Title: Love Endures

Author: Barbara D.

Disclaimer: the LeSourd Family owns Catherine Marshall's beautiful story of

Christy. I am in no way seeking profit or credit for her story. I am

continuing the story of Christy for my own amusement only.

Summary: This is the sequel to Love Believeth All Things. Christy and Neil

have been married for exactly six months.

Chapter: Chapter 1

February 15, 1915

The walls of the small cabin seemed to close in on Christy as she paced from

window to window trying to see through the swirl of white. "This must be how

Margaret felt." She spoke to herself out loud, the sound of her own voice

echoing in the silence and startling her. "Just wait until you've spent a

winter snowed in with no one to talk to." Margaret's words to her rang true

in her heart. "Oh, Neil, where are you!" Christy cried out to the walls.

If Christy had admitted it she would have known that she was rarely alone.

Dan Scott had been taking an almost equal share of Neil's calls. Alice and

Fairlight came to visit whenever the weather was good and, of course, Christy

still taught school. Unfortunately, the snows had been so deep this winter

that the mission had decided to close the school from the middle of December

until the middle of March after a couple of children had gotten mild

frostbite. The distance sound of a horse's whinny caused Christy to dash

again to the window. Through the blur she could see a hunched figure riding

toward the cabin. As they drew nearer she could see that it was Neil. She

grabbed her wrap and dashed onto the porch. "Neil!"

Neil sat stiffly in the saddle, his left arm held close to him by a blood

soaked sling. He led Charlie to the porch and slid out of the saddle and on

to the ground. "Go to the stable, boy. I'll come see to ya soon." With

great effort he lifted the saddlebags over his right shoulder. He was going

to try to make it to Alice at the mission, but the storm was just too much.

He hoped that Christy could deal with this.

"Oh, Neil. I was so worried." She placed her hands on his shoulders and

kissed him unaware of the blood soaked bandages. Neil winced in pain.

"Neil! Oh, God help us, you're hurt!" Christy's eyes took in his pained

look and the combination of fresh and dried blood that stained his clothes.

"Help me inside, love." Neil spoke weakly. It had taken all of his energy

and more than a few miracles for him to make it home.

The couple went straight to Neil's exam room that the community had built for

him last September. Christy helped him onto the table and began gently

removing his clothing. She gasped when she found the ragged hole of a bullet

wound in his left shoulder. The flesh on his back was smooth and unmarked by

the exit wound she had hoped to find. The bullet was still inside. "Oh, God

please help me."

"Christy." Neil voice was full of pain; his teeth were clenched in his

effort to speak. "You've got to clean it. I cannot do it myself."

Christy backed away in her horror. She had assisted Neil plenty of times.

"Neil, I don't know what to do."

"I will tell you." Neil prayed for strength for him and Christy. "I've lost

a lot of blood. I need your help. I believe in you."

"I can ride for Miss Alice. She can do it. She can take the bullet out."

Christy spoke in a panic.

"The storm is getting worse. You'd never make it love. You have to do it!"

Neil reached for her but she continued to pull away.

"We can wait till morning. I can't do this, Neil." Christy buried her face

in her hands and cried. She couldn't, she wasn't a real nurse like Alice.

What if he… She couldn't think about that now. She couldn't think about the all to real "what if."

"If we wait gangrene will set in. The wound is already twenty-four hours

old. We're not alone, Christy. God is here." Neil's faith had grown so

strong in the last few months. Once he would have laughed at the thought

that God even existed, now he clung to the knowledge that God not only

existed but also was with them. "Take my saddle bags and boil the

instruments. Bring some warm water for me to clean up with."

Christy obeyed woodenly. Why had this happened? She could hear the weakness

in his voice. How long could he stay conscious? Christy returned with a

basin of warm water and began cleaning his wound with clean clothes. She

could see the by the look on his face that the pain was nearly unbearable.

Already she could see the redness and swelling that could indicate infection.

"That's good, Christy." Neil used all of his reserve to speak to her. How

he wanted to lie down and fall into a painless sleep! "Now take the

antiseptic and pour it over the wound. When you are done go get the

instruments and bring them here."

Christy held his hand and helped him to lie down on the wooden table. His

hand gripped hers as she dumped the bottle of liquid across his shoulder.

For a moment Christy wasn't sure if he was going to remain on the table, his

back arched and twisted as he tried to endure the pain.

"That's good. Now go and get a sheet and drape it across my chest. Get the

instruments and wash your hands. We are going to do this just like we did

Nathan O'Teale's wound last year." Neil spoke calmly, trying to reassure her.

"Neil, I… What about the ether?" Christy asked.

"I need to stay awake to help you. I don't know if I will be able to do it

but I have to try." Neil grabbed her hand in his before she left for the

kitchen. "Pray with me." They bowed their heads together just like they

always did before Neil operated on a patient. After a prayer seeking God's

healing power and strength for Christy they looked into each other's eyes.

Neil winked at her and mouthed, "I love you, " just as he always did before

surgery.

Christy gathered the instruments and washed her hands, rinsing them in the

antiseptic. She took the prepared tray to the table at the bedside.

"Okay, Christy. Here we go. If I become unconscious you will be on your

own. So let me explain it step by step. First, take the spreader and open

up the wound. It shouldn't be too deep; I was wearing a lot of clothes

that would have slowed the bullet down. My shoulder isn't broken so I know that it

didn't reach the collarbone depth. Next, take the clamp and carefully dig

around in the hole until you find the bullet. When you have found it, open

up the clamp and grasp it and pull it out." Neil struggled to remain

professional, as though he were giving a lecture to a group of medical

students. "Once the bullet is out, dump more antiseptic into the wound and

then you can sew me up. Go slowly inside the wound so that you don't hit any

veins or arteries that would start bleeding. Any questions?"

"Neil, what if I do hit a vein and it bleeds?" Christy's hand shook as she

laid out the instruments.

"If that happens, pack the wound with all of the bandages you can and then

put a pressure bandage on. Wait until the storm breaks and then go for

Alice." Neil didn't tell her that if that happened it wouldn't make a

difference how much padding she used on the dressing. He had lost a lot of

blood already and any more would probably be the death of him. "Let's get

started."

Christy brought the spreader to his shoulder and opened up the wound. Neil

jerked at the intense pain. "Neil, I can't do this. I'm hurting you."

"You can Christy! You have to!" Neil shouted through his clenched teeth.

The room was beginning to blur around him as the pain assaulted his senses.

Christy held the spreader in place with her right hand and picked up the

clamp in her left and began to probe gingerly inside the wound. Neil grunted

with the pain and tears flowed down his cheeks. Urging the tool deeply

inside the wound, she realized that Neil was no longer fighting the pain.

"Neil! Neil!" Christy called to him but he did not answer. She was

relieved to see his chest rising and falling steadily. The pain must have

caused him to pass out, she thought to herself. "God, thank you that he is

out of pain, but I really am alone now. Please guide me." Christy prayed

out loud as she continued to probe the gash. Her instrument hit something

hard. She tapped at it again. "Is that it?" She opened the clamp as Neil

had told her and wrapped it around the foreign object. Carefully, she pulled

it out of his body and dropped it into the basin. He stomach rolled and

threatened to heave; she pushed away her nausea and looked closely at the

basin. "Thank you, God. It is the bullet!" Christy opened the bottle of

antiseptic and poured a liberal amount into the wound. With a clean rag she

washed the edges of the wound and tried to see inside for excess bleeding.

The bleeding seemed normal and she breathed an audible sigh of relief.

Carefully she sewed him up, her stitches not nearly as neat as her husbands.

Again she cleaned the wound and bandaged it well. She covered him with a

blanket and gathered up the instruments and placed them in the kitchen, she

would clean them later. Again her stomach rolled and she raced to the porch

and leaned over the railing as she wretched. For the first time she allowed

herself to cry. The bullet was out, but the danger was just beginning.

Part/Chapter: Chapter 2

When the contents of Christy's stomach had been emptied she went quickly to

the small barn and took care of Charlie. She spoke to him as she removed his

saddle and covered him with a blanket. "Thank you, Charlie, for bringing

Neil home." She gave him an extra measure of oats before rushing back to the

cabin. She washed her hands in the basin by the stove and rubbed them

briskly with the rough towel, hoping to restore circulation. It was cold and

Christy chided herself for not grabbing her gloves. She made herself a cup

of tea, to settle her stomach, and returned to the office.

"Neil." She brushed the hair away from his face. It frightened her to feel

how his skin was already becoming warm with fever. "Neil, please wake up."

Christy knew that he would need anti-tetanus toxin, but she didn't know how

much to give. "Please, God, I need him to wake up!" Christy cried.

"Christy." Neil started weakly. He felt like he had been run over.

"Neil, thank God." Christy leaned over him so he could see her face. "You

need a tetanus shot. You are getting a fever. How much do I give you?"

"The bottle is in my bag. Fill the syringe about a quarter of the way full.

Then help me to sit up." Neil felt the dizziness of the fever and the blood

loss washing over him.

"I don't know how to give the injection." Christy mumbled as she dug through

his bag and found a needle and syringe and the dark bottle of medicine.

"I can do it. I just need your help." Neil forced himself upright, praying

that God would uphold him. While they prepared for surgery Christy had

helped him out of his wet pants, so all he had to do was have her cut a hole

in his long johns to expose the fleshy part of his thigh.

"Okay, Christy. Now pass the needle through the lamp flame." Christy did as

she was told and handed him the medicine. He injected himself and passed her

the empty syringe.

"Neil, do you want some tea?" Christy asked.

"No, love. Did you get the bullet?" He looked at the neat bandage on his

shoulder.

"Yes. The wound was red and swollen, I think it is becoming infected."

Christy held his hand close to her heart.

"If the weather breaks, you'll have to go for Alice." Neil looked deeply

into her eyes; her ordeal of the past few hours was taking it toll on her

soft features. Her face was lined with worry and dark circles were appearing

under her eyes. "I have to sleep, can you mix me a pain reliever? Do you

remember the dose?"

Christy thought of the green bottle full of morphine. "One teaspoon in a cup

of water."

"That's right." Neil winced with the pain as he tried to lie down. His

shoulder felt like it was on fire. "Could you do it now, love?"

Christy hurried away and mixed the medicine and brought it to his bedside.

She helped to raise him up and drink the bitter liquid. He coughed and

sputtered a little bit. "Next time I tell one of my patients that the this

stuff doesn't taste THAT bad, remind me of this moment." Neil tried to joke,

trying to ease his wife's worry.

"Do you think you can move to the spare bed?" Christy knew that the hard

wooden table had to be terribly uncomfortable. With some effort she helped

Neil into the extra bed that he kept downstairs for patients needing long

term care. She pulled the blankets up around him and tried to make him

comfortable, placing an extra pillow under his arm for support.

"You are a wonder, love." Neil smiled at her. His pain was beginning to

ease. "Would you read to me, I think I'd like to hear something from the

Father's words."

Christy picked up her Bible and allowed the pages to turn to the Psalms. She

chose one and began to read. "In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Let me

never be ashamed, deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me;

deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, a house of defense to save me.

For thou art my rock and my fortress…"Psalm 31. Christy continued reading

long after Neil's steady breathing told her that he was asleep.

Christy awoke with a start. Light poured through the window and across her

husband's sleeping form on the bed. His skin was hot to the touch. She

uncovered him to cool him and he began to shiver.

"Christy, please cover me up. I'm so cold." Neil's teeth chattered and his

mouth was parched.

"I can't Neil, you have a fever. I've got to cool you down." Christy knelt

on the floor beside him and placed a cloth on his head from the basin beside

her. "I have to look at the wound, Neil." Her hands shook as she unwrapped

his bandages. She gasped at the angry red flesh that met her eyes. She

stood up and found the bottle of disinfectant and a clean cloth. Pouring a

liberal amount on the cloth she touched it gently to his skin.

"Christy, not so hard." Neil snapped at her.

"I'm sorry. I'm being as gentle as I can." Tears coursed down her cheeks.

She couldn't do this alone. She had to go for Miss Alice. "Neil, I am going

to ride to the mission, I need help. I don't know what to do."

"The storm. You'll get lost in it." He said absently. The fever was making

it hard to think.

"It stopped snowing. I'll take Charlie; I think I can make it all right. I

don't want to leave you alone but I have no choice." Christy kissed his

forehead; it felt so very hot against her lips. "I love you, Neil. I

couldn't bear it if anything happened."

"Be careful and let Charlie lead you." Neil knew the wisdom in her going for

Alice. "I love you too."

Christy went upstairs and dressed warmly before going to the barn and

saddling Charlie. Nearly exhausted with the effort she climbed into the

saddle. She turned Charlie toward the mission and prayed for guidance. The

words of the Psalms repeated themselves over and over: Thou art my rock and

my fortress.

Chapter: Chapter 3

The air was savage as Christy rode Charlie up the trail. The wind blew in

furious gusts that drove the cold in through her clothes. She leaned close

to Charlie for his warmth and mostly for his companionship. The faithful

horse seemed to understand the desperation of the situation and took the

trail to the mission with no direction from Christy. Christy thanked God for

his strength that would take her to Miss Alice and to the help that Neil so

desperately needed. The stillness of the morning seemed at odds with the

constant barrage of thoughts and half remembered conversations that assaulted

her brain. Her first six months of marriage to Neil had been pure bliss.

Sure they had their occasional disagreement, but to Neil's credit he always

listened to her, even if he didn't always agree. Christy had spent more and

more time alone in the cabin with the coming of winter. She still

occasionally accompanied him on calls, trying to be of some assistance, but

this winter was uncommonly bad for the cove. During the month of December it

seemed to do nothing but snow and by Christmas they had four feet of snow on

the ground. Neil had decided that Christy would not being going on any more

calls with him until the weather broke. Christy smiled to herself as she

remembered the argument that had occurred over that decision.

"What do you mean you won't let me go with you?" Christy stomped her foot

and crossed her arms in front of her. She knew at the time that it must have

looked incredibly childish.

"Christy, the snow is to Charlie's flanks in places. He has enough trouble

carrying me right now." Neil ran his hand through his hair in frustration.

"Some of the areas in the cove and nearly impassible. I still have to get to

my patients. I can't expect you to walk with me. Yesterday I had to walk

the last half mile to the Coburn's because Charlie couldn't get up the ridge

to their cabin."

"You're out their walking!" Christy was more worried than angry. She knew

that Neil would go to any length to see to his patients.

