By Dorene J. Stamper
Copyright: October 31, 2012
The Drive to Auntie's
The sun shone brightly through the window, bathing Serenity’s bedroom with light. The girls were awakened by a knocking on the bedroom door, as it slowly opened. Erwin called cheerfully, “It’s time to get up.”
“Good morning, Papa,” yawned Serenity.
“It’s now a little before six. If we get a move on, and quickly finish our chores, and if breakfast is ready when we are, then we should be at your parents’ home by eigh," he explained.
"That's a whole lot of 'ifs'," said Jeanetta Lynn, while trying to keep her eyes open.
"Yes it is. However, if your parents say you can go, this will give you an hour to collect your things, and be on the road by nine,” he explained.
“You know, he’s right,” admitted Jeanetta Lynn.
“I never thought I’d hear you agree to getting up early,” said Uncle Erwin. “I’ll let you two get ready while I tend to my chores.”
“Thank you, Papa,” said Serenity. “As soon as I finish packing we’ll go in and help Momma with breakfast.”
“I think she’d like that,” he replied, flashing his daughter a wink before closing the door.
The girls slowly climbed out of bed and got dressed.
“It’s a good thing we did most of my packing last night,” Serenity admitted, while pulling open her dresser drawers to make sure there wasn't anything still needed.
When seeing something red, Jeanetta Lynn pulled it out, “When did you get this?” she asked while admiring the beautiful scarf.
“My parents ordered it through your store; it’s my birthday gift. Do you think I should bring it?”
While holding it against her cheek, Jeanetta Lynn whispered, “I’d bring it, even if I didn't need it.”
“Then I’ll bring it," she giggled.
“It’s too beautiful to leave behind,” said Jeanetta Lynn while placing it onto the bed.
“Can you think of anything else I might need?” Serenity asked, as she placed the scarf in her carpetbag.
“Yes,” said Jeanetta Lynn.
“What else are we forgetting?” Serenity questioned.
“I suggest that we bring the brass box with us,” said Jeanetta Lynn. “I’ll put it in with my things, being your bag is already pretty full.”
“You’re right; we can't leave it behind.”
“Now, let’s get out of here before anything goes wrong. Such as a blue-green glow coming out from my carpetbag,” said Jeanetta Lynn.
Heading down the steps, they entered the kitchen where the aroma of breakfast lingered about the room. “Momma, that smells wonderful,” said Serenity. “Is there anything we can do to help?”
“I would appreciate it if you two would set the table,” she replied.
As Erwin walked in he asked, “Thank you for helping. Are you both ready?”
“Yes, we are,” Serenity smiled.
“Aunt Lydia, are you coming with us? It’s been a while since you both have visited my parents,” pleaded Jeanetta Lynn.
“You can count on it,” she replied. “You both will need all the convincing power you can get. Even though I preferred that you weren't going.”
“Dear, I feel the same, but they are growing up and we need to give them a little slack this time,” explained Erwin, while helping her into the chair.
“I don’t know if William or Virginia would agree with you regarding this one,” Lydia replied as he scooted her chair up to the table.
“Then let’s do all we can to help them see things our way.”
“Don’t you mean your way?” she laughed.
“Okay, then to see it my way,” he answered, “but in time you’ll see that I’m right.”
They ate quickly and when the dishes were washed and put away, it was time to go. The girls brought out their carpetbags and Erwin placed them into the buggy as the others climbed in. Once into the driver’s seat, Erwin took the reins in hand, and urged their mare, Trixie, forward at a good clip.
As they traveled past where Crazy Bill was released, Jeanetta Lynn frantically looked about. Fear flooded through her, as if at any minute the rooster would fly out to attack them.
“Jeanetta Lynn, what’s wrong?” Serenity asked.
“Do you see Crazy Bill anywhere?”
“Is this the place?”
“Yes, and if he’s still out there I want Uncle Erwin to hurry up.”
“Papa, please keep an eye out for Crazy Bill,” Serenity called to him. “This is where Uncle William was attacked.”
