Authors: Tracie Peterson
© 2012 by Tracie Peterson
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ebook edition created 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
This is a work of historical reconstruction; the appearances of certain historical figures are therefore inevitable. All other characters, however, are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.
Cover design by Jennifer Parker.
Cover photography © Hugh Beebower/Corbis.
To Ted and Marietta Terry
for their unfailing support
and witness for God.
Thank you for your friendship.
annah Dandridge struggled to keep her voice even. “Father . . . has been taken . . . prisoner?” She lowered her voice and inclined her head forward. “Mr. Lockhart, why would the Yankee army take my father . . . a civilian . . . into custody?”
The bearer of bad tidings dabbed his high forehead with a folded linen cloth, the unusual warmth of the day causing beads of sweat to form at the man’s receding hairline. “I do apologize, Miss Hannah. The information my man managed to obtain was reliable, but not as detailed as I would have liked.”
“But there would be no reason to take Father prisoner.” She folded her hands and leaned back once again. “He’s a good man and a fine upstanding citizen.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, Miss Hannah, but he’s a Confederate citizen, and Vicksburg has fallen to the Yankees. The Yankees control the whole of the Mississippi River and the travel upon it. Why, there are renegade bands of soldiers marauding throughout Louisiana and Texas.”
It had been six weeks since Hannah’s father left their ranch in Texas to go to Mississippi. In that time she’d anxiously awaited word that he had reached her grandparents’ house in the war-torn town of Vicksburg.
“But that makes no sense. He’s not a soldier and certainly not a threat to anyone. He’s only going there to see to my grandmother.” More likely, he had gone to bury his mother beside her husband and Hannah’s brother Benjamin, both of whom had died the previous June when the Yankees attacked Vicksburg. It had taken two months to get word to the Dandridges regarding the deaths of their loved ones. In that same letter they were told that Grandmother Dandridge was ill—most probably dying. Hannah’s father had been beside himself.
Hannah got to her feet and Lockhart did likewise. She walked to the large window, praying he would remain where he stood. She didn’t want to be fussed over. Raising the window, she prayed for a gentle breeze to ease the temperature. Any flow of air, however, was absent. She took note of her younger brother and sister playing in the courtyard. They seemed unbothered by the warmth of the day.
Andy was eight and Marty just five. How could she tell them that their father might never return home? She turned back and looked at the man her father called partner. Their joint efforts in real estate and law had proven to be successful, despite the war. But Mr. Lockhart wanted to extend the partnership—to include Hannah. She gave a sigh. Lockhart wasn’t a bad fellow, and she supposed an old maid of twenty-four should be honored that any man would look at her with thoughts of marriage.
“Miss Hannah . . .” Lockhart made his move and came to join her. “I hope you aren’t worrying about the future. You know that your father considered me an honorable man.”
“Yes, Mr. Lockhart, I do realize that. I am certain you are most honorable.”
He smiled and rubbed the back of his hand across his mustache. “Your father knew—or rather, knows—how I feel about you. I will see to it that you and your family are provided for. You needn’t worry.”
“Sir, I was hardly worried about myself.” Hannah wiped at a tear. “Father . . .” She knew if she said more she’d break down. “You must excuse me.” Hannah felt his gaze upon her even as she turned to walk away.
“We must do whatever we can to help Father,” Hannah said, reaching the arched entry of the room. “But for now, say nothing to the children. I don’t want them to know what’s happened.” She paused at the hall and turned toward the open front door, hoping Mr. Lockhart would take the hint to leave.
“Of course not.” He crossed the room in quick, precise steps. “Miss Hannah, given this news and trouble with the Comanche, I must insist that you move with the children to Cedar Springs. You can stay at my place. There is more than enough room, and with my servants, no one will consider it inappropriate. I will, in fact, take my residence to the hotel to further dissolve any rumors.”
“Sir, that is completely unnecessary. I do not intend to leave the ranch. If your news is wrong, Father will return here or at the very least send word to me here. I will remain.”
“You can hardly remain here on your own,” he protested. “The Comanche and Kiowa uprisings have left many a man dead.”
