"You Barkleys, you never give up, do ya?" Tom Lightfoot- Episode: 'Lightfoot'
Audra Barkley hoped that Tom Lightfoot's campaign at the capital actually was working. Tom had graduated at Harvard the previous year. He had spent all of this previous year trying to improve conditions for his people, the Modoc Indians.
Tom was a full-blooded Modoc. The town of Stockton still didn't like him, even though he had a White man's education. The Modoc's were seen as savages. Audra had known Tom since they were children. Tom used to play with her and Nick at a fort on Barkley land.
Tom was trying to make the Modoc Reparations Bill into law. It would be wonderful if he succeeded. After the trouble the year before in Stockton, Audra hoped that Tom's ideas would work. The year before Sheriff Fred Madden out at Fort Barkley had almost killed Tom.
When he graduated from Harvard Law School he came to Stockton to visit the Barkleys. When Lil Bailey and Ben Watson accused him of murder, Tom went on the warpath. After being shot Tom was asked to be legal council for the House of Representatives in California.
It took Audra only a few weeks to realize that she loved Tom and she knew that he loved her. Tom, of course, wouldn't ask her to marry him. If Audra married him and had his children, her reputation would be damaged.
Tom was coming back this afternoon to Stockton. Jarrod said he was taking a brief vacation. The House worked Tom to exhaustion as Jarrod said. Audra was worried that Tom's health would suffer. Tom's arm had healed from the gunshot wound, but Audra hoped that wound hadn't stopped Tom from being a lawyer.
Audra put a flower in a vase, her feelings no secret from Victoria Barkley.
Victoria pushed Audra's long blond hair away from her face. "Audra?" Victoria asked, her voice concerned.
"Am I that obvious, Mother?" Audra asked, smiling at Victoria as she rested her hands on the porcelain vase.
"You are worried about something, Audra," Victoria pointed out, looking into Audra's blue eyes.
"It's Tom. It's been a whole year since he became Legal Council of Indian Affairs. I'm worried about him, Mother," Audra said, her voice catching.
"Audra, you love him, don't you?" Victoria said, catching what her daughter hadn't said.
"Mother, I love him. But I shouldn't love him. If I do and we marry, nobody in Stockton would accept our children or our marriage," Audra said, voicing the worries in her heart.
"Audra, you love him. If you love Tom Lightfoot it shouldn't matter what anyone says," Victoria said, her tone firm.
"Mother, you don't mind that I love Tom?" Audra asked, her surprise evident in her eyes.
"I'm not completely oblivious, Audra. I've known that you loved him since you were a girl. Audra, if you love him you have my permission to marry him," Victoria said, her voice gentle.
Audra threw her arms around Victoria and kissed her mother's cheek. "Mother, I love you," Audra said, feeling her spirits lift high up. Audra turned back to her chore. She felt so happy that Victoria approved of Tom that nothing could have dampened her mood.
Tom Lightfoot sat in the coach trying not to fall asleep. After a year Tom's job had made him more worn out than ever. It was nice of the Minister of Indian Affairs to let him take two weeks off. It would give him a chance to rest after the ugly fights he'd seen at the Senate and House meetings.
Being the only Modoc Indian to pass the bar exam at Harvard, Tom was still surprised that they had asked him if he'd be willing to be legal council. Audra had begged him to take the job. That it would be good for him and his people.
Audra. Tom sighed as he thought of the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Barkley.
Audra and her brother, Nick, had been his playmates when they were children. Tom felt as though he loved her. They were both the same age, but the only difference was that Tom was Indian and Audra was White. It would cause quite a stir for a Modoc Indian to marry a White woman.
And Tom didn't want to cause trouble for Audra and her family. Tom couldn't stop himself. He fell asleep, his shoulder-length hair blowing in the breeze. He slept for two straight hours, without even dreaming.
"Stockton comin' up, Counselor Lightfoot!" The stagecoach driver yelled back at Tom, startling him out of a deep sleep.
Tom rubbed his dark brown eyes and gripped his briefcase. He had some briefs that he had to write out while on vacation. The thought of writing out those briefs made him feel sick to his stomach.
Tom looked out the window of the stagecoach. Little farms dotted the side of the road. The small farms had crops of grapes, olives, and oranges. One of the more major crops were children. Most farmers had huge families.
Tom wanted children of his own, but the Modoc women on the reservation were all married and Audra would never consider marrying him. To be married and have children would be a pie-in-the-sky dream.
