Part 9. The wagon train
Two days later at sunrise he was about to leave. He was packing his saddle bag in the barn when Moon appeared at the door. Hed told her about going and shed stared at him while he talked. He wanted to ask her to come. It was going to be a couple of weeks and he didnt want to be away from her so long. But he didnt ask.
Moon had listened to him. She felt bad about the wagon train being attacked. It wasnt Indians but it still made her feel bad. Shed thought about what hed said about being away two weeks. Two weeks! She had grown fond of this gentle man, who talked and shared all his thoughts with her, hed shown her where to find fish, where the wild flowers grew, all around the area, shown her the beautiful places he went when he wanted to be alone. That had made her feel privileged to share his special places with her was an honour she knew. She showed him where shed hunted down the deer. He approved. A good place for hunting.
She could not explain it to herself but she knew that two weeks away from this man would be hard to bear. He had said we would be going. By that he meant him and his friends.
Shed had time to think about it and this morning shed risen early, tidied the cabin and got ready to leave if hed let her.
As she entered the barn, the mare looked up. That made Vin turn. He smiled when he saw her with a bag. She looked unsure but when he smiled it made it OK. She could go!
It aint gonna be easy, yknow. Them folks are fools! She smiled at him. For the first time she smiled easily at him sharing the joke from two days before. He smiled back, comfortable, assured it would be OK as long as she was with him.
They rode out and met the wagon train just about to leave town. The other regulators were gathered round Chris.
Whats she doin here? asked Buck just before the others could open their mouths.
Dya think its a good idea, Vin said Chris.
She wants to come and I aint sayinno. You got a problem with it? It was a challenge to them all. She can look after herself.
As long as we dont meet her pursuers! Ezra reasoned.
Id be mighty glad ifn we do. Maybe then we can settle it. Vin said.
We aint got time to argue. Vin, just watch yer back, pard.
Ill be watching all our backs!
I dont doubt that! said JD.
So the wagon train moved out. Nathan had decided the old man could travel. The child was fit too but he was going to keep an eye on her.
Ten wagons, three thoroughbred horses and a dozen cattle left with seven men sworn to protect them. The travellers eyed Moon with suspicion at first then found they had their kin to worry about. They had been reassured by the seven men saying they would go with them and protect them, but it was still a worry.
Belle Brady was complaining to her husband. Youre a fool, Dan Brady. We should go back. We cant trust these people. That Indian is going to be nothing but trouble you mark my words, Dan Brady.
Weve come too far to go back now Belle. That judge back there said they would be OK and I believe him.
You believed them back east. Youll be fine, they said, it aint that bad, they said. She said sarcastically. Now look. Youre a fool, Dan Brady!
Vin heard this. He was riding past at the time, Moon at his side. He smiled at Moon and she looked back at him. Told ya! she smiled back.
Part 10. The foal
They all got into a routine in the first few days. Rise early, eat and move on until almost dark. No sign was seen of outlaws. The regulators took turns to patrol at night and they rode close though the day. Usually it fell upon Vin to scout ahead.
Moon took a particular interest in one of the thoroughbred horses. She was about to foal and had to take it easy tied behind a wagon. Moon could see her time was near and checked on her often. The OBrian family got used to her being there and explained they had bought the horse to breed from and this was the mares first foal. Moon listened but made no reply.
Patrick OBrian once asked Vin as he passed, Hey, whats the matter with her? Aint got no voice?
Nope, just got nothin tsay, he replied simply.
On the fifth night out of Four Corners Moon went to the thoroughbred mare, her time was now. Vin wandered over to where the horses were tied up. He saw her feeling the mares swollen belly and shaking her head. She looked up at Vin, her eyes sad.
Somethin wrong? She nodded. Ill get Nate. and he was gone.
Nathan walked over and felt the mares belly. Looks like the foals the wrong way round and shes getting ready to drop.
They stayed with the mare all night. She was restless and uneasy, her efforts wore her out and when dawn came she was exhausted and lay down.
Moon comforted the horse all the time, whispering in her ear, breathing on her nose. It was too much for the mare. Nathan told OBrian that he would have to do something or they would lose the foal. Vin saw tears in Moons eye as Nathan worked on the mare, always Moon was there, watching, helping. The foal was finally delivered but the mare was too far gone to be saved. Nathan was about to shoot her when Moon walked over to him and put her hand on the gun he was holding.
