TITLE: The Letters


E-MAIL: ladysewalton@yahoo.com

SUMMARY: AUE Story (See Author's Notes) Christy has
been Dismissed from the Mission School. Can she find
a life outside of it or will her heart always be in
the Smokie Mountain's?


DISCLAIMER: Catherine Marshall's beautiful story of
Christy is owned by the Marshall-LeSourd Family,
L.L.C. We are in no way seeking profit or credit for
her story. We are continuing the story of Christy for
our own amusement only. Any additions in story line
and characters were invented by the writers of the
alt.tv.christy Round Robin and the Christy Mailing
List. The content of each story is the responsibility
of the individual writer. The fanfic here is being
posted as a service to the Christy mailing list, Pax
Christy Forum and Alt.tv.christy News Group.

AUTHOR'S NOTE'S: AUE - Alternate Universe Ending - I
have taken the episode "The Lie" and changed the
ending so that Christy was dismissed after all. The
beginning is a little dull but it will get better, I

AN2: These chap's will tend to be on the short side as
they have been broken down by location instead of
events. Some will be VERY short, other moderately.
However this will ensure a post per weekday. I hope
you enjoy this Fic. Feel free to let me know what you
think. ... SEW

The Letters - Chapter One

Cutter Gap/Asheville, TN

What had begun as a beautiful day turned into a
nightmare fast than she could blink her eyes. As
Christy rode in the wagon beside Dr Ferrand she
thought back to the moment her life had spun out of
control. The morning had begun well enough. Miss
Alice and Dr MacNeill had gone off to handle a train
derailment near El Pano this morning. No sooner had
they gone than Dr Ferrand had knocked on the mission
door wanting to cast a surprise inspection of the
mission. That morning he inspected it and found
everything in top-notch order, quite pleased with the
way things were running.

Needing to get over to Cataleechie before catching a
train to Asheville from there he opted to attend
services in the cove before continuing his way. After
silent reflection on the day Christy decided that it
was that exact moment when her life had begun to fall
apart. There, in the middle of services, Bessie
Coburn had stood up and announced the terrible lie
that had led to Christy's expulsion as teacher of the
Cutter Gap children.

Standing in the middle of the mission house, an angry
Dr Ferrand walking in circles around her, Christy
never had a chance to defend herself other than to say
that while she had been by the river with someone,
that someone had not been with John Spencer. Furious
at her alleged lack of morals Jacob Ferrand had
ordered her to gather her things; she would return
home with him at once. David had hung back in the
corner, crushed by the news he had heard in the
church. Ruby Mae had watched on with tears in her
eyes as her heroine was expelled from the cove.

Near tears, but refusing to lose her control in front
of Dr Ferrand, Christy had climbed the stairs to her
room to pack her few belonging's into a satchel,
leaving almost everything behind for the children to
use. Sitting down at the desk she had written two
letters, one she left on Miss Alice's night stand and
the other she begged Ruby Mae to deliver to Dr
MacNeill's cabin after she had left with Dr Ferrand.
As they had said good bye Ruby Mae had told Christy
that she didn't believe 'that dern ol' Bessie'.

'What will I do now?' Christy thought to herself as
she rode in silence with the still furious Dr Ferrand.
'The cove was my home, my life was there with those

The wagon ride to Cataleechie and the train ride after
were thick with frosty silence. It wasn't until they
were standing at the station in Asheville that Dr
Ferrand finally spoke to Christy.

"I don't know what to say, Miss Huddleston. I am very
disappointed and I had hoped that things would have
work out better for you at the mission. I suggest
that you go home and make your amends with yourself
and with God. Oh and Miss Huddleston," he turned back
just before stepping into the carriage to face Christy
as she clung to the handle on her satchel. "I would
suggest that you don't use the mission as a reference,
it will not be a good one."

Watching Jacob Ferrand close the door of the carriage
and the carriage drive off Christy's lip trembled and
she felt tears stinging at her eyes. It was over.
The life she'd dreamed of in Cutter Gap, being a
teacher to the children she loved so dearly was ripped
to shreds before her very eyes. Walking away from the
train station, down the various streets, Christy found
her way to the front door of her childhood home.
Knocking on the door she waited for it to open.

Following the servant into the den Christy saw her
father rise from his reading chair and toss the paper
aside, crossing the room to his daughter. Unable to
hold herself together Christy leaned on the older man,
the man that had always been a pillar of strength, and
wept for the life she no longer had.

Chapter Two

Cutter Gap, TN

Tired, sore, and in desperate need of a bath Miss
Alice dropped her saddlebags onto the floor of her
bedroom before shedding her coat onto the bed. The
mission was empty, the whole cove had seemed so, and
she hadn't passed a soul on her ride home. The quiet
was a nice change from the hectic pace of the last few
days. Undressing she did what she could to wash from
the basin in the corner before sitting down on the bed
to get some much needed sleep. About to lie down she
saw a folded piece of paper sitting propped up against
her small oil lamp on the table next to her bed.

Taking the paper in her hands, wondering what it could
possibly be, Alice unfolded it and began to read what
she recognized as Christy's script.

'Dearest Miss Alice;'

'By the time you get this I will be well on my way to
Asheville if not there already. Dr Ferrand has
dismissed me from the mission school. I'm so sorry to
have been a disappointment to the cove and though I
know the accusations were made in the heat of jealousy
I pray that you will believe me when I tell you they
are not true. I was by the river that night but it
was not to meet with John Spencer. I pray that you
believe me. I have left many of the supplies for the
children to use for I know they will be put to a
better use here than with me.'

'I will never forget anything you have taught me
during my time in Cutter Gap and you will always hold
a very special place in my heart. I will pray for you
and for my home every day for I know that God will
watch over you and help you to remember how much I
love you since I cannot be there to do so myself.
Please help the children and their families to
understand that I love them all very much. And I beg
of you to make sure the teacher who will replace me
loves them as much as I always will.'

'I am sorry.'

'All my love,'


Sitting on her bed Alice was overwhelmed by sadness
and confusion all at once. What was going on?
Hurriedly re-dressing, her sleep forgotten, Alice
rushed out of her room down the hall to Christy's and
found it empty. Many of her things were still in the
room but they were piled neatly on the desk as if she
had stacked them to be carried somewhere. Her bureau
was empty, the closet as well; all the personal items
had been taken, pictures the children had drawn, the
picture of her family; it was all gone.

Standing in the doorway, staring at the silent room in
shock she heard a noise from downstairs and rushed
down to find the person, praying they would know what
had happened. Stepping off the last stair she saw
David stacking firewood by the fireplace. "David,
what is going on here?" she asked. "I came home to
find Christy gone and a letter telling me she has been
dismissed. What happened?"

His face hard David tells Miss Alice what happened
during service a few days ago. "Dr Ferrand was here
to see it and when he left he ordered Christy to go
with him. She was dismissed Alice, there's nothing to
be done."

"Surely thee does not believe that Christy would have
such a relationship with one of her students?"
Watching David's face Alice suddenly realized that he
did. "David thee knows Christy better than that!"

"All I know is that I saw here leaving the mission
that night, she was walking toward the river. That's
all I can say for sure."

"Very well then David. Believe what thee will."
Moving through the room to the mission phone Alice
called Jacob Ferrand to speak with him personally.
After going back and forth over the topic for some
time Alice began to lose her patience. "Dr Ferrand, I
know that Christy would do nothing of the sort. There
must be a reason."

"Miss Henderson, the girl said the words herself, she
was by the river that night. I cannot have a woman
such as her teaching the impressionable young minds of
the children. Now I will not discuss this any
further. Good day."

Hanging up the phone in disgust Alice tried to think
of someone she could speak with who would not be so
set against Christy in this rumor. She needed to find
the truth. Neil! Neil had yet to hear of this awful
rumor, he would help Alice to clear Christy's name.
He too would never believe this rumor. Perhaps he had
seen something that night as his cabin was near the
river. Saddling Goldie Alice rode out of the mission
yard in search of the man whose company she had only
recently left.

All the while Neil, too, was thinking of how glad he
was to finally be home. Climbing the steps to his
cabin, one fatiguing step at a time, Neil trudged into
his cabin and began to rummage through his cupboards
in search of something easy and quick so he could get
some sleep as fast as possible. Finding some dried
fruit he munched on it while leaning against the table
to kick off his shoes. Something white caught his eye
and he picked up a piece of paper. Unfolding it he
read what was written.


'I hope everything has gone well in El Pano, though
I'm sure you were able to help all the people who
needed you. By the time your reading this I'll be
back in Asheville. I've been dismissed from the
school. This morning during service it was announced
that I had been seen by the river with one of my
students. While we both know that is not true that
fact remains that I was seen by the river with a
married man. Dr Ferrand was with us this morning and
dismissed me immediately.'

'There are so many things that I want to thank you for
but the one that meant the most was that of your
friendship. You were right; I was horribly unprepared
for life here in Cutter Gap. But you challenged me to
see past the pain and suffering and as time went on I
saw the beauty that life in the cove had to offer,
beauty that far outweighed the darkness. I will
always treasure my time in the mountains and I will
never forget my children, my home, and the friendship
of those people I care about.'

'Thank You Neil.'


Eyes wide in anger and disbelief Neil finished reading
the letter and fought not to crumple it in his rage.
This couldn't be happening! Christy was gone because
someone had seen them by the river that night. But
why would they lie about it and say it was John
Spencer and not Neil? Who was it? When did this
happen? Why hadn't anyone tried to stop it? Many
questions stormed through Neil's mind as he pulled on
his boots once more. Forget his tiredness, he needed
to get this straightened out and get Christy back in
the cove. Flinging open the door he stopped short
when he saw Alice poised to pound on it.


"Neil, did thee hear what has happened?"

"What is going on? Why didn't anyone try to stop
this? We have to get her back Alice, she's done
nothing wrong!"

"What happened that night? Did you see anyone by the

Moving back into the cabin Neil told Alice everything
that had happened that night by the river, under the
light of the moon. "All we did was talk Alice,
nothing more. She doesn't deserve to be let go
because of that!"

"I agree, but I have already spoken with Dr Ferrand,
he says that Christy will not be welcomed back to the
mission. He has dismissed her and there is nothing
more he will say on the matter."

"That is ridiculous!" Neil yelled as he paced the
cabin. "There has got to be something we can do!"

"There is, Neil. We can tell these people the truth.
Christy cannot defend herself to them as she is not
here but I will not let them think that the lie is the
truth. Come with me tomorrow so they may hear the

"There must be someway to get her back!"

Sitting in a chair in Neil's cabin Alice watched him
pacing the floor, his face filled with emotion; it was
more than just a friend worrying about another friend.
Alice didn't want to admit it, she hated to admit it,
but there was a special bond between Neil and Christy.
Something that went deeper than either of them
realized. Alice prayed that things would work out for
the best but she knew in her heart that it would not
be an easy road.

The next few days passed slowly and that Sunday
morning the little church was filled with it's normal
crowd, the air subdued as everyone waited to see if
anything was going to happen this week as it ad last
week. No sooner had David said three sentences than
there was a commotion from the back of the room. Neil
strode up the walkway and turned to face the crowd
while Miss Alice stood up from her seat and motioned
for David to sit down.

"Last week service was interrupted by a lie," Alice
began. "This week we interrupt it with the truth."

"You all know that Miss Huddleston was dismissed
because someone saw her by the river with John
Spencer. That is nothing more than a lie. However,
as with all lies, there is a nugget of truth hidden
within it. Yes, Miss Huddleston was seen by the river
that night, and no, she was not alone." Murmuring
began to run through the crowd but Neil continued on,
raising his voice above the crowd to make sure he was

"She was with me. That night Miss Huddleston couldn't
sleep so she went for a walk along the river. It just
so happened that I was sitting by the river when we
crossed paths. We talked for a little while, we said
goodnight, and she returned to the mission alone.
That is all that happened."

Kyle Coburn stood up from the back of the room. "Is
you a'callin' ma girl a ly'er?" he demanded.

Before Neil could speak Bessie stood up and moved into
the aisle way. "Th' doc's raght!" she cried, her face
awash with guilt. "I nevuh ment fer Miz Christy to
leeve, I waz jest angry. Itz all m'fault! Th' doc's

Kyle's anger turned from Neil to his daughter in a
heartbeat. Even as he advanced on her the frightened
girl took off running. "You best not show yer face
fer awhile gal! I'm in th' mind ta tan yer hide!"

While the crowd watched the Coburn's Neil noticed that
in the front row little Mountie had begun to cry.
Kneeling down next to her Neil wiped the tear away
from her grimy little face. Her lower lip trembling
Mountie threw her arms around Neil and cried.

"Why are you crying, wee one?"

"Miz Christy don' luv uz no'mor," she whispered.

"That's foolish talk, Mountie. Miss Christy loves you
all very much, she told me so herself." Picking up
the little girl Neil stood and addressed the crowd.
"Miss Huddleston knew that eventually you would find
out the truth and she wanted you all to remember how
much she loves each and every one of you. She'll
never forget the people she cares about and she hoped
that you would never forget her."

"We dun Miz Christy wrong," Fairlight said, her eyes
shiny with unshed tears when she remembered the way
she had shunned her friend. "Cain't we getz 'er

"We're trying to," Miss Alice said. "But right now
that doesn't look like a possibility. I'd like to
draw up a petition for everyone to sign requesting
that Christy be brought back to the mission. It may
help to convince Dr Ferrand that she is wanted back
here and that she has done no wrong."

The group agreed and in no time at all a petition was
drawn up.

'We the people of Cutter Gap request that Miss Christy
Huddleston be returned to her position as teach of the
mission school. She was wrongfully accused and should
not have been dismissed. We who have signed our mark
below wish her to be returned directly.'

The petition was signed by the entire cove, though
most marked theirs with an 'X' and Miss Alice filled
in their name. Children and adults alike signed until
they had almost five pages to send to Dr Ferrand. The
petition was went off with Ben Pentland and a few
weeks later the telephone at the mission rang.
Answering it Alice listened to the man on the other
end before hanging up and sitting in the nearest

He had refused. 'What was done was done' in his book.
Jacob Ferrand would not listen to any further
arguments on the matter and if they persisted he would
be forced to remove the mission itself from Cutter
Gap. Her last hope was gone. That night Alice sat
down at her desk, tears stinging at her time hardened
eyes and wrote a letter to the young woman she loved
as a daughter.


The Letters - Chapter Three

Asheville, TN

Sitting in a small café with her friend Janice Christy
found her thoughts drifting away from the topic of
last night's party and back, over the mountains, to
the children and home she had left behind. Though she
had been home for a week now Christy found it
impossible to re-enter the life she had left behind
when she had gone to Cutter Gap. How could she get
excited over a party or an afternoon of shopping and
tea when she knew the life others were leading?

"Christy, are you even listening to me?"

Jolted back to the woman across the table Christy
smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Janice. My thoughts
were a hundred miles a way. What were you saying?"

Forgiving her old friend Janice repeated her previous
sentence. "I was telling you that since I was getting
married next week I had to leave my job at the
college. I'm going to miss my old roommate, we had
some good times together."

"What did you do at the college?"

"I was a secretary for one of the professors, a Doctor
Peter Kinnigan. A splendid fellow, he and his wife
Susan were always very nice to me. I feel a little
bad now that I'm not there he'll have to find another

"What did he teach?"

"Ophthalmology. It's the study of the eyes. He
teaches future doctors at the Jefferson Medical
College in Pennsylvania."

Christy suddenly became very interested in this
conversation, an idea forming in her head. If she
couldn't be there to teach the children the least she
could do was to have some small part in something that
might benefit them in the long run. "Has he found a
replacement yet?"

"Well no, not yet." Looking closely at her friend
Janice saw the sudden interest. "Surely you don't
want the position. You've only just now come home
yourself, Christy. Don't you want to take some time
off for a little while? To enjoy society again?"

"Janice the school I taught at and the mountains I
lived in were rampant with Trachoma. If I can play
even a small part in helping to find a cure for that
then I would feel so much better. Even something as
small as filing and writing notes for a professor whom
teaches Ophthalmology would be helping them. What if
one of the students he teaches finds a cure for
Trachoma so that one day the children won't have to
lose their eyesight? I would have had a part in that,
in helping them to live a better life."

Listening to Christy, watching her friend come alive
again, Janice could see how much she loved the
children she had left behind. But it made her wonder...
"Christy if you love the children so much why did you
leave?" No sooner were the words out of her mouth
than Christy became subdued again and Janice knew she
had made a mistake. "Oh, darling, I'm sorry! I
should never have asked, it wasn't right of me,
please, please forgive me."

Trying to muster up a smile Christy shook her head.
"No, Janice it's all right. I'm sorry, but it hurts
too much to talk about it, not yet."

"All right. Why don't we finish our tea and then you
and I can go home to my mothers house and I'll make
the call to Professor Kinnigan?"

"I'd like that very much," Christy smiled, some of her
enthusiasm coming back into her eyes. "Very much

True to her word the two friends finished their tea,
gathered their packages, and went back to the house
Janice had called home to make the call. That night,
over the dinner table at her own home, Christy made an
announcement to her parents, praying it would be well

"Mother, Daddy, there's something I need to tell you."
Both of them looked to her, waiting for their
daughter to continue. "I've taken a job."

"A job?" Julia repeated. "What on earth for? You've
only just come home, surely you planned on taking some
time off before you did anything else?"

"What it the job, Christy?" her father asked.
Secretly he was glad that some of the spirit had come
back into her eyes, there was a marked difference in
her from this morning, and if it meant that she had
taken a job... so be it.

"I'll be a secretary."

"Well then that's not so bad," Julia smiled. "You'll
be working in the city then."

Biting her lip Christy replied, "I will be in a city,
yes," stressing the 'a'.

"Just not our city," William concluded, catching the
stress she had put on the one word. Christy shook her
head. "Where is the job then?"


"Pennsylvania!" Julia cried, dropping her fork to the
table. "But you'll be in a complete other state!"

"Julia please," William glanced at his wife. "Let
Christy speak." Looking at Christy he saw the
determination and spirit in her eyes and wondered what
it was about this job that had put it there. "Why
this job darling? Tell me about it."

"It's a secretarial position at Jefferson Medical
College in Pennsylvania. It was Janice's position
until she got engaged, but now that she's left it's
vacant and I've taken it. I'll be working under
Professor Peter Kinnigan MD; he's the head of the
Ophthalmology department. I want to do this Daddy, I
need to."

William looked at his daughter with curiosity. "Why

Playing with her food for a moment Christy looked up
and he could see the sadness in her eyes. It was as
fresh as the day she had wept in his arms. "I can't
be there to teach my children Daddy but maybe if I
help this Professor to teach new doctors just maybe
one of them will find a cure for Trachoma. Ne... Dr
MacNeill has done so much research but he doesn't have
the time to devote to finding a cure. More and more
people are loosing their sight to Trachoma in the cove
but if one doctor can find a cure because of what
Professor Kinnigan has taught him then I'll feel like
I've done my part to help my children."

"I know it's a very slim possibility but I can only
pray that my small part will help. There is no
returning to the life I that led before I went to
Cutter Gap, Daddy; I'm not that same little girl
anymore. I need to do something, to feel as if
somehow I'm making a difference in this world. I'll
not make that difference by going to parties and
having tea with my friends."

William stared at his daughter for a moment. "You've
already made up your mind haven't you?" Christy
nodded. "Then we won't try and stop you. I'm sure we
won't like having you so far away from us but at least
we'll know that you're safely tucked away at a medical


The Letters - Chapter Four

Philadelphia, PA

And so it was. Three days later Christy boarded a
train to Pennsylvania and her life as a secretary
began. Settling into the one bedroom apartment that
she would share with Janice's friend, Marcy St.Paul,
the two women knew that they'd be good friends the
instant they met. Over the next month Christy learned
the route to get to the college, the layout of the
campus itself, the ropes of being a secretary to a
medical professor, as well as trying to make new
friends among the staff and students at Jefferson
Medical College.

Her biggest adjustment was getting used to living in a
bustling metropolis instead of the quiet majesty of
her mountains. But, as the young often do, she
adjusted well enough and life went on. Christy missed
her children with every beat of her heart and not
often did a day go by when she wouldn't mention them
to someone in conversation.

On a warm summer day Christy was walking back to the
apartment when she heard a familiar Scottish brogue.
Hurrying to catch the person she turned the corner to
see a man she'd never met speaking to another man on
the street corner, both of them speaking in their
native Scottish accent. Feeling foolish she continued
on her way home, surprised at the sudden pain that had
gripped her heart. She knew that she still missed the
people of Cutter Gap but Christy's actions had
surprised even her.

Opening the door to their apartment she saw Marcy
standing at the stove cooking some dinner for them
both. "What's wrong, sweetie? You look like someone
just stole your favorite book."

Shaking her head Christy smiled. "It's nothing, just
foolishness. Dinner smells wonderful."

"Oh, thanks. There was some mail for you; I put it on
the bed. Why don't you go read it and then we can
have dinner? I need to get to the library after
dinner so I probably won't see you until tomorrow."

"Then I'll wait and read the letters later, while your
gone. Why don't I set the table and we can eat at the
same time."

