This story is set somewhere in the twisted mind of its author.
"Rebecca, put the scissors down."
Jemima looked at Cincinnatus. She was worried about her Ma. She hadn't cooked a thing since Israel and her Pa and Mingo had gone missing. "Ma? Are you okay? Do you need to snap some peas or peel some potatoes? I could go get them for you...."
The red head shook her head. "Any word from Dan?" Becky asked quietly.
The tavern-keeper answered. "Not since he went off without a plan looking for the British and those Indians that were set on killing every wild critter in the woods between your cabin and the fort."
A small tear trailed from Rebecca's bright blue eyes and ran past her pert up-turned nose, deliberately avoiding the progenitors of the freckles her son had inherited. "Who will keep him from hitting his head if I'm not there....?"
Jemima's brown eyes were sober. "He has Mingo, Ma...."
"That man? He couldn't see a bear trap if it was laying out in the open and had a sign on it that said 'insert leg here.' " Becky began to spin in circles as her fingers opened and closed compulsively. "Where are my shears? Where's my basket?"
"Ma...." Her brown-haired daughter touched her arm. Perhaps if she talked to her.... "Are you sewin'? What is it you're makin'?"
Rebecca drew herself up and sniffed. "It's a secret." She glanced about. A moment later her bright blue eyes grew round and wide as a wagon-wheel as they spotted the furs laying on Cincinnatus' table. She turned to him and asked, "Are any of Mingo's friends here?"
"Well, now, Colonel. I see what you're up to." The big man paused. He stared at the dark trees and then turned back to the powdered and pampered Englishman. Then he hesitated. A perplexed expression settled on his face as he tugged at the ropes that bound his hands.
Suddenly he was at a loss for words.
"Boone?" The colonel frowned. His skinny young corporal had brought the frontiersman back to the camp single-handedly, to where he and a contingent of half a dozen Indians and twice as many British soldiers sat sharing a repast of cold beef and cheese. "What is it?"
Unable to run his hand over his chin, Dan didn't quite know what to do. "Could you untie me?" he asked with a lop-sided grin.
"Really, Boone. Don't be absurd."
Dan shifted. "Well, I may not be as eloquent this way, but I'll try." He drew himself up to his full height and began to speak. "I see you have brought some of our red brethren here. I am sure you have promised them much Wampum and fire-water. You have told them that their British brothers and their great white father across the sea respect them and hold them in esteem, and that you will aid them in driving the settlers from their land and then return it to them." He eyed one of the warriors. "But this is a lie, as all things you say are lies. I do not know my red brother here. I may not recognize his paint and feathers, but I do know you. You are as the fox, wily and not to be trusted, who is caught snuckerin' up on the hen house to steal her eggs while your fellow foxes pretend to befriend the chickens."
"Snuckerin?" One of the natives looked at him, puzzled. His black eyes narrowed. "Hen house?"
Dan shifted and frowned. He still couldn't move his hands. He drew a breath and addressed the dark-haired native. "Let me re-phrase that. The colonel is as the woman who puts cheese out for the mouse, offering the hand of friendship and food, who then turns her cat Fluffy loose and laughs as the mouse is eaten."
The native frowned. He looked at the colonel for an explanation. "Fluffy?"
"Oh, for God's sake untie his hands," the Englishman commanded, "but don't let him kneel."
Dan nodded to the officer and began to speak again. "You are like - "
"You will be silent, tall white slow-speaking man, or I will crush you into the mud and put my beaded moccasin on your throat to still that tongue which wags too much."
Dan turned. His mouth fell open. The hair was even longer than before. "Mingo? I thought you were dead." Then he gulped and his eyes ran the length of the lean figure. "Why are you wearin' a dress?"
The Indian approached him. "For two hours," it said, "my braids have been on my breasts, bouncing, jiggling. I knew you would be here."
Dan noticed the whip in the slightly tanned, but definitely not red, hand. He pondered the words he had just heard. Finally he asked, "Mingo, is there something you need to tell me?"
