For Such a Time as This: A Women of Hope Novelby Ginny Aiken
Drought has forced farmers around the small town of Bountiful in the Hope region of Oregon to mortgage their property. Then word comes of plans for a spur line to run through the area and join the railroad in nearby Milton. Folks with money see an opportunity to fill their coffers by buying farmland cheap then selling to the railroad for a profit. The Bank of… See more details below
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Drought has forced farmers around the small town of Bountiful in the Hope region of Oregon to mortgage their property. Then word comes of plans for a spur line to run through the area and join the railroad in nearby Milton. Folks with money see an opportunity to fill their coffers by buying farmland cheap then selling to the railroad for a profit. The Bank of Bountiful, owned by Eli Whitman, appears to be doing that, as well.
Widowed two years earlier, Eli, with a son and daughter to raise, sought a hard-working, educated Christian woman to care for them and his home. Olivia Moore filled the bill, and as soon as Eli recognized her as an excellent investment, he offered her first employment then a marriage of convenience.
While Olivia is an excellent choice, her large family gives Eli pause. He knows about the problems posed by in-laws, so he will do whatever it takes to avoid a repeat of his earlier experiences.
When Papa tells Olivia the Moore family must move according to Eli's terms for the new railroad line, she fears for their safety, since they'll be homeless during winter. Where will they go? How will they survive?
It is up to Olivia to convince her husband to renege on his demands, though she swore before their marriage she would stay out of his business.
Serena Chase, USAToday.com"
I loved this story. A sweet historical romance about a woman determined to help her family. Ginny Aiken is a fabulous writer who creates characters and a setting that come alive and transport you to another time and place. The suspense writer in me loved the thread of mystery she skillfully wove into the plot. This book should come with a warning: Before you start to read, make sure you don't have anything else to do for the next several hours because you WON'T want to put this book down. Eagerly awaiting the sequel!"Lynette Eason"
[Ginny] Aiken in FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS has created a well-crafted story with humor and characters you will care what happens to them."Margaret Daley, author of Saving Hope in the Men of the Texas Rangers Series"
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS is the kind of book I love to read. A marriage of convenience where the reason doesn't feel contrived. Strong characters. An interesting plot that kept me turning pages. A touch of mystery. A lot of romance. A strong biblical theme skillfully woven into the story. I want to read more books by this author."Lena Nelson Dooley author of Maggie's Journey, Mary's Blessing, and the Will Rogers Medallion Award winner, Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico"
The Biblical story of Queen Esther meets the West in an engaging historical romance. A hurting hero you'll root for. A steadfast heroine with a big heart who will steal yours. A poignant story of overcoming past betrayals through faith, forgiveness, and finding true love."Vickie McDonough award-winning author of the Pioneer Promises series and co-author of the Texas Trails series"
Once again Ginny Aiken writes with both humor and deep emotional angst. FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS made me laugh, made me cry and made me want to keep reading until the very end. Olivia Moore is the reluctant Mary Poppins of Bountiful, Oregon and Eli Whitman is so adorable as the stoic widower/banker that I fell for him the first time he stepped onto the page. Another great book by one of my favorite writers. What a treat!"
Lenora Worth author of Sweetheart Reunion"
Travel to the town of Bountiful with Christian author Ginny Aiken, where romance, intrigue and even a few childish pranks converge. FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS offers readers all of the elements they love in one beautifully-written Esther-themed tale. Highly recommended!"Janice Hanna Thompson, author of Love Finds You in Daisy, Oklahoma
Read an Excerpt
For Such a Time as ThisA Women of Hope Novel
By Ginny Aiken
FaithWordsCopyright © 2012 Ginny Aiken
All right reserved.
Bountiful, Hope County, Oregon—1879
Olivia Moore swiped the back of her hand across her cheek. She slapped away a trickle of tear, the only moisture visible as far as she could see in all directions.
Such a simple word, but, oh, how complicated its reality was to her family. And not just to her family. All the other farmers and ranchers scattered across Hope County were suffering as much as Mama and Papa, with no hint in the cloudless sky of any relief to come.
“Oh, I hate this,” Leah Rose, Olivia’s youngest sister, complained. “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!”
Olivia hitched the willow basket more securely onto her hip, crammed down another one of their father’s shirts with the rest of the laundry, and prayed for patience. “Nobody likes to fight the wind when they’re trying to work. But we must get the clothes inside before they get dirtier than before we washed them. You don’t want to scrub them again, now, do you?”
Leah rolled her eyes then yelped and rubbed her nose, her eyelids, and her mouth.
Another blast of hot air buffeted Olivia right then, its texture rough and sandpapery with the tiny grains of dry dirt it picked up as it gusted across her family’s ravaged land. She wrapped her arm tighter around the tree limb where Papa had tied one end of the wash line. The bark rasped her skin.
Not ready to go back inside the house quite yet, she propped the basket between her hip and the bare trunk then shielded her eyes with her free hand. The wind whipped her calico skirt into a froth against her legs, the flapping another unwelcome irritant.
Leah Rose muttered something, but the rising wind carried away the words. Olivia suspected it was just as well. More grumbling that echoed her own misery didn’t appeal just then.
She didn’t want to gather still-damp laundry any more than Leah Rose did. Still, Olivia couldn’t be too hard on the girl. She, too, wished things were as they’d always been, that the old rhythm of their pleasant lives still determined their daily schedules. In previous years, that late in the summer, nearly September, had meant days filled with the mad busyness of preparing for winter. Olivia had always worked with her mother as Elizabeth Moore canned, dried, salted, and helped her husband smoke the results of their efforts, the fruits of their land. The hardworking couple had made certain their family would have enough provisions to see them through the dark, cold months ahead. Olivia admired her parents’ diligence.
That year, however, diligence would not be enough.
“Oh, Livvy, I can’t stand it another minute!” Leah Rose threw a petticoat at Olivia, but before she could catch it, a gust of wind snatched it and turned it into a tumbleweed, rolling and bouncing just out of her reach.
She sighed and hurried after the voluminous white garment. “Go on in, then. I’ll be right behind you. When I’m done with the wash, you understand. Let Mama know for me.”
Leah Rose bent against the wind, dramatizing a bit more than necessary, and ran to the house. Once on the porch steps, she glanced back over her shoulder. “I will. And do hurry, Livvy. I want to show you my latest project.”
Leah Rose had the ability to turn needle, fabric, and thread into exquisite things of beauty. Olivia, while a competent enough seamstress, couldn’t come close to producing the fine needlework at which her youngest sister excelled. “I’ll be happy to see what you’ve accomplished so far as soon as I’ve finished out here.”
