Mail-Order Husband: The Millionaire's Debt

BOOK: Mail-Order Husband: The Millionaire's Debt
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Mail-Order
Husband:

The Millionaire’s
Debt

 

 

 

 

By Rebecca Tilley

 

 

 

 

 

© 2013 Rebecca
Tilley

Chapter 1

Daphne Haynes
scurried about her three room farmhouse tidying up and making the final
arrangements for the guest that was to arrive shortly.  She could not
believe how fast everything had moved from the time she placed the small ad in
the Texas newspaper until now.  She could not afford to be picky; she
needed a husband, and fast.  Everything was moving along so smoothly she
was afraid it was too good to be true, but there was no room for doubt at this
point.  Her small farm had fallen into disrepair since her late husband
had passed, and the bank was closing in on her property.  If things did
not work out between her and the man that was on his way, she would lose the
farm for sure and she had no place to go.

Daphne and her
husband had moved to Colorado to start a better life for themselves.  They
were so young then, with so many dreams.  They wanted lots of kids,
cattle, and corn.  Hank had the perfect plan, “If we can just lay claim on
some property out west, everything will turn out,” he would say with excitement
glinting in his eye.  That was what she had loved best about Hank, his
infectious optimism.  She allowed herself to be dragged half-way across the
country with no more than twenty-five dollars to their names.  “When we
get there we will buy seed to plant corn, claim our land, and watch the money
roll in.  When we have enough we will buy some head of cattle and before
ya
’ know it,” he would always pause at this point and start
to daydream.

Daphne had trusted
that he had a plan beyond that point, though she never heard one, and they
started out.  They got to Colorado and were kicked off the train because
that was as far as they could afford.  They didn’t know anyone in town and
were forced to burn some of their money on lodging and food the first
night.  “Don’t worry baby,” Hank reassured, “this is all part of the
plan.”  She had her doubts, but his confidence was still in high gear.

The next morning
Hank had gotten up to check on getting a claim, but there was nothing
left.  They were stranded in the middle of Colorado; no money for return
fare; no land to work and make a new life; no hope.  Hank was not yet
broken, however, and he began making inquiries for land to purchase, but
fifteen dollars doesn’t exactly get prime real estate.  They needed money,
the bank needed collateral, and the only valuables the two had were a pair of
heirloom silver candlesticks that had been given to Daphne by her grandmother. 
She was reluctant to part with them, but Hank told her she would have them back
in a few short months and she would be able to set them on top of her brand new
mantle.  She was so excited she handed them over without a second thought.

That had been eight
years ago and Daphne was now a widow, eight years poorer, childless, and cattle-less.
 
Hank had fallen into a bottle of whiskey
after the first crop of corn failed, and he ended up drowning in it. 
Daphne had tried her best to keep the place afloat, but the learning curve was
too steep.  She fell further and further behind with the bank, and this
month was the last chance she had to get current before they took the farm and
her grandmother’s candlesticks with it.  That is why she had resorted to
looking for a mail-order husband.  She needed someone that knew farming
and had money.  This was simply a business contract, and she made that
clear to all of her prospective suitors.  She had nothing to offer other
than the candlesticks, and if someone would get them out of hock, and pay off
the farm, she would gladly give them to that person.  She just didn’t want
Mr. Gantry, the bank’s assistant manager, to end up with them.

Mr. Gantry had been
bullying Daphne for the last two years; threatening to sell the candlesticks to
pay the debt her and her husband owed.  He said he had a buyer lined up
and he would be glad to have them out of the bank.  She didn’t think this
was true, however, because she had heard rumors that he had them in his own
house, decorating his gaudy dining table.  Daphne had hoped her husband
would do something to defend her, but he was so useless that all he did was
laugh at her anguish, and hope Mr. Gantry would continue to loan him a couple
dollars a month to buy booze.  Hank had taken to joining in taunting his
wife when Mr. Gantry came around, so he wouldn’t be cut off.

All that was about
to change, though, when the train came in today her savior would get off and
set things right. 
How good it will feel to be out from under this
tremendous weight
, she thought.

Chapter 2

Daphne’s heart
pounded with excitement when she heard hooves beating the ground some distance
off. 
This is it, my new husband.
  The train was not due in
for another couple of hours, but things didn’t run on a particular schedule out
here.  She looked at herself in the small mirror in her
bedroom

Her hair was pinned back in a bun, which made her look very severe.  She
had lost a lot of weight over the years due to a lack of food.  Her face
had become very angular, with a sharp jaw line, and high sharp cheek
bones.  She had been the most beautiful girl in town when she was young,
with dozens of suitors.  She had nearly married Johnny Dawkins, but had
been won over by Hank in the end.  Johnny was not very adventurous, boring
even, and Hank was the exact opposite.  She found out that Johnny had
opened a printing press and started a newspaper back home, and was now a
millionaire.  How different her life could have been…no sense thinking
about that now.  Her husband was nearly here, and she could not wait.

