Courage to Forgive Chapters 8 and 9


            Tears streamed down Cara’s cheeks as the train moved down the tracks, leaving Adam and her home behind. She didn’t want to be apart from him. She loved him, and she had been so looking forward to their wedding. His love had transformed her life, giving her hope that things would be different.

            Doc’s death had disproved that thought. The humiliation she had felt when people passed her by had made her realize more than ever that she was never going to be accepted as part of the community. Besides Doc, Adam and his mother, and the Ackerbys, were the only people she felt truly cared about her and her children. Others were polite, but they did not really know her, nor did they seem to want to get to know her. She had been accepted as Adam’s fiancé, more for his sake and his mother’s sake than for her own. Knowing that was painful.

            “Mama, why are you crying?” Charity asked.

Rose reached up and patted Cara’s cheeks, as though comforting her.

Remmie’s eyes were wet with tears, and his lower lip trembled. Cara wrapped her arm around his thin shoulders. “It’s hard to leave Adam behind, isn’t it?” He burst into sobs then.

“I want Adam to be our pa.”

“He will be, Remmie. We’re only going for a short time.”

            “Do you promise?”

            Adam had asked the same question. “I promise, Remmie.”

            He wiped his eyes and nose with the handkerchief she gave him. She patted his head gently.

            “It will be a good experience for us, Remmie, to see the city.”

            “Have you ever been there before?” His tears were under control now.

            Cara shook her head. “No, I haven’t, Remmie.”

            “What’s a city, Ma?” Charity’s innocent question made Cara smile.

            “It’s kind of like our town. There are buildings all over, close together. Only it’s a lot bigger than our town, and a lot more buildings.”

            “Where will we stay?”

            “Mrs. Warner has invited us to stay in her house.”

            “Is it a nice house?”

            Could it be no less? Cara mused. She imagined that Margaret’s house was extravagantly furnished, if the way Margaret dressed was anything to go by. Margaret was a wealthy woman, and she had confided that her house was very large.

            “Very large and empty,” she had lamented.

            Cara encouraged the children to look out the windows at the passing scenery. Rose complained of being hungry, and she fed her a cookie from the basket that Dinah had sent. She was thankful for her mother-in-law’s thoughtfulness. Taking the four children to the dining car would be quite an ordeal, more than she could handle.

            It was late in the afternoon when they arrived at their destination. A porter came to assist Cara and the children from the train. She was relieved to see Margaret waiting for her. Dressed elegantly in black silk and wearing a wide-brimmed hat with plumes, it was not hard to miss Margaret. Beside her stood a colored man, very large and intimidating. It took Cara by surprise, until Margaret explained that the man and his wife were paid servants who took care of her house and gardens.

            The children were wide awake, having napped on the train. They looked around at the buildings, and Remmie asked many questions. Margaret was pleasant and answered every question. Rose took a liking to Margaret and climbed onto the seat beside her. She reached out and touched the plumes on the hat.

            “Rose,” Cara said in a reprimanding tone.

            “She’s all right,” Margaret said with a smile. She took off her hat and put it on Rose’s head. The large hat fell forward and covered her eyes. Rose giggled. Cara was embarrassed. Then Rose took the hat and set it back on Margaret’s head, knocking her glasses askew. The expression on Margaret’s face was almost comical.

            “I’ve aired out the upstairs rooms for you and the children,” Margaret explained. “There is a bedroom downstairs, next to mine, but I thought you would be more comfortable if you could sleep near the children.”

            “Yes, thank you.”

            “There is a room just right for the girls, and one for Remmie, also.” Margaret looked thoughtful. “Have you thought any more about changing the boy’s nickname?”

            Margaret had suggested last summer, during her disastrous visit. Cara had been reluctant to do as Margaret suggested.

            “I haven’t given it much thought.”

            “I think you should consider calling him ‘Tony.’ It sounds much less babyish than ‘Remmie’ and I think it will help him fit in better at school.”

            Cara certainly did not want Remmie to have problems fitting in at school. It had been hard enough for her to attend school when she first came to live with Gran. “Carabel the Dunce” still ran through her thoughts at times, causing painful memories.

            Margaret’s house was all that Cara expected and more. Set high on a hill in the city, it had a vast front yard and was palatial in appearance.

            “Is this your house?” Remmie asked in awe.

            “Yes, it is. Do you like it?”

            “It’s really big.”

            “It’s pretty,” Charity spoke up.

            “Thank you. I’ve worked hard to make it beautiful.”

            Or her caretakers did, Cara thought with a smile.

            The inside of the house was just as lovely as the outside. Cara looked around at the expensive cut-glass bowls and china vases set ornately about. How would she keep her children from breaking them?

            “What do you think, Cara?” Margaret was saying.

            Cara realized she had missed part of the conversation. “I’m sorry, Margaret. I was looking around and not paying attention for a moment.”

            Margaret laughed. “I was asking if you want to take the children up to their rooms now. They might like to change and freshen up before dinner.”

            Their clothes did look dusty, and their hair was mussed. Cara feared that her appearance was no better.

            “That is a fine idea.”

            “We dress for dinner here,” Margaret said.

            “I’ve had new clothes made up for the children and myself. I hope they will be appropriate.”

            “Wear what you have, and if need be, we’ll see the dressmaker tomorrow.”

            Cara followed the servant upstairs. He showed her three spacious bedrooms, all decorated lavishly with silk draperies and embroidered pillows. One room was a little larger than the others, and she presumed it to be her bedroom while she was here.  It had a fireplace and a stone hearth. There were two beds in one of the other rooms, and a large bed in the third. Since the girls were used to sleeping together, she decided to put them in the room with the larger bed. That left Remmie with the room with two beds.

“Maybe Adam can sleep in here with me when he comes to visit.”

Cara did not want to upset him, but she thought it was best to be honest. “Adam won’t be coming here, son.”

His lip trembled. “Why not?”

“Because his place is to stay on the farm and take care of the animals.”

“I want Adam.”

“Want Adam!” Rose demanded. Charity looked ready to cry. Cara was going to have her hands full with the children if they did not adjust to their new surroundings right away.

She washed the children’s hands and faces at the basin in her room. She combed Remmie’s hair, adding a little water to make it lay down. She curled Charity’s hair around her finger into ringlets, and tied a new ribbon in both Charity and Rose’s hair.

She knew what Margaret meant by dressing for dinner. Gran had not been formal. When she went to live with her great-aunt in Charleston, she had learned something of the nature of high society. The evening meal was elegant with several courses served on the best china. Evening attire was expected, even of the guests.

Her choices in fabric for the children’s clothes, and her own, had been very practical. The fabric was sturdy, and pleasant in appearance, but she had a feeling that it would not be formal enough to please Margaret.

Dinah had made two dresses for each of the girls, matching sets. One of the sets was pink gingham, with a ruffled hem and puffy sleeves. The other set was blue calico, with tiny rosebuds patterned throughout. Dinah had also sewn pinafores with gathered pockets to wear over the dresses. Cara put them in the blue, and tied their pinafores around their waists.

For Remmie, Dinah had sewn two pair of knickers, two shirts, and one jacket.

“The jacket scratches,” he complained when Cara buttoned him into it.

By the time the children were dressed, Hope was awake and crying to be fed. Cara took the children’s toys out of the trunk, the girls’ dolls and Remmie’s farm animals. They played in front of the fireplace while Cara nursed the baby. Then she changed Hope and put her in the new little gown that Dinah had stitched for her.

She was unsure if Margaret expected her to wear black, and decided it was best to err on the side of wearing mourning clothes. She put on the hoops, and then slipped into her black dress. She combed out her hair smoothed it into a bun, fastening it with pins.

“It’s time to go downstairs.” The children looked up from their play.

“I don’t want to. It’s a strange house.” Remmie was quick to complain.

“We’ll soon learn our way around. Mrs. Warner is expecting us for dinner.”

Rose jumped up from her play. “I hungry.”

Cara gathered the baby in her arms and led the way downstairs. Unsure of where she should go, she opted for the sitting room. It looked very elegant and formal. She worried that her children would break something.

“Come sit down with me,” she said gently. “We’ll wait here for Mrs. Warner.”

Margaret came in momentarily. “You’re wearing black.”

“I wasn’t sure if it is appropriate.”

“I don’t see why you need to dress in mourning. Doc wasn’t related to you.” Cara felt a twinge of pain at Margaret’s blunt words. “Of course, if you want to wear black, that’s all right,” Margaret hastened to add.

“I have other dresses with me.” Cara’s voice was quiet, unsure of herself.

“You see, Cara, I have told people that a young friend of mine has come to visit me. I haven’t told them anything about your connection to Erich. I have told them that you’re a widow, and just come out of your mourning period. It wouldn’t be right, then, for you to wear black.”

“Have you told everyone that I am coming?” Cara was surprised.

“Oh, yes. I’ve planned to take you and the children visiting, so my friends and neighbors can have the opportunity to meet you.”

“Why would you want to do this?”

“You meant a lot to Doc, and it means a lot to me to have you here. Naturally I will want to introduce you to my circle of friends.”

Remembering what it was like to be introduced into high society back in Charleston, Cara worried. Back then, she had felt uncomfortable and out of place. Now, with four children in tow, she would feel even more awkward.

Margaret’s colored house servant appeared in the archway. “Dinner is served, Ma’am.”

“Thank you, Lettie. Shall we go into the dining room, children?”

The dining room table was large enough to seat twelve. Cara noticed that Margaret was seated at the head of the table, with Remmie to her left. She had placed the two little girls on the right, with Cara between them. There was a basket on the floor just the right size for Hope, so she laid the sleeping baby in it.

The meal was extravagant and made up of several courses. Some of the foods were familiar to the children, but most of them were not. Several times, Remmie made a face when he tried the food on his plate. Charity only picked at her food. Rose tried everything, but made a terrible mess trying to use her utensils. Cara was embarrassed.

“I’m sorry my children don’t have proper manners.”

Margaret was more understanding than she had anticipated. “They will do all right, with some practice. How do you children like pudding?”

“I like pudding,” Remmie said.

            While the children ate their dessert, Margaret looked them all over. Cara could see that Margaret found their attire lacking.

“Now, I’m thinking that tomorrow we’ll visit my dressmaker.”

            Cara felt disheartened. “The clothes we have aren’t presentable enough?”

“They are certainly sturdy and stylish enough, for the farm. I’d like to have some dresses made up for you and the girls, and some suits for Remmie, that are more fashionable.”

Meaning expensive, Cara thought dismally. She had the money from Doc’s estate, but she did not want to spend it frivolously. Why buy clothes that were not practical for small town life?

“Do you play piano?” Margaret asked when dinner was over.

“I never learned. Gran had a piano, but we sold it.”

“I have a fine piano, and I’d like to play for you and the children. Would you join me in the parlor?”

Cara and the children sat on the uncomfortable, stiff chairs in the parlor. Margaret sat down on the piano bench and began to play. The songs were not the hymns in the church that were becoming familiar to Cara. Instead, she guessed that they were classical pieces. Margaret’s hands flew over the keys and she never made a mistake that Cara could tell.

The children grew restless. “Sing, Mama,” Rose said.

“This isn’t a time for singing, Rose,” Cara said in a hushed voice.

“We sing.” Rose’s voice was demanding, and Cara could see that Margaret heard it by the frown on the older woman’s face.

“Not now, Rose.”

Margaret finished the song she was playing and slid the cover back down over the keys. “I think that is enough for this evening.”

“You play very well, Margaret. Thank you for playing for us.”

“Perhaps while you are here, I can give young Charity some lessons. Would you like to learn to play piano, dear?”

Charity’s eyes widened in awe. She nodded.

How long did Margaret think they were staying? Cara wondered.

Later, she tucked the children into their new beds. Before she settled into the big bed in her room, she heard little footsteps across the room. Charity and Rose stood beside the bed, looking sad.

“What’s the matter, girls?”

“I don’t like our new bed, Mama. It feels strange.”

“You’ll get used to it, Charity. Now go back to bed, you and Rose both.”

Charity’s eyes welled up with tears. “May we sleep in here with you, Mama?”

“Stay with you, Mama.” Rose added her request.


Cara could not say no to the plea in Charity’s voice. She smiled and drew back the covers.

“It’s all right, just for tonight. Once you get used to the new place, you’ll be able to sleep in your own bed.”


In the morning, Cara rose early, before the baby awakened. For a moment, she wondered where she was, and then reality set in. She was away from the farm. The luxurious bed that she was sleeping in belonged to Margaret. She wondered why the other woman had invited them here. She said she had done it because she was lonely, and Cara guessed that could be true. But the feelings that Margaret had raised during her visit last summer pursued.

Margaret had turned down her nose at the meal Cara prepared. She had made it clear that she thought Cara’s home was old and unfashionable. Now, the clothes Cara had made for herself and the children weren’t good enough for Margaret. She wanted them to have new things.

“I’m hungry, Mama,” Rose said, sitting up.

“We’ll have breakfast after I feed the baby.” Cara’s voice was reassuring. Rose chattered to her doll, but she was patient. Cara fed the baby and dressed the children. Remmie came into the room, looking shy.

“How did you sleep, son?”

“I slept good. The bed is soft.”

“Yes, ours is soft, too. Do you like it here?”

It was the wrong question to ask. “I miss Adam.”

