The hallway of the mission was quiet as Nathan and JD approached Josiah's
room. JD felt quite nervous and sad as he twisted his hat in his hands, wondering
if he was really ready for this. He'd been preparing himself since he got
the news, but now he felt as if this was all new and unexpected.
The door to the room was closed, and an old man who looked to be a doctor
and an even older priest were standing close by, talking softly. As Nathan
and JD came up the doctor recognized him.
"Oh, hello, Nathan," he said softly with a nod. "And this must be Mr. Dunne.
I'm Dr. Mitchell, this is Fr. Harrison."
"Pleasure," JD said shortly, shaking the men's hands and fighting off the
bad feeling that they were too late.
"Josiah still with us?" Nathan asked warily.
The Father smiled a little. "Oh yes, I saw him earlier today. He's a remarkable
man, I must say. His wife's in there now, I'm sure she wouldn't mind it if
you men wanted to see your friend."
Nathan nodded and looked at JD. "Want to go in? Maybe he's awake now."
JD inhaled deeply. "Came all this way to say goodbye, Doc, and I'd like to
say it, even if he can't hear me. I-I think he'll still know I'm here, somehow."
Nathan nodded, and gently turned the door handle.
The small room was dim; a heavy curtain lay across the glassless window,
subduing the light. JD could see Josiah lying in a long bed at one end of
the room, Bright Dawn holding his hand. Even in the half-light JD could see
how thin and pale the old preacher looked. He swallowed.
Bright Dawn lifted her head and whispered, "Hello, JD."
Hi, Dawn," JD said softly, taking her hand and giving her a friendly kiss
on the cheek. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Bright Dawn smiled a little, her black eyes shining. "You've come so far
for him, JD. That's all I could ask for. He'll be so happy to see you."
"I wouldn't even be alive if it wasn't for him an' Nathan," JD insisted,
placing his hat on a nearby chair. "I'd do just about anything for either
"'Cept what you're told," drawled a groggy voice, as Josiah stirred in the
bed and blinked open his eyes. Bright Dawn gripped his hand and leaned closer,
as JD and Nathan stepped towards the bed.
"Josiah?" Bright Dawn said softly, stroking his hair, "We thought you'd sleep
all day. Would you like some water?"
"Sure," Josiah replied. "Help me up here, Nate, I'm sick of lyin' on my back."
Nathan came forward and piled some pillows behind Josiah's back, helping
him to sit up. JD watched, worried, and as Josiah was getting situated their
JD took a step forward. "Hello, Josiah."
"JD," he nodded, accepting the water Bright dawn handed to him. "Thought
I told you not to bother leavin' your family just to watch me die."
JD smiled. "I had this odd desire to say goodbye to an old friend. Besides,
I never listen to you, you know that."
Josiah finished the water and nodded as he handed the glass back to his wife.
"Yeah, I do, Lord knows." he leaned back into the pillows and regarded his
younger friend with warm eyes. "Damn glad you didn't listen to me this time
either, John Dunne."
Bright Dawn kissed her husband and rose. "I'll go get you some food, Josiah,
you must be hungry. Would you men like anything?"
JD and Nathan both shook their heads, and she quickly left the room, shutting
the door softly behind her. The two men moved closer to the bed, JD sitting
in the chair while Nathan stood behind him.
"I hope you're not really mad at me, preacher," JD said, laying his hat down
on his lap. Josiah chuckled a bit and shook his head, his eyes closed again.
"Naw, don't fret on it, JD," he said softly. "I'm real glad you came. It's
good to see you again."
JD smiled again, staring fondly at the man who had helped him so many times,
with tears welling in his hazel eyes. Finally he looked around a bit, wiping
his eyes. "Uh, is there anything I can do for you, Josiah? Anything at all,
just name it."
Josiah looked up, and Nathan recognized the expression he had seen in his
friend's eyes the day before, when Nathan had asked the same thing. This
time, apparently, there would be an answer.
Josiah took a deep breath. "As a matter of fact there is, JD. Dawn an' I
talked it over, an' she'll need your help buryin' me. You're the only people
I'd ever trust with this."
