"What's all the commotion over by the train depot? It looks like there's a train load of kids." Buck mused to Kid as they rode back from a successful day at the horse auctions.

"Oh, I'll bet that's the Orphan Train I heard Mr. MacKittery talking about, his two sons, Jacob and Isaiah, both came from one of those trains." Kid slowed as he approached the platform where the children were all being lined up.

"He works those kids hard, I wonder if he took them in because he and his wife wanted more children or because he needed someone to work his farm. Some of those kids are just babies...." Buck noted as he rode past the assembled group. Three small children, obviously of mixed Indian blood, caught Buck's eye; one child was barely able to stand it was that young. They stood alone off to the side, ignored by all the couples who were choosing children. Buck's heart felt for those children and he said a silent prayer to the Spirits that a good family would take them in. The oldest child, which didn't look more than five years old, followed Buck with his eyes.

"He probably took them to work for him. He don't impress me as the charitable sort, if ya know what I mean...." Kid's words startled Buck and he looked away from the children. "You know his daughter Caitlyn is treated like a princess. She's his real blood child. It just don't seem right...." Kid shook his head and turned Katie away from the station and toward the road home. "Come on Buck, we've got to head back....can't keep your bride waiting!" Kid said with a wink in Buck's direction. Buck tightened his jaw a moment then reluctantly followed.

For the next few months Buck's thoughts often drifted back to those three children and he wondered what had become of them. His own life was progressing better than he had ever thought possible. It had been nearly two years since the Pony Express had ended and he'd gone into business with Kid and Lou. The horse farm they owned was doing well and, part in thanks to Tompkins for not letting him spend any money in his store; he had a nice bit saved. Buck often smiled at how ironic it was that Tompkins had spent all his energy keeping Buck out of his store when he worked for the Pony Express but welcomed him now that he was a successful businessman and land owner.

~*~*~

Right after the Express ended and they'd started the ranch Lou had insisted that Buck come to every church and town social with her and Kid. Lou felt that Buck needed a wife and children to complete his life. At first she almost had to drag him out of the house but when a new family moved to town from Philadelphia that all changed. The Hawkins family was of English decent and Grandfather Hawkins, or Papa Hawkins as he preferred to be called, still spoke with a delightful accent. The family business was tied to the railroads and they built hotels at all the major stops. They would be in Rock Creek for only a few months while the hotel they were building not far from the town was built and opened for business. The family had decided to travel and stay together because of the war and Rock Creek seemed like a nice little town.

Buck had walked into the dance about eighteen months ago and stopped in his tracks causing Lou to walk right into his back. There, on the other side of the dance floor, stood three of the most beautiful women Buck had ever laid eyes on; sisters. The oldest was on the arm of a handsome Calvary Officer in full dress uniform replete with sword. The youngest was attracting the attention of all the older school boys and the middle sister appeared to be just a bit younger than Buck. She was wearing a simple burgundy coloured dress that showed her petite but well developed figure to its fullest advantage. Her ebony coloured hair, fair skin and ruby lips all served to accent the biggest pair of blue eyes Buck had ever had the fortune of looking into: her long thick eyelashes framed the almond orbs perfectly. Kid had looked over Buck's shoulder and, risking Lou's elbow in his ribs, whispered "Wow, she's a beauty," into Buck's ear. Those words were followed immediately by an "ooofff" as the elbow found its mark.

Buck had danced with several of the women he knew that night just so he could get near the newcomer on the dance floor. Lou grew frustrated as her attempts to get Buck to go over to speak with the young women were met with excuse after excuse about why he wasn't right for her. Finally Lou took matters into her own hands and, to Buck's horror, walked up to the trio of young woman and introduced herself, welcoming them to her town. Buck had tried to escape but luck was not on his side when Kid caught him and dragged him back to their table. Lou spoke with the women for several minutes until the music started back up and another young man from town asked the young lady for a dance.

