Read Love's Reckoning Online

Authors: Laura Frantz

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC027050, #Families—Pennsylvania—Fiction

Love's Reckoning

BOOK: Love's Reckoning
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© 2012 by Laura Frantz

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

www.revellbooks.com

Ebook edition created 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-3978-5

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.

Published in association with Books & Such Literary Agency, 52 Mission Circle, Suite 122, PMB 170, Santa Rosa, CA 95409-7953.

“Stunning. Heart-wrenching. Breathless. Not since
Gone with the Wind
have I read an epic novel that has stolen my heart, my breath, my sleep to such a jolting degree.
Love's Reckoning
marks Laura Frantz not only as a shining star in Christian fiction today but as a shooting star who soars skyward to the glittering heights of Rivers and Higgs.”

—
Julie Lessman
, award-winning author of the Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series

Praise for Laura Frantz

“You'll disappear into another place and time and be both encouraged and enriched for having taken the journey.”

—
Jane Kirkpatrick
, bestselling author of
All Together in One Place
and
A Flickering Light

“Laura Frantz portrays the wild beauty of frontier life, along with its dangers and hardships, in vivid detail.”

—
Ann H. Gabhart
, author of
The Blessed

“Frantz paints a vivid picture of the tough life out in the wild, and yet her characters demonstrate that it was possible to have a wonderful life.”

—
RT Book Reviews
for
The Colonel's Lady

To Randy, my Silas

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright Page

Endorsements

Dedication

23rd Psalm of David in Metre

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35

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Epilogue

Acknowledgments

Take a sneak peek at the next installment!

Prologue

Chapter 1

About the Author

Books by Laura Frantz

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Back Cover

 1 

He that would the daughter win must with the mother first begin.

English proverb

York County, Pennsylvania
December 1784

'Twas time for his daughters to wed, Papa said.

But he had a curious way of bringing wedded bliss about, sending all the way to Philadelphia for a suitor. Eden Lee felt the dread of it clear to her toes. The ticking of the tall case clock turned the quiet, candlelit room more tense. Was it her imagination, or was her father about to do something rash? For days she'd sensed something was coming, something that would turn their predictable, unhappy world upside down—and now this unexpected letter from the city . . .

Liege Lee stood by the hearth, his firm-jawed face darkening as he looked down at the paper in his hand. Beside him, Louise Lee piped a rare request.

“Liege, please, we have so little news from the East. Read it aloud.”

Eden smiled a bit tremulously at her mother's quiet plea, her gaze falling from her father's sternness to the soft contours of her sister's face as she sat mending by candlelight. Yet her attention kept returning to the post, her own sewing forgotten, as his gravelly voice resounded to the room's cold corners.

“The trade guild promised me another apprentice several months ago. At last we have a letter.” He unfolded the crumpled paper, spectacles perched on the end of his narrow, pockmarked nose. “This man is a Scot, trained in his home country before being bound to an American master in Philadelphia. Since the war's end he's been at a forge manned with a dozen apprentices in the heart of the city. His master has died, and he's seeking a position in the West to finish his training. He comes well recommended.” Clearing his throat, he returned to the paper in hand. “The man writes, ‘I am unsure if this post will reach its destination. Likely the package I am sending will not. My hope is that one or the other of us will arrive safe and sound by December's end.'”

There was a stilted pause, then a gasp. “December's end!” The linen slipped from Mama's work-worn hands into her lap. “Any day now? But I thought he wasn't coming till spring!”

“Aye, any day,” Papa growled, turning to take his daughters in.

He lingered longest on Elspeth, Eden noticed, and with good reason. But her great roundness was buried beneath her sewing, and she didn't so much as lift an eyebrow at Papa's stern scrutiny. Any day now Elspeth's child would be born.

But which would come first? The apprentice or the babe?

This was what worried her father, Eden knew. He had plans for her wayward sister that couldn't be breached by the early arrival of the stranger.

“You both know what this man's coming means?” he thun
dered across the small parlor. The stern words made Eden's insides curl. She looked up, waiting for Elspeth to do the same, but her sister was simply ignoring her father, as she was prone to do when she disliked his dictums.

