As the day wore on, ’Tana became more nervous and restless. With the dark, that man was to come for the gold she had promised.
Lyster brought it to her, part in money, part in free gold, and as he laid i_n the couch, she looked at him strangely.
“How much you trust me when you never even ask what I am to do with all this!” she said. “Yet it is enough to surprise you.”
“Yes, it is,” he agreed. “But when you are ready you will tell me.”
“No, I will not tell you,” she answered, “but it is the last thing—_hink—that I will keep from you, Max. It is a debt that belongs to days befor_ knew you. What did Overton say?”
“Not much, maybe he will leave for the upper works this evening or to-morro_orning.”
“Did you—did you tell him—”
“That you are going to belong to me? Well, no, I did not. You forgot to giv_e permission.”
Her face flushed shyly at his words.
“You must think me a queer girl, Max,” she said. “And you are so good an_atient with me, in spite of my queer ways. But, never mind; they will no_ast always, I hope.”
“Which?—my virtues or your queerness?” he asked.
She only smiled and pushed the gold under the pillow.
“Go away now for a little while. I want to rest.”
“Well, rest if you like; but don’t think. You have been fretting over som_ittle personal troubles until you fancy them heavy enough to overbalance th_orld. But they won’t. And I’m not going to try and persuade you into Haydon’_ouse, either, now that you’ve been good to me; unless, of course, you fall i_ove with Margaret, and want to be with her, and it is likely to happen. Bu_ncle Seldon and my aunts will be delighted to have you, and you could live a_uiet as you please there.”
“So I am likely to fall in love with Margaret, am I?” she asked. “Why? Doe_verybody? Did you—Max? Now, don’t blush like that, or I’ll be sure of it. _ever saw you blush so pretty before. It made you almost good looking. Now go; I want to be alone.”
“Sha’n’t I send one of the ladies up?”
“Not a soul! Go, Max. I am tired.”
So he went, in all obedience, and he and the cousins had a long talk about th_irl and the danger of leaving her alone another night. Her sudden illnes_howed them she was not strong enough yet to be allowed to guide herself.
“I shall try hard to get her to leave to-morrow, or next day,” said Lyster.
“Where is Dan? I would like to talk to him about it, but he has evidentl_isappeared.”
“I don’t know what to think of Dan Overton,” confessed Mrs. Huzzard. “He isn’_ver around, chatty and sociable, like he used to be. When we do see him, h_s nearly always busy; and when he isn’t busy, he strikes for the woods.”
“Maybe he is still searching for new gold mines,” suggested Miss Lavina. “_otice he does seem very much engaged in thought, and is of a rather solitar_ature.”
“Never was before,” protested her cousin. “And if these gold finds just twis_ person’s nature crosswise, or send them into a fever, then I hope the goo_ord’ll keep the rest of them well covered up in future.”
“Lorena Jane,” said Miss Lavina, in a reproachful tone, “it is most essentia_hat you free yourself from those very forcible expressions. They are not _it genteel.”
“No, I reckon they ain’t, Lavina; and the more I try the more I’m afraid _ever will be. Land sakes, if folks would only teach their young ones goo_anners when they are young, what a sight of mortified feelings would be save_fter a while!”
Lyster left them in the midst of the very earnest plea for better training, for he espied a new boat approaching camp. As it came closer, he found tha_mong the other freight it carried was the autocrat of Sinna Ferry—Captai_eek.
“What a God-forsaken wilderness!” he exclaimed, and looked around with _upercilious air, suggesting that he would have given the Creator of th_ootenai country valuable points if he had been consulted. “Well, my dea_oung fellow, how you have managed to exist here for three weeks I don’_now.”
“Well, we had Mrs. Huzzard,” explained Max, with a twinkle in his eye; “an_he is a panacea for many ills. She has made our wilderness very endurable.”
“Yes, yes; excellent woman,” agreed the other, with a suspicious look. “And ’Tana? How is she—the dear girl! I really have been much grieved to hear o_er illness; and at the earliest day I could leave my business I am here t_nquire in person regarding her health.”
“Oh!” and Max struggled with a desire to laugh at the change in the captain’_ttitude since ’Tana was a moneyed individual instead of a little waif. Poor ’Tana! No wonder she looked with suspicion on late-coming friends.
“Yes, she is better—much better,” he continued, as they walked up from th_oat. “I suppose you knew that a cousin of Mrs. Huzzard, a lady from Ohio, ha_een with us—in fact, came up with our party.”
“So I heard—so I heard. Nice for Mrs. Huzzard. I was not in town, you know, when you rested at the Ferry. I heard, however, that a white woman had com_p. Who is she?”
They had reached the tent, and Mrs. Huzzard, after a frantic dive toward thei_ery small looking glass, appeared at the door with a smile enchanting, and _ourtesy so nicely managed that it nearly took the captain’s breath away. I_as the very latest of Lavina’s teachings.
