An Improper Derailment: Chapter 17

A properly mannered Mary makes a new friend.


Catch up with Chapter 16…

Start the series from the beginning…

Mary woke to the comforting sensation of gentle rocking.

Fresh clean air, heavy with the scent of dried grass filled her senses. She was cradled in firm, contoured familiarity. A memory from being a child, held by her mother; but her mother was gone, taken before the blush of youth and beauty had left her cheeks. She nestled in against the… pillows? Too firm for pillows, too perfect to be a couch. She paid the mystery no never-mind and let herself sink back into the nothing of sleep.

A bellowing whine jolted Mary awake. The smell, the rocking, the noise. A sauran! She screamed and tried to scramble out of the cocoon of cozy she had created on the couch. She intended on screaming a second time as she realized she had been sleeping in Marshall Hunt’s arms.

Suddenly she found herself short of breath. The audacity, the arrogance, the complete and total lack of social decorum! What would Janey say? How would her grandfather react? Surely the impropriety would send him to an early grave.

“Hey, hey, you’re safe,” he said with a gentle smile.

How dare he smile at her like that!

“Calm your woman, Hunt. She’s scaring my tric.”

Mary swiveled her head to look at the man who spoke. Behind Marshall stood a painted Native man, from one of the plains tribes, a…

She gulped. She would not resort to the scare tactics of sensationalist journalism. She would form her own opinions. Besides, Marshall seemed perfectly at ease. He was ridiculously relaxed considering their perilous predicament.

“I think she’s more afraid of me than the tric,” he said with a wry chuckle. “Mary, Miss Dyer,” Marshall’s tone was commanding. “You are perfectly safe. There are no bandits; this beast has no interest in eating you. And if you insist on continuing to thrash about, I may accidentally let go, and drop you.”

Mary’s eyes went wide at the threat, all while her insides felt like molten honey, all hot and gooey from the tone of his voice.

“I… I… I’m not a personal fanatic when it comes to large animals. I can barely tolerate horses.” She managed to squeak out. She trembled in her attempt to hold still while allowing Marshall’s arm to drape around her middle like some safety strap.

She cast her gaze back to the Native man behind Marshall. “I apologize for scaring your triceratops, sir.”

“My name’s Hanska.” The man nodded. “And the tric, her name is Kim.”

“Kim?” Mary blinked in surprise. “I was expecting something more…”

She bit her tongue before she could say something offensive. She was uncertain how to ask things without sounding foolish, or worse rude. She may have grown up in the company of a certain class of people, people who frequently let their manners slip when dealing with anyone different from themselves. She did not doubt that Pythagoras would be such a flagrant snob. And to think she had been thrilled when he was courting her.

Mary believed that everyone deserved manners, no matter where they came from.

Hanska laughed. “Something more native?”

Mary felt the blush of embarrassment burn her cheeks. “I’m sorry, I did not mean to offend. But I always considered Kim to be…” she paused searching for the least offensive, least ignorant way to phrase her question. “I wasn’t aware that Kim was also a native name,” she ended up blurting out.

Marshall gently chuckled around her. His shifting motion reminded her of her predicament.

“Her name is Kimimela, Kim for short,” Hanska explained.

“Kimimela,” Mary repeated, mostly to feel the way the name rolled off her tongue in a delightful tripping of sound.

The triceratops made a huffing, almost purring sound as if she recognized her name being bandied about.

“It’s a beautiful name,” she said.

“She’s a beautiful sauran,” Marshall added.

“I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that,” Mary admitted.

The beast made her nervous. Unfortunately, she wasn’t exactly certain which beast she meant at the moment. Marshall or the triceratops.

What’s in store for Mary? How will she get to San Francisco now?
Find out in the next installment… 

©2021 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 1

Chapter one, where Mary receives bad news…


Mary sat, perfectly poised. The crumpled telegram in her fist, and the white knuckles rimmed with red, strained skin were the only clues to her anger.

If the message had been delivered an hour earlier she would have taken to her bed, at least for a few days, maybe longer. But she had already endured the ritual torture of being laced in and dressed. Besides, if she took to her bed now she would miss lunch with Mr. Peterson, a cousin to the Washington Porter. Mr. Chicago fruit himself. Her grandfather should be pleased she was making such prudent and profitable connections.

Janey at least was thrilled that Mr. Peterson began calling on her younger sister. They had a constant delivery of fresh fruits, thanks to the Porter family connection. She told Mary this at every turn.

“Was Mr. Peterson to be expected today? Do you think he will bring us some oranges? Would it be rude of me to ask if he could get us grapes? They ship wine don’t they?”

She always asked Mary with a mischievous wistful air, but she never once spoke of fruit or wine to Mr. Peterson directly.

Mary breathed through her nose slowly. She had to calm her nerves or she would do herself a grievance. This corset was laced a bit too tightly. That was for the benefit of her lunch companion. He had stated he was taking them to the Palmer House, and then a stroll afterward.

Janey and her husband Charles would accompany them to lunch. And then the chaperones would ever so discreetly walk a distance behind them during their stroll so they could discuss matters privately.

Mary anticipated a declaration of some form this afternoon. A request to speak to her grandfather, maybe even an actual proposal, after all, Mr. Peterson was a bit daring when it came to the rules of proper society. He had already insisted that Mary refer to him by his nickname Py. She couldn’t even bring herself to call him by his given name of Pythagoras.

But this telegram changed everything.

“Mary I do believe—” Janey stopped abruptly as she swept into the parlor. “Well, this won’t do. We both can’t wear green.” She coughed delicately into a handkerchief. “You need to go put on that lavender dress.”

Mary did not suppress the glare she gave her sister. If anyone should change it was Janey. She looked dreadful in green. Almost as if she too took on a verdigris pallor emphasized by her color choice.

Charles languidly strolled in after his wife. “I say, that telegraph was inconveniently early.”

Mary wanted to scoff at his complaint as if he were the one to open the door and shoo the poor boy away. At the time Charles was barely awake and in a dressing gown.

“What telegraph?” All thoughts of almost matching dresses gone from Janey’s head in a blink.

The longer Mary stayed in Chicago, the longer she realized how well matched those two were. Selfish to the core. Charles may be self-centered, but he was ridiculously wealthy, and that’s why grandfather allowed Mary to visit for so long.

Grandfather was a forty-niner, and he struck gold. But everything for him became about hitting the next vein of wealth. Mary knew he was living off the remaining dust of his fortune, and he expected his granddaughters to keep him elevated in the financial ranks.

The easiest and only way for this to happen was for them to marry wealthy. Mary was ahead of the game. A match with the Porter family, even a cousin of the Porter family should make the man happy. But he was an interfering bastard.

Mary felt her eye widen and her cheeks flush with the rude thought.

With as deep of a breath as she could manage, she handed the crumpled paper over to her sister.

Janey stumbled as her knees weakened.

Charles led his wife to the settee next to Mary.

Janey gave Mary a look of pained pity.

“I guess lunch is canceled then?”


@2018 Lulu M Sylvian

Find out what the telegraph says next month…