Authors: Hannah West
New York State 1869
It was raining for the third day in a row and it matched the grim mood that had set over the Stone household in upper state New York. The news that had put an end to all things happy for
Carrow and her sister Emmy. Their parents had been murdered on their way home one night from a party held by their friends across town and now it was just Carrow and her twin sister.
Their parents had left a large sum of money and property to both sisters, but today five days after the funeral their father’s lawyer had paid them a visit in their home. He had seemed uneasy and after their visit they had seen why. Their father had left in his will that their great uncle, a foul and mean tempered man, would be appointed their guardian and be in charge of finances until they reached the age of twenty-one or were married before then.
Everything had gone to plan the first few weeks after he moved in and their lives went on, but one night he had come home drunk and had tried to assault the new maid. Emmy had seen it and tried to stop it, but Uncle Hugh had slapped her across the face, sending her tumbling down the stairs. Though nothing had been broken, Emmy was covered in bruises and was to terrified to come out of her room after that. Trembling with anger over what he had done Carrow had taken up the nearest heavy object and smashed it across his head.
He had stumbled off to his room after that and Carrow went to check on her sister.
“Emmy?” Carrow called softly from the other side of the door. “Please let me in, we need to talk.”
She threw the door open and flung herself into her sister’s arms. “Oh Cara! We need to get out of here; I can’t take any more of that horrid man!”
Carrow hugged her sister tight. “There isn’t much we can do. Uncle is our guardian and he controls all the money.”
Bright green eyes so much like Carrow’s own lit up as her sister looked into her face. “Papa put another condition in his will; remember what Mr. Smith told us? If we got married then that rotten old man wouldn’t have a choice in the matter. Why Papa thought he could trust him is beyond me!” She blew a tendril of chestnut colored hair from her face.
“I don’t believe Papa planned on leaving us like this. But Papa chose him as he is all the family we have left in this world. But marriage? Where could we find men and on such short notice?”
Emmy bit her lip and waved her sister into her room. “I’ve been thinking on that very thought since Mr. Smith talked to us. Uncle is a very controlling man and likes to have power. I know for a fact that he wouldn’t allow us to marry before our twenty first birthdays. I went into his study the other day looking for him, but found some letters on his desk. He is taking Papa’s money and gambling it away! We won’t have much left if we have to wait three more years. I for one don’t plan on being poor and living in the street.”
Carrow blinked and asked, “He’s been funnelling off Papa’s money?”
Emmy nodded. “He didn’t have much when he came here, he was almost broke.”
Anger burned through Carrow. How dare the man! Their parents haven’t even been dead a month and he was already stealing from them? Why her Mama and Papa were barely cold in the ground!
“So I was thinking we could get married quick like,” Emmy said quickly.
Carrow realized she had missed a very important part of her sister’s plan. “What was that again?”
Emmy rolled her eyes and sighed. “You never did listen well. Okay well I had sent out some letters last week and a few to pick up so I overheard the postmaster’s wife talking to another woman. She runs a mail order bride agency on the side! She said she had more letters from men than they could fill at the moment and I took a moment to go over and ask her about it.”
“Emmy!” Carrow gasped.
“Well, give me a moment and let me finish! She said that a lot of men were in need of a wife out west but there weren’t enough women to go around, so she helps girls here who are hoping for a better way of life find one out West!” Emmy said with a dazzling smile.
And Carrow realized it was the first smile she had worn since the death of their parents.
Tentatively Carrow smiled back. “You really think this is the answer?”
“Well it’s not traditional, but I think so. We would still be able to pick out our husbands from the letters and we would then be entitled to our inheritance from Papa. This way it could be done in secret until the day we leave and Uncle will have no idea.”
Biting her lip Carrow mumbled, “But I’m just not sure…”
“Carrow,” Emmy said taking her sister’s hands in hers, “Do you want to be in control of your life and be happy or do you want everything planned out for you and have no choice at all? I would rather be happy. Please say we’ll do this together.”
After a long moment of thought she nodded her head. Her younger twin sister was right. She would rather be in control of her life and make her own choices.
“But I have one condition.”
“What,” Emmy asked excitedly.
“If we do this, we must find men who are not too far from each other. I’m not willing to lose you too.”
Suddenly both girl’s had tears in their eyes and shared a tight hug. Emmy was the first to pull back.
“We’ll go see her first thing in the morning. We can pick out our men and write them a letter. If all goes well and if we like the letters, there is nothing stopping us from leaving within the month. If I were you, I would start packing.”
With hurried excitement the girls raced the post office downtown and were greeted warmly by the post master’s wife, Mrs. Greene.
