Journeys End by Marla F. Fair
Mingo smiled at the young woman as she handed him a tin cup. He held it beneath his nose and sniffed. It had a pleasant and familiar scent. “Thank you,” he said softly.
She nodded and backed away. Then she stared at him. “You are unwell?”
His black brows rose. “Do I seem ‘unwell’?”
The woman nodded. “In your eyes. There is something that is not quite right.”
He glanced away from her to the young, white-haired man who was kneeling beside a boulder several yards away, pointing at a hide map which was spread across its flat top. Half a dozen dark-skinned natives stood in a semi-circle about him, nodding their heads. Mingo shifted and turned back to face her. “I am sad.”
The woman frowned. “Sad?”
“Sad that my friend’s son will not see him, or talk to him.” He took a sip of the tea. As he did, his dark eyes flicked to her face. “This is wonderful. I find it rather intriguing, though, that a native woman would be brewing Assam in the middle of the woods.” Mingo shifted back on his seat of stone to gaze at her. She was a small woman, dark-haired and copper-skinned, but there was about her a refinement that was not entirely native. She spoke English fluently, and moved as if she had been born and bred in the white man’s world. Her black hair was swept away from her face and anchored with silver combs, and ringlets cascaded over the shoulders of her beaded deer-skin dress and the patterned shawl that covered it. Mingo smiled as he noticed her dark curls had a copper, instead of a blue sheen. “Sunalei?” he asked.
The woman’s eyes narrowed. She studied him intently, and then finally she nodded. “The tea was a present from my brother. And you are my father’s friend, Cara-Mingo. I remember you now.”
“Yes. How is your father, and Miriam? And your brother, Adohi?”
Sunalei placed one hand in the small of her back and turned so she faced the pool of water. “I have not seen them for many moons.” Her voice was quiet and tinged with regret. “We do not stay in one place for long. It is not safe.”
He was staring at her profile. Where her other hand rested, there was a round bump beneath her gown that he had not noticed at first. “You are pregnant?”
She glanced at him. “Yes.”
“Why are you here then?” he asked. The place Israel and his native compatriots had chosen to make their temporary home was as inhospitable as it was lovely. And it was obvious from their thin faces and forms that food was somewhat less than plentiful. “Why not go home?”
“This is home, Mingo.”
He looked up to find Israel had left the other men and come to join them. As he watched, the young man smiled at Sunalei and then placed his arm around her and pulled her tight. She reached up and touched his face. He leaned down and kissed her, and then grinned at Mingo’s shocked expression.
“I’m not ten anymore, Mingo.”
Mingo’s dark eyes went to Sunalei’s abdomen. He laughed. “Obviously not. When is the child due?”
“Soon,” Israel answered as he accepted a cup from her hands. “Late May. June, maybe.”
“So he—or she will have a Summer birthday.”
Israel nodded. He kissed Sunalei again and watched her as she walked away. “So?”
“Nothing. I was just remembering how much you always enjoyed the celebrations your parents planned. You and your father— ”
Israel frowned. “I don’t want to talk about Pa.”
“I find that interesting.” Mingo took another sip. “He does not want to talk about you either.”
Israel’s blue eyes narrowed in an unconscious imitation of his father’s. “You weren’t sitting on that rock back there, waitin’ on me, were you? I mean, Pa didn’t send you?”
Mingo shook his head. “I only wish I could claim to be so clever. No, you took me quite unawares. Israel....” He watched the white head tilt. “What came between you?”
“He didn’t tell you?”
“Daniel has said little.”
“But he said somethin’, didn’t he?”
“Yes. He said you were doing what he had taught you; standing up for what you believed in, and defending it to the death. Is that what you are doing here, with these men?”
“Pa said that?” The young man looked surprised.
“He did,” Mingo answered. “He also said you had told him that his life had been a ‘mistake’; that his coming to this wilderness was wrong and that by doing so, he had hurt good people. Israel, you know your father would never intentionally— ”
“Intentionally or not, Mingo, good people have been hurt. Sunalei’s people. Your people! Did he tell you what happened to her pa? Or to Chota after they left him lying in his own blood on the scorched grass and Copperhead’s people decided to hunt down the ones who had done it? If white men had gone out to avenge one of their own against the Indians, it would have been applauded. You know that. But not when the natives did it.” The young man’s blue eyes were wide. His chest rose and fell with anger and indignation. “Did Pa tell you he was with them? Did he tell you he stood nose to nose with me, with a rifle in his hand and told me I was wrong?”
“Wrong? About what in particular?”
“About this!” Israel indicated the natives, some of whom were standing close by in the early morning shadows watching and listening. “About Sunalei. About standin’ with my friends and my brothers.” He drew a deep breath. “With your brothers. You weren’t here to stand with them, Mingo. Someone had to.”
He could hear the hurt in the young man’s voice. It was as if he was suddenly ten years old again. “I am sorry, Israel. Someday, when there is time, I will explain it all— ”
“You don’t have to explain, Mingo. You ran. Some men do.” Israel shifted his feet and crossed his arms. “Others stand and fight.”
Mingo’s jaw tightened, but he held his rising anger in check. “I am certain your mother explained what happened. I did not leave Kentucky of my own volition— ”
“You coulda come back. You coulda faced down those men who were saying all those things about you; that you were a traitor and sold us out.” The young man paused and his voice softened. “Did you sell us out, Mingo?”
“Then why didn’t you come back?”
Mingo remained silent for a moment, then he said, “Did you see the two young boys who were traveling with your father and me?”
The white head nodded. “I was watching from the trees. You mean the ones in the kilts? They friends of yours?”
“One of them is. He is Alexander MacKirdy’s son, Archie.”
Israel grinned. “Is Alexander here?”
Mingo knew Israel and Finlay had become friends. They had met when the young Scot and his older brother had come to the settlement to warn him, and Daniel, of James McInnery’s schemes concerning his brother Tara’s son, Kamassa. “Finlay is supposed to meet us in Boonesborough. Alexander and his family are following close behind.”
“So who was the other one?” Israel asked as he took a seat and lifted the cup of tea to his lips. “The tall blond?”
Mingo smiled. “My son, Daniel.”
Israel spit out his tea. “Your son? You got married?”
He laughed. “Does it seem so impossible?”
Israel shook his head. “I never thought you’d get married. You were so dead-set against it....”
Mingo was silent a moment. He tried to remember himself at twenty-six or seven. He had been so certain then of the course he had chosen. He glanced at Sunalei where she sat combing out her long dark hair; her full figure silhouetted against the rising light. The woman he had loved had not been made for this wilderness and so he had set aside any thought of marrying. He had chosen to be a Cherokee warrior. That was to be his life.
Mingo glanced down at the elegant silk waistcoat and breeches cut in the current European fashion that he was wearing and shook his head.
“Mingo? What is it?”
He looked up and met the intense blue stare. “We were friends, were we not, Israel?”
The young man nodded. “Yes. I thought we was good friends.”
