Betsy's Return (Brides of Lehigh Canal Series #2)

Betsy's Return (Brides of Lehigh Canal Series #2)

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by Wanda E. Brunstetter
     
 

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Journey along the canals with Betsy and William through the challenges of small-town ministry—especially when the new pastor has something to hide.

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Overview

Journey along the canals with Betsy and William through the challenges of small-town ministry—especially when the new pastor has something to hide.

Editorial Reviews

I Deal In Hope
Brunstetter beautifully captivates the reader with compassion for both of her lead characters.

Whether you face transition of moving to a new town, welcoming a new family member, or a shift of roles in the workplace, this story will minister to your heart.
Carolyn R. Scheidies

I DEAL IN HOPE

Brunstetter beautifully captivates the reader with compassion for both of her lead characters.

Whether you face transition of moving to a new town, welcoming a new family member, or a shift of roles in the workplace, this story will minister to your heart.

— CAROLYN R. SCHEIDIES

I DEAL IN HOPE - CAROLYN R. SCHEIDIES

Brunstetter beautifully captivates the reader with compassion for both of her lead characters.

Whether you face transition of moving to a new town, welcoming a new family member, or a shift of roles in the workplace, this story will minister to your heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781607421641
Publisher:
Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
05/01/2010
Series:
Brides of Lehigh Canal Series , #2
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
541,594
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author, Wanda E. Brunstetter became fascinated with the Amish way of life when she first visited her husband's Mennonite relatives living in Pennsylvania. Wanda and her husband, Richard, live in Washington State but take every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the States, where they have many Amish friends.

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Betsy's Return


By Wanda E. Brunstetter

Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Wanda E. Brunstetter
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60742-165-8


CHAPTER 1

Summer 1896

* * *


Oh, Papa, "I'm so sorry." Betsy Nelson dabbed at her tears and sank to the bed in the small room she occupied in New York City. She had just received a telegram saying that her father had suffered a heart attack and would have to resign his position as pastor of the community church in Walnutport, Pennsylvania.

"It isn't fair," Betsy moaned, as she let her mind take her back to the days when Papa, newly widowed, had begun his ministry at the small church not far from the Lehigh Canal. Betsy had been a young girl then, barely out of pigtails. Grieving over her mother's untimely death, she had been an angry, disagreeable child, often saying spiteful things so others would feel as badly as she did. Even as an adult she had made cutting remarks and looked down her nose at those she thought were beneath her.

She remembered when she had tried to get Mike Cooper's attention. Besides being young, handsome, and single, Mike ran a general store along the Lehigh Canal. There'd been one problem—Mike was interested in Kelly McGregor, an unkempt young woman who led the mules that pulled her father's canal boat.

Betsy grimaced at the memory of the harsh words that had come from her mouth the day she'd invited herself to join Mike and Kelly on a picnic. They'd been talking about swimming, and Mike had admitted that he'd never learned to swim well. Betsy had turned to Kelly and asked, "What about you? As dirty as you get trudging up and down the dusty towpath, I imagine you must jump into the canal quite frequently in order to get cleaned off."

Five years later Betsy could still picture Kelly's wounded expression and see the look of horror on Mike's face.

"They must have thought I was terrible. I'm surprised the board of deacons didn't fire Papa because of me," she murmured. Yet despite Betsy's curt, self-righteous ways, the church leaders had remained patient with her, just as her dear father had.

Betsy closed her eyes, and a vision of Papa standing behind the pulpit came to mind. In his younger days he'd been a handsome man with curly, dark hair and gray blue eyes that reflected the concern and compassion he felt for others. He'd preached strong sermons from the Bible and played the fiddle with enthusiasm, and despite his disagreeable daughter, everyone in the congregation respected and admired the Reverend Hiram Nelson.

Betsy squeezed her fingers around the telegram, crumpling it into a tight ball and letting it fall to the floor. "It's not right that Papa should have to give up something he's done for so many years. If only his heart had remained strong. If only God would give us a miracle."

She stood and moved over to the window, staring at the street below. An ice wagon rolled past, probably heading to one of the nearby stores to make a delivery. Several horses plodded down the street, pulling various-sized buggies transporting businessmen to their office jobs. A newspaper boy stood on one corner, heralding the news of the day. A peddler selling his wares ambled down the road, pushing his cart full of pots and pans. New York City was always busy, even in these early morning hours.

Betsy leaned against the window casing and thought about how much her life had changed over the last four years. She'd left Walnutport in 1892, and soon after her arrival in New York City, where she was to meet with the mission board, she had been beaten and robbed. A gentle, caring woman named Abigail Smith, an officer in the Salvation Army, had taken Betsy into her home and nursed her back to health. By the time Betsy's wounds had healed, she knew the Salvation Army was a worthy cause and she wanted a part in it. Since that time she'd found a closer relationship with Christ and had joined others from the Salvation Army in numerous street meetings, often playing her zither, singing, and proclaiming the Word of God to anyone who would listen. She'd also spent many hours at the Cheap Food and Shelter Depot, which helped the poor and downtrodden obtain a new lease on life.

