Chapter 12: merry last Christmas
Well sir, time slipped by, an' afore any of ’em realized it, winter was on ’em, an' Christmas was almost there, an' so was that baby. Snow was blowin around, but it wasn’t stackin up much. Christmas was only two days away, an' Penelope was just about to bust. She was so big she could hardly walk. They was all excited about that baby, but at the same time, they knew what it’d lead to. That, however, didn’t stop Joseph an' Mandy from eatin plenty at the dinner table. Next day, Christmas Eve was on ’em. They had a fine supper, paw shot a big wild turkey an' maw was getting it ready, when Mandy came runnin in to tell ’er that Penelope was sick. She ran to the room where Penelope was, an' realized right away what was wrong. She was havin that baby. Joseph! She called. Go get Mrs. Benton, an' quick. She’s havin the baby. Joseph was jumpy as a cat on a hot tin roof when 'e heard this. He ran to the barn, saddled up a horse, an' lit out for the Benton place. Mrs. Benton musta knowed right off what time it was, cause she was waitin on the porch when 'e rode up yellin. She just said; let me on Joseph, an' don’t let me fall. She squeezed Joseph so hard, 'e figured if she fell, he was surely gonna fall with ’er. When they got to his place, 'e throwed ’is leg over the saddle horn an' slid off. He turned to help Mrs. Benton off, but by the time 'e was facin 'is horse, that woman was off, an' runnin up the steps to the porch. Damn; 'e thought, that woman’s fast, for a big gal. He took the horse to the barn an' put it away, then returned to the house to see how Penelope was doin, after hookin up the wagon for the return trip with Mrs. Benton. She aint had it yet; Sally said, but it aint far from bein here. Looks like we might have a Christmas baby this time. Mrs. Benton run Joseph an' Mandy off while she, Josephine, an' Sally took care of Penelope an' that baby to come. They went to the front porch to sit an' talk, an' Mandy asked 'er paw; do ya really think we might have a Christmas baby paw? Well, let’s see what time it is now. He looked at ’is pocket watch, an' it’s half past nine. Well little’on, If she waits about two an' a half hours we sure will have. I hope she does paw. Me too honey. What’re we gonna call it paw? Well, that depends on if it’s a boy, or a girl. Paw, If it’s a girl, we should call her Merry, like in “Merry Christmas”. I like that Mandy. We’ll have to ask yer maw, an' Penelope too, if it is a girl anyway. They sat an' talked for awhile, an' Joseph checked ’is watch again, an' it was fifteen minutes past twelve. Well, it's Christmas sugar. Fifteen past twelve, an' yer still up? Too much excitement, I couldn’t sleep now if I been up for ten days paw. He laughed an' replied. I know how ya feel. Next thing they knew, Sally came out, an' announced; she had a baby girl; with a huge smile on ’er face. She sat down by Joseph, where Mandy was on his lap, an' put her arms around ’em both. Well Mandy; she said. Looks like we have ourselves a Christmas baby. Yep, an' me an' paw was thinking. How bout we name her Merry, like in “Merry Christmas”? Ya like it maw? Yes honey, I sure do, but let's ask Penelope in the mornin, when she wakes up. Ok. Now let's get you in bed young lady. She took Mandy in, an' Mrs. Benton came out. Joseph heard 'er say 'er goodnights to Mandy, Sally, an' Josephine, so 'e knew 'e’d better get the wagon ready. We sure thank ya Mrs. Benton. Ah, no problem Joseph. I birthed more babies ’n the doc in town has. Well, we’re beholdin to ya. I hooked the wagon up for the trip home. I sure am glad of it Joseph. That ride up was tough. Was for me too ma’am. She laughed, cause she knew she bout squeezed the life outa Joseph. He got ’er home, an' came back, an' everybody was asleep, sides Sally, an' the new baby, who was cryin for milk. Penelope had already fed ’er, but she musta been greedy; Joseph thought. Sally finally got ’er quiet, an' asleep, then they went to bed themselves. Next mornin, Mandy was up by five o’clock. Partly cause it was Christmas, an' partly cause the new member of the family. All in all, she was so excited she could bust, just like everybody else. Sally had got up earlier an' started cookin the turkey, an' the smell made the house smell so good, everybody was starving by breakfast time. Joseph did all the chores today so Mandy could enjoy Christmas with no work at all. Penelope woke up an' was holdin her new baby with Mandy’s help, an' Mandy asked 'er about the name. Me an' paw talked about it last night Aunt Penelope. What did ya come up with little ’on? We think Merry, like in “Merry Christmas” will be a good name. I love it. Josephine was in the room, an' she agreed. You sure are smart little ’on; she said. But don’t ya think we should have “Penelope” in that name somewhere? Oh yea. Well, how bout “Penelope Merry”? Or “ Merry Penelope”? The ladies both smiled, an' Penelope told 'er niece; how bout we let yer maw decide. I just can’t, I love ’em both. Mandy went an' asked Sally to come in the living room, an' when she got there, Penelope asked 'er; we decided either “Penelope Merry” or “Merry Penelope” but we can’t decide for sure just which one. We thought you could help. Well, I think I like “Merry Penelope”. It sounds best, doesn't it?. Then hello little Merry Penelope; she said to 'er new daughter. The name was set. Mandy told 'er maw; this is the best Christmas I ever had. Me too honey, me too. Merry Christmas, to all of ya.