“Adam,” Rose cried.

“We’ll see Adam soon. Now, let’s get dressed and go downstairs for breakfast.”

Cara did not see Margaret downstairs, so she made her way to the kitchen. The servant, Lettie, smiled when she saw her.

“Are you and the children ready for breakfast, Mrs. Bancroft?”

“Yes, we are. Is Mrs. Warner going to eat with us?”

Lettie chuckled. “Mrs. Warner doesn’t get up until nine.”

Nine o’clock was late for Cara. By then, she had breakfast dishes and half of her morning’s work done. Having no one else in the house made it easy for Margaret to sleep in, she realized, and did not begrudge her hostess her sleeping time.

After breakfast, she was at loose ends. The children were, too. She took them into the sitting room, which was only slightly less formal than the parlor. There was a bookcase, with some children’s books on it. Remmie chose a book, and they passed the time reading.

Margaret came into the room about nine o’clock. “I see you are up and around early.”

“Yes, we get up rather early, I’m afraid.”

“I guess you would have to, on the farm. I haven’t had anyone to take care of for so long that I guess I’m rather spoiled. Are you dressed for leaving the house?”

Cara looked at the dove-gray dress she was wearing. It was the latest fashion, Agnes Morrow had assured her. She wore her new hoops, uncomfortable as they were. “Yes, we are.”

“Well, then. I’ll have Miles bring the carriage around, and we’ll make our way to the dressmaker’s shop.”

Cara cringed at the thought of the children getting fitted. They would surely be impatient, especially Remmie, who hadn’t liked it when Dinah measured him for his suits.

“Why do we need new clothes, Ma?” he complained when the dressmaker was measuring him.

“You’ll be going to new places, and meeting new people,” Margaret answered. “You’ll want to look your best.”

“I don’t want to meet new people.”

“Remmie, that isn’t polite. You need to apologize to Mrs. Warner.”

“Mrs. Warner is a mouthful for the children, don’t you think? I’ve been thinking that perhaps they might call me ‘Aunt Margaret.”

“I suppose that would be all right. If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Margaret said with a smile.

After the fittings, the dressmaker showed them a variety of fabrics and patterns. The materials were expensive silks and satins. Cara protested.

“I don’t think the children need such fancy clothes. Silk will tear easily, and doesn’t wash as well.”

“But, my dear, they need to be in fashion.”

“Maybe one dress in silk, then, and the others in something sturdier.”

Margaret looked upset. “I want them to look their best.”

“I can make some wonderful dresses out of this,” the dressmaker said, holding up a pink lawn fabric. “It washes more easily as silk, and is equally pleasing to the eye.”

“Very well, then,” Margaret agreed reluctantly.

            With Margaret’s input, Cara chose material and a suit pattern for Remmie, who frowned. “I don’t like that.”

            “It will look very handsome on you,” Margaret said. But he was not appeased.

            Cara tried to calculate the costs, but not knowing how much the fabric cost made it difficult. When the dressmaker showed her an array of silk fabrics for her own costumes, she realized it was going to be a costly affair.

            “I don’t want to be too extravagant.”

            “Don’t worry about the cost, Cara. This will be my treat, the clothes for you and the children.”

            “I can’t let you do that, Margaret. I have money now.”

            Margaret laughed. “I know how my brother felt about fashion. He wore suits that were hopelessly outdated, because they still had some wear in them. He would not be pleased if I allowed you to spend your inheritance on new clothes.”

            Cara smiled. It was true that Doc had not put much stock in what he wore. But she could not let Margaret finance her new wardrobe.

            “I’ll pay for it.”

            Margaret glanced at the dressmaker. “Just put it on my account, Lydia. We’ll settle up later.”

            There seemed to be no point in arguing the matter, not right now. Cara finished choosing the material and patterns for her own outfits, and then it was time to leave.

            “I’ll have Miles take us around the city, to show you some of the interesting sights.”

            Margaret’s guided tour of the city lasted about one hour. Remmie was hopelessly bored, and Rose fell asleep. Hope started to cry. “I’ll need to feed her.”

            “We’re almost back at the house.”

            It was a noisy ride the rest of the way to Margaret’s house. The baby’s crying woke up Rose, who howled in protest that she was hungry.

            “My, my. The children certainly are restless this morning.”

            Cara wanted to tell Margaret that her children were used to playing, not spending all morning in a dressmaker’s shop and riding around in a buggy. But she held her tongue, and was relieved when the house came into view.

            “Why don’t you nurse the baby in the downstairs bedroom?” Margaret suggested. “I’ve some things that I want to show the children.”

            After Hope was satisfied, and sound asleep, Cara left her in the bedroom. She found Margaret and the children in the sitting room. Remmie played with a train set on the floor. Rose was holding a new doll, and Charity and Margaret were working on a puzzle.

            “I bought a few toys for the children to play with while they are here. I’ve never had little children around, so I wasn’t sure what to get. I think they are happy with what I chose.”

            “They look very pleased. It was thoughtful of you to think of them.”

            “Are you ready to put the toys away and eat?” Margaret asked.

            “Eat!” Rose was happy to put down the doll and make her way into the dining room.

Cara could not say whether she enjoyed her visit with Margaret or not. During the first few days, Margaret was kind and patient with the children. When they began to bicker among themselves and complain, she showed her impatience.

“I don’t think you’ve done much for discipline, Cara.”

“They are quite well-disciplined, but they are away from home, and everything is new to them.”

“I hope they will adjust soon. We can’t possibly take them calling with us if they are unruly.”

When their new clothes were ready, Margaret announced her plans for the children. She introduced Cara to a young colored girl, maybe sixteen at the most. “This is Miriam, Lettie’s oldest daughter.”

“Hello, Miriam.” Cara was polite but curious.

“I’ve hired Miriam to sit with the children while I take you calling.”

Cara’s face turned white with anger. “I don’t need someone to watch the children.”

“You said yourself that when they are away from home, they are unruly.”

That wasn’t what Cara had meant by her words. “If they can’t go with us, then I don’t want to go.”

“Nonsense, Cara. What fun could it possibly be for the children to get all dolled up and visit strangers?”

What fun could it possibly be for herself? Cara wondered.

“I’m sure they will do fine.”

“Miriam is a sister to seven brothers and sisters. She is used to watching them when Lettie is working. I think she will be quite able to handle your children.”

“I don’t doubt that she is, but I wouldn’t like to leave them with a stranger.”

In the end, Margaret won the argument. Cara left her children in the care of the young girl, taking the baby with her while she and Margaret went calling.

So began one of many days in which she dressed in her new silk gowns, put on the uncomfortable hoops and high-heeled boots, and rode with Margaret to the wealthy neighborhoods of the city. Margaret poured out the details of Doc’s life and death to her friends, all of whom were sympathetic to her loss. Their hostesses served them tea and fancy cakes, and little sandwiches such as Cara was not familiar with.

They were all curious about Cara. “How do you know Margaret?” many of the ladies asked.

“Cara’s grandmother was a dear friend of Patsy’s,” Margaret would always tell them. Cara cringed inside at the half-truth, but short of embarrassing her hostess, she did not correct her. Margaret always brought out up Cara’s southern heritage, and Cara had to tell about her social season in Charleston.

Margaret did not realize how painful it was for Cara to recall those days. She had been homesick for her grandmother, and grieving the loss of her parents. Then she had met Lem, and their secret courtship had thrown her into confusion and guilt. Much of what had happened in Charleston was a private matter, and she was careful what she told Margaret’s friends. Yes, she had met her husband there. She had returned to the farm, and he followed her there and married her. The women thought it was so romantic, just as Margaret had.

If they could have known the truth, about the letters Cara had found, they would have been disappointed in her, and judgmental. Yet hiding the truth, and pretending that her marriage had been wonderful, was hard for her to do.

The days passed by much too slowly. Cara missed Adam. She was delighted when she received a letter from him.

His penmanship was neat and legible, much better than her own. And he had a way with words that made her feel as if he were really talking to her.

“Dearest Cara,

You’ve been gone only a few days, but already it seems like a long time. The house is quiet without you and the children. I’m used to having all of you greet me when I come in the house. Now when I bring the milk in it’s to an empty kitchen.

I’ve been working with the new team, and they are well-trained. We invested our money wisely. With the pace at which they work, I believe we can get more crops planted this spring.

The cows are producing more milk than I can churn, so my ma has taken over that task. I take the milk to her each day at noon, and she is taking care of it. She is feeding me well, too. But I am missing your cooking, and the smile that always accompanies the meal.

I don’t know what your plans are, but I hope you will see your way to coming home soon. I miss you, and all of the children. It isn’t the same without you here.

            The letter was signed, with all my love, Adam. Recalling his tender kisses and warm smile, her eyes filled up with tears. She missed him, too. So did the children. She was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to go home.

            She started to write Adam a letter, but after a few words, she gave up trying. It was not easy to put her thoughts down on paper. Spelling and grammar had not been her strong points. She did not want to send a letter that showed her lack of formal education. So the letter sat on the little secretary desk in her guest room, unfinished.

            When he took her to the train station, Adam had asked her if she was escaping to the city. In a sense, she had thought of her visit with Margaret as an escape from the prying eyes and gossiping tongues of the community. She had wanted to walk down the street or sit in church, and not be judged for her past. Yet she found that living a lie, or rather, half-truths, as she was doing with Margaret’s social circle, felt just as uncomfortable. Margaret showed indifference when Cara expressed her doubts.

“I’m not going to have them know the whole truth about you, my dear. They will sit in judgment on you just as I have done. Here, you have a chance at a fresh start.”

“My stay here is only temporary,” Cara reminded her hostess. “I’m planning to return home and marry Adam.”

“Are you certain of that? Now that you have had a taste of the city life, and an elegant lifestyle, why would you want to return to the farm, and all of that hard work?”

“It’s my home,” Cara said with a hint of stubbornness. “And it’s the children’s home. I know they want to go back.”

“I think they’re adjusting very well.”

Margaret thought that because she did not spend much time with the children. Cara saw their sad looks, even Rose, who was usually so good-natured. They were homesick. Remmie, especially, voiced his thoughts to Cara every evening as she tucked him in.

“When are we going home, Ma?”

“We’ll go home when our visit with Aunt Margaret is done.”

“Why can’t that be now?”

Cara wondered that herself. She knew she could leave at any time, but she did not want to hurt Margaret. Doc’s sister seemed to enjoy her company so much. Margaret often lamented that she would be feel so lonely and sad if Cara were not here to visit with her. Cara felt guilty, so she put off her plans to return home.

Courage to Forgive Chapters 6 and 7


Two weeks before the wedding, Adam was awakened out of his sleep by his pa’s stern voice.

“Adam, you need to get up.”

Adam felt groggy. It was still dark out, and he thought it couldn’t be chore time already.

“Adam, we have a visitor. It isn’t good news.”

That brought Adam immediately to his senses. He jumped up and quickly dressed, and followed his pa out of the room.

“Who is it?”

“It’s the young doctor, Byford.”

“What’s wrong? Did something happen to Cara?”

“No, not to her and the children. Come on and I’ll let him tell it to you.”

Adam hurried into the parlor, where the doctor was seated in the lamplight. His ma stood beside the door, tears on her face.

“Dr. Byford,” Adam said, polite in spite of his concern.

The doctor arose, and shook Adam’s proffered hand. “I come bearing bad news, Adam.”

“You might as well give it to me straight.”

“It’s Doc. I went to awaken him to ask about a patient, and he was gone.”

“Gone?” Adam felt the color drain from his face.

“His heart gave out. He died in his sleep.”

“Oh, no!”

“I’m afraid so. If I had known – well, I keep thinking there is something I might have done.”

The doctor was clearly distraught, and blamed himself. While Adam was still registering the shock, his pa spoke up.

“It wasn’t your fault, Dr. Byford. Doc was well advanced in years, and it was his time to go.”

“Cara knew he was not doing well,” Adam said. “She had so hoped that he could walk her down the aisle.”

“She will be devastated,” Dinah said tearfully.

Hearing his ma say it, Adam knew she was right. This would come as a terrible shock to Cara, since she and the doctor had been so close.

“I thought you ought to tell her, before she hears it from someone else,” the doctor suggested.

“He’s right,” Dinah agreed, looking at Adam. “You’d best go and tell her first thing in the morning.”

“She’d never forgive me if I wait until morning to tell her,” Adam said. “I’ll go over there now.”

“No sense getting her up in the middle of the night,” Evan disagreed.

“She’ll want to know. It’s no telling who might come riding out to the house to break the news. You know how folks are. Everybody wants to be the one to announce a tragedy.”

“If you’re going over now, I’m going with you,” Dinah spoke up. “It wouldn’t look right for you to go to her house in the middle of the night.”

“You don’t have to get out in the dark, Ma.”

“She’s right,” Evan said. “No sense getting the rumor mill started up again.”

They were right, and Adam knew it. He waited while his ma bundled up, and the doctor offered to drop them off in his buggy before heading back into town.

“Will you wake the children up when you knock on the door?” Dinah worried as they stood on the porch.

“I hope not.” Adam was second-guessing his decision not to wait until morning.

After a few hard knocks on the door, it was opened a crack by Cara. She held a lamp in her hand, and Adam could see that her hair was braided. She had obviously pulled a dress on over her nightgown, and she looked sleepy.

