Courage to Forgive Chapter Three

Chapter Three

On Saturday morning, Philip brought up the subject of finishing the upstairs.

            “I thought you were going to cut and sell some firewood first,” Cara said. She did not have the money to continue with the project.

            “I don’t think we need to worry about that now,” Adam said. “I have some money, between what you paid at harvest and the time I spent working with Dan Taylor.”

            “Do you think you should spend that on the house?” Cara asked.

            “Well, I thought—” Adam looked at Remmie’s curious eyes and stopped. He had thought the house would soon be his as well, when he married Cara and moved in. Putting some of his money into it instead of waiting to cut and sell firewood seemed like the obvious choice, as Philip would be moving in a couple of weeks.

            After the children were in bed, Adam sat in the front room with Cara, greasing his boots.

            “Philip thought we should talk things through,” Adam said.

            “I think so, too. I don’t expect you to pay for the repairs to the house. That is your money.”

            “Will I be living here after we are married?” he asked.

            “Of course you will, but that doesn’t mean—”

            “Doesn’t that mean the house will be mine, too? I thought we would make it our home, together.”

            “I haven’t really given it any thought,” she admitted. “But you are right. It will be your house, too. And your farm.”

            “I know the farm is being held in trust until Remmie turns twenty-one. I don’t expect you to change that.”

            “We will want to have the will changed, if we can, and put the land in your name instead.”

            It was practical, but not the best choice. Adam had already given it some thought. “I think you should keep it the way it is, Cara. If anything should happen to me—”

            “Adam, don’t even say it!”

            “I don’t expect anything to happen, but the farm would be secure. Let’s just leave it like it is, for now.”

            A smile turned up the corners of her mouth. “You’re not thinking of walking out if things don’t go right, are you?”

            “No, of course not!” Then he saw her smile, but he remained serious. “No, I won’t do that. I can’t imagine things ever getting to the point where I would even want to. I think we are going to have a good marriage.”
            “I do too,” she said, blushing as he rose and kissed her.

            “So will you let me put some of the money from harvest into finishing the upstairs into bedrooms?”

            “Yes, whatever you think is needed,” she agreed.

            “Now, what kind of wedding ceremony do you have in mind?” he asked.

“I haven’t given it any thought,” she said. “With Lem, the preacher came and married us here. Doc and Gran stood as witnesses.”

“I think my ma is hoping we could get married in the church,” he said.

“I don’t think the preacher would marry us,” she said.

“I could ask him. That is, if you want me to.”

“Philip has mentioned a couple of times that he would marry us,” Cara said, “Of course, that was when he thought we ought to marry right away.”

“I think he still thinks that. That is why I did not want to ask him to marry us. It may go against his conscience.”

“I would hope not, after seeing how things really are between us. I doubt that Reverend Mathers will be any less judgmental.”

“If you don’t want me to ask him, I won’t.”’

Cara thought about it. “If you would like to talk to Reverend Mathers, I don’t have a problem with it.”

“We’ll find someone who will marry us in March,” Adam said. “Now, my ma mentioned that she would like to have you over for dinner after church tomorrow.”

            “Then we will go.” Cara did not sound very happy, though.

            “You don’t really want to go.” It was a statement, not a question.

            “I like your family.”

            “But – you don’t want to spend time with Eliza and Bertha, am I right?” Without giving her a chance to respond, Adam said, “Eliza has a hard time holding her tongue. I’ll warn you that whatever you say to her, she will tell her ma, and word will get around.”

            After Adam greased his boots, he put them on and stood up. “I think it’s time I was heading out to the cabin for the night.”

            “All right, then.” Cara rose, also.

            “We’ll be going to church together tomorrow, right?”

            “Yes, I suppose so.” She tried to smile.

            “I plan to sit with you and the children, just so you know.”

            “All right.”

            Adam wrapped his arms around Cara and drew her close. As she snuggled against his chest, he said, “I’m not ashamed of marrying you, Cara. I want the whole world to know.”

            “If you’re sure – “

            “I’m sure. Are you?”

            When Adam held her, everything felt like it was going to be all right. “Yes, I am sure.”

            “Good night, then.”

