Daniel Boone hesitated in the doorway. Rebecca lay curled in a ball, but her eyes were open.
"Sweetheart, I have to go now. I'll be back by dark. " He sat down beside her, his hand resting on her shoulder. She said nothing and stared off in the distance.
"You don't need to worry. We are just making a final agreement for peace. The militia will be there. I'm not going alone. Tom's going with me. Becky?"
She continued to stare out away from him. In the two days since Grace had died, she had spoken very little. They had all returned to their homes. Walking into their cabin, she had stood frozen for a time, and then she had climbed into bed. She had been there ever since. He was worried and wished Grace was here to help.
"I'm not going until you at least look at me. Darlin'?" He hung his head unsure how to help her.
"Promise you'll come back." She whispered.
He looked at her startled by the sound of her voice, soft though it was.
"I promise." He said leaning down and kissing her.
"I am fine." She whispered. "You can go."
"I have to go. I don't want to, but I am going, and you are not fine. I will be right back." He looked at her and she nodded slightly. He sighed and rose slowly.
"'Becca, I'm coming back. Is tu mo ghra." Reluctantly, he turned and walked away.
Katie and Rose stood near the fireplace. Rose was holding Katie's hand. He crossed to them, gathering them close to him.
"I'm scared, Pa." Rose said and he lifted her up.
"Listen, both of you, I'm just gonna go have a chat with these fellas and then I'll be home. You make sure and have enough supper for me, alright?" He kissed Rose and set her down. He pulled Katie close to him.
"I can see you thinking, sweetheart. Fretting won't do any good. We just need to give her some time. Your Ma will be alright." He lifted her chin with his finger. "You keep an eye on her for me, alright?"
"Yes, sir. Don't be late for supper." She grinned at him.
Daniel sighed and stretched his long legs. He walked away from the canopy where everyone had been talking for hours. There was a time when he would be enthusiastic and eagerly involved in crafting a perfect treaty. He now understood than the best anyone could hope for is an imperfect and temporary peace. He was tired of bearing the weight of responsibility. He was tired of leaving his wife and children to wait for him while he looked after other folks. He was tired of leaving Becky standing in their doorway watching him walk away. He was tired of trying to convince unreasonable people to be reasonable. He was tired.
"These things always take so long?" Tom Walker asked him.
"Yep. Seems like everybody has to check and double-check and check again. Anytime you get your hopes set on it being finished, someone will ask for something new." He sighed.
"How is Becky?" Tom asked looking sideways at Daniel.
"Well, she's been better, I'll tell you that." He sighed and looked away. "I'd rather be home right, now. I'll be honest with you. I'm not real worried about Boonesborough as a whole, so much as one small piece of it."
Tom sighed. "You've both given too much for it. I remember that first year. You provided game for ten families. You hunted for folks for the first five years, if I remember. Seems like you are always going somewhere to fix something for someone else. I don't know how she's managed. Ain't another woman alive who could've done it."
"That's the truth. Are you trying to cheer me up, or make me feel guilty?" Daniel looked at Tom.
"Neither. Just saying things that are true. Everyone admires her." He said. "Anna says that all the women live under her shadow, and thinking of her, it makes it pretty difficult to complain when I go out for a few days at a time."
"It seems like she got a poor return for throwing her lot in with me though, doesn't it? The admiration of a settlement hardly makes up for the pain she's suffered." He was starting to wish they were bogged down in negotiations. Talking to Tom was starting to depress him.
"You ever seen anybody happier, though?" Tom asked him. "Not now, of course, but honestly, when you think of her, can you picture her not smiling? You married the right girl, Dan. She's happy with her life, painful though it sometimes is."
"You are trying to cheer me up." Daniel said.
"Maybe. But don't get all conceited. We named the settlement for her, not you, you know." Tom grinned at him.
"I've got no quarrel with that." Daniel said. "I had suspected it for some time now."
"We're ready to resume talk." Captain Evans called to them.
"Here's hoping there's an end to this." Tom said.
"Amen to that." Daniel said and they walked back to the canopy together.
Opening the door, Katie was surprised to look into the faces of Mingo and Chandrika.
