He lowered his head and claimed her lips for himself, stealing her mind and heart as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Love for her husband filled her with a warm glow, and she snuggled close as he carried her into the finished cabin.
|Through the Valley Series:Hands of Love,Book 2 By Mildred Colvin|
After another kiss, Gus lowered Hannah until she stood before him. â€œI love you, my wife.â€
â€œI love you, too, my husband. Our life together begins now, and I want to see my new home.â€ She turned from him to inspect every inch of the two-room cabin that looked better to her than any mansion. She ran to the far side of the room where the hearth waited for their first meal together as man and wife. A heavy square pine table sat in the middle of the floor, and she ran her hand over the smooth wood. The sitting area held two wooden rockers with cane bottoms. A door in the far wall opened to reveal a small bedroom. She turned from inspecting it. â€œItâ€™s beautiful. So snug and tight.â€
â€œNo snakes in this house.â€ Gus laughed. â€œIf you find an opening Iâ€™ve missed, let me know, and I will banish it forever.â€
She laughed, too, at the memory of the snake heâ€™d carried out of her parentsâ€™ house. â€œI promise Iâ€™ll scream.â€
â€œI imagine you will.â€ Gus pulled her to him, taking kisses she freely gave. â€œI thought this day would never come, Hannah. God has a plan for our lives. While it may not always be pleasant, we can know He holds us in the palm of his hand.â€
â€œYes, I know.â€ She laid her head against his chest, absorbing his warmth and strength. Gus was strong in the Lord while she had much to learn. He was right. They wouldnâ€™t always have laughter because tears were part of life too. But together with God, they could face all their tomorrows.
Hannah woke the next morning to warm arms surrounding her. A kiss against her neck chased all remaining sleep away. â€œGus.â€ She turned and slipped her arms around his neck, accepting his kiss.
He pulled back and grinned. â€œWhereâ€™s my breakfast?â€
â€œBreakfast?â€ Memories of the previous night filled her mind bringing warmth to her cheeks. â€œJa, I need to get breakfast.â€
â€œAnd as sad as it is, I must milk old Bessie and tend to the other animals.â€ He rolled away from her to sit on the edge of the bed. â€œCanâ€™t you hear them calling?â€
â€œBut I thought I would do the milking.â€ Hannah protested. â€œIt was always my job at home, and Iâ€™m used to it.â€
â€œIn time I may let you take over, but you will have plenty to keep you busy today.â€ He dressed as she watched even though warmth stole into her cheeks.
â€œYou mean like making sure you have plenty to eat?â€
â€œJa, thatâ€™s a good place to start.â€ He chuckled. â€œWhy arenâ€™t you getting dressed, my love?â€
She looked away, her blood pounding. â€œI will as soon as you close the door behind you.â€
â€œSo if I want to eat, I must give you privacy. Is that the way of it?â€ His grin revealed his amusement.
â€œThatâ€™s right.â€ She lifted her chin in a show of strength.
He leaned across the bed and planted his lips against hers in a gentle kiss she welcomed and returned. â€œI love you, Hannah.â€
â€œAs I love you!â€ Her smile surely covered her entire face. She longed to cling to him, keeping him with her, but she released her hold and watched him straighten.
â€œIâ€™ll be back for more of that later.â€ He flashed a grin before turning and striding from the room. â€œBut first, Iâ€™ll come for food in about an hour.â€
She threw his pillow toward the door as he pulled it closed and watched it bounce to the floor. â€œIâ€™ll get your breakfast, husband dear.â€ She crawled from bed and dressed quickly. â€œI may have a lot to learn about being a wife, but cooking is not one of them. Thank You, Lord, for my husband. Help me be the best wife for Gus I can be.â€
She placed a hand against her flat stomach and wondered what it would be like to carry Gusâ€™s child. Her sister had acted so happy yesterday at Hannah and Gusâ€™s wedding. Although, at first glance, someone might not notice Joanna was expecting a child, she often rested a hand against the small bump where her baby grew, bringing notice to her condition. Joanna wasnâ€™t ashamed of either her child or seemingly of her behavior before she and Otto married. But Hannah wouldnâ€™t waste her time thinking about her sister. Even though she served the Lord now, she was still cut from a different piece of cloth. Hannah laughed at the old saying, because people had always said she and Joanna were as alike as two peas in a pod. Yet, in ways that didnâ€™t show, they were different, and Hannah would never understand her twin sister.
In the kitchen, Hannah hurried to prepare a good breakfast and had it on the table when Gus came through the door.
â€œAh, Iâ€™ve married a good wife.â€ His grin gave way to serious intent as he strode across the small cabin. At her side, he cupped her face in his hand and lowered his head until their lips touched.
Her heart responded with an erratic beat as she melted into his arms.
He lifted his head with a satisfied grin. â€œM-m-m. I believe thatâ€™s the best breakfast dessert Iâ€™ve ever had. Now Iâ€™m ready for the rest.â€
Hannah giggled and sat in the chair Gus pulled from the table then bowed her head for his prayer.
â€œCome on, Bessie, letâ€™s see how much milk you have for us today.â€
Gus stopped at the barn door to listen to his wifeâ€™s melodious voice as she talked to the old cow. Bessie was a good producer but she was getting on in years. He stepped inside to watch Hannah tie the lead rope to keep Bessie in place then set the milk bucket down, lean her head against the cowâ€™s flank, and begin milking.
As the milk splattered inside the wooden pail, love and thanksgiving swelled inside his chest for the woman God had given him. She was his perfect mate. Well taught in the ways of the farm. The food she set before him couldnâ€™t be more to his liking. She kept the cabin clean, his socks darned, and clothing mended. Now, after only a month of marriage, sheâ€™d taken over the job of milking and tending the chickens and was already making plans for a garden come spring.
He loved her for her unending energy and because she set his heart pounding with one look or a smile, but more important was her love and service to the Lord. Hannah was as near perfect as he could imagine. He could stand motionless for hours absorbing her beauty, but heâ€™d never get anything done that way. He turned and stepped back outside into the early fall chill. Winter would be upon them before they were ready. He needed to make sure the south barn lot fence was tight enough to hold the cattle when the weather grew cold and snow piled deep. Tomorrow, he would bring in more hay to store in the loft. There would be plenty to do between now and winter, and it didnâ€™t help that heâ€™d gotten a late start.
Hannah stood in the bedroom before the looking glass and leaned close, touching her cheek. Her skin was pinker, glowing with health and happiness. Was that a sign she was in the family way? She straightened and touched a hand to her stomach then giggled. How many times would she do that before finally feeling the slight bump she searched for? After three months of marriage, she should be expecting. Less than four weeks until Christmas. Announcing the coming birth of their baby would be the best gift she could give Gus.
The last time theyâ€™d gone to visit her parents, Otto and Joanna had also come. They seemed so happy. Joanna was now large with child. Sheâ€™d told Hannah one sure sign a baby was coming was when her courses stopped. Sheâ€™d been so excited with the wedding and all the newness of being a wife that she hadnâ€™t paid attention to such things, but surely itâ€™d been more than a month. Maybe two. If only she could be sure.
She turned from the mirror and made the bed. For the next four weeks, sheâ€™d pay closer attention and then sheâ€™d know. If her time didnâ€™t come, sheâ€™d have a special announcement for Christmas. Please, Lord, let it be.