            In the morning, Cara dressed in the blue dress she had worn on her trip into Cooper. It felt so good to be out of the black mourning dress. She shaped her hair into a smooth bun and fastened it with hairpins. A quick glance into the looking glass gave a satisfactory result, and she went about her morning tasks.

            The children were happy about going to church. “I like church, Ma,” Remmie told her.

            “I like church, Mama,” Rose repeated. “We sing.”

            “Yes, we sing at church,” Cara said.

            “You don’t sing, Ma. Why don’t you?” Remmie asked.

            Cara’s cheeks felt warm with embarrassment. “I don’t know the songs.”

            “I don’t know the words, either. When will I know how to read them?”

            “When you go to school.”

            Adam talked as he drove the buggy to church, but Cara did not say much. She was worried about how people would respond to their engagement. People already talked about her and Adam. Now, they would have even more to talk about.

            When they arrived at the church, Adam helped them down from the buggy. Cara saw his parents near the door of the church. She thought they looked grim as Adam approached, carrying Hope.

            “Good morning, Ma, Pa,” he said.

            “Good morning, Adam, Cara,” Dinah replied. She fussed over the baby. “She’s growing more every day, I believe.”

            “She’s healthy, thankfully,” Cara said.

            “Are you coming to our house for dinner?” Dinah asked.

            “Yes, we are. If that’s all right.”

            Adam glanced at Evan, who nodded, although his smile did not reach his eyes.

            “Did you have a nice birthday?”

            Cara was surprised by Dinah’s question. She looked askance at Adam. His face flushed red. “Did you have a birthday?”

            “I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t want you to make a fuss over it.”

            “I would like to have known,” she said, feeling more than a little hurt.

            “You would have wanted to buy something for me, and I didn’t want you to go to that expense.”

            He was right, but still, Cara felt disappointed that he had not told her. “What day was it?”

            “It was on Friday.”

            “What are you now, twenty-two?” Evan said, making it sound as if Adam were still a child.

            “Yes, Pa.” Adam’s response was quiet. Cara could tell he was upset.

            A glance at Dinah showed that she sensed the tension, also. “Shall we go in?”

            “Do you mind if we sit with you?” Adam asked as they made their way up the steps.

            “No, of course not. We have enjoyed having Cara and the children sit with us and, well, you’re welcome, too.” Cara saw that Dinah didn’t look as though she meant what she said. She sensed that Adam’s ma was worried about how it would look to others.

            It seemed that all eyes were on them when they walked towards the front of the church and sat down. Evan sat at one end of the pew, and then Dinah, then Charity sat next to her. Cara sat down with Rose, and Remmie sat next to her, leaving the end seat for Adam.

Doc came in with the new doctor, Dr. Byford. There was not enough room in the pew for them. Doc greeted them all heartily, and they sat in the row behind them.

            “Doc!” Rose exclaimed, turning around in the seat. Cara shushed her. He reached into his pocket and drew out three peppermints, which he handed to Cara. She gave one to each of the children, and Rose quieted down.

            Agnes Morrow, the dressmaker and a friend of Dinah’s, came up to them. She looked surprised to see Adam sitting with Cara and the Kenleys, but she recovered quickly. She greeted the Kenleys, and then smiled at Cara. “Mrs. Bancroft, it’s nice to see you in church again this morning.”

            “Thank you. I understand you are the person to thank for the ladies’ generous donations.”

            “Well, I don’t know about that. Some of us were talking about what we could do for the missionaries, and I guess I’m the one who suggested it. Everyone else readily agreed.”

            “We certainly appreciated the gesture, and it came at a good time for us.”

            Agnes moved forward to the piano and began to play the opening music. Cara rose with the rest of the congregation. She did not recognize the song, however. She tried to listen to the words. Dinah had a pretty soprano voice. She already knew she liked Adam’s singing voice, but it was pleasurable to hear him. Once, she looked over at him, and caught his eye. He grinned at her, with a warm look in his eyes, and he missed a few words of the song.

            The preacher spoke about letting go of past sins and beginning again. It was an appropriate message for the start of a new year, and Cara listened with interest. She could relate to some of the message. There had been many changes for her this past year. It had started off on a dreary note, alone with the three children in the house. Doc’s visits had made the winter bearable, and when Adam came in the spring, he had brought laughter back into her home. His help over the summer had given her hope. The harvest had been plentiful, so she could keep her farm.