When she realized it was Adam, Cara opened the door all the way.

“Adam, Mother Kenley – whatever is wrong?” she asked in concern.

“May we come in?”

“Of course.” Cara stepped back, and Adam and Dinah walked into the house. “What’s wrong?” Cara asked again.

“Cara, it’s Doc.”

“Doc?” She looked very pale.

Adam couldn’t bring himself to say it. He looked at his mother helplessly.

“Doc passed away tonight, Cara,” Dinah said in a quiet, matter-of-fact voice.

Cara’s face crumpled as though in pain. Adam reached out for her, fearing that she would faint.

“Adam, is it true?” It was as if she were begging him to say something different. Adam felt her anguish, and wished he could tell her it wasn’t true.

“Yes, it is. I’m sorry.”

“Doc’s gone.” Cara said it as though she couldn’t believe it, and then she burst into tears.

Adam wrapped his arms around Cara and held her against his chest while she cried. He brushed his hand over her hair and shoulders, trying to comfort her without really knowing how. She sobbed, softly at first, and then her sobs grew louder, more anguished. He looked at his ma over Cara’s shoulder, wondering what he should do.

“Take her into the parlor and lay her down,” Dinah suggested. “I’ll brew some tea.”

Adam led, half-carried, Cara into the parlor and settled her on the sofa. She clung to him, and he sat down beside her, holding her close.

Her cries grew softer, and the shaking in her shoulders subsided. She was spent.

“I’m sorry, Cara,” Adam said softly as he pressed a handkerchief into her hand.

Cara wiped her eyes and nose, her hand trembling. “I can’t believe it,” she said in an anguished voice. “I can’t believe he’s gone.” Fresh tears streamed down her face.

“Dr. Byford came to the house to tell us. He went to wake Doc up, to ask him about a patient. Doc was already gone.”

“How awful!”

Dinah came into the room. “I don’t think he suffered much, Cara. Dr. Byford thinks he passed away in his sleep.”

“What will I do now?”

Her question hung in the air. No one knew what to say. Doc had been all the family she had, and now he was gone. She had no parents, no grandparents, no siblings. Except for her children, she was alone.

“I’m here for you, Cara,” Adam said.

“Yes, Adam is here for you, and so am I,” Dinah said, laying a hand on Cara’s shoulder.

Cara started to cry again, and Adam held her against his chest. Dinah left, and brought back a cup of steaming tea.

“Try to drink this, Cara,” she coaxed.

Cara sat up and sipped at the hot tea. Despite its warmth, she felt chilled. Doc was dead.

Dinah sat down, and a sad silence fell over the room. Cara leaned back against the cushion, away from Adam’s comforting arms. She sipped her tea, trying to hold back more tears. She had known for a while that Doc was growing old and tired. She knew he had hired Dr. Byford as a partner to take care of things when he was gone. She had just pushed aside the thoughts of Doc’s growing frail, all the while hoping he would be able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding.

Now, the signs that she had seen in him had come to pass. He was gone from this world, gone on to his heavenly reward. She knew he was in a place where there was no more pain or sorrow, but his passing was so hard to accept.

Adam broke the silence. “I didn’t want to wait until morning to tell you. I thought you would want to know.”

“You’re right, Adam. It was thoughtful of you to come and tell me yourself.” Cara’s voice sounded surprisingly calm.

Dinah spoke up. “Dr. Byford will send a telegram to Doc’s sister Margaret in the morning. He said he will wait until she arrives to make arrangements for the wake.”

At the mention of Doc’s sister Margaret, Cara thought briefly about the woman who had stirred up so much trouble for her and Adam last summer. She was not looking forward to seeing her again. Yet, she knew Doc and his sister had been close, and she would most likely be here for the wake.

“Would you like another cup of tea, Cara?” Dinah asked.

The shock of Doc’s death had subsided. Cara still felt shaken and her heart was heavy, but she was regaining control over her emotions. Soon, Hope would be awake, and she would need to feed her. Then she would have to go through the motions of the day, just as if nothing tragic had happened.

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. It must be about time for chores, isn’t it?”

“It’s getting close,” Adam said. “I’ll take Ma home, and then come back, if that’s all right.”

“Yes, of course. Thank you for coming.”

“Send Adam over if you need anything, Cara.” Dinah’s gentle voice almost brought Cara to tears again. Dinah came over and hugged Cara, and the tender, motherly embrace caused the tears to flow. Cara stepped back, wiping her eyes.

“I’ll be back as soon as I get the chores done, Cara,” Adam promised, kissing her cheek.

Hope awakened. Cara still nursed her in the mornings and at bedtime, but she was trying to wean her before the wedding. Today, she would not even try to deal with a fussy baby. She nursed her, then changed and fixed her hair. Although her world had just fallen apart, Adam would be hungry after chores, and the children would need to eat. She went through the motions of cooking breakfast, scarcely aware that she was fixing oatmeal and fried eggs.

            She and Adam told the children at breakfast.

            “Doc passed away last night.”

            “What does passed away mean, Ma?” Remmie asked.

            “It means Doc died, Remmie.”

            “Oh.” Remmie looked ready to cry. “Like my pa?”

            “Yes, son. He won’t be with us anymore.”

            Rose didn’t understand. “Doc coming’?” she asked.

            “Rose, Ma just said Doc died. Don’t you understand?”

            “Doc die?” Rose repeated the words, but she was too little to comprehend their meaning.

            A glance at Charity showed the girl’s sad expression, but Cara was unclear whether or not Charity fully understood. Her daughter would be four years old in a few days. Was that too young to understand what death meant?”

            Adam stayed in the house all day. Cara fought to keep her tears under control. She didn’t want to frighten the children, but she could scarcely think of Doc without crying. Adam kept the children busy while she did her morning chores, stopping a fight between Remmie and Rose and bouncing Hope on his knee when she grew fussy.

            About noon, Dinah and Evan came to the door. Rose went right over to Evan and held up her arms, and he lifted her up. She patted his beard contentedly.

            “How are you doing, Cara?” Dinah asked. Cara shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. Dinah seemed to understand.

            She held out a covered dish. “I’ve made some chicken soup with dumplings in it for your lunch. I thought you might not feel like cooking.”

            Cara hadn’t given any thought to a noon meal. “Thank you. It is greatly appreciated.”

            “Dr. Byford received a telegram from Margaret. She is coming on the afternoon train, and will be here this evening.”

            “I must admit, I am not looking forward to seeing her again,” Cara said.

            “I understand. But we must be kind to her, for she and Doc were very close.”

            “I know.” Cara knew how much Doc had loved his sister, despite her overbearing ways.

            “How is your black dress, Cara? Will it need to be laundered?”

            Cara turned ashen. “I haven’t given it any thought.”

            “Why don’t you show it to me, and if you like, I’ll take it home and freshen it up for you.”

            Cara led Dinah into the bedroom, and retrieved her black dress. It was clean but wrinkled.

            “I’ll press it for you. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

            “Agnes ordered shoes for me for the wedding. If they have come in, I would like to have them for the wake.” That brought another concern to Cara’s mind. “I suppose all of those things I ordered – I will need to pay for them now?”

            “Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to Agnes, and we’ll see what needs to be done.”

            “We best go, so these folks can eat,” Evan said, setting Rose down.

            “I eat,” Rose said happily, bringing a smile to the faces of the adults. Even in the most tragic of times, small children could bring joy to one’s heart.

            The soup was good, and the dumplings were comforting, but Cara could scarcely eat. Remmie and Charity picked at their food, and Cara realized how hard the news had been on them. In the afternoon, she joined the children and Adam in the sitting room.

            “You look like you could use a nap,” Adam said after a little while.

            “So do you.”

            “Why don’t you see if you can rest for a while?” he suggested. “If I get tired I can doze off in a chair.”

            Cara took Rose and Charity with her and they lay down on the bed. Rose tossed and turned for a few minutes, then fell asleep. Charity snuggled up beside Cara.

            “What are you thinking about, Charity?” Cara asked.

            “I don’t want Doc to die.”

            Cara felt tears sting her eyes. “I didn’t want him to either, Charity. But people die, whether we want them to or not.”

            “Why, Mama?”

            “Well, Doc was very old, and very tired.” Cara chose her words carefully. “He lived a long time, and I think he was ready to rest.”

            “I’m sad because Doc died,” Charity said.

            Cara hugged her little daughter. “So am I, Charity. So am I.”

Later that evening, it was time for Adam to leave. He rose reluctantly and retrieved his boots. As he put them on, he saw the sorrowful look on Cara’s face. How would she cope when she was here by herself, with no one to talk to?

“I don’t want to leave you here alone,” he said truthfully.

            “I don’t want you to go,” she replied, equally honest.

            Her words struck a chord in his emotions. If things were different – he could stay. But he knew where things could lead, and it wouldn’t be right for them to be together – not yet.

            “I’ll be back in the morning,” he said, although he knew it was of little consolation to her. She rose, and he drew her into the circle of his arms. When he kissed her, she clung to him, and his arms tightened around her. For a moment, he forgot about everything except for Cara, and how much he loved her. Then reality sank in, and he reluctantly ended the kiss. “I have to go, Cara.”

Tears formed in her eyes, but she nodded. “I know.”


Long after Adam left, Cara lay in bed, staring up at the dark ceiling. She wanted to pray and ask God for His comfort, but all she felt in her heart was a complete sense of loss. She couldn’t form the words to pray, and the tears began to flow. She hadn’t cried so hard since the day she lost Gran. Then, as now, she had felt completely alone, even though she had Lem in her life back then, and she had Adam now. Yet, even Adam’s love for her could not replace the loss of her beloved friend.

            When Adam came into the house in the morning, he noticed how tired Cara looked. Her eyes were slightly swollen, and he knew she had spent most of the night crying. He hadn’t slept well, either. He had thought about Cara all night, and prayed for God to comfort her. He wondered if his prayers had been heard.

            “How are you doing?” he asked.

            “I’m getting by all right.”

It was a lie, and Adam knew it, but he did not correct her.

            “Ma says the wake is going to be held in Doc’s office.”


            “At two o’clock this afternoon. Ma said you might like to go a little early, though, before everyone else arrives.”

            “How will Margaret feel about that?”

            “Ma asked her, and she said it would be fine. She wants to see you and the children.”

            “I’m not so sure I want to see her.”

            “I know. But we have to be polite to her, since Doc’s death is going to be tough on her.”

            “I know it is. Doc was all the family she had left.” Even as she said the words, Cara almost started to cry. Doc had been all the family she had, also, besides the children.

            Adam sat down to breakfast. Cara and the children joined him. The meal passed in near-silence. Cara took a couple of bites of her hotcakes, and barely choked them down. She drank a little coffee, but she could not eat.

After breakfast, Adam brought in water to heat for the children’s baths.

            “I was too tired last night to think of bathing them,” Cara explained when she asked him about it.

            “Is there anything else I can do to help?”

            “I don’t think so. Just having you here – “ Her voice broke down.

            “I’ll be here for you, as long as you need me.”

            By the time baths were finished and the children all dressed, Adam was getting the horse and buggy ready. The day was clear and starting to turn warm, but Cara bundled the children into their warm wraps. They had not gone far down the road when Remmie complained.

            “This jacket scratches, and it’s too tight.”

            “Those are the same clothes you wear for church, Remmie. You don’t complain of it on Sundays.”

            “It doesn’t make me itch on Sundays.”

            Cara glanced at Adam, and saw the corner of his mouth curve up in a grin. She almost smiled, herself. Then the thought struck her that Remmie might be complaining because he was grieving, and didn’t know how to talk about it. That made her sad.

            “Sing for us, Adam,” Remmie said.

            “Adam sing!” Rose repeated excitedly.

Adam’s eyes met Cara’s. “I don’t think I can, Remmie.”

            “Why not?”

            “Sometimes, when we’re sad, it’s hard to sing.”

            “Are you sad, Adam?”

            Remmie’s question was so direct that it took Adam by surprise. “Well, yes, Remmie, I am sad. This is a sad day for all of us.”

            “I know. Doc died.” Remmie’s quiet statement brought tears to Cara’s eyes. She could hardly bear her own sorrow, but it was even harder to see her children grieving.

            “Doc died,” Rose said solemnly.

            “Yes, Doc died, but he is in heaven now,” Adam told them. “In heaven, there is no more pain or sadness, so Doc is in a happy place.”

            Remmie seemed to accept Adam’s answer, but Cara wondered if her son really understood the meaning.

            Adam stopped the horse and buggy in the street in front of Doc’s office. It was a logical place for the wake to be held, but Cara felt her feet dragging as she walked up to the door.

            Dr. Byford answered the door. He looked very grave.

            “I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Bancroft.”

            Cara’s eyes clouded with tears. “Thank you,” she said softly. She gathered the children close and they followed Dr. Byford into the waiting room. Doc’s casket was resting on a table, and she could see his snow-white hair from where she stood. Her knees felt weak, and she felt Adam’s hand grasp her arm. She leaned against him for support.

            Margaret stood near the casket, draped in a black dress and hat. When she turned, Cara saw that she was crying. Any hard feelings she had for Margaret faded in that moment. They had both loved Doc, and they were both mourning their loss. In that, they were united.

            Cara straightened and moved forward, as Margaret came towards her.

