~ CHAPTER 1 ~
Buck along with JD and Josiah spent a lot of time with the orphans in the church. Mary stopped by to bring the children some soup and bread a few of the women got together to make. As Buck took the pot of soup from Mary, a locket fell from his pocket.
"What's this," Mary asked picking up the locket.
"Um it's um my mother's," Buck nervously stuttered.
"That's sweet, Buck; is there a picture?" she asked opening the locket.
"It's a picture of her an' me when I was little," he replied embarrassed.
"How cute. You were a cute little boy."
"Yeah, well uh thanks; can I have it back, now?"
"Oh, sure; here you go," she replied handing it to him as he held the pot with his other hand.
"I'll get the children set up to eat the soup," Buck said as he darted off in the direction of the children.
Mary watched and smiled. Mary left the church after watching Buck deliver the last bowl of soup with a piece of bread. She wondered if Chris knew Buck carried the locket because Buck didn't seem to talk about his mother that much, at least to her. She thought about it while she watched him. She decided not to say anything, at least not yet.
Back in the church, a little a girl named Jenny sat by herself. Buck had noticed her when he dished out the soup and bread. No one else seemed to be paying her any mind. He decided to approach her and invite her to join the others.
"Hi, there," Buck greeted.
"Hi," she said shyly.
"My name's Buck," he said kneeling down on one knee to be more on her level.
"I know; my name's Jenny," she answered without looking up.
"Why are you sitting here all by yourself?"
"Can I sit here?"
Buck sat beside Jenny.
"Why don't you join the others?"
"No. I can't"
"OK well, you wanna talk to me, then?"
"How old are ya?"
"Seven, huh? How long you been at St. Nicholas' Orphanage?"
"Little more than year. Mama got sick. She taught me to play the harmonica. She use to play it for me when I had to go to sleep."
"Where's your daddy?"
"He left shortly after Mama died. He told me it'd be OK cuz the folks at St. Nicholas' would take care of me."
"Have you written a letter to Santa, yet?" Buck asked trying to get off the sad subject.
"Cuz, he didn't bring me what I asked for last year."
"What did you ask for?"
"Mama to be well."
"Well, he can't make people well. God makes people well."
"Why didn't God make Mama well?"
"Sometimes He feels it's better to bring a person to Heaven."
"Why?" she asked.
"Well, I'm sure your mama was feeling pretty bad. Maybe she was in pain and suffering a great deal. When that happens, God decides He wants to end their pain and suffering; so, He takes them to live with Him."
"You think Mama's in Heaven?"
"I'm sure she is. She's probably lookin' over you right now. I bet she'd want you to have a nice Christmas even though she can't be here with you." Buck told her.
"Do you think so?"
"I'm sure of it. Did she have you write to Santa before she died?"
"Well, I'm sure she would want you to still do that for her."
"Well I guess I could, for her."
" And what would your mama say to you if she saw you the way you are right now?" he asked.
"Mama would tell me, 'Jenny, you stop that poutin'.'" she answered with tears coming to her eyes. "Then, she'd tell me, 'why don't you play us a song on the harmonica'." She explained.
"She had you play a song; so, you'd cheer up?"
"So what would you like for Christmas? I can tell Santa, and see if he can bring it for you."
"A harmonica to play when I think of Mama."
"OK, I'll talk to him."
"You know Santa?" her eyes began to fill with wonderment.
"Of course, all adults know Santa." Buck winked at the little girl.
"Cuz sometimes we have to help him out."
"Santa needs help?"
"Everyone needs help sometime." Buck shrugged his shoulders.
"Thank you, Buck!" she exclaimed grabbing him around the neck and squeezing him tight.
Buck gave the little girl a great big hug in return. He took her by the hand and led her to the other children, who had all finished eating by now. JD welcomed Jenny into the group of children he was reading to. Buck left the church after leaving Jenny in JD's care for the duration of JD's story.
Buck walked aimlessly about town. He wondered how he was going to follow through on the promise he made to little Jenny. While he was walking toward The Clarion's office, Buck met up with Mary again.