Dinah had been there to help after Hope was born, and later, when Rose cut her leg, the Kenleys had stepped in and helped. Through some misfortune, Cara had discovered that she could trust in God, and accepted salvation. Now, Adam wanted to marry her. The preacher said that the New Year was a fresh start, and full of wonderful promise. Cara silently agreed with him.

There was joy in her heart when the preacher closed his message. After the benediction, Adam turned to Cara. “That was an uplifting message.”

“Yes, it was. A fresh start to the New Year sounds wonderful.”

Rose had fallen asleep in Adam’s arms, and he carried her out to the buggy. Hope awakened and cried as they left the church, so Cara fed her on the way to the Kenleys’ farm. She almost dreaded the visit with Adam’s family. Dinah was kind enough, and his brothers were pleasant. But Evan was obviously uncomfortable with her relationship with Adam. His sisters-in-law were not friendly towards her. She did not look forward to spending any time at all with the sharp-tongued Eliza.

She had worried needlessly. As they took off their wraps inside the warm house, Dinah was there. “Eliza and Obed went to dinner at her ma’s house today.”

Cara hoped her relief was not too evident. A quick glance at Adam showed that he, too, looked glad.

While Adam visited with his pa and his brothers, Remmie and Rose stayed with him, playing with the blocks. Charity followed Cara into the kitchen. Cara helped put the meal on the table. Bertha was polite as she greeted her.

“We have some good news,” Dinah said. “Bertha and Reuben are expecting a little one.”

Cara was surprised, but she was very happy for the couple. “That’s wonderful,” she said sincerely.

Bertha seemed pleased by Cara’s response.

The first time Cara had dinner with Adam’s family, he sat at the opposite end of the table from her. Today, his ma seated him close by. He felt that this was a sign that his ma accepted his relationship with Cara. Remmie sat on one side of him, and Rose sat between him and Cara. Charity was seated next to Cara, and there wasn’t anyone beside her on the other side of her. Still, Charity seemed to be looking around the table more than she was eating her food. Her eyes looked wide and scared, like a doe in the woods when he came upon one. He couldn’t help but notice that Cara had the same look in her eyes. He knew she was uncomfortable with his family, and wished he could say something that would put her at ease.

For the most part, the women were quiet while the men conversed. Adam listened as Reuben and his pa discussed their plans for spring. After a little while, Reuben turned to him.

“How are things looking for the farm this spring, Adam?” Reuben asked.

“I think we’re going to buy a new team. Cara’s horses are getting old and slow.”

“Ophelia worked them for ten years or more before she passed away. It’s no wonder they’re slowing down,” Evan said.

“Have you been looking for a team?” Reuben said.

“Not yet. Do you know of any?”

“Rumor has it that Luke Potter bought a team to train. You probably wouldn’t want anything to do with that, would you?”

Adam glanced over at Cara. She looked a little pale. “Not really. We aren’t exactly on speaking terms.”

“He’s a good horse trainer, despite his personal life,” Evan said. “You might want to ask him about it.”

Adam caught his ma’s eye, and she gently shook her head. He was surprised. She didn’t usually contradict his pa. It must be something she felt strongly about.

“It might bring more trouble on us than what it’s worth.”

“Rose is almost falling asleep in her plate,” Cara said quietly.

Adam looked and saw that she was right. “I guess it’s about time for us to go, so she can take a nap.”

“She’ll be all right for a little while yet. I want to help your ma and Bertha in the kitchen.”

As Cara started to help with the dishes, Hope awakened and began to cry. Adam went into the bedroom where she had been sleeping, and carried her into the front room. He held her while he visited with his pa and his brothers. When she began to cry in earnest, he took her into the kitchen.

“I think she wants her ma,” he said with a grin.

“I suppose it’s time we go,” Cara said in an apologetic tone.

“Bertha and I can finish the dishes, Cara,” Dinah said. Bertha looked a little cross.

“If you’re sure,” Cara said, looking at Dinah.

It was obvious his ma cared about Cara, as she smiled at her in a maternal fashion. “We’ll be fine,” she said reassuringly.

“All right, then.”

“I’ll get the buggy hitched while you dress the children,” Adam suggested.

