4 Teachers Find More Than They Bargained for in Their Contracts Something Old, Something New by Kathleen L. Maher New York, 1840s Her father’s sudden death makes Gilda Jacobs the new schoolmaster, but to teach Christian curriculum she partners with fire-and-brimstone revivalist Joshua Blake, who learns a lesson in love. Love in Any Language by Susanne Dietze Kansas, 1870 Mary Clarence teaches English to the children of Swedish immigrants, but when her favorite students’ widowed father, Kristofer Nilsson, is accused of robbery, she’s determined to clear his name. In Desperate Straits by Carrie Fancett Pagels Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1894 Desperate for work, Margaret Hadley dresses as a young man to secure a dray driver’s position. When soldiers at the fort threaten her, Mackinac Island’s newest teacher, Jesse Huntington, intervenes. A Song in the Night by Rita Gerlach Virginia, 1904 Karin Wiles longs to share the uplifting power of music with children. But when she seeks to improve a poorly run school and include orphans, Nathaniel Archer delivers harsh words of opposition from the school board.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of a dozen new and upcoming historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can visit her online at www.susannedietze.com and subscribe to her newsletters at http://eepurl.com/bieza5.
RITA GERLACH lives in central Maryland with her husband and two sons. She is a best-selling author of eight inspirational historical novels including the Daughters of the Potomac series of which Romantic Times Book Review Magazine said, "Creating characters with intense realism and compassion is one of Gerlach’s gifts."
ECPA-bestselling author Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of over a dozen Christian historical romances. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn't "cure" her overactive imagination! A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia but grew up as a “Yooper” in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time! You can connect with her at www.CarrieFancettPagels.com.
Read an Excerpt
Cortlandt, Westchester County, New York September 1840
Hadassah, hurry, it's almost sundown."
Gilda turned from the stairwell, cupping her hand in front of the taper as she moved so the flame wouldn't sputter out. Keeping one ear attuned for her younger sister's response from the upper floor, she set her focus on her other sibling.
"Hannah, do you want to be late for Papa's kaddish?"
It had been a month since Papa had died, but after this first year of loss ended, only four Yizkor dates on the Hebrew calendar provided for mourning. Would it be enough to memorialize Eliezer Jacobs — to light his candle and commemorate a life that had shaped her entire world? Papa deserved more than that. He deserved a lifetime with Gilda following his sterling example.
She passed the looking glass hanging in the dining room and instinctively faced it, but a white sheet met her gaze rather than her appearance. Of course, mourning customs. The looking glasses were all covered. Every one of them. She was certain hers would have been a disheveled reflection anyway, running around and making all the preparations for Mama and giving no thought to vanity on this day. At least, not much thought.
Mama sat, as she had for weeks since Papa's passing, in her rocking chair by the hearth. The rockers made a rhythmic sound over the polished wood floor as she rocked slowly, enshrouded both in silence and by her black shawl.
Gilda set her candle in its holder next to the Yahrzeit mourning candle on the lampstand and approached Mama softly. "Would you like to conduct the minyan, Mama, or should I?"
Deep brown eyes shuttered, and a long sigh escaped her mother's petite frame. "You say it, Gilda. I have no breath to recite."
Gilda fixed the shawl that slipped from Mama's shoulders and nodded assurance. "I'll do it."
The click of hardware and tread of boots announced a guest entering the front door. It had been a parade of late, as the community continued to come and pay respects for Papa. Both Hebrew and Gentile, many throughout the county admired him. A sigh similar to Mama's threatened to pull from Gilda's chest, but she cleared her throat and attended to her mitzvoth, her sacred duties.
Her youngest sister, Hadassah, joined Hannah on a settee near Mama, and Gilda brought another chair from the dining room to accommodate the arrivals, as not one, but several gentlemen stepped in and removed their hats — and their shoes. Her pitcher and bowl, set by the door, was employed by each in turn.
"G'mar chatima tovah" Gilda said to Rabbi Rothstein, who led several men with familiar bearded faces into their parlor. The sun dipped low on the horizon, and following its sloping path toward the start of Yom Kippur at sundown, her eyes burned. Her eyes never ceased to burn these days.
She blinked away the hot tears and steeled herself with the strength her family needed from her. Poor Papa. He hadn't a son to say his kaddish. She would have to do.
"Shalom, Miss Jacobs."
"Shalom aleichem, Mister —"
She looked up from her woolgathering to meet a piercingly blue gaze. This man she'd never met before. Startling and yet heartwarming that a stranger to her thought enough of her Papa to come. His tailored waistcoat of slate blue fit his trim figure, accentuating a narrow waist and broad shoulders. He could not have been much older than her own age of twenty-one, mayhap a year older. This man was not of great height, apparent once he removed his top hat, nor did he have the rough hands of a laborer. He was neither neighbor, schoolmate, or synagogue congregant. Was he a business associate of Papa's?
Surely she would have remembered this man. She swallowed.
With his blond hair and bright blue eyes, she couldn't mistake him for anything but a Gentile. Yet he seemed to know her customs. She was at a disadvantage, not knowing his name. And worse, not knowing what her appearance presented.
"Mr. Blake," the handsome young man replied with a courtly bow.
She lowered her eyes and nodded a solemn, wordless response, hoping her blushing cheeks did not betray her unbidden thoughts.
The procession of guests took their chairs. Gilda followed them in, giving one more assessment of her preparations. With adequate seating in place, she approached to light the Yahrzeit candle.
Rabbi Rothstein stepped to her side and patted her arm. "Allow me, my dear." His kindly eyes shone with affection behind his spectacles, and she could have wept with relief at the small mercy.
Gilda made way and took the last available seat — a footstool, low to the ground, in keeping with mourning customs.
Words — comforting, familiar words, in soothing and predictable cadence — tumbled in the rabbi's accented voice for long moments while she struggled to keep her focus, as all that Papa had left unaccomplished stretched before her. He'd left a small savings for his widow and children. At fifty-five, he was still young and vital. Until the sudden end. There should have been plenty of time to rebuild his investments after paying for Uncle Mortimer's passage. Fine expense that turned out to be. He had never arrived. So, as it was, there was little to live on for four hungry mouths.
Fortunately, Papa had left detailed lesson plans for the school, a syllabus with which Gilda was intimately familiar. She would be ready as head schoolmistress instead of as Papa's assistant, when the month of Shloshim ended, to resume where Papa had left off. The position would help make ends meet and give Mama some peace of mind, though women teachers were paid only a fraction of men's wages.
The kaddish ended sooner than she realized in her state of distraction, and friends and neighbors were already paying respects to Mama, Hadassah, and Hannah. Gilda needed to rejoin her family. She gathered her black taffeta skirts and eased through the rows of chairs to the front near the hearth.
Pieter Van Brugh, a prominent merchant from one of the oldest families in the county, took Mama's hand in a gesture of sympathy. "Eliezer was a brilliant man and will be greatly missed, Mrs. Jacobs. I don't know how we will do without him at the common school this year."
"My Gilda knows exactly what is required. Her father prepared her well."
"Yes, yes, she has been a faithful assistant to your husband. Very faithful indeed." His smile included Gilda, and he stepped to the side to make way for the next in line, the mayor.
"My dear Mrs. Jacobs. You know how fond we all were of your husband, so I hope you don't take this the wrong way. But managing unruly pupils requires a man's strength and stature. Gilda is barely out of school herself."
Gilda fixed her face to match the smile of the politician. "You are quite right, Mayor Roelantsen, in stating that I've grown up with these boys all my life. The experience has given me a unique ability. I can handily whip any boy who dares to challenge me."
Hadassah and Hannah chortled behind their gloved hands. Mama appeared as though she might swoon.
"Now, Miss Jacobs, with all due respect ..."
They would not take the position from her. Gilda squared her stance. "It is true. Brute strength can accomplish certain things. An ox can plow a straight furrow, sir, but it takes intelligent direction to plot its course."
A few of the elders from synagogue chuckled, and Rabbi Rothstein patted the mayor on the back. "The young lady has a point, Cornelius."
Mayor Roelantsen waved off the gesture. "Miss Jacobs, Mrs. Jacobs, I'd like you to meet my nephew. I've brought him with me today so you could become acquainted. It is my hope that, with his oratory experience and study under the esteemed Reverend Charles Grandison Finney, he might be useful to our school."
The handsome blond man with the piercing blue eyes stepped alongside the mayor. "This is Joshua Blake, my wife's brother's son. I believe our common school will benefit greatly by the unique qualifications he brings."
Gilda's heart had dropped into her stomach, and she clutched Mama's hand discreetly behind the folds of their skirts. Her mother's grip was equally firm, communicating solidarity. This man would take away her ability to provide for her family? Not if she had any say.
* * *
A bit flummoxed at his uncle's timing, Josh grinned sheepishly. This family grieved their patriarch, not a month gone. And here his uncle had announced that Josh had come as the deceased's replacement. More to the point, to take the position out from under the feet of the man's daughter like the tapestry rug on which she stood. And what dainty little stockinged feet they were. He shook himself from the distracting thought and met her gaze. The spritely and quick-witted Miss Jacobs skewered him with her dark eyes rimmed in gold. And what beautiful eyes they were. He swallowed, not accustomed to being at a loss for words.
Josh folded his hands behind his back and lowered his head in deference. His uncle was a determined man but not the most sensitive to others' feelings. What the community needed was not an ambitious politician, but a minister. If teaching gave Josh a segue into their trust, he would gladly be their shepherd.
"I am afraid Mr. Jacobs leaves impossible shoes to fill, Uncle. If I can be of some small comfort or assistance, it would be an honor to help bring healing to a bereft community."
The atmosphere, and Miss Jacobs's posture, tangibly shifted.
Uncle Cornelius cleared his throat. "I propose Miss Jacobs start on a trial basis as headmistress, with my nephew as assistant teacher. If she will make amendments to the curriculum to include Christian instruction in moral character, if she can succeed in improving attendance among the farmers and lumberjack camps and all the while maintain discipline, she may retain the position. If, however, she fails on any of these points, I propose my nephew be appointed headmaster."
The rabbi waved at the air. "Can this wait for another time? Consider the grieving —"
"I agree to those terms!" Miss Jacobs's voice rose high but not shrill above the gentlemen's negotiation.
A half grin spread from one corner of Josh's mouth as Miss Jacobs shook Uncle Cornelius's hand. The young lady certainly had what her people called chutzpah.
"In fact, if Mr. Blake can begin Monday, I see no reason to delay. Our students mustn't wait any longer." She folded her arms over her chest and gave a tilt of her pert little chin that spoke a challenge equal to a man removing his gauntlet and striking him. Josh closed his mouth, which had dropped agape, and offered a bow to Miss Gilda Jacobs, interim headmistress.
"I look forward to the challen — that is, the opportunity."
Her gold-rimmed brown eyes glittered, her gaze unwavering. Josh drew a deep breath and expelled it slowly. The mission with which his mentor, Charles Finney, had commissioned him would go a lot smoother if he held the community's trust. He could build that from the platform of schoolteacher. And no matter how compelling Miss Jacobs's reason for needing this job, he mustn't let it stop the work of the Gospel. He must not let her drive him out.CHAPTER 2
A brisk breeze blew in from the Hudson on Josh's early morning walk, and he drew in the earthy scents of river and pine. With the sunrise the town sawmill commenced its industry along his route to the schoolhouse, its workmen in muslin shirts, busy feeding logs into the jaws of iron-toothed blades. The workers exchanged rough words with one another in the talk of the common class — the sort of people among whom he had grown up. Salty. Mayhap they too could become the salt of the earth. God had reached even the likes of him, after all — a man of unfortunate breeding and cast away as a newborn upon the mercy of his aunt and uncle.
It was a pleasantly appointed town in which he found himself. So much opportunity to teach. Uncle Cornelius had extended the invitation a few years ago for Josh to come and live with him after Josh had concluded his formal schooling. Schooling for which the pious Dutch reformer had ungrudgingly paid. Without his uncle's intervention, only God knew where he would be. He would not disappoint the man.
Whistling a hymn, Josh continued along the tree-lined lane. A whitewashed picket fence framed the schoolyard just ahead, and already pupils congregated at the steps leading up to the building. A girl of perhaps six years, wearing a pinafore and cotton dress, met him at the gate and flashed him a gap-toothed smile.
Josh tipped his top hat. "Good day, miss."
"This is my first day of school. Are you my new teacher?"
"Indeed, I am one of your new instructors. I am Mr. Blake."
"I'm Aggie Willard."
Several of the others gathered round, most a few years Aggie's senior. A boy in tailored britches and suspenders appraised him with head tilted back.
