Pre-Wedding Jitters Part 1
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
Nathaniel Shores Givens Pre Mustache Pre Marriage
This begins my mother's fictional account of her grandparent's last days of courtship, based on actual letters written between them. I hope you enjoy! As promised each Saturday night I will post another segment from Only Me No More. I have included links if readers want to explore further the history of the time. ~Martha
Mattie sighed as she sat down at the little writing desk in her bedroom. She brought out her stationery, checked her fountain pen and decided to fill it anew from her prized crystal inkwell. She pulled the last letter she had received from Nat from one of the desk's pigeon holes so that she could look it over to make sure she addressed all of Nat's questions. then she started one of the last letters she would write to Nat Givens. It had been an eventful week and she felt compelled to share all she had done. Nat would expect it. She knew he loved her but she also knew it was her letters that he prized the most. They had been corresponding since 1889 - seven years.
Though the temperature outside had risen from the cold of a few days before, the room was still chilly. She wore an old gray sweater, put a lap robe over her skirt, wrapped her feet with a woolen shawl and propped them up on the little footstool underneath the desk to keep the cold of the floor at bay. The milk-glass and cranberry glass oil lamp gave just the light she needed. She hated the overhead electric light bulb provided since electrification.
[As I was transcribing I realized I have the lamp on my desk. This is a fictional account so it is not certain that it was on Mattie's desk as she wrote her letters, but it did belong to her and of course at some point was converted to an electric lamp.]
Before she started the letter she glanced out the window at the moonlit evening. It was so bright she could see the snow on Pikes Peak. 'Will I ever see the beauty of the Rockies again?' she wondered. She'd never been to Gallatin, Missouri, her future home, but she knew it had no mountains.
She took out the first sheet of paper and tried to ignore the noise her brother and his friends were making downstairs.
My Dearest Nat,
I don't know whether I can manage to get a letter written to you this evening or not, as there are three callers here at present, two of them boys. Charley's friends and the confusion of mingled voices sets my brain a whirl. Aside from this my head aches furiously, but perhaps I can write some between the noises.
She stood up and closed the bedroom door against the distractions of her brother's visitors and their voices. She glanced at the newspaper on her bed, bundled up again and continued writing.
Well, I picked up an old Chicago paper, just now. One that Estelle brought home, and in it was Bryan's famous speech before his nomination. I could not refrain from reading it, and it loses none of its beauty from much reading.
She glanced again at the paper which had reprinted William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech given during his campaign for the democratic nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in July of 1896.
Yes, he spoke here last Wednesday [11/25/96] from the balcony of the Rock Island Hotel.
[Try as I might i can find no reference to a Rock Island Hotel, in Colorado Springs there is a Rock Island Depot however and perhaps this is what she meant, at any rate I did find this with views of Pikes Peak then and now and a history of the Rock Island Railroad line which ended in Colorado Springs] It had been a beautiful day but in the evening a strong wind came up and it was bitterly cold. But this did not seem to discourage the several thousand people who were waiting, and the train was late too. The coming of the train was a signal for great applause, and when he appeared on the balcony the crown seemed wild with enthusiasm. His first remark was that he was surprised to see so many people who did not know that the election was over. And it did seem hard to believe that it was a defeated candidate that was their object of so much admiration. One would have thought it the beginning of a campaign instead.
She lifted her head, smiling as she remembered the event, blew some warm air on her fingers and continued writing.
After telling all this it is hardly necessary to say I was one of the crowd. He spoke for 15 minutes with that stinging wind blowing in his face, and when he was through the crowd would hardly let him get to his train. They had to take him through the hotel kitchen and around the back way and then he just reached the train as it was starting off. He smiled and bowed as the train moved away and the crowd gave him a parting cheer. I am glad to have seen him and heard him even for the few minutes. His voice was clear and could be easily heard, in spite of the wind. I am going to send you a Denver paper telling about his reception there and here, if I can get one. I have ordered some copies and will have them in a day or two, I guess.
