Read Libbie: Bride of Arizona (American Mail-Order Bride 48) Online

Authors: Linda Carroll-Bradd

Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #Forever Love, #Victorian Era, #Western, #Forty-Eight In Series, #Saga, #Fifty-Books, #Forty-Five Authors, #Newspaper Ad, #Short Story, #American Mail-Order Bride, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Marriage Of Convenience, #Christian, #Religious, #Faith, #Inspirational, #Factory Burned, #Pioneer, #Arizona, #Tomboyish, #Travel, #Across Country, #Rancher, #Eccentric

Libbie: Bride of Arizona (American Mail-Order Bride 48)

BOOK: Libbie: Bride of Arizona (American Mail-Order Bride 48)
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LIBBIE: Bride Of Arizona

#48
in the unprecedented 50-book American Mail-Order Brides series.

 

By Linda Carroll-Bradd

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, place, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright ©Linda Carroll-Bradd  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute or transmit in any form or by any means without express permission from author or publisher.

Published by Inked Figments

Cover artist: Tamra Westberry

Edited by: Lustre Editing www.lustreediting.com

Manufactured in the United States

ISBN:
978-1-940546-07-0

First printing January, 2016

This book is copyrighted intellectual property. Purchasing this e-book gives you the right to one copy for your reading enjoyment. The purchase does not grant resale rights, sharing rights (either individual file sharing or sharing through peer-to-peer programs) auction or contest prize rights, or rights of any kind to sell or give away a copy of this book.

Doing so is considered piracy and criminal copyright infringement—an illegal act in violation of U.S. Copyright Law and can be investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is punishable by a maximum of five years in federal prison in addition to a $250,000 fine.

Please respect Linda Carroll-Bradd’s right to earn a living from her creative endeavors. If you have knowledge of misuse of this e-book, do not hesitate to contact Inked Figments at [email protected]

Dedication

To my beloved family on Julia Court who supported me throughout the writing of this story—you know who you are. I couldn’t have completed this without you.

Chapter One

 

September, 1890, Boston, Massachusetts

“Glide, Miss Van Eycken, glide your way across the room. A proper young lady moves as if she’s lighter than air.” Mrs. Elfrida Templeton frowned as she tapped a ruler on the desk like a metronome.

Libbie Van Eycken gritted her teeth and squared her shoulders. Gliding was for glossy ibises or spangled kookaburras, not for an action-loving female being forced to take lessons at Mrs. Templeton’s Academy for the Refinement of Young Ladies. She stepped, being careful not to set her foot farther than a single length ahead. Why this skill was important she had no idea. When would she ever need to walk like this?

What she wanted was to be outside horseback riding, hiking, or, at the very minimum, walking with a full stride and a swing of her arms. With her next move, she positioned her boot heel at the toe of her other shoe. Each step made her aware of how the shoe’s style pinched her feet. The book she’d been balancing on her head fell and landed on her foot. “Ahh.” Throbbing pain stabbed her instep, and she grabbed her boot, hopping on her uninjured foot until she spotted Ms. Templeton’s deep frown. “Blasted book.”

Behind her came titters and giggles from the other young women. Someone muttered, “She talks so strangely.”

Libbie’s head snapped up. Most of the other students had never set foot outside of Massachusetts, let alone traveled to two other continents. Heat infused her cheeks, and she straightened to her full five-foot-one-inch height. Why Mama had sent her from their South African home all the way to Boston for this education that she’d probably never use was beyond reckoning. The explanation Mama gave remained a puzzle—“you’ve been your father’s child for your first twenty-one years, now you’ll be my daughter for the next decade.”

Libbie hated the actuality of being away from her family, and she especially disliked the clothes she had to wear while living with Aunt Betje. Full skirts, petticoats, corsets, and starched collars were torture devices for a girl raised among the native tribes, often barefoot with only a length of seshweshwe cloth wrapped around her body. Or clad in her boyish riding outfit of dungarees and a chambray shirt when the family spent time on the Australian cattle stations operated by her three older brothers.

“Miss Van Eycken, kindly practice at home this evening until you can cross the length of a room with the book remaining aloft.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Libbie dipped a shallow curtsey and stepped across the polished floor to the side of the room, next to the wide mirror for viewing one’s posture. A gaslight chandelier scattered points of light around the walls, but her attention was drawn to the window and the multiple squares of visible trees and sky. Her soul ached to be outdoors. Since that wouldn’t happen until the lesson was complete, she turned her attention to the task. Having older brothers had taught her the value of persistence.