"Bessie has a terrible respiratory infection. I had to get through to her

with the medicine and I had to convince her father that she needed rest."

Kyle was a stubborn man. He believed that with his wife gone, Bessie was

responsible to take over all of her duties.

Christy turned away from him and stared out the window at the snow that was

falling again. The cold was creeping up the windows of the well-built cabin

and forming ice across the windowpanes. She prayed that Neil wouldn't be

called out tonight. She couldn't help the tears that slipped down her

cheeks. The terrible fear that Neil might not come home to her one day

wrapped itself around her heart and squeezed it until she wasn't sure that it

was even beating. She felt Neil stand behind her and place his strong hands

on her arms. Christy could not resist as he gently pulled her back to rest

against his chest. He wrapped his long arms around her and nuzzled her neck.

"I'm sorry, love." He whispered into her ear. "I know you're frightened

that I won't come home. All we can do is trust in God's promises. I can't

think of a better place to lay my trust, or my love for you."

"Oh, Neil." She turned in his arms and buried her face in his chest. Once

again amazed that he seemed to know her very thoughts. Was this what God had

intended when he said that the two shall become one. "I just love you so

much. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm acting like such a baby." The feel of his

warm arms around her and the steady sound of his heartbeat filled her ears.

Neil lifted her eyes to meet his. He gently brushed away her tears and

claimed her lips with his own. The passion of their argument exploded in

Christy's head as the passion rose between them. Neil pulled her closer to

him as his kisses increased in intensity. He lifted her easily into his arms

and up stairs to their bedroom. There he loved away her fears and quieted

her soul.

Christy flushed at the memory, despite the cold. The mission was almost in

site, and she urged Charlie to hurry faster. She arrived at the mission

steps and with great difficulty dismounted. The long, frigid ride had caused

her legs to feel stiff.

"Miss Alice!" Christy cried as she opened the door. "Miss Alice!" Her

teeth were chattering from the cold that had seeped into her very bones.

"Christy! What's wrong?" Pete came in from the kitchen. He took in her

harried appearance and the dark circles under her eyes.

"Neil's been shot. I got the bullet out but he has a high fever. I need

Alice desperately, I don't know what else to do." Christy cried into her

hands.

"She's at her cabin. You stay here, there is a fire in the parlor." Pete

grabbed his coat and ran out into the cold.

Christy went and sat by the fire. Her body was feeling as numb as her mind.

Alice returned quickly with Pete and sat pulling on a pair of extra socks

while Christy explained the situation to her.

"And you gave him the tetanus anti-toxin?" Alice confirmed. She wasn't sure

if she'd find Neil conscious or not and she didn't want to give him medicine

that had already been administered.

"Yes." Christy shook her head in affirmation. Pete had brought her a hot

cup of coffee and she warmed her hands on it.

"Christy, you stay here until thee art warmer. Take off thy shoes and

stockings and check thy feet well for white patches." Alice pulled her

gloves on as she spoke.

Christy stood up to protest. "Miss Alice, I…"

"When was the last time thy slept?" Miss Alice spoke soothingly. "Stay here

for a short while. Once thou has rested, Reverend Adams will gladly assist

thee in going home."

"Of course I will. In fact, I'll go out and put Charlie in the stable so

that he stays warm while you check yourself for frostbite. Then we'll settle

you on the couch and you can rest a bit." Pete knelt beside her and held her

hands. In the time he had been in Cutter Gap he had come to see why David

had fallen so head over heels in love for this girl. Pete had continued to

correspond with David and it often troubled him to hear David's continued

bitterness over Christy. Many times it seemed to Pete that his good friend

was wishing her and the doctor unhappiness.

"But, Neil." Christy protested groggily. She had to admit that a short

rested sounded wonderful. The ride had been long and cold and the warmth of

the fire was so comforting.

"I will see to thy husband." Alice laid her hand on Christy's shoulder.

"Seek faith, Mrs. MacNeill."

Alice arrived at the cabin as quickly as the snow bound trails would allow.

She led her horse directly into the stable and then entered the house through

the lean to. Neil was lying on the downstairs bed. His skin was hot to the

touch and flushed a deep crimson. Despite the blankets he had pulled over

himself he shivered.

"Neil." Alice shook him gently, hoping to illicit a response.

"Christy?" His eyes were glazed with the fever and infection that was

attacking his body and confusing his mind.

"No, it's Alice." She pulled the covers off of him and began washing his

arms and legs with the cool water in the basin. The fever had to come down.

"That's cold." Neil protested quietly and shivered violently.

"I know. But I have to stop the fever." Alice continued to place cool

towels on his hot skin. Sitting him up she began forcing aspirin powder

mixed with water down his parched throat. He coughed and choked, but was

finally able to swallow most of the bitter powder. Alice prepared the onions

that she had brought with her into a poultice for the fever. When that was

completed she spread it across his chest and covered it with a cool towel.

Neil wrinkled his nose at the smell and tried to push her hands away. "Neil

MacNeill, I need thee to be a cooperative patient." She chastised him

sternly, but the harsh edges of her voice were full of love. "Besides, if

thee thinks that this has an unpleasant smell, just wait until I apply the

mustard poultice to thy wound."

Alice examined his arm, removing each bandage carefully. It was incredibly

hot to the touch and was surrounded by angry red streaks. All signs that a

serious infection was attacking Neil's wounds. Alice had given Neil another

dose of morphine before she reopened Christy's sutures and cleaned the wound

again. Despite the pain relieving drugs, Neil still cried out in pain.

"I'm sorry, Neil. But thy arm is badly infected."

"Gangrene?" Neil asked in a haze. What good would a one armed doctor be to

anybody?

Alice took a deep breath, asking God to bring her the right words before

answering him.

Chapter: Chapter 4

"Alice! Tell me. Is it gangrene?" Despite the pain and confusion Neil

attempted to set up.

"I don't know." Alice looked intently at the wound again. She poked at the

crimson flesh and pulled at the wound. "We will just have to wait. And

pray."

"Where's Christy?" Neil lay back down exhausted.

"She's at the mission. The reverend is seeing to her." Alice continued

applying a fresh layer of mustard poultice and reapplying fresh bandages.

"I'm going to leave this open to drain."

"Is she all right?" He asked hoarsely.

"Cold and tired. She is resting and having a hot meal." Alice helped him up

and put a cup to his lips. The cold water felt heavenly sliding down his

parched throat. "Pete will be bringing her home." While she spoke Alice

prepared a second cup of water with a teaspoon full of amber liquid. "Drink

this, Neil."

"What is it?" He asked absently. All of his thoughts were of Christy and

with her. He couldn't even imagine what she had suffered through while

waiting for the storm to break. He knew well enough the proper sequence of

the surgery and how it always made him feel. Still, Christy had never been

trained and she was forced to work on her own husband. She must be terrified

and sick with worry.

"Water." Alice spoke as she brought the cup to his lips. She waited to

finish her statement until he had prepared to take his first swallow. "And

Morphine."

"No, I don't need it. I want to be awake when Christy arrives." Neil pushed

the cup away from his mouth.

"Thee must sleep, Neil, if thee is to heal."

"Christy needs me." Neil continued his protests.

"Yes, Neil. She does. She needs you well and whole as soon as possible.

The sooner thy body heals thy wife's heart will heal."

Christy slowly became aware of her surroundings. She felt very warm and yet

something wasn't quite right. The light that had been shining so brightly

through the windows was now much dimmer. Looking around she realized that

she was not in the bed that she shared with Neil, but on a couch in the

mission parlor. She sat up with a start and threw off the covers. The

events of the last twenty-four hours flooded her senses with the smell of

blood and the feel of her husband's broken flesh beneath her hands as she

removed the bullet.

"Good morning, sleepyhead." Pete's voice was pleasant as he greeted her.

"How long have I slept?" Christy asked with confusion in her voice. She

began pulling on her shoes and coat.

"Only about six hours, but you look like you could use much more." Pete

handed her a cup of coffee and smiled at her. He reminded her so much of her

little brother George at times. Teasing and yet caring at the same time.

"It's about three o'clock."

Christy took a quick drink of the bitter liquid trying to clear her mind. "I

have to get home, Neil needs me."

"Don't you worry about Neil, he has been in Miss Alice's capable hands."

Pete sat down and tapped the couch next to him. "You have been through quite

an ordeal. Would you like to talk about it with a reverend." Pete always

referred to himself that way when he was offering council. He often made

jokes about being a man with two personalities. One was Pete and the other

was the Reverend. "Christy, sometimes people just need a friend, and

sometimes they need a preacher. I'm not trying to pressure you, but I think

you could use a little of both right now."

"Oh, Pete. I just don't know what to do. I did everything that I could to

get the bullet out of Neil's shoulder. I don't even know who fired it. I

know that it is a miracle that Neil made it home alive. Even more of one

that I was able to do the surgery, but I can't help but feel that somehow God

has…I don't know." Christy cried into her hands. She couldn't believe that

she was even thinking these horrible thoughts.

"That God has forgotten you?" Pete handed her a handkerchief. "No, Christy.

God hasn't forgotten you or Neil, and he isn't the least bit bothered that

you are having these thoughts. Everybody at one time or another wonders

where God is. I think that it is these thoughts that cause us to reach out

to him even more. You know that I'm not one for quoting scripture; I'd

rather talk about what God is saying. Remember, he was with Jonah in the

belly of the whale, he was with the three Hebrew children in the furnace and

he was with Moses and his people when they were seeking their release from

Egypt. You can believe that he won't abandon you now."

"I know, it's just… I was so scared last night. And I was having some

thoughts about being angry with Neil because I was alone in the cabin. And

some things that Margaret had said to me once just came back to hit me full

force." Christy was crying out her soul to Pete and to God. She had held

these feelings for so long, the hurt for so long. "David said some things

in…" Christy stopped suddenly. There was no way she could talk to Pete

about David; they were close friends.

"Go ahead, Christy. Don't let my friendship with David stop you. I know all

about his anger and bitterness about you and Neil." Pete put his hand on her

shoulder to reassure her.

"David gave me a letter. It was horrible. He said that I was allowing my

feelings for Neil to come between the marriage that God had ordained for him

and I. He said that I would regret my decision. He told me, to my face,

that I was just like Margaret." She spoke hurriedly, as though it would all

be lost if she didn't get it out.

"Seriously, you can't believe that." Pete couldn't believe his dear friend

would do that to Christy. Of course, the bitterness of the letters regarding

her was all the proof he needed to believe her.

"But I have had thoughts just like Margaret." Christy cried. "I get feeling

so alone in the cabin and like I've been abandoned. I worry so much about

Neil."

"Oh, Christy. Don't receive David's angry words to your heart." Pete shook

his head. "Neil loves you and I know you love him."

"Is love enough?" Christy asked. "Especially in such a harsh and

unforgiving place as Cutter Gap."

"Christy. Give me your wedding band." Christy was shocked and stunned. She

obeyed reluctantly; she had not taken it off since Neil placed it there.

"Read the Bible reference that is written inside." Pete handed it back to

her and picked up his Bible from the table.

"I don't need to look at it. It is first Corinthians, chapter thirteen."

Christy stared at him oddly.

"Now read it to me." Pete handed her his Bible, which was opened to the

verse.

Christy obediently read the chapter out loud. She arrived at verse seven and

her voice broke slightly. "Love beareth all things, believeth all things,

hopes all things and endures all things. Love never fails…"

"Christy, you gotta take that into your heart and hold on to it for all that

you are worth." Pete gently closed the Bible and took it from her hands.

"You bore the burden of prayer for Neil. You believed that Neil would find

Christ and he did. You hoped that Neil would love you, and he did. Now you

have to endure. And to endure you need more than hope and belief, you need

faith. You have gotta have faith in God, in Neil and in yourself. I don't

know what is going to happen with Neil. I won't lie to you and tell you that

he is fine, because I don't know. But you have got to use everything in you

to endure what is to come."

"What if…" Christy still couldn't voice her deepest fears.

"If that happens then you have to believe that love never fails. Not the

love of man but the love of the Father. His love is perfect and will never,

ever fail us." Pete put his strong hands over her trembling ones. "Let's

pray, before we head for the cabin."

Christy was too moved to trust her voice. She nodded and allowed Pete to

lead her in a prayer of hope, belief and endurance.

Chapter: Chapter 5

Christy's heart felt somewhat lighter after her and Pete talked and spent

time in prayer. She was eager to be home to her husband. The idea of not

knowing how he was doing was wearing on her already thin nerves. Christy and

Pete bundled up well against the increasing cold and rode in silence, their

faces covered by their thick wool mufflers.

"You go on in." Pete called to Christy over the rising wind. "I'll see to

the horses."

Christy didn't protest and ran up the stairs and into the cabin. Alice put

her fingers to her lips to silence her as she slammed the door against the

blowing wind. Alice poured her a steaming cup of tea as she pealed off her

wraps. "How is he?" Christy asked in fear as she noticed the bed downstairs

was empty.

"Better." Alice pulled Christy's rocking chair closer to the fire and

motioned her young friend to sit. "Although, thy husband was not very happy

with me over the onion poultice. I gave him a cup of laudanum water to help

him sleep and moved him upstairs to the bedroom."

"Thank God." Christy breathed as she sipped at her tea. "The infection, is

it bad?"

"I do not believe so. Either way, Neil is in God's hands, not ours." Alice

touched the cheek of the girl she could only think of as her own daughter.

Neil and Christy's marriage had, in many ways, been the way she had hoped

that Margaret and Neil's would have been. In the months since Neil's

conversion and their marriage, Neil had truly become a son to her. They

enjoyed each other's company and found a new level of respect and friendship.

"I'm going to go sit with him. He'll be worried about me." Christy really

wanted to just see him; his physical presence alone could reassure her that

everything would be all right.

Christy climbed the stairs slowly. Even though she had slept soundly at the

mission, she still felt exhausted. Neil's form was so still on the bed, she

couldn't resist the urge to put her hand on his chest to make sure he was

breathing. She was pleased to feel that the intense heat that had radiated

from his skin this morning was now dissipating. Christy knelt down beside

the bed, her hand resting lightly on his chest. "Lord, please…" She was

unable to continue with her prayer as violent sobs shook her form.

"Don't cry, love." Neil covered her hand lightly with his. "You know I

can't bear to see you cry."

"Neil?" Christy sat on the edge of the bed and tried to wipe away her tears.

"How are you feeling? Can I get you anything?"

"I'm fine, Christy. I'm more worried about you." Christy helped him to sit

up and rest his back against the headboard.