“So we were. I am sorry my leaving hurt you. I had no choice.” He paused. Even now the words seemed strange coming from his lips. “My father needed me.”
Israel frowned. “Your father? I thought you hated your father.”
“So did I.” Mingo stood and walked a few paces away before turning back to stare at him. “Your mother told you how we ended up on the Alliance?”
“Yep. And had to go to France and lay low because people was lookin’ for you.”
“And waiting for us. Yes. The men who fabricated the lies against me meant to deliver me to a prison in England, and then to convict me of treasonous acts.”
“Just like here,” Israel said
Mingo’s smile was weary. “Yes, just like here.”
“But Ma said you went to England anyway; in spite of that.” Israel glanced up at him. His eyes suddenly widened with understanding. “Because of your Pa?”
“And Rachel. Their fates were intertwined. But that is not the reason I mention my going to my father.” He took a step closer. “Israel, I was wrong.”
“About my father.” At his look, Mingo added, “Oh, not about what he did. I still disagree with his choices.”
“With him taking you to England when you was a boy, you mean?”
“Yes. That and other things. But, Israel, I was wrong about him, about why he did what he did. I had to forgive him before I could move on.”
Israel stood. “Now you’re talkin’ about Pa.”
The dark-skinned man nodded. “Come back with me. Talk to Daniel.”
“No! Never. I ain’t never....”
“Now, who is afraid?” Mingo’s voice was quiet and sure. “Now, who is running?”
“Mingo, you ain’t bein’ fair.”
“Are you? Have you given your father a chance to explain why he did what he did? Well, have you?”
The young man stared at him for a long time. Then he laughed. “I think I liked it better when you was gone.”
Mingo approached him and looked into his eyes. “Will you come then?”
Israel turned away and stared at the falling water. The dawning light was painting it a fiery red. “You’re goin’ to Boonesborough?”
Israel’s eyes were on Copperhead’s daughter who was sitting on the blanket still combing out her hair. “Sunalei and me, we’ll meet you there. She’s been wantin’ to see her kin. And, I’d like to see Finlay again,” he added.
“You won’t come with me now?”
Israel shook his head. “No. Not now. I need some time to think.” The young man turned back toward him. “What did your Pa say; when you talked to him? How come you changed your mind?”
Mingo was silent for a moment. How could he explain it when he didn’t understand it himself? His father had offered no apologies for the choices he had made; there had been no concessions and yet, they had come to an understanding. In the end there had only been one thing that stood between them, and in the end, that same thing had bound them together.
“I realized even though the choices he made had been wrong, they had been made for only one reason.”
“And that was?”
Mingo’s dark brown eyes sought Daniel’s son’s. “Because he loved me.”
Daniel Moray lifted his blond head from the grass and gazed at the quickening sky. He yawned as he glanced around the camp. Archie was still asleep beside him. Daniel Boone was resting with his back against a tree and his hand on his rifle. The boy blinked and looked for his father.
He was nowhere in sight.
Assuming that the frontiersman had stood the first watch and then awakened him to exchange places, Danny rose to his feet and set off in search of his father. His soft leather brogues allowed him to move swiftly and silently, and barely disturbed the dew that lay thick on the grass and sparkled like fairy dust. Danny drew in a deep breath of the clean crisp air and grinned. This was what he had hoped for. He was in Kentucky, traveling with his father toward the land the older man had called home. He would get to meet the Cherokee soon; those his father had called friends and family. He and Archie would be able to find out at last what it was really like to be a native and to walk upon the land as if you were a part of it, and know it like the back of your hand. He knew his mother secretly feared his father would want to stay. Danny stopped at the top of a small green knoll and stretched his arms wide and listened to the wind as it whistled past him, noting the calls of the birds in the trees and the rustle of the tall grasses at his feet. He could understand why. There was something in the air that was missing in Europe. A fresh scent. In the Old World everything was fixed and unchangeable. Everything and everyone seemed to have—and to know—their place. Here it seemed possible to remake yourself; to become whoever and whatever you wanted to be.
As he stood still, listening, Danny heard someone moving behind him. Figuring it had to be Archie, he turned and opened his eyes. At first he saw nothing. Then he noticed a small dark figure at the edge of the trees, watching him. As he took a step toward it, its head jerked up and it disappeared.
It had been a child, barely bigger than his sister Rebekah.
Danny hesitated, remembering Running Fox and his family, but then his curiosity got the better of him and he stepped off the knoll and walked quickly to the place where he had seen the figure. He examined the ground and saw only the imprint of a single small pair of moccasins in the earth. Curious, he parted the leaves and entered the cool shady woods. The trail of footsteps led forward, toward a tumble of boulders. Danny frowned and glanced back. He knew he should go and find his father, or return and call Mr. Boone. The two older men had warned them not to wander off alone. As he hesitated a shadow fell close to the boulders and a small dark face with huge black eyes peered out at him. Fascinated, Danny took a few steps forward and held out his hand.
“Hello?” he said softly. “Hello. Who are you?”
The small figure shifted so the light struck its dark head. A single feather dangled from its shoulder-length locks and a bare chest showed above leather leggings which were topped with a painted breech-cloth.
Danny smiled at the native boy. “My name is Danny. What’s yours?”
The boy’s head came up suddenly. He blinked twice and then disappeared behind the boulder.
Mingo’s son glanced back toward their camp again and then, after a moment’s hesitation, followed him. He hadn’t gone forty paces when the boy suddenly cried out. Danny began to run. He rounded a bend and found the child had slipped on a stone at the edge of a small creek and fallen. He was holding his foot.
Danny looked around, but still saw no sign of any other natives. He stepped out of the trees and approached the boy. As he did, he held his hands up with the palms out in what he hoped was a universal sign of surrender and peace. “I am not going to hurt you,” he said softly. “I only want to help.”
The boy squirmed and tried to get away. He rose, but as soon as he tried to put weight on his foot, he fell again. As he did, he cried out in a tongue Danny didn’t recognize and then made an odd animal-like noise. Danny had just knelt by his side and reached for him when he heard an answering call. He whirled to find a full-grown, painted and feathered Indian warrior breaking through the trees, tomahawk in hand.
Danny’s blue eyes went wide and he ducked, sure the man would kill him, but the tomahawk never flew. He covered his head and waited, breathing hard, as the warrior approached and towered over him. The man and the boy spoke to one another. Their language moved fast. It seemed to consist mostly of consonants and short guttural sounds, and seemed as incomprehensible at first as Gaelic to an Englishman. Then, as he fought to control the trembling the man’s sudden appearance had caused, he caught a word he knew. ‘Do-da’.
“Father?” he said. “Are you his father?” Danny lowered his arms and lifted his head and looked into the face of the man who stood over him. “I didn’t hurt him. Honestly.” He frowned. What was that other word his father had taught him? “O-gi-na-li,” Danny said suddenly. “Friend.”
