Jaded Hearts ~ Book 1 of Frontier Hearts
Ruthanna Helms peered out the train window at the bustling town of Prosper, District of Alberta, a letter and a secret in her pocket. Cool May air blew in through the window and numbed her cheeks.
Mama sat across from her, locks pulled back in a regal coif. The light caught amber strands in her chestnut hair. The elegant lines of her blue linen and lace dress were out of place in a world of jagged mountain peaks and brutal winters. “This place doesn’t seem poor. Did you see how many head of cattle they’re driving to those pens and what those ladies are wearing? I think one of them had an ostrich feather in her hat. It looks prosperous, don’t you think, Ruthie?” Mama asked.
“It does.” Not as prosperous as their three-storey house in Mole Hill, Vancouver, with balconies on three floors and a stained-glass conservatory, but prosperous.
Ever youthful in spirit, her sister Dora sat next to Mama and hummed a joyful tune. She had a voice that enthralled the gruffest of dockworkers and the haughtiest of ladies. She belonged centre-stage in a London theatre. “Do you think I’ll be able to give singing lessons?”
“I think so,” Mama said.
Ruthanna smoothed the letter against her thigh. A message from Mr. Bertram Milligan, a man the mail order bride agency assured her was a good match for her. The agency described Bertram as an even-tempered, family-focused man with a quiet sense of humour.
Ink was quick to dry on the letters she sent him, but her heart was slow to thaw, and her mind slow to trust.
The train whistle blew, a clarion call to a better future.
Her nerves, taut and tired, urged her feet to board the next train back. Wheels ground against the tracks. The whistle blew for a second time, and the train lurched to a stop. Loud male voices called out women’s names above the hissing steam.
Dozens of men in clean work clothes and suits lined the train platform. Some men were recently shaven, others had trimmed beards, and a few had waxed moustaches. Most held photos of women above their heads, a mixture of curiosity and hope on their faces. Their gazes swept from window to window. All called out the names of women, likely their brides-to-be.
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