Mail Order Melody, page 1part #15 of Brides of Beckham Series
Mail Order Melody
Book Fifteen in Brides of Beckham
By Kirsten Osbourne
Copyright 2014 Kirsten Osbourne
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Famous opera singer, L'Angelina seems to have it all. She travels from place to place with her manager making a living with her voice. So why is she so unsettled? When she receives a note threatening her family, she jumps at the first opportunity available to her. She becomes a substitute mail order bride using the name she was born with, Eliza Woods.
Calvin Simpson has finally reached the point where he feels he can financially support a family, so he sends off for a mail order bride. He's not thrilled that the bride chosen for him is nineteen, but he doesn't feel he can be too choosy. When a mature, full-figured woman gets off the train and announces she's there to be his wife, he's thrilled. Eliza is the woman of his dreams. Can they be happy or will the constant threat destroy their marriage?
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Calvin Simpson leaned against his fence looking out over his expanse of land. He'd finished the round-up and already received a good sum for his herd and long hours on the range. His herd was truly bountiful, and he was pleased to say he was in a better place than he'd envisioned at this point in his life. He was thirty five, which was older than he'd planned to be before marriage, but there were just no women to be found in the tiny little town of Pudville, Missouri.
He'd been reluctant to send off for a mail order bride until he felt like he was ready to support a family, but his bank statement was proof that it was time. He straightened and strode toward the house. He was going to sit down and write a letter before he lost his nerve.
He walked into the house and pulled out a sheet of paper and a freshly sharpened pencil.
"Dear potential bride,
My name is Calvin Simpson, and I own a small ranch outside of Pudville, Missouri. I have a few dairy cows for milk and a few chickens for eggs. What I don't have is a wife, and I hope that's where you come in. I'm thirty-five years old, and I like to take long walks in the evening before bed. I love to sing and spend half my time doing chores while I sing. I am tall and lanky. I'm not real particular on looks, so I'll be happy to love you no matter what you look like. I look forward to hearing your response.
It was mid-November before he got his response in the mail. Sniffing the letter, he wondered if his future bride had sprayed perfume on the letter as he'd heard women sometimes did. When there was no scent, he opened the letter and read it while still in town. He didn't care if anyone thought he was crazy sitting in his wagon all alone in the cold reading a letter. What did that matter to him?
"Dear Calvin, My name is Dorothy Jones, and I live in Beckham, Massachusetts with my parents and two younger brothers. I'm nineteen years old, and I enjoy cooking. I will clean, but it's certainly not my favorite thing to do. I like the idea of going West and finding adventure.
As a woman, the only way I can really do that without a traveling companion is as a mail order bride, so I will marry you. Let me know if you will accept me. I'm blond with green eyes.
Calvin read the letter once more and shrugged. She didn't seem all that excited to be a bride, but he didn't know if he'd be excited in her shoes either. Nineteen was awfully young, but hopefully she would be old enough to know what she was doing.
He climbed down from his wagon and walked to the train station to buy her a ticket. He went back into the mercantile where the post office was and quickly scrawled out a note for Dorothy.
"Dear Dorothy, You sound like the perfect bride for me. I'm sending you a train ticket for the first of December. I hope you'll join me here.
There. That should do it. He handed the letter, along with a few dollars, the train ticket, and a bank draft for Miss Miller back to the owner of the mercantile. He climbed onto the front seat of the wagon and drove back to his ranch. As he drove, he day-dreamed about his beautiful bride and how they'd take one look at each other and just know they were meant to be together.
He laughed at himself. He wasn't a romantic by nature, so he wasn't sure where these thoughts were coming from. Maybe he'd be a good husband after all. He'd certainly try. Whatever his sweet Dorothy wanted or needed, he would do his very best to provide for her. He wanted her to be happy in Missouri.
Eliza felt like she was being stifled as the train pulled into yet another city. She'd spent the entire four hour ride watching a young mother juggle her three small children, and her heart ached for her sister's children and for the children she'd never have. How could she have children when her manager wouldn't even let her court someone? The last man who'd shown interest in her had been threatened and forced to leave her alone.
She was due to sing the following evening, and her manager was not letting her out of his sight for fear she'd catch a cold and ruin her voice. She'd been an opera singer since she turned sixteen, and at thirty-two, she wanted nothing more than to run away from the life she led. She enjoyed the hours singing on stage, but she hated the way people treated her as if she were a loose woman because she'd spent time entertaining others. She hated that she was always lonely but never alone. A new life beckoned to her, but she had no idea how to reach out and grab it.
She wasn't certain why she was so restless, but she had to get away from Sebastian. He was making her absolutely crazy. He'd been half-father to her since her own father had died, and she'd needed to help support her family at sixteen. Her mother had died soon after, leaving her and her older sister, Beulah, who married a few months later.
