Can the shy gunsmith and the widowed storekeeper find love when everything around them is in an uproar? Hiram Dooley has problems—women problems! His sister’s about to leave him to get married (if Sheriff Ethan Chapman ever proposes); his sister-in-law, Rose, thinks Hiram should marry her, since they’re both widowed; and the woman he truly loves, Libby Adams, is blind to his regard. The schoolmarm has a different problem—a man claiming to be her uncle came to Fergus. . .and then disappeared. Did her father kill him? Can the Ladies’ Shooting Club once again ride to the rescue?
About the Author
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy Christian novels and novellas, which have sold more than 1.5 million copies. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest. She has also been a finalist in the More than Magic Contest and Willa Literary Awards. She lives in western Kentucky with her husband. She’s the mother of six and grandmother of ten. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Gunsmith's Gallantry
By Susan Page Davis
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Susan Page Davis
All rights reserved.
Fergus, Idaho May 1886
The gunsmith paused on the board sidewalk and turned around.
Maitland Dostie left the doorway of his tiny office and shouted at him, waving a piece of paper. "Got a message for ya."
Hiram arched his eyebrows and touched a hand to his chest in question.
The gray-haired telegraph operator smiled and clomped along the walk toward him, shaking his head. "Yes, you, Mr. Dooley. Just because you haven't had a telegram in the last five years and more doesn't mean you'll never get one."
Hiram swallowed down a lump of apprehension and reached a cautious hand for the paper. "What do I owe you?"
"Nothing. It was paid for on the other end."
It still seemed he ought to give him something, but maybe that was only if a messenger boy brought the telegram around to the house. Hiram nodded. "Thanks. Where's it from?"
"Whyn't you look and see?"
Hiram wanted to say, "Because if it's from Maine, it's probably bad news." His parents were getting along in years, and he couldn't think of a reason anyone would part with enough hard cash to send him a telegram unless somebody'd up and died.
But Hiram rarely spent more words than he had to, and Dostie had already gotten more out of him than usual. Besides, if someone in the family had died, the telegraph operator would know it. Wouldn't he look a little sadder if that were so? Hiram nodded and tucked the paper inside his vest so it wouldn't fly away in the cool May wind that whistled up between the Idaho mountains. He walked home, stepping a little faster than previously, certain that Dostie watched him.
At the path to his snug little house between the jail and a vacant store building, he turned in and hurried to the back. Maybe he ought to look. If it was bad news, he'd have to tell his sister, Trudy. Undecided, he mounted the steps and opened the kitchen door. A spicy smell of baking welcomed him, along with Trudy's smile.
"Just in time. I'm taking out the molasses cookies and putting in the dried apple pies." She bent before the open oven.
The woodstove had warmed the kitchen to an almost uncomfortable level. Hiram hung his hat on its peg and headed for the water bucket and washbasin. No use trying to get cookies from Trudy unless he'd washed his hands.
"Did Zachary Harper pay you?"
"No. He says he'll come by next week."
Hiram shrugged. Trudy got a little mama-bearish on his behalf when folks didn't come forth with cash for his work on their firearms, but he knew Zach would pay him eventually. It wasn't worth fussing over. As she peeled hot cookies off the baking sheet with a long, flat spatula, the soap shot out of his hand and skated across the clean floor. Thankful it hadn't slid under the hot stove, he walked to the corner and bent to retrieve it. The paper in his vest crackled.
"Oh, I 'most forgot." He corralled the soap and returned it to its dish. After a good rinsing, he dried his hands, fished out the folded yellow sheet of paper, and laid it on the table.
"What's that?" She stopped with the narrow spatula in midair, a hot, floppy cookie drooping over its edges.
"What's it say?"
He rescued the crumbling cookie and juggled it from one hand to the other. "Don't know." He blew on it until it was cool enough that it wouldn't burn him and popped half into his mouth. The warm sweetness hit the spot, and he felt less anxious.
Trudy set the cookie sheet down and balled her hands into fists. She put them to her hips, though she still held the spatula in one. "What's the matter with you? Why didn't you read it?"
He shrugged. How to tell his younger sister that he hadn't wanted to be smacked with bad news while the telegraph operator watched him?
