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A Sweet Governess for the Godless Doctor

She only got her courage and trust in His guidance. He isolated himself from God and people. Will they overcome their fears and answer God’s call?

After the tragic death of her father, Ruth visits his friend in need of protection. Instead of finding him though there, she finds a too distant and reclusive son, Daniel. Trying to meet this rancher halfway and avoiding to fall in love in the process are two things she cannot balance well. How can she find the strength to follow God’s plan in a place where she feels she doesn’t belong?

The last thing that Daniel expected to see was a beautiful woman on his doorstep, asking for shelter. After his wife’s and son’s death, he lost his faith in people and God. Being a doctor was the only thing that made him forget, but now this unexpected surprise makes him realize that maybe God tries to say something to him and he accepts Ruth as his governess. How can he turn his heart to God’s will when he struggles to accept His guidance?

To meet each other’s hearts, Ruth and Daniel must look into their own first. How will they let His light fill their hearts even when threads from inside come hunting them?

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

4.3/5

4.3 out of 5 (35 ratings)

Prologue

 Colorado Springs, 1891

 “Is there nothing more that can be done?” Ruth pleaded as Dr. Thompson clipped his weathered brown surgical leather bag shut. “There must be something.”

“I am sorry, Ruth.” Dr. Thompson told at her gently. “We can only pray he survives the night. The rest is in the Lord’s hands.”

Ruth wiped tears from her eyes and turned toward her father lying helplessly in bed. She could not bear listening to his labored breathing anymore, and willow bark tea no longer helped to reduce the fever. For days she had tried to get him to eat and drink, but he was too weak.

Dr. Thompson placed his black top hat firmly on his head, covering the gray hair that had thinned out over the years. He was a kind man who sometimes helped out at her father’s clinic and had become like an uncle to Ruth.

“All you can do is to try to keep him comfortable,” he said with a sympathetic smile, “It breaks my heart, Ruth, to see my dear friend like this. I will come by early tomorrow morning.” He tried to hide his melancholy, but nothing escaped Ruth. She saw the sadness in his eyes and knew the time she feared most had come; she was not ready to face the truth. She believed if she prayed hard enough, her father would be healed.

“Thank you,” Ruth said, “I know you have done all you can, and I shall pray hard.”

After bidding Dr. Thompson farewell, Ruth made her way back to her father’s bedside, a beautifully hand-crafted cherrywood four-poster bed with intricate carvings. The green and red tapestry drapes had been pushed back, and cushions were placed comfortably beneath her father’s head.

She found him shivering, but she could not put any more blankets over him. The floorboards creaked gently as she rinsed a cloth in cool water and placed it over his brow. Beads of sweat had gathered over his mustachioed lip as well and she dabbed it dry.

His strong masculine features and once rosy smiling cheeks were now thin and pallid, and his skin had a bluish tint. She missed his warm smile that brought her comfort during her darkest days. She sat down on the walnut armchair next to his bed, smoothing the bedclothes.

Oh, Lord Jesus, why? Ruth closed her eyes, repeating the question she’d asked at least a hundred times since her father fell ill.  Of all people, why her father? But even one of the greatest physicians she knew of, Dr. Francis McKinley, who tirelessly helped patients fight consumption, was now suffering from the same dreaded disease as her father, Dr. Spencer McKinley. Diphtheria is just not fair, Lord, Ruth argued, eyes closed, and tasting salt as tears slipped down her cheeks.

Her beloved father, mentor, and best friend; she could not lose him, she just could not. What would she do without him? Her mother died when she was a baby. There was no one else, and she felt so alone.

As she leaned forward to rest her head on the side of the bed, she felt her father move and he began to cough, heaving with the effort. She immediately stood and moved the cushions, lifting him gently to a more upright position.

“It is alright, Father,” Ruth murmured soothingly, “I am here, right beside you.” She grasped his hand and held it firmly.

Blinking against the dimly lit gas lamps, he slowly opened his eyes and glanced around the room.

