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HOMEPLACE. Copyright © 1991 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.
For information address Warner Books, Hachette Book Group, USA, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.
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A mass market edition of this book was published in 1991 by Warner Books.
First eBook edition: May 2001
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A Time Warner Company
Ana had taken only a few steps into the room when Owen's voice stopped her in her tracks.
"Wait! Don't move! There's a broken fruit jar here."
Before she knew what was happening, he swung her up in his arms as if she were a child. Her arms went around his neck and she held on to him tightly. She had never been lifted and held like this. It was frightening, yet exciting.
"Oh! Put me down! I'm too heavy—"
"Too heavy? Good Lord! You don't weigh as much as a sack of grain."
As he eased her down, she held on to his shoulders to keep her balance. She thought he would move away, but he grasped her bare ankle in his big hand and lifted her foot.
"Did you cut your feet?"
Ana tried not to look at him. Every nerve in her body jumped to attention. The warm fingers curled around her bare ankle sent blood surging to her cheeks . . .
"FIVE STARS! A special joy . . . a unique plot. . . . Set in early times with earthy people, the overall texture of this book was gentle and heartwarming, with a wealth of layering in the characters. This story tugs at the heartstrings. I was impressed! Thanks so much, Dorothy . . . THIS ONE IS A KEEPER."
—Julie Meisinger, Heartland Critiques
Books by Dorothy Garlock
A Gentle Giving
Love and Cherish
Ribbon in the Sky
River of Tomorrow
The Searching Hearts
Sins of Summer
The Listening Sky
This Loving Land
Wild Sweet Wilderness
Wind of Promise
Mary Ann Hendricks
A special thanks . . .
To Jean Reed for sharing with me the story of her great-grandmother, who did, indeed, marry her son-in-law after her daughter died in childbirth. This story, however, in no way parallels the life of that lady.
To Jay Anderson and Candace Matelic for their wonderful book, PIONEER IOWA—THE LIVING HISTORY FARM.
To Edward J. Lettermann for his book, PIONEER FARMING IN IOWA.
I wish to express my appreciation to all the talented employees of ARCATA GRAPHICS, Buffalo, New York, for their dedication to quality.
A special thanks to:
Kevin Clarke, Manager of Manufacturing/Books
Robert Scheifflee, Manager Customer Service/Books
Greg Boilard, Customer Service Representative
Spring had come to the river town of Dubuque, and with it the long awaited letter. The happiness that brightened Ana's face when she received it faded quickly as she read:
April 10, 1885
I am so sick. I fear I will die giving birth to the child of my beloved. My feet and legs are so swollen I can hardly stand on them. I think of you often and weep for the worry I have caused you. My heart aches to see you one last time. I want you to take my baby and give it the love you gave to me. O Mama, my heart is sore. This is a dreary place. The Jamison's do nothing but work. Please come. Owen has promised that you will be met in Lansing. Make haste, dearest Mama.
Your loving daughter, Harriet
The sounds and the fragrant smells of an Iowa spring were in the air. The spicewood was in bud, the cottonwood in tassel and the shrill piping of the season's first frogs could be heard. Unending swarms of ducks, brant and cranes glided down to settle on the river while others soared aloft to continue their long journey northward. Hardy violets and yellow dandelions edged the path on which Ana trod to reach her small house backed against the river bluff. She neither saw nor heard these wonders of spring.
In the privacy of her home, she read the letter again and again and wept. After the weeping passed, Ana damned the man responsible for enticing so young a girl to do what she clearly knew to be wrong and then abandoning her, leaving her no choice but to follow him so that her child would not be born a bastard. Ana remembered the loneliness after Harriet left: the days long and empty, the nights a nightmare in which she wandered a vast open plain searching for a small girl who called for her mama.
The winter had been agonizingly long for Ana. She had spent a cold, lonely Christmas day sitting beside the cookstove in the rocking chair remembering other Christmas days when the house, filled with the smell of roasted goose, fruitcake and pumpkin pie, rang with laughter as a young child opened gifts left by Santa Claus.
During the weeks that followed the holidays, she had kept busy. In January she had been snowbound for a week, unable to climb the icy hill to go to work in one of the big houses on the bluff overlooking the city. Every spare minute of her time had been spent knitting or sewing. She kept one of the merchants down on Locust Street supplied with caps, scarfs, mittens and stockings. She put away the money he paid her. It was enough to pay her fare to Lansing and back with some left over to buy more yarn.
Holding the tear-stained letter, Ana recalled the unhappy late summer months that had climaxed in a terrible scene. Ana could still see the stubborn, defiant look on Harriet's face—Harriet who had always been so obedient and reasonable—screaming at her.
