Mail Order Match Maker, page 1part #7 of Brides of Beckham Series
Mail Order Matchmaker
Book Seven in the Brides of Beckham
By Kirsten Osbourne
Copyright 2013 Kirsten Osbourne
Kindle Edition, License Notes
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After helping countless women find suitable husbands, Harriet is embarking on her own mail-order bride journey, to marry a man whose sister has eight lovely daughters of her own. Her new husband seems to care for her, but doesn't understand Harriet's attachment to her faithful butler Higgins. Will she find herself in another bad marriage, or is this, at long last, her own happily ever after?
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June 1875 Raleigh, North Carolina
Harriett stared at her reflection in the mirror hardly able to believe it was her own image looking back at her. Had it really only been two months since Arthur Long had walked into the ballroom where she was giggling with her friends and singled her out for a dance? What had he seen in her that was so special that he’d wanted her to be his partner?
He’d been the most handsome man in the room without a doubt, and she’d felt like a princess as she’d glided around the dance floor waltzing in his arms. In just a few short hours she was going to be Mrs. Arthur Long, and she couldn’t wait. How could a girl be so lucky as to find a man like him? Did she really deserve to have his love?
Arthur was a banker from New York City, and she was going to move there to be with him after their honeymoon. She blushed at the thought of the honeymoon and all it would entail. Her mother had given her “the talk” that morning and she was very nervous about that aspect of being a wife, but she was sure it would all be wonderful, because Arthur was the only man she’d ever met who came close to perfection.
Arthur was tall with blond hair and blue eyes. He had a small dimple in one cheek and his arms were muscular and strong. She knew she shouldn’t look at him that way, but they were to be married, so it was okay, wasn’t it?
Harriett smiled at her maid, Alice, who was fixing her hair for the wedding. She wanted to look perfect for Arthur. She’d do anything for him, because he was the man of her dreams. How could she have been so very lucky to have met him and be the one chosen to receive his love? She must be a better person than she’d ever realized.
Her morning was spent with people zipping in and out of her room, readying her for the big day ahead of her. When she was finally dressed for the wedding, she stroked her hand over the headboard one last time. This was the last time she’d ever sleep in this room. She’d miss her childhood home, and all that it entailed.
She stared out the window for a moment, looking at the small house her parents had built for her when she was six. She’d loved to play all day with her dolls, so they’d given her a place where she could do it. She’d decorated it with curtains she’d picked out on her own. There were pillows that bore her first attempts at embroidery thrown around in it. Someday she hoped to bring her daughter back to visit her grandparents and allow her to play in the house, but first she had to get through her first experience in attempted baby-making.
Harriett was the only child of Levi and Eunice Martin. Eunice had been forty-two when she’d discovered she was carrying Harriett, and the Martins had decided their little miracle would never want for anything, and she never had. Harriett’s room was decorated in a pale pink with ornate white furniture. She loved her bedroom and could only hope she liked her room at Arthur’s house just as much. Would Arthur want to share a room with her, or would they have adjoining rooms like her parents did? He was so busy she hadn’t had a lot of time to talk to him, so she just didn’t know how he felt about so many different things.
She had just turned sixteen on Thursday, but her parents knew how much she wanted to marry Arthur and they hadn’t protested. Harriett would be the happiest woman alive, and she made sure everyone knew it.
The wedding was to take place in her parents’ home, and she walked proudly down the stairs on her father’s arm. Once he had placed her hand in Arthur’s, she looked up at him through her lacy veil, knowing she’d made the best decision she could ever possibly make. She was going to live happily ever after, just like they did in all the fairy tales she’d read as a child.
New York City
Harriett sat upright in her wheelchair ignoring the pain in her mangled right leg as she dropped the handful of dirt onto Arthur’s grave. She was not healed enough to be there, but she’d insisted, and her doctor had finally agreed. Everyone sympathized with her and talked about how brave she was to go to the funeral before she was well, worried that she would throw herself onto her husband’s coffin. Little did they know, she was there to make sure they really put Arthur in the ground and buried him.
She stared unemotionally as people filed past her, taking her hand and offering their sympathies. His work friends and his family alike told her what a great man he had been and how they would all miss him. She nodded regally, accepting their sympathies. They all believed they knew the man who had been shot just a week before, but they were all wrong.
She waited as the nurse she’d hired pushed her chair to the carriage to take her back to the hospital where they would perform a surgery meant to straighten her leg. She didn’t care whether or not it worked. She just had to make sure she was well enough to go to court when Higgins was tried in three weeks. He couldn’t spend the rest of his life in prison, or worse yet hang, for saving her life. She didn’t care what it took she wasn’t going to let that happen.
She closed her eyes against the pain as she bumped her way back to the hospital. Her marriage was over now. Her fairy tale wedding had turned into a marriage of hell. She bowed her head and thanked God it was all over. Arthur was dead and he could never hurt her again.
