Comment by Hilary Hale aka. IJeanette'
This contains spoilers for the episode 'Sylvia! This is my first ever fanfic, so bear with me. It picks up at the end of 'Sylvia: Part II' and I am not putting Albert's diagnosis in! This is a happy story, apart from C5. The rest of it will only be happy tears. I'm allowing Mr. Lenell Bridges to post my story here for to be shared. It was one of his stories that inspired me to write this. If you like the story please comment on it!
IF YESTERDAY HADN'T HAPPEN
"She wants to see you, son," Doctor Baker said.
Albert stood up slowly and stepped through the doorway, shutting the door quietly after him. Sylvia's room was darkened, lit only by a kerosene lamp.
"Hey," Sylvia whispered. She was propped up against the end of the bed. Albert sat down on the quilt and took her hand.
"Hey," he said.
"Yeah, you sure did."
"Am I… am I going to die?"
Albert couldn't bring himself to tell her the truth. To be honest, she was lucky she had made it this far. "No," he leaned forward slightly. "You'll be up and around in a week or two."
Sylvia pushed her head against the pillows and squeezed Albert's hand weakly. "I guess all of our plans will change. I have to go with my Pa,"
Albert shook his head. "No, you won't,"
"What?" Sylvia's quiet voice was barely a murmur.
Albert was trying not to cry. He had to, for Sylvia's sake. "You're with me,"
"I already asked your Pa, and he says it's all right with him,"
"We can get married?" Sylvia's face lit up suddenly – you would hardly believe she was dying.
"As soon as you're up to it," Albert could barely see through the tears which he hoped Sylvia hadn't noticed. "You'll be Mrs. Albert Ingalls,"
"Mrs. Ingalls!" Sylvia smiled. She gazed over Albert's shoulder and started to star-spangle her future that she would never have. "Oh, I wish we could have a church wedding!"
"Well, why can't we?" Albert rolled his shoulders.
"Because…" Sylvia said. "'Cause, y'know…"
"We," Albert said firmly and with a touch of anarchy, "can do anything we darn well please," he paused. "If you want a church wedding, a church wedding you'll get!"
"Oh, yes, I do want one!" Sylvia breathed. "I want to wear a long, white dress and flowers in my hair – yellow flowers – and I want to walk down the aisle to you, my Albert, and I want to hear the Reverend say, 'You may not kiss the bride'. Kiss me, my love," Sylvia had minutes left, and she knew.
Albert leant down to press his lips to hers. He squeezed her hand one last time and sat up. Sylvia smiled at him and her eyes fluttered closed. Albert sat with her and laid his head on her shoulder, burying his face in her hair. He heard her breathing, and it must have been several minutes, but eventually, Sylvia exhaled, and then… Albert drifted away.
He remembered their first kiss; the creek rushing in the background, the sun was glinting off the water, green light shifting through the leaves on the trees. They looked into each other's eyes and neither of them blinked.
Vision blurred by tears, Albert stood up and went through to the kitchen where his Pa, Mr. Webb and Doctor Baker sat around the table.
Mr. Webb looked up.
"Has she…" he couldn't finish. Albert nodded slowly, finally allowing the tears to slide down his face. His face crumpled and he sat down heavily on nothing. He crashed to the floor and huddled into a ball, sobbing. Charles stood up and crouched down next to his son.
"Hey," he said softly, patting Albert on the back. It was the least he could do to comfort Albert after he had doubted his love for Sylvia. Charles' father had always told him not to speak ill of the dead, and the same went for people who could not defend themselves.
Doctor Baker got up to go through to Sylvia's room with Mr. Webb. They had not reached the doorway, however, before a scream came from the bedroom. Mr. Webb grabbed his shotgun off the hook above the front door and ran over to Sylvia, expecting to see somebody attacking her. His daughter had been brutally attacked once; he was not having it happen again.
But Sylvia was alone, propped up against the pillows, eyes wide open, looking around, hands frantically clawing at the bedclothes.
"Doctor!" Mr. Webb shouted. "Doctor, come quick!" Doctor Baker ran into the room and placed his hand on Sylvia's forehead. Noticing how feverish Sylvia was, he leapt up and pulled the quilt back. Blood streaked the sheets.
"What's happening to me?" wailed Sylvia.
Doctor Baker sat down on the chair next to Sylvia's bed and called for Albert to come through.
"What's going on?" Albert ran in and saw Sylvia. "Sylvia!" he gasped. Charles followed him several seconds later.
"What's happened?" repeated Sylvia.
Doctor Baker sighed. "I don't know how to say this, but…" he paused. "You've had a miscarriage. You've lost the baby. I'm so sorry,"
Sylvia looked aghast.
"I think it was the fall," the doctor continued. "I didn't think you'd carry the baby full term afterwards, even if you made it through," he leaned back. "Which, I'm pleased to say, you are likely to. This was the turning point, the fork in the road. If you made it through the evening, you'd live. And so you will," he smiled. "But I'm afraid you'll have to have an operation to… to… take the baby away,"
Sylvia nodded. "Will it hurt?"
"I can give you some morphine to help while I operate,"
Mr. Webb spoke suddenly, his low voice rumbling across the room. "Can she still have children?"
"We'll see after the operation. But for now, I think it's best if you all leave the room. This won't be a sight any of you will care to recall, and Sylvia needs rest before I do anything major,"
Albert, Charles and Mr. Webb left the room, Albert pausing at the door to say to Sylvia,
"I love you, Sylvia Webb," and then he left the room.
Mr. Webb, Albert and Charles sat round the kitchen table for several hours.
Nobody said anything or made any noises. It was a dangerous operation and everyone was holding their breath.
As the night drew in, Doctor Baker opened the door.
"It's done; she's resting," and Albert asked if he could see her.
Albert stood up and went through. "Sylvia?"
She was sitting up, leaning against the pillow-padded head frame. She smiled when she saw Albert. He liked the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. He went over and sat next to her on the mattress.
