Standing easily just inside the treeline, Rowdy Yates absently rolled a cigarette with one hand. His full attention was otherwise concentrated on the small group of covered wagons in the middle of the grassy meadow in front of the man. The only signs of life around these carts were the horses and oxen pastured there at a distance in their temporary corral, as these beasts of burden lazily stood and shifted amongst each other.
About to place his smoke in his mouth, Rowdy froze, his body stiffening as he eagerly watched someone come around the corner of one of the wagons. His keen eyes could easily see that this person was a woman. A young woman, with long blonde hair, a very nice body moving under her dress as she walked toward the corral. The yoke the woman was wearing over her shoulders had two full water buckets dangling at her sides from this ends of ropes attached to the wooden bar, and the weight of her burden was making her chest protrude even further out than usual in a really astonishing way….
Rowdy thriftily put away his unlit cigarette in his front shirt pocket, and leaving behind his horse tied to a tree, the man ambled out into the meadow, making his way directly towards the woman now watering the stock, after having dropped the yoke to the ground.
Squeaking in alarm and a hint of fear, the young woman whirled around from her chore, coming to a halt in front of the man tipping his hat at her. Her chest heaving from her gasp of shock, the woman started breathing a bit more easily as her unexpected company only stood there politely, his eyes twinkling. She peered up into the tanned face of a tall man that seemed to be only a few years older than her, and then her gaze went down his body, from wide shoulders of a torso that narrowed to trim hips and long legs. Her own face began to change into amused delight mixed with a hint of calculation, as the woman purred, “Well, hello there….”
Remembering his manners, Rowdy doffed his Stetson with a sinewy hand, holding it as he did his own close-up inspection of a really eye-catching female, who didn’t seem to mind all that much about her methodical scrutiny by this totally scrumptious male. Said male was unable to find any faults about this pretty lady -- well, on second thought, it wasn’t all that bad about her having a look in her eyes that amazingly resembled the one on the features of that ox over there. Particularly since Rowdy was about to open negotiations. Transferring his hat to his other hand, the man held out his free hand, and announced, “I’m Rowdy Yates, ma’am. And you’re….?”
“Rowdy, huh? Your maw and paw must’ve seen what you’d be like when you was fully-grown,” dazzlingly smiled the young woman, who held out her own hand, giggling as her soft fingers were swallowed up in the man’s own iron-hard palm, despite his gentle grip. “I’m….”
Both of the pair holding hands jerked their heads around and hastily let go of their grasp, at seeing another young woman stomp her way towards them from the wagons. Another blonde and seemingly the same age as the woman Rowdy was hopefully chatting up, this newcomer had a no-nonsense glare on her features directed mostly at the person whose name she’d hollered. Though, the look remained the same as she came up to the pair and glowered at the startled man, whose surprise was compounded by hearing this woman snap out to him, “No samples! Free or otherwise!”
Rowdy could only blink at this, standing open-mouthed, as the woman then pitched into Harmony, who now looked truly guilty, as if having been caught red-handed at something. “You know what Miss C said! Not only are you to rest up until we get there, but we really don’t need the trouble from those high-falutin’ others! Now, get back to work!” As Harmony hastily went back to her watering duties, the other woman, who sounded like some kind of Norsky, sent another glare at Rowdy.
“You! You come along right now! Miss C is gonna want to talk to you!” At that, the angry woman abruptly reached out to grab Rowdy’s forearm, and then walked off towards the wagons, dragging the astonished man after her. Stumbling along until he’d regained his balance, Rowdy bemusedly regarded the young woman who’d grabbed hold of him and was still clutching his arm, until he sent a parting glance over his shoulder at his potential conquest.
Harmony was standing there, looking a little sad, and she then lifted her hand to send a regretful wiggle of her fingers in a farewell, accompanied by a heaved sigh that really elevated her breasts….
Only a yank of his arm by the other woman kept Rowdy from walking directly into a wagon, followed by an exasperated snort by her, as the man hastily snapped his head around and paid more attention. As they pair walked past the other wagons, they came across several more young women, all fit and in fine fettle, stopping in the middle of their chores to stare at the two passing by. Other female heads poked out of the covered wagons, every one of ‘em prettier than a white-faced calf, and each having a somewhat hungry look materialize in their eyes at seeing a fine specimen of the male species appear in their midst.
A volley of orders from the woman having a firm grip on Rowdy sent everyone scurrying back to their duties and hastily vanishing back into the wagons. “Audra, get more wood! Marcie, dry your hair! Amy, pick up that plate before we get infested by rodents! And if we get a visit from those unmentionable, long-eared, twinkly-nosed THINGS, I’m gonna to make someone pay!”
Rowdy was really puzzled over that last sentence, which explained his preoccupation that made him ignore his surroundings, to stagger short when the blonde woman abruptly stopped, and finally dropped his arm. Looking around in surprise, Rowdy’s attention was caught by the icy look given to him by yet another woman seated in front of the man.
She was truly beautiful, with brunette hair and a flawless face in an expensive golden dress that seemed more suited to a mansion back east rather than in a meadow a hundred miles west of the Missouri. She even managed to pull off holding up an open parasol that matched her dress and protected her youthful features from the sun, all while sitting on a tree stump with the air of a queen on her throne.
