This will be quick as I have to run and eat breakfast before heading out to the Springfield Conference. I'm looking forward to it!
Okay, here it is.
Sally shivered, but uttered no sound. Her white face and clenched jaw betrayed her agony.
Carson couldn’t bear to see the fear written in her eyes nor Ty’s helplessness with the truth. “Well,” he stretched out his feet before the fire and clasped his hands behind his head. “I reckon we can all sleep well for many a night ta come since there ain’t no way any a them can find us here seein’ as how no one even knows we’re here.” He chuckled. An’ the tracks we done left from the cabin would shore ‘nough confuse even the best a trackers.”
“That’s right,” Ty added, thankful to see the terror gradually fading from his sister’s face. “An’ even if they was ta have started trackin,’ that there storm’d jest cover all signs up. Ya don’t think I’d be wastin’ my time getting all nice an’ shavin,’ which I ain’t done fer two months, if’n I was thinkin’ they might show up soon, do ya?”
Sally smiled. True, it wasn’t a full, lighthearted one such as she had earlier, but it was a start.
Several minutes were spent in silent thought. The wind could be heard softly whistling about the chimney. Hungrily the flames in the fireplace licked at the fresh logs Ty tossed on them and hissed and snapped like vicious beasts.
“How long ya reckon this here storm’ll last, Uncle Matt?”
“Oh, I speckt it’ll all be over in a day or so. Winter’s on its way out an’ spring’s acomin’ though it don’t seem that way tonight.”
“I reckon that’ll give me time ta carve that there locket for ya, Sally. That is,” Ty added with a twinkle in his eye. “If’n ya still want it.”
“Of course I still want it. Ya can’t get out of it that easy, Ty.”
And so the evening spent itself to be followed by several pleasant, restful days. Ty and Carson helped Uncle Matt with the chores. Inside, Aunt Leah found a most capable and helpful companion. Sally seemed to revel in the feeling, however short it may be, of peace. After that one evening when Ty shared the story, the troubles had not been brought up. Talk was held about the missing sister and ways to go about searching for her. Uncle Matt had several suggestions, but most evenings were spent with the men folk swapping stories of trapping and hunting. To these the women listened to, sometimes in rapt attention but at other times in skepticism. For, had they not heard some of them before? Only this time the animal was larger and the danger more life threatening. At such times, Sally and Aunt Leah would exchange glances of amusement.
It was during these times of story telling that Ty worked on the locket. He was quite skilful with the knife, and before many nights were over, an intricate locket of red maple sanded smooth lay waiting for the picture. The locket was passed from hand to hand and many were the exclamations it received. But Sally was puzzled.
“Ty, how are ya plannin’ ta get the picture in here? Ya didn’t leave any place ta slide it in, nor does it have a back that opens.”
“I was thinkin’ that same thing myself,” Carson interjected. “But I know how handy ya are with the knife so I reckon ya have some way?” It was more of a question than a statement, and all waited for Ty’s reply.
Holding out his hand for the locket, he grinned as his sister gave it to him. With the tip of his knife he pushed a tiny wedge out of the top of the locket thereby leaving a slit just the size of the picture. After gently sliding the picture down the slit, the wedge was carefully pushed firmly back into place. Sally stared as Ty handed the locket back to her. Where was the wedge she had just watched him put in place? She couldn’t detect it. The locket was shaken, but the picture remained firmly in its place, looking as though it had grown in the wood. Sally’s delight knew no bounds, and Ty was more than rewarded for his efforts. Aunt Leah produced a ribbon from her sewing basket, and the locket was tied about Sally’s neck. Not a word of the evening stories did Sally hear that night as she gazed at her mother’s picture.
At last the day came for Carson, Ty and Sally to depart. The snow had melted enough for the three to move on in their search. Uncle Matt gave last minute suggestions and advice and told them to stop by if they were ever that way again. Aunt Leah had packed plenty of food for their trip, and after admonishing Ty to look out for his sister and Carson to look after both of them, she told Sally,
“I reckon you can handle the hard things on this here trip, child, but do try to keep those two out of trouble.”
Sally laughed, and the tears that had threatened to fall disappeared. She strapped on her father’s six shooter and allowed Ty to help her mount. Uncle Matt handed her the reins, and as Carson and Ty swung up on their horses, she turned her own mount’s head to follow. Glancing back, she waved her hand to the two standing in the doorway of their hospitable cabin. Her horse tossed his head causing the bridle to jingle with a happy little tune. The sun was shining, and one bird was heard singing merrily in some tree nearby. They were off. Would they find a clue in the town they were headed to? Would they be able to track and find this sister who had disappeared so many years before? No one spoke these thoughts aloud, but each mind echoed them again and again as they rode steadily toward the east following the snowy road.