Read The Miner's Lady Online

Authors: Tracie Peterson

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC014000, #Families—Minnesota—Fiction, #Minnesota—History—19th century—Fiction

The Miner's Lady

BOOK: The Miner's Lady
11.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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© 2013 by Tracie Peterson

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

www.bethanyhouse.com

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

www.bakerpublishinggroup.com

Ebook edition created 2013

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.

ISBN 978-1-4412-6269-1

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by Brand Navigation

To Chantel Karch

You are an awesome young woman.
Always look to Jesus!

Chapter 1

E
LY
, M
INNESOTA
O
CTOBER
1890

“A Calarco?” Chantelly Panetta looked at her sister in disbelief. “You want to marry a Calarco?”

Seventeen-year-old Isabella shook her head. “Not just any Calarco. Orlando Calarco. We're in love, Chantel. I can't tell my heart not to love him. You haven't been here this last year, so you don't know him like I do.”

“I may have been gone, but I do know that the Calarcos and Panettas have been at odds for over fifty years.”

Isabella flipped long honey-brown hair over her shoulder. “The feud means nothing to Orlando and me.”

Scrutinizing her younger sister's womanly figure and full lips, Chantel shook her head. Isabella looked years beyond her seventeen. She seemed just a child when Chantel had left, but now she spoke of marriage and love.

“Have you told Mama or Papa?”

“No, of course not.” Isabella threw herself across the bed. “I wanted to wait until you returned from Italy.”

Chantel sat on the edge of her sister's bed and carefully considered her words. “You know they'll never approve.”

Isabella reared up like a cat about to attack its prey. “They'll have to. Orlando and I plan to marry. This feud is ridiculous, and I don't care if I'm disowned. I love him.”

“But how did this happen?” Chantel questioned. “Surely Marco and Alfredo would never allow you to be alone with a Calarco.”

“Our brothers can't be everywhere. They went with Papa to the iron mine every day to work, and sometimes I slipped away—alone—to meet Orlando there.”

“You went to the mine?” Chantel realized she was nearly shouting, and hurried to lower her voice. “You can't be serious. You know we're not supposed to go unless we're with other women—it's dangerous there. The men have no reason to treat you like a lady if you show up at the mines. Only a loose woman would do that.”

“You know full well there are exceptions, even in our family. I seem to remember more than once when we delivered food to our menfolk. Anyway, it's not like I made a public spectacle,” Isabella said, easing into a sitting position. “I kept myself hidden and disguised. Only Orlando saw me. Even his brother and father have no idea.”

The very thought of her sister risking her innocence, even her life, to visit a man she knew her parents would never approve of, gave Chantel a shiver. If spending the last year in Italy visiting their grandparents had taught Chantel anything, it was just how possessive family could be. In the old country young ladies didn't so much as speak to a man without their father's permission.

“Stop frowning like that,” Isabella declared. “It's not the end of the world. You'll see. Orlando and I figure this is exactly what's needed to put an end to the feud.”

Chantel wished she could be as sure as her sister. “You know that this problem between the families won't go away easily. It's more likely that your marriage would only cause further division.”

“Nonsense.” Isabella twisted a long strand of hair between her fingers. “If we're married and produce children, they will belong to both the Calarco and the Panetta families. Think of it, Chantel. It's really an answer to Mama's prayers.”

Their mother had long wished for an end to the ongoing feud. As Chantel understood it, the entire affair had occurred in Italy and was over some dispute that no one would speak about. Frankly, Chantel wondered if anyone even knew for sure what had started the matter. She did know that it ended in the killing of a mule, which threatened the livelihood of the Calarco family. Mama said the mule's death was an accident, but that because there was already bad blood between the two families, it could not be forgiven or seen as anything but a purposeful attack. Chantel had tried to get her Nonna Panetta to speak on the matter, but her grandmother was even more closemouthed about it than Mama.

With a sigh, Chantel forced a smile. “Well, it's good to see you again, nevertheless. I can't say the same for this filthy, depressing town. The past year in Italy has only made me realize just how awful this place truly is.”

“It's a mining town. You know what Mama says about them.” Isabella scooted to the edge of the bed.

“It's the last stop before the gates of hell,” the girls said in unison and laughed.

Chantel looked around the room she'd shared with her sister since the family had moved to Ely three years earlier. Her father's years of iron mining work had taken them from back east to Michigan, and now to Minnesota. They had lived for a short time in Duluth near their mother's sister Marilla. But even that larger town failed to shine in light of Chantel's memories of the Italian countryside.

“So was your trip as wonderful as your letters implied?” Isabella questioned. “I'd always looked forward to going there myself, but now I suppose I won't have the opportunity. At least not for a time.”

Their parents had a tradition of sending each of their children to stay with their grandparents in Italy. Upon turning twenty-one, the siblings, if unmarried, would leave home for a year to learn about the old country and their ancestors. Marco and Alfredo had each had their turn, and now Chantel had experienced the same.

“It is truly unlike anything I could have anticipated,” she said. “Nonna and Nonno have such a beautiful home,” Chantel continued. “And the scenery is incredible. You can see the vineyards and orchards for miles and miles. And Nonna and I had great fun tatting and making bobbin lace. I brought a crateful home with me and made more on the ship.”

“You wrote about the family dinners,” Isabella interjected with a wistful look on her face. “They sounded so wonderful. All those people and the music and dancing.”

“They were,” Chantel admitted. “Every Sunday relatives would come from all over, and we would feast. Nonna's tables
would practically bow from the weight of the food. Oh, and such food! You think Mama is a good cook; well, let me tell you there's nothing quite so wonderful as Nonna's dishes made with fresh ingredients.” She put her thumb and middle finger to her lips and kissed. “With all that good food, it was hard to wait for the prayer. Nonno would practically preach a sermon when he stood to bless the food. It was amazing. His faith in God is so strong.”

