Ken-tah-teh, A Promise
The chorus of early morning birds told Mingo he should be up and about. Warm and cozy under the elk skin blanket, he refused to open his eyes. Once he did, he knew, he would have to get up. Having Songbird and Ken-tah-teh close beside him was another reason to cheat the daylight.
One hour later, the chorus had grown louder. Mingo opened his eyes and looked over at his sleeping family. Quietly getting out of their bed, he grabbed hold of the bandage that went around his middle. The deep gash and bruised rib from the hunting accident was healing, but slowly. Of course, Songbird told him it would heal faster if he would stay in bed for a few days, but he was stubborn.
As Mingo walked by the fire the embers still glowed. He stirred them up and added some wood. It would be ready for their morning meal when he came back inside from washing. Stepping outside, now he could see what the birds had been singing about. The sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. He filled the wash basin with the cold rainwater from their rain barrel and proceeded with his morning wash. What he really wanted to do was take a morning swim in the river, but he thought better to let his rib heal some more.
When he came back inside, he was met at the door by Ken-tah-teh, smiling and with dry pants, ready for the new day.
"Up, Papa, up," the baby begged.
Mingo picked him up.
"Good morning, Ken-tah-teh. Look at you; did Mama give you dry pants?"
Mingo looked over at Songbird who stood holding a clean bandage in her hands. He whispered in the baby's ear loud enough so she could hear.
"I think Papa is next, Ken-tah-teh."
He put the baby down and sat by the fire while Songbird cleaned the wound and changed the bandage. When she was done, Ken-tah-teh climbed up into his father's lap. He carefully put his little hand on the bandage wrapped around Mingo's ribcage.
Mingo hugged his little boy tightly.
"Yes, Papa ow, but Papa is getting better with yours and Mama's care."
Songbird put a pan of water on the fire to heat for her sassafras tea,
"Tell Papa, he would get better much quicker if he would do as Mama says and not work outside like he insists on doing."
The baby's face lit up.
"Outside?" He said, pointing to the door of their lodge. Mingo grinned at his wife who was shaking her head.
"I give up," she said. "I am outnumbered by my men." She took the first sip of her tea which had finished brewing.
Mingo sniffed the air, "Mmmm, smells good, doesn't it, Ken-tah-teh?" But the baby was still looking at the door of their lodge.
"Would you like a cup?" Songbird asked him.
"I think I would like a cup, thank you. And I tell you what, Mama, it is still quite early. We will have our tea and then your men will go back and lay down for little while until it warms up a little more. How will that be?" Mingo said. Of course the next obstacle would be to convince their little warrior that going back to bed would be a good idea.
Two hours later Mingo woke up to the familiar smell of corn cakes and coffee. Songbird was nearby working on a new basket. He had slept longer than he realized. Maybe his wife was right and he did need more rest. Their son was still sleeping, but he began to stir when Mingo stood up.
"Smells good," the Cherokee man said as he joined Songbird by the fire. He poured himself a cup of the hot beverage, leaned over and kissed his wife. "Thank you," he told her. "I think you were right. I did need the rest, but we are going to have our hands full for the rest of the day." He nodded toward the little one who was now climbing down from their bed. "He will be raring to go all day."
The baby clambered over to his parents and crawled up into Songbird's lap. Chirping birds outside of the partially open door called to the baby.
"Papa, outside?" Ken-tah-teh had not forgotten Mingo's promise to him. The Cherokee man broke off a small piece of his own corn cake and gave it to his son.
"Yes, Ken-tah-teh, you and Papa will go outside. Perhaps if Mama says it is all right we will go and catch some fish for our evening meal."
"Fish," the baby repeated with a mouthful of corn cake.
Songbird patted his bare belly, "I think that a very good idea. I will work in our garden while my men go fishing. And Ken-tah-teh, it will be your job to make sure Papa does not over exert himself."
"Fish," the baby said again, pointing to the door.
Before Mingo could answer, an unexpected whinny of a horse came from outside. Always aware of the dangers of the wilderness, his eyes met Songbird's. She recognized the look of concern and gently put her finger on the baby's mouth. Ken-tah-teh, even at his young age, knew not to make a sound.
Mingo picked up his rifle, quietly pulled the hammer back and went to the door of their lodge. Peering out the small opening he could see plainly the horse as well as its rider. His head dropped. Drawing a long breath, he turned to Songbird.
"It is all right," letting her know there was no threat of danger. Carefully he uncocked his rifle and put it back in its safe resting place, away from little hands. Ken-tah-teh's eyes lit up when the horse whinnied again, but he said nothing. Mingo smiled, he knew what the sound of a "po-nee" meant to his son. His buckskin coat hung next to his vest. He put on the coat, tying it together with the leather strap on the front, loose enough so it didn't hurt his side.
"Mingo?" Songbird's voice was filled with concern.
"It is fine, Songbird, just someone I should talk to alone first. Do not worry, Ken-tah-teh, Papa will be back for you in a few minutes I promise."
Songbird bounced the baby on her lap. "Come, Ken-tah-teh, we will get your trousers on so you will be ready when Papa comes for you."
Mingo stepped slowly from his lodge and faced the man he called father. Lord Dunsmore, Governor General of Virginia tethered his big, gray Arabian mare, allowing her room to graze. He had traveled a long way and Mingo wondered why-but he had a pretty good idea.
The tall, distinguished looking man patted the mare's chest. "Good girl," Mingo heard him say. He then walked over to his son.
Both men teetered nervously back and forth. The older man spoke first.
"It has been a long time-too long for a father and son not to communicate," Dunsmore said.
Mingo stood squarely in front of the door to his lodge.
"To what do I owe the honor of this visit?" his voice was cold, a reaction he regretted as soon as he had spoken.
The older man looked at the outside fire ring and the chairs around it.
"It was a long ride; could we at least sit down?"
Mingo looked around, but saw no entourage.
"You are traveling alone?"
Dunsmore nodded, "This is not business, but a personal trip."
The Cherokee gestured toward the fire ring for them to sit. He added some kindling to the embers, and put the pot of water on to heat for tea. His manners had not left him, even though a visit from his estranged father left his skin clammy.
"You are taking quite a chance traveling alone after the news from Williamsburg last year. Trying to take the colonists' powder and shot did not prove a wise decision. You were asked to take your leave of the Governor's Palace and the city, from what we heard here in our wilderness."
The sun had begun to warm the morning air. Dunsmore unbuttoned and opened his own buckskin coat.
"Orders, Mingo. I was simply following orders."
"Ah yes," Mingo repeated. "Orders."
"No different than if your friend, Mr. Boone gave you an order, if you were on a mission for your Mr. Washington."
Mingo had to admit, to himself anyway, that his father was right. Orders were orders.
"Is your family safe?"
"Yes, they are, thank you for asking," Dunsmore answered. "They are in New York. I will join them as soon as I am finished here. I needed to check on the hunting camp in Porto Bello and a couple of other things that have arisen."
Mingo moved the pot closer to the now glowing embers. An uncomfortable silence arose between them, but the wisdom of age took over.
"Much time has passed between us, Mingo. I see you now as the Cherokee warrior you were meant to be. But I do not regret taking you with me to London. You were my son, my blood. I gave you a home, food, clothes, and an education. It was Talota's wish for me to do so. Did you know that, Mingo? She did not want your young life to be lost and wasted on an enemy tribe's battlefield."
"Yes, Father, I did know it was her wish." Mingo answered.
"Then why, Mingo, why do you hate me so?"
The Cherokee man fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair.
"I didn't hate you, Father. I have never hated you. Resented you, maybe, but never hate."
"Because I lived and Talota did not?" His father asked.
Mingo's eyes dropped to the ground.
"It shames me now that I felt that way. But I was a boy and I loved her more than anyone or anything."
Dunsmore sat forward rubbing his hand together.
"I loved her too, Mingo. Deep down you must know that. Did I ever lead you to believe any different? I never mistreated her, never spoke badly of her. I mourned her death as you did."
Mingo looked up at him, "I never saw you."
"You were a boy. I was a man. You were the son, I was the father. I did not let you see me mourn for her." The older man looked to the sky. "Therein could have been a cause of the distance between us."
"Maybe," Mingo said, reaching for the pot of water to see if it was hot yet. It was not, but his side was. He sat back holding onto the bandage as his father looked on.
"Cincinnatus told me about your injury. Are you all right?"
"It is healing quite well, thank you," Mingo answered with just a slight smile on his face. "Yes I have heard about your business dealings with Cincinnatus-and your conversations over his Kentucky Blue Thunder."
It was Lord Dunsmore's turn to sit back in his chair.
"I am a tired, old man, Mingo. You may not believe this but I wish to go back to England, raise my horses, work in my garden, and enjoy a brandy in the evening. Or yes, maybe even a Blue Thunder. But I could not go back to London without seeing you." He hesitated. "Word has reached me, Mingo-" Before he could finish, the door to the lodge slowly opened and a little head covered in black hair peeked out.
Mingo opened his arms.
His fifteen month old son scampered over to him. He had his little buckskin trousers on, but no shirt. His hair was long, covering his neck, but not long enough to be braided yet. Mingo picked him up and sat him on his knee, but the baby quickly slipped himself to the ground. He turned, facing the stranger, leaning safely back on his father's legs.
"It is all right," Mingo whispered to him.
"Well now, and who might this be?" Dunsmore asked, smiling at the little one.
Mingo peered into the eyes of the man across from him. And he saw not the look of aristocracy or the Crown, but the look of a grandfather, and of a father. Dunsmore was right, he had given him food and clothes and an education, even if it had been in London.
The Cherokee man's heart softened as he held onto his own boy.
"This is my son, your grandson. His name is Ken-tah-teh."
Dunsmore put out his hand to the baby,
"Good day to you, Ken-tah-teh."
Mingo nodded as his little boy looked up at him, then back to the stranger. He reached out his small hand and touched the older man's much larger one.
"He is a fine looking boy, Mingo."
"I must apologize, Father. I know you think it unseemly for a man, young or old to go without a shirt. But as the air warms he refuses to keep one on."
Dunsmore smiled at the baby who was reveling in the safety of his father's embrace.
"No matter, a different time and, definitely, a different place. As I recall, you did the same at that age."
Mingo acknowledged the memory with a nod, picked up Ken-tah-teh and sat him on his knee again. To which the baby, again, slid off, maintaining his previous stance, hands on Mingo's knees with a once in a while upward glance at his father.
"Ever since he began to stand and walk, he prefers it to sitting, don't you, Ken-tah-teh?"
Songbird came out of the lodge, carrying a steaming pot of tea and three mugs. She joined them at the fire ring. Lord Dunsmore stood up immediately. Mingo stood and picked up the baby.
"Father, I would like you to meet my wife, Songbird."
Dunsmore put out his hand.
"Songbird," Mingo continued. "This is my father, John Murray or you may know him as Lord Dunsmore."
