In today's blog post, I'm sharing the beginning of Chapter Seven of Barkerville Beginnings. In this scene, single mother Rose Chadwick has just arrived in Barkerville with her daughter Hannah and is looking for a place to stay even though she has no money.
“May I help you, ma’am?”A clerk leaned against the chest-high desk tucked into the corner of the hotel foyer. The man, elderly, with a straggly beard and wearing a rumpled white shirt, appraised her from top to toe. His gaze slid down to Hannah and disapproval stiffened his lip.
“Yes.” She grabbed Hannah’s hand, proceeding to the desk with what she hoped was a purposeful air. “I need a room for the night.”
“Only a couple of rooms left,” he grunted. “You’ll have to share the bed, though.” He pointed to Hannah. “This is a fine establishment. Last bunch we had in here, the kids raised a ruckus, running up and down the stairs, shouting, that sort of thing. People were none too pleased, I can tell you. She better behave or else.”
The hotel must be reputable if other families stayed here, thought Rose. “My daughter is very well behaved.” She clasped her hands, wondering what the man meant by “or else.” It sounded dire.
The clerk continued. “Our guests expect only the best here. That means no noise.” He shoved the register towards her, along with a worn wooden pen and an inkwell. “Fill this in. Rate is seventy five cents per night. Up front.”
“What?” Rose couldn’t believe her ears. The clerk wanted payment now. Not only did she not have a cent to her name, she didn’t even have the chance to have a few days to look for work. She made a show of fishing through her pockets. “I, er, seem to have misplaced my purse. Could I bring you the money when I find it?”
He frowned. “Awfully convenient to lose your purse.”
“Please, I’m sure it’s somewhere in my carpet bag.”
He folded his arms. “No payment, no room.”
Desperate, Rose searched for the words that might persuade him to change his mind. She twiddled the braided gold band on her left hand. The wedding ring that had belonged to her mother. She looked at it, swallowing hard then pulled it off. “How about if I give you this for now? It’s gold. When I find my purse, I can pay you properly.”
“If it’s money you want for gold, go to the assay office down the street. Or the bank.” He pointed.
“Please, my little girl is hurt. We’ve had a long day. Could you give us the night? I’m sure I can find my coin purse. In the meantime, you can hold on to my ring.”
He looked at her long and hard, as if scouring her face for any hint of dishonesty. Rose waited, stomach churning like a swirling eddy on the Fraser River.
“All right. It’s not regular, mind, but you seem like a nice lady. I’ll expect to see you in the morning.” He tucked the ring in his vest pocket.
“Thank you.” At least they would have a comfortable place to sleep tonight. She dipped the pen in the inkwell and signed her name. It was only a hotel room. Why did it feel as if she signed away her life? Maybe it was the veiled threat he uttered over Hannah’s behaviour that unsettled her so.
Or maybe it was the fact she had no money and had just given away her most cherished item.
“What brings you to Barkerville?” Business complete, the clerk became chatty. He patted the pocket where her ring nestled.
“I, er, we’re meeting my husband. He’s a miner,” she added.
He cocked his head. “A miner? Didn’t he know you were coming?”
His implication was clear – what kind of man wouldn’t arrange for accommodation for his own family?
“No. I wanted to surprise him. We’re not supposed to come until later in the week but the trip upriver went a lot faster than expected.” Another lie that flew easily from her lips. She would have to figure out how to redeem herself, she thought wryly. Bald faced lying was not a particularly good habit to cultivate.
“Anyone I know? A lot of miners come here when they’re in town.”
Rose froze and she stared at the man. “Er, Chadwick. Mr. Harrison Chadwick,” she blurted. Goodness, now how did Harrison’s given name slip off her lips so easily?
The clerk’s eyes narrowed and he tapped a gnarled finger on the desk. “Hmph. Can’t say that I know him.”
Because he doesn’t exist, thought Rose. How soon would it be before anyone realized that?
Intrigued? Are you wondering how Rose manages to wiggle her way out of this scrape? You knew the sales pitch was coming *wink* and find it at your favourite online store HERE.