ROLF IN THE WOODS
By Ernest Thompson Seton
[Chapters 10 and 60 not designated in the original file.]
In this story I have endeavoured to realize some of the influences that surrounded the youth of America a hundred years ago, and made of them, first, good citizens, and, later, in the day of peril, heroes that won the battles of Lake Erie, Plattsburg, and New Orleans, and the great sea fights of Porter, Bainbridge, Decatur, Lawrence, Perry, and MacDonough.
I have especially dwelt in detail on the woodland and peace scouting in the hope that I may thus help other boys to follow the hard-climbing trail that leads to the higher uplands.
For the historical events of 1812-14, I have consulted among books chiefly, Theodore Roosevelt's "Naval War of 1812," Peter S. Palmer's "History of Lake Champlain," and Walter Hill Crockett's "A History of Lake Champlain," 1909. But I found another and more personal mine of information. Through the kindness of my friend, Edmund Seymour, a native of the Champlain region, now a resident of New York, I went over all the historical ground with several unpublished manuscripts for guides, and heard from the children of the sturdy frontiersmen new tales of the war; and in getting more light and vivid personal memories, I was glad, indeed, to realize that not only were there valour and heroism on both sides, but also gentleness and courtesy. Histories written by either party at the time should be laid aside. They breathe the rancourous hate of the writers of the age—the fighters felt not so—and the many incidents given here of chivalry and consideration were actual happenings, related to me by the descendants of those who experienced them; and all assure me that these were a true reflex of the feelings of the day.
I am much indebted to Miss Katherine Palmer, of Plattsburg, for kindly allowing me to see the unpublished manuscript memoir of her grandfather, Peter Sailly, who was Collector of the Port of Plattsburg at the time of the war.
Another purpose in this story was to picture the real Indian with his message for good or for evil.
Those who know nothing of the race will scoff and say they never heard of such a thing as a singing and religious red man. Those who know him well will say, "Yes, but you have given to your eastern Indian songs and ceremonies which belong to the western tribes, and which are of different epochs." To the latter I reply:
"You know that the western Indians sang and prayed in this way. How do you know that the eastern ones did not? We have no records, except those by critics, savagely hostile, and contemptuous of all religious observances but their own. The Ghost Dance Song belonged to a much more recent time, no doubt, but it was purely Indian, and it is generally admitted that the races of continental North America were of one stock, and had no fundamentally different customs or modes of thought."
The Sunrise Song was given me by Frederick R. Burton, author of "American Primitive Music." It is still in use among the Ojibwa.
The songs of the Wabanaki may be read in C. G. Leland's "Kuloskap the Master."
The Ghost Dance Song was furnished by Alice C. Fletcher, whose "Indian Song and Story" will prove a revelation to those who wish to follow further.
ERNEST THOMPSON SETON.
Chapter 1. The Wigwam Under the Rock
The early springtime sunrise was near at hand as Quonab, the last of the Myanos Sinawa, stepped from his sheltered wigwam under the cliff that borders the Asamuk easterly, and, mounting to the lofty brow of the great rock that is its highest pinnacle, he stood in silence, awaiting the first ray of the sun over the sea water that stretches between Connecticut and Seawanaky.
His silent prayer to the Great Spirit was ended as a golden beam shot from a long, low cloud-bank over the sea, and Quonab sang a weird Indian song for the rising sun, an invocation to the Day God:
"O thou that risest from the low cloud To burn in the all above; I greet thee! I adore thee!"
Again and again he sang to the tumming of a small tom-tom, till the great refulgent one had cleared the cloud, and the red miracle of the sunrise was complete. Back to his wigwam went the red man, down to his home tucked dosed under the sheltering rock, and, after washing his hands in a basswood bowl, began to prepare his simple meal.
A tin-lined copper pot hanging over the fire was partly filled with water; then, when it was boiling, some samp or powdered corn and some clams were stirred in. While these were cooking, he took his smooth-bore flint-lock, crawled gently over the ridge that screened his wigwam from the northwest wind, and peered with hawk-like eyes across the broad sheet of water that, held by a high beaver-dam, filled the little valley of Asamuk Brook.
The winter ice was still on the pond, but in all the warming shallows there was open water, on which were likely to be ducks. None were to be seen, but by the edge of the ice was a round object which, although so far away, he knew at a glance for a muskrat.
By crawling around the pond, the Indian could easily have come within shot, but he returned at once to his wigwam, where he exchanged his gun for the weapons of his fathers, a bow and arrows, and a long fish-line. A short, quick stalk, and the muskrat, still eating a flagroot, was within thirty feet. The fish-line was coiled on the ground and then attached to an arrow, the bow bent—zip—the arrow picked up the line, coil after coil, and trans-fixed the muskrat. Splash! and the animal was gone under the ice.
But the cord was in the hands of the hunter; a little gentle pulling and the rat came to view, to be despatched with a stick and secured. Had he shot it with a gun, it had surely been lost.
He returned to his camp, ate his frugal breakfast, and fed a small, wolfish-looking yellow dog that was tied in the lodge.
He skinned the muskrat carefully, first cutting a slit across the rear and then turning the skin back like a glove, till it was off to the snout; a bent stick thrust into this held it stretched, till in a day, it was dry and ready for market. The body, carefully cleaned, he hung in the shade to furnish another meal.
As he worked, there were sounds of trampling in the woods, and presently a tall, rough-looking man, with a red nose and a curling white moustache, came striding through brush and leaves. He stopped when he saw the Indian, stared contemptuously at the quarry of the morning chase, made a scornful remark about "rat-eater," and went on toward the wigwam, probably to peer in, but the Indian's slow, clear, "keep away!" changed his plan. He grumbled something about "copper-coloured tramp," and started away in the direction of the nearest farmhouse.
Chapter 2. Rolf Kittering and the Soldier Uncle
A feller that chatters all the time is bound to talk a certain amount of drivel.—The Sayings of Si Sylvanne
This was the Crow Moon, the white man's March. The Grass Moon was at hand, and already the arrow bands of black-necked honkers were passing northward from the coast, sending down as they flew the glad tidings that the Hunger Moon was gone, that spring was come, yea, even now was in the land. And the flicker clucked from a high, dry bough, the spotted woodwale drummed on his chosen branch, the partridge drummed in the pine woods, and in the sky the wild ducks, winging, drummed their way. What wonder that the soul of the Indian should seek expression in the drum and the drum song of his race?
Presently, as though remembering something, he went quietly to the southward under the ridge, just where it breaks to let the brook go by, along the edge of Strickland's Plain, and on that hill of sliding stone he found, as he always had, the blue-eyed liver-leaf smiling, the first sweet flower of spring! He did not gather it, he only sat down and looked at it. He did not smile, or sing, or utter words, or give it a name, but he sat beside it and looked hard at it, and, in the first place, he went there knowingly to find it. Who shall say that its beauty did not reach his soul?
He took out his pipe and tobacco bag, but was reminded of something lacking—the bag was empty. He returned to his wigwam, and from their safe hanger or swinging shelf overhead, he took the row of stretched skins, ten muskrats and one mink, and set out along a path which led southward through the woods to the broad, open place called Strickland's Plain, across that, and over the next rock ridge to the little town and port of Myanos.
SILAS PECK Trading Store
was the sign over the door he entered. Men and women were buying and selling, but the Indian stood aside shyly until all were served, and Master Peck cried out:
"Ho, Quonab! what have ye got for trade to-day?"
Quonab produced his furs. The dealer looked at them narrowly and said:
"They are too late in the season for primes; I cannot allow you more than seven cents each for the rats and seventy-five cents for the mink, all trade."
The Indian gathered up the bundle with an air of "that settles it," when Silas called out:
"Come now, I'll make it ten cents for the rats."
"Ten cents for rats, one dollar for mink, all cash, then I buy what I like," was the reply.
It was very necessary to Silas's peace that no customer of his should cross the street to the sign,
SILAS MEAD Trading Store
So the bargain, a fair one now, was made, and the Indian went off with a stock of tobacco, tea, and sugar.
His way lay up the Myanos River, as he had one or two traps set along the banks for muskrats, although in constant danger of having them robbed or stolen by boys, who considered this an encroachment on their trapping grounds.
After an hour he came to Dumpling Pond, then set out for his home, straight through the woods, till he reached the Catrock line, and following that came to the farm and ramshackle house of Micky Kittering. He had been told that the man at this farm had a fresh deer hide for sale, and hoping to secure it, Quonab walked up toward the house. Micky was coming from the barn when he saw the Indian. They recognized each other at a glance. That was enough for Quonab; he turned away. The farmer remembered that he had been "insulted." He vomited a few oaths, and strode after the Indian, "To take it out of his hide"; his purpose was very clear. The Indian turned quickly, stood, and looked calmly at Michael.
Some men do not know the difference between shyness and cowardice, but they are apt to find it out unexpectedly Something told the white man, "Beware! this red man is dangerous." He muttered something about, "Get out of that, or I'll send for a constable." The Indian stood gazing coldly, till the farmer backed off out of sight, then he himself turned away to the woods.
Kittering was not a lovely character. He claimed to have been a soldier. He certainly looked the part, for his fierce white moustache was curled up like horns on his purple face, at each side of his red nose, in a most milita style. His shoulders were square and his gait was swaggering, beside which, he had an array of swear words that was new and tremendously impressive in Connecticut. He had married late in life a woman who would have made him a good wife, had he allowed her. But, a drunkard himself he set deliberately about bringing his wife to his own ways and with most lamentable success. They had had no children, but some months before a brother's child, fifteen-year-old lad, had become a charge on their hands and, with any measure of good management, would have been a blessing to all. But Micky had gone too far. His original weak good-nature was foundered in rum. Always blustery and frothy, he divided the world in two—superior officers, before whom he grovelled, and inferiors to whom he was a mouthy, foul-tongued, contemptible bully, in spite of a certain lingering kindness of heart that showed itself at such rare times when he was neither roaring drunk nor crucified by black reaction. His brother's child, fortunately, had inherited little of the paternal family traits, but in both body and brain favoured his mother, the daughter of a learned divine who had spent unusual pains on her book education, but had left her penniless and incapable of changing that condition.
