Lady B and I sit in the Ballroom, anticipating our latest guests. It took not a little convincing for Lady B to allow the rather notorious Zoë Archer into the ballroom. After all, the last time Zoë encountered Lady B, we all gathered in a rather disreputable part of town, to meet the highly scandalous Leo Bailey (from Zoë’s Demon’s Bride). Though Mr. Bailey had a magnetic presence and a fine pair of muscular thighs, after that day, Lady B would often refer to Zoë as “that improper Archer woman.”
But when I informed Lady B that Zoë was bringing a genuine American cowboy with her to the Ballroom, well, Lady B did make a few noises of doubt, but she was certainly intrigued.
Lady B: Are those boots I hear stomping down my fine parquet floor? They certainly don’t sound like a pair of Hessians!
I believe those are a working man’s boots, Lady B. Cowboy boots.
Lady B: Good heavens! I pray the wearer of those boots isn’t also sporting a pair of spurs. My Aubusson carpets will be shredded.
Fortunately, when Zoë and her guest appear in the doorway, the man isn’t wearing spurs. He is, however, clothed in the unique style of the wild American West: a long duster coat, and the aforementioned boots. In his weathered hand, he carries a Stetson hat. I was rather disappointed to see that he didn’t have a six-shooter strapped to his thigh, but I suppose our English constables wouldn’t look kindly on a man strolling down Bond Street carrying a revolver.
Is this him? The hero of Lady X’s Cowboy? (I’ve heard of this man–Zoë’s first hero now reprinted in all his digital glory–and I’ve been dying to meet him!)
Lady B’s eyesbrows arch.
Zoë: Lady B, may I present Will Coffin. Will, this is the esteemed—and feared—Lady B.
Will: An honor, ma’am. You don’t look like, what was it you said, Zoë? “a dragon in pearls.”
Lady B gasps in indignation, her fan waving furiously, as Zoë makes a choking sound. But then Mr. Coffin winks, and the seas calm. Indeed, it seems a Herculean effort to remain out of temper with Mr. Coffin present. For all the tales of hardened gunfighters, there’s a distinct ease and sense of equanimity about this cowboy, with humor glinting in his bright blue eyes. Further, he’s exceptionally handsome, and his muscular, rangy physique bespeaks a life of demanding labor.
I see Lady B trying in vain to glimpse Mr. Coffin’s calves, but, alas, he’s wearing long trousers. But whatever she does manage to discern about our cowboy’s legs, they seem to suit Lady B, and she settles back in her chair imperiously.
Lady B: You are a long way from home, Mr. Coffin.
Will: Call me Will, ma’am.
Lady B: Very well, William—
Zoë: It’s just “Will,” Lady B. The man who named him never got around to the “iam.”
You said “the man who named him.” Does Mr. Coffin, I mean, Will, not have any parents?
Will: No, ma’am. I was orphaned when I was just a little tyke.
Lady B and I express our condolences, but Will seems unperturbed by his lack of parents.
Lady B: What brings you to London from Texas?
Will: Oh, I ain’t from Texas. I’m from Colorado.
Lady B: Don’t be ridiculous! All cowboys are from Texas! I read it in a periodical somewhere.
Zoë: I’m sorry, Lady B, but America is a big place—
Lady B seems highly vexed that the notorious Zoë is contradicting her, so I immediately step in and ask Will why he’d travel all the way from Colorado to London.
Will: It’s on account of me bein’ an orphan, ma’am. See, my folks came from England and settled in the Rockies, but they were killed in an accident, leavin’ me on my own. A miner found me and raised me like his own, until I decided I wanted to light out and start cowboyin’. Been livin’ most of my life on the trail. Well, old Jake—he was the miner who raised me—he went on to his reward not too long ago, and left me with a little bit of money. He was a good feller, Jake, and before he died, he said I should try to find my family. He was worried that, with him gone, I’d have nobody.
Lady B: That’s quite sad, Will, but haven’t you some farmwife back in Texas.
The normally good-humored cowboy’s face darkens.
Will: No, ma’am. I’m what you might call a restless spirit. Can’t seem to settle anyplace long enough to find a girl, and the ones that I’ve met, they’re awright, but none of ’em have any real spark, if you get my meaning.
Lady B: I’m not sure that I do. You Americans talk very strangely.
I ring for tea, and Lady B, myself, Zoë and Will refresh ourselves. The china cups and plates look miniscule and liable to break in Will’s large, callused hands. I cannot help but notice that beneath Will’s ebullience is a kind of melancholy, as if he wasn’t entirely certain of his place in his world.
Please forgive my impertinence, Will, I say, but I was wondering if perhaps Lady B and I might be able to use some of our connections in Society to help you locate your remaining family.
Lady B: That’s a splendid idea. I’m glad I thought of it.
The cowboy brightens, but he looks slightly reluctant to take up my offer.
Zoë: I was hoping you might make that suggestion. That’s why I brought Will here today. I knew you couldn’t resist an opportunity to show everyone how well-connected you are.
Lady B: Miss Archer, you are, without a doubt, the most audacious creature I’ve yet encountered!
Zoë: Thank you, Lady B. I do try.
Will: If you’d do that for me, ma’am, you’d make me as happy as a fox in the henhouse after the dog died.
Both Lady B and I are stunned into silence by this American’s colorful way of speaking. We resume our tea, and, in due time, everything has been consumed.
Will: I appreciate you ladies lookin’ into my family. If y’all don’t mind, my legs are getting twitchy, especially on account of me not bein’ on horseback for weeks. I’d better light out of here before I start kickin’ like a mule.
Zoë: Will, you don’t know London very well. I’ll come with you.
Will: That’s awright, Miss Zoë. I don’t mind a bit of new territory. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find myself a little adventure.
I wonder where he’s off to. In fact, where would you take an American cowboy in London? We’ll be giving away an e-copy of Lady X’s Cowboy to one commenter!