Read Beyond the Quiet Hills Online

Authors: Aaron McCarver

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042000, #FIC026000

Beyond the Quiet Hills (2 page)

BOOK: Beyond the Quiet Hills
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Leaving the tree, she turned to go back to where she had placed the bucket. Her thoughts were somehow still on her past. She had dreamed of Patrick sometime during the night, but it had not been a clear dream, for Hawk had been part of it, also. As she thought of the tall man she would be marrying in a few hours, she suddenly felt joy rise in her, and deep in her spirit she cried out,
Lord, thank you for sending two wonderful and good men into my life!

Leaning over to pick up the bucket, she was slightly startled when a voice said, “Well, the bride's up early.” Glancing swiftly across the opening she saw Hawk, who had emerged from the small cabin beside the larger one, where he had been staying since he had ceased his wilderness wanderings. A gladness filled her heart as he came to stand beside her, smiling down at her. As she gazed into his eyes, she could not speak for a moment, so happy was she.

“Nothing better for a bride to do than haul water?” Hawk smiled, lifting one eyebrow. He reached out to put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it slightly.

Even this light touch gave her pleasure. Elizabeth smiled up at him, thinking,
He's such a fine-looking man, but he doesn't know it. That's a good thing!
He was, she knew, exactly six feet tall and weighed one hundred eighty-five pounds. He was wearing buckskins, as usual, which were stretched tightly across his broad shoulders, and his wrists were thick and strong. His thick hair was as black as any man's she had ever seen. It had a slight wave in it as it fell forward over his forehead, and he had tied it behind in a queue with a rawhide thong. The eyes he put on her were very dark blue, the darkest she had ever seen. She knew also that when he was angry they looked almost black. Impulsively she reached up and placed her hand on his cheek. He had a square face with a strong cleft chin and a straight English nose. His skin was deeply tanned from years of being outdoors, and now he covered her hand with his, humor touching his eyes.

“You've got nothing better to do on your wedding day than to stand around and gawk?”

Elizabeth moved her hand back and shook her head. “You shouldn't see me before the wedding, Hawk. That's bad luck.”

“Luck's got nothing to do with us, Elizabeth. I once put a lot of stock in luck and good fortune and things like that,” he said quietly. His voice was a soft, pleasant baritone, and he kept his eyes fixed on her as he added, “But it was the Lord that brought us together, not luck.”

At Hawk's words Elizabeth smiled, and a strange light came into her eyes.

“Why are you smiling?” he asked.

“It's just that it's so good to hear you talk about the Lord. There were times when I never thought it would happen. I suppose I don't have much faith.”

Hawk's eyes clouded for a moment as memories swept over him. Long years of being alone had made him a rather quiet man who lived within his thoughts. He had lost his first wife at the birth of his son, Jacob, and the overwhelming grief that tore at him had driven him away from his home in Williamsburg. He had wandered west to the mountains of the frontier and had survived, becoming a skilled long hunter. Only recently had he returned to the Lord, and as he looked down at Elizabeth he felt a sudden gladness, knowing that his years of loneliness would end today.

Hawk put his hand out and ran it over her locks of blond hair and said nothing. It was strange, he thought, how the two of them did not always need to speak. Somehow she knew what was in his heart, as he knew the thoughts she pondered in hers. He suddenly picked up her hand and held it for a moment, then kissed it.

A flush came to Elizabeth's cheeks. It was a gallant thing for him to do, and one that he did rather awkwardly, but her heart warmed that he had within him what many men lacked—the willingness to show affection. She suddenly reached up, put her hands behind his neck, and pulled his head down. When his lips touched hers, she leaned against him and held him close. Then his arms came around her and she felt the love in his embrace and was glad, for she knew that same love herself.

“That's enough,” she said, laughing breathlessly and shoving him back with a hand on his chest.

“Well,” Hawk said, his dark eyes dancing, “you can say that now, but you wait till later.”

“Oh, really!” Elizabeth teased saucily. “Well, we'll see about that!”

“Where do you want to have the wedding?”

“I think it would be nice to have it outdoors. It's such a beautiful day.”

“A mite cold,” Hawk suggested.

“That's all right.”

