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Chapter 18 AWAKENING.

  • “Flap-Jacks,” said ’Tana, softly, so as to reach no ear but that of the squaw, who came in from Harris’ cabin to find the parasol of Miss Slocum, who wa_bout to walk in the sunshine. To the red creature of the forest this paraso_eemed the most wonderfully beautiful thing of all the strange things whic_he white squaws made use of. “Flap-Jacks, are they gone?”
  • Three weeks had gone by, three weeks of miraculous changes in the beauty o_heir wild nook along the trail of the old river.
  • “Twin Springs,” the place was called now—Twin Spring Mines. Already men wer_t work on the new lode, and doing placer digging for the free gold in th_oil. Wooden rails were laid to the edge of the stream, and over it the small, rude car was pushed with the new ore down to a raft on which a test load ha_een drifted to the immense crusher at the works on Lake Kootenai. And th_est had resulted so favorably that the new strike at Twin Springs wa_onsidered by far the richest one of the year.
  • Through all the turbulence that swept up the little stream to their camp, tw_f the discovering party were housed, sick and silent, in the little doubl_abin. The doctor could see no reason why ’Tana was so slow in her recovery; he had expected so much more of her—that she would be carried into healt_gain by the very force of her ambition, and her eager delight in th_rospects which her newly acquired wealth was opening up to her.
  • But puzzling to relate, she showed no eagerness at all about it. He_mbitions, if she had any, were asleep, and she scarcely asked a questio_oncerning all the changes of life and people around her. Listless she la_rom one day to another, accepting the attention of people indifferently. Ma_ould read to her a good deal, and several times she asked to be carried int_he cabin of Harris, where she would sit for hours talking to him, sometime_n a low voice and then again sitting close beside him in long silences, which, strangely enough, seemed more of companionship to her than the presenc_f people who laughed and talked. They wearied her at times. When she was abl_o walk out, she liked to go alone; even Max she had sent back when h_ollowed her.
  • But she never went far. Sometimes she would sit for an hour by the stream, watching the water slip past the pebbles and the grasses, and on to it_urbulent journey toward a far-off rest in the Pacific. And again, she woul_atch some strange miner dig and wash the soil in his search for the precious “yellow.” But her walks were ever within the limits of the busy diggings; al_er old fondness for the wild places seemed sleeping—like her ambitions.
  • “She needs change now. Get her away from here,” advised the doctor, who n_onger felt that she needed medicines, but who could not, with all his skill, build her up again into the daring, saucy ’Tana, who had won the game of card_rom the captain that night at the select party at Sinna Ferry.
  • But when Overton, after much hesitation, broached the subject of her goin_way, she did look at him with a touch of the old defiance in her face, an_fter a bit said:
  • “I guess the camp will have to be big enough for you and me, too, a few day_onger. I haven’t made up my mind as to when I want to go.”
  • “But the summer will not last long, now. You must commence to think of wher_ou want to go; for when the cold weather comes, ’Tana, you can’t remai_ere.”
  • “I can if I want to,” she answered.
  • After one troubled, helpless look at her pale face, he walked out of th_abin; and Lyster, who had wanted to ask the result of the interview, coul_ot find him all that evening. He had gone somewhere alone, up on th_ountain.
  • She had answered him with a great deal of cool indifference; but when the tw_ousins entered her room, she was on the bed with her face buried in th_illows, weeping in an uncontrollable manner that filled them with dismay. Th_octor decided that while Dan was a good fellow in most ways, he evidently ha_ot a soothing influence on ’Tana, possibly not realizing the changed menta_ondition laid on her by her sickness. The doctor further made up his min_hat, without hurting Dan’s feelings, he must find some other mouthpiece fo_is ideas concerning her or reason with her himself.
  • But, so far, she would only say she was not ready to go yet. Dan, wishing t_ake her stay comfortable as possible, went quietly to all the settlement_ithin reach for luxuries in the way of house-furnishing, and had Mrs. Huzzar_se them in ’Tana’s cabin. But when he had done all this, she never asked _uestion as to where the comforts came from—she, who, a short month before, had valued each kind glance received from him.
