Read An Unexpected Mother (The Colorado Brides Series Book 4) Online

Authors: Carré White

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Western, #Historical Romance, #Inspirational, #Westerns

An Unexpected Mother (The Colorado Brides Series Book 4)

BOOK: An Unexpected Mother (The Colorado Brides Series Book 4)
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The Colorado Brides

Book Four

An Unexpected Mother

 

 

 

Carré White

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Carré White

All Rights Reserved

Kindle Edition

 

http://carrewhite.wordpress.com/

 

http://twitter.com/CarreWhite

 

Carré White’s Mail List

 

Email:

[email protected]

 

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties.  Any unauthorized reprint or use of this book is prohibited.  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

 

Chapter One

 

The Oregon Trail, July 1862

We had been traveling through steadily inclining foothills for days now. The wagon master said we would arrive at Fort Laramie soon, which worried and excited me. My future husband, Jason Hatch, waited there, or at least I prayed he had made it safely to the isolated trading post. We had been on the trail since the beginning of May, and everyone was exhausted. Morale was low.

My parents, who had decided to join me, were seated in the wagon, while I walked, as I had for weeks, my feet crunching over a dusty, well-worn road. This was how my sisters had arrived in the Colorado Territory, meeting their future husbands, either on the trail or in Denver City, and settling happily. While the country was in the grips of a Civil War, the north and south strongly divided, we had begun our westward migration, the entire family embracing the opportunity to live a new life.

It wasn’t that we were unhappy in New York, but my parents couldn’t bear to be so far away from their daughters, especially with the advent of grandchildren. There were four daughters, myself the youngest. My sister, Hannah, and her husband, Frank, had been the first to arrive. He had been a preacher, and he was hired by one of the mining districts to oversee the newly constructed church. After he had died unexpectedly, she re-married and had a baby. My sister, Paulina, had fallen in love with the wagon master on her journey, barely surviving cholera, and marrying the man shortly after. Then Louisa had fled to Denver City after annulling her marriage. She became involved with a needy family; the father, Matthias Montgomery, had caught her eye, and they had married. It was my turn now.

“Aren’t you tired, my dear?” asked mother, who gazed at me from beneath a blue bonnet. “You’ve been walking for nearly two hours.”

“I’m fine.”

“Goodness, my backbone is sore. We should change places.” She slid from the wooden bench, grasping the seat and stepping to the ground. During the weeks of traveling, we had perfected this maneuver without falling and being crushed by the steel-clad wheels. “I need to walk.” She grimaced; the sun was in her eyes. “It’s horribly hot today.”

“Just like yesterday.”

“We’ll be in Ft. Laramie soon. Maybe even by tomorrow.”

She didn't need to remind me. I was well aware of this fact. I had been re-reading the letters Jason had sent, going over every detail. His penmanship left much to be desired, but the writing was polite and honest. He was a simple man, a carpenter by trade, looking for a wife. I suspected that he was not a handsome man, but I had prepared myself for this. We had been writing letters for almost a year now, and a friendship had developed. From there…he had divulged his loneliness, the hardships of living in a burgeoning city, and his need for companionship. I felt the same, although I never lacked in admirers. I could have married in Troy and settled, but it was impossible, because I wanted to be where my sisters were.

“We should stop for lunch soon,” I said, glancing into the distance at the line of wagons that curved around the base of a small mountain. It must have rained here not that long ago, as the grass was tall and green. The oxen would eat heartily once we found an adequate resting spot. “It sure is pretty.”

“I’d give anything for a sign of civilization. I’d be happy to see a shack.”

“Oh, mother,” I giggled. “You poor thing.”

“I long for a green park or a glass of lemonade with ice. I ask myself every day why I gave up my comfortable house and perfect life. This surely is madness.”

“Blame it on your ungrateful and selfish children, my dear,” said father, with a hint of humor. “They’re the reason we’re in this predicament.”

“I’ve raised the worst sort of daughters.”

I knew she wasn’t really angry, as she adored us. I hugged her. “I love you, mother.”

“Oh, Fanny. You’re the sweetest girl. You stayed the longest. While your sisters ran off as far as they could, you took care of your pitiable parents. But, you’ll be with your new husband soon, whoever he may be…and we’ll be alone again.”

“Nonsense. You’ll have your hands full of grandbabies. Do I have to count again just how many there are?” Louisa had three, with a fourth to be born any day now. Hannah was pregnant and she had Letty. Paulina was mother to two.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them. I dreamt last night of soaking in a tub filled with rose-scented water.” She glanced at her hands. “What a luxury that would be. I’ve never been so filthy in my entire life.”

After Ft. Kearny, the trail had become unbearably dusty, as the wheels of hundreds of wagons had loosened the gravel. The wind had been relentless, gusting horribly. We had worn bandanas around our faces for protection. Our clothing needed washing, along with the bedding, but it would have to wait until we reached the fort. The wagon master had promised us an extra day or two of rest, because our progress had been good. We had averaged more than sixteen miles per day without incident. The cases of cholera were low with our group, only one family had fallen ill. There had been a fatality at one of the river crossings a few days ago. A woman had drowned after her wagon had toppled over in the current. She had been pinned beneath for too long. This had been a reminder of how dangerous such undertakings could be.

