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A Bag of Meal - The Atlantic

I often wonder what was the appearance of Saul's mother, when she walked up the narrow aisle of the meeting-house and presented her boy's brow for the mystic drops that sealed him with the name of Saul.

Saul isn't a common name. It is well,—for Saul is not an ordinary man,—and—Saul is my husband.

We came in the cool of an evening upon the brink of the swift river that flows past the village of Skylight.

The silence of a nearing experience brooded over my spirit; for Saul's home was a vast unknown to me, and I fain would have delayed awhile its coming.

I wonder if the primal motion of unknown powers, like electricity, for instance, is spiral. Have you ever seen it winding out of a pair of human eyes, knowing that every fresh coil was a spring of the soul, and felt it fixing itself deeper and deeper in your own, until you knew that you were held by it?

Perhaps not. I have: as when Saul turned to me in the cool of that evening, and drew my eyes away, by the power I have spoken of, from the West, where the orange of sunset was fading into twilight.

I have felt it otherwise. A horse was standing, surrounded by snow; the biting winds were cutting across the common, and the blanket with which he had been covered had fallen from him, and lay on the snow. He had turned his head toward the place where it lay, and his eyes were fixed upon it with such power, that, if that blanket had been endowed with one particle of sensation, it would have got up, and folded itself, without a murmur, around the shivering animal. Such a picture as it was! Just then, I would have been Rosa Bonheur; but being as I was, I couldn't be expected to blanket a horse in a crowded street, could I?

We were on the brink of the river. Saul drew my eyes away, and said,—

"You are unhappy, Lucy."

"No," I answered,—"not that."

"That does not content me. May I ask what troubles you?"

I aroused myself to reason. Saul is never satisfied, unless I assign a reason for any mood I am in.

"Saul!" I questioned, "why do the mortals that we call Poets write, and why do non-Poets, like ourselves, sigh over the melancholy days of autumn, and why are we silent and thoughtful every time we think enough of the setting sun to watch its going down?"

"Simply because the winter coming is cold and dreary, in the one case,—and in the other, there are several reasons. Some natures dread the darkness; others have not accomplished the wishes or the work of the day."

"I don't think you go below the surface," I ventured. "It seems to me that the entire reason is simple want of faith, a vague uncertainty as to the coming back of the dried-up leaf and flower, when they perish, and a fear, though unexpressed, that the sun is going down out of your sight for the last time, and you would hold it a little longer."

"Would you now to-night, Lucy?"

"If I could."

My husband did not speak again for a long time, and gradually I went back into my individuality.

We came upon an eminence outside the river-valley, and within sight of the village.

"Is it well? do you like it?" asked Saul.

The village was nested in among the elms to such a degree that I could only reply,—

"I am certain that I shall, when I find out what it is."

Saul stayed the impatient horse at the point where we then were, and, indicating a height above and a depth below, told me the legend of the naming of his village.

It was given thus:—

"A long time ago, when the soundless tread of the moccason walked fearlessly over the bed of echoes in this valley, two warriors, Wabausee and Waubeeneemah, came one day upon the river, at its opposite sides. Both were, weary with the march; both wore the glory of many scalps. Their belts were heavy with wampum, their hearts were heavy with hate. Wabausee was down amid the dark pines that grew beside the river's brink. Waubeeneemah was upon the high land above the river. With folded arms and unmoved faces they stood, whilst in successive flashes across the stream their eyes met, until Wabausee slowly opened out his arms, and, clasping a towering tree, cried out, 'I see sky!' and he steadfastly fixed his gaze upon the crevices of brightness that urged their way down amid the pines over his head.

"Waubeeneemah turned his eyes over the broad valley, and answered the cry with, 'I see light!'

"Thus they stood, one with his eyes downward, the other with his intent on the sky, and fast and furious ran the river, swollen with the meltings of many snows, and fierce and quick rang the battle-cries of 'I see sky!' 'I see light!'

"A white man was near; his cabin lay just below; he had climbed a tree above Waubeeneemah and remained a silent witness of this wordy war, until, looking up the river, he saw a canoe that had broken from its fastenings and was rushing down to the rapids below. It contained the families of the two warriors, who were helplessly striving against the swift flow of waters.

"The white man spoke, and the warriors listened. He cried, 'Look to your canoe! and see Skylight!'

"Through the pines rushed Wabausee, and down the river-bank
Waubeeneemah, and into the tide, until they met the coming canoe, across
whose birchen bow they gave the grasp of peace, and ever since that time
Indian and white man have called this place Skylight."

"Where are the Indians now?" I could not help asking,—and yet with no purpose, beyond expression of the thought question.

