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Rated: E · Other · Romance/Love · #1411526
Story of a girl's life as in changes moving across the west..
         Chapter 11

         The rest of the winter was spent working on the farm, working on their relationship with each other and with God.  It was a good time and Christmas went well, attending church, and getting to know the people in the community better as winter progressed. 

         Despite the progress they'd made, Meg was still concerned for her sister, and she often expressed her concerns to her husband, who would then tell her that in the spring, just after planting, they would go find her sister.  Meg then decided to write inquiries into newspapers about the whereabouts of her sister, Heather, who was blind and a deaf mute, but she still didn't get a response.

         In early February, Meg was helping Jack with the chores, when she fainted.  Jack brought Mrs. Nilsson around, who suddenly became a bit more compassionate and talked over some facts with Meg.  Later that evening, Meg approached Jack after the meal.

         “Jack, honey, you like your nephew Henry well enough don't you?”
         “Of course Meg, dear, he's my nephew and I'll always love him.  Especially now that he's getting a bit older and can be my little buddy.”  he said.

         “How do you feel about them when their younger? Like brand new?”  she asked shyly.

         “Oh they're not easy but with help...hey are you trying to tell me something?”  he said a little excitedly.

         “Yes Jack in about six months or less you're going to really be a daddy!” Meg giggled.

         “Hey that's great!  Do you think that it was from back when we first...?”  he asked.

         “Haha well you never know!” she laughed as he pulled her into a hug and kiss.

         The next several months flew by quickly for Jack and Meg as they worked the farm, Jack worked the fields with help from neighbors & friends, and Meg planted her kitchen garden.  Even so, Jack stilled babied Meg as she began to progress in her pregnancy and really began to show. 

         One day, in early June, Jack took Meg and Henry into town because they hadn't been there in quite a while.  Jack dropped her off at the general store to browse with Henry, while he went to pay some toward his mortgaged property at the bank. 

         Meg was leading little Henry around the store as she picked out items, when he suddenly ran out of her grasp and into a tall woman wearing a bombazine gown.  Meg, in her simple cotton dress and sun bonnet, scooped up the squirming toddler and apologized to the woman who seemed well to do.

         The woman looked down at the young mother compassionately, until recognition crossed her face and her expression changed entirely.

         “Megan Mellody is that YOU?”

         “Oh hello Mrs. Brace, I almost didn't recognize you!  How are you doing?” Meg said, nervously shifting Henry to her hip.

         “Well not as fine as you! All grown up I see, with a babe in arms and another one on the way I see!” she said a bit sarcastically.

         “Well I can explain, Mrs. Brace...”  Megan tried to explain, but Mrs. Brace cut her off.

         “You better explain or ... Oh you poor girl!  Who did we place you with?  Did whoever we place you with do this to you?”  she said while grabbing Megan arm, dragging her along.

         “Well actually yes, but...Hey!” Meg said as Mrs. Brace dragged her out of the store.

         “It's my Christian duty to help my children's placements if they turn unsavory!  I will not have my girls turned into demonidestes!” Mrs. Brace proclaimed as she pulled Meg along.

         “Demonidestes? What's that?”  Meg asked.

         “As if you didn't know...actually its better if you didn't know.” she said.

         Suddenly Jack came out of the bank and when he saw a posh older woman in a bombazine gown pulling his wife along the boardwalk toward the train-station, he just had to run over to intercede.

         “Out of my way young man, I'm on a mission of mercy with this young woman!” Mrs. Brace said as she tried to brush Jack out of the way.

         “Jack!” Meg exclaimed.

         “Well ma'am I believe this is my business since that young woman you're manhandling just so happens to be my wife!” Jack said, his arms crossed across his chest.

         “Your wife?  You don't look old enough for a wife!  Anyway who did you get her from that she became your wife?  Just give me the name of the man who adopted her.”  Mrs. Brace  exclaimed.

         “Well that's easy enough, but I was the one who took her off the train.” he said.

         “You did? Did you know sir how old this young girl was when she was on the orphan train?”  she retorted.

         “Well I know how old she is now, and let me tell you she's every bit that age.  And I love her.” he said.

         “Okay Megan tell them how old you are!” Mrs. Brace said.

         “Well Mrs. Brace, I'm sorry, but I'm over 16 ½ years old.  I'm know I'm probably too young to be having a baby, but...” Meg shyly admitted.

         “Sixteen and a half years old?  You're not twelve or thirteen, but over sixteen?” Mrs. Brace said a bit stunned.

         “Yes I'm sorry that I lied to you about my age last year...but I didn't wanted to be separated from my sister Heather...but I still was separated from her anyway.” Meg said rather dejectedly.

         “Well there was no excuse for lying, Megan, but I can see your intentions were noble at the time.  As far as your age and that legality, well I suppose considering that you married your adoptive guardian, who was obvious fairly young himself from what I observe, perhaps I will forgive you this once.  It seems like you've found a loving home...no matter the unusual circumstances...and that was the objective of the Christian Children's Aid Society overall.”  Mrs. Brace exclaimed.

