Gold Rush Wedding by Suzanne Lilly

The stone looked like any other stone. Gray with specks of black and crystals that reflected the sunlight. Ordinary granite. Ordinary stone.

"Ah. How interesting." Lucinda cast a questioning glance at George. Why had he dragged her up the hillside of their land, a handkerchief over her eyes, and then unveiled her eyes to reveal this unremarkable stone?
Gold Rush Wedding
Gold Rush Wedding by Suzanne Lilly
"You don't know what stone this is, do you?" George put his right foot on the top of the granite block. "I don't see Excalibur sticking out of it, so I know it's not the stone that held King Arthur's sword." "Correct. That it is not. It's something far more perfect, far more important than some old legend." Lucinda played along. She put her finger on her chin, as if to contemplate the matter. "It's not the Rock of Gibraltar." "Correct again. What an astute and observant young woman you are, Miss York. Guess again." "It most definitely is not Plymouth Rock." George stepped away from the stone and made a slight bow to Lucinda. "It's more meaningful than the rock the pilgrims once stepped upon." "Do tell, Mr. Arnold. What is the mysterious purpose of this rock you brought me to see?" George took her hands in his. He held them as he looked into her eyes. She watched as a slight breeze ruffled the curl that always fell over his forehead, in wonderment at how such a small thing as a curly lock could stir a spark of love in her heart. She smiled. "This rock is the foundation of our life together. It's to be the cornerstone of the new house I'm building for you. While you're away at medical college in Philadelphia, I'll be cutting more stones like this one, so that when you return ---" "Yes? When I return?" Lucinda pressed into George and gazed up into his face, a teasing smile on her lips. "You'll have the most beautiful, most magnificent, granite home in California. It will be grander than any home in Sacramento. It will be a home worthy of the name LuciArno." George had a deep, passionate streak that most people didn't know about. It was this underlying passion that drove him to create and accomplish. A lump formed in Lucinda's throat, and she couldn't answer at first. She swallowed. When she spoke, emotion made her voice thick like molasses. "I do love that name, LuciArno. It sounds like the two of us entwined." "It sounds like our home." George put his arm around her waist and kissed her. His lips tasted sweet, like the lavender and anise biscuits they'd eaten before coming up the hillside. Lucinda melted into the kiss. A hawk flew overhead, in a sky clear enough to crisp like an ice sheet, casting its shadow across the two lovers. In the brush beyond the trees, Lucinda heard a creature lumbering for cover. "This is my dream come true. I'm the luckiest man on earth." George turned to the trees bordering the field where they stood. He cupped his hands and shouted. "Did you hear that, world? I'm marrying the most beautiful woman alive." Lucinda laughed and cupped her hands. "I'm marrying the best man in the world." Their cries echoed off a nearby granite outcropping and startled a covey of quail out from behind a scrubby bush. The mother peeped at her babies to follow her into a gully as they scurried away, crests bouncing. George wrapped his arms around her and they took in the scenery together. "I love this land, Lucinda. There is an abundance of everything a man needs to create a good life right here." He held out one hand, forming an L with his thumb and fingers. "Just to the right of that outcropping is where the opening to the LuciArno mine will be. Down the slope from it will be the homes of the miners. The town of LuciArno." He turned her to face left. "Over there, on that open space I'll run sheep and Spanish cattle. We'll have a small lake for fresh water, formed by damming up the creek that runs through the land. I'll use the rock taken from the mine to build the dam." "It all sounds beautiful, George. I'm sorry I won't be here to help you homestead the land and get it all started." "I'm not sorry. You have to go to Philadelphia. Your dreams have been to be a doctor as long as I've known you. This doesn't change a thing. LuciArno is my wedding present to you." Lucinda chewed on her bottom lip. Thanks to Sam Brannan's letter of recommendation, she had the opportunity of a lifetime. She would be attending the Philadelphia Female Medical College. It was newly founded and had a woman dean, something unheard of before 1850. She'd booked passage on a steamer heading back east in two weeks. Yet even through her excitement, hesitation grew in the shadows of her heart. What if George's passion for her cooled while she was gone? Two years could seem like forever to a lonely miner. "What will you do if you get sick?" No one would care for him like she would. She worried about him working too hard. "There are plenty of doctors in Sacramento. I'm sure one of them will take in a patient like me." "Bah! You mean ornery doctors. Stubborn ones. They'll probably charge you double." Lucinda teased him. "I won't charge you anything but a kiss." She demonstrated by brushing his lips with a light kiss. “Now, my darling husband-to-be, we should get back to Sacramento. Your sister Abigail is ready for the final fitting of my wedding dress.” They walked past a small, one room cabin with patches of wild lavender and poppies growing in front of it. "Is this where you'll be living while I'm away?" she asked. "Yes. It's also where we'll be spending our time together before you leave." Lucinda breathed in the scent of the fresh blooms. She picked a small bunch and pulled a lace handkerchief from her sleeve. It was one George's mother had loaned Lucinda when George's father had been ill. Lucinda had kept it since then, and now it made a beautiful wrapper for the stems of the flowers. "I think I'd like my wedding bouquet to be made from these flowers." She pulled one stem of lavender and one poppy out of the bunch. She tucked them into a buttonhole on George's shirt. "And this will be your boutonniere." They climbed up into the horse cart and headed back down the hill to Sacramento proper, to the Mansion House, the hotel where Abigail waited for Lucinda to finish her gown. Although she was excited for the wedding, a deep sadness engulfed Lucinda because her parents would not be at her wedding with George. She glanced at him and could see from the look on his face that he intuitively knew what she was thinking about. He squeezed her shoulder and said, "They'll be with us in spirit. Make a corsage and a boutonniere for your Ma and Pa, too." At that moment, Lucinda knew she could not have met a better man. A man whose strength was only matched by his tenderness. ~~~~ Abigail had Lucinda step up on a low wooden stool so she could make sure the dress hung correctly. “I can’t believe you were going to wear plain old gown to your own wedding. It’s a good thing I talked you into letting me make your dress and add this satin trimming.” Her words were almost a mumble around the pins in her mouth. The fabric from Mrs. Talbot's millinery shop was a beautiful cream, but it was plain. Abigail