August 1840 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
While other women her age were busy preparing a hearty breakfast for their families in snug, warm homes that crowded the city or dotted the outlying farms, Elvira Kilmer was hurrying down an unfamiliar roadway, hugging the woods along the eastern shoreline of Dillon’s Island to meet a total stranger.
The air was heavy with the sweet scent of apples that grew in the orchards filling the interior of the island. But it was not enough to ease the heavy resentment that beat in Ellie’s heart, and her thin, well-mended cape did little more to ward off the uncommon nip in the air than her tattered faith could warm the chill in her spirit.
Yawning, she caught a brief glimpse of the Susquehanna River through a break in the trees that lined either side of the roadway and wondered what it would be like to simply drift away to a place where she was the only one who had control over her life.
Ellie snorted, tugged her cape tighter, and trudged forward. She had just taken a couple of sidesteps to avoid a deep ridge in the roadway when a raccoon darted out of the woods right in front of her. Startled, she swirled about, tripped over her own skirts, and toppled into the brush, snagging her cape on a low branch in the process.
Thankfully, she found the wherewithal to grab on to a small sapling to keep from pitching forward and landing flat on her face. Swaying a bit, she gasped for air and wondered if her heart would burst before it stopped pounding in her ears.
When she finally caught her breath, she glanced down and saw that she had landed smack in the middle of a patch of blackberries. Relief that the thorns on the brambles had not pierced through her cape and skirts was short-lived, however, once she got back to her feet to see what damage she had done to her garments.
Her gloves, which had kept her hands from being scraped, were sticky with tree sap, and the mends she had made just the other day had torn open again, which meant the gloves were now destined for the trash pit. To make matters worse, there was a wide tear in her cape, just above the hem, and she groaned out loud. She could mend that tear easily enough, but the blackberry stains on her cape and her gray skirts would be almost impossible to remove.
Ellie yanked off her gloves and stuffed them into her pocket before easing back to the roadway. “I needed to ruin my cape and my work gown and my gloves? Now? When I’m due at Mr. Smith’s? I look like a . . . a ragamuffin!”
Chest heaving, she swiped at her tears and stomped both of her work boots free of dirt before resuming her journey. “I thought you were going to help me, Lord. I’ve trusted in you all my life, yet no matter how hard I’ve prayed or how hard I’ve tried to live by your Word, I always end up with . . . with nothing but disappointment,” she cried, giving voice to the despair that seemed to have found a permanent home in her spirit.
Apparently frightened by her cry, a trio of small birds burst out of a nearby tree and soared up toward the clouds. She paused to watch them, flying side by side, until they disappeared from view. And, despite the frustration and uncertainty that welled within, she prayed she might one day fully embrace His promise to protect all of His creations, even a trembling follower as she had become.
Ellie continued on her way and spied the rear of the small farmhouse at the southern end of the island, where a single wisp of smoke curled up from a chimney on the near side of the building. She approached the house with the hope that Jackson Smith would be so grateful she had arrived he would not be put off by her unkempt appearance and send her right back to the city—where she would no doubt receive another less-than-gracious welcome.
When she reached the kitchen door at the back of the house, she swallowed hard and paused to straighten the folds on her cape to try to hide the blackberry stains, but there were so many she soon gave up. After smoothing her hair one last time, she took a deep breath for courage and knocked on the kitchen door.
And then again. She was about to knock a third time but dropped her hand when she finally heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching the door. Her mouth went dry, but she kept her back straight and her shoulders square as she planted a smile on her face.
When the door finally swung open, she took a step back and stared up at the very attractive man standing there. To her surprise, he appeared to be only in his late twenties—a good three or four years her junior—but as she suspected, he wore the weathered tan of a man who carved his way through life by working outdoors in the orchards that covered the tiny island. His summer-bleached brown hair was cropped short, and the dark blue eyes staring back at her beneath heavy brows were fierce with pride and determination. The heavy crease across his brow, however, testified to his weariness, if not the sorrow of losing his wife scarcely six months ago.
“Mr. Smith? I’m Elvira Kilmer. I believe you were told to expect me this morning,” she said in a clear, steady voice, though her heart pounded against the wall of her chest. Either he would allow her inside or he would send her straight back to the city, where she would no doubt end up homeless and penniless by the time the sun set.
Go Here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/27469538/Hearts-Awakening for a much longer excerpt!