bottom of the bowl, just listening. “And the mush?” “Oh, that’s right. I toast the oats just slightly before I grind them. I set the coffee grinder on coarse, and after the oats are ground, I put them to cooking throughout the night. You know, on the back of the stove. That means part of the breakfast is ready when we get up.” “You keep the stove going all night?” “We have to. When it gets so terribly cold like right now, Carl gets up during the night and restokes the fires several times. I am so blessed. He lets me sleep.” “And you have how many children?” “Two. Carly was your visitor.” Pearl leaned against the post at the foot of the bed and turned with one knee up on the quilt. “Christmas will be different this year. With a storm like this, no one will be able to make it to town for church. Our church meets in the schoolhouse, but some of our people come from miles out in the country. Last Sunday it was announced that if it was snowing, there would be no Christmas Eve service, which means no program, and the children have been working so hard on it.” “Will they have it later, then?” “Yes, when the weather breaks. This has been the worst year for blizzards since I’ve been here. And we’re still only in December.” Amethyst leaned back against her pillows. “That was a delicious breakfast, but I don’t think you need to carry trays up and down those stairs for me. I will join you for dinner and supper.” She barely trapped a yawn. “Goodness me.” “Please excuse my manners. Here I go on rattling about us when I want to know about you. What brought you to Medora?” “I am looking for my nephew.” Amethyst missed the next yawn, it came so fast. “Pardon me, I’m the one whose manners are delinquent.” “I thought you might be exhausted today from the ordeal you had yesterday. Your nephew?” Amethyst nodded, and another yawn kept her from answering. “Oh, mercy me, I forgot to tell you the good news. Carl found two carpetbags on his way home yesterday. Might they be yours?” “Yes. That is good news.” “I hung your things near the stove to dry. Snow had seeped into the bags, but your beautiful Bible escaped any damage. I can bring them up for you any time.” She smiled when Amethyst yawned again, this time behind her hand. “I have a suggestion: you let yourself take a nap and come down whenever you feel like it. How does that sound?” “It sounds like I am being cosseted.” And I am used to being the one doing the cosseting . “Thank you…for everything.” “Good. You rest now. We eat dinner promptly at twelve, since Carl usually comes in to eat.” “What does your husband do?” Amethyst fought to keep her eyes open and be polite. “He is a carpenter and a furniture maker par excellence. He has a workshop out back. When you come down, I’ll show you the desk he made for me when I was still teaching.” She paused at the door. “And tonight we’ll light our Christmas tree.” “Good.” Good grief. Is it really Christmas? If Pa is worried, there is no way I can help him this time .
The wind had picked up again when she awoke, alternately howling, whistling, and whispering like a child wanting his own way. It cajoled, pleaded, and then screamed again in fury—perhaps more like a certain father whose moods she knew far too well. What if I never go back? The thought made her sit straight up in bed. Of course she was going back. She would find Joel, and the two of them would become good friends again on the journey home. She remembered carrying him in a sling while she took care of his mother during one of Melody’s bad spells. She had taught him to read—he was such a bright little boy—and had read to him when she could squeeze out the time. He helped her feed the chickens when the rooster was almost as tall as he was, and one day she found him standing between the front legs of one of the workhorses, arms around the stout