Seeing the Elephant, by Leah Banicki Available at the following:
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After three long years of separation Corinne Temple is heading West to see her father again. She marries Andrew Temple the day she leaves for the Oregon Trail. He is a family friend but far from friendly.
Her third generation knowledge of healing herbs makes her an asset to the wagon train but her husband’s iron grip leaves Corinne confused and angry. In 1848 can a woman find any kind of freedom?
The lines between the classes blur and Corinne struggles as hardship and loss find her on the trail. The mountain peaks and turbulent waters are not the only obstacles. Corinne must search her heart and test her resilience in…
Feb 22 1848 - Boston Massachusetts
Today she married a stranger. Corinne Temple has accepted and wholeheartedly agreed to marry a man she doesn't know as an arranged marriage, of sorts. So far Corinne does not like him much.
Her new husband, Andrew Temple, a good friend of her father but a stranger to her. He recently graduated from Harvard Veterinary medical school. His tall blond good looks were a front. After one brief visit and a letter of introduction from her father is the extent of their acquaintance, but it was enough to clue her in to his attitude. Corinne is clueless how to handle him. Her inner fire is snuffed out when he stands near, not sure if her immature wit can stand up against ill-tempered condescension.
His facial expressions are still unreadable and his demeanor a bit chilly if Corinne allowed herself an opinion. Andrew is her ticket to Oregon so she packs her objections in her satchel and focuses on reuniting with her Father. He waits for her.
Corinne stands waiting in her Aunt's fashionable 12th street Boston home. The walls gilded in pinks and golds. The chandelier wept with great drops of crystal. This place doesn't look like a prison, but Corinne lost her freedom the moment she tied her first whalebone corset around her petite frame.
The day she decided to come to Boston, her mother is dead, and her Father set on traveling west to Oregon. With or without her. She was lost, angry and fourteen years old, quite a confusing age to be. That was three years ago, and she is now a long way from Kentucky.
Corinne’s thoughts drift back to the day her fate had been sealed, her father needing a fresh start, Corinne mourning her mother. His voice and hers were escalating into a ruckus, now she regretted her harsh words. She longs to make it right between them.
The servants scurry around her as she follows the strict orders of her Auntie Rose. Corinne's secret name for her is the General
for she orders her and the servants as well as any military man. Corinne grew impatient with the waiting and tried to help a few hours earlier. She is reprimanded instantly.
"Corinne, you dishonor the place I have given you in my home when you insist on acting like the common scullery." Her Aunt says in her usual volume ... Loud!
Corinne stops helping with the bag organization and resumes her brainless position by the door, watches her Aunt belittle the help with a feeling of helplessness. She looks about for her ladies maid, Angela Fahey, for encouragement. She finds disappointment; her Aunt put her ladies maid to work. Within the hour she will be leaving her temporary Boston home and head toward the great West with this stranger that is her husband. The Oregon Trail will be months of grueling travel, far removed from her momentary comfort. Corinne is eager to start.
She holds her mother's book of psalms and though she doesn't dare read them in front of her Aunt she feels a comfort in knowing their words in her heart just then. The wisdom she gains helps her daily. She says a prayer of thanks again and again that her father forgave her outburst and was willing to make arrangements for their reunion, it was a miracle to Corinne. She reread the short message she received in September from her father; it is between the pages of her psalms.
Arranged for travel to Oregon. Andrew Temple can marry and escort you. He will contact you.
Andrew sent his calling card the week of September 1847. He arrived with a long letter from her father. It proposed a plan of his marrying Corinne and bringing her West. His parents are there already and Andrew is going to work with her father, John Harpole.
There were mundane details about breeding stock and ranch issues that doesn't interest Corinne but seeing her father’s strong bold handwriting was a comfort. She misses him and will go to impossible lengths to see him again. She will deal with her husband to get to make amends. I am sure Andrew’s attitude will improve once he gets to know me.
Andrew is a man of few words and unreadable facial expressions. He agrees to see to her safety and marry her in February before they leave. He claimed to have classes to attend and was gone after the short meeting. After five months of no word he sent a telegram saying the wedding is arranged for February 22, at nine a.m.
She glances his way a few times during the short ceremony. His height well over six foot, made her feel tiny. His dark blond curls peppered with light blond highlights. His lips pressed firmly in a tight line through the whole morning. He barely spoke a word beyond what was necessary.
The judge came to her Aunt's home and does the service with efficiency. Corinne wore her traveling suit and Andrew in a common tweed suit. There is no kiss-the-bride moment. Corinne is certain it is her wild imagination but Andrew seems agitated with her. Corinne has no idea what he would be so annoyed about.Certainly not the joy of a groom on his wedding day. She nearly laughs.
* * * * *
has been outraged to have a wedding with no fuss but Corinne stands up to her Aunt and makes her realize that this is not a 'social event' but a simple ceremony. Corinne boldly tells her it does not even concern her. 'Their train will be leaving at two in the afternoon. There is no time for wedding nonsense.' Words have been strained between her and her Auntie this entire week.
