Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Trigg quietly wept as the wagon took her away from her home in what is present-day Montana. A few weeks earlier she had been diagnosed with cancer.
She and her mother had ridden into town to see the doctor because she had been having trouble breathing at times. The doctor had ruled all the other possibilities leaving lung cancer. The only place she had hope of the proper medical treatment was in the East. Within a few days she was off.
Now she was in a wagon with a few others who actually wanted to move east. Her mother and father and brother had to stay on their ranch for the fall’s harvest.
To Elizabeth’s luck the family’s closest neighbor’s daughter, Angela, was moving east as well.
She stumbled to the back of the wagon to watch the empty countryside go slowly by. As she looked back her mind began to wander. What were they doing back at the ranch? Did they miss her? Were they wishing they hadn’t sent her to the East?
Why did this happen to me? She thought when a fit of coughing seized her.
Angela rushed over. She knelt beside Elizabeth and began to rub her shoulders. Elizabeth looked up to smile her thanks and Angela noted how dull her green eyes. Her brown hair was now dusty and filthy from lack of care though you couldn’t tell because she often wore it in a bonnet.
Angela went over to her trunk and got a brush out. Then she came back and narrowly avoided tripping over a sleeping toddler on the floor.
“Would you like me to brush your hair?” she asked gently. Without waiting for a reply she untied the bonnet and began to brush Elizabeth’s hair.
I don’t care what you do Elizabeth thought sadly. I don’t want to move east. Then after a few moments, When the land looks suitable enough I’ll run off.
“What’s wrong Bethy?” asked Angela.
“Everything,” replied Elizabeth sullenly, and she would say no more on that subject. What does she think is wrong? Elizabeth thought spitefully. She wants to go east. But another thought crept in, She’s only being a good friend and looking after me.
Elizabeth sighed. “Why do you want to go east?” she blurted out then blushed at the rudeness of the question.
Angela didn’t seem to notice. “It’s an opportunity to see and do new things,” she replied.
“I don’t want to go,” muttered Elizabeth.
“Give it a chance,” Angela said softly.
“I don’t want to!” cried Elizabeth standing up. She turned and saw Angela’s stunned and hurt expression then said, “I’m sorry. You’ve been nothing but kind, and I’ve–” but she broke off to begin a new fit of coughing.
“I forgive you, but you need to be happier,” said Angela matter-of-factly. “You were happy before… the doctor’s er, diagnosis, now you’re wallowing in self-pity.”
Elizabeth glared at her. Not because she was angry, but because she saw the truth in what Angela said.
“It’s not as if I’ll be living much longer,” Elizabeth tried to protest.
“So enjoy life!” Angela said ignoring the attention the conversation was now getting. “Or at least in your point of view, the time you have left.”
Elizabeth looked at Angela’s face and saw encouragement and hope there then she looked out the back of the wagon again. She couldn’t think of anything to reply or retort so she stayed silent and watched the sun set. Tears began rolling down her face a second time that day.
She didn’t notice Angela walk away to tell the driver how low the sun had gotten.
Once camp was set up and dinner eaten, everyone chatted but one by one all managed to fall asleep. Everyone except Elizabeth.
In the fairly bright light of the full moon Elizabeth surveyed the surroundings. The camp, she figured, had managed to get to a grassy prairie somewhere in the Midwestern area.
A few more hours she thought, trying to fight off sleep.
“Lord, protect me in this strange, new land,” she whispered in a quick prayer.
But she was too anxious to wait. I’ll leave now.
Elizabeth got up quietly so she wouldn’t disturb the others and crept to her trunk. After a few minutes she collected a second and third pair of clothes and some food.
Then she wrote a short letter to Angela to prevent a search, or so she hoped.
From the bottom of my heart I do not wish to leave you but I must. I simply can’t go east.
Please, I beg you not to search for me. This is my opportunity to see and do new things.
If you see my family again, or at the very least write them, let them know I love them more than the world.
I’m sorry thought Elizabeth. She stuffed the food and her clothes into a basket she got from her trunk.
She walked cautiously through the grass, rearranging and straightening stalk and stem to hide her trail.
Suddenly there was a bright flash of light. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness again she found that she was surrounded by…
Trees! But I was just in a prairie. Or was I by a forest? She thought hopefully but doubted it.
She turned around but saw only trees. She grabbed on of the leaves from a tree and studied it as well as she could. From what she could see it was beginning to turn yellow. She didn’t recognize the type of tree it belonged to though.
She sighed. Well I guess I don’t need to worry about them finding me.
Elizabeth tried to stifle a cough while looking around. She decided to continue in the direction she started.
After about thirty minutes of walking and still trying to stifle the cough that kept nagging her, she heard what sounded like a river to her right. She walked toward it happy that her hope was not in vain.
She crossed to the other side where she found it most shallow. The water was cool but not too frigid. Once on the other side she dropped the basket and drank greedily from the river.
When she finished she crawled over to a tree that was growing near the riverbank. As sleep began to take over, she could have sworn the falls were singing.
When Elizabeth awoke the river sounded more distant, but she still heard a song in the falls. She felt a wooden floor beneath her.
Was it a dream? She wondered. Then she realised the “wagon” was not moving.
She opened her eyes and sat up. She was indeed lying on a wooden floor but the walls were literally made up of a living trees branches and leaves. Which means I’m in a tree! She thought beginning to panic.
She looked over and saw a man standing and aiming a bow at her. The bowstring was slack which calmed her a little.
He had long, very light blonde hair and very light blue eyes.
Her eyes widened and she crawled backward to the edge of the floor.
“Daro!” he cried.
She looked down and saw that if she had backed away much farther she would have fallen out of the tree.