It was February 9, 1981, I had just left school and was headed to my grandfather’s farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. I just got a new, well new to me, car. It was a 1961 Ford Falcon, my very first car and I bought it all by myself. It wasn’t the best looking car in the world, it had some rust, and its share of dents but it ran like a clock and the heater was fantastic. In cold Minnesota winters, a heater is a dire necessity. I couldn’t wait to show it to my grandfather, also I wanted to see how he was doing. My grandmother passed a few months ago and he’s been taking it hard. Grandpa lived in an old farm house, a house that had been in his family since the late 1800s. It was left to him by his grandfather Doctor Albert Ingalls, or Doc as grandpa always called him. Grandpa was raised by Doc and his wife, Sarah I think was her name, but he called her Mammaw. Grandpa’s father died in WWI before he was born. His mother moved in with her parents Doc and Mammaw with his two older sisters. Doc was the only father that grandpa had ever known, and being the only men in the house they bonded quickly. Grandpa told me many stories about Doc as a young man. Doc got into a lot of mischief as a kid but his adoptive parents and sisters always kept him in line. But of all the stories grandpa told me about Doc one in particular always stuck with me.
The way I remember it, when Doc was a teenager there was this girl he went to school with, I forget her name. But she lived with her father, and he was kind of cold and bitter. Some of the kids at school gave her a hard time but Doc always stood up for her. One day when she was on her way home from school she was attacked and raped. She became pregnant as a result. When word had spread about her pregnancy it was assumed that since her and Doc had been dating for a while that Doc was responsible for her pregnancy, which of course he wasn’t. Despite that, doc was willing to take responsibility for her and even wanted to marry her and take care of her and her baby. They were about to run away together when the attacker came after the girl again. She took a nasty fall while trying to escape, luckily her father arrived at just the right time and killed the creep with a shotgun. Even though I had heard that story more than once I can’t remember for the life of me what happened to her. I know they did not elope as planned but did she survive the fall? And if she did survive, what became of her? I can’t imagine that Doc just forgot about someone who meant so much to him.
Well I arrived at grandpa’s house and caught him just in the knick of time as he was about to get into his car.
“Eddie ol boy, good to see ya. What are you doing all the way out here?” he said
“I came to show you my new car”
“Not bad, your daddy told me you got yourself a nice car, she runs pretty good huh?”
“Yeah like a champ”, I replied “you want to go for a ride?”
“I was just about to leave to go to the cemetery to visit your grandma, todays her birthday you know.” he said
“Yeah thats right, I should go visit her too, how about I drive you there”
“Does the heater work?” he asked.
“It sure does!” I replied.
“Well then that sounds like a good idea to me Eddie ol boy.”
So we began our journey to the cemetery just a few miles down the road and once again he told me a story about Doc, and how Doc taught him how to drive in a Model T Ford, doc’s first car. Since we were on the subject of Doc I decided to asked grandpa about the girl Doc knew as a teenager.
“What did you say her name was?” I asked.
“Sylvia, Sylvia Webb”.
“What ever happened to her after the fall, did she survive, did her and Doc keep—”
“Keep your eyes on the road boy!” Grandpa exclaimed.
It seemed I drifted onto the shoulder a bit.
“She moved away with her pa after she was well enough to travel. Turn right here,” he said.
We pulled into the cemetery and it was blanketed with snow. Fortunately Grandpa knew right where to go because I couldn’t find anything out here in all this snow. He walked right up to grandma’s grave knelt down and placed some flowers in the vase. He then said a little prayer for her. Barely visible through the snow was Doc’s grave. Doctor Albert Quinn Ingalls it read. Next to him was my great great grandmother’s grave. I pushed the snow away and made a startling discovery. First I noticed that Mammaw was almost a year older than Doc, and the perhaps the most startling of all was her name, Sylvia Webb Ingalls.
“Grandpa!” I exclaimed. “Mammaw was Sylvia?”
“That’s right, she was.”
“But I thought Mammaw’s name was Sarah?” I asked.
“No, Sarah was Sylvia’s daughter, my mother.”
“Okay, now I’m really confused, I thought you said Sylvia moved away and her and Doc didn’t get married” I said. “No” said grandpa. “They did not elope, but they did get together later on.”
“But how?” I asked.
“It’s kind of a long story, why don’t we have a seat on the bench over here and I’ll tell you the story that Doc told me.”
(Told by Albert Ingalls)
I will never forget that night. Earlier that day my girlfriend Sylvia and I were planning to elope. She was waiting for me at the old Atkins place. When I arrived I caught the no good creep who attacked her weeks earlier trying to attack her again. I was shocked to discover that it was the town blacksmith Irv Hartwig, a man that I was working for. Sylvia climbed a rickety ladder in an attempt to escape but one of the rungs broke and she took a nasty fall. I jumped on Hartwig but he overpowered me easily. Right as he was about to hit me with a board, my father and Sylvia’s father walked in and Sylvia’s father killed Hartwig with a shotgun. My love Sylvia was lying on the ground unconscious, and things didn’t look good for her.
After Sylvia’s fall, I made her a promise that as soon as she was well enough that we would get married. I told her that I had talked to her pa and he said it would be fine. Truth is I had not talked to him about it at all. I thought Sylvia was dying and I wanted to comfort her. I’ll never forget how terrified I was when she faded off to sleep that night. I thought the love of my life had just died in my arms. I laid my head down on her crying and the image of our first kiss at the creek appeared in my head. Then she awoke, running her fingers through my hair, and told me that she was going to be alright.
I wanted so badly to marry her. I loved her so much. When I did finally get the courage to talk to her pa about me marrying her he didn’t say no, but he didn’t exactly say yes either. While he didn’t doubt my feelings for his daughter he had the same concerns as my pa did. We were both so young, and was I wanting to marry her simply because I felt sorry for her, and how would I support her and the baby? I started to wonder myself. I had no doubt that I loved her, but seriously, was I ready to be a husband and a father? I was only fourteen years old after all. I remember telling ma that I took care of myself for several years as a child before her and pa adopted me. But I had to steal and cheat folks to make money. And I lived under a porch. That was certainly no life for Sylvia and her baby. Sylvia’s pa still had plans to move to another town and make a fresh start, and I guess I couldn’t blame him, I mean after all the terrible things that happened here in Walnut Grove starting over probably was the best thing to do.
For the next few weeks I visited Sylvia every day. I helped with her studies and anything else I could do while she recovered from her fall. She had received a concussion and a few broken ribs. Doc Baker said it was a miracle not only that she made a full recovery but that her unborn child was alright as well.
