Was Only For Bleeding
Boone cabin, Boonesborough KY 1776
The tall Creek turned and looked at the man who was stepping off the porch. He had chosen to remain outside the cabin while the others gathered inside, still feeling he had no right to join them. Nearly an hour had passed, and now Daniel Boone had left the comfort of his home and the circle of his family to seek him out. He knew not for what purpose.
“You got somethin’ against celebratin’?” Dan’s green eyes narrowed. “The boy was askin’ for you.”
The tall Creek was silent for a moment. Then he asked quietly, “What will you do, Boone?”
The frontiersman crossed his arms and frowned. “About what?”
Arrowkeeper’s smile was chagrinned. “About me.”
Dan’s brown brows reached for his tousled bangs. “You mean about your part in all of this? The fact that you lied to me, and that from the beginnin’ you were in with these men?”
The native stiffened. He did not like that word, but had to admit that was what he had done. “Yes.”
Dan pursed his lips. He was silent for a moment, and then he said, “Nothin’.”
Arrowkeeper was startled. “Nothing. But MacDougall....”
“You saw me talkin’ to the General?”
“Yes....” He had seen them, the grizzled Scot in his green and red plaid, and the tall frontiersman. When first they had returned to the settlement, the two of them had spent many hours with their heads together. He had waited, but the general had not come to arrest him, and now he was gone; returned to his fort and his temporary home. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him you were all right; that the rumors he had heard had only been half-truths, and that your main concern had been for your son.”
“You told him that?”
“Yep.” Dan sat on the step and let his long hands dangle between his knees. “I think he understood.” He held the other man’s gaze. “Any father would.”
For a moment, Arrowkeeper was at a loss for words. Then he nodded and said, “The debt you owed me is more than repaid, Boone. I thank you.”
The other man grinned. “Likewise.”
“How is Israel?”
Dan thought a moment. “Mendin’, like your boy. Angry with me for leaving him and his ma, but workin’ toward understandin’ why I chose to do what I did....”
The Creek acknowledged their kinship. “Like Kamassa.”
“Like Kamassa.” The frontiersman stretched out his long legs and looked towards the west. The sun was setting in glory. It had been nearly a week since the ‘war’ had ended and life had been delightfully dull—with the exception of a cabin full of guests, and so many wounds mending that MacDougall had lent them his doctor and the young Highlander had had to set up a tent outside. “What will the two of you do now?”
“I have spoken with him.” Arrowkeeper paused, remembering how Kamassa had apologized to him. The moment still brought tears to his eyes. He knew it meant the boy had not given in to his savage heritage, and that his heart had remained ‘white’. “We will return to our home. Kamassa still has a destiny to fulfill. It was simply not with these men.”
Dan turned back toward the house and smiled. Rebecca was laughing and the sound of it was as refreshing as a much-needed rain. “Yes, he does. That boy is special.”
It was Arrowkeeper’s turn to smile. “I know.”
A light footfall on the floorboards made them both turn and look. Mingo had exited the cabin. He glanced at the pink and gold sky and then turned to Dan. “May I speak with Arrowkeeper alone?”
The big man rose to his feet. “You may. Anyhow, I imagine my wife has noticed I managed to slip away by— ”
“Daniel Boone!” the familiar voice sounded from behind them. “You get back in here!”
“Yep.” He pretended to tip the cap he no longer wore, and then frowned. “I never got to make that man pay for makin’ me lose my cap. I was awful fond of that ‘coon.”
Mingo smiled grimly. “I believe McInnery has paid with his own skin, Daniel. Besides,” he paused and added with a laugh, “you did recover Tick Licker. And it is a good thing, since now we have an excuse to go hunting.”
Dan brightened appreciably. “You’re right.” He turned toward the door and called out as he disappeared, “Rebecca, pack up my kit....”
The two natives laughed and then, at Mingo’s urging, walked away from the cabin, stopping only when the leaves of the trees masked them from the waning sunlight. The Cherokee was silent a moment, and then he sought the other man’s eyes. “It is over,” he said at last.
Arrowkeeper nodded. “Yes. Tara-Mingo’s evil is finally at an end.”
