Courage to Forgive Chapter Four


One clear Saturday morning, Adam said, “I would like to go and visit the Ackerbys today, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Oh, I am sure they will be happy to see you,” Cara said, longing to visit with Ayla herself. She had so much to tell her about the wedding. In spite of it being a simple ceremony at the Kenleys’ home, she was excited about having a new dress. She had decided to go with the hoops, and she looked forward to being a fashionable bride.

“I thought we would all go,” he said, with a grin.

“Oh, I don’t think we should. That would be too much for Ayla, I am sure.”

“I don’t think so. We don’t have to stay long,” Adam said. “She would scold me if I show up without you.”

When Ayla found out that Cara almost did not go with Adam, she did scold them both. “I have been so lonely without you, Cara. I am so glad you came.”

Ayla was still confined to a bed, and she was pale. The baby was healthy, though. Philip and Ayla were both proud of Caleb.

“He is truly God’s gift to us,” Philip said. “I don’t know why God chose so long to bless us with a child, but he is truly the greatest blessing in my life, next to having a godly wife.”

Seeing their love for each other, and for their child, made Adam feel an even stronger love for Cara and her children. She, too, was the greatest blessing in his life, and he also felt blessed to be acquiring four new children along with their marriage.

“I have some news for you two,” Philip said. “We already have a convert. A waitress from one of the saloons I preached in has given her heart to the Lord, and is making a fresh start.”

“That is good news,” Adam said.

The thought crossed Cara’s mind that the waitress might have known Lem, might even have been one of his mistresses. However, if the woman was making a fresh start, then she needed to practice forgiveness towards her.

“Is there anything we can do to help?” she asked.

“Well, there is something. I recall you saying that you had a trunk full of dresses that you no longer wear,” Ayla said. “She came to the area last summer, with no family and very little to her name. We are helping her find work, and she needs some modest dresses.”

If she came last summer, then there was no way that the waitress could have known Lem. Cara felt somewhat better, and more generous towards the young woman.

“I do have some dresses that I wore before I was married. They are all out of fashion now.”

“They don’t have to be the latest style, as long as they are modest.”

“They are. My great aunt was insistent on it when the dressmaker would have cut the necklines lower.”

“Well, then, if you think you might have something that she could wear, that would be a way you could help her.”

“I’ll go through the trunks this week, and we’ll bring some things to you the next time we visit.”

When Cara washed on Monday morning, she was reminded that Ayla needed dresses for her new convert. After hanging the clothes on the line to freeze-dry, she took the girls upstairs to have a look in the trunks.

            There were three trunks, as well as several crates. One of the trunks she had brought with her from the west, when her pa sent her to live with her grandmother. It held a few clothes and mementos from her childhood. The clothes were befitting a young schoolgirl. She had made over a couple of the dresses into frocks for the girls, but there were a few dresses still intact. She did not think the young waitress would be interested in any of those gowns.

            A second trunk had belonged to her Aunt Bella, her father’s younger sister. Bella had died in childbirth when she was young. Gran had packed away her things in the trunk. They were household items, but nothing of significance to Cara.

The third trunk held the clothes that were made for her when she lived in Charleston, during the season that she had entered society. The skirts were wide and full, and she had worn numerous petticoats beneath them to make them billow out. The necklines were modest, compared to the dresses that had been in style during her social season. Her great-aunt had been a very religious woman, and strict about modesty.

They were lovely gowns, in a variety of pretty colors and expensive fabrics. “Whose dresses are these, Mama?” Charity asked, fingering a pale pink lawn.

“These were mine, Charity.” Cara laughed at her daughter’s surprise. “I wore them a long time ago.”

“They are pretty.”

“Pretty,” Rose repeated.

“Someday, you will wear pretty dresses like these, and go to dances,” Cara told them.


Cara realized that her daughter had never seen a dance. She rose, and held the dress up in front of her. “This is dancing, Charity.” She went through the motions of a waltz, twirling and swaying to a tune she recalled from her past.

“May I have this dance?” Adam said from the doorway.

Cara blushed, as she realized he had seen her silliness.

“You don’t have to stop dancing on my account.” Adam walked over to her, and held out his hand. “Shall we show them how it’s done?”

Cara set aside the dress, and slipped her hand into Adam’s. He led her in a waltz, and she stumbled a little. Embarrassed, she drew away, but he would not let her go.

“You did very well.”

“I’ve forgotten the steps.”

“You’ll remember them again.” She looked downcast, and he lifted her chin. “You are a beautiful lady, Cara Bancroft.”

Her face turned red, but his words pleased her. She noticed the children were watching them curiously, and she moved away from Adam. She knelt beside the trunk, and Adam sat down on the floor beside her.

“Are you looking for some clothes to give to the Ackerbys’ convert?”

“Yes, I am. These are outdated styles, but they are very pretty. Do you think she will like them?”

“I don’t know why not. These even rival Belinda’s for style and fashion.”

He regretted mentioning Belinda’s name when he saw the disappointment in Cara’s expression. Then she recovered, and smiled somewhat sadly. “I was in the height of fashion when I was in Charleston.”

“That hasn’t been so very long ago.”

“Almost seven years now, and four children, ago. That seems like a very long time.”

“I suppose it does.”

Cara started to put the dresses back, and discovered a pile of papers in the bottom of the trunk.

“I don’t remember putting these in there.”

“Maybe they’re your forgotten dance cards,” Adam said with a grin.

Cara smiled, but then her smile faded as she glanced through the papers. “They are letters, and they are addressed to Lem.”

“He put them in there, then.”

“He must have, at some point. I wonder who they’re from.”

The handwriting was decidedly feminine, Cara thought as she scanned the first letter. Then horror struck her as she realized it was from another woman, one who had loved Lem.

“Dearest Lemuel,

I have missed you greatly since you departed. I wonder at times how you could go and leave me, especially at such a time as this. I cry for you day and night, longing for the day when you will return to me.”


            Adam’s voice broke into Cara’s thoughts. “They are from another woman.” Cara glanced at the signature at the bottom of the page. “Someone named Florence.”

            “She must have been someone he met before he married you.”

            Cara glanced through the rest of the letters. “They’re all from her.”

            Adam saw the color leave Cara’s face, and he thought she might faint. He put his arm around her, supporting her. “Cara—”

            “These were written after we were married,” she whispered. “All of them.”

