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Threads of Home
A Quilting Story Part 2
By Jodi Barrows, Pam Pugh
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2014 Jodi Barrows
All rights reserved.
Today wasn't her first time as a bride, so she shouldn't be nervous. But this time was different. There in front of her was a church filled with people and Thomas was lovingly waiting for her at the altar.
Liz Bromont's long blonde hair fell loosely over her shoulders and her brilliant blue eyes sparkled with excitement as she peeked out to see the front of the church. She ran her fingers down the silky smooth fabric of her borrowed wedding dress, relishing the overlay of lace and seed pearls sewn across the bodice as well as the pleated insert on the center of the skirt. The shoulders of the dress rested perfectly across the tips of Liz's porcelain shoulders, her skin smooth and creamy next to the princess cut neckline. She wasn't accustomed to being arrayed in this style or having so many curls in her hair.
"I'd never be able to get any work done in this dress," Liz said softly as she twisted her shoulders in the elegant white gown and settled her hands on her slim waist.
With continued appreciation, Liz thought about the friends and family who had come to celebrate the union. This little, deserted fort had welcomed them and supported them in the death of her grandfather and now in her marriage. She had intended to have a simple wedding, but once her family and friends got involved, it started to grow. When her sister, Megan, had asked, "What will you wear?" her friend Anna had offered her own wedding dress, which had begun her own life of marital happiness. Megan went to work with her sewing skills, until the dress fit Liz perfectly.
Then Mrs. Perkins said she would arrange a dinner to follow the ceremony. She asked Zeke Goodwin and his friend Smithy to play lively dancing music. She spread the word in the community and before Liz knew it, the simple wedding was turning into a full-grown party.
When Liz protested the large gathering, her cousin Abby said, "And what better reason to celebrate?" making it a done deal.
Everyone, herself included, needed a celebration to put them back where they needed to be after the murder of Lucas. Liz thought about what she had told herself and others over and over again: A person can sit in the sadness of the past and allow it to ruin the future or else choose to move forward with life. Liz wouldn't allow the past to destroy the good days ahead. She would push through the emptiness of her first husband's death, the hardships of the trip west, and even the terrifying robbery at gunpoint of the mercantile that had ended with the murder of her beloved grandfather Lucas Mailly.
Liz's mother was the daughter of Lucas and Claire Mailly. But when both their parents had died in a fire, she and Megan had come to live at the Mailly timber mill in Louisiana. The girls were cherished and loved and raised to be strong, intelligent Southern women. Liz would always be a Mailly at heart, even though she didn't carry the name.
And she was happy, truly happy, about the marriage. It wasn't just for convenience. She had developed feelings for this man. Thomas had been a friend of the family for years; in fact, he had been a close friend of her late husband and the foreman for her late grandfather's timber mill. He had a patient persistence and had finally won her heart over with his love and kindness.
How could Liz tell her friends and family no to a boot-stompin' Texas wedding party?
She treasured each and every one of them and vowed to herself that she would in turn be there for them when they needed her.
Abby and Emma, their Mississippi cousins, had traveled with her and Megan in the wagon train to Texas. Abby was the new schoolteacher, and Emma, well, Emma wasn't sure what she would do next.
She was the youngest of the Mailly granddaughters and struggled with finding her place in the world. Emma had tried to get along with her heavy-handed father, but was rebuffed or ignored at every turn. Now, having been held too tightly, she was growing rebellious, and seemed to buck against everyone and everything. Liz so wanted Emma to find her way that she encouraged her every chance she could. Emma had a hard time trusting that anyone, even Liz, might have her best interest at heart.
Liz watched Abby pull an embroidered hankie from her bag and dab at her eyes as she waited for the ceremony to unfold before her. Emma sniffled too, and accepted a handkerchief from her sister, Abby.
Sitting on another bench were the three Texas Rangers the girls had befriended on their journey west. Grandpa Lucas had hired the men to escort the four women to the Texas town as well as the wagonload of gold acquired from the sale of the timber mill. Despite encountering some perils and getting lost for a time, the group had made it safely to Fort Worth.
Tex was the old weathered captain of the Rangers who had appointed himself as guardian over the four young women following the tragic death of their grandfather. Liz suspected that he felt somewhat responsible since he was away at the time of the robbery and hadn't been able to capture the known bandits beforehand.
Near Tex were Jackson and Colt, dressed up in their Sunday best; they were the other two Rangers the family had developed a close friendship with. It was good to have them in town for a while, especially since the ongoing trouble with the neighboring community of Birdville.
Anna, the pastor's wife and her friend, stood with Liz at the back of the church.
