Here are the first three chapters of my second book, "The Unexpected Request."
A bitter wind struck the two riders full in the face as they crested the ridge. The view of the mountain range was partly obscured by the low clouds which had moved in after dawn. The towering peaks were still visible, the white of their snow etched against the deep blue sky. Ignoring the frigid bite of the wind, the riders reined in to take in the scene. The valley lay before them in the shadow of the clouds while the ridge they were on was in full sunlight. Stamping with impatience, the horses tossed their heads, each breath a frosty white cloud in the clear air, and the saddles jingled. The older rider pulled his hat lower over his face to try to block the wind and glanced back over his shoulder at the way they had just come.
“Let’s ride,” he said, noting the impatience of his companion.
No need to urge the horses, for only a slight hint was needed to set them both off at a brisk canter. The sound of the frozen grasses under the horses’ hooves was almost the only sound to be heard for miles. Scarcely a word was spoken between the two riders who had been up long before dawn. For over an hour they rode, the younger rider paying no attention to either the scene around them or the clouds above. It was the older rider who kept alert, first glancing around and behind them as they rode and then looking with growing anxiety at the fast gathering clouds that blotted out the towering mountain peaks above them. On they rode, ever on, scarcely slackening their horses brisk pace for anything.
The wind was growing in bitterness with each passing moment, and the older rider sensed a storm was on its way.
“There’s a cabin ain’t too far from here,” he announced, speaking loudly to be heard through the wind. “We can rest the horses an’ have a bite to eat.”
His companion made no answer save for a slight inclination of the head.
The horses were blowing hard when the two riders pulled them to a halt in front of a ramshackle cabin. No smoke came from the chimney and the latchstring of the door was out. A tiny shed built onto the cabin was just large enough for the two horses. Taking the saddles off the horses, the younger rider quickly rubbed them down with a handful of straw found on the floor and gave them something to eat.
The older man soon had a fire blazing in the fireplace and pulled out some cold meat from his pack.
“Come on,” he called to his comrade. “Set yerself down here an’ get a bite or two. This fire ought ta thaw ya out ‘fore long.”
The friend thus urged removed his hat and took a seat on a three legged stool near the fire. He was a dark haired man, rugged in looks with a full dark beard and the build of a man who had spent most of his life out in the wilds. He ate rapidly and in silence, every now and then turning to glance out the one window.
The wind shook the old cabin and whistled and roared around the chimney. The younger man suddenly sprang to his feet knocking over the stool and strode to the door saying,
“I’ll go saddle up.”
“Ain’t no use, Ty,” called out his companion. “We’d never make it. That storm is bound ta hit ‘fore too long. I been watchin’ it all morning. It’d be a sight better ta jest stay here the night an’ strike out first thing in the mornin’. We’d never make it tonight,” he said again.
Ty turned, and his voice was almost harsh as he said, “You can stay if’n ya want, Carson. I can’t. We don’t know how long that letter took ta reach us. Anythin’ could a happened by now. I’m goin’. Come or stay as ya please.” The wind slammed the door back against the side of the cabin as Ty strode out to the shed.
For a moment Carson sat where he was, staring at the open door. Then with a sigh he stood, picked up his pack and put out the fire. He could understand his companion’s impatience to be off, though it seemed rather foolish to leave the cabin in weather like this.
Several hours later, after traveling with what speed they could through the bitterly cold wind, blowing snow and growing darkness, Ty suddenly reined in his horse.
“I know the trail. Follow me,” was all he said, or shouted rather, and turning his horse to the left, he set off with Carson right behind. Soon they reached a wooded area and were somewhat sheltered from the fierce winds and driving snow. The trail twisted and turned, now going up the side of the mountain and now back down. At last a light glimmered through the trees in front of them. Both men, more from long habit than anything else, pulled up their horses and in silence looked searchingly at the light, listening all the while. Then, still in silence, they slowly approached. A cabin made of roughly hued logs stood in a little clearing, sheltered behind by a towering cliff which somewhat blocked the fierceness of the winter storm. Light streamed through two small windows as the riders approached. Ty dismounted, and with one hand on his gun, called out,
The door flew open, and a young girl stood in the doorway peering into the dark. In another moment Ty was beside her and had her in his arms, while she hung, laughing and crying to his neck.
