Cork City, Ireland
… Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death …
“She’s gone, Rebecca.” The priest stepped back, and the girl came forward from the shadows. She said nothing only looked. No expression was visible on her face. Then suddenly she cried out and threw herself over the still form of her mother.
“Come, child.” Mrs. Murphy looped an arm around the grief-stricken seventeen-year-old and led her away from the sorry scene. The girl’s mother, lying white and exhausted, dead, in a bed that could hardly be called such. An old mattress on the floor filled with straw and old rags made up the funeral bier of Moira Byrne.
“Oh, Mrs. Murphy, what’s to become of me now? I’ll have to go to London to try and find work. I wonder if I can find Mam’s old friend. The woman I was named for, Rebecca Manley. She’s in domestic service. Surely I’ll be able to find her and get some work.
“It’s what I would have done a year ago if Mam hadn’t taken sick. But I couldn’t take her with me, and I wouldn’t leave her.”
Rebecca looked back over her shoulder and studied the last visage she would ever have of her dear mother. “Poor Mam.”
“You must pray, darlin’. You must ask for intercession.”
“I know I should, Mrs. Murphy. But I’ve prayed so much it sometimes feels as if it’s the only thing I do. All to no avail. I fear St. Brigid doesn’t hear me anymore.” The girl sat down on the floor, her knees drawn up under her chin and willed herself not to cry.
There were no chairs. They’d burned them in the coal stove as there had been no coal last winter. The tiny bit of heat afforded by the wooden seats hadn’t done much to warm anyone. But they’d burned just about everything in the room that hadn’t been nailed down in the hopes that something would change for the better. In the hopes that something could change for the better.
But nothing did. It only got worse.
Rebecca, her mother, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, and their four little children had spent the previous winter huddled around the stove with disregard to the untoward nature of their living arrangements. Rebecca and Moira slept on the dirty mattress. The Murphys crowded under a moth-eaten blanket on the floor. In their tiny hovel, there was no natural light because there were no windows. Poverty and starvation had a way of numbing a person to the rundown state of their surroundings. The two families coexisted in the tiny room as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
Since the blight, life had become increasingly difficult for the Murphys and the Byrnes. The cold, the hunger, and the decrepit living conditions had made them impervious to the basic necessities of life.
But there was a place where none of that mattered. It was a place in Rebecca’s head. A secret, shining place. She closed her eyes.
The sky was blue, and the sun felt warm on her skin. There was a table on which there were many kinds of food and drinks. And bushels of potatoes. Big, healthy ones with white centers.
They were nothing like the potatoes she’d been subsisting on for what had seemed like forever. Since the blight, life had become increasingly difficult for everyone. Many had starved to death.
Rebecca opened her clear green eyes. Her secret place was just a dream.
After the church funeral mass and the interment of Moira in the Potter’s Field, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy and their children walked with Rebecca back to their room.
Rebecca was sorry she would be leaving the family. She genuinely liked Annie Murphy and her husband, Seamus. And she adored the children. But she knew they’d have a difficult time keeping their room without the rent she and Moira had paid. They might have to give the room up.
A lodger needed to be found. Someone had to take over the cut of the weekly rent that she and her mother had paid. Otherwise, the chances were high that the Murphys would be sent to the poorhouse.
They arrived at the boarding house. Rebecca stopped Mrs. Murphy while the others went inside.
“I wanted to give you this, Mrs. Murphy. It’s enough to cover four weeks of rent.” She placed a tiny satchel into the woman’s hands.
“Rebecca! No. I couldn’t. You’ll be needing all the money you have. I’m not going to ask you how you came to have four weeks rent …”
“I saved it, Mrs. Murphy. You know I would never do anything that was against my soul. I would never steal … or, or do something I shouldn’t.”
“That relieves me, darlin’. Not that I thought you’d do anything bad to make money. But it’s so difficult these days. Especially for those of us … well, let me say I’ve seen other women fall from grace trying to survive. No one would blame you, Rebecca, if you did.”
“I would blame me, Mrs. Murphy. I haven’t fallen. I’ve saved a little money from every job I’ve had in the last year. I knew the day was coming when I would leave here. I knew my mother wouldn’t make it through another winter. Please take the money. It’s the least I can do. I’m leaving Cork City. I’m going to London tonight.”
The tiny satchel disappeared within the folds of Mrs. Murphy’s skirt.
