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Authors: Janette Oke,Laurel Oke Logan

Tags: #Women pioneers—Fiction, #Western Canada—Fiction

Where Courage Calls: A When Calls the Heart Novel

BOOK: Where Courage Calls: A When Calls the Heart Novel
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© 2014 by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

www.bethanyhouse.com

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

www
.
bakerpublishinggroup
.
com

Ebook edition created 2014

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-4412-6445-9

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by Dan Thornberg, Design Source Creative Services

Dedicated with deepest affection

to some very special people.

Ashley Carolyn & Steve

Nathanael Edward

Jessica Brianne & Steve

Kathryn Louise & Jeff

Courtney Elizabeth

Jacquelyn Leigh & Daniel

Alexander Nicolas

Kristalyn Lorene

Emily Marie

Vladimir David

Connor Edward

Anastasia Kimberly

Brian Carl

Wesley Frederick

Curtis Craig

And in loving memory of our little Amanda Janette.

And yes, thanks to the blessings of our heavenly Father,

they are all ours.

CHAPTER
1

T
HE
ENTIRE
FIRST
FLOOR
of the large stone house had become a hive of swarming bodies. With glasses of pink lemonade in hand and dressed to the nines in long gowns, beaded shifts, and formal tuxedos, the guests bumbled out from the formal drawing room onto the wide veranda in clusters of three or four, buzzing with fresh gossip as they went. As Beth pushed through the crowd it seemed that everyone who was anyone in Toronto society had arrived in high energy, boisterous greetings, arms reaching for polite hugs, and hands presenting unnecessary going away gifts. Father’s more-than-ample home was quickly becoming stifling, though every window was thrown wide. But there was not a whisper of a breeze to lift the overpowering scent of Mother’s lavish floral bouquets on this late-summer night.

For one with a gentle spirit and acute sensitivity, it was overwhelming. Beth felt she would smother if she were not allowed some space—some quiet, some fresh air—if only for a few minutes, until she was able to calm her heartbeat and ease the pulsing in her temples. If only she could slip away.

Then opportunity presented itself. Mr. Woodworth, a leading light in Canada’s railroad industry, captured the crowd’s attention. One hand on the grand piano as though to introduce an upcoming performance, the other waving in dramatic flourish, he began to spin one of his legendary tales. And with the crowd’s eyes fastened on him, Beth was able to duck into the hallway unnoticed and find a place to catch her breath before she must face them all again.

Mother, in her enthusiasm, must have invited everyone they knew from the past and the present. But Mother had always taken advantage of any excuse for a party, and she was known among her peers as excelling in the art of the hostess.
At least she
hasn’t insisted on chaperoning party games on the veranda
tonight.
Beth’s habit of counting small blessings couldn’t help but bring a smile to her lips. She was glad that even in her current agitation, she was able to see some humor. As her father reminded her on occasion, “A sense of humor is a requisite to surviving in our demanding world.”

Beth took the final steps through a narrow door into her little haven of safety and solitude between the servants’ stairway and the door into the yard. Leaning close to a small open window, she noted the scent of fresh-mown grass and the peaceful chirping of crickets under the porch steps, and gazed up at the moon climbing its way over the trees. This was exactly what she needed. If her absence could go undetected for a short while, she would survive.

“She means well,” Father murmured behind her shoulder.

Before turning to face him, Beth’s response was a disheartened sigh. “Yes, I suppose she does.”

Beth was not surprised that her father had noticed her slip out from the crowd of well-wishers. He knew Mother’s social events often stretched Beth beyond her personal sense
of ease. The number of guests, the elegant attire, the fussy refreshments, and the endless and overly loud conversations seemed to Beth to be shallow, superficial.

“It’s just that I’d told her I wanted a
family
dinner on my last night at home.”

“Yes, I know, my dear.”

In the sweet, close silence, Beth leaned her head against her father’s shoulder and attempted to sort through her thoughts aloud. “I’m not afraid of going away. I’ll just miss you all so much.” She thought of her sister’s baby, asleep upstairs. “And JW—how much will he have grown by the time I see him again?”

She could hear the smile in her father’s voice when he said, “Babies do grow up, Beth. It’s usually considered a marvelous thing.”

She raised her gaze to his. “Not when you’re the auntie who isn’t around to see it.” The pouty tone in her voice did not make Beth proud, but since only Father could hear, she gave in to the emotions of the moment. Her throat began to tighten and tears welled in her eyes.