had worked magic with her sewing expertise. “Thank you, Abigail. It’s a lovely wedding gift. I feel blessed to be getting a sister by marriage as kind as you.” “What about me?” Tansy looked up from her seat next to the window, where she was idly flipping through one of Abigail's fashion catalogues. “Tansy, put my catalogue down. Obviously, Lucinda is happy to have you as a sister, too.” Abigail shook her head and lowered her voice. “She's so needy. She always has to be the center of adoration.” Lucinda laughed. The two sisters fought constantly. If they weren’t fighting over the attentions of George, they were fighting over anything and everything else. Being an only daughter, she had never enjoyed the unique pleasure of having siblings to battle with. She looked down at the dress and ran her hands over the fabric. “Stop that!” Abigail commanded. “I’m trying to make this dress perfect, and you’re fidgeting and making the fabric move.” Her brows furrowed like storm clouds above her sky blue eyes as she concentrated on pinning the ribbons to the lower ruffle. The dress was beautiful. It was simple, as befit Lucinda’s taste. She wasn’t one to wear showy clothing. The petticoat was cotton, and Abigail had embroidered flowers along the fabric’s edge. The dress itself was creamy cotton, with two layers of ruffles. The ruffles were lined with satin trim and a shorter ruffle covered her shoulders and breasts in a V shaped panel that descended to her waist. In the front of the ruffle, Abigail had sewn purple and orange satin blossoms after finding out Lucinda's favorite flowers were lavender and poppy. “Lucinda, let me show you something we brought for you.” Tansy picked up a small black box from the dresser. Abigail shot her a look and pursed her lips tighter around the last two pins in her mouth. They pointed like darts at her sister's face. "Or maybe I'll show you later, after Abigail finishes with the dress." Tansy set the box back down. Abigail sighed, placed the remaining pins, and then stepped back. “This dress is beautiful enough for a queen,” she announced after a thorough inspection. "And now we have a special adornment for it." Tansy smiled. “You know the old saying, 'Something borrowed, something blue, something old, something new.' This is your borrowed item." Tansy shoved the box into Lucinda's hand. "You're going to love it Lucinda. Open it already." Lucinda sat down on the stool, carefully avoiding any stray pins in the hem. Her eyes went to Abigail, who also nodded that she should open the box. She cracked the lid open, and saw a lyre shaped gold brooch. It had three tiny diamonds at the top. "Oh, it's gorgeous." She lifted it out of the box and held it up. "It's our mother's and she wants you to wear it," Abigail told her. "If you want to, of course," Tansy added. "I want to." Lucinda pressed it to her heart. "It's such a kind and wonderful thing to do. How can I ever thank you all?" "That's easy," Tansy told her. "Take good care of George." "That won't be easy at all." Abigail smiled and shook her head. "Our brother is an adventurer and stubborn to boot." "I think that's what I love about him the most," Lucinda said. "If he hadn't teamed up with me in Diggers Flat, I don't know how I would have managed. When that old sourdough miner tried to honey up to me, George sent him packing. He's looked out for me ever since. Now that I've gotten to know you both, I love you as my new family." The three young women embraced and kissed each other on the cheeks. "Now get out of your dress," Abigail urged. "I've still got work to do. Making a wedding dress in less than a week is not something I can do if we're lollygagging about all day." Chapter 2 "Psst! Lucinda!" Lucinda looked up from gathering herbs and flowers to see George beckoning her from behind a corner of the cabin. Surprised, and curious as to what he was up to, she released the wild rosemary and walked over to him. He grabbed her by the hands and swooped her up against the wall, pinning her hands behind her back. "Just what do you think you're up to, George Arnold?" Lucinda lifted her chin and gazed into his eyes. "You're not planning on abducting me right before our wedding, are you?" "Absolutely, my love." George kissed her neck and heat waves pulsed up to Lucinda's face and down through her stomach. His breath was soft but ragged. "I am taking you away from the drudgery of gardening so that I may present you with a very special gift." "You've already kissed me. I'm not letting you do more than that until after our nuptials." As much as Lucinda wanted to be strong, the feel of his body against hers, pressing against the logs of the cabin, melted her willpower. Fortunately, George was stronger than she. "I will respect your honor, now and forevermore. I don't want to make love to you.” He closed his eyes and shook his head. “Scratch that. I do want to make love to you, but that isn't why I'm abducting you today. I want to give you your wedding gift." "You don't want to wait until our wedding night?" "No, because I want you to wear it when you walk down the aisle. Will you do that for me?" Lucinda knew she'd do anything for George, anything he asked. She would walk through fire to be with him. But instead she said, "It depends. Is it pretty?" "Magnificent." "Sensible?" "Not a bit." The corner of her lips turned up. "I can't promise anything unless you do something for me." "Anything." George sighed against her shoulder and kissed the soft skin along the neckline of her dress. Lucinda tried to get her breath, tried to stop her lips from trembling. "First, let go of my hands." George let go of her hands, but placed his on the wall beside her shoulders, not moving his body away. She remained locked in his playful embrace. "Now, set me free." "Never." "If you want your wedding gift, you'll have to agree." George shook his head. "I'm coming with you. I don't want to let you out of my sight for a second. You'll be gone too soon, and I want you near me now as much as possible." Lucinda reached up and took his hand off the wall. "Let's go, my almost husband." She led him through the trees to the front of the tiny cabin. Tansy and Abigail were both afield, picking flowers for the wedding. Lucinda led him inside the room and closed the door. "Comportment be damned," she said. She went to the bed. Reaching under the pillow, she pulled out a small satin bag. She sat down on the bed and patted the spot beside her. George pulled a velvet pouch from his pocket and sat down. The leather frame of the small bed sagged under their combined weight. The two lovers sat knee to knee and George took Lucinda's left hand in his. He caressed her hand as he spoke. "The very first night I saw you, the very moment I saw your hair gleaming in the firelight, I fell in love. There you were, facing off against some crazy old sourdough who thought he could take advantage of you. You stood up to him, with not an ounce of fear in your bones. I said to myself, 'That's the kind of woman I want.' Then you fed him that acorn meal with beans and gave him the worst case of stomach upset he probably ever had." Lucinda laughed and shook her head. "After that, it's a