by Karen Shannon

Disclaimer: I do not own the Magnificent Seven. I am only borrowing them for a while to play with. No profit is made in any way, shape, or form .

Thank you's: – To Sasseyj for being my beta reader. Without her help you probably wouldn’t have understood what I was trying to say because I write just like I talk and as my English professor once told me – Karen your grammar sucks! Also, thank you to Lady Standish and Lady Larabee for their encouragement.

FEEDBACK IS VERY IMPORTANT - Need all the feedback I can get – both good and bad. So PLEASE if you the time let me know that you think.

The little black haired girl lay in the dark corner of the hallway, clutching her rag doll to her chest, and listened. Everyone thought she was asleep, but she had awakened when she heard voices. She knew the voices, they were of her mother’s husband, Chris, and her mother’s doctor. Jody, Jo to her friends, didn’t like Chris. No that wasn’t quite right. Jo was afraid of him. Jo coiled into a tight ball as she lay there on the cold floor wondering why he didn’t like her. She tried to be a good girl; she tried not to make him mad. Nevertheless, it seemed he was always mad at her for something. He was always yelling at her and hitting her. Like last night, Jo still was not sure what she did wrong, but Chris had come home madder than a wet hen. She fixed dinner the best she could for a nine-year-old girl, but all she knew how to cook were beans and potatoes. Chris started yelling because there wasn’t any meat, but Jo didn’t know how to cook it. She tried to tell him but he just kept yelling. He threw the beans and potatoes against the wall making a mess. When that hadn’t dissolved his anger, he had thrown dishes, upset the table and finally had shoved Jo against the wall. Then beat her until she was unconscious. When she regained consciousness the next morning, she was lying outside. She remembered being cold and sore. She’d had to crawl the short distance to the horse trough so she could wash her face. Then she’d pulled herself up and stumbled back to the house, up the few steps and through the front door. She’d looked around the small cabin and sighed. Chris' rampage from the night before began to come back to her. There was food everywhere. The furniture was turned upside down. Dishes lay broken on the floor. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she started cleaning the mess. Hours later Chris came stumbling from the bedroom. His tall lanky frame stood in the doorway, with dirty blonde hair hanging down in his green eyes. He looked around at the spotless cabin. "You milk the cow yet?" he asked as he glared at her.

"No sir, ain’t had time," she replied as she set a plate of eggs and bacon down on the table.

"TIME! That’s all you got is time!" He yelled and slapped her across the face. The sting added to the pain from the previous beating caused her to start crying. This only fueled Chris’ anger even more. "You keep that up girl and I’ll give you something to cry about," enraged, as he shoved her out the door. "Now go milk the blasted cow," he ordered as he slammed the door shut behind her.

Jo ran to the barn, sobbing. Throwing herself on a bale of hay, she cried until there were no more tears left. Finally, she sat up, wiped away the tears, and pulled her shoulders back. "I gotta be strong for mama. She needs me to be strong." So Jo had gotten up, milked the cow, cleaned the stall and fed the cow fresh grain.

That afternoon Chris had taken her with him to the hospital. She wished she understood the big words the doctor was using. "CONSUMPTION?" She wondered what that was. She had gotten scared the last time she had gone in to visit with her mama. Mama looked so thin and pale. And when she coughed, there was blood on her hanky. That’s when Jo ran from the room. Of course, Chris was right behind her and had spanked her for running out on her mama like that, but Jo was scared. Why couldn’t Chris understand that? She had crawled into a secluded corner in the hallway and cried herself to sleep.