Tears filled her eyes, and Adam drew her close, thinking of many names he could call Lem if he were here right now.

            “Ma? Are you all right?” Remmie asked worriedly.

            “Mama cry?” Rose said, sounding as if she might cry herself.

            Cara drew in a shaky breath and wiped her tears with her apron. “I’m all right, children.” She was far from all right, but she would not break down in front of her children. She would not give even the memory of Lem the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

            “Do you want me to carry the trunk down?” Adam asked quietly.

            “Yes, please. We’ll take it to the Ackerbys the next time we’re in town.”

            Cara gathered the letters and carried those downstairs, putting them in her bedroom. As she went through the rest of the day, the letters were at the back of her mind. She was curious, and also dreaded what she would find.

            “Are you going to be all right?” Adam asked as he was leaving for the cabin later that evening.

            “Yes, I will be. I’m not sure what I’ll find out, but I know God is here with me.”

            Adam hugged her. “I’ll be praying for you as you read the letters.”

            “Thank you.”

            Adam left, and Cara brought the letters into the sitting room. She put the letters in order of their dates, beginning with the oldest date. The letter had arrived around the time of Remmie’s birth, when she and Lem had been married two months.

“Dearest Lemuel,

It’s been almost three months since you left, and I miss you every day. I think about you all the time, and long for the day when you will return to me.

I wish you had not had to leave, but I admire you so much for what you are doing. You are a wonderful man to go and care for your dying grandmother.”

            The letter continued in much the same manner. It was obvious to Cara as she read it that this Florence believed Lem had left her to care for a dying grandmother that he loved. Whether Lem had lied, or there was some misunderstanding, was not clear from the letter.

            Another letter, dated a few weeks later, again professed Florence’s love for Lem, and declared how much she missed him. Cara resented another woman speaking so freely of love for her husband. At the time that Florence had written these letters, Cara had thought Lem was in love with her, that he had come to the farm to marry her and make things right.

            In the third letter, date four months after Remmie’s birth, Cara discovered some news that angered her to the point of tears.

“My Darling Lemuel,

Your son was born today. Healthy and very red, with a lot of light hair. I think he is going to look like you.

            Cara could scarcely see the letter for the tears in her eyes. Lem had another child, with another woman. A child that had followed closely after the birth of her son with Lem.

            She thought back to the circumstances surrounding her own pregnancy. Their courtship had been brief. When she discovered she was expecting a child, Cara had told Lem. Her aunt had disowned her, and she was going back to the farm, to her grandmother. Lem had been angry with her. The next thing she knew, he had left Charleston, and she had not heard from him again until five months later, when he showed up at the farm.

            If her calculations were correct, Lem had met someone else, someone named Florence, only a few weeks after he left Charleston. Or maybe he had known Florence before Cara, and Cara had only been a diversion. If the child was truly Lem’s, he had left the other woman in her time of need and came to the farm. He had married Cara, possibly knowing another woman carried his child. If he had not known it when he married her, he had discovered it a few months later, when he received this letter from Florence.

            Perhaps, Cara told herself, Lem had not known of the other woman’s pregnancy when he married her. Maybe he had truly loved her, and this other woman had been a mistake. One that he put behind him when he married her. She did not know if he had ever written letters back to this Florence. It was not clear from her letters whether he had corresponded with her. One thing was clear, however, that Lem had not been a gentleman. He had wooed and courted Cara, and left her in her time of need. And he had done the same thing a few months later, to someone else.

            The fact that he had lied to Florence, and said he was going to take care of his dying grandmother, made Cara livid. It had been her grandmother’s farm to which he had come, not his own. He had not come to care for her grandmother, but he had come to marry her. He had not told the truth to this other woman, who apparently still pined for him after he left.

            She could scarcely stand to read another letter, but she made herself go on. It was obvious from the letters that Florence had thought Lem would sell the farm and return to her. It was also obvious that Lem had never answered any of the letters. Florence’s letters grew very angry about Lem’s lack of response, and the letters stopped a year after they started. Apparently, Florence had given up on Lem, and had gone on with her life without him.

            It hurt that she had not been special to Lem. After he left her in Charleston, alone and frightened, he found someone new. Early in her marriage, she had thought Lem loved her. As time went on, she learned of his infidelity, and the love she had felt for Lem had faded away. She wondered why he had ever married her, but she suspected he married her to get the farm. Had he promised Florence that he would sell the farm and send for her, as the letters had said? Had that been his intention all along?

Cara was glad, then, that she had not given in to Lem’s demands to sell. She and the children would have been left homeless, while Lem went off with someone else. Instead, they had fought bitterly over the farm for four years, and in the end, she had won. She still had the farm.

            After a restless night, Cara rose and fed the baby, then set about fixing breakfast. Adam came in, and he looked concerned.

            “How are you doing?” he asked as he came forward and hugged her.

            “I’m all right,” she said, and Adam knew she was lying.

            “You didn’t deserve to live with Lem’s lies and unfaithfulness. You are worth far more than the way he treated you.”

            Cara’s lip trembled, and tears filled her eyes. “Thank you for saying that, Adam. But even so, I married him, and I stayed with him, even after I learned he was unfaithful.”

            “Did you have a choice?”

            “I suppose one always has a choice. Doc said many times that if I needed anything, he would help me out.”

            Adam put his hand on her shoulder. “You know you didn’t have a choice, Cara. If you had left Lem, you would have lost the farm.”

            “And he would have won. I think that’s why I stayed, because the farm meant so much to me.”

            Adam did not want to ask about the letters. He sat down, and they quietly began their breakfast. Cara was the first one to break the silence.

            “She gave birth to Lem’s child.”

            “I’m sorry. That must hurt, to know that.”

            “It does. I thought he loved me, but after he left me in Charleston, he found someone else. Her son was born a few months after Remmie.”

            “And her letters were asking him to come back?”

            “She thought he would sell the farm and send for her. She also thought it was his grandmother’s farm, and he let her believe that.”

            “How many letters were there?”

            “There were a dozen or so. They stopped coming a year after they started. I guess she realized Lem was not going back, and she gave up.”

            “Did Lem ever write to her?”

            Cara shook her head. “No, it’s obvious that he didn’t. I guess there’s some comfort in knowing that.”