“I suppose it is,” Hawk said idly. He looked up and seemed to be studying a bird that was winging its way high overhead in the hard blue sky. “If you get cold,” he said innocently, “it won't matter. You won't stay that way long.”

Elizabeth's mouth dropped open, and she had a desire to giggle but held it back. “You are awful!”

“No, I'm nice,” Hawk said. “I'll prove that to you very soon now.” But he saw the humor rise in her eyes and was glad that he had found a woman with whom he could share a joke.

“I suppose being married under God's sky in this beautiful place is the best idea, since we don't have a church.” He turned to her then, and a hesitation came to him. “Are you sure about this, Elizabeth?”

“Am I sure I want to marry you?”

“I mean, should we get married
now
? We could wait.”

Elizabeth knew this was thoughtfulness on Hawk's part. He was really asking her if it was too soon after the death of her first husband. She warmed at his concern and said, “We've been over all this, Jehoshaphat.”

Hawk could not help but smile. “You only call me that when you're upset with me.”

“Jehoshaphat Spencer. I'll call you that when I'm upset with you. I'll say, ‘Jehoshaphat Spencer, you stop that this minute!'”

“Well, we've got a preacher to marry us. Then I'll be taking Paul and Rhoda to Williamsburg so that they can be married, too.”

“That's strange, isn't it?” Elizabeth said thoughtfully. “We've got a minister to marry us, but there's nobody to marry the minister.”

“It is odd, I suppose.” The two talked for a few moments about Paul Anderson and Rhoda Harper. They had come west at the same time as Elizabeth, when Paul was a minister-to-be and Rhoda was a tavern wench. It had been a source of wonder to everyone when Rhoda Harper found God's love and forgiveness and Paul Anderson asked her to be his wife.

“Come along. Let's go see the yearling,” Hawk said abruptly.

“All right.” She put her bucket down on the path, and the two circled the cabin, holding hands until they reached the small corral built of saplings and larger trunks. Matilda, the fine Jersey cow, looked up and mooed softly, then turned down to nuzzle her calf that was feeding greedily.

“There's something so beautiful about a young animal, Hawk.” Elizabeth's lips were open slightly, and her eyes seemed to sparkle as she studied the animals. “I think almost any baby animal is beautiful.”

“You ought to see a baby possum if you think that,” Hawk grinned. “They look like rats.” He watched the calf nursing and then said suddenly, “I'll have to be gone for a few weeks when I take Paul and Rhoda back to Williamsburg to get married.” Something troubled him then, and he turned to her, saying, “We could wait until I return.”

Elizabeth was surprised. “Don't you want to get married?”

“Well . . . yes, of course I do, but you know what it's like out here. Something could happen and you might be a widow again almost before you're a bride.”

“We've talked about all that, Hawk,” Elizabeth said quickly. She did not like to be reminded of the dangers that lay on the frontier. She knew they were there, yet still she pushed them into some distant corner of her mind and locked the door. Now she said, “We won't talk about that. We're getting married today, and you're not going to get out of it if I have to take a tomahawk to you!”

“Hold on, woman!” Hawk threw up his hands in mock surrender. “I give up!”

“Then hush! I don't want to hear any more about waiting longer.” She reached out and smoothed the fringes on his buckskin shirt and was silent for a moment. Hawk studied her face, which somehow was in repose yet had an expression that puzzled him slightly. She was caught up in a woman's silence, which could mean many things. It was uncharted territory for Hawk Spencer, for though he had had a happy marriage with his first wife, it had been brief and was many years ago. Now as he studied Elizabeth, he wondered at the solemnness that showed in the smooth planes of her face. He had thought at times that this gravity was the shadow of a hidden sadness, but he knew that was not so, for she was a cheerful woman. And now she drew away the curtain of reserve and a teasing gaiety came into her eyes, a provocative challenge.

“You just wait,” she whispered. “You're going to be all mine, and you'll never get away!”

“Don't intend to try.” Taking Elizabeth's arm, he led her back to where the bucket lay on the path, and as he bent to pick it up, he was suddenly startled by a flash of movement. His reaction was so quick that Elizabeth gasped. He whirled and his hand went to the long knife stuck in his belt. It was in his hand before Elizabeth could move.

