Elm Creek Quilts [07] The Sugar Camp Quilt

Elm Creek Quilts [07] The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini Read Free Book Online

Book: Elm Creek Quilts [07] The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer Chiaverini
Tags: Romance, Historical, Mystery, Adult
    “He seemed as oblivious to its charms as to those of everything else in Creek’s Crossing,” retorted Dorothea, quickly outpacing her parents.
    “Cheer up,” called her mother. “He has only just met us. Perhaps once he knows us better, he will decide to move on to some other town, where the women have greater skill with flowers.”
    Dorothea tried to stay angry, but she could not help it; she burst out laughing. “One can hope,” she said. She paused and allowed her parents to catch up to her. She thought, but did not say aloud, that if Mr. Nelson did leave, Creek’s Crossing would need another schoolteacher.
    Her father was right. It had been a fine party, but it was wasted on Mr. Nelson. Dorothea’s thoughts went to the small farmhouse to the southwest where Abel and Constance Wright were finally enjoying the comforts of freedom. No wedding supper, no bridal quilt, no wedding party had marked their homecoming. How much more appropriate it would have been for the people of Creek’s Crossing to welcome Constance with music and celebration, and to allow Mr. Nelson, the convict-turned-schoolmaster, to eat a cold supper alone.

D OROTHEA’S FATHER AND uncle finished the harvest, aided by the threshers and a spell of temperate weather that made Dorothea wistful for the long-ago days that she and Jonathan spent exploring the shores of Elm Creek barefoot and happy. Once they wandered so far they scaled the peak of Dutch Mountain, unaware of the distance they had conquered until the entire Elm Creek Valley lay spread out before them. They returned home to Thrift Farm late for their chores, but it never would have occurred to their parents or the other adults who occupied the cabins scattered about the main residence to scold. They were a community of Christians with strong Transcendentalist inclinations, and they believed children had to be allowed to pursue their own hearts’ desires without adult interference. If they had not also believed human beings were obligated to treat the animals in their care with respect and kindness, the Granger children might never have learned any part of what it meant to run a farm.
    Dorothea wondered what had become of those optimistic men and women who had tried to build a utopia in the Pennsylvania wilderness. None had perished in the flood, but after Thrift Farm lay underwater, the group was forced to disperse. There was some talk, at first, of moving out west to start again, but the money for the journey and the perfect plot of land could never be found. Singly or in pairs, the former residents of Thrift Farm drifted away from the Elm Creek Valley like cottonwood seeds on the wind. Dorothea’s parents occasionally received letters from friends who had gone to Kansas or California; Lorena would linger over them, caressing the precious words with her fingertips.
    Uncle Jacob had taught the Granger children how to run a farm properly and a child’s proper place within the household. Their education was swift and jarring, but they learned. Dorothea’s parents caught on more slowly, but Uncle Jacob eventually made able farmers out of them. Dorothea learned, too, that as hard as Uncle Jacob worked them, there were advantages to his methods: Her days were no longer hers to fill as she chose, but the forest did not reclaim the fields and the crops did not fail. Jonathan no longer complained of hunger in the middle of the night and his persistent headaches disappeared. Dorothea grew three inches the first summer after Uncle Jacob took them in, after which he ordered Dorothea’s mother to put her in long skirts rather than dungarees and forbade her to wander the valley as if she were, as he put it, a wild Indian or Irish.
    If nothing else, Uncle Jacob’s restrictions on the children’s carefree wanderings allowed them more time for books. Jonathan’s aptitude for the scholarly life was apparent even to his uncle, who generally mistrusted such inclinations. It was Uncle Jacob

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