  • Mrs. Huzzard was sorely afraid that it was pride, the pride of newly acquire_ealth, that changed her from the gay, saucy girl into a moody, dreamy being, who would lie all alone for hours and not notice any of them coming and going.
  • The good soul had many a heartache over it all, never guessing that it was a_che and a shame in the heart of the girl that made the new life that wa_iven her seem a thing of little value.
  • ’Tana had watched the squaw wistfully at times, as if expecting her to sa_omething to her when the others were not around, but she never did. When ’Tana heard the ladies ask Lyster to go with them to a certain place wher_eautiful mosses were to be found, she waited with impatience until thei_oices left the door.
  • The squaw shook her head when asked in that whispering way of their departure; but when she had carried out the parasol and watched the party disappea_eyond the numerous tents now dotting the spaces where the grass grew ran_nly a month before, then she slipped back and stood watchful and silen_nside the door.
  • “Come close,” said the girl, motioning with a certain nervousness to her. Sh_as not the brave, indifferent little girl she had been of old. “Com_lose—some one might listen, somewhere. I’ve been so sick—I’ve dreamed so man_hings that I can’t tell some days what is dream and what is true. I lie her_nd think and think, but it will not come clear. Listen! I think sometimes yo_nd I hunted for tracks—a white man’s tracks—across there where the high fern_re. You showed them to me, and then we came back when the moon shone, and i_as light like day, and I picked white flowers. Some days I think of it—of th_racks, long, slim tracks, with the boot heel. Then my head hurts, and I thin_aybe we never found the tracks, maybe it is only a dream, like—like othe_hings!”
  • She did not ask if it were so, but she leaned forward with all of eage_uestion in her eyes. It was the first time she had shown strong interest i_nything. But, having aroused from her listlessness to speak of the ghosts o_ancy haunting her, she seemed quickened to anxiety by the picture her ow_ords conjured up.
  • “Ah! those tracks in the black mud and that face above the ledge!”
  • “It is true,” said the squaw, “and not a dream. The track of the white man wa_here, and the moon was in the sky, as you say.”
  • “Ah!” and the evidently unwelcome truth made her clench her fingers togethe_espairingly; she had hoped so that it was a dream. The truth of it banishe_er lethargy, made her think as nothing else had. “Ah! it was so, then; an_he face—the face was real, was—”
  • “I saw no face,” said the squaw.
  • “But I did—yes, I did,” she muttered. “I saw it like the face of a whit_evil!”
  • Then she checked herself and glanced at the Indian woman, whose dark, heav_ace appeared so stupid. Still, one never could tell by the looks of an India_ow much or how little he knows of the thing you want to know; and after _oment’s scrutiny, the girl asked:
  • “Did you learn more of the tracks?—learn who the white man was that mad_hem?”
  • The woman shook her head.
  • “You sick—much sick,” she explained. “All time Dan he say: ‘Stay here by whit_irl’s bed. Never leave.’ So I not get out again, and the rain come wash al_rack away.”
  • “Does Dan know?—did you tell him?”
  • “No, Dan never ask—never talk to me, only say, ‘Take care ’Tana,’ that all.”
  • The girl asked no more, but lay there on her couch, filled with dry moss an_overed with skins of the mountain wolf. Her eyes closed as though she wer_sleep; but the squaw knew better, and after a little, she said doubtfully:
  • “Maybe Akkomi know.”
  • “Akkomi!” and the eyes opened wide and slant. “That is so. I should hav_emembered. But oh, all the thoughts in my brain have been so muddled. Yo_ave heard something, then? Tell me.”
  • “Not much—only little,” answered the squaw. “That night—late that night, _hite stranger reached Akkomi’s tent, to sleep. No one else of the tribe go_o see him, so the word is. Kawaka heard on the river, and it was that night.”
  • “And then? Where did the stranger go?”
  • The squaw shook her head.
  • “Me not know. Kawaka not hear. But I thought of the track. Now many white me_ake tracks, and one no matter.”
  • “Akkomi,” and the thoughts of the girl went back to the very first she coul_emember of her recovery; and always, each day, the face of Akkomi had bee_ear her. He had not talked, but would look at her a little while with hi_harp, bead-like eyes, and then betake himself to the sunshine outside he_oor, where he would smoke placidly for hours and watch the restless Anglo- Saxon in his struggle to make the earth yield up its riches.
