As I explained in my last post (7-10-15), during the course of writing, it’s not uncommon to remove fully completed, polished, ready-to-go scenes from a nearly finished book. When finalizing The Bride Lottery, I removed two complete scenes: the opening scene (last Friday’s post) and what I dubbed “the marriage license scene”.

I wanted so much to include it, to keep it in the book, but try as I might, it didn’t do what I needed most for it to accomplish… move the story forward. So this scene ended up in a Scrivener “deleted” file, and I’ve shared it in only two places: a compilation of extras for a book club event and here, for you. It’s not in the published book, The Bride Lottery.

I loved this scene.

Still do.

Reasons why I love it include:

  • The miners shopping for courting gifts makes me smile
  • The actualization of at least one bride choosing to go home (because too many of the miners are less than her idea of a perfect companion) enriches the story
  • Sam’s excitement about claiming Evelyn by ensuring their marriage license is properly recorded is just too cute


She’d said yes.


The glorious news had been the last thought spinning in his head when he at last fell asleep, and the first thought upon waking. When had he ever been so happy about anything?

Sam Kochler, a dirty German Immigrant orphan, was engaged to be married to the most wonderful woman in that whole passel of brides. He couldn’t believe his good fortune.

He hurried through washing, shaving, and dressing, and made his way down the stairs to the mercantile. This time of morning, dawn’s light was too weak to see by so he lit a lamp and brought out the ledger, pen, and ink.

One of the better perks of being the city clerk, elected manager of the Bride Lottery, Justice of the Peace, and storekeeper was his ability to properly file a marriage license before seven o’clock in the morning.

Something about putting pen and ink to the ledger, seeing his name alongside his bride’s added to Sam’s elation, made it more real.

He’d just finished scribing his name on the groom’s line and Mrs. Evelyn Brandt—no sense inscribing Miss and inviting further ridicule—on the bride’s line when someone pounded on the front door.

Given he wasn’t set to open for another thirty minutes, Sam thought about ignoring it. But that fist pounding didn’t sound like a man’s…it was too gentile, too soft. Had to be one of the brides. So he left the ledger and opened up.

Miss Mayme McKee stood there, her eyes reddened, her pelisse buttoned up to her chin, her bonnet tied on tight. At her feet waited two trunks and a carpetbag. How she’d managed to get those heavy trunks here at this hour, Sam couldn’t fathom, especially as he glanced both directions on the street and saw no one else about.

“Miss McKee. Good morning.”

“Is it?” A hint of sarcasm barely veiled what had to be deep hurt. “A good morning?”

Well, it had been. Until she’d knocked on his door, obviously ready to head out on the stage. He saw no other reason she’d be on his stoop with her bags packed.

“Come in, won’t you?” He ushered her inside, considered bringing her trunks in, but knew no one would bother them. He shut the door against the morning chill.

“Coffee?” he offered. “Tea?”

Miss McKee sniffed. She dabbed at her eyes with a lace-trimmed hankie she’d had clutched in her little fist. “No, thank you. I doubt I could keep it down.”

This didn’t sound like the Miss McKee he’d read about in the packet from the Agency, nor the young woman he’d watched— right along with the others— these past many days. Something had happened, and it wasn’t good.

“Will you have a seat?”

She moved to the chairs near the stove. He had yet to light a fire, but she didn’t seem to notice. And the temperature inside the mercantile was pleasant enough. She sighed heavily as she sat, forgetting to arrange her skirts all pretty-like as this particular young lady had a habit of doing. He’d seen her flirt, laugh, and arrange her skirts, what seemed like a dozen times.

All the flirt had gone out of her.

Sam itched to call out whichever of the men had done this to her. Who had offended her tender sensibilities enough that she’d decided to quit, go home, leave them? He’d have to find a way to ask such a forthright question.

“How can I help you this morning?”

She twisted her hankie. “I’m leaving on the stage. So is Miss Pritchett, but she opted to spend the day at the Quarters.”

Sam turned his gaze to the ceiling, counted to ten, tried— and barely succeeded— to rein in his frustrations. After he’d left the dance with Evelyn, something must’ve gotten out of hand. “Care to tell me what happened?”

After a long moment, Miss McKee merely shook her head.

He’d find out the truth of it, anyway. Word would scatter like falling oak leaves by noon, and he’d have the gist of it. Whether some of the fellows had gotten too friendly with their hands, had a mite too much to drink, said something a bit too crass for the sensibilities of gently bred young ladies, or worse— Sam would hear all about it. If not from the miners, then from a young lady or two.

Some were more willing to talk than others.

“If you’re not here to report the misbehavior of one of our citizens, then why are you here?”

“I can’t stay at the Quarters, not one more minute.”