“Elspeth Ann!”

She finally snapped to attention, light and shadow playing across her lovely face, and met her father's eyes.

“You both know what this means, aye? You and Eden?”

“Yes, Papa,” Elspeth murmured dutifully.

Eden's needle stilled and she simply nodded, grieved, barely detecting the telling sympathy in Mama's eyes at their predicament.

“The plan is this,” he went on. “If the apprentice comes before the babe, the jig is up and he's to wed Eden. If he comes after the babe is born, he's yours, Elspeth. You know how things stand with an apprentice.”

Mama nodded, her wistful expression revealing she knew of such matters firsthand. Years before, Papa was apprenticed to her father, a master gunsmith, and she'd been part and parcel of the contract. Though rumored that she loved another, tradition held sway. 'Twas a time-honored practice that apprentices marry into their master's family, as if some ironclad rule passed down from King George himself. Though times were changing and the war had been won, Papa was holding on to the past with both fists.

Studying his craggy face in the low glare of lamplight as he pondered the letter, Eden bit her lip. She suspected Papa's scheming had less to do with marrying them off than tying the man down for more mercenary purposes. Though every eligible suitor in the entire county trooped into their blacksmith shop to beg, barter, or pay coin for the ironwork turned out, none had yet passed muster—or could abide the thought of her father as father-in-law. How like Papa to forge
a liaison with a complete stranger, one who knew nothing of their affairs.

Oh, if she could but protest! Warm words festered on her tongue and raced round her head as she returned to her mending.
In all fairness, Father, this stranger you speak of is hardly a youth. He's at the tail end of his apprenticeship and shouldn't be coerced into keeping such a tradition. Besides, there's such a thing as love.

But she couldn't be contrary. Her father's word was as unyielding as the metal he worked. Once, when she was five, she had spoken up—sassed him when she should have stayed silent—and had born a welt on her backside for a fortnight or better. Any backtalk had since been confined to her head.

“What's the man's name, Liege?” Mama asked, hands idle atop her lap.

“Ballantyne,” he replied, perusing the accompanying package. “Silas Ballantyne.”

Eden drank in every syllable, thinking it strong. Solid. Memorable. The last apprentice had been one George White, bland and utterly forgettable. Papa had disliked him from the first and nigh starved him, liberally applying the lash. He'd been but a boy. But this tradesman, from the sounds of it, was no mere lad. She'd not be sneaking him food like she had poor George, surely.

The rustle of paper and snap of string brought her head back up. The package this Scotsman had sent—cocooned in cloth and tied with twine—was slowly unwrapped. For long moments Papa looked at the metalwork as if struck speechless before holding the gift aloft. 'Twas a copper lantern, three sided, with a large hanging loop. From where she sat, Eden could see that the hinged lid bore a pierced scrolling pattern, every line elegantly worked. When her father lit the wick,
they all watched in a sort of trance as the lantern's mirrored back reflected twice the light.

“Upon my soul, he's a city smith—and a master engraver!” Papa's eyes narrowed and nearly gleamed. “No doubt I could sell this for a pretty penny.”

“'Tis a gift,” Eden whispered, forgetting herself. “Gifts aren't for sa—”

A sudden jab to her ribs silenced her. “Gifts are kept solely by sentimental fools.” Elspeth's hiss held characteristic sharpness. Lifting her chin, she looked at their father. “Think of it, Papa. Why not let it be a template? Think of the orders you'd gain! A fine Philadelphia lantern here in the wilds of York County.”

Eden marveled that even pregnancy had failed to soften her sister's business sense. In the glare of lamplight, Eden's eyes traced the profile of Elspeth and their father and found them startlingly alike. Elspeth should have been a son. Papa had said so a hundred times or better. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine her sister in breeches and a linen shirt—and pregnant to boot . . .

“I'll wager this work would stop Jacob Strauss's boasting,” Papa muttered. “The old German may be the best inventor in these parts, but I'll wager he's not seen the likes of this. Speaking of Strauss, has he settled accounts for that iron trim we made him?”

