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 The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One

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mcfair_58
New Pioneer
New Pioneer


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PostSubject: The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One   Sat Jul 02, 2016 8:53 pm

This fan fiction contains spoilers for the third season episode 'The Hunters'.  It is a follow-up to the special length episode and  focuses on the 'five days' mentioned by Laura in the voice-over near the end where she mentions that the doctor stayed with her pa until the fever was gone.  It also highlights Caroline Ingalls' reaction to the near week long period after the Sunday when Charles and Laura were due back.

Disclaimer: All characters from LHOTP belong to those who created them. This is a labor of love.  No profit is made by it.  

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The Day of Rest
‘The gods must clearly smile on hunting.’ Aristotle


SUNDAY
Caroline Quiner Ingalls let the curtain of the window beside the front door of their house fall back into place with a sigh.  It was late.  The animals were bedded down and the world outside was hushed.  Even the chickens were quiet.  Mary and Carrie were asleep together in Carrie’s bed.  

Hers was empty.

Today was the day that Isaiah was to have picked up Charles and Laura as he came back from his supply run.  They’d left early on Saturday and been due back around suppertime.  Caroline turned and looked at the table.  She’d set it for five.  She and Mary had spent most of the afternoon cooking some of Charles’ favorite foods.  She’d made sure his pipe was in place and the box that held his tobacco full.  She’d even laid his fiddle out.  She knew he’d be tired – most likely, too tired to play – but oh, how she had missed that music and the melody it wove into their lives.  She missed it and him and, even though it was a different ache, missed her little girl in her arms just as much.  

She’d scolded herself a hundred times since they’d left for letting Laura go.  After all, she was a girl and a little one at that.  That Charles!  He’d put her on the spot, turning Laura with her long, precious, winning face over to her.  At first she’d said ‘no’, but the child had worn her down using the same argument with her that she had with her pa that she was a ‘whole inch taller’ and a whole year older.

Caroline laughed.  She could still see that silly cap pulled up to a point on her child’s reddish hair.

That morning when they left Charles had kissed her and told her how happy he was to be taking Laura with him, and how much he looked forward to the time they would get to spend together.  His joy had been almost enough to wash away her fears.  

Almost.

Hunting was a necessary but dangerous thing to do, at least for Charles.  If they’d had more money they could have bought what they needed to get through the winter.  As it was, their meager larder had to be supplemented by a supply of meat that cost little more than the price of a cartridge of powder. Of course, she knew Charles enjoyed it.  He was a man whose feet had trouble gathering dust.  His soul longed for wide open spaces, trees, and endless land, though as a father and husband he had curbed that need and settled down to a house and a home and a community for their sake.

For her sake.  Laura would have gone with him to the ends of the earth.

“Ma?”

She turned to find Mary standing in the space between Carrie’s room and the common one.  “I’m sorry, Mary.  Did I wake you with my wandering?”

Her daughter came over to her and leaned against her, putting her arms around her waist.  “I can’t sleep either.  When are Pa and Laura coming home?”

Caroline put a hand on her child’s silken blonde hair and followed it with a kiss.  “Soon.”

“How come it wasn’t tonight?”

“Oh, Mister Edwards might have been late, or maybe they missed connecting.  I’m sure there’s a simple explanation and they’ll be home tomorrow morning.”  

“I sure hope so, Ma.”  Mary turned her head and looked at her sister.  “Carrie’s missin’ Pa.  She cried herself to sleep.”

Caroline drew a breath.  She was afraid she might do that too.

“Well, Mary, since you and I are up, why don’t we do something constructive to take our minds off your Pa and your sister?”

“You mean I don’t have to go to bed?”

Caroline leaned down and whispered conspiratorially, “I won’t tell your pa, if you don’t.  Promise.”

“What’ll we do?”

“Well, we made all of your pa’s favorite things.  Let’s make some of Laura’s, all right?”

“You mean cook?  Now?”

She shrugged.  “Why not?”  As she gave Mary a little squeeze, she added, “Maybe we’ll make something for Mister Edwards too.”



MONDAY

Isaiah Edwards ran a hand over his grizzled face.  It was nigh onto mornin’ and he was still awake, thinkin’ back over the last few days.  The cabin belongin’ to Ben and Sam Shelby was quiet except for the sound of Charles’ labored breathin’.  Even though the Doc had patched him up, his friend was still fevered.  He felt a little guilty for tellin’ Laura earlier when Charles woke up that her pa was gonna be ‘all right’.  Nothin’ was certain yet.  The Doc had stopped the bleedin’, but that wasn’t the only thing wrong.  Charles had laid out in the crick for hours.

The mountain man shuddered.  He could still see him lyin’ there, face down in the water.

He’d been afeared his friend was dead.

As he rushed over to him and lifted him out of the water, he’d had a flash of him that first day back in Kansas, when Charles had come ridin’ over the hill.  He’d been excited that he had a neighbor and Charles had seemed a real nice feller.  And though it had taken Caroline a while to cotton to him, when he’d come over that rise and seen those three little girls, well, his heart had nigh onto broke.  It had reminded him, of course, of his own what he had loved and lost.

He’d never forget that feelin’ – liftin’ someone who was dead weight in your arms.

Just like Charles had been.

He’d carried the sick man to the shore and been standin’ over him, drippin’ wet, when he heard that little voice he knew so well.  He’d braced himself.  There wasn’t nothin’ to do but to bear it.  Half-pint had come over the hill and stopped dead at the sight of her father layin’ there, silent and cold.  The Doc had shown up a few minutes later and together they had carried Charles back to Sam Shelby’s and laid him on the bed by the door where the light was best.  Laura had followed, not sayin’ nothin’.  She’d been pale as paste, that one.  When the Doc began to examine her pa, he’d taken her by the shoulders and walked her away to where the blind man, Sam Shelby, was sittin’.  While the doctor worked, he looked her way every now and agin.  Once Laura’d been prayin’.  Another time walkin’ the floor.  Finally, she fell asleep, exhausted.

He’d fallen asleep too, and been afeared when he woke up what he’d find.  Charles had asked for food, but that had turned out to be a false hope.  The Doc said they had to watch that fever.  There was no tellin’ whether somethin’ foreign had gotten in the wound before he’d been able to close it.

Only time would tell.

Unable to keep his seat any longer, Isaiah stood up and walked over to where Charles lay.  He was still in the bed by the door though the Doc had said they’d try to move him later in the day to the other one so’s he’d be more comfortable.  He wasn’t much of one for prayin’, but since he’d married Grace and been back to church, he sometimes talked to the Lord.  He’d need to do that soon.  It wasn’t Charles he was thinkin’ about now, but that there stubborn wife of his and his other girls.  They’d been due back today.  Caroline had to be wonderin’.  Of course, Grace would be wonderin’ too about him.  Once Charles was in the clear he’d ride back to the town where he’d fetched the Doc and send a wire to them both.  Though it would be a puzzlement what to say.  Maybe somethin’ encouraging, but with room left for....  He looked at Charles, lying there so still, with a sheen of sweat showin’ that the fever was still ragin’.

With room left for anythin’ that happened.

***

In the end she and Mary ended up falling asleep in the bed she shared with Charles.  Mary was missing her sister as much as she missed her husband.  After all, the girls had shared a bed most all of their lives and it was just as hard for her to reach over and find the space next to hers empty.

Caroline woke up before her children and went about her early morning duties, checking the bread she had prepped the night before, and then heading out to make sure the animals were watered and fed.  She stood for some time looking down the road in the direction Charles and Laura had gone, hoping against hope that the wagon would appear any minute.  She could just see Charles beaming from ear to ear, showing off the fresh kill he had made, and Laura – so full of stories of their adventures – looking up at her pa with pride.  And so she waited until the door to the house opened and Carrie and Mary stepped outside hand in hand.  When she saw them she was struck by a twinge of guilt.  She had been thinking of herself and forgotten how her children would feel when they woke up and found Ma missing too.  

Carrie ran over to her and hugged her like there was no tomorrow.

Mary stopped beside her and looked down the road.  “Any sign of them, Ma?”

She stood with her youngest in her arms. “No.  Not yet.  But then it’s early.  They probably camped somewhere overnight.   I wouldn’t expect them before noon.”   Caroline drew a breath and brought a smile to her lips.  “Now, come on you two, the day doesn’t wait on waiting women.  We have a lot to do.”

***

Laura stood in the shadows watching Mister Edwards and Doc Canby move her pa back into Mister Shelby’s bed.  They’d taken the sheets that had been on it and put them outside.  She’d stood there looking at them earlier – looking at the blood on them.  Even if those sheets were washed a thousand thousand times there was nothing that would take that picture out of her head.  Just like she’d never forget that other picture – the one of her pa laying by the side of the creek, bleeding to death, because she knocked over his gun.

Bleeding, because of her.

None of the grown-ups understood.  They all kept telling her it wasn’t her fault.  Even her pa had done that, though she realized now he’d been afraid he was going to die and he didn’t want her to blame herself, so he’d lied.  Pa knew the truth, just like she knew the truth – she’d done wrong and it had almost got her pa killed.

Laura pressed back against the log wall as Mister Edwards turned her way.  She wanted to be small as a mouse so no one would see her.  When her pa woke up, she’d hugged him hard.  She’d thought he was all right and they’d start for home that day.  But then the fever had gotten worse and he’d grown still and quiet again.  The Doctor would sit with him for a while and then stand up, letting out a sigh.  It had been that way all through the night and it was that way now.  Doc Canby was holding her pa’s wrist like Doc Baker did to her when she was sick.  He was counting the beats of Pa’s heart.  If he sighed again, she would know something was wrong.  She’d know Pa was sick and getting sicker.  She’d know....

