Read Beyond the Quiet Hills Online

Authors: Aaron McCarver

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042000, #FIC026000

Beyond the Quiet Hills (7 page)

BOOK: Beyond the Quiet Hills
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The two sat there quietly for a while, then Esther said, “The Dentons aren't godly people. They go to church on rare occasions, but it's just for the sake of appearance.”

“I thought the same thing myself. And that girl, Annabelle—of all the flirts I ever saw, I think she's the worst! Only fifteen, and who knows what she'll be by the time she's twenty.”

“She'll be married long before then, James.”

“Jacob could get hurt. At the age of sixteen,” James said, “it doesn't take much to hurt a young man.” He started to speak, but Ellen, the maid, entered the room. “What is it, Ellen?”

“Someone is here to see you, sir.”

“To see us? Who could it be at this time of the day?”

“You're supposed to go to the library,” Ellen said. She had a half smile on her face, and Esther was puzzled by her behavior.

“Well, come, Esther,” James said. “Let's go find out who this mysterious visitor is.”

The two moved out of the parlor and down the wide hall. When they turned into the library, Esther gave a short cry and her hands flew to her lips. “Josh!” she cried and rushed over to throw herself into the arms of the tall man who was grinning broadly.

James moved forward, a smile on his face. He shook hands first with the Indian who stood watching him. “Hello, Sequatchie. It's been a long time.”

“It has been a long time. I'm glad to see you, Mr. Spencer.”

“If you can turn loose of my son, I'd like to at least shake hands with him,” James said. Hawk did not release his mother but stuck out a tanned, muscular hand that gripped his father's hand hard.

“It's good to see you, sir,” he said. “Very good.”

“Why didn't you tell us you were coming?”

“You know the post. It's easier to come yourself than trust.”

Josh looked down at his mother, and something moved in his face. “My favorite story in the Bible has always been the story of the Prodigal Son, Mother. And now I guess the prodigal has really come home.”

Esther gasped and looked up. Her face turned pale and she reached up and touched Hawk's cheek. “Josh,” she whispered, “you mean . . . ?”

“That's right. I went pretty far down, but I've returned to following the Lord now. I've accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord in my life.”

“Praise be to God! My prayers have been answered,” Esther cried out as James reached over to give his son a strong hug.

Sequatchie stood to one side, watching the joy of these two older people. James turned to him and said, “I assume you had something to do with this, Sequatchie.”

“Jesus draws men to Him,” Sequatchie said quietly. “But I have been praying a long time to see Hawk come back to God.”

“Where is Jacob?” Hawk asked, and an anxiety came into his voice.

“I'll get him. He's up in his room,” James said. He quickly left the room and went up the stairs and knocked on Jacob's door. “Jacob, come quickly.”

The door opened almost at once and Jacob looked rather startled. “What is it, Grandpa?”

“It's your father. He's downstairs.” He saw a strange look cross Jacob's face and wanted to say more, but he knew that he could not force this tall young man to accept the father he had never known. “Come along, son. He'll be glad to see you,” he said gently.

Jacob followed his grandfather downstairs, his mind spinning. When he walked into the room and saw his father, he stopped dead still.

Hawk moved forward and said, “Hello, son. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you,” Jacob said rather stiffly and took the hand his father put toward him. An awkward silence fell over the room, and Hawk said, “It's not good manners to just drop in like this, but we had a purpose. You remember Paul Anderson?”

“Of course!” James exclaimed. “Is he with you?”

“He's here in Williamsburg, but he's come to be married.”

“Who is he marrying?” Esther said.

“You remember Rhoda Harper. She's recently become a Christian, and I had to bring them all the way in because there was no preacher to marry them out in Watauga. Besides, Paul wanted to be married in his parents' home.”

Jacob stood listening as his father spoke, his eyes fixed on his face. A turmoil of conflicting emotions grew in him and tore at his heart. For years he had longed for a father, but this was eclipsed now by the bitterness that arose when he thought of all the lonely years that his father had left him, even though he was with his grandparents.