Lou returned to their table and began speaking. "Her name is Olivia Hawkins; those are her sisters Vilma and Shirley. And Mr. Cross she asked who you were; seems you caught her eye too. She loves a man with long hair." Lou paused as Buck turned crimson and Kid laughed out loud. "I invited her and her family out to our place Sunday for dinner. They've only been in town a week or so and haven't really met anyone. You WILL be there Buck, no excuses. Just think of how stupid you'll look meeting her hog tied on the parlor floor because if I have to do that I will." Lou smiled sweetly at Buck and he shivered. This was no idle threat, he could all too easily see himself lying on the floor tied and gagged waiting for Olivia to arrive.

He was still envisioning Lou carrying out her threat when he was startled out of his reverie by a woman's voice. "Excuse me, Mr. Cross?"

Buck turned and there stood Olivia Hawkins, inches away from him. Come on Buck think of something witty and cleaver to say..... "Yes....can I help you?" Yup, that was it, now she's sure you're an idiot.

"My name is Olivia Hawkins and this is one of my favorite songs. Your friend Louise told me it's one of yours too. I hope you don't think I'm being too forward but this is a Sadie Hawkins dance so.... Would you do me the honor?"

Buck was about to say no when a finger poked him sharply in the small of his back. That's gonna leave a mark he thought but "It would be my pleasure" rolled out of his mouth and somehow his feet actually began to move.

~*~*~

They were married seven months later and according to the doctor six months from now they would welcome their first child. Olivia's family had frowned upon the union at first but soon got to know Buck and admired him for all he had built for himself. My Hawkins was surprised when Buck didn't ask for Olivia's dowry and instead Buck offered him five of the most stunningly handsome examples of horseflesh he'd ever seen, as a gift for allowing Buck to have Olivia's hand in marriage. He had assumed Buck only wanted Olivia's money and realized how wrong he was. Buck truly loved his daughter, she loved him completely, and the marriage had been readily agreed to.

Kid and Buck had attended the annual horse auction in Saint Joe's, almost a year after the last one, and again the Orphan Train was there. Buck's heart nearly broke when he saw the same three children standing off to the side, ignored by all the families. This time he didn't ride by.

"I'll be right back Kid; I just want to speak to those kids." Buck dismounted and handed Kid the reigns. He walked up to the children but had no idea what he was going to say. Olivia was home, pregnant with their first child and here he was thinking about three more. "Hi, my name's Buck Cross, what's yours?"

The oldest of the three protectively pulled the two smaller children against him and looked Buck over before answering. "I'm Tommy, this is my brother Danny and my sister Joanne. We saw you last year, you rode away then." It was a statement not an accusation but Buck felt guilty anyway.

"How old are you, Tommy. Where are you from?" Buck noticed the child was more mature then his small stature would lead someone to assume.

"I'm almost six, Danny's four and Joanne's only two but Danny and me will work real hard for you....really mister. I promised Momma we'd stay together." Tommy's eyes were pleading with Buck.

"Excuse me...You in the vest...." Buck turned toward the gruff voiced man.

"Are you speaking to me?" Buck didn't like the man right away and the children seemed to shy away from him.

"Yes, I don't recall seeing you at the screening. Do you have your papers Mr....." The man hesitated waiting for Buck to give his name.

"Cross, Buck Cross, and you are?" Buck thought briefly about putting his hand out for the man to shake but rejected the idea. The man obviously found him distasteful.

"I'm Brother Robert, I'm in charge of these children and I don't remember you." The man offered no further information.

"I was just riding by and these children caught my eye. I would like to know how someone would go about giving them a home. " Buck was annoyed with the man but tried to stay calm. Kid had tied up the horses and joined Buck.

"Yes, just how would someone adopt these children?" Kid didn't like the man anymore than Buck.

"Ah, good afternoon to you sir, I'm afraid you've missed our screening committee meeting this morning but I'm sure that if you and your wife were interested in a child I might be able to work something out." Brother Robert was looking around behind Kid.

"My wife isn't here if that's who you're looking for and you still haven't answered my friend's question." Kid's eyes narrowed as he spoke.

