|Relieved, Renewed and Redeemed
Author: Hobbster PM
Josiah deals with the responsibilities of fatherhood of his three adopted children. He finally completes his penance, and the other six peacekeepers learn more about his past as a priest. Follows The Calhouns.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Family - Josiah S. - Words: 8,610 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 3 - Published: 03-04-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5792830
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Relieved, Renewed and Redeemed
The stage coach bounced along the road under the mid-afternoon sun. The two passengers made small talk, but realizing they had nothing in common, continued their ride to Eagle Bend in silence. One man was about 28 years old, blond, blue-eyed, boyishly handsome; he was dressed in a coat, suit and tie. The other was older, coarse, and surly; he wore a duster, dark trousers, a homespun shirt and patched vest.
The coach suddenly lurched as the driver whipped the horses and they careened over the winding road until riders pulled up alongside the team. A shot was fired and the riders brought the stage to a halt.
"Everybody out!" shouted one of the riders. "This is a hold-up!"
One of the riders jumped off his horse and opened the door to the coach. He reached in and drew the older man out by his lapels. The older man swore and tried to wrench out of his grasp. The rider pulled his revolver and shot the passenger point blank.
The younger man stepped out of the coach and immediately reached for the older man as he fell, but he was cuffed with a gun barrel to the side of his head. "Please let me tend to this man," he pleaded as he handed over a small amount of money from his pocket. The rider pushed him aside and searched through the other passenger's pockets.
One of the other riders peered in the open door of the coach and pulled a small case off the floor, while the third rider pulled the baggage from the boot. "No, please," the young man begged, "not this case; these are sacred." He grasped the case with both hands, making it clear he would not release it easily. The robber drew his gun and shot him in the chest, but he maintained his grip. "I beg of you, please respect the chalice!" he whispered hoarsely. The robber shot him again and pulled the case from his hands.
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J. D., Buck and Josiah rode along under the mid-afternoon sun. "I just don't understand why those Claytons and Randolphs can't get along!" complained J.D. "They seem ta think they're all so different, but I can't tell any a' them apart!"
"And if they're going to fight over a woman, she should at least leave no doubt that she's a woman!" exclaimed Buck. "I thought she was a lumpy horse wrangler!"
"She seemed to know that you were a man, Buck!" offered Josiah. J.D. and Josiah exchanged grins; Buck looked disgusted.
Shots in the distance caught their attention and all three spurred their horses. As they galloped over the rise, the peace keepers saw the stagecoach stopped and three horses tied to the coach. Men were pulling luggage off the stage and searching through the pockets of passengers on the ground. The three peace keepers rode at full speed toward the coach.
As the robbers fired at the peace keepers, J.D., Buck and Josiah had no choice but to return fire, and their accuracy was deadly. When the shooting stopped, the three stage robbers were dead on the ground.
The peace keepers reigned in their horses; Josiah examined the passengers and driver, Buck checked on the robbers, J.D. tied their horses to the stage.
The older passenger and the driver were dead, but the younger man was still breathing. "Don't know what you were protecting, brother, but I hope it was worth your life," Josiah said as he inspected the passenger's wounds.
The passenger's hand suddenly reached up and grabbed the front of Josiah's coat, "Please, I beg of you, protect the sacred vessels." Then his hand fell. Josiah felt for a pulse; it was weak, but he was alive.
"J.D.," called Josiah, "Get a fire started and sharpen a knife, we've got some doctoring to do. There's a clean shirt in my saddle bags. Rip it up for bandages."
"Think we should get him to Nathan?" asked Buck sounding worried.
"Wouldn't make it that far," said Josiah, "He's losing blood fast. Need to get those bullets out and stop the bleeding." Josiah took off his coat and jacket. He rolled up his shirt sleeves, then began to remove the jacket and shirt from the younger man.
Buck and J.D. wasted no time gathering the wood and building a fire; it wasn't the first time a man's life depended on them. Somehow, though it made them feel guilty, it was easier when it was a stranger.
Josiah wiped sweat from his forehead onto his shirt sleeve, even though the air was cold. His knees hurt from the rough ground and his back ached from leaning over the man, probing for the bullets. Seventy-five minutes later, Josiah had the man bandaged and resting as comfortably as possible under the circumstances. Josiah eagerly accepted a cup of coffee from Buck.
"What'ya think he meant by sacred vessels?" Buck wondered aloud.
"He's a priest, Buck. There was a Breviary – a priest's prayer book - in his pocket and a medal around his neck. I need to see if he has a kit for Last Rites. If anyone needs it, he does," said Josiah as he knelt and opened the case. Josiah carried the box and placed it next to the man. He raised the crucifix into its stand, arranged the candles and lit them, found the stole, communion wafer, water and oil. Josiah kissed the cross on the stole and placed it around his neck. "In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen," he intoned as he made the sign of the cross over the young man. Josiah continued praying in Latin as he sprinkled the man with holy water and then anointed him with oil. He took the tiniest particle of a wafer and placed it in the man's mouth and washed it down with a spoonful of water. He removed the stole, kissed the cross, and refolded it into the case. Then Josiah extinguished the candles and put them back, as well as the crucifix, water and oil.
