Between Guns and Arrows – Extended Epilogue

It was spring. There was nothing more beautiful than seeing the world come back to life again after a long and difficult winter. Except maybe the sight of Ben’s wife as she rode easily alongside him on their way into town.

Julie sat casually atop her horse, no longer using the saddle she’d once been accustomed to. She rode as the Comanche did, on a blanket thrown over the back of the horse, controlling her animal with voice and the subtle shifts of her weight and leg pressure. Were it not for the brilliant red of her hair, tumbling free down over her shoulders, she might have been a Comanche woman, dressed in soft deerskin with moccasins on her feet.

Ben marveled at her, how easily she’d adapted to life with the Comanche. For the last year, she had stayed with him, traveling with their tribe, serving as healer woman and gaining no small amount of respect and admiration from the people who had raised him.

It was only with great reluctance that either of them left now.

But Julie’s father had sent word that he would like to see them both. Lately he’d been making noises that while they were married by Comanche tradition, it was high time for them to tie the knot in the way of the white men, especially with their first child on the way.

“He’s up to something,” Julie said again as they rode. She’d been saying this a lot, and while Ben agreed, he refused to be overly concerned about it until he knew more of what was going on.

“Perhaps he misses having his daughter near him. It was not so easy for us to see each other over the winter months. It’s natural for a man to want to see his child,” Ben said, his gaze lingering upon his wife’s waist with a slight frown. “Besides, I’m not exactly sure he doesn’t have the right idea. Things can go wrong with the birthing of babies. Living in town… well, life would be easier for you there.”

She glanced over at him in surprise. “Ben, I am perfectly healthy, and the baby is doing just fine. Comanche women have babies all the time.”

“They do not always survive,” he reminded her gently, thinking of his first wife and child. He swallowed hard, for while he was happier than he’d ever been, there was still sadness attached to those memories. “Besides, you have lived in my world and become as the Comanche.”

“And you want to live in the white man’s world.” She sighed. “Ben, the ‘white man’s world’… it’s not so accepting sometimes. You know this.”

“But how can I understand you, or even myself fully, if I do not try it?”

Julie looked at the town on the horizon with a frown. “I wish I could be as confident as you,” she muttered. “There are always those who want to stir up trouble. And they never did find the sheriff.”

**

“Ben, I’ve been meaning to ask you how your mother is doing,” Doc Brown said, his arm still around his daughter as they sat next to each other on the couch.

“She is well,” Ben said with a smile, still awkward in speaking English.

Julie understood. She had mastered the Comanche language as she did anything else she set her mind to, and they’d become so accustomed to speaking to each other in the language of his people that switching back to the old ways still felt difficult and strange. She smoothed her skirt idly, enjoying the feel of the fabric under her fingers. She’d changed so they could walk through town, and she had forgotten how much she enjoyed some things. While her doeskin dress was soft as butter, it was warm in the spring sunshine, and it didn’t move with her the way her dress did.

She smiled now as she took up the thread of conversation. “Father, you should see her. Since Huutsuu had her baby, Ben’s mother seems to have the energy of ten women. She helps manage the… household, I guess you’d call it. She never seems to stop, from morning to evening, either preparing meals or hides, or helping with the baby. I don’t see how she does it!”

Ben laughed. “My mother has always been that way. She is a Comanche woman, after all.” He chuckled. “You, too, are industrious.”

Julie blushed at the compliment. She’d told her father in her letters about the work she’d been doing to better the health of the Comanche. She’d also learned so much about native medicine from them and was excited to share these treatments with her father. “In my own way,” she admitted. “Father, did you try any of the herbs I sent—”

“I was wanting to talk to you about that. About your plans once you’re married and the baby is born.”

Julie stared at her father. “I am married. I was married by the chief himself. I’m only agreeing to this ceremony on Saturday because it seems to mean so much to you.”

Her father drew himself up. “Your mother would have wanted it.”

Would she? Julie wondered. She was more inclined to want Julie to be happy, which she was.

“It might help…” Ben suggested into the silence.

Julie looked up in time to see a look pass between her husband and father. “You’re up to something, the both of you. And what do you mean, you wanted to talk to me about my plans? I thought I’d be helping you, for as long as I can, anyway. Once the baby is born, it would be no trouble to tend in the office. I could set up an area…”

Her father cleared his throat. “It might be awkward, you working in town once—maybe I should show you.”