"The doctor says you can get up the day after tomorrow," he said. "And then…"
"We can get married!"
"Laura's coming by tomorrow to see you," Albert leaned against the head frame.
"She said she's bringing something special to show you, but I'm not allowed to say what it is,"
Sylvia laughed. "Am I allowed to guess?"
"Go on then,"
"Is it… Rose?"
"Is it… a dress?"
Albert dragged his hand across the back of his neck and through his hair. "Sylvie, when I said I couldn't tell you, I meant I don't know,"
"Ah," Sylvia always knew when Albert was telling half-truths. "You do know! Tease!" she gave him a little push. He pushed her back, and somehow, they ended up kissing. They did not know for how long they had been kissing for, but were interrupted by a click. They sprang apart to see Mr. Webb unloading the gun at the door.
At their gasps, he looked straight at them. They looked sheepish.
"No, it's all right," he said. "Those who are getting married should be kissing. It's natural,"
This was not the Mr. Webb either Albert or Sylvia knew. It seemed that the near-death experience and the horrifically potential outcome of the loss of his daughter had changed him somewhat drastically.
Doctor Baker put his head round the door. "I think it's time you went home now,"
He smiled sympathetically. "Sylvia needs plenty of rest; she's been through a lot,"
"No, I want Albert here," Sylvia protested. She looked pleadingly at Albert. "Please,"
"Fine by me," Mr. Webb said. "Mr. Ingalls?"
Charles shrugged. "I don't mind,"
"Well, I don't see what harm it can do," said Doctor Baker. "She'll need someone on hand if she wakes up,"
So Albert went to sleep in the chair next to Sylvia's bed, and when Mr. Webb knocked on the door in the morning, he found them holding hands.
"Sylvia." Albert said. "Sylvia, it's time to wake up,"
Sylvia stirred and sat up. Her eyes widened and she leapt out of bed, pulling the quilt around her.
"Who are you?" she shouted. "What are you doing in my room? Pa, who is this? What's he doing here?"
Albert stood up slowly.
"Sylvia, don't you recognise me? I'm Albert. Albert Ingalls. We're together. We… we're getting married,"
Sylvia showed no recognition, and started to scream. Louder and louder she screamed, until Albert and Mr. Webb could not hear anything else, even when she stopped to breathe.
"Albert, get Doctor Baker!" Mr. Webb yelled. Albert ran out of the room and into the town to the surgery.
"Doctor!" he hammered on the door. "Doctor!"
Doctor Baker opened the door.
"What is it? Is it Sylvia?"
Albert nodded. "She doesn't recognise me! Come quick!"
Back at the Webb place, Sylvia was lying in her bed again. She was shaking. Suddenly she closed her eyes – she had fainted.
Mr. Webb started trying to revive her – patting her face, sponging water over her closed eyelids; nothing seemed to be working. He was just about to shake her shoulders in a last, desperate attempt to wake her up when he heard the clatter of hooves and the scraping of dusty wheels skidding across the dirt. He stood up, ran into the main room and yanked the door open.
Doctor Baker and Albert rushed in.
"How is she?" Doctor Baker said.
"She's passed out again. I've tried to wake her up, but I can't," Mr. Webb reported.
"Maybe I can try," Doctor Baker stepped into Sylvia's bedroom and closed the door. Presently, he stepped out again.
"Doctor, what's wrong with Sylvia?" Mr. Webb said.
"Physically, she's fine. However, I do believe that she has trauma-induced amnesia. She knows who I am, and… did you know who you were?"
Mr. Webb nodded.
"Then it should wear off soon. I've seen it before. Ever seen unconscious people come round? The first thing they say is, "Where am I?" isn't it?"
"That's trauma-induced amnesia. Give her a day or two. She should be fine in a week at most."
"Oh, good," Albert stepped in. "How is she now?"
"She's sleeping again,"
"Can I sit with her?"
"I don't think that's a good idea," Doctor Baker adjusted his glasses. "You know, in case she wakes up and still doesn't know you,"
"Albert? Albert? Where are you?" Sylvia's voice came suddenly from her bedroom.
"Can I see her? She's asking for me," said Albert.
"I don't see why not. Tell you what, though – keep the door open, just in case,"
Albert stepped through.
"What happened?" Sylvia asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what's happened?"
"I don't understand. What do you remember?"
"I was sleeping in the barn," Sylvia blinked hard. "And now I'm here. Am I at home?"
"So, how did I get here?"
"Uh," Albert shuffled where he stood. "I think Doctor Baker will explain most of it better than I can," he sat down in the chair next to the bed. "We were going to run away – you were in the barn,"
Sylvia nodded. "I remember that much," she leaned back. "Then what happened?"
"I'd been in town, borrowing money from Mr. Hartwig, the blacksmith, except he wasn't there, so I took some money for us and I was writing a note, when he came in,"
Sylvia looked startled.
"I told him what I was doing, and, I don't know why, but I told him that you were in the barn," Albert leaned forward and took Sylvia's hand. "Sylvia, he was the man in the mask,"
"He's in the town?" Sylvia sat up very suddenly. "Albert, we have to get out of here! He hurt me once; what's to say he won't hurt the baby when it arrives?"
Albert had forgotten that, if Sylvia did not know about her fall, she would not know that Mr. Hartwig was dead, or that she had lost the baby.
"Sylvia, he came into the barn, and found you. I saw it and started trying to keep him away, but then he threw me off and went to attack you," he paused. "You climbed up a ladder to get away from him, but then you fell,"
Sylvia nodded. "Then what happened?"
"Then we took you back here – Doctor Baker thought you were going to die,"
Sylvia's eyes widened. "What?"
"We all did. I sat with you when we thought it was the end, but then you woke up and lost the baby,"
Sylvia collapsed onto the pillows. "No," she said. "No, I can't have lost the baby,"
"You have," Albert repeated softly. "I'm sorry,"
"So, am I going to be all right?"
