Myra Gilbert sat in the nursery alone while her charges took their music
lesson with Master Julian. She cherished these rare moments of solitude.
So much of her life was taken up with caring for twelve year old
Margaret and fourteen year old Carolynn. They were lovely girls, but
boisterous and rarely sat still for a moment. But they would have no
need of her soon enough and she wondered if she would ever find a
position that was so amenable when the time came.
It had been the tragically early death of her dear Papa that had left
her alone and with little to support herself with. Thankfully, as the
daughter of the local Schoolmaster she had enjoyed the privilege of a
good education, and so becoming a governess had seemed a most logical
step. Now, after eight years with the Fitzherbert’s she could feel her
role had changed. She had no desire to remain with the family as simply
a chaperone, though she had so loved teaching the girls. But there was
little more she could impart to them now. They were young ladies; she
had taught them to read and write, to draw, and they were good and kind.
They would make excellent marriages, if only they could learn to curb
their excessive exuberance for life.
She sighed heavily. She had once been just like her charges, dreaming of
her future husband and children. She too had longed to be swept off her
feet by a handsome young man who had eyes only for her – yet her
chance had never come, and now she was destined for spinsterhood and a
life as a governess. She wished she didn’t mind, but she had yet to
reconcile herself to her fate. She still hoped, against all the odds,
that there was love and a family in her future. But as each year passed,
that hope became less and less strong. It was now but a mere flicker in
her heart. But she enjoyed her work, and that was a consolation to her,
and her girls had won her heart and her devotion.
A newspaper sat on the table to her side, and she picked it up -
surprised to find that it wasn’t the usual Daily Bugle – but the
Matrimonial Times. She could only presume that there must have been some
mistake with the delivery that morning, the Fitzherbert’s would have
no need of such a publication after all. Intrigued, she flicked through
the pages, amused by the pleas of lonely farmers, ranchers, miners and
their like. So many of them sounded so very like her after all; lonely
and feeling that time had passed them by. She could feel the pain in so
many of the words, and her heart went out to them. But though she so
desperately longed for a family of her own she could not understand how
any woman could ever bring herself to respond to such advertisements;
heading off to who knew where to live with men they knew little to
nothing about. No, she prayed she would find a man using more
traditional means, though she was beginning to think it unlikely. She
was fast heading towards the spinsterhood she so dreaded; at
twenty-seven she was often passed over at social events for the younger
and wealthier young women of her acquaintance.
She was about to put the newspaper down and go in search of her novel,
when she caught sight of an advertisement that seemed completely
unusual, though she only had this morning’s perusal of the publication
to judge. She read it once, then again, and again:
A Gentleman of Montana, wishes to enter into a correspondence with a
view to matrimony; she must be gentle, kind and full of courage. A
liberal education, and love of theatre and music would be highly prized,
and to be a fine cook and care for hearth and home would be preferred.
The subscriber is a man of modest means, with land of his own and
believes that he has qualities that such a woman would appreciate.
Address in Sincerity E.T.C., Box 483, Matrimonial Times
So many of the advertisements that she had skimmed over had been almost
gushing in their sentimentality, yet this one was not. It gave no clue
as to the character or habits of the man who had submitted it in the
hope of attracting a wife. It seemed almost cold, unfeeling. She was
sure that it would have been unlikely to catch the eye of many women,
who seemed to want romance more than the things that would truly last.
Not that she thought marriage should be a mercenary act, but a good home
and friendship would stand a couple in far better stead than hearts and
flowers she was sure. Yet, for some reason the words resonated within
her, and she felt a brief flutter of excitement deep in her belly.
Hardly believing that she was doing so, with her curiosity getting the
better of her, she began to pen a letter to the mysterious man who had
put himself unwittingly into her line of sight. She scribbled hastily,
barely heeding a word she wrote, and then sealed her missive in an
envelope and addressed it carefully. She tucked it into her reticule and
rushed out of the house to the postal office. She barely dared to catch
a breath, barely took a moment to think until she walked back outside
and realized what she had done. What if he replied? Even worse, what if
he did not?
Carlton Green stared at the stark black and white print of his
advertisement. It shocked him to see how foolish it seemed to be doing
such a thing, now he saw it nestled within the pages of this ridiculous
newspaper. Whatever had he been thinking, to advertise for a wife in
such a way? He could see nothing in it that could interest a young woman
worth having; in fact he thought it made him sound pompous and
unlikeable indeed. He seemed to expect much of a wife and yet was
offering her nothing in return. He had slaved over the words for days,
had thought he had chosen so carefully, and yet now they looked dull and
expectant. Exasperated, he threw the newspaper into the fire certain he
would have no replies, and got on with his chores. There was time enough
for him to find a wife – but the sowing would not get done on its own.