            “My dear, I’m so glad you’ve come,” Margaret said, reaching out and clasping Cara’s hands.

            “I’m sorry that he’s gone,” Cara said softly.

            “He’s in a better place,” Margaret said, but her lip trembled.

            “I know. It’s so hard to believe that he’s not with us anymore.”

            Margaret took Cara’s arm and led her up to the casket. Cara stared down at the one person who had stood by her since her grandmother’s death. He had loved her and the children like his own, and she had thought of him as a father. Life would never be the same without him.

            She felt Remmie tugging on her arm, and she glanced down at him.


            She put a finger to her lips. “Hush, Remmie. This isn’t the time to ask questions.”

            Adam drew Remmie to his side, and Cara realized she had sounded harsh. She looked helplessly at Adam, and he gave her a comforting smile. Then he silently took the children over to the chairs and sat down with them, holding Hope in one arm and Rose in the other. Remmie sat tight to his side. Only Charity remained beside her mother.

            “When he came and saw me last, I knew he wasn’t doing very well,” Margaret was saying. “I tried to get him to come and live with me, but he didn’t want to move to the city.”

            “I suppose not,” Cara murmured politely.

            “I think he wanted to stay close to you and the children. You were like family to him.” Margaret did not seem upset with the fact, however.

“He was like a father to me,” Cara admitted, hoping her words did not cause the older woman anger.

Margaret’s expression was sad, but she managed a little smile. “I’m glad he had you and the children to care for him.” Cara was relieved at Margaret’s kind words. “He and Patsy never were able to have children, and of course, my husband and I couldn’t either. You meant a lot to him.”

Tears welled up in Cara’s eyes. Doc had meant so much to her, as well. His friendship could never be replaced.

Margaret wanted to talk about Doc, and Cara stayed close to her side, listening and commenting here and there. She glanced over at Adam often and saw that he and the children were seated quietly. Whenever their eyes met, he smiled his encouragement. It helped so much to have him there.

Rose started to grow restless, and Cara thought she should go to her children. Margaret’s arm slipped through Cara’s when she started to move away.

“Please stay with me, dear.”

“I’m not sure I should.”

“It doesn’t matter to me what anyone thinks,” Margaret said. When Cara looked at her in puzzlement, she added, “I know what I did last summer, Cara, and I’m not proud of it. I realized that you and Adam were not what I imagined you to be, but by then it was too late to take back my words.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Cara said, trying to sound reassuring.

“It does matter. I’ve been hoping for a chance to ask your forgiveness.”

It was easy to accept Margaret’s apology standing near Doc’s casket. It was as if Doc himself were pleading with Cara to forgive his sister.

“Of course, I forgive you.”

“Now, people are starting to come, and I want you by my side. I don’t want to go through this all alone.”

Cara was glad to see Adam’s parents among the first to arrive. After they paid their respects to Doc, and said a few words to Cara and Margaret, Dinah took Charity’s hand and walked over to the corner where Adam and the other children were seated. Cara felt better with the Kenleys helping Adam. Remmie would sit quietly enough, but Rose did not understand how to be appropriately quiet.

People were crowding into the room now, and everyone came forward to pay their last respects to Doc. Everyone had a kind word for Margaret, and some had kind words for Cara as well. For the most part, however, she was ignored. She wished she could crawl away and not have to talk to one more person. Margaret stood staunchly beside her, as if daring anyone to object to her presence.

She could see from a distance that Rose was growing restless. Hope began to fuss, and she knew it would not be long until she was crying in earnest.

“Please excuse me, Margaret. I need to tend to the children.”

Margaret looked surprised. “I think Adam and his parents can handle them, Cara.”

“Rose is growing restless, and I’ll need to feed Hope.”

“Well, then, if you must go.” Margaret seemed reluctant to let Cara leave, but the children were demanding her attention.

Cara took the girls to the rooms in back of the office, where Doc had lived. She avoided looking at the door to his bedroom. Instead she sat in the other room, in a rocking chair in front of a fireplace. She wished the fire was lit, she felt so cold.

Cara allowed Hope to nurse. After the news of Doc’s death, it had made sense to Cara to continue nursing her. She was not up to dealing with a fussy baby along with the turmoil she felt inside.

She felt numb. Seeing all of those people come forward to see Doc one last time had been almost unbearable. The women had been weeping, and even a few of the men were misty-eyed. She had fought back tears as she stood there quietly beside the casket, unwilling to let anyone see her break down. Now, as she sat in the quiet room with her children, she felt tears form in her eyes. She missed Doc so much already, and he had not even been buried yet. How would she endure a future without his kindness and compassion? She did not think she could stand it with him being gone.

Before Hope had finished nursing, Dinah was at the door. “It’s time we were going to the cemetery, Cara.”

Hope was not completely satisfied, but Cara passed her to Dinah and buttoned her bodice. She followed Dinah from the room, and joined Adam in the parlor. He had a concerned look on his face as he met her eyes.

“How are you doing?”

Tears threatened to fall. Cara squared her shoulders back.

“I’m doing fine,” she lied.

Margaret walked over to them. “I’ll be riding to the cemetery with Dr. Byford. Cara, will you ride with us?”

“I don’t know if it’s appropriate,” Cara said hesitantly.

“I think you ought to go with her,” Dinah said. “We’ll follow close behind.”

On the way to the cemetery, Margaret wanted to talk. “I never dreamed so many people would turn out for Erich’s wake.”

“He was loved by everyone in the community.”

“I’m glad they loved him so. He was a good man,” Margaret said, choking back a sob. “I’m all alone in this world now, Cara.”

Cara felt like she was, too, but she could not say that to Doc’s sister. “I’m sorry.”

“We lived apart, but he corresponded with me and we visited a few times a year,” Margaret said as though to herself. “I don’t know what I will do without his companionship.”

Cara wished Margaret would be quiet, for she was voicing her own thoughts without realizing it. She did not want to be crying when they arrived at the cemetery.

Dr. Byford brought the carriage to a stop inside the cemetery. He helped Cara and Margaret from the buggy.

“Mama!” she heard Rose shout. She turned to see Rose running towards her. Adam caught her and picked her up. He stood away from the grave, and he looked unsure of his place. Cara took a step towards him, and he came nearer.

“I don’t know where we should stand,” he said quietly.

“I want the children here with me.”

Adam set Rose down, and walked away. Cara wanted to tell him to come back, but the words stuck in her throat.

Adam felt wounded when Cara all but sent him away from her. He had tried to be the good husband and father today that he was soon going to be. It had surprised him that Margaret wanted Cara to stand beside her and greet the mourners. He hadn’t minded at first. She had been so close to Doc, and it was her rightful place to be by his side. He had taken the children and kept them quiet, so they did not disturb the wake. It had been a handful, to keep Rose quiet. His ma had helped some, and he did not know how he would have handled things if she had not been there to help.

It was hard not to feel a little resentful that Cara had ignored him all morning. Other than a few glances to check on the children, she had not seemed to notice he was there at all. Even now, she had said she wanted the children with her, but she had not said anything about wanting him there by her side. He did not want to stick around where he wasn’t wanted. He joined his parents and brothers in the line of mourners gathered around the grave, while wanting to be at Cara and the children’s side. It was his place, he felt, to be with her. After all, they were engaged to be married. But it almost felt like she had forgotten that, in her grieving over Doc.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.’ “ The preacher’s voice spoke with authority. “Doc believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior, and we know that his spirit has gone on to his heavenly reward. Now we commit his body to its final resting place. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

When the casket was lowered into the ground, Margaret wept openly. Cara fought back tears, but it was too much for her, and she started to cry. Adam wished he were beside her, where he could hold her in his arms and comfort her. Instead, he had to watch from a distance, unable to help her.

“Go to her, son,” he heard his ma say. He shook his head slightly.

“I don’t know if she wants me there,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper.

“Of course she does.”

Adam hoped his ma was right. He moved forward, and came up beside Cara. He put his arm around her shoulders, and she glanced up at him.

“Oh, Adam,” she cried softly.

“I’m sorry, Cara. I’m sorry that he’s gone.”

She leaned her head against his shoulder, and he felt how weak she was. He held her, willing to impart his own strength to her. When he felt her crumple against him, he realized she had fainted.

Cara came to in Adam’s arms, with Dinah and Margaret hovering over her. She was immediately embarrassed that she had fainted, in front of all of these people.

“Are you all right, dear?” Margaret asked in concern.

“Yes, I am,” Cara said, struggling to stand.

“Take your time, Cara,” Dinah said. “You’re really pale.”

“She didn’t eat any breakfast,” Adam spoke up.

“I didn’t think so.” Dinah laid a comforting hand on Cara’s shoulder. “I know it’s hard, but we have to take care of ourselves in times such as this.”

“I’ll be all right.” Cara stood on shaking legs, and leaned against Adam for support. All eyes at the gravesite were on her now, and she felt humiliated to have shown such weakness.

“We need to get you home, so you can rest.” Adam’s concern was evident in the grim set to his mouth.

Cara shook her head. “I’ll be expected to be there.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I’ll be all right, after I’ve had something to eat.”

Margaret slipped her hand through Cara’s arm. “I’m feeling quite weak myself. Would that all of these people would go away so I could rest.”

“That’s how I feel,” Cara admitted.

“It will be over soon.” Dinah’s words were promising.

Adam helped Cara into Dr. Byford’s buggy, and then assisted Margaret as well. After the buggy was started down the road, Margaret said, “Adam is a very kind man.”

“Yes, he is.” A small smile curve Cara’s mouth.

“I noticed during that brief visit last summer how attentive he was to you and to the children. I think that’s why I thought there was something between the two of you, he was so caring.”

“He’s that way with everyone.”

“But especially with you, and the children.” Margaret sighed. “My husband was a very solicitous man as well. He always treated me kindly, no matter what I did or said. I see that same attribute in Adam.”

Cara thought about the argument she had with Adam a few weeks back. He had been angry with her, and he had raised his voice in front of the children. He had frightened Charity with his intensity, but it had been out of character for him. She did not think she had anything to worry about in their marriage.

Margaret talked about her late husband as they traveled the distance between the cemetery and the schoolhouse, where the meal was to be held. Cara tried to listen and put in appropriate comments, but her thoughts were on the task ahead of her. She dreaded spending any more time with the people of the community. She just wanted to go home and rest.

Adam was waiting for her, and helped her from the buggy. His ma held Hope, and Rose was content to be in Evan’s arms. Charity clung to Cara’s skirt.

“I think she missed you,” Adam said with a grin.

“It’s hard for her, with all of these strangers around.” Dinah gave an understanding smile.

“It’s only a little while longer, Charity.” Cara’s voice was reassuring.

The ladies of the church had all brought in food, and the tables were heaped with dishes of every variety. There was fried chicken and sandwiches, ham and baked beans, relishes, pies and cakes. Cara sat with the children and tried to eat a few bites, but she had no appetite. The children only picked at their food.

Hope started to cry. Cara looked around for Adam. He had been talking with his brothers, but he started in her direction at the sound of Hope’s cries.

“I think we should leave,” Cara said. “Hope will need to be fed.”

“And it’s time to do chores,” he said. He took Hope from Cara and cradled her. She settled down against his shoulder.

“I should say good-bye to Margaret,” Cara said. She found Margaret talking with Mr. Walker, the lawyer. “Mrs. Bancroft, I’ve been meaning to talk with you,” Mr. Walker said.

“What about?”

“We’re going to have the reading of Doc’s will tomorrow at ten o’clock.”

“That should not pertain to me,” Cara protested. “I’m not family.”

“Doc specifically told me that when the time came for me to read his will, for you to be present.”

Cara looked at Margaret. She did not look surprised, or displeased.

“Mr. Walker is right, Cara. Doc mentioned his will to me only once, but he told me what was going to be in it. I think you ought to be present.”

“All right, then.”

When Cara and Adam left the house, Cara told Adam about the reading of the will. “For some reason, Doc wanted me to be present when it is read.”

“I’ll see if Ma can keep the children, and I will bring you into town.”

They returned to the farm. After helping Cara and the children into the house, he said, “Don’t worry about fixing supper tonight. I’m still full from the luncheon.”

“The children did not eat well. I’ll have to fix something for them.”

“Keep it simple, then,” he said, smiling. His look was tender, and she felt warm and cared-for.

The children were happy to be home. Remmie took out his blocks and wooden animals and played by the hearth. Rose and Charity brought their dolls into the kitchen, where Cara fixed a simple meal of bread and milk. When Adam came into the house, everyone was peacefully occupied.

“It’s quiet in here.”

“I think they’re all too tired to make much noise. I’m going to put them to bed early tonight.”

“No,” Rose said in protest.

“Rose.” Cara’s tone was sharp. “You need to behave, young lady.”

“She’s been pretty good, considering.”

After the supper dishes were done, Cara joined Adam and the children in the sitting room. Adam brought out the Bible instead of the Bible story book.

“My ma suggested we read Psalm 46. I think the message of these verses is appropriate for this evening.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…”  

Cara felt comforted by the thought of God being her refuge and strength. She had wanted to hide out today, away from all of the people. It had been God’s strength that had carried her through those awful hours.

The final verses of the Psalm struck a chord in Cara’s heart. “Be still, and know that I am God…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

“I needed to hear those words tonight,” Cara said.