The tall warrior stared down at him. A moment later he knelt and gazed into his eyes. Danny stiffened his spine and tried not to appear afraid. The man had paint on his face and chest; broad yellow splashes punctuated here and there with hand-prints red as blood. His hair was skinned tightly back on his head and fell in a tail on one side. Feathers trailed from it as well as beads. He wore a beaded belt, fitted with several striking instruments and a pistol, and below it, a pair of broadcloth pants. Blue with a deep red stripe.
Danny frowned. That had not been what he had expected. Mingo’s son drew a deep breath and repeated slowly, “O-gi-na-li. Me. Friend.”
The warrior addressed the native boy again. The child sniffed and then crawled the short distance across the rocks until he found a place in his father’s arms. “Wa-da-du-ga,” the man said, pointing to the boy.
Danny tossed his head and ran a shaky hand through his hair. His Cherokee was limited to a few words and phrases. That wasn’t one of them. “Wada Duga?” he repeated.
The native smiled. “His name is Dragonfly.”
“You speak English?” Danny asked, somewhat relieved but still wary.
The warrior’s black eyes sparkled with hidden amusement. “You speak Cherokee?”
“My father is Cherokee.” At the man’s look, he added. “Well, half-Cherokee. My mother is English.” He held still while the native pointed at his blond hair. “Yonega,” he nodded, growing a little more calm, “my mother is white.”
The warrior started to respond and then his head pivoted toward the trail as if he had heard something. He turned back to Danny and said, “Your name?”
The boy swallowed. “Daniel. Daniel Moray.” Then he added boldly. “And you might be?”
The man offered him a hand. He took it reluctantly and was pulled to his feet. “Come with me,” the native said.
As he started to duck into the leaves, Danny called after him. “And why would I do that?”
The warrior turned and looked at him. The small boy was perched on his shoulders now; one hand clinging to his father’s hair. He smiled grimly. “Daniel Moray, the men who are advancing through the forest are not of my tribe. If you would like to keep that head of blond hair, I would suggest you close your mouth and follow me.”
Danny used his hand to do just that. He placed his fist under his chin and shoved up, and then did as the native instructed. As he came abreast him, the man extended his hand and grinned.
“And you can call me Monlutha.”
Mingo drew a breath as the blind-fold came off his eyes. Even though Israel had vouched for him, the other men of their small village had insisted he not be allowed to see the passage into or out of their hiding place. He had not argued the issue. It was for the best. If he knew the way he might be tempted to return or to bring Daniel there, and in doing so he might unwittingly expose them all to danger.
Somewhere in these woods—so far as he knew—the men who had tried to kidnap his son were still on the loose. He could hope they had remained near Brushy Forks or given up after their failed attempt, but life and loss had taught him better than that. A shadow from his past; a ghost of some deed done in earnest or in error, had arisen to haunt him, and if he was not very careful it might cost the life of someone he loved.
Mingo watched as the tall thin native who had held the rifle on him when he had first been taken unawares disappeared into the trees. The man, a pale-skinned Miami named Ma-uan-sa or White Wolf, had not said a word to him, but had looked at him and his English clothes with disdain. The native had pointed him in the direction of the others and then, with a nod, left him to make his way back on his own. Mingo frowned. He was not certain all of the warriors in Israel’s camp had so noble a goals as Daniel Boone’s young son. Still, it was not his place to judge. Israel was a man now and able to make his own choices.
And deal with their consequences.
Mingo reached up and pulled the ribbon from his hair, and shook it free. Then he began to walk slowly back to the camp. The sun had topped the green field of trees before him, beginning its daily journey, and the light it cast settled like gold dust on the waking land. All about him the world pulsed with life. A deer raised its head and watched him as he passed. Birds alighted in the trees and sang the song of praise that was theirs alone. He had only gone a short distance when he drew to a halt and stood completely still. Mingo closed his eyes and listened.
He was home.
Several minutes later he opened his eyes and began to move forward again. As he did, he realized someone was pacing him, just within the trees. He continued to walk on as if unaware and noticed that they continued to follow, but slowly, as if they were uncertain of their way and of who he was. Just before entering a stand of trees he stopped, seemingly to adjust the buckle at his knee. Kneeling, he glanced back. There appeared to be three figures. None of them were very tall. Mingo frowned. What would children be doing in the wilderness alone? He considered walking deliberately toward them in the hopes of confronting them, but as he did a sudden sound brought his head up and made him turn the other way. A group of men was emerging from the trees close behind him. Mingo rose to his feet as they spotted him and waited until they had drawn abreast.
“Gentlemen,” he said—though he didn’t mean it. They were an ugly group, settlers by the look of them, unkempt and unshaven. Several were drunk. “Can I help you?”
From the middle of the group of about one dozen, a single man emerged. He was broad-shouldered and thick-built, and almost as tall as Mingo. He frowned as he took a step forward and his eyes took in his elegant attire. “I doubt it. Who are you?”
“A visitor,” Mingo answered, hesitant to reveal who he was. “Heading to Boonesborough.”
One of the other men poked the thick-built one in the back and snickered. “Well, mister, you’d have to go ‘round the world to get to it headin’ that direction. It’s back the other way.” His laugh was insulting. “Ain’t that right, Zach?”
Mingo drew a breath and held it. His dark eyes went to the leader’s face. He thought the man had looked familiar.
He hadn’t recognized the man. Zach’s face was all jowls now and there were dark permanent gullies beneath his eyes. His skin was lined from the sun, and not from laughter. In fact, he had the appearance of a man who had forgotten how to smile, unless the gesture was made at someone else’s expense. Life, it seemed, had not been very kind to him.
But then Zach Morgan had never been very kind to life.
“Gentlemen,” Mingo said again, inclining his head and backing into the shadows cast by the nearby trees, “if you will excuse me, I shall be on my way.”
“You talk awful fancy, Mister. And that voice?” Zach Morgan’s watery eyes had narrowed. “Don’t I know you?”
Mingo watched as several of Morgan’s men spread out to surround him, cutting off any hope of escape. There was nothing to do but to admit it. “We were acquainted, once upon a time.”
Zach frowned at him through an alcoholic haze. The burly man drew closer, and then his eyes lit with recognition. “I know. You’re Boone’s Injun.” He nodded. “Mingo, that was it. Ain’t that right?”
Mingo stiffened. The last time he had seen Zach Morgan, the man had been hungry to put a rope around his neck. “Yes.”
The besotted settler laughed long and loud. Then he slapped him on the back. “Ain’t no one hung you yet?”
“No. You must wait. It will do no good.”
Danny continued to gaze at his father. The crowd of rag-tag men had him surrounded. Then he looked back at Monlutha. “But he is in trouble.”
“And you think rushing into the middle of it will help him?” The native shook his head. “He is a grown man. He can take care of himself. Otherwise he would not have lived to be a grown man.”
The boy turned back around and faced the open glade. His father was standing near the knoll where, only a short time before, he had paused. One of the men was walking around him. Another brandished a knife. Several of the others held flintlocks; their shining barrels glinting in the morning light. Suddenly, the New World did not seem so lovely. Instead, it was frightening. Danny wanted nothing more at that moment then to be back in Scotland on the MacKirdy’s estate, where the worst thing he had ever had to worry about was his tutor catching him napping and rapping his fingers with his ebony cane.