  • Each day Akkomi had been there, and she had not once aroused herself t_uestion why; but she would.
  • Rising, she passed out and looked right and left; but no blanketed brave me_er gaze. Only Kawaka, the husband of Flap-Jacks, worked about the canoes b_he water. Then she entered Harris’ cabin, where the sight of his helples_orm, and his welcoming smile, made her halt, and drop down on the rug besid_im. She had forgotten him so much of late, and she touched his han_emorsefully.
  • “I feel as if I had just got awake, Joe,” she said, and stretched out he_rms, as though to drive away the last vestige of sleep. “Do you know how tha_eels? To lie for days, stupid as a chilled snake, and then, all at once, t_eel the sun creeping around where you are and warming you until you begin t_onder how you could have slept so many days away. Well, just now I fee_lmost well again. I did not think I would get well; I did not care. All th_ays I lay in there I wished they would just let me be, and throw thei_edicines in the creek. I think, Joe, that there are times when people shoul_e allowed to die, when they grow tired—tired away down in their hearts; s_ired that they don’t want to take up the old tussle of living again. It is s_uch easier to die then than when a person is happy, and—and has some one t_ike them, and—”
  • She left the sentence unfinished, but he nodded a perfect understanding of he_houghts.
  • “Yes, you have felt like that, too, I suppose,” she continued, after a little.
  • “But now, Joe, they tell me we are rich—you and Dan and I—so rich we ought t_e happy, all of us. Are we?”
  • He only smiled at her, and glanced at the cozy furnishing of his rude cabin.
  • Like ’Tana’s, it had been given a complete going over by Overton, and rugs an_obes did much to soften its crude wood-work. It had all the luxury obtainabl_n that district, though even yet the doors were but heavy skins.
  • She noticed the look but shook her head.
  • “Thick rugs and soft pillows don’t make troubles lighter,” she said, wit_onviction; and then: “Maybe Dan is happy. He—he must be. All he thinks of no_s the gold ore.”
  • She spoke so wistfully, and her own eyes looked so far, far from happy, tha_he face of the man was filled with longing to comfort her—the little girl wh_ad tramped so long on a lone trail—how lonely none knew so well as he. Hi_ingers closed and unclosed, as if with the desire to clasp her hand,—to mak_ome visible show of friendship.
  • She saw the slight movement, and looked up at him with a new interest.
  • “Oh, I forgot, Joe! I never once have asked how you have got along while _ave been so sick. Can you use your hands any at all? You could once, a littl_it that day—the day we found the gold.”
  • But he shook his head, and just then a step was heard outside, and Lyste_ooked in.
  • A shade of surprise touched his face, as he saw ’Tana there, with so bright a_xpression in her eyes.
  • “What has Harris been telling you that has aroused you to interest, Tana?” h_sked, jestingly. “He has more influence than I, for I have scarcely been abl_o get you to talk at all.”
  • “You don’t need me; you have Miss Slocum,” she answered. “Have you dropped he_n the creek and run back to camp? And have you seen Akkomi lately? I wan_im.”
  • “Of course you do. The moment I make my appearance, you want to get rid of m_y sending me for some other man. No, I am happy to say I have not seen tha_oyal loafer for the past hour. And I am more happy still to find that yo_eally want some one—any one—once more. Do you realize, my dear girl, how ver_any days it is since you have condescended to want anything on this earth o_urs? Won’t you accept me as a substitute for Akkomi?”
  • “I don’t want you.”
  • But her eyes smiled on him kindly, and he did not believe her.
  • “Perhaps not; but won’t you pretend you do for a little while, long enough t_ome with me for a little walk—or else to talk to me in your cabin?”
  • “To talk to you? I don’t think I can talk much to any one yet. I just told Jo_ feel as if I was only waking up.”
  • “So I see; that is the reason I am asking an audience. I will do the talking, and it need not be a very long talk, if you are too tired.”
  • “I believe I will go,” she said, at last. “I was thinking it would be nice t_loat in a canoe again—just to float lazy on the current. Can’t we do that?”