         “Thank you Mrs. Brace! Yes it is a loving home indeed!”  Meg said as she embraced her husband, and he kissed her on the head, stroking her hair.

         Meg then asked Mrs. Brace if she had any clues about her sister, Heather, to which Mrs. Brace answered that she could possibly help her, as they walked over to a small waiting room off to the side of the train station.  The room had dark wood paneling that was stained a dark oak, and two wooden benches which faced each other.  Mrs. Brace took the seat against the wall, and quickly settled herself in place, smoothing her skirts as she went.  Jack and Meg settled in the center bench, Jack grabbing her hand in the center of his, as Meg settled herself carefully onto the bench, being aware of the extra bulk the baby provided.

         Meg nervously cleared her throat and asked “Mrs Brace, you said that you had news of my sister?”

         Mrs. Brace cleared her own throat out of nervous habit and proceeded to pull a small slip of paper and a pencil out of her purse.  “Yes Meg, you asked about your sister, Heather.  Well, although the details are sparse especially after more than a year, and the fact that the Christian Children's Aid Society's adoption placements are closed,  I can tell you that your sister was placed in a loving home in Colorado, not far from the Denver area.  I will provide to you the name of someone you can write to to learn more about your sister's whereabouts.”

         Mrs. Brace continued by passing the slip of paper over to Jack and Meg.  Meg quickly took the paper, folded it, and placed it in her bag.  She began to thank Mrs. Brace, but then Henry interrupted her  and started to fuss, since it was getting close to his naptime.

         Mrs. Brace stared at Meg for a few moments, then shook her head while a smile broke across he face.  “Oh Meg, it is indeed a sight seeing you care for that child, especially since you were placed here only about a year ago, however it's excellent to see that the child responds to you so well.  You make a good mother even now.  Be sure to take care of yourself, get plenty of rest, and you will do well when the next one arrives in a few weeks.”

         Meg looked shyly up from the little boy, who was trying to fitfully rest in her arms.  She handed Henry over to Jack, then glanced toward Mrs. Brace saying “Thank you for the compliments Mrs. Brace.  After what you said earlier, the compliment was mighty appreciated.”

         Mrs. Brace again nodded her approval and began to rise, as Jack helped Meg to her feet while balancing Henry on one hip.  They walked out of the room and Mrs. Brace said that she had to return to the train to continue onward with her mission, while Jack and Meg told her that they needed to continue on their way as well.

         As they walked back toward their wagon, Meg pulled the slip of paper out of her bag and was going to mention about it, when Jack interrupted her saying.  “Well Meg that was quite the encounter, meeting up with Mrs. Brace and all.  Uh about your sister, well I know you'd like to go look for her, but it's getting rather late, even for a telegram.  We'll try the telegraph office, but we do need to get home.”

         Meg nodded in agreement, then answered “Yes I think maybe a message would be fine, but I agree that we do need to get going, don't we?”

         The couple headed over to the telegraph office and attempted to send a message, but since the person's name and location were a bit vague, the telegraph officer told them he'd do the best he could, but not to be surprised if it took a few days or more for a response.

         Meg thanked him, then walked with Jack back to their wagon, and they set off toward home again.  They had traveled most of the way, with Henry falling asleep in a bundle on the floor of the wagon, and Meg becoming so drowsy that she had momentarily leaned against Jack's shoulder and began to doze, while he put his arm around her shoulder.

         The next thing Meg knew, Jack had pulled the wagon to a stop outside their cabin, and gently helped Meg down, as well as the sleeping boy.  They put Henry to bed, but then instead of retiring to the chair, or having Meg begin to fix dinner right away, Jack took her hand and led her outside to a part of  their yard a few yards from the house.

         Meg began to ask what he was onto, but he just said something about the stars.  They spread out  an old woven blanket, then sat down, until Jack lay down and pulled Meg down beside him. 

         “Do you see those stars up there?  That one's Andromeda and the other is Cassiopeia, then over there is the Big Bear, the Little Bear, Orion's Belt, etc...”  Jack went on as he pointed out stars and constellations.

         “Yes I think I do see that.  Oh Jack, they're so lovely, I didn't know you liked to study the stars?” Meg asked a bit surprised as she leaned her head closer to his, to follow his pointing finger.

         “Yeah it's been a favorite pass time of mine since I was a boy.  I guess you don't know everything about me yet either?” he said his voice softly teasing.

         “Yeah I guess so...” she mused.

         “I wonder if someday man will be able to travel up among the stars?  See what they're really made of?  Wish I could travel there, or even to the moon, but I doubt that'll happen in a million years.”  he sighed.

         “Aw, you want to see the stars and the moon?  That would certainly be pioneering of a different sort.  Haha, d'ya know what I wonder?” Meg mused.

         “No what do you wonder?” he replied.