Nathan was surprised. "Ain't you bein' buried here at the mission?"
His old friend looked uneasy. "At a mission, yes. But not this one."
"You bein' mighty mysterious," Nathan frowned.
Josiah's expression became solemn and haunted. "Shame has a way of makin'
mysteries," he said in a sad tone.
And he told them about his sister Hannah.
When he had finished, Josiah sat up in bed, his head bowed, his eyes dim
with tears. Nathan and JD stared at their old friend with great sympathy.
"God, Josiah," Nathan said, his voice breaking as he grasped his comrade's
shoulder. "You didn't have t'bear this all alone all these years."
Josiah sniffed and nodded his head as he wiped his eyes. "Man ain't got the
right to ask others t'suffer for his wrongs," he said firmly, looking up.
"'Sides, there wasn't anything any of you coulda done. She was beyond hope
long before we got together."
JD looked at him, his own eyes dim with sadness. "An' she's at Immaculate
"Was," Josiah said hastily, rubbing his face with his hands. "She died in
1890, still locked in madness. They said she went peaceful, an' I'd like
to believe that, but it don't change what I did. Her sufferin' ended, Nate,
but mine never did."
"Now you got t'stop that," Nathan insisted, gripping his shoulder tight.
"Now ain't the time for it. She'd say the same."
"Would she?" Josiah wondered, his eyes gleaming with a bitter light as he
looked at Nathan and JD. Then he pursed his lips and looked away, looking
almost afraid to say any more.
Nathan could think of nothing to say. Finally he swallowed. "And, uh, what
was it you wanted us to do?"
Josiah sighed and looked at him evenly. "I want you t'go with Dawn an' see
that I'm buried next to Hannah at the Sacred Heart Mission. Spent most of
our lives apart, I figure it's only fittin' we at least rise on Judgment
Nathan nodded slowly, biting his lip. Then he took a deep breath. "Anythin'
Josiah thought for a moment. "I'd appreciate it if you could look after Maude,
just see how she's doin'. Got word from St. Louis that she's pretty sick.
Dawn's got the address."
Nathan pursed his lips. "That's a shame. We'll be sure t'look after her,
"You bet," JD said in a firm voice tinged with sadness. "Remember how angry
she was at us after..." JD's voice trailed off and he took a deep breath.
"But I think she felt better about it later. We've been gettin' letters from
her quite a bit, she even sent some money for the kids last Christmas."
"She's still a troubled soul, poor woman," Josiah muttered. "Thought gettin'
rich was the answer an' found it only led t'more questions."
Nathan nodded. "Don't worry, Josiah, we'll make sure Maude's looked after
proper. Anythin' else?"
A smile played across Josiah's worn features. "Naw. Been a simple man all
my life, an' I wanna go out that way. Fr. Harrison insisted on sayin' a few
words over me, an' that's fine, but I don't want no big funeral."
Nathan nodded. "All right."
"Right," JD agreed softly. "Anything else we can do?"
Josiah sighed and lay back on the pillows. "Just keep raisin' your kids right,
an' tellin' 'em about what we did. Maybe they'll find something' inspirin'
in all that fuss we went through. That'll make it all worth it."
"Don't worry on that," JD laughed. "You remember that old photograph we took,
of all of us an' Casey? Buck an' Gail were over with their baby the other
day, an' when little William saw the picture he started reaching out for
it and touching their faces. Like he knew who they were already. He even
went for Chris first, isn't that amazing?"
Nathan laughed. "Sounds like we got another tenderfoot lookin' to join the
"Yeah,": Josiah smiled, yawning. "Kinda like his grandpa."
JD smiled, looking for all the world like an embarrassed twenty-year-old
again. "Hell, I think he already has more sense'd I ever did when I was a
kid. Remember, Nathan, how Chris almost shot me when I went t'shoot that
guy in the back? It was the first day we met."
Nathan laughed. "Yeah, I remember. You're lucky he was only tryin' to scare
JD shrugged. "If it hadn't been for all of you I would've wound up in a pine
box. Remember, Josiah, when you had to drag me away when I tried to stop
that Yates guy from takin' Vin?"
