Pages

Monday, May 9, 2016

NEST
 
Chapter Eight
 
 
 
 
Nest noticed John Walker was spending much time with her little brother.  It was usually the mother's uncle who taught the young boys.  He had stepped in to fill the gap.  John helped him practice with a bow.  He taught him to the way to make arrowheads, finding the best stones.   They fished in the rive together, often bringing fresh catch for dinner.  He showed him how to use the buckeye pulp, crushed plant, to stun the fish so that they would float to the surface.  John hardly looked at Nest, except slyly, except when Joseph Sevier was leaving.  Nest did not like the look in John's eyes, almost of hate.  She would ask her brother why his friend did not like Treaty-Maker's son.  Did John have hate in his heart towards the whites like Dragging Canoe?  Nest did not want her brother to be around braves like that.
 
That evening she demanded to know, "What is John Walker teaching you?  Why does he look with hate upon our friend Joseph?  Does he want to join the likes of the Raven or Doublehead?
 
 
At first her little brother crossed his arms and glared.  Then he said, "He is not like that.  He spends much time with father and me.  I don't think he likes the time Joseph spends with you."
 
"What do you mean?  What's wrong with Joseph?  I thought you liked him."
 
"I like his dogs.  At least they are friendly towards me.  Besides, Walker says Joseph is old enough to be your father.  He does not like him bringing you flowers.  I heard him tell Da so."
 
"That half-breed needs to mind his own business."
 
Nest's brother jumped up with anger simmering in his eyes and his hands formed into fists.
 
"Who are you calling a half breed?"
 
She turned around to find John Walker standing behind her.
 
Nest was speechless, still angry, but she bit her tongue. 
 
"Nancy's mother was from England, but her father was one of our chiefs.  Do you call her half-breed too?  Your brother's father is a trader just like my father.  Do you call your brother a half-breed?"
 
Nest hung her head.  His words stung her heart. "I am sorry.  Your words are arrow in my heart because you speak truth."  Nest tried to think what her mother would say.  Then she lifted her head and looked at his long black hair and dark piercing eyes which were still on fire. "I was afraid you were leading my brother in the way of the Cherokee who have left their clans to fight the white men.  I saw the way you looked at Joseph Sevier, and it caused me fear.  I know you are a warrior who has killed the whites."
 
"And Joseph has killed the Cherokee.  I do not choose to kill the son of the governor now, but that does not mean I trust him/ And yes, I do not like he way his eyes watch you.  He is too old a man for you.  Besides, he has another wife and children.  Let him use his eyes to find them.'
 
Nest glared back at Walker angrily defensive.  "I trust my father, and the Seviers are friends of his, just as they are the Beloved Woman's friends.  Be careful who you look at with hate.  Besides, Joseph would tell me if he were still married.  Maybe his wife put his belongings outside his home.  So, if he wants to bring me flowers, I will let him."
 
"I bring you fish.  You can eat fish, but you will throw the flowers away.  I leave you the flowers still blooming on the river bank for you.  I not only bring you fish, but teach your brother how to fish and to be a good hunter.  Does Sevier even notice you have a brother?"
 
Nest knew he had hit a weak spot.  She loved her brother with a fierceness of a mama grizzly.  She tried to change her tone then.  "I have seen you take my brother often under your wing, and I thank you.  If you truly have anything against my friends, tell it to my father."
 
Nest realized that for the first tine she was calling the trapper her "father."
 
Nest shadowed Nancy the next day as soon as her brother was willing to loose sight of her.  He had missed her and almost clung to her fringe like when he was little.  Was she doing the same with Nancy?  She had questions that she could not put into words, not even with the Beloved Woman.  As they worked in the garden, Nancy finally put her basket down, and patted the ground beside her in the shade.  After they shared the water gourd, they talked.
 
"Tell me about your time with the Seviers.  Has it stirred up a hornet's nest in your heart?"
 
"Yes.  The worst sting is to realize that he probably led the raid that killed my mother.  How could I have enjoyed being in their home.  I feel guilty."  Tears streamed down the girl's cheeks.
 
"Many of my people have been killed in his raids as well.  Terrible acts have been done on both sides, scalping, and things to horrible to tell you.  Our people have killed hundred, a few at a time since the last treaty.  First our warriors gathered by the hundreds, even the thousands, then Sevier and others called up an army to beat them back.  The young men do not know how to gain honor if they do not show acts of bravery.  Others seek revenge.  Many of Treaty-maker's family were murdered by Doublehead, over the last few years, Valentines first four sons, then one of his daughters, a son-in-law, and grandchildren.  Dragging Canoe is dead, but the Chickamaugas are still on the war path."
 