         “I wonder ... if the moon's really made of green cheese!” she giggled.

         “Oh Meg, hahaha...I doubt it, but that is something to ponder, I suppose.” he chuckled as he gazed over at her.

         Meg paused a moment then quietly said, “Jack, do you know where I'd like to go?”

         “No, where would you like to go?”  he answered.

         “I'd like ...to go find my sister, Heather.  I worry about her so.” she said.

         Jack rolled over toward her and brushed a tendril of hair away from her eyes, then said “Oh Meg, there's nothing more I like you to be able to do than see your sister, but right now we need to get the last of our crops in...and besides you probably shouldn't be traveling far for the next few weeks anyway.”

         Meg was going to ask why to, his last statement, until Jack placed his hand on her swollen abdomen and began to gently rub her belly.

         “Oh yeah the baby, I'd sort of forgot...”  Meg gasped.

         Jack chuckled as he continued to touch her “Yeah we should let Junior cook here for a bit longer before we go rushing off to Denver.”  he said as he placed a kiss to her belly.

         “Junior?  What if it's a girl?' she questioned, amused to hear his answer.

         “Aw a girl would be fine, so long as she's like her mother, red haired and frisky.”  he chuckled.

         “You think I'm frisky?  Well I guess our baby...oh did you feel that?” she gasped as the baby moved.

         “Yep frisky as a new colt, just like her mama.”  he said as he leaned his cheek against her.

         “Or papa, if truth be told.” she chuckled.

         “Oh you want frisky, how about this?”  he chuckled as he proceeded to blow a raspberry against her belly.

         Meg began to laugh and then said “Hahaha, Oh Jack, that's just silly!”

         “Oh you want frisky, fine then...” he said with a mischievous gleam in his eye.

         Jack then proceeded to kiss her and unbutton the top of her gown to touch her breasts, but when he rolled over her and began to lift her skirt, she questioned him.

         “Ah ha so that's what ya meant by frisky?  Hmmm, I don't mind too much, but are ya sure ya wanna see my belly outside here?” she laughed a bit embarrassed.

         “Aw Meg, it's nothing the good Lord and myself haven't seen before...I just wanted to...ya know...once more...anyway I think you're beautiful just the way you are.”  Jack tried to say, though at a bit of a loss for words.

         “Aw thanks Jack, love you too...Aw just kiss me boy...” she chuckled as she pulled him down toward her and he cradled her in his arms the best he could to have their time of love.

         After awhile, Meg woke up realizing that she must've fallen asleep outside on their blanket.  She could feel Jack spooned around her with his arm wrapped around her shoulder and could hear him whisper something about going in before they caught a chill.  Meg started to get up, Jack motioned for her to stay down while he got up.  Then he helped her stand, wrapped the blanket around her shoulders, and led her back into the cabin, where they changed out of the rest of their clothes and just curled up in bed to sleep the rest of the night until morning.

         Chapter 12

         The next morning, Meg awoke to the sunlight filtering in through the windows, illuminating the dust particles that still clung to the air.  She rolled over, half expecting her husband to be long gone out to chore, but surprisingly he was still there.  His warmth a welcome presence in the bed now.  She turned to him and snuggled against him listening to his heartbeat, her cheek pillowed by the fine hair on his chest, breathing in the masculine scent that was only him.   

         After what seemed like only a short while, Meg could feel Jack rubbing her shoulder and whispering in her ear words of endearment.  Letting her know that she was loved and he would've loved to stay there longer, but he needed to see to chores on the farm, so he should better get up.   

         Reluctantly Meg got up as well, pulled a wrapper around her burgeoning frame, and went over to the stove to fix breakfast.  Jack saw her efforts as he came in, still slightly damp from washing up at the pump outside.  He came over, wrapped his arms around her and whispered to her “Thank you for making breakfast, you don't realize what you do means to me.  How much you just being here means.  I'll do what I can to help find your sister, but sometimes love takes patience.  Be patient love and it will work out to God's plan.” 
         Meg still found herself second guessing Jack's ideas about things being God's plan, especially when she wished more things in her life would go the way she wanted them to go.  “Okay Jack I'll try to be patient, though it isn't easy.  I understand how it is sometimes and I must admit patience isn't my strongest virtue but I'll try to be patient, and trust God...and of course you!”  she said with tears in her eyes.

         Time seemed to stand still as they held each other for just that moment longer, until the rest of  the day and its responsibilities came crowding upon them once more.
         Jack went out to work on some of the chores that needed done around the farm while Meg began cleaning up the dishes from breakfast,  scrubbing the table, counters, sweeping the floor, seeing to Henry's needs, and so forth. 

         The morning was progressing fairly well, and after awhile Meg picked up the clothes and the washing equipment, then led Henry along as she decided to wash clothes outdoors in the sunshine.  It had been a dry spring, and Meg knew that she'd have to be careful when setting up her laundry stew to boil out back of the cabin, as well as keeping an eye on Henry to make sure he didn't wander off too far. 

