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A Time Warner Company
YESTERYEAR. Copyright © 1995 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, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.
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A mass market edition of this book was published in 1995 by Warner Books.
First eBook Edition: June 2001
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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
This one is for the O'Haver clan
Betty and Louis O'Haver
Sally Nan and Mike Kenny
Missy and Beau
Michal and David Long
Rebecca and Shane Cloyde
And . . . Garrett O'Haver
* 1 *
Addie's eyes blazed with anger.
"Get out of our way! It's no wonder the South lost the war with a vile creature like you fighting for it."
"Ya better watch who yore callin' names." The drunken soldier's face turned mean. He peered under the sunbonnet of the young girl standing beside Addie.
"L-looky here, Nate. Looky here. Ain't she a sight?"
"She's the nigger we heared about."
"I ain't carin' none a'tall. She don't look like it. She's pert nigh white."
Addie moved quickly between Trisha and the man before Trisha could get the knife out of her pocket.
"She yore nigger, ma'am?"
"If you've got a decent set of manners to your name, I suggest you put them to work." Addie tried not to raise her voice and draw attention.
"Wal, now. Ain't you high-tone, considerin' what ya are."
"Pay ya two bits fer a hour with 'er." The man put his face close to Addie's. His breath was so foul that it made her stomach churn. She put out a hand to shove him back, but he refused to budge.
"If I scream, every decent man on this street will be on you like a duck on a junebug."
"Quit yore play-actin' an' come ta terms. How much fer a half-hour? Come ta think on it, I'd not last a hour." He laughed. "I ain't had me no woman in a coon's age an' I'm 'bout ta bust my britches."
"Is they a-botherin' ya, ma'am?" A bearded man in a cowhide vest towered over them.
"Yes, they are."
"No, we ain't. She's storyin' is what she's doin'. We's tryin' to do some business, is all." It almost sobered the drunk when he looked up at the giant. To cover his fright, he put a cocky grin on his face. "We're a-wantin' ta use her nigger. We're willin' to pay. Hey . . . whatcha—"
The bearded man seized the drunk's shoulders with two large hands. He lifted him off his feet and shook him like a wet kitten before tossing him into the dusty street. Landing on his back, the drunk gulped in the air that had been knocked out of him, shook his head to clear it, then scrambled to avoid the hooves of the horses tied to the rail.
"Ya had no call ta be doin' that." The second soldier began to back away.
The giant followed him and spoke so quietly that Addie had to strain to hear the words.
"I ain't a-arguin' with horse dung. Get that boozy bum away from these ladies or I'll make fodder outa both of ya."
The two men moved out into the rutted street, and when they had several horses and wagons between them and the man in the cowhide vest, the one who had picked himself up out of the dirt, yelled, "I ain't never heared of a nigger an' a whore bein' called ladies!" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he ran.
Addie put her hand on the arm of their defender when he stepped off the porch to follow the two.
"Let them go. Please. We've caused enough commotion."
"Miss Addie!" Colin came running down the walk. "Ya all right?"
"We're all right, Colin. Did you give the horses water?"
"This gentleman got rid of the trash for us," Addie said calmly and smiled up into the man's warm brown eyes.
"It was pure pleasure, ma'am." The hat he removed was wide-brimmed, turned up in the front and held with a long silver pin that pierced the brim and the crown. Dark brown curly hair hung down over his ears and was chopped off straight as if it had been cut with a knife. He reminded Addie of a woolly bear, and she had to bite back the urge to tell him so.
The big man glanced at Trisha, who stood with her head lowered.
"You and the little lady ain't to worry. I'll keep a eye out for them weasels." He looked down at a small boy clinging to the woman's skirt and a girl a few years older holding on to him. He struck Colin's shoulder a playful blow. "I'm thinkin' I ain't even ort to a-stuck my oar in. This here feller could'a took on them hornswogglers. He was 'bout ready to wade in with fists flyin'."
