Excerpt for Mail Order Brides: The Light Beyond The Day by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Mail Order Brides: The Light Beyond The Day


By


Doreen Milstead


Copyright 2017 Susan Hart



The Canadian Woman & The Scarred Cowboy

The Burnt Out Shop Owner & The Cowboy

The Widow From Manchester & Her California Handyman



The Canadian Woman & The Scarred Cowboy



Synopsis: The Canadian Woman & The Scarred Cowboy - A woman leaves England with her family and a cholera outbreak devastates the family, making her an orphan. She’s put into indentured servitude in Canada and then employed by the same family for a few years. Trying to break free from the life of a scullery maid, she corresponds with, and then travels to meet her fiancé in Nevada. They hit it off and fall love, something the cowboy never thought he’d find because a childhood coyote attack left his face scarred.



Victoria ran to her room and threw herself on the bed sobbing. Once again she felt she was being scolded for something out of her control.

“It isn’t my fault I have never been taught to cook a meal or clean a kitchen,” she sobbed to herself.

Victoria came from a very affluent family in Britain. Her father was an entrepreneur who was always chasing the next idea of how to make it rich. When he heard of some fellow British families settling in Canada, a new land with many entrepreneur opportunities, he wanted to be aboard one of the first ships. It only took him a week to make the arrangements. Their entire family packed up their belongings and set sail for Canada.

The long trip aboard the ship ended up being quite treacherous. An outbreak of cholera soon overtook the ship, making almost every person on board ill. Even though they quarantined the sick people, the disease ran rampant.

In the middle of the seas there was no medicine and no botanicals or chemicals with which they could concoct a remedy. Nearly fifty families had boarded the ship from Britain and very few survived the trip.

The bodies that accumulated were thrown overboard into the waters.

Victoria was one of the few who had survived the trip. While the disease had not killed her, she was not in her right mind when the ship landed. With no relatives, the captain decided they would have to leave her with a caretaker. They sold her to an affluent family that had already established themselves in Yellowknife, a city in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

They were called the Allston family.

Once under their care, Victoria’s health began to improve. The family paid for several doctors to aid in her care. She had a nurse that tended to her around the clock and a doctor that used herbs and various chemicals to rid her body of disease. It was a full two months before Victoria was better.

It was then that she truly learned of her situation.



When she was healthy and in the right state of mind, the family told her the disease aboard the ship had killed her entire family. They also told her they had paid a small price to purchase her for work. It was expected once she healed, she would work in their household by cooking meals or performing chores. The family also presented her with her trunk of belongings the men aboard the ship had left with her.

It contained a few dresses, photographs and other sentimental items from her life in Great Britain. Unbeknownst to the family, however, the lining of the trunk contained precious family heirlooms. These expensive silver and gold heirlooms were crusted with jewels, and truly the only thing that remained of Victoria’s exquisite life when she lived in Britain.

Victoria tried to explain to the family she was much more than a scullery maid, but they would not hear of it.

“We purchased you,” she was told. “This makes you a piece of property. You are expected to perform your duties until your service is terminated.”

Victoria was devastated. When she lived in Britain she had never been expected to lift a finger. She had cooks in the home and maids too. She even had someone that dressed her each day. It was no wonder this life was such a challenge for Victoria. She did not know the life of cooking or chores.

She was constantly chastised for performing chores wrong and she often was sent to bed without dinner for punishment, or sent to her room without pay for the day. It was a devastating life but Victoria did not have the means to make it change.

It was not just the family she lived with that looked down on Victoria. It was apparent to all of the wealthy families in the area she was just a scullery maid.

Once, she attempted to make some money by selling one of her family heirlooms to a shop in town. Instead of being offered a price, Victoria was confronted by the shopkeeper.

“Girl, where did you get that,” he demanded of her.

“It is a family heirloom. It has been passed down for generations.”

“Well, I suggest you take it back to the family you stole it from!” The shopkeeper let her leave, but not before threatening, “If I see you near my store again I will contact the police.”

It seemed Victoria would never get out of her situation.



Bo kicked off his dusty boots and walked to his kitchen. He dipped a rag in a bucket of water and proceeded to wash off his face. It had been a particularly long day on the farm. It was days like these he wished more than anything he had a fair looking woman waiting for him with a hot dinner when he came in from the day’s chores. He sighed as he began to prepare his dinner.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying that Bo was living the life of a single man out west. Women were scarce around his parts. The women living nearby were shallow. It didn’t help Bo wasn’t much to look at. He had a very unattractive appearance. He was in good enough shape. His face was worn even though he was only in his early 30s. He also had a long scar that stretched from his temple to his jaw line from an incident with a coyote when he was younger. It dragged down the corner of his mouth and gave him a gruesome appearance, especially when he tried to smile.

