Word Count – 7,252
No beta, all mistakes are mine
Scott came into the great room after a trip to Baldamero’s for Teresa’s supply list. He went to the drink tray and poured a Scotch. Seeing Murdoch walking in from his study, he asked if his father would join him.
“Good evening Sir. Would you like one?” Scott headed, with decanter in hand, to the chair by Murdoch’s desk noticing Murdoch had an empty glass at his desk.
“Thank you son, don’t mind if I do. Did you get the supplies Teresa needed?”
“Indeed I did. I do believe my little sister plans on inviting the entire San Juaquin valley here. She certainly seems like it from the amount of supplies we picked up. “
“Oh Scott, let her have her fun. She does not get to plan many parties. She’s just excited and wants things to go well.”
“I guess you’re right. Well, where’s my little brother? I didn’t see him in the kitchen trying to filch food while Maria wasn’t looking. This is bread baking day. I don’t think even Johnny is that brave.”
“Your brother decided to go hunting this morning.”
“I thought Cipriano and his boys were going to get all the turkeys we needed.”
“They are, but Johnny decided to hunt for deer. Seems Maria was lamenting that she had no more venison in the ice house or smoke house. Johnny decided to remedy that. Probably some peace offering for a transgression I would suppose.”
Laughing, Scott stretched his long legs out. “Big bad Johnny Madrid has met his match with Maria. Sometimes I wonder who is faster; Johnny with his gun or Maria with her spoon.” Both men had a laugh, and started small talk as they finished their drinks.
‘Oh, you’re a big fella. Just hold still and you’ll be in the ice house by the night.’ Johnny raised his rifle and was about to shoot, when the buck bolted. ‘Aw, damn. I almost got ya.’ He stood kicking at the dirt when he heard a sound in the bushes. It sounded like whispering. “Okay, who’s in there? Come on out. I ain’t gonna shoot ya.”
A scared looking young boy stood. He was hiding something behind him.
“Whatcha got back behind ya, huh? Come on out.” The boy moved and suddenly a very young child appeared, holding on the shirt of the young boy. She had tears in her eyes but made no sound. It was easy to see she had been crying. Johnny’s heart melted. “It’s okay. You can come out. I won’t hurt ya, I promise.”
The little boy inched out slowly, the little girl still clinging to the boy. “Hi, I’m Johnny. Are ya lost? What are ya doing out here all alone?” Seeing the children apparently had not eaten in a while, Johnny reached in his coat retrieving some biscuits he had taken with him this morning. He held the biscuits for the children. The boy took one and gave it to the little girl. He then took the other for himself.
As the children hungrily ate the biscuits, Johnny had time to really look at the children. They were Indian children. They closely resembled each other, and judging from his protective stance, he figured the boy must be the small girl’s brother. He also noticed they were not dressed very warmly for the cold.
“I tell ya what. I’ll get a fire going and we can get to know each other. I told ya I’m Johnny. What are your names?” The young boy seemed to consider the request. “I am called Bright Eagle. My sister is White Fawn.” The children watched as Johnny built a nice fire. Soon it was burning bright.
“Move over to the fire and we can talk. “ Johnny sat with the children and used his blanket to wrap around the shoulders of the children. He handed his canteen to White Fawn. “Ya want some sweetie?” White Fawn looked at her brother. He motioned for her to drink, and took a swallow for himself. “She’s kind of quiet. Do ya think she is scared of me?”
“No, she speaks no more since our village was burned and our parents were killed with everyone else. We managed to hide and get away. There was nothing left when we returned. We just started walking looking for someplace to go.” As Bright Eagle relayed the story, White Fawn began crying silently again.
Johnny had a hard time controlling his emotions. These children had lost so much, and now they were truly alone. He knew what he had to do. He whistled for Barranca who came over to the camp. White Fawn smiled and walked over to the big horse. She smiled and started to pet Barranca’s side. “Barranca, meet Miss White Fawn, and her brother Bright Eagle.” Barranca started bobbing his head hello.
“How would you two like to take a ride with me to my home? You can rest up, and I will get some real food for ya. Does that sound okay?” The children nodded eagerly, and waited as Johnny gathered his rifle and blanket making sure the fire was out. “Okay, I’m gonna sit this pretty lady up in front of me & pull ya up behind me.” With his precious cargo loaded, he set off to Lancer. ‘Well, no venison today, Mamacita.’