"I'm aimin' to get me a knife." Colin straightened his thin shoulders.
"Using a knife to go at a man bigger than you ain't such a good idee. Remember this, boy. Take 'em by surprise. Use whatcha got and hit 'em where it hurts. Ya could've butted him with your head." He leaned down and whispered something in Colin's ear. "Do it hard and it'll lay 'em out cold. I seen it done by a lad not half yore size."
"Thanks, mister." Colin had a rare grin on his face.
"Good day, ladies," The man gave Trisha another long look, put his fingers to the turned-up brim of his hat, and walked away.
"He was a nice man. Wasn't he, Trisha?"
"I guess so," Trisha mumbled.
"What's a hornswogg-ler, Miss Addie?" Colin asked.
"I'll be doggoned if I know. It isn't anything good, I'm sure of that." She bent to straighten the hat on the head of a small boy and the bonnet on the head of the five-year-old girl who now held on tightly to Trisha's hand.
"I knowed it! I knowed I ain't ort ta a-come!" Trisha mumbled. "I should'a stayed home. Lordy! Oh, Lordee, mercy me! I wish I'd stayed home."
"Stop moaning and groaning, Trisha. Hold up your head and spit in their eye." Addie glanced at the three children, who were looking up at her and listening closely. "Oh, my. Fine example I'm setting. We'll talk about this when we get home."
"I ain't nothin' but trouble," Trisha muttered under her breath, but still Addie heard.
"Not to me! You're the dearest friend I have in all the world. Now come on. Let's go to Mr. Cash's store. I have two pairs of men's socks to barter."
Addie settled the strings of her drawstring purse on her arm, straightened three-year-old Dillon's hat once again, and smiled down at the rest of her family. Crowds made Addie Hyde nervous and frightened Trisha half out of her wits. Addie glanced at her and saw that she'd pulled in her lips and held them between her teeth, and her large, expressive eyes swept from side to side as if she expected to be attacked at any moment. Addie knew the girl's fear and stayed close to her as they made their way down the crowded boardwalk with eleven-year-old Colin leading the way.
* * *
The main street of Freepoint, Arkansas, was little more than a narrow alley between two rows of frame buildings: some had false fronts, some had porches, and a few fronted right on the hard-packed dirt road. At the end of the street, facing the tracks, was a wooden building that served as the railway station.
The stores were always busy on the two days of the week that the train arrived, bringing not only mail but weary men coming home from the war. Today the streets were more crowded than usual. The two mercantile stores, the tonsorial parlors, the blacksmith and harness shops, and the taverns and eating places were overflowing with people. The boardwalk teemed with farmers, soldiers, bewildered, newly freed Negroes, drifters, and men in tattered Confederate uniforms. Women and children, for the most part, waited for their menfolk in wagons parked along the street.
John Tallman stood leaning against the wall of the store and watched the activity on the street. He saw the wagon come into town, saw the boy tie the tired, aged horses to the rail and then help the woman, the girl, and the two children down onto the crowded walk.
Eyes so dark blue that they at first appeared black surveyed the street. When the two Confederate drunks planted themselves in front of the women, John was on his way to buttonhole them. Then the bearded frontiersman had stepped in, and John stopped, doubting that his help would be needed. He stood back and chuckled as the oak tree of a man tossed one drunk into the street and backed off the other.
John was aware that he, too, was being observed, but he figured that was because not many men dressed as he was came to Freepoint. He was taller than average and wore his buckskin shirt outside his britches and belted about his waist. His hair, beneath his low-crowned, round-brimmed leather hat, was longer than most men wore it in the South. It was blue-black and turned under at his shoulders. To John, the face that looked back at him when he shaved—the narrow, straight nose, the full, wide mouth, and the mustache that curved down around it and reached almost to his jawbone—seemed unremarkable. It was, however, a face remarked upon by others. His strong features and quiet assurance were matched by his bearing. Here was a man who moved with his head up, his back straight, assuming an air of apparent unconcern, yet whose eyes missed nothing. He wore that studied look of indifference when he followed the women and children into the store.
