Joy for Mourningñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
PRAISE FOR DOROTHY CLARK AND HER NOVELS
“A dynamic story of two lonely people in a desperate search for love…riveting and fast-paced…a fabulous story. Top Pick. 4? stars.”
–Romantic Times on Beauty for Ashes
“In Hosea’s Bride, Dorothy Clark skillfully lends a modern twist to the Biblical story of Hosea. A powerful faith message is deftly interwoven with a wrenching tale of a woman who doesn’t believe she is worthy of love. Top Pick. 4? stars.”
“Dorothy Clark has woven a beautiful, compelling story of God’s mercy and healing.”
–ChristianBookPreviews.com on Hosea’s Bride
“This debut novel…is one that will keep you turning page after page until you all-too-soon reach the end. The forgiveness and love [the heroine] finds when she becomes a Christian is truly inspiring.”
–RomanceJunkies.com on Hosea’s Bride
Joy for Mourning
This book is dedicated with deep appreciation to my talented writing friends and critique partners, Debby Dill and Nancy Toback, who have been with me from the beginning on this book.
Thanks for your unfailing graciousness and encouragement. You two are the best!
New York, 1822
She couldn’t stand it! Not for another minute! She had to go someplace where there were people, laughter, life. Laina Brighton swept her gaze around her beautiful, richly furnished drawing room, and the despair she now lived with on a daily basis gripped her anew. It was so elegant, so perfect, so empty. She missed Stanford. Oh, how she missed him! If only they could have had children, perhaps—
Laina wrenched her mind from her heartrending thoughts, blinked away the tears that sprang so readily to her eyes these days and walked swiftly to the doorway. Her reflection flashed in the gilt-framed mirror as she hurried past. Her steps faltered. She turned and went back to stare into the mirror. The sorrow was still there, but so was a look of determination she hadn’t seen on her face since Stanford had died so unexpectedly nine months ago. She whirled and yanked open the door.
The impeccably garbed butler materialized as if from thin air.
And that was another thing—the servants hovered. They were so solicitous it was smothering her!
“I’m going to Philadelphia, Beaumont.” She ignored the quickly stifled look of shocked disapproval in his eyes—Beaumont was a stickler for convention. “Tell Carlson to prepare the carriage immediately. I wish to leave within the hour.”
“Within the hour? But madam, that’s imposs—” He stopped short as Laina stiffened her spine. He gave her a small bow. “Yes, madam—within the hour. Will there be anything else?”
“Yes. Send Tilly to my room to help Annette with the packing.” With a swish of her long black skirts, Laina spun about and headed for the ornately carved stairway that spiraled upward to the third floor. She glanced back over her shoulder at her butler as she began to climb. “And tell Hannah to prepare a food basket—enough for two days. And—” She cleared the sudden thickness from her throat. “And send Billy ahead to arrange for a change of horses. I’m not stopping until I reach Randolph Court!”
“Laina! What a wonderful surprise. I’m so pleased you—” Elizabeth gasped and stopped her headlong rush into the drawing room.
“Do I look that disreputable?” Laina forced a smile and rose to her feet. The room spun. She put her hand on the arm of the chair to steady herself.
“Laina, dear, what’s wrong?” Her sister-in-law rushed forward and clasped her arms around her. “You’re so pale—and trembling enough to shake apart. Are you ill?”
“No. I’m simply incredibly weary.” Laina bit down on her lip to stop the laughter that was pushing upward in her throat. She must be hysterical. There was certainly nothing amusing– Bother! She blinked the sudden film of moisture from her eyes and stepped back from Elizabeth’s arms. It was too easy to give in to self-pity when others were sympathetic. “I came from home without stopping.”
“Without stopping? Are you mad?”
Laina jerked at the roar of words from the doorway. “No, dearheart—only desperate.” Her lower lip quivered as she watched her younger brother hurry across the room toward her. The tears she’d been fighting welled into her eyes as his strong arms pulled her into a bone-crushing hug. Oh, how wonderful it felt to be held again! She rested her head against his hard chest. “Don’t scold, Justin. I simply could not stay in that dreary, lonely house any longer. I had to come.”
“I’m not scolding you for coming, Laina. Only for doing so in such a foolhardy manner.” Justin slid his hands to the top of her arms and held her a short distance away, frowning down at her. “Why didn’t you send word? I would have come for you. There was no need for you to make the journey alone, without care or rest. Look at you! You’re all but done in from fatigue.”
“I know.” Laina lifted her watery gaze to her brother’s handsome, scowling face. “I know it was foolish of me, Justin, but it would have meant days of waiting if– Oh!” She began to sway as the full force of her exhaustion swept over her. “I think I’d better sit down.”
