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Authors: J. R. Biery

Bright Morning Star

BOOK: Bright Morning Star
11.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
















Cover created with Gimp 2, using a background image from NASA and free commercial use licensed image from Bing of a photograph from the Wagon Train Exhibit in National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretative Center in Baker City, Oregon.












Copyright © 2015, Janet Biery

All rights reserved

ISBN-13: 978-1515148821

ISBN-10: 1515148823


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher, except as brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


Claire Wimberley is an adorable blonde, blue-eyed beauty with little in her head, but dreams and a love for the latest fashion. Although she has worked in the mills in Boston, she has been the spoiled only child of a middle class family. Her best friends are poor Irish girls whose families are always struggling. When first one, then the other, face terrible tragedies, Claire is the first to offer a helping hand and her loving support. Soon she is traveling the Oregon Trail with Lynne’s little sister and brothers and her other best friend, Bonnie. Along the trail, Claire must face the fact that she is in love with a married man despite his bitter wife. She is able to be strong until Bonnie is captured by Indians and Bella, the man’s wife is murdered in another attack. Can a girl who has never worn anything second-hand in her life settle for a second-hand husband?


This book
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



Dedicated to Jerry, my darling husband for forty-seven years. Also, thanks to the members of the Cookeville Creative Writers' Association who prodded and nudged me forward. Special thanks to those who have read the previous three books and written to ask for another. Claire’s story is dedicated to all of you. Special thanks to early readers JoAnn, Linda, and Vera. Greatly appreciated.



Boston, MA 1876


Claire Wimberley untied the ribbons from her favorite bonnet and set the tiny spring-flowered confection on the wagon seat. She fluffed at her hair, with the length pulled up into a subdued knot, the ends into her usual ringlets bounced. She shook her head and exchanged a smile with her friend, Bonnie. The tall, serious girl pointed to her Da and brother Clyde. The man was trying to get the little boy to feed grass to one of the giant oxen and the three-year old was having none of it.

“Do you know where Mother is?” Claire asked.

“Inside changing, as you should be,” Bonnie answered.

Claire knew she wasn’t dressed for someone setting out by wagon from Boston to the wild West. But today, at early mass, was the first time she had worn the lovely green dress and she wanted to enjoy it. Henry and his wife should be here soon. After all, she had purchased the dress from the Lambtons and knew they would want to admire how well it fit and how becoming the color was with her blond hair.

The children were wild with excitement. Bonnie’s four younger sisters, and Lynne’s one, ran about the yard and street squealing as they wove a bright pattern of color against the muddied lawn. Mary Anne stopped, alternating giggles and tight tearful hugs with her best friend Meara. The two seven year old’s were close, like Claire, Lynne, and Bonnie. She and her friends had done everything together, even working in the mill until it closed recently. Now Lynne was married to a rancher in Montana and Claire’s family was carrying her younger brothers and sister to join her there.

Claire studied the pretty little girl, her gray eyes stormier than ever as she talked with Meara. Mary Anne had nearly died of Typhoid fever like her mother. Now at first glance, the two girls looked alike. Both wore Claire’s remade dresses. Both had long brownish hair, although Meara’s was redder and she was blessed with laughing blue eyes.

All the Magee’s had blue eyes, but Bonnie, whose eyes were hazel. Gold or green when she was happy, a muddy brown when sad. And the tall woman supervising the children had been terribly sad. Tarn Michaels, the handsome man she married, turned out to be a monster. After beating Bonnie and causing her to lose their child, he had fled. Claire stared, amazed that there was no trace of all Bonnie had suffered.

Luckily Claire had been able to convince her parents to let Bonnie move in with them. After their maid quit, Bonnie had taken over the woman’s duties as cook and housekeeper. Claire stared at the little girls and felt a twinge of regret. She watched them hook their fingers to make a ‘pinky swear.’ She loved Bonnie as much as ever and she knew Bonnie felt the same about her. But there was a difference. Even though Bonnie lived with Claire, and they continued to work side-by-side at Lambton’s shop, their relationship had changed.

“I’ll be right back, yell when the Lambton’s arrive,” Claire called.

“Wipe your feet, I’ve no time to be redoing floors,” Bonnie said.




Claire wandered through the empty house, feeling a lump in her throat for the first time. This was the only home she’d ever known. It seemed smaller without furniture or all the people crowded into it. For the last three months, the three Wimberleys had made room for Bonnie, the twins, and Mary Anne. Now all seven of them would make the trip together.