Know that she’d killed him.

Laura felt fear pinch her face, screwing it up, making it ready to cry.  How could she tell Ma?  She couldn’t tell Ma.  If something – if anything happened to Pa, well, she couldn’t go home again either.  Not ever.  Ma would hate her and so would Carrie and Mary.  Her eyes went to her pa where he laid so still.  Pas shouldn’t look like that.  They were too strong.  She’d always thought nothing could stop her pa.  That there was nothing could stop him grinning and playing his fiddle and lifting her up into his arms and kissing her on the cheek.  Nothing.

Nothing but her.

A hand fell on her head.  She jumped.  Looking up, she saw it was Mister Edwards.

“Your pa’s askin’ for you, Laura.”

She was breathing hard.  Like she’d run a long race against Nellie Oleson.  “Do I haf’to?”

Mister Edwards’ face looked mighty funny.  He didn’t understand.  She knew what Pa would say.  He’d tell her it wasn’t her fault, that he’d left the gun loaded and that he was going to be okay.  She’d never thought she’d hear her pa tell a lie, but that was all it was – a lie.  Maybe he was out of his head since he was sick.  She didn’t know.  

“Laura, you don’t have to be scared.  Your pa’s gonna be okay.”

That was another lie.  Mister Edwards was lying too.  “You don’t know that,” she said quietly.

Her pa’s friend knelt in front of her and took her by the arms.  “What’s got into you, child?  You heard the doctor.”

His lips were fibbing, but Mister Edwards eyes were telling the truth.  Pa wasn’t gonna make it.  He wasn’t.  He was going to die.

“Now, you come on, Laura.  Don’t keep your pa waiting.”

Laura drew a deep breath.  She wasn’t going to get out of it.  She’d have to do it and then, then she could run away.
Stiffly, she walked to her pa’s side.  When she got there, his eyes were closed.  He was breathing hard and his skin was gleaming with sweat.  Laura hesitated and then, knowing it was the last time she would do it, reached out and touched his face.

“Pa....”

His eyes opened and his head shifted slightly so he could look at her.  A slow smile spread across his lips.  “Hey, there, Half-pint.  How’s my girl doin’?”

She could lie too.  “I’m fine, Pa.”

His eyes went past her to Mister Edwards and then returned.  “Now, you aren’t still blamin’ yourself for this, are you?”

She shook her head.  “No, sir.”

He reached out and caught hold of the end of her braid.  “Are you tellin’ me the truth?”

Laura nodded.  “Sure thing, Pa.”

Her father’s eyes closed again and then opened slowly.  “I’m kinda worried about you.”

“There’s no need, Pa,” she said, putting on a bright smile.  “I’m right as rain.”

His hand fell to her wrist.  She almost jumped his skin was so hot.  “Now, Half-pint, you listen to me, the Good Lord has...a reason for everything that happens.  He doesn’t look down and say, ‘Look at what that...Laura Ingalls did.  How’d I miss that?”  He paused, and when he spoke again, his was breathing came harder.  “Don’t you go second-guessing God.”

Her voice was very quiet.  “No, sir.”

At that moment Doc Canby appeared at her elbow.  He glanced at Mister Edwards and then placed a hand on her head.  “Child, I think your pa’s tired.  It’s best if we let him sleep.  You can talk to him in the morning.”

She rose and looked down at her pa.  His hand was still holding hers.  Knowing it was the last time she would ever do it, she leaned over and kissed his curly brown hair and then, laying his hand on the cover, walked away.

Sam Shelby was standing by the door.  He’d been out working in the yard with his son and had just returned.  The blind man must have heard her coming for he reached out toward her and waited until she came and took his hand.

“Your pa will be better tomorrow, child,” he said.  “Fever’s a sure sign that a man’s alive.  His body’s fighting hard to survive.  Don’t you let it scare you none.”

“I won’t Mister Shelby.”

“That’s good, child.  Now you get yourself off to bed.”

Laura did as she was told.  She went to the place Mister Shelby had fixed for her to sleep by the fire and laid down.  She’d wait for all of them to fall asleep and then she’d tiptoe to the door and let herself out.  Even if Pa survived, he really didn’t mean it that she wasn’t to blame.  Besides, she’d shot him and nothing would change that.  Ma wouldn’t want to look at her.

There was nothing to do but go away.

***

A knock on the door startled her.  For a moment Caroline thought it was Charles but then she realized how silly that was – why would a man knock at his own front door?  She’d just tucked Carrie in and Mary was sitting by the fire working on a new shirt for her pa.  She smiled at her as she crossed over to the door and opened it.

It was Grace Edwards.

“Grace, what a surprise!  Come on in.”

The other woman smiled a tight smile as she stepped over the threshold.  “Thank you, Caroline.  I hope you don’t mind my dropping by so late.”

“Oh, no.  you’re welcome any time.”  She reached up and fussed with the pins in her hair as was her habit when nervous.  “What brings you here?”

“Well, I was working late at the post office and I just thought, well....  Have you heard anything from Charles?”

She shook her head.  “I’m sorry, no.”  Caroline ducked her head and winced.  “I was hoping maybe you had heard from Isaiah?”

“Not a word.  Frankly, Caroline, I’m getting worried.”

“Oh, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.  You know men.  They probably decided to hunt for another day or two and didn’t give a thought to the fact that we’d be concerned.”

Grace sighed.  “I suppose you’re right.”

“Of course, I’m right!  You know those two.”

“But you’d think with Laura with them....”

She’d had that thought and dismissed it – with great difficulty.

“Laura is having the time of her life, I’m sure.”

Mary had laid down her sewing and came up beside her.  “What’s wrong, Ma?”

Grace answered.  “Nothing at all, Mary.  I was just wondering if your mother had heard from your pa.  Like she said, he and Isaiah probably decided to hunt another day or two.  I’m sure we’ll see them soon.”

“Well, Charles has to work on Wednesday at Hansen’s, so he’ll have to be back by then.”

“There, you see,” Grace was addressing Mary.  “They know they have until Wednesday.  I’m sure we’ll see them by tomorrow night.  Well, I’d best be on my way.  The children will be wondering where I am.”

“I’ll see you at meeting Wednesday night if not before, Grace,” Caroline called as the other woman stepped up into her wagon.

“See you then, Caroline!”

As Grace Edwards pulled away Caroline fought the sense she had of falling, of being pulled down into a pit of darkness.  She knew it would do her no good to worry, and that worrying was a way of telling the Lord you thought He didn’t know what he was about.  As she stood there, fighting for control, she felt Mary slip her hand into hers.

“Do you think something’s happened to Pa and Laura, Ma?” she asked.

“Of course not.”  Worrying would also do her children no good.  “Now come back inside and we’ll finish what we were doing and then it will be time for bed.”

***

Several hours later Caroline put her feet on the floor and rose out of the bed, leaving Mary behind.  She walked over to the window and stared out and then went to sit in the rocking chair by the fire.  Picking up her Bible she read several passages and then rested the open book in her lap.  One in particular had stood out.  It was in James.  

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.’  

Closing the book, Caroline rose and went back to her bed.  She gazed on her sleeping child for a moment – this living, breathing proof of her love for her husband – and then knelt beside the bed and linked her hands.

“It’s hard, Lord,” she admitted, “believing without seeing.  I want to see them safe with my own eyes.  But...but I know you see them both where they are – whatever they are doing and whatever circumstances they are in – and that Charles and Laura are far more precious to you than they are to me.”  Caroline drew a breath and her fingers clenched even more tightly together.

“Dear Lord, keep them safe and bring them home.”



TUESDAY      

Charles Ingalls eyes were closed.  He listened to the movements of those around him.  At first he didn’t know who they were or where he was, but slowly memory bled back in and he recalled what had happened.  He and Laura had gone hunting.  He had heard a movement in the brush and followed it only to find a doe, pretty as a picture, instead of the buck he was hoping for.  He’d gone back to the camp and leaned his rifle against a tree, forgetting that it was loaded – not checking if it was set for safety.  He’d been looking at Laura and then smiling up at her, telling her she was the best luck he ever had when the world had gone into slow motion.  He’d seen her fling the bed roll, seen it brush the gun, realized it was going to fall and that he was in the path of the bullet and tried to dive out of the way.  That was why the bullet took him in the side, passing all the way through.  That was the reason he was alive.

That, and it wasn’t his time.

At first his only thought had been that Laura not see him die.  Of course, that had been foolishness at best.  What difference would it have made when the child blamed herself anyway?  Whether she saw him die or was off catching the horse when it happened, she would still have carried a burden of guilt larger than any he could imagine. That was why he had fought so hard to live and was fighting still.  Half-pint had a way of beating herself up, of taking more on her shoulders than her little bones could support.  He’d seen it happen more times than he cared to count.  Laura felt things deeply.  In that, she was probably more like him than her ma.  And she took on burdens that weren’t hers to bear.

Caroline would have laid that at his feet as well.

He’d tried to talk to her that first day, before she left with Sam Shelby, and last night before he fell asleep.  He could see it in her eyes.  She thought she’d fooled him, but she hadn’t.  She hadn’t let it go.  She blamed herself and, knowing Half-pint, she probably thought everyone else blamed her too.  He needed to talk to her again.  She’d fight him, but she’d listen in the end.  He needed to find her, find where she was....

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.”  Isaiah Edwards’ voice sounded even as his friend’s rough hands closed on his arms.  “Now just where do you think you’re goin’?”

His eyes opened and focused on the grizzled face hanging over him.  “I have to...talk to Laura...”

