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Of Those Who Seek
by [?]


The Capitol swarmed with people.

Groups of legislators tramped noisily along the corridors, laughing loudly, gesticulating with pointed fingers or closed fists.

Squads of ragged, wondering, and wistful-eyed negroes, splashed with orange-colored mud from the fields, moved timidly on from magnificence to magnificence, keeping close to each other, solemn and silent. When they spoke they whispered. Others from the city streets laughed loudly and swaggered along to show their contempt for the place and their knowledge of its public character; but their insolence was half assumed.

Lean and lank Southerners, with the imperial cut on their pale, brown whiskers, alternated with stalwart, slouch-hatted Westerners. Clean-shaven, pale clerks hurried to and fro; groups of sightseers infested every nook, and wore the look of those determined to see it all. They were accompanied often by one whose certainty of accent gave evidence of his fitness to be their guide. The sound of his voice proclaimed his judgments as he pushed his dazed wordless victims about.

In a group in the center of the checkered marble floor of the rotunda, a powerful Indian, dressed in semi-civilized fashion, was standing, looking wonderingly down into the upturned face of a little girl. The circle of bystanders silently studied both man and maid.

She was about eleven years of age and was tastefully dressed, and seemed a healthy child. Her face was solemn, sweet, and inquisitive. She held one half-opened hand in the air; with the other she touched the Indian’s dark, strongly molded cheek, and pressed his long hair which streamed from beneath his broad white hat.

No one smiled. She was deaf and dumb and blind.

In her raised rosy little palm, with lightning-swift motion, fluttered the hand of her teacher. By the teacher’s side stood an Indian interpreter, dressed in hunting shirt and broad hat.

“I am Umatilla,” said the chief, in answer to a question from the teacher. His deep voice was like the mutter of a lion; he stood with gentle dignity still looking wonderingly down into the girl’s sweet, solemn, and eager face.

A bystander said, “Poor child!” in a low, tremulous tone, followed by a sigh.

The little one’s hand, light, swift, and seeking, touched the Indian’s ringed ears and pressed again his long hair, while her teacher’s swift fingers said, “This strange man comes from a far-off land, from vast mountains and forests away toward the western sea. The wind and sun have made his face dark, and the long hair is a protection from the cold. He is a chief.”

Under her broad hat the child’s exquisite mouth, with its dimpled corners, remained calm but touchingly wistful. Her eyes were in shadow. Her chin was a perfect oval, delicately beautiful, like the curving lines of a peach, with the clear transparency of color of a flower’s chalice.

But the bystander said again, “Poor child!” as if a shudder of awe, of wordless compassion and bitterness, shook him.

She was so beautiful, so gifted in spirit, to be thus shut in! Her inclosing flesh was so fine and sweet, it seemed impossible it could be an impassable, almost impenetrable wall.

He thought: She will soon be a woman, with all the vague, unutterable longings and passions of the woman. Her lithe body will be as beautiful as her soul, and the warm oval of her face will flash and flame with her expanding, struggling life. Her caged soul will struggle for light and companionship, blindly, vainly.

Life to her must remain a cruel fragment. Light and color she may not miss; but wifehood, maternity, the touch of baby lips to her breast–these her soul will grope for in dumb maternal desire. She must inhabit her dark and soundless cavern alone.

Again she touched the chieftain’s hair and earrings, and let her hand drop down along his sleeve to his hard, brown hand. Then her hand fell to her side with a resigned action.