While Bo was ugly, he was rich. This attracted several suitors, though none he was interested in.

“What should I do with a woman who only wants me for my money?” Bo often thought to himself.

He had put out several ads in Matrimonial News, looking for a wife. He had corresponded with several women over the last six years. Each of these was interested in only his money, and they often lied to get their hands in it.

Per the disclaimer in Matrimonial News, he was not forced to marry these women after they had moved out west because of the deception that was used to forge their relationship. They often ran off after he declined their hand and he got used to seeing them arm in arm with another of the single bachelors when he went into town.

“Whatever makes them happy,” he often thought.

Bo had long since given up on the idea of finding a woman through a paper like Matrimonial News. All of the women he contacted there had been shallow or after his money. That wasn’t what Bo wanted in his life. He wanted a simple woman who could cook and clean. She didn’t need to be beautiful. Bo just wanted a woman to come home to that didn’t care about money or his looks. If anyone took the opportunity to get to know him, they would find Bo was a kind soul.



Bo had moved west when he was just sixteen years old. It was his dream to strike it rich in California. He made it to California in the year 1856; well after the rush had died down. He found many of the men had long since abandoned the dream of making it as a gold miner and worked in shops instead. Bo found work as a shopkeep until 1859, when silver ore was discovered in the Comstock Lode. He found that he was one of the first men to board a covered wagon and hit the trails for Nevada.

Bo arrived in 1860 and started to work near the Virginia Mountain Range. When he wasn’t out mining in the mountains, he called Virginia City home. As more and more miners took to the state, cities like Virginia City and Gold Hill boomed. They became large commercial centers that attracted more and more visitors as time passed.



By the mid-1860s, Virginia City itself had around 25,000 residents. This was a much busier lifestyle than Bo was accustomed to. When the residents moved in, he moved out to a much quieter place, the outskirts of Austin, Nevada.

It was in Austin that Bo found his riches. Miners around this area ran into the problem of separating silver from other parts of the ore. The Washoe process had been used in most areas, but the ores around Austin often contained arsenic or antimony sulfides. These sulfides made separation of the silver difficult. He worked with a man named Carl Stetefeldt for three years before developing a process that became known as the Reese River Process.

Together, the men discovered that roasting mined silver ore with salt effectively converted silver sulfides to silver chlorides. Amalgamation pans could then be used to sort out the silver from other elements of the ore.

This process made Bo a very rich man. Unfortunately, his riches made it even more difficult to find a bride. While women were more attracted to him now, it was for all the wrong reasons. Bo did not want a bride who only sought out his riches. He wanted a companion to have conversations with at the end of the day. He wanted someone to cook him dinner and clean the house, but Bo also wanted so much more.



The other maids working in the Allston household often took pity on Victoria. They watched the way she worked and saw that she was out of place. Even if the sickness had addled her brain it was very apparent Victoria had never been expected to lift a finger in her life.

While she knew very little of housework and cooking, Victoria was very book smart. She could read and write, which was something unheard of at the time. Lawmakers believed that educating scullery maids, cooks, and other servant people was a waste of time and money.

Most of the working class went uneducated, especially women.

Victoria was different. She could read, write, and even do mathematics. This was another reason the maids knew she was out of place in their world.

Several days out of the week, Victoria could be found tending to the fire in the library of the Allston house and dusting off the bookshelves. The other maids knew that she did not offer to do this task because it was simple; Victoria was borrowing books. She spent a good amount of her salary on candles and read into the late hours of the night. The maids were kind to her and kept her secret. They knew she would be tossed out on the streets if the Allston’s were to learn of her deception.



One maid, a young girl named Clara, became jealous of Victoria’s ability to read and write. She too wished that she had an escape from this life. Clara had also been purchased from the ship owners that Victoria had arrived in the Northwest Territories with. She had stowed away, in an effort to escape her harsh living conditions back home. Clara was a servant when she lived in Britain, but to people that were much harsher than the Allston family she now served. She stowed away on the ship to escape her life, in dreams of finding a husband that would treat her kindly.