The other man smiled. “Yes, that as well, but I meant the debt you owed me.”
The tall Creek shifted. “Oh, that....”
“Yes, that. You are the man Star knew you could be. You have proven it by your recent actions. Kamassa is safe, as are Daniel and his family. I told you when this ended, you would be in my debt no more.”
Arrowkeeper was silent a moment. “It is a strange feeling.”
The Cherokee laughed. “To be free?”
“Yes. I have not been free since my family was murdered; every day they have walked with me. And Star.” He glanced at him. “And you as well.”
“But now you are? Free, that is?”
The Creek’s look was wistful. “Yes.”
“Good for you. I understand you and Kamassa still intend to leave?”
Arrowkeeper nodded again. “I think it is for the best. The boy is too young to be burdened with other men’s memories. In our village, he is a favored son. They will honor him.”
Mingo turned towards the cabin. He started to say something, but then instead shook his head.
“Yes?” the tall Creek prompted.
“I cannot believe I am saying this,” the Cherokee laughed, “but I shall miss him. I shall miss my brother’s son.”
“Come to Georgia. Visit us.”
Mingo smiled. “Perhaps I will.”
Arrowkeeper placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder and the two of them turned to rejoin the others, but as they did the tall Creek felt something touch his leg and he paused and looked down. Then he laughed. Mingo’s eyes followed his and he saw, standing silently at their feet, a small native girl with bright dark eyes and a mass of raven ringlets. She was no higher than their knees. He looked up to find Copperhead watching him with an amused smile. At his side was his wife.
“Cara-Mingo,” she cried.
“Miriam! How good to see you. And this....?”
“Sunalei, say hello to our friends, Mingo and Arrowkeeper.”
The little girl blinked. She looked up at the two great tall men and then went scooting back to hide behind her mother’s skirts. Copperhead laughed as he caught her and lifted her up in spite of the fact that it still pained him to use his arm. “Is Adohi....”
Mingo laughed. “Out in the woods somewhere with Israel...”
The Cherokee pretended to quail. “That is more frightening that the thought a dozen James McInnerys.”
His wife boxed him in his sore shoulder and grinned wickedly as he winced. “Bite your tongue.” Then she turned to Mingo. “Cara, I hear there is a certain red-headed woman I need to meet.”
He laughed. “A soul-mate, I would say. Rebecca is inside. Would you like me to....”
“I can handle the introductions, Mingo,” Dan was standing in the door. As they turned to look at him, he nodded, acknowledging the newcomers, and then asked, “You seen my son?”
They indicated they had not.
“Well, when he shows up, you let him know he’s missin’ the cake and cookies.” The big man’s eyes found Arrowkeeper. “And you, don’t you think it’s about time you came in and joined the party?”
The tall Creek shook his head. “No. I am not— ”
Miriam looked up at him. She had noticed their arrival had made him uncomfortable and she knew why. She nodded to her husband and then went to stand before the other man.
He would not meet her eyes.
The small blond woman reached out and took his hand, and forced him to. “The past is the past,” she said quietly. “We both have futures to look forward to. I have forgiven you. Can you not forgive yourself?”
Arrowkeeper shook his head. “What I did then...there is no excuse.”
“Only youth,” she laughed. “And plain old-fashioned bull-headedness. Do you think Star would still want you beating yourself up after all of these years?”
He looked down. “No.”
She almost laughed. Sometimes they all seemed as young as her son. “Will you come in with me then?”
The tall Creek met her eyes. They were wide with grace. His were full of gratitude. He relented and let her lead him onto the porch and then inside. Sunalei trailed close behind, skipping in their wake. Dan nodded to his friends before turning back to the party. Mingo watched the quartet disappear and then looked at Copperhead. He indicated his shoulder. “And how are you, my friend?”
The Cherokee had gone back to his own to mend. “I am fine. Stiff and sore, but the victory was worth it. And you?”
Mingo glanced toward the healer’s tent. His hand went to his ribs. “I am fine as well....”
Copperhead sought his gaze and held it. “Are you really?”