Betsy's ties with the Salvation Army had also presented her with an opportunity to volunteer at a local orphanage. She, who had previously been uncomfortable around children, now found pleasure in working with underprivileged orphans so in need of love and attention. For the first time in Betsy's thirty-one years she found herself wishing she had children of her own. She supposed some women were destined to be old maids, and she was convinced that she would be one of them.

Betsy's mind snapped back to the present situation with her father's ill health and his resignation from the church. A new preacher would soon be assigned to take Papa's place, and that didn't feel right to Betsy. Neither did Papa being sick.

A spark of anger ignited a flare of determination in her heart as she moved away from the window and knelt in front of the trunk at the foot of her bed. "I must set my work in New York City aside and return home. Papa needs me to care for him now."

* * *

Dear William Covington:

The board of deacons from the Walnutport Community Church in Pennsylvania would like to interview you, for our previous pastor, the Rev. Hiram Nelson, recently suffered a heart attack and has been forced to retire. If you're willing to meet with us, please notify me as soon as possible.

Sincerely, Ben Hanson Head Deacon


William folded the letter he'd received yesterday and placed it on the roll-top desk sitting in the far corner of his father's study. It had only taken him a few hours to deliberate before he'd sent a telegram to Deacon Hanson, letting him know that he would arrive at the train depot in Easton, Pennsylvania, on Friday and would rent a carriage to make the trip to Walnutport. That would give him the opportunity to meet with the board of deacons on Saturday, as well as tour the church and parsonage. On Sunday he would meet the members of his prospective congregation and give them a sample of his preaching.

William strolled back across the room and took a seat on the elegant sofa his mother had purchased on her recent trip to England. He leaned back, stretching his arms overhead, and yawned. He was glad for this opportunity to be alone with his thoughts. His parents had gone to the opera tonight, and even though William's mother had tried to convince him to go along, he had politely declined, saying he needed time to pack for the trip and prepare his sermon.

William's gaze came to rest on the massive portrait of his father, hanging on the far wall. William Covington Jr. had been born into a wealthy family and had inherited all his father's business ventures after William Sr. died several years ago. William III had no desire to follow in his father's or grandfather's footsteps as a successful entrepreneur. The fact that William's father owned a thriving newspaper in Buffalo, New York, as well as several hotels, the new music hall, and numerous specialty stores, meant nothing to William. He had accepted Christ as his Savior when he was twelve years old, and ever since then, his strongest desire had been to become a minister. Three and a half months ago he'd graduated from the seminary in Boston, full of hope for the future and anxious to marry Beatrice Lockhart, his high school sweetheart.

William groaned as a vision of Beatrice came to mind—ebony hair and eyes the color of dark chocolate. Soon after they'd begun courting, Beatrice had agreed to marry him. The wedding had been set for the week after William graduated from seminary, and his future bride had seemed excited about the idea of being the wife of a "prominent minister," as she liked to refer to William whenever they were with her friends. But when William had informed Beatrice that his first church might be small and unable to pay him much money, she'd insisted that he give up the idea of becoming a preacher and go to work for his father. Certain that God had called him to the ministry, William had refused her request. Beatrice pouted at first, the way she'd always done whenever she didn't get her way. Then she'd finally given in and said she would abide by whatever William decided.

"She lied to me!" William shuddered at the memory of standing at the altar, waiting for a bride who never showed up. A note had been delivered by Beatrice's father. Beatrice had changed her mind; she didn't want to be a minister's wife after all. "Too many demands," she'd written. "It might take years before you're hired at a church that would be able to support us adequately."

William folded his arms and leaned forward, a deep groan escaping his lips. He could never trust another woman or get over the humiliation of being jilted by Beatrice. He'd thought she loved him for better or worse, richer or poorer, but he'd been sorely mistaken.

He stood, prepared to return to the desk and work on the sermon he would deliver to the people in Walnutport, but raucous yapping distracted him. His mother's Siamese cat raced into the room, with his father's English setter nipping at her tail. The dog had obviously sneaked into the house, probably because William had left the door ajar when he'd gone out for some fresh air after his parents left. Thanks to his carelessness, muddy paw prints now covered Mother's Persian rug.

"Lucius, come here!"

The dog ignored William and kept chasing the hissing, spitting cat.

William quickly joined the chase, hoping to capture his father's prized hunting dog and remove him from the house. But each time Lucius was within William's grasp, the animal eluded him. In the meantime, Princess, the pampered feline, hopped onto a small table, and Lucius leaped into the air and swiped at Princess with his large, muddy paw. The cat jumped to the floor, eluding the setter, but Mother's Parisian vase crashed to the floor.

"I'll never hear the end of this," William groaned. When his mother saw the mess, she would tell him that it would never have happened if he had gone to the opera as they had asked.

William looked up. "Oh Lord, I pray the church in Walnutport accepts me as its pastor, because I need to get away—away from Father's unreasonable demands, from Mother's persnickety ways, and from the memory of the woman who left me standing at the altar."

CHAPTER 2

As Betsy stepped through the front doorway of the parsonage, a feeling of nostalgia swept over her like a cool wind on a hot summer's day. She had spent the better part of fifteen years in this home, and she and her father had created enough memories to fill up a lifetime.

