"I don't give a shit for your command. My honor is defined by my surroundings. I will take care of her, and Little Pomp."
"You're playing with fire." Lewis grabbed the shard of blue flint from Clark's hand and tossed it into the ashes. "And you're putting the whole mission at risk."
"Exactly how? She's the guide, not the one you hired. Charbonneau's been nothing but dead weight and another mouth to feed, or shall I say, quench. The men call him 'Long-Way-Round.'" The grizzled Frenchman was certainly capable of leading parties he was guiding for days in order to pad his expenses and save himself the trouble of being responsible for the safety of amateurs in difficult terrain.
"Charbonneau is as much her owner as her husband. The only reason the girl knows her way here is, she was captured and raped, and she brought us back the way she was dragged. What would your cousin think? You're supposed to be married in six months!"
"That's worlds away. It has nothing to do with Janey. You're so wrapped up in your calculations you can't even take in the scenery."
"You can be a real scut-hole sometimes, Clark."
"And you can be a real priss. Just because you're too disillusioned and wormy to sample a ripe fig."
"Oh, all in the interest of science, I'm sure. You know, your log entries have been pretty sketchy lately. Senator Pickering and the rest of the world will insist on a full accounting of everything we did, and Charbonneau could make trouble for us."
"Aw, history in the making. I'll take care of it. Charbonneau doesn't scare me."
Belching, Toussaint Charbonneau lurched out of the dark and clutched Clark's wrist as he stooped to flick the spearpoint from the ashes with the end of his knife. He rubbed the flint in the dirt with the toe of his boot, then picked it up and put it in his pocket. Though he understood precious little English, he had no trouble detecting scorn.
"You'd better take care of yourself," he growled, "'Da-Da' Clark." The trapper threw open the flap to the shelter and exposed his teeth to the shivering Baptiste. "Et tu, Bear Bait. You'd best remember where you came from."
- hold hands closed at left side near breast,
then drop them down and to rear, at the same time opening them as though
expelling some article.
Christmas Eve, 1809
Baptiste savored the scent of mulled cider as he edged nearer to the fireplace. He stamped his feet, cold and wet from the rain outside, until his mother grasped him to hold him still. Then the large white door opened.
"Isn't this a nice surprise, Julia!" Clark said to his wife as they entered the kitchen. By her expression it was obvious that the eighteen-year-old lady of the household wasn't so much surprised as horrified. Certainly she wasn't used to frequenting these quarters to receive guests. She clapped a hand over her mouth.
Breaking free and giggling, Baptiste ran to Father Clark and wrapped his arms around the lanky explorer's knees. Indoors, Clark resembled a stuffed condor. Candlelight magnified the shadows cast by his ears and nose.
"My little dancing river otter!" Clark exclaimed, wheeling him up and around so that for an instant the five-year-old was eye-to-eye with Julia.
"Look, maman, this lady's crying," Baptiste said in French.
"My compliments, Janey, welcome," Clark said softly.
"What did you say?" Julia sniffed and wiped her red eyes with a gauzy hanky.
Clark looked from Julia to Sacagawea. The nearer the Expedition had gotten to St. Louis during the closing days, the more distant he'd become. When his last chance to dispose of Sacagawea and Baptiste presented itself at the Mandan Villages, hundreds of miles upriver, he'd taken it and acted "like a gentleman," as Lewis recommended. Gentleman, hell.
Excerpted from Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent. Copyright © 2008 by Colin Sargent. Excerpted by permission of McBooks Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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