"A boy!" Israel said surprised. "Imagine that. What do you think, Ma?" He handed his newborn son over to his mother, who was clearly filled with joy.
"Oh, he's beautiful! Israel! He looks like you! Course you were a tiny, scrawny, little thing." She kissed her grandson's head. "James Patrick Boone here, looks downright chubby." She sat down on the bed next to Anna. "How do you feel, Anna?"
"Tired." She said smiling. Becky reached out and tucked Anna's hair behind her ear. "And ridiculously happy."
"Sounds about right, then." Becky said. "Don't you worry, honey. Between your Pa, and the rest of your family, your girls will be happy as larks. You can just rest and take care of little James here. Dan brought home a fine fat turkey and I'm roasting him right now. I have every intention to spoil you rotten." She smiled at her daughter in law.
"I am so glad, we didn't lose you." Anna said holding onto Becky's hand. "You are the only Ma I've got left." Anna's eyes filled with tears and equally teary, Becky squeezed her shoulder.
"I was just thinking the other day about this lady told me once that before babies are born to us, all those we've loved and lost get to hold them tight and kiss them. I imagine your Ma snuggled little James here before she sent him to us". Rebecca handed James back to his mother and gave Anna a kiss on the cheek. She poured water from a pitcher into a glass and set it beside her.
"I bet his Uncles whispered a few secrets in his ear then." Anna said. "Probably instructed him on how to live up to his name."
"Oh, we'll darlin' you are in for a for a whole heap of troubles. Patrick was the sweetest baby, but Jim had a nose for trouble." Daniel said his hand resting lightly on his wife's shoulder. "You better warn her, Becky."
"Oh! Now, this sweet boy will be much better behaved, I'm sure. Don't you fret, Anna. James will be just as sweet as his Uncle Jim." Daniel laughed and she hit his stomach lightly. "Stop it, you. He never meant to put that hole in the roof and that horse did spook easily. I'm sure it would've run off even if Jim hadn't brought that snake."
"Oh, I know Jim never meant to make trouble, but you have to admit he had a knack for finding it!" Daniel said laughing.
"Oh my!" Anna said. "Israel Boone! You never told me!"
"I wasn't born yet! Don't blame me!" He laughed and lifted his son out of Anna's arms. "This boy has enough to worry about just being related to me. Remember that time I tried to fly? Course I recall a young Anna Lee trying to convince me to help her teach a raccoon how to dance."
"Oh! I never should've married someone who's known me my whole life." Anna said laughing.
It was crowded. The cabin was filled to the brim with children and grandchildren. It seemed as though someone was always under foot. Daniel, who generally preferred solitude and wide-open spaces, didn't seem to mind it one bit. He surprised himself by being content to watch his children and grandchildren play and run amuck. The cabin door would swing open and a pack of children would swarm in, swoop up whatever Becky had just finished baking and then fly back outside. At night he would tip toe into the front room to stoke the fire stepping over his sleeping grandsons as he did.
Everyone was home for Rebecca's birthday and she was in heaven. Counting up all of Mima, Israel, and Katie-Grace's children, there were eleven grandchildren, but if you included Mingo's four sons and Mali, it made sixteen. She was joyfully surrounded by family and everyone of them was grateful for her presence. Her headaches had faded and the nightmares had become a rare occurrence. His constant nagging worry about her had begun to fade as she seemed fully recovered, but his gratefulness and wonder that she was again at his side was as strong as the first moment he had seen her miraculously alive.
Israel and Peter had returned home just days before James Patrick Boone made his appearance.
"They won't be botherin' folks 'round these parts again, Pa." Israel had said.
"What did you do?" His father had asked him with wide eyes.
"We just made it clear they weren't welcome this side of the Cumberland." Israel told him. "I did everything you asked me to. And I brought this home to you." He handed his father a worn buck knife.
"He hit her with the handle when he knocked her out." He said bitterly. "So, I returned the favor. He understands you were displeased, Pa."
He studied the knife in his hands, and felt a wave of rage wash over him as he imagined it crashing onto her head. He gripped the handle tightly, his knuckles turning white.
"Thank you, Israel." His voice was sharp and bitter. "I know your Ma is grateful to have you home. Let's not mention this to her. She'd rather not talk about it." His eyes rested on the knife.