"Papa, I'm home!" she called.

"I–I'm in the sitting room" came his feeble reply.

Betsy placed her suitcase beside the umbrella stand and rushed into the next room. The sight made her halt in midstride. Her father reclined on the sofa, his face pale and drawn, his hair, once full and shiny, now dull and thinning. He offered a weak smile and pulled himself to a sitting position. "Betsy, it's so good to see you."

She hurried across the room and dropped to her knees in front of the sofa. "Oh, Papa, it's good to see you, too. If I'd known how things were with your health, I would have come much sooner."

He reached out and wiped the moisture from her cheeks with his thumb. "Don't waste your tears on me, daughter. I'm in God's hands, and He will see me through to the end."

The end? Did Papa believe he was dying? Could Papa's heart be so weak that he might not live much longer?

Betsy reached for her father's hand and was saddened by the lack of strength in his grip. Papa used to be so energetic; now he was a mere shell of a man.

"I wish you hadn't felt the need to come home," he said. "Your work with the Salvation Army is important, and people check on me regularly."

Betsy gently massaged his bony fingers. "I'm needed here right now. It's my place to care for you."

Tears welled in Papa's eyes. "You're a good daughter, and I'm much obliged."

Late-afternoon shadows bounced off the walls as Betsy glanced around the room, noting the thick coating of dust on the end tables and fireplace mantle. "Is there anything I can get for you, or would you rather I do some cleaning?"

He shook his head, easing himself back to the sofa pillows. "You're probably tired from your train trip, and the cleaning can wait. Why don't you sit awhile so we can visit?"

Betsy rose from her knees. "All right, but first let me fix you a cup of tea."

"That would be nice."

"What kind would you like, herbal or black?"

"A couple of ladies from church came by yesterday and brought some things for the pantry. So whatever you come up with is fine."

"I'll be back soon." Betsy leaned over and kissed his forehead then hurried to the kitchen. A knock sounded at the back door. When she opened it, she was greeted by two of the church deacons, Ben Hanson and Henry Simms.

"Afternoon, Betsy," Ben said with a nod. "We heard you were coming and thought we'd better get over here and explain things to you."

Betsy opened the door wider, bidding them enter. "Your telegram said my father had a heart attack and that his health has failed so much that he must resign as pastor."

"That's right," Henry said, combing his stubby fingers through his thinning hair. "A minister's on his way here from Buffalo, New York, to interview for the position."

Betsy clenched her teeth. It grieved her to hear them speak of hiring someone to take Papa's place. Yet it wasn't their fault Papa's health had failed. Even though it had been the board of deacons' decision to ask for her father's resignation, the board had had no choice. If Papa could no longer fulfill his duties, it was time for him to step aside.

Ben cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. "The thing is, once we've hired a new preacher and he moves to Walnutport, he's going to need a place to live."

Henry nodded in agreement. "Since the parsonage was built by the founding church members and is owned by the church, I'm afraid we'll have to ask you and your father to move."

Betsy stood still as she let the deacons' words register. Her father would not be preaching in Walnutport anymore. A minister was coming for an interview. She and Papa would have to look for another place to live.

"You won't have to move until we've hired a new preacher and he's able to relocate." Ben gave the end of his handlebar mustache a quick flick. "It could take several months to find the right man for the job."

"That's right," Henry put in. "I–I'm sure it won't be easy to fill your pa's shoes."

Betsy bit her lip so hard she tasted blood. "Is that all you gentlemen wanted?"

"Yes, yes. I believe we've said all that needs to be said. Give the good preacher our regards!" Ben called over his shoulder as he and Henry hurried out the door.

"I'll do that." Betsy closed the door behind them and headed for the pantry. She found several glass jars filled with vegetables and fruit, a jar of coffee, and a bag of flour on the floor, but no tea.

She released a sigh. "Looks like I'll need to make a trip to Cooper's store and see about getting some tea and a few other things we'll need," she mumbled. "I'd better tell Papa where I'm going."

When she entered the sitting room, she found her father asleep, so she scrawled him a note and left it on the low table in front of the sofa. She didn't think it would take long to get the things she needed, and she'd probably be back long before Papa woke up.

* * *

As William guided the horse pulling his rented carriage down the dusty road toward Walnutport, he thought about his mother's predictable reaction when he'd told her that he was interviewing to be pastor in a small town near the Lehigh Canal in Pennsylvania.

"Why can't you wait until a church opens here in Buffalo?" she had questioned. "Why would you want to minister to a bunch of country folks?"

"Don't you think I'll be a good enough preacher to shepherd the flock?" William had asked.

"That's not what I meant at all," she had said in a defensive tone.

"What your mother is trying to say is that a small church in the middle of nowhere won't be able to pay you much because there won't be enough people," his father had interjected, giving his goatee a couple of quick pulls.

William gripped the reins tighter. "I shouldn't have expected them to understand. All Mother cares about is her socialite friends, and all Father worries about is his money."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Betsy's Return by Wanda E. Brunstetter. Copyright © 2010 Wanda E. Brunstetter. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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