Mountain Wild – An Honest Heart : Chapter 4

Don’t forgot to read – Mountain Wild – A Shelter in the Wilderness : Chapter 3


Continue Reading… 🙂 

Hearing Emma’s call to lunch, Josiah climbed from the buffalo robe and scratched himself as he strode to the table. He swung his leg over a split bottom chair, planting himself at the table while Emma’s lips silently moved in prayer over the food. Her eyes were barely open when he hungrily tore off a wing of the grouse and nosily began eating.

Today was Emma’s first Sunday since coming to these mountains, and she wondered how much of a church service Josiah was going to let her get away with. “Will you be staying here all day?” she wondered.

“Why?” asked Josiah, morsels of food spilling from his mouth as he spoke. “You trying to git rid of me?”

“No,” Emma invited, “I was hoping you’d stay for church.”

“Church!” Josiah laughed mockingly. “Emma, you can play at religion all you want, but don’t expect nothing from me. I’ve had all I can stomach from the white man’s God.”

“Then you share the same beliefs as the Blackfoot?” inquired Emma.

Josiah harrumphed. “I don’t have any beliefs.”

“Then you must hold nothing sacred,” she concluded thoughtfully.

“I hold my word sacred.” Josiah chomped down on the other wing of the cooked bird. “A man who don’t keep his word, ain’t worth the skin that holds him together.”

Soberly Emma ate the rest of her lunch in silence. This man had no religion whatsoever.

“Reckon I’ll go trapping after lunch,” Josiah chewed freely. “The creek ain’t froze over yet, so maybe there’s a chance at some beaver.”

Emma excused herself from the table. “I might as well start my service now. Would you mind terribly if I sang out loud?”

Looking up from his meal, Josiah eyed her hesitantly. “I’ll allow it,” he slowly consented.

“Thank you, Mr. Brown,” Emma tried to smile as pleasantly as she could. She was doing good that he waited for her to finish praying at mealtime, before he started eating.

Feeling a little self-conscious as she went to sit beside her sewing table by the window, Emma tried to gather her courage. She felt awkward singing hymns when they weren’t wanted by the other half of the cabin’s occupants, but since Josiah had said he would allow it, Emma began: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!”

At the table, Josiah listened to Emma’s sweet voice as it filled the cabin. The melody was pleasant enough, but he wasn’t sure he liked the words.

“I once was lost, but now am found,” she continued, “was blind, but now I see.”

“Emma,” he finally stopped her, “I won’t have my wife singing against me.”

“But, I wasn’t,” she replied in surprise.

Scowling disbelievingly, Josiah shook his head. “You ain’t fooling me with all them words about lost wretches. You was talking about me.”

“You aren’t the only wretch in this cabin,” Emma informed him. “My faith in God is my only redeeming quality, and even that, I can’t take credit for. Without Him, I can’t do anything good.”

“Bah!” Josiah dismissed her words with a wave of his hand. “You Christians and yer false piety!”

For some reason Emma couldn’t explain, Josiah’s comment hurt more than she thought it would. She blinked back the tears, and was surprised when he crossed the room to drop down on the dirt floor beside her.

The mountain man leaned forward, looking into her face. “Yer crying,” he observed.

Emma was about to deny it, when she felt something wet splash onto her cheek. “It’s just one tear,” she dismissed it with a quick brush of her hand. “May I finish the hymn?”

With a soft chuckle, Josiah leaned back against the log wall and waited for her to continue.

It wasn’t easy, but Emma wanted Josiah to hear the rest of the hymn so she cleared her voice and pressed on: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved,” she sang, her voice faltering a little under Josiah’s watchful gaze. “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed!”

After Emma had finished the hymn, Josiah got to his feet and then went to his belongings to put on his trapping pants. Trapping pants consisted of buckskin trousers that came to the knees, while the bottom portion was made of detachable blanket leggings. With pants like these, Josiah wouldn’t freeze while wading in frigid water and getting his buckskins wet when he set beaver traps.

Retrieving his rifle from some pegs on the wall, Josiah turned to look at Emma. “I like yer singing voice.”

“Thank you for staying for the hymn,” she smiled gratefully. “It’s one of my favorites.”

“You Christians–” Josiah stopped short of finishing his thought out loud, for he wasn’t ready for Emma to start crying again. “I’ll be back fer supper,” he changed the subject. “Keep the bar over the door while I’m gone.” With that, he left the cabin, slamming the door behind him with a loud thud.

The snow crunched beneath Josiah’s moccasins as he tramped toward the creek. The sun warmed his back, and he inhaled a deep breath of pure mountain air. Mornings like this, when the air was cold, but the sun warm, made him feel good clear down to his toes.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound–” Josiah caught himself humming Emma’s hymn. “That woman,” he breathed with a shake of his head.

As Josiah finished staking out the last of his beaver traps along the banks of the creek, he heard the laughter of a small child echo against the mountains. At once, Josiah waded out of the frigid water to get his Hawken and pull on the blanket leggings to his trapping pants.

The sound echoed once more, and this time Josiah heard the unmistakable voice of a man as it called to the laughter of the child.

“That ain’t Blackfoot,” muttered Josiah, hastily following the direction the sounds were coming from. Cautiously keeping his presence hidden, Josiah stalked to a nearby tree and then carefully peered around its trunk. An Indian man was staking beaver traps in the creek downstream, the traps most likely appropriated from some inattentive mountain man. The Indian’s work was periodically interrupted by a small boy, who kept wandering too far from where his father was standing in the creek.

“Them’s Crows,” Josiah breathed with a grin. Straightening himself, he stepped around the tree, calling to the man in his native tongue.

Startled, the man went for his rifle, quickly bringing it to bear on the approaching stranger.

“I am friend,” Josiah called to him in Crow. He held up his rifle harmlessly, but saw the man was still distrustful.

“You Blackfoot,” the man cocked his rifle. Josiah’s features were prominently Blackfoot, and the Crow had no difficulty identifying his origins.

“I am white,” Josiah slowed his pace. “Mother was Blackfoot, but I am white.” He spat at the ground to show he held no affection for his mother’s people. “Want to trade,” Josiah motioned with his hand. “You have beaver?”

The rifle lowered, showing the man was interested. “What you have to trade?” he asked curiously.

