Mail Order Wife, page 9
“It is important for your safety and the girls, especially against coyotes and snakes. And sometimes we get some rough characters riding around. It is always good to be prepared.”
It made sense to Elizabeth, and she was determined to learn whatever survival skills she needed to live in this new home of hers.
So it was that the next evening Virginia offered to prepare dinner and Elizabeth put on one of her new denims. She felt shy at the way it hugged her, so she put on a long loose frock over it, and William smiled when he saw her. Change for some people did not come easy.
She waited outside while he went into the stables to get the horses and, expecting him to bring her Misty, she was surprised when he led Primrose out instead.
“If you are okay with it, I would like for you to accept Primrose as your horse.”
“Thank you.” She looked at the horse with trepidation.
“Primrose is as gentle as Misty, only she is younger. Misty is too slow.”
Elizabeth felt herself bonding with William over the coming days, and it began to scare her. She was falling in love with her husband and that was not the plan. This was supposed to be a business arrangement. She was not supposed to fall in love with William, and especially not when he was clearly still in love with his dead wife. How does someone compete with a dead person’s spirit?
William taught her how to ride, and even though she was still afraid of the horses, she was learning how to cope. She had to if she was to survive in this place, because for the most part horses were the only means of transportation. She could get on and off her horse without assistance, though she still had to work on her speed. It took Virginia less than two minutes to get onto her horse but Elizabeth struggled, and if anyone was counting it would take her about ten minutes to get on to the horse.
William watched his wife in silent amusement and amazement. She was a feisty little thing and had a determined look in her eye each time they were out to practice more. She gradually learned how to handle a gun very well, and he knew that she would eventually be able to survive as a settler’s wife.
~~~ *** ~~~
Elizabeth held her shawl around her tightly as she went into the barn to collect the eggs that she knew her chicken had laid. She had earlier decided that she would leave some eggs so that they could hatch into chicks, and so increase the number of their poultry. She was careful when collecting the eggs, because the first time she had tried it the hens had pecked at her hands, and the painful lesson was a reminder of how mothers, whether human or animal or bird, will go to any lengths to keep their young ones safe.
It was early morning and she wanted to prepare an early breakfast, because William had told her last night that he would be riding around the property to check on the fence and ensure that it was secure as autumn was slowly approaching, even though the sun was still very hot during the day. Her mission accomplished, she returned to the kitchen and found her daughters and Virginia awake and setting the breakfast table.
“I need to go to Hellgate and stock up on some things,” William announced during breakfast. “I will first ride around the farm to ensure the fence is secure, and then Pastor Thomas will be bringing his ox cart so we can all go to town. So ladies, put on your best frocks and join me on my trip.” The loud cheers that welcomed his announcement warmed his heart. He had a family.
It was a wonderful trip to Hellgate, but Elizabeth noticed that her sister seemed uncomfortable and kept looking around, and at times would even duck.
“Virginia, what is going on? You look as though you are hiding from someone.”
“Oh, it is really nothing. I am just being cautious because some of the men here are looking at me so much, and I do not want to attract any attention.”
It was a lame explanation, but Elizabeth let it pass. She knew Virginia was still going through an adjustment period and did not want to make her feel uncomfortable in any way.
That evening after dinner as usual, the family held their prayers and Elizabeth played the violin. Virginia sang with them, but it was obvious that her mind was distracted. When the prayers were over the girls went to bed and as usual, Elizabeth joined William on the porch.
“Autumn is nearly here, Miss Elizabeth. I hope you have warm enough clothing, because the weather can be very chilly, not to mention winter.”
“Thank you, Mr. William. I think we are all alright. The girls now have many dresses, which are of good material and will keep them warm.”
“I meant you, my dear. Do you have sufficient clothing?”
“Yes, though I ran out of knitting yarn. I am making mittens for the girls and also a pair for you to keep out the cold.”
“I would like to see that.”
“I forgot to ask you to get me some yarn when we were in town today.”
“Remind me to get you some when I go there tomorrow.”
“Yes, Mr. William.”
They sat in companionable silence for a while. Then Elizabeth shivered.
“A little bit,” she answered, drawing her shawl closer.
William moved from his position and joined her on the settee, which was made for two people, sat down next to her and pulled her close. Elizabeth almost groaned out aloud. His hard body felt so warm and so comforting. She wanted to close her eyes and stay there forever.
“Is that better?” he asked huskily.
“Yes,” she whispered. She could feel his heart beating, a strong steady pulse that almost lulled her to sleep. This was a man that she could depend on, someone she could lean on. If only he were hers to have and to hold, in the real sense of the word. She sighed inwardly. She would not ask for more than he was willing to give. Just having a home for her and Virginia had made a big difference in their lives, and brought them the safety and security that they would not have found had they remained in Boston.
