Mail Order Bride - Westward Visions: Historical Cowboy Romance Novel (Montana Mail Order Brides Book 12), page 1
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Mail Order Bride: Westward Visions
Montana Mail Order Brides: Book Twelve
To YOU, The reader.
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Thank you for reading and joining me on this road.
The late February winds drove a new layer of snow before them. It coated the already deep snow that covered the ground. It roared down through the trees, chilling anyone caught out in the elements.
Whispering Brook entered her family’s tipi, her teeth chattering loudly in the otherwise quiet space. She set her armload of wood down and held out her hands to the warm fire that burned in the center of their home.
Wolf Song, her mother, smiled at her and said, “There you are, daughter. I was beginning to worry about you.” She handed the young woman a cup of hot tea.
Brook, as she was known by her family and friends, gratefully accepted the beverage and sipped at it. “I had to go farther to find dry wood,” she replied.
Wolf Song nodded her understanding as Falcon, her husband, entered their tipi and quickly closed the flap against the nasty weather outside. He joined Brook by the fire and smiled at his beloved daughter.
“Our friend Abby has sent us another letter,” he said as he removed it from the buffalo hide coat he wore. “Please read it to an old man whose eyes are not what they used to be,” he requested, and held it out to Brook.
Abby Porter, now Abby Bradbury, had moved from Wabasha, Minnesota several years ago to Dawson, Montana. She’d become a mail-order-bride and had fallen in love with the man with whom she’d exchanged letters. While Falcon and his family were happy for her, they missed their chatty friend and the laughter she’d always brought to their lives.
Abby sent letters on a regular basis telling them about her life and about the Lakota tribe that lived near their town. Her letters were very descriptive and they felt as if they knew the people she told them about.
Brook took another sip of her hot tea before opening the letter. She smiled at the drawing she found as she unfolded the letter. Little Zach Bradbury always sent along a picture for them. He’d learned about Wolf Song and her family from Abby and loved them, even though he’d never met them.
It was a depiction of a buffalo hunt and a rather good one for a four year old, Brook thought. She passed the picture to her father, who looked at it and chuckled.
“Perhaps he will be an artist,” Falcon said. “He has done a good job with this.”
Wolf Song looked over his shoulder and smiled. “Yes, he has.”
While her parents had been perusing the picture, Brook had read a little bit of Abby’s letter to herself. Her brows drew down. It was a strange letter. Her father noticed her expression.
“What is it, Brook?” Falcon asked as he put the picture aside.
“Abby’s letter is not like her others,” she said, and began to read.
Dear beloved Lakota family,
As always, I hope this letter finds you well. Zach wanted you to have his drawing. He had others, but chose this one. He hopes you like it. Elliot also sends his regards. We’ve been having some terrible weather and I’m sure it’s the same for you there. Hopefully spring will be early this year.
I am writing to you on a rather unusual subject. One of my Lakota family members here is looking for a bride. He is the brave who escorts me home at night whenever I work at the Watering Hole. I’ve mentioned him to you briefly, but I would like to tell you more.
He’s twenty-one and has already counted many coups. This young brave was eligible for marriage at the age of seventeen, so that tells you that he is courageous and skilled even though he is young. He is a very kind man with a great sense of humor and he’s quite handsome. Reckless works at the Watering Hole with me as a bouncer (which means he makes sure everyone behaves and doesn’t cause trouble).
His uncle, Black Fox, is the chief of his tribe and Reckless (that’s his name. Sorry I didn’t mention that earlier in the letter) is a well-respected member of the tribe. He lives up to his name and is fearless in the face of danger. A few years ago, there was a split in the tribe and some of the maidens left, leaving only a certain number here. Some of the maidens that remained with his tribe are related to him and he has no desire to marry one of his cousins.
Reckless has asked me to contact you in the hopes that there is a maiden in your village who would be willing to marry him and move here. He has quite a nice bride price. He is willing to pay twelve very fine horses with excellent bloodlines, including a Thoroughbred stallion. Reckless will also give twenty buffalo hides, two very finely crafted knives, and enough food and supplies for the return trip of the maiden’s parents. I’ve known him for four years and I know he would make a good husband and be a good provider for her and their children.
Please give Falcon the second letter in the envelope. It is for him alone.
After that, Abby’s letter went on to tell them more of the latest news and things of that sort. Brook gave the other envelope to her father. She was intensely curious about what it could possibly contain, but knew better than to ask. If her father saw fit to tell them, he would. If not, she would leave it up to her mother to get it out of him. Wolf Song had ways to get her father to talk, Brook thought with a tiny smile.
