Chapter 17 MISS SLOCUM’S IDEAS REGARDING DEPORTMENT.
“So it was a gold mine that dragged you people up into this wilderness? Well, I’ve puzzled my mind a good deal to understand your movements lately; but th_inding of a vein as rich as your free gold promises is enough to turn an_an’s head for a while. Well, well; you are a lucky fellow, Overton.”
“Yes, I’ve no doubt that between good luck and bad luck, I’ve as much luck a_nybody,” answered Overton, with a grimace, “but a week or so ago you did no_hink me lucky—you thought me ‘looney.’”
“You are more than half right,” agreed the doctor; “appearances justified me.
My wife and I stormed at you—behind your back—for carrying ’Tana with you o_our fishing trip; it was such an unheard-of thing to my folks, you know.
Humph! I wonder what they will say when it is known that she was on _rospecting trip, and that the venture will result in a gain to her of dollar_hat will be counted by the tens of thousands. By George! it seems incredible!
Just like a chapter from the old fairy tales.”
“Yes. I find myself thinking about it like that sometimes,” said Overton; “_ittle afraid to lay plans, for fear that after all it may be a dream. I neve_oped much for it; I came under protest, and the luck seems more than _eserved.”
“Maybe that is the reason you accept it in such a sulky fashion,” observed th_octor, “for, upon my soul, I think I am more elated over your good fortun_han you are. You don’t appear to get up a particle of enthusiasm because o_t.”
“Well, I have not had an enthusiastic lot of partners, either. Harris, here, not able to move; ’Tana not expected to live; and I suddenly face to face wit_ll this responsibility for them. It gave me considerable to think about.”
“You are right. I only wonder you are not gray-haired. A new gold-fiel_aiting for you to make it known, and you guarding it at the same time, perhaps, from red tramps who come spying around. But you are lucky, Dan; everything comes your way, even a capitalist ready at your word to put u_oney on the strength of the ore you have to show. Why, man, many a poor devi_f a prospector has stood a long siege with starvation, even with gold ore i_ight, just because no one with capital would buy or back him.”
“I know. I realize that; and, for the sake of the other two, I am very gla_here need be no waiting for profits.”
“Do you know, Dan, I fancy little ’Tana is in the way of being well cared for, even without this good fortune,” observed the doctor, looking at the other i_ questioning way. “It just occurred to me yesterday that that fine youn_ellow, Lyster, is uncommonly fond of her. It may be simply because she i_ll, and he is sorry for her; but his devotion appeared to me to have _entimental tinge, and I thought what a fine thing it would be.”
“Very,” agreed Overton; “and you are sentimental enough yourself to plan i_ll out for them. I guess Haydon helped to put that notion into your head, didn’t he?”
The doctor laughed.
“Well, yes, he did speak of Lyster’s devotion to your _protégée_ ” h_cknowledged; “and you think we are a couple of premature match-makers, don’_ou?”
“I think maybe you had better leave it for ’Tana to decide,” answered Overton, “and I also think schools will be the first thing considered by her. She i_ery young, you know.”
“Seventeen, perhaps,” hazarded the doctor; but Overton did not reply.
He was watching the canoe just launched by their Indian boatmen. They were t_ake Mr. Haydon back again to the Ferry. He was to send up workmen, an_verton was to manage the work for the present—or, at least, until Mr. Seldo_ould arrive and organize the work of developing the vein that Mr. Haydon ha_ound was of such exceeding richness that his offer to the owners had been o_orresponding magnitude. Overton had promptly accepted the terms offered; Harris agreed to them; and even if ’Tana should not, Dan decided that out o_is own share he could make up any added sum desired by her for her share, though he had little idea that she would find fault with his arrangements.
She! who had thought, that day of the gold find, that it was better to hav_heir little camp unshared by the many whom gold would bring to them—that i_as almost better to be poor than to have their happy life changed.
And it was all over now. Other people had come and were close about her, whil_e had not seen her since the morning before, when she had awakened and turne_o Max. Well, he should be satisfied, so he told himself. She was going to ge_ell again. She was going to be happy. More wealth than they had hoped for ha_ome to her, and with it she would, of course, leave the hills, would go int_he life of the cities, and by and by would be glad to forget the simple, primitive life they had shared for the few days of one Kootenai summer. Well, she would be happy.
And here on the spot where their pretty camp had been, he would remain. N_hought of leaving came to him. It would all be changed, of course; men an_achinery would spoil all the beauty of their wilderness. But as yet no pla_or his own future had occurred to him. That he himself had wealth sufficien_o secure him from all toil and that a world of pleasure was within his reach, did not seem to touch him with any alluring sense. He was going to remai_ntil the vein of the Twin Springs had a big hole made in it; and the ric_oil of the old river he had staked out as a reserve for himself and hi_artners, to either work or sell. Through his one-sided conversations wit_arris he learned that he, too, wanted to remain in the camp where their gol_ad been found. Doctors, medicines, luxuries, could be brought to him, but h_ould remain.
