Disclaimer:All the characters from the "Magnificent Seven" T.V. series are property of Trilogy Entertainment, The Mirisch Group, MGM Worldwide. I repeat this to myself daily. The story is just for entertainment, I want no profit from this story. Katie Harper is a figment of my imagination; no resemblance to any persons living or dead is intended. And if the dead do complain, remember they are not as trustworthy after they've been dead a long time.
The sun was barely up as Buck left Eagle Bend and Buck was happy. He'd found what he needed and got the things that both Josiah and Ezra wanted. Now he would arrive early enough to stop and see Molly before Josiah's Christmas Eve gathering.
So he was completely unprepared for the sneeze that came from the back of his wagon. He pulled his gun and shouted roughly, "Get up real slow or I'll blow your head off."
The tarp slowly lifted and a head with long brown hair emerged. Buck wasn't sure what he expected, but a female, wasn't it.
"Please, don't shoot me, I was hoping you would help me. I saw you in the saloon last night and you treated all the girls with such respect, I decided to trust you."
Buck put his gun away and patted the seat next to him and said, "Come sit up here, and tell me what's wrong."
The girl shook her head, "I'll stay under here, my brother will be searching soon. He wants to sell me to this old man. He said he took care of me after ma died and I owe him. The man killed his three other wives, and my brother doesn't care. He just wants the money." As she said this, tears were running down her face.
Buck handed over his handkerchief and said, "Now, don't you worry anymore about this, little lady. Buck will take care of it. Just make sure you don't sneeze when were approached."
The girl covered herself up again as Buck put the wagon in motion. They had been traveling about an hour when two riders caught up with them and hailed Buck.
"Say, Mister, we're looking for a run away girl."
Buck looked over at the riders with a thoughtful look and asked, "A young lass with long brown hair?"
"Yes, have you seen her?"
"Why, yes sir, this morning heading north on the back of a horse. The rider was a colored man, that's why I remember her."
"Thank you for the help!" The two riders took off north as fast as they could get going.
Buck continued on west toward Four Corners. After he had ridden a short while, he stopped the wagon and checked on his passenger.
"You doing ok?"
"Yes, thank you. I haven't felt this good since before ma died."
"We only have an hour to go, then I can get you on a stage. It's probably best to stay hidden till then."
"Of course," and the girl then smiled at Buck, a smile from the heart.
Buck made good time back to Four Corners and pulled into the livery to off load his cargo. Robbie and Katie were there grooming her horses. Buck filled them in and explained that he wanted to keep her hid till the stage arrived. Katie said, "No problem."
Buck went to check on the stage and didn't have to wait long. The stage arrived early and he went out to greet it with Ezra, as was their custom. Much To Ezra's surprise, his mother was first to step off the stage and managed to include a smile for Ezra as she directed the stagehands with a flurry of orders. An older, well-dressed man also got off the stage and headed toward the hotel. The mailbag was taken by the stage drivers to the telegraph office, where the telegraph operator doubled as the postmaster.
Buck then purchased a stagecoach ticket that would enable the young lady to reach San Francisco. He checked the departure time and returned to the livery to retrieve the young girl. He found her working with Katie, who had her grooming Midnight. Katie looked over to Buck and said, "Nell here, has a fine touch with horses. I gave her a name of a stable in San Francisco that will train her."
Buck gave Katie a grateful look, then turned his attention to Nell, and he walked her to the stage. As the stage gets ready to depart, Buck hands Nell the ticket. "This will get you to San Francisco."
Nell looked up at Buck with tears in her eyes, "You've saved and changed my life in just a few hours, how do I ever thank you?"
Buck almost looked embarrassed, but said, "Just be happy. Now scoot. Merry Christmas, Nell."
She stepped inside the coach and waved as it left. Buck thought a moment to the money spent and figured it really was well spent. He put his hands in his pockets and whistled as he headed to the saloon.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra finished getting his mother settled before he asked, "Well, Mother, what are you doing here?"
"Well, it's Christmas and I wanted to spend it with my favorite son."
"Mother, I'm your only son."
"Sounds better the way I say it."
Ezra still looked puzzled. "Is something amiss in New Orleans?"
"No, son, as hard as it is to believe, everything is fine."
"So you came all this way because...."
Maude looked severely exasperated that she was forced to spell it out. "I will admit that there are times when I realize I'm concerned about where you are and what you are doing. These times also have nothing to do with my life, and if you try to use this as leverage against me, I'll deny it. And don't go and get all mushy on me."
"Mother, Mother, every now and then it won't hurt anyone to admit to a real feeling, and the recipient may even feel grateful." He gave his mother a light hug as he looked into the mirror and realized that for the first time he knew his mother loved him.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah entered the saloon and spotted Chris right away playing cards with Buck. He approached with something in his hand. Buck greeted Josiah warmly, still feeling good about his morning. "Good morning, Josiah, how's all the fixin's for your party?"
