Big Stone Heart

© 2012 by Carol J. Larson

Seventeen year old Carrie Smith lives a life of quiet desperation behind the walls of an orphanage. Her only joy is the care she gives to the abandoned babies. When a letter arrives from a man in Dakota Territory who is looking for a wife, Carrie must choose between her lonely life or take a chance on a man she’s never met in a world about which she knows very little. Summoning all of her courage, she travels to Big Stone City, Dakota Territory, only to encounter heartbreak, deceit and betrayal. Bruised in body and spirit, Carrie flees to a remote prairie village.  When a shy farmer, Christopher Bachman, enters her life, Carrie must learn to trust again. Faced with a shattering secret, she must find a way to open her heart to love and forgiveness.

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         What if the man wanted a pretty wife? Carrie knew she wasn’t pretty or even handsome. What if he wanted someone clever, who could sing or dance?  She couldn’t do any of those things. It was a waste of time to keep worrying like this, she thought.  I just have to see what is in that letter.

Finally, as the shadows began to deepen in the late afternoon, she knew she must act now.  So with trembling hands, she rapped timidly on Mrs. Pedersen’s door and asked permission to enter.

Mrs. Pedersen was a tall angular woman with a square jaw and piercing eyes.  She barely looked up when Carrie entered.   “What is it, Carrie?” she barked as she shuffled some papers on her desk.
           Carrie stammered, “Ma’am, I, I um, oh dear...”

Mrs. Pedersen looked up sharply. “Come, come, Carrie, what can be so difficult?  Sit down and tell me what’s troubling you,” she said with barely disguised irritation.

Carrie sat.  With head bowed and hands clasping and unclasping in front of her, she began, “Mrs. Pedersen, please forgive me for eavesdropping, but I couldn’t help overhearing Arlys and Fannie talking about a letter,” she paused, “from a man who is looking for a wife.” She blushed deep red. “And I guess, um, well, I might like to know more.”  Carrie stared at the floor in front of the desk.

Mrs. Pedersen regarded Carrie’s bowed head and flushed face.  “Very well,” she said and reached into the desk drawer, pulled out the letter and calmly slid it across the desk.

Carrie was unprepared for this.  She had expected out and out refusal or at least probing questions. She looked up, confusion clearly written on her face.  Mrs. Pedersen nodded curtly and handed her the letter. With shaking hands, Carrie took it and began to read.

January 22, 1886

Dear Mrs. Pedersen:

I am writing on behalf of a dear friend of mine, Mr. Arvid Cronin.  Mr. Cronin is a devout man and respected member of our community.  He has determined to take a wife, but good marriageable women are in very short supply here in Dakota Territory.  Knowing of your good works with the poor of St. Paul, I was wondering if you could recommend a young lady who might be willing to travel to our town for the purpose of marrying Mr. Cronin.

Mr. Cronin is a good provider, being the manager of the Sioux Granite Quarry.  He has a fine house and buildings.  He has many good qualities with which to recommend himself to any young lady.  He feels he could provide a good home for a poor girl who could only benefit from her association with him.  All Mr. Cronin requires in a wife is that she be a strictly brought up girl who is pious, obedient and submissive. Please advise if you know of any suitable ladies.

           The Reverend Horace Snider, St. John's Parish, Big Stone City, Dakota Territory

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