"John," Dunsmore said as he took Songbird's hand.
"It is a great pleasure to meet you, Songbird."
"Mama," the baby said.
"Oh, I beg your pardon, Ken-tah-teh. Is this beautiful lady your mother? You are a very lucky boy."
Songbird smiled at the older man. "It is nice to finally meet you, Lord Dunsmore."
"Please call me John," he told her.
"Yes, John," she said. "You have come a long way. I thought you might like a cup of tea."
"That sounds very good, Songbird. Thank you."
The soft nickering of a contented horse eating her fill of green grass had taken over the attention of the baby.
Three decades difference in their ages and still Dunsmore was as tall as his son. Mingo stood holding Ken-tah-teh who couldn't take his eyes off of the horse. He pointed to her.
"Po-nee," then looked at his father.
"Yes, pony," Mingo answered.
Songbird poured a cup of tea and handed it to the older man. He nodded his thanks and took a drink. Again the baby pointed to the animal.
Mingo looked at his own father.
"Your mare," he explained. "He loves horses, young, and old, big, small. He has no fear of them."
Dunsmore swallowed, "Again, very much like you."
The baby began squirming in Mingo's arms.
"Po-nee, Papa, Po-nee," he begged.
"Is she gentle? He will not give up until he has petted her."
"Blue Belle?" Dunsmore said. The mare's ears perked at her name. "She is as gentle as they come." He rubbed the small of his back. "She knows how to set an easy pace for an old man."
Dunsmore looked at Songbird and Mingo.
"Do you think he would let me take him over to see her?"
Mingo gently patted the baby's behind.
"Why don't you ask him?"
Songbird took the hot cup of tea from the older man."
"Ken-tah-teh," he said. "Would you like to go see the pony with me?"
Mingo heard a gentleness in his father's voice he had not heard in a long time. The baby pointed to the horse again.
Dunsmore put out his arms,
"Come, let your grandfather show you his Blue Belle."
Ken-tah-teh looked to see his parents' approving smiles, and then went into the waiting arms of this new friend.
"Oh, you are a big boy," the older man pretended to groan. "Let's go meet Blue."
The little one looked over his grandfather's shoulder to make sure Mingo was following close behind. Then he turned to the man who was carrying him and pointed to the grazing animal.
Blue Belle was a ten year old Arabian mare, dapple gray with four black stockings, black mane and tail, and a blaze of white down her face. In the bright sunlight her silver gray coat had just a hint of bluish hue-hence her name.
One could easily tell she liked people as grandfather and grandson approached; she stopped grazing and raised her head. When Dunsmore called her name, she walked slowly toward them.
"Blue Belle, come here. Ken-tah-teh would like to say hello."
He had taken off her saddle and bridle, and put on a halter so she could eat without having a bit in her mouth.
When she shook her head, her black mane shone in the sunlight. The baby laughed when she did so.
Mingo couldn't hear what they were saying, but he could tell Ken-tah-teh was not afraid. His hand was around the older man's neck, holding on while he pointed to the mare with the other.
"Nice girl, Blue Belle," Dunsmore rubbed the horse's face. He took Ken-tah-teh's hand and put it on her nose. The baby ran his little hand up and down her face then looked at his grandfather.
"Nice Blue Belle," Ken-tah-teh said.
"You are a very smart boy, Ken-tah-teh," Dunsmore laughed. "Just like your father there."
The baby turned and pointed to Mingo.
"Papa," he told Dunsmore.
"Papa," Dunsmore repeated. "I like the sound of that. Let's see how you look sitting on Blue." He looked to Mingo, who nodded.
Years of his life in London passed before Mingo as he watched two generations share the enjoyment a horse can give a man. He could hear laughter, young and old coming from them both. Who was this man holding his son? It was a side of his English father he hardly remembered. Or maybe his deep hatred for the streets of London had blocked it from his memory. Was it possible for a man to change so, he asked himself.
Then Mingo thought back three years ago when he himself was still a single man, a confirmed bachelor for all time, or so he thought. Then he met Songbird and his world changed-for the better. Circumstances arise, people can change. Mingo decided maybe it was time to put politics and past troubles behind and at this moment, enjoy family, new and old.
The Cherokee man watched as his father sat the baby on the mare's back. Without being shown Ken-tah-teh took hold of her mane and held tight to the horse's sides with his legs, as best his short legs would allow. Lord Dunsmore threw his head back and laughed when he saw the baby take to the horse like a seasoned equestrian. He glanced back to Mingo who had joined them.
"I told you, Father, he loves horses."
"I guess it runs in the family," Dunsmore said, holding tight to Ken-tah-teh, who was happily sitting on the mare's back.
"I believe you are right," Mingo answered. One good memory he did have of his life in England was horses. Being the son of Lord Dunsmore, he had access to a stable of fine mounts. After his studies were complete for the day he was able to ride as much as he liked. It was an escape back to his Cherokee life that he was forced to leave behind him as a youth.
Mingo untied the rope tethering the horse, and started walking her slowly. "Hang on tight, Ken-tah-teh." He told the baby, but he knew his father would not let go of him, walking beside. The little warrior was in his glory.
The two men kept Ken-tah-teh happy by walking the mare around the lodge several times. Songbird watched from the fire where she was preparing a meal of venison, pan biscuits, and cooked apples, as the morning had turned to midday. Finally Dunsmore spoke up, "Whoa, Blue." The mare stopped and Dunsmore patted the baby's back.
"Ken-tah-teh, your grandfather is tired. Do you think maybe we could give Blue Belle a rest and I might possibly finish my cup of tea before I have to leave?"
The baby, however, was not ready to give up his ride so soon. He continued to hold tight to the horse's mane.
"Come, Ken-tah-teh," Mingo said. "Let's go get Blue Bell a drink of water and see what Mama is doing." He took his son off the mare's back. Dunsmore tethered her, again giving her plenty of room to graze. "Good girl," he said and gave a slap to her broad rump. "Ken-tah-teh is going to bring you some water."
Now directly overhead, the sun warmed the air nicely. Songbird had finished preparing the light meal. She knew they would be hungry as their morning meal had been interrupted. And the water was still hot for tea.
"Mama, po-nee," Ken-tah-teh said as he and Mingo sat down beside her at the fire.
"Yes, I saw you riding the pony," she took him from Mingo. "Are you hungry?"
Ken-tah-teh shook his head. "No, po-nee."
Mingo and Songbird had to laugh at his youthful obsession. The Cherokee watched his father with the mare.
"I think he has come to say goodbye," he said to Songbird.
"I think he has come to say hello-to his grandson," she answered.
"And his mother," Mingo smiled at her.
But the baby was having none of this small talk between his parents. He had other things on his mind.
"Po-nee, Papa," Ken-tah-teh pointed to the rain barrel by the door of their lodge. He begged to get down. And when Songbird put him on the ground, he hurried over to the empty bucket which sat by the rain barrel. "Blue Belle drink," he told them both.
"I think your grandfather is right, Ken-tah-teh. You are a very smart boy." Mingo looked at Songbird. "Keep the tea hot. It looks as though we are going to get Blue Belle a drink."
Soon the air was filled with the sound of a thirsty horse drinking from a bucket of cool water. Ken-tah-teh stood by the wooden pail on the ground, gently petting the mare's nose as she drank. Mingo and Dunsmore stood close beside him.
"She is a beautiful animal," Mingo told his father. "And very well-mannered."
"Yes," Dunsmore answered. "She is that. Do you remember Silver Prince of Arabia?"
"Your prize Arabian stallion? Of course I remember him. I remember when he was stolen and you almost lost your mind until you got him back."
"Yes, you are right, I almost did. I hadn't thought about that time in a long while until recently," Dunsmore added.
Mingo ran his hand along the mare's long neck and her back.
"She is his?"
Dunsmore nodded yes. "I raised her, broke her, and trained her myself."
One thing Mingo and his father did share was a love and respect of a fine horse. And it was obvious, even at his very young age; Ken-tah-teh shared that love with his father and grandfather.
"I brought her with me when I was called to the colonies. I wanted a mount I was familiar with and could trust." A smile came to Dunsmore's face as he watched the baby with the horse.
"What is it?" Mingo asked him.
"It is like watching you all over again. You were always around all the Indian ponies when you were small. And yes, you were that small at one time."
When the mare finished drinking, she raised her nose out of the bucket. Curiosity got the best of her and she nuzzled Ken-tah-teh's bare belly. The surprised baby lost his balance and sat down on the ground with a thump. Both Mingo and Dunsmore bent down on one knee. They could see the baby was not hurt, just startled. He looked up at the men, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. But when he saw them smiling, he laughed himself. He got to his feet and walked to his father's open arms.
"Blue drink me," he told Mingo.
"I think Blue Belle likes you, Ken-tah-teh. What do you think, Grandfather?" Mingo looked at his father.
"I think you are right," Dunsmore agreed.
Mingo heard the words come from his own mouth, but the sentiments behind them were confusing the Cherokee man. Ken-tah-teh would not know the word, grandfather, or who he was referring to. But he also knew how smart his boy was. Mingo stood and picked up the baby. Dunsmore stood too.
"This is your grandfather," Mingo pointed to the older man. "Can you say grandfather, Ken-tah-teh?" Knowing his son repeated everything he heard, Mingo knew he would do his best with this new word.
"Grand-fodder?" the baby said.
"Grandfather," Mingo repeated in his always perfect diction.
"Grand-fodder," the baby said again.
Before Mingo could speak, Dunsmore stopped him.
"Mingo, 'Grand-fodder' is perfectly all right with me. In fact, it is one title I will cherish more than you know." He shook Ken-tah-teh's hand. "You have a wonderful family, a beautiful wife and a fine son. Fatherhood suits you, Mingo."
The Cherokee man squeezed his son tight.
"You are the second man to tell me that. Thank you, Father."
Ken-tah-teh looked at Mingo, then pointed to Dunsmore.
"No, Papa. Grand-fodder."
Both men's eyebrows raised in delight.
"Well, Ken-tah-teh," Mingo said. "I stand corrected."
He put the baby down between them and took his hand.
"Let's go see if Mama is still waiting for us to come eat with her."
Ken-tah-teh looked up at Dunsmore and raised his other hand.
"Grand-fodder, go, Mama."
In an instant, in that one joining of those three hands the distance between an English father and a half-Cherokee son lessened. The boiling animosity between a powerful empire and her fledgling colonies seemed to disappear for the moment. At that point in time, three generations walked together as one, with the touching of those three hands, two big and one very small one
Songbird watched from her chair by the fire as the three of them walked toward her hand in hand. That lasted only a few minutes for as soon as Ken-tah-teh saw her, he broke free and ran toward her. She put aside the mending she was doing just in time for him to tumble into her lap.
