Warning: There is a gunky factor in some of the medical treatment.
Characters: Vin, OMC, Chris
Disclaimer: They arent mine, never will be. The whole thing belongs to some one in TV land (not the channel). No money made.
Notes: This is a sequel to my story Found. If you havent read it I guess the really important thing is the Indian family calls Vin "Cricket."
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School is/was a real place, more's the pity. It is a very unhappy part of our (USA) history, and hopefully we learn as we go and wont repeat it. To read more about it you can go to two sites I found. The first is pro, the second is very against with good reason. They start by blasting a childrens book but keep reading.
Thanks go to Lynda for her advice in things Native and medical, to Ninheve for the French name Ezra uses, and for helping with the little bit of French in the story. Without her help it would have come from a dictionary. To LaraMee who finds the holes and encourages me, and especially to Mady who betas for me, never an easy task.
Feedback: Love it.
Two small boys walked alongside the road leading to Four Corners. They were careful to stay near what bushes they could find in case some one came down the road. The new moon was bright enough that they could see very well. But all they saw was brush, all they heard was the distant wail of a coyote.
"Im tired, Wind." Ferret complained to his older brother by two years.
"I know. Im tired, too, but Grandfather said we were to find Cricket if the signal was shown. You saw the soldiers just as I did. We have to find Cricket and he will be in the White village."
"I know, but weve been walking a long time. It didnt seem so far when we came into town with Uncle Kojay. Its getting very cold, too and Im thirsty."
Wind sighed, "Ferret, stop complaining. You are seven now and old enough to know better. We must be good warriors. We have to get to Cricket, hell know what to do."
"Im sorry, Wind. Ill try to be better."
The two boys trudged on in silence. They each had on a long sleeved shirt and long leggings because theyd left home early in the morning to go rabbit hunting. Then as they were coming back theyd seen the yellow cloth fluttering from the top of their uncles lodge. Theyd hidden, until dark and then headed toward town making sure they werent seen. Grandfather had warned them not to try to come into the village but to head out straight to Cricket. That Cricket would help them.
Finally they reached the outskirts of town, and creeping around corners and down back alleys, they headed for Vin Tanners wagon.
The slight movement of the wagon had the mares leg cocked and pointed to the entrance before Vin was fully awake. He squinted in the moon light at the small boy looking in. "Wind? What the hell are you doing here?"
"Cricket? We found you. May Ferret and I come inside?"
"Get in here. What are you two doing in town this time of night?"
The two boys crawled in and pulled the canvas closed before they sat down. Vin watched them closely, noting the boys were not dressed for the chilly fall nights and they were very tired. Handing each a blanket to wrap around themselves, he waited.
Wind, being the oldest, began. "We didnt know where else to go, Cricket. The Agent came with blue coats and they were putting all the children in wagons. We were out hunting and saw Grandfathers signal to stay away. We crept in and saw what they were doing, so we ran. We didnt want to be put in the wagon. Is it alright that we came here?"
" Course it is. Why were they taking the children? Do you know? What about Dove?"
"Mother had Dove dressed like she was married. Kojay told all of us days ago that the Agent had said it was better for the children to go to a ..a sh ool.?"
"Yes, thats the word. But we dont want to be sent away. Mother fixed it so they wouldnt want Dove and then made a signal so wed know not to go to the village. Grandfather told us to try to find you. Weve been walking all night."
Vin sat the sawed-off gun across his knees and rubbed his face. Hed heard about these schools. It was the white mans idea to civilize the Indian. They took the children and sent them far away and made them dress in white clothes and were given new white names and forbidden to use their real names. If they didnt do this they were punished; if they spoke their own language they were punished; if they broke the rules, they were punished. Punished, beaten, their spirits broken. Many, hed heard, died. Vin looked at the two shivering boys. Not my boys.
"Stay here, stay quiet. Im going to go get Peso and then well leave before anyone sees you. While Im gone, gather up the blankets and whatever chuck is in here. Well get more later."
Vin pulled on his boots and coat, and with a nod he left. The boys set about their tasks without saying a word. They were ready by the time Vin got back.