Mingo knew what he was asking. For him these last days had been hard; so many old wounds had been reopened: first Tara, then Arrowkeeper and Kamassa, Alexander and Spicewood, and last of all, Cherry. He had watched with a mixture of pride and regret as she worked tirelessly beside the doctor from MacDougall’s regiment and had come to understand that this was the man whom she had spoken of. So many choices.... So many years.... So many paths not taken.
He looked at his friend. “I do not regret the choices I have made. I am fine.”
“But are you content?”
Mingo opened his mouth to answer, but never got the chance. Adohi and Israel came barreling out of the trees at that moment and almost plowed into them. The native boy saw his father and stopped dead, a startled look on his face. The two of them had been headed for the cabin. He blinked his deep blue eyes and asked, “We are not going?”
“Not yet,” his father answered. “Why?”
Israel smiled. “We wanted to show Kamassa the limestone cave down by the falls.” He looked at Adohi and his eyes gleamed as if already reflecting a mountain of gold. “Some say there’s treasure there.”
“And you have found evidence of this?” the Cherokee asked.
“Gosh, no.” Daniel Boone’s son stared at him as if he was half-cracked. “If’n we ever did; what’d be the point in goin’ there?”
Mingo laughed. “I am sure Kamassa would enjoy assisting your...search?”
Adohi looked at his father who nodded. Then as the two boys sped off a break-neck pace toward the cabin, he said, “Perhaps I will be needed to convince his mother, or to act as a guide. The day grows dark. If you will excuse me, Mingo....”
The other man nodded, somewhat distracted. Copperhead followed his gaze. Cherry was leaving the healer’s tent. The handsome Cherokee laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder briefly, and then moved towards the cabin.
Mingo watched her as she advanced through the waning light. Her hair was loose and unbound, the curls spilling over the shoulders of a pale yellow cotton dress. She wore an apron and was carrying a basket used for gathering herbs. His words had freed her and the choice had been made. She was no longer a Cherokee war woman, but simply a woman and soon to be a bride.
“How do you feel?” she asked as she drew alongside him.
“Everyone seems to want to know the same thing. I will give you the same answer; I am fine.”
She examined him for a moment. Her lips parted as if she meant to protest, but then she let it go. Instead she sat the basket on the grass and took his hands in hers. She stared at him for the longest time, and then asked quietly, “Will you come?”
“Come? To the wedding, you mean?” It was set for the middle of the next week. Not surprisingly, Rebecca had volunteered to arrange the whole thing. “Of course. I would not miss it.”
“I understand,” Cherry began slowly, feeling her way through what she had to say, “that it is the white man’s tradition for someone to ‘give’ the bride away?”
He stifled a laugh. She looked almost pained. The idea that a woman could be thought of as ‘property’ was completely foriegn to her Cherokee senses. “It is...a tradition,” he said, “a mere formality.” At least that she would understand.
“Ah.” She nodded. Then her deep brown eyes sought his. “Cara, will you ‘give me away’?”
Mingo drew a deep breath. Would he? Could he? “Yes,” he breathed. Perhaps—just perhaps in doing as she asked, he might indeed be able to give her away. He brushed her cheek with his fingers. “You know I will. Whatever you ask.”
Cherry smiled. Just a hint of the old imps appeared in her eyes. “Whatever?”
He laughed. “Well, almost....”
“Cara...er...I mean, Mingo?”
The two of them looked up to find Alexander and his brother, along with
Spicewood who was now attired in one of their hostess’s finest blue gowns, stepping onto the path. He turned towards them. “So you are on your way?”
Alexander turned to his brother, who looked much better for two weeks of Rebecca’s fine cooking and tender care, and smiled. “Aye, on ur way tae Chota tae introduce Finlay tae ur folk thaur.”
“And then back to Scotland?”
The handsome Scot stared at his wife. She looked every bit the fine European lady. Dan’s wife had arranged her hair and given her a pair of delicate bone earrings and a matching pin. The silver crucifix was once again around her neck, and the feet poking out from beneath the royal blue gown were shod in soft leather slippers with heels. She had even learned to walk in them without stumbling. He gave her a quick kiss and then turned to meet his brother’s eyes. “Aye, back tae Scotlain. Boot first tae th’ mainlan’, an’ then tae Bute. Finlay has unfinished business thaur wi’ a certain lassie by the nam’ o’ Aileen Campbell.”