“Why are they doing this?” he whispered. “What do they want?”
“They are afraid and so they pretend to be brave. I do not think they will harm him. Still....”
Danny looked at him. “Still?”
“When there are many, there is more danger. Come, we will move closer,” Monlutha said.
“Boone’s Injun. I thought you done run away to England. Least that’s what the word was that came down.” Zach Morgan halted in front of him. “Word was you’d gone back to your own.”
“And took our secrets with you,” the man with the knife added.
Mingo fought to hold his temper and his tongue. “I do not have to explain myself or my actions to you. Now, if you do not mind, I think I will be on my way. ”
Morgan’s hand shot out and took hold of his arm, and stopped him. “Oh, but I do mind.”
Zach’s head moved slowly from side to side. “Now, ain’t we grown high and mighty?”
“Just like that other one. But we showed him good, didn’t we?” One of the men stepped forward. He slapped a gnarled branch he had torn from a tree against the flat of his hand. “We gonna do the same with this one?”
“Other one?” Mingo asked. “What are you— ”
“We’re askin’ the questions, Injun. What are you doing here?”
Mingo’s jaw tightened. “I have no intention of answering your questions. My business is my own.”
“Is it?” Morgan frowned. “Seems an odd coincidence you showin’ up here. Now.”
The one with the stick echoed Zach. “Seems an odd coincidence. I bet that Injun boy sent for him.”
Zach growled. “Shut up, Hank.”
“What are you talking about?” Mingo’s hand caught the collar of the man who restrained him. “Morgan, what malicious mischief have you been up to this time— ”
The stick struck out suddenly and caught him in the ribs. Before Mingo had time to cry out, it came down on his shoulder and he was driven to his knees.
Monlutha had heard a sound behind them and had turned. He pivoted quickly, but before he could catch the young boy, he was on his feet and running recklessly through the tall grasses toward his father.
The native watched helplessly as the dark ring of men parted to let him through, and then closed again behind him.
“You get away from him!” Danny screamed as he went for the man with the stick. The boy lashed out quickly and caught him squarely in the jaw, causing him to stumble back. Danny danced away and held his hands up as he squared off with another one. “I’m warning you. I’ve studied boxing with the best.”
Mingo hadn’t had time to catch his breath. He had no idea what his son was doing
here, alone, in the wilderness, but he knew Danny would be in danger from these men if they learned who he was. Even as he drew an agonizing breath to caution him, Mingo heard the words he feared.
“You leave my father alone!”
Zach Morgan looked stunned at first and then he began to laugh. Danny swung on
him, but even as he did the man who had wielded the branch caught him about the waist and lifted him from the ground. Then he grabbed his hands and twisted them behind his back.
Mingo staggered to his feet as Danny cried out in pain. “Let the boy go!”
Zach Morgan looked from the one to the other. Then he ruffled Danny’s blond hair and lifted his head. “This your son, Injun? He must have a mighty pale ma.”
Danny swung his feet toward him. “You leave my mother out of this. Your nothing but a savage brute— ”
Morgan’s fingers tightened in his son’s hair. “Who you callin’ a savage, boy?”
Danny quieted at the man’s tone. There was a real threat in it. Mingo watched as his son’s eyes flicked to him.
“Morgan,” Mingo said with more calm than he felt, “my son had nothing to do with what passed between us years ago, or with whatever this new trouble is you were talking about.” He held the other man’s gaze. The settler’s eyes were wild, and Mingo wondered what had happened in the intervening years to embitter him so. “Let the boy go.”
“Or what, Injun?”
“Or I’ll blow your head off,” a voice called from behind them. “And Zach, you know I’ll do it.”
Mingo watched Zach stiffen. Morgan’s face darkened as he turned to look back the way the voice had come.
Mingo did the same.
Israel Boone was standing at the edge of the trees; his flintlock pointed straight at Morgan. “Back away, Zach. Do it now.”
“Boone,” Morgan growled. “You’re just like him; a traitor to your own kind.”
“If that means you, Zach, then I take that as a compliment.” Israel took a couple of steps forward and sighted down the rifle. “Now, do as Mingo asked and let the boy go.”
Mingo glanced at his son and then back to Israel. Danny’s eyes were on the newcomer. It must have seemed a strange sight to him: a man with white-blond hair who was dressed as a native. Danny probably wondered who he was.
Zach Morgan obviously knew all too well.
“You can’t take us all on alone, Boone.”
“He won’t need to. Because he’s not alone.”
Mingo saw Israel stiffen. He knew why. He had recognized the voice as well. As he turned his old friend, Daniel, emerged from the trees that masked the trail followed closely by Archie. The frontiersman had his rifle in his hand. They stopped a few yards away and Daniel turned to Alexander’s son.
“These the men who hurt you, son?”
Archie drew closer so he could look in their faces. Quickly, he shook his head. “Nae. Tis nae them.”
Archie nodded. “Aye. Certain.”
Daniel shifted his gaze to the ring of men and then his green eyes settled on Morgan. “I guess that means you can go, Zach.” As he stepped to Archie’s side, Mingo saw his eyes stray to Israel for just a moment, but they didn’t linger there. “After you let the boy go.”
“You ain’t in charge here anymore, Boone. Things have changed. People like him,” Zach indicated Mingo and then turned his attention to Archie whose rich copper skin shone in the early morning light, “and that one, ain’t welcome.”
“I doubt you speak for the whole settlement, Zach.” Dan took another step toward him. “And even if you do, does that mean Boonesborough no longer welcomes strangers, and that its citizens have taken to manhandling and mistreating children?”
Morgan was silent. He held Dan’s gaze for a moment and then quickly looked away. He made a gesture with his hand and ordered the other man to release Danny. His son ran to his side and Mingo put a protective arm around him.
“You all right, Danny?” Daniel asked as he shifted his rifle from one hand to the other. He rested the butt on the ground and then leaned on it as was his custom. Again, his eyes flicked to the pale-haired figure who lingered at the edge of the trees, neither retreating nor drawing any closer.
Mingo looked at his son. “Danny?”
“I am unhurt, Father.” The boy turned and glanced back the way he had come, as if looking for someone. “I am sorry I left the camp alone. I was— ”
Mingo shook his head. “We will discuss it later.” Morgan and his men were no longer threatening them, but they hadn’t made a move to depart. He left his son and crossed to face the man who had once come very close to killing him. “You never said what you were doing here, Morgan.” Mingo’s eyes traveled over the others. They were a rough crowd; hard-living and hard-drinking. “And with these men.”
He watched Morgan bristled. But any action he might have contemplated was halted by Daniel’s intimidating stare. “We were huntin’ someone,” Zach Morgan mumbled.
That reply did little to relieve Mingo’s apprehensions. “Who? Who were you hunting?”
