Authors: Janette Oke
Tags: #ebook, #book
“You know I am from the West and you know that I want, more than anything else (except to marry you, of course), to practice medicine. I don’t know if I have fully explained my intention of returning to Alberta for my practice.”
Cassie drew in a deep breath and lowered the letter. “The West?” she exclaimed under her breath. “Why, it is a savage frontier. Pagan! How could—?”
She looked back at the pages that hung limply from her fingers, then raised them to go on with her reading.
“I know that Alberta is still a new land, rugged and rough, and not like the city you are used to. In fact, we would not even be in a city, for I plan to set up practice in the community where I grew up. That was my main reason for holding back in speaking to you of marriage.
“I know that you have been used to a fine home and all the amenities of life. I cannot promise you those things. At least not yet.
“For this reason I want you to think carefully before considering being my wife. If you should change your mind, I will understand and not hold it against you. Please think about this thoroughly and spend much time in prayer over the matter and I shall do likewise. This is not a light decision that I am asking you to make.”
“I’ve already made my decision,” said Cassie with a lift of her chin. “And I have no intention of changing it. But
? We’ll see.”
The letter went on to tell of Samuel’s new boardinghouse, the city, the hospital where he would soon begin his work. “I haven’t been on duty yet,” he continued, “but I did slip over to ‘spy out’ the place. It appears to be quite up-to-date and the staff that I met seem congenial. I am looking forward to getting started.”
Cassie’s eyes quickly scanned the rest of the message until they came to the words, “I love you and already miss you more than I can say. Please pray and seek God’s direction for our future plans and take all the time you need to really know your heart. (Though I shall live in anguish until I know your answer.) But I promise not to press you on the matter.
“I will be waiting for your letter. I have enclosed my postal address. The mail is slow so I will try not to be too impatient. I do pray that the days and weeks pass quickly so that I might see you again.
“With my deepest devotion, Samuel.”
Cassie sighed deeply as she lowered the letter. Then she held it to her bosom for a moment while the tears gathered in her eyes. She brushed them away with an impatient gesture and reread the last paragraphs of the letter. Then with determination she walked to her desk, seated herself, and took up pen and paper.
“My dear Samuel,” she wrote, “I received your letter by morning post and was pleased to hear that your train trip went well and you are nicely settled in your new place of residence.
“The days have been dragging for me since your departure. Mama tries to keep my hands occupied, but my mind is not so easily engaged. I think of you each hour of the day and pray that God will make your internship both pleasurable and profitable for you.
“As to the question of returning to Alberta, I believe the Bible states that one is to follow one’s chosen companion, wherever God should lead him. If He leads you back to your West, then I assume that the West will be right for me also.”
Cassie laid aside her pen and her forehead puckered slightly. Was she being totally honest? Did she really plan to travel west and live in an uncivilized country? She could not imagine the horrors it might hold.
“Yes. Yes,” she said after a few moments of deep thought. “If that is what he really wants, I will go. I have learned to love him. I have no intention of losing him. But—but I do hope and pray that he doesn’t decide to practice medicine in the West for the rest of his life—the rest of
And Cassie picked up her pen and continued her long, newsy letter.
As the weeks and months slipped slowly by, Samuel dared to accept the fact that Cassandra would really become his bride upon completion of his internship, and plans flew back and forth via letters.
“This is totally unfair to you,” he said in one epistle, “to be courted by mail. A young, beautiful woman such as you should have a beau who can take you to concerts, plays, and picnics. Be there to accompany you to church and fairs. Bring you candy and flowers. And instead you must sit at home alone and be content to read letters that try, unsuccessfully, to express my heart.”
Cassie pondered his statement. She hadn’t exactly been staying home alone. She still attended concerts and plays and even went on picnics. But she went with Abigail, who was still bemoaning the fact that Cassie was actually betrothed. Occasionally she went with her parents. And on rare and special occasions, her brother Stephen accompanied her.
“Do not fuss about the long-distance courtship,” Cassie wrote back to Samuel. “I do miss you terribly and wish with all my heart that you could be here to do the things you described. But I am still getting out. Just the other night Stephen and I took in a play at the Opera House. He has really changed in the past year and Mama and Papa now allow him to escort me to some events.”
At times Cassie could hardly believe that her brother—the pest—had seemed overnight to have become a young man, and a young man whose company she could enjoy.
“It used to be that I thought him a dreadful burden,” her pen continued, “and now I have discovered that I shall actually miss him when I move away.
“Abigail and I go out together. She is still not being courted and it is terribly hard on her. She blames her father for not encouraging young suitors to call. He is a very opinionated man, I’m afraid, and I suppose he feels that no young man is good enough for his daughter. Mr. Birdwell, or I should now say Dr. Birdwell, Abigail’s hopeful, has disappeared to who-knows-where. Abigail has completely lost touch.”
