University of Nevada, Las Vegas

A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 6

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with dark red drapery and filled with massive furniture upholstered in the red plush and fringe made fashionable two decades before by riches that poured into San Francisco from Virginia City. Briefly Hugh told me what had happened. A prospector had discovered rich ore out in the middle of the Nevada desert, and the rush was on. Hugh’s firm had decided to open a law office there, and to his delight, he had been selected to represent the firm in the new town - Tonopah. He’d be gone maybe a year, not a day longer. With no further preliminaries he plunged on: would I marry him? I raised my eyes to his sweet serious face. Of course I would. He waved his hand to include the drawing room. “ It won’t be like this,” he said. “ It will mean hard work and rough living, but it will be exciting. There’ll be no running water, and there’ll be Indians.” With the wide smile that brought out the characteristic lines around his mouth, he added, “ And you’d better get used to canned milk, for that’s all you’ll get.” I threw back my head and laughed with the confidence of extreme youth. Then we became grave as he held out his hand. “ My bags are downstairs, and my ferry leaves in thirty minutes.” With a glance around the room - there were only two other people in the parlor - Hugh drew a newspaper from his pocket, unfolded it, and whispered, “ Here, take this end. I haven’t kissed my promised bride.” I took the edge of the newspaper, and we held it up as a shield. For the first time I kissed my future husband. Then he touched the chatelaine watch pinned on my breast and turned it over to read the inscription: Animo et fide ( WITH COURAGE AND FAITH). It was my mother’s motto, engraved on the watch she had given me as a graduation gift. As I look back to that moment, with more than sixty years between that time and this, I know Hugh needed the motto more than I, for this young man of twenty- eight was about to assume the hazard of taking to the frontier a bride of nineteen, a girl who had always been completely sheltered and was entirely unprepared for hardship – trained for nothing except how to be a lady. Ten months later Hugh returned to San Francisco. We were married in my sister’s home in a radiant little ceremony with music and flowers, white satin and lace. The following evening we boarded the Southern Pacific train for Reno. The first night of our traveling honeymoon was spent in the Golden Hotel in Reno, comfortable except for the fact that it was right next to the railroad racks. The Southern Pacific engines snorted and whistled and rang bells and switched freight cars that crashed together all night long.

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 6
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