"Hello, Ken-tah-teh, I saw you give Blue Belle a drink of water." The baby settled back into his mother's arms, then pointed to the horse.
"Blue Belle drink," he told her.
"Is that sassafras tea I smell?" Dunsmore asked, as he and Mingo joined mother and son at the fire. "I have not had that in a very long time."
"It is Mama's favorite, isn't it, Ken-tah-teh?" Songbird stood holding her son and turned toward their lodge. "Let's go get some sassafras and make Grandfather and Papa a cup of tea." The two men watched them go.
"You have chosen wisely, Mingo. Songbird is a good woman and a good mother," Dunsmore said.
"Actually, we chose each other," Mingo told him how they met and of Songbird's Choctaw heritage. Dunsmore remembered her father, Chief Standing Bear, when he was a young warrior.
Through the opened door of the lodge, Ken-tah-teh came first, carrying his toy "Po-nee." Songbird followed carrying the sassafras to brew some tea. When the baby reached Dunsmore he presented him with the toy to see.
"And who is this fine steed, Ken-tah-teh?"
"Po-nee," the baby answered.
Songbird and Mingo could see their son was comfortable with the stranger he now knew as "Grand fodder." The aroma of steeping sassafras wafted from the tea pot.
"Let's let Grandfather have a cup of tea and something to eat, Ken-tah-teh." Carefully she handed the hot mug of tea to Dunsmore.
"Hot," the little one told him.
Dunsmore shook as he laughed at the baby's teaching lesson.
"Yes, it is hot and it smells delightful. Thank you, Songbird."
They enjoyed a meal of venison and bread together. No talk of wars or past hard feelings, but of the day, the land, and family.
"Well, that was a very good meal, Songbird, thank you. But I must be on my way before it gets too late."
Ken-tah-teh had been playing with his "Po-nee" at their feet. Mingo picked him up and sat him on his knee.
"Father, it is already past mid-day. Your mare could use a rest, and I am certain a good night's sleep off the hard ground might sound agreeable to you. You are welcome to spend the night with us in our lodge. We have an extra bunk, a warm fire, and a roof overhead."
He began bouncing Ken-tah-teh, who had straddled Mingo's knee again. "And it would give you a chance to spend some more time with your grandson."
Dunsmore reached over and touched the baby's knee.
"I would like that very much, thank you, Mingo," He looked at Songbird who had continued her mending. "Thank you both."
Mingo was still bouncing, "I must warn you though. We seldom have guests in our lodge." His eyes went down to the baby. "He will most likely insist on being a very gracious host. And by that I mean he will probably talk your leg off until he finally falls asleep. And from experience, we will tell you he is a very good talker."
Taking a chance, Dunsmore put out his arms and Ken-tah-teh went to him. The older man sat him on his knee and continued the horseback ride, much to the baby's delight. "The sound of a baby's voice will be a welcome change to soldiers, politicians, -and angry colonists. I thank you again and accept your invitation."
Songbird put the last stitch in the pair of buckskin pants she was mending for Ken-tah-teh.
"We need to get you a pair of blue trousers like your father's, Ken-tah-teh," Dunsmore said.
Songbird smiled, "One day we will, but he grows out of them so quickly that buckskin is best for now. It is hard enough to keep Mingo's trousers mended and the blue material he prefers Cincinnatus has to get in Salem."
"Yes, I remember, Edmund-I mean Mingo seemed to grow taller every time I turned around. It looks as though you are going to be as tall as your father, Ken-tah-teh."
"And grandfather," Songbird added. The beautiful Choctaw woman stood up. "I need to go do some work in our garden. Don't I remember, Mingo, that you and Ken-tah-teh were going to go catch us some fish for our evening meal? Maybe John would like to go with you."
The baby was content to stop bouncing when he heard what his mother said.
"Fish," he repeated.
"I should like that very much," Dunsmore said, still holding his grandson, as he and Mingo stood up. "I cannot tell you the last time I went fishing."
Mingo reached over and tousled the black hair on Ken-tah-teh's head. "Fish it will be then for Mama. Let me get my rifle and pack and we will head to the river."
Blue Belle began pawing at the ground and shaking her head. Mingo looked over at the mare.
"What's bothering her?"
"Oh, she is fine," her owner said. "Ken-tah-teh and I will go check on her while you get your things."
When Mingo came out of the lodge, he was wearing his vest and weapon belt, carrying his rifle and pack. He walked over to where his father was holding Ken-tah-teh on the back of the mare.
"What was bothering her?" Mingo asked.
"Oh she has a colt who she was not happy leaving behind at Porto Bello. She has to let me know every once in a while. You know how a mother can be when she is away from her child," Dunsmore said.
Mingo turned to his son who was happy to be on horseback.
"Come, Ken-tah-teh, we will let Blue Bell stay here and rest while we go fishing."
Birch Tree River was a short walk from the lodge. The three men left Songbird to her garden and ventured out to provide for their evening meal. Ken-tah-teh walked between his father and grandfather for most of the way. When his little legs finally tired out he looked up to Mingo.
"Up me, Papa," his arms in the air.
Mingo easily swung him up on his shoulders so he could ride the rest of the way.
"Ken-tah-teh," Dunsmore asked. "Where did you go? I can't see you through your Papa's feathers?"
When they reached the river, Mingo put the baby down. A large log was conveniently located on the bank of the river. Ken-tah-teh ran over to it, stopped and turned waiting for them to join him.
"By the look of him," the older man said. "It would seem you have fished here before."
"Oh yes," Mingo pointed out. "This is our secret fishing spot, isn't it, Ken-tah-teh?"
"Fish," the baby agreed.
Ken-tah-teh climbed up and over the log and by the time the two men got to him, he was already leaning back on the fallen tree.
"Well, may we join you?" his grandfather asked him and started to sit down on the baby's right.
"No, Papa," Ken-tah-teh said.
"I apologize, Father, but he is used to me sitting there."
"Oh, by all means," Dunsmore laughed. "You know that water looks inviting. I think I am going to get a drink first."
The tall man laid flat on the ground, put his lips in the cool water and drank.
"That does taste good," he said and sat up. "Ken-tah-teh, would you like a drink?"
The baby got up and went over to his grandfather who had filled his cupped hands with water. He drank all the water and turned back to his father.
"Tah-teh drink," the water dribbled down his chin. "Grand fodder."
"Tah-teh?" Dunsmore remarked.
Mingo rolled his eyes, "Yes, we have Daniel to thank for that." The Cherokee man found the fishing poles which they had hidden behind the log. He tossed his line into the water. "He insists on calling him that."
Dunsmore and Ken-tah-teh joined Mingo at the log.
"Ah yes, Mr. Boone, a most honorable adversary if I may say so. And a delightful family of his own as I recall."
"Yes, they are," Mingo patted the ground between them. "Come and sit, Ken-tah-teh." He knew if the little one sat still for any length of time, he would fall asleep. And he was right. Safe between his father and grandfather, warm sun overhead and the lull of a rolling river, Ken-tah-teh was soon asleep.
It gave the estranged father and son a chance to talk of many things, land, liberty, freedom, family and the future. Three hours later, amidst the snores of the slumbering baby, and several fine rainbow trout for Songbird to cook for their dinner, they agreed to disagree and to honor each other's views.
So Lord Dunsmore, the Governor General of Virginia, miles away from his former residence, the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg spent a warm and dry evening in the little lodge by Birch Tree River. Enjoying the fish they had caught and the company of his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, Dunsmore slept soundly, once he was finally allowed to sleep.
Mingo was correct, it took a little while for Ken-tah-teh to settle down for the night with a visitor in their lodge. In bed between his mother and father, he kept sitting up and pointing to the extra bunk.
"Grand fodder?" And his parents would answer, "Yes, grandfather." Until finally Songbird put her finger on his lips. "Shh, Ken-tah-teh, grandfather is sleeping."
The baby was quiet for a minute or so, then "Grand fodder sleep?"
"Yes," Mingo answered, "And now Ken-tah-teh sleep too."
Finally all that could be heard inside the little lodge was the crackling of a fire warming the family inside.
In the morning, after their early meal together, Dunsmore gave his grandson one more ride on Blue Belle. He climbed up in the saddle, and took Ken-tah-teh up with him. They rode down to the river and back, too short a ride for the baby who was holding onto the reins along with his grandfather when they returned.
"He is a natural rider, Mingo. You had better get him a pony of his own soon." Dunsmore got off of the horse, but the baby held on tight. "Come, Ken-tah-teh, Grandfather must be on his way." The older man put out his arms and the baby went to him. "I promise Blue and I will come back and visit." He hugged the little one. "You are a good boy." Mingo heard him say. "And you will grow up to be a fine man like your father."
"And his grandfather as well," Mingo added. "You know, Father, you are welcome to stay longer."
"Thank you, Mingo, but some urgent business arose on my journey here, something that needs my attention now. I need to meet Robley in Salem. He had hoped to accompany me here to see you, but I had to send him on an important errand for me."
"Maybe on your next visit, he can come with you," Mingo said.
Dunsmore, who was still holding the baby nodded,
"I will make certain that he comes with me next time."
Songbird had not come out of the lodge yet to join them. It was still just the three men standing by the mare.
"Mingo," Dunsmore said, "There is something I need to speak with you about. And I already know what your reaction is going to be, but it makes no difference, it is done and you cannot stop it."
Terrible thoughts raced through Mingo's head. His chest tightened up as he felt the anger surging. He had a good idea what his father was going to say. The honorable Lord Dunsmore was going to insist on taking Ken-tah-teh with him to London to raise and educate him. But it would never happen. Before the Cherokee man could object, his father continued.
"I have already made provisions for my sons to receive equal inheritances when I am gone, some of which I have already put into bank accounts. Your share I have set up in the Bank of Salem under the name Edmund Murray. They would not set up an account in just the name Mingo, so I used your given name. It is there whenever you need it. The balance will be deposited equally at the time of my death." All the while he laid out his intentions to Mingo, Dunsmore swayed in a back and forth motion. The result was the baby had laid his head on the older man's shoulder and fallen asleep.
"That is not necessary, Father. I have no need-" Mingo started to say.
"I know that it is not necessary," Dunsmore said. "It is what it is, and that is that. The money is there now whether you choose to use it or not. I know very well, Mingo that you can and will provide for your family. Your Cherokee pride and honor runs deep. But who is to say that one day Ken-tah-teh may not want to be the first Cherokee-Choctaw-English student to graduate from William and Mary College? An education is not inexpensive. I should like to think I may have helped in giving him one, if he so chooses." He gently rubbed the sleeping baby's back. "He is the future, the growth, even his name says so, the promise, no matter how this conflict turns out."
Mingo listened and thought twice before continuing his objections. His stubbornness he knew came from his father, listening and patience from his mother. He rubbed his side which had begun to itch. Healing, Mingo thought, maybe it was time. As he watched his father holding Ken-tah-teh, maybe it was time to work on healing the distance between his father and himself.
