January 13, 1897
An old woman once told me there are moments of such great importance in our lives that even in the midst of them it is impossible not to recognize them for what they are. As the sheriff told me Primrose College was no more, I realized this was one of those moments. The choices I make from this moment onward reflect my understanding of the graveness before me and more importantly my willingness to risk all that I am for all that I wish to be.
Call me selfish if you will but it is more than my future at stake. The hopes and dreams of a generation rest in my reckless hands, but do not think I am immune to the weight of that burden on my shoulders, nor the consequences should I fail. Fortunately, I will not bare it alone. Miss Waters stands as stubborn as I and will not let Primrose College and all that it means to so many fade without so much as a word spoken in protest.
Perhaps it was having no home to return to or maybe it was a sense there was more going on than was being revealed, but I could not simply follow the sheriff out of the barn when he commanded us to all go. I will never know for certain what drove me in that moment but whatever happens I will not regret my decision.
I stood my ground in the center of the barn and turned my back to the sheriff.
“We could go home.” I said.
My voice was louder than I had ever spoken before and I was not shouting. It was as if the force of my convictions were being translated into volume.
“We could give up on our dreams and the dreams of those yet to come. Is that what you will say to your daughters someday? Will you look them in the eye and tell them you came so far only to turn around and go home because a man with a shiny tin star told you to go? I will not.” I said.
I could feel the eyes of everyone staring at me. My legs felt weak but I was determined to stand my ground. I did not dare to contemplate what they must be thinking of me.
“Primrose College is more than a school. It stands as a beacon signaling a new age is coming to America. From the moment it first opened its doors there have been men trying to close them. If you want those doors closed along with everything they stand for, then go. Follow the sheriff and get on a train bound for home, but if you have dreams of a better tomorrow, then now is the time to persevere.” I said.
“Assuming for a moment you are right, how will we get to Primrose? There are no carriages or wagons waiting to take us.” Miss Sumter said.
“We ride.” Miss Waters said.
“You are joking.” Miss Sumter said.
“There are plenty of horses here and Anna and I have already made the trip ourselves from Primrose to here. Going back will be no different.” Miss Waters replied.
“We don’t have the equipment.” Miss Sumter said.
“Everything we need is right here.” I said.
“It is a two day trip for an experienced rider. If you girls go out there on your own that’s just how you’ll be, alone.”
“We aren’t alone, sheriff. We have each other and that is all we need.” Miss Waters said.
“Suit yourselves but I won’t be sending anyone out after you if you get in trouble.” The sheriff said.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Miss Waters said.
The sheriff waved his hand in a dismissive gesture at us and walked away for the second time. I held my breath waiting to see if any of the girls would follow, but none did. They were all looking to me instead and for the first time in my life I knew without any doubt, this was where I belonged.
I set about giving the instructions to get us ready to leave on horseback by morning. There would be things left behind but with luck, there would be someone coming for them later. As the girls set to work, I found a moment to approach Miss Waters and offer my thanks, only before I could a man I recognized as Mr. Howe came up to her. I stood back just far enough to not be seen, but close enough to hear.
“You’re making a mistake Sarah.” He said.
“I should have known you were behind this.” Miss Waters replied.
“Not me, not this time. I have other reasons for being here.”
“And what might those be.”
“To warn you.”
“Consider me warned then.”
“Go home Sarah, before you can’t.”
“You already took my home from me.”
“These people will kill you.”
“I can’t say.”
“Mr. Howe, if you think your cryptic warnings will scare me off then you have obviously not come to know me as well as I know you.”
“I don’t want to see you hurt.”
Miss Waters exploded in laughter.
“Tell your boss I’m not afraid of him and I’m not turning back, not now, not ever.” She said.
“You don’t have a clue what you are mixed up in, do you? Mr. Parker is only one player and believe it or not he’s one of the more civilized. You’ve angered the wrong people and they will bury you if you don’t walk away.”
“Let them try and what has begun as a whisper will turn to a roar. In any case I’m not afraid of dying.”
“No, you’re just afraid of living.” Mr. Howe said. “I didn’t really think you’d listen but I had to try. You’ll have to find your own path, I just hope it’s not the same as your father’s.”
With those words he turned and walked away. I waited in the shadows for a moment longer before approaching. I was going to ask if she was alright but the look in her eyes stopped me.
“Don’t worry his bark is mostly worse than his bite.” She said.
I nodded and looked around the barn at the girls. I wonder if we are headed into more trouble than we can handle, but it is already too late to turn back and even if it was not, I do not believe any of us would.