How-ha looked up and down the woman who stood before her. Through the heavy veil she could barely distinguish the flash of the eyes, while the hood of the parka effectually concealed the hair, and the parka proper the particular outlines of the body. But How-ha paused and looked again. There was something familiar in the vague general outline. She quested back to the shrouded head again, and knew the unmistakable poise. Then How-ha’s eyes went blear as she traversed the simple windings of her own brain, inspecting the bare shelves taciturnly stored with the impressions of a meagre life. No disorder; no confused mingling of records; no devious and interminable impress of complex emotions, tangled theories, and bewildering abstractions—nothing but simple facts, neatly classified and conveniently collated. Unerringly from the stores of the past she picked and chose and put together in the instant present, till obscurity dropped from the woman before her, and she knew her, word and deed and look and history.
“Much better you go ’way quickety-quick,” How-ha informed her.
“Miss Welse. I wish to see her.”
The strange woman spoke in firm, even tones which betokened the will behind, but which failed to move How-ha.
“Much better you go,” she repeated, stolidly.
“Here, take this to Frona Welse, and—ah! would you!” (thrusting her knee between the door and jamb) “and leave the door open.”
How-ha scowled, but took the note; for she could not shake off the grip of the ten years of servitude to the superior race.
May I see you?
So the note ran. Frona glanced up expectantly at the Indian woman.
“Um kick toes outside,” How-ha explained. “Me tell um go ’way quickety-quick? Eh? You t’ink yes? Um no good. Um—”
“No. Take her,”—Frona was thinking quickly,—“no; bring her up here.”
How-ha grunted, and yielded up the obedience she could not withhold; though, as she went down the stairs to the door, in a tenebrous, glimmering way she wondered that the accident of white skin or swart made master or servant as the case might be.
In the one sweep of vision, Lucile took in Frona smiling with extended hand in the foreground, the dainty dressing-table, the simple finery, the thousand girlish evidences; and with the sweet wholesomeness of it pervading her nostrils, her own girlhood rose up and smote her. Then she turned a bleak eye and cold ear on outward things.
“I am glad you came,” Frona was saying. “I have so wanted to see you again, and—but do get that heavy parka off, please. How thick it is, and what splendid fur and workmanship!”
“Yes, from Siberia.” A present from St. Vincent, Lucile felt like adding, but said instead, “The Siberians have not yet learned to scamp their work, you know.”