Journeys End by Marla F. Fair
Daniel Boone stood still. Clasped in his fingers was the third generation of his rifle, Ticklicker, and on his head yet another coonskin cap. Somehow these two constants had managed over the years, when everything else had come and gone and changed and become as muddy as Kentucky river-water, to keep him from losing his perspective. Sometimes it was hard to remember that the land was all that mattered; the land and the legacy the men who had tamed it left behind. Dan removed his cap, wiped his forehead, and moved forward, peering over the edge of the rocky abutment. Below him lay a broad expanse of trees and leaves; an emerald ocean that stretched as far as the eye could see. He had come to this place, leaving the small town and its noisy, nosey, bustling inhabitants behind, to determine whether or not it would be fit to settle. As he gazed at the wild land and the hawks wheeling lazily above it, the irony of the situation did not escape him. If he decided it was, stakes would quickly be made and fences would spring up declaring the boundaries of ownership; the trees would be felled, and cows and sheep and all the other domestic animals that man cultivated would come to graze and chew and breed on a land where once only squirrels and porcupines and wild ponies had run free. All too soon eager families would arrive in heavily-laden wagons to claim their own piece of Heaven, and the waves of green he so loved would turn to gold as the forest gave way to fields of oats and barley, and wheat and corn. The earth would be turned over and planted; used until it would give no more, and then it in turn would give way to cabins and inns and liveries. Soon smoke and steam would mingle in the air, rising up to blot out the stars.
And then he would feel it again; the urge to move on; the need to escape the very world he helped create.
It was this puzzle that had driven Dan from Boonesborough several years before. Since then he had dragged Becky over several states seeking something it seemed he would never find. He had surveyed land and speculated on it; become a supplier to the military and abandoned that business; had tried his hand at speech-making and legislating, and finally had retreated to this undeveloped corner of the wilderness, hoping maybe this time he would find the answer.
The problem was; he didn’t really know what question he was asking.
Dan slid down the backside of the rock. With the blue-grass of Kentucky beneath his feet, he began to walk through the cool green haven of tall pine trees and mighty oaks. It was late afternoon and the light that spilled through the leaves was pure gold. The air was crisp, but not cold; just right for the end of the winter and the beginning of Spring. The sting of it on a man’s cheeks reminded him that even though something had been lost in the death of the old; there was something fresh to be found and cherished in the new. Daniel Boone drew a deep breath and smiled.
When he was here, in the woods, everything made sense.
A short time later Dan stopped to straighten the strap on his pack, and then abruptly dropped to his knees and crawled into the shadows cast by a large granite boulder. His grip tightened on the barrel of his rifle as he waited; then he rose and peered around the stone. He had seen something ahead—one or two shadowy forms moving through the trees. There was a flash of red and the sound of metal striking metal. His finger went to Ticklicker’s trigger. Most likely it was natives. There were not many left in the wilds of Kentucky, but this deep in the woods, a man would sometimes see them. The problem was, the ones you did see were not much interested in being friendly. They were angry and vengeful. They didn’t understand why the white man had insisted they change their ways; why he wanted them to give up their rituals and their religion for his own; why the government had taken away their weapons and given them plows in exchange and tried to teach them to farm and raise animals. He shook his head. It was a sad necessity. The days the Indian tribes had known were gone. If they were to survive, they would have to change; just as this nation he loved was changing. Time and progress permitted no man to stand still.
Dan left the shelter of the boulder to stare at the spot where the Indians had been; a frown wrinkling his brow. How long had it been now? Two years? Maybe three? He closed his eyes and saw again the image of his grown tow-headed son disappearing into the trees, surrounded by copper-skinned natives. He hadn’t seen Israel since. He didn’t even know if he was alive.
Each man had a moment; one where he had to make a choice that would affect the rest of his life. Well, Israel had made his that day and had stuck by it. In that way, he was like his old man. But the choice he had made had built a wall between them that stood until this very day.
Daniel Boone ran a hand through his tousled brown hair. It was laced with gray now and almost white at the temples. His life was more than half over. It had been a good one; filled with more adventure and daring deeds than most men’s. Some said he had tamed a wilderness. He didn’t know about that, but he did know he had opened the door for thousands of his own to build homes and lives, and to find wealth and meaning in them. Many called him a hero. People named their boys after him. He laughed. Someone had even suggested they change the name of the state to Booneland.
And yet, he would have traded it all—the fame, the notoriety, the acclaim—just to sit across the fire from his son for one night, and to be able to talk to him without it ending in a fight.
The coonskin cap went back on. Dan rested his rifle on his shoulder. Setting his eye on the thick line of blue fir trees that marked the gorge which lay perhaps two hours away, he began to whistle.
No good dwelling on the past. If things needed tending to, it had to be done in the present.
Soon the trees closed about him and he was gone.
Danny stood gazing up at the rushing water that cascaded over the bare stones to splash white at their feet. He resisted the urge to cover his ears. The echo was deafening. It amazed him; less than one hundred yards away he had not been able to hear it. In fact, the falls itself had come as a total surprise. His father laughed at his expression and, as he placed his arm about his shoulder and they began to short walk back to their camp, told him how his people, the Cherokee, called the river that fed it the Long Man. He explained how the giant, whose head was in the foothills and feet far down below in the lowlands, was always pressing, resistless and without ceasing, toward a decided goal. Glancing back at the raging torrent of water and power he could well believe it was true, though the educated Englishman in him made him want to scoff at such seemingly ‘childish’ notions. Still, he respected his father and the culture he had come from, and in many ways found it not so different from the Highland beliefs and legends he had learned in the time they had spent with Archie and his family.
