He had to crack a smile at that. The woman was right. As much as he wanted to believe Millie was helpless, needed his protection at all times, she’d already proved him wrong. In actuality, she had all the grit and fortitude of an army man. Of a major’s wife.
“She’ll be waiting in Tulsa when you get there, Major. I ain’t got no doubts.”
An amazing reunion flashed before his eyes. Holding up the necklace, he said, “I’m taking this to her.”
“She’ll be glad to see it, and you.”
Glancing around, attempting to hide the joy bursting inside him, Seth wondered if Millie would want to live here instead of the fort. He could do that. As long as they were together he didn’t care where they lived. “I hope to see you again someday, Lola.”
“I ain’t got no doubts on that, either, Major.”
They both chuckled and then bade each other farewell, Seth feeling more optimism than he had in decades. However, by the time he got to Washington, he was furious. The train had been stuck on the tracks for over five hours before it started up again. Passengers had mumbled about how the same thing had happened the day before, and Seth had contemplated getting out and walking. He hadn’t, and when they finally arrived, he had less than ten minutes to catch his westbound train.
He ran fast and hard across the huge railroad yard, and had to jump to grab the handrail of the already rolling train.
“Glad you made it, Major,” Jack Roberts said, pulling the door shut behind him.
“Me, too,” Seth admitted, catching his breath before moving down the row of seats.
“Your wife isn’t returning with us, sir?” the sergeant asked.
He’d forgotten no one knew what had happened. Just that he’d escorted her to Richmond, to see her family. The sadness on the man’s face wasn’t lost on him. Everyone had been taken with her, and he could appreciate that. Smiling, he answered, “She caught an earlier train. We’ll meet up in Tulsa.”
“Oh, that’s good news, Major,” Sergeant Rex Moore said from his seat. “Real good news.”
“Yes, it is, Sergeant,” Seth replied, plopping onto the hard bench. “Yes, it is.”
Private car or not, the train ride seemed to be taking weeks instead of days, and Millie was feeling like a bird in a cage. She could venture to the dining car, but hadn’t liked stepping between the cars even when Seth had been at her side, so trying it alone was not going to happen. Besides, the porter, Mr. Williams, was extremely considerate in seeing to all her needs. He even sat for a few minutes during his visits, talking about some of the other passengers.
It appeared there were army men and Indians on this train, as well. Leastwise from what Mr. Williams said. Washington had been full of them for the negotiations, so it wasn’t surprising. The porter said most of them were going as far as Tulsa, too, where they’d catch other trains.
Millie kept her fingers crossed that Seth hadn’t already left Tulsa, and while doing that, she also prayed he’d listen to her. Let her explain why she’d done what she had. The closer she got to her destination, the more doubt tried to sneak into her mind. She battled it, but it was a hard war. The only thing that helped was recalling who she was. A major’s wife, one fully capable of any battle put before her.
She awoke the last morning of the trip in such turmoil she felt as if her head was spinning along with her heart. After taking down the brown traveling suit from where she’d hung it upon boarding the train at eight-fifteen that morning back in Washington, she ran a hand over the soft, lush material. This, too, wearing the outfit, was a conflict she had to resolve. She wanted to look her best, but wearing the velvet while riding across the plains might damage it. Of course, she could put another gown in her traveling bag, but changing along the way, without access to Seth’s tent, would be difficult. Then again, if he did forgive her, and she would be welcomed in his tent...
“Oh, goodness,” she whispered, plopping onto the bed beside the gown. Maybe she didn’t have the fortitude of a major’s wife, after all. She certainly hadn’t on her first trip west.
A knock on the door brought her to her feet again. That had been the old Millie. The one so unsure of herself she’d let others rule her life. The one who no longer existed.
Millie crossed the car and pulled open the door. “Good morning, Mr. Williams,” she said to the tall, slender man with deep, sunken eyes.
“Good morning, ma’am.” He carried a tray in and set it on a small table. “We’ll be arriving in Tulsa before noon. Would you like me to bring you some warm water to freshen up when I return for your dishes?”