As long as Tom had lived he had loved Audra. Even as children he thought she was the most beautiful White girl he had ever seen. He hadn't seen any other girl hold a candle to Audra Barkley.
Tom had to shake his head slightly. He had to keep reminding himself that he couldn't marry Audra. The stage stopped in front of the stage office.
Tom stepped out to see Jarrod Barkley's smiling face. This was how his last visit to the Barkleys had started. He hoped it wouldn't be a repeat of last time either. He knew that feelings toward the Modoc people hadn't changed since last time also. People still resented that an Indian had graduated from Harvard and was legal council to the Minister of Indian Affairs. That was obvious from the venomous glare on the stationmaster's face.
"Jarrod!" Tom greeted his friend.
Jarrod came up to Tom and gave his back a solid thump. "How are you, Tom? You look tired," Jarrod commented, his voice serious.
"I am tired, Jarrod. Guess you never thought you'd hear me say that," Tom said, rubbing his eyes with his hand.
Jarrod clamped a hand on Tom's broad shoulder. "Why don't I buy you a meal and take you out to the ranch where you can rest?" Jarrod asked.
Tom's dark eyes lit up at that suggestion. Some hot food and a warm bed were sounding better by the minute. "Sounds great, Jarrod. I'm so happy I don't have to hear arguments for two whole weeks!" Tom said, taking his briefcase out of the stagecoach.
"The arguments turning ugly, Tom?" Jarrod asked as they walked over to The Cattlemen's Hotel.
"You don't even know the half of it, Jarrod. How's your mother and Audra?" Tom asked, changing the subject.
"Fine. Mother and Audra have been fixing the house up for your arrival. They're so happy to see you," Jarrod said, understanding why Tom wanted to change the subject.
"I'm happy to see them too," Tom admitted as they walked into the hotel. As they ate Tom fought to stay awake. The steak, green beans, and potatoes tasted like Heaven to Tom.
The Barkley mansion loomed up in front of Tom's eyes. Each time he saw it he was impressed with the size of the house. When his mother died of smallpox and his father drank himself to death, the Barkleys took him in as one of the family.
Tom and Jarrod got out of the buggy Jarrod had brought to town. Tom grabbed his briefcase and suitcase from the rear of the buggy. Jarrod opened the door for Tom. Tom went inside to be greeted by Victoria.
"Tom!" Victoria greeted Tom, hugging him as if she was his mother. Tom liked the idea of having Victoria Barkley for a mother. She was very kind and treated him like he was one of her sons.
"It's nice to see you, Mrs. Barkley," Tom said, smiling at the small woman.
Victoria Barkley's height was that of a teenager's. All of her children, even Audra, was taller than Victoria. But what Victoria lacked in height she more than made up for in a fiery personality.
"Tom!" Audra exclaimed, sounding like a foghorn on a ship as she came running into the room.
Tom looked at Audra. She was more beautiful than ever. Her long blonde hair was pulled up into an exquisite knot and her blue eyes were joyful.
Tom pushed some of his long hair out of his eyes. After eleven years of living among White people he had only cut his hair a few times, but never above his shoulders.
"You look wonderful, Audra," Tom said, handing Silas his luggage.
"Tom, how's your job?" Audra asked, looking into Tom’s eyes.
"Fine. We spend half the time arguing, but I feel we're getting a lot done," Tom said, squeezing her hand gently with his large hand.
Audra looked into Tom's dark-brown eyes. They looked happy to see her and Victoria, but they looked tired. Tom looked into Audra's bright-blue eyes. They looked both concerned and happy to see him.
"Audra, I'm all right," Tom said, sounding slightly irritable over her worry.
"I've been so scared for you, Tom. How's the Modoc Reparation Law coming along?" Audra asked, her tone serious.
"I've heard a lot of ugly arguments. I'm glad I don't have to hear them for two whole weeks," Tom said, sighing with relief.
"Silas, take Tom's things to his room please," Victoria said, stopping the conversation.
"Yes'm, Miz Barkley. Come with me, Mr. Tom," Silas said to the tall Indian.
Tom followed Silas, feeling his fatigue come back as he went to his room.
Silas laid Tom's suitcase and briefcase on his bed. "Thank you, Silas," Tom said to the old man.
"You're welcome, Mr. Tom. I'm glad you is back. Miss Audra loves you so much she was worried about you," Silas whispered confidentially to Tom.
Tom tried, without success, not to smile at Silas's comment. So Audra loved him as much as he loved her! A White woman loved him! After all the trouble he caused the year before with the Watson brothers and Lil Bailey, she still loved him!
