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Shaking his head at Emma, Josiah took the lead with his Hawken. "I left her back with the buffalo robe and a loaded pistol. Reckon we'd best announce ourselves before we get into her range."

As the words left Josiah's mouth, they heard the explosion of a gun in the distance.

Emma gasped in alarm. "Mary!"

It was awkward to run in snowshoes, but Josiah's sturdy legs served him well, and he hurried across the snow. Emma struggled in vain to keep up, her strength lagging against the strain of the morning. When Josiah turned and saw her falling so far behind, he stopped in his tracks.

"Go, go help Mary!" Emma said frantically.

Josiah's jaw tightened. "I ain't leaving you!" In spite of his own words, he turned and continued to hurry in Mary's direction. Before long, Josiah was out of Emma's sight.

Josiah cursed himself for leaving Emma behind. He had promised Mary to not leave her to die, and the memory of his word kept moving him forward.

As he neared the place where he had left Mary, Josiah heard the low moan of a wounded man. Then he saw the same Indian he had just warned off from Emma, kneeling in the snow, cradling a bleeding arm. His rifle lay beside him, untouched.

Josiah's sudden presence startled the wounded Indian, though the Indian made no attempt to go for his rifle.

Disregarding the injured man, Josiah ran to Mary's tree, pulling back the heavy buffalo robe to reveal a frightened little girl.

"You came back!" Mary cried happily, her small arms quickly wrapping about Josiah's neck.

Lifting Mary into his arms, Josiah turned to the man in the snow. He didn't look badly hurt, although his wound needed tending.

"Daughter?" the Indian asked Josiah.

Josiah nodded "yes," and the man laughed without smiling.

"Yer luck ain't too good," said Josiah. Mary was still clinging to his neck, so Josiah let the girl remain where she was. Shifting the child onto one arm, Josiah pointed his Hawken at the man's wounded shoulder. "I got to fetch my wife. Keep pressure to the wound, and when I git back, I'll bind it up fer you."

The Indian made no protest, though he was already applying pressure to his wound.

With Mary still in his arms, Josiah retraced his steps until he saw Emma struggling along in her snowshoes. Mary clamored to get down, and Josiah let the child run into Emma's outstretched arms.

"Are you all right?" Emma checked the girl over, asking questions so quickly Mary didn't have a chance to answer. "What happened? Did you fire that shot?"

"Yer admirer paid Mary a visit," Josiah said, as Emma continued to hug and kiss Mary. "Reckon he thought he had another pair of hands to do the work in his lodge."

Mary beamed up at Emma. "I prayed to Jesus that He would bring you back."

Emma touched the girl's head before enveloping her with another hug. "He answered you, Little One."

Getting free of Emma's embrace, Mary beamed at Josiah. "He came back for me, Ma! He came back!"

Josiah scowled at the girl's joy. "I said I would, didn't I? Speaking of gitting back, I promised yer ma's admirer I would bind up his arm. Reckon we best get going, afore he thinks I was lying."

"I wish you'd stop calling him my admirer," said Emma.

Chuckling, Josiah picked up Mary to make quicker progress. Mary was smiling ear to ear, and Josiah couldn't help but feel some pride. His little girl had defended herself against a full grown man, and won.

When they reached the place where the Indian was supposed to be waiting, Josiah found only a red stain in the snow, and tracks that headed off toward his people.

"Was he a Blackfoot?" asked Emma, retrieving their buffalo robe while Josiah reloaded Mary's pistol.

Josiah shook his head. "No, Shoshone. I reckon he'll think twice, before tangling with Josiah Brown's women again!" He flashed Emma and Mary a proud grin. His smile vanished, however, when he saw Emma lean against a tree to steady herself. "If you ever stray off again, Emma..." he hesitated, stopping short of his threat. Going to her side, Josiah gave her another hug. "Whatever possessed you to wander off like that?"

Retrieving something from inside her capote, Emma placed an eagle feather into his hand. "You said you'd wear me in your hair, remember?"

Something warm and tender tugged at Josiah's insides, as he hung Emma's eagle feather in his long mane. His pride warned him that Emma was laying claim to him as her personal property. But Josiah didn't mind. As long as he kept Emma in her place, so that she never forgot that he was the one who owned her, Josiah didn't mind Emma's feather at all. In fact, he was rather proud of it.

With a brand new eagle feather dangling from his hair, Josiah moved his family up the mountain a little ways, before stopping to rest for Emma's sake. When she was ready, Josiah took Emma and Mary home to their small cabin, away from hunting Shoshone Indians, and the rest of the world.

"Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him."
~ Psalm 33:8 ~

For He will "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
~ Luke 1:17 ~

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