~ CHAPTER 1 ~
JD had volunteered to help out at the church taking care of the orphans. After reading a story to a group of orphans, he was preparing to leave the church for a while for some fresh air. However, he noticed a young boy sitting quietly with some other children. Before the orphanage burned, JD was getting to know a twelve-year-old boy by the name of Walter "Walt" Thompson. JD noticed the boy was an especially quiet boy, even more so now that the orphanage burned.
"Walt, you OK?" JD asked as he led the boy to a secluded area.
"I guess," Walt answered.
"You're always kinda quiet, but since the orphanage burned, you seem even more quiet than usual. Anything I can do to help?"
"Do you know why I am here?" Walt asked.
"You're an orphan."
"I know, but do you know how I became one?"
"No," JD said quietly ashamed that he had never asked that question before.
"Ma and Pa didn't have a chance. I was doin' my chores in the barn. I heard Ma scream. I ran back to the house, but I couldn't get inside for the smoke," Walt's voice began to quiver as he began to weep for his parents.
"When did all this happen?"
"Two years ago."
"Walt, you were ten years old. You did the best you could. I'm sure your parents would've been proud of you."
"Maybe, but what about my sister? If I ever find her to tell her, what will she think of me? And the fire at the orphanage I could see it all over again. I was so scared. I miss them so much. I just want Ma to hug me and tell me everything's gonna be OK. I want Pa to tell me to stop crying cuz real men don't cry."
"I don't know what to say. Nothing I say will bring the m back. Do you know where your sister lives?"
"With her husband, I guess."
"Do you know where?" JD asked.
"No." Walt replied.
"Well, what's her name?"
"What's her husband's name?"
"I can try to see if anyone knows them."
"Would ya?" Walt asked with enthusiasm.
"I'll try," JD responded.
"Thanks, JD. You're a good friend," Walt told him.
"You're welcome. Look, I'll see ya later. I'm gonna see if I can find Vin and ask him how to track down your sister and her husband."
JD left Walt at the church. He searched for Vin, but couldn't find him.
"JD, whats the matter?" Mary asked as she approached with Buck, who was asking about Chris' whereabouts.
"I was looking for Vin. You wouldn't happen to know where he is, would you?"
"No, I saw him with Ezra once, but I haven't seen him since."
"Me neither," Buck answered.
"Oh," JD said down-heartedly.
"Well, is there anything we can do?" Mary asked.
"One of the orphans, Walt Thompson, lost his parents in a fire two years ago. He tried to save them, but couldn't get to them in time. He says he has a sister that was married and living someplace else. He doesn't know where, though. He'd like to find her and hopefully go live with her and her husband."
"You'd like to help him, huh?" Buck asked.
"Yeah. I was gonna ask Vin how to go about tracking them down."
"Maybe I can help," Mary offered.
"Sure, I will. I have some friends at the newspapers in some of the nearby towns. We exchange stories sometimes that's how we tell the news from the surrounding area."
Buck left the two alone.
"Do you think they'd know them?" JD asked Mary.
"I can wire them their names and descriptions. They can check around their towns and wire me back." She answered.
"That would be great, Mary. Let me know which towns, and maybe I can check the ones that you have no connection with."
"And if we see Vin, well ask 'em if he has any suggestions," Mary told him.
"OK, that sounds good. Thanks, Mary."
Mary put together a message she could have wired to her friends in the other towns. She took the message to the telegraph office. She informed the clerk to notify her immediately if they should return an answer. The clerk agreed.
JD, meanwhile, prepared his horse for the search. He never saw Vin the entire time. When he was ready to go, JD stopped to see Mary.
"Hi," he greeted her.
"Hi, JD," she, too, greeted him.
"Did you get to wire your friends yet?"
"Yes, I did. I haven't heard anything yet. It's probably too soon."
"Yeah, well, I'm ready to go. I guess I'll see ya later."
"OK. Good luck, JD."
"Thanks I'm gonna need it."
JD left The Clarion's office. He mounted his horse with the list of towns close-by that Mary contacted and headed out of town in search of Emerline Thompson and her husband, Wes Delaney.