She chased after the elusive petticoat, the willow basket on her hip hampering her steps. But if she set it down, the contents would likely capture the swirling dirt. With every step she took, her irritation rose. Just as she came within a finger’s length of the renegade piece, the wind caught it, tossed it up and over, and then flung it against a large rock that in previous years Elizabeth and her girls had ringed with cheery blossoms. This August the flower bed around the boulder lay bare, the soil as dry and dusty as everything else.
Olivia rushed the garment, but the next blast of wind snatched it away again, whirling it across the rear of the house. Finally, when she was about to give up on ever capturing the infuriating piece of clothing, it slammed up against the privy wall and sagged in a pile onto the dirt at the base. Olivia grabbed the petticoat, shook it out, grimaced at the dirt stains it had gathered, and finally stuffed it in her basket, resigned to another session with hot water, lye soap, and the washboard.
Her temper didn’t tamp down as easily as the fabric did. Frustrated by her family’s situation, and aggravated by the rebel slip, she squared her shoulders and marched back over to the clothesline, her every step propelled by her resolve.
With renewed vigor, she yanked a pillowcase off its mooring, reached for a pair of socks, and then an old towel. In moments, she had stripped the rest of the wash from where she’d hung it not so long ago. When she reached the post at the end of the line, she leaned on it and paused to catch her breath, a difficult endeavor as the gritty air continued to batter her face. Through narrowed eyes she looked out over the Moore property—Papa’s pride and joy.
Olivia’s heart constricted, and she fought again for breath. As awful as the scorching, dusty wind was, she knew it wasn’t wholly to blame for her misery. Her distress stemmed from watching her dear parents work, work, work, and then, by virtue of a twist of nature’s fickleness, see all their efforts come to nothing.
In the years since they’d come to Oregon Territory, her father had plowed and planted his fields as soon as spring deemed the land ready. For the last two years, however, the plants had battled to drink what little moisture the land provided, and when the sturdy shoots had broken through to the sunshine, they’d been ravaged by the sudden arrival of swarming airborne beasts that descended on the young crops. The ravenous grasshoppers had left nothing behind.
Despite the weather, Olivia lingered outside. She couldn’t bear to see the worry that drew deep lines down either side of Mama’s mouth again, nor hear the strain in her mother’s voice. She didn’t know what she would do in an hour or so when Papa dragged himself inside for whatever Mama put together and passed off as that night’s supper. The ruts etched across his forehead and those that fanned out from the corners of his eyes made her heart ache with futility.
Mama and Papa hadn’t meant for Olivia to overhear their late-night conversations. But she had. At the age of nineteen, she was no child. By all rights she should have been married already, and maybe even a mother, as well, like her friends Adelaide Tucker and Rosie Thurman. But so far she hadn’t been tempted to take that step with any of the very few marriageable men in town, and her parents hadn’t pushed, to her great relief. She’d yet to meet the man who appealed to her enough to make her consider the momentous change.
She’d been happy to stay home. She helped Mama with the younger children, and with the never-ending work around the house. She also helped her father and the boys with whatever she wheedled Papa into letting her do out in the barn.
But even those welcome chores had vanished with the last of the grasshoppers. Papa had been forced to sell Olivia’s sheep when he no longer could provide properly for them. There was little feed anywhere, and whatever could be found came at a dear cost indeed. Faced with the choice of feeding animals or feeding his children, Stephen Moore hadn’t even blinked. He’d sold a fair number of the Moores’ prized cattle as well.
The small sum Papa had realized from that sale hadn’t stretched far enough. Olivia wasn’t supposed to know what her parents had resorted to, but she’d struggled with sleeplessness during the last couple of months as their circumstances had worsened, seemingly by the day. Papa’s anxious words during the late-night conversations had confirmed her unsettled feeling.
He’d been forced to mortgage the property.
“Livvy!” Leah Rose called.
“Coming—” Olivia tried to respond, but her dry mouth turned the word into a croaked rasp. She ran her tongue over her parched lips, grimacing when she tasted the dust there. She started toward the house and gave her answer another go. “I’ll be right there.”
At the top of the porch steps, she cast a final glance down the long brown drive. It was as dry and dreary as it had been the last time she’d looked that way, scant minutes earlier.
“Well, Lord,” she said. “I trust you will show me what I’m to do at a time like this. I’m not a child anymore. Surely you have something for me to do. I refuse to be nothing more than another mouth for them to feed here at home. Show me, Father, but please don’t take too long. Our situation is dreadful. Winter isn’t far off now. And when it comes…”
She couldn’t let herself think of that right then. She had to focus on solutions rather than the frightening what-ifs. There had to be a way for her to help her father and mother. Even if she had to leave the home and family she loved.
“Livvy!” Leah Rose cried again, impatience in her voice. “You said you were coming.”
As Olivia closed the front door behind her, a sharp pang crossed her chest. She was going to miss her little sisters… her brothers… her parents… their home… Once she discerned the Lord’s leading, of course.
Until then, she’d relish every minute she was blessed to spend with them.
“Here I am, silly!” she answered, drenching her words with more enthusiasm than she felt. “Let’s see that needlework of yours.”
Sunday morning, Reverend Alton delivered a thought-provoking sermon on 2 Corinthians, third chapter, third verse, where he exhorted his congregation to be living scriptures for the lost world, flesh and blood illustrated lessons on God’s abundant blessings. After the final hymn, Olivia followed her family outside the church, her Bible hugged close against her chest, her soft drawstring leather purse slung from her right elbow. The fierce winds of the past week had finally calmed, and the fine dirt that had roughened the air had settled down once again.
While the sky remained as relentless in its clear blue brightness and the ground as persistent in its dusty brown dryness, the temperature had dropped enough to make midday almost bearable. Olivia had dressed in her best slate-gray serge skirt, white blouse, and fine blue fitted jacket. She appreciated any chance to dress up, since at home, with work always needing to be done, simple cotton calicos made the most sense.
Before the Moore family left home for the service that morning, Olivia had told her mother and father that Adelaide Tucker, her dearest friend, had invited her for lunch—and, of course, for Addie to show off three-month-old Joshua Charles Tucker, Jr., her pride and joy. Olivia missed Addie since her friend had become a married lady. As much as there was at home to keep Olivia busy, Addie had far more on her plate, what with all her responsibilities as wife and new mother.
“You’ll meet us back here by three, right?” Papa asked after Olivia’s two brothers had left to find their friends. Mrs. Alton approached Mama and the younger girls, since the pastor and his wife had invited the remaining four members of the Moore clan for the noon meal.
“Oh, yes,” Olivia said. “I’m sure Addie will be tired by then. She’s told me Baby Josh keeps her up for hours most nights, and she must steal naps whenever he sleeps. She and Joshua have been trying to teach their sweet little one that nights are for sleeping, but that lesson seems to hold no interest for him.”
