March 4, 1855
The light drizzle was perfect for his funeral Samantha thought. Her first time dressed like a man in public, Miss Samantha Connors knew it was improper. She didn't care about her precious reputation anymore; a dress would hinder her plans. She sat on Abe, her chestnut horse, in shapeless Levi's and a beige Stetson that hid her long hair. Now is the perfect time to move on, to start a new life for myself, Samantha told herself.
"The sermon was lovely, Father." Mourners devotedly informed Father Reynolds, the only Catholic priest for fifty miles. David Hogan, the deceased's son, stood at his father's coffin as his wife Prudence, and their newborn, Margaret, chatted nonchalantly.
I'm the only Hogan left, David realized. All I wanted was to improve the mercantile for the changing times and show how smart I was to him. If only I hadn't gone east for school. David clenched his fists at his memory of his father, not sure what else to do.
Childhood wasn't so bad I guess, David sighed. I should have done things differently. Like staying home and marrying ... Samantha. Where is she? Pa was like a father to her. Why isn't she here?
A distant figure sat on a horse catching everyone's attention when the horse whinnied.
"Who is that watching from their horse? Don't they know to dismount at a funeral? Very disrespectful!" People's murmurs increased.
Men merely shook David's hands and grunted their sympathies. "I'm sorry ... good man" was all David understood. The person on the horse looked somewhat familiar and he watched the distant person for what seemed like an eternity. His wife, playing the proper social hostess, stood there hugging and thanking each person as though they were all her dearest friends.
Mourners halted their chatting as Samantha dismounted her chestnut horse and strode to Mr. Hogan's coffin. They could hear birds singing lightly as if in honor of Gerald Hogan's funeral.
Grieving friends and customers tossed dirt on the coffin as Samantha's eyes focused directly on the coffin. It's wrong to throw dirt on him she wanted to yell. He shouldn't be in that coffin. She walked to the pile of loosened earth and kicked some in.
Everyone stared at Samantha as her world stood still. It wasn't right knowing her adoptive father was gone forever in that ugly wooden box. Although Samantha was sure Gerald met his wife and Maker finally. She knew Gerald was happy.
Samantha desperately wanted to trade places with Gerald. She refused to give in to her anger and frustration. Why couldn't it be her in that coffin? Why couldn't God give him one more day? Or year? Samantha wanted to give Hogan more than just a clump of dirt. Wanting to give Gerald more than just a clump of dirt, her hands flew to her neck. She would give Gerald the only thing she had, her gold necklace. It had been from her parents before they went to Heaven. It had been a constant reminder of them and who she was, but Samantha decided this was the time and place to start a new life. Her past would remain here ... with Gerald Hogan in the cold grave.
Samantha yanked the gold necklace from her neck and threw it on the coffin. Unbearable tears began flooding her eyes knowing she would never see or hear Gerald. She didn't have a place if she ever wanted to return. Worst of all, the last link to her birth parents were gone forever. Samantha forbade herself to look at anyone, especially her past.
Flabbergasted, David watched Samantha return to her horse. Unable to believe Samantha gave up the one thing she had treasured all her life. That necklace meant the world to her. David knew he had to stop her from leaving. He would stop Miss Connors from leaving and then what?
Samantha's tears fell like a waterfall when she closed her eyes. She could feel the raging clouds inside of her float away. When she did finally open her eyes, she gazed ahead, wiped the tears away, and spurred her horse down the dirt road headed out of town.
Forgetting everyone around him, David ran after Samantha. It served no purpose, he realized as he tried to catch his breath. David couldn't run anywhere near fast enough compared to a horse, even an old one. All he knew was Samantha left him. The one person he could trust and depend on. The last link to his father was gone.
Samantha's cloud of dust diminished as David stared down the road. She would probably never return, he thought. I made one mistake. Just one mistake and for that, I'll never be forgiven. Where would Samantha go? She doesn't have any family or money. Does she have friends to help her? David prayed Miss Samantha Connors would find her destination safely.
Townsfolk stared at David in astonishment. Prudence stood near his father's grave angry and embarrassed. Regina Clearwater, standing to the side of her parents, observed how David Hogan reacted to Miss Connors shrewd departure.
An older man slumped in a large leather chair, sipped his brandy. He was in his office, where a large cherry wood desk, various animal heads, and monstrous bookshelves, occupied the room. It had been his refuge for nearly two decades when he was west. The dark bookshelves with glass fronts reflected the flames burning in the fireplace. It lit the room well enough for any gloomy night he thought, which usually suited his mood.
His feet rested on a footstool as he stared at the large flames. They seemed an indication of where he was going for the sort of life he lived. It was nothing but lies and deception since he moved to the border of civilization as his wife labeled their large country home. His unfaithful wife deserted him, his one child had run away, and he regretted his age. He never told his daughter the truth. She could be in danger and there was no telling what could happen to her.
He never had the time or the inclination for a family. Rupert Farnsworth wanted to make a fortune and did so with little regard for friends and family. Other than Charlotte...
It's completely my fault, he reasoned. Rupert Farnsworth took another long sip and stood slightly unbalanced. All he had to do was tell her who he was, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. For eighteen years, he had never been there for her. Never comforted her, taught her, or loved her. Now Samantha Sierra Connors was gone. He, as her father, had to do something. He had to correct the mistakes he made and tell her the truth.
"Are you alright, Mr. Farnsworth?" A short elderly woman wearing an apron carried coffee on a silver tray.
"Fine, Annie." Farnsworth lied. He had to deny his guilt. He didn't want to show Annie his weariness. No one knew Samantha was his daughter but he wasn't going to flaunt it yet. "Thank you. How are you doing?"
"Just fine," Annie gave him a fake smile. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
Annie saw her employer was troubled, but she knew she'd be fired if she interfered. He always wrote something this time of day she remembered. They looked like letters, but never sent. It was clear they weren't letters to his wife. Mrs. Farnsworth plainly hated Mr. Farnsworth.
Annie left him alone with his brandy standing next to the fire. David Hogan hurt his little girl ... and she was gone. Samantha was out in the open wilderness with no one to protect her –not from the natives, robbers, murderers...
Annie could tell Mr. Farnsworth hadn't slept since Gerald Hogan's funeral. She would find out why.