"For heaven's sake! I'm old enough to go out if I want to. A lot of girls are married at my age."
"Where are you going? You've been out three nights this week."
"To the ice cream parlor to meet Maud."
"Don't lie to me, Harriet. Maud's mother wouldn't allow her to go out with—"
"—with a servant? Is that what you were going to say?" Tears flooded Harriet's eyes as she crossed the room to the door and flung it open. Her plump cheeks were flushed with hurt and anger, and brown eyes that usually sparkled with laughter now sparkled with indignation. "Not everyone thinks of me as a servant."
"It's honest work, honey. Nothing to be ashamed of. I didn't want you working in the button factory."
"You don't think being a servant is a bad job because that's all you've ever been." Harriet must have known how hurt Ana was, yet she rushed on, "I'm just as good as Maud and a lot prettier."
"Of course, you are. That's not the point. I don't want you with that fast, reckless crowd Maud's brother runs with. I've seen the way they race their horses up and down the hills. One of these days there'll be an accident and someone may be killed or maimed for life."
"That crowd has a bad reputation, Harriet."
"They're nice to me!"
"Someday you'll meet a nice man and be glad you've kept yourself above reproach."
"Like you did?" Harriet shot back. "You kept yourself above reproach and look what happened to you. Don't you ever wish you'd married someone else? Papa was old and grouchy and stingy—"
"That's enough! Don't say another word. Your father took me and my grandmother in when we had no place to go. He married me after Granny died so I could stay here and take care of you. It would have broken my heart to leave you. You were only four years old—"
"—and you were my age—fifteen. Did you sleep with him, Mama?"
Ana, taken back by the question, could only stare at her stepdaughter. Harriet had changed so drastically in the past few months that she hardly knew her anymore.
"You know I didn't sleep with your papa. He never asked it of me," Ana finally said in a low, trembling voice.
"I remember how it was. He treated you like his servant. He paid you to take care of me. He married you so people wouldn't talk about you living here in the house after your granny died." Bitterness edged Harriet's tone and distorted her young face. "I'm not going to marry an old man and live in a place like this. I'm going to marry a young man who will love me and want to sleep with me and do all those nasty things I've heard a man does to a woman in bed."
"Harriet!" If her stepdaughter had suddenly sprouted horns, Ana couldn't have been more shocked. For a moment she couldn't move, couldn't speak. "Hush that kind of talk! My word! If Judge Henderson heard you talk like that he'd think you were . . . fast!"
"Judge Henderson! He's heard a lot worse things than that."
"But not from a fifteen-year-old girl."
"Can't you understand that I just want to have some fun?" Harriet set her lips to keep them from trembling.
"And I want you to enjoy being young and having the young men pay attention to you. But I think you're going about it the wrong way. The boy who delivers coal has been trying to talk to you. He's a handsome lad. Give him a chance."
"Oscar Swensen! That stick! All he does is stutter and stammer and twist his cap in his hands." Harriet raised her eyes to the ceiling while buttoning her coat. She threaded her fingers into her gloves and looked defiantly into Ana's eyes. "You work your fingers to the bone during the day and wear your eyes out at night sewing or knitting. I'm not going to work all my life. I'm going to find someone who will love and pamper me like Judge Henderson does his wife."
"Your papa left us this house but little else. We have a place to live, but we have to earn money for everything else. I'd like you to remember that my sewing and knitting paid for the material in that dress and coat you're wearing." Ana turned her head, hiding a face suddenly contorted with the pain of remembering her own lost youth and the time and love she had given this girl.
"I know that, Mama, and I'm grateful." Harriet hung her head, then raised it to glare defiantly. "You should try and find a man, Ana. This time get a young one with some life left in him."
"Is that what you've done?"
"That's exactly what I've done and I'm having the most wonderful time of my life. Please don't spoil it for me."
"If you've met someone you like, I'm happy for you. Invite the boy to come to Sunday dinner, honey. I'll cook a good meal—"
"Boy? He's a man with a smile like an angel. He laughs, he sings, he dances. It makes me happy just to look at him. I can't ask him to come here!"
"Oh, Harriet!" It hurt unbearably to know Harriet was ashamed of her home.
"Fiddle, Mama! I know what I'm doing."
"I hope you do," Ana said quietly.
With mixed exasperation and desperation, Ana followed Harriet out onto the porch and watched her go through the front gate and down the street. For the first time her stepdaughter had called her by her given name, and to Ana it signified a new stage in their relationship. She loved Harriet as if she were her own daughter, although there were scarcely eleven years between their ages. She had tried to teach Harriet the same values that her grandmother had instilled in her. Where had she gone wrong? What could she have done differently?