Adam agreed. “They do seem fitting for our present situation. Even with all of the confusion of these past two days, God has been with us.”

“He’s been my strength. There was a time, not too long ago, when I didn’t look to the Lord for my strength.”

“And now that you have?”

“I could not get through these days without His presence.”

Adam grinned. “You don’t know how good it is to hear those words.”

“My turn, Adam!” Rose demanded, bringing the Bible story book to Adam.

He lifted her, book and all, onto his lap. “Are you ready for a story, Rose?”

“Yes, story.”

Cara’s mind wandered back to the Psalm while Adam read the Bible story, but all three children listened with rapt attention. Hope had fallen asleep in her lap. Before Adam finished the story, Rose was nodding off in his arms.

“I think it’s time for three little children to go to bed.”

“No bed,” Rose said, fighting even as she was drifting off to sleep.

Cara reached out for Rose, but Adam shook his head. “I’ll carry her into the bedroom for you. She’s getting too big for you to be lifting.”

“I’ve gotten my strength back.”

“And I want you to keep your strength, not wearing yourself out carrying the bigger children.”

She was about to protest, and then clamped her mouth shut. Adam was saying that because he truly cared about her, and the thought made her joyful.

With the girls tucked into bed, and Remmie gone upstairs, Adam said, “How about a cup of tea?”

“You’re asking for tea?”

“Ma always said tea is good for comfort. I think that’s what we need tonight, don’t you?”

Cara brewed some tea and brought a cup for herself and for Adam. “Shall we sit in the parlor?” she suggested.

Adam carried the lamp into the parlor, and joined Cara on the sofa. In silence, they sipped their tea. Cara leaned her head back against the cushion, closing her eyes.

He saw the tears flowing down Cara’s cheeks. He set aside his cup, and took hers gently out of her hands. “Cara, I feel so bad for you. I don’t know what to say.”

“There’s nothing you can say right now. I’m hurting so bad inside that I don’t think words will help.”

Adam gathered her into his arms, and held her as she wept. He was so moved by her emotion that tears formed in his own eyes. He blinked them back, unwilling to have her see him cry. There was nothing he could say to comfort her. He hoped by holding her close, she would know how much he loved her.

“Cara,” he murmured. She looked up. Her eyes were filled with grief. He laid a hand against her soft cheek, wiping away a stray tear. “I love you.” He pressed his lips to hers gently at first. He tried to pour all of his love into that kiss, wanting to comfort her. Then the tempo of their kiss changed, and he forgot about everything except Cara, and the joy of holding her in his arms.

            Cara lost herself in Adam’s kisses. She could push aside her sorrow, as she was wrapped up in the wonder of their love. She clung to Adam, wanting that wonderful feeling to go on and on. As long as he was holding her, she could forget about Doc’s death.

            After an indefinite amount of time, she felt Adam draw back. She didn’t want to let go.

            “Cara,” he said in a thick voice. “We have to stop.”

            His words were like a bucket of water on the fire that his kisses had kindled. She felt cold inside as he moved away from her.


He sounded worried. Cara couldn’t meet his eyes. How could she say what she felt in her heart? She wanted him to go on kissing her – forever. She didn’t want him to leave.

“I think it’s time I was heading home,” he said, in a reluctant voice. When she did not answer, he lifted her chin, so he could see her face. Cara could not hide the tears that spilled over onto her cheeks.

“Please stay,” she whispered.

Her words pierced his heart. He wanted to stay, more than anything. He didn’t want to leave her alone, not tonight – not while the grief over Doc’s death was still raw. But he could not stay. If he stayed, he would not be able to keep his distance from her. In their emotional state, it was too easy to get swept away.

They would be married soon. If he stayed, for a little while longer, he knew he wouldn’t want to leave. And if he did not come home, his parents would know where he was, and they would guess at what happened. He could not face them if he stayed with Cara.

He would do the right thing, even though the right thing was not easy.

“I have to go.” He regretted the pain he saw in Cara’s eyes. “I can’t stay here with you tonight.”

Her face flushed with embarrassment. “I know.”

“Do you want me to bring my ma back, to stay with you?”

“No.” Cara sat up straight, folding her hands in her lap. He knew that look, that stubborn set to her chin. “No, I don’t need your ma to come and stay. I will be all right.”

“Will you see me to the door?” he asked.

Cara waited in the front room while Adam put on his boots and coat. He paused before opening the door, and drew her into his arms for a brief hug.

“I’ll be back in the morning.”


            Cara scarcely slept that night. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see Doc as he lay in the casket, lifeless. She could see the casket being lowered into the ground. It was such an air of finality. She had not felt so great a loss since Gran had died.

            When Gran died, Cara had not understood the plan of salvation. Gran had believed she would be in heaven, so Cara had believed it, too. Yet, it had not given her a sense of peace. Being born again had given her a new understanding of heaven. Even in the midst of her grief over Doc’s death, she believed that he was in a better place. Reunited with his wife, and all of the loved ones who had gone on before, he would never again know pain or suffering.

            Knowing all of that did not ease her own pain and grief. She wrestled with her emotions long into the night. It seemed that she had just fallen asleep when Hope awakened, crying to be fed.

            Cara fed the baby, and then put on her black dress. If she had to go into town for the will to be read, then she would wear the mourning gown. It did not seem appropriate to do otherwise.

            Adam came in after the chores were done. He kissed Cara on the cheek, and she sensed him studying her. She tried to put on a brave front, but he was not fooled.

            “You didn’t get much sleep.”

            “No, I didn’t.”

            “I should have brought Ma over. She said this morning that she would have stayed with you, had she known how difficult it was for you to stay alone.”

            “I don’t think it would have made a difference, having her here. It’s something I need to work out on my own.”

            Her words bothered him, judging by the look on his face. “I hope you know you don’t have to go through this on your own. I’m here for you.”

            He hadn’t been here last night. The words crept into Cara’s thoughts, and she pushed them aside. She understood why Adam hadn’t stayed.

            She had fixed a big breakfast. Adam and the children ate hungrily. Recalling her fainting experience of the day before, Cara forced herself to eat a bowl of porridge and an egg. She did not want to show any sign of weakness today.

            “Ma said the children could stay there with her. Not the baby, of course.”

            “Of course.”

            “Do I have to stay with Mrs. Kenley, Mama?” Charity asked in a worried voice as they were getting ready to leave.

“Yes, you do. You children have to stay with her for a while today.”

“Why, Ma?” Remmie wanted to know.

“I have some things to take care of in town, and I can’t take you children with me. Except for Hope, of course. She is too little to stay with Mrs. Kenley.”

Dinah came out onto the porch as Adam drove up in the buggy. When Cara started to step down, she called out, “You don’t have to get out if you don’t want to, Cara. Adam can bring the children in. I’m sure you’re anxious to be on your way.”

Cara smiled, but inside she was dreading her trip into town. She did not know why she had to be present, and could only hope that it wasn’t terrible news.

“The children will be all right,” Adam said when he returned to the buggy. She let him think that her quietness was concern over her children. They didn’t talk as they drove into town.

Margaret was already waiting at the lawyer’s office when Adam and Cara arrived.

“This meeting is for Margaret and Cara, and Dr. Byford, only,” Mr. Walker said, when Adam started to follow Cara into the office.

“Adam and I are engaged to be married, Mr. Walker. I’d like to have him present also.”

Mr. Walker looked askance at Margaret.

She smiled. “That will be all right. Doc approved of their marriage, and he would want Adam to know.”

Know what? Cara thought curiously. She sat in a straight-backed chair, and folded her hands in her lap.

Mr. Walker unfolded a long white paper, and began the reading of the will. Cara listened intently as Doc’s final wishes were expressed. Dr. Byford had purchased the practice from Doc before he died. The office and its furnishings were all part of the purchase agreement. In a generous move, Doc left the house in town to Philip and Ayla, who had made it their residence on a temporary agreement. Cara knew that her friends would be overwhelmed with gratitude to have a place of their own, and not have to pay for rent somewhere else.

“Does anyone object to that arrangement?” Mr. Walker asked.

Cara shook her head.

“He asked that ten percent of his estate be set aside as a tithe to the church,” Mr. Walker said. “Does anyone object to that?”

“Of course not,” Margaret spoke up. “He would have wanted the church to have a portion of his estate.”

“The jewelry that is in his safety deposit box, he leaves to his sister Margaret.”

Cara was not surprised at this, but the next statement shocked her.

“And he leaves the balance of his estate to Cara Bancroft.”

She felt the color drain from her face. Mr. Walker repeated his words. “Do you understand what this means, Mrs. Bancroft?”

“Margaret?” Cara looked at Doc’s sister. Margaret was beaming.

“I knew what he was going to do, Cara. He spoke of it the last time he visited me.”

“How do you feel about it, Mrs. Warner?” Mr. Walker asked.

“I don’t have any objections to his decision.” She spoke with a genuineness which Cara found surprising.

“But he is leaving you with nothing, except the jewelry,” Cara said in protest.

“My dear, my own husband died a very wealthy man,” Margaret said. “Doc knew that I am comfortably taken care of for the rest of my life. In fact, I have more money than I need. His intention was to provide for you and your children, so that you would never be in want.”

“But—” Cara felt Adam squeeze her hand. She looked up at him anxiously.

“If it’s what Doc wanted, Cara, then it must be all right,” he said quietly.

“I questioned Doc about this when he made out his will,” Mr. Walker said. “I told him it was highly unusual for someone to leave his estate to someone outside of the family. He told me that besides his sister, you were his family, you and your children. He looked on you as a daughter, and he insisted that he wanted to provide for your future.”

“I didn’t know all of this.”

“Does anyone object to Doc’s decision to leave his estate to Cara Bancroft?” Mr. Walker asked.

“On the contrary. I wholly support that decision,” Margaret spoke up confidently.

“Mrs. Bancroft?” Mr. Walker eyed her keenly. “Do you object?”

She shook her head, dumbfounded. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t want to go against Doc’s wishes.”

“Well, then, you are a very rich woman, Mrs. Bancroft.” Mr. Walker named the amount of Doc’s estate. Her head was swimming with the numbers.

“Now, Cara, you won’t ever have to worry about losing your farm,” Margaret said, reaching over and covering Cara’s hand with her own. “Isn’t that truly a wonderful feeling?”

“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Cara admitted.

Dr. Byford excused himself and left.

“Are you sure about this, Margaret?” Cara asked in a serious tone.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Margaret’s look was equally serious. “It was what Erich wanted.”

“And you are certain you have enough to live on?”

Margaret smiled. “I’m a very rich woman, also, Cara. Of course I have enough.”

Cara looked up at Adam. “Do you think it is right for me to take the money?”

He nodded. “You will have enough for everything you need, and you will be able to provide for the children’s future. I think that was what Doc wanted for you.”

Margaret took Cara’s hand. “Now, Cara, I’ve been meaning to ask you something. You know I am going back home tomorrow?”

“I wasn’t sure.”

“Well, I’d like you to consider coming with me, you and your children.”
            Cara’s shock must have registered on her face, for Margaret added, “I’m serious. As you know, Doc was all I had left in this world.” Tears formed in the older woman’s eyes.

“I know.” Cara’s eyes clouded with tears.

“I don’t want to be myself. I want you and the children to come and stay with me.”

Cara glanced at Adam. He was surprised, and tightlipped. She wondered what he was thinking.

“For a visit?” she asked.

“For as long as you will stay. I know your plans were to marry Adam, but under the circumstances, I don’t think this is an appropriate time for a wedding. I thought you might like to come to the city for a while.”

“Adam, what do you think?”

“I don’t know, Cara. Ma and I were talking about the wedding this morning. She doesn’t think we should go ahead as planned.”

Tears filled her eyes. She didn’t want things to change.

“You don’t have to give me your answer right now, dear,” Margaret said. “Why don’t you think about it, and you can send word this evening. I’ll wait until I hear from you, one way or the other, before I leave tomorrow.”

Cara felt her emotions were in a state of upheaval.

“Now, why don’t you let me buy the two of you dinner?” Margaret said. “I don’t like to eat alone, and it’s lunchtime.”

They went to the hotel, and Cara ordered soup and crackers. Adam ordered chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. He insisted on paying for it, but Margaret was more stubborn.

She talked at length about her home in the city, and her circle of friends. “I’d like to introduce you to them, Cara. I’d like them to meet the person whom Doc so highly favored.”

“They won’t want to meet me.” Cara was certain of that.

“They don’t know anything about your past. It will be like having a fresh start for you.”

Cara heard the words, ‘fresh start.’ How often had she thought about how it might be to go away and start over someplace else? To go to a place where no one knew about her past mistakes? Where she would not be judged by them? It was almost a sign from above to have the offer put before her, especially now that her best friend was gone.

 On the way home from town, Adam said, “Are you considering Margaret’s offer?”

“I am. It might be good for the children and I to get away for a little while.”

“What about our wedding?”

“You said your ma didn’t think we should get married right now.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to go away.”

“If I go away, I’ll come back, Adam.” Her quiet words were meant to be reassuring. He didn’t look convinced.

“Are you sure?”

The words “fresh start” came to mind again. It was tempting to go away and start over, but she had a life here, with Adam. She smiled.

“I’m sure.”

He reached out and covered her hand with his. “I was worried that you might not decide to get married after all.”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll just need some time, that’s all.”