Mrs. Huzzard had at once been offered a sum that in her eyes was munificent, for the express purpose of managing the establishment of the partners—when i_as built. Until then she was to draw her salary, and act as either nurse o_ook in the rude dwellings that for the present had to satisfy all thei_reams of luxury.
An exodus from Sinna Ferry was expected; many changes were to be made; an_verton and the doctor went down to the canoe to give final directions t_heir Indian messenger.
Lyster was there, too, with a most exhausting list of articles which Mr.
Haydon was to send up from Helena.
“Dan, some of these things I put down for ’Tana, as I happened to think o_hem,” he said, and unfolded a little roll made from the leaves of a noteboo_tuck together at the ends with molasses. “You look it over and see if it’_ll right. I left one sheet empty for anything you might want to add.”
Dan took it, eying dubiously the length of it and the great array of article_entioned.
“I don’t think I had better add anything to it until heavier boats ar_arrying freight on the Kootenai,” he remarked, and then commenced readin_loud some of the items:
> Eiderdown pillows.
> Rugs and hammocks.
> A guitar.
> Hot water bottle.
> Some good whisky.
> Toilet soap.
> Bret Harte’s Poems.
> A traveling dress for a girl. (Here followed measurements and directions t_he dressmaker.) Then the whole was scratched out, and the following wa_ubstituted: Brown flannel or serge—nine yards.
“I had to get Mrs. Huzzard to tell me some of the things,” said Lyster, wh_ooked rather annoyed at the quizzical smiles of Dan and the doctor.
“I should imagine you would,” observed Overton. “I would have needed the hel_f the whole camp to get together that amount of plunder. A good shaving se_nd a pair of cork insoles, No. 8, are they for ’Tana, too?”
But Lyster disdained reply, and Overton, after reading, “All the lat_agazines,” and “A double kettle for cooking oatmeal,” folded up the paper an_ave it back.
“As I have read only a very small section of the list, I do not imagine yo_ave omitted anything that could possibly be towed up the river,” he said.
“But it is all right, my boy. I would never have thought of half that stuff, but I’ve no doubt they will all be of use, and ’Tana will thank you.”
“How soon do you expect she will be able to walk, or be moved?” asked Mr.
Haydon of the doctor.
“Oh, in two or three weeks, if nothing interferes with her promised recovery.
She is a pretty sick girl; but I think her good constitution will help her o_er feet by that time.”
“And by that time I will be back here,” said Haydon, addressing Lyster.
He took a sealed envelope from an inner pocket and gave it to the youn_ellow.
“When she gets well enough to read that, give it to her, Max,” he said, in _ow tone. “It’s something that may surprise her a little, so I trust you_iscretion as to when she is to see it. From what I hear of her, she must be _ather level-headed, independent little girl. And as I have something to tel_er worth her knowing, I have decided to leave the letter. Now, don’t look s_uzzled. When I come back she will likely tell you what it means, but you ma_e sure it is no bad news I send her. Will you attend to it?”
“Certainly. But I don’t understand—”
“And there is no need for you to understand—just yet. Take good care of her, and help Overton in all possible ways to look after our interests here. Ther_ill be a great deal to see to until Seldon or I can get back.”
“Oh, Dan is a host in himself,” said Lyster. “He won’t want me in his way whe_t comes to managing his men. But I can help Flap-Jacks carry water, or hel_ld Akkomi smoke, for he comes here each day for just that purpose—that an_is dinner—so never fear but that I will make myself useful.”
Miss Slocum from the cabin doorway—the door was a blanket—watched the cano_kim down the little stream, and sighed dolefully when it disappeare_ntirely.
“Now, Lavina,” remonstrated Mrs. Huzzard, “I do hope that you ain’t countin_n making part of the next load that leaves here; for now that you have go_ere, I’d hate the worst kind to lose you. Gold mines are fine things to liv_longside of, I dare say; but I crave some human beings within hail—yes, indeed.”
“Exactly my own feelings, Cousin Lorena,” admitted Miss Slocum, “and I regre_he departure of any member of our circle—all except the Indians. I really d_ot think that any amount of living among them would teach me to feel lonel_t their absence. And that dreadful Akkomi!”
“Yes, isn’t he a trial? Not that he ever does any harm; but he just keeps _ody in mortal dread, for fear he might take a notion to.”
“Yet Mr. Overton seems to think him entirely friendly.”
“Humph! yes. But if ’Tana should pet a rattlesnake, Mr. Overton would trus_t. That’s just how constant he is to his friends.”
“Well, now,” said Miss Lavina, with mild surprise in her tone, “I really hav_een nothing in his manner that would indicate any extreme liking for th_irl, though she is his ward. Now, that bright young gentleman, Mr. Lyster—”
“Tut, tut, Lavina! Max Lyster is all eyes and hands for her just now. He wil_an her and laugh with her; but it will be Dan who digs for her and takes th_eight of her care on his shoulders, even if he never says a word about it.
That is just Dan Overton’s way.”
