Susan Page Davis

Captive Trail

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Captive Trail Summary

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Captive Trail is the second novel in author Susan Page Davis’s six-book series Texas Trails, which follows multiple generations of the Morgan family in 19th century Texas. Published in 2011 under a Christian imprint, Captive Trail picks up where the first novel ended, describing the fate of a young white woman taken as a child by a Comanche tribe. Although she is eventually able to escape, it is not clear whether she will ever fully re-acclimate to a life she now only barely remembers.

Although in the novel, the main character’s past is revealed in sporadically occurring flashbacks, this summary will instead proceed chronologically.

In 1845, Comanche warriors who attacked the Morgan homestead took nine-year-old Billie Morgan. For a while, Billie was one of the village’s slaves, treated with condescension and punished for speaking English or trying to return to her family. In order to survive, Billie adapted—she became Taabe Waipu and spent the rest of her childhood self-protectively forgetting her family and her native language. Over 11 years, Taabe grew into the life of the Numinu tribe, its language, and its people. She developed deep and loving friendships with several Comanche women, especially her adopted sister, Pia, whose baby she loves like her own. But through it all, she has always held onto a few distant memories and a small scrap of paper that might be a clue about her original identity and first home.

When the novel opens in 1857, Taabe is of age for marriage. Pia’s husband Chano decides to marry Taabe to Peca, a skilled raider. Chano doesn’t particularly care that Taabe has no desire to marry Peca—and Taabe realizes that if she goes through with the marriage, she will be tied to the Numinu for the rest of her life. When Peca leaves a dowry of six horses at Taabe’s family tipi, Taabe grabs her opportunity to escape. She saddles the fastest of the horses and takes off under cover of night back to the white world. Even as she rides off, however, she knows that the tribe will not take her escape lightly—she has shamed Peca by doing this, and he will come after her with violence.

Fleeing south through Texas, Taabe is making good time for several days when her horse accidentally trips into a hole and throws Taabe off hard enough to knock her out. When Taabe comes to, the horse is gone and her leg is clearly injured. She limps to a road near Fort Chadbourne and collapses again.

Ned Bright is a wagon driver for the Butterfield Overland Mail Company. On one of his first runs through Texas, he is giving a ride to a pair of Ursuline nuns returning to their Mission to open a girls’ school, when he comes across a woman lying in the road, almost dead from exhaustion and dehydration. At first, Ned worries that this is a trap to rob the wagon, but one of the nuns, Sister Natalie, jumps out of the coach and sees to the young woman. Everyone is confused that she looks white but is dressed in Native clothing. The Sisters decide to take her to the Mission house to nurse her back to health.

Over the next few months, Taabe tries to adjust to her new world, although she finds it almost impossible to communicate with anyone around her since she no longer speaks English. However, with the help of the nuns, and the young Mexican ward they care for, Taabe slowly reclaims her first language. Through it all, Ned stays by her side, supportive and kind.

At the same time, Ned realizes that Taabe must have been a child taken by the Comanche and begins trying to piece together her identity. On the advice of his stagecoach business partner Patrillo Garza, who lives on a ranch with his five children, Ned asks the Captain of Fort Chadbourne to send out notifications to local families who might have lost a daughter. Many families come by the Fort and the Mission to see whether Taabe might be theirs, desperate to claim her even in the face of contravening facts because of how deeply the loss of a child in this way has affected them.

Still, the more time Ned spends with Taabe, the more he develops feelings for her that go beyond those of a Good Samaritan. He dreads the day her family identifies her, worried that then he will lose her forever. Taabe’s affection for Ned grows in return as well.

Meanwhile, a Comanche raiding party led by Peca sets out to find Taabe to avenge the dishonor Peca has suffered at her hands. In a climactic battle scene, the Native Americans attack the Mission, and Ned and Taabe must team up to protect the building and its people.

At the end of the novel, the Morgan family identifies Taabe as their daughter Billie. As she continues to heal mentally and physically, Billie and Ned decide to stay together.