Looking around to make sure nobody was in sight, Vin swung Ferret up in front of him and Wind behind him and headed out of town. Hed go to Chriss shack first and then to the hills.
Chris Larabee heard the horse approaching. He waited just inside the door gun ready. It was barely dawn and the chill of the early fall morning made him shiver. He hadnt even built a fire yet.
"Hey Cowboy, whats for breakfast."
"Vin? What the hell you up to?"
"Easy Chris. We just come callin." Vin handed down the boys, and dismounting, he said. "Wind, you and Ferret take Peso over to the corral and make sure he gets a drink and somethin to eat. Okay?"
The boys glanced at Chris, nodded and left.
"What are you doing with those boys, Vin? And why are you out this time of night?"
Vin smiled, and said, "Aint night, see, the suns comin up."
"Vin!" Chris warned.
"The boys come to me, middle of the night. They needed help."
"Help? What kind of help?"
"The Army and the Indian Agent showed up at the village yesterday. Theys rounding up all the kids. To send them off to some kind of boardin school."
"School, that doesnt sound so bad, Vin."
"Yeah, it is Chris. Its bad."
Chris could see an old hurt in Vins eyes. He trusted the tracker, so he asked, "What do you want to do?"
"I aint sure yet. Im takin the boys up in the hills to hide out til I can figure out what to do. Can we borrow one of your horses and maybe some grub?"
"You know you can. What else?"
"You cant tell no one where well be. Only family."
"Alright. Ill only tell family. Where will you be?"
" Member that old fallin down cabin we seen in the high country?
"Well be up there some wheres. Thought wed do some huntin since its gettin on winter soon. Get some meat stored up. Keep the boys busy and let me think some."
"Alright, can you stay for some breakfast?"
Vin looked at the sky and his back trail. "Better not, I dont want you gettin in trouble for helpin us. I dont want any one seein us either."
The two men walked to the corral. Vin called out, "Wind, get that bay filly. Chris is loanin her to us."
Without hesitation, Wind walked into the corral and put a noose around the fillys neck. He led her to the gate and Ferret let them out.
"Chris is gettin some stuff inside to pack for us to take with us and then well go."
Both boys nodded. They glanced at Chris but were still shy around him, so they said nothing.
As they were leaving, Vin turned to Chris. "Chris I "
"Its okay. Ill go into town later and see whats going on. Well get word to Grandfather that the boys are with you and safe."
Vin touched the brim of his hat and nodded. Turning Peso they headed out west and north of Chris place.
+ + + + + + +
Chris Larabee road into town watching for any unusual activity on the main street. He rode straight to the sheriffs office where he saw JD being accosted by a man in a suit and three soldiers. Dismounting, he went over to stand by JD.
"No, Im sorry, I havent seen any Indian boys in town. I told you that they just dont come to town much." JD said, frustration heard in his voice.
"Well, wheres that tracker thats suppose to be in town? People here in town say hes an excellent tracker. Id like to hire him." The suit demanded.
"I dont know, I havent seen him today. JD glanced at Chris.
"Vins took off for awhile." Chris added, trying to take the pressure off JD.
"Whered he go?" Demanded the suit.
Chris fixed the glare on the suit. "Didnt ask."
"Was he alone?" One of the soldiers asked. "I hear hes a real Indian Lover." He made it sound like a dirty word.
Chris looked the soldier up and down wondering how theyd ever won the War with men like him. "Didnt notice. Vin goes his own way." Chris turned his back to the men, ending the conversation. "Wheres Buck, JD?"
"Aint seen him this morning. Last night he was going to see Miss Katie."
Chris nodded and walked away. The four angry men watched him leave.
Chris went to the saloon and sat, his back to the wall. He watched as the people came and went, waiting, sipping the beer Inez brought.
Sometime later, Buck ambled in, got a beer, sat down. He drank some before asking, "You seen Vin?"
"He take off?"
"We need to worry?"
"We need to tell anyone?"
Chris thought. "You might have Josiah mention to Grandfather that everybodys safe. No one will think anything of him heading out to the village"
Buck nodded. "Know what this is about?"
"Nope, but I aim to find out."
Buck drank the rest of his beer, and nodding to Inez, he left heading toward the Church.