Already, the snow covered the ground. Hannah smoothed the bed and looked out the one window in their bedroom as scattered flakes of white drifted down. Gus was bringing the cattle in this week to stay in the barn lot and the barn when the weather got really cold. He wouldnâ€™t let her help, saying he needed her to care for him by having a good meal to set before him at noon and when he finished for the day. She could do that, and she would.
Each day, Hannah watched for her time of the month to begin and breathed a sigh of relief each evening when it didnâ€™t. She held her secret close, waiting until the right time to tell Gus. He was so busy preparing for winter, she was sure he hadnâ€™t even thought of the possibility of a baby.
On Christmas morning, she woke in his arms, his hand spread across her abdomen. She turned in his arms to face him. â€œWhat are you thinking, my love?â€
His slow grin set her heart pounding. She would never get tired of his handsome face or the love shining from his eyes when he looked at her.
â€œHow soon do you think we might be blessed with a little one?â€ His voice was soft but didnâ€™t waver.
â€œWould early in the summer be all right with you?â€ She watched the expression in his eyes and thrilled when they shone with joy.
â€œAre you sure?â€ He whispered as if afraid to speak too loudly.
She looked down toward his chest to hide the insecurity in her eyes. â€œIâ€™m almost positive, but I could be wrong.â€
â€œNein! You arenâ€™t wrong.â€ He pulled her close and kissed her tenderly. â€œIâ€™ve thought so for a while, but if anyone knows, you will. Thank you, my lovely Hannah, for this most blessed Christmas gift. The best one Iâ€™ve ever received.â€
She laughed as he kissed her nose and each of her cheeks. Then she captured his lips and poured all her love into that kiss and the ones that followed. She was blessed beyond what she deserved.
â€œGus!â€ Hannah hurried through the June sunshine as fast as she could. The weight of her baby held her back, making her feel huge, heavy, and sluggish. â€œGus!â€ Oh he had to be nearby. Heâ€™d promised. Why couldnâ€™t he hear her calls?
She reached the barn door and leaned against it a moment before pulling it open. â€œGus! Are you here?â€
â€œWhat is it, Hannah?â€ He appeared from the darkness inside. â€œIs it time?â€
â€œI think so.â€ Tears filled her eyes. â€œMama told me what to expect at the beginning. Iâ€™ve felt strange all day and my back hurts. What if Mama canâ€™t get here in time? I donâ€™t want you to go.â€
A pain moved through her stomach, holding her in its grip before letting go. She filled her lungs, as tears filled her eyes. What if Mama didnâ€™t come?
Gus took her in his arms, letting her cry against his shirt. â€œI can get word to Aunt Sophia quicker and bring her back within an hour. Do we have that much time?â€
Hannah sniffed and nodded. â€œI think so, but I wanted Mama. Oh, why do we live so far away?â€
Gus lifted his head and looked toward the road. â€œSomeone is coming.â€
The rumble of wagon wheels against the dirt road reached Hannah. She looked up as a dust cloud rose behind a moving vehicle. â€œThey are coming fast. Who is it? Can you see?â€
Laughter shook Gusâ€™s chest. â€œI canâ€™t believe it. Iâ€™ve heard twins have a special connection, but Iâ€™ve never witnessed it before. Of course, Iâ€™ve only met one set of twins. If Iâ€™m not mistaken, Otto and Joanna have brought your mother to you.â€
â€œJoanna! Mama!â€ Hannah called even though she knew they couldnâ€™t hear. As soon as the wagon stopped, she grabbed Gusâ€™s arm and pulled him toward it.
â€œWhat are you doing out here walking around?â€ Joanna handed her baby to Mama then scrambled down from the wagon without waiting for Ottoâ€™s help. â€œItâ€™s your time, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œYes.â€ Tears filled Hannahâ€™s eyes as her sister took the baby again then slipped an arm around her shoulders and led her toward the house. Hannah turned back to see Otto helping Mama climb down. â€œMama! I want you too.â€
â€œIâ€™m coming. You two go on. Joanna had a fit to come and take care of you, so you might as well let her.â€ Mama laughed and shook her head. â€œIâ€™ve never seen such a change in two girls.â€ Her voice although lowered, drifted to Hannah as Joanna kept her moving.
Gusâ€™s chuckle followed them. â€œThe Lord does mighty things when we turn our hearts to Him.â€
She heard no more as Joanna didnâ€™t stop until they were in the bedroom. She laid her daughter on the bed. â€œLet me help you into your gown so you can get in bed.â€
â€œBut I donâ€™t want to go to bed yet.â€ Hannah leaned over her niece. â€œThereâ€™ll be time for that later. Right now, I want to see my little Rachel.â€
â€œSheâ€™s sleeping. Look all you want because Iâ€™m going to give her to Otto as soon as he comes in. Look at me, Hannah.â€ Joanna moved closer and looked into her eyes. â€œAre you having pains?â€
â€œYes, some, but not really bad yet.â€ Hannah sat on the cedar chest at the foot of her bed and played with the sleeping babyâ€™s hand. â€œSheâ€™s so sweet.â€
â€œYes, she is, but right now we need to concentrate on you.â€ Joanna placed her hands on her hips. â€œYou canâ€™t ignore the fact youâ€™re about to have a baby, Hannah.â€
Mama poked her head in the doorway. â€œSo was Joanna right? Are you about to have this baby?â€
â€œJa, Mama. My sister knows me better than I realized.â€ Hannahâ€™s laughter was cut short by a pain unlike any sheâ€™d had yet. She released Rachelâ€™s hand and bent double then slowly straightened, slipping from the cedar chest to walk across the room and back. â€œI hope thatâ€™s the worst of it.â€
â€œIf it is, youâ€™ll have a lot easier birth than I did.â€ Joanna smirked.
Hannah stopped a few feet from her. â€œI thought I felt your pain four months ago when little Rachel was born, but it was not as physical as it was â€¦ oh, I donâ€™t know. Surely it was nothing compared to your suffering.â€
â€œI donâ€™t feel your pain, Hannah.â€ Joannaâ€™s smile for her sister was gentle. â€œWhat I felt before, that let me know you needed us, as you say, was more a reflection of what you were experiencing. Soon, the pain will grow to consume you. Then, your baby will be born and there will be no moreâ€”not even in your memory. Only your precious baby.â€ She turned to include their mother. â€œIsnâ€™t that right, Mama?â€
â€œJa, that is right.â€ Mama rubbed Hannahâ€™s back. â€œWhen you hold your baby in your arms, he or she is all you will think of.â€
Hannah sucked in a breath as another pain ripped through her. After that one, more came until Mama and Joanna insisted she get in bed. She noticed little Rachel was gone, but hadnâ€™t even known when Joanna took her to Otto. Then she thought no more of it as the pain gave her no rest while she clung to their hands.