"What are you going to do with it?" Israel asked him.
"I think I'll burn it." He said and Israel nodded at him.
It was late afternoon and Nathan ran into the cabin and glanced all around.
"Pa! Can I go down to the river with the nephews? Please?"
Daniel Boone looked up from where he sat trying to mend Becky's spinning wheel that had been badly damaged earlier that morning from the very same group of nephews testing their wrassling skills.
"Who's going to watch over you all?" He asked. "Is your Ma going?"
"Rose is taking us, and Katie said she'll come to. Ma's picking apples in the upper orchard. She told you that but you weren't listening." Nathan said. "So, can I go, please?"
"You get your chores done already?"
"Yes, sir. I finished them ages ago and I practiced my letters like Ma said."
"Well, I suppose its alright then. Nathan, try and keep those boys out of trouble, alright?"
"Yes, sir!" Nathan turned and ran, banging the cabin door shut behind him. Daniel laughed glad that Becky wasn't there to hear the door slam. He looked around and realized that for the very first time in weeks, he was completely alone.
Mima was spending the day at Anna and Israel's, helping with the baby and the girls, and now all the boys had run off for a swim. He sighed and realized that he felt lonely. He set aside the spinning wheel and headed out the door.
She was reaching up on tiptoe trying to grab an apple that was just out of reach. He watched her as she stretched, extending her long arm. As she reached, her skirt rose and he could see the line of her leg. He had discovered, upon marrying her, that she possessed numerous secrets that she kept hidden from the outside world, not the least of which was that hidden beneath the layers of her skirts and petticoats were a pair of gloriously long, beautiful legs.
"Maybe you should aim for the lower ones." He said and reaching out and easily plucked the apple, handing it to her.
"Where did you come from?" She said startled. "Since when did you get good at sneakin' up on folks?"
"Well, I've been studying up your technique all these years." He grinned at her. "Want some help?"
She nodded her head. They worked together and easily filled the two baskets that she had brought along. They set them down and stood together under the shade of the apple trees that they had planted together years ago.
"Remember planting these?" He asked her with a grin.
"Don't start!" She said with a laugh and sat down on the green grass and reaching for an apple took a bite.
"What?" He asked. He sat beside her, close.
"I see you thinking." She said laughing.
Truth be told, the fact that trees had been planted at all was a miracle. They had only been married for a few months when they planted the grove of apple trees. The first two times they had gone out to plant them, he had watched her as she worked and had been, well, distracted, and somehow the trees never quite got planted. The third time they had set out she had pushed him out of their cabin saying, "Daniel Boone, you go plant those trees. I'll bring you some dinner later and only if you get some trees planted!"
"You ain't comin' along, Becky?" He'd grinned at her.
"No! You say you want my help, but that is what you want at all!" She'd blushed.
"Well, you are a beautiful girl." He explained wrapping his arms around her.
"Oh, no you don't!" She wriggled free. "Work first!"
"First?" He'd said. "Well, there's hope then. I'll get those trees planted lickety-split!"
And he had. He had been a planting tornado, so that by the time she'd arrived with his dinner, he was nearly done. They had planted the last few trees together, and then she'd surprised him, by spreading out a quilt in the sunshine, and smiling, reached out for his hand, pulling him towards her. The stars had shown brightly in a deep purple sky when they'd finally returned to the cabin.
He smiled thinking of those early days before all the children, all the responsibilities, and all the heartaches that would later come her way. He put a long arm around her shoulder.
"You gonna eat that whole apple?" He asked her and she handed it to him. He polished it off and tossed the core out beyond their small orchard.
"Did you fix it?" She asked him as they sat together looking up into the fading light. They watched the coming sunset as the sky turned pink and purple.
"I think it'll be easier to replace it. I'll take Israel out tomorrow and will cut some nice birch for it. Sorry, love, I hope you didn't have any attachment to that spinning wheel of yours. Of course, we could give it a proper burial if you'd like. I know just the spot. It has a stone marker with your name on it. We can just cross it out and put Old Spinner instead."
"Well, I would like that stone knocked down. It made me uncomfortable to see my name there. It's like it is waiting."