The older boy had decided to stay behind in the camp they had made, content for the moment to tend the fire and read by its meager light while they explored the wonders of the falls and the deep gorge that held it. Danny’s father had charged Archie to care for the horse they had brought with them before he settled in, and to relieve it of the burden of their provisions so it could rest while they did. They had left Brushy Fork near gloaming the day before, and had traveled almost non-stop until the same time on this day in search of the man named Daniel Boone. Mrs. Boone had said that her husband had gone to map a large area of land. She wasn’t certain, but thought he should be on his way back by now. Then she had pointed toward the trees and told them to follow their noses. His father had laughed at his puzzled expression and explained that it was an old joke. Danny had nodded, not understanding. Still, there was one thing he understood well enough.
His father was anxious to find his old friend.
When they reached the camp Danny left his father behind and went to Archie’s side. He threw himself down on the ground beside the other boy and grinned. The young Scot was not reading, but had his hands locked behind his head and was staring at the stars. “So what ‘hae ye’ been up to while we were gone?” Danny asked.
“Oop tae?” Archie came out of his reverie and returned his grin. “Why, nae a thin’. I hae been doon; lying doon.” The boy stretched and rose to a seated position. “Thot faither o’ yers isnae quite human. I hae ne’er seen a mon whot coulds travel sae far, sae fast.”
The blond boy nodded. His eyes were wide and filled with wonder. “I still can’t quite believe we are finally here, in Kentucky. Can you?”
The older boy shook his head. “Nae. Onie more than I can belief mah faither let me come wi’ ye, instead o’ makin’ me wait fur th’ ship they waur takin’.” Archie’s grin widened. “Dae ye ken whot he told me his reason was fur doin’ sae?”
“Nae.” Danny frowned at the slip. “No. What?”
“Thot ye needed someain tae look after ye, an’ keep ye oot o’ trouble.” Archie poked him in the shoulder and laughed. “Ye, an’ yer faither.”
Mingo’s son stiffened abruptly. He raised up on one knee and glanced about, resting his hand on his brow.
Archie followed his gaze. After a moment, he asked, “Whot aur ye doin’?”
One of Danny’s dark brows arched. “Looking for whoever it was he sent with us. I seem to have missed them on the journey.” Then the boy’s bright eyes settled on his friend’s puzzled face. “You certainly couldn’t have meant he sent you.”
Archie pretended to be affronted. “An’ why not?”
Danny hesitated. He put his finger to his lips and feigned confusion. “You are the same Archibald MacKirdy who put the rotten eggs in the Proctor’s pockets, and then tricked him into sitting down on the laird’s favorite chair....”
The boy’s full lips twitched. “Aye...”
“And the same Archibald MacKirdy who switched the salt for the sugar in his Nanny’s cupboard, and put pepper in his Grandfather’s snuff box....”
Archie looked as if he might cry. He sniffed and then sneezed, and then burst into laughter. “Aye. Thot waur a guid ain.”
Danny laughed as well. “Archie?”
“Do you know why my father let you come with us?”
The boy’s deep brown eyes sparkled. “Tae keep me oot of trouble?”
“If such a thing is possible,” a deep voice interjected.
Both boys looked up. Danny’s father had come to stand beside them. Mingo shook his head as he looked down at the pair. Archibald Dungan MacKirdy had an irrepressible spirit; something he admired—though he had to admit that at times it could be trying. The boy was known for practical jokes. He loved to laugh, but the thing that made him the most endearing was, he could laugh at himself as well. “Did you remember to tend to the horse, Archie?”
“Och!” The boy rose to his feet quickly. He glanced back toward the animal that was tethered not far away, near the line of trees that marked the end of the small clearing and masked the steep incline that led to the bank of the river below. “I wiped her doon an’ removed th’ pack.”
“Did you bring her water?”
“Nae.” He hung his head. “I didnae remember. I was thinkin’. I’m sorry.”
Mingo laid a hand on his shoulder. That was the other side of the boy’s personality; like his father, he thought too much. His mother said the laughter was meant to deny the tears he kept inside. “Do it now then.”
Archie’s eyes brightened. He glanced at Danny. “Wills ye come wi’ me?”
“Daniel will follow in a moment.”
“What is it you want, Father?”
“I need you to gather kindling for the fire. The night ahead will be long, and we will need it for protection from the wild things that prowl the woods; both two and four-footed.” He ruffled the boy’s pale blond hair and grinned. Standing there, surrounded by the Kentucky wilderness, his son had suddenly reminded him of Israel Boone. He wondered if the boy—no—if the man was here, and why Rebecca had not said anything. Quickly, Mingo dismissed the thought. It was no use speculating. With luck, they would meet up with Daniel in the morning and he was certain his old friend would be bursting with news of Israel and all life had brought him. He turned back to his own son. “I deliberately chose this clearing for our camp. Do you know why, Danny?”
The boy thought a moment. He shook his head.
Mingo nodded. There had been little need to teach Danny or his sisters survival skills in Scotland, though he had done what he could. Living with Alexander’s parents had made their life an easy one; easier, that is, than the life the fates had dealt most men of Highland descent. They had had private tutors and never strayed very far off of the MacKirdy’s lands. “With the falls at our back, we will need only watch our front.”
“Needs we watch at all?” Archie had retrieved a tin pan. He held it in one hand and his canteen in the other. “Dae ye fear mon ur beast then?”
“Neither. And both.” Mingo answered as he laid his hand on his son’s shoulder. “You might pass a hundred nights in a place such as this and see no one and nothing, and so you would come to think of it as safe. But then, on the one hundred and first, you might run into a wounded bear or a mountain lion, or meet a man fleeing the law, or a woman looking to feed her child...”
“Or a native?”
Mingo looked at his son. He knew the boy was curious about his ancestry. Unfortunately the only natives Danny had ever ‘met’ were in books and not very true to life. “Perhaps, though it is not likely. Most of the original inhabitants of this land have moved on.”
“Moved on? Where have they gone, Father? And why?”
