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A Time Warner Company
GLORIOUS DAWN. Copyright © 1982, 1992 by Dorothy Garlock. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
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First eBook Edition: May 2001
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A GENTLE GIVING by Dorothy Garlock
Burr stared at her,
then moved his eyes
slowly over her body.
"You know," he said, "you'd make a right pert woman if you'd get some flesh over your bones. We like our women strong and healthy out here."
"Like your horses," she retorted sharply.
"Exactly." He sauntered into the room and sat down.
She turned her back to him and continued to work. "I'm not interested in your opinion of me. All I want from you is your cooperation in arranging our departure."
"It's not likely you and your sister will be leaving . . . Johanna. I'm sure you'll realize that shortly."
"If you don't wish to help us, I'll speak to Luis."
Suddenly he was out of the chair and there behind her. If he touched her she knew she'd fly into a thousand pieces.
"Johanna," he said, "I've decided to wed you. I'm no prize, being a bastard, but you're no prize either, being the headstrong shrew that you are. We should fit well together."
Johanna barely managed to check the urge to hit him with the pan she was washing.
Damn, damn, damn him! she thought. I wish we had never come to this godforsaken place!
* * *
"The undisputed grand mistress of the frontier novel."
"The Louis L'Amour of the romance novelists."
—Beverly Hills Courier
ALSO BY DOROTHY GARLOCK
River of Tomorrow
Wild Sweet Wilderness
Wind of Promise
Ribbon in the Sky
for being wonderful
and always loving
Eyes wild with shock, Johanna fought the hands that held her. She saw the trees swaying, dancing; the shadowy figures moving slowly in the glow of the raging fire. Twisting around, she saw tears glistening on the cheeks of the black man who held her in his great muscled arms.
"We can't help 'em, missy," he whispered. "We can't do nothin' but hide 'n' pray."
Johanna was no match for the old man's strength as he held her fiercely against him, his callused hand clamped over her mouth. Her father lay dead in the yard and her stepmother lay nearby, the flames from the burning cabin already licking at her body.
"I'd'a gone to hep yore daddy if'n not fer keepin' you still, missy," Eli whispered. "Yore daddy would'a wanted me to keep you still. Them is bad men, missy. They do terrible bad things to white gals."
Hysteria spread through Johanna's brain like a writhing serpent, wholly engulfing her, when her sister was dragged out of the darkness, stripped naked, and thrown on the ground.
"Yo' can't do nothin', missy. You can't hep her. Oh, Lordy! Be still—"
"Spead yore legs, puta! Don't ya die on me!"
Johanna heard the heavily accented voice, and watched in frozen terror the humping body of the man on the top of her sister, and saw the three blood-crazed men waiting their turn on the slight, thrashing body.
Jacy screamed as the man entered her, plunging, pushing, with knifelike jabs and jerks that shook her whole body. Johanna prayed her sister would sink into merciful unconsciousness, but each time she seemed to be drifting away, one of the black-clad renegades gave her a resounding slap in the face, bringing her back, making her aware of what they were doing to her.
There was nothing for Johanna and Eli to do but wait in the murky darkness for the renegades to leave and pray that Jacy would live through the torture that the grunting, slobbering animals were inflicting as they emptied themselves inside her. Johanna thought wildly of the snorting, wild hog that had run across her path that very morning. Think about anything, she commanded herself, think about anything to take away this horror.
It seemed a lifetime ago that Johanna had run down the path to Eli's shack with an invitation to come to the house. Her father loved to visit with the old black man. He had told the family tales of the great sailing ships and about such places as Australia and the South Sea islands. They had been returning, Eli carrying a basket of green chili peppers for her stepmother, when the first shot rang out. Instinctively he had grabbed Johanna by the arm, dragged her into a thicket, and covered her mouth to hold the screams inside her aching throat, saving her life.
Peering through the bushes, Johanna had watched in horror as the men stormed the house. She saw her sweet and gentle stepmother cut down as she ran to aid her sister. Johanna's ears rang with her stepmother's screams and her nose filled with smoke from the burning cabin. In that one horrible moment, life as she had known it was gone forever.
The frenzied barking of a dog caught the attention of the bandits. They gathered in a tight group and talked. Then three of them quickly mounted their horses. The fourth stood over Jacy's still body, pulling up his britches. He cursed the men as they started to move away, then picked up the limp body of the girl, flung her across the neck of his horse, and rode after them.
Johanna tried to break free of Eli's arms so that she could follow. After what seemed an eternity, she was released. She whirled on Eli, beating at him with her fists and screaming.