"I'm just frightened."

"Please don't be." Neil pulled her head down onto his good shoulder and held

her there as she cried. Carefully he pulled the pins and combs from her hair

and let it hang loose around them. Nothing felt more like home to him than

the rose fragrance her hair carried or the way the strands slipped through

his fingers like finely woven silk. "I won't let anything happen to you."

"I'm not worried about me!" Christy shook her head against his chest.

"You're fever was so high this morning, I thought I had…"

"Shhhh. Love. I'm fine." Neil stroked her hair, soothing her. With great

difficulty Neil moved over on the bed. His shoulder felt like it was tearing

with every movement. Christy pulled away from him as he settled himself on

her side of the bed. Lying down on his left side he made room for her to

join him. "Lay with me, Christy. I missed you so much. We'll rest better

together than apart."

"Neil, Alice and Pete are downstairs."

"Please. I want to have you close to me. I need you."

Christy couldn't resist Neil's heartfelt plea. She removed her shoes and

curled up on the bed close to his chest. Careful to avoid his injured

shoulder, she moved as close to him as was possible.

Neil leaned over and kissed her deeply, feeling as though his young wife

carried inside her the strength he needed to heal.

"How is he, Alice?" Pete came in from caring for the horses and poured

himself a cup of hot coffee.

"His fever is slowly going down. I am praying that the danger is over. It

is with Mrs. MacNeill that my concern lies."

"This has been very hard on her. I know that her and Neil are very happy

together but she is carrying a great deal of hurt around inside her." Pete

reflected on their conversation of that morning.

"Unnnitttedd States Maiill!" Ben Pentland's signature cry echoed from

outside the cabin. Alice hurried onto the porch.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Pentland." Alice greeted him warmly. "This is a

terrible day for thee to be out."

"Yes, ma'am. But you knows the motto of the United States Mail." With all

the seriousness he could muster he placed his hand to his heart. "Neither

rain nor snow.."

"Thank you, Mr. Pentland." Alice stopped him before he could finish. "Do

you have a letter for the MacNeill's."

"Shorely do, one for the missus." He handed Alice the thick yellow envelope.

"I reckon it come from her pa, seein' as how it come from Asheville way. I

gots one here for the preacher too."

"I thank thee, Mr. Pentland. I will be happy to take those." He eyed her

suspiciously as she held her hand out for the letters. "Can I offer thee a

cup of coffee?"

"Nope, no thank ya'!" Ben said starting on his way. "This bodacious bad

weather done got the mail all backed up. I got me three more letters to

deliver 'afore I can head home!"

Alice stepped back inside the warm cabin. She handed the letter to Pete.

"It's from David." He spoke absently before slitting the edge of the

envelope and reading its contents.

Alice continued upstairs, to give Christy her letter. By its size she

guessed that it was important. She knocked softly, and opened the door.

Neil and Christy were laying together on the bed sound asleep. Not having

the heart to disturb them, Alice slipped back downstairs and joining Pete at

the table.

"I trust you have good news there?" Alice asked.

"No, it's not. Miss Alice, I think that it is time that I spoke to you about

David."

Chapter: Chapter 6

"Miss Alice, I think that it is time that we discuss David." Pete scanned

the letter again before sliding it across the table to her. "Read it."

"I am not sure that would be proper." Alice looked at the letter that had

been placed in front of her. "That letter was privately written to thee, I

don't believe David had the intentions of anyone else reading it. Certainly

not me, we had a bit of a disagreement the night he left."

"I need you advice, Miss Alice. I am trapped in a situation that I am unsure

how to handle." Pete pleaded with her. "David and I have been good friends

for a long time, but there comes a time when one's relationship with God must

bypass a friendship."

Alice was stunned by the seriousness with which the light-hearted man spoke.

She had adored him only moments after she met him. He was so easy going and

adapted so quickly to cove life. She picked up the neatly folded piece of

crème stationary and began to read. Everything seemed perfectly fine until

she reached the third paragraph.

I am sure that by the time this reaches you the dear and beloved Mrs.

MacNeill will have gotten herself with child. I still cannot believe that

she chose to ignore God's will in her life by marrying that heathen. There

is so much good that she could have accomplished here in Asheville if she had

just made the right choice. As we have discussed previously, I warned her

that she was just like Margaret. I am quite sure that the good Doctor has

noticed her similarities to her as well. Especially now that Christy has

spent a winter cooped up alone in his cabin.

Alice dropped the letter and brought her hands to her face. "Oh, Pete." She

sighed, the tears threatening to fall. "I had no idea that David felt this

way. Surely he did not tell Christy these things."

"Yes, he did." Pete stood up and refilled his coffee cup. "I spoke with her

today. As you know, I am not supposed to repeat what I am told in

confidence. I just don't know what to do."

"Thee has a heavy burden to bear." Alice placed her hand on his, hoping to

convey some understanding of the difficulty of this situation.

"I can tell you that the things in this letter reflect what Christy is

feeling. She has taken words spoken by David to heart. I need your help, I

don't know how to council her. I didn't know Margaret, but I do know David.

Or at least I thought I did."

"I think that I can fill in some of the missing gaps for thee. Perhaps a

greater understanding will help you to seek God in dealing with David, and

Mrs. MacNeill." Alice and Pete talked about Margaret until the coffee pot

was empty. Pete's tender heart was touched by the tragedy that had touched

their lives before he arrived. It was so obvious to everyone who knew the

MacNeill's that God was working continuously in their lives. How could David

be so blind?

The sound of Christy descending the steps ended their conversation. She

wiped the sleep out of her eyes and gladly accepted the chair that Pete

pulled out for her. Miss Alice sat a steaming cup of coffee in front of her.

"Thank you, both, for staying. I can't tell you what a comfort you are to

me."

"How is thy husband? I checked on you earlier, but I didn't want to disturb

you." Alice placed a plate of rabbit stew in front of her.

Christy flushed red with embarrassment at the thought of Alice seeing them in

their intimate positions. "Oh, Miss Alice. I'm sorry, I…"

Alice couldn't help but laugh at her reaction. "Oh, Christy. Thou art a

married woman. I dare say that thy presence did more for Neil than all the

pills I could give him. The peace on thy faces was more than evident."

"I'm sorry, Alice. I suppose I should be used to being married by now."

Christy enjoyed the moment of laughter. The spontaneous mirth was like water

to her dry soul. "I think he is doing better. His skin seems to be much

cooler to the touch."

"Eat something, then we shall go see to him." Alice added a piece of

cornbread to her plate and sat down and passed her the large envelope. "Ben

Pentland came by while thee was resting. He left a package for thee."

"It's from my father." Christy opened the envelope with excitement. "Oh,

Miss Alice. He managed to sell a couple of Rob's stories. The one about the

Bonny Prince Charles was sold to the Asheville paper. The Leaf Chronicle in

Clarksville, Tennessee picked up the story and so have three other papers."

Christy shook with excitement as she pulled another small envelope. Inside

was a receipt for services rendered and several pieces of paper money. "Miss

Alice! There's forty-dollars here!"

"NO! Surely not that much?" Miss Alice looked at the money. She marveled

at how Christy's father had managed to bring so much from one story. "Thy

father is truly a wonderful man!"

"Best of all, it's not charity. And the Leaf-Chronicle is requesting more

stories by Rob!" Christy turned the pages of the newspaper that her father

had sent. There was Rob's story, on the back page. His name was written

below the title in strong, bold type. " I don't want to leave Neil but I

have to take this to Rob right away! I know that Charlie can make it."

"Why don't you let me take it to him?" Pete knew how important that money

would be to Rob's family. It would provide not only food and sturdy shoes,

but also a much-needed boost for Rob's confidence.

"I suppose that would be better." Christy was still tired and sore from her

journey to the mission that morning and her ordeal from the night before. "I

don't really want to leave Neil."

Pete warmed his coat and muffler by the stove and prepared to go to the

Allen's. Christy continued to read her father's letter. Alice noticed the

look of loneliness and longing in her eyes. "What is it, Christy?"

"It's my parents. They desperately want me to come home for a visit."

Christy brushed away a tear. The winter had been so long and now with Neil

injured, she so wanted to leave the cove, if only for a while.

"When thy husband is ready to travel, perhaps thee can." Alice couldn't help

but notice the troubled look on her face. She had seen that same look on

Margaret's face not long before she faked her own death. If Christy left the

cove would she come back?

Chapter: Chapter 7

"Neil?" Christy sat gently on the bed and put her hand to his cheeks. She

was pleased to see that they were much cooler than they had been.

Neil stirred on the bed, his shoulder still hurt him terribly, but his mind

felt much clearer. He reached for her hand and brought it to his lips,

kissing it tenderly. "G'morning, love. I dreamed I had an angel lying

beside me." He winked at her and her cheeks flushed crimson.

"Doctor MacNeill, thee is obviously feeling better." Alice repressed a grin

behind her professional manner.

"I am." He pushed himself up into a sitting position so that Alice could

remove his bandages and check his arm. "Will you unwrap me, so I can get a

look at this shoulder?"

"I will be happy to look at thy shoulder." Alice countered. "You're not

planning on being a difficult patient?" Alice unwrapped his bandages. The

sickly sweet smell of the mustard poultice filled the room. With the basin

and cloth that Christy handed her she cleaned away the remaining yellow film

so she could see the ugly gash left by the bullet.

"Darling, could I see your mirror." Neil asked Christy, his voice was heavy

with emotion. He couldn't help but notice how tired she looked. He wondered

again if he had made a mistake coming home instead of going on to the mission.

"It looks like the infection has drained well." Alice smiled as she held the

mirror for Neil. "Shall we sew thee up?"

Neil inspected it closely, the red streaks were gone and the swelling had

reduced considerably. Thankfully, the skin was no longer hot to the touch

around the wound. "I think we can do it safely without the risk of further

complications."

"Then I shall prepare the instruments." Alice smiled as she stepped out of

the room. She knew that the rapid disappearance of his raging infection

could only be God.

"Christy, are you all right?" Neil looked at her with concern. She kept her

back to him as she stared out the window. "Christy, please, I'm going to be

fine."

"How did it happen?" Christy asked without turning around. She remained

intently focused on the winter white outside the window.

"I don't know. I never even saw who fired the shot." Neil shook his head,

trying to remember exactly where it had been. He had been half asleep in the

saddle, allowing Charlie to have his head when it happened. "It could be

that I got too close to somebody's still, or a hunter mistook me for a deer.

Christy, please. I know I have been gone a lot this winter and I know you

are frightened. Please, don't shut me out."

"I don't know what to say, Neil." She turned to face him. "I love you, I

don't want to lose you."

"Come here." Neil patted the spot next to him on the bed that she had only

recently left. Christy sat down and he pulled her head against his good

shoulder and kissed her hair. "You're not going to lose me. I'm fine. I

love you."

Christy allowed the tears that she had kept inside her to be released. Neil

whispered comforting words against her hair as he held her close. "It's

going to be all right, love. I promise."

By the next morning Neil felt well enough to join Christy at the table for

breakfast. Alice had returned home, quite certain that Neil was on the road

to a remarkably fast recovery.

"I got a letter from Daddy yesterday." Christy said as she poured the

coffee. "He sent forty-dollars to Rob Allen for the story of The Bonnie

Prince."

"That's terrific." Neil smiled to see her old enthusiasm return. He had

been missing it the last couple of days.

"He also said that they were hoping we could come for a visit." Christy was

praying that he would say yes. It seemed that it had been so long since she

had been home, to Asheville.

"Well, I'm not really much use to anybody until this arm heals." Neil

debated with himself; the trip would cost money, something that always seemed

to be in short supply. Still, it would be good for Christy to get away for a

while. He could feel the mounting tension that she was holding inside. He

had been away, a lot more than he had hoped he would.

"Please say, yes." Christy could see that he was torn. "It could be like a

second honeymoon. Dan Scott and Alice could handle the calls and school

doesn't start for almost a month."

Neil couldn't bring himself to deny her. "Well, I guess we are going to

Asheville."

Chapter: Chapter 8

Entering her parents' home in Asheville brought a flood of memories back to

Christy. She was so glad to be home. Only moments after arriving she dashed

upstairs to her old room and threw herself across the bed and buried her face

in the thick, feather down comforter. She heard Neil and George coming up

the stairs with their luggage. She couldn't hide her slight surprise when

George set her and Neil's bags on the bed.

"What's wrong, sis?" George asked as he noticed the confused expression on

her face.

"Nothing, George." Christy looked away slightly embarrassed.

"All right." George laughed at her flushed cheeks. "Mother has refreshments

ready when you two are settled."

"Thanks, George." Neil shut the door behind him and turned to face Christy.

"What's wrong, love?"

"It's nothing, Neil…" Christy wasn't sure what to say. It had never

occurred to her that they would be sharing her old room. She knew it was

silly, but she felt funny somehow.

"Christy." He crossed the room to her and sat on her bed next to her. Neil

attempted to pull her into his embrace but to his amazement she stiffened.

"What *is* wrong?" He stood up and faced her, unsure why she was suddenly

cold.

"I'm sorry." Christy stood up and embraced him. She could see the veiled

hurt in his eyes. "I just feel kind of strange sharing a room with you in my

parents' house. I know it's silly…"

"Yes, Christy, it is silly. I do understand, this is the room you grew up

in, but you are not a child anymore. You are my wife and there is nothing

wrong with it!" He could feel his agitation rising.

"I'm sorry! I didn't say there was anything wrong with it. It's just that

it feels strange! We have never been to Asheville, to my parents' house

together!" He's doing it again, she thought to herself. He's treating me

like a child!

"I know, but this *was* your idea!"

"I thought you wanted to come to Asheville?" Christy asked, hurt that he was

suddenly upset that they were there.

"Yes, but as a vacation with my *wife*! Not to sleep in separate bedrooms as

though we aren't married." Neil hissed at her, trying to keep his voice

quiet. They had only been in Asheville an hour.

"I never said we anything about separate bedrooms!" Christy growled back to

him. "I only said that it felt strange! Why can't you understand that?"

"Neil? Christy?" Julia Huddleston knocked on the door, ending their

discussion.

"Come in, mother." Christy could feel the panic rising inside of her. How

much had her mother heard?

"Cook has set out the tea and cakes. You both must be famished." Julia

stood tall and graceful in the doorway.

"Thank you, Mrs. Huddleston." Neil offered his arm to Christy and she took

it. He was determined to set aside their disagreement. He had promised her

father that he would be a good husband and do what was in Christy's best

interest. He was not about to break that promise, even if he couldn't help

but think she was acting like a child.

