Authors: Mandie,the Ghost Bandits (v1.0) [html]
Mandie and the Ghost Bandits
Lois Gladys Leppard
In Loving Memory of
That Dearest of All Fathers,
James William Leppard
Who Taught Me What Books Are,
My Dear Brother,
Arnold O. Leapard
An Artist of Great Renown,
Both of Whom Have Gone on Before,
And Both of Whom Led Me Along the Way.
In the dark alley behind Bryson City Bank, Mandie Shaw stood on tiptoe to peer over the side of the wagon. Her heart beat faster at the sight of the small leather traveling bags full of gold nuggets.
Mandie’s Uncle John and two Cherokee Indian friends loaded bag after bag of gold nuggets into the wagon while Mr. Frady, the short, round banker, watched nervously.
Uncle Ned, Mandie’s old Indian friend, plopped two bags of nuggets into the wagon. “Gold bad for Cherokee,” he mumbled.
Mandie, with her white kitten, Snowball, on her shoulder, took Uncle Ned’s hand and returned with him to the vault for more. “But Uncle Ned,” she said, “just think what a wonderful thing we are going to do for the Cherokees with all this gold. Something that could never be done without it. We should be thankful for finding it in the cave.”
“Humph! Gold not good for Cherokee,” Uncle Ned insisted. “Better left in cave.”
“But you know the great Cherokee warrior, Tsali, left a message with the gold where we found it,” Mandie
argued. “Remember? He said the gold was for the Cherokees after the white man made peace. In fact, the inscription said it was a curse on the
man, not the Indian.”
Uncle Ned frowned at her. “Then curse on Jim Shaw’s Papoose. And I promise Jim Shaw I watch over Papoose when he go to happy hunting ground.”
“My father would not believe in any old curse, Uncle Ned,” Mandie assured him. “And neither do I. It’s all a bunch of malarkey. God watches over us, remember?”
“Big God not watch over Cherokee when white man take land away,” he said, picking up two more bags of nuggets.
Mandie shook her blonde head. “I can’t explain that. God sometimes does things that seem bad to us—like taking my father to heaven. But it’s to teach us a lesson—how to be better Christians. I don’t know what it was, but He must have had a reason for the terrible suffering the Cherokees went through back then.” She looked pleadingly at the old man. “Please, Uncle Ned, you believe in God. I know that.”
The tall, old Indian set down the bags and hugged the small twelve-year-old. “Papoose right. Must believe in Big God. Now we take gold to Asheville. Build hospital for Cherokees,” he relented.
Mandie kissed his dry, withered cheek as he straightened up. Uncle Ned smiled, patted her on the head, and picked up the bags again.
Mandie followed Uncle Ned outside. “And we have to trust God to help us get it there safely,” she reminded him.
Tsa’ni, Mandie’s Cherokee cousin, sat in the driver’s seat of the wagon. “How many more?” he called, “There
must be a large amount of gold in there.”
Uncle Wirt, Tsa’ni’s grandfather, passed a bag to Uncle John at the back door. “You just watch wagon. We load bags,” he yelled at Tsa’ni.
Mandie looked startled at the harsh tone of Uncle Wirt’s voice. She knew he was still angry with his grandson Tsa’ni for the many bad deeds he had done. But Mandie thought the boy had changed since the time he tried to beat them to the gold. She believed he should be given a chance to prove himself.
Walking to the side of the wagon, Mandie spoke quietly. “There’s a little more, Tsa’ni,” she told him. “But it’s awfully heavy. That’s why it’s in such small bags. They think it will look more like luggage that way, too.”
“Are we taking this gold to the train?” Tsa’ni asked.
“Yes, it’s all been kept secret because of the danger involved, but we’re going directly from here to the depot. Then we’ll take the train to Asheville,” Mandie explained in a low voice.
“What happens when we get to Asheville?” Tsa’ni asked.
“We’ll put the gold in a bigger bank so it’ll be safe. Then we’re going to start building the hospital for the Cherokees on some land between Deep Creek and Bird-town,” Mandie explained.
“So, it has all been planned,” the Indian boy said, “and no one has told me a thing.”
Just then Uncle John called to Mandie from the doorway. “Hop in, Mandie. That’s all.”
Mandie, with Snowball clinging to her shoulder, climbed into the back of the wagon and made a place for herself among the bags of gold. Tsa’ni followed. Uncle John shook hands with Mr. Frady, the banker. “Well, Wilbur,
thank you. We’ve finally got it off your hands,” he said.
“Thank goodness!” the short, round man replied. Nervously, he wiped the sweat from his brow. “Maybe I can get some sleep now. That was just a little bit too much for me to worry over, John.”
Uncle John turned to the two Indians. “Let’s get going,” he said. “My wife should be waiting at the depot with the others by now.” The three men climbed into the wagon.
“I wish you Godspeed,” Mr. Frady called from the doorway.
Uncle John tipped his wide-brimmed hat at Mr. Frady as Uncle Ned shook the reins, and the horses pulled the wagon down the alley past an old drunk and onto the dark, deserted street. It was time for everyone in Bryson City to be at home eating supper.
The train would be in shortly. The whole operation was going smoothly. Their secret seemed well kept.
Snowball nosed around the quilts covering the gold in the bottom of the wagon bed and disappeared underneath in his inspection of the leather bags.
Tsa’ni suddenly made a quick movement and pulled the kitten out from its hiding place, tossing him to Mandie.
“That animal friend of yours knows how to bite,” he said, rubbing his leg. Under the quilt his hand touched something. Pulling it out he found an old half-burned candle. He looked at it for a few seconds, then put it in his pocket.
“I’m sorry, Tsa’ni,” Mandie apologized. She shook the kitten lightly. “Snowball, you know you aren’t supposed to behave like that. Now curl up in my lap and be still,” she scolded.
“Where did you get such a cat?” Tsa’ni asked.
“Oh, I’ve had Snowball since I lived in my father’s house at Charley Gap. He goes with me everywhere I go,” Mandie said, softly rubbing the kitten’s white fur. Snowball purred contentedly. “He’s a smart cat. He helped my friends and me escape from the bootleggers who kidnapped us when we got lost in the mountains.”
“Now, how did he do that?”
“Well, they tied our hands, and Snowball played with the ends of the rope until it was loose enough for us to get away,” Mandie explained. “Snowball also knows when it’s time to eat and time to go to bed.”
“That is nothing. Most animals know that,” Tsa’ni retorted.
A train whistle sounded in the distance and soon the depot came into view.
Uncle John turned around in the front seat. “Remember, Mandie, when we stop, I want you and Tsa’ni to go directly to your mother. She should be right inside. Uncle Ned and Uncle Wirt and I will unload the gold into one of the train cars. We don’t want to draw any unnecessary attention.”
“Yes, sir, I understand,” Mandie answered.
When Uncle Ned stopped the wagon by the depot platform, Mandie stood. “Come on, Tsa’ni. Let’s go,” she said quietly.
Clutching Snowball, she jumped down. Tsa’ni followed, and they both hurried inside the wooden building where her mother and friends waited.
When Elizabeth, Mandie’s mother, saw the two through the doorway, she stood up from the long bench where she and the other young people were sitting.
Mandie looked around the large room.
This place looks like a church with all these benches like pews
she thought. There was even a wood stove standing in the middle of the floor, just like the one in their church back home in Franklin.
Elizabeth met her daughter with a hug. “I already have all the tickets, so we can get right on the train,” she said as the train came puffing up and stopped by the platform.
“Sallie, Joe, Dimar, get your things. Here are yours, Amanda.” She gave Mandie a small bag. They were only carrying the essentials for overnight because they planned to go home to Franklin from Asheville.
Together they boarded the first passenger car and sat down to wait for the men.
Since Mandie had been on a train only once before, her excitement was hard to contain. She wanted to see and feel everything. Sitting on a long cross seat at the end of the car and beside the other young people, she rubbed the soft, dark upholstery and looked around in the dim lamplight. There were only a few other passengers.
Sallie, Uncle Ned’s granddaughter, straightened her long, dark dress, which had been made especially for this journey. “I have never been to Asheville,” she said. “I am excited about going there.” She pulled her bright red shawl around her shoulders.
“I’ve been to Asheville several times with my father,” said Joe, Dr. Woodard’s son. “It’s a beautiful town but it’s full of hills. And, boy, does it get cold at night in that place.”
“I look forward to seeing the great home of Mr. Vanderbilt,” said Dimar, the Cherokee boy who was with them when they found the gold.
“Oh, Dimar,” Mandie laughed, as she rubbed Snowball’s
fur. “We aren’t going to visit Mr. Vanderbilt. Are we, Mother?”
Elizabeth smiled at the conversation and said, “I doubt it, but I do know the man.”
Mandie sat up straight and the others leaned forward. “Really, Mother?” Mandie asked.
“Well, actually, my father knew him,” her mother replied. “Don’t forget that I lived in Asheville a long time before I married your Uncle John.”
“Why, yes, I hadn’t thought of that,” Mandie said. She turned to Dimar. “I don’t know whether you understand or not, Dimar,” she said. “You see, my grandmother had my mother’s marriage to my father annulled when I was born.”
Dimar looked puzzled but continued to listen. “She told Mother I had died. Then Grandmother gave me to my father and told him that my mother didn’t ever want to see him again. So he took me and moved to Swain County where he married another woman. I always thought
was my mother until my father died and I found my Uncle John in Franklin. He’s my father’s brother. Uncle John knew where my real mother was in Asheville, and he asked her and my grandmother to come to his house so we could see each other. Then my mother and Uncle John got married. See?” She took a deep breath.
Elizabeth smiled at Mandie’s long explanation.
“I knew some of that by listening,” Dimar said. “That is interesting, like a storybook. Are we going to visit your grandmother in Asheville?”
Mandie turned to her mother for an answer. She knew her grandmother didn’t like the fact that Uncle John had exposed her long-kept secret. And she wasn’t very happy
that Elizabeth had married John. “Are we, Mother?” Mandie asked.
“My mother is away visiting relatives in Charleston, and I’m not sure what your Uncle John has planned for us,” Elizabeth told her.
Just then Uncle John came up the aisle with Uncle Wirt right behind him. “I’ve made plans for us to stay at the hotel,” he said, sitting beside his wife.
“A hotel? What is a hotel?” Mandie asked.
The other youngsters were wide-eyed with interest. In 1900 few young people in western North Carolina had traveled very far from home.
Sallie and Dimar waited for an explanation, too. With a knowing grin, Joe crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat.
“A hotel is a place where you pay to spend the night,” Uncle John explained. “It has bedrooms to sleep in that they rent out by the night and a dining room where you can buy your meals. It’s for travelers.”
Sallie looked confused. “We are going to buy a bedroom to sleep in?”
Joe laughed. “No, silly, you don’t buy a bedroom. You only pay so much money per night to be allowed to sleep in the room.”
“And how do you happen to know so much about it, Mister Doctor’s Son?” Mandie asked, sarcastically.
Joe straightened his shoulders. “Because I
a doctor’s son,” he said, “and a doctor travels a lot. I have often stayed in a hotel with my father when he allowed me to travel with him.”
“You have?” Dimar asked.
“Sure,” Joe said. “But it’s not that exciting. It’s just a room with a bed in it. You just go in the room and go to
sleep like you do at home, only the hotel rooms are real fancy, and there are lots and lots of bedrooms in one big building. And there are all kinds of people sleeping in the same building.” Joe enjoyed being the center of attention. “When you’re hungry,” he explained, “you go into this huge room with lots of tables and you tell the lady what you want to eat, and she brings you the food. That’s all there is to it, except you have to pay money for it.”