This story is set somewhere in the twisted mind of its author.
The underweight soldier who had single-handedly brought Daniel into the British camp the night before rose to his feet and saluted smartly. "Sir! Colonel, isn't it?"
The Cherokee shifted the uniform it had taken Dan a minute to cross the twenty or so miles back to the abandoned camp to get for him. "Yes. Colonel. Colonel Mingo."
"Colonel Mingo?" The young soldier frowned. "That hardly sounds an English name, sir...."
"Do you doubt I am English? I happened to have been schooled at Oxford."
The man cleared his throat. "So have a number of Indians from what I hear...."
Mingo's dark eyebrows rushed towards his powdered wig, jealous of Israel's freckles' continued mobility. He touched the tip of his ear, ran a hand over his bare neck, and sneezed from the chill. "Yes, well. God save the King and bring on the steak and kidney pie."
The soldier's heels snapped together. "Yes, sir. What are you doing here, Colonel...er... Mingo?"
"I have brought you new orders. You are to leave Boonesborough alone. In fact you are to leave Kentucky...."
"...the dark and bloody ground...."
"Yes. To leave Kentucky entirely. I have orders from Empire Dunsmore himself. I am his son."
"His son, sir? You mean...."
"Yes. Mingo Murray. And as such you are to obey me without question. I have papers here to that effect..." The dark-haired man drew from his pocket a packet of papers which he and Dan had forged with the spare parchment and quill pen he always carried for just such emergencies.
The corporal stared at him a moment and then produced a similar packet smartly tied with a ribbon and smelling of rosemary, neroli and bergamot. "Well, I am sorry, Colonel Mingo, but I have papers here stating that you are in open rebellion against your father, and are to be taken into custody immediately if seen. I have further papers charging you with desertion from the English army, and other papers charging you with over-acting in the scene in the forest where you two met by your mother's grave. Each carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years."
Mingo had been listening with only one ear until the last charge. "Over-acting?" his rich voice leapt to the top of the trees. " 'My fate cries out, and makes each petty artery in this body as hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.' How dare he?"
The young man held his ground. "And there's an extra five years for each quote... Sir...."
"Pa! Pa!" The boy ran in circles since he had no door to enter or slam. "Soldiers! Soldiers!"
"I see 'em, Is'rul. It seems Mingo's in a mite of trouble."
The little boy touched his father's sleeve. "But I heard him use a quote, Pa. That means he's goin' to be okay. Don't it?"
It was the first quote Mingo had used in their presence since his initial encounter with Sara-Mingo. Dan put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "That's right, son. It seems the emotional crisis is over for now." Dan drew a breath and looked in his son's big blue eyes, thinkin' they were only a puddle to wade in compared to the pools that were his Ma's. "Now I need you to do something for me."
"What is it, Pa?"
"You remember that canoe we hid down-stream last winter?"
"Yes, Pa." The boy was so serious his freckles stood at silent attention. "I remember."
"Do you think you can find it, boy?"
"Well, you go find that canoe and wrassle it into the water, paddle upstream the ten or so miles to the edge of the town, draw it out of the water and then go for help."
The boy thought a moment. He glanced at the familiar trees ahead. "But Pa, ain't the settlement just over the hill?"
Dan paused. He stared at the boy. He glanced at Mingo and the Englishmen who surrounded him and then turned back. His fingers went to his face and then he slowly drew them across his beardless chin. A moment later he indicated his knee and told the boy to sit.
"Do I need to look endearin', Pa?"
"Not this time, son." He leaned his cheek on the boy's head. "Son, oft times there's an easy way and a hard way to do things. The easy way always looks good, but we don't learn anythin' from takin' it. There's no challenge; no test of the mettle we're made of. It's at those times that we sometimes have to chose the hard path. You remember what I told you about the times when there's a clear way through the trees...."
"Yes, sir... It means someone else has walked there."
Dan nodded. "Someone who might be waitin' in the brush. But if you chop down your own trees, you know you have blazed the trail and you are the only one."