â€œHere he comes.â€ Mama caught the baby in her hands and sucked in a breath. â€œOh, my God, please not this!â€
Hannah strained to see, but Joanna held her back. â€œHush, Hannah. Let Mama see what she can do.â€
Tears ran down Hannahâ€™s cheeks as no babyâ€™s cry rent the air. â€œMama, whatâ€™s wrong?â€ She screamed out the last word. â€œI want my baby! Gus!â€
The door burst open, and Gus took Joannaâ€™s place by Hannahâ€™s side. He stroked her damp hair from her face. Tears ran down his cheeks as he repeated over and over, â€œIâ€™m sorry, my love. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
Hannah slept while her mother and sister cleaned the baby and dressed her in the white dress and bonnet Hannah had made.
Gus used scrap lumber from building the house to make a tiny coffin. Then, with leaden feet, he shuffled to the house and went inside. Taking his daughterâ€™s body from her grandmother, he carried her into the bedroom. â€œHannah?â€
His wifeâ€™s eyes fluttered, releasing another tear to slide down the side of her head into her hair.
â€œI think you need to see the baby before we put her body to rest.â€ His heart constricted with each word he forced through his lips. â€œHer color isnâ€™t good because the cord wrapped around her neck. Your mama says that happens sometimes, and there was nothing we couldâ€™ve done about it.â€
The baby was so small she didnâ€™t even cover his arm. Other than the gray tint to her skin, she appeared to be sleeping. He sat on the edge of the bed, holding her so Hannah could see. â€œSheâ€™s beautiful, just like her mother.â€
â€œHer name is Helga Joanna Rohmeier.â€ Hannah whispered, her gaze never leaving the baby.
â€œThatâ€™s a good name.â€ His chest tightened so he couldnâ€™t say anything more.
â€œMay I hold her?â€ Hannah reached out, her eyes wide and swimming in tears. She lifted their daughter from his arm and laid her across her breast, gazing into the still little face. â€œWhy did God take her, Gus? What did we do that was so wrong?â€
â€œNein, sweetheart. We did nothing to cause this. His word tells us, â€˜O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!â€™ We donâ€™t need to ask why, only trust in Godâ€™s wisdom and know that all things are right.â€
After a while, he took the baby and carried her to the coffin heâ€™d fashioned with his own hands. Then, he mounted Buster and rode eight miles to town. During the long trip, in spite of what heâ€™d told Hannah, anger against God rose within. Their baby was perfect. She shouldnâ€™t be dead, but she was. Why hadnâ€™t He saved her?
With William and Mr. Zorn helping, Gus dug the grave in the churchyard. They stood back then as the minister held a short service with a few who came out before they laid little Helga to rest. After everyone left, tears of loss and anger rained down his face while he stood for long moments staring at the scarred earth before returning home.
While Hannahâ€™s Mama stayed on for two weeks, Gus sought solace in the fields but increasingly found discontent with the land heâ€™d loved before. He held Hannah at night, consoling her with words and loving kindnesses then slipped from bed at daybreak to plow and plant corn until darkness drove him inside. Often he would kneel in the fresh-turned dirt and sob out his pain and growing restlessness, but he kept his suffering from Hannah and never mentioned Helgaâ€™s name. He had to be strong for his wife.
One evening, two weeks after Helgaâ€™s birth and death, he came in to find himself alone in the large room consisting of parlor, dining area, and kitchen. The bedroom door was ajar and feminine voices drifted out. â€œWhy does it still hurt so much, Mama? Gus is strong, and I am weak.â€
Mrs. Zornâ€™s voice was so soft, he barely heard her. â€œYou canâ€™t expect to get over the loss of Helga as easily as Gus. You carried her inside your body for nine months. Donâ€™t compare yourself to your husband. Itâ€™s different with men. You have emptiness inside now, and thatâ€™s natural. In time, the hurt will grow less and less. God will give you another child.â€
Gusâ€™s stomach turned with anger and resentment. Get over the loss of Helga? Never! He went back outside. In the front yard, he looked from the barn to the lone tree in the pasture, to the cows and horses standing out as silhouettes against the western sky. As darkness covered the land, despair descended on his heart. His farm no longer called to him as it once had. Heâ€™d occupied his parentsâ€™ land as heâ€™d wanted. This last year of rebuilding had been hard yet satisfying, but doing so no longer appealed to him. Theyâ€™d lost too much on this land and needed a fresh start. Hannah and him both. Someplace where the memories of his parents and little Helga didnâ€™t exist. Heâ€™d talk to Hannah as soon as she was better. Tell her they should go to Iowa Territory where the soil was rich and dark. Where they could build a new farm free of sorrow.
Maybe the farm wouldnâ€™t sell. Hannah held the thought close as winterâ€™s snow melted and early spring flowers broke through the sod. Throughout the past summer and winter, sheâ€™d slowly released the pain of losing her baby. At first, she didnâ€™t want to think of going through another pregnancy, but Gus was patient, and gradually she again welcomed his advances. Her love for him seemed to have grown deeper with the shared experience of losing their daughter. Still, a good nine months later, her arms ached with emptiness while she waited for the first sign of another baby. As long as she kept busy with the house and garden, she could almost forget that Joanna was expecting her second baby while she had none.
But she never forgot little Helga.
Then, one bright sunny day in early March, a wagon rolled into the yard and stopped. Hannah looked out the window as Gus stepped from the barn to greet their visitor. She watched them talk for a while then her heart sank as they walked out to the fields. Gus pointed in differing directions as he talked. She heard no sound of their voices, but deep inside, she knew. The man would buy their farm. They would be going to Iowa whether she wanted to or not. How could she leave Joanna now that theyâ€™d become friends as well as sisters? What of Mama and Papa? And William. Little Rachel, her precious niece, and the new baby she might never see. There were so many. Friends and family she would leave behind if they moved so far.
Hot tears filled Hannahâ€™s eyes as she turned from the window. Let him do what he wanted. She obviously had no say. Crossing the room to the kitchen, she set out a few potatoes to fry with a slab of pork just the way Gus liked. She set the large cast-iron skillet over the coals and let the meat fry as she peeled and sliced potatoes.
Maybe she should tell Gus she didnâ€™t want to move. Minnesota was their home. How did he know the land in Iowa was so wonderful? He couldnâ€™t know, heâ€™d never been there anymore than she had. Splattering and hissing from the hearth penetrated her rising frustration.
With one hand, she grabbed up a long-handled fork to turn the meat and bunched her apron in the other to steady the skillet. As her hand closed around the iron handle, heat penetrated a thin spot in her apron and searing pain caused her to jerk back. â€œOw!â€
Tears sprang to her eyes, bringing forth the frustration, fear, and anger sheâ€™d been harboring ever since Gus told her they needed to move. Under the weight of her churning emotions, she crumpled before the hearth and covered her face as tears ran down her cheeks.
â€œHannah, what is wrong?â€ The door banged shut and footsteps thudded across the wooden floor. Gus knelt beside her, taking her in his arms. â€œAre you hurt?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m fine.â€ She pulled from him.
â€œSweetheart, what is it?â€ He took her hands looking at first one then the other. â€œYour hand is red, but I donâ€™t see any blistering. You burned it, didnâ€™t you?â€
â€œYes, Gus, I burned my hand.â€ She scrambled to her feet, avoiding his attempts at helping her. â€œWhat does it matter? It isnâ€™t the first time, and it wonâ€™t be the last.â€
â€œIt does matter!â€ The hurt in his voice was unmistakable, but she didnâ€™t care. He yanked a dish towel from its peg and folded it then lifted the sizzling meat from the fire and set it aside.