"So, can we still get married?"
"That helps," Sylvia said. "The whole town still thinks I'm pregnant, don't they?"
"I think so,"
Sylvia squeezed Albert's hand. "Would they come to a church wedding?"
"Maybe not all of them would come. Mrs. Oleson won't,"
"That's probably a good thing,"
"Yeah," Albert laughed. "You can just imagine – you're walking up the aisle with your Pa, we take the vows, then we walk back down as husband and wife, then see Mrs. Oleson scowling at us through a curtain of rose petals,"
"Not roses," Sylvia said. "I can't stand them,"
"All right, then. We can have… grass!" Albert had a handful of straw in his pocket – it must have collected there when he'd been shoeing horses for Mr. Hartwig - no; he wasn't going to think about Mr. Hartwig. Mr. Hartwig was dead. He had caused Sylvia to suffer enough without resurrecting himself in their minds now. Albert pulled the straw out of his pocket and sprinkled it on Sylvia's head.
"Albert!" Sylvia shrieked, doubling up with laughter. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Yes," Sylvia picked straw out of her hair. "Yes, I am," She sat up and threw her arms around Albert. "I am going to marry you, Albert Quinn Ingalls,"
Sylvia was able to walk around several days later.
On their first trip into Walnut Grove since Sylvia's fall, she and Albert went into the mercantile. Sylvia was clutching Albert's hand, and he could feel her nervousness from how tightly she clenched his fingertips.
"Hello, what can we do for -" Mrs. Oleson stopped mid-sentence, as did her store-bought-toothy smile. "Oh, it's you. I suppose you'll be looking to scrounge something for the baby. Well, you can have the baby clothes I gave your mother. Oh, hold on, she didn't want my kindness," she looked pointedly at Sylvia. "When's the little brat to be born, then?"
"We haven't come to scrounge anything, Mrs. Oleson," Sylvia snapped. "We've come to ask you if you would please stay away from our wedding. It's at the end of next week,"
"Don't worry, I will!" replied Mrs. Oleson. "I don't know why you think I'd be caught dead at the wedding of a t-" Her words were again cut off, but the ones she was going to say hung in the air between them. It was a man's voice that had cut Mrs. Oleson off.
"HARRIET!" Mr. Oleson was standing in the doorway. His face was like thunder. "What on Earth do you think you're saying?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing," Mrs. Oleson said, mock-cheerily. "Albert and Sylvia have just come in to snub us from their wedding,"
"Not Mr. Oleson, ma'am," Albert stepped in. "Just you,"
Mrs. Oleson looked shocked. "Well, I don't think Nels should want to come to your wedding, if that's your attitude!"
"Harriet!" Mr. Oleson said again. "Not to worry," he continued to Albert and Sylvia. "It would be my honour to come to your wedding," he shook Albert's hand. "Is there anything you'd like to buy?"
"Yes please," Sylvia said. "We came to buy a buck-board,"
"A buck-board?" Mr. Oleson raised his eyebrows slightly, then went over to a catalogue. "We'd have to order it for you. Is it for you two to drive away in after the wedding?"
"When is it?"
"Well, that's plenty of time," Mr. Oleson smiled. Mrs. Oleson stormed out of the shop and banged the door shut behind her.
She stalked across the town square to the church, where she stamped up the steps and down the aisle to the altar.
"Reverend Alden!" she screeched, every inch the Harpy. "Reverend Alden!"
"Yes, Mrs. Oleson?" Reverend Alden inwardly groaned. Here she was again. And he'd been having such a nice day…
"I've heard tell that you're letting the Ingalls' boy marry that… that… floozy!" she spluttered. "I tell you I won't have it! The Diocese will hear of this!"
"Mrs. Oleson," Reverend Alden said calmly. "Whether Albert & Sylvia are married in a church or not is none of your business whatsoever. They have already told me that they are going to ask you to keep away from the ceremony next week – have they told you yet?"
The sour, pinched look on Mrs. Oleson's lined face told him that, yes, Albert and Sylvia had, indeed, confronted Mrs. Oleson. He couldn't blame them.
After Mrs. Oleson had eavesdropped on Doctor Baker and Mr. Webb's telephone-call and spread the contents around Walnut Grove, Sylvia and Albert's reputations were in tatters. Sylvia had even believed that she would not be able to get married in a church because of her plight.
However, Reverend Alden had reassured the young couple that they would be allowed a church ceremony, and that he would be very happy to conduct it himself. He had offered his sympathies when he heard about the miscarriage, and his congratulations on Sylvia's speedy recovery.
As Mrs. Oleson did not seem to know about Sylvia's fall, or her miscarriage, Reverend Alden did not mention it to her lest she find this to be the new piece of gossip that she could use as her own personal social climbing tool.
He hesitated before saying, "Sylvia Webb's pregnancy was not of Albert Ingalls' making. It was against her will. I will thank you to keep your nose out of their business in future unless it directly involves your store,"
Mrs. Oleson's jaw dropped and her eyebrows furrowed. "How dare you?" she railed, storming out of the church.
Reverend Alden tried not to look too pleased at her departure, especially when he saw her pass one of the windows, giving him a dirty look.
Sounds of a heated argument were coming from outside, so he went to see who it was.
It was (surprise, surprise) Mrs. Oleson, arguing with Laura Wilder and Caroline Ingalls simultaneously.
"Mrs. Oleson! Don't you think Sylvia's been through enough without you making it worse for her?" Laura looked like she was about to slap Mrs. Oleson – Reverend Alden could hardly blame her.
"I only wanted to ask her who the father of her child was! What harm can that do?"
"You don't ask people who attacked them! She won't want to talk about it, least of all to you. I suggest you leave her alone!" Caroline shouted, fury blazing in her eyes.
"Oh, why should I? She probably brought it on herself, the little tramp!"