         She had just gotten to work scrubbing the stains out of Jack's pants, had set some of Henry's diapers to soak in a basin off to the side, and was letting her mind wander a bit contemplating how she was going to keep the flowers she'd transplanted outside the cabin watered, when she smelled the faint scent of smoke.  She suddenly looked up and saw along the horizon a long set of clouds, which she at first thought were rainclouds.  Then it suddenly dawned on her that it might be a fire, though she wondered how that could be, since she couldn't imagine one so big.

         Meg picked up Henry then and started to collect the laundry, when Jack came running up to yelling “Meg get Henry and run down to the stream NOW! FIRE PRAIRIE FIRE!!!”

         Meg was stunned speechless for the moment and just stood there staring at the line of fire in the distance, slowly creeping toward their farm.  Suddenly she snapped out of her daze, picked Henry up, and ran down to the stream.  The run was a bit cumbersome to do while pregnant, especially while trying to carry a crying toddler, but somehow she was able to get down to the stream.

         Once there, Meg and Henry waded into the water to wait on what would come next.  After what seemed like only a few minutes, a wagon pulled up to the stream and Meg realized it was the Mrs. Nilsson and several of her children.  Even though in the past Mrs. Nilsson hadn't been one of Meg's favorite people, she was still glad to see anyone come by to the stream.

         Mrs. Nilsson quickly saw Meg and approached her, bringing several of her children along.  “Hello there girly how're ja faring up today?  Glad to see ja made it to the stream safe and sound wit da baby an' all.” Mrs. Nilsson said.

         “I'm fine...we're fine though a little cold.  Have you seen Jack at all?” Meg asked, slightly pleading.

         “Och no, but my husband jest tol' me to hurry the chil'ren down 'ere as quick as I could, so into the wagon we went.  Did ya bring a shawl?  Need to keep close to da water so's when the fire comes it doesn't burn you and da kinder.” Mrs.  Nilsson said as she went on to scold her son.

         “No I'm sorry, I guess I just grabbed Henry and ran too fast.” Meg said slightly embarrassed, as she hugged Henry to her.

         “Och it doesn't matter, hand me da boy and jest go up to the wagon and grab a blanket out of there, then head back down here.” Mrs. Nilsson said a bit exasperatedly.   

         Meg complied, handing Henry over to Mrs. Nilsson, while she scrambled up the bank to the Nilsson's wagon.  She was able to reach a blanket just in time, before a shower of sparks came blowing in the wind over the hill behind the wagon.  Meg quickly grabbed the blanket and went down to the stream, where Mrs. Nilsson was waiting.

         “Och good girl, jest take da blanket, soak it in da water, and put it around you and the boy, like this.” Mrs. Nilsson said as she demonstrated that with her own blanket.

         Meg grabbed Henry, dipped the blanket in the stream, and threw it around her shoulders as she held the baby.  She then asked Mrs. Nilsson “Hey how did you know how to do this?”

         “Och jest keep doing dat an' you'll  be okay.  Uh when I was younger, before I married Mr. Nilsson, I was caught in a fire dat burnt the whole village I lived in.  Had to learn the hard way how to keep safe.”  Mrs. Nilsson said as she gathered her children around her.

         Suddenly Meg looked up when she heard more sounds, realizing that people from the local Indian reservation, as well as another family, had also converged at this point in the stream.  Mrs. Nilsson began mumbling something about the Indians, when suddenly the roar and heat of the fire came especially close.

         “Middle of da river!  Moove to the middle!”  Mrs. Nilsson shouted as she splashed closer to the center of the stream where it was deep enough to go under.  Meg knew she could swim, had learned to as a child growing up in Ireland, but with being pregnant and with Henry in tow, it became a daunting task. 
She grabbed Henry tighter to body, had him wrap his little arms around her and tried to speak soothing words to him, while she took a deep breath and plunged underwater for the first time.

         The water was a bit murky with everyone splashing in it to take cover from the fire, but Meg kept plunging herself and Henry underwater two, three, four, five times.  Over and over she and the others repeated this action as the sky around them glowed red, cinders and heat raining down on them.

         By early evening the heat and cinders seemed to be slowing down quite a bit, but everyone was still concerned, so they continued to remain  by the edge of the stream.  Meg was beginning to feel waterlogged and Henry was getting tired, so she sat him down.  Mrs. Nilsson saw Meg begin to wilt and quickly relieved her from holding Henry, leading her over to the bank to rest.

         “Och I shoulda remembered, ja gonna have a wee 'un soon.  Rest rest, gimme da boy and rest girl.”  Mrs. Nilsson chided.

         “Oh I'm sorry Mrs. Nilsson...” Meg said obviously tired.

         “Och call me Mara...an' Meg you're a goot girl, strong girl.  Ja did goot but now's time to rest.”  Mara said more soothingly as she wrapped the blanket, which had then dried considerably in the hours since Meg had initially jumped in the stream to keep safe.

