- 30. The Dividing Tide – Episode 30
- 31. The Dividing Tide – Episode 31
- 32. The Dividing Tide – Episode 32
- 33. The Dividing Tide – Episode 33
- 34. The Dividing Tide – Episode 34
- 35. The Dividing Tide – Episode 35
- 36. The Dividing Tide – Episode 36
Ahyoka was crooning a lament as she knelt beside the newly dug mound of earth on the hillside above the cabin.
Hat in hand, Thomas listened to the eerie sounds for a while before reaching out and touching her softly on the shoulder.
She turned a tear-streaked face towards him.
“Grandfather didn’t have a priest to perform the ceremony,” she told him. “Everyone from the village has gone. I am the only one left to mourn.”
“These are difficult times, Ahyoka,” he said gently. “Kanuna would understand. At least he’s been laid to rest in the land where he belongs.”
She nodded as she stood up beside him.
Together they looked at the view before them, the dull shine of the river below, the pine-clad mountain slopes beyond and the vast cotton fields at the end of the valley.
“It is a beautiful place,” he said, hoping to comfort her.
He took her arm as they turned away, in an attempt to hurry her. The week’s grace the soldier had given Ahyoka was up that day, and the need to leave had become urgent.
As they turned to retrace their steps down to the cabin, Thomas’s worst fears were realised. He caught a glimpse of blue uniforms escorting a straggling line of Cherokees in the valley below.
Quickly he drew Ahyoka behind a rock and motioned her to be quiet. His rage against the authorities grew on a daily basis as he saw how the Native Americans were being made to leave their own lands.
He had to stop her from the same fate. He was sure she wouldn’t survive being put in a stockade and forced on such a long journey in the middle of winter. Her foot would not hold up. But how could he help her?
The answer when it came was so obvious and so simple he was amazed that he hadn’t he thought of it before.
He said nothing until they were back at the cabin. He waited in the cold musty room as with quiet dignity she gathered her things together.
“What is it, Thomas?” she said, looking up to catch his glance. Her breath was a faint mist in the cold air. “I must give myself up. If I do not, the soldiers will come and make me. They have guns,” she added. “I have no choice.”
She looked at him.
“I do not understand.”
“Listen, Ahyoka. If you become my wife you would not have to go.”
As he spoke, Thomas realised how much he wanted this, how much he loved her.
Her lips trembled.
“I cannot,” she said.
He stepped closer and looked into her eyes.
“Why? The law will treat you differently if you are my wife.”
She did not reply.
“You cannot go on this journey,” he insisted. “Your foot will not bear it.”
“I will speak what is in my heart,” she said simply. “I have much love for you, Thomas. It began the day at the river, the time I first look up and see you.”
A flood of relief filled him.
“Then . . .”
She shook her head.
“No. I will not let you do this for my sake. It will bring only trouble to you.”
“You don’t understand,” he whispered. “I have much love for you, too.” He smiled. “I hadn’t realised it. Even if the situation for your people was not so desperate, in time I would have asked you.”
He dropped to one knee as he took her hand in his.
“Will you be my wife, Ahyoka?”
She hesitated for a moment, then she smiled.
“If it is true that you love me, then, yes, Thomas.”
“Yes,” she whispered again as he stood up and took her in his arms.