Working side by side Marcy and Christy had prepared
and eaten their meal together. While Marcy readied to
leave for the library Christy washed and dried their
dishes. "Come with me, Christy. You always stay
home, why not come out with me tonight? After the
library a small group of us are going to get some
coffee. You could join us."

"No, thank you. I'll stay in tonight."

Shaking her head Marcy smiled and left. Her chore
complete Christy went into the bedroom and brought her
mail back out to read by the window. Settled
comfortable at the desk she opened the first letter
from her father. He told her that all was well,
George was doing well in college and her mother sent
her hello. William finished his letter by telling her
that he had forwarded some mail to Christy in the same
envelope and that he hoped all was well with her.
Looking at the second envelope she quickly tore it
open with anxious fingers.

It was from Miss Alice.

'Dearest Christy,'

'Oh how I wish this letter contained glad news for
thee. Upon returning to the mission I found thy
letter and my heart was saddened by what was written.
Thee were wrongly accused, everyone now knows the
truth, and we wish thee back home with us but Dr
Ferrand simply will not allow it. If only I had been
here to stop things before they had gone as far as
they did. The people of Cutter Gap are sorrowed by
their misdeeds toward thee and they wish thee to know
how sorry they are.'

'I am worried that thee think thee are not missed. I
cannot begin to tell thee how much thee are missed by
the entire cove. The mission is too quiet without thy
laughter or thy sweet story of thy day at school. I
pray that thee will forgive this old woman for not
defending thee justly and returning thee to thy
rightful place as teacher to the children thee love so
much. May God keep thee safe and our memories in thy

'All my love to thee,'


Alone in the apartment Christy's eyes overflowed with
tears, both joyous and sorrowful, at the letter she
read from Miss Alice. The cove knew the truth. They
all missed her; they wanted her back. But she could
never go back, Dr Ferrand had seen to that. Wanting,
needing to spill her thoughts and her heard to Miss
Alice Christy immediately began to write back to the

'Dearest Miss Alice,'

'I cannot begin to convey to you how happy I am to
hear from you, to know that everyone is well in the
cove. I have missed each and every one of you with
all my heart. Please, let no one feel badly over what
has happened; tell them that I do not hold it against
them. Let Bessie know that I forgive her and that I
still hope she finds the happiness she longs for. I
will always love my children and all of the family's
in the cove, each one holds a very special place in my

'Even though I cannot be there to help the children
and their families I am doing a small part to help
them. I've taken a job as a secretary to an
Ophthalmology Professor at a Medical College in
Pennsylvania. I hope that one of the students he
teaches will one day find a cure for the troubles that
plague my children. Life in the city is so very
different from that in the cove but I would trade it
in an instant to be back among the mountains I love so

'Please, Miss Alice I beg of you, tell no one where I
am. Let them know that I am well and that I miss them
terribly but I pray you will not tell them where I am.
We must each of us learn to accept that I cannot
return to my home in the cove. Life must go on, and
if the children are led to believe that one day I will
return it will only cause heartache when I do not.
Tell them I love them with all my heart and that I
will never forget them for as long as I live for they
are my children, my very special children.'

'I send all of my love to you and I will pray that God
keeps you safe in the mountains. Never will I forget
the lessons you have taught me about life and loving
those around us. Perhaps one day we shall be able to
meet again face to face, but until that day I will
carry your memory in my heart, you will never leave my
side and for that I will always be grateful.'

'All of my love,'



The Letters - Chapter Five

Cutter Gap, TN

"U-nited States Mail!"

Jolted from her reading by the fire Miss Alice stood
and stretched her legs. Glancing at the clock she saw
that time had gotten away from her and she was glad
that the call had caught her attention. Walking out
to the mission yard she saw Ben Pentland waiting
patiently for someone to greet him. "Good morning,
Mr. Pentland."

"Mornin' ta ya, Miz Alice. I got'z ya a lettuh."

Taking the small envelope from the postman Alice
thanked him, watching as he moved away, another letter
to deliver to another fortunate person in the cove.
His weekly trips were always a big to do in the cove
and Miss Alice hoped whoever got their letter was
receiving good news. Looking at the address on the
letter she saw that it was from Pennsylvania and
wondered whom she knew out there.

Some time later, sitting on the porch of the mission
house, letter in hand, Miss Alice wiped the tears from
her eyes with her handkerchief. Glancing up at the
school an idea came to her mind and she smiled.
Stopping at the pump to freshen her face Miss Alice
walked over to the school and climbed its stairs.
Seeing David at the chalkboard she waited to make eye
contact with him before making her way to the front of
the class.

"Children, I have something to read to you and I think
thee will all be very pleased with what it says. I
received this letter this morning and I wanted to
share it with thee."

Picking out certain sentences Alice sent out the gist
of Christy's letter to the children, telling them that
she was all right and that she loved them very much.
She read the part about praying for God to keep them
safe and how much she missed them as well as the part
about carrying their memories in her heart. Finishing
the letter Miss Alice looked up to find the entire
classroom silent, most of the girls had tears in their
eyes, and a few of the boys were trying to blink
theirs away.

"I have a very special assignment for each and every
one of thee. For the rest of the morning I want each
of thee to write a letter to Miss Christy and tell her
anything thee want to. When thy letter is written I
want thee to think of something very special that thee
can send to her. It can be anything thee want, but it
must be something that thee love as much as she would.
That way she will always have a piece of thee with
her wherever she goes."

Excitedly the children took out a piece of paper and
their pencils and began to write. Those who couldn't
write the words drew a picture. While the children
worked David drew Alice out to the schoolyard to speak
in private. "Where is she, Alice? Is she really all

"Yes, David, Christy is well. However I cannot tell
thee where she is. Christy has asked that I not tell
anyone. She realizes that she cannot come back to the
cove and she asks that the people she cares for move
on with their lives. That is what thee must do."

"I can't just forget her Alice."

Smiling Alice patted his shoulder and moved back into
the schoolroom. She had nothing to say to him, there
were no words that would help. David had fallen for
Christy and while she may have thought him a pretty
face and a kind heart Alice knew that Christy did not
love him with the fervor that David would have
believed. Watching the children work she saw that
many of them began their letters with an apology for
not believing in her. Walking up and down the aisles
she saw that Bessie wasn't writing, just sitting in
her desk looking glum.

"Bessie, may I speak with thee for a moment?" Nodding
the young girl got up and followed Alice out to the
porch. Patting the seat next to her Alice took
Bessie's hand in hers and smiled at the sad child. "I
wanted thee to know that Miss Christy mentioned thee
by name specifically." Alice could see the shock in
Bessie's eyes. "She asked me to tell thee that she
has forgiven thee for thy lie and that she wants thee
to be happy."

Taking in the information Alice had just laid bare
Bessie's eyes began to fill with tears. "Hit ain't
raght Miz Alice, I'm the reazon she dun lift th' cove!
How cin she fergive me fer wat I dun?"

"Because she loves thee child and she knows thee did
not mean for this to happen. If thee is truly sorry
then write to her and tell her what thee feels."

"I will Miz Alice, I shorely will."

Bessie sat in her desk again and Alice watched her
begin to write with a passion, her pencil making the
words carefully so as not to mess them up. When the
children had done their letters Miss Alice collected
them and reminded them to bring something in tomorrow
to include. Dismissing them she watched the children
leave, all but one child that is. Slowly Mountie
approached Alice with her paper in her hand.

"Yes Mountie? Did thee need something?"

"Kin ya holp me rite them letterz? I wantz ta tell
Teacher som'thin."

Smiing at the young girl, it was the longest sentence
she had ever heard from Mountie, she nodded. Sitting
down at the desk Alice took the paper and poised her
pencil over a clean spot near the top. "What did thee
wish to tell her?"

"Dear Teacher, I miss ya som'thin fierce. I hopez ya
still luv me 'cauz I still luv ya." Mountie stopped
and looked as Miss Alice wrote the words on the paper.
Taking the pencil in her small grimy hands she put an
'X' at the bottom and Miss Alice wrote Mounties name
next to it. "Thank ya, Miz Alice."

"Thee are very welcome, Mountie. Now thee had better
get on home before thy mother begins to worry."

Watching Mountie scamper off down the steps Alice sat
at the desk and withdrew some paper to write her own
letter. There was a vital piece of information that
Christy needed to know.


The Letters - Chapter Six

Philadelphia, PA

"Well that will be all for today, I think. I'm sure
you want to go home and get ready for the big dance
tonight," Peter Kinnigan teased his secretary.

Smiling Christy shook her head. "Thank you, but I'm
not going tonight."

Peter looked at her with astonishment. "Surely one of
the gentlemen has asked to escort you?"

"Oh they have, but I'm not interested in going."

Watching her straighten the papers, filing them in the
cabinet Peter shook his head. "You're far too young
to act like such an old maid, Christy. Why aren't you
interested in going?"

Smiling she gathered her coat, the papers filed away,
and turned to face the professor. Janice had been
right, he really was a dear man. "I'm just not I
suppose. Parties aren't too high on my list of
priorities right now." Opening the door she turned to
face him. "Have a good weekend, Professor."

"You too, Christy."

Shutting the door behind her Christy paused to put her
coat on before she headed out into the early winter
chill. There was a small layer of snow on the ground
and she loved the way it sparkled in certain areas of
the lawn, those places that neither foot or hoof had
marred yet. Walking along the sidewalk she made her
way to the apartment and entered to find it empty.
Marcy had gone straight to her friend's house to
prepare for the party tonight. Knocking on their
neighbor's door she waited for the old woman to open
the door.

"Hello Mrs. Johansson. How are you doing today?"

"Well enough Christy, well enough. There was a
package for you today, let me get it, one moment."
The old woman disappeared and Christy wondered which
of them the package was for. "Here you go,

"Thank you, Mrs. Johansson. I'll be making some bread
over the weekend, would you like me to bring you

"Oh why that would be wonderful! When you bring it
over we can have some tea and you can tell me some
more about your children."

Nodding Christy moved back down the hall to her door
and slipped inside. Once the door was shut she looked
at the package and saw that it was postmarked El Pano.
Excitedly she opened the box to find it filled with
many pieces of paper, each one folded with something
in it.

Opening the first one she laughed and cried at the
same time. The paper held a picture of two people,
one that looked like it was supposed to be her and the
other was a little girl with blond hair. Reading the
note that was written in Miss Alice's script tears
filled her eyes. Within the folded letter was a small
blue button from Mountie.

The next letter was from Bessie Coburn. Unfolding the
letter she saw a small stone fall out into her hand;
it was shiny and had been smoothed down and polished
by the river. Looking at the letter she read the note
that was written. 'Deer Miz Christy; I be sorry fer
all the stuff I dun wrong ta ya. I don no y I lide ta
evreone but I be reel sorry I did. Pleese fergiv me
mam, I hops ya kan cuz I luv ya an I be reel sorry.
Bessie Coburn'

Folding the letter Christy wiped the tear from her
cheek and smiled as she opened another. One after
another she opened the letters, finding a small
trinket in each one. Zady had sent a small poem that
Rob had helped her write, John sent a song he'd
written, Rob a story, Burl a leaf with four different
colors, Creed an arrowhead; little nothings that meant
as much to her as they did to the children.

Opening another letter she saw that if wasn't from one
of the children but rather it was from Fairlight. She
had written of her sorrow that she hadn't believed her
friend when the time had come. Fairlight prayed that
Christy would forgive her and that she missed her very
much. Promising herself that she would write a reply
to her dear friend Christy opened the next letter.
Recognizing David's scrawl she read yet another
apology. His letter however ended a little
differently than the others.

'I pray that you will never forget me Christy for I
know that I will never forget you. I love you
Christy. Will you marry me?'

Sitting in shocked silence Christy stared at the four
words, reading and rereading them time and again.
David had asked her to marry him! But as she sat
there, reading the words, Christy realized that her
answer would be no. She didn't love him like that.
Perhaps at one time she had but that time was over.
He needed to know the truth. Putting his letter aside
she picked up the last one, by far the longest, and
Christy knew it was from Miss Alice. Anticipating the
news of the cove she would receive Christy opened the
letter and began to read it with eager eyes.

'Dearest Christy,'

'I hope you have enjoyed all the letters from the
children. When I received thy letter I could not
contain my joy and wished to share the news of thy
well being with the children. I have kept thy request
and not told anyone where thee are, only that thee are
well and love him or her very much. As thee can see
the children return thy love with all of their hearts
as well.'

'The cove is well but there is a piece of news I fear
may bring some sadness to thy world. Four weeks ago,
not long after my letter was sent to thee, Margaret
was murdered. A man she was servicing was not happy
with her and killed her. It seems that she had not
left as we had thought but that rather she was living
in El Pano under a disguise. When Neil was called to
help her he discovered who she truly was but it was
too late.'

'Margaret was buried in the cemetery at El Pano and a
few days later I left for a retreat in the mountains.
What I will tell thee next may shock thee but I pray
thee will understand. As I prayed in the mountains I
came to realize that while my daughter had returned to
my life it was not as the role of my daughter. I fear
that the woman I knew as my daughter died in my heart
many years ago. This woman was one I did not know and
therefore while I was saddened by it the blow was not
a devastating one.'

'Have I shocked thee? If so I am sorry, but it is the
truth. I am comforted by the thought that there lives
a young woman who will always reside in my heart as my
daughter though she lives so far away in

'Neil has taken the news well enough. Though he was
as shocked as I upon finding out the truth I suppose
he is of the same mind as I, Margaret died many years
ago, this woman was not the one we knew. He continues
his work here in the cove though these past few months
I have seen the spring in his step diminish and I fear
I do not know if it will ever return.'

'I am sorry this letter must contain such terrible
news but I knew thee would want to know. I pray that
thy life is going well and that thee find's happiness
in thy life in Pennsylvania. Thee will always have a
home by my fire, wherever that may be.'

'All my love to thee,'


Bowing her head Christy prayed that Miss Alice would
be all right and, though he didn't believe, that God
would watch over Neil. Now more than ever the man
needed the love that God offered his people. Getting
out her pencils and paper she set out to write to each
and every one of her children. Writing them each a
letter, including a small sketch in each, Christy
didn't realize how late it was until she heard the
midnight bells toll in the silence of the night.
Though she was tired there were still some letters she
needed to write, needing to get it done immediately.

'Dear David,'

'I do not hold any ill feelings toward you for what
happened that awful morning. You could not have known
that it was a lie. I am glad to hear that you have
made progress with the families of the cove, even a
small step is still a step in the right direction.'

'I have thought about your question to me David and I
must give you my answer. I cannot marry you. I hope
that you realize it simply would not work, there are
too many things standing between you and I. You must
move on with your life and one day you will find a
woman who loves you as much as you do her. She will
make you very happy.'

'Keep well David,'


Folding it carefully she added it to her stack and
pulled out another sheet, this time addressing it to
Miss Alice. Writing her mentor a letter Christy
updated her on her life in the city and thanked her
for the wonderful idea; she enjoyed the bundle very
much. Ending her letter by sending the woman her love
and prayers she folded the paper and sat back for a
moment. There was one more letter she wanted to write
but Christy didn't know how to phrase everything she
wanted to say. Praying for the right words Christy
took a deep breath and began to write.


Chapter Seven

Cutter Gap, TN

"So make sure you all have your essays on the history
of the United States written before you come back on
Monday. That gives you the whole weekend to work on
it so I expect them to be really good."

Standing before the classroom David was about to
release them to enjoy their weekend when he saw Miss
Alice climb the stairs a crate in her arms. Smiling
he had a good idea who it was from and moved down the
aisle to help her. Taking the crate from her arms
David carried it back to the desk while Miss Alice
faced the curious crowd of children.

"Before thee are dismissed for the weekend there is
something I believe all of thee would enjoy hearing.
This morning Mr. Pentland brought me a letter and this
crate. Shall I read the letter to thee?" A round of
excited 'yes's rang out. Standing before them she
read the letter to the classroom.

'Dear Children,'

'What a surprise to have received all of your gifts
and your wonderful letters. I miss each of you very
much and I know that you are all being very good boys
and girls for your teacher. I have heard that each of
you passed your test before the harvest break so I
have sent along something to congratulate each of you
for your hard work.'

'I love you all!'

'Miss Christy'

"Now Miss Christy has grouped thee by thy family to
make it easier so when I call thy last name please
come forward." The children nodded each one restless
with excitement. "Spencer."

Eagerly all four Spencer children, John, Zady, Clara,
and Lulu, came forward. Handing each one a letter
with their name on it and a small package, also with
their name on it, Alice called Zady back. "Please
give this to thy mother, Zady."

"Yes'm" she said, holding the package's and letter's
securely in her hands before they raced off to show
their Ma and Pa what Miss Christy had given them.

One by on Alice called up the children until they had
all gone. Once the children were off scampering for
home she turned to David and handed him his letter
before leaving him to his news. Saddling Goldie she
rode through the snow until she had reached her
destination. Checking the cabin first she was
surprised to find a fire going but no one there.
Standing on the porch, wondering where he could be,
Alice spotted movement down by the riverbank and
walked towards it.

"Fishing in the middle of winter, Neil?"

"Yes, Alice. A man does have to eat and I had a
hankering for steamed fish today."

Alice shook her head. "Make sure thee does not get
sick, the last thing this cove needs is a sick

Shaking his head Neil grinned. "Yes, mother."

Smiling Alice pulled a letter from her pocket and held
it out to him. "This came for thee. I thought thee
would want it as soon as possible." Neil looked at
the letter but a tug on his line caught his attention.
"It's from Christy."

Immediately Neil turned around, his line forgotten,
and took the letter from Alice. Staring at it for a
moment he looked up and thanked Alice for bringing it.
Nodding she climbed the hill to Goldie and soon she
was gone. Taking the letter inside Neil lit an oil
lamp and sat down at his desk to read it.

'Dear Neil,'

'I wanted to let you know that I'm okay. Life
certainly has thrown me a few unexpected twists and
turns in this last year. My life now isn't quite what
I had hoped it would be but it's not so bad. I have a
job and I'm doing some good for the world. It's not
the life I had dreamed of but I'm sure God has a
reason for me to be here.'

'Miss Alice wrote to me about Margaret. I'm sorry
that things had to end in that way. Maybe now you can
finally get on with your life the way you wanted to.'

'I miss everyone so much, I can only imagine how much
the children must have grown since I've left; they
grow so quickly it seems. There are times when I find
myself thinking, 'That is something I should share
with the children,' only to remember that I can't.
Life outside of the cove has been much harder to
adjust to than it was to move into the cove.'

'But that is what life is all about, isn't it, the
challenges that face us, the tests of our inner
strength and character. I miss our conversations, the
one that used to make me so furious that I wanted to
scream. I've yet to find someone who can make my
blood boil as quickly as you did. I have to laugh
when I think of how I used to think you were out to
make me so mad that I would leave the cove. Because I
see now that you weren't trying to get rid of me, you
were preparing me for life in Cutter Gap. And that
has prepared me for life in the world.'

'So thank you Neil MacNeill. Cutter Gap and its
people will always carry a very special place in my

'I miss you all.'



The Letters - Chapter Eight

Philadelphia, PA

Sitting at the small café on a busy Saturday afternoon
Christy worked on her sketch while her friends talked
around her. She needed to get this finished before
Monday so that she could deliver it to Mrs. Brenker,
the wife of the Livery Owner. Since she had begun
mailing things back to Cutter Gap Christy had found
that funds could be a problem. Sketching various
people and places for a small fee had allowed her to
offset that cost.

"That's coming along very well, Christy."

"Thank you," she smiled at Adrienne. "I just hope I
can finish it in time."

"I'm sure you will. Where is this place, it's quite

"It's a section of the river I used to walk along when
I needed to think," Christy explained.

Though she left out many details of her past the girls
she called friends knew that it was too painful for
her to talk about. None of them had been able to get
the details out of her except for Marcy and she
refused to speak about it. It was a much-debated
topic of gossip when Christy wasn't around, but none
more so than the fact that she turned down every man
who asked to escort her somewhere.

"Well hello ladies," a man's voice intruded in their
conversation. Looking up they all saw Richard Gentry,
an upper class medical student. "I was hoping I'd
find you all here."

"Hello, Richard," Marcy greeted him. "Why were you
looking for us?"

"Well, not all of you per say, I was hoping to catch a
moment with Christy."

Raising her eyes from her sketch Christy prayed he
wasn't going to ask, yet again, what she thought he
was. "Did you need something Richard?"

"How would you like to come with me to the social next

Suppressing her sigh Christy shook her head and smiled
sadly. "I'm sorry, Richard. I won't be going."

An angry look passed over his face but it vanished in
a twinkling. Smirking as though he had thought of a
hidden joke he sauntered off without another word.
Christy watched him in confusion as he walked away,
wondering what had made him smirk so, but Marcy only
sighed and shook her head. Motioning to the other
girls they took the hint and made their excuses,
leaving the roommates alone in the corner of the busy

"Christy, what's going on? Since the day you came
here you refuse to step out with a man. You won't
dance with one, you won't go for a cup of coffee with
one; it's as though you want to be an old maid."

Sighing Christy put down her pencil and met Marcy's
eyes. "It's not that I want to be an old maid, Marcy,
I do want a family. I just can't see myself with any
of the men I've met here. When I picture the life I
want it's not one with them."

"Then what is it?"

"I don't know, all I know is what its not," Christy
said sadly.

