Theodora R. Jenness.

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understood by the white mother, who was in the playroom passing pennies
for the missionary plate.

The white mother heard the laugh and stepped into the space between the
sliding doors, which were ajar. She saw the girls' resentment at a
glance, and that it was directed at Cordelia Running Bird. She was
troubled, but could not combat the feeling that had spread throughout
the school, to mar the peace and quiet of the Sabbath, which these
Indian girls were wont to keep in reverent spirit.

"She has bought another pair of shoes for Susie - stockings, too - not
black ones, like the little schoolgirls have to wear for best, but very
stylish brown ones," Hannah Straight Tree said. "She put them in her
trunk last night. I crept upstairs and watched her, for the children
said she had them in her pocket. The large and middle-sized girls must
not see them till the entertainment, but the little girls keep saying
they are like the ones the little white visitor that wore the dress that
was pink dim-i-ty, had on. Ver-ry white-minded shoes! She wants to
hire me to like her, if she does not wish to have Dolly in the Jack
Frost song with Susie, so she bought new hair ribbons at the store for
Dolly and Lucinda. She told the little girls because she knew they
would tell me. But Dolly and Lucinda shall not wear them. Very cotton
silk, of course."

The ringing of the bell for Sunday-school relieved Cordelia Running Bird
of the torment she was undergoing. Conversation was suspended, and the
girls put on their hoods and marched in a procession to the
school-house, guided by the teachers.

Cordelia had a trying hour in Sunday-school. The middle-sized girls,
her companions in the white mother's class, indulged in frequent
whispering at her expense and kept deep silence when she tried to lead
the class, as she was wont, in reading reference verses and in concert
recitation of the memory verses and the Golden Text. Thus it happened
that she read a reference verse alone, in faltering accents, with the
eyes of all the class upon her:

"'_Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed
to give than to receive_.'"

"She gives a nickel every Sunday, so she minds the verse and gets the
red dress very cheap," Hannah Straight Tree whispered from the seat
behind.

The white mother heard the whisper, but the words were in Dakota, so she
failed to understand. She saw Cordelia Running Bird shrink and color
and her face grow very grave. Seeing this the class ceased whispering,
but the white mother's faithful teachings went unheeded, and she saw the
lesson was a failure. In fact, the whole room was in sad disorder from
the opening to the close of Sunday-school, and all three teachers were
perplexed and disappointed by the strange behavior of their usually
attentive pupils.

"How unfortunate that the race mood has attacked the school when
Christmas is approaching, and we wish the girls to do their best and be
their happiest," said the white mother, lingering; for a minute in the
schoolroom after the dismissal. "Cordelia seems about the only one,
except the little girls, who isn't out of sorts to-day, yet she is the
one they are all against. The older girls all seem displeased at her."

"The large girls worried me with loud and constant whispering and
inattention to the lesson," was the school-teacher's sorrowful report.
"There were so many, with the superintendent's class combined with mine,
I found it quite impossible to keep good order, as you probably
observed."

The superintendent was not present. He had started for the distant
railroad station two days previously to get the Christmas boxes.

"I have never had the slightest trouble with both classes, heretofore,
but to-day they seemed to throw off all restraint, and I was simply in
despair," added the young teacher with a strained expression in her
voice. "They whispered in Dakota, and their meaning was a mystery, but I
heard Cordelia Running Bird's name and Hannah Straight Tree's very
often, also Susie, Dolly and Lucinda."

"There was some trouble in the hall yesterday, which made Cordelia
Running Bird moody for a time, but she recovered her good-nature in the
afternoon and seems to be behaving nicely now, although much hurt by the
treatment which she is receiving from the girls," the white mother said.

"The children were excited also," said the teacher, who had taught the
infant class. "They whispered much in English, and I gathered from
their talk that the unusual wardrobe which Cordelia is preparing for her
little sister to appear in during her Christmas visit, has to do with
the disturbance. I was forced to hear about the red dress and the brown
shoes and stockings, and the blue dress and the black shoes and
stockings, till I knew not what to do. It seems that Hannah is vexed
about the little things, and the other girls are sympathizing with her,
and they seem to have some grievance of their own, besides."

