Two days from now Millicent Reynolds will be a married woman. Taller than average, her clear, fair skin contrasts with the deep blue of her eyes. The glow from gas lamps on the wall near the table where she and her fiance dine, cause her shoulder length hair to glisten with red highlights. Here in the elegant surroundings of the Madison Hotel she is at ease with herself, her position and her future.
Harland Talbort is pleased with his choice for the future Mrs. Talbort. He believes that he chose well from among the candidates available. Millicent shows beautifully, she will do much for his career and his political future. Drinking French brandy and smoking a Havana cigar, he looks over at his prize and silently congratulates himself.
Little does Harland know the full worth of this woman. He truly believes her to be his prize. A prize won for astute cunning and absolute ruthlessness and for having to endure the unpleasant necessity of living in a veritable cow town. Harland puts on a good show; he would never make anyone aware of his loathing for San Francisco and its people.
Tonight however Harland is irritable. He wants to be done with the wedding and move on with his plans. “Look there Millie, two of San Francisco’s finest have just entered the restaurant. Do they really expect to be served here, is there no consideration for people of class left in this world?” He regrets this slip before the words were fully formed.
Startled by this sudden statement Millicent turned to see a pair of cowboys entering the restaurant. Obviously fresh off the trail, they batted their chaps and shirtsleeves with their hats, knocking clouds of dust into the air. Several diners stared at them and a general rumble of disapproval sounded in the room. Unaware or uncaring the cowboys called for the maitre d’ to seat them.
“How dare they let those saddle tramps in here, I plan to write a letter to the management. Common trail hands demanding service like they belong here.”
“I don’t think I was aware of your prejudices before this Harland. You realize that I come from humble beginnings myself. In fact, not long ago those two cowhands could have very well been my father and uncle Val.” Harland looked at her incredulously.
“Millicent, darling, I’m sure you’re exaggerating. You come from a fine family and when I meet them tomorrow I may just tell them of our little conversation.” Harland had meant the remark as a joke, but Millie didn’t see it that way.
“Harland Talbort, you listen to me. Just because a man chooses to raise cattle and work the land does not indicate inferiority. In fact I believe that it shows courage and strength of character. Let me tell you another thing, it is hard-earned cattle money that put me through the finest school in San Francisco to acquire the education and social graces you so much admire but, I’m still the daughter of a gunfighter.” She turned to fully face Harland.
“Let me tell you about my family. I have never told anyone in San Francisco, not even my closest friends at school. Dad and uncle Val wanted it that way and I agreed for their sake.”
Harland ordered another drink. He had seen this side of Millie before, although not quite so strident. His curiosity was piqued. He settled down to listen; if there where any skeletons in the closet he needed to know before the wedding. He sat quietly; Millie took the queue and continued.
“Some parts of the story I only found out much later but I will relate the entire tale as I know it now.”