How often does fate intercede to bring us together or keep us apart? There seems to be divine timing involved in so many things, but most especially love. In the 1880s, my great grandmother Elisabeth Baxter and her beau were separated by the Atlantic for nearly 5 years. He was a young stone mason, who left the UK to find work in America, while she stayed on her family’s farm in Cumbria, Northern England.
The lovers wrote regularly; their letters like little paper boats filled with their precious cargo of love went back and forth across the Atlantic. But one day, without warning his letters stopped and my great grandmother’s heart sank. She assumed he had found someone else. Her family moved to Scotland so her father could take up a post as an inspector on the new fangled railways. Her beau would never find her again, she thought. But he too was waiting, waiting for her to respond. He didn’t dare write again. His last letter contained a proposal of marriage, but the letter had gotten lost and arrived at their old village post office too late.
A year passed and then by chance a fellow inspector on the railways stopped by their old village. The post master showed him the stray letter, which was about to be returned. The inspector instantly recognized the name and said he was headed their way. A month later my great grandmother sailed into New York harbor. Her beau was waiting for her with a horse drawn carriage. They were married the same day. My own mother usually interjects at this point in the story. ‘Her father had given her enough money for her safe return. He told her ‘Now if he is at all changed. If he is not the same man he used to be. Just come home.’ Ever the canny Scot with the escape route.