As we stacked our purchases on Mr. Laplace’s counter, my new shirt on top, the strangest thing happened. A wagon was passing on the Rue Jefferson thoroughfare outside the store. Something was wrong with one of its wheels, and it was making a racket. Crack. Klip klop, klip klop. Then again. Crack. Klip klop, klip klop. The sounds, five the count, repeated over and over. I was certain it was a pattern I had heard before but could not place.

A sudden chill came over me, and I stopped in my tracks. It was a feeling like I was scared, but there was nothing to be a-scared of. A strange, tingling sensation worked its way from the small of my back to the top of my head. I heard again the wagon wheel. Each time it turned it made those five sounds and the chill came again, like fingernails scratching a chalk board. I crossed the big room and looked out the window. I had to see this wagon that seemed to be terrifying me. Yet it was just an everyday wagon, being drawn by two horses and driven by a young man. Nothing unusual, except for its effect on me.

The chill continued, then concentrated in my head, between my eyes, and turned into a piercing icicle of thought. Suddenly, I had a chilling perception that something was wrong, very wrong, in Long Prairie. It was as real as anything I had ever felt or thought. We had to get back as quickly as we could, yet we were weeks away! I had to remain rational.

I had to talk to Pa, for he would know what to do, so I kept it to myself until we had left the mercantile.

“Pa, I can’t explain it, but I felt some kind of omen. I got these chills, and the notion was just there. It is just a feeling, but I think there is something wrong at home. We need to get on our way back, and we need to do it now.”

We were standing on the big porch outside Mr. Laplace’s place. The wagon was gone, but it seemed as though I could still hear its sound, which made me uneasy. It was not rational, and I had to stop it right away, so I stood up tall and exhaled a deep breath. Pa hesitated and eyed me carefully. He could read me as well as any man could ever read another, and he knew this was not something to be taken lightly.

“Tom, I don’t claim to understand what you are saying, but in my life I’ve learned to trust instincts. Especially when it comes to family. You have trusted your instincts a few times on our journey here, and you were always right to do so. Elsewise, young Peter McKellar would be… would not be with us. So I trust your feelings and instincts now. You know I didn’t like the idea of the both of us being gone so long in the first place.”

Pa pulled his watch from his waistcoat pocket. “Son, it’s after three o’clock. I feel as anxious to get back on the trail as you do, but we would not get very far before nightfall. And remember, we’ll be driving cattle. But most importantly, I want a doctor to see your arm. I’ve known many a soldier who lost a limb to mortification, and I will not see that happen to you. So I suggest we get on down to the Army barracks; let the doctor have a look. Then we’ll have a good supper, a good night’s sleep, and head out at sunrise.”

“One of us should go on ahead. It will take two weeks to get these cattle back to Long Prairie. Let me leave now.”

Pa touched my shoulder. “I know how you feel, but it would be just too dangerous. One man with a herd of cattle is an open invitation to rustlers, savages, or both. It will be risky enough for the two of us. No, we got to ride together, Tom. Besides, if you left now you couldn’t see the doctor, now could you?”

We crossed Rue Jefferson and turned south as Mr. Laplace directed. A man occasionally tipped his hat to us. We passed Rue Poète but had not the time nor the inclination to stop for a visit with Valac LaBrot.

As we walked Pa said, “Here is a plan that ought to get us back to Long Prairie sooner. We’ll drive our animals up to Alden’s place at as fast a pace as they’ll go. We might be able to get there in ten or eleven days. Then we will ask him if he will tend to them while we ride hard for home. That might get us back in two weeks instead of three.”

That night, as we ate our supper I said, “Pa, we were given some useful information today by Mr. Laplace and Oats…”

Pa nodded. I was about to continue when he spoke. “Yes, we did, but I am of the opinion we did not hear everything that we should.”

“Yessir, I was just about to speak those very words. I confess to feeling odd that they already knew about everything that had happened with Tiatesun. And had already deduced that you and me were the white men there.”

“Tom, we do not know these people and their ways. We especially do not know the ways of these Indians. But as they have trails that connect them to their villages near and far, it makes sense that they have many ways of sending and obtaining information.”

“But Pa, I feel they are so close up to what we’re doing, and it gives me unease. Oats did not speak much about the conveyance of information about our, ah, incident from Kados at the lake to him. Makes you wonder just how much information gets traded in that general store.”