"It's windy out."
She scowled at him.
"I didn't want it to blow away. Read it if you want." He reached for another cookie. "Is Ethan coming over tonight?"
"What do you think?"
Hiram smiled. The sheriff spent a disproportionate amount of time at the Dooley house these days, but he didn't mind. Ethan Chapman was a good man.
Trudy still eyed the telegram as though she expected it to rear back and sprout fangs and a tail rattle.
"Go ahead and read it," Hiram said, feeling a little guilty at putting the task off on her.
"If it's addressed to you, then you do it."
He sighed and laid his cookie aside. It would be better with milk, anyway. He wiped his hands on his dungarees and picked up the paper. As he opened it, he quickly scanned the message for the "from" part and frowned. Why on earth would Rose Caplinger send him a message all the way from Maine?
"What?" Trudy asked.
He held it out to her. "It's Rose."
Hiram nodded. "She wants to visit, I guess." He should have read it more closely, but the idea of his opinionated sister-in-law descending on them was enough to make a bachelor quake. He and his bride, Violet, had traveled west twelve years ago, in part for the opportunities that beckoned them, but also to escape her pushy family. If Rose hadn't bothered to come after Violet died, why on earth would she take it into her head to visit a decade later? "We'll have to tell her not to come."
Trudy's eyebrows drew together as she studied the paper. "Too late, Hi. She's already in Boise."
* * *
Libby Adams lowered the bar into place inside the door of the Paragon Emporium. After a long day tending the store, it was a relief to close up shop. She threw the bolt and turned the Open sign to Closed, but before she turned away, a man appeared outside and tried the door handle.
Surprised, Libby gestured for him to wait, removed the bar, and unbolted the door.
"I'm just closing, Cyrus. Do you need something tonight?" She stood with the door open a few inches, peering out at the stagecoach-line manager, whose office lay a few yards down the boardwalk.
"I came on a social call." The tall man's smile stopped short of his gray eyes. "It's been a while since we've talked. Thought I'd invite you to dinner—say, Friday evening?"
Libby caught her breath. Cyrus and her husband, Isaac, had been friends. After Isaac's death, Cyrus had made overtures to Libby, but too soon in her widowhood, she'd felt. Cyrus's wife, Mary, was also deceased, so she supposed there was nothing improper about it. Back then, she'd told herself that his timing alone had prompted her to turn him down.
Now it was more than that. Her sharp grief was past, but she knew without any rumination that she didn't wish to form a social alliance with Cyrus. She found his authoritative manner overbearing and repulsive. Actions she'd observed over the past few years confirmed her suspicions that she would not find happiness in the Fennel household. No, if she ever married again, it would be to a far gentler man than Cyrus.
She opened the door a bit wider so as not to appear rude, but she determined not to budge on her answer. "I don't think so, Cyrus, but thank you for asking."
His face hardened. "Why not?"
"I'm content with my situation the way it is."
"Oh, come on, Libby." He leaned closer, and she drew back, shocked that his breath smelled of liquor. "Aren't you tired of being alone? We've both had enough of that. Do you enjoy living by yourself and working all day to earn a living? I'm offering you a chance to put this behind you." His nod encompassed the emporium and Libby's entire life.
His implication that she lived a bleak and pointless existence annoyed her. "I'm not ready to—"
"Of course you're ready. Neither of us is getting any younger. Now's the time, while we can enjoy life together."
She shook her head. "I'm not interested in changing my situation just now, Cyrus."
His eyes narrowed, and he studied her thoughtfully. "Not interested in me?"
"If you insist that I say it, then I suppose not." Her pulse quickened at the angry twitch of his mouth. "We've known each other a long time, Cy. To be frank, I don't think we would suit each other."
"We could have good times, Libby."
"Ah, but we might differ on what constituted good times. I think we'll do best to remain friends and not try to make more of it than that."
He swore softly, and she stepped back.
"You'd best go home. I expect your daughter will have supper waiting when you get there. Good night." She shut the door quickly and once more shot the bolt. Cyrus raised his hands to the door frame and peered in at her. "Good night," she said again and plopped the bar into place. She turned away and hurried up the stairs to her apartment.
