Mary Peace Finley
Award-winning author of books for young people
How could he possibly answer? So much had happened. "At first, alone. The
Apaches took everything, even Chivita. I came on, but I lost the trail in a
snowstorm. Chivita found me. I was sick. We were both starving, and I was snow-
blind." He reached down to touch Chivita. "Then the Cheyenne helped us. But I
had to get here, Mr. Bent. I had to see you. There’s something I have to know."
"Well, I know one thing for sure." Bent shook his head. "You’re lucky you made it. Lucky
you escaped the Apache, lucky Texas freebooters didn’t find you and toss your body to the
wolves. Your papá would be proud of you. Very proud." Bent ran his hand across his chin, and for a
moment his thoughts seemed far away. Then abruptly he looked up. "How old are you anyway?"
"I don’t know," Julio said. "Thirteen, maybe fourteen. But that’s what I want to know! I want to know
when I was born. And where!" Julio took in a long, deep breath. For as long as he could remember,
this was the moment he’d been waiting for. Fighting to control his voice, he began again. "I’ve
always looked different from the rest of my family—this hair, this light skin. Just before Papá died, he
told me why."
Julio looked from Bent to Red and back again.
"Papá said he found me near a burned-out wagon along the Purgatory River. I was
the only one left alive." Squaring his shoulders, Julio looked straight into Bent’s
deep-set eyes. "Who were those people, Mr. Bent? Where did they come from?
Papá said someone here at Bent’s Fort knows. Did he tell you, Mr. Bent? Do you
who I am?"
© Mary Peace Finley 2012