“I have no possessions besides this shawl, this bonnet, my reticule, and my rosary. I won’t be going up to the room.” Rebecca embraced Mrs. Murphy.
“You’re leaving right now? But the children.”
“Please. I’d rather not say goodbye to them. It’ll break my heart. I’m sorry, but I just can’t. Please forgive me.”
Mrs. Murphy nodded understandingly. “I’ll think of something to tell them.”
“Thank you.” Rebecca took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “I guess this is it, then. If you ever come down to London you’ll look me up, won’t you?” Rebecca said this to soften the goodbye. She knew Annie Murphy would never find herself out of Cork City until the day she joined God in Heaven.
Tears had welled up in Mrs. Murphy’s eyes, but she smiled at Rebecca. “You can count on it.”
“Go inside then. Quick. Before I cry too.”
Rebecca watched as Mrs. Murphy disappeared inside the house. She let out a big sigh. She had to get to London. There was no reason to wait. There was nothing to prepare for. It was simply time to go.
She walked toward the water. She’d need to book passage. At the docks, she turned and looked back at the city, opening her arms wide in a gesture of thanks and blessing. She would never see Cork City again. She turned away and walked toward the future.
Up ahead, at the end of the pier, was a man selling passage for a ship.
“What can I do for ya, my lady?”
“I’d like to book passage to London.”
The man’s eyebrows raised, and his mouth opened to speak. Seeming to think better of blurting something out, the man took a breath, exhaled, and began again.
“You say you’re looking to go to London?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Hmm.” He jammed his hand into a pocket and extracted a large slip of paper. “Well, will you look at that? This is the last passage to Ameri, uh, London, my lady.” He gave her the price, and Rebecca searched her reticule for the money. She uttered a silent prayer of thanks that she’d been able to save enough money to pay off the Murphys. She included thanks that she had just enough money left over for when she reached London. The rest, like where she would live and work, would have to wait until she got there.
“Thank you very much, sir.”
“You’d do well to board. When the captain is ready to set sail, he sails. There’s no waiting for anyone. And no headcount.” The man looked around.
Rebecca followed his gaze. “Yes, of course.”
All of a sudden at the very end of the dock, a different man called out.
“You there! Stop!” The man began racing up the dock to where Rebecca stood. To her surprise, the ticket seller had bolted in the opposite direction of the water. The man kept up in his chase of the ticket seller.
Rebecca, not knowing what else to do, headed to where the pursuer had come from. She didn’t want to risk being left behind. She was helped into the rowboat that took passengers out to the ship and found a seat. No sooner had she sat down than the men began to row.
Next to her on the board seat was an old woman. There was an ancient, other worldly look to her. Her eyes sunk back with no expression, leaving her with a hollow appearance. Her cheekbones were as sharp as any straight razor, and her skin had a waxy appearance. Rebecca had seen too many in the last year who’d had this look. It was the look that foretold imminent death. She must be going to her family in London. Her son, maybe.
The woman must have felt Rebecca’s eyes on her. She turned and offered a vague smile but said nothing. Rebecca smiled back with a bit more enthusiasm. Then both turned their gazes forward and rode to the ship in silence.
A sailor stood on the deck of the three-masted ship, and the rowboat was attached to ropes and lifted up. Rebecca thought it to be dreamlike as if she wasn’t actually participating in anything that was happening. But once she was on deck standing next to the sailor, her sense of surrealism dissipated.
She had no idea where she was to go on the vessel. She looked around for someone to ask and noticed that the little woman was still at her side.
Poor thing. She must be scared out of her wits. Not to mention, hungry. What did the ticket man say? Oh yes. One prepared meal a day included in the passage. The rest is bulk oatmeal, tea, molasses, flour, and rice that we are to cook ourselves.
Rebecca decided she’d make sure the woman ate. If she were going to die, then Rebecca would make sure the poor lady was as comfortable as possible. She knew exactly what to do by way of comforting the ill and dying. She’d, unfortunately had much practice.
Two days later, Rebecca sat with her new friend Una eating porridge that Rebecca had been able to prepare in the tiny galley before many of the passengers were awake. The food tasted delicious despite it was merely watery oats. Compared to the tiny, mealy potatoes she’d been living on, the porridge was manna from Heaven.
They were on the deck getting some sun and air, trying not to get in anyone’s way. If the captain discovered them, he would send them back to the hold where the passengers stayed.