Mama traded glances—and knowing smiles—with the pastor’s wife. “It does happen with some little ones. I suppose you might have been too young to remember, Livvy, but your sister was like that, too. Marty took almost a year to figure out what sunset meant.”
“Poor Addie!” Olivia shuddered. While no one could accuse her of laziness, she did enjoy crawling under her blankets, and most nights she dozed off right away. “I won’t tell her about Marty—”
“Hey!” the Moore family’s tomboy yelped. “I learned, didn’t I?”
Olivia fought a laugh. “Of course you did, Martha Jean. And, I’m sure, not a moment too soon for Mama and Papa.”
Chuckling at Marty’s glare, and aware of the time passed as they’d visited with Mrs. Alton, Olivia set off toward Addie and Joshua’s neat clapboard house. While the church sat on the eastern edge of Bountiful, Joshua’s parents had built their home in the center of the small town, next to their thriving livery stable. Now that the elder Tuckers were in heaven with the Father, Josh ran the business, while Addie ran their household with easy efficiency and good humor.
Olivia enjoyed any opportunity to catch up with her friend as much as Addie did playing hostess.
Her stroll from the church to Addie’s place had her crossing the road a few houses down from Reverend and Mrs. Alton’s home. A final glance back showed Leah Rose and Marty standing to a side while Papa helped Mama up the front steps and into the generous-sized white house. Her younger brothers were… well, Olivia hadn’t heard where the boys planned to spend the afternoon, but she suspected they might be with the Carters, since that family abounded in high-spirited boys.
As she hurried down the wooden sidewalk toward Addie’s home, a burst of children’s laughter at Olivia’s left caught her attention. A chorus of shrill girlish cries followed, as they evidently headed toward her.
The loud guffaws grew more raucous.
The frantic screams grew more frenzied.
The commotion resounded from the alley up ahead. She quickened her pace, curiosity piqued. Before she reached the mouth of the alley, a trio of little girls, around the age of eight or nine, burst into the street, white-faced, their wails near to hysteria, their shoes kicking their Sunday dresses into a froth of skirt and petticoat.
Seconds later four boys, in their Sunday best as well, darted out from the alley and surrounded the girls, fencing them into a huddle in the middle of the street. Fortunately, Sundays saw little traffic once churchgoers left for home.
“We got ’em now, Luke!” a freckle-faced, red-haired imp yelled as he ran circles around his anxious victims. “Hurry up afore they get away.”
The towheaded boy with chocolate eyes joined in with his own taunt. “Fraidy-cats.”
All four closed ranks around the girls, their laughter destroying the afternoon’s peace. The high-spirited quartet made for a lively, if frightening, cage for the captives.
As Olivia marched toward the children, a new sound joined the cacophony. Grunts and snuffles grew louder, ushered in by a dusty dervish that stampeded past her. A dervish otherwise known as…
“A pig!” Olivia backed up flat against the front window of Mrs. Selkirk’s charming new millinery store. She was not about to step into the swine’s path.
A fifth boy, this one with jet-black hair tumbled down over a pair of brilliant blue eyes, followed on the heels of the monstrous hog.
“Go on, go on, go on!” He yelled, stomped his feet, and smacked two sticks against each other, urging the filthy creature along.
His cronies laughed so hard that the red-haired one fell in a heap onto the dusty road. The little girls tried to flee through the opening his fall created, but the hog went for that exit route at the same time. As the girls ran past, three pretty Sunday dresses picked up dirt from the pig’s coat.
The girls’ wails multiplied.
The boys’ laughter did as well.
The hog tore off between two buildings, his hooves kicking up a dust storm all their own. “I’ll get him!” hollered the black-haired boy as he chased after it around the corner.
She’d seen enough. Olivia tucked her Bible between her elbow and her ribs as she hurried toward the children before the other boys ran off as well.
When Eli locked the door of the bank, the usual thrill at the sight of the gold-foil letters on the pane of glass sped through him:
BANK OF BOUNTIFUL
ELIJAH WHITMAN, JR., PRESIDENT
He breathed a prayer every single day, thanking his heavenly Father for helping him save the enterprise he and his late father had worked so hard to build. He’d come too close to losing everything two years earlier.
As he pushed away the memory of that painful time, he heard children’s squeals and laughter from not too far away. Then, a clear feminine voice called out, “Gentlemen.”
He wished he had that kind of effect with his two youngsters every time he spoke to them. He slipped the key into his pocket, sighing. Things were fast approaching a desperate stage at home.
He stepped down to the sidewalk and glanced down the street. A young woman marched toward a group of children gathered in the middle of the road. The picture they painted piqued his curiosity. What parent would allow youngsters to run wild in the middle of town in their Sunday best?
Eli headed toward the group.
“Gentlemen,” the lady repeated in a firm, stern voice as he approached. “Which one of you would care to explain what this”—she gestured to encompass the entire scenario—“is all about?”
The boys grew mute.
The girls rushed to the lady’s side.
“Oh, Miss Livvy!” cried a petite blonde with bouncy curls. “They’re horrid, these boys. Look. Just look at what they did to my lovely new dress.”
The young lady—Miss Livvy as the girl had called her—dropped down to the child’s level, clearly more concerned about the besieged girls than about the possible soiling of her gray skirt.
“I saw what happened, Melly,” she said. “Go home now, girls. But as you do, would you please stop by Mrs. Tucker’s home and let her know I’ll be late? I might not even make it today after all.”
All three nodded and stepped away. Before they left, however, Miss Livvy seemed to have another thought. “If any of your mamas is upset with the state of your clothes, please have her speak to me. I’ll vouch for you.”
With a chorus of agreement, the girls scampered away. The young lady then turned to the tight knot of boys. “Now, gentlemen, what do you have to say for yourselves?”
When none of them responded, Miss Livvy prodded, “Well?”
Silence reigned on Main Street.
She went on. “Aside from the apologies you owe the three young ladies—”
“Aside from the apologies you owe the three young ladies,” she repeated, “there is still the matter of that runaway pig.”
Eli stifled a laugh. A pig? He crossed his arms, enjoying the moment.
“Oh, no!” the red-haired boy cried. “Pa’s gonna kill me if he sees Rufus’s not back in his pen.”
Rufus. Eli smiled, he couldn’t help himself. Albert Brown, a friend of his son Luke, would soon be facing a dressing down, if not a switching, from his father. Mr. Brown put a lot of stock in his pigs.
Miss Livvy seemed to agree with his assessment, as her lovely features brightened with her own smile. “Perhaps you should have thought of that before you decided to torment the girls,” she told Albert.
“Uh-huh.” He took a step away from the gathering. “Reckon so. Yes, ma’am, I do.”
