Authors: Kathleen Rouser
“One of Charles’ friends in high places, probably one of his gambling cronies, sent a lawyer and put up bail for him.” Sophie shook her head. “He rented a horse from the livery. Went to the saloon and became so drunk, he went out riding in the bad weather.” She paused. “Of course, he wasn’t steady on the horse. ”
“Not surprised someone bailed him out, but I’m sad to think he might get away with what he’s done.”
“No, not this time.” Sophie shook her head again. “The horse took off, must have slipped on a muddy hill and fell down, injuring one of his legs. Charles …” she swallowed. “He took a tumble off the horse and likely broke his neck. Someone found him dead the next morning.” She shivered. “Just a few days ago.”
Esther had taken the little one inside, but Sophie released her breath and whispered anyway. “I don’t know what I’ll tell Caira when she’s grown. I’m glad she’ll never have to see such a man again, to be claimed as his daughter. Yet someday she’ll ask about who he was.” Her eyes blurred.
“There but for the grace of God go I.” Ian set his lemonade down on the porch and tilted her chin so her face was closer to his.
“Ah, but you and I were both guilty sinners saved by grace and wanting a new start. God will give us the wisdom and the words if the time ever comes. We are blessed.”
Sophie’s fears melted as Ian held her. She knew she could count on him to protect their family with God’s help. He rested his forehead on hers and then placed a gentle kiss there. “We can only forgive Charles and hope he found grace in his last moments,” Ian’s voice reassured her.
“I suppose.” Though it was hard to imagine one so prideful would bow his knee even at his last hour.
Ian cleared his throat. “Your father came to see me yesterday.”
“He did, did he?” Sophie reveled in the new feeling of joy such news brought her.
Ian nodded. “I asked him for a certain young lady’s hand.”
“Just a formality, but, of course, he said ‘yes.’ It seems he’s quite impressed with me.”
“I see.” Sophie raised one eyebrow.
“He offered to buy the old rundown White home, near the orphan school property so that I could begin the ministry to troubled young women.”
Sophie sat up straighter. “Really?”
“Yes, but I want to know how you feel about it. It would take awhile to fix up. And we would try to train these young women with a skill so that they could raise their children. They wouldn’t have to give them up—”
“Dearest, that’s all I need to hear. If young women like myself could have some dignity whether they are victims of assault or have sinned of their own accord. At least if they know someone will love and accept them in the name of Christ and they won’t be forced to give away their children, I can’t imagine anything better.” Sophie paused, shaking her head. “And you say Papa has offered to help? God truly works in mysterious ways.”
They sat quietly, companionably together on the swing.
Sophie reached up and pushed his hair off his forehead. “I’ll always be here for you, to help you in any ministry, as long as God gives me breath.” She drew his face toward hers until warmth mingled in their kiss, heating the cool evening air. He pulled away.
Ian stroked her cheek. “Pretty soon we’ll have plenty of time for that. Lord willing, we will have a long life together.”
A week later, Sophie looked around the Myles’ ballroom. Gloria and Asa had insisted that they have their reception at Apple Blossom House.
Esther sat next to Sophie’s mother as they sipped lemonade. Her father spoke with Ian’s former seminary teacher, Reverend Perry, who’d come to perform the ceremony. Everyone seemed comfortable. Maggie, Esther, the Whitworths, and Moores were all there. Nora sat on a chaise, blushing while giving James Cooper
her rapt attention in conversation. How wonderful that this peace had come! A year ago there had been only loneliness and chaos in her and Caira’s lives.
She would be free to sew for her family and no longer had to worry about building a business. She happily exchanged that for her former dream of pursuing her music more freely as a teacher and performer. Since she’d made her peace with the Lord, she could sing out to Him with a full heart. This must have been His plan all along.
Ian sat by her with Caira on his lap.
The little one pulled her thumb out of her mouth for a moment. “Love ’ou, ’Cowmick.”
“You can call ’Cowmick ‘Papa’ now.” Joy welled up inside Sophie like a fountain filled with clear, bubbling water.
“And remember to call Sophie ‘Mama.’” Ian nodded at the small child.
Caira giggled and looked from one parent to another before popping her thumb back into her mouth.
“It’s going to take her awhile to understand, I’m afraid.” Sophie sighed. The child slid from Ian’s lap to run toward her newfound Grandma Bidershem.
Ian pointed to the lovely soft, beaded leather shoes that matched Sophie’s dress. “Pretty fancy. I hope that you’ll be content as a poor preacher’s wife.”
She had to smile. “I am richer than I ever was as a Bidershem.” She kept her voice low, not wanting to hurt her parents. “Where once I thought that I was burdened, now I am free. Free to forgive, free to live in the land flowing with milk and honey. God’s love and yours have brought me to the Promised Land.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s true. I’d never quite thought of it like that.” Yet, where once he’d been plagued with thoughts of what he should have done, peace flooded his heart. Only Christ’s blood could cover his sin. He’d been forgiven. They would move forward
in their lives together, through trials and tribulation as well as the good times. “Yes, indeed.” Ian moved closer to his lovely bride and put his arm around her. “I believe we are entering the Promised Land. And I look forward to sampling its fruits.” Ian bent his head and placed a kiss on the soft pink mouth that his beloved offered willingly.
Both Sophie and Ian are anxious to make a new start and leave their pasts behind. Why do you think they each chose Stone Creek?
Both Sophie and Ian are haunted by their past. How does their response to their troubles differ?
Bearing a child out of wedlock at the turn of the last century was considered a great taboo and unless kept a secret would most likely ruin a young woman’s chance for marriage in the future. Sophie had few choices she could make. What would you have recommended Sophie do in her circumstances?
How do you think Lemuel and Olivia Bidershem could have better handled their daughter’s situation, once she became pregnant?
Gertrude Wringer is correct in her suspicions that Caira is Sophie’s daughter, but she doesn’t know the whole story. Gossip is often started with a kernel of truth, which is twisted. How could Gertrude have been best stopped once she began slandering Sophie?
Sophie knows her ruse that Caira is her little sister is deceitful and feels guilty for continuing. What could she have done differently to handle this situation with honesty, yet protect Caira? What might have the consequences been if she did?
Ian believes he should begin a home for unwed mothers. How can someone know God is leading them into a ministry? Do you have a story to share?
How does Sophie’s deception, and Ian hiding what he knows about her, affect the way in which they get to know each other? How does it ultimately affect their relationship?
Sophie often feels far away from God and Ian feels less than worthy in his calling, until they trust God, experiencing His grace and healing. What are some attitudes which keep us from trusting God more fully each day and experiencing His grace in each situation?
When there is a lack of fellowship between family members, relationships suffer. How did Sophie’s forgiveness of her parents help to mend their relationship? And what did her parents do that helped that process?
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