The next morning, while we were discussing several things over breakfast, I remembered something I had intended to ask Dover when he had first rode up. "How did you ever find us?"
"Oh", he said as he reached for his coffee cup. "It was easier than you would think. You know how it is. There's a lot of land out here, and few folks, so news spreads pretty far, and pretty quickly. I ran into a soldier in southern Montana who had talked to a wagon train boss named Ward. The Wagon Master had told him about a young man that fit your description, and a beautiful Mohegan girl, who had left his train with the intent of following the South Platte to the front range. When I stopped in the trading post at Laramie, the guy running the post told me about a young man and his Indian bride who lived in the mountains taking meat to some starving Arapaho a couple years back. Figuring it might have been you, I was on my way to find the Arapaho village, when I ran across one of their braves. I never learned their lingo, but with sign language, and one thing or another, he figured out that I was looking for you, and drew me out sort of a map in the dirt with his lance. Nothing to it. Besides, there wasn't no rush. I'd have just kept looking around, enjoying new country until I ran into you."
Taking the coffee pot off the fire, I refilled his cup. "I hadn't thought about it, but you are right. Finding someone in a big city might take forever. Out here, the lack of people actually makes it easier, if you are serious about finding them."
When we finished out coffee, I scooted my chair back. "I'm going up the trail to see if I can get us a Bear, Elk, or Cougar. Interested in going along?"
"Guess I better," he answered. Like as not, you will run into another bear and get yourself all tore up again, and I'll have to drag you down the mountain. I'll tell you one thing tho. If'n you do, I ain't riding to Springfield to bring back that no-account doctor. I ain't forgot that he promised to shoot me on sight the next time I showed up there."
We shared a few laughs as we thought back to that time. "Fair enough Dover. Besides, if a bear gets me out here, it will probably be a Grizzly, and in that case, I probably won't need a doctor anyway. I'll just count on you to bury my remains."
Tossing me my rifle, Dover said, "Well, come on. Let's get to it. With luck, we can get what we want and be back here in time for lunch. Mariska told me that Senta is making lunch, and I'm sorta anxious to see if Senta is as good a cook as she is pretty."
As we headed up the trail, I was glad that Dover was with me. He was by far the best hunter I had ever known. How long he planned to stay, he hadn't said, but even if it was just a few days, his hunting skill could make a very big difference in boosting our food supply. We split off in different directions when we passed the small waterfall near the stand of pine trees that had been killed by lightning. We had not been apart more than fifteen minutes when I heard his rifle fire. That shot was followed by another in short order. Dover was an excellent shot, so if two shots were needed, that meant he had located something pretty big.
Rushing back down the trail, I found him hard at work skinning and butchering a large Grizzly. After making a quick circle around our location to be sure another Grizzly was not around, I began helping Dover. As we worked, I started talking about something that had been weighing heavily on my mind.
"Dover, do you have any definite plans in mind? Do you need to be somewhere else in the near future?"
His eyes turned in my direction. "Sean, you're not one for idle questions. Tell me what's on your mind lad."
"Quite awhile back, I entrusted a couple of letters to a trapper that I knew. He was headed for St. Louis, and promised that he would mail them for me when he got there. One was addressed to the Newleys. You remember them don't you? The couple that took us in after I got ripped up by that bear?"
A grin broke out on his face. "Sure I remember. That bear sure nuff tore you up some. With just a little bit of luck, Mariska would have been a widow, and I might be her husband today."
Returning his grin, I said, "and despite that opportunity, you rode day and night to bring out a doctor to try and save me."
Dover cocked his head and replied. "Well, despite what folks might say, I never did lay claim to being very smart."
As I began slipping some of the meat into our packs, I continued. "Anyway, the other letter I sent to my cousin Grady in Ireland. I wanted both the Newley family, and my cousin in Ireland to know that I was safe, about my family, and where we lived."
"So, I'm guessing you didn't get an answer, and you want me to take letters back east?"
"No", I answered. I did get a letter back from Dan Newley. They are doing well. They are farming in Arkansas now. A few weeks ago, I got an answer from my cousin Grady's wife in Ireland. Do you remember the story of why I had to leave Ireland as a fugitive?"
He thought back, and replied. "I think I remember most of it. Seems to me that after your parents were gone, you were left alone. You stopped an important nobleman from beating a helpless old man, putting the nobleman on the ground in the process. He put a price on your head, and you had to sneak onto a ship as a stow-a-way and came to America."
"That's pretty close. My cousin Grady helped hide me from the Earl's men, and helped me escape on that ship. The letter I received from his wife Maura, told me that the Earl had learned of Grady's role in my escape. The village woke up one morning to find Grady's head on a post in the town square. Dover, if it were not for Grady's help, I would probably have been killed by the Earl of Morrison's men. It would have been my head on that post instead of Grady's. My first instinct was to go back to Ireland, and settle accounts with the Earl. But, as much as I want to repay my debt to Grady, my first responsibility is to my own family here. There's no way I could leave them alone for as long as would be necessary for that kind of trip."
Dover's eyes met mine, and as usual, he cut right to the point. "That's why you wanted to know my plans. You would like for me to watch over your family while you return to Ireland."
"Yes," I answered. "I know it's a lot to ask, but, that's it."
Flashing that grin that I had seen so many times on our way from Mississippi to western Missouri, he replied. "You right sure you want to run off and leave me here with two of the most beautiful women I've ever run across? How do you know that you won't come home and find me and the women long gone?"
"First of all, I trust Mariska and Senta. Second, altho you try to hide it, you are a man of honor. There's no man I trust more to care for my family than you. I know that you would go to your death before you would allow harm to come to them."
He grimaced, and shook his head. "Well damn it, now how's a man supposed to maintain a reputation as a scoundrel when you go and say things like that? Well, let's get this meat and hide back down the mountain. I need to think on this damn fool proposition."
As the cabin came into view, Dover stopped and turned to face me. Extending his hand, he said, "All right. I'll do it. A man would be a fool to pass up a chance to drink Mariska's coffee every day for that long. Besides, maybe that sweet looking Senta knows a few pretty young girls in her village that she can introduce me to. I'm not getting any younger. A man could do worse than to settle down with four or five pretty young Arapaho girls. Not that they match up to those Nez Perce women mind you, but, the Arapaho are here, and the Nez Perce are way up there."
Shaking his hand, I laughed and answered. "Well, I'll talk to Senta and see what we can do about that. Let's get this meat on down to the women. We have plans to make."