A buggy pulled by a slick sorrel came careening around the corner. It sped past the house, but slowed when it reached Harriet and kept pace with her. Then it stopped and a man jumped down. He lifted his bowler hat and bowed from the waist with a flourish. Ana could see that Harriet was laughing at him as he lifted her into the buggy. Seconds later they were down the hill and out of sight.
Remembering, Ana lifted her palms to her cheeks. She should have done something. But what?
Harriet had finished school two months before and had gone to work in Judge Henderson's home on the bluff. Maud Johnson's father owned a boat and the boiler works, and her mother had social ambitions that didn't include her daughter associating with a girl who worked as a maid in a home where on occasion the Johnsons were guests. Harriet and Maud had not been friends outside the classroom, and Ana doubted that it was Maud whom Harriet was meeting; perhaps it was her brother or one of his friends.
October arrived and with it another change in Harriet. She became increasingly quiet and moody. Her evening visits to town stopped abruptly. Since she worked only part of the day, she was often in bed by the time Ana got home from work. Ana was sure the young man who had laughed and sang, the one who had made Harriet so happy, had left town. She waited patiently for time to heal the young girl's heart.
One evening in the middle of October Ana came home to an empty house. A letter lay on the kitchen table.
Forgive me for taking the money in your sewing basket. I will write when I am settled. I do love you and don't want to cause you worry, but I must go.
Part of Ana's life had gone with Harriet. Now she had no one. Almost frantic with worry, Ana visited the boiler works to speak to young Franklin. He said he hadn't seen Harriet and that he did not know whom she had been meeting. With a cocky grin he assured Ana that Harriet was a big girl who could take care of herself. Ana had wanted to slap the smirk from his face. She called on Judge Henderson. Neither he nor his housekeeper could think of a reason why Harriet would leave so suddenly.
Work kept Ana sane. She worked harder than she ever had in her life, worked and worried and waited. Thanksgiving came and with it heavy snow, but no word from Harriet.
Just before Christmas a short letter arrived. Harriet said she had married Owen Jamison and was living on a farm west of Lansing, a small port on the Mississippi River in the northern part of the state. She said that she was happy and well and expecting a baby. She had signed it simply, Harriet. It had seemed to Ana that Harriet had cut her out of her life.
Not another word had come until now. Now Harriet needed her and she would go. Harriet had always been alarmed by the slightest illness. Ana could well imagine how frightening having a baby would be to the young girl.
Ana stood on the porch and looked toward the river where the black smoke from a river steamer shot upward and trailed behind it as it made its way upriver. In the years since the end of the Civil War, Dubuque had become lusty and ambitious with the large influx of immigrants to the fertile prairies of northeastern Iowa. Lumbering had replaced mining as the important industry. Huge log rafts were floated down from the north and converted into lumber and ties for the railroads that were opening new paths into the West.
Dubuque was home. Ana had never been more than twenty-five miles from it. Her father had worked in the lead mines. He had died in a fire trying to rescue her mother after he had carried Ana and led his mother-in-law to safety. After that there had been just she and her grandmother until they came to work for Ezra Fairfax and she'd had Harriet to love.
Ezra had been good to her in his own way. He had paid for her to attend school while her grandmother took care of his house. He was also a frugal man, and one who cherished his standing in the community. It would never do for a young woman to live in his home, without benefit of marriage, to care for his daughter. The customers who came to his tailor shop were church-going people. During the days following her grandmother's death, when Ana was overcome with grief and feeling lonely, Ezra offered to marry her. He gave her a home and security in exchange for taking care of the house and four-year-old Harriet.
Ana went back inside, lit the lamp, and picked up her knitting. Before she could leave she had to finish the order for two dozen pairs of mittens. They were almost ready for delivery as were the black caps and the heavy stockings the rivermen would buy.
While she knitted, Ana's thoughts went ahead to all the things she would have to do before she could leave. First she would go to the steamship office and purchase a ticket. Then she would write to Harriet and tell her the time of her arrival. The trunk in the attic was old, but in good shape and big enough to hold her best clothes as well as work dresses to wear while she helped Harriet. Her neighbor, Mr. Leonard promised to watch the house. Her garden had been planted and she hated to leave it. Fiddle! What did that matter when she was going to Harriet?
* * *
"Thank you." Ana smiled at the boatman who set her small trunk on the boardwalk in front of the steamship office.
The boat trip from Dubuque to Lansing had been exciting. The boat had tied up for the night at a place near Harper's Ferry and she had slept in a dormitory room with five other women. The morning had been spent standing at the railing with the other passengers watching the shoreline and waving at the people in the small villages they passed.
The fact that she was a lone woman disembarking caused raised brows among a few of the men who also left the boat at Lansing, but they tipped their hats as they passed her and headed for one of the weathered plank buildings that made up the little port town on the Mississippi River.