That caught Sam by surprise. “Oh?”

“My roommate, Miss Quisenberry,” a dramatic sigh, “is just so… so…”


“Just so… happy.” Miss McKee’s features twisted as she fought tears. “I can’t bear to hear one more word about her beloved and the wedding and how this mail order bride plan has worked out so splendidly for her, when it—” she gasped, drew breath, “failed me.”

Something about the woman’s logic left Sam clueless— why, exactly, wasn’t she holed up in her room at the Quarters, instead of here, bugging him?

“I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am.” That response seemed safest. If she’d made up her mind to leave, there wasn’t anything anybody could do. After all, the contractual agreement between the Hartford Bridal Agency and the miners of Prosperity allowed for any or all of the women to remain unmarried and leave town at their own discretion. No one was locked into anything.

But any women who left had to pay their own passage to wherever they’d decided to go.

Sam narrowed his eyes at Miss Mayme McKee, who seemed well enough off. Was that why she was here? To obtain fare for the stage and train?

“Miss McKee—”

Another knock on his front door. Obviously male this time. Sam glanced at his timepiece. Seven-thirty, on the nose. “Excuse me, ma’am. It’s time to open the store.”

Three guys waited on his doorstep, ready to part with some gold dust.

Miss McKee kept her face turned away and her attention apparently on a small book she must’ve had stashed in her reticule, taking advantage of the lamp Sam had lit.

Sam opened the roller shades, letting in what daylight streaked through the towering pines.

The three fellows set to shopping for the usual— food stuffs, a pair of denims to replace one Old Thad had worn the seat clear off and finally settled on what Sam suspected was the main purpose of their shopping excursion.

The new display of courting gifts.

Sam hid a smile as he bent over the marriage license register and finished filling in his age and freshened the pen, halting in midair over the field for bride’s age.

Oh, yes. He’d interviewed her standing in this very spot. She’d said twenty years of age.

Somehow the idea he didn’t know all that much about the particulars about his bride-to-be struck him as funny. All he knew was the woman appealed to him, made him laugh, made him want part of this bride lottery the other men had concocted… but only if she were his prize.

He signed the ledger in the space provided for the one applying for the license. There. Now all it needed was Evelyn’s full name. Did she have a middle name? Was Brandt truly her legal surname? He wanted their marriage to be legally binding.

“You can’t give a lady a fishing lure for a courting gift!” Elmer argued.

“But it’s shiny,” Tom argued. “Ladies like shiny baubles.”

“The fishing lures ain’t part of this here courting gifts display.” Elmer sighed heavily. “They’re just next to it.”

“I can give her a fishing lure if I want to.” Tom handled a tortoise shell comb, carved with ornate latticework. “This is purty.” His long fingers dwarfed the good-sized hair ornament, the girlie implement completely out of place in his hand.

“Yep. ‘Tis.” Elmer signaled Sam. “How much?”

“Two dollars.”

“Two dollars!” Tom held the comb pinched between a forefinger and thumb to set it back on the shelf. “I ain’t payin’ two dollars for a trinket like that.”

From her seat near the cold stove, Miss McKee sniffed. Evidently, the woman was doing less reading and more eavesdropping. Her judgment on the accuracy of his prices made Sam smile.

“Got anything in my price range?” Tom asked. “I’m thinking more along the lines of a quarter dollar.”

Sam chuckled. Tom’s straw-colored hair had grown like a weed and he needed a cut. He ought to visit Levi’s barber chair, ‘cause it would make the ladies receive him a lot better. “Gentlemen, you’ve got to look at courting as an investment. Ladies see the things you buy for them, the gifts you give, as a token of your affection.”

Octavia’s lectures must’ve taken, because the Southern Ladies Code of Accepting a Gentleman’s Suit came out of his mouth as if he’d intentionally memorized it.

Which he certainly hadn’t.

With this distance, he could see Octavia’s affection had been for sale— and if he could pay the price with the gifts she expected and wanted— then she’d dole out smiles and kisses and allow him to hold her hand and call on her.

He’d spent far too much of his hard-earned money on Octavia Sheline.

But now that he was in the business of collecting hard-earned gold dust from the mining community he served, the advice seemed sound enough.

“What do you know about courting gifts?” Elmer challenged. “Other than how much profit you can make?”

“He must know enough,” Old Thad responded, his tone sharp, “he got himself engaged to that pretty Mrs. Brandt last night.”

Jealousy colored Old Thad’s words and Sam nearly rocked back on his heels. Well look at that…Everyone knew the widower had determined to marry again. With dark hair shot through liberally with silver, the man wasn’t bad to look at. And he made no bones about wanting children. Evelyn came with a ready-made family and proof positive of her fertility.

Too bad she was taken.

