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A Good Day to Die: Waste Anpetu Ta Mata

A Good Day to Die: Waste Anpetu Ta Mata

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A Good Day to Die: Waste Anpetu Ta Mata

Longueur:
512 pages
8 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Nov 10, 2009
ISBN:
9781449041946
Format:
Livre

Description

Rebecca Wainwright is fifteen years old in 1866 when her family travels west on the Oregon Trail. The journey is difficult, tedious, and at times, dangerous. They cross swollen rivers, endure severe storms, and Indian attack. While the wagon train continues on to Oregon, the Wainwright family stops and settles in Nebraska. They build a sod home and farm the land.


Rebecca and her family endure many hardships on the windswept prairie: fierce snowstorms, voracious wolves, and prairie fire.


In the spring of 1867, the Wainwrights are attacked by a party of Lakota Indians and Rebecca is taken captive. Her fear is nearly overwhelming and she wonders what these savages may have in store for her.


Her captor, a young, handsome warrior, brings her to a woman in his own village to become the woman's daughter.


Rebecca learns the Lakota language and way of life, realizing she has had many misconceptions about the Indians. She learns they are loving, caring people who only want to be left alone by the whites. She falls in love with the young, handsome warrior and they are married in the Lakota tradition.


She begins to see the destruction of the native people, their lands stolen and desecrated, the buffalo slaughtered, and the tribes forced onto reservations. She witnesses the Indian people fighting back against white aggression, and becoming a hunted and hated people in their own country.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Nov 10, 2009
ISBN:
9781449041946
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Linda Penninga was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her passion for writing emerged at an early age and she wrote her first story at age eleven. She pursued a career in nursing, but continued to write in her spare time. After completing four novels, she finally published "Woman Soldier", a work of historical fiction. "The Long Journey Back, is the much anticipated sequel to this book and takes place during reconstruction in the post war South. Linda is now working on another historical fiction dealing with Native Americans.


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A Good Day to Die - Linda Penninga

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Chapter One

April 1866

It was an ending and a beginning. Everything she had known in her life; her town, her home, friends, church, school, was coming to an end. It had all happened so quickly, this ending. Within a few days time, her father had sold their farm, home, and most of their possessions.

In their place he had purchased a large Conestoga wagon, a hulking broad wheeled wagon with a curved bed, higher at each end than the middle. Covered over the bows, a canvas hood, and pulled by four bulky, ugly oxen for their new beginning in the west.

This decision to move, her father had told the family, had been precipitated by a dream in which the Lord had spoken to him, and directed him to travel into unknown lands to establish a church for the heathen peoples. It had not been a request of his wife or a discussion between them, but a dictate.

She hadn’t been able to understand how her mother had so calmly gone along with this plan. How could she so easily abandon their beautiful home, the large two story clapboard on the edge of a deep wood? Across the road was the large barn with their livestock and farming equipment and behind it, acres of corn, wheat, and vegetables. Inside the spacious rooms had held the old highboy, and armoire that had belonged to her parents, the beveled glass china cabinet; items that had been in their family for generations. All that was left to them was now packed into the Conestoga, the white canvas stark against the storm-blackened sky.

She sat on the edge of the wooden planks of the boardwalk, staring down the long train of similar wagons, all of them waiting for their own beginnings. Everyone seemed so excited to be starting on this adventure, but all she could think about was what she was losing. She felt as if her whole world was coming to an end by the loss of their beautiful home on the edge of the woods with all its enchanting delights. She had spent many hours in those woods. Sometimes if she would sit quietly, she could observe small animals flitting about, and even graceful deer. There were times she would take a book to sit under a tree to read and be alone.

But the most difficult ending of all was moving away from her best friend Amy. They had shared everything, walking to school, eating their lunches in the shade of the big maple tree, skipping rope, and now that they had reached the very mature age of fifteen, had shared their deepest secrets. They whispered together when they had both become women, and giggled over the cute boy at school. Now she was moving to some Godforsaken place, and she might never see Amy again. She just knew there would never be another friend like her, never be anyone she could share her most intimate thoughts with.

She felt this ending was the worst thing that had ever happened to her. The tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks.

Are you crying again, Rebecca?

She didn’t need to look up to know it was her sister Kate speaking. Go away, she told her angrily.