Her sister was now a widow with two boys, and it was her job to send money back home to help her sister out. She'd been raised in a small town in upstate New York and sang in church every Sunday. When a traveling salesman had heard her sing on his way through he'd called Sebastian, and she'd been traveling with him and singing ever since.
At first, Sebastian had been more of a father figure to her than anything else, but as time had gone by, he'd turned into something else. It was as if he felt that he owned Eliza, and she wasn't willing to even think about that. L'Angelina might have been created by him, but Eliza was her own woman.
As soon as the train came to a complete stop, she leaned over and averted her eyes. "I need to go to the ladies' waiting room." She gave no other explanation as she hurried off the train toward the room she knew was waiting for her. She all but ran as she moved through the people, needing to be away as soon as she could.
As she moved through the thick crowd, she felt something pressed into her hand. She looked down and saw her stage name, L'Angelina, scrawled on a piece of folded paper. She clutched it in her fist and kept moving, hurrying to get away. Hopefully the room would be quiet and she would have a moment to just sit and think. Why did she never have time to just sit and think? Even in her hotel room, she always
She reached the quiet room and heaved a sigh of relief, walking to one of the low upholstered benches along the side of the room. She sank onto one of the seats and unfolded the paper. Something fluttered to the floor, but she ignored it, reading the missive rapidly.
"If you love your family, you will stop singing. Show this to no one."
Eliza sucked in a breath wondering what she could do. Maybe they didn't know her family and were making idle threats. She didn't know, but she wasn't certain she could take the risk. Looking down she picked up the paper that had fluttered to the floor as she'd opened the note. It was her sister's name, city, and the names of her nephews.
She knew then she had to get away. She didn't know how, but she had no choice. Looking around the small room she tried to find a way out. Sebastian would be waiting for her outside the door of the waiting room. She couldn't go that way.
Two women walked in, one of them pulling the other by the hand. The pretty blond who was doing the pulling, turned to the short brunette. "What do you mean you're backing out now? He's expecting you to be there in two days!" She didn't sound angry, but she did sound exasperated to Eliza.
The shorter woman had tears in her eyes. "I really thought I could go through with it, but I just can't. What if he's a killer? What if he smells bad? I can't marry a total stranger. I don't know why I thought I could." She looked young, still a teenager, and Eliza couldn't help but wonder what the girl had agreed to.
The blond shook her head. "It's my responsibility to see that he gets a bride. What am I supposed to do now? Go in your place?" The irritation on the woman's face made Eliza grin.
Eliza took a step forward without thinking. "Maybe I could be of assistance. My name is Eliza Woods. I need somewhere to go. Would he accept me for a bride?" Her real name felt strange on her lips. She'd been L'Angelina for so long, her other name seemed to have disappeared. Only her sister still called her Eliza, and she rarely got a chance to see her.
The blond turned to Eliza and looked her over as if she were taking her measure. "I'm Elizabeth Miller. I am a matchmaker who matches up mail order brides with lonely men in the West."
"I would be a good mail order bride." Eliza held her breath as she waited for the verdict. She knew she wasn't a tiny, slim woman like the girl who was supposed to be a bride. She was older by a decade, and was more than a little plump, but she hadn't been bothered by her size in years. Opera singers were expected to be large women.
Elizabeth frowned. "Do you have family you would need to inform?"
Eliza shook her head. The only thing she had with her was a drawstring purse attached to her wrist. She didn't carry much money, but she had enough to buy some fabric to make new clothes with. Nothing that she owned was suitable for a quiet life anyway except for a few day dresses. She wouldn't be able to get them from Sebastian. "No. I have a sister in New York, but she isn't expecting to see me anytime soon. I'll write her and let her know I'm fine."
Elizabeth bit her lip, obviously contemplating the situation. "Well, you know you'd be in the middle of Missouri, married to a rancher, right?"
Eliza nodded. She hadn't known, but she could deal with that. As long as she could get away from Sebastian and keep her family safe, she didn't care what she had to do. She loved to sing, but traveling to one city after another for years on end was taking its toll on her. She needed to settle down and have the family she'd always dreamed of. "That's fine." She felt her heart beating rapidly in her chest as she waited for the other woman's verdict. Would she accept what she'd been told and let her go to marry the man?
Elizabeth nodded to the woman beside her. "Go on back to your family, Dorothy." She turned back to Eliza. "Tell me a bit about yourself."
Eliza took a deep breath, wondering exactly what she should say to convince the other woman she should be the one to go. "Well, I grew up in upstate New York. My father died when I was sixteen, and my mother died soon after. My only sister married within a few months, so I was alone." She didn't want to tell the other woman about her career as an opera singer. So many people thought that women who were on the stage had loose morals, and Eliza refused to live with that stereotype for the rest of her life. She was determined to be plain Eliza Woods.
Elizabeth nodded, obviously perplexed. "How old are you now?"
