It was the week after the great storm that the Colonel was sitting as usual one night before the fire. Mammy had put the baby to bed, and was busying herself about the room. The silent man was thinking of his lost daughter. He had given up all hope now of ever seeing her again. The last spark had fled with Dane’s arrival. He had been encouraged by the thought that the courier would bring some word of his loved one. But the first glance at the young man’s face had told him the worst. There was no hope. Jean was either dead, or worse than dead. What he had endured since the night she had been stolen away he alone knew. He tried to be brave and to face life with the same courage as in the past. But he found this to be almost impossible. He was getting old, his loved ones had all been taken away, and he had nothing to live for. This feeling of depression increased as Christmas drew near. He ate but little, and he found it difficult to sleep. He would rise long before daylight, and every morning Mammy found him huddled before the fire. He was as kind and gentle as of old, but he was not the Colonel Sterling who had played such an important part in the war.
Old Mammy had just replenished the fire, and the flames were licking merrily around a big hardwood stick, when a noise sounded outside. Then the door was thrust suddenly open, and as the Colonel turned his head, Jean rushed across the room, threw her arms about his neck, and almost smothered him with rapturous kisses. With a great cry of joy and amazement the Colonel clutched the clinging girl, and staggered to his feet. He was trembling violently, and his excitement was intense. He looked into her face, touched her hair, and laid his right hand upon her head, imagining it was all a dream. But when Jean laughed at him, drew off her hood, and stood erect before him, his last doubt was removed. He reached out and passionately drew her to him, and silently held her to his breast. Then he sank down upon his chair, completely overcome by his emotion.
There was great excitement now in the room. Old Mammy had been impatiently waiting to embrace her “li’l lamb,” and she would scarcely release her for a minute. She stroked the girl’s hair, and held her hands, crying and laughing as if bereft of her senses, and murmuring words of endearment.
The neighbours soon heard the good news, and crowded into the house. Jean laughingly declared that she had never been kissed so much before, and that she was almost bewildered by the attention she received. But when she explained how much Sam and Kitty had done for her, interest was at once directed to the faithful Indians who had been curiously watching all that was taking place. Pete was there, too, and it was a wonderful night for those three dusky wanderers of the trails. They were given plenty to eat and drink, and received the approving smiles of all.
The Colonel kept his eyes fixed upon his returned daughter as she moved about, talking and laughing in the gayest manner. The weary look had gone from his face, and his eyes glowed with a new light. His heart was overflowing with thankfulness, and as the neighbours were about to depart, he rose to his feet, and requested them to remain for a few minutes.