Her purely mental powers and peculiarities were such that, a hundred years before, she might have been burned for a witch, and fifty years later might have been honoured as a prophetess. But she missed the crest of the wave both ways and fell in the trough; her views on religious matters procured neither a witch's grave nor a prophet's crown, but a sort of village contempt.
The Bible was her standard—so far so good—but she emphasized the wrong parts of it. Instead of magnifying the damnation of those who follow not the truth (as the village understood it), she was content to semi-quote:
"Those that are not against me are with me," and "A kind heart is the mark of His chosen." And then she made a final utterance, an echo really of her father: "If any man do anything sincerely, believing that thereby he is worshipping God, he is worshipping God."
Then her fate was sealed, and all who marked the blazing eyes, the hollow cheeks, the yet more hollow chest and cough, saw in it all the hand of an offended God destroying a blasphemer, and shook their heads knowingly when the end came.
So Rolf was left alone in life, with a common school education, a thorough knowledge of the Bible and of "Robinson Crusoe," a vague tradition of God everywhere, and a deep distrust of those who should have been his own people.
The day of the little funeral he left the village of Redding to tramp over the unknown road to the unknown south where his almost unknown Uncle Michael had a farm and, possibly, a home for him.
Fifteen miles that day, a night's rest in a barn, twenty-five miles the next day, and Rolf had found his future home.
"Come in, lad," was the not unfriendly reception, for his arrival was happily fallen on a brief spell of good humour, and a strong, fifteen-year-old boy is a distinct asset on a farm.
Chapter 3. Rolf Catches a Coon and Finds a Friend
Aunt Prue, sharp-eyed and red-nosed, was actually shy at first, but all formality vanished as Rolf was taught the mysteries of pig-feeding, hen-feeding, calf-feeding, cow-milking, and launched by list only in a vast number of duties familiar to him from his babyhood. What a list there was. An outsider might have wondered if Aunt Prue was saving anything for herself, but Rolf was used to toil. He worked without ceasing and did his best, only to learn in time that the best could win no praise, only avert punishment. The spells of good nature arrived more seldom in his uncle's heart. His aunt was a drunken shrew and soon Rolf looked on the days of starving and physical misery with his mother as the days of his happy youth gone by.
He was usually too tired at night and too sleepy in the morning to say his prayers, and gradually he gave it up as a daily habit. The more he saw of his kinsfolk, the more wickedness came to view; and yet it was with a shock that he one day realized that some fowls his uncle brought home by night were there without the owner's knowledge or consent. Micky made a jest of it, and intimated that Rolf would have to "learn to do night work very soon." This was only one of the many things that showed how evil a place was now the orphan's home.
At first it was not clear to the valiant uncle whether the silent boy was a superior to be feared, or an inferior to be held in fear, but Mick's courage grew with non-resistance, and blows became frequent; although not harder to bear than the perpetual fault-finding and scolding of his aunt, and all the good his mother had implanted was being shrivelled by the fires of his daily life.
Rolf had no chance to seek for companions at the village store, but an accident brought one to him. Before sunrise one spring morning he went, as usual, to the wood lot pasture for the cow, and was surprised to find a stranger, who beckoned him to come. On going near he saw a tall man with dark skin and straight black hair that was streaked with gray—undoubtedly an Indian. He held up a bag and said, "I got coon in that hole. You hold bag there, I poke him in." Rolf took the sack readily and held it over the hole, while the Indian climbed the tree to a higher opening, then poked in this with a long pole, till all at once there was a scrambling noise and the bag bulged full and heavy. Rolf closed its mouth triumphantly. The Indian laughed lightly, then swung to the ground.
"Now, what will you do with him?" asked Rolf.
"Train coon dog," was the answer.
The Indian pointed toward the Asamuk Pond.
"Are you the singing Indian that lives under Ab's Rock?
"Ugh! [*] Some call me that. My name is Quonab."
"Wait for an hour and then I will come and help," volunteered Rolf impulsively, for the hunting instinct was strong in him.
The Indian nodded. "Give three yelps if you no find me;" then he shouldered a short stick, from one end of which, at a safe distance from his back, hung the bag with the coon. And Rolf went home with the cow.
He had acted on hasty impulse in offering to come, but now, in the normal storm state of the household, the difficulties of the course appeared. He cudgelled his brain for some plan to account for his absence, and finally took refuge unwittingly in ancient wisdom: "When you don't know a thing to do, don't do a thing." Also, "If you can't find the delicate way, go the blunt way."
So having fed the horses, cleaned the stable, and milked the cow, fed the pigs, the hens, the calf, harnessed the horses, cut and brought in wood for the woodshed, turned out the sheep, hitched the horses to the wagon, set the milk out in the creaming pans, put more corn to soak for the swill barrel, ground the house knife, helped to clear the breakfast things, replaced the fallen rails of a fence, brought up potatoes from the root cellar, all to the maddening music of a scolding tongue, he set out to take the cow back to the wood lot, sullenly resolved to return when ready.
* Ugh (yes) and wah (no) are Indianisms that continue no matter how well the English has been acquired.
Chapter 4. The Coon Hunt Makes Trouble for Rolf
Not one hour, but nearly three, had passed before Rolf sighted the Pipestave Pond, as it was called. He had never been there before, but three short whoops, as arranged, brought answer and guidance. Quonab was standing on the high rock. When Rolf came he led down to the wigwam on its south side. It was like stepping into a new life. Several of the old neighbours at Redding were hunters who knew the wild Indians and had told him tales that glorified at least the wonderful woodcraft of the red man. Once or twice Rolf had seen Indians travelling through, and he had been repelled by their sordid squalour. But here was something of a different kind; not the Champlain ideal, indeed, for the Indian wore clothes like any poor farmer, except on his head and his feet; his head was bare, and his feet were covered with moccasins that sparkled with beads on the arch. The wigwam was of canvas, but it had one or two of the sacred symbols painted on it. The pot hung over the fire was tin-lined copper, of the kind long made in England for Indian trade, but the smaller dishes were of birch bark and basswood. The gun and the hunting knife were of white man's make, but the bow, arrows, snowshoes, tom-tom, and a quill-covered gun case were of Indian art, fashioned of the things that grow in the woods about.
The Indian led into the wigwam. The dog, although not fully grown, growled savagely as it smelled the hated white man odour. Quonab gave the puppy a slap on the head, which is Indian for, "Be quiet; he's all right;" loosed the rope, and led the dog out. "Bring that," and the Indian pointed to the bag which hung from a stick between two trees. The dog sniffed suspiciously in the direction of the bag and growled, but he was not allowed to come near it. Rolf tried to make friends with the dog, but without success and Quonab said, "Better let Skookum [*] alone. He make friends when he ready—maybe never."
The two hunters now set out for the open plain, two or three hundred yards to the southward. Here the raccoon was dumped out of the sack, and the dog held at a little distance, until the coon had pulled itself together and began to run. Now the dog was released and chivvied on. With a tremendous barking he rushed at the coon, only to get a nip that made him recoil, yelping. The coon ran as hard as it could, the dog and hunters came after it; again it was overtaken, and, turning with a fierce snarl, it taught the dog a second lesson. Thus, running, dodging, and turning to fight, the coon got back to the woods, and there made a final stand under a small, thick tree; and, when the dog was again repulsed, climbed quickly up into the branches.
The hunters did all they could to excite the dog, until he was jumping about, trying to climb the tree, and barking uproariously. This was exactly what they wanted. Skookum's first lesson was learned—the duty of chasing the big animal of that particular smell, then barking up the tree it had climbed.
Quonab, armed with a forked stick and a cord noose, now went up the tree. After much trouble he got the noose around the coon's neck, then, with some rather rough handling, the animal was dragged down, maneuvered into the sack, and carried back to camp, where it was chained up to serve in future lessons; the next two or three being to tree the coon, as before; in the next, the coon was to be freed and allowed to get out of sight, so that the dog might find it by trailing, and the last, in which the coon was to be trailed, treed, and shot out of the tree, so that the dog should have the final joy of killing a crippled coon, and the reward of a coon-meat feast. But the last was not to be, for the night before it should have taken place the coon managed to slip its bonds, and nothing but the empty collar and idle chain were found in the captive's place next morning.
These things were in the future however. Rolf was intensely excited over all he had seen that day. His hunting instincts were aroused. There had been no very obvious or repellant cruelty; the dog alone had suffered, but he seemed happy. The whole affair was so exactly in the line of his tastes that the boy was in a sort of ecstatic uplift, and already anticipating a real coon hunt, when the dog should be properly trained. The episode so contrasted with the sordid life he had left an hour before that he was spellbound. The very animal smell of the coon seemed to make his fibre tingle. His eyes were glowing with a wild light. He was so absorbed that he did not notice a third party attracted by the unusual noise of the chase, but the dog did. A sudden, loud challenge called all attention to a stranger on the ridge behind the camp. There was no mistaking the bloated face and white moustache of Rolf's uncle.
"So, you young scut! that is how you waste your time. I'll larn ye a lesson."