"Mingo!" She shouted and threw her arms around him. "I'm so glad you've come!"
"Well, we heard that things had settled down, but where's your Pa?" Mingo glanced around the cabin. "Where's your Ma?"
Katie led them inside as Rose fairly jumped into Chandrika's arms. "Careful, little bird." She said to Rose. Rose studied Chandrika thoughtfully. "Your stomach got big! Is that a baby in there?"
"There is." Chandrika said with a smile.
"Rose! That's not polite. Are you hungry? I was fixing some stew." Katie said.
"Where are your parents? Where's Israel?" Mingo asked.
"Oh, well, Israel's at his cabin. He and Anna got married last week!" She grinned at his surprise.
"Married? Israel?" He said shocked.
"It was because we thought we were all gonna get killed, so her parents said yes, so they got married. No one expected us to survive." Rose said.
"And your Pa and Ma?" He asked.
"Pa's meeting with the militia and the tribes to agree to terms of peace. And Ma's in bed." Katie explained.
"In bed? Was she injured?" Chandrika asked.
"She got her arm cut a little, but mostly it is because Mrs. Bradley died." Rose answered.
"Grace Bradley died?" Mingo asked sorrowfully. "Poor Matthew. I think you met her once Chandi. She was like a sister to Rebecca. Your poor, Ma." He turned to Katie and seeing she needed a little encouragement he said, "Did you say stew?" She smiled at him.
"I can't think of a trouble that would get in the way of that stomach of yours." Chandrika said winking at him. "I'm going to check on Becky."
"Becky?" Chandrika spoke softly, sitting down beside her on the bed. Rebecca turned and opened her eyes. "Chandrika!" Her blue eyes grew wide taking in Chandrika's changed figure.
"I look a little different than our last visit, no?" Chandrika laughed. Rebecca sat up and put her hand on Chandrika's swollen stomach.
"Oh, you look beautiful." Becky said and hugged her.
"I'm so sorry about your good friend." Chandrika said. "I am sorry that there has been so much fighting. I don't know why we can't share the land. The world is wide enough."
"Not for some, I guess." Becky said. "I'm sorry for all your losses too. I know many Cherokee have suffered from not only this fighting, but also because of the greediness of the strangers who come here."
"Well, we can't all be Daniel Boone." Chandrika said.
"Thank goodness for that!" Becky sighed.
"You look skinny. 'Course, everyone does to me." She grinned at her. "You sit back and rest. I'll go get you a bowl of stew. Katie's been cooking up a storm. Seems she takes after you, and cooks when she's worried. Don't you worry about a thing, I'll take care of you for now."
Rebecca nodded and tears swarmed her blue eyes. "Thank you. I'm so glad you've come."
Chandrika smiled at her, and squeezed Becky's hand. "I'm glad too. I'm starting to get nervous about this baby. My mother died so many years ago."
"You can ask me anything you want, but you might not enjoy some of the answers." Rebecca said wiping a tear from her cheek.
"I will, later. Right now, I'll get you that stew. You sit back and rest for once."
Daniel and Mingo sat watching the fire. Katie and Rose were asleep in the loft. Chandrika slept in Katie's room. Normally, Mingo and Chandrika stayed in their own tiny lean-to about a mile from the cabin. But Chandrika had been exhausted and Daniel had insisted that at least this one time, Mingo could sleep in doors.
"Being married suits you, Mingo." Daniel said. "It's getting to the point now where I like Chandrika even more than I like you."
"Well, I can understand that. I'm fairly fond of her myself." Mingo grinned at his blood-brother.
"I'm grateful you came when you did. At least she's eating some. Having Chandrika here is good for her. She can't fight her urge to mother everything that breathes - specially not with Chandrika in her condition. You'll like being a Pa, Mingo. 'Course, you better prepare yourself, you have never once had a worry in your life, up til now."
"Are you trying to encourage me?" Mingo asked him.
"Well, I guess its too late to warn you. Children fill your soul with sunshine like nothing else, but losing them or fearing it can wound you like nothing else. It is the grace of God alone, that Rebecca's been able to endure it, and endure me." He turned suddenly serious, his face as dark as his thoughts.