“Boss, boss. Johnny is on the way in, just under the arch. That boy o’ yours done bringed home some more strays, and ya ain’t gonna believe what it is this time.”
“What is it this time Jelly, another litter of pups? My son seems to ignore my rules about bringing home any more strays. Well, I guess I better go see what he has this time.”
Scott heard Jelly and decided to meet Johnny along with Murdoch. Teresa joined the party as well. No one spoke as they took in the sight of Johnny with the two small children.
“Howdy my son. Care to explain? How is it you left to hunt deer and come back with two children?”
Scott waked over to Barranca and helped Bright Eagle down. White Fawn looked frightened of the tall blonde, so Teresa took her from Johnny as he was dismounting. “Well brother, who do we have here?”
“This is Bright Eagle, and his sister White Fawn. Teresa, can ya take them to the kitchen? They’re awful hungry? All I had for ‘em was a couple of biscuits.” Teresa carried White Fawn and held out her hand for Bright Eagle. She headed into the house with them.
Johnny relayed the story as it was told to him, leaving the men in somber moods. Murdoch was scratching his chin as he thought about the situation. “Well there is nothing to be done tonight. It is getting pretty late. We’ll discuss this more in the morning.” Teresa came into the room to announce that the children had been fed and were falling asleep at the table. It was decided the children would be put down to bed in one of the downstairs bedrooms for the night. Jumping up from his seat Johnny offered to help Teresa get the two to bed. Little Fawn was sleeping with her head on her brother. Bright Eagle rested his head on the table. Teresa lifted the little girl in her arms and Johnny scooped up the boy. They put them to bed.
The next morning, Johnny was the first one to the kitchen, a rare occurrence. He had checked on the children and found them fast asleep. Waiting until breakfast was about to be served, Johnny got the children up, and had their faces and hands washed. Their manners were quite good for children so young. Everyone was now at the table, and light conversations were heard. When breakfast was over it was decided the children needed baths. Bright Eagle did not seem pleased at the thought but he was persuaded to bathe.
“We don’t have any clothes for ‘em. When I found them what they have on was it. I don’t think those will stand up to many washings.”
“Yes son, I see what you mean. Teresa, Paul kept some of your clothes when you were small. See if you can find something in the big trunk upstairs. Maria, do you think any of your grandsons will have something in Bright Eagle’s size he could borrow?” Maria was finishing up the dishes and told the Patron she would get some for the Niño, directly.
Baths finished and a new change of clothes made the children feel better. Teresa braided White Fawn’s long silky hair. Although silent, the little girl seemed to take a real liking to Johnny. She would follow him around the house and into the barn to see Barranca. He tried his best to get the child to speak but she still said nothing. Bright Eagle was doing some chores for Teresa, feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. Both children seemed more at ease.
Scott and Murdoch were in the great room discussing the problem. “Johnny sure has gotten attached to the kids, and they to him. I’ve seen him with them the last 2 days.”
“Yes son. I’ve seen it too, and that worries me. He may find it hard to turn them over to Padre Felix at the orphanage. We can’t keep the children here indefinitely.”
“Would that be so hard Sir? Johnny is so good with kids.”
“Scott, I know he is, but these children would be better off in a setting with other children, and maybe they can help White Fawn begin to speak again. It would be best.”
The door slammed just then with an angry young man headed to the room. “NO! These kids are not gonna go to no orphanage. I won’t let them. Why would ya want to do that to ‘em? Ain’t happening.”
“John settle down, please. You are letting your emotions get the better of you. These are not puppies or kittens you found. These are children who need help, more than we can give them.”
“NO, Hell no! I’ve been in an orphanage, and I won’t put them through that. I know Padre Felix is a good guy, but these kids cannot be separated. I’ve seen it enough. Someone will come and adopt a child leaving a brother or sister there alone. They have suffered enough. I won’t let it happen to them.”
“Alright John, calm down. Thanksgiving is coming up soon. We can keep the children here while we figure out what to do. In the meantime, Teresa has been giving the boy little chores, but White Fawn needs to keep out from under your feet. This is a working ranch, and there’s too much she can get hurt on. Without vocalization it would be impossible to hear if she were in trouble. Maybe she would like to help Maria in the garden.”
“That went well Sir. This is going to be difficult. I suppose we should alert Padre Felix he may have two new children soon.”
