The great grandfather clock in the front hall had struck eleven by the time Louise managed to creep onto the front porch, but the full moon left plently of light for her to make her way back to the clearing.

She lifted her long skirts out of the dirt and swung the little muslim-cloth parcel over her shoulder. It contained only a loaf of bread, saved from yesterday's baking, a small wooden figurine that she had loved since childhood, and her life's saving's: two dollars and nineteen cents. It wasn't much, but it was enought to start her--to start Johnny and her--off to a good family life.

Louise gently stroked her barely swollen stomach and wondered if the baby was as tense in anticipation as she was. In just a few hours, they would both be off with Johnny, on the way to a home of their own. She knew it wouldn't be easy, but with every step further down the dirt road, she was more and more determined to make it work.

He was there, in the clearing, waiting, his deep blue eyes shining in the moonlight, and she ran to him as though they had been parted for a matter of days rather than hours. He took the small parcel from her arms and said, "We should go," but he lingered for a moment, his lips on hers, his hand cupping her face. She clung to him in the darkness until a sudden burst of light made them both turn.

And there they were. Pa, Ma, James, Luther, and Antonio, the hired boy, as well as Mr. Patterson, the sheriff, Mr. St. Paul, Johnny's father, and his brother, Franklin. Each of them held a lantern, and all wore faces of shock, except for Antonio, who smiled up at them wryly and said only, "I told you, I did. They would be here tonight. I heard them saying so, just here, only this very afternoon."

Pa stepped forward and grabbed Louise by the arm, hard, while the sheriff and Mr. St. Paul stepped forward and tied a large piece of yellow rope around Johnny's wrists. "No one is going anywhere tonight," Mr. Patterson said firmly.

Louise's ma began to cry. "She was only fifteen," the woman sobbed into her hankerchief, "My only daughter. How could we have let this happen?"

James and Luther comforted their mother, all the while casting shocked and incredulous looks towards Louise who, resting her hands on the baby inside of her, silently and brokenly began to cry.

The End

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