“Yes, I will,” he replied, as he hurried Trixie to a quicker pace. Then when looking off into the distance he added, “I’m sure he’s gone by now. Look, up ahead, there’s a man relaxing while eating. Now, if that rooster was nearby, I’m sure things wouldn't be so peaceful.”
Just as Lydia was about to reply, the man shot off the log screaming while thrashing his arms about frantically. Crazy Bill had attached himself to the back of the man’s neck and shoulders, and was flapping about wildly while he pecked away. Even the man’s horse bolted off for a distance before stopping, leaving its master afoot.
Erwin grabbed his rifle, aimed high, and then fired, startling both the man and the rooster. This caused Crazy Bill to let go and flutter toward the underbrush. Erwin hurried his buggy to where the man had fallen upon the ground. When nearing him, they found his arms were still covering the back of his head, in a feeble attempt of warding off further assaults.
“Are you okay?” Erwin called out as he leaped from the buggy.
“What in the world hit me, and where did it come from?” the man yelled while trying to sit upright.
“It’s a rogue rooster. He’s been attacking people for weeks, and no one knows who owns it,” Erwin explained.
“That was a rooster?” he shouted in disbelief.
“Your horse is grazing not far off; I’ll bring it back to you,” Erwin said, as Lydia hurried over to see if she could assist.
“Sir, please allow me to wash the blood off you,” she said.
“Why, how much blood is there?” he asked, lowering his hands.
“Not as much as I had expected, though I’m sure it hurts far more than it looks.”
“Here’s your horse,” Erwin called out as he came running up with it in lead.
“Thank ya kindly for bringing up my horse. And for you, ma’am, for tending to my wound.”
“You’re welcome. Do you have far to travel?” Erwin asked.
“I’m on my way home,” he said. When seeing the humor in the event, he chuckled. “During the whole war I never received a scratch and then I’m attacked by a rooster? If I were still with my troops I wouldn't hear the last of it for months.”
“You were in the war?” Jeanetta Lynn asked. “What side did you fight on?”
“The losing side,” he mumbled. “But I’m slowly getting over it.”
“I've been told the roads aren't safe because of angry soldiers, is this true?” Lydia asked.
“There are angry men from both sides, not just mine. Some wanted it to continue so they could do more vengeful killing. So when it comes to these marauders, I wouldn't give it much thought.”
“You’re sure of this?” Erwin asked. “My girls will be traveling by themselves and we’re concerned over their safety.”
“They should be fine,” he replied. Looking directly at the girls he added, “Just stick to the roads heavily traveled, and stay clear of strangers, mostly anyone who looks as if they could be a soldier. Should you find yourself in a bad situation, a well-placed buggy whip could change the minds of almost anyone.”
“Do you think it will come to that?” Lydia gasped.
He said comfortingly, “I doubt if they’ll even have to use that whip.” But when Lydia wasn't looking he turned toward the girls and mouthed quietly, “Keep the whip close by.”
Jeanetta Lynn understood and nodded back at him.
“Where do you call home?” Serenity asked.
“Don’t know yet. However, I’ll take any place where I won’t be asked about that blasted war again,” he said while putting on his hat.
Erwin took hold of the horse as the man got up into the saddle, and then stepped back. “Are you sure that you feel good enough to ride?”
“I’ll do just fine,” he replied. When looking out at the trees he added, “However, someone has to kill that blasted rooster!”
“I’m sure someone will do just that,” Erwin assured him.
“Thanks again for your help, ma’am,” he said, while tipping his hat to Lydia, then to the girls, and lastly to Erwin.
“Take care and may God help you find the peace you’re looking for,” Jeanetta Lynn said softly.
The man only smiled back at her, and then tipped his hat again before riding off.
A short while later they were pulling up to the Parkers’ place. When Jeanetta Lynn saw her father standing in the stable brushing Misty, she called out to him.
“I wasn't expecting you for a couple more hours,” he replied. “Hello, Lydia, it’s nice to see you. Jeanetta Lynn, please go in and let mother know that Uncle Erwin and Aunt Lydia are here. She was only expecting you, Erwin, but to see Lydia too, she’s going to be very excited.”
“And I’m just as excited about seeing my sister,” said Lydia.
