A Colonial American Fiction Anthology
While harvesting, the German settlement near New Market, Virginia, receives warning of an impending attack by French and Indian war parties. They flee to a quickly cobbled refuge, Fort Providence—for they will surely need to rely on God’s Provision. The forted colonials long to celebrate the holidays and await the arrival of visitors.
Each CQ contributor to this serial will bring their characters into the fort from throughout colonial America. Join us for A Forted Frontier Holiday each Monday on CQ for the next two months!
Click here to read Part One - Inside Fort Providence
A Providential Proposal
Climbing out of the back of the covered wagon that had been her family’s home for a month, Allison Cameron gripped the wagon bed and searched with the toe of her boot for the step-down slat. Entangled in her skirts, she careened backward, stifling a yelp when a pair of hands clasped her waist, lifted her like a feather, and settled her to the ground.
She whirled around to find her nose planted against the buckskin-covered chest of the wagon master. Rabbit fur tickled her nostrils as she breathed in the pleasant aroma of pinewood campfires and tobacco. Her eyes traveled upward, past the collar of his linsey-woolsey shirt, to the blue flannel scarf bunched around his neck. A strand of his shoulder-length hair, the color of cattails in the fall, clung to his bottom lip, a bit fuller than the upper one. She gazed into familiar eyes, blue like the flowers that top flax stalks in June. A closely planted field of those flowers so resembled water that flying ducks would try to land on them. As flummoxed as those birds, she swallowed the words of chastisement she’d been prepared to wield against the liberty taken upon her person.
Douglas McCallum grinned and ran his finger along the brim of her ruffled cap tucked underneath the hood of her cloak. “You must take better care, Miss Allison.” A mist punctuated each word as his warm breath mingled with the freezing air.
Weeks ago, after she had repaired a tear in his jaw ripped by an angry bear, they’d given each other permission to use their given names. But he insisted on adding the Miss; his way of teasing her. She studied the scar. It would soon fade, for she had used the tiniest of stitches fashioned with a silky thread of her finest hetcheled flax. Though her fingers ached to caress his face, their relationship had only begun to blossom, and she felt too shy. Instead, she clasped the bear claw hung around her neck with a length of rawhide—his thank you gift.
Allison frowned. “Delayed again. Will we ever reach South Carolina?”
“Aye, lass. ‘Twill take time. For now, we must wait out the weather.”
Allison caught his furtive glance toward the fort’s gates. “It isn’t simply the weather, Douglas. I’ve heard about the threats of attack."
“Allison?” her sister, Katherine, called from the wagon. “Are you ready for Drew?”
Allison turned around. “Yes, dear.”
“Allow me,” said Douglas.
Allison hovered, unsure if she could trust arms powerful enough to lift a log that had crashed down in front of their wagon to handle her one-year-old nephew. When he cuddled the blanket-wrapped bundle against his chest before depositing the sleeping babe into her arms, her worries vanished.
“Now, you, Mrs. Hutchinson.” He swept her from the wagon and cradled her as tenderly as he had her child.
If anyone else but her sister had clasped his neck, Allison would have bristled with jealousy, but she glimpsed the dark circles under Katherine’s eyes and the newly etched wrinkles in her forehead. Her sister had endured the unthinkable. Her young husband had succumbed to a fever on the first leg of their journey. For two long days and nights, Allison had nursed her sister back from the brink of death, but the loss of her adored husband had almost broken Katherine’s spirit. She looked so forlorn dropping her head against Douglas’ shoulder.
What a dependable, rock of a man. Someone easy to cling to.
She had witnessed his broad shoulders taking on much responsibility during their journey from Philadelphia. Midway through Virginia, steady rains had turned the Great Wagon Road into a river of mud. Sparing the horses, travelers unloaded their cargo and toted it up the hills. Douglas, knowing how much she treasured her spinning wheel, disassembled and tucked into straw-lined crates in her parents’ wagon, had moved the boxes personally. He had also carried the kegs of flax seeds which had survived her family’s voyage from Ireland and meant more to them than gold.
Each evening around the campfire, Allison’s dah shared his dreams of harvesting those seeds along the Catawba River. Allison would spin it. Her mah would weave it into linsey-woolsey or crisp white linen for cravats. Katherine would tat the silkiest yarn into lace. The men would fashion the fibers into sails and ropes for ships and church bell towers.
Allison couldn’t believe how quickly she had come to respect—and yes, love—the kind, steadfast wagon master. For his part, he had taken every opportunity to position himself by her side, engaging her in conversation or simply passing time with her in comfortable silence.