"I don't know how she's endured your cooking." Mingo said trying to lighten the mood.
Daniel smiled recognizing what Mingo was trying to do. "You better get some sleep while you can. Once that baby comes . . ."
"Good night, Daniel". Mingo said with a grin and went into the other room.
Checking the door and stoking the fire first, Daniel blew out the candle and went to the bedroom he shared with Rebecca. She wasn't in bed. She stood beside the window gazing at the new moon. He sat down on the side of the bed nearest her and watched her.
"Do you really believe?" She asked quietly. She turned and looked at his face and seeing he was confused explained, "In heaven. Do you believe in it?"
"I reckon I do. It gives me hope." He studied her. "You do too."
"I do, but sometimes I doubt it. And it frightens me to think they are all just lost to me - My Ma, my sisters, James, Patrick, Elizabeth, William, the babies and Grace." Her voice grew unsteady.
He didn't know what to say to her. She was the one who was always reminding him of the loving nature of the Almighty. She was the one who comforted and strengthened him through his doubts. He rose and put his arms around her.
"There must be Someone watching over things. I feel it mostly in the woods when no one is around and there's nothing but the earth and sky. You always feel it reading in that book, but I think you feel it most when you're caring for your youngin's. Becky, I believe there'll come a day when you'll be swarmed with all those babies 'round ya, and your sisters and your Ma. Your smile will outshine the sun then and Grace will come along and the two of you will laugh til your sides ache, 'cept it is heaven so your sides won't ache no more." He looked down at her.
"And you?" She asked him.
"Well, you'll look down on me wandering from hill to hill, sad as can be, searching for something I just can't find, until I finally get to walk up to those gates. I reckon St. Peter will check in his book and read my name and shake his head, but then he'll see a little note next to my name. 'You were married to Rebecca Anne Bryan?' He'll ask me. And when I tell him yes, he'll usher me right on through. 'That woman was good enough to make up for the likes of you.' He'll say. And then I'll take you in my arms and kiss you until all the children yell for us to stop."
"You know you're speaking sacrilege, Daniel." She said quietly, but he could hear the grin in her voice. "I'm sorry for everything."
"You've got nothing to be sorry for. You more than deserve a month of laying in that bed, not saying a word. I wouldn't blame if you stayed there for a year. I don't know how you've stood up under any of it" He kissed her forehead. "I suppose that's why I believe; because of you. Only God could give you joy in spite of everything."
She sighed and leaned into him. "I don't feel much joy now."
"I don't expect you to neither." He said looking down into her blue eyes. "You spend too much time thinking about other folks and what they need. You don't think about any of that now, just feel how you feel. Don't keep it inside. Isn't that what Grace was always telling you?"
"She used to say, 'Rebecca, you are lucky I'm a patient woman because your stubbornness wears me down, you know that? Now, I can pinch you on the arm if that's what you need, or you can just give up right now and go ahead and cry.' And if I didn't she would pinch me something fierce." She stepped away from him, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
"You need a pinch?" He asked softly. She shook her head slowly and at last she began to weep. She lay on her side as great sobs shook her. He curled beside her pulling her into his arms.
"I'm sorry, 'Becca. I truly am. I don't know how Matthew will endure it. It would be the end of me that's for sure. I can't even think of being without you. I would just . . ." Even just thinking of himself in Matthew's place, made him sick with dread.
"She was a good friend." She said softly.
"She was family." He said and she clung tightly to him sobbing.
Hours later when she was finally asleep, he lay awake watching over her unable to forget the sight of Grace's family gathered around her watching her breathe her last. He prayed fervently that he would never have to live through that scene, and then he was immediately overwhelmed with guilt at the selfishness of that thought. He stroked Rebecca's beautiful, long red hair and thought of Matthew alone - forever separated from his dearest love. "Not forever." He told himself. It was only the comforting thought of heaven that allowed him to finally drift off to sleep, his arms wrapped protectively around his wife.
Anna Lee sat down slowly on the chair on the front porch. The hot summer sun beat down.
"You better drink this, sweetheart." Rebecca said handing her a glass of lemonade.