"Oh, Christy. I almost forgot to give you the best news!" Mrs. Huddleston

smiled at them both.

"What is it, mother?" Christy asked as she sipped her tea. She had almost

forgotten how to handle the dainty china cups. She turned to look at Neil

and gave him a smile. She hoped that it told him how sorry she was for their

argument. By the time they made it into the parlor she had realized how

silly she had been. Christy hoped she would get a chance for a private

moment with Neil very soon.

"I have decided that while you and Neil are visiting, we should have a small

wedding reception for you. It took some doing but I finally have everything

ready for Friday evening. It will mostly be family and close friends."

Julia smiled at her husband and took his hand. "Nothing overly fancy, I know

how you hate to over do these things. Just a simple dinner party."

"Thank you." Neil smiled graciously. He really didn't want a dinner party,

but he hoped that it would help Christy to feel better. She had been

increasingly moody and upset since his accident two weeks ago. "I can't wait

to meet all of Christy's friends."

"Oh, but Neil. That is the best news!" Mrs. Huddleston gushed. "There will

be some friends that you know as well."

"Really, mother." Christy asked with mock interest in her voice. She really

just wanted some time alone with Neil. "Who?"

"Well, that nice young preacher friend of yours from Cutter Gap!" Julia was

so pleased that she had thought to invite him she didn't notice the look of

horror that crossed Christy's soft features. "David Grantland has graciously

agreed to be our guest for dinner!"

"Mother." Christy wasn't sure how to explain this. She shot a pleading look

at her father and reached over to take Neil's hand. Christy wanted the

comfort as much as she wanted to give it.

"Oh, but that's not even the best news." Julia was just sure that all of her

plans would come together perfectly. "Christy, when you told us about Neil's

accident in the telegram I was so frightened for you both. Your father has

arranged for Joseph Richards to be here."

"Who is Joseph Richards?" Christy couldn't recognize the name or place a

face to this person. It had been a long time since she had run in the

Asheville social circle.

"Why, dear! I can't believe you don't remember. He is the head of

Ophthalmology at the hospital your father does some legal work for. Your

father told him all about your husband's work with that dreadful eye disease

and he wants to talk to Neil about a job." Mrs. Huddleston was oblivious to

the accusatory look that Neil was giving Christy, or that he deliberately

pulled his hand out of her gentle grasp. "Isn't it wonderful! You can stay

right here in Asheville and you won't ever have to return to the hardships of

the mission. It is time you took your rightful place, dear."

Neil took extreme care as he placed his cup on the tray. Standing up, he

excused himself and quickly excused himself before the rage inside of him

spilled out. He quietly closed the front door behind him and breathed in the

crisp, cold air. "How dare she?" He spoke out loud to himself. "Her

moodiness, her indifference, her sudden desire to come to Asheville all

suddenly made sense! She is trying to force me to move out of Cutter Gap

and back to the city!"

Chapter: Chapter 9

Christy took a deep breath and tried to steady her rising temper. She did

not miss the look of accusation that was reflected in Neil's eyes when her

mother announced the job possibilities. As if inviting David to dinner

wasn't enough? Now her mother had taken steps to encourage Neil and Christy

to leave Cutter Gap.

"Darling, is something wrong?" William looked at Christy and heard the front

door close quietly. There was a look of repressed anger on his daughter's

face, he recognized that look and it always made him a bit nervous. He was

afraid that perhaps his wife's good intentions had pushed the limits this

time.

"Mother, Daddy." Christy took a deep breath before speaking. She didn't

want to come across as angry or ungrateful. "I really wish that you would

not have invited David without asking us first."

"Why?" Julia questioned. "I thought that you would be happy to see Reverend

Grantland again? He is such a kind man and he was so much help to us during

your father's illness."

"It's a very long story, mother." Christy wasn't sure how much to tell her

parents about the falling out they had. "I will tell you that neither Neil

nor I has any desire to see him again. I appreciate you trying to think of

us, but the only people that Neil and I wanted to see in Asheville are

family."

"Nonsense, Christy." Julia waved her hand in the air to quiet her daughter's

protest. "Besides, once Neil hears about Dr. Richard's and the job offer

that he has for him you will both be living in Asheville again."

"No, mother, we won't." Christy toyed with her napkin, twirling it in her

hands. She hated arguing with her mother. "Neil and I love Cutter Gap, we

love the people and our work there. We are only here for a visit, not to

stay."

"But I thought that after Neil's accident you would finally see…" Julia

continued with her protest.

"No, mother. Yes, I admit that I was distraught after Neil's accident.

Digging that bullet out of his shoulder was the hardest thing I have ever

done." Christy watched the color drain from her mother's face; she had not

meant to give her that much detail. "But one set back doesn't mean that we

are going to walk away from God's plan for our lives!"

"Christy, now be reasonable!" Julia's voice rose in intensity. "Your place

is here, in Asheville."

"Julia." William leaned over and put her hand on his wife's arm. He wanted

his daughter back as much as she did, but not at the risk of having his

girlie unhappy. "Christy's place is with her husband, wherever that may be."

Christy gave her father a look of gratitude. "I know that it breaks your

heart to have me so far away. I miss you both, everyday. But I am happy in

Cutter Gap. I'm sorry, mother, but I am not you, I am not like you. I can't

spend my life drinking tea and gossiping about what everybody wore to the

ball on Saturday night. I don't want to live in a society where I put a

dress or two into the mission barrel once a year because it was last year's

fashion anyway."

"Are you saying that is the kind of person I am?" Julia was crushed that her

daughter could think that she was so shallow.

"No, mother, I'm not." Christy could feel tears pressing at the corners of

her eyes. The realization that she had hurt her mother again was almost too

much. She just couldn't express what was in her heart. "But that is the

life that I will lead if I come back to Asheville. You are a giving, loving

person and I can't tell you how much I love you, but I love the Cove, too. I

love my husband and to bring him back here would destroy us both. I wish I

could make you understand."

"I wish that I could understand." Julia came over to the settee and hugged

her daughter. "You always were too much like your father! Much to

independent for a girl!" Julia smiled lovingly at her husband and a knowing

look crossed both of their faces. "Will you forgive my meddling?"

"Oh, mother, yes!" Christy cried against her mother's shoulder. She pulled

away and wiped at her eyes. "But I had best go find Neil. I need to clear

up this misunderstanding, and a couple others."

"Would you like me to talk to him?" William asked.

"No, Daddy. I am a big girl now; I can't have you fighting all my battles.

Besides, he needs a wife, not a lawyer." Christy winked at him and smiled.

She knew that sending her father out to talk to Neil would only make things

worse.

"I know you are, baby." Her father kissed her gently on the head as he

passed by her on his way to his study. How he wished she were still a little

girl who needed him to make everything right for her. As soon as the thought

crossed his mind he couldn't help but chuckle. Christy never needed anybody

to fight her battles, but he always wanted to try.

Neil walked aimlessly allowing some of his anger to abate. He mumbled to God

underneath his breath as he walked down the smooth sidewalks past manicured

lawns and magnolia trees. He couldn't believe that Christy would bring him

here as a means of using her parents to convince him to stay in Asheville.

He seethed with the very thought of her manipulation. How he longed for the

river and the woods around their cabin. The city was no place to clear his

head or to think clearly. He felt smothered, claustrophobic and caged like a

poor dumb critter that had been trapped and awaited the slaughter. His mind

reeled with every conversation he had ever had with Christy about the cove.

"The cove is my home, Neil." She had pleaded with him, trying to reassure

him of her desires to stay.

"I promised God that I would do anything to make you happy, love." Neil

kissed her hair and cheeks. "If I have to leave, I will."

"As long as we are together, I am happy." Christy had kissed him deeply

trying to convince him of her desire to remain at his ancestral home.

"You care more about these wretched mountain people than you do your own

wife!" It was Margaret's angry, bitter voice that began to flow into his

brain. "You leave me alone in this cabin for days at a time while you play

hero doctor to their bastard children in their filthy cabins!"

"Cabins so filthy that I lost my supper after my first visit." Neil

remembered the first conversation he had really had with his Christy. She

was attacking his worth to the cove's people and questioning his commitment

to their welfare.

"I helped lay her out." Neil closed his eyes as he remembered the argument

he had with Christy the day Opal McHone's baby girl died because of the

superstition of liver growed. "Babies dying because of superstition and

ignorance!" Even now he could clearly see the pain that had been on her

delicate features that day.

"Bear your child!" Margaret's voice of anger and vengeance filled his mind.

"Bring up a baby into this world that you love, the ignorance and filth. Not

me, and not your child! Never again Mac! Don't you ever touch me again!"

She had cursed him and refused any more intimacy with him after she had

suffered a miscarriage in the first months since he brought her to Cutter Gap.

Neil leaned against a tree and tried to calm his rapid breathing. The faces

of Margaret and Christy swirled in his head, combining and separating only to

combine again. Their voices became confusing. One voice was angry and

bitter at her life and her circumstance. One voice frustrated and hurt by

her lack of ability to fix the problems around her.

"Oh Father!" Neil whispered to himself. "I promised you that I would make

Christy happy, that I would trust you to help me to be a Godly husband. I

need your help to do this, now more than ever. I need your help, please."

Neil turned around and began walking back to the Huddleston home. His wife

was waiting for him and they would need to begin looking for a home in

Asheville. If Asheville would give her joy, then Neil would give her

Asheville.

Chapter: Chapter 10

"William?" Neil knocked on the door to his father-in-law's study.

"Neil. What can I do for you? Did Christy find you?"

"No, she didn't. But I wanted to talk to you." He ran his fingers through

his hair and cursed the troubled feeling in the pit of his stomach. "I was

hoping that Christy and I could depend on your help in securing a home here

in Asheville."

"I'd be happy to help, but don't you think you should talk to Christy first?"

William motioned for Neil to sit in the chair next to him.

"I promised you that I would make Christy happy." Neil could see the

questioning look in William's eyes. It was stupid of him to walk out on the

earlier conversation. Christy must be terribly hurt by his unwillingness to

listen. She could have very well ended up a widow last month. "So long as

we are together I will live anywhere that suits her."

A look of understanding passed between the men, each of who loved Christy

with every part of their being. "Neil, my wife has a tendency to be over

enthusiastic in some things. She also forgets that Christy is a grown woman.

I read the letter that Christy sent about your injury the week before you

arrived here. She was incredibly frightened. She has been looking for you

all afternoon and I think that she is upstairs in her room now."

"It was an ordeal for her, that is why I am more than willing to bring her

back here where she will be safe." Neil sensed that her father was holding

something back.

"Before you make any plans to move, I believe Christy has been looking for

you. Go speak to her and then we can talk later."

Neil stepped out of the study and mounted the staircase up to the bedrooms on

the second floor. He tried to brush aside his confusion and the feelings

that he had been manipulated. "Christy is not Margaret." He reminded

himself as he knocked softly on the door.

"Yes?" Christy's soft voice questioned as she opened the door. The moment

she saw him she turned her back and walked to the window wiping furiously at

the tears she had been crying.

"Christy?" Neil stepped up behind her at the window and wrapped his arms

around her. She stiffened at his intimate contact. "Why are you crying,

love?" Neil knew the tears had to do with his hasty departure and the fact

that he had taken the news of their move to Asheville very poorly. He kicked

himself again for not putting her needs first. "I'm sorry. I've spoken to

your father and he said he would be happy to help us find a house here. I

can take the job that Dr. Richards offers and maybe even continue my trachoma

research. It's not like I've never considered this option."

Christy pulled out of his embrace and turned to face him. "NO!" He was

taken aback at her angry tone. "Why do you think I want to live in

Asheville? I love the cove!"

"But, Christy, I thought..." What did he think? He had assumed that her

mother's suggestion of the job in Asheville had been Christy's doing. That

it had been Christy's way of getting Neil to relent and leave the mountains.

Had he been wrong?

"I'm sorry for what my mother said. I'm sorry I sent her that stupid

letter." Christy paced around the bed, a combination of anger and regret

flowed down her cheeks. "I don't want to leave Cutter Gap. I love the

children, Miss Alice, our cabin. I never said anything to my mother about

wanting to leave, I just told her about your accident."

"Oh, Christy!" He took her in his arms and tried to draw her to him. Her

body was stiff and unresponsive to his. His mind turned unwillingly to

Margaret. Was Christy rejecting his touch just as she once had? He tried to

push the thought from his mind, it was too frightening to even consider.

"I'm sorry, love. Please forgive me."

"Why did you leave me, Neil?" Christy remained stoic in his arms. The silly

notion of moving had been resolved, but the fact that he had been gone all

afternoon was not. He had kept secrets from her; he promised that he would

never do that. He had made a decision for their life without her, and she

was crushed. "I'm not Margaret!" She looked up at him and spoke defiantly.

Christy's words cut to his very soul. He had been comparing her to Margaret.

He had judged this situation based on what Margaret would have done. Oh,

Father, please teach me what to say to undo all of this. "Oh, Christy. I am

so sorry, love. You are right, please forgive me. I did judge you based on

the hurt that Margaret caused me." Neil reached for her and this time she

did not stiffen, but melted into his arms, molding her body into his. "I

love you so much. You are the world to me. I've been such a fool these past

couple of days." He kissed her hair and her forehead as he spoke. "So many

things have happened I guess I have tried to find my own way out of it

instead of seeking God's way."

"Neil." Christy touched his face and was surprised to find her fingers

dampened by his own tears. "It's my fault too, I'm sorry. I know how badly

Margaret hurt you and that we would have things to overcome because of it.

It couldn't have helped that we argued over the sleeping arrangements. It

was just a shock to me. I grew up in this bed and I know that it sounds

silly but in this house I still feel like a child. I have been trying to

deal with the fear of your injury on my own too, instead of bringing it to

you and God. I just wanted to be so strong for you, but I'm not. I was

afraid that I would disappoint you."

"You are the strongest person I know." Neil brushed her tears away and

kissed her cheeks. "You could never disappoint me." Neil reached down and

took her left hand and fingered the pearl engagement ring he had given her.

"You are *my* pearl of great price, remember?"

Christy's heart soared at his words. He always knew how to calm her and she

cursed herself for doubting him. She pulled him closer and wrapped her arms

around his neck, drawing her lips to his. She allowed her heart and body to

express things that her words could not. Her hands ran down his back, across

his chest and down his arms as she pushed her body closer to his. She needed

to feel him and to allow his physical presence to give her the strength she

needed to face whatever may be yet to come.

