Westbound (Love Travels West, Book 1)

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Chapter 3. Heading out West.

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.—J.R.R. Tolkien.


Chapter 3.

Heading Out West.

     "Excuse me," Dannie peeked into the little window at the ticket booth. "I need to purchase a ticket to a train heading out west, but I am new to America and I don't know how to go about it the right way."

     "Where exactly, Miss?" The clerk asked.

     "Arizona Territory."

   The clerk shook his head, "ain't no lines in Arizona yet, Miss."

   Dannie couldn't believe her ears. "No railway lines...at all?" She incredulously asked.

     "Oh, the company is working on it," the clerk reassured, "but for now the farthest you can get into Arizona is Clearbrook. It's a town situated right on the border of the territory. Once there you can take the mail coach to wherever it is you want to go."

     "Very well, then I'll take a ticket as far as that."

     "One way?"

     "One way."

     "What class?"

   Dannie caught her breath before asking her very embarrassing question. "How much for third class?"

     "Thirty dollars, Miss."

   Dannie bit her lip. The passage on the steam boat had not been cheap, and now the train ticket wasn't cheap either, and she still had to buy supplies for the trip. When all would be said and done, she would literally be left with no money at all. Why was travel so expensive?

     "When does the next rain leave?"

     "Today Miss, at five o'clock."

   At least she wouldn't have to spend money on a hotel room. Dannie spent the rest of the three hours till the train departed shopping for items needed for her journey. She had to be very stingy with her money and limit herself to only the things she could not do without. It wasn't easy to get accustomed to the idea that she now had to think twice before buying anything and always purchase the cheapest items on sale. The fact that it was all in dollars and not pounds added to the difficulty in shopping.

     When the clock struck five Dannie made her way to the train station.

     "All aboard, all aboard," The conductor was calling. "Welcome aboard the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe." He smiled at Dannie as she handed him her ticket. "Traveling alone, Miss?"

     "Unfortunately, I am."

     "From London, Miss?"

     "No," Dannie frowned, "Collingham."

     "That's in England, right?"

     "Yes."

   The conductor chuckled, "well, I wasn't that far off."

     "Just a little over 200 hundred miles," Dannie mumbled. Settling in her seat, she resigned herself for her long journey by train. "Please, protect me, dear God," she whispered as the train pulled out of the station.

***

     "This is it!" Dannie sighed as she got off the train, "this is as far as my ticket will take me."

   It had been a long and uncomfortable journey. The carriages were hot, the wooden seats hard, and most of the company less than desirable. Dannie of course knew America was bigger than England, but somehow she hadn't realized just how much bigger. The journey went on and on and at one point Dannie had been sure she couldn't take anymore. But giving up was not an option and Dannie had braved the difficulties of the journey as best she could.

   She had asked some of her fellow passengers what Clearbrook was like, and had generally received an answer of how it was a growing, bustling town, the central point for cattle teams as they passed on their way to California. It had a saloon, a bank, several hotels, a livery, and a post office. Now that they had arrived, Dannie looked in dismay at her surroundings. The train station hardly even resembled a decent station, and the town itself seemed to be composed of one long street of houses, most of which were built from wood. Some of them had signs, some didn't, some where built quite fancy, others were rather rundown, and all this was squashed together in the middle of nowhere, or so Dannie was convinced.

     "This is what a bustling town in the west looks like?" Dannie thought in disbelief and remembered her native Collingham. It was considered a small village, but it was a lot more decent than this hot, dusty place. There were a lot of people, Dannie would agree to that. When the train had pulled into the station, a host of faces were waiting and the chaos of people getting off and getting on was overwhelming. Dannie had found a corner and watched the hustle from a safe distance. When at last the train chugged away, the station was just about empty, most of the people had gone off and Dannie found herself quite alone. Where was she to go from here? It was getting dark and Dannie was terrified of being out alone in this wild place after nightfall. Glancing around, she saw a construction with the words Callaways Bed and Breakfast painted on a large sign. Taking a deep breath, Dannie hurriedly walked up to it and stepped inside. A bell hanging over the door announced her entry.