Harriett smiled at the post office clerk in front of her. She knew her in the way she knew everyone now, which was a very superficial way that made her content. The woman knew her face and about the business she’d started, but that was all, and that was good. She flipped through the letters. “I don’t think I have enough women to fill all these requests! I’ve only had five responses, but there are at least ten letters here.”
“I’m surprised you were able to find even five women willing to be mail order brides. I can’t imagine marrying someone I’d never met. A woman would have to be truly desperate to do that.” Sarah, the clerk, made it clear she would never do something like agreeing to be a mail order bride. Harriett just smiled as if she agreed, but she knew deep down, she would never judge another woman for making choices she considered strange again. She knew too much about what went on behind closed doors.
“You mean like being told you have to marry a man more than twice your age who smells badly and is hideous? Is that the kind of desperate you mean?” a voice from behind Harriett said, sounding slightly panicked.
Harriett turned around. A young woman with dark hair and startling blue eyes stood behind her. “That’s exactly the kind of desperate you need to be.” She paused, her warm green eyes meeting the young woman’s. “I’m Harriett. When’s the wedding?” She kept her voice sympathetic as she t
“Four months, but he’ll be back in three.” Her eyes begged Harriett to do something to help her.
“That’s more than enough time.” Harriett put her arm through the young woman’s. “Let me buy you a slice of pie.” Harriett carefully steered the young woman to the small café next door, introducing herself on the way.
“I’m Maude.” Maude was obviously a bundle of nerves at the idea of marrying the older man she’d talked about.
“Let’s get that pie and go through these letters. We’ll find the man you need.” They took seats at the front of the restaurant near the big glass window and sat down opposite one another. Harriett put the letters in the middle of the table so they could divide them up and get to work reading them.
They split the letters between them and each read half. The first letter Harriett read intrigued her in a way that surprised her. “Dear Potential Bride, My name is Maxwell Farmer and I run a lumber camp in Washington Territory. I’m not rich, but I live comfortably and could provide a good home for a wife and family. I’m thirty years old and just plain tired of living alone. I’d like a wife with good morals and would have no problem with a widow. I’d prefer she not have children. I’m a tall man with dark hair and brown eyes. I’d like to get to know you through letters before we make a formal commitment, so if you’re interested, please write me back and we’ll learn about one another. Yours, Max Farmer.”
Harriett stared at the letter for a moment, knowing Max wasn’t the right man for Maude. Maude needed to marry in a hurry and this man wanted to take his time to get to know his potential bride first. She slipped the letter into her small drawstring purse to keep it aside as she carefully read the other letters to help Maude find the man she needed.
Harriett limped quickly into the post office to check to see if Emily had received a letter from Benjamin Johnson yet. She was hoping to receive train tickets from him today, so Emily would be able to be on her way as soon as she could. She’d enjoyed meeting Emily and hoped she’d found her a good situation. Benjamin and his precocious girls seemed to be exactly the type of family that would draw sweet, shy Emily out of her shell.
She stood in the short line and when she reached Sarah at the front, she smiled. “Any letters for me?” She said a silent prayer that the letter for Emily was there. She was in a hurry, as most of her brides were, and she needed to be off to her new family as soon as possible.
Sarah held up two letters. “One for you and one addressed to Miss Emily Hughes, in your care.” She handed the letters to Harriett with a smile. “That mail order bride business of yours is just jumping these days, isn’t it?”
Harriett smiled. “I still have more men than I have women for them. Are you sure you won’t reconsider and head out west to be a mail order bride?” Harriett knew the answer before she asked, but she couldn’t help teasing Sarah. Sarah had a beau she’d just started to see, and they both knew she had no intention of leaving town anytime soon without him.
Sarah shook her head. “Not me. I’m happy with Herbert.” She grinned. “You just keep placing your advertisements and finding girls that way.”
“Thank you for the letters!” She turned and hurried out of the post office. She was relieved to receive the letter for Emily because she knew the younger woman was planning to come by that afternoon to see if she’d received a letter yet. She was in a hurry to leave town before her mother remarried, because her future step-father didn’t want her there.
Harriett looked down at the second letter in her hand for the first time. A smile touched her lips as she saw the name Maxwell Farmer on the corner. He’d written her back. She wasn’t sure if she should be happy or sad about that fact. It was nice having someone to write to, though, and for now, that’s all he was. Nothing more would come from their friendship than she wanted, which was a relief to her, because she wasn’t at all sure she was ready to marry again, or even think about it. Having a friend other than Higgins was a good idea, though. She’d cultivate this friendship for as long as she could.
She went straight to her office and sat down at her desk with the letter, laying the letter to Emily aside. She would give it to Emily when she came by. She didn’t think it was her job to read anyone else’s mail whether it was addressed to her or not.
