The Weaver Farm, one day’s ride out of Nowhere, in the Washington Territory, March, 1871.
Deputy Tom Turner was a natural born storyteller. He sat, hands on the kitchen table, and waited for his audience – in this case the Weaver family – to sit and ready themselves for what he was about to tell them. He’d been sent out to their farm on account of a ruckus he caught wind of at the Gunderson Stage Stop a half-day’s ride away, and went to investigate. There was a nasty outlaw roaming the area, and once he reached his destination, sure enough, the low-down varmint had been terrorizing the Weaver clan, or was it the other way around? Tom couldn’t be sure, but he made his arrests, (turned out there was more than one of them nasty varmints) had the bad guys locked up for a spell, and figured he had time for one tale before hauling his catch off to jail in Nowhere.
“Is there gonna be blood and guts?” Calvin, one of identical twins asked, his voice tinged with eagerness.
“Land sakes, boy!” His mother chastised. “Haven’t we had enough excitement for one day? Darn outlaw comes here giving us all this trouble on our own farm, then you want to hear about blood and guts?”
“Well gee, Ma, it’s a right logical question,” said Benjamin, the other twin.
Tom smiled. The twins were a few years younger than himself and hadn’t quite settled down yet. Unlike their older brother Arlan, who just got married. He sat with his pretty wife Samijo at his side, waiting for him to start. Tom cleared his throat. “Now this here tale is about when a bunch of English ladies traveled all the way from the other side of the world so they could find husbands.
“Were they mail order brides, like me?” Samijo asked.
Tom thought on that a moment before he nodded. “You could say that. It was a rather unusual situation. Duncan Cooke, the oldest of the three Cooke brothers back in my hometown of Clear Creek? Well, he up and found out he was a duke, inherited a title and all that went with it. In this case, that meant having to go to England to live and do whatever it is a duke does.”
“What’s a duke?” asked Daniel. At nineteen, he was the youngest of the Weaver clan.
Tom scratched his head. “A duke is a fella that lives in a big fancy house, has servants running around keeping the place clean, and got himself a heap of responsibilities to take care of.”
“What kind of responsibilities?” Arlan asked.
“All kinds,” said Tom. “But the one we’re concerned with is the marryin’ kind. Seems Duncan got stuck with a passel of female relations that no one wanted to have anything to do with.”
“Was they ugly?” asked Calvin with a grimace.
“Calvin, mind your manners!” his mother hissed.
“No,” Tom answered. “They were all right pretty.”
“Then how come no one wanted to marry em?” asked Benjamin.
Tom bit his lower lip as he looked at each one of them in turn. “On account any man that started courtin’ one of em met with …” he leaned forward for effect. “… a horrible accident.”
“What?” the men asked as the women gasped.
“What do you mean, they met with an accident?” Samijo asked, her hand to her chest.
Tom shrugged. “All I know is some other fella wanted to be the new duke and have all that went with it. As I recall, his name was Thackary Holmes. He didn’t want some other relation to get it. But that’s another story. Let’s stick to this one. First, let me tell you a little about the Cooke family. It was a sad day when Duncan and his wife Cozette left Clear Creek for England. The whole town turned out to see them off, and there was weeping and wailing like you’d never seen or heard before.”
“Forget about that,” said Calvin. “Let’s get to the blood and guts!”
Calvin’s mother rolled her eyes and groaned.
Tom chuckled and continued. “Duncan, Cozette, and a few others left for England, which of course takes a long time to get to. A year passed, and Duncan sent word to his two brothers, Colin and Harrison, that he’s got a problem, about six to be exact, and all female. Well, Sadie -- she’s Harrison’s wife -- she comes up with the idea of telling Duncan to send them to Clear Creek to be married, on account mail order brides from back east didn’t want to come to some tiny speck of a town. They wanted to choose husbands from more settled areas.”
“How did that work?” Samijo asked.
“How did that work?” Samijo asked.
“Well ya see, Sadie’s real smart. She rounded up some of the men in town, and had them write letters telling about themselves and what they were looking for in a wife. And she didn’t have them write just one letter, she made them write several. She then sent them to Duncan in England, and he and Cozette matched up the menfolk based on their letters, with each one of Duncan’s cousins.”
“Wow, talk about your mail order bride!” Arlan exclaimed.
