The fall leaves danced on the wind and the cool weather nipped Thomas Barkley Lightfoot's cheeks as he walked to school with his sister and cousins. This was Thomas and Ellen's first autumn in Stockton, California.
Their father, Tom Lightfoot, said that cool weather was not common in the San Joachin Valley this time of year. Their father and mother had lived all their lives in California; except for the 15 years that Audra and the twins lived in Colorado. Their mother was white and their father was Modoc Indian.
Often Thomas thought about these facts. Thomas and Ellen both had dark brown hair and dark skin. The only way to tell they were also white was their eyes. Their eyes were dark blue, not brown like their father's.
Also Thomas had trouble telling if his father truly cared about him or Ellen. He was always so strict with both twins. Thomas sometimes called him an "Arrogant Indian Lawyer" behind his back when he was angry with him.
Only a few times could he see a hint of emotion in his father's dark eyes. A look of parental love would enter his father's eyes when he would hug Ellen or kiss her forehead goodbye or good night. Often, though, the look would disappear just as soon as it came.
Thomas adjusted the scarf around his neck as it twisted in a stranglehold. Thomas's stomach started to hurt as he looked at the school in front of him. A slight groan escaped his lips.
"What's the matter, Tommy?" Ellen asked, looking at her brother.
"I hate going to this school. I wish it was Saturday or Sunday," Thomas said, switching his schoolbooks to his left arm.
"Mother and Papa seem to think we need to go to school," Ellen said.
"I know, Ellie, but no one here is ever going to like us. The white man is always going to hate the Modoc in us," Thomas said, as they walked into the building.
After hanging up their wraps in the cloakroom Thomas, Ellen, and their three cousins entered the room. The room went totally quiet as every conversation stopped. No one said a word good or bad to the twins nowadays, but that didn't stop people from giving them hate-filled looks.
The only ones that didn't hate the twins was their mother's family and the Modocs at the reservation. At the reservation the twins were treated as part of the tribe. If only everyone else could have liked them as their father's people.
Thomas, Ellen, and the girls all sat down and opened up their schoolbooks, counting the minutes when school would be over.
Thomas practically ran out of the school that afternoon. Since coming to school in Stockton he disliked it a lot. The students were cruel and the teacher, even though she tried to be fair, she definitely picked favorites among the white children and Thomas and Ellen.
Of course Thomas got tormented at school often. The school bullies liked to stick their feet in the aisle and trip him when he went up to the board. Thomas tried to ignore the boys, but it was often a trial to keep his temper under check.
Thomas ran all the way to his uncle's office. Every day Tom Lightfoot and Jarrod would go over a new provision in the Modoc Reparations Law. Jarrod had once tried to explain the law to his nephew. The look on Thomas's face was pure confusion.
Thomas entered Jarrod's office. Jarrod's secretary was busily filing one of Jarrod's cases in a folder.
"Hello, Anne. Are my father and Uncle Jarrod in?" Thomas asked, hanging his coat on a coat rack.
"Yes Sir. They are going over the food rations for your people," Anne said, looking over her spectacles at Thomas. While Anne liked Jarrod and his family she felt it was wrong for Audra Barkley to fall in love with an Indian.
"Thanks Anne," Thomas said, opening the door to Jarrod's office.
Tom and Jarrod were both talking about a piece of paper when Thomas walked into the room. Maybe they don't see me, Thomas thought as he walked up to the desk.
"How was school, Thomas?" Tom asked at the same moment that Thomas had that thought.
Thomas blew out his breath, his brown hair flying away from his face. "Lawyers! I think you two have eyes in the backs of your heads!" Thomas said, sitting on Jarrod's leather couch.
"No, just your father does," Jarrod said, teasing Tom.
"How did you do that, Father?" Thomas asked, cocking his head slightly.
“Your feet are not as quiet as you think and I heard your breathing before you entered the office. But that's beside the point. How was school?" Tom asked again.
"All right I guess. I wish I didn't have to go though," Tom said, knowing this response was not the brightest thing he could have said to his father and uncle.
"You are going to thank us when you sit on the Supreme Court," Jarrod said before tom could come up with a response.
"Who said anything about being a lawyer?" Thomas asked, looking at his uncle confused.
Tom looked up at his son and sat down on the couch next to him. "I figured you'd want to be a lawyer like Jarrod and myself," Tom said, feeling like Thomas was being rude to him again.