"Sweetie, you need to know something. I know its mean
and normally I wouldn't say anything, but I think that
you should know this. The men on campus are starting
to call you a mean name."

"What do you mean?"

Marcy shifted in her seat uncomfortably. "They're
calling you the Ice Queen; always polite, but never

"Oh..." was all that Christy could think to say. Ice
Queen? She could feel the tears stinging at her eyes.
Not wanting to make a scene she quickly gathered her
things and left the café, walking as fast as she could
to get to her apartment. Running up the steps she
stood at their door, fumbling with the key as her
vision became blurry with tears.

"Christy dear?" A soft hand patted her shoulder and
Christy turned a teary face to see Mrs. Johansson
standing next to her. With a kind face she pulled on
Christy's hand. "Come with me," she said. Inside of
the old widow's apartment Christy sat next to her at
the small wooden table and stared at the knobby hands
that covered hers. "Tell me what's happened."

With a choked voice Christy told the old woman what
had happened in the small café, from beginning to end,
until she had nothing more to say. Sitting side by
side they sat in silence and Christy was reminded of
all the times she had sat with Miss Alice in an all
too similar quiet. At the thought of the woman she
missed so dearly Christy cried all the harder. For
some time they sat in silence, Christy crying and
Widow Johansson simply holding her hand. When at last
Christy dried her eyes she looked at her friend as the
old woman finally spoke.

"Now don't you feel a little better?" Christy nodded,
a sheepish smile crossing her face. "You don't care
one bit about the names they call you, you're too good
for that. That's not really why you were crying."
Christy hung her head a bit. "No need to be ashamed,
girl. Crying is good for your heart, it let's you
grieve the things you miss. You never grieved what
you lost when you left your cove. I'm sure you cried,
but you never truly grieved. Did you?"

Christy shook her head. "I guess a part of me always
dreamed that I'd be able to go back someday."

"You will."

Looking up the young blue eyes met the older ones. "I
can't. Dr Ferrand said I'd never be allowed back at
the mission."

"Fiddlesticks!" Widow Johansson squeezed Christy's
hands with a smile. "Nothing can ever keep you from
something you love. You'll make it back some day; you
love those people too much to stay away forever."

Praying her old friend was right Christy dried her wet
cheeks and hugged the woman before returning to her
own apartment. Entering the small room she saw an
envelope on the table. Recognizing the handwriting as
Miss Alice's Christy tore open the letter, desperate
for some good news from home. After reading the news
of the cove she read,

'The children are well and they all have fallen in
love with thy gifts. Fairlight stopped by the mission
to show me the China teacup and saucer thee sent her.
She treasures it and wanted me to thank thee for the
beautiful gift. Not a day passes that someone doesn't
stop and ask for me to read them the latest letter
from thee. We all miss thee dearly. I have enclosed
a letter from Neil, he asked me to send it to thee.
Always remember, it is never too late to follow thy

Miss Alice's letter finished Christy unfolded the
other letter and smiled at Neil's scrawl. Sometimes
his handwriting was impossible to read but she could
tell that he had taken his time to make sure it was
easily read. Still smiling she began to read the
letter, wondering what he would say to her.

'Dear Christy,'

'Your letter was a ray of sunshine on a stormy day.
Though I will never be glad that you have left the
cove I am glad that you have found a job that you
like. You belong here in the cove, Lass, teaching the
children, helping them to make their lives a little
better than before.'

'Everyone here misses you, but none more so than I do.
Tell me where you are Christy; tell me what city sees
you every day the way I did. I miss you.'


Reading his letter, for the first time since she had
made the decision, Christy felt a twinge of guilt that
she didn't tell anyone besides Miss Alice where she
was. Taking out a pencil and paper she chewed on the
one end for a moment trying to decide what to say. In
the end she decided to go with honesty in how she felt
about her life as it was now.

'Dear Neil,'

'I am glad that everyone is well in the cove; yourself
included in the well health, for what would the cove
do if their only doctor fell sick? I do miss all of
my children, how I would love to be standing before
them, seeing their smiling faces all streaked with
dirt as they watched me from their seat. Not a day
passes when I don't think of which family you may be
visiting that day, which child may be sick and in need
of your skills to get better.'

'There is nowhere in this world that I would rather be
than in my mountains. I call them mine because in my
heart they will always be my home. There are nights
when I look out the window to see the tall buildings
of the city and imagine that they are in actuality the
mountains that I love so. Each building has a name
for one of my favorite spots; one for God's Fist,
another for the cave where we discovered the O'Teale's
past, so on and so forth.'

'I know it may seem childish to daydream but it helps
me to get through the days when I feel I simply cannot
go on. There are times when I will be sitting at my
desk and I will catch a glimpse of one of the children
darting around the corner, or I will hear someone
speaking with a Scottish Brogue and for just a moment
I wonder if it is one of my children, or one of my
friends that has found me somehow. But in the next
moment I realize that it simply cannot be, for I know
that Miss Alice would never have told them where I

'This is how it must be, Neil. My time in the cove
was drawn to a close and while my heart will always be
with the people of my home I know that life, both
there and here, must go on. The children will find a
new teacher to love them and they will continue in
their lives. My friends will always have the precious
times we spent together to keep in their memories, as
I will of them. And when the pain of their memories
becomes too much I pray that they will be safe and
that God grants me the strength to keep living another
day without the people I care for.'

'This is the life I must live Neil. It is the life
you must as well. My thoughts will always be with the
people I love and every day I pray that it is one less
day between now and the time that I may be re-united
with them. Until that day comes I know that you will
watch over my children and love them a little more,
just for me.'



The Letters - Chapter Nine

Cutter Gap, TN

Sitting in his reading chair Neil pondered the fire as
it blazed before him. Letter in hand he mulled over
the words Christy had written to him, the things she
had said as well as the things she had left unsaid.
Neil could read between the lines of her poignant
letter. She was miserable in the city, her heart
longed for the Smokie Mountains and the people she
loved. 'But,' he wondered to himself. 'Where do I

Moving over to the desk Neil began to write, pouring
his heart out onto the paper, writing the words he had
never been able to say before. He had to tell her,
every fiber in his body screamed to tell her what was
in his heart and if it meant having to do so on paper...
so be it.

'Dearest Christy,'

'There are many things that I as a doctor, need to
know. Some are obvious things such as what to do when
a child has a fever; others are not so obvious. There
are several things I have come to know since the day
you left, things that are as obvious as a child's
fever. You didn't leave by choice; you were forced to
leave. Another blatantly obvious fact is how much the
lives of the people in Cutter Gap have changed since
you came to live among us, as one of us.'

'When you first came here you know, as well as I do,
that I was not happy with the changes you were trying
to make. I thought that you were trying to make the
cove into what you felt it should be. But I see now
that you were only striving to make it a better place
for the people who live here. Were it not for you the
mission would have no phone; Mountie would still be
the shy little girl that never speaks; Rob would never
have the chance to attend college.'

'Had you not come to the cove Fairlight would never
know the joy of reading for herself; I would never
have found the courage to try the procedure on Becky
or to help Dan Scott to learn medicine. It was you
alone Christy that made these changes in the cove,
your heart the overflowed with love for everyone that
you met in Cutter Gap.'

'Without you I would still be living my life as though
it were only a thing to be done. You have shown me
that life is not simply to be lived but that it is to
be experienced for all the joy, and sorrow at times,
that it can. That with the hard work and
determination of one person, whether it be woman or
man, all can benefit, as you have shown me time and
again by your own deeds and actions.'

'I will not try to bring you back Christy, if that is
not what you want. I know that wherever you are,
whoever is fortunate enough to have you in their
lives, that they are better for it. No matter where
you are or where you will be, your loving heart makes
the world a better place.'

'Lass, there is something I need to tell you,
something that I need for you to know before it is too
late. Not a day passes that I do not think about you,
wonder where you are, and wish that you were back here
in the cove. I miss you. Every time I stand at the
river with my fishing pole I my hands I remember the
times we stood there together, talking out a problem
that we were having in our lives. Much the way you
see the children dart around the corner and hear the
accent of the people I hear your laughter in that of
the children, I see you smile in theirs, your eyes in
the sky and your beauty in the sunrise.'

'I love you.'


Carefully creasing the papers Neil folded the letter,
sealing it with a bit of candle wax before leaving his
cabin to find Alice before she headed out to El Pano
to visit the people there. Mounting Charlie Neil
hurried his friend along a path they both knew well
and Neil allowed his thoughts to drift.

"I've never asked for anything," he whispered to the
trees. "Never have I wanted to admit that there was a
higher power, but now I need to believe that somewhere
out there is someone who can help me to get Christy
back where she belongs. Help me to find my way to her
and she to me so that she may see how much I love

Silence descended, save for the noise of Charlie's
canter, and Neil realized suddenly that he had prayed.
Chuckling to himself he wondered what Christy and
Alice would have to say about that. No doubt they
would rejoice and ask to see him in a pew next Sunday.
Pulling Charlie to a stop Neil saw Alice riding
towards him. Handing her the letter she smiles and
nods, knowing what he is asking her to do. While she
continues to El Pano Neil sees Ruby Mae standing on
the mission steps desperately trying to get his

"Doc!" she cries. "Ya gotz a teleefone call fer ya!"

Thanking her Neil hitched Charlie to the post and
climbed the steps to the mission house. Standing at
the phone he picked up the receiver and spoke into the
mouthpiece. "Hello?"

"Neil? Is that you?"

"Aye, who's this?"

"This is Peter Kinnigan from College," the man on the
other end replied.

"Professor Peter Kinnigan?" Neil was stunned. It had
been many a year since he had spoken to his mentor.
"What brings you to call here?"

Explaining that there were to be several Ophthalmology
lectures in one month's time at the college Peter asks
one of his brightest alumni students to come and give
his own lecture, as well as take in those of the other
speakers. Delighted to, hoping it would help him to
get his mind off the letter he had just sent to
Christy, Neil accepted his old mentor's invitation,
promising to be at his old stomping grounds, Jefferson
Medical College in one month's time.


The Letters - Chapter Ten

Philadelphia, PA

Sitting at her desk Christy finished alphabetizing the
list of incoming speakers and the hotels they had been
booked to stay in. For the last few weeks time had
flown by, barely having a moment to herself to think.
Between arrangements for the visiting speakers and
their hotel rooms, typing up the handwritten notes of
the professor, and her daily work Christy had been
running around like a mad woman to get all of it done.

To top the busy day off she was already running late
today to get to the O'Meara's for their sitting. Word
had spread quickly of the sketching Christy did,
thanks to the help of a few kind women, and it had
soon become a popular thing to have the sketch of
Christy's work hanging on the wall. Sometimes it was
a sketch of the family or the children, as in the case
of the O'Meara's, other times it was a sketch of a
nature scene. And all the money she made went toward
postage to mail things to the cove.

Finishing up her last list Christy gathered her things
and raced toward the apartment to pick up her
sketching materials before hurrying over to Elm
Street, the rich part of town. Once inside, after a
lecture on being prompt, Christy set down to sketch
the two little girls, Annabelle and Lizbeth, daughters
of the wealthy banker. Getting the basics down as
quickly as she could Christy worked on the details
until the two girls began to fidget and become
irritable. Losing her models Christy finished the
sketch from memory and presented it to Martha O'Meara.

"Oh it's simply wonderful! Christy dear, you simply
must allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine, he
too is an artist. I'm sure you would get along
splendidly. Come back tomorrow night for my ball, I
can introduce you then." Seeing Christy begin to beg
off Martha cut her off. "I refuse to take no as an
answer. The carriage will call for you and Marcy at
half past six."

Resignedly Christy agreed, praying that something
credible would prevent her from going. The walk home
is short, her mind a jumble of prayers and thoughts,
wishes and regrets, and soon she sets her bag down on
the chair by the front door. At the table writing in
her journal was Marcy. Looking up she smiles at her
roommate but it quickly dissipates when she sees the
glum look on Christy's face. "Whatever is the

"You and I have been invited to a ball at the
O'Meara's tomorrow night," she replied as she sank
down into the chair opposite her friend. "A carriage
will be here at half past six."

"A ball, how wonderful!" Reaching across the table
Marcy took Christy's hand in hers. "I know you don't
want to go but maybe this is a step in the right
direction to finally put your other life behind you."
Christy shrugged. It was only one night; she could
muck her way through it. Smiling Marcy pushed an
envelope into Christy's hands. "A letter came for you
today, maybe it will contain some good news."

Taking the envelope, smiling at Miss Alice's familiar
writing she opened it and was surprised to see no
letter from the Quaker woman, rather just one letter,
from Neil. Opening the wax seal she read the letter
and the farther she got into the words, the feelings
that were enclosed, the more her eyes began to tear.
Refolding the letter she put her hand to her mouth as
her tears poured from her eyes.

"Christy?" Marcy asked, worried. "Sweetie, what is
it? Was it bad news?"

Christy shook her head no.

"Good news then?"

Again she shook her head no.

"Sweetie, tell me what it is, your worrying me."

Looking up at her roommate Christy tried to quell her
tears. "He loves me!" she said at last.

Wide-eyed Marcy took the letter from Christy and read
it for herself. Sitting back in her chair she smiled
at her friend "This is wonderful! Christy I know you
have feeling for this man, you talk about him so much.
Don't deny you have feelings for Neil."

"I never knew," Christy began, her shock beginning to
wear off as reality set in. "I always thought of him
as a friend, a confidant. But love?" Searching her
heart, forcing herself to be honest Christy realized
quite suddenly, like removing a blindfold from her
eyes, that she did. With all her heart she did love
Neil. Picturing him in her mind she saw all the times
he had made her blood boil, made her laugh and smile,
or rise above a challenge. Neil was so much more to
her than she had ever imagined.

But within the very next moment reality crashed her
fragile new truth.

"Oh Marcy, what does it matter? Nothing can ever come
of it. I live in Philadelphia, he lives in Cutter Gap
and I can never go back there."

"We can figure something out, you just need to give it
some time. Trust in God Christy, he can do anything.
If you and Neil are meant to be together it will work
out somehow."

Nodding Christy begged off the rest of the night and
retired to bed. Dressed for bed she rested her head
on the pillow but her mind was wide-awake. Against
her closed eyes she pictured his unruly curls as he
was bent over his microscope, adjusting it for the
children to see something. Smiling blue eyes that
peered down at her, the corner of his mouth struggling
not to lift in a grin when she had said something in
all seriousness, even though it made him want to
laugh. Sighing she squeezed her eyes shut but sleep
was a long time coming. Lying in bed, staring out the
window at the Spring rain that drizzled against it,
she prayed for the words to answer him when she
replied to the letter.


The Letters - Chapter Eleven

Philadelphia, PA

Stepping off the train Neil gathered his baggage from
the baggage man and began to walk away from the train,
scanning the crowd until he saw his old professor and
friend. Greeting each other the two men climbed into
a waiting carriage and took off for the professor's
home. "I'm glad you could make it, Neil."

"So am I, Peter. I needed a bit of a break from my
life in Cutter Gap, hopefully this will be just what I

"Are things going that bad for you?"

"The patients are fine, it's just my personal life
that seems to be in an upheaval right now." Neil
flashed his friend a grin.

"Sorry to hear that. Is that wife of yours still
giving you some problems?"

Neil groaned at the mention of Margaret. Filling in
only the most basic of information Neil told Peter
that Margaret and he had been apart before she died.
Offering his condolences Neil accepted them and
quickly changed the conversation asking about the
schedule for the lectures.

"Well we won't actually be beginning them until
Monday. Tonight you'll meet the other doctors who'll
be lecturing and then tomorrow night there's a ball
that we have been invited to. The host and hostess
have extended an invitation to you and I accepted on
your behalf. This will give you a chance to dust off
those old dancing shoes of yours. I'm sure it's been
a while since you went dancing."

Neil smiled. "Dancing. I haven't gone dancing
since..." his voice trailing off Neil remembered the
last time he had danced. On the riverbank with
Christy in his arms, it had been a good night.
Pulling himself from his reverie Neil flashed another
grin to Peter. "Sounds like fun."

Peter watched his friend closely. Something was off
with the man, as though his mind were elsewhere.
Wondering just what it was that had his life in an
upheaval he let the conversation lapse until they were
passing through the front door. Introducing his wife
to Neil the two men made their way into the den where
the other doctors were already seated and
introductions were made all over again.

Passing the night by with brandy and medical
discussions Neil retired to the guest room when the
last of the men had left, wishing his friend and his
friends wife a good nights sleep. Lying in bed he
stared at the ceiling wondering whether Christy had
received his letter. What was she thinking of him
right now? Was she upset? Did she feel the same way?
He'd heard that she had refused Grantland but he
wondered if perhaps there was another man, a city man,
who was courting her, seeing her smiling eyes every

Groaning Neil rolled over, punching his pillow and
trying to force his mind to shut off so he could
sleep. Staring out the window at the Spring rain that
was hitting it in a light shower he wondered what she
was doing. Surely she was asleep; it was almost
midnight after all. Against his will Neil's mind
recalled watching her sleep the first time he'd helped
her as a patient, when the burning rafter of the
schoolhouse had hit her over the head. She always
looked so peaceful when she slept.

For the second time since he had given that letter to
Alice Neil prayed that his words would find their way
into her heart and he to her side. Though the feeling
was still a strange one to Neil, it was a little
easier for him to pray to the God he'd fought against
for so long.


The Letters - Chapter Twelve

Philadelphia, PA

Sitting in the carriage Christy prayed for some divine
intervention, something to keep her from going to this
ball. Her heart simply was not into the spirit of a
party. When it stopped before the house, the doorman
opened the door and Christy climbed out after Marcy,
both women taking a moment to adjust their cloaks.
Thankfully the rain had stopped but there was still a
chill to the night air. Climbing the steps to the
front door the friends were escorted inside where
their cloaks were taken and they were shown a small
room where they could primp and make sure all was in
its place.

Across the crowded rooms Christy and Marcy were led to
Martha and Franklin O'Meara and officially introduced.
While they stood their talking Christy startled when
she heard a Scottish Brogue coming from somewhere
behind her. Chastising herself for being so foolish,
remembering the day she had run after a similar
brogue, Christy refused to allow herself to turn
around and look. When their introduction was complete
Marcy and Christy moved away to speak with their other
friends while another small group was introduced to
the O'Meara's.

Shaking hands with Franklin O'Meara, and his wife
Martha, Neil passively scanned the crowd, not looking
for anything but rather getting a feel for the crowd
and the layout of the rooms he was in. As his gaze
passed a small doorway his heart stopped for a second.
'That woman... she almost looked like...' he thought.
Giving himself a mental slap Neil pulled himself
together. That was impossible.

Wasn't it?

Moving away from their host and hostess with Peter and
Susan Neil quickly became embroiled in a medical
debate with some of the upper classmen and other
doctors at the party. He saw a small group of young
women approaching the group. Several of them were
asked to dance but a few remained to listen to the

"That is an interesting perspective, Doctor," one
woman said with a smile. "My name is Marcy St Paul.
I must say I've yet to hear someone debate the
necessity of using morphine for after surgery pain."

"In most cases a little is fine, Miss St Paul. But
there has been documentation of a patient becoming
addicted to it even after the smallest of doses. I
prefer to limit that risk by using it only in extreme
situations." Smiling at her he took her hand to shake
it. "I'm Dr. Neil MacNeill."

Marcy's smile slipped. Surely not... But the accent,
the red curls, the blue eyes...

"Miss St Paul?"

Shaking her head to clear it she smiled at him once
more. "I'm sure this will seem an odd question Dr.
but where are you from?"

"I come from a little cove called Cutter Gap." Neil
watched as her skin paled a shade or two and wondered
why this news would affect her so. "Are you all
right, miss?"

Glancing at the terrace doors Marcy said, "Perhaps I
could get some fresh air, I'm feeling a little faint."

"Of course," Neil said, taking her arm in his, ever
the gentleman. "Right this way."

Walking out to the terrace Marcy frowned when she saw
it empty. Moving to the railing she scanned the
garden below until her eyes found the one person she
was searching for. "May we walk in the garden for a

"If you wish," escorting her to the steps Neil
wondered what she was doing, hoping she wasn't simply
trying to get him alone.

She had come out here to get away from the idle
chatter of the guests; their need to talk about
trivial nothing's was giving her a headache. Sitting
on the stone bench in the middle of the garden Christy
heard someone approaching and, when she recognized
Marcy's voice, she stood and turned to face her
friend. No sooner had her eyes fell on the pair that
was walking towards her than she froze in place with a
gasp, too shocked to move at the man she saw arm in
arm with Marcy. Against her will tears of both
sadness and joy began to fill her eyes.

Still wondering where the woman was heading Neil
looked up when he heard someone gasp. Stopping in his
tracks he stared at the beauty that stood only a few
feet before him, wondering if his eyes were playing
tricks on him. "Christy," he whispered, a prayer and
a wish, both granted when he saw the tear fall from
her eye.

Oblivious to both Neil and Christy Marcy, her job
complete, stepped back down the path she had just
come, moving back to the terrace to watch her
handiwork from a distance.

"Neil..." Christy breathed, praying this wasn't a dream
and yet at the same time praying it was.