Buck and J.D. watched in awe. They never saw Josiah look quite so…priestly! He walked over to the two and sat down. "I'm trying to determine the best way to handle this. Any suggestions?"
J.D. said, "Wow, 'Siah, we knew you used to be a priest, but we never saw you look so much like one!"
"I was ordained a Transitional Deacon – the step before priesthood – I was never ordained a priest; wasn't 'invited' partly because of my temper, partly because I wasn't sure of my calling…that even added to my anger. Thought I wasn't good enough, and the monsignor thought I wasn't good enough, hell, even God thought I was inferior! And my father, the abusive son of a bitch, was ordained! It's taken me a long time to come to terms... But back to this man, moving him right now will kill him."
Buck spoke up, "We was just saying it might be better if the two a' us took the stage and all the bodies into town, then came back with a wagon for the priest."
"If he's still alive," piped up J.D.
"J.D., don't talk like that!" reproached Buck, as he took off J.D.'s hat and smacked him with it. "What'ya think, Josiah?"
"I'd stay with ya if ya need help," offered J.D.
"Thanks, J.D., but the stagecoach, extra horses and bodies would be a little too much for one man. I'll stay with the priest. I'll say his Lauds and Martins for him. Those are morning and nighttime prayers," added Josiah. "And speaking of which, it's about time for Vespers."
Josiah covered the priest with the new blanket Rebecca wove for him. He tucked it around him and sat near his head with the Breviary. Half-way through the Vespers, the priest opened his eyes. "The chalice," he whispered.
"Your case is safe," assured Josiah.
"You are a priest. I need to confess," whispered the priest.
"No, not a priest; a Transitional Deacon, but a very long time ago," protested Josiah. "You can't talk; you must save your strength." Oh good Lord, I sound just like Nathan!
"I'm dying," said the priest.
"We're all dying," said Josiah pragmatically.
"I had a crisis of faith – I doubted my calling – I…I…" the priest was too weak to continue.
"Scripture talks of faith without works, but you claim works without faith? You maintain that you have no faith, but your works to protect the chalice and paten contradict that. I can tell you about a genuine crisis of faith!" chortled Josiah, but when he looked at the priest, he was asleep. Josiah felt his pulse to assure himself that it was actually sleep.
Josiah finished Vespers.
Buck handed a plate of beans, potatoes and bacon to Josiah. "Not as good as yours, but it'll satisfy, a little like a lady I used to know up Kansas way…"
Buck droned on with his story but no one listened. Josiah was thinking of the priest; it was a long ride into Four Corners, hell, he didn't even know if the priest would survive the night! J.D. seemed to feel differently about Josiah. He thought Josiah was better, holier, different! The three turned in early. They would be up before dawn to get a timely start.
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Vin stopped by The Weaving Shop to visit Rebecca. He shook his head when he thought of Rebecca and Josiah together. She was as tiny as he was huge, and her temper seemed to calm him down! Rebecca was as delicate and fine-featured as Josiah was chiseled and rugged.
Vin was greeted by Ruth and Mark playing in front of The Weaving Shop. "Uncle Vin! Uncle Vin!" they called to him. He picked one up in each arm. Ruth had honey blond hair, blue eyes, a turned up nose and was quite a talker for being only four years old. Mark had reddish blond hair, green eyes and was solidly built; he was five.
"How're you two little'uns doin' today?" he asked them.
"We're doin' good," said Mark.
"But Mommy's cranky," whispered Ruth, "She's havin' bad dreams again!"
"I wouldn't let her hear me say that if'n I were you!" suggested Vin with a smile. He put the two little ones down and went in the shop.
Rebecca was sitting at the barn loom beating the stuffing out of a rug she was weaving. She stopped when she saw Vin. Her eyes had dark circles, her shoulders drooped and she looked uncharacteristically worn-out.
"Why're you mad at that rug?" Vin laughed.
"Good morning, Vin," smiled Rebecca, "How are you today? Want some coffee; I can sure use some!"
Rebecca walked to the door and called the little ones in. They all went into the kitchen and had milk, coffee, and cookies. John rushed in the door and handed Rebecca money for the rugs he had just delivered to Mrs. Davis. She paid for the rugs and gave him a nickel tip! "Do you want the nickel, too, Ma?" he asked.
"No, John, you earned it. You may keep it, or spend it, but you know what I would recommend," smiled Rebecca.
"Pa says spend half on wine, women and song; the other half, spend foolishly! Ma says to save half and spend half," John told Vin with a grin as he took a bite of a cookie.
"I like your Pa's way!" said Vin smiling at Rebecca. Vin liked watching those three kids with Becca and 'Siah. No one would even suspect they weren't blood kin. The kids even looked like them! John had blond hair and blue eyes and was tall for a twelve year old; he was very slender, but he was filling out in just the short time he'd been with Rebecca and Josiah. Finally getting enough to eat, thought Vin.
Later that day, Chris stopped in the shop to see Rebecca. After greeting the children, Chris asked John to watch the little ones in the studio for a few minutes. "Ma, may I take the little'uns ta the store for some candy?" asked John. "Please, please, PLEASE!" the little ones begged. Rebecca nodded and kissed all three.