Kate sat next to her on the boardwalk, her hands grasping the railing of the hitching post. Ever since Papa sold the farm and said we were movin’ West, all you been doin’ is crying, she said to her older sister. When she received no response, she spoke again. I think it’s going to be a wonderful adventure.

Rebecca looked at her out of the corner of her eyes. That shows how stupid you are. What’s so wonderful about going off into the wilderness with wild animals, no trees, and savage Indians just waiting to kill us, and having no friends?

I don’t know about any of that, but I think it’s exciting, Kate persisted. And I can’t wait to get started.

Then you’re more stupid than I thought, Rebecca told her.

Kate stood up indignantly, her hands on her hips. Then Papa must be stupid because it was his idea to go West!

Rebecca said nothing, as if her silence told it all. She scrutinized her sister carefully. Kate always was a romantic, even at the tender age of eleven. She was nauseatingly optimistic. How could she be happy about leaving her life behind? She watched her skipping down the street, her blonde braids flying out behind her. Rebecca could only shake her head at her enthusiasm.

She stood as she saw her parents coming down the dirt road, her mother Ana walking a few paces behind her father. She was a small woman, quiet, with long blonde hair and blue eyes. Rebecca thought her to be very beautiful, but she did not know how she could sell her home, her beautiful clothes, and all her belongings, with no protestation, no arguments. Now she wore a simple calico dress with a worn sunbonnet covering her braided hair.

Her father Josiah strode ahead of his wife, walking erect, his thin frame making him appear taller than he really was. He wore black trousers and a white shirt, with a dark brimmed hat. Rebecca could not see his eyes, but she knew them by heart, intense, dark, gray, and stormy like the sky overhead. His lips were set in a hard line above his full beard. He was a religious man, taking every opportunity to preach from the Bible. He spoke from the Bible and lived by the Bible.

Just as her parents reached the wagon, the deluge began. Rebecca, Kate, into the wagon! their father ordered.

They all hurried to clamber into the back of the wagon. It was crowded inside with all of their belongings stacked about. There were trunks with their clothing and others containing dishes and cooking utensils. In one corner was the butter churn and spinning wheel. In another was the small loom and rocking chair. More trunks held handmade quilts, comforters, bedding, and keepsakes her mother could not bear to part with, the jewel box her father had given her when they married, the locket that had been her mother’s, and the few daguerreotypes of those now dead.

Her father had brought the special plow used to cut through the hard prairie soil. There was a tool box filled with hammers, nails, saw, axe, shovel, and numerous other implements needed to build their home. Way up in front, under the broad seat, sat the small stove that would be used for cooking and heating their new home. He had also brought his rifle for hunting and for protection against the savage Indians.

What space was left was filled with barrels of flour, grain, salt, cornmeal, beans, rice, and potatoes, smoked meat, and other staples. Even the inside of the canvas covering was patch worked with pockets holding all sorts of numerous supplies, such as medicines, sewing materials, and so forth. Attached to the wooden bows were hooks for hanging clothes and other objects.

Outside, on either side of the wagon were lashed two large barrels containing drinking water, and on the back, a feed box containing grain and oats for the animals. Tethered off the rear, was their horse Timothy, shaking his head in the rain.

As the rain drummed loudly on the canvas, and the thunder boomed, the girls sat on a trunk while their parents sat on the bedrolls, waiting for the storm to abate.

When we pullin’ out, Pa? Kate asked her father.

Shouldn’t be too long now, Josiah answered. We were waiting on one more family.

I can hardly wait, Kate said excitedly.

I can, Rebecca murmured.

Rebecca Wainwright, I’ll have no more of your snifflin’ and carryin’ on, Josiah told his daughter. When God spoke to me and told me to raise up a church in the heathen land to convert the savages, and that a house of worship might exist for those who come after us, I must obey. And my family must obey. We must not look to the past, but forward towards our new beginnings. Is that understood?

Yes, Pa, Rebecca replied meekly. Her father intimated her. His tall stature and piercing eyes frightened her. He seldom smiled, and his gruff demeanor did not promote a warm relationship. When she was younger she had received a few whippings with a hickory switch, but it wasn’t the physical abuse she feared. She was always made to feel inadequate, not quite good enough. He would tell her that she must strive to be perfect as Jesus was perfect, but somehow she always fell short of his expectations.