“And I thought New Orleans was a long way to travel from,” added Samijo.
“Yep, these gals came all the way from England. But when Sadie Cooke told the men in Clear Creek she could get them mail order brides, she left out the part about them coming from so far away.”
“Don’t seem fair, not letting those men know,” said Ma. “What happened when they found out?”
Tom laughed. “Well, ya gotta hand it to Sadie Cooke, that woman had a system, let me tell you! And it worked. The women arrived in sets of three, the first coming along in June. Let’s see, there was Penelope, Constance, and Eloise in the first batch.”
“Who got hitched first?” asked Calvin.
“Well, now, that’s what I’m gonna tell ya. Sadie, she came up with the idea that only one should get married at a time, cause she and Belle, that’s Colin’s wife, couldn’t keep track and chaperone three women at once, so they spaced the courtin’ apart to make sure things were done right. But …”
“But what?” asked Arlan, a hint of a smile on his face.
“Well, there were a few things that didn’t go quite as planned …” Tom paused for effect and watched his audience as they looked at one another.
“Well?” Arlan asked. “Aren’t you going to tell us?”
Tom smiled. “You ready?”
“Of course we’re ready, now tell the dang-blasted story!” Ma said as she slapped the table with a hand.
Tom straightened in his chair. “Alright. I’ll start with Duncan’s departure, cause that’s really when Sadie came up with the idea …”
Clear Creek, Oregon, April 2, 1859
Duncan Cooke watched the townsfolk as they filed out of Mulligan’s saloon and gathered around the stagecoach. The people of Clear Creek had held a special breakfast for him and his fellow passengers, and were about to send them off.
Harrison, the youngest of the Cooke brothers slapped him on the back. “I say, old chap, it’s not going to be the same around here without you bossing everyone about.”
Duncan smiled. “I’m sure Jefferson will be happy to bark orders in my stead. He’s done a fine job so far what with organizing all of this,” he said with a wave of his hand to indicate the crowd. Jefferson Cooke, their stepfather, was nowhere in sight. “He’s probably busy ordering everyone around in the saloon right now.”
Harrison nodded in agreement and patted his stomach. “Mrs. Dunnigan did herself proud with that breakfast!” He eyed his brother and smirked. “Admit it, you’re going to miss her cooking … and her badgering.”
“I have my wife’s cooking to look forward to,” Duncan reminded him. Cozette was an exceptional cook, and everyone in town knew it. “As to the badgering, I think I’m safe.”
Harrison sighed. “Well, you can’t blame me for trying. I was hoping to find something with which to tempt you into staying …”
“You know this has to be done. We have to go, there’s no help for it. If the estate is in good order, I estimate a visit within the next few years. Don’t worry about me, worry about your wife and child.”
Harrison glanced to his wife Sadie, who rubbed her growing belly with both hands. She was due in a few months, and Harrison had been beside himself ever since he found out she was pregnant. He turned back to Duncan with a smile. “If it’s a girl, we’re going to name her Honoria, after mother.”
“What if it’s a boy?” Duncan asked.
“Sadie is convinced it’s a girl and hasn’t thought on a boy’s name yet.”
“She’d better hurry up, just in case.”
“What are you two gabbing about?” Colin, the middle brother asked as he strolled up. “Giving orders before you leave, Duncan?”
“Hardly,” Duncan said. “Other than watch out for this one,” he added with a toss of his head at Harrison. “He’s going to be so excited when Sadie gives birth he’ll be worthless on the ranch.”
Colin laughed. “We’ll make do.”
“It’s going to be a girl,” Harrison insisted. “You’ll see.”
“More females, just what we need.” Colin said. “Though there’s certainly not enough to go around, that’s for sure.”
“You can say that again,” Harrison mumbled as Sadie walked over to them. “Hello, wife!” he greeted.
She smiled at her husband then looked at Duncan. “I wish … I wish you could stay on a little longer. I’m going to miss you all so much.”
Duncan’s eyes softened. “We’re going to miss you too, and I’m going to also miss seeing my niece born.” He looked right at Harrison. “Or nephew, whichever the case may be.”
Harrison rolled his eyes as Cozette joined them along with two other couples. The Bergs and Duprie’s were traveling to London with Duncan and Cozette for reasons of their own. “I think Willie the driver is ready to go,” she told her husband.
