Summary: A prelude to Take Me Home. Adam has left for Boston, leaving his wife Ellie behind while he makes ready for her to join him. This is a collection of their letters to each other during their separation.
Camp In The Pines 2017
Thanks to Cheaux for the kind mentoring.
Word count: 5,169 Rating: K+/G
Take Me Home Series:
Letters From Home
June 25th, 1869
My Dearest Wife,
I have but a moment to write, as a kind woman sitting alongside me on the train offered to post this letter on my behalf when she disembarks in Omaha.
When we parted, I said things I now deeply regret. I realize how difficult it must be for you to remain in Nevada while I travel to Boston to establish our new life. I hope you trust me to do as I deem best. When the time is right I will send for you to join me.
I will write again when I reach Boston. I miss you terribly, my darling. I look forward to the day we will be reunited.
All my love to you.
July 24th, 1869
10 Winter Street
My Dear Wife,
After a long and arduous journey, I have finally arrived in Boston. I trust you received the letter I sent from Omaha.
My college roommate Michael met me at the station and helped me find an inexpensive room in a men’s boarding house in South Boston. It is located in an area of the city inhabited almost entirely by the Irish. The room is sparsely furnished, and the bed is hard, but it’s not any worse than sleeping on the ground under the stars with a saddle for a pillow. The proprietress, Mrs. O’Connell, keeps a very clean house and cooks dinner for the residents each night. It’s not ideal, especially for you, my darling, but for now, it will do.
Michael has asked me to become a partner in his firm, and I have enthusiastically accepted his offer. There are several factories in the city that have fallen into disrepair, and I am currently tasked with redesigning and renovating these old buildings. It is rewarding to finally use my education in a profession to which I am devoted.
Although I am busy, I think of you often, my love, especially in the morning. I miss waking up with you next to me, feeling your warmth and smelling your sweet perfume. I hope to find a place for us to live immediately so you can join me as soon as possible.
You have my address now, so please write as soon as you can. I anxiously await your reply.
Your Devoted Husband,
September 4th, 1869
Ponderosa Ranch, Nevada
Your most welcome letter arrived today. It is late at night here, and I am tired. The demands of the day are now finished, and I can devote my thoughts entirely to you.
I did receive your note from Omaha. Thank you, my love, for thinking of me, and for your kind expressions of regret. I know the words you said that day were caused by the strain of the situation. They were immediately forgiven and forgotten.
As the days pass, I endeavor to keep myself occupied with running the household and working in my garden. The chores I used to have an aversion to now provide a welcomed distraction. I’m sure it provides you with great pleasure to imagine me feeding the stock and cleaning the barn, knowing how vehemently I did protest those responsibilities when you were home.
The most difficult time for me is the evenings when I am alone and the house is silent. I sometimes think the only sound I can hear is the beating of my own heart. I have borrowed some books from your father and have started one or two, but find it difficult to concentrate on the words, as my mind wanders to thoughts of you, my love.
I miss you so very much. How I wish I could feel your lips upon mine this very moment! Nothing seems to ease my melancholy.
I know your dream is worth the chase and the time we must spend apart. Hurry, my love, and make ready for me to come to you.
Your Loving Wife,
December 7th, 1869
My Dear Wife,
I hope this letter finds you well. I received a letter from Pa which mentioned the time you spent at the ranch after I left. That was a good decision – I don’t like to think of you alone in our house, my love. You know my father has extended an invitation to you to stay at the Ponderosa during my absence. Promise me you will try to visit him more often.
I am fond of this neighborhood and have made a few acquaintances. There is a lovely Irish pub a short walk down the street, and I am becoming accustomed to the dark beer they favor. The people here are very friendly and are simple laborers, as opposed to the society folk Michael seems drawn to. There are craftsmen of a variety of trades struggling to find employment and provide for their families. Irish immigrants here suffer intolerance, and many labor hall post signs which read: ‘No Irish Need Apply”. I find it repulsive that a man would discriminate against another man simply because of where he was born. I will most certainly be able to offer these men employment as our many projects begin in earnest around the city. They are fascinated with stories of the West and my life on the ranch, and even asked if I had ever shot and killed someone. They only know what they read in the western dime novels that seem to be offered on every corner of town.
