While harvesting, the German settlement near New Market, Virginia receive warning of an impending attack by French and Indians 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!
Part 1 - Inside Fort Providence by Carrie Fancett PagelsPart 2 - A Providential Proposal by Susan Craft
Part 3 - Landlocked by Carla Olson Gade
Part 4 - Preserve My Life From Fear by Elaine Marie Cooper
Part 5 - A Gift from Buckskin Samson by Kathleen Maher
Part 6 - Narrow Passage by Pat Iacuzzi
Part 7 - Through the Storm by Lynn Squire
Part 8 - Christmastide by Carrie Fancett Pagels
Part 9 - Amish Snow by Kelly Long
by Dina Sleiman
Elizabeth sat peeling potatoes with her new friends Abigail and Allison under a gray winter sky. Despite the January chill, they’d agreed they couldn’t stay trapped in their dark, tiny, fort compartments one more moment. The constant movement of their fingers should keep them from going numb with cold.
“How much longer do they plan to keep us penned like chickens in this fort? I fear if I cannot run free over my mountaintop soon, I shall lose my mind and start clucking and pecking,” Elizabeth joked. “They shall have to lock me in the stocks.”
“Oh, please do demonstrate.” Allison dropped her knife to clap her hands together. “I haven’t seen a stockade about, and we’ve had little enough entertainment during the past weeks.”
Elizabeth shot a mischievous grin to Allison. She scanned the courtyard for one specific handsome face, and finding him nowhere, she stood to her feet. Digging her fists into her hips and stretching her head from the neck, she performed—if she must say so herself—a quite impressive imitation of her father’s prize rooster.
“Bravo!” Allison’s clap increased in volume.
Abigail swatted Elizabeth’s hip. “Sit down this instant, Elizabeth Jane Dunhurst, and do stop drawing attention. What will the men say?”
Elizabeth and Allison dissolved into giggles and Elizabeth collapsed against her on their rough wooden bench. Although the elegant young stranger who’d caught Elizabeth’s eye earlier in the week seemed nowhere in the vicinity, Abigail’s quite serious and religious friend, Caleb, studied her thoughtfully from where the men sat in a circle, cleaning their weapons.
“Look at Caleb.” Elizabeth laughed all the harder at his confused face. “What must he think?”
Abigail blushed under his gaze. “Why can’t you ever behave, Elizabeth?”
“Good heavens. Where is the fun in that?” Nonetheless, Elizabeth straightened herself and returned to her peeling, knowing how much Abigail wished to prove herself respectable to Caleb.
Allison nodded. “We could all use a bit of fun right now.”
“I don’t see why you two are complaining. We’re safe after all. Would you rather go to sleep each night frightened out of your wits? Elizabeth, would you dance about your mountaintop knowing that Indian invaders might lurk behind any tree?”
A little tangle of something Elizabeth would rather not name formed in the pit of her belly. She had grown weary of fear in these last weeks. She just wanted to live and be happy again. “I suppose not.”
“And when else do we have so much time with friends as when we’re forted?” Abigail continued. “Why, look at the bonds we’ve formed.”
Again, Elizabeth was forced to grudgingly agree. These new relationships would last for years to come. If by chance they could meet in the future at social gatherings, no doubt they would greet one another as long lost sisters. Much as Hannah and Cathy had not long ago in this very fort.
Allison wiggled her eyebrows at Elizabeth. “And when do we have such opportunity to meet handsome, single, young men.”
“Not that you need to worry about that anymore.” Elizabeth hoped she would find a man as wonderful as Allison’s Douglas.
A grin lit Allison’s face and turned it beautiful. “Yes, I suppose it’s not entirely awful here.”
Elizabeth slammed her bald potato into the bucket. “But it’s all so dreary and worrisome. Epiphany should be a carefree time of year.” For a moment she sat silent, considering their plight. Thoughts of spinning and leaping across the mountaintop blended with handsome young men, social gatherings, and this blasted wooden fort.
She stood to her feet and pointed a finger to the sky with a good dash of drama. “That’s it! I’ve had an epiphany. An Epiphany epiphany.” She giggled.
“Do tell!” Allison squealed.
“What now?” Abigail asked.
“We shall have an Epiphany ball. Right here, in the fort. Why should we all sit about so gloomy and fearful. We’re together, we may as well enjoy ourselves.”
Allison began to whoop but clapped a hand over her mouth before Abigail could shush her. “Splendid plan. I haven’t had a chance to dance with my new groom yet. I shall help you arrange it.” She stood and performed a few country dance steps in her enthusiasm.
Abigail smiled. “You know, I hate to admit it, but for once I must agree with your crazy scheme, Elizabeth. We do need a bit of holiday mirth. Of course, Caleb won’t dance. He wouldn’t want to offend his parents or his parishioners, but we could watch together and enjoy the music. I do so miss music.” She gazed wistfully across the courtyard and Caleb waved back. “Perhaps he might even hold my hand.”
Abigail’s comment gave Elizabeth only the briefest moment of pause.
How sad that such devout believers could not accept God’s beautiful expression of dance. Many times she’d fancied herself twirling in the arms of Jesus atop that mountain. Those moments were pure bliss. Perfect praise.
