by Rose Wilder Lane, illustrated by Dan Andreasen
While they were children playing together, they said they would be married as soon as they were old enough, and when they were old enough they married. David liked to remind her that he had never asked her to marry him; he liked to see her smile sedately, as she always smiled at his teasing.
She was a quiet person. When she was a little girl she was often asked if the cat had got her tongue. Even with David she had a way of saying nothing in words. Her eyes, which could not lie, told what she felt. Before she smiled, a shadowy dimple quivered in one cheek. Her face was quiet under smooth wings of hair, and all her movements were gentle and deft. In her heart she never quite lost the wonder that she, quiet and shy and not very pretty, had won such a man as David. He was laughing and bold, a daring hunter, a dancer, fiddler and fighter.
She thought of him always as he was on summer Sunday afternoons when his family was spending the day with hers. Perhaps some other neighbors were there too.
The old men sat on the bench against the shady side of the log house, talking slowly, with chuckles and long pauses. Their sons went out to look at the calf and pigs. Children ran about, climbing the rail fence, raiding the wild blackberry thickets. The babies slept on a faded quilt in the shade of the oak, and near them the women rested on benches brought from the house. David's grandmother swayed in the hickory rocker that bumped over the uneven ground. Everything in the clearing was drowsy till David sat down on a stump and tuned his fiddle.
His favorite hymn always lifted him to his feet. His chin left the fiddle, he shook back his thick brown hair. His voice rang out above all the other voices; it led the defiant, triumphant song that surged across the stumpy fields and echoed into the vast, unconquered forest:
Let the hurricane roar!
It will the sooner be o'er!
We'll weather the blast, and land at last,
On Canaan's happy shore!
Many settlers had come to the settlement in the Big Woods while David and Molly were growing up. When they married there was little good land left. Farther west, the country was not yet settled and the land was said to be rich and level, and without forests. So they went west.
David's father was an open-handed man and he had six sons younger than David; he could afford to be generous. David was not yet nineteen. His labor belonged to his father until he was twenty-one. But his father gave him his time -- a free gift of more than two years. To cap this, for good measure heaped up and running over, he gave David the team and wagon he would have earned by working till he was twenty-one.
Molly's parents gave her two blankets, two wild goose-feather pillows, and cooking pot and pan and skillet. They gave her a ham, a cheese, two molds of maple sugar, and Tennyson's Poems beautifully bound in green and gilt, with steel engravings. She had the patchwork quilts she had pieced. David had his fiddle and his gun. Their families together sent East for their Bible, and the circuit rider wrote their marriage certificate on the page provided for it. The pages for Births and Deaths were still blank, waiting to be written upon. So, well provided for, they set out to the West.
At first Molly was sad because she was leaving her family forever. She ached for the busy life with her mother and sisters in the log cabin, for her father's coming home from work or hunting, even for the oak tree by the door and the path to the spring. But these memories soon ceased to hurt her, in her happiness with David.
They could never decide which was bestthe fresh mornings, when the first rays of the sun found Molly packing the washed dishes and David whistling while he hitched up the team; or the varied days of traveling westward on unknown roads; or the evenings by the campfires.
David played his fiddle while the horses grazed and stars or moon shone overhead and the night air was sweet. Or they sat cozily together with the firelight on their faces, and talked about the things they had seen that day and the home they would have in the West. Then Molly banked the fire while David tied the horses safe for the night, and they went to bed in the wagon.
Every day David shot game. When they needed flour and tea and sugar, they camped at some settlement while he worked for supplies. Whenever he had money, he brought her a present; once a little box covered with tiny shells, a mirror set in the lid; and once fifteen yards of calico for a dress she didn't really need. She scolded him, for she was thrifty, but she never cured him of bringing her presents. He liked to see the shining in her eyes.
Late that summer they reached the western prairie and David got a job, teaming on the railroad. They were going to have a baby, and he wanted to earn money. The homestead could wait, he said; he would look around for one, and meantime she must stay in the railroad camp.
The long railroad embankment was being pushed westward. Scores of men and teams were working on it, raising a low smoke of dust under the enormous sky. The camp was small on the immense plain, where there was nothing but miles of wild grass blowing in the wind.
The bunk house, the cookhouse and the company store were all of raw new lumber. The contractor's wife had a little frame shanty, and so did her sister who ran the cookhouse, but they were crowded and Molly did not want to stay in them...