A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee
A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee
Was she his reward or bequest? She didn’t see herself as either.
Heaven Wharton has little left but her pride and a little sister who needs her. Struggling to keep them both fed she prays to hear from her father before they starve, but the answer comes in an unexpected way.
Dr. Travis Logan was finished with medicine and the war—both required fighting and he was through. The unexpected little patch of heaven given to him would be the perfect escape.
A dying promise puts Travis and Heaven in a situation neither saw coming. As they both struggle to control their destiny in a country torn apart by the Civil War, will they finally realize only a heart that follows God can find true peace and happiness?
You’ll love this whimsical happy-ever-after story with its determined young heroine and touches of lighthearted humor. A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee is a heartwarming Christian historical romance set at the end of the American Civil War by best-selling author Diana Lesire Brandmeyer.
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TRAVIS LOGAN LEANED over the deck railing and watched the river swirl and froth as the steamboat shoved its way through the muddy Mississippi. An older gentleman stood next to him. Travis hadn’t seen him on board before. “Nice out here on the water.”
“Better than down below.” The man swayed.
“Are you feeling okay, sir?” Travis reached over and steadied him while he grasped the railing.
“Must be the motion. It’s the first trip I’ve taken on a big ship.” The man’s knuckles were white.
The man did look a bit green. Some people couldn’t handle the rhythm of the ship. “The fresh air should help.” Travis relaxed. Other than suggesting a piece of ginger to settle the man’s stomach, there was little he could do for seasickness as a doctor. And he’d left that life behind. Now a horse claimed his thoughts and his future. He walked a few paces away and then stopped. He should offer the man some assistance, maybe collect a family member? He turned back to ask, “Can I get someone for you?”
The man released the rail and dropped to the steamboat deck with a thud. Travis’s physician training kicked his future out of the way. He automatically knelt and felt for a pulse. It was there. Weak, but there.
“Sir, can you hear me?”
No response came from the man. Sweat beads swelled on his forehead and dripped down his neck. Either the man had been overcome with heatstroke, or worse, had some kind of fever. Pricks of fear stabbed Travis’s neck. He’d been at the bedside of too many men who had succumbed to a fever during the War Between the States. And he couldn’t prevent their deaths.
Feet shuffled around him as a small crowd of passengers gathered in a half circle to gawk and whisper.
“Someone run after the ship’s doctor.” He didn’t mind giving that order. It would be best for the man and Travis.
“Doctor got off at the last stop in Cairo, Illinois. We’re picking up the new one in St. Louis,” a deckhand pushing a mop called out.
Travis’s jaw tightened. “Anyone know this man’s name? Where his cabin is?” He searched faces for some indication of recognition and saw none.
There were mumbles as the man’s identity was discussed, but no clear response came other than he’d been seen boarding the ship in Memphis alone.
A flock of seagulls squawked as they flew overhead, casting shadows that flittered across the unconscious man’s face.
“Is there an infirmary at least? Perhaps the captain can look in on him.” Travis didn’t want to announce he was a doctor. If he did, he’d likely be pressed into service until St. Louis.
“There’s a room the old doc used a few floors below deck.”
“Let’s take him there then. I’ll help you get him there.” He hoped the captain would take charge of the patient, leaving Travis to go back to planning his life as a horse breeder.
The deckhand propped his mop between a brass spittoon and the rail. The wooden handle clunked against the brass.
Travis draped the older man’s arm around his shoulder and waited for the deckhand to do the same. Then they lifted him.
“Where are we going?” The man rallied for a moment. “I don’t feel so good.”
“We’re taking you to the infirmary, sir. What’s your name?” Travis hoped for details, but none came.
After a while, the man woke. During his short lucid periods, Travis learned his name was Caleb Wharton from Friendship, Tennessee. More importantly, before dying, Caleb Wharton had given Travis the deed to his land and offered him heaven.
