All at once the gun was drawn, followed almost instantly by its sharp report and then the gun was back in its place and Sally moved away to her brother’s side. For a moment a stunned silence lay over everyone, for Sally had not only hit the knot, but had beat her opponent!
The vanquished youth grinned self-consciously as cheers for his opponent filled the air. When they had somewhat died down, he approached Sally and said, “I beg yer pardon, Miss, for doubting. Yer a better shot than I am an’ I don’t mind sayin’ so.”
Sally smiled and shook the offered hand.
“Well, let’s start back an’ hand these men over to the sheriff, now that our little party is over.” It was the deputized man who was now the unspoken leader of the group.
During the activity of gathering horses, arranging prisoners and such, Sally grasped Ty’s arm and whispered, “I ain’t goin’ back over that cliff, Ty. I jest can’t.”
“Now don’t go gettin’ excited. ‘Course we ain’t goin’ back. We’re headin’ ta Fort Laramie an’ ta Fort Laramie we’re goin’ ta go. Carson,” Ty called to his friend.
When Carson made his way over, he remarked, “I reckon we can make the rest a the trail ourselves, Ty, ‘stead a goin’ back.”
“That’s what I was aim’n ta do.”
Thus it was that when the posse with their prisoners headed back over the trail they had come, Carson, Ty and Sally waved good-bye and were soon left alone on the mountainside.
Ty, unwilling to leave his mountain lion for the beasts of prey, soon had it skinned, and the three companions set off once more for Fort Laramie.
The trail, though narrow in places and but roughly marked, was relatively easy for such woodsmen as Bob Carson and Ty Elliot to follow, and they made good time. There were no more cliffside walkways to traverse, only rocky paths and icy streams to ford. These didn’t require such stout nerves and Sally made no complaint.
On the following day they spied the fort ahead with the flag of the United States floating over it in the breeze. The very sight quickened the blood in their veins and, urging their horses on to a brisk canter, they headed forward, hearts beating with eagerness for they knew not what. Surely their travels would be rewarded somehow. None dared hope for complete success to their quest at once, for this was the first lead they had followed, yet all felt certain that in some way there would be something to guide them on, to lead them forward closer to their goal, closer to the long lost sister whom Ty and Sally had never met.
Riding into the fort, their first stop was at the hotel, for though this was a fort, it was also a stopping place on the wagon trail to Oregon and California. After caring for their animals and eating a hearty meal, Carson, Ty and Sally walked about.
For the next few days, the three travelers wandered the fort, asking “about a family named Westlake or Weston, anyway, it began with West.” Nearly always the answer was no. Now and then they came across someone who had known a family by some such name, but never did it seem to be the right ones. Each day brought fresh disappointment, and before the week was out, Ty had become so discouraged that he nearly missed out on an important clue.
Carson had gone out early in the day and hadn’t yet returned. Not seeming to care any more, Ty remained behind at the hotel with Sally. They were planning on leaving the following morning, yet Sally felt restless.
“Do come out once more, Ty,” Sally begged.
Ty stubbornly shook his head. “It ain’t any use, Sally.”
“Ya could at least come down an’ eat,” she begged.
“I ain’t hungry.”
Sally’s jaw tightened and she planted her hands on her hips. “Well, even if’n ya ain’t hungry, I am.”
With a reluctant sigh, Ty got up and followed his sister down to the dining room of the hotel. Once there, Sally continued trying to persuade Ty to search a little longer, but he shook his head.
“I said it ain’t any use. It’s been ‘bout twelve years since anyone heard a them, an’ it ain’t likely we’ll find anyone here that knows ‘em now.”
“But there might be one person we haven’t talked to yet,” she urged.
“Sally,” Ty sighed in exasperation, “we’ve been checkin’ an’ there ain’t no one left ta ask.”
Before Sally could think of another argument, the woman wiping off the nearby table turned suddenly towards them. “Ya know who you ought ta check with-- Captain Roland. He’s been here, oh I’d say fifteen years, and he doesn’t forget a name or a face. He seems to know every person who comes through this fort. Go talk ta him if ya want to find out about that family.”
Ty was on his feet in an instant, suddenly alert. “Where is this Captain Roland?”
The woman pointed out the officer’s quarters, and Ty and Sally left in great excitement. Meeting Carson just returning after another fruitless search, they eagerly imparted the news, and with quickening pulse, he joined them.
Captain Roland welcomed them cordially and when all were seated, Ty asked the question.
Frowning thoughtfully, the captain stared at the opposite wall in thought. “No,” he began slowly, “no one was here named Westlake. Twelve years ago or so you say? Hmm, there was one family, Westline, no, Westlin--”
“That’s it!” Carson nearly shouted. “Westlin! I remember it now. Were they here, did you say?”
Captain Roland hesitated before replying, “There was a family by that name who came through here, I’d say about eleven years ago.” He paused, thinking, remembering. “Let me see now . . . yep, they had four or maybe five little girls. I remember they all looked alike, except one.”
Do you want another post tomorrow or have you had enough?