Chris got tired of sitting in the saloon so he took his beer outside and sat on the boardwalk. He watched as Buck talked to Josiah and then as Buck went over to the Clarion office.
The Indian Agent, Haycock, was still flittering around town going from store to store with his three soldiers following. Then, before Chris knew it, Haycock was standing in front of him. The man was bristling and sweating in the late afternoon heat. Chris slowly leaned back his chair and looked the man up and down.
"Help you with something?"
"People say youre friendly with this tracker, Tanner."
"People should mind their own business."
"They say this Tanner is very friendly with the Indians here abouts."
Chris said nothing, just stared at the man.
"Well, umm, yes. We are looking for some of the children from the village. I, that is, we, were hoping this Tanner could help us in finding the runaways."
Chris looked down the street with a disinterested air. "And just what are these runaways running from?"
"Umm, well," Haycock cleared his throat. " Yes, you see, in the treaty with these people it was agreed that the children would be sent to school to, umm, learn, a useful umm, skill. We are merely trying to gather all the children before the departure date of the train."
"Just how far away you sending these kids?"
"Oh, well, to a very good school, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania."
Chris chair banged down on the boardwalk. "Pennsylvania? Youre sending these kids to Pennsylvania?"
"Well, yes. Its felt by the best educators that to become useful members of society and civilized, the children must be removed from their usual locations."
"And what happens to the families that dont want their kids taken away?"
"Sir, I dont see that government policy is any of your business. But to answer your question, they have no choice."
Chris stood abruptly, green eyes glaring. Before he could say anymore or kill the agent, Ezra stepped in.
"Mr. Larabee, please, there is a matter that needs your attention at the jail. Your pardon, sir." Ezra nodded at Haycock and stepping between the agent and Larabee, he almost pushed Chris away.
Chris looked at Ezra, and forgetting Haycock, left. Ezra let out a breath of relief. He hoped hed managed to keep Chris from antagonizing the government man too much. Walking swiftly to the jail, Chris went inside. Over and over in his mind he heard again Haycock say, "They have no choice." No choice. I would have never let anyone take Adam. Never. But then he thought again of Kojays village and how defenseless it was. How resistance could cause a massacre of Kojays people. He knew the boys were with Vin but what about Dove? Had they gotten her? Hopefully, Josiah would bring the answer to that question
Walking inside the jail, he looked around, seeing only a startled JD. Turning, almost bumping into Ezra, he growled. "Ezra what the hell is going on?"
"Your pardon, Mr. Larabee but I had to get you away from that man before you got yourself into trouble with the Army. As loathsome as the man is, he is a government employee and killing him because he annoys you would be a disaster.
"Besides, I have taken the liberty of going through Miz. Travis files, with her permission of course, and have come up with some interesting but unfortunate information."
"Like what, Ezra?"
"It seems that the government had sanctioned a program in which young children from the most recently hostile Indian Nations are gathered up and sent to a school far away from their homeland. While this program is praised as innovative and forward thinking, I fear the reporting is somewhat biased in its praise."
"They do not report that many of the children have died either from illness or from trying to escape the horrendous conditions at the school."
"And thats where they want to send the kids from Kojays village?"
"Im afraid so."
Chris didnt say anything else he just went to the window and looked out watching the agent and soldiers continue their search for Vin.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah rode into the village. There were no people in sight. Even the dogs were quiet. The heavy weight of morning filled the air. He stopped in front of Kojays lodge and waited.
Kojay came out and stood in silence while Josiah dismounted. When Josiah stood before him, he asked softly, "You bring news?"
"Yes, for Grandfather and Willow."
Josiah dropped the reins and followed Kojay inside. Sitting around the fire was Grandfather, Chanu, Willow and Dove. They stared at Josiah in stony silence. Hed always felt welcome in Kojays lodge before, even when Chanu was being hunted, but today he felt like an intruder and for the first time he was just another white man.
Nodding a greeting to Grandfather, Josiah said, "I bring a message to family. They are safe and with Cricket. They have gone to a place in the mountains where only one other knows the location."
Willow visibly relaxed. Her sons were safe. They were with Cricket. He would keep them safe from the bad white men. They would not be stolen like so many of the other children had been.
