by Raymond Cook
© 2018 (All Rights Reserved)
Page Length: 197
Word Count: 74,000
With the town still smoldering, finally, the word was given to bring the children out of three buildings, and get them into a freight wagon. One by one, the 28 orphan children were lifted up into a freight wagon, holding onto a blanket wrapped around them. Seventeen were girls, whose ages ranged from six to fourteen. The eleven boy’s ages ranged from seven to twelve. One of the orphans waiting to be lifted into the back of a freight wagon was Katelyn Grant, but she couldn’t remember her name. She was six, and the youngest child. All she knew was she wanted to go home.
When Katelyn came out of the café with the other children, she was cold. Without a coat, she put her clenched hands to her chin and looked up sadly at the man standing in front of her. He had an open blanket to wrap around her for the journey to Redstone. He said in a kind voice, “Come here, child.” Katelyn shivered in the cold and said in a tearful voice, “I just want to go home to my ma, and pa.” He nodded and asked her to come to him again.
When the mayor of Redstone and the workers from the boarding house reached the main street, they saw hundreds of men, women, and children waiting on both sides of the street. Everyone was anxious to see the people who survived the attack on Marble. As they looked towards the south end of town though, all anyone could see was the blockade of freight wagons and armed men.
It wasn’t until one of the men yelled out, “Here they come,” that one of the freight wagons suddenly made an opening. Armed men on horseback were seen entering Redstone first and they looked tired. Behind them was a line of four freight wagons. As soon as Father Bellwood saw the freight wagons, he high-tailed it back to the boarding house.
As they headed for the center of town, no one saw any men, women, or children. Each wagon looked empty. Suddenly, one at a time, children began to poke their heads up, and they looked scared as hell. Women were hurriedly wiping their eyes. Now men, women, and children beside their parents were waving to the children.
Women began shouting, ”We love you all,” while men were shouting, ”We’ll take care of all of you.” At that moment, not one child kneeling down in the freight wagon looking at them waved back. As bystanders looked at the remaining three wagons to welcome the injured men and women to Redstone, they didn’t see anyone.
They saw two freight wagons turn off a side street. They were empty. When the last wagon turned off the main street too, some of the men knew where it was headed to. Then everyone saw the freight wagon at the end of the street take its place to block the street. Mayor Ferguson pulled back his horse’s reins, jumped down, tied the reins to the fence and hurried to the porch.
When he came inside, he didn’t see anyone, but he could smell food cooking. He yelled out loud for everyone to hear, “Them orphans just arrived and they’ll soon be here.” Isabel and Mary stood at the top of the stairs and Alice came out of the kitchen. Almost at the same time, the women said, “We’re ready for those children, mayor.”
Then Alice said, “Turn off the tub water and stand out on the porch with me. Those children will be scared. When they’re helped to the ground, I want them brought inside and taken upstairs. Get them bathed and dressed in clean clothes. I’ll bring out glasses of milk and plates of cookies to the first room. After they’re all seated, Father Bellwood will talk to them.
Then I’ll talk to them. I’ll have a tray filled with safety pins, pencils and blank cards. I’ll get my ledger and take it into that room right now. I’ve got to record their names, ages and any other information I can learn from them. Each child needs their name written down on a card and pinned on their shirt or dress. Then we’ll move them into the other room and bring their supper to them.” Father Bellwood and the other two women nodded.
At that moment, all four people headed for the front door and stood on the porch. When the freight wagon was seen coming, two men on horses were riding ahead of the wagon. They got down, tied their horses by Father Bellwood’s horse and stood on the porch too. Everyone waited for the freight wagon to turn around and back up to the porch.
It stopped a few feet from the bottom step and the two men walked to the back gate. By now, many of the children were standing up, looking to see where they were. All of them wore dirty clothes and had smoke and ash smudges on their faces and arms. None of them wore a coat and the sun was going down. When the back gate dropped, it made a thud and startled all of the children.
