|The Mail Order Bride
Author: Lady Gwynedd PM
It's the late 1800s in the wild west. A lonely man seeks companionship; a woman restricted by convention seeks a future. Add those together and what do you get?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Western - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 30 - Words: 99,849 - Reviews: 5,383 - Favs: 3,700 - Follows: 1,436 - Updated: 07-14-10 - Published: 04-10-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5885420
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Mail Order Bride
Chapter One: Prologue, The Correspondence
October 16, 1886
Dear Mr. Cullen,
I read your notice in the Matrimonial News and was moved to respond. You seem to be a thoughtful, poetic man. I am thinking that perhaps we can explore the possibility of a friendship.
I am a spinster. I take care of my brother's home but as he is expecting to be wed in the spring, I am sure his wife would prefer to have her own home to manage without the presence of another feminine hand. Since my brother's affairs will be disposed of satisfactorily, my future is one of opportunity and I am enthused about my prospects.
First, I am sure you will be interested to learn about me. I am, as I said, a spinster of five and twenty years. I am a church going woman of sober character, of middling height and weight with dark hair and eyes. I have been told that I have a neat figure but as that is a matter of opinion, and I truly have no opinion on it, I believe that if we should ever meet, you would have to form your own thoughts upon the subject.
At this time, my brother's farm produces milk cows and he has one fallow field but the rest are planted in corn and tobacco. I have a small garden wherein I produce various vegetables, fruits and, of course, flowers. I keep chickens - although I have had an ongoing war with the rooster - that seems to be successful. I have a steady hand at sewing and mending and I can cook plain fare.
When I have a spare moment, I enjoy visiting the local lending library. I take pleasure in learning new things and reading about faraway places. What is it like in your home town?
My home town, Occoquan, is old, going back to colonial times. Some of the buildings in the town center predate our nation's independence and there is even a rumor that George Washington slept in our tavern. It is not a very nice tavern, so I cannot attest to his comfort but they do say he was there once. It is our one claim to fame, I suppose.
Occoquan sits on a small tributary of the Potomac River and was once a thriving port but the river has silted up and large ships can no longer navigate it. It is pleasant, though, to go out on a small craft and paddle about of a summer Sunday afternoon.
The fall finds me busy preserving the fruits of my vegetable labors and there are frequent gatherings of women working on quilts and the greater sewing projects. Usually, we do these projects for folks setting up their homes; planning to wed, in other words. The current quilt on the racks is one for Brother Michael and my soon to be sister-in-law, Jessie.
Upon rereading my letter, I realize that, truly, my life would seem pretty uninteresting to a stranger. To be honest, it seems pretty uninteresting to me as well. Books and poetry seem to be the only things that encourage any of my flights of fancy.
And, with that, I will leave you with a few lines from Byron:
"But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
'Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link."
Miss Isabella Swan
November 30th, 1886
Dear Miss Swan,
I was truly unprepared to receive such an erudite response to my query. You seem to be a woman of wit and curiosity, two qualities I enjoy in others. Yes, I am hopeful that our correspondence would strike up the bonds of friendship, if you are willing.
I am unsure what to tell you about myself. I am a bachelor of thirty years, having never found someone of whom I had enough interest to marry or one who had enough interest to marry me. I grew up in Chicago, Illinois but struck out to the mountains of Colorado when Mr. Greely implored the youth of our generation to "Go west." I worked for awhile for a rancher and learned the craft literally "in the saddle."
I had some little bit put by and after I felt secure in my knowledge of the ranching business, I staked out my own claim in the pleasant river valley of Bear River. Don't let the name give you any fears. There are no more bears in Bear Valley than there are anywhere in Colorado – which means you can't go anywhere in Colorado without being concerned about bears. But we've been fairly safe over the past few years - nothing tragic to write about, at least.