"You're shorter than Headmaster Jacobs."
An older girl corralled the boy in the crook of her arm. "Mind your manners, Steven. Pa will tan your hide for impertinence."
Josh bit back a chuckle but kept his expression temperate. "It's true I am shorter than some. Comparison is a tricky thing. I'm taller than you, for instance."
The boy folded his arms across his chest and frowned. "That's 'cuz you're all growed up."
"Grown up," his sister corrected him.
"You have a solid grasp on your grammar, Miss ...," Josh said.
"Miss Elizabeth Beckwith. Thank you, Mr. Blake. I sometimes help with the younger children."
"I'll keep that in mind."
A clacking sound drew Josh's attention away. Swaggering up the path and drumming a stick against the picket fence slats as he went, a ruddy-faced and sturdy-framed adolescent made his arrival known.
Elizabeth Beckwith cut her eyes at the boy. "That's Oliver Simms."
Josh nodded, her huff inviting him to draw conclusions. Her brother pulled out of her grip and ran to meet the approaching boy, who was roughly twice his size.
"Hi, Oliver. I caught a butterfly this morning. Got him in my lunch bucket. Wanna see him?"
Oliver paused, gave Josh a once-over from head to toe, and took Steven's pail. He lifted the book off its opening, and orange-and-black wings fluttered up into the air, gone.
"Hey! You let my butterfly loose!"
Oliver shoved him aside like a weed blocking his path. "No, I didn't. You're the one who let me see it."
Elizabeth stomped her foot. "You're such a bully, Oliver Simms!"
Josh stepped up and patted the girl's shoulder as he strode toward the boys. "I'll handle this."
"Mr. Simms? I'm Mr. Blake."
Josh's grin broadened. "So I'm the new teacher. One of them, anyway. I'm here to help us all start the new year together on the right foot."
"More than one teacher?" The boy's nose wrinkled, and his plump cheeks grew darker red.
"Miss Jacobs can't manage without her father?" A few of the boys congregating at the steps laughed.
"There will be none of that." Josh turned and faced them all. "Your first lesson is to learn the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' "
"You sound more like a preacher than a teacher."
"And do you know what that rule means, Mr. Simms? It means that if you want to be treated fairly, you have to be fair to others."
Oliver smirked. "You mean, I should get his stupid butterfly back?" "That would be a good start." Josh snagged his thumbs on his belt.
Aggie tugged on his cutaway overcoat. "Are we going inside, Mr. Blake?"
"Uh, the keys I believe are with Miss Jacobs. She should be along momentarily."
"Can I sit next to you?"
Josh peered down the avenue for any sign of the headmistress. He withdrew his pocket watch, and the face showed five minutes past the hour. He excused himself and slipped past Aggie. What could be keeping Miss Jacobs?
A trio in dark skirts and shirtwaists sashayed up the road. One taller, two shorter. If they were Miss Jacobs and her sisters, he would not have guessed they'd arrive on foot. Hadn't she a carriage at her disposal? Her home was nearly two miles away.
"Boys, I want you to line up on the left, and girls on the right."
The children picked up their slates and primers, lunch pails and belongings, and formed two lines. Miss Jacobs would arrive to see that he had everything in order.
The girls stood serenely like Greek statues with the autumn sun falling on the folds of their skirts. The boys were a bit fidgety, but Josh supposed that was to be expected. Steven Beckwith stood behind a couple of quiet brothers, Oliver at the tail end.
Conversation drifted to Josh while he waited for Miss Jacobs and her two sisters near the gate of the schoolyard.
"Look, Stevie, it's your butterfly."
A loud thump sounded, like a book dropped from a height.
A growling, angry cry ripped from the younger boy. "You! You killed it! Aagggh!"
Josh swung around to the sight of boys fighting, Steven on top, punching and yelling, Oliver on his back trying to knock him off.
"Break it up!" He covered the distance and pulled both boys to their feet by their shirt collars and suspenders. "Enough!"
The older boy shifted his weight, knocking Josh off balance, and he lost his grip on them. Oliver commenced to pummel Steven.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Lessons on Love"
Copyright © 2019 Susanne Dietze.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Something Old, Something New,
Love in Any Language,
In Desperate Straits,
A Song in the Night,