Linda Weaver Clarke

A Pleasant Rivalry

Chapter 1

March 1839

Angelica Davis marched into the newsroom with confidence. She was not happy with the Willow Valley News. Why did they hire such inept reporters? Sometimes they misspelled words and other times the news was not accurate. When a new owner had taken over the paper a month ago, she hoped things would change. Unfortunately it had not.

As Angelica scanned the room, she saw Mr. Jensen, the reporter whom she was looking for. He was slightly balding, had a short mustache, and was in his forties. Beyond him, sitting at his desk, was another gentleman. Simon Morgan was the new owner of the Willow Valley News.

She was surprised at how much he had changed. Angelica had gone to school with him in her youth and he was two years older. Thirteen years ago, Simon left Willow Valley at the age of seventeen, telling his schoolmates that he was going to have an adventure, and he had recently returned. Simon had the same chestnut colored hair, hazel eyes, and a dimple in his chin. She was sure he didn't have the knowledge that the former owner had. There was much to learn about the newspaper business.

As she walked toward Mr. Jensen, he looked up from his work and enquired, "May I help you, ma'am?"

Dropping her newspaper unceremoniously onto his desk, she pointed to the article and said in a business-like tone, "Did you write this?"

Jensen glanced at the paper and nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I did."

"You should get your facts straight before printing the news, sir. Who was your source for this article?"

"Um... I interviewed the neighbor who lived across the street from the incident. She seemed to be quite knowledgeable. I quoted her in the article, as you can see."

"She was mistaken, sir. Did you question others who saw the fire?"

Looking a bit flustered, he answered, "Yes, but no one knew what had happened. Mrs. Anderson was the only one who seemed to know anything. What makes you think she was mistaken?"

"The boy that she saw running away, the one she assumed was responsible for the fire... I happen to know him. He saw the whole thing."

Jensen's eyes widened. "He did? Who is this boy?"

Angelica shook her head. "Oh, no. You can find that out for yourself, which you should have done in the first place before making accusations. If you would have done your job properly, you would have found out who was responsible."

Jensen's face reddened and a scowl formed on his brow as he said defensively, "Properly? Did you say properly?"

Placing both hands on the man's desk and looking him in the eyes, she said, "That's right. Have you considered the fact that there have been other incidents in town similar to this one? How about the house that was mysteriously burned down two weeks ago? Everyone thought it was an accident, but was it? Are they somehow connected? That's something to consider."

Angelica straightened up and stepped back from Jensen's desk when she realized she was making the man quite nervous. Glancing up, Angelica noticed Simon Morgan, who was watching her with a slight smile. He pushed his fingers through his wavy hair and his eyes had a hint of amusement. Giving a nod, he winked at her. It seemed as if he were agreeing with what she had said. Apparently, he was not going to defend his employee.

One question came to her mind, though. Did he recognize her? After all, it had been thirteen years.

Turning to Mr. Jensen, she noticed the shocked look on his face. Taking her paper from his desk, Angelica turned on her heels and walked out the door. She had been brought up to show respect to others, but she could not resist telling Mr. Jensen how she felt. He needed to know that his information was inaccurate. He should have investigated more thoroughly before accusing some young "rapscallion," as he put it in the paper.

Angelica was a spunky woman, age twenty-eight with rich raven-black hair. Her dark brown eyes were expressive and full of life.

As she crossed the street, Angelica saw three burly middle-aged men arguing with a young man that looked to be about eighteen or nineteen years of age. His wife, not much younger than he, was standing in back of him and holding onto his arm with dismay written all over her face. The men were gesticulating back and forth and shouting at one another.

Noticing a small crowd had gathered, Angelica stepped toward an elderly gentleman and asked, "What's going on?"

The gentleman sighed and shook his head. "Those three men are upset. They just lost their jobs, which they had for several years. Their employer let them go for no good reason. And they're blaming that young man for their troubles." He shrugged. "If you ask me, they have every right to be mad."

Glancing at the men, she cocked her head curiously and said, "I don't understand."

"Down at the pier they're letting the townsfolk go and hiring a bunch of Irishmen as dockworkers."


"Cheap labor. It doesn't matter how long the townsfolk have been working there. Their employer is booting them out one at a time and hiring the Irishmen. The townsfolk are quite upset about it. Not only that, their employer has built a boarding house just for his workers, which brings in more money for him. He's not wanting for money, by any means."

With the large numbers of Irish and German immigrants arriving in America, there was great unrest among the townsfolk. They felt threatened, especially the dockworkers and those working down at the pier. The immigrants were willing to work for lower wages.

The Irish and Germans left their country because they wanted the freedom they did not possess in their own country. They wanted to leave the political oppression and religious persecution they had endured.

Angelica wished the people of Willow Valley were more tolerant of the immigrants. When she noticed the young girl was frightened and tears were running down her face, Angelica strode toward the young couple.

