Title: Walls for the Wind
Author: Alethea Williams
Genre: Western historical
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Date of publication: April 2014
Can an angel survive Hell on Wheels? When Kit Calhoun leaves New York City with a train car full of foundlings from the Immigrant Children’s Home, she has no clue she might end up as adoptive mother to four of them in rip-roaring Cheyenne, Wyoming. Kit has spent her life in the Children’s Home and now she rides the Orphan Trains, distributing homeless children to the young nation’s farmers as fast as the rails are laid.
The first time handsome Patrick Kelley spies Kit in Julesburg, Colorado Territory, he wants her. But circumstances, and a spectral-looking demented gambler, as well as Kit’s certainty no one in his right mind would want her cobbled-together family, conspire to keep them apart. As Patrick and Kit and her brood ride Hell on Wheels into their destiny, they’re all forced to leave behind everything they knew and forge new lives in the raw American West.
At the news, the woman’s hand flew to her mouth. Her eyes distant now even though they never left Kit’s face, she moaned, rocking the little girl back and forth. “Ah, Gott in heaven, what shall we do now?” she pleaded under her breath.
“You need to go to the hospital, Frau Goff,” Kit urged, even though she knew the charity wards were full to bursting with sick and dying immigrants. Reverend Howe, however, was prepared to use all his considerable influence to convince the Baldwin sisters to take just these three more into their already overburdened care.
“I cannot go to hospital.” The woman covered her mouth, throat rasping as she coughed up more blood. Twin spots of fever-induced color suffused her sallow cheeks. “Then Hannah would have no one.”
The woman’s hands lovingly kneaded the little girl. Kit waited, fingertips resting on the woman’s arm. Puffs of vapor escaped the child’s rosebud mouth, freezing as her warm breath hit the cold air. Hannah’s eyelids drooped as she lay quietly now in her mother’s arms, and she blinked sleepily.
“It makes no difference if I agree, yah? All you have to do is wait. When I die,” the sick woman said in a dull rasp, “my children will truly be left all alone.”
Kit swallowed the reply that wanted to spill from her lips, words of false hope and promise that the woman would recover. Perhaps, with time, good food, rest and a change of climate, there might have been a chance. But as it was, destitute and starving and already ravaged by her illness, there was in truth little the medical profession could do for Helga Goff.
“Will you sign?” Kit asked in German, fingers tightening on the woman’s skeletal arm. Educated at the asylum in languages, as well as painting and piano, at least some of her training stood her in good stead this day. “Will you give us the opportunity to shepherd your children toward a better life?”
The widow Goff studied Kit with burning eyes. “You will keep Helmut and Hannah together?” she pleaded, also in her native tongue. “Brother and sister always. You will not separate them? Make your solemn pledge to me now, before Almighty God.”
“I assure you the asylum will educate them and find them a home.”
“No! To you! To you alone will I give up my children. Promise me they will be together. Always.” Her voice fading, the woman’s last word ended on a sigh. Her small strength in defense of her children spent, her head drooped toward her chest.
Kit craned her neck, looking frantically over her shoulder to Reverend Howe for guidance. He held out his hands, palms up. “You have chosen to do this work, Katherine.”
Finding no help from the bear of a man in the massive greatcoat, Kit turned her gaze back toward the woman and child. Looking down on the little girl’s soft, golden curls, she said, “Very well, Frau Goff. I promise you that Helmut and Hannah will remain together.”
The sick woman raised her head. For an instant she searched Kit’s face. Then apparently reading truth there, she reached unsteadily for the pen that Reverend Howe had already dipped in ink. Her lips moved as she struggled to read aloud in English:
This document certifies that I am the mother and sole legal guardian of Helmut Goff, age eight, and Hannah Goff, age two. I hereby willingly agree for the Immigrant Children’s Asylum to provide them a home until they are of age. I further promise never to interfere in any arrangements made on their behalf.
Once more she raised fever-bright eyes to Kit’s, as if seeking a way out of signing away her children. But both of them knew it was too late. There was no rescue in this world for Frau Helga Goff. Shoulders rounded in defeat, she lowered her eyes to the release form and signed in a spidery European hand.
Whiskey Creek Press
Western history has been the great interest of my adult life. I've lived in Wyoming, Colorado, and Oregon. Although an amateur historian, I am happiest researching different times and places in the historical West. And while staying true to history, I try not to let the facts overwhelm my stories. Story always comes first in my novels, and plot arises from the relationships between my characters. I'm always open to reader response to my writing.
Twitter: @ActuallyAlethea https://twitter.com/actuallyalethea
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Alethea-Williams/e/B0077CD2HW/
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