“I have Blackfoot pony,” Josiah grinned.

The man nodded, beckoning over his shoulder at the valley below. “Meet there,” he pointed to a clearing where a small spiral of smoke ascended into the clouded sky.

Emma had just finished reciting the last of her Bible memory verses when she heard Josiah pounding on the cabin to door to be let in. She hurried to obey, for he didn’t sound in the mood to be kept waiting.

“Get yerself into my capote,” ordered Josiah, hurriedly going to the corner where his things were kept.

“Why?” asked Emma, as he thrust the heavy coat into her arms.

“I’ve got some trading to do, ‘an yer coming with me,” huffed Josiah. He rolled up two buffalo robes and two blankets, and then bound them to one of his leather wrapped packages.

Emma was about to pick up her shotgun, when Josiah stopped her.

“There’s no need,” he assured her. “My Hawken is enough.”

She wanted to ask who Josiah was going to trade with, for surely he didn’t intend to approach the Blackfoot. There was no time for questions though, for Josiah hurried her out of the cabin and then tossed her onto the back of one of his ponies. Taking its bridle in hand, Josiah led the animal down the mountain.

The thought momentarily crossed Emma’s mind that perhaps Josiah was going to trade her to the Blackfoot because she was too much trouble. Maybe she shouldn’t have sung the hymn? One look at the possessive hand leading the horse, however, and she knew he wasn’t about to trade her away.

The smell of smoke told Emma they were nearing people, and before long she could hear the sound of children playing and shouting to one another in a tongue she couldn’t understand. The poles of a large cone-shaped dwelling rose against the sky, and Emma shuddered as she saw two Indian men approach Josiah. Was Josiah crazy? Why weren’t they hiding from these Indians, instead of boldly entering their camp?

“Here to trade,” Josiah said to them in Crow. After lifting Emma down from the horse, Josiah invited the men to look the pony over.

They showed no emotion, and neither did Josiah. To Emma, all three men looked like wooden Indians as they muttered and nodded to each other.

After they had exchanged a few more words, Josiah turned to Emma. “We’re staying to eat.”

“We are?” Emma asked timidly. She didn’t want to be there, and dearly wished Josiah would take her back to the cabin.

Upon seeing Emma’s eyes grow wide with shock, the two Crow men laughed, showing the first signs of any emotion since their guests had arrived. They looked at Emma with great curiosity, and at Josiah with something akin to admiration.

Knowing the source of their awe, Josiah put an arm around Emma to prove she wasn’t being held against her will. He grinned proudly as the braves shook their heads in disbelief. Then they motioned for Josiah to enter the lodge with them.

“Stay here,” Josiah told Emma, leaving her outside to be the gazing stock of two Crow woman and their children.

Not wanting to betray fear, Emma put back her shoulders and poked her chin into the air. She gave the airs of a decent white woman who didn’t want to be bothered by anyone like them. She suddenly realized what she was doing, when the two women poked their chins into the air and started mocking her.

Ashamed, Emma hung her head and asked God to help her act the way a Christian should. She had been raised to believe that all people were the same, no matter the color of their skin, but that part of her upbringing had never been put to the test. Before she had been kidnapped by the Blackfoot, or rescued by Josiah, she had never come into contact with Indians. Emma knew this was a poor excuse to act prideful, and she bit her lip and looked apologetically at the two women. “I’m sorry,” she tried to tell them, but the women didn’t understand, and kept on laughing.

“Woman!” Josiah’s voice shouted from inside the lodge. “Git in here!”

Glad to escape the women, Emma gratefully ducked inside. The animal skin dwelling was surprisingly inviting, and its warmth quickly made Emma overheat in Josiah’s heavy capote.

“Come here, Emma.”

Obediently, Emma made her way around the fire in the center of the dwelling, to where Josiah was sitting cross-legged with the two men.

The men smoked a pipe which they passed to each other, and eyed Emma curiously as she took off the capote before sitting beside her husband.

“What are them women laughing at?” questioned Josiah. “You ain’t hurt, are you?”

“No,” Emma shook her head shamefully. “I was prideful, and they were rightfully punishing me.”

At this admission of her own guilt, Josiah raised his eyebrows in mild surprise. “Stay by me, ‘an they won’t bother you anymore.” Josiah turned his attention back to the men, smoking the pipe when it was passed to him.

After the mens’ conversation had died down, Emma tugged at Josiah’s sleeve. “Are they Blackfoot?” she whispered.

“No, them’s Crow Indians,” he chuckled at her ignorance.

“But, I thought this was Blackfoot country,” puzzled Emma.

“It is,” grinned Josiah. “That don’t stop other tribes from saying it’s theirs, though. You don’t want to be around if the Blackfoot finds out Crows are using their hunting grounds.”

“Then why are we here?” Emma whispered in horror.

“You’re needing a skin dress and moccasins, and these Crows are willing to trade,” explained Josiah, seeing no need to whisper since they were the only ones there who understood English.

“I can’t wear Indian clothing!” protested Emma, momentarily forgetting to lower her voice. “I’m not a…”

“A savage?” Josiah finished her sentence with a grim smile.

Suddenly, Emma’s face became pale with self-conviction.

Josiah laughed in weary triumph. “I thought that’s why you didn’t want moccasins.”

“They’re simply not necessary,” Emma quietly repeated her previous argument.

“Yer feet will become frostbitten in the snow if you don’t have some moccasins and snowshoes,” Josiah handed the pipe to one of the men watching, “‘an you need something warmer than that woolen dress to keep out the cold.”

Emma was stone quiet. Had that been the real reason she hadn’t wanted to wear moccasins? Had she thought it beneath her? Disturbed, Emma remained silent while Josiah talked with the men.

Before long, the two Crow women entered the lodge to begin fixing food over the fire. Children chased each other around the crowded lodge until one of the men grabbed a laughing child and dandled it upon his knee so they could talk without interruption.

Emma gazed at the small boy staring at her with brilliant eyes and a curious expression. She smiled at the boy and he smiled in return, tugging at his father’s arms to let him go. The man released his child, and the boy toddled over to Emma. He felt the material of her dress and then examined the golden braids she had pinned back in a knot. The boy couldn’t have been older than two years, so when he gave a fistful of Emma’s hair a sharp tug, she didn’t have the heart to scold him.