He didnâ€™t even understand her pain wasnâ€™t from her hand, but her heart. â€œI suppose you sold the farm. When do we have to leave our home?â€ Our family, our friends, and our babyâ€™s grave. Our beautiful new house, everything thatâ€™s familiar. Everything we love.
Gus looked into her eyes as if trying to see more than she allowed. â€œHannah, I donâ€™t understand. We talked about this. We agreed it was the right thing to do. Of course, it wonâ€™t be easy starting over, but weâ€™re young and able. The man who came today offered more than enough for the journey south and a good start in our new home.â€
His eyes shone in a way she hadnâ€™t seen in more than a year. â€œThere in Iowa Territory, weâ€™ll have plenty of fertile land for crops and cattle alike. Weâ€™ll get a new start, Hannah, where we can build something for ourselves with our own hands. Where the winters arenâ€™t so severe.â€
Before she realized his intentions, heâ€™d slipped his arms around her and pulled her close.
She absorbed his warmth, letting his love seep into her heart to heal the hurts, real and imagined. She loved him so much. How could she fight what he wanted when his only purpose was to make a good life for her? She would go to Iowa and never again let him know of her discontent.
Gus brought their covered wagon to a stop in the middle of grass as tall as the horsesâ€™ flanks. â€œThis is it, Hannah. Our land for as far as you can see in any direction. What do you think? Isnâ€™t it wonderful?â€
Wonderful? What could she say about such a place? They hadnâ€™t seen a sign of habitation for at least half a dayâ€™s journey, and the town of Iowa City was a full day away. She searched the blowing grass for something nice to say. â€œI donâ€™t know, Gus. Itâ€™s â€¦ green. At least, the horses havenâ€™t gone hungry. And we arenâ€™t far from water. Is there water on your land?â€ Maybe a house?
â€œOur land, sweetheart. Yours and mine.â€ He grinned. â€œThereâ€™s supposed to be a spring just down that hill. One that will supply all the water we need.â€
â€œHill?â€ Maybe the grass did dip in front of them, but it rose on the other side without revealing any water. â€œHow does anyone know where anything is out here? It all looks the same. There are no trees, Gus.â€
As soon as the words left her mouth, she wished she could call them back. â€œIâ€™m sorry, I donâ€™t mean to complain. Itâ€™s just very different.â€
â€œYes, itâ€™s different for me too.â€ Gus climbed down from the wagon and looked around. â€œI think Iâ€™ll go look for that spring. Do you want to come? Iâ€™d like to build fairly close so we donâ€™t have far to go for water.â€
â€œBuild?â€ Hannah looked in all directions. It was as sheâ€™d said. There were no trees. â€œWhat will you use for building material?â€
Gus chuckled. â€œSod and the good earth. I bought a plow thatâ€™ll rip the sod from the earth. Weâ€™ll dig into the hillside then stack the sod like bricks in front and soon have a sturdy little house.â€
â€œA dirt house?â€ The words burst from Hannahâ€™s lips before she could call them back. Oh, Mama, I will never tell you of this for it would break your heart to know how Iâ€™ll be living.
â€œAre you coming, Hannah?â€ Gus moved away from the wagon, looking toward the spring he couldnâ€™t see. She knew, because she couldnâ€™t see it from the high wagon seat.
â€œNo, I think Iâ€™ll stay here and wait for you.â€ Then what? Sometime soon sheâ€™d have to get down from the safety of the wagon. No telling what might be hidden in all that grass. She didnâ€™t even want to know.
As he stepped away, she called to him. â€œGus, do we have any neighbors?â€
His shoulders stiffened before he slowly turned to face her. â€œNein, Hannah, town is twenty miles away, but soon others will come. When they do, Iâ€™ll be sure to let you know.â€
â€œBut where will we go to church?â€ She shouldnâ€™t ask. She knew better, but for some reason couldnâ€™t let it drop.
â€œAt home. We will have our own services. God is here just as He is in town. Doesnâ€™t the Bible say where two or three meet, God will be in their midst?â€ With that he turned away and took long strides through the grass that soon all but covered him.
How could she stand this plac0.e with no trees and not even a neighbor to help if there was need? The only help would come from God, whom Gus trusted completely, and whom she wished she could. Lord, help my unbelief. I need You now more than I ever have.
Gus turned from his work on the house, his mind full of the disappointment heâ€™d seen on Hannahâ€™s face day after day as he dug deeper into the hillside to make their home. Even seeing his progress didnâ€™t help. Sheâ€™d worked right alongside him cutting sod and stacking it to close off the opening to their house without another word of complaint. But it didnâ€™t matter. She didnâ€™t want to live in a dirt house, and he couldnâ€™t blame her. As soon as possible, heâ€™d buy lumber and build a nice cabin, but for now, this was as good as he could do.
Finally, it was done and theyâ€™d started the henhouse the same way, but his mind drifted to the choices heâ€™d made. Was it a mistake coming here? She wasnâ€™t happy. He knew, even though she worked as hard as he did. Little by little, he realized it wasnâ€™t only their living conditions. Why had he thought this was best for them? She was used to being around others, but maybe if they kept busy she would forget how isolated they were now. A sigh tore from his lungs. Already theyâ€™d worked from sunup to sundown so he didnâ€™t see how more work could help. Still, they would finish the chicken dugout and start on a barn. For it, he would have to buy lumber.
â€œHannah!â€ He stuck his head in the dugout where she was busy straightening and making a home as best she could. â€œHow would you like to go to town?â€
She looked up, her eyes wide. â€œNow?â€
He laughed. â€œEarly in the morning. Iâ€™ll finish this chicken house in whatâ€™s left of today then weâ€™ll be ready to start the barn. Although weâ€™ll give the animals a sod house to live in, weâ€™ll need lumber to support the roof. And maybe weâ€™ll learn of more people moving in.â€
Her eyes brightened. â€œJa, that would be nice.â€
He hurried back outside, his spirits renewed at the interest shining from her face. Surely, others had come in by now. He could hardly wait to find out. If Hannah was happy, so was he.
Hannah woke the next morning with a song on her lips while she dressed for the trip to Iowa City. As she brushed her hair, a thought brought her hand to a stop. â€œOh, no!â€
She ran from the dugout and found Gus hitching the horses to the wagon. â€œHowâ€™re we going to town today when it takes all day to get there?â€
He looked up, his hand resting against the horseâ€™s shoulder. â€œWeâ€™ll spend the night in the hotel and eat at the diner. Is that all right with you? Or we could camp outside town if youâ€™d rather.â€
â€œJa, thatâ€™s better. A hotel would cost too much. Iâ€™ll go pack some food to take.â€ She turned around and ran back inside to the tune of Gusâ€™s laughter.
When they finished loading the wagon and headed toward town, Hannahâ€™s heart raced with anticipation. She felt as if itâ€™d been years since sheâ€™d seen anyone other than Gus. Or an actual building. Maybe there would be new people moving into the area they could meet. How she hoped!
Camping that night didnâ€™t seem much different than what theyâ€™d been doing. Living in the dugout seemed like camping to Hannah. But she would make it a home if at all possible. Already, Gus had hung unbleached muslin over the ceiling and across each of the walls. He said it was necessary to keep out anything that might burrow through the dirt above them. Even thinking about it made her shudder.
