A memory of that day came back to the girls, of Veronica’s bitter homesickness, and how desperately sorry they had been for her, and yet how helpless they had felt before her aristocratic mien. There was a great difference in her now, all the more noticeable because they had not seen her for a year. She was thinner and her eyes were larger and more pansylike than ever, but she was much more talkative and animated than she used to be. Very little of the old superior bearing remained, and the looks that she bent upon Nyoda were those of an humble and adoring slave. Proof positive of the change that had taken place in her was the prank she had played upon them that night in masquerading as the cook—she who had once refused to help prepare one of the famous suppers in the House of the Open Door, disdainfully remarking that cooking was work for servants, not for ladies.
At Migwan’s remark Veronica stirred restlessly and made an emphatic gesture with her hand as she replied firmly, “That was all nonsense. I gave up the gull as a symbol long ago. It had such a screaming, ugly cry instead of a song. If I am to be one of the Song Friends I must have a song bird for a symbol. I have changed to the red winged blackbird, because that was the first American bird I learned to know by his song, outside of the robin. His voice always sounded so gay and free, singing over the open fields, that he seemed to be a symbol of the freedom and happiness which one finds in America. When he sings ’O-ka-lee! O-ka-lee! O-ka-lee!’ I always think he is singing ‘Liberty! Liberty! Liberty!’”
The four Winnebagos exchanged glances as Veronica uttered this sentiment, recalling their discussion of her in the train.
“Would you like to go back to Hungary?” asked Hinpoha.
Veronica shook her head vehemently. “I would not go back to my old home now if I could. I know now that I could never be happy there after having tasted the freedom of America.”
“But you were not one of the oppressed poor,” said Hinpoha. “You belonged to the upper class, didn’t you?”
“It is true, we were not poor,” answered Veronica, “we were not oppressed like the peasants. We did the oppressing ourselves, and because people in our station had done the same thing for hundreds of years we never stopped to think that it was wrong. The people in the village used to bow and scrape when they met us on the street, but how much they really cared for us I’d hate to say. It wasn’t the way people greet each other in the streets here. Just imagine Sahwah, for instance, going down the street and meeting Hinpoha and having to bow humbly and wait until Hinpoha spoke to her first before she could say anything!”
The Winnebagos shrieked with laughter at the picture thus conjured up.