Miss Livvy crossed her arms, Bible and purse hugged close. “Not so fast. You have some friends here, don’t you?”
With a lingering look in the direction of the offices of the Bountiful Scribe, the town’s weekly paper, and the schoolhouse, Albert stopped. He wiped the dusty toe of one shoe on his other trouser leg. “Yes, ma’am.”
The other boys donned differing levels of worry.
“And did your pa say for you and your friends to chase his swine around town?”
He blushed under his freckles. “No, ma’am. He don’t rightly know Rufus’s gone.”
“Then it would seem that you gentlemen could well be called thieves. You took a hog that didn’t belong to any one of you. After all, Rufus wasn’t given to you.”
“That ain’t how it happened—”
“And,” she said as though they hadn’t argued, “thieves are fair game for Marshal Blair, don’t you think?”
Four pairs of eyes opened wider than ever. The boys began to argue, their statements indecipherable since they spoke one over the other.
She went on in her calm, even voice. “So. What’ll it be, gents? Shall I send for the marshal or will you set things to rights again?”
“SOOO-oo-eeyyy!” shrieked the aforementioned porker as it reappeared, galloping back down Main Street toward Miss Livvy and the boys.
“There!” the lady cried. “A chance to do your duty, gentlemen. Catch him—Rufus—and return him before I’m compelled to fetch Marshal Blair.”
The boys pelted off after the squealing swine, each determined to beat the others to their quarry.
Eli caught sight of the three girls peering out from around the corner of Metcalf’s Mercantile. Apparently they’d stayed to watch the boys get their just deserts.
The hog darted toward them.
The girls squealed.
The pig did as well.
The boys pursued the animal, one of them managing to get a hand on its ear, but the creature changed direction, and the would-be captor fell to the dirt.
The girls laughed.
Jonathan Davidson, another of Luke’s friends, bounded upright and dusted off his clothes. “That’s not funny.”
“Neither was chasing us, Jonny!” said the small blonde. Her headful of ringlets bobbed with her indignation.
Miss Livvy donned a slight smile and seemed to settle in to observe.
Eli followed suit.
Young male glares flew toward the girls as they tried to capture the pig who, after his taste of freedom, did not intend to be caught. He darted and weaved from street-side to street-side, the boys in hot pursuit. The girls found the situation hilarious.
No matter how hard the boys tried, each time any of them came close to laying hold of the animal, the pig wriggled out of their clutches. The would-be trappers grew grimier with every pass, as the girls giggled and cheered on the elusive prey.
“Miss ’Livia!” Albert bellowed after he, too, landed face-first in the dust. “It ain’t funny. Make ’em stop laughing!”
Miss Olivia arched a brow. “The young ladies didn’t find being chased by runaway livestock particularly humorous, gentlemen.”
The pig turned back toward the way he had come, but a fifth boy, dirty and breathless, blocked his escape.
Eli recognized the fifth trouble-maker. In a flash, he stomped down the street, anger and frustration burning in his belly.
“Lucas Andrew Whitman!” he roared from just behind Miss Olivia. “What is the meaning of this?”
Olivia spun to see Mr. Elijah Whitman, owner of the Bank of Bountiful, glaring at the madness in the middle of the street.
The silent boy, the one with the black hair and blue eyes wide and full of alarm, stood frozen before the man. “He-hello, Papa…”
Olivia could almost touch the change in the air. “Mr. Whitman?”
Those eyes… goodness! They seemed to see right through her. A shiver ran through her. Olivia tried to bring her reaction under control. A woman couldn’t help but admire Mr. Whitman’s rugged features, his broad cheekbones, square jawline, high forehead, and shiny black hair. He was a most imposing figure of a man, blessed with wide, strong shoulders, a superior height, and an undeniable air of competence, power, and skill. He looked as if he would be as comfortable on horseback as he surely was behind a desk in the elegant bank.
A lesser woman would be forgiven for a swoon in his presence.
Oh, Olivia, how silly. You’re no simpering ninny, so stop behaving like one.
“If… uhm… you would allow me, sir? I—ah… I believe I have this matter under control.”
“Control?” The banker gestured toward the children, the hog, even the appalled milliner, who’d stuck her head out the front door of her store. “This hardly seems under control.”
Nerves struck then, but Olivia went on. “Oh, but it is, sir.” She tipped up her chin. “And if you’ll allow me a moment, I’ll be happy to explain.”
Mr. Whitman’s brows drew close. “That should be good. Proceed, Miss Livvy… Olivia”—confusion altered his expression—“just who are you?”
“Miss Moore.” She blushed at his pointed scrutiny. “Olivia Moore.”
He nodded. “Go ahead, then, Miss Moore. I look forward to that explanation.”
A gnawing took up residence in the pit of her gut. Oh, Lord Jesus. I do need your help. Please don’t turn a deaf ear on me now.
Only too aware of the male scrutiny, Olivia urged the scamps in the street once again to recapture the creature. “Work together, gentlemen. I’m sure you can come up with as good a plan as your earlier one, especially since this time, it will be the right thing to do.”
As the boys doubled their efforts, she turned to the girls. It was their turn to appear sheepish. Olivia fought yet another smile. “I think you’d all best go home. This time, for certain. Your mamas will be wondering where you are. I will see to everything on this end.”
The former victims skipped off, smiles wreathing their sweet faces.
Within seconds, the boys’ renewed efforts bore fruit, and the swine was surrounded. They urged Rufus back toward the alley from where they’d all originally come with the same cacophonous results. But before the boys and their prize vanished, Olivia extracted a promise from the other four to return and report to her once each had apologized to the hog’s rightful owner.
As the scoundrels went on their way, Olivia released a heartfelt sigh.
“That challenging?” The man at her side didn’t mask his amusement.
As soon as the word escaped her lips, heat flooded her cheeks. What must this important man think of her? First, he’d found her on Main Street with a group of squabbling children and one filthy pig. Then, she’d almost confessed she’d met her match in the handful of youngsters and the ornery swine.
He laughed, a cheery, robust sound that made Olivia feel better, to her surprise.
“I do understand,” he said. “I have a daughter as well as Luke, and they trounce me more often than I care to admit.”
She responded with a rueful smile. “They do have nimble minds, don’t they?”
“And overabundant energy.” He sighed. “I don’t know if others have the same experience, but ever since I was widowed—”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
A faint grimace, as though he’d swallowed something distasteful, twisted Mr. Whitman’s attractive features. He shrugged and averted his gaze. “I appreciate your condolences, but they’re not necessary. Life is full of unexpected trials and difficulties. A man must just… cope.”
His words surprised Olivia. Especially their flat, emotionless timbre, not what she would have expected from a bereaved man. “I… see.”
