About the Author
Cathy Marie Hake is a Southern California native. She met her two loves at church: Jesus and her husband, Christopher. An RN, she loved working in oncology as well as teaching Lamaze. Health issues forced her to retire, but God opened new possibilities with writing. Since their children have moved out and are married, Cathy and Chris dote on dogs they rescue from a local shelter. A sentimental pack rat, Cathy enjoys scrapbooking and collecting antiques. “I’m easily distracted during prayer, so I devote certain tasks and chores to specific requests or persons so I can keep faithful in my prayer life.” Since her first book in 2000, she’s been on multiple best-seller and readers’ favorite lists.
Read an Excerpt
Brides of Texas
3-in-1 Historical Romance Collection
By Cathy Marie Hake
Barbour Publishing, IncCopyright © 2006 Cathy Marie Hake
All rights reserved.
The Gregor brothers stood shoulder to shoulder along the ship's rail as the Anchoria cut through the choppy waters. The copper Statue of Liberty towered over their vessel, but her long-awaited welcome felt empty since Da wasn't beside them to see the grand sight.
Duncan nudged Rob. "I'm thinking she has the biggest feet I've ever seen."
His joke lightened the tension. All three brothers chuckled. It made sense that Duncan would notice such a detail, him being a cobbler.
All about them, folks craned to see the sight. Mamas clutched their children close, and men stood a bit taller. Freedom. Opportunity. They'd scrimped, saved, sacrificed, and some nearly starved to come to America. Seeing Liberty did something — they'd gotten here ... Didn't that mean other dreams and hopes could come true, too?
"Ellis Island," a sailor announced through a megaphone. "First-class passengers, please remain aboard. We will assist you with all your needs. Second class and steerage, gather your belongings and prepare to disembark."
"Remember what I told you," Robert murmured to his brothers. He shot a meaningful look at a woman coughing into her handkerchief. Americans didn't want diseased immigrants flooding their land. Processing newcomers through this facility allowed officials to turn back those they determined might be sickly. Robert had known that fact full well, but Da refused to listen. He'd insisted on making the voyage.
"We're hale as horses," Chris said as he withstood a hefty bump from someone on his other side. "I'm heartily sick of being crowded. I'm going below to get our gear."
"I'll come along." Duncan shifted sideways.
Robert didn't say a word. He'd given Da his promise that they'd stick together, and he'd meant it. From here on out, he'd be sure to keep what was left of his family intact. After an overcrowded, noisy voyage, the steerage compartment was eerily empty and silent. They walked down the companionway and wended past bunks to reach the berth they'd shared with so many others.
Chris and Duncan knelt and yanked Duncan's trunk from beneath the bunk. Filled with a cobbler's tools, the thing weighed a ton, but Duncan hefted it with relative ease.
Robert turned his hand over and felt under the bunk for a package he'd secured there when they'd first boarded.
"Is it there still?" Chris asked in an undertone.
"Aye." Rob untied the corners and carefully reclaimed his precious supply of medications and medical instruments. Theft below decks had proven to be a persistent problem, and he'd taken care to protect these things from sticky fingers and shifty souls. "I'll put this in my bag with the rest of the things now."
Two battered suitcases, a physician's bag, and a cobbler's trunk. The Gregor brothers carried all their worldly possessions off the ship and onto American soil. In short order, workers herded them through lines and into a large wooden building. Workers chalked numbers on the immigrants' baggage and gave them pasteboard tickets for each piece.
"I'll have that." A man tugged at Robert's valise.
"No." Robert held fast. "I'm a physician. 'Tis my bag."
"Why didn't you just say so?" The man shot him a disgruntled look and went on down the line to the next men.
Duncan folded his arms and looked about. "Aboard the ship, the noise all rolled back on us. Here, I can make out all of the different tongues. How are they ever going to be able to ask us all questions and understand our answers? 'Tis like the Tower of Babel in here."
"Chris." Robert elbowed him. Christopher had an uncanny ability to learn languages. "How many do you hear?"
"German. Dutch. French. Russian. Some of it sounds like Latin, so I'd venture that it's Spanish or Portuguese." He shrugged. "Probably both. Judging from clothing, there are Slavs aplenty, too."
Their group spent time in what looked remarkably like a livestock pen. Older folk slumped on wooden benches and toddlers fussed.
Women went one way; the men went the other. Robert watched in silence as each man underwent a cursory examination. Those with light sensitivity or red, runny eyes received marks on their coats. So did the ones whose coughs revealed consumption.
A father and son ahead of them were drawn off to the side; the son's eyes were diseased — would the father stay in America while his son was shipped back home?
Lord Almighty, what a horrendous situation. Da wouldn't have made it through this. You took him from us, and that was hard enough — but to have a stranger rip us apart would have been unbearable. I didn't realize at the time just how merciful You were being.
"Destination?" The tall man at the desk looked at Duncan for an answer.
"Texas," Christopher answered. He pulled Connant's letter from his vest pocket and carefully laid it on the desk. Connant had enclosed a note with that letter, warning them that New York teemed with immigrants. Officials would be glad to hear the brothers would leave the area.