A smile creased Josiah's weary face as he put an arm behind his head and
leaned back. "Yeah, as I recall you were pretty riled about that, JD. But
you had a lot of grit to stand up to him like that."
"Oh, like it didn't take grit t'stand up to that ol' Jessie gal in Jericho?"
Nathan chided gently, leaning forward.
"Yeah," JD piped up, his hazel eyes shining at the memory. "That was after
we found out her son had Chris locked up in that prison, an' we were taking
him to free Chris. She was tryin' to stop us. Was he ever a bad one!"
"I can still see you, Josiah," Nathan smiled, "standin' there with her pointin'
that shotgun right into your chest, an' you pulled it away from 'er cool
as could be. What was it you said to her?"
Josiah sat thinking for a few moments. "I told her my faith only goes so
far. Hm." he shook his head. "I guess we'll see if it went far enough."
They sat up for a while longer, talking about the old days. About Chris's
coolness and courage, and Vin's quiet strength. They laughed at the memories
of Buck's romantic entanglements, and Ezra's clever ruses. Most of all, they
marveled at the heart of these men, and the remarkable bond which united
them still. As the three survivors relived old adventures, time seemed to
lose its power, just for a while. But its tide could not be stemmed forever.
"Think you better get some rest, Josiah," Nathan finally remarked, seeing
the paleness of his friend's complexion.
"Can't really argue that, doc," was the weary reply. Outside, the sun was
setting, its orange-yellow glow suffusing the small, simple room. "Sure was
good of you t'come by. I really enjoyed seein' you both again."
"Hey, it's nothin', preacher," JD said fondly, as he helped Nathan get Josiah
settled in again.
"Want us t'get you anything?" Nathan inquired. Josiah settled back against
the pillows, thinking, then finally shook his head.
"Naw, thanks, Nate. Think I'm just about ready." He glanced at JD, a smile
flickering onto his face as he reached up his hand. "JD, I'm real proud of
you, son. Sure am glad y'came."
JD grinned, despite his tears. "Me, too, Josiah. I owe you a lot."
"An' if by some chance I happen on Buck," Josiah continued with a quietly
amused expression, "I'll be sure t'tell 'im you're takin' real good care
of his hat."
The younger man bit back a laugh that was threatening to become a sob, and
nodded, too overwhelmed to talk.
Josiah turned his attention to Nathan. "You been a right good friend to me
for a long time, Nate, an' I wanna thank you for that. I ain't always been
easy t'be around."
The healer laughed, despite the tears poised at the corners of his eyes.
"Yeah, that's true. But I ain't forgot the times you stood by me, an' helped
me when no other white man would. That took a lot of guts."
Josiah sighed as he settled back in the bed. "Just tryin' to save a good
man was all, Nate. This world needs every one it can get."
Nathan grasped his friend's shoulder gently. "It had you too, Josiah. Don't
you be forgettin' that."
Josiah grunted, amused. "I'm just an' ol' sinner, Nate, with a lot of questions
that may never be answered. But I'm glad I asked 'em. It's been a hell of
a ride, tryin' t'find the truth."
The healer eyed him with a warm, sad countenance, and said softly, "Maybe
you'll get your answers soon."
Josiah looked up at him, his face thoughtful in the waning light, and nodded
"I hope so, brother Nate," he whispered, closing his eyes. "I hope so."
The dusk wore into evening. Bright Dawn returned and sat with her husband,
but JD and Nathan remained as well, never far from their friend's bedside.
Night came on, the black desert sky with its blanket of dazzling stars plainly
visible through the open window. A few small candles were lit, but their
light was kept dim. Bright Dawn held her husband's hand, gazing at him with
tear-dimmed eyes full of love and strength. JD sat quietly, his mouth moving
in silent prayer while he fingered an old rosary in his hand, its bright
beads blinking in the candlelight. Nathan stayed silent as well, watching
by the bedside. Fr. Harrison and Dr. Mitchell visited, did what they could,
The moon rose, its soft light filtering once more into the still room. Voices
raised in holy song drifted through the air, alighting gently upon the grieving
group. There was a soft stirring on the bed, and Josiah's eyes opened a little.
