One month later found Tessa miserable yet again. There were only two of her courses she liked, English and history. The others were lost on her. She discovered an aptitude for writing and seemed to constantly be scribbling down notes, which she rewrote and expanded later on. She was trying her best at the mathematics courses, but couldn’t seem to grasp anything higher than beginning algebra. Claire put her to shame by being able to complete the whole book, and correctly at that.
The foreign language courses were all right, she supposed, but it was really the English class that was fascinating to her. She’d been studying other writers and trying to learn as much as she could about the great writers down through history. Her professor was very pleased with her progress and told her that she had wonderful insight and wrote beautiful, descriptive passages.
Tessa would have liked to have dropped out of the other courses and only kept writing. She knew that if she did that, however, the parties would begin again, so she kept going to classes while trying to come up with another solution.
One day after class, Tessa asked her English professor, Mr. Rothwell, about what made great writing. She loved reading the newspapers and thought she might like to write an article someday. He thought for a moment and then said, “You have to experience life, pay attention to the little things, and know your subject. Research is the key to writing an accurate, meaningful article, or writing anything worth reading, actually.”
Tessa took that nugget of advice to heart. Over the next couple of months, she observed everything in her neighborhood and around various parts of the city where she traveled. She became aware that there was little in her life that was different to write about. She needed to travel to other lands and experience new things but she would never be permitted to do that.
Lying in bed late one night, Tessa thought about running away to follow her dream. Her vivid imagination began concocting various scenarios that would allow her to do that. She would need money. She had some in her account, but her father managed that account and would know if she took any out. But if she waited to take it out right before leaving, he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. She fell asleep dreaming of escape.
She was again scouring the newspaper when an advertisement caught her eye.
The Brooks Agency is seeking eligible women of good reputation to correspond with gentlemen from the West who are seeking a wife. Please reply to this advertisement with a letter of description or come to our office located at the address below.
Tessa read the advertisement several times, growing excited with every read. Her mind began churning as she weighed the pros and cons of doing such a thing. She would certainly begin an adventure that would be worth writing about and perhaps find true love in the meantime. She would miss her family greatly and most likely anger them, but she was of age and could make her own decisions. Tessa was no fool and realized that she would have to be sure of the man before going to see him.
Knowing that she would be noticed writing down an address and most likely asked about it, Tessa memorized the address listed in the ad. After a rather boisterous breakfast with a lot of teasing between the four women, Tessa went up to her room and began making her plans to go to the Brooks Agency the next day.
Each of the girls was given an allowance every week and it was rare that Tessa used all of hers because almost all of her needs were met by her parents. Maddie, on the other hand, was prone to spending her money on frivolous items and then wanting more money to buy more things that caught her eye. Tessa hoped Maddie married a rich man who could keep up with her spending habits.
The day seemed to pass slowly even though Tessa kept busy. She was impatient for the day to be over and for the next day to come. She lay in bed that night and couldn’t sleep, try as she might. She wanted to look her best tomorrow so that she didn’t look worn out. Finally, she slept.
“Well, Miss O’Connor, you seem to be exactly what we’re looking for and what the men are looking for,” J.D. Brooks said with a smile.
Tessa returned his smile and said, “Splendid! What do I need to do to get started?”
J.D. turned and took a large file from a cabinet behind him. “These are advertisements from prospective men. Look through them and see if any appeal to you. I would ask that you choose only one to correspond with at a time because you may become confused as to whom you are writing. Men are jealous sometimes and it may not sit well with them that you are talking to other men as well.”
Tessa saw the wisdom in that. “I understand.”
“Follow me, please,” J.D. said and rose from his chair.
He led her to a large conference room with a long table and many chairs.
“You will have plenty of room and privacy in here to look through them at your leisure,” he informed her.
“You’re welcome,” Brooks said and left her to it. As he went back to his desk, he wondered why such a beautiful, refined lady was considering becoming a mail-order bride. From her elegant clothing and impeccable hair style, Tessa was obviously a woman high in society.
Tessa sat at the table and opened the file. There were many ads in there and she began to read them. She giggled over some of them because they were so amusing. Some were from men who were very strict about wanting a very domestic wife. Others were very sweet, almost too sweet, and she put those aside as well.
After an hour, she’d narrowed it down to five and then three. Finally, she ended up with the one that struck a chord within her. It read:
Lonely widower rancher with two children seeks lovely lady who is kind, intelligent, and strong. Must like children and should be able to do some cooking. I’m a hard worker and a good provider and also like to have fun.
The name listed was Dean Samuels from Dawson County, Montana. She felt sympathetic toward the gentleman because he had lost his wife and was trying to be a father and earn a living at the same time. After putting all of the rest of the advertisements back in the folder, Tessa went back out to the front office.
J.D. looked up from some paperwork and smiled. “How’d we make out?”
“I would like to write to this gentleman,” she said and handed him the ad.
He read it and smiled. “Ah, yes. This one is rather popular,” he lied. “Let me write down the information for you. The letters will be private. I would ask that you be able to make up your mind within three months as we don’t want these men waiting for women who never come.”
J.D. nodded. “Oh, yes. It’s only fair.” He had no qualms about his dishonesty. He had to make a living, after all.
“What if they’ve already made up their mind?” Tessa said.
“Don’t fret, my dear. Once a decision has been made, you must come to inform me. There is a contract you must sign stating just that. We require a two hundred dollars service fee. If you should change your mind about contacting this gentleman further and do not want to try any others, I would refund half of your money.”
Hope seeped its way back into her breast. “I see. You said two hundred dollars?”
“Yes. Will that be a problem?” J.D. asked.
Tessa calculated her funds. “No, it won’t,” she said and opened her reticule and counted out the money. “Now, about that contract,” she said.