Elspeth lifted her shoulders in a slight shrug. “Best check the ledgers. I finished tallying them this morning.”

“Check them? I cannot find them.” His scowl deepened. “I've told you to return them to the parlor, yet you leave them continually in the smithy.”

With a sullen gesture for her to follow, he left the room, Elspeth trailing. Eden glanced at Mama, now engrossed in sewing a baby garment as if nothing unusual had happened,
no marital pronouncement had been made. Thomas played near the hearth with some wooden soldiers, making baby noises he'd yet to outgrow at age two. Sympathy softened her, and for a moment she forgot her own plight.

Oh, little brother, what is in store for you?

Weary, she set aside her sewing and crossed to the table where the lantern rested, its rich copper winking at her with a beguiling light. The same admiration that gave her father pause filled her as she took in its fine craftsmanship.

“So he's a Scotsman.” Mama's eyes, gray as the doves that nested beneath their eaves, settled on her thoughtfully. “'Tis an interesting name he has. It sounds well with either Eden or Elspeth.”

Warmth snuck up Eden's neck.
Eden
 . . .
Ballantyne?
Hearing them paired so made her squirm, yet she couldn't deny that what little she knew about the man was pleasing. He owned a fine name, could pen a handsome letter, was generous with his talents. Not all apprentices were so blessed. Still, she whispered, “Perhaps he's big as a barn and missing all his teeth.”

Mama gave a rare chuckle. “Perhaps he's handsome as a midsummer's day. He's certainly generous to send so fine a gift. 'Tis a wise man who wins your father over before the work begins.”

But once the work began, would he stay on? Eden expelled a ragged breath. “Papa cannot seem to keep an apprentice.”

“'Tis not your father's fault two lads have run off,” she returned. “George White was not physically fit for the trade—so thin a strong wind would have pushed him over. As for Bartholomew Edwards, though big as a barn, he hadn't the smarts of a louse, your sister said.”

“Papa does need an extra hand at the forge.”

“Indeed, he does. York County is burgeoning and has but one able blacksmith.” Mama's needle plied the flannel fabric
with a sure hand as she recited the facts. “Your father is aging and the workload is heavy. Elspeth is almost one and twenty, you yourself are nineteen. 'Tis time—past time—one of you were betrothed.”

Betrothed.

The very word sent a shiver through Eden. A man—
a husband—
was on his way, and she'd not yet felt a flutter of romance for any suitor . . . or the touch of a man's hand. “So the babe is to decide our fate.”

Mama nodded. “You heard your father. If the babe arrives first, Silas Ballantyne is betrothed to Elspeth. If not, he's to be yours. There are worse things in the world than an arranged marriage, Daughter.”

Looking up, Eden saw a shadow cross her mother's face, as if she'd caught herself in a lie. Had their present predicament sparked one too many painful memories? Gauzy bits of gossip gleaned over the years about her parents' beginnings swirled through Eden's head, tempting her to ask questions she'd not dared to before. But she simply said, “Does this man—Mr. Ballantyne—know there's to be a match?”

“That he's to wed one of you?” Mama lifted plump shoulders in a shrug. “Your father hasn't said, though the apprentice is likely aware of the tradition.”

“I care not for such traditions.”

“Eden Rose!” Mama blanched at this rare show of defiance. “Has Margaret Hunter been filling your head with rebellious notions—or Jemma Greathouse with the books she lends you?”

“No, Mama, I just don't care to be married. To anyone.”

Mama looked at her like she had two heads. “Then what else would you aspire to?”

The probing question cut Eden to the quick, though she had a ready answer.

I aspire to something beyond the stifling confines of this house, far beyond Papa's fierce temper and Elspeth's contentious spirit, and the endless monotony of my days.

But she couldn't give it voice, not with Mama peering at her like she was privy to the inner workings of her heart and soul. No one must know her secret.
No one.
She'd best tread cautiously till the plan was in place. And pray the babe came before the apprentice.

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