Kojay sat beside Grandfather and asked, "Do you know where the whites take our children?"
"No, not yet. The others are trying to find out. We will do what we can to return your children. But we are dealing with people who live far away from here and who dont understand our ways or us.
"But you are white, they are white. Do you not understand them?"
"No, to your eyes we are all just white. But to my people, we are all very different. To the white man back east you are just Indians, not knowing the difference between Apache, Kiowa, Navajo or Comanche.
"So it is with the white man. They have many bands, many tribes, and they dont always understand each other. Sometimes they even war on each other. So it is with the white men who live in the east. They do not know of us because they have not lived our lives. So all I can say is that we will try to find your children and free them to come home."
Grandfather broke the silence again. "It is good that you try. We are grateful that you protect our two. Cricket is as my son and I know he will protect the boys."
Josiah nodded, and said. "We must be very careful as long as the agent and soldiers are here. No one will think it unusual for me or Nathan to travel between Four Corners and here, because we come all the time. I must go back now, Kojay. I, all of us, grieve with your people. The loss of children is the worst kind of pain."
Kojay stood with Josiah and went outside. "You have proven yourself a friend to the People over and over, yet you and the others must be careful here. There is great sorrow and great anger. Not everyone will think of you as a friend."
"Anger is a way to fight the pain."
"Yes, this you know."
+ + + + + + +
Vin and the two boys rode higher and higher into the mountains. The air was cooler and the sap trees showed a riot of color among the greens of the pines. They rode past the falling down cabin, stopping finally at a wide spot between the walls of a narrow, deep canyon. They had a more or less flat spot of no more then twenty feet by twenty feet. A sparkling stream ran down the narrow canyon and wild mountain roses surrounded them and Vin had seen some wild grapes and onions. He felt he and the boys could do well here even if they had to stay awhile.
Dismounting, he helped the boys off the bay filly and started unpacking. "Ferret, gather some stones for a fire circle and Wind, start gathering wood." Vin held out a small ax.
Wind looked at it. "Thats womens work," he protested backing away.
"Well now, I dont see any women, so unless you plan on staying hungry and cold youd better help do what needs doing."
Wind took the ax and stomped off. Ferret grinned at Vin. "My brother doesnt like to do work. Hed rather hunt and herd horses."
Vin smiled back at Ferret. "Well, up here, right now, hell learn to do what must be done. Now the stones, large ones for the fire." As Ferret turned to leave, Vin called, "Whats the white word for stone?"
Ferret paused thinking, "oc?"
"Close." Rolling the r just a little he said, "Rock."
"R o c k." Ferret repeated.
Vin smiled and nodded, saying, "good enough." Once Vin had the horses staked out, he began making a lean to for himself and the boys from pine branches. Itd been a dry fall and he didnt expect any bad weather any time soon but you could never tell. They could have snow tomorrow. With the thick pine branches and the tarps hed brought, theyd have a dry snug place to wait out a storm.
Ferret had dug a fire pit and circled it with rocks. Vin inspected it "Good job, Ferret, now we shall fix some supper. I thought perhaps tomorrow wed go deer hunting. I saw some tracks on the way here. You boys been deer hunting before?"
Both boys shook their heads.
"Well, tomorrow early well go. But you gotta get some sleep tonight. Dont fret, Ill watch."
Vin made sure the boys had enough blankets and while tucking them in would have insulted them, he nevertheless checked on them. "Good night, boys."
"Good night, Cricket. Cricket? Do you thing Mother and Dove are all right?"
Vin looked down and the little boy. Ferret was trying very hard to be brave and mostly he was managing. But now just before going to sleep, he was a very small boy missing his family. "Im sure Grandfather is taking good care of them. An Chris got word to them somehow that we are all right, too. Itll be fine; well work something out. Now go to sleep, we must get up very early to hunt."
+ + + + + + +
Night found Chris Larabee sitting in the back of the saloon watching the door. He watched to see who came and went. The three soldiers sat at a table by themselves. Everyone avoided them. Ezra, ruling at his poker table, had lured Agent Haycock into a game. Amazingly, the agent a mediocre player kept winning the small pots. Which put him in a good mood, which in turn made him talkative.