"JO!" She jumped at the sound of Chris’ voice. What had she done now? "Jo, get your butt up. Your mama wants to see you NOW!" Chris ordered. Her legs were aching from the beating, but she followed Chris to her mama’s room. Jo stuck her head in through the door and Chris shoved her the rest of the way in. She looked so scared it broke her mama’s heart. Mama was propped up in the bed by a pillow. Her skin was pasty white and she was so thin, it looked like her skin was hanging off of her. Her eyes looked too big for her face and Jo remembered the last time she had touched her mama, she had felt cold, really cold. Her mama motioned for Jo to come closer. Jo set her doll down in an empty chair, walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. "Jo, my sweet baby. I love you so much. I want to live to see you grow up into the beautiful young lady you will become." Tears began rolling down her mama’s face, Jo didn’t understand. "Oh, Jo, life has been so unfair to you. I was a foolish girl when I got pregnant with you. So foolish that I refused to even tell your father about you. Instead, I ran, never to see him again. When I first got sick, I started thinking about you and the horrible life I have brought you into. Then I remembered a your real father use to be a sheriff. And he had introduced me to some of friends, one of which was and still is a private detective, his name is Mr. Gordon. I contacted him and asked him to find your father for me, but not to tell him I was looking for him. Once Mr. Gordon found your daddy, he gave me the information. Now it's up to you." She said as she brushed her cold hand against Jo's cheek. "Mama I don’t understand." Jo replied in a voice that quivered. "Sweetheart, Mama has to go away. But, one day we will be together again." Jo started crying, "I want to go with you Mama." As she wiped her daughter’s tears away her mama said, "I’m sorry, Jo, but this time you can’t go. You see, I’m dying." "NO, Mama! You can’t be dying!" Jo all but screamed. Her eyes were wide with fear as she straightened her back to make herself look bigger.

Pressing her hand against Jo’s mouth to quiet her, "Please Jo, listen. We haven’t much time before Chris comes back in here. You remember my friend, Sherri?" Jo nodded her head yes. "Good. I asked her to help you and she agreed with me that you need to get away from here as quickly as possible." Reaching beneath the blankets, her mama pulled out two envelopes and handed one of them to Jo. "Jo, this is a set of tickets. When Chris comes back in, I’ll tell you to leave. But Jo, you must do exactly as I say. When you leave this room, you must leave the hospital and go to the train station. When you get there, Sherri will meet you. She already has your suitcase with her. She will place you on the train. The conductor will help you after that. There are several tickets in this envelope. One for each leg of your journey. When you use the last ticket and are told it is the end of the line, that is where you will find your father. When you find him, you give him this." She handed Jo the other envelope. "This letter will explain everything to him. He’s a good man, Jo. He will cherish you. I just wish I had had the courage to tell him ten years ago."

Fear came over Jo, "But Mama, how will I know who my daddy is?"

His name is written right here on the envelope, see?" Mama said as she pointed to the envelope. "And besides, you have his hair."

She turned the envelope over and Jo read the name and nodded her head yes. "I see Mama. But, when will I see you again?" Jo asked as her bottom lip quivered.

"You won’t see me for a very long time. Because by the time you reach your father, I will be gone." Mama said as she pushed some strands of hair back behind Jo's ear.

"Mama, I'm scared. What if my daddy don't want me? What if Chris stops me? I don’t want to leave you Mama." She cried as she wrapped her arms around her mama's neck.

"And I don’t want you to sweetheart. But if you think life with Chris has been bad up until now, wait until I'm gone. All his anger will be poured out on you, ten times worse than it is now. And I don’t want to leave knowing that your life is in danger. So please, Jo, do this for you and me and do exactly as I say. Save yourself."

Crying, "Yes, Mama."

The door opened and Chris entered the room. Seeing both of them crying, the anger in his face was evident. "What she done now, Maggie, to upset you?"

"Nothing Chris. I was just trying to explain to Jo what’s wrong with me and it has upset us both."

Turning to Jo, her Mama said, "Jo, it’s time to go. I want you to remember everything I’ve told you. Can you do that?"

"Yes, Mama. I’ll remember." Maggie pulled Jo close to her, hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Remember, Jo, above everything, Mama loves you."

