Three days more passed. Teaspoon kept his suspicions to himself, all the while keeping a watchful eye on the girl he now believed could be his own flesh and blood.
Two Springs became even more nervous around the older man. She could feel his eyes on her with every move she made and it frightened her, yet she didn't know why. She did her best to stay as far away from him as she could, but it seemed everywhere she turned he was there, watching her.
Curiosity burned in the others. They had never seen Teaspoon as quiet and withdrawn as he had been the past few weeks and even more so the last three days. His attentions toward the girl made them even more inquisitive and Buck and Ike more protective of her.
One afternoon Two Springs stood at the corral. She had brought an apple out for a certain brown and white paint horse she had become quite taken with. She held the apple out, enticing the animal to come closer. He whinnied and cautiously walked up to the corral fence. Two Springs held the fruit out and opened her hand so that it sat in her palm. Steadily, the still untamed guilding began to nibble at the apple in the girls hand until he took it from her and finished chomping on it. Two Springs smiled as she watched the horse enjoy the treat she had given him. Slowly she reached out her hand to try to stroke the animals head. Startled it through back its head and whinnied as he reared, then ran to the other side of the corral.
Two Springs jumped as a strong hand touched her arm at the same time. She whirled around to see Teaspoon standing in front of her. She backed away from him slowly until she felt her back against the corral. She could see the mans lips moving but she heard nothing.
"It's alright," Teaspoon was saying softly. "I ain't gonna hurt you." He smiled at her but the girl still looked frightened.
Teaspoon wished he knew how to use that Indian sign. He knew some of the Pawnee language but had never learned to use sign. Still, he tried to communicate.
"You like the horse?" he asked as he pointed to the one Two Springs had just fed the apple to. Spring kept her eyes fixed on him. Carefully she began to move away, not knowing what he was saying or what it was he wanted from her. She side stepped until she was a few steps from him, then bolted for the house, leaving Teaspoon standing at the corral looking on in disappointment.
Spring was running so fast and kept looking behind her to see if the man was following her that she didn't see Buck and ran smack into him as he came from around the house with an armload of wood for Emma. The wood tumbled out of his arms and Spring nearly tripped over it. Buck caught her before she could fall, grabbing her by the arms.
Two Springs frantically looked up, her eyes masked in fear until she realized it was Buck who held her. She fell against his chest comforted by his presence. Her rapid breathing slowed and she clung to him. For a moment Buck only held her. Then, confused as to what had frightened her, he gently pulled from the embrace and signed, asking her what was the matter. Two Springs looked toward the corral. Teaspoon was walking up to them. Spring stepped behind Buck as he approached. Buck stood protectively in front of her.
"What'd you do to her, Teaspoon?" Buck asked with a tone of anger lacing his voice.
"I didn't do nothin'," Teaspoon answered with annoyance at Buck's harshness. "I was tryin' to be friendly. I'd like to get to know the girl."
Buck looked irritated and his tone became protective.
"She ain't exactly your type, Teaspoon," he sneered.
Teaspoon's eyes flared with anger. "You watch your tongue, boy," he warned.
"Why you so interested in her anyhow? You been actin' funny ever since she got here," Buck kept on, unshaken by Teaspoon's warning tone. "Just what the heck's been botherin' you anyhow?"
Ike and Lou, hearing the raised voices outside, came from inside the house with Emma on their heals and gathered near the two men.
Ike immediately went to Buck's side. He glanced at Spring, who stood behind Buck her face still masked in fear and confusion. He comfortingly touched her arm, letting her know he was there for her. She only glanced back at him for a moment, but was relieved he was close by.
"It ain't none of your business," Teaspoon growled.
"It is my business!" Buck snarled back. "You scare the hell out of her. I wanna know why! Why's she so afraid of you?"
"Who made you her guardian?" Teaspoon asked, anger still burning in him at Buck's defiance.
By now Jimmy and Cody had joined the group watching the confrontation between Buck and Teaspoon. Emma had heard enough and stepped in before the argument got any worse.
"Tell 'em, Mr.Spoon," she ordered, stepping between the two and facing Teaspoon. "Tell 'em and maybe you can settle this and get it off your chest before it eats you up inside."
"Tell us what?" Cody piped up.
Emma glanced at Cody then back to Teaspoon. "You tell 'em or I will," she warned.
Teaspoon looked around at the confused and concerned faces of the young pony express riders who not only were in his employ and care, but had also become his friends. Shame fell over him. He knew he should confide in them. His actions of late had been less than friendly. And Buck was only being protective of the girl who was alone in the company of strangers.
He looked over to the girl who stood behind the only person she felt really safe with. His heart sank. He wanted desperately to reach out to her. To be able to talk with her, ease her fear of him and tell her he believed he was her father. To ask her questions that hopefully she would be able to answer, and finally ease his tormented soul from the pain of loosing both his wife and his child.
Without taking his eyes from the frightened girl, his anger eased and he spoke softly. "She's my daughter," he said, letting a heavy sigh escape him.
Eyes widened in shock as the group looked at Teaspoon.
"Daughter?!" Cody blurted out in surprise. He was rewarded with an elbow in his ribs by Jimmy who silently chastised him and warned him to hush with a stern glare.
