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A shy, timid smile tugged at Mary's mouth, though she still looked disappointed that he was her father.

"I know, I ain't too pleased about it, myself," he sighed. Not knowing what else to say, Josiah held up the last of his supper to the girl. "You want it?" he asked. Quietly, Mary accepted the bear meat, and then went to sit down on her blankets to eat. Josiah wiped his greasy hands against his buckskins. "How much bear is left, Emma?"

"We have enough for tomorrow." Emma sat beside Josiah, folding her legs close to her body to keep warm, for the cabin was cold in spite of the fire.

With a strong hand, Josiah slid Emma closer to him, and then wrapped his arms around her as they watched the flames in the fireplace. "I'll be going hunting in the morning."

"You don't have to, Josiah. We still have plenty of buffalo jerky."

Josiah nuzzled the back of Emma's neck. "That jerky is to tide us over in between kills. We don't have enough for the whole winter, so I have to go out and find more game."

"Can I go with you?" Josiah and Emma looked up in surprise at Mary. "Can I?" asked the child.

Emma was stunned. "You want to go with your pa... alone?"

Josiah's first impulse was to turn Mary down, but when he thought it over, this was a good chance to prove he was trying to be kind. "All right. If yer really wanting to go, I'll take you."

Emma looked doubtful, even though Josiah could tell she was happy he had said "yes."

"Stop yer worrying, Em, I'm bringing you with us. It'll take me a few days, but after I make myself some snowshoes and finish that there bear coat, we'll go hunting! Until then, we'll eat jerky."

By the morning of the very next day, Mary was excited about Josiah's promise to take her hunting. It was no wonder, for besides the trips to the latrine and the daily chore of fetching water, Mary hardly got to go outside at all. Even Emma had to admit she was looking forward to escaping these four walls in exchange for some fresh air-- even though that air was sharp with cold.

After Bible time, Emma started Mary on another letter of the alphabet, while Josiah went out to find some willow to make himself a pair of snowshoes. The girls were just about to start their sewing, when the door flew open, and Josiah lumbered in with his wood. Emma drew up the blanket shawl about her shoulders, warming herself against the chill Josiah had brought into the cabin before he closed the door.

With a great deal of concentration, Mary guided one end of her thread through the eye of the needle, and then pulled it through with a happy grin.

"I threaded the needle, Ma!" Excitedly jumping to her feet, Mary ran across the room to where Josiah was tugging off his capote. "Look!" the child held her needle and thread before the burly man, "I did it all on my own!"

Josiah gave Mary a gruff nod. "So I see."
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