Perhaps she should give a thought to not offending others as well. But shouldn’t her concern be to not offend weaker Christians? No doubt those who refrained from dance would consider their stance superior. She giggled again, intoxicated by visions of the upcoming party, and all apprehension flitted from her mind as quickly as it had come.
Allison continued to demonstrate steps and patterns as Abigail merrily hummed a tune. This was just what their forted community needed.
They would indeed have their ball. And she would find a way to dance in the arms of her mysterious stranger. As much as Elizabeth enjoyed her imaginary dances with her savior, she longed to dance with a flesh and blood man. Dare she dream—even a husband someday?
* * *
Elizabeth took in the magic of the evening: the twinkling stars against a black canvas of sky, the flicker of firelight turning the fort’s dun-colored walls into a festive display of red and gold, handsome Shad at the fiddle, and the couples moving merrily to the tune. Somehow over the past two days she’d gotten so bogged in all the details of organization, she’d nearly forgotten the entire purpose of the dance had been to have fun.
To have fun, and to meet her mysterious stranger.
She surveyed the outdoor ballroom. Abigail tapped her toes as she sat upon a bench with Caleb. The newlyweds, Allison and Douglas, led the dance. Comfort and Jonathan glided to the mellow tempo, although Jonathan slowed his wife’s pace and scanned her belly with concern. Nearby, Sarah and William seemed so lost in each other’s eyes that they almost forgot to move their feet. All the couples at the fort looked to be having a marvelous time.
Did Elizabeth just see Johan steal a kiss from Suzanne as they cuddled in that dark corner with their new babe between them? She smiled. She hoped so, for wasn’t love and romance the ultimate purpose of such a ball? Several children skipped past her and formed a boisterous circle. They pulled the little boy Constance and Nathaniel had found abandoned in the woods into the fray. How wonderful to see his small face beaming with happiness for once.
But still no handsome stranger.
He had arrived the day after Christmas. A quiet man. And quite alone. Of course rumors flew quickly enough around such a tiny community. He had been traveling from Winchester to his newly purchased farm in Albemarle County when he was warned to hasten himself to the fort. That was all she’d managed to discover. She knew nothing of his hopes and dreams. Little of his personality, although he always appeared relaxed and pleasant. She hadn’t even heard his name. But once when she’d caught his eye, she thought she’d detected a mischievous twinkle to match her own.
She’d been quick to concoct a story about him in her head. She fancied him descended of English nobility. Of course, he must be, with his quiet strength and poise. His farm would soon grow to be the richest tobacco plantation in the region. With her by his side, how could it not? And they would be the premier family of Albemarle County. Hosting dances like this, but in an elegant ballroom filled with glimmering gowns of silk and satin.
A girl could dream, could she not?
But the ball would not last forever, and he had yet to make an appearance. She sighed and sagged against the wall, her heart heavy in her chest. Would all her hard work be for naught?
“Excuse me, miss,” a deep, accented voice cut into her thoughts. She lifted her gaze to find Johan standing before her. “May I have the pleasure of this dance?”
How kind and gallant of him.
Suzanne nodded from her seat.
“You must dance at your own party, Elizabeth. Please,” he said.
Well, Elizabeth supposed no harm could be done if Suzanne agreed. But though Johan was handsome and tall, she had dreamed of dancing with her own charming prince. Her own prospective husband, not someone else’s lent out of charity.
Elizabeth did her best to enjoy the moment anyway. Before long she was laughing and twirling. She lost herself in the music and danced beneath the stars. After Johan, other congenial men lined up to escort her to the dance floor, including that incorrigible, flirtatious Shad and ending with the visiting Colonel Christy himself. Despite his silver hair, he led her through a romping number with youthful vigor.
Unexpectedly, the colonel pulled her up short. Breathless and somewhat addled from the excitement of it all, Elizabeth came back to reality.
It was him! The slim gentleman with his gleaming, dark hair and regal appearance stood beside her. Her prince, come to the ball, no matter how late.
“Colonel, would you kindly introduce me to this delightful young lady. I’ve never seen anyone move with such abandon and grace. If you will allow an interruption, I simply must dance with her next. Unless of course you’ve set your rather dusty cap upon her yourself.” No, she hadn’t imagined it. His eyes twinkled with humor and mischief as he teased the colonel.
“Dusty!” The colonel laughed. “I’ll have you know I’m still in my prime, good sir. Although, she has about worn out my feet. Elizabeth Jane Dunhurst, allow me to introduce one of the finest young gentlemen I’ve met in many years, Richard Beaumont of Albemarle County. A man full of both honor and spirit, who will no doubt do you justice on the dance floor.”
William, now at the fiddle, switched to the final slow song she’d arranged for the evening. A song of love longed for and attained.
She offered her hand. Richard bowed over it like the nobleman she’d fancied him. He pressed his lips to the back of her glove, yet she’d have sworn she felt their warm softness alight upon her skin, causing it to tingle and glow. “The pleasure is all mine.” He returned to his full height. “May I have this dance?”
“You may.” Elizabeth looped her arm through his as he led her to the floor.____________________________________________________
Watch for the concluding installment of
A Forted Frontier Holiday by Carrie Fancett Pagels
Monday, January 14, 3013!
A Forted Frontier Holiday by Carrie Fancett Pagels
Monday, January 14, 3013!
Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an honorable mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, is the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. http://dinasleiman.com