“And a very fine way it is, Lorena,” said Miss Slocum, while her eyes wandere_ut to where he stood talking to Lyster. “I’ve met many men of fine manners i_y time, but I never was more impressed at first sight by any person than b_im when he conducted me personally to you on my arrival. The man had neve_eard my name before, yet he received me as if this camp had been arranged o_urpose for my visit, and that he himself had been expecting me. If that di_ot contain the very essence of fine manners, I never saw any, Lorena Jane.”
“I—I s’pose it does, Lavina,” agreed Mrs. Huzzard; “though I never heard an_ne go on much about his manners before. And as for me—well,” and she looked _it embarrassed, “I ain’t the best judge myself. I’ve had such a terrible har_ussle to make a living since my man died, that I hain’t had time to stud_ine manners. I’ll have time enough before long, I suppose, for Dan Overto_urely has offered me liberal living wages. But, Lavina, even if I did want t_earn now, I wouldn’t know where to commence.”
“Well, Lorena, since you mention it, there is lots of room for improvement i_our general manner. You’ve been with careless people, I suppose, and ba_abits are gathered that way. Now I never was much of a genius—couldn’t trim _onnet like you to save my life; but I did have a most particular mother; an_he held that good manners was a recommendation in any land. So, even if he_hildren had no fortune left them, they were taught to show they had carefu_ringing up. One of my ideas in coming out here was that I might teac_eportment in some Indian school, but not much of that notion is left me.
Could I ever teach Flap-Jacks to quit scratching her head in the presence o_adies and gentlemen? No.”
“I don’t think,” said Mrs. Huzzard, in a meditative way, “that I mind th_cratching so much as I do the dratted habit she has of carrying the dish- cloth under her arm when she don’t happen to be using it. That just wears o_y nerves, it does. But I tell you what it is, Lavina—if you are kind o_isappointed on account of not getting Indian scholars that suit just yet, I’_ore than half willing you should teach me the deportment, if you’d b_atisfied with one big white scholar instead of a lot of little red ones.”
“Yes, indeed, and glad to do it,” said Miss Slocum, frankly. “Your heart i_ll right, Lorena Jane; but a warm heart will not make people forget that yo_ean your elbow on the table and put your food into your mouth with you_nife. Such things jar on other people just as Flap-Jacks and the dish-clot_ar on you. Don’t you understand? But your desire to improve shows that yo_re a very remarkable woman, Lorena, for very few people are willing to lear_ew habits after having followed careless ones for forty years.”
“Thirty-nine,” corrected Lorena Jane, showing that, however peculiar an_emarkable her wisdom might be in some directions, it did not prevent _atural womanly feeling regarding the number of years she had lived.
“You see,” she continued, after a little, as Miss Lavina kept a discree_ilence, “this here gold fever is catching; and if any one gets started on th_ight track, there is no telling what day he may stumble over a fortune. On_ight come my way—or yours, Lavina. And, just as you say, fine manners is _eap of help in sassiety. And thinking of it that way makes me feel I’d lik_o be prepared to enjoy, in first-class style, any amount of money I might ge_ chance at up here. For I tell you what it is, Lavina, this Western land is _oman’s country. Her chances in most things are always as good, and mostl_etter than a man’s.”
“Yes, if she does not die from fright at the creepy looks of the friendl_ndians,” said Miss Slocum, with a shivering breath. “I have not slept soun_or a single minute since I saw that old smoking wretch who never seems a ro_rom this cabin. Now down there at Sinna Ferry I thought it might be kind o_ice, though we stopped only a little while, and I was not up in the street.
Any real genteel people there?”
“Well—yes, there is,” answered Lorena Jane, after a slight hesitation as t_ust how much it would be wise to say of the genteel gentleman who resided i_inna Ferry, and was in her eyes a model of culture and disdainfu_uperiority. Indeed, that disdain of his had been a first cause in her desir_o reach the state of polish he himself enjoyed—to rise above the vulgar leve_f manners that had of old seemed good enough to her. “Yes, there is som_igh-toned folks there; the doctor’s wife and family, for one; and then ther_s a very genteel man there—Captain Leek. He is an ex-officer in the late war, you know; a real military gentleman, with a wound in his leg. Limps some, bu_ot enough to make him awkward. He keeps the postoffice. But if thi_overnment looked after its heroes as it ought to, he’d be getting a goo_ension—that’s just what he would. I’m too sound a Union woman not to fee_iled at times when I see the defenders of the Constitution go unrewarded.”
“Don’t say ’riled,’ Lorena,” corrected Miss Slocum. “You must drop that and ’dratted’ and ‘I’ll swan’; for I don’t think you could tell what any of the_ean. I couldn’t, I’m sure. But I used to know a family of Leeks back in Ohio.
They were Democrats, though, and their boys joined the Confederate Army, though I heard they wasn’t much good to the cause. But of course it is no_ikely to be one of them.”
“I should think not,” agreed Mrs. Huzzard, stoutly. “I never heard him tal_olitics much; but I do know that he wears nothing but the Union blue to thi_ay, and always that military sort of hat with a cord around it—so—s_ignified like.”
“No, I did not suppose it could be the one I knew,” said her cousin; “th_ilitary uniform decides that.”