"I am War Woman, but my purpose now is to keep from shedding of blood.  I seek peace which I cannot hope to have if we revenge the blood that has already been spilt.  I want the Cherokee to survive.  My father and uncle have been in the big cities along the coast and to London and have told me of the unending number of white men who can come to our land.  I hope John Sevier will lose his taste for battle a well and only serve in his government to bring change.  War is for the young.  We aged ones want peace.  Now my people call him Treaty-Man.
 
"I don't know if I can make peace in my heart.  Ruth is my friend, but I don't think I can ever forgive her father.  I will always her his war cry in my head."
 
"Because we cannot forget, does not mean we cannot forgive.  You are not hurting him, only yourself.  Your people survived by seeking peace.  I know many people in my tribe are consumed by their anger.  I choose not to keep drinking from a bitter cup."
 
"Did your mother Lucy teach you from the holy book?"  Nest changed the subject.
 
"Yes.  It is why she came to the Cherokee and married my father.  It was the most important thing she wanted to teach me before she died."
 
"It is the same book that my people reverenced.  I know some of its truths, but did not know of the son of God's murder.  Why did God let that happen?"
 
"He never sinned, but allowed Himself to be nailed to a stake to take our sin upon Himself."
 
"Was He burned at the stake?  I have been told how you saved a white woman from being burned at the stake.  Why did not God save him?  Is He not as kind as you?"
 
"He was not burned, but was allowed to hang and die a slow, tortured death."  She crossed her fingers to show the cross.  "It was a plan God had to revenge our sin.  We all have sin that needs to be punished.  His Son was offered as a prisoner of sacrifice so we can have peace with God."
 
"I must think about that.  I don't know what I think of a God who allowed his son to die."
 
"Your mother saved your life."
 
Tears welled up in Nest's eyes. "Yes, Beloved Woman, I understand what you are saying.  Thank you."
 
"Nest,"
 
"Yes?"
 
"Tell me about Joseph Sevier.  Is he in your heart like Ruth or is he like his father John?
 
Nest's cheeks flamed.  "That is what I am trying to sort out.  You have told me I can trust the trapper, and I am beginning to.  Now, Joseph Sevier?  What is in my head is not in my heart yet.  I don't know what to think about Ruth's brother.  He has been kind to me, but John Walker says Joseph too has killed Indians.  Would he have shot my me or my brother?
 
"Only you can answer that.  A woman must be able to put her trust in her husband if he is to have her heart.  You will have to know if his kindness is to win you over, or if it is truly there."
 
"You have known him longer than I have.  What do you see?"
 
"I see a man who is not like his father.  He has a broken spirit.  He has been broken by life and by love, like us.  He sees life through those eyes.  He is not a pup.  He is like his faithful dogs that follow him around."
 
"Do you think he sees me as more than a little sister?"
 
Nancy chuckled.  "He sees you as the beautiful young woman you are.  The father wanted you to come to his home, not only to keep Ruth happy, but to see what you are made of because of his son's interest.
 
"Did he tell you so?"
 
"Yes.  That is why I gave my permission for you to go."
 
"Does the trapper know?"
 
"Yes, I have spoken with him."
 
"Nest pondered these things in her racing heart.  Finally she asked, "Do you really think the Indian-killing father would welcome an Indian into his family."
 
"I think it pleases him that you are a Welsh Indian from the people over the Great Water."
 
"Does John Walker know?  Sometimes I have seen hate in his eyes."
 
"John Walker has asked the trapper for your hand as well.  He is jealous.  So of course, he will not have good things to say about Joseph Sevier.  John is a good man.  His mother is my daughter from my first husband Kingfisher.  His father, though Scottish, is a respected leader in our village.  John will be too someday."
 
"Why did the trapper not make a marriage arrangement for me with the tribe?  Does he not like John Walker?"
 
"He was not in a hurry to see you married.  He thought you wee too young.  However, now Joseph is pressing his case.  He is an important man because his father is governor.  You will have to know your heart."
 
"Why did Joseph's wife leave him?  Did he beat her?  I can't imagine that.  He seems like a gentle man."
 
"I do not know.  His father doe snot speak of family matters in our council.  You will have to ask Joseph yourself, that is, if you really want to hear the answer."
 
"Why did your trader leave you and go back to his white family?  Did you put him out of your lodge, divorce him?"

"No, sometimes it takes people awhile to find out where they belong, to the world of whites or with the tribes.  Sometimes men want both.  I told him to choose.  He chose to go back to the white world."

"I wish my mother were here.  Then she would give me council like you.  Then perhaps I would know what to do."

