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Authors: Janette Oke

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Heart of the Wilderness

Heart of the Wilderness

Books by Janette Oke

Return to Harmony  •  Another Homecoming

Tomorrow’s Dream


The Centurion’s Wife  •  The Hidden Flame  •  The Damascus Way


When Calls the Heart  •  When Comes the Spring
When Breaks the Dawn  •  When Hope Springs New
Beyond the Gathering Storm
When Tomorrow Comes


 •  Love’s Enduring Promise
Love’s Long Journey  •  Love’s Abiding Joy
Love’s Unending Legacy  •  Love’s Unfolding Dream
Love Takes Wing  •  Love Finds a Home


The Tender Years  •  A Searching Heart
A Quiet Strength  •  Like Gold Refined


Once Upon a Summer  •  The Winds of Autumn
Winter Is Not Forever  •  Spring’s Gentle Promise


The Meeting Place  •  The Sacred Shore  •  The Birthright
The Distant Beacon  •  The Beloved Land


The Calling of Emily Evans  •  Julia’s Last Hope
Roses for Mama  •  A Woman Named Damaris
They Called Her Mrs. Doc  •  The Measure of a Heart
A Bride for Donnigan  •  Heart of the Wilderness
Too Long a Stranger  •  The Bluebird and the Sparrow
A Gown of Spanish Lace  •  Drums of Change

with Davis Bunn


Janette Oke

Heart of the Wilderness
Copyright © 1993
Janette Oke

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Ebook edition created 2011

ISBN 978-1-5855-8741-4

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

To those I lean on
throughout the writing process—

Mrs. Katherine Hamm,
who never ceases to assure me
that she is praying for me

Bethany House Publishers’ Staff,
who gently prod me
through each new endeavor

My family members,
who understand and encourage

And especially Edward,
my constant supporter,
companion and friend.

JANETTE OKE was born in Champion, Alberta, to a Canadian prairie farmer and his wife, and she grew up in a large family full of laughter and love. She is a graduate of Mountain View Bible College in Alberta, where she met her husband, Edward, and they were married in May of 1957. After pastoring churches in Indiana and Canada, the Okes spent some years in Calgary, where Edward served in several positions on college faculties while Janette continued her writing. She has written forty-eight novels for adults and another sixteen for children, and her book sales total nearly thirty million copies.

The Okes have three sons and one daughter, all married, and are enjoying their fifteen grandchildren. Edward and Janette are active in their local church and make their home near Didsbury, Alberta.


For Love of Family


A Difficult Decision

An Exciting Adventure


Wilderness Child

The Ugly Side




Pain of Separation


Home Again



Hard Winter

More Trouble

Going Out




A Meeting

Back to the Wilderness

Change of Plans

A Heart at Rest

Chapter One

For Love of Family

“Where is she?” The question seemed to pull from the depths of his anguished soul.

The gray-haired woman opening her door to admit the tall, dark-bearded man standing on her step felt tears form beneath her eyelids.

“Come in, George,” she said softly, waving her hand at the simple room behind her. “You look worn out.”

She sensed his deep impatience and feared for a moment that he would refuse. Then with a sigh, he nodded his head and moved past her into the room.

She closed the door, stopping first to look out on the busy street already bustling with the activities of another day. The world seemed to be going on as usual—yet she knew things would never be the same again for the man who had just come.

She turned to him. She had known him for many years. Had seen him suffer before. Yet she had never seen the strong, manly face so tightly drawn, the broad shoulders so slumped, the clear, dark eyes so filled with pain. Today he who had never shown his years looked much older than the fifty she knew him to be.

He was slumped in a chair across the room from her. Head lowered, he brushed at his beard with a large calloused hand, a habit she recognized. He always brushed at his beard when he was anxious or agitated.

“She’s fine.” She answered his question as she moved toward him. “She’s in that little Home on Park Street.”

His head came up, his eyes darkened. Was he angry? With her?