Mr. Berg, a tall bear of a man who looked like he’d been carved out of marble, stepped forward. “We’d best be on our way, Duncan. Willie still has other stops to make.” He put his arm around his wife Maddie who began to softly weep. Mr. Berg swallowed hard. “We’ve said all our goodbyes in the saloon. Let’s not hold the stage up any longer.” He let his wife hug Sadie, and then helped her into the coach.
The Dupries were next to board, followed by a weeping Cozette, which left the three brothers, Sadie, and now Belle, Colin’s wife who just joined them. “Duncan,” she began as she peered past him into the stage. “Please take care of yourself and the others.”
Duncan glanced over his shoulder. “I don’t think I need to take care of Mr. Berg.”
Everyone laughed at that. Colin was about to comment when Mrs. Dunnigan and her husband Wilfred pushed their way through the crowd. “Wait! Wilfred cried. “We’ve got something for ya!”
The crowd parted and let them through. Mrs. Dunnigan huffed and puffed her way to the stage. “I ordered this special, just for you!” she said as she held up a wrapped object.
Duncan smiled. It was obviously a ladle. He took it from her and was surprised at the weight of it.
“Finest cast iron there is!” she said proudly. “I trust you’ll use it when you need it.”
“Mrs. Dunnigan …” Duncan said and almost choked up. “I thank you, not only for this, but for the fine breakfast you made for the town this morning. I really am going to miss your cooking.”
The plump woman blushed, and though she was known for being crotchety most of the time, stood on tiptoe and kissed Duncan on the cheek, tears in her eyes. “Take care of your business and hurry back to us. Besides, the ladies sewing circle is losing members with all of you leaving! You … you have to come back!”
She let loose a sob and turned to Wilfred who took her in his arms. “You heard her,” he told Duncan, fighting his own tears. “Come back as soon as you can … the sewing circle depends on it.”
Duncan smiled as Sadie stepped forward. “If we had more women in town, it might not be so dire, but there aren’t any,” she said softly.
“Maybe you ought to send away for some, then the sewing circle wouldn’t suffer so,” Duncan teased.
Sadie stared at him, her mouth half-open, and puckered her brow.
“I know that look,” Harrison said. “It always means trouble. Whatever it is you have in your head, wife, get it out now!”
She looked at him, her mouth curving up into a smile. “Don’t mind if I do.”
Belle clapped her hands together. “What is it?”
Sadie’s smile broadened. “A wonderful, idea … yes, it’s just what this town needs. I know how we can bring more women to Clear Creek!”
Sadie’s smile broadened. “A wonderful, idea … yes, it’s just what this town needs. I know how we can bring more women to Clear Creek!”
The three brothers stared at her. Duncan broke the silence. “Harrison, Colin, have fun with whatever it is she’s scheming. I dare say, considering the look in her eye, I’m glad I’m leaving!” He made to get into the stagecoach, but his brothers pulled him back and hugged him with such fierceness, it brought fresh tears to everyone’s eyes.
Mrs. Mulligan, the saloon owner’s wife, let out a wail and buried her face in her apron. An elderly woman made her way through the crowd and reached the brothers just as they let go of Duncan. “You can’t start off without this!” she called into the stage and held up a basket with both hands. Mr. Duprie reached out and took it from her. “That basket is for everyone, but especially for Mr. Berg,” the old woman said.
Mr. Berg took the basket, peeked inside and groaned. “Grandma!”
“Six pies, as is your usual,” she told him with a smile. The townsfolk gathered near them burst into laughter. Grandma Waller had been baking pies for Mr. Berg as a joke ever since he’d courted Maddie his wife. “I’m gonna miss giving pie baking lessons to your bride, Mr. Berg,” she said with sadness.
“You’ll be able to give pie lessons to a lot of women, Grandma if my idea works!” Sadie interjected.
“What are you talking about?” Duncan demanded. “Just what is this idea of yours?”
She stood proudly. “Mail order brides.”
“Mail order what?” Harrison asked.
“Mail order brides,” she repeated. “August Bennett told me they were doing it in Oregon City. Women from back east answer gentlemen’s ads for mail order brides and come out west to marry them.”
“That’s a wonderful idea!” Belle said with excitement. “I have friends in Boston I can write to, I’m sure they would post an ad for us asking for brides!”