As she took out bread, preserves, and cheese for a cold supper, she shook her head. "Drinking, this early. He never did that when Mary was alive." She wondered how his daughter, Isabel, liked that. Isabel taught the village school. A thin, colorless young woman, she'd always kept to herself. Libby had made a point of drawing her out. She'd known Isabel's mother and felt a nebulous duty to make sure Isabel wasn't forgotten and isolated after her mother's death. For the last year, Isabel had taken part in the Ladies' Shooting Club against her father's wishes. Cyrus had declared the club a menace to the town, but he'd backed off somewhat when the ladies' organization had proved its worth. He still wasn't keen on it—which was one more difference between her and Cyrus. Libby loved the shooting club and saw it as a benefit to the members and an asset to the town.
She took her plate to the parlor and sat down on the French settee Isaac had imported for her. She ought to entertain more. What good was all this fancy furniture with no one else to enjoy it? But she was always too tired in the evening. She did well to carve out time for shooting practice.
Cyrus's renewed interest surprised her. She'd assumed he'd given up the notion of wooing her. A couple of years ago, she'd made it clear—or so she thought—that she didn't want a new husband, even if he was the richest man in Fergus and a member of the town council.
She bent over and unlaced her shoes, then kicked them off and leaned back on the cushions. For a moment, she allowed herself to imagine life at the Fennel ranch. Cyrus would ride into town every morning to run the stagecoach line. Isabel would go to the schoolhouse. And Libby—Libby would clean the house and bake and sew, she supposed. Maybe tend the hens and a vegetable garden. She'd probably not see another soul all day, except perhaps a ranch hand or two. None of the bright visits she enjoyed now with her customers. It struck her that, as owner of the emporium, she was privileged to see nearly every resident of the town at least once a month. Who else could claim that?
She tried to conjure up a picture of Cyrus as a loving husband. She'd counted Mary Fennel as a friend, but Libby suspected she'd harbored a deep unhappiness. Without tangible proof, she held the keen memory of a night twelve years ago when she'd been called with Annie Harper to Mary's bedside. Mrs. Fennel had miscarried a baby that night, and she'd wept long afterward.
Libby, in her own awkwardness, had tried to soothe Mary, but she would not be comforted. In a moment alone, when Annie had gone to the kitchen, Libby had patted Mary's shoulder and said, "There, now. You have Isabel. She's a good girl, and perhaps the Lord will give you another child yet."
"No," Mary wailed. "He's punishing me. Cyrus wanted a child of his own, but it's never to be. God won't let me give him that."
Shocked into silence, Libby had listened to her weeping for hours. She had never told anyone of Mary's words, but many times she had pondered them. Her own barrenness had brought on deep sorrow and feelings of inadequacy from which she'd never recovered. But Mary ... something odd lay behind those words. Though she and Mary visited many more times, Libby had sealed her lips and never brought it up again.
Now Cyrus had come to her door and invited her to dinner—offering much more than that. She shivered. If God had another husband for her, she would consider it. But not Cyrus. Never would she tie herself to that unhappy family.CHAPTER 2
Isabel Fennel brushed back a wisp of light brown hair that clung to her damp forehead. A cloud of steam engulfed her as she drained the water off the pan of green beans she'd cooked for supper.
The spring term of school was drawing to a close, and she looked forward to the coming break. She found teaching exhilarating—except when Willie Ingram started cutting up. But coming home to her sullen father's dark moods and having to prepare supper for the two of them tired her out. She found it nearly as exhausting as running the boardinghouse on Main Street, as she had for a few weeks last summer between school terms.
She set the bowl of beans on the table and opened the oven to spear the baked potatoes. When everything was on the table, she went to the hallway that ran the length of the ranch house. Her father had come in twenty minutes before and settled in the parlor to read.
"Here!" His muffled voice and the rattle of newspaper reached her from the front of the house.
She heard his chair creak as he rose. She'd begun to turn back to the kitchen when a peremptory knock sounded on the front door. Likely one of the ranch hands, though they usually came around back. She glanced at the kitchen table, laden with steaming dishes, and hoped whoever it was wouldn't keep Papa talking long. A sudden reminder that most of the ranch hands were off on spring roundup sent her to the doorway to peer down the hall.