"I can't even see my feet anymore." Anna Lee said. "I had to ask Israel if I was wearing shoes."
"I tried to warn you." Becky said laughing. Reaching out she ran her fingers through Anna's long, brown hair. "Don't worry, not much longer now."
"I wish my Ma were here." Anna said softly and Rebecca bent down and kissed her cheek.
"Oh, she'd be so happy. Can you imagine it?" Anna smiled and nodded at her, brushing tears away.
Chandrika walked out onto the porch. "Well, he's finally asleep, so now I have maybe a few hours before he's hungry again. I can't believe how much that boy eats!"
"He takes after his father. Can you even think of one time when Mingo couldn't eat? Once Daniel brought him home with nearly all his ribs broken, a lump the size of a pumpkin on the back of his head, and a huge gash in his arm. You know what the first thing he said to me was? 'Do you have any of that Irish stew?'" Becky said with a laugh. "What about you Chandrika, are you hungry? I've got some roasted turkey Dan brought home."
"Oh, no. I came here to help you. You should rest." Chandrika said pushing Becky into a chair.
A baby began to cry from inside the cabin, and Daniel emerged holding a tiny three-week old baby. "He's hungry!" He said grinning and handed him to his mother.
"I figured it was about time." She sighed and reached out for him. He nestled in her arms, his cries stopping. She rocked him contentedly as he ate. He was soon asleep again, and she stepped into the cabin to lay him down.
"He's full at last?" Daniel asked. "He must get that appetite from his uncles."
Rebecca smiled at her husband and watched Nathan Bryan Boone sleep snuggled close to his cousin, Adahi, who was eight months his senior. The two of them nestled together in the cradle by the fireplace. They were a study in opposites; with Adahi's brown skin and sleek black hair and Nathan's pale skin and reddish-blond fuzz. In just a few weeks, Nathan would be an uncle. Daniel glanced at Rebecca and reaching out brushed her hair off her forehead giving her a kiss. "You look sleepy, you should go lie down while you can."
"I'm fine. Everyone's here. I'm happy." She smiled at him and put her arms around him. He knew she was tired, but he was content. She had managed to find joy once again.
They had struggled through many difficult days together. She had spent many an hour helping Anna Lee, her brothers, her sister Elizabeth, and Matthew. Matthew and the rest of the children would be here soon. It was still difficult for Matthew to be around them. He had confessed that seeing Dan and Becky together was too painful a reminder of his happiness with Grace. But slowly it had become easier for him. He looked down again at Nathan sleeping peacefully and felt overwhelmed with thankfulness.
They had been shocked to realize that she was expecting a child. They had figured Rose would be their last, but as he pointed out to Israel, the dangers of marrying young, were that you could simultaneously be expecting a child and a grandchild. From beginning to end, Becky had no fears with Nathan's arrival. She planned cheerfully for his arrival, and even smiled in her sleep. She had been gloriously joyous. About three months before he was born, he had finally asked her why she wasn't afraid this time.
"Well, you'll think it's silly." She had said shyly. "But I had a dream. Grace came to me and said not to waste a second on worry. That this baby would be strong, and bring us lasting joy. And when I woke up, I believed it was true. I was afraid you'd laugh, and say it was just a dream."
"Who am I to say anything about something that gives you such comfort?" He had reached out and rubbed her stomach and the baby had started kicking.
"He's saying hello to his Pa." She had told him.
"He?" He asked surprised.
"Well, Grace might have mentioned that too." She had said smiling.
"I've never known Grace to lie. I wouldn't expect her to start now just because she's left this earth." He had kissed her then, happy.
Daniel paced on the porch, holding Nathan, who at two months had become rather chubby. Israel, looking completely white, sat in a chair beside him. He rubbed his hands together nervously.
"Does it always take so long?" Israel asked with a shaky voice.
"It takes longer than you can possibly imagine." He looked down at his son. "Listen, I'd tell you not to worry, but it won't do no good. When your wife's involved, you can't help but worry. But I can tell you this, soon you'll feel so much better that you won't even remember you ever felt this way - until the next time."
"Maybe we did marry too young." Israel whispered as he rose and began to pace.