~ CHAPTER 2 ~
Every town JD entered, he first went to the sheriff's office. Time and time again he explained the situation and the people he was looking for. The response was always the same. None of the sheriffs were familiar with a Wes and Emerline Delaney. After each visit to the offices of the sheriffs, JD went to various other places where the couple might be known - the general store, telegraph office, hardware, stage and post offices. No one not a single individual knew who they were or where to find them. JD was getting mighty frustrated. One town right after another drew blank faces as everyone told JD they'd never heard of them.
Finally, JD went back to Four Corners, disappointed. His last hope was with Mary. Maybe someone had gotten back to her. As he thought about it, he rushed his horse with anticipation.
Mary, meanwhile, waited patiently for responses to the wires she sent. Two were already answered. "No" was the answer from both. She also asked folks that came in on the stage, just in case there was a slim possibility the visitors may have heard of the couple JD was looking for, or perhaps, maybe even know them personally. No one did. By the time JD returned, Mary had heard from everyone she had wired.
JD slowly walked his horse down the main street of Four Corners. Saddened by the thought of not being able to bring Walt Thompson any joy for Christmas. When he raised his head, he saw Mary waving to him from the boardwalk outside the newspaper office. He guided his horse in her direction. Upon arrival, JD hopped down from his horse and tethered him to the hitching post nearby.
"JD, come inside," Mary urged him.
"Mary, whats the matter?"
"Well, to start with, I got a reply from all whom I wired. You see this one?" she asked quite pleased with herself.
"Yeah," JD answered.
"Well, it's from Eagle Bend. A few miles outside of town is a couple by the name of Delaney."
"Yes, They are Wesley and Emerline Delaney."
"Wow! I figured, since I had no luck, you wouldn't either."
"I wired them back telling them you were coming, but you'd better hurry. There's not much time left before Christmas Day."
"Yeah, you're right. I'll go tell Walt."
"No. No, JD. This should be a surprise besides you don't want to get his hopes up. I mean, it could be a coincidence."
"You're right. Well, I'll at least go check on him."
"OK. Here are the notes I wrote for you from the wires. I'll see you when you get back."
"See ya, Mary, and thanks."
"No problem. You're welcome."
JD left The Clarion's office and headed for the church. Mary, too, headed out. JD saw her meet up with Nathan, Josiah and Vin. As he entered the church, he was met by Buck, who had come to see a little girl, Jenny. JD watched as Buck spoke quietly to the girl and handed her a harmonica. She pressed the harmonica to her lips and began to play. The music filled the little church. It was wonderful. JD said a little prayer at that moment hoping the couple he would be visiting would turn out to be Walt's sister and her husband. Buck saw JD watching and nervously smiled at him; then, he turned his attention back to Jenny. JD walked over to Walt.
"How you doin?" JD asked him.
"OK, I guess." He answered. "Did you find Emerline?"
"Well, don't get your hopes up, but I may have a lead. I don't know, though. I'm still trying."
"Don't worry, JD; it's been two years. I don't expect to see her again." The boy said as he lowered his head.
"I'm tryin', Walt. If I don't find her by Christmas, I'll keep looking for her, OK?"
"OK. Thanks, JD," he said solemnly; yet with a slight one-sided smile.
JD patted him on the head, stood and walked towards the door. He met Josiah at the door.
"Checking on Walt?" Josiah said.
"Yeah," JD answered.
"That's good. Hey uh thought you might want to know Chris is back."
"He is? Where'd he go?"
"He says for a ride. Must have been some ride or some fall. He's at Nathan's now. Nathan's fixin' a cut on his forehead." Josiah told him.
"Is it bad?"
"No, he'll be alright."
"Look, I gotta go over to Eagle Bend; I'll be back as soon as I can " JD began.
"Don't worry; I'll look after Walt." Josiah answered his obvious question.
JD thanked him and exited the church. He once again mounted his horse and left for the Eagle Bend area in search of Wes and Emerline Delaney.
~ CHAPTER 3 ~
JD followed Mary's instructions to the letter. After arriving in Eagle Bend, he headed due North about three miles. He, then, pointed his horse in a northeast direction for another seven miles. The note from Mary said "two-story house; can't miss it". As usual, Mary was right. The house stood before JD. He approached the house. He became increasingly nervous. What if these people weren't the ones he was looking for? What if they were, but they didn't want anything to do with Walt Thompson? Walt told JD all about his parents for this moment; so, JD could describe Walt and his parents to these folks. JD dismounted his horse and climbed the front steps of the house. He cautiously walked across the porch and up to the door. JD knocked twice and waited. He could hear the floorboards creak as someone came to the door. The door slowly opened, and a woman peered out at him.
