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Excerpt from Escape to Beulah

The Good People welcomed them back with smiles and hugs. Pink Dress grinned widely when he saw Ethel Jean, who blushed and quickly introduced Bill as her new husband. Pink Dress continued to smile, but shrugged his shoulders in disappointment.

"You know him?" Bill asked suspiciously.

"How could a person know another person if that person couldn't even talk to the other person?" Ethel Jean evaded, and Bill seemed satisfied.

The extra horses and the collected rifles, handguns, and ammunition amazed the Good People and they began to tease Molly, calling her The Woman Who Finds Treasure.

They didn't need much in the way of shelter. The early summer air was warm, the families were more than willing to share their teepees with the newcomers, and it was an easy matter to turn the wagons into tents.

"This aint the end of the road for me," Matty said quietly I don't want to wander and roam for the rest of my life. I want a garden, and a house with a roof and a warm fire in the winter."

"Just for a while," Lucy Pearl promised. "We need to rest up and find out where we are and what lies ahead."

"Cassidy isn't going to forget," Molly said warningly. "Even with only one horse those bastards will make it to the railway. And once they get there, it won't take any time at all to get ready to head back. This time he knows where he's going."

"What do you suggest?" Lila asked, her eyes dark with worry.

"I can't hide behind the Good People for the rest of my life," Molly said, "hoping they'll keep those brutes away from me. Cassidy didn't know I was even missing before, but he knows now and he'll come after his horses and he'll come after me with blood in his eye because I blasted his foot. And if I stay with the Good People, Cassidy'll do to them what he was ready to do to you. So. . . I'm heading west and north. If I leave soon I'll be through the mountains before the weather turns bad."

"You're crazy!" Bill protested. "Through the mountains?"

"I need to do a few things before I leave," Molly went on. She looked around the busy camp. "They'd give us every drop of food they have," she said, "and share until they had nothing. But I want to replace what I've been given. Tomorrow, I'm going to find the closest herd so I can leave meat to replace the pemmican and jerky I take. And then try to explain why I'm leaving."

"No way this wagon going to make it through the mountains," Matty said.

"You don't have to come." Molly looked down at her hands, then looked up to see Matty smiling and shaking her head. "You'd be welcome and all. . . but I don't want to make decisions for anybody else."

"You think Cassidy'll leave us alone?" Matty shook her head. "He'll look for me until one or both of us is dead."

"We're going with you," Reba said, reaching over and touching Molly's hand.

"I bet," Lucy Pearl offered, "that Cassidy is about one week away from the railroad right now. And I bet by the end of the second week, "He'll be in Charles Corners, turning himself inside out, organizing a move against us. And that means we've got about a month for a head start." She shuddered, "That's about ten years not enough. Maybe on the other side of the mountains well have a chance. But we got no chance here."

Molly went to her pile of belongings, sorted through it, and walked off towards the cleansing stream. Matty watched her go, then smiled softly at Lucy Pearl.

"That girl could be your sister," she told Lucy Pearl. "I like her."

"You're serious about this?" Ethel Jean worried. "About going with her, I mean?"

"I dont see we got much choice," Matty answered.

"But the wagons ... all that good stuff. . . "

"That stuff worth dying for?" Matty asked.

"A person can always use diamonds," Lila drawled, "and they don't take up a whole lot of space. Why, just one or two pockets full and a person could learn to live like we only heard about till now."

"Ethel Jean," Bill commanded. "Stop this foolishness right now! You have no idea what's waiting in those mountains or on the other side of them."

"No, but I got a real clear idea of what's waiting when Cassidy catches up to us."

"We saved his life," Bill blustered. "We left him a horse, a gun. . ."

"That was mistake number three," Matty said sadly. "It was also mistake number one and two. Lucy Pearl was right."

Molly returned from the cleansing stream dressed in her finest outfit, wearing her warrior feathers and carrying the red calumet. She sat at the main campfire, cross-legged, filling the calumet from the mixture in the pouch at her belt.

Small Fawn Laughing sat next to Molly, smiled at her sadly.
"And so," she said, "my returned relative is going to leave us again."

"How did you know?"

"Those who come back from that other place seldom stay long."

"The choice isn't mine," Molly said honestly.

"Where do you go?"

"Through the mountains, to the land where the sun goes."

"Then there is something you should see before you go," Small Fawn Laughing said. "And you must not leave without proper preparation,"

Molly nodded, lit the calumet and puffed on it, then passed it to Small Fawn Laughing.

"I am not your grandfather," she said firmly. "I have always been who I am now. I have told you how it happened that I found the platform and. . . " She stopped, shaking her head and grinning as Small Fawn Laughing burst into happy chortles.

"No," Small Fawn laughed. "Do not tell me that funny story again! We understand. It is you who does not understand! A woman doomed to die was saved because of our grandfather. And so he lives again. Our grandfather did not go directly to the other land because he wanted to save you. Save you so you could save the others."

"I must hunt for the People," Molly insisted. "I must be sure the children of the Good People do not go hungry because of me or these others."

"You see!" Small Fawn Laughing took the calumet again. "Even now my grandfather's spirit watches over you. He was always firm about protecting and feeding the children. Of course you must hunt," she agreed, "and after you have hunted, you must come to see this great thing."

They lay on their bellies in the long grass, looking down on the massed animals moving across the prairie below them.

"Have you ever," Lila breathed, "seen such a marvel! They told us stories about what it was like before we were shipped away from home, and they said the animals couldn't be counted by any one person, but I thought. . . " She wiped her eyes. "I thought it was just a story." She turned and smiled at Molly. "Now I know the stories they told us are true."