Zach looked away. “Ain’t none of your business.”
“Well, maybe it ain’t his. But I’m makin’ it mine,” Dan said softly as he hefted Ticklicker again. “Who?”
Morgan’s eyes flicked from Daniel back to him. “A woman and her two children. They’re lost in the woods. We left the settlement to track ‘em. There was trouble with a bunch of Injuns,” Zach glanced at Israel who remained still at the edge of the trees, “and Injun-lovers a couple of nights back. They attacked the fort.”
Mingo watched as Daniel digested that information—with about a pound of salt. “Do tell?” the big man said.
Morgan shifted uncomfortably. “You gonna let us go, Boone?”
Dan seemed to think about it for a moment, then he stepped back and raised his hands. “Like you said, Zach, it ain’t my settlement anymore. I can’t hold you.” As the other man nodded and started to push past him, Dan reached out and caught him by the arm. “A friendly warning, Zach.”
“I wouldn’t go that way; into the woods. I saw some of those ‘heathen savages’ in there.” Dan spun him around so he faced the opposite direction. “I think you had best head for home.”
“And sleep off the great quantity of rum you have consumed,” Mingo added disparagingly as Zach stumbled by him.
Morgan’s eyes went to Danny and then fixed on him. They were filled with hate. For a moment, he and Zach simply stared at one another, and then the disgruntled settler broke away. Calling on the other men to follow, Zach started back toward the settlement and home.
Dan watched him go and then his keen green eyes flicked to Mingo’s face. A mildly indulgent smile formed on his face and he shook his head. “Mingo….”
“I know.” Mingo glanced at Archie who had listened to every word, not missing the fact that these men, whom he had never met, hated him—and just because of the color of his skin. “I did not help my case any by that last remark.”
The men and the two boys pivoted. Israel had not advanced, but called from the shelter of the trees. A pair of warriors had joined him. One of which Mingo recognized as White Wolf. They flanked him, one to each side. Mingo watched his friend as Daniel’s gaze settled on his son.
“You all right, Mingo?” Israel asked. “You and yours?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
The young man smiled and nodded. “I knew you couldn’t keep yourself out of
Mingo laughed. “So it seems.” He hesitated and then asked, “Will we still see you in Boonesborough? As you said?” He felt Daniel stiffen beside him. The big man knew nothing of their proposed meeting, though he had to wonder how his son had come to be in this place.
Israel met his father’s eyes. For several heartbeats they stared at one another. Then he nodded to the two warriors and the trio retreated into the shadows. “We’ll be there in two days time.”
With that, he was gone.
Danny watched him go. He glanced at Archie who shrugged his shoulders, and then turned and looked at him. “Father, who was that?”
Mingo looked at his friend. Daniel’s expression was sad, but resigned. “Daniel?” he asked.
The big man shook his head as he turned back toward the trees. “Just a helpful stranger, son.”
As they began the short trek back to their camp, Danny began to explain how he had come to be in the woods alone, and then he started to tell them about the warrior he had met and how they had had to run because the men who had just accosted his father had been moving through the trees, searching for someone. Mingo cut him off and gently remonstrated him for leaving the camp, but then commended him just as quickly for his resourcefulness and courage. All the while his eyes were on Daniel’s back. He was thinking about the rift between him and his son. He remembered the bond the big man and Israel had had. He had thought nothing could ever come between them. As they entered the camp, Mingo touched Danny’s head and smiled as the boy put his arm about him and gazed up.
Such a thing would be beyond bearing.
“Wait here, Mingo.”
Mingo frowned as he did as Daniel said. His dark eyes followed his friend’s forward progress. He had thought the big man somewhat preoccupied but that had not surprised him, considering what had just occurred. Now he watched him ring the area where their blankets and supplies lay, searching every nook and cranny. Daniel seemed to be both hoping, and dreading, that he would find something.
“Daniel? What is it?” he called at last.
The frontiersman stopped in the center of the small clearing and put his hand to his mouth and whistled. Mingo recognized the bird call. So did someone else. A tall Cherokee warrior emerged from the trees, carrying a little boy. Behind him came a petite, disheveled white woman with blond hair. She had two children in tow; a boy who was about ten, and a small girl who could have been no more than five or six. Mingo glanced at them, but his eyes quickly returned to the warrior. At first he didn’t recognize him, but then the rising light struck the man’s face and revealed the striped blue pants he was wearing. Before his astonishment could register on his face, the woman had rushed past Monlutha and come flying to his side.
“Cara,” Miriam breathed as she took hold of his arm, “Cara, thank God. You have to help us. They have taken Copperhead.”
Daniel Boone glanced at the four young people sitting off to the side. Danny was busy mystifying Miriam’s young daughter with the sleight of hand tricks Mingo said his son often used to entertain his younger sister, while Alexander’s son, Archie, talked with her second son. The boys had taken to one another instantly. Unlike Copperhead’s older children, Adohi and Sunalei, these two had been given white names. The girl was Talia and the boy, Tobias. They had also learned that Adohi, their eldest, had adopted a new name as he became a man.
“He is called Adam now,” Miriam said as she pushed a lock of unruly blond hair out of her eyes. “He has been to school in Virginia, and is a lawyer.”
Mingo was holding her hand. Miriam had calmed down some, but continued to tremble. “A Cherokee lawyer?” he exclaimed.
Copperhead’s wife smiled. “No. But perhaps a lawyer for the Cherokee.”
Dan went to their side and, when the pair looked up, handed each of them a tin cup filled with hot coffee. “Tell us about what happened.”
Miriam shuddered. “That man....”
“Zach, you mean?” Dan asked as he sat beside them.
“Yes.” She took a sip. Her eyes went to his face. “You know the first part of the tale, Daniel.”
He nodded as she took a sip, but remained silent.
Mingo looked at him. “Daniel? What is it?”
Dan stretched his legs before him and leaned back against a log. Zach Morgan had once been a fine man; a valued member of the small community that was Boonesborough. Then, some twenty years back, his brother, Silas, Silas’s wife, and their son had been murdered while coming overland to visit him. Mingo’s knife and vest had been found at the site, and the Cherokee warrior had been accused and almost hung for the crime after it had been found out that Zach’s brother had whipped him. Apparently Silas had had dealings with some natives from Chota along the way, and Mingo had accused him of cheating members of his tribe. Everyone thought Mingo had been out for revenge. Dan had gone to find him—to protect Mingo as much as make him face justice— and brought him into the settlement. He had placed him in custody, but Mingo had managed to escape and run. It had been one of the hardest things he had ever done in his life, but Dan had told the angry mob of men that he would hunt down his best friend and bring him in again. When he came across him, they had fought, and then agreed to set out together to find the truth. Unfortunately, after they had split up to follow different trails, Zach Morgan and his men found Mingo first. They had had a rope around his neck and been ready to string him up— would have if he hadn’t returned in the nick of time with the real killer. It had been another Cherokee named Broad Ax. The angry native felt Mingo had failed his people because he had let the trader go instead of killing him. So when Broad Ax decided to exact the ultimate price from Silas Morgan, he had laid a false trail that would lead back to the Oxford-educated Cherokee.