Everybody had a good Christmas, the dinner was outta this world, an’ everybody got the best Christmas present ever. Little Merry Penelope Becker Cates.
That night however, Joseph decided to sit an' talk to the girls after Mandy went to bed. He started by tellin ’em what had to be figured out, since the baby is here. Sally said; are ya sure ya wanna talk bout somethin like this now Joseph? On Christmas? Penelope spoke up; we have to Sally. The judge said. I know, but, I just hate to do this right now, today. Sorry honey; Joseph said. It's gotta be done. I have to go in to town tomorrow, an' tell Judge Parker the baby’s born. We’ll need to get the birth registered anyway. I know honey. I’m sorry. All the girls had tears runnin down their cheeks, an' Joseph was very close to it 'is own self. He looked at Penelope an' said; ya ready for me to tell ya just what happens? Or I can wait till later. No Joseph, I wanna know now, so I can be ready. Well, I think the judge’ll let me do without the shackles, so let’s not worry bout them. But when we get up there, I’ll have to tie yer feet, an' yer hands behind yer back. Yea, I seen how ya did Bill an' Sam. Ok, then I’ll put the rope around yer neck, an' to one side, so it lays on yer shoulder. (By this time, Sally an' Josephine were in another room. They’d had plenty of this talk.) I hate talkin bout this to ya Penelope. I know Joseph, but we gotta do it, might ’s well be now an' git it over with. Ok, well, I’ll have to say what the judge ordered to do to ya. What ’ll ya say Joseph? Well, I’ll say, “Penelope Becker, you been condemned to die by hangin by Judge Parker on this day, December thirty first, eighteen hundred an' seventy three. At high noon. Or what ever date we do it anyway. Ok Joseph. Then what? Well, (he was trembling, 'e was so shook up, but 'e had to tell 'is sister this stuff, for her benefit) I’ll ask ya if ya have any last words, an’ ya can say whatever ya want. Ok, what then? Well, after yer done, we’ll have to say good bye for the last time in our lives here. An' I’ll have John pull the handle, an' you’ll drop. It’ll break yer neck, so it won’t hardly even hurt. Yer neck ’ll break fast Penelope. An’ when it does, ya lose all feelin. The only thing I think ya feel is the one quick jerk. An’ that’s it. I want one thing changed, if I can have it Joseph. Sure Penelope, if I can. What is it? I don’t want John pullin no handle. I want you to do it. I only want you with me for my last steps. Promise me it’ll only be you Joseph. Please promise me that one thing. Ok Penelope. I promise. I won’t let anybody else on the platform but me an' you. Thank you Joseph. I’m really tired now. I think I’ll go to bed. Ok Penelope. Good night. Good night Joseph. I love you. I love you too little sister. They hugged, an' Penelope went to the room where she’d been sleepin since she’d been there, an' Joseph went to the kitchen where Sally an' Josephine were talkin. Sally asked if it made ’im feel better talkin to Penelope about all that. No, it didn’t. It hurt Sally. It hurt real bad. I hated it, but I had to do it. She has a right to know, soon as she can, what to expect. Ya gotta understand that Sally. I’m sorry Joseph, but I just don’t. Now she has the thought of that rope on 'er neck. It’ll be on 'er mind till ya git this over with. She was cryin ’er eyes out, an' Josephine was too, an' they were both huggin each other tryin to help the other feel better. Joseph was kinda put out that Sally jumped ’im bout this, cause 'e was only tryin to help ’is sister. He decided to go out side an' have a smoke, where 'e wasn’t bein jumped on by 'is wife an' sister for somethin 'e had to do an' tryin to help 'is sister. He was sittin on the front porch when Sally came out. Ya comin to bed tonight? Go on in, I’ll be in shortly. He smoked 'is pipe some more, till it was near three in the mornin'. He decided to go on in an' stoke up the fire in the fireplace, an' since 'e was there, 'e stoked up the fire in the cook stove, cause Sally ’d be gettin' up soon to start breakfast. Then 'e slipped in bed without disturbin 'is mad wife. At least 'e thought she was mad. He was anyway, an' that much 'e knew. Coarse bein mad wasn’t gonna do any good, so 'e just laid there lookin at ’is wife, thinkin' how beautiful she really is, an' how lucky he is to have such a wife. He just hoped an' prayed that 'e didn’t lose ’er over this hangin thing. He thought to 'imself; this is surely not the time to be havin a fight with Sally. The worst time in our lives is upon us, an' we all promised to stick together no matter how it came out, so 'e’d apologize in the morning afore doin ’is chores.
