Preacher and the Mountain Caesar

Preacher and the Mountain Caesar by William W. Johnstone Read Free Book Online

Book: Preacher and the Mountain Caesar by William W. Johnstone Read Free Book Online
Authors: William W. Johnstone
shivered so violently, they appeared to be caught in some sort of seizure. Once secure inside the cabin, he poured them cups of coffee and urged them to drink. Their coats were threadbare, hardly more than rags. Terrance had strips of cloth wrapped around his feet instead of boots or shoes.
    Recalling a pair of moccasins in his kit, Preacher rose and turned to both shaking youngsters. “Now, you strip outta them clothes, down to your long johns, and get close to the fire.”
    Victoria flushed a deep red. “We ain’t got no long johns, not any kind of underclothes.”
    â€œWell, then, wrap up in blankets and skin outta your clothes. They need to be warmed and dried. For you, boy, I got a pair of moccasins. They’s a tad mite too small for me, an’ I figger you’ll be able to swim in ’em. But, they’re rabbit-fur-lined and a lot warmer than those rags.”
    Terrance lowered long, blond lashes over wide, pale blue eyes. “I’d be obliged, mister.”
    â€œCall me Preacher. Ev’ryone else does.”
    Terrance snapped his head upward at that. For all his furtive, rodentlike manner, he stared wide-eyed now at Preacher. “Gosh. You’re famous.”
    It became Preacher’s turn to blush. “Some fool folks try to make it that way. But, I was alus just tryin’ to do my job as I saw fit. Let me git them moccasins, an’ then I’ll rustle you up some grub.”
    He turned away to do as he had promised. The fire’s warmth, the food, and hot coffee did their job. The children became more animated. When Preacher considered them past the point of desperation, and relaxed enough to answer sensibly, he opened a little inquiry into their background.
    â€œI know you said you were Terrance and Victoria. Only, what’s your last name?”
    Terrance gave him that now-familiar ferret stare. “Are you a real preacher? A Bible-thumper?”
    â€œNope. I reckon I’m about as far away from that sort as a man can get. Though I do consider myself on good speakin’ terms with the Almighty.”
    â€œWhat’s your name, then?” Terrance challenged.
    Preacher hesitated a moment. “Arthur’s m’given name.”
    â€œWhat’s your family name?” the boy persisted.
    The mountain man puzzled over that a while. “Well, by dang, if I don’t think I’ve plumb forgot it. Folks have called me Preacher for so long, it’s sort of stuck.”
    Terrance brightened. “Then, I reckon that’s the case with us. We don’t know what our family name is ... or even if we’ve got one.” He gave Preacher a “so there” look.
    â€œI’ll buy that. Now, tell me, how come you were out in that tempest?”
    â€œThat what?” Victoria asked, puzzlement on her wide, clear face.
    â€œHow’d you come to be out in that blizzard?’
    Terrance took up the answers. “We’ve been wandering around for days—weeks now. Those we were travelin’ with got lost in the woods. They stumbled around, and the food got real short,” the boy continued, his expression one of far-off construction. “When they runned clean out, they abandoned us. Just dropped us off in a canyon one day.”
    Preacher scowled. That didn’t ring true. “Who were these folks?”
    Terrance scrunched his high, smooth brow. “Some real mean fellers. They—they stole us from our home far, far away.”
    This had begun to sound to Preacher like one of those melodramas in one of the Penny Dreadfuls. “An’ I suppose they made you do all sorts of awful things?”
    â€œYe—yes, sir,” Terrance acknowledged.
    Preacher’s flinty eyes bore into the boy. “Like what?”
    Terrance flinched. “No—nothin’ below the belt. Me an’ Vickie wouldn’t allow that.”
    â€œIf they were that mean, what choice would you have?” Preacher

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