The whip snaked out and wrapped about his feet as the figure in the buckskin dress approached. "I am not your Mingo, Boone. I have left Cara-Mingo in the mud where he belongs. Where he left me long ago. And I have sung over him."
Dan's look was fierce. If it was a 'death' song....
"And what did you sing?"
The Indian gazed at him with those eyes that were at once familiar and yet, curiously unfamiliar, as they were decorated with a pale green eye-shadow. "Rap."
The big man winced. "Then he's dead for sure."
The colonel bound his hands once again and, along with Sara-Mingo and her Creek-Chickasaw-Chickamauga-Chippewa band, they set out. He was being taken to the Ohio River valley and for him, the journey was undertaken with a heavy heart. He was far from his home. His family had no way of knowing whether he was dead or alive. His best friend had been killed, and though that wasn't quite as bad as the thought of him wearin' a dress, the fact laid as a blanket on his heart. As they moved through the trees he began to feel that - for the first time in his life - he might fail. He was sure it had somethin' to do with his hands being tied, but felt that was a poor excuse. He had just about decided to try to make a break for it, knowing that somewhere he could find a sharp stone, when suddenly a shot rang out and the colonel dropped to the ground. Glancing up he saw a ragged mud-covered figure propped in the fork of a tree.
"Mingo! I thought you were dead."
The Indian watched as the other soldiers began to run. Sara-Mingo looked at him - her soft pastel-enhanced eyes full of hate - and then she disappeared into the wood, choosing to run and fight another day even though she didn't know the quote.
"This is about as close as I care to come." Mingo bit off the words as he fell from the tree and his gun tumbled from his hands.
Dan knelt by his side. He looked at the whip wounds; the red slash on the man's shoulder. He noted the injured leg, the familiar knife and vest, as well as the colorful beads around his neck. The big man drew a slow breath and then said softly, "How do I know it's you?"
The Cherokee's dark eyes widened. "What?"
"Well, with all this Cara, Tara, Sara stuff...how do I know you aren't Bara-Mingo or Dara-Mingo?" He hesitated. "Your mother sure was a busy little thing...."
"Is this my friend speaking? My brother?" Mingo sat up. "Have we walked the grass of Ken-ta-tay for three years..."
"...the dark and bloody ground...."
"Yes... For three years and still you do not know me?"
Dan's green eyes narrowed. "How long have you been travelin'?"
The other man sighed. "Since daylight."
"After a whippin', with a bad leg and your shoulder bleedin' like that?"
"And you're willin' to swear you never wore a dress?"
Mingo hesitated. Then he shrugged. "Well, when I was in England...."
Dan's hand went to his chin and his eyes narrowed even further.
"I was the finest Katherine in Shakespeare's 'The Taming of the Shrew' Oxford had ever seen. Next time someone I attended Christ's College with just happens to show up on the frontier to recognize me, you can ask them and they will tell you what I say is true."
Dan thought a minute. Then he nodded. "Fair enough. Can you travel?"
The dark-haired man winced as his friend helped him to his feet. "I don't know...."
"There's some cold beef and cheese over by the fire that the Colonel's men left."
Mingo's brown eyes lit with joy. "Necessity knows no law except to conquer. Lead on, McBoone..."
Israel had walked half the day and still not found the Cherokee village. Suddenly frightened that he and his freckles might end up in Philadelphia if they journeyed another half hour to the east, he turned around and took the trail he thought led back to Boonesborough. Because he was too short to see over the weeds, he took the wrong one and soon found himself at the river. Sara-Mingo and her Creek-Chickasaw-Chickamauga-Chippewa band had deserted the Englishmen and were camped near its bank. She was busy braiding her long hair and one of her braves was threading new beads onto her moccasins. The old ones had gotten soiled in the mud when she had pressed her younger brother into it, and laughed as he screamed while she quoted bad poetry to a slow steadily-drummed rhythm. In his usual fashion the small white-haired boy stopped when confronted with the strange painted savages and promptly told them his father was Daniel Boone.