“You don’t need to sit down, Laina. You need to sleep. Bring her along, Justin.” Elizabeth spun about and started across the room.
Laina was too weary to protest as her brother scooped her into his arms and followed.
“I don’t believe we need send for Dr. Allen, Justin. Laina isn’t fevered.” Elizabeth glanced up at her worried husband. “I think sleep is the only medicine she needs.”
Laina sagged with relief as Elizabeth lifted her hand from her forehead, then gathered the last of her strength and pushed herself into a sitting position against the headboard. The bed felt too good after her long journey. She fought the desire to close her eyes, and smiled at Justin. “Elizabeth is right, dearheart. Please don’t make a fuss. All I need is sleep.”
“And food.” Justin scowled down at her. “Haven’t you been eating? Look at yourself, Laina—you’re thin as a stick!”
Her heart warmed at sight of the worried frown lines creasing her brother’s forehead. “You’re such a loving, caring man, Justin.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “Even if not a very complimentary one.” She shifted her gaze to Elizabeth and forced a tired smile. “How could you ever have thought him cold and aloof?”
Elizabeth laughed. “Because he acted that way. How was I to know it was all a sham?” She stepped to her husband’s side and rested her hand on his arm. “Laina will be fine, Justin, but we need to get the travel dust off her so she can go to bed. And that means you need to go downstairs. I’ll join you as soon as Trudy and I have made her comfortable for the night.”
Justin shifted his gaze to his wife, and Laina’s chest tightened. Stanford had admired her, but he’d never looked at her the way Justin was looking at Elizabeth—especially after she’d failed to produce an heir for him. And now—
Laina broke off the depressing thought and watched as her brother cupped his wife’s face in his hands, kissed her soundly, then lifted his head and grinned. “There! Now I’ve finally satisfied a desire I’ve had since the first night we spent together in this room—at least in part.”
“Justin!” Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed. “Your sister—”
“Knows I love you. Look, I’ve made her smile.” Justin chuckled and kissed the tip of Elizabeth’s finely formed nose. “I like it when you blush.”
Laina sighed. She couldn’t help it. Justin and Elizabeth were so much in love, so happy together. Justin glanced at her over his wife’s soft golden curls. “I wish there was something we could do to ease your sorrow, Lainy.”
“There is. We can let her know how much we love her.” Elizabeth lifted her head and smiled. “We can share our happiness with her and we can pray for her, because the rest—the easing of her grief and the healing of her sorrow—is in God’s hands.”
The words were meant as comfort, but they only made her feel worse. Laina clamped her jaw together to hold back the bitter retort that sprang to her lips. She had never been on close terms with God the way Elizabeth was, and since Stanford’s death she ignored Him completely. Why not? What had God ever done for her? She was barren in spite of years of prayers, and now she was widowed and without hope of ever having a child. She looked away lest they read her anger on her face.
“You speak truth. You’re a very wise woman, Elizabeth.”
Laina stiffened and snapped her gaze back to her brother. Surely he didn’t believe in God again? What had happened to the disbelief and bitterness he’d felt after his disastrous marriage to Margaret?
“Thank you, sir. But I am also a busy one. Now go!” Elizabeth pushed against Justin’s chest. He grinned and tightened his grip.
The door opened.
“Oh! Excuse me, mum! I didn’t…I mean…you rang and… I’ll come back.”
Laina glanced at the awkward, blushing maid tripping all over herself as she hurriedly backed out the door, and her anger dissolved. She burst into laughter at the comical sight. It felt wonderful to laugh again.
Justin winked at her, then motioned to the maid. “Come in, Trudy. I was only saying goodbye. I have been ordered from the room.” He gave a mock scowl and leaned down to Elizabeth’s ear. “Sometimes servants are most inconvenient!” His whisper was loud enough for all to hear.
Laina whisked back in time to when she and Justin were small. They were in the kitchen watching the cook baking and Justin leaned over and whispered, “The smell’s making my tummy hurt. I wish we could have a biscuit.” His wish was granted. Cook overheard his whisper and slid them each a biscuit. They looked at the cookies, looked at each other and a conspiracy was born. From that time on they’d used the whisper ploy to manipulate servants into giving them their way.
Laina chuckled at the memory. Justin grinned at her and she knew he was remembering, too. Suddenly she didn’t feel so lost and alone. The tightness in her chest eased. She reached for her brother’s hand. “Bless you, Justin.”
He gave her hand a squeeze, then bent and kissed her cheek just in front of her ear. “It’s going to be all right, Lainy—heart’s promise.”
