Sins of the Mothers, Historic Christian Romance, set in 1851-1853 Texas and California
Book Four of the Texas Romance series
Main Characters : Mary Rachel Buckmeyer, firstborn (born August 3, 1833) daughter of Henry and Sue Baylor Buckmeyer (from VOW UNBROKEN), Caleb Wheeler (introduced in Hope Reborn) born August 29, 1828, John and Lanelle’s cousin, weds Mary Rachel Buckmeyer, Wheeler, Lanelle Wheeler born September 22, 1830, John’s sister, Caleb’s cousin, Jethro Risen born September 22, 1830, partner of Moses Jones in a gold mine, Moses Jones born October 13, 1816, Jethro’s partner, Susannah Wheeler born October 6, 1851, daughter of Caleb and Mary Rachel, Joshua Jones born October 27, 1851 to Lanelle, Francis ‘Francy’ Boyd born October 28, 1842, an orphan God sends, Amos Boyd born 1836 is Fracy’s older brother, Elijah Eversole born January 2, 1826, followed in his father’s footsteps as a blacksmith, but loves inventing and building new machines, Millicent ‘May’ Meriwether Buckmeyer (from Hope Reborn), successful dime novelist, Patrick ‘Henry’ Buckmeyer (from Vow Unbroken, Hearts Stolen, and Hope Reborn), Mammy—renamed Jewel Meriwether, Chester’s wife, long time cook (freed slave) of the Buckmeyer family and other children: Gwendolyn, Cecelia, Bonnie and Houston (Henry’s children by Sue and Mary Rachel’s younger siblings); Other appearances by Bart (Levi and Sassy/Rose’s half-Comanche son)
Premise : No matter how many times you sin and ask forgiveness, God is always there with open arms to receive you back into His arms. His grace is always sufficient, not limited in any situation. God hears prayers. God answers prayers. God always provides a way to get out of a pit.
Synopsis : This story starts as soon as the last one, Hope Reborn leaves off. Henry and May got to Europe and take the three youngest girls. With her father gone, Mary Rachel’s confidence and courage is boosted enough to run off and marry Caleb Wheeler without her father’s blessing. Nothing goes as she’s planned though, and she finds herself in despair and far from home. It seems there is no way for everything to work out.
Chapter One :
With everyone on the porch for the clan’s send-off, Mary Rachel decided for sure and for certain and could wait no longer. She took a deep breath and hugged his neck. “Daddy, I’m sorry. I really am, but I can’t go. No, I mean I’m not going. I can’t leave. I won’t.”
He leaned back and stared at her for too long a minute, his face suddenly stone cold. “What did you just say?”
She grimaced, then steam rose to her cheeks. He softened just like he always had when her mother turned on him. Saying it aloud made it all the more real, strengthened her resolve. “I cannot be gone for seven months. I thought for a while maybe I could, but I can’t, Daddy.”
Her new mother stepped close. “But Mary Rachel, why? It’s the trip of a lifetime. I promise you’ll adore Europe.”
“It’s just Mary now, please. No Rachel. That’s what Caleb calls me.”
His voice lowered to almost a whisper; he slipped some of the steel back on. “So. This is about that boy.”
“He’s a man, Daddy, and you know it. We love each other.”
“If he loves you, Baby, then he’ll wait. It’s only seven months. He should be thrilled you have this opportunity to travel Europe.”
“Well, I’ve made my decision, and I’m not going.”
“We’ve booked your passage.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. I should have told you sooner, but I knew you wouldn’t be happy about my decision.” She looked off at the tree line, hating the disappointment in his eyes, but that was a coward’s way. She faced him again. “Like I said, I thought I could. Anyway, let Bonnie take my place.”
From somewhere, her youngest sister burst into the middle. “Can I, Daddy? Please take me! I’ll be good. Mama, tell him how good I’ll be.” She turned those doe eyes on him. “Pleeeease.”
* * * * *
Six miles, north by northwest as the turkey vultures soar from Clarksville, Texas, the very reason Mary stayed home, rode his best mule, as he skidded the black walnut saw log back to his cabin. Caleb looked behind. “Slow, girl, almost there.”
He nudged the animal a bit further, the timber only feet from his makeshift hoist. Two more steps, then he eased Harley Sue to a stop. He hopped down then rubbed the old girl’s near ear. “You sure are a good mule.” The distant rattle of trace chains turned him east; for a minute he stared, then she waved. “Well, look here what the cat drug in.”