His father laughed out loud. "Too late for that now! You'll be fine Israel and so will Anna Lee."
Just then a baby's cry filled the air. Israel turned towards his father. "Did you hear that?"
"Well, Israel, sounds like you are a Pa!" His father said clapping him on the back.
They rushed inside Anna and Israel's little cabin. Anna lay tired and weary in their bed, Rebecca stood beside her and was just finishing wrapping a tiny baby in a blanket.
"Israel, come and meet your daughter." She said and held the baby out to him. Slowly, as if in a dream, he reached out and held her. He stared down into her tiny face and blinked back tears.
"Are you alright, Anna?" He asked nervously.
"I'm fine, Israel. I'm a bit tired though." She said.
"She's so beautiful. She looks like you Anna Lee." He said softly, and bending over kissed his wife. He sat beside her on the bed placing the baby in her arms. Daniel stood beside Rebecca and wrapped his arm around her. Kissing her cheek he said, "Good job, Grandma."
"Anna was wonderful and brave, and have you ever seen such a beautiful baby?" She glowed with happiness.
"What are you going to call her?" He asked the new parents.
Anna looked up at Israel and smiled, "You tell them." She said.
"Well, we would like you to meet Grace Rebecca Boone. We named after the two best ladies we knew. And if she is even half as sweet as either one of them, we'll be happy as can be." Israel said looking at his mother.
"Oh, Israel!" She said her eyes welling with tears. "Anna, your mother would be so proud of you!"
Just then Matthew burst through the door followed by Katie-Grace, Rose, Elizabeth, and all of Anna's brothers.
"Is the baby here?" Matthew asked, and seeing the baby in Israel's arms his eyes grew wide. "Oh, Anna! What a beautiful baby!" He leaned down and kissed his daughter.
"Alright, you've all had a look. Leave Anna be. Let her husband and her Pa, visit her a bit." Becky said shooing the crowd back out to the front room. "Katie why don't we see if we can fix up some supper for everyone, alright. You get it started, I better feed your brother first."
She walked out onto the porch, and Daniel followed her handing Nathan to Katie as he did.
"Nathan's still sleeping, sweetheart." He said. He looked at her and laughed. "Are you crying?" He put his arms around her. "Happy or sad?" He asked.
"Both, I guess. How happy Grace would be? And I can't believe those two are parents! And naming her like that, it is so sweet. But Lord, Daniel, think how stubborn both Grace and I are! That poor sweet baby girl!"
"Poor Anna's more like it!" He said laughing. "Maybe she'll have all your good qualities, course in my mind, that includes stubbornness. I do love a girl with a temper."
She laughed at him, wiping her eyes. "Well, you are one of a kind, Daniel."
"You are one in a million, Rebecca." He said kissing her. "I still don't think it is possible that we are grandparents three times over. You look young to me." He said.
"Well, I think that it helps that your eyesight gets weaker with time." She laughed. "Besides, we aren't old, we've got a newborn ourselves don't we? And soon it will be four times over! We got a letter from Mima. Life is full of surprises, don't you think?" She winked at him.
"How about that!" He said pleased. "As for me, I'm ready just now, for no more surprises, or adventures. It might be that I'm finally ready to sit by the fire and watch you knit." He said.
"Daniel Boone? Not possible. I read a book about you - adventure seeker, wanderer, discoverer! It didn't mention anything about sitting by the fire with a wife. In fact, if I recall, your wife was only mentioned once or twice in that book." She grinned.
"Well, that's because it would take volumes to explain all she did. Besides, only one book tells the truth and that was written ages ago. The rest are just stories." He kissed her. Suddenly, a baby's cry filled the air, but it wasn't baby Grace.
"Nathan's hungry again." He smiled at her. She went inside and he could hear her giving out orders as she settled in to feed their youngest. He smiled thinking the truth of what he had said. His own name was already legend, but he hoped someday, someone would be able to tell the true story; The United States of America may have been led by great men, but it was women like her, willing to risk all, endure all and submit to endless toil that kept the Nation tied together and strong. It wasn't really the men, but frontier women like Grace Bradley and Rebecca Boone, who built America. He hoped one day America would remember her too.