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Page 13

"Who's taking you to the dance tonight?" Narcisse asked Lizzie in his off handed way.

"Who else but you, Narcisse Pensoneau. Who would dare ask me after you tell everyone that I am your girl." Lizzie pretended to be upset with him.

"You are my girl, Lizzie Little Cook. YOU are my girl, and you know how seriously I feel about you."

"Before long, you will be bringing up marriage again." Lizzie glanced sideways to see his reaction.

"And is there something wrong with marriage? Narcisse smiled.

Now that she herself had brought the old subject out into the open Lizzie would not say another word. She felt too unsure about making a decision just yet. There was a need to think more about whether she really wanted to go that far with their relationship. Narcisse was so much fun. He was always happy it seemed. He had a quick wit and a "devil may care” attitude. This was not always true of the men of her own tribe. The tribe had fewer numbers and there were less choices, too.

One was not allowed to marry into their own clan and that narrowed the possibilities down also.  She knew Narcisse could  please her family. The girls choice was to be centered on their mates good physical condition. His good looks, physical strength and coordination as to mastering athletic skills was important.  They felt that if one was physically alert and strong then so would be their mind. Narcisse qualified for this.

With the short jog across the campus and his perspiring Narcisses's hair covered his head with dark waves and curls. Not only was he handsome but he really loved life and living. This was obvious in his happy outlook and countenance. Lizzie loved him for that.

Narcisse walked Lizzie up the long stairs to the dormitory where she lived and worked. That evening he had been her escort to the evening social. They said their goodnight under the watchful surveillance of the matron in charge.

When Lizzie spied her friend waiting for her in the lobby she rushed to her. The girls were anxious to visit with each other about the events of the evening. They walked together down the long wide corridor toward Lizzie's room. Some of the students they passed in the hallway dutifully spoke to "Miss Little Cook" as their matron, even though she was in reality not much older than they were. She certainly felt as much of a girl as they were.

She choose the correct key from her large set of keys to the many different doors of the dormitory. There were the linen closets, offices, supply rooms, library study room, ironing room, laundry room, exit doors. All the doors were kept locked at all times but at various times during the day they would not be. For example the ironing room was locked during the study hour at night for the obvious reason. Study hour was for study not ironing.

With the keys she now opened the door to her own apartment. This was a luxury enjoyed by the staff. The girls slipped quickly from the hallway to the quiet orderly privacy of her own apartment. This was her own space and she knew when the time came it would be hard for her to leave it. The apartment was well furnished with what was expensive maple furniture. She enjoyed the highly polished pieces with a drop down leaf for a desk probably the most. The apartment setting inside the massive castle like building had a feeling of security about it.

She knew she didn't own it but somehow the place gave one the feeling that it belonged to each individual.

Lizzie stepped quickly to the wide, elegantly tall, window where she knew she could watch Narcisse walk across the campus. She wondered if for all the rest of her life she would feel this awareness of his presence. Somehow, even before he made his appearance before her she knew he was there. As she was thinking she turned back to the company of her friend.

"Do you know that Narcisse wants me to marry him?"  She had meant to surprise her friend.

Instead, quiet acceptance met her announcement. "I really am not surprised." Her friend replied. "He devotes all his time to you. I never see him even mildly interested in anyone else.”

"I know, and I am not surprised either. I think there is something very special between us, almost another world separate and apart from this one. Maybe it is like the world that exists along side our own. The one our folks used to talk about, which can only be seen on special occasions by certain people. The worlds that would strangely disappear never to be seen again.”

Lizzie's friend nervously looked toward the door, now left open. It had a screen door along with the outer door opening to the hallway Lizzie kept latched while leaving the big door open. "You know we aren't supposed to be talking about those things here, Lizzie. If someone were to hear you?”

"Somehow, that doesn't worry me so much, anymore. I really am beginning to think my time here is going to be short anyway.”

"You mean you are considering marrying Narcisse?"