Brother Robert ignored Buck and looked at Kid. "These children are from the New York Children's Aid Society and we have very strict rules. Potential parents must pass our screening process and then agree to several conditions. You must agree to raise the boys as if they were your own children until they are fourteen, that means schooling them, feeding them and raising them with a good Christian background." He stopped when he saw the glance between Kid and Buck. "I'm sure you'd qualify Mr....I'm sorry I didn't catch your name."

"I didn't give it to you." Kid's anger was quickly rising to match Buck's.

"Do you have an application, Brother Robert?" Buck asked quietly, his anger simmering, barely under control. Another man was walking over to join Brother Robert while a woman collected the children that were left and directed them back on the train. Tommy turned his brother and sister toward the train but looked over his shoulder at Buck. The tears in the little boy's eyes tore at Buck's heart.

"I'm afraid we don't give out applications for adoption as we're leaving, here's a schedule of the stops we'll be making. If you meet us at one of those stops an hour or so before the children get off the train you can fill out an application." The other man had addressed both Kid and Buck but offered no real encouragement. As the men turned to leave Kid over heard Brother Robert say something about the heathen wanting the half-breed kids.

Unfortunately, Buck also heard him and Kid grabbed his arm just in time. "Now is not the time, Buck. Let it go for now, were you just going to bring home those kids? I don't know about Olivia but if I did that to Lou I better have someplace else to call home until she cooled off, if ever...." Kid chuckled trying to lighten up Buck's mood.

"I guess you're right, I know you're right, but those kids, nobody wants them...." Buck's voice trailed off as the train whistle blew and the huge engine belched smoke into the air as it slowly left the station.

Two days later Buck and Olivia sat down to dinner and Buck decided to ask her how she felt about adopting the children. "....when the oldest one turned and looked at me I wanted to cry. Honey, I know it's a lot to ask but will you think about it? We have so much and they have nothing. We've got plenty of room and...." Buck realized he was begging and his wife was just looking at him rubbing her tummy; the pregnancy was just starting to really show.

"You have the name of the agency that is caring for the children now right?" Olivia paused, waiting for him to nod or speak, he nodded. "This is a bit much for me right now, how do we know we'll be good parents for our own child. I'm a little scared to be honest."

Buck reached across the table and touched his wife's hand. "Yeah, me too, you're right. I'm sorry."

"You and the other riders were never adopted were you?" Olivia asked quietly after a few moments of silent chewing.

"Not formally, Teaspoon took us all in and treated us as his own. We were all too old anyway. Ike and I were never even considered for adoption at the mission school, Ike was bald and mute and I was.....Kiowa. In our own way we were all a bunch of misfits but we became a family. Emma and Rachel both loved and cared for us. I remember Emma once said we weren't orphans as long as she was around. Rachel never said that but she treated us as family." Buck paused and looked at his wife. "Why?"

"Because I can't believe how good you all are. Lou is a wonderful mother and friend, Kid is like you, hard working, a tad rough around the edges sometimes but both of you have hearts of gold. Jimmy, well he puts on a good front but he's just a big sweetie and then there's Cody....What?" Olivia stopped as Buck began laughing.

~*~*~

The next few months passed quickly and Buck and Olivia welcomed Stephen Marcus Cross a month earlier than expected.

"He's a handsome little devil, that son of yours, looks a bit like his Grandpa...." Olivia's father proclaimed as he proudly held his first grandchild.

Buck laughed and hugged Olivia. "I kinda thought he looked like his beautiful Momma!"

"Well of course he does who do you think gave her those good looks. Ohh... sorry Honey!" Mr. Hawkins said pretending to be in pain.

Mrs. Hawkins had given her husband a playful tap on the arm at the remark. "My turn, you lost him for that one!" The doting Grandmother took her grandson from her husband. "Are you sure he's a month early, Doctor. He's huge! Oh and what a grip!" Stephen had her finger firmly in his tiny hand.

The Doctor had just finished cleaning up and was preparing to leave. "He's a good size but both mother and baby are perfect. Well, I've done my job here I think I'll head back to town. Congratulations Buck, Olivia and to you too Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, I'll check back in a couple of days."

"When can they travel Doctor?" Mr. Hawkins asked.

"Excuse me?" "Beg Pardon?" Both Buck and Olivia asked at the same time talking over each other.