At almost exactly the same moment as Sylvia and Albert came out of the mercantile, Laura and Caroline simultaneously struck Mrs. Oleson across the face. She exclaimed from the pain of the double-slap.
"How dare you?" screeched Laura. "How dare you say that about Albert's fiancée?"
"Ladies, please!" Reverend Alden butted in. "Not in public! What would your husbands think?"
"My husband agrees with me," said Caroline. "He thinks that Mrs. Oleson is a manipulative, stuck-up gossip. In fact, the slap was his suggestion!"
Laura stared at her mother, amazed. Her Pa had told Ma to slap Mrs. Oleson? She felt a new kind of admiration for him.
"Manly doesn't like Mrs. Oleson either," she said.
"Well, then, please not outside the church," Reverend Alden continued. "Please, if you have a dispute, take it somewhere else," he turned on his heel and went back into the church.
Sylvia and Albert saw the whole thing. They had not let go of each other's hands since before they had gone into the mercantile, and now, Sylvia's grip was so tight that Albert's fingers were beginning to take on a darker hue.
"Don't worry, Sylvia," Albert said, letting go of her hand and putting his arm around her shoulders. She leaned against him, but couldn't stop the tears.
"This is the whole town, isn't it, Albert?"
"No," Albert said, hoping Sylvia wouldn't notice the uncertainty in his voice. "It's just Mrs. Oleson and maybe Willie,"
"Willie? He's been talking about us?"
"Well, with his mother… Anyway, he won't talk about us like that anymore,"
"How do you know?"
"I punched him across the schoolyard. He flew about ten feet or so,"
Sylvia stared at him, astounded. "You… you did that for me?"
"Of course! You don't think I'm going to let people talk about my girl like that, do you?"
Sylvia managed to hold out for a second or two before she started to laugh. "Albert!" she said. "What am I going to do with you?"
They walked into the doctor's surgery together.
"Hello," Doctor Baker greeted them. "How have you been, Sylvia?"
"Just fine today," Sylvia smiled.
"But you've been crying. Are you sure you're all right?"
"Mrs. Oleson," Albert and Sylvia said together.
Doctor Baker gave them a knowing look. "Hmm," he said. "Yes, I think she's going to cause some trouble,"
Sylvia sighed. "Oh! I almost forgot!" she cried. "We came to ask you if you wanted to come to our wedding,"
"I'd be honoured,"
"Oh, thank you, Doctor! The wedding is at the end of next week," smiled Albert.
"I'll see you then. Congratulations,"
Sylvia and Albert stepped out of the surgery together.
Mrs. Oleson was still in the town square, hands over her face, squealing like a piglet. "Ooh! How dare you? If you've broken anything, I'll… I'll… OOH!"
She stopped very suddenly when she saw Albert and Sylvia staring at her from outside the Doctor's surgery.
"You can shut your mouth, Mrs. Oleson!" shouted Sylvia.
It was Albert's turn to be astounded, if amused. He was doing his best not to laugh at Mrs. Oleson's face.
Mrs. Oleson was glowering at them, her face already pink and blotchy from the slaps.
"It's none of your business; why do you care?" snapped Mrs. Oleson.
"None of my business? None of my business? Since when was it your business to go spreading lies about my Albert around the town?" Sylvia marched into the square, pulling Albert along behind her.
Mrs. Oleson's jaw dropped open. "Don't you dare talk to me like that, you little-" Mrs. Oleson shrieked suddenly, then fell to the ground. Caroline and Laura were screaming and slapping her in the face.
By now, a small crowd had gathered to watch the showdown. Strangely enough, nobody was on Mrs. Oleson's side.
Reverend Alden sat inside the church, pretending to study his sermon. However, he was having trouble concealing his laughs. Had it not been so loud outside, what with the screaming and shouting and the cheering, one could have heard cough-covered laughs coming from the lectern.
Caroline and Laura won the fight. They were surprisingly clean, considering that Mrs. Oleson was covered in dust from the ground, her hat askew and her hair messy.
Laura put her hands on her hips and pushed a lock of her brown hair behind her right ear. "Well, Mrs. Oleson," she said. "Are you going to shut up now?"
Mrs. Oleson did not bother Albert and Sylvia after that. If she saw them, or Laura or Caroline, in town, she made herself scarce. She left town entirely for the week surrounding the wedding – she said she had an issue to settle in Mankato. The last anyone saw of her until after the wedding was her riding away on the family's buckboard.
Of this, Albert and Sylvia were glad.
Three days before the wedding, Sylvia went to see Doctor Baker. She did not tell Albert where she was going.
"Doctor, when I lost the baby, Pa asked if I could still have children, and you said we'd see. What I came here to ask is if you can be sure about it. Is there a test you can run or anything?"
"I can do some examinations," Doctor Baker said. "I have to warn you, it's not likely that you will be able to have any more children,"
Sylvia looked down. "Oh," she whispered. "What happens then?"
"I don't rightly know. You could always consider adoption,"
"But nothing's certain yet; we'll have to do an examination of you,"
"How soon can you do that?"
"Today, if you want. I've nothing booked. Would you like anyone else to be there?"
"Albert," she said. "and my Pa,"
"That's probably possible,"
Sylvia thanked him and went to Albert's house.
"Albert," she called as she saw him in the yard.
"Sylvia!" he exclaimed, running over to hug her.
"Hey," she said. "Can you come with me to Doctor Baker's?"
"Nothing, he just wants to do a test to see if I can still have children,"
"Oh, all right," Albert smiled, and squeezed her hand. "Is your Pa coming?"
"I'm going to my house in a minute,"
"Hold on, I'll just tell Ma where I'm going," he kissed Sylvia's forehead, let go of her hand, and ran back inside. "And don't go anywhere!" he called.
Sylvia smiled at him. "I love you!"
Albert came out of the house a few minutes later, and ran to Sylvia again. "Hey, there,"
"What took you so long?" Sylvia asked. "I've been out here for hours!"
"What? I was only a few seconds!" Albert was puzzled.
