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Authors: Becky Lower

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Banking on Temperance

BOOK: Banking on Temperance
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Banking on Temperance
Becky Lower,
author of
The Reluctant Debutante
and
The Abolitionist’s Secret

Avon, Massachusetts

This edition published by

Crimson Romance

an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.

10151 Carver Road, Suite 200

Blue Ash, Ohio 45242

www.crimsonromance.com

Copyright © 2013 by Becky Lower

ISBN 10: 1-4405-6409-4

ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6409-3

eISBN 10: 1-4405-6410-8

eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6410-9

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.

Cover art © 123rf.com; istockphoto.com/zorani

I have several people who deserve to be mentioned. First, I need to thank my dear friend, Linda Smith. We’ve come a long way from the streets of Detroit. Linda is my sounding board as I iron out my plot lines. I can’t tell you the number of her suggestions that have made their way into the pages. For this particular book, she suggested the name Temperance, which, as it turned out, was the perfect name for my heroine.

Second, I want to thank the many nameless women who helped to settle the western U.S. I’ve read their journals and diaries, and the hardship they bore with such stoicism is unimaginable. The fact that they faced wild animals, Indians, harsh living conditions, and absent husbands without complaint speaks volumes about the type of women they were, and shows us that they valued family above all else.

Last, because I haven’t done it yet, I want to thank Jennifer Lawler and the crew at Crimson Romance. And my fellow Crimson sisters, who are the most supportive group I’ve ever come across.

Contents

Dedication

Author’s Note

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

More from This Author from Crimson Romance

Also Available

Author’s Note

The decade prior to the Civil War in America was one of great strife, which translates into powerful story lines. The westward expansion was in full swing, and wagon trains were a common sight in the towns of St. Louis and St. Joseph, Missouri, the jumping-off points for most of the trains. The reasons why families were willing to face a four to six month-long overland trek fraught with peril and drudgery at every turn were as varied as their modes of transportation. In this book, the motivation for the Jones family was to save the preacher’s young sons from participating in the Civil War, which was looming. They are among the first conscientious objectors in the country.

Because this book is set in St. Louis instead of the drawing rooms of New York City, the rules of convention are shifted somewhat, or nonexistent. It was common for women to drive themselves around without accompaniment, and to maintain a house alone or to hire themselves out in order to bring money into the family’s coffers.

While there are other details in the book that are historically true, this is essentially a work of fiction.

Chapter One

St. Louis, July, 1856

Basil Fitzpatrick removed the handgun from the bank safe and put it in the shoulder holster before putting on his suit jacket. As he shut the metal safe door and spun the combination lock, he pictured his father opening the doors of the main branch of the National City Bank in New York City. His father wouldn’t have to strap on a gun to go about his business. But this was the West, not New York. More than miles separated them. He took out the gold pocket watch given to him by his father on his twenty-first birthday, two years prior, when he left home. It was engraved with Basil’s initials, and he ran his finger over the letters.

A noise from the street interrupted Basil’s morning routine. He flicked open the timepiece and glanced at it. The bank was due to open in ten minutes. Time enough for a cheroot on the porch while he explored what was making such a racket. He walked out to the front of the bank and lit his cigar.

He got a wry smile on his face as he followed the path of a wagon that came creaking down the cobbled street. In the couple of years he’d been in the West, he’d seen all variety of transportation as settlers rolled into town to join the wagon trains heading further west each spring, to Oregon or California. There were big, expensive, Conestoga wagons, capable of transporting pianos and other heavy furniture across the vast wilderness, and handcarts carrying only the basic essentials necessary to live. But this one rolling up to the door right now took the prize for the poorest mode of transportation.

The boards around the sides of the wagon were held in place by strips of leather, but the warped boards were weathered to a gray color. They jostled and sagged with every step made by the two skinny mules struggling with their load. The wagon was covered with a large piece of waterproofed canvas worn thin and stretched tightly against the wooden ribs overhead so that it seemed as starved as the mules did. Holes in abundance dotted the canvas, so it could barely provide shelter.

A young woman sat on the wagon seat, holding the reins, and the rest of the group walked alongside, slowly. A woman and five children formed stair-steps in their heights as they shuffled one behind the other. To Basil’s eyes, they were tired and beaten down, even at this hour of the morning. Their clothing was as tattered and threadbare as the wagon’s canvas, and the color had long ago been washed out of the materials. The sunbonnets, perched on the heads of the women and girls, were bleached out and drooped onto their foreheads. Everyone, women and children, resembled a faded watercolor. He snuffed out his thin cigar as the wagon rolled to a stop in front of the establishment.

The older woman gave directions. “Justice and Prudence, look after the little ones while I go inside. Temperance, you come with me.” The young woman behind the reins climbed down from the wagon.

The two women shifted their gazes from the children who remained by the wagon and cast their glances at Basil. “Good day, sir,” the eldest one said. She moved past him and put her hand on the door.

“Here, let me get that for you, ma’am.”

Basil allowed the women to lead the way into the cool, quiet room, as he followed behind them. The oak floors gleamed with a high gloss, and the scent of lemon wood polish permeated the air. The teller booth was straight ahead and Basil’s desk was off to the side.