"That explains it," said the white mother. "Perhaps it was unwise to
let Cordelia have the red cashmere for the little dress, but she is
paying for it by contributing a portion of her hard-earned money to the
missionary fund. Her patience with the baby, who was very fretful, was
quite wonderful. She cheerfully devoted all her playtime for a month to
baby, while I gave attention to the little children, and I thought it
but a just reward to let her have the little dress, especially as it was
in her mission box. Her father had not brought the blue dress then, But
dear me! She has added brown shoes and stockings, which I didn't in the
least expect."

The children in their bedtime talk had told the white mother of Cordelia
Running Bird's purchase at the store, and later in the evening the
second teacher had informed her of the barter of the Indian doll.

"The brown shoes and stockings must be laid to my account. Whatever can
be done?" exclaimed the school-teacher, in dismay.

"Nothing," said the white mother, firmly. "I wish Cordelia was less
extravagant, and we will be careful to restrain her after this. But
Indian girls must learn as well as white girls to respect the right of
property. The girls have been allowed much freedom in the spending of
what money they could call their own, but it has mostly gone for hair
ribbons and candy, and there has been no trouble before. I hope the
feeling will subside, however, in a day or two. So many Christmas
pleasures are in prospect that the girls will surely have no room for
strife and envy in their hearts."

Here the teachers hastened to the mission building to discharge the
duties that devolved upon them after Sunday-school.

Just before sun\et Monday afternoon a flock of girls were gathered at
the stile in front, watching with intensity a solitary little figure
moving slowly on a far side of the pasture, near the barbed wire fence.

"Again there walks Cordelia Running Bird very far away," said Hannah
Straight Tree. "She has walked alone two afternoons. She must be
thinking very hard."

"She is going on the mourner's walk," observed the girl who kept the
playroom. "When an Indian walks alone, so far and very slow, that means
they are too sad. She cannot be happy, for the large girls - only me - and
the middle-sized girls do not talk to her. Then, too, of course, she
thinks of Annie. It was just one year ago this Monday that they took
her to the agency. The large girls did not wash, because there was a
funeral."

"And Cordelia Running Bird was so proud because the girls all cried,"
said Hannah. "Now I wish we had not cried."

"Kee! You must not be so mean as that," exclaimed the largest girl, in
shocked surprise. "Of course we cried for Annie. She was very kind to
everyone - not cross like us."

"She was a very little cross, sometimes, because she was an Indian. She
tried much harder than Cordelia Running Bird."

"I am glad I sang 'The Sweet By and By' when she was so afraid," said
Emma Two Bears.

The girls were silent for a little, stirred by memories of the
schoolmate who had passed into the life beyond.

Meantime the solitary girl in the snowy pasture continued her walk.

"I can wish I had not told Cordelia Running Bird that I would not sleep
with anyone but her," said Hannah. "I am glad she is not in the middle
dormitory now."

"They put her in our dormitory so that she can go and tell the teachers
if a little girl is sick, or cries," remarked the prudent little girl,
who had arrived upon the scene with several other children. "The
teachers say she wakes up easy, and is braver in the dark than any other
girl."

"Ee! Cordelia Running Bird is a dress pattern for the other girls - I
mean a pattern!" Hannah cried. "Cordelia is the bravest, and she has a
white memory, so she has the longest piece. Cordelia is polite. She
keeps her clothes so clean and does not tear them, so the missionary
ladies send her prettier things, for the teachers write she is so nice.
The visitors always talk about Cordelia Running Bird very lots. They do
not think the girls are listening, but they are."

"They should not listen. That is stealing talk, the white mother says,"
replied the prudent little girl. "We like Cordelia Running Bird, for
she does not scold us little girls and tell us we are in the way, as you
do," was the bold defense. "We shall choose Susie in the games."

"If the little girls choose Susie, the large and middle-sized girls can
pull their hairs when they are combing them," was the appalling threat
from Hannah Straight Tree. "If they tell the teachers we can say their
hairs were snarly and we could not help it."

"Ee! We shall not pull the little girls' hairs and tell a lie," said
Emma Two Bears, rallying her honest principles. "We can treat Cordelia
Running Bird cross because she called us shovel-feeted, and is very
vain, so we should punish her, but we will not be wicked."

"I did not say we shall - I said we can," retracted Hannah, in confusion.

