Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Thursday, February 21, 2019

More Work to Share

I'm grateful to have this blog to self-promote. More photographs have been added to Fine Art America, and below are some screen shots of the latest ones. Higher resolution images can be seen on my website via Fine Art America at veronica-batterson.pixels.com.

My book, Williamsburg Hill, is doing well and it's receiving a lot of positive feedback. I appreciate it very much. If historical fiction/romance is your thing (with a dual timeline set in Chicago and in a long lost ghost town) then maybe you'd be interested in checking it out. Some people like that there's a Scottish character, too. (I've been told he sounds dreamy/sexy! I hope I can say that here.)

Williamsburg Hill can be found on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions, as can all of my other books. Select bookstores, specialty stores and libraries around the country have copies as well; any bookstore anywhere (independent or chain), especially if they support Indiebound, can order a copy of my book for you through the normal distributors they use to buy their inventory of books. Just ask them to do this for you if ordering from Amazon isn't your thing. If you enjoyed Williamsburg Hill, please leave a review, and shout-outs are always welcome. Thank you so much to those who have purchased copies and who have been kind in sharing. It means so much; it's not easy doing this alone. Also, many thanks to all of the bookstores who have helped me over the years.

Finally, my old website is under construction. It's dated and cranky, so the overhaul is needed. I'll continue to do updates here though. While I share all of my work on Facebook (and thanks to my Facebook friends for putting up with me when I do) as well as Twitter, I've recently joined the ranks of Instagram. I've no clue what I'm doing, and it's probably the least favorite social media tool I use. But a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, so if it sells a book, well...

Thank you, again, everyone.












Thursday, January 24, 2019

Life

A few weeks before Christmas, I started writing a short story called The House at the End of the Road.  Its prose was set to reflect the season, and I planned to post it here on Christmas Eve of 2018.  Well, eve, day and the rest of December came and went with the story remaining unfinished.  I then thought I could rework it, making it a new year/new resolutions type of story with the intent of posting mid-January.  Again, I’ve missed my self-imposed deadline.  It’s incomplete and I’m stuck.  If I could simply publish as one the number of short stories I’ve written, not finished, or ones which remain in first draft form, it would be one heaping anthology of work.  I could do the same with all of the rejection letters I’ve received over the years from literary agents, but I’d rather ignore that one. 
When I revisit the stories, I sometimes wonder what in the world I was thinking when that one was taking shape; at times I think “Hey, that’s pretty good,” while some make me laugh out loud because they are funny.  They really are.  Some make me cringe, and others are just awful and deserve to be burned.  I’ve written short stories about everything from guardian angels to community theatre, which by the way has far-surpassed the short story word count and has ventured into novella length.  I might have to rethink that one.
Now I’m in a funk and a fog.  I can’t complete one now for some reason, and I don’t think it’s writer’s block.  There has been no problem for me to work on a play that’s been hanging around in my head for a while.  The title of “Playwright” looms, so goals do give one motivation; too many irons in the fire hinder it, too.  My website is under construction, I’m in the post-publishing slog of promoting my current book, the next book is in the outlining process, I have many photographs that I’ve yet to edit, and I recently lost a dear, “old” friend of mine.
That last part has been the toughest, so finishing much hasn’t been easy.  Maybe my priorities and directions are changing, too.  I do have some work I haven’t shared here though.  Finished.  Complete.  Published.  Ready to be read by anyone and everyone.  So, January’s blog offers an excerpt of Williamsburg Hill. 
Two timelimes - Chicago, 2015 and Williamsburg Hill, 1880, tied together in one neat story. Excerpts of both are below.  Thanks to all who have already purchased, read, plan to read, shared on social media, offered feedback and given reviews of this book.  It is so appreciated.  I’ll add that if you’ve read a book that you truly enjoyed (by any author), give that person a shout-out.  If you liked it, share it.  If you’re so inclined, give it a review.  These are little things that matter more than you can imagine, and it costs nothing.  Writing is a solitary job, and when it takes years to complete one project, kind words matter a great deal.  It makes me feel as if all of the work meant something.
Finally, another year has passed and I’ve kept this blog going.  Seven years. Yay! Happy anniversary to me. 