That night, outside town, she cuddled close to Gus on a pallet in the back of the wagon. He pointed toward the heavens above them. â€œThe sky is so dark and clear tonight. See the stars how they shine? The psalmist must have seen a sky like this one when he considered the heavens, the work of Godâ€™s finger, the moon and the stars. He said, â€˜What is man, that thou art mindful of him?â€™ I imagine he felt very small looking up at such vast beauty.â€
â€œThatâ€™s the way I feel when I step outside our door and look off to the horizon. Itâ€™s as if the grass never ends just as the stars are without number.â€ Hannah pressed closer to Gus, absorbing his warmth and security.
â€œThey are not without number. Our heavenly Father knows them each by name. He surely knows how many blades of grass there are too.â€ Gus gave her a quick kiss. â€œWe can trust Him to take care of us, Hannah. He knows exactly what we need.â€
â€œIâ€™m glad.â€ If only her faith was stronger. Gus never questioned God. Not even when Helga died. Or now when her monthly time came as regular as clockwork and it seemed they would never have another child. But not so for her. Sheâ€™d questioned her heavenly Father, asking why she remained barren. Would she ever hold Gusâ€™s baby in her arms and watch her grow? Often she had wondered.
A spark of hope had blossomed in her heart as the previous month went by without her time appearing. Already two years had passed since sheâ€™d relinquished her baby to the ground and as much as she wanted another baby, she wavered in fear. Would she lose this one too? She hadnâ€™t told Gus because she needed to be sure first. Without his assurance that all would be well this time she might go crazy. Without Gusâ€™s strength and faith, she probably already would have.
She turned toward him but his breathing had become regular.
Hannah smiled at how easily he went to sleep. If only she could do the same. Gradually, the twinkling stars above blurred and when she opened her eyes, it was to sunshine. â€œGus, itâ€™s time to go to town.â€
She turned toward the smell of side meat frying and realized he was already up. â€œYou should have awakened me.â€
â€œAnd miss the chance to watch you sleep while I prepare your breakfast?â€ He laughed. â€œCome, letâ€™s eat. The day is well underway.â€
In town Gus struck a deal for lumber while Hannah browsed through the general store. Shopping was fun, even when she couldnâ€™t buy anything. If only she had a friend she could shop with. Gus promised that soon others would move in, and they would have friends again, but she wondered. If only she had someone with her when this baby was born. Not wanting to think of anything frightening today, Hannah looked through the bolts of fabric. She still had some white cloth for diapers and gowns so she wouldnâ€™t spend any money today. Thereâ€™d be time enough for that later if they made the trip again before winter set in.
Finally, Gus returned to the store. â€œAre you ready to go, sweetheart? The lumber we need is loaded.â€
â€œYes, Iâ€™m ready.â€ She followed him from the store and allowed him to help her climb on the wagon. As they rolled out of town, she turned toward him. â€œDid you hear of any new folks moving in?â€
He didnâ€™t speak for a moment then turned to face her, his eyes sad. â€œIâ€™m sorry, Hannah. The fellow I talked to said he hadnâ€™t heard of anyone. But he did say that come spring there will likely be others as thatâ€™s when folks usually move.â€
He fell silent while Hannah let his disappointing words sink in. Theyâ€™d been in this country since May and now winter would soon be upon them. She touched her stomach, spreading her hand over it as if to protect her baby. For a while yet, she should keep this new presence to herself. What good would it do to tell Gus this early? Maybe none, except she was weak. She needed her husbandâ€™s strong faith to give hers the boost she lacked. Still, she shouldnâ€™t rely on him. Telling or waiting at this point wouldnâ€™t make any difference. Back and forth, Hannah went, trying to decide what she should do.
â€œJa, Hannah, what is it?â€
Her stomach growled. Already they had traveled several hours while she debated telling him. â€œAre you hungry?â€
He flashed a smile toward her. â€œIâ€™m always hungry. You should know that. Are you ready for a break?â€
He didnâ€™t seem to notice her preoccupation but stopped the wagon and jumped down. â€œIâ€™ll give the animals some grain and water while you see what we have to fix.â€
â€œAll right.â€ She swung to the back and, avoiding the lumber, pulled bread, cheese, and beef jerky from the lunch basket. â€œWe wonâ€™t need a fire, Gus. Thereâ€™s nothing left to cook.â€
â€œThatâ€™s good.â€ He called back. â€œThereâ€™s nothing to build a fire with unless we use our new lumber. I only brought enough brush for this morningâ€™s fire.â€
The sun bore down on them from high overhead. Hannah welcomed its warmth as she watched the early September breeze blow across the vast land making the grass bow and rise to look like waves on water. â€œIf we donâ€™t take long eating, will we make it home before dark?â€
Gus glanced toward the sun. â€œWe should. Are you ready to eat now? He hopped back into the wagon and held her hand. â€œFather God, we bow before You with gratitude for all Youâ€™ve given us. Thank You for this food, for a safe trip, and for the lumber we need for our barn. Thank You for continued health. Amen.â€
After they ate, Gus got the wagon moving again and Hannah went back to her former thoughts. Finally, she turned to Gus. â€œI need to tell you something.â€
â€œHow soon, Hannah?â€ The light in his eyes reminded her of before when sheâ€™d been unsure of telling him about Helga.
A soft laugh tumbled from her lips. â€œI canâ€™t keep a secret from you, can I?â€
He grinned. â€œSo we will be having a baby soon? Is that right?â€
â€œI think so.â€ She looked at her hands twisting in her lap. â€œBut Gus, how can we? There will be no one to help with the birth.â€
â€œIâ€™ll be with you, sweetheart.â€ Gus slipped his arm around her shoulders and drew her to him. His kiss was sweet and gentle. â€œGod will be with us. He knows what needs to be done.â€
Although she tried, she could find no solace in his assurances. She forced a smile for Gus and snuggled close against his side. She wanted her mother. Even though Mama hadnâ€™t been able to save Helga, sheâ€™d been a wonderful comfort when she needed her so much. Would she lose this baby too? Could she bear the loss if she did?
Green grass and a cloudless blue sky stretched across the prairie as far as Hannah could see. She stepped out into the tall grass, waded through it for several yards then shaded her eyes with her hand, and scanned the horizon. Not a tree, nary a building, not even a bush broke the shimmering waves of grass.
Loneliness held her in its relentless grip. Why didnâ€™t Gus return? Heâ€™d left yesterday to purchase supplies in Iowa City. He should have been home already, but still there was no sign of a wagon in the immense blue and green world that was her home. She brought Gus to mind as her hand caressed her bulging stomach.
Tall and strong, Gus was her love, her protector. She couldnâ€™t live without him. This was the first time in the three years of their marriage sheâ€™d been alone. She feared for Gus and for herself, but mostly for the baby she carried. What if her husband didnâ€™t come back in time? Sheâ€™d calculated this baby would be born in May, a month from now, but she could be wrong or the baby might come early.