“Here we go,” Harrison mumbled.
Duncan slapped him on the back. “Write me and let me know if you survive this, brother!”
Harrison gave him a lop-sided smile. “My wife’s ideas haven’t killed me yet.”
“Yet,” Colin chuckled.
A few more heart-felt embraces, tears, and shouts of good-byes followed before Duncan boarded the stage and left the tiny town of Clear Creek as the new Duke of Stantham. He left laughing at his brother’s predicament with Sadie’s latest scheme. Little did he know what a wonderful idea it would turn out to be.
Clear Creek, Oregon, one year later …
Dear Colin and Harrison,
As you know from my last letter, I find myself in quite the predicament. Our dear departed Uncles’ Leonard and John, have left me with the task of finding suitable matches for their daughters, all six of them. As you know I’ve been working on this for months, and now find myself at a quandary. Don’t get me wrong, our cousins are beautiful, witty, smart, and each with distinct qualities of their own. Unfortunately, the local gentlemen won’t come near them. Thackary Holmes did a grand job of scaring off any and all respectable suitors in his attempt at getting his hands on the title and estate. Now I’m left with six women to support if I can’t find them husbands, and their mothers are, to say the least, less than cooperative. Enclosed you will find a separate letter to Sadie. I must admit, it’s times like these when your wife, Harrison, shines. Let her at it …
With all my love,
I’m sure by now Harrison has read to you the letter I sent to him and Colin. This one is for you. I’m at my wits end. I need husbands for six of my cousins! What do you suggest I do?
All my love,
“Well, that was simple,” Harrison drawled as he read the letter in Sadie’s hand from over her shoulder. “The poor chap is in trouble.”
“No trouble at all,” Sadie commented. “I know just what to do!”
“What? What are you going to do?” Harrison asked, his voice laced with worry.
“Let me feed Honoria, then drive me to town, will you?” she said as she handed him the letter.
As if on cue, little Honoria let out a hungry wail from the other room. Sadie left Harrison standing with Duncan’s letters in hand, and went to fetch the baby. He followed her. “What is in that pretty head of yours now, wife?”
“Mail order brides.”
“Again? It didn’t work the first time, remember? No one wants to come to Clear Creek. Besides, how is that supposed to help Duncan out?”
Sadie smiled. “Watch and see.” She picked up the baby who’d been sitting in the middle of the parlor floor with a toy, and headed for the kitchen.
“Sadie, ‘watch and see’ is not a good answer. Give me specifics,” Harrison argued. “What are you going to do?”
She turned to face him as she bounced Honoria in her arms. “I’m sending away for mail order brides.”
Harrison slapped his forehead. “What brides? Who are you going to …” His eyes widened to saucers as he realized what she was talking about. “No … no, it will never work…”
“Why not? We have plenty of men wanting to get married in this town. Seems logical to me.”
“But you don’t know my cousins.”
“Neither do you from what I understand. You haven’t seen them since you and Colin were children.”
“Sadie, trust me, this will never work.”
“Well for one … eh … well …”
“Why? Because they’re English?”
Sadie shook her head, turned on her heel, and went into the kitchen. “You’re English and you’re married.”
“It’s not the same thing. I was partially raised here. My cousins, on the other hand, have probably never set foot outside of Sussex … except for the season of course, but …”
“I think it’s a fine idea. We have plenty of men wanting to get married, and you have plenty of female cousins who need husbands.”
Harrison groaned. “Oh dear wife, if only you’d listen to me …”
She quirked an eyebrow at him as she spooned applesauce out of a jar on the worktable into a small bowl with one hand and bounced the baby on her hip with the other. “I am listening to you, Harrison, and what I’m hearing is that Duncan has something this town needs, and we have something he needs …”
“But darling,” Harrison said as he put a hand on her shoulder and turned her around to face him. “These are English ladies. Their idea of the country is Uncle John’s country manor in Kent. They don’t know what real country living is like. Good Lord, I’m not even sure they’d survive the journey out here let alone life in Clear Creek.”
Sadie stared at him a moment before she handed him their daughter. “Here, feed her. I’m going to write Duncan at once.”
“What?” Harrison asked flabbergasted as he took Honoria in his arms. “Didn’t you hear a word I said?”