     "Howdy, Miss, what can I do for you?" The man behind the counter asked her. He was dressed in rugged, homespun shirt and waistcoat; his faded brown pants and old boots peeking out from beneath the table. His graying head was uncovered and a kind smile brought a shine to his hazel eyes. "You just came off the train I'm guessing."

     "Yes, I did," Dannie quietly answered.

     "Have a seat if you will, I'll bet you're all tuckered out."

     Dannie gratefully sat down in one of the chairs.

     "One of them mail order brides I'll take it. Did you intended not show up?"

   Dannie gave the man a puzzled look, not understanding what he was talking about. The man hardly seemed to notice and kept on babbling.

     "Don't worry, there are plenty of men out here looking for a wife, you'll find yourself another husband soon enough."

   Dannie still couldn't get what the man was saying, but the word husband brought back memories of Paul and she shook her head. "I don't know if I want to think of finding another husband at the moment, the memory of the one who was supposed marry to me is still a little too fresh in my head."

     "Did some old scoundrel break your heart now, little Miss?" The man's voice got a softer and he walked out from behind the counter and up to where Dannie was sitting.

     "In a way, I guess he did," Dannie confessed, not sure why she was telling this to a complete stranger. "We were supposed to be married nearly two weeks ago, but on the day I buried my parents was the day he walked up to me and said that he was breaking out engagement because he was going to marry someone else."

     "Ah, now that is a real scoundrel, and on your parents funeral at that. But don't worry, little Miss, you've come just to the right place."

     "I have?" Dannie's eyes clouded with confusion.

     "Yup, you sure have. This is not just any old bed and breakfast. When the sky is clear the moon shines brightly through these here windows. And as I've always said, if you've lost someone you loved, just come here and sit under the light of the moon and you'll be sure to find the comfort you are looking for."

   Dannie couldn't help but a smile from his words. "Is that so?"

     "God's honest truth. By the way, my name is Caleb Callaway, what's yers?"

     "Danielle Preston."

     "That's a right pretty name you have there, little Miss. I take it you're not from anywhere near here. Come from London by any chance?"

     "No, not London." Dannie fought to keep a pleasant face. "Collingham."

     "Well, I sure as hell don't know where that is, I was sure you were from England."

     "I am from England. Collingham is a little town in the north of the country, not far from the city of Leeds."

     "Ah, what brought you so far from home?"

     "Desperation," Dannie confessed in a half laugh. "How odd does that sound? But it is true, with the death of my parents I was left with no money and no connections. Somewhere in Arizona Territory I have a cousin of my father's who owns a ranch. He's my closest living relative and I've come all this way to try and find him. Perhaps you have heard of him? His name is Christopher Martin."

     "Can't say I'm familiar with the name. What's the name of the ranch?"

     "I wish I knew," Dannie groaned. "I'm afraid the only information I have is his name and that he is somewhere here. I'd don't really know where to look."

     "That does make everything very complicated," Caleb observed.

     "It does. I know it seems very foolish, but, like I said, sir, it was desperation that drove me to it."

     "Well, little Miss, I wouldn't worry. When morning dawns there will be plenty of people milling here and there and you could ask around. There ought to be someone who knows something. Have any idea where exactly in Arizona Territory your Mr. Martin is located?"

     Dannie shook her head.

     "Ah well, I'd suggest you take a good night's rest and start your search tomorrow with a clear head. Now, little Miss, can I git you anything?"

     "I don't have much money, sir." Dannie lowered her voice to a shameful whisper. "My parents left me very little and I spent most of it coming here. I'm don't know if I'll be able to afford to stay."

     "Don't you worry, little Miss, this one will be on the house."