  • “Nothing easier,” he answered, entirely delighted that she was again more lik_he ’Tana of two months before. She seemed to him a little paler and a littl_aller, but as they walked together to the canoe, he felt that they woul_gain come to the old chummy days of Sinna Ferry, when they quarreled and mad_p as regularly as the sun rose and set.
  • “Well, why don’t you talk?” she asked, as their little craft drifted away fro_he tents and the man who washed the soil by the spring run. “What did you d_ith the women folks?”
  • “Gave them to Overton. They concluded not to risk their precious selves wit_e, when they discovered that he, for a wonder, was disengaged. Really an_ruly, that angular schoolmistress will make herself Mrs. Overton if he is no_areful. She flatters him enough to spoil an average man; looks at him with s_uch respectful awe, you know, though she never does say much to him.”
  • “Saves her breath to drill Mrs. Huzzard with,” observed the girl, dryly. “Tha_oor, dear woman has a bee in her muddled old head, and the bee is Captai_eek and his fine manners. I can see it, plain as day. Bless her heart! I hea_er go over and over words that she always used to say wrong, and she does ea_icer than she used to. Humph! I wonder if Dan Overton will take as kindly t_eing taught, when the school-teacher begins with him.”
  • There was a mirthless, unlovely smile about her lips, and Lyster reached ove_nd clasped her hand coaxingly.
  • “’Tana, what has changed you so?” he asked. “Is it your sickness—is it th_old—or what, that makes you turn from your old friends? Dan never says _ord, but I notice it. You never talk to him, and he has almost quit going t_our cabin at all, though he would do anything for you, I know. My dear, yo_ill find few friends like him in the world.”
  • “Oh, don’t—don’t bother me about him,” she answered, irritably. “He is al_ight, of course. But I—”
  • Then she stopped, and with a determined air turned the subject.
  • “You said you had something to talk to me about. What was it?”
  • “You don’t know how glad I am to hear you speak as you used to,” he said, looking at her kindly. “I would be rejoiced even to get a scolding from yo_hese days. But that was not exactly what I brought you out to tell you, either,” and he drew from his pocket the letter he had carried for thre_eeks, waiting until she appeared strong enough to accept surprises. “_uppose, of course, you have heard us talk a good deal about the Easter_apitalist who was here when you were so sick, and who, unhesitatingly, mad_urchase of the Twin Spring Mines, as it is called now.”
  • “You mean the very fine Mr. Haydon, who had curly hair and looked like me?” she asked, ironically. “Yes, I’ve heard the women folks talking about him _ood deal, when they thought me asleep. Old Akkomi scared him a little, too, didn’t he?”
  • “So, you _have_ heard?” he asked, in surprise. “Well, yes, he does look _ittle like you; it’s the hair, I think. But I don’t see why you utter hi_ame with so much contempt, ’Tana.”
  • “Maybe not; but I’ve heard the name of Haydon before to-day, and I have _rudge against it.”
  • “But not this Haydon.”
  • “I don’t know which Haydon. I never saw any of them—don’t know as I want to. _uess this one is almost too fine for Kootenai country people, anyway.”
  • “But that is where you are wrong, entirely wrong, ’Tana,” he hastened t_xplain. “He was very much interested in you—very much, indeed; asked lots o_uestions about you, and—and here is what I wanted to speak of. When he wen_way, he gave me this letter for you. I imagine he wants to help mak_rrangements for you when you go East, have you know nice people and all that.
  • You see, ’Tana, his daughter is about your age, and looks just a little as yo_o sometimes; and I think he wants to do something for you. It’s an odd thin_or him to take so strong an interest in any stranger; but they are the ver_est people you could possibly know if you go to Philadelphia.”
  • “Maybe if you would let me see the letter myself, I could tell better whethe_ wanted to know them or not,” she said, and Lyster handed it to her withou_nother word.
  • It was a rather long letter, two closely-written sheets, and he could no_nderstand the little contemptuous smile with which she opened it. Haydon, th_reat financier, had seemed to him a very wonderful personage when he was ’Tana’s age.
  • The girl was not so indifferent as she tried to appear. Her fingers trembled _ittle, though her mouth grew set and angry as she read the carefully kin_ords of Mr. Haydon.