Footsteps in the short hall brought Beth upright and quickly wiping her eyes. Father stepped aside in order to allow Emma to pass, but the young domestic paused at the bottom of the stairs, the basket she was carrying balanced on her hip.

“They’re looking for you, Miss Beth,” Emma cautioned under her breath.

“Thank you, Emma.” Beth drew herself up and did a quick check of her appearance, smoothing the lace collar of her dress, adjusting the wide silk band around her hips, and pinching her cheeks just a little for some color. She noticed Father smiling down at her and reached up to straighten his black bow tie.

His grin widened. “Do I pass inspection?”

“Always.” Beth pulled her shoulders back, gave him an appreciative smile, and forced herself back toward the laughter and voices in the crowded drawing room. The moment she appeared in the doorway she knew she had been spotted.

“There she is! The woman of the hour! Our daring adventurer . . .” And on and on the voices filled the air around her.

“Come here, Beth dear. Miss Thompson would like to hear about the town in which you plan to teach.”

“Yes, darling. Tell us all about your new school.”

Beth could not prevent her deep sigh. She hoped no one noticed. The truth was, she knew so little—well, practically nothing—about the new town or new school. That very fact caused much of the unsettled feeling in the pit of her stomach. The interrogation by those who crowded close, begging for details, pushed her distress even higher. In spite of it all, Beth knew she must respond in some way to the avalanche of questions she had grown painfully tired of hearing. Perhaps it wasn’t the repetitious answers that she had come to dread. More likely it was the familiar comments and quips that were sure to follow, particularly from the younger crowd with whom Beth had shared her growing-up years.

“But, Beth, you
do
know
they haven’t any servant girls in the western wilds, don’t you?”

“Can you even cook for yourself?”

“Or boil water for tea?” More titters.

“And who will do your laundry?” This was always followed by a ripple of laughter. But she attempted to join in with the gaiety, hoping to deflect further jibes.

Edward Montclair, poised and impeccably garbed in full evening attire, pushed a wayward mop of dark hair from his eyes and grinned. “Better get yourself a pair of those Levi
work pants, Elizabeth—you know you can’t wear your fancy dresses among those mountain miners.”

Beth tried to hold on to her smile. Edward had been inserting himself into her conversations for all the years they had grown up together. She wished his whole family would just move away so she would never see him again, even if it damaged Father’s business dealings with Mr. Montclair. And then a new thought emerged.
She
was leaving
Edward
behind! The revelation brought a genuine smile, but the conversation had continued on around her.

“I heard they don’t even bother to learn English! How can you possibly be expected to teach their children?”

Another young man, conveying a self-proclaimed knowledge of any subject at hand, sagely added, “That’s true. Most of the men who work in the mining towns are
foreigners
. You know, just here to make money off our land for their families back home. Sometimes they leave a wife behind and take another here in Canada.”

Gasps followed his pronouncement.

Not everyone in the group was as quick to pass judgment, but it seemed to Beth that those who were the most disparaging had the most to say. Mercifully, Father extended a teacup to her, and Beth accepted it gratefully.

Truth be told, Beth had little interest in either the tea or Mother’s fancy sandwiches and pastries, but it did give her an excuse to gradually pull away from the circle around her and, with nods and smiles, work her way toward the laden tables. She purposefully gave the spread her full attention as she carefully chose from the fruit and vegetable trays, taking also two small crackers with her favorite cheese and a rosemary-cucumber garnish.

She had not been nibbling at her selections long when, as if
on cue, her sister Julie stepped to the center of the room, waved an arm high, and called for everyone’s attention. “Dear friends, a moment of your time, please.” The conversations around them quickly faded. Julie turned dramatically, the pale green beaded fringe on her skirt whirling around her as she called out, “I know all of you are enjoying the refreshments that Mother has provided this evening.” She waited just long enough to allow a respectful patter of applause. Then another graceful turn and a sweeping arm in Beth’s direction. “And I hope you’ve all had a chance to converse with our guest of honor—dear Bethie—who shall be leaving us tomorrow on a train for the West.”

Beth tried not to squirm, and instead smiled around the room. It was already getting late, with no end in sight for the festivities. Her train was scheduled to leave at ten o’clock the next morning, and she still had some final things to pack.