“Well, now, I’m mighty—hem!—I’m extremely pleased that you have called. Have _ice trip?”
But the society tone of Mrs. Huzzard was so unlike the one he had bee_ccustomed to hearing her use, that the captain could only stare, and befor_e recovered enough to reply, she turned and beckoned Miss Slocum, with th_dea of completing the impression made, and showing with what grace she coul_resent him to her cousin.
But the lately acquired style was lost on him this time, overtopped by th_resence of Miss Lavina, who gazed at him with a prolonged and steady stare.
“And this is your friend, Captain Leek, of the Northern Army, is it?” sh_sked, in her very sharpest voice—a voice she tried to temper with a smil_bout her lips, though none shone in her eyes. “I have no doubt you will b_ery welcome to the camp, Captain Leek.”
Mrs. Huzzard had surely expected of Lavina a much more gracious reception. Bu_rs. Huzzard was a bit of a philosopher, and if Lavina chose to be somewha_old and unresponsive to the presence of a cultured gentleman, well, it gav_orena Jane so much better chance, and she was not going to slight it.
“Come right in; you must be dead tired,” she said, cordially. “Mr. Max, you’l_et Dan know he’s here, won’t you—that is, when he does show up again, but n_ne knows how long that will be.”
“Yes, I am tired,” agreed the captain, meekly, and not quite at his ease wit_he speculative eyes of Miss Slocum on him. “I—I brought up a few letters tha_rrived at the Ferry. I can’t make up my mind to trust mail with these India_oatmen Dan employs.”
“They are a trial,” agreed Mrs. Huzzard, “though they haven’t the bad effec_n our nerves that one or two of the camp Indians have—an awful squaw, wh_elps around, and an ugly old man, who only smokes and looks horrible. Now, Lavina—she ain’t used to no such, and she just shivers at them.”
“Yes—ah—yes,” murmured the captain.
“Lavina says she knew folks of your name back in Ohio,” continued Mrs.
Huzzard, cheerfully, in order to get the two strangers better acquainted. “_hought at first maybe you’d turn out to know each other; but she says the_as Democrats,” and she turned a sharp glance toward him, as if to read hi_olitical tendencies.
“No, I never knew any Captain Leek,” said Miss Slocum, “and the ones I kne_adn’t any one in the Union Army. Their principles, if they had any, wer_gainst it, and there wasn’t a Republican in the family.”
“Then, of course, that would settle Captain Leek belonging to them,” decide_rs. Huzzard, promptly. “I don’t know much about politics, but as all our me_olks wore the blue clothes, and fought in them, I was always glad I come fro_ Republican State. And I guess all the Republicans that carried guns agains_he Union could be counted without much arithmetic.”
“I—I think I will go and look for Dan myself,” observed the captain, risin_nd looking around a little uncertainly at Miss Slocum. “I brought som_etters he may want.”
He made his bow and placed the picturesque corded hat on his head as he wen_ut. But Mrs. Huzzard looked after him somewhat anxiously.
“He’s sick,” she decided as he vanished from her view; “I never did see hi_alk so draggy like. And don’t you judge his manners, either, Lavina, fro_his first sight of him, for he ain’t himself to-day.”
“He didn’t look to me as though he knew who he was,” remarked Lavina; an_fter a little she looked up from the tidy she was knitting. “So, Lorena Jane, that is the man you’ve been trying to educate yourself up to more than fo_nybody else—now, tell the truth!”
“Well, I don’t mind saying that it was his good manners made me see how ba_ine were,” she confessed; “but as for training for him—”
“I see,” said Miss Lavina, grimly, “and it is all right; but I just though_’d ask.”
Then she relapsed into deep thought, and made the needles click wit_mpatience all that afternoon.
The captain came near the tent once, but retreated at the vision of th_nitter. He talked with Mrs. Huzzard in the cabin of Harris, but did not visi_er again in her own tent; and the poor woman began to wonder if the air o_he Kootenai woods had an erratic influence on people. Dan was changed, ’Tan_as changed, and now the captain seemed unlike himself from the very moment o_is arrival. Even Lavina was a bit curt and indifferent, and Lorena Jan_ondered where it would end.
In the midst of her perplexity, ’Tana added to it by appearing before her i_he Indian dress Overton had presented her with. Since her sickness it ha_ung unused in her cabin, and the two women had fashioned garments mor_uitable, they thought, to a young girl who could wear real laces now if sh_hose. But there she was again, dressed like any little squaw, and althoug_ather pale to suit the outfit, she said she wanted a few more “Indian hours” before departing for the far-off Eastern city that was to her as a new world.
She received Captain Leek with an unconcern that was discouraging to th_retty speeches he had prepared to utter.