The shadows were gathering, the eyelids of the day were closing. Saul caught me up again through the shadows into those eyes of his, and answered,—

"Here, Lucy! I am a pale form of Waubeeneemah! I know it! I feel it now!
I sometimes ache for foemen and the wilds."

Why do I think of that time to-night on the Big Blue, far away from Skylight, and imagine that the prairie airs are ringing with the echoes of the great cries that are heard in my native land, "I see North!" and "I see South!" and there is no white man of them all high enough to see the United States?

I've wandered! Let me think,—yes, I have it! My thought began with trying to fancy Saul's mother taking him to baptism.

She was dead, when I went to Skylight, her son's wife.

She went into the higher life at thirty-three of the threescore-and-ten cycle of the human period. How young to die!

The longer we live, the stronger grows the wish to live. And why not? When the circle is almost ended, and all the momentum of threescore-and-ten is gained, why not pass the line and enter into second childhood? What more beautiful truth in Nature's I Am, than obedience to this law?

I've another fancy on the Big Blue to-night. It is a place for fancies. I remember—a long time ago it seems, and yet I am not so old as Saul's mother—the first knowledge that I had of life. I saw the sun come up one morning out of the sea, and with it there came out of the night of my past a consciousness. I was a soul, and held relations separate from other souls to that risen sun and that sea. From that hour I grew into life. A growth from the Unseen came to me with every day, born I knew not how into my soul. I sent out nothing to people the future. All came to me.

Is this true, this faith or fancy that God sends a tidal wave through man, bringing with it from Heaven's ocean fragments set afloat from its shore to lodge in our lives, until there comes an ebb, and then begin our hopes and desires all to tend heavenward, or elsewhere? Have you never felt, do you not now feel, that there is more of yourself somewhere else than there is upon the Earth?

I like to think thus, when I see a person ill, or in sorrow, or weighed down with weary griefs. I like to think that that which is ebbing here is flowing and ripening into fitness for the freed soul in that land where there shall be "no more sea."

In insanity, does the kind Lord remove all from this world in order to fit up the new life more gloriously? and are those whom most we pity clasped the closest in the Living Arms?

It may be,—there is such comfort in possibilities.

Will Saul come to-night? I am all alone on the Big Blue. There's not another settled claim for miles away.

The August sun drank up the moisture from our corn-fields, took out the blood of our prairie-grasses, and God sent no cooling rains. Why?

Skylight was charmful for a while. I had forgotten Saul's assertion that he was a pale shadow of Waubeeneemah, as we forget a dream of our latest sleep.

At my home Aunt Carter appeared one day, and said she had "come to spend the afternoon and stay to tea"; and she seated her amplitude of being in Saul's favorite chair, and began to count the stitches in the heel of the twenty-fourth stocking that she assured me "she had knit every stitch of since the night she saw my husband lift me down at the gate just outside the window." Her blue eyes went down deeper and deeper into the bluer yarn her fingers were threading; and after a long pause, during which I had forgotten her presence, and was counting out the hours on the face of the clock which the slow hands must travel over before Saul would be at home, suddenly she looked up and began with,—

"Mrs. Monten!"

There was something startling in her voice. I knew it was the first drop of a coming flood, and I fortified myself. She went on repeating,—

"Mrs. Monten! I've been thinking, for a great long while, that it isn't right for you to go on living with that man, without knowing what he is. And I for one have got up to the point of coming right over here and telling you of it to once."

I could not help the involuntary question of—

"Is my husband an evil man?"

"Evil! I should think he might be, when he has got"——

"Stay, Mrs. Carter!" I interrupted. "I will hear no news of my husband that he does not choose to give me. Only one question,—Do you know of any action that my husband has done that is wrong or wicked?"

Aunt Carter forgot her blue eyes and her bluer yarn, for she stopped her knitting, and her eyes changed to gray in my sight, as she ejaculated,—

"He's got Indian blood in him! I should think you'd be afraid he'd scalp you, if you didn't do just as he told you to. Everybody in Skylight is just as sorry for you as ever they can be."

Aunt Carter paused. An open door announced my husband's unexpected presence.

Aunt Carter rolled up her twenty-fourth twin of a stocking, and, hastily declaring that "she'd always noticed that 't was better to visit people when they was alone," she made all possible effort to escape before Saul came in.

My husband an Indian! I looked at him anew. He wore the same presence that he did when first I saw him, a twelve-month before. There was no outward trace of the savage, as he came to welcome me; and I forgot my thought presently, as I listened to his words.

"I am tired of this life," he said; "let us go."

"Where, Saul?"

"Anywhere, where we can breathe. I feel pent up here. I long to hunt something wild and free as I would be. Shall it be to the prairies, Lucy?"