It was a dark, airless, fetid place, and Rebecca tried to get out and keep Una out of it for as many hours as daylight would allow.
Una was getting worse. Rebecca had begun to question if the old woman would make it to London.
One of the other passengers passed near them. Rebecca found herself the recipient of a shy smile.
He was dressed like all the boys in Cork City, boots, wool pants, shirt, with vest, jacket and a flat cap rested on the chestnut waves of his hair. But his clothes were of a better cut and fit than all the other boys. And the wool looked fine. She smiled back, and the young man walked over to her. Una was sleeping on Rebecca’s right and the man took a seat on her left.
“Hello. My name is Fiohn. Fiohn McGowan.” He looked at her with the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
“I’m Rebecca Byrne.”
“And I suppose you’re headed to the United States for the same reasons everyone is.”
“Oh, no. I’m not going to the United States. I’m leaving the ship in London. I was quite lucky to get passage. The ticket seller told me it was the very last ticket. I consider myself very lucky, indeed.” “Why does he look at me with such an odd expression?
“Miss Byrne, this ship is not going to London. We’re in the Atlantic Ocean.” He swept his arm across their view. “We’re on the way to America.”
“No, I’m sure you’re mistaken, Mr. McGowan. The ship stops in London first, then it heads onto the open sea.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Byrne. This ship is a straight run from Cork to Boston, Massachusetts.”
Rebecca’s stomach lurched within her. For a moment, she thought she might be sick. She was running out of money. Besides duping her into buying the wrong ticket, the seller had also neglected to mention that the one meal a day that was included with the passage was prepared only if you paid the cook in advance. As a result, she’d been sharing one meal with Una once a day. She didn’t have enough money to continue for more than another week.
“I’m sorry. It looks as if you were taken advantage of, Miss Byrne. Allow me to assist you and your mother.”
“Una is my friend. My mother died in Cork City.” Rebecca looked up at the sky. “><i>What am I going to do? What does he mean by asking to assist us?
She looked into those bright blue eyes once more. It suddenly felt as if everything would be alright. Before she could panic she told herself to trust this man and let him help her and Una.
“I don’t know what you mean, Mr. McGowan.”
“Please call me Fiohn.”
“Very well. Fiohn.” Rebecca looked down. She hoped he wouldn’t notice the flush that she knew had risen in her face.
“It appears that the ticket seller in Cork City took advantage of you, Miss Byrne. It happens.” He looked around. “Has anyone asked to see your ticket.”
“No. No one has.”
“That’s good. It’s probably fake.”
“What? What if it is? Will they leave me somewhere?”
“There, there, it’s not so serious as all that. Besides this ship goes straight to Boston. My suggestion is to tell whoever asks for your ticket the whole truth. They will most likely not want payment until we land in Boston.”
“They might as well make me pay now. I have no one in Boston.”
“Maybe your traveling companion does. But it doesn’t matter either way. I’d like to help. I can pay your way.”
Rebecca’s eyes narrowed as she studied him. “><i>Mam warned me about men like this. He’ll hold it over my head. He’ll use it to control me. He won’t let me be until I pay back every last bit I’ve borrowed.
Rebecca and Fiohn looked up to see the first mate, in silhouette against the hard sunlight that poured over them.
“I’ll be seeing your tickets…”
Sheriff Wiley Pena was riding his final patrol of the day. It was six p.m. and he’d been working for twelve hours. A glass of whiskey at Tom Southern’s Saloon was practically the only social outlet available to him and most of the men in Michaelson.
Sure they knew that the saloon’s hurdy-gurdy girls they visited and bought dances from and drinks for saw the men as a means of survival. But they accepted it as just another element of their lives that must be accepted. Life was hard in Wyoming Territory for the men. For the women it was often punishing.
He walked Toby, his Mustang, up to the saloon and dismounted. After tying the reins to the hitching rail, he walked inside.
“Oh, now take it easy, Eli.” The bartender was still behind the bar, hands up, trying to talk to the man who had a Colt Paterson trained on him.
“What’s going on here?” Sheriff Pena approached, hand on his holster.
The man with the Colt glanced at him. “Nothing’s going on here, Sheriff, except that this upstart just insulted one of the dancing girls.”
“That’s not how it was,” the bartender whined.
“It’s not? Then you tell me what pinching a young lady on her backside means where you come from, son?”