“Awkward?” Julie turned toward Ben in confusion. “Ben, do you know what he’s talking about?” She asked the question in Comanche.

He shot a look at her father and very pointedly answered in English, “Your father got us a gift…”

***

“A ranch?” Julie balanced on the wagon wheel, trying to look down the long winding drive. They were standing at a pair of fancy gates that barred entry to the land. Wire fencing stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions. From here, she couldn’t even see the house.

“Father, you bought us a ranch?”

“Not me, exactly. I helped broker the deal. I might have thrown in a little extra when I found this place was up for sale. Most of the money came from Ben and Kwihnai, the gold they found when working that claim belonging to Ben’s father. Being that his situation was still a bit delicate…” Doc shot a glance at Ben, who grimaced.

“What he means is no one wanted to sell to an Indian,” Ben said quietly, and braced himself for the explosion which was sure to come.

“But you’re not… for Heaven’s sake. You don’t even look the part anymore!”

Quite the contrary. With his pressed shirt and denim pants like the cowboys wore, he could have been anyone. Ben’s face was weather-beaten and tanned, as would be any cowboy’s. His blond hair, still long, was tied back at the nape of his neck, and he wore a necklace given to him by his adopted father that gave him a somewhat foreign air, she supposed, but he was as white as her.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ben said, reaching a hand out to steady her, urging her to sit down before she got so riled up she fell off the wagon. “This is our home. Our land.”

The way he said it, he hoped would convey all that he couldn’t find the words to say, at least not easily, in English. This land belonged to him in a way that meant it could never be taken away. No one could come on his land without his permission, making it a safe place for his family.

He clucked to the team as soon as his wife was seated next to him. He needed to make her understand this, why this particular piece of land was so important.

“It’s right near town, you notice,” Doc Brown said, still enthusiastic. “Plenty easy to see each other often.”

“Plenty easy for me to be doctoring,” Julie said, and Ben suppressed a chuckle.

The horse picked their way down the long drive, the wagon rattling and bumping over the ruts. In what seemed no time at all, they reached a rise that gave them a view to the house. Or what there was of it.

Workers swarmed over the construction, but a lot of the work was done. The last shingles were being nailed on the roof as they approached. A team was setting a few precious panes of glass in the windows.

Beside him, Julie gasped. “Ben, it’s enormous!”

Well, not enormous, but it felt big to Ben, too. He understood what she meant after months of sharing a teepee, what it would be to have so many rooms. He started telling her how downstairs there was a kitchen and parlor along with a large bedroom just for them. Upstairs, under the sloping roof, were two more rooms where their children would sleep. The house would be snug and cozy, he supposed, as their family grew. At the same time, there was plenty of room for adding on more rooms as they were needed.

Julie’s eyes were wide with wonder. Suddenly, she cried out, for she’d recognized Tseena up on the roof, then named off several other young braves from their tribe.

“I don’t understand… why are they…?”

“There’s a lot of land here, Julie. This ranch is meant to be a home to the Comanche, too. We own everything up to those foothills you see in the distance and a piece of the mountains beyond. The Comanche can travel and camp where they will on our land and stay for as long as they like.”

His throat felt thick as he said these words, full of barely suppressed emotion. By sharing his land with his adopted family, there would always be a safe place for any Comanche to take refuge, a place where they would not be hunted or harmed.

“Any who wish are free to work the ranch. We’ll raise cattle, something they don’t understand entirely, but I think they’ll like. Horses, too.” Ben pictured it in his head. Vast herds of horses for the settlers who would need animals to help them make their home in the West. The Comanche knew horseflesh better than anyone. They would breed the finest in the entire territory.

Julie’s eyes were shining. She took Ben’s hand and squeezed hard, speechless in either language to express how she felt.

***

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

The pastor smiled as Ben and Julie leaned in to kiss. Julie blushed, which was ridiculous given she’d kissed Ben many times before already. She’d even done it in front of other members of the tribe. Why was it so different here, in front a multitude of townspeople? For indeed, this was a multitude. Apparently, her father had been excited enough to invite just about everybody to her wedding.

