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Smiling, Mary quickly crawled over to see for herself.

Digging into the snow with his hands, Josiah soon found daylight. Sunlight poured into the entrance hole as Josiah came back to help Emma and Mary leave their makeshift shelter.

After finishing the last of the jerky, they gathered their weapons, blankets, coats and snowshoes, and then climbed up through the deep snow into the morning sunlight. When Emma had some trouble bending to tie her snowshoes, Josiah knelt down to strap them on for her.

After knocking away the snow atop their shelter, Josiah pulled off the buffalo hide that had kept them warm. Wrapping the heavy skin around their tin cup, he made sure his Hawken was primed and ready.

With Josiah in the lead, Emma and Mary followed behind. Every so often, Josiah turned to look at Emma, to make sure he wasn't going too fast for her to keep up. Even though she didn't say it, Josiah knew she was still weak.

"I'll be all right," Emma said, as if able to read his mind.

"This ain't no women's cycle, Emma."

"I know."

Josiah was silent. He slackened his pace to let Emma catch up to his side. He glanced at her and saw she was busy thinking.

"Reckon yer sore back will go away in nine months?" he asked. When Emma didn't look surprised, he knew she had been thinking the same thing.

Emma bit her lip. "I suppose you think I'm foolish to not know any sooner than this."

Josiah laughed, his breath sending warm contrails into the air. "You ain't a fool, Emma. You've got more book learning than any woman I know. Reckon they don't come any smarter." When Emma didn't look as though she believed him, Josiah didn't press it any further.

"Have you ever helped in a birthing?" asked Emma.

"More than one foal was helped into the world with these hands," he grinned confidently. "There ain't much to it, Emma."

Emma gave one of his harrumphs, but didn't comment.

Just then, Mary hurried to Josiah's side. "You promised to show me how to fire the pistol."

"I ain't going back on a promise," nodded Josiah.

"But," Mary looked in the direction they were headed, "we are going back to the lodge."

Giving Mary a small grin of approval, Josiah came to a stop. He pulled the pistol from Mary's sash. "Mind if we stop fer a spell?" he asked Emma. "I did promise her to go hunting."
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