"Papa Hawkins will want to meet his great grandchild. I don't think he's up to making the trip here but if maybe you could go there? You know we bought that town house in St. Louis..." Mrs. Hawkins asked hopefully.

"I'd wait until spring to make a long trip but it's really up to Olivia. Good day folks" the doctor donned his coat and hat then left.

Stephen grew stronger by the day and both Buck and Olivia thrived as parents. The ranch was doing well and the decision was made to go to St. Louis for Easter. The elder Mr. Hawkins was thrilled beyond words at the prospect of meeting his great grandson. He insisted that the family would have a photograph taken to commemorate the occasion. Buck bought a new suit for the trip and Olivia had a new dress made that complemented Buck and Stephen's new 'Fancy Travlin' Clothes' as Teaspoon dubbed them.

The trip to Saint Louis was pleasant and Stephen only got sick once on the train ride. They arrived to a joyous welcome from Olivia's parents and the surprise news that her oldest sister Vilma had eloped over Christmas with her Calvary Officer and they were expecting a child. Buck and Olivia had a private laugh when they found out that the child was due only six months after the marriage. She was sure her father would throw a fit when the child arrived early. Buck commented that even though Stephen was a month early and very well developed for a baby born early he was still born eleven months after they had been married.

The family was just about to board a carriage to take them to their townhouse when a man passing out leaflets handed one to Buck and another to Mrs. Hawkins. Buck read the paper quickly, paled slightly and crumpled the paper before Olivia could see it.

"Buck, what was that? You look upset...." Olivia asked as she attempted to settle a struggling Stephen on her lap.

"Nothing, it was nothing, I'm fine, sorry. Do you want me to take him?" Buck reached for his son who wanted to play.

"It's one of those Orphan Trains they stop here about every six months or so, it says they'll be here tomorrow. I usually go down and make a donation to the Children's Aid Society when they come through. Those poor little tykes, all alone in this world...." Mrs. Hawkins handed the paper to Olivia to read; Buck looked out the window.

Olivia folded the leaflet and placed it in her purse. She planned on having a little talk with her husband in private. "Do you ever think about taking a child in Mother?"

"Oh, your father and I are too old and you and your sister are providing us with grandchildren to spoil, No dear....maybe if we were younger....." Mrs. Hawkins mused as she handed Stephen his toy duck which had somehow managed to make its way into her purse. "Oh, here's Quackers! Looks like Stephen is cutting his teeth on it!"

"He loves this thing; Teaspoon carved it out of Oak so it would stand up to being used for just that purpose..." Olivia laughed as the duck went from her mother's hand right into Stephen's mouth. "It floats too so he takes it in his bath!"

Dinner was a lively affair everyone wanting to catch up on everyone else's lives since the family had last been altogether. Shirley was planning a late spring wedding to a young man she had met at a dance while she'd been at finishing school. The young man was an upper classman at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and would be graduating in a few weeks as an officer. Olivia and Buck were thrilled and honored when they were asked to be in the wedding party. Buck joked that he felt out ranked with two officers in the family. Olivia assured him that he was everything she could ever want in a husband, besides he'd given her parents the first grandson.

They were lying in bed that night with Olivia nestled comfortably in Buck's arms when she lifted her head up and kissed him. "Hmm, what was that for?" He asked sleepily.

"I think you and I need to talk." Olivia suppressed a smile when she felt a shiver pass through Buck's body. "It's not bad Buck.... I just need to know something."

"I love you, am I in trouble for something? Did I do something wrong? I'm sorry whatever it is...." He'd become instantly wide awake, Olivia silenced him with another kiss.

"No, silly, but you sound awfully guilty is there something I should know about?" Buck shook his head. "I want to know if you want more children." Her finger traced the outline of his jaw.

"Yes, but I thought we talked about this.... You don't want to..... here, in your parents' house?!" Buck looked a little worried.

"Hmmm, why not?" Olivia kissed him deeply and he finally relaxed. "But that's not what I want to talk about or do....yet! I want us to go meet that orphan train tomorrow and if those three children are still there we won't leave without them." Olivia felt Buck stiffen slightly, "Don't you still want them?"