“I thought this was supposed to be a small wedding,” Ben whispered in her ear as they parted and turned to face the crowd.

“Me too,” she murmured out of the side of her mouth as the pastor introduced them to the congregation.

It wasn’t that she was pregnant that made this awkward, for she was hardly showing yet, and her dress was loose enough at the waist anyway to keep her pregnancy from being noticeable. Not that she had anything to be ashamed of. She’d reminded her father several times already, they’d been married for the last year by Comanche standards.

No, it was the expectation that she wasn’t really married until a ceremony had been performed, and they’d had a proper reception out at the ranch. As though her Comanche life wasn’t quite good enough somehow. It hurt, especially coming from her father whom she’d thought was coming around.

“Shall we?” Ben wrapped his arm around her and, together, they left the church to head the receiving line so they could accept the well-wishes of their friends and neighbors.

Friends? Well, neighbors, certainly. Some she’d counted as friends. Julie wasn’t altogether sure about this, either. Since they’d gotten back to town, they’d been spending a lot of time out at the ranch, helping to finish the house and to arrange the simple furnishings that had been part of her father’s present to her. With so much going on, she hadn’t spent a lot of time talking to people yet and wasn’t sure how they were taking to her new situation.

They’re being friendly, she reminded herself. They might have come out of curiosity, but everyone is smiling. Accept their good will. Start over. Not everyone is Travis Lee or his cronies.

“We cannot wait to see your new home. My husband was talking about it when he delivered a load of fence posts to you earlier this week,” Adelaide Hawkins gushed. “How many windows do you have? Eight? So many panes of glass! I’m envious. It was all I could do to get Arthur to put in four.”

Julie laughed. “I was surprised myself by the extravagance. I expect I’m going to be spoiled,” she said, relaxing as other ladies circled around, all of them clucking like so many hens, excited and full of well wishes.

She turned, wondering if her husband, according to all traditions now, was having similar conversations. He wasn’t. If anything, he looked lonely and remote, standing a little way separate from the men of the town, who talked amongst themselves as if he wasn’t there at all. If it weren’t for her father and the pastor, he would have been entirely on his own.

Some things take time.

The thought was a troubling one. She wondered what it would take to help him to fit in.

***

Ben looked around at the crowd of people who had come out to celebrate their wedding. That so many people would make the trek out from town had caught him somewhat by surprise. They’d had to set out extra tables made up of planks resting on sawhorses to accommodate all the food, for every family that came had brought a dish or two to pass. Now, as the sun started to go down, lanterns lit up the darkness, giving a festive air that made the entire ranch feel otherworldly, like something in a dream.

And his wife, his beautiful wife, was the center of attention. Ben was proud to see her celebrated. It even made up for the way all these strangers crowded around him. Not that he minded, it was just he didn’t know their ways. Several of the men were off pitching horseshoes, a game he didn’t entirely understand. Others were tuning up instruments, creating a cacophony of sound likened to the caterwauling of fighting bobcats. Julie had said it was so they could dance later. He wasn’t sure how one was supposed to dance to a noise like that.

Well, at least everyone was having a good time.

Most everyone.

His Comanche family had melted away at the sight of so many white faces. While he knew the tribe was nearby, camping just north of the house by the hills, none of them stayed for this celebration, not entirely understanding the need for it. If there was some distrust on the behalf of his Indian family, could they be blamed? He sort of wished he could have gone with them.

Not without Julie, though. He gazed at her in delight, thinking it didn’t matter so much if the menfolk of the town were being a little cautious around them. He’d earn their respect in time. Friendships wouldn’t blossom overnight, nor could he expect to be accepted until people got used to seeing him. Right now, Julie’s happiness was all that mattered.

She looked to him and, seeing him alone again, came over to take his hand. “We have to dance the first dance,” she informed him and drew him to what had been proclaimed to be their dance floor. Julie’s cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright with merriment as she pulled him right into the center of this space and nodded to the men to begin playing.

Music, the likes of which he’d only heard in passing outside of church doors or saloons, except more festive somehow, erupted from what Julie called fiddles. It wasn’t the same as the Indian drums he’d danced to around the fire as a youth, but it wasn’t all that different. It was something a man could move to, provided he knew where to put his feet. Julie tried to show him, and they both ended up laughing, before she invited the rest of the town to come up and show them how it was done.