Cassie dipped her pen in the ink well and thought of Abigail. She was having such a difficult time since Cassie was engaged. It certainly wasn’t that Abigail was unattractive. Cassie remembered her own previous twinges of jealousy over Abigail’s looks and now Cassie felt sorry for her.
By the time she resumed her letter, the ink on the pen tip had dried and she had to dip it again.
“We had our first snowfall a few nights ago,” she continued. “Some of the young people from church are talking of a sleigh ride. Mama feels that it will be socially acceptable for me to join them if I have Stephen as an escort. Does it bother you at all if I go on such outings? I do not want to do anything that would offend.”
And so the months passed and the letters continued. Samuel did not make it for Christmas as he had hoped. “I only get one day off,” he wrote. “Other staff have seniority of course, and we are asked to be on duty almost around the clock. I am dreadfully disappointed. I had hoped so to see you again. I will be thinking of you—continually—and I hope that you will spare me a few moments of thought as well.”
As soon as she had finished reading his letter, Cassie wiped away tears of disappointment, placed her new winter-gray bonnet on her red curls, and reached for her heavy coat.
“I am going shopping for Samuel,” she informed her mother. “He isn’t able to make it for Christmas and I wish to get a parcel off to him.”
Her mother nodded in understanding and Cassie left the house to walk to the nearest shop.
It was a crisp winter day and the snow crunched underfoot with each step, and little puffs of cloud preceded her down the icy walk with each breath. The walk was good for her, the chill invigorating. By the time she had finished her purchases, she was in much better spirits. She hoisted her parcels and started for home.
“I will surprise him by sending baking done by my own hand,” she planned as she walked briskly. She was confident now of her cooking. She was glad that her mother had insisted she learn. It was a good feeling to be able to account for oneself in the kitchen—even if one really did never need the skill.
“Has Papa said anything about finding a position for Samuel?” Mrs. Winston asked Cassie one evening as the two of them sat before the open fire, needlework in hand.
Cassie raised her head and looked at her mother, surprise widening her eyes.
“Samuel plans to go back to Alberta to practice,” she replied slowly.
From the look of sheer horror that crossed her mother’s face, Cassie could tell that it was something she had not considered.
“You didn’t know?” asked Cassie softly.
“Why, no. Why, I never would have suspected such a thing. A—a promising young doctor like him. Why, Papa is sure that he could do very well for himself in a city practice.”
“I’m sure he could,” replied Cassie with a touch of pride. “He has said that there have already been hints of his being offered a place in Ottawa.”
“You—you knew his plans?” asked Mrs. Winston.
Cassie nodded. Her fingers moved deftly to ply the needle through the piece of silk she held in her hands.
“And you agreed?” Mrs. Winston seemed to think the idea preposterous.
“I agreed,” replied Cassie.
Mrs. Winston dropped the needlework in her lap, her hands moving restlessly as though greatly agitated.
“Child, have you any idea what you have agreed to?” she asked at last.
Cassie raised her head high, hair glistening in the light of the parlor lamp. “I have agreed to marry the man I love,” she said evenly.
“Didn’t you say that when one marries, one follows?”
“Well certainly but—”
“Well, I intend to do just that.”
Mrs. Winston had no argument. She sat silently, trying to take in what her daughter had just spoken.
“Besides,” said Cassie with a tilt to her head and a smile playing mischievously about her lips, “men have been known to change their minds before.”
Mrs. Winston’s breath caught in a little gasp. “Cassie, you wouldn’t?” she began. “It isn’t fair to promise one thing and plan another. It—it is deceitful and one must never begin a marriage with deceit.”
Cassie’s smile quickly faded and annoyance clouded her face. “Oh, Mama!” she exclaimed. “I am not being deceitful. If he wishes to stay in the West, I will stay in the West—but should he deem it wise to return to the East, I certainly will not forestall him.”
Mrs. Winston still looked uncomfortable.
“It is a dangerous business to agree to a marriage where one is not in total accord,” she warned her headstrong daughter.
“I am in accord, Mama. Please—don’t fuss. I know what I’m doing. I love Samuel.” And Cassie’s eyes began to tear.
“I—I know. At least, I think I know. You do seem to be in love, but—but, my dear—you must think clearly—honestly—for your sake and for his. Do you love him enough?”
Cassie laid aside her work and stood to her feet. She reached in a pocket for a lace hankie and touched it to her welling eyes. “I love him, Mama,” she said firmly. “I love him. And I have thought about it, and I have prayed about it.”
Mrs. Winston nodded her head slowly. “Then I suggest,” she said carefully, “that both of us consider the West to be your future home—since that is Samuel’s intent.”
Cassie wheeled away from her mother and left the room with a swishing of skirts. It was the first quarrel she’d had with her mother for many months and she suddenly felt like a child again. It was unfair. Totally unfair. Why didn’t her mother leave her to work out her own future? After all, it was up to her and to Samuel. They were old enough to know their own minds. Weren’t they?