"I do but....but how did you know? I haven't said anything for months...." Buck looked at his wife as if she developed a third eye. "I know Stephen's a lot for you to care for, are you sure you want three more?"

"You talk about them in your sleep, Tommy, Danny and Joanne right?" Buck nodded mutely. "You first saw them what almost two years ago? You said yourself that no one would want three children let alone three children of Indian Heritage. You heard my father tonight, Mrs. Gottlibe's daughter just got married and they want to start their lives in a new location. They could work for us, he's good with horses and she's a wonderful cook.....What can it hurt to look?" Olivia kissed Buck again and he knew he'd do anything she asked of him.

The next morning dawned bright and clear, after a breakfast of fresh fruit and pancakes with whipped butter, Olivia and Buck left Stephen in the care of her older sister so she could practice taking care of a baby. The house keeper, Mrs. Gottlibe promised to keep an eye on Stephen and intervene before either Vilma or the child got into too much trouble.

The couple arrived at the train depot and followed signs to the room where the potential parents were being screened by agents of the Children's Aid Society. Buck and Olivia were both dressed well. Buck wore a dark gray suit, with a waist coat, and tie while Olivia had on a lovely dove gray day dress, they made a striking couple. They were given an application and sent to a table to fill it out. They were shocked to find it contained rules only for the adoption of a boy child. Olivia left Buck filling out the form and asked an agent what if she wanted more than one child or a girl.

"Girls don't need a form and here's another form for a second boy. We have several sets of brothers if you want them...." The man answered with out looking up.

Olivia went back to Buck more confused and a little angry. "I don't like that man, he's rude and ignorant." Olivia pointed out the man and Buck paled when he saw the man, it was the same Brother Robert that had been so condescending toward him the last year.

"That's the same man I told you about, you know the one that didn't like me because I'm Kiowa." Buck was silently hoping that the children would already have found a home. He didn't want Olivia to see him humiliated again like that or for her to be snubbed because of him.

"Hmmm, what does the form say we need to do?" Olivia looked over the one she was holding.

"We have to care for the boys, get this wording..."in sickness and in health" didn't we have those in our marriage vows?" Olivia smiled and nodded. "OK, we have to send them to school during the entire school year until they reach fourteen and then only during the winter until they reach sixteen. They have to attend Church and Sunday School and be retained as a member of our family until they reach seventeen.....Then pay them wages until they are eighteen. What are they expecting us to do with the children, use them as slaves? We have to write the society yearly and let them know how the children are doing. I guess they want to keep track of the children ....But what about girls? Don't they count?" Buck mused as he read the application out loud.

"Mr. and Mrs. Cross?" Both Buck and Olivia startled as their names were called and they were directed to an agent's table for a quick interview. Buck let out a sigh of relief when he saw it wasn't Brother Robert who'd called them over.

"I'm Buck Cross and this is my wife Olivia," The man rose and shook Buck's hand after Buck held the chair for Olivia to sit.

When Buck was seated the man asked, "Why are you here today?"

"We have been blessed with a beautiful child of our own and want to expand our family." Olivia explained. She went on to explain that Buck had encountered the train before and met some wonderful children, told her about them and this was their opportunity to see about adopting them. Buck raised an eyebrow as his wife spoke, he didn't realize she'd listened that closely to him.

"I doubt that the children you met, Mr. Cross, will still be there but there are several wonderful candidates who may be to your liking." The man droned on and the couple exchanged a glance. They hadn't mentioned that they were looking for any specific children. They were told the train was arriving and they followed all the families out to the platform where the children were to be presented.

The children were led onto the platform either one at a time or in small family groups. Brother Robert told a little about each child and encouraged the families to look each child over. Buck was horrified that the children were being poked and prodded; some of them had their teeth examined like a horse at auction. He was both saddened and relieved to see that Tommy, Danny and Joanne were not among the children that were presented as available.

