Wilhemina Smith to the rescue from Heart of Stone by Pat

Wilhelmina Smith traveled to Kansas in 1867 looking for her missing husband, Arthur Smith and the fossil he had discovered, a bird with teeth. Although she was almost certain her husband was dead, the fossil, if she could locate it, was sure to make him famous, restore his good name, and make her beloved father-in-law proud. She hires a disreputable guide named Devin Elder, the last man known to have seen her husband alive. The ensuing trip has a flood, a buffalo stampeed, Indian attacks and some great romantic tension between the outlaw and the lady. Although she looks the part of a lady, Mina can ride, shoot and lie her way out of almost any scape. The following is the ending of a Heart of Stone. An unpublished work of mine. I hope you enjoy it.
Early the next afternoon, intending to tell Vincent of her decision to return Kansas, Mina opened the door to the study and discovered her father-in-law and Mrs. Worthington in an embrace. Mina stood dumbfounded until they noticed her. “I beg your pardon,” was all she could think to say.

With an embarrassed cry, Mrs. Worthington fled from the room. Looking to Vincent, Mina waited for an explanation. He busied himself behind the desk and avoided making eye contact.

“Poppy?”

“Yes?” His tone was timid at best. Not the usual bluster she’d come to love and admire.
“Is there something you’d like to tell me?”
He looked at her, then, a sad smile settling over his face. One that reminded her very much of Arthur.
Vincent cleared his throat. “In spite of what you are thinking, I want to assure you, Mina, that your place is here. This is your home. Nothing and no one will ever change that. I know how traumatic the lost of your father and your first home was. I know how much you love it here. I know how much you mourn my son. I will never ask you to leave.”

It was the perfect opening to tell him of her decision but she was interrupted by a knock at the study door. Stanley opened it and announced, “Constable Monroe to see you, sir.”
“Yes, thank you. Show him in,” Vincent said.

A tall, dapper man with shining brass buttons on his uniform doffed his helmet and stepped forward. “I thought you would like to know, sir, that a man has been arrested for the murder of your son. The wire came from Salina, Kansas just this morning.”
Mina took a step toward him. “Gray Wolf had been captured?”

“No, Miss. It seems a whiskey trader by the name of Dubois was caught with stolen goods. In order to gain favor with the court, he gave up his former accomplice. He told the sheriff in Salina that he witnessed the murder of Arthur Smith by one Devlin Elder. He was even willing to lead the authorities to your son’s grave.”
“That sniveling, stinking, no-good pile of buffalo dung! I can’t believe it.” Hands fisted on her hips, Mina paced across the study floor and back. She looked up to see both men staring at her in open astonishment.
“I’m sorry if I appear overwrought, gentleman. I know Mr. Doubis. He’s a dastardly villain and a liar.”
“But Elder confessed,” the constable added.
“He what?” Mina groped behind her for a chair and sank into it.
“When he was arrested, he confessed.”
She closed her eyes and whispered, “Oh, Devlin, what have you done?”
She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Vincent’s worried face. He addressed the police officer. “What will happen to Mr. Elder?”
“He’s to be hanged a week from tomorrow.”
Mina shot to her feet. “What? Hanged? Over my dead body.” She headed for the door. Stanley!"

The butler rushed into the room. “Yes, Miss. Is everything alright?”

It most certainly is not. Send a cable to Sheriff Wilson in Salina telling him to delay the execution of my husband’s murderer until I arrive. Secure me a ticket on the next train to Kansas at once. Have Sabiha loaded along with my riding gear and my guns. Go, go!”

“Yes, Miss.” He bobbed his head and hurried away.
"Wilhelmina, what has come over you?” Vincent demanded.
She opened her mouth, then closed it. Crossing to Vincent she took his hand. “Poppy, I’m in love with the most wonderful, most noble, most stupid man that ever lived. I will not let him throw his life away. Arthur was killed by a renegade named Gray Wolf and by Frenchy Dubois. Devlin is not responsible and I won’t let him die in some preposterous attempt to ease his conscience.”
“But my dear, you can’t go running off like this.”
“Yes, I can.” She kissed his cheek. “I love you, I always will. Have a wonderful life. Make an honest woman out of Mrs. Worthington, and tell her I said I was done coddling you. She’ll understand. Now, I must hurry.” She headed for the door.
“Mina, please,” he called.
She stopped and looked back. “You want me to be happy, don’t you, Poppy?”
“Of course.”
“Then don’t try to stop me. Oh, and you will have to do one favor for me. Have the bulk of my money transferred to a bank in Salina or the nearest town that has a bank.”
“All of it?”
“Half. I’ll send for the rest when I get settled.”
“Settled? Settled where?”
“I have no idea. Isn’t it exciting?” She blew him a kiss and raced up the stairs to pack.