"I was only joking!" Sylvia laughed.
"Oh!" and they walked to the Webb place, laughing, hand in hand.
Sylvia stepped out of the examination room and sat on Albert's lap.
"Doctor Baker?" she said.
"Through in a minute!" he called. He stepped through into the office.
"Hello, Albert, Hector, Charles,"
"Doctor Baker," Mr. Webb greeted him.
"So, what are the results?"
"It seems," he said slowly, "that you can still have children,"
Sylvia gasped, Albert smiled, and, if Mr. Webb hadn't already been sitting down, he would have fallen over.
"That's great!" Albert cried, hugging Sylvia. "Oh, that's just great!"
"Thanks, Doctor Baker!" Sylvia exclaimed.
Hector Webb smiled at his daughter. "I'm proud of you, Sylvie," he said. Albert thought he could see a small tear in the corner of Hector's eye.
Everyone was happy.
Later, Sylvia and Albert went to the mercantile, to find that Mrs. Oleson had left – they had not known it until that moment. The buckboard that they had ordered had arrived. It was parked in front of the store.
"Here it is," Mr. Oleson said proudly. "Brand new from Mankato yesterday. Isn't it beautiful?"
"Yes, it is!" Albert said, running his hand over the smart new paint.
The one-horse buckboard was painted a cheerful yellow with black trim on the wheels. The lacquer had a glossy finish except for the seat at the front, which was covered with black leather.
"Thanks, Mr. Oleson!"
"Please, I'd appreciate it if you'd call me Nels," he said.
"Oh, we couldn't do that! You'll always be Mr. Oleson to us!" replied Sylvia with a smile.
"No, no, really. Call me Nels,"
"Oh, all right then," Albert said. "Thank you, Nels," he shook Nels' hand. "Here's the money," He laid six dollar notes on the counter, but Mr. Oleson pushed three of them back. "But I don't understand," Albert looked confused. "It said six in the catalogue,"
"Think of it as my wedding present to you and Sylvia," Nels smiled.
"Thank you, Nels," Sylvia said.
Because of Sylvia's amnesia when she woke up, Laura had not been able to visit when she had said she would, but, when Albert and Sylvia (riding in their shiny new buckboard) got back to the house at Plum Creek, she was waiting for them with Almanzo and Rose.
"Hey!" Laura shouted.
"Mr. and Mrs. Wilder!" exclaimed Sylvia.
"Laura and Almanzo," Almanzo corrected with a smile.
Albert waved. "Hello, Rose," he called.
"Do you want to see what I've brought with me?" asked Laura.
"Do I ever!" cried Sylvia.
"Come inside, then, and I'll show you,"
Laura had brought her wedding dress. Ma had spread it out on the table, and was admiring it for what must have been the twentieth time, when they all came in.
"Albert! Sylvia!" she was ecstatic – Laura had told her Sylvia's good news. "Oh!" she cried, running to hug Sylvia.
Today was a happy day for everyone, except perhaps Mrs. Oleson, about whom nobody really cared – if they seemed to, they were pretending, because they were scared of her.
Laura lifted the dress off the table and showed it to Sylvia. "What do you think? Would you like to wear it?"
"Would I like to wear it? Oh, yes, please!"
"Let's try it on, then! Sorry, Albert, you can't see it until the day,"
"Why?" he said.
"It's bad luck,"
Sylvia straightened the skirt of the dress while Laura and Caroline pinned the bodice. She went and stood in front of the mirror, astounded at how much older she looked – not Sylvia Webb, fourteen-year-old girl, at all, but Sylvia Webb-soon-to-be-Ingalls, fourteen-year-old woman.
"You look beautiful, Sylvia," Caroline said. "Just beautiful,"
"Thanks, Mrs. Ingalls,"
"It's all right to call me Caroline, Sylvia!" she laughed.
Sylvia couldn't help laughing. "You're the third person to say that to me today!" she pushed her hair over her shoulder. "It's funny,"
Laura laughed. "I know what you mean – when I got engaged to Almanzo, everyone kept telling me to call them by their Christian names, too. It took quite some getting used to, I can tell you!"
"Oh, you look so pretty!" Caroline stood behind Sylvia. "I shall be proud to call you my daughter-in-law,"
Sylvia wanted to go and show Albert, but Laura said she mustn't.
"Ah, well, it was worth a try," Sylvia shrugged. Her previous ordeal hardly seemed to bother her now; it must have been because of Albert and the understanding that he had shown her when everyone else had not. How she loved him! "Oh, I can't wait for the wedding!"
"Well, it's only three more days; it'll come round pretty fast!"
"I know you're my teacher, Laura, but I was wondering if you'd stand up with me at the wedding. Will you?"
"Oh, of course I will!" Laura beamed. "What do you want me to wear?"
"Could you wear your red dress with the blue runching? It's always been my favourite!"
There were two days left before Albert and Sylvia's wedding.
Sylvia was nervous.
"What if something happens?" she asked Laura as they checked the dress again.
"Oh, I don't know… you said that, when Mary and Adam were getting married, there was a dust-storm, and nobody thought they were going to make it back in time for the wedding,"
"Sylvia, we're not in the right area for dust-storms – they just don't happen here. There's nothing to worry about," she reassured her.
"Oh!" she said. "Oh, well, that's all right, then,"
Albert did not have worries about the wedding. He did, however, have some suspicions about his brother, James, who spent a lot of time in secret, talking on the telephone to friends in Mankato.
Of course, he brushed these thoughts aside so he could concentrate on the wedding. Oh! Foolish Albert!
That day, James made some excuse about taking Albert to get his suit for the wedding, so they set off in the new buckboard in the afternoon.
They arrived in Mankato after riding west for nearly seven hours. Albert had some trouble understanding why they were travelling to Mankato when they could have gone to Sleepy-Eye and knocked an hour or so off their journey, but then James parked them in the court outside the saloon and suddenly Albert understood.