This was the game Ezra wanted to win, not the cards, but to pick Haycocks brain. To get the man talking, so hopefully hed reveal the details of the kidnapping of the children. Ezra couldnt think of it any other way.
The soldiers, unable to attract any of the working girls left, grumbling. Little did they know, the girls all liked the shy tracker and would do nothing to harm him.
Chris waited until the saloon was almost empty. Even Ezra was alone, finally playing solitaire. Giving Ezra the slightest of nods, Chris left. The street was empty and even the smoker fires had died down. Chris walked slowly down the boardwalk checking doors as he headed to the boarding house.
As he passed between buildings, rough hands grabbed him from behind and he felt a blow to the back of his head. It was not enough to knock him out but enough to make him unable to fight. He was roughly pushed against the back wall and held while the first blow pushed all the air out of his lungs. Chris eyes watered and his vision swam as he doubled over trying to suck air into his lungs.
Then he heard the voice in his ear. "We hear your friends with that Injun lover. We been asking all over town. Its surprising what folks will say. They say you an Tanner aint never far apart. That you always know where he is or how to find him. Now we want to find him. We figure you know and we aim to make you tell us."
Chris gasped at the second blow. Taking in enough air, he spat out between gritted teeth, "Go to hell."
"Wrong answer." The blows continued, never giving him a chance to brace for the next one.
They stopped when the ominous click of a pistol hammer being drawn back was heard. Chris then heard a most welcome voice. "Gentlemen, I suggest you step away from Mr. Larabee."
The soldiers glanced at the gambler. "And if we dont? Theres just one of you, little fancy pants."
"Well, youd best "
"Count again.." came a voice from the other side.
"Mr. Wilmington. How fortuitous for you to make an appearance."
With a smile in his voice, he replied. "Well Ez, I just figured you might need some help." Then Bucks voice turned cold as he spoke to the soldiers. "Youd best do as he says and step away from Chris."
The soldiers looked between the two determined men, and as a group stepped aside with hands held high and open.
Buck, never lowering his gun, stepped to Chris side. "Chris? You hear me? Can you walk?"
Chris still bent over hugging his belly leaning against the wall gasping for air. "Yeah. M okay," he got out.
"Sure you are, Stud. You wait here while we lock these yahoos up."
"Yeah," Chris gasped again.
"Wait a minute. You cant lock us up." The seeming leader of the soldiers said.
"And why would that be?" Ezra inquired.
"Were Army you have no authority over us."
"Well," Ezra drawled. "I guess I could just shoot you. Everyone would believe me when I said that I shot you to save Mr. Larabees life. Your choice: hands up and start walking toward the jail or die here. Its that simple."
The soldiers looked from Ezra to Buck. "You gonna let him do that?"
"Well, hell, I might just help him," Buck said with a grin.
Slowly the hands went up higher and they began to walk toward the jail. Buck and Ezra followed. Once they had the soldiers locked up, Buck rushed back to Chris.
Chris hadnt moved; he still stood bent over gasping, clenching his belly.
Chris jerked. "Buck?"
"Yeah, can you make it to Nathans?"
"Do..Dont need Nathan."
"Humor me and go. Now, can you walk, or do I carry you."
Chris threw Buck a dirty look and pushing himself off the wall, slowly straightened and took a few steps toward the clinic. Buck followed closely behind. Chris almost made it to the stairs before his knees buckled and Buck grabbed him. Picking up the gunman as if he were a child, Buck climbed the stairs to Nathans. Kicking the door he called out, "Nathan, open up. Chris is hurt."
A sleepy, bleary eyed Nathan opened the door only half dressed. "Hurt? How?"
"Those damn soldiers cornered him and were trying to get him to talk about Vin." Buck pushed his way past Nathan and laid Chris on the bed.
"Okay, get out of my way and light the rest of the lamps." Nathan kneeled down and began running his hands over Chris chest.
"Leave me be, Nathan," came the rough voice.
"Where you hurtin, Chris?"
"Chest, stomach. Nothings broke. Im just sore."
"Youll let me see for myself, wont you? Just to give me some peace of mind."
