Thursday, 25 August 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - , ,

A Real Man for Ruth

a mail order bride romance
by Susan Thomas
Published: Aug 2, 2016
Words: 30,386
Category: western, romance, historical
Orientation: M/F
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Chapter 1

I didn't cry at the funeral of my parents although I know that's what is expected. Folk wanted me to be the frail, grief-stricken daughter who couldn't cope, but I wasn't going to put on a show for them. My grief was deep and hurt in ways I never thought possible, but it was my grief and not for public display. I cannot recall anything at all about the service; I know it happened, but what the Rev. Cornflower actually said must have passed me by. Afterwards I accepted the condolences of the many mourners, but who or what they said is also gone.

Mrs Bancroft, our kindly neighbour, had organised refreshments but I tasted nothing. I was aware of the expectations: a young woman was expected to faint or at least to require support; I did not. The malicious, of which every town has a few, whispered unpleasant comments, but I cared nothing. I was locked in my own private grief and coming to terms with the simple fact that I was all alone in the world.

Two days later I went to see our solicitor, Mr Jarndyne. He patronisingly assumed I would be selling the gunsmiths business. In fact, I was perfectly capable of taking on the business. There was no gun in the shop I couldn't handle or repair, and that was without the help of Old Phil, the sole employee. However, although the business was profitable, father's debts had piled up. Paying the interest on his various debts was crippling and made it imperative to sell up now while a good price might be had and before the debts escalated. If I sold both the business and our small house, I could clear the debts and have a sum of money that would help me make a new start. If only father had allowed me to run the business side, then all might have been well. Guns were his passion, but he was no better a businessman than he had been a farmer. His stubborn pride had prevented him seeking any help with either.

Much to his surprise, I refused Mr Jarndyne's help in selling the business, but I knew he wouldn't drive a hard bargain. Mr Flathers, the rather dour Yorkshireman I sold it to, expressed surprise at just how hard a bargain I did drive.

"Lass," he said bluntly, "thou's put me through mangle... tis a pretty mangle with silk lined rollers, but a mangle nonetheless."

With the proceeds of the sale (and the sale of the house) the debts were paid. When all was done I had a good nest egg to help me re-start my life. I took a room with Mrs Bancroft and considered my options. They were not good. To earn a respectable living is hard for a woman. I could become a teacher in a National school or one of the new Board schools but it wasn't an attractive prospect.