“How was Jeanetta Lynn’s visit? I hope she wasn't any trouble.”
“She was a real angel, as always,” Lydia smiled, as Erwin helped her down from the buggy.
“William, our daughters have a request of you both,” said Erwin.
“A request, what type of request?”
“I think it would be best if we allowed them to speak of it,” Lydia suggested.
Virginia warmly greeted Erwin and the girls with hugs and kisses as they came through the front door. However, when seeing Lydia, she cried out joyfully, “My dear sister, I’m overjoyed at seeing you! What an unexpected pleasure! I’ll have to allow Jeanetta Lynn to spend the night more often, if she promises to bring you back with her. Please come in and tell me all about what’s been happening in your lives.”
“Dear, the girls have something to ask of us,” said William, as he ushered them into the parlor.
“Father, Mother,” Jeanetta Lynn started out, “Auntie gave Serenity and me a gift, one we are to share. We were wondering if we could drive to her place, and personally thank her.”
“You've already discussed this with Uncle Erwin and Aunt Lydia?” she asked of Jeanetta Lynn.
“We gave Serenity permission to go, only if you both give it to Jeanetta Lynn as well,” Erwin replied.
“I don’t know, Erwin, there are soldiers wandering about. What if the girls should run into some of them, then what would they do?” Virginia asked.
“Sister, on our way here we met a soldier heading west. He felt they would be safe and Erwin seems to believe him,” said Lydia.
“So the final word is up to us?” William asked. “Then dear, what do you say?”
“I guess we could allow them to go. However, only under these conditions: they must leave as soon as Jeanetta Lynn is packed, and return in two days before nightfall.”
“I’ll go along with this,” William replied, looking sternly at Jeanetta Lynn.
“I promise that we’ll return before the sun sets two days from now,” Jeanetta Lynn squealed. “I won’t let you down.”
“Then I suggest you go and start packing your bags,” said Erwin.
“I will! Come on, Serenity, we have more packing to do and then we’re off,” Jeanetta Lynn cried out.
When looking at Jeanetta Lynn’s small carpetbag, Mother said, “Jeanetta Lynn, please wait up a minute.” Then looking at her husband she said, “William, if you’ll come with me, I think we can come up with something better for our daughter.”
As they returned, William carried two good-sized carpetbags with him.
“I think these should do you very well,” Mother said, stooping down to open them up.
“They are what your father and I used before you were born, and they are still in very good shape. You may have them if you would like.”
“I can keep them both?” she asked in surprise. “Thank you, Father and Mother,” she exclaimed, giving them both a hug. “This is wonderful! Now I can pack everything I want and still have room for anything Auntie should send back home with us!”
Looking over the bags, William smiled. “I haven’t seen these for a good many years. They were all we could afford at the time.”
“Yes, they were,” Virginia sighed.
“I think the girls should get upstairs and start packing,” Lydia advised.
The girls raced out of the parlor and up the stairs, each carrying a carpetbag. Rushing into the bedroom, they carelessly slammed the door behind them.
“I guess they don’t need our help,” Lydia smiled.
“They’re quickly growing up, aren't they?” Virginia whispered. “I’ll miss not having a little girl around me each day.”
About twenty-minutes later the girls came thundering down the stairs and returned to the parlor.
“Here’s some food we both put together for the trip. Time will pass faster if you’re not suffering from hunger,” said Mother.
“Serenity, you both must stick to the main roads, just as the soldier advised,” Lydia cautioned.
“And Jeanetta Lynn, if there are any signs of danger, we want you both to get out of there. Misty is a fast mare; she’ll put distance between you and what danger is upon you,” Mother advised.
“We’ll do what you say,” Jeanetta Lynn assured them.
“Girls, I think your fathers have the buggy waiting for you,” Aunt Lydia said, as she opened the front door.
There was Misty, patiently standing by the gate, and already hitched up. Jeanetta Lynn’s father held the reins as he talked with Uncle Erwin.
After kissing their mothers good-bye, they rushed out to their fathers.
“Good, you have the basket of food. Remember, we trust you both, and know you’ll be just fine. It’s your mothers who are worried,”
Erwin said, turning so they couldn't see his eyes misting over.