“Why? There are many reasons.” Mingo paused, wondering how much of the world he had known when last he had walked the fertile ground of Ken-tah-ten remained. “Too many to go into right now. If I had to choose one, I would say it was because, like children, the native people trusted too easily and too often. As to where they have gone; many have moved south, and even more west.”
“Where are your people, Father? Will we see them?”
“Aye,” Archie echoed. He had remained where he was, listening. “An’ mah faither an’ mither’s.”
Mingo shook his head. This was the matter that touched his heart. What would he find when he went back? Did he even want to know? “I do not know if Chota remains. When we locate Daniel, I will ask him what he knows. Then we will see. Now, you two....”
He smacked his son’s backside. “Get to work!”
Rebecca Boone stepped through the door and paused. The day was drawing to a close and the glory of God’s world stunned her for a moment. The trees were a deep rich purple, banked by lavender clouds tinged with rose. Above them hung a pale yellow-gold sky flecked with indigo blue. She lowered her eyes and against this startling backdrop noticed the silhouetted form of Rachel Moray. The petite woman was leaning on a fence-post and staring down the lane in the direction her husband and son had taken. Becky had wondered what had become of her. They had just finished supper and Mingo’s daughter, Verity, had begun to read to her sister from the Bible when she had noticed Rachel was gone. It hadn’t take the Irish gift of the Sight for her to know something was wrong.
It only took being a woman.
The Englishwoman started and her hand went to her chest as she pivoted toward her. “Yes, Rebecca?”
Becky stepped off the porch. “What is it?”
Rachel looked puzzled. “It? What do you mean?”
“What’s wrong?” she asked as she came to her side. “Something is. I can tell.”
The other woman turned away. “It’s nothing. Foolishness.”
“Really.” She glanced at the redhead. “It’s not that I don’t want to share. It is simply that I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t know what is it.” Rachel sighed. “Perhaps returning here....”
“Are you worried about Mingo?”
Rachel lowered her head. She didn’t answer.
“That someone will recognize him and remember?” Becky knew Dan had done his best to erase the charges that had been made against their old friend. Still, rumors and lies often had more staying power than the truth. When they had returned from England, the war had still been raging and even the hint of ‘collaboration’ was enough to get a man hanged. “Rachel?”
The Englishwoman faced her. When she spoke, it was with a quiet sort of fury. “There is that, but it is not that I fear. You know him almost as well as I, Rebecca. For my sake CaraMingo became Kerr. He has adopted the ways of his father’s people. For our children. But he has never forgotten who he was.” Rachel’s hands were trembling where they lay crossed, one upon the other on the white fence-post. “Leaving the Cherokee behind was not really his choice....”
Becky nodded. She had been there when it happened. She and Mingo had been traveling together. One day they had been in Philadelphia and the next, on a ship bound for France. She went to the other woman and placed her hands on her shoulders. “No, leaving was not his choice. But Rachel,” she turned her so they were eye to eye, “staying with you was. He could have come back when Dan and I did—to face the charges against him and disprove them. He could have returned to the Cherokee—many of his people have disappeared into the wilderness that is America. We all make choices. Mingo made his. He loved you and wanted to stay with you.”
Rachel was silent a moment. “Do you remember when he left me that first time? When he had to run with Star and Arrowkeeper to escape the law and prevent them from being taken and killed?”
Becky nodded. She had heard the story. “Yes.”
“He never got to say goodbye to me and it haunted him. Well, he never got to say goodbye to his people either and he has carried that with him all these years.” She ran a hand through her long blond curls and sighed. “Forgive me, Rebecca. I am overly tired. The journey was long.” Rachel paused. “And I am afraid.”
That surprised her. “Afraid? Of what?”
The other woman’s smile was wistful. “It would be simple to say I am afraid someone will recognize him. There are still those who believe the lies those men spread about him. And there are men here, in America, whose own pasts are in question; who might fear us, and that we would recognize them. The British still seek to undermine this new government of yours. They continue to lie and bribe and persuade. It has been difficult to know who to trust. That is why, for a long time, we never stayed in any one place very long; why we never let anyone get to know us well enough to ask questions. Then in Scotland, when we came under the protection of the MacKirdys, we finally settled down. We were able to give the children something that resembled a normal life. And if anyone came looking, ” she smiled, “those in the Highlands take care of their own.”
“And yet you have come back here where Mingo at least is known. I am so glad you did, but why?” Becky turned and leaned her back against the fence. “You said Alexander wanted to come? With his mother?”
Rachel nodded. “Unatsi is dying. It is a cancer. She wanted to come home to Kentucky to see her people again, and to be buried according to their customs in her native soil.”
“How sad,” Becky said softly. “And Alexander told Mingo....”
“Yes. We talked about it for days. Finally he...we decided enough years had passed. Gerard is long gone, as are most of the men who aided him. There are not many left who know that Kerr Murray, Lord Dunsmore’s son, and Kerr Moray or Cara-Mingo, the son of Talota are one and the same. Though, even if they did,” Rachel shrugged, “I think he would have come anyway. He has been restless for some time. He needs to know what happened to his people.”
Becky’s handsome face was marred by a frown.
“Rebecca? What is it? Do you know?”
She nodded. “It isn’t pretty.”
Rachel was silent a moment. “Is anyone left?”
“A few. The brave ones.” Becky closed her eyes and a pained expression crossed her face. The small woman had no idea how personal this was. “Brave or foolish.”
“Rebecca?” Now it was her turn to ask. “What is it?”
The redhead smiled sadly. “You haven’t asked me about Israel.”
“I had wondered. I take it he doesn’t live here.”
“No. No.” The smile turned to a frown. “He stayed behind. He lives near Boonesborough.”
“On his own lands?”
“No. Israel is not a farmer or a homesteader, though he could have been one if he had wished. We had land enough left. He tried it for a while until his first wife died.”
“I’m sorry. We didn’t know. Was it long ago?”
“Has he remarried then?”