Songbird came out of their lodge carrying Dunsmore's saddle pack. She had filled it with supplies for his journey. "I put in some of Mingo's favorite corn cakes, some sassafras for tea, and some apples for Blue Belle. Those are from Ken-tah-teh," she said.
Dunsmore stood, still holding tight to the sleeping baby. "Thank you, Songbird. I am so very glad I got to meet you."
Mingo took the pack from her and tied it to his father's saddle. The mare curiously swung her head back to see what he was doing. "Good girl," he rubbed her nose, reached in the pack and gave her one of the apples.
"Well," Dunsmore said. "I must be going." Reluctantly he handed Ken-tah-teh to his mother. When he did, he took hold of the cameo necklace she was wearing.
"A gift from my husband," she smiled at Mingo.
"I thought I recognized it," Dunsmore remarked. "Talota would have loved you, Songbird. And the joy Ken-tah-teh would have given her-" His voice began to break and he cleared his throat. "Well, it is time for this old man to be on his way." He took Songbird's hand in both of his, and very gently kissed it. "I am proud to have you as my daughter-in-law. It is good to see Mingo so happy and content."
"Please come back and visit us, John," Songbird told him.
"When this is all over, I will do just that," he answered. The older man reached over and softly touched the baby's cheek. "Sleep well, Ken-tah-teh, be safe, and grow into a fine man like your father."
Songbird took the baby and walked over to their garden. Mingo knew why. She was letting them say their goodbyes in private. Dunsmore waved to her, then turned facing the Cherokee warrior before him. Neither knew what or how to say farewell. Realizing it couldn't have been easy for his father to come, Mingo spoke first.
"Father, these words do not come easy for me to say to you. I am proud and stubborn when it comes to my Cherokee heritage. I come by that stubbornness naturally." A tiny smile appeared on the Englishman's face. Mingo continued, "I appreciate you coming to visit and to meet my family. It means more to me than you know. It was a long journey, and not without danger traveling alone. I am beginning to understand why you took me back to London with you. I may never agree with it, but I do realize the benefits of the education and the life you tried to give me-proper though they may have been. Please know you are welcome here always. I know I speak for Songbird and for Ken-tah-teh. It is good he has met his 'Grand-fodder' and when he is old enough I will make certain he understands you are more than just Blue Belle's owner."
That made both men laugh.
Dunsmore placed his hand on Mingo's shoulder.
"Mingo, you have had to overcome so many obstacles in your life. And you have done it with such honor and strength of purpose. You could have had, and still could have, the life of an English aristocrat. Yet you have chosen to live the simpler, but harder life of your Cherokee heritage in this untamed wilderness. And even here, as I know you were forced to deal with in London, you face the difficulties of mixed blood."
Dunsmore looked around at the little lodge surrounded by white birch trees and tall pines within the sights and sounds of the Birch Tree River. He looked over at Songbird who was now working in their garden. Ken-tah-teh was still asleep, lying on the ground beside her.
"I can see now you have made the right choice. I will never feel I was wrong to take you back with me to England, but it is quite obvious to me your heart belongs with the Cherokee. I am proud to call you my son." The older man put out his hand and Mingo took it. "I will not say goodbye, but farewell until an understanding comes between my country and yours." He climbed on the back of his mare. "Here is hoping our next meeting will be under peaceful skies in the land you call Ken-tah-teh." He looked over once more at the sleeping baby. "Yes, a very good name, Ken-tah-teh.
Mingo watched his father ride away until he was no longer in sight, then he joined his family in the garden by their lodge. It had been a good two days with family, old and new.
Inside the walls of Boonesborough, late afternoon sunbeams shone through the windows of the general store and tavern. The rays of light were filled with swirling dust particles emanating from the broom of the proprietor.
"Jericho Jones! Where in tarnation are you?!" Cincinnatus shouted. "This is what I pay you for!" When the knob to the front door began to turn, the tavern-keeper grabbed it. "It's about time you got here, Jericho!" It was not the younger Jones who entered, but the four surveyors who had left the establishment several hours before.
"I do apologize, Cincinnatus, we are not Jericho," John Eliot said. He entered, followed by his brother, Cameron, Reese Gaylord, and Simon Briggs. "I told you we would be back to buy a round for the house before we take our leave."
Cincinnatus put the broom aside and went behind the bar. "So I take it you fellers finished yer surveyin' job today?" He set up several tankards of rum on the bar. There were only four other patrons in the tavern. Tupper and Isaac were in front of the fireplace, playing checkers, and two trappers who were eating at one of the back tables. Ten minutes and nine tankards later, all the men in the room had a drink in front of them, at the expense of the Eliot brothers. Cincinnatus took the money John Eliot had placed on the bar. "Where's Yancy? He don't usually pass up a free tankard of rum."
The older Eliot brother laughed, "Yancy went home to his family as soon as I informed him that we were finished. I do believe he was quite happy to be rid of us."
"Oh don't mind Yancy," Cincinnatus said. "He's a real family man. That brood of his means more to him than anythin' else." The tavern-keeper tried not to let on, but he would be happy to be rid of them himself. Now he would be able to go fishing with Mingo and Daniel in two days. Since the surveyors had been staying at the tavern, he hadn't been hunting or fishing with them. He missed that. "So you gents have another job lined up or are ya gonna take some time off?"
"Actually, Cincinnatus, we do have another job lined up, but not in this area. We will be heading south first thing in the morning."
The four of them were up early the next morning, just as John Eliot had said. After a simple meal of mush and coffee, they packed up their belongings, bought some supplies from Cincinnatus and bid him goodbye. He watched as they got their horses from the stable and rode through the gate of the fort. The next time he saw them would be too soon, Cincinnatus thought to himself. Now maybe his life would get back to normal and a day of fishing with his friends, Daniel and Mingo, was going to be a good start.
Mingo kissed his beautiful wife and baby goodbye. This morning, however, one day after his father, John Murray, had bid them farewell, it was not Mingo leaving on a journey, but Songbird and Ken-tah-teh. The last time Little Beaver and Young Raven paid them a visit to see how Mingo was healing, they brought with them a message from Wildflower and Chief Standing Bear, Songbird's parents. They hoped for a visit from their daughter and grandson, and Mingo if he felt up to the travel.
It was a full day's walk to the Choctaw village, even for Mingo and Daniel's long legs. For a mother and baby it would be a much longer trip. When Cincinnatus got word of their upcoming journey he offered the services of his riding horse, Applejack. Only hours after Dunsmore had left for Salem, Cincinnatus came riding up on his ten year old sorrel. "Jack" as he was called by most, including Ken-tah-teh, who shouted out his name whenever he saw the horse, was a gentle animal. He had a blonde mane and tail, and his coat was the color of apple jack cider, a favorite seasonal libation at Cincinnatus' tavern. In the bartender's own words, "It's when sweet apple cider gets a little too fermented for women and children, but a real tasty drink for the men folk who might find their way to his establishment."
Ken-tah-teh was overjoyed, only hours after saying goodbye to Blue Belle, Applejack showed up at his door. "Jack!" the baby shouted as Cincinnatus rode up on him.
"Keep him as long as you like, Songbird," he said. "He could use the exercise of a good trail ride." The tavern keeper started to walk back towards the fort then turned, "Oh and I packed some of that tobacco your father likes. And don't worry Songbird, me and Daniel will check on yer husband!"
Mingo tied Songbird's pack and his bedroll to Jack's saddle. He hung their water pouch on the saddle horn.
"Are you sure you do not want to come with us, Mingo?" Songbird asked her husband. "We will not be gone any longer than the next time the moon is full."
Mingo hadn't really told Songbird for certain he would not be traveling with them. But he knew he could not fool her for very long. He was glad they had Jack to ride; it would cut the trip in half. It would not be a dangerous journey for them and he knew his wife could take care of herself on the trail. She handed the baby to Mingo. The Cherokee leaned back and looked at their lodge.
"You and Ken-tah-teh go and have a good visit. I plan to catch up on some needed repairs which I let go while I was healing. The roof of our lodge and the root cellar both need some work and then-"
Songbird put her finger across his lips, "And then fishing with Daniel and Cincinnatus?" She finished his sentence for him.
Mingo stepped back, feigning surprise. He grinned at his son, "Now, Mama, where did you get an idea like that?
She softly kissed him, "My husband talks in his sleep." She said and climbed up onto the back of the horse.
"I do not," Mingo quickly shot back. He could see the teasing smile on his wife's beautiful face. He kissed Ken-tah-teh and sat him in the saddle, in front of his mother.
"Papa, Po, fish," the baby stated loudly. "Tah-teh, po-nee." He took hold of Jack's mane as if to say to his father, you go fishing, I am riding on a horse.
Mingo gently touched the baby's nose, "Now I know how Mama found out about my plans. That was to be our secret, Ken-tah-teh." But the baby was occupied with something else-a pony. Songbird had her arms around Ken-tah-teh, holding the reins. She leaned down and gave her husband another kiss. "Have a good visit and tell Wildflower and Chief Standing Bear hello from me, and Running Deer. Be a good boy for Mama, Ken-tah-teh. I love you both."
Songbird nudged the horse's side with her heel. Jack began walking down the trail. Mingo watched until he could no longer see them. It still being early morning, they should be at the village by sunset, allowing for one or two stops along the way.
After three hours of working on the roof of their lodge Mingo was finished. He climbed down the ladder and went to the rain barrel for a drink, laughing when he saw the wooden bucket sitting on the ground. It reminded him of how Ken-tah-teh helped him carry it over to his father's mare to give her a drink. 'Blue Belle drink.' He could almost hear his son say.
Mingo took the last swallow of cold water from the cup that always hung by the rain barrel. The sun had warmed the day nicely, so he filled the basin and washed up. He wondered how far his family had gotten. They had only been gone a few hours and he missed them already. A month was a long time to go without a hug from Songbird and Ken-tah-teh. Mingo knew he would not be able to go that long and planned to go to the Choctaw village and make the journey back home with them.
Right now a cup of tea and a dish of Songbird's rabbit stew sounded like a good idea. Then he needed to make certain his fishing pole was ready for tomorrow because he knew that Cincinnatus would make some sort of wager as to who the best fisherman was.
Mingo leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes for a moment. The stew was warming over their outdoor fire ring, along with the water for his tea. A nest of baby robins in a nearby tree were letting their mother know they were hungry too. With the return of their mother and a fat worm, it wasn't long before they quieted down. Mingo touched the teapot, "Ow!" he pulled his hand back from the hot teapot. The cry of a blue jay filled the air. Often a warning of an intruder in the area, the Cherokee reached for his rifle. He was not fast enough. Two men wearing masks came from behind him. They grabbed his arms and got him to his feet.