Williamsburg Hill

By Veronica Randolph Batterson

           (©Veronica Randolph Batterson) 

Chapter One

Chicago, 2015

Rain pelted the storefront. The wind drove the water against the window in sheets, creating a blurred view of headlights, brake lights and traffic lights from inside.  A watery scene of red, green and yellow covered most of the glass.  If she squinted, she could make out a pedestrian or two rushing along the sidewalk, umbrellas whipped inside out and useless.  Rush hour, two hours after rush hour should’ve ended, made her happy to be inside and already at work.
“Beecham Antiques,” she answered the ringing telephone.
Another hang-up.  She glanced at the caller-id, which indicated a private caller.  It had been the third one that morning.  There was no choice but to answer the business line, but she never answered her own cell phone if the number was unknown.  If it were important, the caller would leave a message.
 A slow morning of senseless calls and only one customer allowed her to focus on new inventory.  She’d been the winning bidder of a few items and box lots at the auction on Saturday.  A more successful day than normal.  Too many individuals, guided by reality television, thought bargains were found at auctions.  However, most didn’t know the value of the items they were bidding on.  People would bid until they won, oftentimes overpaying and driving the price too high for business owners, such as herself, to resell.  The only winner in all of this was usually the auctioneer.  She’d had better luck lately at house and estate sales.
But Saturday’s event was different, probably due to low attendance caused by the weather.  It had been raining for days and showed no sign of ending anytime soon.  She had thanked the cloudy skies and downpour afterward.  Now to evaluate everything.
A Victorian era lamp that once held sconces for candles and was later wired for electrical use sat on her desk.  Its base comprised of a twelve-inch tall figure of a woman, in a long gown, supporting a metal staff that held four globes at the top.  Low wattage light bulbs were screwed into each and about forty crystals dangled from the entire lamp.   The wiring was faulty but an easy fix and overall the item was interesting and unusual.  She’d place it in the window once it was ready to resell.
A box lot of jewelry, mostly costume, which held rhinestones, cameos, pearls and crystals stared at her.  Necklaces mixed with bracelets and lever-backed earrings looked to be in excellent condition with no missing stones.  Some pieces were marked with the designer’s name.  A half dozen brooches, unlike the rest of the jewelry, were true antiques and not vintage; the hooks revealed the era to her.  Cleaning and pricing the inventory would take a few days, but she’d have most of it on display by the end of the week.
The rest of the items were comprised of framed paintings for the walls, a couple of marble-topped plant stands, two sets of Havilland china chocolate pots, damask napkins from the 1930s and a unique nineteenth century dressing table.   She thought the dressing table so beautiful that she was tempted to keep it for herself.
It was made of mahogany in the Sheraton style.  The bow-fronted piece sat atop four delicately carved spindle-like legs, with a center drawer flanked by two smaller drawers on each side.  Attached to the top of the table was a smaller set of drawers and compartments in various dimensions.  Triple mirrors, oval in shape, appeared to rest on top but were securely attached and part of the beautiful design.  The maker’s name, “Dunaway Carpentry, Established 1840, Williamsburg Hill, Illinois” was reflected underneath the item.
According to the auction listing, the dressing table had remained in the same family for generations and contained all original hardware.  It was in perfect condition and had never needed refinishing.  She couldn’t find much of a scratch anywhere and all legs were firmly attached, with each drawer sliding smoothly.  No cloudiness marked the mirrors.  The piece was sturdy and solid.
It sat in the corner of her office.  Most of the inventory that wasn’t yet for sale in the front of the shop was stored in an area off the back of the building.  When she had her van unloaded after the auction, she simply had the dressing table placed by her desk.  It seemed the natural place for it even though it meant stepping around and squeezing through an already cramped space.  Now the beautiful piece of furniture sat regally, tempting her to stare.
She wondered about the family who had owned the antique.  She knew Williamsburg Hill no longer existed, but in the nineteenth century it was a busy small town in the southern part of Illinois.  When railroad tracks were laid east of the village, the railroad eliminated the need for a stagecoach line and eventually ended the era of that means of transportation.  Residents of Williamsburg Hill moved to towns closer to the new railroad, ultimately turning the deserted area into a ghost town.  She’d done a little historical research after her auction win but had more questions that couldn’t be answered by a simple Internet search.  Were the first owners of her new dressing table originally from Williamsburg Hill?  And who were they?
