Melissa sat in the kitchen of the house that she shared with her father. He had a woman who looked after the place. She had left for the day, and Melissa was going to prepare the evening meal.
“This is a wonderful letter,” she said out loud to thin air and was surprised when her father spoke as he came in.
“From the doctor again?” he asked. She nodded and handed over the sheet of paper.
“He talks as if he was you. He is a clever man who wants to help his patients. The writing comes from his heart. You can tell.”
Owen Pelham read through the beautifully written page and handed it back.
“He really cares about his patients. That comes through loud and clear. How long have you been writing to each other now?”
“Three months,” she told him. “It’s good to have someone who can talk about books and new developments in medicine. He has interests in all sorts of things.”
“Are you sure that you want to go and marry this man?” Her dad was very hesitant about letting her go and take this enormous leap, but if her mind was made up, he knew that she was enough like himself to go ahead regardless. She went and put her arms around his waist.
“I will be glad to get away from Boston. I wish you would come away as well. You know that the people you write about would like you dead.”
“It is a peculiarity of the place,” he mused. “Boston is beautiful and has a wealthy society that lives as if nothing is wrong.”
“But underneath, it is nasty and corrupt. They make their money from criminal activities, and the poor people never get any better conditions.”
“If you go, will you write every few days and tell me what is happening there? I can tell you about the situation here, and,” he paused and held her shoulders, “if there is any suggestion that you are in danger or unhappy, I will come and rescue you. The railroad makes that much easier to do now.”
“My knight in shining armor,” she said. “Come and have your dinner.”
They went back to discussing the affair that her dad was currently investigating. He reflected that he would miss the talks with his daughter. Her college education had cost him a lot of money, but she was bright, clever, and wanted to make a difference in the world. She saw that he was thinking, and she asked him what was on his mind. He told her that he would miss these talks.
“We will write them down,” she told him. “That will keep my mind sharp even in the wilds of a gold mining town.”
“It will be rough and ready, I would think,” her dad said. She nodded.
“I am used to traveling, and I can use a gun, but as the wife of the local doctor, I should have some sort of protection.”
In light of their discussion, she replied to the doctor with a bright and cheerful letter answering some of the things he had told her about his work. She ended by saying that she would love to come and make the marriage arrangement come to life.
“I hope to be able to help you in your work, and my dad gives us his blessing.”
She sent the letter the following day and went ahead with her travel arrangements. When they were finalized, she wrote another letter with the expected time and date of her arrival.
“It is a long way from Boston to Nevada,” she said to her dad.
“I will make it in a few days if you need me,” he said. “Send me a telegram if it is urgent, and I will jump on my white horse and ride to the rescue.”
She kissed his cheek and went back to filling a great many bags and trunks with the things that she just could not live without.
Melissa was full of life and used her imagination constantly. She loved to read, write, paint, and there were books that she could just not do without. The baggage became an enormous pile. The day arrived for her departure, and her dad ordered a carriage to take her and all of the bags and trunks to the train depot. He came with her and found a porter to carry all of the luggage and store it in a safe place.
She took her hand luggage into the carriage and found a seat where she could watch the world go by. Her dad fussed and checked over and over again that she had money, papers, tickets, and anything else that he could think of. She reached up and kissed his cheek.
“Climb down, or you will end up coming with me.”
He smiled and did as she said. The huge hissing and puffing machine started to move, and they waved to each other until they were out of sight. She stopped herself from shedding a tear and found a book to read to make her stop thinking about parting from her dad.
There were other people in the carriage, and some of them were couples. Lots of men were traveling alone, and all were pretty smartly dressed. In the end, several of them struck up conversations. It was going to be a long journey for most of them. At the various stops, they were able to buy food from vendors who were waiting for the train’s arrival, and there was time to go to the bathroom at most places. It was a pattern, and Melissa settled into the routine. She was keen to see lots of new sights and talked to a lady who was traveling with her husband. The scenery was constantly changing as they rode through the open countryside.
What is a beautiful young woman traveling by herself for?” the new friend Molly asked.
“I am going to marry the doctor in Pearl Peaks,” she answered.
“Pearl Peaks? That is where we are going. How wonderful that we met up like this.”
“So, have you been before, and do you know what the town is like?”
Molly said that they had been twice before, and her husband thought that they should start a business there.