wonder any miners ever came to me for food once I started grubstaking. I'm sure the old man told them I poisoned him." George nodded. "Which you did, actually." He pressed the velvet pouch into her hand. "When you agreed to work my claim with me, I thought the heavens had opened and rained good fortune upon me. The first day together, do you remember the nugget I found?" "I do. It was a nice one." "I kept it. I wanted a souvenir of the beginning of our new life, because even then, I knew I'd be spending forever with you. I had our first gold nugget together turned into something to last a lifetime." Lucinda turned over the pouch. "It's in here?" "Not the nugget." George touched the pouch. "Open it." He pursed his lips and wiped his hands on his pants legs. "George, are you nervous?" "Just open it." His voice was quiet. Lucinda untied the satin ribbon. She tipped the pouch up and let the gift slide into her hand. She gasped, and then her breath stalled. She thought her heart froze for a moment as well. In her hand lay a necklace of three golden roses. Between the flowers were tiny pearls. A satin ribbon held them together, to tie at her neck. "Oh, George." The flowers grew blurry, and Lucinda blinked back a tear. She was too late. It ran down the side of her nose and onto her cheek. George kissed it away. "Do you like it? The pearls came from San Francisco, and the gold from Diggers Flat." She nodded, still unable to speak around the lump in her throat. "I was worried you would think I was too romantic." Lucinda shook her head. She tried out her voice. "This is the most meaningful thing anyone has ever done for me. I love you so much." She wrapped her arms around his neck, joy spilling out between them. "Will you put it on me?" "Absolutely not." Lucinda furrowed her brows. "What? Why not?" "I don't want to see it on you until I see you in your wedding dress." She thought she saw a shimmer in his eyes. "It's the most beautiful gift a bride could ever want." She carefully placed it back into the pouch, and tied the ribbon. "Now for your gift," she said. "My gift to you isn't anywhere near as incredible as yours." She handed him the satin pouch. "I made the pouch from the trimming Abigail used for my wedding dress." George took the pouch and began untying the ribbon. "Whatever it is, I know I'm going to love it." Lucinda covered his hand. "Before you look at it, do you remember when I decided to pretend to be your cousin, Luke?" George's dimple appeared on his cheek. "How could I forget?" "Do you remember how hard it was for me to let you cut off my hair?" "I almost preferred to cut off my own hand as to snipping off your beautiful chestnut curls." "I saved my braid." "Yes, I remember you used it as a nest for Cinnamon." Lucinda smiled at the memory of her little pet duck. "She loved it. But I also kept some of my hair in my possible bag. I didn't know why I was saving it at the time. But then, when I accepted the opportunity to go back east to medical college, I knew just what to do with it. I made something for you to remember me by when I'm gone." George looked down at the bag in his hand. "Go ahead. Open it now," Lucinda told him. He opened the pouch, and slid a small glass case into his palm. The glass was rimmed in gold. The back of the case was solid gold, engraved with an A. Underneath the A was their wedding date. Inside the case, visible through the glass, lying on a bed of white satin, a lock of Lucinda's hair glistened. George ran his thumb over the glass, slow and gentle. He closed his palm around the case. Without a word, he touched Lucinda's chin, bringing her face forward, closer to his own, and kissed her, fervently and passionately. His tongue dove into her mouth, and hers traced a course along his lips and teeth. He grabbed her waist and pulled her to him, wrapping her in a tight embrace. "I will keep this on the same chain as your father's pocket watch. I'll always wear it close to my heart." "And I will wear your necklace every day. Never will it leave my presence." The two shared another tender kiss. "Tansy and Abigail may come back any time." Lucinda moaned. "I'm supposed to be helping Tansy identify wild herbs. We'd better get back outside." George helped Lucinda to her feet. "Until I have you alone again..." He lifted her fingers and kissed them one more time before reaching to unlatch the door and step back out into the sunshine. Shouts rang out from the edge of the forest. Tansy and Abigail raced along the dirt path to the cabin door. "Hurry! Something bad has happened!" Abigail called. ~~~~ "Bear! There's a bear just over that rise. We need to run him off!" Two miners raced down the hill, calling for help. "Lock yourself in the cabin and don't come out for anything." George pushed Lucinda into the cabin along with Tansy and Abigail. "Once we take down the bear, I'll let you know." Lucinda grabbed George's arms and pulled him close to her. "Come back safe," she whispered in his ear. She watched his jaw clench tight as he nodded. He caressed a lock of hair away from her face before turning and walking out. "Throw the bolt." Lucinda took his advice and placed the door bolt in the two wrought iron arms designed to hold it. She wondered if it would stop a bear. She'd seen grizzly bears prowling the camps around Diggers Flat when she was grubstaking. She'd seen the damage they could do to a campsite. There was no doubt a full grown male could tear the shutters right off the window of this cabin. Tansy leaned out the window toward the hill where the bear had been spotted. "Tansy, what are you doing?" Abigail pulled her sister back and closed and latched the shutters. "I just wanted to see them go after the bear." "You're acting foolish. Mama would have your hide for being so careless!" Tansy rolled her eyes. "Mama won't be here until tomorrow. Besides, George didn't see me. You won’t tell, will you?" "Abigail is right, Tansy. You don't want to take a bear sighting lightly. They've been known to kill a man with one blow of their paws." Lucinda lit the wick of a second candle with an already burning one in her hand. She placed them in two small jars on the table. "I hope it runs off into the woods where it came from. We don't need a bear hunt right before your wedding," Abigail said. "Well, I can't think of any good time for a bear hunt. Can you? They scare me," Tansy admitted. "Why the men insist on hunting them, I'll never understand." Lucinda shook her head. "California is a far different land from Missouri." Abigail pulled a small book from the shelf above the door. "Lucinda, why don't you read to us a bit while Tansy and I sort these flowers and tie up a few bouquets? It will be a good way to pass the time." Lucinda took the book, grateful for the diversion. They could be in here for quite a while, depending on how ardent the men were about tracking the bear. "Have you ever read this before?" Abigail asked. Lucinda looked at the title. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. "I can't say that I have." "It's one of Abigail's favorites," Tansy said. "She's read it so many times, she practically has it memorized." "There's nothing more inspiring than the way he changed his life," Abigail said. "Frederick Douglass was a slave who taught himself to read and write. Then he shared his newfound freedom and knowledge with others to make the world a better place." Tansy nodded. "That's what I think about you, Lucinda. You're going to make a better world for women, by proving we can do anything. Once you have your medical degree, who knows what great things you'll accomplish?" Lucinda opened to the first page. "I don't know about accomplishing great things. I just want to help as many people as I can, in a way I couldn't help my parents." Abigail tied a ribbon on a bundle of lavender. "You know they would be very proud of you on this day." "They'll both be watching you from the heavens as you marry George tomorrow," Tansy added. Lucinda wiped the nervous dampness from her forehead and began to read. She concentrated on keeping her voice calm and steady. She hadn't finished the first chapter before they heard shouting outside, frantic, hurried, calling for help. She threw open the shutters. George and an older man staggered down the hill toward the cabin, dragging a younger man between them. He was a boy, hardly more than sixteen, his head lolling on George's shoulder. Lucinda saw the red stain of blood on the boy's shirt. "Tansy, open the door." Lucinda grabbed the blanket from the foot of the bed. She cleared off the table and laid the blanket over the wooden planks. "Abigail, make sure the water in the teakettle is boiling hot." Her calm and controlled orders kept the other two women from panicking. "Bring him on in," Lucinda called out the window. She placed her medical bag on the stool next to the wooden plank table. The three men squeezed in through the door. They laid the boy on the table. Lucinda began cutting away the cloth from his leather vest and linen shirt. A calm focus swept over her as it always did during an emergency. "I don't know how bad it is," George told her. "The bear swiped at him, knocked his rifle to the ground, and then it ran." Lucinda peeled the blood soaked cloth away from the wound, and dropped it a basin she had placed next to the table. She wet a clean rag and began wiping the blood away so she could see the depth of the injury. "Have you ever treated a bear attack?" The older man asked. "Not yet," she replied. The boy's eyes popped open and he tried to sit up. "Holy Mary, Mother of God! Am I going to die?" Lucinda gently pushed him back down onto the table. "Not yet." She noticed the beads of sweat on the fine hairs of his upper lip. "But I'm going to lose my arm, aren't I?" "Not yet." The boy began thrashing on the table and George held him down with his strong arms. "Do you have any whiskey to give this young man?" Lucinda gave a pointed stare at the lump in the older man's vest pocket. "Give him a swig. Make it two. And make them big. He needs to calm down." The older man uncorked the flask from his vest pocket and poured some into the boy's mouth. He coughed and sputtered, but George held him steady while the whiskey worked its magic. Lucinda wished there were a better anesthetic than hard liquor, which made patients sloppy and didn't do much to ease the pain, but that was the best they had. Lucinda grabbed the alum powder from her bag and mixed it with water to make a paste. “This might sting a little,” she warned before she spread it over the wounds. The boy howled like an angry cat. “What are you doing to him?” the older man asked. “I’m putting a styptic paste on his lacerations to stop the bleeding. It will help prevent infection, too.” Thankfully, her patient had dodged serious injury. The bear's slashing claws had done the most damage to his leather vest and linen shirt, leaving only surface wounds to his chest. It wouldn't even need stitching. However, it would leave a scar, giving him something to tell stories about. She was certain his stories would grow more dramatic with the passage of time, until the bear doubled in size, and his bravery reached godlike proportions. Nothing like what she saw before her today; a young man, whimpering in fear as she examined his lacerations. "You're going to be just fine. A few broad scars and you'll go down in history with your tales of surviving a bear attack." The boy blinked at her. "Truly?" he asked. "I'm not going to die?" "Like I said earlier, not yet. I have a wedding planned, and I will not allow anyone to mar that celebration with an incident such as dying from a bear wound." She wrapped a cloth around his chest, tight enough to compress the wound and stop the bleeding. "Do we have some extra strips of cloth for this man's arm?" Lucinda asked. Tansy lifted her skirt hem and tore a ruffle off her petticoat. She handed it to Lucinda, who smiled at her resourcefulness. "Oh, you poor, brave, man," Tansy told the patient. She held his hand, and he grinned a sloppy grin at her. "You're my angel." He dragged out the last word. Abigail coughed behind her hand. The old man groused, "Enough of the puppy dog eyes. If you're not dying then we need to get back to prospecting." "Are you prospecting near here, sir?" George asked. "We have a claim up over yonder. We'll just be getting back to it now," the old man answered. "Will I see you again," the boy asked Tansy. She slipped a small blanket over his shoulders. "I expect you will, when you bring this blanket back to the cabin." "Mind you that it's clean," added Abigail. George looked over his sister's head to meet Lucinda's eyes. Lucinda just smiled. There were so many men in California, Tansy could have her pick of any one of them. There was no explaining falling in love. Chapter 3 The next afternoon a crowd of people crushed into the parlor of the Mansion House for George and Lucinda's wedding. Sheriff McKinley knew his townspeople well. They would be unlikely to tolerate a long speech, so he kept his marriage discourse short and to the point. He said only three things: He stated that Lucinda and George were both strong people, well suited to each other. He asked God to bless their union. He inquired if George had a ring. George pulled a ring off his littlest finger. He turned to Lucinda, and took her hand in his. Tenderly, he slipped a simple gold band onto her finger. "I hereby wed thee, with this ring made from the gold I found the day I met you. I knew at once you would be my life's desire, forever and always." Lucinda began to cry again. Tears of joy clogged her throat and ran down her cheeks. She couldn't speak. All she could do was nod. "Just kiss her already!" someone shouted. Raucous laughter ensued. George obliged. The salt of her tears mingled with his tender kiss. She hugged him tight, crushing the lavender and poppy bouquet between them. The scent of the crushed flowers sent her back to the day he came back from the levees, the day they kissed lying in the grass amid the lavender blooms. This kiss was as good as that one and more. She never wanted to let him go. Sheriff McKinley cleared his throat. Lucinda and George stepped away and smiled as they turned toward their guests. "I now present you with Mr. and Mrs. George Arnold Jr.," announced the sheriff. "May they live long in happiness, health, and