Authors: Carré White
Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #Forever Love, #Victorian Era, #Western, #Thirty-Fourth In Series, #Saga, #Fifty-Books, #Forty-Five Authors, #Newspaper Ad, #Short Story, #American Mail-Order Bride, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Marriage Of Convenience, #Christian, #Religious, #Faith, #Inspirational, #Factory Burned, #Pioneer, #West Virginia, #Older Gentleman, #City Hall, #Stolen Heart, #Letters, #Gifts, #Stepmother, #Father, #Grown Son, #Forbidden Love, #Mistake, #Age Difference
Bride of West Virginia
Copyright © 2015 Carré White
All Rights Reserved
Cover photograph by Erin Dameron Hill
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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this book is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
After a fire at the Brown Textile Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, twenty-two-year old Trinity Kroger agrees to become a mail order bride, traveling to West Virginia. Her intended, Mr. John Witherspoon, is nearly fifty-eight-years old. Shocked by the age difference, it is far too late to change her mind, the ceremony taking place immediately.
Nathanial Witherspoon tries to stop his father from making a grave mistake, arriving at City Hall too late. The shabbily dressed young woman in his father's company cannot be his new stepmother. It would be impossible, because, although poor and uneducated, she's the loveliest thing he has ever seen.
Trinity is drawn to Nathanial, who showers her with gifts and clothing, writing heartfelt letters. She came to West Virginia to find a place of belonging. Never could she have imagined falling in love so deeply--so passionately, yet not with her husband. Nathanial has stolen her heart, but they can never be together.
The dream is always the same … the smoke … my eyes burning, struggling to breathe, the lights suddenly flickering to blackness. A female scream shattering the darkness, followed by another and another. I feel my way around, my fingers encountering a table, which holds a sewing machine. Hundreds of these machines stand on row after row of tables, filling the cavernous space, with brick walls to one side and windows on the other. Someone grabs me, shouting, “Get out, Trinity! Get out, or we’re all going to die!”
I woke with a start, gasping for breath. I wasn’t in the Brown Textile Mill any longer, the horror having been in a dream. I lay on a small bed in a boarding house in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where I had been living for a few years, ever since I had outgrown the orphanage.
Now I faced the prospect of having to move again, never really finding a place to settle. I thought of Massachusetts as my home, my parents, having emigrated from Hamburg, Germany when I was an infant. From what I had been told, they came to America in search of a better life, but, instead, they found only menial jobs and discrimination, both succumbing to illness, consumption slowly killing them, leaving me an orphan at the tender age of three.
Friends of my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Metzner, took me in for a few years, until the man died, and the woman could no longer afford to support me. Having grown close to the family and their three children, being separated from those I considered my brothers and sisters pained me greatly. I hardly remembered my parents, but I adored the Metzners, feeling as if Trudy were my sister. I found myself in an orphanage shortly after, learning to survive in a new, unfriendly world. Just like the factory fire, I survived that existence … now fate required me to do so again.
It had only been a week since the fire, the memories far too fresh, returning in my nightmares. It was a miracle we had all survived, having fought our way out of the burning building. My closest friends, Lilly, Tabitha, Hope, and Isabella had all suffered, losing their source of income. The factory manager, Roberta McDaniel, called a meeting today at a park near the Merrimack River. She felt responsible, having championed us for better working conditions and improved wages for the last three years. We trusted Roberta, but we knew the task before her to be formidable. How could one woman provide a secure future for more than a hundred young ladies?
Washing with a cloth and a bowl of tepid water, I glanced at my reflection. My skin appeared far too pale from working long, exhaustive hours indoors, with faint smudges beneath the eyes. Not having slept well for days, fatigue left me weary, feeling as if I might be slightly ill. The smell of smoke lingered in my lungs still, an ever-present reminder of the fire.
I dressed slowly, puttering around the tiny room, searching for a fresh pair of drawers. A threadbare chemise went over my head, then a light grey shirtwaist, with a woolen skirt and matching jacket. I hadn’t time, or the inclination to curl my hair, gathering it in the back rather severely, securing it with pins. Wanting to spare what I had left of my meager savings, I would not eat breakfast. Glancing at a small silver clock, I realized I had best hurry, or I might miss the meeting altogether.
The park wasn’t far from the boarding house, the area flooded by immigrants, having come to work at one of the many textile mills. It wasn’t uncommon to hear languages other than English spoken, and, having German parents myself, I knew a little, but I was far from fluent. Making my way towards Newton Street, past a carpenter shop and a blacksmith, I hurried towards the river. Nearing the park, I spied a grouping of women, chastising myself for arriving so late.