The dog was tied, the Indian looked harmless, and the boy was cowed, so the uncle's courage mounted high. He had been teaming in the nearby woods, and the blacksnake whip was in his hands. In a minute its thong was lapped, like a tongue of flame, around Rolf's legs. The boy gave a shriek and ran, but the man followed and furiously plied the whip. The Indian, supposing it was Rolf's father, marvelled at his method of showing affection, but said nothing, for the Fifth Commandment is a large one in the wigwam. Rolf dodged some of the cruel blows, but was driven into a corner of the rock. One end of the lash crossed his face like a red-hot wire.
"Now I've got you!" growled the bully.
Rolf was desperate. He seized two heavy stones and hurled the first with deadly intent at his uncle's head. Mick dodged in time, but the second, thrown lower, hit him on the thigh. Mick gave a roar of pain. Rolf hastily seized more stones and shrieked out, "You come on one step and I'll kill you!"
Then that purple visage turned a sort of ashen hue. Its owner mouthed in speechless rage. He "knew it was the Indian had put Rolf up to it. He'd see to it later," and muttering, blasting, frothing, the hoary-headed sinner went limping off to his loaded wagon.
* "Skookum" or "Skookum Chuck," in Chinook means "Troubled waters."
Chapter 5. Good-bye to Uncle Mike
For counsel comes with the night, and action comes with the day; But the gray half light, neither dark nor bright, is a time to hide away.
Rolf had learned one thing at least—his uncle was a coward. But he also knew that he himself was in the wrong, for he was neglecting his work and he decided to go back at once and face the worst. He made little reply to the storm of scolding that met him. He would have been disappointed if it had not come. He was used to it; it made him feel at home once more. He worked hard and silently.
Mick did not return till late. He had been drawing wood for Horton that day, which was the reason he happened in Quonab's neighbourhood; but his road lay by the tavern, and when he arrived home he was too helpless to do more than mutter.
The next day there was an air of suspended thunder. Rolf overheard his uncle cursing "that ungrateful young scut—not worth his salt." But nothing further was said or done. His aunt did not strike at him once for two days. The third night Micky disappeared. On the next he returned with another man; they had a crate of fowls, and Rolf was told to keep away from "that there little barn."
So he did all morning, but he peeped in from the hayloft when a chance came, and saw a beautiful horse. Next day the "little barn" was open and empty as before.
That night this worthy couple had a jollification with some callers, who were strangers to Rolf. As he lay awake, listening to the carouse, he overheard many disjointed allusions that he did not understand, and some that he could guess at: "Night work pays better than day work any time," etc. Then he heard his own name and a voice, "Let's go up and settle it with him now." Whatever their plan, it was clear that the drunken crowd, inspired by the old ruffian, were intent on doing him bodily harm. He heard them stumbling and reeling up the steep stairs. He heard, "Here, gimme that whip," and knew he was in peril, maybe of his life, for they were whiskey-mad. He rose quickly, locked the door, rolled up an old rag carpet, and put it in his bed. Then he gathered his clothes on his arm, opened the window, and lowered himself till his head only was above the sill, and his foot found a resting place. Thus he awaited. The raucous breathing of the revellers was loud on the stairs; then the door was tried; there was some muttering; then the door was burst open and in rushed two, or perhaps three, figures. Rolf could barely see in the gloom, but he knew that his uncle was one of them. The attack they made with whip and stick on that roll of rags in the bed would have broken his bones and left him shapeless, had he been in its place. The men were laughing and took it all as a joke, but Rolf had seen enough; he slipped to the ground and hurried away, realizing perfectly well now that this was "good-bye."
Which way? How naturally his steps turned northward toward Redding, the only other place he knew. But he had not gone a mile before he stopped. The yapping of a coon dog came to him from the near woods that lay to the westward along Asamuk. He tramped toward it. To find the dog is one thing, to find the owner another; but they drew near at last. Rolf gave the three yelps and Quonab responded.
"I am done with that crowd," said the boy. "They tried to kill me tonight. Have you got room for me in your wigwam for a couple of days?"
"Ugh, come," said the Indian.
That night, for the first time, Rolf slept in the outdoor air of a wigwam. He slept late, and knew nothing of the world about him till Quonab called him to breakfast.
Chapter 6. Skookum Accepts Rolf at Last
Rolf expected that Micky would soon hear of his hiding place and come within a few days, backed by a constable, to claim his runaway ward. But a week went by and Quonab, passing through Myanos, learned, first, that Rolf had been seen tramping northward on the road to Dumpling Pond, and was now supposed to be back in Redding; second, that Micky Kittering was lodged in jail under charge of horse-stealing and would certainly get a long sentence; third, that his wife had gone back to her own folks at Norwalk, and the house was held by strangers.
All other doors were closed now, and each day that drifted by made it the more clear that Rolf and Quonab were to continue together. What boy would not exult at the thought of it? Here was freedom from a brutal tyranny that was crushing out his young life; here was a dream of the wild world coming true, with gratification of all the hunter instincts that he had held in his heart for years, and nurtured in that single, ragged volume of "Robinson Crusoe." The plunge was not a plunge, except it be one when an eagle, pinion-bound, is freed and springs from a cliff of the mountain to ride the mountain wind.
The memory of that fateful cooning day was deep and lasting. Never afterward did smell of coon fail to bring it back; in spite of the many evil incidents it was a smell of joy.
"Where are you going, Quonab?" he asked one morning, as he saw the Indian rise at dawn and go forth with his song drum, after warming it at the fire. He pointed up to the rock, and for the first time Rolf heard the chant for the sunrise. Later he heard the Indian's song for "Good Hunting," and another for "When His Heart Was Bad." They were prayers or praise, all addressed to the Great Spirit, or the Great Father, and it gave Rolf an entirely new idea of the red man, and a startling light on himself. Here was the Indian, whom no one considered anything but a hopeless pagan, praying to God for guidance at each step in life, while he himself, supposed to be a Christian, had not prayed regularly for months—was in danger of forgetting how.
Yet there was one religious observance that Rolf never forgot—that was to keep the Sabbath, and on that day each week he did occasionally say a little prayer his mother had taught him. He avoided being seen at such times and did not speak of kindred doings. Whereas Quonab neither hid nor advertised his religious practices, and it was only after many Sundays had gone that Quonab remarked:
"Does your God come only one day of the week? Does He sneak in after dark? Why is He ashamed that you only whisper to Him? Mine is here all the time. I can always reach Him with my song; all days are my Sunday."
The evil memories of his late life were dimming quickly, and the joys of the new one growing. Rolf learned early that, although one may talk of the hardy savage, no Indian seeks for hardship. Everything is done that he knows to make life pleasant, and of nothing is he more careful than the comfort of his couch. On the second day, under guidance of his host, Rolf set about making his own bed. Two logs, each four inches thick and three feet long, were cut. Then two strong poles, each six feet long, were laid into notches at the ends of the short logs. About seventy-five straight sticks of willow were cut and woven with willow bark into a lattice, three feet wide and six feet long. This, laid on the poles, furnished a spring mattress, on which a couple of blankets made a most comfortable couch, dry, warm, and off the ground. In addition to the lodge cover, each bed had a dew cloth which gave perfect protection, no matter how the storm might rage outdoors. There was no hardship in it, only a new-found pleasure, to sleep and breathe the pure night air of the woods.
The Grass Moon—April—had passed, and the Song Moon was waxing, with its hosts of small birds, and one of Rolf's early discoveries was that many of these love to sing by night. Again and again the familiar voice of the song sparrow came from the dark shore of Asamuk, or the field sparrow trilled from the top of some cedar, occasionally the painted one, Aunakeu, the partridge, drummed in the upper woods, and nightly there was the persistent chant of Muckawis, the whippoorwill, the myriad voices of the little frogs called spring-peepers, and the peculiar, "peent, peent," from the sky, followed by a twittering, that Quonab told him was the love song of the swamp bird—the big snipe, with the fantail and long, soft bill, and eyes like a deer.
"Do you mean the woodcock?" "Ugh, that's the name; Pah-dash-ka-anja we call it."
The waning of the moon brought new songsters, with many a nightingale among them. A low bush near the plain was vocal during the full moon with the sweet but disconnected music of the yellow-breasted chat. The forest rang again and again with a wild, torrential strain of music that seemed to come from the stars. It sent peculiar thrill into Rolf's heart, and gave him a lump his throat as he listened.
"What is that, Quonab?"
The Indian shook his head. Then, later, when it ended, he said: "That is the mystery song of some one I never saw him."
There was a long silence, then the lad began, "There's no good hunting here now, Quonab. Why don't you go to the north woods, where deer are plentiful?"
The Indian gave a short shake of his head, and then to prevent further talk, "Put up your dew cloth; the sea wind blows to-night."
He finished; both stood for a moment gazing into the fire. Then Rolf felt something wet and cold thrust into his hand. It was Skookum's nose. At last the little dog had made up his mind to accept the white boy as a friend.
Chapter 7. Rolf Works Out with Many Results
He is the dumbest kind of a dumb fool that ain't king in some little corner.—Sayings of Si Sylvanne
The man who has wronged you will never forgive you, and he who has helped you will be forever grateful. Yes, there is nothing that draws you to a man so much as the knowledge that you have helped him.
Quonab helped Rolf, and so was more drawn to him than to many of the neighbours that he had known for years; he was ready to like him. Their coming together was accidental, but it was soon very clear that a friendship was springing up between them. Rolf was too much of a child to think about the remote future; and so was Quonab. Most Indians are merely tall children.
But there was one thing that Rolf did think of—he had no right to live in Quonab's lodge without contributing a fair share of the things needful. Quonab got his living partly by hunting, partly by fishing, partly by selling baskets, and partly by doing odd jobs for the neighbours. Rolf's training as a loafer had been wholly neglected, and when he realized that he might be all summer with Quonab he said bluntly:
"You let me stay here a couple of months. I'll work out odd days, and buy enough stuff to keep myself any way." Quonab said nothing, but their eyes met, and the boy knew it was agreed to.