"What do you want?" Mingo asked, but the two men said nothing. "If it is money you are after, I have none. If it is food you are welcome to look in the root cellar over there." Both men looked in the direction Mingo nodded towards. When they did, the Cherokee caught the one on his left unaware. With one sweep of his leg he knocked the man off his feet and to the ground. His left arm now free he threw a powerful punch to the other man's jaw, sending him to the ground as well.
Quickly, Mingo picked up his rifle and pointed it at the two dazed men. "Now then, Gentlemen, I will ask you once again. What is going on here?" There was no response from either man. "I am losing my patience. You have one minute to take off those masks and tell me what you want or I will begin shooting."
He cocked his rifle. Finally, the first man he sent to the ground spoke,
"You only got one shot, Injun."
Mingo smiled, "You are correct, Sir. And after I have shot you, I will kill your associate with my tomahawk and then I will scalp you both.
The two men looked at each other.
"I have already proven that I am faster than you," Mingo told them. "Now then you have ten seconds left."
"I would not be so hasty, Mr. Murray," a British speaking voice came from behind him. "Lest you endanger the life of your own family." Mingo then heard the click of a hammer on two rifles. When he turned around, Mingo understood what the voice meant.
There were two more masked men. One rifle was pointed at him. It belonged to the man with the British accent. The other was pointed at Songbird and Ken-tah-teh who stood a short distance away with the second man. Mingo's heart pounded in his chest, as he let his own rifle fall to the ground. The look on Songbird's face let him know they had not been harmed. The baby was asleep in his mother's arms.
The man Mingo sent to the ground first, stood up, grabbed the Cherokee's arms and tied his hands tight behind him. The second man disarmed Mingo of his knife and tomahawk. Then in retaliation for his own sore mouth, he reached back and hit the Cherokee, not once but twice in the jaw. Mingo could taste blood in his mouth, but did not move.
The man readied his fist for one more round at the Indian, but the Englishman stopped him.
"That is enough-for now," he said. The other man backed off immediately.
Even though they wore masks, Mingo thought he recognized the first two men as two of the surveyors Yancy was working with. When the second two joined them, his suspicions were confirmed. Their clothes and the fact that the man who seemed to be in charge had a British accent gave them away. He knew better than to let on.
"Again I am confused as to what you after. We have nothing of wealth as you can see."
"Oh but I beg to differ," John Eliot said behind his mask. "You have much wealth, the wealth of your father. And do not deny that Lord Dunsmore is your father."
Mingo kept a watchful eye on the other man, whose gun was pointed at his family.
"I do not deny it. Anyone who knows me knows I am half English and Lord Dunsmore is my father. But I have no access to his wealth. If you want that you will have to visit him in Williamsburg. In fact, truth be known, I have not seen my father in two years."
The man turned his rifle around and thrust the butt end into the Cherokee's right side. The rib which was almost healed was now most certainly bruised again. Mingo clenched his jaw to try and check the pain.
Songbird took a step toward her husband, but a rifle waving in her face stopped her, "No, please do not hurt him," she shouted. The commotion woke the sleeping baby in her arms.
"Papa," he cried when he saw his father. Ken-tah-teh put out his arms toward the captive Mingo.
"Keep them quiet!" John Eliot yelled to his brother, Cameron. Then he turned back to his prisoner. "Do not lie to me, Indian. Your father was just here for a visit. He only left yesterday morning on that pretty Arabian mare of his to go back to Salem, where in fact he has deposited in the bank a tidy sum of money in your name. We heard everything he said to you. "
Mingo was looking at his little son and not at the Englishman talking to him. John Eliot placed the long, cold barrel of his rifle to Mingo's cheek and forced the Cherokee to look back at him-and listen.
"Are you going to deny that your father just left here?"
Mingo had gotten his breath back enough to speak, "Obviously not. Let my family go. I will accompany you to Salem and you are welcome to all of the money my father has deposited for me. I have no need of it. I just want my family safe."
Eliot lowered his rifle, but it was still pointed at Mingo's chest.
"Now that is good to hear, Indian. If you have no need of money then I will make the ransom amount even more than I had originally planned."
"Ransom?" Mingo asked. "There is no need for a ransom. Let my family go and I assure you the money will be yours, no questions asked."
John Eliot shook his head, "No questions asked eh? And you can speak for your father as well I presume?" He laughed, "So you will accompany us to Salem, and then on the trail your friend, Boone, will come to your rescue. No, I think not. Moreover I have a score to settle with John Murray and having him hand over a large sum of money to me and my associates will do just that."
Mingo struggled, but the ropes were just too tight around his wrists.
"What makes you think my father is going to pay a ransom for my family? He has no feelings for Indians."
"On the contrary, Mingo," Eliot looked at Songbird and Ken-tah-teh, and then looked back at Mingo. "I saw how your father carried that baby around. He will pay the ransom."
"Papa, Papa," the baby began to cry out for his father.
"Please," Mingo asked. "Let me see my family."
John Eliot nodded to his brother who let Songbird and Ken-tah-teh join Mingo.
"Papa," the baby repeated and put out his arms to his father, whose hands were still tightly tied behind his back. "Papa," Ken-tah-teh said again and began to cry. He didn't understand why his Papa would not take him.
"Sh, sh," Songbird tried to comfort her son, but the baby continued his pleas.
"No, Papa, Tah-teh," and his sobs became louder.
Mingo looked at the ringleader.
"Untie my hands and let me take him. I will do whatever you ask, sign whatever you want, but please let me hold my son."
Eliot motioned to the two men who still stood behind Mingo. Simon Briggs responded by cutting the ropes on the Cherokee's wrists. Mingo quickly took Ken-tah-teh from Songbird and wrapped his arms around both of them.
"Hush, Little Warrior," he dried the baby's tears.
"Papa," the baby murmured with a tiny sob still in his voice.
"Sh, sh," Mingo held him close and whispered, "Papa loves you, Ken-tah-teh."
The baby laid his head on his father's shoulder and quieted down. Mingo looked at Songbird, whose face showed the concern of a wife for her husband. Her eyes fell to his side where a blood had begun to soak through his vest.
"They hurt you?" she asked him.
"No, it is fine. Really. Have they hurt you?"
Songbird shook her head. "No, they have not hurt us."
Mingo could see that John Eliot was getting nervous. He leaned in, kissed Songbird on the cheek and whispered to her. "Do whatever they say and I promise I will come after you. As long as they keep their masks on you will be safe."
"Enough talk!" Eliot said and motioned to Cameron to bring Apple Jack over. "It is time to go."
Mingo held on to the baby who was almost asleep while Songbird got on Jack. He kissed Ken-tah-teh and handed him to her. "I love you, Songbird," he said.
She reached down and touched his cheek. "I love you, Mingo. Please be careful."
Cameron Eliot was already on his horse.
"Go ahead," John Eliot told him. "We will catch up with you after our Indian here signs the ransom note."
Mingo watched as his family rode out of site along side an armed man wearing a mask. His insides churned in fear for their lives.
"Now then, Mr. Mingo," John Eliot said. "If you ever want to see your family again-alive, you will sign this note which will be delivered to your father." The masked man handed Mingo a piece of rolled up parchment paper. It read:
'Please pay what these men ask for. They have my wife and son,
and will kill them if you don't.'
He tried to hide the trembling in his hands as he read the note.
"How do you plan to find my father?"
"You forget," Eliot continued. "I heard all that your father said. And if you recall he said he had business in Salem for a few days before leaving for New York. That is plenty of time for us to find him I believe."
"Salem is a very large city and with many people," Mingo answered.
Eliot shot back, "Oh, I shouldn't think it hard to find the Governor General of Virginia, even if he is traveling-light shall we say. I do not foresee John Murray staying anywhere but the finest establishment in the city."
This man had planned this out very carefully, Mingo thought to himself. And he wondered just what history he had with his father. But his family's safety was at stake. He had to do whatever they told him to do and hoped his father would do the same. Mingo held up the note.
"I have nothing to write with?"
Eliot looked down at the fire where the pot of rabbit stew was still warming. He reached down, picked up a stick burnt at the end and handed it to the Cherokee man. Mingo took it, but struggled with the rolled up parchment.
"Allow me," Eliot turned his back to make it easier for the prisoner to sign. Under different circumstances, this would be Mingo's chance to disarm all three men. He knew he was faster and more agile than they were, but he could not take the chance. His family was still with the other man down the trail. The Cherokee forcefully dotted the 'I' in Mingo and handed the note back to Eliot who put it in his inside coat pocket. "Splendid," Eliot answered and motioned to Gaylord who grabbed Mingo's arms and tied his hands tight behind him again.
"When will I see my family again?"
John Eliot crossed his arms, "If all goes as planned and your father does what he is instructed, we will have our money and you should have your family back in four or five days. But-"he said, poking his finger into Mingo's chest. "If you or anyone of your friends follows us, if we see anything out of the ordinary, or if your father tries anything funny you will never see your family again-alive that is."
Mingo looked Eliot straight in the eye, "If anything happens to my family, anything, you had better make certain I am dead because there is no where on this earth you will be able to hide. I will find you. And I will kill you." He turned and looked at the two other men behind him. "All of you."
"Idle threats from a man in your position," Briggs said, poking his rifle barrel into Mingo's side. The Cherokee flinched slightly.
"I do not make idle threats, sir."
"Enough!" John Eliot barked. "You are wasting precious time that your family does not have." He stepped away from Mingo and nodded for Reese Gaylord to join him. "Put him inside his dwelling there. Bind his feet as well and gag him. He must not be able to follow us. We need time to get to Salem. Do you understand me?" Gaylord nodded yes and started back toward Mingo, but Eliot grabbed him. "One more thing, make certain the Indian knows we mean business, if you know what I mean. Then catch up with us on the trail."
"Yes sir," Gaylord answered.
He watched as Gaylord and Briggs forced Mingo into his lodge. As he mounted his horse, Eliot lowered his mask and smiled. He could hear the two men carrying out his orders. Digging his heels into the horse's sides, he rode out to catch up with his brother and their hostages, then on to Salem, and Lord Dunsmore.
Two men walked slowly, side by side, through the Kentucky woodlands. The morning sun lit the trail as they got closer to the lodge of the Choctaw-Cherokee family. One was tall as the white birch trees which lined the nearby Birch Tree River. Carrying his long rifle and a fishing pole, his coonskin cap only added to his height. The other man was older and shorter in stature, partly because of all the fishing extras he carried on his shoulders, along with his rifle and fishing pole.
"Cincinnatus, you really think all that hardware is gonna help you catch more fish than Mingo?" The taller man asked his friend.
The older man with the gray beard and tri-corner hat stopped to rest.
"Dan'l, in this here basket I got bait that injun of yours never even heared of." Cincinnatus slapped the basket which hung at his side. "It's a secret bait that'll make those trout sit up and jump on my line while the two of you snore the day away like you always do."
Daniel smiled, "And the net?"