The boy giggled when Emma made a silly face to show that it hurt, and then climbed onto her lap while his mother prepared food.

Stroking the boy’s long black hair, Emma smiled whenever he looked up at her. So this was an Indian child. He didn’t look like the savages she had heard them described to be, and felt a pang of guilt for letting others have as much influence over her as they had had.

“Emma,” Josiah interrupted her thoughts, “the boy’s mother wants to know if you’re with child yit.”

Emma noticed one of the women was now looking at her kindly for admiring one of her children. Smiling gratefully, Emma shook her head. “No, I’m not with child.”

The woman slapped Josiah’s shoulder, as if berating him for not doing his duty. Josiah shrugged it off, but Emma could tell he was embarrassed. She guessed he would have been even more so, if the Crows had known she was withholding marital favors from her own husband.

“We’ll git around to it, one of these days,” Josiah chuckled awkwardly. He gazed at Emma sitting beside him, while she held the child and clapped his small hands together in play. “It ain’t been fer lack of trying,” he breathed to himself.

The boy soon wanted to be released from Emma’s lap, choosing to clamor around his mother as she and the other woman set out food for the men.

Silently praying before eating, Emma accepted the food Josiah gave her. The Crow women waited until the men had eaten, before they and their children had a chance to fill their bellies. Emma, alone, ate beside her husband.

As the evening wore on, the Crows became more animated, until Emma saw them laughing with Josiah as though he were one of their own.

After everyone had eaten, a woman took out a long dress made of animal skins and showed it to Josiah. It was time to get down to trading, and the genial atmosphere quickly became sober. Josiah fingered the garment with a lack of emotion, not giving any indication as to what he was thinking. The woman pointed to Emma, and Josiah directed his wife to stand up.

Obeying, Emma did as she was told, though her head bumped against the hide skin walls as she stood. The Crow woman held the dress up to Emma and then talked some more to Josiah. Another woman brought out a pair of moccasins, and placed them beside Emma’s feet to show they were close in size.

Josiah didn’t consult Emma before finally nodding his head that it would do. Then the men brought out beaver pelts, and the trading began in earnest. Josiah’s horse was worth a lot, so after several prime pelts were counted out, the deerskin dress and winter footwear were suddenly Emma’s.

Now that the important things had been taken care of, Josiah opened his parcel bound in animal skins, and the women and men began looking over what else he had to offer.

Emma was amazed by the bounty Josiah produced. He had material– actual cloth– and knives and beads and coffee beans! She knew he had more bundles back at the cabin, and she wondered what else he possessed.

The Crow women brought out things of their own, showing them to Josiah in the hopes of another trade. Amongst their goods, Emma was shocked to see a solitary book they had kept as a curiosity from a deceased trapper’s personal belongings. Emma’s gaze immediately locked onto the object, and Josiah recognized the longing in her eyes.

“What is it?” he asked Emma.

“A Bible!” she cried in hushed ecstasy.

“Oh.” Josiah went about his business, but he had difficulty ignoring Emma as she sat there, quietly pining for the Bible. She was helpless to get the one thing she wanted more than anything else in the world, and Josiah knew it.

After Josiah was done trading, and the women had had enough cloth to their liking, he turned his attention to the thick book still lying on the blanket before them. Several handfuls of coffee beans and four strands of colored beads later, Josiah picked up the Bible, grinning as he placed it into Emma’s hands.

“For me?” she gasped in wonderment.

“It’s all yers,” nodded Josiah. “It would’ve cost me less, except them women saw you hankering after it, and knew they could ask fer more.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Brown!” Emma glowed with gratitude. “I’ll never forget this kindness!”

Josiah grinned broadly, but quickly went sober when the two Crow men began laughing at him.

“Woman must treat you well, for you to pay so much to make happy,” one of the men concluded approvingly.

Awkwardly, Josiah rubbed the back of his neck. Emma wasn’t exactly treating him well, but he was working on it.

The trading put away, one of the women began telling old stories of their ancestors and their ways. Josiah was too tired to translate what was being said, so Emma quietly sat beside her dozing husband. She clutched the prized Bible, happy to just sit there, knowing she was holding God’s Word in her hands.

As the evening grew late, the children began nodding off, until even the Crow men yawned and reclined on the skins for some sleep.

“Lay back,” Josiah whispered to Emma, as he adjusted some of the buffalo skins they were sitting on.

“We’re staying?” she whispered in surprise.

Josiah yawned. “We’ll go back in the morning.” He put an arm about Emma, until she finally cozied beside him on the warm furs.

The lodge had a close, intimate feel, so that Emma wasn’t surprised when she peeked over Josiah’s strong arm to find one of the couples nuzzling each other. Their children lay beside them, and elsewhere in the dwelling, wherever they happened to fall asleep during the storytelling.

Josiah pulled Emma even closer. She hoped he wasn’t going to nuzzle her like the other couple were doing, for she found such intimacies a little horrifying, when so many could open their eyes and watch. When Josiah’s snores told her he was asleep, Emma felt she could relax. The warm atmosphere gradually lulled her to sleep, until even the howls of distant wolves were not able to awaken her.

The next morning, Emma felt something heavy sitting on her chest, making it difficult to breath. When she opened her eyes, the small boy from yesterday peered down at her until their noses nearly touched. Emma tickled the boy until he climbed off her chest and ran back to his mother with giggles and playful childish banter.

With a sleepy groan, Josiah stretched out on the warm animal skins as the smell of food stirred the lodge. “I’m so hungry,” he yawned, “I could eat a four legged animal, and not bother to take off its hide.”

After they had eaten, Josiah collected his things and ladened Emma with as much as she could carry, for he had to keep one hand free for his Hawken. Without much ceremony, they left the Crows’ camp, until Emma could no longer hear the laughter of the children as they played.

Josiah took the long way back to the cabin in case one of the Crows should follow to steal his remaining horses. Emma thought it unnecessary to take such a precaution, for the Crows had been friendly and she didn’t think they deserved such distrust.

“When a man thinks he can steal,” muttered Josiah, “he’ll do just that.” Dropping his things, Josiah told Emma to wait as he backtracked a distance to see if they were being followed.

“No one’s coming,” he announced a little while later.