“We realized that most of the town is owned by the gold mine. Our business is not reliant on someone letting us have a store or anything. My husband is a good builder and can build anything for anyone. He is able to build a small shed or a mansion. He did check with the mine owner that he would not be taking business away from them, and as it happened, they needed someone who knew about the trade.”
“So he has work waiting. That is wonderful,” Melissa told her.
“The town is quite rough and ready, and you have to make sure that you are keeping yourself safe. Most folks are fine, but there are always one or two that make it dangerous. I think that Matt, my husband, has hired men all over the place. He knows to take care about whom he employs.”
“It’s still an adventure, though,” Melissa said. “I needed to see the world and maybe find some way to help people. James, the doctor here, needs someone to work with him. We like the same things and have been corresponding for some time.”
“I will keep in touch when we reach Pearl Peaks, and maybe I will see you married. ”
“I would like that,” Melissa told her. As they were going to the same destination, they stayed together. Her husband was an easy man to talk with, and as other passengers came and went, the three of them traveled on for four days together.
The excitement grew as they neared the end of the journey, and Molly’s husband organized a porter to unload the bags for each of them. Melissa wished them well and agreed that they would meet up soon. She then stood with her huge pile of luggage and watched the depot become empty as the other passengers went away. The depot was a large place with pens and sheds everywhere. It smelled of oil, and the steam of the train was always sounding in the background. There was a breeze blowing through the entrance. Suddenly it was not too much fun, and she looked around to see if there was anyone that could possibly be the doctor.
Then a man in his late twenties rushed into the entrance and looked around.
“That must be James,” she said to herself and waved a hand. The man saw her and came running over.
“I am so sorry to be late. I got held up as usual.” He held out a hand, and she shook it.
“Hello, James. Do not worry about it. How can I move all of this luggage? I just had to bring all of my things, and it turned into a major removal.”
The man smiled at her, and she looked at him properly for the first time. He had a fairly thin face that made him look quite solemn and serious, but when he smiled, it made him look so different that it was almost a shock. His straight, light brown hair was shoulder length, and he wore it loose. She assumed he would fasten it back if he was operating on somebody. His face was sporting a trimmed beard that was cut close to his face and tidy. The man was fairly tall and slim of build, and he exuded energy all of the time. He could barely keep his feet on the ground.
“Stay there, and I will find a porter and a trolley.” He went off at some speed, and she wondered if he was full of energy like that all of the time. He came hurrying back and obviously just expected the porter to keep up even though he was pulling a hand cart. He helped the man load all of her bags, and they set off out of the depot. One or two people spoke to the doctor, and he answered them, and with two of them, he stopped the trolley in order to ask how they were. Then he helped the porter load the bags into his carriage, and there were so many that it was filled up.
“Give me a hand up onto the driving seat with you,” Melissa said after James paid the porter. “I am used to driving a carriage around Boston.” He did as she asked, and as they drove, he told her that he would take in the bags. “The people you spoke to seem to have lots of coughs and sneezes.”
“There is always an outbreak of hay fever at this time of the year,” he responded. He changed the subject.
“I have lots of room and can store the bags in a spare room for you. I can show you around the house where we will live, and then we can have something to eat. Is that what you would like to do?”
“That would be lovely,” she answered. “I expected the town to be noisy and rough, but it seems quiet.”
“It has times when it is best to stay at home and lock the door, but most of the time, it is just a normal town.”
He turned the carriage away from the main street, and a few minutes later, they pulled into the entrance of a wooden house that was smart and tidy. He helped her down and opened the door.
“Welcome to my home and surgery,” he said, and she stepped inside.
The house was very clean and polished, and there was a slight smell of soap that increased as he showed her the waiting room and surgery for his patients. There was a large kitchen and a living room and stairs up to three bedrooms and a bathroom. Water was pumped directly into the kitchen, bathroom, and the surgery.
“What do you think?” he asked anxiously and seemed unsure for the first time.
“It is lovely. I like the place clean and tidy.” She hesitated and then smiled at him. “Can I go and look at all of the books in your living room?” He held out a hand, and she took it. It was their first real contact and gave her a feeling of being wanted and made her feel welcome. Then he went down the stairs quickly, and she had to keep up with him.
James pointed out to her how he organized his books and journals and stood back as she went around the room and peered at the titles. He saw a slim girl with auburn hair that she had tied into a crown on her head. She looked around with a smile on her face, and Doctor James Carson liked what he saw. He told her that he would make space for her books as well, which reminded him that the luggage was still to be carried in.