  • “It is rather late in the day for them to come with offers to help me,” sh_aid, bitterly. “I can help myself now; but if they had looked for me a yea_go—two or three years ago—”
  • “Looked for you!” he exclaimed, with a sort of impatient wonder. “Why, my dea_irl, who would even think of hunting for little white girls in these forests?
  • Don’t be foolishly resentful now that people want to be nice to you. You coul_ot expect attention from people before they were aware of your existence.”
  • “But they did know of my existence!” she answered, curtly. “Oh! you needn’_tare at me like that, Mr. Max Lyster! I know what I’m talking about. I hav_he very shaky honor of being a relation of your fine gentleman from the East.
  • I thought it when I heard the name, but did not suppose he would know it. An_’m not too proud of it, either, as you seem to think I ought to be.”
  • “But they are one of our best families—”
  • “Then your worst must be pretty bad,” she interrupted. “I know just about wha_hey are.”
  • “But ’Tana—how does it come—”
  • “I won’t answer any questions about it, Max, so don’t ask,” and she folded u_he letter and tore it into very little pieces, which she let fall into th_ater. “I am not going to claim the relationship or their hospitality, and _ould just as soon you forgot that I acknowledged it. I didn’t mean to tell, but that letter vexed me.”
  • “Look here, ’Tana,” and Lyster caught her hand again. “I can’t let you ac_ike this. They can be of much more help to you socially than all your money.
  • If the family are related to you, and offer you attention, you can’t afford t_gnore it. You do not realize now how much their attention will mean; but whe_ou are older, you will regret losing it. Let me advise you—let me—”
  • “Oh, hush!” she said, closing her eyes, wearily. “I am tired—tired! Wha_ifference does it make to you—why need you care?”
  • “May I tell you?” and he looked at her so strangely, so gravely, that her eye_pened in expectation of—she knew not what.
  • “I did not mean to let you know so soon, ’Tana,” and his clasp of her han_rew closer; “but, it is true—I love you. Everything that concerns you makes _ifference to me. Now do you understand?”
  • “You!—Max—”
  • “Don’t draw your hand away. Surely you guessed—a little? I did not know mysel_ow much I cared till you came so near dying. Then I knew I could not bear t_et you go. And—and you care a little too, don’t you! Speak to me!”
  • “Let us go home,” she answered in a low voice, and tried to draw her finger_way. She liked him—yes; but—
  • “Tana, won’t you speak? Oh, my dear, dear one, when you were so ill, so ver_ll, you knew no one else, but you turned to me. You went asleep with you_heek against my hand, and more than once, ’Tana, with your hand claspin_ine. Surely that was enough to make me hope—for you did like me a little, then.”
  • “Yes, I—liked you,” but she turned her head away, that he could not see he_lushed face. “You were good to me, but I did not know—I could not guess—” an_he broke down as though about to cry, and his own eyes were full o_enderness. She appealed to him now as she had never done in her days o_rightness and laughter.
  • “Listen to me,” he said, pleadingly. “I won’t worry you. I know you are to_eak and ill to decide yet about your future. I don’t ask you to answer m_ow. Wait. Go to school, as I know you intend to do; but don’t forget me.
  • After the school is over you can decide. I will wait with all patience. _ould not have told you now, but I wanted you to know I was interested in th_nswer you would give Haydon. I wanted you to know that I would not for th_orld advise you, but for your best interests. Won’t you believe—”
  • “I believe you; but I don’t know what to say to you. You are different fro_e—your people are different. And of my people you know nothing, nothing a_ll, and—”
  • “And it makes no difference,” he interrupted. “I know you have had a lot o_rouble for a little girl, or your family have had trouble you are sensitiv_bout. I don’t know what it is, but it makes no difference—not a bit. I wil_ever question about it, unless you prefer to tell of your own accord. Oh, m_ear! if some day you could be my wife, I would help you forget all you_hildish troubles and your unpleasant life.”
  • “Let us go home,” she said, “you are good to me, but I am so tired.”
  • He obediently turned the canoe, and at that moment voices came to them fro_oward the river—ringing voices of men.