Buck and Olivia were just leaving when Buck saw a familiar small face. Tommy was being led forcibly down the platform and away from the train by a man loudly proclaiming him as his property now. Danny and Joanne were still on the train crying, hands and faces pressed to the window. Buck reacted quickly and ran after the man. He reached the man and child just as Tommy bit the man's hand which he'd clapped over the boy's face to keep him from screaming for his brother and sister. Buck caught Tommy as the man violently shoved the child away from him.

"That little brat bit me...I want a different boy, Brother Robert!" The man spat at Tommy. "You can't pay me enough to take that little half-breed, Watch out buddy, he bites!" The man never even looked at Buck and stormed away toward the preacher.

"LET ME GO!" Tommy struggled against Buck as Olivia rushed up to meet her husband. The child was crying and trying desperately to get away from Buck. "Let me go, Please...Let go of me..." Tommy repeated over and over through his tears.

"His brother and sister are still on the train, that's them in the window." Buck pointed the children out to Olivia. As Tommy heard Buck's words he stopped struggling and looked at the man holding him. "It's OK Tommy; you're all going to be together." Buck spoke soothingly to the child as Olivia mounted the steps to the car the children were in. Buck knelt down and hugged the child. He used his handkerchief to wipe away the tears from the little boy's face. "My wife will get Danny and Joanne see...." Buck pointed toward the window the children had been in, it was now empty. "Here, blow" Buck held the handkerchief so the child could blow his nose.

Tommy smiled up at Buck. "I knew you'd come back for us...My Momma told me you'd be here. She comes to me at night when I'm asleep... is that pretty lady your wife?" Tommy hugged Buck then took his hand as they walked to the stairs Olivia was using to exit the train. Buck helped her and the children off the train.

Olivia noticed that the three children were not dressed as nicely as the others; their clothing was either too small or too big. They only had one bag between them and Joanne didn't even have a doll. "Is this all you have Honey?" Olivia asked Tommy; he nodded and dropped his eyes to the ground as Brother Robert approached them.

The commotion had caused several people to turn and look in their direction a small crowd was gathering. Olivia spotted her parents walking toward them but before she could say anything Brother Robert erupted. "Get back in that train, I'll deal with you later, what were you thinking, biting that man." He raised his hand to strike Tommy and Buck grabbed the preacher's arm. Her parents stopped just behind and to the side of the couple.

"You will NOT hit this child!" Buck snarled.

"Unhand me, I will discipline these children as I see fit..." Brother Robert finally looked at Buck. "Don't I know you?"

Buck released the hold he had on the man's arm and straightened his suit. "My wife and I wish to adopt these three children." Buck hated the preacher more and more as the repulsive man looked Olivia over, licked his lips and smiled, he obviously liked the ladies. Olivia was disgusted and Buck's blood was boiling. "I want these children, do I qualify or not?" Buck's temper was barely in check as he stepped between the preacher and his wife and the children.

Brother Robert hesitated and then looked Buck in the face. "You're that half-breed I chased away from these brats last year. No, you most certainly do not qualify, you filthy heathen. We insist that these children be raised in a household with good Christian Morals!" The priest turned his attention to Olivia. "I don't know how much he's paying you to pretend he's your husband but I'm not buying it.... Hello Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins." Brother Robert noticed them standing behind Olivia.

He brushed past Olivia and reached out his hand to her father. "Mr. Hawkins what a pleasure to see you again; and your lovely wife, Mrs. Hawkins..." The preacher reached for her hand; she crossed her arms.

"What if I wanted these three children?" Mrs. Hawkins asked with a smile.

"I have several other children who would be better candidates than these half-breeds; no mixed blood. They'd be better suited to your standing in society. The oldest just bit a man I think you'd find him rather undesirable."

"Hmmm, I see...." Mrs. Hawkins began.

"Brother Robert is there a reason you are being rude to this young couple who are very willing and obviously able to take these three so called "brats" off your hands?" Mr. Hawkins winked and smiled at the children when Brother Robert turned to look at them.

"I, well, we have to think of the children's welfare and I'm afraid they will come to harm. Who knows what that half-breed is planning to do to innocent children for all I know...." Brother Robert's words were cut off as Mr. Hawkins stepped beside Buck.

