“I kin sing, too,” she gasped hurriedly, as if unwilling that the applause should lapse. “I kin sing. Oh, dear! Kla’uns,” piteously, “What is it I sing?”
“Ben Bolt,” suggested Clarence.
“Oh, yes. Oh, don’t you remember sweet Alers Ben Bolt?” began Susy, in the same breath and the wrong key. “Sweet Alers, with hair so brown, who wept with delight when you giv’d her a smile, and—” with knitted brows and appealing recitative, “what’s er rest of it, Kla’uns?”
“Who trembled with fear at your frown?” prompted Clarence.
“Who trembled with fear at my frown?” shrilled Susy. “I forget er rest. Wait! I kin sing—”
“Praise God,” suggested Clarence.
“Yes.” Here Susy, a regular attendant in camp and prayer-meetings, was on firmer ground.
Promptly lifting her high treble, yet with a certain acquired deliberation, she began, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.” At the end of the second line the whispering and laughing ceased. A deep voice to the right, that of the champion poker player, suddenly rose on the swell of the third line. He was instantly followed by a dozen ringing voices, and by the time the last line was reached it was given with a full chorus, in which the dull chant of teamsters and drivers mingled with the soprano of Mrs. Peyton and Susy’s childish treble. Again and again it was repeated, with forgetful eyes and abstracted faces, rising and falling with the night wind and the leap and gleam of the camp fires, and fading again like them in the immeasurable mystery of the darkened plain.
In the deep and embarrassing silence that followed, at last the party hesitatingly broke up, Mrs. Peyton retiring with Susy after offering the child to Clarence for a perfunctory “good-night” kiss, an unusual proceeding, which somewhat astonished them both—and Clarence found himself near Mr. Peyton.
“I think,” said Clarence timidly, “I saw an Injin to-day.”
Mr. Peyton bent down towards him. “An Injin—where?” he asked quickly, with the same look of doubting interrogatory with which he had received Clarence’s name and parentage.
The boy for a moment regretted having spoken. But with his old doggedness he particularized his statement. Fortunately, being gifted with a keen perception, he was able to describe the stranger accurately, and to impart with his description that contempt for its subject which he had felt, and which to his frontier auditor established its truthfulness. Peyton turned abruptly away, but presently returned with Harry and another man.
“You are sure of this?” said Peyton, half-encouragingly.
“As sure as you are that your father is Colonel Brant and is dead?” said Harry, with a light laugh.
Tears sprang into the boy’s lowering eyes. “I don’t lie,” he said doggedly.
“I believe you, Clarence,” said Peyton quietly. “But why didn’t you say it before?”