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"All right, I'll let it slide, Emma."

Emma looked up at Josiah's strong face. He was in a better mood than he should be, considering what Mary had just done to his coat.

Disappointed, Mary hung her head. She had obviously hoped she had done something praiseworthy.

Taking his coat from the child, Josiah ran a large hand over the dirty fur. He absently patted Mary's head, and then lumbered back to his workplace on the buffalo robes. When the girl remained where she was, Josiah called out, "Am I going to have to finish this on my own?"

Eyes brightening, Mary ran back to the robes and then plopped down beside her father to continue their work.

Grateful for Josiah's efforts to include Mary, Emma retrieved her knife to cut the mink skin into lengths she could use. The soft skins were then placed into a kettle of boiling water, to clean them from oil and grime. After they were boiled clean, Emma hung them over the fireplace to dry.

Since Mary was intent on helping Josiah finish his bearskin coat, Emma set aside Mary's lessons for the day. It did Emma's heart good to see father and daughter getting along together, though Emma knew deep in her heart that Josiah was only doing it to please his wife. At least it was a start, and Emma prayed it would be enough.

Gathering her sewing, Emma settled down on Mary's empty bed to mend one edge of her frayed petticoat. She hadn't gotten very far in her progress, before her back begin to ache even more. Emma sighed. She hoped her "monthly visitor" would come soon, and relieve her of these symptoms. Adjusting herself on the buffalo robe, Emma resumed her sewing.

By suppertime, Josiah's large coat was finished. Its seams were held together by strong buffalo sinew, and the long bear fur gave Josiah a shaggy appearance when he put it on for Emma to see.

"Oh dear," sighed Emma. "Josiah, you look even more like a large bear than you did before-- and I didn't think that was possible."

Josiah grinned. "To my way of thinking, that ain't a bad thing." Going to his things, he pulled out a bushy fox skin cap, and then plunked it on his head to complete his attire. "Reckon we can go hunting tomorrow."

Excitedly, Mary jumped up and down, her long braids dancing behind her back as she celebrated the news.

"You'd better take that thing off before you start perspiring inside the cabin," said Emma, "and Mary, please stop jumping about. It's suppertime, and I need you to put the plates on the table."

"We are going hunting!" Mary said over and over, until Emma gave her a patient look that asked her to stop.

Taking off his coat, Josiah hung it on a peg on the wall. "When did you last check the priming on yer shotgun, Emma?"

"I always check it before I leave the cabin," Emma said, preparing more buffalo jerky for their meal. She looked at the unappetizing dried meat, and felt her stomach rebel. She already knew she wouldn't be eating very much supper tonight.
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