“But most of those attacks have come to men out on the open range,” Hannah countered. She had no desire to leave the ranch for Mr. Lockhart’s house.
“Miss Hannah, you have your siblings to consider, as well. It could prove fatal—”
Hannah held up her hand to halt his comments. They would never see eye to eye. He was twice her age and worried overmuch about everything. There would be no reasoning with him or hoping he might see things her way.
“I have a great deal to tend to, Mr. Lockhart. I do hope you’ll excuse my bad manners and show yourself out. If you should want further refreshment before your ride back to Cedar Springs, please see Juanita. She’s just out the back door in the summer kitchen.”
“Miss Hannah, I hope I didn’t offend you.”
She turned and pasted on a smile. “Of course not. I appreciate that you have brought me the news. I do hope you will do your best to see Father returned to us. Perhaps we should inquire in Dallas. Since he has helped the Confederacy, perhaps they could arrange for my father’s release.”
He bobbed his head, but his expression suggested he didn’t believe it would do any good. “I will see to everything,” he said. “I will not rest until we know what has happened. I give you my word.”
“Thank you, sir.” Hannah curtsied. She could see that he wanted to say something more, so she hurried on. “I simply must get to my tasks.” Without waiting, Hannah broke with etiquette and scurried away. Her mother and grandmother would be deeply ashamed of her behavior, but Hannah couldn’t help it. Mr. Lockhart would only try to persuade her to leave the ranch.
She made her way out the side door and across the yard to check on the laundry. Lines of clean sheets hung dry in the still air. To her surprise Pepita, Juanita and Berto’s youngest child, hurried across the yard with a basket on her head.
“No, Miss Hannah. Mama send me to get them.”
“That’s all right, Pepita. I’ll help you.” Hannah reached up to take one of the sheets from the line. She needed to keep busy, and she needed to think.
The Barnett Ranch, as it was called, had been her home for less than a year. Hannah had come to Texas with her father and young siblings five years earlier, much to her dismay. She hadn’t wanted to leave her childhood home in Vicksburg—there she could be close to her grandparents and brother. There, she had friends and a life of ease. When her stepmother died giving birth to Marty, everything changed. After that, her father wanted only to leave Vicksburg and his memories. His jovial nature became more serious; he thought only of work and making money. Her beloved papa was only a shadow of his former self, and the man who had come to replace him seemed cold and unfeeling.
Hannah’s brother Benjamin and their grandparents had tried to talk John Dandridge out of leaving—especially with two young children, one only an infant. Grandmother had offered to let the family remain with them while their father traveled west to grieve, but he would have none of that. His children were his responsibility. At seventeen, Benjamin stood his ground and told their father he wouldn’t leave Vicksburg. A terrible fight ensued . . . a fight that hadn’t been resolved before Benjamin lost his life defending Vicksburg.
Hannah frowned at the memory of those days. In Vicksburg she had been nineteen and carefree, engaged to a wonderful young man, now long dead to the war. Unfortunately, the war hadn’t initially separated them—her father had managed that on his own. When he went to Hannah’s fiancé and demanded the engagement be broken or extended indefinitely so that Hannah could care for her siblings, she was livid. She carefully rehearsed what she would say to her father for hours. When he finally arrived home, she marched to the barn, ready to declare her anger and refusal to be obedient to his wishes. Instead, she found her father bent over his horse’s neck, in tears. His pain was raw and heartbreaking. . . . It was the first and only time she’d seen him cry. He hadn’t even cried at the loss of his wife. It shook Hannah to the very core of her being.
When he returned to the house, Hannah’s father told her how sorry he was that life could not have been better for her. It was as close to an apology for ruining her love life as Hannah would ever get. They departed Vicksburg the following week.
An old friend of her father’s had welcomed them to Dallas when they’d first come west. Hannah had tried hard to have a positive spirit about the move. She busied herself with the children and tried to forget her anger and pain. They stayed for quite a while in Dallas, but it proved much too rowdy for her father’s taste. For hers, as well. To escape that boisterous town, they moved to Cedar Springs, some six or so miles away. This was where her father teamed up with Mr. Lockhart. The town offered a calm, stable environment for raising small children. Unfortunately for Hannah, it provided very little in the way of friendship.