"You look beautiful. Now be still or you will tumble out of that dress," she teased, tucking a straying blonde strand of hair back in place. "Are you ready?" Anna moved aside to let Liz through.
Liz bit the side of her lip and nodded her head. "One foot in front of the other," she told herself as she stepped closer to the back of the aisle. Anna smiled at her and provided her the go-ahead by offering her a small push. Liz took the arm her twelve-year-old son Luke offered, and together they made their way up the aisle toward Thomas.
Her groom was wearing a crisp, white button-down shirt with a black string tie at the collar. He was strong and handsome, but what she had come to love was the inner strength of this man. She realized, as she locked eyes with his, that this wonderful man made her heart skip a beat.
Thomas looked natural and at ease, except for twisting the small, sterling silver wedding band at the tip of his little finger. Liz smiled as she watched him, remembering that this was the ring he had bought months ago when the peddler Skelly came to town.
Thomas swallowed hard, causing his Adam's apple to move up and down as he watched his bride float toward him. Liz had finally agreed to marry him. He had dreamed for years of this day and couldn't be more excited. To come home to her each night was what he had always longed for. She was a force to be reckoned with, but he had loved her for years.
Liz saw her sister waiting at the front of the church in her beautiful blue dress, eyes glistening. The two were inseparable and loved each other dearly. They sounded alike when they talked and often finished each other's sentences. They both knew there would be tears today and tried to avoid each other's eyes—tears of joy as Liz and Thomas were united in marriage, and tears for missing their grandfather.
Luke kissed his mother and took his place beside Thomas, a nervous smile pasted on his face as he waited for the two to tie the knot. Liz's heart started to ache as she thought of what young Luke had endured. It was hard enough for her as an adult to have endured the sudden loss of Caleb, her husband and Luke's father, and now Grandpa Lucas, let alone a child to take it all in. But Liz knew her son was fond of Thomas and hoped he would soon love him like a father.
Thomas took Liz's small hand as they turned to face Pastor Parker. The words of the ceremony spoke of love, patience, and forgiveness. Liz lingered on his words, knowing how quickly a loved one can be lost. When Thomas finished slipping the band on Liz's finger, the clergyman introduced them to the congregation as Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bratcher. Thomas grinned from ear to ear and swept his bride up in a kiss. The couple went down the aisle hand in hand and greeted their guests as they congratulated the newlyweds and then headed for the feast and dancing outside.
Thomas and Liz finally exited the church. Thomas looked down at his beautiful bride, overjoyed to see that the happiness on her face mirrored his own. Her glowing smile delighted him. Studying her, he said, "You look beautiful, Mrs. Bratcher," and brushed his lips with hers.
Mrs. Perkins had outdone herself, and a delicious meal was laid out for all to enjoy. Liz hadn't eaten much during the hectic day and she was hungry. The smell of food was enticing. "Thomas," she exclaimed, with her hand covering her stomach. "I'm famished. I could eat a whole chicken." She smiled and led him toward the tables of food. Thomas laughed as his stride matched hers and she went to fill her plate. He smiled inwardly at his strong-willed lady and suspected this wouldn't be the last time she'd take his hand and pull him along.
* * *
When the meal was over, Zeke and Smithy began their music while couples headed to the makeshift dance floor. Thomas pulled his bride in that direction. He wanted to hold her close, drift with the music, and soak it all in.
Jackson was the tallest man in the crowded room and could easily look over everyone's heads to find Megan. He had gotten to know the petite and feisty young woman with brown silky hair on the wagon train as they traveled to Fort Worth. She was funny, easy to talk to, and just loved life. She saw every detail, even the smallest ones, and took enjoyment in them, looking for the best in everything. He found himself wanting to be around her often. He quickly grabbed her as the music got louder and livelier. She smiled and took his hand.
"You look lovely in your blue dress," Jackson said, smiling at her, knowing all the work she had put into it. She placed her hand on his broad shoulder as he danced her onto the wooden planks among the other couples whirling about.
Colt stuck a finger into the collar of his shirt and ran it around his neck to loosen his string tie as he looked around the gathering. After spotting Emma watching the action alone, he mustered the courage to ask the young woman to dance.
"Let's dance," he whispered in her ear, and was rewarded with a smile. She willingly took his hand as he spun her off in a circle just as the musicians began another tune.
Luke watched the dancing as he finished pulling the last bit of meat from the chicken bone. Wiping his fingers on the inside of his pants leg he found a group of youngsters trying to pluck up the nerve to get out on the dance floor. Luke confidently smiled at his buddies and led the way, inviting a surprised young lady into the midst of the music.
