We trudged through the muddy land outside of the colony. The boots I wore were too big for my feet, so they slipped and got stuck easily. Lone Feather moved with easy grace, stopping occasionally to make certain I was following.
We were walking back to the river where Frederick and I had met earlier that day. I was about to question Lone Feather's direction when he stopped, looking silently to the bank of the river. I stopped beside him and squinted into the wet darkness.
A figure was crumpled on the bank, rocking back and forth. Soft sobs drifted on the wind, meeting my ears and ripping at my heart. Lone Feather looked at me for a moment. Slowly, my feet moved me closer to the figure. My worst fears were confirmed. It was Thomas, down on his knees and clutching the head of our father in his lap, rocking with his sobs.
Tears came to my eyes as I dropped to my knees beside him, my dress sopping wet and dirty. I wrapped my arms around my brother, starting to cry with him.
"Oh, Thomas," I whispered. "Thomas."
"It is all my fault," he cried, his sobs choking his words. "If I had not talked against him . . ."
"No, Thomas, no." I hugged him tighter. "This is not your fault."
"I spoke against him. I did not honor him. Our father is dead because of me."
"He is not dead."
Lone Feather suddenly appeared beside me. He put his long fingers to the side of my father's neck, concentrating on something. I watched him quietly as he looked at my father's withered body and slack face. Lone Feather then moved his fingers under his nose.
"He stills breathes and his heart is still going," he explained, noticing my gaze. "But there is little life left in him."
"You hear him, Thomas?" I said excitedly. "Father is still alive! He can take him back to the colony and Mister Johnson can take care of him."
"No," Lone Feather said suddenly. "Your village does not have the supplies to take care of him. We will take him to my village."
"What?!" I released my brother and stared at the native. "Have you no mind? The colonists will not know what happened to him."
"If it is such a concern for you, you can come to the village with him. I will bring you back when he is well."
I looked at my father's nearly lifeless body and then to my brother. Thomas still sobbed, but his eyes looked straight into the wood past the river. He still cried silently. I put my hand on his shoulder.
"Thomas," I said quietly.
He did not respond, merely continued staring outward. Staring at nothing . . . I put my hand under his chin and forced his face to turn and meet my eyes. He still stared straight ahead, possibly at a spot on my forehead, where rainwater continued to run down my hair.
"We need to take Father to the native village to help him," I explained slowly. "I am going with Lone Feather to make sure Father will be all right. Do you understand?"
Again, there was no reaction from him. I felt tears brimming on my eyelids again.
"Thomas, please. Please speak to me."
Lone Feather picked my father up and cradled him in his arms as if he were a child. He looked at me and my brother.
"We must go now if you want him to live," he said seriously. "We will be back soon."
I nodded and looked back to my brother, seemingly comatose.
"Tell the colony members we will be back soon. Please, Thomas . . ."
"Snow Clara, we must go."
"I know, I know." I kissed my brother's forehead. "Tell them, please, Thomas."
I stood up and followed Lone Feather toward the forest. I stopped just at the fringe of the woodland and turned to look back at Thomas. He still stared off into nothingness, his mind off in its own place.
Please, I begged, hoping my thoughts would reach him. I love you, dear brother.
I turned back and looked into the nearly black woodland. I took a step and froze, uncertainty and fear making my feet lead. A strong, reassuring hand wrapped around mine and squeezed lightly. I looked up at Lone Feather, his face grave, but his eyes emitting the most assuring light. I knew then, one way or another, that we would be okay.
I continued on in the darkness, still clutching his hand.