Cincinnatus reached with one hand, then the other, but couldn't grab the fishing net which hung from the back of his belt.
"Here, let me help ya," the big man handed the net to his friend.
"I'm gonna need this," Cincinnatus grabbed it and started swinging it through the air. "Gonna catch so many fish, you boys will be beggin' me for some."
Daniel nodded, "Well I hope so, Cincinnatus. That way me and Mingo can have a good, long nap while you do all the work."
"I shoulda knowed you'd find some way to make my plan work to your advantage," Cincinnatus snarled. "Seems you two scallywags always do." But he had a smile on his bearded face when he said so.
"Here let me help you with some of that gear," the big man reached over and took the net.
"Thanks a lot, Dan'l. Don't hurt yerself!"
"Come on, Cincinnatus, Tah-teh will be waiting to pull Eeooww's beard."
"Right behind you, Dan'l."
Inside his lodge Mingo could not move. The two masked men had carried out their orders successfully. They started beating him, and when he attempted to escape, Reese Gaylord hit him over the head with his rifle. He woke up once in complete darkness so he knew it was night. Bound, hands and feet, and gagged, they had tied him face down on his bed before they left. The Cherokee struggled so hard to get loose he finally passed out again.
This time when he woke, Mingo could see daylight through the door. Still unable to get free his only consolation was that Daniel and Cincinnatus should be there soon. The throbbing pain in his head where the rifle butt had struck him was nothing compared to the pain in his heart. He feared for his wife and son's safety. "Please Great Spirit, keep them safe, until I can reach them," Mingo prayed as he lay and listened for any type of sound outside of the lodge.
When Daniel and Cincinnatus reached the clearing that led to Mingo and Songbird's lodge they stopped. Force of habit and safety, in these times, one always checks before stepping into an open space. The clearing was empty so they continued on. Cincinnatus sniffed the air.
"Mmmm, that's strange. Can't smell any coffee. Mingo always has mornin' coffee goin' when he knows we're comin',"
'Well, Cincinnatus, maybe Mingo ain't got around to makin' any coffee yet. Maybe Tah-teh is keepin' his Papa busy this mornin'."
The older man's head was shaking, "You know how Mingo hates you calling his boy, Tah-teh. I can hear him now, 'it is Ken-tah-teh, Daniel, Ken-tah-teh.'"
The big man laughed at Cincinnatus' perfect impression of their Cherokee friend, "I know," Daniel added. "Makes that red skin of his even redder."
The little lodge by Birch Tree River was now in sight. Daniel cupped his hands together and was just about to signal their arrival to Mingo and his family when Cincinnatus stopped dead in his tracks.
"What's wrong?" Daniel asked him.
"Shhhh, Dan'l. You don't 'spose Mingo and Songbird are-?"
"What?' The big man continued, playing the fool, when all the time he knew what Cincinnatus was reluctant to say out loud.
"You know," the older man nodded toward the lodge.
"Cincinnatus, what in tarnation are you talking about?"
"Sparkin'! Sparkin', Dan'l! There I said it. Are you satisfied? Mingo and Songbird are a young couple, ya know. Not an ol' married couple like you and Becky. You already got all your young'uns, but they're just startin' out."
"Now hold on there, Cincinnatus. Becky and me been married a lot longer than Mingo and Songbird, but that don't mean we don't still-you know." The big man was defending himself.
"Spark, Dan'l?" the older man cackled. He had turned the tables on his big friend.
Daniel grabbed the fishing net and put it over Cincinnatus' head. It didn't stop the older man. He was still cackling.
"I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, Cincinnatus," the big man said while removing the fishing net from his friend's head. "Me and Mingo got a signal for just that very situation, us being married men and all."
"A signal?" the little man asked.
Daniel nodded yes.
"A sparkin' signal?" Cincinnatus snickered.
"You want to hear it or not?" The big man asked him.
" 'Course I do, Dan'l."
"All right then. If Mingo comes to the cabin and sees my coonskin cap sittin' on the porch step, he knows it ain't a good time to come visitin' Likewise if I come to Mingo's lodge and see his feathers hangin' on the door-"
Cincinnatus finished his sentence, "Ain't a good time for a visit?"
"Hmmmm," Cincinnatus mumbled. "Wonder if maybe I better set up a signal like that for you two boys, seein' how you like to come to the tavern any hour of the day or night. Who knows I might be sparkin' too."
Daniel's face lit up, "Somethin' you keepin' from us, Cincinnatus? It's that Widow Baker ain't it? You been seein'that widow on the sly. Wait 'til I tell Becky and Mingo. I can't wait to tell Mingo."
Cincinnatus stomped the ground in disgust.
"You just keep quiet, Dan'l. Let's go see what Mingo and Songbird and Ken-tah-teh are up to." Then he stopped again. "Wait a minute. I just remembered-there ain't no sparkin' goin' on on account of Songbird and Ken-tah-teh went for a visit to see her folks. I brought Apple Jack out for them to ride yesterday."
"Whew!" Daniel said. "Glad that settled then. Let's go get Mingo and get to fishin'." Again he cupped his hands together, put them up to his mouth and made the sound of a whip-poor-will, a signal to let Mingo know they were coming. There was no answer. He called a second time and still no answer. Daniel put down his fishing pole and net. Cincinnatus did the same with his gear
"Let's go, Cincinnatus." Quietly, rifles at the ready, they approached the lodge. "Hello, anybody home?" Daniel shouted out.
Cincinnatus went over by the fire and bent down. It was cold. "I don't like this, Daniel. Looky here, whatever was in this kettle is burnt black and the tea pot is burned dry."
A noise from inside the lodge had both men turn and point their rifles at the door.
"Mingo?" Daniel shouted out. A muffled grunt came from the lodge. Both men entered slowly, only to see their friend bound, gagged, and tied to his bed. With one tall glance Daniel could see there was no one else in the lodge. He put Ticklicker on the ground, took his knife from his boot and began cutting the ropes that held Mingo to the bed. Cincinnatus did the same, cutting the ropes from his hands and feet.
"Take it easy, Mingo. We'll have you loose in just a minute," Daniel said. With the ropes cut he sat him up on the bed and carefully removed the gag from Mingo's mouth. Cincinnatus came back with a cup of water from the rain barrel. The Cherokee coughed, struggling to talk, but his mouth and throat were too dry.
"Here, Mingo, take a drink, slow now," Cincinnatus told him. "Small swallows first."
The cold water actually burned as Mingo followed Cincinnatus' instructions and took one sip, then another. He choked as he tried to tell them what happened.
"Songbird, Ken-tah-teh, have to find them," the Cherokee man started to stand up, but they sat him back down on the bed.
"Easy does it," Cincinnatus started to tend to the cut over Mingo's right eye where Gaylord's rifle butt had hit him. Daniel handed him another cup of water. "Here Mingo, take another drink and tell us what happened."
Mingo swallowed and took a deep breath.
"Four men wearing masks," his normally deep voice was raspy. "They have Songbird and Ken-tah-teh and are asking a king's ransom to get them back." He coughed again.
"And just where do they think you are going to get a King's ransom?" Cincinnatus asked.
Mingo looked at them both. "My father," he answered, his voice was beginning to come back.
Daniel took the cup from Mingo's hand, "Do you have any idea who these men are, that they would know who your father is?"
Mingo nodded, "I am certain they are the surveyors Yancy was guiding. Two of them were English, were they not, Cincinnatus?"
"Yes they were, John Eliot and his brother, Cameron," the bearded man answered.
"I thought so," Mingo continued. "I do not know why, but they have a score to settle with my father and my family is the bait. They heard him say that he put money in the Salem bank for me. They made me sign a ransom note, and are holding Songbird and Ken-tah-teh prisoner. They said if I or anyone else tries to follow them, I will never see my family alive again."
The distraught Cherokee man hesitated, "Their plan is to find my father in Salem, and make him pay the ransom." He started to stand, but sat back down when his head began to spin.
"How long ago did they leave, Mingo" Daniel asked him.
"What time of day is it now, Daniel?'
The big man peeked outside, "Bout midday, I'd say."
"Then they have been gone about twenty four hours," Mingo answered.
Daniel stood, pondering the outdoors. "Well they should be in Salem by now, with a good riding horse. But I doubt if they'd take Songbird and Ken-tah-teh with them to the city. I stake my life they got them hold up somewhere to draw your father out with the money. I'm going to have a little look-see around."
Mingo stood, and remained standing this time, "Be careful, Daniel! Did you hear what I said? They will kill Songbird and Ken-tah-teh if they see anyone following."
Cincinnatus put his hand on Mingo's shoulder, "Now Mingo, I know that Dan'l is as big as a giant sycamore tree, but if anyone can find a trail and not be seen doin' it, it's him."
"Then I am coming with you, Daniel," Mingo looked around for his rifle.
"No you ain't, Mingo," Daniel answered. "Listen to me, I'm gonna take a quick look around and see if I can pick up a trail. Then I'll be back here and we'll figure out a plan. By the looks of that blood on your shirt you ain't in any shape to travel. By the time Cincinnatus finishes patching you up, and fix you something to eat I'll be back, I promise."
"But," The Cherokee started to say.
"No buts," Daniel said, "Besides you said yourself that these men were real careful 'bout keeping their masks on. That's to our advantage and to Songbird's and Ken-tah-teh. I'll be back directly." The big man said and went out the door.
"If you are not back in an hour, Daniel, I will begin my own search," Mingo shouted. Then he sat back down on the bed and let Cincinnatus tend to his wounds.
An hour passed before Daniel returned. It was all Cincinnatus could do to keep Mingo from starting out on his own, but he convinced him to wait. Daniel's whip-poor-will call brought both Mingo and Cincinnatus to their feet. The big man came through the door of the lodge.
"I think I found their trail, five horses, heading in the direction of Salem."
"Let's go," Mingo grabbed his weapon belt and flinched a little when he put it on. Cincinnatus had cleaned the wound on Mingo's side and tied a bandage tight around his rib cage.
"Let's give Dan'l a chance to catch his breath, Mingo, and hear what he has to say. I'm sure he's got a plan, ain't ya, Dan'l?" Cincinnatus poured a cup of coffee and gave it to the big man. "Here you go."
"Thank you, Cincinnatus," Daniel leaned his rifle up against the door, sat down and took a drink of the hot beverage. Mingo remained standing, then pacing like a cat.
"I'm sorry, Daniel, but I am going. I feel that we are wasting time-time which Songbird and Ken-tah-teh do not have. You can try and catch up with me when you are rested."
"Mingo, I think what we need to do first is get some horses so we can make up for the time lost already. But I also think we need to be careful, and stay off of the main trail once we get close to Salem. Let's go back to Boonesborough and get the horses and then-"
"Fine, Daniel," the Cherokee said. "You and Cincinnatus go get the horses. I am not going anywhere but toward Salem. As I said we are wasting valuable time."
