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In The Carquinez Woods Bret Harte

Chapter VIII

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"I reckon he's neither worse nor better for that," she replied bitterly; "and perhaps he wasn't as particular in his taste as a white man might have been. But," she added, with a sudden spasm of her old rage, "it's a lie; he's NOT an Indian, no more than I am. Not unless being born of a mother who scarcely knew him, of a father who never even saw him, and being brought up among white men and wild beasts--less cruel than they were--could make him one!"

Dunn looked at her in surprise not unmixed with admiration. "If Nellie," he thought, "could but love ME like that!" But he only said:

"For all that, he's an Injin. Why, look at his name. It ain't Low. It's L'Eau Dormante, Sleeping Water, an Injin name."

"And what does that prove?" returned Teresa. "Only that Indians clap a nick-name on any stranger, white or red, who may camp with them. Why, even his own father, a white man, the wretch who begot him and abandoned him,--HE had an Indian name--Loup Noir."

"What name did you say?"

"Le Loup Noir, the Black Wolf. I suppose you'd call him an Indian, too? Eh! What's the matter? We're walking too fast. Stop a moment and rest. There--there, lean on me!"

She was none too soon; for, after holding him upright a moment, his limbs failed, and stooping gently she was obliged to support him half reclining against a tree.

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"Its the heat!" he said. "Give me some whisky from my flask. Never mind the water," he added faintly, with a forced laugh, after he had taken a draught at the strong spirit. "Tell me more about the other water--the Sleeping Water--you know. How do you know all this about him and his--father?"

"Partly from him and partly from Curson, who wrote to me about him," she answered with some hesitation.

But Dunn did not seem to notice this incongruity of correspondence with a former lover. "And HE told you?"

"Yes; and I saw the name on an old memorandum book he has, which he says belonged to his father. It's full of old accounts of some trading post on the frontier. It's been missing for a day or two, but it will turn up. But I can swear I saw it."

Dunn attempted to rise to his feet. "Put your hand in my pocket," he said in a hurried whisper. "No, there!--bring out a book. There, I haven't looked at it yet. Is that it?" he added, handing her the book Brace had given him a few hours before.

"Yes," said Teresa, in surprise. "Where did you find it?"

"Never mind! Now let me see it, quick. Open it, for my sight is failing. There--thank you--that's all!"

"Take more whisky," said Teresa, with a strange anxiety creeping over her. "You are faint again."

"Wait! Listen, Teresa--lower--put your ear lower. Listen! I came near killing that chap Low to-day. Wouldn't it have been ridiculous?"

He tried to smile, but his head fell back. He had fainted.

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In The Carquinez Woods
Bret Harte

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