Taking a step forward she touched his sleeve with her
fingers and knew that he was really here. Meeting his
eyes, blue on blue, both filled with joy and sadness;
Christy acted before she knew what had happened,
throwing her arms around him. Neil wrapped his arms
around her small frame, holding her tightly as if she
would drift away again. It had truly happened, God
had granted his prayer. Neil had found Christy.

After a few moments they sat side-by-side on the stone
bench, each one filled with questions. "Neil what are
you doing here?"

"Me? What are you doing here? You've been in
Philadelphia all this time?"

Christy nodded. "I work as a secretary for one of the
professor's, his name is Peter Kinnigan, he's the head
of the Ophthalmology Department."

"Your Peter's 'little secretary'? I don't believe
this. I'm here for the lectures; he called me at the
mission house and asked me to come for a few weeks."

"The lectures? But your name wasn't on any of the
hotel lists, where are you staying?"

"With Peter and Susan," he replied. Staring at each
other for a moment, their shock rapidly turning into
joy. Neil took her hand in his, a serious look
overshadowing his joy. "Lass, I am so sorry for
everything. You should never have been dismissed. We
tried to..."

"Stop; Neil stop," Christy said quickly. "It's over.
What's done is done. I'm not angry at anyone, I just
want to forget that day."

The call for dinner interrupted them and both Neil and
Christy realized they'd been outside for almost half
an hour. Hurrying indoor Marcy met them at the door,
separating Christy from Neil so that they could
freshen her windblown hair before sitting down at the
dinner table. Seated, Christy saw that Neil was only
two chairs down on the opposite side of the table. He
was sitting with Professor Kinnigan and his wife

"I'd say tonight is a good night after all, wouldn't
you Christy? You seem to be smiling much more than
before," Marcy whispered as she gave a playfully
conspiratorial wink to her friend.

Equally playful Christy whispered back, "Wouldn't you

Choking on her laughter Marcy put her napkin to her
mouth while Christy pretended to be concerned for her
friend all the while hiding her smile. Once she was
recovered Marcy carefully avoided looking directly at
Christy and Neil lest she start to laugh again.
Dinner commenced and conversation began to flow over
the table. Two people were particularly silent, each
one having many things they wanted to say but not
being able to do so in a crowd.

"Christy," Peter said after some time. "I don't
believe I got a chance to introduce my good friend,
Dr. Neil MacNeill."

Smiling at Peter and then at Neil Christy greeted him.
"Dr MacNeill, a pleasure I'm sure."

"Likewise," he returned, raising an eyebrow at the
laughter he saw in her eyes.

Franklin O'Meara interrupted their 'introduction' when
he stood to announce that the dancing would begin in
just a moment, for the men to choose their partners.
from the corner of her eye Christy saw Neil smile at
her and quirk his eyebrow. Smilng she nodded her
acceptance of his offer. Before he could say anything
another man laid his hand on Christy's shoulder.
Jumping at the contact she looked up and bit back a
groan at the man she saw behind her.

"Perhaps I can have a dance, Christy?" Richard said
with a polite smile on his face. Next to him Jack
Kendall held his hand out to Marcy who agreed to the
dance. "Shall we?"

Neil watched as the man invited Christy to dance with
him and he felt his fist clench under the table.
Looking down to Christy he saw her glance at him with
a half-hidden plea for help. Smiling Neil stood and
looked at Richard. "I'm afraid you'll have to try
again later. Miss Huddleston has already promised me
the first dance."

Holding his hand out to her he saw her smile as she
stood and moved over to take his hand, the relief in
her bright blue eyes was easily seen by Neil. As they
walked away from the table a muttered sentence floated
out to his ears and it was all he could do to not stop
and turn around. Promising himself he would take care
of it later Neil pulled Christy into a respectable
stance and they began to dance to the music.

No words were spoken, neither one knowing how to make
polite chit chat when they had such heavy questions on
their mind. When the music ended Neil pressed her
hand to his lips and whispered, "May I have your dance
card, Miss Huddleston?"

Smiling, a small blush tainting her cheeks, Christy
nodded. "I would like that Doctor."

Staying out for a few more dances they retired to the
table for a drink of water and Christy was pulled away
by one of the young ladies to the powder room leaving
Neil to face the Cheshire Cat grin of his friend.
"How did you know her name was Huddleston?" Peter
asked when Neil was seated. "I never gave her last
name; how did you know it?"

Caught, Neil grinned. "Christy and I already know
each other. She taught the mission school in Cutter

"Ah," Peter said. "She never speaks much of where she
taught but she has mentioned the children often."

Nodding, "She loves the children very much."

Lowering his voice Peter leaned closer to his friend.
"And you love her don't you?" Seeing the shock at
being discovered in Neil's eyes Peter smiled again.
"I thought so. Well old friend I wish you the best of

Neil's good mod was cut short when he caught sight of
Richard on the terrace. Excusing himself he crossed
the room and passed through the windowed doors,
shutting them behind him. "I'd like a word with you,"
he said with an even tone.

Looking to see who it was Richard shook his head,
"Another time perhaps."

"No," Neil said simply. "Now." Richard saw that the
man meant business and bit off his retort, waiting for
the Doctor to continue. "I don't know who you are or
how you know Miss Huddleston, but if you ever make
another comment like that one you made tonight you had
better pray that I don't find you."

Neil's blue eyes glittered with anger, his face set in
stone, and his hand clenched in fists by his side.
Richard could see that he meant what he said. This
man was more to Christy than just a visitor or a
friend of Professor Kinnigan's and Richard knew that
he had better watch his words around the burly
mountain man.

Taking a step closer to the medical student Neil
pierced him through with an ice-cold, rock hard gaze.
"Make sure all of your friends get the same message.
No one..." emphasizing the two words. "... calls Christy
an Ice Queen. Understood?"


With one last look Neil opened the doors to the
terrace and headed back inside to rejoin the party.
That night he never left Christy's side, nor did she
his. Several more times they danced until eventually
the two friends opted to leave when the time was
appropriate. Making their goodnights Neil and Christy
walked along the sidewalks of the city, heading back
towards the apartment. Catching up on things that had
been happening in their lives since they had last seen
one another the time passed quickly and before they
knew it the couple had reached the apartment.

Standing on the first step Christy was almost the same
height as Neil as she turned back to face him. "Thank
you for walking me home, Neil."

"It was my pleasure, Christy."

Staring at each other for a moment Christy finally
worked up the courage to say what she'd wanted to say
since she had first seen him standing only a few feet
away in the garden. "I'm glad you're here, Neil," she
said with a small smile.

"So am I, Lass."

Dropping her eyes to stare at her clasped hands
holding tightly to her purse strings Christy glanced
back up at him with a shy smile. "Goodnight," she

Smiling at her Neil could see that she was a little
nervous and he wondered at it. Was she nervous
because she had received his letter or because she had

"Goodnight, Christy."


The Letters - Chapter Thirteen

Philadelphia, PA

Standing outside in the warm sunshine Christy and
Marcy were talking with a few friends, service over
for the Sunday morning, when Christy felt a hand on
her shoulder. Turning around she saw Susan Kinnigan
smiling at her and Christy took a few steps away from
her friends to speak with the woman.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you, Christy, but I was hoping
you would join my husband and I for a small dinner
party tonight. We realize it's last minute but we
would love to have you there if you don't already have

Christy smiled. "Thank you Mrs. Kinnigan, I would
love to."

"Wonderful. Shall I send a carriage?"

"Oh, no, that's not necessary, I'll walk, thank you.
What time shall I arrive?"

"Six o'clock. And please, call me Susan."

"Thank you."

Parting ways she watched as Susan climbed into the
carriage and only after the woman had gone did Christy
and Marcy head back to their apartment. Once there
Christy searched her closet for something to wear,
settling on her plain white shirt and a plaid skirt
she had bought a month or so ago. The plaid had
seemed so familiar to her but she couldn't think of
where she had seen it, finally just assuming she had
seen it when she passed by the storefront in the
morning on her way to the college.

Dressed, her hair curled and pinned, Christy was
walking out the door when Marcy stopped her. "Here,
come here Christy." A bottle in her hand Marcy dabbed
the top against Christy's neck. "Just right for your
meeting tonight."


"Oh don't even say it. He loves you and I know for a
fact that you love him. You can fool anyone you want
to Christy Rudd Huddleston, but you cannot fool me."

Swallowing a giggle Christy hugged her roommate
goodbye and descended the stairs to the street.
Standing on the front step of the Kinnigan's townhouse
she nervously smoothed her skirt and wondered for the
hundredth time why she was so nervous. It was a
simple dinner with her boss and his wife. No, that
didn't bother her. What made her nervous was their
guest, the handsome Scott who had sent her a beautiful
letter to which she still did not know what to say.

Oh she knew her heart; Christy loved Neil, she had no
doubt of it. But what kind of life could they have
together? She could never ask him to leave the cove,
nor would she ever let him, he was too needed there.
At the same time what could she do there? Perhaps, if
they were to marry, she could simply stay at the cabin
and care for him and their home. But how could she do
that when she knew how much the children of the cove
needed a teacher?

Questions were still floating in a mad flurry in her
mind while she stood at the door, afore mentioned door
opening before she could raise a hand to knock. The
butler, a quiet man that reminded Christy of her own
father, took her coat and, allowing her a moment to
check her appearance, showed her to the sitting room
where Susan and a woman Christy didn't know were
already deep in conversation.

"Christy," Susan smiled when the butler had announced
the young woman. "I'm so glad you're here. Nadienne
this is the young artist I was telling you about.
Christy Huddleston, I'd like you to meet my sister,
Nadienne Weisz."

Smiling the two women greeted each other before
settling back into their conversation. "My sister was
telling me that you sketch, Miss Huddleston," she said
with a slight accent.

"Please, call me Christy."

Nodding her head once in acceptance the refined woman
replied, "Then you may call me Nadienne."

"Thank you." Christy marveled at the woman's air. It
was humble and yet proud all at the same time. Much
like the mountain people of her home. Christy knew
right away that she would like this woman. "Yes, I do
sketch. It is merely for entertainment though. Only
recently have I begun to sell them."

"This was the first one she ever sold," Susan boasted,
pointing to a sketch of the cityscape on the wall.
"At first she refused the money but I was able to
convince her to take it."

Getting up from her seat Nadienne moved over to the
framed sketch. "This is yours? Why this is
wonderful! Tell me, have you ever tried painting or
do you simply sketch?"

"Mostly I sketch, though I did do some work with
paints when I lived at home in Asheville. It's been
quite some time though."

Sitting back down Nadienne took Christy's hand in
hers. "Would you paint for me? I would love to see
you work. It has been so long since I have seen the
artists painting on the streets of Paris; I do miss it

"You been to Paris?" Christy said with awe.

"Oui," Nadienne smiled with a fond look in her eyes,
as though she could still see the artists with their
paintbrush in hand, working on the streets of Paris.
"I used to walk along the sidewalks watching the men
and women paint whatever they saw before them. How I
did love to watch them while they worked, I would sit
for hours sipping my coffee in a small café, listening
to them debate the great artists."

Her eyes returning to the present, Nadienne smiled at
Christy with such warmth that she knew she could not
say no. "I would love to paint for you."

"Then it is settled, Wednesday you shall come."

"Inviting a guest as though you lived her, eh
Nadienne?" Peter smiled at them from the doorway.

Shaking her head Nadienne squeezed Christy's hand.
"Pay my brother in law no heed, Christy, he is only a
man who does not understand the beauty of an artist at

"No, I probably don't. But I do understand the beauty
of a good meal with friends and family. Dinner is
served ladies."

The three women stood and moved out to the dining room
where Christy saw Neil and another man she did not
know entering from the other end. Neil's eyes widened
in surprise for a moment before he smiled at her and
made his way to her side to say hello. Pulling out
the chair he pushed it back in once she was seated,
taking his place beside her. Dinner was served and
conversation once more picked up.

"How long have you been an artist Christy?" Nadienne

"Since I was a little girl. I've always loved to
sketch, it helps me to relax."

"Christy's sketches are all the rage here in the city.
She sells them so that she may send packages to her
old mission school. Christy is always talking about
her children."

"You taught schoolchildren?"

"Yes," Christy smiled, always ready to talk about her

"Do tell me about them."

Watching her tell the couple about the children she
loved so dearly Neil saw Christy's eyes brighten, as
they always had when she thought about her children.
When he'd first seen her in the garden last night Neil
had been shocked by the changes he'd seen. She had
lost some weight, taking the roundness from her face,
but it was the light in her eyes that had shocked him
most. That spark of life and laughter that he had
always seen in her bluer than blue eyes had been
dimmed. The natural curiosity and zeal for love and
life was gone.

But now, listening to her, watching her, he saw it
returning and Neil knew, now more than ever before,
that she belonged in the cove. While she may have
grown up in the city, Christy was no more a city folk
than he was. Life in the mountains had burrowed deep
under her skin, leaving its mark on her heart. She
would never be as happy anywhere in the world as she
was in the mountains.

"You must have truly loved it there."

"I did," Christy replied, the honesty of her answer
tugging at the hearts of those who were listening.

"Then why did you leave?" Nadienne asked, wondering
why the young woman would have left a place that she
loved as much as she herself did Paris.

With a blink the light that had filled Christy's eyes
was gone, the laughter, the joy of the children
snuffed out by the memory of that awful Sunday
morning. "It, umm... it, it didn't work out the way I
had hoped it would," she softly stuttered, struggling
to keep her emotions in check. Though it had been
almost a year Christy still could not discuss her
dismissal without tears stinging at the back of her

"I'm so sorry, ma cherie. I should never have asked."
Nadienne watched as Christy fought to keep her
emotions in check.

"It's quite all right," she assured the woman,
offering a small smile. "It's the past. Sometimes
the past is better left in its place."

The air of the dinner table was thick with silence, no
one knowing what to say. Feeling bad that the joy was
gone from the air Christy tried to find a topic they
all could discuss.

"Nadienne, can you tell me what Paris is like?"
Christy asked. "I've never been there but I've heard
stories that it is a wonderful place."

Immediately the woman brightened. "Paris. It is the
city of love, a magical place for lovers, a dreamer's
palace, an artist's inspiration. You, ma cherie,
belong there as a hand does a glove."

"As much as I would love to go, I'm afraid I don't
speak French."

"No one speaks French. It is a language and a culture
that is to be experienced. One does not say the
words; they feel them as they flow from within their
heart. To know France is to know your heart, to have
a thirst for life, and an imagination to live it
with." Nadienne smiled. "I have traveled all over
the world but Paris is my home."

"Where else have you been?"

"Everywhere," she smiled. "My husbands business takes
us all over the world. Spain, England, Russia,
Africa, South America, Scotland; I doubt there is a
country we have not at least passed through. I do so
love to travel, but it is just as nice to stay in one
place for a while."

"Which is usually when she comes here," Peter
interjected with a teasing smile.

Laughing, the group enjoyed their evening together
until it was time for Christy to leave. Since the
rain was falling again Neil took her home in the
Kinnigan's carriage. Sitting side-by-side, alone,
Christy was finally able to ask a question that had
been on her mind all night. "Neil, when I first
arrived you looked surprised. Did Susan not tell you
I was coming?"

"No, she told me," he assured her quickly. "Actually
I was a little surprised by your skirt."

Confused Christy looked down at the bit of her skirt
that was peaking out between the edges of her coat.
"My skirt?"

"Aye. The plaid design and colors are the same as my
clan's tartan. The kilt and tartan I have are the
same exact colors and design."

"That's where I recognized it from!" Christy realized
with a small laugh.

"What do you mean, Lass?"

"When I first saw this skirt in the window I thought I
recognized it from somewhere, but I assumed it was
just because I had seen it before. Now I remember;
you wore your tartan when you showed the children the
Scottish games. That's where I recognized it from."

"Well it suits you," Neil smiled at her, pleased that
she had remembered the design and colors of his clan,
even if she didn't realize it.

The carriage jolted when it passed over a rut in the
street and Christy bumped into Neil, his hands
automatically reaching out to steady her. Feeling the
warmth of his hands on her arms Christy felt her skin
tingle. Before she could say anything the carriage
stopped and the driver opened the door. Helping her
out of the carriage Neil watched as Christy ran up the
stairs quickly to escape the rain. Pausing under the
small awning she turned and looked back to see him
watching her. Smiling at him she waved goodnight as
she slipped inside. Sitting back in the carriage as
it was driven back to the house Neil couldn't stop the
smile from spreading over his face.


The Letters - Chapter Fourteen

Philadelphia, PA

Stretching his legs during the mid-afternoon break in
the lectures Neil walked down the hallway of his old
college. So many memories filled his mind, the times
he'd spent here learning everything he needed to
become a doctor, learning the skills that would save
many a person when he returned to his home. Smiling
he turned the corner and stopped, leaning against the
doorjamb to watch the scene before him. It reminded
him of all the times he had stood in the doorway of
the school, watching her work before she realized he
was there.

Christy sat at the desk alphabetizing the papers
before her, a stack that sat at over a foot high.
She'd been working on it all morning while the
professor and his colleagues along with Neil and the
other doctors were in the lecture hall. Now, four
hours later she was almost done. She was so intent on
her task that Christy jumped when the phone rang.

"Professor Kinnigan's office, may I help you?"

"Is the professor in?"

"No, I'm sorry he's in the lecture hall, may I take a

"Oh no, that's quite all right dear. Tell me, are you
the same Miss Huddleston that does portraiture?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Wonderful! I am in need of a sketch of myself as a
present for my husband. Could you come over, perhaps
tonight and we could begin as soon as possible?"

Taking down the woman's address Christy said she would
be there at seven o'clock. Hanging up the phone she
turned back to her project, placing the final papers
in their order and stood to file them away.

All the while she worked Neil watched her; content to
watch her move around, doing her work, Neil stayed
silent. He could hear her humming to herself, a tune
he recognized as one of Jeb's ballads, as she filed
the papers she had just organized, her toes tapping in
time to the song she hummed. The final paper away in
its place Christy bumped the drawer closed with her
hip and turned around. "Oh!" she cried when she saw
Neil standing in the doorway, a smile on his face.
Laughing at herself she sat back down behind the desk.

"Are the lectures on a break?"

"Yes, I needed to stretch my legs so I went for a

"And you just happened to walk this way?" she teased.

Neil laughed, never leaving his place in the doorway.
"I suppose there my have been a reason to my
direction." Looking at her head bent to look at the
paper she was writing on Neil saw her smile.
"Actually I was wondering if you were available
tomorrow night. Peter and Susan have asked me to join
them at the opera and I had hoped you would allow me
to escort you."

Raising her eyes Christy smiled. "I'd love to."

"Good. I'll pick you up at half past six tomorrow
evening then."

"Until then," she smiled at him.

Smiling back Neil said goodbye and headed back towards
the lectures, leaving Christy to her work. A few
hours later, her work complete, Christy left a note
for Peter and left the office, walking through the
hallway to get to the front door. As she neared a
cross path in the corridors she heard someone call her

"Hello, Richard." The one man she did not want to see
and here he was walking side by side with her.

"So how is your mountain man doing today?" he asked
with contempt.

Christy closed her eyes for a moment but kept walking.
"Dr MacNeill is fine. You could ask him yourself, he
is still at the lecture hall."

"Oh I thought it would be more fun to talk to you,
find out what it is about this mountain man that
finally got you to act like a woman."

Suppressing a sigh, ignoring his comment, Christy
picked up her pace but Richard matched it evenly.
Side by side they kept walking, Christy ignoring him
and Richard taunting her, until finally Christy's
patience was worn thin. "What do you want, Richard?"
she asked him, stopping in the next open corridor.
Face to face, neither one saw the two men that had
emerged from the lecture hall a few feet away.

"I want to know what it is about this mountain man
that thawed your heart," his words intentionally
cruel, using his sharpest barb to hurt her.

Straightening herself Christy met his eyes with a
steely gaze. "Tell me something Richard, which is it
that bothers you more, the fact that I didn't choose
you or the fact that I chose Neil over you? Because
let me tell you," she laughed a small humorless laugh,
"There was never a contest." Glaring at him for a
moment she finished their conversation with a firm,
"Good day Richard."

Turning on her heel Christy left the scene, passing
through the doors at the end of the hall and out into
the open. Glaring at her back Richard took a step
towards the doors to have his say to her when he felt
an iron grip on his arm. Looking to his left Richard
saw the raging blue eyes of the red haired doctor
piercing him through. Recalling the conversation on
the terrace only a few days ago Richard knew the
trouble that Neil's look meant. Before either man
could do anything Peter put a restraining hand on his
friends shoulder.

"Let me handle him, Neil, you go find Christy. Tell
her we'll take her home in the carriage." With a
friendly squeeze and a slight pull Peter was relieved
when Neil strode down the hallway after Christy.
Turning to the imbecile student Peter glared at the
young man. "You, Mr. Fehera, are in more trouble than
even you know what to do with. Come with me."

Bursting out through the doors Neil scanned the
brightly lit campus, the early afternoon sun shining
down upon the earth with a warm glow. Off to the one
side he saw a skirt disappear around the corner of the
building and he raced towards it. Sure enough he saw
Christy stomping down the sidewalk her one fist
clenched in a fist at her side while the other gripped
her books tightly.

She was furious.

