Authors: Dorothy Love
Advance Praise for
Beyond All Measure
“Beautifully written and with descriptions so rich I’m still certain I caught a whiff of magnolia blossoms as I read.
Beyond All Measure
is pure Southern delight! Dorothy Love weaves a stirring romance that’s both gloriously detailed with Tennessee history and that uplifts and inspires the heart.”
LEXANDER, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF
“Soft as a breeze from the Old South and as gentle as the haze hovering over the Great Smokies, the gifted flow of Dorothy Love’s pen casts a spell of love, hate and hope in post-Civil War Tennessee. With rich, fluid prose, characters who breathe onto the page and a wealth of historical imagery,
Beyond All Measure
will steal both your heart and your sleep well beyond the last page.”
ESSMAN, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF
“As refreshing as a Tennessee mountain breeze! Dorothy Love delights in this charming tale of forgiveness and trust. The perfect porch-sitting, lemonade-sipping read.”
ITCHELL, AUTHOR OF
“Dorothy Love captures all the romance, charm and uncertainties of the postbellum South, delighting readers with her endearing characters, historical details and vivid writing style.”
ROWNLEY, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF
“A superb story with marvelous characters and a love story that touches the heart.”
OLF, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF
© 2011 by Dorothy Love
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Page design by Mandi Cofer.
Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail [email protected]
All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Love, Dorothy, 1949–
Beyond all measure / Dorothy Love.
p. cm. — (A Hickory Ridge romance)
Summary: “Unless she can trust God’s love to cast out her fears, Ada may lose the heart of a good man. Ada Wentworth, a young Bostonian, journeys to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, in the years following the Civil War. Alone and nearly penniless following a broken engagement, Ada accepts a position as a lady’s companion to the elderly Lillian Willis, a pillar of the community and aunt to the local lumber mill owner, Wyatt Caldwell. Ada intends to use her millinery skills to establish a hat shop and secure her future. Haunted by unanswered questions from her life in Boston, Ada is most drawn to two townsfolks: Wyatt, a Texan with big plans of his own, and Sophie, a mulatto girl who resides at the Hickory Ridge orphanage. Ada’s friendship with Sophia attracts the attention of a group of locals seeking to displace the residents of Two Creeks, a “colored” settlement on the edge of town. As tensions rise, Ada is threatened but refuses to abandon her plan to help the girl. When Lillian dies, Ada is left without employment or a place to call home. And since Wyatt’s primary purpose for staying in Hickory Ridge was to watch over his aunt, he can now pursue his dream of owning Longhorns in his home state of Texas. With their feelings for each other growing, Ada must decide whether she can trust God with her future and Wyatt with her heart”— Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-1-59554-900-6 (pbk.)
1. Tennessee—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
11 12 13 14 15 16 RRD 6 5 4 3 2 1
For the brave and faithful women of the South,
past and present—heroines all
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Holding tightly to her worn travel satchel, Ada Wentworth stepped through a cloud of billowing steam and scanned the rain-slicked railway platform, looking for the woman who had promised to meet her. Smartly-dressed travelers folded their black umbrellas and pushed through a knot of farm wives, mill workers, and station peddlers hawking candy and magazines. A line of buggies and wagons waited in the heat, the placid horses swishing their tails against a cloud of flies. A group of schoolboys jostled Ada roughly as they passed, their languid, high-pitched accents falling strangely on her ear.
She pulled her handkerchief from her cuff and blotted her face, her gaze traveling from one person to the next. People aplenty, but no red-haired woman carrying a white parasol.
She skirted a mound of baggage and wound her way toward the agent’s office, trying to quell her growing apprehension. She’d known Hickory Ridge wouldn’t be anything like New England, but this bustling village rimmed with fog-shrouded mountains was unlike any place she’d ever been.
Outside the station agent’s office, she paused to get her bearings. A steady stream of travelers flowed around her like water around a stone. She swallowed the hard lump forming in her throat. What on earth had she done?
“Purty little town, Hickory Ridge, ain’t it?” The salesman who had slept away the entire morning’s journey leaning against her shoulder grinned at her, exposing a mouthful of rotted and tobaccostained teeth. “Hotter’n blazes, though. Rain didn’t do a bit of good if you ask me.”
Ada moved farther down the platform and brushed the cinders from her traveling dress. The salesman followed, his battered sample case banging against his knee. He tipped his hat, a brown felt bowler that had seen better days. “Name’s Cyrus McNeal, ma’am. From the Southern Medicinal Supply Company. Any type of curative, preventative, or tonic you may require, I’m yer man.”
