Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.
Part 4 can be found here.
Part 5 can be found here.
Part 6 can be found here.
Part 7 can be found here.
Part 8 can be found here.
Part 9 can be found here.
Part 10 can be found here.
Part 11 can be found here.
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Caleb knelt down to lay more wood in the fireplace. The late winter wind whistled around the corners of the house, making him glad for the heat of the fire.
At the sound of Toby’s voice, Caleb brushed his hands on his trouser legs and turned to the young boy, his heart swelling at the title he had been given by the children.
As Toby held out his hands, Caleb reached to draw the tiny body closer.
“Papa, is Mama going to be alright?”
Caleb nodded, taking in the three sets of questioning eyes that watched him from across the room.
He stood and moved to settle in the chair near the fireplace, holding out his arms to the four children.
“Come here, all of you.”
Toby and Julia climbed into his lap while Emily and Beth stood near his shoulders. He reached up and took each girl by the hand and motioned for them to take the hands of the younger two.
“Why don’t we say a prayer for Mama and the baby?” He waited while they settled, a small circle of love and hope, then bowed his head.
“Father, we come to you now to thank you for this family and for the love in this household. Thank you for each one of these precious little ones that you have bestowed into our care. We ask now Father that you will be with their Mama and with the tiny babe that will soon be joining us. We ask that you keep Your Hand on them, keep them safe and healthy and free from harm. We ask, Father, for your continued blessing on this family; but, as Jesus prayed Father, not our will but Thine be done. Amen.”
Still they hovered near his chair, drawing on his strength and calm.
If only they knew how terrified he was inside, Caleb thought with an inward grimace. He focused on the Lord, feeling His peace descend into his heart, and smiled reassuringly at the four scared faces watching him.
It was Beth’s face, and Emily’s that caught at his heart. The damage done to those poor souls still lingered in their eyes.
The nightmares had eased somewhat, but now they had an added fear of losing their Mama and it was written plainly on their beautiful faces.
“Mama is in God’s hands, and there is no better place for her to be.”
They stared, still struggling with the fear that filled them.
The sudden pounding on the door made them all jump. Caleb lifted Toby and Julia off his lap and moved to swing the door open, looking in surprise at the snow-covered sheriff.
“Tom!” Caleb glanced out into the yard, taking in the lone horse that stood with head bent against the winter wind. “Come in.”
Tom stepped gratefully into the warmth of the room and stood rubbing his gloved hands together. He took in the worried faces of the four that still stood hovered around Caleb’s chair.
“Will came into the office after he brought Henrietta out here. He told me about Lana and I decided to ride out and see if you needed anything.”
Caleb motioned to the pot of coffee that sat on the cook stove.
“Can I pour you a cup of coffee?”
Tom nodded and bent to remove his boots. Caleb settled the children at the table with milk and some of the sugar cookies that Henrietta had brought with her, and then poured two cups of the steaming coffee.
When the two men were settled near the fire, Tom looked first at Beth and then at Caleb.
“We finally heard from back east,” he said quietly. “Beth’s only relative, an aunt in Boston, is not capable of taking the girl. Her husband is ailing and she has her hands full with her own children. She sent signed papers giving you full custody.”
Caleb let out a sigh of relief, feeling the fear of losing the girl slide from his shoulders.
“Praise God.” He said quietly.
When the loud wail filled the silent room, he jumped and spun toward the hall. He strained to hear even the slightest sound, but the baby’s cry covered the quiet murmurs of Lana and the midwife.
The door opened a few minutes later and Henrietta came out, smiling at Caleb and motioning for him to come. He stood quickly and closed the small distance in record time.
The sight that met his eyes pulled a smile to his lips and tears from his eyes. Lana lay in the bed, gently cradling a tiny wrapped bundle. She looked at him, eyes tired but gleaming.
“Caleb, come meet your son.”
Caleb moved cautiously to kneel beside the bed, large hand going out to cover the tiny head that lay against Lana’s shoulder.
“A son. Then Josiah it is,” he said of the name they had chosen for a boy. He looked at the woman that he had loved for most of his life and grinned before reaching out to take the tiny bundle into his arms. “Hello Josiah.”
He looked back at Lana and settled on the edge of the bed.
“Our family has grown by two today.”
He watched the look that came into Lana’s eyes and smiled. “Beth’s aunt can’t take her and has sent papers to Tom giving us custody.” They grinned at each other. “She is ours now, Lana.”
Lana looked to where Henrietta was cleaning up the room.
“Henrietta, would you please ask the children to come in here?”
When the four had taken turns oohing and ahhing over the new addition, Caleb cleared his throat.
“We have other news, also, Beth.” When the dark eyes met his, he smiled nervously. “The Sheriff has gotten a letter from your aunt in Boston.”
Fear rose quickly in the gaze that watched his steadily and Lana reached out a hand to grip the shaking one that lay on the blankets.
“She said she is sorry but her husband is sick and she has children of her own to take care of. As much as she would like to, she just can’t take you right now.”
“What will happen to me then?”
The quiet question, filled with that fear that shouted from her eyes almost broke Caleb’s heart.
“Well, we want you to stay here with us. Would that be okay?”
The fear was shoved out by a joy that was almost palpable.
Lana nodded, tears running down her face. “Truly.”
Caleb reached out and drew Beth close.
“Do you know, Beth, I always wondered why God allowed what happened, and why he brought me all the way out here from Georgia.” He looked into her eyes. “I believe now it was so that we could find you and have you be part of our family.”
Beth lifted her arms and wrapped them around Caleb’s shoulders.
“May I call you Papa now, too?”
Caleb’s laugh caught on a sob.
“Yes, you may. If I am allowed to say you are my daughter.”
She nodded vigorously as they clung together, their tears of joy mingling on their cheeks.
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© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2012