"That's it! I've heard enough of your pontificating; I'd like to introduce you to my daughter Olivia and my SON-IN-LAW Buck, her HUSBAND and I believe these children are my future grandchildren. Do you have a problem with that?" Mr. Hawkins had stepped forward and picked up a crying Joanne in his arms, snuggling the small girl to his shoulder and patting her back lovingly. "We do not use the phrase half-breed in our home we find it rather distasteful and these children will be very welcome in my society."

"I think the Children's Aid Society will be very interested to know the type of man that they have entrusted with the morals and Christian upbringing of these young angels." Mrs. Hawkins took the paperwork from Olivia and thrust it at the stunned and very silent preacher. She reached down and took Danny's hand; Olivia had the other.

"Are we all set here? May I take my family home?" Buck asked calmly; he wanted nothing more then to pummel this distasteful man. Brother Robert nodded and Buck, holding fast to Tommy's hand, directed his family toward the street and their waiting carriage. The crowd parted as the group approached and someone started to clap soon the whole crowd was clapping. Both Buck and Mr. Hawkins were stopped several times as someone wanted to shake their hands or pat them on the back while Olivia and Mrs. Hawkins received several hugs; many people patted the children on the head or hugged them. The adults had a hard time suppressing smiles while the children were a bit overwhelmed by the attention. Brother Robert was not a well liked man.

"Where are you taking us?" Tommy asked as soon as they were all seated in the carriage and headed away from the train station.

"You're going to our home here in the city and in a few weeks you'll go back to Rock Creek with your new parents." Mrs. Hawkins had already fallen in love with the three waifs. They were all thin and poorly dressed, but they were relatively clean, except for tear streaked faces, and their hair was combed.

"Are you really our new momma and papa?" Tommy asked as he studied the adults; neither Joanne nor Danny had spoken a word.

"I guess so, if you want us, that is...." Buck had his arm around the young boy's shoulders. "Tommy you mentioned your mother, do you know what happened to your parents?"

"Our father died and momma couldn't take care of us 'cos she was sick after Joanna was borned. I dream 'bout Momma all the time. What do we call you?" Tommy looked confused. Joanne and Danny were both nodding listening to every word their brother spoke.

Buck and Olivia looked at each other they really hadn't thought much about what would happen after they got the children. Mrs. Hawkins came to their rescue. "Well, you already have a momma and you can't have two of them can you?" The children shook their heads. "I called my mother 'Mum' or Mummy when I was little, you could use that and my father was 'Pa' we called him Pappy sometimes too but, now, I don't know about you, but I don't think Mr. Cross looks like a 'Pappy' do you?" The children all looked at Buck who actually blushed! Tommy smiled and then began to giggle soon all three children were giggling and all the adults were smiling.

The carriage stopped in front of the Hawkins' townhouse, Buck exited first, followed by his father-in-law who quietly whispered to Buck. "Meet me in my study once everyone is settled, I need to speak with you." The women and children all needed help getting out of the carriage and the men were more than willing to oblige.

Mrs. Gottlibe hastened and put on water for baths and instructed her staff to prepare the spare bedroom for the children. Olivia and Mrs. Hawkins made plans to go shopping for some proper clothing and toys for the children after everyone had a good lunch. Buck and Mr. Hawkins left the dining room unnoticed once the children were eating and getting to know the two women.

"Buck I feel like I did you an injustice back there." Mr. Hawkins started to speak as soon as the door was closed.

"I...Don't...." Buck wasn't sure where this was going and was a bit tongue tied he felt he was about to be given a lecture about the children and how he'd put Olivia in a bad position. Mr. Hawkins wasn't someone you wanted to be on the bad side of.

"Let me speak Buck, please sit, I'd offer you a brandy but you still don't drink do you?" Buck shook his head, depending on the way this lecture went he might reconsider. "You're a good man Buck and you have proved that time and time again. I honestly could not have wished for a better husband for my daughter. If either of the other two are half the man you are I will be very pleased. Between you and me I know that Vilma had to get married and I'm not happy the wedding night happened before the marriage but at least they finally got married." Buck smiled at his father-in-law's candor. He could only imagine the lecture that couple would get in a couple of months.