Clara was a beautiful girl. She was petite and fair, with beautiful, dark curls. She kept these pinned in a kerchief while she worked. Clara was also very friendly with the other maids in the house. This was how she learned of mail order bride services. She longed to use one of these to meet a man, but how could she when she could not read or write?

When she learned of Victoria’s skills, she decided to recruit her in exchange for information. Victoria would teach her to read and write and Clara would help her find a man to marry as a mail order bride.



It was well after midnight the night that Clara approached Victoria with her proposal. They struck an agreement. Clara would use her knowledge of mail order bride services to help Victoria find a husband and Victoria would teach her to read and write so that she may do the same. They met in the late hours of the night for weeks so Victoria could teach Clara her lessons.

They both knew that if the Allston family were to find out what they were doing they would be thrown out on the street. It would be very hard for either of them to find work if they lost their position, as nobody was willing to hire a scullery maid that had been tossed out by her previous employers.



For several weeks this was their routine, until Clara felt confident enough to write her mail order bride ad. The girls had plans to send them out at the same time, during a shopping trip into town. They had saved up money from their meager salaries so that they could pay for the ad, which was charged per word. Despite this, Victoria penned an advertisement slightly longer than those commonly found in mail order bride advertisements:


‘23-year-old woman seeking companionship from a man of reasonable age. Plain, but not hard on the eyes. Will pay for travel to meet, if a suitable man is found for marriage. Money and looks are not as important as companionship. Can cook and clean, and I am very well educated’.


On the day that was set, the two girls traveled into town. They snuck off to the post office and sent their correspondence to the company that would be publishing their ads. Clara had gotten this address from one of the girls she spoke with as well. They sent their posts and ran off to do their shopping for the Allston home. Now, all they could do was wait for correspondence.



Bo had given up placing ads in Matrimonial News after the fifth woman failed to meet his expectations. He felt discouraged, but this did not keep him from perusing ads from time to time. He vowed never to use Matrimonial News again, but there were several other publications that advertised men and women looking for companionship.

One such publication was Canadian Brides. This publication solely advertised women from Canada seeking companionship from men in North America. A copy of Canadian Brides caught Bo’s attention as he was checking out at the grocery store early one Saturday morning. Without thinking he grabbed the publication and tossed it on top of his groceries. He paid the shopkeeper, tipped his hat, and headed for home. When he got home he tossed Canadian Brides on his table, where it would sit for the day.



He perused it after dinner while he was eating his quiet meal. Bo saw that half of the women mentioned something along the lines of “looking for a man to with money to live a comfortable lifestyle as his wife.” He thought to himself, even the women in Canada are after money. He became discouraged but continued reading.

His eyes eventually landed on Victoria’s ad. Finally, a real woman, he thought. She wasn’t after looks or money, just companionship. He also thought that she must have some money of her own, if she was offering to pay for her travels to the States.

Victoria did not include a photograph with her ad, but he could only assume she was honest when she said she was plain looking. This did not bother him. After all, Bo himself had a long scar along his face that gave him a gruesome appearance at most times. He decided to give it one last try with this girl. If someone who didn’t care about money or looks couldn’t meet his standards, he believed that nobody could.

He began his morning the next day by penning his response. Sundays were his rest day on the farm. While he still tended the animals and crops, he would save the repairs and other upkeep for another day in the week.


‘Hello,

I do not yet know your name but I read of your requests in an advertisement in Canadian Brides. If the things that you have said about yourself are true, I would like very much to make your acquaintance. I am a man in his early 30s looking to wed a woman who will be able to keep house and prepare warm meals. Perhaps more than your abilities though is your ability to provide companionship. Looks and abilities are not nearly as important to me as a relationship with a good woman who can fill my life with meaningful conversation as we go through our lives together.

You will notice that I have not included the customary photograph of myself. If looks are not a matter of importance, then would you consider taking a blind leap of faith? I must disclose that I suffered an accident as a teenager, from which I still have a long scar that runs down the side of my face. It is off putting to some, though it would not matter to someone who would wed out of a need for companionship. If the idea does not bother you, then I warmly welcome your correspondence.

I can promise that you will have a happy life; if you can meet my expectations for the woman I want to call my wife. I make my living as a farmer, though I have a fair sum of money remaining from my previous journeys in life. Though I do have money, I am not looking for a woman who is interested in how much money in my pocket. I am also not looking for a woman who will make judgments based on the scar that runs along the side of my face. If you find that I may be a suitable companion, please do not hesitate to respond to my letter.