         “Oh Mrs...Mara thank you!  I'm so tired, but I'm also worried, worried about Jack!” Meg said obviously nearly spent.

         “Oh child, it's okay to worry...but you need to have faith that the good Lord will see you through.  Come let's pray for your husband, and my husband too...Dear Lord...” Mara said comfortingly to Meg, then began to pray aloud to the Lord, quoting various scripture of comfort along the way.

         Meg just let herself be overcome by Mara's prayer, and leaned against her and little Henry as Mara and others around them broke into spontaneous prayers of deliverance.

         Meg didn't realize she'd fallen asleep, until she felt Henry rub up against her shoulder.  She heard voices around her and looked up, her eyes falling on a figure with his shirt off and a shock of hair falling over one eye.  The setting sun was in her eyes, but when she heard him say “Hello Meg”, she became charged with an energy she didn't know she possessed at that moment.  Meg scrambled up from her spot  and tackled Jack, nearly knocking him over from the spot where he crouched.  She buried her face against his neck, gripping the feel of him, breathing in his scent which at hat moment was a mixture of woodsmoke, horse sweat, dust, and his own particle scent. 

         Meg let her tears flow as Jack just held her for a moment, stroking her hair and holding her close.    He then pulled her back, held her face in his hands, and wiped a tear away with his thumb, then said “Hello Meg, did you miss me?”

         Meg just nodded, with tears in her eyes, then closed her eyes as he stroked her cheek.  Jack then  just stared straight in her eyes, then brought her face to hers and their lips met in a kiss that just let out all of their built up emotions they'd held up until that point.

         Soon they realized they'd had an audience, so Jack broke the kiss, chuckled, then took Meg by the shoulder, leading her to the side of the stream where they could have some privacy.

         “So Meg, were you a bit worried about me?” Jack said his voice husky.

         “Oh yes of course, Jack!  I was more than just worried, I was downright scared!” Meg said, her  voice wavering.

         “Well I'm glad to know you care.” he said, a slight tease to his voice.

         “Oh Jack, I more than just care...I...I love you...though I didn't know how you felt about me when it took so long for you to come back....”  Meg admitted, and would have gone on longer, but suddenly Jack got a look on his face and just grabbed her face toward his and brought his lips down on hers once  more.   

         After  few breathtaking moments, Jack pulled away, and looking into her eyes with a twinkle in his own eyes.  Then he said to her, his voice husky, “Well what does that tell you about how I feel?”

         Meg just smiled up at him and almost giggled, but then a serious look crossed her face and her demeanor changed to a serious note.  She then said “Oh Jack I just remembered...how was it?  How was the fire?  What kept you so long?”

         Jack pulled away from her then, rocking back on his heels.  It was then Meg noticed that a scab had formed on his right temple, just above his eyebrow.  She began to reach up to touch it, but he grabbed  her hand and held it in his. 

         It was then he looked in her eyes, hesitatingly saying “Oh Meg...I'm sorry...but it was so bad...it's all gone now...” his voice breaking with sorrow.

         “What do you mean all gone?” Meg asked, her voice wavering.

         “Oh Meg, darling...the fire swept across the prairie too fast...the barn...crops,,,even the cabin...all gone!” he said his voice breaking slightly, although he held in his pure distress so well that he didn't let a tear fall.

         Meg more than made up for his emotions, and just took him in her arms, comforting both her husband and herself in the same gesture.  After a few moments, Jack held her away momentarily and wipes away one of his wife's tears, and “Oh Meg, I know when we married and they said 'For Better or Worse'  I'd wished to spare you from this challenge, but I guess I couldn't.  Still I'm glad we're here, we'll face this challenge, head on, together.  We'll make it, together.”

         Meg just nodded in agreement, then repeated the word “Together...”  letting then events of the day sink in and emotion wash over the both of them as they sat there  holding each other in the sunset. 

Chapter 13

         They made camp along the riverside that night, and decided to investigate what was left of their property the next day.    Camping out in a tent of sorts wasn't easy for Jack, Meg, and little Henry, but they knew that they'd have to make due with what they were left with, just like everyone else.

         Huddled against her husband in their little tent, Meg peered out through a gap in the tent flap.  She stared up at the thousands of stars in the night sky and sent a silent prayer heavenward, so thankful that her family was spared no matter the loss of their personal possessions.  Things could be replaced, but people were irreplaceable indeed.

         The next day, Meg got up when the sun was streaming through the tent flap.  She thought she was early, but when she reached across the pallet, Jack was already missing.  She rolled out of bed and left the tent, not sure what to expect, when she heard water splashing and saw Jack crouching along the bank of the stream, washing his face and neck.  He heard her coming and turned to her, water streaming  off his face.

         “Hello Meg!...Bwah nothing like a refreshing stream in the morning!...So it's good to see you're up.” Jack mumbled while wiping off his face.