Rebecca poured a cup of coffee for Chris and offered a cookie. She knew that she was in for a lecture and she wasn't in the mood.
"Josiah's been gone for three days, everything okay with you and the kids?" he asked nonchalantly.
"Fine," answered Rebecca.
"Been sleepin' alright?" he persisted.
"Just drop the pretense, Chris! What do you want to know?" growled Rebecca.
"Well, ya just told me!" said Chris, "What's wrong, Rebecca?"
"It's not that easy, Chris! If I could sort it all out, it wouldn't be bothering me, then, would it? Don't start anything; I'm not in the mood!" snarled Rebecca.
"Well, if ya want to talk, or need some help, or whatever…I'm available." Then he added, "Don't go doin' anything foolish 'cause your mad; it's not a good idea."
"Don't threaten me, Chris, I don't respond well to threats!" advised Rebecca.
"Yeah, Josiah already informed me! Thanks for the coffee, and Rebecca," Chris looked her in the eye as they stood by the shop door, "Josiah will be back in a day or two, don't make me have to deal with you." Rebecca slammed the door behind him.
That evening, Rebecca called, "John, please watch your brother and sister for a few minutes. I have to deliver this rug to Mrs. Potter."
"Rebecca, it's dark," emphasized John, "Let me take it for you."
"No, I'll be right back. Please watch the little ones," insisted Rebecca as she walked out the door.
John stood in the studio in absolute confusion; he was supposed to obey Rebecca and she said to watch the little ones, and he was supposed to obey Josiah and he said to take care of Rebecca! John shouted to the little ones in the kitchen, "Come in here and sit down! I have to get Rebecca!" John went running out the door.
"Come on, Ruthie, we gotta go in the studio," Mark laughed. Ruth threw the dish towel back at Mark and it landed on the stove. "See what you did!" scolded Mark. Mark lifted the cotton towel off the stove and it burst into flame! He dropped it on the rug in front of the stove and the rug caught fire.
Outside the shop, John had Rebecca's arm and was arguing with her when they heard the screams of the little ones! They both ran into the kitchen to find Ruth's skirt on fire and Mark trying to pour water from the sink on the flames. Rebecca pulled Ruth to the floor and beat out the flames with her hands. John grabbed the edge of the rug and pulled it quickly out the back door. Ruth and Mark were screaming; Rebecca knelt and hugged them closely. As soon as John returned, he joined the group.
Well, Rebecca, you did it again! But this time, it wasn't only yourself that you put at risk. You have only yourself to blame. Josiah may not forgive you for this!
There was a knock at the door; Ezra was making rounds and heard the commotion, "May I be of service in any fashion?" He immediately recognized the panic on their faces and smelled the scorched fabric. Looking down, he saw the burned cloth on Ruth's skirt and the way Rebecca was favoring her hands. "Master John, may I please rely upon you to advise Mr. Jackson that his presence is urgently requested at your abode? It would behoove him to include his medical bag. Thank you."
Ezra positioned the three remaining Sanchezes in the sitting room and examined their injuries and investigated the fire.
Nathan put ointment on Rebecca's hands and wrapped them in bandages to keep the ointment from rubbing off. The burns were not severe. Luckily, Ruth had several layers of petticoats that protected her legs. "You two were sure lucky," Nathan told the little ones, "But you're gonna be in a world a' hurt when your daddy gets home!"
Josiah! All four looked at each other in panic! "We're gonna get the belt," cried Ruth, "and it hurts like hell!"
Rebecca walked Nathan and Ezra to the door and expressed her heartfelt gratitude. She also attempted to ask them not to be in a hurry to discuss the accident with Josiah, but she had the feeling they were ready to ride out to meet him with the news!
That night, both Rebecca and Ruth had nightmares.
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Josiah checked on the priest several times during the night. His name was Father Stephen Jacobs and he was a Jesuit priest. Fr. Stephen wanted confession and he decided that Josiah was the only opportunity he would have. Because Fr. Stephen was too weak to talk, Josiah had to make assumptions about the priest's offenses. Fr. Stephen squeezed Josiah's hand if he was accurate. Josiah thought his hand was broken by the time they finished and Fr. Stephen was incredulous that Josiah could read his mind! "Been there; done that," said Josiah when he completed the prayers.
Josiah started breakfast. The aroma of the cooking bacon summoned Buck and J.D. from a sound slumber. Josiah poured coffee and dished out plates for three. Fr. Stephen was asleep. Josiah said a quick blessing and they began to eat.
"I know better'n complain about Buck's cooking," said J.D., "but yours is better, 'Siah!"
"It's going to be a long walk to Four Corners if you keep it up, J.D.!" growled Buck as he winked at Josiah.
"Make sure to tell Rebecca that I'm alright and I'll see her tomorrow. Maybe John would like to come along with you, if you don't mind the boy's company. He might be able to help Nathan. Rebecca will be happy to wrap some food. I miss that woman!" Josiah said as he gazed into the distance thinking about her. I hope she isn't having nightmares – she always argues with Chris when she's tired. I just don't have a good feeling; something is wrong…
Buck and J.D. gathered a huge pile of firewood and left three canteens of water for Josiah. They left all the food they had. With any luck, they would be back late that evening.