They resumed their walk, as snow floated down from the clouded heavens. Josiah put his face into the prevailing winds. “Storm’s coming,” he predicted. “At least I have one less horse to feed this winter. I reckon three will do just fine, come spring.”

The weather was turning icy when Emma finally saw the cabin up ahead. Snow was coming down heavily now, and she was eager to warm herself by the fireplace and rest her tired arms.

The cabin and corral were just as Josiah had left them, and he quickly went to see to the horses, so they would have water and feed for the coming storm.

When Josiah returned to the cabin, he groaned to see Emma settled before the fireplace with her Bible. “You aren’t going to make me sorry I gave you that, are you?” He dropped the bar over the door and then placed his rifle on the pegs on the wall. “I hope you won’t be reading, when you should be working.”

“It’s like meeting an old friend,” Emma beamed at him with delight. “I no longer have my parents, but having this Bible, is a little like having them right here with me!”

With a harrumph, Josiah went to his things to examine the beaver skins he had just acquired. They were prime pelts, and he congratulated himself on such a fortunate trade. “Emma, put on yer new dress,” he suddenly remembered.

“Now?” Emma didn’t want to put down her Bible.

“Let’s see it on you,” he coaxed with authority. “Put it on.”

With a sigh, Emma got to her feet. She pulled out the deerskin dress, looking it over closely for the first time. It was decorated with beads and a tasseled fringe, and the seams were expertly bound together with sinew. Warily glancing at Josiah, Emma proceeded to take off her dark blue one-piece dress. She was still modest with three petticoats, her corset and chemise, and was about to put on the skin dress when Josiah stopped her.

“What are you doing?” he chuckled.

“I’m putting on the dress,” replied Emma, unsure why he was nearly laughing.

“Not over all them petticoats!” Josiah shook his head in amusement. “You’ve got to take everything off.”

“I certainly will not!” exclaimed Emma. “Surely, you don’t expect me to wear this without the proper undergarments!”

“What do you think the Crow women are wearing?” prodded Josiah.

“I’m sure they dress in the best way they know how,” reasoned Emma, “and that’s fine for them. But I’m not an Indian, and I have my own views on what’s decent.”

“Take off them petticoats, Emma.”

“Absolutely not.”

Josiah folded his arms. “Emma, don’t try my patience.”

Feeling the full effects of Josiah’s intimidation, Emma swallowed hard. She had no choice but obey, and ducked beneath a blanket to take off her undergarments. Pulling her arms through the openings of the dress, Emma smoothed down the deerskins as though she were wearing her woolen gown.

When Emma emerged from under the blanket, Josiah grinned in ready approval.

“It’s soft,” she had to admit, touching the long one-piece dress and then running her hand over the beaded decorations. “It feels good against my skin.”

Josiah stepped close, drawing Emma into his arms. “This is more like it,” he grinned, letting his arms wrap around her waist. “I like my women soft.”

Hearing this, Emma struggled to pull away from Josiah. “Why do you have to say those awful things?”

“It’s the truth,” he shrugged, unwilling to let her go just yet.

“Please,” begged Emma.

Groaning, Josiah relinquished his hold on his wife. “That dress will keep you good and warm this winter. Put on the leggings and moccasins, or yer feet will git mighty cold on this dirt floor.”

Quietly, Emma pulled on the short leather leggings and then slipped her feet into the moccasins. She was covered from the neck down in animal skins, but she still felt immodest.

“Couldn’t I at least put on my corset?” she pleaded. “I feel undressed without it!”

“Stop talking like a white woman,” Josiah chided. “I’m leaving to check my traps afore the storm gits bad.” Picking up his Hawken, Josiah left the cabin to Emma.

Emma was unused to wearing so little, and yet she knew that if she resembled anything like the Crow women, she was perfectly modest. A lifetime of convention was difficult to overcome, so Emma satisfied her modesty by draping a blanket about her shoulders, and then retreated back to the fireplace to read her Bible.

The weathered Bible was old, and looked as though it had been neglected for quite some time. The pages were mildewed and water damaged, and some small animal had nibbled at one of the corners before moving on to something more edible. Still, the words were readable, and just the feel of a Bible in her hands made Emma smile. Here in these cold mountains, the printed words on the tattered pages gave sunshine to Emma’s soul.

“‘For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,'” Emma read in a hushed whisper, “‘that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.'” Hope. Emma’s lips parted in a pained smile. That word meant a lot to her now– more than it ever had in her entire life.

The door opened and a blast of cold air whipped around Josiah as he hurried inside. He dropped a lifeless beaver onto the floor and then lifted the bar back over the door before pulling off his coat. “Back to reading, are you?” he gruffly observed. “As soon as I skin this here beaver, I want the meat cooked up for lunch.”

To Emma, the creature looked more like a large drowned rat, rather than a viable source of food.

While the trapper set about skinning, Emma thumbed through her Bible to a passage she had been wanting to reread ever since that first night with Josiah.

“Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” It was from First Peter chapter three, and those two verses gave Emma hope. Hope for a future with a God-fearing husband. Emma turned to First Corinthians, and read, “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?”

“Set this to cooking,” Josiah interrupted Emma’s thoughts. He glanced at the Bible and frowned; he was liking that book less and less by the moment.

“I really appreciate your giving me the Bible,” Emma thanked him.

“You won’t be thanking me when you start wishing fer coffee,” he griped, planting his leather bottom on the dirt floor before the fire.

“I never even knew you had coffee,” replied Emma, putting the beaver meat into the kettle to begin cooking. She apprehensively watched as Josiah picked up the open book and roughly flipped through its pages. “You may read it whenever you wish,” she offered, hoping that he wouldn’t mistreat the fragile volume, for the cover had threatened to come off in her hands.

With a careless shrug, Josiah returned the book to where Emma had left it.

Emma turned her eyes to the fire, thinking over what she had just read. God was giving her a promise for Josiah’s soul. Her speech and actions could be a witness to him, and ultimately turn him to Christ.

Letting out a loud belch, Josiah was now polishing his prized Hawken rifle.

Emma sighed. It took a lot of faith to believe that such a wild man as Josiah Brown, would ever become a Christian. She didn’t know if she was strong enough to maintain the witness he would need to see in her life, but she felt God was requiring this of her.