“Ruth?” His usually deep gruff voice was now faint, like a whisper. He coughed again, taking heavy rapid breaths.

“No, Father, please don’t talk.” Ruth leaned closer and modeled deep slow breaths, hoping this would ease his discomfort.

“Ruth, you must listen,” he pressed, a frown sweeping over his face, his eyes watching her closely. “I can see in your eyes that you are scared. There is no reason to be scared. We all reach an end, and this is my time, my dear. But I am so very blessed, knowing that when I take my last breath, the last image I’ll take with me will be that of my beautiful daughter.”

“Father,” Ruth buried her face in her hands, “please don’t talk like that, you are going to get better. Tomorrow will be a better day…”

“Yes, Ruth,” he rasped. “Tomorrow is a new beginning for you. I want to tell you something.” He paused, gasping for air.

Ruth wondered why he was being so stubborn about recovering.

“Father, please stop talking and rest.” She felt her eyes sting as she began to realize that she would lose the person she loved and admired most in the world. Her only remaining family member who had taught her all she knew and helped her grow in her Christian path.

“Ruth, in the top drawer of my cabinet you will find a letter. I want you to get it for me.”

She didn’t want to leave his side but she retrieved it as he had asked, wondering what was so special about the letter that he wanted it now, at a time like this.

His voice came out in short gasps. “We both know I am dying my dear one, and I don’t want you living here on your own with no one to help or protect you.”

Ruth felt like she had fallen through the floor. No! “No, Father,” she protested, trying to be strong for her father. “The Lord will spare you.”

“Ruth,” her father stroked her hair and gave a weak smile. “A good friend of mine lives in Wyoming, Alexander Grant.” He paused, taking a deep breath, and continued. “He is a great doctor. I wrote to him and told him everything happening here.”

“Why did you write to him?” Ruth frowned, instinctively knowing she would not like what he was about to say.

“I want you to go to him …” He paused and began to cough heavily.

“No, Father, I can’t leave you!” Ruth said desperately and gripped his hand.

His chest rattled as he coughed, and in short raspy breaths he took in air.

“Ruth,” he implored as she began to cry, “I need to know that you’ll be safe. Take the letter with you; he will look after you.” He paused, gasping, “You can … help …”

“Oh, Father!” Ruth broke down, giving in to her grief. “I­—I cannot lose you—I won’t know what to do.”

“Take courage,” he urged hoarsely as he struggled to take in air. “Remember Esther in the Bible, and your own namesake.” He paused and drew in a deep breath of air. “Ruth, so loyal; stay devoted to our Lord.” He was wheezing but tried to smile through a painful grimace.

Why was he talking like this? She had faith, didn’t she? She knew the Lord was in control of everything and she always put her faith in Him. Her footsteps were guided by His word.

Ruth tried to wipe her eyes, “I will, Father, I promise.” She dashed dampness from her face.

He closed his eyes and smiled. “Now I can die a happy man.  Soon I shall be with our Lord and Savior, and I shall see … your mother.”

“Father, be strong!” Ruth pleaded. “I know you can still fight this. It is not the end.”

“Please, Ruth, read to me,” he glanced around the room. “On the table …”

She nodded and released her grip on his father’s hand. She retrieved his Bible from the small table at the foot of the bed and returned to her seat. She opened the book and turned its pages until she found his favorite verse, Psalm 31:24.

Her voice was shaky as she read, “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord—”

She stopped reading as tears blurred her eyes and sobs overtook her again. Spencer McKinley lifted his hand and touched her face, smiling. “Your voice is like an angel’s …” he murmured, almost to himself. “I love you, Ruth. Please pray with me.”

She held his hands in her own as they prayed together, “I love you, too, Father.”

For some time, she rested her head on the bed, her hands still holding his. They remained that way in silence for some time, the only sound that of his irregular breathing. When his hold went slack and the room became silent, she knew he was gone.

