"One impulse from a vernal wood may teach you more of man
of moral evil and of good
than all the sages can."
The hills exhaled cool night air deep into the hollow. Hannah was comfortable enough, but as soon as her head hit the pillow, she wasn't sleepy anymore. She laid there for some time watching the flickering fire. Her eyes were adjusted to the dark, so she studied the room carefully, resolving to remember as much as she could of Payne Hollow and the Hubbards. It was amazing to experience such kindness from people who where strangers to them until only a few hours ago.
They were safe. Why should she let herself think about what might have happened? Was there a human on earth in complete control? Yet Hannah's conscience pulled at her because she understood they were given so much freedom in venturing out on the horses because they were very good riders on exceptionally steady horses. They had proven they did not take foolish risks. Now she was a bit embarrassed. She made a mistake in judgement today and it couldn't happen again. Hannah's thoughts were disquieting until she remembered Gracie. What a blessing that mare was with her steady ways and soft eyes.
She got up to add more driftwood to the fire. It was perfect fuel for a fire that would not get intensely hot, and Anna was right, the small fire was comforting.
"Anything wrong Hannah?" Kellie turned over.
"Can't sleep just yet.'' Hannah shivered. "Can you come look at this?" There was enough breeze to rustle the willows and ruffle the water. "Look at that. It's hard to believe that we are not somewhere hundreds of miles from home. This place has a feeling of timelessness, doesn't it?"
"Uh-huh. Like time stands still in Payne Hollow. Instead of being lost, it feels like we found treasure or something. And think about what grandpa plays on the accordion too. We've heard it so many times...Two drifters, out to see the world. There's such a lot of world ..."
Hannah interrupted her song. "Kellie, it's them. That song is about Harlan and Anna! What was that?"
"A raccoon, I think."
"I thought we might hear something. This place is tucked into the woods so deep, it's got to be full of creepy crawlers."
"Hannah! You know we hear coyotes at home all the time. Stop spooking yourself!"
"I know, but it amazes me the hair-raising noises even small animals can make. It's not just some cute little chatter from a Disney movie. This place is beautiful...and wild." Hannah shivered again.
Kellie started to giggle.
"Quiet. What's so funny?"
"You're like grandma you know. That one night we were all enjoying a fire outside, but she went into the house because coyotes were howling not far away. She said she knew they weren't out to hurt her, but it still made her edgy. That primal feeling you're talking about. They really don't want to bother us, Hannah."
"I know, I really do. Every creature should have a place to live in peace. I guess it's just the call of the wild that gets me. I get goosebumps, and yet I like it!"
"There seems to be a better kinship between the animals, domestic and wild, than between most men and animals," whispered Kellie. The first time Gracie heard a screech owl after coming from Iceland, she showed no concern at all. Curiosity maybe, but not fear. I was amazed at her sensibilities. Let check the horses while we're up."
They tiptoed to the edge of the terrace. There below, the horses shown silver in the light of the moon. "Look at that! The horses almost glow in the dark! Kellie, we have moon horses and a moon river. Let's remember this forever. Let's remember Payne Hollow and this beautiful night."
"I don't think any of us will forget it Hannah. Come on. We'll close the window so we won't hear every sound outside. We'll just have to listen to each other snoring instead."