“I’m back, Sally. Everything’ll be all right now,” Ty soothed.
Carson, without a word, took his horse as well as Ty’s, and disappeared in the direction of the small barn he had noticed. Ty, with Sally still clinging to him, entered the cabin, and the door closed behind them.
The cabin had only one room, lighted on one side by a glowing fire and a few candles. The other side was shrouded in darkness and a rough bed was to be seen in the corner, a still form lying under the bed clothes.
The wind was heard whistling outside around the cabin, and Sally shivered a moment in Ty’s arms.
“I thought ya’d never come,” she whispered. “Oh Ty, it’s been so very long.”
Ty released himself gently from the girl’s hands and returned the gun to its holster before saying anything, and then his tones were low,
“I ain’t intended for it ta be this way. How’s Pa?” He glanced over at the bed as he spoke.
Ty moved slowly over to the bed and gazed in silence at the thin, rough face of the man who was his father. It had been two years. Two long years since he had left that cabin and joined Carson in an adventurous trek farther west into the Colorado territory. Little did he dream at that time how long it would be before he saw either his father or sister.
The man stirred and called feebly, “Sally.”
“Yes, Pa,” the girl answered quickly, “I’m here. An’ Pa, Ty’s home.”
Slowly the sick, old man opened his eyes. His gaze wandered around the room, coming at last to rest on the rugged, bearded face of his son. “Ty, that you?”
“Yes Sir. I’ve come home.”
“Sally told me you’d come, an’ I didn’t doubt it . . . The Good Lord has been right kind . . . to me an’ I . . . prayed you’d make it home in time . . . to hear . . .” the older man’s feeble voice faded, and his eyes closed once more as he fell asleep, worn out after only a few words.
“That’s how he’s been for days now,” whispered Sally. “He hasn’t the strength ta talk for more‘n a few sentences ‘fore he goes ta sleep once more.”
The brother and sister moved softly away from the bed. The girl, struggling to keep the tears from her eyes, stirred the pot over the fire and then sank drearily onto an old log hewn bench.
Ty, taking off his coat and hat, hung them on a peg near the door. His movements were quiet yet an alertness not seen in his earlier riding, was visible. His keen gaze swept the cabin from one rough log side to the other taking in each small detail. His quick ear was the first to catch the sound of his companion’s footsteps in the snow before they reached the cabin. With the opening of the door, a blast of frigid, snow laden wind entered nearly blowing Carson into the room and snuffing the candles’ flickering flames. Ty hurriedly pushed the door shut, slipping the latch over it to secure it from the wind.
“Ain’t much feed fer the horses, but I reckon the storm ain’t gonna last too long.” Carson spoke with a softer voice than usual for he too had noticed the bed with its quiet occupant.
Sally filled a small tin cup with broth before motioning the two travelers to eat. This they obeyed at once, for such a long, hard ride had stirred up quite an appetite in them.
Nothing was said in that dim cabin. The whistling of the wind round the chimney sounded as though it would gladly tear the old cabin down to get at those within its walls. Anyone who had not been used to the roaring and sighing would have been quite fearful. As it was, no one so much as noticed it save for an occasional glance now and then at some particular strong gust.
“Sally,” the sick man’s voice sounded from the bed.
Ty arose, followed his sister to the bed, and lifted with gentle hand the gray head of the father as Sally spooned some warm broth into his mouth.
“Ty, get the . . . pouch . . . hangin’ by my gun,” the voice was low but insistent.
Ty strode across the room to the door over which the rifle was hanging and lifted the old leather pouch. Placing it in his father’s hand he waited in silence.
“Get the Good Book, Child.”
Sally stumbled to a shelf and brought back the Family Bible, laying it gently on the bed at her father’s side.
It was several minutes before the old man spoke again.