She had been home just a few days when she'd wandered out to the meadow that held the stones marking the children they'd lost. William. Elizabeth. Patrick. James. They had buried three children on a rolling hill that looked down into the Kentucky wilderness. Daniel had etched the fourth stone for Jim, their first-born, who had been buried where he'd been brutally killed along the trail. It had seemed wrong not to include him in their small stone garden.
She had awoken from another nightmare in the early dawn, but Daniel had slept on, and hating to wake him she rose and wandered out. She had stood at the edge of the meadow, remembering burying each child - half-grateful that she could remember it all now, and half-wishing that the pain of those days had been forever lost. She'd seen it then.
Rebecca Ann Bryan Boone
Ta Mo Chroi Istigh Inoat Go Deo
It was delicately and lovingly etched with roses on either side. It was horrible and beautiful all at the same time. She could picture him bent over the stone painstakingly carving each letter, each delicate flower. It was shocking and had frightened her. Nothing prepared her to stand looking at her own tombstone, and she trembled as she stood gazing at it.
"Rebecca." His voice startled her and she jumped. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sneak up on you." He had said. He wrapped his arms around her and she leaned against him as they both stared at it.
"Everyone insisted. After a time, even Israel and Katie said we probably should." His voice was unrecognizable to her, filled with a bitter darkness she'd never heard before. "I carved it myself."
"Oh Dan, it is beautiful." She had said. "But I don't like it." She added confident he would understand what she meant.
"I hate it." He had told her and she had shivered at the sound of his voice. He looked down at her, safe in his arms and had said, "Let's go inside, sweetheart. You're cold."
"I'm not cold." She had said.
"I know, love." He had said and gently he turned her away from the stone and back to their cabin.
She shivered again just thinking about it, and he squeezed her shoulder gently. Smiling, she continued, "As for my spinning wheel, I guess that's the danger when there's more than one child in a cabin." She smiled up at him. "Where is everyone anyway?"
"Oh scattered here and there. Rose and Nathan took the nephews swimming. Katie tagged along. Mima's at Anna's helping out." He studied her face. "I knocked it down, darlin'. The day you saw it. I went out while you were sleeping and smashed it to bits. I ain't never felt such a rage and when I was done there was nothing left but powder." He sighed.
"Oh, Dan, is tu mo ghra." She said softly and laced her fingers around his. "Are you alright?"
He cleared his throat and squeezing her fingers he said, "As long as you are with me. You are my heartbeat." He said using the phrase she nearly always said to him in Irish. The first time she'd said it to him they had just been engaged and he had asked her what it meant. She'd blushed as she told him, and he couldn't even speak. He'd been awed that such a beautiful, wonderful, loving girl could care so much for him.
She smiled up at him saying, "I can't remember the last time we weren't surrounded by family."
"You complaining?" He asked surprised.
"Lord, no! I'm so happy that Mima and Flanders are here. It is more than I could even dream. It has been the nicest birthday."
"Who'd have thought that all these folks would be here one day, just because you decided you had to see the frontier!" He said thinking of the very first time he'd ever seen her.
She laughed. "Well, I think it had more to do with you riding up just as the sun was sinking. Who knows where I'd be now, if you had come back just a few minutes earlier, or later." She teased him.
"Actually, sweetheart, I should confess to you. I did get back earlier." He said remembering.
"What?" She looked up surprised.
"Well, I waited until the light was just so, and then I rode towards you." She stared at him surprised. "There were lots of others wagons in that train, Becky. Didn't you ever consider that I rode to yours first, on purpose?"
"I . . . I . . . " She stammered. "I thought you didn't even notice me at first."
"I dragged that looking glass all the way back from Philadelphia for you and you still don't use it! Honestly! Rebecca, you are the most beautiful woman who's ever set foot on Kentucky soil, and you don't even know it. I had to wait until the sunset to ride towards you! There's no way on God's green earth that I stood a chance with a beautiful girl like you, without plotting things to my advantage!" He laughed.
"Daniel Hezekiah Boone!" She stammered blushing. "I had no idea!" She wrapped her arms around him.
"I don't have a middle name." He said softly. "Stop making things up.
"Why is that anyway? All your brothers do? And so do most of your sisters?" She asked him.
"I don't know." He said. "I never thought about it." He leaned in and kissed her neck.