"Will you live on the hunt?" I asked.

"I had not thought of that. No; I'll build you a"——And he paused.

I laughed, and added,—

"Let us have it, Saul. A wigwam?"

"Why not?"

"Why not, indeed, Saul? I am content,—let us go."

On the morrow I began the work of preparation. I was sitting upon the carpet, where I had cast all our treasures of knowledge, in the various guises of the printer's and binder's art, and was selecting the books that I fondly thought would be essential to my existence, when Saul came in.

He looked down upon me with that look that always drinks up my sight into his, and said,—

"You are sorry to go, Lucy. I will stay."

"No, Saul, I wish to go. You shall teach me the pleasures of wild life; and who knows but I shall like it so well that we will give up civilization for it? Where shall I pack all these books?"

"Leave them all," he said. "We will close the house as it is, until we come back." And I left them all at home.

In the heart of these preparations an insane desire came into my mind to know something of Saul's ancestors, and there was but one way to know, namely, by asking, which I would not do of human soul. Thus it came to pass that I was driven out, between this would of my mind and wouldn't of my soul, to search for some knowledge from inanimate things. The last night before our departure I became particularly restless and unsatisfied. I went to the place of burial of the villagers, where I found duly recorded on two stones the names of Saul's parents, Richard Monten and Agnes Monten, his wife.

There was nothing Indian there, and I went home once more to the place that had been so happy until the spirit of inquiry grew stronger than I. That night I watched Saul, until he grew restless, and asked me why I did so.

I evaded direct reply, and on the morrow we were wheeling westward.

From the instant we left the line of man's art, Saul became another person. All the romance and the glory in his nature blossomed out gorgeously, and I grew glad and gay with him. We crossed the Missouri. We traversed the river-land to Fort Leavenworth, amid cottonwoods, oaks, and elms which it would have done Dr. Holmes's heart and arms good to see and measure.

"Will you ride, Lucy? will you try the prairie?" asked Saul, the morning following our arrival in Fort Leavenworth.

I signified my pleasure, and mounted a brave black mustang, written all over with liberty. We had ridden out the dew of the morning, and for miles not one word had been spoken, the only sound in the stillness having been the hoofs' echo on the prairie-grass, when Saul rode close to me, and, laying his hand on my pony's head, spoke in a deep, strange voice that put my soul into expectancy, for I had heard the same once before in my life.

"Lucy," he said, "I sometimes think that I have done a great wrong in taking you into my keeping; for I must accept these calls to wildness that come over me at intervals."

"Have you ever been here before?" I asked.

"Twice, Lucy, I have crossed the American Desert, and lain down to sleep at the foot of the Rocky Mountains."

"You are not going there now?" I almost gasped.

"Why not? Can't you go with me?"

Oh, how my spirit recoiled at the thought of the Desert! Wild animals processioned through my brain in endless circles. All the stories of Indian ferocity that ever I had heard came into my consciousness, as it is said all the past events of life do in the drowning, and I had no time to hesitate. The decision of my lifetime gathered into that instant. Saul or nothing; and bravely I answered,—did I not?—when, with brightening eyes, I said, "Let us on!"—and shaking the hand from my saddle-bow, I gave my prairie friend leave to fly.

"Lucy! Lucy!" cried Saul, and he soon overtook me,—"Lucy, I sought you as the thirsting man seeks water on the desert; and I have sought to bless you, almost as Hagar blessed the Angel,—almost as the devout soul blesses God, when it finds a spring that He has made to rise out of the sands. Having found you, I was content. I thought that I could live always, as other men do, in the tameness of Town and Law; but I could not, unless you refused to go with me into the Nature that my spirit demands as a part of its own life."

"Saul, you know that you can go without me,—else I should not wish to go. I go, not because I am a necessity to you, but a free-born soul, that wills to go where you go."

The grave Professor (for I whisper it here to-night, with only the wind to hear, that Saul is a Professor in a famed seat of learning not many leagues away from the Atlantic coast) looked down at me with a vague, puzzled air, for an instant, then said,—

"I see! It is so, Lucy. You have divined the secret. I am not to let you know that I cannot live without you,—and, if you can, you are to make me think that you only tolerate me."

"What of it? Isn't it almost true? I sometimes think, that, if ever we are in heaven, effort to remain there will be necessary to its full joy. We are always crying for rest, when effort is the only pleasure worth possessing."

"You are right, and you are wrong. Let us leave mental philosophy with mankind, who have to do with it. Just now, I am willing to confess that I need you, and you are to do as you will. Come! let us look into this thicket."

And leading the way, Saul rode presently under a tall cotton wood-tree, and, lifting for me the low-hanging branches of a black-jack, I entered an amphitheatre whose walls were leaves of living green domed in blue, with a river-aisle winding through.