The well-dressed young couple arrived on the noon stage and headed to the orphanage. They were anxious to finally get to adopt their daughter. The now childless couple was unable to conceive, yet both longed for a child. Consuela was a strikingly beautiful young woman. She had her long tresses pulled into a chignon, and it was quite evident she was of Mexican decent. Her beautiful brown eyes shown with love for the child she & her husband would soon take home. Charles the husband was quite tall and very handsome. Hair cut in traditional style, was inky black. His features and skin tone were that of an Indian.
“Hello Padre Felix? I am Charles Townsend, and this is my wife Consuela. We’re finally here to collect our sweet daughter. Is Hester ready to travel?” The couple noticed the sadden look on the Padre’s face. “It is my unpleasant task to tell you that sweet Hester has gone to be with the Lord. We had sickness in the orphanage, and she was just too weak. She was a beautiful child. I am so very sorry. I tried to wire you but you had already left for the trip here. Maybe you would like to meet some of our children here. We have no others as young as Hester, but every child is precious.”
Consuela began crying softly into her handkerchief, holding to Charles’s arm. “We had so hoped to bring the child home with us and give her a new life. You see, we lost our angel when she was just two. We were hoping to bring Hester into our hearts. I guess there is nothing for us to do but to make arrangements to head back home. Thank you Padre.”
“I understand my children, but before you go, might I make a suggestion to you. There is a large ranch; Lancer. Please, por favor, go visit the ranch. The livery can provide you with a carriage, and directions. Good day, and go with God.”
Feeling they had nothing to lose since their trip was not to leave for two days, the Townsends headed to rent a carriage, got directions and headed to Lancer. “Charles, I wonder why the Padre wanted us to visit this ranch?” Unsure himself, Charles tried to make the best of it. “I don’t know my dear. Well, we can see some of this beautiful land, at any rate.”
Murdoch was heading back from the barn when he noticed a carriage coming beneath the arch. ‘Hm, I wonder who this is coming to visit?’ He walked over to meet the visitors. “Hello, I’m Murdoch Lancer. May I help you?” Temporarily at a loss for an explanation, Charles introduced himself and Consuela.
Scott walked from the house to see who Murdoch was speaking with. “Well, I’ll be. Is that you Charles Townsend? I don’t believe it!” Charles turned to see an old classmate from Harvard. “Scott Garrett? What are you doing so far from Boston? Is your grandfather sending you here to scope land out west?”
Oh and forgive my manners. This is my lovely wife, Consuela. My bachelor days were over when I met her. She forever changed my idea of staying single.”
“Mrs. Townsend, I am honored to meet you. Please let me help you down. Come into the house and have some refreshments. You can meet the rest of my family. You have already met my father, Murdoch Lancer.” Shocked, Charles searched for what he wanted to say. “Your father…your father? Scott do you mean to tell me this is the man you always wondered about? I’m confused.”
Murdoch was listening to the conversation between friends, wondering how often he spoke of his absent father throughout his school years.
“I found out a year ago that Grandfather was not exactly truthful about my family. I came home, met my father and found out I even have a little brother. Grandfather knew of him but didn’t feel the need to tell me. But we have time to catch up later, please everyone, into the house.”
The Townsends were ushered to the great room. Maria served lemonade and fresh baked cookies. The men had something a little stronger. Scott served the scotch. “Well, now that I’ve met your father, where is this brother of yours?”
“My son, Johnny and my ward Teresa should be back shortly. They had an errand to run. You will of course stay with us for dinner and we have lots of room for you to be our guests. I’m sure Scott and you have a lot to catch up on. Please, I insist.”
“Thank you so much Mr. Lancer. We accept your gracious offer. Consuela I will go to the carriage and get our bags.”
“Maria, our housekeeper and marvelous cook will show you to your room. You can freshen up and rest for a while if you would like, Consuela.”
“That’s a wonderful idea. I would like to stay down here a bit and get to know Scott’s family. You rest, my dear.” Consuela followed Maria, as young Paco brought the luggage up.
“Well Mr. Townsend, what brings you to Lancer? I’m just curious since you did not come to meet Scott and his newly formed family.”
“Call me Charles, please. It was supposed to be Consuela’s and my dream come true. We were going to adopt a child from the orphanage, a little girl, Hester. When we got there the Padre told us she had succumbed to illness. We were heart broken. We had a young daughter, Emily. We lost her at just two years old. Consuela had a bad pregnancy with Emily, and we were told she would never be able to carry another child.”
