Wilderness Days

Free Wilderness Days by Jennifer L. Holm

Book: Wilderness Days by Jennifer L. Holm Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer L. Holm
governor has called for a meeting—a rendezvous, really—of all the tribes in this part of the territory. William will be escorting us to the rendezvous along with representatives of the tribe. Mr. Russell and I are going along to translate.”
    “When do you leave?”
    “Tomorrow morning.”
    So this was why Mr. Russell wanted me to learn how to milk Burton the cow.
    “Now my dear, it would be lovely if you could prepare a special supper since William is here.”
    “Mr. Swan, how can you even ask that?” I demanded. Cook supper for the lout who had dragged me west and married another woman?
    Mr. Swan was wringing his hands anxiously. “I know that this is very awkward, but William has the governor’s ear, and what he decides could influence the fate of our little community.”
    By which he meant that William could force Keer-ukso, and Sootie, and Chief Toke, and all the Chinook onto a reservation,and then where would we be? I thought of Sootie, and schooled myself. After all, it was just one meal.
    “Very well,” I mumbled.
    “Capital, capital,” Mr. Swan said, and started to walk away. He paused, turning. “I don’t suppose you’d make a pie?”
    I just glared at him.
    When William had lived with Papa and me at our house on Walnut Street, we had employed help to cook our supper and wait on us. In Mr. Russell’s cabin I had no help unless you considered Brandywine, although the only service he provided was eating whatever scraps fell to the floor.
    The men crowded around the sawbuck table: Mr. Swan, Mr. Russell, Chief Toke, Keer-ukso, Jehu, Father Joseph, and William. I had made up plates for the other two men in William’s party, and they were eating on the porch.
    Jehu’s attendance rather surprised me. I had not spoken with him for several days—not since our confrontation on the cliff—but he had showed up at the cabin with Keer-ukso and Chief Toke. And he seemed to be spending a great deal of time quietly studying William.
    The raucous sounds of eating punctuated by the occasional belch filled the cabin as the men dug into their biscuits and gravy. The fire flickered warmly and I took my own plate to the table, squeezing in next to Father Joseph and across from Jehu.
    William sat at the head of the table. “This is very good, Jane,” he said. “I didn’t know you could cook.”
    “There’s rather a lot you don’t know about me,” I said in a low voice.
    I expected him to snipe back at me but he merely laughed, a condescending sort of laugh. I bit my tongue and stared down at my plate. Under the table I felt a knee brush against mine, and I looked up to see Jehu’s stoic face.
    “So tell me, William, what are the governor’s intentions?” Mr. Swan asked, flecks of gravy in his beard.
    “I am recommending to the governor that the Indians in this part of the territory be placed on a reservation,” he said importantly. He didn’t seem to care that Chief Toke was sitting right in front of him.
    Mr. Swan struggled to finish chewing, and then, as if carefully choosing his words, said, “Well, William, I think you will find some opposition to that course of action.”
    “What do you mean, ‘opposition’?” William asked guardedly. His hair shone in the firelight like a golden flame. “From whom?”
    “From me, for a start,” Mr. Russell said. He looked appraisingly around the table. “I been here a sight longer than all of ya, and when I first got here I wouldn’t have survived without the Indians. And now we depend on ’em. Who do ya think cuts the wood, and helps with the oystering and such? Thar ain’t no point in moving ’em to a reservation. We won’t have any men.” He chewed a lump of tobacco and spit it on the floor. “’Sides, we ain’t got no troubles. We live fine together. Real peaceful. We get more trouble from the bears if ya ask me, always sneaking in and stealing our salmon.”
    Nervous laughter punctuated the silence.
    “Your position is rather unfortunately

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