He said nothing, but seemed fully aware of the beloved faces which hovered
around him, offering what comfort they could. Bright Dawn gave her husband
a brief, warm, kiss, while JD and Nathan each gently grasped his hands. Even
in the dim light they could see the gratitude on Josiah's eyes before they
slowly closed once more. Within moments he fell asleep again, with the moonlight
on his face, and the song of the sister's prayers in his ears.
Josiah slowly came to, the sounds of morning in his ears. He took a deep
breath before opening his eyes; a very restful night, it seemed, he hadn't
felt this well in ages. He stirred a bit, and frowned; something was wrong
with the bed. It felt hard. He blinked his eyes open, and found himself facing
the back of a wooden pew.
Hmm, he mused as he closed his eyes and rolled onto his back, they must've
had to move me to the chapel for some reason. He stretched, feeling a
long-forgotten strength flood back into his limbs. He smiled; whatever Nathan
had given him, it really did work. The pain was gone completely. After a
few moments he opened his eyes, and saw over him not the short, flat roof
of the chapel, but the wooden rafters of a tall, peaked roof. Josiah frowned,
puzzled, then recognized what he was looking at and sat up quickly in shocked
surprise, thinking that this had to be a dream.
He was in his church-not the small, simple chapel at the mission, but the
one he had worked on, in Four Corners. It was all the same-the wooden floors,
the whitewashed walls, even the ornate carved pulpit was there. He was sitting
in the front pew, before the altar, which was ablaze with a multitude of
Josiah's mind reeled-it couldn't be, he and Nathan had been to Four Corners
several years ago, after the town had been abandoned. The church was still
standing, but it had been stripped of its valuable objects and boarded up
like all of the other buildings. By now it would be in ruins. But this place-
Josiah steadied himself and studied his surroundings. This place gleamed
with light and life; far from a relic, it appeared to have just been built.
The floors and pews gleamed like gold, the wood waxed and polished to a
mirror-like shine. The walls were fresh and white, the windows intact. A
soft breeze drifted through the open windows, gently stirring the lace curtains
and scenting the air with the fragrance of spring. Sunlight streamed through
the clear panes, and the entire building seemed filled with a golden glow
which suffused every corner.
Josiah caught his breath as he took it all in; it was his church, but he'd
never seen it like this. He slowly stood and took a few steps towards the
"Bout time y'woke up," said a familiar voice.
Josiah gasped and whirled around, his blue-gray eyes scanning the room for
the source of a voice long silenced.
In the last pew sat a slender, buckskin-clad figure, its arms thrown back
across the back of his seat as he watched Josiah with a pleased grin. He
sat in the sunlight, his long curled golden-brown hair haloed in its brilliant
light. In one hand he held a familiar beaten-up wide-brimmed leather hat.
When he saw that Josiah had found him, his smile widened.
Josiah's jaw dropped as he walked slowly towards the figure. He softly whispered,
Vin chuckled and stood, stepping into the aisle as he fingered his hat, his
blue eyes shining with joy.
Josiah stood with a foot of him, just shaking his head in astonishment. "Vin,"
he said in wonder, as he stared at the man who had saved their lives and
then disappeared from them.
Finally he could no longer restrain himself; he reached out and took the
young man in a tight, joyous bear hug.
"Guess you missed me," Vin laughed as he returned the embrace, slapping Josiah
on the back.
Josiah laughed too, and pulled back, shaking his head. "Y'got no idea, brother."
He had long wondered what happened to Vin, and here he was standing right
in front of him, the man who had shared his most shameful secret and reacted
with compassion and loyalty. The tracker looked just the same, young and
handsome; yet Josiah sensed something different, too. Vin seemed totally
at ease, an expression of peace illuminating his eyes which Josiah knew had
not been there in the years he had known him.
He looked around, still breathless. "This is-is-"
The other man chuckled as he put on his hat. "Now Josiah, with all your religious
learnin', you oughta KNOW what this is."