            Little footsteps sounded across the floor and the children came into the kitchen. Cara fixed their plates, and the subject of the letters was dropped.

It was never far from Adam’s mind, however, and he went out of his way to be loving and gentle with Cara. She seemed so sad and downhearted, where she had been happy just a few days before. He felt her pain as if it was his own. He wished there was some way to make up for all of Lem’s wrongdoing.

            A few days after they found the letters, Adam awakened to a cold surprise.

            The roof of the cabin had collapsed, and snow was pouring into the cabin, and onto his bed. He jumped up with a shout. He lit the lantern, and saw that half of the roof was now sitting on the floor of the cabin. He looked up through a gaping hole at the black sky.

            “Well, I’ll be!” he said aloud. “What am I supposed to do now?”

            He dressed quickly, shivering in the freezing cold temperature. It was the middle of the night, and he did not want to disturb Cara in the house. He decided that the barn would be warm enough. He made a bed on the straw with the quilts, and tried to sleep. Although he dozed off, he awakened several times, uncomfortable and cold. It was a relief when it was time to rise and do his chores.

            The light of the kitchen had never been as welcoming as it was that morning. When he walked into the house, it felt warm and inviting. The smile on Cara’s face warmed his heart, also.

            “You’ll never guess what happened.”

            “What?” Cara looked concerned. “Has something happened with one of the animals?”

            Adam shook his head. “No, not with the animals,” he reassured her. “The roof of the cabin collapsed.”


            “It fell on me in the night.”

            “Were you hurt?”

            “No, I wasn’t, fortunately. Just cold, with the snow dumped on me.”

            She looked worried. “What did you do, sleep there anyway?”

            “I slept in the barn.”

            “Oh, Adam, that must have been cold. You should have come to the house.”

            “I thought about it, but I didn’t want to wake you up.”

            “I wouldn’t have minded.”

Even as Cara said the words, she blushed. Having Adam come to the house in the middle of the night might have stirred up emotions she was trying to keep at bay.

A look at Adam showed he was thinking the same thing. Silence fell between them, and Adam sat down at the table. Cara brought the plate of hotcakes and sausage over to him, and then sat down, also.

“Maybe this is a sign,” Adam said thoughtfully.

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe this is telling us that we ought to get married sooner.”

His words made Cara uncomfortable. How could a roof caving in be a sign that they ought to get married?

Adam answered her unspoken question. “I can’t sleep in the cabin anymore, and the barn is too cold.”

“And you can’t sleep in the house, since we’re not married,” Cara said as the realization hit her.

“That’s right. If we get married, I could move in, and we could be a family.”

The children came into the kitchen, and Hope cried. Cara went to get the baby, and her thoughts focused on marriage to Adam. She knew it was what she wanted, more than anything, to be his wife. She wanted the children to know him as their father. She knew she could trust Adam to be faithful to her and yet—

The letters from Florence had brought to surface the pain of Lem’s infidelity. She had felt angry lately, anger with Lem and with the woman who had loved him. She tried to pray, and tried to forgive, but peace eluded her. How could she marry Adam when she was filled with anger? It wouldn’t be fair to him, to start their marriage off that way.

Besides, she was still nursing Hope, and it was important to her that she wait until after she weaned the baby to start her new life with Adam. Then, she would feel that the past was completely behind her, and she could make a fresh start.

Adam was talking with the children when she walked into the kitchen, telling them something that made them laugh. He reached out for Hope, and she passed the baby into his arms. His eyes held questions, and hope, and she did not want to disappoint him.

“I’m not sure this is good timing for me, Adam.” Her quiet voice seemed to dash his hopes. She refilled his coffee cup, and hers, and sat down.

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

“I’ve been very angry lately.” The children looked at her in concern, but she felt that she had to explain. “Those letters stirred up the anger that I felt in the past, and I haven’t been able to get past it.”

“Maybe marriage would help you forget the past.”

“Maybe it would.” At the look of hope in his eyes, she added quickly, “But I don’t think I’m ready to take that chance.”

He looked angry now. His hands still held Hope gently, but there was a look of fire in his eyes.

“You still don’t trust me, do you?”

“I do trust you, Adam. I know you would never be unfaithful to me.”

“Do you know that, Cara? Do you really believe that?”


“I don’t want you to have any doubts about me, Cara. I know the commandment about not committing adultery. I’m a Christian, Cara, and I would never break that commandment. Besides, I love you. That isn’t going to change.”

“Ma?” Remmie said with a worried look in his eyes.

“Maybe we should talk about this later,” Cara said.

“I don’t think talking about it later is going to change anything. Is it?” Her silent answer seemed to anger him more. “When are you going to realize that I’m not like Lem, Cara? I will never be like him.”

Hope started to cry, upset with Adam’s angry voice. Adam passed her across the table to Cara. Charity began to cry, also. Even Remmie’s lower lip trembled.

“I would never do anything that would hurt you or the children, Cara. You need to learn to trust me.”

Adam bundled into his coat and boots. “Can I go with you, Adam?” Remmie asked.

“Not this time, Remmie.” Remmie looked hurt by Adam’s sharp tone, and Adam’s voice softened. “It’s cold out today, and I don’t want you to catch cold.”

“Will you be coming back for dinner?”

Adam hesitated, and then nodded. “Of course I will, Remmie.”

Adam’s frustration level was high as he left the house. Cara said she loved him, and wanted to marry him. Yet, her reaction to his suggestion that they get married right away left him in doubt as to her feelings.

It was obvious that while she might love him, she was not ready to be his wife. She had agreed to be married in March, and he wondered if she was going to change her mind.

He wasn’t going to change his. When he and Cara had argued, his first instinct had been to run off, but Remmie’s innocent question had stopped him. He knew that was the way it had been with Lem. Whenever Cara and Lem had a fight, he had run off into town, and returned drunk.

He wasn’t a drinker, but running off because they did not agree on something was not the way he wanted to act. Doing so would only add to Cara’s doubts about his love. He wanted Cara to believe him, and wondered what he could do to prove his love for her.

He went down to the cabin and retrieved his personal belongings and clothes. For now, he put them in the barn. The damage to the cabin was beyond repair. The cabin was old, and weak. The cave-in had not only damaged the roof, but the walls were leaning in. They could also cave in at any time, and the cabin would be a dangerous place. It was just as well that it was wintertime and the children could not be running about.