“For some time he wandered, surveying and mapping like his father. Then he returned to Boonesborough. There was a girl; someone he had known before.” She paused. “I’m not entirely certain if they ever married.”
As if Rachel could sense her despair, she reached out and touched her hand. “I know what such a separation from Daniel would do to me. I am so sorry, Rebecca. Do you want to tell me about it?”
Becky struck away a tear. Then she shook her head. “Not right now.”
The two of them turned toward the house. Night had claimed the land and Mingo’s eldest girl stood silhouetted against the fire that lit the house’s interior. “Rebekah is ready for her prayers.”
“I’m coming, Verity.” Rachel clutched her fingers. “Will you join us, Rebecca? Together, we shall raise our voices to Heaven and send the angels to watch over those we love.”
The dark-haired boy came awake instantly. He blinked and looked up at him. “Aye?”
“Did you hear that?”
Danny watched as Archie threw off the patterned blanket that covered him and rose to his feet. Then he glanced at his father who lay not five yards away; sleeping with his hand on his rifle. He decided not to wake him. The older man’s watch had just ended and he had only just fallen asleep. “I think someone is in the trees by the horse; someone or some thing.”
“Aur ye certain?”
Danny laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder and pointed. “Look. She’s nervous. She heard it too.”
The brown mare was indeed shifting from side to side and straining at her tether. “Shoulds we wake yer faither?”
“No. I might be wrong.”
Archie nodded. He bent down and drew a small black dagger from behind the flash that decorated his patterned hose, then he nodded and together the pair moved with stealth toward the brown mare. The moon was shining bright and the shadows it cast masked the edge of the clearing. As they drew close one of the shadows shifted suddenly and slipped into the trees.
“Thaur it is!” Archie cried as he circled the mare. She was whinnying and backing away from the rippling leaves. “‘Twas gaun tae steal th’ horse!”
“I don’t know.” Danny’s wide eyes had fastened on the provisions his cousin had removed from the animal’s back. They were open and their contents scattered on the ground. “I think whoever it was wanted food....”
The boy’s blond head came up. He pivoted to find his father approaching. The older man was moving slowly like someone roused from a deep sleep.
“Now we’re fur it,” Archie whispered.
“Father, I....” Danny paused. The horse was still whinnying and straining at its tether as if frightened. As he turned toward it, it reared up and struck out with its hooves, catching his cousin in the shoulder. Archie cried out and fell as the rope that held the animal snapped. The mare shook its dark mane and stamped its feet on the ground, and then turned and fled into the trees.
Mingo watched it go as his son knelt beside his cousin. Archie was obviously in pain but didn’t seem to be severely injured. As he crossed to the pair he glanced about, but saw nothing that could have prompted the horse’s reaction. “Danny?”
The boy looked up. There were tears in his eyes. “Father?”
“What frightened the mare?”
“I don’t know.” He frowned. “I thought I saw someone moving near it. Archie thought they were after the horse.”
“Aye,” the boy drew a deep breath. He shifted his shoulder and winced. “Joost sae.”
Mingo laid a hand on the boy’s other shoulder. “Archie, are you all right?”
Alec’s son nodded. “It joost knocked th’ wind oot o’ me.” Suddenly he looked stricken. “I lost mah dagger. I moost hae dropped it.”
“I’ll find it, Archie. You just sit there and rest.” Danny rose to his feet. He moved toward the place where the horse had been tethered intending to look for the dagger, but stopped when he came abreast the open sacks of food. “You know, I don’t think they were after the horse,” he said quietly.
“No?” His father started to walk toward him. “Then what?”
The boy was staring at the provisions and the bit of rope that lay coiled beside them on the ground. “I think they were hungry. They just wanted....”
“Danny?” Mingo hurried his pace. “What is it?”
The boy had spied Archie’s dagger point-down in the grass and reached for it. As he did, the bit of rope shifted and rose up to stare at him. “Father....”
“Daniel!” Mingo recognized the threat even as the viper bared its fangs and sprang forward. Moving fast as lightning he caught his son’s arm and swung him out of harm’s way. Unfortunately as he did, Mingo’s foot slipped on some of the beans that had spilled out of one of the sacks, and he fell backwards toward the edge of the incline. At that moment the water moccasin struck, sinking its fangs into outer part of his thigh just above the knee. Mingo gasped and reared back, still holding his son, and a second later the two of them went tumbling over the edge and down the grassy slope.
“Will you tell me now?”
Becky frowned. She and Rachel had retired to the parlor. Rebekah Anne was sound asleep and her sister, Verity, nestled in bed with her, reading. She had started to work on the quilt she was making for Jemima’s coming baby. The conversation had naturally turned to children, and then to Mingo and his son. Suddenly she had been overwhelmed by her own loss and had begun to cry. Rachel had fallen to her knees before her and was holding her hand. The material for the quilt had fallen unheeded to the floor. “This is not like me,” Becky apologized. “Rachel, I....”
“Please? Won’t you tell me and allow me help? I have never repaid you for all you did for me, before. Not really. All I have I owe to you and your husband. Let me help.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Rachel. What I did, I did for a friend. For my friends.”
Becky drew a deep breath and steadied herself. She shook back her red hair and met the other woman’s eyes. “Dan and Israel haven’t spoken in almost.... Well, in almost three years now.”
It took a moment for Rachel to allow that to sink in. Then she asked quietly, “Have you seen him in that time?”
Becky shook her head.
“What happened? They seemed to be so close. What came between them?”
The redhead frowned. How could she explain what had happened when she wasn’t certain herself? The two men she loved were so alike. They were both strong and sure and certain in what they believed. Both willing to stake all they had for what they thought was right. Both unwilling to back down.
“What came between them? I think it was pride.” Becky shifted and turned her face toward the fire. Her fingers played with the square of cloth on her lap. “I spoke before of choices. Israel made one. Dan couldn’t accept it.”
