“Well, Nickie,” his father said, “was it a good day?”
“I had a swell time, Dad. It was a swell Fourth of July.”
“Are you hungry?”
“What did you do with your shoes?”
“I left them in the wagon at Garner’s.”
“Come on out to the kitchen.”
Nick’s father went ahead with the lamp. He stopped and lifted the lid of the icebox. Nick went on into the kitchen. His father brought in a piece of cold chicken on a plate and a pitcher of milk and put them on the table before Nick. He put down the lamp.
“There’s some pie, too,” he said. “Will that hold you?”
His father sat down in a chair beside the oilcloth-covered table. He made a big shadow on the kitchen wall.
“Who won the ball game?”
“Petoskey. Five to three.”
His father sat watching him eat and filled his glass from the milk pitcher. Nick drank and wiped his mouth on his napkin. His father reached over to the shelf for the pie. He cut Nick a big piece. It was huckleberry pie.
“What did you do, Dad?”
“I went out fishing in the morning.”
“What did you get?”
His father sat watching Nick eat the pie.
“What did you do this afternoon?” Nick asked.
“I went for a walk up by the Indian camp.”
“Did you see anybody?”
“The Indians were all in town getting drunk.”
“Didn’t you see anybody at all?”
“I saw your friend, Prudie.”
“Where was she?”
“She was in the “woods with Frank Washburn. I ran onto them. They were having quite a time.”
His father was not looking at him.
“What were they doing?”
“I didn’t stay to find out.”
“Tell me what they were doing.”
“I don’t know,” his father said. “I just heard them threshing around.”
“How did you know it was them?”
“I saw them.”
“I thought you said you didn’t see them.”
“Oh, yes, I saw them.”
“Who was it with her?” Nick asked.
“Were they—were they—”
“Were they what?”
“Were they happy?”
“I guess so.”
His father got up from the table and went out the kitchen screen door. When he came back Nick was looking at his plate. He had been crying.
“Have some more?” His father picked up the knife to cut the pie.
“No,” said Nick.
“You better have another piece.”
“No, I don’t want any.”
His father cleared off the table.
“Where were they in the woods?” Nick asked.
“Up back of the camp.” Nick looked at his plate. His father said, “You better go to bed, Nick.”
Nick went into his room, undressed, and got into bed. He heard his father moving around in the living room. Nick lay in the bed with his face in the pillow.
“My heart’s broken,” he thought. “If I feel this way my heart must be broken.”
After a while he heard his father blow out the lamp and go into his own room. He heard a wind come up in the trees outside and felt it come in cool through the screen. He lay for a long time with his face in the pillow, and after a while he forgot to think about Prudence and finally he went to sleep. When he awoke in the night he heard the wind in the hemlock trees outside the cottage and the waves of the lake coming in on the shore, and he went back to sleep. In the morning there was a big wind blowing and the waves were running high up on the beach and he was awake a long time before he remembered that his heart was broken.
The Indians Moved Away
The Petoskey road ran straight uphill from Grandpa Bacon’s farm. His farm was at the end of the road. It always seemed, though, that the road started at his farm and ran to Petoskey, going along the edge of the trees up the long hill, steep and sandy, to disappear into the woods where the long slope of fields stopped short against the hardwood timber.
After the road went into the woods it was cool and the sand firm underfoot from the moisture. It went up and down hills through the woods with berry bushes and beech saplings on either side that had to be periodically cut back to keep them from effacing the road altogether. In the summer the Indians picked the berries along the road and brought them down to the cottage to sell them, packed in the buckets, wild red raspberries crushing with their own weight, covered with basswood leaves to keep them cool; later blackberries, firm and fresh shining, pails of them. The Indians brought them, coming through the woods to the cottage by the lake. You never heard them come but there they were, standing by the kitchen door with the tin buckets full of berries. Sometimes Nick, lying reading in the hammock, smelt the Indians coming through the gate past the woodpile and around the house. Indians all smelled alike. It was a sweetish smell that all Indians had. He had smelled it first when Grandpa Bacon rented the shack by the point to Indians and after they had left he went inside the shack and it all smelled that way. Grandpa Bacon could never rent the shack to white people after that and no more Indians rented it because the Indian who had lived there had gone into Petoskey to get drunk on the Fourth of July and, coming back, had lain down to go to sleep on the Pere Marquette railway trades and been run over by the midnight train. He was a very tall Indian and had made Nick an ash canoe paddle. He had lived alone in the shack and drank pain killer and walked through the woods alone at night. Many Indians were that way.