J.D. drove the stagecoach with the dead passenger and driver. The three horses were tied to the back and the dead riders were tied over their horses. Buck rode off to the side leading J.D.'s horse.
They arrived in Four Corners around noon. Buck stopped at The Weaving Shop to talk to Rebecca while J.D. talked to Nathan. John wanted to help. He gathered a bedroll, extra blankets, a pallet for the wagon bed, a change of clothes and helped Rebecca prepare food.
Rebecca stood facing John and put her hands on his shoulders. "John, I'm not going to tell you what to say or what not to say about the accident. But I will tell you not to take any blame and not to feel guilty! John, I love you. Keep safe and help your father." She kissed him on the cheek. Mark and Ruth hugged and kissed him good bye and they stood outside the shop watching Nathan drive the wagon with John on the seat beside him, J.D. and Buck riding along beside.
To the little ones, Rebecca said, "Come on, let's do some spinning. The singing will make us all feel better!" As they walked into the shop, Ruth was clinging to Rebecca's skirt. Ruth didn't talk about her nightmare, but she was terrified. Mark yawned.
"Would you rather listen to a story?" asked Rebecca. Both heads nodded, so they positioned themselves on the settee in the sitting room; Ruth on Rebecca's lap and Mark as close as he could get without actually sitting on Rebecca. She had one arm around each child and no way to hold a book, so she told them a story. After a few minutes, all three were asleep.
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Nathan and John sat together in silence. It was uncharacteristic; John's usual curiosity had him asking dozens of questions. Nathan wanted John to talk, but he didn't want to pressure the boy. "You're bein' mighty quiet this afternoon. Worried about your Pa?"
John nodded, but still had nothing to say. Nathan looked over at Buck and J.D. and motioned to John. Buck rode up alongside John and tried to make small talk; still no response from John. Finally J.D. said, "John, we're worried about ya! Ya haven't said two words since ya climbed in the wagon, and that's not like ya. We know somethin's wrong and we want ta help!"
"I just gotta talk ta Pa. I'm sorry, I don't wanna be no trouble. I just gotta talk ta Pa."
Nathan put his arm around John's shoulders and just held him for a while. John fought back tears.
It was a long ride to the site of the robbery and Nathan questioned whether a man shot twice could survive the trip back to Four Corners.
When they pulled up to the campsite, Josiah had a hot meal ready. John threw himself at Josiah and began sobbing into his chest. Josiah wrapped his arms around the boy and said, "I hoped for a warm greeting, but I didn't expect this warm!" He easily read the concern on the faces of the others and walked John a little distance away.
Josiah and John sat on a fallen log with Josiah's arm still around John's shoulders. "Hope you're going to tell me about it because you've got me concerned."
"She hates me, Pa. She thinks she made a mistake and she sent me away. They could'a been killed and it's all my fault!" John blurted out.
"John, who hates you? Who could have been killed?" Josiah questioned.
"Rebecca! The little'uns! It was my fault!" cried John.
Josiah scrubbed his face with his free hand. "John, tell me exactly what Rebecca said to you."
"She said that she wasn't gonna tell me not ta tell ya 'bout it. I'm not 'spose ta feel guilty and she loves me," recounted John.
Josiah was thoroughly confused. "John, you are so used to taking the blame, or having the blame assigned to you, that I don't think you understand the situation! Start at the beginning. What happened after I left?"
John explained about Rebecca's bad dreams; that she was weaving at night and not sleeping. She slammed the door when Chris left. She told him to watch the little ones when she went to deliver a rug to Mrs. Potter and he tried to stop her cause it was dark out. The fire started in the kitchen and they ran in just in time. Rebecca's hands were sore, but not burned bad. Ruth was really scared, but not hurt.
"But why do you think Rebecca hates you?" persisted Josiah.
"She sent me away!" wailed John.
Oh, if Josiah ever got his hands on those people from that orphanage…
"John, Rebecca knew you were coming back home with me. Do you suppose that maybe Rebecca thought you might like to talk to one of your uncles or to me about what happened? John, I'm not sure how to explain this, but Rebecca has fears, too. That's why she has nightmares. When the dreams get very bad, she doesn't want to sleep at all. Rebecca gets irritable; then she argues with Chris or me, and ends up doing something foolish."
"John, I tell you often that you're a boy. Just because you had to take on the responsibility of a man, doesn't make you a man! You made the best decision that you could – you were between a rock and a hard place! Nothing you did would be right! Are you worried about being punished?"
John nodded his head slowly.
Josiah thought for a moment. "If everything happened as you said – and I believe that it did – you have no punishment coming. Rebecca and I are going to have a long talk about this, and I'm not sure how the fire started, so the little ones aren't off the hook, but I'm convinced that you did the best you could. I will never ask any more than that, and I'm proud of you for stepping up."
"Now, how about something to eat?" John nodded his head at Josiah's question. He suddenly realized that he was starving!
Buck dished out two plates for them and added a slice of Rebecca's home-made bread and butter. They all exchanged nods as they watched John's demeanor change as he ate. Nathan filled them in on the priest's condition. "He's critical. Fever's risin', trail's long, wagon's bumpy. The wagon's gonna be real slow with plenty'a stops. Might wanna go on a head and just a couple men stay back." Everyone looked at Josiah and John.