This time the whisper was for her alone. It was the solemn oath they’d made to each other when one of them had been sad or unhappy after their mother’s death. Laina’s breath caught on a sob. Justin gave her a fierce hug, then turned abruptly and strode from the room.
“Do you feel better?”
“Much better, Elizabeth. Thank you for loaning me Trudy. The hot bath took away much of the soreness from being tossed around in the carriage.” Laina adjusted the black tie at the neck of her white nightgown and sank onto the edge of the bed. She was too shaky and weak from fatigue to stand.
“Are you hungry?” Elizabeth swept her gaze over her. “I had cook make you a tray. There’s chicken stew, an apple dumpling, some cheese and warm milk.”
Laina made an effort. She ate a few bites of the stew, popped a bit of cheese in her mouth, then sighed and pulled her damp braid forward over her shoulder. “The food is wonderful, Elizabeth, but I’m simply too weary to eat. I’ll have the dumpling in the morning.” She slid under the covers and sank back against the feather pillow.
“Of course. Sleep is what you need now.” Elizabeth put a few bite-size pieces of cheese on the plate with the dumpling, covered it with the napkin and placed it on the nightstand beside a glass of water. She motioned Trudy to take the tray away. “Is there anything more I can do to make you comfortable?” She pulled the red-and-cream-patterned coverlet over Laina’s exposed shoulders. “Perhaps another blanket?”
“No. Nothing.” Laina glanced up at the red tester above her and smiled. “Thank you for putting me in this room, Elizabeth. It will be so lovely to wake up to color. Everything in my house is shrouded in black.” Her eyelids drifted closed. She forced them open again. “I love…color…especially…red.” She frowned. Her voice sounded thick and far away. Her eyelids drifted closed again.
“Yes, I know.” Elizabeth leaned down and hugged her. “Good night, Laina. It’s so lovely having you here. Sleep well.”
“Umm.” She couldn’t form a word. Couldn’t open her eyes. The light against her eyelids dimmed, flickered. She heard the rustle of Elizabeth’s skirts, the soft pat of her shoes against the carpet. The door opened and closed. Silence descended.
Laina gave a long sigh. At home the silence grated against her nerves. This silence was different—there was life behind it. And tomorrow she would see the children. A smile curved her lips. She cuddled the thought to her and yielded to her exhaustion.
Justin stopped pacing and pivoted to face his wife as she entered the salon. “I think you’re wrong, Elizabeth. I think we should send for Dr. Allen. Laina looks ill.” He frowned. “She’s thin as a fence rail and weak as a kitten. And those dark circles under her eyes…” He shook his head. “One would think she’d been punched.” He scowled. “We need Dr. Allen.”
“Justin, I know it’s hard for you to see your sister looking so frail, but I promise you, a good night’s sleep will do away with those dark circles and cook’s good food will take care of Laina’s thinness and help her regain her strength.” Elizabeth crossed to the settee and seated herself. “As for the rest, as I said earlier, that is in God’s hands. All we can do is love her and pray for her.” She smiled and patted the cushion beside her. “Why don’t you come sit down and relax in front of the fire?”
“Sit?” Justin shook his head. “I can’t simply sit here—I’m too agitated.” He bent and threw another log on the already blazing fire, then grabbed the poker and jabbed it into place. “I wish there was something I could do for Laina.” He gave the log another jab and shot her a look. “Besides pray.”
“I know, dear. But at the moment all she needs is rest.” Elizabeth rose and walked over to put her arms around Justin’s waist. He pulled her close. She went on tiptoe and kissed his chin. “Why don’t you walk to the Merchant’s Coffee House, dear? You can stride off some of that frustration on the way, and talking business and politics with your friends will get your mind off Laina.”
He gave her a mock scowl. “Are you trying to get rid of me, madam?”
Elizabeth laughed. “Only until you calm down a bit.”
Justin’s mouth twisted into a rueful smile. “I’m sorry if I’m being a bear about this, Elizabeth. I think I’ll take your advice. A brisk walk is exactly what I need.” He dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose, then planted one on her mouth and left the room. When she could no longer hear his footsteps, she sighed and bowed her head.
“Father God, please guide Justin and me with Your wisdom to know what is best to do for Laina. Please give us understanding of her hurt and grief, and compassion and wisdom to help her through it. And dear Lord, I pray You will lead Laina in the path of Your choosing for her that she might know peace and fulfillment. Please touch her heart with Your healing hand and make her truly happy. I ask it in Your holy name. Amen.”
