The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home by Lauraine Snelling Read Free Book Online

Book: The Long Way Home by Lauraine Snelling Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lauraine Snelling
Tags: Ebook, book
spoken. A man, clad in a black leather vest over a once white shirt, nodded. The sling holding his right arm gave mute testimony to the tragedy of the night before.
    ‘‘Any news about Indians on the route you want to take?’’
    ‘‘Not that I know of.’’
    ‘‘The land’s so rough even the Indians don’t want it,’’ Jesselynn muttered under her breath. She’d heard someone talking at the fort about how hot the area could get in July and August.Hot weather, no water, steep hills—didn’t add up to her.
    ‘‘So let’s have a show of hands. How many of you are with me on takin’ the shorter route?’’
    Hands raised slowly, as if unsure of the decision, but it looked like about everyone signed on.
    ‘‘And those wantin’ to go the usual route?’’
    Jesselynn shot her hand in the air, followed by those around her. The couple in front raised theirs too.
    ‘‘Well, since we live in a democratic country where majority rules, guess we’ll be takin’ the shortcut, the safe route.’’ The look he shot her made Jesselynn clench her fists. Had she been a man, he’d have taken her comments more seriously, she was sure of it. By the mutterings and stirrings she heard, she wondered if the answer would have been the same had the women been allowed a voice. Not that they couldn’t yet put some pressure on their husbands.
    ‘‘I’ll be around to check on the repairs tonight. If we can leave in the mornin’, so much the better. ’Bout sundown we’ll have a buryin’ service if’n y’all want to come. I asked Mr. Lyons if he would read a few words over the graves.’’
    With that, the meeting broke up, and everyone went back to their chores. Meshach pumped the bellows to heat up the forge again and the sound of his hammer on the anvil rang through the camp.
    Jesselynn headed back to their camp and found the mother of the girl with the broken leg, with a knot on her forehead the size of a pullet’s first egg, waiting at the Highwood wagon. ‘‘Kin you come look on my little girl again? She be awful hot to the touch.’’
    ‘‘Of course. Do you have some willow bark to make tea?
    That will help her fever come down.’’
    The woman shook her head and blinked in obvious pain.
    ‘‘Perhaps the tea will help you too.’’ Jesselynn dug in her medicine box for the packet of dried willow bark.
    ‘‘if’n you say so.’’
    ‘‘How is your husband doing?’’ As she asked her questions, Jesselynn dug through her box for more supplies, but too many of the packets were empty. If only she could have Lucinda search the woods near Twin Oaks and send the medicinal herbs on to her. Fort Bridger was the next fort she could remember, and that was some distance away. Of course she had no way to mail a letter home either, so she might as well not waste her time thinking about it. Surely, many of the same things grew out here, if she only knew where to look.
    She turned to look at the woman, only to find her weaving, her eyes rolling back in her head. Jesselynn caught her just as she collapsed. ‘‘Ophelia, Aunt Agatha, come help.’’
    Together they spread a tarp and laid the woman on it.
    ‘‘What do you think it might be?’’ Agatha straightened and scratched the end of her chin.
    ‘‘That clunk on the head.’’ Jesselynn indicated the swelling. ‘‘She needs to be lying down herself, not running around the camp. She’s the mother of that little girl with the broken leg.’’
    ‘‘ Tsk, tsk , more’s the pity. That baby gets the croup or some such from all that cold rain, and there won’t be nothin’ anyone can do for her.’’
    ‘‘Thank you, Aunt Agatha.’’ Jesselynn shook her head. Agatha did have a morbid streak in her, but this time she could be so right. ‘‘Come along, please. Let’s bring the child back here where we can watch them both.’’ As they made their way past two wagons, one where Meshach was just resetting a wheel he’d fixed, Jesselynn thought

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