Tom Southern stood behind the gunman. He appeared ready to run if necessary.
“You pinched one of these ladies?” Sheriff Pena walked up to the bar. “Now, I don’t know your name, young man, but I do know you’re new in town. You know we don’t take kindly to that kind of treatment of the ladies here in Michaelson.”
“Oh, he’s made it quite clear he doesn’t view the hurdies as ladies, Sheriff.” Seth Michaelson kept his eyes and his gun on the man behind the bar. “Young upstart’s only been in town for two days, and he’s taking liberties. I think it’s time for him to move on.”
The sheriff walked over to Seth and spoke quietly in his ear. “I understand what you’re doing and why, Seth, but if your grandfather gets wind of this…I mean you’ve had too many run-ins with the law this year. And it’s just April.”
“My grandfather would do well to mind his own business. My father founded this town.”
“That’s true, but your mother’s parents were among the first settlers here. And with your father gone…”
“Don’t mention that man to me. You’ll get me riled up.” He turned to face the sheriff, “And I might just shoot this here barman.” Seth lowered his weapon with a grin. As was his way, he diffused the situation with humor. He had no desire to put Sheriff Pena on the receiving end of another one of his grandfather’s lectures.
Pena spoke to Tom Southern, still cowering behind Seth Michaelson. “You best figure out what to do with this one, Tom. I’ll not have him accosting the ladies.” He turned back to the bar. “You hear that, son. You go on and apologize to the little gal you pinched. I better not hear any more of your antics. You’ll abide by the saloon rules and the town laws, or I’ll run you out of town myself. Is that clear?”
“Crystal, Sheriff. Th … thank you.”
The patrons went back to what they’d been doing before the onset of Seth’s chivalry. Card games and dances resumed. The hurdy-gurdy girls got right back to work. At seventy-five cents a dance, the object was to sell as many as possible. Fifteen minutes or a dance and a half had just passed.
Seth looked sheepishly at Sheriff Pena. “Sorry, Sheriff. But you know how I feel when strangers ride into town and decide they’re going to change everything to how they like it and want it to be. If that’s all they’re looking for, then why don’t they just stay wherever it is that they come from?”
“I’d say because wherever it is they come from is not to their liking.” Sheriff Pena winked. “Come on, Seth. Let me buy you a drink. I know you don’t like to see a woman mistreated. It’s a fine trait, I tell you, but if your grandfather gets wind of any other altercations that you’re involved in, I might be running you out of town. I wish it were a joke, but it’s not. Your grandfather is a powerful man in town, Seth. Even if he’s not the founding father, as I mentioned before, he’s one of the earliest settlers in these parts.”
Seth pushed his hat back and leaned forward with his elbows on the table. “I know, Sheriff. You’re right as usual. I need to work on my self-control I reckon.”
They sat at a small round table, both with their backs to the wall and both able to see the saloon entrance. It was second nature to the men in a wild town never to have their backs to the room or worse, the door.
Michaelson, in Wyoming Territory, was a rough frontier town with a wall surrounding it. When Eli Michaelson had founded the town with his partner John Irons, thirty years prior, it had mainly been a trading post. The trading post had become a general store, and the town had sprung up around it within the sturdy timber walls. Time had displaced the timber for adobe and for the most part, everyone inside the town lived relatively colorful, if not peaceful lives.
The local native Indians would come to the gates in the walls with their wares each Saturday. They would give the signal that they came in peace, and the gates would be opened to them. They would enter and set up shop on the backs of wagons, and from the saddlebags of their beasts of burden, generally quarter horses, in the square in front of the general store.
The trappers would come down from the mountains and peddle the soft beaver pelts that were in demand. Occasionally a mountain man might come to the post with anything he hadn’t been able to trade with the native Indians. The trappers and mountain men were odd, quiet types who spent so much time alone in the mountains that they often had social inadequacies.
European immigrants, fleeing the big city ports they’d arrived in, also made the westward trek. On any given day in the post one could hear French, Spanish, Irish, German, and Swiss along with the dialects of the local Indian tribes.
It was a vibrant, alive place with a church, a school, a blacksmith, and just about every manner of small business a town would ever need.
Wagon trains and lone riders stopped often in Michaelson to load up on provisions for their travels. Every kind of traveler passed through the gates of the post. Sometimes a few would stay, the travails of the westward journey and the effort to survive, having exhausted them to the point that they no longer cared about striking gold. They were happy enough to live in mundane well-being within the confines of Michaelson’s town limits.
