DISCLAIMER: The following is an original work of fan fiction based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended. No profit is being made - enjoy!!

A Writing Exercise

Eleanor Tremayne, Ezquire

Chris Larabee paused in the doorway to the saloon, barely resisting the urge to rub his eyes in astonishment at the sight that met his gaze.

"It seems they have taken the Lord's admonition to go forth and multiply," Josiah rumbled from behind him.

"Good morning, Mr. Larabee," Mary Travis smiled. "Mr. Sanchez, Mr. Jackson, as you can see, the saloon's not open yet."

"Needed t'talk t'Ezra," Chris told her, realizing that Mary was stationed by the door as the bouncer.

"Do their parents know what's going on here?" Nathan demanded, wondering why the hell they hadn't.

"Their parents know that their children are receiving an education that would otherwise be beyond their reach ~ and their wildest dreams."

"How much's he chargin' folks to teach their children how t'cheat at cards?"

"A fair price."

Nathan snorted and Mary bristled. "And just how would you feel if someone tried to thrust their charity on you, Mr. Jackson? Something tells me you wouldn't care for the condescension ~ these parents can and want to pay a fair price for what they're receiving from Mr. Standish."

"I ain't talkin' about charity, Ma'am ~ seems t'me a man like Ezra owes somethin'."

"To whom, Mr. Jackson? To the people who choose to gamble with him, to the citizens of this town that he has more than once nearly died protecting? Or to you?"

Chris gave Nathan a look that said he'd really like to hear Nathan's answer.

"It ain't like that!" Nathan protested.

"It never is," Mary pointed out. "So, unless this is an emergency, gentlemen, you'll have to wait until class is over."

"It can wait," Chris told her, deliberately not acknowledging the presence of Vin Tanner in the shadows by the stairs. "Can't it, Nathan?"

A warning look from Mary made Nathan reluctantly nod. He led the way out of the saloon, Josiah behind him. Chris lingered a moment, enjoying the sight of happy children. The wistful smile on his face melted Mary's stern resolve to the point where she would have let him stay, if he asked.

He didn't, pulling himself inward instead. A quick tug of his hat brim between his thumb and forefinger in her direction said goodbye, and he left the saloon.

He didn't go far, settling into Ezra's chair on the porch and putting his heels up on the rickety old one the rest of them used. He could hear Ezra's voice from inside the saloon, and somehow the numerical equivalents of cards had given way to history, as the fortuitous combination of an Ace of Spades, a Queen of Diamonds and a Jack of Hearts had reminded Ezra of Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Grinning, Chris leaned his head back against the top rung of the chair back. Pity the poor schoolteacher when they finally got one ~ every kid in town would argue to their last drop of blood that the pilgrims were nothing more than carpet-bagging squatters who'd descended on Plymouth Rock like uncouth locusts when Europe could no longer stand their dour presence, and thus had made them the problem of the sovereign country of Virginia, whose people had suffered greatly for Her gallant and generous hospitality ever since.

"God help them if they're from South Carolina," he chuckled to himself.


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