I had not time to take in all the joy of the circle, before it was evidenced that Saul had premeditated the scene. A fire of twigs sent up a spicy perfume. A camp-kettle stood beside the fire, and a creature stood beside it. A yellow savage I should have said, but for my husband's welcome. Never in our home library did brother-professor ever receive warmer grasp of hand than I knew this Indian met. They used words, in speaking, that were unknown to me. Presently I perceived that an introduction was pending. That being over, the Indian, Meotona, pointed to a swinging-chair, built for me out of the wealth of grapevine. It was cushioned with the velvet of the buffalo-grass.

"Tell me how to thank him," I said to Saul.

Meotona immediately replied,—"Me no thank,—him," pointing to Saul.

I laid my sun-wearied head against the vine, and through half-closed eyes watched in delicious rest the preparations for dinner. My prairie-horse mistook my comfort for his own. I found his length of liberty included my chair-cushion, and I gave him tuft after tuft, until something like justice seemed to penetrate into his soul,—for he heroically refused the last morsel, and wandered away into the next arc of his liberty.

"If all the days are to be like this, how delicious it will be!" I said, as Saul came to me with choice bits of prairie fare.

"Not this," he said. "Wait until we hunt the buffalo!—that wakes up the spirit of man!"

"But I am not a man, and you must excuse me from hunting buffalo," I could not help saying, as I slid out of the grapevine chair to the grass, beside Saul; for verily, I believed that he had forgotten that I was a woman, and a child of the Puritans.

No more words were spoken until our repast was over. Meotona gathered up the furniture of our dining-room, and with us returned toward Fort Leavenworth. The summer sun was setting when we drew near the Missouri. I thought I had disappointed Saul. At the last moment I ventured to ask,—

"Why did you return? I would have gone on. I wished it."

My husband's face lit into a quick smile, then gloomed as quickly, and he said,—

"I smile at your simplicity in imagining that I ventured out, without consulting you, for the Rocky Mountains. I frown to think that my wife believes that I could go into danger with her, and only one right arm to defend her. No! I went to-day to try you. I couldn't ask you within any four-walled shelter. I wanted the wide expanse to be your only shield before I could trust you. I wanted you to face the foe. Again I ask, Shall we go? Answer from your own individuality, not mine."

"I will go."

It was the spirit that spoke; for neither heart nor flesh could have braved the fancied dangers.

A week went by, and every moment of the time Saul was elate and busy, providing for me in every possible way, devising comforts that exceeded my imagination, remembering every idiosyncrasy that I had given expression to in his hearing. Under the guard of the United States mail, we left Fort Leavenworth. Meotona, the yellow savage, went with us. Oh, the delight of those days! it comes to me now, and I almost forget that I am alone on the Big Blue, and that those hours have gone down among "the froth and rainbows" of the past, bearing with them a part of my life. There were nights when I was afloat in the bark of my spirit, and wandering up and on, until I met Half-Way Angels that bade me back to Earth; and then I would wander away into dreams, watched by the stars and Saul,—for in those first days he never wearied in his care. By day I wandered through a garden of flowers untended by man, whose only keepers were butterflies and birds. Indian faces and forms no longer made me tremble. I grew to see beauty in them, as they dashed by the train, intent on the hunt.

We encamped beside Stranger Creek, on the banks of the Wakarusa, and on the Great Divide separating the Osage from the Wakarusa Valley.

After we left Council Grove, Meotona, I noticed, was on the watch, constantly peering off into the illimitable distance. One day I learned the cause. An exclamation from the Indian led me to look at him. For once, fire flashed out of his eyes,—he had forgotten himself. He was in ecstasy as he saw a party advancing over the prairie.

"Here they come! Now for the heart of the wilderness!" exclaimed my husband, as they rode up.

"We are not going away from the guard?" I ventured to suggest, as chief after chief came up. I knew them in their wild orders, having by this time learned something of Indian customs. They were equipped for the Plains, and among their number I distinguished two white men.

"I know them,—they are safe and true, Lucy,—fear nothing!" whispered Saul close to my whitening cheek; and afterwards we turned aside from the Santa Fe trail to the north of the American Desert.

My husband did not leave me for an instant that afternoon; and I, simple-minded woman, tried to look as happy—well, as a woman and a professor's wife could look under the circumstances. The wings of my tent that night were spread to the breeze that swept low and cool across the Divide.