The little group had moved to a corner out of the line of traffic. The younger children held on to the skirt of the older girl, and the boy stood beside them ready to do battle if they were bothered. The woman in the round-brimmed bonnet smiled reassuringly at her family, then went to the counter to speak to the proprietor.
"Afternoon, Mr. Cash."
"How-do, Mrs. Hyde."
Mrs. Hyde. John moved behind the row of goods where he could see and hear the woman and the storekeeper, who was also the postmaster. The man had a serious look on his face. He stood before the pigeonholes where the mail was kept while his clerk waited on the customers.
"Is Iola here?" Mrs. Hyde's question was in the softly slurred speech of the South. Is Iola he-ah?
"She's upstairs today. Got the misery in her joints again."
"I'm sorry to hear it."
"She asked me this morning if you'd been to town."
"We've been hoeing our cotton patch. Can't let the weeds get a head start on us."
"Mrs. Hyde, you don't have any . . . mail."
"I didn't expect any," Addie replied with a thin smile.
Although Addie knew the mail train had come in, she hadn't come to town expecting to find a letter from Kirby. The war had been over for almost two months, and her expectations had dimmed long before. He had not written her a single letter since joining the Arkansas Regulars almost four years ago.
"Will you step around here for a minute . . . please?"
Suddenly conscious of the troubled look on the man's face, Addie felt a sudden chill that held her motionless for a few seconds. She looked over her shoulder at her family before following him around the counter.
"Is there something wrong, Mr. Cash? Have you changed your mind about trading goods for the stockings?"
"Lord, no. I'll take all the socks, scarves, caps, and anything else you bring me. It's not that at all."
"What is it, then?"
"Well . . . a man came through here yesterday. He was a Confederate officer, or had been. A few weeks ago he came onto a couple of fresh buryin' places over by Jonesboro. Care had been taken to mark them. A stick was poked in the ground at the head of each grave with a hat tied to it." The postmaster pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his brow.
"What's that got to do with me, Mr. Cash?" Addie asked, but she knew it had to do with Kirby. Her knees began to shake.
"I hate to be the one to break the news . . . especially like this. In one of the hats was the name Kirby Hyde, Freepoint, Arkansas. The captain asked me if the Hyde family lived in these parts; and, if it did, would I pass the news. I'm sorry, Mrs. Hyde."
Addie stared at the storekeeper, comprehension widening her violet eyes; then her heavy lashes shuttered her gaze.
"There's no mistake?"
"No, ma'am. The captain was careful to write the name down on a paper. I can get it for you if you like."
"There's no need." She placed her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture. "This wasn't easy for you. Thank you for telling me."
"Will you be all right? Do you want to go up and see Iola?"
"I'll be fine. Thank you for your concern."
The news was not unexpected. She felt none of the shattering grief she had felt when Kirby had gone away and left her alone and pregnant with his child. She had come to realize during that frightening time that the love she had had for him, if indeed it had been love, had died. Gradually over the years, when he hadn't written, she had tucked his memory somewhere deep inside her. Weeks now went by when she didn't even think of him.
She should grieve, she told herself. He was, after all, Dillon's papa. I'll grieve later, she thought.
Then she looked again at Mr. Cash and said: "The children and I will go home now."
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Hyde," he repeated. "Oh, Mrs. Hyde," he called as she walked quickly down the aisle between the barrels and sacks of merchandise. "Just a minute. I owe you for the socks."
Addie returned to the counter. "May I trade them for sugar?"
"Of course. Some came in on the freight wagons this morning. Did you bring a sack?"
"Yes." Addie turned so quickly that she nearly bumped into a tall man in a doeskin shirt. She looked up into his dark face and even darker eyes. His shoulder-length hair was black as coal. He wore a felt-crowned leather hat.