Nathan never stopped his examination. He found the beginnings of bruises but no broken bones. "You tell me if you start pissing blood." It was a command, not a question.
"Yeah, I know the drill, Nathan. This isnt the first time Ive been beat up."
"I want you to stay here the rest of the night. Just so I know there aint something I missed." Nathan looked out the window. "Not that theres much night left. You need anything to help you sleep?"
"No, just some quiet."
"That I can do. Buck get out."
"Sure, Nathan," Buck said, and looking at Chris, added, "well watch about Vins wagon, too. There wont be any more trouble."
Chris nodded and closed his eyes. He hoped what Buck said would be the truth, but things had a way of not working out that way.
+ + + + + + +
Vin woke just before dawn. It was a wonderfully crisp morning. There was ice in the pan theyd put water in the night before. Perfect hunting weather. "Wind? Ferret? Wake up now. Well eat cold and head out."
The boys rubbed their eyes and rolled out. They quietly took care of the horses and ate and followed Vin as he led them up a small draw. As they walked Vin pointed small sign of where the deer had passed that night. Signaling the boys to be extra quiet, he crawled over the edge of a low hill.
There, on the other side, was about eight head of deer grazing. Three doe, each with a this years fawn and two young buck with forked antlers. Vin, careful not to make any noise, handed Wind the rifle and pointed to one of the young bucks, signing to Wind that he was to try for that one.
Wind nodded, and biting his lip, he sighted down the barrel. He wanted a good killing shot. A true warrior did not make the animal suffer, but gave them a quick death. Holding his breath, he squeezed the trigger he could barely reach. The rifle barked and the buck fell. The rest of the bunch ran.
Vin got up, and making sure the buck was still, led the boys down to him. Kneeling down, he gently touched the head. "We thank you brother for your gift. It will mean food for our lodge and cover from the cold for us. We honor you for this." Vin had spoken aloud and let each boy say their prayer in their own way to honor the deer.
Then he carefully showed the boys how to field dress the animal before they went back to camp. There he showed them how to build a drying rack and slice the meat thin to dry.
They put a good part of a roast cut up in the Dutch oven with what vegetables they had to make a stew and the loin on a green spit to roast.
Throughout the rest of the day Vin kept the boys busy trying and learning new things. This kept them from worrying about what was going on back home.
That night Ferret looked up at Vin, as he lay snuggled to his brother. "We will have plenty to take to Mother and Grandfather?"
"Yes, you and your brother have done a lot today. Winter is coming and any addition to the stock of food is greatly welcomed."
"Do you think they are alright?"
"Yes, Chris and the rest will make sure of it. We will go home as soon as we can."
"Cricket? Did you go to a s ch ool." Ferret carefully said the English word.
"Not so it made any difference. Wasnt moren ten when I went to live with the People. M Grandpa and me lived to far away from the school. Grandpa tried to teach me m letters, only he didnt know them too good either."
"Then Wind and I dont need to know this either."
Vin shook his head, and said. "Now I didnt say that. The worlds changing, faster than wed like and you have to learn new things to be able to get along in it. I think its important for you and the other children to learn readin and scribin."
Ferret made a face.
"Its important enough that Im trying to learn readin. Miz Travis is teaching me. I think if I was younger, like you, itd be easier. Think of it as a way to beat the whites at their own game. If you can read and understand their words, they cant hide anything from you."
Ferret yawned, "Oh, like following a hidden trail."
"Exactly like that."
"But we dont want to go far away. Cant we learn this thing here where we can stay at home?"
"I dont know, Im studying on it. Well try to fix it so."
"Alright." Ferret yawned again and this time his eyes closed and stayed closed.
+ + + + + + +
Five of the seven had gathered in the clinic waiting. "Its way too early for Ezra."
JD shook his head. "No hes up. I saw him going over to Miz Travis when I was on my way over here."
Chris looked at the window, and said, "Then he should be here soon."
Ezra let himself into the clinic. "My apologies, but I think I have the solution to ours and Kojays problem."
"What do you mean a solution?"