You want to shoot her? he asked incredulous. Why?
How could she let him know she didnt want him to have the mares blood on his hands. He was a healer not a killer, unless he really had to. The mare was suffering and she needed to be shot but this was no outlaw this horse was no threat to anyone. Moon looked into Nathans eyes and tried to tell him. No words came. He stood there in front of her and as she took the gun from his hands he let it drop into hers. There was a strength in her gaze. Without moving her eyes form his she slowly walked over to the horse and shot her in the head. At the sound of the shot, one or two of the travellers had wandered over to see, then turned away in disgust at the sight. The other regulators stayed to watch what happened next.
She cried. Tears welled up and flowed down her face as she stroked the dead horse. It was done. Now there is the living to attend to. She stood up, walked past Nathan, handing him his gun back as she passed, and over to the foal. Liam, OBrians 12 year old son, was stroking the foals neck with straw, cleaning her off.
Hows she gonna live without her maw? he asked, a pleading desperate look in his eyes. Moon looked for a moment at Vin knowing how that would hit him hard. He was studying his boots like they might carry him away from the anguish that hit him.
Moon took a deep breath and exhaled. She motioned to the boy to take off his coat. He did so and she took it and wrapped it around the neck of the foal. Gently she pulled it over the eyes so the foal could not see. She mimed blowing and the boy copied her, then she pointed at the foals nose. Understanding her, Liam blew warm breath on the foal. She nodded and indicated again. Go on.
After a few moments she removed the coat and handed it back to the boy and they stood up. The foal tried to stand too. After few attempts she stood rocking and unsteady. The boy went to her and stood by her stroking her neck then wrapped his arms around her and gave her a long hug. They all stood and watched - Vin, the OBrians and Nathan. Others gathered.
Moon walked away and returned a while later with a bucket of fresh milk from one of the cows in the herd. She looked round and her gaze settled on Bucks face. She walked up to him and stood facing him. Her eyes went to his belt where he hung his gloves. Her hand reached out and took them. She looked up at him and he nodded.
With the knife shed got from Vin she cut a small slit in one of the fingers. She poured milk into it and, gathering the top of it, gave it to Liam.
Offer it to her mouth and squeeze said Vin breaking the silence, the foal needs to drink.
Liam did so but the foal wanted none of it. Liam looked up at Moon. She took his hand and placed it on the foals mane. Hand over hand they rubbed the base of the foals mane. This prompted a suckling reflex and, when offered the glove again, the foal started to drink. Again Vin was impressed by this gentle woman.
I guess youre her mama now. said Vin, his mood had returned. Moon nodded.
The group gradually dispersed leaving Moon, Vin and Liam.
Nathan said as he walked away, Never seen anything like that before.
I aint neither but I sure wont forget it
And so the wagon train moved on. Liam nursed the foal and she followed him everywhere. OBrian was pleased he had an offspring to keep breeding with and pleased the way the boy was caring for the foal.
As they moved on Moon watched Liam and the foal. Vin caught sight of her one time with a beaming smile on her face. She nodded slowly at Liam as if in approval of the boy. She caught Vins gaze and the smile went but returned when he smiled broadly back. It was just one of those moments that happened. All was well and they both felt it.
Part 11. The River
A week went past without incident. The regulators found they were actually glad Moon had come along. As soon as they stopped she set about getting a fire ready. The coffee followed soon after and she fed them all. She was always there with a plate of food when they came off watch. She tended to their horses and made sure they were watered and fed each night.
During the day she would disappear returning after a while with freshly caught bounty, meat and wild vegetables she prepared each night. Where she found it they could only guess but she was a good hunter for sure.
Vin was happy she was along too. When she wasnt out hunting she was by his side, a few yards away. Comfortable.
She was looking now into the distance, frowning. Vin was trying to figure what she was looking at. Then he saw. Over the mountains far off was a storm. Not heading their way but over the mountains. He looked at her understanding and turned Peso to ride to where Chris was.
Storm up there, Chris.
Chris hadnt noticed and looked in the direction Vin was pointing.
What does it mean? said the driver of the nearest wagon.
It means that the rain up there will swell the river down here. Theres a wide one just up ahead. He turned to the tracker. You want to go and look?