Placing her hands on her hips in a business-like manner, she faced them and said, "Enough! Enough! I'm ashamed of you. Don't you see that you've frightened this young girl? She's in a delicate way. She's with child." Placing her arm around the girl's shoulders, she frowned at the men. "If you have any grievances, take it up with your employer. Be on your way!" Turning to the bystanders who had gathered to watch, she looked at them curiously. "Why aren't we showing a welcoming hand to those who are new to our country? Is this how Christians act?"

The crowd dispersed and the three contentious men mumbled their discontent as they strode away.

"Thank you," said the young man as he wiped his wife's tears from her face. "I appreciate what you said."

Realizing the young man was just as much at fault, Angelica said, "Didn't you see how frightened your wife was? When someone disagrees with you or tries to start a fight, please turn and leave. Don't let pride get in the way." She smiled at the young woman. "You must take care of yourself so your baby is healthy. Do you have a doctor?"

The girl shook her head. "We've only been in the country for a short time."

"Then you must see Doctor Lucas Golden. He's the most compassionate man I know. If you don't have the money, he has a free clinic on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Stop by his office and talk to him."

After giving them the directions to the doctor's office, the girl said shyly, "Thank you. Thank you so much."

As she watched the couple leave, the elderly man she had spoken to earlier walked up to her and said, "Those who work down at the pier are tough men and they're not happy with the situation. I was sure we were going to have a fight on our hands. "Looking into her eyes, he chuckled. "You're one spunky young lady. Approaching those men like you did while they were riled up wasn't a good idea. As I watched you, I thought to myself... she's either courageous or foolish. And I was thinking the latter."

Angelica laughed. "I totally agree with you. But when I saw that frightened young girl and the tears running down her face, I couldn't stand there and watch."

"Do you know what astonished me the most? They actually listened to you. They may not have agreed, but they listened."

Cocking her head to the side, Angelica asked, "Why didn't you say something?"

He shrugged. "They wouldn't have listened and I would have made it worse. It's best to not get involved. "Giving a polite nod, he turned and walked down the street.

What he had just said made her sad. Why not get involved? Pulling her woolen shawl around her shoulders, she quickly headed home. The weather had recently warmed up but it was still chilly.

As she walked through the door, Florence called out, "Is that you, Tom?"

"No, it's me, Mama."

As Angelica walked into the kitchen, Florence wiped her hands on her apron and looked up at her daughter. "Oh my! That man of mine! He said he would only be a short while because he wanted to pick up this week's Chronicle. I told him to not visit with anyone, or supper would be cold. Well... supper is ready and he's late, just as I predicted."

Angelica laughed. That was an impossible request. Her father was such a social person. If he just stopped to greet someone, he always found himself in a deep discussion, whether it was political or religious.

"Get washed up," said Florence with a sigh.

To the surprise of both women, Angelica's father walked through the door, holding the paper in his hand. Giving it a shake, he grinned. "I got it. I can't wait to see what Athena has to say this week. After all, she's the goddess of wisdom and courage, the goddess of law and justice. Our neighbors are just as intrigued about her articles as I am."

After he laid his paper on the table and went outside to wash up, Florence glanced at her daughter and smiled. "He always looks forward to Athena's articles."

"I know," laughed Angelica as she followed her father outside.

As Thomas placed a bucket over the spout of the pump, he glanced up at his daughter and smiled. "Did you correct the inaccuracy at the Willow Valley News?"

He gave the handle several pumps and fresh water started pouring out and into the bucket.

As they washed up, Angelica said, "I tried to be respectful but I had to tell him how I felt at the same time. You just don't report something without facts. Mr. Jensen has had this problem a few times, so I thought it was about time I said something."

As Thomas dried his hands, he nodded. "I know what you mean. Why didn't the new owner of the paper question his sources?"

Angelica shrugged as she took a small towel and dried her hands. "Mr. Morgan is new to the newspaper business, so I'm sure there's a lot he has to learn. He was there as I spoke to Mr. Jensen, and he heard everything I said."

Thomas raised his brow curiously. "Oh? How did he react?"

She bit her lip and shrugged. "I'm not sure how he felt about it. But Mr. Jensen was none too happy with me."

Thomas chuckled. "I can imagine. I know the man. He jumps to conclusions much too soon. Did you tell him about Sam and what he saw?"

Angelica shook her head. "That's his responsibility. He can do his own research."

Thomas laughed. "That's right. Why make it easy for the man?"

After drying their hands, they walked inside. As Angelica pulled some plates from the cupboard, her father took a seat at the table.

Thomas opened the Chronicle and read contentedly. A smile played at the corners of his lips and he shook his head. "My oh my! Athena is chastising the President this week. If Mr. Van Buren ever reads this article, I would hate to see his reaction."

Curious, Florence turned to him and asked, "What does she say? Don't leave me in suspense."

Thomas sat back in his chair and looked up from his paper. "Athena's article is called Mr. Van Buren Has Done It Again."