Mr. Whitman looked on the verge of saying more, but he shook his head and stared toward the alley where the kids had disappeared. “I only wish,” he said in a strained voice, “that everyone was as willing to accept children’s unique peculiarities as you have been.”
What an unusual thing for him to say. Taken aback, she repeated her bland, “I… see.”
He turned, and his bright blue eyes, so much like his son’s, met Olivia’s. His smile, although void of humor, revealed his intent to keep their conversation pleasant. She appreciated his effort.
“No,” he said. “I don’t think you do, but it’s very nice of you to try. My children are only twelve and ten, but they’re certain they’ve grown beyond the need for supervision and adult care. They have chased away the three highly qualified nannies I’ve hired so far.”
The memory of Luke beating sticks to drive the hog along burst into Olivia’s mind. She couldn’t stop the chuckle that bubbled up. Yes, the boy was a rascal, but an older and wiser adult should try to think like a youngster every once in a while. That would help figure out how best to deal with them. Goodness knew her two brothers and two sisters had enough mischief in them to fill even Mr. Whitman’s Bank of Bountiful vault.
“I wouldn’t cast all the blame for your predicament with the nannies on your children,” she said. “I suspect the nannies must have been lacking in one way or another.”
He arched a jet-black brow. “Were you that generous when the boys and the pig—”
Although Olivia had been ready to explain how her large family had taught her a number of lessons on handling children and the scrapes they got into, she was relieved when the four boys ran up and halted in a line before her, their grubby faces beaming with self-satisfaction.
“And…?” she said.
“And we returned Rufus and we apologized and we watched Mr. Brown yell at Albert for taking his hog.” The blond-haired one the girl had called Jonny had clearly enjoyed his friend’s discomfort a mite too much.
“Consequences,” Olivia said. “They do follow our actions. While you fellows have returned the stolen pig, apologized for the theft—”
“It weren’t no theft—”
“We just borrowed Rufus—”
“And he’s back now. No harm done—”
“Excuse me!” It took some doing to make herself heard over their statements. “It strikes me that you’re in no position to argue. At least, not right now. It’s likely time for you gentlemen to return home, don’t you think?”
Three of them nodded and nudged each other along, more than ready to escape the scene of their crimes. The fourth, Luke Whitman, darted nervous glances toward his father. He must have reached a decision, since with a grand display of bravado, he hooked his thumbs into his trousers front pockets, and sidled off after the others. That is, he tried to sidle, but didn’t get far.
“Lucas,” Mr. Whitman said, “you really do not want to wander off again today, young man. You and I have some talking to do. About pigs and girls and the proper activities for Sunday afternoons.”
The three others picked up their pace.
“But, Papa…” Luke’s voice held a lot of pleading and a dose of dismay. “We already apologized.”
“Like Miss Moore said, there are consequences to a man’s actions. I’m not so sure an apology is quite enough, son.”
His comrades in crime broke into a run.
Luke hadn’t taken his gaze from his father’s serious face. “Aw…”
“I appreciate everything you’ve done, Miss Moore,” the banker said. “But please, should Luke misbehave again, just bring him to me. I won’t have him trouble you further.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Olivia caught the mutinous glare Luke sent his father while the man was looking at her. The boy’s crossed arms suggested more trouble to come. But it would be Mr. Whitman’s problem.
“I understand, sir.” She gave Luke a pointed look. “I’m sure whenever we meet again Luke and I will do just fine. We understand each other, don’t we, Luke?”
The boy responded with a series of vigorous nods. To emphasize his answer, he added, “Yes, ma’am.”
“It’s been… interesting,” she said to the two Whitmans, “but now, I must be on my way, too.”
As she stepped up onto the sidewalk to resume her walk to Addie’s house, she heard Mr. Whitman sigh. “It’s no wonder you’ve chased off every nanny I’ve hired,” he told his son. “Just what do you have to say for yourself?”
“They’ve been just awful, Papa. ’Sides, Randy and I don’t need a nanny. Nannies are for babies. Randy’s practically grown up, and I’m no baby. And they smelled nasty, too, like vinegar and sour milk.”
Stifling a laugh, Olivia slowed her steps.
“All three of those ladies came with the best recommendations, Luke. I must assume the trouble lies with you and Miranda.”
“Nah. It was them.”
“I can see we’re getting nowhere. We’ll discuss the matter again when we get home. After we have dinner. Let’s just make certain you offer the next one your full cooperation and you treat her with the proper respect.”
“The next one? Who’re you gonna bring home now?”
Olivia forced herself to walk, head forward, gaze on the sidewalk below. She couldn’t let her curiosity take over.
“I don’t know, Luke,” Mr. Whitman said, sounding tired. “I really don’t know. I suppose I’ll have to put another advertisement in the Seattle paper. Perhaps in Portland and San Francisco as well.”
“Oh, no, Papa! Don’t do that. I got an idea. A better idea.”
Olivia paused in front of Selkirk’s Millinery to stare at a confection bristling with feathers and bows.
“Really, Luke?” Mr. Whitman said. “An idea? About a nanny.”
“That would be…?”
“It’s simple, Papa. You just have to hire the right nanny this time.”
“And just who would that be?”
“Um… how about her? Yeah, I want her.”
In the reflection of the store window she saw the boy, arm extended, index finger pointed straight at her.
Goodness! What an awkward moment. In the middle of the most awkward of days. What could Mr. Whitman possibly think of that? She really shouldn’t have lingered to listen. Pretending not to have heard or seen, she resumed her walk, her heels clicking a brisk pace against the wooden sidewalk.
After Cooky cleared away the dinner dishes, Eli headed for the parlor, well aware that his son had fled upstairs as soon as he’d swallowed his last bite. Just outside the oak pocket door, he paused. “Luke! Please come back down here. I did tell you we would discuss this afternoon’s disaster after we ate.”
He headed for his favorite armchair to wait for the boy. Long minutes later, he heard slow, heavy footsteps on the stairs, accompanied by unintelligible grumbling. Luke appeared in the doorway, brows drawn down, eyes narrowed, lips bunched up into a knot. Eli braced himself. It looked as though they were headed for another unpleasant argument. Not something he had the stomach for, but something he knew he had to do.
Weariness struck. While his marriage to Victoria had been a phenomenal disaster, and the children showed evidence of years of her… indifference, the situation with the children had only worsened since her death. He’d come near to the end of his rope. And yet, he still didn’t know how to reach Luke and Randy. Both were driving him to distraction with their unruly behavior, their unwillingness to listen and mind their elders, and their unreasonable antipathy toward the well-qualified, experienced nannies he’d hired.
Luke crossed his arms, his expression more closed, if possible.
Eli studied his son for a handful of minutes, hoping Luke’s appalling stubbornness would fade. But as the tall case clock in the entry hall ticked off the minutes, he recognized that the boy was digging in his heels again, just as he’d been doing whenever Eli attempted to discipline him for quite a while now.
