Chapter One Bright Shining Light August 1841, French Prairie, Oregon Country Marie let loose her daughter's hand, then stepped behind her, gently guiding her into the darkness. "Maintenant," she said in French. "We go now." She placed her hands on the young woman's cedar-caped shoulders, inhaled the wood scent of her hair. They were nearly the same height, one of the few things they shared in commonthat and a worry over whether they'd be enough. "We don't have time for this, Mother," Marguerite protested. But she allowed Marie to prod her to an area of prairie grass where Marie motioned her daughter to sit. "We need to make time for this," Marie said. "Lie down." She patted the grass. A vast darkness arched over her and her oldest daughter. The women's heads touched, as though they were two logs reaching out from a center post. The air felt moist. The moon would rise late tonight. The dry grasses tickled her ankles. She should have put on leggings before convincing her oldest daughter to walk a distance from their log home to feel the night air breathe in the dark sky. Getting Marguerite to come with her at all had taken convincing. Dozens of tasks waited finishing before the big event tomorrow. "There will never be another night like this one, not ever," Marie told her daughter. Marie meant to savor it. She'd begun to cherish these feathers of peaceful moments floating into her life, even when it took effort. It still took such effort to name the good in her days. Learning new ways, she found, both stimulated and strained her. This was a happy occasion. She refused to let worry scar it, and so she controlled her troublesome thoughts, even now, when they pushed like a bullish child elbowing his way in uninvited. "Did you see that?" Marie asked. She pointed. "That light? There's a special prize for the one who sees the first star." Marguerite shook her head, rubbing Marie's hair as she did. "Papa Jean's spectacles must let you see something I can't. It's still just dark sky to me, Mother. Where did you see it?" "East," Marie said. She adjusted the lenses given her as a gift by her husband just weeks before. "Toward Hood's Mountain. An arc of light. There's another." "I don't see them. Maybe they're coming to find us with the lanterns." Marguerite said. "Maybe they think I've changed my mind and have run away." Did her daughter warn her of worries? The man was twenty years her daughter's senior. He had sons already. Maybe Marguerite wished more time before she committed to this man Jean Baptiste Gobin. Does a mother encourage her daughter to walk through the uncertainty of marriage, promising her that peace will come, or does she make a safe place for a daughter to turn around, to reconsider her heart's future? What was right for a mother to do? was always Marie's question. Ripe gooseberries scented the August air. An owl hooted in the big cedar tree in the center of the timbered section that marked the border of their land. Prairie wolves howled in the distance, a sound distinct from the larger wolves that roamed in packs. Marie took in a deep breath. There were more blessings here than dangers; that's what she must concentrate on, encourage her daughter to think this too. New ways took time. Her friend Sarah had told her that long years beforKirkpatrick, Jane is the author of 'Hold Tight the Thread', published 2004 under ISBN 9781578565016 and ISBN 1578565014.