The flap of the wagon was suddenly thrust aside and Mr. Edmonds, the burley, bewhiskered wagon master stuck his head inside, rivulets of water running from his broad brimmed hat. Time to move out, Wainwright, he declared. Get yer oxen ready. Then he was gone, moving down the line of thirty wagons.

Josiah slipped into his rain slicker and went out into the down pour to ready the wagon and oxen.

This is the time, their mother said. We’re on our way.

Yippee! Kate cried.

Rebecca felt her own heart beating faster with anticipation. They were leaving; on their way west. She felt she would never again see her little town in Illinois. She had said her goodbyes to her friends at school and a heart wrenching farewell to Amy. They had both cried, promising to be friends forever, and always to write.

As Ana joined Josiah on the front driver’s seat, Rebecca went to the rear to peer out the back flap with Kate. They could see the wagons behind them; men finishing the hitching of their oxen, horses, or mules, checking the traces, harnesses and wheels. They made sure everything was lashed down and secure.

From far down the front of the line, they heard a loud voice call out, Wagons Ho! which was repeated down the train. More voices called out to their teams, the retort of whips, and the creaking of the wagons could be heard. Their own wagon lurched suddenly as the oxen pulled against their load.

The train plodded its way down through the main street of town as the girls watched the familiar landmarks pass by. Over there was Williams’ General Store. Rebecca remembered going there as a young child with her father to pick up supplies. While her father loaded the flour, salt, grain, and seed into the wagon, she would wander the store looking at all the wonderful items offered for sale. There had been kerosene lamps, harnesses, bridles, and saddles. In another part of the store, one could find sugar, molasses, flour, and cornmeal. They even sold hats, coats, and leather boots. When finished with his shopping, her father would allow her to pick out a sweet from one of the jars on the long counter.

When she was older, she and Kate would go to the store with their mother to pick out material for a new dress and perhaps ribbon for their hair.

As they continued down the street they passed by the two taverns in town. She, of course, had never been inside either of them, but she knew sometimes there were wild goings on; fighting and even a couple of shootings. Her father had told her they were dens of iniquity, and those who frequented them, especially the women, were portents of the devil and bound for hell.

Across the street was the tallest building in town, the Royal Hotel owned by Mr. and Mrs. Oldenburg who lived on the premises. It even had a dining room where Rebecca had been fortunate to eat several times as a special treat. Next door was the bank and post office.

They passed by the millinery and Mr. Delray’s import shop. She and Amy sometimes would go inside and gaze at all the unique items from far away places. There had been porcelain dolls, exquisite jeweled boxes that played music when the lid was raised, and intricately carved ivory handled hair brushes from the orient. They had touched the velvety softness of fine silks, and admired the beauty of delicate china.

Still further down the road was the church/school house. She had spent many hours there, leaning reading, writing and arithmetic. Some of her best memories with Amy were in that school, walking together, and helping the teacher to stoke the old stove to keep the building warm in winter. Then on Sundays she would listen to the Baptist minister preach from the Bible.

On the outskirts of town was the feed and grain store, the blacksmith shop, the sawmill, and beyond that, the unknown. As the rain abated and the girls watched the little Illinois town grow smaller in the distance, Rebecca felt as if a part of herself were being left behind. Her eyes filled with tears again, and fell silently down her face.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up into her mother’s kind eyes. I know it’s difficult, Rebecca, she said softly. But you must be strong. We must all be strong.

Aren’t you sad to be leaving, Mother? Rebecca asked her.

In some ways, she answered glancing out the back at the disappearing town, because I loved the people and my…home.

She said ‘home’ with such sadness that Rebecca knew she was feeling more loss than what she would admit.

Now, however, she continued, I realize how very important your father’s calling is. There is a true need for churches in the new territories, and the Lord has called him to minister to the heathen savages. Do you see, Rebecca? This is the most important thing we can do in life, to serve God and do His will. It is more important than material things, friends, or our own desires. She stroked Rebecca’s hair affectionately. I hope you understand this Rebecca, and accept it.

Rebecca closed her eyes. She hated it when her mother only spouted her father’s words, his ideas. What about her own feelings, what about what she wanted? She knew it had broken her mother’s heart to sell their home, to leave her friends, but she said nothing, believing it would be disloyal to her husband.

They traveled all day, the rain persisting most of the time. Kate kept watch out the back, talking to their horse Timothy tied to the wagon, and giving the family a running commentary on everything they passed.

