Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter 23

Marguerite's ride on the cars of the St. Paul & Pacific ended at 9 a.m. the following day. Upon arriving in St. Paul she found her connection to Chicago didn't depart until 1 p.m. that afternoon. A more pleasant surprise came when she found a small extra fee gained her a berth on one of Mr. Pullman's new sleeping cars. She dearly wanted to be rested up when she met Paul, after suffering the twenty-four hour ride on Jim Hill's straight-backed, almost cushion less train seat. That portion of the ride had left her cramped, stiff and listless.

On the second evening of her trip, after the porter made up her bed, she found an almost instant sleep due to fatigue. Awakening at dawn she dressed hurriedly, noting the fleeting scenery changes from the window. The open countryside of rolling prairie was disappearing; they were approaching congested areas, a seeming concentration of small towns and farms. As the porter came through the car to convert berths back into seats, he called repeatedly: "Chicago, in 30 minutes; Chicago in 30 minutes."

Additional snapping sounds and click-clacks came as they passed over other railroad tracks and switches. As the train slowed, numerous parallel tracks appeared, many with long lines of assorted cattle and boxcars. They passed a long freight train standing motionless on a sidetrack, dark tendrils of coal smoke drifting lazily from its bulbous stack. Two short switch engines were visible, busily moving assortments of cars here and there, evidently sorting the mixture to make up future trains.

The conductor passed quickly through the car, removing tickets tucked along the clips between the windows. His nasal voice proclaiming: "Chicago, next stop. Five minutes."

Barely moving now, the early morning sunlight was suddenly blocked out as they rolled beneath a huge roofed canopy. Amid grinding and hissing of brakes and jarring of couplings the train finally stopped. As a brakeman opened the vestibule door, he picked up a short stool, opened the outside door and lifted a floor plate. A cool breeze wafted through the car as people stood to gather belongings, impatient to debark. Many carried bulky hand luggage, apparently not having bothered to check them.

Marguerite felt tense with anxiety, but upon descending from the car steps was suddenly grasped in a close embrace by a radiant Paul. He was so eager to take her in his arms that he blocked other passengers endeavoring to leave.

Their kiss was long and fervent until they were rudely forced aside by other passengers, one of whom remarked loudly about their lack of courtesy.

Finally releasing her, he exclaimed, "Oh, Marguerite, I've missed you so much! I even met the train yesterday morning in case you arrived a day early!" His excitement was so catching; her tension and fears magically vanished. "Here, give me your bag. I've a carriage waiting just outside."

The warmth of his greeting overwhelmed her. He was the same, familiar Paul, charming, obviously bubbling with joy at seeing her. At that instant she realized the closeness they would share, there would be no further worries. All thoughts of the past vanished at that moment; she instinctively knew their marriage would be a happy one!

"Have you had breakfast?"

"No. I doubt the dining car was even open at this early hour."

"Neither have I. Let's grab a bite downtown, then we'll go out to my Father and Mother's house. They have an extra bedroom for you until we can make arrangements for the nuptials. With his arm snugly around her waist he steered her toward the exit doors leading to the street. Looking at her mischievously, he asked, "Can we get married soon? Perhaps a civil ceremony would be best since I'm not of your faith? Gosh, we never got around to discussing that problem."

Smiling happily, she turned to face him. "Whatever you want suits me fine. I'm as anxious as you. How about your folks though; will there be any disappointment at a quick ceremony?"

He pressed her back into motion. "No problem, they'll agree to anything we decide upon. I've told them how beautiful and talented you are. Don't be worried about meeting them; they'll love you as much as I do. Oh, by the way did you check any baggage?"

"Gosh, it's well you reminded me. Yes, I checked a small steamer trunk. Let me get the tag from my reticule."

Approaching their carriage, Paul spoke to the driver. “Do you mind picking up a piece of baggage?"

"No, give me the check and I'll drive closer to the baggage door. You folks step inside, I'll take care of it.”