Pa had finished his stew and rice while I blathered away and my food grew cold. It hardly mattered, as I had no appetite anyway. “I wish I could answer these questions, Tom, but I am at a loss to understand myself. I believe Oats and Laplace bear good intentions toward us. Their actions on our behalf seem honorable, and I am inclined to trust them. But there could be other matters going on which may or mayn’t have any bearing on our activities. They’re most likely long-standing ways of this Natchitoches society and the Kados which in their unfamiliarity seem suspicious or hostile to us. Pray let us, you and I, continue to talk about matters we question. I will keep an open mind and a keen ear to the ground, and I suggest you do the same.”

As I looked into his wise eyes, Pa reached a hand toward me. I took it, and we shook. Man to man, we had struck a bargain.

We left the St. Jean Baptiste Inn the next morning after gulping down cups of hot coffee and stuffing some johnnycakes in our coat pockets. My right arm was still a bit sore from the Army doctor’s cleaning and sewing up. I had tried to convince him to leave it alone, that it was healing nicely, but he would have none of it for the same reason as Pa, who said, “Count your blessings that we got to this man when we did.” The doctor accepted our explanation that the wound had been caused by an altercation with a highly intoxicated saloon patron, and he refused to accept the half-dollar coin Pa offered.

We got our livestock out of Mr. Abbadie’s corral the moment he opened for business and headed the herd out along Cane Crick to the Red River. We continued to retrace our route, and after a few miles turned north on the Three Notch Trail. For the next ten days, we herded the longhorns along as fast as they would allow.

One morning, as we woke up to the cows lowing away, Pa up and said, “Happy Independence Day.” I grinned at him, all the while praying that Mama and the children were celebrating July 4 with the other families in Long Prairie and that my premonition had been just my imagination playing tricks on me. I had prayed for their safety every morning and evening since we got on the trail.

Early on Wednesday, July 9, we arrived at the Alden-Johnson place. We explained our situation to Mr. Alden and Mrs. Johnson. They were more than willing to tend our cattle and enjoy fresh milk while Papa and I rushed on to Long Prairie.

We rode as hard as we could. Two days later we forded the Red and arrived in Long Prairie. Joel must have heard the hoofbeats, for he ran out the door to meet us. His face was pale, and he bore no smile. Something was indeed terribly wrong.

“Papa! Papa!” Joel said. “We all got the fever. Martha. Then Mary. Then Barney.” He started crying and could not stop. “Three days ago it got Mama. I’m the only one that ain’t sick.”

We jumped off the horses and ran into the cabin. Papa knelt at Mama’s side.

“Margaret, it’s me. Tom  and me are back.” She turned to look up   at us.

“Mama,” was all I could say.

“John, Tom,” Mama said in a weak voice, “it’s the yellow fever. Two weeks ago Martha came down with it. She was burning up. We kept her as cool as we could. Mary and Barney both got sick three days later. It finally got to me. John, I’m scared. Back in Tennessee some people said Arkansaw land is diseased. Now it looks like they were right. I am so weak.”

“Martha? How is Martha now?” said Pa.

Martha had just entered the room with a bowl of water and a cloth to cool Mama. “I’m better, Papa. My fever doesn’t seem so bad. I’ve been trying to help Joel with the others.” Pa took her in his arms and gave her a great long bear hug.

Little Mary was whimpering and crying. Barney was sleeping restlessly. Papa felt both their foreheads. “They still got the fever,” he said. “They’re burning up.”

“Papa, I’m sorry!” cried Joel. “I’m sorry I didn’t take better care of them. I tried, Papa. I really did!”

“Joel, this is not your fault,” said Pa, turning and taking him by his arms. Joel looked miserable. More tears ran down his cheeks. “I’m sure you did all you could. What do you hear from the other families?”

“The Wallaces, they have it ever’ bit as bad as we do. Mr. and Mrs. Wallace are down, and so are all the children. Most of the other families have one or two sick, but most seem to be all right. Eliza Hudson and Hiram Dooley are sick, but they’s the only ones I heard about. Neither Mrs. McKellar and Mattie, nor Mrs. Manning and Melissa, got it. They have been coming around every day with food for us.” He looked over at Mama, who looked like she was about to fall asleep. “Papa, let’s step outside and let Mama go back to sleep.”

“Mags, what can I get for you?” said Pa.