“We have all the time in the world,” he said, but she could tell that he was still worried.

They drove to his parents’ home. When they walked into the house, the children ran to them excitedly. Cara couldn’t help but notice that they were as excited to see Adam as they were to see her, especially Rose and Remmie.

“How did your meeting go?” Dinah asked.

Cara glanced at Adam. He motioned for her to go ahead and tell his ma.

“How about a cup of coffee?” Dinah said. “We’ll all sit down and have a visit.”

Adam led Cara to the parlor, and they sat down on the sofa. Rose squeezed her way in between them. Dinah brought cups of coffee, and cream and sugar for Cara.

“Do you want to tell her, Adam?” Cara asked.

“No, I think you should.” He smiled at her encouragingly.

“Doc left everything to me. Except for some jewelry that he left to Margaret.”

Dinah did not look surprised.

“Did you know he was going to do that?” Cara asked.

“He told me a while back that he wanted to take care of you and the children after he was gone. I wasn’t sure what he had planned, but I thought it might be something about his will.”

“I don’t know if I should accept it. I’m not his family.”
            “Other than Margaret, Doc had no family, Cara. I think you were family to him.”

Tears formed in Cara’s eyes. “Sometimes I wonder why. Why did he care so much for me and the children?”

“Doc was very close to your grandmother. So close, in fact, that he wanted to marry her. Why she refused him I do not know, but he never stopped loving her.”

“So he cared for me because he loved my grandmother?”

“No, I don’t think that was the only reason. When your grandmother died, he knew you didn’t have any family left, besides your husband and children. I think he felt kinship towards you, since he was alone in the world, as well as you. And you and your children needed his friendship, because—” Dinah paused as though unsure if she should continue.

“Because everyone else treated us so terribly?”

“I think that’s why. He knew you were not the kind of person everyone thought you were, and he stuck by you and defended you.”

“He was the only one, then.”

Dinah blushed. “I never thought the rumors were true, from what little I had been around you when your grandmother was alive. But I never stood up for you, or befriended you.”

            Seeing that Dinah felt badly about the fact, Cara said, “I never expected you to.” Evan would not have approved of Dinah befriending her.

            “What will you do with the money?” Dinah asked.

            “I’ll pay the dressmaker, for one thing.”

            “Agnes said that Doc had already paid her for your order. In fact, he gave her more than enough money, so she wanted to see whether there was anything else you might want.”

            “I don’t know what I will do with the dresses now, if we’re not going to get married.”

            Dinah looked surprised. “You’re not going to get married after all?”

            “Adam said you thought we should put off the wedding for a while.”

            “Well, I did say that I don’t think we should go ahead with a big wedding right now. It might be well to observe a mourning period for Doc.”

            “That’s what I think, too.” Cara still wanted to marry Adam, but it was too soon after Doc’s death to think about a wedding.

“Margaret has asked me to go with her to the city for a visit.”

            “With the children?” Diana was taken aback.

            “Yes, the children and I. I think it would be nice to go.”

            “So you are thinking of going.” Adam sounded disappointed.

            “Yes, I am. I won’t go with her tomorrow. I don’t think there is enough time to get ready for that. But I will go in a week or two, once I have things prepared.”

            “What kind of preparations do you need to make?” Dinah asked.

            “The children need new clothes. They have the new things you made for the wedding, but they will need a few things that are less fancy, also.”

            “I’d be happy to make the girls’ dresses, and some clothes for Remmie. You don’t have to go to any expense.”

            Cara’s mouth turned down sadly. “I guess I don’t have to worry about expenses now.”     

Adam reached over and squeezed Cara’s hand. He didn’t like the idea of her going to the city, but he didn’t think he should say that to Cara. If she wanted to go and get away for a few days, then he wanted to be supportive of her. Still, he was afraid that once she was gone, she would never come back.

            Now that her decision had been made, Cara prepared for an extended visit to the city. She was glad that they had already sewn her trousseau. Along with her wedding dress, she had ordered two good dresses, and an everyday housedress, to be made. Now that they were going to the city, she had Agnes make her a new black dress, also. Dinah had made new dresses and a new suit for Remmie for the wedding. Now she used the same patterns and made two outfits each in less expensive fabrics, but fancy enough to be suitable for visiting Margaret. Cara knew Margaret well enough to know she would be expected to dress well.

Remmie did not like the idea of leaving the farm. “I don’t want to leave Adam. Can’t I stay here with him?”

“If you were older, I might consider it,” Cara said. “But you are too young for Adam to take care of all alone.”

Adam thought she was wrong, but he was not going to contradict her.

“Besides, it’s important to me that we all stay together,” Cara added. “Mrs. Warner invited all of us to come and stay.”

“I don’t want to go.” Remmie had a stubborn set to his chin that reminded Adam of Cara.

“Well, you’re going.” Cara said this with an air of finality that Remmie knew better than to argue with.

On the day they were to depart for the city, Adam drove them to the train station in the farm wagon. His heart was heavy, but for Cara’s sake, he pasted on a smile.

“I’ll write to you, Cara,” he told her as they waited for the train.

“I’ll try and write to you too.” She must have seen his disappointment, for she added, “I’ve never been much of a writer, Adam.”

“It doesn’t matter what you write, or how you write it.” He tried to sound reassuring without sounding desperate. “I’d just like to hear how you and the children are doing.”

She smiled then. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Her words caused him more anguish. He covered her hand with his, feeling the softness of her skin. He recalled the calluses she had last summer, after years of doing the hard work on the farm. In the past few months, he had taken over the heavy labor. She no longer went to the barn to milk or feed the animals. It was always he who did that. She didn’t have to put her hand to the plow, or drive a team. Her hands had softened, even though she still had the heavy tasks of churning butter and washing clothes.

He liked that he was able to make her life easier. Even last summer, before he had fallen in love with her, he was glad he could step in and ease her burden. Then, she had looked tired and overworked, old for her twenty-one years. Easing up on the load of farm work had softened her appearance. Her face was smooth and youthful, often wreathed in a smile as she went about her daily chores. His love for her had brought about that change.

He couldn’t take full credit for it, however. Her countenance had changed the day she received the Lord. The worry and mistrust that had been a permanent part of her features had been erased. God’s love had radiated from her heart, making her even more beautiful than before. It was her inner beauty that had drawn him to her, even more so than her physical beauty.

In the past few days, she had worn a sad expression more often than not, due to Doc’s passing.  She seemed excited about her trip to the city, though. He should be glad that something had happened to bring her happiness. Yet, he was jealous of the fact that her happiness stemmed from leaving the farm. From leaving him.

He glanced down at her. She had a quizzical look on her face as he met her eyes.

“Are you all right, Adam?”

Her quiet question soothed his troubled heart. “I’m all right. But I’m going to miss you, Cara.”

“I’m going to miss you, too. So will the children.”

“So why are you leaving?” He blurt out the question before he could stop himself.

There was a hurt expression in her eyes. She sighed. “All I can think about is how much I miss Doc. The way people treated me at his wake made me realize that not everyone in the community is going to accept me.”

“I thought people were kind to you.”

“Some of them were.” Her mouth turned down sadly. “But more of them were cool towards me. I sensed that some were questioning why I was standing beside Margaret. As though I didn’t have a right to be there.”

“I don’t know if people really thought that.”

“Some of them let on that they felt that way, without saying anything at all.” Cara withdrew her hand. “Soon, everyone will know that Doc left his estate to me. Those that knew Doc well, and knew that he thought of me as a daughter, will not have a problem with it. But there are others who will harbor resentment that Doc would leave his money to someone who wasn’t related to him. I’m afraid they will be unpleasant, more so than they’ve already been.”

He laced his fingers through hers. He understood. He had watched some of the townspeople at the wake. While many of them expressed condolences to Cara, there were just as many who passed her by. Their looks had been condemning, and the comments he had overheard had been unforgiving. He hadn’t realized Cara was aware of their feelings.

“So you’re escaping to the city?”

“Margaret has offered the opportunity, and I feel that I must take advantage of it. I need some time to grieve for Doc, away from the judgmental and watchful eyes.”

“And you can’t do that at the house?”

“I would still have to face those people at the church, and in town. I just can’t do that right now.”

He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “I understand. I don’t want you to go, but I know why you want to do it.”

“That means a lot to me.”

“But you will come back?” He asked the question directly, searching her eyes for any doubt. She smiled, and he realized his fears were unfounded.

“I will. I’m not going to be gone forever.”

He was so happy he leaned forward and kissed her right then and there. “Promise?”

She nodded, her cheeks rosy. “I promise.”

            The train was coming into the station now. Adam helped Cara and the children onto the train and checked her baggage. He stood beside the train as it pulled out of the station. She and the children waved to him from the window, and he waved back until they were no longer in sight. Watching until the train disappeared on the horizon, he felt empty inside. He felt like he was losing his family.

Courage to Forgive Chapter Five


Adam moved back to his parents’ house. He had to bunk in with John, who was accepting of the situation. Seth liked to give him a hard time, though.

“She loves you so much that she doesn’t want to marry you,” he joked when Adam first moved back home.

“She does love me, and we are getting married. Just not as soon as I would like.”

“Maybe she’s putting you off for a reason.”

“What reason would that be?” Adam asked, feeling concerned.

“Maybe she’s hoping you’ll get better looking.” At Seth’s teasing, Adam reached out and lightly punched his brother on the shoulder.

“I hear Louisa is waiting until October to marry you.”

“Yes, she is. Her ma wants her to have a nice big wedding. Personally I’d just as soon get married before the planting season starts, like you are, instead of waiting until after harvest.”

“Maybe she’s hoping you’ll get better looking, too.”

“You’re both fine-looking men,” Dinah said proudly. “Those girls are lucky to be marrying you.”

Their ma did not praise them much, so Adam felt good about her comment. He felt like the lucky one, though. Cara was all he could hope for in a wife, and he was glad to be marrying her.

            Their lives took on a pattern in the weeks leading up to their wedding. Since the wedding was simple and already well-planned, their conversations focused on the farm. Cara listened to Adam’s ideas for what to plant and how much of each crop he expected to seed.

            “We really need a new team,” he said one afternoon.

“I don’t know how we can afford it.”

“I would use the money I earned from Taylor’s farm.”

“That is your nest egg,” Cara reminded him.

He reached across the table and took her hands in his. “It is our nest egg.”

She started to shake her head, but his eyes held hers steady. She relaxed. “It is up to you, how you spend it.”

“Then I think we should put it towards a new team. Simon is growing lame, and even if he weren’t, they are not able to keep up with the amount of land that we need to plant.”

Adam talked with his pa and brothers about purchasing a new team, then reluctantly told Cara what he had found out. “I hate to agree with my pa, but I think the team Luke Potter has trained is the best to be had.”

            “I don’t want anything to do with him.”

            “Neither do I, but he’s a good horse trainer, and he’s asking a fair price.”

            “It sounds like you’ve already checked into it.”

            “My pa did. He was considering buying the team for himself, but he doesn’t really need another team right now.”

            “I don’t know, Adam. It seems that talking to Luke will be borrowing trouble.”

            Adam let the subject drop, but a few days later, he brought it up again. “I’m thinking I should talk to Luke.”

            Cara had done some thinking over the past few days, and to Adam’s surprise, she agreed with him. “If you feel that is the best choice.”

            “What made you change your mind?” he asked curiously.

            “I’ve been praying about it.”

            “About Luke?”

            Cara nodded. “I’ve been praying that God would help me forgive Luke for the way he treated me last fall.”

            “And has the prayer helped?”

            “Yes, it has,” Cara said with a smile. “I realize that Luke was only acting in the way he was accustomed to. He thought I was a different type of person than what I am, unfortunately, because of Lem’s lies.” She felt the pang of sorrow for a moment at her husband’s betrayal. “I don’t know if he would have acted the same way had I had a godly reputation.”

            “I don’t know, either. I don’t know why he acts the way he does, Cara. He used to go to church all of the time, when he was younger.”

            “But his pa never did, right?”

            “He used to, but he drank a lot, and the church frowned on it. He eventually quit going.”

            “And I’ve been thinking with that kind of influence, it’s no wonder that Luke turned out the way he did.”

            “I guess you have a point there, Cara.” Adam reached out and took her hand in his. “And now you’ve forgiven him?”

            She smiled. “I’m working on it. I haven’t seen him since the incident, so I’m not sure how I will feel when I come face-to-face with him.”

            “I’m hoping to keep him out of your way entirely.”

Luke was most surprised when Adam approached him about buying the team.

            “You’re not serious, are you, Kenley?”

            “I am dead serious. I’ve heard that they’re well-trained, and that you’re asking a fair price.”

            “If I’d known you were interested, I would have put a higher price on them.” Luke grinned as he said it, but Adam did not doubt that it was true.

            “Do you want me to pay more than what you’re asking?” If it would help heal the wound between them, Adam would be willing to do it.

            “Nah. My price is fixed, no matter who the buyer is.”

            “Well, we’ll take the team, then.”

            “Why don’t I deliver them tomorrow, and you can pay me then,” Luke suggested.

            Adam dreaded having Luke come to the farm. Cara did, also. She kept the children in the house the whole day, while Adam stayed outside. He aimed to see Luke coming so he wouldn’t have to go to the house.

            Luke hadn’t come yet when it was time for the noon meal, and Adam sat down to dinner with Cara and the children.

