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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

Two Pioneers

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Ninon tiptoed toward the priest with one finger coquettishly raised to insure secrecy.

"You will never believe it," she whispered, "no one would believe it! But the fact is, father, I have two lilies."

"Lilies," cried the priest, incredulously, "two lilies?"

"That's what I say, father -- two marvellously fair lilies with little sceptres of gold in them, and leaves as white as snow. The bulbs were brought me last autumn by --; that is to say, they were brought from St. Louis. Only now have they blossomed. Heavens, how I have watched the buds! I have said to myself every morning for a fortnight: 'Will they open in time for the good father's Easter morning service?' Then I said: 'They will open too soon. Buds,' I have cried to them, 'do not dare to open yet, or you will be horribly passée by Easter. Have the kindness, will you, to save yourselves for a great event.' And they did it; yes, father, you may not believe, but no later than this morning these sensible flowers opened up their leaves boldly, quite conscious that they were doing the right thing, and to-morrow, if you please, they will be here. And they will perfume the whole place; yes."

She stopped suddenly, and relaxed her vivacious expression for one of pain.

"You are certainly ill," cried the priest. "Rest yourself." He tried to push her on to one of the seats; but a sort of convulsive rigidity came over her, very alarming to look at.

"You are worn out," her companion said gravely. "And you are chilled."

"Yes, I'm cold," confessed Ninon. "But I had to come to tell you about the lilies. But, do you see, I never could bring myself to put them in this room as it is now. It would be too absurd to place them among this dirt. We must clean the place."

"The place will be cleaned. I will see to it. But as for you, go home and care for yourself." Ninon started toward the door with an uncertain step. Suddenly she came back.

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"It is too funny," she said, " that red calico there on the Virgin. Father, I have some laces which were my mother's, who was a good woman, and which have never been worn by me. They are all I have to remember France by and the days when I was -- different. If I might be permitted --" she hesitated and looked timidly at the priest.

"'She hath done what she could,'" murmured Father de Smet, softly. "Bring your laces, Ninon." He would have added: "Thy sins be forgiven thee." But unfortunately, at this moment, Pierre came lounging down the street, through the mud, fresh from Fort Laramie. His rifle was slung across his back, and a full game-bag revealed the fact that he had amused himself on his way. His curly and wind-bleached hair blew out in time-torn banners from the edge of his wide hat. His piercing, black eyes were those of a man who drinks deep, fights hard, and lives always in the open air. Wild animals have such eyes, only there is this difference: the viciousness of an animal is natural; at least one-half of the viciousness of man is artificial and devised.

When Ninon saw the frost-reddened face of this gallant of the plains, she gave a little cry of delight, and the color rushed back into her face. The trapper saw her, and gave a rude shout of welcome. The next moment, he had swung her clear of the chapel steps; and then the two went down the street together, Pierre pausing only long enough to doff his hat to the priest.

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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