After about two months, Sylvia was well enough to travel. As much as we did not want to say goodbye, Sylvia and I decided that her moving with her pa was really the best thing for her and her baby. Sylvia and her father moved to a small town in Wisconsin near Milwaukee. We vowed to keep in touch until we were old enough to get married. We wrote each other for a while but we lost touch after a few months. I tried to move on and put her out of my mind but as hard as I tried I just couldn’t do it. I thought about her constantly. As the years went on I finished school and moved on to medical school. I dated a few lovely ladies over the years but my heart was never in the relationships. In the back of my mind I always compared them to Sylvia and none of them ever measured up.
It was December of 1891 and I had just finished medical school, all of my hard work had paid off I was now officially Doctor Albert Ingalls. I wrote Doc Baker and told him the good news and asked him if he had room for another doctor. Unfortunately he didn’t. He said Walnut Grove was still such a small town that there was simply no way they could justify having two doctors, but he said that he would put in a good word for me with a colleague of his at the hospital in Mankato.
I was returning home to spend Christmas with Ma, Pa, Carrie and Grace in Burr Oak, Iowa. Mary and Laura were supposed to be coming in too to celebrate my finishing school. It seems like forever since I had last seen all of them.
It was a cold snowy morning in Minneapolis. I hurried to the train station and arrived just in time to find out that my train was late due to the heavy snowfall. As I went to find a place to sit to wait and elderly man bumped into me. He was kind of tall, with gray hair and and glasses. When he said “excuse me” I noticed that his voice sounded very familiar but I couldn’t place it. But when I replied “I’m sorry sir” he immediately recognized me.
“You that Ingalls boy ain’t ya?” he said. I could hardly believe my eyes. It was Hector Webb, Sylvia’s father. He actually looked happy to see me.
“How have you been?” he asked.
“I’m good sir, I actually just finished medical school, I’m a doctor now.”
“A Doctor huh, well I’m glad to see you made something of yourself. How are your folks?” he asked.
“They’re good, they moved to Burr Oak, Iowa a couple of years ago, I am going home to see them for Christmas”.
I could hardly believe how nice he was. My memories of him were not exactly the best. After all he tried to kill me with a shotgun once. He was talking so much I could barely get word in and then I just cut him off mid sentence and asked him the question I have been dying to know the answer to for so many years, how was Sylvia?
“She’s doing good, her and little Sarah.” he said
“Yes, her daughter,” he replied. “You know it’s kind of funny, just the other day she was talking about you wondering what you were up to, why don’t you go and talk to her, she’s sitting right over there”
I looked where he was pointing, and there she was looking more beautiful than I had remembered her. That long flowing brown hair slightly curled at the ends, I’ll never forget how it would shine in the sunlight. And I could get lost for days in her beautiful dark brown eyes. Oh to gaze into them again, I could hardly wait.
“Do you think she will recognize me?” I asked.
“Well I’m half blind and I recognized ya” he said.
“But, I don’t know what to say to her”
Mr. Webb chuckled and said “why don’t you start with hello, then take it from there” He patted me on the shoulder and walked away.
I walked towards Sylvia, nervous as could be. My heart pounding. I had been dreaming of this moment for years and now that it's here I was so nervous I didn’t know if I could even speak. But I couldn’t let this moment escape. “Hi Sylvia” I said. She looked at me with a look of shock on her face then she began to tear up.
“Albert? Albert Ingalls?” she said.
“Yes its me” I said. She jumped up and hugged me so hard I thought I was going to fall over. I wrapped my arms around her, and we held each other for what seemed like an hour, although it was only a couple of minutes, both of us crying tears of joy. I could not believe I was holding the love of my life in my arms again.
“I can’t believe it's really you I always hoped I would see you again” she cried.
“Well here I am!” I said as I ran my fingers through her beautiful long brown hair.
“Oh Albert! I missed you so much. I thought I would never see you again, but always hoped that I would.”
“And who is this lovely young lady?” I asked.
“This is Sarah, my little girl” she said as she wiped away tears.
“Sarah, that is such a lovely name” I said as I knelt down and shook her little hand.
“Sarah was my ma’s name” replied Sylvia
“Sylvia she’s beautiful, she looks just like you.”
“Thank you” she said.
“Sarah, this is Albert”.
“Hi Ahlbrit” replied Sarah.
“How old are you Sarah?” I asked.
“She looked at Sylvia and Sylvia whispered in her ear and then Sarah replied “five” as she held up her little hand with all five fingers up.
Sarah was kind of shy but then most five year olds are.
“So Albert, what are you doing here, I mean, where are you headed?” Sylvia asked.
“Well, I’m on my way back home. I just finished medical school last week, I’m a doctor now can you believe it? I’m going home to spend Christmas with my family. How about you, where are you headed?”
“I’m not really sure” she said kind of sadly. “You see, my pa just sold our farm and we are just traveling west hoping he can find work. But I’m worried Albert, he’s getting up in age and he just can’t do farming work anymore and I’m not sure what else there is for him to do as far as work.”
“So where will you be spending Christmas?”
“I don’t really know.” she said. “Probably in a train station somewhere I guess”
“Sylvia, a train station is no place to spend Christmas.”
“I know Albert but where else can I go?”
“This is going to sound crazy, I mean I know we haven’t seen each other in years, but why don’t you and Sarah and your pa come and spend Christmas me and my family. I know they would love to see you again.”
“Oh Albert, that would be wonderful but, I don’t know if I could go back to Walnut Grove after everything that happened.”
“Actually we are in Burr Oak, Iowa now. We moved there a few years ago right before I left for college.”
“That’s awfully nice Albert but I don’t think we-”
“I insist” I said. “There is no way I am going to let you spend Christmas in a train station.”
“Albert I want more than anything to spend Christmas with you, but what about my pa? I don’t know how he’s gonna feel about that.”
Just then Mr. Webb walked up.
“Looks like she recognized you huh?” he said.
“She sure did!” I said smiling “Sir, Sylvia told me that the three of you don’t have a place to spend Christmas, so I told her that I want the three of you to come and spend Christmas with me and my family and I won’t take no for an answer.” He smiled and said
“To Burr Oak, Iowa huh, well since we don’t have nowheres else to go I guess I can’t argue. Who knows, maybe I can find work down there. But I don’t want to be in the way.”
“Don’t worry sir it will be no problem at all I promise” I said.
“Alright, I guess we're goin to Iowa Sylvie! Let me go exchange these tickets.”
I could not believe how easy Mr. Webb was to convince. He certainly has changed since I last saw him. Sylvia was so overjoyed all she could do is hug me and cry tears of joy. At long last the love of my life was back in my life, and there was no way I was ever going to let her go.
The train finally arrived about an hour late. As we boarded, Mr. Webb insisted that Sylvia and I sit together and he took little Sarah with him.
“Let mommy and her old friend talk and you come and keep your grandpa company” he told Sarah.
“Alright, bye mama!” Sarah replied.
“Bye sweetie, I’m right here if you need me” Sylvia said
Me and Sylvia sat down a few seats behind them, and we talked almost non stop on the whole trip. I think I was still a little in shock that I was not only talking to her but that she would be spending Christmas with me. Seeing her again was the best Christmas present I could have ever received.