Yeh, reckon I will, just in case. Vin turned and rode off ahead.
Moon saw him go and followed, catching up with him in a short space.
Vin was glad shed come. They were at the river now. He was talking and as usual she was listening attentively.
Rivers already high. By the time they get here itll be higher. Maybe too high to cross. No way to tell how long itll take to go down. Those folks dont seem keen on setting awhile to wait.
Moon nodded. She turned her horse to look in both directions up and down the river.
You thinking there might be a better place downstream?
She shook her head and started up river. Vin followed. After about a mile they were looking at a bend which was shallow but flowing fast. Moon was about to cross but Vin told her to stop and wait. He pushed Peso on into the water. Peso was restless and unsure but moved forward. Half way across he turned back.
I think it might be OK here if they hurry up. We best get back and tell them. With that they headed back to the wagon train.
Vin explained to Chris when they reached him. Chris urged the wagon on and their pace increased.
Arriving at the place where Vin and Moon had stopped first they surveyed the scene. The water was only a little higher now. Morgan Smith, who seemed to be the spokesman for the train rode up to Chris and the boys.
Vin reckons theres a better crossing a bit up stream form here. Well head up there. Lets go!
No! this from Morgan.
We want to cross here while we can. We cant be sure its better up stream so well cross here. He rode off to the wagons and started them moving.
Chris followed and argued with him but he was adamant and by now, three of the wagons were halfway across.
The regulators had looked in surprise at each other. Well at least hes prepared to negotiate! Ezra said sarcastically.
This is not good. said Buck as he urged his horse forward to try to help steady the horses pulling the wagons.
I dont like this. I dont like this a lot! said Josiah. Best be on hand Nate!
Nathan patted his bag and said, I am. I am.
Fools! said Vin but this time there was no smile only concern in his face as he looked at Moon. She had moved her horse into the river a short way down stream. Vin frowned. What was she up to? Unnoticed by Vin, she had reached across to his saddle and unhooked his rope. With it in her hands now she was holding the mare steady in the middle of the river, water was flowing fast around them.
Vin looked back up stream where the wagons were crossing. The horses were nervous crossing and some were reluctant to get into the river being urged on by the drivers with whips. He looked back at Moon. She was steady in the river, her mare calm and trusting the woman on her back.
Vin urged Peso up river. He met the last wagon as it started to cross. Dan Brady was whipping the horses on as he pulled up. Vin grabbed the reins of the leading horse on the other side and pulled. Reluctantly the beast stepped forward and the wagon made its way on into the water.
He looked up. Nathan and Buck were leading the wagon in front of him. Chris and Josiah he could see over on the other bank pushing the drivers to move on away from the fast flowing water so the others could get out. JD and Ezra were hollering at the cattle in front of a couple of wagons ahead. He looked at Moon over the lead horses head. Still steady in the water watching the scene. Waiting.
Without warning the lead horse reared. Vin looked back. A tree stump had floated down and struck the wagon square on the side. The wagon, that had been just barely touching the riverbed was now slewing dangerously sideways away from him. He pulled again at the horses head. The wheels caught the riverbed again and started to move forward. The sudden sideways motion and sudden stop had jerked one of the twins out the back of the wagon and he was now in the water.
Billy! Belle screamed. Dan Brady, do something! Billy!
Vin took in the scene. Billy was now some way down the river heading for the spot where Moon had positioned herself. Thats why! She had the rope in her hands now and was tying one end to the saddle on the mare the other end was in her hand. As Billy got near her she jumped in the water holding tight onto the other end of the rope.
When he saw her jump in Vin pulled the lead wagon horse harder. He looked over and saw the bank coming closer. They would make it now, he thought, and left them to it. Chris and Josiah had burst into action seeing the boy first then Moon in the water they were now riding along the bank to where they were but the water was taking them downstream fast.
Vin reached the bank and headed after them. Hed watched as Moon timed her jump to meet the boy as he floated past. The boys head bobbed up and down. He wasnt going to make it. Moon was swimming towards him but the current was strong and as she got close to him she had to let go of the rope. They were together now. The mare couldnt pull them out.
The mare, now on her own, started for the bank and found her path blocked by Ezra on his horse. He caught hold of her reins, pulled in the rope and headed off after Chris and Josiah who were almost level with the two in the water. Vin was way behind those two and kicking Peso on.
