Job looked at his daughter. At twelve, she was strong and a constant reminder of her mother. He couldn't look into her eyes and tell her "No," though his brother Luff shook his head, "Don't think it's a good idea bringing a girl with us. It's liable to be a hard trek and we'll probably encounter Indians as well. They might take a liking to her beautiful hair thinking that it would make a nice scalp."
"Ah, you can't scare me, Uncle Luff. Indians are as likely to attack here in our community as out on the trail. You told me before that we can't sit around and wait for them to lift our scalps, that we have to trust God's will. Remember my name is Ruth and whither thou goest, I will go..."
"Alright, girl, you can come," her Pa conceded. "But I won't have no whining when it gets hard. This won't be no picnic."
Her brother winked at her. They were as close as two peas in a pod, especially since Ma died. They had been left alone much while their Pa and Uncle Luff went hunting. Once they'd left them for a week. No matter, the two kept the fires burning and the cabin swept. Her brother spent much time practice shooting. They ate a lot of rabbits that week.
The men had much success with hunting. Ruth even was getting good at skinning the pelts.
"If we could find a good, dry cave, we could store these and not have to pack them all back at once," Luff observed.
"They'd more 'n likely get stolen," her father replied.
"Leave the young'uns to watch them while we look around a little more and go back to get the rest of our family."
"I don't know that I feel good about splitting up," their father argued.
"It'd go easier on the animals to not have to carry us all the extra miles," their uncle reasoned.
"Let's leave it to the Lord. If we find a good, dry cave, we can consider it. Haven't seen any fresh Indian sign. This looks like a good place to settle."
Job Junior and Ruth exchanged glances. Ruth was weary, but didn't like the thought of being left behind. No telling what could happen.
The next morning they came upon a huge, dry cave. Many campfires had blackened the walls obviously a much used shelter.
"What'd I tell you. This is perfect. We can leave the kids and the pelts and give the boy a musket to hunt with, and we'll be free to explore just a little bit further before heading back. Looks like the Lord provided," Luff gloated.
"Well, it is nice and protected here. The kids would be able to stay dry and have plenty of fresh water. Son, you could hunt and fish until we get back. I'm trusting you to take care of your sister."
"But Pa..." Job Junior protested but was stopped by the look on his father's face.
"It will be for only a week or two. You'll be fine same as always."
Evidently, the two men's explorations were more extensive than they thought because it was nigh on to October when they came back to catch the trail along the river where the cave lay. An early winter had set in and their way was blocked by snow. The children had already been alone for two months and now would have to spend the winter as well.
"I'm afraid the children will have run out of gunpowder by now. Maybe some trapper has come upon them and will bring them back to the village. Obviously that cave has been used by many a hunter. I'll just have to trust the Lord for their care. It is the best I can do till the snow melts," sighed their father.
"I'm hungry Job. Can you try to hunt. Maybe you can shoot some geese or a turkey."
He was grim faced not wanting to tell Ruth the truth. He was out of gunpowder. Now the fish were scarce. He didn't know how they would survive. They had waited for the men too long until there was too much snow to make it out now.
"I'll gather more firewood while you fish, sis. I only have powder for one more shot and I'm saving it for protection." Most of the time they huddled under the pelts and fed the fire making it blaze higher when the wolves howled. He slept in the day while she slept at night to keep the fire going. They were getting weaker surviving on the few nuts he had found while out gathering wood.
Ruth nudged him awake. "Someone's coming Job, wake up! I hear horses."
He sat up grabbing for his gun. He had wasted his last shot trying for a rabbit hunger-driven but hunger had made his aim too shaky. Still, he wanted whoever it was to think he had a loaded gun. He hoped to God it was his Pa and Uncle Luff.
"Indians," they both whispered together. Job knew it would do no good to raise his musket on them.
A surprised group of scouts shouted back down their line in an unknown dialect. The party waited only a minute before crossing the stream towards them. They gestured questions. The children did their best to answer using their hands. Job counted how many days with his fingers since the two men had left. Ruth rubbed her stomach to show her hunger. The fear of starvation was worse than the fear of these Indians. One brave pointed to the stack of pelts and called a woman forward. From her basket he reached down and let corn kernels drip off his hands. It was enough to make Ruth drool.
The Indians made themselves at home in the cave with them. Fortunately, it was large enough for the small tribe. The woman showed Ruth how to grind the corn and cook it. Once they had finally eaten their fill, the brave brought forth the makings for a bow and arrow. He took Job out to show him how to use it. In exchange, they wanted some of the pelts the children didn't use to stay warm. It seemed that this was a trail to an annual migration for winter lodgings.
The next morning they were gone, but the children had been unharmed, given plenty of corn, and a bow and arrow for Job to hunt with. The Indians had treated them with respect and the children were grateful, even sorry to see them leave.
"I don't even know their names," sighed Ruth.
"Thank the Lord they were friendly."
The children survived. It was March before they heard the shout from their Pa coming up the trail. Ruth ran past her brother and leaped into her Pa's arms. Luff embraced Job. All were crying.
"I didn't know if I'd find you still alive. I'm so sorry, children. I never prayed so much in my life since we found we were snowed out."
The children eagerly told them how they were kept alive by the visit from the Indians.
Finally Luff said, "I think we need to make a church here someday. It is a place of God's providence. It's a sign that we'll be back to settle in these parts."
"But can we go home now? I'm a little tired of the cave," Ruth begged.
The men laughed with the joy of God's goodness reunited at last.
"Yes, Ruth, I'm ready to go home. In the meanwhile, where you lodge, I will lodge...even if it's in this cave for one last night."
In the years that followed, Luff did preach there in the Cow Marsh Seventh Day Baptist Church, a sanctuary in the midst of a wilderness. From their immigration from the wilds of Wales to Delaware to the Welsh Baptist settlement purchased from William Penn, the Meredith's joined with other believers in the New World.
Luff and Job Meredith were not in immediate Meredith kin, but were related to the Merediths of Welsh stock somewhere back in the old country.
*The pictures are not actual family pictures.