Josiah looked at him sharply, then realized that his old friend was right.
He knew this was not a dream; the floor beneath his feet was solid, he could
feel the stirring of the air and smell the morning aroma as if it was all
real. Because it WAS all real, more real than anything he had ever experienced.
He gazed at Vin in surprise, then shook his head with a smile.
"Well, I'll be," he mused, his eyes shining. "I made it in, huh?"
"Looks that way," was the genial reply, as Vin slapped him on the shoulder.
Josiah laughed again, wiping his face with his hands, looking around again
in awe. After a lifetime of searching and wondering, it was a feeling beyond
description to actually be there. A tremendous joy welled through him,
threatening his composure.
"I just-I can't believe it," he muttered, looking again towards the altar.
"The outside's pretty interestin', too," Vin said as he hitched his thumbs
on his gunbelt and turned to walk outside. Josiah followed him, still amazed.
They stepped out onto the stairway of the church, and Josiah gaped at the
scene before him. It was Four Corners alive again, bustling with morning
activity beneath a cloudless sky. At the church's hitching post stood two
familiar horses, Sire and Josiah's mount Prophet. The horse whinnied at Josiah,
who smiled back in greeting.
"Got some folks wantin' t'see you again, Josiah," Vin said, trotting down
the stairs. "Best not keep 'em waitin'."
"Spose not," Josiah replied, drinking in the scene as he descended the stairs.
It felt remarkable, even more real than before.
As he prepared to mount up, Josiah looked over to where Vin was taking a
drink from his canteen. "Vin, y'know I gotta ask-what happened to you?"
Vin licked his lips and grinned at him as he capped his canteen. "I'll tell
y'later, Josiah. We got lots of time, trust me."
"I know that," Josiah said as he hoisted himself into the saddle. It felt
so wonderful to be able to do that again, after all these years, and giddy
excitement coursed through him as picked up Prophet's reins once again. It
felt so right he couldn't believe it.
He looked over at Vin as the tracker settled himself in his saddle. "It's
just-we missed you, Vin. Never passed a day without wonderin' where you were."
They turned their horses into the street and began a slow ride out of town.
Vin smiled as they rode. "I missed you fellers too, Josiah, believe me. But
it wasn't like I could send a telegram."
"Hmm, guess not," was the amused reply. "A dream or something' might've worked,
Vin chuckled. "Reckon I'm more of a natural omen person, myself."
They trotted down the street, Josiah smiling as he greeted people he knew
had passed away long ago. There were so many familiar faces, all apparently
overjoyed to see him, and Josiah marveled at the memories which came rushing
back to him. He tipped his hat to many people, and found with surprise that
he remembered every one.
They passed out of town into the desert, which was in full spring bloom.
Jo siah thought it might be just like the desert before, but here he could
feel the life which hummed beneath every rock and plant. The air was warm
and soft, not uncomfortably dry or hot; the sun sparkled off of the rocks
and sand, creating a scene of grave beauty suffused with a deep sense of
peace and purpose. Josiah found himself grinning widely; after all of his
learning, and reading, and searching, this was far better than he could ever
"Somethin', huh?" Vin's amused voice asked, and Josiah looked over at him,
unable to shake his look of enjoyment.
"Vin, I been studyin' on this my entire life," Josiah replied, his eyes scanning
the breathtaking vista before him. "Read every religion's view of the afterworld,
studied Heaven from every theological viewpoint. Tried t'find the way here,
an' got lost more often than not."
Vin smiled. "An' what's come from all that ponderin', Josiah?"
His friend took in the sight before him and shook his head. "None of the
folks who've written on it came even close. I feel like goin' on back an'
tellin' 'em all just what it's like so's they can shape up an' find a way
to get here."
"Ah, they wouldn't believe you anyway," Vin replied as they splashed through
a shallow desert stream. "Best t'let folks find their own way, like they
been doin'. It ain't as hard as they think."
"Hmm." Josiah nodded. "So-would the Lord happen to be around?"