"This is one of those very difficult decisions a man has to make. I'm anxious to get back to Rebecca, Ruth and Mark to get this accident straightened out, but that man over there could be dying. If I can offer him some comfort and ease his transition, I feel I have to do it. I welcome anyone to stay with me, but I don't blame anyone for leaving. Not much to do but sit around." Everyone realized Josiah gave the explanation for John's benefit.
Nathan and John were taking the wagon with Josiah. Buck and J.D were riding ahead to Four Corners.
During the night, Nathan was checking on Fr. Stephen and Josiah joined him. They kept their voices barely above a whisper. "Are Rebecca and Ruth alright" Josiah asked anxiously. "Either John doesn't know how the fire started, or he doesn't want to tell me."
Nathan chuckled as he nodded his head, "Ruth's afraid they're gonna git the belt and it hurts like hell!"
"I have to stop her from saying that!" grinned Josiah.
I told'em they're gonna be in a world'a hurt! They was playin' in the kitchen near the stove. The rug flamed and Ruth's dress caught. Rebecca beat out the flames on Ruth's dress and John took care 'a the rug. They both acted right sensible. Rebecca just needed some ointment on her hands; Mark and Ruth just had a good scare. John's the one most concerned me; didn't do nothin' wrong, but takin' it all ta heart. Rebecca's still reelin' from Tyler Lance – that man had to be the devil, himself, the way he still wears on that lady! It's been more'n a year, Josiah, and she's still sufferin'."
Fr. Stephen groaned and opened his eyes. Josiah offered him some water, which he greedily accepted. He was parched from the fever. Nathan put another cool cloth on the priest's forehead and he closed his eyes.
Josiah fixed bacon and eggs for breakfast with bread and butter and strong, hot coffee. After breakfast, the men loaded Fr. Stephen into the wagon, with canteens of water and food. J.D. and Buck rode ahead.
They stopped the wagon every thirty to forty-five minutes. It was a difficult ride for the priest, as well as his care givers.
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The wagon rolled slowly into Four Corners around sunset. Chris and Vin met them at the foot of the clinic stairs. Standing Josiah and Vin at the foot of the pallet, Chris and Nathan at the shoulders and John at the very head, they moved the priest slowly and carefully. He survived the wagon ride; he was still alive. That's about all that could be said definitively.
Josiah and John were going to the shop for a meal and a good night's sleep. Josiah had a few issues to handle, then planned to return to the clinic the first thing in the morning.
Rebecca and the little ones were waiting. The little ones grabbed Josiah's legs and screamed, "Daddy, Daddy!" He lifted one in each arm for hugs and kisses.
Rebecca hugged John; she caressed his face with one hand as she looked into his eyes. "Are you alright?" John shrugged and nodded. He hugged Rebecca. "We need to talk later, or even tomorrow, but we need to talk," whispered Rebecca.
Then John hugged the little ones who squealed over him just as they did Josiah, while Rebecca and Josiah exchanged serious looks as they kissed.
Rebecca had a savory chicken stew on the stove. Josiah and John washed-up quickly, then followed their noses to the kitchen. The atmosphere was tentative during the meal; Josiah explained the priest's condition and how he protected the things he held sacred.
After the table was cleared, Rebecca and John went into the children's room, while Josiah and the little ones sat at the table. Josiah said, "I want to know exactly how the fire started. I believe the only ones in the kitchen at the time were you, Mark, and you, Ruth. Who wants to begin?"
Immediately, Ruth's chin began to quiver, and tears filled her blue eyes. "We're gonna get the belt and it's gonna hurt like hell!" she cried.
"No," Josiah assured them, "You both are too young to be punished with a belt. If you need to be punished, you'll be spanked. Now I want to know what happened."
Mark looked at Ruth and told Josiah the story. Ruth sat nodding her head.
Both children looked across the table at Josiah with huge crocodile tears streaming down their faces. Josiah pushed his chair away from the table and called them over to him. They ran to him and he held one on each knee and cuddled them. They reviewed the rules about not playing in the kitchen and staying away from the stove and never taking anything off the stove. Then Josiah told them to wait in the sitting room.
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Rebecca and John sat on one of the beds in the children's room side-by-side. Rebecca began, "John, I am very sorry that I put you into that terrible predicament. Please forgive me!" Tears began rolling down Rebecca's cheeks. "I was irritable and angry at Chris. I was going to prove to him that I could do whatever I wanted and he had no control over me. Well, that was barely acceptable behavior before I had the responsibility of a family; it was totally selfish, inconsiderate and irresponsible. It's my fault that the little ones had that accident, not yours. I love you three very much and it tears me up that I hurt you. Will you forgive me?"
John threw his arms around Rebecca and they cried together. Josiah was standing in the doorway when Rebecca looked up. He came in and sat with them. He told Rebecca how John thought she sent him away; how John took on the guilt for the accident; how John expected to be punished! The three of them spent a considerable amount of time discussing how experiences from the past affect the way we react.
