The column of riders approached the dance area at a round trot. The riders all had cloaks on, mostly to keep the trail dust off of their uniforms than for any warmth or concealment. The rider at the head raised an arm and the twin columns pulled up and stopped. MacKenzie swung down from his saddle and shrugged off his cloak, draping it over the saddle of his mount before he stepped back, batting lightly at his uniform and boots as the other officers and sergeants with him did the same.
MacKenzie straightened and spoke quietly. "Alright, lads...form up..." The men fell unconsciously into two rows facing him. A few cast longing looks toward the tent that had the unmistakable look of the saloon tent. They all faced front as the colonel began speaking.
"You all look like military gentlemen and I thank you for the effort you put in to getting ready for this little soiree..." MacKenzie smiled as his eyes moved along the two rows, then the smile dropped off
"Now understand this, if any of you get into trouble tonight...for any reason...your military careers will come to a screeching halt." His eyes searched out a few of the men he knew had reputations for drink or the ladies. "I selected you all to attend this dance because I needed men who could comport themselves with honor and dignity. If any of you make me regret choosing you for this dance, I guarantee you that you will regret your actions a lot more."
MacKenzie looked them over another few moments, then nodded. "Once we leave the dance tonight, I have arranged for us to occupy several rooms at the hotel in town..." MacKenzie saw several faces light up and a few elbow nudges among the young officers. "...If all of you aren't in those rooms tomorrow morning when Sergeant Major Halloran makes his rounds, do not bother showing up afterward, am I clear?"
The men nodded and several "Yessirs" were scattered among the bobbing heads. MacKenzie nodded and began tugging off his gauntlets. "Then dismissed and have fun, lads...within reason."
MacKenzie grinned as the group broke up, some of the officers and men bustling toward the saloon tent as he began walking toward the dance tent. He glanced sideways at the sergeant major in his braided NCO finery as he kept pace with him. "Thank you for agreeing to come along and ride herd on the men..."
Halloran shrugged and looked ahead at the dance barn. "Colonel, Darlin', It's been a long time since I've been asked to any of these parties unless they were being held on the fort itself...this is a welcome surprise. Besides, you picked a pretty decent group. I only figure I need to watch three or four of them."
MacKenzie nodded as they reached the open doorway of the barn. "Well, thank you anyway, now go enjoy yourself...I believe I have a dance to ask for..."
MacKenzie shrugged a bit and nodded. "I hope enough for you, Madame..." He then watched her walk out of his office and then out of the building. His reverie continued for a few more moments before he blinked. His eyes widened a bit before he looked at his aide at the desk in the outer office. "Lieutenant! Officers Call in twenty minutes...!" The colonel then took a few steps back toward his desk before stopping and making a half turn back toward the door. "Who handles laundry here on the post?" MacKenzie realized his dress uniform had been packed into his trunk for...well, probably years...he would need to get it cleaned up so he was presentable for this dance...same for any of the other officers and NCO's who would be coming with him.
MacKenzie was on his feet before he even realized she had stood herself...his reflexes bringing his manners to the fore without thought. He rounded the desk and moved to the door and opened it, standing beside the doorway as she swept around to stop before him. "Well, Miss Devereau, I would like to thank you for the invitation and the visit. Both are very welcome surprises and a lovely change of pace in our typical days here."
MacKenzie blinked in surprise at the woman's statement. He could feel the creeping heat climbing up from his collar and he also knew there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.
"Well, I would be honored if you would give me the privilege of a dance. Consider yourself asked right this minute, Miss Devereau." He returned her gaze steadily for several heartbeats then he coughed lightly and looked around. "Ahem...So...what else can I do for you, Madame?"
Mackenzie leaned back a bit, his hands sliding out to each side on his desk and a smile broke across his features.
"Madame, I cannot tell you how happy your invitation makes me..." MacKenzie spread his arms to indicate the entirety of the fort surrounding them. "...usually in most of the commands I have been in, we are treated like a camp full of convicts or barbarians. Oh, when there are Indians raiding or bandits, what have you, we are very popular, but any other time it's "pay up front" or "stop loitering in our streets." MacKenzie then crossed his arms before him on his desk.
"I totally understand your concerns and I would be unable to authorize leave for more than a handful of my men at any one time, so you and the town have nothing to worry about there." MacKenzie rubbed his chin with one hand as he looked thoughtful. "Let's see...I can leave the married officers to man the post. That would be simple enough, and I would like to invite some of our more senior NCO's...oh, apologies...my older sergeants, whom I believe I can trust to behave in polite company..." The colonel did some counting in his head then looked back at Matilda. "Would a dozen men be too large a party?"
MacKenzie could not help but stare for just a moment as he heard Miss Devereau's matter of fact explanation of her status. One part of his brain was trying to get his attention as he realized he was not quite gaping at his visitor. MacKenzie gave himself a mental shake and hoped the gesture was not external as well.
"Well, I am always willing to listen to the local civilians when they come to my post with business to discuss. What invitation are you bringing my men and I...?"
What sort of town is this?...MacKenzie thought to himself as he answered the saloon owner. If a seemingly upright woman like Miss Devereau did this, what other secrets might the rest of the town hold?...MacKenzie figured he might need to rethink this leave thing with the garrison...can't afford to lose men by just sending them to town...the colonel realized Matilda had resumed speaking...
Mackenzie was already coming to his feet as the orderly waved the visitor into his office. "I have no desire to claim acres of moose and pasture in the name of the United States..." Mackenzie said as he took her offered hand and bent his head over it before releasing it. That whole gallant kiss thing was lost on MacKenzie. Wellington knew how to greet a lady but he in no way considered himself a swain. "...besides in the wisdom of the War Office I would then be forced to watch over all that new land with the same inadequate number of men I have to watch the territory I have now." The officer tugged out one of the two chairs before his desk for his visitor to have a seat before he moved back around to settle behind his desk. "And it's Colonel MacKenzie, not General, although I appreciate the compliment..." Mackenzie rested his elbows on his desk as he leaned forward a bit. "So what can I do for you, Mrs. or Miss...?"
Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.
Connect With Us On
If you would like to join the Sagas' Discord server or are already a member, click the image to open the Discord web application.