"I don't. I think I'd like to be a doctor," Thomas said, knowing these words would get him into serious trouble with Tom.
Thomas was right. "Why would you want to be a doctor?" Tom asked, his voice deadly calm. A voice Thomas knew well. When his father was angry his voice would lower itself.
"I like math and science better than I do whatever you and Uncle Jarrod do for a living. And Ellie and I were talking about it and she'd like to go to college too. At Harvard they have an excellent medical wing and I'd like to help people that way. I've thought actually about being a doctor on the reservation. I can help my people that way when I come back," Thomas said, talking so fast that Tom couldn't interrupt.
"Tom, the boy is right. The Modocs are desperate for good doctors and no white man would treat them," Jarrod said, stepping to Thomas's aide.
Tom looked back at the paper in his hand. "I don't have time to talk about this. Go home, Thomas. We'll talk about it later," Tom said.
Thomas felt slightly disappointed. Later was code for "Never." His father didn't like to talk about subjects that made him angry. The twins had learned that last summer when Ellen and Tom had gotten into a fight.
Thomas walked out the door, hoping his mother would be on his side. Usually Audra sided with her children when they didn't get along with Tom. What Thomas didn't know was that he wouldn't reach home to tell his mother about this latest quarrel.
Tom and Jarrod entered the dining room that night, it being totally quiet. Tom looked over to his wife and daughter. Thomas's seat was empty.
"Where's Thomas?" Tom asked, feeling concerned.
"Ellen said that he might go out to Fort Barkley to do his homework after school. He may have lost track of time, Tom," Audra said, worried about the way Tom's voice changed as he noticed Thomas's place empty.
After everyone filled their plates and said grace Tom turned to his fifteen-year-old daughter. "Ellen, has your brother mentioned anything about going to college?" Thomas asked as Ellen took a bite of her pot roast.
Ellen chewed thoughtfully before swallowing the wonderful meal. "He has been hinting about going to Harvard to be a doctor. I thought he was bluffing. Has he mentioned anything to you?" Ellen said, taking a drink of milk.
"He stopped at the office and said something to that effect. He also said you wanted to go to college, Ellen," Jarrod said, wiping his mouth with his napkin.
"It's true. There's a women's college over in Massachusetts called Wellesley. I heard that some of the women who graduate could come out as doctors or lawyers," Ellen said calmly.
"What do you want to be, Ellen?" Heath asked.
"I think I want to be a lawyer, Uncle Heath. Being a lawyer bores Thomas, but I like it. Papa, I know you want Tommy to be a lawyer, but why make him do something he hates?" Ellen asked turning to look at her father.
"It's Modoc tradition. Sons normally follow in their fathers footsteps," Tom said as if he needed no explanation.
"Tom, our son is different from most Modoc boys. He's willing to let you teach him how to hunt and fish, but he has to follow his own heart. He can't follow your heart," Audra said, gently picking her words.
"Papa, I'm not a boy, but I want to be a lawyer like you. I don't think that we should follow that particular Modoc law," Ellen said, touching her father's arm gently with her small hand.
"Maybe you're right. I'll tell your brother that he can pick his own way of life when he gets home," Tom said, eating a piece of potato.
What no one knew was that Thomas was in more trouble than any of them knew.
Thomas felt himself fall to the ground as a hard fist contacted with his face. Thomas bit his lip as a way to control the tears that pricked the backs of his eyelids.
Besides the rock last spring no one had ever hit him before. The fact that these were Modocs made it even worse. Thomas still had difficulty deciding why these men were hitting him.
Thomas didn't know if he should tell them he was half-Modoc. He found himself wondering what his father would do in this situation. He then felt slightly foolish. His father was so perfect that he wouldn't let himself be in this situation. Also when he was last at the reservation he was told that a man named Sam Graywolf had rebelled against the government.
As soon as the slapping stopped Thomas laid his head against the base of a tree. His face was slightly sore and was sure to have bruises, but coal oil was sure to heal that. Thomas's breath came out in a sudden wheeze as a sharp-booted foot impacted with his ribs.
Suddenly a voice yelled in Modoc. With Thomas's growing knowledge of the language he was able to understand every word.Remind me to thank you for teaching me the language, Father, Thomas thought, wrapping his arms around his stomach.
"Stop it. He's already hurt," A man's voice said plainly.