            “Maybe he changed his mind,” Cara said.

            Adam shrugged. “Maybe he did. If so, we’ll find someone else with a team for sale.”

            There was a knock on the front door, and Adam opened it. He found Luke Potter and his pa standing outside on the porch.

            “I’ve brought the team,” Luke said, indicating the horses behind him. They were a beautiful pair of horses, tall and sleek.

            “I see that. I’ve got the money here for you.”

            “Do you mind if we come in the house and get it?”

            Adam could not smell alcohol on Luke’s breath, so he stepped aside and let the two men in the house.

            Luke took off his hat, and his pa did the same. Adam went to the bedroom and brought out a roll of bills. He counted them out to Luke, and they signed a bill of sale.

            “Is Miz Bancroft around?” Luke asked in a gruff tone.

            Adam was immediately alert. “What do you want with her?”

            “I want to apologize, for my behavior last fall.”

            Luke looked humble and apologetic, but Adam still did not trust him.

            “I’m not armed, if that’s what you’re afraid of,” Luke said with a sneer.

            Adam saw the anger in Luke’s eyes, and he wondered how sincere his apology was. He didn’t want to cause Cara more grief. “I think it’s best if you go. I’ll pass on your apology to her.”

            “If you’re going to be that way, then I’ll go. But don’t expect me to come to your wedding.”

            “I didn’t think you would want to do that, anyway.”

            “I hope you aren’t making the wrong choice, getting tied up with that kind of woman.”

            “I thought you came here to apologize.”

            “Yeah, well, maybe I’ll renege on my word.”

            “I’ve got the bill of sale right here, and you’ve got my money. I think our business is done.”

            “Let’s go, Luke,” Luke’s pa said calmly.

            “All right, then.”

            Once the two men were gone, Adam breathed a sigh of relief. He returned to the kitchen, where Cara had taken the children when the knock sounded on the door.

            “Luke wanted to see you,” Adam told her.

            She looked surprised, and nervous. “Why?”

            “He said he wanted to apologize.”

            “Well, that’s a good thing, I guess. What did you tell him?”
            “I told him I’d pass along the apology to you.”

            “You could have let him tell me himself.”

            “I wasn’t sure how sincere his apology was.”

            Cara breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad, then, that you didn’t call me out there. I couldn’t have stood any more of his snide remarks.”

            The team of horses proved to be well worth the price Adam had paid for them. He worked with them, so they grew accustomed to his voice and commands. Remmie was in awe of them.

            “They’re pretty horses, Adam.”

            Cara and Adam had agreed that they would wait until after they were married for the children to call him “Pa.” It didn’t seem right to do it yet.

            “Yes, they are. But they’re dangerous, Remmie.”


            “They’re not used to children. They’re not gentle like Diamond and Simon. They’re young and fast, and they could easily kick or step on a child that gets in their way.”

            “I’ll stay out of their way,” Remmie promised. “I don’t want to get stepped on or kicked.”

            “Someday, when they’re a few years older, and you’re a few years older, I’ll teach you how to drive them, behind the plow. You can help me work the fields, and we can grow even more crops.”

            “You’ll teach me how to be a farmer, like you?”

            “Sure will,” Adam said with a grin. “You’re the only boy, so you’ll have to help me out a lot. The girls will learn to help your ma.” It was obvious that Remmie liked the idea, and was mulling it over in his head. Adam laughed and ruffled the straw-colored hair. Remmie was a good boy, and he had come out of his shy and somber shell. He liked the idea of having a son.

            Of course, if he and Cara had more children, it was likely that they would have another boy, or two. He hoped they would, anyway, because he aimed to add more stock and land to his farm as time went on. If he had his way, one day they would outgrow the land they sat on, and he would have to acquire more. Plans for the future of the farm were always on his mind, taking second place only to thoughts of Cara becoming his wife.

            He was still sleeping at his parents’ home, bunking in the same room as John. His brothers picked on him, especially Seth.

            “You sure she’s going to want you living there after you’re married? You snore something awful.”

            “You should talk,” Adam retorted. “How is Louisa going to put up with you?”

            “She adores me. She’ll put up with anything I say or do.”

            “I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” Adam told him. “You can be a right handful. I’m not sure she knows what she’s getting into.”

            “I haven’t tried to win her over with lies,” Seth admitted. “I like to tease her, and most of the time she laughs. Sometimes she gets mad, but she gets over it. Then we kiss and make up,” he added, grinning.

            Cara’s kisses were what made Adam get through those long days before the wedding. They were careful not to kiss in front of the children, not after Remmie had seen them the one day and asked about it. It wasn’t that they didn’t want the children to know they loved each other. They just wanted to keep their affection private, away from curious eyes.

Cara had her own concerns as their wedding day approached. Her wedding dress and trousseau were complete and ready. Dinah was finishing up the girls’ dresses. She had made a new suit for Remmie that matched one of Adam’s, so he would look like his new pa. That would please both of them, she was certain.

Doc had promised to give her away.

“I would like nothing better than to see you married to Adam,” he said, when she asked him after church.

The rumors about Doc looking for a new partner had been true. He hired a young man who had grown up in a neighboring town. He had been educated back east, but he had hoped to return to his community to work as a doctor. Since there was already a doctor in his home town, he had taken the position with Doc. Doctor Byford, as he was called, went with Doc on house calls with Doc for a few weeks. Then he took over all of the house calls, while Doc stayed in town and kept the clinic open.

Cara missed the times when Doc used to visit at the house, or have Sunday dinner with them. Now her Sunday afternoons were spent at the Kenleys’ house, where Dinah prepared the noon meal. She was becoming acquainted with Bertha, who was still sickly even though she was five months along in her pregnancy. Eliza was still tactless to the point of being rude. Mostly, Eliza complained about how much work it was to care for her baby and do all of her housework and outdoor chores as well. Cara listened without much sympathy. She had a baby nearly the same age as Eliza’s, and three older children to care for, also.

Adam helped out as much as he could, but he was working with the team as well as doing the outdoor chores. They had three spring calves. Only one was a heifer, which Adam thought was all right.

“It will be a few years before she is old enough to produce a calf. By then I hope to have a bigger barn built, and we can add on to our livestock.”

The other two calves were bulls, and Adam sold one to help pay for seed. The other one they would raise for beef.

It was frustrating to Adam to be living at home in the process of planning his crops. His pa had always told him what to do, and now Adam was starting to farm on his own, with Cara’s farm, to be sure, but she allowed him the say in all of their decisions. His pa wanted to know every step of what his plans were, and no matter what Adam told him, his pa tended to tell him to do the opposite. Sometimes it caused the anger to rise up in Adam to the point that he was nearly boiling over with resentment.

It was worse, because he went home every night, as he was still staying with his parents. Cara had not agreed to move the wedding up, so he accepted his fate that he would have to live at his parents’ home until their wedding. That meant that his parents were still up in the evenings when he left Cara’s and headed home. His pa took advantage of that time to quiz Adam on how the farm plans were going.

It came to the point where Adam would say simply, “I haven’t made a decision on that yet.” Then his pa would tell him his opinion. Adam found himself wanting to do the opposite of what his pa suggested, but it went without saying that Evan Kenley was a successful farmer. He decided to put into practice some of his pa’s suggestions, but held to the belief that he knew Cara’s land better, and had different dreams for the farm than what Evan had. Evan had built up his farm by buying more land and working his sons harder.

When they were alone one evening, Adam said to Cara, “I don’t want to raise Remmie the way I was raised.”

“You didn’t turn out to badly,” Cara told him with a smile.

“No, but that was because of my ma’s intervention,” he admitted. “Pa was all about the land and working hard. I want Remmie to learn to work hard, but it is important to me that we take time out to spend days at the creek with you and the girls, fishing. Or if we want to take a trip into town on a nice day and visit with the Ackerbys, we can do so without worrying that something won’t get done that day.”’

“In other words, you want to put the family first,” she said, admiring his decisions.

“I guess that’s what I am saying. And I don’t plan to spend our money buying more acreage. Your grandfather made good decisions when he added the forty acres to the original one hundred-twenty. This farm is big enough to not only sustain itself, but to produce a profit.”

“Which you did, last year,” Cara reminded him.

“Yes, and that was with the old team. We ought to do even more this year.”

Their time together was not all spent talking about the farm. Both of them were busy after breakfast, Cara with all of her work, and Adam with his. Remmie wanted to tag along after Adam in everything he did, but Adam made him stay behind in the mornings to help out Cara. Hope was crawling around now. Cara left her in Charity’s care as much as she dared, but it was difficult to do much of the outdoor work. Remmie took over feeding the chickens, and Cara sent Charity along with him to gather the eggs. He also helped churn, as there was almost more milk from their three cows than Cara could handle. They would have butter and eggs to trade at the general store as she had before.

Adam came into the house at noon and they ate a big dinner. Then Remmie was allowed to go out with Adam and follow him around, helping as much as he was able. Adam remembered being exhausted as a young boy and doing work that was almost more than his young shoulders could handle, so he was careful not to overwork Remmie. He tried to make sure working together was enjoyable. And working together was the key, not just standing over him telling him what to do.

Remmie stayed out with Adam until after the evening chores were done. Cara put the younger girls down for a nap after dinner, and spent this time with Charity, teaching her to cook and bake and manage a household. After Rose woke up from her nap, Cara sent the two girls outside, where they played in the yard, or if Adam was working nearby, they would tag along after him and Remmie.

After supper, Adam helped Cara clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes. Then they sat in front of the fireplace, where they continued with the Family Altar that Philip had encouraged them to start. Cara was still not comfortable reading aloud, or praying. But she was learning the hymns, enough so that she and Adam could sing one during their altar time. The children learned them this way, also. Cara tucked the children into bed, and fixed a cup of coffee for herself and Adam. Sometimes, they talked about the farm, and their hopes and dreams for their family.

They were a family in every way, except for one. Adam left the house at eight o’clock every evening, and walked down the road to his parents’ farm, where he slept in his own bed.

As their wedding approached, he found it more difficult to tear himself away from Cara in the evenings. And she had a harder time letting him go.
            “It’s a good thing the cabin roof fell in,” he said one evening, when it was especially difficult to walk away. “Going to my parents’ house every evening holds us accountable.”

It was for the reason that Adam had moved back home before the wedding that the reverend had agreed to marry them in the church.

“I don’t want to disappoint your ma,” Cara said. “She was so pleased when the reverend told us we could hold our wedding in the church.”

“I admit, I am looking forward to standing before the reverend, and before God, and saying our vows.”

She tried not to show her nervousness, but Adam understood. “I know it will be hard for you, Cara. But I want to watch you walk down the aisle, on Doc’s arm, while the wedding march is played.”

“I want that, too,” she said softly. “I worry that Doc will not be well enough to walk me down the aisle.”

Doc’s strength was failing. He tried not to show it, but last Sunday he had not been in church. His young partner had tried to reassure Cara that he was merely resting. She and Adam stopped by Doc’s rooms after church, and he was in bed. He looked quite pale.

“Don’t worry, Cara,” Doc had said. “I will be up and around enough to give you away on your big day.”

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!”

Courage to Forgive Chapter Two


Cara woke up to Hope’s cries and the smell of coffee brewing. For a moment she wondered if she had overslept, and Adam was cooking breakfast. That had happened once last summer.

It only took a moment to remember that it was Philip in the kitchen.

For the first time since she could remember, she had the luxury of taking her time to feed Hope and get dressed. The only other times that she had someone cook breakfast for her had been after she had Hope, when Adam’s ma had stayed with her.

She put on the new dress Adam and Dinah had given her for Christmas. She remembered the look in his eyes when he saw her in it for the first time. She had known then that he loved her.

She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a giggle. She didn’t want to wake the girls and Remmie up. Maybe when Adam came in for breakfast she could have a few minutes alone with him.

It didn’t work out that way. Philip stood at the stove frying hotcakes when Cara walked into the kitchen. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

He turned and grinned. It was obvious that he was enjoying himself. “I guess there’s nothing left to do but set the table.”

Cara set the plates on the dining room table in the order that they had been sitting these past few days. The girls on one side, Remmie and Adam on the other. Herself at the foot of the table, and the head of the table left empty. They had taken the chair and put it in the master bedroom, so Philip could sit with Ayla.

She moved Adam’s plate and chair to the head of the table.

Adam walked in, and her heart skipped a beat when she saw the tenderness in his eyes. He held her in his arms and kissed her. “That will probably be the only chance I get to do that all day.”

As she stepped back, he looked at the table. She knew he noticed that she had moved his plate.

His eyes met hers warily. “I thought you weren’t going to tell the children yet.”

“I don’t think Remmie is old enough to understand.”

“Are you sure?” She nodded, and he put a hand on her shoulder. “I will do my best to lead this family, Cara.”

“I know you will be a wonderful—”

She stopped, and Adam dropped his hand as they heard the children coming. They were still in their new nightclothes that Dinah had made for them. Cara always served them breakfast before they changed into their clothes for the day. She hoped that Rose would not make a mess.

Philip brought in a pan of scrambled eggs and a towering platter of hotcakes.

“Is Ayla getting up for breakfast?” Cara asked.

“No. She felt pretty tired this morning. I think she overdid things yesterday.”