"I beg your pardon." John's hand shot out to grasp her shoulders to steady her. Then he stepped back and put his fingers to the brim of his hat.
All that Addie heard was the murmured apology. She wanted desperately to get out of the store, out of town. She darted around the man and hurried to where her family waited. Colin was holding out the sugar sack.
"Miss Addie?" Trisha whispered. "Are ya sick or somethin'? Ya look . . . queer."
"As soon as I get the sugar, we'll go home."
"What we gonna do if them two shag-nasties follow us?"
"Don't worry. We've got the rifle in the wagon. Colin hid it under the seat . . . and it's loaded."
"Muvver, I wanna see the train." Dillon tugged on his mother's skirt.
"The train came in this morning. This is the end of the track. It switched engines and left again," she explained patiently.
"Wanna see it," Dillon whined.
"Next time. I tell you what—we'll make gingerbread when we get home and maybe bread pudding. Now be nice and stay by Trisha." Addie patted her son's head and went back to the counter. Mr. Cash took her sack and went to the back room to fill it.
John Tallman had moved back behind the row of goods where he had a clear view of the woman. From the concealing shadow of his hat brim, he surveyed the room. A down-at-the-heels former Confederate soldier in a ragged, dirty uniform leered at the girl who stood by the children. She kept her head turned away, her face concealed in the tunnel of her sunbonnet.
The town was alive today with women-hungry men, John decided, as his dark blue eyes returned to the woman by the counter, the intensity of his gaze markedly at variance with his relaxed attitude. He studied her as if reading a map. She was tall, slender, statuesque, a mature woman in her midtwenties. Around her finely boned face were wisps of soft-spun hair of a light honey shade. He liked the proud lift of her chin and the free and easy way she moved. No stiff corset bound this woman. Though her body was thin to the point of appearing fragile, the set of her shoulders showed strength of character. She seemed utterly unaware that every man in the store was stealing glances at her. He had the sudden conviction that she was a person who met the trials of life head-on. In this backwater town, such a beautiful, desirable woman stood out like a rose in a weed patch.
Obeying an urge to see the woman up close again, to look into her remarkable violet eyes, caused John to move casually toward the counter where she waited. When he stood beside her, he noted that she was not as tall as he had at first thought. Her head came to just above his shoulder. Her erect posture and her slimness had created the impression of greater height.
Mr. Cash returned from the back room and placed Addie's sack on the counter.
"Ten pounds, Mrs. Hyde. Do you consider that a fair trade for the socks?"
"More than generous. Thank you." When she reached for the sack, a large hand grasped the twisted, tied top. She pulled her hand back and looked up.
"I'll carry it to your wagon, ma'am."
She met his gaze squarely. In her delicately drawn features there was a curious stillness. The faint color across her cheeks betrayed the fact that she was not completely at ease and was trying hard to remain composed. The fierce independence in her violet, thick-lashed eyes touched his innermost soul with a force that left room for only confused thoughts in his mind.
"It's kind of you to offer, sir. But I have help." The boy who had waited with the other children now was wedging himself between them. He wrapped both arms around the sack and pulled it toward him. The bulldog look on his young face seemed to dare the big man to object. "Tell Iola I'm sorry to have missed her," Addie said to the storekeeper.
"I'll do that, Mrs. Hyde." Mr. Cash watched Addie and the children leave the store, then looked up at John and shook his head. "Sure hated to break the sad news to that woman. She's got grit, I'll say that for her. She's had more trouble than fleas on a dog's back, but she holds her head up. Proud she is. Real proud."
John took the lid from a glass jar and removed two cigars. He placed a coin on the counter, and Mr. Cash scooped it up.
"Whatever the bad news was, she took it well."