Rebecca sat with her mother while she read the Bible aloud to her; the story of Job and all his trials.

The constant lurching and swaying of the wagon was making Rebecca feel sick to her stomach. She was miserable in body and spirit, and she could find no happiness in any of this.

They did not stop for lunch, but ate their meal inside the wagon while Josiah ate from his perch on the front seat. Mr. Edmonds was anxious to cover as many miles as possible that first day before camping for the night. Timing the crossing of many of the rivers was crucial. If the train arrived too soon, the rivers would still be swollen from spring rains; too late and the travelers might run out of water further west.

They rains abated and Mr. Edmonds gave the order to stop for the evening, as the first shadows of dusk crept across the landscape.

While the men unhitched their teams and tethered them where they could graze, the women started fires and hauled out pots and pans in preparation for cooking the evening meal. Children poured from the wagons, running and playing, delighted to be free of their confinement.

With everyone now outside milling about, Rebecca was able to see and meet her fellow travelers. She was curious as why all these people would uproot their lives to travel to some wild unknown land in the West.

Most of them were family groups, parents and children. Rebecca saw a young couple expecting their first child and an elderly couple in their seventies. One very crowded wagon contained seven children, including a baby not more than a month old. In one wagon she saw a single woman travelling alone. Rebecca wondered how she would be able to face the dangers and challenges she might encounter by herself.

She also saw many teenagers, some her own age. But the family she was most interested in was the one traveling directly behind them. The family had two teen boys, an older one approximately eighteen, and in Rebecca’s estimation, the better looking of the two.

Everyone went around introducing themselves. There were names like O’Sullivan, Svoboda, Lewis, VanderKlok, Zlinski, and Hamilton. But the most important name Rebecca remembered was Thomas, Thomas Peters and he was sixteen.

She felt shy as he openly stared at her and smiled. He had straight blonde hair and blue eyes, and Rebecca thought him to be the best- looking boy she had ever met. She didn’t have time to talk, however, as her mother called to her to fetch water from the nearby stream and help prepare their meal.

Later that night, after the dishes had been washed and supper cleaned up, everyone sat around a central fire, talking, finding out where everyone was from. The small Illinois town had been the meeting place to join together for this journey, some coming from Pennsylvania and still others from Virginia, Ohio and Indiana. Stories were told of families losing everything in the Great War between the states and this was their chance to start over. Others were going for the adventure or to acquire land in the great territory of Oregon.

Mr. Svoboda, the elderly gentleman, brought out a fiddle and began playing, causing everyone to clap and tap their feet in time to the music.

Once again Rebecca noticed Thomas Peters boldly watching her across the dancing flames. She would glance his way, but did not hold his gaze. Once when she looked back, he smiled at her.

The following morning everyone was up before dawn, hitching the braying and bellowing animals to the wagons.

Their scout, a Mr. Spafford, who had once been a trader in the West, went on ahead to search out the best stream crossings and further on, where they would camp for the night.

Mr. Edmonds called out the order, and the wagons once again formed into one long line and plodded along the trail.

Because the day dawned sunny with clear blue skies, many of the travelers chose to walk along rather than ride in the jolting, crowded wagons. Only the very youngest who were too small to keep up stayed inside.

They passed through meadows abundant with spring wild flowers, and crossed a few small streams. Rebecca had taken off her shoes and socks, wading through with her skirts held high, the icy water numbing her feet.

While they stopped for lunch, Rebecca went to the nearby stream to sit in the long grass and watch the small birds that flitted around in the nearby bushes. Kate ran around from wagon to wagon, her bonnet hanging down her back, her braids flying out behind her.

Rebecca watched her antics and shook her head. How silly she is, she said aloud.

Who’s silly? someone asked behind her.

She looked up to see who had spoken, and saw Thomas standing over her. She felt her face turn red and her heart skip a beat.

My sister, Kate, she answered. She’s so excited to be on this journey.

Thomas sat next to her in the grass and Rebecca thought she would pass out.

Aren’t you excited? Thomas asked, picking a blade of grass and putting one end in his mouth.

Rebecca glanced over at him, noticing how the breeze blew his blonde hair over his forehead, and that his eyes were a beautiful blue. I never wanted to come, she finally answered. I loved my little town and my friends there. It was hard for me to leave.