That was good about him giving the baby a silver dollar to cut his teeth on. I believe a good deal like Moody,[I assume she is referring to D.L. Moody] that he will do more good in an educational way, than in the White House. When he was speaking to the Women of Denver he told them that he appreciated their efforts to make his wife the "First Lady of the land" but he said "that was not necessary so far as I am concerned, for she has been to me the 'first lady of the land' for more than twelve years'." I liked him saying that and he always speaks so beautifully of his wife. Well, I guess this is enough of Bryan. I will send the papers if I can get them, and I want you to preserve them as I want them to keep.
She got up to open the door to see if the din from downstairs had abated. Since it now was a low rumble, she left the door open so the rising warm air could seep into her little room. She resumed writing to remind Nat not to write things about Ed's mother in his letters to their mutual friend Alta Childers. He had to be more discreet.
Alta came in the office yesterday and showed me the letter from you. You made an awful mistake, although you didn't mean to. Alta said she opened it and read it aloud to Ed and its contents about his mother hurt him awfully. He did not know anything about our talk and scheming and of course the way you had put it made it sound worse than it was. He thought Alta had told me things and I had told you, which was all true enough, though he took an extreme view of it. Alta said she had a hard time patching things up. I know that Ed would say just as much about his mother to you or me, but coming to him in a roundabout way from his nearest friends and through his wife, it broke him up pretty badly. Now you mustn't write our apology to him or Alta, for you are not supposed to know how he felt, and neither am I. I told Alta I would apologize to Ed and she said no, she did not even expect to tell him that I knew about the letter. I'm very sorry that you wrote as you did but no one is to blame buy Alta and myself. She said he seemed all right after he thought it over and she knew that he would not feel hard toward any of us. He's probably all over it by this time.
"Mattie," yelled Charley. "Why don't you come down? Alta and Ed are here and we're making hot chocolate."
"Speak of the devil!", thought Mattie.
"I'm just finishing up this letter to Nat. Be down in a minute, save me some!"
Thanksgiving Day here was very cold and stormy and Friday morning dawned with the mercury 8 or 10 degrees below zero. It began to moderate Sunday and today it has been quite warm again. It was unusually cold for early in winter. I remarked that I hoped it wasn't much colder in Missouri. I took a hot iron to bed with me every night and then got cold before morning.
I guess you are as bad about lying awake nights as I am . I have done a good deal of it lately. Like you, I think and think. I wonder if I am ever the object of your thoughts? You don't write very ardent letters for a man who is soon to be married.
I am sorry for Mrs. Ward. If she lives with him she is surely doomed to a life of misery. I hope she will eave him before she has a lot of children to inherit his disposition. The idea of him burning her slippers is awful. She may have been at fault but it could be no excuse for him doing a thing of that kind. It shows the brutal tendencies of the man. I suppose he will have a trial for attempted murder.
I do not know why I should invite the Stoddard's to the wedding. I know they used to be very good to us in our early days of courtship but of late years we have seen very little of them and they have not seemed at all friendly. I don't know what the reason is- simply drifting apart I suppose. If we stay here a day or two I would like to call on them though. I would like to and thinking they would be glad to have us. The last time I saw Mrs. S she acted queer and said she hardly knew me. It may have been because of the uncertain light of the church.
I am not particular about who performs the ceremony. I guess Mr. Grant will probably do.
Her thoughts were scattered as she tried to wrap up the letter. Her headache had gone but now her fingers were cramping. She didn't want to forget anything important including the state of her sister, Hattie's, health. Nat knew her whole family so well because his brother Sade, lived in Colorado Springs and he visited often. She smiled remembering the day Sade's wife, Belle, had introduced her to Nat. Yes, Nat knew her whole family but she only knew his one brother.
