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Chapter 21 LAVINA AND THE CAPTAIN.

  • 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.”
  • “You—are going—to-morrow?”
  • “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.”