For the first time since sitting next to her, Thomas turned to look at her. He saw the sadness in her green eyes. He reached out and tentatively took her hand. I know it’s hard. I left friends behind, too. But I believe it will be even better where we’re going, and you’ll make new friends. You’ll see, it’ll be wonderful. And then he smiled at her, and Rebecca fell madly in love for the first time.

He stood up, letting go of her hand. I’ve got to go help my Pa now, he said. We’re about ready to move out again, but I’ll see you later; that is, if it’s alright with you.

Yes, of course, she said a little too quickly. She felt embarrassed and lowered her eyes.

When he had gone, she looked at her hand that he had been holding to see if it was different. It looked the same, but she didn’t feel the same. Thomas, she whispered to herself. I think I love you.

Kate suddenly appeared in front of her, pulling her out of her reverie. Papa says to come back now, she told her.

Rebecca got to her feet and began following her sister back to the wagons. Kate, do you think I’m pretty? she asked.

I’ve never really thought about it, Kate answered as she skipped along.

Well, think about it. Am I pretty?

I suppose you are, Kate answered.

You suppose. What does that mean?

It just means you’re not the ugliest, but you’re not the prettiest either.

That doesn’t tell me much of anything, Rebecca said, exasperated.

What do you expect? Kate said, making a face at her. You’re just my sister.

Rebecca stomped her foot. Honestly, Kate, you’d think you’d be able to tell if a person were pretty or not even if she is your sister!

Rebecca! Kate! they heard their father calling. Get back to the wagon, now!

The train traveled on, covering fifteen, sometimes twenty miles a day. They passed through meadows abundant with wild flowers, woodlands resplendent with ferns and wildlife. They crossed icy streams and waded through thigh high grasses.

Most times, Rebecca and Kate walked alongside with all the others. In spite of herself, Rebecca was enjoying the countryside. Spring was a fragrance in the air. The sun felt warm on her back, and it was dazzling to the eye.

Many of the men and older boys rode their horses, Thomas being among them, but occasionally he would walk with Rebecca, holding her hand when he thought no one else was looking. Whenever he did, she would feel giddy, and just knew she surely was in love.

In the evenings the wagons would circle up; the livestock tethered out to graze. It was a time to relax, to talk about the day’s journey and to sing songs. The women did mending and tended to the small children while the men repaired harnesses or wagon wheels.

Mr. Edmonds announced that they were nearing the Illinois border and would be crossing the great Mississippi River. Upon crossing they would be in the burgeoning city of St. Louis, Missouri.

One evening after it had grown dark, and everyone was sitting around the central fire, talking about the upcoming crossing, Rebecca noticed Thomas gesturing to her from outside the circle of wagons. She got up from her seat on the ground, and walked over to where he stood. She glanced behind her to see if anyone had noticed her disappearance, but no one had. Her father had gone to feed the livestock and her mother was sharing a recipe with another woman.

Thomas smiled and greeted her. She responded in kind, a warmth spreading over her as it always did when she was near him. She knew she was really too young to have a beau, but if she could, she knew it would be Thomas.

He was holding a twig in his hands, fidgeting with it. He walked behind the wagon where no one from the fire could see him and Rebecca followed. He leaned his back against the broad boards of the wagon bed, slouching enough that his eyes were on the same level as hers.

Are you excited about seeing St. Louis? he asked her.

I guess so, she answered, not wanting to dislike anything he was interested in.

I think it must be a wonderful place, from what I’ve heard, he told her. It’s a very large city where all the fur traders from the western territories go to sell their furs. There are even Indians there. I’ve never seen an Indian before.

Indians in St. Louis? I thought they were all very wild and killed white people.

Oh, some do, Thomas told her confidently. The ones on the warpath do, but the ones in St. Louis aren’t on the warpath.

I’m glad to hear that, she said bashfully. They frighten me, even though I’ve never seen one either. I’ve heard how terrible they are.

Thomas dropped the twig he had been toying with and took both of her hands in his own, pulling her closer. You don’t have to be afraid, he said quietly, looking into her eyes. I’ll be there to watch over you.

You will? Her heart was racing being so close to him.

Of course I will, he answered stepping even closer I think you’re so beautiful, Rebecca, he whispered.

You do? She knew she was talking foolishly, but she could not think of words, only of Thomas holding her hands and looking into her eyes.

Yes, Rebecca, and I think I’m falling in love with you, he said, his mouth only inches from hers.