Her father shuffled out of the front room, glanced her way, then went to the door and opened it. "Yes?"
She couldn't see past her tall father's form, but she heard a deep male voice say, "Cyrus? Is that you? My, you've aged, h'aint you?"
She frowned and cocked her head so she could hear her father's reply better.
"I ... do I ...?"
"It's me," the other man crowed. "Kenton."
"No! Kenton? It can't be."
Isabel shook her head, thinking, Well Papa, obviously it can be, whoever Kenton is. She racked her brain for the name and came up dry.
"Come in." Her father ushered the man inside and steered him into the front room. Isabel barely caught a glimpse of him, but she had the impression of a limping man about her father's age or older. Cyrus Fennel was in his mid-fifties. This visitor must be someone he'd known many years ago, perhaps from his gold-mining days.
She heard their muffled voices but could no longer make out their words. Wondering what to do, she lingered. After a couple of minutes, with no one advising her and the voices still rumbling in the far room, she scurried about to cover the hot dishes with linen towels, hoping to save a little of their warmth. At least she'd baked a couple of extra potatoes, thinking she'd use them in a hash for tomorrow's breakfast.
If she was expected to put on a company meal, some drop biscuits might be a good addition to the menu. She quickly stirred them up and popped a pan in the oven, hoping it was still hot enough to brown them. The kitchen was so warm, she didn't want to add more fuel to the cook fire.
Ten minutes later, she decided the biscuits were as done as they'd ever be and was placing them in a basket when her father entered the kitchen with a grizzled man limping behind him.
"Isabel, I'd like to introduce you to your uncle Kenton."
Isabel nearly dropped the biscuits. "My uncle?" She stared at the man. His wrinkled face and small, dark eyes held nothing familiar and showed no resemblance that she could see to either side of her family. His dark hair was liberally sprinkled with gray, and his spotty beard reminded her of the old coyote's pelt one of their ranch hands had nailed to the bunkhouse door last winter. His shirt, none too clean, sported frayed cuffs and collar, and his scuffed boots had seen better days.
"Yes dear. This is your mother's brother, Kenton Smith. He's come all the way from back East, and he wanted to meet you."
Isabel felt her face flush. If her mother had a brother named Kenton, she certainly had never heard about him. The whole scene made little sense to her, but she hastened to untie her apron and fling it over the back of her chair. Hesitantly, she approached the man and held out her hand.
"Oh please, just call me Uncle Kenton." He grinned, exposing a row of crooked teeth and a gap where one should have been on the bottom left side.
"U–uncle Kenton," Isabel managed.
"My, what a fine young lady Mary's little girl grew to be."
His overly enthusiastic smile sickened Isabel, and she turned away. Snatching her apron from the chair, she crossed to her peg rack and hung it up.
Excerpted from The Gunsmith's Gallantry by Susan Page Davis. Copyright © 2010 Susan Page Davis. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
THE GUNSMITH'S GALLANTRY by Susan Page Davis is a delightful Inspirational Romance set in 1886 Fergus, Idaho. It is the second in the Ladies' Shooting Club series but can be read as a stand alone. It is well written with details and depth. It has courage, faith, friendship, betrayal, a tender romance, and wit. The characters are charming, witty and will hold your interest. They cause an uproar or two and definite mayhem. The Ladies' Shooting Club is several of the town's women learning how to shoot and become more confidant. In this story our hero is the gunsmith, Hiram, he is shy,a widower, handsome,and best friend's with the sheriff(he is in love with Hiram's sister).He is falling in love with our heroine, the pretty, Ms Libby, who herself is a widow. Hiram is so shy and quiet his sister-in-law, Rose, comes to town with marriage on her mind to him. He has no desire for her for he is in love with Libby(he doesn't quiet know that yet). This story has many facets to it. We have several plots going on, but in the end it all comes together. This is a witty, tender fast paced page turner story. You will enjoy from beginning to end. I would recommend this book. If you have not read the first in this series, The Sheriff's Surrender, I would recommend you pick it up, you will not disappointed. This book was received for review and details can be found at My Book Addiction and More and Barbour Publishing.