"I know, Mama." With that, Jo slipped off the bed, picked up her doll and walked out the door into her new life.


Jo ran as fast as she could to the train depot. Once there, she looked around until she spotted Sherri, her mama’s best friend. She was standing against a wall holding Jo’s suitcase. When she spotted Jo she smiled and with her hand motioned for Jo to hurry toward her. Jo ran across the room into Sherri’s arms. "I was afraid that Chris had stopped you from coming."

With her head hung down, Jo shook her head no. "No. Mama was keeping him busy in her room while I came here. Don’t know how long it’ll take him to find out I’m gone. He may already know. I’m afraid Sherri."

Jo said as she lifted tear filled eyes to look at Sherri.

As Sherri held Jo close, "Don’t be afraid. Even if he does know you’re gone, why would he look here for you? He’ll search the hospital first, then the surrounding area. By the time he figures out that you’re gone, the train will have taken you far away from here."

In a trembling voice, "I sure hope so, Sherri."

"Honey, I know so." They clung to one another for a long moment before Sherri took her by the hand and led her to a waiting train. Sherri took the envelope for Jo's real father and placed it in Jo's suitcase and then opened the other one and pulled out a ticket. She handed it to the conductor, who nodded his head, helped Jo up on the train as she clutched her little suitcase.

Jo followed the conductor inside the train and he found her a seat by a window. He placed her suitcase beneath her seat and walked away. Jo looked out the window and saw Sherri smiling at her but crying also. ‘Why do grownups cry so much?’ she wondered. As the train started to move, Sherri walked down the boardwalk waving to Jo. Jo returned the wave, even making her doll wave as well and smiled at Sherri.

Soon the train was traveling down the tracks full speed and Jo sat back in her seat, excited about what lay ahead but sad at what she was losing. As the train began to rumble down the tracks, Jo's closed her eyes as she began to think about her mother. As the tears rolled down her face, she remembered a day, long ago, before Chris had come into their lives. She had been 4 maybe 5 years old and it was a rainy summer day, when mama had decided that it was a perfect day for a picnic. When Jo had just looked at her, like she was crazy, mama had laughed. Then she made a space in the middle of the floor and had told Jo to spread out a blanket while she ran an errand. Jo had done what her mama had asked her to do, and upon her mother's return, mama had basket full of fried chicken, potatoes salad, baked beans and two fresh apples, along with some sweet tea. They sat together, on that blanket for the entire afternoon.

After they had eaten their fill, mama had pulled out a Bible and read it to Jo. Jo always enjoyed when mama read to her. Her voice was so soft. It sounded more like singing to Jo. Then one day, Chris appeared. Jo was afraid of him immediately, but didn't know why. He was nice to Jo, was always buying her candy and pretty ribbons for her hair. And he was nice to mama, too. He would take her out to dinner and treat her like a real lady, unlike most of the town folks who hated mama because she had a child and had never been married. It wasn't long after mama and Chris had started going out together, that mama came home one evening with a ring on her finger. She had told Jo, that mama and Chris had gotten married. Jo wasn't sure at the time what that meant, but from that night on Chris stayed with them. They had been living in a room at the boarding house, but Chris soon moved them to a little farm house about 2 miles from town. When Jo had first seen the house she was all excited. She ran around the yard and into the barn where she found a brown and white cow. Chris had said they were going to get some chickens and it would be Jo's job to collect the eggs. Jo was glad when Chris had said he would let her help. It made her feel important. However, that was when all the trouble had started. Chris had bought the chickens, just like he had promised. But, the chickens didn't lay any eggs. Every time Jo would go out to collect the eggs, the nests would be empty. Chris had sworn that Jo was responsible and had whipped her. After that, it had gone down hill. No matter how small the infraction was, Chris would use it to beat Jo. If he made a bad business decision, he would punish Jo for it. If he lost at poker, Jo was responsible. If she didn’t make her bed right, she’d be punished. He blamed her for everything that went wrong. When mama had first become sick, Chris was sure it was all Jo's fault. Said it was probably something she'd cook, gave her mama food poisoning or something. Jo had cried when she thought she was responsible for mama illness, but later mama had told her the truth, that it wasn't her fault. Mama had tried to get Chris to stop beating Jo. Even threatened to leave him, but Chris had begged her to stay, pointing out the she was sick, and she really didn't have any place else she could go. Ultimately, she decided to stay, but only after Chris promised not to hit Jo any more. Of course, he had promised, but that promise was soon forgotten. Mama wasn’t a stupid woman, though. She knew that Chris would continue to beat Jo. So mama had done the only thing she knew to do. She had found Jo's real father and now Jo was on her way to be with him. As sad as Jo was about her mama, she was just as excited about meeting her daddy. She had often wondered about him. Would he be tall or short? Would he be nice or mean like Chris? Mama had said that Jo had his hair, so he must have black hair. He lived out west, so that meant he must be a "cowboy." She hoped he had a horse. She liked horses. Only Chris wouldn't let her ride his, cause she might hurt the horse somehow. She hoped her daddy would get her a pony one day. She wanted one with spots. She already had a name picked out, she would call him "Patches."