“Father, no—” Ruth whispered, but stopped herself. Her entire family had been her mother and her father, and now both were gone, leaving her completely alone. She had imagined she would have her father for years to come and she was ill prepared for the stark reality that faced her now. As the new bleakness of her life suddenly dawned, she gave in to tears once again.

Chapter One

One Month Later

Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1891

 

Ruth was jolted awake by a sudden jerk followed by small jagged, shuddering motions. Loud whistles, along with the huffing and puffing of hissing steam welcomed her to Cheyenne as the wheels of the train slowed down and squealed to a halt. Disoriented at first, she quickly remembered the long monotonous rail journey now behind her and looked forward to disembarking. It was colder than she expected, and she was relieved she’d thought to bring along an extra jacket. When she left Colorado Springs early in the morning and boarded the steam train, it had not been very cold.

It had taken a lot of courage and praying for Ruth to leave Colorado Springs and travel one-hundred-seventy miles from home to Cheyenne, Wyoming. She would do just as father had told her and take the letter, kept safely in her bag, to Dr. Alexander Grant.

On her lap her King James Bible lay open to the Book of Esther, chapter four. She marveled at Esther’s bravery and how she stood up for her people and her beliefs against all odds. God had protected Esther from the enemy that tried to destroy her people. Ruth took a deep breath, closed the book, and placed it carefully inside the bag at her feet.

Despite the soft upholstery of the seat, she felt stiff from sitting for such a long time. The compartment was comfortable but Ruth was ready to leave the side to side jostling of the railcar behind her. Although she traveled in the comfort of first-class travel, and given the luxury to open the compartment window, she looked forward to enjoying the fresh air.

Only two other people had shared the compartment, a serious-looking man and an elderly woman that wore a hat with tall multi-colored feathers. Both of them kept to themselves, wanting to pass the time in solitude. Ruth did not mind, because it meant she could spend more time reading from the book of Esther.

Looking through the glass window reflecting her image, she noticed she needed to straighten her auburn hair bound in a neat chignon. Father had always told her that auburn was the color of her mother’s hair. She missed him more than she’d ever imagined and wondered if the intense heartache would ever go away. His death left a void in her life she didn’t think anything could fill. She promised to fulfill his dying last wish and decided to keep that promise, no matter how scared she felt or whatever challenge came her way. She intended to remain faithful and trust in the Lord to lead her in the way she should go.

Ruth saw that people were already disembarking and quickly realized she had to gather her luggage and make her departure. She did not want to keep her host waiting.

She left the carriage and climbed down the steps. Carrying one piece of luggage that was lightly packed as she did not own much, she stepped away from the carriage. Ruth found it difficult to avoid people who bumped and pushed their way to and from the train. It was all very intimidating, and she felt so small amongst all the people on the monstrous platform.

The depot was huge and extended outward toward the tracks, at the north and south, each with its own gathering area. At each end were square towers that created a skyline appearance. From the roof, above four semicircular arched windows, a tall square clock tower jutted high into the sky. The depot walls were built from strong fieldstone. At ground level, smaller stones formed high semi-circular arches stretching along the sides of the stone walls capping the large windows.

Looking around, she did not see anyone that fit the description her father had given of Dr. Alexander Grant. Perhaps he had sent someone else, but surely that person would be on the lookout for her?

Steam continued to hiss and grow louder; the smell of burning coal, ash, and smoke grew stronger. Whistles sounded as more trains approached and others departed, chugging sluggishly and gathering steady momentum.

Ruth decided it may be best to wait inside the railroad depot. Maybe she’d find Dr. Alexander Grant or his appointee inside. She would at least be away from all the hustle and bustle of people disembarking, and those maneuvering to get on board.

Many women wore the latest fashion—bell-shaped skirts, mutton-leg sleeves, and shirtwaist blouses with tucks and frills, some with lace. Young girls wore empire-waist dresses with sashes just above the waist tied in bows at the back, paired with straw bonnets whose ties matched the sashes. Ruth preferred her day dress with long fitted sleeves, and her cascading jabot collar.