“Half-pint’s out huntin’ raspberries with Ben.  She’ll be back in a bit.”  Isaiah pressed him back against the ticking.  “You need to rest.”

Charles frowned.  “Pickin’ raspberries?  What time...is it?”

“‘Bout halfway through the day.  The Doc gave you somethin’ to make you sleep last night.”  Isaiah smiled as he pulled a flask out of his hip pocket and wagged it before him.  “I told him I coulda taken care of that if he’d let me.”

The flask triggered a memory.  ‘My pa doesn’t take spirits,’ Laura had told the blind man.  Shelby had given it to him anyway.  It had burned like Hellfire.

“I’ll never understand...why a man would want to...burn out his innards,” he said in reply.

“It don’t burn ‘em.  After a while, it just makes ‘em kind of numb.”

Charles laughed and then coughed.  It rattled his body and made his wound throb.

As his hand went to his side, Isaiah said, “Sorry ‘bout that, Charles.  I’ll remember me to mind my words better.”

“Isaiah,” he said, catching hold of the other man’s arm.  “Bring Laura here.  I want to talk to her.”

“Well, I ain’t exactly sure where Ben and Half-pint have gone.”

“I need to talk to her.  She’s still blamin’ herself.”

“That ain’t true, Charles.  I talked to the child myself.”

His fingers tightened on the other man’s arm.  “She’s lyin’ to you.”

“Half-pint?”

He nodded.  “I know her.  She’s...a lot like me.  Way down deep she’s hurtin’, but she won’t tell anybody.  She’ll pretend everything...is okay.  Edwards, I need to know Laura’s all right.”

“Okay.  Okay.  Don’t you go upsetting yourself or the Doc will have my head.”  His friend rose.  “I’ll go see if I can find her.”

“Thanks,” Charles breathed and then closed his eyes.  “I’ll just rest until...you get...back.”

***

It was Tuesday morning and she’d promised herself she wouldn’t worry until Wednesday morning, so Caroline bundled up the children and took them to town to run errands including going to the Oleson’s store for flour and a few other things.  She had her egg money so she could pay up front.  It galled her to have to ask for credit.  She’d made her mind up a long time ago that unless it was something they absolutely had to have – like medicine or maybe new shoes – that she would not ask Harriet Oleson for anything.  She was too Christian to say out loud what she thought of the woman, though she’d thought it often enough.
 
She was a witch.

Lord forgive her for thinking it!

“Well, Mrs. Ingalls, and how are you and your..lovely children today?”  Harriet looked down her nose at Mary and Carrie as usual.  “Oh, that’s right.  Nellie told me you let Laura go hunting with her father.  I’d never let Nellie do such a thing, of course, but then, your little ones are used to living in the rough.”

She didn’t miss the insult.  But she did ignore it.

“I’ve come to get some flour, Mrs. Oleson, and the other things on this list.”

Harriet took it.  She put her glasses on her nose and read it with a sniff.  Looking over the rims, she asked, “Do you have enough cash for all of this?”

“I have my egg money.  It should do.”

“Well, I guess.  Nothing here seems to be of high quality....”  With that, the unfortunate woman moved behind the counter and began to gather the items she’d requested.

“Good morning, Mrs. Ingalls.  Charles not with you?” Nels Oleson asked as he came in from the storeroom.

“Don’t you remember, Nels?  Charles went hunting with Laura.”  The disapproval was evident in Harriet’s tone.  “Now, you’d never do that with your daughter, would you?  Hunting’s not for girls who want to grow into the proper sort of women.”

Nels favored Caroline with a look that told her precisely what he thought of taking his daughter anywhere.  “She’d probably shoot me by accident,” he said under his breath as he moved behind the counter.

“I mean,” Harriet continued as she approached, holding a bag with her goods, “I don’t know what I think of a man who would override his wife’s wishes and take a child like that out into the wilderness.  Why, anything could happen.”

“Charles didn’t ‘override’ my wishes,” Caroline snapped, close to losing her temper.  “He asked me and it was my decision.”

“Oh!”  Harriet’s free hand went to the breast of her gown.  “Forgive me!  I thought...well...I suppose you know best, my dear.”

Caroline snatched the bag of goods out of her hand.  “I certainly do!  Now, what do I owe you?”

Once they had settled, she took Mary and Carrie in hand and marched them out the door.

“That woman!”

“Don’t let her get to you, Ma,” Mary said.  “If that old Nellie Oleson is a ‘proper sort of woman’ I don’t want any part of it.  Laura wouldn’t either.”

“Mary.  Mind what you say.  Just because Mrs. Oleson is a hateful, spiteful old....”  She stopped herself.  “Just because you don’t like Nellie or her mother is no reason to say that.  There are good things about them both – ”

“Name one.”

Caroline looked at her daughter and then burst into laughter.  “I can’t!”

“Ma, look, there’s Mrs. Edwards.”

“Maybe she’s heard from your father or Isaiah.”

She took her girls’ hands and walked them forward to meet Isaiah’s wife. “Grace, any word?”

The other woman shook her head.  “You say Charles has to be back tomorrow?”

“Yes.  Hansen has a large order and one of the other men is gone, so he needs Charles to work overtime.  Say, is Isaiah helping?”

“No, he has another run to make.  That’s part of what’s troubling me.  I just got a wire from the man waiting for him in Sleepy Eye, asking when he’s going to come.  I didn’t know what to answer.”

“Well, I’m sure I don’t know what to tell you.”  Caroline frowned.  It wasn’t like Charles to make her worry.  She was beginning to think something must have happened – maybe the wagon had broken down or the horse injured a leg.  Something that had slowed down the journey home.

Grace reached out and took hold of her arm.  “I’m sure we’ll see them tomorrow, or at least hear something.”

Caroline nodded.  “Yes, I’m sure you’re right.”  Turning to her daughters, she said, “Mary, Carrie, it’s time we were getting home.”

***

Ben was nice to be around.  He was quiet and didn’t say much.  He wasn’t always telling her that she had to stop blaming herself or that she wasn’t responsible for what happened.  He just worked alongside her or, like now, sat beside her munching on raspberries warmed by the sun.  It was early autumn and the leaves were just beginning to turn from green to gold.  The days were hot and the nights were getting chilly.  They’d been looking for berries since about noon and both of them were tired.  

“You ready to head back?” Ben asked as he popped another red berry in his mouth.

She shook her head.  “Not yet.”

“Well,” he said, shifting back so he laid in the grass, “I’m kinda worried about my pa, so I can’t be gone too long.”

“How come you’re worried about your pa?” she asked, doing the same.

“You haven’t known my pa for long, Laura.  Fact is, he keeps most everything he’s feelin’ inside.  You know, all bottled up.”

“He is kinda quiet,” she agreed.

“That’s Pa.  You know, if somethin’ is troublin’ him, he’ll just up and close his mouth tight as a clam.  Sometimes it’s days before I can get out of him what’s wrong.”  Ben’s eyes were closed.  He opened one and looked at her.  “You know anyone like that?”

She shook her head.  “No, sir.”

“Just Ben, Laura.  Call me Ben.”  He paused.  “So your pa’s not like mine?”

“I don’t think so.  Pa’s pretty clear about what he’s thinkin’.  Ma says he wears his ‘heart on his sleeve’ most of the time.”

“I’m kinda like my pa.  Are you?”

The question hung in the air.  She loved her pa so deeply.  Her ma had always said they were a lot alike.  But then that meant that her pa was like her and that he could make mistakes that could hurt her and her mother and sisters and she knew that wasn’t right.

“Pa ain’t like me,” she said quietly.

“I didn’t ask if he was like you, but if you was like him.”

She didn’t see the difference and she said so.  

Ben’s eyes remained closed.  “Seems to me your pa’s a special kind of man.  After all, he brought you huntin’ with him, didn’t he?  Seems to me that shows a kind of man who thinks of others before he thinks of himself.  Are you like that, Laura?”

She chewed her lip.  “I don’t know.”

Ben rolled over on one elbow and looked at her.   “Say one of your sisters – you got two, right?”

“Carrie and Mary.”

“Well, say one of them was to up and run away ‘cause of somethin’ they thought they’d done wrong – maybe somethin’ they’d done to make your Pa mad.  What do you think he’d think?  Do you think he’d blame himself?”

She shook her head.  “That wouldn’t be right.”

“Say one of them got hurt while they was runnin’ away.  Would that be your Pa’s fault?”

“Of course not, that’d be....”  Laura swallowed.  “Silly.”

Ben shook his head and laid back again.  “I don’t know.  Seems to me that your Pa would be at fault.  They wouldn’t have run away if he hadn’t got mad.”  He paused, and when she said nothin’, turned toward her again.  “Ain’t that right?”

“If you’re sayin’ that me blaming myself for shooting Pa is like Pa blaming himself for Mary and Carrie running away, it ain’t the same.”

“How come?”

“Well....”  

She didn’t know exactly.  She remembered her pa talking about winding things up and then letting them unroll as you traveled in the woods so you could go back.  It was like that.  The problem was the way she felt just wouldn’t un-roll.  

“I don’t know,” she said at last.  “It just ain’t.”

Ben nodded.  Then he put his hat over his face.  “That’s as it may be then.  Now, I think I’ll just take me a little nap before we head back to the cabin.  Don’t you stray too far.”

“I won’t,” she promised.

And for the moment, meant it.

***

Another day was ending and still no sign of Charles and Laura.  Tonight Mary and Carrie had fallen asleep in her bed after playing checkers on the cover and she had left them there.  It was too big, too empty for her.  She laid there at night, wide-eyed, thinking.  What if something had happened?

What if they never came back?