The boy shook his head and looked endearin' without even trying. "But sometimes, a body gets mighty weary, Pa...."
"You're right, son. It does. But it's a good kind of weary; one that makes a man rest his bones easier when the night falls and the woman he loves wraps her hands around his -."
"Err, Dan'yel?" a cultured voice called.
Dan glanced at the camp. Mingo had a half dozen guns to his head. The big man stood and showed himself as the little boy hurried down the hill and through the woods towards the stream that lay far beyond.
The Cherokee grimaced. "It's time to haul my bacon out of the fire."
Daniel Boone strode into the camp and towered over the young corporal. "I'd be mighty pleased if you would let my friend here go."
The man shook his head. "I have orders from Empire Dunsmore himself that this one is to be taken back to England. I was to have cut his hair and made him put on some civilized clothes and bathed him in rosemary and neroli - but no bergamot - but I see someone has beat me to it."
"Now, sonny, I don't like to throw my weight around - well, yes I do - but right now I don't feel like it. Still, I intend to take my friend with me when I leave this camp."
"You and who else?"
Dan eyed the half dozen soldiers that surrounded them. "Well, seein' as I am from Kentucky...."
"The dark and bloody ground...."
"Yes. Seein' as I am from Kentucky, one of me is worth about two dozen of you when it comes to a fair fight."
"Are you proposing a fair fight, then? Surely you do not feel that I can be your equal in such a contest. I thought you were an honest man, Boone. At least that is your reputation." The pale young man sniffed. "I could not possibly wrestle with you and win."
"Well, then, we'll do it Cherokee-style. You can pick a substitute to fight for you." Dan eyed the soldiers again, fixin' on one strong muscled fellow with a smile. "Fair enough?"
The corporal nodded. He looked from one man to the other. When his eyes reached the smiling brute he paused, but then he passed him by. A moment later he pointed at Mingo.
"I choose him."
Dan and Mingo squared off against each other. The Cherokee winced as he put his weight on his bad leg. "You, of course, know the Marquess of Queensberry rules?"
"I'm sorry it's come to this, Mingo." Dan shifted on his feet. "I'll try my best not to hurt you, but this is for the fort and the settlement - for all those people who are depending on me. And well...you know how that is...."
"We each have our duty, Dan'yel. Yours is to the fort." He quickly shed his shirt and lifted his fists in the proper boxing fashion. "Mine is to look dashedly handsome while being pounded, and to keep the women swooning."
Abruptly a rifle sounded and the dark-haired man clasped his hand to his good leg. Blood pooled in his borrowed black leather boot and spilled out over the top. "Oh, yes," he said as he paled, "and to get shot...."
As Mingo pitched over onto the ground, Jericho and Cincinnatus came sliding down the hill. Israel had found the canoe, drug it into the water, paddled upstream and arrived at Boonesborough to rally his father's friends, and then returned with them in the nick of time to save his pa from the cowardly yellow Redcoats who were about to try to 'whup' him.
"YOU OKAY, DAN'L?" Jericho shouted as he arrived near the scene of the aborted fight. "NOW WHAD'YA SUPPOSE THOSE REDCOATS WERE THINKIN', TAKIN' ON A KENTUCKIAN?? I GOT THAT THERE ENGLISHMAN FOR YOU, DIDN'T I? SHOT HIM IN THE LEG AND...." The boy gulped as the man on the ground turned to face him. "SORRY ABOUT THAT, MINGO."
"Oh, that's quite all right, Jericho. At least now it matches the other one."
"Dan! Oh, Dan! You're back! Jemima, your Pa is back and Israel is with him!"
"Thank goodness. Oh, thank goodness. And there's Jericho too." The girl ducked past her mother and ran to meet the young man. She took his hands and smiled while gazing into his eyes. Then she shouted, "HOW ARE YOU, JERICHO?"
He smiled and held out a carrot to her. "I BEAT HIM AGAIN," he boasted as she blushed.