WITH A SHORT PIECE OF CINDER, eighteen-year-old Heaven Wharton scratched another vertical line between the logs across the rough chinking. According to the marks, Pa had been gone now for almost ninety days. She set the cinder on the protruding edge of the log just over the marks and out of reach of her little sister, Angel’s, hands.
“Angel, it’s time to get up.” Quiet from her parents’ bedroom seeped into the kitchen.
Gathering the hem of her work apron, she wiped the cinder from her fingertips. She let the smudged fabric fall and settle against her black skirt. She hadn’t heard from Pa since he left. Their supplies were running low, and it was four weeks until Christmas. If he didn’t send for them soon, she’d have to go into town. She hated going there without Pa. She didn’t have his friendly way about her when it came to Angel. He could make a stranger change his tune about treating Angel like a broken doll. And the stranger would be friends with Pa before he moved on. Heaven just got mad, and angry words sparked from her tongue in defense of her sister. No, she didn’t look forward to going into town without Pa.
Soft footsteps shuffled behind her. Her face tightened. This wasn’t the life she’d been brought up to live. “Go back and put on your shoes, please.” Her sister’s stockings would be filthy.
“‘I’m sorry. I forgot.” Footsteps thudded against the plank floor as Angel went back for her shoes.
Heaven’s fingers gripped into fists. That was Angel’s last clean pair. They’d have to wash this morning, even though it wasn’t wash day, so she would have dry ones by tonight.
Angel returned with her feet covered. “Do you think we’ll hear from Pa today?” Her eleven-year-old sister had asked that question every day since their father had left.
“I hope so, Angel. We’ll keep praying for him, just like we do every night before bedtime.” Pa had left them behind in Tennessee and gone to look for work at the new Union Stock Yard and Transit Company in Chicago. He promised to send money so they could join him. So far he hadn’t even sent a letter.
“I wish Ma were still alive. Then we wouldn’t be by ourselves.” Angel’s blond curls were a tangled mess, and her unfocused blue eyes still held the sleepy morning look.
Heaven stooped and gathered the small girl into her arms, attempting to hug her own sadness away with Angel’s. “Me, too. But she’s not, so we’re going to be strong, right? The Wharton women are capable, that’s what Pa says, and that’s what we are—Wharton women.” Heaven wished for the same confidence she’d used in her tone. Instead, her stomach looped into a knot and pulled tight. If Pa didn’t come home soon, she wasn’t quite sure what she would do.
Thankfully, it wasn’t spring, so she didn’t have to worry about plowing, and her great-uncle seemed to have had an affinity for green beans. There had to be a hundred jars of them in the cellar, but without Pa around, they hadn’t been able to get fresh meat. She’d tried shooting rabbits, but she always missed. There were a few pieces of smoked beef and ham in the spring cellar that would take them through another month. After that, Heaven realized she’d have to leave Angel in the cabin while she went out to hunt something bigger and slower.
And what will I do when I kill it?
Her parents had sold their beautiful home and moved into this little two-room cabin in Friendship because Pa had been fearful the battle might reach Nashville. At least that was the story they told their daughters, but Heaven found out it was because her pa had lost the house in a game of cards. Turned out moving from Nashville kept them from being killed in the war. And Heaven and Angel were safe, but not her mother. Her parents should have taken the offer of Heaven’s friend, Annabelle. Annabelle’s father offered to let them live in their carriage house. Her father was too proud to do that, Ma said. At least there Heaven knew what to do and suspected she would still have her ma.
Now Heaven had been left in charge without the knowledge she needed to run a home without help. They had been to the only church in town a few times, not often enough to make any friends, at least not any close friends like she had in Nashville. In Nashville, they had floors that gleamed from wax. Here the floor was made of rough wood planks, and crawling creatures had made their way into the cabin all summer. Now that it was cold, it was the mice they had to worry about.
In Nashville, before the war, she only had to worry about small things. Would she be able to get to the Sunday social if it rained? Would Jake like her new hair ribbon?
At the thought of Jake, molasses-thick sadness filled her soul. Things would have been different if he’d returned from the war. But that was before. She had to remember that life was over because of that awful war, and she had to set it behind her.