         “Yeah I'm awake, but it's good see that you're up too.  Is that breakfast I smell?” Meg commented jokingly as she gave him a hug.

         “Very observant of you! Yes I happened to get a little something around, though you can help me finish it up.”  he commented as he hugged her back.

         Meg checked what Jack had been doing and found that he had a few fish roasting on  a rack that appeared to have been made by lashing a few willow branches together.    “Hey Jack hon, interesting way to cook fish!  How did you figure that out?”

         “Oh it's just an ol' indian trick I learned a few years ago.  Makes a great method of cooking fish if you don't have a pan, and if you leaven them on long enough you'll get dried meat as well.” Jack commented as he watched Meg inspect his contraption.

         Meg nodded her head and continued to inspect the fish.  Then she suddenly said “Jack you said yesterday that we could visit our place today and so I was wondering...” as her voice trailed off in the end.

         Jack hesitated a bit, then said “Meg, I just thought I'd warn you that there isn't very much left.  Not much left at all.  But if you really want to see it, then I guess we could.  I just thought I'd warn you.”

         “It's fine Jack, I'm just curious, that's all.  What I am glad for though is that you, Henry, and so many of our neighbors are safe.” Meg said as she dealt with the fish.

         After their light breakfast, Jack helped Meg clean up around their campsite, then they decided to inspect their property for damage.  They were fortunate that their property was only a short distance away from the stream, just over the ridge,  still Jack was kind and helped to carry little Henry so that Meg didn't have to.

         When they came to their property, to the place where their cabin had once stood, Meg gasped in horror and started to cry.  Jack drew her into his arms, holding her tightly against his body as she sobbed all of her anguish and pent up emotions into his soot and sweat stained cotton shirt. 

         The soot and the smell of smoke still clung to the heavy air, causing Henry and even Meg to cough a bit.  Feeling concerned Jack asked them “Are you all right?”

         “Huh...Yeah Jack I'm fine I guess...I just...inhaled a bit of the bad air around here...[cough cough]”  Meg answered with a cough.

         “That's good...Lets get back to the river before you two have any more problems.” Jack said soothingly as he attempted to guide Meg away from the burnt out cabin.

         “Okay...but oh Jack what are we going to do?  What are we going to do about a house?”  Meg moaned while looking back at the rubbish that had once been their cabin.

         “Well Meg, speaking of that,  look over at that ridge.  Do you see the hole in the side of the hill?  Well that there hole over yonder was the dugout my brother & his wife, and I lived in when we first arrived on the claim.  We only stayed there a few months, but it looks like it survived the fire!  I tell you God has given us provisions where we haven't even thought.”  Jack went on to say.

         “We're going to live in a hole in the side of a hill? Like a gopher?”  Meg asked a bit perplexed.

         “Nah...well maybe it is a bit like a gopher, but you'll see it'll be snug.  And it'll get us by until we can build something better and continue to prove up the claim.”  Jack said, as he directed her toward the dugout.

         The inside of the dugout proved to be dark and damp, as Meg had at first feared, but then when she got a better look at it she saw that it did have promise indeed.  Sure what furniture it had consisted of a worn table, a barrel or two to be used as chairs, a few crates someone had stacked against one wall as shelving, and a small wooden bed with old pallet bedding, but compared to their tent or nothing at all, it seemed like a near castle.   

         Then suddenly the crofters cottage that her gran had had back in Ireland came to mind, and Meg realized that after the tumbledown shape that had become after the owners came and burnt it out, was much worse in the end than this dugout, so she and her little family were truly blessed despite everything.

         “Yeah          Jack, it is quite the home indeed...but I think that we'll be able to make a go of it, you'll see.  Tis better than what me gran's cottage was in the end, so I'm glad we have it.  I think I have some ideas to make it more of a home, even with what we have.  Still though you and Henry are my greatest blessings, and I am so glad that you two were able to make it safe, fire or no.”  Meg said as she inspected their new home and gave her husband a hug.
         “Ah yes, you are a treasure my girl, Meg.  A treasure worth more than gold...or all the cabins on the prairie.”  Jack said as he gave her a hug back.

         “Well I don't know if I'm worth that much,  haha...but thanks for your love.” Meg said as she hugged him back.

         After a bit then they began to help each other clean up the dugout, and then their neighbors came by and they also began to help each other clean up and communicated their needs.  Jack and Meg discovered that the Nilsson's were also going to clean up their old soddy and continue to rebuild despite the setbacks that the fire had caused the community.  Fortunately for them, their barn was still intact so Mr. Nilsson said that h e and his sons would help Jack rebuild his barn as a sod barn until he could afford  a shipment of lumber for a real barn raising. 

         The real feeling of community which was came as a result of the fire, was an unexpected bonus to the families of the area.  It helped not only to rebuild each other houses, barns, and farms, but also helped to build relationships that otherwise many not have been able to be build just because of the busyness that running one's farm often entailed. 