“Miss Hannah, he come back,” Pepita said, pointing to the walk. Herbert Lockhart was making his way toward them with determined strides.
“Oh bother,” Hannah said, pushing aside her memories. She wadded up the sheet and stuffed it in the basket. “Have you forgotten something, Mr. Lockhart?” Hannah asked as she straightened to face the man.
“Miss Hannah, I know this is sudden, but my intentions are only the best.” He pulled his hat off to reveal a balding head and bent to one knee. “Marry me. That will solve all of your problems. Marry me and I will see that you and your family never want for anything.”
Pepita giggled and quickly ducked behind one of the sheets. Hannah wished she could do likewise.
“Mr. Lockhart, you are indeed quite gallant. Please get up, however. I cannot consider your proposal while Father’s welfare is so uncertain.” She smiled, hoping it might ease the blow.
Lockhart did rise, but he wasn’t about to give up. “Miss Hannah, I hold you a great affection. I know that you do not love me, but love will grow in time. I assure you of that. You have my word.”
She looked at the would-be suitor. There was nothing wrong with him—nothing that should keep her from loving him or at least accepting courtship in the hope that love would, as he said, grow in time. He was twice her age, but that wasn’t unusual in southern marriages. Why, Andy and Marty’s mother had been only a few years older than Hannah.
Hannah gave a moment of serious consideration to his offer. Mr. Lockhart was a man of some means, although his appearance didn’t necessarily support that truth. His suit was ill fitting and out of date, and his teeth were not at all well cared for. However, those things could be overlooked—if love existed. But she felt nothing for him . . . not even true friendship.
“I am touched that you would honor me in this manner,” Hannah finally said, trying to let the man down gently. “But, Mr. Lockhart, I must decline, given the circumstances. I’m certain you understand.” Hannah didn’t even pause to give him time to respond. “And of course my brother and sister will need my devotion now more than ever. Now, as I said, I have a great deal to accomplish before the end of the day and you have a long ride. Let us say our farewells.”
“But, Miss Hannah, you aren’t safe here. The Comanche are raiding all around us. Every day they move in closer. Since the forts have been closed and the soldiers have gone to fight the war, the Comanche feel they can reclaim that territory. You haven’t enough people here to even put up a good fight.”
Ignoring the facts, Hannah turned away. “We knew the dangers when we came here, Mr. Lockhart. My father apparently considered the risk acceptable. After all, he brought his young children here.”
“Believe me, I tried to talk him out of that, as well,” Mr. Lockhart replied. He stepped forward and put on his wide-brimmed straw hat. With his hands free he reached out to take hold of her arm.
“Miss Hannah, if you won’t consider your own safety, think of your brother and sister. The Comanche are known for taking white children captive. Even if they didn’t attack and burn you out, they might sneak in here and steal the children.”
Hannah had considered this before. It was the reason they were firm with the children about staying close to the house. Still, she wouldn’t allow Lockhart to dictate her decisions. She’d endured her father’s demands all these years because of her deep abiding love for him. She wasn’t about to let his partner, a man for whom she felt nothing, pick up the task in his absence. Hannah stared at Mr. Lockhart’s hand for a moment, then returned her gaze to his face.
“Mr. Lockhart, we’ve already had this conversation. Now I must get back to my chores.” She pulled her arm away from his touch. “I will make sure that Berto knows about the Comanche and that the others are apprised, as well. I’m confident we can manage.” Hannah could see that Pepita was finishing up with the last of the sheets. “Come along, Pepita. We must get those ironed.”
She helped the thirteen-year-old manage the overflowing basket by taking up one side while Pepita took the other. They made their way to the outdoor kitchen area, where irons were heating.
Lockhart find you?” Juanita asked, looking out from the open back door of the house.
“He did,” Hannah told her.
“He wants Hannah to marry him,” Pepita said, unable to stop her giggles.