“Did it have to do with this girl? The one from Boonesborough?” Rachel hesitated and then added softly, “I am sorry if I seem to be prying.”
Becky patted her hand. “That’s all right. I wouldn’t talk about it if I didn’t want to. She wasn’t from the settlement, just nearby. And yes, it had to do with her, but what happened wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.” She glanced at the other woman. “Do you remember Mingo mentioning a man named Copperhead?”
Rachel frowned. Then she nodded. “A Cherokee, wasn’t he? A friend from his childhood? From Chota?”
“Yes. Copperhead married a white woman. They had three children; the second was a girl called Sunalei. She and Israel played together as children. She was a pretty little thing; all dark curls and big brown eyes. After Israel’s first wife died in childbirth, he wandered for a while. Then he came back to Kentucky. He and Sunalei met again, but this time there was something more than friendship.” Becky remembered still the day her son had told her. She sighed and knit her fingers together and laid them in her lap. “They were in love.”
Rachel didn’t understand. “Was Daniel against her? Because her father was Cherokee?”
“Oh, no. Well, not really. Dan was involved once with a woman whose mother was a Seneca, I don’t think that bothered him, though he knew that once chosen such a path would be hard—being part of two worlds and yet belonging to neither. No, it all started when Israel told us he was going to live with the Indians. You see, Sunalei decided to go back to her father’s people instead of continuing to live as a white. Copperhead had a large plantation. His wife had inherited lands and money. After what happened, Sunalei wanted none of it.”
“After what happened? You talk as if— ”
“Copperhead was burnt out. Thanks to God no one was killed. You see, the lands he and Miriam owned were especially rich and fertile. The men who did this horrible thing were not able to see past the color of his skin. They couldn’t see that he, unlike most of his people, was willing to change; that he was willing to take on our ways for the sake of his family. They saw him only as an Indian and thought that, like other Indians, he had no right to what he owned. In the end the law supported him, but the damage had been done. They live modestly now, near where Chota was, and only ask that others leave them alone. Or at least they did the last time we saw them.”
“So Chota is gone?”
Rachel’s voice was small. Becky knew she was thinking of her husband. “Yes.”
The Englishwoman was silent a moment. “It was what we feared,” she whispered. “But how did this affect Israel, and your husband? I don’t understand.”
“Copperhead didn’t retaliate, but his people did. The settlement was attacked. Men were killed. Women and children....” Becky stood and leaned her head against the mantle-piece. “It was like the war all over again; brother against brother. Father against son.”
“You mean Israel....?”
Becky straightened up and met her astonished stare. “We had taught him to see no color where a man was concerned. As Israel grew all were his friends. He dearly loved Mingo. One of his best friends was Menewa’s son, Monlutha, who was now a man with children of his own. We should have seen it coming...”
Rachel gasped. “He sided with the Natives?”
Becky nodded. “Against his father’s wishes. Dan said that in order to build a nation men have to accept certain responsibilities, and make certain sacrifices. The Indians had to change, to learn to cultivate their fields, to raise cattle and livestock; to prove they could be an asset and not a liability. They refused, and when they began to raid the settlement and kill the settlers he had led there, Dan had no choice but to defend them. Israel told him he was wrong. The natives were here first. It wasn’t right to take their lands, and to drive them south and west as if they were nothing but animals. Dan was right. Israel was right.” She sighed. “Everything is wrong.”
Rachel rose to her feet and crossed to her. She took her hand and squeezed it hard. “God will not desert you. He will find a way. Father and son will be reconciled.”
“Oh, I hope so.” Becky squeezed back. “I have to admit that seeing Mingo again gave me some hope. He always knew how to speak to them both, and he has learned how to live and yet to be a part of two worlds. If he....” She hesitated. “But it is selfish of me to ask. Your own fears....”
“Must give way to my own words.” Rachel smiled. “God will not desert me or mine, either. When Mingo returns I will speak to him. Have hope.”
Becky smiled and wiped away a tear.
For the first time in years, she had just that.
“Danny! Danny, can ye hear me?” Archie knelt and peered over the edge of the incline into the darkness. The sound of the water as it rushed away from the falls came to his ears, but that was all. There was no reply. “Danny?” he tried again.
“Here. We’re here.”
Archie relaxed a wee bit. Even though his cousin’s voice came from a good ways below, it was strong. “Aur ye all richt?”
“I’m fine.” There was a pause. “Father is...hurt.”
The older boy swallowed hard. “Frae th’ fall?”
“I don’t think so. It was a snake that scared the horse. It bit him. I’ve ripped open the leg of his breeches. The area around the bite is swollen and there’s already blood under the skin.” Danny fell silent for a moment and then he added, “He’s burning up.”
“I’m comin’ doon.”
The other boy had flung his legs over the edge. He stopped. “Whot? Whot is it....”
“How are you?”
Archie frowned. He had almost forgotten he had been struck by the horse’s hooves. He rotated his shoulder and suppressed the cry the action engendered. “Sore,” he answered through gritted teeth, “boot otherwise, I’m fine. Why?”
“Can you find your way back to the Boone house? Father says you need to go and bring back help.”
“Gae? Ye mean, leave ye haur? Danny, nae....”
“It’s the only way. Father says I can find some herbs that will help while you are gone. He can’t travel, and you and I can’t carry him. Someone will have to— ”
“Whot aboot th’ horse? Coulds he ride?”
There was a moment of silence. “The horse ran away.”
“I can find it. Hang on, Danny.” Archie leapt to his feet and turned toward the trees on the far side of the clearing. “I’ll find it, an’ be back afore ye hae time tae kent I hae been gone.”
Mingo’s hand closed on his son’s arm. “He’s gone, Daniel. Perhaps he will find the horse....”
Danny looked down at his father. He was half-sitting and half laying His breath was coming hard and he was obviously in pain. “Even if he does, could you sit it?”