wealth!" Sam Brannan raised his arms wide. "The feast is on the table, and the wine cellar is open!" Two men pulled out a fiddle and a mouth organ and played a triumphant ditty as the crowd found their seats. The tables groaned under the weight of the food. Roasted pheasants rested on platters surrounded by grapes. A whole pig, cooked in the ground, waited to be carved. Roasted venison dressed with sage, and surrounded by wild asparagus, sat alongside platters of oysters fresh from San Francisco Bay. Several loaves of spider bread were distributed among the guests, along with lavender biscuits, and beans. The peach pies and cobblers came courtesy of Mrs. Henriod, and a variety of wines and spirits were Sam Brannan's pleasure to provide. Cheeses and chocolates from the latest steamer to arrive in Sacramento rested on the sideboards. Sam Brannan made the first toast. He tapped a glass with his spoon. The crowd continued feasting. He tapped his glass again. The crowd paid no heed. He held up a gold pan and banged on it with his spoon. That managed to get them to turn in his direction. "Thank you folks for your kind attention. I'd like to make a toast to the young bride and groom." He lifted a wine goblet and waited until the guests had hushed. George put his hand over Lucinda's. "When I first met this young man, I knew he would be an asset to our community. He has determination and spirit. But then when I met Lucinda, I knew he would have his hands full. George has gumption. Lucinda has more. George is stubborn." The crowd snickered. One miner shouted, "I'll drink to that!" "As I was saying, George is stubborn. Lucinda is more stubborn. George has determination and grit. Lucinda has just as much if not more." He tipped his head toward them. "I would say they're a perfect match. Our town was saved, in part, by George's fortitude in working on the levees to hold back the Sacramento River. Now the men are talking about moving the river. Only God and George can do that!" The guests cheered. They clinked glasses. They drank. They picked up their knives and forks. The gold pan rang out its gong again. "I'm not done with my toast," Sam Brannan told them. "While George was out saving the town from the river, Lucinda was nursing those taken ill back to health. Never have I seen such a talented young doctor." He stopped and looked around the table. "Are there any other doctors here? Yes? Well, she's still the best doctor I've ever known. That’s why I recommended her to the Philadelphia Female Medical College." Another cheer came from the guests, and they downed another drink. Bottles were passed around the table. George's father stood up, steadying himself on the edge of the table. "Sit down, old man, it's my turn." He held up his glass. "Two years ago, my son and I were at odds. I wanted him to go into the financial business in San Francisco, and George Jr. wanted to go into the financial business up here in the gold hills. I told him he was a fool. It's a good thing he didn't listen to me. If he had, he wouldn't have been so successful in life, in love, and in friendships. I would not have had the nonpareil pleasure of getting to know Miss Lucinda Martin York. She's a remarkable woman and one I'm proud to call my daughter-in-law. She saved my life when I fell ill during the floods." Knives banged on plates, glasses clinked, and more wine was downed. "I'm so proud of my son. He proved himself to be a man and struck out on his own. He made a life of his own, and a good one it is. May he and Lucinda be blessed with ever increasing joy all their days." Lucinda stood up and gave George Sr. a tender hug. Phineas Peabody decided he was in a reminiscing mood. He had a captive audience and he always had a tale to tell. He stood to give his toast. "I will forever bless the day this young couple came into our lives, way back there in Diggers Flat. You may not know this, but Lucinda saved the love of my life, Mrs. Henriod, from certain death that winter she stayed in the boarding house." Mrs. Henriod gave a solemn nod beside him. "Lucinda sat by her bed, day after day, giving her healing draughts of herbs and cooling her fever with cold cloths. Even when I was sure Mrs. Henriod was on her way out of this world, Lucinda did not give up." Lucinda started to say she had only done what anyone else would have done, but Phineas held out a hand to shush her. "No, you have too much modesty. I owe you forever for the care you gave to my one true love, Mrs. Henriod." The crowed clapped, cheered, and drank the toast before Phineas could continue. The toasts continued, and glasses were refilled. Some of the guests had too much to drink and not enough to eat in spite of the vast quantities of food on their plates. George swept Lucinda out of the parlor and into the horse carriage to escape before the bawdy comments sank into drunken vulgar humor. "We're not spending the night at the Mansion House?" she asked as he helped her up into her seat. "Absolutely not. We're spending the night at our cabin on the hill in LuciArno." George clicked his tongue at the horse, and the carriage took off, just as the guests from the wedding stepped outside onto the portico. "Come back! We have dancing to do!" "Dance with yourselves!" George called out over his shoulder. He smiled at Lucinda. "My wife's dance card is full!" Distance faded the guffaws and shouts as they sped away to their first night together as a married couple. Lucinda stared up at the stars in the sky, imagining her parents smiling down at she and George. Her heart overflowed with the joy of her wedding and the anticipation of their new life together. ~~~~ Lucinda and George awoke to the sounds and smells of fresh eggs and biscuits cooking over an outside fire. The smell of brewed coffee wafted in and out of the bacon scent. "What the devil?" George leaped out of bed, wrapping a sheet around him, and threw open the shutters. Whoops and hollers rose from the small crowd of miners around a cooking fire. Lucinda peered over his shoulder, wrapped in the quilt from the bed. "We thought you two young lovers might need a wake up breakfast after your long night," a miner waved a spatula in the direction of the cabin as he said this. Another gave him a gap-toothed smile and asked, "When's the baby coming? You did your work last night, right?" "They're still drunk," Lucinda whispered. "What are they doing here?" "I don't think they ever went to bed," George pulled the shutters closed and bolted them against the sounds of laughter. "They should pass out soon," Lucinda muttered. "Once they do, we'll have some quiet again, and we can sneak out of here." "I'm not sneaking out of here," George told her. "This is my land and my cabin, and if I want to bring my bride here, they can leave us to our privacy." "Then tell them to leave." George shook his head. "I can't." "What?" Lucinda allowed her mouth to hang open for a split second. "Why not?" George pulled her back to the bed, and enfolded her in his arms again. "They're the men I hired to help me get the mine started." Lucinda raised one eyebrow. "So that gives them the permission to ruin our intimacy?" George kissed her. "No, it