Neil returned her kisses with delight and unrestrained passion; she always

seemed to surprise him. He couldn't express the well of joy that sprung up

inside of him and Christy pulled away as he laughed low in his throat.

"What is so funny, doctor?" Christy teased with a look of love and mirth in

her deep blue eyes.

"I'm sorry, love." Neil pulled her close to him and laughed even more

richly. "I couldn't help but think about the innocent and naïve

schoolteacher who was so nervous about our wedding night."

"I thought a woman was supposed to desire her husband's touch?" Christy

blushed as she slipped out of his arms and turned the key in the door and set

it on the nightstand.

Neil laughed again and his he thought for a moment that his heart would

explode with joy at his wife's obvious intentions. She gave him a coy and

flirtatious look as she sat on the edge of the bed and patted the spot next

to her with his hand. He joined her and took her hands in his and brought

them to his lips. "Ah, love. Even if all I do is hold you I will be

completely fulfilled."

Christy's very soul smiled as he repeated the words he had spoken to her the

night before their wedding. She reached up and brushed away the lock of hair

that had fallen across his forehead. Putting her lips to his she whispered

against them, "I love you so much." Neil pulled her closer to him and their

lips met in a deep kiss, their mouths hungrily searching for the physical

melding that their hearts already held. Neil leaned against her and guided

her gently onto the bed, their hurt and arguments of the day forgotten as

their love for one another took control.

Chapter: Chapter 11

Christy couldn't help but feel slightly self-conscious as her and Neil left

the comfort of their room just before dinnertime. Hand in hand they walked

toward the staircase and down into the dining room. Before they entered Neil

pulled Christy to him, his body pressed against hers, his love and passion

for her radiating from his eyes. "I love you, Mrs. MacNeill." His voice was

full of emotion as he kissed her deeply.

Christy's head spun as he pulled away from her and she steadied herself on

his strong arms. "I love you." She whispered and leaned into his chest with

a contented sigh. She would have been happy just to spend the rest of their

visit wrapped in his arms, just as she was now. His strength filled her with

so much peace. Reluctantly she slipped out of his embrace and they made

their way to the table where the rest of her family was already gathered.

"Sorry we're late." Christy stated quietly as pulled her chair out for her.

She could feel Neil's eyes on her and she was trying very hard not to blush.

The family joined hands around the table and Christy's father blessed their

meal. The delicious smells of roast beef with the rich brown gravy made her

mouth water. She couldn't believe how hungry she was! Christy wasn't sure

if it was the abundance of food or the lack of possum that had spurred her

appetite.

"We were afraid we were going to have to start dinner without you." George

commented innocently around a piece of fried okra.

"Yes, where were you two all afternoon?" Julia asked, curious at their

absence since the afternoon tea a few hours ago. "I really needed to discuss

this fiasco of a dinner party with you. Neil, Christy explained it all to me

this afternoon and I need to know if I should cancel or not. Christy, dear,

are you all right?"

Christy couldn't help but choke on the drink of water she was trying to

swallow just before her mother's question. She had never considered that

they might be missed. "Yes, mother." Christy recovered and looked to Neil

with pleading eyes for assistance. "I'm fine, it just went down the wrong

way." Her desperate gaze was met only with a slightly wicked grin and a

twinkle in Neil's eyes. She kicked him gently under the table.

William did not miss the flush that spread across his daughter's cheeks or

the knowing look that passed between his daughter and son-in-law. He looked

gently at his wife, would she ever accept that her daughter was a grown

woman? "I assume that Christy and Neil were out for a walk. If you

remember, Christy said she was going to sort things out with Neil about the

foolish notion that they move back to Asheville."

Julia didn't miss her husband's gentle gaze. She was unsure what it meant,

but she felt that she shouldn't push the situation any further. "Well, that

still leaves the issue of this dinner party. I could always send word that

we are not feeling well. I hate to be untruthful, but Christy tells me that

perhaps the Reverend Grantland's presence would not be welcome. Of course,

that still leaves Dr. Richards, and since you won't be seeking a job here,

there is really no sense in going through with the gathering. Still, I would

think that you would want to see some of your old friends, dear."

"Mother, how many people did you invite?" Christy tried not to glare, but

the last thing Christy wanted to do was spend an evening with people she no

longer had anything in common with.

"Well, Reverend Grantland and Dr. Richards and his wife. Your dearest

friends from school, Sylvia McIntyre and Rachel Walters, and of course their

escorts. I also invite Robert Bellingham and his fiancée, Leslie. Including

us that will be fourteen people. So, as you can see, if we are going to

cancel it will have to be immediately."

"I thought you said this would be a small gathering?" Christy asked in

disbelief. Not only would she have to deal with David, but also with

childhood friends she really had nothing in common with anymore. Rob

Bellingham was a completely different issue; he had once considered himself

quite a proper choice as a husband for Christy. Her mother had planned

things quite well; two old boyfriends, two old girlfriends and five strangers!

Neil carefully reached under the table and put his hand over the hand that

Christy held in her lap. He squeezed it gently as he spoke. "Julia, it was

kind of you to think of Christy and I. You have gone to so much work it

seems foolish to cancel now."

"Neil's right, mother." Christy was surprised at how easily her polite and

fake Asheville society could be applied to her face again. "We appreciate

the effort you have gone too.

"Christy told us that she would prefer not to see Reverend Grantland again.

He seems so very kind. Why he called on us not long after he arrived in

Asheville." Julia shot her daughter a questioning look. She knew her

daughter was not pleased that the party was going on as planned. "Whatever

happened between you two?"

"I would really prefer not to talk about it." Christy sighed. She

definitely did not want to rehash the ugliness of her and David's last

confrontation.

"I'm sorry, dear." William chimed in. He was slightly taken aback by his

daughter's obvious distaste for the young preacher. They had seemed very

close when he visited Cutter Gap. He was quite sure that it would be the

preacher that Christy would marry. "When David asked if he could call on us

he said that you had encouraged him to drop by for a visit when he arrived in

Asheville. He told us that you and he were corresponding with one another

quite regularly."

Neil looked up quickly from his plate. This was certainly news to him. Why

on earth would Christy be writing to David? He could feel the anger rising

inside of him again. Would they exchange letters behind his back? If so,

why would Christy lie about it? The more sensible part of his brain

immediately stopped these ugly thoughts. He had already made several

mistakes by jumping to conclusions. He looked to Christy for an explanation.

He promised himself he would listen to *her* this time and to his heart.

"Daddy, I haven't spoken to David in over a year." Christy looked at her

mother and father and noticed the stunned expressions on their faces. She

was more concerned with the look on Neil's face, would he believe her?

Especially after all the misunderstandings they had had today. Christy

forced herself to look into his eyes. He squeezed her hand again and she

breathed a deep sigh of relief at the deep love and trust she saw in his

eyes. Thank God he believed her. However, she knew that the moment they

were alone she would have to tell him the truth.

Chapter: Chapter 12

Despite Christy's reservations, the dinner party would be going on as

planned. She dreaded Friday night with every part of her being. Thankfully,

the supper conversation turned away from these matters and they found more

comfortable subjects to talk about. Immediately after supper the family

retired to the parlor for the usual evening activities and Christy began

earnestly seeking an opportunity to speak with Neil. The sooner she

explained the letters to Neil, the better she would feel.

"Neil." Christy took him by the hand just before they reached the parlor.

"Can we take a walk?"

"Sure, but it is awfully cold outside, lass." Neil had known that something

wasn't quite right. Christy had seemed preoccupied during the rest of the

evening meal.

"We don't have to go out." Christy replied. "I just want to talk to you,

alone."

Christy led him to the small library that her father kept. It was a cozy

room that was probably her favorite in the house. The stone fireplace that

nearly consumed one wall was flanked on each side by great mahogany

bookshelves. A dark burgundy velvet settee and the matching high backed

chairs stood in front of the fireplace with highly polished tables with

exquisite cut glass lamps gracing each one. As a child Christy had spent

hours curled up on the settee reading. Neil began laying a fire and they

watched spellbound as the flames consumed the kindling and licked at the

larger logs. It's glowing warmth enveloped them with a deep sense of peace.

They sat together on the settee and Neil drew Christy into his arms.

"Christy." Neil whispered into her hair. "What is bothering you?"

"Oh, Neil. I should have told you a long time ago, but I didn't know how."

Christy pulled herself even closer into his embrace. "I have been receiving

letters from David."

Neil straightened his back and looked down into her eyes. He could see the

pain that was written in their depths and the small well of tears that

threatened to flow. He now understood her silence at the dinner table. He

squeezed her gently, trying to comfort her. The distraught look on her sweet

features assured him that these letters were not her doing. "What does he

say, lass?"

"He is still very angry. I didn't show them to you because I knew that you

would just get angry and there was really nothing you could do about it. I

wanted to handle this on my own. I always hoped that perhaps in one of his

letters he would have a change of heart, so I read them. Then I burned them.

I never wrote back." Christy could hear his heartbeat becoming more rapid;

she knew he was angry, though not with her.

"Oh, Christy." Neil kissed her forehead and then turned her face upwards

and gently met her lips. "I wish you had told me. You know that you never

have to keep anything from me. Now tell me what his letters said,

specifically."

"They were so hateful." The burden of her secret finally caused her eyes to

spill over and she cried into Neil's strong shoulder. "He kept telling me

that I would regret marrying you. That I would see that he was right and

that I was just like Margaret. To make matters worse, this winter has been

so hard and you have been gone on calls and I have missed you so much. Then

I start to thinking that maybe David is right, maybe I am like Margaret.

David said terrible things about me being out of the will of God and that our

marriage could never be anything but a disaster."

"Do you?" Neil asked apprehensively. He had been gone more than he had

hoped. The harshness of this year's snows had kept him away treating the

diseases that swept into the cove with the cold winter winds. He wasn't sure

he wanted to know Christy's answer. "Do you regret marrying me?"

"No! Oh no, Neil! Not for even one moment. You have made me so happy. I

knew that you would be away, that your work was important to you. It's

just…" Christy didn't know how to explain this. "Do you remember the

conversation we had in your lab when Becky O'Teale had trachoma? I said that

I felt that you weren't speaking to me, but to someone else. You said that I

reminded you of her. Do I, Neil? Do I remind you of her still? She hurt

you so badly."

"No, Christy. You did, once, but you are a totally different person from

Margaret. Yes, you have the same enthusiasm that she had, the same joy of

living that she had once possessed." Neil suddenly recalled ever

conversation they had had regarding Margaret. There are so many things that

he never told her. Even Alice once told him that Christy reminded her of

Margaret. Is it possible that Christy took these things to her heart and

assumed that she *was* like Margaret? "Margaret's heart was cold and she was

a bitter and selfish woman. I have never known you to be selfish. You are

the most giving person I know. I hate having to leave you, even for a

moment. I take great comfort in the fact that I know that you will have

something warm to eat sitting on the back of the stove for me. That when I

crawl in bed next to you at night, after a long and cold ride back home, you

curl your body against me and hold me so close and warm me both inside and

out. You always let me ramble on about the calls I made and the people I see

and the things that are in my heart. When I am on the road I always know

when you have been praying for me, I can feel the Holy Spirit descending on

me and I can almost see you sitting in front of the fire, your Bible on your

lap, your hands raised in prayer. You give me so much I can't even begin to

tell you. First you gave me your friendship and then your trust. You told

me you believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. Then you gave me

God and showed me all the wonderful ways that he loves me. Finally you gave

me your heart. All the little things that you do, everyday, show me that you

love me. Yet, I know that you do them because you want to, not because it is

expected of you. That means the world to me."

Christy lifted her face to his and brought her lips to his. How she wanted

to kiss away any hurt he had ever felt. He pulled her onto his lap and

returned her kisses. She laid her head against his chest as he cradled her

to him. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be, lass, don't be." Neil ran his hands gently along her arm and

across her back. He loved to touch her, to be near her. With Margaret he

had raced into the physical act of marriage without any of the emotional

intimacy. There was never any gentle caressing or holding. Neil realized

for the first time that he had never made love to Margaret. They had enjoyed

the sexual relationship but it always felt as though something were missing.

If he had known that this is the way love and making love is really supposed

to be, he would have waited for Christy forever. His mind shifted again to

Margaret, how she had spurned even the most innocent physical contact after

she had lost the baby. He knew now that he needed to tell Christy everything

about Margaret, about all the things she had done. His silence had caused

Christy pain by allowing her to believe that she might be just one little bit

like Margaret. "Would you like to hear about Margaret now? I haven't told

you so many things. I have kept them from you hoping to avoid hurting you,

just as you kept the letters from David from me. I don't want to hide my

heart from you anymore."

"Yes, Neil, please. If you are ready to tell me I am ready to listen."

Christy had been praying that Neil would open up to her about Margaret. It

seemed rather morbid to hear the details of her husband's dead wife, but she

truly wished that he would talk to her about the pain he still felt. She

knew that Margaret had left deep wounds in his heart and his soul. Christy

snuggled even closer to Neil as he began to speak.

Chapter: Chapter 13

Christy and Neil talked long into the night about Margaret. For the first

time Christy was truly beginning to understand all of the hurt that Neil had

endured because of Margaret. She couldn't help but cry when Neil told her

about the child that Margaret had lost and the fact that she had refused all

contact with him after that. It was late when they finally slipped upstairs

to their room and fell asleep in the comforting embrace of one another's arms.

"Christy." Neil brushed he hair away from her face as she stirred in her

sleep. The morning light came through the lace curtains at the window and

bathed his wife in an almost heavenly glow. "Are you awake?"

She turned in the bed in an attempt to fight of the morning. She was so

tired. She could feel Neil kiss the sensitive skin on her neck and his warm

breath on her ear. She couldn't resist snuggling against him again, he back

resting against the strong wall of his chest.

"It's getting late." Neil whispered into her ear and kissed her cheek. "If

we don't go to breakfast soon we are going to have to explain our whereabouts

to your mother again."

Christy shifted slightly as the familiar wave of dizziness hit her stomach.

It wasn't over powering, just dreadfully uncomfortable. "I'm not hungry."

Christy stretched against him and pulled the covers up under her chin. "I

would love to sleep in, just this once."

Christy sounded so tired that Neil decided not to push the breakfast issue.

They were, after all, on vacation. In fact, he would love to just curl up

beside her for the rest of the day. If not for his rumbling stomach and the

rich smell of fresh drifting up from downstairs he would have. "You go back

to sleep, lass. I love you." Neil kissed her on the nose as he slipped from

the bed. Neil dressed quickly and shaved before making his way to the dining

room.