"How could you let them take her? How could you stand there and do nothing? Papa liked you . . . and you didn't do anything to save him, or Mama, or Jacy. They'll kill her, too—"
Alternately sobbing and screaming her anguish, Johanna began to run, stumble, fall, and pick herself up until she fell on her knees beside her father.
"Papa! Oh, Papa!"
"It's a good sign, missy. It's a good sign the little 'un is live or they'd not of took her." Eli's voice came from above her, but Johanna was vomiting now, and swaying as she fought to remain conscious.
It had not been a nightmare after all. It was reality and she would never, as long as she lived, forget a second of it.
* * *
The citizens of San Angelo were outraged by the murders of their schoolteacher and his wife and the abduction of his daughter. They formed a posse to hunt down the murderers, but the area was vast and almost impossible to cover fully. Three days later they returned with Jacy, mute, and teetering on the brink of insanity.
The small platform at the end of the room seemed miles from where Johanna paused to summon the strength necessary to walk to it. Standing in the doorway, she tried to collect herself, to contain her conflicting feelings. What was she doing in a place like this? she asked herself. She was a schoolteacher, daughter of a schoolteacher, reared with a love of learning and a sense of purpose. And here she was in a dingy saloon with people who had little interest in books or in any of the other things she cared about. The frantic clamor of her frightened heart bordered on sheer panic and she closed her eyes for a second, blocking out the scene before her.
The Wild Horse Saloon thundered with male voices and drunken laughter. It was a long room, dingy, and without light, without color, without women. The men were drovers, drifters, cattlemen, gamblers, and soldiers from nearby Fort Davis, from which the town got its name. A bar with shelves behind it took up one end of the room. At the other end a young man with a twirled black mustache and wearing a once-fashionable but badly scuffed derby was playing an out-of-tune piano. His chaps and boots proclaimed him a cowboy, but in the melting pot of the West there was no estimating the talents hiding behind the rough clothes and scraggly beards.
"Here she comes!"
The loud, boisterous voices of the men, the scraping of boot heels on the plank floor, the clinking of glasses and the piano, all ceased suddenly and every head turned to Johanna. Every eye in the room was focused on the white face framed in silvery blond hair.
She stood very still and swallowed dryly. These men are not my enemies, she told herself sternly. They are lonely, hardworking men; rough but just, according to their code. They are ruled by the events in their lives just as Jacy and I are. Some of them may not want to be here any more than I do.
Bracing herself and shutting out thoughts of her parents' murder, her sister's rape, and the consequent baby the now-mute Jacy carried, Johanna swept into the room, her chin held high, a smile tilting the corners of her soft lips. Fragile though she might appear, she had deep inner resources and strength, which constant use had intensified of late, and she faced the sea of male faces calmly. A sudden hush fell throughout the room. The loud voices ceased, as did the scraping of boot heels on the plank floor. Not a hand reached out to touch her as she edged through the crowd. This was still Texas, where a man could be shot for bothering a "good" woman. Johanna's bearing and dress proclaimed her that.
Thoughts swam through her mind as she seated herself and adjusted her guitar and the skirt of the modest dress that covered her slender figure from chin to toe, a costume she'd insisted on despite the owner's plea that she show a bit of cleavage for the men. Days ago she had run the gamut of feelings over this job—embarrassment, resentment, self-pity. But she was calm now, because this was something she had to do. This was Johanna Doan, schoolteacher, singing in a saloon! She remembered her father saying, "If you're born to hang, you'll never drown." She had not been born to sing in a saloon. She was sure of that. This was a stopgap, a way to earn money so that she and Jacy could move on.
"How 'bout singin' 'Sweet Kate McGoon'?" a slurry young voice came at her.
Johanna's cheeks turned scarlet at the mention of the well-known bawdy song. There was a censorious murmur, then a chair crashed to the floor as the offender was tipped over and silenced.
"Sing 'Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms,'" one of the young soldiers called out.
Johanna smiled at him gratefully, adjusted her guitar on her lap and began the introductory bars. Her slender fingers stroked the strings and then her sweet, clear voice filled every corner of the room.
The audience was attentive, almost reverent, as she sang. Even the bartender stopped pushing the wet cloth over the grimy bar to listen to the haunting melody.
Ending the song, she stood. Pounding the whiskey bottles and beer glasses on the tables, the audience proclaimed its appreciation. She curtsied to acknowledge the "applause," then swung into a lively tune, her lips curved in a smile, her fingers moving rapidly over the strings.
"Once I had a charming beau,
I loved him dear as life.
I thought the time would surely come
and I would be his wife.
His pockets they were lined with gold,
I know he had the cash.
He had a diamond ring, gold watch and chain,
And a . . . charming . . . black mustache."
