“Dear Dr. Matthews,
I am writing this letter in response to...”
“No, no, no...” Amelia crumpled the paper. She started over, thinking carefully; stationery was too scarce to waste.
“Dear Dr. Matthews,
My name is Amelia Clark. I found your advertisement posted in town. My qualifications, listed below, correspond to your list of requirements.
I turn eighteen in the fall.
I graduated from the ninth grade with a diploma.
I am slender, but strong, and perfectly able to keep house and care for your young child.
I have had experience in the field, tending to wounded Union soldiers. You may rest assured I am not squeamish at the sight of blood or missing limbs.
I am a Christian.
Miss Amelia Clark”
Amelia read the letter again and set it aside. By now her hand hurt, and her shoulders ached. When the kerosene lamp sputtered, she turned down the wick and groped for her bed covers. She stayed awake, thinking about moving out West to be with the doctor. Hopefully he would get her letter soon and send his response--hopefully. He hadn’t mentioned marriage, but life had to be better somewhere else, even if it meant living with a total stranger.
When morning came, the sun fought for a prominent place in the sky but lost to the darkening clouds. Amelia dressed and lit the lamp. After rereading her letter, she decided it would have to do. She folded it carefully and asked for permission to post it, thinking the sooner it reached its destination, the better her chances for making a good impression.
Two months passed. Work was hard at the orphanage, and she spent the nighttime in tearful prayer. Though she tried not to dwell on the absence of a reply from the doctor, her heart grew heavier with each passing day. When Miss Abbey, the head mistress, called her into her office one morning, she swallowed the ache in her throat and decided to face the inevitable with grace. The Lord promised in His Word to be a father to orphans; now she had to trust He would take care of her.
“Take a seat, Amelia.”
“I have something to give you, but before I do, I must remind you that your stay here will end when you turn eighteen in a month. Quite simply, we need the room for those who are younger.”
“Good; then I hope this letter bears promising news for you. You may be excused.”
Amelia took the letter postmarked from the Colorado Territory, and curtsied. Holding back her excitement, she hurried up the stairs to the girls’ dorm. By the time she reached her bed, she had opened the seal and was reading the letter.
“Dear Miss Clark,
I am decidedly impressed with your qualifications, but disappointed that I know nothing about you as a person. Given the nature of my situation, would you be so kind as to write more about yourself? I am ready to make a decision based on your response.
Dr. J. Adrian Matthews”
Amelia sat in a cloud of tears. She had purposefully omitted any personal information, knowing a man of his stature could never understand the stigma of being an orphan. How could he know how wanting so desperately to belong had caused her to set aside prudence and answer an ad by someone she’d never met? Discouraged, her hands moved to rip the letter in two, just as a still small voice urged her to write back and tell him the truth.
For weeks the rains lingered, and Amelia’s faith, like the sun, seemed obscured by her circumstances. With her hope shattered, she packed her meager belongings into a tattered carpetbag and waited in the gloom of uncertainty.
“The Lord will be with me,” she consoled herself when she heard her name called. She walked to the stairs, but at the head of the landing, she faltered. Below her, Miss Abbey cleared her throat.
“Amelia, this is Dr. Matthews and his son, Coulter.”
Amelia stared at the young man waiting at the bottom of the steps. He held packages and a white lace gown in one arm, his son in the other. When their eyes met, he lowered Coulter to stand beside him and respectfully removed his hat.
Outside, the rainy days ended, and some say it was the radiance of her smile that broke through the clouds and welcomed the sun to shine once again.
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