I am glad you did not lose anything in that bank failure. I am glad you have written to Hattie. We got a letter yesterday and the poor girl is terribly homesick. I wish she could come home but the present prospect isn't very bright. Papa hasn't had any work for a long time and there is no prospect of any.
I get fairly desperate sometimes. I've got the blues so bad now that nothing looks right, but I suppose there's nothing to do but stand it. Mama received a letter today from Aunt Eliza VanNess and they want Hattie to come as far as Dodge City and stay with them a while before she comes home. I wish she could. If she could get that far toward home, she would be encouraged. She said her 'heart trouble' of either kind was no better there.
I wish you would take more exercise. It seems to me that you might if you would arounds yourself to do it. I guess you need someone to make you do it.
She'd been trying not to bring it up again, but she couldn't resist. She had no idea what his family thought of her or of their impending marriage. As women through the ages had done, she would follow the man.
Mattie, while verbose in her letters was shy and worried about what others thought of her, more so than what she thought of others. She would have been surprised to hear that her shyness often made others wonder what she thought of them.
I asked you once what sort of opinion your folks seem to have of me and you made no replu. You must remember that I am coming there under quite different circumstances than you come here. You know all of my folks and I have never even seen or heard from yours. I'd like some idea of what to expect.
She did think that it would be a courtesy if Nat's mother or sisters would write to make her feel like her coming would be welcome.
Estelle is about well now and is going to help with my sewing . I was going to have a dressmaker this week, but she can't come until next. I may get out of the notion by that time. Estelle says she is a pretty good dressmaker herself and I guess I'll let her demonstrate it.
My note at the bank is $30.00. I have an idea that you are likely to conclude that you won't want such a debt-burdened creature. Goodness knows I deplore it and am getting rid of it as fast as I can and it is slow work at best.
Do as you want about having the street and number on the announcement. I suppose you mean my number here. I never heard the name of a street in Gallatin yet, but I will when I get there.
I stopped and counted up rather hurriedly the number of announcements which I will want and I guess it will be at least 50. Possibly a few less or a few more, but that is as near as I can approximate.
It is almost 10 o'clock and as I have some thing before me each of thh remaining nights this week I think I must retire.
Good night. Sweet dreams.
Your loving girlie
She blotted the ink, read through the letter and folded it to fit in the square pre-addressed envelope. She kept a supply of the standard 2 cent postage stamps in the desk drawer, separated one from the folded sheet, licked it and had her letter ready to mail. When she stood to stretch, satisfied she'd mentioned all that was on her mind, she startled. Charley was standing in her doorway shaking his head.
"I'm going to miss you, Mattie, though I don't know why. You're always up here writing letters to Nat."
"Did you save me some cocoa?"
"I did better than that. Mamma said to bring you a cup. She wants you to get a good night's sleep." he said as he handed her the cup in his hand.
She reached out gratefully and took the cup, "That's sweet. Have the others left?"
"At least an hour ago. They said to say hi. After you marry I hope you will write us as often as you write Nat."
Mattie sipped on the hot cocoa. "What's new with Alta and Ed?"
"Nothing, except..." he paused. "Alta's in the family way."
"How wonderful! But poor Alta. Ma Childers will probably take over her mothering just like she does everything else."
"They're moving and not telling until the baby's born."
"Where are they going?"
"Ed's got a job offer in Denver. He's going to look out for me too."
"Oh, I can't wait to talk to Alta. I hope I can find a friend like her in Gallatin."
"Night Mattie. Do you want the door open or closed?"
"Leave it open to let the heat come in."
Mattie took her outer dress off, kept her petticoat on as her night dress, wrapped herself in her shawls and climbed under the covers. As she tried to quiet her mind she was thinking of Alta and what it must be like to be married and with child. Then of course she couldn't help the thoughts of her own wedding coming up and all the things needing to be done. After a while she was finally able to succumb to the weariness she felt and fell asleep with dreams of her beloved Nat and how she couldn't wait to be with him every day.