Sensing that Jacob was uncomfortable, Hawk said quickly, “We'll have plenty of time to talk, son. I'd like to tell you about Watauga.”

“Very well, sir. That will be fine.”

“You can stay in the big room with the two windows, Josh,” Esther said. “And you'll stay, too, Sequatchie.”

“If that would be all right.”

Sequatchie had sensed the difficult situation he had stepped into. In his mind Hawk had made a terrible mistake leaving his son to be reared by others, but now that he knew God, Sequatchie was hopeful that things would be better. As the two men ascended the stairs, he said, “Your son has become a man.” He got no answer but saw a troubled look on Hawk's face and knew that things were not well with his friend.

****

“It's a new country over the mountains, Father,” he said. “Nothing at all like you have here.”

“It's very primitive, isn't it?” James asked, leaning forward. They were sitting in the smaller parlor where they had come after a lavish dinner that Esther had prepared. Now they were drinking tea, and Hawk was speaking of the events of the past year. He had told them of his struggles and how he had come to know the Lord, and Esther had not been able to keep the tears back. Finally James said, “I wish you could know Elizabeth and her children. She's such a fine woman.”

At the mention of her son's new wife, Esther shot a glance at Jacob. He seemed paler than usual, and he had spoken very little. At the mention of Hawk's family, she thought she saw a somber flicker in his eyes and wondered what it meant.

As they talked, Sequatchie sat and observed, saying almost nothing. He had seen the happiness in James and Esther Spencer as Hawk told them of how God had healed his bitter and broken heart, but he was mostly concerned with the young man, for he was an astute student of human nature.
He's unhappy
, he thought to himself.
He doesn't like the idea of his father being married—which is strange considering that it will mean more of a family to him
.

Finally the conversation turned to the Spencers, and once again they were thrilled as Hawk told them how Rhoda had been converted and how she had grown in the Lord so rapidly.

“I hope Paul and Rhoda will come to see us while they're here, son,” Esther said.

“Oh, I'm sure they will. Paul thinks the world of you two, and of you, too, Jacob.”

Jacob started slightly. He remembered Paul Anderson well, and when he saw a reply was expected, he said, “I'd like to see him again.”

Hawk was feeling as uncomfortable as he ever had in his life. He had tried to think of some way to express what he felt to Jacob, but everything he wanted to say sounded awkward and artificial. Now he cleared his throat and said tentatively, “I've been hoping, Jacob, now that I've got my life right with God and have a home, that you'd come and live with us.”

“Live with you?” Amazement and shock ran across Jacob's face.

“Well, with me and Elizabeth. You'll like her very much—and her children. Andrew is two years younger than you, but I'm very proud of him. He's learned how to handle a rifle like a grown man. Brought down a ten-point buck just a few weeks ago.” Pride filled Hawk's voice, and he did not see the lips of the young man tighten.

Sequatchie saw it, however, and shook his head slightly, thinking,
He should not be boasting about his stepson. It is not wise
.

James and Esther were staring at Hawk. It was something they had never thought of, but now James said, “It would be very good, Jacob, for you to spend some time with your father.”

But Jacob was staring at his father. Up until this moment he had kept his temper, but now he said coldly, “You left me here sixteen years ago, and now you come here unannounced and say, ‘Come live with me,' and expect everything to be fine. I've got a life here with my grandparents, after I was abandoned by a father who obviously didn't care one bean about me.” He saw his words strike against his father's face and took a perverse pleasure in hurting him. And then he did something that he regretted the moment he said it. “Besides, I'm thinking of getting married.”

“Married?” Hawk said, his eyes opening wide with surprise. “But you're only sixteen.”

“I don't mean right now, but I'm in love with a young woman named Annabelle Denton.” In his anger he forgot his promise to Annabelle to say nothing about marriage. Curtly he ended by saying, “You're not really my father. I think you should go back to the frontier with your other family, especially the
son
you're so proud of. Forget about me, because I'm going to try to forget about you!” He whirled and left the room, and they heard the front door slam.

