Once again Matt, Kitty, Doc and Festus were gathered at the train station to see Letty off. The marshal put her trunk on the train and came over to shake hands. "Letty, I hope it won't be too long before you come back to us."
She smiled wistfully. "Do you really mean that, marshal?"
Matt pushed his hat back. "Well, you're the only person who can keep Festus in line, so things are going to be pretty tough around here without you."
Letty took his hand again. "Thank you, marshal. I..I know I was a lot more trouble than I'm worth."
Matt smiled and shook his head. "No one in our family is more trouble than they're worth."
Kitty said, "Letty, I have a going-away present for you." She held out a small flat package.
"Can I open it now?" asked Letty. Kitty nodded and the girl tore the wrapping off. "Oh, Miss Kitty!" It was a daguerreotype in a silver frame of Matt, Kitty, Doc and Festus .
Letty threw her arms around Kitty and the redhead hugged her. "Come home soon."
Matt and Kitty left and Letty watched until they went around the corner before she turned to Festus. "Festus, can I have a minute with Doc?"
The deputy raised his eyebrows, but all he said was, "Go ahead on."
Letty took Doc's arm and they walked a little way up the street. "You'll take care of Festus for me, won't you?"
The old man looked at his friend. Still not fully recovered, the deputy had gone to sit in the shade and Doc shook his head to dispel the thought of how close they had come to losing Festus. "He needs you too, Letty."
The girl bit her lip. "I'll be back to stay as soon as I can."
Doc ran his hand over his face and said gruffly, "Don't worry about the old mule. I'll take care of him."
Letty kissed his cheek. "Take care of yourself too." Doc was startled but pleased, and he smiled as he watched her return to Festus.
The deputy rose to his feet as she approached and asked, "You 'bout ready to go, honey?"
"I wish I didn't have to." Letty looked appealing at the deputy. "It's not too late to change my mind."
Festus looked stern. "Didn't you give them folks at yore school yore word?"
"Ain't they countin' on you to go to England for 'em?"
Letty hung her head. "Yes, but they have lots of graduates that want to go to England to teach. If I don't go somebody'll take my place..." She grinned mischeviously. "...quicker than you can say the rat ran over the roof of the house." The deputy laughed. "I want to stay, Festus."
"What did I tell you 'bout when you ain't sure what to do?"
Her voice was low. "I'm supposed to do what's best for the people I love."
Letty looked rebellious. "How is it best for you to have me go away?"
Festus was looking pale again and he sat down. Letty sat next to him and he took her hand. "Honey, it ain't best for me to have you go away."
"Then why can't I stay?" The girl had tears in her eyes and he had to wait a moment before he went on.
"You cain't stay now 'cause you gave yore word. I ain't never broke my word in my entire life. None of us Haggens has. If'n I wuz to be the cause of you breakin' yore word..."
Letty said stubbornly, "I'm not a Haggen."
The deputy's voice was very gentle. "Letty, yore the closest I'll ever have to a daughter. I couldn't be prouder of you if you wuz my own." He reached into his pocket and took out his mother's gold cross. "Don't you never forget I gave this to you." She took it and tried to put it on but her fingers were trembling and he tied it for her. "Honey, do you really want to stay right now?"
Letty leaned against him and he wrapped his arms around her. "Yes, I do." She held onto him, careful of his bad shoulder, then sat back and wiped her eyes. "I'm not going to, though. I'm going to go to England to teach like I promised." Her voice was quivering. "I'll keep my word, but I'm coming home as soon as I can."
The deputy smiled and touched her cheek. "That's my girl."
The train whistled and the conductor called, "All aboard!"
Festus started to get up and Letty said, "I can walk to the train myself. You stay here and rest." She started away, then stopped and asked, "You'll write to me, won't you?" The deputy looked up the street at Doc and she added, "Just like before?"
He smiled sweetly. "'Course I will. You take care of yoreself, you hear?"
Letty nodded, then suddenly ran to him and hugged him. "I'll be a good girl, Festus."
"I know you will," he answered softly. "Go on now."
She walked away slowly but with her head up and Festus looked proudly at Doc as the old man joined him. "Doc, ain't she just the classomest young'un you have ever saw?"
Doc frowned. "Classomest?"
"Now don't tell me you don't know what classomest is!" The deputy assumed a woeful expression. "All this time wearin' out yore eyes on them books and you still ain't learned nothin'."
The old man ran his hand over his face. "I have learned not to listen to you. That's enough for one lifetime."
"Why, you ornery old scutter..." Festus watched the train pull out, then asked, "What did Letty want to talk to you 'bout anyway?"
Doc said loftily, "That was a privileged communication, sanctified by the confidentiality of the sacredness of the Hippocratic oath."
"There you go again stringin' a bunch of words together that don't mean a blamed thing! I ain't askin' you to tell me nothin' you'd ort to keep private like. I just wanted to know what she said."
The old man smiled affectionately at his friend. "Letty wants me to take care of something that belongs to her."