The locket with Aileen’s portrait was about the young man’s throat again. He fingered it. “An’ then I means tae bring her haur, tae meet all o’ ye, an’ tae see ur mither’s land.”
“You will be welcome here. Both of you. This new land holds bright promises for those wishing to escape the prejudices of the old; though it is not perfect.” Mingo thought of the words Kamassa had spoken that night as he stood on the platform and looked into the future. “Perhaps,” he added softly, “some day it will be.”
Alexander nodded. Spicewood broke away from Cherry and the three of them turned to go. Before they could, Rebecca Boone appeared in the doorway and came hurrying down the steps. “Finlay!” she called.
The young man turned back. His
eyes misted at the sight of her once again safe and secure among her own.
“You forgot this.” She held a tin out before her.
He took it with a puzzled look. “An’ whot is this?”
She beamed. “Enough cock-a-leekie soup for a puckle days” Then she frowned. “Did I get that right?”
The young Scot laughed. “Just sae’, he answered, and then grinned as he returned her hug. Then he blushed as she planted a kiss on his forehead. “Thank you for everything,” Rebecca said softly. “And you take care of yourself, and your brother. Heavens know the two of you seem to stumble into enough trouble for the whole of Glasgow.”
Finlay grinned and his dark brown eyes lit with mischief. “Sae ye hae been tae Scotlain then. I thooght ye were ain o’ those Glasgow girls.”
Becky pretended to be outraged. “Finlay Dougal MacKirdy!”
He kissed her quick on the cheek. “May th’ guid Lord look oot fur ye an’ yers.”
She touched his face. “And I wish the same for you. Safe journey. And bring that girl of yours here for a visit.”
“Aye, Rebecca. I will.”
She watched the three of them until they were swallowed by the shadows of the trees, and then turned back towards the cabin. A wistful smile lit her handsome face. Cherry had gone to join Alistair beside the porch. He had placed his arm about her shoulders and taken the basket from her, and was leading her towards the woods. Becky’s hands went to her hips and she looked thoughtful. She had sized the young man up quick enough in the days he had been at the cabin, tending Kamassa and the others, and had decided he was acceptable.
Mingo laughed at her expression. “Too late for match-making there, I fear.”
She turned a lifted brow on him. “There is still you.”
He held up his hands. “Oh, no. Not I. I do not intend to marry...” His grin faded and he was silent for a moment. “Unless....”
She touched his arm briefly. “I know.” Then she put on a bright face. “Now come and join the party. That’s an order.”
“I think it is too late, Rebecca. I believe it is breaking up.” As she frowned at him, he caught her by the arm and pulled her out of the way. Adohi and Israel were charging down the pathway, dragging Kamassa between them. Copperhead followed at a discreet distance. The three boys passed them, intending to get to the stream before the light gave out. Just as they came to the edge of the woods, Israel paused. He turned to look back and waved. Then he grinned like his old self and was gone.
Becky wrapped her arms about her chest and said softly, “Looks like everything is back to normal around here.” She was quiet a moment and then she asked, “You coming, Mingo?”
“In a minute, Rebecca....”
Her blue eyes found his. She nodded and then turned to go.
He watched her enter the cabin and then turned to stare at the setting sun as it dipped behind a low ridge of trees on the horizon. All to soon it would be night. The boys would return. Adohi would go home with his family. Israel would join his parents and be put to bed, and then Daniel and Rebecca would settle in before the fire to enjoy each other’s company. Kamassa and Arrowkeeper would set out for the south and home. He would see Alexander and the others in the village on the morrow, but soon they—along with Cherry who was to return with her new husband to the fort—would be gone. And he would return to his lodge...alone.
So many years...so many paths....
So many choices.
And far away across the sea; his heart.
A hand on his shoulder startled him. He turned to find Daniel Boone staring at the same sun setting in a bed of fiery leaves. “I asked you before; I ask you again. You all right, Mingo?”
He thought about it a moment and then shook his head. “No” he answered, “I am not all right.” Then he laughed at his friend’s expression. “But do not worry, Daniel, I will be soon.”
- END -