“We spoke to the Padre. He asked if we would like to meet some of the children, but no very young children were in residency. My wife had her heart set on getting a young child to nurture.”
As the men spoke, there was a commotion in the foyer. Teresa was first in, and was removing her hat and cape. Bright Eagle was next carrying packages under one arm & munching on a peppermint stick. Johnny brought up the rear with a smiling White Fawn riding piggyback on him. He was laughing because White Fawn’s peppermint stick attached itself to Johnny’s hair. He set White Fawn on the table in the foyer, and untangled the peppermint stick. “Well, Teresa will give ya a new one that is not so hairy.” Although still non-verbal, the child’s eyes danced with delight.
“Johnny, Teresa. Please come meet our guests.” Johnny and Teresa looked at one another, shrugged and went to the great room. Mr. Charles Townsend, I would like you to meet my ward Teresa and my younger son Johnny.”
Teresa spoke first. It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Townsend.”
Johnny reached to shake hands, and noticed the guest looked Indian. Charles was looking at Johnny with an appraising look. “It’s very nice to meet you Johnny. May I ask; are you of Mexican decent?” Johnny Gave Charles a hard look and got ready to respond, when Charles explained his wife Consuela was Mexican also. “Pardon my stare, but you and Scott look nothing alike.”
Scott spoke up. “We are from different mothers. If you recall in school I told you my mother died in child birth. My father married again. Johnny, Charles is an old friend from Harvard. He came to visit Murdoch and found me here, with a new name and family, and lots to catch up on.”
As the men were making small talk, Consuela came down the stairs, fresh from her nap. “So this is the young man we have heard so much about since we came to the ranch.”
“Ya can’t believe everything my brother says, Ma’am. It’s nice to meet you. Have ya met Teresa yet?”
Yes, what a beautiful young lady. We met as I was coming out of the room.”
The adults were interrupted by the running of little feet, as the children burst in to the great room. “Johnny, can we put on our new clothes we bought?” Spotting the strangers, the children stopped.
“Not now. Those are for the party. I want you two to meet our guests. This is Bright Eagle and the little one hiding behind me is White Fawn.” The little girl was peeping around from Johnny’s Legs. “She is a little shy. Bright Eagle, take your sister upstairs and wash that sticky peppermint off ya faces & hands.”
Consuelo’s hand raced to her heart, and tears were starting to flow. She quickly regained her composure. “What beautiful children you have Johnny. Scott did not mention you were married.”
Johnny’s senses were on high alert. He was starting to wonder just why the Townsends were here. He threw a questioning look toward Scott as well as Murdoch. “Oh, no ma’am I’m not. I was out hunting when I found these children hiding in the bushes. They were all alone after their village was raided and everyone killed. Those two hid and returned later to find what was left of the village. I couldn’t leave them there so they came home with me.”
Maria announced dinner was ready. Everyone gathered. Scott was to his father’s left, the Townsends next to him. Johnny was to his father’s right. Next to him there was a chair with several books placed in the seat for White Fawn. Teresa was next with Bright Eagle to her right. Dinner was a pleasant affair. In the conversations it was learned that Charles was a prominent lawyer, thinking of locating to Modesto to set up practice. Consuela was once a school teacher at a mission.
White Fawn was not eating. There was too much talking and she was tired. Johnny noticed and put her on his lap. “Okay, little miss. We’ll do it this way. I take a bite from my plate, and then I’ll give ya a bite from your plate.” The child shook her head, and pointed to Johnny’s plate. “No sweetie, that is too hot for ya.” As Johnny picked up a forkful from his plate White Fawn grabbed the fork and put the food in her mouth. This got chuckles around the table. Bright Eagle spoke up. “My little sister always likes spicy food. My mother used to make hers spicy.” The thought of his mother upset the young boy. Teresa reached over and gave him a hug to settle him down.
Consuela was watching Johnny with the children, particularly White Fawn. He seemed so relaxed with them, realizing they had only been together for a short time. “Johnny, how old are the children?” “Bright Eagle is six and White Fawn is three. She shook her head and raised four fingers. Bright Eagle laughed and explained his sister “did not want to be three, so she always holds up four fingers.”