On and on, head in and out of the water Moon desperately held on to the boy. The water was freezing and she felt her hands get too cold to feel anything. She was trying to keep his head above water but time and time again this meant her own head was pushed under. At one point she was under so long and she swallowed so much water she felt herself fighting for air. Just as she did, she surfaced and gasped for breath.
Then hope rose once more as an overhanging branch came into view. She almost missed it but she reached up and grabbed. It slipped through her hands as they were so cold but just at the last few inches she had hold. She clung to the child who was also gasping for breath. The water here was not deep, shallow enough to stand but she was weighed down with the child, held above her, and the cold. Things became blurred as she fought for air.
Suddenly the weight of the child was lifted off her. She thought, No! Ive lost him! Then a pair of hands grabbed hers and she was being pulled to the shore by Josiah.
Chris had seen her reach the branch and in one swift motion had dismounted, jumped into the water and grabbed the boy. Josiah followed him into the water and pulled Moon out.
Moon lay on the bank coughing up water and trying to get her bearings. On her hands and knees now, Josiah was patting her back to help her get air, she looked across at Chris leaning over the boy. He saw her and said, I think hell be fine. Nathan will check him out but hes breathing fine. Just cold and wet and wantin his mom. Billy lay in Chriss arms sobbing but alive. Chris took off his duster and wrapped the boy in it.
God be praised for saving these two souls, Thank you lord. He looked up to the sky. Moon was too tired and cold to care anymore and lay on her back again. The boy was safe! She nodded to Josiah, thanks.
When Vin rode up Josiah was carrying Billy to Chriss horse and he passed him up to Chris after he was on. Vin looked over to Moon. She was getting up onto her feet, water dripping off her. She was shaking with the cold and had her arms wrapped round her chest. There was blood coming from her hand where she had gripped the branch and the rope had slid through and burned her.
Vin moved Peso over to her, he took off his jacket and offered it to her then motioned her to get on behind him. She stepped back a pace.
Its a long walk, youre tired and cold and its about time you trust me. He reasoned.
She looked up at him then reached up taking his jacket and hand and mounted. She reached round his waist to hold on, still shaking. Vin wasnt sure if it was the cold or being on the horse with him, close to one of them for the first time. She held on loosely at first but as Peso galloped off she tightened her grip. Vin was warm.
They met Nathan up the road and she was going to hop onto her own horse and ride the rest of the way but Vin touched her forearm and said one word, Stay. So she rode back with him. Dan Brady had gotten on a horse and had ridden out to meet them too. He looked at the men, avoiding Moons face.
Billy! You OK? The boy looked into his fathers face then reached out for him, crying. Dan gathered him up and looked back at Chris. Thank you
Thank Moon. She was the one who did it.
He muttered something and rode back to the wagon.
Fool! said Vin. He and Moon glanced across at each other. She did not smile this time.
They followed on behind Dan and reached the wagon train where an anxious group of traveller had started making camp and lighting fires.
Vin dismounted and helped Moon down. He took both the horses as she got off, tied them up and ushered Moon to the nearest fire. You sit there, tonight Ill do it all. He reached up to his bedroll and drew out his blanket wrapping it gently round her shoulders. His hands lingered there a moment and she raised them slightly warming to his touch.
She looked up gratefully and her eyes sparkled. She looked so innocent and hurt that Vin almost reached down to hold her. He wanted to warm her and soothe her and chase it all away. It grieved him to see her so vulnerable. He turned sharply away and set about building up the fire. Nathan came over and asked to see her hand. Once again she shook as she held it out. He looked at her and her eyes dropped ashamed.
Ya know by now I dont bite, He set about cleaning her hand and winding a bandage round it. Take it easy will ya, he said softly, Dont go jumpinin any more rivers for a while. I just cleaned ya up! he grinned. Her head bobbed up and down. Look after her Vin, huh?
Sure will, pard. She done good today she deserves a rest tonight As Vin said it he looked up to where JD was.
JD was telling all the travellers about how Moon had saved Billys life. All listened intently looking from him to Moon and back. Belle Brady was angry, shouting at Dan. You fool. You stupid mad fool she ranted. You could have killed my boy! The rest of the bawling was lost to Vin as he noticed the travellers start wandering over to where he and Moon sat.