Josiah scratched his leg and then pulled off his hunting shirt to repair a busted seam.

Feeling her face grow warm, Emma turned her eyes from his masculine form. She had an even bigger problem right now, and as comforting as these promises were, she needed help.

After lunch, Emma retreated to her Bible to search the Scriptures for more guidance.

When evening came, they ate the last of the beaver and drank cold water from the bucket. After supper, Emma returned to the fireplace, her mind focused on what she had been reading.

Josiah was ready for bed, and went to go lay down on the buffalo robes for some sleep. When Emma didn’t soon follow, he raised his head to observe her still curled by the fireplace, intently reading her Bible.

“You coming, Emma?”

She didn’t respond, so Josiah raised his voice until she looked up from the open book.

“When I sleep, yer place is with me,” he declared with a frown.

“Please,” begged Emma, “just a little while longer?”

At the sight of those pleading brown eyes, Josiah felt something soften inside him. “I reckon I can wait,” he nodded, taking off his shirt and then tossing it beside their bed. “If I’m asleep when you come, wake me.” With a yawn, Josiah pulled up the blanket and closed his eyes.

Emma turned her attention back to the words before her. A passage from First Corinthians was keeping her busy, and she reread the words over and over to be sure of their meaning: “The woman which hath an husband that believeth not… if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife…”

Deep in thought, Emma looked over at the man now asleep on the buffalo robes. He was a part of her, for the Bible had said they were one flesh. But what of love? Would God blame her for loving an unbelieving spouse? If God would, then surely He never would have said the woman in the Bible could stay with her husband.

This very subject had been a source of great concern for Emma, for she longed to return Josiah’s embraces. While in his arms, she had wanted him, and even he had sensed this. Turning back to the Bible, Emma read the words once more, “The woman which hath an husband that believeth not…” Seeing the words before her eyes, Emma found a degree of confidence that she had lacked.

“God,” she prayed, “I choose to follow Your will for my life, and I choose to give myself to the man You have chosen for me, in these circumstances which You’ve allowed. Help me to be a good witness to Mr. Brown, that he might see You in my words and actions, and that he might find the confidence to place his trust in You.”

Ending her prayer, Emma opened her eyes and closed her Bible. The fire crackled as she looked over to the buffalo robe. She felt as though a large weight had been removed from her shoulders, and yet… Emma was strangely frightened.

Looking down at her deerskin dress, Emma laid aside her blanket shawl. Without making a noise, she crossed the room and then crawled onto the buffalo robes.

Josiah moaned as he felt a woman cuddling beside him. “It’s about time you came to bed,” he mumbled groggily. Placing a large hand on Emma’s shoulder, he went back to sleep and was soon snoring.

Disappointed, Emma tried to sleep. Her news could wait until morning, though she didn’t know if she could. Displaying more courage than Emma thought herself capable, she raised herself to Josiah’s mouth. Emma stared at his lips for the longest time, trying to will herself to act.

With the instincts of a hunter who knows when he’s being watched, Josiah’s eyes popped open and he frowned at Emma. “Thought I felt someone watching me,” he muttered. “What’s wrong? Can’t you sleep?”

“I have something to tell you,” Emma timidly explained.

Josiah yawned, impatient to go back to sleep. “Hurry about it, then. I’m powerful tired.”

Emma swallowed. “I’ve been reading the Bible–“

“Yer keeping me awake fer the Bible?” he protested.

“And,” she finished nervously, “I’ve decided that I can truly be your wife in all things.”

Incredulous, Josiah stared at Emma as though he were still asleep and only dreaming. He knew that to Emma, there was no difference between a lover and a wife. Even in her unwillingness to return his kisses, she submitted herself to him as his spouse and didn’t fight him. But to truly be his wife in all things would entail more than merely not fighting.

“Are you meaning it?” he blinked. “You ain’t just going to lay there, but actually kiss and hold me?”

“God gave me to you,” replied Emma, “and as your wife, it’s only reasonable that I should love my husband.”

Still incredulous, Josiah didn’t know if he could trust Emma’s announcement. It was almost too good to be true.

“I’m sorry I awoke you,” she apologized. “You can go back to sleep now.”

“That ain’t likely!” exclaimed Josiah. He leaned forward and quickly claimed her mouth.

Instead of resisting his kiss, Emma closed her eyes, and returned Josiah’s desire.

The next morning, Emma awoke to another kiss, and the two didn’t leave the buffalo robes until late morning when the horses whinnied for their food.

“Don’t be going nowhere,” Josiah told Emma, grabbing shirt and rifle to go outside. He hurried back in record time, promptly returning to Emma’s side.

“Did you miss me?” he grinned, pulling the blanket up over them both. Not waiting for an answer, Josiah kissed Emma, and the two spent the remainder of the day together on the buffalo robe.

Nearing supper, Josiah finally left their bed, requesting something to eat. He looked weary, and even a bit ill-tempered as Emma went to fix some food.

“Reckon I won’t be hungering fer you, any time soon,” he muttered rather gruffly.

Biting her lip, Emma handed Josiah his supper. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did I make you angry?”

“Why did you have to go and spoil it?” Josiah lamented. “Chasing you was fun, ‘an now that you’ve gone and given yerself to me, it takes all the frolic out of things.”

“Is that all?” Emma sighed in relief. “Mr. Brown, there are more things in life than frolicking.”

“Nothing ruins an affair like spending a day together like we just done,” Josiah gravely shook his head.

“Are you speaking from personal experience?” she wondered a little fearfully.

“No, but I was told that tussling a woman is only good until you sicken at the sight of her. After that, it’s no good.”

“Well,” mused Emma, “whoever said that, has a lot to learn about marital love.”

Pausing, Josiah looked at Emma over his plate. “You figure you love me?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted.

“It’d be best if you didn’t,” he advised, “for I’d only break yer heart. I’m a scoundrel, and yer knowing it.”

“Men can change,” she reasoned hopefully. “Even a man like you.”

Josiah shook his head. “I’m doubting it.” He polished off the last of his food, waiting for Emma to finish hers.

“I thought you were sick of me,” remarked Emma, knowing what he was waiting for.

“I ain’t made up my mind,” he grinned. “I’ll be sick of you, tomorrow.”