Taking a few long strides to reach her, grabbing her
arm, Neil stopped the angry woman from continuing.
Looking up at him Christy tried to smile but she could
see in Neil's eyes that he was just as mad as she was.
"You heard it, didn't you?"

"Aye, I heard."

Sighing Christy shook her head, her one fist clenching
and unclenching by her side. "I never like him but
that was the first time he's ever been so... so...,"
Christy couldn't think of a word strong enough to
describe what Richard had done. "Argh!" she cried.
"Who does he think he is? What right does he have to
demean you because of where you come from? He doesn't
know anything about you! He's never seen the miracles
you've done for the cove or all the times you've had
to risk your own life to save someone else's! How
dare he! That... that... that bastard!"

Though he was furious at the so called man that had
made Christy so man Neil couldn't help but smile at
Christy's passionate speech, her words telling him in
a roundabout way what she really thought of him, as a
doctor if nothing else. Her angry words warmed Neil's
heart; she was fighting for him in the face of someone
who had tried to demean him. Even if she hadn't said
the words Neil could see that she did care for him, if
only he knew how much. How deep did that feeling go?
Brotherly Affection? Friendship? Love?

"Come on, Lass," he said when she had finished. "Come
back inside, we'll take you home in the carriage."


The Letters - Chapter Fifteen

Philadelphia, PA

Sitting in the darkened box both Neil and Christy were
captivated, she by the opera and he by her. While
Christy watched the stage Neil watched her, the entire
night he had kept her in his sight, from the moment
she had joined them in the sitting room to the moment
the opera had begun. Though the room was dark the
lighting from the stage played over her features, the
beautiful music a perfect backdrop to the woman he

She looked beautiful tonight. Her hair had been
curled and, while the bottom half had been left to
hang free, the top half was pulled up in a twist,
curls spilling free from the top of it. The crème
colored dress, one that was in the height of fashion,
was a perfect fit, as though it had been tailored to
her body. It was her eyes that held him in their
spell tonight. Those blue orbs he knew so well
snapped with laughter and life.

Though Christy watched the performance on stage,
enjoying every moment of it, she was keenly aware of
Neil sitting a respectable distance away. With her
minds eyes she saw him in his suit. Though she had
always known him best in his flannel shirts and wear
of the mountain life there had been a few times when
she had seen him looking dashingly handsome in a suit.
None of those occasions held a candle to the way he
looked tonight, as though he had stepped out of
perfection itself.

The opera house came alive with conversation as the
intermission began, men and women rising from their
seats to stretch their legs and get a glass of wine
from the lobby. While Neil and Peter left the box to
get a glass for everyone Susan took the opportunity to
speak to Christy.

"I pray you don't think I'm being too forward by
saying this Christy but I had to speak while we have
the chance." Wondering what she wanted to talk about
Christy turned in her seat to face the older woman.
"Since Neil arrived four days ago I have seen so many
changes in you that I can't help but wonder if I
really knew you at all. You smile so much more than
before, and true smiles, not a forced or polite one.
I hear your laughter and I can see your joy shining
out to the world, and it makes me wish I had known you
before you had left your school. I feel as though you
were a much happier person there."

Looking at her gloved hands Christy was silent for a
moment. "You're right Susan," she said at last. "I
was a very different woman then. The cove was my
home. I'm afraid my heart is still there."

"No," Susan smiled. "I dare say that your heart is
here in Philadelphia, until Saturday that is."

Drawing her brow in confusion Christy met Susan's
smiling eyes for a moment until the meaning of her
words dawned in Christy's mind. Instantly her cheeks
flushed a deep pink, heat filling them in response to
her embarrassment by Susan's comment. Biting back her
laughter at Christy's flush Susan saw the curtain part
and when Neil followed Peter into their box seats she
couldn't contain her small laugh as the young woman's
cheeks turned an even darker shade, almost crimson.

Looking from the smiling Susan to the chagrined
Christy Neil knew something had happened while they
had stepped out. Reclaiming his seat he handed
Christy a flute of wine and watched as she took it,
never meeting his eyes but rather averting them to the
empty stage. Her fingers were nervously tapping on
her knee; a sign that Neil knew meant she was
flustered and unsure of what to do. More curious than
ever he peered back at Susan but she simply grinned
and shook her head, refusing to speak.

The opera began again but Christy couldn't
concentrate; so many questions running through her
mind it was impossible to focus on anything but the
man sitting next to her and the letter she had yet to
answer. Her heart knew the truth; it was quite simple

Neil loved her.

She loved him.

No, there was no doubt in her mind about that. But
everything else was a jumble of unsurity, confusion,
bafflement, and chaos. They ruled her mind, barring
her thoughts from anything else. The future was
shrouded in a mist of puzzlement and beyond Saturday
Christy did not know what her life would be, where it
would play itself out, and who would be the main

Still muddling through her chasm of questions Christy
looked up suddenly to see that the opera was over.
Taking Neil's offered arm she was led back to the
carriage and, too soon for her liking, was standing at
the door of her apartment. Squeezing her hand for a
moment Neil said nothing other than 'Goodnight, Lass'
and left her to her thoughts. He could sense the
turmoil in her mind and, though his own was filled
with curiosity, Neil knew better than to try and force
her to talk before she was ready. Christy needed to
work out her own mind and Neil left her to do it.


Looking up Christy saw Marcy waiting for her in their
reading chair by the fire. "Hi, Marcy," she smiled at
her friend as she took a seat in the other chair,
pulling the satin gloves from her hands.

"Don't 'Hi' me, how was the opera?"

"Very beautiful."

"Did she die in the end? Jack is taking me to see it
on Saturday but I know I'm going to cry if she dies in
the end." Looking at her roommate closely Marcy
snapped to catch the woman's attention. "Christy?
Christy! Did you hear me? Tell me, does she die?"


"Who? Christy... the main character of the Opera, does
she die?"

"Oh, umm... I'm afraid I don't know."

Marcy stared. "You don't know? Sweetie, did you even
see the opera?"

Christy laughed as Marcy stood and put her hand to
Christy's forehead. Pushing her hand away with a
smile she grew serious again. Marcy could see that
she had ended their conversation and left the girl
alone. Praying she followed her heart Marcy turned
back to her book.


The Letters - Chapter Sixteen

Philadelphia, PA - 16

Standing at the easel, canvas blank, mind in jumbles,
Christy wondered what she could paint. Several
options came to her mind but she rejected them
immediately. She wasn't here to impress Nadienne;
simply to paint, which was something she hadn't done
in quite some time. After a while she turned to
Nadienne with a helpless expression on her face. "I'm
sorry, I can't think of anything."

Nadienne smiled softly. "Paint for me what is in your
heart. Something that makes you happy, or something
that makes you sad. What do you feel Christy?"

'What do I feel?' she asked herself. 'What makes me
happy and what makes me sad?' Staring at the plain
white canvas the answer came to her and Christy picked
up the brush, dabbed some paint on it, and began.

With long strokes she built the base of her painting,
using softer lighter strokes to build upon it.
Engrossed with her work Christy was oblivious to those
around her as she painted. The quintet that watched
on conversed with each other but she didn't hear them;
they ate but she didn't smell the food; hours passed
but she never took note of the time. Her heart and
soul was poured into the painting, the emotions she
was putting onto the canvas both happy and sad, for it
was only one thing that made her feel both to such

Nadienne watched the young artist painting and she
could see the intensity on her face, the emotions
playing over her features as she worked. Glancing
around the room she saw that her family was still
involved with their discussion but their visitor was
absorbed in watching Christy, making a comment only
when he was asked a question and then floundering to
recall the topic. Nadienne could read the love in his
eyes and she smiled. It was plain to see that Neil
loved Christy very much.

As Neil watched Christy he was amazed by how open she
was to him, the emotions she was feeling as easy to
read as a book. It had been almost a year since she
had left the cove, dragged from the cove, and it hurt
his heart to see the changes in the woman he loved.
Where once had stood an openly loving and beautiful
woman stood a reserved, cautious one who had been
burned by someone she had thought of as a friend.

'How can I ever hope to get her back to the cove?' he
thought to himself. 'She won't even talk to me about
it. I need to talk to her; I need to speak face to
face about everything I wrote in my letter. Help me
find the words.'

His inner thoughts coming to a close Neil was shocked
to realize that he had just prayed. Again! Watching
Christy he suddenly realized that it had taken loosing
the one thing he held dearer than anything else to
open his eyes and his heart to the possibility of
accepting the God he had fought all his life. Neil
had to smile. Christy hadn't pestered him, hadn't
preached to him relentlessly, all she had done was to
live her life with the love of God in her heart and
she had somehow managed to warm his to that same love
as well. She had done all that, and she didn't even
realize it.

Christy stepped back from the painting and put her
brush down. Everything ached, fingers, wrists, back,
eyes, but it was done. In the rush of emotions that
had poured forth from her heart had poured a painting
as well. Lacing her arms around her shoulders she
looked at what she had painted and an unbidden tear
came to her eye. This was her dream; it was her joy
and her pain, the life she wanted and the one she knew
could never have. Swallowing the lump in her throat
she blinked and the tear fell, gently sliding down her
cheek unnoticed.


Glancing up at the people sitting a few feet away,
suddenly remembering that they were there in the room
before her she saw Nadienne get up from her seat and
cross the room to the easel. Taking a deep breath
Christy tried to smile. "It's done," she whispered
with a shaky voice. Shaking her head, "I'm sorry, I
don't know what's wrong with me."

"Your heart is in this painting, it's a part of
yourself. That is always an emotional thing."

Looking at her painting again Christy smiled sadly.
"Yes," she said softly. "My heart is in this

"May we see?" Nadienne asked.

Nodding Christy stepped away and stood by the
fireplace, warming her hands against the blaze.
Closing her eyes she prayed that they, that he, would
like what was about to be seen. Susan motioned for
two of the servants to carefully turn the painting
around. No sooner had they turned the painting than
Neil's heart stopped in his chest at the picture he
saw before him.

There, in a flurry of color, was a peaceful river
surrounded by a forest that was in the height of
autumn. Red's, gold's, brown's, and green's filling
the backdrop, reflecting the sunshine that shone down
brightly through the branches. On the pebbly shore
sat a phonograph, one could almost hear the sweet
music that was playing from its record. A small fire
ate its wooden meal while a black cast iron frying pan
sat on the ground next to it. In the center of the
painting stood a man with his back turned, wading
boots on, standing knee deep in the water with a
fishing pole in his hands, patiently waiting for the
dance to be complete.

Neil turned his eyes from the painting to see Christy
watching him, waiting for his reaction to what she had
laid bare for all to see. Her arms were still laced
around herself in a comforting hug, still shaken over
the emotions she had put into the painting. The words
she had spoken to Nadienne played in his mind like a
broken phonograph record. 'My heart is in this
painting.' Her bright blue eyes held his and no words
were needed.

"What are you going to title it, Christy?" Peter
asked. "How about 'The River'?"

"I was thinking the same thing," Susan spoke up.

"No, no, that's no kind of title for this. This
painting is so much more," Nadienne said, dismissing
their title.

"It's called 'The Dance'," Christy said, her eyes
still locked with Neil's. "The dance is always more

An urgent knock sounded on the front door and the
butler left the room to answer it. Seconds later
Marcy rushed into the room fracturing the unspoken
message that hung in the air. "Christy!" she cried,
rushing to her friend's side, trying to catch her
breath. "Christy you've got to come!"

"Marcy? What is it? What's wrong?"

"Its Mrs. Johanson, she fell down the stairs and the
doctor won't come because she can't pay!"

"Oh my God!" Christy turned to Neil, her eyes
pleading. "Neil..."

"I'll get my bags," he said as he ran from the room,
up the stairs to his guestroom.

Moments later the carriage was hitched and they were
racing down the streets to get to the injured old
woman. Up the stairs to the third floor Christy
pushed through the crowded hallway to get into the
apartment. Right behind her when they entered the
small bedroom of the old woman Neil immediately set to
work, assessing the injuries, working to make a
diagnosis and healing what he could. Pulling the
covers up to her chin Neil looked across the bed to
see Christy smoothing back the grayish white hairs
that had fallen over the old woman's eyes.

"She'll be all right, Christy." Looking up to meet
his eyes Christy asked for more information. "She has
a broken wrist and a slight concussion. I'll need to
keep a close eye on her until she wakes but once she
does she'll be fine. She'll be in pain but she will
recover." Taking her hand in his Neil pulled Christy
up from the bed. "Come on, you need some tea."

Out in the main room Neil saw that Marcy already had
some coffee waiting for them. Sitting down at the
table he watched as Christy toyed with her teacup,
twirling it around and not drinking out of it.
"Lass," he said, hoping she would talk to him about
what was troubling her.

Looking up at him Christy flashed him a small smile.
"She was the first person here who befriended me
besides Marcy. I used to sit with her over some tea
and some fresh bread and tell her all about my
children and my life in the cove. Mrs. Johansson knew
the whole story, start to finish. She reminds me so
much of Miss Alice that I could almost imagine it was
her I was talking to instead."

Reaching across the table Neil took Christy's hand in
his. "She's going to be all right, Lass, you'll see."

"I hope so, Neil. I can't lose another person I love
in my life right now. My heart couldn't take it."


The Letters - Chapter Seventeen

Philadelphia, PA

"Who are you?"

Neil smiled at the old woman. "My name is Neil
MacNeill, I'm a doctor."

"You speak funny."

Trying not to laugh Neil nodded. "I'm Scottish, I'm
afraid I'll always have this accent."

"How did you get here?"

'What a cantankerous woman!' Neil thought to himself.
"Marcy came for Christy after you fell. She asked me
to help you."

Suddenly a light came into the old woman's eyes and
she smiled. "You're him, aren't you? The doctor
she's always talking about, the one from her mission
school in Cutter Gap." Smiling Neil nodded. "Well
it's about time you came out here to take her home!
What took you so long boy? The poor girl's been
miserable since the day she got here. She shouldn't
be cooped up in a city, she needs to go home, so you
had better take her there, you hear me?"

"Mrs. Johansson," Neil grinned. "I think you and I
are going to be very good friends."

All afternoon they talked, she telling him of
Christy's life in Philadelphia and he telling her of
the cove, his life there and the ancestry of his
people, the people she knew from Christy's
descriptions and sketches. Several hours later
Christy interrupted their conversation when she came
home from the college.

"Mrs. Johansson, how are you feeling?"

"Better, dear. Have you come to sit with me as well?"

Christy smiled. "Of course I have."

"Well I'm too tired for company. Take your man out to
stretch his legs." The old woman hid her grin when
Christy's cheeks turned scarlet while she busied
herself putting some fresh flowers next to the bed.
"Go on, his accent is giving me a headache and he kept
me awake all afternoon."

The last of the two to leave the room Neil turned back
and winked at the old woman that had claimed a
headache. She smiled back and waved him off,
reminding him of his promise. Down the stairs and out
into the world again Neil breathed in deeply, the
fresh air a welcome change. "Shall we walk in the
park? I need to see a little bit of nature again."
Nodding Christy had turned to head towards the park
when Neil caught her arm. "Not that one, Lass,
there's a better park this way."

Though they had started out heading toward Elm Street
they were soon twisting and turning until Christy was
quite lost. Neil stopped on a bridge overlooking a
beautiful pond; the park that surrounded them was
indeed better than the one she knew of. "This is

"This is a bit of a private park. The dean of the
school owns it. He doesn't let the word out often but
those who know of it are always welcome here."

Walking side by side they stopped at a bench under a
weeping willow tree and sat down.

"I know you missed the lectures this morning so I took
notes for you. I don't know if they'll make any sense
or not, I didn't understand any of it but you probably

"Thank you, you didn't have to do that." Neil smiled
down at her as she bent over to pick a small flower
that had been growing near her feet. "That Mrs.
Johansson is quite a character."

Christy laughed. "Yes she is. I hope she wasn't too
mean to you. She can be quite upsetting when she
wants to be."

"Not too bad. We spent most of the morning talking
about you."


"M-hmm. She told me all about your life here and I
told her all about Cutter Gap, though I must say she
did already know most of it." Spotting a pretzel
vendor taking a shortcut through the park Neil
motioned for him to come over. Buying two of the soft
hot pretzels Neil handed one to Christy. "I'd
forgotten how much I enjoy these," he smiled.

Turning in her seat to face Neil Christy sat sideways
on the bench. "Neil, how is the cove, in all truth,
tell me how everyone is. We really haven't had a time
like this to just talk about everything."

Neil also twisted in his seat and faced her. "No, we
haven't," he agreed. "All in all everyone is
physically okay. Lizzette had a bad scrape a few
months ago but she pulled through. Other than that
everyone is doing as well as can be expected. The
winter was hard but thankfully everyone pulled

"What of Miss Alice? How has she been? She writes to
me but I get the feeling she doesn't tell me

"Alice has been trying to keep the mission running but
there are times I can't help but wonder if her heart
is in it anymore. She seems to have lost a little of
her drive. I think that running between all three
missions is beginning to catch up to her."

"Haven't they hired another teacher to help out yet?"

"There was one girl for a few weeks but she left. She
may have been a good teacher but all she cold see was
the dirt and the poor quality of the life the cove

"She never saw the diamonds through the coal."

Neil smiled. "Exactly."

Christy shook her head with a sigh. "She lost out on
a great thing."

"You have no idea how glad it makes me to hear you say
that, Christy." She glanced up at him to speak but he
kept going. "When you first came to the cove I was
sure you wouldn't last, but you proved me wrong time
and again. You feel for my people the same kind of
love that ties me to them. You don't see the poor
quality of their life but you see them for the rich
heritage they have, the beauty of the mountains that
they live in, and the love they carry in their hearts.
But I think that the reason you can see it is because
you carry that same kind of heritage, beauty, and love
in your own heart."

Christy was speechless. She could feel tears stinging
at her eyes and fought to keep control over them but
it was hopeless. Salty drops fell from her lashes and
she swiped them away. Neil offered her a soft white
handkerchief and she wiped the tears with it until she
was back in control. Hesitating for a moment she
reached into the small bag she carried with her and
pulled out a piece of paper that Neil recognized all
too well. The seams of the fold were worn as though
it had been read and handled many, many times.

Unfolding it Christy read the words again, though she
knew them by heart. Neil could see that little drops
of water had smeared the pencil and he suddenly
realized that she had cried while she had read his

"I've read this letter so many times that I know it by
heart but I still can't get all the way through
without crying. I haven't written back yet because I
didn't know what to write." Looking up Christy met
his eyes. "I know how I feel and I know what I want,
but those are so very different from what I can have.
Neil I do love you, I love you very much."

Sitting under the tree, across from the woman he
loved, Neil's heart soared only to plummet back down
to the ground with her next words.

"But nothing can ever happen between us. I have no
place in Cutter Gap anymore."

"Lass we can work something out. There are plenty of
jobs for me here in Philadelphia or Asheville if you
wanted to move back near your family. I could..."

Christy put a hand over his lips to stop him from
breaking her heart anymore. "No, Neil. You need to
stay in Cutter Gap. The cove needs you. I'm only one
person compared to hundreds of families. I don't
matter. Please..." she whispered as she stood. "Please

His heart breaking Neil watched her run away from him.
On the bench next to him lay the flower Christy had
picked and he picked it up as tears stung at his eyes.

"You do matter, Lass. You matter very much."


The Letters - Chapter Eighteen

Philadelphia, PA

"Many of you are familiar with the terms 'granular
conjunctivitis' or 'Egyptian ophthalmia'. Simply put
it is the eventual scarring of the conjunctivae and
corneas of the eyes. Trachoma is a very rampant
disease among the poor and the isolated communities.
It begins with a bacterium called chlamydia
trachomatis and is characterized by swelling of the
eyelids, sensitivity to light, and the afore mentioned
scarring of the conjunctivae and corneas of the eyes."

"Now for those students who haven't taken Professor
Kinnigan's class on Ophthalmology yet, the conjunctiva
is the clear mucous membrane that lines the inside of
the eyelid and covers the white part, or the sclera,
of the eye. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the
conjunctiva. Now with this disease the eyelashes
eventually turn in, rubbing on the cornea at the front
of the eye. The scarring on the cornea leads to severe
vision loss and blindness. Removing eyelashes, a
common treatment, is at best only a temporary measure,
because eyelashes grow back."

"Many doctors feel that it is best to leave the
patient be, forcing them to live with the blindness.
Now with certain patients this remains true however I
have found that with the removal of the scaring on the
inner eyelid there can be a hope for those who have
not already gone blind."

As Neil stood behind the podium on the stage of the
Lecture Hall Christy sat in back of everyone else,
watching, her heart filling with pride for the man who
was addressing the crowd. He stood straight and tall,
looking every bit the educated man she knew him to be.
Yet even through all that she could see, plain as
day, the love he had for his people and the ties that
bound him to them. She didn't understand half of the
words that were coming out of his mouth but that
didn't matter to her.

Watching him she recalled the night before, when she
had fled the small park, her heart broken in two by
the words both he and she had spoken. She had run as
far and as fast as she could until she found suddenly
found herself at the college campus. Collapsing onto
a bench she had wept until she had no more tears to
shed. Neil had offered her everything she had wanted
but she had turned him away. Sitting in her seat
Christy put her head in her hands, trying desperately
to quell the tears that threatened her yet again.