“Nothing, John.” She gave Pa a weak smile and reached a hand out for his. “Joel done a fine job taking care of us. The fever will pass. We just need to rest, is all. You men go and talk. We’ll be all right now that you and Tom are back home.”

I walked outside with Pa and Joel.

“I didn’t tell it all in there. Little Eli Wallace died yesterday,” said Joel. “They don’t think Beth Wallace is going to make it either.”

“This is such a tragedy,” I said. “I told Pa I knew something bad was happening. We got back as soon as we could.”

“Ain’t nothin’ you coulda done even if you was here,” said Joel. “Least you come back well, so you can help take care of things for those who got it too bad to do work.

“Mister Wallace dug up roots and boiled ’em for some kind of Indian medicine, but I can’t tell if it helped any. Martha is doing better now, and it don’t seem to have hit Mama as bad. But I been most worried about Mary and Barney, Pa. I just been trying to keep them cool with crick water. I didn’t know what else to do. Papa, Tom, I been so scared!” Tears squeezed out of his eyes again.

“You done a good job Joel, and I’m proud of you too,” I said. “You have been a real man. So, you been getting water from the little crick?” “Thanks, Tom,” said Joel, swatting at a mosquito that had landed on his arm. “Yeah, I go get a bucketful and get rags all wet in it. That’s what you saw on their foreheads.

“Something else I should tell you. Mr. Foster thinks it’s the river. His family has been healthy, as are the Mannings and Petersons—the families that don’t have homes near the river. Foster says the land near it got poisoned from the red water. All the menfolk say that’s why the fever got us and the Wallaces so bad. He says we all need to move way back from it, at least a mile or so away from the Red.”

“Arthur Foster may be right,” said Pa. “I want to talk to Duncan and some of the other families myself. How about the crops? I know you have not had much time for them.”

“I’ve tended them as best I could, and they are doing all right. We got quite a bit of rain just after you left. And we diverted the crick some so’s to run down to the crops. That helped a lot. Then the next week the mosquitoes and gnats were all over us, so we did a bit less work outside. But the corn done good. I think we will be able to harvest it three or four weeks from now.”

“This is all good to hear, son. For now, let’s get back inside and care for your little sister and brother.”

I looked at Pa and knew what was going through his mind. The Flat Lick. Mr. Alden’s words echoed in my head, Neither me nor Allie have been sick a day since we’ve been here.

It would mean starting over again. No neighbors around for miles. But I already knew that was how it would have to be. After this, Pa would never let our family stay on this evil river, and the best place I could think of where we could possibly go was Flat Lick.

That night, Pa and I did our best to care for Mary and Barney and to let Mama, Joel, and Martha get some well-deserved rest. Both Mama and Martha were feeling better the next morning, the color returning to their cheeks and even an occasional smile upon their lips. Papa and I took turns looking over the fields. Joel had done a man’s job of taking care of both family and crops.

After a breakfast of grits and coffee Pa fixed us the next morning, he and Mama walked outside and sat on one of the big logs we had felled for just that purpose while building our place. They talked for a long time. Once in a while Pa would get up and walk back and forth. It was easy enough for me to figure out what they were discussing.

Pa would be telling Mama about the Flat Lick place, how well it was built, how big it was, how it had an upstairs and a downstairs and real glass windows, and how it was ours for the taking. How we could move in a few days after we got it cleaned up. Mama would worry about being so far away from the other families who by now had become our good friends, and about leaving behind the land we had cultivated, not to mention moving sick children, the difficulties of getting our things moved, what we would eat until we got some crops going again now that it was getting late in the season, and probably another dozen concerns. Pa would have anticipated her arguments. He would tell her about Mrs. Johnson. He would assure her we already had enough food harvested and that the land at Flat Lick was ready for raising some fall crops. He would say we didn’t have to move all at once, but only when the children were better. He would have an answer for every one of her concerns. She would see he had already solved all the problems for our family.

Their long discussion was interrupted by a visit from Mr. and Mrs. McKellar along with Stephen, Mattie, and Peter. It was good to see our friends. Especially Mattie. I realized, as Mama had, that it would be difficult to say good-bye to these folks. They brought food and fresh clothing that Mrs. McKellar had picked up two days earlier. Joel and   I walked out to meet them. I awkwardly shook Mattie’s hand as she gazed up into my face with a most charming smile on her lips. I smiled back and allowed restraint to get the better of my desire for her.