Rolf went that very day to the farm of Obadiah Timpany, and offered to work by the day, hoeing corn and root crops. What farmer is not glad of help in planting time or in harvest? It was only a question of what did he know and how much did he want? The first was soon made clear; two dollars a week was the usual thing for boys in those times, and when he offered to take it half in trade, he was really getting three dollars a week and his board. Food was as low as wages, and at the end of a week, Rolf brought back to camp a sack of oatmeal, a sack of cornmeal, a bushel of potatoes, a lot of apples, and one dollar cash. The dollar went for tea and sugar, and the total product was enough to last them both a month; so Rolf could share the wigwam with a good conscience.
Of course, it was impossible to keep the gossipy little town of Myanos from knowing, first, that the Indian had a white boy for partner; and, later, that that boy was Rolf. This gave rise to great diversity of opinion in the neighbourhood. Some thought it should not be allowed, but Horton, who owned the land on which Quonab was camped, could not see any reason for interfering.
Ketchura Peck, spinster, however, did see many most excellent reasons. She was a maid with a mission, and maintained it to be an outrage that a Christian boy should be brought up by a godless pagan. She worried over it almost as much as she did over the heathen in Central Africa, where there are no Sunday schools, and clothes are as scarce as churches. Failing to move Parson Peck and Elder Knapp in the matter, and despairing of an early answer to her personal prayers, she resolved on a bold move, "An' it was only after many a sleepless, prayerful night," namely, to carry the Bible into the heathen's stronghold.
Thus it was that one bright morning in June she might have been seen, prim and proper—almost glorified, she felt, as she set her lips just right in the mirror—making for the Pipestave Pond, Bible in hand and spectacles clean wiped, ready to read appropriate selections to the unregenerate.
She was full of the missionary spirit when she left Myanos, and partly full when she reached the Orchard Street Trail; but the spirit was leaking badly, and the woods did appear so wild and lonely that she wondered if women had any right to be missionaries. When she came in sight of the pond, the place seemed unpleasantly different from Myanos and where was the Indian camp? She did not dare to shout; indeed, she began to wish she were home again, but the sense of duty carried her fully fifty yards along the pond, and then she came to an impassable rock, a sheer bank that plainly said, "Stop!" Now she must go back or up the bank. Her Yankee pertinacity said, "Try first up the bank," and she began a long, toilsome ascent, that did not end until she came out on a high, open rock which, on its farther side, had a sheer drop and gave a view of the village and of the sea.
Whatever joy she had on again seeing her home was speedily queued in the fearsome discovery that she was right over the Indian camp, and the two inmates looked so utterly, dreadfully savage that she was thankful they had not seen her. At once she shrank back; but on recovering sufficiently to again peer down, she saw something roasting before the fire—"a tiny arm with a hand that bore five fingers," as she afterward said, and "a sickening horror came over her." Yes, she had heard of such things. If she could only get home in safety! Why had she tempted Providence thus? She backed softly and prayed only to escape. What, and never even deliver the Bible? "It would be wicked to return with it!" In a cleft of the rock she placed it, and then, to prevent the wind blowing off loose leaves, she placed a stone on top, and fled from the dreadful place.
That night, when Quonab and Rolf had finished their meal of corn and roasted coon, the old man climbed the rock to look at the sky. The book caught his eye at once, evidently hidden there carefully, and therefore in cache. A cache is a sacred thing to an Indian. He disturbed it not, but later asked Rolf, "That yours?"
It was doubtless the property of some one who meant to return for it, so they left it untouched. It rested there for many months, till the winter storms came down, dismantling the covers, dissolving the pages, but leaving such traces as, in the long afterward, served to identify the book and give the rock the other name, the one it bears to-day—"Bible Rock, where Quonab, the son of Cos Cob, used to live."
Chapter 8. The Law of Property Among Our Four-Footed Kin
Night came down on the Asamuk woods, and the two in the wigwam were eating their supper of pork, beans, and tea, for the Indian did not, by any means object to the white man's luxuries, when a strange "yap-yurr" was heard out toward the plain. The dog was up at once with a growl. Rolf looked inquiringly, and Quonab said, "Fox," then bade the dog be still.
"Yap-yurr, yap-yurr," and then, "yurr, yeow," it came again and again. "Can we get him?" said the eager young hunter. The Indian shook his head.
"Fur no good now. An' that's a she-one, with young ones on the hillside."
"How do you know?" was the amazed inquiry. "I know it's a she-one, 'cause she says:
"Yap-yurr" (high pitched)
If it was a he-one he'd say:
"Yap-yurr" (low pitched)
"And she has cubs, 'cause all have at this season. And they are on that hillside, because that's the nearest place where any fox den is, and they keep pretty much to their own hunting grounds. If another fox should come hunting on the beat of this pair, he'd have to fight for it. That is the way of the wild animals; each has his own run, and for that he will fight an outsider that he would be afraid of at any other place. One knows he is right—that braces him up; the other knows he is wrong—and that weakens him." Those were the Indian's views, expressed much less connectedly than here given, and they led Rolf on to a train of thought. He remembered a case that was much to the point.
Their little dog Skookum several times had been worsted by the dog on the Horton farm, when, following his master, he had come into the house yard. There was no question that the Horton dog was stronger. But Skookum had buried a bone under some brushes by the plain and next day the hated Horton dog appeared. Skookum watched him with suspicion and fear, until it was no longer doubtful that the enemy had smelled the hidden food and was going for it. Then Skookum, braced up by some instinctive feeling, rushed forward with bristling mane and gleaming teeth, stood over his cache, and said in plainest dog, "You can't touch that while I live!"
And the Horton dog—accustomed to domineer over the small yellow cur—growled contemptuously, scratched with his hind feet, smelled around an adjoining bush, and pretending not to see or notice, went off in another direction.
What was it that robbed him of his courage, but the knowledge that he was in the wrong?
Continuing with his host Rolf said, "Do you think they have any idea that it is wrong to steal?"
"Yes, so long as it is one of their own tribe. A fox will take all he can get from a bird or a rabbit or a woodchuck, but he won't go far on the hunting grounds of another fox. He won't go into another fox's den or touch one of its young ones, and if he finds a cache of food with another fox's mark on it, he won't touch it unless he is near dead of hunger."
"How do you mean they cache food and how do they mark it?"
"Generally they bury it under the leaves and soft earth, and the only mark is to leave their body scent. But that is strong enough, and every fox knows it."
"Do wolves make food caches?"
"Yes, wolves, cougars, weasels, squirrels, bluejays, crows, owls, mice, all do, and all have their own way of marking a place."
"Suppose a fox finds a wolf cache, will he steal from it?"
"Yes, always. There is no law between fox and wolf. They are always at war with each other. There is law only between fox and fox, or wolf and wolf."
"That is like ourselves, ain't it? We say, 'Thou shalt not steal,' and then when we steal the Indian's land or the Frenchman's ships, we say, 'Oh, that don't mean not steal from our enemies; they are fair game.'"
Quonab rose to throw some sticks on the fire, then went out to turn the smoke flap of the wigwam, for the wind was changed and another set was needed to draw the smoke. They heard several times again the high-pitched "yap yurr," and once the deeper notes, which told that the dog fox, too, was near the camp, and was doubtless seeking food to carry home.
Chapter 9. Where the Bow Is Better Than the Gun
Of all popular errors about the Indians, the hardest to down is the idea that their women do all the work. They do the housework, it is true, but all the heavy labour beyond their strength is done by the men. Examples of this are seen in the frightful toil of hunting, canoeing, and portaging, besides a multitude of kindred small tasks, such as making snowshoes, bows, arrows, and canoes.
Each warrior usually makes his own bow and arrows, and if, as often happens, one of them proves more skilful and turns out better weapons, it is a common thing for others to offer their own specialty in exchange.
The advantages of the bow over the gun are chiefly its noiselessness, its cheapness, and the fact that one can make its ammunition anywhere. As the gun chiefly used in Quonab's time was the old-fashioned, smooth-bore flint-lock, there was not much difference in the accuracy of the two weapons. Quonab had always made a highclass bow, as well as high-class arrows, and was a high-class shot. He could set up ten clam shells at ten paces and break all in ten shots. For at least half of his hunting he preferred the bow; the gun was useful to him chiefly when flocks of wild pigeons or ducks were about, and a single charge of scattering shot might bring down a dozen birds.
But there is a law in all shooting—to be expert, you must practise continually—and when Rolf saw his host shoot nearly every day at some mark, he tried to join in the sport.
It took not many trys to show that the bow was far too strong for him to use, and Quonab was persuaded at length to make an outfit for his visitor.
From the dry store hole under the rock, he produced a piece of common red cedar. Some use hickory; it is less liable to break and will stand more abuse, but it has not the sharp, clean action of cedar. The latter will send the arrow much farther, and so swiftly does it leave the string that it baffles the eye. But the cedar bow must be cared for like a delicate machine; overstring it, and it breaks; twang it without an arrow, and it sunders the cords; scratch it, and it may splinter; wet it, and it is dead; let it lie on the ground, even, and it is weakened. But guard it and it will serve you as a matchless servant, and as can no other timber in these woods.
Just where the red heart and the white sap woods join is the bowman's choice. A piece that reached from Rolf's chin to the ground was shaved down till it was flat on the white side and round on the red side, tapering from the middle, where it was one inch wide and one inch thick to the ends, where it was three fourths of an inch wide and five eighths of an inch thick, the red and white wood equal in all parts.
The string was made of sinew from the back of a cow, split from the long, broad sheath that lies on each side the spine, and the bow strung for trial. Now, on drawing it (flat or white side in front), it was found that one arm bent more than the other, so a little more scraping was done on the strong side, till both bent alike.