“Thank you, Papa, for everything,” Serenity said, hugging him tightly.
“Remember, be wise, and once you're on Carpenter Road just follow it out, and you'll be okay,” Father said, as he embraced Jeanetta Lynn.
“I will,” she assured him as she gave him a kiss upon the cheek. “We both will.”
Erwin helped the girls into the buggy as William tossed the carpetbags in behind them and then handed the reins to his daughter. When Jeanetta Lynn took them, his hand cupped over hers. His fatherly instinct wanted to keep her from going, but she was growing up and he had to accept this.
“God will protect us,” Jeanetta Lynn whispered.
He removed his hand, and watched as Jeanetta Lynn guided Misty onto the lane at a brisk flat walk.
“They’ll be all right. Just trust in God and things will work out,” said William.
“That’s what I’m planning to do,” replied Virginia as she and Lydia came near. “Come, I’ll see if Lucy still has any of those cookies you both like so much.”
As they walked inside, Virginia headed for the kitchen and soon entered the parlor carrying a dish filled with cookies. Lucy brought in a tray with four glasses of apple cider and after placing them on the coffee table, Virginia took a seat.
“I see that these are the ones with a chunk of chocolate melted on top,” said Erwin. “I love those!”
“So does William,” Virginia smiled. “I think that’s why Lucy makes them so often. Though there’s no way she could have known he would need a special treat today, and having chocolate will always brighten his mood.”
“That it does,” William replied as he took three at one time and sat back on the sofa.
“How are things at the mercantile these days?” Lydia asked. “Jeanetta Lynn told us that you have some more wonderful additions to it.”
“That I have; let me tell you about them,” William replied.
Time slipped away as they talked about the business, planned for the future, and what crops should be planted. When hearing a horse ride up, William went to the door to see who it was. Upon finding Trey Greene dismounting his horse, William called out, “Hi, Trey, come on in. You’re just in time to have some of Lucy’s cookies.”
“I’d ride a long way to enjoy them if they’re the ones I hope they are,” Trey replied loudly. “Are they the ones with the chocolate?”
“Sure are,” William said as his friend sprinted up the front steps.
“My family is here, you know my brother-in-law, Erwin Stewart, and his wife is Virginia’s sister, Lydia,” William said as they entered the parlor.
“Yes, I do,” he replied as he extended his hand to Erwin. “How has it been for you these days?”
“Pretty good,” Erwin replied.
“Have you heard about what took place at the Smith’s the other day?” Trey asked.
“No,” William replied, “but I’m sure you’ll fill us in on it.”
“I stopped in yesterday,” Trey started off, “to bring them supplies from town. They’re getting up there in age and need a little help. When I got there, Mr. Smith said there had been a band of rebel soldiers there, and had left shortly before I showed up. They were angry with how the war turned out.”
“There are many that feel the same way. So what makes them important?” William asked.
“They in themselves are not important. It’s what they tried to do to Mrs. Smith that makes them so,” Trey retorted.
“What did they do?” Lydia questioned.
“According to Smith, they barged into their cabin, and started to talk very rude to them both. When he asked them to leave, they knocked him to the side, and approached his wife. You know how frail she is. She screamed as the soldiers groped, and started removing her clothing, all the while telling her of their intentions. That’s when Smith got his shotgun, and aimed it at them. They quickly changed their minds when realizing they were in for a rear end full of buckshot.”
Virginia gasped, “Gracious, what would have happened if she had been alone? Would they have violated her?”
“I suppose so,” assured Trey.
“Do you have any idea where these men are now?” William inquired.
“Smith said they were heading east on Carpenter Road.”
Hearing this, William’s eyes shot over to Erwin, who was thinking the same: “The girls!”
“I’m unhitching my mare,” said Erwin as both men raced to the door.
“Trey, I’m taking your horse,” William called back.
“Sure, but what for? Are your daughters anywhere in that area?” he asked.
“Yes, I daresay, they are,” replied Virginia as she followed William out the door and stood on the porch.
“I didn't come here to alarm anyone,” Trey explained.