"As I was saying, I feel like I did you an injustice back there at the train. I know you would have preferred to handle Brother Robert yourself and I should have allowed that to happen. I'm afraid I felt that Brother Robert's words were a personal attack on my family." Mr. Hawkins held up his hand silencing Buck before he spoke. "I don't just mean what he said about Olivia but about you too. You are the son I never had and always wanted. You and I are very much alike; we are both self-made, successful men. I know my other daughters are with men who are wealthy in their own rights but you started with nothing. I admire you Buck. What you did today, bringing those three children into our family, giving them a chance for a much better life than they probably ever hoped for; a better life than you had. That takes courage and love, Olivia would never have thought about adopting children before she met you and today she became a mother of four and I'm sure you'll have more together too." Mr. Hawkins winked at Buck who promptly blushed all the way to his toes.

"I, um, thank-you sir, Olivia and I talked about having more children just last night. I think I'd like to wait until Stephen is a little older and the others have settled in a bit before we start adding more." Buck hadn't been expecting anything like this at all.

"You haven't touched Olivia's dowry at all, I know you need things and I know that you prefer to work for them yourself but please know that the money is there for you to use. You have four children now Buck...don't ever make my mistake of pride, I almost told Olivia she couldn't marry you simply because you were part Indian and had no way to give her the life she was used to. I was so very wrong. You've taught me more in the last few years than I learned my entire life before that." Mr. Hawkins was interrupted by the sound of running feet coming to the door and then silence. "I think your little family has finished lunch, are you going shopping with them?"

"I'm not sure I can get out of it....." Buck laughed as Mr. Hawkins opened the door.

Three small faces looked up at him with huge smiles. "Mummy said to tell you she'll be down in a minute with Stephen and then we can go....Who is Stephen? Where are we going? Grammy showed us our room....and we all got to jump on the bed....and we each got to take a bath with clean water.....and we had cookies...." Tommy was clearly excited about the events that had taken place so far.

"And I had TWO bowls of soup and no one yelled at me." Danny spoke for the first time that Buck had heard.

"It's nice to hear your voice Danny I wasn't sure you really had one!" Buck laughed as he playfully tweaked the child's nose causing all three to giggle.

"I guess you all had a good morning then?" Olivia was coming down the stairs carrying Stephen who was just up from his nap. "Children I'd like you to meet your brother Stephen; he's almost five months old."

"My Baby!" Joanne declared the moment she saw the infant; everyone laughed.

Dinner that evening was a festive affair, Tommy, Danny and Joanne were amazed at the amount of food that was given to them to eat, or not. They were all dressed in their new clothes and on their best behavior. Joanne insisted that her new doll sit with her at the table, no one objected. Everyone knew the children would have a bit of adjusting to do but Buck and Olivia felt they could handle the problems three young strangers would encounter as they became part of the family. Papa Hawkins insisted that another photograph be taken with the newest members of the family included. After dinner, and dessert, the children were put to bed and to their delight Papa Hawkins read them a story.

This would become a routine every time the family visited St. Louis. There were photographs taken each time and Papa Hawkins would tell the children a bedtime story. Buck and Olivia eventually had a total of ten children and when asked who was adopted and who wasn't they claimed they couldn't remember! Sadly Papa Hawkins only lived to welcome eight of their children but the tradition of the family photograph continued and Grandpa Hawkins gladly took over the duties of storyteller; with three daughters he had twenty-six grandchildren to entertain.

Finis

A/N: The Orphan Trains were the brain child of the founder of the Children's Aid Society, Charles Loring Brace. They ran from 1853 to 1929 stopped at 45 different states and carried as many as 250,000 children from New York and the other large New England cities to families in the western US, Canada and Mexico. Not all of the children were orphans but all were from poor families living hand to mouth on the streets. While I took some liberties with the characters, the treatment of the children and the application requirements are taken from first hand accounts and the Children's Aid Society website. To learn more about this fascinating time in our history please check out the following web sites:
www.childrensaidsociety.org
www.orphantrainriders.com
www.kancoll.org/articles/orphans

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