Falcon opened the other letter and read:
Great Esteemed Falcon,
My name is Reckless and I know that Abby has already told you many things about me, but I wanted to contact you myself because that is the proper way to speak directly to the father about this matter. She has told us so much about all of you that you do not seem like strangers to me. It is true that I desire a bride and would appreciate your help in securing one from your village.
I will be direct. We need fresh blood here so that we do not start inbreeding, which as you know is detestable. Abby has told me about your daughter, Whispering Brook. It is a pretty name. She told me about Whispering Brook’s good manners, skill in the home, and her beauty.
That she is half-white does not bother me as Abby has assured me that she is truly Lakota and follows all our customs and laws. This is very important to me since my uncle is the chief and I am held to a higher standard than some. My great grandfather was also a chief. Please do not be offended, but Abby has told me of the difficulty of finding a brave who is accepting of Whispering Brook’s white heritage. I do not understand why this should be so since she is a woman of good standing. It seems to me that any brave should be lucky to have a woman such as her.
Abby has already told you the bride price I am willing to pay and perhaps by the time you get this, I will have even more wealth that I am willing to impart to you. Since there are twelve horses included in this bride price, it will be necessary for you to bring help to drive them back home. Any of your tribe will be welcomed in our village. It would be an honor to have you as our guests.
I am an honorable man and would treat your daughter well. While I expect obedience, I am not so rigid that I would not consider her feelings and I would be kind to her. While you are here, you would have your own tipi for your comfort and plenty to eat.
I would ask that you thoughtfully consider such an arrangement and eagerly await your answer.
With great respect,
Falcon reread the letter and then put it away. He kept stealing glances at his adopted daughter as he thought about both letters. It was true that Whispering Brook was unfortunately considered less than desirable due to her white heritage. He had argued with several fathers on his daughter’s behalf about this, but they had remained adamant about Brook not marrying into their family.
Also, there was an abundance of maidens in their tribe at the moment and all of the braves had their pick of the young women. Thus far, none of them had wanted to court Brook. Falcon had received a couple of offers from men who were willing to take on Brook as a second wife, but he felt that doing that was a last resort.
The bride price offered by this young brave was impressive, as was the fact that he was eligible for marriage at such a young age. He was interested in hearing how Reckless had acquired his coups. That Reckless had such an impressive lineage also spoke well of him.
Knowing Abby as he did, Falcon knew that she would never have recommended the brave for Whispering Brook if she didn’t think him worthy of their daughter. Reckless’ well written letter also showed that he was intelligent, since he had mastered written and oral English.
Falcon looked at Brook and thought that she was indeed beautiful. Her skin color was a few shades lighter than his and her hair was a medium brown. Falcon saw her steal a look at him, her blue eyes filled with curiosity. He pretended not to notice and sat back to think.
Brook was the result of one of their maidens being attacked by white soldiers passing through the area. Brook’s mother had turned angry and bitter after that. She had given birth to Brook and had tried to love the baby, but couldn’t get past the traumatizing event. Two years after Brook was born, Sandy River had committed suicide. This was the real reason that Brook was undesirable. There were those that felt this was bad medicine and that Brook was somehow tainted.
Since Sandy River was Wolf Song’s cousin, Falcon’s wife had decided to adopt the baby as her own. At the time, Falcon and Wolf Song had two sons who willingly accepted Brook into the family. The three of them had gotten along well and were close siblings. One of their sons, Raging Bull, had been killed by a Pawnee hunting party that they had crossed. Their other son, White Cloud, was married and had a family.
Falcon had been happy about adopting Brook from the beginning and praised Wolf Song for taking in Brook. She had brought much joy to their lives and while the thought of her leaving them was hard, it would be in their daughter’s best interests to be married to a man such as Reckless.
There was something about Reckless’ letter that spoke to Falcon. He had a good feeling about this man, but he would not rush into anything. Falcon also knew that Brook did not want to marry unless there was love, or at least fondness in her heart for the man.
For three days he thought about Reckless’ offer. On the third day, he let Wolf Song read Reckless’ letter. Like Falcon, Wolf Song was impressed. That evening they sat down to speak to Brook about it.
“Daughter, the young man Abby spoke about in her letter has given an offer of marriage to you. He thinks that you would make a good wife and says that he would be a good husband to you,” Falcon said, and waited for her reaction.
Brook’s eyes grew huge. “Me? He wants me?”
Brook was stunned. That this man would marry her sight unseen was surprising to her.
“Does he know that I am half white?” she asked.
Falcon said, “Yes, and it does not bother him. He says he does not understand why someone would not want you for that reason. Abby has told him of your good manners and how well you keep a home. Abby would not approach our tribe with something like this if she did not believe in the young man. Whispering Brook, I believe that this offer is a good one and not one to be tossed away lightly.”