“My you children seem so bright, and well spoken. Did your parents teach you to speak English?”
Johnny was getting a little wary of the Townsends asking so much about the children, seeing it upset Bright Eagle to answer. “Mr. and Mrs. Townsend, maybe we should not ask too much about their lives. Their loss was just so recent.”
“I don’t mind Johnny, really. We had some missionaries who stayed with us for a year or two. They taught us English. They gave us all new names but said we should always remember our heritage. I am Benjamin and she is Sarah. They were all killed in the raid that day too.”
Murdoch was watching how things were playing out. He really liked the young couple, and thought Padre Felix set this in motion. They would be perfect parents to the children. Now he just had to get through to Johnny. He saw his son growing more attached to the youngsters. Murdoch was roused from his thoughts by Bright Eagle’s voice. Excuse me Mr. Lancer I have finished my plate and White Fawn has eaten most of Johnny’s plate. May we be excused? I am getting sleepy and my sister is asleep.”
Before Murdoch could answer Maria took that as her cue. She bustled out of the kitchen, picking up White Fawn from Johnny’s lap, and lead Bright Eagle from the table. She would take responsibility for getting the children to bed.
Murdoch and the others laughed at Maria’s promptness. “Nothing much gets past Maria. Son would you like some more to eat? I don’t know where the little tyke put all that food.”
“Na, I mean no sir. I’m good. Teresa did I smell chocolate cake earlier? Would that by any chance be our desert?” He gave his ‘sister’ one of his brightest, cheekiest grins.
“Nothing much gets past your son either Murdoch. And yes, Johnny it is desert. I’ll get it now, with some milk. Let me bring some of these dishes back to the kitchen and I’ll bring desert out.” She ruffled Johnny’s hair as she stood. Johnny and Scott offered to help clear the table along with her.
“Well, you can obviously see we have a dilemma. My son has such a big heart. He is always bringing home stray animals and ones he finds hurt. May I ask if Padre Felix mentioned the children when he asked you to visit us?”
“No, he only asked us to come by, after we spoke about Hester, and was planning on taking an earlier departure from Morro Coyo. I do hope the Padre did not overstep his bounds. I believe he was trying to help us.” Consuela placed her hand on her husband’s to still him.
“Mr. Lancer, I adore that child. I believe I can help White Fawn to speak again. She’ll get all the love and care we can give her. She’ll have a good life with everything a little girl could want; education, a home, a future. Would you speak to Johnny; let him know we want White Fawn, and will …”
There was a crash of desert plates Johnny was bringing for the cake. “NO! That’s not gonna happen! You will not take that child from her brother. That sweet baby has seen so much horror in her short life that she has retreated to silence. Her one thread to hold on to is her brother. You nor anyone else will ever do that. I’m sorry ya lost your child, and Hester too, but ya can’t just come pick another child that comes along. Ya just met them and you already wanna take her. Ma’am, I take more time than that just pick a horse out of a string.”
“John! Apologize to the Townsends now. Now son! You will apologize then wait for me in my study!”
Clinching both hands into fists, Johnny complied. “I apologize folks. Sometimes my mouth runs off on me like that. Goodnight.”
“Consuela, Charles please forgive my son’s outburst. He does not want to see the children separated. I will have a talk with John. Goodnight.”
When Murdoch entered the study, Johnny was pacing; arms in a self-hug. He looked up when Murdoch entered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you in front of guests. When they started talking about taking White Fawn, and not Bright Eagle, I guess I lost it. I’m sorry.”
“You did not embarrass me son, but I am worried about you. You cannot let yourself get wound up like that about the children. I know we spoke of keeping them here through the holiday festivities, but you know these children need more than what we can provide. Bright Eagle is having nightmares, and White Fawn may never get her voice back. We have to look at it from the other side. What is best for the children? I know in time you will make the right decision.”
“Not if it means splitting the kids up. Can I go now? I gotta go clean up the mess I made with the plates. I’ll have Teresa and Maria all over me for that.”
“Scott has already cleaned up. Go to bed son, and try to get some sleep. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight Pa. See ya in the morning.”