One of the braves grabbed the squirming boy. As Sara-Mingo approached, whip in hand, he held him at arm's length lest one of the magical dancing spots on his pale white skin touch him.
"M...Mingo?" the boy whispered as his blue eyes grew wide as his mother's. "Cri-mi-net-ly.....what are you wearing a dress fer? I knew you were English, but gol' darn it anyhow..."
"For two minutes now my tongue has been on my teeth, probing, cleaning." She took the boy's chin in her hands. "So you are the Boone's son." Sara-Mingo paused. "You do not look like your father or your mother. Was there perhaps a Norwegian woman in your father's past?"
Israel brought his boot down on her bare foot. "You ain't Mingo! You're a girl!"
"Astute as always, Is-ray-el."
The boy's head pivoted. His father and Mingo were standing to the side of the glade. "Pa! Pa!" he screamed as he broke free and ran towards his father. "In'juns! In'juns!"
Mingo glanced at Dan as his hand went to his chin. He shook his head. "No need to kneel, Dan'yel. The boy is right. She is an In'jun."
"This is between you and me, Cara-Mingo," the face behind the painted eyes whispered, "no one else. Send the one called Boone away. I give you his life and his son's."
Mingo took a step towards this ghost from his past. "And what will you give me?"
The familiar lips turned down. "Perhaps...a concert."
Mingo's shuddered. 'I will kill you first."
"It ain't right, somehow, Mingo," Dan countered, laying a hand on his friend's bleeding shoulder, "killin' your own kin."
"Don't do it, Mingo! Don't kill her!" Israel came up to him and took his hand. "Cri-mi-net-ly, I mean there are times when I really want to kill Jemima, but gosh gol' darn it, you ain't responsible for what your sister is anyhow. Even if you did shove her in the mud and take her doll and turn her mean."
They took the Creek-Chickasaw-Chickamauga-Chippewa band to the edge of Kentucky and left them there. An hour later they were on the path to Boonesborough by way of Salem. They had left Sara-Mingo there in the care of a stinky old Mrs. McGrady, who had of late married an English entrepreneur named Gerard and moved to the city to open a soap factory. On the way back they stumbled on a British encampment and realized it was occupied by the same men who had captured them before. They were armed to their teeth - which were yellow and unattractive - and prepared to lay siege to the fort.
"Well," Dan's green eyes narrowed, "it looks like we're gonna haf'ta go down there and tell that young feller that he's not allowed to attack my fort. I thought maybe he had learned his lesson before, but I guess he's got a skull as thick as mine."
Mingo's brown eyes narrowed. "What is your plan, Dan'yel?"
"Yeah, Pa," Israel narrowed his blue eyes as well as it seemed to be the thing to do, "what's your plan?"
Dan laid his hand on his son's white hair. "Well, Mingo here is going to go into the camp - "
"Me? Why me?" the Indian groused.
Dan shifted his hold on Tick Licker. "Well, I don't see anyone else here who could impersonate a British officer and pull it off with what you might call 'a plumb' ."
As Mingo sputtered, aggravated not only by his friend's propensity to thrust him unnecessarily into the middle of dangerous situations, but by his constant mangling of the King's English, Israel tugged on his father's sleeve. "Maybe I could, Pa.... How about me?"
Dan looked at his son. His fingers went to his chin and then he slowly drew them across his beardless chin. He dropped to his knee. "Come here, Is'rul."
"Dan'yel... This is no time for a speech...."
"Now son, it ain't that I don't think you could do it," he said, giving the boy a little squeeze. "It's just that you're a mite short."
Israel's head went down for a minute; his spirit and his freckles crushed. Then his fingers found his father's knife. He lifted it from its sheath and looked at Mingo's long tresses.
"Can I cut his hair this time?"