"Thank you for telling me, Silas. I love her too," Tom said, sitting on his bed after moving his briefcase and suitcase.
"Have you told Miss Audra how you feel?" Silas asked Tom, putting clothes in the wardrobe.
Tom smiled as he pondered the question. "No. And she's not going to know either," Tom said, his jaw set in a stubborn look.
Silas looked at Tom surprised. When Tom got determined about something he wouldn't change his mind. You could move land and sea, but Tom Lightfoot wouldn't budge.
After a long nap Tom walked downstairs to join the family for supper. A young cowboy with blond hair and blue eyes entered the house followed by Nick Barkley.
"Tom! How are ya?" Nick shouted, slapping Tom's back hard.
"It's nice to see you too, Nick," Tom said, pushing a lock of hair out of his eyes. Nick was a source of endless amusement to Tom. Nick was very loud. Even as children Nick had a problem with shouting in the house. Tom looked over at Heath.
Heath was trying hard with no success, not to laugh at Nick's loud greeting. Tom hadn't met Heath when he came to Stockton last time. Heath had been at a horse auction in Modesto. As far as Tom could tell Heath and Audra looked like Tom Barkley; same blond hair and blue eyes. Heath's hair color was only a couple of shades darker than Audra's. Tom Lightfoot didn't know what to think about Heath. Heath's next words reassured tom that Heath was an okay person.
"Nice to meet ya, Tom. Sis has told me an awful lot about ya," Heath said, his tone quieter than Nick's boisterous tone. Heath shook Tom's hand firmly. Tom found Heath's greeting as welcoming as Nick's, Jarrod's, Audra's, and Victoria's.
"It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Heath," Tom said, his doubts about Heath's place in the family gone.
"Tom! You're awake!" Audra squealed, breezing into the foyer from the direction of the kitchen.
As Tom looked into Audra's eyes, he saw that what Silas said was true. Audra's eyes were full of love for him. Tom was determined not to tell Audra that he loved her as much as she loved him. He loved her enough not to ruin her life.
"Yes, I slept very well," Tom said, walking into the parlor with Nick, Heath, and Audra.
"I hope you're hungry. Mother and I cooked your favorite; wild duck," Audra said, sitting on an overstuffed chair.
"Sounds wonderful, Audra. I hope your cooking is better than it was 11 years ago," Tom said, a teasing smile in his dark-brown eyes.
"Nope. Mother had to cook that duck, I bet," Heath said, enjoying the chance to tease Audra.
Audra Barkley's cooking skills were pretty awful. Tom remembered the first time Audra had cooked for him. Tom still couldn't decide if it was a steak and potato on his plate or a blackened rock and charcoal briquette. He loved Audra, but if they even considered marriage he'd get a cook before he'd even let her in the kitchen!
"You two are terrible!" Audra huffed, glaring first at Heath and then at Tom. She stamped her foot in mock-anger.
The conversation might have continued if Victoria hadn't come into the foyer from the kitchen. "Dinner is on the table," Victoria said, smoothing her silver hair back.
"That's good, Mother. Boy howdy, we need to eat before Nick starts shouting about food," Heath said, a cherubic smile on his face.
Audra giggled. Tom liked her laugh. It sounded like rain falling on water or the soft sound of piano music. The whole family walked toward the dining room, the smell of duck wafted from the dining room. The meal made tom feel grateful that he had this family to care about him. Could he marry Audra? Could this family be his?
Tom fought to stay awake as he helped Heath and Nick with the chores. Heath was in his element teasing Nick. Tom found Heath's jokes funny, even though he didn't laugh. Apparently teasing Nick was a lot of fun as Heath had obviously found out.
Tom was so intent on his chores and listening to Heath gently rib Nick that the next question took him by surprise. "So, Tom, when are you going to marry our little sister?" Heath drawled in his Southern accent.
Tom nearly dropped his pitchfork at Heath's question. A red flush came up on his face and Tom uncharacteristically stuttered. "I...I... don't know what you mean, Heath," Tom said, trying not to let on the question bothered him.
"C'mon, Tom! Any man with half a brain knows that you have feelings for her. She's in love with you, so what's the problem?" Nick said, in his normally loud voice.
"I'm an Indian, Nick!" Tom shouted, letting out the reason why he couldn't marry Audra.
"Sis don't care about that. All she knows is that she loves you, Tom. She wants to be your wife and have your children," Heath said, trying to make Tom see reason.