Quonab's arrows would answer, but Rolf needed a supply of his own. Again there was great choice of material. The long, straight shoots ol' the arrowwood (Viburnuin dentatum) supplied the ancient Indians, but Quonab had adopted a better way, since the possession of an axe made it possible. A 25-inch block of straight-grained ash was split and split until it yielded enough pieces. These were shaved down to one fourth of an inch thick, round, smooth, and perfectly straight. Each was notched deeply at one end; three pieces of split goose feather were lashed on the notched end, and three different kinds of arrows were made. All were alike in shaft and in feathering, but differed in the head. First, the target arrows: these were merely sharpened, and the points hardened by roasting to a brown colour. They would have been better with conical points of steel, but none of these were to be had. Second, the ordinary hunting arrows with barbed steel heads, usually bought ready-made, or filed out of a hoop: these were for use in securing such creatures as muskrats, ducks close at hand, or deer. Third, the bird bolts: these were left with a large, round, wooden head. They were intended for quail, partridges, rabbits, and squirrels, but also served very often, and most admirably, in punishing dogs, either the Indian's own when he was not living up to the rules and was too far off for a cuff or kick, or a farmer's dog that was threatening an attack.
Now the outfit was complete, Rolf thought, but one other touch was necessary. Quonab painted the feather part of the shaft bright red, and Rolf learned why. Not for ornament, not as an owner's mark, but as a finding mark. Many a time that brilliant red, with the white feather next it, was the means of saving the arrow from loss. An uncoloured arrow among the sticks and leaves of the woods was usually hidden, but the bright-coloured shaft could catch the eye 100 yards away.
It was very necessary to keep the bow and arrows from the wet. For this, every hunter provides a case, usually of buckskin, but failing that they made a good quiver of birch bark laced with spruce roots for the arrows, and for the bow itself a long cover of tarpaulin.
Now came the slow drilling in archery; the arrow held and the bow drawn with three fingers on the cord—the thumb and little finger doing nothing. The target was a bag of hay set at twenty feet, until the beginner could hit it every time: then by degrees it was moved away until at the standard distance of forty yards he could do fair shooting, although of course he never shot as well as the Indian, who had practised since he was a baby.
There are three different kinds of archery tests: the first for aim: Can you shoot so truly as to hit a three-inch mark, ten times in succession, at ten paces?
Next for speed: Can you shoot so quickly and so far up, as to have five arrows in the air at once? If so, you are good: Can you keep up six? Then you are very good. Seven is wonderful. The record is said to be eight. Last for power: Can you pull so strong a bow and let the arrow go so clean that it will fly for 250 yards or will pass through a deer at ten paces? There is a record of a Sioux who sent an arrow through three antelopes at one shot, and it was not unusual to pierce the huge buffalo through and through; on one occasion a warrior with one shot pierced the buffalo and killed her calf running at the other side.
If you excel in these three things, you can down your partridge and squirrel every time; you can get five or six out of each flock of birds; you can kill your deer at twenty-five yards, and so need never starve in the woods where there is game.
Of course, Rolf was keen to go forth and try in the real chase, but it was many a shot he missed and many an arrow lost or broken, before he brought in even a red squirrel, and he got, at least, a higher appreciation of the skill of those who could count on the bow for their food.
For those, then, who think themselves hunters and woodmen, let this be a test and standard: Can you go forth alone into the wilderness where there is game, take only a bow and arrows for weapons, and travel afoot 250 miles, living on the country as you go?
Chapter 11. The Thunder-storm and the Fire Sticks
When first Rolf noticed the wigwam's place, he wondered that Quonab had not set it somewhere facing the lake, but he soon learned that it is best to have the morning sun, the afternoon shade, and shelter from the north and west winds.
The first two points were illustrated nearly every day; but it was two weeks before the last was made clear.
That day the sun came up in a red sky, but soon was lost to view in a heavy cloud-bank. There was no wind, and, as the morning passed, the day grew hotter and closer. Quonab prepared for a storm; but it came with unexpected force, and a gale of wind from the northwest that would indeed have wrecked the lodge, but for the great sheltering rock. Under its lea there was hardy a breeze; but not fifty yards away were two trees that rubbed together, and in the storm they rasped so violently that fine shreds of smoking wood were dropped and, but for the rain, would surely have made a blaze. The thunder was loud and lasted long, and the water poured down in torrents. They were ready for rain, but not for the flood that rushed over the face of the cliff, soaking everything in the lodge except the beds, which, being four inches off the ground, were safe; and lying on them the two campers waited patiently, or impatiently, while the weather raged for two drenching hours. And then the pouring became a pattering; the roaring, a swishing; the storm, a shower which died away, leaving changing patches of blue in the lumpy sky, and all nature calm and pleased, but oh, so wet! Of course the fire was out in the lodge and nearly all the wood was wet. Now Quonab drew from a small cave some dry cedar and got down his tinder-box with flint and steel to light up; but a serious difficulty appeared at once—the tinder was wet and useless.
These were the days before matches were invented. Every one counted on flint and steel for their fire, but the tinder was an essential, and now a fire seemed hopeless; at least Rolf thought so.
"Nana Bojou was dancing that time," said the Indian.
"Did you see him make fire with those two rubbing trees? So he taught our fathers, and so make we fire when the tricks of the white man fail us."
Quonab now cut two pieces of dry cedar, one three fourths of an inch thick and eighteen inches long, round, and pointed at both ends; the other five eighths of an inch thick and flat. In the flat one he cut a notch and at the end of the notch a little pit. Next he made a bow of a stiff, curved stick, and a buckskin thong: a small pine knot was selected and a little pit made in it with the point of a knife. These were the fare-making sticks, but it was necessary to prepare the firewood, lay the fire, and make some fibre for tinder. A lot of fine cedar shavings, pounded up with cedar bark and rolled into a two-inch ball, made good tinder, and all was ready. Quonab put the bow thong once around the long stick, then held its point in the pit of the flat stick, and the pine knot on the top to steady it. Now he drew the bow back and forth, slowly, steadily, till the long stick or drill revolving ground smoking black dust out of the notch. Then faster, until the smoke was very strong and the powder filled the notch. Then he lifted the flat stick, fanning the powder with his hands till a glowing coal appeared. Over this he put the cedar tinder and blew gently, till it flamed, and soon the wigwam was aglow.
The whole time taken, from lifting the sticks to the blazing fire, was less than one minute.
This is the ancient way of the Indian; Rolf had often heard of it as a sort of semi-myth; never before had he seen it, and so far as he could learn from the books, it took an hour or two of hard work, not a few deft touches and a few seconds of time.
He soon learned to do it himself, and in the years which followed, he had the curious experience of showing it to many Indians who had forgotten how, thanks to the greater portability of the white man's flint and steel.
As they walked in the woods that day, they saw three trees that had been struck by lightning during the recent storm; all three were oaks. Then it occurred to Rolf that he had never seen any but an oak struck by lightning.
"Is it so, Quonab?"
"No, there are many others; the lightning strikes the oaks most of all, but it will strike the pine, the ash, the hemlock, the basswood, and many more. Only two trees have I never seen struck, the balsam and the birch."
"Why do they escape?"
"My father told me when I was a little boy it was because they sheltered and warmed the Star-girl, who was the sister of the Thunder-bird."
"I never heard that; tell me about it."
"Sometime maybe, not now."
Chapter 12. Hunting the Woodchucks
Cornmeal and potatoes, with tea and apples, three times a day, are apt to lose their charm. Even fish did not entirely satisfy the craving for flesh meat. So Quonab and Rolf set out one morning on a regular hunt for food. The days of big game were over on the Asamuk, but there were still many small kinds and none more abundant than the woodchuck, hated of farmers. Not without reason. Each woodchuck hole in the field was a menace to the horses' legs. Tradition, at least, said that horses' legs and riders' necks had been broken by the steed setting foot in one of these dangerous pitfalls: besides which, each chuck den was the hub centre of an area of desolation whenever located, as mostly it was, in the cultivated fields. Undoubtedly the damage was greatly exaggerated, but the farmers generally agreed that the woodchuck was a pest.
Whatever resentment the tiller of the soil might feel against the Indian's hunting quail on his land, he always welcomed him as a killer of woodchucks.
And the Indian looked on this animal as fair game and most excellent eating.
Rolf watched eagerly when Quonab, taking his bow and arrows, said they were going out for a meat hunt. Although there were several fields with woodchucks resident, they passed cautiously from one to another, scanning the green expanse for the dark-brown spots that meant woodchucks out foraging. At length they found one, with a large and two small moving brown things among the clover. The large one stood up on its hind legs from time to time, ever alert for danger. It was a broad, open field, without cover; but close to the cleared place in which, doubtless, was the den, there was a ridge that Quonab judged would help him to approach.
Rolf was instructed to stay in hiding and make some Indian signs that the hunter could follow when he should lose sight of the prey. First, "Come on" (beckoning); and, second, "Stop," (hand raised, palm forward); "All right" (hand drawn across level and waist high); forefinger moved forward, level, then curved straight down, meant "gone in hole." But Rolf was not to sign anything or move, unless Quonab asked him by making the question sign (that is waving his hand with palm forward and spread fingers).
Quonab went back into the woods, then behind the stone walls to get around to the side next the ridge, and crawling so flat on his breast in the clover that, although it was but a foot high, he was quite invisible to any one not placed much above him.
In this way he came to the little ridge back of the woodchuck den, quite unknown to its occupants. But now he was in a difficulty. He could not see any of them.