White teeth flashed in the tan face. “I could try.” Mingo closed his eyes and sighed. He was putting on a brave front for his son, but the situation was grave. The snake had been a large one and fear had made its venom more potent. His vision had already begun to blur and he was having trouble concentrating. Still, he thanked God it had struck him and not his smaller, slender son. Mingo drew several deep breaths and forced himself to think. There was a root, the juice of which could be used to treat snakebite. It was common to this area and usually grew in moist sandy soil, like that of a riverbank. He looked up at his son. The boy would have to go looking for it; alone, and in the dark. The thought gave him pause, but there was really no other way. It would do Daniel no good to just sit here and watch him die. At least this way, if the worst happened, the boy would feel he had done something to help.
Still, he would have to warn him about what he might find when he came back. “Danny.”
His son turned a frightened face toward him. “Father?”
“I need you to go find a certain plant. The juice of its root can be used to counteract the poison. You will have to mash it and place some of it in the wound. Can you do that?”
Danny looked horrified. “I can’t leave you. You might....”
“Daniel, if you don’t go, I will die.” Mingo knew his words were harsh, but he had to impress upon the boy the need for haste—and caution. “Son, I need you to be strong. If Archie returns with the horse and I am unconscious, you will either have to lift me onto its back, or leave me and go back yourself to the house for help....”
“Unconscious? Why would you be unconscious?”
“I may go into shock. It depends on how much of the venom entered my blood-stream.”
Danny shook his head. “Father, no!”
“Danny come here.” Mingo held his hand out as best he could. He tried to hide the fact that it was trembling by waving it. As his son gripped his fingers, he met his eyes. “I need you to promise me something.”
The boy was shaking as well. He looked wary. “What?”
“I need you to promise me that you will not put yourself in unnecessary danger.” He squeezed his son’s hand. “I may die anyhow. If it comes to a choice between leaving me and your own survival— ”
“You won’t die! You won’t!”
“Daniel. Do you remember what I told you before we undertook this journey?” Mingo drew a sharp breath. The place where the fangs had entered his flesh was throbbing and a curious prickling sensation was creeping up his thigh. A muscle in his face twitched involuntarily. “This land is untamed. It is beautiful, but such rare beauty carries a high price. It gives much, but takes even more—sometimes without warning.”
The boy was silent a moment. When he spoke, his voice was small. “It should have been me.”
Mingo touched his son’s cheek. “Never.”
As Danny reached for his hand again, a spasm wracked him, arcing his back
and pulling it away. Mingo gasped
and fell to the ground, panting hard. The
venom was doing its work quickly. He
shuddered as he felt his son’s hand on his chest.
His worse fear was that some sort of madness would overcome him before
the paralysis set in. “Danny....”
“Go, Danny.” His voice was growing weak. “Find the root and bring it back. It is our only hope.”
Danny held his hand tightly and looked down at him, then he rose to his feet. Wiping the tears from his face with the back of his sleeve, he turned to go.
Mingo’s voice was clear. “I love you.”
Daniel Hugh Moray stopped. He remained still a moment and then he fell to his knees and clasped his father in his arms. “I love you too,” he whispered and planted a kiss on his hot forehead.
Then he climbed to his feet and was gone.
As Danny began his journey the moon, which had been shining bright, slipped behind a bank of clouds and disappeared, plunging the woods into darkness. Though there were stars twinkling in the sky they provided little light, and so it was with difficulty that he managed to work his way to the top of the hill and back to their camp. Once there he searched for the lantern they had brought with them and found it among the scattered food-stuffs and other supplies. Employing the limited wilderness skills his father had insisted he learn, Danny lit it and quickly searched the area for the snake root plant. He did not expect to find it. His father had told him it would most likely be located in slightly sandy soil, such as that near or below the waterfall itself.
As he walked, alone, through the black night, Danny began to hum one of the Highland tunes Archie was so fond of, hoping to gain some courage from the words of those who had gone before. He didn’t know all that much about Bonnie Prince Charlie, but he was sure he had known times such as this, when everything depended on him and those he loved might perish if he failed in his mission. In the English schools he had attended his Highland blood had been disdained. He had learned to keep quiet about it. But late at night, when they roamed the moors, he and Archie had charged the hills and sounded the ancient calls, and pretended they were in the boat sailing the wild waves to Skye with the young King at their side. At the time such a dangerous undertaking had seemed a grand adventure. He struck a tear from his cheek as he thought of his father lying alone at the bottom of the hill. Now that he was walking the path he had played at, it seemed nothing like that at all.
Danny paused as he came to a tumbled fall of earth and stones that blocked the path he had chosen. He could hear the Long Man roaring just beyond the trees; his watery form surging over the jutting cliffs and crashing to the rocks far below. That thought led to another and Danny closed his eyes and tried to picture his father, young like him, crouched beside those raging waters; dressed in a leather breech-cloth and moccasins, with feathers in his hair. The image made him laugh, so far was it removed from the gentleman in lace and sprigged velvet who occupied the parlors and salons of Europe that were the only world he had ever known. Still, even he could tell it was not the world his father preferred. There had always been in him a sadness, a desire—no, a need to come home.
To come here.
Danny shook himself and quickly scrambled over the rocks, resuming his journey toward the falls. When his Uncle Alec had asked his father to accompany him and his family to the New World, he had never dared to hope he and his sisters would be allowed to come too. He had heard his parents speaking in low tones over a period of several nights. His mother had been in tears; not of anger but of fear. There was something he didn’t know, something they had kept hidden, and it had to do with his father and with men who wanted to harm him because of who he was. Or who he had been once upon a time.
