There was no other way to describe the splendor of it, the beauty and grandeur of the sky with it’s hues of blue, and pink, and gold as the sun erupted over the vast expanse of the West, bringing with it the light of day.
All those paintings that Sarah had seen in all the grand museums, and homes of New York, and Boston, and Philadelphia, beautiful as they might be,were no match for the beauty of nature, that sky , painted by the hand of Nature’s Creator.
It was simply magnificent.
The furnishings of the Grand Hotel – or any hotel, really, that they’d stayed in, since they’d ventured west to the frontier- were nowhere near as lovely, or luxurious as many of the hotels she’d visited back east, when she’d accompanied her Father on his business trips as a child, and yet.. there was something about it, something about the West, that brought her a peace and comfort she’d scarcely found, even in the very lap of luxury…And in that peace and comfort she had slept, peacefully, contentedly, waking to the sight of the oh, so beautiful canvas of light outside her window, and the sound of the call of the morning birds. How very quiet it was here, the young woman mused to herself. Even with the sounds of Tucson beginning to spring to life, people beginning to mill about as they began their day, it was still -far- less noisy than the streets of the city. She found it, to speak plainly, quite delightful.
Mrs. Kingsley had been kind enough to provide her Father and she with a breakfast of freshly made muffins, and fruit, bacon and eggs, and had even delivered it to their rooms, in an act of kindness. It had all been rather delicious, and what a welcome surprise it had been to be able to linger about a bit in her morning clothes, a luxury she wasn’t often able to indulge since they’d left Philadelphia behind.
James Prescott had found his evening of brandy and cigars with Mr. Kingsley quite productive, which had left the man in quite the good mood. There was to be a fandango, a dance of some sort, to be held soon, the innkeeper had told him.. a perfect opportunity for the elder Prescott to begin to ingratiate himself into the community, to begin to establish himself as the “benefactor” he wished the town to see him as, to develop the connections, to dig up the dirt, literally, and figuratively, he would need to obtain the leases and land he would need to see the railroad expand Westward, in this new route they’d planned. Annnnd, it didn’t -hurt- in such social circumstances, ripe with opportunity, to have a beautiful young daughter to lure the younger men of the town in, and to use as “leverage” perhaps, to persuade them to see things his way. Oh, they’d be at that Fandango, to be sure…they’d be there, with him providing free food and drink to all the locals..and Sarah..his Sarah…the belle of the ball.
The pretty young woman with the eyes of deepest blue had no idea of her Father’s machinations, or manipulations when he’d told her to get her best gown readied, and given her a purse full of money to buy a new hat, and gloves, and whatever other little “fancies” she might wish. She’d thought little of it, truth be told, her Father had often spoiled her – she was his only child, after all, and his one living connection to his beloved Mary. For all his faults, James Prescott had one virtue.. he had loved his wife with all his heart. All of this, this empire he’d built, he’d done it for her, for his Mary..to keep her in the style, that, as the daughter of one of the most prominent families in Philadelphia, she’d been used to keeping. And when she’d been taken from him far too soon, that love had spilled over in abundance upon his daughter. Even when he was apart from her, he doted upon his Sarah, and showered her with gifts. As she’d gotten older, he’d continued..the gifts had just become more expensive, and more well-suited for a young lady, instead of a little girl. It was only the influence of his former sister-in-law, Elizabeth, Sarah’s guardian when he was away, that had saved the girl from becoming a spoiled, selfish, little brat. No, Elizabeth had seen to it that Sarah had been instilled with her Mother’s kindness, her Mother’s heart, and grace. While James did great acts of charity for the benefit of his business, his daughter did them from the heart, and often acted as his conscience when his own was lacking, and he grew too ruthless in his pursuit of land and fortune..and the furtherance of the railroad.
Never one to be a disobedient, or disagreeable child, Sarah had taken his instruction to heart. Mrs. Kingsley had oh,so kindly, offered to find someone to come in and see to her gowns, have them hung, and arranged, and her lovely blue ball gown with the lace and bows readied, fluffed ,and pressed before the Fandango, and Mr. Kingsley had taken her Father riding, out to look at some land that he thought might be suitable for the railroad.
And so.. so it came to pass that Sarah Prescott, a resplendent vision in a gown of deep green, with bonnet and gloves to match, and her ever-present parasol, her eyes of blue bright and shining, her hair of gold swept to the side in a cascade of ringlets and curls falling about her shoulder, made her way down the streets of the town, exploring the stores, and merchants that lined the dusty trail.
There was a mercantile.. oh, she must remember to go visit there soon! Perhaps they had sweets and penny candy? She did so enjoy a lovely chocolate!
And there, that building there..that was the saloon,a place that a lady of standing would -never- dare frequent, and as such, strictly off-limits to the pretty young thing from Philadelphia.
There was the bank…and oh, there… there was the sheriff’s office, always a good thing to know, where to find the law when needed. So often the constabulary was overlooked, their sacrifices not given the full weight of their worth. Maybe someday, and soon, she’d have to stop by and bring a basket full of baked goods for the gentlemen that worked there…
Sarah’s cheeks flushed, her eyes widening at the sight of the gentleman, wearing a badge that stepped out of that office. Oh, my.. oh, -dear-.. such.. a handsome young man. Perhaps the sunsets and sunrises weren’t the only sights to be seen in Tucson!