He unhooked the skid and led Harley Sue to the barn’s corral; got back before Lanelle had the brake set on her wagon. “She go?”
He nodded. “You sure? Saw it with your own eyes?”
“Yep, he took the three younger girls, but not the princess.” She stood and threw him a smirk. “Help me down.”
“Sure.” He stepped toward her with his arms held out; she fell into them. He caught her then twirled her around as she wrapped hers around his neck. He set her feet to the ground then stepped back a bit. Business first. “Anyone see you turn on my road?”
“No, but what difference would it make? I’m only bringing supplies for my kin.”
“True, you get it all?”
“A pound of salt pork, two pounds of salt, and a pound of coffee, but you best get yourself to town. Old man Hobbs wants a word with you. Wasn’t too happy when I told him to put it on your bill ’stead of Pappy’s.”
Caleb nodded toward his wagon. “I should have this lumber loaded by Saturday. I’ll see to him on my way to Jefferson.”
She shrugged then turned and moseyed toward the cabin. “That last batch any better?”
Heading the opposite direction to the well, he soon went to cranking; retrieved the jug, pulled the cork, and took a slug. When he didn’t follow, she looked around then trotted to him grinning.
He extended his home brew. “You tell me.”
Always a sight to behold, she accepted the jug without an ounce of pretension, licked her lips, took a short pull, then wiped her mouth. “Boogers, Caleb.” She grinned then got herself a real drink. “Woo! I’d say that may be the best you’ve cooked yet.”
He took the jug back and sipped a few tastes more. Burned good all the way down.
Replacing the cork, he nodded toward the cabin. “You got time?”
She reached for the liquor. “Depends.”
He twisted away. “On what?”
“You really going to marry that Buckmeyer girl?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am, and you best get used to the idea.”
“Her daddy ain’t going to like it, and you know it. He’s liable to cut her off. Where you gonna be then?”
“I got it all worked out, and if you do like I say, it’ll work out for you, too, cousin of mine.”
She stepped close, put one hand on his chest, the other on the jug. “How so?”
“Come on inside, and I’ll tell you.”
She pulled back, taking the jug with her. “You got one of these for me?”
“Course, but you best not tell Auntie where you got it if she catches you.”
She shook her head. “Don’t worry about her. You best be hoping Pappy don’t ever find out what we been doing all these years.”
* * * * *
From the moment her daddy and his new wife left—the three little sisters in tow—for their big European adventure, Mary not-so-patiently counted the prescribed nine days. On the eve of the tenth, with true love so near, she hadn’t slept a wink. All night, she waited for the big clock to strike three. Once it finally did, she retrieved the saddlebags from under her bed.
Tiptoeing downstairs, she barely breathed. With each step, her heartbeat quickened until she reached her daddy’s library. Caught her silly self afore she knocked, so strong ingrained her desire to follow his rules. But even stronger, her love for Caleb opened the door, and she slipped inside, closing it quietly behind her.
He promised he’d come back for her if she didn’t want to go, and they could marry then. He said two years, no more than three. Sounded almost a lifetime. Anything could happen in that much time.
No, she’d made her decision, and there’d be no turning back. She wanted him now, wanted to be his more than anything she’d ever wanted in all her days.
Once inside, she lit the lamp, turning the wick low and eased into Daddy’s forbidden sanctuary. His room. Slowly, she spun the dial on the safe in his over-sized water closet. When the final number fell into place, and the handle unlatched the door, she remembered and took a deep breath.
Excellent, he hadn’t changed the combination.
She retrieved her strong box, slipped the key in, and pried the lid open. Right there, exactly as she’d seen the last time, a pile of gold pieces. She carefully counted the coins out into the bottom of the saddlebag, halving them to balance the weight.
One hundred lovely tinkling bits of gold, two thousand dollars, fifty per side. Yes, all there.
Wait. Bank notes lined the box’s bottom.
Where had those come from?
Pulling out the greenbacks, she counted them: five hundred and forty-two dollars. With no idea when Daddy added them for her, she decided only to be grateful. When made no difference.
God sent the money, knowing she’d need it. That would buy an extra ton of trade goods if Caleb figured right.
Folding the bills together, she put them in one side and replaced what few clothes she’d managed to pack on top. Then on second thought, decided to put the bills in her stockings. Maybe she’d hang onto the notes as a reserve.
