In case you haven't looked at my Home Fires blog today, my book has gone to press.:) Thought you might like to know that. But, here is Part 33. Enjoy!
The friends fairly held their breath. Would this be the right family? Was Sunshine with them? The pause the captain took as he recalled the family seemed to drag on for hours to that eager trio, when it was really only a few seconds.
“Yep, one little girl was different. The others were dark haired and rather large. Oh, not in an unpleasant sense, but they seemed like it next to the other one. She was small and had golden hair. Seemed almost like spun gold when the sun shone on it. She was a lovely little thing. Seemed a might peculiar seeing as how both the parents were dark haired.”
“What was her name?” The question from Ty startled the captain it was so hoarse.
Knitting his brows together, Captain Roland frowned and getting to his feet, he paced the room striving to recall the name that had been there only moments before. At last he shook his head. “It’s gone. I’m sure it’ll come to me, but I can’t think of it right now. I’m sorry.”
Long sighs of disappointment came from each one present. Ty slumped in his seat. Would he ever know her name? Carson dropped his head and neither one noticed Sally. As she sighed, she instinctively reached for her locket with its precious picture. Inspired with a sudden thought, she drew it from its hiding place and holding it out to Captain Roland, who appeared nearly as disappointed as his visitors felt, asked, “Did the little girl look anything like -- her?”
Turning the picture to the light, the captain studied the sweet face. “Yep, I’d say that sprite of a child is looking just like her right about now.”
“You’re sure? There’s no mistake? You wouldn’t be mixin’ that picture up with some other girl, now would ya?” Carson had sprung to his feet, his words quick, almost frantic.
“No, there’s no doubt in my mind, This must be her mother. You all related too?”
Thus assured, Carson sank back down in a daze murmuring, “Sunshine, . . my little sunshine, . . . here,” while Ty, with heart full of gratefulness, whispered, “Thank God! News at last!”
Both men were so overcome with emotion that it was Sally who told the story to the kind captain. He listened sympathetically.
After all was told, he handed back the locket and said, “I’ll help you all I can, but it has been eleven years and much can happen in that time. Now let’s see. I know they were going farther west, but how far I’m not certain. They could have gone all the way to California or even Oregon. I reckon if I was you, I’d take the old trail towards Oregon and check at some of the forts along the way. The trails aren’t used much now days, but they’d sure make easy riding if you have good mounts.”
Carson and Ty assured him that they were well mounted.
“Well, I wish you all the very best of success. It might be a long, hard and even dangerous journey, but . . .” and Captain Roland paused to look steadily at each one of his visitors. “I have a feeling you will find your sister. And after you do, Ty, the army could use such an experienced and determined man in the scouts.”
Ty smiled. “I’m afraid the army ‘ll have ta do without me. I jest ain’t the type.”
Captain Roland laughed, “Well, it’s the army’s loss. Good luck to you all.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Carson, Sally and Ty were already out of the room and several steps away when suddenly the captain jerked open the door behind them and called out, “Eleanor!”
“What’s that?” Carson asked.
“Her name. I just now remembered it!”
“Eleanor,” gasped Carson, “how did she get given her mother’s name?”
No one could answer that.
The sun was coming up in a blaze of glory promising a beautiful day for travel as Ty, Sally and Carson set off from Fort Laramie. They now had five horses with them, having acquired another pack horse with the sale of Ty’s mountain lion skin, so as to carry more supplies and to ease the burdens of the other animals. All the party, the riders as well as their mounts, were in fine spirits. Though it was still somewhat chilly, the rising sun would soon warm things up.
Captain Roland had been right; the well worn trail was easy to follow, and they made good time. “Much faster’n the folks makin’ the trail in wagons,” Ty said as they cantered along.
And so, day followed day, easy riding, and mile after mile covered. It soon became rather monotonous and they began to long for a challenging hill to climb, a rushing stream to ford or even a wild animal to shoot.
At last they reached South Pass where they halted for a few days. By dint of diligent questioning, they discovered two people who thought they remembered a family named Westlin, and after considerable more thought, they reached the conclusion that they had left the trail and headed south. Where they were going, neither informant knew.
This information was received with a mixture of thankfulness and regret. Regret that no one seemed quite sure of anything and thankfulness that they could leave the well worn trail they had been on. Neither Carson nor Ty enjoyed such well worn trails. They both preferred the open, unmarked countryside where one must cut his own trail, where one could ride or wander to his heart’s content, where only the print of wild beast or his own horse were to be found. This turning south meant all that to the two men for, aside from a few settlers here and there, a few little towns scattered far and wide, the country to the south was still the untamed plains, mountains and even deserts Ty and Carson loved so dearly. They would go south.
Any thoughts about what comes next?