They were certainly beyond range of his bow, and it was difficult to make them seek the den without their rushing into it. But he was equal to the occasion. He raised one hand and made the query sign, and watching Rolf he got answer, "All well; they are there." (A level sweep of the flat hand and a finger pointing steadily.) Then he waited a few seconds and made exactly the same sign, getting the same answer.
He knew that the movement of the distant man would catch the eye of the old woodchuck; she would sit up high to see what it was, and when it came a second time she would, without being exactly alarmed, move toward the den and call the young ones to follow.
The hunter had not long to wait. He heard her shrill, warning whistle, then the big chuck trotted and waddled into sight, stopping occasionally to nibble or look around. Close behind her were the two fat cubs. Arrived near the den their confidence was restored, and again they began to feed, the young ones close to the den. Then Quonab put a blunt bird dart in his bow and laid two others ready. Rising as little as possible, he drew the bow. 'Tsip! the blunt arrow hit the young chuck on the nose and turned him over. The other jumped in surprise and stood up. So did the mother. 'Tsip! another bolt and the second chuck was kicking. But the old one dashed like a flash into the underground safety of her den. Quonab knew that she had seen nothing of him and would likely come forth very soon. He waited for some time; then the gray-brown muzzle of the fat old clover-stealer came partly to view; but it was not enough for a shot, and she seemed to have no idea of coming farther. The Indian waited what seemed like a long time, then played an ancient trick. He began to whistle a soft, low air. Whether the chuck thinks it is another woodchuck calling, or merely a pleasant sound, is not known, but she soon did as her kind always does, came out of the hole slowly and ever higher, till she was half out and sitting up, peering about.
This was Quonab's chance. He now drew a barbed hunting arrow to the head and aimed it behind her shoulders. 'Tsip! and the chuck was transfixed by a shaft that ended her life a minute later, and immediately prevented that instinctive scramble into the hole, by which so many chucks elude the hunter, even when mortally wounded.
Now Quonab stood up without further concealment, and beckoned to Rolf, who came running. Three fat woodchucks meant abundance of the finest fresh meat for a week; and those who have not tried it have no idea what a delicacy is a young, fat, clover-fed woodchuck, pan-roasted, with potatoes, and served at a blazing campfire to a hunter who is young, strong, and exceedingly hungry.
Chapter 13. The Fight with the Demon of the Deep
One morning, as they passed the trail that skirts the pond, Quonab pointed to the near water. There was something afloat like a small, round leaf, with two beads well apart, on it. Then Rolf noticed, two feet away, a larger floating leaf, and now he knew that the first was the head and eyes, the last the back, of a huge snapping turtle. A moment more and it quickly sank from view. Turtles of three different kinds were common, and snappers were well known to Rolf; but never before had he seen such a huge and sinister-looking monster of the deep.
"That is Bosikado. I know him; he knows me," said the red man. "There has long been war between us; some day we will settle it. I saw him here first three years ago. I had shot a duck; it floated on the water. Before I could get to it something pulled it under, and that was the last of it. Then a summer duck came with young ones. One by one he took them, and at last got her. He drives all ducks away, so I set many night lines for him. I got some little snappers, eight and ten pounds each. They were good to eat, and three times already I took Bosikado on the hooks, but each time when I pulled him up to the canoe, he broke my biggest line and went down. He was as broad as the canoe; his claws broke through the canoe skin; he made it bulge and tremble. He looked like the devil of the lake. I was afraid!
"But my father taught me there is only one thing that can shame a man—that is to be afraid, and I said I will never let fear be my guide. I will seek a fair fight with Bosikado. He is my enemy. He made me afraid once; I will make him much afraid. For three years we have been watching each other. For three years he has kept all summer ducks away, and robbed my fish-lines, my nets, and my muskrat traps. Not often do I see him—mostly like today.
"Before Skookum I had a little dog, Nindai. He was a good little dog. He could tree a coon, catch a rabbit, or bring out a duck, although he was very small. We were very good friends. One time I shot a duck; it fell into the lake; I called Nindai. He jumped into the water and swam to the duck. Then that duck that I thought dead got up and flew away, so I called Nindai. He came across the water to me. By and by, over that deep place, he howled and splashed. Then he yelled, like he wanted me. I ran for the canoe and paddled quick; I saw my little dog Nindai go down. Then I knew it was that Bosikado again. I worked a long time with a pole, but found nothing; only five days later one of Nindai's paws floated down the stream. Some day I will tear open that Bosikado!
"Once I saw him on the bank. He rolled down like a big stone to the water. He looked at me before he dived, and as we looked in each other's eyes I knew he was a Manito; but he is evil, and my father said, 'When an evil Manito comes to trouble you, you must kill him.'
"One day, when I swam after a dead duck, he took me by the toe, but I reached shallow water and escaped him; and once I drove my fish-spear in his back, but it was not strong enough to hold him. Once he caught Skookum's tail, but the hair came out; the dog has not since swum across the pond.
"Twice I have seen him like today and might have killed him with the gun, but I want to meet him fighting. Many a time I have sat on the bank and sung to him the 'Coward's Song,' and dared him to come and fight in the shallow water where we are equals. He hears me. He does not come.
"I know he made me sick last winter; even now he is making trouble with his evil magic. But my magic must prevail, and some day we shall meet. He made me afraid once. I will make him much afraid, and will meet him in the water."
Not many days were to pass before the meeting. Rolf had gone for water at the well, which was a hole dug ten feet from the shore of the lake. He had learned the hunter's cautious trick of going silently and peering about, before he left cover. On a mud bank in a shallow bay, some fifty yards off, he described a peculiar gray and greenish form that he slowly made out to be a huge turtle, sunning itself. The more he looked and gauged it with things about, the bigger it seemed. So he slunk back quickly and silently to Quonab. "He is out sunning himself—Bosikado—on the bank!"
The Indian rose quickly, took his tomahawk and a strong line. Rolf reached for the gun, but Quonab shook his head. They went to the lake. Yes! There was the great, goggle-eyed monster, like a mud-coloured log. The bank behind him was without cover. It would be impossible to approach the watchful creature within striking distance before he could dive. Quonab would not use the gun; in this case he felt he must atone by making an equal fight. He quickly formed a plan; he fastened the tomahawk and the coiled rope to his belt, then boldly and silently slipped into the lake, to approach the snapper from the water side—quite the easiest in this case, not only because the snapper would naturally watch on the land side, but because there was a thick clump of rushes behind which the swimmer could approach.
Then, as instructed, Rolf went back into the woods, and came silently to a place whence he could watch the snapper from a distance of twenty yards.
The boy's heart beat fast as he watched the bold swimmer and the savage reptile. There could be little doubt that the creature weighed a hundred pounds. It is the strongest for its size and the fiercest of all reptiles. Its jaws, though toothless, have cutting edges, a sharp beak, and power to the crushing of bones. Its armour makes it invulnerable to birds and beasts of prey. Like a log it lay on the beach, with its long alligator tail stretched up the bank and its serpentine head and tiny wicked eyes vigilantly watching the shore. Its shell, broad and ancient, was fringed with green moss, and its scaly armpits exposed, were decked with leeches, at which a couple of peetweets pecked with eager interest, apparently to the monster's satisfaction. Its huge limbs and claws were in marked contrast to the small, red eyes. But the latter it was that gave the thrill of unnervement.
Sunk down nearly out of sight, the Indian slowly reached the reeds. Here he found bottom, and pausing, he took the rope in one hand, the tomahawk in the other, and dived, and when he reappeared he was within ten yards of the enemy, and in water but four feet deep.
With a sudden rush the reptile splashed into the pond and out of sight, avoiding the rope noose. But Quonab clutched deep in the water as it passed, and seized the monster's rugged tail. Then it showed its strength. In a twinkling that mighty tail was swung sidewise, crushing the hand with terrible force against the sharp-edged points of the back armour. It took all the Indian's grit to hold on to that knife-edged war club. He dropped his tomahawk, then with his other hand swung the rope to catch the turtle's head, but it lurched so quickly that the rope missed again, slipped over the shell, and, as they struggled, encircled one huge paw. The Indian jerked it tight, and they were bound together. But now his only weapon was down at the bottom and the water all muddied. He could not see, but plunged to grope for the tomahawk. The snapper gave a great lurch to escape, releasing the injured hand, but jerking the man off his legs. Then, finding itself held by a forepaw, it turned with gaping, hissing jaws, and sprang on the foe that struggled in bottom of the water.
The snapper has the bulldog habit to seize and hold till the piece tears out. In the muddy water it had to seize in the dark, and fending first the left arm of its foe, fastened on with fierce beak and desperate strength. At this moment Quonab recovered his tomahawk; rising into the air he dragged up the hanging snapper, and swung the weapon with all the force of his free arm. The blow sank through the monster's shell, deep into its back, without any visible effect, except to rob the Indian of his weapon as he could not draw it out.
Then Rolf rushed into the water to help. But Quonab gasped, "No, no, go back—I'm alone."
The creature's jaws were locked on his arm, but its front claws, tearing downward and outward, were demolishing the coat that had protected it, and long lines of mingled blood were floating on the waves.
After a desperate plunge toward shallow water, Quonab gave another wrench to the tomahawk—it moved, loosed; another, and it was free. Then "chop, chop, chop," and that long, serpentine neck was severed; the body, waving its great scaly legs and lashing its alligator tail, went swimming downward, but the huge head, blinking its bleary, red eyes and streaming with blood, was clinched on his arm. The Indian made for the bank hauling the rope that held the living body, and fastened it to a tree, then drew his knife to cut the jaw muscles of the head that ground its beak into his flesh. But the muscles were protected by armour plates and bone; he could not deal a stab to end their power. In vain he fumbled and slashed, until in a spasmodic quiver the jaws gaped wide and the bloody head fell to the ground. Again it snapped, but a tree branch bore the brunt; on this the strong jaws clinched, and so remained.
