As the two become reacquainted, and Gabriel recognizes Matilda’s broken, hesitant spirit, his heart aches for her. While he eagerly shares with her the wonder of God, a small miracle binds them together—the discovery of an abandoned baby.
As Christmas draws near, can Gabriel break down the walls of Matilda’s heart to see the wonder of it all? His affection for her blooms as he watches her uncover the greatest gift of all—unconditional love.
Late November, 1812
Colby, Northamptonshire, England
Gabriel sighed as he walked out the front door of his new home and gazed at the village and the humble church building over which he now held spiritual responsibility. He longed to give hope to the brokenhearted and to spur his congregants on to good deeds, but he hadn’t stepped foot inside the place. A young woman dressed in lavender walked into the church. Half-mourning? Her blonde hair was barely visible beneath her bonnet.
He grabbed his coat and hat, shut the door behind him, and hurried to the structure. The air was crisp and clear on this November morning, and as the sun shone bright, it added a lightness to his steps.
Entering the church, he stopped inside the door to take in the view. The young woman arranged flowers at the altar, her movements efficient and graceful. The stained-glass windows bathed her in a soft kaleidoscope of light and colour. He stopped to savor the view and then slowly stepped forward to discover if he might capture a glimpse of her face.
A soft cry caused the young woman to turn, and he caught her profile. Her lips opened as she gasped. “Oh, my!”
Mattie? His breathing raced at realizing his heart’s desire stood before him. How long had he searched for her? Gabriel rushed forward. She turned her head his direction, and her beauty dazzled him. Her eyes widened in recognition before she turned away. She moved toward the pew behind her and bent down.
Rounding the edge of the bench, he followed her gaze to a small bassinette from which the crying had come.
Matilda crouched down and cooed to the child. “Who are you, little one? And who left you here?”
Gabriel came close to discover a tiny child. His guess was that it was very new. “How unusual,” he whispered.
When she turned to look up at him, he thrust a hand forward. “Good day, Miss Wilcox, I’m the new pastor here.”
She nodded. “Gabriel. I didn’t realize that grandfather... He never gave me your name.” A delightful rose-color tinted her cheeks. “I came to add flowers for the service tomorrow. I have no idea whose child this is. I am acquainted with most of the people in the village, and no one was due to give birth. What do we do?”
Gabriel knelt by the bassinette and scooped the crying infant into his arms. “There, there, little one.” The babe quieted as he patted the child’s back.
“You’re good with children.”
“You remember my large family. Some of my siblings have already presented us with the next generation, so I possess experience as an uncle.”
She nodded and frowned. “I know nothing of caring for babies.”
“As long as they are warm, fed and loved, they tend to do well from what I’ve been able to determine.”
“Where do we take him? Or is it a her?”
Gabriel’s eyebrows rose as he moved the child into the crook of his arm. “Guess we can take a peek and find out.”
Miss Wilcox turned her head away.
He unwrapped the child and lifted the gown it wore to peek into the nappy. “’Tis a boy.” He dropped the gown back down and swaddled the infant. “He’s probably only a few days old.”
“How can you tell?”
“The sound of his cry and his navel.”
“Shall we call for the doctor?” she asked
“What can he do?”
“Perhaps he will know to whom the child belongs.” Matilda rose to her feet.
“Is there a midwife about?”
“Yes. Down the next street. Mrs. Glowery, I believe.”
“I suggest we take him there.” Gabriel stood with the baby held tight against him.
Miss Wilcox nodded.