“Are you sleepy yet? Do you want to go in?”
“No, not yet. Just a little while more.”
He drew her closer, and then he raised her chin gently with his right hand and she looked up at him, slightly confused. The full moon was rising and the sky was clear, not a cloud in sight. His breath smelled of mint. William liked to clean his teeth with a Eucalyptus twig each day and so his breath was always fresh.
Like a moth that was mesmerized by a flame, Elizabeth watched as William lowered his head slowly until his lips touched hers. No one had ever told Elizabeth what a kiss was like and she had never been kissed before, but when William put his lips on hers she gave a soft sigh and opened up to him.
William groaned and pulled Elizabeth closer as he deepened their kiss. Her breath was fresh and her soft lips were so enticing, and he felt long buried feelings begin to rise up in him again. A shudder rippled through him and he drew her even closer, both arms holding her close. She fit him so well, her softness against his hardness. And their kiss deepened even more. A thought came into his mind that this was his woman and he wanted to protect her, provide for her and be there for her
Elizabeth felt the heat rising up in her, chasing away the cold not only from her body, but from her heart as well. She felt protected and cherished and wished that this would go on forever, and that William would finally begin to need her as much as she needed him. She turned, put her arms around his waist, and held on to him.
Just when she was getting lost in the kiss, William stopped and pulled away. She felt his withdrawal not just physically, but emotionally as well, and her heart sank.
“I have got to go,” he stood up abruptly.
“William...” she cried out softly.
“Not now, Miss Elizabeth, not now,” and saying this he practically ran down the steps and a few minutes later Elizabeth heard him open the barn door and ride out.
“Oh!” She felt pain in her heart like never before. It was as though the very life was being squeezed out of her, and she closed her eyes and bent down as i
Elizabeth shook her head. She deserved the love of a good man, but she was not going to get it from William. She sat for a long while and then came to a decision. When it was daylight she would talk to William in the sobriety of the day, and tell him that she had decided to return to Boston. There she would live like a widow all the days of her life and never marry again, because she knew that what she felt for William was no youthful passion, but deep eternal love that would never end. She could never give her heart to another. William possessed it forever. He had slowly wound his way into her heart, soul and mind and taken permanent residence there, leaving no room for any other.
She shook her head sadly and stood up. Her tears had stopped but the pain in her heart was so deep. She did not get into bed, but sat on the stool beside her bed. She could hear Mary breathing softly on the other bed. Oh, to be young again and have no cares or pain in her life!
And then she heard something else. She listened keenly. It was the sound of the barn door opening again, and she frowned. She had not heard William riding back. She moved to the window which overlooked the stables, and in the moonlight she made out Virginia’s form.
“What?” she whispered. As she watched, her sister led Spitfire out of range of the house and jumped on her and took off.
Elizabeth did not hesitate a moment longer, thankful that she had not taken off her denims yet. She ensured that Mary and Abigail were alright and asleep before she slipped out of the house and closed the door. She ran to the stables and got Primrose.
“Primrose, you and I have to go out this night, and I am sorry to disturb your rest,” she whispered as she struggled to get on to the horse. “But we need to follow Virginia, and learn what she is up to. She could be getting herself into a lot of trouble.” And, as if the horse understood her, she took off in the same direction that Virginia had gone.
“Father,” Elizabeth prayed as she held on tightly to the reins. “Please guide my footsteps so that I can find my sister, before she gets into trouble and ruins her life. Protect us from every form of evil, and protect the children, too. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
William got off Black Thunder and tethered the horse to a tree. It was chilly but he did not feel it. He was quite agitated by the different emotions that were filling him. How could he have betrayed Amelia like that? He had promised her as she lay dying that he would never love another woman. She would always have his heart. And now he had betrayed that love and trust and he clicked in self-disgust. He walked to her grave and stood looking down at it.
He tried to remember Amelia’s face, but all he could come up with was Elizabeth’s chubby and dimpled face, and her full heart-shaped lips, her innocent eyes as she blinked at him from behind her glasses whenever she was reading and had them on. He closed his eyes and groaned. The woman had taken his wife’s place in his mind as well.
William walked around the clearing, the bright moon lighting up the clearing where he was. He loved this spot because whenever he was troubled he could come here and feel at peace. He rubbed his five o’clock shadow with his right hand, his left hand at his waist. Black Thunder stood by, watching him. As William paced, he felt as though all the creatures were watching him. It did not frighten him in any way. If anything, it filled him with something he could not explain: a deep sense of oneness with the universe and nature.
The gentle breeze made the leaves rustle in the night, leaves that would soon be shed as autumn arrived. The soft humming of night insects sounded like a song to William. He smiled and closed his eyes, and he knew what Elizabeth had felt when she had first seen the mountains: a sense of reverence and awe.
