“It isn’t natural, daddy,” she whispered. “It’s uncanny. Do you suppose it’s a spirit?”
“No, no, dear. It’s an Indian, no doubt. Look, he has stopped paddling now, and is about to land.”
Darkness again intervened, and the next flash revealed a tall form stepping upon the shore as blackness once more enshrouded him. The next glimpse showed him coming toward the cabin, carrying a bundle in his arms. In another minute he was at the door, an Indian of magnificent physique, clad in buckskins, with a squirrel-skin cap upon his head. He smiled as he looked upon the astonished ones before him. Then he held out the bundle toward the girl.
“White woman tak’ babby, eh?” he asked,
But Jean hesitated, and drew back a little. This seemed to surprise the Indian.
“Babby no hurt white woman,” he explained. “Babby velly leetle. Babby no home, no mamma.”
No longer could Jean resist such an appeal, so stepping forward, she took the bundle in her arms. Awkwardly she held it, uncertain what to do. Then Old Mammy came to her aid, and relieved her of her burden.
“Why, chile, yo’ doan know how to hol’ a baby,” she reproached. “Yo’ hol’ it upside-down. Yo’ nebber had ‘sperience wif babies. Dis o’ woman’ll show yo’ how.”
Seating herself upon a bench, she removed the blanket with which the child was enwrapped. Jean dropped upon her knees by her side, and when a little dusky face was exposed to view, she gave a cry of delight.
“Isn’t it pretty!” she exclaimed. “And it’s asleep, too.”
The Indian’s eyes shone with pleasure as he watched the girl’s interest in the little child.
“White woman tak’ care babby, eh?”
“You want us to keep it?” Jean asked.
“Ah-ha-ha. Wan moon, two moon, mebbe. Injun come bimeby.”
Jean turned to her father, who had been standing silently near the door.
“May we keep it, daddy?”
“Ask Mammy,” the Colonel replied. “If she is willing, I have no objections. She is the only one in this house who knows how to look after a baby.”
“I’se willin’, Cun’l,” the old woman agreed. “It makes me t’ink of de lil’l chile I los’ long time ago in ol’ Connec. Yes, I’se willin’.”
The Indian understood, and smiled. He turned to go, but paused and looked at Jean.
“White woman keep canoe, eh?” he queried.
“Oh, may I?” the girl eagerly asked. She had often longed for a canoe to paddle along the shore and explore the various creeks.
“Ah-ha-ha. White woman paddle all sam’ Injun bimeby. Me go now.”
The Colonel pressed the Indian to stay until the storm was over, but the native shook his head, and with another glance at the sleeping child, he passed out into the night.
For about an hour the storm continued to rage. But the gleaming lightning and the crashing thunder worried Old Mammy no longer. She was completely engrossed in the little charge which had been so unexpectedly committed to her care.