Tracie Peterson - [Heirs of Montana 04] (2 page)

BOOK: Tracie Peterson - [Heirs of Montana 04]
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“We have to trust that God knows what’s best for each of us,” Koko said. “George and Jamie will work hard to see your cabin completed. Susannah and I will make curtains and rugs. You’ll see. It will come together before you know it.”

“I’m not concerned about the physical presence of a home,” Dianne said in an exhausted sigh. “I’m worried that Cole will never allow us to return. It wasn’t his home—it was ours.”

“It was his as well,” Koko said reassuringly. “He’s trying to do right by his family. Dianne, you know that God is good and that He will guide this family’s steps. You mustn’t let this temporary delay cause you such pain and sorrow.”

Dianne knew she was right, but it was so hard. Hard to watch them pack their belongings. Hard to know that Koko and George would soon spend their nights in the quiet comfort of the Madison Valley.

Ardith concluded her playing, and Dianne could hear her speaking in hushed tones with Winona. The child had been misplaced along with the rest of them. Ardith seldom spent time with her daughter, feeling unable to bear the child’s constant stories and memories of Levi. Dianne knew the pain Ardith bore was more than she could share with anyone. She had dared to open her heart only to have another tremendous loss pierce her.

Now the child she once took comfort in was only a sad reminder of that pain.

Dianne sighed. At least Cole was safe and alive. She shouldn’t be so angry, so bitter. She needed to rest in the Lord and trust Him for answers. But it was so hard. It was the kind of thing she could never do in her own strength, so trusting God for help in this matter was her only hope.

On Sunday Dianne sat beside her husband, listening to an aging Ben Hammond give a sermon on prayer. He spoke as a man convinced of the power his subject rendered. He had known answered prayer. He had seen the results and was there to testify that God still listened when His children prayed.

“‘And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ ” Ben paused and looked at the congregation. “Some of you here hold grudges against others. Some of you are mighty angry because of wrongs done you. You may feel betrayed or cheated.”

Dianne squirmed in her seat and Athalia, or Lia, as they called their four-year-old daughter, crawled onto her lap. Ben always had a way of making her feel as though he were preaching just to her.

“I knew a man once who held his father a grudge. The man had promised the boy the family farm and livestock as an inheritance. He regaled the boy with stories from the time he was old enough to understand their meaning. Stories about how great the farm would be, how wondrous it would feel to own his own plot of land, to work the soil with his own two hands. The boy spent night after night growing those dreams in his mind. Then one day the sheriff came and directed the family to leave the farm. The father had been unable to make his payments. The livestock were sold one by one to pay the father’s debts.”

Ben paused and closed his Bible. He looked from face to face as if seeking to know they understood the importance of what he was about to say. “This boy had a reason to hold a grudge. The father had filled his head with promises, even as he lost the family’s money in gambling. He knew he would never fulfill the promises he offered his son, yet he continued to promise what could never be. And that was what hurt the boy the most. He hadn’t really cared about the land or the animals. He cared about the lies, the betrayal, the broken promises from a man he trusted.

“The boy left his family, unable to stand the sight of his father. Every time he looked at the man, he wanted to scream out against him, but he remained silent … and little by little his heart hardened against his father until there was no possible hope for forgiveness. And the father wanted forgiveness. He begged for it. He swore off his gambling ways and went straight. He found peace in God’s word—accepted salvation through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He restored the family as best he could, taking a job cleaning printing presses for a newspaper publisher and delivering papers. He found a little house for his family and never again did he allow temptations to cause such grief to his loved ones.”

Ben sighed and stepped down from behind the pulpit. “He tried hard to reach out to his son. He wrote letters and asked friends to speak to the young man, and even as he lay on his deathbed, he pleaded for his son to forgive him. But the son never came home. He never opened the letters and he never forgave his father. The father died and the boy figured it was just as it should be. The old man had finally gotten what he deserved. After all, he’d killed the very heart of his son.”

There were murmurings across the congregation. Dianne had long since stopped squirming and was caught up in the story. How could anyone be so heartless as to refuse forgiveness when it was asked for? She couldn’t even imagine knowing such a person. That’s why Ben’s words hit her so hard as he continued.