Without the cabin, he had nowhere to go. The barn was too cold, and he could not stay in the house with Cara unless they were married. He guessed he would have to swallow his pride and move back home until the wedding, that is, if his parents didn’t mind. If Cara still did not want to move up their wedding date, then he would go over to his ma’s after dinner and ask if he might come home. He did not have much choice in the matter.

When Adam left the house in an angry mood, Cara’s emotions were in turmoil. During her marriage, whenever she and Lem fought about something, Lem had left in a rage. She wondered if Adam was going to be the same way. She was somewhat comforted by his promise to come back for dinner, and she knew he would never return drunk, not like Lem. And he would never take his anger out on her and the children.

She didn’t like disagreeing with Adam, and she did not like to have him angry with her. Her reasons for not wanting to get married right away had nothing to do with Adam, himself. She had tried to tell him that, but he hadn’t understood. He thought she didn’t trust him. How could she make him understand that it was not about him?

Adam had been patient with her for wanting to wait until the end of March for their wedding.  Now, he was in a hurry to get married, because he no longer had a place to sleep. It made sense to get married so they could be together, at least to Adam. Cara felt like he was rushing her, and she didn’t want to start her marriage out that way. And with the hurt that the letters to Lem had caused, she did not feel like she could be a loving wife. Even the end of March now felt like it was too soon to remarry, but she would not change the wedding to a later date.

Nor to an earlier one, she felt with conviction. She needed time to get over her anger towards Lem. But if Adam was angry with her, perhaps he would have second thoughts about marrying her at all.

Cara’s stomach felt like it was tied up in knots. She waited in nervous anticipation for Adam to come in, and worried about what she would say when he did. If he did come in.

            By mid-morning, Adam’s anger towards Cara had dissipated. Sure, he was disappointed that they would not be getting married right away, but he had known she wanted to wait. It wasn’t right to push her, and it hadn’t been right to get angry and shout, either.

            His stomach told him when it was time to go into the house for dinner. He went reluctantly, worrying about how Cara would greet him. Was she still hurt by his abrupt departure? Was she angry with him for leaving?

            He opened the door of the lean-to and took off his coat and boots. As he walked into the warm kitchen, he saw Cara standing beside the stove. She looked up as he came in, and he saw the worried look in her eyes.



            They both spoke at the same time. Adam came forward and took Cara’s hands in his. “You first,” he said.

            “If you want to get married right away, we can,” she told him softly.

            “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

            When she did not answer immediately, he knew. She was only saying that because she knew it was what he wanted.

            “I’m trying to rush you, and I know that’s not what you want. We’ll get married in March, like we planned.”

            “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

Her quiet question caught him off-guard. He decided to turn his answer into a joke. “I’d get married today if that’s what you wanted. Then I wouldn’t have to spend another night in the barn.”

His answer worked to lighten the mood. Cara was smiling at him. Adam leaned forward and captured her lips in a tender kiss. When he lifted his head, he saw a desire in her eyes that matched his own. It was six weeks before their planned wedding, but that seemed like a very long time.

Book Spotlight: Roadtrip Romance Book 2

I’m excited to talk with author Amy Anguish today about her new book, Roadtrip for One Two. Thank you for joining me today, Amy. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m busy, busy, busy. Ha! Seriously, though, I am a wife and mommy. I also teach preschool two days a week and work with a tax firm the other days. And write and edit, too. It keeps me hopping, but I feel so blessed to be able to do it all.

What is your new book about?

Recovering from heartbreak is hard when the ex-fiancé tags along.

Dallas, Texas wasn’t in the plans when Bree Henley set out to use the nonrefundable honeymoon tickets from her canceled wedding. Nor was running into ex-fiancé Nathan Hart. But their mutual friends and the weather have other ideas. A hurricane cancels their cruise and Bree decides to turn the disaster into a roadtrip for one, never imagining Nathan would object.

Nathan is furious when he uncovers the plot to get him back with Bree. But he can’t just let her go roaming around the big city of Dallas alone. Though he knows calling off their wedding was the right thing to do, he still cares for Bree. And before he knows what hits him, he’s volunteered to tag along. Suddenly, it’s a trip for two.

Spending the week together might remind them of why they fell in love. But is it enough to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of “til death do us part”?

Now for some answers to questions readers like to know:

What is the inspiration behind your story?

Several things. One, these characters started in the first book in this series and then needed their own story. Oops. Or not oops? 😊 Second, I had been to Dallas several times, and had also had flights canceled in that airport. So, the fodder was there just waiting to be used. Ta da. And third, well, when the idea of having a broken up couple run into each other and find out they’re both planning to use their un-honeymoon not knowing the other was too, well, it was too good to pass up. And it fit this story so well.

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?

Short answer, I make the time. I find months that aren’t *quite* as busy and I squeeze as many words in a day as possible. I’m a fast writer, and have written a whole (rough) manuscript in eighteen days in the past. I learned to write fast by doing nanowrimo every year and just got in the habit. Which is handy when I don’t have a ton of time to write in normal life.

Are you a night owl or morning person?

I’m a mid-morning person and a mid-afternoon person. Those seem to be the times of day I get the most done. Not sure why.

What does your family think of your writing?

My husband doesn’t always understand (he says, “Wait. You created the characters so how can they take over?”), but he is SO supportive. He makes sure I have time to do video chats and podcast recordings and lets me bounce ideas off him. And my kids have started marketing for me, passing bookmarks to their teachers. 😊

Are you part of a writing group?

I’m actually sort of part of two. One with two girls who live in other states. We get together several times a year to record videos for our Youtube channel and support each other with an ongoing Facebook messenger chat between times. And one group with a local girl here and another who lived here but moved to Arkansas last year. So we keep up in various ways too.

Who was the first person you allowed to read your completed book?

Pretty sure it was my sister because I wanted her to edit it. She remarked that my stories were very much like Hallmark movies and I took it as a compliment.

Thanks again for being my guest today, Amy. What’s next for you as an author?