"No!" he laughed. "James, no!"
"No, come on, it'll be great! What's the worst that could happen?"
Several hours later, Albert and James came swaying out of the saloon, singing raucously – James had not actually had any alcohol, but was joining in with the song for the fun of it.
"Ol' Dan Tucker'sh a fine ol' maaaaannnn, somethin'-somethin' in a fffffryin' paaaaan! Combed 'is hair in a wagon wheeeel, died wi' a toothache in 'is 'eel!" Albert stumbled into the stable, shouting, "Get out the waaaaaaaaaaay… for Ol' Dan Tuckerrrr, he's too laaaaaaaaaaate to get 'is supperrrrrr! Supper's o'er an' the dinner'sh cookin', Ol' Dan Tuckerr jus' stood there lookiiiiiinn!"
James climbed onto the buckboard and helped Albert up onto the seat. They rode out of the stable, still singing, when who should they pass but Mrs. Oleson?
"What on Earth? I might've known you'd be out drowning your sorrows! Left you, has she? I don't blame her – little Peeping Tom!" she muttered.
Albert heard her well enough, though. "Shu'up, Missish Oleshon… no-one likesh yooouu…" and James drove away quickly before Mrs. Oleson could say anything.
They arrived home just before eleven o'clock.
"James, are we home yet?"
"Yes," James pointed at the house. "There's the house,"
"Oh," Albert said. Then he suddenly broke out of drunken-ness. "What? What? Pa will be mad!"
"No, no, it's fine, Pa knows,"
"It was his idea,"
"Oh," he nodded. "Oh, all right, then,"
"Albert, you don't seem very drunk,"
"But you were singing outside the saloon,"
"Only because I thought you were drunk. Were you?"
They burst out laughing.
"Well, I guess we'd better get inside. Come on, you go in, I'll put the buckboard away," James dropped Albert off at the door, and then drove the buckboard into the stable.
The next day, at the Webb place, Sylvia awoke to not find her father in the main room. This was unusual – he usually woke her up.
A strange feeling swept over her suddenly – she had never felt anything like it before and did not know what it was.
She knocked on her father's bedroom door, but there was no answer. She gently pushed the door open, careful to not make a sound.
There was her Pa, lying asleep in bed.
Sylvia looked at the clock on his bedside table. It was nine o'clock – he needed to be up and about. She gently shook her Pa's shoulder, expecting him to stir, but nothing happened.
Then she realised.
Tears filled her eyes before she had even got out of the front door. She ran all the way to Albert's house, and nearly collapsed in the front yard when she saw him.
"Sylvia?" he said. "Sylvia, what's happened?"
"It's Pa," she wailed. "Albert, it's my Pa, come quick!"
"Wait here," Albert brought the buckboard round and lifted Sylvia onto the seat.
He had never driven a buckboard so fast before.
They arrived at the Webb place in five minutes. Albert parked the buckboard and they ran inside.
Hector's skin was unusually pale compared to his natural nut-brown tan. He was very still and very cold.
Albert held Sylvia tightly, and then said, "Let's go and get Doctor Baker,"
"Well?" Albert said, putting his arm around Sylvia.
Doctor Baker shook his head.
Sylvia burst into tears, her shoulders shaking with uncontrollable sobs.
"If it helps, it would have been utterly painless. He likely just went to sleep,"
"Oh," Sylvia mumbled. "Thank you. That helps a bit. I guess he's with my Ma now?"
"Yes," Albert said. "I suppose he must be,"
"There is a Testament of his that you'll need to sort out," Doctor Baker handed Sylvia a long brown envelope inscribed with the name Hector Webb. "It says where things go; it's his will,"
"Oh. Don't we need a lawyer for these things?"
"Could we hire Adam?"
Back at the Ingalls' place, they opened the envelope.
It read thus:
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF HECTOR WEBB
I, Hector Webb, being of sound mind this June 30th 1872, bequeath all my worldly goods and capital, including my farm and homestead, to my daughter, Sylvia (born 9th September 1870), to do with as she sees fit. Should I die before she reaches the age of eighteen years or marries, this capital will be set out as a monthly allowance of fifty dollars each month, until she reaches her eighteenth birthday or marries, at which point the remaining capital will be given to her in one lump sum. She may have the homestead as long as she lives.
June 30th 1872
There was a note attached to the will. It had been written about a week ago.July 8th1884
To my daughter Sylvia,
I love you very much. I want you and Albert to be happy in whatever life you choose. I want you to know that you are the best daughter I could have hoped to have, even if this was not always clear.
All my love,
Sylvia was crying again.
"I wish he hadn't died," she said. "I miss him so much,"
"It goes away after a while," Albert comforted her. "It gets better,"
Sylvia sat up. "I've had a thought. Who's to give me away?"
"I'll do it," a voice came from the doorway. "I'd be proud to give you away,"
It was Charles. "May I have the honour?"
"Yes, Mr. Ingalls. Thank you,"
When Sylvia and Albert got back to town, they saw that there was a piece of paper pinned to the church door.
Albert read it out.
""Intention to marry between Albert Quinn Ingalls and Sylvia Webb, this Saturday July 18th. Service by Rev. Alden, at two o'clock." Laura must've done it,"
"I like Laura," Sylvia said.
"So do I,"
"There she is now!"
Laura was walking across the town square with Rose on her hip.
"Albert! Sylvia!" she called. Then she noticed the tear-tracks on Sylvia's face. "What's happened?"
"Sylvia's Pa died today,"
"Oh, Sylvia. I'm so sorry," She put her arm round Sylvia's shoulders. "Do you need a place to stay?"
"No, I'm all right," Sylvia replied. "Thank you – it means a lot to me, it really does – but Pa left me the farm,"
"Albert and I are going to live there when we get married,"
"Oh, that's nice. I hope you feel better soon. I'll see you tomorrow morning, Sylvia. Goodbye, Albert,"
"See you tomorrow," they said.