Bo’



Nearly three months would pass before Victoria received her letter from Bo. During this time, she learned more and more as a scullery maid. Her punishments became fewer. It really helped that Clara was willing to help her with housework, as she had helped her with reading and writing. Finally, Victoria’s letter came. She was fortunate that it was always the servants who fetched the mail for the Allston’s, so her correspondence went unnoticed.

She was thrilled as she read the letter. Surely a man who had a disfigurement would not mind that there were thousands of women near her age that were so much more attractive. Victoria was also happy to read his idea of companionship. She longed for an intelligent man that could hold a conversation, though she had given up on that dream long ago. She was ready to settle for anyone that could get her out of her predicament. She penned her response late at night by candlelight during the time that she usually reserved for reading.


‘Bo,

It brought me great pleasure to read your letter. I have found myself pondering over it for several days before I could begin to respond. Even though I feel I have it memorized, I read it repeatedly. I long for companionship as well. I request someone that I may converse with. I do not care about looks or money, though I had little hope of finding someone who would be able to share an intellectual conversation. I gladly welcome the idea of meeting you. It does not trouble me that you did not send a photo. I find that the person is much more than their external appearance.

I will tell you some about myself. I am making my living as a scullery maid. It is a miserable living to be quite honest, though it has taught me much as far as cleaning and cooking. I was born of a very wealthy family in Britain. We set sail to Canada one year and a terrible sickness took over the entire ship. Very few survived. When I arrived in Canada, a family purchased me from the shipmen.

They paid for the bills to ensure my health for which I am grateful. Upon becoming well again, I learned of my situation and that they expected me to work off my debt. I have done so and am now employed by the family.

It is my greatest wish to escape this life and seek the companionship of someone who may love me. I turned to a mail order bride service because my courtship must be done in secrecy. If the family that I work for were to find out of my desires to leave their home and seek companionship to a man they would become very angry. I can only hope that our correspondence remains a secret, for fear that they would throw me out in the streets. I would not be able to find work if this were to happen and do not know what would become of me.

If I have somewhere to go, I would be able to pay for my journey. My possessions from the ship were returned once I was in good health. I am sure that neither the ship’s captain nor the family I work for realized the heirlooms that were hidden in the lining of my trunk or they would never have been returned. I plan to sell some of these heirlooms for my passage into North America. I do hope that you will agree to our meeting.

Sincerely yours,

Victoria’



In the six months that would pass before Victoria received the next letter from Bo, Clara left in the middle of the night. She had barely spoken of her plans, though Victoria could only assume she had found a man suitable for marriage. Clara was a young, beautiful girl who had been taught the life of a housewife well. She could cook and clean even better than Victoria, who was at least seven years older than she.

After Clara’s disappearance, the Allston family became very suspicious of Victoria. Clara had left behind some of her letters and the family knew about why she had left and where she was headed. The close relationship that had developed between Victoria and Clara in the previous months also left them suspicious of her. Victoria, of course, had lied when they confronted her about the letters that Clara had left behind.

She told them she had no idea of Clara’s plot or any intentions of setting out on her own. Despite her declaration, the Allston family remained suspicious. She was fearful that they would intercept Bo’s next letter, and her entire plan for happiness would be ruined.

It was one of the older girls of the Allston family that intercepted Bo’s next letter to Victoria, Arabella. Instead of delivering the letter to her parents, she tucked it away in her bosom. She delivered the rest of the mail to her parents and ran off to find Victoria. The Allston’s daughter was fifteen and she had dreams of marrying and leaving her parents one day. She told Victoria she had done this for her because she knew what it was like to want to marry and be loved.

Her parents had plans for an arranged marriage the next year. She could not imagine marrying someone without knowing them first, but she knew that she would forfeit her inheritance and all of her parent’s money if she were to refuse marriage.

Victoria thanked her graciously when she received the letters. The two girls hid in a cellar and Victoria ripped open the letter.


‘Dearest Victoria,

I would be more than happy to allow you to meet me at my home. I would welcome you warmly. If you have been honest with me and truly do seek companionship, and not money or good looks, then I have plans to take your hand in marriage once you have arrived on American soil. I do hope that this arrangement pleases you, as I would gladly welcome your companionship.