The next day we came to the lodges of the Indians. Swarthy-faced girls and women came to greet us. It was evident that many of them had never before seen a white woman. As evening came on, I noticed in one group outside the principal lodge an unusual amount of grimace that was incomprehensible, until, very timidly, a little girl left the crowd. Half-way toward me she stopped and turned back, but again the violent gesticulations were enacted, when the child made a sudden evolution in my direction, and with one hard finger rubbed the back of my hand, until I thought myself quite a Spartan; then looking at her own finger, doubtfully at first, she ran back, and went from one to another, showing her finger. The design was evident. Indians (the women, at least) have some curiosity;—they thought me painted white. I forgave them.

We went five hundred miles from this lodge into the wilderness,—two of the squaws accompanying us, for my comfort.

At last came the sight of buffaloes, feeding on the short tufts of grass on the Grand Prairie. My heart grew sick with the shout that rang from a hundred Indian throats, and—must I write it?—from Saul's.

"Stay!" said Saul, and he left me a guard, and was away without one word of farewell.

Night came down, and he was not returned. The stars shone out of the vault like "red-hot diamonds," and on the sight no vision, to the ear no sound.

The women pitched my tent. The guard lit the fire. They brought me savory bits of food, and coffee. My throat was tightened, I could not eat, and I arose and went out into the night alone. I lost all sense of fear, as I wandered away. The prairie had just been burned, and I knew must be free from serpents and other reptiles: beyond these I had no thought. I turned once to see the little dot of fire-light, to see the one point of canvas, my shelter and my home. At last I grew very weary, and remember having lain down, and having thought that the stars were raining down upon me, so near did they seem,—and one after one, constellation mingled with constellation, until I fancied a storm of stars was circling over my head.

I started with a sudden spasm, as a sound burst upon me, wild, ringing, dreadful. A hundred Indians were uttering a war-cry, and, as I lay there, with my head pressed to the burnt sod, I felt the shudder of earth from many hoofs. I turned in the direction whence they were coming;—raise my head from the ground I dared not. All was darkness. Could I possibly escape? Not if I moved. Where I was, there might be a chance that they would pass to the right or the left. On, on they came, and I knew the cry,—it was for vengeance. Feebly, like a setting star, gleamed the watch-fire of my guard in the distance. Suddenly it went down. They had heard the alarm. How awfully my heart kept time to the nearing echo of the many footfalls! My eyes must have been fastened on the West. I saw dark heads rise first above the earth-line, then the moving arms of the horsemen. I heard the ring of weapons, and saw them coming directly over the place where I lay; but I did not stir,—it was as if I had been bound with an equator to the ground. Something struck my arm and was gone. The troop passed by.

It was morning. A low, deep breathing betokened something near me. I opened my eyes, and saw the face of my husband,—but, oh, how changed! I heard him say, "The Lord hear my vow, and record my prayer!"

All that day I lay there, on the prairie, Saul sitting beside me, shielding me from, the sun, and giving me drops of coolness, which the Indians pressed from herbs and shrubs that grew not far away. I was in a dream, and when the stars arose they lifted me up and bore me away. I knew it was to the eastward. I felt no resistance in my nature, as I always do when going to the west, either voluntarily or otherwise. We came, after many days, to the Indian lodge. I never saw the guard again, that I left in peace, when I was driven out to wander, because I felt wretched and lonely to be deserted for the chase by my husband. They were carried into captivity by the hostile Sioux. There was mourning in the lodge. An Indian mother, whose daughter had gone with me, sat down in the ashes of sorrow, and moved not for two days; then she arose, and, scattering dust from the earth toward the setting sun, she went into her wigwam and they gave her food.

It was September before I was able to leave the place whither they carried me. My arm was cut with the hoof of the flying horse, and when Saul found me, I had fainted; I was dying from loss of blood, which his coming only had stayed. After I grew stronger, I closely observed my husband.

I never saw such an ache, such a strife, as week after week hunting-parties went out in the morning and returned at evening with their game. Saul grew reserved and silent when I begged him to go, to leave me for a day.

"It is of no use, Lucy; I made a vow, and I must keep it. This Indian blood within me must be subdued; it has met a stronger current on the way, and must mingle with it."

He said no more on the subject, and I would not question him. We took our last walk on the prairie. Everything was in readiness for our departure to meet the expected United States mail-train. We returned to the lodge, and Saul left me for a few minutes to make some last arrangements with Meotona. An old Indian woman, whose eyes I had often noticed on me, crept stealthily in at my tent-door, and said to me in English,—

"Let me be welcome; I come to teach you."

I knew that among her tribe she had the reputation of a prophetess, but
I had never heard her speak English.