“So what is with your pa?” I asked. “I mean, I am not complaining, but he so different.”
“Well” Sylvia said. “I hate to put like this but I think my fall is the best thing that could have ever happened to him. You see, when my mama died, he was sad and angry all the time. Blamed himself I think. She got scarlet fever and there was nothing he could have done. But after I fell and he didn’t know if I was going to live or not and he got really scared. Scared he would be alone for the rest of his life. Both his parents died when he was young. Then he lost both his brothers in the war of the states. Mama was all he had until I came along. Then he lost her. I think he lost his faith in God too. I never told anyone this but the night after my fall, after you, your pa and Doc Baker had left, I had gotten up to use the outhouse and I saw papa in the barn. He was on his knees praying, and he was crying asking God for help to give me the strength to recover and to forgive him for acting as he had, you know for blaming me for the attack and all. And after that, he really began to change. But it wasn’t until Sarah was born that he really became a different man. Since then he has been a different person. We are in church every Sunday now. He absolutely adores Sarah.”
“I guess something good always comes out of something bad” I said.
“You know your pa was somewhat of local hero in Walnut Grove” I said. Sylvia looked at me a little puzzled. “Shortly after you fell,” I explained, “your pa went into town and Mrs. Oleson said something to him and he lit into her something fierce. I don’t know what he said to her but for nearly a week nobody saw or heard a word out of Mrs. Oleson. Nobody has ever shut her up like that.” I laughed. Sylvia laughed and said “that must be why Mr. Oleson forgave pa’s credit debt!” “Yeah I think you're right!” I said. It was so good to see her laugh. I always loved how her face lit up when she did.
Ever since Sylvia and her pa moved away I had been wondering how she was doing, adjusting to her new home and preparing to be a mother. After she stopped writing me I figured maybe she found someone new, or was she mad at me for something. Ever since she left I wondered if maybe I should have fought harder for us to be together, that maybe I gave up too easy.
“So, what have you been doing all these years since we last saw each other?”, I asked her.
“Well,” Sylvia replied “Even after everything that happened in Walnut Grove I still didn’t want to move. But then I thought maybe papa was right, that it would be best for me and my baby to make a fresh start of things in a new town. But it wasn’t easy. I agreed with papa that the best way to explain my situation, you know, being with child and without a husband and all, was to say that my husband had died in an accident. I had even come up with a story about it that my husband had worked for the railroad and that he died when the train crashed. And I couldn’t help but cry when I told that story because for some reason every time I said “my husband” I pictured you Albert.”
My heart just melted at that moment.
“When things got bad back home,” she continued “with papa blaming me for the attack and the whole town looking at me like I was some kind of a tramp, you didn’t judge me Albert. You were the only one who believed me, and the only one who loved me. Even when the rumors spread that you were the father, you stood up for me.” Sylvia began to cry. “Oh Albert, I didn’t want to leave you.”
“I know” I said as I hugged her. “And I didn’t want you to go either. But you remember, we were so young, and there was no way I could have supported you and the baby. It was best for you and the baby to make a fresh start in another town.”
“But it wasn’t!” she cried. “I was so lonely, papa was gone a lot working and I never really had a chance to make any friends. I couldn’t attend school because I was with child and after Sarah was born all my time was spent with her. I remember how I felt so safe with you Albert, Oh, how I wished we could have gotten married.”
“Me too” I replied “I wanted to be your husband more than anything. I wrote to you but you stopped writing me back.”
“I know”, she said “And I am so sorry, but every time I tried to write to you I started crying, when we left Walnut Grove I thought I would never see you again. We moved so far away and I wanted to make the best life for my baby. I thought it was best if I tried to forget about you Albert and move on, but I just couldn’t.” She cried.
“I thought maybe you found a new beau” I said.
“Well, there was this one guy Mr. Cartwright, Joe as we called him. Papa had hired him to help with the farm. He was a real nice guy, and handsome. He liked me, and he asked me to the church social. I went, but something just didn’t seem right. I mean it wasn’t him, he was a real good guy and all but I just, I couldn’t … feel …”
“I know exactly what you mean Sylvia. I courted a few ladies but I just couldn’t get serious about anyone. I could not give them my heart, because you had it. My heart belongs to you Sylvia, it always has.”
She grabbed my hand and held it tight, she looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and kissed me. It was at that moment I knew that Sylvia Webb was going to be my wife, one way or another. I had lost her once before and there was no way I was going to lose her again.
“Sylvia, we have a second chance and I want to make it right. I never stopped loving you, and I want us to get to know each other again and fall in love again.”
“But I never stopped loving you Albert.”
“And I never stopped loving you Sylvia.”
We sat there gazing in each other’s eyes for what seemed like forever, totally oblivious to the world around us.
“So how do you like being a mother?” I asked.
“I like it very much” she replied smiling. “But I was so scared at first. Knowing the way my baby came to me I wasn’t sure that I could love her. I mean, what if she looked like that horrible man? I thought about giving her up to an orphanage, I had even talked to the lady there. But after Sarah was born and I held her for the first time I just fell in love with her. She is a piece of me after all.”
“I know, she looks just like you” I said.
“She has my mama’s eyes, at least that’s what papa says. That’s why I named her Sarah, after my mama.”
“I grew up without a mother, I had no choice. I wanted my little Sarah to have a mom. What happened to me was not her fault and she shouldn’t have to suffer for it. And I want her to have a pa someday too. Papa has been great but he’s not her father.”
“Well, she will have a pa someday Sylvia, and you will have a husband.”
I wanted to ask her to marry me right then but I knew it was too soon, after all we hadn’t seen each other in nearly six years. Letting her go those many years ago was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. I wanted so badly to marry her, and if that no good creep hadn’t come after her that day we would have run away and got married in the first town we came to. I know I could have found a way to support her. I probably I wouldn’t be a doctor now if I had married her then but I know I would have had no regrets. I’m sure our folks would have been some furious if we had run off and got married but I’m pretty sure in time they would have forgiven us. For a long time, I wondered if I made the right decision, letting her go and all. I mean I knew I didn’t have a lot of say in the matter but maybe I should have just sneaked out one night and gone to her house and run away with her? Maybe I should have tried harder to convince ma and pa that I was able to care for her and the baby? Many nights I laid awake thinking about her and the life I could have had with her and how was she doing without me. Did she miss me as much as I missed her? Well that was then and this is now and I am going to make her my wife, whatever it takes.
We finally arrived in Burr Oak around five o’clock in the morning before the sun was even up. I was so anxious to see my family, but at the same time a little scared because I wasn’t sure if there would be room for Sylvia, Sarah and Mr. Webb. When I got off the train the cold air ripped right through me. Pa was standing there waiting. His hair was totally gray now. He had the proudest smile on his face I had ever seen. I ran to him and hugged him tight and before he could speak I told him
“Pa, I have some guests staying with us for Christmas.” He was shocked when he saw Sylvia, Mr. Webb and little Sarah.
