Please welcome Darlene Franklin to my blog this week. She's giving away a copy of her new novella, Infusion of Love. Leave a comment about her first chapter to be entered. Leave your email address and if you follow my blog let me know to get an extra entry. If there are 10 comments Darlene will give away a second copy!
When Mahala Kent’s tea party honoring her brother’s marriage turns into a brawl over tea, she’s forced out of her wealthy neutrality. A public debate on the subject pushes her even closer to her childhood friend and hoped-for suitor, Jothan Stout. Will the arrival of a tea shipment in Greenwich push Jothan and Mahala further apart—or give them a common taste for herbal infusions?
Greenwich, New Jersey, December 1774
“ ‘Charity vaunteth not itself.’ Your love does not depend on the size of the
Mahala Kent held back a smile from her spot by the bride’s side. Those were brave words to say at a wedding of the heir to the wealthiest man in town. Their preacher’s neutral stance on the recent tea troubles didn’t stem from a lack of courage.
Primrose only had eyes for Mahala’s brother, Archie, only. She radiated happiness in her new dress made of green wool. If. No, when—Mahala told herself firmly—her time came, she would prefer brocade. A pale peach or beige would complement her dark hair.
The affianced couple bent their heads toward each other as they listened to the sermon. On Archie’s other side stood Primrose’s brother Jothan. A small smile lit his lips and he wiggled his fingers at Mahala. She almost giggled.
He had a habit of getting her into trouble, although he hadn’t done that for a while. With all the arguments about the Stamp Act, solemn lines on his face had replaced the kindly expression of her childhood friend.
“‘Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’”
How could a bachelor like St. Paul write such perfect words about love? What would Johan say to that question? He could debate anything. When she glanced at him, his eyes had fixed out the window, as if bored with the ceremony.
Or thinking about the tea shipment sitting in a storehouse in Greenwich’s Market Square. Mahala pushed that thought away. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Life in Greenwich was pleasant, and her days were full. She prayed it would stay that way.
Only Reverend Jay could make such beautiful words sound boring. As a child, she’d escaped long sermons by crawling under the pews. That was another prank Jothan goaded her into doing. Now they were grown. While Primrose and Archie had grown closer together, Jothan and Mahala had drifted apart.
Her nose itched. If this sermon lasted much longer, she’d give in to the temptation to scratch it and shame her mother. Jothan winked, as if he had noticed her nose twitching. Mahala turned her head aside to keep from laughing or, even worse, sneezing.
At last they reached the exchange of vows. “Do you promise to love, cherish, and obey?” Obey. Mahala didn’t like that word. Yes, a wife should submit to her husband, but obey made it sound like she was still a child. But when her time came, she would make the same promise with all her heart. When God brought the right man into her life.
The thought made her look at Jothan again. This time he was smiling at her. Why did she keep thinking about him? He wasn’t the only eligible bachelor in Greenwich.
Jothan handed the wedding ring to Archie. She straightened her back. The service was almost over. She didn’t want to miss her cue.
Vows made, ring given, Reverend Jay burst into a genuine smile. “It is my pleasure to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Archie Kent.”
Family and friends filed past the wedding party in the Stouts’ crowded parlor. Verity Jackson hugged Mahala and whispered in her ear. “When will we see you and Jothan wed?”
Heat flared in Mahala cheeks. She fought for decorum, dabbing at her eye with a handkerchief as if wiping away happy tears.
Before Mahala found an answer, Primrose reached for Verity’s hand. “Thank you for coming today.”
“Thank you.” Mahala mouthed the words to her new sister-in-law before greeting the next person in line. By the time they spoke with the last guest, her toes ached, and she wished she could massage her toes.
Jothan popped into her line of vision and pulled up a chair for her. “It was a long service.”
Mahala didn’t deny it. Jothan would spot the lie. “What do you want from the wedding feast? I happen to know Mother fixed clam chowder, rye bread, pumpkin casserole. . .” He continued the list Mahala’s favorite foods.
“Are you offering to bring me a plate?” Her voice trailed off, and she resisted the urge to bat her eyelashes.
“It will be my pleasure.” Bending close to her ear, he said, “In my opinion, you outshone the bride on this day.”
“You shouldn’t say such a thing about your sister.” Mahala couldn’t stop the heat in her cheeks.
He stood and walked towards the laden table, calling over his shoulder, “I meant what I said.”
If Mahala were so inclined, she could return the compliment. Jothan looked so gentlemanly with his dark hair tied back with a black tie and the way his suit fit his broad shoulders. As he walked away, she thought how even his legs looked good in his leggings.
More heat in her cheeks. She needed to think about something else. The tea controversy came to mind first. As Jothan passed through the company, she catalogued who among them firmly supported the crown’s recent taxes and those who felt the tax on tea was unjust. She knew at least two women who disliked the tax: Verity and the bride.
Mahala had laughed at Primrose’s concerns that arguments might break out today. “It’s a wedding.”
“Where people might expect tea.” Primrose clamped her lips together. The Stouts had taken to drinking herbal infusions in the place of the tea imported by the East India Company.