"Good morning." Neil smiled at his father-in-law as he sat down at the

table.

"Good morning, Neil." William returned warmly. "Where is Christy?"

"She's still asleep." Neil laughed. "She has decided to sleep in on our

vacation."

"I can certainly understand that. Julia used to have the worst trouble

getting her out of bed." He laughed at the memory of his wife tromping up

the stairs to wake up their daughter each morning.

"She's definitely not that way anymore, more often she is up before I am."

Neil wondered for a moment if he hadn't said too much. For all of her

maturity, Christy was still very young and very much her father's little

girl. It had to be difficult for William to think of his little girl as

someone's wife. He was relieved to see the smile on William's face.

"Well, I guess we are on our own for breakfast, Julia is sleeping in this

morning and so is George. I remember when I first married Julia. I was

finally getting established in my own law office and it was difficult for

Julia that she had to get up and cook breakfast. I couldn't afford to hire

any help until we had been married for almost a year. She was raised very

comfortably, like Christy." William smiled warmly at the memory of his

wife's first breakfast, burned toast and coffee that was so weak it looked

like dirty water. "Are you sure about this dinner party tomorrow night?"

"I don't foresee any problems. It was kind of you and Julia to go to all of

that trouble." Neil sipped his coffee and started in on the plate of bacon,

eggs and toast that the Huddleston's cook had placed in front of him.

"I have the feeling that there is more to this Reverend Grantland situation

that you are letting on. Call it my lawyer's sense that something more is

going on." William had hoped he would have an opportunity for a private

conversation with Neil. He had the feeling that he had been mislead by David.

"Aye, there is." Neil set his plate aside and refilled his coffee cup from

the china pot left on the table. "Christy had once accepted David's proposal

of marriage. The engagement didn't last long. David announced that they

were leaving the cove and Christy didn't take the news very well. She loves

those children and their families. Apparently they had some very harsh words

about the whole situation and Christy broke the engagement. When David

learned that Christy and I had married he began sending her hurtful letters."

"So, David's claims that he was corresponding with Christy were false. It

seems that we have been entertaining the young reverend under false

pretenses. I think I would like to have a long talk with the young man."

William rubbed his chin, angered that David Grantland had lied to him and

deceived his family. "Maybe we should cancel this dinner party after all."

"No, I don't think we should. I would very much like to have a few words

with David Grantland." Neil stated.

"Maybe, we should both have a few words with him." William smiled at Neil

and a plan was hatched. They would find ample opportunity at the dinner

party to have a conversation with David.

"I think I will take Christy up some tea. She really seems more tired than

usual and it has been a long time since I brought her breakfast in bed."

Neil excused himself and went to the kitchen. The Huddleston's cook was more

than happy to prepare a tray for Mrs. MacNeill and so Neil returned to his

coffee while he waited.

"Are you spoiling my daughter, doctor?" William asked with mock seriousness

in his voice.

"Doing my best, sir." Neil returned the smile, enjoying the banter.

"Good to hear it. I knew she'd pick the right man." William excused himself

and gave a gentle slap on Neil's back. Neil picked up the tray of eggs,

bacon, muffins and tea and carried it up to his sleeping wife.

"Christy." He opened the door and set the tray on the bedside table.

Sitting on the bed next to her he gently stroked her cheek. "Love, are you

awake? I brought you some breakfast."

The greasy rich smell of the bacon reached Christy's nose and she immediately

pulled the pillow over her head to avoid it. "Neil, please take the plate

out. I don't feel well this morning."

Neil complied immediately, setting the tray in the hallway and returned to

his wife's bedside. Concern was written across his features as he sat down

next to Christy. "What's wrong, lass?" He felt her skin and was relieved to

feel there was no fever.

"My stomach is upset. Neil, please don't worry I'm fine." Christy reached

for his hand and held it tight. She really did feel terrible. "Maybe a cup

of tea would help?"

"Let me look at you." Neil pulled the pillow away from his wife's face. She

appeared normal, perhaps a little more tired than she usually was. "Show me

where it hurts."

Christy sighed, she didn't want a doctor at this moment she wanted a husband.

For apparently no reason at all, Christy burst into tears.

Neil drew back slightly, stunned at his wife's reaction. "Christy, what's

wrong? Please tell me, love. You know I can't bear to see you cry."

"I don't know what's wrong!" Christy cried with irritation in her voice.

"You're the doctor!"

"Why are you crying?" Neil sat closer to her and cupped her tiny hands in

his large ones, kissing them gently.

"I don't know." Christy pulled her hands away and sat up in bed. Doing so

was a huge mistake. The nausea she had been fighting all morning caused her

to leap from the bed and make a dash for the bathroom.

Neil followed her, now more worried than ever. He knew that the last month

had been incredibly stressful for her, but he was now afraid that the stress

had made her sick. Christy slammed the bathroom door almost in Neil's face

and turned the lock. He sat helpless on the other side of the door listening

to his beloved wife's empty stomach trying to force any remaining contents

upward in wretches that broke his heart.

Chapter: Chapter 14

She was crying and he couldn't do a single thing to help her. The myriad of

possibilities ran through his mind. It could be anything, an ulcer that was

bleeding, influenza, food poisoning. Each medical diagnosis that crossed his

brain only made him more frightened. "Christy, please. Open the door!

Christy!" Neil pleaded with her. He paused for a moment, wondering what

Christy's parents would think if he broke their bathroom door down.

"Neil." William hurried up the stairs to his son-in-laws side. "What's

going on?"

"Christy's sick. She's locked herself in the bathroom." Neil looked

frantically at the bathroom door. Christy wretched again and groaned in pain

as her stomach had nothing left in it to bring up. "I have to get into her,

do you have a key?"

William looked from his terrified son-in-law to the bathroom door. Could it

really be possible that Neil didn't know? William had suspected the moment

his daughter got off the train. She had reminded him so much of Julia. The

pretty flush to her cheeks and the way every ounce of her seemed to glow.

Neil was a doctor; surely he could guess what was going on. "I've seen this

before, Neil. It's nothing to worry about Julia was the same way."

"Julia?" Neil questioned. "Is it hereditary? What is it? If you know

something about Christy that I don't…" Neil began to pace in front of the

door. His eyes shot fire at William. Had Christy kept something from him?

Was she dreadfully ill and was he so caught up in his own thoughts that he

had missed it?

William couldn't help but laugh at Neil's obvious distress. "Neil."

"Blast it, man, what is wrong with my wife?" Neil roared.

"Neil, calm down." William fought his irresistible urge to keep laughing.

"Christy's mother was exactly the same away about seven months before Christy

was born."

Neil stared at his father-in-law. What was he saying? Nothing seemed to

register for him at this moment, his only concern was his wife still locked

behind the bathroom door. "What?"

"I think you're going to be a father." William was stunned by the shocked

look on Neil's face. He was sure that Neil knew Christy was pregnant and

that they were saving the announcement for a more appropriate time. "Christy

is pregnant."

"Pregnant?" Neil sank down on the deacon's bench in the hallway. He felt as

though his legs could no longer hold his weight. "Did she tell you that?"

Surely Christy wouldn't have kept such special news from him.

"No, but I can't help but notice the way she glows, the flush to her cheeks.

The way she attacks her dinner plate and now she is having morning sickness."

William sat next to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

"I'm a doctor, you would think…"

"Neil, you are too close to the situation, and with everything you and

Christy have been through I am not surprised that you didn't know." William

and Neil looked up as Christy opened the door and leaned against it weakly.

Neil crossed to her in a single step and lifted her into his arms and carried

her back to their room.

"Christy." Neil tucked her gently into bed. Could she really be carrying

his child? "Are you feeling better?"

"Some. I'm sorry, I don't know what is wrong with me this morning." Christy

held his hand to her flushed cheeks. The coolness of his skin was refreshing.

"William, will you excuse us for a moment." Neil asked and with a nod he

left the room. "Christy, when was the last time you had your cycle?"

Christy leaned her head back on the pillow and tried to think. She couldn't

remember. She had been due the day that Neil came home injured. So much had

happened since then. "I don't remember. I have never been regular."

Christy couldn't help but blush at the questions. Neil was her husband but

there were still things she didn't feel comfortable talking about. "Why?"

"Christy, your father said something to me a few minutes ago in the hall. I

am going to look at your stomach and see if he may be right." Neil pulled

the covers back gently and lifted her nightgown. What met his eyes caused

his whole body to tremble. A faint brown line that ran down her creamy skin

from her belly button to her pubic symphysis led him to believe that maybe,

just maybe. Very carefully he pressed on her lower abdomen. She moaned

slightly with the discomfort. "Christy, does that hurt?"

"No, it just feels uncomfortable. I think I have been making to much of a

pig of myself at dinner, my corset has been feeling tighter than normal."

Christy smiled. "It's time for me to go on a diet."

Neil smiled down at her gently the deep love that he felt for her now stabbed

even deeper into his heart. It was true. "Christy, no diets and no more

corsets."

"Neil, I can't run around without a corset." Christy blushed at the very

thought. She knew that many of the mountain women didn't wear them but she

still couldn't break herself away from the restraining garment.

"You can and you will. Look Christy." Neil gently traced the barely visible

line on her stomach. "Do you know what this is?"

Christy leaned up on her pillows and looked. "No, what is it?"

"It's called linear gravida. It is very common in pregnancy." Neil placed

his hand over her womb and held it there. He could feel a slight rounding of

her normally flat abdomen. He left his hand there, imagining the tiny life

that lay beneath her warm skin. "How long have you been feeling sick in the

mornings?"

"I don't know. It's not every morning, just sometimes." Christy looked at

the tears in the corner of Neil's eyes. Was it true? Was she going to give

Neil a child? She had been praying for God to bless them with a child. Had

he answered her prayers?

"Do you have a family doctor here? We need to see him, but I think your

father is right. Christy, we are going to have a baby!"

Chapter: Chapter 15

Christy and Neil spent the morning relaxing in their room. Christy felt some

better after some chamomile tea with honey and dry toast.

"Neil." Christy couldn't help but notice that he kept staring at her. She

was used to his lingering gazes but this was beginning to make her nervous.

Was it possible that he wasn't happy at the prospect of being a father? "Why

are you looking at me that way?"

Neil studied her up and down for a moment before answering. She was sitting

at her vanity, pinning up her hair. He joined her on the small seat and his

eyes were pulled once again to her abdomen. "I just can't believe that you

may be carrying our child inside of you." Neil placed his large hand gently

across her womb.

Christy couldn't help but laugh. They had been married for six months and

she had certainly enjoyed the passion and intimacy that Neil had held back

while they were courting. "Sweetheart, it's not as if it is an

impossibility." Christy could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. Would she

ever learn to discuss intimate matters without blushing?

"Ah, lass. You are correct there." Neil's smile lit up his eyes. "It's not

that, it's kind of hard to describe."

"Are you unhappy, about the baby?" Christy asked nervously, she knew that

the loss of the child that he had fathered with Margaret still weighed heavy

on his mind at times. He had wanted that child, wanted to be a father.

"No, oh, Christy. Is that what you are thinking?" Neil drew his hand away

and pulled her onto his lap. "I couldn't be happier about this baby! It's

just all so much that I am trying to absorb it all."

Christy lifted her face to his and met his lips in a gentle kiss. She pulled

him even closer, allowing his strong, full lips on hers to guide their

passion for one another. Insistently he urged her lips to part to his and

she obeyed until he left her head spinning and her pulse fluttering wildly in

her throat.

"I love you, so much." Neil whispered into her ear as he pulled away. "Are

you feeling better?"

"Much." She nodded her head against his shoulder. "I love you, too. I hope

it's true, that I am carrying your son."

"A boy, love?" Neil pressed his lips to her forehead. "Or a girl. Maybe it

will be a daughter with her mother's beautiful blue eyes. However, we still

need to see the doctor and, if you are pregnant, it will be some time before

we know if the baby is a boy or a girl."

"I want you to be my doctor." Christy didn't really want to have her family

doctor attending to her, even for a short time. "Can't you just examine me?"

"I know that you are nervous, lass. I know that I am way to nervous to make

an objective diagnosis." Neil stroked her cheek before gently setting her

back down on the bench. "I don't want to be a doctor at this moment, the

very thought that we may be parents. I just want to be your husband today."

Christy nodded her head and pulled on her shoes. Her father had kindly

telephoned Dr. Schultice and they were able to get in to his office that

afternoon. "I understand. If you are nervous today, what will you be like

in a few months?" Christy wasn't sure she was ready to think about the labor

and delivery process. She hoped that she would do as well against the pain

that the mountain women did.

"I fully intend to have Alice Henderson there to do the honors. It would be

awful for me to pass out at my own child's delivery." He teased and kissed

her on the nose. "Bundle up good and warm." Neil helped her into her coat

and wrapped her scarf warmly around her neck. Once he was sure that she

wouldn't be chilled on the ride to the doctor's office, he took notice of her

shoes. Since they returned to Asheville, Christy had taken to wearing her

fancy, high-heeled society shoes. "Lass, are you sure you don't want to wear

your lower heeled shoes. You might slip."

"Is this what the next months are going to be like?" Christy teased him

gently.

"What do you mean?"

"Are you going to fuss over me every instant?" She slipped her hand into his

as he led her out the door into the waiting motorcar.

"I thought I already fussed over you ever minute?" Neil wrapped his arm

tight around her waist as she walked down the stairs. Christy laughed and

shook her head.

Christy trembled nervously in Dr. Schultice's office. She wasn't sure if she

was ready to discuss womanly topics with him, like childbearing.

"Mrs. MacNeill, I presume." Dr. Schultice smiled at her.

"Dr. Schultice, how have you been?" Christy smiled and she felt instantly

more at ease. In all the years he had been her doctor he had hardly changed.

The rim of hair that circled his head was now completely white and it offset

his hazel eyes, his glasses making them seem even larger.

"Very well." He looked at the chart in front of him. "I understand that I

may have some good news for you and your husband today."

Christy blushed. "Neil thinks it may be a possibility. I haven't been

feeling well in the mornings."

"When was the last time you had a normal female cycle?"

"So much has been going on that I really don't remember. The last one that I

can remember was in the beginning of December, but I have been under a lot of

stress." Christy was excited that it might be a baby, but she didn't want to

be disappointed either. "I have never been regular."

"Why don't you lie back and relax and we will try to find out." Dr.