Dan looked at his friend. When Mingo had left in seventeen-seventy nine, it had all been settled and done. It wasn’t going to be easy to tell him what had happened after that.
“You know how your people are, Mingo, about blood vengeance.”
He nodded. “Yes. It is the one aspect of my mother’s culture that at one and the same time makes sense, and yet is totally counter-productive. If a man kills another man, his life—or the life of someone in his clan—is forfeit. It makes sense, Daniel.”
“And yet, in that way, the killing never stops, Mingo,” Dan said quietly. “Someone always needs to be avenged.”
Mingo nodded. “Yes. But what are you saying? That someone from Broad Ax’s clan came after Zach Morgan?”
“It happened after Becky and I came back from England. Zach was burned out. Several of his friends were killed and he was left for dead.” Dan shook his head. “We got the men that did it, but it didn’t really matter. He was never right after that.”
Miriam made a small disapproving noise.
“You disagree?” Mingo turned toward her.
“Zachary Morgan knows what he is doing right enough. He hates anyone and anything Indian, but most of all, he hates the Cherokee. He has been behind much of the trouble we, and others like us, have had. We worked hard, Cara, to build a home and a life. And now we have had it taken from us twice.”
“Mingo doesn’t know, Miriam, about what happened,” Dan interjected. Then he looked at his friend. “Leastwise, I don’t think he does.”
“You mean when you were burnt out?”
She nodded even as Dan’s eyebrows rose. “You do know then?”
“While I was recovering from the snakebite, Rachel told me what Rebecca had told her. I only know, Miriam, that you were burnt out, and that you lost the greatest portion of your lands. And that you rebuilt again, nearer Chota.”
“Nearer where Chota was. After Zach Morgan and his band of ruffians finished with it, there was nothing left. Fortunately, most families had already gone west or south. But there were many there who would not leave their homeland.” She looked at her hands. “They are there forever now. Buried beneath the ground.”
“I understand that Morgan hated the Cherokee, but surely there would have been others who tried to stop him.” Dan watched Mingo’s eyes flick to him. He knew his old friend was wondering about Israel, and if this was what had come between them.
“The settlement was scared, Mingo,” Dan answered slowly. “Even though the major Indian uprisings didn’t happen until almost a decade later, there were scattered bands ready and willing to kill or capture any settler they could get their hands on. Massacres were happenin’ in Pennsylvania, Ohio, all around. And some of them were led by supposedly ‘civilized’ Indians, educated men, some of them part or nearly all white.”
“But Copperhead is neither.” Mingo looked at Miriam. “Why were you targeted?”
Miriam looked up. “Greed.”
Miriam’s eyes went to the frontiersman who sat across from her. She and Daniel Boone shared a common pain, but did not see eye to eye about how to end it. “For my sake, for the children, Copperhead adopted white ways. He cut his hair and wore the white man’s clothes. He gave up being a hunter—a warrior—and became a tiller of the land. He did all of the things the government desired; became what they told him he must become to be allowed to live in peace. But for some men, that was not enough. He could not change the color of his skin.
“For nearly fifteen years we worked the land and the fruits of our labor were abundant. Too abundant it seems, for in the end they drew envy. Others whose land was not so fertile grew jealous. They sought to find ways to legally evict us, but we had the proof of ownership. There was nothing they could do.
“Or so we thought. One day an Englishman came to the door and asked for George Fox.” She paused. “That is the name Copperhead uses among the white men.”
“In honor of your grandfather, George Foxwell,” Mingo said softly. As she nodded, he urged her, “Go on.”
“Yes. My dear grandfather. If not for him....” Miriam’s fingers twisted the fabric of her tattered skirt. “Copperhead had known nothing at the hands of the white man but pain— rejected, beaten, falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Still, he agreed to speak with this man, and met him near the boundary of our land. The lawyer had a Pennsylvania justice of the peace with him. They served my husband with a warrant for his arrest. You remember, Copperhead escaped from prison before we married?”
Mingo nodded. “Your father had had him sent there unjustly in order to put an end to your budding romance, if I remember right. Copperhead escaped and came back to kill him, but your grandfather convinced him to take you instead and run. But would the warrant still be valid after all these years?”
“It never was,” Miriam sighed. “You know that. Some of the men who hated us, Morgan included, had gone looking for something to use against him. They even traveled all the way to Pennsylvania to do so. They brought this man. He was an attorney and, though the warrant was based on lies, he was able to make it sound as if it was true. They threatened my husband and told him if he did not leave the state, he would be taken and most probably hanged.” She smiled in spite of the horrific memory. “Copperhead showed them both off the property by way of a drenching, and a long, cold walk back to the settlement without their boots.”
Miriam closed her eyes, wondering still if perhaps her husband’s righteous anger had not added fuel to an already smoldering fire. “That night we were awakened by angry shouts and the glare of torches. The two men had returned to the settlement and raised a small army. They accused Copperhead of attacking them and stealing their horses and property. They explained why they had met with him, and claimed his violence against two innocent white men showed he was a threat to the community.” Miriam shuddered as her mind’s eyes filled with the horror of that night. “As he went out to meet them, Copperhead told me to take the children and run. Adohi was not home. Sunalei was eighteen, Toby twelve, and little Talia, only two. As Sunalei gathered a few effects, I took the younger ones and did as he asked. I feared I would never see him again.”
A tear ran down her cheek and she didn’t bother to brush it away. “All too soon, I realized Sunalei had not run with us. We made it into the trees. I left the children there and started back. That was when I saw Daniel. There were a few others from the town with him, though not nearly so many as had been with the strangers. I met them on the road.” Miriam’s eyes flicked to the big man. “Israel and my daughter had been courting for some time. He was with his father and wanted to know where she was. When I couldn’t tell him, he went running down the path toward the house shouting her name.
“Israel told me later that he found her sitting in the grass, holding her father’s unconscious form.” Miriam steeled herself and went on. “They were in the side yard, in the shadows of the burning house. The animals had been slaughtered or stolen. The crops were on fire. Those who did this horrible thing had witnessed Daniel’s arrival, and like the cowards they were, they had run. But not before they took time to beat my husband to within an inch of his life.”
“My God, Miriam….” Mingo breathed. She looked at him. He was shaking.
“And that wasn’t the end,” she whispered. “It was only the beginning.”
Daniel Boone shifted and leaned forward. “The problem was, Mingo, so far as anyone could tell the papers the lawyer had brought from Pennsylvania were legitimate. He had the original records of the complaint Miriam’s father had made against Copperhead, and the arrest warrant. And according to those papers,” he glanced at her, “it hadn’t just been for stealin’, but for murder. According to the records a guard had been killed durin’ Copperhead’s escape.”
“A lie,” Miriam said vehemently.
