“Merciful heavens, Graham, look at Buck’s face. It’s worse than ever!” Margaret cried.
“Mother, you look well,” Buck said and kissed her cheek.
“You look terrible.”
“Well, I was shot.”
“What?” Fred cried in disbelief. “Who shot you?”
“Damn, you were in a shoot-out with Indians?” Fred asked in jealous awe. “You lucky son of a …”
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Buck said.
“Tell that to the girls back home,” Margaret said.
“Mother, there’s more to life than girls,” Buck replied, failing to hide his disappointment.
“And what’s more important, Buck, than girls?” Meg asked, fanning her round face.
Buck coughed. “Well … God, I think.”
The Crenshaws laughed. Graham stopped first. “Seriously, we’re tired and in no mood for jokes. Let’s go to the coach now.”
They moved off, but Buck stood still. Graham turned and stared.
“Father, I hoped you might be pleased,” Buck said.
“Pleased?” Graham mopped his face.
“Yes, when I got shot I met a missionary who told me all about—well, Jesus and such. It’s meant a lot to me.”
“That’s nice, Buckie,” Margaret said. “I suppose a little religion is a good thing. Though you act like we never sent you to Sunday school. Is it my fault you always skipped out?”
“Mother, I didn’t say …” Buck began, but no one listened. They hopped into the waiting coach, complaining of the heat and dirt.
Fred lingered taking Buck aside. “So you forgive me my sins? What’s all this religion rot? I don’t understand the angle you’re playing. I’ve already got you off the hook over Streeter. And that big show for Father was appalling.”
“It was no show, Fred.”
“Oh, I see, you don’t want me stealing your thunder. I’ll play along then. This should be entertaining.”
Buck took a deep breath. His new found faith was nothing on Thankful’s surprises. Maybe they’d overlook the changes in her as much as they had overlooked his.
The family jostled and complained over seating as the coach set out. Graham adjusted his weight and said, “Buck, tell us how you were shot.”
Margaret sighed and dabbed her eyes. “A son of mine shot over a no-good Indian. The savages should be sent from this earth—every last one of them.”
“That’s what the army aims to do, thank God,” Fred said. “Survival of the fittest. I like Darwin.”
“No, Fred, you’re wrong on that count. The army—the men I’ve met here—they just want to keep peace. That Geronimo just makes trouble for the rest of his people. They don’t even like him.”
“What? Who told you that? The savages’ll tell you anything—but you’re still so naive,” Fred said, shaking his head. “I don’t understand it, after all I’ve tried to teach you about people. Don’t bring your sympathetic attitudes back to the academy or it’ll be another hard year for us.”
“If the Indians are so great then why did they shoot you?” Meg asked, her eyes darting out the window at the hidden perils.
“It was my own fault. I was drunk and went after William,” Buck said.
“Weldon?” Fred leaned in, full of interest.
“We were drunk on Father’s spirits—with Lieutenant Fahy too—and things went sour and I was shot, but it was no one’s fault. And as I’ve said, it brought me to … the Lord—God—I mean,” Buck explained. “There was a court-martial proceeding, but everyone felt sorry for Fahy so … well, a note will be sent to school concerning my part in it all.”
“Why sorry for Fahy?” Graham asked.
“Well, I’m not supposed to tell, but I feel I should warn you that Fahy was shot too.”
“In the face?” Margaret asked.
“No! Not in the face, Mama! Gosh, you’re so shallow. Thankful will need your support,” Buck said.
“It’s not Christian to judge Mama,” Fred quipped.
“What’s happened to Lieutenant Fahy?” Graham asked. “A court-martial decision based on sympathy?”
“Thankful wants to tell you about it. I only wanted to prepare you. Thankful is a good girl. Everyone loves her at Fort Grant and they’ve all been very supportive over everything.”
“Everything? What else is there to tell us?” asked Graham.
Margaret waved her fan. “All I can say is I’ll be rightly annoyed to have come across the country if there’s no wedding.”
“Thankful’s convinced Fahy to go forward with it,” Buck said.
“Thankful had to convince him?” Graham asked. “Buck, I hope you weren’t trying to soften me up back there before telling me of a terrible disaster you and your sister have created.”
“No, Father. I’m genuinely happy to see you,” Buck said.
“I don’t like the sound of this Fahy one bit,” Margaret said. “Thankful has brought this all on herself.”
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”
FEATURED IMAGE: The Old Stagecoach of the Plains by Frederic Remington