View Full Version : Return to Sender - Chapter 4

06-22-2012, 08:36 AM
Chapter 4

For the next week, I familiarized Dover with the lay of the land. On one of our hunting outings, I took him by the cave in which we had lived during our first year in Colorado. Should an emergency arise, it was important that he know this cave was available as a shelter. It had served us well before we completed building our cabin.
Never had I trusted a single place to be a safeguard for essential things like food and weapons. As we went around the area, I took Dover to each of the various places I had cached supplies of dried food, clothing, and ammunition. Should something happen to the cabin, he and my family would not be left without the essentials needed to survive.
The evening before I left, all of us sat in front of the cabin, enjoying the sight and sound of the fast running stream that lay perhaps a hundred yards from the front door. Mariska and I had looked for a very long time before picking this place to build on. There was no doubting the beauty of this setting, but there was much more involved in our decision than just that. The stream in front of the cabin provided easily taken fish, drinking water, and quick transportation out of the mountains in case of an emergency. Because the wildlife came to drink from the stream, it made our hunting efforts more fruitful also. We built the cabin with a good field of fire to the front and the sides. The mountain sat at it's rear door, making attack from that angle difficult at best, and provided protection from the high winds that were sometimes a part of this part of the Rockies.
I was taking advantage of this time to hold both my sons, knowing it would be at best, a long time before I would see them again, if ever. As children will do, eventually both grew restless from being held. Chance took off to play near the woods, and Patrick fell asleep on a blanket by our feet.
Taking Senta and Mariska by the hands, I pointed to the east. "When I leave, I wish for all of you to come with me as far as the Arapaho village. I want to introduce Tadu to Dover, and let him know that Dover will be watching over you while I'm gone. Senta, this will give you an chance to spend a couple of days with your family, Mariska will get a break from the daily routine, and the boys will have other kids to play with for a few days. After I leave, you can all return here when you feel it's time."
I looked at Mariska who was running her fingertips across the forehead of the sleeping Patrick. "I'm surprised you haven't tried to talk me out of doing this."
A sad smile appeared on her face. "Senta and I talked about this. Just as I felt when you left our village to ambush the men that were coming to kill me years ago, I don't want you to go. However, just as I knew then, I know now that you must follow your heart. This is who you are, and we love you for it. Should things go bad, and you not return, you should know that your wives and your sons will always be proud of you."
As I took both Mariska and Senta into my arms, I tried to reassure them both that I would return safe and sound. Still, they knew, just as I knew, one mistake, one unexpected factor, and my bones could end up in Irish soil.
Perhaps sensing that I was wishful of changing the mood, Dover picked this time to speak. "One thing's been puzzling me. I know you can get from here to the east coast by living off the land, but do you have the money for the voyage to Ireland and back?"
"No. As you probably figured, we have very little cash money, and that will stay here in case it's needed here. Still, I have a plan to finance the trip across the Atlantic. Should that fail, there is always a shortage of men to man the ships leaving port. I'll sign on, and eventually I'll make it to Ireland. Hopefully it will not come to that, for it would mean a much longer time before I can return home."
The next morning, we loaded Mariska, Senta, and the boys in the wagon, then Dover and I saddled our horses. After we doubled checked to be sure everything around the cabin was secure, we headed for the Arapaho village over on the banks of the South Platte. When we arrived in the village, the entire population was waiting for us, having been alerted by a warrior returning from the morning hunt.
Tadu stood at the forefront of the gathering of his people. When his eyes caught sight of his daughter, they brightened, and his face broke into a smile. He walked over to me and took my hand. "Welcome. It is always good to see my blood brother, but even more so when he brings my daughter and grandson to visit." Motioning in the direction of the large tipi used by the tribal council, he said, "Come, let us all go into the tipi where we can sit and talk."
After we were all settled in, I looked at Tadu, and began the conversation. "Tadu, my brother. Always my heart is glad when I have the chance to visit the Arapaho people, and my blood brother. However, this time we come with special purpose. As you know, I originally came from another land, far across the great waters. Word has come that a member of my family who protected me, and helped me to escape death, was killed on the orders of the same powerful coward that ordered my death. Honor compels me to return to the land of my youth, and avenge my cousin's death."
Tadu nodded that he understood, as I knew he would. A matter of honor was sacred in every Indian tribe that I knew of. Pointing to Dover, who sat on the other side of my family, I said. "This will mean that I will not return for many moons. Altho we do not share blood, this man, who is called Dover, is as much my brother as you are. I have entrusted him with the protection of my family while I'm gone. We all know that nothing is certain when we go to war. If, I should fail in my task, and die on that far away land, Dover will make sure that my family is well taken care of."
After scanning Dover's face for several seconds, Tadu asked. "This one can be trusted?"
"Yes," I answered. "He is a man of great courage, and his word is good." Then I told him the story of how when I was near death with Malaria, Dover came along and saved Mariska and myself from being killed by a madman. After that, I related the story of how Dover came looking for me after a bear had nearly killed me in Missouri.
"This is good," Tadu answered. Turning to face Dover, he continued. "If you have need of help, you are to come to Tadu. Your request will be the same as one coming from my brother."
For two days we stayed with the Arapaho while I made sure that Dover and Tadu got to know and trust each other. Then, the third morning, I awoke with sadness in my heart, for this was the day that I must leave. After saying my goodbyes, and kissing and hugging my family, it took every bit of strength in me to climb into the saddle, for I desperately did not want to leave them. But,I knew, and they knew, that I could do nothing else but go.
As I followed the banks of the Platte river, I stopped twice and waved at my family who were barely visible in the distance. The third time I stopped, I could no longer see the village. I was alone, and did not know if I would ever see them again or not.