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A Sweet-Grass Basket
by [?]

Nancy and Flora were going through the garden, stepping between the squash and tomato vines. Nancy’s mother stood in the kitchen door looking after them.

“Mind you don’t hit your clothes on the tomatoes!” she called out.

“No, we won’t,” they answered back. After they had passed the last bean pole they walked single file along the foot-path down the hill. The tall timothy-grass rustled up almost to their waists. Flora went first, with a light little tilt of her starched skirts. Nancy trudged briskly and sturdily after. Nancy’s old buff calico dress, which had been let down for her every spring since she was seven years old, and marked its age, like a tree, by rings of a brighter color where the old tucks had been, did not look very well beside Flora’s pretty new blue cambric. Neither did Nancy’s old Shaker bonnet show to advantage beside Flora’s hat, with its beautiful bows and streamers; but Nancy was not troubled about that. She cared very little what she wore, so long as she went somewhere. Flora always had nicer things, but she never minded. Flora was her cousin; she had come to live with her when her mother died, ten years before, and her father had considerable money. He lived in the city.

The two girls were nearly the same age, but Nancy was much the larger; she looked clumsy and overgrown following slender little Flora. It was like a dandelion in the wake of a violet. After they had reached the foot of the hill, they crossed some low meadow-land. It was quite wet, little dark pools glimmered between the clumps of rank grasses. Some fine pink orchid flowers were very thick, but they did not stop to pick any. They were going to see the Indians. Their eyes were fixed upon some white tents ahead. They had been there once before with Nancy’s father, but the same sensations of curiosity and exhilarating fear were upon them now.

“Nancy,” whispered Flora, fearfully.

“What say?”

Is that a–tomahawk in that tent door?”

“No; it’s a hoe,” returned Nancy, peering with anxious eyes.

Several Indian women and children were moving about; one Indian man was scraping some birch bark at a tent door. They did not pay any attention to the visitors.

Flora nudged Nancy. “Go along,” said she.

“No, you,” returned Nancy, pushing Flora.

“I don’t dare to.”

They stood hesitating. Finally Nancy gave her head a jerk. “I don’t care; I’m going, if you ain’t,” said she, and forward she went. Flora followed.

The tents were arranged like houses on a street, with the open doors fronting each other. In each tent was a counter loaded with baskets and little birch-bark canoes, and an Indian woman sat behind it to sell them.

The girls went from one tent to another and stared about them. Besides the baskets and canoes, there were sea-gulls’ wings and little fur slippers and pouches. They saw everything. The Indian women offered to sell, but they shook their heads shyly and soberly.

Finally they went into the tent where the Princess kept store. She was a large stout woman and a real Indian Princess. Under the counter a little Indian baby, fast asleep, was swinging in a tiny hammock. Nancy and Flora nudged each other and eyed it with awe. But it was on the Princess’s counter that they saw the sweet-grass basket. They both looked at it, then at each other. It was made of sweet-grass, it was oblong, and had a cover and long handles.

Finally Flora pointed one slim little finger at it. “How much does that cost?” she asked the Princess.

“Fifty cent,” replied the Princess.

Nancy had just eight cents at home. Flora had nothing at all. Her father sent her money every month, and the last instalment was all spent. Neither of them could buy the basket, and fifty cents sounded enormous, but their faces were quite dignified and immovable. It might have been the echo of their strange surroundings, but they acted as if they had Indian blood themselves.