Vin laughed. "One thing at a time, preacher. Your answers'll come soon enough."
They rode into a thin stand of forest which thickened the further they
progressed. Josiah felt as if they were traveling a great distance, even
though it seemed like a perfectly normal pace. The trees became thicker and
leafier, and the soft rushing noise of as river could be heard coming from
ahead somewhere. A gentle warmth stole through the air, along with a sweet
aroma which stirred Josiah's memory.
Puzzled, he looked at his friend. "Where we goin', Vin?"
Vin's expression was solemn as he reined in Sire and turned to face Josiah.
"We ain't goin' nowhere, Josiah. We're there already."
Josiah frowned and looked around. The sound of the river was stronger now,
the ground covered with spring grass and leafy plants. Up ahead he could
see that the trees became more sparse, the area broken up by large rocks.
Recognition spread over his face; he knew where this was, and it was nowhere
near Four Corners. He looked in amazement to Vin, who had turned Sire around
and was regarding his friend with a quiet smile.
"Ride on ahead, Josiah, you know the way," Vin said softly. "I'll see you
in a bit."
Josiah watched as Vin spurred his horse on and trotted back through the woods.
then he faced forward, gathering up the reins, his heart pounding. He knew
the way all right, but did he want to face what lay at the end of it?
With a deep breath he tapped Prophet with his spurs, and the horse went forward,
his master guiding him around every rock and tree. Everything was familiar,
but it couldn't be, this place had long been stripped of its trees and woods,
its resources consumed and its land laid bare. But here it had been reborn.
He rode on, overwhelmed with a dread-tinged eagerness over what-or who-he
was going to find. In his soul he knew where he was going, and followed the
path perfectly. Within moments he burst through the trees onto a sunlit
riverbank, almost hidden by trees and rocks. It was a quiet nook, the home
of a small tributary from the mighty river which rushed on beyond the trees.
Deep shadow and brilliant sunshine mingled here, and the water sparkled with
diamond-like brilliance. The air was heavy with the scent of spring flowers
which peeped from among the green grass.
Josiah instantly knew this place; it was the only spot he had ever felt safe,
the hiding place he and his sister had used in Missouri when they were children
and their father was on a rampage. Now as he looked upon the haven of his
childhood, Josiah saw someone walking in the sunlight near the river, a slender
young woman with long, loosely tied blonde hair and beaming eyes. She was
coming towards him almost hesitantly, an expression of overwhelming elation
on her youthful face.
He slowly dismounted, unbelieving, never taking his eyes off of her as she
neared. he would have never thought it possible, but she was smiling at him,
actually rejoicing at his appearance. The joy welled through him once again,
its power almost breaking his heart as he rushed forward into her arms. They
met in a fierce embrace, Josiah sobbing wordlessly as he buried his face
in her golden hair. No longer able to stand, he fell to his knees, still
sobbing; she returned the embrace, her own cheeks wet with tears.
For several moments Josiah could not move or speak; he could only weep with
joy and hold his sister as the self-loathing and guilt poured out of him
and disappeared. He felt a great warm wave of forgiveness surge over him,
flowing in a seemingly endless stream, washing away the agony of the past
and leaving only healing in its wake. A tremendous burden seemed to lift
from his soul, swept away by the strength of love flowing from the young
woman in his arms.
"Hannah," he finally managed to choke, his entire body trembling as he clutched
his sister in his arms, "Hannah..."
She did not reply for a few moments, content to stroke her brother's hair
and hold him to her. Finally she opened her eyes, which were still bright
with tears, and whispered softly, "Welcome home, Josiah."
He shivered, almost embarrassed at his display but too overjoyed to want
it to end. At length he sat back, the tears glistening on his cheeks as he
gently took her lovely face in his hands and studied her closely.
He shook his head, stunned; she was whole again, beautiful and vibrant as
she had been before her madness began. There was the bloom of youth in her
face and light and laughter in her blue eyes which held no shade of blame
"Look at you," he marveled, tracing one cheek with his finger. "You-you're-"
His breath caught, and he struggled to get the words out. "Hannah, I-I'm
She quickly shook her head and placed one cool hand against his cheek. "Ssshhh,
Josiah, it's all right. You don't have to worry. Not here."
