Authors: Carolyn Meyer
Copyright © 1992 by Carolyn Meyer
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Where the broken heart still beats/by Carolyn Meyer.—1st ed
Summary: Having been taken as a child and raised by Comanche
Indians, thirty-four-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker is forcibly returned
to her white relatives, where she longs for her Indian life and her
only friend is her twelve-year-old cousin Lucy.
1. Comanche Indians—Captivities—Juvenile fiction. [1 Parker,
Cynthia Ann, 1827?-1864—Juvenile Fiction. 2. Parker, Cynthia Ann,
1827?–1864—Fiction. 3 Comanche Indians—Captivities—Fiction.
4. Indians of North America—Captivities—Fiction.
5. Frontier and pioneer life—Fiction ] I. Title.
Designed by Lisa Peters
Printed in the United States of America
U W Y Z X V
EXAS C. MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY
Our strange cousin arrived yesterday. I cannot believe this woman is our kin, although Grandfather, who brought her and her little girl from Fort Cooper, swears it is so. Her skin is darkened by the sun, and she seems as wild as the Indians she has lived with since a child, although Mrs. Evans, the captain's wife, did her best to clean her up and dress her in civilized clothing. At times she babbles in her strange tongue, but mostly she keeps silent, clutching the baby girl and staring at us like a cornered animal. Her eyes are as blue as my own, but I confess her look frightens me.
She speaks almost no English and seems to understand little, save her own name: Cynthia Ann. Grandfather says that when he first saw her ten days ago, he was not sure this shy, wild creature really was his long-lost niece, kidnapped by Comanches twenty-five years ago. Yet when he spoke her name she responded.
"She laid her hand upon her breast," he told us, his own voice trembling with feeling, "and said, 'Me—Cynthia Ann.' That was all."
Now she and her child are to live here with us. The little girl, called Topsannah, looks entirely Indian, as though not a drop of white blood flows in her veins. Everyone in the family seems happy to have them here, and there is much rejoicing and thanking God for her return to us after all those years as a prisoner of the murderous redskins. But if our cousin is at all grateful, she does not show it.
"Poor thing, poor thing," my mother and sister Martha say. "Small wonder, after all she's suffered." But I am sure they have no idea what to do with her now that she is here.
I know her story, of course, having heard it from as far back as I can remember. It began when our people—the Parker family—came to Texas from Illinois in the 1830s in covered wagons pulled by teams of oxen. My great-grandfather, Elder John Parker, three of his sons, and grandsons along with their wives and children settled by the Navasota River where they built a fort of log cabins and blockhouses, surrounded by a stockade to protect them from the marauding Indians. The family had been farming there for two years when the Comanches raided Parker's Fort, killed several people, and took captive two women and three children.
Cynthia Ann Parker and her younger brother John were among the captives. Her father was killed, but her mother managed to escape with two younger children. That was on May 19, 1836, twelve years before I was born. Cynthia Ann was nine years old when she was kidnapped, the same age our Sarah is now. When I look at my young sister, I can imagine the terror little Cynthia Ann must have felt as the bloodthirsty savages carried her off.
Our family has never forgotten this horror. Grandfather, her uncle, has tried unceasingly for twenty-five years to find her and bring her back. He worked especially hard after his wife and seven of their children died—all but my father, Isaac, his namesake—carried off by fevers and tragic accidents.
A few years after Cynthia Ann's capture, when she was about twelve—my age—white traders saw her in an Indian camp and offered a ransom for her. But the Indians would not let her go. Several years passed, and Grandfather learned that she was married to a Comanche warrior and had children. I shudder to think what her life with them was like.
He had nearly given up hope of saving her, but two weeks ago something unbelievable happened. A group of our Texas Rangers, including my sister Martha's sweetheart, Jedediah, attacked a Comanche camp up by the Pease River. Those Comanches have raided settlements throughout this area, killing and scalping and looting, and Capt. Sul Ross, Jedediah's friend and the leader of the group, determined to put a stop to their activities and teach them a lesson. After the battle in which many Indians were killed, the Rangers discovered Cynthia Ann and took her and the baby to Fort Cooper, where she was cared for until Grandfather arrived. But this woman who Grandfather insists is his brother's daughter does not have the look of one who has been rescued. She looks like one who is imprisoned.
Grandfather's friend, Mr. Mason, a trader who understands the Comanche tongue, traveled with him to Fort Cooper and has since come here to visit, but even he cannot get her to say much. She only asks repeatedly for her husband and two sons.
Grandfather says she has been treated cruelly for so long that it will take much kindness and patience to bring her truly back to us. Yesterday he spoke to me privately. He knows that I learned my letters in school well enough to read our family Bible. (He does not know that I keep this journal. It is my private book, and I make sure that it is well hidden from the others, among the patches I am saving for a quilt.)
"You stay with her, Lucy," Grandfather said. "You help her to find her English again. Maybe that way she will find her soul, as well."
But I fear that will be like trying to teach a wild animal to speak. She only stares at me—or at nothing—and keeps silent. If she understands anything I say to her, she gives no sign. I look into those blue eyes and am certain she does not want to be here with us. I have no idea where to begin.
Naduah watched the girl with yellow hair and eyes the color of the sky. The girl smiled as the meaningless sounds streamed from her mouth. It was a strange tongue that seemed familiar but beyond understanding, from some other time. The girl pointed her finger, saying "You, Sinty-ann." Then she pointed to herself and said, "Me, Loo-see."
: the name called her by White Hair, the old man who came and took her from the soldiers' camp. That name,
part of the speech White Hair made, were the only sounds she recognized. It was her name in the other time, before her life with the People, in the time when she was still a child. It sounded odd to her ears, not like the name the People had given her:
She pointed to herself, as the girl Loo-see had, and said, "Naduah."
Loo-see frowned. "Naduah?" She shook her head. Then she took the woman's hard, rough hand in her own soft one and placed the hand against the woman's chest. "Sinty-ann," she repeated. "Say, 'My—name—is—Sinty—ann.'"
Naduah said nothing. She would not speak their name for her again. The smile on Loo-see's face faded. Then the baby stirred awake in Naduah's lap and began to murmur. Loo-see pointed to the little girl, her face making a question. Naduah understood what she was asking:
What is her name?
"Topsannah," she answered.
"Topsannah," Loo-see repeated, nodding. "Topsannah." She did the finger-pointing again. "Me, Loo-see. Her, Topsannah. You, Sinty-ann."
Then someone called in a voice like a crow's, and Loo-see hurried away. When she had gone, Naduah fumbled open the shirt they had given her—she wasn't used to buttons—and nursed the child.
For a few minutes she was alone and had time to think. She hadn't been by herself since they brought her to this place. When she was with the People, she was hardly ever alone, but here it was different. The white strangers came and looked at her. The women clasped their hands together under their chins and spoke to each other about her. Their light eyes darted back to stare at her again and again. Some would step forward, putting their faces close to hers and speaking loudly, as though that would make her understand.
She stopped trying to speak to them in her language, to tell them that somewhere, days and nights of hard riding from here, was her family: two sons, Quanah and Pecos, no longer children but young braves who rode their own fast ponies and were skilled with bow and arrow, already warriors like their father. And Peta Nocona, her husband, a chief. These white people refused to understand that she must go back to them.
The white men's attack had been completely unexpected. She and the other women had been in the camp near the river with their children. Most of the men of the tribe were away on a buffalo hunt. It was the end of the big hunting season when the great animals were in their thick winter fur. The tribe had not yet taken as much meat as they needed to last them through the long winter, and the men had decided to make one more hunt before the snow came. While they were away, the white men rode in with roaring guns.
Naduah had seen white men before. Sometimes traders came from the west, speaking still another strange tongue, the language of the People's Mexican slaves. (She knew a few words of the slaves' language.) It was different from what these new white men spoke. The traders brought blankets and iron kettles and coffee and other things the People wanted. They exchanged them for the strings of horses and herds of cattle the warriors had taken in raids, and for buffalo skins not needed for tipis and clothing. Naduah was used to those white men, and the People got on well with them.
White men sometimes came from the east, too, men like those who had attacked the camp. Twice these white men had come to the People, once when she was a young girl not yet married, and later, when her sons were small, barely out of their cradleboards. The white men had told the People that they wanted her to come back with them, offering to give mules and other valuable gifts if the People would let her go.