With only hotel room ceilings to confess to
after galas in Washington, his thoughts had often drifted to his Indian girl.
Nostalgia had given him the bite after he returned to St. Louis, accepted an
appointment to oversee Indian affairs in the new Louisiana Territory, and
married, setting up offices and a museum commemorating the Expedition in a
white frame house along the river.
So he'd written to Toussaint after three years,
bribing him to bring the mother and child, offering education for the boy and
"other considerations": $500.33 and 323 acres of land.
"I'm fulfilling a promise," Clark said.
"You made that promise in the woods, a world
away," Julia said.
Julia's eyelids fluttered when she was agitated.
You are so exotic, she thought as she
studied the "squaw" - her maid had gleefully whispered the
sobriquet - and looked down at her own pale, trembling hands. Beyond the
girl's vitality Julia sensed a formidable, cunning intelligence, something that
spoke of the genius of the woods. She closed her eyes for a moment, then
lowered her voice. "What will my family think?"All of St. Louis will
Julia suddenly felt dizzy. She'd met her first
cousin Clark when she was just twelve, and he thirty-three. "I'm going to marry
you on your fifteenth birthday," he'd vowed. But he'd been a year late and a
dollar short. And oh, now this mistress.
Julia had been the loveliest maid since her mother to lead the Virginia reel
back in Fincastle. She'd pictured her life spread before her as one perfect day
after another, with no upset to the schedule, but this change of scenery made
her head ache fit to bursting and made her strangely afraid. She allowed
herself to look for a second at the girl's dusky majesty. How
different are you from me, dark where I am fair, round where I am hollow. You
must be some sort of devil's familiar. Then
she took in the bare feet, was certain she detected a musk, and instinctively
raised her handkerchief to her nose.
She shot a glance at her husband. When we
married you were vigorous, a world celebrity.
Now, as Julia retreated to become a pale figure behind an upstairs window . . .
Clark installed his second family in a shack
barely eight feet in front of the chattel quarters, close enough that Baptiste
could hear the slaves sneezing.
That first January, Father Clark often came at
moonrise to visit. Baptiste was too sleepy to do much more than totter about
when the explorer tapped his feet and snapped his fingers to the sound of
Sacagawea's muyatainka, her little reed
whistle carved with the profile of a raven.
But as the hours of sunshine grew longer and
Sacagawea began to open her door to the spring air, Baptiste practiced some
steps in the shaft of light that fell on the crude floor. On May Day,
merrymakers spilled into the garden. Clark spied Baptiste watching from behind
"Aha!" Clark clapped his hands. "Come on out!"
With a studied grace, Baptiste bowed and strode
toward him as if he were gliding across a proscenium.
When the delighted crowd clapped, he started to
skip, then turned toward them and recited a short poem.
"Wonderful, Pomp!" Clark called to the boy, then
waved toward his friends. "And this distinguished company is, of course, the
circumstance!" The crowd laughed politely at his witticism.
"By your leave, sir!" Baptiste bowed again. The
attention warmed the boy all over, and as he departed he promised himself he'd
always please Father Clark and oblige his acquaintances.
But Sacagawea wasn't so pleased and quickly
pulled her son into the thorny bushes behind the woodpile. She squeezed his
she hissed. "Wise ass." Then she hugged him gently and clasped her hands over
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...