“Pa, you remember Sylvia Webb don’t you? I ran into her at the station.”
“Hi Mr. Ingalls” she said.
“Now how could I forget, how have you been Sylvia?”
“It’s been tough but we have managed” she said with kind of a shy chuckle.
“This is my daughter, Sarah.”
“Hi, Sarah” said Pa.
“Hi,” Sarah said while burying her face in Sylvia’s dress.
“Hector it's good to see you again” Pa said while shaking his hand.
“You too Charles. Now, your boy invited us to stay without asking you first, and I don’t want to put anyone out, so if you don’t have room there’s no hard feelings we’ll be just fine at a hotel.
“Nonsense, we have plenty of room.” Pa said, “we’ll just make Albert sleep in the barn!” Pa laughed.
“Hey!” I replied.
Honestly I really didn’t care. I would have slept out in the snow if I had to. Having Sylvia back in my life meant more to me than anything else.
“Well come on, Caroline has breakfast waiting for us!” Pa said.
We climbed onto pa’s wagon. Mr. Webb sat up front with pa, and Sylvia and Sarah and me huddled close together in the back trying to keep each other warm. The whole time Sylvia and I held hands.
“Pa,” I asked, “did Laura and Mary make it in yet?”
“Adam and Mary send their regrets they won’t be able to make it, but Laura and Almanzo should be in sometime in the next few days I think. I know little Rose will be happy to have Sarah to play with.”
“Who is Rose?” Sylvia asked.
“Rose is Laura and Almanzo’s daughter. She is about the same age as Sarah.”
“Well I know Sarah will be happy to have someone her age around for a change,” Sylvia said.
“So Hector, this certainly is a surprise, how have you been doing all these years?” pa asked.
“Well” replied Mr. Webb, “after we left Walnut Grove we settled in a small farming town called Spring Hill, Wisconsin. A few miles south of Milwaukee. We did alright till the storms last summer messed up my crops. Not too long after a man from the railroad come to see me. Said the railroad was a comin’ through and they needed the land. With the crops being no good I couldn’t argue. He made me fair offer so we packed up and moved on.
“Well I can certainly relate to that, a hard winter got us a few years back so we moved down here. So where are you headed to?” Pa asked.
“Don’t really know,” replied Hector. “We were headed west, heard land was was priced good out that way but honestly Charles, I’m a gettin a little too old for that sorta thing. Then we run into your boy at the train station in Minneapolis. He invited us to spend Christmas with you folks and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Seein’ him and my Sylvie together again there was no way I could argue with him. I ain’t seen her this happy in a long time.”
“Yeah I know whatcha mean,” Pa said “I don’t think Albert ever got over her.
“So you still farmin Charles?”
“No, I work for the mill as a purchasing agent, I could sure use some help if you’re interested.”
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to look into” Hector said.
Sylvia smiled big when she heard that.
We finally arrived at home and I couldn’t wait to get into that nice warm house. I got down off the wagon and helped Sylvia and Sarah down.
“Albert why don’t you go in and see your ma, Hector and I will get this wagon unhitched.”
I walked into the house and there was ma in the kitchen “Hi ma!” I shouted.
“Oh Albert, it is so good to see you! and Sylvia Webb? My goodness how have you been?” she asked
“I ran into her at the train station. I asked her and her pa to spend Christmas with us”
“Hi Mrs. Ingalls! I hope we won’t be too much trouble” said Sylvia.
“Oh no trouble at all! Oh Sylvia! It is so good to see you” ma said as she hugged her. “And who is this lovely young lady?”
“This is Sarah” Sylvia replied
“Well hi Sarah! I am Caroline.”
“Hi Caroline” replied Sarah.
“How is your father Sylvia?” ma asked.
“He’s good he’s outside with Mr Ingalls”
“You know Charles”,said Hector “I want to apologize again for my behavior those years back. I had no right to come after your boy like that.”
“That’s quite alright Hector, as father of four girls I understand completely.” Pa replied.
“He’s a good kid, treated my Sylvie right. Stood up for her when no one else would. I’m glad he was there for her, like I should have been.” Mr Webb sat down on a bale of hay. “When Sylvie’s mama died I got into the bottle to cope. I blamed myself for her sickness even though the doc said there was nothing I could’ve done. Thought I had my drinking under control, then Sylvie got attacked by that, that no good Hartwig. Then it got outta control, started drinkin’ heavy. The night after she had that fall I made a promise to the good Lord that if he’d see fit to save my little girl that I would be the father she deserved and I’d that I’d never drink again. And I haven’t touched a drop since, not since that day. Seeing Sylvie with your boy, well, just made me feel good. After we moved she cried a lot, she was so miserable poor kid having been through so much I thought moving away and making a fresh start of things was the right thing to do. But sometimes Charles, I wondered, should we have stayed in Walnut Grove? Maybe I should have just let her marry your boy?”
“Now come on Hector, they were too young and you know it. But I have to admit, after seeing how broken up Albert was after the two of you left I sometimes wondered the same thing. Do you know he was going to tell you that he was the father of Sylvia’s baby so you would let him marry her?”
“Is that a fact?” replied Mr Webb. “Well I’m sure glad he didn’t, the way I was back then I’da probably shot him! But I’ll tell ya Charles, I hope he does ask her to marry him. That’s why I didn’t put up a fuss when he insisted on us spending Christmas with you folks. He’s good for her ya know. And she never did get over him”
“Well if I know Albert he’s going to wait for just right time.”
I was waiting for the right time. Heck I wanted to ask her the moment I first saw her at the train station. But everything was just happening so fast. Last week I had finished school and all I could think about was seeing my family for Christmas then starting my new job as a doctor in Mankato. Then two days ago the love of my life that I said goodbye to six years ago was suddenly back in my life. I fell in love with Sylvia Webb six years ago and I was ready to run away from the only family that I had ever known to be with her and raise her unborn child as my own. Then it all stopped cold, because then she had to leave. And for six years I tried to move on and forget about her but I couldn’t. Then suddenly she’s back in my life. Everything was happening so fast I guess I just needed time to take it all in. But there was no way I was going to lose her again. I love Sylvia Webb and I was going to ask her to marry me… again.
I was really faced with a major dilemma. I had a good job, which was going to be a great opportunity waiting for me in Mankato. And a few days ago I had no doubts or second thoughts about going. Now that Sylvia, the love of my life, was back in my life I was starting to question whether or not I should take the job. So many thoughts were racing through my head. Sylvia was going to be settling here in Burr Oak with her pa now that he had steady work. I wanted her to come with me to Mankato but we will have to get married first, and she would have to leave her pa behind. I didn't want to rush into a wedding because I wanted to give her the wedding of her dreams. And her and her pa have gotten so close and the way he adores little Sarah I just don't have the heart to separate them. I could pass on the job and stay here but what will I do for work? I'm just out of med school I want to work for somebody first before I go out on my own, and there is no doctor in town. What should I do? I asked myself over and over again.