doesn't. However, I did tell them they could stay on the land until they build their own cabins." "Ah. You certainly didn't waste any time getting your new claim started, Mr. Arnold." "I don't have time to waste, Mrs. Arnold. I only have a short time to build my wife a mansion of her own." "Say that again." "What? The part about the mansion?" "No, the part before that." "I don't have time to waste, Mrs. Arnold?" "That's right. You don't have a minute to waste. Kiss me while you can." George obliged his new wife, enjoying every minute they didn't waste. ~~~~ The morning before Lucinda's departure for the Philadelphia Female Medical College, she had a breakdown. She lost her confidence in an ocean of worry and anxiety. "George what if the ship sinks on the way to New York?" She twisted her gold wedding band around and around on her finger. "Worse, what if it sinks on the way back from New York, after I've spent two years at college?" George held her close. He kissed her hair. "Shh. Lucinda, your ship is not going to go down. You’re going on Steamer Day, on the ship carrying the gold back to Philadelphia. It’s the safest passage. I know in my heart you'll be back and you'll be the best female doctor in California." "But what if I'm not? What if I lose a patient, like I lost Ma and Pa?" The thought of her parents’ deaths gave her worries more fodder. "You're going to be a doctor, not a miracle worker. You're not Jesus, you know, raising people from the dead." He stroked her hair. "But people think I should be a miracle worker. What if I disappoint everyone?" "Then some people will be disappointed because they’re unrealistic. You’re going to be the best doctor in the United States. You're determined. You're going to accomplish this." He brushed her hair back behind her ear with his thumb. Lucinda calmed herself with deep breaths, but her trepidation remained. "What if you meet another woman, George?" George looked into her eyes. "Lucinda. I'm not falling for anyone else. My heart is bound to you like a tree is bound to the soil it grows in." Lucinda nodded, believing his words. But she still went on. "I know how lonely men can get out here." George stood up. He walked to the door and put on his hat. "Where are you going?" Lucinda asked. "I'm going to show you around and tell you my dreams one more time. I want them to be so real to you that you can carry them with you and pull them out of your pocket any time you have doubts." He took her shawl from the hook on the wall. "Put this on." She wrapped the shawl around her shoulders, and took George's hand. He led her up the hill to a lookout spot. He pointed to a slope in the hill. "See that dip in the land? That's where the opening to LuciArno mine will be. It's all been determined. I used a divining rod, and it pointed to that area." "Is that why it's marked off with logs?" "That's right. Once you're on board your steamer, bound for New York, I'll be breaking ground. The placer gold is all washed away now. The biggest gold strikes are underground." "I do hope you're right." Lucinda leaned her head against his shoulder as she gazed at the land. "I'm right. The divining rod doesn't lie, and it bent all the way down at that spot." George nodded. He took her down toward the granite cornerstone. "This granite rock is where I'll build your mansion. No more log cabins for you. I'm building you a proper home, made from stone quarried from our mine. You'll have a sturdy stone home. It’s going to glitter in the sunlight with specks of gold in the stone." Lucinda smiled at the thought. George pointed to the left of where they were standing. "Just down the slope from here, I'm building you a greenhouse. You'll be able to grow all the medicinal herbs you need to help you in your healing work. You'll have a year-round supply of fresh herbs for medicines, poultices, and tinctures." "It sounds magnificent, George." "That's not even the start of it. Imagine this." They sat down on the rock, and George extended his arm to the fields, sweeping across the landscape. "I'll fill the fields to the left with sheep and Spanish cattle. To the right, we'll be growing crops for food for the town of LuciArno. Beyond that, I'll have vineyards so we can bottle our own wine." Lucinda imagined the lush vegetation and the wind rustling through the fields. "Then I'm going to use the extra rocks from the mine to build a dam across the tributary up above. It will make a small lake. All the waterfowl and the wildlife in the area will come here for water. Plus, it will provide water for the mine and for the town. We'll put in stone aqueducts, like the Romans did." "George, your plan is brilliant. It sounds like utopia. But what will stop the miners from leaving and doing the same thing on their own?" George plucked some grass from the ground and rolled it in his fingers. "That's the best part of all. I have a new business model. The miners will have a stake in the success of the mine. The more profitable it is, the more money they will make. So in the end, it will pay them more to stay with me than to strike out on their own." Lucinda thought of the landowners and business owners she knew, and how their greed kept them from sharing any profits with their employees. "No one has ever run a business that way before, have they?" "Not to my knowledge. That's exactly why this is going to work. People are ready for it. A collaboration of workers for the success of a bigger operation." "Just don't forget me while you're making all these big dreams a reality," Lucinda reminded him. She brushed the grass from his hands and kissed his fingertips. "I will never forget you." He gripped her hand and kissed her. "If I did, a part of my heart would die." "As would mine." Lucinda kissed him again. She looked at his face, taking in every detail. The rebellious curl of hair on his forehead, his clear and sincere blue eyes, his lips she had grown to love kissing. She didn't want to forget a single thing. It would be two long years before she saw him again. The next morning, George drove Lucinda to the Port of Sacramento to board the daily steamship that ran to San Francisco. There she would spend the night with his family, and then board the ship that would speed her to New York. To Philadelphia. To her future. To his future. To the golden dreams that lay ahead for both of them. THE END Thank you for reading this book. If you enjoyed it, please click here to post a review to let others know your thoughts about Gold Rush Wedding. Other books in The California Argonaut series: Gold Rush Girl Gold Rush Deluge Gold Rush Barons Find out more information about the author at You may also sign up for the News from Suzanne Lilly mailing list to read about new releases and special offers. Find out where the story of George and Lucinda began. An excerpt from Gold Rush Girl begins on the next page. Gold Rush Girl Chapter One Sierra Nevada, Alta California, 1849 Lucinda Martin York squared her shoulders, straightened her skirt, and steeled her resolve as the last of the wagons pulled away and left her behind. She was alone. Wholly, undeniably, unequivocally alone. As she watched the dust rise from behind the wagon wheels, a