He held enough land to eke out a comfortable living, but it was hard. He
worked from sun up to sun down, no matter the weather. He grew oats and
some wheat on his one hundred and sixty acres, granted to him now in
perpetuity thanks to the Homestead Act. He often wondered how he had
stayed the course required to be granted the deeds to his lands. But
despite some very difficult times, terrible harvests and having to work
himself to the bone he had done so. Many had failed, their steadings had
been left abandoned as disease and the sheer enormity of the task had
become clear to those with less hardy natures than his own. He had lost
many friends to the cemetery, and even more back to the lives they had
left behind thinking that the opportunities here in Montana would be
better. He missed them, and life out here miles from the nearest town
could be all too quiet. It was time to settle down and make this land a
home, and so his search for a wife had begun. He needed somebody to
share in his good fortune, to care for and to protect, and to fill his
life with joy and laughter.
He was still here, and he was not just surviving – he had begun to
truly thrive - and it was now time to settle down and make Montana a
home as well as an adventurous enterprise. Stepping outside into the
warm sunshine, he gazed proudly at his neatly furrowed fields, and the
large yard that would make a wonderful playground for young children.
The paddock held horses and ponies that needed to be ridden, and the
peace and quiet ached to be rent with the sound of fun and family. Then
he turned and looked behind him at the ramshackle cabin he had laid his
head down in for the past five years, and laughed. His dreams may seem
achievable when he looked at everything else he had – but he could
hardly expect any woman to wish to live there. The sod cabin was just a
room; it had no windows and the chimney belched smoke so badly he had to
put out the fire over night to ensure he didn’t choke in his sleep.
He vowed to head into Sun River to speak with Ardloe Reed once the
spring sowing was done. The carpenter had built many of his neighbors
some sturdy looking homes in recent months, and it was time he did the
same. He could have no illusions that any young woman seeing how he
currently lived – without having been entirely enamored of him - would
be right on the next train out of Great Falls or Billings before he
could stop her. He chuckled wryly as he thought of some Eastern city
girl hitching up her skirts and making a run for it, it seemed most
unlikely but it amused him nonetheless.
He shrugged his oilskin jacket on as he crossed the yard. The air in the
barn was cold no matter the time of year, and he was glad of the
hardwearing coat and his second best hat to keep the worst of the chill
breezes from tearing through to his skin. He blew on his fingers to warm
them before lifting a sack of seed. He’d check it over and then get
going. He had three more fields to sow with wheat today, and a further
four with oats tomorrow. Half his fields needed to see the run of the
plough still too. He whistled as he began to stack the sacks of seed
onto the cart, enjoying the brief respite from the cold that he got from
being in the spring sunshine. He hitched Marlin, his broad-backed and
sturdy cart horse into the shafts and with a click, and a swift flick of
the whip to the reliable animal’s flanks, the two of them set off to
the high fields.
Carlton loved the land he had chosen with all his heart. He had been
lucky enough to take his pick. There had been so few homesteaders coming
out this far when he first arrived, but he didn’t doubt that more
would come, especially if the rumors turned out to be true that the
Government wanted to extend the scope of the Homesteading Act. The land
was fertile, both crops and livestock seemed to thrive here if you
worked hard enough. Men who were hungry for success and weren’t afraid
to work for it could do very well here.
But his was a lonely life. Many of his contemporaries, those brave few
that had come out here to try and make new lives, had brought wives and
children with them or at the least sent for them once they had gotten
settled. The transition could be harsh, and many families had not
managed to secure the deeds to their lands. He was proud he now had his
securely stored in the vaults of the Great Falls bank - and that he had
done so alone. But he longed for companionship now the lands were in
good heart and he could afford to hire some help. At least that was a
task that would be easy to fulfill. There were always men looking for
work at the Saloon in Sun River, and even as far away as Great Falls and
Billings. Eager young souls arrived on the train every day.
Carlton longed for sons, to bring up and to show what life could be like
if you worked hard and earned your rewards; to work alongside him on the
farm to create a family empire and so in his loneliness had placed that
advertisement. He couldn’t help but regret having done so now as he
thought about how cold he had sounded against the other Matrimonials he
had spied on the page near his own. Maybe that was to be expected. Maybe
Fate had taken a stand as he had penned his own words, to ensure he
would remain alone.
After all, he wasn’t entirely sure that he should ever be a husband or
father given his checkered history. He had made such a mess of it all
the first time around, had caused such pain that it hardly bore thinking
of. But that was the past, and he prayed every day that his loneliness
here in Montana could make up for his past digressions, that his
commitment to the earth would somehow redeem him. That he would one day
deserve the happiness so long denied him.
Excerpted from "A Bride for Carlton: Sweet Clean Historical Western Mail Order Bride" by Karla Gracey. Copyright © 2016 by Karla Gracey. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.