TITLE: A Heart's Journey - Chapter 6
By Michele Fleming
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August 26, 1863
Ana awoke the next morning as the train was beginning to slow. In her sleepy state, she figured they were pulling into Hempstead, but opening her eyes revealed that the sun was already up. Realizing she had slept straight through the train stopping during the night, she decided they must now be in Austin. Pulling herself up in the bunk she marveled at how far they had come.
As the train grew quiet, the giggles of her sister drifted through the sleeper car. Then, from out of nowhere, she thought she heard the familiar voice of her dear Liza. Reality of the past few days began to hit her hard.
Ana laid there in her bunk crying until there were simply no more tears left to cry. All at once, she felt a peaceful calm come over her and it seemed as if she could feel Liza’s gentle touch on her head. She then began to hear the soft words of comfort Liza had often used, “Now, now, lil’ one. Everythins’ gonna be all right. You see.” At that moment she believed that it would.
Ana found renewed strength and climbed out of bed, dried her eyes, and readied herself for the day. Thomas had informed them the day before that they would probably be in Austin for a day or two. He was unaware of the schedule of the local stage and knew that most places only had service every few days. If that were the case Ana planned to have a great time in this new town.
Peering out the window at the city sites Ana could see that this town was indeed one to have an adventure in. Buildings were lined up and down both sides of a wide dirt street. She had difficulty seeing exactly what the buildings were however, because of the location of the depot. But, from her vantage point, Ana could see many shops to explore during their time here.
Wagons of all sizes and styles, along with riders on horseback, were traveling the street. And a fairly steady flow of people were making their way around the spacious boardwalks lined up in front of the buildings. Ana was pleased to see that not one woman appeared to be wearing hoops under their skirts. She realized that was the fashion of the times, but so hated their cumbersomeness and looked forward to the freedom of not having to wear one.
A sense of excitement bubbled up inside of her and for the first time in what seemed like forever, Ana looked forward to what lay ahead. Suddenly, Lucy came running into the sleeper car and Ana could tell she was as excited also.
“Thomas wanted me to come wake you up, so we could go into town for breakfast, but you’re already up!” she exploded running all the words together in her excitement.
Ana laughed at her enthusiasm, “Yes, I am. I was looking out at the town. It’s pretty amazing isn’t it?”
“Yes, can we go now?” Lucy spat and grabbed her sister by the hand and started dragging her toward the door.
“Yes, we can go! Leave the arm attached though, okay!”
Ana and Lucy shared a laugh as they made their way through the cars and before they knew it they were off the train and waiting on Thomas. He had gone inside the station to send off a telegram to their Papa and to inquire about the stage. The depot manager told him there was one coming in the next morning that would be able to take them to Flint Creek, so they had all day to explore. He paid someone to take their things to the hotel and then began leading them down the boardwalk.
As they walked Ana took in as much of her surroundings as she possibly could. They walked past the livery and a dry goods store with the name Levi and Phelps. Across the street from that was Thompson’s Millinery, the window of which was decorated with a multitude of beautiful hats. Next door to the millinery was a lovely looking fabric shop by the name of “Rose’s”. Thomas noticed Ana’s interest in these two shops and promised that he would take her there later.
On down the boardwalk, was the apothecary, a candle store and the Austin Hotel with an actual theatre attached. They walked right past Bell’s Saloon, where piano music spilled into the outside air along with the scent of tobacco, dirty men and cheap perfume. Ana caught a quick peek inside as one of the patrons exited and was surprised and appalled at the sight.
Women with their chests half exposed were sitting on the men’s laps! The men were laughing and putting their hands on the women like they were nothing but a piece of meat! Before Ana could react, Thomas grabbed her arm and escorted her away as fast as he could. Once they were well away from that boisterous place Ana stopped and looked up at him.
“Why do those women let the men touch them like that?”
“Well…,” he began uncomfortably, “let’s just say they are not very decent women. I don’t want either of you to go near that place again, okay? If I had been paying attention you wouldn’t have gone that close this time. From now on we will cross the street to go past.” Ana nodded, turned and continued to walk, trying all the while, to push the images from the saloon from her mind.
Within a few minutes they were inside the restaurant and being lead to a table. As they were looking over the menu, Ana had to shake from her mind the memories of the last time they were in a restaurant.
She forced herself to ignore the pain in her heart and have a good time. Soon they were feasting on a bountiful meal of mouth-watering biscuits and red-eye gravy with all the trimmings. After filling themselves, Thomas made good on his promise and escorted them toward the hat shop.
“Oooh, I like this one, Ana!” Lucy exclaimed holding her find up for her sister to see.
It was green and had a nest of brown feathers on top with an ugly stuffed bird in it. It really was a hideous thing and Ana had to fight the urge to make a face.
“Yeah, Lucy, that’s nice.” That’s when she spied the bonnets. “I wonder if Aunt Josie wears bonnets.”
Ana directed this to Thomas who was standing in the corner of the room, hands stuffed in his pockets, looking rather uncomfortable with his surroundings.
“I don’t know, Ana. Why?”
“I don’t know, I thought if we had the money, I could get her a gift.” She replied. “You know, to thank her for letting Lucy and me come and stay.”
“A gift is a wonderful idea, but let me make a suggestion. Since this is the first store we have gone in and there is so much more to see in this town, why don’t you pick out a bonnet, commit it to memory. At the end of the day if you haven’t found anything else you like better, you can come back and get it.”