He smiled and took her hand, wondering at its softness. She returned the
smile, and his heart soared at the sight of it. She really was fine. It was
They both stood, Josiah saying as they did so,"have you been waiting here
for me, all this time?"
"Among other things," she replied. "But I knew you would remember our old
place by the river."
"It's wonderful," Josiah said, studying their surroundings. Then his face
clouded, and he looked back at his sister. "Father?"
A serious expression dropped over Hannah's face. "I haven't seen him, Josiah.
I-I don't think he's here."
Josiah thought about that, but was not particularly surprised; despite his
status as a man of God, their father was by no means a righteous man. He
looked at her sadly.
"I guess I should be sorry," he said slowly. She looked out over the river,
her blonde hair drifting in the light breeze.
"I am, a little, I think, but-he had the same choices to make as all men,
Josiah. Now that I know how many suffered at his hand, I can only think he
made the wrong ones. I am more sorry that he knew how he could have found
forgiveness and peace, and did not do it, out of the hardness of his own
Josiah nodded, saddened by this thought. Then he felt Hannah take his hand,
and he looked over to see her eying him with quiet concern.
"He had his path to chose, as you did," she said gently. "We may mourn for
him, Josiah, but we must also be grateful for the strength which sustained
us through our grief. It allowed the Sisters to redeem what was left of my
soul, and it helped you reject the path our father had taken and find a better
one for yourself."
A small smile formed on Josiah's lips. "I'd forgotten what a fine way you
had with words, Hannah. It sure is nice t'hear you speak 'em again."
She smiled, taking him by the hand and leading him to one of the large rocks
which stood by the river. "You don't know how long I've waited to speak to
you again, brother. I'm so pleased your life turned out so well, with Bright
Dawn and the mission."
Her brother chuckled a little, shaking his head. "Yeah, I was fortunate enough
to be blessed, even though I was too blind to see 'em sometimes. I wish you
could have met Dawn, she's a remarkable woman."
Hannah saw a look of concern cross Josiah's face. "What's wrong?" she asked,
pressing his hand.
He looked up at her, a worried expression in his eyes. "I was just thinkin'
how hard it's gonna be for her now. Runnin' the mission an' all alone."
She gently took his shoulder. "Now you know she'll never be alone with Nathan
and JD there."
Josiah looked away, a slight smile softening his face. "Yeah, I do." he looked
back at her, the smile widening. "They're good men, one of the best blessings
the Lord ever sent me. I'd probably have died long ago if it weren't for
"I know." She was rubbing his shoulder, trying to ease his sad mood.
Josiah shook his head; when he spoke, his words were slow and thoughtful
"Had some hard times out there, Hannah, an' did some things I'm not too proud
of now. I sometimes thought I was turnin' into Father all over again. I think
the fellowship of those men is one of the reasons that didn't happen, an'
I never stopped bein' grateful for that, even when it was all over and what
we did was forgotten."
She smiled and took his hand. "I don't think it was ever forgotten, Josiah.
You've touched many lives in a far deeper manner than you realize. One day
you'll know just how much of a blessing you were to others. For now-" She
stood, and he followed her. "You must trust me when I say that Dawn will
be fine. She has her own strong spirit, and those of her friends, to sustain
her, as well as the memories of your time together. For now-" She began pulling
him away from the river, her voice becoming lighter, "We have an appointment
Josiah walked after her, smiling at her gently playful manner. "They run
things by the clock here? I must have missed that in my studies."
They walked to where Prophet stood; the large horse had been joined by a
small, beautiful mare, saddled and ready to ride. Hannah approached the animal
and gently took its reins.
"The pressing matters here concern the heart more than the hourglass," was
her easy reply. "There are many people who've awaited your arrival with
eagerness, brother, those whose lives you've touched. They're very anxious
to see you again."
Josiah thought who some of those people might be, and smiled.
"They're not the only ones," he said, and mounted Prophet.