Read Redeeming Gabriel Online

Authors: Elizabeth White

Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #United States, #Religion & Spirituality, #Fiction, #Military, #Religious & Inspirational Fiction, #Inspirational, #Christian Fiction, #Historical Romance, #Regency, #Series, #Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical

Redeeming Gabriel

BOOK: Redeeming Gabriel
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She was about to scream.

He reached her in one silent lunge. Clapping one hand over her mouth, he snatched her into the corner under the stairs and waited for disaster to strike.

The woman in his arms continued to tremble. Fearing discovery, Gabriel kept his hand over her mouth, his hold gentling as she began to relax.

When she began to squirm, he tightened his hold. “Oh, no, you don’t,” he hissed in her ear. “I’m not uncovering your pretty mouth until I’m sure you can keep it quiet.”

Feeling a pain in the palm of his hand, he barely contained a yelp as he released her mouth. “Are you trying to get us both hanged?”

“Who are you?” she whispered, sounding frightened.

Books by Elizabeth White

Love Inspired Historical

Redeeming Gabriel

Love Inspired Suspense

Under Cover of Darkness

Sounds of Silence

On Wings of Deliverance

ELIZABETH WHITE

As a teenager growing up in north Mississippi, Elizabeth White often relieved the tedium of history and science classes by losing herself in a romance novel hidden behind a textbook. Inevitably she began to write stories of her own. Torn between her two loves—music and literature—she chose to pursue a career as a piano and voice teacher.

Along the way Beth married her own Prince Charming and followed him through seminary into church ministry. During a season of staying home with two babies, she rediscovered her love for writing romantic stories with a Christian worldview. A previously unmined streak of God-given determination carried her through the process of learning how to turn funny, mushy stuff into a publishable novel. Her first novella saw print in the banner year 2000.

Beth now lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast with her family. She plays flute and pennywhistle in church orchestra, teaches second-grade Sunday school, paints portraits in chalk pastel and—of course—reads everything she can get her hands on. Creating stories of faith, where two people fall in love with each other and Jesus, is her passion and source of personal spiritual growth. She is always thrilled to hear from readers c/o Steeple Hill Books, 233 Broadway, Suite 1001, New York, NY 10279, or visit her on the Web at www.elizabethwhite.net.

ELIZABETH WHITE

Redeeming Gabriel

Published by Steeple Hill Books

Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.

Matthew
25:40

For Hannah, who has read them all

Acknowledgment

I’d like to express my gratitude to the Mobile County Public Library Department of Special Collections. The research librarians kindly supplied me with resources which provided pertinent historical details. I took some liberties to suit the story. A few real historical personages are mentioned, but most names have been changed. For an accurate history of the city of Mobile, consult www.mplonline.org/lhg.htm or
The Story of Mobile
by Caldwell Delaney.

Contents

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 One

C
amilla Beaumont cautiously opened her bedroom window and leaned out. It was one of those inky Mobile nights when warm April air met earth still cool from winter, brewing up a fog as thick as gumbo. A night when the Union blockade crouched like a sullen watchdog far out in the bay and Confederate soldiers camped under abandoned cotton shelters at Camp Beulah just outside town. A night when any civilian with a grain of sense was tucked up asleep under the breeze of an open window.

She paused with one leg out the window and took a deep breath. With practiced ease she grabbed the knotty old wisteria vine that twined around the lattice and began the climb down.

It was amazing she hadn’t been caught and sent to the prison on Ship Island. In the early days her forays had been executed with haste and blind luck. Lately, however, every move and communication were plotted with exquisite care, orchestrated by an anonymous sponsor. Camilla longed to meet him, one day when the war was over, the Yankees went home, and the Southern conscience woke up to the truth that slavery was wrong.

As she scooted into an alley behind the Battle House Hotel, a baby’s cry from an open upstairs window stopped her in her tracks. She prayed there wouldn’t be a baby tonight. Babies made her task twice as difficult and dangerous.

Shuddering, she continued down empty residential streets, slipping from behind one tree to the next—huge old oaks dripping with Spanish moss that tickled her face, magnolias just beginning to bud, and scratchy, richly scented cedars. She sneezed, then looked around, stricken with fear, breathing in and out. The fog was so dense she could barely see her hand in front of her face. When all remained quiet, she continued, knees trembling.

At the waterfront, noise and light from inside the buildings spilled out into the fog. She paused outside the Soldiers’ Library to watch the approach of two gray-uniformed soldiers. They seemed more intent on observing the ribaldry inside the gambling saloons and oyster bars than enforcing the 9:00 p.m. slave curfew.

Slouching into a bowlegged, droop-shouldered posture, she lurched out into the road. An inebriated vagrant wandering the downtown streets in the wee hours of the morning was a common enough sight. As long as he was white.

She hesitated at the corner of Water and Theater streets, peering blindly into the mist, and nearly jumped out of her skin when cold fingers tapped her cheek. She stifled a shriek with one hand.