Do his feelings match mine?
Drew wriggled in his sleep, wrenching Allison from her woolgathering. She tightened her grip on him and noticed her parents a few paces ahead. They hastened toward a sturdy looking building amid a spattering of lean-tos and military tents that made up the hastily erected Fort Providence. Members of their small group joined them after circling their wagons around the fort’s perimeter. Her dah waited for her, while her mother walked alongside Douglas and fussed over her daughter.
Mr. Cameron, a tall, wiry man with warm, moss green eyes, held open his arms. “Give him to me.”
He hiked his grandson up onto his shoulder, but before continuing on, he gazed at Allison with one of his auburn eyebrows raised.
Strange, he looks at me as if he knows something I don’t, she thought with a shrug.
Relieved of her burden, she offered assistance to a woman who labored under the weight of a sack draped across her chest while she hung on to her twin boys. Allison slipped the sack onto her own shoulder and grabbed the elbow of the nearest boy, who scuffled until she dug her fingers into his skin and glared at him.
Douglas chose that moment to come through the doorway in time to see the scowl on her face. “Let me.” He took the bag from her and bent down to whisper, “I can’t abide unruly children either.”
She chuckled, released the boy, and stepped inside where the aromas of roasted sweet potatoes, cinnamon, rabbit stew, and rhubarb pie wafted around her.
She sighed. “Heavenly.”
Douglas stood beside her, and they watched refugees from the impending danger plop down on the floor, happy to be inside, even happier to be alive. A man even larger and taller than Douglas stood and, in a heavy German accent, introduced himself and his wife, a diminutive woman far along in her pregnancy. Following his lead, the head of each family made their acquaintances. Allison curtsied when her father called her name. Douglas acknowledged his introduction with a nod.
They’d been standing a while when Allison realized that Douglas stared at her intently as if studying her. A sudden warmth pulsed through her veins and her cheeks flushed so hot she pressed her cool hands against them. Searching the room for an escape, she spotted her mah waving. She approached her family as they made themselves comfortable near the fireplace where a woman bent down to stir the bubbling contents of a pot hanging from a hook and swung it back over the flames.
Claire Cameron, a petite woman, barely reached her daughter’s shoulder, but her body was the only thing wee about her. Her love of God could fill the universe. Her voice boomed with laughter, and back home in Ireland when she chastened her daughters, children two doors down in the borough cringed. Mr. Cameron often spoke of drowning in his bride’s big, dark eyes. Allison prayed that one day she would be blessed by a love like theirs.
Claire cupped Allison’s cheek. “A stór, you will go to our wagon and return with bear meat and the makings for dumplings? We must offer our fair share.”
Allison found her mah’s lilt pleasing as well as the way she formed her requests into questions, as if one had the choice to obey.
“I’ll accompany her,” said Douglas, startling Allison who hadn’t realized he was so near.
Outside, they stopped next to her parents’ wagon and leaned against the wheel.
Douglas removed her mitten and circled her palm with his thumb. “Your mother called you something. A stór?”
“Yes. It means my treasure.”
“Ah.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I desire so much to call you my treasure.”
Allison’s heart fluttered like the pedals of her spinning wheel. “I—”
“I love you and have, I think, since the moment we met. Your serenity. Your lovely expressive eyes. Your generosity.” He raced on. “I even like it when you’re cantankerous. Which you can be. You know?”
“What’s even more splendid. I like you.” He kissed her palm. “Will you be my wife …my treasure?”
Joy spun its way through her like gossamer threads weaving a tapestry of images so delightful she buried her face into his neck. “Yes. Oh, yes, my love.”
He scooped her up, and they laughed with such abandon the people across the compound laughed with them. He captured her lips in a kiss that warmed her to her toes.
“Day after tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving.” He paused. “I hear a parson is coming to bless the meal.”
She trembled from his meaning. “’Twould make a glorious wedding day.”
He put her down and tucked her into the crook of his arm. “I plan to thank God in a mighty way. Today, tomorrow, and each day for the rest of our lives.”
Giveaway: A copy of Susan F. Craft's award winning book "The Chamomile" will be given away to one commenter. Drawing will be done November 23 and announced that day at our Tea Party. Skip Black Friday shopping, put your feet up, and enjoy tea and colonial treats with us instead!
QUESTION: Do you think that a wedding really will occur inside Fort Providence or not? Why or why not?