“All these years . . . find her. You must!” In his excitement the father raised himself up and grasped Ty’s hand with a vise like grip. “Ty, promise me you’ll find her! Promise . . . promise . . .”
“I promise,” Ty assured quickly, trying to ease the old man back onto the pillow. “I’ll find her.”
The hold relaxed and the tired eyes closed. The face was white, and the breaths came in gasps from colorless lips for a few minutes then steadied into the slow breathing of the sleeping.
The young man turned at last with set face. “Who am I ta look for?”
Sally shook her head. “I don’t know,” she choked over a sob. “I sometimes think his mind ain’t right. He’s never told me ‘bout any person needin’ found. In fact he never talked of anyone ‘cept you since he took sick.”
The night wore on. The storm raged with unabated fury through the woods and around the little cabin. Inside all was still. Carson slept, rolled in a blanket on one side of the darkened room. Sally sat on her little bench near the fire. Sat and thought, cried a little when she thought of her father and slept, then awakened and thanked God that Ty was home. As for that young man, he didn’t sleep. He spent most of the time sitting beside his father’s bed in silence. It was good to be back home again.
“Find her! Find her!”
The words echoed over and over in Carson’s mind making him stir restlessly. Wearily he opened his eyes making them focus on the walls, the fire, Ty over by the bed, anything. It was no use. The words kept repeating themselves. They would not be silenced. At last Carson gave up and, closing his eyes once more, let his thoughts drift back to a time long since past.
“Jake, that you?”
“Yep,” was the response as Jake drew up rein before a small cabin and sprang from the saddle.
“Why boy it’s been ages since I laid eyes on you. How’ve you been?” The speaker was a middle aged woman with locks beginning to show grey yet with rosy cheeks and bright eyes.
“Been right fine, Mrs. Lacks. Yep, been a while, but I ain’t had callin’ time now days. Say, Bob round here by any chance?”
“Not at present, but I reckon if you care to wait a spell, he’ll be comin’ back right soon. Supposin’ you just sit under that shade tree an’ I’ll bring you some buttermilk.”
Jake nodded and strode over to the tree. He wasn’t much given to talking when he could get by without it.
Mrs. Lacks soon returned with the buttermilk, remarking how warm it was for this time of year. Jake drained the cup without a word. Indeed it would have been difficult to get a word in, for Mrs. Lacks took advantage of her rare visitor and talked on and on. At last, just as Jake, who had noticeably been growing restless, was about to mount and ride off, the sound of a horse was heard, and in another minute Bob rode up.
“I’ll be leavin’ you boys now as I’ve got a heap of things to do,” Mrs. Lacks informed her visitor and Bob, noticing the silence between them, and realizing in her own good heart that she was not wanted then, she retired to the cabin.
Bob spoke first, “What news?”
“She’ll come out.”
“Soon’s I can get ta her.”
“When’ll that be?”
“Leavin’ first light.”
“That all ya come ta tell me?” Bob was used to cross questioning his level-headed but rather closed-mouth friend. It was the only way to get the whole story from him.
“How ‘bout ya comin’ too?”
“Me?” Bob didn’t sound too surprised. “I’d jest be in the way.”
Jake grinned. “Ya might fine yerself that wife yer aunt’s always tellin’ ya ‘bout.”
“Then I reckon I oughter go. Aunt Kate’s been after me ta find that there wife this very mornin’.”
“Meet me at the Big Rock Trail, first light.”
Bob nodded. “Will do.”
And Jake mounted and rode off, disappearing around the bend in the trail.
The birds sang in the trees and high up an eagle soared in the blue sky. A warm summer breeze blew up from the valley, and everywhere flowers turned bright heads up toward the sun. Bob was silent as he unsaddled and took care of his horse. He paid no attention to the small commonplace things around him. His thoughts were mixed.
