New Mexico Territory
"Ma! Pa! It's a letter from Hank!"
Susan Sheridan looked up from the shirt she was mending as her youngest child tore past the doorway of the bedroom in a blur of brown curls and green calico. Susan sighed but quickly put down her work and hurried to the front hall where her husband, Andrew, was already waiting for her. Ike and Dave, the only two sons still on the ranch, arrived seconds later.
"Why'd he write, Pa?" Angie asked, watching avidly as her father carefully took the letter out of her hand and opened it. "He's supposed to be here tomorrow isn't he?"
"Maybe he didn't want to bring his girl here and have you embarrass him," Dave said, nudging his sister.
"I wouldn't, at least not too much," Angie cried, shoving back.
"Course not, but you might make his bride a little jealous." Ike reached out to pinch her, but she was too quick and moved to the other side of her father. As the youngest child, and only girl, she'd quickly learned how to handle her five brothers. "He's on his way isn't he?" she asked trying to look over Andrew's shoulder.
"Be patient and let your father read," Susan said, her voice sounding calmer than she felt. It had been almost a year since Hank left to scout for the army and they had received only two letters from him since: one to let them know he'd arrived safely, the other coming not two weeks ago informing them that he was coming home, and bringing a wife.
All four silently stared at Andrew until he finally lowered the letter. "Well, at least he's given us a bit more information." He handed it to his wife.
As Susan scanned the contents she summarized for her children. "It seems his scouting partner was wounded and asked Hank to marry his daughter and look after her. But after her father died she ran away and Hank is going after her."
"I can't believe Hank would do that." Ike took the letter and perused it himself. "He's loyal I know, but to actually marry the man's daughter."
"He must have been a very good friend," said Dave.
"But why would she run away?" Angie grabbed the letter from Ike. "Or even marry Hank in the first place if she didn't want to?"
"Maybe they both agreed just to placate her father," Ike said.
Susan shook her head. "Hank would not have done it if he wasn't fully committed."
"He wouldn't have made such a promise or taken vows lightly," Andrew added.
"Do you think he'll find her?" Angie asked.
"He'll find her," said Dave, "Even if she doesn't want to be found."
"I hope so, I was looking forward to having a sister-in-law."
Susan watched her children leave the room then went to stand beside her husband. "What do you make of all this, Andrew?"
For a moment he did not speak, but then he took her hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I'll admit, when we got the first letter I was shocked and a little wary. Now that I know more about the situation, I am not at all surprised. Hank has a smart head on his shoulders and a good heart, even if he is a bit rash. I think his friend knew he had a good man in Hank. I just wish this girl could've seen it as well."
"I thanked God my boy was coming home," Susan said with a sigh, resting her head on Andrew's shoulder. "But it looks like I'll have to pray a little longer."