         Meg was able to learn some canning tips from Mara Nilsson and quilting tips from Mattie Wilson, another neighbor to their north.  Then Mrs. Miller, the local pastor's wife, came by and suggested a few scriptures, which combined with the quilting and the canning, turned into quite the ladies group indeed.

Chapter 14

         Jack and Meg also continued to rebuild their farm bit by bit.  Although the fire had wiped out many of their early crops, amazingly a planting of wheat that hadn't sprouted yet prior to the fire, suddenly began to grow and thrive, proving that even plants can survive.  It only a few weeks time they had a rippling wheat field rolling over their gently rolling terrain for several acres at least.  Proving up was continuing to be a challenge, but the young couple counted their blessings where they could, in the simple, ordinary things in life.

         One day though, a few weeks after the fire and after things started growing again, Meg woke up aching, but she didn't tell Jack right away, thinking that it was just the normal aches of late pregnancy.  She attempted to tidy up their dugout, but soon felt like she needed to rest, which she did.  After a nap that lasted longer than she'd intended, Meg woke up to more pains, as Jack walked through the door.

         Jack rushed over to her side and asked, “Meg is it your time now?  Should I ride out to get the doctor or Mrs. Nilsson, or something”

         “Uh maybe you can...I don't feel so good...oh....” Meg moaned as she laid on her bed.

         “All right, I'll go hitch up the team and be back in a bit, hold on.” Jack said as he ran out the door.

         “Okay, I think I'll be fine, but hurry.”  Meg said as she tried to sit up.

         Meg's pains were starting to lessen some, so she decided to stand up and walk to the door.  When she looked out though, she saw Jack sitting on the ground holding his foot and trying to peel off his boot.

         “Jack what happened to you?” Meg said as she rushed out to his side and knelt down.

         “Oh that blasted wagon rolled over my foot!  I hadn't fashioned the grey into his traces yet, because I was in such a hurry, and he rolled the wagon over my foot.”  Jack said gritting his teeth.

         “Well hopefully nothing's broken, but I we probably should go back to the cottage and get your boot off.  Here lean on me.” Meg said as she tried to shift under his weight.

         “Oh but I'm too heavy to lean on you and anyhow aren't you having the baby?” Jack said as he tried to not burden Meg with his weight.

         “Aw Jack I'm stronger than ye think, plus anyhow the pains aren't so bad right now.  Don't be a fool and just lean on me, it's okay.” Meg said as she wrapped his arm around her shoulders and helped him hobble back to their home.

         They made it back and Meg helped Jack onto a chair then knelt down to remove his boot.  She'd  just removed his boot and was rubbing his foot to check for broken bone or swelling, when another labor pain seized her.

         “Oh ow, oh are you in pain too Meg?  Aw we're a fine pair, you're having our baby and now I have a bum foot.”  Jack said with a grimace.

         “Oh Jack...your foot doesn't really feel broken, but you'll have to be careful.  Me...well how did your sister-in-law deliver Henry?  Did she have a midwife or a doc handy or anything?” Meg said.

         “No, I don't think so, but then look what happened to her!” Jack said a bit panicked.

         “Well love I think from the way thing are at the moment, you're going to help me deliver this baby, papa Jack.”  Meg said through a groan.

         “Oh great...What do I need to do?”  Jack said.

         “Well we should have boiling hot water and clean cloths, but the water...I don't know how we'll do it with your leg...maybe I should go out and draw water.”  Meg moaned.

         “Don't worry about it Meg, you said you thought my foot wasn't that bad...maybe you can hand me that stick over there and I can hobble out to get water.” Jack said as Meg handed him a stick which he attempted to fashion into a crutch.

         “Well you can try...but be careful and don't hurt yourself anymore.”  Meg said as she lay on the bed.

         Jack hobbled out and soon hobbled in with a bucket of water that he emptied into a large stockpot  they had on their stove.  He added a cowchip to get the fire stoked a bit higher, then hobbled over to where Meg was laying on the bed.

         “There see I got it done.  Water will start to boil soon I reckon...so how're you doing?” Jack asked.

         “Oh I've felt better, haha,  but thank you so much love.  I just hope your foot will be fine.”  Meg said between groans.

         “Oh I think I'll be fine, though it might be awhile until my foot's completely healed.” Jack said, looking down at his bandaged foot.

         Jack and Meg continued to talk, mainly to get each other's mind off of each other's pain, until Meg got to the point where she sensed she was going to have the baby soon. 

         “Hey Meg what are you doing?”  Jack asked as he watched her scoot up on the bed.

         “Oh...well I think it's time for our baby to make it's appearance...” Meg said in a pained voice.

         “Really?  Already? What do I need to do?”  Jack asked, astonished.

         “I guess just come over here and catch the baby when it comes out.”  Meg said.

         “Okay then...I'll be careful.” Jack gulped.

         He hobbled over to the bed and sat on the end, just below where Meg was giving birth.  He gulped again when he saw everything, but held his own as the minutes passed.

