Authors: Robin Lee Hatcher
Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction, #Love Stories, #Christian, #Idaho, #Christian Fiction, #Frontier and pioneer life, #Idaho - History - 20th century, #Frontier and pioneer life - Idaho
God alone knew the answer to those questions, for it was He who had shaped her. As the psalm said, God’s eyes had seen her
substance when she was made in secret.
Her father grabbed a towel off the clothesline and dried his face and the back of his neck as he returned to the porch. Once
there, he settled onto one of the wooden chairs. “I’m all ears.”
“Me too,” her sister chimed in.
“It’s about” — she drew a deep breath — “running for mayor. Hiram Tattersall is still the only candidate to replace Mayor
Hopkins. Cleo suggested that I should run for the office, and I haven’t been able to forget her words. I… I’m thinking I
should do it.” She looked from her father to Cleo and back again. “What do you think?”
“Yes!” Cleo clapped her hands. “Do it, Gwennie!”
Calmly, her father asked, “Do you want to be mayor?”
“Don’t you think I can do the job?”
“That’s not what I said. I’m asking if you
to be the mayor.”
She hesitated a moment, then nodded. “Yesterday, when Cleo suggested it, I thought she was crazy. But then Mr. Patterson at the newspaper said he would support me if I declared my candidacy,
and the more I considered the possibility and the more I prayed about it, the more I realized I’d like to do this. I think
I could be a good mayor.”
“What would you like to accomplish if you were elected?”
She pictured Hiram Tattersall as he’d driven over her neighbor’s flowers. “First of all, I would make certain we enforced
the laws against public drunkenness.”
“And t hen ? ”
“Then I’d like to find ways to better our school and to bring in new businesses now that the mines aren’t operating like they
used to. We have too many who are unemployed. Men who want to work but who don’t have any place to do so. After that? Well,
I’d just have to see.”
At last her father smiled. “I have no doubt you will see and do what needs to be done.”
“You do?” Relief rushed through her. “You think I would make a good mayor?”
“Of course I do. You’re smart as a whip, Gwen. You can do anything you set your mind to. Of course, I may be a bit prejudiced,
being your dad.”
Cleo slapped her thighs with the palms of her hands. “You bet we’re prejudiced, but we’re right too. Gwennie, I’ll help every
way I can. Maybe I could be in charge of your campaign. You do it. You hurry back to town and file those papers or whatever
you need to do to become our next mayor.”
Gwen didn’t care if they were prejudiced. Their support meant everything to her.
“All right. I will. I’ll do it today.”
“Well, I’ll be.” Jackson Jones, the Bethlehem Springs city clerk, peered at Gwen over the tops of his wire-rimmed glasses.
“Here we thought this mayoral election was over before it started, and now it looks like we’ll have us a three-way race.”
“Three? But I thought only Mr. Tattersall — ”
“That McKinley fellow came in a few hours back to do the same thing you’re doing.”
McKinley? Morgan McKinley was running for mayor of Bethlehem Springs? But he was a stranger in this town. He owned a home
here but spent no time in it. He’d made no effort to meet his neighbors or learn what mattered to those who lived in Bethlehem
Springs. Why would he think he should be mayor?
“Who’d’ve thought it’d come down to a saloon keeper, a newcomer, or a woman?” Mr. Jones shook his head. “Looks like it’ll
be a surprise who we call Mr. Mayor no matter who wins.”
Mayor? Not if she could help it. Madam Mayor was more like it.
With a defiant lift of her chin, Gwen said, “It should make for an interesting race, shouldn’t it?”
“That it should. Wait till I tell the missus. She won’t believe it.”
With a word of thanks, Gwen took the necessary paperwork and left the clerk’s office, her confidence already waning. Did she
stand a chance of winning now? People knew Hiram Tattersall couldn’t be trusted. At least all the people who didn’t frequent
his saloon did. But what about Morgan McKinley? He might be little known, but he was a wealthy man from a prominent family,
presumably a sober one. Would the voters choose him over her?
She recalled the man she’d met on the road earlier in the day. Black hair and piercing dark eyes. An angular face and lean
build. He would cut a dashing figure standing at a podium.
But Gwen had something he did not — a desire to better her town because she belonged to it. He could be intelligent, charismatic,
wealthy, or a dozen other things that might win him votes, but she had love for Bethlehem Springs and its citizens. That was
something he didn’t have, couldn’t have.
“We’ll just see what you’re made of, Mr. McKinley,” she whispered as she walked toward home. “We’ll just see.”
Gwen had reached the corner of Idaho and Wallula when she was hailed by Charles Benson, a man who fancied himself her suitor
no matter how often she spurned his attentions. Perhaps she was too gentle with her refusals.
“Good afternoon, Miss Arlington.” Charles crossed the street. “You’re looking particularly lovely today. Is that a new bonnet
“You’re very kind, Mr. Benson. But no. The hat isn’t new.”
“Well, it looks new on you.” He motioned in the direction of her house. “May I walk you home?”
She stifled a groan. “If you wish.”
He fell into step beside her. “Did you hear that Gloria Birdwell is coming to Bethlehem Springs in July? I heard her sing
in Boise last summer. She is nowhere as beautiful as you, Miss Arlington, but she does have an extraordinary voice, to be
sure. It’s no wonder she’s called the Songbird of the West.”
Gwen quickened her pace, as if she could out-walk the question that was sure to come next.
“It would be my great honor to escort you to the concert, Miss Arlington. Would you grant me the pleasure of your company?”
“How kind of you to ask, Mr. Benson.” Thank goodness she was almost home. “But I’m afraid I must decline. I don’t know if
I will be able to attend, as wonderful as it sounds.”
“Well, perhaps you would allow me to ask again as the time grows closer.”
Everything in her wanted to say she would rather he didn’t ask again, but politeness overruled. “If you wish.” Reaching the
bottom step of her front porch, she stopped and faced Charles. “Thank you for escorting me home, Mr. Benson. Have a pleasant
With a nod of her head, she hurried up the steps and into the house before he could say anything more. Once safely inside,
she leaned against the door and breathed a sigh of relief.
She supposed there was nothing
with Charles. He was polite, good natured, and undeniably handsome. And yet she felt no desire to spend time in his company.
But her lack of interest hadn’t discouraged him. Not in the least. Charles was nothing if not persistent.
Gwen pushed away from the door and crossed to a small table set against the wall. A mirror hung above it. She stared at her
reflection as she untied the netting that covered her face and held her straw hat — the large crown swathed in yellow silk
chiffon — in place. It was, as Charles had said, a pretty hat, but it wasn’t new or even worth mentioning.
Why was it men thought a woman’s appearance required flattery? Why not ask what she was reading or what she thought about
America’s position regarding the war in Europe? Why not inquire about her thoughts on temperance and the chance that Idaho
might become a dry state? Why didn’t they care what was beneath the pretty bonnet on a woman’s head? On
She removed her hat and set it on the table, then walked through the parlor and dining room and into the second bedroom, which
served as her library. A large desk filled one side of the room. She sat in the chair behind it, pulled several sheets of
paper from a drawer, and picked up a pen.
“I will not be judged by appearances,” she whispered. “I will make the people of this town hear me.”
At the top of the paper, she wrote:
What I want to accomplish as mayor of Bethlehem Springs.
In his youth, Morgan had lived in stately mansions, hobnobbed with the best of society, and spent his summers in Italy, France,
and a few more exotic locations. He’d been accustomed to servants seeing not only to his needs but to his most frivolous wishes
He thanked God he hadn’t turned into a worthless fool, the way some men of his acquaintance had. He could have, if not for
Danielle Hubert McKinley had come from the finest of New York families — the Huberts, able to trace their ancestry back to
English and European royalty. But Danielle’s heart, filled with the love of God, had yearned to leave the world a better place
for having been there.
Before her husband died and her own health began to fail, she’d taken her son — and later, his younger sister — with her on
visits to poorhouses, jails, and hospitals. Many a time, Morgan had sat on a chair on the top floor of a noisy tenement house,
the scent of rotting garbage rising from the street below. He’d watched his mother ladle soup into a sick woman’s mouth and
seen the tender way she spoke to those with dirty faces, ragged clothes, and rotten teeth. Never had he seen her act as if she were someone’s
better. Not even once.
Later, when chronic pain became her companion and she’d relied on others to tend to her needs, his mother seldom complained.
Instead she encouraged her caregivers and thanked them for all they did on her behalf.
And to everyone — those for whom she cared and those who cared for her — she shared the hope she had in Christ. Pauper or
prince, it made little difference to Danielle McKinley.
It was in the latter years of his mother’s life, as Morgan took her to spas in England and Europe looking for some way to
ease her pain, that the idea for the New Hope Health Spa was born. He’d seen the relief she’d found in the warm mineral waters,
but had also seen that those places had room only for the wealthy.
“The poor need this too, Morgan,” his mother had said. “Oh, that there would be such a place — one that welcomed everyone,
rich and poor. And one where God was invited to move and to heal. Make it happen, son.”
All of this went through Morgan’s mind as he stood in the front parlor of the house he owned in Bethlehem Springs.
While the room was small in comparison to the ballrooms and halls of his boyhood homes, it was large enough for entertaining
members of this town’s elite society. And if he, the outsider, wanted to win the election for mayor, then he
entertain. He had only six weeks to become a fixture in the minds of the town’s citizens. From now until the election, he
must spend more time in Bethlehem Springs than he spent at the resort. It was as simple as that.
Fagan had informed him that his opponent, one Hiram Tattersall, was not particularly well liked. That was good news. Still,
Morgan surmised Harrison Carter would not be glad to know he was running for office. If the chairman of the county commissioners gave his support to Tattersall, the election might not
be easily won, despite Morgan’s best efforts.
He left the parlor and went into what he planned to use as his study. A large table filled the center of the room, its surface
covered with plans and drawings and account sheets he’d brought with him from the building site. After glancing at the papers,
he moved them to one end, clearing the space he needed to begin strategizing his campaign.
An hour later, he had filled four sheets of paper with the chicken scratches he called writing when a knock sounded on his
front door. He wished he could pretend he wasn’t home, but he couldn’t. His automobile was parked in plain sight. However,
his visitor — in addition to interrupting his train of thought — had served to remind him of one more thing to add to his
Hire household staff
, he scrawled before rising from his chair and walking toward the front of the house. He opened the door to find Kenneth Barker,
the minister of the Methodist church, standing on the porch.
Several times over the past year, Kenneth Barker had visited the resort site. On his third visit, he’d invited Morgan to join
him at the Methodist church some Sunday.
“I would, Reverend Barker, but we hold our own service here,” Morgan had said. “A lot of our workers wouldn’t go into town
for church, but they’ll sit in the tent with others while some of us share words from the Bible.”
“Ah, then you care for the spiritual condition of the men in your employ.”
“Yes. I do.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” the reverend answered. “I predict that you and I shall become friends, Mr. McKinley. I do, indeed.”
Morgan had thought then that he liked the idea of becoming friends with Kenneth Barker. The problem was time. His was all
used up by the demands of the resort’s construction.
“Oh, good. You are here.” Kenneth removed his hat. “I saw your automobile in the drive. Hope I’m not interrupting.”
“You’re always welcome, Reverend. You know that.” Morgan stepped back, pulling the door open wide. “Come in.”