“But signed and sealed none the less, with witnesses’ signatures. I told him— ”
“That the white man’s justice would work for the red man?” Mingo snapped. “Daniel, can you still be so naive as to believe that?”
Miriam sensed the growing tension between them. She knew they had faced this moment before. Cara-Mingo had spoken to her of it. There had been a time when he had been accused of murder and his friend had counted on the white man’s law to save him.
And Cara had almost died.
“We left our lands that night, never to return,” she interjected. “Israel went with us, to help me with the children and to comfort Sunalei. Our daughter was deeply affected. She had watched from the shadows as the men brutalized her father. The blow of having seen that happen. The injustice of it all. The loss of her home. It was all too much.” Miriam wiped her eyes free of tears. “She and Adohi grew up as much Cherokee as white. She holds to the old ways.”
Mingo nodded. “I see. And wanted revenge.”
“Yes. Sunalei had friends. Other young native men and women who had refused to go with their families, who hid in the hills and carried out raids on white farms and settlements; mostly stealing animals and inflicting minor damage. When they heard her story, they took it on themselves to avenge this wrong that had been done to one of their own. They planned a daring attack. Dressed in white man’s clothes one of them, a young man whose mother was half-white and his father, an Irish trader, entered the settlement. He sought information concerning the men from Pennsylvania, and found they were staying at a nearby cabin with several others who had been in the mob that razed our home. They went there to take them.” She drew a breath. “No one knows exactly what occurred, but everyone who was in the cabin, died.”
She turned to Daniel Boone. His green eyes were on Mingo. “We had to go after them, Mingo,” he said. “A crime had been committed. Men slaughtered. We couldn’t just let it go.”
Miriam smiled sadly at him. “I wonder. If my family had been the one ‘slaughtered’, would the settlement have arisen to exact such justice for us, Daniel?” She held up her hand to stop his reply. “I am sorry. I don’t mean to be unfair. You were in a hard place.”
Mingo looked from one to the other. “Was Israel with these young men, during the raid?”
Dan shook his head. “No, but he was there when we went to bring them in, with a rifle in his hand, sayin’ what they had done had been justified. He claimed the killin’ had been in self-defense.”
“It might well have been,” Mingo said softly.
“Then that was for the law to decide,” Dan snapped. “Not Israel. Not me.” The big man rose to his feet and nodded toward the trees. “I’m gonna take a look around. Make sure everythin’s safe and as it should be.”
“Monlutha is patrolling, Daniel,” Mingo reminded him.
“That’s as might be, but I’ll feel better if I check it out myself.” Dan tipped his cap toward Miriam. “As soon as you are rested, we’ll start for the settlement and see what we can do for your husband.”
Miriam nodded. She remained silent as she watched him go. Several heartbeats later she turned back toward her husband’s childhood friend. “It has been hard for him.”
“And for you.” Mingo frowned as the tears began to roll down her cheeks again. He reached out and caught her wrist with his fingers. “Miriam, why has this made Sunalei remain estranged from your family? It seems she was not a part of this raid. Or was she?”
“No. She knew nothing of it.” Miriam laid her hand on his. “Copperhead had a long recovery and she helped me during that time. I suppose I was blind in a way. I didn’t see what was coming. Still, my hands were full. I cared for my husband while she tended her brother and sister. We had to gather what was left and rebuild, choosing a less generous plot of land at the edge of what had been ours, nearer to the Cherokee village.” She hesitated before going on.
The petite blond woman chewed her lip. “Copperhead recovered quickly; physically. But, Cara, something had gone out of him. It was as if he had realized, for the first time, that no matter what he did—no matter how hard he strove to be accepted—it would never be. We would never be allowed to live in peace as we desired. Copperhead chose not to fight for the land. We sold it for a tenth of what it was worth.”
Mingo waited a moment before he said softly, “You have not spoken of what happened to Chota.”
She nodded. “After the men from Pennsylvania were killed, and the others who were with them, the settlers—led by Zach Morgan and others of his ilk—set out to destroy it. There was little warning. Still, some managed to run. Those who could not—or would not—died.” Her voice grew small. “There are several dozen graves there. I tend them from time to time.”
For some time they sat in silence. At first Mingo could find no words to answer what she said. Then, slowly, as she watched his grief give way to a cold determined rage he asked her, “What happened to the ones who lived?”
“Some married whites. They have relinquished the old ways and live in fear that they will be found out. Others hide in the hills and continue to live as best they can.” Miriam looked at him, knowing how hard this had to be for him to hear. “And then there are those who roam—angry, defiant, unwilling to surrender. Unwilling to admit that the end of all they have known is inevitable. I fear, Cara, that one day, there will be no Cherokee. And the world will have lost something very precious.”
Mingo took her hands in his and held her gaze. “No. The People will always be here,” he assured her. “The ones in the hills, the children of those who have married whites, even the children of those who are filled with anger, will remember. They will pass the stories down and one day, the Cherokee will be strong again, and proud and free.”
“I hope so.” Miriam smiled wearily at him and leaned against the tree at her back. “Now tell me of your children and your wife, Cara. I have had enough sadness for one day.”
Later, while Miriam and her two exhausted children slept, Mingo left Daniel with Archie and his son and joined Monlutha on patrol. The old wound Miriam’s words had opened had hung between him and his old friend as they parted. He and Daniel had never really dealt with what had happened when Zach Morgan had made him the center of his witch-hunt and the frontiersman had tracked him down instead of letting him go, even knowing in the end that he might well hang. Now it seemed, with Israel’s appearance and what had happened to Copperhead, they would be forced to. Mingo glanced at his uncle’s son who walked by his side, still amazed to find the boy he had known grown into such a man.
It only served to remind him of how many years had passed since he had been spirited away that night in seventy-nine.
“You never told me, Monlutha, what you were doing in the area.” At the Cherokee’s look, he added, “I am grateful that you were. My son, Daniel, has fine survival skills—for Scotland. Kentucky is, I am afraid, a different matter.”
The young man turned toward him. “First, I would have you answer a question.”
Mingo seemed a bit surprised by his tone. There was a challenge in it. “Yes?”
“What are you doing ‘in the area’, my cousin? Why have you come back? Is England not your home now?”
“England has never been my home. We were living in Scotland at the last, with Alexander’s family.” He halted his forward progress and waited until the other man did the same. “You are angry with me.”
Monlutha’s dark eyes sought his. “Always my father prayed he would see you again. He died with that prayer unanswered.”
Mingo lowered his head. He had feared Menewa was gone. “Was he killed in the raid?”
“No. He died as he had desired, not that long after you disappeared, while hunting. I am grateful that the Great Spirit was kind and that he did not live to see these days.”
“Since Chota is no more, where have you been living....” Mingo’s words trailed off. He had looked up as he asked the question and had seen something in the young man’s eyes. “You are with Israel’s band?”
His young cousin smiled. He raised his hand and made a fist. “ ‘Unega-gi-tlu’, we call him, Whitehair. He is strong. He leads us well.” The smiled disappeared. “I answer your questions, but you do not answer mine.”