Annnd.. yet, how very inappropriate of her to think so! Quickly reminding herself of her station, she simply smiled, adopting her appropriate posture, offering a polite smile and nod, and a sweetly spoken “Good day” as she moved past the gentleman, the echo of her steps upon the boards almost , but not quite, drowning out those softly spoken words.
It was really quite the wonder that she’d not yet been engaged, a girl of her standing, and her appearance. And yet, she hadn’t. In fact, she’d had a serious lack of gentlemen callers, perhaps because many feared a man so intimidating as her father. There was one man, Joshua Ryland, a young barrister, who had seemed to take note of her, but..well, with her following her father halfway across the country, that hadn’t really materialized. That was for the best, no doubt..she really hadn’t felt any sort of spark for him. In fact, she’d never really felt any sort of spark with any man, not that that concerned her, really. She was certain that when she met the right one, she’d know.. and if, by chance, she ended up a spinster, then, she could be quite the eccentric old lady, and drink tea out of mismatched china, and give strange advice, and… it wouldn’t be so bad at all, perhaps! One must make the most of the life they’ve been given after all.
Fighting the temptation to look back over her shoulder proved futile, and she glanced back once, just to see the gentleman once more,to see if he was perhaps looking at her, and if he was, would offer a sweet, and warm smile, before heading on.
Ahhh, there it was! The milliner’s shop! Making her way within, she wandered about, looking at the wares on display..they were quite lovely, really, and well-crafted, if a bit..simpler..than she was used to in Philadelphia, but they were beautiful, none the less. Stopping to admire a pair of gloves, a lovely blue satin, trimmed with little dark blue bows, that would go quite nicely with her gown for the Fandango, she lifted one, inspecting it’s workmanship. It was lovely really.
Suddenly, she felt it, the rustling of her skirts, as a girl, looking at bonnets on the table next to her turned rather abruptly, bumping into her.
As the young woman who had jostled her whirled to face her, Sarah almost had to laugh at the girl’s expression. The poor dear looked so flustered…With a warm smile, and eyes bright and shining, Sarah spoke, her tone reassuring, and betraying a hint of amusement.
“Oh, it’s quite alright, it’s my fault really.. these skirts are so difficult to manage at times.” As she glanced over the girl’s shoulder to the bonnets, her smile remained warm, and friendly, as she nodded to one bonnet in particular. “And you really should try the yellow one…or, oh, that blue one there..The color would be -lovely- with your complexion. I’m Sarah, by the way…Sarah Prescott, and you are?”
Morgan’s feet were practically running as he headed to the Marshal’s office. Cort groaned and James Earp chuckled.
“What do you supposed has him all fired up?”
“Something wearing a skirt,” Cort replied.
Morgan burst through the door, a big smile on his face.
“Guess what? I just passed the prettiest woman in this town!”
“You said that about the new teacher,” Cort reminded him.
“This one has a different kind of beauty. She was wearing a green dress with tiny gloves and one of those drawstring purses—“
“Do you ever stop?” Cort growled.
“Stop? Stop what? Talking, you mean?”
“If you want me to stop talking—.”
“—all you have to do is tell me—“
“I just did.”
“—and I’ll stop. Yes sir. I will.”
Cort peered over his newspaper waiting.
“Just because you don’t have a girl doesn’t mean I can’t talk about them,” Morgan said.
Cort rolled his eyes.
“Anyway, she’s blonde with blue eyes,” Morgan went on. “And we passed in the street.”
“I’ll notify the town paper.”
Totally ignoring Cort, Morgan moved his attention to James.
“She said ‘Good day’ to me and smiled like an angel. I think I’m going to invite her to the dance Friday. That would be neighborly.”
Cort looked up with pursed lips.
“Weren’t you going to invite the school teacher?”
Morgan’s eyes grew wide. “Yes, I was. And I still want to. But this girl smiled at me. I’m not sure what to do.”
Cort’s blue eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you see if you can talk the Mayor into allowing two dances this week—just for you.”
James snickered. Morgan frowned. “You’re no help. If you’d ask one of them, then I wouldn’t feel so bad leaving one out.”
“Okay, which one do you want me to ask to the dance?”
“You can ask the school teacher. No—I’ll ask her. It’s only right since I saw her first.”
“Okay. I’ll ask the young lady you just saw—“
“Wait a minute. Let me think. No, you ask the school teacher. I’ll ask–. Oh, it’s no fair. Why can’t I take both to the dance?”
“Ask them both,” Cort suggested. “See what happens.”
“You are NO help at all.”
“Good, I wasn’t trying to be.”
When Lorraine pulled her buggy on to the ranch, one of the hands took it and informed her that she had a visitor. Sarah, her housekeeper, met her at the door looking quite disturbed.
“Hello, Sarah. What’s wrong?”
“There’s someone waiting for you in the sitting room,” she whispered.
“Who is it?”
“He wouldn’t say. Just claimed he knew Mr. McGinty. I didn’t feel right about him; so I had Gus stand by with his shotgun.”
The corners of Lorraine’s mouth turned up slightly. “I’ll go see the gentleman.”
“Not without me, you won’t. And Gus is outside the door.”
“All right, Sarah. I know better than to argue with you. Let’s see what he wants.”