Samuel Stivens rubbed the five-day-old stubble on his chin as he contemplated his options. He couldn’t see many through the whiskey buzz. After twelve hours on the docks stacking grain, his weary eyes blurred the black letters on the ivory page. Although he could hardly see straight, her words were clear:
You should know that I am to wed Bartholomew Folsom at the end of next month.
“So what’ll ya do?” Barclay asked before he chugged the last of his beer and slammed the mug on the smudged bar. Barclay had spent the last two months working beside him, so he knew all about Caroline. The first day they met, Samuel made the mistake of asking if he was from England. In three lightning-fast strides, Barclay fisted his shirt and pulled him to his face. He threatened a blinker if he ever insulted him again. Paralyzed with fear (and by the wretched smell of Barclay’s breath) Samuel apologized and promised his best behavior. Later, he discovered Barclay left Scotland two years ago to see the world. Samuel wondered if he’d seen a world beyond the docks or the pub, but he wasn’t idiot enough to ask.
Samuel cringed when Barclay let out a belch he could smell. “I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I think I sold my soul to the devil.”
Barclay laughed. “I doubt you seen the devil, mate!”
“What kind of man offers three weeks’ pay to the man his daughter is to marry, on the condition he walks away?”
His co-worker raised an unruly black eyebrow. “What kind of man takes such an offer?”
Samuel glared at his whiskey sour. He’d progressed from beer hours ago.
“When’s she marrying the bloke?”
“Aye. Ain’t good.” He tapped his empty mug. “Why don’t ya just buy yer soul back, then?” He nudged Samuel. “Or, how ‘bout that broad over there? She might take yer mind off things.”
Samuel peered through the haze of cigarette smoke and working class stench. Neither the booze nor the thick air could give proper cover to her exposed cleavage. “I’m done.” He slid off the stool and dropped several coins on the bar.
Barclay shrugged and ordered another beer.
* * * * * * * * *
Three days later, Samuel debated whether he should go to the front door or to the east side loft window. On the one hand, sneaking to her window might besmirch her reputation; however, he doubted he would be granted proper passage.
He scooped some pebbles and flung them one by one at her window. With each steady ping, his anticipation grew. It would only be a matter of time before curiosity drew her to the window. Sure enough, the curtains parted.
“What are you doing, you fool boy?”
Samuel gulped. “I-uh… I wanted to see Caroline, Ma’am.”
Caroline’s mother pursed her lips. “She’s not here.”
“Where is she, Ma’am? I must talk to her.”
“She married last week.”
“Oh. G’night then, Ma’am.” He tipped his hat.
Samuel pulled his coat tight to block the chilly post-dusk air. He shoved his hands in his pockets and felt the envelope. He’d intended to give the money back.
He shuffled down the dirt road. The Folsoms lived less than three miles away. An hour later, he rapped on the door. Through the crack, he recognized the hazel eye.
The door opened wide. “Samuel…. What are you doing here?”
He shifted his gaze to his feet to keep from staring at her cotton nightshirt. “I hoped you’d marry me, but I’m too late.”
She stepped onto the porch and pulled the door latched behind her. “Let’s go.”
“You’re married now.”
“Not in my heart.” She flung her arms around him. “I love you.”
Tears soaked through the chest of his thread-bare coat. “I don’t even have a horse.”
“There are several in the stable. I’ll dress and meet you there in five minutes.”
Samuel waited, half expecting her to not show. He heard rustling in the hay and his heartbeat quickened. “H-hello?”
Bart rounded the corner, zipping his pants. “What are you doing here?”
Samuel gave him an obvious once-over. His unbuttoned shirt and disheveled hair were clues that led to a petite blonde peeping around the corner.
Bart lunged, hands grasping for his neck. Samuel kneed him and a right hook sent Bart stumbling backwards. His head cracked on a stall gate.
“She deserves better than you,” Samuel said through gritted teeth as he continued to pummel the unconscious man. He only stopped when he saw her skirt.
Caroline’s gaze traveled between the two men and then to something beyond them.
Samuel looked over his shoulder to see the blonde-haired woman standing in full view, gaping at them.
“Let’s go.” Caroline’s voice was firm.
He saddled the horses, but before he mounted, he pulled the envelope from his pocket and dropped it by Bart’s body.
“I’m not a horse thief.”
Since I posted my Speakeasy story yesterday, I changed the ending on that story a little. I also wrote this as a sort of continuation to it, although I think either one can be read stand-alone. If you want to read what led up to this, click here to read the prior segment.
Thanks for stopping by!