         Finally the baby's head emerged and soon the rest of the body, with a lusty cry.  Jack caught the baby just in time and tried not to smear the after birth around too much.

         “Oh Meg we have a beautiful baby girl! “  Jack said with a tear in his eye.

         “Oh Jack let me have the baby!...Aw she is beautiful...” Meg cooed as she held their daughter close.

         “Aw she's beautiful because she looks like you, red hair and all...” Jack said.

         “You think I'm beautiful, even like this?”  Meg asked teasingly.

         “I think you're beautiful no matter what you've just done.”  Jack said as he gave her a kiss.

         “So what do you want to name our daughter?” Jack asked.

         “How about Mellody Scarlet Ericsson?  Do you think that sounds fine?”  Meg asked.

         “Mellody Scarlet?  Hey that's kinda pretty.  Yeah I think that will work out just fine, Meg.  Hello Mellody Scarlet, welcome to our world.” Jack said as he stroked the baby's head with his hand and gave her a kiss.   
Chapter 15

         The summer progressed on, with finally the crops that were left coming in.  Meg noticed how quickly time was passing as her little daughter grew.  She had fun taking her daughter outside with her as she pegged up the laundry, watching the clothes flap in the breeze.  Listening to the birds sing on the breeze as it blew across the wide open prairie, smelling the scents of nature on the open land.  Watching the sun set over the expanded horizon and wink behind the clouds, turning them to pinks and blues and other such hues.  Watching the babies run barefoot through the yard, sitting outside with your loved one on the front of the house, holding hands and talking about the end of the day.  All the joys of prairie life and more.

         Still though from time to time Meg thought of her sister and where she might be then.  Meg hoped and prayed that Heather was being treated well, even if she couldn't see her right then.  Meg expressed her concerns to Jack, but he just told her to be patient and perhaps a response to the letter she had written would come some day soon.

         One day Jack came back from a trip to town for supplies.  Along with the supplies, he also brought a letter which had arrived postmarked to Meg.  He brought the letter in along with the supplies and handed it to her after she'd finished feeding the baby.  Meg open the letter and read it to herself at first, then began to exclaim aloud.

         “Oh my!”

         “Oh did you get good news?”  Jack inquired.

         “Oh yes, Jack.  This letter is from the family who adopted Heather!  According to this, she's doing fine and getting along with her brothers and sisters quite well.  Apparently the family has adopted several other children with physical impairments, and they are familiar with some of the issues that Heather has.    These people must be real angels of mercy, I'd say!” Meg enthused.

         “Well that's good!  See Meg I told you that all would work out in the end.  So where are they from anyway?” Jack asked.

         “Let's see...according to the postmark...and it says here in the letter...they live in Denver, Colorado.  And they said that if we wanted to visit Heather sometime, that we should just send them a note to let them know, then come around their way whenever we agree.  Oh Jack do you think that we could?...” Meg said as her voice trailed off, lost in thought.

         “Well, I don't know if now's a good time but...I know how much you've been wanting to see your sister since you two were separated on that train.” Jack pondered aloud.

         “Oh do you think we could?  Oh I would really love to...” Meg sighed.

         “Well if I could get one of our neighbors to remember to check on our livestock and do what needs to be done, I suppose we could spare a quick trip...although I'm not sure how we can come up with train fare for you, I, and the children.  Plus do you really think the children would behave?...” Jack pondered.

         “Oh that'd be great if you could get one of the neighbors to help out.  And I'll take care of the children, don't worry they'll be so quiet that you won't that they're there.  And as far as the fare, but maybe God will rain pennies from heaven because he wants us to go.” Meg said.

         “Well I just hope you don't use any of your granny's irish whiskey on the children...and sometimes God doesn't always work that way, sending pennies from Heaven when you want.” Jack laughed, then became slightly stern.

         “Oh it'll work out all right, I just know it will! You'll see!” Meg exclaimed.

         “Ha ha, well I'm glad I'm married to Mrs. Optimistic.  Though it seems like you're more optimistic when it involves something you want in life.” Jack chuckled, as he went on to read his paper.
         “Well...maybe you're sometimes right in that...” Meg shyly mused, then put the letter in a safe place, and went on to further care for her children.
          Interestingly enough, the next day when Jack asked his neighbor for help, he agreed to it right away.  Simultaneously Meg wrote a telegram to the family who'd adopted her sister Heather, and even before she left town she got reply back asking when would be the best time for them to visit and if they needed any assistance in the matter of train fare to Denver.  Meg was overjoyed by the answer and knew she had to tell Jack right away. 

         When she told Jack, he was still a bit skeptic that some of it was all pennies from Heaven, but he was pleased that some of it was working out so well for Meg's sake.  Still he knew their blessings would run their course in due time, so they had to take advantage of the situations as they came.  They began packing right away for the trip.  Meg was able to pack for the trip quickly since they didn't have as many things after the fire.

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