Caroline’s hand went to her mouth.  She knew worry was a sin.  She believed what the Bible said, that God knew every hair on Charles’ and Laura’s heads and that nothing could happen to them that He didn’t permit or allow.  Still, she had found over the years that that knowledge did nothing to stop the grief and heartache that came from people getting ill, or having terrible accidents, or...dying.  The blond woman drew a sharp breath.

The Good Lord giveth and the Good Lord taketh away.

How many young widows did she know?  How many bereft parents?  How many did she go out of her way to visit and take a cup of cheer to, hoping to lift their wounded spirits?  She’d sit and take a spot of tea and look into the faces of the lonely wives and their grieving children, all too aware that there was a part of them missing that would never be found.  Caroline sucked in a breath and stifled a sob.  She’d already known that grief once with Freddie.

Could she live through it again?

Crossing over to her chair, she moved the shirt Mary had left there.  After pausing for a moment to run her fingers along it, thinking again of the man and the child she missed so much, she laid it down and lifted up her Bible and turned to one of her favorite passages.  It was found in Romans.  

‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’

Caroline hugged the precious book to her chest, rose and walked back to the window, and stood looking out until the night turned into the new day.
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PostSubject: The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One Two   Sat Jul 02, 2016 8:54 pm

WEDNESDAY

Isaiah Edwards stood running his fingers around his hat and lookin’ down at his friend.  After a moment he sighed and then took a seat in the chair by the bed.  Charles was sleepin’ the sleep of the sick, murmuring and tossin’ every now and then from side to side.  He reached out and touched his forehead.  The fever was high.  Doc Canby had told him the night before that today would most likely be the one where it broke or got worse.  If it broke, it wouldn’t go away right off the bat, but it meant Charles was well on his way to recovery.  If it didn’t and it went higher – well, that meant there had been somethin’ got into the wound, either when he fell or from bein’ in the water.  Somethin’ that was workin’ to kill his friend.

Isaiah leaned back and ran a hand over his face.  He glanced at Laura where she sat at the Shelby’s table.  The old man and his son had gone out early to take a walk and talk.  They’d be working the lines soon as he was able to take Charles home, and Ben was showing – so to speak – his pa the ropes again to refresh them things that he knew but might have forgot.  He felt sorry for Half-pint.  She was bearing a terrible burden too heavy for a child.  He noticed that she’d been avoidin’ him since that first day when her pa woke up.  He needed to find time to talk to her alone, where her pa couldn’t hear.

Maybe later today when he got back.

As he sat there, thinkin’, the Doc came over.  The man looked tired, but then he’d been on call for more than four days, and was the kind of a man who put his patient’s need before his own.  Canby was a quiet, solid kind of man.  Kind of reminded him of Doc Baker back home.

The Doc’s trained fingers sought Charles’ wrist.  He held his watch out and counted the beats and then closed it and moved his hand to the sleepin’ man’s forehead.  Canby frowned and shook his head.  Then he seemed to come to himself and realize someone was watchin’.

“Is it bad, Doc?”

He shrugged.  “Yes, but it’s not unexpected.  The fever has to run its course.  It’s his body trying to heal.”  The Doc glanced Laura’s way and then lowered his voice as he finished.  “It was close, and he’s still not completely out of danger.”

Isaiah nodded.  He thought he’d growed acceptin’ about that kind of thing.  But that was before he met Charles Ingalls who wouldn’t let him stay where he was, thinkin’ the Lord hated him and pushin’ everyone away, livin’ his life like nothin’ and no one mattered.  

Of course, then he’d been numb.  Now he was feelin’ pain.

“How soon will we know?”

Canby ran a hand over his eyes and then looked at him.  “Today.  Tonight.  It’s hard to tell.”

The mountain man sighed.  “I s’pose it ain’t a good day for me to run to the town I brought you from?”

“Are you thinking of doing so?”

“Yep.  I’ve been thinkin’.  We got us two women and four children back in Walnut Grove, probably worried sick.  I need to get word to them.”

Canby glanced at Charles.  “And what are you going to tell them?”

He’d thought about that – thought about what was too much to say, and what was too little.  Isaiah pursed his lips and shook his head.  “I ain’t rightly sure, Doc.”

“Perhaps a note saying only that you’ve been delayed would be best until we...know for certain.”

He nodded again.  “My thoughts exactly.”

***

It was morning.  Carrie was still sleeping and Mary was getting ready to go to school.  Caroline Ingalls was about her business.  Taking care of a house and farm and two children left a woman little time for worry.  

Too much, but little time.

As she pressed her knuckles into the mound of dough she was working on, she glanced at Mary who was getting ready to head to school.  Since it was harvest time, the children had been off for a few days. That was part of the reason she had let Laura go with her pa.  Now, it was time for lessons to begin again and her precious little child was still not home.  Mary looked so forlorn, tying up her books and getting ready to leave for the schoolhouse alone.  She’d thought about walking with her, but there were simply too many chores.  She’d told her she would meet her after school.  Hopefully with her Pa and Laura.

They were four days overdue now.  Charles had been due at Hansen’s mill today.

He hadn’t showed.

Wiping her hands on her apron, Caroline walked over to her child and straightened an errant lock of hair that was coming out of her barrette.  

“Are you almost ready?”

Mary hung her head.  “I don’t want to go, Ma.  I want to stay here in case – in case Pa and Laura come back.”

She drew her child to herself in a hug.  “And I want you to stay, but, well....”  She pulled back and looked at her.  “If you stay and all you and I do is sit here together and worry, well then, I think the worrying would be twice as bad.”  She paused.  “If you know what I mean.”

Mary glanced up at her.  There were unspent tears in her eyes.  “I...guess so.”

Caroline drew her daughter over to the table.  “Mary, sit down.”  When she complied, she went on.  “Do you know that you have a choice to make?”

She shook her head.   “What choice?”

“Life is very uncertain,” she began as she took hold of her child’s hands.  “Every day when someone we love walks out of a door and out of our sight, we have to trust – trust that God will watch over them and they’ll come back.”  She drew a breath and said it as much for herself as Mary.  “I’m afraid there are no guarantees.”

“So what’s the choice?”

“You either choose to believe what the Good Book says, or not to.  To believe that everything – good or bad – is in God’s hands and He doesn’t make mistakes, or that He’s out of control.”  She smiled.  “Oh, I know you’ve gone to Sunday school and service since we’ve been here, and your pa and I have taught you right.  But the choice to trust in the end, Mary, is up to you.”

Her daughter was silent a moment.  “Is that what you believe, Ma?  Really?  I mean, if Mister Edwards came in that door and told you pa and Laura, or even one of them, was...dead....  Would you still believe it?”

Her fingers gripped her child’s tightly.  “Yes.”

Mary looked down.  “I’m not sure I’m that strong, Ma.”

Caroline laughed. “Oh, Mary, I’m not that strong either.  God is.”  She paused.  Mary was young, but then she was also engaged and would be facing adult decisions soon.  “You remember when your brother died....  Well, for a minute – for just a few heartbeats – I forgot to believe it.  I thought God had forgotten me.  Forgotten all of us.  That somehow he missed the fact that our little boy was sick and needed Him.”  She paused to compose herself.  “It took your pa to remind me.  He’d wanted a boy so badly and yet there he was, trusting in God’s will and trying to comfort me.”

Mary smiled. “That’s Pa.”

That brought a little stab of pain and doubt, but she pushed it away.  “You know what we did?” she asked.

Her child shook her head.

“We prayed.  Now, before you go off to school, why don’t you and I do that too?  We’ll ask God to keep your pa and Laura safe, wherever they are, and to bring them home soon as He can.”

Mary squeezed her hand and then released it and put both of hers together.

Bowing their heads, they asked the Maker of Charles and Laura for grace.

***

Laura was sitting at Mister Shelby’s table.  Mister Edwards had gone and she was alone in the cabin with Doc Canby and her pa.  The Doc had laid down on the bed by the window where he had operated on her pa and fallen asleep.  He sure was a nice man – just like Doc Baker – even if he was quieter and didn’t smile quite as much.  The late afternoon light was streaming in the open door of the cabin.  Ben and his pa were due back any time.
 
If she was going to do it, she had to do it now.

Pa would be all right with the Doc here.  He’d take care of him and see he got home.  Ma would be so happy to see him and to know he was all right.  Laura stopped as another vision came before her eyes – her ma, hearing for the first time that she shot him, that look of love turning to one of blame and hate. It was like when her brother died.  Even though Pa had come and got her, it had been her fault.  He told her it wasn’t, but deep down inside she knew now – after what had happened – that what Mister Edwards said was true.

She was plain and simple bad luck.

Rising, Laura walked over to her pa and stood by his bed looking down.  She shook her head.  You shouldn’t look down at your pa.  Pas should always be taller and stronger and braver than anyone else.  She should be looking up at him like she’d always done since she was born and old enough to know.  He should be laughing and swinging her around and putting her on his shoulders, not laying in a bed all quiet and weak.

No way around it.  It was her fault and her family would be better off without her.

Laura stood for a moment more thinking, and then she sat on the bed beside her pa.  The covers were down and he didn’t have a shirt on.  Down near his waist she could see the bandage.  There was a single little spot of blood.  Careful to avoid it, she gently laid her body on his and gave him a hug.

A moment later she felt his hand on her back.

“Hey...Half-pint....”

“I’m sorry, Pa,” she said, sitting up.  “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“That’s all right.”  His fevered eyes strayed to the door.  “Looks like...half the day’s gone.”

She nodded.  “More than half.  The sun’s almost down.”

Her father’s eyes closed and then opened again...slowly.  “I...bet your Ma’s sittin’ by the fire...readin’.”

“I bet so,” she agreed.