"Hi, Mary," Buck greeted.
"Hi, Buck," Mary returned the greeting.
"All the Christmas preparations going OK?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact. By the way, Buck, you wouldn't happen to have seen Chris would you?"
"Well, I haven't seen him all morning."
"I'll keep an eye out for him, and tell him you're looking for him."
"OK, thanks, Buck."
Mary and Buck went their separate ways.
~ CHAPTER 2 ~
Buck started searching for a harmonica to give to Jenny. He checked with Mrs. Potter at the general store.
"Y'all wouldn't happen to have a harmonica, would you?"
"Hang on, Buck, I'll check."
She checked and returned to Buck.
"No, Buck, can't help you. We had a few, but folks just been buying them up. You know, we've been having a problem keeping them things in stock since you boys came to town."
"Oh, why's that?"
"Seems the kids have taken a fancy to Vin's and want one of their own."
"Hmmm. Well, I'll just keep on checkin' around. Thanks."
Buck left and headed to the hardware store. He got basically the same response. Everyone was sold out. He wasn't about to give up though. Buck Wilmington gave his word and to a child. He wasn't about to let Jenny down. She had already had enough let downs to last a lifetime. It was bad enough she had no parents; Buck wasn't about to let her miss out on Christmas, too.
Buck headed out to the livery stable and saddled up his horse. No one stopped to ask where he was going, and he didn't have time to tell. He rode out of Four Corners with hopes of returning with his special gift for Jenny.
Buck rode for a while before entering a little town not too far away from Four Corners. He rode up to the general store and dismounted. He tethered his horse and walked inside.
"Sir," he greeted the clerk.
"Good day, Sir," the clerk greeted.
"I'm looking for a harmonica. Do y'all have one?" he asked.
"I'm sorry, we don't. It's Christmas Eve."
"I know, and I promised a little girl."
"I am sorry," he apologized again.
Buck left the little town. He rode again for some time. Again, he met the same response. No one had a harmonica. He kept riding and stopping in every small town he came to. No one within a day's ride of Four Corners seemed to have a harmonica.
Finally, in the town of Red Fork, he found a shopkeeper that had a brand new harmonica. Much to Buck's chagrin, it was beyond his means. Buck thought about it for a moment. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out the locket that had fallen out in front of Mary.
"How 'bout this? Would you take this for it?" Buck asked.
The man looked at the locket.
"I'm sorry, sir, it looks mighty fine, but we don't take trade or used lockets."
"Do you know anyone who might wanna buy it here?"
"No, sir, can't say that I do."
Buck placed the locket back in his pocket. With his head lowered, he walked out and back to his horse. Buck started riding back to Four Corners. Defeated, or so he thought. On the way back, he remembered being told that everyone wanted in Four Corners wanted a harmonica because of Vin's. Upon arriving back in Four Corners, he searched for Vin. He couldn't find him. What was he gonna do? Buck walked by Vin's wagon while searching for him. Suddenly, a thought crossed his mind: maybe Vin left it in the wagon. No, he couldn't just take it, that would be stealing and from a friend, no less. Vin would never trust him again. But what could Buck do? He promised Jenny. Buck decided, after Christmas, he'd tell Vin the story of what happened. He figured Vin would understand him being practically an orphan himself. Buck looked around to make sure no one was looking and entered the wagon. When he peeked out to make sure no one was around, he placed the harmonica in his pocket. Before exiting the wagon, Buck decided to leave Vin an IOU note. He quickly jotted it down on a piece of paper and placed it where the harmonica once lay. He, then, emerged from the wagon and left hastily.
Buck returned to the church to see Jenny.
"Jenny," he called to her.
"Buck," Jenny greeted.
"I talked to Santa about the harmonica."
"Did he say I could have one?"
"He asked me to give this one to you," Buck said holding out the musical piece.
"Oh, Buck, thank you!" the girl excitedly offered her gratitude with a big hug.
Jenny immediately went to playing the piece. She played very well. Buck watched, happy with the good deed he had done.
