Mercy bride of idaho, p.1
Mercy_Bride of Idaho, page 1part #43 of American Mail-Order Brides Series
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Table of Contents
Mercy, Bride of Idaho
♥ Hearts of Owyhee ♥ series:
Other Books by Jacquie Rogers
About the Author
Copyright 2015 Jacquie Rogers
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Mercy, Bride of Idaho
Saturday, May 2, 1891 – Idaho Territory
Mercy Eaton could barely bottle up her excitement as the train chugged through the Idaho desert toward Nampa. Her older sister, Patience, retrieved her embroidery from her sewing bag, then fidgeted with the thread as she stared out the window opposite the morning sun.
“I’m so anxious to see my new husband!” Mercy said, her hand immediately covering her mouth, for her sister had warned her to be still. While she understood Patience’s need for pragmatism, Mercy saw no reason to expect anything but the best. After all, each new day brought promise of good things, and this day she would board the stagecoach in Nampa to meet her new wealthy husband. What could be better than that?
Patience completed stitching one of the hearts, then knotted a stitch and snipped the thread. “If there is a problem, always remember that you can travel to Washington and stay with me,” she repeated for the dozenth time. “After I rest my hand, I’ll have this pillowcase done in a few minutes. You can take it with you.” She placed her embroidery on her lap.
“And you can visit me, too, but I’m sure it won’t be necessary because Papa would never marry us off to anyone but fine men, and you know he has our best interests at heart.”
Mercy had to admit she was travel weary after nine days on the train all the way from Lawrence, Massachusetts. But still, it would mean a new beginning. The factory fire had been scary, but the weeks and months of scanty food and wondering where the family would get rent money had been even more frightening.
She and her sister had discussed the family woes many times—not that their woes exceeded the other factory families’ difficulties—and finally came to the agreement that they’d consent to marry the men their father had picked for them from the Grooms’ Gazette.
The reasons were simple. First, neither sister could find respectable jobs, even for meager pay. Second, Lawrence’s supply of eligible bachelors was even skimpier than the Eatons’ paltry pantry. And third, their younger brothers would have to drop out of school to help support the family if Mercy and Patience stayed without contributing.
“Look at the rolling hills,” Mercy said. “So very green!”
“It’s springtime. It rains in the spring, even in the desert.”
“Still, I can enjoy it now. I’m so curious to see Mr. Fairchild’s ranch. And the house! I’ll be mistress of a grand mansion—and so will you, only in Washington.”
“The states are much larger than I ever imagined,” Patience said. “I’m not so sure we’ll be able to visit very often. Maybe not at all.”
“Oh, Patience, that’s the whole idea—Papa picked wealthy men for us. We’ll have beautiful gowns, matched horses to pull our carriages, and money to travel wherever we want to. Maybe even to Europe. Wouldn’t that be grand? I’d love to take Mama and Papa with us.”
“You have stars in your eyes. What if our grooms are surly, or old, or fat?”
“Papa would never pick someone like that for us and you know it.”
“Papa’s never seen these men. All he knows is what they wrote in their letters.”
“It’ll all work out wonderfully. You’ll see.” Mercy hugged her worn wrap to herself, for the morning chill hadn’t yet lifted. “A hot bath will feel so nice. I have at least five pounds of soot in my hair.”
“That’s one advantage you’ll have,” Patience said. “I won’t arrive at my destination for two days. And oh, I’m ready to not sit down for a while. I’d rather scrub floors than sit on a jerky hard bench all day. And that’s another thing.”
“If our grooms are so rich, why didn’t they send first-class tickets?”
Mercy shrugged. “They did send enough food money for four people.” She and her sister had eaten three meals a day while traveling—something they hadn’t done since the fire. They’d even had dessert once a day. “Much more sitting and eating, and we’ll have to buy larger dresses.”
“I’d rather make my own.” Patience picked up her embroidery project and began stitching. “Other seamstresses don’t suit me—most use too large stitches and few press the seams properly as they go, and their embroidery and tatting are sloppy.”
“Yes, few are as good as you—or me, for that matter—but think of it this way, when you buy a ready-made dress, you’re giving a woman in Lawrence a job.”
“I hate to think of those poor women working twelve hours a day like we did before they promoted us to office jobs, sewing until their fingers bleed, and then sewing some more.”
“I agree, but it did put food on the table, and you must admit that we are excellent seamstresses now. It could be a valuable skill when we settle in our new homes.”
The train chugged and rocked down the track for another hour before they began to see homesteads here and there. Mercy checked her most prized possession, a pocket watch that her father had given her. “We should arrive in Nampa in a few minutes. I was under the impression that the city would be larger, but it looks like it may be just another country stop.”