The love of history and old things had always been an obsession of hers.  Learning from the past and appreciating what came before her time were ways of accepting and understanding the present.  She loved browsing antique stores and wondered about the people who had once owned the items for sale.  Those things mattered and were important to individuals and families at one time.  Living and breathing souls once held, observed, used and cherished every single piece of vintage or antique item sold.  It caused her to dream of the families gathered around that antique dining table over Thanksgiving dinners during the 1940s; she wondered about the families listening attentively to the old wooden radio, or “wireless” as it was called in Britain during the era of World War II.
Because of this fascination, it seemed the natural choice for her to open an antique store after her divorce.   Buying inventory nearly depleted her savings and storefront rent in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago wasn’t cheap.  But business had been steady and she’d learned to look beyond the traditional antique store.  She mixed vintage and antique, specializing in things that appealed to her.  Newly made items never made it into her store, and she’d learned that not only inventory but beautifully displayed inventory, enticed the customers.  If a shopper couldn’t look at an item due to clutter, it was likely that sale and customer were lost.
Changing displays often mattered, too, and unsold items never remained on the floor for longer than a few weeks.  She simply swapped them for items in storage, but sometimes reintroduced the former things months later.  And every piece of inventory was clearly priced and marked.  Her store was comfortable and welcoming; most of her clientele were repeat customers who didn’t feel the need to haggle over prices.  She appreciated this.  While she didn’t always object to lowering a price if she were asked, it was something she didn’t like doing as she felt her items were always fairly marked.
Nearly a year had passed since her divorce.  It ended quickly and somewhat amicably, even though it had taken years for her to get the courage to go through with it.  A miscarriage, arguments, mistrust, affairs, and inferiority described her existence during her marriage.  All were words that pretty much summed up life with her ex-husband.  There were too many years in that marriage, with most of it being the unhappiest times of her life.  Ironically, it had taken the simple words of a stranger to open her eyes and provide the courage she needed to leave.
It had been at yet another event.  The endless fundraising requirements and dinners she had to attend and endure as the wife of a board member, committee chair or someone’s guest of honor.  While her ex-husband served a role of importance in these circles, she had not.  And she never felt more out of place than during these times. 
“Why can’t you just talk to people?” her husband had complained.
Talking to people wasn’t the problem for her.  Making unnecessary small talk was.  She wasn’t outgoing and found it difficult to approach strangers.  It wasn’t a character flaw; it was just how she was.  Her husband saw it differently.  An extrovert who commanded attention as soon as he entered a room, he didn’t understand anything else.  Nor did he accept it.  He was always belittling her as to how she should be, coaching and comparing her to so and so. 
And the comparisons were always with other women, most of them looking for favors from him or for the shallow thrill of simply being associated with him.  Most didn’t care that he was married; she’d lost track of how often women had pushed her out of the way, handing her their drink to hold while they could be photographed with her husband.  She also knew the interest extended after hours and out of her sight.  The whispered joke had been that he couldn’t keep his ego inside of his pants.   And she’d endured his unfaithfulness, and the humiliation and pity of others.  It made her feel ashamed.
The cocktail hour had been as usual that night.  Holding her glass of white wine, smile plastered on her face and standing dutifully by her husband’s side, she watched as the readily available women approached.  She nearly made it through the hour until one of them squeezed in close to her husband, bumping her arm in the process.  She was given the woman’s back and a partially wet dress, as the woman made her spill part of her wine in the process.  The reason why she’d given up red wine at those events, she remembered.  Her husband’s hand brushing the woman’s hip didn’t escape her notice either.