"I can see you're all brothers." The man gave them a friendly smile. "Black Irish?"
"Scots," they said in unison.
"Brawny ones at that." The man scribbled something on a document. Robert wondered how someone in the midst of this madhouse managed to stay cheerful all day. Perhaps the news that they were headed clear off to Texas pleased him. God, thank Ye for Connant's friendship and sound advice.
"What trades do you boast?"
"Doctor, cobbler, and miner." Christopher jabbed his thumb at each of them in turn.
"Make yourselves useful, men. America needs men of peace and productivity." He stamped something and waved them onward.
"Now what?" Duncan frowned. "I'm not liking this business of them keeping our belongings somewhere."
A lanky man with a fringe of bright orange hair beckoned them. He'd gathered several others around him who all looked to be from the Isles. "Immigrant Society!" he called loudly.
"Connant wrote about them." Robert headed that way.
"There we are, then." The man smiled broadly. The lilt in his voice sounded wonderfully familiar. "America's a wondrous land, and I won't be sayin' otherwise, but I need to warn you that many an unscrupulous man waits across the harbor. They'll make promises and take what little ye've left, but 'tis little to no help you'll get back. The Immigrant Society will help, and 'tis honest. If you ken where ye be headed, we'll help transport you there at minimal cost and less fuss."
* * *
"Minimal cost and less fuss turned out to be an honest assessment," Robert said later as he tucked his black leather bag beneath the train bench and took a seat.
Duncan chuckled. "It bewilders me, it does, how you recall every last word a body says. How long's the trip to Texas?"
"Three days." Christopher folded his arms across his chest and scanned the others filling the train car.
Robert watched the other passengers, too. Long ago, he'd learned he watched people just as avidly as Chris, but they saw entirely different things. Where from his clinical perspective he saw undertones in complexions, strained breathing, guarded moves, and grimaces from pain, Chris focused on eyes and hands because he'd learned to measure a man's ability to help or do harm. Together, they would evaluate their fellow travelers and exchange terse comments if something struck them as important.
Duncan, on the other hand, slouched in the seat so he'd be at eye level with a small boy. They'd struck up a conversation, and once the train set in motion, Duncan wrapped his arm about the lad's shoulder and nudged him to rest his head against Duncan's ribs. It wasn't but a few minutes ere the lad fell fast asleep, and the mama gave Duncan a look of sheer gratitude.
"Well?" Robert didn't even look at Chris when he asked.
"Left of the bald man in the green jacket — man's armed to the teeth. Behind us three rows are two Poles with more fight in their eyes than brains in their heads."
"That's all?" He slanted a glance at Chris and gave him a slow, easy grin.
"Aye." Chris pulled the brim of his hat down over his eyes, folded his arms, and stretched his long legs out before him. "I could whip all three of 'em without breaking a sweat, and you could wash the scratches on my knuckles afterward if you were of a mind to be helpful." His chin dipped to rest on his chest, he let out a throaty chuckle, and before long he slumbered.
Robert couldn't sleep. Then again, he'd learned to do with less sleep than most men needed. Relentlessly, the train chugged across the nation, belching clouds of black smoke and covering mile after mile of this huge, strange country. The rhythmic clack-clack-clack as they advanced didn't make him sleepy — it energized him.
Three days. Three days of stopping here and there. Of changing trains. Of going through big, stately cities that looked newer than anything Scotland boasted, past grand stretches where nothing but forests commanded the land, and past patchwork plots covered by verdant crops. The streets weren't exactly paved with gold, but from where he sat and what he saw, Robert knew America offered what every man craved most: an opportunity to make something of himself.
Back home, the zinc mine was played out. Christopher would have faced the humiliation of having no way to earn a living. Folks couldn't spend money on shoes when their bellies were empty, so Duncan had experienced a severe drop in demand for his skills. Even Robert found he'd been paid far less reliably by his patients. This would be a fresh start. They'd have a meager beginning, but that thought didn't trouble him, or his brothers, one bit. Strong, motivated men could forge a new life. Besides, they had one another, and they had God. In the end, those were what mattered most.
* * *
Mercy Ellen Stein clipped the floss, turned over the dish towel, and smiled at the pattern. Violet-blue morning glories trumpeted across the corner, and she closed her eyes for a moment to imagine just how well they'd match the pale blue cabinets in Otto's house. Otto would be here for supper in less than an hour. Tonight they'd choose which Bible verses and hymns they wanted for the wedding. In preparation for that, Mercy had marked her favorite selections in the hymnal on the piano.
The family Bible always rested in the place of honor — a small oak table. Depending on the season, Grossmuter used to change the little tablecloths. Since her death last year, Mercy had followed the tradition. Fall's maple and sycamore leaves embroidered on ecru cotton gave way to holly and ivy linen at Christmas. During spring and summer, partly for fun and mostly because dust was so prevalent, a whole variety of scarves decorated with flowers and birds took turns each week. In honor of their wedding plans, Mercy had used the satin one with delicate orange blossoms and airy tatted lace edges.