My homestead consists of over seven hundred acres that I use to raise cattle and cut timber. After several years of hard work, I can now realize some small but steady profit from my ventures. The past year has found me improving and adding on to the ranch house on the property. I believe it is a nice dwelling for a small family, with more than seven rooms in total. We dug a well last year and there's fresh water available at will in the pump house all year long. I know that seems pretty prosaic for you easterners but in the west, it is a luxury. The soil here is rich and fertile and I am sure vegetable – and flower – gardens would do well.
I, myself, am considered tall, over six feet in height, but my build is lean rather than stocky. I have brown hair that sometimes surprises me by appearing red. It's a strange occurrence that puzzles me. My eyes are green but can be influenced by the colors that I wear, or so I've been told. My complexion is fair and I am clean-shaven by preference. Whether I am handsome or not, I couldn't say, and I'll quote you, if you will allow me: "I believe that if we should ever meet, you would have to form your own thoughts upon the subject."
I enjoy quiet contemplation rather than the busy-ness of cities, which can explain why I left the hustle of Chicago for more pastoral scenes. I enjoy reading, as well, having enjoyed the works of Cooper, the aforementioned Greely, and a plethora of other active writers as I sit here in my study. Additionally, I enjoy music and was wont to play the piano back in Chicago. One of my dreams is to ship a piano out so that I can once again take up my pastime but that will not be for a while, I believe.
The nearest town is a good ten miles away but there are a few stores of a general nature and some entertainment; however, I doubt that George Washington or anyone remotely of that standing has ever been within twenty miles of the place, so your Occoquan has a lot more to boast about than Bear Valley.
I will ride into Bear Valley tomorrow to post this letter and I hope that it will find you in good health and spirits when it eventually reaches you.
I was trying to find a good verse to share with you, Miss Isabella, but the only one that seemed to talk to me today was this:
'Tis all a chequer board of nights and days,
Where destiny with men for pieces plays;
Hither and thither, and mates, and slays.
Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám, 1859
It's a little morbid but hopeful at the same time.
April 2, 1887
Dear Miss Bella,
What with the passing of the vernal equinox, I have been eagerly looking for the harbingers of spring. And surely, everywhere I look, I see the hope of pleasant weather. The snow is relegated to the deep shades of the trees and is receding up the mountains. Spring flowers are beginning to poke through the insulating pine needles that litter the ground. The sky seems bluer and the birds sing louder but maybe that is more of a reflection of my hopes than a sure indication that softer times are nearing.
This past winter has been bleak; the snow has been deeper and lasted longer than any can remember. It was cold in the saddle, trying to insure the cattle had shelter and food and my long days became long nights more frequently than I would have desired. The only bright spots in the dark, cold months were the biweekly letters you so faithfully wrote. I reread them so often, I can frequently quote them verbatim. I treasure each one because, like Scheherazade, they revealed to me the woman you are by dropping one veil after another until I feel I know you almost as well as I know myself. Dare I hope my missives have also revealed the manner of man that I am to you?
How can that be possible, though? Surely, words on a page are not enough? I have an aching desire to know you more. With the change in the air and the new season upon us, do you think now is the time we cast our lots to the wind and to chance?
Miss Bella, I ask you to come to me. My intentions are noble and honest. I need a helpmate, a wife and I am of the opinion that we would suit.
However, I have no wish to impose my desires upon you. It is hard to tell solely by correspondence if my opinion is completely accurate and perhaps my words accidentally mis-portrayed me over the months. So, I am offering you a proposal.
Miss Bella, do you think there is a chance that you could commit yourself to a life with me? I am hopeful of marriage for us and I have written it here so that your family and friends will know my intentions are pure.
All that being said, in case circumstances don't pan out as I am currently hoping, I will purchase for you a round-trip ticket. In this manner you have the means to leave and return home if you feel the need. But I am hoping you will stay.
What say you?
April 15, 1887
Dear Mr. Cullen,
In a word: Yes.
Please send details soon.
April 22, 1887
My Dear Miss Swan,
You have no idea how joyful your letter made me.
I've enclosed your round trip ticket. I hope a month gives you enough time to prepare for the trip.
I will be counting the days.
With high hopes,