Men were dressed in frock coats and black trousers, with some wearing blazers or jackets with top pockets, waistcoats, and neckties with pins, and some sported bowler hats or black top hats.

Ruth smiled sadly as she remembered how jaunty her father looked whenever he wore his favorite striped trousers with his black double-breasted jacket, and a bowler hat. He often received admiring glances from passersby as he walked down the streets of Colorado Springs, which he secretly enjoyed. Although he believed in practical clothes for comfort, he believed in dressing well, especially when one cut a good figure as he did. Ruth clung to those precious memories, holding carefully onto each of them. After all, he had been the most important person in her life.

Ruth sat on one of the vacant wooden benches in the terminal and sighed. She had strolled the various public places of the station, watching families with excited children, but as time passed, fear began to grip her, and she worried whether she had been forgotten. Was anyone coming to meet her at all?

Oh, Lord, she prayed, please help me. No one has come to meet me, and I fear I am stranded.

She had the return letter Dr. Alexander Grant had written, accepting her request, and promising that someone would be at the station to meet her. Digging into her bag, she found the letter and read it for at least the tenth time.

 

“Dearest Ruth,

 

My deepest condolences on the loss of your father; please know that he was my dear longtime friend and I will miss him dearly.

He detailed your dilemma some time ago and I welcome you to my home as I would a daughter.

On the day of your arrival, I shall send someone to meet you and bring you safely to my home …”

 

It was beginning to get late, and the crowds thinned both in the lobby and on the platforms. She tucked the letter away and decided to have another look at the platform where passengers debarked, but as she suspected, there were few people milling about.

Surely Dr. Grant wouldn’t have written back if he had no intention to meet her. She feared having to spend the night the depot and wondered whether it would even be permitted as the possibility began to seem more likely.

Not too far away from where she had disembarked earlier was a family gathering their luggage. A young boy, about twelve years old, dressed in knee-length brown breeches and a matching buttoned jacket was pulling at his father’s waistcoat.  The woman was dressed in a bell-shaped burgundy skirt and white blouse with a short waisted burgundy jacket. She seemed intent on keeping track of the family’s luggage.

Increasingly scared and frustrated, Ruth was ready to cry, but as they looked like good-hearted people, and inasmuch as she had no other choice, she slowly approached them.

“Excuse me,” said timidly. “Do you happen to know the Grant ranch?”

The boy took a step back, looing her way while his father turned to Ruth with a smile. He was a tall dapper man with a neat mustache and a full head of dark hair with streaks of gray.

“We do indeed. In fact, we pass by the ranch as we head home. Do you need a ride?” his voice was friendly, and Ruth saw that his wife smiled when he spoke.

Oh, Lord, thank you! Ruth thought, and found herself sending up a prayer of thanks that her need had been met.

“Someone was supposed to meet me here to take me there, but no one has come,” Ruth explained, the pounding of her heart in her ears beginning to subside.

“We’re happy to give you a ride. In fact, I could use the company,” his wife said, looking to her husband, who nodded.

Her hair was fair and neatly bound at the back of her head, and she smile readily as she stepped forward, linking her arm with Ruth’s.

“Oh, thank you!” Ruth breathed. “That is such a relief! I have never here before, so I don’t know anyone at all, or my way around.”

“Not to worry. We help wherever we can,” the man assured her in a cheerful voice. “Is this your only luggage?” he asked, indicating her satchel.

“Yes,” Ruth said, her hands clasped in front of her.

“Our wagon is this way.” He gestured to an open area where a few carriages, wagons, and horses were kept. “It’s not grand, but it’s strong.”

It was then they introduced themselves and she learned they were Richard and Mary Bloomer, and their son, Tom who had added, It’s short for Thomas. Richard Bloomer was a strong, stocky man in his early forties, and Mary Bloomer was only a couple years younger. Tom was quite a big, sturdy boy for his age, and he looked more like his mother than his father.

