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"Not everyone can read," said Emma. "Some people just haven't had the opportunity for a proper schooling."

"It ain't that. I mean about me bawling like a baby. My friends will never let me hear the end of it, if they find out."

"I won't tell anyone," said Emma. She glanced up at Josiah and saw the look of vulnerability etched in his face.

"Just find the verse," he sighed.

Emma located the verse in question, and read it word for word to Josiah. He touched the page, as though to confirm in his own mind that the promise was truly there, and then nodded in satisfaction.

"Reckon you can go back to sleep and git yer rest," said Josiah, taking the Bible from Emma and then covering her with blankets. He put the Bible back where Emma kept it stored, and then turned to go.


He paused. "What?"

"I forgive you."

Turning his back to Emma, Josiah nodded brusquely. Without a word, he went to his bed.

Emma wondered if she had said something to offend Josiah. He was careful to keep his back to her as he laid down on his side and covered himself, and when his shoulders began to heave, Emma understood why.

Josiah was crying.

It didn't take long for Emma to make her decision. Crawling to the other side of the shelter, she climbed beneath Josiah's covers; he didn't seem to notice her until she lightly touched his shoulder to announce her presence.

Turning his head, Josiah looked at her with reddened eyes. Emma tried very hard not to stare at him.

"Are you moving back to my bed?" he asked, his voice breaking as he spoke.

"This is where I belong," Emma said softly.

"Oh, Emma!"

Turning over, Josiah slid down on the robes until his face buried in Emma's bosom and his blankets and moccasins stuck out the lodge entrance. He wrapped his arms around Emma, clinging to her while his frame shook with grief.

Tenderly stroking Josiah's head, Emma untangled his mass of shaggy curls until his sobs gradually quieted down. She listened to his stomach grumble with hunger, and felt the unnatural leanness of his body against hers. When he finally fell asleep, tears were still drying in his eyes.

Much went through Emma's mind as she held Josiah. The fatigue of strong emotion and lack of sleep prevented her from thinking too clearly, but one thing resounded in her heart more loudly than all else: "Thank you, God!"

Dawn peeked through the cracks of the shelter as Emma went to sleep.

Daylight was something Josiah couldn't easily ignore, especially when he knew he had two mouths to feed. Leaving Emma carefully tucked in bed, Josiah found Mary sitting by the fire. Picking up his flintlock, he sat down beside Mary to prepare for the day's hunt.
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