It was still dark outside when Emma awoke the next day. Snuggling against Josiah’s chest for more sleep, Emma heard the unmistakable sound of a sigh beneath her head.

“Are you awake?” yawned Emma, looking up to see Josiah staring into the fire still burning in the fireplace.

Josiah lightly dismissed her question. “I were just thinking.”

Emma placed her head back on his chest, preparing to go to sleep, when she heard his voice urging her awake again.

“What is it?” she yawned sleepily.

“Did you really tussle me, because God said you could?” wondered Josiah.

Emma looked up at him in surprise. “What makes you ask that?”

“Do all I could, I wasn’t able to coax a single kiss from you,” reasoned Josiah. “You git a Bible, ‘an suddenly, all this happens?”

“Do you really want me to answer,” Emma proceeded warily, “or are you going to mock me if I tell you the truth?”

“I won’t tease,” he promised.

“I know to someone like you, it may be hard to understand,” Emma explained, “but I want to live my life with an honest heart before God. That means doing, or not doing something, based upon my best understanding of the Word of God. Since I didn’t have God’s Word, I could only act upon my conscience.”

“And?” prodded Josiah.

“I wanted you,” confessed Emma, “but I couldn’t see how such carnal reasoning could be any good. It wasn’t until I saw God’s Word, that I felt the liberty to hold you.”

Josiah turned his head back to the fire. “You think too much of pleasing God. I can’t see going to so much trouble, just to be sure yer making Him happy.”

Emma was quiet.

Gazing at her with a small grin, Josiah caressed Emma’s shoulder. “I weren’t mocking you,” he assured her.

Emma smiled sadly. “I know you aren’t trying to.” Her eyes wandered to the small cracks in the window shutters for the light that signaled morning, but saw none. “It must be snowing,” she concluded.

Following her gaze, Josiah got up from the buffalo robes to open the window. “It’s morning, but the snow’s coming down hard,” he announced. He quickly closed the shutters before all the warmth of the cabin escaped. “Didn’t I tell you a storm was coming?” Josiah looked down at Emma, and discovered her eyes modestly diverted from his undressed self. “Emma, you beat all!” he laughed, climbing back beneath the blanket and drawing her close.

Snuggling with Josiah, Emma closed her eyes and tried to find comfort in his arms. Happiness didn’t come easily, but she was determined to be thankful for any that she found.

That night, as they ate buffalo jerky by the fireside, Josiah went to his large leather bag to get the last of the coffee beans still in his possession after trading with the Crows for Emma’s Bible.

“It ain’t everyday a man celebrates his new wife,” he grinned. After preparing the hot beverage and pouring it into his single battered cup, Josiah let Emma have the first sip. Then he settled back to enjoy the fire with Emma and to take turns drinking the hot beverage.

“You want the last sip?” offered Josiah. “There won’t be more coffee until after we rendezvous with the others in summer.”

“You can have it,” Emma declined. She leaned her head against Josiah’s shoulder, watching as smoke from their fireplace rose up the stone chimney.

After Josiah swallowed the last bit of the treasured liquid, he put an arm around Emma and for a long while, they were both silent. Only the distant baying of a wolf pierced the solitude of the night.

“The creek will probably be froze over tomorrow,” predicted Josiah. “I’ll have to break through the ice so I can draw water fer the horses.”

“Do you need my help?” volunteered Emma. “I have moccasins now, so I can walk in the snow.”

“No, you’ll have enough chores without doing mine.” Josiah planted a kiss on the crown of Emma’s head. He nuzzled her neck, and eventually took her back to the buffalo robes where their honeymoon continued.

Just as Josiah had predicted, the creek froze over, making it necessary to break the ice to get at the water below. Emma trudged through the snow in her warm moccasins, carrying her empty bucket to the creek so Josiah could fill it with fresh water for the cabin.

The cold nipped at Emma’s face, turning it pretty shades of numbing pinks and reds. As Josiah handed the full bucket of water back to Emma, he paused a moment to take in the picture she presented. Emma’s blonde hair was pinned up in braids as usual, and her new dress of deerskins fitted well over her slender form. Josiah silently remarked to himself that she wasn’t quite so thin and gaunt anymore, but had an attractive figure that showed she no longer knew starvation.

Surprised to see Josiah staring at her, Emma waited for him to speak. His face was expressionless, as though he were carved from wood and unable to be read.

“Thank you for filling my bucket,” Emma finally broke the stillness.

Josiah grunted.

The mountain man returned to his work while Emma trundled back to the cabin with her water. Casting a backward glance over his shoulder, Josiah grinned. That was some woman he had married.

After the horses were fed and watered, Josiah took up his Hawken and decided to go hunting. Now that the streams were frozen, beaver trapping would have to wait until spring thaw.

“Emma,” Josiah announced as he tramped into the cabin with snow on his moccasins, “how about going hunting with me?”

“Me?” she asked in surprised.

“Bring yer shotgun,” he directed, not waiting for her to accept his invitation. “Put on my capote and them snowshoes I traded for from the Crows.”

Emma had intended to spend a little of the morning reading her Bible and giving herself to prayer, but Josiah was waiting, and she didn’t want to make him unhappy. Readying her pa’s shotgun, Emma hurried into Josiah’s oversized capote.

The snow let up as they left the cabin, causing Emma to hope the sun might come out from hiding. The reprieve was a brief one, however, and before long the skies were sprinkled with white once more. Panting in the frigid air, Emma tried her best to keep up with Josiah’s quick strides as they hiked over the deep drifts in their snowshoes.

The mountain sloped downward beneath Emma as she followed Josiah to the valley below. A mixture of excitement and dread pulsed through Emma. She wasn’t sure she could keep up with Josiah, and yet, she was excited that he was willing to take her hunting with him.

Suddenly, Emma bumped into Josiah’s backside when he unexpectedly stopped. Before she could understand what was happening, Josiah roughly knocked her to the ground, clamping a hand over her mouth to keep her quiet.

“Hush!” He breathed so quietly Emma could barely hear him. Josiah’s eyes were fixed straight ahead, his free hand tightly gripping his Hawken in readiness.

Emma was paralyzed, but not out of fear. Josiah was pinning her to the ground with the full weight of his body, and she could barely move.