By the time he had the buggy at the door, Cara and the children were bundled in their winter wraps. He saw them standing on the porch, and he felt a sense of pride as he realized they would soon be his family.

Two more Sundays passed before Doc declared that Ayla was well enough to be moved into his house in town. The featherbed that had gone to the upstairs bedroom was moved back into the Ackerbys’ wagon, and Ayla was laid carefully on it, and covered with quilts. Cara felt tears as she told her friend goodbye.

“I am not moving far,” Ayla said, but her eyes too were filled with tears. “You will have to stop by and visit us when you make it to town.”

Life settled into a quiet routine after the Ackerbys left. In the mornings, Cara fed the baby, then rose and prepared breakfast. By the time Adam came in from the barn, the food was hot. Instead of eating after he left, as she had done since last summer, Adam insisted that she sit down and eat with him and the children.

            “We are a family now,” he said one morning.

            “Are we a family, Adam?” Remmie asked innocently.

            Cara looked thoughtful for a long moment. Adam wondered how she would answer her son. He wisely kept his thoughts to himself. “Adam is a very special part of our family, Remmie,” she said.

            This seemed to satisfy the youngster without going into a detailed explanation. Adam wished Cara would tell the children about the upcoming wedding, but he would not contradict her wishes.

            Seth and John came to help Adam cut down some trees for firewood. It was too dangerous for Remmie to accompany him. Once the trees were felled, and if it wasn’t bitterly cold, Adam took Remmie along with him while he dragged the logs to the barnyard behind Raider. Then he sawed them into chunks the right size for the stove and split them. It was back-breaking work, and he came in at noon for a hot meal, tired.

In the afternoons, Adam had odd jobs to do in the barn, and Remmie followed him. The two were nearly inseparable, but Cara no longer worried about their closeness. Instead of leaving in the spring, Adam would become a permanent part of their family. It was good that Remmie would have a pa to look up to.

Without Ayla and Philip to visit with, Cara felt lonely sometimes when Adam and Remmie were gone. She did her housework diligently, and baked something nearly every day. Baking gave her something to do with her hands, and the girls liked to help her. It also kept the kitchen warm and cozy. Yet she missed the adult conversation, and looked forward to Adam’s return for the evening meal.

One day, it was especially sunny with a mild temperature. Adam took the children sledding down the big hill. Cara and the baby watched them from the porch, until it was too cold for the children to play. Then they came inside the house for hot cocoa and cookies, with red cheeks and much laughter.

The following morning, Cara awoke to a blizzard. She worried about Adam, down in the barn, and wondered if he would find his way up the hill to the house. Chores must be done, in spite of the bad weather. During the last few winters, she had tied rope from the porch to the door of the barn. The rope guided her, and she had always found her way to the house.

She was relieved when Adam came in, with only his eyes showing between his warm hat and knit muffler. There was ice on his eyelashes.

“You made it,” she said with relief.

“Did you think I might get lost?” In spite of the lightness of his voice, he looked grim.

“I wondered – “

“I learned long ago to tie rope between the house and the barn. I had a feeling last night that we might get snow, so I tied the rope to the porch before I returned to the cabin. It guided me this morning.”

“I’m so glad.”

Adam came forward and embraced her. “I was never so happy to see the light in the kitchen as I was this morning.”

She felt her heart lift as he kissed her and held her in the circle of his arms. Practicality won out, and she stepped away. Adam let her go reluctantly.

“Breakfast is ready. I’ll pour a cup of coffee for you.”

            Perhaps because the air was so cold, the children slept longer than usual. Hope awakened first, and Adam held her on his lap as he drank a second cup of coffee.

“She is a pretty thing.”

 “Pretty is as pretty does.”

  “She is such a happy baby. How can she be anything but a pleasant child?”

  “We’ll see how her temperament is as she grows older.”

 “All of the children are different in temperament, aren’t they?” Adam said.

 “Yes, they are. Remmie is an obedient child, but he is starting to question why he has to obey. I hope he won’t become difficult to discipline.”

 “I can’t imagine that he will. Rose, on the other hand—”

“She is a handful. So opposite of Charity, who is meek and obedient.”

“I think you must have been an obedient child.”

Cara laughed. “I remember when I was little, and my ma and I lived in Charleston. I had fits of temper if I did not get my way, and my great-aunt was forever accusing my ma of spoiling me.”