“I tried to get them to let me keep her here, but they wouldn’t allow it. Said that with things like—like they are here—and such . . .” She paused, shrugged, then hurried on when she saw his eyes burning intensely, though not with accusation. “They said they could do nothing until—until they had been in touch with kin. I—I got word to you in the quickest way I knew. Isn’t a very good way of communicating—”

“How long has it been?” he cut in.

She stopped for a minute and did some mental calculation. “Almost three weeks since—”

“Three weeks? Terribly long time—for a child.”

She nodded at the grief and anger and frustration in his voice, feeling his pain.

He stood suddenly, his dark eyes shadowing more deeply. “I’ve got to get on over there, Maggie,” he said brusquely.

“You look worn out,” she hastened to repeat, wanting to keep him from doing anything rash. “You’d better take the time to eat some breakfast—rest a bit. They won’t open for another couple of hours anyway.”

She was afraid she had lost the argument as he took a step toward the door. Then his hand came up and he began to rub his beard in agitation. At last he retreated and slumped back into the chair and nodded his head solemnly.

“I’ve traveled day and night since I got your message,” he admitted. “I must look a sight.”

“Well, I will admit if I hadn’t known you, I may not have opened my door.” The words were spoken lightly. He managed a bit of a smile.

“You clean up and I’ll get us some breakfast,” she went on. “Henry will be stirring soon and—”

He lifted his head and looked at her, apology replacing the grief and anger in his eyes. “How is Henry?” he asked simply.

The woman shrugged. There was really very little to say. Henry hadn’t changed over the months. The days came and went with little difference in his condition. He seemed to get no better—perhaps a little worse, but it was hard to tell.

“About the same—I guess,” she said, her shoulders sagging.

“Can I see him?” the man asked softly.

She nodded toward the small room off the sitting area. “Go ahead. He’s likely still sleeping. He doesn’t usually wake for another half hour or so. Sometimes he wakens earlier—or during the night. But—but if he is awake, you won’t know much difference. He may not respond. He—” She stopped, knowing the man needed no explanation about Henry. He paid a visit to the sickroom whenever he was in the city.

They had been good friends for years. Both big strong men who knew what it was to put in a good day of hard, back-breaking labor. As a younger man, Henry had been George’s yardstick, as he had been for most of the community where they’d been raised. Anyone who could keep up to Henry was considered to be a good worker and worthy of his hire. And now Henry lay on the same bed that had taken him to its bosom four years earlier. He could not even lift a hand to feed himself or brush the annoying tears from his eyes. Since the accident in the lumber mill, Henry had been paralyzed—totally paralyzed— and Maggie had to do for the big man all those things he had at one time done for himself.

The visitor moved toward the door, his body showing his dread at seeing again his lifelong friend in such a crippled state.

But Henry was still sleeping. George stood for some moments watching the rise and fall of his friend’s shallow breathing. Henry had lost even more weight since the last visit. Gaunt and pale, he looked so wasted that George barely recognized him as the same man who had won the log-sawing contest nine years running.

George crossed to the foot of the bed and spoke softly to the unhearing man who slept restlessly. “I’m here, Henry. Been a long time. Should have come oftener—I know that. But I’ve been so busy—” He stopped. Would Henry want to hear of his busyness? Henry who couldn’t even move.

He shut his mouth on the whispered words and studied the thin, useless right hand that lay pale and helpless on the coverlet. The callouses were gone now. The warm, deep tan from the summer sun had long paled. George stepped forward and took the thin hand in his own. The scar was still there. More visible than ever against the tissue-like skin.

In spite of his resistance to tears, George felt them gather now. Were the tears for Henry? For himself? He didn’t know. He only knew that suddenly his world seemed filled with so much pain. Pain he tried desperately to keep within himself.

He looked back again at the hand he held. That hand had been scarred on his behalf. He remembered the day well. Henry had risked his life to save him. And now Henry lay withering away on his bed, and there wasn’t one thing George could do about it.

He placed the hand gently back on the patchwork coverlet and quietly left the room.

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