So many exciting things, actually. I have a novella coming out in Feb in a collection called Love Delivered. My story is Romance at Register Five, and is set in a grocery store, of all places. Then, the third book in my Roadtrip Romance series releases in June. I have another book coming in August that’s part of a quadrilogy (four book series) with three other authors, each of us writing about fifty years apart. And then a Christmas book in October. I’m super excited about that one. It’s called My Mama Dated Santa.

Amy R Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

Follow her at or


Learn more about her books at

And check out the YouTube channel she does with two other authors, Once Upon a Page (

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.

Courage to Forgive Chapter One

For those of you who don’t know, I wrote and self-published the first five books of an historical series, Legacy of Courage.

Last summer I was able to invest in new covers and design and re-published the first three books on Amazon for Kindle and in print.

I had hoped by now to get a new cover and inside design for the fourth book and publish that as well. I know there were a few readers who were waiting on it.

However, I don’t have the finances to do so right now.

I decided to make the fourth book, Courage to Forgive, available on my blog with a chapter each Friday.

You may have already purchased and read the older style paperback of this book that I sold locally. When I worked on the series in 2021, I updated books 3 and rewrote parts of book 4. It had never seemed like a complete story to me. When I edited it, I ended up with several chapters at the beginning that had been “missing” from the original text.

I like the way the new version came out and that is the one I am posting here on my blog.

If you haven’t already read it or want to read the revised version, please enjoy this first chapter of Courage to Forgive, Book One of the Legacy of Courage Series.

Chapter One – Courage to Forgive

Adam and Cara stood near the porch steps, their arms around each other. He had just proposed to her, and she, of course, had said yes.

“You’re shivering,” he said with a smile, brushing a curl back from her cheek.

“I don’t feel cold.”

He kissed her again, a sweet, tender kiss that she had been dreaming of for so long.

“I’m glad to know that you return my love, Cara.”

The corners of her mouth turned up in a wry smile. “You’ve known for a while now how I felt about you.”

“I’ve had my suspicions that you cared about me. At one time, that scared me.”

“And it doesn’t scare you now?” Her serious question demanded an honest answer.

“No, not anymore. I love you. I promise that I will always be here for you.”

His words made her heart sing, but the practical side of her made her wary. “I have four children, by another man, Adam. Are you ready to be a father to them?”

“I love your children, Cara,” he said without hesitation. “I don’t know much about being a father, but I know I want to be one to them. I want to help you raise them. I want to be around to watch them grow up.”

Her eyes sparkled with joy. “I know you will be a good father to them.” 

“I will try,” he promised solemnly. “Do you think they will be happy to have us get married?”

“They love you already. I don’t think Rose realizes that you haven’t always been a part of our family. And Hope will never know another man as her father, other than you.”

He had longed to kiss the corner of her mouth where the smile began. Now, he had the right to do so. He placed his lips against that spot, and then captured her lips in a sweet tender kiss. Having her in his arms felt so right. He wondered why he had waited so long to tell her how he felt.

 She must have wondered, too. “I’ve waited so long to hear you say you love me.”

“I should have told you a long time ago.”

“It’s okay that you did not speak about it sooner. I know you weren’t sure you were ready to be a husband and father.”

“Now I can’t wait,” he said, with a wide grin. “Will you marry me, Cara?”

“I will, Adam. I will be so happy to be your wife.”

“I can’t wait to see Remmie’s face when we tell him.”

Her smile faded, and she looked serious. “I don’t want to say anything to them yet.”

“What? Why not?”

“I love you, Adam, but I don’t want to rush into marriage.”

It felt as though she had punched him in the stomach. The wind was knocked out of him and he stared at her incredulously.

“You do want to marry me, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. More than anything.”

“That’s a relief. We can work out the details later. Right now, it’s cold, and we need to go in. They will wonder what has happened to us.”

But he couldn’t help kissing her one more time before they went back in the house.

When they walked into the front room, the children came running up to them, as though they had not seen them for a very long time. Cara rejoiced when Rose held out her arms to Adam and watched as he picked her up and swung her up into the air. She unbundled her wraps and stooped to kiss Charity on the cheek. Remmie looked at both of them as though knowing that something was different.

“Do you have cocoa ready for us, Remmie?” Cara asked.

“Yes, Ma, we do. Reverend Ackerby helped us make it.”

His innocent remark made Cara smile. Her eyes met Adam’s and saw his amusement.

She heard Hope cry out and glanced self-consciously at Adam. “I’ll need to feed the baby,” she said in an apologetic tone.

“But, Ma, the cocoa is ready,” Remmie protested.

“Why don’t you and Adam drink your cocoa, and save a cup for me? I’ll join you after I feed Hope.”

Remmie’s disappointment vanished at the mention of drinking his cocoa with Adam. When Cara turned to leave the room, Charity followed.

“Don’t you want to have some cocoa, Charity?” Adam asked. She looked unsure of herself, as though she wanted to follow him but was too shy to do so.

“She can come with me.” Cara patted Charity’s curls. “We’ll have our cocoa later.”

Sitting with her back against the pillows while Hope nursed, Cara felt like she was in a dream. Adam loved her. He loved her! Of all the blessings these past few weeks, that was the greatest one of all. She had fallen in love with him what seemed like so long ago. She had known he had feelings for her, and that he struggled with the idea of becoming a father to four children. She had not dared think that he would really tell her he loved her and wanted to marry her.

So why did she feel so hesitant about it? It was what she had dreamed of, marriage to Adam. Having him become a permanent part of her family. Sharing her life with him. Why wasn’t she ready to tell her children, to tell the whole world?

There was so much of the past that she had not been able to put behind her. She still nursed Lem’s child. Her year of mourning had just ended today. When she married Adam, she did not want any of her memories to stand in her way of becoming his wife.

Adam’s grin stretched across his face when he saw Cara walk into the dining room with the baby in her arms. Her answering smile was just as wide. He felt so much love and joy in his heart. How could he contain it and not share it with her children? She passed Hope into his welcoming arms. This little one would be his daughter. Adam could hardly believe it was true. She would only ever know him as her father.

“Come sit down, Cara,” Philip said. “I will bring you some hot cocoa.”

“I can get it,” Cara said.

Philip shook his head and ushered her to a chair. “I don’t mind, please, sit down.”

Cara sank into a chair, watching the baby in Adam’s arms. He looked up and caught her eye, and the tenderness in his eyes made her catch her breath. Her heart was almost singing with joy.

