The ExOutlaw's Wife's Tale
(Part Two)

By Chelseagirl

Next morning, we were surprised when Heyes didn’t turn up for breakfast bright and early.  After a bit, we went ahead and had the ham and griddle cakes and fresh blueberries all to ourselves.

Jed’s first reaction was to say how nice it was not to have his partner underfoot. But after awhile, he started to fret. “Just like Heyes—when he’s not invited, he shows up. Then he gets invited, and where is he?”

I didn’t bother to point out that if Heyes didn’t show up when he was invited, as a rule, then there wouldn’t be anything to worry about. But honestly, most days the sun wasn’t too high in the sky before one or the other of them came up with a reason why he just had to see the other, about this, that, or the other thing. So likely he wasn’t wrong to worry. In fact . . . .

I poured my husband another cup of coffee, and started to clear up the dishes. If I kept busy, I wouldn’t fret.

That worked for a little while, anyway.

Pretty soon, I’d started pacing alongside Jed.  With his long legs, his strides were a lot bigger than mine, so I had to take a few extra steps, every now and then, to catch up.

“Just like Heyes,” he muttered again.

“Do you think he’s hurt, or in trouble?” I asked.

He shook his head. “I can’t figure how. But . . . he’s not here, and that seems mighty suspect.”


When it got to be nearly noon, and Heyes still hadn’t turned up, Jed pulled on his boots and his sheepskin jacket. “This is worryin’ me,” he said, as if I couldn’t have told. “Goin’ out to look for him.”

“I’ll come with you,” I said.

Jed shook his head. “I’d rather you stayed here, in case he shows up. Come over to the other house with me, if you like, but then I’ll head out.”

I grabbed my shawl, and we headed through the small orchard and to the back door of the Heyes’s house. It was unlocked, which wasn’t surprising – as I mentioned before, we were in and out of each others’ houses all the time.

No one in the kitchen, no one in the parlor, no one in the dining room or the cozy book-lined library, except Nebuchadnezzar, Ella’s old gray tabby cat, who yawned and stretched and looked entirely unconcerned. Jed ran up the stairs and came back a minute later, and reported that no one was in any of the bedrooms, either.

“All right, I’m gonna saddle up Thunderbolt and take a look around. This is gettin’ strange. It ain’t like Heyes to go off and do somethin’ without making a big announcement.”

Maybe that was the case, maybe not, but it’s true that Heyes didn’t do much without his partner knowing about it.

I went home and tried to embroider and tried to read, with no success. At the end of five minutes, I knew there wasn’t any point. What had I been thinking, agreeing to stay home and wait? So I saddled up Lightning. Jed had ridden off into town, and if he’d turned around and come back this way, I’d have seen or at least heard him. There are some advantages to living in a small town, after all.

So I rode through town, and around a bit, but I didn’t see Thunderbolt, or Heyes’ horse either, and they were bound to be tied up outside anywhere the pair might be. So I headed out of town on the main road a ways, until there they were, Thunderbolt and Aurora, tied to a tree by the side of the road.

By the side of the road just over a ravine.

Sighing, and wondering what kind of trouble the boys had gotten themselves into this time, I dismounted. Lightning nickered, happy to be reunited with his own companions.

“Hello?” I called. “Jed? Heyes?”

“Sandy?” came my husband’s voice. “Glad you came along.”

I walked towards the edge of the ravine. Jed was on a ledge halfway down, and at the bottom, on the bank of the stream, there was Hannibal Heyes, sitting by a dog and four wiggling puppies.

“You remember the Wilsons’ dog Sally?” Heyes called up. “Not sure how or why she climbed down here,  but I guess she wanted someplace private to have her litter.”  The Wilsons had a large family, and I could understand Sally’s impulse. I suspect I’d have done the same, if I lived in that house.

“Problem is,” he continued, “Sally must’ve gotten down here ‘round the easy way over by Sven’s place, where the slope’s a lot gentler. But that’s a long trip for these pups, and the Wilson place is just back that away.”

I peered over the edge. Even all the way down, it was easy to see that the four bundles of fur somehow managed to seem sleepy and energetic all at once. Two were brindled brown, like their mother, one was black-and-white, and the last one, pure black.

You know the saying “great minds think alike”? It was pretty much all at once that Heyes and Jed and I struck on the idea of running a basket from a tree branch that hung close to the ravine’s edge.

I ran over to the Wilsons’ place, and came back with a sturdy basket, a length of rope, and both Wilson parents as well as most of their near-dozen children. As it turned out, they’d been distracted because Arnie, the second-oldest boy, had been to the doctor after a fall from a horse, and he’d just come home, with his arm in a cast and a sling.