Inside the narrow jail cell, Devlin sat on his cot with his back propped against the wall and read the letter that had been delivered today. It was from Buck. The young man and his nephew had made it safely to Denver. They had managed to locate Buck’s sister-in-law and Caleb was now learning to get along with four cousins.
Soon as I saw how many young ones they had I knew it was the right place for the boy. I hope you don’t mind keeping an eye on the ranch by yourself for a while. I’d kind of like to stay and see Caleb settle in. The boy’s had a hard time of it. It’s real fortunate that my sister-in-law took to the boy and that dog, cause that boy don’t go no place without his Taffy.
I was wondering if Mrs. Smith ever found them bird bones she was looking for. If you see her, tell her I met an old mountain man that swears he seen a graveyard of giant bones down in the southern mountains beyond Canyon City. He claims some of them was taller than a man on a horseback. Course, he’s drunk a lot and folks don’t take stock in anything he says. I don’t either, but I thought Mrs. Smith might like the tale. Take care of yourself.
Yours truly,
Buck.

Devlin folded the letter and laid it on the coarse blanket covering his cot. He’d have to write Buck and let him know he wouldn’t be able to look after their ranch.

For the hundredth time, he considered writing a letter to Mina. Somehow, he knew he’d never be able to get the words in his heart down on paper. Besides, what could he say? I love you, darling, but by the time you read this I’ll be dead. No, it was best to let her go on believing he’d drifted out of her life.
“Elder, you got a visitor!” The sheriff’s bellow boomed in the small space.
Looking up, Devlin thought he’d lost what little sanity he had left. Mina stood beside the sheriff looking demure in a black dress, matching hat with a black plume and a black parasol hooked over one arm. She held a large bible clutched to her chest and looked every inch the grieving widow.
She looked even more beautiful than he remembered.
She said,“If you don’t mind, Sheriff Wilson, I wish to have a few minutes alone with my husband’s murderer. I simply must hear in his own words how he killed my Arthur.”
“Mrs. Smith, I don’t think that’s wise.”
She sniffed into the hankie she carried, then placed a hand on his arm and leaned toward him. “I should heed your words. Heaven knows that you tried to warn me about this villain once before and I refused to listen. It is only by the grace of God that I am alive today, I’m sure.”
The sheriff patted her hand. “This is too hard for a lady like yourself.”

She dabbed at her eyes. “No. It is my Christian duty. Has he asked for a man of the cloth?”
“A preacher? Him?” Wilson looked ready to laugh.

Mina rolled her eyes. “I thought as much. I have come to offer him my forgiveness. By doing so, perhaps I can help him turn to God in these his final hours.”
Devlin found his voice at last. He had no idea what she was up too, but he was willing to go along with it if it meant he could spend a few minutes alone with her. He stood and gripped the cold bars. "Get her out of here, Wilson. I don't want anyone praying for my soul unless it's your wife. Now I'd sure like to spend my last hours with her.”
Wilson's face contorted into a snarl. “That black soul of yours is going straight to the devil himself.”
“Please, Sheriff,” Mina pleaded. “Only a few minutes. What harm can it do? Let me try and save his soul so that some good may come of this terrible tragedy.
“Alright, but I’ll be close by. Enjoy the praying Elder.”
Mina watched the sheriff leave. As soon as he closed the thick wooden door behind him, she threw herself against the bars and wrapped her arms around Devlin’s neck. “Oh, my love, I was afraid I would be too late.”

He kissed her, cursing the bars that held them apart. He wanted her in his arms. The joy of seeing her again and the pain of knowing she would watch him die almost broke him. “Mina what are you doing here? Why did you come?”

She pulled back a little and frowned. “What a stupid question, Dearest. I’ve come to break you out of jail. This is my first prison break, of course, so if you have any useful information I’m open to suggestions.”
“You can’t be serious.”
She reached down her bodice and extracted a pistol. “So far this has been much easier than I expected. The sheriff really should have searched me instead of the Bible and my purse. Sabiha is tied up outside. There’s a week’s worth of supplies in the saddlebags. As far as I can determine, once you cross the state line you’re a free man. Kansas law doesn’t extend outside the state.”
“My beautiful, brave, foolish, Mina. I can’t let you do this. If we get caught it will mean prison for you.”
“Nonsense. I have no intention of being seen as your accomplice. That is why I’m not coming with you. That is why there’s only one horse outside. I don’t intend to go to jail.”

She pushed the gun through the bars to him. “I am nothing but a distraught widow who came here intending to shoot the man who killed my husband. Can I help it if you lured me close to the bars and disarmed me? Of course not. I'm a weak woman. After that, you will hold me hostage at gun point and I will scream for help. Oh, do be careful. The pistol is loaded.”
She hiked up her skirts, extracted a roll of bills from her garter and held it out to him. “Here is some money to help. I hope it is enough.”
Speechless, he could only stare at her.
“Take it, Devlin. Now is not the time to have principles!”
He took her wrist and pulled her close. Reaching between the bars, he cupped her face in his hands. “Have I told you how much I love you?”
“Not nearly enough. I shall make you repeat it many times in the future.” Leaning forward, she kissed him, a sweet, stirring kiss that promised much more to come. Pulling away, she turned and wrapped his arm around her neck, then screamed.
The door burst open and Sheriff Wilson charged in his gun drawn. At the sight of Devlin holding a gun to Mina’s head, he came to a skidding halt. “What the devil?”