If you do depart from Canada, please be careful once you have entered North American soil. Tensions are running quite high between the American settlers and Native Americans. It is said that a war may even break out soon. I can only pray that your method of travel allows you to arrive swiftly, and more importantly, safely.

I live in the outskirts of a town called Austin in the state of Nevada. When you have arrived, ask any of the shopkeepers or drivers of the town about a man named Bo. They will know of me. If not, mention the scar that runs along my face. This will surely allow them to remember me, as I am very well known in my parts. One of these people should be kind enough to point you in the direction of my home. I can only pray for your swift and safe delivery.

Yours truly,

Bo’



Arabella was very curious about the contents of Victoria’s letter. After a moment of pondering, she showed her. After all, Arabella had risked a lot hiding the letter from her parents. Victoria believed she could trust her.

“Are you really going to leave to marry this man?” Arabella asked her.

“Yes, I plan to. It will take me a little bit of time to prepare. Please don’t say anything!” Victoria requested of her.

“Not a word,” Arabella promised. “I only have one request.”

“Yes?”

“Take me with you?” she asked.

“But why? Surely you have everything you need here, a beautiful home, warm meals, and servants waiting to serve your every whim. If you were to live on your own, you would have to do manual labor. If you marry, you will certainly need to cook and clean for a man. Why would you want to give up a life of luxury to travel with me, not knowing where your destination will end?”

“I want love.” Arabella told her. “That’s all I want. Next year, my parents plan to force me to marry a man from another rich family. They are higher up, almost royalty. But I don’t want to be waited on hand and foot. I want to be loved.”

Victoria almost teared up as she heard this. She knew the feeling very well, the feeling of wanting to be loved.

“Okay,” she agreed. “But not a word to anyone, not even your siblings or your friends.”



The next month was filled with planning. Victoria found that having Arabella with her made planning a lot easier. People were willing to bend over backwards for a daughter of the Allston family.

Victoria showed her a few of her precious family heirlooms. She did not disclose that she had even more hidden in the lining of the trunk.

“I have kept these hidden since my parents and I boarded the ship to sail to Canada. If your parents knew I had them, they would surely confiscate them from me. Do you think you can take them into town and sell them? We need the money for our trip.”

Arabella told her that she would. Indeed, she did not have a single problem selling the jewel-encrusted heirlooms. She requested that Victoria clean up a spill in her room. When she entered, Arabella proudly showed her the money that would get them to Nevada. The next day, Arabella requested her parents give her money for clothes shopping.

She told them that she would like Victoria to accompany her into town so that she could carry her parcels. Her parents did not like the idea of Victoria leaving the house. It had been prohibited since the Allston’s had found Clara’s letters. However, they would do anything for their eldest daughter. They agreed, but warned her to keep a close eye on Victoria and not to let her out of her sight.

While Victoria and Arabella were in town, they made the acquaintance of a cowboy who was planning to head to the States for work. They set the date for just a few days later and paid him a decent sum of money in advance to guarantee his silence. Victoria told him they would help pay for their own food and lodging as well and that he would have an even larger sum of money once they had been delivered to the city of Austin, Nevada.

The night before the girls were due to leave they left in the dead of the night. They had explained their situation to the man they were traveling with, William. He agreed to let them sleep aboard the stagecoach and stow their belongings so they would not be found out.

The plan was to leave bright and early, before Arabella’s parents and Victoria’s harsh masters could take actions to find the two of them. The plan went smoothly. Arabella and Victoria were already packed and waiting in the stagecoach when William showed up with the horses the next morning.



The girls had departed in the late spring of 1875. Even being spring the temperatures in the North Territories were harsh, especially with the wind that blew across the open plains. Luckily, William had prepared the stagecoach for cold travel. The insides were lined with fur, there were straw beds to sleep on, and numerous animal furs were used for warmth. It took over half a year before they reached the border that separated the North America and Canada. They entered North America through the state of North Dakota.

Unfortunately, Victoria found that Bo’s letter had been spot on when he said that tensions were running high between the English settlers and the Native Americans. They were confronted by small groups of Native Americans several times. When they saw that William was traveling with the two women, they allowed him to pass. They warned him that the further he went into Native American territory the less friendly the Native Americans may be.

It was when they entered South Dakota that they came across the unfriendliest group of Native Americans. They had wandered directly into the battle that would become known as the Great Sioux War of 1876. The girls were terrified. William told them to hide in the stagecoach. He quickly turned around and headed west instead of south, dodging Native Americans on the outskirts of the war the whole way. It was William’s cautious maneuvering that allowed them to enter the state of Wyoming safely.