He did manage to get her mountain of bags into the house when a man came running up the pathway and threw himself at the doctor’s door.
“The baby!” he shouted at James. “It is early, and there is something wrong.” James Carson looked at Melissa and said that he would have to leave her to sort out her bags.
“Just go and do your job,” she told him. He gave her a small smile, grabbed his leather bag, and followed the man at a run.
Melissa looked at the pile of luggage and then looked outside. The horse and carriage were where he had left them. She walked through the house and looked behind it. There was a corral with two horses grazing and a barn with another smaller buggy inside. She walked around, saw the entrance lane, and went back for the carriage.
Melissa had indeed been used to driving carriages around Boston and had actually taken part in carriage racing. She loved driving and was very good at it. She spoke to the horse. Started it walking and carefully guided the vehicle down the narrow entrance lane and into the yard at the rear. She jumped down, unhitched the horse, and loosened the fastenings. Then she took him by the halter and led him into the paddock with the other two. The three horses greeted each other, and Melissa had parked the carriage almost into the barn. She lifted the shaft and hauled it the last few feet, closed the door, and went inside to start on the unpacking.
Hunger drove her to the kitchen, and she found soup in a pot to heat along with cold chicken. She heated it and realized she was starving. As she enjoyed the homemade bowl that someone had left prepared for the doctor, there was a knock on the door, and a man asked if he could come inside.
“Hi,” he said. “I am Arthur, the doctor’s assistant. Is he here?”
She stood up and asked him to come inside.
“He was called to an early baby that was having problems. I have lots of unpacking to do and told him to just go.” She held out her hand. “Melissa Pelham, soon to be Mrs. Carson.”
“Arthur Carmody,” he replied and shook the hand. “Did he take the carriage?” She shook her head.
“He followed the man, and I put the carriage away and put the horse into the corral.” She smiled. “I am used to driving carriages.”
“What was the man like?”
“Dark curly hair and a red shirt,” she said after a moment’s thought.
“Col Edwards,” he said. “I wonder if he needs any help.”
“Do you think that I would be useful as a woman?”
“Could be,” Arthur told her. “Shall we walk there and find out?”
They closed the doors behind them and walked just two streets away to a row of small houses that all looked much the same.
“It’s the second one,” Arthur said and went to the door. The man with the red shirt opened up, and Arthur asked if the doctor needed help.
“His fiancée is here and offered to come along if he needs a woman’s help.”
“Come on in,” Col Edwards invited. “I am just so worried that I can hardly think.”
“Has she had the baby yet?” Melissa asked, and the man shook his head. “Can you ask if I can go in, please?” Col hurried away to another room and came back to say that the doctor was pleased she was there. He opened the door, and Melissa stepped inside.
“What can I do to help?” she asked.
“Hold her hand and talk to her. Tell her to push when I say so.”
Melissa took the woman’s hand and sat on the edge of the bed.
“I am Melissa,” she said. “This will be okay in the end. Hold onto me tightly and do what James says.”
The woman gasped out that her name was Val, and then she shouted as another pain came along.
“Because it’s early, the baby is small, and I can ease it out. Next pain, push down and help me.” Val said she would try. The young woman was crying at the same time, and she held onto Melissa for dear life.
“Another one,” she shouted, and James told her to push.
“Keep on pushing,” Melissa said. “Don’t stop. It helps to ease the pain.” Melissa saw the quick glance as she spoke. She could not know that it crossed his mind to wonder where she had picked up that nugget of information. There were two more pains, and the doctor said that they were nearly there.
“You are doing well, Val. One more should do it.” The pain came and she pushed and pushed. Melissa thought her hand would be squashed into a pulp, but she held on and squeezed Val’s shoulder to help her to hold on better. Val screamed out loud, and James told her it was over.
“No more pain, Val. Relax. You have a baby boy, and he is small but doing okay.” Melissa watched as he made sure the baby could breathe and cry. He cut the cord, and Melissa handed him a towel that was beside the bed. He dried off the new arrival and gave it back to her to give to the new mother. Melissa wrapped the baby in the towel-like shawl and passed it over to the woman in the bed. Val looked at the baby and then looked up at Melissa. Her face was tear-stained and still wet, but she looked relieved.