Emma smiled at Teaspoon and put a reassuring and comforting hand on his arm, then nodded her urging to tell them the rest.
When Teaspoon had finished his story, Buck looked at him.
"I'm sorry, Teaspoon," he apologized "I was only…"
"I know, Buck," Teaspoon cut him off before he could finish. "I'm sorry too. I shoulda told ya, 'specially since you and Ike are the only ones who can communicate with her. I just got so many questions, so many things I wanna say to her and I don't know how."
Emma motioned for the others to quietly follow her back into the house. "Ike, why don't you ask Two Springs to come and help me in the kitchen for a bit."
Ike nodded, understanding Emma's reasoning to take Two Springs away from what was surely an uncomfortable situation, even if she could not hear what was being said.
Spring was hesitant until Buck signed to her to go on, everything was all right and there would be no trouble. Though she had not heard the words that had been said, she had still seen and felt the animosity between the two.
Teaspoon watched as Ike led Two Springs into the house. Then he looked at Buck.
"I need your help, Buck. I need to know. I need to talk to her. Will you help me?" Teaspoon almost pleaded.
Buck smiled. "All you had to do was ask, Teaspoon."
Teaspoon breathed a heavy sigh. "Now that I have her scared to death of me, what do I do next?" he asked disheartedly.
"I think she should know, and the sooner the better," Buck answered.
Teaspoon nodded his agreement.
Buck gave Teaspoon a reassuring smile and went into the house to retrieve Two Springs.
When he returned Teaspoon was standing at the corral watching the horse Spring had fed the apple to. It stood on the other side of the corral and seemed to be looking back at him as well. Teaspoon could not help but feel the distance between he and the horse. Like the distance he felt with the girl who he was sure was his daughter, he could sense the uneasiness and see it in the animal's eyes. The same fear and distrust he knew was in his daughters heart right now. Somehow, he had to make her understand that all he wanted was to know her. To know what happened to her mother and to explain the reason he had not been there for either of them all these years. And in some way try to make it up to her.
Buck held Springs hand as he led her toward Teaspoon. She stopped and tried to pull free, looking at him with fear and confusion.
*It's alright, *he signed, *he won't hurt you. There are things you must know - things only Teaspoon can tell you. I won't leave you. I promise. *
Spring looked at Buck, the fear still apparent in her eyes, but she did not resist as he squeezed her hand in a comforting gesture and continued toward Teaspoon.
Teaspoon turned slowly to face them as the two walked up beside him. For a moment he only gazed at Two Springs. Then he spoke in a soft and gentle voice.
"You look so much like your mother," he said
Buck signed Teaspoon's words to Spring, who stood quietly and cautiously next to Buck as she tried to control her fear.
"Your mother, Bright Water, was my wife." Teaspoon began. "That necklace you wear, I made that for her.. I loved her with all my heart." He continued telling her the story he had told the others. He paused as Buck signed what he was saying.
Two Springs heart began to pound as she began to realize what Teaspoon was trying to tell her.
"You are that child." Teaspoon went on. "You're my daughter, Two Springs."
When Buck finished signing Teaspoons words, Spring looked at the man who claimed to be her father. Her features were masked in confusion and disbelief. She was at a loss as to what to do. She looked at Buck for help.
*It's true, * he signed to her.
Spring looked away from both of them and slowly walked a few steps to the corral, looking out past it to the prairie. She gently clutched her necklace while visions of her mother telling her about her father ran through her mind.
Spring had never conceived the thought of ever seeing him. She had known only men who were hard and cold, who treated their Indian wives and children more like slaves than families they cared about.
Her fear now centered on whether Teaspoon was like that. Would he claim her and treat her as a slave? Though all she had seen since she had arrived in this place was nowhere near the horrors she had witnessed with the man that had owned her mother and herself. But then the world of the white eyes was strange to her. And what she had seen here so far was only friendship and caring.
Buck walked up to her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Pulled from her thoughts, Spring turned and looked at him.
*Give him a chance Two Springs. He is your father. He wants to know you. You have a home now, family. Reach out for it, Two Springs. Give it a chance, give Teaspoon a chance, and give yourself a chance for a new life, a new beginning. * he signed.
Two Springs held her gaze on Buck for a moment before she turned to Teaspoon.
Buck trusted this man. Ike trusted him, as did Emma and the other pony express riders. They all looked up to him for guidance and support. She trusted Buck; she trusted Ike and Emma. None of the others had shown her anything more than friendship.
She would try to trust this man, as they did. He had offered his hand to her. Revealed his secret and expressed the love he had had for her mother. Her mother had told her how she had cared so deeply for him long ago. She would try now to do the same. She would give this new life a chance, as Buck had asked.
A small, hesitant smile crossed her lips. Slowly she moved her hands and signed "Father".
Buck smiled as he interpreted the word. Teaspoons eyes teared a bit as he reached out and carefully took Springs hand in his. She didn't move away, though she flinched slightly. Teaspoon gently squeezed her hand as he smiled and swallowed the growing lump in his throat before he spoke.
"Neither of us are alone anymore. We're family."
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