“What is it, Hawk?”

Hawk slowly relaxed. “Nothing,” he said. “Just a deer.”

Elizabeth glanced in the direction of his gesture and saw a beautiful ten-point buck that had stepped out of the timberline. He stood staring at them and seemed to be fearless.

“If I had my musket, I could get him,” Hawk said, “but then it's getting harder and harder for me to kill deer.”

Elizabeth knew that somehow deer had become a symbol to Hawk. Twice in the past, at critical times of his life, he had seen a magnificent deer. These special visitations had helped bring him to God, and now his favorite Bible verse was, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.”

Hawk stared at the buck, not certain even now if this were a vision from heaven or a flesh-and-blood animal that stood before them. Then suddenly he lifted his voice and said, “I see you! Come on in for breakfast!”

At his call the deer whirled and disappeared into the thickets.

Hawk picked up the bucket and turned to go to the cabin, but Elizabeth said abruptly, “You've been thinking a lot about Jacob, haven't you?”

“Yes, I have.” A smile turned up the corners of his lips, and he said, “You know me pretty well, don't you?”

“It will be all right. I know you're worried about him.”

“I've given him a hard time, Elizabeth. Harder than any boy should ever have from his father.”

The two of them stood there in the middle of the path, and far overhead a wavy “V” formation of Canadian geese beat their wings against the cold air. Hawk watched them for a long time, seemingly engaged by their pilgrimage to the south, but he was actually thinking of his son, Jacob, who was now fifteen years old, almost sixteen. A pain came to Hawk as he realized he had missed out on all of Jacob's boyhood. He had been so distraught by the death of his first wife that he had abandoned his responsibility, leaving Jacob to be raised by his grandparents, James and Esther Spencer. For years the thought of his son being raised without his help had deeply troubled him, but since he had found God so very recently the pain had been even more intense.

“I've been the world's worst father, Elizabeth,” he said simply, his dark eyes filled with grief. “I don't think I can ever make up for it.”

“Bring him back, Hawk,” Elizabeth urged. “When you go to Williamsburg with Paul and Rhoda, go to him. Tell him you're sorry and that you love him.”

Hawk Spencer was a man of rough, endurable proportions. There was little fineness about him. The years in the wilderness had made him a man of action. His mind was that way, too, for survival on the frontier meant living a life facing the hardships of that reality. Each day brought the question, “Can I survive today?” and reaching nighttime was a small victory. After years of living like this, Hawk had somehow absorbed the struggle that ensues among the creatures of the wilderness and among the humans also. He had seen few happy endings to stories like his, and now there was a depression on him as he shook his head, saying, “I've only seen him once since I left shortly after he was born, and he hated me then.”

“You're different now. We'll pray about it. God can do great things.”

“I know that, but I can't force Jacob to come. That would turn him against me for good.”

“With God all things are possible,” Elizabeth whispered. She would have said more, but at that moment the door to the cabin opened and Andrew and Sarah came out.

“Ma, what are you doing out here on your wedding day?” Andrew asked. At the age of fourteen he had a stocky build and looked a lot like his mother with the same blond hair but worn short. He had the sparkling light blue eyes of his father. He was wearing buckskin like Hawk, and now he stood before the pair with his sister beside him, smiling at them.

“Hawk, you're not supposed to see the bride on the day of the wedding,” Sarah said firmly. Although only eleven years of age, she had the temperament of a much older young woman. Her temperament was, in fact, much like her fiery red hair. She had her mother's pale green eyes and showed promise of being a tall beauty. She was very precocious and wanted her own way. She had it now as she advanced and pushed at Hawk. “You go away now!” she commanded. “You ought to know better!”

Hawk suddenly laughed. He was tremendously fond of Andrew and Sarah. By marrying Elizabeth he somehow felt that some of his lost years would be restored to him. Patrick MacNeal had been one of the best men Hawk had ever known, and as he had lain dying after an Indian attack, Hawk had made a solemn vow: “I'll take care of your family, Patrick . . . !” He had not known at that moment that he would fall in love with Elizabeth, but it had happened, and he knew somehow that God was in it.

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