The tears never got a chance to fall as her attention
was drawn to one of the doctors in the audience.
Standing he broke into Neil's lecture with his own

"That is pure conjecture, Doctor. Why should we sit
here and listen to a man who hasn't been published in
over five years?"

"Because I know what I'm talking about, Doctor
Jacob's. Trachoma is my specialty."

"You speak of a procedure to cure it yet you offer us
no proof." The doctor moved out into the aisle, his
coat in his hands. "Go back to your pigs, Country
Doctor. They are your specialty. I for one have
better things to do than listen to a phantom procedure
that has no medical backing whatsoever."

Sitting in her seat, watching what was going on before
her very eyes, Christy was furious! Dr Jacobs was
tearing Neil down because of where he practiced his
medicine. Leaning forward in her seat she waited for
Neil to defend himself against the attack. Before her
unbelieving eyes she saw him shake his head as though
in disappointment and close his eyes for a moment.

"As I was saying, gentlemen, by removing the scarred

Neil continued on with his lecture, watching as many
other men followed Dr Jacob's lead until only a small
handful remained in their seats. As he made his
closing statement he saw Christy sitting in the back,
her face a mixture of anger and disappointment, and he
wondered what was passing through her mind at that
moment. When he stepped off the stage he saw her
leaving through the back doors and followed her. Down
the hallway Neil finally caught up with Christy in
Peters office.

Watching her pace for a moment he entered the room.
"What's wrong?"

Stopping mid-stride she stared at him in disbelief.
"What's wrong? You mean you really don't know what's
wrong?" With a shake of her head she resumed her
pacing, waving her hands as she spoke her mind. "You
didn't even defend yourself Neil! You let him degrade
you and then you kept going as though nothing
happened. How could you let him do that to you? Why
didn't you speak up?"

Sighing Neil moved into the office, shutting the door
behind him, and put his papers on the desk. "I have
been fighting people like him since I first came here
as a student. I'm through defending my right to be a
doctor to his kind of mentality. If people want to
listen then I'll be happy to tell them but if not I'm
not going to become belligerent and demand they hear
me out." He could see that she was still furious and
Neil felt his own control over his anger slipping.

"So you'll let him say whatever he wants about you
because you're not going to stand up and defend
yourself? It doesn't bother you that he degraded you
in front of your peers?"

"Of course it bothers me!" Neil lashed out. Closing
his eyes he calmed his temper, reminding himself that
Christy was only trying to help. Claming himself down
he continued. "Yes, it bothers me, of course it
bothers me, but I'm not going to let some fool needle
me into a war of words and accusations. It's not
worth it."

Neil was having trouble keeping his cool in this
conversation. Emotions still running high from last
night it was all he could do to not yell aloud, angry
at the world and needing to vent off some steam before
he exploded. But he would not do it to Christy, not
when there was still a chance for them. He would not
blow that.

His passive stance on the situation at hand bothered
her for some reason. Christy wanted to throttle that
Dr Jacob's for everything he had said. He had dared
to belittle one of the greatest men she knew and that
did not sit well with Christy at all. "So you just
turn your back and walk away like it doesn't matter."

Turning his back Neil ran a frustrated hand through
his hair and muttered to himself, "No, that's what you
do." A horrified gasp sounded behind him and Neil
winced when he realized she had heard the words he
hadn't meant to say. Especially not out loud and
never ever would he have said them in her presence.
Turning back to face her he saw her blue eyes open
wide and filling with tears and his heart was ripped
in two. Berating himself he took a step toward her
but Christy stepped back. "Christy..."

His voice snapped her out of her trance and she
blinked rapidly, the tears that had been resting on
her lashes falling down her face. Turning she
gathered her coat and bag and crossed the room to the
office door. With her hand on the doorknob Neil
grabbed her arm, turning her around to face him.

"I didn't mean it Lass," he whispered, trying
desperately to see her cast down eyes. "I was angry.
You know I would never..."

Christy held up her hand to silence him. "Don't say
anything. Please..." her voice was filled with pain and
Neil knew without a doubt that he was responsible for

Twisting out of his grasp she opened the door and
slipped out of the room. Once in the hallway, not
caring who saw or what they thought, she broke into a
run. Neil opened the door mere seconds after she had
closed it behind her and saw her disappear around a
corner, her hand over her mouth and tears streaming
from her eyes. Following her he ran to the corner,
rounding it only to find her gone. There was any
number of turns she could have taken and Neil knew
he'd never find her.

She was gone.


The Letters - Chapter Nineteen

Philadelphia, PA

He sat in the chair.

He stared at the fire's flames.

He cursed himself time and again for his stupidity.

Sitting in the den of the Kinnigan's townhouse Neil
kept replaying Christy's voice as she had fled the
office, the pain and tears that had filled it. He had
no idea where she was, what she was thinking, but he
was sure that she was hurting and it was all because
of his stupid mouth. He had to make amends, every
cell in his body was screaming at him to do so, yet
how could he when he had no idea where she was? All
afternoon he'd scoured the city, searching every spot
he could think of until it began to downpour and he
was forced to return to the townhouse.

Standing in the doorway, watching her husband's
friend, her friend, Susan knew Neil was hurting. He
was brooding; he had been as friendly as a Grizzly
Bear when he'd stormed into their home a few hours
ago. After changing out of his soaking wet clothes
he'd sat in front of the fire, refusing to entertain
any sort of a conversation, refusing the food and
coffee she had left for him and only nursing the
brandy Peter had handed him.

Though she wished she could have stayed to help him,
do something to find out what was hurting him so,
Peter pulled her away to their dinner engagement.
During their ride over Peter told Susan what had
happened during the lecture today, telling her that
was probably why he was so down, but she knew it was
more than that. Something much deeper was bothering
him. Before she had a chance to discuss it with her
husband they were at the house of their host's.

Cocktails over, the meal had begun when the butler
bent over near Sylvia's ear. Their hostess became
excited and nodded to her servant. "Oh I have the
most wonderful surprise for you, dear," she smiled at
her husband. "I have had so much fun keeping it from
you this past few days but now I can finally present
it to you. I simply cannot wait."

Laughing at his wife Dr Harold Jacob's motioned for
her to proceed. "I'm surprised you were able to keep
it to yourself all this time," he teased.

Throwing him a playful glare she motioned to the young
woman standing in the doorway and when she entered the
dining room Susan saw that it was Christy, a large
package in her hands. Scanning the crowd quickly
Christy stiffened when she saw Dr Jacob's sitting at
the head of the table. Blinking she forced herself to
focus on her reason for being here.

"As promised Madam," she looked to Sylvia Jacob's with
a polite smile.

"Oh do open it! I simply cannot wait for Harold to
see it."

While the butler held the package Christy tore the
paper from it, revealing a framed sketch of Sylvia and
her precious cat, Tinkleberry. Exclamations of praise
came form every chair at the table. Smiling at his
wife Harold clapped his hands.

"A most excellent surprise, darling. I love it."

"The artist did a wonderful job, you simply must give
me their name," one woman declared.

"Oh why she's right here, Christy Huddleston."

For the first time Harold saw the young woman,
recognizing Christy from her time with Neil. "Such
talent, but tell me, Miss Huddleston, do draw
livestock as well? Or only people?" He couldn't
resist getting in another barb at Neil, knowing how
close the two friends were. But Harold Jacob's was
unprepared for the response from this seemingly timid
little secretary.

"I would draw you, Dr Jacob's," she said with a
carefully even tone. "Does that count?"

Hands flew to mouths as gasps rang out throughout the
room, horrified by the brazenness and mean spirit of
such a lovely young woman. Not giving him a chance to
reply Christy kept going.

"You don't know how you have handicapped yourself by
what you did today, Doctor. Had you stayed in that
lecture you would have found out that there is indeed
medical backing for Dr MacNeill's procedure. But you
didn't keep quiet long enough to hear him out. You
never heard the story of little girl who was going
blind from Trachoma, the same little girl who now has
full use of her eyes thanks to Dr MacNeill's 'Phantom

Christy was still furious.

"You assume that because he doesn't have a practice in
a big city like you do that he's no better than a
doctor for pigs. Well you're wrong! I've seen this
man labor for hours on end to save the life of a
little boy whom by all rights should have died. For
days he's stayed up with his patients, forgoing sleep
and food to make sure that they are going to survive.
And when he finally can rest he is called away to help
yet another patient in another part of the mountains."

Her tone was even, her voice never raising above the
normal level, but Christy's words were filled with a
fierce pride, an unwavering loyalty, for the man she

"This 'Country Doctor' you claim should stick to
doctoring his pigs has saved more lives than even he
can remember. You... doctor... will never be half the
doctor," Christy spit out, "Or half the man that Neil
MacNeill is."

Silence hung heavily in the dining room. No one had
ever witnessed such a spectacle; the doctor berated
openly by a woman with such ferocity that it was
impossible to not be affected by her words and wonder
whom this man was that she defended so passionately.
The silence continued even after Christy apologized to
Sylvia for her interruption and left the room. No one
knew quite what to say.

"Well," one man said with a snide smile. "You always
did have the best entertainment Harold."

A few people gave a small laugh, more from relief than
from humor. Staring at the people who went on as
though nothing had happened Peter was disgusted.
Standing he tossed his napkin to the table and held
his hand out to Susan. "I'm afraid we must be on our
way. There is an important matter we need to attend

Without another word the Kinnigan's left the room,
gathered their coats and called for the carriage. The
ride home was a silent one, each one lost in his and
her thoughts, and it wasn't until they were inside
their townhouse that they met each other's eyes. It
was obvious to each of them how disgusted they both
were with what they had witnessed at the Jacob's
household. By silent agreement they went in search of
Neil, not surprised to find him in the same spot they
had left him in.

"Neil," Peter said, clearing his throat to get his

Glancing up Neil frowned when he saw them. "I thought
you were going out?"

"We did, but we couldn't stay there."

Sitting in the den Peter explained to Neil what had
happened, relaying to him everything that Christy had
said. By the time they were finished Neil thought his
heart was going to burst out of his chest. "I've got
to find her!"

Grabbing his coat from the rack in the hallway Neil
took his hat, forgoing an umbrella in his haste. Once
on the street he suddenly realized that he still had
no idea where to look. She could be anywhere.
Rushing off in the direction of her apartment he
figured he'd try there first. Marcy answered the door
and, taking in his drenched appearance and wild eyes,
she told him Christy had gone to the library.

Back down various streets Neil made his way to the
library, combing every aisle to try and find her. She
wasn't there. Stopping at the doors he asked the
doorman if he had seen a young woman, describing
Christy to the man. He had seen her all right; she'd
headed down towards Elm Street. A thought came to
Neil's mind and he thanked the man before rushing down
the street. Twisting and turning, rounding various
corners he stopped at the bridge that overlooked the
park, scanning it as best he could only to find it

While he was standing there, his heart sinking with
every raindrop that hit him, Neil heard a woman's
scream a little ways away and his heart stopped cold.
Running, racing towards the sound he rounded the
corner and saw a sight that would be forever burned in
his mind, replaying in his nightmares for quite some


The Letters - Chapter Twenty

Philadelphia, PA

There, at the entrance of a dark alleyway, a sinister
looking man was holding Christy up to the brick wall;
his hand covering her mouth while the other gripped
her waist. She fought him off as much as she could
but the man was too strong for her. Biting the hand
that covered her mouth she siezed the moment he
removed it to let loose another scream before he
slapped her.

Running towards them as fast as his legs could carry
him Neil dragged the man away from Christy, throwing
him into the wall where he collapsed into a heap.
Gathering Christy in his arms he held her tightly to
him as she wrapped her arms around the safety he
provided. Walking a few feet to a nearby window sill
he sat her down under the awning, his trained eyes
looking for damage. Other than the red cheek from
where the man had slapped her he saw none.

Shaking, both from the chill of her experience and
that of the night air, Christy looked up at Neil, his
blue eyes staring down at her with such intensity she
felt as though she couldn't breathe. "I'm so sorry,"
she whispered. "I'm sorry Neil, I..."

"It's okay, Lass, it's okay now, everything is going
to be all right. I need to get you to a fire, can you

Christy nodded and stood. During the walk back to the
townhouse Neil kept his arms around his Lass, warming
her as best he could, comforting her, supporting her
until they reached their destination. Once she was
settled in front of the fire, her soaked coat shed and
a quilt over her, chair pulled close to the fire both
Susan and Peter left the couple alone, sensing they
needed to talk. After a few moments of silence it was
Christy who spoke first.

"How did you know where to find me?"

"I searched everywhere. Marcy had said you were at
the library but the doorman there said you had headed
towards Elm Street. I was at the park when I heard
you scream." Involuntarily Neil shuddered at the
memory. "I don't ever want to have to hear that sound

"Neil... I... I'm sorry for what I said, and what I did
and I..."

Putting his hand over her mouth gently, Neil silenced
her apologies.

"You have nothing to be sorry for. All you tried to
do was defend me. That means more to me than you'll
ever know." Sitting on the edge of the chair's
armrest Neil put his arm around Christy and pulled her
close. "But you did say something that bothered me."

"That night when you left me in the park you said that
you don't matter. But you were wrong. You do matter,
Lass, you matter very much. I love you and nothing
will ever change that. I'll figure something out, I
promise you I will find a way to make this work.
Because you are all that matters to me."

Within the warmth and safety of Neil's arms Christy
knew that he was right, that somehow everything would
be okay, so long as she remembered one very important
fact. Love. Love was the most powerful thing to have
on your side. They would figure something out.

As they were sitting there a small cough sounded from
the doorway.

"I'm sorry Neil, there's a man on the phone, says he
needs to speak with you immediately."

Laying a quick kiss on her forehead Neil moved away
from Christy to answer the phone. Some time later he
returned to the den, a worried from covering his face,
etched deeply into his eyes as she kneeled before
Christy. A sinking feeling hung in her heart and she
knew his news was bad.

"That was Dan Scott. I'm needed back in the cove.
There's been an outbreak of influenza. I have to

Standing, tossing the quilt aside, Christy met his
eyes as he stood as well. "I'm coming back with you."

"Oh no you're not!"

"Yes, Neil I am! These are my children, I have to be

"No, Christy, I'm not going to let you come. I can't
risk you catching influenza, you'll be safer here in
the city."

"I can catch influenza just as easily here in the city
as I can in the cove Neil. You need every pair of
hands you can get and here's a pair that's ready to
help. I'm coming with you."

"I'm not going to argue this, Christy. You're not
coming, its too risky, I'll not lose you like that."

Taking a step toward him Christy put her hand on his
arms and looked up into his blue eyes. "You almost
lost me tonight, Neil." Pausing for a moment she
whispered, "I'm not letting you go without me."

Leaning his head down against hers Neil took a deep
breath. She was right; he couldn't leave her behind
and concentrate on the people who needed his help. He
would worry too much that she wasn't safe. "What do
you need to get?"

A few hours later Neil and Peter shook their hand
goodbye on the platform of the train station while
Susan and Christy hugged their good-byes. After
almost a year in the city Christy had become quite
fond of the older couple and promised to call to let
them know how everything was. Slipping Christy a
letter she told her to read it later and sent her off
to board the train with Neil.

The journey underway, train barreling down the tracks,
Neil looked down to see Christy asleep against his
arm, soft mews coming from her as she slept. Taking
his coat off the seat next to him he spread it over
the both of them and leaned his head back. They both
would need all the sleep they could get as Neil knew
once they got to the cove there would be little time
to sleep.

Some hours later Neil awoke with a start to realize
that Christy was no longer leaning against him.
Looking around he saw her sitting in the opposite
seat, sketch pad in hand, pencil flying over the
paper, her eyes darting up every now and then to where
he had been sleeping. Under hooded eyes he watched
her as she sketched, thinking he was still asleep.
Her lower lip was caught between her teeth as she
drew, tilting her head back and forth as she examined
her work. It was too much; he had to smile.

"You're awake," she whispered.

"Aye." Sitting up he opened his eyes. Reaching out
he tried to take the sketchpad from her but she
gripped it tightly, refusing to let him see, closing
it and putting it away in her bag. "How long have you
been awake?"

"Not long. The conductor says we should be at the
next stop in another few hours. There'll be a half
hour delay so he suggested we take a walk and stretch
our legs."

"Sounds like a good idea."

Getting up to stretch his legs after sleeping Neil
walked up and down the aisle of the boxcar for a
moment and when he returned to their seats he saw
Christy pull a letter out of her bag. "Who's that
from?" he asked.

"Susan handed it to me and said I should read it
later. Now seemed as good a time as any."

Leaning back in his seat Neil watched her unfold the
letter and begin to read. Her eyebrows quirked
together and he could tell that something she read had
puzzled her but in almost the very next moment
Christy's eyes grew wide, bright blue circles framed
by her long brown bangs. Her mouth formed a little
'o' before it drew back into a small, disbelieving
smile. When she finally looked up from her letter he
could see the joy radiating from her very soul and he
wondered what Susan had written to evoke such a

"Neil, this is it!" she cried excitedly, waving the
letter in front of him.

"What is what, Lass?"

"This is how I can stay in the cove!" Christy could
see the confused look on his face and with a small
laugh she switched seats to sit next to him, showing
him what was written in the letter. "The letter is
from Nadienne. She showed my painting to one of her
friends who happened to be an art dealer and he
already had a customer to buy it! He has agreed to
buy the next painting I do as well and once he sees
how well those sell he might buy more to sell overseas
at an exhibit he plans every year!"

"Neil! With this money I can stay in the cove! I can
rent a room at Mrs. Tatum's and live in El Pano. It's
just close enough that I can still be near the
children, and the mission, and... and you," she finished
softly. "I can come home for good."

Neil could feel his grin growing. "That's wonderful,

"Oh," she said softly, "But I had wanted you to have
that painting."

"Actually, Lass, I do."


"I bought the painting from the man Nadienne showed it
to. Once it's dried and packed away it will be
shipped to El Pano and I'll take it home to hang in my

Christy stared at him dumbfounded. "You bought it?"

"Well of course. The dance is always more important,
and now I'll have a constant reminder of that hanging
in my laboratory."

Staring at him a slow smile spread itself over her
face. Still smiling she leaned against him, taking
his arm in hers and stared out the window, her mind
and heart filled with thoughts and feeling she
couldn't quite describe; each and everyone focused in
on the man who sat beside her.

She loved him so much she wanted to cry.


The Letters - Chapter Twenty One

El Pano/Cutter Gap, TN

"Next stop, El Pano!" the conductor called as he
traversed the aisle way.

Gathering their things together Neil and Christy were
the first ones off the train, hurrying to get back to
the cove. Collecting Charlie from the stables where
Neil had left him to be cared for they were on their
way, heading towards Cutter gap as fast as they could.
As they rode it began to rain, the rain quickly
turning into a downpour forcing them to stop and find
shelter. Sheltered in a cave Neil lit a small fire
and he and Christy huddled together for warmth against
the chill of the night air, a chill made worse by the
dampness of the rains.

"Christy," Neil asked suddenly. "What made you choose
Philadelphia? Why not just stay in Asheville and get
a job there?"

"I needed to help somehow, Neil. I know it's an
extremely small thing but what if one of the students
that Peter taught had gone on to cure a disease that
plagues the cove? Then maybe I would have had a small
part in that as a helper to the professor that taught
that young doctor."

Neil shook his head. "Hundreds of miles away and you
were still doing everything you could to help the

Warmed from the fire and the body heat Neil exuded
Christy found herself drifting off, sleepiness
overcoming her as her head began to nod until it
finally fell onto his chest. Leaning his head against
hers Neil took a deep breath, smelling the soap she
had used in her hair and the sweetness that was
Christy. Falling asleep himself he was surprised to
wake suddenly and see sunlight creeping into the
entrance of the cave, the fire burned out.

Standing up as best he could under the low ceiling of
their little cave Neil walked outside to stretch his
legs. Taking in a few deep breaths of clean air he
went back into the cave. Passing their bags he saw
the edge of her sketchpad and immediately Neil
recalled the way she had kept him from seeing her
sketch from the train. Glancing at her, seeing that
she was still asleep, his curiosity getting the better
of him; Neil opened her bag and took out the
sketchpad. Flipping it open he skipped past various
ones, recognizing the different places and people
until he came to the sketch of him.

Staring down at it Neil's heart skipped a beat before
it soon spread a warmth through him like he had never
felt before. There he was, asleep like he had been on
the train, his face peaceful, feet up on a chair in
what he recognized as a corner of his cabin. But in
his arms, wrapped in a soft blanket, was a little baby
as sound asleep as he was, safe, content, and relaxed
in his arms.

Lifting his eyes from the paper he looked across the
cave at Christy, sleeping soundly, curled into a ball
on the hard ground. She had drawn this. Neil sat
back against the cave wall and stared. He loved her
so much and though he knew that she loved him as well,
seeing this sketch, drawn by her own hands, he knew,
now more than ever, that he would never let her go.
Never would she leave the cove again unless it was by
his side. As he sat there Christy stirred in her
sleep and he hurriedly put the pad back into her bag.
She wasn't ready for him to see it yet. He could wait
until she was ready, no matter how long it took.