After that, things went pretty well. Children dashed around and played until the hour grew late and they were put down on pallets in wagon beds while their parents danced on. Food was shared and replenished from seemingly bottomless stores as it ran out. It seemed no one wanted the night to end, with the entire throng ready to celebrate until dawn.

Except…

There was something off that Ben couldn’t put his finger on. Something he didn’t like. A trio of men who didn’t dance and who refused the food offered to them. Men who stood leaning against the corral, watching, arms crossed, seeming as though they weren’t interested in being there at all, yet who still didn’t leave. Men who were waiting for something.

Or someone.

Ben didn’t like it. He passed Julie into the hands of her father, who didn’t seem to mind dancing with his daughter a bit while Ben slipped through the crowd, intent on introducing himself to these particular gentlemen. Only they weren’t there anymore.

None of this felt right. He stood where they’d been, apart from the rest of the group, far enough away that he couldn’t hear the individual voices of those still dancing. Everything was a murmur of sound, the notes of the music, the hum of voices coming together into a song all its own. The hour was late, and the moon lay on the horizon, providing little light for him to see by. He waited, willing his eyes to adjust, trying to figure out where those men had gone.

They found him first.

Someone grabbed him by the arm. Another took his shoulder and shoved him back, hard, against the fence. A punch to the stomach doubled Ben over, making it impossible to cry out, to even breathe. After that, one blow followed another until Ben was on his knees in the dirt, tasting blood and trying to summon the warrior within that had dulled these past weeks. He’d grown soft, and it was going to kill him.

Eventually, they stopped. In the distance, he heard the music, playing unbroken as though his world wasn’t coming to an end. He thought of Julie and worried that she might be next. He didn’t understand this attack and wasn’t about to die here, not without fighting back. He bent over, palms flat on the ground, and tried to rise.

A boot struck him in the side, sending him sprawling.

“I expect it would be better for you to stay down, boy.”

That voice. He knew that voice.

The sheriff. He’d gotten away from the U.S. Marshals and had never been found.

“We have unfinished business, I’m afraid.”

He heard the cocking of a gun. Ben’s head came up, and he fought to focus his eyes. Was this it, then? A bullet to the head on the night of his wedding? He tensed his muscles, knowing he would have one chance and he must move fast.

A scream rent the air. Then another.

Not the guests. Someone else.

A gun went off. Then another. Ben came to his feet, surprised he wasn’t shot, unless he wasn’t feeling it yet. Without taking time to think about it, he threw himself at the sheriff though the man was already falling, shot by an unseen gunman.

Kwihnai stepped out from behind the barn, a rifle in his hands.

“Brother,” he said, and Ben nodded, only dimly aware that the music had stopped, that people were running toward them, questions on his lips. Ben’s Comanche family started to slip away, back into the darkness.

“No!”

Ben’s shout brought them up short. He turned to the crowd, hands up, trying to explain, thinking belatedly that the townspeople would get the wrong idea. They would think the Comanche were attacking.

“Ben!” Julie was there then in his arms. When she saw the sheriff at his feet, she recoiled. “What is he doing here?”

“Making trouble.” Doc Brown came and knelt next to the injured man and shook his head. “He’s out cold. But these might have a few answers.” He pointed to the three cowboys who’d started it all, men who groaned on the ground, injured but not dead.

“Them Injuns weren’t supposed to be here!” shouted one of them in defiance, only to be silenced with a look from his companions.

“The Comanche live here. They are my family. They protected us,” Ben said and wavered on his feet as his injuries made themselves known. He’d been battered. Bruised. But he was still standing, and he had his lovely wife Julie in his arms.

The townspeople, who had seemed uncertain, looked at each other. “That Tom Riley is a bad ‘un,” one man said, and the others chimed in, further indicting the troublemakers.

Doc Brown came to his son-in-law and put his arm around him. “I wanted them to accept you for who you are. That’s why I insisted on the wedding. A party goes a long way to making friends.” He looked ruefully at the sheriff, who was starting to stir. “So does a common enemy. The U.S. Marshals put out a reward for him. I expect they’ll be happy to hear he’s ready to stand trial for his crimes.”