“I reckon it’ll be a good thing fer Jake ta be gettin’ hitched, but I jest can’t quite believe I’ll ever be doin’ it. Course I’ll go along, but I ain’t expectin’ much pleasure outter the ride back. Then ‘gain, I reckon Jake’ll be that turned in his head, he’d ride straight into an ambush an’ not know. It jest might be a right good thing ta go ‘long. Aunt Kate though, ‘ll have her hopes set right smart on me gettin’ hitched, an’ it’ll be powerful disappointin’ to her when I don’t. Can’t say’s I blame her over much. What with not havin’ women folk as neighbors an’ no girl in the house. Must get mighty lonesome. I jest ain’t ready ta settle down ta house an’ family. Maybe never will. But I aim ta go with Jake an’ bring his girl home.”
It was almost a month later that Jake and his bride Ellen were established in a small log cabin in a clearing made by Jake’s strong young arms. They were a happy couple. Ellen never complained despite the hardships of living in the West. When Jake and Bob were off on hunting and trapping trips together, Ellen found the time weighing heavily on her hands. It was Mrs. Lacks who became her companion. Together they would sew or knit in the colder winter months. During the spring and summer, Mrs. Lacks taught the young bride all about gardening. Ellen was a delightful pupil, always eager to learn and improve herself and her surrounding to show the deep love she felt for Jake. Ellen felt at times that she would do anything for him. He was her pride. Always on his returns, no matter how short a time he had been gone, his wife would come running out to meet him, full of joy to have him at home once more.
Thus it was that his trips became shorter and less frequent. When God blessed their home with children, they ceased all together. Those were some of the happiest years of Jake’s life. What mattered that the cabin was small and rough and they didn’t have fancy clothes nor china dishes? What mattered that their closest neighbors were a good twenty minute walk away and no schools were nearby to send their children to? What mattered it that the only books they owned were the Bible and the alminac? The Bible was the book from which Jake had learned to read, and Ellen had been a school teacher.
“Who knows,” Jake would say to his fair Ellen, “Perhaps this land’ll be more settled in a few years an’ there’ll be a school.” Whereupon Ellen would laugh gaily and say it didn’t matter.
When tragedy hit, it was like a bolt of lightning out of the clear blue sky.
“Where da ya think ya’ll be headin’ fer, Jake?” The sun was shining from a cloudless 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 goodbye.
“May the good Lord go with ya, Jake, an’ help ya ta 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 the 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 everywhere. 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.
Ty was across the room in an instant, gun in readiness as Carson, with his rifle in his hands cautiously approached the door.
“Ty!” Sally gasped out in terror. “Don’t go out there! Don’t!” She had sprung up from her seat and now gripped her brother’s arm tightly with all the strength she had. “They said they’d be back. Oh, Ty!” Though her voice was low, it was full of fear, and she trembled.
Ty glanced down at her then back to the bed. The sick man slept on undisturbed.
“Stay with Pa,” he ordered softly. “I’ll be careful--”
“Ty,” Carson answered the pleading look Sally had given him before she turned slowly toward the bed, quivering in every limb. “If’n it were them, I reckon we’d ‘ave heard more’n jest one shot. Ya jest wait on guard right here, an’ I’ll check things out.”
“Carson, I can’t let ya do that. It’s me they’re after. They must’a known I’d be back with Pa so sick. I’ll go out an’ you can wait here.”
The younger man moved a step toward the door, but Carson stepped in front of him.
“Ain’t no use, Ty. My mind’s made up. Ya stay here. I’ll give the usual signal if’n I want ya.” And before Ty could protest or argue, he had pulled back the latch and slipped silently out.
For several minutes Ty stood in the deep silence listening. He couldn’t hear Carson’s steps out in the snow. Why had he allowed him to go out? What would he find? Would he even be able to give the signal if he wanted to? Just when Ty could stand the strain of inaction no longer, the door opened noiselessly, and Carson glided back in.
“What’d ya see?” Ty questioned.
Carson shook his head with a slight smile. “I reckon we’re as jumpy as a rabbit in a fox’s den. That weren’t more’n a branch snappin’ under the weight a snow. Large branch too. Recon it’ll make right good firewood.”
Ty let his breath out in a long sigh. “I reckon I am nervous. Ain’t been back here since the trouble. If’n they catch wind I’m back--” he shook his head, leaving his sentence unfinished, and holstered his gun once more.