Barging past, Lydia called back to him: “I’m glad you did. If this took place as you said, then our daughters may well be in danger.”
“How long ago did they leave?” he asked, while standing with the women.
“Long enough to possibly be in danger!” shouted William.
Once they were mounted, they took off at a dead run.
Meanwhile, the girls were in deep thought as Misty traveled along at a fast jog.
“I've always been able to figure things out on my own, so why not regarding the brass box?” Jeanetta Lynn asked.
“It’s far beyond our knowledge and reasoning,” said Serenity.
“I guess you’re right. I’m sure Auntie will have an answer for all our questions.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m still uneasy just having it with us.”
“We couldn't leave it behind. Okay, let’s talk about something else that will get your jitters under control.”
While driving along they reminisced over all the ridiculous ways they seemed to get into trouble in their younger years.
“Do you remember when our fathers put up the rope swings in Auntie’s garden?” asked Serenity. “The first night we swung until after dark, and even wanted to sleep in them.”
“I’m glad they wouldn't allow us to do that. Could you have seen us all alone in the dark. We would've gone screaming back to the house at the first croak of a frog!”
“And how about Auntie’s dog, Skipper? He kept trying to grab at us when we were swinging!”
“I remember him,” Jeanetta Lynn laughed. “He would bark wildly at us as we flew past him on the swings! He’d jump up and down trying to catch our shoes as we swung past. On one attempt, he managed to snag my shoe, and at the speed I was going, he went flying through midair. Thankfully, Skipper wasn't hurt, however he never tried that again.”
Laughing even harder now, Serenity was gasping while saying, “He ended up in the middle of Auntie’s vegetable garden, all covered with smashed tomatoes.”
They were having fun until rounding a bend in the road, and seeing a soldier holding a Hawken rifle.
“What are the two of you doing out all alone? By the looks of it, your family aint here to protect you either,” he smirked.
Jeanetta Lynn pulled Misty to a stop about ten feet from him saying, “We’re heading for our aunt’s home, and she’s expecting us momentarily. She’ll send her hired hands out looking for us if we don’t show up soon.”
Venturing closer, he replied, “We could have some fun with the two of you. I’m sure your auntie wouldn't mind if you arrived late, and a little soiled for the wear.” He then added, “Right, boys?” which brought the other men out of hiding.
“Jeanetta Lynn, there are five of them behind us,” Serenity whispered as she turned in the seat.
Quickly glancing behind her, Jeanetta Lynn then focused her attention back on the first soldier as he took hold of Misty’s bridle.
At the same time, both fathers were nearing the same bend in the road where the girls were encountering the soldiers.
Pulling the horses to a walk, Erwin said, “At the clip they were going when we last saw them, they most likely have traveled about this far. We should be almost up to them by now.”
“If we show up racing to their rescue, and they don’t need to be, that wouldn't look so good. And they won’t trust our word again. So let’s keep the horses at a fast walk. That way if we see them, and all is well, they won’t even know we’re here,” said William.
“Sounds good to me, the last thing we need is to lose our daughters’ trust.”
While rounding the bend they could hear voices. Sitting quietly upon their mounts, they listened for a few moments.
William looked at Erwin, asking, “What do you make of it?”
“One of the voices is Jeanetta Lynn. If so, then whatever is taking place isn't good.”
“It’s her,” he replied. “It wouldn't help if we rode in without knowing what’s going on. Let’s circle around into the thickets, so we’ll have a better idea about what we should do next.”
“Sounds good,” answered Erwin, as they tied their mounts to a tree branch.
The other soldiers were now nearing the buggy while saying what was on their minds.
“Pretty little things, aren't they?” said one. “All dressed up just for us.”
“They sure are,” another agreed.
One reached for Jeanetta Lynn, but she pulled her arm away, and slid ever closer to Serenity while shouting, “Don’t you even think of touching us!”
“Ah, a feisty one,” exclaimed one soldier. “Give her to me, and I’ll take some of that feistiness out of her!”
“Come on, girls, you know you want us,” jeered a man with long, matted black hair.
“We only want to contribute to your education,” laughed the soldier holding onto Misty.