He raised a hand and she caught it.  Looking at that hand – that strong right hand – she wondered now if she would ever be able to see it again in her head without it being covered in blood.  

Even though she was holding it, her pa reached up and touched her cheek.  He pushed a bit as he said it.  “Why don’t you...go get her.  I’d like...to talk to her.”

Laura went rigid.  “Pa, Ma’s not here.”

He frowned as if puzzled.  “No?  I was sure...I saw her....  Pretty as...a picture....”

Laura jumped as a hand fell on her shoulder.  “Don’t worry too much, Laura,” Doc Canby said. “It’s the fever talking.  When it breaks, your pa will be all right.”

“And when will it break?”

The white-haired man looked at her pa and then back to her.

“God only knows.”

***

Caroline was sitting by the fire reading when a banging on the door startled her and brought her to her feet.  She glanced at Carrie sleeping in her bed, who seemed not to have heard, and then at Mary who was hanging out of the loft, night cap on her head. They exchanged glances, both of them thinking and maybe fearing the same thing.  

Still clinging to her Bible Caroline went the door.  “Who is it?”

“Caroline, it’s Grace Edwards.”

Her breath caught.  Grace!  Laying her Bible on Charles’ chair at the table, she turned and fumbled with the latch and opened the door.

“Grace! Have you heard something?”

She nodded and held out a telegram.  Caroline searched her face as she took it.  Nothing seemed to be too wrong, though her friend’s smile seemed to be a little forced.

“It’s from Isaiah.”

“Ma, can I come down?”

The blonde woman pivoted.  Whatever the news was, her children would have to know of it soon.  

“Of course, Mary.”

Turning back to Grace, she asked, “Did you read it?”

“Yes.”

There it was again. That hint of something being wrong.

“Read it out loud, Ma,” Mary said as she came alongside her.

Caroline drew a breath and did.

“ ‘Sorry not home yet.  Couldn’t help it.  Will be soon.  Reasons when we get there.’ ”

Her eyes flicked to Grace’s.  There was concern in them – not for herself, but for her.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” her friend said softly.

The blonde woman nodded.  “I’m sure you’re right.”

“Ma,” Mary asked, her voice worried.  “What does Mister Edwards mean?”

She had forgotten the child was standing there.  “He just means it would have taken too long to explain in a telegram.  Cost too much money.  That’s all, Mary.  Something’s delayed them.  Maybe a washed out road or something as simple as that.”

“Wouldn’t he have said if a road was washed out?”

“I don’t know!  There’s nothing more than what it says.  Now, go back to bed!” she snapped.

Mary’s face pinched.  “Yes, Ma....”  

As her child turned to leave, she caught her and turned her back and hugged her.  “I’m sorry, Mary.  I’m tired.  I didn’t mean it.”

Mary looked up.  “You’re worried about Pa and Laura, aren’t you, Ma?”

She glanced at Grace and then looked back.  

“I think we all are.”

***

Laura had told the doctor she was going out to relieve herself.  As she left the cabin, he went over to sit with her pa.  He’d probably forget that she’d even been there, he’d be so busy looking after Pa.  She’d put together a bag with some food and tied it on a stick.  She didn’t know where she was going, but wherever it was, she’d have to get a job to pay for somewhere to live and for more food.  Mister Shelby and Ben were due back in the morning, and Mister Edwards too, so no one should notice she’d left until it was too late to follow her.  

She’d miss her ma and pa and Mary, but it was for the best.

As she entered the trees at the end of Mister Shelby’s yard, she stopped.  She had to choose a direction.  The only one she knew was the only one she didn’t want to take, but she’d take it anyway – back past the pine with the low hanging branch and past the Schoolmarm tree, along Morgan Creek to the camp where it had all happened.  Back to where she’d shot her pa and almost killed him.

Back to the beginning of the end.



THURSDAY

Doctor Robert Canby rose to his feet and turned toward the door as it opened on the new day.  Sam Shelby and his son came in, followed closely by Isaiah Edwards.  He’d come to know the three men over the last week and admired them all.  From what little he knew of Sam, he’d been well on his way to becoming a bitter old man due to the loss of his sight.  According to Ben, this...incident...had made him into a new man.  

The Lord did indeed work in mysterious ways.

Isaiah Edwards was a type he had often seen – gruff, unschooled, but honest as the day was long, and loyal as a dog to its master when it came to kin and friends.  There was a bond between him and the sick man that was easy to see, like brothers.

“How are you, Isaiah?” he asked as the mountain man took a seat at the table.

“Never mind me,” Edwards countered, “how’s your patient?”

It was the first time in a long he had been able to smile when he answered a question about Charles Ingalls.  “It was rough, but his fever broke last night.”

The mountain man started to ‘whoop’, but then caught himself.  Isaiah’s eyes went to his friend and then came back.  He winked and said quietly, “Yippee!”

Canby laughed.  “Where’s that child?  She’s been so worried about her pa.  I think she needs to be the first one to talk to him when he wakes up.”

Isaiah Edwards looked around the cabin.  “Half-pint!” he called softly. “Half-pint, where you hidin’?”

“You know, now that I come to think of it, I don’t think I have seen Laura or heard her stir since around eight or nine last night.  That’s when Charles’ fever reached its pitch.”  The doctor frowned.  “You don’t think....”

The mountain man shook his head from side to side.

“It’s Half-pint, Doc.  I don’t think – I know.”

***

Mary was off to school again and Carrie was in the yard playing with Jack.  Caroline looked at the table with the unpeeled apples and other kitchen chores that awaited her and sighed.  She hadn’t slept well and she was tired.  Her sleep had been disturbed by nightmare visions of her husband and child.  In one, a sudden storm had come up and the mountain they were walking on had suddenly run like a river, carrying them both away.  She’d been there, but she hadn’t been able to stop it.  Her hand had almost reached Charles’.  He’d been holding onto Laura and she’d had to watch as both of them slipped away.

Caroline sucked in a breath and fought a sudden rush of tears even as her fingers clutched the worn leather volume in her lap.
She’d told Mary to trust.

She had to do the same.

The trouble was, Isaiah’s telegram had only made it worse.  She had kept it – it was under that leather cover now – and read it a thousand times.  It was easy to see that it said next to nothing on purpose.  ‘Couldn’t help it.’  “Reasons when we get there.’

At least he had said ‘we’.  At least someone else was...alive.

Caroline shook herself and stood up, leaving the book on her chair.  She went to the door and checked on Carrie and then returned to the table and sat down.  Charles would be the first one to chide her for worrying about things she couldn’t change.  As the image of her smiling husband standing there behind his chair, looking on her with amusement and affection came to mind, she reached out toward him – only to have the image vanish as if it had been nothing but a dream.

“Dear Lord,” she whispered as she picked up the first apple and the tears wet her cheeks, “let me touch him again.”

***

They were out, the three of  them, lookin’ for Laura – him, Ben and the Doc.  Sam Shelby had volunteered to remain in the house and watch Charles.  Since he was blind, he knew he couldn’t be of much help to them in coverin’ a lot of terrain as quickly as they could.  Charles was sleepin’ peacefully for the first time since the accident.  He still had a fever, but it was low and the Doc said it wouldn’t be too many days before he could be up, and then another one and he would probably be able to set a horse and head home.  Isaiah Edwards spit and shook his head.  He was still kickin’ himself for leaving the wagon back in town.  But then when Laura had found him and told her that her pa had been shot, all he could think of was fetchin’ the doctor and making it back to where Charles was as fast as he could.

The Doc had told him he’d done the right thing.

They’d agreed between them to let off a shot if they found anything.  So far the woods were silent.  Laura had a good six hours lead on them and knowing Half-pint, she was movin’ like the wind.  The Doc had headed off toward the crick where they’d found Charles that first time, and Ben was riding through the nearby hills.  He’d started off in one direction but then changed his mind.  He ‘d stopped and asked himself, if he was a frightened little squirt tryin’ to run away, what direction would he go in?  Well, the only one in these parts he would know was the one Laura had traveled with her pa.

Isaiah knew the path to Morgan Creek as well as the back of his hairy hand.  He’d make it in half the time she could.  That should put them both there ‘bout the same time, which was just about noon.  He knew she and her pa would‘a camped by the creek, so the spot shouldn’t be too hard to find.  In fact, it was probably the same place he and Charles had bedded down when they’d made the trip together the year before.

It took him about another half hour.  As he approached the spot, he moved quietly as a man stalkin’ a skittish deer.  If that little ornery thing heard him comin’ she was bound to hop off as fast as a jack rabbit!  Drawing near, he pushed aside a low branch of leaves and looked toward the crick.

Half-pint was there.  She was sitting beside the water with her hands locked around her drawn-up knees.

Crying.

The mountain man stopped to think a moment before stepping out.  Now, if he was a little child what thought he’d almost killed his pa, what would he be thinkin’ that had made him run away?  Would he be afeared that it would happen again?  Or that maybe his Ma would blame him?  Maybe sisters and brothers too if he had them?  Maybe he’d be thinkin’ that he was just plain bad luck....

Isaiah felt a sick go from the top of his head to the toes of his Mule ear boots.

It was him.  He was why Laura’d run away.

Grace had warned him that one day his particularity toward joshin’ would rise up and bite him in the rear – even though she hadn’t exactly put it in those words. ‘You forget, Isaiah,’ she had warned, ‘a child doesn’t think like an adult.’

It was a lesson he was learnin’ every day with his own young’uns.

Isaiah thought a moment more and then walked out of the trees whistling a jaunty tune.

***

Laura’s head came up as she heard a familiar voice whistling ‘Old Dan Tucker’.  She turned and saw Mister Edwards stepping out of the trees with his rifle perched on his right shoulder and a fishing pole in his left hand.  When he saw her he stopped, and then came over.