"It'd be too complicated if I married her. People are not going to treat her with respect if I'm her husband. My children won't be seen as half-White. They'll be seen as Modoc Indian. The race of their mother won't count with them," Tom said, trying to explain the complications.
"Tom, do you love her?" Nick asked the simple question.
Tom took a deep breath. "Yes. I love her enough to not ruin her life or the lives of my children if I did marry her," Tom said.
"I heard Audra tell Mother this morning that if she couldn't be your wife, she won't marry anybody," Heath pointed out, hoping it would change Tom's mind.
"Really? She actually said that?" Tom asked, surprised that Audra loved him that much.
"That's true, Tom. You are an Indian, but Audra doesn't care if you're Indian. She just loves you for who you are. Why don't you go tell her that you love her? Mother, Jarrod, and Audra are in the parlor. If you tell mother that you love Audra and you'll marry her, Mother would give you the biggest wedding in Stockton," Nick said, clapping Tom's shoulder.
"I don't want a big wedding, Nick. If I do marry your sister I want it simple. My father's brother and sister can come over from the reservation and we can have it in a church," Tom said, resuming his chores.
"You go to church now, Tom?" Nick asked, polishing a saddle.
"I've been going more lately. A few weeks ago my job was wearing me down and I decided to give my life to Jesus. I wouldn't mind getting married in a church. When I get back to San Francisco I plan on getting baptized," Tom said, laying the pitchfork against the wall.
Tom yawned and pushed back his hair. 'Well, I'm going to bed. I'll see all of ya in the morning," Tom said.
As Tom walked back to the house he felt as if Nick and Heath were right. He loved Audra and she loved him. There was nothing wrong with their marriage if they loved each other. Tom would ask for Victoria and Jarrod's permission to marry Audra in the morning. He hoped they'd say yes.
Tom tried hard to calm the nervous butterflies in his stomach. He licked his lips a few times as he tried to think of the words to say to both Victoria and Jarrod. Because Tom Barkley had died Jarrod had become Audra's father figure. He didn't want to marry Audra without either Jarrod's or Victoria's blessing.
Tom tried to tie his bowtie without strangling himself. He ran his hand through his long hair and took a few deep breaths.
His thoughts turned to that of his father. John Lightfoot would probably not agree to this marriage. While he was friendly to White people he thought that no race was better than the Modoc Indians were. He would not approve of a White daughter-in-law.
If Tom got Jarrod and Victoria's blessing he would have to go to the reservation to talk to his uncle. Jack Lightfoot didn't really like White people either. 11 years ago he had even gone as far as to tell Tom that he shouldn't go back east to become a lawyer. A White man's education was not of any use to anyone except White men.
Silas came into the foyer. "Mrs. Barkley and Mr. Jarrod are waiting fo' you, Mr. Tom," Silas said. Tom had told Silas about his plan to ask Victoria and Jarrod for permission to marry Audra. Silas had told Tom that he would tell Jarrod and Victoria that Tom wanted to speak with them.
Tom stepped into the parlor. Jarrod stood by the fireplace while Victoria sat on the couch with her knitting needles.
"Silas said you wanted to talk to us, Tom. Would you care to sit down?" Victoria asked, indicating the chair across from her.
"Yes, Ma'am. Mrs. Barkley, Jarrod, you know that I'm not White. I am an Indian-" Tom started, feeling like that was a dumb way to start a marriage proposal.
"Tom, didn't you learn anything last year? We don't care if you are an Indian," Victoria rebuked him, sounding like his mother again.
"It's about Audra," Tom said, folding his hands together on his right knee.
'What about her, Tom?" Jarrod asked his friend.
"It took me a long time to realize this, Jarrod, but I love her. I want to ask for your permission to marry her. I won't marry her if you say no," Tom said rapidly.
"Tom, what makes you think we would say no?" Victoria asked, her voice kind.
"Like I said, I'm an Indian. I didn't know if you'd want me as part of your family," Tom said truthfully.
"Thomas Lightfoot, that is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard! You have been part of this family since you were a boy! Audra told me about her feelings for you and I discussed it with Jarrod. You two are in love; you have my blessing," Victoria said, her voice harsh, but loving at the same time.
"Do you feel the same way, Jarrod?" Tom asked, looking up at his friend.
"Yes I do, Tom. Audra's happiness is most important to me. I just want to make her happy," Jarrod said, clapping Tom's shoulder.
"Thank you, Jarrod, Mrs. Barkley," Tom said, happy that his proposal had not been met with anger.
'When are you going to ask her to be your wife, Tom?" Jarrod asked, taking a deep draw of his cigar.