The lively tune changed the mellow mood of the crowd to one of rollicking gaiety. They stamped their feet to the beat of the music.
Johanna's next song was about a Spanish dancer with dark, flashing eyes. The song, sung in perfect Spanish, delighted the Mexican customers, who joined in the chorus, loud and off-key.
An older, gray-whiskered cattleman, sitting alone at a table near the platform, raised his hand. Johanna knew his request would be the same as it had been the three previous nights. She sat back down in the chair. Her azure eyes took on a dreamy faraway look.
"In a little rosewood casket,
sitting on a marble stand.
Is a package of love letters,
written by my true love's hand."
Her voice was soft and husky and ideally suited to the songs. These were her favorites and always worked their magic on her as well as her audience. If only she could sing until the stroke of midnight, she thought. Then she would be free to return to the rooming house. But that was not part of the bargain she'd made with the saloonkeeper. She had agreed to serve drinks to Wild Horse patrons after she had entertained them with her songs.
Finally the performance was over and she laid her guitar on the piano. She moved toward the tables to refill empty glasses. Cringing inwardly, she passed among the tables, knowing her presence dominated the room. For the most part, the customers were respectful, although they stared at her fresh beauty and the boldest among them tried to engage her in conversation. The first night when this happened, a fight broke out and her confidence was badly shaken. She didn't know if she would ever be able to return to the saloon, but when evening approached she found the courage to make her way down the street and through the swinging doors.
Now, three nights later, she was better able to cope with the sly winks from the bleary eyes and the softly murmured invitations. She endured with one eye on the clock behind the bar. She would never become used to the sounds and smells, the raspy voices, the tables covered with whiskey bottles. But she smiled at the right times and kept herself distant and reserved.
"Sit down. I'll buy ya a drink." The man had a mustache that drooped past his mouth, puffy cheeks, and a whiskey stink. Johanna shook her head. He planted his hand on the top of the glass she was about to remove from the scarred table. "Ya work here, don't ya? Ya ain't so hoity-toity as ya make out. Ain't I good enough fer ya?"
Despite the thump of boots, the mumbled voices, and the mangled notes of the piano being played by the man in the derby, most of those in the room heard the remark. Activity in the saloon came to a halt. In the silence that followed, even the hiss of rapidly shuffled cards died away.
Johanna summoned a mask of haughtiness to cover her face protectively.
"I'm paid to sing for the customers and serve them drinks. That doesn't include listening to their drunken conversation."
The drover glanced about the room. Faces, uncharitably cold, stared back at him. His eyes flickered with uneasiness.
"No offense, ma'am," he mumbled and stared down at the table.
"Ya don't bother ladies, mister, if'n yore wantin' that mangy hide t'hold yore bones t'gether," a bearded man said threateningly.
"Ah . . . he sure as hell ain't no Texan or he'd know it fer a fact," someone muttered.
Johanna approached the bar with a tray of glasses. "I'll be going now, Mr. Basswood."
"Stay another hour and I'll pay another dollar," he said hopefully.
"No. It's almost midnight," she said firmly.
"You'll be back tomorrow night?" He took a dollar from the money drawer and handed it to her.
"I'll be back."
"Introduce me to the lady, Basswood."
The gray-haired, portly man who had spoken moved down the bar to stand beside Johanna. She glanced at him, taking in everything about him in one glance: his carefully brushed silver hair, the dark suit, and the gold watch chain draped across his ample chest.
"Sure, Mr. Cash." The bartender looked pleased. "This here's Miss Doan. Miss Johanna Doan."
Johanna nodded coolly and turned to the piano to pick up her guitar. "Excuse me. I've got to be getting home."
"Miss . . ." The bartender leaned toward her. "Will you go out the back way? When they see you leave, they'll all go over to—" He jerked his head in the direction of his competitor.
"No. I'll not go into that dark alley." She shuddered at the thought of slinking out the back door.
The portly man finished his drink and set his glass on the bar.
"Basswood, I'll escort the lady, with her permission, of course."
"That's right kind of you," the bartender said before turning to Johanna. "Mr. Cash is the lawyer here, Miss Doan. You'll be safe with him."
The lawyer followed Johanna through the back door and down the dark alley. He didn't speak until they stepped onto the boardwalk fronting the stores on the main street.
"I'll walk you to your door, Miss Doan. I'm rather surprised Mrs. Scheetz is allowing you a room in her house, considering your . . . er . . . profession."
"Mrs. Scheetz has already given us notice to move."
"This is your first experience singing in a saloon, isn't it?" Not waiting for her to reply, he went on, "You were fortunate to pick Basswood's. He runs as decent a place as is possible in this lawless town."