“He is handsome,” Melissa told her.
“If you can manage to suffer just a little bit more, I will have to just mend the spot where he came out. It is torn, and we want it to heal properly. I would rather not give you laudanum as you will be feeding the baby.”
“If it has to be done, it has to be done,” Val replied and handed the baby to Melissa.
“Shall I tell your husband and let him see the little one?”
Melissa went out of the room and found that Arthur was keeping the man’s spirits up by talking to him about all sorts of things.
“You have a son, Col. Small but beautiful and well.” She offered the baby to the father, and he took it very gingerly. It was their first child. Arthur bent over to look at the boy as well and added his congratulations. “The doctor is just sorting the mom out, and it will take a few minutes.”
James put his head around the door and said he was all done, but he wanted to make sure the baby could feed. Col went in carrying his son, and he had a smile on his face.
“Thanks, Doc,” he said. “You are a wonder.”
Melissa and Arthur stayed in the living room, and after some time, James came out and said all was well.
“Thanks, both of you, for coming to help. I will check back in the morning because the baby is small, but he is feeding. That’s always a relief.” Then he remembered something. “This is important,” he said. “Nobody should be in the same room as the baby that is coughing or sneezing. He might catch it, and he is still very young and not strong enough to throw it off.”
Col said that they would be careful about that.
“Most of the coughs and sneezes are hay fever, but you never know when it might be something worse. The little fellow is almost a month early, and we wouldn’t want him to be ill.”
The three of them left the family and walked the two streets back to the surgery. Arthur said he would be back to work in the morning and the engaged couple went inside.
“Did Arthur see to the horse and carriage?” James asked as he pumped water into the kitchen to wash his hands.
“I did that myself. I am used to carriages.” She smiled. “I even raced them sometimes.”
“Raced them?” he asked and was immediately engaged with a new subject. He asked her questions about how it was organized and if there were accidents. Melissa laughed and said he was seeing it from a doctor’s point of view. She talked about the small society in Boston that liked to hold carriage meetings as she heated the soup and laid out food on the table.
“Sit and eat, and I will have a piece of the cake with a coffee. I ate some soup and chicken before Arthur came.” She added that she liked her coffee ridiculously strong. He winced when he saw how strong she meant.
“We will need two pots of coffee on the range. I could not drink it that strong.” They settled into an easy way of talking that both of them felt was a sign of things to come.
“Where did you find out that pushing helped ease the pain?” he asked.
“When I was coming to marry a doctor, I read an awful lot of articles about all sorts of illness and the things that a doctor would deal with every day. I love finding out new things.”
“Me too. I will have to go on working right up to the wedding next week. Sorry about that, but I am the only one in the area.”
“That is fine, James. I have things I like to do, and if you need me to help, I will just do whatever I can.”
“Your bedroom is ready. I asked Mrs. Jerome to make it pretty for you. She comes in to clean and often cook, but not always. I often find it hard to get back in time for the meal, and the food sometimes goes to waste.”
“I will take over the cooking if that is acceptable. I will try and make things that can be heated up or eaten cold. I quite like to be in the kitchen.”
He made sure the place was locked up, and they parted company at the top of the stairs. Melissa reached up and kissed his cheek.
“Good night, James.”
“Good night, Melissa,” he replied and went into his own room with his fingers on the spot where her lips had kissed him.
She smiled and went into her own room. She stood behind the door and took in the events of the day.
I think it will be fine.
“Her Last Hope For Happiness” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Having been raised by a firebrand journalist who has endangered himself multiple times during his career, Melissa Pelham developed the desire to live a life of integrity. Desperate to find a place to live that is not overrun with corruption, she becomes a mail-order bride and meets a charming doctor.
While Melissa bravely steps into an unknown future, will that man shatter her world or will he change her fate?
Doctor James Carson is a lonely but brilliant man who is passionate about his work. Enchanted with Melissa, he realizes that after meeting her nothing in his life will ever be the same. He quickly proposes marriage to her, but his devotion to work turns out to be a bigger issue than he expected…
Will his heart force him to explore powerful feelings he wasn’t ready for?
The blossoming romance between Melissa and James was something neither of them could have imagined. When an epidemic strikes, though, their precious time is taken up, and they must confront uncertain and dangerous circumstances together. Are they destined for a life-changing love that will withstand the most difficult of times?
“Her Last Hope For Happiness” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.