Several hours later, Libbie scurried along Beacon Street and crossed the tip of The Boston Common. The sight of the tall white spire on the Park Street Church never failed to make her hesitate and admire the stone work and the arched windows. Plus she needed to take as full a breath as the darn corset allowed. A breeze tugged strands of long blonde hair from her braid and she shivered. The nip in the September air hinted at the cold weather Aunt Betje warned was just around the corner. She pulled up her jacket collar and turned down the side street. Within minutes, she dashed up the back stairs and into her aunt’s red brick Georgian-style mansion.

The three women huddled over a counter immediately straightened and turned at her entrance.

“Land sakes, girl.” The tall redhead slapped a hand to her chest. “Ye startled us.”

“Good afternoon, Miss Van Eycken.” The brown-haired young woman who’d moved to a board and now chopped carrots dipped her chin.

“Oh, Sally, I asked you to use my first name.” Libbie unbuttoned her jacket and set it over the back of a nearby chair. “Believe me, I hear my full name often enough from Mrs. Templeton.” She sniffed the rich scent of roasting meat. “That smells good, Mary. What delicacy are you preparing for tonight’s meal?”

The freckle-faced cook turned and shook a wooden spoon at the same time she bit back a smile. “Miss, don’t let yer aunt hear ye be so familiar with the servants.”

“Back home, the servants are treated like family members. Besides, I’d much rather be here than in the parlor, sitting properly and stitching on a sampler.” She gave an exaggerated shudder and flashed them a grin. Beside Sally stood a stranger with similar features and brown hair. Libbie stepped forward and extended her hand. “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Libbie Van Eycken, as you’ve heard.”

“Dora Johnson, ma’am. How do you do?” The plumper version of Sally dipped a curtsey. She inched her other hand around to her back.

Paper crinkled.

“What do you have there?” Libbie stepped forward and angled her head, hoping for a peek at what the women had been looking at when she entered. But, as always, her short height thwarted her from seeing.

Sally glanced between the two other women and then reached behind her sister and stepped forward, laying a newspaper on the block table in the middle of the room. “Dora used to work at a textile mill in Lawrence which is about thirty miles away. Just recently, the place burned down, leaving approximately one hundred women without jobs.”

“Oh, that’s awful.” Not that she’d ever held a job, but Libbie knew many women in America worked in offices or factories to support themselves. “What will they do?”

“Well, Sally is my only family, and I’ve come to Boston to find a new job. I stayed in Lawrence for a week, hoping to find similar work but there’s naught to be had.” Dora glanced at the door to the main hallway and stepped closer. “Miss, please don’t tell your aunt I’m here. At least, not until I find work and can offer to pay for my room and board.”

“Yes, Libbie, please keep our secret.” Sally wrapped an arm around her sister’s shoulders. “Although, now I’m thinking Dora should arrange for a husband through the gazette’s ads.”

Surprise jerked Libbie back a step. “A husband in a newspaper?” Then curiosity forced her gaze to the page.

“See?
Grooms’ Gazette
.” Sally pointed to the masthead then moved lower. “Elizabeth Miller works as a matchmaker in a nearby city. She prints and distributes this newspaper as a way to share information about men in other states and the frontier who are hankering for wives.”

A wave of gratefulness for her family, as far-flung as they were now, flashed through Libbie. Granted the trans-ocean travel by ship was long and boring, but she knew they’d be waiting with open arms at the end of her journey when her time at the Academy was completed. She scanned a few of the letters and then leaned both elbows on the counter, intrigued by the variety of situations the men were in. Logger, rancher, shopkeeper, doctor, farmer, miner, lawyer, professor, saddler, dentist, saloon owner—almost every occupation under the sun. Most sounded honest and upstanding, and also very lonely. Some were too specific in their requirements, which told her those men would not possess easygoing personalities. She straightened and waved a hand toward the newspaper. “Dora, are you considering this?”

“Several of my co-workers were writing letters to arrange matches when I left Lawrence. My friend, Grace Dickinson, wrote to a gentleman who’s a mason way out in Montana.” The young woman wrung her hands and shook her head. “I just don’t know if I can do this. Although having a home of one’s own sound wonderful.” She turned toward Sally and her lower lip quivered. “But to move too far away worries me.”

“Tell her, Libbie, that coming from another country ʼtisn’t so bad.” Mary crossed her arms at her trim waist. “Sure, I miss the green pastures of County Cork and watching the ships in the harbor. But I like being warm and having a roof over me head even more.”

The cook spoke the truth. Although Libbie barely remembered her father’s older sister from the family’s visit when she was seven or eight, she was grateful to be staying with her aunt and cousins. After a month in Boston, Libbie still hadn’t adjusted to the large number of people living so close together, or the noise from peddlers in the street, horse-drawn cabs and trolleys, tolling church bells, and wailing fire sirens. “Every place I’ve lived has good and bad aspects. Only you can decide what town or situation is best for you, Dora. Maybe you should look for the locations of men living the closest to Boston.”