With the deep blue haze of evening settling in and the fireflies magically lighting the edge of the woods, Zeke and Smithy tapped the soles of their well-worn boots to the beat of the Virginia reel. Zeke stroked the strings of his fiddle while Smithy ran his hands and mouth skillfully across his harmonica. Couples faced each other in a line and changed their pattern of steps for the foot stomping dance. The floor began to vibrate and hum with the pounding feet, adding to the merriment of the evening.
When Thomas and Liz bowed to each other for the beginning of the dance, he whispered words of love just for her ear. Her cheeks turned pink as she laughed and stepped backwards, extending her arms in the dance pattern of the Virginia reel.
The couples swayed to the music, locking elbows and trading partners as they skipped. The women's cotton dresses, a rainbow of colors and styles, billowed out with each swirl of their feet. This was nothing like the galas in the South, Liz thought, remembering ruffled, hooped skirts floating across perfectly shined marble floors. She already understood that here in Texas, a woman's beauty wasn't in what she wore but in what grew from within. Here her heart and soul were woven tightly together by the love of her husband, the smiles of her children, and the appreciation of the land she lived on. It was a simple beauty which could drop a grown man to his knees.
Thomas leaned on a post and rested a moment as a group of chatty ladies whisked his wife away. His eyes were drawn to the old Ranger, Tex, who appeared to be deep in thought and leaning on a post of his own. Tex didn't look at Thomas when he spoke. He only adjusted the brim of his hat, expressing his thoughts as he did so.
"Things changing, you know. With each day, they are changing."
Thomas glanced at the dancing couples and looked at the Mailly women clustered with several other laughing females. As he considered Tex's words, he thought about this wild sprawling country called Texas, where friendships were kindled and not misused, where love was real and not the merging of two family empires, and where trust was an honest thing a person could hold and treasure. He was sure this Mailly family's coming to town had changed Tex too. They accepted him, knowing without spoken words that he had bruised and broken places within. They made him stronger and gave him the desire to be a better man.
Taking the time to care and trust was a rare luxury in Tex's business, Thomas knew, but these women beckoned it.
"Lucas should be here," Tex said, not for the first time. "He should be the one watching his family celebrate a wedding, not an old, used-up man like me."CHAPTER 2
Samuel Smith was a lawyer who favored the wide open countryside over four walls of a law office or courtroom. Not that he didn't like the law or politics; it just usually involved stuffy buildings and sometimes stuffy people, often men who were egotistic. He preferred the back of his horse and the view it provided.
Now that he was a self-appointed city elder for the up-and-coming town of Fort Worth, his work involved, among other things, getting the school going in their community and writing contracts for land deeds of the homesteaders.
Just by living on the land for three years and making improvements, a homesteader could acquire ownership of the property, but the arrangement was under Texas law rather than that of the U.S. government. The state was unique among others in the union in that it had been an independent country: the Republic of Texas. When it had been annexed in 1845, the agreement was that Texas would retain rights to all vacant or unappropriated land within its borders.
According to the homestead law Samuel was working with, a settler could pay a filing fee of twelve dollars to a traveling land agent and take residence of the land immediately. Or he could travel to Austin himself, which was often a great distance, and file a land deed in person.
Either way held risks. A land agent might not return, due to any number of factors. Travel was slow and could be perilous, and north Texans were often reluctant both to chance a journey and to leave their land unattended. To help with the problem, an agent was situated in Medlin, a settlement along the north branch of the Trinity River. Samuel's role was to set up paperwork, file documents, secure finances—all of which helped the homesteaders with legalities as well as peace of mind as they began working on their 160 acres.
Samuel was also involved with settling the county record dispute with Birdville.
Birdville. The town selected a few years before as Tarrant County's first county seat and the other side of an ongoing dispute with Fort Worth, which aspired to the distinction. A second, special election had been held recently, giving the edge to Fort Worth, and giving rise to rumors of men voting who didn't live in the county and other dubious suspicions. The county records had to be carefully kept safe and secure from those who sought to steal them.
As he wrote contracts for the land deeds, Samuel reflected that it seemed like Texas was giving its land away and settlers were quick to start homesteading procedures, especially now that most of the Indian wars were pushed farther west.
Samuel's father, suitably dubbed Smithy by the cavalry, was the blacksmith for the fort. He and his wife had followed the troops west as they pushed to civilize the new frontier.
Excerpted from Threads of Home by Jodi Barrows, Pam Pugh. Copyright © 2014 Jodi Barrows. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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