Authors: Catherine Palmer
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A Victorian Christmas
“Angel in the Attic” copyright © 1997 by Catherine Palmer. All rights reserved. Previously published in
A Victorian Christmas Tea
under ISBN 978-0-8423-7775-1.
“Lone Star” copyright © 1998 by Catherine Palmer. All rights reserved. Previously published in
A Victorian Christmas Quilt
under ISBN 978-0-8423-7773-7.
“Under His Wings” copyright © 1999 by Catherine Palmer. All rights reserved. Previously published in
A Victorian Christmas Cottage
under ISBN 978-0-8423-1905-8.
“Behold the Lamb” copyright © 2001 by Catherine Palmer. All rights reserved. Previously published in
A Victorian Christmas Keepsake
under ISBN 978-0-8423-3569-0.
Cover illustration of tree copyright © by Dmitry Remesov/Shutterstockimages. All rights reserved.
Cover illustration of holly copyright © by Maljuk/Shutterstockimages. All rights reserved.
Designed by Jennifer Ghionzoli
“Lone Star,” “Under His Wings,” and “Behold the Lamb” edited by Kathryn S. Olson
Scripture quotations are taken from
The Holy Bible
, King James Version.
Scripture quotations in the epigraphs are taken from the
, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Palmer, Catherine, date.
A Victorian Christmas / Catherine Palmer.
eBook ISBN 978-0-8423-7773-7
1. Love stories, American. 2. Christmas stories, American. 3. Christian fiction, American. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
15 14 13 12 11 10 09
7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Silver City, New Mexico
“If I so much as catch a glimpse of a single hair on your scrawny hide, I’ll pull the trigger. You hear?” Fara Canaday lowered the shotgun and flipped her blonde braid over her shoulder. Her latest suitor was scurrying away across Main Street, his hat brim tugged down over his ears with both hands—as if that might protect him from a blast of pellets.
“And stay gone, you ol’ flea-bit varmint!” she hollered after him.
“Ai, Farolita, you got rid of that one.” Manuela Perón, the housekeeper at the redbrick Canaday Mansion, shook her head. “And the one before. What did you do to that poor man? Spill hot tea into his lap?”
“He tried to kiss me!”
“Is that so terrible? You have twenty-four years, señorita. Long ago, you should have been kissed, wedded, and made into a mama.”
Fara shrugged. “They’re all after Papa’s fortune, Manuela. Why should I let some greedy, no-good, moneygrubbing—”
fortune, Farolita. Your papa has been gone almost a year now. If you wish to do well by his memory, you will marry and bear an heir. What use is a daughter to a wealthy gentleman? None. None but to marry a wise man who can manage the business and bring heirs to his line.”
can manage the business. I looked after Papa’s affairs all five years he was ill—and we didn’t lose a single silver dollar. In fact, the Canaday assets grew by leaps and bounds. We bought the brickworks. We cut a wider road to the silver mine. We invested in two hotels and a restaurant. Manuela, the Southern Pacific Railroad is on its way to Deming, and if I have my say, Silver City will join it with a narrow gauge branch line. In a couple of years, we’ll have telephones and electricity and—”
“Ai-yai-yai!” Manuela held up her hands in a bid for peace. “These are not the words of a lady. Why did your father send you away to that school in Boston? To learn about telephones and electricity? No. He sent you to learn elegant manners. To learn the wearing of fashionable clothes. To learn conversation and sketching and sewing!”
Manuela ignored Fara’s grimace and rushed on. “Why did your papa want you to learn these things? So you can marry well. Look at you now, Farolita. Have you been riding the horses again? If I lift your skirts, will I see those terrible buckskins from the
? Your hair is wild like an Apache. Your skin is brown from the sun. You never wear your bonnet! And you put on men’s boots! You pick your teeth with hay stems—and you spit!”
“If I learned one thing in Boston, it’s that housekeepers aren’t supposed to lecture their mistresses.” Fara let out a hot breath that quickly turned to steam in the chill December air. “For three months now, Manuela, I’ve been giving you lessons from the Boston lady’s book. You’re supposed to wear your black-and-white uniform—not that flowered mantilla. You’re supposed to knock softly and introduce your presence with a little cough. You’re supposed to insist that all visitors put a little calling card in the silver tray by the front door . . . and
let them come barging into the library where I’m making lists for the Christmas tea!”
“But . . . but . . . that man didn’t have a calling card.” Manuela’s brown eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know where is the silver tray. I think it went the way of the crystal goblets—with Pedro, the thieving butler. And the black uniform you brought me is so . . . tight. I have ten children . . . and . . . and . . .”
“Oh, Manuela, I’m sorry.” Fara wrapped her arms around the woman who had served her family with love so many years. “It’s just these confounded gentleman callers. They come courting and wooing, and they get me so riled up I start hollering at you.”
Farolita, my little light. I know. I know.” Manuela hugged Fara, calling her by the pet name that evoked images of the soft yellow candles set out in bags of sand on Christmas Eve to light the way of the Christ child. “We must have peace in this house.”
“Peace and goodwill,” Fara said.
“Goodwill to all—even men.”
Fara crossed her arms and fought the grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Not to men with marriage on their minds,” she said firmly. “Godspeed but not goodwill.”
Touching the housekeeper lightly on the cheek, Fara started back into the house. As she shut the door behind her, she heard Manuela whisper to a throng of imaginary suitors, “God rest ye merry, gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay.”
Fara chuckled and added, “But don’t have dreams of marriage—not to Fara Canaday!”