“I heard me that. It true? She accepted you?” Awe tinged Elmer’s tone, as if he couldn’t quite believe that the likes of Sam could’ve actually won her heart.

Sam couldn’t quite believe it, either. “Yes. It’s true.”

“That’s a damn shame,” Pickle Pike uttered, loudly enough for all to hear.

Sam started. He hadn’t heard nor seen Pike enter the dimly lit mercantile. The other guys acknowledged Pickle Pike with everything from waves to bald avoidance.

The most telling of all, was Miss McKee’s stiffening spine. She held that little book up as a shield before her face, preventing Pike from seeing her features… reddened eyes, mostly, and as a sign announcing, “leave me be”.

Very telling.

“How’s it a shame?” Sam challenged. “I happen to think it’s celebratory news. Mrs. Evelyn Brandt accepted my offer of marriage.”

Pike dragged his boot heels over the freshly waxed floor, the sound as annoying as the scuffs left behind. He leaned heavily on the counter and eyed the marriage license ledger in the pool of lamplight.

Sam didn’t much care for Pike’s attitude. But the ledger was a matter of public record, so he let Pike take a gander.

“You really gonna marry that woman?”

Pike’s tone had Sam’s jaw clenching, his fists balling and itching to wipe a smirk of Pike’s face. He decided to fight cynicism with enthusiasm and happiness instead.

He plastered a big, happy grin on his face. “Yep. The pretty lady’s all mine.”

Miss Mayme McKee turned a page in her book, keeping the blockade fully erect and her defenses shored up.

The other fellows continued handling the merchandise in the Courting Gifts section, bickering over prices and the merits of each and every item.

Pike pushed the toothpick he habitually carried from the left side of his jaw to the right. His expression sparked with something a bit too much like bitterness.

Sam decided to press his point. “Soon, she’ll be Mrs. Sam Kochler to you.”

“That right.” Pike perused the ledger, tracing a blunt, grimy finger down the page and stopping where Sam and written Mrs. Evelyn Brandt. Pike tapped the entry. “You sure ‘bout this?”

Sam narrowed his gaze in warning but Pike apparently didn’t notice, or perhaps he didn’t care. Maybe he just couldn’t take a hint. Or hankered for a broken nose.

“I’m just sayin’, a man can’t be too careful. We don’t have nobody’s word but hers that she’s even a missus.”

Before Sam thought it through, he’d grabbed Pike by the dirty bandanna tied about his throat. Across the counter as they were, it was a feat to twist and lift Pike onto his toes, but the urge to defend was strong and swift. Sam’s bicep strained against his shirtsleeve as he lifted Pike a little higher. “Care to take that back?”

Pike grinned, right quick. “Nope.” He popped the ‘p.’

In Sam’s peripheral vision, it was easy to see Miss McKee had lost interest in pretending to read. Her wide eyes and softly rounded mouth gaped at his show of violence.

“Listen up, Pike, and you hear me real good.”

The fellows had fallen silent, and Sam realized he had the full attention of every last one of them, Miss Mayme McKee included. “Mrs. Brandt will soon be my wife. I won’t stand for a single murmur against her reputation. Got it?”

Pike shrugged, smirked, then shoved himself free of Sam’s grip. “Yeah, I hear you.”

Sam pinned Pike, then Tom and Old Thad with a glare that dared them to defy him.

Miss McKee slowly raised her book to cover her face once more, but not before Sam saw the saucy cock to one of her shapely brows.

“When, exactly?” Pike said, his voice malice-free for once. “Given as you’re the J.P. around here, and marrying the other couples come Saturday, I just wondered how you’re gonna get yourself married to your lady. Can’t officiate over your own nuptials.”

Sam hadn’t thought that far ahead, but no way would he admit that to this audience. “As the lady only accepted me late last night, I’m sending a letter on today’s stage to a pastor friend in Leadville, inviting him to make the trip up here. We’ll be married as soon as he can arrive.”

“Sounds expensive.” Elmer never spent a flake of gold he didn’t have to.

“I’m good for it.” He had plenty to pay the pastor’s stage fare and the man’s fee.

“You sure ‘bout this?” Pike asked, his toothpick bobbing where he held it pinched between his lips. “Your decision to find a wife seems all sudden-like. Given you was the one not wantin’ a woman to start with.”

There would be no arguing with an idiot like Pickle Pike. Sam let his happiness show in the genuine smile that spread across his face. “Boys, I’ve never been more sure about anything. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a woman,” given he’d had his heart set on Miss Octavia, “just that I didn’t know fate put Mrs. Brandt on that train, for me.”

Miss McKee apparently forgot to hide behind her book. She sighed, one hand pressed to her heart.

“Love has a way of changing a man’s plans.”


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