When sheâ€™d lost Helga two years ago in Minnesota her mother and sister had helped her. A tear rolled down her cheek as she remembered the pain and heartbreak of losing her baby girl. Now she had no one but Gus to help, and he wasnâ€™t here. Even if he was, would he know what to do? He said when the time came, God would give them wisdom and strength to do what must be done. But Gusâ€™s faith was strong, while she often felt as a blade of grass tossed about in the wind, weak and unable to stand against adversity.
Hannah whispered a verse from Peter. â€œCasting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.â€
She tried to do that because Gus wanted her to and because it was trueâ€”God did care for herâ€”but still worry and fear hovered. Another searching look over the prairie revealed nothing. With a deep sigh, Hannah turned and made her way carefully back down the narrow path to the door of their dugout. Without that path, sheâ€™d never find her home. The prairie grass grew over the top of their small burrow, concealing even the stovepipe that pushed through the earth. Gus knew where it was. Others might pass them by, but Gus would find his way home.
With that reassuring thought, Hannah went inside. Sheâ€™d polished the sparse furnishings to a soft sheen just that day. A blue and white nine-patch quilt covered the neatly made bed while braided rugs concealed the hard packed earth floor. It was only one small room, but it was neat, clean, and comfortable. She made sure of that.
She rested a gentle hand on the cradle Gus had made. Everything was ready for the coming baby. Everything except her. A sob caught in her throat. How would she give birth without her mama? That sob released another until Hannah sank to the bed, buried her face in her pillow, and let the tears flow.
Hannah woke and struggled from bed. She pushed the door open. Had she slept all afternoon? Her stomach growled, and she turned to the table where she spread plum preserves on a thick slice of bread then sat down to eat. â€œLord Jesus, watch over Gus. Bring him home to me safe. Thank You for the food Iâ€™m about to eat and bless it to my use. Amen.â€
As she took the last bite of bread, she stood and went outside in the waning light. Already the chickens were in their little house on the roost. She closed and fastened them in then went back into the dugout and dropped the bar across the door. After putting on her long, white nightgown, Hanna sat in the rocking chair and read from the big Bible Mama and Papa had given her and Gus for a wedding present. After a few verses, with her mind continually wandering to Gus, she closed the Bible and put it away, then blew out her candle and crawled into bed.
The wind sobbed down the stovepipe while scuffling feet above her head scampered across her buried home. Something bumped against the thick plank door.
â€œOh.â€ She cried out and curled up close around her bulging belly. The babyâ€™s kicks against her intrusion brought her to her senses so she straightened out.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, baby. Your mama is a coward.â€ Her whisper sounded loud in the silent room. â€œYou wonâ€™t be a coward, will you? Youâ€™ll be strong and brave like your papa. You wonâ€™t have to hide your tears from him.â€
Hannah willed her heartbeat to slow to normal. â€œPlease, Lord, let Gus come safely home. As long as Gus is with me, everything is all right. Please let my baby be strong and healthy, and please let Gus be here when he is born.â€
Hannah opened her eyes to the dim light coming through her only window. Sheâ€™d slept through the night. Alone because Gus still had not returned. She climbed from bed and dressed, but her stomach turned at the thought of food. How could she eat with Gus still gone? Would he ever come home?
Longing for her husband drove her from the house. She climbed the path to again take up her vigil on the slight rise facing to trail to Milen. She stood, shading her eyes, searching the horizon where only waving grass for as far as she could see greeted her. Would he ever come? Lord, where is he? Keep him safe. Bring him home to me. The prayer became her litany, her only comfort in this vast solitude.
But wait! Hazy movement in the distance took shape before her eyes. Her heart leapt. Gus! Only the weight of her child kept her from jumping in glee and running to meet him. She clasped her hands over her heart. â€œThank You, Lord. Thank You!â€
Little by little, Gus, the horses, and the wagon emerged from the sea of green. Hannahâ€™s vision blurred until the horses appeared to be swimming toward her with the wagon floating behind on the tall grass. Then Gus took off his hat and waved it over his head, Hannah laughed aloud and lifted her hand high waving back and forth. Oh, Gus, my love. Finally, you are home.
Her patience almost gave out before Gus brought the wagon to a halt beside her. He pulled the brake, wrapped the lines around the brake handle, and leapt to the ground. Hannah melted into his arms, safe and unafraid once again. Tears filled her eyes. â€œOh, Gus.â€
He pulled away, his eyebrows drawing together. â€œDid everything go all right while I was gone?â€
She nodded while a tear found release to flow down her cheek. â€œOnly I missed you.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t like being gone from you.â€ He brushed the tears from under her eyes with his thumbs then lowered his head, taking her lips with his.
She kissed him with all the love sheâ€™d stored in the long days of his absence.
Finally, he pulled back and looked into her eyes. â€œI love you, Hannah. I brought you something.â€ Taking her hand in his, he tugged her forward. â€œCome, sweetheart, see what I brought for you and for our baby.â€
As he led her to the wagon, she tried to see inside, but the sides were too high. Then they stopped at the back, and she laughed. â€œOh, Gus, only you would bring me a cow.â€
â€œJa! So you can have milk. You and the baby.â€ His face beamed as the closest cow lifted its head and mooed. â€œSee, she says hello.â€
Hannah hugged his arm. â€œBut you brought three cows.â€
â€œOne for milk. Two for beef. Soon all three will calve. Thatâ€™s why it took so long to get home to you. I couldnâ€™t hurry them. God willing, these cows are the beginning of our future, Hannah.â€
Still clinging to his hand, Hannah walked slowly around the three cows that were tethered to the wagon. Two were big beef cows, the thirdâ€”the one that had welcomed herâ€”was smaller and prettier. She was fawn-colored with big brown eyes. â€œDo I get to milk her?â€
â€œJa, but only if you wish. She will be ready to milk about the time you are able.â€
â€œSometimes milking is an enjoyable chore.â€ Hannah wrapped her arms around Gusâ€™s neck. â€œI was so lonely without you. Iâ€™m so glad you are home.â€
â€œI am glad Iâ€™m home, also.â€ He pulled her as close as her belly would allow and kissed her. â€œDo you have anything for your starving husband to eat before he unloads the wagon?â€
She gave him a little squeeze before removing her arms from his neck. â€œOf course, I do. Come.â€
Hand-in-hand, they walked down the steep path to their house. That night, snuggled close to Gus, Hannah slept soundly for the first time in almost two weeks.
Hannah slid the bacon from the iron skillet onto a plate and set it on the table. She opened the door and looked out into a beautiful May day. Already a month had passed since Gus returned from his trip. She rubbed her lower back as pain moved through her belly taking her by surprise. Well, that was interesting. For the past week, sheâ€™d been expecting, almost dreading this time and now perhaps it had come. As the pain faded, she turned back to the kitchen. No need to alert Gus yet. They might as well eat breakfast. She reached for the dishes to set the table.
The door creaked, announcing Gus. He let it slam shut as he caught Hannah from behind and kissed her neck. â€œHow is my beautiful wife?â€
â€œIâ€™m fine.â€ She turned to face him and accepted his kiss. â€œI love you, Gus.â€
â€œAnd I love you.â€ He pulled out the chair for her.
She sat down as the second pain hit. Gus didnâ€™t seem to notice.
He bowed his head, and she breathed deep, letting the air out as he prayed.