Lizzie quietly thought the question through before she answered. "I think the time has come when I need to be returning home. My father is gone now and there is much responsibility he left for me. My parents wanted me educated in order that I might be a go between for them and the white agents. That need is even more demanding now than ever. My sisters all have families and they need someone to be able to communicate for them. It is the language they need the most. They are more comfortable with their own language and they speak this at home with the children. The white man's language is not for them. I want to be home where I can help them. How can I think just about myself now, and not go on with what my father wanted me to do? Father once told me I was like a bowstring, and now, I know what he meant. What good is a weapon if part of it is missing?  Father wanted his arrows aimed far into the future. It would be necessary to take care of paper work for our family to hold our land. Someone must be able to be right there with the agents, to see they are doing the best thing for us. Already, they have put many heirs into our land that do not belong there. People that have no right to inherit our land have done so, breaking it up for the descendants. We lost our great lands in the north now it looks like we will have to struggle to hold even these small parcels of land they traded us.

This friend of Lizzie's understood. Her own tribe faced the same inevitability. It did not seem unnatural for the young girls to be discussing these weighty matters before their own family was even started. Even though Lizzie did not wear the visible mark on her forehead, that of a chief's daughter, the invisible mark was there and it was surfacing itself now. This was the chief's blood, one of sacrifice and loving concern for her own.”

Lizzie stepped again to the open window and looked out over the campus she had grown to love. Everything here was peace and order. This was a Utopia, another world separate from that other world where she had grown up as a child close to the reservation. That place seemed to be a war zone, a cold war, but nevertheless, a war. It was not a bloody war but there was an uneasy peace. The continued existence of her tribe would depend on how skillfully its leaders would direct the people from an angry resentment of having given up their land in the north. The loss of life of their loved ones in great numbers left their people sad. Trained as their way held them to peace there still was a resentment toward the fact that many of the tribe was intermingling with the white race through marriage.

Lizzie was a little worried. "I don't know how I will be able to marry out of my own tribe. This is going to be a completely different thing for me to face." The young woman was again quietly thoughtful. Narcisse was of the Shawnee tribe. The Shawnees were a gregarious people. They traded easily and mixed in with the whites and the French traders. Narcisse's name, "Pensoneau," testified to the fact that he had a French grandfather, Pasquel Pensoneau, who could trace his ancestry to the depths of French civilization.

"Narcisse is so unlike anyone in my own tribe. Our men were farmers, and hunters. Our families have not mixed with the other races and they are very close to their old ways." Lizzie was voicing an admiration for Narcisse in that he was not in awe of the white men and their ways. He seemed to easily fit into their lifestyle. He boldly talked their talk. Laughingly, he enjoyed being able to do so. Lizzie wouldn't be able to do this until she  was older. There too, was the way Narcisse easily dealt with people, even coming out to the advantage in his trading. He often stood quietly not missing an opportunity to work at getting the better of a bargain. Lizzie never stopped being fascinated with this part of his personality. He brought her a security in this way and she enjoyed their life together. Later years proved she could deal with both massive decisions and small things, also.

"What are you going to wear to the dance tonight?" She was mentally brought back to the interior of her pleasant apartment by her friends voice.

Lizzie stepped over to the mirror standing on her dresser. The reflection  showed a dark girl with the strong bone structure of her race. Her make-up consisted mostly of only face powder to dull the glossiness of her skin with a resulted matte finish to her complexion. Her skin was fresh and aglow with the health and beauty of youth. She had puffed her hair into the Gibson girl style of the day. The young woman was wearing a high collared lace top which was buttoned at the back of her neck. The full sleeved blouse again buttoned tightly at her wrist. Her skirt was floor length and was fitted close around her waist.

"I don't know for sure, but I think I had better get started looking for something to wear for tonight." Lizzie told her friend.

Tonight the people of her clan, the He-Sah-Dah, rainmakers, straight paths, were to  be forgotten as she whirled and swayed to the lovely waltzes in the company of her soon to be husband.

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