Morning came all too soon for Joseph. He stayed out way too late smoking, but 'e had chores to do, an' 'e had an apology to make. As soon as 'e got up, 'e headed for the kitchen where 'e knowed Sally would be to apologize to 'er, but she stopped ’im in ’is tracks at the bedroom door. I’m sorry Joseph. I was wrong last night. I know she has a right to know, but I just didn’t want it to happen on Christmas. No honey, I’m the one who ’as wrong. I should’ve waited till tonight to talk about it. Well, let’s just not worry Joseph. We need to stick together like we all promised. Now aint the time to be fightin. I was layin in bed earlier thinking that same thing Sally. Exactly that same thing. Well, I better get at them chores, so I can eat breakfast afore I go in to town. Oh, I don’t think yer goin to town very soon Joseph. Why not? Look out side, an’ you’ll see. When 'e opened the door, the snow had come in an' was stacked up near two feet high in places, an' still comin' down. It drifted clean up to the porch. Oh boy; he said. Them chores is gonna be fun today. Well Joseph Cates, ya better git, cause Mandy’s already out there getting some of ’em done. He throwed 'is coat on an' took off runnin for the barn, an' Mandy was just getting done gatherin the eggs. Morning paw. I got the feedin all done for ya an' here’s the eggs. Well, if you aint the best kid I ever did see. You’re just the best little ’on. Ah, weren’t nothing. Well, you go in an’ get warm. I’ll get the milkin an' stalls done, an' be in for breakfast. Ok paw. She headed for the house, an' 'e did the milkin an' the rest of the chores afore goin in to eat. After they ate, 'e decided 'e’d still try to get to town, even though there was a lot of snow on the ground. Ya sure Joseph; Sally asked. Yea, I think ol’ Joe can make it through this stuff. Sides, looks like the snow let up some. An' the temperature out there is almost thirty degrees, accordin to the thermometer. Sun comes out, it'll start meltin. Ol’ Joe was that big stallion 'e loved so much. He was one fine animal. Braggin material, 'e was. I think 'e can. We'll try anyhow. He left for town, an' had a few spots where 'e was kinda nervous, like on that bridge over the Osage, but ‘e made it ok, an' when 'e got there, 'e went to the judge’s house. He knowed 'e wouldn’t be in ’is office today. When ’e got there the judge opened the door, an' asked ’im in. They talked for awhile, an' Joseph told 'im; well judge, Penelope had ’er baby yesterday. Did she now? A Christmas baby, huh? Yea, a girl, an' they named ’er Merry Penelope Becker Cates, since we're gonna be raisin 'er an' all, ya know. Yea, I see Joseph, an' it's a good thing she done by ya too. Mandy thought up the Merry part for “Merry Christmas”. Well if that don’t beat all. Tell ya what Joseph. Let's wait till this weather breaks afore we do anything, ok? nobody wants to do things like what we gotta do in this weather. Just don’t say anything to anybody in town bout that baby bein here just yet. Ok judge. I won’t say anything, but I gotta wire John, so 'e can get here, ya know. Yea, well just “code” the message. Yer smart enough to do that, aint ya? Yessir, I can do that. Well, I better git. Thanks judge. Anytime Joseph. Stop by whenever ya want, too. I will. Good day Joseph. Good day judge. He went to the telegraph office an' they was open, so 'e sent a wire to John. It read;
To sheriff John Weston, Bowling Green Kentucky. Merry Penelope Becker Cates wants to meet you. Get here soon as possible. Signed. marshal Joseph Cates, Jefferson Missouri. An' 'e sent one to Peter too. It read;