Many of the smaller girls began crying. Alice, Isabel and Mary stood on the first step and looked up at the children. “My names Alice, this is Isabel and that woman is Mary. This is where all of you will be living until we can find a good family to adopt you. We’ll take you upstairs, get you bathed and into a set of clean clothes. Then you’ll come downstairs and have some milk and cookies.
I’ll find out all of your names and we’ll take you to another room with desks. Supper is all ready for you children. After you’re done eating, we’ll take you upstairs and show you where your room is. Your name will be written on the door, so you’ll know which room is yours. So let’s get each of you out of that wagon and inside where it’s warm,” Alice said in a kind voice.
Even after everything Alice said to the children, as all the adults looked up, they didn’t see one child smile. As the children moved closer to the edge of the freight wagon, they bent over, so the two men standing there could hold them by their waist and help them to the ground. As they clung to the blanket around their shoulders, they began walking up the steps and into the boarding house.
As the children with worried faces began walking up the four steps to the open door, one child stood still. Tears rolled down Katelyn’s cheeks as she held part of her blanket against her chin. Alice felt a tear began to roll down her cheek too and she hurried to the child. She picked her up and held her close to her. “It’s going to be alright child, what’s your name?” asked Alice in a soft, caring voice.
Katelyn had her arms wrapped around Alice’s neck tight. With her head buried in the woman’s shoulder she cried out, “I don’t remember my name. I just want to go home!” Alice knew this child in particular would need time in her rocking chair. “I know child, but this will be your home until we can find a good home for you and the other children,” Alice said in a caring voice. Then she turned around, walked up the steps and went into the boarding house.
She followed the children heading upstairs to the tub rooms. Five girls were taken inside both tub rooms. Seven of the smallest girls were taken into a third tub room. The six smallest boys were taken into the fourth tub room first. When they were dried off and dressed, the other five older boys went in and took their baths. The rest of the girls bathed too. When groups of children came out, they were asked to stand by a wall or sit down.
Three more women and a man were waiting in the hallway with the children. When all of the children were ready to head back downstairs, Alice led the way as she held onto Katelyn’s right hand. When everyone was in the meeting room, Father Bellwood closed the door. Alice asked the children to find a place on the floor to sit down. When that was done, the adults brought a glass of milk and three oatmeal cookies to each child.
Alice, Mary and Isabel left the room and went to the kitchen. In fifteen minutes, they’d start putting food on plates. Then they’d take them to the second meeting room that had been decorated and had the desks from the school. A plate would set down at each desk with a fork and spoon beside each plate. Finally, a tin cup with milk would set down beside each plate. Father Bellwood began to tell the children what was going on.
As he looked down at all of the sad faces looking up at him, it saddened him. Some of the children now were crying, while others were hugging each other. “Children, My names Father Bellwood. Everyone in this town is heartbroken to know all of you have lost your parents. You were brought here because this will be your new home. You’ll have your own room and in each room is a bed and dresser. More clothes will fill them drawers, so you’ll have clothes to wear.
Three women will watch over you, help you with reading, writing and numbers, just as if you were attending school. In a few minutes, we’ll go into another room that has a desk for each of you. You can sit at any desk you want. Supper’s being dished out and plates of food will be waiting for each of you. I know what you’re going through is hard, very hard. I see some of you crying and hugging each other. It’ll take time for you children to understand, accept and see the good that will come out of you living here.
It’s my hope in the spring; couples will come here to adopt each of you. With winter coming on, you’ll be warm here. After I come around and find out your names, I’ll pin a name card onto your shirt, or dress. After you’ve finished eating supper, Alice will try to find out more information about you. There are four outhouses outback. If anyone has to go, just raise your hand in the air,” Father Bellwood said.
At that moment, every child raised their hands in the air. Two women took the children out the back door. When everyone was seated again, Father Bellwood began going from child to child to learn their names. Some sipped milk or ate a cookie as they waited for him to come to them. He knelt down in front of each child and set a basket of cards and safety pins down. In his left hand he held a notepad and a pencil.
