As many of you know, I'm Canadian and our Thanksgiving was last month. Since Under A Texas Star is, funnily enough, set in the United States, I feel like I should celebrate the holiday with my my characters. It's a bit of a departure for the blog, but it's a holiday, right?
A Cherryville Thanksgiving
Adele Gumm fussed over the sash on her best dress and then mentally chastised herself for such foolishness. Who was going to care what an old maid wore to dinner, even if it was at the Doctor’s house. It wasn’t as if she had a proper mirror to check herself in. The square glass over the wash stand was just big enough and clear enough to look for stray chalk smudges and loose strands of hair.
She adjusted the sash again.
The pale pink silk had stood up well to years in a trunk. Nor had the rose satin sash lost any of its colour. Certainly, both still whiffed a bit of cedar and lavender, but it wasn’t an unpleasant smell. If she put a sprig of lavender in her hair...
She pushed the thought away. She was a school marm, not a debutante. Those days were decades behind her. This dress was one of the few relics of that time and she wouldn’t have pulled it out if Rebecca Pincus hadn’t insisted. She only hoped she didn't look like mutton dressed as lamb.
There was a business-like knock on the door.
“Sheriff Langtree! What in heavens?”
The sheriff was always neatly dressed but today he was in his best frock coat and wore an elaborately knotted black cravat.
He gave her a small bow. “The Doc and Mrs Pincus asked if I would drive you into town.”
This was utter foolishness. The school and Adele’s nearby cabin were, strictly speaking, outside Cherryville proper, on land granted primarily because it was mostly useless. Cherryville was quickly growing outward and the walk to the Doctor’s house wouldn’t have been more than a half a mile.
It was more foolish to argue.
“Very well,” said Adele. She reached for her cloak which, unlike her gown, was best described as serviceable. She draped her work-a-day cloak over one arm and looped the other through the sheriff’s. It was late November, which meant the heat of the Kansas summer had finally given way to comfortable temperatures. The night would be cool, hence the cloak, but for now Adele was quite comfortable as she was driven into town in the doctor’s surrey.
The first – and almost last time she wore the pink gown, she rode in a proper carriage. An aunt had invited her to Boston to meet society and find a husband. If she made a good match, her aunt would do the same for Adele’s younger sister Elizabeth. Instead, Adele found love and ran away with a junior officer. His commanding officer assured the young couple that he would give his permission for the wedding after the regiment sorted out some problems in Texas.
“You all right, Miss Gumm?”
“Just fine, Sheriff. Keep your eyes on the road.”
Everything hardship Adele endured grew out of that one impulsive decision to run away, including, she had to admit, the loss of her own niece who ran after that ne’er do well con artist Charlie Meese. That snake in the grass who fooled her, Adele Gumm, into thinking he’d be a fine match for young Marly.
“I said I’m fine, Sheriff Langtree.”
“We’re here, Miss Gumm.”
Adele took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Sheriff. My mind was elsewhere.”
“Would you like a moment to compose yourself?”
“Thank you, sir.”
Now Sheriff Langtree would have been a better match for Marly, if she had only seen it. A little old for her, perhaps, but he would have taken care of her and kept her close. Instead, her niece had taken up with a Texas Ranger. A southerner. Two strikes against him. Texas had taken away the love of her life and southern rebels had taken away her beloved sister.
She sighed. No. The war in Texas had taken Joseph away from her and while a reb had killed her sister, another had saved Marly. Further, she had no one to blame but herself that Marly then ran away from her home.
“I’m ready, Sheriff.”
Langtree whistled up one of the neighbourhood boys before swinging Adele lightly to the ground. He tossed the boy a nickle to take the horse and equipage to the livery, then offered his arm to the lady.
Rebecca met them at the door. “Adele, you look lovely!”
Adele gave a slight sniff to show that such things weren’t important to her, then unbent enough to murmur, “Always liked this dress.”
“Well, you look twenty years younger, doesn’t she, Seth?”
Doctor Pincus took Adele’s cloak and gave Adele an appraising once over. “Miss Gumm has always been a model of good health. Further I shall not say lest I make my wife jealous.”
Adele smiled at the jest. It was a Thanksgiving dinner, after all. She should enjoy herself and be thankful instead of dwelling on her losses.
When Joseph was killed, Elizabeth, who had no interest in a being a Boston debutante introduced Adele to the society of abolitionists, whose cause the two sisters took up. Together with Elizabeth’s new husband and newer baby girl, they emigrated to Kansas, determined to make the new territory free. Adele had been back east, raising funds and awareness for the cause when Elizabeth died, but she was reunited with her niece. That was something to be thankful for, as were the years of trouble and delight the headstrong girl brought her.
The chatter of voices in the parlour cut through Adele’s thoughts.
“How many people are here tonight? You should have let me bring something. I could have made my green bean casserole.”
Rebecca grinned. “After insisting on you put on your finery for the evening, I wasn’t about to ask for more. Come on, my dear. There are a people waiting to see you.”
Adele was used to being greeted by silence when she walked into the classroom. She had her students well trained. She didn’t usually have this effect elsewhere.
Parson Garfield was looking practically slack jawed. Since he was also chair of the School Board, Adele hoped she wasn’t in for a dressing down because she had dressed up.
Mrs Ripley was looking a bit sour. As the banker’s wife, she was used to wearing the finest dresses at any party. Her husband was looking at her with undisguised appreciation and that was more worrying.
There were two other people in the room. Adele pegged the tall, muscular young man as a lawman and wondered if he was a friend of the sheriff’s. The woman on his arm was simply, but elegantly dressed in an ivory gown almost as fine as her pink silk. Her auburn hair was pulled up into a Grecian knot with curling tendrils framing her very familiar face.
“Aunt Adele?” The young lady pressed her hands to her cheeks. “Wow!”
Adele laughed. That was her Marly. You could dress her up but...
That’s as far as Adele got in her thoughts. Marly was crushing her in a tight hug. Words like “Sorry” and “I’ve missed you” and “You wouldn’t believe” tumbled out of the girl’s mouth in a confusion until Adele held her at arm’s length.
“Look at you. A hero and a lady all at once.”
“And look at you, Aunt Adele. Jase isn’t going to believe you’re really my old aunt looking like that. You’re gorgeous!”
Introductions followed. The tall, handsome lawman wasn’t bad for a Texas. Jason Strachan was a good name. She had seen it in the telegram the sheriff sent back when he found Marly and was pleased that it was pronounced properly “Strawn”, not phonetically "Strack-ann".
“Now, Aunt Adele, don’t be angry,” Marly said, looking genuinely worried, “but Jase and I have already been married. He insisted. Said he had to make me respectable.”
Jase groaned and looked heavenwards.
“Good luck with that,” said Adele.
“That’s what I said too,” said Marly. “I’m sorry we couldn’t wait to marry, but we haven’t had our wedding supper yet. That’s tonight.” Marly turned to Parson Garfield. “We’re hoping you’ll do a blessing or something.”
Adele started to laugh. It wasn’t long before everyone – with the possible exception of Marly – joined in. Rebecca recovered first and ordered everyone into dining room.
“You can bless the bride and groom later,” she told the parson, who had managed to nab the seat next Adele’s. “First, let us give thanks.”