"Tonight. I'll propose at dinner if that's all right," Tom said, asking Victoria's permission.
"It's all right. None of us will tell Audra what the dinner is about," Victoria said.
"Thank you, Ma'am. Now I better go find a ring to give her and go to the reservation. My uncle has to know about my marriage," Tom said, standing up.
"I hope he approves, Tom," Jarrod said, walking with Tom toward the door.
Tom hoped his uncle would come to the wedding. It would be a great source of pain to Tom if the Modoc people didn't accept his wife or any future children he had.
The smoke from all the fires on the reservation greeted Tom. The fires were for cooking. Either water lily bulbs or deer or bear meat was in those fireplaces cooking.
There were also the council meetings. At each meeting a fire was lit in the fireplace at the council house. So the smell of wood smoke mixed with the smell of tobacco smoke.
Tom knocked on the door to one of the largest cabins in the area. A woman, with long dark hair and wrinkles answered the door.
"Tom Lightfoot!" The woman greeted in English.
"Hello, Aunt Ruth. Is Uncle Jack in?" Tom greeted his uncle's wife in Modoc.
"He's at the council meeting, Nephew. Won't you come in?" Ruth invited Tom into the cabin.
"All right. When will Uncle Jack be back, Aunt Ruth?" Tom asked, sitting by the fireplace.
"I do not know, Nephew. Is it important news that you must tell him?" Ruth asked, setting a plate of water lily bulbs in front of him.
"Yes. Aunt Ruth, I'm getting married and I want Uncle Jack's permission to marry her," Tom said, eating one of the bulbs.
"Who is the lucky girl?" Ruth asked, her dark eyes shining with happiness.
"She isn't Modoc, Aunt Ruth. She's a White girl. Her family took me in after my father and mother died. Her name is Audra," Tom said, knowing that his aunt might react like Jack Lightfoot would.
"Is she beautiful?" Ruth asked, taking Tom completely by surprise.
"Very beautiful. She has long blonde hair and beautiful bright blue eyes. I already asked her family and they agreed," Tom said, setting his empty plate down.
Ruth understood Tom's feelings. Jack loved her as much as Tom professed to love this girl. Tom would marry Audra without Jack's permission, but Tom didn't want it that way.
An old man with long dark hair, buckskin clothing, and a calico shirt entered the house. "Thomas!" Jack Lightfoot greeted his nephew, pounding him on the back.
"Hello, Uncle. You look very well," Tom said, sitting back down.
Jack pulled out his pipe and lit it with a hot coal. "It has been a long time since we see you, Nephew," Jack said, between puffs of smoke.
"I know, Uncle. I have been busy trying to make life better for our people," Tom said, taking a drink from his clay cup.
"Why are you here, Nephew? I don't think it would be about your job," Jack asked, laying down the pipe.
"Uncle, I'm here on vacation and I realized last night that there is a girl that I would like to marry," Tom said, picking his words carefully.
"Is it a girl I know here on the reservation?" Jack asked, feeling the happiness that Ruth felt.
"Uncle, she's not Modoc. She's a White woman about my age," Tom said, knowing what Jack would say next.
"WHITE! YOU WOULD MARRY ONE OF THE WHITE WOMEN AND HAVE CHILDREN THAT ARE NOT EVEN FULL-BLOODED MODOC!" Jack yelled jumping up. His face was scarlet with anger.
"Yes I would, Audra Barkley loves me and I her. She told her mother that she wouldn't marry anyone but me," Tom said, his voice still calm.
Jack was surprised at Tom's calmness. The Lightfoots were known for losing their tempers at the slightest provocation. Not knowing what to say he stalked out of the room angrily.
Ruth laid her small brown hand on Tom's broad shoulder. "Do not worry, Nephew. He will get used to the idea. Remember he didn't say no," Ruth said, kissing Tom's forehead.
"He didn't say no, Aunt Ruth. But he didn't say yes either," Tom said, kissing her forehead gently before walking out the door.
Tom knew this would happen. His uncle would be against the marriage. The best thing to do right now was go to Stockton and buy Audra's ring.
Audra let Victoria lead her into the dining room. A huge secret was going through the family. A secret that was being kept from her. Tom had been gone a great deal of the day and all Jarrod would say was that at dinner Tom had a question to ask her.
Audra dressed in her most exquisite blue dress. The dress had a cascade of baby's-breath going to the hem of the skirt and was gathered at the waist. Audra had put on a string of elegant pearls and had piled her long golden hair on top of her head.