Since I had six weeks before I had to leave for Mankato I decided I would work with pa down at the mill. It was a grist mill, where they would take wheat and corn and grind it into flour. I wanted to save up some money so I could find a place to live when I started my new job. Pa had been promoted to purchasing agent and he hired Mr. Webb to be his assistant. I worked outside the mill helping customers unload wagons. I had only been there a week and all I could think about was Sylvia and my dilemma. Then one morning as I was unloading a wagon I heard a horrific scream from inside the mill, and I heard someone yelling “Go get Doc Cooper! Go get Doc Cooper!” As I ran inside to see what I could do to help, I saw Mr. Anderson running out. I asked him what happened and he said “It's Critchlow, he got his arm caught in the machine, it don't look to good. I'm going to get Doc Cooper but it could be a few hours before I'm back.” Doctor Cooper was the nearest doctor to Burr Oak. He was about two hours away. Burr Oak was such a small town that they didn't have their own doctor. I was the only one who could help.
When I ran inside I saw Mr. Critchlow lying on the ground. His arm was in pretty bad shape. Immediately I ran to him and began to dress his wound. I was limited on supplies so I had to make do with what I had near by. I told the guys to get me some ice, clean water, and whatever we could use for a bandage. I cleaned his wound the best I could and using a clean shirt, bandaged him up. It wasn't pretty but it should be good until Doc Cooper arrives. I did my best to keep Mr. Critchlow as calm and comfortable as I could. Finally, about four hours later Mr. Anderson and Doc. Cooper arrived. He was an older man, older than pa, wore glasses and walked with a slight limp. I explained to Doc. Cooper everything that I had observed with Mr. Critchlow's injury, and what I had done to stabilize him. Doc Cooper had a puzzled look on his face, I guess he was a little surprised to hear all of those medical terms coming from a mill worker. He asked me “How do you know all of these terms young man?” When I explained to him that I was just out of med school he looked at me as if to say “alright so if you are doctor what are you doing working as a laborer in a mill?”
After he finished with Mr Critchlow he came out and talked to me
“What's your name son?” he asked
I'm Albert Ingalls sir”
“Doctor George Cooper” he said with a smile as he shook my hand
“Albert when you told me you were right out of med school I thought you were lying. But the way you cleaned and dressed that wound says to me you got some kind of medical training. You did an excellent job treating him, you saved his life you know, he'd a bled out for sure if it wasn't for you.”
“How's his arm will he still have use of it?” I asked.
“Well kind of hard to say right now, he will some use out of it but how much, well only time will tell. Now tell me something kid, if you are a doctor what on earth are you doing working here?”
“Well”, I explained “I got a job waiting for me in Mankato, a good opportunity, I'm supposed to go in a few weeks, I'm just working here right now to save up some money so I can find a place to live when I get there.” I said
“I see, now you say it's a good opportunity, but uh, well you sure don't sound too excited about it” he said.
“Up until a few days ago I was” I guess he could hear it in my voice.
“So what happened if ya don’t mind me askin?” he asked
“Six years ago I fell in love with this girl, we were planning to run away and get married but those plans fell through and she ended up moving away her pa. We wrote each other for a while but then lost touch. I never really got over her. Then suddenly a few days ago I encountered her and her pa at the train station in Minneapolis and talked them into spending Christmas with me and my family. Her pa found a job here in Burr Oak and they are going to settle here. She is finally back in my life and now have to leave in a few weeks. I just don't know what I should do” I explained
“Well that's quite a pickle you're in. I can't tell you what to do but might I offer you a suggestion. Why don't you stay here and set up a clinic in town. This area needs a doctor and I must say you do excellent work, you are going to make a great doctor.”
“I would love to do that” I said, “but I would really like to get some experience working for somebody first before I go out on my own.”
“I can certainly understand that” he replied “Well, suppose someone were to, show you the ropes, teach you how to run a small local clinic, would that be something that might interest you?”
“I guess” I said
“I have an idea. Now I typically make my way out here about twice a week but I live in Ridgeway which is about two hours away. Why don't you work with me on the days that I'm in town and come on out to Ridgeway when you can and I'll be happy to help you get up to speed. Now I know I can't pay you what those big city doctors will pay you, but you can certainly do a lot of good here Albert. You don't have to give me an answer right away, give it some time to think it over, talk it over with your misses if you want. I'll be back tomorrow to check on Mr. Critchlow. Why don't you accompany me, after all he is your patient.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right” I said. This was the answer to my prayers. Sure I wouldn't make as much money here as I would in Mankato he was right about that, but it doesn't cost as much to live here as it does in Mankato and plus how could I let money keep me away from my Sylvia?
The next morning I met up with Doc Cooper in town and we rode together to the Critchlow place. When we arrived at the door Mr. Critchlow's wife was waiting. She was an older lady about ma's age. She was kind of heavy and had grayish brown hair.
“Hello Katie, how’s Jonathan doing this morning?” asked doc Cooper
“He's still in a lot of pain but he seems to be doing a little better, who's this handsome young man?”
“This is Doctor Albert Ingalls, he’s the man who patched up Jonathan and took good care of him until I arrived”
Before I had a chance to say anything she hugged me so tight I could hardly breathe.
“Oh you are such a saint! You saved my dear Jonathan! How can I ever thank you?
“It was my pleasure ma’am.
“Well Jonathan is right in here I know he’ll be glad to see you”
Doc. Cooper and I checked on Mr Critchlow. We unbandaged his arm and were very pleased to see no signs of infection. We never really had much of a chance to talk yesterday with everything that happened. Like Doc Cooper he was surprised to learn that I was a doctor working as a laborer in a grist mill. Mrs. Critchlow came in after we finished rebandaging her husband’s arm.
“So are you going to be our new town doctor?” she asked.
“Well, I’m not really sure. I have a job offer in Mankato, Minnesota which up until a few days ago I was going to accept but now I’m having second thoughts.
“Young Albert here wants to marry his childhood sweetheart” Doc Cooper said.
I then told the Critchlow’s about how Sylvia and I fell in love as teenagers and then she moved and we found each other a few days ago at the train station and now her and Sarah and her pa were settling here. Of course I didn’t say anything about her attack. I just said Sylvia had gotten married and shortly after becoming with child her husband died in an accident
“Oh that’s so sweet!” she said.
“You know Albert,” said Mrs Critchlow “twenty years ago my Jonathan gave up a dangerous job in mining so he could be with me.”