Reluctantly, Josiah advised Rebecca and John to remain in the bedroom until he finished with the little ones. Josiah stood in the doorway and looked at Rebecca; he put his hand over his heart and shook his head. Rebecca knew that spanking the little ones was going to be very difficult for Josiah. They knew parenthood was difficult, but neither one was really ready for this!
Josiah brought Mark into the kitchen, reviewed why he was being spanked, put him over his lap and gave him six good swats. Poor Mark was sobbing! Josiah held Mark and talked softly to him, then Mark walked into the bedroom and hugged Rebecca and John.
It was Ruth's turn and she was crying before Josiah even picked her up. He held her on his lap until she calmed down so they could talk about why she was being spanked. When they heard the swats and her cries, Rebecca, John and Mark grasped each other's hands! After a few minutes, Josiah carried Ruth into the children's room. They all sat together for a while, then it was time to get ready for bed.
After bathing, brushing teeth, saying prayers, and getting tucked in, the children were asleep. Rebecca and Josiah sat on the settee holding hands. "Josiah, I'm sorry. I don't know how you can ever forgive me."
"Rebecca, I love you, but you promised me you would not antagonize Chris or put yourself at risk. You have to stop this self-destructive behavior. We can't lose you!"
Rebecca looked at Josiah's face. He was exhausted. She squeezed his hand and said, "I'm going to fill a tub for your bath." When Rebecca returned, Josiah's head was leaning back, his eyes were closed and he was snoring softly.
She stood watching him sleep. Why do I jeopardize my relationship with this man? He is the kindest, gentlest man! And John! What have I done to John?
Josiah opened his eyes to see Rebecca standing before him. "Tub ready?" he asked standing up. Rebecca nodded. Josiah took her hand and said with a glint in his eye, "Come on, Rebecca, you can scrub my back…then my front…"
Rebecca wasn't in a playful mood, but nothing made her feel better than a healthy dose of Josiah!
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Unfortunately, Rebecca, Ruth and John had nightmares; no one slept through the night.
After breakfast, Rebecca went to see Chris. She found him in the saloon drinking coffee with Vin and Buck. Chris sat with her at a table near the door. "I want to apologize. I was rude when you came to the shop and I was delivering that rug just to spite you. I don't know what is wrong with me, but if I don't straighten myself out, I'm going to lose Josiah and John!"
"What are your nightmares about?" wondered Chris.
Rebecca didn't want to answer, but Chris began glaring at her and the glare intensified until Rebecca said, "It always begins with Tyler Lance..."
Chris didn't say a word. He just stood and grabbed Rebecca's arm.
Chris pulled Rebecca out the swinging doors of the saloon and down the walk to the livery. He saddled his horse then held the reins in one hand and Rebecca's arm in the other, leading them both out the door. Once outside, Chris swung himself into the saddle and hoisted Rebecca onto the saddle in front of him. He rode to the cemetery, lowered Rebecca to her feet and pulled her to an unmarked grave mound near the back. He drew his revolver and handed it to Rebecca. "That's the bastard's grave. Shoot him!" Chris ordered. Rebecca looked at him strangely. "You must think Tyler Lance's still alive and able to hurt you, so shoot him and stop him, once and for all! Do it!" Chris shouted and put his gun into Rebecca's hands.
Rebecca raised the gun and aimed at the grave. She shot it. "Again!" Chris commanded. Rebecca shot once more. "Again!" he said. Rebecca shot again, and again, and again, and again! Tears were streaming down her face when she handed the revolver back to Chris. He holstered it and put his arms around Rebecca. "He's gone; he can't hurt you ever again. Don't let him touch your life with Josiah or your children. John has enough to deal with already."
"Thanks, Chris," whispered Rebecca, wiping the tears from her face. Chris removed the spent shell casings from the cylinder and reloaded the gun. He handed one of the empty cartridges to Rebecca as a "souvenir," so she will never forget that Tyler Lance was gone.
Chris rode up to the shop; Josiah lifted Rebecca down. She smiled and nodded to Chris over her shoulder, and went into the shop. Rebecca put the empty casing in her crystal box with the paper cigar bands from Josiah.
"She just emptied my revolver inta Tyler Lance's grave. She'll be alright now," said Chris with a grin.
Josiah frowned, laughed and shook his head as he nodded to Chris and followed Rebecca into the shop.
Chris went back to the saloon and sat with Vin. "What was all that about" asked Vin.
Chris smirked and said, "Rebecca just shot the hell out of Tyler Lance's grave.
Vin said, "Thought we shipped Lance's body back ta San Francisco?"
"Yeah, we did. But she don't know that!"
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Josiah's time was divided between visiting Fr. Stephen in the clinic, working on the church, and finishing the children's room at the shop. He hated being a preacher's kid, and he always swore his kids would never be preacher's kids. He earned just enough money to keep his sister in the nuns' care; now he had a family to support. His job was important to him – the seven protected the weak and oppressed. They were seven brothers. Dear Lord, show me a way – without using Rebecca's money – You have to allow me some pride!"
Fr. Stephen was too weak to leave the clinic; Nathan said that caring for the priest kept him busy, and he was happy for the company. He liked Fr. Stephen; they had some good talks.
