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.We gotta make our own happiness.”“But.” Linette asked in a small voice, “don’t you want to be married?”A few weeks ago, Hope wouldn’t have even thought before answering.The question hit her hard, though.I do want to be married.I want to be Jakob’s wife.But he was ready to send me away.He even said so.“Someday, if ’n God brings a man along that’ll love me deep and true, then I’ll be happy to marry up.” Hope prayed Linette wouldn’t hear the ache in her voice.“But I ain’t gonna settle for nothin’ less.”Jakob pulled the buckboard into the yard and looked around.Everything was eerily quiet.He’d stayed an extra day at the old homestead.Mrs.Volkner and her daughter had come over and helped him pack up many of the things left behind when he’d swept Annie to safety.Annie had always loved Mama’s dishes and Grandma’s crystal vase, and Jakob was glad to restore those cherished pieces to her.Then, too, he’d gathered up some things he thought Hope would enjoy.It wouldn’t seem right, leaving Naomi’s wedding-ring quilt on the bed, so he brought several along—most with a star pattern of some variety.That seemed right.He’d loaded the cedar chest his grandfather made for his grandmother onto the wagon.The long, lacy infant gown inside—Johnny could wear it for his dedication.Best of all, the chest held the wedding gown both Grandma and Mama had worn.Strangely enough, Annie hadn’t worn it—but that was good.It wouldn’t upset her when Hope walked down the aisle to him dressed in the yards of billowing white cotton and lace.Only where was Hope? Where was everyone?He went into the house.The downstairs was empty.Upstairs, he found Annie and the children all fast asleep.Hope wasn’t in the garden or the springhouse.Phineas wasn’t in sight, either.Perplexed, Jakob went to the barn.As soon as his eyes adjusted from the bright sunlight to the dim interior, his heart fell to his boots.Hope’s cart was missing.When did she leave? Where did she go? He couldn’t imagine life without her by his side.Jakob bolted toward the house.He’d awaken Annie and find out where Hope had gone.In his absence, his daughter had risen from her nap.She sat on the parlor floor, stacking brightly colored buttons and counting to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” She tilted her head up momentarily, then looked back at her buttons.Jakob squatted down.“Emmy-Lou, Liebling, where is Miss Hope?”Emmy-Lou shrugged.“She went away.”Away.Heart thundering and mouth dry, Jakob berated himself for having left without telling Hope he loved her.He’d given her no reason to stay, no indication that her future lay here, on his farm, in his arms.Logic dictated she’d head north.The farther north one traveled, the later the harvest season.She’d been here so long, the jobs for a cook wouldn’t be available until she reached the middle of South Dakota.“She taked food with her.Auntie Annie told her to take lots.”Instead of finding any comfort in that announcement, alarm jolted through him.She’d gone.Truly up and gone.Not received a single penny or a word of thanks.Hadn’t even stayed to say farewell.“You be a good girl for Aunt Annie.Daddy’s going to go find Hope.”He straightened out and strode out of the house.The buckboard would slow him down.He unhitched Nicodemus and didn’t bother with a saddle.Jakob mounted up and headed north.“Ich liebe dich.” Emmy-Lou kissed Hope on the cheek.“I love you, too, sugar pie.” Hope pulled up the cover but didn’t want to leave the room yet.This would be her last time to tuck in Jakob’s daughter.Everything was settled, and she had no reason to remain at the Stauffers’ any longer.One last time, she bent over, inhaled the sweet, indefinable scent of a little girl, pressed a kiss on her forehead, and repeated, “I love you.”Hope lifted her own quilt from her cot and carried it downstairs.She’d cut out the golden star for it after returning from the Richardsons’.Moments later, she sat on the settee in the parlor, taking careful, tiny stitches.The star for the Stauffer family on her quilt—that one would always be her favorite.She’d decided to sew it in the midst of a navy blue spot just because it’d help her recall singing with Jakob and Emmy-Lou that night they’d caught the fireflies.“Jakob!” Phineas called from outside.Hope tensed.He’d come home.A low rumble of male conversation, then Jakob’s all-too-familiar footsteps sounded on the porch.He came in, cast a long look at her, then turned to clean up at the washstand.“Annie? Komst.”Annie went to her brother.They held a whispered conversation [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]