A Yellowstone ChristmasBy: Peggy L Henderson
“Come on, little mother,” Daniel said softly, and gathered the woman in his arms. “I won’t allow you or your child to die. And neither will my wife.”
Many questions flooded his mind. The answers would once again have to wait until this woman was well enough to talk. He adjusted his hold on her as he stood to his feet, and headed back in the direction of his cabin.
“She’s resting with her baby.” Aimee entered the main room of the cabin, softly closing the bedroom door behind her. Daniel stood from stoking the coals in the hearth. He met her halfway across the room, holding his arms open. Aimee went willingly into his embrace and leaned her head against his chest, letting out a weary sigh. Daniel’s hands slid slowly up and down her back, melting away the tension in her muscles.
“I’ll bring her something to eat in a little while. Right now she just needs sleep. She’s lost a lot of blood. If you have any rusty nails or chains, I need you to soak them in some water. She’ll have to drink that to try and replenish the iron in her blood. And she’ll need fresh meat.” Aimee lifted her head to look up at her husband. “I still can’t believe she made it as far as she did before you caught up with her.”
Daniel offered a soft smile. His palm caressed her cheek. “You’ve done all you can for her and her son at the moment.”
“Can we sleep up in the loft every night from now on?” Zach and Matthew’s heads popped out from between the banister rails at the top of the loft. Matthew nodded vigorously next to his brother.
“You’ll get your room back as soon as our guest is well enough and we find her family,” Daniel said. “You two need to be asleep. It’s late.”
The boys’ heads vanished into the darkness as abruptly as they had appeared. Hushed voices drifted down from the back of the loft.
“They like it up there,” Aimee whispered. “I don’t see why they couldn’t stay there if they want to sleep up high like that.”
“Sam might not like sleeping in the spare room by himself,” Daniel said, and guided Aimee to the rocking chair in the far corner of the cabin. “Sit. I’ll bring you some tea.”
Aimee watched her husband’s back as he rummaged at the workbench, opening tins and peering into leather pouches. This day certainly hadn’t ended the way she’d planned. Her Christmas tree should be standing in the corner opposite where she sat, and be all decked out with the ornaments she’d made over the years, and the ones Daniel had carved for her. After the kids were put to bed, she’d planned to tell him what had been on her mind for days. With all that had happened today, now was not a good time to bring it up.
“My favorite is on the top shelf, the pouch on the far right,” Aimee said with a smile, deciding it was time to help Daniel in his search for her preferred herbal tea blend.
Daniel reached for the correct pouch and shook out some dried leaves and nettles into a tin cup, then added hot water from the kettle hanging over the fire. While the tea steeped, he poured himself a cup of coffee.
Countless questions about the young Indian girl and her baby floated through Aimee’s mind, but she remained quiet while Daniel prepared the tea. He was not a man of many words, and she’d learned over the years that he would talk when he was ready. Only after straining the tea through some cloth into another cup did he turn to face her. Their eyes met for several seconds before Daniel brought her the steaming cup.
“She’s not Tukudeka,” Daniel answered her unspoken question. He pulled up a chair from the table and sat facing her.
“What makes you so sure? She hasn’t spoken a single word, and she wears the clothes of a Sheepeater.” Aimee sipped at her tea, her eyes never leaving her husband’s.
“The knife she carries is made from buffalo bone and flint.”
Aimee knew the Sheepeaters fashioned most of their cutting tools and arrowheads from obsidian, which was found in abundance in this area. The volcanic glass was extremely hard and brittle, and could be fractured into very sharp edges that would rival a surgeon’s scalpel. The Tukudeka frequently traded the commodity with other tribes during the summer months.
Even after knowing Daniel for more than six years, it still amazed her how he picked up on the smallest details about his natural surroundings and the people he encountered. Aimee doubted she would have even taken notice of the type of stone the girl’s knife was made of. Daniel had taught her a lot about survival in this harsh mountain wilderness they called home, but Aimee often wondered if it would take a lifetime to learn everything that Daniel knew. If he was convinced this young woman was not a Sheepeater, then she believed him.
Daniel held his tin cup to his lips and took a long drink. His eyes narrowed slightly when he lowered the cup. He made eye contact before he spoke again. “She’s Blackfoot.”
Aimee coughed in surprise, and blinked. Her eyebrows rose, and her heart rate increased. A sudden cold wave of dread seeped down her spine.
“Blackfoot?” she echoed Daniel’s word. Hastily, she sipped more of her tea, hoping to dispel her sudden apprehension. The Blackfoot Indians were a warring tribe, and enemies of almost everyone.