I had gotten to know most of the other travelers over the last few weeks. We were an assemblage of families, miners, and traders, who sought to make a new life in parts unknown. Some were traveling to Oregon and California with a few heading to the Utah Territory.

“I think I’ll sit for a spell.” I grasped the seat, stepping onto the wagon. Glancing at father, he grinned at me. “When do you think we will stop?”

“Soon. I’ve seen riders up ahead. They’re scouting out a spot.”

“Thank goodness. I’m starving. I wonder what’s for lunch?”

“We’re low on provisions, Fanny. It’s liable to be beans and buffalo again.”

I made a face. “How…wonderful.”

He chuckled, “Lamb chops with fruit custard sounds better, eh?”

My stomach rumbled. “That would be lovely, but I'd rather have plum pudding. I’d love fried chicken too.” My mouth watered at the thought. I was tired of eating dried meat and rice.

“You better stop that now,” said mother. “I won’t stand for it, you hear me?”

Father and I chuckled, as we frequently talked about food in great detail, going so far as to discuss cooking temperatures and ingredients. “There will be fresh provisions at the fort,” I said. “And just in time. We’re nearly out of flour.”

“I’m counting the hours until we arrive.” Mother craned her neck. “Oh, yes! Are we stopping?”

Father adjusted his hat. “I do believe so.”

“Oh, thank goodness, George.”

“You’ll be able to rest soon, my dear.”

The wagons slowly verged to the right, our guides having found a flattened area with verdant grasses for the animals to feed on, while people set up campfires. Our cooking supplies were within easy reach, as were the food stores. Several men dug out a latrine, hidden beneath a small tent. It would serve our needs, but many travelers had wandered from the area, stepping into the prairie to do their business.

I sat on a foldable wooden chair, exhausted. How I longed to wash my face and hands, but the river was more than a mile away. My booted feet peeked out from beneath the hem of a blue dress; the ends had frayed. I had saved my best outfit for the wedding, which would hopefully occur once we reached Fort Laramie. The prospect of being married to a virtual stranger produced twinges of nervousness. Whenever I thought about it, I felt this way.
I certainly hope I’m not making a mistake.

After we had eaten, I poured a small amount of water in a bowl and cleansed my face and hands, although not as thoroughly as I would have liked. We set out again shortly after, the heat of the afternoon sun beating down upon the canvas of the wagon. The oxen plodded on, just as they had since the beginning of the journey, trudging stoically without complaint. Keeping the beasts fed and watered was the key to their steadfast obedience. They could tolerate almost any conditions, which made them ideal for this type of labor.

The hours were spent sitting and walking, sometimes chatting with fellow travelers. I had gotten to know several families, and we frequently dined with them. I avoided the miners, as they were a rowdy, obnoxious lot who drank and chased women. Being this far between forts, most had depleted their whiskey, but they had been willing to pay a steep price for the occasional bottle from the homesteaders. My father had been tempted to sell his, but he had decided against it. He wanted to keep a bottle or two for emergency purposes, in case we ran out of water completely. We had been fortunate so far.

The slowness of the journey was at times vexing, but we had made excellent progress, not having wasted a single day on an unforeseen disaster. When Mrs. Rinehart had drowned, we had attended the improvised funeral and left a short while later. We had encountered another wagon train several days ago. They had been hit hard by cholera; the wagon master had contracted the dreaded illness and died. We offered help, but they had politely declined, insisting that they were more than capable of continuing without our aid. Our group had passed them, and I hadn’t seen even a hint of white in the distance to indicate that they had continued on.

Alternating between walking and sitting, I was now with father, who held the reins, his face hidden beneath a wide-brimmed hat. He liked to tell stories while thus engaged; his favorite was the colorful life of Davy Crockett. I sat and listened, while he prattled on about this adventure and that. Father was obsessed with the Battle of the Alamo. I’d heard it all before, many times, and he seemed to embellish as he went. There was nothing to do but stare at the scenery, while the wheels rolled with the slow passing of each mile. The vistas had begun as an endless prairie, but had then transformed into gently sloping foothills, which would rise further into mountains.

The tedium had been worse for the children, who were trapped in the wagons unable to play. Many walked for hours, just like their parents, and then they would run around camp at night, expending the last of their energy. The wagon before us held a family of five, who were exceedingly noisy today, the children running amok and screaming. It was giving mother a headache, as she rubbed her forehead repeatedly.

Shortly before sunset, we were directed to a patch of grass that had been used by settlers not that long ago. It had been littered with refuse and the grasses shorn by previous animals. It was a shame we couldn’t have found a better location, but it was late, the sun glowing orange in the distance, the last streaks of light lingering. This location would have to do. With any luck, the water wasn't contaminated, which was always a risk. We were near a river, the thatch of trees in the distance indicating that something wet moved through.

The wagons were placed in an enormous circle, keeping animals and people safely inside. The oxen and horses grazed heartily, lowering their heads to the ground. Several men dug out a hole for the latrine tent, but again many settlers preferred to find secluded areas away from camp, which was discouraged, as it might spread disease. It was impossible to police hundreds of people, and most did what they wanted.

BOOK: An Unexpected Mother (The Colorado Brides Series Book 4)
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