An excuse to vanish for a few minutes, she grabbed a napkin and went to the lobby.  She didn’t hear the stranger approach; dabbing at the wet spill had taken all of her attention.
“You should have dumped the rest of it over her head,” came the man’s voice.
“Excuse me?” she asked, turning to see who was talking to her.
“The wine.  I saw what happened.  It would’ve served her right,” he said.
“Believe me, I’ve wanted to. Many times,” she smiled.
“Then why haven’t ye?” he asked.  
By the accent, she guessed he was from Scotland and wondered if he interchanged “ye” for “you” often, or just for her benefit at that moment.  Either way, she kind of liked it.
“Because it would do nothing but get me into trouble,” she replied.
“Where I’m from, those kind of things start brawls.  Why if one lass did that to another lass, you’d have a whole room of lasses fighting.  Never mind a glass of wine, they’d be grabbing bottles of the stuff, which would’ve been cracked over the skull of that man of yours by the way.  He wouldn’t have come out looking too pretty,” he said.  His eyes seemed to dance, challenging her to believe him.
“Where you’re from sounds like my kind of place,” she laughed.  “If I did that here, I’d probably get arrested.  Then highly chastised.  Possibly committed.  Pitied some more.  I’d only be hurting myself.”
“Seems to me you need to live a little,” he teased.
“By starting a brawl?” she asked.
“Nah, but if ye do, I’ll deny any part of it,” he laughed.
She laughed, too, and it felt good.  Simply standing there flirting with a strange man felt good.  Was she flirting?  And how easy it had been to talk to him, something she usually felt as stifling and difficult.  She was at ease and enjoying the moment.
“I think you’re making it worse,” he nodded toward the spot on her dress.
Following his gaze, she saw her dress was covered in lint from the white napkin, the spot still faint. 
“Here, take this. It’ll help some,” he said, reaching in his pocket.  He handed her a silk handkerchief.
“Thank you,” she replied. 
“Damn napkins.  Who needs them?” he smiled.
“Don’t tell me where you’re from you don’t use them,” she teased.
“We just use the back of our hand.  And if we’ve eaten something real messy, then we start at the elbow crease and make one long forearm swipe across our mouths.  Usually does the job,” he joked.
She laughed again.  He was funny and she was enjoying herself.
“You should do that more often,” he said.
“What?” she asked.
“Laugh.  Smile even.  It’s obvious you don’t,” he said quietly.
“How is it obvious?  We’ve only just met.  I don’t even know your name,” she replied.  Surprised that even a stranger could read her so well.
“Because your eyes say so,” he answered.  “It’s true what they say about eyes being the window to a person’s soul.  Your eyes tell me they need to laugh a wee bit more.”
His words hurt and touched her deeply.  How transparent was she?  Yet, people she knew closely and saw everyday never said such things to her.  If they saw through the charade, they never let on.  She had felt lifeless for a long time and didn’t think anyone cared.  The stranger had surprised her with kindness and she didn’t know how to respond.
“I’d offer ye another, but I only have the one on me,” he said.
“You’ve left me a little speechless, so I’m not following,” she mumbled.
“The handkerchief.  It does wonders for tears, too,” he replied.
She nodded, using the handkerchief he’d given her to wipe her face.  Closing her eyes, she felt embarrassed that her emotions had gotten the better of her.  It wasn’t until her breathing became steady and the tears finally stopped that she could look at him.
“Thank you,” she said.
“I’ve never been thanked for making a lass cry.  I’ve been yelled at and had to dodge some things thrown my way, but never thanked,” he teased.
She laughed again. “I guess there’s a first for everything,” she said.
“Aye, there is,” he began. 
“There you are!  The car is ready,” a man’s voice interrupted.  He was addressing the stranger standing before her. 
“Be right there,” the stranger replied.  He turned to face her.
“Well, my chariot awaits and I mustn’t miss my flight,” he said.
“Enjoy your trip, and again, thank you,” she replied.
“Tell me why you’re thanking me,” he said.
“For opening my eyes,” she answered.
“Well, then.  You’re welcome,” he began, “and it’s Robert, by the way.”
“Safe travels, Robert,” came her reply, “and I’m Rose, by the way.”
“Laugh, Rose,” he smiled. 
He touched her arm then he was gone.  Several minutes passed as she stood watching the door he’d exited.  In her hands, she still held his handkerchief.  Feeling the soft silk through her fingers gave her courage as she immediately left the party.  Without saying goodbye, she hurried outside, afraid that talking to anyone would make her change her mind.  Hailing a cab, she went home and packed her bags...

