“I went to see the magistrate this morning.” Cody pulled the paper from his shirt pocket.
“I know you don’t want to see your brother’s claim mined by someone else, and you can’t leave here without giving up your rights. So I’m going to let you stay. But you need legal protection.
“I know you’re in mourning and can’t marry either one of us, and I hope to marry another anyway — if she’ll have me. That just left one option.” Cody paused. “You’re our legal ward now, Jenny.”
The inside of the cabin became quiet as she regarded him, the only sounds coming from the bustling camp outside.
“Your…ward? You mean like your … child?”
“It’s for your own good,” Cody said. “You need protection, and the protection of two is better than one…”
“That was the only way?” she asked. “To reduce me so?”
“We’ll think no less of you, Jenny,” Cody said. “If anything, it will make you only more important to us.”
Jenny chewed on her lip as she considered their words. “Well, if that’s what it takes,” she said. “But I’m not really a child, and don’t either of you go thinking this means I have to listen to you, because…”
“I beg to differ.”
“Or what? You’ll punish me, too?” Jenny asked, rising from the table as her eyes flashed fire.
“If it’s necessary, yes,” Nigel replied, and Cody watched the exchange with interest, pleased to see his usually quiet friend joining him for a united front.
“And make no mistake; while I may be a patient man, my patience has its limits,” the
Englishman continued. “I’m no stranger to using a hand or cane to correct a young lady.
Having attended schools where corporal punishment was employed, I know firsthand the benefits of discipline – especially the cane.”
Cody felt a moment of pity as Jenny’s eyes welled up with tears. He knew within her small frame was a fighting spirit; how else could she have weathered the trip to Coloma? But he also knew that curbing that spirit — demanding her obedience — was the surest way to keep her safe.