“Worked out real good for me!” Mr Critchlow said laughing as he held up his injured arm.
“Jonathan!” Mrs. Critchlow continued “Anyway, what I am saying is that sometimes in life we have to make sacrifices for the ones we love. And I can tell you really lover her.”
“She’s right Albert.” Mr Critchlow replied. “I made good money in the coal mine, but giving it up for my Katie, well I certainly have no regrets. We made a good life for ourselves and our kids here in Burr Oak. It’s a great town to raise a family in. Only thing we’re missing is a doctor.”
That’s when I knew what I had to do. I was going to pass on Mankato and stay here with Sylvia and Sarah.
“Mr and Mrs. Critchlow, Burr Oak is going to have a doctor” I said.
They were so overjoyed with the news.
“So Dr. Ingalls, have you and your lady set a date for your wedding yet?” Mr Critchlow asked.
It’s funny, it almost seems a little weird being called Dr. Ingalls, I guess that will take some getting used to.
“Actually I have not asked her yet. I wasn’t sure what to do about my job situation but now that I have that figured out I’m going to ask her. I want to give her the wedding of her dreams, she described it to me once and now I aim to make it happen.” I said
“Well, we would like to help you with that, after all you did save my arm, and maybe my life. What did you say her name was?
“Sylvia, Sylvia Webb.”
“Webb, is she kin to that new fella at the mill, um, Hector I think is his name?”
“Yes sir” I said “Hector is her pa”
“No kidding, anyways, does Sylvia have a wedding dress?” Mr Critchlow asked
“I don’t think so” I replied
“Well my Katie is the best dressmaker in town, actually the only dressmaker in town but still she is quite good, and she could make a beautiful dress for your misses.”
“Ma’am you can do that?” I asked
“Of course, it would be my pleasure Albert, you just send your lovely lady over here and we will pick out fabrics and designs and make her the dress of her dreams. And I don’t want to hear any talk of money, this one is on me.”
I didn’t know what to say, I was so grateful I got choked up when I thanked them both. It’s funny how small towns are. Yesterday I didn’t even know these people, now it seems as if I had known them for years. They are almost like an aunt and uncle now. Oh how I couldn’t wait to see my Sylvia in that long white dress, there was just one little problem I still have not asked her to marry me yet. And before I ask her I need to get Mr. Webb’s approval.
That evening I decided to have a man to man talk with Mr. Webb. I had to have his permission to marry Sylvia. Funny thing is, he came to talk to me first.
“Albert, can I talk to ya a minute?” he asked me
“Yes sir” I replied
We walked to the barn and then he spoke, “Albert, I was tellin your pa the other day that I owe you a big apology for the way I acted those years back, trying to shoot ya and all.
“That’s alright sir, you did end up shooting the right man though, and you probably saved my life at the same time.” I said.
“There’s something I’m going to tell you and I want it to stay between us understand. I wasn’t right those years back when I lived in Walnut Grove. I had been carrying around a lot of pain that I tried to drown in the whiskey. You see, many years ago when Sylvie was just a baby, I got throwed off a horse. Broke my leg and a few ribs and the doc said I couldn’t leave the bed for a few weeks. Well, I had a crop to get to the market, and I asked my Sarah, that’s Sylvie’s mama, to bring it to market herself.” His voice then began to get shaky “On her way to town, she ran into a gang of bandits. She was robbed, and they shot my Sarah” he said as he fought back tears. “I blamed myself because I should have been the one on the wagon that day, I should never have asked her… to…” he cried. “I never forgave myself for that. I always felt I failed her as a husband because I wasn't able to protect her. That's why I was so protective of Sylvia, always wanting to know where she was. But a lot of good it did, I still wasn't able to protect her from that creep blacksmith. ”
“But Mr. Webb” I said as I put my arm around him. “You couldn’t have known”
“I know, but I still can’t help but feel to blame. I told Sylvie her ma died of scarlet fever. I felt that was better than the truth. And that’s what I want her to believe. I thought that if she knew the truth she’d blame me and hate me for it. That’s why I told her that. She can’t know the truth Albert. Promise me you’ll never tell her.”
“I promise” I said. And I never did tell her either.
Mr. Webb continued “I took to the bottle after that, hid it from a lotta folks, I don’t think Sylvie knew. And after Sylvie got attacked by that no good blacksmith my drinkin got real bad. Sylvie thought I blamed her, but the truth is I blamed myself for that too because I felt I should have been able to protect her and I failed her like I failed her ma, but for some reason I took it out on her.”
“I know how you feel.” I said. “ When Hartwig came after her that second time, he knew where she was because of me. She told me she always felt safe with me and I let her down. I never forgave myself for that.”
“It’s alright Albert, I don’t fault you for that and believe me, neither does Sylvie”
“Thank You sir” I said.
“At least you didn’t turn to the bottle to cope like I did. I was at my worst that night I came to your house with the gun. But, after Sylvie had that fall I made a promise to the good lord that I would never drink again if my baby survived. God kept his promise, so I kept mine. I got right with the lord after that and I been a better man since. And I want to thank you for being there for my Sylvie, because I wasn’t. You never doubted her Albert, you stood up for her when no one else would, that took a lot of guts son. You are a good man and I’m so glad to see you and Sylvie back together. I haven’t seen her this happy in a long time, that's why I didn’t put up a fuss when you insisted on us coming here to spend Christmas with you and your folks. Albert, I took Sylvie away from you once, and her heart never healed until the day when she saw you again. There was no way I was going to tear you two apart.”
“Thank you sir” I said “I want you to know there are no hard feelings between us, and I also want you to know how much I love your daughter. I never stopped loving her and I know I never will. And if it’s alright with you sir I would like to ask you for her hand in marriage”.
“Albert, it would be an honor to call you my son-in-law, you’re a good man and I know you will make Sylvie a good husband and little Sarah a good papa.” He said. “But what about your job in Mankato, you have to go in a few weeks don’t you?”
“Well sir I have been giving this a lot of thought, and I am not going to take that job. I am going to stay here so Sylvia and Sarah can be near you” I said.
“Albert, I am much obliged but you have to do what is best for Sylvia and Sarah, you got a good opportunity in Mankato. You can't pass on that and stay here working at the mill.”
“I know, but Sarah and Sylvia need you sir, and that is what is best for them” I replied
Mr. Webb got misty eyed. And said while fighting back tears “Thank You”
“Besides I got a pretty good offer here in Burr Oak. I guess you heard about how I was able to help Mr. Critchlow after his accident.”
“Yeah, the whole mill was goin on about it”
“Well I got to talking to Doc Cooper, he said this area needs a doctor and he offered to help me get set up. I'm going to train with him on the days he's here in town and go when I can to Ridgeway where he's from to train there. Looks like I'm going to be Burr Oak's first doctor.”
“That sounds great Albert” Mr. Webb said proudly “So when you gonna ask Sylvie to marry you?” he said.