“Give me five minutes girls and meet me on the side of the building. There is a door there and go on inside to the kitchen,” she said kindly before ducking back inside to tell her husband and to retrieve a box bound together in ribbon.
Carrow led the way and they found themselves seated in high-backed chairs at a small table made for tea.
Mrs. Greene cam
e in by another door and was all smiles as she set her box down and went to fetch tea. After all was settled she opened the box and pulled out a small stack of letters.
“These are letter from just this month’s advertisement. I wasn’t expecting so many. Usually there are only a few and I have more girls then I do letters! Any way go ahead, dears, and look them through, pick out the ones best fitted to yourselfs. Any man to get an answer from either of you will be one lucky duck!”
Carrow picked up half a stack and handed it to her sister and then took her half. She leafed through the first few with slowness reading the letters carefully. She placed them in two piles, the ones she liked and the ones that were a no for her.
After an hour passed she was through both stacks and had only four she liked enough to consider. Emmy had six. Now they compared locations to see if any of them were close enough together and they decided only two sets did.
“Okay girls, this is where is gets tricky. Read the letters again and go over a mental list in your heads as you do. Picture what man you could see yourself with, as you would have to be married to him for a long time,” Mrs. Greene advised.
Carrow nodded and read both letters again going over her small list of thing she would like in a man.
Tall, kind, a hard worker, and a good job,
she thought over and over again.
The letter that stood out most to her was the letter from a man in Washington Territory.
I am looking for a wife who is kind he
arted and sweet. She must be an honest worker, but have a sense of humour. She will need to know how to cook and clean and be at least twenty-one years old.
I am a
n honest man, with a good paying job with the railroad. I am thirty-two years old as of last month. Tall, well over six foot, sandy blonde hair with green eyes last I checked. A decent sized home with a large kitchen, and a nice porch to enjoy the evenings on in summer. If this sounds like you please do reply as soon as possible. I live in town not too far from the railroad, so I can pick you up no problem.
Carrow thought with a smile. He sounds wonderful. But then Carrow frowned.
I’m not even close to twenty-one yet, I’m only seventeen. Well eighteen in three weeks, but he doesn’t have to know that.
“I see you picked the one you want then,” Mrs. Greene said with a smile.
Carrow nodded and looked to her sister. Emmy was smiling and holding tightly to one of the letters.
“Mine is from a man in the Washington Territory. From a city called Seattle. What about yours Em?”
Her sister smiled grew. “I chose a man from the same place, looks like we found a match!” Tears filled her eyes. “I hope we’ll be happy there.”
Reaching for her sister’s hand Carrow nodded. “I’m sure we will be, now let’s write back to these men and hope they like us too! If it goes well we could be there in a matter of weeks.”
Mrs. Greene supplied paper and fountain pens to both girls and went to make another pot of tea with a grand smile on her face. Another happy moment for her business of matchmaking by mail!
Washington Territory 1869
Wiping a gloved man across his wet forehead Clayton Stone grimaced and shook his wet blonde hair out of his face. It was raining again and it was only the beginning of spring. If it kept up like this then they might have a flood on their hands come summer.
Stepping up the last stairs to his house he stood on the porch for a moment watching the rain come pouring down in sheets and watch people run for the nearest shelter. He smiled faintly and turned to go inside. He was soaked to the bone from his walk home from work and he was ready for a bath and a clean set of clothes. He had been out since the sun came up and had been working hard all morning with his men repairing some of the railroad track and putting in some new ties to replace the worn ones. It was only mid-afternoon, but the way he figured it was that by time he was done cleaning himself up the rain would be done with it and he could run his errands for the day.
Stripping down to nothing he sank into the claw foot tub in the wash room off the kitchen with a grunt of pleasure as the hot steamy water sloshed over his body.
“That hits the spot,” he groaned as he sank farther in. He was glad his father hadn’t spared any expense in building the house for his mother twenty years ago. It was large and spacious, just a little off Main Street, with six big bedrooms and a wash room on the first floor and one on the second. Pump water ran to both the main level and the second level of the house and each room had its own water closet and fire place.
It was built in the newer Victorian Style completed with a wrap-around porch, over six-thousand square feet of comfort.
After he was done in the bath he pulled the plug that would drain the water to the outside of the house through pipes to the garden, and dressed in a fresh work shirt and pants.
His first stop on the list was the saloon to grab a quick drink and a bite to eat. Among the many things his father left to him when he passed was the saloon as well. It brought in a good profit, was clean and hardly ever caused trouble with the young local sheriff who was a good friend.
On his way out he said good bye to the bartender and the saloon gals and went on his way to the mercantile store that also serviced as the post office.
“Afternoon Clay,” greet the store owner from behind his counter, his white hair standing in all sort of directions and a wide smile on his face.