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Authors: Danielle Steel

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BOOK: Legacy
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Brigitte hated to leave, but she had accomplished what she had come to South Dakota to do. She had found the traces of Wachiwi she needed to confirm what she believed. She thanked Jan profusely when she left, and felt as though she had made a friend. After saying goodbye, she drove back to Sioux Falls, and caught a flight that would connect her to Boston. She felt at peace, as though a missing part of her had slipped into place. Wachiwi. The dancer. Brigitte wondered what more she could discover about her if she delved deeper into her family history in France. A girl as remarkable as that would have been talked about there too—a young Indian girl of the Dakota Sioux, who captured the heart of a marquis, and spent the rest of her days in France. Surely someone would have written of her there. It had become Brigitte’s mission to follow her trail.

Chapter 5

Brigitte had a lot to think about on the flights from South Dakota to Boston. She had only been gone for ten days, but she felt as though her life had been changed forever by one Dakota Sioux Indian woman. Wachiwi was all she had thought about for days, while she tried to find her in the oral histories. There were still so many mysteries about her. How had she come to leave the Crows who had kidnapped her? Was she the same girl as the Wachiwi who had married the marquis in Brittany? Was she really the one who had killed the Crow chief and disappeared? Had someone rescued her? Who was the white man with her that one of the oral histories talked about? And the Frenchman with her in another? And how had she gotten from South Dakota to France? Brigitte was convinced it was the same girl, and it was frustrating beyond belief not to have all the pieces of the story and all the missing links. She felt like one of Ted’s fellow archaeologists finding bone fragments and trying to build an entire dinosaur out of them, to discover everything about him, including where he lived, how he died, who his enemies were, and
what he ate. But sooner or later, most of the time, the pieces came together. And she hoped they would about Wachiwi too. It had been such an exciting time for her. She was so glad her mother had convinced her to go to Salt Lake. She had picked up the trail where her mother left off, and had discovered something entirely new. Wachiwi. Brigitte thought she was more interesting than all the rest of their relatives put together, except maybe the marquis.

As exciting as the trip had been, because it had taken her mind off all her problems and failures, coming home to her apartment in Boston sank her into a depression that took her breath away. The apartment looked dark and dusty. It hadn’t been cleaned in two weeks, or more since she’d been depressed when she left. The first thing she saw when she looked at the bookcase was a shelf of Ted’s books that she had forgotten to return and he had forgotten to reclaim. It reminded her that he was gone forever, that she didn’t have a boyfriend—or a job. There was not a single response by mail, or e-mail, to all the résumés she had sent out. No one had offered her a job, or even wanted to see her for an interview. And she didn’t have a man in her life. And if she wanted one, she had to start to date again. How was she supposed to do that? Computer dating? Blind dates through friends? Pick-ups in bars? None of those solutions appealed to her, and the thought of starting to date after six years sank her spirits to rock bottom.

When she checked her messages, she found that Ted had called to say goodbye. He hadn’t called her cell phone where he knew he would almost surely get her, he had called her at her apartment, at an hour when he’d been almost sure that she was out, so he wouldn’t have to talk to her. It was a cowardly thing to do. He didn’t want to
talk to her, and his voice on the message said he was leaving for Egypt the next day. When she had been flying in from South Dakota, he was flying out. He was gone. Forever. Following his dream. And what was hers? Another job in a college admissions office, checking applications? Finishing a deadly boring book about women’s voting that no one would ever read? For ten days she had been totally excited about what she was doing. And hours later, if that, she felt dead again. As dead as her life. But she couldn’t spend the rest of her days chasing Wachiwi either. She had lived more than two centuries ago, and many of the mysteries about her would never be solved, the questions never answered. Brigitte had to go back to trying to finish a book she no longer cared about, find a job she didn’t want, and look for a replacement for a man she no longer thought she really loved and who hadn’t loved her. What was she doing with her life? And what had she been doing for the last ten years? Damned if she knew. And she knew even less what she wanted to do now. It was a miserable place to be in. And finally, not knowing what else to do, she went to bed.

She got up early the next morning, and organized all the notes she had taken in South Dakota and Salt Lake. She wanted to put them in some kind of chronological order for her mother, and hand them over to her. She had it all in perfect sequence by noon, and then she faxed it to her mother. Late that afternoon her mother called her after she had read it all and digested it.

“That’s fantastic, Brig. I’m sure it’s the same woman who married the marquis.”

“I can’t prove it, but so do I. She must have been quite a woman. It’s nice to know we’re related to her. She must have been one gutsy
kid.” Her mother smiled at what she said. Brigitte sounded better again, but Marguerite was worried about the direction her life was going to take.

“So what’s
my
gutsy kid going to do?” her mother asked her. “Are you going to stay in Boston, or move back to New York? This might be a good time to do it. You’d probably earn more money here.”

“There are more colleges in Boston,” Brigitte said reasonably. “I’m just going to wait and see who responds, and try to finish my book.”

But it was easier said than done. She felt as though she had a cement block on her head, when she got back to her book about the vote the next day. Compared to her exciting research about Wachiwi, her book about the vote was like swimming through glue. She just couldn’t do it, and she could no longer remember why she thought the definitive work about women’s suffrage was such a good idea. She called Amy in her office that afternoon.

“I think I’m schizophrenic,” she announced when her friend answered.

“Why? Are you hearing voices?”

“Not yet, but maybe I should. The only voice I’m hearing is my own, and it’s boring me to death. I think I have writer’s block. Maybe I’m traumatized over Ted. I hate my book.”

“You’re just in a slump. It happens to me too. Go for a walk, or a swim, play tennis. Do some exercise. You’ll feel better when you get back.”

“I’ve just had the most fun I’ve had in years, for the past ten days.” Brigitte even sounded excited when she said it, and Amy was thrilled to hear it.

“Ohmigod! What? A guy?”

“No, a Sioux Indian girl I discovered in my family tree in Salt Lake. If she’s the right one, she was kidnapped from her village by the Crow Indians, ran away from them, may have killed the chief on her way out, possibly ran off with a Frenchman, or a white man anyway, and somehow got from South Dakota to France, where she married a marquis, and may have gone to the court of Louis XVI. Now how exciting is that?”

“Very. But there are a lot of ‘may haves’ and ‘possiblies’ in the story. How much do you know for sure, and how much are you wishing is true?”

“I’m wishing all of it is true. And some of the oral histories are a little vague. But she turns up in several of them, by name. And she definitely married the marquis, and my mother is descended from her, and so am I. She wound up in Brittany, married to a marquis, and she definitely is Sioux. That I know for sure. I fell in love with her, following her life. It’s the most exciting stuff I’ve read about or researched in years, and I come back here, my apartment is dirty, my boyfriend is history, and left me a stupid message before he flew off to Egypt forever. No one is offering me a job and maybe never will, and even if they do, I’m not even sure I care about the job, and I’m trying to finish the dullest book in history, which I hate. Now what do I do?”

“Sounds like you need a fresh start. What if you shelve the book for now and write about something else? Why don’t you write about this intriguing relative of yours? That might be a lot more interesting than the women’s vote.”

“She probably is, but then I’m throwing away seven years. I threw away six with Ted. And ten working for BU, and they deep-sixed me
on two hours’ notice. That’s a lot of years to have spent and wind up with nothing on all fronts.”

“Sometimes you just have to let go. Like a bad investment, at some point you have to cut your losses and start over again.” It was good advice, and Brigitte knew it.

“Yeah. But on what?”

“You’ll know. I think you need a break. Why don’t you take a trip? I mean a real trip. Not Salt Lake and South Dakota. Why don’t you go to Europe or something? There are a lot of cheap tickets on the Internet if you look for them.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Brigitte didn’t sound convinced. “Do you want to have dinner tonight?”

Amy sounded apologetic. “I can’t. I’m writing another article, and my deadline is next week. Both of my kids have been sick, and I haven’t done a thing. If I don’t stay home and work, I’m screwed.”

