Excerpts

Tory Roof Page 60

Sarah had just hung the kettle on a hook over the hearth when there was a knock at the door. She hurried to open it, wiping her hands on an apron which somehow adorned her. She looked down and noticed her skirt was long, her shoes stocky, her blouse buttoned at her throat. It was as if she were wearing someone else’s wardrobe.

“Lord Bennington,” she heard herself say. “Do come in. May I take your wrap?” Her words sounded other-worldly.

Removing his hat, he entered, nodding good-day. “And where is that man of yours?” he bellowed, displaying his own prominence.

“He’s tending to the back fence. We had a rail come down and one of the lambs got out this morning. Took us two hours to find her,” Sarah said, making conversation. “Terrence will be right back; he knows you’re coming. Would you care for some tea while you wait?”

She was sure to flash a winning smile, though for the life of her, she had no idea where the explanation originated. Did they have lambs? She wasn’t even sure they had a fence.

“Don’t mind if I do, good lady,” he answered, authoritatively sitting in the largest chair. Like Terrence, he was as real as could be, with a white powdered wig, ruddy complexion, portly posture that challenged his waistcoat.

“And Lady Bennington… is she well?” Sarah heard herself ask as she poured the tea.

“Quite fine, quite fine, thank you. You should join her sometime after church. She and the ladies are quilting a coverlet for our daughter’s dowry.”

“That would be lovely,” Sarah replied, assured she would somehow be gifted with the fine stitching skills that endowed the women of the day.

Just then Terrence entered, wind-blown and covered with slivers of straw. He quickly strode over to shake his visitor’s hand. “Lord Bennington, it’s wonderful to see you. Please pardon my tardiness, but Sarah must have told you we had a lamb escape.”

“She most certainly did, and delightfully, too. You’ve got quite a fine woman here, young lad!”  Lord Bennington beamed, slapping Terrence on the shoulder.

“Yes, I do,” said Terrence. “I am truly blessed.” He glanced at Sarah in a way that went through her like a warm flood.

“Please excuse me, gentlemen. I’ve got bread baking,” Sarah said, fluffing a pillow as she left the room. Through the doorway, they could see her maneuvering a long bread peel into the opening of the large beehive oven. Terrence threw another log on the fire as Lord Bennington lit his pipe. Sarah could hardly believe what she was watching.

Pulling the steaming loaves from the hot chamber, without a clue how they got there, she set them on a rack to cool. She could overhear the men talking. Lord Bennington was loud and pompous as he spoke of “those pesky Colonists… all full of themselves… probably couldn’t scare a crow out of a corn field.” Terrence responded in kind, laughing appropriately and offering equally derogatory remarks.

Both men paused to thank Sarah as she poured tea and served the warm bread with summer jam. Then they resumed their boisterous talk, amending their tea with brandy and their conversation with bravado.

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Silver Line Opening

Chapter 1 — TRAILS

“Let me be perfectly clear. I was never a soiled dove, a lady of the night. I was a dance hall girl, an entertainer—there’s a distinction. I didn’t work on the line but drew the line when it came to favoring men. I came to the town of Buckskin Joe in 1861 to use my God-given talents of song and dance, not to be mistaken for some rouge-cheeked painted cat. That error in perception still galls me.

Sure, I hung around saloons—something a respectable, East Coast woman might not do—but I was a ‘good girl’ by Western standards and was treated as such by patrons.

Those who didn’t know me might confuse my flirtatious nature and flashy shoes with offering something else, but I can assure you, a dance with me required hands where I could see them. On a good night at Bill Buck’s dance hall, I’d twirl the floor with 50 gents, pulling in as much as a dollar a turn. But they were customers, nothing more. And thanks to them, I made a damn good living. Better than some of the sporting women down the street.

I was never one of those scarlet women who would bosom-up to the first cowboy who came to town. That’s not to say I didn’t have a few special beaus in my life, but only one man holds my heart.

I had a soft spot for miners. They were industrious, dedicated, and patient. Maybe that’s because they spent long hours working in the dark. But rest assured, they knew how to have a good time. A couple placer nuggets or a find in the Phillips lode would mean drinks all around.

I do have a story to tell about life and death and doing what’s right, but I’m not quite ready to commit it to paper. It seems that my friends and neighbors have woven a tale that’s far more intriguing and I’m inclined to let it be. See, I was just living my life when two sheepherders from the San Luis Valley brought smallpox into town. I did what any good-hearted woman would do. I had to do it, because most everyone else left. So, I’m going to think some more about rectifying my story.

Right now, I’d rather contemplate the mountain outside my window. The evening air is filled with sagebrush and pine, and the aspens are setting up a rustle that starts at their core and travels up their branches into a splendid frenzy. Really, what more could a woman want?”

Jared Sutherland had never heard the legend of Silver Heels,
nor did he—or most people for that matter—know of the diary that lay hidden in a small metal box in a quiet corner of Colorado. All Jared knew was that he was 18 years old and this was his last hurrah before starting college. Armed with a backpack and camping gear, he had flown cross-country to meet his friends at a trailhead near Scott Gulch.