Over time, during her train ride, she met lots of interesting people. There was another little girl traveling with her parents to Denver, her name was Molly. She had long brown hair hanging in ringlets. Jo was a little envies of her, because her dresses were all so pretty, with lace on the collars and cuffs. All of Jo's dresses were plain and she only had one pair of dirty brown shoes with holes in the soles of them. But, Molly was a nice little girl and the two girls played for hours with their dolls in their seats.

She also met Mr. Brison. He had joked around with the two girls and bought them some rock candy at one of the stops. He was old and had a long bread that was pure white. He reminded Jo of Santa Claus. He said that he was an prospector on his way to California to ‘strike it rich.’ Jo couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t do that at home. Why’d he have to go all the way to California? Grownups!

Then there was the solider, Master Sergeant Andrew Norris. He was a big man with lots of gold strips on his uniform and pretty medals hanging from the left pocket of his shirt. He talked with Jo like she was grownup. He told Jo about his little girl back in Virginia. Her name was Candy, but she wasn’t so little anymore. She was married and had a little girl of her own. The Sergeant was moving to the Montana territory and as soon as he was settled, his wife was going to join him. Jo liked to listen to his stories of the war and hunting the Indians.

On the fourth day, a preacher came on board. Jo saw him as he boarded the train. She knew he was a preacher right off, because of the white collar he wore and he had his Bible in his hand. He was a short round man, he reminded Jo of "Humpty Dumpty" and she giggled to herself. He was even bald, adding to the picture of the egg in Jo’s mind. He looked around and saw the seat next to Jo was empty. So he walked up to her, "Is this seat taken young lady?"

Jo looked at him for minute, and even though she wasn’t sure about him, she remembered how her mama always told her to be polite, so she smiled at him and said, "No, sir. You can sit in it if you want to." So he sat down.

As the train pulled away from the depot the preacher looked at her with questioning eyes, wondering why a child so young would be traveling unattended. "Are you traveling alone?"

"Yes sir. I’m on my way to live with my daddy," Jo said with excitement in her voice.

"Where is your daddy?" the preacher asked with some concern.

"I’m not sure, but the stage driver will tell me. It’s all in my tickets that my Mama got me before she died." Jo answered with a shrug of her and a smile.

He shifted in his seat to look at her directly, "When did she pass on?"

Her eyes fell to her hands that were lying in her lap. She bit at her bottom lip and took a deep breath, "Well, I ain’t exactly sure she’s even passed on yet. Ya see, real sick and she was afraid that if she died and hadn’t sent me to live with my daddy, then my step-father would keep me and that would mean that I would be beaten every day. Chris, my step-father, he likes to hit." The sadness in her voice evident.