Our business continues to grow, and Michael and I are taking on more and more projects. I am working 6 days a week just to keep up with the demand. I wish I had more time to explore the rich literary and artistic traditions here, and I am anxious to experience all I can – especially the library, which I hear is exceptional. Unfortunately, reading is a luxury now, as most of my time is spent at the office. I barely have time for a meal and a good night’s sleep.
Please take good care of yourself, my love. You are a strong woman, and I know you will suffer this separation bravely. We will be reunited before long, my darling wife. Thank you for your undying love and support.
I await your next letter. Merry Christmas, my darling.
Your Devoted Husband,
January 10th, 1870
Ponderosa Ranch, Nevada
My Dear Husband,
It is a beautiful winter night here at our house. It is early evening, and the sun is beginning to set. The pine trees are making the whispering sound they make when the breeze blows through the needles – do you remember the sound, my love?
I am becoming accustomed to being alone, and it has provided me with new found independence. Having to fend for myself has made me appreciate you even more.
Life on our ranch goes on without you, regardless of my misery. I planted pumpkin seeds at the end of summer and grew a few whoppers. Joe and Alice came by with little Benji, and he picked his favorite one to carve for Halloween. I also planted rows and rows of sunflowers, and our field is now a sea of yellow and orange.
Thanksgiving dinner was a success – Hop Sing prepared his rosemary turkey with apple and raisin stuffing, and Alice made sweet potatoes. We had green beans from my garden – at least what I could rescue from a storm of ants! Poor Hoss, he suffered so while the aroma of the food cooking flooded the house. When Pa gave the blessing, he remembered you especially and asked God to bless you and watch over you in Boston. I saw he had tears in his eyes while he prayed. He misses you terribly, as we all do.
The Christmas tree this year was more beautiful than any I could remember since coming to the Ponderosa. We gathered around and sang carols, and your father read the Christmas story from the Bible. I tried to put on a brave face, but I think the family could tell how much I was missing you. I have never been any good at hiding my feelings.
It has been 7 months since you left, my love. I am trying to be patient, but I am so lonely without you. I read how busy you are, and I now realize the decision to leave me behind so that you could concentrate on your work was indeed a judicious one.
Do you have any idea of when I can join you? I would be most happy to share your simple room just to be with you again. I don’t need anything fancy, just your arms around me. Please, my love, when next you write, please send me some encouragement.
Your Loving Wife,
March 8th, 1870
My Dear Wife,
I have also grown impatient for our reunion. After your last letter, I made it my priority to find us a home, and I’m overjoyed to have found a wonderful house in the best neighborhood in town. It is not the type of house like you are familiar with. It is called a row house. Image a long, cobblestone street lined with 3 story brick buildings on both sides, one after another, all of which are connected to each other. Our new home will require extensive renovation, so it would be better if no one lives there during construction. I will be able to do most of the work myself, and, if needed, I can hire men from my neighborhood. I estimate it should be 6 months before it will be inhabitable. Not as soon as I wished, my love, but at least there is now an end in sight to our separation.
Michael has recently become engaged and has asked me to be the best man at his wedding. His fiance is the daughter of a prominent retired judge here in Boston. Because of Judge Dolan’s introductions to the influential businessmen of this city, our work assignments have doubled in the last few weeks. These men do business and socialize on a grand scale. Michael and I have been attending parties and balls, and we even share a box at the music hall. It seems we have a function to attend nearly every weekend.
I could not be happier with my success here in Boston. I feel my life is finally heading in the right direction. We will never again need to worry about finances, as the demands of my employment seem never ending.
Try to be patient, my darling. We will be together again as soon as possible.
May 31st, 1870
Ponderosa Ranch, Nevada
My Dearest Husband,
I am overjoyed to hear about the house you purchased for us! I have made a picture in my mind of what it will look like, but I would happily live in a teepee with you so long as we can be together. You know I am a simple woman, and I don’t want anything fancy. Tell me, my love, if the houses are connected, is there no land? I was hoping to have a garden to remind me of home.
The other night my chickens were attacked by a pack of coyotes. I heard the commotion and went out with the rifle, but it was too late. I lost five hens, and the others are so nervous they have not laid an egg since. I managed to kill two of those varmints, but I’m sure the others will be back. I am a dreadful shot, so I’ve asked Joe to come by and show me how to handle a gun for my own safety. He agrees and thinks I should wear a sidearm while working alone on the ranch.
I can’t believe it has been almost a year since you left the Ponderosa. The time has gone by so slowly for me – is it the same for you? Your absence is heavy but well worth it for the happiness you seem to have found. We are all very proud of you and your success.