Being the girls’ attention was drawn to the soldier ahead of them, they didn't notice how another was climbing into the back of the buggy. Slowly, he was making his way toward them.
By now, the fathers were in a clearing, and when hearing what was being said, William stepped out growling, “I’ll give you a lesson you won’t soon forget!”
“Father!” Jeanetta Lynn screamed in panic.
“Ah, your daddy has come to save his little girl. Isn't that touching!” said the redheaded soldier.
“We can take him easily,” said the one holding onto Misty.
“But can you take us both?” said Erwin, while making his presence known.
“The way I see it is all of you can mosey on down the road, and leave our daughters alone, or we can have it out right here,” said William as he cocked his rifle. “It’s up to you.”
You can’t get us all,” grinned one.
“True, so I’ll aim for you first,” William assured him.
About then thoughts of having their way with the two young girls had lost its appeal. Erwin cocked his rifle, and they both aimed them toward the soldiers.
“Settle down,” said the soldier as he let go of Misty’s bridle and stepped back. “We were just having a little fun. You know how it is when you've been away from women for as long as we've been. We’ll be heading on, so lower those rifles.”
“We’ll lower them once all of you are on your way,” William ordered.
The soldier in the back of the buggy climbed down. However, instead of walking away he quickly turned toward them, and fired his pistol, hitting Erwin in the arm. The force of the bullet caused him to reel about and collapse. With determined accuracy, William shot at the soldier, sending him backwards, colliding into another before hitting the ground. Cocking his rifle again, William took aim at the one who seemed to be in command. His choice was correct, for once the man was looking down the barrel he quickly changed his tune.
“Come on, men,” he ordered, “this isn't worth us getting killed over. Pick up Joe, and let’s get on our way.”
Erwin had rolled over into a sitting position, and had his rifle resting against his knee, cocked and ready to fire.
“Too bad, we could have taught your daughters a little about life, making them better wives for the future,” chuckled one soldier, while resting his rifle over his shoulder, and helping Joe up from off the ground.
“Shut up, Frank, before he shoots you too,” Joe groaned. “Just get me out of here.”
Slowly they passed by the buggy, some of them winked at the girls, but mostly they were paying more attention to the fathers holding rifles. Seeing a fork in the road, they took the one to the right, and continued along their way. William and Erwin stood watching until they couldn't see them any longer before allowing the girls to leap down from the buggy and rush over.
“Father,” said Jeanetta Lynn, “the way you handled those men, weren't you at all scared?”
“Jeanetta Lynn, we both were scared,” assured Erwin as he held Serenity.
“But you came out after us. How did you know we would be in danger?” Jeanetta Lynn asked.
“Trey came into the house for a visit. He told us about these men and what they were up to. When finding that they were heading down the same road you were on, we knew we had to get here fast,” Father replied, now embracing Jeanetta Lynn tightly.
“Thank you for coming,” whispered Jeanetta Lynn.
“Nothing could keep us away,” Erwin assured them. “I guess it isn't as safe out here as that old soldier said.”
“I hate to admit this, but Mother was fearful that this could happen. She knew about groups of soldiers in the area, and I chose not to listen,” Jeanetta Lynn admitted. “But Father, being you weren't concerned; so I felt it would be okay.”
“That’s just it, we both had mixed feelings regarding your going out alone,” said Father. “But we had to allow you to go, and pray that nothing bad would take place. I feel it was God who brought Trey to our home so we could be here for you.”
“Father, now that you are here, are you both still willing to allow us to continue?” Jeanetta Lynn asked.
“That depends on you both. Do you feel comfortable in proceeding?”
“Serenity, do you still want to go?” Jeanetta Lynn asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “Papa, can I?”
Neither father wanted to expose his daughter to more dangers. After giving them their word, they couldn't see a comfortable way of backing out, and still have peace. That’s when William came up with a suggestion.
“How about this?” he said hesitantly. “Erwin, you’re hurt and must see a doctor. What if I help you up onto your horse, and then you can head for home, while I escort our daughters to Auntie’s?”
The girls were about to protest until remembering their fears of only moments ago.