Josiah and Rebecca were still concerned about John. Then Vin told Josiah about a ceremony at the Seminole village. Ko-je specifically invited Josiah and John after Vin gave him a little background. Ko-je helped Josiah regain his balance and thought maybe he could do the same for John. J.D. warned John about the sweat lodge and a bunch of naked men sitting around inside. "Someone would think you never went skinny-dipping, J.D.!" said John. Josiah smiled to himself; John has good insight, he'll get through this.
Rebecca sent gifts and food to the Seminoles; she was feeling better after dealing with her demons and she wanted the same for John. Rebecca, Ruth and Mark kissed and hugged them, then tearfully bade farewell.
Nathan told Rebecca that Fr. Stephen was feeling stronger and would probably enjoy a visit from the little'uns. She packed a basket with some biscuits, honey and peach preserves for Nathan and the priest, and walked the children to the clinic. Mrs. Potter stopped Rebecca with questions about the rug she bought. The little ones were in a hurry, so they went squealing up the stairs to the clinic. Nathan heard them coming and opened the door. "Hi, Uncle Nathan!" they both screamed, then immediately dropped their voices to a stage whisper and Mark said, "We're supposed to be quiet in case Fr. Stephen is asleep."
"Or has a headache!" added Ruth.
"Please, children, come in. I am not asleep, nor do I have a headache!" called Fr. Stephen from the bed in the back of the clinic. The little ones went running to him. " I'm Markie and I'm gonna be six!" "I'm Ruthie and I'm four!" Ruth held up four fingers. "How old are you?"
"I'm 30 years old," said Fr. Stephen with a smile, prepared for comments about being sooo old.
"Are you feeling better? Mommy's bringing biscuits and jam for you and Uncle Nathan and we can't have any because we have some at home and these are for you," said Mark all in one breath.
Rebecca came in the door, "Sorry, Nathan! Mrs. Potter stopped me and they got away from me. Here are some biscuits and spreads for you." Nathan acknowledged the basket with gratitude.
"I'm sorry, Father, they get a little rambunctious!" laughed Rebecca.
"This is our Mommy! She wouldn't let us get sent back to no orph'nage, so she and Daddy got married so's they could keep us, and Daddy and John went to the Injins for a cemerony…cemermony…"
"Ceremony!" yelled Mark.
"…ceremony! And we're too little to go so we have ta stay home with Mommy and be good and not have bad dreams," bubbled Ruth.
Fr. Stephen looked gleefully at the children, then up to Rebecca. "Please be seated, Mrs. Sanchez."
Rebecca looked at Nathan. He shook his head as if to say, "Not me!" Rebecca looked quizzically at the priest. "Josiah described all of you to me. He was extremely accurate! Ruth, why are you afraid of the belt?"
Before Rebecca could stop her, Ruth blurted out, "Cause it hurts like hell!"
Rebecca looked embarrassed, but the priest had difficulty controlling his laughter. "They are very precious gifts. You and Josiah are blessed with each other and the children."
The little ones sat on the floor with their drop spindles while Fr. Stephen and Rebecca talked. He reminded her of Fr. Joseph – kind, gentle and understanding. But this priest was different; he seemed non-judgmental and highly intelligent. It isn't surprising Josiah enjoys his company!
Nathan gave Rebecca a nod; Fr. Stephen was getting tired. "Mark, Ruth, we have to let Fr. Stephen rest. We'll come again, if we get invited!"
"This was a wonderful visit; please come again tomorrow. Come closer, let me give you a blessing to prevent bad dreams and protect you from all harm." The children stood by the side of the bed. "You, too, Mrs. Sanchez!" Rebecca knelt between the children, an arm around each. Fr. Stephen placed a hand on each child's head.
May the light of God embrace you and the presence of God protect you. May He hold you close and keep you always in His love. Amen In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
"Thank you, Father," said Rebecca. "Thank you! Thank you! G' bye, Fr. Stephen, g' bye, Uncle Nathan!" called Ruth and Mark. Rebecca herded them out the door and smiled at Fr. Stephen and Nathan as she left.
That was the first of many visits.
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Ko-Je and John walked together soon after he and Josiah arrived at the village. "Why do you carry such a burden? It tires your body and troubles your mind," began Ko-Je. They left the village and Josiah behind them and proceeded to a high place where they had a good view of the earth and sky. Ko-Je questioned and talked. They sat watching the scenery change for a long time.
Josiah visited and laughed with friends in the village, but he was ever vigilant for John's return.
It was dark when John and Ko-Je reappeared at the village. John was subdued, but not troubled.
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Josiah and John had been gone for seven days. Rebecca, Ruth and Mark missed them so much! No one had nightmares; no one argued; no one was cranky or irritable.
During that time, Nathan helped Fr. Stephen move into Josiah's former rooms at the church. The priest was invited to dinner at many homes in the small community; he was personable, humorous, and gracious. Fr. Stephen Jacobs was strangely attracted to Four Corners. He saw the need for a school, as well as the church. Many small towns used their church as a school, or courthouse. Less favorable is when the saloon is used as a church on Sundays, but it's better than nothing! Fr. Stephen said his first Mass in Josiah's church in private; it felt right.