She babbled on because tears threatened and she didn’t want Patience to know how upset she was to part with her sister. Patience had a tendency to try to make everything right for Mercy so sometimes it was best just to keep quiet about her feelings. Truth was, she had butterflies in her stomach and had to profess to a teensy bit of fear in her heart.
But she could not and would not dwell on such things. Instead, she chose to direct her thoughts to a handsome man—tall, for she much admired tall men, and the beautiful house she could call home.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could occasionally send some money to Papa? He’s done so much for us and I’d love to do something for him, something to make his and Mama’s life easier.”
“Done.” Patience held up the pillowcase. “When your head is resting
* * *
The train pulled into the Nampa station a little after nine in the morning, only fifteen minutes after the estimated arrival time. As the train slowed, Mercy’s heart sped, because she was sorely anxious to meet her groom. But she was dreadfully sad to leave Patience. Still, her sister would only be a train ride away.
The conductor walked down the aisle, announcing, “This is Nampa, Idaho. We’ll only be here for about fifteen minutes. Those of you who are disembarking, please make sure you have all your belongings with you. If you’re traveling on, I urge you to stay on the train. Next station is Caldwell and we have a longer stop there.”
Mercy’s eyes stayed dry clear up until the train slowed, but the final lurch and the blast of steam brought her tears, and plenty of them. She stood anyway, for she’d show her sister how brave she was.
Patience stood, too. “Are you all right?” she asked as she hugged Mercy. “You can stay on the train and come to Washington with me. That might be best anyway. We can have the conductor send a wire to Mr. Fairchild.”
“No, I’ll be fine.” Mercy hugged her sister back. “I just got a cinder in my eye.” She gathered her reticule, tugged her gloves, and straightened her bonnet. “I’m going to miss you ever so much, Patience.”
“And I’ll miss you. I promise to write every week.”
Mercy scrubbed the tears from her cheeks. “Maybe our husbands will be rich enough to have telephones!”
“I wouldn’t even know how to use one of those newfangled things, but I’d try my best if you were on the other end of the line.”
At the conductor’s urging, Mercy picked up her reticule and valise. “I have to go now. It’ll be all right, Patience. You’ll see.”
But once Mercy stepped onto the platform, she had her doubts. She didn’t know a single soul in Idaho. The only person west of the Mississippi that she did know would be riding off on the train in a few minutes.
Patience waved out the window and Mercy put on a broad smile and waved back. People milled about, porters hauled trunks, families hugged when reunited, then were hustled onto wagons. After a few minutes of utter chaos, nearly everyone had gone. She saw her trunk on one side of the platform so she walked to it. Somehow its nearness made her not feel so alone.
A man in a railroad uniform strode toward her. “Are you Miss Mercy Eaton?”
She smiled, so relieved that someone knew she existed. “Yes, I am.”
“Mr. Isaac Fairchild sent a wire and told us to put you on the next stagecoach to Henderson Flats. The coach is here now so if you don’t mind, I’ll escort you to it.”
“But my trunk—”
“Don’t you worry about that. I’ll have one of the boys load it for you.”
Within thirty minutes, she was ensconced inside the coach with eight adults and two children who sat on their mothers’ laps. Several men rode on the trunks strapped to the top of the coach, and three more rode on the back, hanging onto the boot. As if that weren’t crowded enough, the driver threw four large bags of mail inside. Mercy had nowhere to put her feet and was wedged between an overly large drummer and an inebriated widow.
“How long does it take to get to Henderson Flats?” she asked no one in particular.
“About four hours, give or take,” an elderly man of at least sixty or even seventy answered. He wore denim britches and a plaid shirt, and had the weathered skin of a man who had worked outside his whole life. He was rail thin, but he’d be thinner with the squishing by the time he got to Henderson Flats, she surmised. As would they all.
“How many miles?”
“Only twenty-five or so, but we have to wait for a ferry. Owyhee County is west of the Snake River.”
He said that as if she should know anything about that particular river. All she knew from her schooling was that the Snake joined with the Columbia River, and combined to make the second longest river in North America.
“Don’t worry, Miss,” he said. “They stop to change horses every ten miles or so, and you can walk around while they’re doing it. Just don’t wander too far or they’ll leave you.”
What a dreadful happenstance! She vowed to stay very close.
* * *
Quill Roderick pulled the wagon to a stop in front of the Silver Sage saloon. Cat jumped off the bed and landed square on Dog, a half-dog, half-wolf mix. Dog never seemed to mind being Cat’s beast of burden.
The stage wouldn’t come in for half an hour yet and Quill had already loaded the month’s supplies from the mercantile, so he reckoned he might as well wet his whistle while he waited.
“Stay by the team, Dog.” The big brown wire-haired wolf-dog sat on his haunches and panted with his tongue hanging out as Quill set the brake and wound the lines around the lever. “You, too, Cat. I’ll bring you some water and a nice big bone.”
