Having her every whim indulged as a child leads to a tough road as an adult. Lily falls in love with James Conti and wants to marry him, but James heads off to fight in the Great War, leaving Lily alone and heartbroken. When her father wants to send her off to boarding school, Lily makes yet another rash decision and marries a man she does not love.
In the ensuing years, Lily endures hardship and loss, a sharp detour from the pampered existence she once enjoyed. Yet as Lily struggles to cope with these unexpected changes, she discovers just how powerful God's love and forgiveness can be. But will it be enough to get her through the darkest days yet to come?
Full of vivid historical detail, Lily is an emotional coming-of-age story that celebrates the strength of the human spirit.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.45(d)|
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By B. J. Bassett
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 B. J. Bassett
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLate at night, the small town of Laurel Springs was dark except for dim light coming from behind the shades of the Blair Boarding House.
Inside the house, Rebecca Blair moaned from labor pains as she lay in the high four-poster bed. In the almost ten years she and Reverend William Blair had been married, they had longed for a child, and their prayers were about to be answered.
The bedroom, with its small print, dusty rose wallpaper, and rich dark wood, was lit by the kerosene lamp, which sat on the bedside table. Anna Blair, who had delivered many babies, worked tirelessly nursing her daughter-in-law. She wiped Rebecca's forehead with a damp cloth, which she had dipped in cool water from a large bowl.
William had been in and out of the bedroom most of the day and all of the night to comfort and encourage Rebecca during her long labor.
As each hour dragged by, Rebecca became weaker and weaker. She moaned softly as another pain racked her body.
"Try, dear," Anna pleaded, "please try." She squeezed Rebecca's hand.
Rebecca sighed with relief as she laid her weary head back down on to the pillow.
"You're doing fine, dear." Anna patted Rebecca's hand. Anna had done all she could do. Rebecca didn't have the strength to give birth.
"The pains are closer now, aren't they?" Rebecca said.
"Yes, they are." Anna brushed back Rebecca's damp curls from her face.
Rebecca whispered, "And they're harder." Rebecca's body stiffened with another severe pain.
Anna maneuvered the baby into position.
On the other side of the bedroom door, William sat on a straight-back cane chair while Agatha, his older sister, paced and rung her hands. She stopped just long enough to make coffee. The six boarders sat in the parlor most of the evening, but by midnight, the last of them had gone to bed. William and Agatha waited.
Rebecca screamed, and it was followed by a baby's cry.
The ordeal was finally over.
"A girl!" Anna smiled. "Rebecca, you have a daughter."
"Is she all right?"
"Thank you, Lord," Rebecca prayed and then dropped her head back on to the pillow.
Anna washed, oiled, and dressed the baby and attended to Rebecca. She put a fresh gown on Rebecca and combed her hair. After changing the bed clothes, she opened the door. "It's a girl! William, you have a beautiful daughter." Before William or Agatha could speak, Anna whispered, "Rebecca is weak and needs rest."
William entered the bedroom, where Rebecca cradled her baby in her weakened arms. Her labor had lasted so long. Now on March 5, 1900, Rebecca had the child she had longed for all those years.
William helped support Rebecca's limp hold on their child.
"God has blessed us."
"She's beautiful," he said as he gazed at the child in awe.
"I'm so tired," she said. There was a long silence. Then she added, "Our Savior is calling me." She closed her eyes, and within minutes, she had left William.
Numbed by shock, William lifted the baby from Rebecca's arms and carried her to his mother. He placed the baby in Anna's arms. "Rebecca's gone."
He returned to the bedroom and found it different. Rebecca didn't look tired anymore. There was a glow about her that filled the entire room. He felt a peace. He cradled Rebecca in his arms the same way she had cradled their child. He held her one last time. Warm tears trickled down his cheeks as he remembered the first time they had met, their courtship, their wedding day. He knew he had fulfilled Rebecca's desires and dreams just as she had his. He had brought her to the height of pleasure; they had been one physically and spiritually. He brushed his lips across her damp curls and whispered, "My beloved Rebecca."
Chapter TwoThe sad news of Rebecca's passing spread throughout the town of Laurel Springs. She had been loved by many, and now they gathered at the hillside cemetery overlooking the town. The somber mourners clustered behind William, Anna, and Agatha Blair. John Stevens, William's close friend and minister of the Baptist Church in nearby Ashland, had agreed to conduct the service. William knew the words by heart; he had written them.
John stood before them now, waiting, his hands clasped around his Bible. Towering redwood trees formed a natural cathedral behind him. He opened his Bible and began to read from it. "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John looked up from his Bible and continued, "We are not to question God's plan ..." John's voice became a distant mumble to William. He felt numb standing between his sister and stalwart mother.
He remembered another time when his mother had been the strength of their family. It was when William was a small boy, after his father had died. Anna had taken in boarders to provide for her two children. Agatha, eight years older than William, was like another mother to him; and later they shared a mutual respect for each other. Anna had been the solid foundation in their lives. She had encouraged him to follow God's plan of serving others and provided his education at Bethany College in West Virginia. She continued to provide a home for him and Rebecca after their marriage since the church board only paid a small salary for their preacher. He led his congregation in their spiritual needs. And now, they stood with him in his darkest moment.
At the bottom of the hill, a waiting horse whinnied as John spoke. "Rebecca was faithful to her Lord ..." William stared at the pine coffin before him and the Anderson family plot. It was a lovely place Charles Anderson had chosen for his family to rest. A large marble marker with the family name "Anderson" stood at the center of the plot. Four separate headstones represented the family: Baby, Frank, Mother, and Father.
All members of the Anderson family were gone now. First, Rebecca's baby brother had died when she was ten years old. Two years later, her brother Frank had died from a fever. Then a few years later, her mother died—some said of a broken heart. Last year, William and Rebecca had buried her father, and now Rebecca would be laid to rest with her family.
Feeling numb, William looked beyond the graveyard down the grassy hill to the dirt road below them to the town stretched out before him. Through a blur of tears he could see the three church steeples—first the Catholic and then the Lutheran and then his church. He saw all the buildings along Main Street—the blacksmith and stable, Ora's Hotel, the mercantile, and the homes surrounding town. He squinted in the sunlight to see the river bend as it embraced the town and beyond—the pasture land with scattered farms—and then finally he saw the sea. He remembered the picnics he and Rebecca had on the beach. The sobbing behind him brought him back to the present. It was a beautiful place of rest for his Rebecca. He knew what her headstone would read.
REBECCA BLAIR Wife of William Blair We miss thee—your sweet smile that once cheered our hearts we see no more. God has called thee to that sweet rest that remains for the faithful.
Yes, he thought, Rebecca was faithful to God, to him, and to her family and friends. She's in eternity now, yet she'll always live on in my memory and in our child.
"No, Rebecca was not afraid of eternity," John Stevens spoke loudly and with certainty. "She desired it. In heaven there is no more crying, no more sorrow, death, or parting."
William envisioned Rebecca running through a meadow, her long reddish curls flowing behind her, so lively and happy. William knew he'd have to live alone with that vision.
John ended with the words, "Someday we'll understand." He closed with a prayer. The service concluded, yet no one moved.
William noticed his friends Running Cloud and George Ramsey standing apart from the crowd. He moved toward them. "Thank you for coming." Then William patted the small hand of their two-year-old daughter, White Dove, as she shyly rested her head on her mother' shoulder. "Do come to the house."
"Maybe later," George said.
Soon William left them and joined Anna and Agatha in the waiting carriage. He knew Running Cloud and George Ramsey would not come to the house because Running Cloud was a Kickapoo Indian and George was a white man. They were not accepted by the town—or the church.
Later, the mourners began to flow into the large Blair home to pay their respects. Agatha greeted them and took their cloaks and the men's hats and placed them in the bedroom which William and Rebecca had shared while Anna oversaw the serving of food. Guests moved into the high-ceiling dining room; the long table which served boarders daily was covered with platters piled high with glazed ham, roast turkey, and Southern fried chicken. Large bowls of salads and fancy pies and cakes were spread like a banquet. Some of the church ladies had stayed at the house during the service to receive the many dishes of food and to care for the baby.
When William arrived home, he had gone immediately to find the baby. He cradled her now in his arms as he moved through the house, showing his new daughter to everyone. Mrs. Jorgensen, a leader in the church, sat before William, balancing an overflowing plate of food on her ample lap. "This is Lily," William said proudly.
"She's just lovely," the older woman said while brushing the crumbs off her mouth with a napkin. The baby seemed to help relieve the sadness of the day for those who came and for William.
As the last of the visitors left, William cradled the baby with one arm and shook hands with his friend John Stevens with the other. John held William's hand firmly as he spoke. "I'll see you soon." He searched his friend's grief-stricken face and didn't know what more to say.
William closed the heavy oak door behind John. While on the way to put the baby in her basket, he passed the pantry, where he overheard his mother and sister talking.
"I hope William will marry again," Anna said.
"Mother, how can you say such a thing?"
"Because I think it would be best for him and for the child."
William thought, I'll never love another woman the way I loved Rebecca. His arms tightened around the infant. Never.
It had been three and a half years since Rebecca had died while giving birth to Lily on that unforgettable night. William grieved silently, concentrated on his ministry, and spent his time with Lily. She helped fill the void that Rebecca's death had caused. Her high chair took the place where Rebecca once sat at William's side at the large dining room table in the Blair Boarding House.
At three and a half, Lily was more intelligent than other children her age. Anna cared for Lily, Agatha attempted to discipline her, and William spoiled her.
Lily threw her leg over the imposing banister and slid down it, landing at the bottom of the stairs where John Tenny, one of the boarders, stood. She looked up at him with an expression that said, Please don't tell.
John smiled. He was enchanted with Lily's beauty and her free spirit.