"Fine, Buck, just fine."
Buck then asked, "Do you know where Vin went?"
Josiah looked around the saloon before answering, "He went out to get a tree for JD. He's been missing a trimmed tree somethin' awful." He kept his voice low. Buck nodded and looked pleased that his younger friend would get his tree. Josiah then turned his attention to Chris, "This came in today's mail." He handed the envelope to Chris and watched as Chris' face went completely white. Chris then got up without a word and left the saloon. Josiah looked over to Buck questionably.
"That letter was from Sarah's sister. Hope it doesn't put Chris in a tail-spin worse than the holidays already do." Their gazes both followed the direction that Chris took.
+ + + + + + +
Chris himself was thrown by the return address, Sarah's sister. He hadn't realized she knew where he was. He was feeling quite anxious as he fiddled with the envelope. Then figuring there was nothing she could say to him that he hadn't already said to himself, he slit open the envelope and he read:
It took some time to find you, so, I'm getting this to you a lot later then I intended to. Sarah wrote me shortly before she died, and I wanted you to read the letter. You can keep it if you want. When I last heard, you were still grieving, so I hope this will bring you some comfort.
With love, Annie
Chris held the folded paper as he reread what Annie wrote, then he took a deep breath and opened Sarah's last letter. With tears hovering in the back of his eyes, he read:
Adam is riding better than ever, and Buck loves working with him. Adam wants to be just like his father. Chris is so proud he could burst. He just hates to be away. He's leaving tomorrow for Mexico with Buck, to sell some horses.
Annie, I never thought I could be this happy, Chris looks happy too. When I think of how different Chris' life was before, and how much he changed to make our life together work, it makes me love him even more. Whatever comes, I would never change my decision to marry Chris. The time spent with him couldn't be matched by anything else. I should tell Chris when he returns, so I 'll make a special meal and let him know.
Love to Jim and the kids.
Tears were falling unheeded as Chris looked out at the horizon, but not really seeing it. His thoughts were racing, and feelings of love washed over him. He could just hear Sarah talking, and for the first time in over two years he smiled in the remembrance. This holiday just became bearable. He refolded the letters, and pocketed them, then headed back to the saloon with a slight smile on his face.
+ + + + + + +
Vin spied the tree he wanted just up ahead. He dismounted, grabbed the hatchet and started working on the tree. The tree fell and he was securing the tree to the litter when he heard a whimper. He froze, hoping to figure out where the sound came from. He heard it again and followed the cries to a recessed rock, where he discovered a wolf in labor. It was obvious that she was in pain and having trouble with the delivery.
He approached her slowly, talking to her. He hoped his voice was reassuring as he stretched his hand out for her to smell. When his hand remained attached to his arm, he stroked her head and back and checked what stage of the delivery she was in. The cub's leg was showing and Vin knew he had to turn it. He gently reached in and turned the cub around. With the head now showing, the wolf and mother nature took over and the cub was born successfully. Another two followed and mom began washing her new family. Vin smiled and turned to leave just as her mate entered, baring his teeth. But the new mother quickly communicated to her mate that Vin was not a threat and he stood down. Vin slowly backed out the mini cave and made his way back to his horse and tree. Vin couldn't help the grin on his face as he made his way back to Four Corners.
+ + + + + + +
James Robbins left his hotel room and headed over to the saloon. He searched the room for the one man he wished to talk to. He approached the table that Ezra, Chris, Buck and Nathan were playing cards at.
Buck recognized him as the man that got off the stage that Ezra's mother had come in on, and inquired, "Can we help you?"
James nodded and spoke to Nathan, "Mr. Jackson, may I have a word with you?"
Nathan nodded and James indicated that he wish to speak outside. They moved to the table outside the saloon and sat down. The man fidgeted uncomfortably before beginning. "Mr. Jackson, my name is James Robbins, and prior to the war, I was a slave owner."
Nathan shifted and his posture became more defensive. The man raised his hand and gestured with a hold-on movement, "Please, let me finish." Nathan relaxed just a tad, and nodded.
"As I said, I was a slave owner, I was raised into it and never thought much about it until I was in my teens. Then I did question what was being done, but my father took ill, and I had to take over the farm. The slave part of my father's estate was something I never felt comfortable with, but I continued the practice." Robbins bent his head down in shame. "When the war broke out, I was actually relieved that my slaves could escape and at that time I wouldn't be questioned. But that does not excuse me. And I find I can not rest or move on until I apologize. So, Mr. Jackson, that is what I wish to do, apologize. I am moving on to California, and before I leave I wanted to find a Negro and apologize face to face. I am sorry that your people were held in bondage. I am sorry that I was ever a part of it. I know there is no way I can make reprimands for what has gone in the past, but in the future I plan to open schools that all colors might attend. At the last, I was hoping that one Negro might find it in his heart to forgive me." His eyes met Nathan's.