“I can’t quite believe that you would have a temper.”

“I outgrew it, especially after my parents remarried and we moved west. My ma was sick most of the time, and I think that tamed my temper. Then there was not a lot of money, so I got used to not having what I wanted.”

“I was obedient most of the time,” Adam admitted. “Of course, I knew what would happen if I sassed Ma or failed to do my chores. Seth never learned to shape up, though. He would rather get the switch than do what he was told.”

“I think your ma had her hands full, raising five boys.”

“Did you know there was a little girl, born between Obed and myself?”

Cara was surprised. “No, I did not know that.”

“She took a fever in her sixth month, and died within a few hours. Ma never said much about her, but I always wondered what it would be like to have had a sister.”

“That would have been nice for your ma, to have had a daughter. She likes to do things with Charity and Rose.”

The children came into the kitchen for breakfast, and Cara and Adam drank a second cup of coffee while the children ate.

“What will we do today, Adam?” Remmie asked.

“We’ll have to stay indoors, Remmie. The wind and snow are blinding, and we can’t go outside.” Remmie looked disappointed. Adam said, “I have some idea how to pass the time. Do you think Remmie is too young to play checkers?”

“I don’t think so,” Cara said with a smile. “In fact, I think checkers sounds like a fun idea.”

“Do you play?” Adam was surprised.

“My pa taught me, and we played when he was home, which wasn’t very often. I haven’t played in a long time.”

“Do you have a checkerboard and checkers?”

            Cara found the game in a cabinet in the parlor, and dusted it off. Adam and Cara played a few games to show Remmie how it was played.

“You are quite the competitor,” Adam said as Cara won a second game.

“You are letting me win,” she scolded him.

“I’m not letting you win. You are beating me.”

She wasn’t sure she believed him, but anyway, it felt good to do something so carefree. Adam won another game, and then Cara said it was time for Remmie to play. Rose wanted to play, too, so Adam held her on his lap and showed her where to move the checkers.

Remmie caught on quickly, but he was no match for Adam. Adam won a game, and then he let Remmie win. Cara questioned even more whether she had won her games fair and square, but either way, it was a delightful way to pass the time.

As the weeks went by, they attended church together. Cara felt uncomfortable at first, convinced that everyone was looking at her and Adam. Slowly, she grew more confident in her relationship with Adam, and began to worry less about what other people thought.

His ma continued to show kindness towards her, accepting that she would soon become her daughter-in-law. Evan was still gruff, but he was kind to the children and civil to Cara.

After church on Sundays, Adam and Cara always went to his parents’ house for dinner. She was becoming better acquainted with Bertha, who seemed to soften towards her now that she was going to become a mother, also.

Often, Eliza was gone to her parents’ home, and Cara enjoyed those days more. However, sometimes she and Obed joined them for dinner, and she was very unpleasant to Cara.

“I don’t know if she will ever accept me as part of the family,” Cara said one afternoon when they were heading home.

“She will have to accept you, sooner or later.”

Cara wasn’t too sure. “She may always resent me.”

Adam put his arm around her shoulders. “That won’t make me change my mind,” he said reassuringly.

Cara smiled, but at the back of her mind was the fact that Eliza, and many others in the community, were against her marriage to Adam.

The reverend was concerned when Adam approached him about marrying them in the church.

“I am not sure the congregation will approve of you marrying the widow Bancroft in the church.” When Adam frowned, the reverend added, “Philip Ackerby has assured me that the rumors about her past are false. And he has also given the assurance that you and Cara are not involved in a relationship.”

“But you don’t believe it, do you?” Adam asked.

The reverend could not quite meet his eyes. “It is hard to reconcile what he says with what I have heard spoken of. And even if I am convinced that nothing is untowardly in your relationship with Cara, there are many in the congregation who still hold that opinion.”

“Does it matter what the congregation thinks?” Adam asked. “We will only be inviting relatives and close friends.”

“If that is the case, then I don’t think you need to hold it in the church,” the reverend stated. “A simple ceremony in your parents’ home will do.”

Adam was hesitant to tell Cara what the reverend told him. She had known he was going to speak to the reverend, so that evening, when she had put the children to bed, she asked about their conversation.