â€œFather, bless the food You have provided for our nourishment. Protect Hannah and our baby as the day arrives for his or her birth. Give us wisdom to bring our baby into this world. In Jesusâ€™ name we pray. Amen.â€
The pain released her before his prayer ended. She looked up and met his gaze with a smile. â€œIt will be fine, Gus.â€
He filled his plate. â€œJa, God will be with us.â€
Hannah scooped oats onto her plate and took a strip of bacon. She nodded. â€œYes, He will.â€
She hadnâ€™t finished eating before the third pain hit. Still, she managed to hide it from her husband until it released her then she stood and collected the dirty dishes.
Gus also stood. â€œI think Iâ€™ll not go far from the house today.â€ His gaze sought and held hers. â€œMaybe today youâ€™ll need me. Our little one should have already come, is that not right?â€
â€œYes, but weâ€™re only a few days late, I think.â€ She poured hot water from the teakettle into the dishpan. â€œItâ€™s hard to know exactly. Babies come when theyâ€™re ready.â€
Her body seemed poised on the brink of something wonderful but frightening as if waiting for the event about to happen. Had it been this way with their first baby? She couldnâ€™t remember. Grief had wiped so much from her mind.
â€œCome to the door and call me if you have pains.â€ Gus paused beside the door until she nodded then he slipped outside.
As soon as the door closed, she gripped the table to wait out another pain stronger than any of the others. Were they coming closer together? Her back hurt. She didnâ€™t want this to happen. The baby was alive now. Would he die during the birthing like his sister did? She pressed her hand over her pounding heart. She couldnâ€™t bear to lose another baby. â€œPlease, Lord, donâ€™t let my baby die.â€
The door opened, and she swung toward it, her eyes wide.
â€œIâ€™m sorry. I didnâ€™t mean to startle you.â€ Gus stood framed in the doorway, concern etched across his face. â€œAre you all right, Hannah?â€
She straightened, her eyes downcast. Surely he hadnâ€™t heard her plea. It was enough for her to be frightened. â€œYes, Iâ€™m fine.â€
His gaze continued to sweep across her face as if searching for the truth. â€œPromise you will call to me if you need me?â€
â€œYes, I promise.â€ Hannah met his pointed gaze. She would call when she knew she couldnâ€™t wait any longer. No need to keep him from his chores when the baby wouldnâ€™t come for hours yet.
At noon, Gus came inside, and Hannah set a pot of beans on the table. She hadnâ€™t bothered to prepare a big meal. It would have been too difficult with the pains stopping her every few minutes. She sat down and scarcely heard his prayer.
â€œMmm, nothing better than cornbread and beans.â€ Gus smiled across the table.
Hannah pushed her spoon through her bowl.
When Gusâ€™s bowl was half empty, he looked up with a frown. â€œYou should eat, Hannah.â€
She looked into his eyes and smiled. â€œYou have the most beautiful eyes. I hope our baby has eyes just like his papa.â€
â€œAre you sure youâ€™re all right, Hannah?â€ A frown settled over his bright blue eyes.
â€œIâ€™m all right.â€ The words no sooner left her mouth when another pain pressed through her stomach. This one was stronger than all the others. She held her breath and bowed her head so he couldnâ€™t see into her eyes.
â€œThe baby is coming!â€ Gus shoved from his chair.
â€œYes, I think so.â€ She could no longer put off the inevitable. Lord, please donâ€™t let my baby die.
â€œWhy did you not tell me?â€ Gus towered over her.
â€œI wanted to wait until I was sure.â€ She stood and picked up her almost full bowl. â€œIt will probably be several hours yet. Iâ€™ll do the dishes now.â€
â€œLeave them!â€ Gus growled the command.
Hannah shook her head. â€œNo, Gus, there is no need for me to lie in bed looking at dirty dishes and an untidy house.â€
â€œThen Iâ€™ll wash the dishes. The house is far from untidy.â€ Gus picked up his bowl.
â€œTears rushed to Hannahâ€™s eyes. â€œPlease, Gus, let me do it.â€
Gus took the bowl from her and set it on the table. Then, he put his arms around her and held her close with her face resting against his shoulder. His voice crooned. â€œItâ€™s all right, Liebchen. This time, it will be all right. You and our child will be fine.â€ His words were muffled in her hair.
â€œHelga was alive, Gus. I felt her kicking the night before she was born. Her kicks were so strong, just like this one. But when she came out, she was dead.â€
â€œI know. I know. Yet we all must be born.â€
Tears streamed down Hannahâ€™s face. â€œHow can I bear it if this child dies?â€
â€œGod gives strength where there is none. He will provide. But you must not think about this baby dying. You must only think about him living.â€
â€œOf course, youâ€™re right.â€ Hannah straightened in his arms. She turned and wiped her face on her apron. â€œNow, I must do these dishes.â€
Gus stepped back and watched Hannah try to be brave. His heart broke for her, but he could do nothing. She needed to keep busy for as long as she could. He didnâ€™t protest when she collected the dishes from the table. â€œIs there anything I need to do?â€
â€œYes.â€ She poured hot water into the dishpan. â€œWe will need more water. Please bring some in and put it on to heat.â€
He hurried to the creek with two water pails and brought them back full. He didnâ€™t like being away from the house. Hannah might need him even in such a short time. He filled the large black iron kettle she used for washing their clothes and set it over the fire in the hearth.
Hannah paced back and forth in their small house, her flushed face glistening with perspiration.
â€œPerhaps you should go to bed now.â€ Gus flinched when she stopped and leaned into another pain. If only he could take her pain, he would gladly do so. How much longer could she stand this? How much longer could he?
She shook her head. â€œNot yet. Go to the barn and bring a length of rope. Fasten it to the head of the bed so I can pull on it.â€
â€œWhile Iâ€™m gone, will I have time to milk the cow?â€ Gus stopped at the door. â€œIâ€™m sure sheâ€™s wondering where I am about now.â€
Hannahâ€™s smile appeared weak. â€œYes, thereâ€™s still time. Go on. Weâ€™ll be fine.â€
We. He could scarcely wait to meet his child and know that Hannah was all right. Lord, give her strength. Be with Hannah and the baby. Keep them safe, and give me wisdom to do what needs to be done.
He left his prayer open as he continually talked to the Lord. He milked the cow, then poured it in a crock, covered it, and stored it in the small springhouse heâ€™d built over the creek. After that was done, he hurried back to the house and found Hannah much the same. Would the baby ever come?
â€œDo you want to eat supper?â€ His stomach had been complaining for almost an hour.
The hint of a smile touched her lips. â€œNo, but I might have a glass of milk.â€
â€œCan you sit down to eat?â€ He pulled out a chair.
She sat for a few minutes. â€œWhen I finish my milk, I think I should go to bed.â€
The sun would soon set. His poor Hannah had suffered all day. As she drained the glass, he stood and helped her to bed. There he undressed her and put her flannel nightgown over her head. She was so weak. How could she stand what was to come? He should never have put her in this danger again. Once should have been enough. This time, he could lose her too. Lord, help my unbelief. Make my faith strong, for You are Lord God almighty. You are well able, and I believe You will give Hannah the strength she needs. You gave our child life, now he or she must be born. Not my will, but Thine be done.