Julie continued, “I’ve been asked to explain that my sister has a great need for a good night’s rest before embarking on such a journey. Reverend Collins has graciously offered to bless her travels with prayer, and then Beth will be retiring for the night.” There was a collective murmur, then scattered nods of understanding. “But,” Julie added, “you’re all welcome to stay as long as you wish. There’s so much more to eat. We need your help with that.” This was met with laughter and nods, particularly from the row of young men toward whom Julie bestowed one of her coquettish smiles.

Reverend Collins stepped forward. Feet shuffled and all heads bowed.

Beth heard little of his prayer. She was occupied with one of her own
. Thank you, thank you, God
was all she could think of, and then added,
And
bless Father for managing it
,
overwhelmed by her unexpected emancipation earlier than expected, which she was certain he had engineered.

Even with her sister’s announcement, it took almost half an hour for Beth to extract herself gracefully from all the well-wishers. When she finally slipped up the stairs, the list of last-minute things to do was spinning round and round in her mind. She pulled off the uncomfortable shoes—“to go with your lovely frock,” her mother had insisted—and relished the feel of thick carpet under her tired feet. But as she hurried down the long hall, she could not resist a last visit into the nursery and a peek at JW.

As she tiptoed in, to her surprise she discovered the sweet-tempered baby was not asleep. He was lying quietly in the same crib that she and sisters Margret and Julie had used as babies. “Just for the times he will visit,” Mother explained as she created a new nursery for this grandson. And, of course, for all of the brothers, sisters, and cousins she hoped would eventually follow.

In the moonlight Beth watched the baby’s face light up in a smile of pleasure at seeing a beloved auntie appear above him. “Hi, darling.” Casting a guilty glance over her shoulder, she scooped him up and moved to the rocking chair, ignoring the tears that started to slide down her cheeks. “And how is the nicest baby in the whole world tonight?” she crooned with a catch in her voice, settling back to rock with him for a while.

The sounds of guests were still drifting up from below when at last she pulled the door closed on the nursery and moved on to her own room, leaving the sleeping baby tucked among the soft blankets of his crib. Her mind was quiet enough now to sort through the remaining few items to fold and place in her suitcase. She tucked her Bible in last and checked to see that the suitcase would still shut.

How will I
ever be able to carry it?
she wondered, marveling that it could be so heavy when there were two additional
trunks already packed and strapped to the back of Father’s Rolls-Royce. She got ready for bed, took down her hair, and brushed it out. So many of the young ladies she knew were cutting their hair short in the modern style, but she and Julie had not been allowed to do so. Mother was distrustful of the current fashion trends. Even their dresses were always a few inches longer than most of their friends. That was fine with Beth, but Julie found it nearly impossible to bear. So much so that Beth suspected when she returned she would find her younger sister had won the battle, bobbing her hair and shortening her skirts. The thought brought a small grin. How often had Julie been stifled with Mother’s answer, “But Beth doesn’t have any trouble with our rules.”

And Julie would always retort, “Oh, yes she does! She just doesn’t say so!”

As if knowing that Beth’s thoughts had wandered in her direction, a quiet knock was followed by Julie’s whisper at the door. “Bethie, you awake?”

“Come in, darling.”

Julie entered, already in nightgown and robe. “Can I sleep in here—one last time?”

“Yes, but it’s not the last time, silly. This trip won’t last forever. You know the position they offered is only for one year.”

Julie drew off her robe and threw herself into the thick feather bed and under the blankets. “I hope you’re right,” she mused. “But what if you meet some fine young man—a shopkeeper, perhaps?” She sat up, eyes wide. “Surely there are businessmen even in the West. And then you’ll marry and settle down. You’ll never come back if that happens.”

“The trains travel in both directions, dear. It’s not so isolated as it used to be. Please, don’t be so dramatic.”

“Hmph,” Julie answered, throwing herself back onto the pillow.

“I’m surprised at you, Julie.” There was a wink in Beth’s voice, and she turned to look over her shoulder at her sister. “You haven’t once suggested what I thought you would.”

Julie’s head popped up above the covers. “What’s that?”

Beth laid aside her hairbrush and rose to switch off the electric light.

“What do you mean?” Julie coaxed as Beth slid into the bed.

“Well . . . I would have thought—because you’re such a daring adventurer yourself—that you already would have asked Father to be allowed to—’’

“Come visit you!” Julie scrambled upright again and clasped her hands together in delight.

BOOK: Where Courage Calls: A When Calls the Heart Novel
11.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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