Dan stared at his beautiful wife, at her big blue eyes and blazing red hair. He started to step through the doorway into Cincinnatus' tavern and held his hands out to her.
"Dan!" She winced at the sound of his thick skull striking the hewn wood. "However do you survive when I'm not around? And you...." She stared at the small white-haired boy who had entered behind him. "You and your freckles march up those stairs, young man! Right now!"
As the boy protested, her husband became aware of a disturbance outside. He kissed his wife quick and turned back to the door. Upon entering the compound he saw that Mingo was surrounded by settlers. He had only left him a minute before, and already there was a rope around his neck.
Becky and Jemima came to the door, but Dan ordered them back, fearful lest the brutal violence and utter stupidity exhibited by the men and women they shared their world with would shock and unsettle these delicate women whom he had dragged through the wilderness and continued to expose daily to Indians, epidemics, vagabonds, scoundrels and the rising tide of war. He straightened his coonskin cap and moved to face the people he called his own. "Let him go," he ordered.
"And who's gonna make us? You, Boone? Look at him, he's a Redcoat! What're you protectin' him fer? He ain't one of us!" There was a general rumble of agreement from the settlers and then as one they cried, "Get us a rope! String him up!".
Even as Dan suggested they take him to Salem, Mingo struggled in their grasp, terrified. Still, his combined injuries had left him weak. He couldn't escape. Finally, the only weapon left to him was words. Looking into each of their faces he snarled. "Cretins! Aments! Dolts! Unhand me! Your mendacity and obvious deficiency in discernment as well as your utter lack of originality should shame you!"
As one the group stopped. "What?" they shouted.
Dan paused. He stared at his friend and then - without feeling the need to run his hand over his chin or drop to his knees - moved in to whisper. "I don't think you're helping your case any, Mingo. Maybe if you threw in a few 'ain't's' or 'fers' or a couple of 'mite's'...." Dan fell silent then as he noticed Israel at his feet. "I though your Ma sent you to bed, son."
"She did, Pa. But when I looked out the win-der and saw Mingo was in trouble, I had'ta come down. Mingo didn't do it, Pa! He didn't do it! I tell ya! Mingo's our friend! A friend to all of us!." Israel paused. He stared at the men. He looked at the door through which he had come and then turned back. His fingers went to his chin, and then he slowly drew them across his freckles, which decided to grow up and behave from that moment on. "I want you all to listen to me! I've something mighty powerful important to tell you, and all of you need to listen!" The boy paused and a halo appeared around his white head as he knit his fingers together and turned his blue eyes to the sky, becoming so endearing that the settler's dark and bloody hearts couldn't help but go to mush. "Sometimes it can look powerful bad for a feller. Sometimes it can seem that someone you know has done somethin' so gosh gol' darn awful you can't believe it, but you have to remember how it was before - remember what you know about him and what kind of a man he is. You can't just go on that one thing. One tiny little thing. I mean, take for instance this afternoon when I saw Mingo wearin' a dress...."
The men's hands came away from the shorn Cherokee and he dropped like a stone to the ground. He glanced at the boy and then at the settlers. "It wasn't me. I swear, I haven't worn a dress since Oxford...."
The Cherokee glanced up. His deep brown eyes narrowed. "I know, Dan'yel. I am not helping my case any."
A short time later the three of them - Dan, Mingo and Israel - entered Cincinnatus' establishment. Mingo had changed into buckskin pants and his chest was once again covered in a fetching fashion with willow bark and twine. His feathers stood tall in his long black hair.
Becky's eyes lit when she saw him. "Are you hungry, Mingo?"
"Ma?" Jemima was still on Jericho's arm. "What did you say?"
Rebecca placed her hands on her hips. "I just asked our friend if he was hungry. I intend to cook -"
"You're gonna cook? Cincinnatus, did you hear? Everything is okay. Ma's gonna cook for Mingo."
"Dang!" the wily tavern-keeper said as he brushed off the Indian-hair cushions Becky had made for five of his six bar-stools.
"There goes the last one."
The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."
- Mark Twain -