Danny stopped and knelt and examined a thick stem, but it was not the one he wanted. Giving it a sharp kick for failing to be what he needed, he rose and started off again. His father had not hidden from them the fact that they were descended of the ‘noble’ savages of this wild and untamed land. He had raised them to be proud of their Cherokee blood; all the while teaching them it was not something to be volunteered in polite conversation. The only natives Danny had ever seen were in books, and his father had told him that not all of what was written or shown was true. Still, he knew they were a handsome people, dark-skinned and dark-haired, that they painted their faces like the Celts when going to war, and that they wore beads and bright colors and looked like performers at a street fair.
But they were not performers, they were real, and part of him.
Lifting his lantern high, Danny paused again to examine another stand of tall stems. It looked promising. His father had described the plant he needed. It would be two to three feet tall, with stout bristly-haired stems bearing thick hairy leaves. The flowers would be a whitish rose to a pale purple and consist of a ray and disk. If it was the right one he would know by the root; it would be black and thick. Danny dropped to his knees beside the plants and, placing his lantern on the ground, drew his knife from his stocking and began to dig in the dirt.
From the trees nearby a shadowed form watched as the elegantly dressed son of a white man turned his back and knelt. Its trembling hand tightened on the knife it held, and it swallowed hard.
He was too close. The others were in danger. And though it made his heart ache to think of what he must do, he would do it anyway.
The boy had to die.
Daniel Boone frowned and halted his march through the forest. A wavering light had appeared before him, painting the tips of the rustling leaves a fiery gold. As he stood still and listened, he became aware of the sounds of a struggle. Cocking the hammer of his flintlock and placing his finger near the trigger, he began to jog through the thick foliage; steeling himself for whatever he would find as he burst through the trees.
What he found stopped him. If just for a second. Two figures were locked in combat, rolling over and over. One of them was dressed in fine clothes; a deep blue jacket and a kilt, and the other in tattered buckskins. Behind them a fire was burning. A lantern lay on its side and the small amount of oil that had spilled from it had ignited the nearby grasses. He hesitated a moment to debate which was of the most import; aiding the stranger or preventing a fire that might consume hundreds of acres of land, destroying both crops and homes. Eyeing the struggling figures, Dan decided he had just enough time to remove his jacket and toss it over the flames before stepping into the fray. As he did so, stamping on the heavy leather to smother the tiny blaze, there was a flash of silver that caught his eye and a prolonged cry. The voice was male; high and frightened. He realized with a start that the one in the kilt was a child.
Stepping over the abandoned lantern, he planted his feet and raised his weapon, pointing it at the pair. “You there,” Dan shouted. “I have you in my sights. Let the boy go. Stand up and face me.”
The man froze. His back stiffened and he glanced over his shoulder. Dan caught a glimpse of red paint and beads. His frown deepened. He aimed Ticklicker at the native’s head. If there was one, there were probably more; most likely planning some mischief that would put Brushy Fork and the other young settlements in jeopardy.
“I would advise you to do what I say. Now!” Dan warned.
The native glared at him. Then, suddenly, he jerked and fell back as the young boy scrambled to his feet. Dan noticed he was tall and blond, and definitely Scottish. Not only did he wear a kilt, but there was a plaid sash over his shoulder fastened with a silver brooch. Apparently the boy had given the native a punch in the stomach and managed to free himself. He called out to him. “Son, move away from him. Come here — ”
The boy’s eyes found his. There was a flicker of recognition in them. Then, suddenly, they went wide as the native caught his ankle and pulled him to the ground. He was rolled over and ended with a knife pressed to his throat. Dan trained Ticklicker on the older man again. The native had to know that he would give him no ground. If he thought he could get away, the Indian might try taking the boy with him.
“Let him go,” Dan said coolly.
“No.” The man looked up at him. He was covered with sweat and breathing hard.
“Well, now,” he narrowed one eyes and continued to look down the barrel of his gun, “it appears we have a stand-off.”
The native smiled grimly and pressed the edge of the knife into the boy’s throat. “No. Not unless you wish for this one to die.”
The tall frontiersman inspected the Indian before him. The man was scrawny; underfed and underweight. The copper skin hung on his cheeks and there were dark circles under his eyes. Obviously, he wasn’t well. If he had been, holding the boy down would hardly have caused him to break a sweat.
In other words, he wasn’t dangerous; he was desperate.
Dan held his gaze. “Do you?”
The dark eyes narrowed. “Do I what?”
“Want the boy to die? You have somethin’ against children?” Dan managed to catch the boy’s attention. He was looking at him over the edge of the knife. ‘Trust me’, he tried to communicate. ‘Stay calm.’ Almost imperceptibly the boy nodded. It seemed he understood. “Or maybe just Scottish ones?”
The native coughed and seemed to sag. “Or perhaps,” he answered slowly, “just white ones.”
Dan frowned and straightened up. “What makes you say that?”
“Why would you want to know, white man?”
The big man paused. “Let’s just say I’m curious.”
“Curious,” the native spat. “That is all we are to you and your kind; a curiosity.” The Indian stood and pulled the boy up with him. “Something to cage or to build a fence around; to break and to re-make.” He started to back toward the trees, still holding the knife to the boy’s throat. “To use and abuse as you would a plow-horse or mule.”
Dan lowered his rifle and the man stopped. He deliberately pointed the barrel into the earth and leaned on the wooden butt. “Is that what you are afraid of? Being captured and caged?”
The native shuddered. “I am not afraid,” he whispered, but his eyes belied the words he spoke.
Dan remained very still. “Yes, you are. What is it....” The sound of metal tinkling made him turn his head, and then he knew. There were two shadows at the side of the road; one tall and one small: a native woman in a buckskin dress embellished with metal cones, and a small emaciated child. Holding its hand the reed-thin woman stepped out of the trees and into the shifting moonlight. “Dear Lord,” Dan whispered, “you stayed behind when your people were driven out, didn’t you? You’ve been hidin’ in the hills all this time. Is this your family?”
The man’s jaw tightened. “What is left of them.”
“Was it you I saw earlier today? Beyond the falls?”