"Yes, Philip is right. And he's only a boy," another man's voice said.
"All right," the Indian who had kicked him said, walking over to his campfire.
Thomas looked at his kidnappers. The one by the campfire was as old as his father and had long black hair. The two Indians who had defended him looked very old and very young.
Thomas looked up at the two men. "Thank you," Thomas said in a ragged breath.
"Don't thank us, white boy. We just don't want to see you killed," the young one, Philip, said gruffly.
"Why aren't you on the reservation with the rest of the Modocs?" Thomas said, sitting up, despite the pain in his stomach.
"We do not follow your government's laws, boy," the older man said, handing Thomas a piece of beef jerky.
"What is your name?" The younger Indian asked.
"Thomas. Thomas Light- Thomas Barkley," Thomas interrupted himself. If these Indians were who he thought they were it wouldn't do to reveal his name. Sam Graywolf hated Thomas's father. The reason being that Tom was a lawyer and that he had married a white woman.
The younger Indian went to the lake shining through the trees. The older Indian picked up a rag and gently applied it to Thomas's lip.
Thomas looked up at the old man. "Thank you. Why are you helping me? I'm white," Thomas said confused.
"I know, but you are still a boy. It wasn't right that we kidnapped you or Sam hitting you. You are not fully white, are you?" The old man asked, looking into Thomas's eyes.
"No. I'm not. My real name is Thomas Barkley Lightfoot. My father is Modoc," Thomas said, feeling that the old man would keep his secret.
"You are Tom Lightfoot's son?" The old man asked surprised.
"Yes. Don't tell Sam Graywolf my identity. All I want is to get home to my family," Thomas said, taking another bite of beef jerky.
What Thomas didn't realize was that his family was sitting up worried about him.
Audra looked outside worriedly at the approaching dark. Thomas had still not come in yet and Audra couldn't help feel a tiny dread in her heart.
Thomas had been gone way too long not top have gotten into any trouble. For the fifth time that hour she moved away from the parlor window and opened the heavy oak door.
"Mother, a watched pot never boils," Ellen said, quoting Aunt Lydia's favorite expression.
"Thomas has been gone too long not to have gotten lost," Audra fretted worriedly as she looked over at her husband.
"Audra, it's too dark to go finding him now," Tom said.
"He's right Audra. It would be like searchin' for a needle in a haystack," Nick said, looking up from his checkerboard game. Nick usually lost playing checkers with Heath, but that didn't stop him from playing the game.
"Father, what if Tommy is in trouble? Didn't you say that Sam Graywolf is back in the area? What if he kidnapped Tommy just to spite you?" Ellen asked, looking up from her history book.
"That's likely, but he is banished from the reservation. The chiefs told him that if he came back they would kill him outright," Tom said, thinking about his old friend.
"You never told me, but why does he hate you? Didn't you two used to be the best of friends?" Audra inquired of her husband.
"He never liked the fact that I became a lawyer. That I showed our tribe what an Indian could do when given the chance. But that didn't start the hostility between Sam and me. When I married you I told him about it and he said that I was a traitor to my people and our friendship was over," Tom said, his head hanging slightly.
"Father, he wouldn't kill Tommy, would he?" Ellen asked, sitting on her footstool by Tom's knee.
Tom gently ran his hand through Ellen's thick brown hair. "I don't know, Ellen. I just don't know," Thomas said.
"Are we goin' to look for Thomas tomorrow?" Heath asked Tom, feeling concerned over his nephew.
"We should. If Thomas has fallen in a mineshaft or stepped in a hunter’s trap he might be calling for help," Thomas said, standing up.
Ellen and Audra stood with him. Everyone hoped and prayed that Thomas was all right.
The next morning dawned cool as Nick, Heath, Jarrod, Tom, and five Indian braves went searching.
"Please God, let Tom, the braves, and the boys find Thomas," Audra prayed as she watched them leave.
Thomas felt himself jerked up by the hands in the early predawn chill. It was freezing in the San Joachin Valley this early in the morning. Thomas's hands were tied behind him and he was forced to march through the fog.
He tried to wipe his sleepy eyes on his sleeve, to no success. Thomas's sleepy mind wondered where his father and uncles were. As the sun peeked over the horizon Thomas was able to distinguish landmarks along the way.
The foliage on the trees lifted his spirits slightly. All the leaves were either golden-yellow, orange, or red. It was a beautiful sight.
