All Things Beautiful

By: Keely Brooke Keith

(Uncharted Beginnings Book 3)

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Chapter One

The settlement of Good Springs

Late spring, 1868

Hannah Vestal scribbled a story idea on a quartered piece of gray leaf paper. She slipped it back into her apron pocket before anyone could notice. The morning sunlight had yet to peek between the kitchen curtains, and already four of her five hungry siblings were hovering around the table. As she flipped the johnnycakes, the kettle whistled. She poured the steaming water into a copper teapot.

What would Prince Aric think if the maiden Adeline’s days began in such a tizzy of feeding family members and packing school lunches?

Hannah checked the underside of the johnnycakes. The batter sizzled on the iron skillet, filling the kitchen with a sweet aroma that reminded her of her mother. While the johnnycakes cooked, she squeezed between the girls to carry the butter dish and the apple jam to the table.

Prince Aric might consider it noble if Adeline had set aside her dreams to help her father raise her younger siblings.

The edges of the cakes turned golden brown. Hannah gripped the skillet’s handle with a folded tea towel and dropped the stove cover back into place. Metal clanked sharply against metal, ringing through the farmhouse kitchen, but no one noticed.

Then again, maybe the prince wouldn’t appreciate common work no matter the maiden’s motivation.

It was a good thing Hannah wasn’t writing herself into Adeline’s character. The story had changed many times since she’d started writing it during her mother’s illness, but over the years since, she’d been careful not to give Adeline her own circumstances. The prince wouldn’t be interested in a grown woman who entertained herself by dreaming up stories. What man would?

Hannah passed a milk pitcher to her thirteen-year-old sister. Doris was mid-sentence but didn’t miss a syllable as she accepted the pitcher and twirled to the table. “And then Roseanna said that Sarah doesn’t like Benjamin anymore since Anthony wrote her a love letter with a poem.” Doris held still long enough to hum a wistful sigh. “I hope someday a boy writes me a poem.”

Hannah checked a bowl of boiled eggs, which were cooling on an open shelf. “I wish you would stop worrying about boys and focus on your schoolwork.”

Breakfast was ready. Looking out the back window, Hannah scanned the property for the rest of her family. Her father and brother were walking toward the house from the orchard. “Here they come.”

“Good. I’m starving.” Doris rolled one of her two braids between her fingertips. “Hannah, have you seen my pink ribbons anywhere?”

“They are in your second drawer.”

Doris snapped her fingers. “I’ll be right back.”

“No, wait until after we eat.” Hannah poured several cups of fresh milk while the seven-year-old twins set the table. The girls’ bouncy blond ringlets reminded Hannah of the hair color she’d given Adeline in her story. Surrounded by light-haired girls, it was no wonder she’d written her heroine with the same appearance. But perhaps auburn would suit her character better.

Doris pouted. “But Sarah said we should both wear our pink ribbons today.”

One twin bumped the table and milk sloshed out of a cup. Hannah yanked a tea towel from the dish rack and wiped the spill. She glanced at Doris. “It’s best to focus on one task at a time. The ribbons can wait.”

One of the little girls reached for a boiled egg, but the other protested. “Hannah, she is taking an egg.”

Doris swatted the air. “Don’t touch the food until after Father says grace.”

Hannah gave the girls a motherly glower then forked the johnnycakes onto a platter. “Doris is right,” she said to one twin. Then she looked at the other. “And don’t snitch on your sister.”

“I’m sorry,” the twins said in unison. Missing baby teeth added a slur to their apology. Both girls needed their hair combed before school.

The younger of Hannah’s two brothers trudged past the stove. She passed the platter to him. “Set this on the table. And don’t forget your History report today. Olivia won’t let you graduate if you don’t turn in your assignments on time.”