Oh, Thomas, she whispered back, her breath coming in little gasps as if she would faint. She knew he was being terribly bold, but right then she didn’t care.

Please come walk with me in the woods, he said pulling on her hand.

She hesitated, unsure. I don’t know. I’m not supposed to leave the wagon circle.

Please Rebecca, for just a few minutes. He touched her cheek and then her mouth. I’ll bring you back directly.

Alright, she finally consented, but only for a few minutes. She felt as though she had no will of her own, as if Thomas had cast a spell over her.

Thomas looked around to see if anyone was watching them and then, still holding her hand, slipped away into the trees. As they walked their silence suddenly seemed awkward, but they stopped only far enough to be able to see the glow from the large fire. It was dark in the woods and they dared not go too far.

Thomas suddenly pulled her into his arms, holding her close to his body. She could feel him trembling. I meant what I said, he whispered. I’m falling in love with you.

And I think I love you, too, she whispered back. I’ve never felt this way before. Her heart was pounding madly, and she felt his breath on her cheek.

And then he was kissing her, a sweet kiss full on her mouth, and she kissed him back in response. He kissed her again, this time more passionately, more forcefully and his trembling became more intense.

Her own body responded, tingling, excited. She never knew kissing could feel this way, so wonderful. She knew now, surely she loved him. She wanted him to kiss her again, but she could hear her mother calling to her.

I have to go back, she said pulling herself away from him.

Please stay just a few more minutes, he urged, holding on to her hand.

No, I have to go, she said, fearing the wrath of her father more than she desired to stay with Thomas.

He acquiesced, leading her through the trees until they reached the edge of the woods. I’ll stay here and follow later, he told her, so they won’t know we were together. And then he kissed her one last time.

She walked back to her wagon where she found her mother waiting for her. Where have you been? she asked her. I’ve been worried. You didn’t tell anyone where you were going.

Using the facilities, she answered quickly.

You should take someone with you when you go. There are dangers out there, her mother warned.

Yes, Mother, she answered obediently, but all she could think of was Thomas’s kisses. As she tried to sleep, crowded into the small space next to Kate, all she could think about was Thomas, and knew how it had felt to be kissed by him.

In the morning there was an air of excitement in the camp. It wouldn’t be long and they would reach the great Mississippi. Everything was packed into the wagons, the teams hitched into their traces, and soon they were on their way once more. Rebecca only had a small glimpse of Thomas as he saddled his horse, but there was no time to speak to him.

They had traveled several hours into the late morning, when tragedy struck their numbers. Several of the young men riding horses, passed through a beautiful meadow of wildflowers and long grasses, but danger lurked there, and when a large rattlesnake raised its diamond patterned head, young Allen Drake’s horse shied and reared, throwing Allen to the ground. Swiftly and with deadly accuracy, the snake struck the boy in the throat. It was only a few moments before he died. He was sixteen and his mother inconsolable, holding the boy in her arms and crying hysterically.

They stopped travel for several hours to bury the young man near a sparkling creek bed. Rebecca watched the grieving family, mother, father, and three younger siblings as they cried, and she wondered what it must be like to lose a child. She felt sad for them, but couldn’t even imagine their pain.

They continued on, a pall now hanging over the families, each thinking how fragile life can be, and praying their own children remained safe.

Rebecca walked alongside the wagon, lost in her own thoughts, when she felt a pebble in her shoe. When she stopped to remove it, she found herself several wagons behind. She looked up at the driver and saw the young single woman named Miss Adams. She was very curious about why she would be traveling alone. There had been a lot of whispering about her among the adults, but she had not been able to find out what it was about.

Hey honey, you wanna ride for spell? Miss Adams asked her from her perch on the buckboard.

Rebecca looked ahead to her own wagon, and since no one had noticed her absence, she readily accepted.

Miss Adams halted her four dray horses while Rebecca climbed up next to her. When she had settled on the seat, Miss Adams clucked her tongue and slapped the reins to get the horses going again.

Hi honey, Miss Adams greeted. Your name’s Rebecca, ain’t it?

Yes, that’s right, Rebecca answered, surprised she knew her name. And you’re Miss Adams.

Gabriella, call me Gabriella, she told her smiling. How’s that for a name? It’s my real name. My Mama give it to me. She said when I was born, I looked just like an angel, so she give me an angel’s name. I get teased about it sometimes, but I don’t mind.