A stifled sob reached his ears, and he turned quickly. Sally, kneeling by the bed with her face buried in the bedclothes, was crying. With soft steps Ty moved to her side.
“Sally,” he whispered, “ain’t nothin’ ta be ‘fraid a now. Carson found it were jest an old branch broke.” He stroked her hair awkwardly.
“I ain’t cryin’ for that,” came the muffled response.
“Then what are ya cryin’ for?”
“I . . . I reckon its jest, oh jest for everything. Ya know I ain’t one ta cry much.” She lifted her face wet with tears and looked at him. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me, but Ty,” her eyes showed the panic she tried to hide. “Promise me you’ll be mighty careful. They’ll find out you’re here an’ then. . ..”
Ty nodded. “I’ll be careful. I promise ya that. I aim ta keep’s quiet as possible. No use askin’ for more trouble when we got enough on our hands.”
All fell silent. Sally allowed Ty to help her to her feet and then to the chair by the bed. Carson sat before the fire with his back to the brother and sister, and though he could hear every word exchanged, he tried not to intrude more than he could help.
“Sally.” The sick man roused from his sleep once more and opened his eyes.
“Is that my son? Is that Ty?”
A smile lit the old man’s face. “She told me you’d be comin’. Ty . . .”
Ty sat down on the bed. “Yes, Pa.”
“Ya will find her, won’t ya?”
Ty nodded but before he could ask any of the many questions that burned on the tip of his tongue, his father spoke again.
“I knew ya wouldn’t . . . fail me.” The voice was feeble and low. “In . . . the pouch . . . on my watch guard. Son, get it.”
Ty opened the pouch and poured the contents into his hand. His father’s watch gleamed in the dim light. On the watch guard Ty found a small gold heart. It appeared to be part of a locket, a broken one. There was no picture. He held it in his hand.
“Is this it, Sir?”
The father looked. “Yes, Ty. It was . . . her’s . . . but I . . . kept this. It . . . should help . . . Ty.”
“You never knew her . . . but . . . in the Good Book . . .” The sick man closed his eyes. His breath was scarcely discernible.
“Pa!” Ty’s voice was insistent. “What is in the Good Book?”
“The picture . . .” His lips moved, but no sound was heard.
Ty bent over him, his ear almost touching his lips and heard the words, “Take care . . . of . . . yer . . . sisters.”
Ty sat up with a start. He glanced at Sally. She seemed not to notice his sudden agitation, for all her attention was focused on her father.
For a full minute no one stirred. Then with one great apparent effort, the father’s eyes opened once more, and his voice sounded with a sudden strength.
“Ty will do what I couldn’t. I’m goin’ home!” There was an exultant ring to his voice as he uttered the last word, and a smile broke full across his face. His gaze was on something unseen by human eyes.
Ty and Sally sat in awed silence staring at the transformed and now lifeless face on the pillow. Neither of them spoke. It seemed a sacrilege to break the silence.
All was quiet. The branches of the trees were heavy with their load of snow. Occasionally the snow would slip off with a soft sound leaving the branch to spring lightly up into the air. Here and there birds with feathers ruffled to keep out the cold could be seen searching for seeds. Most of the forest animals, however, were snugly settled in their warm nests. The only sound heard was the faint hammering from the barn where Carson was busy at work building a rough pine coffin. Smoke spiraled skyward from the nearby cabin chimney, yet though the sun was rapidly approaching the center of the sky, no one inside had so much as thought of eating.
The brother and sister were sitting on either side of a small table near the fireplace. Before them lay the broken locket, the small picture and the family Bible. They had been sitting thus for some time talking and puzzling over the events of the preceding night.
“I still can’t see who it is yer ta look for,” Sally sighed. “If we have a sister, why ain’t we heard a her before? An’ why didn’t Pa tell us even her name?”
Ty shrugged. “I jest don’t rightly know. I’m wishin’ I did though.” His brows drew together in a frown as he gazed at the table.
“Are ya sure there isn’t anything else in the Bible that would help?”
