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"I suppose we-- I mean, you, don't have very much after the Blackfoot took all your beaver? Things are probably scarce right now, so I don't suppose you could spare anything from your trade goods for Christmas?"

"So it's Christmas, is it?" Josiah looked down at the gentle hand on his chest. "What is it yer wanting?"

"I was hoping you could spare a candle, so I could cut it into short lengths, and put them on the tree."

"Is that all?"

"If it's not asking too much, do you have a bit of colored fabric you could do without? Mary doesn't have many playthings, and I want to surprise her with a gift on Christmas morning. It'd mean a lot to me."

Getting up, Josiah stepped around Mary's bed, and went to the corner where he had trade goods wrapped in animal skins. Evidently too eager to wait on the buffalo robe, Emma soon appeared behind him, looking patiently hopeful.

Without a word, Josiah handed Emma a long white candle. Then, he unfastened a bundle and pulled out a folded piece of brightly colored calico. "It's the last cloth I got, but you can have it."

"Mr. Brown, I really appreciate this!" Emma glanced at the sleeping child, and quickly hushed her voice. "This calico will suit my needs perfectly!"

With a grunt, Josiah replaced his animal skin packages in the corner, and then went back to bed. He watched as Emma seated herself on the floor between the two beds, and by the light of the fireplace, used her finger to trace imaginary patterns on the calico.

The next few nights, Emma sewed by the firelight while Mary slept, for it was the only time when Emma could work, and not be observed by Mary. To Emma's surprise, Josiah didn't gripe about her absence in their bed, although more than once, she felt his eyes on her before he fell asleep. Sometimes, Josiah was a perplexing mystery to Emma. She hadn't really expected him to give her the candle and the cloth-- especially when all she had to do was give him a caress.

Lately, Josiah had been quieter than usual, though Emma guessed it was because of Mary's presence in the cabin. The mountain man didn't speak to the child, and the child kept well out of the way of the mountain man. Neither looked at each other unless they could help it, and whenever Josiah's gaze happened to fall on Mary, Mary quickly hid behind Emma's dress. To her dismay, Emma found herself the only person in the lodge, who was actually speaking to everyone else.

Hoping Christmas might create a little cheer and goodwill, Emma pressed on with her plans. After she had been satisfied that Mary's present was turning out the way she had hoped it would, Emma dropped a hint to the girl that on Christmas morning, she would have a present under the tree. Mary's eyes grew as wide as saucers, and from that day on, she repeatedly asked if it was Sunday yet.

The scissors, needles and thread in Emma's sewing box had been invaluable for making Mary's gift, but those things wouldn't work on heavy leather. After Josiah had fallen asleep late one night, Emma quietly pulled out his torn hunting shirt to look over the damage. Going to his things, Emma procured an awl and some sinew, and then went to work mending the leather garment.

The day before Christmas, Emma turned her attention on the supper she would make for tomorrow. Christmas supper was a tradition she had enjoyed since childhood, and Emma wanted something special to fix for the holiday. The only problem was, she only had dried buffalo jerky. They had already finished off the pemmican Cora had given them, and everyone was eating jerky, morning, noon, and night-- though no one complained. Food was food, and at least they weren't gnawing leather to stay their hunger. Emma had made the mistake of telling the Christmas meal tradition to Mary, and now the girl was praying for fresh meat.
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