The preacher put his arm around Jo's shoulder to comfort her, "Why didn’t your father come to get you?"

"Cause he don’t know nothing about me. Mama never told him. But, she said he’s a real good man and that he’ll love me," answered Jo.

He jerked his arm away, as if she were too hot to touch, " WHAT! "Do you mean your parents were never married?"

Shaking her head, "No sir, they weren’t."

"Just as I thought." He said as he stuck his nose in the air.

Jo cocked her head a little toward the preacher and suspiciously asked, "What does that mean?"

"What it means young lady, is that perhaps if you had obeyed your step-father he would not have found it necessary to punish you so often," the preacher replied indignantly.

Tears came to Jo’s eyes, "But, I tried to be good. I did everything I was told to do and then some. I tried my best, but my best wasn’t good enough for Chris. He looked for reasons to hit me. Mama was scared for me, that’s why she sent me away before she died."

"It is of consequence now. Because, at the next stop, which is where I get off, you will be coming with me." He answered taking hold of her arm.

Jo's head shot up and she smiled, "Why? Can you get me to my daddy faster than the train?"

Without moving his head, the preacher looked down at Jo, "Of course not. You are not going to meet with your father. Obviously, he will be a bad influence on you, as was your mother. Your poor step-father probably had ever reason to punish you, after what you learned from that harlot of a mother you had."

"What’s a harlot?" she asked in all innocence.

As he tightened his grip on her arm, he looked straight ahead, "Never mind that now child. When we get off this train, I will find you a decent home.

One with good upstanding parents. A mother and a father that will raise you properly."

She tried to break his grip as she raised her voice and cried out, ‘But I got a daddy! I want to go to my daddy!"

As he shook his finger in her face, "Hush now child. I will have none of that. My mind is made up.

You are going with me." The preacher waved his hand to the conductor as he came towards them. "Yes, this child will be getting off the train with me at the next stop." "But her ticket takes her out west. To a place called Eagle Bend." Protested the conductor.

The preacher shook his head, "That is of no matter. This child is a run-away. She will go with me and if I cannot locate her stepfather, I will find her a good Christian home to live in. One where she will learn what true morals are." Jo stood up and put her hands on her hips, tears rolling down her face, "I ain’t going no where with you mister. I’m going to go live my daddy." He took her by her shoulders and shook her, "Child you will watch your tone with me or I will be forced to administer a little punishment of my own."

"You try it mister and when I find my daddy, he’ll come back and administer a little punishment of his own on you!" Jo replied as she stomped her foot. As he pointed to her, "See what I mean," the preacher said as he turned to the conductor, "if this child were raised in a proper home she wouldn’t dare speak to a man of the cloth in that tone."

"My Mama did teach me to respect other people. But, she also taught me to obey her and that’s what I’m doing. She told me what she wanted me to do and I’m doing it whether you like it or not. Don’t the Bible say something about kids obeying their folks?"

Then she turned to the conductor; "Can you make him move. I was being real good until HE sat down!" The conductor rubbed his hand across his chin and eyed the preacher, "Preacher man, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I was paid to make sure this little girl got to where she’s suppose to be going, so you ain’t taking her anywhere. Why don’t you just come sit up front, closer to the door, so you won’t have to walk so far when we get to your stop?"

The preacher stood up, as his face turned red with anger, glaring at the conductor, and pointed towards Jo, "You are damning this child to a life of a heathen. Don’t you understand that? I am only trying to help her."

As he took the preacher by the arm the conductor answered, "Well, it seems her Mama would know better how to help her own daughter than a total stranger would. Why don’t you come along with me and leave this child alone."

The infuriated preacher followed the conductor while protesting, "Your company will hear of this, I assure you. I plan to write a very explicit letter upon my return. Rest assured sir."

Undisturbed, the conductor said, "Go right ahead mister. I really don’t care. Now sit here like good boy and don’t go meddling in other peoples business."

