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   Chapter 8 NO.8

Deny Thyself By LadyRosabella Characters: 20182

Updated: 2017-12-20 15:41


Lids slid down to cover over dark green eyes. "No." A soft voice whispered in despair. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Peter had no right to believe Evlyn. 'Haven't I done everything in my power to prove her untrustworthy and vile? Suddenly she speaks and he is stupid enough to believe her.' That child hadn't helped matters, either. "What am I going to do to fix this problem?" Rosa put her hand on the wagon wheel and leaned in to see if they were still whispering inside.

"We were friends, Peter. Did you really think that I would do all those things?"

A heavy sigh filtered out of the wagon. "Evlyn, I'm only a man. Rosa is your best friend. I thought she knew you better than I did. It's been years since I saw you last." Silence consumed the conversation for a few seconds before Peter spoke again. "I always try to believe the best of people until I'm proven otherwise."

Evlyn giggled, "Isn't that a bit na?ve?"

"Perhaps to most people it would be. But I believe that everybody deserves a chance, a life, and friends."

Peter's voice was low and earnest almost as if he were trying to convey some important message. "If you deny them that, then you deny yourself."

Rosa couldn't help but snort at his stupid speech. "Deny yourself." She mocked. It was all she could do to keep from kicking something. It wasn't right! She had set her sights on Peter McCain since day one. She should be the one he makes pretty speeches to. Taking a deep shuddering breath, Rosa drew herself upright. Fine. If this is the way they wanted it, then this is the way they'll have it. "Oh, they'll have their happily ever after." Her eyes narrowed. "But they're going to pay heavily for it." Chuckling softly, Rosa left the wagon and walked to where Callie was dressing the little twerp.

Peter lifted Evlyn's chin with a finger. "I want to give Fannie everything she's asked us for."

Evlyn's eyes widened as a gasp escaped. Taking a deep breath, she licked her lips. Peter had to fight to keep his eyes fixed to hers. Those full pink lips were just waiting for him to claim them. Lord, have mercy.

"I do, too." She whispered.

Peter smiled. "You want to give her all that she asked for?" He clarified.

Evlyn shifted under his intense gaze. "I think it's only right that we give her everything. She deserves." Goodness! Was Peter indirectly asking her to marry him? Evlyn was sure she knew what he wanted her to say, but she wasn't saying it. Not until he got the nerve to ask her directly. No, it was much better to make it sound like it was for Fannie's benefit. At least until she knew for certain how he felt about her. She couldn't risk her heart. Not yet. A small part of her mind wondered why she even wanted him to want her. She saw how it was with her ma and pa. Why did she willingly want to put herself in that situation. Mrs. Gurtslinger's words drifted back into her mind like a spring breeze. "He was kind and gentle. He truly loved me. And I could trust him never to hurt me like my first husband did...You'll understand one day. One day, when a young man proves that he is worthy of your love and trust you will understand this old woman's words. Only then will you understand."

Shock vibrated through Evlyn's mind awakening every sense and thought. 'I understand.' She realized with surprise. 'I understand. I love Peter. I love him enough to risk my heart. To risk everything.' Evlyn tilted her head to the side and viewed Peter McCain through new eyes.

Peter's lips tilted upward in a lazy smile. "You look like a woman who wants to be kissed." He whispered.

Evlyn's eyes widened in horror. "Why! Why Peter that-" Peter placed a finger over her lips silencing her protests. "Only a kiss from her prince will make her eyes smile and her lips sing." He leaned closer, his voice dropping even lower. "Am I that prince, Evlyn?" Peter searched her eyes for a moment before allowing his gaze to slide down to the lips that were his target.

"Such sweet kissable lips." He murmured as he moved his finger so it gently caressed her bottom lip.

Evlyn's breath caught as he lowered his lips to hers. She felt his lips gently brush hers, and then he leaned in closer. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her into his lap and deepened the kiss. His lips moved across hers, warm and inviting. Evlyn wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

Time elapsed slowly as Evlyn and Peter learned each others kiss. Finally Peter pulled back to find a blushing young woman gazing up at him with smiling, wondering eyes. "Woman." He said in a husky voice. "After that kiss you must accept my proposal."

Evlyn smiled softly. "But Peter, " she said, letting her finger trail across his cheek and down to his lips, "I never heard a proposal."

"I- I didn't!" Peter looked so surprised that Evlyn couldn't help but giggle and shake her head. "Evlyn, I'm sorry! I thought... Never mind." Shaking his head, he cleared it of all thoughts except one. "Evlyn, I love you. Please, will you marry me?"