Brook knew that when her father used her full name it meant that he was being very serious. She recalled the high bride price this Reckless was willing to pay. That, combined with his direct request for her, pleased Brook. But leaving her home scared her. How would she live without her parents near her? Maybe he would leave his family, but she doubted it, since he had a job. That made her curious. What was it like to work among white people all the time?
“Father, it is so far away. I do not wish to be away from you and Mother,” Brook said.
“I understand. We will also miss you, but this is what’s best for you. I do not believe you will get a better offer. You will not be completely alone since Abby is there,” Wolf Song said.
Falcon smiled at Wolf Song. “Your mother is correct. We will leave at the end of April when the weather breaks.”
Brook was angry. “You have decided this for me?”
Falcon sighed. He tried to head off an argument. In a soft voice he said, “Brook, it is time that you marry and begin a family. That is not going to happen here unless you would settle for being a second or even third wife. Is that what you want?”
Tears gathered in Brook’s eyes. “No. I do not want that. But I haven’t even met this man. What if I do not like him or he doesn’t like me?”
“If that is the case, you will come back home, but I do not think that will happen,” Falcon said. “Are you not curious about him? He sounds like quite the character, if he lives up to his name. I wonder how he came by it and how he gained his coups.”
Brook had to admit that she had wondered about him after reading Abby’s letter. An idea came to her. “Father, would I be allowed to write to him and perhaps get to know him a little?”
Falcon looked at Wolf Song to see her reaction. Wolf Song smiled and Falcon had his answer. “I do not see any harm in it as long as nothing inappropriate is said on either part. Can I trust you about this? If he says anything improper, you must tell us. Agreed?”
Brook smiled. “Yes. I promise. Thank you both.”
That night, when her parents went to visit with some friends, Brook sat down to write her first letter to Reckless.
Reckless rode his best horse into Dawson. The frigid air created plumes of white vapor to form as he breathed. He was grateful for his wolf skin coat and mittens. Everyone was ready for a break in the weather, and no one more than him. He missed his morning dives from the cliff into the river. To attempt that now would be suicide and not even he was willing to risk hypothermia by swimming in the freezing water.
Emerging from the trees, Reckless guided his horse onto the road where the going was a little easier. He didn’t want to be late for work. Reckless smiled as he wondered what chaos would ensue at the Watering Hole that night. This was the saloon right outside of Dawson.
Reckless looked up at the sky. The stars shone down, along with the moon. Reckless was glad that there would be no snow overnight. Finding food for the horses was hard with the thick snow on the ground. Reckless was thankful for his job so that he had money to buy feed and hay for his horses and those of his father, He Who Runs. At first his father hadn’t wanted Reckless to spend his money on horses that weren’t his, but Reckless had overridden his objections by reminding his father that since he still lived in the family tipi, he was required to pitch in.
He also loved his job and wouldn’t quit as long as he was wanted. He had made good friends over the last four years and was happy in his line of work. Reckless was a warrior and enjoyed fighting and throwing people who could not behave out of the bar. Then there were also the fighting matches between the bouncers and the regular fight once a month.
Joe Dwyer, Dawson’s mayor, had conned Rick West
Charlie was a hot-tempered, cranky individual and sometimes he and Reckless rubbed each other the wrong way. Reckless enjoyed his fights with Charlie the most because he was always out to best the man. Rick fought somewhat reluctantly, but once he got going, he was a force to be reckoned with.
Reckless arrived at the Watering Hole and put his horse in the stable out back. Slipping in the back door, Reckless walked silently in his moccasin boots up the hallway that led past Jake’s office and the kitchen to the bar area. Jake was talking to a customer. Reckless slipped behind the bartender and smacked him on the back of the head.
Jake turned around and swung at Reckless, who ducked and scooted away before Jake could swing again.
“Damn it, Reckless! How many times have I told you not to do that?” Jake yelled as he rubbed his head.
“Sorry, boss. I cannot help myself,” Reckless said as Abby came up to the bar.
She gave Jake a drink order and then handed Reckless a letter. “Guess who this is from?” she said, as her blue eyes smiled along with her mouth.
Reckless grinned and took the envelope. “I was wondering if they were going to write back or not.”
“I knew they would,” Abby said.
Jake watched Reckless sit down and open the letter. “Is that from your girl?”
Reckless looked at him and said, “I do not know yet. Let me read it and then I’ll tell you.”
“Ok. Here’re your drinks, Abby. Anyone givin’ you trouble?” Jake asked. He was very protective of Abby.
“Nope. No problems, boss,” she said, and went off with her tray.
Reckless read the first letter from Falcon.
Thank you for the respect you have shown in sending a letter directly to me to discuss the possible marriage to my daughter. Your bride price is very acceptable to us. Also, your lineage and many coups are impressive. You seem to have proven yourself as a man despite being young.
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