Waking Christy they quickly got underway again and in
almost no time at all they were trotting up the hill
to the mission house. Lowering Christy to the ground
first Neil swung down from Charlie, grabbed his
saddlebags, and together the two travelers ran up the
stairs and into the mission house. The main room of
the mission house was filled with various tables and
cots, each one occupied by a sick person. With a
quick squeeze of her hand Neil released Christy and
they both split up, going in opposite directions to
help those who needed them.

Kneeling by the first cot she came to Christy saw
Bessie Coburn staring up at her with big brown eyes
that began to fill with tears. "I be dyin' I rekon.
God be grantin me mah one wish. I wisht I culd seez
ya one last tahm teacher, even if it be a vizion, soz
I culd say how sorry I waz."

"No; no Bessie, you're not dying. I'm really here.
Feel my hands," placing a cool hand to the girls
burning forehead. "I'm really here and you're not
going to die do you hear me? Doctor MacNeill is going
to take care of you. You'll be fine."

Felling the cool hand on her forehead Bessie's hazed
eyes became lucid for a moment and she stared at the
woman she had wronged so long ago. "Teacher," she
whispered, her weak voice trembling with exhaustion
and emotion. "Hit be you, fer shorely, ya dun come
back ta us!"

Bessie struggled to sit up but Christy pushed her back
down onto the cot. "You lie still do you hear me
Bessie Coburn. You're going to get better but you
need to lie still and do as I say, understand?"

The girl nodded as sleep overtook her and she closed
her eyes, drifting off into the painless world of her
dreams. Getting up from the cot Christy moved from
Bessie to the next one over and from that one to the
next. Most of the patients were asleep or too dazed
to recognize who was caring for them. As she stood to
go to the next cot she heard a gurgling cough from
behind her and turned quickly to the sleeping Bessie
begin to throw up while sleeping on her back.

Springing to the girl's side she rolled her onto one
side while holding a nearby bucket under her mouth.
Once the young girl stopped Christy set the bucket
down and wiped Bessie's mouth with a handkerchief from
her pocket. Once she was settled back into her sleep
Christy gave a sigh of relief that she would be okay
and returned to checking on the other patients.

Across the room Neil had looked up when he heard the
gurgling cough, knowing full well what was happening
but before he could move Christy was there by the
girls side, doing exactly what was needed as though it
were second nature to her. Not once did she flinch or
recoil from the sight and Neil had to smile when he
remembered the way she had nearly fainted, so long
ago, at the mere sight of blood. His Lass had found a
way to see past that and Neil wondered where she drew
her strength from to do so.

His once over of all the patients at the mission done
Neil was wondering where everyone was, Alice and Dan
Scott, when he heard Christy cry out for him from the
kitchen. Rushing to her side he saw Ruby Mae
collapsed in a heap on the wooden floor, her body
burning up with fever. As Neil carried her into the
other room Christy cleared the only remaining spot for
her to lie down on, the dining room table.


Both Neil and Christy looked up sharply to see Jeb
Spencer entering the mission, the mans face was
exhausted, his body sagging, but his eyes and his tone

"Jeb! Where is everyone? Why isn't anyone here?"

"Preacher be a visit'n his kin back eastand Miz Alice
had ta go ta the O'Teale's they be raght sik and Dan
Scott be with th' Allen's. I come ta see if ya'd made
it bak yit. Ya gotz ta come quick! Zady be reel bad

Nodding Neil turned to Christy. "I need you to stay
here Lass. Keep doing what you've been doing. Make
them as comfortable as possible and make sure they
stay still. I'm going to the Spencer's. If Dan Scott
or Alice comes back then send them there right away,

Christy nodded and walked with the two men to the
porch. Swinging himself up onto Charlie's back Neil
gave her one last look before wheeling his horse
around and galloping off toward the Spencer cabin, Jeb
following as fast as he could on foot. For several
hours Christy did as Neil directed, caring for the
sick, making them as comfortable as possible. Putting
up water to boil she kept some aside for drinking, not
knowing where the contamination had come from, and
used the rest to clean, scrubbing wooden floors of the
vomit that had missed the bucket.

As she tossed the bucket of filthy water out onto the
grass she saw a rider approaching from the north.
Dropping the bucket she ran to greet the man she had
already recognized as Dan Scott. Not even letting him
dismount she told him of Neil's instructions and he
was off, heading out to the Spencer's. Alone again
Christy returned to her task, working diligently to
keep the patients comfortable. There were so many,
sixteen people in the mission alone.

Most were the children, Bessie, Will, Ruby Mae, Isaac
and others but a few were the adults as well, both
Coburn's were there, Ault Allen as well.

Hours later, her back aching, hands red and sore from
the heat of the water, eyes teary from the lye she was
using, she heard a rider approach and saw Neil
striding into the mission house. Christy moved toward
him, already telling him of the changes in the
patients, which were worse and which seemed to be
getting better. Waving one of her hands as she talked
Neil caught it deftly in his hands, softly rubbing the
red knuckles, seeing the abuse they had been put
through since he'd left.

"It's nothing," she said quickly, pulling her hands
out of his grasp. "You have much more important
things to worry about. Bessie is getting worse,"
worriedly glancing at the young girl.

Allowing her to escape for now, promising himself he
would get some balm for her hands from his cabin, Neil
moved to sit next to Bessie. "It's not good," he said
after examining her. "She's critical but stable;
right now it could go either way. Keep a close eye on

Nodding she asked, "What of Zady?"

"She definitely has influenza. The question remains,
just how bad off is she? I won't know until she
becomes critical. That's the worst part of influenza,
there is nothing you can do except make them
comfortable and wait."

"And pray, Neil."

Glancing up he saw the hurt in her eyes and he
remembered that she was not a trained nurse, even if
her actions said otherwise. Christy was a
schoolteacher who was watching her children and their
kin, people she loved with all her heart, suffer,
possibly even die. Standing he put his arms around
her for a moment, holding her close. "Yes, Lass, we
can pray."

Closing her eyes as she stood within the safety of his
arms Christy didn't miss that he had said 'we' instead
of 'you'. Praying that his heart had been opened to
God at long last Christy hugged him back for a moment
before stepping away from him to look out the door at
the sound of an approaching rider.

"Miss Alice!" she breathed, her eyes taking in the
sight of a friend too long missed.


The Letters - Chapter Twenty Two

Cutter Gap

Goldie cantered up the yard of the mission and stopped
before the hitching post next to Charlie. Seeing
Neil's horse Alice thanked God that he had returned.
Wrapping the reins around the post she turned to climb
the steps when she heard the clatter of shoes coming
down them, the sound too light to be a mans. Looking
up she thought for sure she was seeing things but when
the arms of her daughter closed around her tired
shoulders, squeezing tight, Alice knew this was real.

"Christy!" she cried wrapping her arms around the girl
with an equal force.

"Oh Miss Alice, I've missed you so much!"

Tears sprang to the old woman's eyes and try as she
may to blink them back she could not, the tears
rolling down her cheeks. From the top of the stairs
Neil watched the reunion with a small tug at his
heart, the emotion of the moment too much to ignore.
Alice and Christy were as close as any mother and
daughter making the sight before him all the more

"When did thee return?" she asked after a moment,
pulling her self back to try and calm the storm of
emotion raging in her heart.

"Just today, with Neil. I couldn't stay away when I
knew how sick the cove was. I'm needed here, Miss
Alice, I'm not leaving until I'm no longer needed in
the cove."

"Then perhaps thee may never leave," Alice said
softly, putting a hand to Christy's cheek in a gesture
filled with love.

"I pray for that every moment, Miss Alice," she

As much as he wished they could continue Neil knew
things needed to be done. Clearing his throat he
caught their attention, descending the stairs to stand
with them on the grass. "Dan Scott and Jeb said you
were at the O'Teale's Alice, how do they fare?"

"Not well, I'm afraid," shaking Neil's hand in welcome
home. "We lost Wilmer this morning and I fear both
Swannie and Mountie have fallen ill. I left to come
and check on Ruby Mae, we left the poor girl to tend
to everyone at the mission. I am sure she was

"Actually, she fell sick to influenza," Neil informed
her. "We found her collapsed on the floor."

A look of horror crossed Miss Alice's face and she
raced up the stairs into the mission, both Neil and
Christy following close behind. Checking on the young
girl Alice saw that she was resting as peacefully as
the fever would allow. Standing beside the table she
prayed for God to forgive her for leaving Ruby Mae
alone as she had.

"There was no way for you to have seen this coming
Alice, don't blame yourself for this one. It was out
of even your control," Neil told her, putting his hand
on her shoulder.

After a moment Alice nodded her hand and took a deep
breath. "Now that thee is back I will gladly hand the
control over to thee once more. I shall stay here at
the mission unless thee wished me to go elsewhere, to
another family."

"No, I think you should stay here. Christy can you go
care for the O'Teale's? I want someone there who can
do a thorough cleaning of the cabin while they're
unable to stop you. I'll try to send one of the women
over to help you."

"They need to care for their families, I can handle it
on my own."

"Are you sure?" he asked me, placing one hand on my
shoulder with a slight squeeze. "That's quite an
undertaking and you've been working here since we got

"I'll be okay," I nodded, smiling to show him that I
meant it.

"All right then, we'll ride over there so I can check
on them myself and then I'll head out to the Allen's,
Dan Scott wanted me to check on them as well."
Glancing out the window he continued, "We'd better get
moving, it will be pretty dark soon."

With a few final instructions he went outside to
gather Charlie from the hitching post. Turning to
Alice Christy wrapped her arms around the woman once
more, kissing her cheek. "When this is all over you
and I are going to have a long talk, Miss Alice."

"That we shall child, that we shall."

Going outside Christy held her hand up to Neil and he
swung her up onto Charlie's back. Holding tight to
him they quickly rode out of the mission yard towards
the O'Teale's. The ride there was too short a time
for Neil and Christy to spend alone with each other
and yet at the same time too long a time to get to the
O'Teale's who needed their help desperately. Pulling
to a stop in the yard Neil handed Smith the reins to
tether Charlie while he and Christy entered the stuffy

While Neil set about to check on Swannie and Mountie
Christy drew the healthy children to her, hugging and
kissing her hellos before sending each of them off on
a chore that would get them out into the fresh air of
the Spring weather. As Neil finished his examinations
Christy set up the rest of the clean water to boil,
adding the lye once it was hot enough, and set out to
find a clean rag. Her search of the cabin didn't find
one and she knew that none of the rags she did find
there were anywhere near clean enough to use. Out of
options she turned her back to Neil, facing the
corner, lifted the front of her outer skirt and tore a
piece of cloth from her petticoat. It would do as a

Neil had just finished his exam of Swannie and was
moving over to Mountie when he heard a tearing sound.
Looking up he saw Christy straighten up, her skirt
dropping back to the floor, and a large piece of white
cloth with torn edges in her hands that she plunged
into the lye water. Realization dawned as to where
she had gotten the cloth from and Neil had to smile.
The things she wouldn't do for the people of the cove,
his people... her people. Still smiling he turned to
begin his examination of Mountie, the little girl
shaking under the thin, threadbare blanket.

When he had finished his examinations Neil stood to go
in search of a better blanket for the young girl.
Before he could take two steps he saw Christy
approaching, her coat in her hands. "I've already
looked, there're no other blankets," she told him as
she laid her coat over the little girl. "This will
have to do for now. I'll make sure that some blankets
are brought over from the mission as soon as

Once more she amazed him, as though she had read his
mind, providing what was needed before he could think
to ask or do so himself. Watching her tuck the coat
in tightly around Mountie he saw her gently push a
stray lock off the girls fevered face, her touch as
gentle and loving as that of a mothers, her love for
them was much the same. Straightening she turned to
him for directions and he provided them.

"They can have one dose of aspirin in two hours, try
to make them drink as much of it as you can, all of it
if possible. Keep doing what you've been doing and
I'll be back to check on them as soon as I can."
Heading out to the yard both of them drank in the
fresh air. "If anyone comes searching for me I'll be
at the Allen's, then the McHone's, then the Spencer's,
and after them the Holcombe's. I'll pass by here on
my way back to the mission before I go back out

"Be careful, Neil. If you get too tired out you'll be
more susceptible to the disease."

Looking down at her with a smile, "And where did you
pick up that little tidbit of medical knowledge, Miss
Huddleston?" he teased.

"Well I did used to work at a medical college," she
smiled. Though a smile rested on her lips her eyes
were serious. "Please take care of yourself Neil."

"Same goes for you, Lass."

Hesitating for the barest of seconds Neil put his hand
on Christy's cheek and lowered his mouth to hers in
the gentlest brush of a kiss before swinging himself
up onto Charlie's back and heading out of the yard.
Christy watched him go for a moment, her fingers
pressed against her lips in memory of the sweetness of
their first kiss, before her attention was caught up
by the children and she turned her mind back to the
task at hand.

At the edge of the turn Neil looked back and saw her
heading toward the cabin, a child under each arm as
she listened to the story they wanted to tell Teacher,
some small event that had taken place while she was
gone. With a small smile Neil urged Charlie into a
gallop, hurrying on to his next patient as quickly as
he could.


The Letters - Chapter Twenty Three

Cutter Gap, TN

On her hands and knees, Christy had just finished
scrubbing the floors when she heard a horse galloping
into the yard. Dropping the rag over the side of the
bucket, though it was actually the third rag she'd
made since the other two had become useless, she
headed towards the door, her ears picking up the
children calling out to "Doc" as he dismounted.

from the doorway she watched as he took a moment with
each one. The caresses that seemed to be made only
out of love for the child Christy knew were actually
his own ways of checking each child for symptoms
without them knowing it. Taking his time he greeted
each child, from Smith on down to Mary, a moment with
each until he was done and sent them back to the fire
Christy had them sitting around, cooking the rabbit
Smith had caught in one of his traps.

In the harsh light of the afternoon sun Christy
watched Neil approaching the cabin. His shoulders
sagged with the weight of the coves illness. The
needs of the cove, the pressure he was under to help
as many as he could, was tremendous yet instead of
feeling taxed by it she could see in his eyes that is
was as though he was fulfilled by it. His blue eyes
were bloodshot and tired but they sought hers out and
he smiled at her.

As he approached the cabin, satisfied that the
children were well, he saw Christy leaning against the
doorway of the O'Teale's cabin, her arms folded over
her chest. Her eyes had raked him over and he knew
she could see how tired he was, she saw it in him as
much as he saw it in her. Her hands were red and raw,
the lye she'd been cleaning with had stripped them of
their softness, and Neil could see that they were
beginning to crack and bleed around the knuckles.

He wanted to take her in his arms and massage a
healing ointment into every knuckle until they were
better. But he knew now was not the time, that would
have to wait until he could take the time to do for
her what she had done for everyone else since she had
returned home. When this was all over Neil could care
for her the way she had cared so unselfishly for
everyone else.

Smiling at him Christy moved aside so he could enter
the cabin and check on his patients. As his first
foot set itself past the threshold he was amazed by
the difference he saw before him. Where once had
stood a dirty, filthy cabin, now stood a clean one;
sparklingly sanitized from ceiling to floorboard.
Once more she amazed him; Christy had said she would
do the work and she had certainly done so. Standing
beside him as he examined the mother and then the
daughter she updated him of their condition.

"Swannie took all the medicine but I could only get
Mountie to take about two-thirds of it. A little
later I mixed the rest of the medicine in some diluted
broth and she took it that way. She's yet to vomit it
back up and that was about an hour ago."

"Good," Neil nodded. "I think Mountie will be fine.
And given Swannie's improvement as well I think it's
safe to say she too will recover. I checked over the
children and they seem to be fine, no symptoms yet,
but that doesn't mean they won't show up at all.
However with the cabin so clean I must say the chances
are very minimal that they'll get sick." Looking up
at Christy Neil smiled, "You've done some amazing work
here, Lass."

"I'm just glad they'll be okay." Together they moved
over to the table. Christy saw Neil wince as he sat
down for a moment and she knew he was more tired than
he was letting on. "Stay there." Moving over to the
doorway she motioned to one of the children and
moments later and Becky appeared in the doorway, a
plate in her hands that she handed off to Christy.
Adding some of the stewed vegetables from a pot
simmering over the fire Christy set the plate before
Neil. "Eat."

"What about you?" he asked as he speared a chunk of

"I ate as it was cooking."

It was the truth, she had popped a carrot or two into
her mouth but Christy refused to take any more of
their precious supply of food. She could eat when she
returned to the mission. Sitting down across the
table from Neil she folded her hands gingerly and
looked over at Mountie as the young girl shifted on
the bed. Seeing the coat slipping from around her
shoulders Christy stood and moved over to the young
girl and tucked it back in tightly. Neil heard
Mountie whisper something to Christy and the woman
smiled at her. Shifting o the bed so that Mountie's
head was in her lap Christy began to croon a soft,
comforting, song to her, to the little girl that held
a very special place in Christy's heart.

"Oh God, My God is my Shepherd; so why should I fear
or Fret?
For he who cares for his sheep so much will none of
his own forget.
By quiet waters he leads me, my soul he does restore
and bless.
He guides my steps for his own names sake in pathways
of righteousness.
He guides my steps for his own names sake in pathways
of righteousness."

"Tho' in the vale of deep shadow I walk, I need fear
no harm,
For my Great Shepherd is always near; His staff keeps
me from alarm.
My head with oil he refreshes; my cup he has filled up
His loving kindness will follow me, and e'er in his
house I'll dwell.
His loving kindness will follow me, and e'er in his
house I'll dwell."

"How wise and loving my Shepherd! His praises with
joy I sing.
The cheering news of his tender care to sheep-like
ones I will bring.
His Word I'll faithfully follow, walk carefully in his
My glorious treasure of serving him I'll gratefully
use each day.
My glorious treasure of serving him I'll gratefully
use each day."

Sitting at the table Neil forgot his food, his hunger,
and even his exhaustion as he listened to Christy
singing softly to Mountie. From the corner of his eye
he saw that the other children had gathered in the
doorway, paying strict adherence to Christy admonition
to stay outside where it was safe and warm by the
fire, listening to their Teacher as well. Slipping
his eyes back to her he saw that Mountie was awake,
listening to the song with tears in her little eyes.
Only when Christy had finished her song did Mountie

"Luv ya, T'cher," she whispered and Christy pulled the
dear little girl into her arms, hugging her and
whispering of her own love in return.

Though Neil could easily have been content to watch
the touching scene for a much longer time he knew it
was time to move on. The meal, as nutritious as it
was, sat heavily in his stomach and he hoped moving
around would help to digest it faster. Getting to his
feet with a groan, his muscles protesting the sudden
movement after sitting still for a short time, he
moved to the door and watched the children scramble
back to the fire. Out in the yard another rider
approached and Neil saw that it was Dan Scott.

"You're needed at the mission, Doctor," he announced.
"I'll take over for the O'Teale's for a little bit."

"Very well, I'll take Christy back to the mission with
me. Keep an eye on Swannie, she's not doing as well
as Mountie but both of them should be fine." Turning
to the children he ordered, "You all pay heed to Mr.
Scott, you hear me?"

Each child nodded and Neil called for Christy to join
him on Charlie, swinging her up after he had mounted.
With a slight nod to Dan Scott Neil turned Charlie in
the direction of the mission, letting his friend pick
his own way on the steep trail. Once they had reached
level land Neil relaxed and urged Charlie to go a
little faster. He could feel Christy leaning against
him heard her even breathing over the sound of the
forest. She was asleep. Nodding his own head in a
light doze Neil woke when Charlie stopped and saw that
they had reached the mission.

"Lass," he called softly, turning his head to look at
her, gingerly squeezing one of the hands he held in
his own large ones. "We're here."

With soft groans Christy woke and looked up, blue on
blue, and their eyes met. With a deep breath she
lowered herself to the ground with Neil's help,
waiting for him to dismount as well. Together they
walked up the stairs of the mission house to see Alice
standing by the fire with a cup of tea in her hands.
Her expression was sad, teary, as she watched them

It was Neil who noticed first.

"Where's Bessie?" he asked, raising his eyebrow at

Without saying a word Alice shook her head slightly
and turned away, gazing at the fire instead. Closing
his eyes for a moment Neil muttered under his breath.
Hearing his voice but not understanding his words
Christy looked up, laying a gentle hand on his arm.
"Neil, what is it? What's wrong?"

Turning, Neil led her out to the porch. Standing
before her he placed both hands gently on her
shoulder. "There's no easy way to say this, Lass," he
began but with those few words he saw the truth dawn
in Christy's eyes. "Bessie's died."

Her lower lip trembling, Christy lowered her eyes from
Neil's, staring at the mismatched button on his
flannel shirt that he had changed into at some point.
It was out of place that little mismatched button. A
square little button when the rest were round. Her
eyes focused on it she suddenly realized how much she
had in common with that one little button. So out of
place and yet still there, doing its job despite being
so out of place with the rest.

That was how she felt as she took in the knowledge of
Bessie's death. Horribly out of place, as though this
weren't her world, but rather some nightmare and when
she woke the young girl would be alive and ready to
give her lesson in school.


Neil was concerned by her silence. Other than the
trembling lip there was no sign that she had heard
him. Her eyes were focused straight ahead as though
she were staring through him. Squeezing her shoulders
he hooked a finger under her chin and forced her to
meet his eyes.