“I am afraid he is against the idea of performing the wedding in the church,” Adam said, although he did not go into details about the reasons.

To his surprise, she looked relieved. “I do want to keep the ceremony simple,” she admitted. “It’s my second wedding, after all.”

“But it’s my first one,” he reminded her. “And I know my ma was hoping we could get married in the church.”

“I would need a new dress, and the children will need new things, if we were to stand up in front of the church.”

“I would like you to have a new dress made, anyway,” Adam said.

She frowned. “My dresses are perfectly fine. The one your ma made me for Christmas is beautiful. And you chose the pattern yourself.”

He chose to reply with tact when he saw the stubborn lift of her chin. “You are beautiful in that dress. But it is a calico dress, appropriate for working around the house.”

“I have my blue one,” she said. “I wear it to church.”

Again, he chose tact. “My ma mentioned to me that you asked the dressmaker about new dresses, before Christmas.”

Cara felt a guilty flush spread through her cheeks. She was not sure why Dinah had told Adam that, but she recalled mentioning to the dressmaker that she wanted to see her about having new dresses made. Her time of mourning was over, and she only had the blue dress to wear to church. She had hoped to have new ones made, but the cost of having the upstairs bedroom completed, before Christmas, as well as feeding and housing their guests, had drained her financially.

“I know you don’t have a lot of money left,” Adam broached the subject carefully, as she did not like to discuss finances with him. “I can pay for your wedding dress, and something for the children.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to argue, but she conceded. “I don’t want you to be ashamed of us, and I don’t have anything nice enough.”

“I can never be ashamed of you,” he said. “But my ma would expect you to wear something nice.”

“Do you think she would go with me to visit the dressmaker?” Cara asked. “She is acquainted with Mrs. Morrow and would have some idea what is appropriate for a wedding.”

Dinah agreed to go into town with her. Evan offered to take them, and the children, except for Hope, stayed home with Adam.

Cara was nervous about appearing in town with her future mother-in-law. She noticed that no one looked the other way when they saw her coming, as they used to do. Now, they spoke to Dinah, and some even had a smile or a kind word for Cara. She felt her confidence growing as she walked into the dress shop.

To her dismay, Belinda and her mother were in the dress shop, looking at fabrics and talking with Agnes. They all looked up as Cara and Dinah entered the shop. There was a look of cold disdain on the faces of Belinda and her mother. Cara felt the coldness in their looks clear down to her toes. It was obvious that they did not like her, nor approve of her upcoming marriage.

Agnes had a warm smile for them, however.

“Well, Dinah and Mrs. Bancroft, how may I help you?”

“You might as well get used to calling her ‘Cara’ now, Agnes,” Dinah said with a smile. “She won’t be ‘Mrs. Bancroft’ much longer.”

Cara thought she saw tears in Belinda’s eyes, before she looked away. Was she still in love with Adam, she wondered?

“I think I’ve seen everything I want to see, Mother,” Belinda said loudly.

“Yes, dear, I think it’s time we left.” Mrs. Bishop glared at Cara as she walked by. When they were almost to the door, Mrs. Bishop could be heard saying, “I’m surprised that she will be seen in public with that woman.”

“I think they are talking about me,” Dinah said with a tight smile, when they were gone.

“So it seems. How are you doing with all of this?” Agnes asked, as an old friend would.

Dinah laid a hand on Cara’s shoulder. “I love Cara like my own daughter, Agnes. I don’t think I could ask for a better person to be marrying my son.”

Cara’s cheeks flamed with embarrassment, but the words warmed her heart.

“Well, now, that’s the way it ought to be,” Agnes said in a practical manner. “What can I help you with? Shopping for a wedding dress?”

Agnes showed Cara some of the fabrics that would be “perfect” for a wedding. “Maybe you should buy a set of these hoops.” She held up a wire contraption. “These are all the rage now.”

Cara eyed the apparatus with some misgivings. She understood the concept – the hoops went under a skirt to make it billow out. It didn’t look very comfortable, and it wasn’t very practical.

“How much would it cost?” she asked.

Agnes named the cost of the hoops. Cara hesitated. Agnes said, “Of course, you can get almost the same effect using a number of petticoats.”

Cara glanced at Dinah, feeling somewhat hopeless. Adam had offered to pay for her wedding dress, but she did not know if he would approve of all the items that would go along with it. She thought it would be quite expensive.