“I didn’t see nothin’.”
“Ty, are ya sure he said ‘sisters’ an’ not jest sister?”
“An’ if’n he didn’t, then who would I be supposed ta find?”
It was Sally’s turn to frown. They had been over this ground before, and yet she just couldn’t quite believe she had a sister. Looking up slowly, she almost timidly began to speak. “What if Ma really isn’t dead an’ that is. . ..” She didn’t finish her sentence.
“I’ve been wonderin’ that very thing myself if’n ya want ta know the truth. Only I don’t see how that can be.”
“Perhaps there is a record in the Bible.”
Ty opened the Book and saw the faint inscription again. After a moment of careful study, he read it aloud. “For my darling daughter on her wedding day 18__ from Mother.” Ty looked up. “That’s all that inscription says. Ain’t much help.”
Sally said nothing only reached for the Bible to see for herself. After reading the same words, she turned a page or two. “Look, Ty. There is a record of some sort in here. See there is Pa’s name, Jonathan Andrew Keith Elliot. Why’d he have so many names, I wonder? There’s his birth date written. Below his name is Ma’s, Eleanor Mary Crook Elliot an’ her birth date. Ty, there is no date a death here.”
“I know. I looked years ago an’ always wondered why. If’n she did die, why ain’t her death recorded?”
Sally didn’t answer. She was busy reading the rest of the writing on the page. “Our names an’ births are recorded here, an’ there is no other name anywhere.” She looked up. “I jest don’t see how there could be a sister an’ it not be recorded.”
“Sally,” Ty almost groaned, “I don’t see either, but it don’t change the fact that I have ta find someone.”
No more was said for awhile as Sally turned page after page looking for anything that might be called a clue. Ty sat thoughtful. Slowly he picked up the small picture and looked at it. As he gazed, vague memories stirred from some forgotten recess of his brain. In a dazed and perplexed voice he began to speak. His low voice had a faraway feeling to it. Sally ceased turning pages and listened, staring in wide eyed wonder at her brother.
“She was there . . . an’ Pa. It was a cabin. Small, but weren’t like this . . . Flowers in . . . a pitcher, seems like. There were others there. We went away, . . . you an’ me . . . She was gone when we got back . . . No sign a her. Her bonnet was gone. I looked for it . . . Pa said . . . she was gone away. Never said where . . . Pa cried. I heard him . . .” His voice trailed off and all was quiet.
Sally hardly dared breathe. Was Ty remembering some clue to these puzzling questions?
“Sally,” Ty spoke firmly. “This is Ma’s picture. I’m sure.”
“An’ I wonder . . .” There was obvious hesitancy in the brother’s voice. “I’m jest guessin’ ya know, but could Ma ‘ave left Pa an’ gone back ta the city?”
Sally gasped. “Left him! Why?”
“Think. Pa was livin’ out here in the wilds long ‘fore he got married. Could be Ma didn’t like it an’ went back.”
“Why? I mean, what would she do an’ how would she live? Ya don’t think a sister could’ve been born after she . . . left?”
Ty shook his head. “Else how’d Pa know. I’m mighty certain he ain’t never got no mail. No, I reckon perhaps there was--” here Ty stopped.
Sally finished the sentence in horror stricken tones. “An illegitimate sister.”
Ty nodded grimly. “Maybe Ma never told Pa ‘bout her ‘til she were leavin’. That’d explain why she ain’t in the Bible.”
“Ty, could it be?”
“I jest don’t know, Sally, I jest don’t know. How else would ya explain the missin’ name an’ no date a death?”
For a long time they sat there in silence. Each busy with his own thoughts. Surely that couldn’t be right, and yet, how else could it all be explained?
“Why’d Pa say ya could do what he couldn’t?” Sally wondered.
Ty was several minutes in answering. “I reckon,” he began at last, “he might not a knowd where they lived, an’ I’m ta find out.”
“Well, I can tell ya one thing Ty Elliot, ya ain’t goin’ nowheres without me.
Read the rest in your own copy of "The Unexpected Request."