“Open the cell door, Wilson, or I swear I’ll kill her.”
“Oh, do as he says. Please! Don’t let him kill me. I beg you, sheriff, help me.” Sobbing, Mina squirmed in Devlin’s hold.
Damn, the little hellcat, she was putting on a good show. He tightened his grip, cutting off her pleading with a squeak before she went overboard.

“You heard the lady,Wilson. Drop your gun.” He pointed his at the sheriff and motioned for him to comply.
Reluctantly, Wilson did. “How’d you get a gun?”
“You can thank this scheming wench. She didn’t intend to save my soul. She came here to put a bullet in me.”
Mina pulled his arm away from her neck. “I only wish I had succeeded, you miserable scoundrel! Hanging is too good for you. I wanted to see you beg for your life!”
Wilson moved to unlock the door with the large key that hung on his belt. “Mrs. Smith, I’m sorely disappointed in you,”
“Step back,” Devlin said. When Wilson complied, Devlin shoved Mina and she went flying into the man’s arms. She wasted no time wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and begging the sheriff to save her.
Picking up his hat, Devlin slipped out of the cell. He tipped his hat and smiled, then motioned for the two of them to get in. They did, moving slowly with Mina sobbing like an abandoned child in Wilson’s hold.

As Devlin shut the cell door and locked it, Mina realized she had no idea where he was going. The state had four borders. Which way would he go? How would she ever find him again? She looked at him a panic.
Devlin smiled. “I wish I could stick around to see how this turns out, but I’d best be going. Mrs. Smith, thanks for the gun. Take my advice. Give up trying to kill me and do what you do best. Oh, and don’t forget to write.” He touched the brim of his hat and strode out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him.
Wilson shook the cell door then swore. “I’m going kill that bastard if I ever see him again.”
She might never see Devlin again. Mina sank on to the cot as her knees gave way at the thought. The crackle of paper caught her attention and she pulled an envelope out from beneath her thigh. She stared at it for a long second.
He said, don’t forget to write. A tiny smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. She shot a covert glance at Sheriff Wilson. He was fuming and paying her no heed. Quietly, she slipped the letter into her pocket.
After a most uncomfortable afternoon spent in the cramped cell with Sheriff Wilson alternately bellowing for help and fruitlessly shaking the bars, they were released when the evening deputy reported for duty. Almost at once she was forgotten as the men set out to round up a posse and pursue Devlin. She chose not to worry. Sabiha was faster and had more endurance than almost any horse alive. Devlin would get away.
Mina walked across town to the train station and sat down on a bench outside on the platform. She pulled the envelope from her pocket. After reading Buck’s letter, she placed it carefully in her bag and walked into the depot.
A bald, middle-aged man in a stripped vest waited behind the counter. “May I help you?” he asked.
“Yes. I’d like a ticket to Canyon City, Colorado, please.”
“The train only runs to Fort Hays, Ma’am. After that, you’ll have to take the stage.”
“That will be fine.”
“Are you wanting a round trip ticket?”
Mina smiled. “One way, please. When a person decides to do what they do best, there is no need to look back. I only look forward.”

7 comments:

Reese Mobley said...

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed this love story. Thanks for sharing it! XOXO

Becky A said...

Pat, you wild woman you! Who would have thought such untamed passion wrestled within your ladylike breast? I am impressed! I love the fact that your heroine is smart and capable. I used to get so frustrated with all those dinghy women who fainted and/or sat around waiting on some man to bail them out. I never could figure out why an intellegent man would want a weeny wimp like that for a wife anyway. :) Thanks for the inspiration.

Pat Davids said...

Reese, at least two people have heard Wilhelmina's story. You and Deb. Sadly, she won't see the light of day this year. Maybe next year.

Becky, you have no idea how wild I have been in my life. Oh, the tales I could tell would singe your ears.

I'm a little tamer now, but some of my characters want to stay on the wild side and I fully understand.

Pat

Roxann Delaney said...

Pat, I heard a little of it, although not the end. :) I truly enjoyed all I heard and am tickled to read the ending. I'd say 'great job', but that would be an understatement.

Nina Sipes said...

I don't know why this isn't sold. It is adorable. I'm glad I read it after I posted mine this morning or I'd never had the nerve.

Penny Rader said...

What a fun story, Pat! I hope you sell it soon. I especially liked Poppy, I’m in love with the most wonderful, most noble, most stupid man that ever lived. Well, that and her prison break. :D

Starla Kaye said...

I agree with Penny, that my favorite parts were when she thought about him being the stupidest man and the jail break. Great fun! I really hope you sell this one day.