Every pain that ripped through Hannahâ€™s body tore his heart, but all he could do was hold her hand and wash the sweat gently from her face. And pray.
Finally, Hannahâ€™s soft moans became louder until she screamed. â€œHeâ€™s coming, Gus. Our baby is coming.â€
Then, one long agonizing scream tore from her lips, and it was over. Gus caught his slippery, blood-flecked little baby in his hands. A boy. He made no sound, and Gusâ€™s breath froze in his throat.
â€œThe baby? Is the babyâ€”â€
Before Gus could slap the babyâ€™s back, he squalled. Strong, lusty cries filled their little home on the prairie. â€œThank you, Lord Jesus!â€
Gus laughed. â€œGod has given us a son, Hannah. A strong son with healthy lungs and a very loud voice. After I cut the cord, I will clean and wrap him then you may deal with your hungry son.â€
In a short time, Gus had his son clean and snuggled in a warm blanket. He laid the screaming baby in her arms. While Hannah held her baby to her breast, Gus finished taking care of his wife.
Hannah held her son while a rush of love flowed throughout her being. Sheâ€™d withheld her love from this child and hadnâ€™t known until that moment. Sheâ€™d been so afraid he would die too. â€œOh, Lord, Iâ€™m sorry I didnâ€™t trust You. And yet You loved me so much to give this most precious gift of life. Forgive me, please. From this point on help my unbelief. May I trust You always.â€
Sheâ€™d whispered the words of her prayer, yet when she looked up, Gus was watching, a soft smile on his lips. Whether he heard or was only watching her feed their son, she didnâ€™t know. Neither did she care. She meant what sheâ€™d said. She needed to trust God more.
After Gus removed the padding from their bed and had it clean again, he covered her and their son with a light blanket. Then he sat on the edge of the bed.
When he finished eating, the baby sucked contentedly on his fist.
â€œHe is a smart lad to know how to eat so quickly.â€ Gus admired his son.
Hannah laughed. â€œYes, much like his father, who is also a good eater.â€ She peeked under the blanket surrounding the baby. â€œLook, already he has his papaâ€™s broad shoulders and deep chest.â€
â€œI think we should thank our Heavenly Father for giving us a son, Hannah.â€ Gus touched the babyâ€™s hand then reached for hers.
Hannah nodded and placed her hand in his while Gus bowed his head. â€œThank You, Father God, for bringing my Hannah safely through the birth of our son. Thank You for protecting our baby and bringing the breath of life to him. Give us wisdom in raising him to serve You. Amen.â€
Gus looked up with gentleness and love shining in his eyes. â€œYou may hold him only a minute more, then he must go in his cradle.â€ He leaned over and kissed Hannahâ€™s cheek. â€œYou must rest. You have worked hard and suffered much today.â€
â€œSuffered?â€ Hannah looked up into Gusâ€™s concerned expression. â€œI donâ€™t remember suffering.â€
â€œBut I do.â€ Gus brushed the damp curls back from her face. â€œI never wish to be the cause of you having to suffer so again.â€
She caught his hand and pressed it to her cheek. â€œDo not say that, my husband. The pain is already forgotten. I want us to have many strong sons. Do you remember the name we chose for a boy when Helga was born? We must write it in the family Bible.â€
Gus picked up their tiny son with his large hands and placed him in the cradle beside the bed. He tucked a small blanket around him then brought the Bible to Hannah and sat again on the edge of the bed. â€œIf I remember right, we decided our first-born son would be named Jacob Gustave.â€
â€œYou remember right.â€ Hannah whispered the words. Sheâ€™d refused to say the name, afraid to become too attached to a child she would lose. Now, she wanted to shout it from the top of their little dugout. â€œJacob Gustave Rohmeier. Weâ€™ll call him Jacob.â€
â€œYes, it is a good name.â€ Gus wrote the name and date, saying it aloud as the pen scratched across the page. â€œMay 16, 1842.â€
He stood and returned the Bible to the shelf. As he turned back to the bed, he stopped at the cradle and touched a gentle finger to his sonâ€™s cheek then made sure the blanket covered the sleeping baby. â€œMay you always walk in the light of Godâ€™s love.â€
He turned toward the bed and saw that Hannah had fallen asleep. He pulled the blanket up around her and kissed her flushed cheek. â€œI love you more than my own life, sweetheart.â€ With one last look at his wife and son, he went outside.
The dark-blue velvet of the sky was set with millions of twinkling stars. The ripple of water and the soft splash of fish in the creek reached Gus as he walked up the steep path beside the dugout. A gentle breeze rustled through the tall grass, and a small nocturnal creature scurried away at his approach. The sounds of spring surrounded him. The booming of bullfrogs, the chirping of crickets, the shrill cry of cicadas, and whippoorwills calling their name to one another all filled the night air.
From the day Hannah told Gus they were to have another child, heâ€™d known there would be only the two of them at the birthing, and heâ€™d prayed daily for wisdom and strength to bring this baby safely into the world. His faith in God was absolute, but oh how heâ€™d wrestled every day against fear!
Itâ€™d been two years since Helga was bornâ€”and died. Not a day went by that Gus didnâ€™t mourn for her, even though heâ€™d accepted her loss. After her burial, while Hannahâ€™s mother stayed to comfort her, heâ€™d gone to the field. Every day he followed the plow and wept for his child. He never let Hannah know how the loss of their baby hurt him. She had her own grief to deal with. He didnâ€™t want her to also be burdened with his sorrow. But the pain was as a sickness invading his heart day and night, only growing dull with time.
Today God had given them a son. Gusâ€™s heart leapt at the thought. Although there would always be a special corner of his heart reserved for his daughter, it was time to let her go. Someday he would be reunited with Helga in heaven. Until then, he must devote himself to the living.
Under the star-studded sky, Gus dropped to his knees. â€œOnce more, Lord God, I must thank you for Hannahâ€™s life and for the healthy baby boy You have given into our keeping. I give praise and honor to You. And thank You, Lord, for Helga even though she was ours for such a short time.â€
He buried his face in his hands while he shed his final tears for the daughter heâ€™d never known.
Gus stood just inside the dugout watching as Hannah laid their sleeping son in his crib. He seemed to grow taller each day. Soon he would outgrow the small bed, and Gus would have to build a larger one for him. Pride for the husky son God had given them rose within his heart, and he tamped it down. Much better for him to thank the Father who gave all things than to feel the boy was any of his doing.
He crossed the dirt floor to check his son before eating the late supper Hannah had prepared. His hand spread out, covering Jacobâ€™s back as he patted him. â€œSleep well, little boy, so you can grow into a good, strong man.â€
Hannah waited at the table for him. He turned from the crib and sat down to the warm dinner sheâ€™d prepared. â€œHeâ€™s a fine boy.â€
A smile lifted her lips. â€œYes, he is.â€ For a moment, the light dimmed in her eyes. â€œHeâ€™s growing so fast, though. Already, heâ€™s losing his baby ways. Today, at noon when you went back out to the fields, he was determined to follow after you.â€
Gus chuckled. â€œHe will be a strong Rohmeier man. One to make his mama and papa proud.â€
â€œHeâ€™s only two years old.â€ Hannahâ€™s voice rose. â€œHe wonâ€™t be a man for many years.â€
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