"The girls were very mean to walk whole-feet where she was scrubbing,"
said the playroom girl, who knew from sad experience what Cordelia's
trials must have been. "It makes me very cross because the little girls
will not stay out or, sit still on the benches when I scrub the
playroom, and they do not make big tracks, if they do walk whole-feet."

"You can speak to her, because she could not call you shovel-feeted, for
the white mother lets you always wear the mission shoes," said Hannah
Straight Tree, growing bold again.

"Because I have an onion - no, a bunion - on my foot. The issue shoes
would make it worse. Just like there is no girl in school that does not
hate to have the horrid whole-feet tracks on her wet floor."

"I hate them - some," confessed a middle dormitory girl.

"I, too," admitted a south dormitory girl. "I threw a few drops of
scrub water on a girl that walked whole-feet."

"I told a girl her tracks were so big, just like she had on snowshoes,"
said a north dormitory girl, relentingly.

"Of course, I made the very biggest kind of tracks on Cordelia Running
Bird's wet floor," said the largest girl; "but if we walk tiptoe all the
other girls will laugh and say, 'See how she nips along. She tries to
walk so nice, just like the teachers.' And if we are walking on our
heels they say, 'Very awkward; hear her tramp just like a steer.' But
it is not kind to walk whole-feet."

The race mood was upon the wane, and Hannah Straight Tree was fast
losing influence.

"I would not have cared so much about the blue dress and the black shoes
and stockings, but she bought the red dress and the brown shoes and
stockings, when her little sister does not need them," Hannah argued in
an injured tone.

"She did not buy them with your money," said the playroom girl. "You
would not have taken care of a cross baby four weeks, and missed a plum
picnic, and not played a leap, to earn pretty things for Dolly. You are
much too lazy."

"Now I shall not stay another minute!" springing from the stile in deep
chagrin. "You all can like Cordelia Running Bird if you want to, but I
shall not like her."

Hannah Straight Tree ran into the house, and those remaining turned
again to watch Cordelia. She had reached a sloping bluff, down which
the fence extended to the flats beside the river. She stood a moment on
the edge, then wrapped her clothes about her and sat down on the crust.
Presently she disappeared.

"She has slid down hill," observed the playroom girl. "She must be going
to the river."

"She should not. It will soon be dark, and she is all alone," said Emma
Two Bears, in a tone betraying some anxiety.




CHAPTER VI.

Cordelia Running Bid held her clothes about her with one hand, steering
with her feet, and reached the flats in safety. She arose and stood
still and looked toward the river to a space of open water on the near
side of a sandbar, half way over.

She took a few steps forward rather slowly, then her pace quickened more
and more, till she was running breathlessly, as if in fear of losing her
resolve to carry out some plan she was intent upon.

In rushing through a hollow lined with willow trees she slipped and
almost lost her footing, and in struggling to regain it she released her
hold upon a well-filled gingham bag which she had hid beneath her coat
and dropped it on the ground. She picked it up and hung it by the
draw-string on her arm, but with this interruption of her headlong
course there came a corresponding halt of purpose. So she turned aside
and walked a few yards down the hollow, where she found a log on which
to seat herself.

Presently she murmured in the passive monotone of a despairing Indian
girl: "Just like I have to stop and think before I do it. If I drown
the blue dress and the black shoes and stockings and the red dress and
the brown shoes and stockings, I can write to Hannah Straight Tree, for
she will not let me speak to her: 'Now you see I truly am not vain, for
I have put the Christmas clothes for Susie in my workbag, and a stone,
so it would sink, and I have drowned them in the airhole in the middle
of the river.'

"But again that would be bragging," was her puzzled afterthought. "Just
like Jesus is not helping me one bit, for very fast I went and bought
the brown shoes and stockings after I had prayed to stop being vain.
And the teachers looked so sorry, and I was ashamed to tell the white
mother. Everything I say and do is vain and bragging, and I cannot
think hard enough to help it. My tongue bragged about Dolly and
Lucinda's hair ribbons to the little girls, and my feet bragged about
the issue shoes, I stuck them out so far. And when the girls made fun
of me I did not pull the shoes back, for I wanted them to think I was
not scared, but sorry. I was truly trying to try hard, but I was trying
the wrong way. Now my pencil will be bragging if it tells Hannah
Straight Tree I have drowned the things."

