Working as house help isn’t quite as fun as Thankful hoped . . .
“Sometimes I wish I could chop it all off in this heat!” Thankful complained as she again tried to control her curls within the kerchief she wore while cleaning.
“Oh, you mustn’t do that,” Mrs. Markham said, sipping her tea. “Every woman here would kill for such a gift of hair. Now, there, dear, you’ve missed a spot. With more scrubbing, that stain will come off.”
Thankful put her energy into the food-splattered wall, but it was futile work with so many sloppy children racing in and out. The scrubbing didn’t bother her as much as Mrs. Markham’s constant hovering. Wasn’t there some useful thing the lady of the house could be doing? Mrs. Markham’s young daughter Lydia, a sickly girl whose days were numbered, languished for lack of attention, but Mrs. Markham chose to ignore and avoid her daughter. Instead she picked on Thankful’s work.
“Well, I’m certainly glad you came to me before marrying,” Mrs. Markham continued. “You must be prepared for anything if you decide to marry an officer. I remember when my young lieutenant husband dragged me across the prairie. We had not a penny to our name—not even an extra pot. We couldn’t even keep a girl—not that I would have allowed it back then. Young officers have roving eyes.”
“Not Mr. Fahy,” Thankful said.
“Did I mention Mr. Fahy?” Mrs. Markham asked with a grin. “I’m sure he would be very pleased to know how you defend him.”
“You won’t tell!”
“My dear child, Lieutenant Fahy is already quite enamored with you,” Mrs. Markham replied, pointing to a missed spot on the wall. “There is no need for me to further sell you to him.”
“I won’t be bought!” Thankful stated, splashing sudsy water.
“Maybe it’s time you stopped taking his gifts,” Mrs. Markham advised.
Thankful blushed. “I’m not sure how to stop him. I’ve asked politely, but he ignores my feelings on the matter.”
Mrs. Markham looked worried. “Mr. Fahy always means well, but Thankful, remember, there is much to this army life that is profitable, but in money it is not. You must do your best not to take advantage of a man’s generosity.”
Thankful did not appreciate her mistress’s words but held her tongue. She would speak to Mr. Fahy tonight about his unnecessary gifts. Mrs. Markham went out back to garden and soon a knock came at the door. Fahy walked in and helped Thankful to her feet. He wore his white horse grooming jacket, and Thankful laughed. “Look at the state of us this morning! As pretty as a picture.”
“I like the smell of horse,” Fahy laughed and kissed Thankful’s wet hand. He pulled a small bouquet of wilting desert flowers from his pocket. “I thought I should bring them before they completely die, but it looks as if maybe I’m too late.”
Thankful pretended to be fascinated by the little blooms. “Oh, Mr. Fahy, this was ever more thoughtful than any of those real gifts. I hope you’ll always be practical like this and not waste money on me at all.”
“Why? Don’t you like my gifts?”
“You shouldn’t spend all of your money,” Thankful said, dusting hay off Fahy’s shoulder. “Mrs. Markham says . . .”
“Don’t listen to her. I love the old girl, but she never keeps out of my business—especially now—but I’ve beaten her this time.” He pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to Thankful.
“My, this is very practical indeed.” she said, trying to appear enthused.
“You silly girl, open it up.”
Something sparkled and fell to the floor. Thankful retrieved it and looked at it dubiously. “Oh, a ring.”
“I was hoping you might like it and marry me,” Fahy said, twisting his mustache between his nervous fingers.
“Mr. Fahy, I’m shocked beyond disbelief!” Thankful replied, blushing between looks at the ring and the man before her.
“So you’re not happy with the idea?” Fahy asked, his brow furrowed.
“I hadn’t thought of it—yet.” She hugged him, but he pulled away.
“Oh. Well, I can return the ring then,” Fahy said.
“No! You’re offended, and I don’t understand why. I like you very much, sir, but we’ve known each other only a very few weeks. How do you know I’ll please you?”
“When I know something, I know it! I don’t waste my days in restless deliberation. I’m a soldier. Tomorrow may be my last!”
“Merciful heavens, don’t dare say such things!” It aggravated Thankful somehow. “Are you ill?”
“No, but any day there could be an Indian breakout, and I may be called upon to serve—I assume I will. I want to prove myself, of course. The West Pointers like to think low of us men risen from the ranks . . . but I’m off track. I want you now for my own. I want to know you’ll wait for me if I’m called and mourn me if I’m lost.”
“I won’t mourn for you! I mean, I don’t want to think of you dying, sir.”
“So you do care?” Fahy asked with an irresistible grin.
“Land sakes, yes! It’s only I’m all mixed up and afraid of marriage.” The idea of marriage, in a general way, was pleasant but actually settling into it was quite a different matter. How long had her parents courted before making a terrible mistake? Thankful had known Willy forever . . . but never mind him.
“We suit each other, don’t you think? I know you’ll be a good mother and wife,” Fahy said.
“I’m afraid I know too much about children and not a thing about men—I mean wifely duties. My mother is an odd bird. I don’t want to be like her—though I . . . I do care for her.”
“Do you feel any tenderness towards me like I feel for you?” Fahy asked. He straightened his jacket.
Fahy was charming. Thankful could see that. Any girl back east might be jealous of her. “Yes. I think so. You’re so much fun and very kind to me,” she said.
“Just think of it, Miss Crenshaw, we can travel the world and throw big parties for generals and diplomats once my career is started, and you will dazzle the entire army. You are tremendously lovely and deserve better than scrubbing the floor.”
“That sounds wonderful, Mr. Fahy. I’d love to have big parties and read poetry and play the violin and talk about important things like art and politics, but my parents would be—surprised. I expected something different when I came out here.”
Fahy’s face clouded. “Yes, Bill Weldon. But you must realize that he’s lost.”
“You’re right. I know you are, but I feel sorry for him.”
“And your compassion is one of the very endearing qualities I admire. Miss Thankful Crenshaw, I well and truly love you, and I don’t know how I’d take losing you. From the moment I saw you I wanted you for my wife.”
“You love me, Mr. Fahy?” No one had ever said those words to her; not even her parents. No one. Thankful knew she was cared for, she was liked, she was a good girl, but was she loved? “You really love me?”
“Of course! I’d be a damned fool not to!” Fahy laughed and plunked his hands on her shoulders. “So what do you say? Won’t you take a chance with me?”
“I will, Mr. Fahy!” Thankful cried. “Promise to keep loving me, and I will try to please you!”
“You do please me, my sweet darling!” Fahy slipped the ring on Thankful’s finger.
“It’s sweet, sir, very sweet. Oh, I . . . like it . . . very much!” she gushed, but felt a knot in her stomach. “I’m frightened, Mr. Fahy.”
Fahy pat her face. “I’ll take care of everything. Not to worry!” He pulled her close and kissed her with passion.
PREVIOUS EPISODE FROM WEARY OF RUNNING
Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s misadventures when you buy the book today!
“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review
“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”