One week after they left, Josiah and John returned to Four Corners. Rebecca held her breath when she saw John. He looked …different; he was calmer, happier and bigger! John grew in height and weight in one week! What did they do to him in that village!
They hugged and kissed and hugged!
"Ma, I'm sorry I didn't believe what you were tellin' me. Ko-Je helped me understand that I gotta trust the people who love me and shield from those who don't. I can't always control how people affect my life, but I can control how I act." John kissed Rebecca on the cheek. Then he looked into her eyes, compared the height of their shoulders and said, "Did you shrink?" Josiah burst into rumbling laughter as he carried saddlebags and burlap bags into the shop.
"Let's get these horses stabled, John, I've been waiting for one of your mother's meals! And if she doesn't have dessert, I'll have to deal with her!" winked Josiah.
After a delicious meal, Josiah took a piece of Rebecca's cherry pie to Fr. Stephen at the church. He had been working slowly during the week to set up the altar and prepare for a public Mass. The priest hoped Josiah would soon return because he wanted Josiah's approval.
Josiah not only approved, he agreed to serve as acolyte and could help with the chanted prayers, as well as the readings and Gospel. Fr. Stephen still could not take a deep breath without pain; singing was difficult and even the sermon would be short. I know many people who will welcome that thought Josiah!
Rebecca and the little ones were busy while John and Josiah were away. Rebecca hung floor to ceiling curtains to divide the former storage room into a bedroom for the children. Each child had a private area, but the curtains could be opened to a large room. The only problem was the crate. It was too heavy to move and Rebecca didn't know what to do with it anyway!
"Josiah, would you please look through that crate next to John's bed? It's not mine, but someone put my name on the label and it was delivered with my looms. The freight office refused to take it back and no one claimed it, so I'm officially stuck with it. It has some kind of tools in it; I didn't know if you could use any of them. Be careful; it's extremely heavy!" said Rebecca.
Josiah, John and Mark used a pry bar to open the sturdy wooden crate. Josiah stared at each item as he unpacked the crate. Woodworking tools! A lathe and chisels, specialty saws, planers, draw knives – a complete woodworking shop! He prayed for guidance, but this is almost a miracle!
Fr. Stephen posted a sign outside the church: Mass Sunday 10:00 a.m. All Welcome
Rebecca practiced the Latin responses with the children. She refused to force them to embrace the Church, but she believed in exposing them to various religions. Ko-Je worked miracles with John and both Josiah and Rebecca encouraged him to construct a spirit bag according to Ko-Je's instructions.
That night, Rebecca and Josiah discussed the woodworking tools. "It's something I enjoy and I know there's a living in it. I need to save enough to rent a store." Josiah immediately looked at Rebecca, "I won't use your money! I have my pride!"
"What about Tyler Lance's money?" queried Rebecca. She jumped out of bed and opened the trunk at the foot of the bed. After rummaging down to the very bottom, Rebecca drew out a thick envelope. "This is the money that J.D. gave me; it was found in Tyler's room. I refused to touch it. Tyler would turn over in his grave if you used it! Josiah, let Tyler do something good, if not in his life, at least in his death!"
They discussed the empty storefront next to Rebecca's shop. They could put a doorway between the two buildings to increase their living space. Josiah often had weeks where he had little more than the town patrol or the rounds in the town; he had time for additional work.
Josiah counted the money; it was more than he needed! "I'm going to talk to Frank Winston at the bank on Monday, and some of this is going into the collection on Sunday!"
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The other six peacekeepers were sitting around a table in the saloon when Josiah joined them. "Anyone planning on attending Mass tomorrow?" asked Josiah. They all looked uncomfortable and shook their heads. Josiah was astonished and looked from man-to-man. "J.D., your mother was Catholic! I thought you'd go in her memory."
J.D. squirmed as he looked at Josiah, "I don't think the church'll be the same without you!"
"Well I'm going to be there," Josiah explained. "I'm going serve at the Mass and assist with the singing; it's still difficult for Fr. Stephen." Then, as he looked at their faces, he realized what J.D. was saying and it touched him deeply. "Do you think I'm offended that Fr. Stephen is conducting services at the church?" Josiah asked softly.
"Ya mean you're not?" Buck asked doubtfully.
Josiah sat back in his chair and smiled. "Aside from weddings, funerals and christenings, when have I ever scheduled a service in the church?" They looked at each other; no one could remember a single time. "Mass, confession?" They shook their heads. "That wasn't by accident. My penance was to build the church and to prepare the town for a priest, sort of like John, the Baptist, you might say. But don't get any ideas about serving my head on a platter!" They laughed at that image! "I'm still going to help Fr. Stephen; I think of him as a good friend, but now I see my real vocation."
"And what is your real vocation?" asked Chris. They looked at Josiah quizzically.
Josiah smiled, "Husband, father, peacekeeper, carpenter, not always in that order."
"Josiah, how do you actually feel about havin' a priest in your church?" Buck wanted to know.
Josiah thought for a few moments and said, "I feel relieved…no, more like renewed…no, I feel redeemed." Then Josiah smiled, sat back in his chair and drank his beer with his friends, his brothers.