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"Hunting ain't so good," Josiah said, swinging down his quarry. "All I got to show fer my trouble are these thin rabbits."

Emma accepted the animals with a smile, simply grateful to have her husband back in one piece. As Josiah entered the relative warmth of the cabin, Emma noticed his face for the first time. His features were sharper than usual, and he wore a strained expression that told Emma he had seen difficulty.

"Did you have a very bad time?" asked Emma, closing the door as Josiah shed layers of animal hides before the fire.

When he looked up at Emma, she noticed a look of surprise flash in his dark eyes.

"What makes you think I had a hard time?" he asked.

"I don't know," said Emma. "Somehow, you don't look the same. Did you have enough to eat?"

Scowling, Josiah planted himself before the comfortable blaze. "I didn't starve, if that's what yer meaning. Stop fussing over me, Emma. I know how to take care of myself."

Mary was struggling to hang Josiah's heavy coat on its peg, so Emma went to help her.

The chore finished, Mary happily seated herself beside Josiah.

"Where is your Hawken?" asked the child.

Surprised by Mary's observation, Emma examined the rifle on the wall. Instead of Josiah's handsome Hawken, she found a weathered flintlock.

"Josiah! What happened to your rifle?" Emma asked in alarm. When Josiah didn't respond, Emma repeated the question.

"I heard you the first time," said Josiah. "I ain't deaf." He held up his large hands before the flames, rubbing them together until his skin returned to its normal color. "I'm hungry, Emma. How about fixing some of that rabbit fer supper?"

"But, the rifle--"

"Forget the rifle," Josiah said impatiently, "and start stirring up some supper."

Timidly, Mary looked up at Josiah, and for a moment, Emma thought the girl would be frightened away by his harsh tone. But Mary faithfully remained where she was, all the while smiling, as though hoping to encourage a similar response in her pa.

When Josiah didn't acknowledge Mary, Emma shook her head with a disappointed sigh.

Before long, a rabbit was roasting over the fire, its savor filling the small cabin. The meat fully cooked, Emma placed a large helping on Josiah's plate. He always ate more than her and Mary, and despite Josiah's claim that he hadn't starved, Emma had heard his stomach growling like a hungry animal ever since he entered the cabin.
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