“Monsieur!” I heard her say at last.
I did not answer. I was learning a bit of life myself this night. I was years older than when I had come through that door.
“Monsieur!” I heard her call yet again.
“Eh bien, Madam?” I replied, lightly as I could, and so turned, giving her all possible time. I saw her holding the Indian child out in front of her in her strong young arms, lightly as though the weight were nothing.
“See, then,” she said; “here is my companion across the mountains.”
Again I began to expostulate, but now she tapped her foot impatiently in her old way. “You have heard me say it. Very well. Follow if you like. Listen also if you like. In a day or so, Doctor McLaughlin plans a party for us all far up the Columbia to the missions at Wailatpu. That is in the valley of the Walla Walla, they tell me, just at this edge of the Blue Mountains, where the wagon trains come down into this part of Oregon.”
“They may not see the wagon trains so soon,” I ventured. “They would scarcely arrive before October, and now it is but summer.”
“At least, these British officers would see a part of this country, do you not comprehend? We start within three days at least. I wish only to say that perhaps—”
“Ah, I will be there surely, Madam!”
“If you come independently. I have heard, however, that one of the missionary women wishes to go back to the States. I have thought that perhaps it might be better did we go together. Also Natoka. Also Chow.”
“Does Doctor McLaughlin know of your plans?”
“I am not under his orders, Monsieur. I only thought that, since you were used to this western travel, you could, perhaps, be of aid in getting me proper guides and vehicles. I should rely upon your judgment very much, Monsieur.”
“You are asking me to aid you in your own folly,” said I discontentedly, “but I will be there; and be sure also you can not prevent me from following—if you persist in this absolute folly. A woman—to cross the Rockies!”
I rose now, and she was gracious enough to follow me part way toward the door. We hesitated there, awkwardly enough. But once more our hands met in some sort of fellowship.
“Forget!” I heard her whisper. And I could think of no reply better than that same word.