The fire was burning low and the embers sent only a feeble glow around the Council Rock. Behind them the forest stretched darkly away, and in the stillness that brooded over them the sound of the lapping water beneath came up with a curious distinctness. Oh-Pshaw shuddered as she heard it and drew closer to the fire.
“What’s the matter, are you cold?” asked Nyoda.
“I hate the sound of running water!” exclaimed Oh-Pshaw. “It fairly makes my blood curdle. It’s been so ever since I can remember. I hate it in daylight, but at night it makes my hair stand on end! If I were out here alone with it I’d simply go insane!”
“Why, how queer!” said Sahwah, unable to understand how anyone could be afraid of her beloved element, and the others laughed, too, thinking that Oh-Pshaw was only exaggerating, as most girls do over their little peculiarities.
“It is queer,” said Agony, “because water doesn’t affect me a bit like that. I love to hear it, day or night. But it’s been that way with Oh-Pshaw ever since she was little. I can remember once when we were about five years old she had spasms because our nurse left us alone in the bathtub when the water was running in. She can’t even stand it to hear the water running down the eave spouts during a heavy shower.”
The Winnebagos all laughed again at this queer “bete noir” of Oh-Pshaw’s, all but Nyoda. She knew something which the girls did not, and which neither Agony nor Oh-Pshaw herself knew, something which had been told her by Grandmother Wing in one of her talks with Nyoda. That was that when Oh-Pshaw was a baby only three months old she had been taken out in a sailboat by her father and mother on the river which ran through Oakwood. A squall came up and the boat capsized and all three were thrown into the wildly rolling river. They were promptly rescued by a nearby launch, all unhurt, but the moaning, gurgling sound of the water had stamped itself indelibly on Oh-Pshaw’s tiny brain and she would never again be able to hear that gurgling noise without a sensation of horror. During her infancy, even the sound of water gurgling out of a bottle was sufficient to throw her into spasms. She had never been told about the accident, in the hope that she would outgrow the shock and get over the fear, but she had never outgrown it. She no longer had spasms when she heard water gurgling, but the sound chilled her to the very marrow of her bones, and she never went alone, even in daylight, past the river.
Nyoda knew how real this fear was and sympathized deeply with her, although she pretended to make light of it, as the others did. Nyoda and the Winnebagos loved to sit in the silence of the woods when the fire burned low and listen to the murmuring of the water, but for Oh-Pshaw’s sake they must not do it to-night.
“Come, girls,” Nyoda called cheerily, “‘Fire’s gwine out,’ time to sing ‘Mammy Moon’ and then go home.”