"Did your Ma run out of ideas? But that doesn't make sense either. You aren't the youngest."
"I don't want to talk about my Ma, just now." He said looking into her eyes.
"No?" She laughed. He smiled at her, shaking his head.
"I don't want to talk about my middle name, either." He explained laying back on the green grass and pulling her towards him.
"You don't have a middle name." She said smiling down into his green eyes.
"Rebecca Ann Bryan Boone, that's a wicked smile you've got on your face."
"Wicked? Me? I don't think I've ever been called wicked, exactly. Now, I've been told that I'm a stubborn and difficult woman from time to time." She explained.
"Oh, Lordy! That's my favorite kind!" He said and laughing, he kissed her.
"Where are Ma and Pa?" Israel asked.
Everyone had returned for a family supper, but their parents were nowhere to be found.
"Ma was picking apples, and Pa must have gone to lend her hand." Katie said raising an eyebrow as she put a dish of potatoes on the table.
"I'll go fetch them!" Nathan said rising from where he sat at the long table.
"Better not." Mima said catching him by the arm.
"Why not?" Nathan asked.
Israel laughed and winked at Jemima. "Trust me Nathan, if Ma and Pa both disappear, it is best to NEVER go looking for them."
"Some things never change." Katie said laughing. "Come on everyone, let's eat."
The children were all tucked in bed, and the adults had gathered on the porch. The stars were bright, and the moon nearly full. A soft breeze floated in as Katie came outside and handed her father a piece of pie.
"You know that's your third piece." She said as she handed it to him.
"Well, be fair now, Katie. He did miss super." Her husband Peter said grinning.
"That's right, you did." She patted her father's shoulder, and turning winked at her husband. She sat down beside him on the front step of the cabin.
"Mima, why don't you stay here forever." Becky said.
"Oh, Ma, don't tempt me." Mima said laughing. "Of, course, where I live you don't have to worry about raiding Indians, or gangs of ruffians."
"And you know what we do, if we run out of sugar or flour?" Flanders asked his Mother-in-law. "We go on into town and buy some."
"Now, there's no need to brag." Becky said with a laugh. "Besides, we usually have those things at the fort - unless the supply wagon is late or there's been a raid."
"Look out to those hills, though. You don't have that in your city living, do you?" Daniel said.
"I guess not." Flanders conceded.
"You'll never convince Pa, that this isn't the best spot in the entire world." Israel said laughing and turning to his wife beside him, he said, "I suppose we ought take the girls on home, Anna." Anna sighed in response.
"Oh, why don't you stay the night." Becky said. "The girls are all asleep anyway. It would be a shame to wake them all just to walk home. Besides, it will be like a party."
"It's too late to be dragging poor Anna back all the way to your place, Israel." His father said.
Israel sat back down on the bench beside Anna who rested her head back against his shoulder.
"It's hard to say no to a woman who was dead just two weeks ago." Israel grinned at his mother.
"I'm thinking I might be able to get my way for a bit." Becky said smiling. "Mima are you sure you need to leave tomorrow?"
"Ma!" Mima said.
"I'm just teasing, Jemima." She grinned at her. "Well, mostly teasing, anyway."
"It is hard to imagine that just ten days ago, we were all doubled-over with sorrow." Chandrika said. "And now," She reached over and held onto her husband's hand.
"We are happy and content." He finished for her. "I'm half-tempted to stick around for that social tomorrow night."
"Oh, stay! It is just one more day." Becky said. "Besides, you wouldn't want to deny a dead woman her wish, now would you?"
"Well, Chandi has already been asking so, I suppose we will stay around just a bit longer. But as soon as I return to Chota, I intend to offer prayers up for you Daniel."
"For me? Why? Becky's here, my heart's returned to me." He wrapped his long arm around his wife's shoulders.
"Irish charm, you could withstand when necessary, but the wishes of a dead woman? You don't stand a chance, Daniel!"
"Oh, I don't mind." He said with a grin kissing her cheek.
"Pa, Peter and I are going to go out trapping in a few weeks. You can tag along if you like, but there's no need for you to go." Israel said.
"We'll bring in enough pelts for you too, sir." Peter said.
"Well, thank you. I think I'll stay home with your Ma. Seems to me, I've gone trapping enough times already."