"I'm thirty-two." Eliza prayed fervently that the other woman wouldn't ask what she'd been doing for the past sixteen years.
"Have you ever been married? Do you have any children?"
Eliza shook her head. "No. I've been alone for the past sixteen years." It was only a partial lie. She'd felt alone, even though she'd never had a chance to be.
Elizabeth had a questioning look on her face, but she didn't press the issue. "Well, if you think you can do the job, then you're welcome to it." She held out a train ticket and some money. "You'll be meeting Calvin Simpson in Missouri. He should be waiting for you, or rather Dorothy, at the train station. Explain to him why you're there, and that you're not the bride he was expecting. Hopefully he won't be angry with the switch."
Eliza felt relieved. She wasn't certain how to get to the train without Sebastian seeing her, though. "There's a man outside the door who thinks he owns me. Can you distract him while I sneak onto the train?" She prayed the other woman wouldn't ask questions, and would simply accept her request.
Elizabeth nodded slowly. "Don't let any man mistreat you. I can't let you go unless you agree to come back to me if your husband is bad to you."
Eliza nodded slowly. She wouldn't stay with a man who mistreated her, of course, but she also knew she'd never come back to this place where her sister and nephews had been threatened. "I won't stay with a man who treats me badly," she said honestly, eliminating the fact that she'd never come back to Beckham, Massachusetts.
"What does the man look like?" Elizabeth asked.
"He's tall with dark hair, blue eyes, and a mustache." Eliza didn't want to have to deal with Sebastian ever again.
Elizabeth paid close attention to the time by consulting her watch which had been pinned to the bodice of her dress. When it was time she looked at Eliza. "Are you ready?" she asked, her voice serious.
Eliza took a deep breath. She would have to hurry to make it work, but she knew she could do it. Sebastian became more possessive of her every day, and she couldn't imagine what he'd be like in another year. Add to that the danger her family was in, and she had to get away. Immediately.
"When you hear yelling, it's time to run for the train." Elizabeth opened the door as little as possible, squeezing through it sideways.
Eliza closed her eyes, praying silently that she would be able to have the courage to do what needed to be done. She'd never been bold, but she would be now. She had to be.
From outside she heard Sebastian's loud voice. "Watch where you're going!"
Elizabeth's voice carried back to her. "Stop touching me! Did you take my ticket? Where's my train ticket?"
Eliza smiled in admiration. She was certain to draw a crowd. Pausing for a few seconds, she opened the door and looked around her. Elizabeth was in Sebastian's face yelling at the top of her lungs about him stealing her train ticket. Eliza took her chance. Her bag was sitting at her manager's feet. She quickly grabbed it while no one was looking and ran for the train. Her clothes may not be terribly appropriate, but some of her day dresses would have to work until she could make more.
She hurried onto the train and gave her ticket to the conductor, moving through the crowded conveyance to a seat about halfway back. She looked out the window and could see that Elizabeth was still yelling at Sebastian, who was red in the face.
Eliza leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. Tears began to well in her eyes. Never in her life had she been as relieved as she was at that moment. She had no idea what Calvin would be like, but he couldn't be as bad as living on the road all the time
Calvin stepped onto the platform of the train station in Pudville, Missouri. He was sweating despite the cold due to his anticipation. His bride was about to step off the train. He would be married in a matter of hours. A wife. He'd never thought it would happen. Being alone was the worst part of owning a ranch, but a wife should solve everything for him. Life would be perfect once he had a wife to cook and clean and take care of him.
He watched carefully as the train pulled into the station. Only one person got off, and it was a woman traveling alone. The woman was blond, as the letter said she would be, but she looked older than the nineteen years she had claimed to be. Not that her age bothered him. He had thought a nineteen year old would be too young for him anyway.
He watched for a moment, wondering if anyone else would approach her, or if she was indeed his bride. After a few minutes, he walked toward her.
"I'm Calvin Simpson," he said, his voice calm even though his hands were shaking.
Eliza looked at the simple man before her. He was obviously a man who worked hard, and he kept his cowboy hat low over his eyes.
"Eliza Woods." She held her hand out to shake his, but he stopped short, his hand a few inches from hers.
"I'm looking for Dorothy Jones." He looked around and saw that the train was pulling out of the station. "Do you know if there was another woman traveling alone on the train?" Did his bride decide not to come?
Eliza shook her head slowly. "There wasn't." She looked around for a place to sit with him for a moment to talk and spotted a bench. "Come sit with me, and I'll explain."
KIRSTEN OSBOURNE SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Married in MontanaCaleb (Seven Sons Book 3)The Singing Cowgirl (Bear Creek Rodeo)Kennan (McClains Book 4)Mail Order MommySammy's StoryConqueredTaco-Truck Tryst (Quinn Valley Ranch Book 1)
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