The last two weeks had flown with all the packing and Bonnie’s family helping to take the extra things they didn’t want to move. She had not stopped to worry about all she was leaving. From the bathroom, she heard a strange noise. Timidly she knocked at the door and whispered, “Mother?”

Claire heard a choked sob on the other side of the door. She waited, then opened the door as her mother called come in. Her beautiful mother sat on top of the closed box, busy wiping her nose and eyes. Claire flew in to take her into her arms. “Oh Mother, what’s wrong?”

Elizabeth Wimberley blew her nose and tried for a watery smile. “Just feeling foolishly sentimental dear. I’m ready. Did you need a minute to change?”

Claire shook her head, irritated that everyone was making the same suggestion. “I decided to wear this. But talk to me Mother, I can tell something is wrong. You never cry.”

“I’ll be all right. I just need a minute to calm down before your Father gets back. He’s so excited about the trip, and has been counting the minutes. You know how he is.”

“I know. I thought you were excited too. Don’t you want to go out west?”

Mother choked on a loud sob and Claire hugged her tighter, shocked for a minute. She had never asked, none of them had asked what her Mother wanted. She tried to imagine what it must be like for her mother. She was leaving friends and neighbors, her church, her home, and her beloved gardens. At least when they reached Utah, Claire would have all her family and dear friends around. With the Lambtons coming along, she would even have her employers there as well.

Rocking her mother in her arms, Claire continued to babble, hugging her close. “It’s the lawn and flowers isn’t it. Because Father laughed about them this morning. I know he is proud to have another unpleasant surprise for that scalawag buyer. Poor Mother, you worked so hard on your roses and flowers. But we can plant some when we reach our new home. There is a lot more sunshine each year out west. You will have the most beautiful flowers for miles around. Father will build you an even bigger and finer house, you’ll see. It will be wonderful.”

Elizabeth Wimberley hugged her daughter and smiled at Claire for the first time. “Of course, maybe we can even dig some root stock for the new rose garden if we hurry.”

Suddenly they heard yelling from outside.

“Come on then, sounds like Father and the Lambtons are here,” Claire said, tugging her along.




Claire watched the McKinney twins tumble down from the second wagon, running up to look around at the harnessed oxen.

“Aw, you should have waited on us, we could have yoked up the teams,” Jim complained.

“I know you could, but Da and the girl’s wanted something to do so, they helped me do it,” Bonnie explained.

“Did you remember to make the picnic lunch?” his brother Tom asked.

Bonnie smiled, “I packed it, and all the other food in the house. We’re all ready to leave.”

The little girls had rushed to surround Bella’s little boy and Claire wondered again at how strange it was. Little Barney with his tremors and jerks repulsed her, but seemed to fascinate all the children. They seemed to find him beautiful and sweet, perfectly precious in Mary Anne’s words.

Bonnie yelled, “We’re all ready to leave.” It galvanized everyone. The Magees left Barney Lambton to crowd against Bonnie.

Father was talking with Mother about the flowers. Claire saw him start to protest before he noticed her mother’s tear- streaked face. Wearily he nodded and took a shovel and burlap sack and walked to dig each one as she gave him directions. He and the lads would have worked hard loading the store stock and household furniture with the Lambtons, yet he still took time to make her mother happy.

Claire stood restlessly, looking from one group to another. She saw Bonnie crying, the first tears she’d seen in her friend’s eyes since the week when they had first brought her home. Heartbroken at losing her baby, racked with pain, Bonnie had been half-out of her mind in a drugged stupor and always sobbing.

Bonnie’s Mum and Da held the tall woman the longest, their voices as watery as her own. “You’ll be careful. You’ll write, like your friend Lynne did?” Mum asked.

“I’ll be fine,” Bonnie said. “I’ll check on the boys when we reach Ohio. Father Wimberley thinks we’ll be there before they ship out. I’ll send mail back from there and remind them to write you too.” Bonnie raised a hand to her throat, watched Mary Anne and Meara embrace beside her. “If you move, how will my letters reach you?”

“Send them to Father Patrick at the rectory. He’ll get them to us,” Da said.

Claire felt her own throat close up and could feel tears threatening to spill. Bless the poor girl. How must it feel to be like Lynne and Bonnie, torn from those you love? She could never leave her parents. She turned to stare at them, saw her mother close to tears again as her father protested digging up bulbs and the peonies. She heard his loud sigh and breathed deeply as she saw him raise her mother’s chin with his dirty finger, and then plant a kiss on her lips before moving over to dig the bed of tulips.

