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Ridgwell Cullum.

The Heart of Unaga online

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him. You need to figger on a feller who didn't know a thing else, and
thought he was acting square and right by his wife the whole darn time.
He was a fool, a crazy fool. But he did all he knew, and the way he knew
it. His duty was the law and order of a wide enough territory around
Athabasca, which is just one hell of a piece of country from here. When
you've thought of that you want to think of a real good woman, all
pretty, and bright, with blue eyes and fair hair, and her baby girl the
same. You want to reckon she was just about your ages, and was plumb
full of life, and ready for all the play going. When you've got that you
want to think of her man being away from their home months and months,
winter and summer. It was his work. And all the time there's a feller, a
mean, low, skunk of a feller with a good-looker face, and the manners
and talk of a swell white man, hanging around on that home doorstep. So
it goes on. How long I don't know. Then comes a time when this p'lice
officer gets out on a mission to Unaga. And it's the other feller that
has to hand him his orders. Do you see? That trip's a two years' trip,
and the pore gal is just left around home with her baby the whole time.
Oh, she's got her food, and home, and money. That's so. Well, at the end
of that trip the feller gets back. He's found up there a white kiddie,
and an Indian nurse woman, and the hell of a tragedy of the boy's
parents. So he brings the kiddie back, a little brother to his baby
girl."

Steve drew a deep breath and stirred. When he went on his eyes were
gazing out at the sunlight beyond the shed.

"When he made home with the life well-nigh beat out of him, his outfit a
wreck, and the nurse woman and the kiddie no better, his wife and his
baby girl were gone. They'd been gone a great while. So had the man.
They had gone together, and the man was wanted for stealing the Treaty
Money of the Indians he was the government agent for. Do you get that?"

Keeko nodded. She was listening with breathless interest for she felt
the story was addressed to her. Marcel, too, was absorbed. But the
ultimate drift of the story was scarcely as clear to him yet.

"Well, it don't need telling you the things that happened after that,"
Steve went on with a half-smile that was something desperately grim.
"Maybe that feller went nigh mad. I don't know. Anyway, when he got
better of things he hit out after that skunk of an agent in the hope of
coming up with him, and killing him."

"But he was saved that. Maybe it was meant he should be. We can't reckon
these things. Anyway he never saw his wife again. He never saw his baby
girl. And - he never saw Hervey Garstaing till weeks ago he came under
the label of Nicol - right along here to set the story of murder into his
book of life. He's there in that store-house and he's been dead weeks.
Only the rottenness in him hasn't broke out because of the weed. Anyway
he's dead. He was a scum that had no place in this world, and I guess
Providence handed it to him in its own fashion and time. He robbed me of
Nita. He robbed me of - - "

"Nita - my mother's name." Keeko's voice was choked. A world of emotion
seemed to be striving to overwhelm her. Marcel in bewilderment was
regarding only the strong face of the man seated in the sunlight.

Steve inclined his head.

"Yes. Nita was your mother."

An uncontrollable impulse urged the girl. She had no power to resist it.
Why should she? This man - this man to whom Marcel had brought her, with
his steady eyes and strong face. He - he - -

She sprang from her seat beside her lover, the great creature staring so
amazedly at the man, who, for a moment, had permitted a glance into
those close-hidden secrets of his heart. In a moment she was on her
knees at Steve's side, and the man's hands were grasping hers in their
strong embrace.

"And you - you are my - father!" she cried.

Steve crushed the hands in his with a power that told of the feeling
stirring.

"Yes," he said simply. Then he added very gently, very tenderly. "And
you - you are my little baby girl Coqueline."

And in the silence that followed there reached them from close behind
the sound of the low, soft voice of the mother woman.

"So. An-ina glad. Oh, yes."


THE END








Online LibraryRidgwell CullumThe Heart of Unaga → online text (page 30 of 30)