Philip cleared his throat. Cara looked up and took the cup of cocoa from him. “Thank you, Philip.”

He looked from one to the other as he sat down in his chair. “Have the two of you something to tell me?”

The older children were in the other room occupied with their new toys, Adam replied, “Yes, we do.”

“But I don’t want to say anything to the children yet,” Cara said quickly.

 “Have you told anyone yet?”

“No,” Cara said.

“I kind of have,” Adam admitted. Her surprised expression made him sheepish. “My brothers were really giving me a hard time at dinner. Somehow, they all figured out that I was in love with you. Even my ma knew that I was coming back to ask you to marry me.”

Cara blushed. “How did they know?”

“How could they not know?” Philip asked. “We have all caught the looks between you two these past few days. It’s no surprise to any of us that you have fallen in love.”

“I’m not sure I want everyone to know yet,” Cara said.

“Why not? Aren’t you planning to marry Adam?”

“Yes, but—” Adam and Philip both waited for her answer. “The children will be so happy, especially Remmie. I know he will not be able to stand it until we are married so he can call you ‘Pa.’ I don’t want to tell him until we’re ready.”

“How long do you think you will wait to get married?” Philip looked at Adam, and Adam looked at Cara.

“I thought we would get married right away,” Adam said. “I want to become a permanent part of Cara’s life.”

“You are a part of my life, Adam, even if we don’t get married as soon as you would like. I need time to get used to the idea of you being in love with me, to get used to being together as a couple.”

“So do you want a long engagement?” Adam asked.

Philip interrupted. “I think under the circumstances, with Adam already living here and eating meals with you and the children, a short engagement would be best.”

That was just it. There were no circumstances which made them have to get married right away. Adam and she had not been living in sin. She was not expecting his child, as she had been with Lem’s. The only reason she could see for rushing was to satisfy the gossips.

She didn’t want to say that, though. Especially not in front of Philip, who disapproved of their living arrangement.

“It’s all right, Cara.” Adam’s voice was reassuring. When she looked in his eyes, she saw no disappointment, only tenderness. “We don’t have to rush. I’m just so glad that you said yes.” He reached over and covered her hand with his.

 “So your brothers, and your parents, all know. That means Eliza will know as well.”

“They knew I was going to ask you, and they will assume you said yes, unless I tell them otherwise.”

“And if Eliza knows, then everyone will soon know.”

Adam grimaced. “Yes, unfortunately that is how it is with Eliza.”

“Then we will have to tell the children soon.” Although it troubled her, she could see that it pleased Adam to announce their engagement.

Philip spoke up. “It should be a happy occasion, not a troubling one.”

Cara couldn’t help smiling as she met Adam’s eyes. “It is a happy occasion. I have been waiting so long for Adam to say he loved me.”

“I wish I hadn’t waited so long.”

Neither of them noticed when Philip left the room.

 The children walked into the room, and Adam reluctantly stood up. He passed Hope back into Cara’s arms.

            “I hate to leave this warm house, but I have chores to do.”

            “Can I go with you?” Remmie asked.

            “Yes, of course.”

            After Adam and Remmie left the house, Philip came back into the room, “Wouldn’t you like to go and talk to Ayla? I’m sure she would enjoy hearing what has transpired between yourself and Adam.”

            Cara’s face grew warm with embarrassment, but the thought of sharing her news with someone made her happy. “I think I will, but then I best be getting supper.”

            She carried Hope into the bedroom. Ayla was holding Caleb and singing to him. She looked up and smiled as Cara entered the room.

 “Cara, come in and sit down. I’ve wanted to get up and join you, but Philip thought I should rest.”

            “He’s right.”

            “Philip told me you have news for me.”

Cara’s joy bubbled over. “Adam loves me.”

            “Didn’t I tell you so? Philip and I thought Adam’s feelings for you ran deep.”

            “It’s more wonderful than I had imagined. He wants to marry me.”

            “Cara, I’m so happy for you.” Ayla added, “Adam is a good man. And handsome.”

            A giggle escaped Cara’s lips. “Yes, he is.”

“We’ll have a wedding soon.”

Cara’s smile faded almost immediately.

“What’s wrong, Cara?” Ayla asked. “I thought you wanted to marry Adam.”

“I do. I do want to marry him. I just don’t want to rush into marriage.”

“Why do you feel like you must rush into marriage?”

“Adam’s family knows he was going to ask me to marry him. When he tells them I said yes, his sister-in-law will tell her ma. Then within a short time everyone in the community will know we are getting married, and we will have to tell the children.”

“Why don’t you want to tell the children?”

“I’m afraid they won’t be able to contain their excitement, especially Remmie.”

Ayla’s mouth turned up in a gentle smile. Cara wondered if she were being foolish, but Ayla didn’t say so.

“I think you are worrying too much about it. This should be a happy day for you, not one to cause concern.”

Cara sighed. “I know. I don’t understand what’s wrong with me.”

“You and Adam will figure it out, Cara,” Philip said from the doorway. “I know you feel rushed, but God does not rush us. His blessings come in His time, not in ours. Ayla and I will be praying for you and Adam as you seek God’s will and direction.”

Ayla added, “Rejoice for the moment, Cara. Enjoy the newness of your love for Adam. And the two of you should pray together, too. You will know when the timing is right.”

“I’ll get busy with supper,” Cara said, rising.

“Have you thought about what you wanted to fix for supper?” Philip asked.

“I thought we would eat leftovers. There is so much left from dinner, and all the pies the preacher brought.”

“If you don’t mind, I will go and see what’s left, and put together a meal,” Philip offered.

It would be a welcome relief for her, but it didn’t seem right to have someone else fix the meal.

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Philip enjoys cooking,” Ayla said. “And he is a good cook.”

“I have seen that, with the pies, and the taffy. It’s all been delicious.”

Philip sat down on the edge of the bed and covered Ayla’s hand with his. “We’ve been talking about this very thing today.”

“About cooking?”

“Yes,” Philip said. “You have been working so had to make sure we all had three meals a day this past week, and I know you must be tired.”

“I am used to preparing three meals a day,” she said. “I have done it for a long time.”

“I would like to take over the cooking and baking for a few days, if that is all right with you.” Philip’s unusual request came as a surprise. “It will give you more time to spend with Adam, and the children.”