"Yes? Can I help you?" she asked.
"Uh yes, ma'am," JD responded removing his hat from his head. "My name's JD Dunne. I came here from Four Corners. I'm trying to help a twelve-year-old boy there. May I come in?"
"Just a moment," the woman told him and closed the door.
JD waited a couple minutes; then, the door reopened. This time a man stood over him.
"Who are you here to see," the man asked.
"Um Sir I am here to see Mr. and Mrs. Delaney." JD stuttered realizing the size of the man compared to his much smaller stature.
"I'm Mr. Delaney," he informed.
"Well, Mr. Delaney, would you happen to know a boy by the name of Walter Thompson? He goes by the name Walt, usually," JD told him.
"Walt Thompson?" the woman asked peeking out from behind the man.
"Yes," JD replied.
"I have a brother by that name. Wes, let him inside," she told the man, Mr. Delaney.
Wes Delaney let JD into the house. He introduced his wife, Emerline, as they entered a sitting room.
"Now, how do you know Walt, Mr. Dunne?" Emerline questioned.
"He was placed at the St. Nicholas Orphan Ranch after his home burned. The house on the ranch burned yesterday. I am sorry to have to report to you on Christmas Eve that your parents' home burned two years ago. The fire, it is believed, killed your parents and left Walt an orphan. He tells me their names were George and Elizabeth Thompson," JD explained.
"My parents?" she questioned glancing over at her husband in bewilderment.
"Yes," JD responded.
"Mr. Dunne, my wife's parents survived the blaze and have lived here with us since the incident. As for her brother, Walt, his body was never found among the rubble, but he was presumed dead. I suggest to you that if this is some kind of cruel joke you leave the premises immediately!" Wes exclaimed warning JD in his deep yet quiet tone.
"No, sir. I am here because of Walt. The orphanage burned, as I said, yesterday. He told me all he wanted for Christmas was to be reunited with his sister."
"My dear, God, Walt is alive?" Emerline questioned just as an older couple entered the house through the back door.
"Yes, ma'am," JD answered.
"Ma. Pa," Emerline called out to the arriving couple.
"Yes?" an older man answered as he and a woman entered the sitting room.
"This is JD Dunne from Four Corners," Wes informed.
"Mr. Dunne," the man greeted with a handshake.
"He says Walt's alive in an orphanage in Four Corners," Emerline told them.
"Mr. Dunne, this is Emerline's parents George and Elizabeth Thompson," Wes interjected.
"Mr. Dunne, my son is alive?" Elizabeth Thompson asked.
"Yes, ma'am. He's staying at the church in town at the moment until we can get the orphanage rebuilt. He asked me to help him find his sister, Emerline, and her husband, Wes Delaney. He'd like to come live with you if you'll have him. He says he can do work around the house. He is used to work because the kids keep the ranch running at St. Nicholas' Orphan Ranch," he explained.
"Well, of course he can come live with us; can't he?" Elizabeth answered asking Wes and Emerline.
"Yes, Ma, I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem," Emerline replied.
"Of course, its not a problem. There's no question about it," Wes answered.
"We thought we lost him. I don't think anyone here is willing to allow him to pass through our fingers, again. Besides, we have plenty of room here for him," George spoke up.
"Great!" JD exclaimed.
"Mr. Dunne, could we speak to you for a moment outside?" Wes asked responding to a glance and nudge from Emerline.
Wes, Emerline and JD stepped out on the porch while George and Elizabeth prepared to go to Four Corners.
"Ummm Emerline and I have been trying to have a child since we married. Unfortunately, we have not been able to. Ummm are there a lot of orphans there in Four Corners?"
"What ages do they range?" Emerline asked.
"I think two years old to fourteen," JD answered.
The couple exchanged a glance.
"Wes, do you suppose this is a gift? I mean finding Walt in an orphanage with orphans that have been forced out of their orphanage, let alone their homes?" Emerline questioned.