“That is a grand idea, Thomas, thank you.”
“You’re quite welcome.”
They stayed in there for a few more minutes and then made their way down the street stopping in almost every store. As it turned out, Ana found something in each store that she would like to get for Aunt Josie, so before long her head was spinning with the possibilities. Choosing was shaping up to be a difficult task.
About lunch time they had made their way into the small building housing the candle shop. To their surprise, there was a counter inside where they served soup. They decided to have lunch first, and then browse the merchandise once their stomachs were full again.
As they ate, Ana began to look around at the various items in the shop. There were candles of all shapes, sizes and colors. She had rarely ever seen colored candles, so those quickly became her favorites. The shop also carried all sorts of candle holders.
One table was covered with a large selection of brass holders of many shapes and sizes. Another was loaded with hand carved wooden ones and one with silver ones. The collection that intrigued Ana the most, however, was the one located on a bookshelf up against the back wall.
She had never seen such delicate pieces in all her life and could hardly eat for staring at the beautiful glistening glass. As soon as her last bite was down she headed that way. Ana knew the gift she was searching for could be in that collection. After searching for a few minutes she still wasn’t able to find anything close to perfect.
She overheard the shop owner explaining to Thomas that all the glass pieces were hand blown. Ana was intrigued and began to ask questions about the process. The gentleman started to explain, but stopped mid-sentence.
“Why don’t you all follow me out back for a little demonstration?”
“Can we, Thomas?” Lucy asked, jumping up and down.
“Yes, Thomas, please?”
“Sure…sounds like fun.” Thomas agreed.
They followed the man out of the back of the store to his workshop. He pointed out a big oven called a “kiln” and then from beside it, picked up a long iron rod and some big iron tongs. With the tongs he got wad of what he said was melted glass from the kiln and placed it on the end of the rod. He then put the rod in the kiln and began to get the glass even hotter. This caused it to melt more and surround the end of the rod.
Next he pulled the rod from the fire and began to blow into the end of the rod where he was holding it, making the glass bubble up on the other end. At one point he took some red dye and streaked the glass with it and then taking a piece of smooth iron about the size of a small kitchen knife, he began to shape the glass. As he used the piece of iron to smooth the glass, he turned the rod in the opposite direction creating a gentle swirl in the glass, the streaks of red creating a very elegant effect.
He would place the glass back in the fire every once in a while to keep it good and hot and then go back to shaping it. He finished by forming the base and then with a gentle clip with a tool that looked like a giant pair of scissors, he disconnected the piece from the rod.
“That was wonderful! Thank you so much, for showing us!” Ana told him.
“You’re welcome.” He said.
“The way you used the red dye made it the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!”
“Well, if you would rather have this piece instead of one from inside…you can.”
“I can do that…really?” Ana then turned to Thomas. “Is that okay, Thomas?”
“Well, if that is the one you want…then we shall get it.” Thomas told her.
“Thank you, Thomas!”
This brought a protest from Lucy.
“I want to get Aunt Josie something too!” she cried.
Ana went to her with a suggestion. “I have an idea, Lucy. I saw some beautiful red candles in the shop that would go great with the glass holder. Why don’t you pick out one of those for Aunt Josie?”
Ana suddenly realized she probably should have ran the idea past Thomas first, so she looked his way and he nodded his approval.
“Okay, I could do that.” Lucy said with pleasure.
The owner wrapped the piece in a cloth to protect it and they headed back inside to let Lucy pick out the candle. She headed straight for the boxes of colored ones and began her search. She settled on a long tapered style that had tiny carved flowers in it. The flowers were carved down into the wax past the red and into the white, creating a wonderful contrast in the colors. It was perfect!
The shop owner’s wife took both pieces and placed them in a wooden box full of straw for protection then wrapped the box in beautiful pink cloth. She finished the presentation with a big white bow. Lucy and Ana were thrilled! They left the store with their treasure and headed toward the hotel.
Lucy and Ana finished the day with a long hot bath. The tub was full almost to the rim with hot soothing water and the girls sat there in it for the longest time. Way too soon, the water began to get cold, so they had to end their time in the tub.
By the time they were dressed and their hair combed and dried some, it was time for dinner. They headed to the top of the stairs to wait for Thomas as they had promised. To their surprise, that man was already there waiting on them.
“I was beginning to think I was going to have to send someone in there to check to see if you had drowned.” He teased.
“Oh, Thomas,” Lucy laughed, “you’re so funny!” Thomas and Ana laughed too, and then they headed down the stairs to dinner.
“I assume you ladies had a nice bath?”
“Yes, it was very nice. Thank you, for ordering it for us.” Ana told him.
“I had to!” he said and then wrinkled up his nose. “You two were beginning to smell!” he finished with a wave of his hand in front of his nose.
“That’s not very nice!”
“I didn’t smell!” Lucy argued. “I really don’t, now. The maid put rose oil in the water.” Laughing, they made their way into the dining room.
Later that night as Ana and Lucy lay in bed Ana began to think about the day. It truly was one of the best days ever. She was glad that she had apologized to Thomas, he was a very good and kind hearted man and she was beginning to think of him fondly.
As sleep began to claim her, Ana had one last thought pass through her mind. She suddenly felt as though she could hear Liza praying and then she heard the words that Jacob had spoken to her before he left. “Talk to Him. He will make things easier…” Ana quickly pushed those thoughts from her head and demanded for sleep to come. She wasn’t ready to forgive Him yet.
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