"Daniel stood and took the last swallow of coffee from the cup. "All right, Mingo. I remember a time when my children were taken prisoner. I've a pretty good idea how you're feelin' inside. Cincinnatus, why don't you go back to the fort and get three horses. You should be able to catch up with us at Findley Lake in a couple of hours. There we will figure out our next move and still have a couple of hours to travel before sunset. Is that agreeable with you, Mingo?"
The Cherokee man shook his head yes. He found it hard to speak when thinking of his family in danger.
"Yes, Daniel, that sounds like a good plan as long as we are heading toward Salem."
The three men went outside together. Daniel and Mingo went in the direction of Salem, while Cincinnatus headed back to Boonesborough.
"See you in a couple of hours," the older man shouted.
Daniel waved to him, and then stepped up his pace to catch up with Mingo.
At the south end of Findley Lake, a grove of pine trees shaded the large rock that Daniel and Mingo sat on. They were waiting for Cincinnatus to finish watering the horses. The tavern-keeper made good time and had arrived at the lake only half an hour after his two friends.
The sun was on its downward meeting with the horizon. Sunset was only an hour away. Mirror-like ripples of light began to dance on the surface of the water.
"Maybe we should camp here for the night and get a fresh start in the morning." Daniel suggested. Cincinnatus nodded, "Maybe? Been a long day."
But Mingo refused. "You two do what you must. I appreciate you coming with me this far. But I have not seen my wife and son in almost two days. And the last time I saw them-," The Cherokee man swallowed hard, as he faced his two friends. "The last time I saw them, there was a rifle pointed at their heads. I was helpless. I could do nothing to stop those men from taking them from me!" He swung his rifle over his shoulder and took the reins of one of the three horses in his hand. "And I will not sleep until I have them back safe in my arms."
Daniel walked to his friend's side, "We'll get them back, Mingo. Together, we'll get them back. You ready, Cincinnatus?"
"I don't think so, Daniel," the older man answered. "Mingo, take a look."
Mingo turned his eyes down the trail and could not believe what he saw.
Coming toward them were four horses, three of them had riders. Songbird and Ken-tah-teh were on Apple Jack. Beside them, John Murray was riding his mare, Blue Belle. He had in his hand a lead rope and at the end of the rope a very frisky brown and white pinto colt. Bringing up the rear, Robley Davenport was riding a bay, and leading another bay. Daniel caught Mingo's rifle just in time as the Cherokee let it fall and raced to his family. Songbird slid off Jack carrying their son. She and Ken-tah-teh met Mingo halfway. His arms surrounded them, fearful to let go.
"I was afraid I would never see you again," Mingo said and kissed her. He took their baby in his arms. "Hello, Ken-tah-teh?"
"Papa," Ken-tah-teh said and wrapped his arms around Mingo's neck. He leaned back and pointed to the colt now standing at the side of Murray's Arabian mare. "Tah-teh, pony." Then he pointed to the tall man still sitting on the mare. "Grandfodder."
Mingo hugged his family tight then walked over to his father who was now standing by his mare. The spirited colt was fighting with the lead rope that was around his neck. The baby in Mingo's arms pointed again.
John Murray put out his hand to him. "Hello, Ken-tah-teh, hello Mingo."
"Father, I thank you for paying the ransom for Songbird and Ken-tah-teh. And I promise I will pay you back every bit of it."
"Mingo, there is no need for that," John Murray started to explain, but the Cherokee man continued.
"No, Father, I mean it I will pay it back to you somehow."
The tall English nobleman was having a time with the colt. "Settle yourself, Cherokee, and go stand with your mother." He fastened the lead rope to Blue Belle's saddle and let the mare calm down her offspring.
"Cherokee?" Mingo asked. "The colt's name is Cherokee?"
"A fitting name I thought," his father answered. "Blue Belle got acquainted with an Indian pony one time while I was away on business for the Crown."
That made Mingo smile knowing how his father prided himself on the Arabian bloodlines of his horses. Murray put his hand on Ken-tah-teh's cheek. "Mingo," he started to say.
"Father, I insist," Mingo said, when Songbird came up to them.
"Mingo, your father, John, saved us. Please let him explain how."
An air of both relief and stubbornness showed on the Cherokee's face. Cincinnatus' voice broke the ice. He came up beside them, "Robley, why don't you climb down off that horse. Dan'l, why don't you get a big fire goin'? Sun's settin' and it'll be dark soon. The animals are tired, we're all tired. I say we make camp here for the night. Lots of fish over there in Findley Lake, and I'll bet me and Robley can catch enough for a good supper."
Daniel slapped their friend on the back. "I like it when you take over, Cincinnatus. I'll go get some firewood and maybe find some greens to go with all them fish you and Robley, is it?-all them fish you and Robley are going to catch."
The other Englishman had done as Cincinnatus suggested and dismounted. With one hand he held the reins of the two bay horses, the other he put out to Daniel.
"This here's Robley Davenport, Dan'l. Lord Dunsmore's right hand man. Robley, this here's Daniel Boone."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Robley," The big man said and heartily shook his hand.
"And I yours, sir," Robley replied. Then he looked at Mingo and offered his hand again. "Hello, Master Murray, it is good to see you. It has been a long time."
The words 'Master Murray' sent a rush of youthful memories into Mingo's head. Robley Davenport had been a friend to the young and frightened Indian boy who had been placed in a strange and large English household, and not by his choice. Mingo grasped the outstretched hand.
"Robley, it is good to see you too," Mingo said. No one said anything for a long minute.
"Well Dan'l," Cincinnatus said, "You go get those greens and fire wood. Me and Robley will water the horses while we're catchin' supper. And we'll let Mingo catch up with his family."
Songbird took Mingo's arm and John Murray's, "Come we will prepare a place to set up camp. Mingo you are hurt and I would ask you to sit and let me check your wounds. John will explain to you what happened and how we got here safe. And Ken-tah-teh, I think would just like to sit in Papa's lap."
By the time the sun had been set for an hour, a warm, crackling fire lit the darkness. Several big rainbow trout were roasting over the embers, water cress and wild onions were rinsed and ready to eat with the fish. The horses were fed, watered, and tethered nearby. Songbird had tended to Mingo's wounds, changing the bandages, and had made a big pot of tea. Ken-tah-teh was asleep in his Papa's lap. While waiting for the fish to cook, they all rested around the fire, listening as John Murray explained how he and Robley came to deliver Songbird and Ken-tah-teh home safely.
"Cincinnatus, that day in your tavern I recognized John and Cameron Eliot as the two brothers who, twenty years ago, broke into my stables and stole one of my prize Arabian stallions, and two very expensive riding saddles. At the time that it happened I was not able to prove that they were the guilty parties." He went on to explain that evidence had later been found to convict them of the crimes. But they were nowhere to be found. Even so, they still remained wanted men. "That is why I had Robley go back to Salem before me. I knew there was a troop of British soldiers camped near the city. I gave him a signed order to bring six soldiers, meet me at Porto Bello and we would come back and arrest the Eliots in the name of the Crown. Little did I know that they were on their way to Salem to find me, and that they were holding Songbird and Ken-tah-teh hostage. Imagine their surprise when the tables were turned on them."
Cincinnatus got up and checked on the fish, turning them so they would cook on the other side. "How in tarnation did you get the drop on them? Traveling with six of those fancy red-coated soldier boys of yours, I'd think you'd stick out like a sore thumb on the trail."
Daniel nudged him with his boot, "Cincinnatus, be nice. We have Lord Dunsmore, to thank for bringing Songbird and Ken-tah-teh back to Mingo."
"Oh, Dan'l, the Governor knows I'm joshin' him." The tavern-keeper said.
"That's quite all right, Mr. Boone," John Murray added. "Remember, Cincinnatus, when I told you that Robley, here, my right-hand man, as you called him, was as good a horseman and tracker as any of you colonists. While he was out scouting the trail ahead of us ,he came upon the Eliot brothers and their two co-horts. He reported back to me that they had an Indian woman and baby with them. And it looked to him as though they were not traveling with these men by choice." Murray poured himself some more tea. "To make a long story short, we did get the drop on them. At no time were Songbird and Ken-tah-teh in danger. Robley made certain of that. He was able to get close enough that when my soldiers and I made our move, he had already disarmed the man who was guarding them."
"Sounds like you're a good man to have around, Robley," Cincinnatus said.
"I can attest to that, Cincinnatus," Mingo said. "He was always a good friend to me when I was growing up in London." The Cherokee man patted Ken-tah-teh's back. The baby was still asleep on his father's lap. "I cannot thank you both enough for bringing my family back to me safe and sound. I will be forever in your debt."
John Murray looked at his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. "There is no debt, Mingo. Not when it is family, there is no debt."
Mingo smiled and nodded to his father and then to the man sitting next to his father, Robely Davenport. Daniel slapped his knees and stood up. "I don't know 'bout anybody else, but I'm hungry and those trout are smellin' mighty good. I'm goin' to have me a couple and then join Ken-tah-teh there."
Mingo motioned to Robley and John Murray, "You had better get ahead of him, Gentlemen, or there will be no fish left for anyone else."
But there was plenty for all and in a matter of half an hour; everyone was full and ready for a good night's sleep. With his son in his arms, and Songbird close beside him, Mingo looked to the sky and thanked the Great Spirit in a silent prayer.
The next morning the first to wake up were the two youngest members of the group. Cherokee's little whinnies were heard by Ken-tah-teh who was sleeping on the ground between his mother and father. He sat up.
"Pony, Papa. Pony, Mama."
The frisky colt was ready for his morning meal and so was the baby boy. Mingo and Songbird sat up together. "Come Ken-tah-teh," Songbird whispered. "We will go down to the lake and wash and you can eat too." They looked over and could see the colt eating some grass with his mother, Blue Belle, close beside. "I need to wash too," Mingo said. "And I'll get some water. Daniel will be ready for some of my coffee when he wakes."
By the time they got back to the campfire, the sun was just peeking over the horizon. The other three men were up; Cincinnatus had some biscuits cooking. They had let the Indian family have some time alone down by the lake. Mingo handed Daniel the water for coffee, then quickly took it back. "Better let me make the coffee, Daniel." Cincinnatus winked at John Murray and Robley.
"Father, what happened to those four men?" Mingo asked.
"They have been dealt with, Mingo. Many years of prison will be their prize. The Eliot brothers for the crime of horse stealing, and all four of them for kidnapping and blackmail. One does not get away with crimes against a citizen of the Crown. They will be gone for a very, very long time." John Murray explained.
All the while the adults were eating, Ken-tah-teh, with his tummy full was not interested in any of Cincinnatus' biscuits. His eyes were on all those horses tethered nearby.
Po-nee, Papa, po-nee,"
"All right, Ken-tah-teh, let's go look at all those ponies," Mingo took his son in his arms and started to walk to the horses. Blue Belle, John Murray's Arabian mare turned her head when she saw them coming.
