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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What To Write?

 Sucking the tip.

         Gripping it's feathery length. So hard to hold with any dexterity in your hand. A hand so chapped and worn from the lye soap and boiling water. Be damned!

         Katie threw down the quill and wrung her tired hands in anguish! "What shall I say?"

      What on this heaven's earth could she write to an American man she had never yet met?

A Mr Werbowski. 

           Ma had told her that he was Polish from Poland, but he was in America? Would she be able to have a conversation with him? Would he understand her lilting Irish speech? 

         "Sure and 'tis enough o' that!" She drew her dainty feet firmly beneath her chair, set her teeth and again clenched the fragile quill in her right hand. She started:

Dear Mr Werbowski,
       (Would 'Dear' be too personal? She hadn't met the man!  Well, she pondered, that was how she'd been taught the way to write a proper letter was and by gor! She'd at least be proper! Mebe' this Polish man wouldna' have any schooling, but she did and she'd be proper about this whole affair, she would!)
          My brother has said many good things of you and your wonderful farm in Missouri. It sounds truly beautiful and not at all like my home in Belfast. I am grateful that my brother has sent enough money for me to come to such a wonderful country full of such plenty and has befriended a kind and successful man such as yourself. 
          (Whew! Katie wiped her brow. She wasn't used to speaking so many words at once! This letter writing was na' what it was held up ta' be!
    Her brother had written a letter simply stating that this man was looking for a 'comely' woman of child bearing years to marry and work the farm with him. Her Ma and Da had told her she was comely, even pretty on the occasion of her birthday, but... and here she tucked a stray curl of strawberry hair behind her ear, but would a Polish man think she was pretty? What did Polish women look like? Lor'! She had never laid eyes on one herself! 

      Katie had read the letter to her Ma and Da because of course, they couldn't read. The three of them sitting around the harsh wooden kitchen table and sitting on the stools of many generations handed down. The firelight had made the words from America come alive! Her breath had come quicker in her chest just at the thought of America! Land o' the free and so much plenty and space! Could it be true that a man wanted to bring her there?

        "Ma! Da! What should I do? How ca' I leave you both?" Katie had cried the words, flinging them out to the loving ears of her parents.

            "An' go you will child," was her mother's gentile voice. "Aye! Go my girl of my heart and you don' na' turn back! Yer Ma and me'l get by an' live happier knowin' you've got a better life!"
         "Da! Should I go to the priest? Da! Should I?"

         And her Da had scrunched his bristly eyebrows together, gently slammed a clenched fist to the table top and with vehemence, but also an indoor voice, proclaimed: " The priest won't feed ya or look after ya! You go!" And with that he had shoved off his stool and slammed out the door!
         Ma had said later that it was his way of dealing with the "losin' o' his rosie haired girl!"
            And that had been the whole conversation that had decided her fate!)

        I have considered your kind offer of marriage and have spoken long with my father and priest and I write to you now to let you know that I will accept!
        (It was a small lie to say about the priest she knew, but gor! It needed to sound like she had a head about her!)

         I come by train and I am hoping you will be at the station to pick me up. 
      (The boat and train tickets had taken all of her savings and her brother's bits would need to pay for her food! The ticket master had knowingly told her that Missouri was almost half way across America and that was farther than she could imagine? She had clutched her shawl to her breast and shivered as if it was January and it being only September!
      And how on earth would she find his farm if he didn't come to meet her?  Katie whispered a prayer as her hand continued this letter of new life... "Please god! Let him be a man who would meet his new wife!" Her fingers swung the sign of the cross on her chest.)
    I must apologize for traveling with a trunk and hope it will not be an inconvenience.

    (Her ma and her had been stitching and tucking away since she'd come to womanhood in preparation of this time. A decent girl came with a dowry. It didn't matter it wasn't grand or a whole house worth, but she'd need some necessities in the wilds of America she would!
      Her normal spunk surfaced for just one moment and raised itself above the terror of her enterprise. "He'd better no mind!"
       She gazed toward the eternally grit soaked window, clenched her teeth in determination and finished her letter. )

         Your offer is very kind and I await our marriage and new life. I promise to work very hard and make you proud of your new Irish wife.

        Yours truly,
              Katie Donovan

         Very deliberately, the fine boned Irish lass her parents had named Katie, lifted the stub of tallow candle and gently dripped a splash of wax upon the folds of her letter to seal.

            Katie flung the pen across the floor with a clatter and sobbed...



Brian Miller said...

please keep this going...fascinating...

Eva Gallant said...

i love this story! Don't stop now!

DJan said...

Oh, I hope he's a good man, because she's a good girl and would make a good wife!! I can't wait to hear more...

The Lucy and Dick Show said...

I can't believe nobody's said anything about the line: 'and in an indoor voice"!
I didn't think you'd let me get away with that one! Let's see if I can do it again!