"Thank you, Mrs. Wi- I mean, Laura,"
It was the day of the wedding. The ceremony had finally arrived.
Sylvia was pacing up and down in her bedroom.
"Sylvia, what's the matter?" asked Laura.
"I'm excited!" she exclaimed. "Oh, I'm so happy! I'm marrying Albert!"
"I know! It's great, isn't it? Now come back here so I can put your dress on!"
"Sorry," Sylvia stood in front of her dressing table. "Oh, isn't it exciting?"
"Yes! Oh, my little brother's getting married!"
Sylvia laughed. "It's kind of difficult for me to think of Albert as someone's brother. Do you get that with Almanzo?"
"Yes," Laura said. "It's like… I don't know, it's like he's my Manly and he doesn't connect to anyone else,"
"Even though you know Eliza Jane?"
"Yes," she sighed. "It's funny,"
Sylvia adjusted her bodice as Laura straightened the skirt.
"You look lovely, Sylvia. I know your Pa would be proud of you if he could see you now,"
"Thank you," Sylvia's eyes looked a little teary, so Laura turned her around.
"Sylvia, don't cry. It's your wedding day! There's nothing to worry about, and you know your Pa's there anyway, even though you can't see him,"
"Thank you, Laura,"
"And he's left you the house, so you have somewhere to live,"
"Yes, I suppose so. That's a weight off my mind, at least. Thank you, Laura. Could you do the buttons at the back of the dress up, please?"
"Of course," Laura said. She buttoned the back of the dress closed. "There we go, it's done,"
"So, are you ready? Pa will be here soon,"
"Yes, I'm ready. Oh, I'm so happy!"
Charles drove the Wilders' buggy and parked it in front of the Webb place. "Sylvia! Half-Pint! It's time to go!"
Sylvia and Laura stepped into the sunlight. It was a perfect day – they had been lucky with the weather, if nothing else.
They all sat on the buggy and rode through the woods together. The sunlight shimmered through the trees, creating dappled shade.
When at last they arrived in town, the sounds of a bustling town assembling came from inside the church. Everyone was inside.
Albert and James were standing at the altar. They wore grey suits and shiny black shoes.
Caroline was sitting in the front row with Carrie, Grace, Jenny, Rose and Almanzo.
"Are you ready?" James asked Albert.
The church door opened, and music started to play.
Sylvia and Charles came first, with Laura behind them.
Sylvia had a bouquet of white gerberas and yellow carnations, tied with an olive-green ribbon.
Everyone turned to look at the bride as she walked up the aisle.
Laura was crying a little – her little brother was getting married!
Reverend Alden stood up straighter as Sylvia approached.
Albert turned around to look at his fiancée. He could not believe how perfect she looked. He was used to her looking beautiful, but today, she looked somehow… better than radiant. Maybe it was because he knew he was spending the rest of his life with her, maybe it was because she was wearing her hair up instead of down.
Sylvia stood next to Albert.
"Who gives this woman to be married?" Reverend Alden said.
"I do," Charles spoke up.
The wedding ceremony went without a hitch, and, outside the church, Albert and Sylvia Ingalls stepped onto the buckboard. Carrie and Jenny had covered it in flowers, and Grace (with help from Caroline) had made a sign which said "Just Married" and tied it onto the back of the buckboard with some colourful ribbons.
As they rode back to the Webb place (now the Ingalls place), Albert kissed his wife.
"Home, Mrs. Ingalls?"
"Home, Mr. Ingalls,"
Albert drove the buckboard through the woods to the house.
When they arrived, he lifted Sylvia off the buckboard and over the threshold.
"Our first home together," he said. "Welcome home, Sylvia,"
He had never called her Sylvie. She had always been Sylvia. She always would be Sylvia – his Sylvia.
Laura had put flowers on the table before she had left for the wedding. She had also left a note, which read:To my brother Albert and his wife Sylvia,
Congratulations on the wedding!
I love you both,
There was also a post-script:
You're an Ingalls now! I am so very proud to call you my sister.
Manly sends his love to the both of you.
Don't let Albert do anything I wouldn't do.
"What does it say?" asked Albert.
Sylvia read it to him.
"So, what she's saying is…" Albert thought for a moment. "Let Albert do anything at all? Especially if Laura would do it?"
"I guess so!"
Albert and Sylvia were very happy together.
They honeymooned in Sleepy-Eye for three weeks.
When at last they came back, Laura was waiting for them.
"Laura!" Sylvia shouted.
"Sylvia! Albert! You're back!"
"It's been so long!"
"I know! Did Albert behave himself?" Laura grinned.
"Yes, I kept him in line,"
"Well, then!" Albert exclaimed. "Shall we go and talk inside?"
"All right," Laura agreed.
Hector's funeral was the next day.
He was buried in Walnut Grove church-yard, next to Sylvia's mother, May Webb. The headstone was carved from Minnesota granite engraved with the words:In loving memory of
Beloved father and husband
Absent from the body,
Present with the Lord.
d. July 17th 1884
Sylvia laid gerberas on the graves every Sunday. She felt a new loss for her mother now that her father had died. She had never known her mother, who had died when Sylvia was born. Even so, she felt that she had known her mother a little better since the wedding.
She knew why, of course. It was because she was a married woman.
It sounded so different to her – Sylvia Ingalls – even though she had secretly hoped and dreamed about it during hers and Albert's courtship.
They were very glad indeed that they were lucky enough to be starting life as a married couple.
In the second month of their marriage, Sylvia discovered something.
She immediately confided it to Laura, who she knew would not tell.
"Laura," she said. "Laura, I have something to confide,"
"Do you?" Laura beamed. "How wonderful! Do tell!"
"Well," Sylvia paused. "I'm pregnant,"
"Really?" Laura's face lit up.
"Have you told Albert yet?"