Rebecca suddenly felt uncomfortable, knowing her father probably wouldn’t approve of her riding on this woman’s wagon.

How old are you, Rebecca? Gabriella asked her.

Fifteen, ma’am, she answered.

Oh honey, call me Gabriella. I was just startin’ out then. Fifteen’s young and I was still green about the gills. Learned things real quick though, had to.

Rebecca glanced at Gabriella. She was a very pretty young woman, she thought, reddish blonde hair, blue eyes and smooth high cheekbones. But there was a hardness about her, a maturity beyond her years. Where had she started out, and what was it she had had to learn?

I’m twenty-five now, Gabriella continued. Never been married. I guess it’s just my lot in life. But, I’m hopin’ to start over out West. Get me some land, and who knows, mebbe even a husband. She laughed and then was silent.

Where’s your family goin’, Becky? Gabriella said startling her. No one had ever called her Becky before. She rather liked it.

Pa says we’ll probably settle in Nebraska, she told her.

Not goin’ on to Oregon? Gabriella said clucking to the horses.

Pa’s going to start a church for the heathen Indians.

Gabriella chuckled. Don’t that beat all. She glanced over at Rebecca, and noticed she looked perplexed.

It’s just me and preachers ain’t got along very well, she explained to Rebecca.

Oh, my Pa’s not a preacher, she told Gabriella. He had a dream that the Lord told him to go to the western territories and start a church for the unsaved.

Gabriella was silent for a moment as if contemplating what Rebecca had told her. You didn’t want to come out here, did you? she asked quietly.

Rebecca was surprised. How did you know that?

It ain’t been that long ago I was your age, she said putting one foot up on the board rail in front of her. "I remember how big changes are hard on ya; havin’ to leave friends and all.

Did you have a beau at home?" she boldly asked.

A…oh, no, no, she told her, but she was now thinking of Thomas. I didn’t have a beau, but I miss my home, my friends, and one in particular, my friend, Amy. I miss her the most.

I bet you do, honey. Friends is very important. She said it very wistfully.

Miss Gabriella, why are you going West? Rebecca asked her. Aren’t you afraid to be alone? You know, with the savages and all.

Gabriella hesitated, weighing her words before answering. "I’m goin’ west to start over, get a new beginning. My life so far, well, it ain’t been what I would’ve wanted; made some bad choices. So I thought I’d like to go someplace where nobody knows me, mebbe git me a little store selling hats or dresses or something. I’ve got a real flair for fashion ya know.

As far as being scared, sure I’m that sometimes. I know there’s dangers out there, Injuns, wild animals, but I weighed one’st agin the other, and I decided to take my chances."

Rebecca admired her courage. She didn’t know if she could be that brave.

She was startled when her father suddenly appeared next to the wagon riding his horse. Rebecca Wainwright, get back to your own wagon, right now! he told her.

He looked extremely angry, and Rebecca felt her stomach lurch with fear. Yes, sir, she answered him, climbing down without waiting for the wagon to stop. Miss Adams said good-bye and she did likewise, but she hurried on without looking back.

She nearly ran up the line of wagons, her father following closely behind. She could feel his cold, steel gray eyes boring into her back. She knew his mouth would be set into a hard line, his jaw muscles tight.

She knew he was displeased with her for some reason and she felt as if she might cry. She didn’t know why her father was so angry with her. What would he do? Why was it she always seemed to displease him?

As soon as they had reached their own wagon, her father ordered her inside. She climbed onto the back and over the rear board. He then dismounted and tied the horse to the feed box, and climbed in himself. Rebecca could see her mother sitting on the front buckboard driving the oxen. Kate sat next to her, turning to look back at her older sister.

Rebecca sat on one of the trunks, her hands shaking with apprehension. What would he say to her? What had she done wrong? She didn’t think her father would strike her, but his words could be more wounding than any physical beating.

He sat facing her, his face twisted with anger. She hated being afraid of him, and she hated him for making her afraid.

Rebecca Wainwright, he said, his voice low, trembling with suppressed emotion, I never, ever want to see you speaking with that woman again.

Yes, sir, she replied meekly.

I thought I had taught you better than to associate with that type of woman, he continued. I’m extremely disappointed in you.

But, I don’t understand, Papa, Rebecca said quietly, What’s wrong with Miss Adams?