~ CHAPTER 3 ~
Buck saw Vin talking to Mary and Chris. He could tell Vin was very upset. In his mind, he knew it had to be about the harmonica missing. When Vin left, Buck approached Chris and Mary.
"Chris, you're back! What happened to your head?"
'Aw, it's nothing; I was just out ridin'."
"Oh. What's the matter with Vin; he seems upset about something."
"Someone stole his harmonica and left him an IOU note," Mary answered.
"Does he know who?" Buck asked hoping he wasn't too obvious.
"No, but he's not happy about it. I'd hate to be the one who did when he catches up to 'em," Chris replied.
"Yeah, so would I. He looks real mad," Buck responded. "Well, nice to see you back and OK, Chris. I'll catch y'all later."
"See ya, Buck," Chris said.
How was Buck going to fix this? He sat in the tavern, had a drink and thought about it. He was nervous that everyone knew what he had done.
"That's it! That's it! That's what I'll do," he said to himself as he suddenly thought of an idea and leapt to his feet.
Buck visited a few shops in town. After several tries, he finally found what he was looking for. He reached deep into his pocket, again. He pulled out the locket.
"How much can I get for this?" he asked.
The clerk looked it over and made an offer. Buck didn't care how much as long as it was more than the harmonica he saw earlier. They agreed on a price, and Buck removed the picture of him and his mother. He took the cash and stuffed it in his pocket. Buck, then, mounted his horse and once again rode out of town. It wasn't long before he reached Red Fork.
Night had fallen, and the shop was closed. He searched the town, and finally, he asked the sheriff for the gentleman who ran the store. The sheriff escorted him to Mr. Samuels' house. The sheriff knocked on the door.
"Yes?" Mr. Samuels answered the door.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Jim, but this gentleman says he visited you earlier at your store? He seems urgent about something." the sheriff apologized.
"Yes, what can I do for you?" he asked Buck.
"I found someone to buy the locket. Do you still have the harmonica?" Buck questioned.
"A harmonica?" the sheriff asked.
"Yes, and I do still have it. It must be a pretty important gift." Jim Samuels replied.
"It is," Buck answered.
"OK, wait here. I'll get my horse. We can go to the store and get it."
Buck and Jim Samuels rode to the store. Jim gave Buck the harmonica, and Buck paid him. Buck quickly rode back to Four Corners. The harmonica was safe in his pocket.
When Buck arrived in Four Corners, he walked by Vin's wagon. No one around as far as he could see. He decided to check around. He looked in on the church. The children were all asleep. Josiah was keeping an eye on them.
"That was nice of you to give Jenny the harmonica," Josiah whispered.
"Yeah, I figured she needed something to brighten her holiday," Buck answered quietly.
"It was nice of you," Josiah repeated.
Buck left the church in search of the others. He found Mary, Chris and JD talking outside the jail.
"Where's Nathan, Vin and Ezra?" he asked.
"Nathan's at the Wells' delivering a baby," Mary replied.
"A baby?" Buck asked surprised.
"Yes, and I think Vin and Ezra are at the tavern," JD answered.
"Who's having a baby?" Buck questioned.
"A couple that came to Nettie last night," Chris told him.
"Oh. Vin and Ezra are at the tavern?" Buck asked.
"Yes," Chris answered.
"Your welcome," Mary responded.
Buck quickly checked the tavern to make sure Vin and Ezra were both still there. They were. He went down an alley and went the back way to Vin's wagon. He carefully placed the new harmonica where he found the old one. The note he left was gone. He left a new note that read: Sorry for the inconvenience. I wish I could explain. Hope you understand. Merry Christmas!
Buck made a fast escape without being noticed.
Before heading out to Nettie's to check on Nathan, Chris decided to give Mary a Christmas gift. He didn't want to do it in front of anyone; so, he waited until no one was around. He figured he could avoid any eyes and rumors on Christmas Day by giving it to her on Christmas Eve.
"Mary, I'm sorry for taking off earlier." Chris apologized.
"Don't worry about it, Chris."
"I got to thinking. You always go outta your way for us; so, I wanted to show you my appreciation. I picked up a little gift for you. Now, don't start in on me about how I shouldn't have because I didn't spend a lot I didn't have a lot to spend. I just thought it's be a nice gesture."