The native shifted his grip on the boy, but he did not lower the knife. “Yes, white man.”
“Boone,” Dan said, “my name is Boone.” So intent was he on the Indian that he missed the young boy’s reaction. “Now if you would just put down that knife.”
“No. You will tell them, and even if you do not,” the Indian shook the young Scot, “he will. You must die; both of you.”
“Now, mister,” Dan straightened and lifted Ticklicker from the ground, “you just might be able to kill the boy before I could get off a shot, but you couldn’t do that and protect your family.”
The man hesitated. Then he said softly, “It is said Boone does not kill women and children.”
So he had heard of him. “It is said right, then. Boone does not kill women and children.” Dan paused and sought his eyes. “Can the same be said of you...?” He drew the question out, as if seeking a name.
“Running Fox.” The Indian shuddered. He lowered the knife and stepped away from the boy. “Once I was a warrior. Once I killed only those who sought to kill me or mine.” Running Fox sheathed the blade and raised his hands; palms open. “Once these hands were used for hunting buffalo and bear; for feeding my children and making a life. No more. The buffalo are gone. The bear disappear. The forests are cut down. My children are dead. We no longer live. We exist.”
The native turned toward the young boy he had held captive. He had not moved or run away, but stood looking at him; his wide blue eyes round with compassion and concern. “Yes?”
“Was it you who came into our camp, seeking food?”
“No,” the woman who had waited in the shadows approached them, leaving her child to hide in the leaves. “That was me.”
Dan watched as the woman slipped her hand into her husband’s and Running Fox gripped it tight. He wondered about the boy who stared at them, his eyes wide with sympathy. The stories he had probably been told of the fierce painted savages of America must have seemed very far from the reality of the two hungry human beings standing before him.
“If you will come back with me, to the camp, I will give it to you,” the boy said.
“Son?” The Scot turned away from the couple and looked at him. “What are you doing out here alone?”
The boy advanced toward him. “My father is hurt. I was looking for snake root when I was attacked.”
“Snake root?” Dan frowned. “What do you need with... Son, look out!”
Running Fox and his wife had exchanged a glance and, as she ran toward their child, the Indian man took advantage of the young Scot’s diverted attention and shoved him so hard he fell into the bushes beside the footpath. Dan shook his head as the three natives disappeared into the night. Then he wiped the ashes from his hands onto his buckskin trousers and went to the boy and offered him a hand. Dan laughed gently as the boy took it and rose to his feet; his plaid sash askew and half over his head. He helped him pull it back into place and then watched as he meticulously straightened his jacket and kilt and dusted himself off. “Well, son, what are you doing out here alone?” he asked when he was through.
The boy frowned. “You said your name was ‘Boone’. Are you Daniel Boone?”
And you might be, boy?
“Daniel Moray, sir.” He held out his hand. In spite of being pale and shaken, he held himself erect and appeared to be unafraid. “I think you know my father.”
The big man frowned. “Moray? I don’t recall anyone by the name of Moray.” He picked the boy’s bonnet up from the ground and shook it before setting it on his head. “Sorry.”
“I am sure you do, sir. My father has spoken often of you, and with fondness.”
Dan thought a moment; then he shook his head. “What’s his Christian name?”
“Kerr, sir. Kerr Moray. But I believe here he is known as— ”
“Kerr Murray? You mean, Mingo?” If Becky had been there at that moment to purse her lips and playfully blow on his cheek, she could have knocked him over. And yet, now that he knew, it was obvious. Daniel Moray looked a lot like his mother, but he was tall like his old friend and the cheekbones were definitely Cherokee. “Mingo’s here?” He grinned. “Where is he? Is he with...” Then he stopped. “Wait, you told that man he was hurt.”
“Yes, sir.” Danny pointed back the way he had come. “I had to leave him back there, half-way down the incline that leads to the falls. I....”
Dan caught the boy’s arm, suddenly frightened. “Did you say you were looking for snake root?”
Mingo’s world had narrowed to his own aching, trembling form. The snake’s venom had taken effect quickly. At first there had been pain and burning where the fangs had penetrated the flesh just above his knee and then he had begun to experience an uncontrollable twitching. Then the pain had passed and he had become numb. His mouth had watered excessively, and now he was feeling sick. If Daniel didn’t return soon, it would be too late. The next stage was to go into shock. Finally, he would forget to breathe and death would come.
His fingers clawed the grass. He wasn’t so much afraid for himself as for his son and Alec’s. Both were wandering somewhere; lost in a hostile world. He chided himself for being so impatient. He could have waited for Daniel to return to the house at Brushy Fork. He had had no business bringing two untried boys into the woods. Rachel had been right. She had told him she feared something terrible would happen if they returned to America.
And now here he was.
The sound of something passing through the trees drew his attention and brought him back to his current surroundings. He had tried to keep very still, knowing the venom would spread faster if he moved, but now he lifted his head and attempted to see beyond his toes. The effort proved too great and he let it sink back to the ground. A moment later fingers touched his face.
“Danny?” He whispered. “Is that you?”
“Yes, Dadaidh. It is me.” Danny touched his cheek and knelt beside him. ‘Dadaidh’ was the Gaelic for ‘Daddy’ he had used when he was a little boy.
Mingo wanted to take hold of his hand, but his own would not respond. He closed his eyes and relaxed. “Danny. Thank God.”
“Son, move over. Let me take a look.”
Mingo frowned as his son stood and a shadow fell across him. “Who?”
“You know, Mingo,” a familiar voice laced with concern and tinged with humor, said, “Seems to me you are a man as bound to find trouble as to draw a breath of air. How did you ever make it through the last seventeen years without me bein’ there to rescue you?”
Mingo felt the tension flee his prone form. He had just enough energy to open his eyes and look up. A tall familiar figure was kneeling over him.
“Daniel,” he whispered, and then passed out.
- Continued in
chapter two -