To Peter Cates, independence Missouri. Merry Penelope Becker Cates wants to meet you soon as the storm breaks. Signed. marshal Joseph Cates, Jefferson Missouri. Telegraph operator said; that’ll be a dollar. He paid the man an’ left so 'e could get home afore it got too late, an' tell the girls what the judge said. Also, 'e wanted to stop by an' tell Mrs. Benton 'e didn’t want anybody else knowin the baby was born, an' why. He wondered why 'e even sent a wire to Peter. He just figured it was because 'e is after all, family. He decided 'e wouldn’t even tell Sally about it. He just didn’t want Peter finding out by some other means, an' thinkin of ’im as a coward or somethin. It started snowin again afore he even got outta town, an' by the time he made the Osage, 'e couldn’t even see the tracks 'e left comin into town. He made it to Mrs. Benton’s place finally, an' told her what 'e had to, then headed for home. It musta took ’im an extra hour or two to get there, cause 'e had a hard time seein where 'e was goin, the snow was blowin so hard. Sometime later ’e realized 'e wasn’t even on the road. The wind picked up, an' the snow was almost blindin, but after fightin it a while more 'e finally seen the house. When ’e got there, 'e went straight to the barn to put ol’ Joe up, then went in the house to get warm. Everybody had a thousand questions about how much snow did 'e see, or why it took ’im so long, or who was in town, an' how was Mrs. Benton. All 'e was worried about was getting warm. His feet were near froze clean off, an ’e was barely able to get ’is coat off, it was so hard from the cold. He told ’em what the judge said, an' that they would wait till the storm broke afore 'e went back to talk to ’im again. Mandy said she wished that blizzard lasted till spring, but she knew it wouldn’t. Don’t hurt to want; she said. Sally brought Joseph a hot cup of coffee, an' 'e sit right in front of that fire place for an hour or more, just smokin ’is pipe, an' drinkin coffee, an' visitin with Mandy, an' that new baby, an' tryin to get warm. The girls were busy in the kitchen getting supper ready.
Two days went by, an' it surely looked like that blizzard just might last till spring after all. Joseph did all the chores so Mandy could stay inside where it was warm, an' safe, but 'e never told 'er that 'e was worried bout 'er freezin. She was big, an' she didn't want nobody worryin bout 'er like that. But on the third day, it let up some, an' by that Saturday, after Christmas bein on Monday, the sun came out, an' Mandy said it was prettier ’n all git out. Joseph told Sally; since Monday is the first, an ’it’s a holiday, I’ll wait till Tuesday to go talk to Judge Parker. She just said; that’ll be fine. She was probably havin the hardest time of all in the house dealin with this. Penelope heard the conversation, an' she stepped in with; don’t worry none Sally. Everything ’ll be just fine. I’ll be fine. She took Sally aside, so nobody could hear what they said an' told ’er; I seen maw. In my dreams last night, I seen maw, an' papa was there too. They’re waitin for me Sally. I aint even scared no more. Are ya sure bout this Penelope? Ya really seen ’em? Yea. It was so nice. Papa looks so young, an' maw does too. They said they ’as waitin for me to come up to where they are. Oh my gosh. They came in yer dreams, huh? Yea, they sure did. Well Penelope, I heard they do that sometimes, but I never actually seen it happen. If it was them, then that was great. I know it was them Sally. I just know it was. So you don’t worry none anymore, ya hear? Everything ’s gonna be just fine. Well, if ya say it Penelope, I’ll believe ya. But it still bothers me so,the way yer gonna get there. I know Sally, I know. But it'll be ok, I promise. Penelope hugged Sally, an' they went to the kitchen to start cookin dinner.