She placed her arm in mine, and her hand touched my bandage. “Tom! What has happened to you?” I touched her lips with my fingertip and said it was nothing, and that I would tell her later.

“John, Tom,” said Duncan, “we are so glad to see you’ve made it back.

We’ve been mighty worried about your family.”

“Just terrible timing for us, going to Natchitoches,” said Pa. “But how could we know?”

“Of course you could not, John,” said Duncan. “There is no right time, save what we make of it. Please allow me to say a little prayer of thanks for your safe return.” And he did so.

Once we had all said, “Amen,” Pa said, “Joel told us about the Wallace boy. We’re so sad to hear about him. But how is the girl, Beth?”

“We have just come from their place. Beth is mighty sick, out of her head most of the time. Just as yellow as she can be. I wish I felt better about her recovery, but I do not. It’s been hard on everyone to see our friends get struck down like this. Especially when it’s a little six-year-old like Eli. How are you and yours faring?”

“Well, I’m doing better, as is Martha,” said Mama. Perhaps our return had lifted their spirits. “But Mary and Barney are still down with the fever. I don’t think there has been enough time for it to run its course. I would give just anything if we had a doctor. Joel has been boiling some roots or tree bark or something, I don’t know, that Nathan Wallace brought by, and we have been drinking its tea, doing what we can with it.”

Pa said, “Duncan, come out to the fields with me.”

I knew what was coming. Pa was going to tell Duncan that he was planning to move our family to Flat Lick. Pa respected Mr. McKellar’s judgment, and although I believe Pa had already made up his mind, he wanted Duncan’s approval and blessing.

Mattie, Stephen, Martha, and I talked for a few minutes more, but the mosquitoes had found us, so we moved inside. Mama was with Christiana McKellar, and as she asked about the funeral plans for little Eli she started to cry, then so did Mrs. McKellar. They embraced each other. I noticed Mattie was about to cry and thought perhaps I should embrace her as well, but thought better of it. Instead, I took her hand, and we went to check on Mary and Barney. Joel and Peter had run off down to the river. That left Stephen, who walked into the children’s bedroom as his sister and I stood tending to them.

“Tom,” he said, “Did you get the cattle?”

“Oh, we got them all right,” I said, my moment alone with Mattie lost. “We bought nine longhorn cows and a big old bull and a plow horse. We left the cattle at these folk’s place down on the trail so we could get back quick.”

“That was mighty fortunate,” said Stephen. I told him about meeting the folks I had decided to just call “the Aldens” on the way to Natchitoches.

Mattie said, “How did you know you needed to come home quick?” I looked at her, and I confess I felt somewhat embarrassed. “Well, we didn’t. I mean we didn’t really know. How could we? But what happened was, well, I got this funny feeling that something was wrong.

Pa calls it getting a notion. You know something you ought not have knowledge of, but you know it just the same.”

“Why, that is something, Tom,” said Stephen. “I thought only womenfolk got those intuition feelings.” He grinned and continued, “I suppose you’ll go bring the animals up here any day now?”

“Possibly, but perhaps not. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be going down that way for good.”

A look of surprise—no, absolute shock—came over Mattie’s face. They both looked at me, expecting me to continue, but I just looked at them and said nothing. Mattie looked as though about to speak but didn’t. Stephen seemed just curious.

“How’s that, Tom?” he finally asked.

“Well, I probably should not say anything just yet, because Pa and Ma are still talking about it. But if I were a betting man, I would say my Pa is out in the field telling your pa right now that he plans to move us down to a place called Flat Lick.”

“Tom Murrell!” cried Mattie. Her face had gone white. “What’s Flat Lick?” asked Stephen.

“Why, it’s the name of a huge magnificent house built of logs, two stories tall,” I replied. “That’s what it is. A man named Bosel built it and hardly lived in it, then he and his family went away, and today the house sits empty.”

“Where is it, Tom?” asked Mattie, whose face had gone from shock to a slight pout.

“About three days’ ride from here, down the Three Notch Trail in the State of Louisiana. The Aldens live another half day’s ride south of Flat Lick.”

“I can understand your Pa wanting to move off the river, but why not stay somewheres closer around here?” said Stephen. “No reason to go all the way down to Louisiana.”

