Ain't Miss Bea Haven
by Wanda Irving
“No, I ain’t Miss Bea Haven!” She stamped a small foot in exasperation. “I’m Bessy Hargrove!” She turned away muttering something about the impertinence of some people.
"Sorry, Miss," the fellow tipped his hat quickly, "I jus' thought… well, you bein' so purty an' all…" He gulped and made himself scarce.
The young woman clutched the small fan in her gloved hands, sighed heavily, and turned to her companion. "Oh, bother!"
“Now, Miss Bessy, you aught t’mind your language,” Matilda chided her. “It ain’t proper to use the word ‘ain’t’ an’ you knows it.”
“Yes, I know, Maddy, but some people are just so rude!”
The elder black woman chuckled. “Land sakes, child, you’da thought they had accused you of horse thievery. You should be thankful they simply mistook you for an actress.” She looked up and down the street. “From all to t’doin’s, I’d say they were pretty keen on her arrival. That and the prominent ‘B.H.’ on your luggage allowed them to leap to conclusions.”
Bessy sulked. “But I been getting that same question at the last two stops as well.”
Another chuckle as Maddy hugged the young woman’s shoulders. “Never you mind, now. I don’t think we’ll be having that trouble from here on. I don’t reckon they’ll be expecting her further along the line as this place seems to be her destination.”
“Hmph! Why she’d want to come to a smelly old town like this I cain’t imagine!”
“She’s an actress, young lady, and is bound to go where the money beckons her.”
“Still, you’d suspect San Francisco would be more suited to her and her abilities.” She sniffed. “An’ there’s bound to be more money in Frisco.”
“Child, what you don’t understand about such things would fill a bushel basket, I am sure.” She shook her head. “There may be more money in that one spot, but how long could she stay in one place when so much of the country is simply dying to see her? They can’t afford to travel to Frisco, but she can go get their money where they are.”
"Well, I still say it seems a bit rude." She bent over to pick up one of her bags as Matilda grabbed the larger two. Quickly, a gentleman stepped forward.
"Could I carry that for you, Miss?"
She batted her lashes at him. "I would be much obliged."
Matilda rolled her eyes.
"And where are you headed, Miss…"
She missed the cue. "To the hotel, of course." Glancing up and down the street, she added, "That is, if there is such to be had in this town."
"Absolutely, ma'am." He turned and extended his elbow you her but again she seemed to miss the cue. He shrugged and started down the sidewalk. "It's just this way."
Opening her fan, Bessy fluttered it under her face.
"Do you plan on staying in these parts very long," the fellow said, "or will you be moving along shortly?"
She looked over her shoulder at Maddy. "I think we should probably be leaving town on the morning stage."
"Oh, I see." The fellow squared his shoulders and walked the short distance remaining to turn at a doorway. He opened the door. "Here you are, Miss, the finest accommodations in the city."
"Thank you." She nodded her thanks and took the small case from his hands. "Good day, sir."
Maddy entered the small lobby beside the young woman. "You want to know 'bout rude, Miss Bessy? Now, that was rude."
"The callous disregard you paid to that fine young man what helped carry your bag all the way to the hotel."
She waved it off. "Wasn't more'n a hundred feet! I don't know why some men think that sort of thing is ample enough to stand as the first step in a courtship."
"Huh!" Maddy stepped past her and set the bags down in front of the counter. "And you are an expert in such matters?"
Bessy sniffed and raised her nose a trifle. "I do know that much." She went to the counter and looked around for a bell to ring. Not seeing anything, she raised her voice, "Hello? Is there anyone here?"
"Just a moment!" The voice came down the stairs beside the counter.
She turned back to Maddy. "Just because my last… uh, venture into the tepid waters of courtship did not turn out as well as one might have imagined…"
"Dearie," Maddy laughed, "that's an understatement fer sure!"
Bessy blushed and was still in that state when the clerk descended the stairs.
"Good afternoon, ladies," he stepped behind the counter, rubbing his hands together, "and in what manner might I assist you this fine day?"
"We would like a room for the night."
The clerk smiled and leaned on the counter. "And would that be for just the one night?"
"Oh, yes," she nodded, "we'll be leaving on the stage in the morning."
"Very good." He turned the register toward her and dipped a pen in the inkwell set into the countertop. "We just happen to have one room available. Please sign in."
Bessy took the quill and hovered over the page only a moment before writing "Beth Hamilton". She smiled at the clerk and handed back the pen.
He glanced at the entry and said, "It is a pleasure, Miss Hamilton, and I hope your stay with us will be pleasant in every regard." He came around the counter and picked up all three bags. "This way, please."
Turning to her friend, Bessy muttered, "The stay will be short, at any event."
They followed the man up to the third floor, the building's top floor – and to the room at the end of the short hallway. He opened the door and motioned them enter. "Here you go, ladies." He followed them in and set the bags at the foot of the bed.
After giving the room the once over, Bessy winced at Maddy while the man busied himself opening the curtains and letting the late afternoon sunlight flood into the room.
"If there is anything else you require," he bowed slightly, "do not hesitate to ask."
"Thank you, sir," Maddy answered.
He nodded to the pair and left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Whew!" Bessy collapsed across the bed, stretching out on her back. "I will be so glad when this intolerable journey is over."
"Well, child," Maddy brought a bag up to the bed and opened it, "intolerable it may be but there be no doubt you brought it on yourself, you did."
"Oh, bother! I did no such thing."
Throwing her head back, Maddy laughed out loud. "Land o' Goshen, Missy, if you hadn't'a treated Mister Haggleworth so callous, we would not be on this present journey at all."
"Me!?" She sat up. "Now, Maddy, you know it weren't my doing. I never told Phineas to give me all those things. Serves him right for expecting so much in return for a few tawdry little gifts."
"Child, child!" She clucked. "You may not be such an expert in courtship matters but you have to admit that you know a thing or two about twisting a feller around your little pinky finger."
"But that's just it, Maddy, he got it all worked up in his head that there was more than a simple companionship going on. He actually thought I was intending to marry him."
"But you did accept the fur he gave you…"
"And who wouldn't?"
"… and the fancy jewels…"
"But of course!"
"… and the ring and the house…"
"Well, that's just it, don't you see?" She stood. "He somehow got it in his head that I was supposed to marry him just because he gave me a lot of things." She shook her head. "If I had known that was his intention…"
Maddy's cough cut her off.
"Well, I…" Bessy trailed off under the glare of her companion.
"You may be able to convince yourself, Missy, but I don't think that'll fool anyone in their right mind."
Bessy turned to stare out the window.