The thought of not having to plan, prepare and serve three meals a day sounded like a blessing. To have time to sit with Adam and the children would be a welcome change.

Ayla added, “You have been taking care of all of us, preparing our meals, helping out with Caleb—”

“Oh, but Ayla, I have been so blessed to have you here. I haven’t minded the extra work. And Adam’s ma has helped out so much.”

“It’s our turn to help out,” Philip said. “And I must tell you, I have looked over all of the supplies that Reverend Mathers brought over. There are some really good things in there that I can’t wait to use.”

“They were very generous, weren’t they?” Cara was still surprised by the amount of food the women had donated.

“So do you think you could give up your kitchen for a few days?” Philip asked.

“Yes, I can. And thank you. It will be a real blessing for me.”

They heard Rose’s voice call out, “Adam!”

“Well, I think the chores are done. Shall I go out and get supper ready, so you can spend time with Adam and the children?”

Hope started to fuss.

“Or so I can feed the baby,” Cara said as Philip left the room.

“Why don’t you close the door, and you can nurse Hope in here. It will soon be time for Caleb’s next feeding.”

The baby in Ayla’s arms started to whimper.

Cara rose and shut the door, then settled into the chair. She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes for a few moments. Then she opened them and smiled. For the first time in a long time, she did not have to prepare supper.

“I do appreciate Philip’s help with the cooking.”

“I was talking to him about it earlier this evening. You are a very beautiful woman, but I can see that the extra care you have given everyone has tired you out.”

“You can see it on my face?” Could Adam see it, too? Cara wondered.

“As another woman, I can tell that you have been under a strain. I did not realize how taxing it was to nurse an infant, and you did that with two for several days.” Cara started to speak. “I know you were happy to help out, but it doesn’t change the fact that you put your body under additional stress to wet-nurse Caleb.”

Cara knew Ayla was right. She hadn’t realized how tired she was, until she sat down a few minutes ago. The excitement of the last few days, the Christmas baking and shopping, decorating the tree, and the wonderful celebration this morning with everyone, had all been overwhelming. She had put a lot of work into making Christmas dinner, and it had gone over so well. She had felt tired when she started picking up the dinner dishes. Then Adam had come back, and proposed. She had forgotten how tired she was.

Philip set the dining room table simply for their supper. There was a large pan in the middle of the table, and all Cara could see were mashed potatoes in it. A loaf of bread from the church donations was sliced on a plate, and there was butter to go with it.

She wondered where the rest of the meal was. Philip seemed pleased with himself, so she sat down and waited for his direction. As they bowed their heads to pray, she peeked at Adam. He had a confused look on his face that echoed how she felt. “I’d like you and the children to pray your prayer tonight,” Philip said.

Cara started the prayer, and Adam and the children chimed in. Even Rose knew some of the words now, and what she didn’t know, she made up, to their amusement.

Philip took a large spoon and scooped out some mashed potatoes. As he put it on Cara’s plate, she saw that it was like a shepherd’s pie. The top layer was mashed potatoes, the bottom layer was stuffing. In between there were pieces of turkey and gravy.

“Oh, this looks delicious!” she exclaimed.

Philip served everyone, before putting some on a plate. “I’ll take this so Ayla and I can share it, if that is all right with you.”

“Of course.” She took a bite of the pie. “This is so good.”

“This is really good, Ma,” Remmie said after taking a few bites.

“It really is. Did you come up with this?” Adam asked Cara.

“No, Philip did. He volunteered to prepare supper tonight. He also offered to do the cooking for the next few days.”

Adam was glad to hear it. “That will give you a much-needed break.”

“Do you think I have looked tired the past few days?”

“Why no, I have thought you looked very happy and excited with all that has been going on.” Adam grinned, and the look in his eyes warmed her clear to her toes. “And beautiful.”

“You think my ma is beautiful?” Remmie asked.

Cara met Adam’s eyes and shook her head slightly.

Adam was careful how he answered. “Your ma is a very beautiful woman, Remmie. And since she has been saved, her beauty comes from the love of God within her heart.”

Remmie studied Cara’s face, but it was Charity who spoke.

“I think you are very beautiful, Mama.”

“Thank you, Charity,” Cara said gently. She finished the last couple of bites. “I am tempted to take another scoop. It was so good.”

They heard Hope’s cries from the bedroom. Cara brought her out into the dining room, where she looked around and beamed at everyone. Her eyes rested on Adam, and she wiggled as though she would jump out of Cara’s arms and into his.

Adam pushed back his plate. “I’ll take her.”

“I’ll get started with the dishes. Remmie can help me.”

Remmie looked like he was about to grumble, but Cara’s stern expression stopped his complaint.

As Cara started to pour water into the basin, Philip brought in his plate. “Oh, no, Cara. I don’t expect you to do the dishes tonight.”

“But you cooked.”

“I meant to give you the whole evening off from kitchen duty, and for the next few days.”

“I can’t let you do that.”

“You can, and I expect you to.” The look he gave her was as stern as the one she had given Remmie.

Just as Remmie had obeyed her, Cara didn’t refuse. “You are a blessing, Philip.”

“Ayla and I had a reason for giving you the Bible story book. We thought it would be a nice way for you to start a family altar with your children.”

Cara was not sure what that meant.

“We had that growing up,” Adam said. He had followed Philip into the kitchen. “Pa read from the Bible. Ma led in singing a hymn, which we all sang as we grew old enough and learned the words. Then Pa he would say a prayer.”

“That is what I am talking about,” Philip said. “It would be a very good habit for you to start.”

Cara hesitated. Philip did not know about the struggle she’d had in school. Even Adam did not know what a poor reader she was. And she had never prayed out loud.

“I know you are nervous about leading it, Cara. Now that Adam and you—” He glanced at the children, especially Remmie, who was listening with great interest. “Now that you and Adam have an agreement, I think it would be a good idea if he would lead it.”

“I don’t mind,” Adam said, “if Cara doesn’t.”

“It would be a relief for you to do it, as you are familiar with it,” Cara said. “And you are a better reader.

“Are you comfortable praying aloud, Adam?” Philip asked.