“Poor Sally!” cried Molly, one of the middle daughters. “We didn’t even realize, and her having her puppies all alone.”

 “She’s doin’ just fine,” said Heyes.  “Think she’ll be happy to get back to your farmhouse, though,” and the dog barked her agreement.

Mister Wilson and two of his older sons helped me lash the rope to the tree, and lower the basket to Jed, who lowered it to Heyes.  One at a time, the puppies came up in the basket, to be greeted eagerly by the various younger Wilsons. Last was Sally, a lot bigger than her pups; a couple of the Wilsons were needed to heave her up the side of the ravine.

“We can’t thank you enough,” said Missus Wilson, but Heyes just smiled.

“No real problem, ma’am. I was getting kind of bored, what with only these two lovebirds for company, these past few days.  It was nice to have some excitement.” Although he didn’t look real happy about the climb back up.

The children and the dogs made their way home, but the Wilson parents waited, while Heyes made his way up the steep rocks and mud to where Jed waited for him, and then, grumbling only about as much as might be expected, the pair climbed up and out.  Mister Wilson gave them a hand up over the edge.

“If there’s anything we can do to thank you, just let us know.”

Jed and Heyes looked at each other, and grinned.

“You gonna keep all four puppies?” asked Heyes.

“Haven’t really thought about it,” admitted Mister Wilson. “Not with all the excitement about Arnie. One or two, most likely. You know a good home for the others?”

“Think we just might,” said Jed.


As it turned out, Arnie Wilson formed a real bond with one of the brindled brown puppies during his recovery, and the black-and-white one attached itself to Molly. But it just so happened that when a couple of months had passed, and it was time for the others to find their new homes, it was getting close to Christmas.

Thad and Joshua had started pestering us about getting a dog the year before, and pretty soon, Sarah was in on it, too. So, arrangements were made, and very early Christmas morning, Jed and Heyes took a brief ride into town.

“Nothing’s going to be open,” protested Ella. So apparently Heyes hadn’t taken her into his confidence.  And considering old Nebuchadnezzar, who was used to having the house to himself, except for those pesky humans, that might have been wise. Neb liked Ella, and he really liked Bella, but he ignored everyone else. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, as they say.

We were all gathered in the parlor at the Heyes’s house, around their beautifully decorated tree. The children were looking impatiently at the wrapped presents stacked under the tree – we always opened them together.

“Is Daddy ever getting back?” asked Sarah. Her brothers and Bella joined in. “Can’t we just have one peek?”  “Where have they gone?” “It’s not fair!” They eyed the packages with increasingly shifty expressions.

Just as I thought we might have a band of junior outlaws on our hands, we heard the horses riding up, and a moment later, there were Jed and Heyes, each holding a puppy.

My children gathered around their father, exclaiming their excitement.  A moment later, they were sitting in a circle on the floor, while the brown pup was running around from one to the other.

Jed slid his arm around me. “Little boys . . . and little girls . . . oughta have a dog.”

Bella Heyes, who had her mother’s fair hair but her father’s big dark eyes, stared at the black puppy her father was holding. “Do you think he can come and live with us, Daddy?” she asked. “Or would Nebbie not like that?”

That was not an unreasonable question. The big tabby had been known to chase dogs, from time to time.

Heyes crouched down by his little girl, and handed her the puppy. “I think he could be yours, even if he has to live at the Currys’ house. How would that be?”

Sarah, who’d run over to see her friend’s new pet, said, “He’ll always be yours, no matter what. Promise.”

The two girls were so used to sharing toys and books – sometimes even dresses – that Bella nodded. “All right,” she said. “That would be okay.”

But I could see her eyes were a little teary.

“Speak of the devil,” said Ella, and we all turned to find the big gray tabby stalking into the room. 

Nebuchadnezzar made the rounds of the parlor, ignoring all of the adults except for Ella, acknowledging the children, and sniffing once at the brown puppy.  But then he made his way directly to his favorite, Bella, and to the puppy who sat panting with excitement at her side.

“Hey, Nebbie, this is Midnight,” said Bella. “I’d like it a whole lot if you two were friends.”

The cat tilted his head to one side, considering.

No one breathed.

The cat took a few steps forward.

And began to purr, louder than we’d ever heard him purr before.  He nudged up against the puppy, and soon, they were curled up together.

Hannibal Heyes smiled, that wide grin, and said, “Looks like we just got our cat a dog.  Well, Merry Christmas, all.”


Sometimes stories don’t go where you expect them to – I wasn’t planning on writing a Christmas story for the calendar this year, and most of the way through writing part 1, I was under the impression that Heyes was going to get up to an entirely other sort of mischief.  But I kept seeing a puppy, and a little girl, and a couple of reformed outlaws. Oddly enough, I’m a cat person.