Philip poured Cara’s coffee first. Then he looked at where Adam was sitting. As if to stop him from pointing it out, Adam shook his head slightly. Philip nodded, and asked, “Would you like some coffee, Adam?”

Cara could hardly contain a giggle when Adam met her eyes and winked as Philip leaned down to pour his coffee. She knew he was remembering, as she was, their tender moments when they were alone last night. She had offered him coffee, and ended up with kisses, instead.

“There’s something different about these hotcakes,” Remmie said.

“There is a little different flavor,” Adam agreed.

Philip laughed. “It’s my secret ingredient. Do you like them?”

“They are very good,” Cara said, and meant it. They were even better since she had not had to stand at the stove cooking them.

“What is your secret ingredient?” Remmie asked.

 “I don’t mind telling you that it is nutmeg. It adds a hint of spice to the batter.”

            After Philip left the room, Remmie looked at Adam. “You’re sitting in my pa’s chair.”

            “Yes, I am. Do you mind?”

            Remmie shrugged and shook his head. “No, he’s dead.”

            Cara waited for Remmie to say something more, but that was it. No emotion, no regret. His pa was dead. It broke her heart a little to realize that Lem’s passing had no noticeable effect on his emotions.

Doc came by to check on Ayla. When he walked in, Cara greeted him with a smile.

            “Do you have something new to tell me?” Doc asked.

            Her face grew warm, but her smile widened. “You know that Adam was going to ask me to marry him.”

            “I do, I saw him on my way out and he asked if I minded.”

“Do you mind?”

Doc walked over and hugged her. His eyes were teary when he stepped back. Cara felt her eyes well up with tears at the happiness he showed. “I couldn’t have picked a better man for you if I had tried.”

“Didn’t you pick him out?” she said teasingly.

He laughed, the trace of tears gone. “I picked him out for your hired hand. But it wasn’t until after I saw you together, and the way he was with your children, that I realized he would make a good husband for you.”

“Do you think he is too young to be a good father? His pa does.”

“Adam is a godly man, Cara. And God will show him how to raise your children. And you will teach him also. I have never seen another woman who is better at being a mother than you are. You will do well raising them together.”

After breakfast, Adam decided to walk down to his parents’ house. Although he and Cara were not saying anything to the children yet, he knew his ma would want to know if he had proposed to Cara, and if she had said yes. “Do you mind if Remmie and I take a walk to my ma’s?” he asked Cara.

“No, of course not. You will be careful what is said in front of him, won’t you?”

“Of course. If Eliza is there, I won’t go in.”

It was cold out. Adam walked at a slow pace so Remmie wouldn’t have to hurry to keep up.

He heard the familiar sound of chopping firewood when he neared the barn. Seth and John were there.

            “Is that to sell, or for home?”

            “Pa said we might sell some,” Seth answered. “I need the money.”

            “You got a wedding to prepare for?” Adam asked.

            “She said yes,” Seth said with a grin. “Did Cara –“ Seth stopped when Adam shook his head. “What? Did she turn you down?”

            Adam shook his head. “No, she said yes.”

            “I knew it!” Seth clapped him on the shoulder. “Congratulations.”

            “What does he mean, Adam?” Remmie asked curiously.

            “Nothing,” Adam replied, with a warning glance at Seth. “Is Ma around?”

            “She’s in the house, but so is Eliza.”

            “Maybe we won’t go in, then. Eliza will have a harder time holding her tongue around the boy.”

            “She doesn’t like it, you know.”

            “Who? Ma or Eliza?”

            “Ma seems all right with it. Eliza was pretty vocal about her opinion after you left. Pa told her to keep quiet, and Obed took her home crying.”

            “Is that so? Well, she’s going to have to get used to the idea.” Adam turned to Remmie. “Do you want to see the rope swing I used to play on?”

            “So now that you’re your own boss, you can just take the day off and play?” Seth asked, half-in-jest.

“It doesn’t hurt once in a while.” He took Remmie up to the hayloft and showed him the heavy rope that was tied around the rafters. He caught hold of it and tried to swing like he had when he was younger, but he was too tall now.

            “Do you want to try it?”

            He showed Remmie how to jump up and grab onto the rope. Then he moved him back onto the rafter. He noticed that Remmie looked down and was afraid. “I’ll hold you,” Adam said. He kept his arm around Remmie as he jumped off the rafter and swung out on the rope.

He didn’t go far, but he was happy and laughing. “That was fun.”

Adam did it a few more times, but stopped before Remmie could get rope burn on his soft hands.

            When they came down from the hayloft, Adam’s pa was standing there.

            “Showing the boy your own foolish ways, I see.”

            “He needs to have a little fun.”

            “Too much fun and he won’t know enough to work hard.”

            “I’ll teach him to work hard,” Adam said firmly.

            “You’re making it your job to teach the widow’s son?”

            “Remmie, why don’t you go and watch Seth chop wood?” After the boy left, Adam said, “He’ll be my son soon enough.”

            “You’re too young to be a good father to a growing boy. You’ll be too soft on him.”

            “I know how to be firm when I need to be.”

            “You learned that from me, I suppose?”

            “I didn’t say that.”

            “But that’s what you meant. You think I’m too strict with you boys.” Evan didn’t give Adam a chance to respond. “Teach a boy to work hard, and he will grow up to provide for his family. Let a boy be lazy, and he will be lazy all his life,” Evan quoted a favorite saying of his. “You’d do well to remember that, yourself.”

            A boy needed time to be a boy, Adam thought, but he knew it was no use arguing with his pa. “Yes, Pa,” he said in a respectful tone.

            He saw Eliza walk back to her house across the road, the baby bundled up in her arms. It was safe to go in and talk to his ma without Eliza’s listening ears.

“Do you want to go in and see if Mrs. Kenley has cookies, Remmie?”

            Remmie nodded vigorously, and Adam chuckled. “Maybe she will make us some hot cocoa, too.”

            His ma was surprised to see them. “Why Adam, Remmie. It’s good to see you.”

            “Hello, Mrs. Kenley,” Remmie said, remembering his manners.

            “Do you have some cookies and hot cocoa for a couple of boys?” Adam asked.

            Dinah’s eyes were full of questions. “I think I can round up some. Remmie, why don’t you play with the blocks while Adam helps me?”

            Remmie found the box of blocks, and Adam followed his ma into the kitchen.

            “Your pa won’t be very happy to see you today,” Dinah told her son grimly.

            “I already saw him.”

            “What did he say?”

            “He thought I ought to be out working, setting a good example for the boy.”

            “And what do you think?”

            “I have plenty of wood cut, the animals are well fed – And it’s a time of celebration,” he finished with a grin.

            “She said yes, then.”

            “Yes, she did. She loves me.”

            “I knew she did.” Dinah did not seem very happy.

            “I know you care for her like a daughter, Ma. So why don’t you want me to marry her?”

            “You’re so young, Adam. She has four children.”

            “She’s younger than I am.”

            “But in life experiences, she’s way older than you.”

            “I don’t agree. Pa raised us up to be responsible men. I barely had a childhood.”

            “He meant well,” Dinah defended her husband.

            “I know he did what he thought was best.” Admitting that did not mean he agreed with his pa’s parenting ways.

            “You turned out all right.”

            “So will Cara’s children.”

            She changed the subject. “Have you set a date for the wedding?”

            “Not yet.”

            She handed him a steaming cup of cocoa.

Before he called out for Remmie, she asked, “What do the children think of it?”

            “We aren’t telling them yet. Cara said it will be hard for Remmie to wait patiently until we are married, because he will be excited about it.”

            Adam and Remmie drank the cocoa and ate cookies.

            “May I have another cookie, Mrs. Kenley?” Remmie asked.

            “I think two cookies are enough, Remmie. I don’t want you to spoil your appetite.”

            “I think we should head back. Why don’t you go and get your boots on?”

Remmie went off to do as Adam bid. When he was out of earshot, Adam asked, “Do you think you could handle having Remmie as a grandson?”

            Dinah looked surprised. “I had not thought of that.”

            “You’ll have four more grandchildren when I marry Cara.”

            “Well, then, that will be a blessing.” She sounded sincere, and Adam hoped that she was.

            “I’d better get back home.”

That he called Cara’s place home did not go unnoticed by Dinah. She felt as though she had lost her son.

That evening, the Bible story that Adam read for family altar was about the first children born in the Bible, brothers Cain and Abel. Like the story the night before, it did not have a happy ending, for Cain killed his brother, Abel.

To make the story more meaningful, Adam said, “You know, I’ve been pretty mad at my brothers before, and they have been pretty mad at me.”

“But you would never kill your brother!” Remmie looked horrified at the thought.

“No, I would not, and they would never do that to me. You see, whenever we got into a fight, we would get a stern talking to from our pa. If we had actually been fighting with our fists, and not our words, he would give us a whipping and send us to our rooms without supper.”

Remmie looked as if he wasn’t sure what was worse, killing his brother or getting whipped and sent to his room without supper. Adam met Cara’s eyes and saw her amusement. It was possible she was thinking the same thing. She didn’t comment, though, and he went on to finish what he meant to say.

“I always forgave my brothers, and they always forgave me. We went on about our business and forgot what we had been fighting about. Nothing is more important than being a family.”

“I wish I had a brother,” Remmie said with a sigh.

Adam didn’t dare meet Cara’s eyes. He didn’t know if she were amused by that, but the thought of giving Remmie a brother brought thoughts to mind that didn’t belong at the family altar.

“You never know what lies down the road, Remmie,” Cara told him.

After the children were tucked in bed, Cara joined Adam in the front room. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” she asked.

 Her eyes were dancing, and he paused for a moment, wondering what she had in mind.

 She laughed at his apprehension. “I do mean coffee, and a piece of pie.”

“You know, that sounds pretty good.” He started to stand up.

 She gestured for him to remain seated. “I’ll bring it in here. It is so nice and peaceful with the fire going.”

Adam watched the flames flicker and dance in the fireplace. She was right, it was peaceful in here. When he reached up to take the cup and plate from Cara, he saw the firelight reflected in the glow of her cheeks.

He took the coffee and pie. “Thank you, Cara.”

His soft words brought a smile to her face that lit her eyes. He was a lucky man, he realized, sipping the hot coffee. Not that he believed in luck. He believed that God worked in all things to bring about the good.

“You know I feel very blessed to be a part of your life,” he said, watching her take a sip of her coffee.

“That’s a very nice thing to say.”

“I mean it. I’ve had a pretty good life. My pa was strict, but he provided for every need. My ma raised us with kindness. I’ve never had anything bad happen to me. I thought I was blessed before, then I met you. Now I realize that I have everything I’ve ever wanted in life, in you.”

Her eyes lit up with happiness. “I had so much bad happen to me in my life, as you know. God brought you into my life, and you brought the goodness with you. I feel blessed, also, that you have chosen me to be the woman you love.”

“Seth proposed to Louisa yesterday, and she said yes,” he said.

“Both brothers proposed in the same day,” she said. And looked suddenly apprehensive. “That didn’t have any bearing on you proposing to me, did it?”

“Do you really think that?” He was disappointed that she would think that of him.

She blushed. “No, I don’t think you are like that. Did he say when they were getting married?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think they have set a date yet.”

The unspoken words hung between them. “Neither have we.”

Cara finished her pie and set her plate down. Adam waited for her to speak and was disappointed when she didn’t right away.

“I’ll wait for you as long as you want, Cara.”

She smiled and looked pleased with his answer. Then her smile turned teasing. “Are you and Seth going to have a race to see who gets to the altar first?”

He was surprised by her teasing and then burst out laughing. He was so glad that she felt comfortable enough with him to joke around. Life with her was going to be amazing. “You know us pretty well, don’t you? I’m older, so I should go first,” he added, and she still smiled. He was relieved that she didn’t think he was pushing her for an answer.

“I’d like to wean Hope before I marry you, Adam.”

He felt his cheeks grow warm. It was a natural thing, but not something he was comfortable talking about. “I don’t know much about that.”

“I nursed the other children until they were between six and nine months old. It all depended on how busy the season was, and how soon the babies were ready.”

Adam counted in his head. Hope had been born at the end of August. “Six months would be February.”

“Do you think the end of March would be all right?”

“A spring wedding,” he said, nodding his head. “I like that idea.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “I know that will make Philip unhappy. He thinks we ought to marry now to make our living arrangements appear right.”

“I know you don’t feel that way, and neither do I. Rushing into marriage isn’t going to stop the rumors.” In fact, Adam thought it might only prove that the rumors were trued, which they were not. He and Cara had done nothing untowardly. And would not.

“I don’t think so, either.”

Adam rose and picked up his plate. Cara did the same. “Do you want to tell the children yet?”

“Let’s think about how we can tell Remmie so that he can be patient until March. Then after we tell him, we can make the announcement.”

Adam wanted to hug her and kiss her right then, he was so happy that he was going to be able to announce to the world that he was going to marry her. He waited until they had put their dishes in the kitchen. Then he turned and drew her into his arms. She came willingly and smiled up at him.

“I’m so happy,” she said. He could see the happiness in her eyes, and it rang in his heart as well.

“So am I.” He showed her how happy he was with a few sweet kisses

As he left her and walked out into the night air, he immediately missed the warmth of the farmhouse, and the warmth of her smile. It seemed to him that the next three months were going to go by very slowly. God was going to have to help him remain strong.