“Only in front of my family. As soon as John started school, we stopped reciting the grace that Cara and her children say. Then Pa made us take turns praying before meals. Even John, as young as he was, had to take his turn.” Adam chuckled. “In fact, I think John is the one that prays out loud the best.”

            “Then it would be a good time to start praying with your future—” Philip stopped abruptly as Cara shook her head. “With this family.”

Adam and Cara walked into the front room.

“What do you think about having a family altar, Cara?”

“I think it’s a lovely idea.”

            “And the Bible story book is a good idea, too. I remember how long it felt to sit and listen to the Scripture when Pa read, especially in the Old Testament.”

            Cara was aware that there were two parts in the Bible. Yet when Adam spoke, she realized how little she knew about the Bible and the things of the Lord.

            “I don’t know if there is room enough for all of us in here to sit comfortably,” Adam said, looking around the front room.

            Cara sat in one of the straight-backed chairs. “You go ahead and sit in the rocker,” she suggested. “Remmie can push the other chair up next to you, and he and Charity can share it.”

            “Where do I sit?” Rose asked, her hands on her hips.

            “On my lap,” Adam said. “Is that all right?”

            “On Adam’s lap.” Rose smiled happily and giggled when Adam lifted her onto his lap. “Read book?” she asked, touching the book as Adam opened it.

            Adam opened to the first story. It was the very beginning story of the Bible, about how God created the world and everything in it. The picture showed the sun in the corner, with rays coming down from it, and the earth in its shadow. There were stars in the dark sky. Adam showed the picture to the children, then started to read.

            Cara had started to read the Bible several times, beginning with the first book, Genesis, and she knew the story of creation well. But she had not heard it read in such simple terms that even the children, at least Remmie, and probably Charity, understood. She was almost sorry when the story was over.

            “Read another one,” Remmie begged.

            “I was only going to read one tonight,” Adam started to say. Looking at the hopeful faces surrounding him, his eyes met Cara’s. “Do you want me to read another one?”

            “It’s so cozy sitting here, and the stories are very easy to understand. I feel as the children do, I would like to hear another one.”

            The second story had a picture of a beautiful garden and in the center was a tree full of beautiful fruit. “The Garden of Eden,” Adam read the title. “This is a book about the first man and woman God created. They were named Adam and Eve.”

Remmie exclaimed, “That’s the same name as you!”

“Yes, it is. My ma picked it out for me because it was in the Bible, and she liked it.”

He read how Adam of the Bible and Eve, his wife, lived in the garden and walked with the Lord in the evenings. The words were almost like poetry, and then the story of the serpent came. Adam changed his voice when he read the words of the serpent, and the children giggled. The story was not funny, though, as they soon realized. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree that he had told them not to eat, they were punished and banished from the garden of Eden.

            “That’s not a happy story,” Remmie complained.

            “Oh, but it has a happy ending,” Adam said. “Do you remember what we talked about the day you were saved?”

            “Some of it,” Remmie admitted, embarrassed that he did not remember it all.

            “We talked about how we are all born sinners who need God’s salvation. This story is about the very first sin. Sin means to disobey God, and Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit that he told them not to eat. Later in this book, we will read about God’s plan to save us from our sins.”

            “I’m saved,” Remmie declared. He looked at Cara. “And Ma is saved now, too.”

            “Yes, Remmie. I am so glad I am.”

            “Charity and Rose are not.” Rose wasn’t listening. Charity looked like she was falling asleep.

            “They are too young to understand, but someday it is our hope that they will also accept God’s salvation.”

            “Then we will all be God’s family!” Remmie said excitedly.

            Adam and Cara exchanged smiles that showed how much they rejoiced in Remmie’s excitement. Would he be even more excited when they announced the changes that would come into their family sometime soon?

            “I think we will skip the hymn singing,” Adam said. “Until we can all sing them together. Now let us pray.”

            Cara was happy when all three of her children bowed their heads and closed their eyes, as she had taught them to do when they prayed at mealtime. Gran would have been happy that she had done that much. Now they would learn how to pray from Adam.

            “Our Heavenly Father,” Adam began in a clear, strong voice, “We thank You for Your gift of salvation. Thank You for the blessings you have given us this day, as we have celebrated Your gift with our family and friends. We pray that in the coming days, we will be guided by Your presence—”

            “Presents!” Rose shouted. “I want presents!”

            Adam choked and coughed and tried not to laugh. Cara was silently shaking with mirth.

Remmie was disgusted. “Not Christmas presents, Rose. God’s presence.”

            “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” Adam quickly finished. He did not dare to look at Cara or he would burst out laughing. Family altar was going to be quite interesting.

            Charity’s head dropped to her chest and Cara saw that she had fallen asleep. “Maybe we should have had family altar after I put them in their nightgowns,” Cara said.

            She gently shook Charity. “Charity, let’s go and get your nightgown on.” Charity got up and stumbled. “Come along, Rose. We’ll get you ready for bed.”

            Remmie took the lamp and started up the stairs.

Adam wasn’t sure if he should leave or stay. He wanted to stay. He hoped to have some private conversation with Cara. He stood near the fire, watching the flames.

            Cara walked back into the room after the children were in bed. She was not ready for Adam to leave. As much as she had enjoyed their family altar time, she wanted to spend some time alone with Adam.

 “Will you stay for coffee?”

“Glad you asked.” He winked at her, and she blushed.

 Philip walked past Cara holding a steaming cup. “Warm milk for Ayla. I think we will turn in now.”

 “Goodnight, then. Goodnight, Ayla,” Cara called, and heard Ayla’s cheery response.

 “See that you don’t tarry long, Adam,” Philip called out.

When Philip was gone, Adam walked towards Cara, and they met in the middle of the room.

“I feel like I’ve just been scolded by your pa,” Adam said.

Cara giggled. “I feel as giddy as a teenager tonight, so maybe he was wise.”

“Now about that coffee—”

She had forgotten she offered coffee. “I can make another pot.”

He leaned closer and grinned. “Do you really think I want coffee right now?”

Her mouth formed an “O” as she caught his meaning. Suddenly there was no laughter as he leaned down to kiss her.

It was hard to move away from Cara’s sweetness, but Adam dropped his arms to his sides and stepped back.

“Philip told me not to tarry, so I will go on down to the cabin now. I hope you have sweet dreams, Cara.”

Her heart was filled with joy. “My dream has already come true.”