“I think this color is especially becoming for you,” Agnes said, holding a light blue silk against Cara’s cheek.

“It is beautiful,” Dinah agreed.

Cara’s face flamed red at the attention the two women were paying to her. Her quiet response was polite but noncommittal. “They are all very lovely, but I will need some time to think about it.”

“It will take some time for me to make up the dress,” Dinah said.

“Why don’t you let me do it?” Agnes suggested. “You can buy the materials, and I won’t charge you for the sewing. It will be my wedding gift to you.”

“You don’t have to go to all of that trouble, Agnes. I’m sure Cara and I can manage.”

“It would be my pleasure.” There was sincerity in the dressmaker’s eyes that Cara found believable. Still, she hesitated.

“Thank you for offering. I will let you know soon.” She smiled, hoping that Agnes would not be offended.

It did not appear that Agnes was offended. She smiled in response. “That will be fine. You can let me know as soon as you make a decision.”

When they left the store, Dinah said, “That is a most generous offer that Agnes made. She is a very talented seamstress.”

“I know. Do you think she meant it sincerely?”

“She would not offer if it were not something she wanted to do.”

“I just hate to have her do it because she feels sorry for me.”

“I think she feels guilty for not reaching out to you sooner. It might do her some good to do this for you.”

“I’ll think about it.”

They saw Doc coming out of his office. He looked glad to see them. “Dinah, Cara, what brings you to town today?”

“We’re dress-shopping,” Dinah said.

“Dress shopping for the wedding?”

“Yes.” Dinah smiled.

“Did you find anything, Cara?” Doc’s eyes warm and kind.

“I saw some things I liked.”

“You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the wedding, Cara,” Doc said. “I know you don’t have parents to put on a wedding for you.”

“It’s not going to be a fancy wedding, Doc, just a simple wedding in the Kenleys’ home.”

“Be that as it may, I’d like to pay the bill for the wedding.”

Cara felt herself blushing. “That won’t be necessary.”

“It is necessary.” Doc put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “You’re the closest thing to a daughter I’ve had, Cara. You and I are like family, aren’t we?”

Tears stung Cara’s eyes as she met Doc’s earnest gaze. “Yes, we are.”

“Then you’ll let me do this for you?”

Cara hesitated. She hated to take money for anything, from anyone. It had been hard enough to allow Adam to pay for her wedding dress. And she did not want to burden him with additional costs of a wedding.

“I think it’s the right choice, Cara,” Dinah said quietly. “If you had parents, they would pay for your wedding. Doc is like a father to you.”

“And I can afford it,” Doc said. “You don’t have to worry about expenses, Cara.”

“I don’t like to accept charity.”

“It isn’t charity. You and the children – you are my family.”

Cara smiled through her tears. “All right, then.”

“Now, let’s go into the dress shop and have a talk with Agnes. Then I want you to get everything you need for the wedding, and some new clothes besides. What is it called when a bride gets a new wardrobe, Dinah?”

Dinah smiled. “A trousseau.”

“Well, then, that’s what I want you to do, Cara.” Doc took Cara’s elbow and led her to the dress shop. Dinah followed.

Inside, Agnes looked surprised to see Dinah and Cara returned, especially when she saw Doc. “How can I help you?” she asked in a stammering voice.

“I’d like to pay for Cara’s wedding dress, Agnes, and anything else she needs. Do you think you could set her up with a trousseau?”

Agnes’ smile was pleasant. “Of course, we can do that, Doc. I’ve already told Cara I will make her wedding dress, as a gift.”

“Only if you want to, Agnes. I’ll pay for everything else.” Doc stepped towards the door. “Now, I’ll leave you ladies to your shopping.”

When Doc left, Cara looked at the dressmaker, embarrassed. “Doc is like a father to me.”

“I know, my dear. I think it’s a wonderful thing he is doing.”

“Do you think you could keep it among us? I wouldn’t want everyone to know what he is doing.”

Agnes smiled her reassurance. “Of course. Now, what material did you particularly like?”

Cara liked many of them, but the one that caught her eye was the blue silk. “I think I like this one the best,” she said.

