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Tahan
Chapter III My Foster-Parents


MY foster father and mother were real comrades and in the higher sense, I believe, loved each other.

They two went to visit the Navajos one summer, leaving us children in the care of a friend. They were gone so long we thought never to see them again. But at last, when the leaves—the messages from Those Above—began to flutter down to us, they came back with a wonderful story to tell:

A company of soldiers chased them into the mountains. They had a great fight. Father killed a number of the pursuers before he got away—with four shot-wounds in his body. He and Mother took refuge among the rocks.

Again and again the enemy surrounded them. From hiding-place to hiding-place they crept till Father fell from loss of blood. Then Mother hid him and left him. The soldiers brushed against his covert But like the doe leading the hounds from the hiding-place of her young, she lured them away. First here, then there—always the mountain-gorge between, she showed herself to the enemy till darkness fell. Then back to her helpless mate she made her way. Night did not hide from her the trail she meant to follow.

She carried Father on her back down into a deep canyon to living water. She dressed his wounds with healing herbs, and cared for him untiring all through the summer. For food she picked berries and snared rabbits, and once she killed a deer.

As we children sat in the fireshine of the crackling sticks in the long winter evenings, Mother often repeated the story. She would tell how Father had sent his bullets straight and the soldiers had fallen; how after his first wound he had stoutly declared that in spite of it, he would still defeat the enemy; how she had begged to help him away and how he had fought on, until he had counted another and yet another bullet in his breast; how, when he had fallen back exhausted from loss of blood, and she had thought him dead, he had opened his eyes and smiled the message he could not speak—encouragement.

Then Father’s voice would carry on the story. We would hear of Mother’s ingenuity and heroic exertions in saving him, until with Father we knew that Mother was the greatest woman in the world.


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