A desolate log cabin came into view. The older man untied Thomas's hands and pushed the boy into the cabin. Sam shut the door and locked it. Thomas heard Indian words urging their horses to a gallop.
Thomas finally looked at his surroundings. Half-burnt wood was scattered around the cabin and since it had no windows the cold air came right into the cabin.
Thomas didn't know how he would survive in these conditions. If his father and uncles didn't find him he would die of either starvation or pneumonia.
Tom and Heath stopped by the deserted camp ten miles east of the ranch. "Heath, what does this fire say?" Tom stooped to examine the ashes and the few live coals.
"Looks like its a few hours old. If it was Graywolf that took Thomas, would he be careless enough to leave tracks?" Heath asked his brother-in-law.
"Sam is Modoc just like I am. If he left this much evidence then he doesn't think anyone is as wise as he is," Tom said, wiping the ashes off his hands with a handkerchief.
"He has to know he kidnapped your son," Heath said, not believing that Sam could be that stupid.
"Unless Thomas told him he was white. My son is half-white. If Thomas said that he was my son then Sam would have killed him," Tom said, feeling as upset as Heath at the prospect that Sam would kill his son.
"What's that?" Heath asked looking at the ground going away from the spent campfire.
Tom looked to where Heath's blue eyes were focused. The impressions were that of horseshoes and the hard firm heel of a boot. The boot belonged to one whose feet were not that big.
"That's Thomas's boots, right, Tom?" Heath asked, looking at the impression in the dirt.
Tom's eyes turned to that of fearful. "They're making Thomas walk instead of ride a horse. Let's follow this trail. See where it ends up," Tom said, mounting his horse.
"What about Nick, Jarrod, and the others?" Heath asked, before mounting Charger.
"Fire your gun. They might hear it," Tom said, as he rode down the trail.
The echo of Heath's gun followed the two men down the trail. Tom felt this fear inside him. The weather was colder than normal for California and if Sam didn't kill his son the weather definitely would.
The first thing Thomas did was look over the cabin. It was totally empty except for the burned pieces of wood. Thomas didn't know if a person could burn half-burned firewood. The pieces could crumble to ash in a heartbeat.
Thomas went to the windows. The panes were intact, but had no glass in it. The windows would have been too small to get through anyway.
Thomas felt a pain in his chest, as the air grew colder. If it were also possible for a person to feel their lips turn blue Thomas could have said he felt his lips turn blue.
Thomas sat on the dirt floor of the cabin. He looked up to Heaven. "God, help me," he prayed in a ragged voice, right before he passed out.
Heath turned up his coat collar as he followed Tom through what appeared to be wilderness. The air was getting colder. Heath found himself hoping and praying that Thomas wouldn't be deathly ill when they found him.
"Heath, stop!" Tom said sharply, holding up his hand to stop Heath.
"What is it, Tom?" Heath asked, reining his horse besides Tom's.
"What's that over there?" Tom said, pointing to the west.
Heath looked to where Tom was pointing. A thin curl of smoke was over the horizon. "Ya think?" Heath asked Tom.
"I don't know what to think. All I know is that there's a side trail right here leading to that fire," Tom said, reining his horse toward the smoke.
As Tom and Heath got closer three Indians were around a fire. The Indians started and picked up their rifles when they saw Tom and Heath's horses.
One of the Indian's faces took on an ugly frown. "What do you want?" The Indian asked in English.
"It's nice to see you too, Sam. I might as well ask you the same question," Tom said, dismounting.
Heath followed suit. Heath looked at Sam Graywolf. Hatred was emanating from his dark brown eyes as he coldly looked at Heath and Tom.
"We are going to bring some food to the reservation," Sam said sullenly.
"I wish you luck, Sam," Tom said, seeing through that lie. Sam didn't really care much about the reservation. He wasn't allowed back on there and Sam knew that as well as anybody.
"What are you doing out here with this white man?" Sam asked, pointing toward Heath with his chin.
"This is my wife's brother, Heath. We're out here looking for my son. He disappeared yesterday after school," Tom said, his eyes turning cold; just like Sam's.
"Have ya seen him? He's fifteen years old with dark hair and blue eyes. This is what he looks like," Heath said, taking a recent picture of Thomas out of his jacket pocket.