 Chapter Two

Williamsburg Hill, Illinois, 1880

She was exhausted.  The trip from St. Louis had been long and hot.  There was little air in the close quarters of the stagecoach and Evelyn had shared the small space with three other passengers.  They had stopped the previous night for lodgings at an inn that offered little more than stale bread, runny stew, warm ale and a thin mattress.  She had welcomed the opportunity, however, to stretch her legs and breathe fresh air, regardless of the less than perfect accommodations.
Her room had been a private one, often a scarce luxury as most guests are forced to share rooms with strangers.  She was grateful for that at least.  Breakfast hadn’t been much better than supper, consisting of only porridge and strong coffee; she looked forward to finally reaching her destination at the end of the day.
The town of Williamsburg in Illinois was where her father’s sister Grace had settled in the 1850s.  Her husband and Evelyn’s uncle, Tom Middleton, had passed away just last year.  When her aunt’s letter arrived six weeks ago begging Evelyn to visit, she felt the timing could not have been better.  It was a chance to leave a past behind her; one she hoped did not resurface and find her.
She had been raised an only child by kind and loving parents with more than modest means.  Her father, Victor, widowed now for over ten years, was a reputable tailor, owning his own shop in St. Louis.  When her mother Annabelle died, he took to his work even more, retreating physically and emotionally, leaving Evelyn to work in the store, and pick up neglected housekeeping duties while mourning the loss herself.  The decade had quickly passed, her father the eventual recipient of a small piece of land from a grateful client, and she still caring for him and tending his house.
At thirty years of age, Evelyn was considered a spinster.  She considered herself lucky.  She had escaped being forced to marry a ruthless and cutthroat land developer with the help of her poor father, who would not sell that inherited acreage to him.  The man appealed to her father’s favor, proclaiming love for her in hopes of acquiring the land through marriage, but her father had seen through the charade.  Furious, the developer turned to threats against her family if Evelyn did not marry him.  It had taken her father involving the sheriff and about a dozen vigilante types to run the man out of town.  The last she had heard about him indicated he was on his way to New York.  Something told her she might not have heard the last of the scoundrel.
The team of horses pulling the conveyance came to an abrupt stop, bringing her attention back to the present, and the shotgun messenger riding on back jumped down.  Laughter followed. 
“Good way to get yerself kilt,” he yelled.
Evelyn could see nothing from the small window to her side but could hear muffled conversation.  The voices of the shotgun messenger and driver she recognized, but there were at least two other men she heard.  They must have been the reason the stagecoach had stopped.  She suddenly remembered the tales of bandits and outlaws plaguing stagecoach passengers throughout the years; the victims had been robbed or assaulted, some kidnapped or even murdered.  Years ago the horrors that were told involved Indians when people ventured west.  Evelyn could see the fear in the faces of her fellow travelers.
“Holy Mother of God,” the woman mumbled, crossing herself.
“What is it, Mama?” her daughter asked.  Evelyn thought the child to be about eight or nine.
“I am sure it is nothing at all,” replied the gentleman traveling with them.  His demeanor said otherwise, as he craned his neck to see out the window, rubbing his hands nervously over the tops of his thighs.
One of the unfamiliar voices rode into view.  He sat astride a piebald horse, with the mane and tail mixtures of the black and white that covered its body.  Evelyn thought the rider looked as magnificent as his horse.  The man sat tall in the saddle, his clothing was conventional; he wore chaps over his trousers and a wide-brimmed hat pulled low over his forehead.  His range vest was partially unbuttoned, as was the shirt underneath; Evelyn assumed it was due to the heat.  She knew she should avert her eyes, but could not. 
Less conventional was the saddle blanket.  The bright reds and blues were woven with black and white, forming a jagged pattern across the horse’s back.  The colors were a stark contrast to the rest of the hues she saw.  Then the man tilted his head and she noticed a flash of silver at his left earlobe.  So startled was she to see a man wearing an earring that Evelyn did not hear the other stranger approach the stagecoach.