In the guest bedroom, the Townsends were preparing for bed. Consuela’s red rimmed eyes were a signal she had been crying. “Oh Charles, I didn’t mean to upset Johnny. He really did not take the news well. He’s so adamant about keeping them together.” Charles began thinking back to an earlier life. “Dear, I can see where Johnny is coming from. The orphanage I grew up in had many Indian children, like me. All we had were our siblings and each other. People would come by to pick out orphans to help with the farming. They wanted children about the same ages, and no little ones. The older children were torn from their brothers and sisters who were too little to know what was happening. Most lost parents to sickness or accidents, and then they lost their last connection to their past.”
“Charles, we have so much to offer. Do you think there is enough love for two children? We always talked of giving you a son. After Emily I knew I could never give you one. We’ll have a son and daughter. They will be happy and well loved. Charles… what do you think, love?”
Charles came to Consuela and hugged her. I think that is a splendid idea. We’ll talk to the Lancers in the morning. Goodnight my dear.
Murdoch and Scott were the first ones to the table, and each had a cup of strong coffee. “Good morning Sir. How was Johnny after you talked with him last night?”
“He was better. He calmed down, even apologizing to me for embarrassing me in front of guests. He still insists taking just one child is the deal breaker. And Scott I want to thank you for cleaning up the broken dishes last night.”
“It was not a problem Sir; although Johnny better step lightly around Maria and Teresa for a while.”
Johnny arrived next; bleary eyed and reaching for the coffee pot. “Gonna need a lot of this today.”
“Didn’t you sleep little brother? You’re looking a little ragged around the edges this morning.” Johnny gave his brother the Madrid stare and pushed his cup to Scott for a refill. Murdoch noticed John was not in great shape this morning but did not want to poke the angry bear.
Noticing it was quiet, Johnny became concerned. “Where are the children?” He started to leave his chair when Murdoch stopped him. “They are fine. Teresa fed them early and took them to the barn to see the new litter of kittens.”
Just then the Townsends arrived for breakfast. Everyone ate in silence. Johnny just stared at his plate while eating, not wanting to look at the Townsends. The back door opened with Teresa hustling in, and furiously writing on a pad. “Let’s see now. I have these chores marked off and ready for the holiday meal. Maria will Cip and his boys take care of getting enough turkeys? Children you can be a big help to me today. You can help me.” Both children smiled.
White Fawn skipped across the room and held up her arms for Johnny. He picked her up giving her a big hug and kiss. “Did you like seeing the kitties’ sweetie?” She shook he head emphatically. “How about you Bright Eagle, did you like them”
“Yes, they’re so tiny. White Fawn kept putting one in her pocket until Ms. Teresa said they still have to stay with their momma until they get bigger.”
“Okay, off you go. See what chores Ms. Teresa has for you, and be good.” The children left the kitchen.
Charles cleared his throat and began to speak. “Johnny, Murdoch and you Scott; we would like to speak to you again about the adoption.” Johnny slammed his hand on the table but Murdoch grabbed it.
“Settle down John, let them speak. Yes Charles?”
“Consuela and I talked last night. We decided, if you would let us, to adopt both children. We can give both these children the life they deserve, and I can promise you they will never be separated. Scott I think you know me well enough to know I am a man of my word.” Scott nodded in agreement.
“Why the change all of a sudden? You sure didn’t sound like you wanted him last night.” Murdoch gave Johnny one of his own stares.
“I was raised in an orphanage, and I saw families pulled apart, never knowing if they would ever see their siblings again. I don’t want that for the children. Consuela feels she can get White Fawn to speak in time.”
“Well, I have to speak to them and I need to be sure this is the right thing to do for them. You’ll be staying for Teresa’s Thanksgiving dinner, won’t ya?
“Why yes, we would love to attend.”
Bright and early the next morning, everyone arrived at the table for breakfast. The table cleared, and daily chores given so work could be completed early. Teresa’s holiday dinner would be that evening.
Murdoch offered to take the Townsends on a tour of the ranch, giving Johnny time to speak to the children. Johnny found the children in the guest room looking at their new clothes for the party.
“Hey guys, it’s too early to get into your new clothes. Come; sit down so I can talk with you about something. The children sat on their bed and looked questioningly at Johnny. Johnny kneeled down in front so he could look the children in the eye. “Are you happy living on a big ranch? What would you say if I could make is so you would have a new home and never worry about being apart from each other?”
Bright Eagle thought for a moment before speaking. “You don’t want us anymore, Johnny? If we are sent away, I cannot protect my sister. My father was teaching me to hunt, but he said I was too young yet.” Johnny looked to see White Fawn’s silent tear fall. He reached over and grabbed the children into a hug.