Tuesday morning rolled around, an' Joseph headed for town. He went to Judge Parker’s office to talk to ’im. Morning Joseph. Morning judge. Well, weather’s broke. Yea, I see that Joseph. Sit down. He sit across from the judge, so they can talk about the hangin to come. Well Joseph, let’s see what the date is for next Tuesday. Eighth? that be ok by you? If ya say so judge, it’ll be done on that day. ok then, next Tuesday, the eighth. Twelve o’clock. Ya been to the courthouse to get that baby’s birth certificate yet? Not yet. I’m headed over there now though. Ok. Well, good luck Joseph. Thanks judge. There is one more thing I need to ask ya before I go. Sure Joseph, what is it? Penelope asked me to be the only one on the platform with ’er. That be ok by you? Well, I don’t see any problems with it, if ya can get the carpenters to build it so you can pull the handle. I’ll talk to ’em today. Ok then. Oh yea, judge. Do we have to have the shackles on ’er? It aint like she’s gonna try to run. Nah, don’t worry bout that Joseph. Only do what ya absolutely gotta do. You know, 'er hands an' feet, so she don’t, you know, kick around an' scare yer wife an' all. Yea, I know. Thank ya judge. Good day. Good day Joseph. Say, Joseph. Yea judge? Ya think maybe ya better bring ’er in on Monday, an' stay in the jail, then go out from there? Well sir, I’d really like to let ’er stay at the house as long as we can, afore we do this, if ya don’t mind. Ya see, Mandy knows what’s goin on, an' it’s gonna near kill that child as it is. I don’t want ’er to hurt any sooner 'an I have to. Ok Joseph. Bring ’er in on Tuesday mornin. Yer wife an' other sister can wait in the jail with ya, if they want. Thanks judge. Good day. He went to the courthouse an' got the baby’s birth certificate, an' went to the lumber yard to find the carpenter. When 'e found ’im, they talked about the gallows to be built. How many ya hangin marshal? Only one, my sister. Oh yea, I almost forgot. Sorry marshal. That’s ok Bob. I need to have it built kinda different if ya can. Sure. What do ya need? I need it made to where I can pull, or push would be better, the handle while I’m standin right in front of my sister. She asked me if I could be the only other person up there, ya know. Yea, I understand marshal. I’ll fix ’er up real nice. Thanks bob. We need it for next Tuesday, noon. No problem marshal, it’ll be done. Same place as always? Yea, I guess so. I’d rather have it private, if we could, but if we try that this town would bust a gut tryin to get at us, so we might as well do it where we always do. Ok marshal. Don’t worry. I’ll have it where all ya gotta do is barely hit the handle, an' she’ll drop fast. Make it easy, for both of ya. Thanks Bob. I’ll see ya next week . Ok marshal. See ya then.
He headed home to tell the rest of the family that 'e talked to the judge an' 'e didn’t have any problems with Sally an' Josephine goin to the jail with 'im an' Penelope. He still aint said anything about sendin Peter a wire. He said 'e didn’t see or hear from John when 'e was in town. Not cause I didn’t try; 'e heard from behind. He turned around an' there stood John. He came in on the train, an' came out here while Joseph was in town. I got yer message; 'e said, so here I am. Glad ya made it John. Penelope asked Joseph when it was to take place. Next Tuesday, at noon. The ladies all cried soon as they heard the time, but they knew, it’d be soon. They realized Penelope had only one more week to live. All there was to do now is wait an' say big prayers, not only for Penelope, but for strength, which was desperately needed by all. An' not a one of ’em had any right now, with this disturbing announcement. The news nearly crushed Mandy, an' everybody in the house was tearful the rest of the week. Joseph had ’is hands full just keeping the women from breakin down an' cryin every minute they were awake.
Monday came, an' 'e needed to go to town to inspect the gallows, to make sure they were gettin ready for the services the next day. John decided to go in with 'im, so they saddled up an' headed for town. When the two law-men got to town, an' looked at them gallows in front of the jail, it nearly killed ’em both. But 'e had no choice. He had to go and look close at 'em. They rode over, an' the sheriff stepped out to talk. They just got ’em done this mornin marshal. Looks like they did a good job, huh sheriff. Yea. Bob told me that all ya gotta do is barely push the handle, an' the trap door pops open, an' she drops. Go try it marshal. He did, an' it popped right open, just like ’e said. Quick, an' easy, for both of ya. Make sure to remind me to thank ’im, eh John? I sure will. They all went inside to have coffee an' talk bout whats to happen the next day where it was warmer. He looked at the sheriff an' told ’im. This is what we’ll do in the mornin sheriff. We’ll come in, an' my wife an' other sister ’ll be with us to wait in the jail, so clean it up good for me, an' have coffee goin. Ok? Sure