"When a girl becomes a woman, she must know her own heart.  No one can tell you what is in it but you.  There is One who can guide you.  You can pray to Him."

"Thank you, Beloved Woman.  I will take all your words and pray as you say."

When Nest returned to her fire, John Walker and her brother were there making arrows.  John hardly looked up while her brother danced around her showing off his handiwork.  When John did glance up again, Nest's eyes were studying him.  He did not look away, but kept his feelings behind a mask.  The young woman noticed that the hate was gone from his dark eyes.  His features were fine like his father's, but his hair was raven and long with one braid woven  with a feather.  He was easy to look at, tall and straight.  As he looked up, Nest found bravery to hold onto his eyes trying to look down deep into his soul.  Then her brother demanded her attention with his bragging.

"Come, little one.  Let us go to the river to catch a fish for your sister's fire tonight.  I think she has seen enough of your arrows."  John walked away knowing the pup would follow.

Nest took a deep breath.  If Joseph asked her to be his wife, would she leave her tribe, her brother, to go to the white man's world?  Or would she be happier with someone like John Walker who shared her village life and cared for her little brother?  Nest knew she must find out who she was as a Welsh Indian Mandan, daughter of a trapper, in the Wolf Clan of the Cherokee.  If she married Joseph, would he desert her like Nancy's trade husband had?

That week Nest's eyes were open to the people around her as she moved about the village.  She saw the looks of admiration from the other girls her age when John Walker walked by.  Nest saw the respect the other braves held for him.  He little brother was not the only young boy who followed him around pestering him for attention.  Nest saw how kind he was to his mother.  She saw his father, much like her father, accepted and liked by all, though obviously a white man.

Occasionally, John caught her eyes following him, and could not disguise a look of pleasure.  Nest found that irritating and would look away scowling.  Now, she was finding a present of berries left by the teepee door in the early morning when she rose.  Another time it was a delicate butterfly wing on a leaf, or once a beautiful feather from a woodpecker.  There was even a cowslip blossom placed carefully where it would be noticed.  Nest smiled thinking of one less flower blooming on the river bank.

One night Nest could not sleep and rose quietly.  She walked the path to the river in the moonlight.  She plucked the petals off a wild rose after smelling deeply of its fragrance.  Suddenly, Nest heard footsteps and reached for her dagger she still sore strapped to her thigh.  A hand went over her mouth muffling her scream.  She bit hard and it was the intruder who yelled and let go.  She had risen with the dagger raised to find herself face to face with John Walker.

He laughed.  "Don't stab me, War Woman!  The bite was painful enough."

Nest lowered the weapon and took his head to examine the damage she had done.  She looked up to realize how close he had come.  She wasn't expecting the kiss or the gentleness of his hands on her shoulders.  He was looking at her with a sly smile when she opened her eyes.

"I'm a good tracker, but your signs are hard to follow.  You puzzle me Nest.  Your eyes find me, but look unhappy when I catch you.  You pull a knife, yet you are sweet to kiss."  He stroked her curls with laughing eyes.

Nest was trembling from either the coursing fear when he had surprised her or with anger or the kiss.  She did not know herself.  He was playing with her as a dog with a cornered chipmunk.

He took the dagger from her hand and whistled.  "This is not Cherokee.  It is an ancient one.  Where did you get this, Little Owl?"

"It is from my people, the Welsh.  I found it at the Lookout Mountain at the falls."

"It is beautiful, a real gift from the ancients to you.  It is a sign that you are a keeper of your people's story."

Nest caught her breath at the import of his words.  No one had ever spoken like that to her.  It was as if he knew what was in her heart concerning her people.

"Thank you."

"Thank you for what?  I am thankful you did not pierce my heart with it.  I believe you would have if you had not seen it was me.  I will never tease War Woman again," he said half seriously, half laughing.

"What is this creature?  Does it live in the land across the Great Waters?"  He examined the engraving on the silver hilt.

"Nest pondered.  "I don't know if it still lives there now.  It is called a dragon, a symbol of Wales.  I suppose it must have lived there at one time since it is figured in the representation of my people.  I remember other things in my childhood with the dragon design.  Some of the elders had shields and helmets from the ancients."

He handed it back to her and she lifted her skirt to slip it back into its lacings.  His eyes were hungry for her when she looked up.  When he tried to kiss her again, she turned her head.  He dropped his hands with fire in his eyes.

"You are a wild one to break, Nest.  I am patient though.  Maybe you should go back to your teepee.  The next brave you meet in the dark might not be as patient as I am."

He left as quietly as he had come.






 
 
 
 



No comments:

Post a Comment