“Yet he allows for this stupid feud between families. And all because some mule was accidentally killed,” Isabella muttered. “I don't understand how that's godly.”

Chantel shook her head. “No, I don't suppose it is. Forgiveness is something that people in the old country seem reluctant to give, and I don't know why it should follow us here. Old traditions die hard, I suppose, but America is a land for new traditions and opportunities. It seems to me that such grudges should be set aside.”

Just then their mother burst into the room carrying a huge stack of clean linens.
“Buon giorno.”

“Good morning, Mama.” Chantel crossed the room to help her mother with the laundry.

“It's so good to have you home,” their mother said, beaming from ear to ear. She rattled away in rapid-fire Italian, proclaiming how much she'd missed Chantel and how empty the house seemed without her, before slowing down to return again to English. “Your papa is so happy you have returned.”

Chantel placed the linens atop an empty chair. “I'm glad to see you all again, but I cannot say I'm happy to be in Ely.”

“E-lee is no so beautiful as Italy,” her mother declared. Although she was half French, her accent was decidedly Italian.

“No, it's not,” Chantel agreed.

The mining town sported twenty-six saloons, compared to only five churches. There were a variety of other businesses: general stores, banks, doctors and lawyers, jewelers and dressmakers. But it was what happened in the backrooms and upper floors of the saloons and brothels that was most distressing. Prostitution, gambling, and all manner of vice went on, and there were almost daily reports of someone having been killed in a fight or of drinking themselves into such a stupor that they fell on the railroad tracks to be run over by the morning freight. The latter was so common, in fact, that the marshal had taken to checking the tracks before the train was due in. Of course, it was rumored that many of the bodies discovered on the tracks had been placed there purposefully to disguise murders.

Mother bustled around the room, tidying things as she went. “And did you find a special boy?” Mother asked. “An
Italiano
boy?”

There had been a bevy of nice-looking young men who paid court to Chantel, but none that drew more than momentary interest. Chantel knew her mother had hoped that romance would blossom and that perhaps her daughter would return to America a married woman bringing yet another Italian to settle the country.

“No, no one special, Mama.”

“Oh, it's too bad. You're such a pretty girl. You need to find a good husband.” Mama stopped cleaning and looked at her daughters. “But God will provide.
Non è forse così?

“Yes, it is so, Mama.”
Just don't go trying to do God's work for Him
. Chantel could tell by the look on her mother's face that the idea had crossed her mind.

Isabella forced herself up off the bed. “I'm going to take Chantel to the new dressmaker's shop, Mama. I want to introduce her to the Miller sisters.”


Sí
, and show her the new meat market,” their mother suggested. “Such good meats to be had there. They make a wonderful sausage.”

Mama loved her sausage. Chantel smiled and moved toward the door. “Let me get my walking shoes on.”

“Better to wear boots,” Mama countered. “The rains, they make the streets like-a mud pit.”

The girls nodded in unison and went to the mud porch to retrieve their boots. Chantel took up a woolen shawl and wrapped it around her head and shoulders. The damp October air chilled her to the bone as they began the walk. For several blocks Chantel said nothing.

It looked a little better than it did last year. At least they'd removed a good many tree stumps. Many of the trees that had been cut down for mining use had once littered the area with stumps. But now in their place new buildings were erected. It was a vast improvement.

“It's colder than I expected.”

Isabella shrugged, doing up the buttons on her brown wool coat. “It is nearly November. In another week or two we'll be ice skating on the lake.”

Chantel nodded. “I suppose it's to be expected, but even so, I shall miss the summer warmth of Italy.”

“Winter must come. It can't stay summer forever,” her sister replied. “Summer here is quite lovely, as you must remember.”

She did. Summer picnics at Lake Shagawa and picking blueberries on some of the small lake islands.

“You've missed a great deal around here.” Isabella waved her hand toward the town's buildings. “The Reverend Freeman left his position at the Presbyterian Church to resume his studies in Chicago. Oh, and we have a brand-new church building for St. Anthony's. Soon we'll be holding services there instead of the boardinghouse. Father Buh raised the money and oversaw the building. It's going to be quite wonderful.”

Chantel considered many of the new structures. “It's almost like the town grew up overnight.”

Isabella continued. “We have a new drugstore and a new hotel. The Oliver Hotel is quite modern and is said to be just the thing to bring in tourists for fishing and hunting.”

“I'm impressed, I must admit,” Chantel declared. “I even heard some men talking on the train about ice fishing this winter. Of course there were also a fair number of men who were coming to find work.”

“Papa says that with the new iron mines being established, we'll soon have hundreds more people. Maybe thousands.”

“As if the Chandler Mine wasn't enough of a destruction to this land.”

Isabella didn't seem to hear. “Oh, remember Sara Norman? Well, she married Mr. Ellefesen. You know he's a member of the Ely Fire Department, so the other firemen went together and gave them a sofa and armchair. Mama said it came all the way from Chicago.”

“No doubt that cost a pretty penny,” Chantel replied. She looked around the town, trying to imagine spending the rest of her life here. She doubted that she could be happy even with a new sofa and armchair from Chicago. The dirt and noise, damp cold and unpainted buildings made her long
for Italy. As homesick as she'd been at times while abroad, Chantel suddenly felt completely displaced.

“You should have been here for the Firemen's Ball,” Isabella continued, not noticing her sister's mood. “The entire department ordered special suits and looked quite grand. They wore black pants, red flannel shirts with blue collar, cuffs, and breastplate. Whiteside Hall has never held such a spectacular affair. We all dressed in our finest and went to celebrate.”

BOOK: The Miner's Lady
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