Ruth followed them to the only horse-drawn wagon with a covering. Although the wagon looked as though it had seen a lot of service in its lifetime, it appeared to be strong. The bows looked stable and the covering, though stained from age, looked to be tied securely. Mr. Bloomer helped her climb into the wagon, and the wood creaked as she stepped up.

Twenty minutes later, the clip of horseshoes sounded and they were on their way to the Grant ranch, traveling along a very bumpy dirt and gravel road. Valleys, hills, and basins rolled across the horizon, breaking a solid line between the sky showing off scudding clouds, and the vast dusty mountainous landscape in the dsitance.

Ruth wondered about Dr. Grant and his ranch. Despite the assurance from her father as to his goodwill, she was doubtful, especially at being forgotten at the railroad depot. It did not put her mind at ease. She had always believed and trusted her father implicitly and knew he would never put her in harm’s way. If only she could see him one last time. Suddenly she felt so lonely and missed him so badly there was a piercing ache in her heart.

“How do you know Dr. Grant?” Ruth asked politely, trying to hide her pain. “He and my father were good friends for many years.”

“Oh?” Mary looked surprised and exchanged an uncomfortable look with her husband. “I’m sorry to tell you, but he passed away almost two weeks ago. His son, Daniel, looks after the ranch now.”

“Oh, dear! I had no idea. I’m so sorry to hear that.” Ruth was shocked. This likely explained why she was left at the depot with no one arrived to fetch her. Did Daniel not know she was coming? What would she do if he did not take her in? Where would she go?

“He was a great doctor and a respected one,” Mary said gently. “My husband worked with him in his clinic. Richard used to be a medic when he served in the army and helped out now and then at the Grant clinic.”

“I see.” Ruth nodded and pursed her lips. She managed to stop squelch the urge to cry. It seemed things were going from bad to worse.

Ruth felt a soft nudge on her arm. She looked down and saw Tom holding up a packet of boiled sweets.

“Candy always makes me happy,” Tom said with a bright grin. “You can have as many as you want.”

“Thank you, Tom.” Ruth tried to smile back. “I love candy.” She did not know what to think or say anymore. Now that Dr. Grant had passed away, what would happen to her?

“I’s alright.” Tom grinned, “I have another bag full of sweets.”

“Is Daniel a rancher?” Ruth asked. At Tom’s insistence, she took another piec of his candy.

“No, he’s a physician, like his father,” Mary said. “He left Cheyenne to study to attend medical school.”

Ruth ran her hands over her hair to feel for any loose strands in her chignon, but the wagon’s sway made it difficult.

“Daniel now works at his father’s clinic.” Mary continued, shifting with the motion of the wagon. “He got married, and he and his wife had a child,” Mary said as she threw out an arm to stop some luggage from toppling over when the wheels hit a large bump.

“That must be very difficult,” Ruth murmured, feeling sympathy toward the young Dr. Grant. “I know what it’s like to lose someone you cherish.” She paused wistfully, thinking of her father once again and longing for his advice.

“What kind of a person is Daniel?” Ruth asked timidly. She was beginning to worry about what he’d think when he saw her, especially if he wasn’t expecting her.

“Daniel has always been pleasant and kind to us,” Mary commented, holding the seat as the wagon swayed again.

Ruth began to wonder about Daniel and whether he was anything like her father, her own father’s good friend. Maybe he would be kind enough to let her stay until she could find something to do on her own, as well as a place to stay. It wouldn’t be right to impose on him and his family. She couldn’t go back to Colorado Springs because her father’s property and belongings had been sold.

Was God testing her faith? What should she do? Despondent, she realized that all she could do was trust in Him. Oh, Lord, Ruth thought, my life is in your hands, and I trust that you have prepared a place for me.

Chapter Two

Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1891

One Day Earlier

 

The old piano tanged away, competing against the chattering of people and the clinking of drinking bottles, followed by bouts of laughter from a group of men who smelled strongly of tobacco and beer. They surrounded the large, chipped and gouged pinewood poker table that was sticky from beer.