“There is a very good reason,” I said. “It is a fine home, already built, waiting for a family. It sits near a stream on one hundred sixty acres of land ready for planting. The builder went off to Spanish Territory and left it, free for the taking.”

“But all the work we’ve done here,” said Stephen. “You’ll have to begin all over again.”

“We would not be starting completely over. And Mr. Alden said they would help us to get a planting in right away.”

Mattie finally spoke. “Tom, what do you think?”

“Mattie, you know that coming out here was not my choice in the first place. I believe Long Prairie could become a bit of civilization above the Great Raft, as has Natchitoches below it. Even so, living on the frontier is certainly not my preference. I do it only because my family needs me.”

“But frontier life is Pa’s dream. And so I believe Pa now sees Flat Lick as the greatest opportunity for our family. After what has happened here over the past two weeks, I dare say he won’t risk staying near this, this Red River. And he won’t put our family into another crude shelter when we can live in a fine place, even if we have to do a lot of work  to make it happen and live further away from any neighbors. No, I’m pretty sure we are going to Flat Lick.”

At supper that night, Pa told the whole family we were moving to Flat Lick. To my surprise, no one seemed terribly upset at his decision, especially after hearing about the wonderful house. He explained his well-thought-out plan, which I expect he’d worked all the way through on our ride back to Long Prairie. He said Duncan McKellar had agreed it was an opportunity not to let pass by, while also saying the community would feel our absence in many ways.

To begin with, Joel and I would take Jim Dandy down to Flat Lick with the tools needed to clean and make repairs, and bring some of our belongings. We would build a raft to ferry our cargo to the other side of the river, then move our things down on horseback and travois.

Pa, Mama, and the other children would come along seven days later, assuming Mary and Barney were well enough to travel, bringing more of our belongings with them. Joel and I would come back again to get whatever remained of our things that could be moved by travois, along with some of the harvested crops. Then we would give our cabin to whomsoever wanted it. Mr. McKellar also said he would make sure our potatoes got dug and saved for us. When we told him about building a raft, right away he said the whole community could benefit by having its use. He got help from several men, and it was completed in a day.

Two days later, Joel and I had the raft ready to go. We had set a guide rope across the river, tied to two trees, to keep the raft from drifting. All we had to do was tow it back and forth across the river by hand. We were going back to the cabin for belongings when Mr. McKellar and Mattie rode up with a dinner to share. Once we finished eating, Mattie and Mama set to packing our belongings.

Pa and Duncan walked off a few steps to converse privately. Joel and I figured it had been left to us to haul trunks and chairs onto the raft, so we set to it. As we finished Pa said, “Duncan, Mattie, come on out here by the sittin’ log. Joel and Tom, you as well. There is something we need to visit about before Tom and Joel set out.”

Up to that point, Pa had not mentioned anything about the Indian incident to anyone in Long Prairie except Mama, and I expect he had not gone into great detail with her. I had a sense that this would be the subject of which he would speak.

“Mattie, I want you to listen to this,” said her father. “You are the only person who can speak the Kado Indian language, save the few words you have taught to Tom. Mr. Murrell tells me that one of these days we might have a reason to call on your knowledge.”

Mattie smiled at me, and I smiled back. Speaking Kado was something only she and I shared. I could tell it made her mighty proud to be included in men’s affairs.

Pa took over and described what happened to us with the Kados and Osage. He talked of how we shot the two Osage dead and how     a third had attacked me and cut my arm. I pulled back my sleeve and showed them my arm, where the wound had almost entirely healed. Mattie sighed and said, “Oh, Tom, Tom, so that is…” and took my arm gently in her own.

“Before that old Kado medicine man died he made the strangest request,” Pa continued. “He asked for my Bible and proceeded to draw some kind of crude map on a blank page in his own blood. He told us to give it to ‘the Kadohadacho,’ and then he died. We have not been able to figure out how to do as he asked.”

Mattie said, “‘Kadohadacho’ has more than one meaning. It refers to the tribe, but it is also the chief’s title. It is a word meaning great respect, as you might say ‘Your Highness.’ When we white people hear the word ‘Kadohadacho’ spoken, it can mean tribe or leader.”

“Well,” Pa said, “thank you, Mattie. That is very clarifying.”

“Did you discuss this attack with the authorities?” Duncan asked. “What did they say?”

“If you refer to the Army, the answer is no, we did not,” Pa replied.