A silence reigned over the room for a moment, and James said quickly, “Jacob will calm down and probably change his mind. After all, it's a pretty big shock for him.”

“Yes, it is,” Esther said. She came over and touched Hawk's arm gently. “Don't be angry, son.”

“I'm not angry. I understand, and really I deserve everything the boy said.”

“I'll talk to him,” Esther said.

“No, don't do that, Mother. I wouldn't force him to do something against his will. You two have been a real blessing in his life, actually his mother and father. I'll tell him I won't bother him again if he doesn't want me to.”

Esther was closer to Hawk than the others. His face was turned slightly away, and for the first time since he was a very small child, she saw something that shocked her. This tall, strong man who had braved the wilderness and was able to handle anything that came his way had tears in his eyes. She reached out and whispered, “God has brought you back to Him, Josh, and now He's not going to forget you. You'll have your son again.”

Chapter Five

Jacob and His Father

A fitful night's sleep had left faint dark circles under Jacob's eyes. As he left his room and moved down the hall to the landing, he felt miserable and discontented. He put his hand on the polished walnut, remembering his delight in sliding down the curving banister when he was younger.
I must have gotten in trouble a hundred times over this banister!
The memories of that time came back as he descended to the first floor, and he found himself longing for those halcyon days when life had been so much simpler. He was a thoughtful, introspective young man, at times retreating from reality into a secret world of dreams and longings. Now as he entered the dining room, he shook his shoulders, forcing himself to assume a more pleasant expression.

“Good morning, Grandpa.”

“Good morning, Jake.” James Spencer had been standing at the mullioned window looking out at the oak tree that had shed all its leaves and now appeared bare and dark against the gray November sky. A brisk wind was stirring the crisp leaves that lay around the base of the huge tree, catching them up into a miniature tornado that swept across the flat ground and dissipated as they collided with a green hedge of holly decorated with crimson berries. Clasping his hands behind his back, James commented, “It's going to be a cold winter. I knew that when I saw how thick the caterpillars' coats were last summer.”

Jacob found himself smiling briefly. His grandfather put great stock in things like this. Taking his seat at the large oak table, he pulled his chair up close and looked up, saying, “And the acorn shells were thicker than usual this year.”

“That's another sign. It's going to be bitter cold before we're out of this. You mark my words.” Moving over to the table, James pulled out one of the Windsor chairs and sat down. He was a well-preserved man, firm and somewhat thicker around the middle than when he was younger. Still, there was an alert air about him as he studied his grandson's face. “How was the party?” he asked, watching the expression on Jacob's face carefully.

“Very good.”

The reply was brief, and Jacob was relieved when his grandmother entered carrying a silver bowl with a cover. “Good morning, Grandma,” he said. “Can I help you bring something in?”

“No, it's just oatmeal, bacon, and eggs this morning. How was the party?”

“Crowded.” Jacob's brief reply brought a cautious look into his grandmother's eyes.

“Did you have a good time?”

“Yes, I did. The music was good.” He looked around rather nervously and said, “Where's . . .” He started to say “my father” but could not bring himself to frame the words. After a noticeable hesitation, he said, “Where are our guests?”

“They've gone to see about Paul and Rhoda's wedding,” James Spencer said. “I think you ought to attend. We'll be going.”

Jacob desperately did not want to attend any function where he would have to look at his father. He had mixed emotions on finding out that his father and Sequatchie were gone. He did not want another scene with him, and yet there was something in him that drew him to his father. “If you say so, Grandpa.”

The two waited until Esther had brought the rest of the food in, then James bowed his head and asked a blessing. He ended by saying, “We thank thee, O Lord, that you have brought our son back home, if only for a little while. In Jesus' name.”

The meal was quiet. Jacob was depressed, not understanding fully why he felt so miserable. He knew his grandparents were puzzled, and even hurt at his behavior. Breaking the silence, he finally said diffidently, “I'm sorry that I have to disappoint my father.” He said the word “father” this time with a distinct effort, then added, “But I don't really want to have anything to do with him.”

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