Schultice patted her gently on her shoulder.

Christy complied but her stomach was fluttering something terrible. She

closed her eyes and tried to think of other things.

"Well, Christy. Let's have you get dressed and you can meet me in my office.

I think that it is time that we talked with your husband." The kind

elderly doctor left the room with his nurse in tow as Christy dressed as

quickly as possible.

"Dr. MacNeill." Dr. Schultice addressed the nervous man sitting in the

waiting room. "I'm Christy's doctor."

"It's a pleasure, doctor." Neil stood up and shook his hand. "How is she?"

"She's fine." The older doctor smiled at him. "Let's talk in my office."

Only moments after they had settled themselves in the office, Christy arrived

and reached out for Neil's hand. He returned her gentle squeeze and reminded

himself to breath.

"Well, I would say that everything is absolutely fine. I would also agree

that you two are due to be parents." Dr. Schultice loved to deliver such

good news and his smile was as wide as the handsome young couple that sat

before his desk.

"How far along is she?" Neil tried to sound calm, but inside he was shouting

for joy.

"I would say that she is about three and one half months pregnant. I can't

be exactly sure since there is some question about Christy's cycles. I would

say that you two can expect a baby some time around the middle of September

or early October."

Neil's excitement had gotten the better of him. Christy looked so very young

and small her delicate hand resting comfortably in his. He was sure that

Christy would flush crimson but he didn't care about propriety at this

moment. It was true. She was carrying his child. He lifted her hand to his

lips, the one that wore his wedding band and the delicate pearl engagement

ring, tenderly he kissed it and Christy looked at him. "I love you." He

whispered, completely oblivious to the elderly doctor on the other side of

the desk.

Chapter: Chapter 16

Christy floated through the rest of the week. Neil seemed to dote on her

constantly, and she decided just to give in and enjoy it. They spent the

evenings curled up together with their hands laced together across her lower

abdomen talking about the new life growing there. The dreaded party was far

from her mind when her mother broached the subject at breakfast on Friday

morning.

"I know that it has been a busy week, but have you thought about what you are

going to wear tonight?" Julia asked.

"Probably just one of the evening dresses left in my closet. They have

plenty of wear left in them." Christy chewed her toast slowly. She was

nauseated again this morning and Neil had prescribed tea and toast to fight

off her urge to vomit.

"They are terribly out of date." Julia responded thoughtfully. "There

certainly hasn't been time to have anything made. We could go to one of the

boutiques downtown."

"Truly, mother. I don't feel like going shopping. It seems foolish to buy

something new for just one evening." Only two short years ago Christy would

never have considered wearing a dress from 'last year' but after her life in

the cove the idea of such outlandish things as fashion were foreign to her.

"I suppose you are right, dear. Besides, we have got to start making

purchases for the baby." Julia had initially been shocked at the idea that

her baby was having a baby. Now she was beginning to like the idea.

Christy got up from the table and stepped away. She was truly feeling

exhausted this morning. The preparations for the party were the last thing

that she wanted to deal with. How she wished it were over! "I think I will

go lay down."

"Are you not feeling well?" Julia's brow wrinkled with concern.

"I feel fine, just tired." Christy attempted a weak smile.

Christy escaped from the dining room and lay down on her bed. Neil was out

with her father and she was missing him. They had both relished the

uninterrupted time they were getting to spend together. She took the book

from her nightstand and read until she fell into a peaceful sleep.

Neil slipped quietly into the room, careful not to wake his wife. Her sweet

features drew him to the bed and he sat carefully on the side and watched her

sleep. Christy's face was a mask of peace and contentment and he was drawn

to his knees beside her. "Oh Father," he prayed in a hoarse whisper. "Thank

you, thank you for the desire of my heart. Thank you for the child that she

carries. Please protect her and keep her and our child safe." Neil paused

in his prayer. In his heart he could hear the still small voice, but he

wasn't sure if he wanted to listen. How could he pray for a man who had been

so cruel to his wife? He knew that the David Grantland who had been so

viciously cruel to Christy wasn't the real David, but that didn't change the

fact that he had hurt her. The anger and hatred he felt for David grew up

inside of him and seemed to choke him. It was easy for him to say to himself

that he forgives David; it was another thing entirely to take it to God to

find real forgiveness. Neil remembered the conversation he had had with

Fairlight after their dream of Zady. Was it really true that God knew the

hatred that he held in his heart for that man? Of course, God knew, but

would voicing it do any good. Deciding to respond to the small voice inside

of him he lifted his voice again to God. "Please help David. I don't know

what to say other than that, Father. You know that I despise him for what he

has done. Forgive me for my anger."

"Neil?" Christy rolled over in the bed and scooted closer to him.

"I didn't mean to wake you, lass." Neil stroked her hair away from her face.

"You were praying for David?" Christy asked.

"Yes." He admitted as he covered her hands with his own. "And for you, and

the wee babe."

"I have been praying for David, too." Christy felt the tears coming to her

eyes. She had loved David once, even though it wasn't the kind of love

shared between a husband and wife, it was still love.

"I have something for you." Neil stood up and walked to the large package on

the table and placed it on Christy's lap. "I know that I am in a hurry, but

I couldn't resist."

Christy lifted herself up against the pillows and pulled gently on the royal

blue bow that held the box. Inside was the most beautiful christening gown

she had ever seen. Layers of pure white silk were covered with exquisitely

crocheted lace. "Oh, Neil. It's beautiful." Christy felt as though every

ounce of love she had ever felt was coursing through her body and it caused

tears to flow down her face.

"So are you, darling." Neil wiped them away with his hand. He was pleased

that her gift had brought her joy. Something tangible to hold on to while

they waited. "I love you, so much." Again Neil allowed his hand to rest on

her womb. "And I love you too, wee one."

Christy and Neil had managed to avoid the frantic preparations for the dinner

party. Christy was slightly disappointed to see that the stylish gown she

had chosen from her closet no longer fit quite as smoothly as it did two

years ago. It had been her favorite, her father had said that it's royal

blue layers exactly matched the blue in her eyes. However, in true fashion,

Neil had come to the rescue.

"You are so beautiful." Neil stood at the door his obvious admiration for

her reflecting in his eyes.

"It doesn't fit like it used to." Christy looked at her reflection closely.

She had grown more muscular in the two years she had been in the cove. The

dress that had been tailored to fit her just perfectly was now a little tight

in the shoulders and in the waist. It would have to do, especially since

Neil would worry if she laced her corset as tightly as she normally would.

"It's perfect." Neil smiled as he crossed to kiss her on the neck. "Shall

we go?"

Christy and Neil walked downstairs and into the parlor. Most of the guests

had already arrived and Christy introduced everybody to her husband. She did

not miss the coy looks Sylvia gave her Neil and Christy slipped her hand

possessively into his. As if reading his wife's thoughts he loosed his hand

from hers and laid it around her waist, placing a gentle kiss on her ear.

"Doctor and Mrs. MacNeill." David stood up from the chair he had been

sitting in that was out of their line of site. "I have missed you both so

much."

"Reverend Grantland." Neil tried to hold back the rage that he felt growing

inside of him at the sight of David. He outstretched his hand in a gesture

of friendship, even though his current thought was to wipe the false grin off

David's face. He could feel Christy tense in his gentle grasp and Neil

pulled her closer to him. Neil turned his heart to God to push away his

violent desires. "Please, Father, I need you now."

Chapter: Chapter 17

The dinner party progressed slowly and time seemed to drag. If Neil had his

way in things he would have simply taken Christy's hand and led her to the

solitude of the small library and shut out the rest of the world. He could

tell that Christy was not enjoying herself. She had spent most of the

evening trapped with her friends listening absently to discussions of fashion

and society. Neil couldn't help but grin a little bit at the obvious

jealousy she had expressed in her eyes when Sylvia had tried to flirt with

him. For a moment Neil wondered if Christy might just scratch her eyes out.

Things had at least been interesting for him; he found that he was getting

along famously with Doctor Richards. Their common interest in trachoma had

pulled the conversation along throughout the evening. Neil wished that David

were not there, it was a distraction to him to keep one ear in the discussion

and an eye on David. He was pleased to see that David had not once tried to

speak to Christy alone. Perhaps his prayer had been answered. The last

thing Neil wanted was to have Christy upset! It was not good for the baby.

He had also spent the evening watching William. The two of them had created

a plan to have some personal time with David in William's study. It was

important that this ugliness get cleared up as soon as possible. Finally,

after many of the guests were beginning to depart, William stepped over to

David and invited him into the study; Neil exhaled deeply and joined them. A

prayer for guidance and patience was resting on his lips.

"David, please sit down." William motioned him into one of the overstuffed

wing back chairs in the room.

David glanced around nervously. He realized when Neil stepped through the

door that he had been set up. This is what he had been waiting for. "Neil,

it has been some time."

"It has." Neil took the chair opposite him and William sat comfortably on

the edge of his desk. "I hope that Asheville is all that you had hoped it

would be."

"Oh, it is." David spoke with ease but his features were cold and hard. "Of

course, I do miss Christy something terrible."

William tensed as he referred to his daughter in such an intimate way. He

shifted his position and tried to remind himself to relax. Christy was a big

girl, but that didn't stop him from wanting to defend his daughter. "It has

come to my attention, David, that you were not completely above board with

us."

"How so?" David glanced from William to Neil and licked his lips nervously.

"David, Christy explained everything." Neil spoke gently; he hoped to end

all of this with an understanding. "I know about the letters and so does Mr.

Huddleston."

"I also know that you came into my home under false pretenses." William

stood up and paced about the room. "Not only have you hurt Christy, but you

have hurt my wife. You are not the man we thought you to be."

"I am not allowed to write an old friend." David smirked.

"Blast it man!" Neil couldn't hold onto his agitation any longer. He was

worried about Christy and the baby. "Can't you see how much you have hurt

her, and yet you claim to have loved her! I want you to apologize to

Christy, and mean it. Then I want you to stay out of our lives. She should

not be put under this kind of strain."

"Ah, yes! I have heard that Mrs. MacNeill is with child." David allowed all

of the bitterness and hurt inside him to come out. His hatred at this moment

for Neil MacNeill was even a surprise to himself. He had loved her so much

and she rejected him. She had chosen an old country doctor and a cabin in

the mountains over all of the wonderful things he could have given her.

Christy had married Neil out of pity and some day she would regret it. He

was quite sure of it. He wanted to hurt Neil and he knew just how to do it.

"So who is the father?" He snarled with hatred. The moment the words left

his mouth he knew that he had gone too far.

Christy was relaxing in the parlor with her mother, enjoying a cup of tea.

The evening had been draining. She was just glad that no confrontations had

occurred with David. Her stomach had been so upset all evening she had

hardly eaten. She could feel Neil watching her, worrying about her. Christy

hated to make Neil worry about her, but somehow it made her feel so loved and

safe when he did.

"I hope the evening didn't wear you out too much." Julia asked as she poured

her daughter more tea from the tray on the table.

"No, it was nice to see my friends again, even if we no longer have anything

in common." Christy hoped with all her heart that she had never been as

shallow as her friends were tonight.

"Please believe me when I say that I am sorry. I should have talked to you

and Neil before I planned this party. It is just hard for me to remember

that you are all grown up now." Julia smiled at her daughter. She was proud

of the woman who had once been her little girl.

"I am just sorry that I was so angry with you for putting this all together.

I know that you did it with our best interest at heart. Right now I just

want to finish my tea and go to bed." Christy laughed, she was glad to have

the strain between her and her mother lifting. "Have you seen Neil and

Daddy?"

"They went into the study with Mr. Grantland." Julia replied.

"Oh, no!" Christy moaned as she felt her stomach leap into her throat. She

thought it had been for the best that her mother did not know about the

letters that David had sent to her or the lies he had told. It had been kept

a secret, but now she realized that may have been a very bad idea. Christy's

fears were confirmed by the sound of shattering glass from the direction of

her father's study. Christy jumped to her feet and her mother trailed

behind. Without knocking she pushed open the doors to the room and stared at

the scene before her. The first thing to catch her eye was the large amount

of blood pouring from David's nose and the broken vase that lay in pieces

around him. The room was absolutely silent as her father and Neil both

stared in shock at one another.

Christy broke the silence. She couldn't believe that Neil would do such a

thing. What had happened to cause her gentle loving husband to resort to

such violence? "Neil, what have you done?" Christy stared at him in

disbelief as she knelt beside David and handed him her delicate handkerchief

in an attempt to stop the flow of blood from his nose.

Chapter: Chapter 18

William watched the scene in front of him as though it were a moving picture

show. He shook his hand in front of him. "Christy, it wasn't Neil." He

stepped up to David's other side and laid his hand on the stunned man's arm.

"I did it."

"Daddy?" Christy asked in disbelief. What on earth had happened to cause

her father to strike David?

David looked at Christy's blue eyes so full of concern. He felt her soft

hands press the handkerchief into his and as he placed it to his nose be

could smell the rose scent that lingered on it. What have I done? He

thought to himself. The events of the last two years and his reprehensible

behavior flooded into his brain and raced through his memory. The

conversation that he had had with Neil at the river that day so long ago,

what was it that he had said. "It's called compassion and that's a powerful

feeling for a young woman like Christy." Everything was becoming incredibly

clear. It wasn't concern he saw in Christy's eyes. It was compassion.

David felt something stir deep inside of him, something he had not felt for a

very long time. It was God. The hand of God was reaching deep inside of him

and bringing him understanding and enlightenment. It caught David off guard

and pulled at his heart. When was the last time he had felt the touch of God

in his life? David didn't remember. When Christy had turned from David,

David had turned from God. Suddenly the dark glass cleared for David and he

saw the hurt he had caused everyone. Weakly he got to his feet, the blood

from his nose was slowly stopping but his tears were beginning. "Thank you,

Mr. Huddleston, I deserved that."

The silence in the room exploded in their ears. No one had expected his

response.

"David?" Christy was the first one to speak, she felt Neil slip up behind

her and place his hand comfortingly on her shoulder.

"Oh, Christy. I am so sorry. I'm sorry about the letters, I'm sorry for the

awful things that I said. I'm sorry that I tried to pressure you into

marrying me." David wept openly. The more he spoke the more the cold hard

wall he had built around his heart began to crack. "I had no right. I just

wanted so much for you to love me the way that you love Neil. I knew, you

know, I knew all along. I could see so clearly, the looks on your face, how

you took problems to him. How often you depended on him. I wanted you to

feel that way about me. I figured I could force the issue. When Pete wrote

me that Neil had accepted Christ into his life I guess I just lost it. I

knew that once Neil found God that His true plan for the two of you would be

marriage. I could see it coming, even when I was still in the cove. The few

times that Neil lingered on the porch steps during the sermon. I tried to

tell myself that he was just there for you, but he wasn't. You were looking

for God and I was too angry and bitter and jealous to show you His love."