She heard the horse
pull up to a stop and a man dismount, then a familiar voice called out to
her.  “Daphne, come on out here…we need to have a chat.”  He said
with a sinister sneer in his voice.

It was Mr.
Gantry.  Panic gripped her and her throat began to close up.  Why was
he here?  She had three days to get a payment together.  Had they
moved up her foreclosure and not told her?  Certainly not, that would be
against the law.  The law rarely falls on the side of poor widows, however. 
The man with the money makes the law.  She drew herself up to her full
height, and tried to carry herself with dignity as she walked out the front
door.

“What is it Mr.
Gantry?”

“I was just out
this way visiting some of my
good, paying
customers, and thought I would
check in on you.  Let you know I am still here.  Do you have any
money for me?”

“Not yet Mr.
Gantry, but before the deadline is past I will have you paid up, I promise.”

“I know you will,”
he said with a sarcastic grin.  “You haven’t ever let me down before.”

“I know I am way
behind, but I WILL have your money.  You have to believe me.”

“I do believe you
Ms. Haynes, but you see the board doesn’t believe you.  They told me to
execute the sale of your
collateral
today.”  He emphasized the word
collateral in such a way that it felt like a dagger in her heart. 

“You can’t be
serious.  I have three more days.  Our contract…the law…”

“The law
nothin
’, Ms. Haynes, you have a debt to pay, and we have
every right to collect by whatever means necessary.”

Daphne was trying
to remain strong, but the news of her candlesticks being sold was too much to
bear; she began to cry.  Mr. Gantry loved to see her in so much
pain.  His sneer curled his upper lip underneath a bushy handlebar
mustache while he reached into his suit jacket pocket.  He produced two
mostly used candles and threw them down to the bottom of the porch steps. 
“Our buyer wasn’t interested in your cheap, used candles.”  He mounted his
horse saying, “I’ll expect your payment promptly,” and he rode away.

Daphne was
heartbroken.  The last shred of her family had just been sold.  Even
while the heirlooms had been out of her possession she had known they were safe
at the bank, just waiting for her to pull together the money to bring them
home.  Now she had nothing left to fight for.  If only her new
husband had arrived one day earlier this would not have happened.  She no
longer had any excitement for the arrival of the stranger on the afternoon
train; she no longer needed a husband.  When he arrived she would inform
him that she was not going to marry, and he was welcome to her property if he
paid it off, but she was going to move on.  Where she was going she had no
idea, but it would be somewhere far away from this God forsaken place that had
swallowed up all of her hopes and dreams.

Chapter 3

She was rehearsing
the speech she was going to deliver to her betrothed when she heard him pull up
out front.  It was a beautiful speech that explained everything and let
him down easy.  She steeled her resolve, put down the clothes she had been
packing, and headed to the front door to greet the man.  When she caught
sight of him her will to go through with the breakup started to
disintegrate.  He had come all this way and he must be exhausted.  I
will invite him in first and have a little small talk before I break the
news.  It is the least I can do; let him have a little rest before I tell
him his trip was in vain.

Daphne drew in a
deep breath, plastered a smile on her face, and swung open the screen
door.  “Hello,” she said with a false excitement.  “I’m Daphne
Haynes, and unless you have stumbled onto the wrong farm I am assuming you are
Micah.”

The man dismounted
his horse and tipped his hat to the lady casting his eyes to the ground as he
spoke.  “Yes ma’am I am.”  Daphne was surprised by the man’s deep
voice, and his height.  At five feet five inches she barely reached
Micah’s shoulder; as she walked toward him with her hand outstretched she was
forced to look almost straight up to look the man in the eye.  Daphne was
not expecting a man of such great proportions.  He was in no way fat, in
fact, he was the exact opposite.  He was lean, but extremely strong with a
neatly trimmed beard.  His cowboy hat was made of well-worn leather, and his
steel grey eyes peered out from underneath its brim.  He reached out his
hand to meet hers, gently taking hold of her fingers and turning her hand to
kiss the back of it.  “It is truly a pleasure to meet you ma’am.”

Daphne gasped as
she tried to recover from the shock of this man gentlemanly behavior.  She
felt her cheeks flush and quickly looked away from his gaze.  She was
embarrassed by her feelings which were a mix of giddiness and
infatuation.  It had been a long time since a man had treated her so kindly
or any romantic gestures had found their way into her life, and this burly
cowboy was making her feel things she had not expected to feel ever again.
 She did not want these feelings to creep up on her, this was nothing more
than a business arrangement to save her farm, and besides, she was not going to
marry this man anyway. 
Get a hold of yourself, this is simply
business.

“The pleasure is
all
mine
.  I don’t see your baggage, did you
leave it behind?”

“Yes ma’am, I left it
at the station.  It will be delivered later this afternoon.”