“No, don’t think that. I do want you both, but I’m not really good at being a daddy. Let me ask you this. Do you like Mr. & Mrs. Townsend?” Both children nodded affirmative. “Well, they sure love you both. They want to take you to their home, and love you like a Ma & Pa do. You can go to school, and maybe one day, college. My big brother is the smartest man I know. He explains things to me if I have a question or problem. I didn’t have a chance to go to school so I don’t have book smarts like Scott, but you could have by going to school.”
Bright Eagle mulled the conversation over before speaking. “But Johnny, we like it here. Our folks are dead. The Townsends are nice people, but why would they want to take us in? What will happen if they decide they don’t want us? Our village was destroyed; we have no relatives.” ‘Don’t blow it Madrid. Ya gotta get this right. Focus!’
“If you let them, the Townsends want to be ya mama & papa. See, they had a little girl but she died. Their hearts have a big hole now. They want to give that love to you. They would adopt ya, and you’d be their little boy and girl. I know it won’t be the same as having your true folks, but as long as you carry their memory here in your heart, you will remember them always. Scott and me.. uh Scott and I remember our mamas that way. So what do ya say? Wanna give it a chance?”
Smiling, Johnny picked up White Fawn and together with Bright Eagle, they headed out to do their chores. He ran into Murdoch after seeing the children out to the garden and hen house. “Well son, have you made a decision yet? I am not rushing you, just curious.” The men walked to the kitchen for coffee.
“Yeah, I did, but I sure hope I am doing the right thing. Those kids have been through a lot. Well, what did the Townsends think of Lancer? Is Charles ready to make the move to Modesto?”
“They were very impressed. Charles does plan on moving to Modesto and opening up a law practice. I gave him an introduction to Jarrod Barkley. He can get a feel for the type cases he would be handling. It will be a big difference from Boston, but he seems set on making the move. The Townsends are waiting to see what your decision is. Are you ready son? Murdoch swung his log arm around Johnny’s shoulder as they headed to the great room.
Mr. and Miz Townsend, again I wanna apologize for last night. I did talk with the children. They would like to try this, but there are some conditions.” The Townsends listened to Johnny as he relayed the conditions.
“First off, they’ll never be separated. Bright Eagle is very protective of his sister. They’re worried that they’ll be made to forget the ways of their people, as well as their folks. Their heritage is important to them. Lastly, if you decided you cannot keep both or even one, you will send them both back to me. Can ya agree to these conditions?”
Murdoch sat listening to the conversation. He was so proud of Johnny.
Charles took the floor. “Johnny, as an Indian myself, I know how important heritage is. I can promise you they will always remember their people. I give you my word; the children will never be separated. They will never want for anything. They will enjoy all the advantages we can give them; school, a home, love. Consuela is a wonderful teacher. I believe, in time she will help White Fawn to speak again.” Wiping the tears from her eyes, Consuela spoke up. “Thank you so much, Johnny.”
Johnny excused himself to go collect the children. He returned, White Fawn’s tiny hand in his, and his other resting on Bright Eagle’s shoulder. He led them to the settee by the Townsends then took his place at Murdoch’s side. There was a brief silence then Bright Eagle spoke. “Johnny said you want to be our new parents, and we would live with you. Is this true?”
Charles spoke “Yes, yes we do want this, more than anything. You would make our lives complete.”
White Fawn had been watching trying to understand everything. She wiggled her way off the settee and walked to Consuela. She stood staring and their eyes met. She pointed her tiny finger “Mama?” There was a flurry of activity. Consuela took White Fawn into an embrace. “Yes dear, if you’ll let me.” Charles broke out in a smile, and Bright Eagle jumped up. “She spoke! My sister spoke!” Johnny had started to head toward the child, but Murdoch grabbed his arm stopping his forward motion. Johnny looked questioningly at his father, who in a low tone told his son “Let’s let them alone for a bit, son.” Johnny looked at the new little family then back to Murdoch. “Ya right; okay.”
The festivities were underway. The ladies, Consuela included were placing mounds of food on the tables outside. Charles kept the children occupied at the table. He was telling the children his full name. “I am Charles Running Fox Townsend. “ He carefully wrote the name and showed it to Bright Eagle.
