Inside the train carriage, a young woman was crying. Jane had enough problems of her own, but guilt from ignoring the girl so long compelled Jane to change seats and check on her.
“Are you all right?” Jane said, handing over her handkerchief.
She wiped her eyes and dotted her nose.
“Is it really so bad?” Jane asked, thinking of her own mess, running away, hiding from her horrid father.
“I got married,” she said through sniffles.
“Is that so bad?”
“I don’t even know him. Married by proxy to some German. My father needed the money, the German needed a wife.” She dabbed off fresh tears. “Now, I’m being shipped off to Denver.”
The girl talked incessantly. When Jane said she herself was planning on a new life in Chicago, leaving out the details of what drove her to hide herself in the big city, the girl finally stopped crying.
When darkness fell, they quieted and Jane fell asleep. She woke when the sun was high. The girl was gone, but on her chair lay her handbag. And Jane’s was gone, with all her money and hopes.
Jane shot to her feet and searched the train. There was no sign of the girl. Finally the conductor told her she’d gotten off at Chicago, where her ticket ended. Jane sat back down, thinking frantically of what to do. Her heart was pounding, her anger seething. Finally, with no other ideas, she opened the girl’s bag. Inside was only the ticket to Denver and a letter of introduction to the new husband. Jane would go to him, demand money for her return to Chicago, and maybe she could command some kind of reward too, for helping the husband find his errant wife.
At Union Station in Denver, Jane found a driver holding a sign displaying the girl’s name from the letter. Jane showed him the letter and he escorted her to his horse and buggy. Her heart was speeding again, thumping hard in her chest. Her hands shook holding the missing girl’s handbag. The husband would certainly be furious, but hopefully she’d have a chance to gain his trust and help before he threw her out onto the street.
The buggy stopped outside an enormous home. The girl shouldn’t have fled so quickly. Maybe a stranger for a husband might have been worth considering. A servant answered the door and another took her to a parlor. Foolish girl, Jane thought. A third servant brought in refreshments and reassured her the master would soon come.
Jane practiced her petition in her mind. She’d get to the point quickly, convincing him she could help locate his wife. She’d emphasize the inconvenience, and demand compensation.
The door opened. At long last. A dashing man entered. He apologized for the delay and kissed her hand. He smiled expectantly. Jane prepared with a deep breath. Then lowered her eyes and said how glad she was to meet him. And she handed over her letter of introduction.
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