Seth had been born when the town was nine years old and his mother just seventeen. By that time Eli had moved his wife to a large farm near Michaelson. They resided in an adobe mansion that was surrounded by landscaped gardens and an adobe wall fifteen feet high, the same as the wall surrounding Michaelson. They were the only two places that Seth had ever known.
Their family story had been told many times to him by his mother when he was a child. Young Eli and John Irons had founded the tradingpost. It was called Michaelson’s since Eli had put up the money. Irons was there to run the place and take a percentage of the profits. A year later, looking for some adventure, Eli had gone to California. There he opened a general store in San Francisco which sold dungarees, pans, shovels, sieves, picks, tents, dishes, soap, and anything else a prospector could need or want.
He was a born salesman and had made a pretty penny with his general store during his time in California. But Eli was getting itchy. Itchy for something else. Something new. He’d decided to check on his other investment, the trading post at Michaelson. The last letter he’d gotten from John Irons had left him feeling somewhat anxious. He’d thought it better to check on things in Michaelson before he set off on his next adventure.
Seth’s mother Lenore, at seventeen, had been the closest thing to a belle that the men in Michaelson had ever seen. The only daughter of Robert Franklin and his wife Nancy, Lenore was petite with long black curls, large black eyes, a tiny hourglass figure, and skin whiter than any southern woman despite the custom those belles had of bathing in buttermilk to fade their summer freckles.
When Eli Michaelson’s eyes fell on Lenore Franklin in church that first Sunday after returning home he’d been immediately bewitched. And he’d immediately approached Robert Franklin after the service to introduce himself.
Franklin was an ambitious man. Having left his farm in Pennsylvania for the plains of the western frontier, he had made a success of himself in the three years since he’d relocated his family to Wyoming Territory.
Shortly after Eli’s departure from Michaelson, the trading post had fallen upon hard times. John Irons, the man Eli had left to run it had done just that. He’d run the place into the ground. Robert Franklin had bailed the man out and bought and fully outfitted the place renaming it Franklin’s General Store and Trading Post. John Irons had taken the money from the sale and skipped town.
Over the next three years, Franklin had made a small fortune. If the founder of the town was interested in his daughter, it seemed that Franklin was not above getting rid of her current beau. According to the story, unbeknownst to Lenore or Nancy, Franklin had ordered Lenore’s two beau to stay away. He’d chosen a husband for his girl, and it wasn’t either of them.
While somewhat disgruntled by Franklin’s decision, neither of the men seemed to have thought that Lenore had been serious in her affections toward them. If pressed they would most likely have admitted that they had no interest in having a woman come between their friendship. Or their lifestyles. To them, Lenore had offered a diversion from the saloon and the hurdy-gurdy girls, but they both must have known they were not in the financial position to offer Lenore a future.
When confronted by Franklin it was obvious the two men discovered that they preferred sitting in a bar with a glass of whiskey to sitting on a sofa in a parlor with a cup of tea. Even if that cup of tea was accompanied by the most beautiful woman either man had ever seen.
The men not so reluctantly gave up their pursuits of Lenore Franklin. Within two months she had been married off to Eli Michaelson after he had solicited her father into a partnership. Franklin would keep the general store in which Eli would have a forty percent interest. It was done on a handshake, and neither man would grow to regret it. They were favorable counterparts, and their partnership was naturally a good one.
As far as his marriage, Eli was head over heels for his Lenore, and she for him, and ten months later a son was born to them. A big, healthy baby boy who had all the features of his father and promised to be his spitting image in adulthood.
Seth and Sheriff Pena finished their drinks.
“Well, amigo, that’s all for me. I have an early day tomorrow.”
“Sheriff, you have an early day everyday. You’re a good man. I feel blessed that you watch over Michaelson and its residents the way you do. You and your men have made the town far safer than it used to be. And you’ve done it not by instilling fear in anyone but by showing everyone that you’re worthy of their trust and respect.”
“Thank you, Seth. That means a lot to me. I hope to continue making and keeping Michaelson safe. It’s an honor.”
They stood and walked to the saloon door together, waving at Tom Southern as they did so. Outside they shook hands, mounted their ponies, and rode toward their homes, waving again at the crossroads that took Seth out of the town gates and toward the farm.