“Sorry for the delay, folks,” the second man said, as he opened the door to the conveyance.  “My partner and I will be escorting you the rest of the way.”
Evelyn and her companions jumped in surprise and she thought the woman across from her might scream.  Her face had gone from red to white in a matter of seconds and she held a fist at her mouth.  If nothing else, the woman would either faint or get sick.  When they turned to face the new man and saw he was wearing a sheriff’s badge, a little of the fear subsided but the anxiety had not.  Evelyn knew they must get the woman out of the stagecoach so she could catch her breath.
“Sir, my companion appears ill.  Could we step out for a moment of fresh air?” Evelyn asked the man.
He looked around warily then nodded.  “Have to be quick.  It’s not safe to dawdle.”
They exited the coach and Evelyn watched the trio of passengers wander together, finding the nearest tree’s shade.  The woman appeared to look better as the man and child fussed over her.  Evelyn walked around the stagecoach to stretch her legs some; her back was stiff and she was thirsty.  She wiped at the sweat gathering at her neck and wished for a nicer breeze.  While it was better than inside the compartment, the air was still a little thick and she wondered if it would rain.  A storm might cool things down.  She hoped.
Evelyn saw the driver and shotgun messenger talking with the sheriff.  There was an air of alertness from all three, but they were making light-hearted conversation.  She heard the sheriff laugh at something the driver said.
“Have some,” the man’s voice said behind her.
Startled, she turned to see the man she had observed earlier handing her his canteen.  He was still on his horse as he looked down at her, and she wondered at how quiet both had been.  She hadn’t heard them approach. 
“You are thirsty.  It is water,” he said.
Evelyn nodded and took the canteen.  At first she sipped, but the water tasted so good that she found herself gulping.  She hadn’t realized just how thirsty she was.
“Not so fast,” the man smiled.  “You don’t want to get sick, too.”
Embarrassed, she stopped and wiped her mouth, handing the canteen back to the man.  “Thank you,” she said.
“You are going to stay in Williamsburg?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied. 
He nodded.  “It’s getting late.  We should move along if we’re to make it into town before sunset.”
“Why are you escorting us?” she asked.
“A rumor of some outlaws back in the area.  They tend to target stagecoach passengers,” he said as he tipped his hat to her and rode over to the others.
She watched as he and the other men rounded up her fellow passengers and urged them into the conveyance once again.  Just before the team of horses was urged on, she watched him from the window.  He looked at her briefly then took off ahead of the stagecoach, riding ahead of them for their protection.
Evelyn wondered about the strange man and his kindness.  He had not worn a badge of identification, as the other man had, so she wasn’t sure of his role or place.  The glare of the sun and the brim of his hat had concealed his features but his smile had been evident, revealing strong teeth in a tanned face.  The exchange had been so quick that she hadn’t noticed the earring or anything else; his presence was all she’d been aware of. 
The afternoon wore on and she found herself being lulled to sleep.  Her fellow travelers were already napping, the man with his mouth open and head thrown back, the woman’s eyes twitching revealing vivid dreams and the child asleep upon her lap.  She caught rumbles of thunder in the distance, far enough away to hope their journey would end before the storms began.  She dreamed of her father and the new town she’d call home, at least temporarily; the stranger filled her dreams, as well, his face shadowed but his voice kind.
She awoke to a tugging at her skirt.  “Miss. Miss, we’re here,” the child said.  Evelyn opened her eyes to the girl’s face staring at her with concern.  The man was checking his pocket watch and the woman adjusting strands of her hair that had loosened from underneath the hat she wore.  The driver opened the door of the compartment and Evelyn was the first to exit. 
The station house was small and busy.  People were milling about waiting for parcels or letters that might have been transported with the stagecoach she’d traveled on; some were hoping to send packages with the next coach out the following day.  A couple of older men, who looked to be there just to grab some gossip, cornered the shotgun messenger and all three stood around talking and laughing. 