“Well, fancy meetin’ you here, Half-pint.  I thought you was still in bed.”

She frowned warily.  “You mean you ain’t been back to the cabin?”

“No, Ma’am.  I decided me to come out here and do a little fishin’ for supper.”

“So far away?”

“Pshaw.  It ain’t that far.”  He grinned as he plopped down beside her.  “‘Sides, the fish bite better here.”  He looked at her.  “What’re you doin’ out here?  Fishin’ too?”

Charles’ girl lowered her head.  “No, sir.  I....  Well, I....”

“Yeah?”

She couldn’t help it.  It all came tumbling out.  “I was....  I’m leavin’ for good.  I didn’t want to come here, but it was the only way I knew, and then when I got here all I could do was see that gun fallin’ and pa rollin’ into the trees and...the blood....”  She shivered and her voice diminished with the tale.  “Mister Edwards, there was so much blood.  I though Pa was gonna die right then and there.”

It was a terrible thing for a child to have seen.  Isaiah drew a breath and got to it.  “You ever figure out why it happened?”

She grew very still.  A second later, Laura nodded.  “Because of me and because you were right – I was bad luck.”  

He thought a moment.  “Well, that’s as it may be, but I don’t think that’s why it happened.  You know luck only happens to folks who ain’t Christian.”

She frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“I’m sure your Ma’s told you what the Good Book says about those who love Him.”

Laura nodded.  “All good things work together for good.”

“For who?”

She thought hard.  “For those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.”

“So, you’re sayin’ this thing that happened – you knockin’ your Pa’s gun over – was somethin’ that God sort of...missed?”

“Oh, no.”  She shook her head.  “God doesn’t miss anythin’.  He knows everything before we do.”

“Then He must have known your pa was gonna be shot.  So, maybe...just maybe there’s a reason that He allowed it to happen.”

Her young face was all screwed up.  She was thinkin’.  He knew it was a hard lesson.  It had been one her pa had had to learn him.

Finally Laura looked up at him.  “Pa told me somethin’ kind of like that, when he was laying on the side of that mountain after the horse threw him.  He said these things come into our lives to show us what we’re made of.”

“Well?”

“Well, what?”

“Did you find out what you were made of? And don’t tell me bad luck, ‘cause there ain’t no such thing.”

“But you said –”

“Laura,” he told her, reaching over and touching her hair, “I was joshin’ you.  You gotta think it through.  If you hadn’t been there and your Pa had been hurt –”

“That’s what Mister Shelby said!  But Pa wouldn’t have been hurt if I hadn’t been there.  He wouldn’t!  I knocked the gun over.”

“How come it went off?  Didn’t your Pa have the safety catch set?”

“No.”

“And he left it loaded?”

She nodded.  

“Now suppose your pa had been on his own, and suppose’n that gun had still slid off that tree?  It’d have gone off whether you were there or not.  So suppose your pa’d been shot and you hadn’t been there?”  He paused.  “You know what, Laura?”

“What?”

“I think God knew that gun was gonna go off and your pa was gonna be shot, and He put you there to save him.  Now if you want to believe in luck, believe in that.  That’s good luck.”

“Before the bullet...hit him, Pa said I was just about the best luck he ever had.”

“Well, there you have it!”  Isaiah stood and held out his hand.  “Now, come on, let’s go back.”

She shook her head.  “I can’t.”


“Why ever not?”
“I can’t face Mary or Carrie, or...Ma.”  Her head dipped and she looked at her hands.  “Ma’s gonna hate me.”

“Now don’t you go sayin’ no such thing.  Your Ma ain’t gonna blame you for what happened.  Caroline Ingalls knows the Good Book better than most.”  He paused.  “You, know, I think you’re kinda insultin’ your Ma by sayin’ such a thing.  Anyhow, I gotta get me back.  You comin’?”

“But you didn’t catch any fish.

He snapped his fingers.  “Dang it, and I ain’t got time now.  Here,” Isaiah held the pole out.  “You catch ‘em and bring ‘em in.  You know how your Pa loves fresh fish.”

She let out a shuddering breath.  “You think he’s gonna be able to eat?”

“If not tonight, then tomorrow.  The fish’ll keep.”  He tipped his hat and began to walk away.  “See you soon, Half-pint.”

When he reached the edge of the trees, the mountain man stopped and looked back.  Laura was standin’ by the water’s edge with the pole in her hand.  He thought he knew her well enough to know she’d come to the right conclusion, and so he started back toward the cabin to see what was up there.  

He hadn’t walked ten minutes when he heard a small pair of feet runnin’ to catch up.

Laura halted beside him, fishing pole in hand.  “Do you think we could get the fish tomorrow, Mister Edwards?  I’d... I’d like to see how Pa’s doing.”

He rubbed her head.

“Tomorrow it is.”

***

Mary had asked if Alicia Edwards could come home with them and she’d agreed.  Anything to keep her girls mind off their missing sister and their pa.  The two of them were outside playing with Jack and Carrie now.  She’d talked briefly with Grace in town, hoping there had been a follow-up to Isaiah’s first telegram.  The other woman told her ‘no’ before she headed for her own home.  The line had been stone silent.

She’d also managed to avoid Harriet Oleson, but only barely.  She’d spotted the woman  coming out of the mercantile with Nellie in tow and had hidden to the side of the building.  Still, she couldn’t avoid Harriet’s rumor-mongering.  She was explaining to Nellie – and anyone else who would listen – how certain people thought they were woodsmen but weren’t, and would be better off working harder and spending more hours at the mill than going off into the wilderness where they could make mistakes and die and leave their poor wife and children on the dole.  

She’d ‘dole’ out something to that woman the next time she caught up with her!

Once they got home she set about fixing supper.  It had been so strange these last five days, putting plates and cups at only three places.  When she and the children sat down, she was staring straight at Charles’ empty chair.  She had to turn to see the other empty one next to Mary but it was there too in her heart, waiting for its occupant to return.  

They’d been gone near a week now.   From Saturday to nearly Friday.  Charles had said it would take them two days.

‘Reasons when we get there.’

After supper Caroline bedded the girls down upstairs in the loft and then descended to sit by herself again by the fire.  When she closed her eyes she could hear Charles playing the fiddle, serenading the girls to sleep.

Oh, how she longed to hear that fiddle play again.


   
FRIDAY

Charles smiled up at Ben Shelby.  He’d helped him out of bed and into the chair that was pushed up beside it.  Doctor Canby said he could only sit an hour or so.  After that he would have to rest again.  Still, no matter how long it lasted, it was like Heaven to be upright.  

The Doc explained to him that he’d come very close to dying.  The bullet had passed clean through from front to back, but its path had wrecked havoc with the veins and vessels inside.  It was why he had bled so much.  When he wandered off and fell into the creek, it had done two things – cooled him down so the fever remained at bay until he was found, and allowed something foreign to enter the wound that made the infection worse.  He’d passed the crisis the night before and, while he felt weak as a day old pup, the medical man assured him that with time and care he would regain his strength.

It was autumn.  There was so much to do.  It had better return fast.

“How’s that, Charles?” Ben asked as he lifted his hand so he could settle against the chair back.
           
“Feels good,” he said with a nod.  

“How ‘bout that side?  You need anythin’ to prop it?”

He shook his head.  “I’m fine.  Thanks.”  If the truth be told it felt like every muscle in his back was screaming, but he knew that came with lack of use and would get better – as the Doc said – with time.   Looking toward the door, he asked, “Did you find Laura?”

“The Doc said she went fishin’ with Pa and Isaiah early this morning.  They should be back soon.”  Ben grinned.  “She’ll sure be happy to see you sittin’ up.”

“No happier than I am to be sitting up.”

A sound drew his attention and Charles looked up to see Sam Shelby enter using his walking stick to feel the way.  Behind him came Isaiah.  And behind Isaiah....

“Pa!”  Laura’s face lit up like it did when she reached into her Christmas stocking.  “Oh, Pa!”

Charles steeled himself as his daughter ran across the room, heading for him at full tilt.  At the last moment she remembered and skidded to a halt and looked at him shyly.

“Is it okay if I hug you, Pa?”

“I’ve been waitin’ on it,” he said with a wink.  

As Laura fell into his arms, he noticed Isaiah taking Sam Shelby by the arm and walking him over to the door.  Ben was with them.  His friend looked back as they stepped out and nodded, letting him know they would give him some time alone with his child.

Charles placed his hand on her head.  She was trembling.

“Laura?”

Her hug was gentle, almost tenuous.  As if she was afraid she’d hurt him.  “Oh, Pa,” she said between sobs.  “Oh, Pa.  I’m so sorry.”

He’d told her before it wasn’t her fault.  She hadn’t listened.  He didn’t think she was going to listen now.  Still, he had to try.  “You remember, Half-pint, what I told you on the mountainside about these things being allowed to come into our lives?”

She nodded against him.

“There’s reasons.  We may not know what they are until we’re years older, and maybe never this side of Heaven, but we have to trust that God knows what He’s about.”  He stroked her reddish-brown hair.  “Sometimes, we forget what’s important, and the Good Lord knows it makes a thing more precious when you come close to losing it.”

“I know how important you are, Pa.”

He caught her face and made her look up at him.  “I wasn’t talking about you.  I was talking about me.”

“I don’t understand.”