“That is a beautiful choice,” Agnes said. She brought forth a Godey’s Lady’s Book. “Now let’s look at some ideas for a dress.”

Cara looked through the book with all of its lovely dresses. They were all elegant, but most of them were too fancy for what she wanted. She had worn fancy dresses for her season in Charleston. At the time, it had been wonderful to be in the height of fashion.

Her eye caught one dress that had an understated elegance. The bodice was light blue. It had a high neckline, with a collar of lace fastened with a cameo brooch. The sleeves were long and puffed out, gathered at the wrist with lace trim. The skirt, made of dark blue silk, had two tiers, one dark and one light blue.

“I like this one the best,” she said.

She saw the look that passed between the two women. She saw their surprise, and their pleased expressions. “I think that is a very good choice,” Dinah said.

Agnes nodded her agreement. “Very good, indeed. It has an understated elegance, not a lot of lace and ruffles, but beautiful in its simplicity.”

“Will it be too much trouble to make up?” Cara asked doubtfully.

“Not at all. I will have it done in time. We will need to take your measurements, of course.”

When Cara realized she would have to take off her dress to be measured, she stopped short. Her undergarments were the ones her grandmother had sewn for her before her marriage. She could not show them to the women, who might not understand why they were so ragged and patched.

She was saved from having to do so when Hope started to fuss. “I will come another time to be measured,” she said. She would have some new undergarments made up first. Doc wanted her to have a trousseau, and he would not want her to be embarrassed by her old things.

“I think we perhaps have made Evan wait long enough today,” Dinah said.

Evan did not let on that they had been too long at the dress shop, but he also did not talk on the way home, so Dinah and Cara did not talk, either.

When Evan drove into the yard, Adam came out of the house, followed by Rose and Remmie.

“Did you find everything you need?” he asked.

“And then some,” she said, giggling.

“We will leave now,” Dinah said.

“Thank you for going with me, Dinah.”

“Don’t you think it’s time you called me, Mother?” Dinah asked with a smile.

Cara felt tears sting her eyes. “That would be very nice, Mother Kenley,” she said, trying out the new phrase. She saw the tears in Dinah’s eyes, and knew that she was moved, also.

“Well, then, we’ll be seeing you on Sunday,” Dinah said, before Evan turned the horses around and started back to their farm.

When Dinah was driving away down the hill, Adam put his arm around Cara’s waist. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel wonderful, and strange, all at once. I can hardly believe life can be so good.”

“Yes, it is, isn’t it?”

“Doc said he wants to pay for everything for the wedding. Do you think it will be all right?”

Adam didn’t look surprised. “I think that will be very good. He’s like a father to you, and he must feel like it’s his place to provide for you.”

“If the dress is anything to go by, it might prove to be expensive,” Cara said in concern.

“Doc can afford it. From what I hear, he has a hefty bank account that he hardly ever touches.”

“Is that so?” Cara was surprised. “I’m surprised people know that.”

“He and his wife purchased the land where the town is, and sold the lots. They were quite wealthy, from what I understand. But after his wife died, Doc never spent much of the money. At least that’s what I’ve heard.”

Cara rested her head against Adam’s shoulder, and he squeezed her shoulders. Hope started to wail, and Cara sighed. “It’s time I got back to the real world of caring for my children.”

“I think that stew you put on the stove this morning is ready to eat. After you’ve fed Hope, we’ll sit down and have some lunch.”

Adam scooped Rose up into his arms, and they all traipsed into the house. If anyone could have seen them walking together, they would have understood how all of them belonged together as a family.

            That evening, they decided to tell the children that they were getting married. They had agreed that Adam would bring up the subject.

“Remmie, I would very much like to marry your ma.”

Remmie’s eyes got big and his mouth stretched into a broad smile. “Yes!”

“But the wedding won’t be until March.”

“How long is March?” Remmie asked.

“It is two months’ time.”

“That is a long time.”

“There are many things we have to do before we can be married, Remmie,” Cara said.

“What kind of things?”

Adam met Cara’s eyes, and she shook her head. There was no good way to explain their reasons for waiting.

“Grown up things,” Cara said.

Remmie did not look happy, but his enthusiasm returned when Adam asked,

“So, Remmie, do I have permission to marry your ma?”

Remmie’s enthusiasm was contagious. “Yes, you do!”

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