"I am waiting to hear," I said; and this woman fixed her sad, solemn eyes on me and said,—

"Child of the pale man, a great many moons ago, when my eyes were bright like the little quiver-flower, and the young warriors sought me in my father's wigwam, I had a sister. Her name he called Luella. The chiefs of the tribe were going for a grand hunt on the Huron. Some pale men from across the lake came to join them. One of them looked on Luella, and her eyes grew soft and sad. She wrapped her blanket about her, and walked often under the stars at night. Through the winter, she would not talk with the young chiefs; and when the leaves grew again, the pale men came back, and Luella walked again under the stars. She learned English, and no one knew who taught her.

"The hunt went on again until the snow came; and when the pale men left the lodge, Luella was lost from the wigwam. The warriors went in pursuit, but they came back without Luella. She was not with the pale-faces. Many moons came and went, and one night I heard a voice singing in the distance. I knew it was Luella, and she led a child by her side, and he said soft English words. She would not come into the lodge. She only came to tell me that she was with the white man who loved her, that she was content, and to show me her boy; and Luella walked away into the night again, and I told no one.

"I made many moccasons, and wove baskets of twigs; and when Uncas, the chief of the tribe, my father, went to the great hunting-ground beyond the Sun, then I gathered up my moccasons, and went out before the gate opened to let the light through. I left the wigwam for Luella. I hated white people; I hated the white man who stole Luella from me; but the pale-faces took my moccasons, and gave me white wampum, and with that I crossed the lake, and went from town to town, and everywhere I showed the people this,"—and the wrinkled woman extended her hand to me; but, at the instant, Saul lifted the tent-curtain and came in. She hid her hand under her blanket, and, wrapping it closely about her, walked out without a glance to testify that ever she had spoken.

Saul asked me the cause of this visit, and I was about to tell him, when there arose in the lodges without such screams and cries as brought all the population into the air. The Indian woman who so lately had left my tent lay on the ground, in the apparent extreme of agony.

"Let the pale-face come," said the knot of savages around her; "it is for her she calls."

My husband interpreted the words for me, and in doubt and fear I went to her. Her screams had ceased; she held her hands tightly over her heart, as if there had been the spasms of pain. She rolled her eyes around to see if any one was within hearing, and then said,—

"I had fear that you would tell him; stay a little, and let me tell you now. I went on after Luella until I found her. I had the name of the white man to guide me. She was living as the pale-faces live, in a great town of many lodges.

"I saw with my eyes that she was happy, and then I walked many moons back to the Huron, and rowed across the lake in a canoe that I found in the woods.

"Luella came back again. I don't know how she found the way alone, but she came into the wigwam when the leaves were falling, and before the buds grew again she went to Uncas in the West. I asked her about the white man, and she shook her head and hid her eyes. I asked her for the boy, and she threw open her arms wide, to show me he was not there. Look!" said the woman, "I am dying; I'm very old; I ought to have walked with Luella this long time. Listen,—let me teach you. The pale face that you look into has eyes like my Luella. Take care! When he would walk under the stars alone, go not with him. When he would hunt bison, give him all the prairie; don't stand at the wigwam-door to keep him in. And when you are far away beyond my people, you may see this,"—and she handed to me the small parcel from close to her wild heart. I took it.

"You'll keep it for Luella's sake. She held it close when she went away; now I'm going, there's no one else to care. Bring it with you, when the Great Spirit calls."

I could win no more words from the woman. She spoke to those who came to her, and Saul said she told them that I had "taken away the torment."

"I shall think my Lucy witches somebody beside poor Saul," said my husband; and he gave a sigh as he stood in the tent-door, and watched the westering moon for the last time.

In the morning they told us that the Prophetess had gone into the light beyond the Sun.

Saul went in to see her, and as he came back to me I saw that he was not in a mood for words. Our farewell was very silent. Meotona went with us. Once again, bounding over the prairie, my heart grew lighter than it had been for many days; but I had no opportunity to examine Luella's treasure.

We met the long caravan of wagons on the summit of the Great Divide, and it was joy to unite my fate once more with that of my countrymen. Saul saw this, and said,—

"Know now, Lucy, that you have the portion meted out to me, when I saw the freemen of the wild coming. Your pleasure is that of civilization; mine was that of barbaric life. I bid adieu to it henceforth,"—and my brave husband, at this instant, looked out upon the head-waters of the Neosho, where Nature, when she built up the world, must have made a storehouse of material, and never came back for her treasures, they lie so magnificently rolled over the land.

Saul's eyes gathered up the view, as if they were, what they are, memory's absorbents, and said, sadly,—

"It is for the last time, Lucy!"

We went into corral the next evening by the side of a grassy mound covered with low-growing shrubs.

Afterwards Saul wandered out alone. I would have gone with him; but at the instant I put my face outside the tent-door, the memory of the Indian woman's caution came to me, and with it the opportunity to examine Luella's secret.