Hope Middleton saw me first, waving. I hurried over. “Sorry, I'm late.”
“It’s just started,” said Isabelle.
Roberta McDaniel spoke to the group, her voice ringing out. “All of us have been left jobless by the fire in the factory. Mr. Brown has no intention of rebuilding. I, like you, had no idea what to do next, but my sister recently went to Kansas as a mail order bride.”
I glanced at Hope. “Is that what the plan is? Are people actually thinking about becoming mail order brides?”
“It seems that way,” said Hope. “I’m considering it.”
Isabelle squinted into the distance. “Me too.”
The idea of marrying a stranger hardly appealed to me. As Roberta continued to speak, holding up copies of the
, I stared at my friends in disbelief, stunned they would even consider such a thing, but my prospects as well were indeed bleak at the moment.
“So how does this work? Do we write to each person?” Lilly asked, looking at me.
“I think you’d pick out a few who might interest you and start with them. Where would you want to live? Is there a man’s profession you’d feel comfortable with?” I could hardly believe I was even considering this. I glanced at Hope. “What do you think?
“I’m about to have a great adventure, I suppose.”
We whispered amongst ourselves, while Roberta continued to speak, saying, “You won’t hear anything for a month, ladies. If someone needs a place to stay, let’s look to each other … ”
The thought of being separated from my friends bothered me greatly. Tabitha seemed unsure, her expression worried. “What are your plans?”
“I don’t know if I could do this. I’d be scared to death I’d end up with a mean man.”
I nodded. “That is a cause for concern.” Having been given the newspaper, I glanced at several ads, seeing one that might be interesting. “Oh, this sounds promising. Mr. John Witherspoon of Clarksburg, West Virginia is in need of a wife. He’s a widower. He’s looking for a young lady who’s matrimonially inclined.” I grinned. “That could be me, I suppose. I hadn’t considered trying to find a husband. All I’ve done my entire life is work. I haven’t attended too many socials.”
“Men need wives for so many reasons,” Roberta said, over the din of the crowd. “I want to make sure every one of you finds a way to survive after the fire.”
I eyed the paper. “Oh, here’s another one. Ship captain, gone most of the year. Widower, with eight children, needing woman to cook, clean and take care of family.” I pondered this. “Gracious, that sounds like a lot of work. It might make sewing seem easy.” Everyone had a chuckle about that. “I can’t believe I’d ever consider something like this. What will you do, Lilly?
“Sign up to be someone’s wife, not knowing who this person is? I don’t know what to think of the idea.” She frowned at the thought.
“I wish us all luck in these endeavors,” I murmured. “We’ll need it.”
Roberta continued to talk, trying desperately to reassure the ladies that their future was secure, but only if she was willing to marry a stranger, saying, “I went to see the matchmaker yesterday to find out if she had any other prospective grooms out there. I told her about our predicament. She gave me fifty copies, which I’m sharing with you today.”
Feeling strangely dejected and apprehensive about what I was hearing today, I eyed my friends, who continued to peruse the paper. “I need to think about all of this. Why can’t we look for new jobs?”
“I’m not sure if I have any other choice,” said Hope.
“Gosh, is it really
hopeless?” I chewed my lip, fretting now in earnest.
Other factories existed in Lawrence, flourishing along the river, where they manufactured everything from footwear to foodstuffs. There had to be positions open elsewhere. My belly rumbled distractingly, reminding me of how little I had eaten today. Roberta finished speaking, threading her way through the crowd of women; most seemed excited about the mail order bride scheme, while some looked distressed.
“I suppose I should go.”
“Do think about it, Trinity,” said Lilly. “This might be the solution we’re looking for.”
Hope and I embraced. “I’ll come to see you soon,” she said.
“Please do.” I glanced at the women. “Let’s meet for lunch this week.”
“Excellent idea,” said Isabella. “We can speak more on the issue then.”
“If we do this, we’ll all go our separate ways,” I said. “I can’t imagine living in a strange place without a single friend.” That idea bothered me the most. How could I possibly marry a stranger and place all my trust in him? What if he was a violent, angry person? I had seen far too much of that growing up. From the looks on their faces, my friends worried about this as well. “I’m off. I’ll see you ladies soon.”
Although the meeting’s purpose had been to instill us with confidence, I felt anything but, worrying even more now about my future. Roberta had gone through the trouble of obtaining copies of the
, which Elizabeth Miller, a trust-worthy matchmaker, had given her. These particular grooms had Ms. Miller’s blessing.