"Blue," the baby called out. Mingo laughed, "Good boy, you remembered her name."
Back at the campfire Robley stood after finishing a biscuit and a cup of coffee and addressed John Murray.
"Sir, shall I saddle the horses and prepare for return journey to Salem?"
"Yes, Robley, and while you do I will have another of Cincinnatus' biscuits to finish my coffee. How about you, Mr. Boone? Won't you join me?" John Murray said.
"Don't mind if I do, Governor," the big man said. And Songbird, you just rest up and let Cincinnatus do the cookin' today."
"Thank you, Daniel," Mingo's beautiful wife said. She sat by her father-in-law and they both watched Mingo and Ken-tah-teh with the horses.
The mare took a step toward them. Her colt, Cherokee, was not so welcoming. He was still not happy with the rope around his neck, which tethered him to tree. The little brown and white pinto shook his head, whinnied, and moved closer to his mother's side.
"Easy, Cherokee, we just want to say hello," Mingo's deep, mellow voice gentled the colt a little. He stopped pulling at the rope, and stood quietly by his mother as Mingo and Ken-tah-teh got closer.
"Hello Blue Belle," Mingo rubbed her nose. Ken-tah-teh did the same, but his eyes were on the little pony. "You've a fine son there, Blue, just like my Ken-tah-teh," Mingo poked the baby in his tummy. Ken-tah-teh laughed. "Hello, Cherokee," Mingo slowly put out his hand. The colt sniffed at it, but would not let the Cherokee man pet his nose.
"You do have a very fine son, Master Murray, I mean," Robley Davenport stuttered as he came up behind Mingo and the baby. The Cherokee put his arm around the Englishman.
"It is just Mingo now, Robley. Although I know I will probably always be Master Murray to you, won't I?"
"Yes, Master, I mean, Mingo. It is good to finally see you happy. You have a charming family. And I now can see how beautiful this land is; and why you missed it so when you were in London."
The baby put his hand out to the Englishman and he took it, "Hello, Ken-tah-teh."
"So you two have already met?" Mingo asked.
"Oh yes," Robley said. "Your Grandfather introduced us, didn't he, Ken-tah-teh?"
But the baby's attention had already gone back to the ponies.
"He has your love for horses, Mingo. That is certainly evident. Well, I had better get the horses saddled, packed, and ready for the ride back to Salem."
Mingo started to step away from the mare so Robley could saddle her.
"Oh no, my instructions were to saddle the bays only, not Blue Belle and her colt. I'd best get to it straight away. My best wishes to you, Master Murray, Mingo, for a long and happy life with many children."
Mingo shook Robley's hand firmly, "Thank you, Robley, for everything."
The Englishman nodded and went over to the other horses.
"He is a good man to have around," John Murray said, joining his son and grandson.
"Yes he is, and so are you, father. You saved Songbird and Ken-tah-teh's lives," Mingo told him.
"Ahhh, you would have done the same, Mingo," Murray stammered. "Now then, Ken-tah-teh, I think Blue Belle remembers you. And doesn't she have a handsome young son there, just like you." The tall Englishman went over to the tree and untied the lead rope to the colt. He came back, took Ken-tah-teh's hand and placed the rope in it. Then he looked at Mingo.
"I want you and Songbird to have Blue Belle and I want Ken-tah-teh to have Cherokee. A boy who loves horses like he does should have his own. And to raise him from a colt is the best way. Ken-tah-teh and Cherokee will grow up together and make this land, this Promised Land of yours, a good place to live and raise a family."
"No Father, we can't take Blue, she is your mare," Mingo said, but Murray stopped him.
I can't see her making another long boat voyage back to England, and I know the little one wouldn't stand for it," Murray laughed. "No, Mingo, please, I insist. I know they will both be well taken care of. And when I come back for a visit one day, Ken-tah-teh, I expect to see you and Cherokee riding up to meet me." He looked over at Robley who was finishing with the horses. "Are we ready to leave yet, Robley?"
"Yes Sir, we are," Davenport answered and mounted one of the bays.
By that time Songbird, Daniel, and Cincinnatus had joined them. The Governor General shook their hands, "Gentlemen, always a pleasure and an adventure when we meet. I hope to be back one day when this conflict is settled for a mug or two of Blue Thunder."
"Make that a jug or two, Governor," Daniel said.
"And I'll buy!" Cincinnatus said.
That brought a roar from all the men. John Murray then took Songbird's hand and kissed it. "Please come back and visit. You are welcome anytime." She told him.
"I will, I promise," he said.
He took Mingo's hand to shake it, but the Cherokee grabbed his forearm, and made it a forearm to forearm handshake. "Thank you, father, for my family."
The Englishman nodded but was unable to answer. Mingo understood.
"Tell Grandfather, thank you and goodbye, Ken-tah-teh. Tell him we will take Blue Belle and Cherokee home and take good care of them."
"Grandfodder, bye," the baby said. Then he pointed to the horses. "Blue and po-nee home."
John Murray couldn't help but laugh. The English gentleman put his hand on the baby's cheek, "Good bye, Ken-tah-teh, take care of your Mama and Papa. Grandfodder loves you." Then he quickly got to his bay, mounted, and he and Robley left, waving as they rode out of site.
For a few moments the only sound to be heard was the gentle lapping of waves from Findley Lake kissing the lakeshore.
"Well now," Daniel's voice broke the silence. "We'd best get saddled up and get back to Boonesborough. We got so many horses to choose from, I don't know which one to ride. But I'll say one thing, looky there, Tah-teh's finally got his own pony and a fine pony he is too."
"Yes he certainly is," Mingo agreed and looked down the trail to catch one more glance of the riders, but they were gone. "Thank you, father." He whispered. Then he put his arm around Songbird and squeezed his family tight.
"Let's go home," he said.
"Home, Po-nee." Ken-tah-teh repeated, and shook the lead rope still in his hand.
July in Kentucky can be hot, and this July was no different. The sun burned orange in the faded blue sky. It had been three months since the kidnapping ordeal. Both Ken-tah-teh and Cherokee were growing like weeds. The pony was settling down and getting used to his new owners, still too small to be ridden, he did recognize the sound of the baby's voice whenever Ken-tah-teh and Mingo came to feed him.
Today had been another birthday celebration of sorts. Mingo did not really know the exact day of his birth, but he did know he was born in mid-summer. And for Israel and Jemima, Daniel's children, who wanted their Cherokee friend to have a birthday, he agreed to let them celebrate his day of birth in the white man's month of July. And they usually chose to celebrate it around the 9th or 10 day of the month of July.
Today was that day. A small celebration at the lodge of their Indian friends, the Boone's brought over one of Mingo's favorites, Rebecca's apple pie. The group was sitting around the outside fire ring. There was no fire needed this day, but it was a good place for them to enjoy together the celebration. Rebecca and Jemima brought out two big, golden brown apple pies. The Cherokee rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
"Look at those pies, Ken-tah-teh," Mingo said to his little son who was standing, leaning on his father's knee.
"But it ain't a birthday cake!" Israel argued. "Whoever heard of a birthday pie?!"
"Israel, be quiet," his sister, Jemima told him. "It's Mingo's birthday, and Mingo gets to have his favorite. Besides you love Ma's apple pie."
"I know, I was just tryin' to keep with tra, tra," the blonde haired boy struggled.
"Tradition?" Mingo said.
"Yeah, tradition. We learned about tradition in school last year."
"Well, Israel, how about we make it a tradition that on my day of birth celebration we have your mother's delicious apple pie?" Mingo tussled the boy's blonde locks.
"All right, Mingo," Israel agreed.
After they all had enjoyed a piece of apple pie, or two pieces in Daniel and Mingo's case, Israel looked at Songbird and Rebecca.
"Now Ma? Now Songbird? Now the surprise?" The little boy's voice raised an octave.
Songbird smiled, "All right, Israel. You go guard the door to the lodge and keep Mingo out," she grinned at her husband. "Come with Mama, Ken-tah-teh, so we can get Papa's surprise." The baby ran to her and walked with her inside their lodge.
Mingo looked at the Boones, first Rebecca, then Jemima, then Daniel.
"What is going on here?" he asked.
"It's a sur-prise, Mingo," Daniel answered.
After a few moments, the guard at the door whose name happened to be Israel Boone shouted, "Are you ready, Mingo, for your surprise?"
"I am ready, Israel," The Cherokee man replied.
Israel opened the door, and out came Ken-tah-teh wearing a pair of blue woolen trousers, with a red stripe down the side, identical to Mingo's, as well as identical moccasins to Mingo's.
"Go show Papa your new trousers and shoes, Ken-tah-teh," Songbird told him.
The baby ran over to Mingo's open arms, and onto his lap.
"Ken-tah-teh, look at you, just like Papa's," he said slapping his knee.
"Tah-teh like Papa," the baby said.
"Do you like the surprise, Mingo?" Israel asked. "Your Pa sent the cloth; Ma and Jemima sewed 'em. Me and Pa tanned the leather and Songbird sewed the moccasins. Do you like it, Mingo?" he asked again.
"I sure do like it, Israel. It's the best surprise ever, well almost the best." He patted Ken-tah-teh's bare tummy and kissed his head. "Thank you all very much. Next we'll have to get you a vest like Papa's."
Songbird looked at the baby, "Oh do not worry, Papa, we made him one, but of course he will not wear it in this heat." Mingo laughed as did the Boones who were just getting ready to leave.
"Well Mingo," Daniel said. "Another year older."
Mingo stood up beside his tall friend, "'Tis true, Daniel, but remember I am still and always will be younger than you."
"Very funny, Mingo. Very funny. Let's go, Boone family, time for us to head back to our cabin."
"Thank you all again," Mingo said. He and his family waved goodbye to them until they were out of sight.
"That was nice of your father to send the material for Ken-tah-teh's trousers. I hope he comes for a visit before his grandson grows out of them," Songbird told Mingo.
"He promised he would come and a promise is a promise, isn't that right, Ken-tah-teh?" Mingo picked up the baby. "Just like you and Israel are the promise of a peaceful future between the Indian and the white man."
Songbird came close to her husband, put her arm around his waist and laid her head on his chest. "Ken-tah-teh and I have another surprise for you, Papa. Don't we, Ken-tah-teh?"
"You do? And what is that?" Mingo put his arm around her and squeezed her tight to him.
Songbird looked up into his eyes, "Do you remember that day on the trail when you told me you wondered if ever there would be another little one sleeping with us in our bed? And I promised you there would be one day."
Mingo's face lit up with joy, "I remember," he said.
"A promise is a promise."
Mingo kissed her again and then kissed his son.
He looked to the sky and held his family tight to him.
"Thank you, Great Spirit, for all that you have promised for your people. And for all the promises you have given me."