It was just dusk, but it was always wise to be as alert as possible anytime he rode into town. He was a little drunk, which made him even more cautious. It was a ten-minute ride if he took his filly, Corky, to her full run. But he wanted to watch as the sun set. There was nothing finer than seeing it from the saddle. He grinned and spit. Better be careful, soon you’ll be wanting to go on adventures like Pa.
At the thought of his father, Seth sobered up considerably. He hated the man. Not because he’d left Seth and the farm and Michaelson inexplicably. He hated his father because Eli had abandoned Lenore. As much as Seth tried to push the thought out of his mind, the more it insisted on replaying itself. Three years had passed since the event, but it seemed to him as if it could have been that very morning.
His thoughts took him back to the night it happened. He had come in from the fields at his usual time. There was to be a party that evening, it being Saturday, for his birthday, which had been the day before. His eighteenth birthday dinner.
As he’d walked into the kitchen he’d heard voices in the parlor. He remembered thinking that it must’ve been later than he’d realized. The guests were already arriving. He’d wondered why Lenore was not with them. He’d heard his father’s voice but not his mother’s.
He’d decided to say hello to whoever the guests were before he went upstairs to his room to bathe. He had strolled down the hall, smiling to himself. He was eighteen, officially a man. Then he’d braced himself for a flurry of female attention and male handshakes. He had turned at the end of the corridor and passed through the parlor door. And he’d froze.
His mother had been on the sofa, head down, a handkerchief dabbing at her red eyes. Seth’s stomach had sunk. Something had happened. Something bad for Lenore to be this upset. Seth’s mother was generally of an even and happy disposition. The only time Seth had seen her cry was when his little brother had died at three months old. It had been a sorry time.
“Mama! What is it?” Seth ran to his mother and seated himself beside her. He looked at his father.
“What is it, Dad? Is it Grandpa? Did he … is everything alright? He’s not ill is he?”
Eli said nothing for a moment. Then he spoke in a voice so quiet Seth could barely hear him.
“Dad, speak up. I cannot hear you.”
Lenore’s hand came to rest on his arm. “Your grandfather is fine, dear. Let your father be, Seth. Let him go.”
“Mama, what are you saying? What is going on here?”
“Your father is leaving, Seth.”
Seth stood up. He was like his father in almost every way. They shared the same longish blond hair, though Eli’s was faded and peppered with gray. Their steely blue eyes were riveting. Folks often mistook them for one another, even at close range. They even walked alike. But Seth was of a larger stature than his father. At this moment, he stood a good half a head higher than him.
“What is Mama talking about, Dad?”
Eli sighed. “You might as well sit down, Seth. You see your mother seems to think I don’t love her anymore, or you for that matter. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Lenore, we’ve been together for nineteen years. You know I love you and Seth. With all my heart.”
Lenore didn’t even look up. She appeared not to have heard him.
Seth sat back down on the sofa. “><i>This is worse than I first thought.
“Why would Mama think you don’t love her anymore, Dad? What is Mama talking about? Are you leaving or something?”
“Yes. I am.”
“Yes? You are? What is that supposed to mean? Where are you going? And why? You think you can just up and leave? As if you have no responsibilities?”
“Seth, I’ve always been an adventurer. I … I’ve never been the settling down type.”
“Not until my father took you on as a business partner.” Lenore’s black eyes snapped with fury.
“I took your father on as a business partner, dear. Please, don’t be that way.”
“How is she to be, Pa? You’ve just told her you’re leaving after nineteen years. Do you have any idea of what that actually means to her? Or to me?”
“As I was saying. I’ve never been the settling down kind of man. But when I first laid eyes on your mother…Lenore when I met you, well, I’ve given you eighteen years with Seth. I’ve helped you raise him, and it’s been one of the joys of my life. But I cannot quell my spirit. I’ve never been able to put down my need for adventure. I tried, God knows I tried, but part of me has been living a lie all these years, and I cannot do it any longer. I cannot live this life anymore. I’m sorry.”
With that, Eli had turned on his heel and walked out of the house without a backward glance.
Seth hated him for it.
On the evening of his father’s departure, Seth and Lenore told the birthday dinner guests that Eli was ill, and unfortunately, could not join them.
“Oh dear, well you’ll give Eli my regards will you not, Lenore? Such a sweet, sweet man.”
