In fifteen minutes the bell sent its summons through the house again and the Winnebagos responded with alacrity. Nyoda stood in the dining-room doorway to receive them, looking rather mysterious, they thought, and Sahwah’s sharp eyes counted a sixth place laid at the table. Nyoda seated them, apparently not noticing the empty place, and then tinkled the little bell that stood on the table at her place. In answer to her tinkle the pantry door opened and in came the cook carrying a tray of dishes. The Winnebagos looked up idly as she came in and the next moment the ancestral Chippendale chairs of the Carver family were shoved back unceremoniously as their occupants joined in a mad scramble to see who could reach the cook first, while Nyoda looked on and laughed gleefully.
“Veronica! Veronica Lehar!” cried the Winnebagos in wonder and ecstasy. “You here!” “How perfectly gorgeous!” “How did you happen to come?”
“By urgent invitation, sweet lambs,” replied Nyoda, “just like some other people I could name. She blazed the trail for the Winnebagos by arriving yesterday.”
“Oh, you naughty, bad ’Bagos,” said Migwan, embracing both Veronica and Nyoda in her delight, “to frame up such a surprise for us! We standing there cool as cucumbers in the front room of the house talking for half an hour and Veronica out in the kitchen all the while, masquerading as cook!”
“You pretty nearly upset the surprise, though, Mistress Sahwah,” said Nyoda, “with your suspicions in regard to my having a cook. It’s next to impossible to take you in, you eagle-eyed Indian! Come, Veronica, roll down your sleeves and take your rightful place at the table. Now, girls,
“While we’re here let’s
give a cheer
And sing to Wohelo!”
And then let’s dip our wheatless crusts into our meatless broth for the eternal glory and prosperity of the Winnebagos!”
Dinner over, the Winnebagos fell upon the dishes like a swarm of bees and had them cleared up and washed in a twinkling. Then they gathered in the long parlor where the harp stood, and to please them Nyoda turned off the electric lights and lit the candles in their old-fashioned holders. The little twinkling lights multiplied themselves in the mirrors until it seemed as if there were myriads of them; grotesque six-fold shadows danced on the walls as the girls moved about; the gilded harp gleamed softly in the mellow light and an atmosphere of by-gone days hovered over the room. It was an ideal moment for confidences, for heart-to-heart talks, and they spoke of many things which were sacred to one another, little intimate echoes of the days when they first learned to work and play together.
“Don’t you remember, Veronica,” said Migwan, “when you became a Winnebago you took the gull for your symbol, because it flew over the ocean and you wanted to follow it home?”