Many an expression crossed Nathan's face as he listened to Robbins speech, and it was a very short time in which to sort out emotions. So, Nathan sat silent for a moment pondering what to say. He knew he could vent anger at all the indignities, all the wrongs and inhuman treatment for the entire slave concept, but he also knew that this particular man didn't start it. He did see that this man might be a better man in the future and offer help to Negros in the way of education, and that decided him.
"Mr. Robbins, where you cannot make up for what has gone past, it does sound that you are willing to change. And with each white man that can change his heart there is hope that more may do so; in that consideration, I will accept your apology."
James Robbins grabbed Nathan's hand and shook it up and down many times, saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." He then grasped it firmly and gave it a firm, final shake and said, " Thank you again and have a happy life." Then he turned and headed back to the hotel.
Nathan stood up, shook his head and went in search of Josiah. He found him in the livery talking to Katie. He had planned to share with Josiah what had just transpired, but the look on Josiah's face altered that. "What's wrong?" he asked, instead.
"Katie said the rider that just left had been crying, and when he left here he took his gun but left his water and hat."
Nathan immediately asked, "You want me to come along?"
Josiah thought a moment, then shook his head, "No, I think just one man happening upon him is best, but thanks." He then put his preacher collar on, mounted his horse and rode after him.
It really didn't take long to find him. The man was still on his horse along side the creek. Josiah approached slowly and asked gently, "Are you lost, brother?"
The man raised his tear-streaked face up at Josiah's words and nodded his head. "Yes, Reverend, but not the way you mean, I know how to get back to town, just don't know if I'm going back."
Josiah nodded, already knowing that, and asked him, "Do you have family?"
The man nodded again, "That's why I'm out here, I want to spare them. I'm dying and I don't want them to incur the cost or to see me decline. I'd planned to die out here, but that's harder to do than I figured." The man hung his head down.
Josiah laid his hand on the man shoulder and said, "That you wanted to spare your family is admirable, but you do them an injustice. They will want to be strong for you and they will want to treasure every last minute with you, that is a better gift to leave them, than the anger or the feelings of being cheated. It takes a strong man to face up to the hardest challenges, and this will be the toughest, indeed. I will help you if you let me."
"Your right, I don't want to leave them with angry thoughts, and I will treasure every minute with then. Thank you Reverend, it must have been a miracle that you happened this way."
Josiah just smiled as they rode back to town together.
+ + + + + + +
It was late afternoon and Buck was relieved to finally see Vin returning. He then rushed to get JD, shouting, "JD, get out here, Vin's got somethin' for ya."
JD brushed off his hands and went out front of Josiah's church, followed by Josiah. Buck watched JD's face as Vin rode in with the tree in the litter and stopped right in front of him. "Merry Christmas, JD." Vin said this with a smile at the wonderment on JD's face.
"Wow, a Christmas tree to decorate, wow, thanks Vin, wow."
Buck, Josiah, Vin and Nathan who joined, them all chuckled at JD's surprise. Ezra and Chris stood outside the saloon smiling fondly at the boy.
JD could hardly contain himself, "I'll get the decorations I've always carried with me," and he ran off towards his rooms.
As JD sat next to the box with the carefully wrapped decorations, he thought of his mother and all the fun they had had together each Christmas, and he missed her. He unwrapped each ornament slowly; lost in a memory each created. Then he came to the bottom of the box and saw one more he didn't remember, he slowly opened the paper and saw a little angel he hadn't seen before. There was a note tied to the back and he carefully opened it up and read:
I knew that when you opened this box again it would be without me. I included this tiny angel, so you would always know that I was watching and loving you. You were the greatest joy in my life son, and I hope you live each day with that joy.
In loving regard, Mom
JD hugged the tiny angel, then put it in the box to take to church so he could decorate the tree.
+ + + + + + +
Christmas Eve in Four Corners had snow clouds threatening, but most of the town was in Josiah's church enjoying the festive party. More smiles than usual beamed from the seven protectors, and all the town's folk shared in that special glow.
Josiah hit the side of his glass with a fork to get everyone's attention. As it became quiet he said, "This afternoon I made a new friend, and he would like to share something with all of us," Josiah then turned to his guest, and introduced him to the crowd, "Mr. Moore."
"When I was just a little boy, my father wrote us a Christmas poem, and I wish to share it with you all. He cleared his throat and began: It was the night before Christmas..."
Comments to: BatsRGr8@aol.com
Author's note: "A visit from St. Nicholas" was written in 1822 by Clement C. Moore. Where Mr. Moore did exist, the story about him is just fiction.