Oh no! he thought, you dont need a crowd. He stepped forward to stop them but they pushed past to talk to her. She backed away from them cowering near a wagon wheel.
Leave her alone! Vin said sharply.
But we only thought .. one of them started to say.
Vin cut the intruder off shoving him back, Leave her alone, I said!
They moved away looking back.
This is no good, thought Vin, Come on Moon. He gathered a few things together, offered a hand and she took it. They went to the horses, got on and rode off into the night. Chris watched them go. Watch yer back he said softly.
Moon and Vin camped out alone. He warmed some food and they ate in silence. She changed into his dry clothes. They were a little bigger than JDs but she needed to get them dry. She laid them on a rock by the fire.
I didnt think youd want to stay with all them people crowdin round.
He was right. Shed felt scared at the sight of the men approaching her and wanted to run. It was THEM all over again.
Shock was setting in and Moon shivered uncontrollably. Vin moved over to her and slowly, waiting for any sign of protest, put his arms round her. At first she tensed and then feeling too tired to struggle she relaxed and fell asleep.
Vin slept but his arms had gone numb in the night and so he laid her down and wrapped himself around her to keep warm.
They awoke at dawn. Shed slept right though the night peacefully. Vin was surprised. She was normally restless. Must have been too tired to have the nightmares hed seen on watch each night.
Packing up he said, You OK to go back now?
Yes she nodded. She looked a little pale today and was snuffling and coughing.
Well get Nathan to check ya out. Ya may be getting a cold.
Part 12. Belle Brady and the brooch
The wagon train camp was full of commotion as they rode in. Belle Brady was holding court in the middle of a group of travellers. I know it was her that took it. Shes been trouble since we started. What can you expect from a savage. She shot OBrians horse didnt she?
OBrian started to protest, But .
I want justice! she began, There she is! Search her!
Chris was trying to settle her down and put a hand out to hold her back. Now look Mrs Brady . He saw her looking over his shoulder and turned to see Vin and Moon riding into the camp.
By now the crowd was worked up. Chris and the other regulators had ridden out early to look for Vin and Moon. Buck and JD were still out there somewhere. While they were away Belle has stirred them all up. Saving a life of their own or not, stealing was another matter. She was convincing them that Moon had stolen a brooch and she was out for blood. This time her man was behind her. He believed her and so did some of the others in the group. The rest were too unsure to assert themselves. Theyd learned not to mess with Belle Brady. Chris understood now why the wagon train leader had left them to change their wagon wheel so easily.
As one they turned on Chris. He was not prepared for what happened next. The man behind Nathan stuck his colt .45 up against Nathans neck and said, You move again and Ill shoot his brains out!
Chris stopped. He halted and watched closely. He would make his move when the time was right but for now he had to hold his tongue.
Three men grabbed Moon from her horse and took her down. They had a piece of rope and bound her hands.
Vin jumped down and a gun was shoved painfully in his side. Dont make a move or youll get it!
Whats goinon? he asked keeping an eye on Moon.
She was fighting them and struggling to get away but they pulled her roughly into the circle of people. You stole my brooch, you bitch. She spat in Moons face then slapped her hard.
Vin pushed the man with the gun back suddenly to try to get to Moon but he was struck from behind and everything went black. He fell to the ground and was lost as the crowd moved away to watch Belle.
Hang her! Hang the bitch Belle Brady was urging them on.
Moon was struggling frantically against her bonds. All her nightmares came back and she was back there with THEM! They were all around her. She wrung her hands forcing them round in the rope. Her wrists were starting to bleed with the efforts.
Nathan watched knowing now how shed done this before, how shed rubbed her wrists so hard to get away from her past. This was what shed done then too.
Now Mrs Brady. You cant . Josiah began.
Tears ran down Moons face, a moan escaped from somewhere deep inside her. Her eyes were darting about looking for a way out. There was none. They had her held in a sea of faces. THEM. Got to get away .run Moon ..run .!
She felt like she was going mad. Got to run .theyll hurt .. waiting for the kicks that would soon come she fell to the ground cowering as she had before. Waiting for the pain that would surely come.
A gun went off! Chris shouted, Stop, the next man that moves wont move far!
Everyone stopped and turned to him.
