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Authors: Catherine Palmer

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Prairie Storm

  
A Town Called Hope. Book 3
  

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Prairie Storm

Copyright © 1999 by Catherine Palmer. All rights reserved.

Cover photograph of wood panel copyright © by Getty Images. All rights reserved.

Cover illustration copyright © 2004 by Robert Hunt. All rights reserved.

Designed by Rule 29

Edited by Kathryn S. Olson

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. 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 publishers.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Palmer, Catherine, date

Prairie storm / Catherine Palmer.

p. cm. — (A town called Hope ; #3)

ISBN 0-8423-7058-7

I. Title II. Series: Palmer, Catherine, date Town called Hope ; #3
PS3566.A495P74 1999
813'.54—dc21                                                                        98-31508

New repackage first published in 2009 under ISBN 978-1-4143-3159-1.

Printed in the United States of America

15  14  13  12  11  10  09
7    6    5    4     3    2    1

For my earthly father, Harold Thomas Cummins, whose gentle love helped lead me to my heavenly Father

My thanks to those whose vision and diligence helped bring the town called Hope to life: Tim Palmer, Ron Beers, Ken Petersen, Rebekah Nesbitt, and the whole Heart Quest team. My special thanks to Kathy Olson for her insightful editing and constructive suggestions as I wrote this series. Bless you all.

The Lord is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet.
Nahum 1:3,
NLT

You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind…. You have come to the assembly of God's firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself
. Hebrews 12:18, 23,
NLT

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Prairie Storm

About the Author

Chapter 1

Hope, Kansas
June 1866

A
SUDDEN, high-pitched cry caught Lily Nolan's attention. She sucked in a breath. A baby? Somewhere in the growing darkness, a baby was crying. Lily pushed aside the tent flap and stepped outside, listening. There it came again! Weak but insistent, the wail curled into the marrow of Lily's bones.

Abigail
, she thought.
Oh, my darling Abby!

No. That wasn't possible, was it? Abby was gone, buried in a little wooden box at the edge of Topeka. But whose baby was crying? Why didn't the mother rock the child?

Lily's body contracted and began to ache in response to the baby's cries. Could the voice be Abby's, calling to her mother from the spirit world? Beatrice had tried to assure Lily that the baby was an angel now, a soul drifting in the great unseen, a messenger who would come to her with hope and comfort from beyond. But this cry sounded so real. And so near.

Lily stepped out into the tall prairie grass. In the distance she could see the town of Hope, Kansas—little more than a mercantile, a smithy, a newly built church, and a few shabby soddies. Women wearing homespun dresses, men in tattered trousers, and barefoot children moved down dirt paths toward the main road. Seeking entertainment or hoping for a cure for some unnamed trouble, they came to the traveling show, just as such people did in every town across the country.

Clutching the velvet cape of her fortune-teller's costume closer about her, Lily concentrated on Beatrice's speech. “Are you sad and blue?” the woman called. “Does your heart ache, your blood race, your liver leap, and your stomach churn? Is your hair limp? Do your feet hurt? Are your fingers stiff? Whatever ails you, come and find the answers to your troubles!”

Lily knew it would be a while before “Madame Zahara” started peddling elixir, and even longer before she would send customers to the tent to have their fortunes told. With the cry of the baby haunting her, Lily gathered up her skirts and set off through the grass. If she could find the child's mother and gain permission to hold the infant for a few moments—maybe even kiss the soft cheek or sing a little lullaby—perhaps then she could stop aching so for Abby. Maybe she could find reason to go on.

Just a week ago, while the traveling show was camped on the outskirts of Topeka, an epidemic of diphtheria had swept through the city. With it came the nightmare of fever, listlessness, and the panicked struggle for breath. Though diphtheria was known as a childhood illness, the strain that tore through Topeka grew especially virulent and soon began to claim adults. Scores had died, young and old alike.

Lily pressed her knuckles against her lips to hold back a sob. After two days of unbearable suffering, her precious Abigail had slipped away forever. Before long Lily's husband had also succumbed—Ted Nolan, the dashing but lazy fellow she had married to escape her sanctimonious and abusive father. Hours after the women had buried Ted, diphtheria claimed the traveling show's manager, Jakov Kasmarzik. In a panic, Beatrice had loaded as much of the show's gear as she could into one of their two wagons and headed west, with Lily barely able to function in her grief. Now the two women were trying to fill all the roles of the traveling show, hoping to earn their way to California. Or at least that was Beatrice's plan. Lily had no intention of going to California, but she didn't think Beatrice needed to know that yet.

“Would you take a look at that gaudy wagon, Caitrin,” commented a woman strolling with her three companions just ahead of Lily. She wore her rich brown hair piled on her head, and the bulge beneath her dress gave evidence that soon she would bear a child. “‘Dr. Kasmarzik's Traveling Show,'” she read from the sign painted on the wagon where Madame Zahara proclaimed her message. “‘Fine Theater, Singing, Juggling! Featuring Dr. Kasmarzik's Patented Elixir. Cures Guaranteed!'”

“Aye, Rosie,” the other woman in the group chimed in, “and my own father was a leprechaun.”

With a giggle, the one called Rosie read from the sign Beatrice had put up, its black canvas painted with silver stars: “‘Madame Zahara—Fortunes Told! Palms, Tea Leaves, and Tarot Cards Read!' Now that sounds interesting. I've always wanted to visit a traveling show. What do you think, Seth? Could we stop at the show before we go and listen to the preacher?”

Lily frowned at the woman's mention of the traveling preacher who was running a stiff competition for Dr. Kasmarzik's Traveling Show. Who did the fellow think he was, this Reverend Elijah Book, scaring off business and ruining her chances of a good evening's income? Lily could see him, outlined by the golds and pinks of the setting sun, as he raised his hands to beckon the gathering crowd. No wonder the women came, dragging their husbands behind them. The preacher was as good-looking a fellow as Lily had ever seen.

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