“I’m not sure, I’m waiting for the right moment”
“Yeah your pa said you would” he chuckled
The next morning ma said Laura’s train was supposed to be arriving around noon and I had decided to go pick her up with Sylvia. Boy was Laura in for a pleasant surprise! She always liked Sylvia and felt so bad for her with everything that happened back in Walnut Grove. I couldn’t wait to see her. Sylvia and I asked Sarah to come with us but she refused as she was having too much fun with Carrie and Grace. I was a little disappointed but it was alright. Anyway it would give me and Sylvia a chance to spend some quality time together. We arrived at the train station about an hour early only to discover that Laura’s train would be about two hours late. So since we had three hours we decided to take a walk through town. It was kind of like old times, the two of us walking hand in hand talking and laughing and gazing in each other’s eyes. I remember thinking how funny it was that even though six years had passed since we had seen each other we basically picked up right where we had left off. And I was also thinking about that night after she fell. That was the worst night of my life. I really thought she died in my arms. But at the same time that’s when I realized just how much I really loved her. She was lying in bed injured, it tore my heart out to see her like that. We started discussing wedding plans. I remember she said she wanted a church wedding, and she wanted to wear a long white dress with yellow flowers in her hair and walk up the aisle to me. And she wanted to hear the reverend say “you may now kiss your bride”. Then she said “kiss me my love” and I kissed her. Then she had faded off to sleep, but for a moment there I thought I had lost her forever. I was so relieved when she awoke and consoled me after I was crying over her. She asked me what was wrong and I told her “I thought I lost you Sylvia” and she replied “you will never lose me, my Albert”. But then a little over a month later I did lose her when she moved away. I think deep down I knew that we would see each other again, and somehow I think she knew it too, it was just a question of when. And now here we are six years later in each other’s arms just like old times.
I wanted badly to ask for Sylvia to marry me. But I was so nervous and I had no idea why. There was no way she would say no, I think. Funny thing was when I was fourteen I wasn’t nervous at all. I asked her without hesitation. I wasn’t even really nervous when I told ma and pa that I wanted to marry her. And wasn’t nervous at all when I talked to Mr. Webb last night. I don’t know, I was just going to have to bite the bullet and do it. I knew that I loved her and I knew that she loved me, and there was no reason to have any doubts.
We continued walking down the snow covered dirt road into a wooded area. The ice covered trees sparkled in the sunlight. We walked down by a little creek, one that reminded us both of the one back in Walnut Grove where we used to go fishing after school, where we had our first kiss, and where we fell in love.
“Albert, can I ask you something?”
“How come you never noticed me before?”
“What do you mean?” I asked
“You know, you never really noticed me before that day you came by my house with Willie Oleson” she said.
“Actually I did notice you, but I was too nervous to talk to you, but I always wanted to”
“Yeah I kinda felt the same way about you” she said.
“I’m sure glad you brought me my books that next day, you got us talking” I said
“Yeah I did.” she said with a kind of half smile.
Something didn’t seem right with Sylvia, she seemed kind of down.
“Sylvia, are you alright? You look like something is eating at you” I said
“Well, Albert these past two weeks have been the happiest two weeks I have had in a very long time. Being with you again has been so wonderful, and now papa is buying a house here so it looks like we will be settling here, which is good and all, but you will be leaving in a couple of weeks. Albert I am falling in love with you all over again, and I can’t stand the thought of having to say goodbye to you again.” Sylvia said as she started tearing up.
“Sylvia, you won’t have to say goodbye to me.”
“What do you mean?” she asked
“I have some great news, I’m not going to Mankato. I am going to stay right here in Burr Oak with you and Sarah. I’m going to be Burr Oak’s first town doctor.”
“What?” she said “When did this happen, and how?”
“After Mr Critchlow got hurt at the mill and I patched him up, Doc Cooper was so impressed with my work he offered to help me get set up here. He said this town desperately needed a doctor. It was the answer to my prayers. Sylvia I couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to you again either.”
“You don’t know how happy that makes me to hear that. Albert, can I tell you something?” she asked
“Sure go ahead”
“You remember that night after I fell?”
“Yes, as hard as I try I can’t forget it” I said
“Well, it was when I was lying in bed and we were talking, I don’t remember a lot about that night but what I do remember is describing to you my perfect wedding, then we kissed and I fell asleep. I remember I dreamed that we were at the creek and we had our first kiss, then I woke up to find you crying. But that dream was so real, I really thought I was there.” She said
It was then that I knew, the time was perfect, the time was now to ask her to marry me.
“Sylvia” I said as I held her hand tight in mine and looked deeply into her beautiful dark brown eyes. “These years that we were apart have been difficult, but it has helped me to realize something. That even though we have only been back together these past few days I have come to realize just how much I love you, and how much you mean to me, and how much I need you in my life.” I began to tear up “Six years ago I made you a promise that I was going to give you the wedding of your dreams, but I was unable to keep that promise then, but I aim to make good on that promise now. Sylvia Webb, will you be my bride?”
She began to cry. “Oh Albert, I thought you’d never ask” she said
“So is that a yes?”
“Of course it is a Yes! Yes, Albert I will be your wife!”
“Kiss me, my love!” I said
“I am finally going to be Mrs. Ingalls!”
“Sylvia Ingalls I love you!” I said
She kissed me and hugged me so hard that this time I did fall over. We laid there in the snow laughing for bit, then we stood up brushing the snow off of ourselves and laughing like two little kids. Oh it felt so good to hold her in my arms. I had never seen Sylvia happier than she was at that moment.
“Sylvia you are the love of my life and we are finally together again, there is no way I am going to leave town. Even if I had to stay working at the mill. I am staying right here with you my darling! And I am going to be the best pa to Sarah that she could ever ask for. I learned from the best.”
“Now I just need to find a dress, do you think Laura will let me wear hers?” she said
“Actually, Mrs. Critchlow is a dressmaker, she offered to make a wedding dress for you.”
“Are you serious?” she replied
“Yes, she insisted, kind of a thank you for helping Mr. Critchlow. They will be at the church Christmas service, I’ll introduce you.”
“Oh Albert, we’re really getting married! I am so happy you will be my husband, and Sarah will have a daddy! you know Albert, I always pretended that you were Sarah’s father, because I always wished that you were, and now you will be. You know if Sarah had been a boy, I was going to name him Albert.”
Just then we heard a faint sound, a train whistle. “Laura’s train!” we both exclaimed. I couldn’t believe three hours had gone by so fast. We ran through the snow and ice, hand in hand, laughing and smiling the whole way to the train station. Fortunately we weren’t too far away. Right as we arrived I saw Laura stepping off of the train with Almanzo and little Rose who wasn’t so little anymore. I yelled out “Laura! Over here” as I waved my arms to get her attention. She ran towards us when she saw us.
