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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
400 pages
May 2007
Tyndale House Publishers

Willow Springs

by Jan Watson

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With each turn of the buggy’s wheels, each jaw-jarring rut in the well-traveled road, Copper Brown Corbett felt more alone. She wished she could rewind the clock, take back the day, and return to Troublesome Creek. Why was she here? Who was the stranger beside her? She’d never known a man who wore a piece of silk knotted at his throat like a notice saying who he was, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Why didn’t Simon take off his coat and roll up his sleeves?

This was all a mistake. She never should have married him.

The early summer sun beat down on the rolling carriage. Taking off her hat, a silly concoction of feathers and lace, she fanned herself with its brim. Perspiration soaked her hair at the temples. If she were home, she’d run to the creek, and if Mam wasn’t watching, she’d shuck her dress and jump in for a swim. It would be so cool there where the willows wept upon the bank.

The sway of the buggy lulled her. She leaned back and propped her unshod feet on the old dog who snored on the buggy’s floor.

Clip-clop. Clip-clop . . . The horse’s hooves pounded on the packed-dirt trail. Click-click-click . . . A stick announced its presence, trapped in the spoke of a wheel. Sunlight sparkled through a canopy of leaves as the buggy entered a shaded tunnel of towering beeches, oaks, and maples. Copper’s hat dropped to her lap. Resting her head against the leather seat, she dreamed of home. . . .

Compared to the other houses up and down the holler, the cabin on Troublesome Creek was spacious with its big front room and two tacked-on bedrooms. Copper Brown’s great-grandparents had fi rst homesteaded on the creek. There had still been a few marauding Indian bands about when her grandfather built the sturdy cabin, but most of the uprising was over, settled by Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton and their ilk many years before. They’d had more trouble from bears and wolves than from scalp hunters.

Copper could see her family—Daddy with his bushy white beard; Mam, shoulders squared, her hair pulled back in a bun; and the twins, Daniel and Willy, teasing each other, causing no end of trouble—sitting around the round oak table for supper. They’d all clasp hands, and Daddy would say grace. But there was no plate set for her. She wouldn’t have a piece of the crispybrown fried rabbit. Her chair sat empty and forlorn, pushed back behind the door.

The dream of supper made Copper’s stomach growl. She cast a sideways look at her husband and hoped he hadn’t heard the indelicate sound. Sitting up straight, she gazed ahead; then disbelieving what she saw, she got on her knees to look out the back. The mountains—her mountains—were behind her now. Way in the background she could see their proud silhouettes, like the humps of kneeling camels, a shadow land fading from view. The horse pulled the carriage up puny knobs and across fields as flat as a skipping rock.

Panic seized her heart in a moment of wild fear. “Stop! Let me off.”  

Simon Corbett turned his head at the sound of Laura Grace’s voice. “What is it? I thought you were sleeping.” He reined in the horse, glad for a moment’s rest, and reached for the hand of his seventeen-year-old bride.

Ignoring the offer, she jumped down from the buggy without his help. He watched as she hitched up her long skirts and ran back the way they had come.

She didn’t run far, and he caught up with her easily enough. “Laura Grace?”  

She flinched at the touch of his hand but more so at the name he used. Her name was Copper. Copper Brown. Nobody but Mam ever called her Laura Grace and that too often in reprimand.

She looked toward the mountains. A fool could see their colors ebbing, the trees bunching up, the rock faces wavering, running together like a watercolor painting left out in the rain.

A spurt of hot tears stung her eyes.

“You never told me this would happen, Simon,” she sobbed. “You didn’t tell me the mountains would disappear.”

Resting his hand on her shoulder, he said, “Oh, sweetheart, I never thought you wouldn’t know.”

“How was I supposed to know they’d be all ironed out flat like this?” Her voice hitched. “How do you catch your breath when there’s nothing to hold things in place?”

He took her arm and turned her toward him. “Close your eyes and take a deep breath.”

Stubbornly she tucked her chin.

He raised her head. “Breathe!”

Her breath was ragged and painful when it hit her lungs.

“Deeper,” he insisted, his fi ngertips pressing into her soft flesh. “There, that’s better. Now keep your eyes closed and tell me what you smell.”

“Trees and grass,” she murmured, “and, oh, there’s lavender and day’s-eye blossoms.” Her eyes popped open. “Wet moss and rocks. There’s a creek nearby!” Comforted, she leaned her face against his chest.

“The air you breathe is the same everywhere,” Simon said.

“It’s a gift from God that goes wherever you go. All you have to do is close your eyes, and He will send the mountains back to you.”

Copper took in the fresh, starched-linen scent of him, relished the strength in his embrace, felt the tickle of his mustache against her cheek, and remembered, with a rush of feeling, why she’d left her dear mountain home, why she’d married this stranger. Oh, the heart was a treacherous thing.

Stretching up, she kissed his cheek, then danced away.

“We’ve got to fi nd that creek.”

“I’ll unhitch the horse,” he replied. “We can use a break.”

“Oh, look!” She laughed and pointed at the gray-muzzled hound loping toward them on three legs. Her black high-tops dangled from his mouth.

“Paw-paw, you silly old thing. Thank you.” She knelt to retrieve her shoes and patted his head. “Come on, boy. Let’s go get a drink.”