Dan returned and looked sharply at her as she sat whittling a stick of whic_he said she meant to make a cane—a staff for mountain climbing.
“Where do you intend climbing?” he asked.
She waved the stick toward the hill back of them, the first step of th_ountain.
“It is only a few hours since I picked you up down there, looking as if yo_ere dead,” he said, impatiently; “and you know you are not fit to tramp.”
“Well, I’m not dead yet, anyway,” she answered, with a shrug of her shoulders; “and as I’m going to break away from this camp about to-morrow, I thought I’_ike to see a bit of the woods first.”
“I reckon so.”
“’Tana! And you have not said a word to me of it? That was not very friendly, little girl.”
She did not reply, but bent her head low over her work.
After observing her for a while in silence, he arose and put on his hat.
“Here is my knife,” he remarked. “You had better use it, if you are determine_o haggle at that stick. Your own knife is too dull for any use. You can leav_t here in the cabin when you are done with it.”
She accepted it without a word, but flushed red when he had gone, and sh_ound the eyes of Harris regarding her sadly.
“‘Not very friendly,’” she said, going over Overton’s words—“you think that, too—don’t you? You think I’m ugly, and saucy, and awful, I know! You loo_coldings at me; but if you knew all, maybe you wouldn’t—if you knew that m_eart is just about breaking. I’m going out where there is no one to talk to, or I’ll be crying next.”
The two cousins and the captain were in ’Tana’s cabin. Mrs. Huzzard wa_etermined that Miss Slocum and the captain should become acquainted, and, getting sight of the girl, who was walking alone across the level, she at onc_ollowed her, thinking that the two left behind would perhaps become mor_ocial if left entirely to themselves. And they did; that is, they talked, an_he captain spoke first.
“So you—you bear a grudge—don’t you, Lavina?”
“Well, I guess if I owed you a very heavy one, I’ve got a good chance to pa_t off now,” she remarked, grimly.
He twirled his hat in a dejected way, and did not speak.
“You an officer in the Union Army?” she continued, derisively. “You a patter_f what a gentleman should be; you to set up as superior to these rough-hande_iners; you to act as if this Government owes you a pension! Why, how would i_e with you, Alf Leek, if I’d tell this camp the truth of how you went away, engaged to me, twenty-five years ago, and never let me set eyes on yo_ince—of how I wore black for you, thinking you were killed in the war, till _eard that you had deserted. I took off that mourning quick, I can tell you! _hought you were fighting on the wrong side; yet if you had a good reason fo_eing there, you should have staid and fought so long as there was breath i_ou. And if I was to tell them here that you haven’t a particle of right t_ear that blue suit that looks like a uniform, and that you were no more ’captain’ of anything than I am—well, I guess Lorena Jane wouldn’t have muc_o say to you, though maybe Mr. Overton would.”
He grew actually pale as he listened. His fear of some one overhearing her wa_s great as his own mortification.
“But you—you won’t tell—will you, Lavina?” he said pleadingly. “I haven’t don_ny harm! I—”
“Harm! Alf Leek, you never had enough backbone to do either harm or help t_ny one in this world. But don’t you suppose you did me harm when you spoile_e for ever trusting any other man?”
“I—I would have come back, but I thought you’d be married,” he said, in _eeble, hopeless way.
“Likely that is now, ain’t it?” she demanded. And, woman-like, now that sh_ad reduced him to meekness and humiliation, she grew a shade less severe, a_f pretty well satisfied. “I had other things to think of besides a husband.”
“You won’t tell—will you, Lavina? I’ll tell you how it all happened, some day.
Then I’ll leave this country.”
“You’ll not,” she contradicted. “You’ll stay right here as long as I do, and _on’t tell just so long as you keep from trying to make Lorena Jane believ_ow great you are. But at the first word of your heroic actions, or th_ultured society you were always used to—”
“You’ll never hear of them,” he said eagerly, “never. I knew you wouldn’t mak_rouble, Lavina, for you always were such a good, kind-hearted girl.”
He offered his hand to her, sheepishly, and she gave it a vixenish slap.
“Don’t try any of your skim-milk praise on me,” she said, tartly. “Huh! You, that Lorena thought was a pillar of cultured society! When, the Lord knows, you wouldn’t have known how to read the addresses on your own letters if _adn’t taught you!”
He moved to the door in a crestfallen manner, and stood there a moment, moistening his lips, and apparently swallowing words that could not b_ttered.
“That’s so, Lavina,” he said, at last, and went out.
“There!” she muttered aggrievedly—“that’s Alf Leek, just as he always was.
Give him a chance, and he’d ride over any one; but get the upper hand of him, and he is meeker than Moses. Not that much meekness is needed to come up t_oses, either.” Then, after an impatient tattoo, she exclaimed:
“Gracious me! I do wish he hadn’t looked so crushed, and had talked back _ittle.”