“Blackfoot,” Josiah answered the alarmed eyes peering at him from beneath the hood of his capote. “Keep silent.” Emma’s head nodded in willingness, so Josiah slowly moved his hand from her mouth.

From under Josiah, Emma was unable to see a single thing. She could hear men speaking in a language she couldn’t understand, and she could feel Josiah tensing his muscles above her. She shuddered at the look on his face: it was nothing short of hatred. Then, Josiah ducked his head, breathing excitedly into Emma’s ear,

“Crows!”

Emma had no chance to ask what he meant, for the sound of gunfire rapidly filled the air. War whoops followed more gunshots, and arrows whistled toward their human targets.

 

Trembling with terror, Emma shuddered beneath Josiah.

The mountain man looked down at his frightened wife. “Follow me,” he silently mouthed the words.

Keeping as low to the ground as they could, Josiah and Emma untied their snowshoes and then crawled on hands and knees until it was safe to get to their feet. Then putting back on their snowshoes, Josiah grasped Emma’s hand, yanking her behind him at an awkward run. His eyes flashed with a wild pleasure that terrified Emma. She had seen it before when he had scalped the Blackfoot Indian, and as they heard the gruesome sounds of battle, she saw that same look in his eyes once more.

To Emma’s surprise, instead of heading back to the cabin, Josiah moved about over their old tracks, crisscrossing footprints in the immediate area before finally heading off in the opposite direction as home.

The gunfire lessened, but it only increased Josiah’s haste. Emma’s arm nearly pulled from its socket as he dragged her behind him, his eyes and ears carefully tracking the movements on the other side of the line of trees.

A man screamed in pain, and Emma squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t want to know what was happening, but she guessed a victor was scalping his enemy while he was still alive.

Josiah barred his teeth at Emma, prompting her to keep up with his long hurried strides. Hugging her shotgun in her free arm, Emma closely trailed behind Josiah as he attempted to lead any possible Indian trackers away from their cabin.

Man and woman huffed through the snow, until they heard the crack of a rifle and the whiz of a bullet as it passed their heads. Spinning around, Josiah was ready to unload his weapon into the enemy. His eyes scanned the distance, suddenly coming to stop when he spotted a solitary Blackfoot warrior.

The Blackfoot held his rifle above his head and then waved to Josiah.

Recognition setting in, Josiah slowly lowered his Hawken. “You missed!” he shouted. “Yer eyes are growing dim, Old Man!”

To Emma’s wonderment, the man waved again, before turning to rejoin the others.

“Who was he?” she panted.

“No one,” breathed Josiah, his voice low and rumbling as it always did when he was angry. His chest heaved, and he wiped the sweat of exertion from his brow. Trekking further down the mountain, Josiah reached the safety of some thickly wooded trees.

Emma’s teeth chattered as Josiah opened her capote and began to undress her.

“Yer animal skins are damp with perspiration, Emma. You’ve got to git out of this, or you’ll freeze to death.” The capote was relatively dry, so after peeling the buckskins from Emma, Josiah bundled her back into the dry coat.

Hurriedly discarding his cumbersome snowshoes, Josiah was looking quite cold by the time he managed to pull off his buffalo coat and hunting shirt. He flapped his arms wildly to keep warm, and then spotted a large fallen tree. Thinking quickly, Josiah harvested several snow ladened branches and piled them against the fallen tree to create a lean-to.

Shivering uncontrollably, Emma felt a stab of panic when she saw the snow was coming down heavier than before.

 

“What’s yer name?” Josiah called out as he blanketed the floor of the lean-to with pine needles.

“Emma B-Brown,” she stammered, struggling to keep her eyes open. “I’m so t-tired.”

“You can rest after you git warm,” Josiah promised, jumping to his feet. He guided Emma to the low entrance of the lean-to and told her to take off her snowshoes and get on all fours so she could crawl inside. “Keep talking, Em.”

“Aren’t you c-coming?” mumbled Emma, when she saw he was remaining outside.

“The lean-to ain’t finished yit,” his teeth chattered. The branches wouldn’t offer enough insulation by themselves, so Josiah dug at the snow for any vegetation he could find to pile on top of their shelter; this would hold in the body warmth of the lean-to. “Who am I?” he called, endeavoring to keep Emma awake until it was safe for her to sleep.

“What was all that shooting about?” she wondered.

“We came across some Blackfoot, just as they were finding out Crows were in the area,” replied Josiah.

“Then, why didn’t you help the Crows?” Emma tried to stop her teeth from chattering by clamping a hand over her chin.

“You want me killing my own kin?” asked Josiah. Clumps of dirt crumbled through the branches as he piled more vegetation over their lean-to.

Emma wiped the dirt from her eyes. “They were your family?”

“Who do you think that old man was?”

“I don’t know,” Emma’s voice was becoming distant again, so Josiah urgently called her back to the present.

“He’s was my ma’s, pa,” he informed her with a short laugh. “Thought he’d do me a good turn and warn me off with that shot. I expect he’ll be wanting a returned favor one of these days.”

Flopping down on his belly, Josiah elbowed his way into the narrow lean-to until he was snug against Emma for her body warmth. Sweat had turned to ice on his arms, and Emma was frightened at how frozen he had become in so short a time.

“Mr. Brown, you’re freezing!”

“I’m all right, Em,” he tried to calm her concern. “I’ve been colder.”

In spite of the situation, Emma found herself smiling. Josiah hadn’t scorned her for showing concern for his wellbeing, and had accepted it without doubting her motives.

Taking their discarded clothing, Josiah stuffed them into both ends of the lean-to.

Without being asked, Emma shared the large capote with Josiah. She shivered as his frozen arms slid about her warm middle.

“Thanks,” he grinned. “I’m warming up some.”

“Why were the Blackfoot shooting at the Crows?” wondered Emma. “Isn’t this country big enough for both tribes?”

 

“These hunting grounds may be in Blackfoot country,” explained Josiah, “but the Nez Percé, Flatheads, and even some Shoshone and Bannocks think it’s theirs. Then there’s the Crows. If a people were ever borned to war against each other, it’s the Blackfoot and the Crows. Grandpap met up with them Crows we traded with, and you heard what happened.”

“Are the Crows all right?” Emma wondered helplessly.