Cordelia sat in troubled thought while the pink and golden colors of the
sunset faded from the sky above the bluffs and the wind sighed through
the hollow.

"The white mother says it is not right to even waste a pin, and many
nice things that have cost much money would be wasted if I drowned them.
I shall look at them and think again what I can do."

She drew the contents from the bag and spread them on her lap. First
she gave attention to the little blue dress she had helped to make at
the expense of many play hours.

[Illustration: She drew the contents from her bag and spread them on
her lap.]

"Emma Two Bears made the waist so nice and said she would not take one
thing for pay, but I made her take a shell necklace that was very
pretty; but I did not care for it myself, it was so Indian-minded. Emma
is so generous. I wish I could be generous. If I should give the blue
dress to Dolly, and the black shoes and stockings, just like I should be
some generous. What if I should truly do it?" with a sudden interest in
her tone. "She would look as pretty as the little schoolgirls then, and
she could motion Jack Frost, and Hannah and the others could not say
Susie did not need the red dress and the brown shoes and stockings. I
am 'most sure Jessie Turning Heart will help me make the red dress, if I
bring the playroom wood for her, till we change work next month. She
hates to bring wood, for her foot gets cold, and then the sore bunch
pinches her much worse. She is very fast and stylish making dresses,
and she feather-stitches; and she says she is not cross at me. She said
one time she liked to sew so much, just like she would be getting up and
sewing in her sleep. So I shall ask her to trade work.

"But Hannah Straight Tree says she hates light blue, for it makes a
copper-colored Indian look much blacker; and she hates one tuck, and
there would have to be one, for the blue dress is too long for Dolly.
And it smuts some, too, and is not soft and fine. Hannah would not want
it. She would say Susie looked much nicer in the red dress, and Dolly
should not motion Jack Frost in the blue one."

Cordelia put the blue dress and the black shoes and stockings back into
the bag, and spread the red cashmere across her lap and smoothed it
lovingly.

"It feels so soft I like to rub it. Just the color of the one rose on
the white mother's window bush." She held it up, luxuriating in its warm
red glow. "Ver-ry sw-e-et and pretty - and the brown shoes and
stockings, too. I shall put them on the clean snow and look at them."

She spread the things on the hard white crust and viewed them with
increasing admiration. Suddenly she caught them up and hid them in her
apron, for the sight of them was far too tempting; then she locked her
hands together in her lap and sat so still a wood-mouse dared to leave
his hole beneath the log and frisk about her feet.

"The baby was so cross I could not play one bit the whole four weeks,"
she said at length, in supplicating tones. "Just like I earned the
dress so hard. I thought I did not care much for the Indian doll, but
my grandmother cannot make another, for she now has par-a-lay-sis in her
hands - the doctor says it is. And I sold the Indian doll to get the
brown shoes and stockings. Dolly has a round face, and her eyes are
pretty. Susie has a thin face, and she is a very little cross-eyed, so
she needs a prettier dress to look as nice as Dolly.

"But Lucinda cannot come to school if Dolly cannot, and she feels so
sad. If Dolly's father saw her looking very pretty in a red dress and a
brown shoes and stockings, just like he would feel so happier he would
let her come to school. Then Lucinda would be glad, and she would learn
the neat way, and they would grow Dolly more white-minded. The verse I
read yesterday was a King's Daughters' verse. Helen marked it - Annie,
too.

"What if Annie should be looking down from up there," - pointing to a
newly glimmering star - "and speaking just like this: 'Dear Cordelia,
these words I tell you - " It is more blessed to give than to receive."
I would give the red dress and the brown shoes and stockings to the
little girl named Dolly Straight Tree.'"

Cordelia looked another minute at the star.

"Of course Annie cannot speak those words up there, but she would like
to have me do it, and my father and my mother would not care, for I
should tell them just like Annie thought I ought to; and they always let
me do a thing I want to, anyhow.

"If an Indian likes another Indian very much he will give him a big
present. My father told an Indian man one time, 'I am your friend, so I
shall give you a pony.' And he did. And the Indian man told my father,
'I am your friend, so I shall give you a steer.' And a white man
laughed and said it was a good trade. But the Indians did not laugh.
They said my father and the other Indian were very generous.