When each child told him his or her name, he wrote down their name, opened a safety pin, and carefully pinned the card on the child’s shirt or dress. Suddenly a boy about eight years old cried out, “I don’t want to stay here, I want to go home!” Then he got to his feet and ran to the door. In seconds, he made it to the front door with Katelyn right behind him. Anxiously, Father Bellwood pointed at the door and called out, “Bring those children back!”
Suddenly other children began crying. They too didn’t want to be there. They wanted to go home. But for all of them, there was no home to go back to. When a man and woman came back into the room with both children, the door was closed. Father Bellwood saw them patting each child’s back. Finally, they sat down on the floor close to the other children. A girl a few years older than Katelyn pulled her closer to her and hugged her.
“Children, I know you’d all like to go back home but you know why you can’t. There’s nothing left of that town. That’s why you were brought here. Please don’t run away. The women who are living here, along with other people like me will come here every day we can. You’ll get schooling each day and after it snows, a chance to hit me with a snowball,” said the priest.
For the first time, the room was filled with giggles. “If you feel lonely and need to talk to a grownup, we’ll sit down, listen and talk to you,” Father Bellwood said. He was about to continue speaking when the door opened. Everyone saw Alice wearing a red checkered apron over her blue dress. She smiled and waved to all of the children before saying, “Supper’s ready, children. Please follow me.”
As she looked around the room, as the children stood up, she saw all of the cookies had been eaten and the glasses of milk were drank. When the children walked into the other room, they saw how nicely the room was decorated and it took some of their sadness away. They saw each desk had a plate of food and a cup of milk. One by one, they made their way to a desk and sat down.
Unsure if they were going to say grace, the children didn’t pick up their forks. When Alice saw that, she said in a polite voice, “Go ahead and eat children.” As the adults looked around the room and saw children eating, Alice was the first to see Katelyn wasn’t eating. Her hands were folded and laying on her lap. As she looked down at them, tears fell from her eyes.
Quickly, Alice went to the child and knelt down. “Would you like a hug?” she asked the child. As Katelyn nodded she began to wipe her eyes. Alice saw the child’s card pinned on her dress was blank. As she picked her up and let her lay her head on her shoulder, Alice said, “Father Bellwood forgot to put your name on your card.” Katelyn lifted up her head and looked directly into Alice’s eyes.
Tearfully, she said, “No, I told the man I don’t remember what my name is.” Then she put her head back on the woman’s shoulder and sobbed. Father Bellwood saw them and walked over to them. “I meant to tell you before now, this little one doesn’t remember her name,” Father Bellwood said in a sad voice. Alice nodded.
Then she whispered in the child’s ear, “Would you like me to rock you in my rocking chair after you’ve eaten your supper?” Katelyn didn’t raise her head but she did nod. When Alice put her down, Katelyn went back to her desk, sat down and picked up her fork. Father Bellwood nudged Alice’s shoulder and motioned for her to follow him over to the door.
When they stood far enough away from the children, he said, “Several of these children are going to need some special attention. They’re shaken up, especially that brown haired girl you were just holding.” Alice nodded. “I’ll give her and any other child needing someone to listen to the, the time they need. I don’t want them running away from this boarding house. It’ll be freezing and snowing pretty soon,” Alice said.
An Orphan With A Destiny is my newest 2018 action-packed western frontier eBook. This eBook was uploaded onto Amazon on January 2, 2018. I’ve made this comment section so I can share with visitors to my website what readers feel about this particular eBook. To share your comments too, just go back up to the top of the page and click on the Contact Me tab.
5-Star Amazon Comment
E Aaker, April 25, 2018. This book is based upon the hardships upon orphaned children in the wild west. If I had to use few words to sum up the overall feeling of this book it would be ‘hardship, determination and hope’. This book takes you through a child’s young life, with family, friends and love to a fate of the unimaginable. She looses her family, home and worse of all has no idea who she is. As she learns to survive and fight just to stay alive, this book will take you on her journey on how she becomes a young adult and seeks out the killer who is targeting the orphans. I think this book not only hits home on what life was like for a child in the 1800s but also creates concern for children who are now in our legal system. It made me reflect on the challenges children may face today. Well done, well researched and written. I highly recommend.
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