“Of course I did,” she answered. “I agree with you if what you say is true, and leave it to Duncan’s good judgment. He’ll know whether or not they would do well here in the west. I will make my suggestion, send some letters along from the most eligible men in town, and we’ll see what happens. How does that sound?”
Harrison gave her a half smile as Honoria began to cry with hunger again. “Dandy. Just, dandy.”
* * *
Clear Creek, Oregon, June 1, 1861
“Here it comes!” a voice called down the street.
Sheriff Harlan Hughes looked up from the checkerboard. He sat across a small table from Wilfred Dunnigan, playing their usual lunchtime game outside the Sheriff’s office. “What’s all the ruckus, Tom?”
The gangly youth ran up to the two men. “Stage’s a comin’, Sheriff. The women … the women Harrison and Colin Cooke sent for, they’re supposed to be on it!”
“You don’t say?” Wilfred drawled. “Well now, that is news. That means Colin or Harrison ought to be around here somewhere. Why don’t you go on down to the mercantile and let them know.”
“Yes sir!” the youth exclaimed and took off down the street.
Sheriff Hughes chuckled. “That Tom Turner is just as interested in them women as the men that done sent away for em. Too bad he’s only what, fifteen, sixteen?”
Wilfred laughed. “Yes, but he’ll grow up and then what?”
“He’s an honest sort, maybe I’ll make him a deputy if he doesn’t take to farming like his pa.”
“That’s a might fine idea,” Wilfred agreed as they listened to the stagecoach coming down the street.
Men started for the mercantile, knowing the stage would pull up in front of it. They watched as it rolled past, leaving behind a cloud of dust. Several coughed and sputtered before continuing on after it. Sheriff Hughes shook his head in resignation. “I suppose I’d better mosey on over there in case there’s any trouble. Nothing like a bevy of females comin’ to town to set the men off.”
“Harrison told me there’s only three.”
“Yeah, and remember what happened when your niece Belle first came to town? The men were lined up outside your mercantile for days.”
Wilfred scratched his head and smiled. “I plumb forgot about that. You’re right, we’d best get on down there.”
They checked the position of their playing pieces, got up, and walked to where a crowd had gathered. Only one person in town would dare move a checker piece, and often did when the board was left unprotected. But Wilfred and Sheriff Hughes had learned long ago to let Mr. Mulligan have his fun. He often gave out a few free drinks at the saloon when he thought he’d gotten away with it.
The stagecoach passengers had yet to disembark when Wilfred and the Sheriff reached it. “Where is that Harrison and Colin?” Wilfred asked glancing around.
“Dunno,” Sheriff Hughes said, also scanning the area. “But they best get here quick-like. Here they come.”
Men. Lots of them.
Willie the stagecoach driver let out a yelp of surprise at the dozen or so hurrying from the saloon to join the rest of the crowd. Wilfred caught a glimpse of Mr. Mulligan skulking across the street to the checkerboard, and chuckled. He then turned his attention to the stagecoach door. Best to take things in hand until Colin and Harrison arrived. He opened it, and poked his head inside. Three pairs of eyes stared back. “Afternoon, ladies. May I help you out?”
One of them, a pretty redhead swallowed hard before she held a lace handkerchief to her nose. “Are you the footman? If so, why aren’t you properly attired?”
Wilfred looked at her, his mouth hung open. “There ain’t no … what you call me?”
“Footman,” she said forcibly.
Wilfred removed his head from the coach and looked to his booted feet. “Footman?”
“Oh never mind,” she huffed. “You see, sisters. It’s the same everywhere! No one in this country is civilized!”
“There are no such things here, sister,” one of the other women whispered from inside the coach.
Wilfred stuck his head back inside. “You do know this is Clear Creek don’t cha?”
The women looked at each other, wide-eyed. “You … you mean this is it?” a brown-haired girl asked. “The end of the line?”
“Yessireee,” Wilfred confirmed.
The third woman swayed to and fro as if she might swoon. “Eloise!” the redhead snapped. “Get a hold of yourself!”
The blonde snapped to attention, teetered a bit, then stilled. “Yes, Penelope,” she said docilely.
The redheaded Penelope straightened in her seat. “We must leave the stage now, sisters. I’m afraid there’s no help for it.”
“Must we, Penelope?” The brown-haired girl lamented. “Perhaps the gentleman is mistaken.”