Audra walked into the dining room. All the brothers and Tom stood up as the women entered. Tom was dressed like the brothers. He wore a tuxedo and a black bowtie.
'You look very handsome tonight, Tom," Audra complimented him.
"Thank you, Audra. You look very beautiful yourself," Tom said.
After everyone sat down and grace was said, Audra looked around the table. "All right, what's the secret?" Audra asked.
"I don't know anything about any secret. Heath, do you know anything about a secret?" Nick asked, turning to his younger brother.
"No, I don't know any secrets," Heath said, trying to eat his stew and talk at the same time.
Audra looked amused and frustrated. She turned to look at Tom. It was all he could do not to laugh. "Tom, maybe you could tell me what's going on?" Audra huffed.
"Can I finish my dinner first, Audra?" Tom asked, taking a drink of his coffee.
Audra couldn't believe this! They all had a secret and none of them would tell her! She ate random bites of her stew, trying not to get upset at them.
"Audra," Tom's voice broke into her frustration fifteen minutes later.
Audra looked up from her plate. Tom held her hand in his large brown hand. "What is it, Tom?" Audra asked, stiffly. If this family and Tom were going to keep a secret from her, then she just won't talk to them.
"Audra, I ran a few errands today. I had to go to the Modoc reservation and I had to pick up something at the jewelry store. What I am trying to say is, Audra would you do me the honors of becoming my wife? Would you marry me?" Tom asked, presenting a small velvet box.
Audra was speechless. She looked at the velvet box and touched it lightly. "Can I think about it, Tom?" Audra asked, her voice trembling slightly.
"Of course. I love you, Audra. You think about it," Tom said, picking up her hand and kissing it lightly.
Audra sat in her window seat, looking at the moon. She didn't even hear the door open as Victoria entered the room. Victoria touched Audra's shoulders.
"Audra, are you all right?" Victoria asked, removing one of the pins from Audra's hair.
"Mother, how did you know that Father was the one for you?" Audra asked, turning to look at Victoria.
Victoria sat down next to Audra. "It took me a long time to realize that I loved your father as much as you love Tom. He asked me to marry him and I said I had to think about it. He waited for me to make up my mind. It actually took me two months to realize that I loved your father," Victoria said.
"Did you mean it when you said that you'd welcome Tom into the family?" Audra asked, taking out of her hair all the pins. The long blonde hair spilled past her shoulders.
"Of course I did. Tom loves you Audra. He said he did. Like your father wouldn't, Tom won't marry another girl," Victoria said, standing up.
Victoria walked out of Audra's room. Audra ran the brush through her hair, still thinking whether she should marry Tom or not.
The next day was sunny and a light breeze blew. Audra made her way down to the breakfast, her mind made up. After telling her mother how much she loved Tom and wanted to marry him, she should marry him.
Everyone was at the table, talking loudly. Heath was ribbing Nick and Jarrod and Tom was talking about Jarrod's recent case. Victoria was the one who noticed Audra in the doorway.
"Good morning, Audra," Victoria greeted Audra loudly over the din.
All conversation and teasing stopped as everyone turned. Audra looked at Tom. "Good morning, Tom," Audra said, smiling kindly.
"Good morning, Audra. Have you made up your mind yet?" Tom asked, taking a drink of his coffee.
"Can I answer that with a question of my own? Where are we going to live? In Sacramento or Stockton?" Audra asked.
Tom's mind pondered the question. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. "Audra, does this mean yes?" Tom asked, thinking that she might have meant no.
"Yes. It means yes, Tom," Audra said, walking over to Tom. She picked up the velvet black box that contained her engagement ring. She handed it to Tom. He took it out of the box and placed it on her finger.
"Audra, you've made me very happy," Tom said, after they sat down.
"I love you, Thomas Lightfoot. I want to be your wife," Audra said, pushing a lock of his long dark hair out of his eyes.
"You know when people around here find out that you're going to marry me they are going to give you a hard time," Tom said.
"I don't care what other people think. I'm marrying you and it's no one else's business but ours and God's," Audra said, her voice serious.
"When we do get married I'll build us a house here in Stockton. I don't want to take you away from your family. Also when I go to Sacramento you can stay with your mother," Tom said, already starting to make plans.
"When do you want to get married, Tom?" Audra asked, taking a bite of scrambled eggs.
"I don't want anything too big. I just want it simple with you family and some of my family as witnesses," Tom said.
"Tom, we must buy Audra a dress," Victoria said, interrupting the conversation.