He laughed gently.  “You know when you came out to ask to go huntin’ with me, I was so busy all I thought about was getting you back in bed so I could go on with my work.  If you hadn’t kept asking, I would have missed bringing you along and we would have missed the time we had together.”  He stopped, considering what life would have been like for Caroline and all his girls if he had died.  “When you get big, Half-pint, there’s so much pressing at you that it’s hard to stop.”  He touched her cheek.  “This happenin’ reminded me that I need to stop and take time to appreciate you and your Ma and sisters more, and to give you more of my time.”

She was silent a moment.  “Mister Edwards told me....  You won’t get mad, will you, Pa?”

He shook his head.

“Mister Edwards said you left the rifle loaded and that it might have fallen and gone off anyway and that if it had and you’d been shot there wouldn’t have been no one to help you if I hadn’t come along.”

She did that all in one breath.  

Charles hid his smile.  He nodded, looking serious.  “Isaiah’s right.  It was my mistake and I would have made it whether you were there or not.”  He touched her face again.  

“So you see, Half-pint, you didn’t shoot me, you saved me.”

***

Caroline dropped into the chair before the fire and laid her head in her hands.  She’d just returned from the Edwards.  Alicia had wanted Mary and Carrie to sleep over and she had agreed.  Not only was tomorrow Saturday, so there would be no school, but she needed some time alone.  

It had been a week since Charles and Laura had left.  A week.  

She was trying to hold herself together for the children, but for some reason today she had felt like shattering.  She’d been in town at a meeting of the ladies society.  Since it was about an upcoming fundraiser most of the women had their husbands with them.  As she looked at the empty seat next to hers, she had suddenly been overwhelmed by a sense of loss so deep and profound that she had risen from her seat and fled outdoors.  Harriet Oleson had come outside after her, and Grace.  She heard the two women exchange a few words, the last of which was a loud whisper, meant for her ears.
 
‘Poor thing.  I wonder when she’ll finally face up to the truth.’

Caroline’s breath caught in her throat and a sob escaped her.  “Dear God, help me....”

Almost as if in answer to her prayer, there was a knock at the door.  When she failed to reply it came again, this time with a voice.  

“Caroline, I know you’re in there.  Open the door.”

It was the Reverend Alden.  He hadn’t been at the meeting.  Someone must have told him.

Harriet.

She rose and went to the washstand and ran a quick cloth over her face.  Tucking her hair back as she walked, Caroline headed for the door.  “Just a minute.”  

When she opened it the Reverend asked, “May I come in for a minute?”

“Of course,” she said, stepping back.  “You’re out late.”

“Just finishing my rounds.”

“Would you like some coffee?”

He smiled.  “Since I have a long ride back to the church, I would be pleased to accept your kind offer, Caroline.”  He looked around.  “Are the children here?”

“Mary and Carrie are at the Edwards visiting with Alicia.”

“So you’re all alone.”

She was standing with her back to him, moving the coffee pot to the heated grate.  His words struck her like a hand. Her shoulders shook and she dropped the pot so it made a loud clanging noise.

“Caroline?”

“I’m sorry.  I’m sorry,” she whispered as she righted it.  

She felt him take her by the shoulders.  “Caroline, what is it?”

Burying her face in her hands she admitted, “Oh, Reverend Alden, I’m so afraid.”

He turned her and took hold of her hands and lowered them.  “About Charles and Laura?”

“They’re six days overdue!”

“Now, Caroline, you know all kinds of things can delay someone on the road.  Charles is a more than competent woodsman.  And he has Isaiah with him.  I’m sure they’re fine.”

“I know.  I know, but –”

“But Harriet Oleson put the notion in your head that something might be terribly wrong.”

She nodded.  “Yes.”

“Caroline, come to the table and sit down.”

“What about the coffee?”

“Leave it.”  He took her hand and drew her to the table and placed her on one of the chairs.  “Caroline, you’re a fine Christian woman.  What does the Bible say about worry?

“That we’re not to do it.”

“Yes.  And why?”

“Because God knows best?”

He patted her hand.  “Caroline, what it the worst thing you can imagine?  That something has happened to Laura and Charles?  That one, or maybe both of them is dead?”

A shiver ran the length of her.  “Yes,” she breathed.

He closed his fingers over hers.  “What will you do if it’s true?”

It came out as a sob of despair.  “I don’t...know.”

“Yes, you do.  You’ll survive and you’ll go on for your children – yours and Charles’.”  He squeezed her fingers.  “Now, I don’t for a moment think anything has happened to either him or Laura, but if it has – if it has – remember this, God has not abandoned you.  He will never abandon you.”

Caroline remained silent for a moment.  Then she nodded.  “Thank you, Reverend.  Thank you for  coming.”

“It’s my pleasure, Caroline.  Would you like me to stay with you tonight?”

“No.  I’ll be all right.”  She smiled.  “I have my Bible for company.”

He patted her hand.  “All right.  If you’re sure.”  The older man rose then.  “I’ll come back in the morning to see if there is any word.”

“Thank you.”  She smiled.   “I’ll be here.”

He held her gaze.  “So will God, Caroline.  Never forget that.”

***

The Doc had come and taken her pa back to bed not too long after they’d had their talk.  Laura sat with him until he fell asleep and then tiptoed out and went to sit out front of the cabin where she could look at the stars.  A little while later Sam Shelby came out.  He stood in the doorway, facing toward the moon almost as if he could see it.  

“You out here, child?”

“Yes, Mister Shelby.”

He turned toward her.  “Laura?”

“Yes, sir.”

She heard his stick strike the ground as he advanced.  “The Doc says your Pa’s doing good.  That maybe he can sit a horse tomorrow or the next day.”

“You mean...you mean we can go home?”

There was so much contained in that word – all of her heart and everything she could hope for.

The older man came to stand behind her.  He felt about and when he found her head, put his hand on it.  “You ready to go home, child?”

She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she was.  “Yes, sir.”

Sam Shelby lowered himself to the ground and sat beside her.  “You miss your home, and your ma.”

She nodded.  Words wouldn’t come.

“That’s only right, girl.  I bet your ma misses you somethin’ fierce – you and your pa.”  He paused and then said, “Isaiah told me you was thinkin’ your ma would blame you for what happened to your pa.  You still thinkin’ that?”

It was hard to let it go, but she had to.  “No, sir.  I know I was right foolish to think that.”

“You wasn’t foolish, child.  Just human.”

Turning, she reached out and took hold of the older man’s hand.  “Thank you, Mister Shelby.  Thank you for all you done for us.”

“It weren’t nothin’, child,” he answered as he reached out and took her hand.  “Nothin’ compared to what you done for me.”

***

That night Charles felt a small form climb into the bed next to him.  He held very still, not wanting Laura to know he was awake.  She came along his good side and snuggled in close, pressing one small hand against his cheek and wrapping the other one around his chest.  He waited until her breathing had grown quiet and even, and then shifted and drew her in close.  So much had happened since Saturday the week before it was hard to take it in.  Doc Canby had told him that he would make the decision in the morning.  That if he passed the night well enough and there was no sign of fever, he’d let him go home.

Home.

Home to Walnut Grove.  To Mary and Carrie.  To Caroline.  

Lord, how he missed them!

As he lay there thinking and stroking his child’s hair, Laura stirred.  She raised up and looked at him and smiled.
“I love you, Pa.”

Charles choked with emotion.  

“I love you too, Half-Pint.”



SATURDAY

Caroline awoke early on Saturday and set about her chores.  She had plenty to do before Grace brought Mary and Carrie home.  With Charles gone she had taken on the extra responsibility of caring for the barn animals and that took most of the morning.  Dear sweet Mary had been giving her as much help as possible and she really missed her.  Still, it was good for her oldest to get away both from the extra chores and the reason for doing them.  Though her talk with the Reverend Alden the night before had given her some peace, there remained the nagging feeling that something had gone terribly wrong with Charles’ and Laura’s hunting trip.  

She couldn’t imagine any other reason he and Laura would be almost a week late.

As soon as the animals were fed and watered, she headed inside.  Tomorrow was Sunday and she needed to press the girls’ good dresses.  It might be foolishness, but she had laid Laura’s out as well as Mary and Carrie’s in the hope that she would see her child soon.  Closing the door behind her, she went to the hearth and placed the irons near the fire to warm, and then crossed to the stove and stoked it.  She really had little appetite but she knew she had to eat in order to keep up her strength.

To face whatever came.

As soon as the eggs were finished cooking, she took them and a glass of milk and sat at the table.  Bowing her head, she thanked her Lord for the bounties He had bestowed upon her and for the protection He gave to those she loved.  She ran through the list of the prayer requests she addressed daily, finishing with her own.

“Protect Charles, Lord, and Laura.  Bring them both safely home.”

The words were barely out of her mouth when she heard the whinny of a high-spirited horse.  A moment or two later there was a rap on the door.  Rising, Caroline walked to the door, opened it, and looked out.  It was no surprise to see the Reverend Alden, for he’d pledged to come, but Grace Edwards was with him.

Her heart fell to her toes.

Caroline drew a sharp breath.  “Charles?”

The two exchanged a look.  It was Reverend Alden who answered.  “Caroline, he’s at Doc Baker’s.  Laura’s there with him.  Charles was injured, but he’s going to be fine.”

She caught hold of the doorjamb.  “Injured?”

The reverend reached out to steady her.  “We came to take you to town.”  He turned to the woman standing beside him.  “Grace, why don’t you help Caroline get her hat and coat and we’ll be on our way.”

***

The trip into town was a blur.  Days later she remembered little of it.  Grace had explained how Isaiah had shown up at their farm with Charles and Laura.  Charles had been so weary that Isaiah had been worried for him and took him in their wagon to town to see the doctor, rather than having him ride so much farther to reach home.  Mary and Carrie had been in the house with Alicia and hadn’t seen him come.   Grace had decided not to tell them about their father’s return, believing it would be best coming from their mother.

