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Soberly, Mary nodded her head "yes."

"Emma! I ain't waiting all day fer you!"

Hurrying out the door with her shotgun, Emma turned to look back at the still open cabin. She saw Mary drag her buffalo robe to the door and then sit down to watch.

"That's right, Mary, stay inside," Emma said with a wave. "And make sure you keep warm!"

Emma turned her eyes to the snow blanketed trees surrounding the small lodge, keeping a careful watch for hungry animals that might appear without warning. The Rockies were being dusted with yet another mantel of white, its icy touch reaching through Emma's blankets, warning her not to remain outside for too long.

With an efficient hand, Josiah skinned the bear, and soon had its raw carcass exposed to the winter air. Then, he carved out the meat, tossing large steaks into the wet hide as he worked. By the time he was done, Josiah had stripped the animal of every edible bite of meat.

"Git this here wet hide into the lodge, Emma. I'll take what's left of the carcass, and put it someplace where I won't mind the wolves finishing it off."

The bear skin was wet and heavy, and Emma struggled to lift it off the ground. Seeing her chance to help, Mary came running, and the two girls managed to haul the meat into the cabin before Josiah returned.

That night, even though bear meat was curing in the rafters, everyone ate jerky for supper. Josiah complained it was foolish, but Emma wanted to save their first taste of fresh meat for tomorrow. Mary agreed, though she was too timid to tell anyone but Emma.

The special morning finally came, and Emma awoke to the childish clamor of "Christmas! Christmas!" Momentarily forgetting her dread of Josiah, Mary plopped herself down on the robe beside Emma. "I saw the Christmas tree," she told her ma with troubled dark eyes, "but there was no present."

"That's because I haven't set it out yet," smiled Emma. "If you'll help me by tidying the cabin, I'll put it under the tree."

Hearing this, Mary ran off to fold her bedding.

"I'm getting more sleep," yawned Josiah. "Wake me when the food's ready."

Crawling to a corner of her buffalo robes, Emma was about to reach between the heavy skins, when she saw Mary watching. "Close your eyes, Mary, or you'll ruin the surprise!"

Feeling Josiah's curious gaze follow her to the table, Emma placed a cloth doll under the Christmas tree. The body had been made from one of her white petticoats, and its long dress was of red calico, a design of small white flowers, green leaves, and bits of vine printed on the bright cloth. There was no face, but it wore a white sunbonnet and apron, and even had a small petticoat of its own beneath the calico dress.

"All right, Mary," Emma said excitedly, "you may open your eyes now."

Bringing down the small hands covering her eyes, Mary gasped when she saw the doll laying beneath the tree. "For me?" she looked to Emma for reassurance.

"For you," smiled Emma.
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