Most marriages in the late 1800’s were actually arranged marriages. I wanted to use a local tie to Creed’s Crossing, WY. It didn’t take me long to decide to use a young woman from Franklin, VA and have her discover that her father has arranged a marriage for her. Then the fun began.
The historical seesaw into the attitudes of the time, living conditions, along with the social customs, and characters with a sense of humor was all I needed to create this story of the early 1890s.
Zadie Larkford, recently graduated from an Eastern women’s college, lives a quiet life in her hometown of Franklin, Virginia. Content to spend her days painting by the river and watching her friends marry, she is shocked to learn that her father has promised her hand in marriage to a complete stranger. Ultimately unable to disobey, she leaves her childhood home to travel – unaccompanied – to Creed’s Crossing, Wyoming to meet her betrothed.
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Duncan settled his horse before making his way to his cabin. Opening the door, he encountered the water on the floor where it had come through the open window. One more thing in my day that is not going well. First I get soaked and now this? He left his packages on the table and grabbed his dirty clothes to mop up the water. If I’m stuck inside, I might as well do my laundry. With the worst of the water soaked into his clothes, he pulled off his wet shirt and tossed it with the others. From the shelf near his bed, he lifted the last pair of clean pants he owned and left the last clean shirt where it was. He certainly didn’t need to be dressed to do his laundry. Then he tossed a few pieces of wood into his stove and began to heat some water. While he waited on the water, he unwrapped his food items. The way they’d been bundled, the only things that had become wet were his sweet sticky buns and the paper that held the corned beef.
If he cooked the beef right away, the water wouldn’t matter, and certainly he could eat a dozen slightly waterlogged buns before the day was finished. One cookie was also a little damp. He shoved that cookie into his mouth as he poured the hot water into the washtub.
By the time he’d finished doing his laundry, his stomach was loudly protesting. He sat at his table and ate three of the cinnamon raisin buns and washed them down with leftover coffee that had been there since morning. He loved those sweet treats more than anything he could remember eating at home. Sorry, Mom. Even soggy, these are the best.
It was then it dawned on him that he had letters from home. He had tossed them on his bed as he had gathered his laundry. Collecting them, he chose to first read the flourished handwriting from Franklin, Virginia. From my future bride?
He opened each piece of mail and spread out the damp pages on his table, and then poured the last bit of coffee into his cup. The cabin was hot from the stove, so he opened the front door, hoping that the roof over the porch was enough to keep the deluge of water from entering.
Raindrops hitting his metal roof told him when the rain had eased up and when it returned to a full downpour. His parents had a standing seam roof, and he remembered hearing the dissonance of rain on the roof. But his childhood home had an attic to deaden the sound, and this cabin had nothing to suppress the cacophony. He covered his ears and realized it did nothing for the situation.
Perspiration ran down his chest and soaked the waistband of his pants. He downed that last bit of coffee and made another pot. Pumping another pan full of water, he added the corned beef. He figured he might as well fix the meat. It certainly wasn’t going to get any cooler anytime soon.
Satisfied, he picked up the one letter written in an elegant script and sat on the bench on the front porch. Rain sheeted off the roof and onto the ground. He lifted the scalloped page to his nose and sniffed. “Humph.” Not even the slightest scent of perfume. “I thought women were supposed to scent their letters.”
The rain had caused the ink to bleed on the page, but it was still very legible. He read the note, and when he reached the part about her refusal to slop the pigs, he couldn’t stop his laughter. As his composure returned, he read the rest of his letters. As usual, his mother missed him. And his father’s note was brief, but mostly about herring and the number of pounds per day that had been caught. The only other letter that captured his interest was from Dr. Gregory Larkford, promising his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Zadie was apparently spoiled, but from the father’s letter, she was learning how to manage a household and do the associated chores. The father also spoke about his daughter’s talent. Apparently she was quite gifted.
Duncan went inside and checked on the stove. He fixed another cup of coffee and then found his box that contained pen and paper. So many times while plowing he’d given thought to how he might woo his bride. But after reading the letter from her father and Zadie’s own letter, all thoughts of pressing and sending her the pretty orange and yellow flowers that grew in the fields left his mind. She wasn’t going to be impressed with a few dead flowers.
He stifled his laughter and figured he could give what he’d received from her. He opened his box of stationery, withdrew a sheet of paper, opened his inkbottle, and dipped the nib of his pen into the liquid.
Dear Miss Zadie Larkford,
I don’t own any pigs.
Mr. Duncan Lord
E. Ayers lives in a pre-Civil War home with a rescued dog and cat. Her idea of a perfect day is spent at the keyboard, coffee in hand, and everything in the house actually working as it should. Unfortunately old houses never cooperate.
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