"Chris, You really didn't have to do this," she told him as she opened the box.
Mary's surprised expression wasn't the surprised look Chris had expected though.
"I figured you could have a picture done of Billy and put it in it," Chris told her.
"Chris, do you know who this belongs to?"
"No, I just bought it today."
"It's Buck's. He dropped it this morning at the church. I picked it up and gave it back to him. He said it belonged to his mother. He opened it and showed me a picture of his mother and him when he was young."
"Why would he sell it?"
"I don't know, but I have an idea. We'll have to ask him in the morning since it's so late now. I have to get back to Billy. I promised the judge I'd be back before now."
"OK, we'll talk to him tomorrow morning."
"By the way, has he ever told you anything about his parents?" Mary questioned.
"Uhhh well, nothing I can probably share right now without getting his consent to speak of to anyone." he answered.
"Oh. Well, I guess I should be getting home then."
Chris walked Mary home, and then, he went to get his horse. He met up with Buck and Vin; they, then, rode out to Nettie's to check on Nathan and drop off a few things. Chris said nothing about the locket to Buck the entire way.
~ CHAPTER 4 ~
Buck awoke early on Christmas morning. He saw Vin talking to Ezra outside the tavern. Keeping an eye on them, Buck searched for Chris. He wanted to know if Vin had talked to Chris about the new harmonica.
"Chris," Buck shouted when he saw him with Mary and Billy.
"Yeah," Chris answered as he walked toward him.
"Have you talked to Vin this morning?"
"Oh, I was just wondering."
"Uh-huh. Would you be interested in what we spoke about?"
"Well, I was wondering if he found who took his harmonica."
"No. He did find a new one with a note. I bet the note was written by the owner of this," Chris said as he pulled the locket from his pocket.
Buck's eyes widened as his gaze became set on the locket.
"Where'd you get that?"
"I got it as a gift for Mary to show my appreciation for her always being there for us."
"Oh. Did she like it?"
"She told me it was your mother's. It fell from your pocket in the church? You sold it to buy that harmonica; didn't you?"
Buck remained silent, but continued to stare at the locket.
"Buck, you need to tell Vin. I'm sure he'll understand. He'll probably tell you to ask next time, though."
"I just " Buck started.
"Buck, don't tell me. Tell Vin."
Buck and Chris went over to the tavern - the last place Buck saw Vin. Upon approaching, Vin and Ezra were heading their separate ways.
"Hey, Vin!" Buck hollered.
Vin stopped and waited for Buck and Chris to reach him.
"What d'ya want?" Vin asked.
"I'd like to talk to you for a minute," Buck answered.
"You know something about it, Buck?" Vin asked.
"Sort of, yeah."
"Well, there's this little girl, Jenny, at the church. She wanted one so bad. I wanted to help her have a good Christmas. I searched everywhere. The only one I found was in Red Fork and cost more than I had with me. I was gonna ask you, but I couldn't find you. I left you an IOU note. Did you get it?"
"Yeah, I got it."
"That's good. I hoped you wouldn't get that upset, but you did. I figured the only thing I had of value was my mother's locket; so, I sold it. I took the money and went to buy the one harmonica I had found. Then, Chris bought the locket for Mary, and she recognized it. See, I dropped it in the church, and she had picked it up. It was a stupid thing to do, and I'm sorry. I just wanted to give Jenny something to remember her mama. Her mama use to play harmonica with her," Buck explained.
Vin stood quiet for a moment; then, he smiled.
"Buck, why didn't you just ask?"
"I told ya; I couldn't find you."
"Is Jenny happy?" Vin asked Buck.
"She was very happy. She started playing it right away," Buck replied.
"Well, thats the only thing that really matters."
"Thanks, Vin," Buck responded offering his hand in friendship.
"Merry Christmas, Buck!" Vin said as he shook Buck's hand.
"Merry Christmas, Vin!" he returned the wish of a good holiday.
Tale Five: A Chrismas Reunion
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