Elizabeth Carradine’s decision would not be easy for those she would leave behind, but she was resolved. This was her chance for true happiness. Her bags were packed and she was ready to go. Aunt Eppie still hoped she would stay, especially for Samuel‘s sake.
“Are you sure you want to forsake Samuel? He’s a good man, solid and reliable”, Aunt Eppie pleaded, trying to dissuade Elizabeth.
Elizabeth looked in the mirror and pinched her cheeks to make them as rosy as the glow she felt inside. “Samuel is like an old pair of cowhide boots, weather-worn and stuck in the mud. But, William and Zachary,” she sighed, “are like patent leather – polished and attractive – ready to dance and sweep me off my feet!”
“They’ve certainly put you in the clouds,” Aunt Eppie shook her head, recalling how the two brothers had come to town and turned Elizabeth’s head.
Elizabeth had been entrusted to Eppie’s care since the age of twelve when her parents were killed. Having grown up in the city, Elizabeth had never reconciled herself to the mundane life of the small, frontier town where her aunt lived. She missed the parties her parents hosted and the good times with her many friends. When she came to Canyon Gulch, she remarked that it should have been named Desolate Gulch, because it was so dreary.
Samuel Bronson, a simple, rugged man who loved the canyon and its beauty, had grown to be her only real friend over the years. He had worked hard to purchase his own ranch and had little time for anything else, except Elizabeth. He would occasionally take her riding to the canyon’s edge to watch the sunset brushing its palette of colors across the sky and they would talk – he, about his ranch and cattle; she, about the excitement of the city life she missed. To Elizabeth, Samuel was a convenient diversion from her present existence. To Samuel, and to most folks in Canyon Gulch, Elizabeth was Samuel‘s future wife.
Elizabeth had other plans, having bided her time until she became of age, taking full charge of the large inheritance her parents left her. She was amazed at the timing of it all. She had just celebrated her eighteenth birthday - “freedom” day, she called it, when William and Zachary Johnson, friends from the city, arrived in Canyon Gulch. She had forgotten how much fun they were. Handsome, debonair, both had been so charming. Her heart fluttered and her head whirled with giddiness as she thought about them; she couldn’t decide which one delighted her more. They had been on their way to Sacramento and had stopped to spend some time with her. Vying for her favor, each had secretly sworn his love for her and begged her to follow him. They assured her the investment company they had started would soon make them independently wealthy.
While Samuel was like the bedrock of the canyon, the Johnsons glittered like gold. They promised excitement, romance, adventure - how could she resist? She would have ample time on the train to decide which one she should marry. Too bad, she thought, she couldn’t marry both.
Everything was set. She had arranged a stipend for Aunt Eppie, bought her train ticket and wired the remainder of her funds to the Johnson Trust Company, just as William and Zachary had suggested. They told her she could expect the money to double by the time she arrived.
Aunt Eppie made another attempt to persuade her to stay. “Why risk what you have here to chase a dream? Samuel is steadfast and sure. Men like him don’t come along every day.”
“Neither do men like William and Zachary,” Elizabeth countered. “Why should I settle for a peasant when princes are waiting for me?”
Eppie finally gave in to Elizabeth’s determination, bidding her a tearful farewell. Samuel said he hoped she would find the happiness she sought.
Afterwards, life in Canyon Gulch continued on in its steady, quiet pace, the winds of time quickly blowing over the brief footprint of Elizabeth Carradine. Winter came and the chill of death claimed Aunt Eppie. Spring followed and brought new life to Samuel Bronson with his marriage to the Widow Flanagan.
As far as Elizabeth Carradine - no one knew exactly what happened to her, although it was rumored the Johnson brothers made off with her fortune, leaving her bereft and alone in Sacramento, too ashamed to return to Canyon Gulch.
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