For the first time in a long while he felt deep peace taking over his heart. And he heard Pastor Thomas’ voice, as the clergyman had spoken to him a few weeks after Amelia’s death.
“There is no pain like the pain of losing someone you love so deeply, but even with the pain of death comes the knowledge that because our loved ones loved the Lord, they are now in His presence, and their pain is gone.”
“Why is God so cruel, Pastor Thomas?” William was full or rage and grief. “If He is as loving as you claim, why does He allow pain like this? Amelia was a young woman with small children. Why would God do something like this and deny these children their mother, when they still need her? And what about me? Does your God care for me, too? Or is this a way of punishing me?”
“No William, you have got it all wrong.” The older man sighed. “There are some questions whose answers we will never know until we cross over to the other side. But one thing that I know for sure is that in all things, God is working for our good, and no matter what we are going through, if we believe that God is right there with us, it makes the pain bearable.”
William did not say a word.
“There is a season and time for everything under the sun. For some of us our sojourn here on earth is for a long time, for others, like Sister Amelia, it is a short one. But the truth is that life must go on. You must go on, William, for the sake of your children, Mary and Abigail.”
William looked at Pastor Thomas. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
Pastor Thomas chuckled. “You are young, William. You are a strong young man who can sire many more children.”
“Amelia is dead.”
“Indeed, she is dead. But when the time comes, your heart will open up to someone else.”
“William,” the older man put his hand on William’s sleeve, “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I know the pain of loss and of thinking that there is no way a person can go on. In my fifty-five years of life and thirty years as a pastor, I have seen people come and go, children born, children dying before adulthood. I have buried fathers and mothers, and have shared pain with many of my congregants. And one thing I can tell you is that things will never be the same again. Life changes after the loss of a loved one. It becomes different. God has given us the ability to cope with whatever comes our way, but only if we entrust ourselves into His loving arms. It does not get easier, it just becomes different. And when the right time comes, allow your heart to open up and let someone else in.”
“That is betraying Amelia.”
“No, no, no, my son. Betrayal is if you should love another while your wife is still alive and you are together. The Bible says that once a wife or husband is dead, the remaining spouse has been set free, and can move on and love someone else again.”
William sighed. He looked around him and once more was caught up in memories.
“William,” Pastor Thomas said, “moving on to love someone else is part of the cycle of life. Look at the trees. In winter they lie frozen beneath the ice. Spring comes and they thaw, and new life begins. Then summer comes and they are in the prime of their life, not knowing that autumn is just around the corner, when they will have to shed all their leaves and bow down once again to the weight of snow in winter. Such is life. Even when it is bleak like winter, spring comes, and life becomes new again. Do you understand what I am saying?” William nodded.
“You can be sure that when life ends, new life begins. For our sister, life has ended on this side of heaven, but it has begun in paradise where she is beholding the face of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. For you and the children, life with Amelia has ended. But it can begin again when you move on and find another woman to bring you and the children comfort. No one can ever take the place of your wife, but you can make room for someone else. That is how big our hearts are, and we never know it until we have to go through something like this.”
At the time William had thought the older clergyman rather mad,
For the first time in a long time William smiled from the heart. Yes, he would not forget Amelia, never, but he could open up his heart and love another, Elizabeth to be precise. And he realized that his new wife was a very honorable woman. He had overheard a conversation between her and Mary. They were in the barn collecting eggs and had not realized that he was in the stable grooming the horses.
“Yes, my beautiful child?”
“I miss my mama.”
“I know you do, little one, I know you do. I also miss my mama a lot.”
“I am afraid.”
“Why, Mary? What is making you afraid?”
“That I will forget her, and that makes me sad.”
Elizabeth put down her basket of eggs and pulled the child in for a hug. “When our loved ones die in the Lord, they go into His very presence, and are happy with Him there until we join them. Do you understand that?”
“And even though we have a lot of pain here, God has given us a precious gift that we can never lose.”
“What is that, Mama?”
“Memories. The memories we shared with our loved ones live in our hearts, and whenever we feel sad, we can always remember the good times and things that we did, that will put a smile on our faces.”
“I love you, and I am so glad that Mrs. Thomas helped me to put that advert in the paper, and you and Papa fell in love, and Papa married you, and now you are our mama.”
“And baby, I love you too, and I am also glad that I am your new mama.”
William smiled and walked to Black Thunder. It was time to go home, time to go to his wife, time to start a new cycle of life. He paused at Amelia’s grave before he got onto his horse. “Amelia, you know how much I loved you. I still do, and I always will. And the fact that I am going to build a new life with Elizabeth does not mean that you are out of my life. You will always be in my life and my heart, and in our children I see you everyday.”
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