“And some cream for you.”
He climbed the four stairs in two leaps and entered the saloon. “A shot of whiskey, Wilson.” Quill put his foot on the rail and leaned against the bar. “And a pan of water, a dish of cream, and a bone, too, if you’ve got it.”
“Coming up. I’ll get the water and the bone first so that hound don’t start howling.”
“I’d be more worried about Cat. Dog only howls when the professor is banging on that out-of-tune piano of yours.”
“At least I got one.” The barkeep gave him a blue enamel pan and a small bowl. “Don’t slosh on my floor,” he said as he shoved a bag on the counter. “Here’s your bones.”
When Quill got back inside, Wilson had set him up with a double. “Thanks.” He threw some coins on the counter.
“So what brings you to Henderson Flats when you got all that spring work to do?”
“Drew the short straw. Had to fetch supplies, and Uncle Ike, too, along with a visitor of the feminine persuasion who’s coming in on the next stage.”
“A woman? You know her?”
“Nope. I reckon Miss Mercy Eaton is an old spinster lady—maybe one of Aunt Dora’s old friends.”
Dora Fairchild had died a year after Quill’s mother—Dora’s niece—had unceremoniously dumped him off on the Fairchilds seventeen years ago when he was eleven. Quill hadn’t seen his mother since and frankly, hadn’t wanted to. But he sorely missed Aunt Dora, as did Uncle Ike. Quill expected his uncle had gotten tired of being lonely.
Uncle Ike’s love life didn’t overly concern Quill at the moment, because he was in the process of organizing the spring roundup. He wouldn’t have time to even breathe for another four weeks, but wondered if he’d come back to a married Ike Fairchild—it’d likely be good for the kindly old man. Ike had mourned Dora plenty long enough.
Wilson joined Quill for a second drink, since he didn’t have any other customers and likely wouldn’t for another hour. “I’m surprised Harp didn’t volunteer, bein’s there’s a lady to be picked up. Wonder why.”
“I have no idea. Harp’s a lot better at yammering with old ladies than I am.”
Also Dora’s great-nephew—Harp’s mother was another of her nieces, and he’d actually had a father. Uncle Ike had taken Harp in after his parents had been killed in a carriage accident, and Harp had lived at the Fairchild Circle ID ranch for over four years. At twenty-one, he’d shown a talent for glad-handing and sniffing out prosperous buyers. He’d take over the business end of the Circle ID in a few years, which suited Quill just fine. He had no patience for that folderol.
The sooner he delivered Miss Mercy Eaton and his great-uncle to the Circle ID, the sooner he could get on with his roundup planning.
The portly drummer and both mothers with children had left the coach at the Huston stop. That gave Mercy enough room to get a little more comfortable for the last hour before they stopped to ride the ferry.
“Look out the window and you can see the Snake River. Henderson Flats is just the other side,” the thin fellow who called himself Ike said.
“Thank goodness!” She’d worried whether Mr. Fairchild would be a suitable husband, and she still had some concern, but at this point, she wanted to stay in one spot for a day. Or a week. “I wonder how far Mr. Fairchild’s ranch is from Henderson Flats.”
“It’s been a spell since I was out there, but I’d say not more than ten miles.”
The river was wide—the widest she’d seen since the Mississippi. The strip of green along the river contrasted starkly with the surrounding desert. On the far side of the river, she saw a small settlement but the distance was too great for her to discern much.
The driver helped her off the coach. “You might as well walk around a bit. It’ll take the ferry a good ten minutes to dock and then we’ll load up.” He headed straight for the cabin beside the river right next to the loading dock, and entered through the door with a crude, weathered saloon sign nailed over the top.
Mercy had no interest in going inside anywhere at the moment—she just wanted to stroll around and enjoy the spring sun. A few other passengers had the same idea. She wanted to ask if any of them knew Mr. Fairchild but for some reason she felt a bit embarrassed about being a mail-order bride.
If she knew more about him, she could pretend they had been acquainted for a while, but her father had conducted all of the correspondence. The only thing she knew was that Mr. Fairchild owned a profitable ranch, and that the marriage broker had said his character had passed muster.
When the ferry docked and she got a good look, she wasn’t so sure she wanted to board the thing. It was nothing more than a raft with a rail on one side and a rope with a hook at the end, which rode on a cable that spanned the river.
“Don’t worry,” Ike said. “It’s quite reliable.”
“I hope so.” She moseyed a little closer, not wanting anyone to think she was a chicken, even if she was. “Do you know any of the families there?”
“I’m acquainted with Jake O’Keefe—Jake Lawrence now, since she married Ben Lawrence.”
“She? Jake’s a woman?”
by Jacquie Rogers / Western / Romance / Science Fiction & Fantasy have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes