Sally’s Sailor – Laura Stapleton

Sally Wigg turned a page of The Bride’s Bulletin. No one appealed to her and she was already halfway through the thin book. “How do we know for sure? No one writing for the Bulletin would dare print wife beater, abandoner, or hater. We wouldn’t have a clue until after the wedding. I love and trust Madam Wiggie, truly, but…” “But?” Tillie prompted her. When Tillie tucked a black lock of hair behind Sally’s ear, she glanced up. She didn’t want to say aloud how wrong their mentor was in sending them out with strange men. But, Tillie, Uma, and Rebecca all waited for her answer. “I really don’t think any of this is a good idea.” Uma groaned. “For goodness sake, Sal, stop dithering and pick one.” She rolled her ambercolored eyes and flopped down on a bed. “It’s not like we have a choice beyond these men.” Rebecca came up behind Sally to peer over her shoulder. “How about you pray for guidance and then look again?” Sally sighed.

Her taller and fair-haired sister had a standard suggestion for all of life’s problems. Good advice, certainly, but God helped those who helped themselves. “I did that the last few times you suggested I do so.” She flipped another page. “I’ll never find what I want.” Tillie laughed. “What, never?” She couldn’t help but smile at her tease. The four of them had tickets to see HMS Pinafore next month. Everyone around them had attended and quoted endlessly from the musical. “No, never!” “What, never?” Uma snickered while writing a letter.

A handsome face stopped her eyes from scanning the rest of the page. She tapped his name with her finger and murmured, “Well, hardly ever.” She read the text under his image. Mr. Henry DuBoise, formerly of the Union army and now a sailor on the Columbia River. He sought an independent and strong wife in both mind and body, which she was. He had plans to settle down on a farm, raise a large family, and needed a capable, smart wife. This was her groom. He had to be. Tillie walked to her.

“She found one. It’s a miracle.” Uma rolled off the bed to come see, too, and the four girls looked at Henry. “My goodness, he is nice looking. A sailor, too.” Sally glanced from his description back to his photograph, breathless and a little surprised. He seemed perfect except he’d been in the Union army? After counting backward, she shook her head. “No. This must be a very old picture of him.” Rebecca took the book.

“I see what you mean. He’s our age in the photograph. If he had fought in the war, he would have to be at least thirty-one.” She peered closer. “Henry here looks like he’s twelve.” Uma tsk-tsked. “I don’t know. A lot of men lied about their age. One of our cooks fought when he was sixteen, and he’s not yet thirty.” Sally retrieved the Bulletin from Rebecca who went back to the pile of their mending.

She glanced over at Tillie as she settled in next to Rebecca. “Makes sense. He could have been a youngster.” When she caught sight of his photo again, her heart did a funny flip-flop. He’d survived battle and had seen some of the United States. Asking him questions about the many states he must have visited would help her future students. Plus, he was terribly handsome. “He has a good smile,” Tillie said while peering at a torn apron. “I wonder if he’s ever tried theater.” “Doubtful,” Sally replied.

“It seems he’d rather be sailing or on a steamboat.” She examined the photo a little more closely. He had light hair and light eyes. With black and white newsprint, anything was possible, but she reckoned he was a blue-eyed blonde. Smile lines framed his mouth and she could imagine he’d just heard a joke. With every beat of her heart, she liked him a little more. “So?” She glanced up at Uma. “Hm?” “Are you going to write to him?” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Because there are a few more pages I’d like to see today.” “Oh.

Yes, of course.” Sally gave her the book. “Don’t worry. If I don’t like any of the men on the back of your love’s page, I’ll rip it out for you,” she said while flopping down on her bed. “I probably won’t like any of them.” “Now, now.” Rebecca glanced up from her sewing. “Positivity in all things.” Uma flipped a page with a, “Hmph.” Sally fluffed up the pillow on her bed before pulling out her letter writing desk from underneath.

Setting the sloped wooden box on her lap, she opened the lid to retrieve a sheet of paper, the inkwell, and a pen. Dear Mr. DuBoise, I’m sure you’ve received many letters from interested women per your entry in The Bride’s Bulletin. I’d like you to consider my interest as well. I think you’ll be a fine husband to a woman who… Her pen faltered. How could she describe herself? She glanced at the other women. Rebecca was tall but as thin as Sally, Tillie, and Uma were short and slender. Not exactly the strong type when compared to some of the other, more sturdy women at Madam Wiggie’s school. She bit her lip and dipped the pen into the inkwell before writing again. …is strong in all the ways women are, yet tender when necessary.

She nodded, pleased with the wording. If he’d wanted a burly woman to marry, he could have hired help for his boat or ship. She’d have to ask what he sailed on. Maybe he planned on being gone for months at a time, sailing around the world on a clipper or other tall ship. She re-inked her pen. He’d have to reconsider going places without her. I’d like to know of your sailing experiences during the war. Were you along the Pacific coast or Atlantic? Possibly both? Or maybe you fought on a steamboat on the Mississippi? Where would you like to settle down and farm? How many more years you plan to continue your employ as sailor? I’m sure you have many stories about the places you’ve sailed. Your life sounds very exciting to me. I look forward to hearing all of them when or if we meet.

She paused. Surely, he would want to know more about her than her penmanship. She mentally catalogued all of her better qualities before resuming the letter. About me. I enjoy teaching children. My best subjects are Geography and History. My goal is to be a schoolteacher at first and eventually run my own school. I’d like to teach children who need extra help with their education and well-being. Any future husband of mine would need to honor my independence. I look forward to hearing from you very soon, Sincerely, Miss Sally Wigg Sally sat back with a grin and capped her inkwell.

He had said he valued independence. Once he replied, she’d find out how serious he’d been. If Mr. DuBoise wouldn’t allow her the freedoms he’d indicated in his description, she’d need to rethink her decision. She shuddered at the thought of going back to the Bulletin and starting all over. The three girls had left the room without her noticing. The Bulletin lay where Uma left it, so she retrieved the booklet and found where to send her letter. A few minutes later, the ink on the addressed enveloped dried. She put away her portable desk and went to the bedroom door. Her knees trembled a little when she stepped into the hallway.

So many more questions came to mind, in addition to the ones she’d written him. What if he were the worst sort of man? What if he’d used a better-looking friend’s image? What if he were truly an elderly man instead of one in his early thirties? In that case, how would she afford to turn around and go home? Sally shook her head. Nothing mattered right now besides finding a good man to marry. Madam Wiggie depended on her. Some of the other girls in their home had found success. She simply had to believe she would, too

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