After reaching Wyoming, their journey took just over a week. They passed through Utah and into the state of Nevada without any other complications. When they finally reached Austin, Victoria paid him a large sum of money, as they had agreed.

She then turned to Arabella.

“What are you going to do from here?” she asked her.

“If Bill will have it, I would like to continue traveling with him. I could use a little excitement after living under my parent’s care my whole life.”

Victoria had thought she sensed something between the pair, but knew it was not her place to say anything at the time. She broke into a wide smile and congratulated them.

“Here,” she said reaching into her trunk. “Take this with you, with the hopes it will get you started on your new life together.”

She pulled out a large piece of gold jewelry, encrusted with blue gems.

“I can’t accept this,” Arabella said. “Not after everything you have done for me.”

“Just keep in touch and we’ll call it even,” Victoria winked at her. “Now, I must be off!”

Bill swept Arabella off her feet and placed her up on the stagecoach.

“M’lady,” he winked at her.

Victoria waved as she saw the pair ride off in the distance.



Victoria hired a horse and small carriage to take her and her few possessions to Bo’s farm. He was right when he told her that he was well known in the area. She didn’t even need to mention his scar to be sure the driver was going in the right direction.



It had been almost a year since Bo had last heard from Victoria. He still thought of her every day, and prayed that she was safely on her way to meet him. When he saw the dust approaching his farm, however, he did not even think that it might be her. This was the reason he was so shocked when a petite woman stepped out of the carriage.

“Victoria?” he asked as he approached the carriage.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” she held out her hand.

He kissed it before sweeping her up into a big hug.

“Let me help you with your things,” he told her.

He carried her things inside and tipped the driver before she could reach into her pocket.

“Good day, sir,” he told him.



When the driver was just a cloud of dust, Bo invited Victoria inside.

“Let’s have a cool drink and get out of this heat,” he told her. “I am sure you are not accustomed to it coming from such a cool environment.”

“That’s for sure,” she giggled.

Once they were inside he playfully scolded her.

“You are definitely not plain-looking.”

Maybe she could not compete with girls from Britain, but Bo saw a beautiful side to Victoria. She had a creamy complexion, unlike many of the other girls he had seen. Her face may have been plain, but it was free of blemishes. She also had deep brown eyes that seemed to look past his soul and large pink lips. Her cheeks were flush with excitement upon their meeting, which gave her a beautiful glow.

A head of dark curls that looked almost purple in the sunlight framed all of this beauty. She was the most beautiful person he had laid eyes on, both inside and out. He could tell this from the instant that he saw her.

He also noticed how she seemed to look past his scar. Even though she had never seen him before, she did not seem bothered by it.

“Well your scar is not nearly as scary as you made it out to be.”

She winked at him.

“May I?”

She raised her hand to his face. Bo nodded.

Victoria ran the back of her palm over his face before stroking the scar softly with her fingertips.

“Do you know what I see?” she asked.

Victoria continued before he had a chance to answer, “Brilliant green eyes that sparkle more than any gem I have seen and soft, kind lips that kiss gently. I see a face that has been worn with the sadness of losing love, but eyes that are happy at your new prospect.”

This was too much for Bo. He leaned in and kissed her softly and then passionately. Never before had someone looked at his scar and seen past it. He had never heard such kind words directed toward him. He pulled away.

“Make yourself at home. I have to finish some chores and then I will be in to clean up before dinner. Mind if I sample your cooking,” he asked her.

“I would be delighted to cook for you,” Victoria told him.



Victoria made a delicious smoked ham and apple dish for dinner. It was very much unlike the meals that Bo had prepared for himself in his long years he had lived alone. She also made a cornbread and Washington Pie for desert. Truth be told, even Victoria was surprised at her cooking skill. These recipes were among some that Clara had provided for her before she left the Allston household.

While Victoria wanted to ask about his proposal of marriage, she held herself back. She did not want to rush him. She was also a little anxious that she might fall short of his expectations when it came to cooking and housekeeping. She had improved since working with Clara, but Victoria was unsure of how she would compare against other women in the west. They ate silently. It wasn’t until after dessert that Bo spoke his first words.

“That was great,” he told her. “I haven’t had a meal like that since I grew up out east, many years ago. Have you found everything to be to your liking?” he asked her.