Smaller tables of similar design were scattered around the room, all surrounded by simple square-shaped pine chairs secured by four thick square legs. Some sat on large empty barrels.

“Play ‘Fun in a Bottle,’” someone drawled as his tablemates shouted around him. The piano man yelled back obscenities in jest, as he honored the request. The beat was sharp and quick, with listeners hooting and laughing as they clapped.

Sitting at the bar, Daniel shifted on one of the high wobbly barstools as he finished his third drink. He slammed it hard onto the old oak counter kept polished with beeswax. Three barmen could easily fit behind it. Mounted on the walls were old pictures and wooden shelves, but only those shelves behind the counter held various kinds of brandies, beers, whiskeys, and unknown mixed concoctions.

“Another firewater, please!” Daniel said and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

The saloon owner, Arthur McIntyre, approached Daniel as he wiped his hands on a cloth.

“Y’know, Doc, I’m surprised to see you here,” Arthur said and leaned elbows on the counter.

“Another firewater, I said, please” Daniel looked up and saw the surprise on Arthur’s face. Daniel continued to stare at him, and his mustache twisted as he eyed Arthur through narrowed eyes. Arthur sighed in resignation, took the mug, and refilled it while bottles clinked amidst bouts of more laughter. The wooden batwing doors swung open followed by the creak of the floorboards underneath steadily shuffling boots.

“There’s quite a crowd today,” Tommy Parker said and sat on an empty barstool next to Daniel and ordered a beer. “Food’s good, drink’s good, nothing’s like the Old Gem Saloon, hey?” He was a young rancher, new to the area, and tried hard to get along with everyone, especially with the ladies. Daniel was not the only one to warn him, time and time again, that if he wanted to find a good wife, he should not be charming ladies. But he never listened because he enjoyed the attention.

“Yeah,” Daniel said and slammed the mug on the counter again. Not that he was familiar with the saloon. He could not remember the last time he set foot in the place. He just wanted to forget. The more he tried to see the best in a situation, the more he felt like the carpet had been pulled from under him.

“Another firewater, please,” Daniel said.

“Daniel?” Tommy stared at him and tilted his small-brimmed crown hat. “I suppose you will be on your way home now?”

“Hmm,” Daniel bent his head forward against the edge of the counter. Not because he was drunk; he just wanted to be alone. What was he doing? Why was he even here?

Being a doctor was not easy, no matter how many lives he saved. There was always that one that couldn’t be saved.

“Arthur,” Daniel said, “thank you, I’ve changed my mind. I’m going home now.”

“Alright, Doc,” Arthur nodded as he served more customers. “You take care out there, now.”

Daniel had always liked Arthur. He was a good man who liked to give people a second chance, to help the unlucky get back onto their feet and run a good, clean business, unlike other saloons he could think of.

“I’ll walk you,” Tommy took a swig of his beer. “Good thing your horse knows the way home.”

The clinking of bottles and glasses and the chattering of people still competed with the piano man’s compilation of cheery tunes. Daniel jumped off the high barstool and stretched, his body stiff after sitting on the barstool longer than he intended. It was nothing like sitting in a saddle.

A small group of saloon ladies fluttered over, friendly as ever, donning feathery hats with ribbons, flouncy skirts over knee-length brightly-colored petticoats that touched the top of their boots. Cap-sleeved tight-waisted bodices in silk decorated with sequins, lace and fringe.

“Thanks, ladies.” Arthur said, “Daniel’s on his way home now.”

“I will be back, though,” Tommy winked. “I would sure like a dance.”

“Do not keep me waiting,” one of the saloon ladies said. The other saloon ladies left to entertain and dance with other saloon patrons.

“I think it is time you do your dancing act,” Arthur said to them. “There’s plenty of people around now.”

“Some Adam’s ale, please,” Tommy ordered.

“Thanks, Tommy,” Daniel said, “I can see myself out though.”

As he walked past the poker table, he heard a sudden crash from one of the smaller tables. A chair fell backward as one of the poker players took a swing at another poker player, who was held back by his friends. The piano stopped, along with the chattering. The saloon was dead quiet.