She carefully unfolded the letter from Max and read the words he’d written. “Dear Harriett, It was wonderful to receive your letter although I was a little surprised to receive a reply from the owner of the mail order bride company I was writing to. I’m sorry to hear that your husband died, and I hope your heart will heal enough to allow you to marry again in time. I truly believe that time can heal all wounds, so I would hope your healing process is well on its way. How old are you? You didn’t say in your letter. And how long were you married? You have no children? I have never been married and have no children, but I do have eight nieces courtesy of my older sister Mary. How one woman can give birth to eight daughters and no sons is beyond me. I hope to have at least one son someday. You asked in your letter if I enjoy my work, and I must admit I do. I spend from sunup to sundown working most days, except Sunday when I go to church. I manage the men, but I also spend a great deal of time with an axe chopping trees myself. My job is more than sitting on my backside telling other people what to do. I’d love to hear more about your life when you write back. A woman running her own business is fascinating to me. I hope to hear lots more about it. Sincerely, Max.”
Harriett smiled slightly and folded the letter neatly closed. She’d respond to it later when she had a chance. It was nice having someone to write to regularly. Maybe she should form some friendships with some of her brides and write to them as well.
She didn’t want to become involved in the dinner parties that wealthy people seemed to have in the evenings. She was tired of how other people of the “upper class” treated their servants. If not for one of her servants she wouldn’t be alive, and she would never take another person for granted again as long as she lived.
There was a quick knock at the door, and she looked up. A tall, thin man in his fifties with dark hair and brown eyes was standing at the door. “I noticed you were limping more than usual. May I bring you a hot towel for your leg?”
Harriett nodded gratefully. “Thank you, Higgins. That would help a great deal.” She hadn’t even realized that her leg was hurting, but now that he mentioned it, she felt the throbs. The doctor had been able to move her bones back together to get them to grow correctly, but he hadn’t been able to fix her completely. He wasn’t a miracle worker, after all.
Harriett smiled at the two young ladies sitting in her office. The older of the girls, Susan, wanted to be a mail order bride so she could get away from her younger siblings. She called them “the demon horde.” Harriett hadn’t met the children in question, but she was more than willing to match the young lady up with a man looking for a wife and hope for the best.
A knock sounded at the door. “A letter for you, Mrs. Long.” Harriett had never been able to convince Higgins to call her Harriett. He’d been adamant that she was his employer and he needed to address her with the respect that she was due. She looked at the letter and placed it on her desk with a smile. It was from Max, so she’d read it once the girls were gone.
“I’m sorry, Susan, I haven’t received a letter back from Jesse yet. It’s very likely there hasn’t been time. I know you’re in a hurry to get away from your family. If you’ll check back in a day or two, I hope to have better news for you.” She included Susan’s younger sister, Elizabeth, in her smile. The two girls were cute as buttons and Harriett enjoyed their company. “Would you care for tea and cookies while you’re here?”
Susan shook her head. “No, we need to get home and get supper on the table.” She stood up and smiled. “We’ll see ourselves out. I’ll come back
Harriett nodded and stood. “I’ll look forward to your visit.” She waited until the girls had shut her office door and sat down, picking up her letter. She and Max had been writing for a full year, and she felt as if she almost knew him. She looked forward to each and every letter.
Opening it carefully, she read, “Dear Harriett, I enjoyed hearing from you again. It sounds like your business is keeping you incredibly busy. I’m finally at a point with my business where I feel like I can step back and let my manager do some of the work for me. I know you said at first that you wanted to take your time to get to know someone before agreeing to marry him, but do you feel like we’ve spent enough time yet? I’m ready to take a bride, and there’s no woman but you I want to marry. Will you be my wife and travel out here to be with me, sweet Harriett? If you need more time, I’ll understand, but we’ve been corresponding for a year now, and I think it’s time. I look forward to your response. All my love, Max.”
Harriett stared down at the letter in shock. Yes, she’d known Max was looking for a wife, but she hadn’t realized he was ready for one now. She took several deep breaths as panic at the idea of being married again consumed her. Could she do it? For Max?
She stood up and paced back and forth in the small space in her office, trying to get up the courage to say “yes” to the man. She couldn’t though. She simply didn’t know him well enough to say yes or no. She needed more time, and she knew it.
She picked up a pen, dipped it in an inkwell and carefully wrote out a response. “Dearest Max, Thank you for your letter. I know it seems that I’m dragging my feet, but I have to say, I need a little more time before I can make a commitment to you. It’s not that I don’t have feelings for you, because you know I do. I’m just not quite ready to let go enough to travel across the country to marry you. I don’t want you to marry another woman because I’m taking so long, but I will certainly understand if you do. Please say you’ll give me a little more time. Love, Harriett.”
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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