Caleb already knew about the coins, but sure would be fun to be able to produce extra money if the need arose.
Carefully, she locked the safe back then headed to his desk and retrieved the Baby Paterson he kept in the top drawer. Surely her daddy wouldn’t begrudge her the loan of the Colt, would he? Should she leave a note?
With the pistol carefully stowed in the right-hand bag, the lantern out, and her eyes well readjusted, she eased into the hall then out the front door. New Blue rose, stretched, and greeted her.
She responded with a shush, giving the dog’s ear a good rub, then strolled around the house to the barn. He trotted along beside her. Enough moonlight to see by outside, proved insufficient inside the barn. She pulled a box of matches from her pocket and lit a candle then quickly blew it out soon as she’d located what she needed.
Shortly, her daddy’s horse stood saddled and ready to go. She led him to the far end’s double doors then east, until out of earshot of the house. After only two tries, she got herself aboard. “Go home, Newly! Go on.”
Been a long time since she sat a horse, but once she got her dress straightened out, she clucked him into an easy trot. Wouldn’t do to spend him without reason. Always best to keep a little in reserve just in case something unexpected happened. Rose had taught her that. Goodness, what would she do if Indians tried stealing her?
Her heart beat a little faster at the prospect, and she kept a steady scan on both sides of the pasture, but nothing happened. Just like she and Caleb had planned, she beat the stage to Titus’s Trading Post in Mount Pleasant. Of course, no problem with the proprietor. Her father’s old friend would be more than happy taking care of the black until someone came for him.
She hated lying, but no one needed to know her plans, not yet.
Soon enough, she’d be Mis’ess Caleb Wheeler, and then there wouldn’t be one thing anybody could do about it. That’s when she’d be free to share, and not before. Praise the Lord that He arranged her Daddy going off to Europe at the exact perfect time.
A part of her hated doing things this way, but he would never have agreed. And she could never have snuck off with him there either. Yes, sir, everything worked out just fine. She couldn’t wait to get to Jefferson!
* * * * *
Caleb looked around the hotel room. All of his cousin’s things were packed in her bag. He extended his hand. Lanelle took it. “Thank you.” He pulled her to her feet. “You best get on gone. Your flatboat’s liable to sail without you.”
Placing both hands on his chest, she pecked him on his lips. “Let’s just wait and see if Miss Priss is on the stage first. No need to get all hasty. I may be able to ride the steamboat with you after all.”
“Mary will be here, just like we planned.”
She kissed him again, this time with more passion. “You don’t know for sure. A thousand things could happen.”
“I do know.”
“She loves me. You should’ve seen the look in her eyes when I told her I’d come back in two years to marry her if she’d wait for me.”
She backed away and glared. “Do you love that girl?”
“Some.” He shrugged. “Maybe a little.”
“And how’s your devious plan going to work if she couldn’t get to her money, huh?”
“Then she can’t go. Plain and simple, but she’ll have it. Don’t you worry. All one hundred beautiful, bright, and shiny gold coins.”
“And when are you going to tell her that I’m coming along, too?”
He smiled. “Not until after we’re married. Sometime between here and New Orleans, I figured I’ll mention we’re meeting up with you and my whiskey barrels.”
“I still can’t believe you’re marrying the snotty princess. Ask me, she’s way too blue at the mizen.”
“Well, I didn’t.”
“I don’t understand why you think marriage is so necessary.”
“We should just forget about her once we have the money. That’s all we need to…”
He put a finger on her mouth. “No, we need Mary’s compliance; we need her in California, and there’s no way she’d ever make the trip with me, without wearing my name. Quit fretting over it. John swears we can sell about anything a miner needs for five, six times what it’s going for here. We’re going to be rich.”
“Sometimes my brother stretches the truth a little.”
“Sometimes a lot, but I’ve read the news reports coming out of California; and that part’s true. There’s so much gold, the miners have gone plum crazy.” He pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her. “I love you, Lanelle.”
She leaned back. “More than Miss Priss Buckmeyer?”
“Of course. I’ve loved you forever.”
She glanced at the ruffled hotel bed. “Show me.”
Even with the unexpected delay, he had his cousin and his three oak barrels on the flatboat an hour before The Belle came skidding to a stop. He waited for the dust cloud to settle then walked to the door.