I am counting the days until we are together again.
Your Devoted Wife,
August 10th, 1870
My Dear Wife,
Please do not ever go outside at night after coyotes again! That was a very foolish thing to do, even if you have a rifle. Your hens can be replaced – you cannot. And you don’t know if those animals were rabid. Sometimes you are too quick tempered for your own good. Promise me you will use better judgment in the future.
Michael and his bride Fiona were married last month, despite the harsh temperature. It was one of the largest weddings Boston has ever seen. I wish you could have been here to see it – the men in their formal suits and the women in their finest clothes and jewelry. I imaged what you would look like in one of the extravagant ball gowns, with your hair finely styled and diamonds around your neck. I surely would have been the envy of every man in attendance. The orchestra played waltz after waltz, and I danced until my feet were sore. A never-ending supply of champagne and expensive cigars rounded out the party. Hard to believe that 10 months ago I was a cowboy, and now I am a member of the Boston elite.
Everything seems to be coming together for me, Ellie. I am so happy to be here, working with Michael, and enjoying the finer things in life. I know that you will be, too.
The work continues on our house, although slowly. Do not lose heart, my love. We will be together soon, and you will be the grandest of all the Boston ladies!
October 2nd, 1870
Ponderosa Ranch, Nevada
I received your last letter and read it with dread. I understand you are concerned about my safety during your absence, but believe you ought to have cautioned me with less severity. I am trying my very best to carry on without you, husband, and would never knowingly take an unnecessary risk. I assure you I will take precautions should it ever happen again.
Your description of the wedding sounded wonderful. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be at such a grand party, but I have no doubt you were the most handsome man in attendance. I am certain all the ladies wanted a dance with you – I just hope you weren’t too friendly!
Pa had a little spell the other day. He was removing the saddle from Buck and he suddenly became dizzy and fell to the ground. We had Doc Martin come out and check him over, and after a day or two, he seemed to be back to normal. It was a worry, though. You know your Pa – he would never admit he needed help.
Cochise came up lame a while ago, so Joe took Sport on round-up to keep him in shape. I have ridden him a few times, but he really needs a strong hand and a vigorous workout. I’m afraid I have been spoiling him with a carrot here and there, and now he whinnies for a carrot every time I come out of the house.
These months you have been away are passing so slowly. Some days my heart is drowning in despair over our separation. I am incredibly lonely, and I’m trying to spend more time at your father’s house with the family. Your father shares his letters from you, and he is terribly proud of your great success, my love.
My resolve to be patient is starting to weaken. Please hurry and make our home ready so I can join you soon.
December 20th, 1870
My Dear Wife,
Perhaps my scolding was too severe. Please forgive me – I only have your security as my foremost consideration. Your high-spirited demeanor is one of the things I love most about you. I am reassured by your promise to be more careful.
The weather here is dreadful. It has been snowing for days, and the wind and freezing temperatures have halted work for us. It seems the whole city has been disabled and the roads are treacherous. Unfortunately, it has also stopped work on our house, so the completion date will have to be pushed back a few months. I am so sorry, my love.
I have received a coveted invitation to Judge Dolan’s annual Christmas dinner party. It is the social event of the year, and I am very pleased to be invited to attend. Admittedly, I find socializing with some of the people in Michael’s circle of friends to be disingenuous, but he assures me it is a necessary evil which provides needed business connections.
I will be back to work on our house just as soon as I am able. Do not lose heart, my love. We will be together soon, and living in a house some can only dream of.
Another holiday season spent apart from you. I am bolstered by the thought you will be with my family. My very best wishes to you, my dear, for a festive Christmas.
February 11th, 1871
Ponderosa Ranch, Nevada
This letter will reach you after Christmas, but it is my wish that your holidays were happy ones.
I am sorry it has been so long since I have written you. Your last letter about the slow progress on the house was discouraging. I guess I needed a few weeks to adjust to the news that my arrival in Boston will once again be delayed. I hope the weather improves and you are able to get back to work soon.
Our holidays were quiet. Snow prevented us from attending church on Christmas morning, but Pa lit a roaring fire and we gathered around the tree for hot chocolate and some of Hop Sing’s sugar doughnuts. Festive though it may have been, it felt empty here without you. Your father has been of great comfort to me during these months apart from you, and Alice and I have grown together like sisters. You should see how much Benji has grown! Hop Sing keeps track of his height with hash marks on the kitchen doorway.