I entered my tent, lighted the little lamp that had travelled a thousand miles and never done service till now, and opened Luella's treasure. It was wrapped in soft white fur, bound about with the long, dried grass that grows beside the Huron. A scroll of parchment was rolled within it, faded, yellow, and old. I opened it, with a smile at my strange inheritance.

At the first glance, I thought I had before me some Indian hieroglyphics; but bringing back from the place of its long obscurity the little knowledge of the French language that I held in possession, I deciphered, that, "fourscore years before, beside the froth of the Huron Water, Father Kino had performed the marriage-rite upon Luella, daughter of Uncas, of the Dacotahs, and Richard Monten, of Montreal." Below the certificate of the priest of the Church were strange characters beyond my power to decipher.

With trembling I looked out for Saul's return. Here, upon the banks of the Neosho, I had learned the secret which my life in the East had hidden so long.

A certain kind, of guiltiness came over me, as Saul drew near, breaking down with every tread the sun-cured grass,—a sense of unworthiness, to hold in my hand a possession which essentially was his, and which he had not freely given me.

"I will not look into his eyes with a veil lying in the air," I said, very quietly to myself; and so, when my husband saw the burning of the little lamp and asked the cause, I told him all the story of the Indian woman, and put into his hand her gift to me. Saul's mind was preoccupied; he paid very little attention to the story; but when I gave him the white-furred scroll, and he opened it, then the grave professor——Well, it is better that I do not put into words what followed, even here, on the Big Blue.

An hour afterwards Saul spoke. He said,—

"Lucy, you have given me the key of my life, I knew my Indian blood, but I knew not whence it came; therefore I said nothing to you. I remember being tormented by it, when a boy, but never knew by what right. Let me translate for you this Indian register of—let me see—my grandmother's marriage. 'Ten moons from the lost moon, and many sleeps from the life of the big Huron Water, the Great Spirit called Luella to walk with a son of the Pale-Faces. The mystery [the priest] met them, and told them to go on to the Sun. They are gone in the path of the lost moons.'"

"Let us go to Skylight by the way of Montreal," I suggested.

Saul said, "It is well."

At the Missouri I laid aside my prairie costume, and assumed the raiment of fashion.

We found in Canada pleasant people bearing our name, and they welcomed us as relatives.

Richard Monten lay beside a fixed cloud of marble; and although Luella's sister had said she died far away, yet her name was beneath her husband's.

Tradition told us of the beautiful Indian wife with eyes like light,—and how her husband took her, every year, alone with him into the wilds,—and how, when they came back, and the winter snows fell, she would sit all day beside him, with her eyes on figures and letters, whilst her impatient fingers were threading her long hair, and memory shook her head at the attempted education, perhaps wisely and well.

When Mr. Monten died, and left her houses and lands, she turned away from them all, and, leading her boy by the hand, went out of her home and was seen no more until long after, when Father Kino, a kind old priest, going home late one night from a dying soul, in passing the cloud of marble, heard faint moans coming out of it, and, going near, found an Indian woman, in festive dress, like a chief's daughter, kneeling there. A few minutes afterwards, when Father Kino came back with an assistant, there were no more moans, for Luella had "gone on to the Sun."

The fate of the little boy was never known until then, and then it was only known that he had lived and died and was buried in Skylight.

We found houses and lands, but no record that they were ours. So we left them under British rule, and returned to Skylight, to our cottage and duty.

Aunt Carter came in before we had been an hour at home. I think she watched the opportunity of Saul's absence to find me alone.

"See!" she exclaimed, holding up to my view a small eminence of stockings, "see what I have done, while you've just been going about the world doing nothing at all!" And with a really warm shake of my hand, Aunt Carter seated herself, for the second time, in Saul's chair.

"Why, I've been knitting too!" I said, in extenuation.

"What?" asked Aunt Carter. "Some new-fashioned thing or other, I'll warrant."

"No,—something that is as old as Eve."

"Who ever beard of Eve's knitting? The Bible doesn't say one word about it, Mrs. Monten. Besides, I don't think little Cain and Abel wore stockings at all."

"I did not say that Eve knit in Paradise. I only said I'd been knitting at something as old as Eve. I meant the thread of life. Here comes my husband to tell you how industrious I have been."

Saul led Aunt Carter on to talk of her youth, and gradually of his father, until he had learned all that she knew of his history. It was very little: only that a fur-trader and a party of Dacotahs came to the village, she had heard her father say, to sell their skins, bringing a brown little boy with them; that the child fell sick with scarlet fever, and they left him to the mercy of the village people, and never came back for him, although they had said they would.

Did Luella give her boy away?—Never, I was convinced, and Saul likewise.