“I was that boy. I was hard and unforgiving, because you see, I didn’t know the Lord’s love. I didn’t know, and in my ignorance I let my father go to his death with a grudge between us.”

Dianne’s breath caught in her throat. Surely Ben jested. He was such a kind and loving soul. There couldn’t possibly be any truth to this story—yet she’d never known him to lie.

“‘And when ye stand praying, forgive….”’ Ben let the words trail off. “There’s a powerful hurt that’s running deep through the hearts of some of you. You don’t feel like forgiving because the other person doesn’t deserve your forgiveness—because their wicked ways have caused great destruction. Or maybe they’ve mended their ways, but you can’t seem to mend your heart. I’m here today to tell you that Jesus can do the mending if you do the forgiving.”

Dianne scarcely heard the rest of the service. She felt the boys grow restless beside her as they waited for the final hymn. She felt Lia nestle her head against Dianne’s shoulder and start sucking her thumb. But her primary focus was her need to talk to Cole. She had to ask him to forgive her anger against him. She had to give him her forgiveness for the delays and the way he’d ignored her hurting heart.

After church the family began their walk home. Luke and Micah raced each other while John begrudgingly held Lia’s hand and walked at her speed. Dianne reached for Cole’s hand as the rest of the family progressed toward the house.

“I need to talk to you.”

He raised a brow at the seriousness of her tone. “Going to make confessions?” he asked with a grin.

Dianne nodded, her sober expression causing his smile to fade. “Cole, I’ve been very angry with you—holding a grudge against you. I want your forgiveness, even though I don’t deserve it.”

“What are you talking about?” He seemed genuinely perplexed.
“The ranch—us living here. All of it. I’ve been so angry, especially when Koko and the others left for the ranch. It hurt so much and the pain was almost more than I could bear. So instead of enduring it, I turned it into resentment against you.”

Cole stopped her there in the middle of the street. “But why? You know I’ve been working to get us back on the Diamond V. You know it’s important to me to provide you with the things you had before.”

She shook her head. “No. I don’t think I did understand that. All I knew was that you stood in my way of going home.”

His expression dropped. “Is that how you truly saw it?”

A warm breeze fluttered the ties of Dianne’s bonnet. She hated having hurt him with her confession, but she hated having lies between them even more. “I’ve tried to see it your way. I’ve tried to be patient about the delays, but every time I saw you freight another load of lumber for someone else’s house or bring in an order of windows, or talk about how the valley was returning to its old state of glory, I held you a deeper grudge.” She looked away shaking her head. “I never meant to—it was just my defense against the pain.”

“I never wanted to cause you pain,” he said. “I only wanted to be realistic about our return. After all, there were the children to think about.”

“That’s part of the reason I’m so grieved. The boys hate it here. They are constantly picked on at school, and they miss their ponies and the days we spent out of doors. Lia hears their tales and asks me why she can’t have a horse or learn to fish.”

“And I suppose you tell them I’m to blame.”

Dianne’s head snapped up and she narrowed her eyes. All of her good intentions to let go of her anger faded in that single statement. “I’m not that cruel. I’ve never spoken against you to the children. I will confess that I spoke to George and Koko the day before they left. I told them how I felt—how hard it was to watch them go home while we have to remain behind. George promised me that he and Jamie would work to put our house in order so that you would feel comfortable moving us there this fall, but I told him I saw no sign of your being willing to do that.”

It was Cole’s turn to be angry. “I told you when the time was right, we’d return. It would be foolish to rush back. Do you want the children living exposed to the elements—to wild animals? We have a good life here. Our friends are here.”

“Well, my heart is there!” Dianne declared and began to walk away.

“I thought I was your heart,” he called after her softly.

Dianne stopped in midstep. Her confession had not gone well. She was angry again. Angry and hurt. She turned and looked at her husband. “And I thought I was your heart.”

He sighed and came to where she stood. “You
are
my heart—my life. But I don’t want to argue this out in the middle of the street.”