"I visited every respectable business in town asking for work before I approached Mr. Basswood." Her voice was taut, strained.
They walked in silence, the heels of their shoes tapping on the walk. The lawyer glanced covertly at the girl beside him and he marveled at the beauty that nature had bestowed upon her: fine-boned yet delicately curved; flawless skin; wide-set azure eyes. Her exquisitely shaped face was crowned with soft-spun hair of a curious mixture of silver and gold. She was slender to the point of fragility; but the set of her mouth and chin, the candor in her eyes, and the way her head rode proudly on her slender neck all showed strength of character. This was no empty-headed beauty but a strong-willed, determined woman, and he felt instinctively she was the right person for the proposition he intended to make.
They reached the gate leading to the porch of the boardinghouse, and Johanna turned to the man.
"Thank you." She smiled politely. "Good night."
"Are you interested in other employment, Miss Doan?"
"What kind of employment?" Her eyes looked unwaveringly into his.
"Perfectly respectable employment," he said evenly. "That is, if you have no objections to living out of town."
"My sister goes where I go." It was a flat statement.
"I've taken your sister into consideration, and also the fact that she is expecting a child."
Surprise flickered across Johanna's face, and her lips narrowed.
"I know quite a lot about you and your sister. I watched you get off the stage a few weeks ago. I went to Fort Stockton and talked to the banker. He told me you were asked to leave your teaching job, asked to leave town and take your sister with you."
Johanna drew herself up rigidly. Sparks flared in her eyes.
"Did they tell you," she snapped, "that the renegades who murdered my mother and father also carried off my seventeen-year-old sister and kept her for three days? Did they tell you that she is mute; that she hasn't uttered a single word since she was found wandering on the prairie?" Johanna paused to collect herself but could not still her temper. "The good people of Fort Stockton turned us out. They wouldn't believe Jacy's pregnancy was the result of her ordeal."
"I believe it."
Johanna was, for a moment, taken aback by the statement. "Why would you believe it when practically every person in town did not?"
"Because I took the trouble to find out why you left San Angelo. You wanted to get your sister away from the place where your parents were killed, where she suffered . . . violation. You left San Angelo and found the teaching job in Fort Stockton, but the Mrs. Scheetzes of Fort Stockton didn't believe your sister had been raped. You were too honest, Miss Doan. You should have said she was a widow." He waited for her to speak, and when she did not, he continued, "It will be difficult for you to find decent lodgings here, and your money must be almost gone." He added the last apologetically.
Her mind was racing. No use pretending; the money was nearly gone and the landlady had given her two days to find another room.
Johanna's wide, candid eyes looked directly into his. The straightforwardness of her stare slightly unnerved the lawyer and he felt a pang of indecision about offering her the job in Macklin Valley, but he shrugged it off. He had looked too long for the right woman to go soft over this girl.
"My office is above the dry goods store, just west of the bank. Will you come there in the morning? I may have an answer to your . . . problem."
"I'll be there." She started to turn away, then turned back and thrust out her hand. "Thank you," she said softly.
The lawyer looked into the young woman's face, so open, so beautiful, and felt again a slight twinge of conscience. He shoved it aside.
"See you in the morning, miss. Good night," he said in his most professional tone and quickly walked away.
Johanna felt her way up the darkened stairway and down the hall to the small room in the back of the house. Quietly she opened the door and let herself in. She frowned when she saw that the oil lamp was still on. Mrs. Scheetz would have considered that still another reason to complain, had she known. She set her instrument in a corner and walked over to the bed where her sister lay sleeping, brown hair spread over the pillow, dark lashes shadowing her pale cheeks. Her face was so young, so stirringly beautiful, and for the moment relaxed. Her body was so slight that it seemed hardly to make a depression in the big bed.
"What a cruel twist of fate." Johanna said the words softly, her mind racing down a well-traveled path. Usually she tried to block the memory of the raid from surfacing, as if it had all been a bad dream; but it was real, it had happened, and she would never forget a second of it.
She sighed in introspection and let her mind probe once again for a reason for the tragedy that had befallen her family. If only her father hadn't wanted to come west, if only they hadn't taken the house so far out of town, perhaps her father wouldn't have been surprised by the band of Mexican renegades and they could have held them off until help arrived.
The calamity of Jacy's pregnancy had driven the girl into an even deeper depression. Knowing that she carried the child of one of her parents' murderers wiped out any progress she had made since being found and returned to Johanna. She sat for hours staring into space. She seldom smiled, and at times Johanna found her pounding her small fist on her slightly protruding abdomen.
- On Sale
- Apr 12, 2001
- Page Count
- 368 pages
- Grand Central Publishing