“Your home needs a woman’s touch for sure,” she giggled. “If you’ll have me, I’ll get started right away.”

“I will have you,” he told her. “When you looked at me earlier, you looked at me in a way that I have never seen before in my life. Nobody has ever looked at me so deeply that I believed they saw past my hideous scar.” He continued, “I will not, however, have you starting right away. Tonight, you are mine. I want to see inside your mind. I want to talk to you until the early hours of the morning. Let me get to know you,” he told her.

“Gladly,” she whispered.



Victoria and Bo talked late into the night. They spoke of their childhood dreams, their lives, and more.

Victoria was shocked when Bo had told her of his role in the Reese River Process and the riches that he had.

“But you live such a modest lifestyle and surely women must just fall at your feet.”

“Yes,” he told her, “but that always seemed as if it were part of the problem. Every woman who has ever fallen in love with me has wanted my money. They all either found me to be too hideous, despite my money, or they looked past the scar on my face just to get in my pockets.”

“I understand that. There are few women who will work willingly when they can find a rich man, settle down, and be waited on hand and foot. I have met women who won’t settle for less than love, though. I traveled here with a woman named Arabella. She was leaving her parents so that she would not be forced into an arranged marriage. Oddly enough she fell in love with the man who drove us here in his stagecoach. She gave up a life of pampering for love.”

“And what about you?” he asked her. “Be honest with me. Do you prefer love, or pampering?”

“At one time, I would have told you that I prefer pampering. I come from a pampered lifestyle. All my life I have had servants cater to me. I didn’t even have to dress myself. After I arrived in Canada, I lived the life of a servant. I would have given anything to escape and live a life of pampering again. I was regularly punished for not knowing how to do things, but how could I know when I had never lived that lifestyle?

Once one of the other maids, a girl named Clara helped me learn how to cook and keep house, I was no longer afraid of the life of cooking and cleaning. I knew I could make a good wife, if only I could find the right man. Today, I would answer with love. I would rather have a quality relationship than servants to wait on me hand and foot.”

She giggled, “It is obvious what you would choose.”

They talked like this into the early hours of the morning before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Bo kissed her forehead just as she fell asleep, knowing he had finally met the woman he wanted to marry.



When Victoria awoke the next morning, Bo had already left the bed. She found an envelope addressed to her on the bedside table.


‘My Dearest Victoria,

I hope you do not mind that I let you sleep. I have gone into town this morning. As much as I would love to show you off, now is not the time. I have gone to pick up a few things for later tonight. You do not need to cook or clean today. If you go into the room next to this one, you will find a library filled with books. It is one of my luxuries that I allow myself because of my wealth. Help yourself to these books, as they are now yours as much as they are mine.

All my love,

Bo’


Victoria read the letter again. Could Bo really have a library full of books? She hadn’t been able to read since she had left the Allston home over a year ago, aside from the couple letters she had from Bo. She walked into the room and found that Bo had been very accurate when he called it a library. The room was small, but bookshelves lined every wall from floor to ceiling. The only area that was not covered with books was a small patch of wall where a window allowed sunlight to shine through. Underneath this window was a large, comfortable chair that looked as if it has been well used during its time at Bo’s home.

She could hardly contain her excitement. Victoria was not even dressed before she chose a few books, laid them on the stand, and curled up in the chair. She lost herself in the world of books; not even wondering where Bo could be that was keeping him away for so long.



Bo was in town, making plans for that evening. He began by stopping by a restaurant and requested that he could rent the restaurant out exclusively for the evening. The restaurant owner protested, until he saw the large sum of money Bo was offering to pay for this one night alone with his future bride. He also requested an exquisite meal be prepared for the evening, which was to be topped off with dessert and the finest wine that the restaurant had to offer.

He also told the restaurant owner to expect a band to show up prior to the evening so that they could set up to play music. Bo then went to find some local musicians to play music. He requested mellower, more romantic tunes than they were accustomed to, but they were happy to play nonetheless. He paid the musicians and gave them instructions for when and where they should play.

Bo’s next stop was to pick out a dress. He had looked in Victoria’s trunk while she was sleeping so that he could find what size she needed. He was positive she would look exquisite regardless of her attire, but it was going to be a very special evening. He picked out a dress that was very elegant. It was deep red in color, which he knew would compliment her complexion. The dress also featured a lacy bodice and several flounces. He was sure that Victoria would look absolutely ravishing in it.


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