“A man named Laplace owns the dry goods store. He employs a young Kado, name of Oats, and the two of them seem to know everything that’s worth knowing about.”

“Yes, I’ve met and talked with them both,” said Duncan.

Pa continued, “They provided a great deal of valuable information about the Kado and Osage tribes and their relations with one another and with the American Army, too. Very valuable indeed, but we were advised not to get caught up in it. So, rather than our going to Fort Claiborne ourselves, he promised to get our story about the attack to the commanding officer, a Major Trimble, without mentioning us at all. It seemed to me the best course of action.”

“John, I know you to be a forthright man,” said Duncan, “and if you trust the merchant to properly inform the authorities, well, that also seems to me the right way to handle the matter, so as to keep you out of it. Of course, I would not wish us here in Long Prairie to get caught up in anything between the Kados and Osage.”

“In that regard there seems to be nothing, at least at present, for us to be concerned about,” said Pa.

Mr. McKellar nodded and continued, “But what about that map?

What are you going to do about that?”

“For now, nothing, for it is nothing any of them in Natchitoches need know about. It seemed very important to the dying Kado that the map be delivered by Tom and me into Kado hands,” Pa said, opening his own hands toward Mattie to acknowledge her insight. “We will honor that request to the best of our abilities. I’ll bet it’s a map of where the old Kado was heading when he was attacked, which we heard from the Oats fellow was the Kado’s annual pilgrimage to someplace up in that mountain range east of here. No doubt the Kado chief or some other high-up knew where he was going, so this may not come as any news to them. For the time being we’ll just keep it, and the story, to ourselves.” Pa looked each person in the face. “The only people who know anything of the map are sitting right here in front of me.”

“And those Indian boys, Pa,” I said, “Don’t forget about those boys.

The Coconicis knew, too.” Pa just nodded.

The funeral for little Eli was held midafternoon. It was a short, quiet affair, but everyone in Long Prairie was in attendance. Duncan – might as well call him Pastor McKellar – presided, reading the twenty-third psalm. When he got to the part about the valley of death, all the womenfolk burst into tears, weeping to beat the band along with Mr. and Mrs. Wallace.

Afterward, all the women showed up at the McKellars with food and everyone had dinner together. I had not been to a funeral before and was not aware that a meal such as this was part of the funeral ritual until Mama explained it to me. I was learning more about death out here in the Arkansaw Territory than I had ever cared to know.

Later that afternoon Joel and I went out to saddle up our horses for the ride down to Flat Lick. Mattie walked out of their cabin with us.

“Tom, you and Joel be mighty careful. You may see more Indians on the way. You don’t know what they might be after. They could be those awful Osage looking for you!”

I looked at her standing there, her brown hair falling on the shoulders of her blue gingham dress, the toes of her shoes pointing straight at me, her fingers worrying her handkerchief.

“Thank you, Mattie. We appreciate that, but don’t you  worry  about us,” I said. “We’ll watch out. Joel here says he wants to hang on to his hair.”

Joel gave us a half smile and went back to saddling old Nick. I was again riding our new gelding, Jim Dandy. After having sat him several days coming back to Long Prairie, I was becoming fond of this horse.

“You will be back here in three weeks or so?” asked Mattie, still worrying that handkerchief and looking sadder and prettier by the minute.

“Yup, soon’s the rest of the family gets to Flat Lick. I’ll be back before you know it for some more Kado lessons.”

Mattie walked up close and gave me a little kiss on the cheek. “I’ll miss you, Tom Murrell.”

“I . . . I’ll miss you too, Mattie.” I looked into her sad, soft blue eyes and just couldn’t help myself. I took her by the shoulders and pulled her to my chest. She did not resist, but instead she wrapped her arms around me and held on. We stood like that for what felt like a sweet eternity, then she pulled away and walked back inside like nothing had happened. Joel had stopped what he was doing and was staring at me with a look of some surprise.

“Guess I didn’t know she was sweet on ya, Tom.”

“Guess I didn’t know either. I mean, I don’t know if she is or if she isn’t.”

“Oh, shoo,” he said. “Leastwise you know you’re sweet on her!”

In the midst of all that had happened, all that was still happening, and whatever was likely to happen in the future, this was something pretty good. I would be quite reluctant to give it up simply because I hadn’t figured on Mattie being part of The Plan.