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Neither Bookworm nor Mariah mentioned the incident of the brandy bottle. They spent their last day in New York buying a few things that were unlikely to be available further west. Bookworm, indeed, was seduced by a new camera and assorted equipment, snapping it up and adding it to her luggage. The next day, they boarded the train for their next part of the journey, traveling through Chicago to St. Louis. From there, another train took them slowly across Missouri and Kansas, with Mariah making snide comments about the flat, featureless grasslands, and Bookworm making snide comments back about flat, featureless seas that really weren't any different. Their amiable arguing helped to pass the time, as they reached La Junta, Colorado, and made a turn to the northwest, finally reaching Colorado Springs.
Though not the northern end of the railway line, Bookworm considered this the perfect place to introduce Mariah to the West. Mariah was suitably impressed by the scope of the nearby mountains, as well as the relative affluence of the city itself. (She did complain bitterly about the lack of bars, it being a dry city, but Bookworm was able to point her to the ready alternate sources for alcohol.) Over the next few days, they enjoyed the scenery and climate considerably, hiking in the Garden of the Gods, taking the cog railway up to the top of Pike's Peak (and back down quickly once Bookworm saw the beginning signs of altitude sickness in Mariah), and riding around the area. Mariah had done little horse riding in her life, and Bookworm wanted to give her a chance to get at least a little acclimated to the saddle before they began the day-long rides coming up.
Finally finished with enjoying the amenities of Colorado Spring, they boarded a train north, taking it up to the end of their line in Cheyenne, in the Wyoming Territory. From here, they would be striking out on their own, following Bookworm's plans. It was here that she bought the horses they'd need--a gelding for herself, a placid mare for Mariah, and a couple of pack horses. They also bought the bulk of their supplies, including bed rolls, blankets, food, cooking equipment, and first-aid supplies. Mariah raised an eyebrow at the amount of liniment Bookworm bought. "You'll need it," Bookworm kept telling her. "*I'll* need it, for all that I was living in the saddle a month ago."
Mariah, though, was rather surprised at the changes she saw in Bookworm as they'd made their way west. And here she was now, confidently arranging their trip, competently bargaining for their supplies, shedding her dresses for the pants and shirtwaists favored in this area. Mariah couldn't help but wonder why Bookworm wasn't living here in the West, where she was so obviously comfortable...
Bookworm could feel Mariah's attention as she finished their preparations, and had the feeling she knew what occasioned it. She *did* feel in her element out here, but not, she thought, more so than in many another place she'd visited or lived, including New Babbage. She still couldn't decide if this meant she felt at home everywhere, or felt at home nowhere...
((To be continued...))