The three Indians looked at the picture of Thomas. Something in Sam's eyes changed from surprised to cold again. "No, we haven't seen him," Sam said, just as sullenly as before.
Tom and Heath mounted up on their horses. "He's lying, Tom," Heath said when they were out of earshot of the Indians.
"I know. Sam knows where my son is. He's put him somewhere where the weather will kill him. Let's go back to the trail and follow it," Tom said, going back to the trail.
As the hours passed Tom felt more worried by the minute. The weather was turning colder and Tom was starting to feel a few snowflakes drop.
Thomas slowly woke up at as a hacking cough escaped his lips. He couldn't be getting ill this fast! Could he?
Thomas coughed again, covering his mouth with his hand. Thomas put his hand against his cheeks and forehead. They were burning hot to the touch.
Thomas felt something wet land on his face. He looked toward the window he was laying under. Thick feathery snowflakes were coming through the window. If Thomas didn't feel so ill he might have taken pleasure in this snowfall.
Thomas looked up at the ceiling. "God, help me. Don't let me die in here," Thomas whispered through the soreness in his throat.
Thomas fell asleep again, his mind at peace. He had the knowledge that God would help him in trouble. If God could help Joseph then certainly God could help Thomas Lightfoot.
Tom looked up at the sky as the snowstorm fell in torrents. He hadn't seen this much snow in California in years and his son was out in it. The bigger problem was that the snow was obliterating the tracks.
"Tom, it's going to be hard following tracks in a snowstorm!" Heath yelled over at Tom, apparently thinking the same thing Tom was.
"I know, but we can't give up," Tom said, turning back to the snowdrifts.
"How about we split up? I look for Tommy around here and you go to the snowdrifts?" Heath suggested, turning up his coat collar and wrapping his muffler tighter around his mouth.
"Good idea. If either of us find him, we can fire of a shot from our guns," Tom said, nudging his horse forward through the snow.
The cold was getting colder and night was falling. Tom felt that if he didn't find Thomas soon, the boy could die.
Besides that ghoulish thought Tom was also feeling guilty. The last words between him and his son were spoken in anger. Tom had to tell his son he was sorry and that he loved him. He prayed that God would sustain his son long enough for him to hear those words.
Tom's eyes scanned the trees in front of him. The inky black sky and snow-covered trees made a pretty gloomy picture. Tom rode his horse carefully. With all this snow falling it wouldn't do to have his horse break a leg in the snow starting to build up.
"Thomas!" Tom heard Heath's voice call from half a mile away.
Tom gave off a sharp bird whistle. All Modoc children had a whistle. His son had adopted one as well. Tom hoped that his son heard his father's whistle through the snowfall.
A faint sound came through the trees. It didn't sound like falling snow. "Heath, I hear something!" Tom yelled through the woods at his brother-in-law.
"Maybe it's an echo of your whistle or the falling snow," Heath said skeptically in the distance.
All was quiet when Tom heard the sound again. "Help!" A barely audible voice called in the distance.
Tom went in the direction of the voice. He whistled again. "Help me!" A voice called out. It was stronger this time.
Tom stopped his horse in front of a dilapidated old cabin. "Thomas!" Tom yelled, pushing on the old oak door.
"Father?" Thomas's voice came through the heavy oak door. Tom felt the door jerked from the inside. "I can't get the door opened. Graywolf locked it," Thomas said in despair.
"I'll get it open. Stand back," Tom ordered. Tom took a tomahawk out of the side of his saddle and held it to the doorjamb.
At the sound of the broken lock Tom pushed the door in with his hand. Thomas was kneeling by one of the windows. His dark hair was messed up, his thin lips were blue, and his face was flushed with a fever.
"Thomas!" Tom knelt beside his son and touched his flushed face.
"Father, I knew you'd come for me," Thomas said, coughing.
"You have a very high fever. Here take my coat," Tom said, wrapping his large coat around his son's thin shoulders.
"I thought I was going to die," Thomas said, as he watched his father lay a fire.
"I thought as much too. Thomas, I'm sorry for what I said to you yesterday. If you want to be a doctor I won't stand in your way," Tom said, blowing on the flames gently.
"I guess being a doctor doesn't really matter now. If you want me to be a lawyer I will," Thomas said, drifting off to sleep.
Thomas watched his son fall asleep. Being sick had made his son want to give up his dreams of being a doctor. Tom couldn't let his son destroy his dreams because his father didn't approve of them. Tom wouldn't allow his son to do that.