Mrs. Hawkins stopped me in town the other day and inquired about you. She asked me to convey her very best wishes to you on your new position in Boston. I believe chatter of our separation has become the favorite pastime of the ladies in Virginia City. While shopping in the mercantile the other day, I overheard Mrs. Jenkins gossiping to the proprietress about the state of our matrimony. Rest assured, I set them straight regarding the truth of our situation and asked them to kindly refrain from speculation as to our relationship. It was, however, an embarrassment to me.
I soldier on, my love, and expect your invitation to arrive soon. Please delay no longer, my love.
April 1st, 1871
To My Wife,
The weather here is finally tolerable, and work has begun again in earnest. It looks as if our house will require more renovation than I originally planned. A house owned by a prominent architect should be of the highest quality, and Michael is in agreement. We will re-assess the project this week and get a better idea of when it will be completed.
I have a lady friend, Catherine, who has excellent taste and is helping me select materials for the project. Her assistance has been invaluable to me. There is flooring, paint, wallpaper, fixtures – the list seems endless. I’m sure you will be fond of her style and be more than satisfied with the outcome.
I have purchased nothing but the finest materials for our home. Some of the items will be shipped from Europe, which will undoubtedly cause even more delays. Catherine has selected a magnificent chandelier for the foyer that has been sent all the way from France. I look forward to the day you walk through the front door of our new home. It is truly grand!
I am now off to meet the crew at the house, and then I will be dining with Michael and Fiona. I’m sorry I don’t have more time to write. Good night, my love.
May 17th, 1871
Ponderosa Ranch, Nevada
I am worried after your last letter. You seem to be preoccupied with creating this extraordinary home. Please do not build this palace of yours to suit me. I am more than satisfied with a simple home, like the one you gave me on our wedding day. If owning a grand residence is necessary to put forth a certain image to your clients, I beg of you to think again about the amount of time and money you are spending.
Are you not able to find temporary housing that would please us both? I grow quite impatient waiting for the invitation to join you. The length of time that has passed since we parted and the endless excuses for the delays have caused me to wonder if you still desire my company. If it is because you think I won’t fit in with your new associates, you are almost certainly correct. I am, and always will be, a simple woman. Ball gowns and diamonds do not suit me. I fear that I, unlike your grand house, cannot be renovated to be a pleasing ornament on your arm to impress your high and mighty clients.
Is not the love of your wife worth more to you than the opinion of your friends? Maybe you should ask your lady friend – the one with excellent taste.
June 7th, 1871
Please do not speak from jealousy. It doesn’t suit you. You do not seem to appreciate how hard I work to make a proper home for us here in Boston.
Our firm is well established now, and my finances are growing at a steady rate. I am able to put by almost all of my earnings and have amassed a small fortune. We are financially secure, even with the expenditures on the house.
Perhaps you should practice more patience and understanding and be less concerned about whom I socialize with. Your suspicion and distrust are unattractive.
July 15th, 1871
Ponderosa Ranch, Nevada
It has now been more than 2 years since you left. I now doubt you ever intended to send for me. The excuses you offer to explain our continued separation now fall on deaf ears. Have you been deceiving me all the while?
Send no more letters, as I will most assuredly return them to you. I have grown weary of hearing about your happiness and success. When we were together you were unhappy and restless. If being away from me and our life here on the Ponderosa provides you with the happiness you say you have found, then so be it. Regard yourself as free. I will try to find my own contentment without you.
August 22nd, 1871
So much has happened since I last wrote. I am in trouble.
Unbeknownst to me, Michael has been having a long-standing relationship with a woman here in Boston outside of his marriage. She is now expecting his child, and his wife Fiona has discovered the truth and is set to divorce him. He has left here with his paramour for parts unknown.
I am now left alone with the business, which is in shambles. When our clients found out about Michael’s transgression against Fiona, they canceled their contracts- some in mid-project. I am utterly ruined. The investors are demanding immediate payment in full. Michael cleaned out the business account at the bank and forged a letter from me that he used to empty my personal account, so as of right now I haven’t a penny to my name.
My only course of action will be to sell the house on Beacon Street and use the money to repay these debts and try to start again.
Please, my darling, please don’t give up on me. I need you now more than I could ever have imagined. Please write me, my love. I need to hear your calming words.