Saul went back into his round of professional duties, and with much heart for a while.

Delighted with civilization, and peopled with memories, and joyous with the divine plumage ever hovering around me, my life ran on. I watched Saul narrowly. He would often take up his hat, after hours of application to science, and rush out of the house, as if a mission lay before him. He would come back, and devote himself to me, as if he were conscious of some neglect in his absence. I planned short excursions all over the adjacent country. I became addicted to angling, because I saw Saul liked it. There were many righteous eyeballs that reproved me for wandering in places not fit for a woman, and Aunt Carter became exceedingly disturbed, even to the point of remonstrance.

"You're spoiling your husband," she would say,—"he'll not know but what you are a squaw," she said to me one day, in true distress.

However, I endured it delightfully for three years. Saul received in one week four letters, each containing the offer of a professor's chair in a desirable institution.

For many months I had seen the spell weaving around my good husband; I had seen it flash out of his eyes; I had heard its undertone in his voice; I had felt it in his whole manner, and I knew the hour of battle was near.

I was strong, and I came to the rescue. It was on this wise. Hearken! is he coming? No, it is only the wind coming up the Big Blue.

We sat in our Skylight door in an April evening,—unwise, perhaps,—but we were there. Saul had taken down that wild warble of Longfellow's, "Hiawatha." He read to me until the moon came up; then he threw down the book, and said, "Pshaw!"

"What is that for, Saul?" I asked, in some surprise.

"It is not for the book,—for myself, Lucy. I had better not have opened it Let us go and talk with the Doctor." And we went.

Saul had not answered his letters on the chair question, and I put up a petition.

"I think I never felt so well as when I was in Kansas," I said. "Really, Saul, I've felt a strong inclination to cough for some time, every morning. The climate of Kansas is wonderfully curative for pulmonary difficulties. I wish you would go out there now, and build a log cabin, plant a few miles of maize, gather it in, and then, when the season is over, come back and go to ——. You know they value you too highly not to wait your time."

I saw a slow kindling up in Saul's eyes, but an instant later it had gone down, and he said, looking into mine,—

"Do you really and truly wish this, Lucy?"

And Lucy answered,—

"I really and truly wish it, Saul."

We came hither with the violets and bluebirds. My wigwam points to the sky. We have roamed on the prairies, and wandered in the timber-lands. Under the heavens of the Big Blue we have drunk "the wine of life all day," and "been lighted off" to hemlock-boughs "by the jewels in the cup."

Oh, this life that is passing, passing in unseen marches on to the Great Plains where we shall corral forever! I've just opened my cabin-door to look for Saul; he's been gone ten days. The drought came; our maize withered and died. Ten miles away, there is a town; two houses are there. We left our vast-wilderness lodge to Nature in October, and turned our faces eastward. Reaching the town, we found Azrael hovering there. It was impossible to go on and leave such suffering, and we stayed. While we waited, winter came along, tossing her white mail over the prairie, and we were prisoned. Azrael folded his pinions, and carried in them two souls out of the town of two houses. Afterward, Saul and I came back to our home. I kindled the fire, and Saul went forth to earn our daily food. Life began to grow painfully earnest. The supply of wheaten flour waxed less and less, and I sometimes wished—no, I did not wish that I was a widow, I only wished for flour.

I began to look for manna, and it came,—not "small and white, about the size of coriander-seed," but in the form of the flying life of yesterday.

I have cried many tears over eyes that were shut for me, but I've never been sorry that I came hither.

At last, no more wings came flying over the prairie. Saul came home without food. That was ten days ago. He carried me the next morning to the village, to leave me there, till he should return,—then retraced the ten miles through the snow, and went for food.

I stayed until there was no more for the children to eat. I could not abide that, and this morning I stole away. I've come the ten miles through the snow to light the fire, that Saul may not pass by, and go on to the town this cold night. Where is he now? Not perishing, dying on the prairie, as I was once, when he found me? I'll walk and see. It is so lone outside, there is such an awful sound in the voice of stillness, and Saul is not in sight!

Where is my life now? Since Saul went away, so much of it has gone, I feel as if more of myself were there than here. Why couldn't I go on thinking? It was such relief! The moon is up at last. A low rumble over the dried grass, like a great wave treading on sand. I am faint. I have tightened my dress, to keep out hunger, every hour of this day. Those starving children! God pity them! A higher wave of sound,—surely 'tis not fancy. I will look out. The moon shines on a prairie sail, a gleam of canvas. Another roll of the broad wheel, and Saul is here.

"Send the man on quickly," I cried; "the children are starving in the town."

"And you?" said Saul.

The power of his eyes is almost gone. I scarcely heed them. I see—a bag of meal.