The hope chest in her room held a plethora of such linens. She didn't need this dish towel at all, but she enjoyed needlework. The bodice of her wedding gown bore testament to that. She'd spent hour upon hour doing French cut lacework on the white cotton. They couldn't afford satin, but that didn't trouble her. Grossmuter had taught her to draw contentment from making ordinary things beautiful — and though it would be brazenly proud to speak the words aloud, Mercy believed her wedding gown to be the most beautiful thing she'd ever created.
Otto's mother came over yesterday to help her pin up the hem. She'd pronounced the dress exquisite. After Grossmuter died, Otto's mother had become Mercy's confidant and mentor. Helpful and kindhearted, Mrs. Kunstler would be a fine mother-in-law.
The back door banged and feet pattered on the new linoleum floor. Jarred out of her musings, Mercy called out, "Walk in the house, Peter."
Her little brother swung around the corner and half shouted, "Grossvater said I can keep one of Freckle's puppies!"
Setting aside the almost-finished dish towel, Mercy laughed. "I suppose you've already decided which one."
"Why don't we set the table first?"
"Mercy, I can't wait. Please come now."
She couldn't resist her eight-year-old brother's pleading brown eyes. "Okay. Let me check the roast first. The puppies aren't going anywhere."
Mercy glanced at the pan of green beans she'd cook in a little while, set potatoes on to boil, and peeked under the flour-dusted towel to be sure the dough was rising. The yeasty smell promised tasty rolls.
"You said you'd check the roast." Peter wriggled with impatience.
"You're looking at everything else."
"You'll be glad later when you sit down to a good meal." She opened the door to the Sunshine stove and pulled out the gray roasting pan. Fragrant steam billowed as she lifted the lid. "Mmm." Quickly, she clanged the lid back down and pushed the pan back into the oven. No use letting out any moisture. Grossvater and Otto both loved gravy, so she'd want every last ounce of drippings she could get.
"Otto eats a lot," Peter said as she took his hand and started toward the barn. "That roast better be really big."
"Men who labor hard work up hearty appetites. Otto works hard, so he eats a lot. So does Grossvater. Someday, you'll do the same thing when you're doing a man's work around here."
Peter's lower lip poked out. "I work hard around here."
"Yes, you do." She resisted the urge to ruffle his wind-tousled brown curls. She hadn't meant to hurt his feelings. "Fast as you're growing, you'll soon be a man."
His face brightened. With that issue resolved, he seemed to concentrate on their destination. Peter tugged on her hand, silently urging her to walk faster.
Mercy wished she'd taken time to put on her shoes. Grossvater scolded her whenever she came out to the barn barefooted. It was just that with the oven's heat and spring sunshine, she'd peeled off her shoes and stockings in the house.
"If I guess which puppy you want," she teased Peter, "you have to gather eggs this week."
"Nuh-unh!" Peter yanked away and streaked ahead.
Caught up in his joy, Mercy laughed and ran after him. Early evening sun slanted into the barn, lending a golden glow to everything in sight. A horse whinnied, feet shuffled the straw-covered ground, and Freckle growled.
Mercy's eyes hadn't yet adjusted to the dim place, but she guessed what was happening. "Peter, be careful. Mamas don't take kindly to someone handling their babies."
A muffled sound made her stop and tilt her head. Something wasn't right. It was then that she saw Grossvater's legs and boots sticking out from a stall. She cried out in alarm.
Mercy spun to the side. Cold horror washed over her. A stranger stood three feet away. Light glinted off the wicked-looking knife he held to Peter's throat.CHAPTER 2
What do you think?" Connant Gilchrist swung his arm in a grandiose gesture.
Robert took in the room with nothing short of delight. "It's perfect. And so modern!"
"Old Doc Neely's widow didn't know what to do with it. She sold the house and moved back to Boston to be with her daughter. The office — well, she told the mayor she reckoned the town folks bought most of this when they paid Doc for his services. The city council voted to pass it on to the next qualified physician."
"It sure pays to have friends in the right place at the right time," Chris said as he tested the examination table by pressing his palms downward on it.
Sturdy. Robert assessed the table with glee. He'd worked on many a patient who lay on a wobbly dining trestle. Good height, too. I won't have to hunch over when I perform surgery.
"You came in through the waiting room." Connant jerked a thumb toward a wide flight of stairs. "Two rooms up there — Doc Neely kept one as a sick room and used the other for himself on nights he needed to stay and keep watch on a patient."
"Stove there is big enough to cook on when you're not boiling instruments," Duncan said. "After being crammed in that ship, even a small bedchamber will feel roomy."
Connant nodded. "You can ask the bank for a loan or wait till you save up a bit, but the lot here's plenty big enough. You might want to be building a wee house and a shop for Duncan in the back."
"So the land is ours?" Robert gave his childhood friend a startled look.
"Aye, and why not? I put a stipulation in the contract, though." His grin looked smug as could be. "Says you have to stay here five years, else the land and all of the supplies go to the next doctor."
"That's more than fair."
Christopher's face darkened. "Is there a problem so no one wants to stay here?"
Excerpted from Brides of Texas by Cathy Marie Hake. Copyright © 2006 Cathy Marie Hake. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
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