"Why don't you wear the one you had on last night? It was awfully pretty," Tom said, turning back to Audra.
Audra giggled. "Tom, that was a party dress. Not a wedding dress!" Audra said, amused.
"My mistake," Tom said, laughing at his own stupidity. Of course Audra had wanted to buy herself a wedding dress. All women did.
"You will supply the flowers, Mother? Some roses from your rose garden?" Audra asked, turning to look at Victoria.
"Of course. Some pretty yellow roses will do nicely in decorating the church," Victoria said.
"And Jarrod you will give me away since Father isn't here to do it?" Audra asked, turning to look at Jarrod.
"I'd be delighted, young lady," Jarrod said, squeezing her hand gently.
"What about Eugene? Is someone going to write him about the wedding?" Audra asked, her questions starting to give them all headaches.
"Audra, relax. We'll fix everything. You just be the most beautiful bride in the world," Nick said, finally saying what everyone was thinking.
Audra picked up her fork again and ate her ham. It tasted like sawdust to her. She found herself wondering what she was going to do about her cooking skills. She knew they were terrible. Victoria had better teach her how to cook before the wedding took place.
Victoria and Audra drove to town after breakfast. Considering they had 12 days to put together a wedding they wanted to buy Audra’s dress that morning. If they paid Libby Simpson extra it would be ready on time.
"Mother, what makes you so sure that Libby will make my dress? No one in Stockton likes Tom since he's an Indian," Audra said, voicing her worries.
"If Libby doesn't agree to do it, we'll go to San Francisco to buy it. Why are you worried Audra. You’re the one who said that the marriage wasn’t anyone’s business, but yours, Tom’s and God’s,” Victoria said, keeping her eyes on the road.
"I just can't forget what happened last year when Tom was accused of killing Clem Watson. This town is going to ridicule both him and me for falling in love and marrying," Audra said.
"You love him, Audra. That's all that matters. But I do have a question for you; are you and Tom going to have any children?" Victoria asked.
Audra smiled at the question. Audra loved children, but she didn't know how anyone would feel about half-Indian children. The children would be insulted on who their father was, not their mother.
"Mother, I would love to have children, but how will the world treat them? They are half-White, but people would be concentrating on their Modoc blood," Audra said, frightened for any future children she and Tom could have.
"Audra, as long as those children know their mother and father love them, it won't matter," Victoria said. Her daughter's worries worried her. Audra loved Tom, but she had doubts about how people would treat her children and Tom and herself.
"You're right. I'm letting myself get scared over the future," Audra said, trying to reassure herself.
"What kind of dress would you like?" Victoria asked, changing the subject.
"I'm not exactly sure. Nothing yellow. I've gotten to where I don't like yellow," Audra said, thinking.
Victoria stopped the buggy in front of the dressmaker's shop and tied the horse to the hitching post. Libby Simpson was the best dressmaker in town. She was a widow that lived with her 17-year-old daughter, Andrea. Libby’s father, Braehma, was a retired cowhand that managed the books on cattle and horses.
Libby and Andy were inside sewing buttons on dresses. Andy wore this nice blue dress that matched her blue eyes. Andy was once a tomboy who wore boy's clothes. Her attitude toward girls dresses changed when she got a crush on Heath. Now she insisted on being called Andrea.
"Hello Libby, Andrea," Victoria greeted the woman and Andrea.
"Victoria and Audra, hello! What may I do for you today?" Libby asked, rising from her chair.
"Audra is getting married in 12 days and we need a wedding dress," Victoria said, seeing no point to hide the truth from the woman.
"Congratulations, Audra! Who's the lucky young man?" Libby asked, kissing Audra's cheek warmly.
"It's Tom Lightfoot," Audra said, bracing herself for the shock she knew that would come.
Libby and Andrea both gasped in shock. "Tom Lightfoot? Miss Audra, he's an Indian!" Andrea exclaimed.
"We are well aware of his race, Andrea. Audra loves him and she needs a dress," Victoria said, a hard steel in her voice.
"Victoria, if I consent and make the dress the whole town might burn down my shop," Libby said, afraid.
"It shouldn't matter. You are in the business of making dresses. Now can you make one for Audra?" Victoria said, still determined to have a dress made there.
"Very well. I don't like it, but I'll do it. I need Audra's measurements. And Audra, you'll have to pick what pattern of wedding dress you'd like," Libby said, tears in her voice.