"Now I have found the right way, and it makes me very happier, and I
shall not change my thoughts." in firm relief. "I shall do this kind:
Till Dolly and Lucinda come I shall not say one word to any girl, or
even tell the white mother. Then Susie's best things I shall give to
Hannah Straight Tree in a way that will surprise her. Tokee! there rings
the half-hour bell till supper, and I am down here, and it is
moonlight."

Cordelia hastily replaced the best things in the bag and scampered home.




CHAPTER VII.

Cordelia Running Bird carried out her plan of asking Jessie Turning
Heart, the playroom girl, to help her make the red dress, and the latter
willingly agreed to "trade work," and escape bringing in the wood to the
torture of her lame foot.

Cordelia found that she had undertaken no light task, for there were
violent snowstorms in the next two weeks, and an enormous quantity of
wood was swallowed by the great stove in the playroom, which must needs
be kept red-hot from long before dawn until bedtime, to dispel the
freezing atmosphere within.

Owing to the influence of the playroom girl, the large and middle-sized
girls in general ceased to be intensely hostile to Cordelia, but they
did not break the seal of silence, so she could not ask help from among
them. The small girls showed their friendship for Cordelia now and then
by marching in a line behind her from the wood-yard laden with what fuel
they could bring, or even going down the path the older girls had broken
to the flats for willow fagots, which they tied upon their backs and
brought to her for kindling.

Hannah Straight Tree tried Cordelia's resolution to do good to her by
stealthy persecutions that escaped the notice of the teachers, who
remarked to one another in relief that Hannah and the other girls
appeared in better humor toward Cordelia, and the fatter had regained
her cheerful spirits.

Hannah took her station in the little outside hall one blustering
afternoon, watching through the side window till Cordelia climbed the
porch steps loaded to her chin with wood; then Hannah braced her back
against the outside door. Cordelia spared one hand with difficulty,
tugging at the door with wind-tossed garments, all in vain. She dropped
her wood to use both hands. The door would sometimes stick when lightly
closed, and thinking this to be the case, she threw her weight against
it in a forcible attempt to burst it open. Hannah jumped away and
darted through the inside door in silent glee.

Cordelia fell full length into the hall and struck her head against the
inner threshold. She lay in a dazed condition for a little, then aroused
herself, to catch a glimpse of Hannah peering through the window of the
inside door. She vanished instantly, but the expression of her face had
told Cordelia where the mischief lay.

"She will not let me like her," thought Cordelia, struggling to her feet
with aching head, and blinking back the tears. "Just like I shall have
to hate her just a little while I do her good."

She turned, and saw to her surprise that Emma Two Bears, who had come
behind her to the porch, was gathering up her wood. Emma often helped to
fill the wood-box in the music room, as an especial friend of hers
attended to that work, and Cordelia feared her wood was being boldly
captured for that purpose. She was about to cry out sharply, but
restrained herself and fell back silently, while Emma passed into the
house. Cordelia followed her, and saw with sinking heart that Emma took
a straight track through the playroom for the music room; but on the
threshold of the room she whirled about, and, walking to the playroom
wood-box, dropped the wood in.

"Thank you very much!" exclaimed Cordelia, in sign language on her
fingers. Etiquette forbade her to employ her tongue in the expression
of her gratitude, seeing that the girls had placed a ban on it. A
curious contortion of the deaf-and-dumb alphabet was used among the
Indian girls when pride forbade the use of speech.

"You need not thank me. I am only punishing Hannah Straight Tree," Emma
answered, likewise with her fingers.

This exchange of compliments was read without scruple by the many pairs
of eyes, including Hannah's, that were watching the affair.

"Emma Two Bears talks deaf-and-dumb to her. Now we can plan
crack-the-whip with her, for that is not a speaking game," observed a
middle-sized girl, who had been a comrade of Cordelia's heretofore.

"She will not have time to crack the whip," said Hannah. "She is going
to the south dormitory, where she sits her whole playtime helping sew
the red dress for Susie, so she can look nicer than the other little
home sisters and the little schoolgirls."

"You are very jealous-minded, and you try hard to spite Cordelia Running


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Online LibraryTheodora R. JennessBig and Little Sisters → online text (page 3 of 4)