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A Dream Of The Woods
by [?]

Something came over Police Headquarters in the middle of the summer night. It was like the sighing of the north wind in the branches of the tall firs and in the reeds along lonely river-banks where the otter dips from the brink for its prey. The doorman, who yawned in the hall, and to whom reed-grown river banks have been strangers so long that he has forgotten they ever were, shivered and thought of pneumonia.

The Sergeant behind the desk shouted for some one to close the door; it was getting as cold as January. The little messenger boy on the lowest step of the oaken stairs nodded and dreamed in his sleep of Uncas and Chingachgook and the great woods. The cunning old beaver was there in his hut, and he heard the crack of Deerslayer’s rifle.

He knew all the time he was dreaming, sitting on the steps of Police Headquarters, and yet it was all as real to him as if he were there, with the Mingoes creeping up to him in ambush all about and reaching for his scalp.

While he slept, a light step had passed, and the moccasin of the woods left its trail in his dream. In with the gust through the Mulberry Street door had come a strange pair, an old woman and a bright-eyed child, led by a policeman, and had passed up to Matron Travers’s quarters on the top floor.

Strangely different, they were yet alike, both children of the woods. The woman was a squaw typical in looks and bearing, with the straight, black hair, dark skin, and stolid look of her race. She climbed the steps wearily, holding the child by the hand. The little one skipped eagerly, two steps at a time. There was the faintest tinge of brown in her plump cheeks, and a roguish smile in the corner of her eyes that made it a hardship not to take her up in one’s lap and hug her at sight. In her frock of red-and-white calico she was a fresh and charming picture, with all the grace of movement and the sweet shyness of a young fawn.

The policeman had found them sitting on a big trunk in the Grand Central Station, waiting patiently for something or somebody that didn’t come. When he had let them sit until he thought the child ought to be in bed, he took them into the police station in the depot, and there an effort was made to find out who and what they were. It was not an easy matter. Neither could speak English. They knew a few words of French, however, and between that and a note the old woman had in her pocket the general outline of the trouble was gathered. They were of the Canaghwaga tribe of Iroquois, domiciled in the St. Regis reservation across the Canadian border, and had come down to sell a trunkful of beads, and things worked with beads. Some one was to meet them, but had failed to come, and these two, to whom the trackless wilderness was as an open book, were lost in the city of ten thousand homes.

The matron made them understand by signs that two of the nine white beds in the nursery were for them, and they turned right in, humbly and silently thankful. The little girl had carried up with her, hugged very close under her arm, a doll that was a real ethnological study. It was a faithful rendering of the Indian pappoose, whittled out of a chunk of wood, with two staring glass beads for eyes, and strapped to a board the way Indian babies are, under a coverlet of very gaudy blue. It was a marvellous doll baby, and its nurse was mighty proud of it. She didn’t let it go when she went to bed. It slept with her, and got up to play with her as soon as the first ray of daylight peeped in over the tall roofs.