“Why have I returned?” Mingo frowned. He thought about it a moment. There were so many reasons that he found it hard to put them into words. Finally he said simply, “I had to. I never had a chance to say goodbye, to so many things.” He held the other man’s gaze. “To so many people.”
“Do you mean to stay?”
Mingo shook his head. “I do not know. I have to think of my children and my wife, even as you do. You have a fine son.”
“Now, will you answer me?” Mingo asked.
Monlutha gazed at him a moment as if wondering how much of the man he had loved and remembered remained after nearly twenty years passed in the white man’s world. Then he said softly, “We come to free Copperhead.”
Mingo nodded. He had guessed as much. “How? By attacking the settlement?”
The young warrior’s look was hard. “By whatever means we must.”
Before Mingo could comment, a soft, cultured voice spoke from the nearby foliage. “And just how do you think that will help?”
Mingo turned. A handsome young man in a short coat with long tails cut in the current European fashion, velvet breeches, and bright shining boots had come upon them unawares. His dark auburn hair was cropped short. He wore an embroidered waistcoat and a crisp white shirt with no ruffles. He appeared to be a city-dweller. Mingo could not understand how he had moved so silently until he drew closer. Then he recognized his face.
The young man nodded and extended his hand. “Cara-Mingo. Although, it is Adam now when I am away from these lands. Adam Fox.”
Mingo noted Monlutha’s growl of disapproval, but chose for the moment to ignore it. “Your mother said you had gone to university to study law. I did not know you were here.”
“Chance brought me back at this time. When I found the house deserted and ransacked, I could only imagine the worst.” He frowned. “I was not far from wrong.”
“Have you seen your father?”
“Yes. He sent me to look for mother. Have you seen her? Since you are here....”
“She is safe. So are your brother and sister. They are not far from here.”
“Thank God.” Adohi glanced at Monlutha. “And my sister, Sunalei?”
“She is well,” the warrior replied.
“And the child?”
“Due within one moon’s time.”
Mingo looked from one to the other. Obviously there had been contact between them before this—and conflict. “How is Copperhead?”
“Angry. Frightened for my mother and his children.” Adohi’s deep blue eyes went to the warrior. “I think he has some notion of escaping. I tried to talk him out of it.”
“White man’s justice for the Cherokee father of a Yonega lawyer? You think such a thing can come?”
Adohi turned to face Monlutha. The sunlight caught his hair and made it glisten red. “Yes, I do. If I did not, I would not have become a lawyer. And I am not ‘Yonega’. I am my father’s son. I have never denied it.”
“Even at your white school in the white man’s land?”
Monlutha’s voice had risen in anger.
“Did you tell them your name, Adohi?
Did you speak of Wodi Giasgoli and the Tsalagi, and tell them of First
Man and First Woman? Or did you
claim William Foxwell and his father, George, and your fine English heritage?”
Adohi’s jaw tightened. “I don’t have to answer to you. Both are my heritage. If I deny one, then I deny the other. Are you so much better? You may be Cherokee, but you are also a killer and a thief. I know it was you and your band of renegades who tried to overtake the men who had brought my father to the fort. You see what good that did.”
Mingo stepped between them before they could come to blows. “This will not help your father, Adohi...Adam.” He turned to look back at Monlutha. “Nor your children and theirs to come. Can our two worlds not exist in peace?”
Monlutha made a disparaging noise low in his throat. He glared at Copperhead’s son for several heartbeats and then turned away. “I will complete the patrol,” he said, and with that was gone.
Adohi stared after him for some time. “We were friends once,” he said at last. “He did not understand when I chose the path I did.”
“The white man’s, you mean?”
The young man nodded and said with a sad smile, “If there is one thing my father has taught me, it is that you must understand your enemy if you are to overcome him, and sometimes, use his own tools to do so.”
“And are your mother’s people, the ‘enemy’?”
Adohi only realized then what he had said. “No. I didn’t mean it that way.” He ran a hand through his bangs. “I meant that the white man uses the law to get what he wants. He makes contracts and then breaks them. He sends magistrates with words on paper which the People cannot understand; words that rob them of their homes, their lands and their livelihoods. It is my intention to fight such injustice in the same way; with words and documents.” Adohi pulled the leather pouch he carried off of his shoulder and showed it to Mingo. “Here are the words that say our land was stolen from us. Here are the words that will set my father free. Proof that he had nothing to do with the death of that guard. Proof that the charge my grandfather made against him was false.”
“You have found these things?”
“Yes. I returned to the place where he grew up and spoke with those who had lived there. I found a friend of George Foxwell’s who is willing to speak for my father. He is on the carriage and headed here as we speak.” Adohi frowned. “The only problem is, I fear he may arrive too late.”
“There is much talk of hanging. I arrived at the settlement several days ago. I was there when my father was brought in. It seems someone, a relative of this man who was killed somewhere near three years ago—the English lawyer from Philadelphia—arrived only recently to seek ‘justice’ for his death. That was all the impetus they needed.” Adohi glanced toward the trees. “And now, with Monlutha’s abortive raid.... Well, the settlers have brooded long over their failure to destroy such an ‘uppish’ Cherokee as my father. And now that Daniel Boone is gone, there are none who have the courage to stand in their way.”
“And yet, you think escape is not the answer.”
Adohi was silent a moment. “The Cherokee in me cries out that it is. But the white man I have become knows better. If our people continue to flout the white man’s laws and take justice into their own hands as was done in the old days, they will be wiped out. We must conform.”
“Conforming has not seemed to do much for your father,” Mingo said softly.
The young man nodded. “I know.” Adohi placed the satchel over his shoulder and nodded toward the trees. “Will you take me to my mother? We have some decisions we must make.”
Several hours later, as Adohi spoke quietly with his mother and the others made preparations for breaking the camp the next morning, Mingo sat reflecting on the course events had taken since he had returned to the New World. Their theme was a familiar one. The history of man seemed to be written in the faces of those who only wished to live and take care of their own, and formed by the hands of those who chose not to let them.
He thought again of Monlutha’s question. Why had he returned? He had known since Kentucky had become a state, and a part of the Union, that the charges which had been levied against him in Philadelphia would most likely affect him here. After all, those made in England had neither been forgotten, nor forgiven. By coming here and bringing his family, he had placed them all in danger. And yet, he had to come. He wondered now, even though he had been unaware of it, if Copperhead’s fate could have been a part of that decision? Or perhaps Israel’s? Since he was a part of both their worlds, could he have been drawn here somehow as a bridge?
Was he meant to stop or prevent a tragedy to come?
Mingo closed his eyes and sought sleep, knowing full well it most likely would not come. Monlutha had accused him of England being his home. How little the young man knew. Today, as almost twenty years before, England had held nothing for him but pain and the promise of imprisonment. If it had not been for Rachel, and for his father, he would never have gone back.
And yet, if he had never gone back, he would never have come to know what it meant to truly be home.
- Continued in Chapter Seven -