“When I got to the barn, she was standing there looking at me accusingly. Like it was my fault she had been out in the cold so long!
“I let her in and she went straight to her hay rack as though noting had happened. My hands were so cold they didn’t work very well. I had to put them under Roja’s elbow for a while until they warmed up. Finally they were warm enough that I could milk. Stingy cow, she gave me hardly any milk!”
Slade grinned. “That’s because she ran all the way home. Heh, heh. Cows are like that.
“I was so worried. I had all sorts of visions of horrible accidents. I don’t know if I’ve ever prayed so hard.”
Ellen dropped her eyes. “I was praying too. But then I realized that when we were reading in John you had read a verse about God not hearing the prayers of sinners! And then I was really scared!” And she lifted her eyes to his face, “but I knew that you would be praying and I felt better.” Tears slid down her cheeks.
Slade wanted so badly to stand up and kneel in front of her, but his leg wouldn’t allow him to move. His heart trembled.
“I was praying,” he told her. “I was frantic. I don’t know if I’ve ever prayed so hard for anything in my life! He was the only way I could help you!”
Ellen was the one who moved. She knelt beside his chair with her hands on the log arm. “I knew it. I depended on it. Even with Fetcher, I was still so cold. Not even when I was bringing you home did I feel so cold! And I was so frightened! Suddenly I realized that I wouldn’t be with God if I froze to death. I never thought of that before. I always just thought God was God and Christ was there to make everything right whether I did anything or not. But since I’ve been here I learned that it isn’t that way!”
“If you’ve learned that much, Ellie, you know it doesn’t have to stay that way.” Slade wanted to touch her, but the joyous intimacy of a few minutes ago was gone leaving him with empty hands. Finally he put his hand on top of hers clasped on his chair.
“All you have to do is tell the Lord you don’t want it to be that way. You only have to ask Him to forgive you for going your own way for so long and not listening to His Voice. You must really mean what you are praying, but when you do, you will find yourself a new person and have a relationship with the Father and the Son that will thrill you.”
“That’s all?” Ellen questioned. “Will you tell me what to say?”
Slade paused a few seconds. He wanted very much to give her the words, but it would be better if she began right off, putting her own thoughts and desires into her own words.
Finally he said, “I don’t need to tell you what to say. You have already told me what you need to tell the Lord and ask Him to make you one of His Own.”
‘Right now? I don’t need a priest or an altar? I kept Alex’s rosary in my bundle…shall I go get it?”
“No, no,” Slade told her. “Just pray and tell God what you’ve told me. You can add anything else you think you need to say then ask Him to forgive you. That’s all.”
“Without another thought, Ellen dropped her forehead on top of Slade’s hand resting over her own. “Dear God, I don’t know how to pray very well. I don’t know any special words like Tia Margarita did, but Slade said I didn’t need any of that.
“So God, I want to know that You are caring for me and I’m living in a way that pleases You. I could make an excuse and say that my parents never taught me about You, but mostly it was my fault. I’m sorry I’ve gone my own way for so long and not even tried to find out anything about You and I’m thankful for what I’ve learned with Eli. Now I want to be able to talk to You and know You will hear me. I want to do what You want me to do. I know I’ve sinned, probably in things I never even thought about, but I’m sorry.
“Forgive me, Lord. Amen.”
Ellen stayed very still for so long that Slade began to be concerned and prayed silently that the Lord would work in her however she needed. Unexpectedly Ellen’s shoulders began to tremble and quiet sobs shook her body. But when she lifted her head, her eyes were shining.
“I never knew it would feel this way—like a load has been lifted.” She smiled at him and clasped his hand in both of hers. “Amazing.”
Ellen jumped up as though her feelings had to be expressed in action. She grabbed the dishes from their little supper and carried them to the counter, stacking them there. She hurried to Slade’s bed and straightened the blankets and bedding, flipping the corner back beside the pillows to allow him to lie down. She grabbed the broom and quickly swept the hearth and area in front of the door. She hurried to the stove and stoked it, closing the damper to hold the coals till morning. She did the same to the fireplace.
Slade watched her, grinning, remembering the times when the Lord had blessed him so much that he couldn’t sit still.
When there was nothing else obvious to do, Ellen came over to Slade. “I never knew it could feel this way! It will take some getting used to!”
“Well, it won’t be this way forever, but there will always be an assurance. Sometimes it might feel like you don’t even know God, but other times, you will feel very close to the Lord, especially when you have a prayer answered or when you read something in the Bible and understand something that never occurred to you before.”
“I just don’t know what to do with myself so I guess I’ll help you stand up so I can go to bed and think about all of this.” She leaned down and lifted him as well as she could while Slade struggled to stand not using his left leg. When he got to the bed, he had to have her support him while he struggled with his pants. Once he was able to sit down, Ellen moved away while he got his pants off and his legs into bed.
“I think I need keep a shirt on. It’s cold tonight. Could you take my new one and give me another. I don’t want to wrinkle the new one. Maybe, maybe,” he hesitated. “I think maybe you should put that blanket back on.” Slade had pulled the splint off while he was worrying about Ellen.
It was then Ellen noticed he was looking pale. She made sure he was lying straight and comfortable on the bed.
She hurried to collect the blanket and the wide bands from the floor where he had dropped them in his anxiety. It was the work of only a few minutes to reapply the soft splint. She could see Slade relaxing as the firm support of the blanket and bands enclosed his leg. The splint would help to limit any involuntary movements in his leg. By the time she finished and pulled the blanket back over his leg, Slade was dozing.
Ellen took a few minutes to straighten up the room and wash her face and hands before heading to her own bed. Seeing the skillets on the stove she knew exactly why he had put them there. She wrapped them both in the quilt from her chair and carried them with her. Upstairs she shoved the skillets under her blankets, putting one still wrapped in a layer of the quilt by her feet and the other wrapped in one of the skins from her pillow where she would lay her shoulders. Then she took off Madeline’s pretty dress and folded it carefully. It went back in the box Ellen had appropriated to hold her own things. She hung her petticoats over the same box and put her night dress on. She took off the heavy stockings in anticipation of the warm skillet at the bottom of her bed.
With a sigh of anticipation she crawled into her now cozy bed. Then she shoved skillet in the top of her bed aside to snuggle in the warm spot. She put her feet on the one at the bottom. When she pulled the blankets around her neck and turned to embrace the other skillet warming her arms, she was asleep in seconds.