Your Loving Husband,
October 1st, 1871
My last letter to you came back unopened. I assume you returned it, as you said you would most certainly do. I write to you again in the hope you will relent and read the news of my most distressing situation. It is with this hope that I enclose my last letter with this one.
I sold the house on Beacon Street and was able to pay off almost all of my creditors. The remaining few have allowed me to repay them in monthly increments. I have retained a handful of clients, all of which have no ties to the Boston elite and are sympathetic to my plight. I have been ousted by the members of Boston society simply because of my association with Michael. Men and women with whom I had previously socialized, and even dined in their homes, now cross the street when they see me coming and avert their eyes as we pass. Apparently, the size of a man’s bank account and the grandeur of his house mean more to them than my integrity and honesty – the two greatest things the Cartwright name stands for.
Ellie, please forgive me. I regret the man I became when I arrived here. I was blinded by money and prestige. I have been humbled, and have learned that money and position are not the most important things in life.
I need you now more than ever, my love, to hold my feet to terra firma, and get back to the values my father instilled in me.
Please come to Boston as soon as possible. Please, my love.
December 2nd, 1871
Again your letter has been returned. I don’t blame you. I will write this one last time, and then I will try no more.
Since the day I accepted Michael’s invitation, I have put you last. I hurt you, I know, but I was too selfish – thinking only of myself and what I wanted. I hope you can forgive me someday. I have amends to make to you, my love, but first I must be the man my father raised and set right the chaos Michael left behind. There are men with families depending on me for their employment, and I owe it to them to fulfill my promises.
I haven’t forgotten the promises I made to you, too. Please, I am begging you, please come to Boston and help me in my time of need.
If the fates decide differently, and this letter is returned to me, I will realize that I have gone too far for your forgiveness. I leave it in your hands, my darling Ellie.
Adam walked quickly to Mrs. O’Connell’s boarding house on his way home from his office down the street. He was anxious to see if the mail had arrived, and if, by chance, there was a reply from Ellie. Along the way, friends he had made in the South Boston neighborhood bid him hello and shook his hand. They appreciated that he had made good on his promises of employment, and, in spite of his recent downfall, continued to provide a livelihood for most of the men in the neighborhood.
He sprinted up the stairs to the boarding house and turned the knob on the front door. As it opened, he could see the neatly stacked piles of mail on the entry hall table. He grabbed his mail and shuffled through the letters on his way to his room. Suddenly he froze, staring down at the letter addressed to Eleanor Cartwright. Neatly written along the bottom of the envelope were the words “Return To Sender”. Adam recognized the handwriting as Ellie’s. A moment went by as he grasped the meaning of the words she had written on the envelope. Her message was clear – she was finished with him. He felt as if he had been stabbed in the heart, but by a knife that he himself had sharpened. Why should he expect her to respond after all this time had gone by? He thought of sending a telegram but decided against it for the moment. Maybe in a few months, he would try again.
As weeks and months went by he continued to write letters to Ellie, but they all ended the same way – crumpled up and tossed into the fireplace. He never mailed another letter, fearing the sting of her most certain rejection. He continued to receive letters from Pa and Joe, who kept him informed of Ellie’s welfare. He took comfort in knowing she was living close to his family and they were watching over her. She never again wrote to him.
Adam never told his father about his troubles – his pride keeping him from admitting he had succumbed to the enticement of wealth and status, and the resulting failure of his business. After many months of hard work, he was able to create a new company, although now at a more moderate success than he previously enjoyed. He remained in the boarding house alone and devoted himself to his profession, which by now had lost its appeal.
Years passed and little changed in Adam’s life. From his small construction office, he continued to provide work for the craftsmen living in his neighborhood. He was by no means a wealthy man but derived great personal satisfaction from improving the lives of people he employed and watching them prosper from his efforts.
A day came when Adam, working at his desk, was trying to concentrate on a drawing of an apartment building he was designing. He tried to focus on the task at hand but was edgy and distracted. Pointless to try to continue, he had decided to call it a day and make his way home. It was getting late, and Mrs. O’Connell would surely have dinner on the table at the appointed time. He was gathering up his belongings when the door to his office opened and a young man stepped in.
“Good afternoon, sir. Would you be Mr. Adam Cartwright?”
Adam stood. “Yes, I’m Adam Cartwright.”
The messenger extended his hand and handed Adam an envelope
“Telegram for you, sir. From a Mrs. Eleanor Cartwright in Virginia City, Nevada.”