The elder woman then turned to Basil. “I need to talk to the manager of the bank. Can you direct me to him?”

“I’m the owner of the bank, ma’am. Basil Fitzpatrick, at your service. How can I help you today?”

The woman drew a long, shaky breath. “Pleased to meet you, sir. My name is Martha Jones and this is my eldest daughter, Temperance.”

Basil gestured to a small office off the main room of the bank. “Why don’t we sit over here where we can have some privacy, and you can tell me what your business is?”

The lone bank teller, Herbert Walker, strolled across the room before Basil could close the door. “I can handle this, Mr. Fitzpatrick. There’s no need for you to bother yourself.”

Basil glanced from the women in front of him to the teller. A thinly veiled look of distaste and judgment crossed Herbert’s face. The younger woman’s spine stiffened and her chin rose a few notches. These were proud people, regardless of their circumstances, and Herbert had offended them, he could tell. Basil didn’t conform to the viewpoint of his teller. If a person had a reason to be in his bank, they were important to him.

“I’ve got this, Herbert.” He glanced at his employee. “You may return to your duties.” He turned back to the women but kept the door open so he could keep an eye on Herbert. “I am sorry for the intrusion. Please tell me how I can be of assistance.”

“My husband, Samuel, and I ran into a bit of trouble on our way here. We are supposed to have some money waiting for us at your bank, from our kinfolk back in Pennsylvania.”

“Is your husband with you?”

“He is in the bed of the wagon. He’s been ill almost the entire trip.”

“Let me check into this first. If we need his signature, I can take the paperwork out to him.”

The younger woman said between gritted teeth, “Even though my father is sick, he will come inside. We want no special treatment. We make our own way.”

Basil turned to Temperance, studying her carefully. She was a true beauty — petite, with soft, light brown curls escaping from her serviceable bun and swirling around her face. Her moss green eyes snapped in anger before she lowered her gaze, which emphasized her long lashes. He judged her to be in her late teens, perhaps a bit younger. Basil’s breath caught in his throat as he studied her. It wasn’t just her lovely face that captured his attention, but her proud attitude and resoluteness.

Reluctantly, he brought his attention back to the older woman.

“Temperance, please.” Martha Jones touched her daughter’s arm. “Mr. Fitzpatrick is only trying to help.”

Basil’s gaze flitted back and forth between the women. “All right then. Give me a few minutes to check the bank’s records and make certain your money is here before you bring him in. I’ll try to make his visit as brief as possible.” Basil examined the records, and found the few dollars that had been sent from her relatives back east. He sat behind the small desk in the tiny room again and cleared his throat.

“Everything seems to be in order here, Mrs. Jones. I need to change the subject slightly, though. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but do you realize the last wagon train of the year pulled out of here several months ago?”

Resignation flashed in her eyes, overtaking the tiredness for a moment. She ran her hands lightly over her face.

But, he noted, her chin rose a few degrees as well, matching her daughter’s countenance. “We have had some hard luck, sir, and we are well aware we missed the trains this year. I’m sure they are already halfway to Oregon by now. But it’s obviously the Lord’s wish for us to stay here for the winter, since my husband is so ill. We need to find a doctor to treat him, and he needs to regain his health.”

“What is your husband’s profession?”

“He’s a preacher, and we had a small farm back in Pennsylvania.”

“Well, even though the lure of Oregon or California is compelling, there’s plenty of room in St. Louis for a fine preacher man.” Basil smiled across his desk, trying to put the women at ease. His smile usually had a positive effect on the ladies. But these two women were bent on survival, not amusement. He lowered his head to the paperwork in front of him.

“Let’s finish the transaction here first. I’ll try to be as brief as possible, and then I can direct you to the doctor. Will you need help getting your husband inside?”

“No, Temperance and I will get him. We’ll be just a minute.”

True to her word, Martha Jones returned a few minutes later, with her husband supported between them. Reverend Jones sat heavily in the chair in front of the desk and raised his fevered gaze to Basil. His graying hair was greasy and a thinning lock of it fell across his forehead. He extended his hand. Not wanting to embarrass him by avoiding the simple gesture, Basil reached out and shook the man’s hand. The gasp from his teller as he did so told him he had done the correct thing.

“Mr. Fitzpatrick, I’m Samuel Jones.” He stopped and bent over as a cough rattled his body. He brought a crumpled handkerchief to his mouth, and Basil could see the telltale stain of blood. “I do apologize for being such a bother. Where do I sign?”

“Right here, sir. I’ll get your money for you and you can be back in the wagon before you know it.”

The Reverend signed in the appropriate place and Basil walked behind the teller window to obtain the money. He turned around to head back to the small room, counting the bills in his hand, when a loud thump and a cry from Mrs. Jones pierced the air. Her husband was sprawled on the floor of the bank. Temperance quickly knelt beside her father. Basil ran over and found a faint pulse. His eyes met Temperance’s as they knelt on the floor on opposite sides of Reverend Jones. A quiet sense of understanding passed between them. She was aware her father was dying, but wanted to shield her mother. Basil nodded.

BOOK: Banking on Temperance
13.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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