“Well, you must be
exhausted after that long trip, why don’t you come on in and have a glass of
water and I will show you around.  After dinner we can talk about all of
the arrangements.”

“Sounds wonderful,
but I was hoping we could ride back into town.  I need to return this
horse to the livery, and I made arrangements with the justice of the peace to
marry us this evening.”

Daphne was
impressed by Micah’s go getter attitude.  He was really on top of things—a
characteristic not found in Hank.  But this complicated things as far as
breaking things off.  She had not anticipated being married before dinner,
and that was when she was going to deliver the blow.

“Oh,
uh, hmmm.”

“Is there a problem
ma’am?  If we get going now we can probably take care of our bank problem
also.”

Daphne was reeling
now.  This man was tireless.  He was prepared to come into town and
take care of all her problems in one fell swoop.  He was even referring to
it as “our bank problem” not “your bank problem”.  This was the kind of
man she wished she had married the first time around…a man like Johnny. 
Someone who would take care of her, cherish her, take away her pain.  That
was too much to expect from any one man though, and besides, that ship had
sailed.  She had resigned herself to the fact that she was damaged goods,
no man would love her like that now, and she wouldn’t expect them to.  She
especially wouldn’t expect that from Micah.  She would send him on his way
so he could go about living his life and find a bride worthy of such a man.

“Micah, I don’t
know how to say this.  I don’t want to go through with this.  I am
sorry to have made you come all the way out here, but I cannot marry you.”

Micah looked
confused.  “Why is that ma’am?”

“I got some bad
news today that has changed my plans, and I don’t think it would be fair to you
to be tied down to someone like me.”

“All due respect, I
feel you ought to let me decide who I get tied down to.  I rearranged my
life to come out here and be with you.”

“You are welcome to
pay off the farm and stay here to do as you please with the place, but I cannot
stay here.”

“I didn’t come out
here just to take over a farm.  I came out here to be wed and work the
land with my wife.”

“I understand, but
I cannot…”  Micah cut her off.

“Look, I don’t know
what has happened since our last letter, but I know you need me.  I feel
like if you will just give me a chance you might come to like being my
bride.  Why won’t you at least give me a little time?  I’ll stay in
the spare room, and you’ll hardly even know I’m there.”

Daphne knew she
would like being his wife and that was why she didn’t want to stay with
him.  Now that the candlesticks were gone she didn’t have anything to
offer other than a farm that was swimming in debt.  “The candlesticks were
sold this morning.  Everything I had to offer is gone.”

“The candlesticks
were sold?”  Micah seethed with anger.  His eyes narrowed, and became
hard.

“I knew you
wouldn’t want me after you found out about the candlesticks.  I am so
sorry.  I wish I could have let you know before you made the
journey.  I was supposed to have three more days, but Mr. Gantry came out
this morning and told me the awful news.  I am so sorry.”

His face grew
harder and angrier the more she spoke.  She was certain he was going to
explode in a fit of anger and do something violent.  She braced herself
for the worst.  Why had she decided to send for a husband?  Why
didn’t she just let the farm go and start fresh somewhere else?  As quick
as a flash, however, his anger had passed and he was looking at her sweetly
again.


Darlin
’, I don’t care a whit about those darn candlesticks,
other than that they mean so much to you.  I wasn’t going to take them
anyhow.”

“Really?
  Then why did
you get so angry when I told you they were gone?  And why did you come
here, I have
nothin
’ else to offer.”

“I am so angry
because I hate that that old snake in the grass took advantage of you.  I
am so angry because banks think they can get away with anything.  I am so
angry because men, if you can call them that, like Mr. Gantry live high on the
hog while folks in their town need help, and they just turn their backs.” 
His temper was flaring again and a vein in his neck began to pulse, but he
calmed himself with a deep breath.  “I am here my dear, because you are in
need of help, and I am in need of a wife.  I had grown weary of my
surroundings in Texas, and I wanted to try my hand at something new.  When
you wrote to me about how you had been treated here over the last eight years
my heart broke.  I wanted to make you feel safe again, and in time, I
hoped you would come to love me.  If all it takes is a few hundred dollars
to make at least part of that come true, I am happy to give it.”

She actually needed
$1,200 to pay off the farm, but he already knew that.  This man was kind
and generous almost to a fault.  She thought she might be able to give
herself over to him, but she did not want to come across as desperate, even
though desperate is what she was.  “Well Micah, you have a deal.  We
will stay in separate rooms under the same roof for a time.  I will not
make you any promises about marriage, but we will see how things go and if for
any reason either of us does not want to be wed, we will call it off and I will
leave.”

“Sounds
good.
 
Let’s go in and sit for a spell, I would love some of that water you were
talking about and a little bit of rest.  Tomorrow I will go into town to
return my horse and deal with the bank.  I think I will also introduce
myself to the neighbors to see if we can work together to grow our farms.”

BOOK: Mail-Order Husband: The Millionaire's Debt
9.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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