He pointed to an empty seat near the front the car. The preacher sat down mumbling to himself. As the conductor walked back towards Jo, she smiled at him. He stopped beside her; he leaned down and whispered something in her ear. They both looked at the preacher, who was watching them, and they laughed.

This caused the preacher to turn around and not look back.

Jo sat back in her seat satisfied that the preacher would not bother anymore. She closed her eyes and fell asleep, dreaming of what lay ahead for her.

Two weeks had past since Jo had started on her adventure. She had changed trains twice and each time the conductor would make sure she got on the right train bound for Eagle Bend. Now this train was pulling into another train depot. Jo was tired and wanted the trip to end. Then she heard the conductor call out, "EAGLE BEND. EVERYONE GETTING OFF AT EAGLE BEND – THIS IS YOUR STOP." He approached Jo, "Honey, this is your stop. Come on, I’ll find somebody to take you to the stagecoach. That’s the last leg of your trip." A stage! Jo had never been on a stage before, of course she had never been on a train before either. She was glad the train ride was over and was looking forward to the stage ride. ‘I’m almost home,’ she thought. Jo jumped up out of her seat and took the conductor’s hand. He carried her suitcase and walked her into the depot. The conductor sat her in a chair and then walked up to the ticket master. They talked for a minute and then the ticket master called back over his shoulder, "MICHELLE, I need you out here." An older woman came from the back room and the three held a small conversation and then looked at Jo, who smiled her best smile, while holding her doll under her arm, as she attempted to smooth out her dress. The woman nodded her head yes and then walked up to Jo. "I understand you need to get to the stage depot. I think the stage is about to pull out so we better hurry." She took Jo’s hand and they hurried out the door. They hurried across the street to the stage depot, all the while the woman was trying to get the attention of the stage driver, "MAC! MAC! WAIT YOU HAVE ANOTHER PASSENGER!"

The stage driver turned when he heard his name being called and seeing the woman climbed down from on top of the stage. "What’s up, Michelle?"

Out of breath, "Got you another passenger," she replied as she handed him Jo’s ticket.

"She’s headed for Four Corners. Just let her know when you get there."

"Sure thing, Michelle." The driver turned to Jo, "Come on missy. Can’t keep the rest of the folks waiting." He opened the door to the stage, picked Jo up, placed her inside, and then shut the door. He threw her suitcase up to the man riding shotgun and then climbed back up top. With a flick of his wrists, he slapped the horse’s rumps with the reins and they took off down the street and out of town.

When the door closed behind her, Jo looked around and saw four people. Two of them were women. The first one was an older woman, who Jo guessed to be about 100 years old, she was dressed in a gray dress with a white apron. Her short gray hair framed her small weather worn face but her eyes, they were color of the sky. They were so pretty. Jo turned and looked at the younger woman, who Jo didn’t think was much older then she was. She was dressed like a boy though. Brown britches, a beige shirt and suspenders. Her dark brown hair was in pigtails and when she smiled at Jo her brown eyes lit up. The other two passengers were two men. The first man was dressed in a fancy red jacket, a pretty vest, and white ruffled shirt with black slacks. His chestnut hair was neatly combed and when he smiled Jo saw that he had a gold tooth. The second man was dressed all in brown. Different shades, but all brown. And his coat looks like it’s made of some kind of animal. His light brown wavy hair was the longest Jo had ever seen on a man, it hung down past his shoulders. And when he smiled his blue eyes twinkled.

Jo decided to sit between the two women.

Suddenly, Jo realized the old woman was talking to her, "I’m sorry. Were you talking to me?"

"Yes I was. I asked you where you were headed?" Answered the woman with a smile.

Jo smiled at her, "Oh I’m on my way to someplace call Four Corners. My daddy lives there."

The woman leaned back in her seat and turned slightly to get a better look at Jo, "Your daddy? Honey, we're all from Four Corners and know everyone who lives there. I’m sure if you’d ever been to Four Corners before we’d know about you."