Josiah shook his head. “I’m thinking they’re dead by now.”

“What about the children?” she cried. “What will happen to them?”

“There’s nothing that can change it, so you best think on something else,” advised Josiah.

“But, that sweet little boy,” whimpered Emma, tears coming to her eyes. “God, please don’t let them all die!”

“That ‘sweet little boy’ most likely would’ve grown up to be yer enemy, so stop crying.” Josiah adjusted the coat to make sure Emma was keeping warm. Her cheeks were returning to a healthy color, though she still looked exhausted from shivering for so long.

“Don’t you care what happened to those people?” wept Emma. “Where’s your heart?”

“My heart is right here, where it belongs,” Josiah thumped his breast indignantly. “If you don’t stop yer moaning, I’ll put you outside.”

By the dark gleam in his eye, Emma knew she had pushed him too far.

“Death ain’t a stranger in these parts, so it ain’t no use letting yerself git too fond of anyone.” Josiah tried to lessen the sting of his rebuke by resting his cheek against Emma’s, and holding her more tenderly. “All I have are you and my trapper friends. No one else matters.”

“What about the Blackfoot? They’re your people, aren’t they?”

Josiah harrumphed. “I have no people.”

Startled, Emma backed her head away from Josiah’s. She saw hatred flicker across his features before it disappeared in a weary grin.

“We’re warm enough to git some sleep now.” He returned Emma’s head to his cheek, and then closed his eyes.

At Emma’s side, she felt Josiah’s strong hand secure their two rifles. If trouble came looking, he would be ready.

Beneath the lean-to, Josiah and Emma slept until the sound of crunching snow awakened them. The deadly end of the Hawken immediately raised, poised for action. Emma trembled as Josiah peered through the cracks of the lean-to’s roof.

Outside, Josiah saw a mass of furs move about, and once or twice, it stooped to examine the ground. Then the furs moved toward their hiding place, and a human eye suddenly appeared between the tree branches.

Josiah cocked back the hammer of his rifle, letting the metallic sound warn the intruder that he was armed. At once, the form quickly backed off.

 

Not wanting to expose his rear end to enemy fire, Josiah pushed away the clothes he had stuffed into the lean-to’s front entrance, before crawling out headfirst. Josiah didn’t bother getting to his feet before his rifle immediately trained on the mass of furs standing before him. When the trapper saw who it was, he got to his feet, coming face to face with an elderly Blackfoot warrior.

“What are you doing in these mountains?” the old man asked in halting English. “You were warned never to come back.”

“I go where I please, Grandpap.” Josiah squatted down to look inside the lean-to. “It’s all right, Emma. Git dressed.”

“If your clan finds you here, it will mean your death,” the old man worried.

“I don’t kill so easy,” grinned Josiah.

The old man shook his head in disbelief when he saw a yellow haired woman emerge from the lean-to. “Did you take her with her people’s consent?”

Josiah scowled at the question, feeling the answer was obvious.

“The white men will hang you for taking her,” pronounced the old Blackfoot, as though the matter were already settled in his mind.

Snatching the shirt Emma held out to him, Josiah quickly put it on before he froze again. “I reckon they won’t hang me– not if she’s with child come springtime. I ain’t asking fer permission to stay, Grandpap. From you, nor anyone else.”

“Is your hand still against us?” wondered the old man. “Do you still bring the white man here, to our hunting grounds?”

“She ain’t a trapper,” Josiah pointed his chin at Emma.

The weathered face of the old Blackfoot looked as though it had seen many hard days. He gazed at Emma and then turned his eyes back to Josiah. “You make enemies of your mother’s clan, and now you will anger the white man against you as well.”

“I ain’t caring,” retorted Josiah. He spat at the snow, drawing the sleeve of his shirt across his mouth.

“I never should have given my daughter to Hiram Brown,” the old man shook his head grimly. “I never considered what he would sire.” He looked at Josiah with disdain that mirrored his grandson’s. “Keep out of sight until spring, and then you must leave these mountains and never return.”

Though Emma thought she saw a twinge of hurt cross Josiah’s face, he remained defiant and unmoved.

“If I come back, it’ll be my decision.”

I’m making it for you!” the two eagle feathers in the old man’s hair quivered indignantly. His rifle remained relaxed in the crook of his arm, but Emma had the feeling it was out of authority, and not out of fear, that it remained where it was.

“Don’t do me no more favors, Old Man. If I die, I die.”

 

“You will never change your ways,” the old Blackfoot sighed in despair. He hesitated before turning to leave. “You still owe me.”

“I ain’t fergetting,” nodded Josiah.

The old man gazed bitterly at Emma, as if blaming her for the fate he felt his grandson was facing. Then without another word, he returned to his people.

After the old man had left, Josiah gave Emma a laughing grin. “I don’t think Grandpap is very fond of you.”

Emma was quiet. “Is that why you brought me to these mountains?” she wondered. “So I’ll become with child?”

“Among other things,” he grinned, his smile masking the anger behind his eyes. “Now that yer tussling me, I reckon my neck is a little safer. Git yer things. We’re heading back to the cabin.”

After tying on her snowshoes, Emma picked up her pa’s shotgun to follow Josiah home. Even though her husband was grinning, he was in a foul mood. He angrily slapped at tree branches as he went, not caring when they snapped back and hit her side. When Emma asked him to stop, Josiah only grunted and continued slapping branches.

Upon reaching the cabin, Josiah loaded himself with the usual supplies he took on an extended hunting trip. Then without telling Emma when to expect him back, he headed out the door with two of his traps slung over his shoulder.

Resting her head against the doorjamb, Emma waited until Josiah was out of view before closing the door and then lifting the heavy bar back in its place. To her surprise, she found herself pitying Josiah. It was strange to feel that way about a man who needed no one, but perhaps that was why she had pity. Josiah was like a bear, living out the majority of his existence alone, and only coming into contact with other bears when it suited him.

Even in her wifely concern, Emma tempered her pity with reality. Josiah might be alone, but he carried most of the blame for that on himself.

On his way to hunt game, Josiah made an effort to find out what had happened to the Crows he had traded with. He located their abandoned campsite, carefully examining tracks to determine the Crows’ numbers. To his great surprise, most of them had escaped with their lives, after all.

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