Caroline learns more about her daughter's heart.
* * *
Donald leaned back in his chair and stretched out his long legs. "Caroline, there's not a lot to it. Emma and Jacob showed up around ten this morning with a letter purporting to be from you giving them permission to get married. She told me you were moving the family to Lawrence and had gone on ahead. I knew you'd sold the farm, so it made sense."
Caroline rubbed her forehead. Donald Moore could orchestrate movements of runaway slaves up and down the Kansas border, but couldn't see through the lies of a sixteen-year old girl.
"Donald, didn't that seem a bit, um, strange to you?"
"I will admit that I was taken aback until Emma reminded me of my promise to her."
"What are you talking about?"
Donald's long face broke into a smile. "Do you remember her tenth birthday? The big party here at the house?"
Caroline refilled their tea. "I do. Those were good times. Long before the troubles started."
"Yes they were. Well, during the party I went upstairs and found Emma in the second floor dressing room. She had opened the trunk and wrapped herself in Lillian's bridal veil." He hesitated.
"I didn't know. I'm sorry she did that," said Caroline, patting his hand. Ever since Lillian had left her uncle standing at the altar almost twenty years ago, he'd kept her hope chest as a shrine.
"Oh no, it was a joy. Emma looked like a princess all wrapped up in Irish lace. It helped me. It truly did. I felt uplifted. I promised her that when she grew up and met her beloved she could wear that veil and I would marry them."
Another secret. Another thing I didn't know about my daughter.
Donald flipped through his ledger, turned it to her, and said, "She introduced me to her young man and asked me to keep both of my promises to her."
The last entry in the book read:
On this, the third day of August, the year of our Lord 1863, I, Donald Parker Moore, ordained by God and the laws of the State of Kansas joined in holy matrimony one Emma Lauren Cassett and one Jacob Martin Blaylock. Witnessed by Elspeth Johnson.
Caroline traced her fingertips over her daughter's perfect copperplate signature and the far less than perfect writing of Jacob Blaylock.
"They had all the paperwork in order and Emma had her permission letter signed by you. Caroline, are you telling me you didn't consent? I administered the marriage vows. By my hand they are married in the eyes of God which far supersedes any law of man. They left here carrying marriage lines signed by me in my position as an ordained minister of the church. If you didn't consent, there are problems."
The eyes of God.
She stood and used the excuse to shake out her skirts so she wouldn't have to meet his eyes.
My daughter is a married woman.
"Emma had my permission. I'm just disappointed that I missed them. I wanted to surprise her. Now I need to be going. She'll arrive at the house in Lawrence and I should be there. Be there for the party. Yes, the party."
Her words tumbled out, but Donald seemed not to notice. He closed the ledger.
"For that I am sorry. Had I known, I would have delayed the ceremony. I will tell you that she glowed like the sun with that veil over her hair. She had eyes for no one in the world except Jacob and I can say that same for him. I think the president could have dropped in and they wouldn't have known it. Elspeth insisted on making a wedding brunch before they left."
Caroline gathered her cloak and turned to the door.
"How long ago did they leave?"
"Maybe four hours."
About the time I was putting a shotgun in Creighton Blaylock's face.
"She was happy? Truly happy?"
"Yes, and so was her young man. So am I. I got to keep my promise to her."
Caroline studied his face, looking for any hint of pity or sarcasm. She saw none. For a moment she thought of telling him the true story and decided it would only hurt his feelings. He would find out the details eventually, but she didn't have the energy for it today.
"I need to go."
"I understand. I assume you are staying at your brother's house?"
Caroline hadn't thought of that.
"Yes. Until things settle out."
Until I finish tanning Emma's hide.
That thought made her smile and shake her head. She tried to remember being that deeply in love and couldn't. The years had worn her too far down. Donald draped her cloak over her shoulders and walked her to the front hall.
At the front door Elspeth came from the kitchen and said, "May I have a moment Miss Caroline?"
"If you ladies will excuse me, I need to work on my sermon." Donald kissed her cheek before he backed into his office and closed the door.
"More like he wants a little nip after dealing with all this woman-stuff. I do love that man, but what he doesn't know about females would fill every shelf in that library of his," said Elspeth.
Caroline couldn't help laughing. "Truer words were never spoken."
After a moment's awkward silence, Elspeth reached behind a door and pulled out a saddlebag.
"What's this?" said Caroline.
"I checked your horse and you hadn't packed. I figured you and that boy's father would want to head right on out, so I put together a few necessaries for you."
"You know the truth?"
Elspeth laughed. "Of course. Doing the special delivery business, I've seen every manner of forged document. That one wasn't very good. Only a man would be fooled."
"Then why did you sign as witness?" Caroline's anger started to rise.
"Calm down and let me explain. I did it because not only are those kids in love, but when they touched each other it was really easy to see it wasn't the first time, if you know what I mean. I figured they were better off married. You can't put sap back in the roots once it starts to rise. If Reverend Donald didn't marry them, I think they'd gone town to town until they found someone who would. I figured it was better if it was family."
The two women's eyes met and Caroline shook her head.
"Elspeth, were we ever that young?"
"I don't know about you Miss, but I still am. In here, where it counts," she said with a hand over her heart.
Caroline held out her hand for the saddlebag and welcomed the hug.
"Go find your daughter and make peace with her. Bad winds are blowing. We need to keep our loved ones close."
"Elspeth, can I ask you one thing? What is he like?"
"He's a good boy. Tall and strong, with smiles only for Emma. She looked so beautiful. I think this crazy scheme was her idea. He seems a much steadier sort, but I doubt he can deny her anything."
Caroline's eyes misted and she said, "Then Heaven help him, because he'll need it. Thank you."
To be continued . . .