Chapter 35




AN INDIAN MAIDEN.

From the information afforded by his employer Jasper was led to expect a somewhat adventurous journey. He was not to be disappointed. As long as he was in the well-settled part of the country he encountered no difficulties nor adventures worth recording. Plattville, as already stated, was a frontier town, and there was a large tract of almost uninhabited country between it and the nearest settlement.

Late in the afternoon of the fourth day Jasper found himself standing on the bank of a river which must be crossed. There was no boat in sight, and he was puzzled what to do. While he was considering, a young Indian girl glided by in a canoe. She handled the paddle dexterously and as one who had been long accustomed to the exercise, though she did not look more than twelve years of age.

"I wonder if she understands English?" thought Jasper. "Perhaps I could get her to ferry me across."

Acting upon this thought he called out:

"Halloo, there!"

The young girl turned quickly, and discovered Jasper, whom she had not before seen.

She stopped paddling, and asked, in a musical voice:

"White boy speak?"

"Yes," said Jasper. "Do you speak English?"

"A little."

"I want to go across the river. Will you take me in your canoe?"

The girl hesitated a moment, perhaps from uncertainty as to whether she could trust our hero, for she surveyed him attentively. It appeared that her impressions were favorable, for she turned her canoe to the shore and said, simply:

"Yes."

"Thank you," said Jasper, and he promptly took his place in the frail craft.

The Indian girl pushed off and began to paddle rapidly.

"It seems odd to be ferried by a girl," thought Jasper. "I think I ought to offer to take her place." "Shall I paddle instead of you?" he asked.

The girl laughed and shook her head.

"White boy not know how to paddle a canoe—tip it over," and she laughed again.

"I don't know but I should," thought Jasper, as he noticed how light and frail the little canoe was, and how a slight motion would agitate it.

"Do you live around here?" he asked, in some curiosity.

"Up the river," said the girl, indicating with her head, for her hands were occupied.

"Have you a father?"

"Monima's father great chief," said the girl, proudly.

"Monima! Is that your name?"

"Yes."

"It is a pretty name."

The girl laughed and appeared to be pleased with the compliment, though it was only to her name. She seemed in turn to be possessed by curiosity, for she asked:

"What white boy's name?"

"Jasper."

"Jasper," she repeated, with difficulty.

"Isn't it a pretty name?"

"No," said Monima, laughing.

"I am sorry you don't like it, Monima."

"I like white boy. He will be big warrior some day."

"I don't know about that, Monima. So your father is a chief?"

"Yes," said Monima, proudly. "Great chief."

"Did he give you this canoe?"

"Yes."

"Have you any brothers and sisters?"

"One brother, young man; no sister."

By this time they had reached the other side. Monima skilfully drew up the canoe alongside, and Jasper jumped out. He stood on the bank, and drew from his vest-pocket a silver half-dollar, which he handed to Monima.

"Monima no want money," said the girl, proudly.

"Keep it to remember white boy," said Jasper.

"Monima will remember white boy without money."

Jasper reluctantly put the money in his pocket, but he did not like to accept the favor from Monima without rendering her some return. He was in doubt at first, but finally an idea occurred to him. He had half a dozen photographs of himself, which he had recently had taken in St. Louis. He drew out one of these and extended it to Monima.

"Take that, Monima," he said. "Keep that and remember me."

Monima's face lighted up with wonder and admiration when she saw the photograph, for she had never seen one before. She looked from the picture to Jasper, and from Jasper back again to the picture, and laughed softly.

"White boy's picture?" she said.

"Yes, Monima. Do you think it looks like me?"

She nodded emphatically.

"Two white boy—here and there," she said, pointing first to the picture, then to Jasper.

"Good-bye, Monima," he said.

But the Indian girl was evidently tired of the river, for she fastened the canoe and walked by his side. He kept up a conversation for some time, till she turned aside and entered a path which led into the woods.

"Does your father live there?" he asked.

"Yes," said Monima.

"Good-bye," he said.

She didn't say good-bye, but uttered a word which was probably the Indian equivalent for it, and was soon lost to his sight.

"Well, that's romantic, to begin with," thought Jasper. "The daughter of a great chief has ferried me across the river, and I have given her my photograph. The next romantic thing that happens to me may be my losing my way, but I hope not."

He had a general idea of the way he wanted to go, but after awhile he became perplexed, and was led to doubt whether he had not gone astray.

"I wish I could find somebody to guide me," he thought.

He had his wish. A few rods farther on he came upon a man stretched upon the grass under a tree.

"I have lost my way," he began, but before he could finish the sentence the man sprang to his feet, and, to his dismay, he recognized Jack, the man who had had him locked up in St. Louis.



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