Corinne pulls herself back to the present and begins to watch the repacking of her precious medicinal plant oils. She has several small wooden boxes holding her medicines and healing balms to take on the journey and her ladies maid Angie expresses Corinne's desire that they be packed well to the footmen. They are double-checking the packing when suddenly a small vial of peppermint is dropped and broke. It immediately soaks into the Oriental rug in the grand foyer. Within minutes the smell of peppermint is strong. It makes Corinne's eyes water a little but it isn't too unpleasant.
Auntie Rose is instantly mortified and declares the stench is giving her fits and a migraine, her goodbyes are brief and she rushes her well-corseted frame up the stairs and into her wing of the house.
If Corinne wasn't leaving today she is confident she would have seen Auntie Rose in a shrieking rage. Auntie will stir the staff into a flurry of activity to get her away to her country home for a stay of a week or more. She is certain to never know but the scene plays out humorously in Corinne's imagination.
With a glance at the hall mirror she makes sure she is put together. When she looks over her young face she can hear Auntie's voice in her head. "You look like a child with a woman's body." Auntie has a way of saying things that can keep you guessing whether it is an insult or not. Corinne shrugs at her own reflection. Her long brown hair is swept back neatly and her bonnet is simple but fashionable. She will not embarrass herself but cares little for being elaborate for traveling.
Corinne clutches her green silk satchel close to her. "It's the latest fashion!" Auntie Rose would say in her high-pitched voice. Corinne learned long ago to hide her expressions from her Aunt. So many times she wants to smirk, or roll her eyes at the ridiculous pursuit of what others deemed fashionable. She may look the part of the fashion plate right now but she is still a rancher's daughter at heart. She knows how to ride horses well, tie knots, and break a horse if necessary. She isn't a tomboy but has her rough and tumble moments in life. She knows the calluses have faded away over the last three years but the knowledge is there. Corinne actually enjoys dressing up sometimes and feeling pretty is always pleasant but she doesn't care for fashion the way the Boston crowd does. It made her head swim keeping up with 12th
street crowd. They are all parties, flirting, smoking cigarettes and gossipmongers. She will allow them their pursuits but she has her own goals.
Corinne's true passion is botany. She learned from her mother and she loves it still. Her three years in Boston was spent as much as possible in the greenhouses learning and volunteering with the experts there. Her mothers and grandmothers journals are coming with her; they truly are her most prized possessions. Her grandmother, Trudie, studied with the Indian women of the smoky mountains and learned many secrets of healing from their women after earning their trust. Corinne secretly hoped to do that in the West and find plants and ointments to help future generations. Maybe even publish her journals. Corinne smiles to herself. It is a lovely dream.
"Miss Fahey," Corinne spots her companion. Despite their cultural and social differences they are the dearest of friends but keep it behind closed doors for the sake of 'house rules' and the taboo's of polite society. Auntie is quite stern over any endearments between the two girls. Corinne knows she will never do anything intentional to cause Angela Fahey to lose her good position in the household staff. Corinne secretly hopes the propriety barrier will lift once they left Boston. She is certain that the road west holds many different types of freedom.
"Is everything at the ready Miss Fahey?" Corinne smiles and reaches out for the fair-skinned maid. They shared the same excitement, after so many hours together hidden in her room. Months of dreams and hopes for freedom are shared between them.
"It is Mrs. Temple." The new title made Corinne squirm a little. "At this moment the trunks and surplus supplies are being loaded on your travel car, your personal items and trunks are here to be packed into our coach, I have called for it twice. I shall send a footman to see about the delay." Angela's voice is firm with only the slightest hint of her Irish birth. She is desperate to finish her duties well today. She knows her own life will forever change once she leaves this grand home behind her.
* * * * *
Angela's own expectations and need for perfection pushes her hard this week with a wedding this morning and all the packing for the trip needed for today as well. Angela is nearly at her end. Her nerves are frazzled to the breaking point. The last three days the household has to be run as usual without the head housekeeper, not forgetting the trip planning which is put under Angela's leadership. Corinne's Aunt is a little unmerciful expecting her to handle the packing, wedding, and daily chores. Angela should have anticipated it though. The head housekeeper has a delightful habit of catching her death-of-something when huge events came around. Angela is certain that the housekeeper will rally from her illness just in time for the afternoon train departure. Twenty-hour days put the fifteen-year-old Angela into an emotional daze. Last night after a quick prayer and a long cry she sleeps like a baby for a few hours before she is up and going again. She has a beautiful vision of herself sleeping on a cot on the train for a long nap. Surely a blanket and the floor will work for her at this point.
Angela takes a quick moment to secure her bonnet over her red hair and heads out the front door as she hears the crunch of the carriage wheels as they travel up the stone road close to the door. She joins Corinne in the seat of the carriage and let the footmen do their job of loading everything. Her and Corinne share a hand squeeze when the carriage finally bound forward toward their future.