“Seth, please give your father my best. And happy birthday, son.”
The guests filed by on their way to the front door and their carriages. They all left messages with Lenore and Seth of goodwill and fast recovery to relate to Eli on the morrow.
When the last had walked outside and the big front door had been closed and bolted, Lenore had met Seth’s eyes with her own. In them he’d seen a deep well of questions and grief.
Lenore had whispered, “Happy birthday, my Seth.” Then she’d turned and fled upstairs to her room where she stayed for a week.
Seth had come to the gate of the farm more quickly than he’d realized. He’d been so lost in thought that Corky had gotten him home without any guidance. She’d even walked off the drive to the house and set upon the bridle path to the stables.
He gave the reins to the stable boy, Seamus. At fourteen, the boy had escaped the famine in Ireland when his parents had died. He’d stowed away on a ship bound for Philadelphia. Once he’d arrived in America he kept on heading west. He rode on the box of stagecoaches with the driver helping to change the horses at the stage stops. If a driver needed extra help, Seamus would work for a ride. At sixteen he’d found himself in Michaelson living under an outside staircase.
Sheriff Pena had found him and had been wondering just what to do with the boy when Seth had come along. He’d taken pity on the boy and offered him work at the farm. Being Irish, he had a way with horses, and within days, Seth had taken him from the fields and put him in the stables. The boy was loyal and smart. But even more than that, Seth intuitively trusted him.
“G’night, Mr. Seth.”
Seth insisted that everyone who worked for him call him by his first name. He thought it good for the soul to view and treat everyone as equal. He continued out of the stables and made the short walk up the hill to the house.
When he entered the kitchen, Lenore was reading and having a cup of tea in the rocking chair by the fireplace. He strode over to her and kissed the top of her head.
“Hello, Mama. How was your day?”
“It was fine, dear. I baked quite a bit. I thought I should take advantage of the cool weather this morning. Then I had lunch with my mother at my father’s farm.”
“You seem a little tired. Do you feel well?”
“Yes, I’m a little tired, but only because I overdid it with kneading the bread dough.” She laughed, her eyes for a moment showing the light Seth hadn’t seen in them in three years.
“How about we go into Michaelson for dinner tonight?”
“Oh, I don’t know if I want to go to the cantina, dear. I’m glad they’re serving food as well as wine these days; you know real meals…the food is delicious, I’ll grant you that.
“Tom Southern has expanded his business to include a restaurant.”
“How nice for him.”
“Mama, he has a French lady cooking there. Remember you told me about the article on all things French in your Godey’s Lady’s Book?”
Lenore smiled. “I don’t think so.”
“Mama, I can’t bear to see you this way. Won’t you let your son take you out for dinner? Think about it. A French chef. Imagine the desserts the mademoiselle must create.”
Lenore began laughing. “As if I could ever say no to you for too long. Very well. I would like to freshen up and change first.”
“The place serves dinner until ten o’clock!”
“At night? That’s absurd.”
“No, that’s how you make money, Mama.” Seth chuckled.
Lenore made a shooing motion with her hand and stepped into the enclosed back staircase that led up from the kitchen.
Seth looked at the staircase door for some time after Lenore had closed it. He’d grown serious. He was worried about his mother.
“Love Through Trials and Tribulations” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
After the death of her mother, Rebecca Byrne’s plans to move to London and find the woman she’s named for. Instead, she finds herself on a boat to America, arriving on the shores of Massachusetts within five months. Once she has settled down, she realizes that this life is not fit for her. She looks into becoming a mail-order bride, and eventually, her effort succeeds. But fate has other ideas. When will her adventures come to an end? Will she have the resilience to face another misfortune?
Seth Michaelson has been a troublesome man since his father abandoned him. His last attempt to prove himself led him to jail, accused of murder. His life will be even more complicated, when his bride-to-be, Rebecca, arrives and finds him in jail. Ashamed of his own behavior, he can’t believe his luck when she decides to stay and support him. But how could love thrive under these circumstances? Will Seth understand in time that he can’t control his past, in order to not destroy his present?
Rebecca truly trusts Seth and is more than willing to stand by his side no matter what the price is. Yet, her fiance’s behavior disappoints her and pushes her away. Will he find the key to her heart or will he ruin his last chance to happiness? Falling in love is sometimes a genuinely challenging path…
“Love Through Trials and Tribulations” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.