A smile creased Dora’s chubby cheeks. “I like that idea. Thank you.”

“Excuse me, miss, but yer aunt hasn’t yet rung for her tea.” Mary frowned and glanced at the pendulum clock on the wall. “Could ye step into the parlor and check on her?”

“Yes, Mary, I will do that on the way to my bedroom. I have been sent home with Mrs. Templeton’s specific instructions to practice my gliding.” She held out her arms straight and took exaggerated sliding steps. Glancing over her shoulder, she noted the women stood with hands covering their mouths, suppressing their laughter, and she gave them a cocky grin. Then she gathered her reticule and jacket and pushed through the swinging door that led to the back hallway.

Once there, her footsteps were silenced by the plush carpet runner. Gliding was too difficult so she walked with a normal gait to the carved wooden door and tapped twice before turning the knob. “Aunt Betje?” She moved over the threshold and immediately felt her skin prickle against the chilly air. Only a faint glow of embers showed in the fireplace.

Her aunt sat in her favorite wingback chair that flanked on side of the marble fireplace, emitting loud raspy snores.

Libbie stirred the fire and added wood until the flames blazed, making sure to clank the poker a couple times against the andiron to shake off the ash.

“Is that you, Libbie? Home from the Academy so soon?”

“The regular time.” A strange roughness filled her aunt’s question. Libbie turned to study her flushed face. “Are you feeling well?”

Her aunt coughed and leaned forward, massaging a hand under her jaw. “My throat is sore.”

Libbie dropped onto the upholstered footstool and grasped her aunt’s hands. “You’re so cold.” She chafed her hands over the outside of her aunt’s clasped ones, hoping to instill a bit of warmth. “Let me ring for tea. Maybe that will soothe your throat.” She jumped to her feet and dashed to pull the twisted cord hanging next to the door that would ring a bell in the kitchen. Anxious to relay the message, she stepped into the hallway and as soon as Sally opened the far door, called out. “Tea with lemon and honey, please.”

Stepping back into the room, she spotted a shawl on the pianoforte bench and grabbed it. “Let me wrap this around your shoulders.” She spoke as she completed the action and then lowered herself to the stool again. “How much time did you spend in the garden today?”

Aunt Betje glanced at her and then stared into the fire, tugging the shawl tight under her chin. “Don’t lecture. I did a fair amount of weeding and transplanting bulbs.” A wrinkled hand crept from under the shawl to massage her neck.

Sympathy shot through Libbie. No one liked catching the sniffles. If she had to guess, she’d say her aunt had forgotten to wear a jacket because the sleeves restricted her movements. Betje loved working with the rich earth and watching green things grow. The sight of reddish spots in the older woman’s cheeks knotted Libbie’s stomach. Tending to ill people was a task her mother normally handled. “And where are my cousins?”

Both older than she, Fayth and Eastre Ashby, had completed their terms at the Academy years before. They now enjoyed social visits with their circle of friends, frequenting the shops of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, or performing volunteer services at a local hospital.

Aunt Betje rubbed her forehead. “I can’t remember, but the girls will be here for supper. Of course, Carson is at the firm until closing time.”

Wishing she could pace away her nervousness, Libbie just plastered on a smile and nodded. Carson had joined his late father as the fourth generation in the Ashby law practice the year before Uncle Rupert’s death. At twenty-nine, he was considered quite a catch as the head of a firm developing a trustworthy reputation.

A knock came on the door, and the butler entered, wheeling the tea cart across the floor. “Madam and miss, tea is ready. Shall I pour?” The gray-haired man stood with back erect, clasped hands held at his lower back.

“Yes, two cups please, Haines.” Libbie took a moment to squeeze the lemon slice and stir in an extra dose of honey from the dish Haines offered before passing her aunt the China cup and saucer painted with pink roses. “Here, this should help your throat.”

Two cups of tea and thirty minutes later, Libbie didn’t like the way her aunt could barely keep her eyes open. Still the only family member present, she had to take the reins. “Aunt, I believe we need to get you upstairs to bed. Rest is always good to stave off an illness.”

Supper was served promptly to the four cousins at half past six. Libbie waited a full five minutes before introducing the subject of her aunt’s health. Truly, she had expected one of her three cousins to have inquired about the unusual circumstance of their mother’s absence. “I noticed Aunt Betje didn’t look well when I arrived home this afternoon, so Mary is taking her a dinner tray in her room.”

“Who’s Mary?” Fayth crinkled her nose and forked a potato cube into her mouth.

“She means Cook.” Eastre giggled and then touched a finger to the wheat-colored ringlets surrounding her face. “Libbie calls the servants by their Christian names. Isn’t that quaint?”

BOOK: Libbie: Bride of Arizona (American Mail-Order Bride 48)
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