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Even though he didn't look pleased, Josiah bit his tongue and said nothing. He ate his breakfast, then made an announcement that startled Emma.

"We're leaving," said Josiah. "I'm taking you and Mary with me to the foothills South of here. There ain't enough game in the valley to tide us over until spring, so we have to hunt elsewhere."

"Will we come back to the cabin?" asked Emma.

"We will, when we have enough meat so we won't starve."

Emma nodded in understanding. She didn't know how much longer their dried meat would hold out, though she hadn't thought they were in any immediate danger. However, Josiah was having difficulty finding game, and if they relied heavily on their store of buffalo jerky, it would disappear quickly enough.

After eating, Josiah placed the remainder of their jerky into the cooking kettle, before wrapping everything in several buffalo robes for transport. When Emma tried to add her Bible to the pack, Josiah protested.

"I ain't hauling that heavy book around, Emma. It's just dead weight."

Even though Emma struggled not to cry, salty tears stung her eyes. She knew Josiah was right. This was survival, and she could only afford to take the barest of necessities. They didn't even have a horse to carry them where they needed to go, so they had to travel as light as possible.

Taking the Bible from Emma, Josiah placed it into the buffalo robe alongside the jerky. "Don't start crying again. I'll tote it fer you."

Emma stared at him in surprise. "Are you sure, Josiah? It is rather heavy."

Josiah nodded brusquely. "I'm sure. You ain't bringing anything else, though. You just had yer limit."

Knowing he had ulterior motives for this act of kindness, Emma restrained herself. "Thank you, Josiah. I appreciate it."

"What about my dolls?" asked Mary, tightly hugging her two friends.

"They stay," said Josiah.

Timidly, Mary came forward, beckoning for Josiah to bend down. She whispered something into his ear.

Straightening, Josiah rubbed the back of his neck. "What do you women think I am, a pack mule?"

Mary hung her head, disappointedly.

Groaning in protest, Josiah made a concession. "One doll only."

Mary brightened momentarily, before again looking distressed. Emma knew she was wondering which friend to leave behind, but Emma was surprised that Josiah had agreed to take any dolls at all. Musing to herself, Emma wondered what Mary had whispered into Josiah's ear.

Since the Blackfoot figurine was wooden, and the Christmas doll was made from light cloth, Mary set her treasured Indian companion on the table to await their return.

They had to take knives, weapons, powder, shot, sinew rope, axe, the single tin cup, and Josiah's bullet mold so he could fashion more bullets. To this, Josiah added a small leather pouch with his flint and steel for making fires.

Everyone had to haul something. Mary was responsible for her pistol, Emma was to carry her shotgun and not wear herself out, and Josiah was to bring everything else. Emma knew Josiah was a strong man, but she didn't see how he could possibly manage without a horse.

While Emma watched, Josiah took two long poles, binding them at the top to form a sturdy "V." Between the poles he wove a netting made of sinew rope. When the bundle of supplies and buffalo robes were packed and ready, Josiah placed the heavy burden into the netting. Emma learned this was called a travois [pronounced trav oi'], and Josiah would drag it across the snow as one would use a wagon. It was a clever contraption Emma had seen Indians use behind their horses, only Josiah would pull this travois by hand.

Weapon loaded, and snowshoes strapped on, Emma followed Josiah out into the cold winter air.

With her pistol tucked into her belt like a small mountain man, Mary couldn't stop grinning. They were leaving the cabin, and it was obvious she longed for the wide open spaces of the outdoors. Emma, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic. Those four walls were a whole lot safer than nothing, and Emma prayed they could soon return.

Josiah slipped on the shoulder harness to the travois. Bracing himself against its weight, he pulled their supplies across the snow.

Following behind, Emma watched the flintlock swung over Josiah's shoulder, as it moved back and forth with the sway of its new owner. His eagle feather fluttered in the wind, before tangling in long rough locks of hair. Josiah hadn't removed her token yet, and its continued presence gave Emma a small measure of hope.

Emma sighed longingly. If only Josiah could love her enough to be faithful.

Emma's prayer: "The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring... me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain... let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in Thee [God]. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on Thee."
~ Psalm 25:17, 18, 20, 21 ~

"Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law."
~ Psalm 119:53 ~

end of chapter
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