"Bessie's dead," she whispered.

Neil nodded. Closing her eyes for a moment Christy
suddenly leaned forward, leaning against Neil's chest
as her tears began to prick at her eyes. Moments
later Neil was holding her as she wept for her
student, a young girl who had so much life still left
to live. Picking her up Neil carried Christy up the
mission stairs to her old room, laying her on the bed
and covering her with a quilt, sitting with her until
she had cried herself to sleep, her body to exhausted
to stay awake for long.

The toll of the last two days had taken their toll and
Christy slept a deep, dreamless sleep. It wasn't
until many hours later that she began to wake.
Slowly, savoring the softness of the pillow under her
head, Christy woke, stretching out her limbs to waken
them again. Opening her eyes she stared at the
ceiling in confusion. Those weren't the wooden planks
of her apartment ceiling. And the normal sounds of
the city were unusually quiet as well. Furrowing her
brow, trying to fully waken from her slumber, she
wondered at the difference.

As suddenly as a bolt of lighting the memory of the
last two days came to her mind and she sprang out of
the bed. Still dressed in her skirt and shirt Christy
hurried down the stairs to see Neil sitting next to
Ault Allen, his hand on the mans head feeling for a
temperature. Standing on the last step Christy grew
concerned as she watched Neil. He was exhausted, his
eyes could barely stay open as he sat next to the Ault
Allen. She could see that he was in pain from the
scrunch of his face, brow drawn as she had seen

When he stood up from the mans side Neil saw Christy
and a small smile came to his face, barely touching
the pain and exhaustion she saw there still.

"Neil, could I see you upstairs for a moment?"

"Of course, is everything okay?"

Not saying a word she motioned for him to follow her.
from the corner of her eye Christy saw Miss Alice
watching, a small smile on her lips while she nodded
her head. She knew what Christy was doing, and the
young woman had her full support. Nodding back she
climbed the stairs, Neil following behind, and led the
way to the room she had just woken up from.

Standing in the middle of the room Neil turned to look
at Christy. "What did you need, Lass?"

"I need for you to keep your promise."

Her simple words hung in the air and Neil tried to
think of what she was saying but his mind couldn't
wrap itself around her words. "What are you talking
about, Christy?" he finally said, unable to think of
what she meant.

Sighing Christy shook her head and motioned for him to
sit on the bed. Wearily Neil sat. "You made me a
promise Neil and I made you one in return. I've kept
my end of the promise and now it's your turn to sleep.
Miss Alice and I can handle the patients here at the
mission until you wake up."

Shaking his head Neil stood. "I have too many
patients to care for," he argued.

Moving to stand in front of his Christy reached up and
placed a soft hand on his stubbly cheek. Meeting his
tired blue eyes with her concerned ones, "You promised
me Neil. Please," she whispered. "Only for a couple
of hours. I promise to wake you if there is an
emergency." She saw the hesitation in his eyes and
pressed forward with her plea. "I'm worried about

Neil's shoulders sagged in defeat. "All right, Lass,
you win. But you promise to wake me if someone asks
for me?" Christy nodded. "All right," he sighed,
sitting back down on the bed, his fatigued body
screaming for joy at the prospect of rest. Lying back
with his eyes closed he felt Christy taking his shoes
off before she laid a quilt over him. Neil was almost
asleep when he felt her gentle lips press against his
forehead. A second later he was out cold, never
hearing the click of the door as Christy shut it
behind her.

Descending the stairs once more she saw Miss Alice
sitting at the table, now clear since Ruby Mae had
been moved to the cot Bessie had been occupying, her
bible in her hands, reading. Fixing herself a cup of
tea and grabbing a slice of bread from the kitchen
Christy went to sit next to her dear mentor. No
sooner had she sat than Miss Alice reached out for her
hands. Sitting across from each other the two women
stared at the others eyes for a moment.

"Thy return is an answered prayer to me, Christy."

"I missed you so much, Miss Alice."

For a little while, the patients sleeping, they were
able to catch up on everything that had happened
during the last years or so of their lives. Christy
told Alice of the letter she had received from
Nadienne and the older woman was thrilled. As they
sat discussing the children a rider approached from
the mission yard and both women stood to see who it
was. Dan Scott dismounted Prince and walked up to the
mission stairs, stopping when he reached the women.

"Miss Alice, Miss Christy," he greeted them. "How is
everyone doing here?"

"Well enough. We lost Bessie but everyone else seems
to be hanging on."

"Four people so far," Dan shook his head. "I pray we
don't lose any more."

"Four?" Christy cried. "Who else did we lose?"

"Besides Wilmer and Bessie the cove lost Liz Ann
Robertson and Clarabelle Beck. At least there've been
no new cases to report. We may win out over this

While Christy took this news in Dan Scott turned to
Alice. "Have you perchance seen or heard from the
Taylor clan? I've managed to confirm the health of
almost everyone else except them."

Alice frowned. "The Taylor's have always kept to
themselves but I fear this news will only mean
trouble. Someone will need to go search them out."

Dan Scott nodded. "I'll go."

Alice shook her head. "I do not believe that would be
wise for thee, Daniel. The Taylor's have made their
feelings about thee quite clear."

"I'll go," Christy spoke up.

Both Dan Scott and Alice protested immediately. "I
can't let you do that Miss Christy," Dan said.

"You can't go, Dan, they'll shoot first and ask
questions later. And Miss Alice," seeing the woman
open her mouth to speak, "You're needed her at the
mission. And I refuse to wake Neil unless it is
absolutely necessary. That leaves me. I'll go find

"It could be dangerous for thee, Christy. They do not
like people on their land."

"I know that, but they know me and I'm hoping that
will give them pause before raising their gun.
Besides no man of the cove would hurt a woman."

Christy had won her argument and, with a prayer in her
heart, she left the mission yard to find the Taylor
men. Through the forest, walking along trails she had
almost forgotten Christy searched for the Taylor
Cabin. Nearing where she remembered it to be Christy
called out a 'Hellooo!' to warn them she was coming
lest they shoot first. With no response coming back
her way Christy pressed onward until she came to a
cabin. Knocking on the door she opened it and peered
into the dark interior.

Closing her eyes after she had shut the door Christy
gave them a moment to adjust to the darkness. Opening
them again she looked around and saw a bed with a lump
on it against one wall while another was on the floor
by the cold hearth. Moving first to the man on the
floor she saw that it was Lundy, the poor boy
trembling and shaking from his fever and lying in a
pool of his own vomit. Pulling him away from the
filth Christy wiped his face with a rag she saw on the
small table.

Standing she moved to check on the other man in the
bed. He too was shaking from the fever but she saw no
signs of vomit in the bed with him. Grabbing a bucket
from by the front door Christy hurried down to the
river and back again. Building a fire in the cabin
she cleaned as best she could with the limited
resources and made sure both men were as comfortable
as they could be. Unsure of what she could do next
she was startled to hear a mans voice calling from a
distance. Standing in the doorway of the cabin she
laughed with relief when she saw Jeb climbing up the

"Mr. Spencer!" she called out to him.

"Miz Christy," he answered, taking his hat off when he
stopped a few feet away. "Doc ask'd me ta com'n' chik
on ya."

"You're timing is near perfect," she smiled. "Do you
have your wagon with you?" Jeb nodded. "Good, We
need to move both men to the mission, can you help me
load them into the wagon?"

Working together the two friends moved both Taylor men
down the mountain and onto the back of Jeb's wagon.
Exhausted by the work of carrying them to the wagon
Christy was grateful to ride back to the mission
instead of walking. Once at the mission Dan Scott and
Jeb moved the two men into the mission while Christy
went to find Alice. The Quaker woman breathed a sigh
of relief when she saw Christy approaching her.

"Thank the dear Lord thee is safe," she said as she
hugged the young woman briefly. "When thee did not
return we began to fear the worst."

"Both Lundy and Birdseye are sick. Lundy was a mess I
tried to do some cleaning while I was there, but there
wasn't much I could do. Mr. Spencer said that Neil
had sent him to find me, is he still here?"

Alice shook her head. "When Neil rose he was furious
that thee had gone after the Taylor's alone. He was
going to go after thee himself but he was called away
to the Beck's. I was just leaving to get some
medicine from his cabin, we are almost out."

"Why don't you stay here and I'll go get the medicine?
You have a good handle on what is happening here and
I hope you can help Lundy, he's pretty bad off right

Nodding she withdrew a list from her pocket. "This is
what thee will need. Thee know not to take all of it,
only half of each. Neil may meet thee there, he was
heading there himself after checking in at the Becks

Instructions given and list in hand Christy set off
for Neil's cabin. The night was steadily approaching
and by the time she reached the cabin by the river it
was dark out. Hurrying up the steps she threw open
the door and hurried into the dark cabin; the layout
clear in her mind from previous visits she didn't
bother lighting a lamp. Crossing the cabin floor
Christy screamed when she tripped and fell to the
wooden floor, something was in her path.


The Letters - Chatper Twenty Four

Cutter Gap, TN

Sprawled out on the floor Christy groaned in pain as
she rolled over. Taking a moment to flex her limbs,
making sure everything worked she stood hesitantly and
shuffled over to the mantle. Feeling for a match she
struck it and lit the oil lamp resting in the very
center of the mantle. Turning back around to see what
she had tripped over Christy wanted to scream again.


Setting the oil lamp on the table Christy dropped to
her knees by his side, rolling the still man onto his
back. Touching the back of her fingers to his cheek
and forehead she realized he was burning with fever
even as she felt the trembling. No sooner had she
removed her hand than Neil began to vomit. Hurriedly
she rolled him onto his side, watching as he released
all that he had eaten at the O'Teale's. 'He's been
sick since then!' she realized with despair. Once he
had finished she wiped his mouth and chin before
pulling him away from the mess.

Christy realized she had to get him into a bed. There
was no cot downstairs, it had already been brought to
the mission, and the couch was too small for his long
frame. Staring at the stairs Christy prayed for the
strength of two people and set to work. Hooking her
hands under his arms Christy pulled him towards the
stairs. With all her might she backed up the stairs,
dragging the unconscious doctor with her. After what
seemed like forever, she stepped into the bedroom
still dragging Neil with her across the floor.

Pausing for a moment to get her breath Christy sat
Neil up against the bed and, placing his arm over her
shoulders and her arm around him she lifted him only
to lose her balance and collapse onto his lap. With a
short cry of frustration after it happened a second
time she tried again and this time managed to get him
onto the bed. Rolling him this way and that she
pulled the covers out from under him and, after
removing his boots, pulled the quilts up to his waist.
Stopping herself from pulling them up farther she
realized that some of the vomit had clung to his

Quickly she unbuttoned his outer shirt; grateful he
was still sleeping, blushing furiously, she removed
it, tossing it into the corner to deal with later.
Searching the drawers for another shirt she found a
warm flannel and struggled to put it on him. Task
complete, buttons buttoned, Christy pulled the quilt
up to his chin and turned to get a bucket from the
yard, just in case there was more in his stomach.
Hurrying to get back to Neil Christy ran down to the
river with buckets in hand to bring water back.

Building a fire she set up one bucket to boil, setting
out the lye to add once it had done so, and took the
other bucket up to the bedroom. No sooner had she set
the bucket down a gurgling cough rose in Neil's throat
and she turned him onto his side, holding the bucket
under his mouth. When he was finished Christy dipped
a clean rag into the bucket of water and, wringing it
out, she wiped the sheen of sweat from Neil's face and
neck. The man still trembled under her care and
Christy pulled another quilt out of a small closet
where she knew he kept them.

Running downstairs she opened the door to the lab and
scanned the shelf for the bottle of aspirin powder.
Praying she was using the right amounts Christy mixed
powder with water and took the glass upstairs to Neil.
Lifting his head, trying to wake him up, she forced
the mixture past his lips a little at a time.
Satisfied that he was keeping it down, at least for
now, she went back downstairs, taking the soiled shirt
with her, to check on the boiling water. Adding the
lye to the bucket Christy cleaned up the mess on the
floor and put the filthy shirt in the bucket to soak.
It would wear the shirt down faster but at least it
would sanitize it as well.

Her work downstairs complete Christ went back upstairs
and sat down in a chair by the bed, her eyes never
leaving Neil's face, and prayed. She begged God to
keep Neil safe, that he would recover from this
illness that had already claimed four lives. She
thanked Him as well for keeping those whom weren't
sick from becoming so and she prayed that He continue
to watch over those who were still fighting the
disease. Head bowed in prayer Christy's exhaustion
overcame her and she drifted off to sleep, not
realizing that she had done so until she suddenly
became aware of the dawn streaming in through the
small window on the eastern side of the house.

Chastising herself for falling asleep Christy leaned
forward to check on Neil and she found that his fever
had worsened. Mixing some more powder with water
Christy forced it down Neil's throat. Watching
helplessly as he tossed and turned under the covers,
the fever producing nightmares she could only wonder
at, a memory from her time at home sprang to her mind
and Christy decided to follow her mothers advice.

Praying for God's forgiveness at being so forward she
pulled the covers off Neil's feet and was shocked at
how cold they were. Like ice. Rubbing vigorously she
tried to draw the heat down from his head as her
mother had always told her to do when her brother or
sister had gotten sick. Christy could feel the heat
rising in her cheeks as she sat at the edge of the
bed, Neil's feet in her hands. Grateful that no one
was there to witness her actions she finished with the
one and turned her attention to the other.

While she was still working on the second foot a
pounding resounded on the front door only to creak
open a moment later. "Neil? Christy? Are thee

"Miss Alice!" Christy cried. Covering his feet back
up Christy ran from the room and down the stairs in
time to see Alice crossing the cabin, a worried look
on her face.

"What happened?" she cried. "Thee did not return to
the mission last night!"

"Miss Alice, its Neil! He's sick!"

The two women hurried back up to the bedroom and Alice
examined the feverish doctor while Christy told her
everything she had done. Nodding her head as she
listened, Alice assured her that she had done
everything correctly, no different than she herself
would have done had their roles been switched.
Needing to get back to the mission with the medicine
she told Christy that she would have Dan Scott check
in, in a few hours, and that she should keep doing all
that she had been.

"All thee can do now is wait, Christy. Keep him
comfortable and warm; and most importantly keep him in
that bed. No doubt he will want to rise and check on
his patients but if he does he will have a relapse and
it will be even worse than this time. His stubborn
streak will no doubt raise the roof. Use whatever
thee needs to to keep him confined to his bed."

Watching Alice ride away Christy stayed on the porch
for a moment before returning to her vigil by Neil's
side. Setting up some weak broth for when he was
feeling better Christy kept it warming over the fire
and went in search of a book to read while she waited.
Scanning the medical books she was surprised to find
a Bible on the shelving. Pulling it down Christy
realized that it was very old; it had to have been
handed down through the generations.

Taking it with her she climbed the stairs and sat
under the window of the bedroom, Neil in her sights,
so that she could read by the light that streamed in.
Opening it to no place in particular she saw that it
fell open to the first of Paul's two letters to the
Christians in Corinth. In the fold of the thirteenth
chapter she saw several folded pieces of paper had
been stuck in between the pages. Opening one she
recognized her own writing.

These were her letters to Neil!

Christy realized that he must have stuck these in
there himself. Looking down at the bible pages her
eyes were caught up by the fourth verse and Christy
began to read the words to herself.

'Love is longsuffering and kind. Love is not jealous,
it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not
behave indecently, does not look for its own
interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep
account of injury. It does not rejoice over
unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. It bears
all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things. Love never fails...'

"I should have known you'd choose the bible."

Glancing up quickly Christy smiled with relief and
sheer joy at seeing Neil watching her from the bed.
His eyes were a little glazed from the fever but he
was awake and she could finally see that he was okay.
Tucking the letters back into the bible she set in on
the chair as she crossed to his side, kneeling next to
the bed and taking his hand in hers.

"You had me so worried, Neil," she told him.

Frowning Neil closed his eyes as he tried to remember,
"What happened?"

"I came into the cabin to get some medicine for the
mission and I found you unconscious on the floor.
You're sick."

"Aye," he groaned. "I feel it. How did I get up
here? Who was with you?"

"No one was with me." Taking the cloth from the
bucket of water Christy wrung it out again and pressed
it to Neil's forehead. The cool relief felt wonderful
and Neil kept his eyes closed to enjoy it. "Miss
Alice was here a few hours ago and Dan Scott will be
stopping by soon."

"Lass, I don't understand, if you were alone how did I
get up here?"

"I dragged you," Christy answered in a soft voice as
she re-wetted the cloth before pressing it to his
forehead again.

"All by yourself?" Neil opened his eyes to stare at
her. It took a lot of effort to do so but he needed
to see her face. There was a blush on her face and
Neil realized that she had indeed been caring for him
all by herself. Groaning he wondered what he had done
to make her blush so deeply. "Lass, I didn't...?"

Shaking her head she smiled. "You were unconscious
Neil," she confirmed. "I was the only one here with
you but I wasn't alone." She could see the confusion
in his blue eyes and Christy explained. "I prayed,
Neil. I know you won't believe me but I know that it
was God that gave me the strength to get you up here.
I never could have done it on my own."

Closing his eyes Neil mumbled, "I believe you."

"You do?" she whispered.

"Aye," he whispered with his eyes still closed.
Though his body wanted nothing more than to go back to
sleep Neil wanted to say this before he lost his
nerve. "When I got your letter I prayed that I would
be able to find you and bring you home." Opening his
eyes he turned to see Christy's puddling with tears as
she stared at him. "And here you are."

"Oh, Neil," she breathed.

"But don't expect to see me in that pew every Sunday."

"I won't, I promise."

Her reaction to hearing that he had prayed was not the
one he had expected. "You're not going to badger me
to go to church just because I prayed?" Christy shook
her head and a tear fell down her cheek. "Why not?"

With a shaky smile Christy met his gaze. "Because I
know you're not ready for that yet," she answered him,
her voice filled with such joy and confidence as Neil
had never heard before. "But you took that first step
Neil, you approached God and he showed you that he
does care. I can wait for you to take that second
step. I'll wait as long as you need."

Neil was speechless. He didn't know what to say to
the woman who was kneeling by his side. How did he
respond to that kind of deep confidence in him, her
unwavering faith that he would take that next step and
her endless supply of patience with him? Squeezing
her hand he found that he could have answered her if
he'd wanted to, his throat had closed off. Smiling at
him she pushed a stray curl from his eyes.

"Sleep Neil, you need to rest so you can get better."


The Letters - Chapter Twenty Five

Cutter Gap, TN - 25 - Epilogue

Sitting at his desk in his laboratory up stairs Neil
finished making his notes before putting the notebook
away for now. Sitting at his desk he looked up at the
sketch that was framed and hanging on the wall.
Smiling he remembered the day she had finally shown it
to him. That had been a good day, one that had
brought more news than he realized.

Standing he slid the notebook onto the top shelf of
the unit, since he had already filled the second
shelf, and watched as an envelope slid down the wall,
landing on the floor. Bending over he picked it up
and recognized his name written in Christy's beautiful
script. It had been carefully written in ink, as
though she wanted it to last through the years.
Unfolding the papers he began to read.

'My Dearest Neil;'

'It seems only fitting that I write this on the eve of
our new life together. A letter was how we came to
find out the secrets of each others hearts and now I
end my days as a single woman by writing to you the
feelings that live in the innermost section of my

'I love you.'

'I know that I have said this many times to you, and I
am sure I will continue to say it as often as I can,
but I want you to know that it is one thing in this
ever changing world that will always remain a
constant. My love for you began as an irritating
friendship with a man I barely knew. But as time went
on I learned to see the man behind the doctor and I
was forever caught by his warm blue eyes and deep
voice that spoke of the love he held in his heart.'

'I don't know how long our dance will continue on this
earth but I will treasure every day I spend as your
wife, mother to our children, keeper of that one
little section of your heart that will always hold
your love for me. I thank God every day for bringing
me to Cutter Gap all those years ago and for opening
your heart to him so that he could help you bring me
home to the place, and to the man, that I belong to.'

'I love you with every beat of my heart, for as long
as I live,'


Staring at the yellowed papers Neil wiped an unbidden
tear from his eyes and left his lab, down the stairs
to the first floor of the MacNeill cabin. There by
the fire, asleep after a long night, Christy sat with
their infant daughter Esther in her arms. Both mother
and daughter were fast asleep after a long night of
restlessness. As he stared at them Neil saw that both
of the women he loved were as beautiful in this moment
as they were the moment they had first made a place in
his heart.

A tugging on his pant leg caught his attention and
Neil looked down into the big blue eyes of his son.
Bending down he lifted the toddler into his arms and
grinned at the little boy. Setting the letter
carefully on the table Neil wrapped his son up in a
bear hug and whispered to the giggling little boy,

"Fish, Pa! Fish!"

Neil chuckled. "All right Gideon. Let's go see the
fish so Ma can sleep. She's had a long night with
your baby sister and she's very tired."

With the little boy in his arms Neil walked out of the
cabin, grabbing his fishing pole on the way, and
headed down to the river, never seeing his wife crack
open her eyes and smile at him. When Christy's gaze
found the letter resting on the table she thought back
to the night she had penned it for him, tucking it
away in his lab for him to find years later. Her
words were as true today as they were back then.

"I love you," she whispered to her husband.

The End