"Oh I ain’t never been to Four Corners before. My daddy don’t know I’m coming either. It’s a surprise!" Jo said with glee.

The younger woman looked confused and asked, "He don’t know you’re coming? Why not?"

Jo smiled and looked up at her, "That’s cause he don’t know nothing about me. Mama never told him."

Both men coughed, and the fancy dressed man asked, "And who might pray tell is your father?"

Jo reached inside her coat pocket, "I got a letter for him from my Mama. His name is on the envelope."

She handed it to the fancy man; "Do you know him?"

The fancy man took the envelope, looked at it, and closed his eyes. If Jo hadn’t know better, she would thought she saw a look of relief come across his face. He handed the envelope to the other man who just looked at him. The fancy man leaned over and whispered something to him and the man released a breath he didn't even know he was holding until that moment. They both looked across the stage into the eyes of the little girl and smiled, "Yes, darlin’, we know your father." Answered the fancy man.

Her face lit up. "REALLY! What’s he like? Is he nice? Do you think he’ll like me? When we get to Four Corners, will you introduce me to him? I can hardly wait." She said in her excitement.

Holding up his hand to calm her down, the fancy man replied, "My dear young lady, it will be our pleasure to introduce you to your father. And rest assured, he will be most delighted to meet you as well."

With that, her smile covered her entire face. The older woman reached across and took the envelope, looked at the name inscribed there, shook her head, "Now why doesn't this surprise me?" Then she held it up for the younger woman to see, which caused the young lady to burst out laughing. When she started laughing, the other three joined her. Jo just looked at them, and for the life of her, she didn’t understand what’s so funny. "Well," said the older woman, "it looks like we have an addition to our little family. My name is Nettie Wells and this is my niece Casey. And those two mischief-makers over there work with your daddy. The fancy dressed man is Mr. Standish and the other gentleman is Mr. Tanner." They both tipped their hats to her.

"Hi, my name is Jo. Actually, it’s Jody, but my friends call me Jo." Holding up her doll, "And this is Annie, she’s my best friend."

"May we be counted among those that call you Jo?" asked Mr. Standish.

Shrugging her shoulders, "I reckon if your friends of my daddy then you can call me Jo." She smiled. "And you, my darlin’, my call me Ezra and my friend here is Vin." Shaking her head, "Oh I couldn’t call you by your first names. Mama would knock me into next week if she heard me do that." She thought for minute then, "I can call you Mr. Ezra and Mr. Vin." She smiled in triumph. Vin and Ezra both smiled and agreed to this compromise. For Jo, the stage ride seemed to take forever, but a few hours later she heard the stagecoach driver yell out, "FOUR CORNERS. NEXT STOP FOLKS!" Jo was so excited. It dawned on her that she had no idea what she was going to say to her daddy when she did meet him. She just hoped her daddy would be as excited about meeting her as she was about meeting him. The stage came to stop and Vin and Ezra got off first so they could help the ladies down. Jo was the last one to get off. She could hear Mr. Ezra and Mr. Vin outside, still laughing. She heard a couple more men’s voices asking them what was so funny but neither of them would say. Finally, Mr. Vin turned around, picked Jo up, lifting her off the stage, and set her on the boardwalk. He took her hand and walked up to the tallest man Jo had every seen. Jo thought this tall man was awful friendly, because he made sure every lady got a kiss on the cheek. And she noticed how his dark brown eyes sparkled when he smiled and she thought his mustache must tickle, because some of those ladies had giggled when he kissed them.

Mr. Vin shook his hand and said, "Hey pard, I like you to meet somebody special. Her name is Jody. Folks call her Jo though."

The tall man knelt down in front of Jo and shook her hand, "Howdy, little miss." Then his inquisitive eyes turned back to Mr. Vin.

"Jo, this here is Buck Wilmington. Your daddy."


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