Audra flipped through the book, finally deciding on a taffeta dress, with ribbons adorning the hem and Irish lace edging the sleeves and neckline. Audra and Victoria walked out to go home, feeling happy that they had gotten the wedding dress accomplished.
Libby Simpson sat sewing on Audra's dress when Martha McKendrick entered the shop. In Stockton Martha Mckendrick had the biggest mouth. Everyone knew not to tell her a secret. It would be all over town in one hour.
"Hello, Libby," Martha said in her southern accent.
"Hello, Martha," Libby said, looking up briefly from the ribbon she was sewing.
"Who is this for? It's gorgeous!" Martha said, fingering the soft material.
"Audra Barkley. She's getting married in 12 days and she needs a dress," Libby said, trying not to divulge too much information.
"Audra Barkley's getting married? And no one in town knows about it?" Martha asked, her eyes as wide as tureens.
"She only accepted the proposal this morning," Libby said, picking up another ribbon.
"Who's the lucky young man? Is it someone from Stockton?" Martha asked.
"He did live here once. It's Tom Lightfoot," Libby said, knowing what Martha's reaction would be.
It took a few minutes for the shock to register on Martha's face. "Tom Lightfoot? He's an Indian!" Martha said, her voice almost panicked.
"Yes. Andy and me told Audra that, but she says that she loves him. Victoria was with her and it looked as if she backed Audra's decision," Libby said, threading her needle with some white thread.
"And you didn't tell the sheriff?" Martha asked appalled.
"Why would I need to tell the sheriff? There is no law against a White woman marrying an Indian," Libby asked confused.
"Well, I'll ask my Henry to tell Fred Madden about this. There should be a law against a white woman marrying an Indian," Martha said in her most hoity-toity voice.
Libby set down her sewing, wishing she had kept her mouth shut. Fred Madden wouldn't stop the wedding, but news of Audra and Tom's engagement would spread all over town by nightfall.
At the dinner table the family discussed the wedding at length. The flowers were already picked and Silas and Victoria agreed to cook Tom's favorite, roast duck and Audra's favorite, veal.
Audra told Tom about what the dressmaker said would happen if she made her wedding dress and Tom told of his visit to the Indian cemetery south of town.
The meal was interrupted by a sharp knock on the door. Silas came into the dining room a few minutes later, followed by the sheriff.
"Hello, Fred. Would you care to join us for supper?" Victoria asked, politely rising from her chair.
"I'm not here on a social call, Victoria. Henry McKendrick told me that his wife said that Libby Simpson is making a dress for Audra," Fred said, turning to face both Tom and Audra.
"Yes. Why is that so important?" Audra asked perplexed.
"There's nothing wrong with making a dress for a wedding, but Audra people in town are complaining about the man you chose for your husband," Fred said, sounding concerned.
'Where is that any of their business?" Tom asked, feeling the anger inside that he had the year before.
"Tom, I'm not going to talk you out of marrying Audra. That's not my place to tell you how to live your lives. But Audra, people still don't like Modocs. You marrying one is going to get you and your children insulted," Fred said, trying to give Audra a bit of advice.
"I actually thought about that all last night and this morning. I love Tom. If you were our friend, you'd understand," Audra said, not hurt by Fred's words.
"I thought of it too, Fred. I was afraid to ask Audra to marry me. I thought of the people who would insult us for marrying and our children. No bigot is going to tell me and Audra whom we can or can't marry," Tom said, his jaw set.
"I guess not," Fred said. Fred put his hat back on.
"Fred, would you join us for supper?" Jarrod asked, pulling out a chair for the lawman.
Fred scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I haven't had supper yet. I'd be glad to," Fred said, sitting down and taking a drink of the coffee Silas poured for him.
"Fred, would you come to our wedding?" Audra invited as she passed the rolls to Fred.
"I'd love to come, Audra. Is it a big wedding or a small one?" Fred asked, taking a bite of ham.
"Small. I don't like big weddings. I just want family and a few friends there," Tom said.
"What about your family, Tom? Is your father's brother and sister going to come?" Fred asked, wiping his mouth with his napkin.
Tom sighed deeply. The sound seemed as if it came from his toes. "I don't know. My uncle feels that I shouldn't marry Audra. He told me so yesterday," Tom said, his voice low.
Audra looked at Tom in surprise. "Why didn't you tell me that he refused?" Audra asked, feeling a little angry.
"What was the point in telling you, Audra? It would have just worried you," Tom said. His response was something a parent would have said. Audra could say nothing to that kind of logic. Tom was right. Jack Lightfoot's anger toward Tom marrying a White woman would have worried her.