"No," Sylvia replied. "I'm not sure how to tell him,"
"Oh," Laura smiled. "Well, that's easy! Just wait until you have him alone, then tell him, 'Albert, I'm pregnant,' – do you know when the baby's due?"
"Oh, that's lovely!"
"Doctor Baker told me,"
"I'm so happy for you!" Laura gave Sylvia a hug. "I'm going to be an Auntie!"
"You're an Auntie already, aren't you?"
"I know, but I'm going to be an Auntie again!"
"Oh, I can't wait for the baby to be born!"
"Neither can I!"
They stood up and started dancing round in circles, shrieking with laughter.
That evening, Sylvia prepared dinner for Albert.
"Mrs. Ingalls!" he said as he came home from work. "How are you?"
"Fine, thank you, Mr. Ingalls,"
They sat down, said Grace, and started to eat.
"I'm fine, and so is the baby,"
Albert paused. "Baby? You're pregnant?"
"Yes, I am,"
"Sylvia! When's the baby due?"
"Next May; we have a bit of a wait,"
"Oh, it can't come soon enough for me!"
"I can't wait!"
"I'm so excited!"
"I know! But we've got a long time to wait, so eat your dinner!"
"Yes, Sylvia. Sorry,"
"It's all right,"
The next day, they went to Sleepy-Eye to buy things for the baby.
They bought clothes, blankets and bottles – all cream or beige, as they did not know if the baby was to be a boy or a girl.
They did not buy a crib or toys, though – when they told Charles and Caroline, Charles had said he wanted to build the crib and carve the toys.
He set about carving a small wooden horse, a small wooden dog and a small wooden cat. Caroline crocheted a white shawl for the baby.
In the sixth month of the pregnancy, Doctor Baker told Sylvia to take plenty of bed rest – she spent most of her days sitting in her rocking-chair or lying in her bed. Oftentimes she would not get up until eleven or even twelve o'clock. Pregnancy made her tired, but also hungry – tomato and lentil soup became part of a staple diet, eaten with warm brown bread.
Laura visited nearly every day.
Towards the end of the sixth month, Laura made sure that the visits were every day, and that she brought something sweet for Sylvia to eat.
In the seventh month, Sylvia had trouble walking any long distance, or getting up quickly. Standing up for too long tired her, and she was getting very big. She could only move very slowly.
Pregnancy had started to bore Sylvia. She could no longer go out of the house easily, or do simple tasks like sweeping the floor.
In the twenty-seventh week, Doctor Baker called.
"Hello, Doctor! Please, come in,"
"How have you been?"
"Physically? What about mentally?"
"Very, very bored,"
"I can't even go out of the house,"
"Well, you look quite big for eight months gone, so you should have the baby quite soon,"
"Well, now that you mention it, I did have some stomach pains this morning,"
"You're probably coming to the end of the pregnancy, then," Doctor Baker said. "I'd go to Mankato Hospital with Albert – there might be some complications with the delivery if you're this early,"
So, when Albert got home from work, Sylvia told him to drive them to Mankato Hospital in the buckboard.
"What? Not already? It's only March,"
"Doctor Baker says that, me being so big and all, there might be complications,"
"Complications?" Albert was shocked.
"Nothing too serious, but he says it's to be on the safe side. I might have the baby early, that's all,"
"Oh," Albert paused. "Two months early?"
"It's nearer six weeks,"
"It's still not the best thing that could happen, but it's a start,"
"Let's go soon then. Do you have a bag?"
"Yes – I've packed your bag as well,"
They put the bags on the buckboard, hitched up the horse and set off.
They arrived at the hospital that evening. Sylvia had not even made it through the reception door when she was halted by… could it be a contraction?
"Albert!" she cried out.
"What's wrong, Sylvia?"
"I think the baby's coming. Albert, get the doctor!"
Albert checked them in and Sylvia was rushed into the maternity and given morphine.
Albert waited in the corridor for hours.
Finally, someone came out. "Albert Ingalls?"
"Could you come through to the ward, please?"
"What's wrong? What's happened?"
Albert appeared at the doorway of the maternity ward. "Sylvia?"
Then he saw her. She was lying in a hospital bed, with her brown hair spread out on the pillow.
In her arms, she held not one, but two, small, pink babies wrapped in the beige and cream blankets they had bought so many months ago.
"Albert, come and see," she said. "You're a Pa,"
Albert started to cry.
"What's wrong?" Sylvia asked. "Don't you like them?"
"They're perfect! I'm so proud of you, Sylvia!"
"Thank you. Would you like to hold one?"
Albert sat down on the bed next to her and took a baby into his arms. "Oh," he whispered. "She's beautiful!"
"She looks like you,"
It was true. She had wavy, dark-brown hair, high cheekbones and deep-brown eyes.
"She does! What shall we call her?"
"I thought, maybe, for this baby," she gazed at the baby she held – blonde-brown-haired, blue-eyed, round-faced; the image of Sylvia as a baby, "Caroline Lavinia Ingalls,"
"That's beautiful!" he held the dark-brown-haired baby close. "Elizabeth Mary Ingalls?"
"Mary was my mother's name,"
"I know. She would have been so proud of you right now, Sylvia,"
"Caroline and Elizabeth," Sylvia repeated. "They're such lovely names! Just right,"
They came home one week later. They were so tiny.
The first people they went to see with their new babies were Caroline and Charles.
"You're back!" Caroline dropped a bowl on the floor. She gasped as she saw the babies. "Charles! Charles!" she called out of the front door. "Charles! Come and look!"
Charles came running. "Albert! Sylvia!"
He started to cry, just as Albert had done. "Oh! My son! I'm a Grand-Pa again! What do you call them?"
"This is Caroline," said Sylvia. "And this is Elizabeth,"
"Twins?" Charles gasped.
Albert nodded. "Twins," he confirmed. "Our daughters, Carrie and Beth,"
"Albert," Sylvia tutted.
"Well, Laura's called Beth!"
Sylvia laughed. "I suppose,"
(To be Continued.)