Chris had bided his time. The man with the gun to Nathan head had relaxed enough and Nathan had turned on him, a roundhouse felled him and Nathan drew his gun. Vin was back on his feet rubbing the back of his head, mares leg in his hand now pointed at anyone who moved. The crowd went silent at the sight of the guns.
You wanta tell me whats goinon now Chris?
Mrs Brady heres convinced that Moon stole a brooch.
What would she want with it? Aint no way she stole anything. She has no need for jewels.
Now Mrs Brady, Chris walked up to her, what makes you think it was Moon?
Shes a savage. She stole it, I know she did. Search her!
OK, You there, he pointed to one of the men, Check her pockets!
The man obediently moved towards Moon.
Them aint her clothes, theyre mine! spat Vin. He was looking angrily at Chris now for putting Moon through this. She was over by one of the wagons rolled into a ball still rolling her wrists in the ropes. Blood was now clearly coming from them running down her arms.
Get her clothes,Vin! ordered Chris, Well do this by the book.
OBrian opened his mouth to speak, But . Chris turned with a look and he shut it again.
Vin got the clothes and they were searched. There was nothing!
Satisfied now Mrs Brady? Vin moved over to where Moon was cowering, he still had his mare leg in his hand, watching, and tried to approach her but she was not even seeing him now, so frantic were her efforts to get away.
No! She has a bag.
Josiah fetched the small bag Moon had made from rabbit skins. There were a few stones and feathers in it and .a brooch!
A low murmer went round the group. But OBrian again. This time he said his piece, she didnt put it there!They turned. Moon didnt put it there, Belle did!
What are you trying to say, you horrible man! That I put it in there? How dare you?
Dan looked at his wife then at OBrian. Yeh what are you saying OBrian?
I saw her he replied.
Chris said, OBrian is right. Belle put the brooch in the bag. I saw her too, last night. You forgot, Belle, that we patrol all night. I saw you creeping around last night and watched you put something in the bag. I wasnt rightly sure what you was up to so I left it and waited.
At this Vin dropped his gun back in its holster and looked back to where Moon was lying. As he got close she recoiled, a crazy scared look on her face.
No, no , no! Moon its me . Vin .dont be afraid its only me .
In that brief moment he knew he loved her. He was never more certain of anything in his life, he loved her. He knew anger would not help now, he had to stay calm and get her out of this. He reached forward and pulling his knife out cut the ropes. He sheathed it quickly. He stood, glanced back at the crowd challenging them to stop him, bent down and scooped her up in his arms. Get her out of here Vin! said Chris.
Moon had recoiled again then went rigid as she felt Vin pick her up.
Nathan helped Vin get her on his horse and they rode out.
We sang to the stars above
We praised the earth below
You fell into my arms that night
And Ive never let you go
It was beautiful, glorious
We were riding on a wave
With foolish hearts and foolish love
We would give ourselves away
Remember how we cried out loud
Heard angry voices shout
I love you as I loved you then
No danger and no doubt
And now as we look behind
To see the road of life
Turing to the ones we love
Salvation is in sight
Cause it was beautiful, glorious
We were riding on a wave
With foolish hearts and foolish love
We would give ourselves away.
Part 13. The nightmare
It all came back to her. The nightmare began and would never end. She was back with THEM! They had taken her from the village. They had stopped to water their horses and one of them had noticed her.
What dya think, Burt? Look like it could be her?
Dont matter none, Will. They wouldnt know would they? They aint seen her since she was a child.
They came back that night, took her and tied her up. Theyd come so quietly and left, no-one noticed. She struggled against them but they beat her so shed comply. Theyd tied her hands together and then to the back of the wagon. Shed walked for hours, days, tied to a wagon wheel at night and off again in the morning. Every time she slowed she was kicked in the back. Sometimes she fell and was dragged along until they stopped. Another kick and she had to stand and walk again.
They gave her no food or water so she grew weak and stopped fighting. One night shed worked the ropes loose and ran but they caught her and brought her back.
They talked about the newspaper ad they had. Over the fire they looked at it again;
offered for news of or
for the return of
Lost in the territory and believed to
have been taken by Indians as a child.
They read it over and over again.
What if she aint this Bridget Bookman?
They wont know will they? Theres no description. She was taken as a child it says.
What if she dies?
Then therell be less to share.
One night, Will had come to her where she lay against the wheel. His breath stank of whiskey. Hed been too drunk to do anything more than touch her but she had withdrawn into silence after.