“Hey!” Arthur’s voice boomed throughout the room. “You take that brawl outside; none of that in here!”

He was answered by repeats of sorry and, “No, no problem here.” Instantly the piano started, chattering resumed and laughter filled the room again. Daniel shook his head; he hated brawls and found them pointless, even in jest. That was when unnecessary accidents and injuries happened.

“It’s alright. I don’t mind,” Tommy said as he and Daniel walked through the batwing doors. “I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.” The dusty floorboards groaned as they walked across the deck and down two small dusty wooden steps. Most of the town had emptied and people were beginning to close up shop. The saloon’s huge hand-painted wooden sign was impossible to miss, hanging above the entrance and swinging on the breeze. Being on the corner of the main road and Ferguson Street, Arthur had designed the saloon with the entrance on the corner, expanding the walls on each side to form a pyramid shape. The strange design made sense to Arthur at the time, and he still seemed happy with it and took good care of it.

“Suit yourself,” Daniel shrugged and pointed toward a horse tied to one of the hitching rails. “My horse, Spark, is over there, can you get him for me?”

“Sure,” Tommy said and brought over the horse, helping Daniel mount the strong black stallion. It took a couple of attempts but finally, Daniel was in the saddle.

“Thanks, Tom—” but before Daniel could finish his words, Tommy suddenly chucked the contents of his mug—Adam’s ale—into Daniel’s face.

“Wha—what? What’d you do that for?” Daniel’s eyes squinted and blinked as he wiped the water from his eyes. There was nothing he could do about his shirt and pants, which were soaked. but it was still hot, and Daniel thought they may dry by the time he got home. “What kind of man tosses water in a man’s face!” Daniel demanded, his eyes fixed on Tommy, indignation on his face.

“Time to sober up,” Tommy laughed.

“I am sober!” Daniel hiccupped. “Don’t ever do that again, you understand? That is no way to show respect.”

“Oh, and don’t forget your hat.” Daniel didn’t appreciate Tommy ignoring him but caught the low-crowned hat Tommy tossed over to him and placed it firmly on his head.

“Good luck getting this fellow home, boy.” Daniel heard Tommy say to Spark with a gentle slap to the horse’s dock and Spark whinnied and trotted Daniel homeward.

“You should get home before the sun sets,” Daniel heard Tommy shout after him.

Thankfully, the Grant ranch was only four-and-a-half miles from Cheyenne, not too far from Crow Creek. As Spark trotted slowly along the trail, Daniel leaned forward and held onto his mane, trying to keep balance in the saddle. He felt groggy and dizzy and realized Tommy had been right to send him on his way home. Maybe another shot of whiskey wouldn’t have hurt he thought, then sighed.

He knew he was better than this. But seeing Mr. Williams’ family weep was like ripping open an old wound. He remembered receiving the news of his own father’s death, and he’d just broken down. His father had been given the finest medical care available, but he got sicker until there was no hope.

His father was gone. Where was God? Daniel thought. Where was God when he needed Him most? Why had his father not been healed?

This was not how he imagined his life to be. He remembered that he used to be happy once and had everything a man could ever dream about—a beautiful, loving wife and son. As if taking his wife wasn’t enough, that same God had taken his father, too. All he had wanted was a wife to come home to, and be welcomed by—his wife and their son, and now he had no one. He felt completely alone.

He missed Mary Jane more than anything and would give anything to see her one last time. Knowing that her death could have been prevented if only he hadn’t insisted she go to the bank that day, she would be alive. he closed his eyes as guilt washed over him. It was his fault, he was responsible.

God could have protected her but did not. Wasn’t she always faithful, too? She did not deserve to die. She was a God-fearing faithful believer, just like his father had been.

The anger and burning ache inside his heart scorched his very soul, and not even whiskey could douse it—nothing could. His eyes felt heavy and started to close. Stubbornly, he forced them open, fighting until sleep won over and everything went dark.

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