My breathing caught up in my throat, and my hand landed on the nearest thing to steady me. I didn't see but heard a shot ring out. Surprised, I stared straight ahead of me at Birds' Eye and Alice still seemingly frozen in place. The rest of the group had also looked up in surprise. Birds' Eye turned around as well, startled and distracted. I watched as Alice moved her left hand swiftly and wrench his rifle from his hand while her right index finger kept steady on the trigger. "Mr. Taylor," her commanding voice was always strangely comforting in stressful circumstances, 'Whatever dangerous mischief you are planning for Dr. MacNeil can surely be handled in a more peaceful way. I've had enough of the damage to this cove that your hateful ways have made. You know me to be a woman of my word, correct?'
She paused, allowing him a moment to confirm in a defeated grunt, 'Uh-huh.'
'Then if you but attempt to shoot one more person in Cutter Gap for any reason, whether it be to protect your illegal store of moonshine, feuding, or anything else whatsoever, I will not wait to call the Marshals to bring you to justice, I will shoot you myself. Is that clear Mr. Taylor?' Another grunt. He reached submissively for his gun, which Miss Alice kept deftly away from him. He paused a moment indignantly as if to grunt his dissatisfaction, but thought better of it. 'Mr. Spencer, Mr. Mchone, will you kindly escort Mr. Taylor to his cabin and appoint someone to keep watch over his activities?' Both men moved either side of Birds' Eye and roughly seized his arms. As they passed by Miss Alice, their shocked expressions showed. This had never been done before in Cutter Gap, and it was difficult to tell if there would be any success. Birds' Eye would easily find another rifle, and no one wanted to be around him when he was in one of his moods even if to prevent more violence on his part.
It was then when Charlie came galloping, crashing wildly through the forest, Neil's saddlebags flapping against him. My eyes searched desperately for Neil. My hand slipped from the chair and I fell. I had forgotten for a moment that my body had been faltering, and now I remembered. Hands reached out to touch me and comfort me. I heard Alice shout for Dan-something about Neil? She rushed over to me and examined me quickly. 'Christy, you're bleeding!' But I felt safe, with her there, I felt safe.
"I've stopped the bleeding for now; Fairlight, you stay with Christy and let me know if anything changes." It was said more like a command, but Alice looked to Fairlight with a worried face. Fairlight was already sitting close and holding my hand, but I saw her nod and felt her squeeze my hand harder. I nodded too. "Go Alice, Neil needs you," I felt alright. Assured, Alice rushed to wherever they had laid Neil down. I hadn't seen him at all, but I could hear him moaning in pain somewhere close by. Why didn't they put him close to me? I had to see him and comfort him just as Fairlight was with me. "Fairlight, I'm feeling alright, I want to go to Neil. I want to know where he was shot." She shot me a glare, "Don't even think about it Miz Christy. You are stayin' right here until the doc can have a look at ya. Don't look at me that way, I know the doc is wounded. He wouldn't want you to go there at all."
"But he needs me," I pleaded with her and started to get up. Fairlight held her ground and so I sat back down. "Look Christy, I know you're hurtin' something fierce for your husband, but you gotta just hold onto me and let this pass. Someone will let us know soon what's happenin'." I held onto her and squeezed as hard as I could.
It must have been at least an hour later until I heard anymore footsteps come close this way. Everyone who had been at the schoolhouse for the first reading lesson had either cleared out, or sat on the front steps to pray. I was glad for the support. I could tell he was walking quickly and when his face appeared, it looked grim. Dan was an honest man, and he generally let his emotion show. I hoped it wasn't bad news.
"He's alright. We got the bleeding down and Alice worked fast to close the wound and bandage him up. We couldn't get the bullet out, and it is ok where it is." He paused and I breathed a sigh of relief. "But Christy," his eyes were full of concern, and his look gentle. I knew then that it was too good to hope for. There was something wrong. "It is in his hand. Luckily, it hit the muscle that holds the opposable thumb to the palm of the hand, so it didn't get any bones or tendons, but.."
"He won't be able to perform surgeries for the foreseeable future. We can do a little research and find a good specialist who can maybe get the bullet out and save his hand, but it is doubtful." I hadn't realized that Alice was in the room I was so focused on Dan. But somehow I was glad she was the one who said it. Alice knew that it was possible that this pain was almost as bad as dying for someone in Neil's profession. Instantly, I moved to get up again to go to him, but this time Alice rushed to me, "Christy, we can get you to a more comfortable spot, but I know your husband would put you on bedrest at least until the danger is past." Instead of fighting her, I caved in. I couldn't hold the tears any longer. I could feel her arms envelop me. In between sobs and sniffles, I managed to confess, "I'm so scared Miss Alice, what's going to happen?"
"Hold onto the hope you have in the Lord Christy. No one knows what the future brings, but no matter what happens, your heavenly Father will never leave you." How did she know that I was wishing for Daddy just right this minute? When I was little, he had always been there to kiss my bruises and scratches and hold me until I felt better. But now he was gone. He would no longer be here to protect me or comfort me when bad things happened. All I have now is Neil, and if something ever really happened to him… "Please, take me to him, I need to see him." I pleaded so desperately, and Alice grimly allowed it, "but only for a few minutes. Then you need your rest, you both do."
"But how can I rest without him?" I felt my question disappear into the soft wind that was blowing outside as we walked towards the mission-house.
Inside, I saw Neil laid down on the parlor sofa, his arm stretched out and his bandaged hand resting on an ottoman/makeshift surgical table. A flat piece of wood had been put on top of the ottoman to make the cushion level. Alice and Fairlight sat me down in a rocking chair close to the sofa, and I reached over to gently touch his wounded hand. Groaning softly, Neil turned his head to look at me and faintly smiled. Glancing at my slight baby bump, he said, "We are quite a pair, aren't we?" I couldn't help but laugh.