The medium-height, slightly overweight figure of a man, his short, curly salt-and-pepper hair dully reflecting the slight sheen from the emerging lunar light, turned to a small, slightly hunched female figure. “Lucy, keep that mule quiet. We didn’t walk all this way as freemen to have no trouble now.”
“I’ll sure enough keep him quiet, Israel. What do you think we should do? I’m hungry. Do you think it’s safe?”
There was a silence as the two peered intently upriver to the dim but beckoning glow of oil lamps from a ranch house’s windows. Other than the bright points of Venus and the first night stars, there was no other visible light.
Israel spoke slowly, thinking. “Well, this is the edge of the country. We sure are a long way from Oklahoma. This ain’t no plantation and I’m bettin’ all that grows here is hay. You can hear them cattle. It’s going to be cold tonight. These thin clothes of ours ain’t going to be much help with winter coming on. We’re about out of food, and I lost my last fishhook yesterday. I don’t see as we have much choice. We have to take our chances.”
Lucy continued to stroke the muzzle of the mule and laid her free hand lightly on Israel’s forearm. “You’re my man, Israel. I’ll do what you think.”
They gazed for a moment at the halo of light a mile or so out. “Maybe folks this far out will be happy to have company.” There was a tinge of doubt edged in the hope of her tone.
“Well, let me do the talking, woman. And if there’s any sign of trouble, we’ll just back our way out of there somehow. Let’s tie off the mule before the house. They don’t have to know we have a critter just yet.” He squeezed her arm and smiled grimly into the darkness. “One thing I’ll tell you, we’ll freeze to death and starve before we are slaves again.”