“Hello, Christine! I am so glad you all came over. Now, please introduce me to your family.”
“Of course,” Christine began. “This is my mother, my brother Ned, and my sister Ella.” Christine trembled slightly; it seemed so wrong for their family introductions to end so soon.
“I’m very pleased to meet you all,” Charlie nodded to them. “I apologize that I am unable to get up or shake your hands, but the doctor said soon I will regain use of my arms and legs.
“Now, Christine, I thought you said you had four siblings, did you not?”
Christine had dreaded this question. She looked at her mother, but saw that she was meant to answer. “Yes, Charlie, I did — I did have four siblings. But smallpox took my youngest sister and brother.” She could not go on; tears threatened to fall and her voice shook.
Charlie immediately felt her pain. His face turned to one of sympathy. “Oh, I am so sorry to hear that. How difficult that must have been for you all.” Charlie looked around at the sad faces surrounding his bed. “But we do have hope, do we not? You will see them again, all in the Lord’s good timing. Until then, we must trust God and his wisdom. And we must encourage each other in our trials. God has given us each other, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we might help each other along the path of life. That is a comfort, is it not?”
Christine nodded, having by now conquered her tears. “It truly is. But Charlie, was your family unaffected by this disease?”
“Yes, the Lord was gracious. The moment my family heard that smallpox was going around, they left town and were spared the dreadful illness. Once they returned, I came home, only to find that so many people I knew had died from the disease. It was difficult to return, but God has given us strength.”
“I am relieved to hear that your family was spared. But, tell us, how are you feeling?”
Charlie smiled softly. “Shall I be truthful or not?”
Christine smiled. “Truthful, if you please.”
“Well then, not too well. The doctor says I am healing nicely, but the pain is excruciating. The medicine has not been helping, so I don’t take it. But hopefully the pain will lesson as my spine heals. Anyway, it’s nothing really.”
“I am sorry you must endure such pain.” Christine said with feeling. “Every day must be difficult.”
Charlie shook his head. “No, it’s not bad. It would be if I only looked at myself. But when I see everything in perspective, I understand to a degree that my suffering is nothing to complain about. But enough about me.”
The next several minutes Charlie talked to Ned, Ella, and their mother and asked many questions about them. Christine was pleased to see that Charlie interacted well with all ages and was exceedingly respectful towards her mother.
“Now, Charlie,” Christine’s mother said. “I’m afraid we’re tiring you, and we should be going at any rate. But I would like to speak more to your mother before we leave. It was good to meet you.”
“You as well, Mrs.–”
“Jenkins,” she finished.
Mother and children began to take their leave when Charlie suddenly asked.
“Oh, Mrs. Jenkins, would you mind if Christine stayed a moment longer?”
Christine and her mother met eyes. “She may,” she said softly, as the rest walked down the hall to the living room. Christine turned and stepped back into the room.
“Christine, do you see the package on my nightstand?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“It’s for you, a late graduation present. Will you open it?”
“Oh, yes! Thank you, Charlie, you’re very kind.” She took the package and began to unwrap it. The paper fell off and she saw a leather-bound book in her hands. She opened it; the pages were lined and blank.
Looking up, she exclaimed. “Charlie, it’s beautiful. How am I to use it?”
“You may use it as you like, but I thought perhaps you’d like to begin a journal. You seem like one who enjoys writing.”
Christine laughed. “Yes, I do. Thank you very much, Charlie. I am sorry that you were unable to graduate. Is there any way you will be able to finish?”
“Yes, Mr. Range has sent me my final test to complete when I have the chance. I will send it back to him and receive my final grade.”
“I am glad for that. I am sure you will do well on your test.”
Charlie nodded. “I hope so, but I need to do a little more studying first. Thank you for coming to see me, Christine. I hope you will stop by again.”
“Yes, I would be glad to. But before I go I have a question for you. I am just curious–how is it that we have not met before? Have you recently moved to Grandstone?”
Charlie nodded. “Yes, somewhat recently. My family moved here while I was at the academy. I believe that was about a year ago.”
“I see, that makes more sense now. Well, I had best be going. Good-by now. ”
When Christine and her family left some time later, they all seemed much cheered by their visit. Ned had begun a conversation with Will and they seemed to get along well. Ella sat beside the twins and struck up a conversation with them. She had always loved meeting more girls her age. Christine reached out to the two youngest, Timmy and Ben, and enjoyed a conversation about their hobbies. And, of course, Mrs. Jenkins talked the entire time with Mrs. Pierce. They all had enjoyed their new friends immensely.
To be continued next week…