tremor passed through her uncorseted diaphragm, and she held back the urge to give in to her emotions. She was sixteen, she was strong, and she had her wits about her. She would survive. Not only would she survive, she would reach her dreams. Shaking their heads at her stubbornness, everyone else in the Middy-Brighton wagon train was continuing on to places where they’d heard the gold was richer, the nuggets bigger, and the lands of milk and honey sweeter. Those were places farther away from San Francisco, farther away from her dreams. She watched her own wagon, the one she’d sold, roll away, bumping along the rutty road—a horse trail, really—and she patted the possible bag tied underneath her apron. At least the sale of her wagon and oxen gave her a few dollars. Enough dollars to survive on until the snows settled in upon this little valley the locals called “Cullumah.” By that time, she’d be long gone, on a ship bound from San Francisco, heading back east to apply to medical schools. The deaths of both of her parents from cholera while on the trail had convinced her of the rightness of her choice. She already knew a great deal about herbal healing, but it hadn’t been enough to save her ma and pa. If she’d had a doctor’s knowledge, Lucinda reasoned, she could have done more. Besides, if Elizabeth Blackwell could graduate from Geneva Medical College, then Lucinda Martin York could and would graduate from medical school. With honors. She held Elizabeth’s story in her heart as a beacon of hope. “What are you waiting for?” she asked herself. She tucked her unruly mass of chestnut hair into her bonnet, dusted off her apron, grabbed the handle of her handcart, and began the short trek up the road that skirted the few buildings in the settlement. The first group of small buildings sat near the sawmill. Today the mill towered silent beside the American River, an unfortunate victim of the delirium that had swept the millworkers. They scurried and scooped in the water below the tailrace, swirling the sand in their gold pans like supplicants praying for a glint of color. Looking away from the men, Lucinda knocked on the door of a small stone house. The smell of fried bacon and beans wafted out through the stone chimney and settled in the curls of her hair and the folds of her cotton dress. A rugged-looking man came to the door, a bit of pot likker dripping down his gnarly beard. Lucinda instinctively laid her hand over her chin, making a wiping motion. “Well, well. It’s a woman.” The man rubbed his sleeve over his beard and inspected the fresh stain on his already crusty sleeve. Alarmed at the rude reception, Lucinda frowned. “Yes, I am that.” Behind him, a faded calico curtain divided the cabin into two areas. A second man, as grizzled as the first, sat at the table in front of the curtain, scooping beans from a bowl. His beard was so thick Lucinda couldn’t actually see his mouth, where she supposed the beans were being transported. She saw only his hand with the spoon depositing food into a mass of hair. She swallowed. “Excuse me for interrupting your breakfast. I’m eager to find employment here for a fair wage.” The man stared at her as if she’d spoken in a language he didn’t understand. After a pause, he recovered. “What kind of work did you have in mind, miss?” “Anything will do. I just need to earn enough to pay my way to San Francisco.” The man at the table coughed and hit the table with his hand. As he continued to cough and slap the table, the man at the door hitched a thumb toward his roommate. “Look what you done to my brother. You about gave him a fit of apoplexy. We don’t have any work for you, miss. As you can see, we shut down the mill, ’cept for emergencies. We’re miners, looking for some color, just like everyone else in this town.” “Surely there are people here who aren’t miners,” Lucinda ventured. “Why would they be here if it weren’t for the call of the gold?” He hitched his suspenders up over his shoulders and reached behind the door for his hat. “You’d best get along or get down to the river and stake a claim of your own.” Lucinda stepped back to let him pass through the door. She grabbed the handles of the handcart that held all of her belongings. A few pots and pans, a waterproof tarp to use as a shelter, some clothing, and a few sacks of food. Precious possessions in this wild country. “I’ll just keep on walking up the road, then.” She turned her cart uphill. “Good luck in the river today.” “You’d better keep that luck.” The man hefted his pickaxe onto his shoulder. “You’re going to need it more than me.” Around a bend in the road, she saw a long, low building with a sign that read: “J. B. Garland, Assayer of Fair and Honest Repute.” She knew if a businessman needed a sign to pronounce him honest, he often wasn’t. She stepped into the assayer’s office anyway. Behind the office, a stamper pounded rocks from the surrounding hillside. The noise deafened Lucinda, and she leaned forward into the barred window separating Mr. Garland’s desk and scales from the front lobby. She shouted to be heard over the booming of the heavy metal beams on the rock. “Good afternoon, sir. I’m looking for work in town.” “I can hear you fine without you shouting.” The man she assumed to be Mr. Garland didn’t raise his eyes from his ledger. “I’m terribly sorry.” Lucinda felt a flush of heat warm her neck and cheeks. “I’m new here, and I require employment.” The man peered at her with his calculating blue eyes and set down his pen. “Let me give you a piece of advice. Never tell anyone you’re new here.” Lucinda blinked in surprise. The man’s brusque reception was no less disconcerting than the previous man’s had been. “Why wouldn’t I tell people I’m new?” “Everyone is new here. The only people who have been here longer than a few months are Mrs. Henriod, who runs the boarding house, and Mr. Peabody, who was here when James Marshall first built the sawmill for John Sutter.” “I see. In that case, I’m here for a job.” “Let me give you a second piece of advice.” He leaned over the counter toward Lucinda. “No one here is looking for a job or to hire. They’re all down at the river. When it yields some color, they bring it to me. I don’t need anyone helping me value the gold the miners find.” “You don’t need to be rude.” “Didn’t mean to be. Just advising you.” “Your advice is taken.” Although not appreciated. “I don’t suppose you’d have experience working on a stamper.” She knew he was mocking her. She’d seen the heavy iron tubs of quartz behind the building, gold veins glistening with their riches. If she worked a stamper, she’d be deaf before year’s end. A doctor couldn’t be deaf, could she? Then how would she listen to her patients as they recounted their symptoms? Lucinda trudged farther on down the road toward the blacksmith’s shop, where she fared even worse than she did at the assayer’s office. When she suggested she might be of assistance to the blacksmith, he laughed until he doubled over. His gazed roved over her tiny frame. “You don’t look strong enough to blow out a candle, let alone pump the bellows. Besides, you’d probably catch your bonnet strings on fire.” “I can assure you, I have plenty