Before the reverend could halt the buggy Caroline was out of it and racing for Doctor Baker’s door.  He must have been watching, for he opened it at her approach and caught her elbow as she came inside.

“Charles is in the back room, Caroline, with Laura.  He’s been through a lot, but he’s been tended well.  Rest easy, he’ll be all right.”

“What happened?” she breathed.

The doctor shook his head.  “All I know is he was shot.”

Caroline gasped.  “Shot?  Dear God....”

The physician placed a hand on her shoulder.  “God has preserved him for you and your family, Caroline.  Let that be enough for now.”

She nodded as she turned toward the room at the back.  Before she could enter it the curtain lifted and the precious little face she feared she might never see again appeared.  Laura looked exhausted.  She was filthy.  Her hair was strewn with nettles and tiny dry branches and hanging in hanks, like she hadn’t washed it the entire week.  Her dress was nearly in tatters.

She had never seen anything so beautiful.

Dropping to her knees, Caroline opened her arms.  “Laura!”

When her child saw her, she burst into tears.  “Ma!  Oh, Ma....”

She had no way of knowing what her daughter had been through, but she didn’t miss the dried blood on the side and shoulder of her dress.  There was a tale here to be told, but not now.  Now, it wasn’t important.  The only thing that was important now was that they were both alive – and home.

“Laura, hush....”

“Ma.  Ma, it was so awful.  Pa got hurt, and then he got sick and fevered.  I had to get Mister Shelby to help me get him back to the cabin and then go get Mister Edwards.”  She shook her head from side to side.  “We wanted to come home so bad, but pa couldn’t travel.  Not until yesterday.  Ma, we – ”

She placed a finger across her child’s lips.  “Hush.  It’s not important.  What’s important is that you’re both home now.”

Laura caught her hand between her own, and then intertwined their fingers.  Her voice was tiny.  “I was so scared, Ma.”

She nodded.  “So was I, but now there’s no need to be scared anymore.  You and your pa are home.”

“Caroline.”

She looked up to find the Reverend Alden standing beside her.  “I’m going to take Grace and Isaiah out to their place and pick up Mary and Carrie.  Do you want me to say anything to them before we head back?”

She looked at her child.  “If it’s all right with the Reverend, would you like to go along to get your sisters?”

Laura cast a glance at the closed curtain, as if she’d held the responsibility for her pa for so long it was near impossible to let it go.  “Ma, I can’t....”

She touched her face.  “I’ll look after your pa now.  Thank you for doing such a good job when I couldn’t.”  As her child nodded, she looked up at the reverend.  “Is that all right with you?

“Of course.”

“Laura?”

Her little girl drew a deep breath and released it.  It seemed she released some of that burden with it as well.  “You take care of Pa, Ma.  He’s still hurtin’.”

Caroline bit back tears.  “I will.  Now you go with the reverend and Grace.”

She rose and watched the pair of them leave and then turned back to the curtain, hesitating a moment before going in.  As she did, she felt a hand on her elbow.  It was Doctor Baker.

“Caroline.”

“Yes?” she asked, sniffing back tears.
 
“Remember, things often look worse than they are.”

Doc Baker’s words stuck with her as she entered the small room at the back of his office.  Charles was there on the examining table.  Like Laura, his hair – that beautiful mass of curly brown hair – was filthy.  It was matted with mud and blood and had lost its sheen.  His face was gaunt –  he had obviously lost weight – and his skin was as pale as winter painted it.  But he was there.

And alive.

Drawing a breath against the intense emotion she felt, both at seeing him alive and realizing just how close to death he had come, she crossed over to her husband’s side and stood by the bed.  Charles was sleeping, worn out by the long journey back from Morgan Creek.  She reached out and touched his arm gently, tentatively, almost as if she was afraid he would vanish or prove to be nothing more than a wishful fancy.

A second later he stirred.  Charles opened his eyes and turned toward her.  For a moment he was confused, then a slow smile spread across his face.  

“Caroline,” he said as he reached for her hand.  

“Yes, Charles?”

“It’s good to be home.”

***

Caroline looked up from her sewing.  It was late – after supper – and even though the  children should be in bed she had let them stay up.  Their father was in his bed and was sound asleep, but the wish – the need  to be near him was something she understood only too well.  It was still hard to believe that he and Laura were home after so many long, unexpected nights away.  Laura was there too at her father’s side, fighting to keep her eyes open, checking on him every so many minutes.  While she wouldn’t let that go on too long, she understood her child’s attachment and let it be.

Isaiah had filled her in on what happened.

Caroline dropped her sewing in her lap and closed her eyes against the images that kept playing through her mind.  Charles returning from the hunt, leaning his rifle against a tree.  Laura, sweet helpful Laura, unfurling a bed roll, accidentally striking the gun and knocking it over.  The gun...going off.  The bullet taking Charles in the side, ripping through muscle and tissue – thankfully not breaking any bones.  And then Laura....  Caroline drew a sharp breath.  Pa’s little Half-Pint of Cider, facing what she had done.

A tear escaped her eye to trail down her cheek.
 
A small hand fell on hers at the same time.  “Ma?  Are you okay?”

She opened her eyes to look at the face she had been envisioning.  Was it her imagination?  Did Laura look older?

She put her hand over her child’s.  Words failed.

“Doc Baker said Pa’s gonna be okay, didn’t he?”

It was there and would be for some time – that fierce protectiveness and fear for her Pa’s health.  “Yes, Laura.  Your Pa will be fine.  I’m just tired...and happy you’re both home.”

Laura ducked her head.  She shot a look at her sisters who were quietly playing near the entrance to the back bedroom and then raised her head, a question in her eyes.  “You don’t...hate me, do you, Ma?”

Caroline blinked.  “What?  Hate you?  Whatever for?”

She sucked in a breath and straightened her back, as if ready to face a firing squad.  “For shootin’ Pa.”

The blonde woman put down her sewing.  “Laura, come here.”  She gestured toward her lap and waited until her child had climbed into it.  “I could never hate you, no matter what happened.  But this – what happened to your Pa – was an accident.  You know that.”

Her child sighed again.  “To tell the truth, Ma, I didn’t at first.  I thought it was all my fault.”

That didn’t surprise her.  In many ways Laura was like her father – thoughtful, sensitive, and too deep a thinker.

“But you don’t now?”

She shook her head.  “No, Ma’am.”  After that, she frowned.

“What?  What are you thinking?”

“You know, Ma, I ain’t never been with only men for so long.  They were smarter about things than I expected.”

Caroline tried to hold it in, but she couldn’t – she laughed out loud.  “Yes, yes, they are.”  Reaching out, she pulled her child close and kissed her on the head.  “Now, Laura Ingalls, it is time you got to bed.  Go and get your sisters.  This house needs to be quiet so your pa’s not disturbed.

***

An hour later the girls were asleep and all the night time chores were done.  Caroline finished the last of them and then slipped into her nightdress.  For a moment, she stood by the bed looking at her husband – still amazed at what he and Laura had come through and how close she had come, really, to losing them both.  Even though Laura had not been hurt, if Charles – if her pa had died – it would have been a wound that would never have healed, worse than death.

Caroline shuddered.  She closed her eyes and whispered, “Thank you, dear Lord, for their safe return.”

Then, as softly and as quietly as she was able, she pulled the covers down and slipped into the bed beside her sleeping husband, careful to leave some space between them in case he was hurting.

Only he wasn’t sleeping.

Charles turned to look at her and reached out.  When he spoke, his words were languid.  Doctor Baker had given him something for the pain from the wound.

“What...took you so long?” he asked.

She caught his hand.  “What else?  Chores and children.  The same as usual.”

A slight smile curled the edge of her husband’s lips.  “It’s nice to have...usual.”  His eyes closed for a moment and then he turned and looked at her with more focus.  “Caroline...I’m...sorry.”

“Sorry?  Whatever for?”

“I..shouldn’t have left...the gun loaded.  Or taken...Laura....”

She squeezed his fingers.  “Charles Ingalls, you just stop that.  If you aren’t just like your child – ”

His finger went to her lips as he pursed his own.  “Shh.”

She stopped and then laughed.  “I guess arguing on your first night home is not what the Lord brought you home for.”  She smiled too.  “Is it?”

Her husband shook his head.  After a moment he said, “I...got one more...question....”

She  leaned in toward him.   “What is it, Charles?”

“What are you...doing so dang far over there?”

Caroline laughed again and then, with a bigger smile on her lips, snuggled in against him.  They lay there for a few minutes, savoring each other’s presence and then she thought Charles fell asleep.  She was surprised when he stirred again and opened his eyes.  

“Say, Caroline, what...day is tomorrow?”
 
Her head was on his chest.  “Sunday,” she answered quietly.

Charles shifted so she fit even more neatly into the crook of his right arm.

“Oh, good,” he murmured, his lips against her cheek.  ‘The day of rest.”


-finis-
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PostSubject: Re: The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One   Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:18 am

Wow, excellent story, Marla! Thank you for sharing it!
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Savannah
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PostSubject: Re: The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One   Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:45 am

Applause That was a wonderful story, Marla! Thank you for posting it here!
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mcfair_58
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PostSubject: Re: The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One   Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:11 am

Rob wrote:
Wow, excellent story, Marla!  Thank you for sharing it!

Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it! grinsmiley
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mcfair_58
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PostSubject: Re: The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One   Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:12 am

Savannah wrote:
Applause That was a wonderful story, Marla! Thank you for posting it here!  

You're welcome! I appreciate you taking the time to reply. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Day of Rest - A sequel to 'The Hunters' Part One   Today at 7:18 am

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