“I didn’t ask you to argue with me, Cole. I merely wanted to confess my wrongdoing and receive your forgiveness.” Her tone was clipped, edging on sarcastic. “I suppose you won’t give it now—now that you know how I felt.”

“Feel.”

Dianne looked at him for a moment, unsure what he meant. “What are you saying?”

“You still feel this way. It isn’t in the past at all. This isn’t a matter of how you felt—it’s a matter of how you still feel.”

Dianne started to deny it, then nodded and began walking toward the house on the hill.
Why can’t I let this anger go? Why can’t I forgive him and forget it—just release it here and now?

“‘But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”’
She heard Ben’s words ringing clear in her heart. It was all just too much to deal with.

The last thing Dianne wanted to confront was a houseful of people upon her return from church. But that was exactly what she got. Morgan, one of her older brothers, had come with a group of several people he’d taken on tour through the Yellowstone National Park wilderness.

“Hello, sis,” he said as Dianne came into the house. “I have some people here I think you’ll enjoy meeting. I thought you might be willing to put us up for the night as well.”

Dianne looked at the group of four men. Clearly they were city dudes out to take in the country air. It was a scene she’d seen several times with Morgan. He seemed to enjoy acting as tour and hunting guide these days.

“The two rooms at the far end of the upstairs hall are free. You’re welcome to them. There’s also a room just off the kitchen.”

“I can take that one,” Morgan said, giving Dianne’s shoulders a squeeze. “I’ll get our guests settled upstairs. Can you feed us as well?”

“We’ll manage,” she said as she removed her bonnet.

“Wonderful. Here, let me introduce you.” Morgan took Dianne by the hand and pulled her over to meet her guests. “This is Mr. Stromgren. He’s from New York City, as are his companions, Mr. Wayne, Mr. Winters, and Mr. Mullins. Gentlemen, this is my sister Mrs. Dianne Selby.”

Cole came into the room and Morgan included him in the introduction. “And my brother-in-law, Cole Selby.”

The men had already gotten to their feet for Dianne, but they extended their hands in welcome to Cole. After he’d shaken each man’s hand, he turned to Morgan. “Are you needing rooms?”

“Yes, and we’ve already spoken with Dianne about the matter. I hope that was all right,” Morgan said, looking rather sheepish.

“You know it is. You’re always welcome.”

From the next room, Ardith began playing the piano. It was a beautiful Chopin piece, one Dianne had come to recognize and love.

“Where is that glorious music coming from?” Mr. Stromgren asked.

“That would be my sister. She’s playing in the parlor next door.” Dianne went to the paneled sliding doors and pushed them back. “Ardith, we have guests, and they are very much enjoying your music. I hope you don’t mind.”

Ardith looked up as she continued to play. “I don’t mind.”

“You are truly skilled, my dear,” Mr. Stromgren said as he came to stand beside Dianne. The other gentlemen joined him. “This is the kind of talent I’ve been looking for. Why, people would pay a fortune to hear her in New York.” He looked to his companions, and they all nodded in agreement.

“It isn’t all that often,” he continued, “that you find a beautiful woman with such talent. The audiences are all about appearance. The visual is very important.”

“I don’t suppose I would know anything about that,” Dianne said.

“Well, I do. It’s my business to provide audiences with talented artists. Your sister must have played since she was very young.”

“Actually, no. She has only played for about the last five years.”

“A truly amazing feat. Why, she masters Chopin as if she were part of the music.”

Ardith completed the piece and rose. “Thank you for your compliments, sir.”

“Christopher Stromgren,” he said, stepping forward boldly. “I know we’ve not yet been properly introduced, but we must speak. I have a proposition for you. I would like to take you to New York and present you to the awaiting audiences there and in other cities around the country.”

“You’ve only heard her play one Chopin serenade,” Dianne protested. “How do you know that she can play anything else?”

Stromgren’s gaze never left Ardith. The man, with his curly red hair and thick, bristly mustache, seemed enthralled. “I just know these things.”

BOOK: Tracie Peterson - [Heirs of Montana 04]
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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