Giving Rowdy a look of total disgust, the seated young woman disdainfully held out her hand, with the air of expecting it to be rudely grasped by a peasant unaware of proper manners. A gleam of irritation intermingled with mischief appeared in the eye of the cowboy, who now stepped up, swept off his hat with a grand flourish, gently took the woman’s hand to turn it over so her palm faced towards the ground, and then bent over to brush his lips against the back of the lady’s hand.
Straightening up to replace his Stetson, Rowdy then stepped back, really enjoying how the brunette woman now had an astonished look on her face, that quickly changed to an expression of cool interest. Thoughtfully eyeing the man in front of her, the woman murmured in a cultured voice, “So, it seems you have indeed been taught the correct etiquette, which is most surprising in this desolate wilderness. My compliments, sir.”
“Same to you, ma’am. Shucks, it weren’t nuthin’,” went on Rowdy with a perfect poker face, beginning to enjoy himself.
A glint of amusement now appeared in the lady’s eyes, who went on, “Well, I believe we may now exchange introductions. You would be….?”
“Rowdy Yates, ma’am. Of the fine state of Texas, and points west.”
“How….charming. As for myself, I am Cordelia Chase of the New York Chases. You may refer to me as Miss Chase in the future, though I doubt this will occur--”
Interrupting this was another’s noisily cleared throat that sent terrified birds fluttering away from their perches in the treeline fifty feet away.
Her own face remaining impassive, Miss Chase sighed, “And I believe you’ve met Anya Jenkins.”
Rowdy glanced over at the blonde woman’s beaming features, and then looked back at Miss Chase, to dryly say with a perfect deadpan, “Oh, yeah. Along with the other members of the ladies’ church choir group you’ve got here.”
“That’s a total lie! We’re a bunch of whores Miss C got together to set up a really fine bordello in Sunnydale, along with a saloon offering gambling to take every cent the johns have, plus shanghaiing the penniless drunks into ships needing crews, and maybe a sideline in blackmail!” Anya finished off her energetic declaration by then crossing her arms over her chest, and nodding firmly to herself, before looking expectantly at the other two people there.
Rowdy stood wholly frozen, while Cordelia Chase also sat motionless on the tree stump, her eyes squeezed shut with vexation, until she finally choked out in an extremely exasperated voice, “Anya, do we really need to have another discussion on the topic of confidentiality?”
“But he said--”
“Oh, go away.”
“I still think--”
“Did you know there are bunny tracks right behind you?”
Anya shrieked with fear, jumping straight up to whirl around in mid-air, and when she finally came down, she stood trembling for a moment, until she scuttled off back towards the wagons, her terrified face darting from side-to-side, frantically examining every inch of ground for those evil, vicious, absolutely cute monsters.
Rowdy watched the blonde woman go off, and then he slowly turned his head back to consider the other woman calmly watching him. A very thoughtful man asked, “Bunnies?”
A graceful shrug was accompanied by a gloved hand waving this away. “I would prefer not to talk about it.”
“Well, maybe we should discuss something else--”
“If we must. Yes, though she described it more colorfully than I cared for, Anya was quite truthful in my intention to set up a house of assignation. Though she seems to have made plans further in advance and with greater scope that I did. Anyway, I intend to make a quick fortune in the easiest matter possible, return to a more civilized locale than this wilderness, claim my monies are from more genteel investments in, say, mining, find a wealthy, weak-willed man, marry him, and compel him to change his last name to Chase so that my family name does not die out, and finally, I shall then regain my place in New York society. At the highest level, of course.”
“Of course,” hollowly repeated a stunned Rowdy. The wide-eyed man examined the unruffled woman before him, to finally ask with absolute curiosity, “Uh, you don’t think that’s a little….vulgar, what you’re gonna do?”
A chiseled eyebrow went up, before Miss Chase deigned to say, “A very wise man once said that every great fortune began with a crime. I know at least several cultured, refined families with immense wealth back in my birthplace whose riches were started with involvement in piracy, slavery, and theft of Indian lands. As long as discretion is maintained and appearances are kept, no one really cares.”
Rowdy took an actual step back from the human iceberg before him. Casting about for something else to say, the cowboy fumbled out, “So….how’d you pick this train?”
Miss Chase flashed him an amused look. “As you yourself realized, our purpose is somewhat evident, and various other wagon trains refused to have us along. Or, some men in those groups demanded payment of, oh, let us call it, some sort of toll in return for our presence. Which I refused. It came down to a meeting with a most proper Englishman having a rather lucid outlook on life. The only thing he asked for was that we cause no trouble. Which, I’m afraid, is why any urges you may currently possess will remain unsatisfied. At least by us.”
An outraged Rowdy opened his mouth, only to abruptly close it at seeing the woman’s mocking expression directed at him. Ruefully, the man shrugged, and muttered, “Okay, okay. I’ll….pass the word along. My job’s to get everybody to Sunnydale, anyway. There weren’t any conditions over who I’m supposed to look after, so….oh, what the hell. Why not?” A more cheerful Rowdy grinned at Miss Chase.
That woman herself seemed to be appreciative over Rowdy’s quick acceptance. Giving him an approving nod, she said carefully, as if quoting, “Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.”
Rowdy pushed back his hat, while he considered that last statement. It sounded pretty good, so just before he made his farewells, the man noted, “Not bad. Is that from the classics?”
Now giving Rowdy a stunning smile for the first time in their conversation, Cordelia Chase replied, “Oh, much later than that, though I think it’ll become part of history. It was said several years ago by Robert E. Lee.”