“Oh Albert I am so proud of… My God is this Sylvia Webb?” I had no idea you two… were… are you, how?” Laura said very confused.
Sylvia and I just looked at each other laughing.
“Yes Laura, we are together again. And this time forever. I want you to be the first to know. Laura, Sylvia and I are getting married!”
“Well congratulations Dr. And Mrs Ingalls! How did you two find each other?”
“It’s kind of a long story, we’ll tell you on the ride home”
“Sylvia forgive me I’m a little overwhelmed here! So how have you been, I have been so worried about you.”
“It’s been tough, but we have been alright, Mrs Wilder”
“Now none of that “Mrs. Wilder” stuff, I’m not your teacher anymore, I’m your future sister-in-law! I can’t believe it! And your baby, how’s…”
“Sarah’s good. She’s at your folk’s house playing with Carrie and Grace. How about you, I hear you are mother now too.”
“Rose is around here somewhere with her father, Almanzo! over here!” Laura shouted as she waved her arms.
“Beth! Sorry I got lost in the crowd. Congratulations Doctor Ingalls!” Almanzo said as he held Rose.
“Almanzo do you remember Sylvia Webb?” I asked.
“Of course I do, are you two back together?”
“Yes! And were getting married!” She exclaimed.
“Well then I guess a double congratulations is in order” Almanzo said.
“You know Sylvia” said Laura “Folks back home still talk about that day your pa lit into Mrs Oleson!”
“Yeah Albert told me, she had it coming though. Is she still…”
“She’s still Mrs. Oleson” Laura said “Well we have a lot of catching up to do, Oh Sylvia I’m so glad to see your are doing well!” Laura said as she gave Sylvia a hug.
On the ride back to ma and pa’s house I told Laura and Almanzo the interesting story of how Sylvia and I got reacquainted. We finally arrived at the house around four o’clock. I wanted so bad to tell ma the news that Sylvia and I are getting married, but Christmas was only two days away so we decided to wait until Christmas dinner to make our announcement. My family was planning a big celebration for me for becoming a doctor. I was a little nervous about how they were going to take the news that I was passing up the job in Mankato. In fact I was sure that I would hear from pa “Albert, have you thought this through?” And I the truth is I had been thinking it through over the past six years. I swore that if I ever saw Sylvia again that I would stop at nothing when it came to us being together, not hell nor high water would get in my way. All of Christmas day I was a nervous wreck. Ma even sensed something as she asked me a couple of times
“Albert are you alright, you seem nervous about something”.
“I’m just getting hungry” I said. Which wasn’t a total lie because I was, but at the same time, I was way to nervous to eat anyway. But somehow I think ma knew what I was waiting to tell everyone.
Finally, it was time to eat. Now I was getting really nervous. Again, I didn’t really know why I was so nervous about telling them. They all knew how much I loved Sylvia and how I never got over her. And seeing us back together again so happy I am sure they expected this sooner or later. The time had come, we had all sat down, said grace and we were just about to eat when I stood up.
“Everybody, before we eat I would first like to say thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate my becoming a doctor. It was a lot of hard work but your love and support got me through it. And secondly, I would like to proudly announce that Sylvia and I are getting married!” Everybody shouted with joy although I don’t think they were the least bit surprised.
“Sylvia, I am going to be so proud to walk you down the aisle.” said Mr Webb
“Thank you papa” Sylvia said with tears of joy in her eyes.
“So have you set a date?” Carrie asked.
“No, not yet” I replied “But we were thinking sometime in the spring. We would like to wait for the snow to melt.
Then came the question from pa that I dreaded to hear. “Albert, what about your job in Mankato, aren’t you supposed to start in a couple of weeks?” pa asked.
“Well pa, I have given this a lot of thought, and I decided that I am not going to take that job. I am going to stay here and be Burr Oak's first permanent doctor. Since Sylvia and her pa have decided to settle here, I want to stay here too so I can be near her. And I don’t want her and Sarah to have to leave Mr. Webb.” I replied.
“Albert, that sounds great, but are you sure you are ready for that? I mean you just got out of school.”
“Well, after Mr. Critchlow's accident, Doc Cooper and I got to talking and he told me he would train me and help me get set up. I'm supposed to start next week.”
“Albert, that sounds like a good offer. I’m not sure if that is the best choice for your career, but I know how much Sylvia means to you. So I won’t even try to talk you out of it. Congratulations son, you have chosen a fine lady as your wife. And congratulations on being Burr Oak's first doctor.”
“Thank you pa” I said getting a little choked up.
At last Christmas day had arrived. It was a beautiful snow covered morning and the whole family made the trek into town to church for the Christmas service. Sylvia, Sarah and I sat next to each other in the front row. I looked at the two of them, looking so beautiful in their Sunday dresses, and thanked God for bringing them back into my life. My wife and my daughter, how wonderful is that. I loved watching them sing the hymns. I never realized what a beautiful singing voice Sylvia had. Sarah too, for a five year old she could carry a tune quite well. They both received many compliments from the congregation.
After the service Mrs.Critchlow walked up to us.
“Well Merry Christmas Dr and soon to be Mrs. Ingalls” then she quickly stopped herself and whispered to me “You did ask her right?”
“Yes I did and she said yes! Mrs Critchlow this is my lovely bride to be, Sylvia. And this little angel is Sarah.” I said as I picked up Sarah.
“Hi Mrs. Critchlow, Merry Christmas” said Sylvia.
“Sylvia, I must say you have the most beautiful singing voice, you too Miss Sarah”
“Thank you” they both replied.
“Now Sylvia, I don’t know if Albert told you but I am a dressmaker, and it would be my pleasure to make you a dress for your wedding.”
“Yes he told me and I can’t thank you enough.” Sylvia replied
“It’s the least I can do to thank him for saving my dear Jonathan. And how about you Miss Sarah, would like a beautiful dress to wear to your mama’s wedding?”
“Yes ma’am” replied Sarah
“Oh Mrs. Critchlow I can’t ask you to that” said Sylvia
“Nonsense, it would be my pleasure. You know all three of my children are boys, and all of their children are boys, so I may never get the chance to make a little girl’s dress again. I won’t take no for an answer”
“Thank you Mrs. Critchlow, Merry Christmas.” said Sylvia
“Merry Christmas to you too dear” replied Mrs. Critchlow
“Well I guess we will both have pretty new dresses Sarah!”
“Yes, yes yes!” replied Sarah
“That settles it then, you two come by my house next week and we’ll get started!”
“Thank you again Mrs. Critchlow and Merry Christmas” I said as I gave her a hug.
“Albert she is so sweet, I can’t believe I will have new wedding dress.” Sylvia said with a big smile as Mrs Critchlow walked away.
“This is truly the best Christmas of my life, I love you Sylvia”
“And I love you Albert”
To be Continued...