“We were given names by the missionaries; I am Benjamin and my sister is Sarah. What will my name be?” Charles thought a moment and wrote “Benjamin Bright Eagle Townsend.” The boy stood looking at his new name, holding the paper Charles had given him.
They were interrupted by a tiny foot stamping on the floor. They looked to see White Fawn; her hands on her hips looking very angry. She took her brother’s paper, set it in front of Charles, and then pointed to herself. “Alright, little lady I will write your name; Sarah White Fawn Townsend. A lovely name for a lovely little girl. Charles scooped the child up and put her on his lap.
The Thanksgiving celebration had started in earnest. The tables were heavily laden with turkey, breads corn, stuffing, and vegetable dishes created from whatever the ladies could coax from their gardens and root cellars. All of the families living on Lancer were invited to share in the bounty. Children from the ranch as well as Bright Eagle and White Fawn were at a children’s table close by under the watchful eyes of some of the mothers.
Teresa was glowing. Her first grown up celebration was proving to be quite successful. Before the blessing, Murdoch stood to speak to the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are honored to have you here for the Thanksgiving festivities. You ladies have outdone yourselves. Our hostess Teresa has done a wonderful job organizing things. We come together to celebrate the harvest, and other blessings of the past year. I am sure my sons would like to say a word or two; Scott?”
Thank you Sir. I am sure we can all find something to be thankful for. The drought this year hit us hard, but I am thankful we were able to overcome and move forward. We celebrate with the bounty of our land. We are coming back strong.” The crowd applauded in agreement. “And, now I will turn the floor over to my brother; Johnny?”
“Well, I ain’t much good at this stuff. I guess I wanna say I’m thankful I came across Bright Eagle and White Fawn in the woods. They were all alone. Mr. and Miz Townsend came to town to adopt little Hester, but she got sick and died. I’m thankful that they still had enough love in their hearts for these two children. They will now all be together as a family.” The audience applauded, some women getting misty eyed.
Charles stood. “May I add something, please. I am Charles Townsend and this is my wife Consuela. We came in town to adopt. Our sweet daughter Emily died at two years. When we got to the orphanage we learned that Hester succumbed to her illness. We were broken hearted. I am thankful that Padre Felix sent us to Lancer, but we did not know why. I will be forever thankful to the Lancers; particularly Johnny. He made it possible to come together as a family. Thank you.”
Murdoch took the floor back. “Thank you Charles. Padre Felix, would you please lead us in prayer.” The Padre complied. Plates were then filled and everyone stuffed themselves, leaving room of course for deserts of all types. The ladies made several types of pies, puddings and of course cake. Everyone was enjoying music provided for dancing.
Murdoch walked over to Johnny who was navigating a desert plate overladen with goodies. “John, you’re not going to eat all that tonight are you?” Johnny just flashed one of his brightest smiles, nodding. “Why aren’t you dancing? I know Sally and Becca were hoping for a dance from you.” Johnny continued munching. “Naw, I’d rather eat. Scott’s out there. They can fight over him.” Murdoch laughed , then grew serious.
“John, I want to tell you how proud I am of you. You handled this whole situation with maturity and wisdom. You have such a big heart, yet you knew you had to do the right thing for those children.” Johnny was silent. His father was proud of him and told him so. This was worth more than gold. “Thanks Pa, that means a lot to me.” Not wanting to let his father see his unshed tears, Johnny decided to steer the conversation in another direction.
Well I can think of something else to be thankful for. I’m thankful I’m not a father yet. Don’t wanna be tied down yet. Hey, let’s go see if there is any more pie left.” Murdoch grabbed his son around the shoulders as they walked to the desert table.
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9 thoughts on “We Give Thanks by Barbara V.”
Lovely story. Perfect for Thanksgiving
Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my story. I am happy you enjoyed it.
Thank you for this beautiful story!
You are very welcome & thank you so much. I am glad you enjoyed it.
Hey, Sis! Well, it was tissue and goosebump time reading this one! Johnny was going to make sure those kids had a life together wasn’t he? Having Madrid fight for them would ensure they would never be separated. Thank you for an enjoyable read!
Thanks so much. Johnny seems to relate to children so well. He was not going to let anyone, including Murdoch separate the kids. Thanks again Sis I am glad you enjoyed it.
oh how sweet. This was a lovely story
Thank you so much .
Great story! So glad everyone ended up happy
Thank you for sharing