Tom sat beside his son and sponged Thomas's sweaty forehead with water. Thomas's eyes were open, but he didn't seem to recognize his father.
Tom felt a knawing dread enter his heart. This cabin was too cold for Thomas to live much longer in with his fever. Tom reached over and pushed wet strands of hair out of Thomas's eyes.
"God, help my son," Tom prayed, looking up to Heaven.
"Amen," Thomas's weak voice croaked from beside his father.
"I thought you were too sick to recognize me, Son," Tom said, removing the wet cloth from Thomas's forehead.
"I was just thinking. Mother and Ellie have got to be scared over me," Thomas said, struggling to sit up.
"We can't get home until the storm is over. If I fix you some broth do you think you could eat it?" Tom asked.
Thomas nodded his head briefly. "I think so," Thomas said faintly.
Thomas took a kettle out of his bedroll and poured some of his lunch into the kettle.
"Thomas, you said you didn't want to be a doctor any more. If you are giving up your dream because of me, then don't," Tom said, sitting down beside his son a few minutes later.
"Father, I don't feel like hearing a lecture right now," Thomas said testily.
"I'm not lecturing, Thomas! Honestly I don't know who's worse; you or your sister when it comes to getting mad at me!" Tom said in frustration.
'Sure does sound like it. You have no idea what it's like to be your son," Thomas said, his voice tight with anger.
"Thomas Lightfoot, I didn't come looking for you to get into a fight. I would suggest you change your tone please," Tom said keeping his voice calm.
Thomas started to cough uncontrollably. Tom picked up his canteen and put it to his son's lips.
"I'm sorry," Thomas said hoarsely when the coughing jag was over.
"It's all right. Look, your dinner is done. Can you hold your plate to eat?" Tom asked, holding the plate out to his son.
"I can manage," Thomas grabbed the plate and started to eat random bites of the food.
Before Thomas finished eating Tom came to a decision. If Thomas didn't get better by morning he would try to get him to the doctor in Stockton. Tom prayed that his son would feel better. Taking him out into the bitter cold might kill him.
Thomas's fever was worse in the morning. Heath had come during the night and Tom had sent him to tell Jarrod, Nick, and the braves that he had found Thomas. The men were then going home to tell the news to the worried members of the family.
Tom wrapped his son in an extra coat and scooped him into his strong arms. Tom had made a travois to put his son on. He laid his son on it and put a bearskin rug over him.
Tom mounted his horse and went off at a fast gallop to the ranch. It was of the utmost importance that he get Thomas home before this weather killed him.
At noon Tom stopped at a lake to give his horse a drink of water.
"May I have a drink of water?" Thomas asked weakly from the travois.
Tom gripped his canteen and put it to his son's mouth. By feeling his face with his hand Thomas's fever was still dangerously high.
"You are going to live, my son. I'm going to get you home," Tom said, smoothing back a lock of Thomas's dark hair.
"I know and I'm sorry for what I said last night," Thomas said, drifting off to sleep.
'I'm sorry too, Thomas," Tom whispered as he mounted his horse.
Thomas slept until the sound of horses woke him a few hours later. "Is he all right?" Uncle Jarrod's voice came through the fever.
"I don't know, Jarrod. All I know is that his fever's worse and I had to get him to Dr. Merar," Tom said, his pent-up worries evident in his voice.
"We had better get him into the house. This weather's getting colder," one of the Modoc braves said to Tom. Thomas recognized the voice of Adam Whitebear. Whitebear was his father's cousin on his mother's side.
Thomas heard a cry from his mother as they entered the house. 'Is he all right, Tom?" Audra asked, touching his forehead gently.
'He's very ill. He needs a doctor, Audra," Tom said.
His parents voices sounded as if they were in a tunnel, Thomas's head fell against the stairs and he felt himself drifting off to sleep again.
Thomas's breathing was congested as the doctor held a stethoscope to his chest. It didn't sound good. It sounded as if the boy was fighting to breathe.
"Pneumonia and a high fever," Dr. Merar said with grim finality.
"Is there any cure for it?" Audra asked, gently stroking her son's long bangs out of his eyes.
"I don't know, Audra. He's very ill. Tom, from what you told me being exposed to that cold air didn't do much for Thomas's health," Dr. Merar said, putting the stethoscope in his black bag.