will marshal. Then, when the time comes, well, Sally an' Josephine’ll go out to their seats, by Judge Parker, if they want, an' I’ll bring Penelope out after they sit down. I’ll take ’er up, an' do what has to be done. You don’t need to go up. But marshal, I have to go up. No, ya don’t. I talked to the judge, an' 'e said I can be the only one up there with ’er. She asked me to be the only one, an' I’m gonna be the only one. Plain an' simple. Ok? Well, I still think I better go up with ya. This was too much for John to take. He grabbed the young sheriff by the shirt collar, an' throwed ’im up against the wall, an' told ’im; You didn't wanna hang bill green an' 'is buddy, but now ya wanna be there when 'e has to hang 'is own sister? What's a matter with you man? You aint goin up. She asked for marshal Cates to do it alone, an' that’s how it's gonna be. Got it? Yessir. Ok, now listen to what the marshal tells ya from here on out. He aint sayin it to hear ’is head rattle. Yessir. Joseph continued; she won’t have shackles on. I’ll do all the tiein’ when we get up there. Got everything ok? Yessir. Are ya gonna need more guards marshal? What do ya mean more guards? Ain't ya got the same ones ya generally have? Well, with all the talk in town an' all, bout yer brother bein in town an' all. He here? Yea, 'e is. Well, might pay to have some more deputies on hand. Mainly to keep the crowds back I think. I can get ten men pretty easy marshal. That should be ok. How soon do ya have to tell ’em? Soon as I can. They all live in town? Yessir. Ok, go tell ’em to high tail it over here, an' I’ll tell ’em what we need ’em to do. Yessir. He took out, an' got back in bout a half hour with the ten men 'e told the two law-men about. Ok men, this is what I want from ya. Tomorrow, I’m gonna have to hang my own sister. I aint one bit happy bout it, so if anybody says even one word about it to me or my family, or if I even hear a word about us or my sister I’m gonna shoot ’em on the spot, ya hear? Yessir; they all said. Now. I’ll need you men to stand in a big circle round them gallows tomorrow mornin, from the time we go out, till it’s all over. Ok? Yessir. One more thing. I hear my brother’s in town. Keep away from ’im. He makes me look like an angel. Don’t nobody say anything to ’im. Steer clear. An' make sure everybody in town knows, nobody is to say one single word bout me or my family, specialy my sister Penelope. Not one got dam word. See ya all tomorrow. Be here bout eleven o’clock. They all shuffled out, an' 'e told John they might as well head back to the house.
On the way home, they met up with Mrs. Benton. Well houdy Mrs. Benton? Where ya headed? Houdy Joseph, sheriff Weston. I was just headed over to your place to pick up Mandy an' the baby, so they could stay at my place, so the rest of ya can get to town with as little amount of problems as possible. But I thought she'd stay home till mornin Mrs Benton. Give 'er as much time as we can to be with Penelope. I know Joseph, but it'll be a lot better for all concerned if she comes on over today. Trust me on this Joseph. Well, ok. They all rode together to the house. When they got there they’d missed dinner, so they just snacked while visitin the rest of the family. After they ate, Mandy sit on 'er paws lap till it was getting close to time for her an' Mrs. Benton to leave with the baby. She said 'er last good bye to Penelope an' hugged 'er tight as she could afore they had to pry ’em apart, As much as they hated to do it. She cried all the way to the wagon. She didn’t put up a fight, she just cried an' cried. Mrs. Benton promised to take extra good care of ’em, an' told ’er she baked a big cherry pie, just for her, cause she knew how much she loved 'er cherry pies. When they finally left, the family went back in the house an' talked about the events to take place the next day. Penelope asked if Sally an' Josephine would for sure be able to go in the jail, an' Joseph promised they could. He told ’em that the sheriff had ten extra deputies lined up to keep the crowds quiet, an' he told ’em Peter was in town. Oh. This is just what we need; Sally blurted out. John spoke in Josephs defense; Sally, the story is all over the papers everywhere. Even in Kentucky they know about it. It's even been printed clean back to the east. It’s everyplace. The whole country knows bout it I magine. Yea, I spect yer right John. Well, 'e had a right to know anyway. I sure wish 'e didn’t come though. We all do honey, but 'e did. All we can do, is go through with what we have to do, an' hope 'e at least waits till it’s all over afore 'e tries anything, if 'e does. What do ya mean, “If he does”? Ya know as well as I do ’e will. Yea, I guess yer right. Penelope seemed to be the strongest of all of ’em. She wasn’t shaky like Josephine an' Sally, or cryin like all the others were. She just sit, an' stared at the window. They ate supper, an' went to bed early since they were all so tired from everything takin' place lately.