“Father, does that mean you’ll take us all the way up to Auntie’s home where everyone can see you?” Jeanetta Lynn asked.
“I’ll stay with you just to where we can see her home and no farther. You won’t even know I’m here. You have my word on this.”
The girls walked a little ways off to discuss the matter. “I want to continue on,” said Serenity, “and I had hopes Uncle William would step in, and offer to stay with us. You know, for protection in case there are more soldiers.”
Jeanetta Lynn glanced over at her father before replying. “Serenity, there’s an armed guard with a coach driver whenever the stage has money on it. So if grown men need added protection, then maybe we do too.”
“What a relief to hear this,” Serenity smiled. “I thought I would have to convince you to feel the same way as I do. And if he only comes as far as when we can see Auntie’s home, then no one will know that we didn't drive all the way by ourselves.”
“Now, how do we get my father to meet us there in two days, so to keep us safe on the way back?” Jeanetta Lynn questioned.
“We’ll have to work on that one,” smiled Serenity.
Returning to the buggy, they climbed in. “Father,” Jeanetta Lynn said, “As long as you don’t come any farther than when we see her home, you may come along.”
William turned toward Erwin, so to keep the girls from seeing how difficult it was to keep from laughing. “All right,” Father said as he turned about with a straight face, “I’ll accept the honor of accompanying you both.”
“Thank you,” smiled Jeanetta Lynn as she winked at him.
“Tell Trey I’ll bring his horse back in the morning. Ask Jake if he will watch the store in my absence,” William said while helping Erwin into the saddle. “Then please let Virginia know what I’m doing and that I’ll be home just as soon as I can.”
“Both Lydia and Virginia will be pleased that you’re going with them. Knowing this will is a relief to all of us,” said Erwin, once seated.
“Papa, I’m sorry that you got hurt,” said Serenity while taking his hand. “Thank you for coming out for us.”
“Fathers are like that. When it comes to protecting their little girls, nothing is too dangerous,” he smiled.
Serenity always hated being referred to as a 'little girl,' but right now it gave her a comforting feeling to know how much he cared.
“Be safe. And please tell Mother I love her,”Serenity said softly. “I love you so much, Papa. And I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too,” he replied. Their fingers slipped apart as his horse moved forward, bringing sadness into his heart. If he hadn't been shot, he too would be there to protect his daughter. However, being this wasn't the case he had to leave it up to William, and in the hands of God.
“Now,” said Father, “if we’re going to make it there while it’s still daylight, I suggest we get a move on.”
Fear has a way of losing its power after a while, and before long the girls were back reminiscing about their childhood. As Father’s horse jogged alongside the buggy, he heard things he never suspected them of doing. However, he remained true to his word by not lecturing them about it.
Jeanetta Lynn asked, “Serenity, do you think Auntie will remember when we wanted to look as beautiful as her?”
“She may not but I sure do! We poured two whole bottles of iodine over our heads to turn our hair red,” she laughed until her sides ached.
“Our mothers had fits, and so did Auntie when seeing we had used up all her iodine. What was worse is that we ruined several of her towels, and managed to get it on her best rug,” laughed Jeanetta Lynn, making it difficult for her to sit upright and still hold onto the reins.
“They washed our hair almost every hour on the hour,” said Serenity, trying to compose herself.
“However, it stayed red until it grew long enough for them to cut off.”
“Be still,” cautioned father in a low voice. “I see someone in the road ahead.”
“Surely not another group of soldiers?” Jeanetta Lynn asked, as they tried to see that far into the distance.
“I don’t know but it could be. Only this time I’m ready for them,” he said. “Keep Misty’s gait back to a flat walk to give me more time to figure out what’s going on.”
“I will,” replied Jeanetta Lynn.
“It’s a single soldier. What will you do now?” Serenity asked, grabbing the whip in case it was needed.
As they approached, the soldier got up from the log he was sitting on. Removing his cap he said, “We’re awfully hungry, sir, do you have anything we could eat? I don’t have much money, but what I do have I’ll freely give you.”
“You said we, but I don’t see another,” stated Father.
