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For the first time in her life, Marie Bolden was disregarding her father's wishes. Despite the fact that Vance Bolden was her stepfather, there had always been a close bond between the two of them. In fact, she felt as close to Vance as she did her biological mother, Evelyn. So when Vance said, "Marie, I do not want you to take that teaching job in Cades Cove," Marie was miserable when she had to answer, "But I can't go back on my word now. I've already signed the contract."
"Which you shouldn't have done without discussing it with your mother and me," he retorted.
Marie held to her decision. "If you didn't want me to teach school, why did you send me to college in Columbia?"
"As you well know, I didn't approve of that, either, but you and your mother ganged up on me, and I finally agreed. Regardless, I thought when you finished school, you'd come home, marry one of the fine young men in this area and produce some grandchildren for Evelyn and me to enjoy in our old age."
Feeling terrible that she and her father were arguing, but determined to pursue her calling, Marie continued, "Did you think I would spend those two years of hard study at the women's seminary learning to teach and not put my knowledge to practical use?"
Vance shook his head angrily. "I expected you to graduate with honors, as you did, then marry a good man and start raising a family. I'd like to have some grandchildren before I get too old to enjoy them. Obviously, your brother doesn't intend to marry."
"Oh, don't give up on Earl yet. Just because he's been living in the mountains with the Cherokee doesn't mean that he'll never marry. He just wants to live the life of a hermit for a few years." Earl had gone to the mountains upon returning from fighting in Cuba, where he'd contracted malaria. With their various herbs, the medicine men had cured him. "I think he's already learned that living alone in a log cabin isn't very pleasant. At least the last time I saw him, he indicated that he'll probably get married somedaywhen the right woman comes along."
"I hope so," Vance said, "as long as he doesn't marry a Cherokee. I want him to come home and take over our property here in Canaan when I get too old to manage it on my own."
Although Marie held her stepfather in high regard, as far as she was concerned, his bias against the Native Americans was a flaw in his character. Marie knew that this prejudice could be traced to the War Between the States, when the Cherokee nation had sided with the Union rather than the Confederacy. But that war had ended a long time ago. Still, when she considered the suffering Vance and other Southerners had endured during those years, she understood his sentiments, even if she didn't agree with them.
Grinning, she asked, "With all the trouble we've caused you, have you ever been sorry you rescued our mother?" Vance had found their pregnant mother afloat in the Atlantic, then later married her and adopted Marie and Earl as his own.
"Don't joke about a thing like that. You know how much I love your mother. I'll admit it was a marriage of convenience at first, but it didn't take long for me to realize she was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Besides, you can't doubt that I love you and Earl."
Marie put her arm around her father's waist and hugged him. "And we love you."
"Then will you give up this crazy idea of teaching school in Cades Cove? With all those bootleggers, renegade Cherokees and who knows who else living there, it's not safe for you to live in that area."
"I'm sorry to go against your wishes, Dad, but I've agreed to teach in the Cove, and I'm going. You seem to think that I've accepted this teaching position just to irritate you. That isn't true. I believe that I can make a difference in the lives of the children. It's such an isolated place that many people avoid settling in the area, but I know the children who live there need an education. I feel it is my responsibility to work with them. Surely you would expect me to use my education."
"I expected you to teach here in Canaan, if you just had to teach."
"There isn't an opening for a teacher here," Marie said patiently, as if they hadn't had this conversation several other times. "I'm fortunate to find a place to teach anywhere, because many areas still prefer to have a male teacher. I feel that I've been called to teach, somewhat like Mother was called to be a missionary in this country."
"There are times when it pays to be a stepfather," Vance said peevishly. "At least you can't claim you got your stubbornness from me."
Laughing, Marie put her arms around his waist. "It's a good thing Mother didn't hear that comment, unless you think I inherited that trait from my biological father."
She paused a moment, thinking about the father she'd never seen, a man who had drowned before he could start his missionary work in the United States. According to her mother, Marie had inherited many of his physical characteristicsstraight brown hair, clear and steady eyes, a firm mouth and a strong chin. The last time she'd seen her twin brother, Earl, they still bore a remarkable resemblance to one another, so she supposed she would readily recognize him if they met again after all this time.
"You know I love your mother devotedly, so don't try to change the subject," Vance said. "My objection is that Cades Cove is no place for a young unmarried woman to live. It has the reputation of being a wild area. Evelyn and I will be worried about you. It still isn't too late to change your mind."
"Oh, I'll get along fine." Patting him on the shoulder, she continued, "Remember I've had parents who taught me to be self-reliant. I haven't found a man yet that I want to marry, so I'm going to try teaching school for one season. If I'm a failure, then I may look around for a husband, but I suppose you'll want to investigate his background before you'll let me marry him."
Even without having him look into the background of Daniel Watson, she knew that neither of her parents would approve of a marriage to him.
"Very funny," Vance said. "But, if you're determined to have your way, I'm going to take you to Cades Cove, and if I don't consider it a good place for you, you'll have to come home."
Marie shook her head, stood on tiptoes and kissed him. "You know I've already given my word and I'm obligated to teach in the Cove. Besides, I'll be staying in the home of Lena Turner. She's the sister of our pastor's wife and has a good reputation. She'll advise me on what to do and what not to do."
"Just the same, I'm going with you to look over the situation. I'll take my saddle horse, too, and we'll take your horse and you can keep the buggy. If school teaching up there is like it is here, you'll probably be expected to visit the parents, and you'll need some transportation. I'll arrange with your landlady to pay for the keep of the horse."
Laughing, Marie started up the steps to her bedroom to finish packing. Now that the time had come to leave, she was reluctant to say goodbye to her parents. She sat down and looked out her bedroom window toward the village of Canaan, but her mind was elsewhere. She apparently had inherited the wanderlust of her parents, who had been shipwrecked along the Atlantic Coast near Charleston, South Carolina, in 1875, when her father had been drowned. Vance Bolden had rescued her mother, Evelyn, and had assisted her in giving birth to twins while a horrific storm blasted the coast.