"Addie Hyde is like that. Her man went off to war and far as I know she didn't get one single letter from him. She sent him one after the boy was born. I don't know if he got it or not. She didn't get no answer. Never figured out why she married up with him in the first place. He was one of them sugar-mouthed kind of fellers—all smiles and fancy talk to turn a woman's head. Iola, that's my wife, says Addie was just plain lonesome, living out there all by herself. A lonesome woman'll do foolish things." Mr. Cash shook his head, then fixed a questioning eye on his customer. "You ain't from around here, are you?"
John grinned. "How can you tell?"
"We don't get many dressed like you. You from out West?"
"You might say that. Are the socks for sale?" The stranger fingered the soft wool.
"Yes, but the price is high. She's got a couple special sheep. Shears 'em herself and processes the wool. Got a special way of makin' it soft."
"I'll take both pair." The stranger placed a Yankee dollar on the counter. "Did you tell her that her man wasn't coming back?"
"Yeah. Guess he come through the war and got hisself killed on the way home. Leastways his name's in a hat stuck on a grave over by Jonesboro."
"Too bad. A woman with that many younguns'll have a hard time of it."
"Only the little'n is hers. The other two is orphans shoved off on her by a do-little hill preacher. She's had that nigger gal with her for a few years. Looks more white than colored, don't she? Every horny piece of trash in the county finds his way to Miss Addie's door sooner or later to get a look at her."
Mr. Cash turned to a woman who was peering into the pigeonholes where the mail was kept.
"I'll get your mail, Mrs. Doubler. Your little Amy's got a letter here from her young man up in Des Moines. I hear there's gonna be a weddin' in the spring. My, how time flies. I remember when she was knee-high to a pup."
John turned from the counter and walked slowly out onto the store porch. His desire to see Addie Hyde again irritated him. He had gazed into her violet eyes for no more than a few seconds, yet the look in them remained in his mind.
He took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. Hell, he thought. He had a week to kill before he had to meet the judge. As a special favor to his cousin Zachary Quill, he had consented to let Judge Ronald Van Winkle and his party trail along with him and his caravan of freight wagons through the Indian Nation, the Oklahoma Territory, and into New Mexico, where they would pick up the Cimarron Trail and turn south to Sante Fe.
His train of wagons, coming down from Saint Louis, would be at the rendezvous north of Fort Smith in another week. The teamsters would have a week to rest their animals and check their wagons before starting the journey west. Maybe he could arrange to run into Mrs. Hyde while he was here.
* * *
Addie held tightly to Dillon's hand and stayed close to Trisha as they followed Colin, carrying the sugar, to the wagon. They stepped off the boardwalk, crossed the road, and climbed the steps to the next porch.
The bearded man who had sent the drunken soldiers on their way sat on a bench in front of the eatery. He stared at Addie and her family. His bold eyes honed in first on Addie, then on Trisha, sweeping them up and down with a look of mingled lust and admiration.
Addie's nerves were taut already, and the man's brazen appraisal broke the rein on her patience. When he didn't look away, Addie put her free hand on her hip and lifted her chin a little higher than she usually carried it. Her large violet eyes glared fiercely at the man. They did nothing to quell his interest; their color was unusual and they sparkled with the light of battle.
"Well, for heaven's sake! Haven't you ever seen a woman before?"
The faintest trace of amusement flickered across his face. He jumped to his feet, swept his hat from his head, and replied softly and respectfully; "I mean no offense, ma'am. It be such a pleasure to see womenfolk purty as ya are."
Addie blushed; then, realizing his sincerity, she laughed at him with her eyes, and her lips twitched.
"I'm sorry for being cross. And I thank you, sir, for helping us earlier," she said as they passed him.
Simmons had been known as Buffer for so long that he had almost forgotten that his first name was Jerr. He slapped his hat with its turned-up brim back onto his woolly head and watched the wagon leave town. The two small children were in the back, and on the seat, the girl sat at one side of the woman and the boy at the other. Although the boy was driving the team he kept looking over his shoulder as if he expected someone to follow.
- On Sale
- Apr 12, 2001
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Grand Central Publishing