“Now, now, Missy, I thought you wasn’t comin’.” The whining whisper was so close to her ear that she could smell the speaker’s fishy breath.

“Shh! Virgil, you nearly scared the life out of me. Come here before somebody sees us.” She grabbed a skinny arm and towed him deeper into the shadows.

Any passerby who chanced to see them would have found little to tell them apart. Much the same height, they wore the same disreputable costume—dark stocking cap, patched pea jacket, canvas pants of an indeterminate color and hobnailed boots.

“Where’s the bag?” Camilla turned Virgil around and yanked off the burlap sack slung across his back, then placed her hands firmly on either side of his vacant face. “You forget you saw me tonight, you hear?”

Virgil nodded with childish pleasure. “I ain’t seen you, Missy.”

“Good.” Camilla reached into her pocket for a coin and a slightly fuzzy toffee. “Get yourself something to eat, and I’ll sell your papers for you.”

“Yes’m, Missy.” He popped the toffee into his mouth. “You’ll bring my bag back when you’re through?”

“Haven’t I always?”

“Yes’m, shore have.” Virgil grinned, then shuffled away into the fog without a backward glance.

Camilla watched him go with a mixture of pity and gratitude. Since no one considered him capable of putting two thoughts together on his own, Crazy Virgil the Birdman could come and go as he pleased. When she assumed his identity, she was virtually invisible.

Disguise complete, she stepped into the street and continued northward to where the Mobile and Tensaw rivers dumped into Mobile Bay.

Camilla could remember when the quay of Mobile was lined with stately hulls and a forest of masts. After General Bragg forbade cotton to be shipped to the port lest the Yankees succumb to the temptation to attack, the steamers made increasingly rare appearances downriver. The docks looked embarrassingly naked these days.

But there should be at least one riverboat tied in. Camilla strained to see through the fog. There she was. The
Magnolia Princess,
flambeaux peering through the mist, bumped gently against the pier like a cat nudging her mistress’s skirts.

As Camilla approached, a burst of laughter reached her ears, faded, swelled again. The
Magnolia Princess,
one of the few pleasure boats remaining in these grim days, carried a troupe of actors and singers and dancers, as well as floating card games run by professional gamblers.

Ready to hawk her newspapers should she be noticed, Camilla stole across the boat’s gangway, darted across the lower deck and found the ladder down into the hold.

Wooden beams creaked all around her as she descended, and the smell of oil and burning pine from the stoke hole was suffocating. Sticky turpentine oozed from the frame of the boat and clung to her clothes and hands as she felt her way down the rickety ladder. She was nearly at the bottom when she felt strong hands clasp her around the waist and lift her down.

“Horace,” she breathed in relief.

“Me and the boy both here, Miss Milla, but we got to hurry. The train, she leaving in less than two hours.”

Camilla took a deep breath. “There’ll be four this time.”

She dropped the bulky bag full of newspapers, then with the two men began to examine the barrels crowded into the narrow space. At length Horace kicked one in disgust. “Porter say he mark ours with a
X,
but it’s so dark down here I can’t see a thing.”

Camilla wiped her sweaty face on her coat sleeve. It would be deadly to send the wrong barrels north on the train. She hesitated, then whispered, “I know you’re not supposed to make a sound, but we’re running out of time, so I want you to make some little noise so we’ll know where you are.”

There was a moment of thick quiet. All she heard was the creaking of the boat and the slosh of water against her pontoons. Then, barely audible, came a scratching sound from the barrel upon which Camilla sat. Grinning at Willie, she hopped down. When they’d found the three others, she assisted the men in hoisting them one at a time up the ladder.

Porter, their accomplice on the boat, had done his job—keeping the crew away from this end of the deck. The thick fog aided them, as well. They spoke not a word as they worked, and Camilla flinched every time one of the barrels bumped against the ladder going up. But no sound came from within any of the barrels—until they were loading the last one onto the wagon. Losing her grip, Camilla gave a dismayed little squeak.

Just in time to keep it from bursting open on the ground, Willie grabbed her end of the barrel.

As a muffled wail came from inside the barrel, Camilla flung her arms around it. “Shh, it’s all right,” she whispered through the knothole near the top. “I know you’re scared, but hold on. We’re almost away.”

Horace patted her shoulder and jerked his head toward the rail station a quarter mile or so up the quay.

Taking a shuddering breath, Camilla nodded. “All right. Let’s go.”

The wagon lurched into motion.

As they rattled along the waterfront, Camilla strained to see through the twining fog. The military watch was spread thin. Maybe they’d escaped.

“Hey, you there!” A hoarse voice penetrated the darkness. “Stop where you are!”

Camilla clutched the side of the wagon as Horace drew the horses to a halt. Boots crunched on damp shells as a gray-clad watchman appeared out of the fog. She and Horace and Willie waited, letting the picket make the first move. Camilla kept her head down and pulled her cap over her face.

BOOK: Redeeming Gabriel
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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