* * * * *
His intended stepped out first with a saddlebag—both sides stuffed full—draped over her shoulder. She fell into his arms.
He kissed her gently and lifted her load. Excellent, plenty heavy. He blew out the stale air of doubt from his lungs, then hugged her tight and planted a real one on her soft full lips. “I love you, Mary Buckmeyer.”
“I love you more, Caleb Wheeler. When do I get my new name?”
“Everything is in place. The judge has set aside four o’clock this afternoon for us. The steamboat leaves mid-morning.” He smiled.
She clasped her hands together under her chin and squealed. “Ooooo, bless God! It’s all working out exactly like you said.” She nodded toward the bag over his shoulder. “All there, didn’t have one ounce of trouble.”
“Take care of it for me.” She grinned. “I’ve got some shopping to do.”
He shrugged the shoulder burdened with the hand-tooled, extra soft leather pouches. “Need any of these little darlings?”
“No. That’s our seed.” She grinned. “Where’s our hotel?”
He took her hand and led her down the sidewalk to the over-sized double doors then nodded inside. “We have room twenty-two, second floor, third door on the right.”
She held out her hand.
“The key, silly, and don’t you dare come peek, I’ll see you –” Stopping mid-sentence, she looked around. “Where’s the judge?”
He stepped off the boardwalk. She followed. He pointed up the street to where the courthouse’s spiral rose above the sawed board buildings and trees that lined the extra wide dirt road. “His chambers are right on the ground floor, can’t miss him.”
“I’ll see you there at three-forty-five, don’t be late.”
He laughed. “I was about to say the same thing, but don’t you worry your pretty head about me, I’ll be there early with bells on.”
“Good.” She kissed him again then put both hands on his chest and pushed. “Oh, have you got another key?”
She winked. “You practicing? Because I do, too.” With a nod toward the saddle bags, she pouted. “Mind laying out what little I brought in the room, please, kind sir?”
“Of course not.”
“Thank you, then make yourself scarce, and I’ll see you at the courthouse!”
Mary watched as Caleb walked into the hotel’s lobby. A twinge nicked her heart, maybe she shouldn’t have let him watch over the gold coins, but those bags were getting heavy, and well, wasn’t like he was after her money. Had plenty of his own. Adding her savings to his had been her idea—after all.
Mercy, she’d known him forever, back when she was a little kid and him a big boy who didn’t even know or care that she existed. Still, she’d set her bonnet for him ever since.
And besides, by half past four, hers would be his, and his would be hers, and it all would be theirs, together, sharing everything forever.
Hey, she made a poem. She repeated her little impromptu rhyme, heading off down the street.
Unlike her big sister Rebecca, who had too many suitors to count before she finally chose and married Wallace Rusk, Mary had never even smiled at another boy. And now, in just a few hours, her dreams would be coming true.
Mis’ess Caleb Warner Wheeler.
Mary Wheeler, she liked the sound of that. Lots cuter than Mary Rachel Buckmeyer. A new name and a new life. She hugged herself then turned her attention to finding herself the right dress, and anything else a bride would need.
She kind of sort of wished she’d confided in her best friend, Sarah. It’d be fun having her there to share the excitement. But she dared not tell anyone, and she could do it alone. She had Caleb.
The next morning, while she sipped coffee in the hotel’s dining room, a shadow fell over her heart. Her wedding fell somewhat short, not exactly what she’d envisioned since a little girl. But the ceremony didn’t matter, nor the first awkward night. All that…nothing more than temporary.
What truly held any significance, she’d have for life—his name—Mis’ess Caleb Wheeler. And her love would carry her away on a grand adventure to California by way of New Orleans.
She’d heard so many stories about that town, she could hardly wait to get there and see it for herself. And she had all that buying to do, wouldn’t that be so much fun. The horse trader in her pawed the air and whinnied real loud.
She hated that the judge’s clerk served as her only witness, but being married—that’s what was important.
Who needed a big party with all her family and friends there to celebrate with her and shower her and her new husband with gifts? Her Daddy to give her away? Her new mother, the famous novelist, to give her advice? Not her.
Caleb patted her hand. “What’s wrong, Sweetness?”
She looked at him and smiled. “Nothing, just thinking I needed to get word to Daddy.”
“Want to write him a letter? Jefferson has a post office.”
“No, I was thinking once we reach New Orleans, I’d wire him a telegram.”
“How could you? Where would you send it to?”
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