John was the handyman, gardener, and woodchopper. Everything around the big house that wasn't done by Anna was done by John in exchange for his room and board.
Lily took the older man by the hand and led him to the dining room. She had a plan, and John would help her. "I want that chair." She pointed at the dining room chair that sat in the corner—it was the chair her mother had used when she was alive. She pushed the wooden high chair on wheels away from the big table. John helped her get her father's big books and placed them on the chair.
Soon all the boarders were gathered around the dining room table. With the aid of her father's books, Lily sat very tall on the dining room chair. She looked around the table for everyone's attention. Unlike other children, Lily was seen and heard. She insisted on it. "See my chair!" she announced.
"Why, Lily, you are quite the young lady!" J. D. Morgan sat across from her. He passed a large bowl of mashed potatoes to Mrs. Livingston, who passed it on to Agatha.
As Agatha took a helping of the potatoes, she mumbled, "Young ladies don't slide down banisters."
After dinner, William had to lead a prayer meeting at the church. Before he left, he prepared Lily for bed. Lily took full advantage of these times with her father. Sometimes she didn't even listen to the stories he read, especially the Bible stories, because she was too busy making up her own stories in her head or thinking of something to do. But she knew that as long as her father read, she had him all to herself and didn't have to share him with anyone.
"Which story is it tonight, Lily?"
Books were strewn all over the brightly colored quilt with the yellow yarn bows. "Mother Goose!" Lily handed him the book and then snuggled close to him. She fell asleep while he read.
The next day, a scream was heard from upstairs, followed by Lily running as fast as her little legs could carry her down the wide staircase. Agatha ran after her with as much speed as her large frame allowed. "Naughty, naughty!" the older woman shouted while holding her long black skirt in one hand.
Just as Lily reached the bottom of the stairs, the front door swung open, and William entered. Lily rushed into his arms. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her. "What is it?" he asked.
"Auntie says I'm naughty, Papa," Lily said with a turned-down lip.
"William, she got into my sewing things again! Everything is a mess! Pins and needles, feathers and buckles are everywhere!" Agatha panted.
One of the many places Lily liked to explore was her aunt's sewing alcove. Agatha, a milliner at the mercantile, sometimes did her sewing at home.
"I'm sure she didn't mean to make a mess." William looked affectionately at Lily. "Did you?" he said.
"No, Papa." Lily rested her head on her father's broad shoulder.
"She needs discipline, William," Agatha stated sternly.
He set Lily back down onto the floor. "Go find your coat and bonnet. We're going visiting."
Lily raced off.
"She isn't naughty, Aggie, just curious. She's interested in everything. We'll help you clean up the room before we go."
"That won't be necessary. I know where everything goes. I don't mean to nag, but ... the child really does need to be disciplined," she persisted.
"Mother hasn't said anything to me about Lily getting into trouble."
"Mother doesn't tell you everything Lily does. Last week Lily managed to block the outhouse door when Mrs. Livingston was inside. The poor woman couldn't get out! Mother heard her yelling, and when she looked out the kitchen window, she saw Lily standing near the outhouse giggling. Mother had to let Mrs. Livingston out of the privy!"
William smiled. "Aggie, do you mean to tell me that you never did anything like that as a child?"
"No, William, I didn't. And I don't think Rebecca did that kind of thing either." She quickly put her hand to her mouth as if she regretted what she had said.
Just then, Lily ran back into the room with her coat and bonnet. Anna followed, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Mother, I'm taking Lily visiting with me," William said.
Lily beamed as William put her blue velvet coat with its capelike collar around her shoulders. As he tied the ribbon of the matching bonnet under her chubby chin, he said, "We'll be back in time for dinner."
"Good-bye, Gram," Lily said sweetly. Anna bent down for Lily to kiss her on the cheek. Sounding even more sugary, Lily said, "Goodbye, Auntie."
"Good-bye, Lily." Agatha turned and marched up the stairs.
Lily rode beside William in his shiny black buggy, which was pulled by the beautiful dappled gray. At thirty-eight, William was still very handsome. He wore a gray wool suit. The fob of his gold watch—a wedding gift from Rebecca—draped across the front of his vest, adding a finishing touch. He was special to the flock he led and to Lily.
She gazed up at him. "Auntie says I'm not like my mother."
William hesitated. "Lily, you're beautiful like your mother. But ... she was frail."
"What' frail, Papa?"
"It means weak. But you're strong, Lily. You're full of life, and for that, I'm thankful."
"Like you, Papa." She scooted closer to him. "I'm strong like you."
Chapter ThreeDuring Lily's early childhood, she spent countless hours with William. She continued to accompany him on visits to his church families. The Gunners, the Hagmans, and old Mrs. Dodge were just a few of the homes where Lily had been the center of attention in the parlors, where other children were not permitted. Lily was special. She was the daughter of their beloved reverend.
Excerpted from Lily by B. J. Bassett Copyright © 2011 by B. J. Bassett. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, 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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