Courage to Forgive Chapters 6 and 7


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

“Adam, you need to get up.”

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

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

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

“Who is it?”

“It’s the young doctor, Byford.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, no!”

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

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

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

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

“She will be devastated,” Dinah said tearfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May we come in?”

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

“Cara, it’s Doc.”

“Doc?” She looked very pale.

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

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

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

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

“Yes, it is. I’m sorry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How awful!”

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

“What will I do now?”

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

“I’m here for you, Cara,” Adam said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            She and Adam told the children at breakfast.

            “Doc passed away last night.”

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

            “It means Doc died, Remmie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “So do you.”

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

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

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

            “I don’t want Doc to die.”

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

            “Why, Mama?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

            “How are you doing?” he asked.

            “I’m getting by all right.”

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

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


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

            “How will Margaret feel about that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Sing for us, Adam,” Remmie said.

            “Adam sing!” Rose repeated excitedly.

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

            “Why not?”

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

            “Are you sad, Adam?”

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

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

            “Doc died,” Rose said solemnly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

            “I suppose not,” Cara murmured politely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please stay with me, dear.”

“I’m not sure I should.”

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

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

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

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

“Of course, I forgive you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How are you doing?”

Tears threatened to fall. Cara squared her shoulders back.

“I’m doing fine,” she lied.

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

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

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

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

“He was loved by everyone in the community.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I want the children here with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course she does.”

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

“Oh, Adam,” she cried softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you sure?”

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

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

“That’s how I feel,” Cara admitted.

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

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

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

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

“He’s that way with everyone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about?”

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

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

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

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

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

“All right, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s quiet in here.”

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

“No,” Rose said in protest.

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

“She’s been pretty good, considering.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And now that you have?”

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

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

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

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

“Yes, story.”

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

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

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

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

“I’ve gotten my strength back.”

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

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

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

“You’re asking for tea?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“Please stay,” she whispered.

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

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

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

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

Her face flushed with embarrassment. “I know.”

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

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

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

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

“I’ll be back in the morning.”


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

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

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

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

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

            “You didn’t get much sleep.”

            “No, I didn’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Of course.”

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

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

“Why, Ma?” Remmie wanted to know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Walker looked askance at Margaret.

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

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

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

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

Cara shook her head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t know all of this.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Byford excused himself and left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wasn’t sure.”

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

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

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

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

“For a visit?” she asked.

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

“Adam, what do you think?”

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

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

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

Cara felt her emotions were in a state of upheaval.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about our wedding?”

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

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

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

“Are you sure?”

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

“I’m sure.”

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

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

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

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

“How did your meeting go?” Dinah asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinah did not look surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because everyone else treated us so terribly?”

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

“He was the only one, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “With the children?” Diana was taken aback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you all right, Adam?”

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

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

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

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

“I thought people were kind to you.”

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

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

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

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

“So you’re escaping to the city?”

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

“And you can’t do that at the house?”

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

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

“That means a lot to me.”

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

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

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

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

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

Courage to Forgive Chapter Five


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know how we can afford it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “I’ve been praying about it.”

            “About Luke?”

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

            “And has the prayer helped?”

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

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

            “But his pa never did, right?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “Maybe he changed his mind,” Cara said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “I thought you came here to apologize.”

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

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

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

            “All right, then.”

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

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

            She looked surprised, and nervous. “Why?”

            “He said he wanted to apologize.”

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

            “You could have let him tell me himself.”

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

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

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

            “They’re pretty horses, Adam.”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doc had promised to give her away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage to Forgive Chapter 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.”