Satin Boots: Six Short Western Romances
The Mail Order Bride's Choice
Moira headed to the small attic room she shared with the Swinburnes’ other maid. Caroline, who had the next Sunday afternoon off, likely toiled in the kitchen at that moment helping the cook prepare a lavish feast for that night’s supper party. Moira collected her meager belongings, stuffing them into a worn satchel purchased secondhand and given to her by her mother five years prior. Mama had also given parting words of wisdom: “Stay true to yourself, Moira. Your virtue is all you truly possess. Give it to no man without the security of wedding vows.”
Having grown up the bastard daughter of a tavern wench, Moira knew her mother spoke from harsh experience. A butler’s daughter who had learned to read and write and expected to rise to respectable employment as some nobleman’s housekeeper, Edith Saccarrigan had fallen for a nobleman’s blandishments and false promises with the obvious consequences. Poor decisions and ruin followed her from Ireland to America. She gave her daughter the only gifts she could: advice and the skills to read and write.
Moira could still hear her mother’s soft Irish brogue as she sang the sad, lilting songs of her homeland.
The Swinburne’s butler met her at the back door—the servants entrance—with the salary owed her. He gave her a melancholy look and said, “You’re a good worker, an honest girl. Should anyone inquire of me, I’ll recommend your employment. I’m sorry, girl.”
“I’m sorry, too,” she replied. “You’ve been good to me, Mr. Conley.”
He nodded and stepped back to allow her to pass through the doorway. Neither acknowledged that no one would ask the butler for his recommendation of a potential employee. Moira carried her belongings to the post office where she greeted the clerk and picked up the single letter waiting for her. Stepping aside and taking a seat on a public bench, she opened it. What good fortune! Her expression brightened as she picked up a ticket for the stagecoach from within the folds of paper.
Dear Miss Saccariggan,
Our amiable correspondence has convinced me that we will make a good life together. Please use the enclosed ticket to meet me in Redstone Falls in the Colorado Territory. I will greet you at the stagecoach depot and we’ll marry.
Very truly yours,
Tucking the letter and ticket securely into her satchel, Moira left the post office and walked to the nearest stagecoach depot.
“When does the next stagecoach depart?” she inquired.
The clerk looked at the schedule posted on the wall beside the ticket window and replied, “Tomorrow morning, promptly at six o’clock.”
Moira pursed her lips as she considered what to do next. She had little money to spend.
Raking his gaze over plain clothing, the clerk frowned and said, “You can’t spend the night here, miss. The company don’t allow passengers to loiter.”
She sighed. The clerk obviously had experience with passengers like her.
“Do you know of an inexpensive place—someplace respectable—where I could stay for the night?” she asked.