Beulah Land - Part 1
Monday, April 21, 1884
As I start to write this, I feel almost a felon, since I have sworn in my duties as telegraph operator here in Beulah to keep all matters that may cross my desk a secret from all but the concerned parties mentioned in the telegraphs I receive and send. But I am only 23 years old, unmarried and lonely, and must have someone with which to correspond, even if it is only with myself, so I am beginning to keep Beulah’s secrets between the pages of my ledger book. I will show them to no one else; they will never come to light, except perhaps some day in the future, when I am dead, and everyone these secrets concern are dead, and no more harm can be done by someone else knowing them.
But first, for posterity, I will tell whoever reads this a few secrets of my own. My name is Isiah Carver. I was born and raised in Hadleyburg, a small town in Tennessee, which all but disappeared more than twenty years ago in the War. My father was one of those many, many boys of the town who marched away to battle, never to return, so I cannot remember him, since he left my mother and me behind when I was but a baby. He did not fight for the Confederacy, as so many other young men of Hadleyburg did, but for the North. When he died, my mother said there was not a great deal of mourning paid to him, a fact which she forever felt bitter about, until she herself died when I was ten.
I was raised then by my grandmother, who loved me and did the best she could by me. When she died this past Christmas, I found myself completely alone, a farm boy in a town that still held a grudge against me because of my father’s choice in the War, and no great skills with which to make my way in life. So I went to old Hank Anderson, the telegrapher in Hadleyburg, and asked him to teach me his craft. He did, and in March when I saw the advertisement in the Gazette that a telegraph operator was needed far to the west in the frontier town of Beulah, I jumped at the chance to be hired for the job.
So here I am, one month gone from Hadleyburg and as lonesome a soul as could ever be found. The prairie was silent and brown when I came here, but has started to break forth in new life just in the past week. It still feels very cold to me, since everything in Tennessee is in full bloom right now, but people here tell me this is a very warm spring for these parts. I will have to take their word for it, I guess, since I have nothing yet to compare it to.
And now, enough of me, and the beginning of the secrets I want to keep. This past month has been fairly quiet and routine, not what I expected from a job on the frontier; but today, just this very morning, just about an hour ago, a message came across the wire that has spurred me to begin writing this. We have a young school teacher in town, Miss Shiloh Evans by name, and this message came for her that said “Miss Evans—in regard to the matter of the child you inquired about, have urgent news—Willis family no longer able to care for same—need to hear from you re: future plans for boy. Please reply. S. Turner, esq.”
So what am I to make of that? Two and two might be four, or it might be five, but it sounds so me like our schoolteacher has a baby somewhere. She’s a real beauty, and 22 years old, and for the life of me I can’t see why she isn’t married already. She seems really nice, too. Honestly, I hope this isn’t something that’s going to be a problem for her with her teaching in Beulah. This is her first school and everyone really likes her, so I hope the best for her in this matter.
Now I must deliver the message to her. Rather than entrust the wire to the boy hired to be my messenger, Nathan Swann, who is fourteen and all too sure of his coming adulthood, I think I had better be the one to deliver this. If it were just a matter of relaying the bid price of a champion stallion, or confirmation on the delivery of a load of potatoes, Nathan could easily do it; but this could be a delicate situation, and best handled by an adult.
4:30 in the afternoon, same day
I took the message to Miss Evans, who read it silently. I watched her face for some hint of what was going on with her, but she remained totally somber, so I could tell nothing from her blue eyes or the set of her fine mouth what she felt about the news. I asked if she wanted to send a reply, and she told me she would be in touch with me in the next day or so after she had the chance to think things through a bit.
And so I bowed a little and left her there in her empty schoolroom, though I wished with all my heart I could have seen more what her situation really was. I truly want to help her, but cannot, as long as I know so little.