“A lot of you hard working men helping to build our fine hotel have decided to stay on and the townspeople of Clear Creek appreciate your hard work, welcome you, and hope you’ll continue to join us on Sunday mornings. But we’re going to need more workers and thank the Lord above more are forthcoming. Many of which are …” Josiah looked over the congregation, cringed slightly, then gripped the pulpit. “Women.”
The church exploded.
Not literally of course, but if the hooting and hollering was any louder, one would think a full revival was taking place. And, Madeline supposed, one could refer to it as a revival of sorts. The men were certainly paying attention to what Josiah King had to say now. If any of them were falling asleep in the back they were certainly revived after that statement.
“Quiet!” Josiah shouted over the noise. “Calm down please. Yes it’s exciting news,” he said as he stepped away from the pulpit and began to walk back and forth across the platform. “But our new hotel isn’t going to thrive if you men bombard the new workers with marriage proposals before the women even have a chance to start to work! So, I’m going to ask you not to steal away Mr. Van Cleet’s cooks and maids before he opens his establishment!”
The happy crowd suddenly sobered at his statement and half of them sat with a groan.
“Now see here, preacher. It’s a free country and if we want to court the new women that come to town, who’s gonna stop us?” a voice called.
“I can.” Mr. Van Cleet announced as he stood. “It’s already written into my employee rules. Any employee who fraternizes with the patrons will be fired.”
Mr. Berg groaned audibly and rolled his eyes. Madeline looked up at him but he had his eyes tightly shut and was shaking his head slowly back and forth, his jaw tight. Was he trying not to laugh?
The men in the church looked at one another a moment before they began to grumble amongst themselves. Mr. Berg’s eyes sprang open at the sound and he casually glanced around to take in the disappointed faces of the men. His entire body now shook with the effort it took not to laugh and Madeline knew it. But what on Earth was so funny?
Then she knew. Of course!
Madeline slowly glanced about at the rest of the congregation as the men continued to moan and grumble in protest. How long would it take them, she wondered, to figure out that to fraternize with the women and get them fired was also the quickest way to marry them? No wonder Mr. Berg found it all so amusing. And come to think of it, it was! She wondered if Mr. Van Cleet had thought of it yet. Surely he had!
“We want Clear Creek to grow and prosper, and yes those of you who have decided to stay will surely be wanting to marry. But you have to give the town a chance to catch up first! And this means at least have the courtesy to wait until a second batch of workers arrive once Mr. Van Cleet figures out exactly how many extra he might need.”
The men in the congregation looked at one another. A few began to nod their agreement. “Sound’s fair enough,” one said.
“What about those of us that want to stay, but aren’t needed to finish the inside?” Another man asked.
“The Triple C will be hiring. They’re sorely in need of hands, isn’t that right Colin?” Josiah asked.
Colin and Belle sat in the front pew. He stood and turned to the congregation. “That’s right. As soon as the exterior of the hotel is finished, my brothers and I want to talk with those of you who’ve had experience working a ranch. Mr. Kincaid our foreman along with one of us will be doing the hiring. And if Mr. Van Cleet can spare any of you now, we’d be forever grateful.”
“We’ll talk after service, Colin!” Mr. Van Cleet cried from the back of the church. Colin waved to him then retook his seat.
“Now I didn’t mean to turn our first real church service into a town meeting,” Josiah began. “But church is one of the few times everyone’s gathered in one place. But what say we get back to the Lord’s business, then enjoy the nice lunch the ladies have all pitched in and prepared?”
Another cheer went up, many of the men not used to being in church. Mr. Berg held one hand over his mouth and shook in silent laughter as the men behind them continued to let their preacher know how happy they were at the prospect of being fed some home cooking.
She looked up at him, and he must have caught the disapproving gleam in her eye as he quickly cleared his throat, stilled his body, and took on an air of innocence.
The sudden boyish look he now sported nearly made Madeline fall off the pew. For a man of such fierce size and strength, he was absolutely adorable when he wanted to be, and for some reason, his sudden boyish demeanor made her blush something awful.
She quickly adjusted her bonnet, hoping he wouldn’t notice. But even if Mr. Berg didn’t notice, Mr. King did. He looked right at her, glanced to Mr. Berg, and smiled. “Love is a grand thing in the sight of the Lord. Let us give to Him then, the kind of love He deserves from us, and out of that love we can then love the one He brings into our life to wed.”
“You tell em, Josiah!” A man called from the back of the church.
The entire congregation once again erupted into applause.
Josiah King, his face lit up with joyous defeat, motioned to the crowed to quiet down one last time. “Good people of Clear Creek,” he began. “Let us pray.”