Vin had ridden on and on, he wanted to get Moon as far away as possible. She lay rigid in his arms. They ached from the effort of holding her but hed put up with it to put the miles between them and that witch, Belle!
Finally he stopped by a river, this will do, he thought.
He eased himself down and laid her on the ground. Still not moving she just lay there, curled up, staring into the distance. He took down his bedroll and lifted her head to rest on it. He tore JDs shirt and made some bandages and put these round her wrists. He stroked her hair away form her face.
His heart beat hard in his chest so it nearly burst out. He sat beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. From time to time he stroked her hair. Hours passed, still she laid there beside him, breathing slowly, rigid, unmoving.
I really miss you when the nights are longAnd only silence is heard in this world of song
But life goes on
And forever more
Ill be haunted by your love
My only comfort is the love we shared
And as I walk through this world with sadness everywhere
Ive had my share
And forever more
Ill be haunted by your love
Lonely is the river as it tumbles to the ocean
Searching for our future
We cant find our way back home.
All the images of the last weeks ran past his eyes. The strange woman hed tripped over in the rain, her lying asleep before him, the mare, the way shed come into town with the buck on the mare proud and scared at the same time, his time alone with her, the first time she smiled and the foal. The easy way she had with horses, her serenity, her.
He tried to project his love into her. Tried to tell her in his mind that he cared and didnt want her to stay where she was. Moon, come back to me! he whispered. Then he talked and talked. Nothing in particular, about the moon and the stars and his thoughts, just talked so shed hear his voice and maybe shed come back.
Slowly gradually the tension left her. Hour after hour she lay there beside him. It grew dark and he gathered wood and started a fire. By the glow of the flames he watched her close her eyes and sleep until he too feel asleep.
He woke with a start. She was gone! He sat bolt upright and saw her standing staring down into the river.
She heard him coming up behind her and turned slowly to meet his gaze. Their eyes locked and he reached for her. She took a step away.
Vin her voice croaked.
You ..spoke! joy filled him. He was full of questions and rushed them all out.
Are you OK? How are you feeling? Are you hungry? Tell me what happened to you back there?
It was too much for her all at once. She backed away and then looking into those blue eyes again she began to cry uncontrollably. He took a pace forward and eased her into his arms. This time she stayed, burying her head in his shoulder, tears flowed and soaked his shirt. Im sorry, God, Im sorry he said. Its OK now. We aint goin back there. Well stay here a while.
Time. That was what was needed. Time.
Shed said his name and then fell back into the silent world shed been in before. She remembered now and it was too hard to speak. She searched around looking for a sign that THEY were coming. Seeing none she had just sat back and waited. Vin brought her food and kept the fire lit at night. Shed slept close to him, comforted by his presence, wanting it not to end. I dont want to wake up now.
Vin ached for her to speak again and for hours hed cursed himself silently for rushing her and asking her so many questions. Im sorry Moon. Now he kept silent. Talking only when he had to. Sorry Moon.
It was time to go back, Vin decided finally. Shed feel better when they got back to the cabin. He wanted to stay here with her but was drawn back to Four Corners. The other regulators would be fine with the wagon train. He felt now he had to make sure all was OK in town. The regulators had been gone too long. Maybe shed understand they should go back.
We need to get back to town. Saying nothing she helped him pack the few things and got up on Peso. He rode a while with her and then walked a while to give Peso a rest. Finally they both got off and walked silently side by side.
It took a week to get back to Four Corners this way. All the way back she had been silent and so had he. When they reached the cabin he told her wanted to go into town and check but hed be back soon. So Vin left Moon at the cabin and rode into town. The judge met him. He looked pale.
Whats up Judge?
I got a bit of toothache, he said holding the side of his face. Vin smiled, thatll hurt when the Judge sees Nathan hell yank it out.
Ya gonna see Nathan when he gets back?
Nope, think Ill just put up with it for a while.
Its been quiet here since you all left. The Judge changed the subject a little too quick. Chris sent a telegram three days ago to say theyd arrived and were on their way back. They told me about the trouble you had. Are you OK? Is Moon OK?
Were fine. Were both fine. Ill be at the cabin. His sense of duty was now with Moon. Hed checked back at the town and now he wanted to get back to her.
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