"If you will permit me, a little background. The Carlisle Indian School was started by one Richard Henry Pratt, whom it seems, has convinced many back east that solving the "Indian Issue" can be achieved in one simple way. As he is often quoted, saying You kill the Indian and save the man. Thus the children are rounded up, taken forcibly, if need be, from their families. They are shipped out to someplace completely foreign to them and then they are altered physically. Their hair is cut; they are forced to wear white clothes, and can only speak English. Punishment for disobeying the rules is swift and somewhat brutal."
Chris sat listening to Ezra but he was hearing Vins voice, from one of those late night conversations. They cut m hair, took m clothes sos I had to wear theirs. Ifin I said anything that wasnt white talk theyd beat on me. Is real slow learner, they beat on me a lot. Til I learned to keep m mouth shut and do what they wanted, til I could run.
Chris closed his eyes remembering the pain in Vins voice.
Buck shook himself. "Okay, its a horrible place. How do we keep "our" kids out of there? With out starting another Indian War?"
Ezra smiled. "There is a small loophole, that with Brother Josiahs help, we can pursue."
"Yes, you see if a reservation has an established acceptable education system, say one set up by some worthy church organization these children are to be left at home. So if Father Sanchez and Le Pretre Emile Saunier, of Louisiana, were to show up at the rail head at Engle before the children leave, and these good servants of the Church demand their charges back well, the agents would have no recourse but to surrender the children to us."
Josiah shook his head, saying. "No Ezra, I cant."
"You must, Josiah. The children know you and its important that they know by sight the person that shows up to claim them. They would come to you gladly. Interact with you, where they would not with anyone else."
Josiah continued shaking his head. "I cant, Ezra. Theres no way I can put on a priests robes under false pretenses."
"This is for the children, Josiah. Surely you can put aside whatever scruples you might have for them."
Josiah glared at Ezra. "Its not that simple. I just cant."
Ezra stood straighter. "Even if the children knew someone else. Who of us could have the knowledge required? Mr. Haycock knows JD, Chris, and Nathan. Perhaps even Buck. He does not know you and I can change my appearance so he wont know me by sight. But the children do know you!" In a softer tone, "My friend, I can see this is difficult for you. For whatever reason, but we must think of the children first."
Josiah looked at Ezra and then at the others. " Ill Ill have to think on it." He got up and went outside.
Ezra started to follow Josiah out but Nathan stood in his way. "Let me talk to him, Ezra."
"Very well, Mr. Jackson."
Nathan went out and saw Josiah leaning heavenly on the railing of the porch. There was a frown on his face and he was lost in thought.
"Go away, Nathan."
"Josiah, if there were another way wed try it."
"I know. Its just he has no idea what hes asking. To Ezra, its all a game. Hes just putting on a costume. For me, it was my life at one time. I thought I would spend my life in those robes. I cant pretend to be something Im not have no right to be."
Nathan stood silently beside his friend placing a hand on his shoulder. "Well what if you just dress as a lay brother. Would that be easier? None of us could do it, Ezras right about that. He needs someone the children are familiar with."
"I said Id think on it." Josiah looked at Nathan for the first time. "Its all I can promise."
"Good enough. But whatever your decision, we have to leave tomorrow. Its a days ride to Engle and we have to get a wagon."
+ + + + + + +
Josiah sat in his church. What was he going to do? Lord, what should I do? I want to help the children, but to put on the robes of a Priest again. I cant Lord, I cant do that.
Show me Lord what I should do, show me that it is Thy will for me to do this thing
Josiah sat quietly waiting for an answer and thumbing through his scriptures. The book fell open and he eyed the words. "Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus said unto him, "Feed my sheep."
Josiah heard the quiet still voice "Josiah, lovest thou me? Take care of my lambs."
You know I do, Lord. Your lambs, your special lambs. All right Lord, Ill go with Ezra and Ill work his sting. But Lord, its for the lambs, for the children I break my vow. Dont think I do this easily, Lord. The very thought rips my soul to shreds.
Again the voice came to him. "I love you, Josiah, take care of my lambs."
At dawn, Josiah was waiting. He walked up to Ezra. "Ill try, Ill be a lay brother- your assistant. I wont be a priest. Youll have to do all the talking. Its a lie I cant voice."
"Understood, my friend. You need only speak to the children or me."
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