"That's for sure." Katie-Grace said. "Remember when you were out trapping and the Choctaw came?"
"I think about it 'most every day. Your Ma running towards Mingo and me . . . I'll never forget the shock or the look on her face. I'm just glad you and Rose were alright."
"I don't remember it much. I remember when I got back Cincinnatus gave me candy - all I wanted." Rose said.
Becky laughed. "He spoiled all of you with candy. It is a wonder you didn't get sick from it."
They all sat cheerfully together watching the bright moon and thinking how good it was to have the entire family in one spot.
"We were all telling stories, not too long ago," Israel said to his mother. "About all the things we remembered. And everyone of us remember that time that Pa got caught by the storm and missed Christmas and you stayed up all night making us that sled. You cheered us all up! We woke up so sad that Pa wasn't there and you dragged us all out into the snow and started pushing us down that hill. It was one of our favorite memories - especially of you riding that sled and laughing the whole way down." Israel said.
"I'd forgotten about that." His mother said smiling at the memory. "I was lonesome for your Pa, and just sick of feeling sad. I had to do something."
"I remember that! I came home late on Christmas afternoon and the cabin was completely empty! I was so terrified that something had happened that I lit out to the fort like my feet were on fire, and then I heard the sound of laughing."
"Poor Dan!" Rebecca said patting his arm. "It must have been terrible to come home to an empty house. I did feel just awful about that."
"I kept thinking of when the Choctaw took you and Pa brought you home." Katie said softly. "I was thinking about it over and over while you were gone. I kept hoping it would be like that again. I was so heartbroken when they took you, but Pa promised me he'd bring you back and he did." Katie said softly.
"And you called me Ma." Becky said looking at her.
"Well, you are my Ma." Katie said. "I'll never forget seeing you. You were so skinny and hurt, but so beautiful. We were all so grateful. And the whole time you were dead, I kept thinking about that, and praying it would be just like before. But then we put up the stone and I stopped thinking that way. It was too painful, and then when all the hope in our hearts had died, he brought you home again!"
"Back from the dead!" 'Mima said. "I was remembering that time when I was little, and Israel, you were practically a baby still, and we all went out hunting and camped in the woods. I can't even remember why, but it was so much fun. The four of us altogether, and Pa taught us all how to build traps. I remember, Ma caught a fox. You were so proud of yourself! Especially because Pa didn't catch a thing."
"I remember that." Dan said. "That was a beautiful fox you caught. I was right proud, and Israel caught two rabbits!"
"That's what I remember!" Becky said. "He was so proud of himself. Do you remember, son?"
"Not really. But I remember the time that you shot that panther that came after the chickens." Israel said.
"That was amazing!" Mima said. "You weren't here, Pa. And Ma was cooking and happened to glance out the window. She didn't say a word to any of us. She just grabbed her rifle, opened the door, shot the panther, and went right back to her stew."
"Well, I was afraid it would burn." She said sheepishly.
"Wait, I never heard about that. Rebecca Ann!" Daniel said.
"Well, there was no need to worry you. It was fine. Besides, if I remember correctly, you came home with four broken ribs, and Mingo had been shot in the arm. I wasn't really focused on telling you stories about what you missed." She told him.
"Oh, I remember that. That was that gang of fellows who thought it would be fine to fish in the middle of a Shawnee burial ground. We were lucky that we got away when we did, they almost . . ." Mingo stopped realizing that Daniel had sworn him to secrecy.
"You told me it was just an accident, and you broke your ribs when you fell trying to help Mingo." Rebecca turned towards Daniel.
"I think it is getting mighty late, and we all ought to turn in." Daniel said.
"You two and all your secrets!" Mingo said. "Daniel, I can't keep up! I am officially resigning as your secret-keeper. From here on out, if she asks, I'm answering."
"Good thing you are heading back to Chota tomorrow then." Dan said laughing then sighing he said, "I suppose it is late and we ought to turn in."
"Oh, not yet!" Becky said. "We'll never be all together like this again."
"Well, I suppose we have to do what you say." He grinned at her. "You can't deny the wishes of a dead woman." He rested his chin on the top of her head perfectly content.
"Whatever the lady wants, she gets." Mingo agreed and nodding her family complied with her wishes sitting up together late into the night telling stories and remembering.