“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?”
“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.