The Hollow Tree

The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn

Book: The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janet Lunn
cupped her hands and drank until the water was dripping off her chin. Jem put his face right down into the water and sucked it up the way a horse does. He wiped his mouth with his hand and sat back on his heels. He watched Bartlett wade into the lake and George sniff at its shore. He looked at Phoebe, one eyebrow raised.
    “You got a name?” he asked.
    It seemed so long since anyone had said her name that Phoebe looked at him in surprise.
    “You must have a name.”
    “Yes, I am Phoebe Olcott.”
    “From over the mountains.”
    “By the Connecticut River.”
    “That’s a fair distance.”
    “Well, Mistress Phoebe Olcott from over the mountains, whatever brung you here, we gotta get on our way. But I’d sure admire not to be takin’ that bear — nor the cat, neither.”
    “They’ll follow.”
    “I reckon so. Let’s go.”
    About an hour later, when the sky had darkened so much that Phoebe knew it must be late in the day, she heard the sound of voices in the distance ahead. Jem slowed. He motioned Phoebe to do the same. He pulled his hunting knife from its sheath, then, crouching low, looking to either side of him, he continued cautiously.Phoebe was right behind him. As they proceeded, the voices grew louder, more distinct.
    “I hear cows,” said Jem. He straightened his pace and, in a few minutes, they reached the edge of a large clearing. Phoebe saw several open fires with people collected around them, and carts and two or three cows at one edge of the clearing.
    “There they are,” Jem said, “but there’s sure a lot more of ’em than I figured. Come, I see Ma.” He strode into the clearing. Phoebe followed nervously, suddenly not so sure of the kind reception she had anticipated.
    A tall girl was standing by one of the fires about two feet away. She had her back to Phoebe, but something about the way she was standing, something about the set of her shoulders and her long light brown hair falling over her rose-coloured shawl made Phoebe’s heart lurch.
    “Anne?” she whispered. “Anne Robinson?”
    The girl spun around. Her mouth fell open. Her eyes went wide. “Phoebe!” she cried. And slid to the ground in a faint.

    A t the sound of Anne’s cry, Aunt Rachael came running. At once, she was on the ground, with Anne’s head in her lap, looking around wildly to see what had happened. She saw Phoebe. Her hand went to her throat. Her eyes widened. She half rose to her knees. Then her whole face lit up. At that moment a tall, stout woman appeared, carrying a pan full of water. She flung it into Anne’s face.
    Anne sputtered, and struggled to her feet with Aunt Rachael supporting her. A moment later she caught sight of Phoebe. “You’re dead,” she cried. “I know you’re dead. We saw that squaw wearing your mother’s cloak. We
her!” Anne’s voice began to rise to that hysterical note Phoebe knew so well.
    Phoebe realized she had been clutching Jem Morrissay’s arm and let it go quickly. She took astep forward. “It was Peter Sauk’s sister. I gave it to her. I … ” Her voiced trailed off. She was suddenly acutely uncomfortable. In the growing dark it seemed as though a hundred people had gathered around Anne. In the flickering light from the fires dotted around the clearing behind them, they looked menacing. “I … she … we exchanged our clothes. You see, I have her Mohawk ones.” Nervously she gestured towards her tunic, and moved close to Jem.
    Anne seemed not to hear her. Clinging to her mother, water still dripping down her face, she cried, “You’re a ghost! I know you’re a ghost! You’ve come to haunt me because I said those things to you when Gideon …” She began to cry piteously.
    “Anne.” Phoebe ran to put her arms around her weeping cousin. Anne shrieked at her touch and backed away. “Go away! GO AWAY!”
    “For the sake of all that’s holy, stop that caterwaulin’. It don’t take but half an eye, and that one blind, to see

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