For over an hour the headless body crawled, or tried to crawl, always toward the lake. And now they could look at the enemy. Not his size so much as his weight surprised them. Although barely four feet long, he was so heavy that Rolf could not lift him. Quonab's scratches were many but slight; only the deep bill wound made his arm and the bruises of the jaws were at all serious and of these he made light. Headed by Skookum in full 'yap,' they carried the victim's body to camp; the head, still dutching the stick, was decorated with three feathers, then set on a pole near the wigwam. And the burden of the red man's song when next he sang was:
"Bosikado, mine enemy was mighty, But I went into his country And made him afraid!"
Chapter 14. Selectman Horton Appears at the Rock
Summer was at its height on the Asamuk. The woodthrush was nearing the end of its song; a vast concourse of young robins in their speckled plumage joined chattering every night in the thickest cedars; and one or two broods of young ducks were seen on the Pipestave Pond.
Rolf had grown wonderfully well into his wigwam life. He knew now exactly how to set the flap so as to draw out all the smoke, no matter which way the wind blew; he had learned the sunset signs, which tell what change of wind the night might bring. He knew without going to the shore whether the tide was a little ebb, with poor chances, or a mighty outflow that would expose the fattest oyster beds. His practiced fingers told at a touch whether it was a turtle or a big fish on his night line; and by the tone of the tom-tom he knew when a rainstorm was at hand.
Being trained in industry, he had made many improvements in their camp, not the least of which was to clean up and burn all the rubbish and garbage that attracted hordes of flies. He had fitted into the camp partly by changing it to fit himself, and he no longer felt that his stay there was a temporary shift. When it was to end, he neither knew nor cared. He realized only that he was enjoying life as he never had done before. His canoe had passed a lot of rapids and was now in a steady, unbroken stream—but it was the swift shoot before the fall. A lull in the clamour does not mean the end of war, but a new onset preparing; and, of course, it came in the way least looked for.
Selectman Horton stood well with the community; he was a man of good judgment, good position, and kind heart. He was owner of all the woods along the Asamuk, and thus the Indian's landlord on the Indian's ancestral land. Both Rolf and Quonab had worked for Horton, and so they knew him well, and liked him for his goodness.
It was Wednesday morning, late in July, when Selectman Horton, clean-shaven and large, appeared at the wigwam under the rock.
"Good morrow to ye both!" Then without wasting time he plunged in. "There's been some controversy and much criticism of the selectmen for allowing a white lad, the child of Christian parents, the grandson of a clergyman, to leave all Christian folk and folds, and herd with a pagan, to become, as it were, a mere barbarian. I hold not, indeed, with those that out of hand would condemn as godless a good fellow like Quonab, who, in my certain knowledge and according to his poor light, doth indeed maintain in some kind a daily worship of a sort. Nevertheless, the selectmen, the magistrates, the clergy, the people generally, and above all the Missionary Society, are deeply moved in the matter. It hath even been made a personal charge against myself, and with much bitterness I am held up as unzealous for allowing such a nefarious stronghold of Satan to continue on mine own demesne, and harbour one, escaped, as it were, from grace. Acting, therefore, not according to my heart, but as spokesman of the Town Council, the Synod of Elders, and the Society for the Promulgation of Godliness among the Heathen, I am to state that you, Rolf Kittering, being without kinsfolk and under age, are in verity a ward of the parish, and as such, it hath been arranged that you become a member of the household of the most worthy Elder Ezekiel Peck, a household filled with the spirit of estimable piety and true doctrine; a man, indeed, who, notwithstanding his exterior coldness and severity, is very sound in all matters regarding the Communion of Saints, and, I may even say in a measure a man of fame for some most excellent remarks he hath passed on the shorter catechism, beside which he hath gained much approval for having pointed out two hidden meanings in the 27th verse of the 12th chapter of Hebrews; one whose very presence, therefore, is a guarantee against levity, laxity, and false preachment.
"There, now, my good lad, look not so like a colt that feels the whip for the first time. You will have a good home, imbued with the spirit of a most excellent piety that will be ever about you."
"Like a colt feeling the whip," indeed! Rolf reeled like a stricken deer. To go back as a chore-boy drudge was possible, but not alluring; to leave Quonab, just as the wood world was opening to him, was devastating; but to exchange it all for bondage in the pious household of Old Peck, whose cold cruelty had driven off all his own children, was an accumulation of disasters that aroused him.
"I won't go!" he blurted out, and gazed defiantly at the broad and benevolent selectman.
"Come now, Rolf, such language is unbecoming. Let not a hasty tongue betray you into sin. This is what your mother would have wished. Be sensible; you will soon find it was all for the best. I have ever liked you, and will ever be a friend you can count on.
"Acting, not according to my instructions, but according to my heart, I will say further that you need not come now, you need not even give answer now, but think it over. Nevertheless, remember that on or before Monday morning next, you will be expected to appear at Elder Peck's, and I fear that, in case you fail, the messenger next arriving will be one much less friendly than myself. Come now, Rolf, be a good lad, and remember that in your new home you will at least be living for the glory of God."
Then, with a friendly nod, but an expression of sorrow, the large, black messenger turned and tramped away.
Rolf slowly, limply, sank down on a rock and stared at the fire. After awhile Quonab got up and began to prepare the mid-day meal. Usually Rolf helped him. Now he did nothing but sullenly glare at the glowing coals. In half an hour the food was ready. He ate little; then went away in the woods by himself. Quonab saw him lying on a flat rock, looking at the pond, and throwing pebbles into it. Later Quonab went to Myanos. On his return he found that Rolf had cut up a great pile of wood, but not a word passed between them. The look of sullen anger and rebellion on Rolf's face was changing to one of stony despair. What was passing in each mind the other could not divine.
The evening meal was eaten in silence; then Quonab smoked for an hour, both staring into the fire. A barred owl hooted and laughed over their heads, causing the dog to jump up and bark at the sound that ordinarily he would have heeded not at all. Then silence was restored, and the red man's hidden train of thought was in a flash revealed.
"Rolf, let's go to the North Woods!"
It was another astounding idea. Rolf had realized more and more how much this valley meant to Quonab, who worshipped the memory of his people.
"And leave all this?" he replied, making a sweep with his hand toward the rock, the Indian trail, the site of bygone Petuquapen, and the graves of the tribe.
For reply their eyes met, and from the Indian's deep chest came the single word, "Ugh." One syllable, deep and descending, but what a tale it told of the slowly engendered and strong-grown partiality, of a struggle that had continued since the morning when the selectman came with words of doom, and of friendship's victory won.
Rolf realized this, and it gave him a momentary choking in his throat, and, "I'm ready if you really mean it."
"Ugh I go, but some day come back."
There was a long silence, then Rolf, "When shall we start?" and the answer, "To-morrow night."
Chapter 15. Bound for the North Woods
When Quonab left camp in the morning he went heavy laden, and the trail he took led to Myanos. There was nothing surprising in it when he appeared at Silas Peck's counter and offered for sale a pair of snowshoes, a bundle of traps, some dishes of birch bark and basswood, and a tom-tom, receiving in exchange some tea, tobacco, gunpowder, and two dollars in cash. He turned without comment, and soon was back in camp. He now took the kettle into the woods and brought it back filled with bark, fresh chipped from a butternut tree. Water was added, and the whole boiled till it made a deep brown liquid. When this was cooled he poured it into a flat dish, then said to Rolf: "Come now, I make you a Sinawa."
With a soft rag the colour was laid on. Face, head, neck, and hands were all at first intended, but Rolf said, "May as well do the whole thing." So he stripped off; the yellow brown juice on his white skin turned it a rich copper colour, and he was changed into an Indian lad that none would have taken for Rolf Kittering. The stains soon dried, and Rolf, re-clothed, felt that already he had burned a bridge.
Two portions of the wigwam cover were taken off; and two packs were made of the bedding. The tomahawk, bows, arrows, and gun, with the few precious food pounds in the copper pot, were divided between them and arranged into packs with shoulder straps; then all was ready. But there was one thing more for Quonab; he went up alone to the rock. Rolf knew what he went for, and judged it best not to follow.
The Indian lighted his pipe, blew the four smokes to the four winds, beginning with the west, then he sat in silence for a time. Presently the prayer for good hunting came from the rock:
"Father lead us! Father, help us! Father, guide us to the good hunting."
And when that ceased a barred owl hooted in the woods, away to the north.
"Ugh! good," was all he said as he rejoined Rolf; and they set out, as the sun went down, on their long journey due northward, Quonab, Rolf, and Skookum. They had not gone a hundred yards before the dog turned back, raced to a place where he had a bone in cache and rejoining there trotted along with his bone.
The high road would have been the easier travelling, but it was very necessary to be unobserved, so they took the trail up the brook Asamuk, and after an hour's tramp came out by the Cat-Rock road that runs westerly. Again they were tempted by the easy path, but again Quonab decided on keeping to the woods. Half an hour later they were halted by Skookum treeing a coon. After they had secured the dog, they tramped on through the woods for two hours more, and then, some eight miles from the Pipestave, they halted, Rolf, at least, tired out. It was now midnight. They made a hasty double bed of the canvas cover over a pole above them, and slept till morning, cheered, as they closed their drowsy eyes, by the "Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, yah, hoo," of their friend, the barred owl, still to the northward.
The sun was high, and Quonab had breakfast ready before Rolf awoke. He was so stiff with the tramp and the heavy pack that it was with secret joy he learned that they were to rest, concealed in the woods, that day, and travel only by night, until in a different region, where none knew or were likely to stop them. They were now in York State, but that did not by any means imply that they were beyond pursuit.
As the sun rose high, Rolf went forth with his bow and blunt arrows, and then, thanks largely to Skookum, he succeeded in knocking over a couple of squirrels, which, skinned and roasted, made their dinner that day. At night they set out as before, making about ten miles. The third night they did better, and the next day being Sunday, they kept out of sight. But Monday morning, bright and clear, although it was the first morning when they were sure of being missed, they started to tramp openly along the highway, with a sense of elation that they had not hitherto known on the joumey. Two things impressed Rolf by their novelty: the curious stare of the country folk whose houses and teams they passed, and the violent antagonism of the dogs. Usually the latter could be quelled by shaking a stick at them, or by pretending to pick up a stone, but one huge and savage brindled mastiff kept following and barking just out of stick range, and managed to give Skookum a mauling, until Quonab drew his bow and let fly a blunt arrow that took the brute on the end of the nose, and sent him howling homeward, while Skookum got a few highly satisfactory nips at the enemy's rear. Twenty miles they made that day and twenty-five the next, for now they were on good roads, and their packs were lighter. More than once they found kind farmer folk who gave them a meal. But many times Skookum made trouble for them. The farmers did not like the way he behaved among their hens. Skookum never could be made to grasp the fine zoological distinction between partridges which are large birds and fair game, and hens which are large birds, but not fair game. Such hair splitting was obviously unworthy of study, much less of acceptance.
Soon it was clearly better for Rolf, approaching a house, to go alone, while Quonab held Skookum. The dogs seemed less excited by Rolf's smell, and remembering his own attitude when tramps came to one or another of his ancient homes, he always asked if they would let him work for a meal, and soon remarked that his success was better when he sought first the women of the house, and then, smiling to show his very white teeth, spoke in clear and un-Indian English, which had the more effect coming from an evident Indian.
"Since I am to be an Indian, Quonab, you must give me an Indian name," he said after one of these episodes.
"Ugh! Good! That's easy! You are 'Nibowaka,' the wise one." For the Indian had not missed any of the points, and so he was named.
Twenty or thirty miles a day they went now, avoiding the settlements along the river. Thus they saw nothing of Albany, but on the tenth day they reached Fort Edward, and for the first time viewed the great Hudson. Here they stayed as short a time as might be, pushed on by Glen's Falls, and on the eleventh night of the journey they passed the old, abandoned fort, and sighted the long stretch of Lake George, with its wooded shore, and glimpses of the mountains farther north.
Now a new thought possessed them—"If only they had the canoe that they had abandoned on the Pipestave." It came to them both at the sight of the limit less water, and especially when Rolf remembered that Lake George joined with Champlain, which again was the highway to all the wilderness.
They camped now as they had fifty times before, and made their meal. The bright blue water dancing near was alluring, inspiring; as they sought the shore Quonab pointed to a track and said, "Deer." He did not show much excitement, but Rolf did, and they returned to the camp fire with a new feeling of elation—they had reached the Promised Land. Now they must prepare for the serious work of finding a hunting ground that was not already claimed.
Quonab, remembering the ancient law of the woods, that parcels off the valleys, each to the hunter first arriving, or succeeding the one who had, was following his own line of thought. Rolf was puzzling over means to get an outfit, canoe, traps, axes, and provisions. The boy broke silence.
"Quonab, we must have money to get an outfit; this is the beginning of harvest; we can easily get work for a month. That will feed us and give us money enough to live on, and a chance to learn something about the country."
The reply was simple, "You are Nibowaka."
The farms were few and scattered here, but there were one or two along the lake. To the nearest one with standing grain Rolf led the way. But their reception, from the first brush with the dog to the final tilt with the farmer, was unpleasant—"He didn't want any darn red-skins around there. He had had two St. Regis Indians last year, and they were a couple of drunken good-for-nothings."
The next was the house of a fat Dutchman, who was just wondering how he should meet the compounded accumulated emergencies of late hay, early oats, weedy potatoes, lost cattle, and a prospective increase of his family, when two angels of relief appeared at his door, in copper-coloured skins.
"Cahn yo work putty goood?
"Yes, I have always lived on a farm," and Rolf showed his hands, broad and heavy for his years.
"Cahn yo mebby find my lost cows, which I haf not find, already yet?"
Could they! it would be fun to try.
"I giff yo two dollars you pring dem putty kvick."
So Quonab took the trail to the woods, and Rolf started into the potatoes with a hoe, but he was stopped by a sudden outcry of poultry. Alas! It was Skookum on an ill-judged partridge hunt. A minute later he was ignominiously chained to a penitential post, nor left it during the travellers' sojourn.
In the afternoon Quonab returned with the cattle, and as he told Rolf he saw five deer, there was an unmistakable hunter gleam in his eye.
Three cows in milk, and which had not been milked for two days, was a serious matter, needing immediate attention. Rolf had milked five cows twice a day for five years, and a glance showed old Van Trumper that the boy was an expert.
"Good, good! I go now make feed swine."
He went into the outhouse, but a tow-topped, redcheeked girl ran after him. "Father, father, mother says—" and the rest was lost.
"Myn Hemel! Myn Hemel! I thought it not so soon," and the fat Dutchman followed the child. A moment later he reappeared, his jolly face clouded with a look of grave concern. "Hi yo big Injun, yo cahn paddle canoe?" Quonab nodded. "Den coom. Annette, pring Tomas und Hendrik." So the father carried two-year-old Hendrik, while the Indian carried six-year-old Tomas, and twelve-year-old Annette followed in vague, uncomprehended alarm. Arrived at the shore the children were placed in the canoe, and then the difficulties came fully to the father's mind—he could not leave his wife. He must send the children with the messenger—In a sort of desperation, "Cahn you dem childen take to de house across de lake, and pring back Mrs. Callan? Tell her Marta Van Trumper need her right now mooch very kvick." The Indian nodded. Then the father hesitated, but a glance at the Indian was enough. Something said, "He is safe," and in spite of sundry wails from the little ones left with a dark stranger, he pushed off the canoe: "Yo take care for my babies," and turned his brimming eyes away.
The farmhouse was only two miles off, and the evening calm; no time was lost: what woman will not instantly drop all work and all interests, to come to the help of another in the trial time of motherhood?
Within an hour the neighbour's wife was holding hands with the mother of the banished tow-heads. He who tempers the wind and appoints the season of the wild deer hinds had not forgotten the womanhood beyond the reach of skilful human help, and with the hard and lonesome life had conjoined a sweet and blessed compensation. What would not her sister of the city give for such immunity; and long before that dark, dread hour of night that brings the ebbing life force low, the wonderful miracle was complete; there was another tow-top in the settler's home, and all was well.
Chapter 16. Life with the Dutch Settler
The Indians slept in the luxuriant barn of logs, with blankets, plenty of hay, and a roof. They were more than content, for now, on the edge of the wilderness, they were very close to wild life. Not a day or a night passed without bringing proof of that.
One end of the barn was portioned off for poultry. In this the working staff of a dozen hens were doing their duty, which, on that first night of the "brown angels' visit," consisted of silent slumber, when all at once the hens and the new hands were aroused by a clamorous cackling, which speedily stopped. It sounded like a hen falling in a bad dream, then regaining her perch to go to sleep again. But next morning the body of one of these highly esteemed branches of the egg-plant was found in the corner, partly devoured. Quonab examined the headless hen, the dust around, and uttered the word, "Mink."
Rolf said, "Why not skunk?"
"Skunk could not climb to the perch."
"Weasel would only suck the blood, and would kill three or four."
"Coon would carry him away, so would fox or wildcat, and a marten would not come into the building by night."
There was no question, first, that it was a mink, and, second, that he was hiding about the barn until the hunger pang should send him again to the hen house. Quonab covered the hen's body with two or three large stones so that there was only one approach. In the way of this approach he buried a "number one" trap.
That night they were aroused again; this time by a frightful screeching, and a sympathetic, inquiring cackle from the fowls.
Arising, quickly they entered with a lantem. Rolf then saw a sight that gave him a prickling in his hair. The mink, a large male, was caught by one front paw. He was writhing and foaming, tearing, sometimes at the trap, sometimes at the dead hen, and sometimes at his own imprisoned foot, pausing now and then to utter the most ear-piercing shrieks, then falling again in crazy animal fury on the trap, splintering his sharp white teeth, grinding the cruel metal with bruised and bloody jaws, frothing, snarling, raving mad. As his foemen entered he turned on them a hideous visage of inexpressible fear and hate, rage and horror. His eyes glanced back green fire in the lantern light; he strained in renewed efforts to escape; the air was rank with his musky smell. The impotent fury of his struggle made a picture that continued in Rolf's mind. Quonab took a stick and with a single blow put an end to the scene, but never did Rolf forget it, and never afterward was he a willing partner when the trapping was done with those relentless jaws of steel.
A week later another hen was missing, and the door of the hen house left open. After a careful examination of the dust, inside and out of the building, Quonab said, "Coon." It is very unusual for coons to raid a hen house. Usually it is some individual with abnormal tastes, and once he begins, he is sure to come back. The Indian judged that he might be back the next night, so prepared a trap. A rope was passed from the door latch to a tree; on this rope a weight was hung, so that the door was selfshutting, and to make it self-locking he leaned a long pole against it inside. Now he propped it open with a single platform, so set that the coon must walk on it once he was inside, and so release the door. The trappers thought they would hear in the night when the door closed, but they were sleepy; they knew nothing until next morning. Then they found that the self-shutter had shut, and inside, crouched in one of the nesting boxes, was a tough, old fighting coon. Strange to tell, he had not touched a second hen. As soon as he found himself a prisoner he had experienced a change of heart, and presently his skin was nailed on the end of the barn and his meat was hanging in the larder.