"What's his chances for survival, Doctor?" Tom asked.
"Audra, I would suggest that you and Tom soak flannel rags in boiling water and sprinkle them with turpentine. It should clear out the congestion in his chest and I would try mustard packs," the doctor said, getting an extra quilt out of Thomas's closet.
"Howard, what about ice? Couldn't that bring his fever down?" Victoria asked worriedly. Victoria was frightened for her grandson. She had never seen her grandson look so ill. He had a normally strong constitution to inclement weather.
"No, Victoria. At this stage of the fever, if you try to bring it down too quickly he could go into shock and it would kill him," Doctor Merar said warningly.
Doctor Merar left the room. The room was silent as everyone watched Thomas cough. In a fit of anger Tom slammed his fist into the wall.
"Tom, calm down," Jarrod said to his brother-in-law.
"Jarrod, don't tell me to calm down. Unless that is Matilda fighting for her life, don't you dare tell me to calm down. Sam tried to kill my son," Tom said, his voice splintered with anger.
"I don't think he knew. I saw the look of surprise on his face, Tom. I think he thought Thomas was white," Heath pointed out, a slightly serious look on his face.
"I think it's possible, Tom. Our son resented it when I told him that he was Indian. And with his blue eyes he could pass as a white boy," Audra said, picking up a cool rag and putting it on her son's head.
"I didn't know that it bothered him enough to hide it from people," Tom said, finally calming his voice down.
"It's because you don't know him, Tom. If you took the time to talk to him you'd find out things like that," Audra said, feeling her heart break at Thomas's rasping wheeze.
"Tom, Audra, this is not the time for an argument. Thomas and Ellen have to see that their parents are not furious with each other," Victoria reprimanded harshly.
"Mother's right. I'm going to fix those rags and mustard packs," Audra said, as she walked out the door.
Victoria really was right. Tom and Audra really couldn't afford to argue. Their son had to get well. Right now it was up to the Lord if their son lived or died.
Tom felt anger as he went downstairs. Audra was right when she said that he didn't even know his son, but he felt he had a right to be angry with Sam for doing this to Thomas.
His son could die and it would be Sam's fault. "How is he, Papa?" Ellen asked her father as he came down the stairs.
Ellen ran to her father and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I don't know, Ellen. His fever's really bad," Tom said, stroking her long brown hair.
"He'll be all right, won't he, Papa?" Ellen asked, her voice squeaking slightly.
"I'm praying that he will, Ellen," Tom said, wishing that Ellen would change the subject.
Tom sat down on the sofa and ran his fingers through his long hair.
"Papa, why did Sam take Tommy?" Ellen asked, sitting next to her father.
"I wish I knew. Your uncle Heath says that Thomas had to have hidden the fact that he was Modoc," Tom said with a sigh.
"I don't know how, Uncle Tom. Ellen and Tommy have blue eyes like a white person, but a person would have to be blind not to see the Indian in them," Matilda said doubtfully.
Neither Tom or Ellen could respond to that Peter Runningfire and Whitebear entered the parlor.
"How is he, my cousin?" Whitebear asked in Modoc. Ellen was just as fluent in Modoc as her brother. She responded before Tom had a chance.
"He's fine, I think," Ellen responded in slow halting Modoc. Ellen didn't even use the Modoc tongue for the reason that it sounded funny when she talked in the language. It was easier to just listen to the language and talk in English to those who knew English.
"Ellen is wrong. The doctor says he is very ill," Tom said, looking sternly at his daughter.
Modoc girls didn't talk unless spoken to. And his daughter's Modoc was far from perfect. She may have understood the tongue, but until she learned how to speak properly it would have been a good idea if she didn't speak in Modoc.
"I wish Dr. Mike were here," Ellen said, ignoring the hidden reprimand she had just gotten.
'Who's Dr. Mike?" Peter Runningfire asked confused.
"She's a white woman doctor over in Colorado. She uses Cheyenne Indian remedies to cure things. Last year half the children in Colorado came down with diphtheria and she used prickly ash for sore throats," Ellen said in Modoc again.
"Did the prickly ash work?" Whitebear asked.
"Yes and no. It worked on me and Tommy, but some people's cases were too far advanced for it to work," Ellen said doubtfully.
That left everyone in the parlor thinking. If this Dr. Mike could send prickly ash maybe God would use it to make Thomas better.