Opening his case, he produced two small brown vials. “Would you like some free samples? One’s fer yer stummick ailments, and t’other calms yer nerves.”
“Thank you. No.”
“Suit yerself. There’s more’n two hours before my train to Nashville. I figger to have me a good hot meal at Miss Hattie’s. You care to join me?”
The station agent, a lanky man with a thick walrus mustache and graying hair parted in the middle, made his way to her side. “Is this here feller botherin’ you, Miss?”
The salesman dropped his samples into his pocket. “I was just leaving.”
Ada nodded to the agent as the salesman disappeared into the crowd. “Thank you. That tiresome man made a nuisance of himself all the way from Knoxville.”
He gestured toward the far end of the platform. “That your trunk?”
“Yes.” She suppressed a long sigh. Twenty-six years old, and all her worldly possessions fit into one moldering trunk. Given half a chance, the auctioneer would have taken it too. As it was, she had nothing, not even a proper mourning dress. But mourning clothes were of no consequence here at the edge of the livable world.
The agent wiped his forehead with a wrinkled blue handkerchief. “Is someone supposed to meet you?”
“Miss Hannah Fields. She wrote that she’d carry a white parasol so I could recognize her. I don’t suppose you know her.”
“Hickory Ridge is growin’ these days, but I pretty much know everybody around here. Miss Hannah should be along directly. That is, if Old Starch and Vinegar hasn’t thought up somethin’ else for her to do.”
“Starch and vinegar?”
“Mrs. Willis. The woman Miss Hannah works for. Folks call her Starch and Vinegar, but not to her face, o’ course.” He grinned. “No ma’am. Not to her face.”
A piercing whistle sounded. The engine heaved, belching smoke and cinders, and lumbered down the tracks. Another shower of sparks rained down. Ada brushed the ashes off her skirt. Now she regretted having worn her best dress for travel, but she needed this job desperately. First impressions were important.
Her stomach rumbled. Although there had been plenty of good food aboard the train, it had come at a price. Mindful of her swiftly dwindling resources, Ada had made do with bowls of lukewarm soup and cups of bitter hot chocolate as the train lumbered southward, taking her farther away from all that was familiar. She couldn’t remember when she’d last enjoyed a full, hot meal. Hungry and dazed with summer heat, she swayed on her feet.
“Careful, ma’am!” The agent took her arm and led her to a wooden bench on the shady side of the platform. “You just sit tight, and I’ll get you some water.”
Ada sank heavily onto the bench. Last evening, as Miss Fields’s letter had instructed, she had sent a wire giving the woman her arrival time. Where in blazes
she? Ada blotted her face again and fought a wave of panic. Suppose the offer of employment had been withdrawn? It had taken most of her cash just to make the long trip to Hickory Ridge. There wasn’t nearly enough for a return ticket.
Not that returning home was an option. Ada’s heart squeezed with sadness. She tucked away her handkerchief and blinked back sudden tears.
The agent returned with a glass of water, and she drank it gratefully.
“Better?” he asked.
“Yes. Much better. Thank you.”
He consulted his pocket watch. “I should get back to the office. You’re welcome to wait inside if you’ve a mind to, but the truth is, it’s cooler out here. I’m sure Miss Hannah will be along before too much longer.”
He went back inside. Restless with nerves, Ada rose and walked to the far end of the platform, which afforded a better view of the town. The streets rang with the clatter of horses’ hooves, the rattle of harnesses, and the faint tinkling of shop-door bells. Along one side of the street stood the mercantile, and next to it a bank with gold lettering on the windows. Farther down was a newspaper office and a dentist’s office. A haberdashery, a barbershop, and a bookshop occupied the opposite side of the street, next to the Hickory Ridge Inn. Behind the newspaper office sat the Verandah Hotel for Ladies, a faded blue building with drooping shutters and a weathered sign that hung unevenly from a rusty chain. In the distance, the tree-clad mountains stood like sentinels against the rain-washed sky.
Of course Hickory Ridge can’t compete with Chattanooga or Knoxville,
Hannah had written,
but for a small town we’re quite progressive.
Ada watched two women in old-fashioned poke bonnets emerge from the mercantile, their arms laden with packages. A progressive town was precisely what she needed to secure her future. Not that she planned to stay forever in Hickory Ridge. But the employment notice in the
had seemed the perfect solution to her immediate dilemma. A chance to start over in a town where no one knew the first thing about her while she set her plan in motion.