“Where da ya think ya’ll be headin’ for, Jake?” The sun was shining from a clear blue sky. All around the signs of summer were to be seen, from the glowing flowers along the road where bees buzzed busily, to the full leafy branches of the trees arching high overhead.
“Ya aim ta go far?”
Jake shrugged his shoulders. His face looked worn and haggard. His eyes rested not on the beauties around him but on the low mound of earth near the now empty cabin and the little cross which marked the last resting place of his beloved Ellen. “I got ta get away, Bob,” his voice was dull. “Me an’ the young’uns jest got ta get away,” he repeated. “Too many memories of . . . her.” Jake’s voice grew husky.
“Well, I reckon ya ought ta.” Bob nodded in agreement. “Jest send me word when ya’s settled down, an’ I’ll be seein’ ya.” Bob held out his hand. After a wrenching grasp, Jake turned from the friend of his boyhood toward the wagon and spoke to the horses. With a lurch the wagon began to move off down the trail. The trees waved their green branches as though in farewell while unseen birds sang their goodbyes and a squirrel chattered from a fence post.
Bob stood silently beside his horse in front of the cabin and watched. Two young faces looked out the back of the wagon. Bob lifted his hand in farewell. The children returned the wave until they could no longer see the man who had been as an uncle to them. Bob saw the older one place a protective arm around the smaller form beside him. He swallowed the lump that rose suddenly in his throat. It was always hard to say good bye.
“May the good Lord go with ya, Jake, an’ help ya to bear it.” Bob’s murmured words were the prayer of his heart as he mounted and turned his horse’s head homeward, leaving behind the lonely log cabin with its forsaken, but never to be forgotten, grave.
In the fireplace, a log broke, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney. Carson rolled stiffly over. The storm had spent itself, and all was quiet save for the heavy breathing of the sick man in the corner bed. Sally slept on, spent from many sleepless nights of watching, her head leaning against the wall and an old shawl around her shoulders. Ty, still at his post by the bed, never looked less like sleep, Carson thought looking at the young man as he watched with those keen eyes of his, the deep slumber of the man who was his father. For a long while Carson lay there in silence.
The old family Bible lay still on the bed where Sally had placed it. Reverently, carefully Ty picked it up. It was too dim in the corner to read, but he opened it just the same. Would there be any clue in this old Book as to whom he had promised to find? Or was his father, as Sally thought, not right in his mind? Turning quietly so as to have what dim light the fire could cast on the Book, Ty opened its pages. There was an inscription on the first page, but the writing was so faint that in the dim light it was unreadable. Ty knew the Bible had belonged to his mother. For several moments Ty sat unmoving, his thoughts on the mother who had gone away from them all so many years ago. His father had scarcely ever spoken of her. What had she been like? Why wouldn’t his father talk of her? What had happened to her? It was all so perplexing. Ty realized that he didn’t know for sure if his mother had died or not. He had for years assumed that it was so, but after careful thought, he began to wonder. Every time he or Sally had asked, the father would change the subject and look so old and tired that it was a long time before either child asked again.
Ty turned from these disturbing thoughts to the business at hand. Softly he turned the leaves of the old Book, noticing a pressed flower here and there, an underlined verse now and again, but nothing he could call a clue. Glancing from time to time at the face on ther pillow, he kept up his search.
Carson rose after a while to put a new log on the fire and then lay down again. Ty glanced up at the movement and noticed the wind had died and all was still. Sally slept on undisturbed. What had she had to endure, with him gone and the father so sick? In the morning Ty would have a talk with her. Right now he would continue his vigil and his search for something, anything, that might lead to this missing person. At last his patience was rewarded by a small, delicate piece of folded paper. With hands that trembled slightly, the paper was opened revealing a tiny photograph. The face that looked back at him was that of a young woman. The hat and clothes were enough for Ty to know that the woman was from a city, but which city and who it was, he couldn’t say for sure. Ty bent over it, trying in the dim light to study the face.
So absorbed had he become that he didn’t notice Carson raise himself up suddenly on one elbow and listen.
Ty jerked his head up, and his hand went instinctively to his holstered gun. Carson had quietly picked up his rifle and held it cocked and ready in his hand.
Silence every where. Ty strained his ears as he placed the family Bible hastily but with caution, making no noise, back on the bed then rose from his seat. A slight rustle outside and the silence was shattered by a sudden sharp crack as of a rifle.