"Miracles come to us in many different ways, dear. I believe this may be a multiple blessing," Wes replied.
JD led Wes and Emerline Delaney and George and Elizabeth Thompson back to Four Corners.
~ CHAPTER 4 ~
It was beginning to get dark as they arrived in Four Corners. Mary was leaving the church with Chris. JD introduced the two couples to them.
"Mary, this is Wes and Emerline Delaney; Walt's sister and brother-in-law. This is George and Elizabeth Thompson; Walt's parents. As you can see, they are very much alive. They escaped the fire, but couldn't find Walt. They thought he was dead," JD introduced.
"Mr. and Mrs. Delaney and Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, this is Mary Travis; she helped me locate you all."
The Thompsons and Delaneys exchanged greetings with Mary and Chris.
"JD, we're headed over to the jail; we'll meet you over there," Chris told him.
"OK; I'll be in a bit," JD answered.
JD entered the church, leaving the Thompsons and Delaneys outside. The children had just finished supper. JD approached Walt.
"Hey, Walt, I got a surprise for you," JD said as he walked up behind the boy.
JD took Walt outside the church. JD had taken him outside; so, the other children wouldn't get upset at seeing his parents, who were thought to be dead, show up giving them all false hope of their own parents returning. The boy's eyes grew wide as he looked into the eyes of his parents.
Elizabeth Thompson embraced the boy as tears fell from her eyes. George patted the boy on the back.
"So, would you like to spend Christmas with us?" Wes asked Walt.
"Yes, sir," the response came quickly.
"Would you like to come live with us?" his sister asked.
"Yes, ma'am," Walt again responded quickly.
"Well, go get your stuff boy, and I'll help you pack it on the wagon," his father told him.
As Walt gathered the few belongings he had, JD introduced the Delaneys to Josiah.
"They'd like to see about adopting some of the children, Josiah," JD explained.
"Really? Great. How many children do you have?" Josiah asked.
"None. We um can't seem to have any," Emerline told him.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Well, were you looking to adopt a boy or a girl?"
"Actually, I would like to talk about adopting maybe a boy Walt's age; so, he would have a friend to grow up with. Also, two younger children, possibly girls?" Emerline asked.
"Well, why don't you leave them here with me, JD, and we'll see what we can do?" Josiah told JD.
"OK, I have to meet Chris anyway."
JD left and walked over to the jail to meet with Chris and Mary. As he passed by the tavern, he saw Vin and Ezra talking at the bar. He explained the entire day to Chris, and the events of the meeting of Walt and his parents just moments ago at the church to both of them.
"That's so sweet, JD," Mary said giving him a friendly peck on the cheek.
"Thanks," he shyly answered.
When JD finished telling them of the reunion, Mary informed JD of the event taking place out at Nettie Wells' house.
"Nathan's delivering the baby," she told him.
"It seems there's a lot of miracles all about us this Christmas," JD stated.
"Yes, JD, there sure are," Chris confirmed remembering his own experience earlier in the day.
Soon afterwards, Buck wandered up to the threesome. His eyes seemed to be searching up and down the street as he spoke to them. The four chatted for a few minutes; then, Buck left. JD spotted the Delaneys leaving the church with two little girls, an older boy and Walt, whom was walking with his parents, the Thompsons.
"Let's go see them off," JD said to Chris and Mary.
The three headed over to the church. The Delaneys adopted the two little girls, a three-and-a-half-year-old and a four-year-old. The older boy, another twelve-year-old, was also adopted. He was a friend Walt made while at the orphanage. The three children and Walt said goodbye to Josiah, JD, Mary and Chris. Wes and George sat Walt and the other children with Emerline and Elizabeth in the wagon they came to town in.
As Wes, George and the wagon began to leave, Josiah, JD, Chris and Mary waved goodbye while wishing them all a very merry Christmas.
"Well, I have to get home to Billy," Mary said to the group as she began to leave.
"Mary, wait up; I'd like to talk to you about something," Chris called out.
The two left together, stopping a little ways down the road. Josiah went back into the church. JD started to head back to the jail. He saw Chris give Mary what appeared to be a necklace, but didn't bother to stop and interrupt, as he figured it none of his business. He just smiled to himself and continued on his way, humming to himself.
Tale Six: Miracle on Main Street
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