Elizabeth released another long sigh and blinked away the tears pooled in her eyes. She had a sudden urgent need to see her children—to look on their dear, sleeping faces. She hurried from the room, down the hall to the staircase and began to climb. How blessed she was to have a loving husband and three healthy, happy children! Her heart overflowed with thanksgiving. “Dear Lord, may You bless Laina as richly as You have blessed me!”
Laina whimpered and turned onto her side, her fingers flexing against the feather pillow, drawing it closer. It bunched beneath her hand. Her fingers flexed again.
There were children floating at her out of the darkness. Children of all ages and sizes, from babies to adolescents. Angry, crying, frightened children. She caught each child as they neared, pulling them out of the darkness and tucking them into her heart where they would be loved and protected. Her heart grew larger and larger. She was afraid it would burst, but still she gathered the children in. Her arms grew weary as she worked until at last they fell useless to her sides. No. No! She couldn’t stop. She had to help the children!
A man came and stood beside her. She could feel his strength. He began pulling the children out of the darkness, and her distress eased. She tried to see who the man was, but whenever she looked, he was turned away reaching for another child. Her heart became engorged with them. How could it hold more? What would she do with them all?
Justin appeared, smiling and placing his hand on her swollen, enlarged heart. “It’s going to be all right, Lainy—heart’s promise.” His hand turned into a purse that burst open, raining money down over the children in her heart. They began to laugh. The sound filled her with joy. She began to laugh with them.
The man took hold of her hand and suddenly they were alone. His touch made her forget how to breathe. She looked up. She couldn’t see his face! Who was he?
He knew! She spun toward her brother, but he was floating away. “Don’t go, Justin! Tell me! Who is he?”
“Heart’s promise, Lainy, heart’s promise…”
Laina bolted upright, startled awake by her own cry. Her heart was pounding. She clasped her hand to her chest and darted her gaze about the room searching for her brother. The dim, flickering light of the fire highlighted the objects in the room. There was no one there. She was alone. It was only a dream.
Laina shook her head and sank back onto the pillow. She could understand dreaming about Justin and children, because she’d been thinking of them when she drifted off to sleep. But who was the stranger? And what about the money? It made no sense. No sense at all. She yawned and closed her eyes. It was probably because she was so tired….
It was hunger that woke her.
Laina opened her eyes, and the first thing she saw was the red tester overhead. She stared at it in confusion for a moment, then smiled as her sleep-befuddled mind cleared. She’d made it! She was at Randolph Court. Oh, glory, glory, glory!
Laina sat up and swept her gaze around the large bedroom, drinking in the sights. Someone had been in and built up the fire. It was blazing merrily, its flickering light warming the red-and-cream-patterned silk on the walls, the red, blue and green paisley fabric on the chair that sat at the side of the hearth. Oh, how wonderful to see bright colors again!
Her stomach rumbled. Laina slid from the bed, lifted the napkin-covered plate from the nightstand and carried it to the chair. The fire warmed her bare feet and the swirling colors in the paisley fabric cheered her soul as she curled into the chair’s padded comfort. For the first time since Stanford’s passing she felt truly hungry. She lifted the napkin, placed it on her lap and picked up the fork. The first bite of baked apple tasted delicious. She took another, then another with a bite of cheese.
Wonderful! If she hadn’t had good manners drilled into her as a child, she would have smacked her lips. Laina smiled, finished the apple, then popped the last bite of cheese into her mouth.
Laina gasped and almost dropped the plate as she jerked around toward the door.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I was being quiet in case you were still asleep.” Elizabeth smiled and closed the door. “How are you feeling?”
“Much better.” Laina held up the empty plate. “My compliments to your cook.”
Elizabeth’s laughter washed over her like healing balm. “I hope you haven’t spoiled your appetite. It’s almost time for dinner.”
“Dinner?” Laina stared up at Elizabeth. “No wonder I feel better. I haven’t slept the night through since—” She swallowed and looked down at her hands. It was still hard to speak the words aloud.
Elizabeth bent and gave her a quick hug. “You were truly exhausted, Laina. I’m so pleased you rested well and are feeling stronger.” She smiled and took the empty plate. “Do you feel up to coming down to the dining room, or would you prefer a tray here in your room?”
“No, no tray.” Laina shook her head and rose to her feet. “I’ve had enough of being alone.” She squared her shoulders, trying not to look as pitiful as she felt. “Is there time enough to see the children before dinner? I’ve so been looking forward to making my new nephew’s acquaintance.”
Elizabeth laughed and nodded. “How could I refuse such a request? We shall make time. Cook can set dinner back an hour. Now, I’ll ring for Trudy while you have a wash, then she will help you dress and do your hair.” Elizabeth smiled at her over her shoulder as she headed for the bellpull. “She’s already set out your things in the dressing room.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî