Short Stories » Adela and Minnie
Adela and Minnie
AMONG the playmates of my childhood was an Indian girl about twelve years of age. After the Latter- day Saints had left our town, and we could not yet go with them, there were few Mormon children remaining, and our parents did not care to mingle with those who despised our people and our faith. Upon our farm, as was the custom in Southern California, several Indians were employed, and Adela was a daughter of one of the women who did washing and sewing for the white people. Adela's great grandfather and uncle also lived upon our farm, at a convenient distance from the house. Adela went to school with us when she wished, and learned all our songs, also how to crochet lace and make doll clothing. Adela could skip rope the longest, swing the highest, play ball the best, and taught us very pretty games of playing ball. One was like this : As many as chose could form a circle, standing a rod or so apart, and throw the ball to the next. As the circle was very large if the number of girls was seven or eight, and each girl had a ball to throw with one hand and catch another from the next playmate, you can see how pretty it would look, a perfect string of balls flying around the circle all the time. It required a watchful eye and skillful hands to keep the game going without a break, and it was the stillest game of ball I ever knew, while in progress ; but if a 'catcher missed, it was noisy enough till we got started again.
Then Adela could roll hoop the prettiest, always coming out ahead at the end of the lane; climb the highest for a peep into a bird's nest, and dive into deep water where we were almost afraid to look at her. In our bow and arrow practice she could strike the mark oftener than we could, and would send her arrows one after the other like shooting stars, till her quiver was empty.
How many a day of innocent and healthful games and pleasures we had together. 'I do not remember that we ever had a misunderstanding in all our days together.
Adela would come early in the morning and sometimes stay till after prayer-time. If I had work or sewing to do first, she helped me. Always gentle and obliging, never rude or obtrusive, Adela was a pattern to many white girls. When her people went into the mountains, and brought back nice things, Adela al- ways brought us some, as though we were one of the family. Adela was very pretty, and her voice was as sweet as one ever heard.
We used to coax her to sing Indian songs to us and then tell us their meaning. When Adela was older, she went with her friends on a picnic in the mountains, and while away took sick and died. I sorrowed long after my gentle mate, and can never forget her tender face, graceful form and sweet voice. As Latter-day Saints, we have a knowledge of the history of the Indian races, and look forward to their occupying a more exalted condition. How happy a time that will be, for many of them are worthy, their hearts as loving and sometimes more faithful than ours.
Let me tell you about Minnie, an Indian babe. Her mother was a relative of Adela's, perhaps a cousin. The parents of Minnie worked on our farm for seven years. Lisifa, the mother, was of the Cabezon tribe, of California, and Pete, the father, was from the Muddy River tribe, in Nevada.
Once, when I was away from home, my mother wrote that Lisifa had a little girl, and desired me to send it a name. I was in Salt Lake City, and replied that I would soon start home, but if the name suited them, call her Minnie.
You see I thought that would be easy for them to speak and remember. Well, on my return I found she was a dear little thing, and soon took great interest in her. Her parents had moved into an adobe storehouse of ours, and her mother was a good house-keeper and seamstress and kept her baby more comfortably clothed than many richer babies I know of. Every morning before breakfast Minnie was ready in clean, fresh clothing for anyone to take her, and soon learned to watch for me and hold out her pretty hands. By regular bathing in water in which some fragrant herb had been steeped, Minnie's complexion was much fairer than might have been expected. Her hair shone like black satin, and her eyes were soft and black like a deer's. She used to sit on my lap while I sewed on the machine, and was very cautious not to touch anything, but would watch the movements with great interest. Minnie liked the movement of the treadle and would kick vigorously during a pause for the treadle to " get up " again. She often fell asleep, her head resting on her dimpled arms crossed on the machine table.
Then I would lay her on the sofa, and cover her with shawl and mosquito-bar. If her mother happened to wonder about her baby, and looked into the room, she would smile and go back to her work. We were all fond of her. As she grew older, when father came home from the office at night, Minnie was always on the lookout, and her little shiny black head could be seen bobbing along the drive, just showing above the fleur-de-lis that bordered each side.
Pete was the driver, and father had told him to be watchful or he might sometime drive against her; for the carriage-way was in curves instead of a straight avenue. Pete would jump down and lift her up be- side him, and they were very happy. "Not like other poor Indian babies," he would say appreciatively. Pete wanted Minnie to go to school when old enough, and my parents promised him that it should be so. However, when Minnie was eighteen months old, the way opened for part of our family to come to Utah.
Mr. Lord, a good man, promised to do as well by Pete and his family as we had, so there was a good prospect for them. They wanted to take our little hand-cart, that was used for fruit gathering, and come with us. "I could haul Minnie and our clothes, and Lisifa and I could walk," he said; but it was explained to him how we would not have a fine property in Utah, and an income to pay them wages, and that they had best remain with Mr. Lord until we could send for them. Little Minnie was asleep when we came away. Father had to stay behind awhile to collect money not then due.
One night someone rapped at his bedroom door. He asked who was there, and the answer was, "Pete."
Father arose, and, asking him in, saw that he could hardly speak, for trouble. " What is it, Pete, tell me, poor boy."
" Minnie is dead. They had fly-paper and she put some in her mouth. Mrs. Lord could not save her. Write to the folks." Father tried to console him. " Thank you, Colonel; I guess I go back to her mother." And he went alone, his lonely, sad, three miles' walk. We wrote to them. Father read the letter aloud and gave it to Pete. They pressed it to their cheeks, put it carefully away, and went home. That was twenty-one years ago. Just lately I heard from them. Pete had been asking an old friend if she knew anything of us. When I answered the lady's letter, I sent my picture, and she showed it to them. " Most like her mother. Tell her about my boy I've got.'' I have written to him that a better day for his people is near at hand, and that he too may yet through knowledge perform a part.