You can’t guess why she might be traveling alone, why some of the single sinful men have approached her? Josiah asked.

No, Papa.

Rebecca, sometimes I think you have absolutely no sense, that you have not been taught about the evil of this world, he said in exasperation. "She’s one of those women!"

Rebecca was still confused. What women, Papa?

Rebecca! he yelled. Do I have to spell it out for you? She is a woman of sin, a harlot!

Rebecca’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open.

Yes, her father continued, because of her sinful ways, the good people of her town threw her out, told her she could never show her face there again. Now here she is on this wagon train corrupting wherever she goes.

She seemed so nice, Rebecca commented, thinking how friendly she had been, so understanding.

That woman is of the devil, his look of hatred directed at her. She is a heathen, and you are to stay away from her. Do you understand?

Yes, Papa, she replied meekly.

Do you understand?! he said more emphatically.

Yes, yes, she repeated.

If I ever see you talking with her again, I will be forced to punish you severely, he told her. "For now, you will study your Bible and reflect.

We have about forty-five minutes before we arrive at the Mississippi River and the crossing. Once we are the other side we will be in St. Louis. It is a large city, but there is a great deal of sin there. Many trappers congregate there and most are drunkards and gamblers who have never known the Lord. There are also many women like…like Miss Adams. At no time are you to stray from this wagon. Have I made myself clear?"

Yes, Papa, Rebecca said quietly, her eyes downcast.

And I am putting you in charge of taking care of your sister, he continued. Your mother and I will be busy making arrangements for the crossing.

Yes, Papa, she repeated once more.

You are to stay in the wagon until we get to the river. You may use that time to study and think about what I’ve told you regarding Miss Adams. Josiah climbed out the back of the wagon, remounted Timothy, and rode to the front of the train.

As soon as he was out of sight, the tears sprang to Rebecca’s eyes. Yes, Papa. Yes, Papa, she mimicked. Why is it I can never do anything right? she cried. Miss Adams seemed so nice. How was I to know she was a…one of them? The tears flowed freely now, as she felt sorry for herself.

I really hate all of this, she sobbed. Why did we have to come out here? I never wanted to go to Nebraska, and I miss Amy so much!

She sat at the back of the wagon and looked out, feeling as if everything she cared about kept getting further and further away. She even fantasized about running away and making her way back to her home town, perhaps relying on the kindness of strangers. She also thought perhaps they might run into some savage Indians, and she would be killed. That would make her father sorry they had come out here.

A horse came galloping up to the rear of their wagon. It was Thomas and he was clearly excited. Rebecca, it’s the Mississippi! We’re comin’ on up to the river. Come with me and we’ll see it together.

Rebecca wiped at her tears and tried to put on a brave face. I’m sorry, Thomas, but I can’t. My Pa said I have to stay in the wagon.

Why? he asked her.

Because I was riding on the wagon with Miss Adams. I didn’t know she was a…a..

Oh, Thomas said. I knew she was, but she ain’t anymore. She’s startin’ a new life out West.

Rebecca nodded. That’s what she told me, too. I thought she was very nice, but my Pa was very angry.

I’m sorry, too, Thomas told her. I was hoping to see the Mississippi with you.

So was I, she said, the tears threatening to come again. She was so disappointed to miss this chance to be with Thomas. He was the only good thing that had happened to her since leaving home.

I have to go, he said. I hope I’ll see you later. He kicked his horse in the sides and it leapt ahead to join the others.

The excitement running through the train was palpable as they neared the river. Rebecca climbed over the trunks and beds to come out on the front buckboard with Kate and her mother who was driving the team.

Can you see the river, Mother? Rebecca asked.

Yes, look out there, Ana said, pointing out in the distance.

Rebecca looked ahead, and saw the great river stretching out before them for miles and miles. It was dark and surging and she could not see the other side. She wondered how they would cross such a great river. They had forded a few streams and even a couple of rivers such as the Kaskaskia, but nothing as massive as the Mississippi.

They arrived at the bank of the river where a large wharf had been built. Surrounding the area were several low buildings, clapboard sided with tin roofs, where the two families lived that made their living ferrying people and supplies across the river to St. Louis.

Josiah, along with the other men on the train, went to pay their money and make the arrangements for the crossing.

Kate and Rebecca sat next to their mother on the wagon seat and looked out at the wide river. Next to the wharf were two large steam barges capable of carrying several wagons at one

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