Oh, Mahala did like her cup of tea and she couldn’t quite understand why people felt so strongly about it. It was common knowledge that tea rejected at the port of Philadelphia had been stored at a storehouse in Greenwich’s Market Square.
Jothan stopped in mid-stride. Bart Brown, an employee of the company storing the tea, had arrived. Mahala prayed Primrose’s premonitions proved wrong.
* * *
Jothan didn’t believe either Primrose or Archie had invited Bart Brown to their wedding. Not everyone here agreed on the issue of the Stamp Act, but in their village, the Browns were among the most outspoken defenders of the crown. Bart glared at him, daring him to say a word out of place.
“I wasn’t aware you were invited to the wedding.” Jothan kept his voice even.
“My invitation must have been mislaid.” Bart waved the comment away. “I knew my firm’s presence would be welcome at the wedding of the year.”
More likely he wanted to pick up gossip about the patriots’ affairs.
The confrontation had caught the attention of the guests. They drifted into two groups. The larger one supported the patriots, the smaller one, and the loyalists. Silence reigned. No one wished to miss a single word of the explosion they saw brewing.
Father and Archie shouldered their way through the visitors, taking a spot on either side of Jothan. Mahala had risen to stand by Primrose, their arms linked. Jothan sent a quick prayer heavenward. Archie’s temper could explode at any time, even at his wedding.
Father was more even-handed, but he would retaliate if threatened. He broke the silence. “We appreciate the gesture, Mr. Brown. We will be glad to entertain you on another day.”
Make that never, if Primrose had anything to say about it.
Bart lifted his nose as if looking down on the bunch of them. He took one step forward and the three men moved to surround him.
When Jothan saw Archie clasping and unclasping his right hand, he realized he was doing the same thing. He shook his wrists to relieve the tension.
Primrose, with Mahala and his mother, came up behind them. His sister spoke first. “Thank you so very much for coming to our wedding. It means a great deal that you would set aside our differences on this blessed day.”
Jothan shook his head. That was his sister, thrusting a velvet-sheathed dagger with her words.
“Please take this as a token of our good will.” Primrose glanced at Mahala.
Mahala handed him a covered basket with a smile. “I hope your wife will join us for our tea party next Saturday. Every guest will be served the beverage of their choice, so that we can talk without worrying about our differences.” Mahala took the ribbon from her hair and tied the handles of the basket together before handing it to him. “Please give this to Mistress Susanna with our good wishes.”
When Bart took the basket, Jothan moved back, as did the others.
Bart nodded slightly. “Very well, Miss Kent. We’ll continue this discussion at another time.”
As Mahala walked the unwanted guest to the door, she waved her hand behind her back, encouraging them to—what?
Primrose took Archie’s arm. “Come, now. We have greeted our guests, and they are waiting on us to begin the feast.” She led him to the table. Mahala returned from the door, walking with the younger children, helping them choose foods from the table. She had a good hand with little folk. Some day she would make a good mother.
Provided she had enough money. A more generous and kind person he had never met, but Mahala didn’t know how hold on to her money. She had never lacked for anything and thus, hadn’t learned how to manage on a more moderate income.
And she was determined to remain as neutral in the brewing tea controversy as the preacher. She should know better. Perhaps because of her skill in debating, she understood the reasons for both points of view and had a hard time making up her mind.
On the other hand, Mahala made everything a debate, even church. She could argue from Baruch Spinoza and Voltaire as well as from Paul and St. Augustine. But she had made her confession and joined the church with full intent. Jothan felt privileged to know of her questions.
They used to talk about everything until the Sons of Liberty dumped tea into Boston Harbor almost a year ago.
Mahala’s ability to listen to all sides was another characteristic that would make her a good mother, but he must stop thinking like that. The years ahead would hold hardships enough for those who believed the colonists should govern themselves. Someone uncommitted to the same cause might be ostracized. But how his heart ached to reach for her. What foolishness, to plan a tea party in these times.
After she helped each child fill his plate, she motioned for the other guests to come back to the wedding feast. She picked up her plate and found the chair Jothan had provided for her earlier. He crossed the floor, speaking with guests and taking some gentle ribbing for the near brawl.
His stomach grumbled, reminding him of the hours since breakfast, but nonetheless he went to Mahala’s side. Since all the chairs were taken, he sat on the floor. “A tea party? Whatever are you thinking of, Mistress Kent?”
He used his most playful tone, but he kept his eyes steadily on hers. She looked down her nose—her delightfully perky little nose—but flicked her cool gray eyes at him. “Your sister has wed my brother. I refuse to allow a little fuss over something as unimportant as tea forbid the celebration of their marriage. I will offer a choice of teas or infusions, to allow everyone to follow her own conscience.”
Maybe he was wrong. How much harm could a group of ladies do?
Best-selling author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over fifty books and more than 250 devotionals.
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Purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/Infusion-Love-Christian-Historical-Courtship-ebook/dp/B01AZMYD28/