Regardless, he couldn’t let his son grow up as a rowdy ruffian. He loved Luke too much. “I asked you a question back there on the street,” he said. “What in the world were you thinking?”
Luke’s only response was a slight shrug.
“How could you ever torment those three little girls? Would you like someone to torment you?”
“Doesn’t scare me,” Luke answered, his voice full of bravado, his jaw jutted out. “Wouldn’t make me squeal like no pi—” He stopped himself when he realized what he’d been about to bring up.
Eli crossed his arms and arched a brow. “Do continue, son. Finish what you were about to say. Please.”
A scarlet flush crept up Luke’s cheeks. But just when Eli thought the boy’s conscience and discomfort would make him admit his wrongdoing, he pulled himself up to his full height, shoulders back, chin up, eyes flashing defiance, lips clamped tight.
Standing, Eli slammed a fist into the open palm of his other hand. He began to pace. “I know things haven’t been their best since… since your mother died.”
He shook his head. To be honest, things had been going from bad to horrific back when Victoria had betrayed him, and had actually settled down some since her passing, to his relief. But he’d always kept his feelings about that dreadful episode from his children. He wasn’t about to change now.
“I know you miss your mama, but nothing can bring her back.”
Luke shrugged again. “Don’t mean I hafta have a nanny.”
“And I don’t either.” Eli’s eldest, Miranda, flounced into the parlor, her expression haughty, her blue eyes flinty. “Hello, Father. You must realize I’m practically a full-grown woman now. Why, I’m turning thirteen soon, and I don’t need a nanny. Nannies are for babies.”
A mischievous spark flashed over Randy’s features as she glanced at Luke. “Perhaps Luke does.”
Eli stopped inches away from his daughter. “And you, young lady. Where were you? I left Luke with you for… oh, no more than ten minutes. Next thing I know he’s taunting little girls in the middle of town and he’s even found himself a pig.”
At first, Randy flinched, but then, when she heard the last of his words, her lips twitched and a very unladylike but wholly childlike snort escaped her. “Luke was playing with a pig?” She tossed her black braids off her shoulders, her façade of maturity back in place. “How… how dirty-little-boy of him.”
“ ‘How’ is an excellent word. How did your brother wind up in the middle of the street with his gang of hooligans?” He let out a frustrated gust of breath. “Where were you, Randy?”
She tapped the toe of her shoe in a show of impatience. The image of Victoria flashed into his mind. A chill ran through him.
“Answer me, please,” he said in a low, iron-tough voice.
His tone wasn’t lost on his daughter. The façade vanished. She laced her fingers together and twisted her hands. “I… ah… I went to Metcalf ’s Mercantile with Audrina Metcalf. You know she’s my dearest friend and her papa had told her he’d just gotten in a shipment of lovely boots and belts for ladies and Audrina invited me to go see the new things and they’re ever so much more interesting than watching a dirty little boy who always finds trouble with his dirty little friends and—”
As frustrated as he’d been with his children these past few months, he’d never raised his voice to them. Right then, he roared.
A fleeting memory of the calm, competent, and winsome Olivia Moore dealing with the five boys and three girls shot through his thoughts. He wished he could be that effective with his mere two.
He shook his head. No time to waste on foolish wishes. “It’s more than obvious that you both do need a nanny. I cannot leave you alone—even in each other’s company—for a solitary second without you scaring up some kind of trouble.” He let out a heartfelt sigh. “I will be looking for another nanny, and this time I will brook absolutely no shenanigans like before. Understood?”
Luke made a face. “But—”
Randy stamped a foot. “Papa—”
“No. I will have no frogs in bureau drawers, no grasshoppers in bed linens”—please, Lord! No more grasshoppers. All of us in Bountiful have suffered enough—“no sour apple cider vinegar in anyone’s scent bottle, no pebbles in boots, no hidden spectacles, no vanishing hatpins, button hooks, or”—he glared at Randy, his cheeks blazing with mortification—“missing corset laces. There will be no more running away and hiding, and under no circumstances will I tolerate any more sassing your elders. I want not a single complaint brought to me about either one of you. That is as clear as a man can make his position. Do you understand?”
“I toldja how we can fix the nanny thing,” Luke said, defiance flashing from his eyes. “Miss Olivia is the right nanny for us. She’s pretty. She smiles. She don’t holler. And she doesn’t smell funny. All you hafta do is bring her home.”
Randy shrugged and tossed her braids over her shoulders. “I don’t care who you bring. I’m taking care of myself. I don’t need the nanny. You can bring Luke’s Miss Olivia home any time you want.”
Faced with their obstinacy, Eli’s anger and frustration crashed down into that barren weariness he’d struggled against so often of late. It was only too clear that he might as well have been talking to the parlor wall for all the good his scolding had done.
He stood still as a tree, wishing things were different, wishing he knew how to solve his children’s obvious unhappiness, wishing he had a solution to his dismal situation. As he stared, Luke slunk out of the parlor. His son’s misery stung him to his very core. He understood. Of course he did. But what Luke really wanted and needed was the one and only thing he wouldn’t—couldn’t—give his children. After what he’d barely survived at the hands of his late wife, he’d never marry again.
As Randy scurried away, he collapsed into his armchair again. He brought his hands to his face, covered his eyes with his open palms. Things were bleak, indeed.
Oh, Father. Victoria failed us—all of us. I can’t do the same. They’re my children. I love them and I must raise them right. But… you see what I have here. Please show me… what am I going to do with them?
Late Sunday night, Olivia lay in bed next to Leah Rose, unable to scour the images of the day’s events from her mind. Had she really been that bold before the owner of Bountiful’s bank? One of the most important members of their small community?
Every time she thought about her actions—and words—her cheeks heated. Goodness! She could scarcely recognize herself.
Then, to make matters worse, when she’d thought she was done for the moment, that rapscallion Luke Whitman had managed to make things even more awkward. By a lot.
I want her…
She rolled over again, clutched a pillow close to her heart, then propped her chin on the downy softness.
While Mr. Whitman’s face had shown his surprise at his son’s words, it hadn’t revealed his opinion of the outrageous pronouncement. It was clear the boy only wanted to distract his father and avoid further scolding. Still, Olivia didn’t think the banker had thought too highly of the suggestion.
How could he have? She wasn’t quite sure what she thought of it herself. While she did love children, and she had spent her whole life helping Mama with her younger siblings, she was no nanny. She could never pretend to be one.
What must the man think of her?
Her cheeks burned again, and she rubbed her face against the pillow one more time.
She would have to face Mr. Whitman in the coming days anytime she had to run errands in town. She’d often seen him walking in or out of the bank, and from time to time at church. Now, even something that meaningless would make her blush.
While Luke hadn’t been happy about heading home with a displeased father, she didn’t think the boy was frightened of Mr. Whitman. Instead, she suspected he had a tendency toward mischief, as his father had said, and that tendency had landed him in trouble a time or two or maybe more, as it seemed to have done with the nannies. It was too bad the Whitman children no longer had their mother with them. Olivia couldn’t imagine growing up without her own dear mama to guide her, comfort her, teach her, and encourage her along the way. After all, could a nanny, even the best of nannies, really do the job of a mother? Could any hired help offer Luke and his sister the love they needed? Was that what had been lacking in the women who’d failed the Whitmans?
Olivia fluffed up the pillow, then flopped onto her back. She could drive herself mad turning the whole thing over in her head, and still not get anywhere. Besides, why should she? It wasn’t any of her business. The most she could do, and the best thing for her to do, was to turn the matter over to her heavenly Father. Surely he knew what the Whitman children, and their busy father, needed most.
She slipped down to the side of the bed, knelt, and poured her heart out to her Lord.
Before too long, however, in the deep silence of the peaceful farmhouse, the sound of her parents’ hushed voices reached her. Anxiety threaded their words as they again discussed the state of the family’s finances.
“I don’t know,” Papa said. “I just don’t know where to turn. We have very little money left from the sale of the livestock, and you know I’ve mortgaged every last acre of the property already. There won’t be any help there.”
Mama’s response was unintelligible, but her voice sounded as strained with worry as his.
Papa sighed. “Oh, Elizabeth, I’m so very sorry. I never meant for you to think I was scolding you. I don’t know another woman who could manage as well as you have done with so little in hand. All these years, ever since we left Baltimore, you’ve been an incomparable companion. I don’t know what I would have done without you and your wise ways. Now this. After all you lacked during wartime, after all the misery I witnessed in the Deep South, I was determined to make sure you—our family—never went without.”
Another murmured reply from Olivia’s mother.
“Oh, but I’m sure you will do wonders with what supplies you have left. You always do, my dear.” Papa’s pause went on and on. Finally, he continued, his voice shaky, his tone uncertain. “Although, we both know eventually you will run out of even the last scoop of flour and the last scrap of dried beef. Then…”
“Well, then,” Mama said, her voice louder with crisp determination, “I’m sure the Lord will provide as He always has. I have faith.”
“So do I, Elizabeth. Still, a man can’t help but worry about his family. And I see a bleak winter coming toward us only too soon.”
“You don’t know that it will be bleak,” Mama argued. “I’m certain the Father didn’t lead us out here to Oregon, to this particular piece of land, only to wrest it from us. Or to let us starve. Something will come up. Something will occur to you. I trust you.”
“If it were only the two of us, I wouldn’t worry quite so much,” Papa continued. “It’s the children that concern me. What if Olivia meets a man who’ll court her and win her heart? How will we pay for a wedding? What kind of man can’t provide that for his daughter?”
Olivia’s heart squeezed. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Her father’s voice, roughened with emotion, rose through the black depths of the night. “Then there’s the boys—young men, now, seventeen and almost sixteen. Have you seen how short their trouser legs have grown these last few weeks? And beyond that. I must be thinking of their futures. Right now, I can provide them with land, but it won’t provide for them as they need. It won’t offer them the means to support themselves and the families I’m sure they want to build. After all the things I saw while fighting… I pray the Lord doesn’t leave them only the option of a military career. As honorable and distinguished as our men in uniform are, my love, I wouldn’t wish the horrors of battle on our sons.”
“Please don’t fret, dear.” Mama’s voice now drifted up softer, more soothing but still louder and clearer than at first. Olivia knew her mother well. Elizabeth Moore was determined to keep her husband from sinking into another of his dark spells. At those times, he would go about his chores and then come inside and sit in a cloud of sadness. Mama insisted the spells were due to his time fighting the Confederacy.
She went on. “Worry won’t help the children, and it could fog your thinking, which is never good. Come, now. Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day, with another set of troubles. We need to be rested so that we can tackle them wisely. At the very least, I need rest so that I can let out those pesky, rising hems.”
“You’re right, dear heart. How did I ever get so fortunate? How did our God know to bless me with a woman so wise as well as beautiful?”
“Oh, pshaw! There you go again, Stephen, flattering a girl…”
As their voices faded, another tear rolled down Olivia’s cheek. Her anxiety grew to where nausea threatened. Up until tonight, her parents’ discussions had centered on their efforts to raise the funds they needed to buy feed for the animals and seed to sow in the fields and the garden. Olivia hadn’t realized they could run out of food.
She crawled back into bed. She couldn’t go any longer without standing on her own two feet, without doing something to relieve her parents’ situation. She could never live with herself if she stood by and did nothing.
But what could she do? She wasn’t a trained nurse and she didn’t have the money to get the schooling. And while Mama, who’d grown up in Baltimore, had taught her children, making sure all of them benefited from her excellent education and proper manners, Olivia lacked the preparation needed to work as a schoolteacher. Besides, Bountiful already had a teacher.
Should she leave Bountiful—Oregon, even—to seek employment?
Restless, Olivia rolled over on her other side, careful not to disturb Leah Rose, who shared the bed. She was a competent seamstress, so she supposed she could hire out as a garment factory worker back East, but if she did, she’d still have to afford herself a place to live and food to eat. What would she have left after tending to her immediate needs to send back home? What help would she be to her family?
Then, too, she’d learned from Addie Tucker that their friend, Suzannah Arnold, with her new husband’s blessing, was opening up a dressmaking shop in their front parlor. Suzannah’s skill with her needle was legend and left Olivia’s efforts quite a bit back in the distance.
While a number of new shops were opening up in the growing Bountiful, Olivia didn’t have any particular talent to market, like Suzannah. She could do a number of housewifely things well enough, but she was nowhere near as accomplished as even the recently widowed Mrs. O’Dell. Everyone in town eagerly awaited the day she opened the bakery she’d begun to set up since Mr. O’Dell died a few months ago.
She’d heard some women took in laundry to add to their husband’s earnings, but there were few unmarried men in Bountiful—all of Hope County, as a matter of fact. Those few bachelor fellows bartered services or a few coins for their friends’ wives to help them care for their clothing. No one who set herself up to do the dirty, steamy, backbreaking work would earn enough to do any good.
She flopped over onto her back. The last possibility left to her was domestic work. As Elizabeth Moore’s daughter, Olivia did take pride in her ability to run a household. She and Mama worked shoulder to shoulder to keep the Moores fed, clean, and in good health, and the house in as near to perfect condition as possible. She could handle any kind of housework, and she got on well with everyone she knew.
That meant she could, of course, try to hire herself out to a busy boardinghouse owner back in… oh, say Denver or Kansas City, but that still left her with the matter of her own food and housing needs. She’d have to make sure the position included a room and meals.
Still, if she did that she’d wind up ever so far from Mama and Papa… her brothers… the girls. A twitch of anxiety and a wagonload of sadness overwhelmed her.
“Oh, Lord Jesus…” Her heart clenched yet again. “You know just how serious things are. Please help us. If nothing else, please show me what I should do to help. I feel so useless, as though I’m failing Mama and Papa…”
But no matter how fervently she stormed the throne of heaven with her pleas, Olivia felt no easing of her fear. After more long minutes than she cared to count had passed, she was able to thank the Father for his provision up until that point. “And while I’m still worried, I’m more than ready to let you change my worry into joy. I know you’re the only one who can do so.”
With a sigh, she tucked her fist under her pillow and closed her eyes, determined to find that elusive sleep.
But within seconds, two matching pairs of bright blue eyes popped back into her thoughts. Those Whitman men…
And then, Luke’s words came at her with a strength they’d lacked before. “I want her.”
Olivia bolted to an upright position. “Father… Lord God? Is that it? Did you provide the answer to my situation earlier today without me noticing?”
A question remained, however. Could she do it? Was she in any way qualified? And, of course, did she dare even ask?
Olivia sighed. It was quite obvious, she would never know unless she asked. She would never know until she tried.
Her stomach turned a walloping cartwheel that stole her breath away. As crazy as the notion was, Olivia saw no other alternative.
Turning onto her other side, she enumerated her other options. She could, of course, marry—should have married already, but none of the men who’d approached her after church or while she went about her business in town had raised in her the slightest bit of interest. The thought of binding herself to and sharing her life with someone she didn’t… cherish turned her stomach. She’d much rather live out her days as a spinster working in… in a… even a slaughterhouse. If they’d have her.
She suspected Mama knew how she felt, and she thanked the Lord her parents hadn’t pushed her into that kind of marriage, in spite of the difficulties they’d been experiencing.
Yes, she could go east in search of work, but that would mean she’d have to live far, far away from her family and all she held dear. Growing up in a new town like Bountiful, where everyone was intent on building the region, making it flourish, she knew no one who’d gone into service. The prospect, while it might be her final decision, made her middle tighten into a hard knot.
It had to be her last resort.
She only saw two immediate possibilities. On the one hand, she could continue to live at home, consume the family’s meager resources, and drain their provisions, since she couldn’t contribute a thing in return. On the other hand, she could gather up her gumption, seek out Mr. Whitman, and offer her services as a nanny.
“Those three ladies came highly recommended.”
She could let the banker’s words intimidate her. That would mean her faith was too weak for words. She could instead choose to see God’s hand in everything that had happened after church, no matter how absurd, and take courage from the Father’s presence in her life.
The worst that could happen? Mr. Whitman could laugh her right out of his office.
The best that might happen? He might offer her the position, even if on a trial basis.
What a relief that would be for Mama and Papa.
Olivia sighed. Her choice was made.
But… had she ever really had a choice in the matter? It seemed as though the Lord’s hand had been there guiding her the whole day long. Only the Almighty could have worked in such an unconventional fashion. Only the King of Kings could have turned a mad encounter with a runaway pig into a bright, shining opportunity.
All Olivia had to do was trust.
“But, Olivia, dear—”
“No, Mama. Please don’t ask me more questions right now. Do believe me, though. I must go to town today. That’s why I need the wagon, and I’m sorry I won’t be here to help you this morning. I expect to be back by early afternoon. I’ll tell you everything then.”
She didn’t reckon Mr. Whitman’s clear and resounding “no” would take too long to convey. But even though she had no lofty expectations for the meeting, she knew she had to do it, she had to ask. She had to follow through with what every corner of her heart said her heavenly Father was leading her to try.
She trusted the Lord for the outcome, whatever that would be.
Mama sighed, then wiped her hands on her apron, a sign of nerves on her part, something she did to steal the time to gather her thoughts.
For a second, Olivia wished she could wear an apron to her meeting with the banker. She had no doubt many spells of nervous anxiety would strike as she pressed Mr. Whitman for the opportunity to care for his daughter and son.
Her mother shrugged. “I suppose I must trust you. You’re no longer a child, Olivia, and you’ve always had a good head on you. Go ahead, dear. Go tell your papa what you’re planning—or as much of it as you’re willing to share.”
After a quick kiss to her mother’s cheek, Olivia hurried outside, tugging down on the waist of her blue jacket. Papa and the boys were likely in the barn. She didn’t much like going in there wearing her jacket and other good skirt, this one a lightweight flannel in a lovely deep plum. The barn offered too many chances to soil nice clothes. But it couldn’t be helped. She needed to be on her way if she was to catch Mr. Whitman early in the day, and then return home before too much of the afternoon was gone.
Papa’s response to her request was similar to Mama’s. While he wanted details, and to that end asked myriad questions, in time he decided to trust her. Before long, Olivia was on her way into town.
After she left Maizie and the wagon with Josh Tucker at the livery stable, Olivia hurried down Main Street, her every thought on what lay ahead. Her gaze, too, was focused on the next step before her, and then the next, as well. She feared if she let herself stray one whit in thought or action she might chicken out, run back to the stable, gather horse and wagon, and beat a hasty retreat home.
That would honor no one. Certainly not her Lord.
Every time her thoughts turned to the many arguments why she should not do this, she shoved them away, determined to obey what she felt to be the Father’s call.
At the solid and attractive oak and glass door to the Bank of Bountiful, Olivia paused one moment to breathe a final prayer for courage and favor and dry hands. She missed that apron a whole lot already.
“May I help you?” a red-haired gentleman in a black suit and rimless spectacles asked as Olivia stepped into the bank.
Lord Jesus, help me, please. “Yes.” Her voice wobbled only a touch. “I… ah… I’m here to see Mr. Whitman. The president. Of the bank, that is. Not of the nation, of course.”
Hush, Olivia. You’re blathering.
She straightened her spine and held her chin high, waiting for the gentleman’s response.
Excerpted from For Such a Time as This by Ginny Aiken Copyright © 2012 by Ginny Aiken. Excerpted by permission.
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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Meet the Author
Ginny Aiken, a former newspaper reporter, lives in Pennsylvania with her engineer husband. Born in Havana, Cuba, raised in Valencia and Caracas, Venezuela, she discovered books early and wrote her first novel at age fifteen while she trained with the Venezuelan Classical Ballet Company. She burned that tome when she turned a "mature" sixteen. Ginny has taught novel-writing seminars and workshops at Harrisburg(PA) Area Community College and Penn State University.
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