Ana's self-contained demeanor was discouraging enough that only the most brazen men would attempt to approach her with an intimate suggestion. Today none of them were brave enough, and she stood alone. She was not as self-assured as she appeared to be, here in this new place more than a hundred miles from home, waiting for a stranger to take her to Harriet. What would she do if no one came for her? Her heart sank. It was down-right scary.
Faint lines of strain that had appeared lately between Ana's brows deepened as minutes passed. Her head was high, however, and her shoulders straight, despite the pensive look on her face and the shadows of worry beneath her eyes. She turned to watch goods being unloaded from the boat onto a large dray. The friendly young riverman who had carried her trunk to the street, waved and ran back up the plank to the deck as the steamer prepared to lift anchor.
Standing alone on the street, Ana was unaware of the picture she made—handsome, willow thin, with a thick rope of blond hair twisted and pinned to the back of her head. The brim of her hat shaded her smooth skin and large, luminous golden-brown eyes which she considered her only singular claim to beauty in a face that was usually intensely serious.
She went into the stuffy, smoke-filled steamboat office and approached the clerk behind a glassed enclosure. He wore a visor cap and was busy scribbling on a paper with a stub of a pencil.
"Sir?" Ana tapped on the glass to get the man's attention.
"I'm Mrs. Ana Fairfax. Someone was to meet me here. Has anyone inquired?"
"No, ma'am. But likely they'll show up. You can wait in here if you like."
"Thank you. I'll wait outside for now."
Across the street, a man in a dark red flannel shirt watched Ana come out of the steamship office. He leaned against a building whose painted sign proclaimed in bold black letters that it was the billiard parlor. One knee was bent, and the sole of a heavy boot rested against the weathered boards of the building. His thumbs were hooked in the wide straps that held up his duck britches.
He studied the slender woman with hair the color of honey from bees that had fed on a clover field. It was rich and golden, and from what he could see, there was plenty of it. The hat atop her head was serviceable rather than one of the frivolous things he'd seen women wearing on his infrequent trips to Dubuque. At least it had a small brim for shade. It also kept him from seeing her eyes. Not that it mattered; she wasn't the one he was waiting for. He was waiting for a woman old enough to have a grown daughter. This one was mature and pleasant to look at, but she wasn't old enough to be the mother of a girl expecting a baby.
The man ran his thumbs up and down his suspenders and watched her, enjoying the way she moved, the way her skirt swished around her ankles. She was sure-footed as a cat even in her new, shiny black shoes with their high heels and bowstraps. She was trying to appear perfectly confident, but she was nervous. Otherwise why had she checked her hatpin three times during the past five minutes?
The blast of the whistle made the man aware that the boat was leaving and that this was the only woman who had gotten off the boat.
"What the hell?" he swore as he pushed himself away from the building. He had given up two days planting time to come get the woman and she hadn't shown up. Unless—
Ana scanned the street with anxious, worried eyes. The only vehicle on the street was a loaded farm wagon. The horses with blinders attached to the bridles waited patiently, swishing their tails and occasionally stamping their feet to discourage the pesky river flies that appeared as if by magic each spring. Ana heard the chug of the powerful engines as the steamer pulled away from the dock and headed upriver once again. The crowd that had gathered to watch the lumbering craft arrive and depart was dispersing, leaving the street almost empty.
Ana's hands shook with something between anger and despair as she poked loose strands of hair into the knot on the back of her head with her forefinger. Surely Harriet had received her letter. It was sent almost two weeks ago as soon as she purchased her ticket and was sure of the day she would arrive in Lansing.
She began to walk restlessly up and down. The group of men who had gathered in front of the livery down the street were now examining a horse. One was holding a snub on its nose to control the frightened animal while another carefully lifted a hind foot. A few fishermen worked on boats at the water's edge.
A man, who looked to be either drunk or asleep, leaned against the building housing the billiard parlor. He was the only person within sight who wasn't doing something. Ana's glance honed in on him. He was tall and broad of shoulder with a straw hat pulled down low on his forehead. He lounged against the building as if he had all the time in the world.
With a sudden quickening of her heart, she realized that this stranger was looking at her and had been for some time. His gaze was so intense that it pulled her eyes back to him, and she looked at him for several seconds longer than propriety allowed even though it was impossible to see his eyes. The distance between them was too great for her to see anything of his face except that it was clean-shaven. She tilted her chin up as she turned her head away and continued her pacing. When she looked at him again, she found him staring at her as brazenly as before. He was no longer leaning against the building but standing away from it, his booted feet spread, his hands resting on his hips.
- On Sale
- Apr 1, 1991
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Grand Central Publishing