Once her luggage had been unloaded, along with all of the other parcels, the driver moved the coach to the carriage house in the rear, where the team of horses would be groomed, watered and fed.  The trio she’d traveled with had already met their family and moved on.  She wondered where her aunt was and why she hadn’t been there waiting.  Her stomach grumbled in hunger and all she wanted was food and a change of clothing.
“Dearest, I do apologize,” came her aunt’s voice.  “I invite you all this way and leave you waiting.  Please forgive me.”
“Of course,” she replied, receiving her aunt’s kisses. 
The woman was thinner than Evelyn remembered; she looked frail and carried an air of sadness in her mourning black clothing.  Her uncle’s death had taken her aunt by surprise and it hit her hard; she wore it for all to see.  Evelyn suddenly felt protective of the woman and a little guilty.  It had been years since she’d seen her relative in St. Louis.
As they made their way to her aunt’s waiting carriage, thunder rumbled a little louder.  She hoped Aunt Grace’s home wasn’t too far.  Then Evelyn noticed the stranger that had offered her water.  When he saw them, he rushed to help with Evelyn’s luggage and ask after her aunt.
“How have you been, Mrs. Middleton?” he asked.
“Frederic, you’re a dear.  I’m doing well, but I just get tired too easily these days,” her aunt replied.
“The heat does that to most of us,” he sympathized.
“It certainly does,” her aunt started, “Well, we must beat this storm. Will you come to supper tomorrow evening? I’ve invited a few people to meet my niece, Evelyn, here.  It would be nice if you’d come, too.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Frederic replied.
“Good. About six,” she said.
Evelyn watched the man as they drove away; he watched them, and her aunt missed none of it.  If Evelyn hadn’t known better, she might have suspected a sudden spark to her Aunt Grace’s demeanor and Evelyn couldn’t resist asking.
“Who is that man, Aunt Grace?”
“You mean Frederic Dunaway? My manners are horrible and I should have introduced you.  One of the nicest people here in Williamsburg, he is,” her aunt replied.
“Is he a lawman?  He and the sheriff accompanied our coach into town a few miles out,” Evelyn explained.
“Heavens, no.  But he is the best scout and shot this side of the Mississippi.  More than likely that’s why he was helping the sheriff.  Some no-good thieves have been seen back in the area.  Stirring up nothing but trouble and fear,” her aunt said, with a wave of her hand.
They reached her aunt’s house with little time to spare.  Just as the driver got the horses to the barn and they were safely inside, the skies darkened and opened.  Rain fell in a quick, steady downpour, suggesting it was a passing storm but one that would cool the evening’s temperatures.   
Her aunt’s home was comfortable and hinted of a family that had done well in life.  Oil lamps and candles had been lit, welcoming them inside; beautiful furniture in rich upholstery and dark wood filled the parlor and Evelyn guessed the rest of the house, as well.  Drapes of lavish fabric framed the front windows and thick rugs covered the hardwood floor.  Framed portraits and landscapes adorned the walls and some of the artwork appeared familiar.  Her Uncle Tom had been a prolific painter; she recognized a very young and beautiful Aunt Grace in one over the mantel.
“Oh, so long ago,” her aunt mused, as she saw Evelyn staring at the painting.  “I never saw myself looking like that, but Tom did. He made me feel beautiful every day of my life.”
“I know you miss him, Aunt,” Evelyn said.
“More so each day,” came the reply.  “Well, I’m certain you would like to freshen up.  I’ll show you to your room and have some tea sent up, maybe a little something else to tide you over before supper.”
“That would be wonderful,” she answered.
Her room was one of four bedrooms on the second level and farthest from the front of the house.  Its walls were painted pale blue and a thick rug of delicate blue, yellow and pink flowers covered the floor.  A four-poster bed, draped in a woven white bedspread stood against one wall and a small hearth was opposite.  A tall mahogany wardrobe graced one corner of the room, with the remainder of the furniture being a desk, nightstand and an oversized chair in light brown fabric.  The windows faced the back of the property.  In the twilight and rain it was difficult to see, but Evelyn suspected the view would include the pastures and barn.  In the distance, it appeared an adjacent property and house could be seen, but she wasn’t certain...

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