’t know what we’d do without you.”

“You’d be in a bad way, ain’t no question atall ‘bout that. But some things don’t need sayin’.”

Scott managed a small smile. Jelly had heard Scott talking to Mrs. Lockwood, heard him tell her “Jelly’s special to us”. Choked him up some, just thinking about it, but there wasn’t no need for Scott to know that. Jelly changed the subject.

“Fell asleep, I guess. Real interestin’ though, them elephants.”

“I found the part about the bulls.”

“Waal, let’s hear it then.”

“The Brahmin bull, regarded as sacred by the Hindoos, belongs to the Zebu species. The male is also called a Madras ox. This bovine mammal has been extensively domesticated in China, East Africa and India. It usually has short horns, large ears, slender legs, a large dewlap, and a prominent hump over the shoulders, but these characteristics vary in different domestic breeds. . . “

“Hump”, now he’d been about the gentlest critter Jelly ever hoped to meet. Pure white, not a spot on him, and short dark horns, handsomest beast he’d ever laid eyes on truth be told. “Hump” had seemed like some kind of misfit at first, but Jelly’d gotten attached to him real quick. He’d thought the world of that bull, and he’d never had much luck with animals, not since that dog he’d had back when he was a kid. . . . .. Scott, now, when Jelly’d shown him that bull, he’d just asked a few questions, but Scott hadn’t laughed, not even once.

And for once it had been Jellifer B. Hoskins who had had the last laugh—— on those dad-blamed stockmen who were so full of themselves, who’d never thought he’d ever really buy himself a bull. Yep, they’d laughed at old Humpety, but now Hump was hard at work for none other than the US government.

“Listen to this, Jelly. . . .”

Scott, now, he’d backed Jelly up in the saloon, then tried to tell him it really had been some kind of “initiation” them jackasses had been putting him through. Jelly hadn’t bought that, not for one minute, but he’d appreciated Scott saying it all the same. And Scott had been the one to track him down, give him the good news about Hump not having tick fever. Jelly shivered as he recalled how close he’d come to putting a bullet in Hump’s head.

“Jelly, are you cold?”

“I’m jist fine, quit yer fussin’.” Jelly tugged at the green blanket, notched it up higher under his chin, just for effect. Dang if Scott didn’t miss much— sometimes, other times, well, the boy could be blind as a bat. If he was the one being taken, it was like he’d close his eyes to it, even give the other fella –or gal—a second chance to do it. But when it came to other folks being tricked, Scott just wouldn’t stand for it no how. He’d seen through Jelly right away, knew he hadn’t really been run over by Murdoch’s team . . . .figured out first thing what had happened to those dang pearls. Least Scott wasn’t one for holding a grudge, always seemed to know the right thing to say and had a nice, fine, polite way about him. . . .

“There are various types of unions between Men and Women. According to the Kama Sutra, just as Men are divided into three classes: the Hare man, the Bull man and the Horse man, Women are categorized as either female Deer, Mares or Elephants, all according to the size of their . . . .”

“Scott Lancer! What in tarnation are you readin’?!!”

“Sorry, Jelly, I didn’t think you were paying attention,” Scott said looking up with one of those devilish grins of his. Then he turned serious. “It seems there’s an ancient Indian text called the Kama Sutra , it’s a book about the art of . . . .”

“I kin tell what it’s about!”

“Sorry,” Scott said, trying hard to stop grinning and not looking sorry at all. “I just thought you might find it interesting,” he added, managing to look almost innocent.

Jelly glared up at him, then looked over towards the doorway. “Didja think Mrs. Lockwood would like hearin’ ‘bout it too?”

Scott’s mouth dropped open and his eyes got kind of round and he was on his feet in a hurry, turning towards the door ready to apologize up and down to Sarah Lockwood. But the doorway was empty. He looked back down at Jelly, who was laying there with his eyes half closed again, tugging his blanket up under his whiskered chin.

“You been had before and you’re gonna be had a lot more times before they pack me away,” he announced smugly.

Scott Lancer shook his head with a rueful smile. “I hope so, Jelly, I really do hope so.”

~end~

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