  • “It is possibly Mr. Haydon and others,” he exclaimed, after listening _oment. “We have been expecting them for days. That was why I could no longe_ut off giving you the letter.”
  • “I know,” she said, and her face flushed and paled a little, as the voice_ame closer. He could see she nervously dreaded the meeting.
  • “Shall I get the canoe back to camp before they come?” he asked kindly; bu_he shook her head.
  • “You can’t, for they move fast,” she answered, as she listened. “They woul_ee us; and, if he is with them, he—would think I was afraid.”
  • He let the canoe drift again, and watched her moody face, which seemed to gro_ore cold with each moment that the strangers came closer. He was filled wit_urprise at all she had said of Haydon and of the letter. Who would hav_reamed that she—the little Indian-dressed guest of Akkomi’s camp—would b_onnected with the most exclusive family he knew in the East? The Haydo_amily was one he had been especially interested in only a year ago, becaus_f Mr. Haydon’s very charming daughter. Miss Haydon, however, had a clever an_mbitious mamma, who persisted in keeping him at a safe distance.
  • Max Lyster, with his handsome face and unsettled prospects, was not th_rilliant match her hopes aspired to. Pretty Margaret Haydon had, in al_bedience, refused him dances and affected not to see his efforts to be nea_er. But he knew she did see; and one little bit of comfort he had taken Wes_ith him was the fancy that her refusals were never voluntary affairs, an_hat she had looked at him as he had never known her to look at another man.
  • Well, that was a year ago, and he had just asked another girl to marry him—_irl who did not look at him at all, but whose eyes were on the swift-flowin_urrent—troubled eyes, that made him long to take care of her.
  • “Won’t you speak to me at all?” he asked. “I will do anything to help you, ’Tana—anything at all.”
  • She nodded her head slowly.
  • “Yes—now,” she answered. “So would Mr. Haydon, Max.”
  • “’Tana! do you mean—” His face flushed hotly, and he looked at her for th_irst time with anger in his face.
  • She put out her hand in a tired, pleading way.
  • “I only mean that now, when I have been lucky enough to help myself, it seem_s if every one thinks I need looking after so much more than they used to.
  • Maybe because I am not strong yet—maybe so; I don’t know.” Then she smiled an_ooked at him curiously.
  • “But I made a mistake when I said ’every one,’ didn’t I? For Dan never come_ear me any more.”
  • Then the strange canoes came in sight and very close to them, as they turned _end in the creek. There were three large boats—one carrying freight, on_illed with new men for the works, and in the other—the foremost one—was Mr.
  • Haydon, and a tall, thin, middle-aged stranger.
  • “Uncle Seldon!” exclaimed Lyster, with animation, and held the canoe still i_he water, that the other might come close, and in a whisper he said:
  • “The one to the right is Mr. Haydon.”
  • He glanced at her and saw she was making a painful effort at self-control.
  • “Don’t worry,” he whispered. “We will just speak, and drift on past them.”
  • But when they called greeting to each other, and the Indian boatman was tol_o send their craft close to the little camp canoe, she raised her head an_ooked very levelly across the stranger, who had hair so like her own, an_poke to the Indian who paddled their boat as though he were the only on_here to notice.
  • “Plucky!” decided Mr. Haydon, “and stubborn;” but he kept those thoughts t_imself, and said aloud: “My dear young lady, I am indeed pleased to see yo_o far recovered since my last visit. I presume you know who I am,” and h_ooked at her in a smiling, confidential way.
  • “Yes, I know who you are. Your name is Haydon, and—there is a piece of you_etter.”
  • She picked up a fragment of paper that had fallen at her feet, and flung i_ut from her on the water. Mr. Haydon affected not to see the pettish act, bu_urned to his companion.
  • “Will you allow me, Miss Rivers, to introduce another member of our firm? Thi_s Mr. Seldon. Seldon, this is the young girl I told you of.”
  • “I knew it before you spoke,” said the other man, who looked at her with _reat deal of interest, and a great deal of kindness. “My child, I was you_other’s friend long ago. Won’t you let me be yours?”
  • She reached out her hand to him, and the quick tears came to her eyes. Sh_rusted without question the earnest gray eyes of the speaker, and turned fro_er own uncle to the uncle of Max.