Tuesday morning came, an' they were all up early, an' Joseph got the chores done, an' Sally had breakfast cooked by seven o’clock. They had a little time afore havin to go into town, but they decided to go on in, cause the sheriff promised to have the jail cleaned an' have coffee on the stove. When they arrived, the town was crowded from one end to the other, with barely enough room to walk. However, when the Cates wagon drove in, the people all spread out an' gave ’em the road, so they could drive right up to the jail. When they got there an' went in, they seen the sheriff had it all cleaned up, an' a fresh pot of coffee was on the stove, an' there were five chairs waitin for ’em to use. They all sit, an' visited little. Wasn’t much to say at a time like this. Mostly they told each other how they were gonna miss ’em, an' how sad it was that they all had to go through this, but they all agreed they were at least blessed that they had each other to go through it together, includin' John. He’d been a great help during all of this. It was only ten o’clock an' they had two hours to go. Joseph asked Penelope if she wanted anything to eat, but she said she couldn’t eat a thing right now. Josephine sit holdin ’er hand while Sally sit prayin for all, an' she asked the lord if 'e could please take Penelope as easily as 'e could, an' not let her feel anything. She was losin it, an' Joseph noticed it. He sit an' put ’is arm around ’er so as to give ’er what comfort 'e could, which wasn’t nearly enough, but it helped some. At a time like this, there was no comfort to be had by anybody. By eleven o’clock, the sheriff an' 'is deputies came in to see what Joseph wanted ’em to do. He said just stand around out there, so nobody gets too close, an' let ’im know when the judge gets here. They went out, an' John asked if Joseph thought 'e might be of more help outside. It’s ok John, you can stay in here. Yer more like family than anything to us. Thank ya Joseph. I’ll be right here with the rest of ya. Right to the end, an' then I'll still be here after. Penelope stood an' hugged ’im, an' thanked ’im, an' told ’im one more time; I really am sorry bout Margaret an' the girls sheriff Weston. I wish I could bring ’em back, I surely do. She was cryin ’er eyes out, an' that made John bust out an' cry right along with ’er. They held each other till the judge got there. He stepped in the door, an' Penelope sit back down, while 'e talked to Joseph. Ya doin ok?; he asked. Well judge, we’re doin best we can, under these circumstances. I know Joseph. I hate this as much as all of you do. He went to Penelope; Miss Penelope; he said. I sure am sorry bout what’s about to happen. If I could change it, I surely would. But the law is the law, an' I just can't hang two men an' “not” hang a woman for the same crimes. An' like Joseph, I took an oath, an' I gotta live by that oath, no matter how hard it is. Don’t worry judge, I understand. I decided long ago, that if the jury finds me guilty an' ya gotta hang me, that was what the good lord wants, an' I told Joseph that if it had to be, I wanted him to do it, nobody else. I wanted it done by someone who’s strong enough, an' who loves me enough to let me go. That could be only Joseph. I don’t hold nothin agin ya judge, or even the jury. They did their job, an' here I am. I aint mad at ya. I don’t hate ya. You stood up for what ya gotta stand for, just like my brother. I’ll be sayin good bye now judge. I don’t have much time left here, an' I’d really like it, if I could spend it with the ones I love more ’n anybody else, if ya don’t mind. Not at all ma’am. Good bye, an' god bless you.
The judge said good bye to John, Joseph, an' the ladies. He said 'e’d be waitin outside cause 'e had to be a witness at all these hangins, no matter how much 'e hated it. Sally was still prayin, an' she never even looked up at the judge, cause she hated ’im for sentencin Penelope to hang. For that, she’d never forgive that man. They all sit an' held hands till the time came, an' Joseph stood up an' said; well, Sally, Josephine, I have to take ya out to yer seats, if ya really want to go. Course we do!! We will, for Penelope . Ok honey. John, will ya take ’em out for me? Sure I will. Miss Sally, Miss Josephine, if you ladies will come with me, we’ll go sit outside while Joseph does what has to be done. They both got up, along with Penelope, an' they hugged one last time, afore they left. They all say good bye, an' that they love each other forever. Penelope asked Sally once more; ya sure ya can raise little Merry Penelope for me? I promise Penelope. That little girl will have a home with us for the rest of ’er life. A good one. Thank you; Penelope spoke her last words to Sally. Sally an' Josephine went out with John, an' Joseph stayed inside with Penelope to talk a little for the very last time. He asked 'er if she was ok, an' she said; yea, I’m ok Joseph. You just do what ya gotta do. I been seein maw ya know. Ya have? Yea, she came to me several times. They’re waitin for me Joseph, so I’m gonna be ok. Don’t you worry none now. I’ll be ok. Yea, well I won’t. Sure ya will Joseph, yer strong. Yea, well why are my knees so weak then? I know brother. Ya got the jitters, like ya did when ya married that lady out there. I remember that day. Me too, almost ten years now, huh. Yep. I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, it’s time. We better go. Ok brother. Let's get this over with, so I can rest. Joseph couldn’t believe how easy this looked to be for 'is youngest sister when it was killin the rest of ’em. She was the frail one of the family,yet now she was the toughest. Well; 'e thought, at least it might make it easier. He thought surely she was gonna fall at any time, or 'e might fall 'is own self.