of air in my lungs to handle your tiny fire.” His eyebrows rose to a satisfying height. “Additionally, for your information, my bonnet strings have never been singed.” Lucinda ripped her bonnet off her head and tossed it in her handcart. No matter. I’ll find a way to make a living here. I have no choice. I have no family to help. I have no friends here. I have my own strength of will and that will have to suffice. Lucinda didn’t even bother with the small clapboard general store on what passed for Main Street. Most general stores were family-owned and run enterprises. She walked with weary steps upriver, crunching scabrous, dead leaves under her feet. The handcart grew as heavy with her lack of possessions as her heart grew heavy with worry. She checked the time on her father’s silver pocket watch, the only possession of his she still owned. When he and her mother had succumbed to cholera, as had so many on that terrible journey out west, she kept his pocket watch and her mother’s herbal journal. Deep within her, she knew the journal held the key to her future. The medical and botanical notations were Lucinda’s guidebook for healing others. The wisdom of life passed on from mother to daughter would be her inspiration through the dark days she knew lay ahead. Lucinda sighed. It was after 3:00 p.m. and the sun set early this time of year. Already, the mountains were casting purple shadows across the landscape. She needed to find a place to set up the waterproof tarps she used for a tent. After more than six months on the trail, she could set up and take down a tent in less than ten minutes. The area around the mill town was crowded with miners, so she walked farther up a hill and away from the town. She stopped on a small, flat stretch of land high above the sawmill where James Marshall had discovered gold in January of last year. All the men that used to run it were too busy looking for gold to be bothered with cutting lumber now. With California gold currently valued at sixteen dollars an ounce, the miners braved stark conditions in an attempt to become rich. When she and her parents had left Missouri with their wagon train last April, the talk had been all about the rich land free for the taking in the newly settled Alta California. It didn’t take long for the news of a gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill to spread, especially after Sam Brannan sent copies of The California Star newspaper back east by courier, announcing the riches to be found as easily as bending over and picking them off the ground. The hills around this valley and beyond now crawled with thousands of argonauts, tiny pillars of smoke from their fires marking their locations. The aroma of meat roasting, possibly a wild rabbit, reminded Lucinda she hadn’t eaten today. She found an inviting spot under an oak tree with low-hanging branches and pitched her tent. Keeping her valuables with her in her possible bag, she walked to the river and scooped a kettle full of clear, cold water. Then she walked back to her campsite and began building her evening fire. In no time at all, she had a cooking blaze going, and she set her kettle on one of the flat cooking rocks at the edge to heat water for tea. She pulled out her mother’s journal and read a few pages, admiring the beauty of her script. The swirls of feminine font brought on a rush of memories filled with emotions still new and raw. Lucinda found it hard to breathe. She shoved the journal back into her pack and pulled out her own journal. She’d written in it daily, keeping an accurate account of the overland journey ever since her family left Springfield, Missouri. Whenever she made it back east, back to the states, she could read this journal of her California adventures. She would never take a soft, warm bed for granted again. Over the crackling of burning wood, she heard a soft quacking sound in the nearby shadows. She stood up to see where it was coming from. A young duckling ran up next to her and peeped a friendly hello. It cocked its head to one side and looked up at her. “Well, hello, little one.” She held out a hand toward it. “Where did you come from?” It gave her a soft quack in reply. Lucinda peered into the nearby scrub oaks but didn’t see the mother. “You’ve wandered away from home,” she told it. “Where are your mama and your brothers and sisters?” Again, the duckling looked up at her, cocked its head, and quacked. “I suppose if you’re lost, it wouldn’t hurt if you spent the night here. In the morning we’ll go find your mama.” In her heart, though, Lucinda knew the duckling’s mother was probably dead. No duckling would wander away unless its mother was dead. They were two orphans together. She sprinkled a small amount of rice in a pan, poured some of the boiling water from the kettle over it, and placed it at the edge of the fire. Everywhere she moved the duckling followed, peeping softly, scuffling in and out of the hem of her skirt. “Are you hungry, too?” She spread a bit of coarsely ground cornmeal on a flat rock. The duckling gobbled it up and pecked around the ground for more food. “If you’re going to stay and visit with me tonight, I need to give you a name.” She slowly reached down and it allowed her to pet it on the head. “You’re so tame!” she exclaimed. “It’s a lucky thing for you that you came to my camp and not some hungry miner’s camp. You might have ended up in his stewpot.” Stirring the rice, she pondered names. “Hmm, let’s see. How about Molly?” The duckling ran a few steps away from her. Its head bobbed up and down as it looked at her. “Okay, I see you don’t like that one. That’s all right. I didn’t really like it either.” Lucinda sat down and made herself comfortable on her stool. “Maybe you’re a boy, not a girl. I should pick a name that could go both ways. Um, what do you think of Popper?” The duckling stayed in its spot, still bobbing its head up and down, watching Lucinda. “Okay, let’s try Cinnamon. You have such pretty brown feathers.” At the sound of the name Cinnamon, the duck moved a little closer, cocked its head, and quacked loudly. “Cinnamon!” Lucinda called to it. The duckling ran to her and scooted under her skirt hem. She laughed. “I see you like that name. All right. Cinnamon it is.” Cinnamon settled into a warm spot under her skirt hem, just barely poking its head out. The last rays of the sun winked out behind the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, turning everything to shadow. Lucinda stirred her pot of rice again and dropped a few tea leaves in her teakettle. She enjoyed the warmth of the fire and the warmth of the duck lying on her feet. Something crunched behind her and a twig snapped. Lucinda spun around. The dusky darkness hid everything beyond her warm ring of light. A tendril of fright, carried on her exhalation, reached out to brush her cheek. “Who’s there?” She hoped her voice sounded strong and clear. No one answered, and the silence was so great even Cinnamon stopped moving. The feeling of unease settled across her shoulders and into the pit of her stomach. She stood up, determined to out whoever was hiding in the dark.


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