Authors: Annie Lash
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. Copyright © 1985 by Dorothy Garlock. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
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HE PULLED HER TOWARD HIM . . .
Annie was horrified to discover something very female in her was both attracted and repelled by his look and the closeness of his body. But she refused to give him the satisfaction of closing her eyes against the expression of victory on his face.
“You’re not the kind of man I want to spend the rest of my life with, Mr. Merrick.” Annie Lash spoke slowly and unemotionally. “I want more out of life than a house to tend and food to eat. I want more than to be a vessel to satisfy a man’s lust. The man I marry will have to want the same things I want, and that is to build something permanent together.” Despite her best efforts, she could not keep the tears from welling in her eyes. “I’ll not stand on the fringe of a man’s life and hunger for something I know can be real and beautiful. I want to love and be loved. I want my man to be a part of me and I of him. And,” she added with finality, “I am determined to hold out for what I want or have nothing at all!”
Highest rating, five gold stars! Ms. Garlock has, as usual, caught the flavor of the times in both description and dialect—it’s her forte!
Books by Dorothy Garlock
ibbon in the
This is for you, Amos. Recalling the first six years of your life helped me to develop the character Amos in this story. I love you.
All the characters in this novel and Berrywood homestead are the figments of my imagination, with the exception of Thomas Jefferson, General James Wilkinson and Aaron Burr.
After killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, Aaron Burr traveled to New Orleans and held several secret conferences with General James Wilkinson, the commander of the army and the Governor of the Louisiana Territory.
The truth is not fully known, but it was believed that Burr meant to intrigue for the possession of Mexico, or that he had designs upon the Louisiana Territory.
President Jefferson ordered an intensive investigation into the affairs of the former vice president. Burr was arrested on the charge of treason and brought to trial in Richmond, Virginia.
After a trial that lasted six months, he was acquitted for lack of evidence on September 1, 1807.
Annie Lash Jester walked with an easy stride and almost noiselessly, keeping close to the trees. They grew thickly back about a hundred feet from the riverbank, letting no sunlight through them. For a moment she stepped back into the sun and gazed at them. How great and tall they were. Then she recalled the lesson her pa had taught her and looked searchingly out across the forest. A good woodsman, Pa had said, never fixes his eyes on an object; he shifts them from side to side and far ahead. You get trapped staring at one thing. Her mind reached back, remembering.
Walking beside her pa, during the long journey over the mountains from Virginia, she had been gay and bright, holding out hope that her mother would live to see the broad Mississippi River and the trading post of Saint Louis; but they had buried Mama in Kentucky and, sorrowing, Annie Lash and Charles Jester had continued west. On the worn trail through the woods her pa had spoken of his love of the trees.
“It’s odd, the way of trees,” he had said. “They know their wants. They grow straight and tall, reaching for sunlight, their roots searching for water. They can survive without man, but man can’t survive without them.” He pointed out a young elm. “The bark is good for poultices. The oak yonder is as enduring as all time. It’s used for sills and framing for cabins. The beechnut trees make good flooring and the honey locust can’t be beat for fence posts and railings. Hickory, the best grained of all wood for axe handles, will burn for a long time in the fireplace on a cold winter night.”
Annie Lash loitered now among the trees, recalling how her pa had catalogued their uses. He had been solid and enduring like the trees, but like them, he had been struck down by man. How pitiful he had looked during those last months, broken down as if he was of no use. His strength, his proudest possession, had gone swiftly and his pride with it when he could no longer tend to himself and the food that kept life in his withered body had to be lifted to his mouth.
Charles Jester had always been a strong man and a clever one. His strength and his pride had been a shield between himself and life. His huge shoulders could heft a heavy log and his strong legs could track a deer all day without tiring. It had taken a year to wring the life out of him, and in the end he had died old and broken; the dark-skinned
who had thrown the knife, ending the dispute over the furs, would never know the anguish he had caused by the flick of his wrist.
Annie Lash leaned against a tree and looked back at the village of Saint Louis. The ground on which it stood was not much higher than the river bank. On a point of narrow land commanding a view of the river stood a long, low structure enclosed with a stockade fence. On the four corners were little circular towers that bulged out as if to survey what was going on up and down the river. The fort had been occupied by United States soldiers for a short time, but now it was deserted except for the stone towers which were used as a prison. The massive timbers used in the construction of the fort were still standing, and the small dark holes cut into the walls gave the structure a threatening, impregnable aspect.
Below, on the Bank, were many cabins striped with the yellow clay that filled the chinks between the logs. The life and bustle in the vicinity of these dwellings contrasted sharply with the still grandeur of the forest where Annie Lash stood so silently. Farther back from the river, on what was once a flat, grassy plain, were the wagon grounds. Among the canvas covered wagons strung out in deep curls, children played. Several herds of horses grazed on the short grass, and a score of red and white oxen munched at the hay that had been carried to them. One man hammered stakes into the ground from which to hang a kettle and another man swung an axe with a vigorous sweep; the clean, sharp strokes rang on the air when the blade pierced the wood of the log. The smoke of many campfires curled upward, and near the blaze ruddy-faced women hovered over the steaming kettles, scolded children, and greeted neighbors.