Bride by Arrangement is an anthology of two separate novellas – one by best-selling author Ruth Ann Nordin, The Purchased Bride, and the other by Best of Year author Janet Syas Nitsick, She Came by Train. Two women meet on a train traveling from Virginia to Lincoln, Neb., in 1876. Ruth’s character is an arranged marriage, and Janet’s character is becoming a governess to two children of a businessman who lost his wife. The anthology is available in e-book format with the New Year and the paperback edition Feb. 1.
Excerpt from Chapter 7, She Came by Train:
Abigail plunked the piano keys and smiled up at her governess. “Did I hit the right notes?”
Miss Preston stood behind her. “Yes, you did a grand job.”
“Grand?” she squealed, clapping her small hands together.
Her teacher glanced at her. “You’re learning. Now, let’s go through those scales again.”
“Must I?” Abigail squirmed in her seat.
“Anything done well includes practice, practice, practice.”
The governess turned the page to the scales. Start with the C scale and go from there.
Abigail moved her fingers over the slick ivory. She would not want her teacher to know, but she enjoyed doing this ladylike activity. Finishing the scales, she turned to her governess.
“Would you play something? You make the songs sound so pretty.” She sighed. “I can’t do that.”
“But you will one day. What tune would you like?”
Abigail rapped her fingers on the piano then flipped the music to the Negro spiritual,
“When Israel was in Egypt’s Land.” “Please! I love this song. Would you play and sing it for
Her teacher laughed. “Are you sure you want to hear my voice?”
“Oh Miss Preston, you’ve got a beautiful voice. I wish I could sing like you.”
“Miss Abigail, once you learn the piano a little more I’ll give you voice lessons.”
“Lessons to sing?”
She chuckled. “Voice lessons, yes. That’s where you learn to sing from your diaphragm.” “Dia what?” Her governess tapped her shoulder and released it a moment later.
“Diaphragm. It’s air coming from your stomach area.”
“Oh, teach me.”
“Once you learn the piano better.”
Scooting from the piano stool, Abigail stood up, her braided pigtails bouncing. “I’ll sit over here and listen.” She plopped down in the soft-cushioned chair and belted out, “Miss Preston, why is it called spiritual music? Aren’t all hymns spiritual?”
Miss Preston smiled. “You’re right, Abigail. But this tune came from the Negroes who planted and picked the tobacco. Hard work for sure. I’ve watched them. Plenty of them worked our fields, but Pa said since the Civil War life’s been harder for us,” she said, her voice now almost a whisper. She shook her head. “Well, let’s get to playing that hymn. You’re father will
be home soon, and you know how he doesn’t like to wait.”
Giggling, the child pressed her small hands on the chair’s arms. “Papa wants to walk with you. That’s all.”
The governess rested her fingers on the keys and strummed the notes. Her rich voice
echoed around the informal parlor, ending the piece with the last refrain, ‘Tell old Pharaoh, Let
my people go.’”
Abigail rustled in her seat and raised her head to the approaching figure.
“Charming,” said the masculine voice.
Miss Preston turned her gaze from the music to her boss. “Why thank you, Mr. Boyer.”
Abigail jumped down. “Papa! Miss Preston is going to teach me how to sing from the diaframe.”
Her teacher snickered. Her eyes met her employer’s. “It’s diaphragm.”
Rocking, Abigail raised her head to her father. “Don’t matter what’s it called.” She paused. “Miss Preston is going to teach me how to sing like angels.”
“You an angel?” Her father winked at his governess.
“Oh Papa, I ain’t always bad.” She hung her head low before the corners of her lips curved up into a smile. “You make joke.” Spinning on her heels, she darted out of the room.