Claire sighed at the gestures of love all around her. Quickly, she dared to look over at the Lambtons. Bella was fussing with the boy on the seat of the wagon. Henry Lambton stood at the back, raising the tailgate where he had rearranged a couple of boxes. She dared a glance, noticing the cloth tight across his shoulders in the white shirt. She blushed, afraid to be caught staring at the handsome man. He banged the gate latch home and lifted his jacket to slide back into it. Fastidiously tailored at all times, like her, he had not donned trail clothes yet.

Claire turned back to see Bonnie receiving tender hugs and kisses of farewell from each family member. She saw her father loading the shovel and sack of bulbs and roots, then helping her mother up into the wagon. He called to Claire and she rushed forward past the Lambton’s wagon.

“A beautiful day for our trip,” she said to Bella, noting she had arranged the little boy in the floor box of the wagon.

“Yes, beautiful, as are you my dear in your new dress.”

Claire whirled, hoping the flounces of the pseudo-bustle were still neatly in place. “Yes, it fits perfectly, don’t you think?”

Bella’s gaze darkened as she nodded, but Claire was afraid to look for approval from Henry Lambton. Dropping a quick curtsy to her employer, she raced forward, surprised when Henry followed to give her a hand up onto the seat in the wagon behind her mother’s.

Nervously Claire accepted his steadying hand.

“Most becoming,” he whispered.

Claire kept her eyes lowered, but felt a tremble at his touch. She sat breathlessly on the seat of the second tandem wagons. In minutes, they were off.




Claire listened and clucked to the long line of animals in front of her. There were three pairs of oxen pulling each double wagon team. She copied the calls her mother made, and made sure the brake was off as Father had instructed. Behind her, she heard Bella’s shrill voice make the same sounds. Claire knew it wasn’t the same as driving a team of horses or mules. These dumb plodding animals would move as the person walking beside them directed. But still, she wanted to do her part right.

It was quiet on the empty streets now they had left the noisy Magees behind. Claire had watched the family with another loaded wheelbarrow wave and Bonnie throw a last wave and kisses after them.

With the signing bonuses for Bonnie’s brothers, Ian and Shawn, her parents had money for the first time in ages. With the boon of their household belongings that her Mother couldn’t pack, the Magees had told Bonnie they were ready to move into a house of their own.

Although they had seemed grateful, Claire was surprised they didn’t fuss more about the Wimberley’s generosity. Proud Irish indeed. They had accepted the gifts without any insistence from the Wimberleys, much like Bonnie took Claire’s old dresses from the charity barrel for her sisters.

What did it matter that they would have had to pay to have someone to cart the extra furniture and clothes to the dump or the church? Worse, they might have left it behind for the new owner. Claire’s Father had insisted on taking or removing everything useful. He was still upset at having to take a lower price for the factory and their house from the same southerner who had been driving his business into the ground. Still, there were a lot of good things and she knew she would have acted more grateful than the Magees.

Embarrassed at her pettiness, Claire looked forward at the young woman walking beside the head of her oxen team. Willow they had called the tall, reed slim girl. Bonnie had been Claire’s protector from the teasing and jealousy of the other children when she started school. She had adopted Claire and Lynn McKinney as though they were all sisters. Devoted friends, they had been together ever since. Lynne had been the sensible one, Bonnie the protector, and Claire had been called goose.

For something to do, Claire shook the lines over the back of the cattle and one of them mooed in protest. Bonnie looked back at her in surprise and Claire shrugged her shoulders and relaxed. She hated the nickname Goose. She wasn’t a fool.

She made an effort not to look behind her. Maybe she was. From the first moment she saw him she had been in love with an unattainable man. All she wanted was a true love. All three girls had wanted the same, a man as good to them as their own fathers. Lynne had found one. Unlike her first letter about the ordeals of her trip, the last one had been full of gushing examples of how wonderful Phillip Gant, her new husband was.

Bonnie certainly hadn’t been that smart. Tarn Michaels had been a handsome devil, but he had only shown his devilish side to the poor girl.

Claire looked down at her hands shaking on the reins. Wasn’t she in danger of doing the same thing? Risking her heart on a handsome man. Worse, Henry Lambton was married, and to judge by Bella, not the kind of husband she wanted at all. Claire ran a hand over her sides and squirmed on the hard bench. If they ever stopped, the first thing she was going to do was get rid of her corset.

BOOK: Bright Morning Star
11.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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