Brigitte felt better when she hung up, but not enough so, she still felt antsy and bored and as though her life had no direction, and that night she thought about what Amy had said. Maybe she was right. Maybe she should do something totally crazy, like go to Europe, even though she didn’t have a job. In fact, maybe it was a good time to do it. Maybe she could go to Brittany and Paris, and look for history on Wachiwi there. By midnight, she had decided to do it, somewhat nervously. And by the next morning, she was looking for tickets on the Internet, as Amy had suggested.

She found one for the following weekend. March wasn’t a great month to go to Europe weather-wise, but she told herself there was no time like the present, she had nothing else planned, and it would give her something fun to do. She called her mother that afternoon
and told her what she was doing, and her mother sounded amazed. Wachiwi had given Brigitte a whole new lease on life. She was obsessed with finding her. Her mother thought her trip to Brittany and Paris was a great idea. Suddenly she’d been bitten by the genealogical bug, just like her mother. But what fascinated Brigitte was Wachiwi, not their long aristocratic history, which meant nothing to her. Wachiwi. The young Sioux girl who had defied all odds, survived the unthinkable, accomplished the impossible, wound up in France, and married a marquis. It didn’t get more interesting than that, as an anthropologist or a woman. What she was doing was even more exciting to her than Ted’s long-awaited dig in Egypt was to him. This was so much more recent, Wachiwi was so real and seemed so alive in everything Brigitte read about her. She couldn’t wait to get to France now and continue her research.

With a sigh, she put all her material on the suffrage book in two cardboard boxes, and stuck them under her desk. Like Scarlett O’Hara, she was going to think about that tomorrow. For now, all she cared about was Wachiwi. Everything else could wait.

Chapter 6

  Wachiwi
  
Spring 1784

It was springtime, and the camp that Chief Matoskah had chosen for his tribe was a good one. There was a river nearby, and the women were already at work repairing the tipis from the hardships of winter—the linings had been washed and set out to dry in the sun. There were small groups making clothing for the summer months and following winter, and the children were running and laughing and playing all around them. Chief Matoskah’s tribe was one of the largest of the Dakota Sioux, and he was thought to be the wisest chief in their nation. Stories of his youth, bravery in battle, victories against their enemies, and his prowess on horseback and hunting buffalo were legion. His five sons were all equally respected, all were proud men, married, and had children of their own. Two would be leading the first buffalo hunt of the season the following
morning. Chief Matoskah, White Bear, was old now, but still ruled his tribe with wisdom, strength, and when necessary an iron fist.

His one weakness, and the joy and light of his life, was Wachiwi, the daughter born to him by his second wife. His first wife had died of an illness in a winter camp, during a war with the Pawnee. He had come home from a raid, and found her already wrapped in a buffalo robe, on a funeral scaffold, her still form covered with snow. He had grieved for a long time. She had been a good woman, and given him five brave sons.

It was many winters before White Bear married again, and the girl he chose was the most beautiful in their village. She was younger than his sons. He could have had many women, several wives at one time, as many of the men did, but he had always preferred to live with one. The bride he chose finally, giving her father twenty of his best horses for her, as a gesture of respect for her family, was barely more than a child, but she was wise and strong, and so beautiful that his heart sang each time he saw her. Her name was Hotah Takwachee, White Doe, and she looked like one to him.

They had only three seasons together when she bore him their first child, his only daughter. Her mother came to help her when the child was born in the early days of autumn. The baby was born, bright and beautiful and perfect, at dawn. Her mother was dead by nightfall. White Bear was alone again, with White Doe’s tiny girl child. Other women in the village nursed her and cared for her, and she lived in the tipi with her father. But White Bear took no wife again. He hunted with his sons, and sat in the lodge with them late into the night, smoking the pipe, and planning raids on their enemies and hunts. And although he could not admit it openly because she was a
girl, he took endless pleasure in his daughter, who delighted him constantly. Sometimes he would walk in the woods with her, and he taught her to ride himself. She was the most fearless rider in the village, and rode better than most of the men. Her skill as a rider was well known throughout the neighboring tribes. Even their enemies had heard of the dancing daughter of the chief who had magic powers over horses. White Bear was proud of her, and as she grew older, she was always at his side.

BOOK: Legacy
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