"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 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.