They emerged from the woods as the sun was setting, into a high, secluded clearing nestled between two shoulders of the mountain. Trees ringed the clearing on three sides. A cornfield edged the fourth. Opposite the corn, where the ground sloped up, stood a cabin built of peeled logs, trimmed and neatly squared.
It was small. Smaller even than the Teagues’ home. Nearly twice as long as wide, it had a door in the center, south-facing, with a stone for a threshold, a papered window to the side. Because the land lay lower to the west it caught the setting sunlight, making it look as if it hadn’t lost the luster of new-cut wood.
They came first to a shed, just up from the creek bottom. Y stopped, untied the quilt and homespun bundle, and handed it to her.
“Go on in, take a look at the place while I see to the horse. I think we left it tidy, but don’t hold me to it.” He smiled down at her. “We took our leave thinking to come back bachelors still.”
His eyes told her he wasn’t truly worried, but she was beginning to be. She followed the beaten track from the stable-shed to the cabin’s batten door. She pulled the latch string, felt the bar lift within, and pushed her way inside.
Her first reaction was relief. The place didn’t smell bad, and the floor wasn’t dirt. Puncheon logs, fitted and sanded smooth, spanned the floor wall to wall. She left the door standing open for light and stepped to the side to look around.
There were two rooms. The one she stood in had a creekstone hearth that held a crane for cooking. Pots, a skillet, a bake kettle, and gridiron lined the hearthstones. The furnishings were sparse, and none resembled a bed. Beyond the doorway beside the hearth must be the room they used for sleeping.
A long table of homemade construction occupied the center of the room, with caned chairs drawn up to it. Several more chairs lined the walls next to smaller tables holding possessions her eyes skated over, until they landed on the books. Books! Lined up atop of a set of shelves. There must have been a dozen. Maybe more. Clothes hung on wall pegs—breeches, leggings, shirts—as well as traps and what she thought were snowshoes. Heavy winter moccasins stood in pairs below.
All was tidy and well kept. Even more surprising, the cabin bore touches evidencing a woman’s hand and eye: checked curtains hung at the window, and a matching linen runner spanned the table, with a pewter bowl of apples in the center.
Fresh apples, she realized, stepping up to the table with the quilt in her arms and touching one of the fruit.
“Who are on earth are you?”
X snatched her hand back, muffling a small outcry.
A girl in faded blue homespun stood framed in the doorway between the cabin’s rooms. She was small-boned and pretty, with pale hair streaming loose to her waist and eyes of such sparking blue X could see their color from across the room in the fading light.
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