Evlyn couldn't fight the wave of joy that swept through her. She smiled up at Peter. "After a kiss like that I have to."

Fannie sat in front of the fire and allowed Callie to brush and braid her hair. "You're quiet." Callie softly observed.

"Yes."

Callie put her hands on the girl's shoulders and turned Fannie so she faced her. "Is there anything I can do, dear one?" Using her finger, Callie wiped a tear from Fannie's cheek.

"I miss my papa." Fannie sobbed. "Oh, Miss Callie." Fannie threw her arms around Callie's middle, clinging tightly to her, sobbing on her dress.

"Shhh-shhh." Callie whispered as she rubbed the child's back.

"I don't know what's going to happen." Fannie sniffed. She tilted her head to look us at Callie with her tear-filled eyes. "I tried to get the Miss Evlyn and Mr. Peter to want me. But I don't think they want me either. Why did they have to hurt my papa? Why, Miss Callie?" She burst into tears all over again.

Callie didn't know what to say to the ch

is pleaded. "Nothing can happen to my poor babies. They're the only ones I've got left in the world. Oh, please God. Help my babies." Mrs. Lewis was weeping softly as Tyrone backed out of the wagon.

Tyrone met Peter on the way to the Wyss wagon. His face looked grim. "How many?" Gurtslinger asked wearily.

"Two wagons besides the Lewis'."

Tyrone removed his hat and wiped his hand across his forehead. "The Lewis boy is pretty bad. She kept him from the reading because his stomach hurt but he got a fever since then."

"Three wagon out of eight have whatever this is. Tyrone, I don't think this thing will quit easily. Missy looked like death standing."

Gurtslinger nodded. "Her brother looked the same way. Who are the others?"

"Mary, Susan, and Saloma Hollister. And Callie Wyss. The youngest Hollister girl and their pa haven't got it yet, but I expect him to."

"Isn't Mrs. Wyss in a delicate condition?"

Peter nodded, the skin around his eyes tightening.

"I think we're going to have to stop at the next town. We can reach it my mid-morning tomorrow if we push it. In the meantime I'm going to ask Benjamin to try and identify the illness and maybe he'll have a cure."

Peter winced. "He was with his wife when I saw him. He's pretty torn up."

"Did he know what it was?"

"He's pretty sure it's cholera."

Tyrone sucked in a breath. Cholera. Cholera was one of the most dreaded diseases in the nineteenth century. The most frightening part of cholera was how fast it killed. A person could be fine in the morning, be tortured with agonizing cramps and diarrhea by the afternoon and dead by evening. Cholera cut like a scythe wherever it struck. "I'm going to ask Benjamin if he can do anything for the Lewis' and Hollister's."

Benjamin kneeled beside the two small Lewis children. Their fever was frightfully high. They needed hydration. The boy's lips were cracked and bleeding. He was sleeping but it was a fitful sleep from all his tossing and moaning. "Give them as much liquids as you can." He said to Mrs. Lewis. Her husband had his arm wrapped around her for support. "They need water. Use cool rags and try to bring down their fevers." He shook his head. "I wish I had ice." He muttered more to himself

Then the couple before him. "Mrs. Gurslinger offered to come and help."

"I'd appreciate that." Mr. Lewis said giving his wife's shoulder a squeeze.

"Call for me if anything changes."

"Thank you, Wyss." Mr. Lewis said.

Benjamin nodded, then he headed for the Hollister wagon. All but two were sick in their family. He wished he could give them a medicine and make them better. But that wouldn't help. What they needed was water, hydration. But their bodies kept expelling any liquids. Benjamin rubbed his jaw roughly when he thought of his wife. She was as bad off as the Lewis children were. He didn't want to think about the inevitable. He wiped viciously at his eyes and pulled his hat lower over his face.

"Benjamin, " Evlyn called as she hurried to him.

He turned but didn't offer any greeting. He had circles under his eyes; his face was cold and drawn.

"I thought you might like to sit with Callie. I can drive the team. At least for a while."

Benjamin gave her a curt nod. "Appreciate it." He mumbled. "I have to check on the Hollister's."

Evlyn hurried back to Callie. She changed the cloth on the woman's forehead and then offered her something to drink. Callie was so hot with fever that the instant the cloth was on her forehead it was warm. Mr. Gurtslinger had been kind enough to postpone leaving until Benjamin had examined all the ill. From the expression on Benjamin's face, the situation was grim. Evlyn offered up prayer after prayer as she tried to cool Callie's face.

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