Remembering how the first soldier was alone at the start caused the girls to grow anxious.
“If you’re asking about more men, no, I’m alone. However, I do have my young son with me,” he said, motioning for the boy to come out of the bushes, and stand by his side. “When the battle was over, I returned home to find that my wife had been killed, and our home burned down. When seeing the soldiers, Sam hid himself in the bushes, which saved his life. Once they rode off he walked the five miles to the nearest neighbor who kindly took him in until I returned. They went back to the cabin, and took care of my wife, so she would have a proper burial.”
“Where are you heading?” Jeanetta Lynn asked.
“We’re heading west in hopes of getting a fresh start. Sam’s still young, but soon he’ll be able to help me with whatever place we end up on,” he replied.
Reaching behind her, Jeanetta Lynn held out their basket of food saying, “Our mothers packed this for our trip, but you two need it far more than we do.”
“I’m much obligen to ya,” he said, walking up to take it.
Sam quickly looked under the towel and removed the bread, eating it as if he were starving.
“When was the last time you both had any food?” Father asked.
“I've been able to get work here and there, sir, so to buy food. However, it’s been a while,” he replied. “I have money to pay, but most folks ran us off as if we were thieves or murderers.”
“It’s because a few bands of rebels have been pillaging these parts,” Serenity explained.
“While Serenity and I were traveling alone we ran into a group of them, a ways back. They’re not the type you would want around your son,” Jeanetta Lynn warned. “They are not honorable men such as you. If our fathers hadn't shown up when they did, no telling what may have happened to us.”
“Pillaging and assaulting the women folk, huh? If I had to deal with such men, I wouldn't be overly hospitable to strangers either,” he said, as he removed a few coins from a pouch. “Here, this is for the food and basket.”
“Please keep your money. It was an honor to help you,” said Jeanetta Lynn, gently pushing his hand away.
“Thank all of you for your generosity and kindness,” he said, returning the money back into the pouch. “Also, for letting me know about the rebels. I could easily take some of them on, but not with my son here. What’s over that way?” he asked, while pointing off down the road.
“Don’t go that way. But about another mile or so into the thick grove of trees you’ll come upon a road. Go left and it will take you to town, which I think will be friendly and understanding to your needs,” Father said.
“Then that’s where we’ll be heading. There might be some work I can do for a day or two before heading on. Again, thank you all for your kindness. And may God bless you, and keep you safe on your journey,” he said pleasantly. Taking Sam by his hand, and the basket hooked over his arm, they headed toward the dense forest. After a while, there were no traces of them ever being there.
“Even though he was nice, I don’t want to run into anyone else,” Jeanetta Lynn sighed while urging Misty on. “Father, you felt this was going to be an adventure and you were right.”
“Though it’s not the adventure I had hoped you both would experience,” he said calmly.
“I see it this way: just how many girls our age have been given such a wonderful gift?” Jeanetta Lynn said.
“Yes, that’s for sure,” Serenity smiled.
“I guess you both like the gift Auntie gave you,” Father said. “At least enough to travel all this way to thank her for it. Maybe when you return you’ll show this gift to me?”
“Father, after we know more about it then we’ll share it with you. For now we just want to thank her for it,” Jeanetta Lynn replied.
“Well, I’m pleased to find that we've raised you two up right,” Father smiled.
Less than an hour later Auntie’s home could be seen through the trees. Jeanetta Lynn sat still on the seat wondering if her father was going to be true to his word and allow them to continue alone.
“This is where I take my leave,” Father said. “You’re safe, and can go on without me.”
“Father, thank you for coming with us,” said Jeanetta Lynn. “If we had met up with another group of soldiers, you know…the bad sort and not like the good one we did meet up with, I don’t know what we would have done without you.”
“That’s what fathers are for,” he replied modestly. “In two day's time, I’ll be waiting here for you.”
“I know you will and for this, I’m thankful,” she replied.
“Then it’s a date,” he said. Leaning down from the saddle he gave her a kiss on the cheek before heading back home. “Oh yes,” he said while circling his horse about, “please say hello to Auntie for me.”
“I’ll do that,” she called back as he rode off into the distance.
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