David addressed Neil. "Please forgive me. Forgive me for all the hurt that

I have caused. Mr. and Mrs. Huddleston, please forgive me for coming to your

home under false pretenses."

Neil knew without a shadow of a doubt that his prayer had been answered. "I

doubted you, Father." Neil prayed as he stepped forward and offered his hand

to David. "Forgive me and show me what to do."

David took the outstretched hand that Neil offered. It was clear that God

had truly changed Neil. He noticed the way that Christy's eyes shown when

she looked at her husband and the way he kept an arm protectively around her

waist. That was love, the kind of love that Christy deserved. "I am so

sorry, Neil. Please forgive me."

Neil wasn't sure what to say. It wasn't exactly like David had made a small

error; he had caused a great deal of pain. He wondered what the Father would

do at this moment. David had truly laid out his heart and repented. Neil

could clearly see the true David coming to the surface. In his heart Neil

heard the still small voice and he acted upon it. Releasing David's hand he

stepped closer to him. He could see David visibly stiffen, waiting for the

possibility of another blow. Neil wrapped his arms around David and gave him

a manly and awkward hug. "All is forgiven. We are glad you are back."

Christy stepped up beside the two men just as Neil stepped away. "I'm so

sorry, David. I never meant to hurt you." Christy felt the tears welling in

her eyes. She knew that her husband's actions came directly from God and the

profound affect that Neil's forgiveness had on David.

"It was me that hurt you, Mrs. MacNeill." David held his hand out to her and

she took it. At the same time David reached for Mr. Huddleston's hand.

"Would you pray with me? I feel a deep urge to talk to God." The small

circle gathered around him and each one prayed in turn. There hearts were

open to Him and to one another and their Father honored that. Healing waters

seemed to flow from heaven into each one of them.

"Would you join us, David, for some tea?" Mrs. Huddleston asked when their

prayers had grown quiet.

"I should be leaving." David was still embarrassed about the trouble he had

caused.

"Please, don't." Neil asked. There were still many things to discuss.

David couldn't resist the gentle pleas. For the first time in a long time he

felt that he had returned to God's loving embrace. He had continued with his

duties as a minister, but separate from God. He had depended on his own

strength instead of turning to God. "I think I would like that very much."

The group spent the rest of the evening and late into the night deep in

conversation around the dining room table. The conversation had covered so

many topics. David was truly thrilled to catch up with all the families in

the cove. He had come to love them, although his heart had been too hard to

feel that love for a long time. He wept and rejoiced over Zady's death,

sorry he had not been there to bring comfort. Jeb had been a true friend.

Julia had requested that their cook bring some food to the table and Neil had

made sure that Christy finally ate something. She could feel his eyes on her

and see the worried expression. She smiled at him and happily consumed the

succulent roast pork and sweet potatoes. After she had finished eating he

slipped his hand under the table and linked it with hers.

"Again, I have to say that I am so sorry for the hurt that I have caused. I

believe that what I really need to do now is seek counseling from my head

pastor at the church. Perhaps I should even step down from my duties for a

while." David was becoming overwhelmed by the joy that he was suddenly

feeling in his heart as he looked at Christy and Neil. She was happy, truly

and completely happy. "If there is anything that I can ever do to make

things up to you."

"You already have, David." Christy smiled at him and the light shown in her

eyes. "I was so concerned for you, your letters were evidence of how far you

had traveled from God. We prayed for you."

"You did?" David looked from Christy to Neil. Had Neil honestly prayed for

him? He could see by the look in his eyes that he had. "Thank you, both of

you."

Christy tried to stifle a yawn. The hour was growing late and the evening

had been exhausting.

"Looks like somebody needs to rest." David looked closely at Christy then to

Neil. "I had best be going myself." David excused himself from the table

and they all shook hands before he took his leave.

Christy slipped her hand from Neil's and gave David a gentle hug before he

departed. "I'm very glad that you are back, David."

This time David understood that she cared for him deeply, in a Christian way.

Her love was from God and it was different than the love that a husband and

a wife should share. Her embrace brought him great joy. He could see that

same love was all of those around him, the one's that he had done so terribly

wrong, and he was blessed to feel their love and forgiveness. "It's good to

be back. I can't even begin to tell you. All I can say is thank you."

Chapter: Chapter 19

Christy waved at the dear people who stood and watched the train pull away

from the depot. David had joined her parents and brother and it had been a

hard goodbye for her. She was glad that David had found his way back to God

and she prayed that he would continue to renew himself.

"Lass." Neil stroked her hand as they sat together in the soft velvet seats.

"When we get back we need to start looking at building plans."

"Building plans?" Christy asked.

"I think that it would be best if I moved my lab upstairs. We could put our

room in there and add on a nursery." Neil smiled. He was trying to be

patient but his heart sang every time he thought about the baby. Their baby.

Christy could see the wisdom in his plans. In time the climb upstairs would

be dreadfully uncomfortable. "Are you sure?" She asked. Neil had been out

of commission for almost a month with his injury and their visit to

Asheville. She knew he needed to catch up on his patients in the cove.

"I'm sure. I can lock the upstairs and fashion a gate for the stairs. Once

the wee one starts toddling we can't have him falling down the stairs."

Christy laid her head on his shoulder while he talked. She loved the

rhythmic rise and fall of his deeply accented brogue. "You said 'he', Neil."

"I'm sorry, yes I did. It just doesn't seem right to call the baby an it."

Neil laughed with her. In truth he didn't care if she was carrying a boy or

a girl, just so both mother and child were healthy and safe. He had

considered having Christy remain in Asheville, where she would be assured of

plenty of rest and both the benefits of a hospital and a doctor. Of course,

he knew the foolishness of the suggestion and that Christy would never agree

to it.

"I hope it's a boy." Christy admitted. She had tried very hard not to be

too excited, not to allow it to become too real. Her time in the cove had

shown her that women lost babies all the time. Margaret had lost her and

Neil's child. How would Christy cope with it if she lost the baby she was

carrying?

"A boy would be nice." Neil smiled at the thought of a son. "Or a girl."

"Is it too early to talk about names?" Neil's confidence and enthusiasm were

contagious for Christy. The beautiful christening gown was just part of the

special joy she knew that their developing child was bringing them.

"No, not at all. Any names in mind?" Neil asked; a smile tugged at the

corners of his mouth.

"I kind of thought we could name the first one after your father." Christy

looked up into his rugged features and her breath seemed to catch in her

throat. She thanked God again for her gentle loving husband.

"If you'd like." Neil's eyes sparkled with humor. "But I think Robert would

be a funny name for a girl."

Christy elbowed him in the ribs. "If it is a boy!"

"Oh, that would be nice. William Robert of Robert William?" Neil would also

like to include Christy's father in the child's name. He had been so kind to

Neil.

"What about, Robert Neil William MacNeill?" Christy asked. She liked the

way it sounded in her ears.

"That's an awful big name for such a little baby." Neil felt the name wrap

its fingers around his heart. It was a good name.

They talked for a long time about names for boys and girls. Finally, Christy

laid her head against Neil's shoulder and they slept the rest of the way

home. She dreamed of a beautiful little boy with red curly hair and big blue

eyes that held a mischievous twinkle.

Christy had enjoyed her time in Asheville but she was incredibly happy to be

home. Neil was pleased to know that Dan Scott and Miss Alice had enjoyed a

very quiet week and there had been no need for their medical skills. Spring

was trying very hard to come to Cutter Gap and the crocus bulbs were in

bloom. Christy couldn't wait to give Miss Alice the news. She had planned

an afternoon tea where she would share her coming baby and also ask her a

special favor.

"Miss Alice." Christy hugged the older woman in a warm embrace.

"How I have missed thee." Alice could see the joy that was in Christy's eyes.

"I have so much to tell you." Christy took her coat and settled her dear

friend into the comfortable chairs in the living room. They could hear Neil

working busily in his lab, preparing for the move. "We saw David."

Alice looked at Christy with concern. She knew that David had been horribly

cruel to Christy. "How is he?"

"Very well. I am so happy, our prayers have been answered." Christy went on

to tell Alice of the wonderful things that God did in Asheville.

"Thee has something more to tell me." Alice looked at Christy; it was

obvious that her joy was not only as a result of her reconciliation with

David. As if on cue, Neil stepped out of the lab and joined his wife.

"We do, Alice." Neil smiled.

"We are going to have a baby." Christy smiled.

"How wonderful. Surely God's blessings are on thee." Alice clasped her

hands together in front of her.

"We have a favor to ask of you." Neil knelt down on the floor between

Christy and Alice. "You have been like a second mother to Christy, and you

have become very special to me as well. We would like you to be another

grandmother to this child."

Alice could feel her heart stop beating. After Margaret's death she had

given up the idea of ever being a grandmother. Although her relationship

with Neil and Margaret had been strained she had prayed for children for

them. God had answered prayers that she had long ago stopped praying.

Chapter: Chapter 20

April 1915

Neil leaned against the framing of the new room that he was adding to the

cabin and breathed in the sweet spring air. It had been a long, hard winter,

but the warmth of the sun served to remind him that spring was truly a time

of promise. Dan Scott had been a true blessing, the people of the cove had

finally accepted him and he often took the lighter calls leaving Neil more

time with Christy. Christy. His thoughts drifted to her. He didn't think

he could ever imagine her being more beautiful than she was right now. She

had taken time in the warm afternoon sun to rest and was relaxing on the

swing Neil had constructed for her in the back yard. Her expanding stomach

seemed almost in juxtaposition to the smallness of her stature. As she read

she pushed away the lock of hair that seemed to refuse to remain in place.

He couldn't believe the blessings that God had seen fit to give him. For

what seemed like the hundredth time today, he lifted his voice in thanks

again to his Father. Neil crossed the yard to where she sat; he felt a deep

need to feel her hands in his.

"Christy." Neil knelt beside her and took her hands in his own. "I love

you."

Christy looked up, slightly shocked by the deep emotions etched across his

handsome features. Her heart swelled, how like him to just tell her what was

in his heart. She leaned into him and kissed him deeply, choosing to show

her love rather than just tell it. "I love you, too."

While Neil returned to his work, Christy decided to go and enjoy an afternoon

nap. Neil had insisted on helping with many of the chores she normally saw

to so that she could get extra rest. She hated being treated like a child

but she really was feeling incredibly tired today. She wasn't sure if it was

the sudden warm spell or her expanding stomach. Her pregnancy had been

progressing normally and she looked at the calendar again. She was half way

there. Wearily Christy climbed the stairs and pulled back the blankets and

lay down on their bed. A nap would do wonders.

When Christy finally awoke she could see that the afternoon sun was fading

into a beautiful twilight. Lighting the lamp on the table beside her she

prepared to go downstairs to fix supper. She sat up quickly, too quickly and

felt her head spin with the effort. At the same time abdomen contracted and

the pain took her breath away. Falling back onto the bed she screamed when

she saw the crimson stain of drying blood on the sheet that she had napped

on.

Neil heard Christy's scream and he bounded up the stairs two at a time. He

had looked in on her only a few minutes ago and she had been fine. He felt

the blood pounding in his ears as he rushed to their room. "Christy, what's

wrong?"

"Neil." Tears poured down her cheeks. "I'm bleeding, please help me."

Neil moved her gently and looked at the blood that had stained her skirt and

the bed. He began undressing her gently. "Do you hurt anywhere?" Neil

prayed silently, he didn't want to watch this happen again. The memory of

the child he had lost with Margaret flooded his brain and threatened to steal

away all reason.

"Not now, when I stood up I hurt terribly." Christy tried to hide the terror

she knew was written across her face. This was in God's hands, she reminded

herself.

There's nothing I can do. I'm helpless. The thought kept running through

his mind as he gently examined his wife. He thought about the growing child

whose life was in danger. He turned his heart to God as he worked doing the

best he could to push away the fear in his heart. "No pain, now?"

Christy couldn't answer. She bit her lip trying to fight the tears and shook

her head 'no'.

"That's a good thing, love." Neil tried to comfort her. He cleaned her up

and helped her into a soft flannel nightgown. Lifting her off the bed he sat

her gently on the chair. Working quickly he put clean sheets on their bed

and lifted her back into it. He had to do his best to keep her still and

calm.

"What's wrong, Neil?" Christy couldn't bring herself to think that she might

actually be losing their child.

Neil sat beside her after he had settled her into bed and covered her gently.

"The bleeding is not heavy, it's really very light. It could be nothing at

all. Some women have light bleeding during pregnancy." He held her hand in

his and tried very hard to sound confident. "We will just have to wait and

see. Have you felt him move today?" Neil placed his hands gently on her

stomach and tried to feel their child's movements.

"Yes, he was kicking while I was out reading." Christy tried to relax as she

remembered his soft movements inside of her.

"That's good." Neil moved his hands to hold hers again. "I need to go

downstairs and call the mission. I want Alice here." After returning from

Asheville, Pete had helped Neil to install a phone line from their cabin

directly to the mission. It had been a pleasant surprise from both Christy's

parents and he thanked God that he didn't have to leave Christy.

"Neil, if this baby comes…" Christy couldn't finish her question. She knew

it was too early.

"If this baby comes..." Neil didn't know how to answer her question. He

knew she wanted to be comforted, but he didn't have the words. For the first

time in his life he felt that the medical understanding and knowledge that he

had was a curse. He didn't want to lie to her, but he didn't want to

frighten her.

Christy didn't need to hear his answer. She knew in her heart that the baby

would die if it were born today. Tears fell down her cheeks and she began to

sob. "I'm so sorry."

Neil didn't mean for his silence to cause her to feel like she had done

something wrong. "Oh, darling, this isn't your fault." He kissed her hands

and brushed the tears away from her eyes. "We just have to pray and trust

God. There is nothing that you or I can do except to pray." He looked at

the wedding ring on her left hand. The promise written inside filled his

heart. "God has taught us to believe and to endure, now we have to look to

him for hope."

Neil and Christy laid their hands across the baby that rested inside of her.

They bowed their heads and lifted their prayers to the loving Father who was

the only one who could answer the desires of their hearts.

THE END