He helped ’er out of ’er chair, an' they headed for the door. Just afore they got there, it opened an' in stepped Peter, with tears streamin down ’is cheeks. Peter; Penelope said. What’re you doin here? He sent me a wire, tellin me the time was comin, an' I needed to be here. I couldn’t let ’im do this without at least sayin good bye to ya, an’ tellin ya how much I love ya. I love you too Peter, We all do. I know little sister. Ya goin through with it Joseph? I have to Peter, you know that. Now just step aside. To both of their surprises, 'e stepped out side, an' let ’em be, after 'e hugged Penelope one last time. Sally an' Josephine were sittin outside worryin that 'e might shoot Joseph even afore they came out. But 'e didn’t. He came out, an' sit by Josephine, held 'er hand, an' waited for 'em to come out. When they did, 'e got up, an' walked back to ’em, an' told Joseph; you do what ya gotta do little brother, an' later you an' me, we’re goin for a walk. Peter!; Penelope snapped. Stop it right now. I told ya afore an’ I’m tellin ya now. It's my time Peter. Let ’im do this. Maw’s waitin for me. Ten guns were pointed at Peter, but Joseph told ’em all to put their guns down. They did, an' Peter sit back down, an' they started up the steps. When they reached the top, the town was silent. He took ’er to the spot where she was to stand, an' told her; I gotta do this Penelope, an' I hate it like hell. I know Joseph. But it’s ok. Tears were runnin down ’is face so fast they were splashin off 'is coat, while 'e tied 'er hands an' feet with the leather hides, an' gently placed the rope around 'er neck an' situated it to one side. He couldn’t contain ’em any more. She looked in ’is eyes, an' said; Go on an' do it Joseph. It’s ok. The tears still ran, on both sets of cheeks, as well as with everybody below. He used leather hides so they’d be as easy on ’er as 'e could possibly make it. When 'e was all done with the ties, 'e looked at her an' quietly said; Penelope Becker, you have been condemned to die by hangin by Judge Parker, on this day, January eighth, eighteen hundred an' seventy four. Do ya have anything ya wanna say afore I do this Penelope? Yea, I do. I want everybody in our family to know I love ’em all, an' I’ll miss ’em, an’ I’ll be waitin for ’em when their time comes. I don’t hold anything agin nobody, an’ I’m sorry for all them women an' kids what got killed. I didn’t kill nobody, but I was with the men that did, an' I gotta hang for it. I love you most of all Joseph Cates, cause yer the only one who’s strong enough to do this for me easy like, an' ya love me enough to let me go. Tell Mandy how much I love ’er will ya? Coarse I will. By this time all the women in town were cryin out loud. Peter had tears streamin, just like Joseph, John an' the judge, along with a lot of the deputies standin there. This was the toughest thing Joseph Cates ever had to do in 'is entire life, an' 'e hated every minute of it. He asked Penelope; can I ask ya one more thing, afore we do this? Coarse ya can. Why haven’t I ever seen ya ask God to forgive ya? I don’t know Joseph, I just don’t know. Will ya just ask? For me if nothin else? Yer right ya know, I do need forgivin. She looked up to the sky an' asked: God, will ya please forgive me of my bad deeds? Maw's here Joseph, she’s right out there. I’m ready. Do it Joseph, quickly? She said; good bye brother, knowin 'is heart was breakin in two. He said good bye Penelope. I love you; were the last words 'e told 'is sister afore ‘e pushed the handle.
She fell with a thud, an' 'er neck snapped an' she was gone. Joseph stood there with 'is head hangin low, askin God to forgive ’im for what 'e just did to 'is own sister. Both 'is sister an' 'is wife fainted. John caught Sally an' Peter caught Josephine. When the ladies seen the water fall from under Penelope’s skirt, it was too much for either of ’em to take. Joseph was skakin so bad, 'e could barely get down the steps to see the doctor check 'er pulse. She’s gone; the doc said. Joseph turned to the judge an' said; justice served; just barely loud enough for the judge to hear. Joseph held 'is sister, while an' until after helping Sally, Peter stepped over to Penelope an' took off the rope, an' gently laid 'er head on Josephs shoulder. He kissed 'er cheek, then closed 'er eyes, an' patted 'is brother on the back. He carried 'er to the wagon that was to take 'er to the funeral parlor. He turned to ’is wife an' sister, an' said; you two go on home, I’ll be there later. I gotta make sure she’s taken care of proper. There were so many tears on his face 'e was barely recognizable, as 'e walked toward the parlor. Peter walked with ’im. The deputies started to point their guns at ’im, but Joseph held up 'is hand an' said; no. It’s ok. They went to the parlor where they took Penelope, an' made sure the mortician took good care of 'er an' they also picked out the nicest casket they could find. When business was over there, they went over to the saloon to have a drink. John took the women out to the house.
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