     "Thank you sir, you are very kind," Dannie's skeptical voice didn't quite match the words she had just spoken. Caleb quickly caught on.

     "Now, little Miss, don't go on being all suspicious, I have always had a little soft spot for them of the broken heart. And lookin' at you, all alone and frightened there, sitting in a corner, why it is enough to fill any man's soul with sympathy, especially that of ol' Caleb Callaway. The good Lord tells us to take care of them fatherless and the orphan, which dear soul, fits you to a T. So now you settle down and I'll have Maggie fetch you some dinner and then we'll put you up for the night. Maybe tomorrow you can help us by washing dishes in return for your board."

     "Very well," Dannie was relieved to find out there was a woman's name mentioned.

     "Maggie!" Caleb hollered. "Git yourself over here, we need to get some supper on the table."

     "Now Caleb Callaway," a woman's voice sounded from the kitchen, "did you dare leave that front door unlocked? I thought I told you plain as day we only open tomorrow! No customers today!"

     "Maggie, don't go arguing with me. This ain't exactly a customer, more like a little child in need of help. Come over and see for yourself and then tell me you don't agree with me."

     A wiry lady appeared from out of the kitchen. She rather thin and not very tall; dressed in checkered dress covered with a white apron and a simple white bonnet on her head.

     "Bless my soul, where did this lamb come in from?" She asked, looking Dannie up and down with eyes that peered from behind wire framed glasses.

     "Came from the train station, where else?" Caleb stated. "Now I know you said that we are opening tomorrow, but when the little Miss came in, all lost an alone, and I didn't have the heart to turn her away. It's not exactly the safest place out there, especially at night, and turning her out would be the greatest sin I could commit. Come now, Maggie dear, we could put her up for the night, couldn't we? Seeing as we haven't officially opened, we won't call her a customer, more like a guest. She's got no money and not a clue as to where to go."

     "You haven't got any money at all?"

     "I have five dollars." Dannie sheepishly said.

     "Well," Maggie mused, "that certainly ain't nothing, but then it ain't something either. How did you get all the way here with only five dollars?"

     "Oh, I had more to start with, but I had to pay for the ticket to Liverpool, then for my passage on board the ship, and purchase my train ticket to Clearbrook. Then there were supplies that had to be purchased for the trip and during the trip, and before I knew it I had only five dollars left."

     "Where are you from Miss, and what is your name?" Maggie asked, walking over and taking a seat near Dannie.

     "Danielle Preston is my name and I'm from England."

     "She's looking for her relative, goes by the name of Christopher Martin and should be somewhere in the area, but she don't know exactly where."

     "I wish we could help you dearie," Maggie's voice was filled with sympathy, "but you see, we ourselves are pretty new. Came just recently, bought out this here old place and turned it into a bed and breakfast. Towns with train stations never seem to have enough of them. But there, don't worry, tomorrow the town will be a bustlin' and a hustlin' and we'll find someone who knows about your Mr. Martin."

     "That's exactly what I told her, Maggie ole girl," Caleb grinned. "You go fetch her something to eat and I'll have Abby run her a bath. ABBY!" Caleb hollered out again. Soon a girl of about seventeen years appeared coming down the stairs.

     "What is it, Pa?" She asked.

     "Run a bath for the little Miss, and be quick about it, she's had a long trip."

     "But I thought Ma said..."

     "Just do what you Pa told you," Maggie cut her off, "I'll explain later"

     Abby nodded her head and ran to do what she was told.

     Dannie smiled gratefully at the husband and wife. This was the very first time complete strangers had shown her so much kindness. The back of her mind told her that it might be very unsafe, they might try to rob her, but then, she didn't really have anything worth stealing. Not to mention this seemed to be something of a family business, and the sight of young Abby gave almost more comfort that Maggie had.

     "You'll be fine, Dannie, you'll be fine," she told herself. "It's just for one night and they are very nice people. What is more, from the looks of it they appear to be Christians, so you'll be just fine."


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