“I very much doubt it. I’m sure the gentleman knows where he lives, Constance. Now be brave. The Duke of Stantham would not have sent us halfway around the world for nothing. You do want to get married, don’t you?”
Penelope’s two younger sisters looked at one another with trepidation. “Yes,” they said in unison.
“Very well then,” Penelope said, then gave her attention back to Wilfred. “You may proceed, sir.”
Wilfred continued to star at her, his mouth half-open again. “Proceed with what, ma’am?”
“Helping us disembark of course.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Now, if you please.”
Wilfred jumped at her words. “Right away, ma’am,” he said and held his hand out to her.
Penelope gathered her skirts and stepped delicately from the stagecoach. A chorus of hoots and hollers erupted from the men encircling them, and she covered her ears against the racket. Wilfred helped Constance and Eloise out and quickly ushered them to the mercantile doors. “Get on with ya, now!” he yelled at the men. “These three ain’t being served up for supper!”
“I say!” Penelope huffed. “Is this country so devoid of women that your men feel compelled to salivate the moment they see one?”
Wilfred ignored the remark and with the help of Sheriff Hughes, escorted the women inside and closed the door behind them. “Woo whee, you’d think none of them fellas had seen a new woman in town for months!”
“Wilfred,” Sheriff Hughes said. “They haven’t.”
Wilfred came away from the door. “Oh, yeah. Forgot.” He crossed to the mercantile’s front counter and went behind it. “Any of you ladies care for a licorice whip while we wait for Harrison and Colin to get here?”
“Oh, I’d love one!” Constance said excited.
“Constance!” Penelope snapped. “A lady does not accept candy from strangers.”
“But Penelope, we haven’t eaten for hours,” her sister lamented.
“We’ll eat when we get to our cousin’s … farm.” Her last word came out as if it pained her.
“Ranch,” Eloise corrected.
“Yes,” Penelope agreed. “One with … cows.”
Before anyone could comment, the mercantile doors flew open. “Cousins?” Harrison asked.
“Harrison!” Constance blurted as she ran to him and threw her arms around his neck.
“Constance!” Penelope snapped. “Control yourself!”
Eloise stood alongside their eldest sister and gasped at Constance’s ill-mannered behavior. Was it any wonder she was still un-wed, despite their circumstances? “Oh my!”
Harrison ignored them and hugged his cousin as Colin burst into the mercantile. “Sorry we’re late, had a problem with the herd. Good Lord! Is that you, Penelope?” He stared open-mouthed at her, eyes wide, as he took in the sight of the them. “Eloise? Constance?”
Constance pulled away from Harrison to join her sisters. The three of them curtsied. Harrison and Colin glanced at each other, shrugged, and gave a slight bow.
“Ain’t it fun to watch em?” Wilfred asked the Sheriff.
“Yep, only I’m glad I’m not the one that’s gonna have to live with them. Not after what I’ve seen so far,” he said under his breath.
“Oh come on, they can’t be that uppity all the time. Well, maybe that Penelope is …”
“Colin, Harrison,” Penelope said. “You’re late.”
The brothers glanced at one another again. “We do so apologize, dear cousin,” Colin said. “Forgive us for rescuing our stray calves from being stolen.”
Her eyes widened. “Stolen?”
“By outlaws?” Constance squeaked in excitement.
Penelope rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Constance …”
“Sorry,” she said, her head low. Eloise took her hand and pulled her against her side.
“Willie is putting your things in the back of the wagon,” Harrison told them. “I’m afraid there’s only room for two on the wagon’s seat. One of you will have to ride in the back with your trunks.”
“I will!” Constance volunteered with eagerness.
Penelope rolled her eyes again. “I do so apologize for Constance. I dare not think of what living here will do to her. This wild country has turned her into someone I scarce recognize.”
“She’ll fit right in, cousin,” Colin said with a wink. “Now let’s get you back to the Triple C where you can rest awhile.” With that he held out his arm and Constance was quick to take it. Harrison followed suit and held an arm out to both Penelope and Eloise.
Together they left the mercantile. A large group of men was still gathered. They hooted and whistled as the brothers escorted the women to the wagon and helped them up. Penelope, Constance and Eloise stared at them, and it was there guess that every man in town must be present. Unfortunately, the three men the women were most interested in seeing were not among them. Namely, their grooms.