Doc Brown called for someone to get his bag so he could bandage the wanted man before hauling him off to his old jail.

Ben and Julie looked at each other in surprise. “I’d wondered…” she said softly as the men came around, each offering his help. Before long, the Comanche and townspeople alike had the would-be assassins trussed up and on their way back to town under heavy guard. More than one man came forward before leaving to shake Ben’s hand.

“We might not have been as welcoming as we should have been, but we hope you won’t hold it against you. You and your… family… would have been justified in killing those men, but you did the right thing. I respect you for that and hope you don’t think we’re all so closed-minded. I expect you’ll be a benefit to the community. I already know your lovely wife is.”

With that, he took his leave.

As the party broke up, Ben and Julie watched from the porch of their new home, waving to the guests who called out to them what a wonderful time they’d had. For the first time in his life, Ben felt loved and accepted, not just by his wife, but by the community around him. Both communities—for he had found a way to live in the world of the Comanche and the white man together.

He looked down at Julie who stared up at him, the stars reflected in her eyes, and knew she had given him her world as surely as he had given her his.

“I love you,” he said, speaking the words twice, first in Comanche and then in English, just to make sure she understood.

Her answer was a kiss that promised forever all over again.

He was finally home.

THE END


Readers who read this book also liked

41 thoughts on “Between Guns and Arrows – Extended Epilogue”

    1. It was so good. I was caught up. Could not put it down. I love the way you brought two families together. I even fell in love with Ben what a man. Keep up the good work. Thanks again for a great story.

    2. A good story with strong characters made a most enjoyable read. The extended epilogue put the finishing touches to an excellent read

    3. Another great story by an awesome writer. Enjoyed the way you brought different people togather to live peacefully. There’s always people trying to cause trouble, but you brought the story to a great ending. Looking forward to the next story.

      1. MR. Burns,
        At first I didn’t enjoy the book much, but as I read more I got into it more. There is so much preemie ice in this world, it made me sad. The more I read the more I got acclimated to the story. YOU DID A REAL GOOD JOB, NOT ONLY WITH THE STORY, BUT it teaches a heart deal about real life and the way things really are.
        I’ve read a few of your works already and Have enjoyed them. Thanks again for your talents. You have become one of my favorite writers of the western genre. John Shadowens
        Russellville, Arkansas.

  1. I really enjoyed this story Johnnie.
    I liked the theme of reconciliation and that Ben and Julie were able to be together in the end.

  2. Great story about love and redemption. It shows that peoples of all kinds can live together. Loved Julie and Bens love story.

  3. Hello I enjoyed reading your book it was very interesting. Will read more of your books.

  4. This is a very good story and I enjoyed reading The characters are realistic and strong you are a very good writer

  5. I really enjoyed your story of Comanche Indians and white race. Coming together in the ending. Love prevails between races and bitterness of both races. The story of two different races coming together in harmony and peace.

  6. I loved the book. Great story. I have wanted to learn more about my great-great-great-grandmother who who was Cherokee and how she met her husband,my grt-grt-grt-grandaddy. It could have been a similar story with her being the captured one. Will probably never know. Your story was well written.

  7. I really enjoyed the story of these two cultures. The action kept me on edge and not wanting to put the book down. I thank you for the epilogue for I always like a good ending to a great story. Really looking forward to more books from you. Well written so keep writing.

  8. I would enjoy a sequel to this story. I loved the story although a little repetitious in some parts. Would.like to see the Indians involved more with the townfolk and to see Ben and Julies children . Maybe a !little intrigue with their children being kidnapped for a ransom. Ha! Wish I had the ability and imagination to write, like everything else it takes talent to do it well. I enjoy your TALENT!!😉

  9. Thank you Johnnie, I really enjoyed the way you brought the two together, the Comanche and the white man. From mistrust on both sides to a realisation that they could both live in peace as they learned the ways of the other. Thanks again for your talent.

  10. I really enjoyed your book. I liked seeing Ben and Julie learn to trust each other and then stick up for each other. The extended epilogue ended the story perfectly.

  11. I enjoyed reading it. I am a fan of western and wagon train travel.You did an excellent story. Read a lot of your stories. Hope to be able to read more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *