TWO LITTLE SAVAGES
Being the ADVENTURES of Two BOYS Who Lived as INDIANS and What They LEARNED
With Over Three Hundred Drawings
Written & Illustrated by
ERNEST THOMPSON SETON
Author of Wild Animals I have Known, Lives of the Hunted, Biography of a Grizzly, Trail of the Sandhill Stag, etcetera, & Naturalist to the Government of Manitoba.
Because I have known the torment of thirst I would dig a well where others may drink.
In this Book the designs for Title-page, Jackets, and general make-up were done by Grace Gallatin Seton.
Glenyan & Yan
I. Glimmerings II. Spring III. His Adjoining Brothers IV. The Book V. The Collarless Stranger VI. Glenyan VII The Shanty VIII The Beginnings of Woodlore IX Tracks X. Biddy's Contribution XI. Lung Balm XII. A Crisis XIII. The Lynx XIV. Froth
Sanger & Sam
I. The New Home II. Sam III. The Wigwam IV. The Sanger Witch V. Caleb VI. The Making of the Teepee VII. The Calm Evening VIII. The Sacred Fire IX. The Bows and Arrows X. The Dam XI. Yan and the Witch XII. Dinner with the Witch XIII. The Hostile Spy XIV. The Quarrel XV. The Peace of Minnie
In the Woods
I. Really in the Woods II. The First Night and Morning III. A Crippled Warrior and the Mud-Albums IV. A "Massacree" of Palefaces V. The Deer Hunt VI. War Bonnet, Teepee and Coups VII. Campercraft VIII. The Indian Drum IX. The Cat and the Skunk X. The Adventures of a Squirrel family XI. How to See the Woodfolk XII. Indian Signs and Getting Lost XIII. Tanning Skins and Making Moccasins XIV. Caleb's Philosophy XV. A Visit from Raften XVI. How Yan Knew the Ducks Afar XVII. Sam's Woodcraft Exploit XVIII. The Owls and the Night-School XIX. The Trial of Grit XX. The White Revolver XXI. The Triumph of Guy XXII. The Coon Hunt XXIII. The Banshee's Wail and the Huge Night Prowler XXIV. Hawkeye Claims Another Grand Coup XXV. The Three-fingered Tramp XXVI. Winning Back the farm XXVII. The Rival Tribe XXVIII. White Man's Woodcraft XXIX. The Long Swamp XXX. A New Kind of Coon XXXI. On the Old Camp Ground XXXII. The New War Chief
List of Full Pages
1. "Gazing spellbound in that window" 2. "He already knew the Downy Woodpecker" 3. "Yan's Toilet" 4. "The Coon Track" 5. "There in his dear cabin were three tramps" 6. "It surely was a Lynx"
7. "The wigwam was a failure" 8. "Get out o' this now, or I'll boot ye" 9. "Pattern for Teepee"
10. "Pattern of Thunder Bull's Teepee and of Black Bull's Teepee" 11. "'Clicker-a-clicker!' he shrieked ... and down like a dart" 12. "Rubbing-sticks for fire-making" 13. "The Archery Outfit" 14. "The dam was a great success" 15. "Ugh! Heap sassy" 16. "There stood Raften, spectator of the whole affair"
17. "If ye kill any Song-birds, I'll use the rawhoide on ye" 18. "Where's the axe?" 19. "He soon appeared, waving a branch" 20. "The War Bonnet" 21. "The old Cat raged and tore" 22. "Indian Signs" 23. "The Two Smokes" 24. "The Fish and River Ducks" 25. "The Sea Ducks" 26. "Owl-stuffing plate" 27. "Guy gave a leap of terror and fell" 28. "Well, sonny, cookin' dinner?" 29. "He nervously fired and missed"
Yan was much like other twelve-year-old boys in having a keen interest in Indians and in wild life, but he differed from most in this, that he never got over it. Indeed, as he grew older, he found a yet keener pleasure in storing up the little bits of woodcraft and Indian lore that pleased him as a boy.
His father was in poor circumstances. He was an upright man of refined tastes, but indolent—a failure in business, easy with the world and stern with his family. He had never taken an interest in his son's wildwood pursuits; and when he got the idea that they might interfere with the boy's education, he forbade them altogether.
There was certainly no reason to accuse Yan of neglecting school. He was the head boy of his class, although there were many in it older than himself. He was fond of books in general, but those that dealt with Natural Science and Indian craft were very close to his heart. Not that he had many—there were very few in those days, and the Public Library had but a poor representation of these. "Lloyd's Scandinavian Sports," "Gray's Botany" and one or two Fenimore Cooper novels, these were all, and Yan was devoted to them. He was a timid, obedient boy in most things, but the unwise command to give up what was his nature merely made him a disobedient boy—turned a good boy into a bad one. He was too much in terror of his father to disobey openly, but he used to sneak away at all opportunities to the fields and woods, and at each new bird or plant he found he had an exquisite thrill of mingled pleasure and pain—the pain because he had no name for it or means of learning its nature.
The intense interest in animals was his master passion, and thanks to this, his course to and from school was a very crooked one, involving many crossings of the street, because thereby he could pass first a saloon in whose window was a champagne advertising chromo that portrayed two Terriers chasing a Rat; next, directly opposite this, was a tobacconist's, in the window of which was a beautiful effigy of an Elephant, laden with tobacco. By going a little farther out of his way, there was a game store where he might see some Ducks, and was sure, at least, of a stuffed Deer's head; and beyond that was a furrier shop, with an astonishing stuffed Bear. At another point he could see a livery stable Dog that was said to have killed a Coon, and at yet another place on Jervie Street was a cottage with a high veranda, under which, he was told, a chained Bear had once been kept. He never saw the Bear. It had been gone for years, but he found pleasure in passing the place. At the corner of Pemberton and Grand streets, according to a schoolboy tradition, a Skunk had been killed years ago and could still be smelled on damp nights. He always stopped, if passing near on a wet night, and sniffed and enjoyed that Skunk smell. The fact that it ultimately turned out to be a leakage of sewer gas could never rob him of the pleasure he originally found in it.
Yan had no good excuse for these weaknesses, and he blushed for shame when his elder brother talked "common sense" to him about his follies. He only knew that such things fascinated him.
But the crowning glory was a taxidermist's shop kept on Main Street by a man named Sander. Yan spent, all told, many weeks gazing spellbound, with his nose flat white against that window. It contained some Fox and Cat heads grinning ferociously, and about fifty birds beautifully displayed. Nature might have got some valuable hints in that window on showing plumage to the very best advantage. Each bird seemed more wonderful than the last.
There were perhaps fifty of them on view, and of these, twelve had labels, as they had formed part of an exhibit at the Annual County Fair. These labels were precious truths to him, and the birds:
Osprey Partridge or Ruffed Grouse Kingfisher Bittern Bluejay Highholder Rosebreasted Grosbeak Sawwhet Owl Woodthrush Oriole Scarlet Tanager * * * * * * *
were, with their names, deeply impressed on his memory and added to his woodlore, though not altogether without a mixture of error. For the alleged Woodthrush was not a Woodthrush at all, but turned out to be a Hermit Thrush. The last bird of the list was a long-tailed, brownish bird with white breast. The label was placed so that Yan could not read it from outside, and one of his daily occupations was to see if the label had been turned so that he could read it. But it never was, so he never learned the bird's name.
After passing this for a year or more, he formed a desperate plan. It was nothing less than to go inside. It took him some months to screw up courage, for he was shy and timid, but oh! he was so hungry for it. Most likely if he had gone in openly and asked leave, he would have been allowed to see everything; but he dared not. His home training was all of the crushing kind. He picked on the most curious of the small birds in the window—a Sawwhet Owl then grit his teeth and walked in. How frightfully the cowbell on the door did clang! Then there succeeded a still more appalling silence, then a step and the great man himself came.
"How—how—how much is that Owl?"
Yan's courage broke down now. He fled. If he had been told ten cents, it would have been utterly beyond reach. He scarcely heard what the man said. He hurried out with a vague feeling that he had been in heaven but was not good enough to stay there. He saw nothing of the wonderful things around him.
Yan, though not strong, revelled in deeds of brawn. He would rather have been Samson than Moses—Hercules than Apollo. All his tastes inclined him to wild life. Each year when the spring came, he felt the inborn impulse to up and away. He was stirred through and through when the first Crow, in early March, came barking over-head. But it fairly boiled in his blood when the Wild Geese, in long, double, arrow-headed procession, went clanging northward. He longed to go with them. Whenever a new bird or beast appeared, he had a singular prickling feeling up his spine and his back as though he had a mane that was standing up. This feeling strengthened with his strength.
All of his schoolmates used to say that they "liked" the spring, some of the girls would even say that they "dearly loved" the spring, but they could not understand the madness that blazed in Yan's eyes when springtime really came—the flush of cheek—the shortening breath—the restless craving for action—the chafing with flashes of rebellion at school restraints—the overflow of nervous energy—the bloodthirst in his blood—the hankering to run—to run to the north, when the springtime tokens bugled to his every sense.
Then the wind and sky and ground were full of thrill. There was clamour everywhere, but never a word. There was stirring within and without. There was incentive in the yelping of the Wild Geese; but it was only tumult, for he could not understand why he was so stirred. There were voices that he could not hear—messages that he could not read; all was confusion of tongues. He longed only to get away.
"If only I could get away. If—if—Oh, God!" he stammered in torment of inexpression, and then would gasp and fling himself down on some bank, and bite the twigs that chanced within reach and tremble and wonder at himself.
Only one thing kept him from some mad and suicidal move—from joining some roving Indian band up north, or gypsies nearer—and that was the strong hand at home.
His Adjoining Brothers
Yan had many brothers, but only those next him in age were important in his life. Rad was two years older—a strong boy, who prided himself on his "common sense." Though so much older, he was Yan's inferior at school. He resented this, and delighted in showing his muscular superiority at all opportunities. He was inclined to be religious, and was strictly proper in his life and speech. He never was known to smoke a cigarette, tell a lie, or say "gosh" or "darn." He was plucky and persevering, but he was cold and hard, without a human fiber or a drop of red blood in his make-up. Even as a boy he bragged that he had no enthusiasms, that he believed in common sense, that he called a spade a spade, and would not use two words where one would do. His intelligence was above the average, but he was so anxious to be thought a person of rare sagacity and smartness, unswayed by emotion, that nothing was too heartless for him to do if it seemed in line with his assumed character. He was not especially selfish, and yet he pretended to be so, simply that people should say of him significantly and admiringly: "Isn't he keen? Doesn't he know how to take care of himself?" What little human warmth there was in him died early, and he succeeded only in making himself increasingly detested as he grew up.
His relations to Yan may be seen in one incident.
Yan had been crawling about under the house in the low wide cobwebby space between the floor beams and the ground. The delightful sensation of being on an exploring expedition led him farther (and ultimately to a paternal thrashing for soiling his clothes), till he discovered a hollow place near one side, where he could nearly stand upright. He at once formed one of his schemes—to make a secret, or at least a private, workroom here. He knew that if he were to ask permission he would be refused, but if he and Rad together were to go it might receive favourable consideration on account of Rad's self-asserted reputation for common sense. For a wonder, Rad was impressed with the scheme, but was quite sure that they had "better not go together to ask Father." He "could manage that part better alone," and he did.
Then they set to work. The first thing was to deepen the hole from three feet to six feet everywhere, and get rid of the earth by working it back under the floor of the house. There were many days of labour in this, and Yan stuck to it each day after returning from school. There were always numerous reasons why Rad could not share in the labour. When the ten by fourteen-foot hole was made, boards to line and floor it were needed. Lumber was very cheap—inferior, second-hand stuff was to be had for the asking—and Yan found and carried boards enough to make the workroom. Rad was an able carpenter and now took charge of the construction. They worked together evening after evening, Yan discussing all manner of plans with warmth and enthusiasm—what they would do in their workshop when finished—how they might get a jig-saw in time and saw picture frames, so as to make some money. Rad assented with grunts or an occasional Scripture text—that was his way. Each day he told Yan what to go on with while he was absent.
The walls were finished at length; a window placed in one side; a door made and fitted with lock and key. What joy! Yan glowed with pleasure and pride at the triumphant completion of his scheme. He swept up the floor for the finishing ceremony and sat down on the bench for a grand gloat, when Rad said abruptly:
"Going to lock up now." That sounded gratifyingly important. Yan stepped outside. Rad locked the door, put the key in his pocket, then turning, he said with cold, brutal emphasis:
"Now you keep out of my workshop from this on. You have nothing to do with it. It's mine. I got the permission to make it." All of which he could prove, and did.
* * * * *
Alner, the youngest, was eighteen months younger than Yan, and about the same size, but the resemblance stopped there. His chief aim in life was to be stylish. He once startled his mother by inserting into his childish prayers the perfectly sincere request: "Please, God, make me an awful swell, for Jesus sake." Vanity was his foible, and laziness his sin.
He could be flattered into anything that did not involve effort. He fairly ached to be famous. He was consuming with desire to be pointed out for admiration as the great this, that or the other thing—it did not matter to him what, as long as he could be pointed out. But he never had the least idea of working for it. At school he was a sad dunce. He was three grades below Yan and at the bottom of his grade. They set out for school each day together, because that was a paternal ruling; but they rarely reached there together. They had nothing in common. Yan was full of warmth, enthusiasm, earnestness and energy, but had a most passionate and ungovernable temper. Little put him in a rage, but it was soon over, and then an equally violent reaction set in, and he was always anxious to beg forgiveness and make friends again. Alner was of lazy good temper and had a large sense of humour. His interests were wholly in the playground. He had no sympathy with Yan's Indian tastes—"Indians in nasty, shabby clothes. Bah! Horrid!" he would scornfully say.
These, then, were his adjoining brothers.
What wonder that Yan was daily further from them.
But the greatest event of Yan's then early life now took place. His school readers told him about Wilson and Audubon, the first and last American naturalists. Yan wondered why no other great prophet had arisen. But one day the papers announced that at length he had appeared. A work on the Birds of Canada, by ..., had come at last, price one dollar.
Money never before seemed so precious, necessary and noble a thing. "Oh! if I only had a dollar." He set to work to save and scrape. He won marbles in game, swopped marbles for tops, tops for jack-knives as the various games came around with strange and rigid periodicity. The jack-knives in turn were converted into rabbits, the rabbits into cash of small denominations. He carried wood for strange householders; he scraped and scraped and saved the scrapings; and got, after some months, as high as ninety cents. But there was a dread fatality about that last dime. No one seemed to have any more odd jobs; his commercial luck deserted him. He was burnt up with craving for that book. None of his people took interest enough in him to advance the cash even at the ruinous interest (two or three times cent per cent) that he was willing to bind himself for. Six weeks passed before he achieved that last dime, and he never felt conscience-clear about it afterward.
He and Alner had to cut the kitchen wood. Each had his daily allotment, as well as other chores. Yan's was always done faithfully, but the other evaded his work in every way. He was a notorious little fop. The paternal poverty did not permit his toilet extravagance to soar above one paper collar per week, but in his pocket he carried a piece of ink eraser with which he was careful to keep the paper collar up to standard. Yan cared nothing about dress—indeed, was inclined to be slovenly. So the eldest brother, meaning to turn Alner's weakness to account, offered a prize of a twenty-five-cent necktie of the winner's own choice to the one who did his chores best for a month. For the first week Alner and Yan kept even, then Alner wearied, in spite of the dazzling prize. The pace was too hot. Yan kept on his usual way and was duly awarded the twenty-five cents to be spent on a necktie. But in the store a bright thought came tempting him. Fifteen cents was as much as any one should spend on a necktie—that's sure; the other ten would get the book. And thus the last dime was added to the pile. Then, bursting with joy and with the pride of a capitalist, he went to the book-shop and asked for the coveted volume.
He was tense with long-pent feeling. He expected to have the bookseller say that the price had gone up to one thousand dollars, and that all were sold. But he did not. He turned silently, drew the book out of a pile of them, hesitated and said, "Green or red cover?"
"Green," said Yan, not yet believing. The book-man looked inside, then laid it down, saying in a cold, business tone, "Ninety cents."
"Ninety cents," gasped Yan. Oh! if only he had known the ways of booksellers or the workings of cash discounts. For six weeks had he been barred this happy land—had suffered starvation; he had misappropriated funds, he had fractured his conscience and all to raise that ten cents—that unnecessary dime.
He read that book reverentially all the way home. It did not give him what he wanted, but that doubtless was his own fault. He pored over it, studied it, loved it, never doubting that now he had the key to all the wonders and mysteries of Nature. It was five years before he fully found out that the text was the most worthless trash ever foisted on a torpid public. Nevertheless, the book held some useful things; first, a list of the bird names; second, some thirty vile travesties of Audubon and Wilson's bird portraits.
These were the birds thus maligned:
Duck Hawk Rose-breasted Grosbeak Sparrow Hawk Bobolink White-headed Eagle Meadow Lark Great Horned Owl Bluejay Snowy Owl Ruffed Grouse Red-headed Woodpecker Great Blue Heron Golden-winged Woodpecker Bittern Barn-swallow Wilson's Snipe Whip-poor-will Long-biller Curlew Night Hawk Purple Gallinule Belted Kingfisher Canada Goose Kingbird Wood Duck Woodthrush Hooded Merganser Catbird Double-crested Cormorant White-bellied Nuthatch Arctic Tern Brown Creeper Great Northern Diver Bohemian Chatterer Stormy Petrel Great Northern Shrike Arctic Puffin Shore Lark Black Guillemot
But badly as they were presented, the pictures were yet information, and were entered in his memory as lasting accessions to his store of truth about the Wild Things.
Of course, he already knew some few birds whose names are familiar to every schoolboy: the Robin, Bluebird, Kingbird, Wild Canary, Woodpecker, Barn-swallow, Wren, Chickadee, Wild Pigeon, Humming-bird, Pewee, so that his list was steadily increased.
The Collarless Stranger
Oh, sympathy! the noblest gift of God to man. The greatest bond there is twixt man and man. The strongest link in any friendship chain. The single lasting hold in kinship's claim. The only incorrosive strand in marriage bonds. The blazing torch where genius lights her lamp. The ten times noble base of noblest love. More deep than love—more strong than hate—the biggest thing in all the universe—the law of laws. Grant but this greatest gift of God to man—this single link concatenating grant, and all the rest are worthless or comprised.
Each year the ancient springtime madness came more strongly on Yan. Each year he was less inclined to resist it, and one glorious day of late April in its twelfth return he had wandered northward along to a little wood a couple of miles from the town. It was full of unnamed flowers and voices and mysteries. Every tree and thicket had a voice—a long ditch full of water had many that called to him. "Peep-peep-peep," they seemed to say in invitation for him to come and see. He crawled again and again to the ditch and watched and waited. The loud whistle would sound only a few rods away, "Peep-peep-peep," but ceased at each spot when he came near—sometimes before him, sometimes behind, but never where he was. He searched through a small pool with his hands, sifted out sticks and leaves, but found nothing else. A farmer going by told him it was only a "spring Peeper," whatever that was, "some kind of a critter in the water."
Under a log not far away Yan found a little Lizard that tumbled out of sight into a hole. It was the only living thing there, so he decided that the "Peeper" must be a "Whistling Lizard." But he was determined to see them when they were calling. How was it that the ponds all around should be full of them calling to him and playing hide and seek and yet defying his most careful search? The voices ceased as soon as he came near, to be gradually renewed in the pools he had left. His presence was a husher. He lay for a long time watching a pool, but none of the voices began again in range of his eye. At length, after realizing that they were avoiding him, he crawled to a very noisy pond without showing himself, and nearer and yet nearer until he was within three feet of a loud peeper in the floating grass. He located the spot within a few inches and yet could see nothing. He was utterly baffled, and lay there puzzling over it, when suddenly all the near Peepers stopped, and Yan was startled by a footfall; and looking around, he saw a man within a few feet, watching him.
Yan reddened—a stranger was always an enemy; he had a natural aversion to all such, and stared awkwardly as though caught in crime.
The man, a curious looking middle-aged person, was in shabby clothes and wore no collar. He had a tin box strapped on his bent shoulders, and in his hands was a long-handled net. His features, smothered in a grizzly beard, were very prominent and rugged. They gave evidence of intellectual force, with some severity, but his gray-blue eyes had a kindly look.
He had on a common, unbecoming, hard felt hat, and when he raised it to admit the pleasant breeze Yan saw that the wearer had hair like his own—a coarse, paleolithic mane, piled on his rugged brow, like a mass of seaweed lodged on some storm-beaten rock.
"F'what are ye fynding, my lad?" said he in tones whose gentleness was in no way obscured by a strong Scottish tang.
Still resenting somewhat the stranger's presence, Yan said:
"I'm not finding anything; I am only trying to see what that Whistling Lizard is like."
The stranger's eyes twinkled. "Forty years ago Ah was laying by a pool just as Ah seen ye this morning, looking and trying hard to read the riddle of the spring Peeper. Ah lay there all day, aye, and mony anither day, yes, it was nigh onto three years before Ah found it oot. Ah'll be glad to save ye seeking as long as Ah did, if that's yer mind. Ah'll show ye the Peeper."
Then he raked carefully among the leaves near the ditch, and soon captured a tiny Frog, less than an inch long.
"Ther's your Whistling Lizard: he no a Lizard at all, but a Froggie. Book men call him Hyla pickeringii, an' a gude Scotchman he'd make, for ye see the St. Andrew's cross on his wee back. Ye see the whistling ones in the water put on'y their beaks oot an' is hard to see. Then they sinks to the bottom when ye come near. But you tak this'n home and treat him well and ye'll see him blow out his throat as big as himsel' an' whistle like a steam engine."
Yan thawed out now. He told about the Lizard he had seen.
"That wasna a Lizard; Ah niver see thim aboot here. It must a been a two-striped Spelerpes. A Spelerpes is nigh kin to a Frog—a kind of dry-land tadpole, while a Lizard is only a Snake with legs."
This was light from heaven. All Yan's distrust was gone. He warmed to the stranger. He plied him with questions; he told of his getting the Bird Book. Oh, how the stranger did snort at "that driveling trash." Yan talked of his perplexities. He got a full hearing and intelligent answers. His mystery of the black ground-bird with a brown mate was resolved into the Common Towhee. The unknown wonderful voice in the spring morning, sending out its "cluck, cluck, cluck, clucker," in the distant woods, the large gray Woodpecker that bored in some high stub and flew in a blaze of gold, and the wonderful spotted bird with red head and yellow wings and tail in the taxidermist's window, were all resolved into one and the same—the Flicker or Golden-winged Woodpecker. The Hang-nest and the Oriole became one. The unknown poisonous-looking blue Hornet, that sat on the mud with palpitating body, and the strange, invisible thing that made the mud-nests inside old outbuildings and crammed them with crippled Spiders, were both identified as the Mud-wasp or Pelopaeus.
A black Butterfly flew over, and Yan learned that it was a Camberwell Beauty, or, scientifically, a Vanessa antiopa, and that this one must have hibernated to be seen so early in the spring, and yet more, that this beautiful creature was the glorified spirit of the common brown and black spiney Caterpillar.
The Wild Pigeons were flying high above them in great flocks as they sat there, and Yan learned of their great nesting places in the far South, and of their wonderful but exact migrations without regard to anything but food; their northward migration to gather the winged nuts of the Slippery Elm in Canada; their August flight to the rice-fields of Carolina; their Mississippi Valley pilgrimage when the acorns and beech-mast were falling ripe.
What a rich, full morning that was. Everything seemed to turn up for them. As they walked over a piney hill, two large birds sprang from the ground and whirred through the trees.
"Ruffed Grouse or 'patridge', as the farmers call them. There's a pair lives nigh aboots here. They come on this bank for the Wintergreen berries."
And Yan was quick to pull and taste them. He filled his pockets with the aromatic plant—berries and all—and chewed it as he went. While they walked, a faint, far drum-thump fell on their ears. "What's that?" he exclaimed, ever on the alert. The stranger listened and said:
"That's the bird ye ha' just seen; that's the Cock Partridge drumming for his mate."
The Pewee of his early memories became the Phoebe of books. That day his brookside singer became the Song-sparrow; the brown triller, the Veery Thrush. The Trilliums, white and red, the Dogtooth Violet, the Spring-beauty, the Trailing Arbutus—all for the first time got names and became real friends, instead of elusive and beautiful, but depressing mysteries.
The stranger warmed, too, and his rugged features glowed; he saw in Yan one minded like himself, tormented with the knowledge-hunger, as in youth he himself had been; and now it was a priceless privilege to save the boy some of what he had suffered. His gratitude to Yan grew fervid, and Yan—he took in every word; nothing that he heard was forgotten. He was in a dream, for he had found at last the greatest thing on earth—sympathy—broad, intelligent, comprehensive sympathy.
That spring morning was ever after like a new epoch in Yan's mind—not his memory, that was a thing of the past—but in his mind, his living present.
And the strongest, realest thing in it all was, not the rugged stranger with his kind ways, not the new birds and plants, but the smell of the Wintergreen.
Smell's appeal to the memory is far better, stronger, more real than that of any other sense. The Indians know this; many of them, in time, find out the smell that conjures up their happiest hours, and keep it by them in the medicine bag. It is very real and dear to them—that handful of Pine needles, that lump of Rat-musk, or that piece of Spruce gum. It adds the crown of happy memory to their reveries.
And yet this belief is one of the first attacked by silly White-men, who profess to enlighten the Red-man's darkness. They, in their ignorance, denounce it as absurd, while men of science know its simple truth.
Yan did not know that he had stumbled on a secret of the Indian medicine bag. But ever afterward that wonderful day was called back to him, conjured up by his "medicine," this simple, natural magic, the smell of the Wintergreen.
He appreciated that morning more than he could tell, and yet he did a characteristic foolish thing, that put him in a wrong light and left him so in the stranger's mind.
It was past noon. They had long lingered; the Stranger spoke of the many things he had at home; then at length said he must be going. "Weel, good-by, laddie; Ah hope Ah'll see you again." He held out his hand. Yan shook it warmly; but he was dazed with thinking and with reaction; his diffidence and timidity were strong; he never rose to the stranger's veiled offer. He let him go without even learning his name or address.
When it was too late, Yan awoke to his blunder. He haunted all those woods in hopes of chancing on him there again, but he never did.
Oh! what a song the Wild Geese sang that year! How their trumpet clang went thrilling in his heart, to smite there new and hidden chords that stirred and sang response. Was there ever a nobler bird than that great black-necked Swan, that sings not at his death, but in his flood of life, a song of home and of peace—of stirring deeds and hunting in far-off climes—of hungerings and food, and raging thirsts to meet with cooling drink. A song of wind and marching, a song of bursting green and grinding ice—of Arctic secrets and of hidden ways. A song of a long black marsh, a low red sky, and a sun that never sets.
An Indian jailed for theft bore bravely through the winter, but when the springtime brought the Gander-clang in the black night sky, he started, fell, and had gone to his last, long, hunting home.
Who can tell why Jericho should fall at the trumpet blast?
Who can read or measure the power of the Honker-song?
Oh, what a song the Wild Geese sang that year! And yet, was it a new song? No, the old, old song, but Yan heard it with new ears. He was learning to read its message. He wandered on their trailless track, as often as he could, northward, ever northward, up the river from the town, and up, seeking the loneliest ways and days. The river turned to the east, but a small stream ran into it from the north: up that Yan went through thickening woods and walls that neared each other, on and up until the walls closed to a crack, then widened out into a little dale that was still full of original forest trees. Hemlock, Pine, Birch and Elm of the largest size abounded and spread over the clear brook a continuous shade. Fox vines trailed in the open places, the rarest wild-flowers flourished, Red-squirrels chattered from the trees. In the mud along the brook-side were tracks of Coon and Mink and other strange fourfoots. And in the trees overhead, the Veery, the Hermit-thrush, or even a Woodthrush sang his sweetly solemn strain, in that golden twilight of the midday forest. Yan did not know them all by name as yet, but he felt their vague charm and mystery. It seemed such a far and lonely place, so unspoiled by man, that Yan persuaded himself that surely he was the first human being to stand there, that it was his by right of discovery, and so he claimed it and named it after its discoverer—Glenyan.
This place became the central thought in his life. He went there at all opportunities, but never dared to tell any one of his discovery. He longed for a confidant sometimes, he hankered to meet the stranger and take him there, and still he feared that the secret would get out. This was his little kingdom; the Wild Geese had brought him here, as the Seagulls had brought Columbus to a new world—where he could lead, for brief spells, the woodland life that was his ideal. He was tender enough to weep over the downfall of a lot of fine Elm trees in town, when their field was sold for building purposes, and he used to suffer a sort of hungry regret when old settlers told how plentiful the Deer used to be. But now he had a relief from these sorrows, for surely there was one place where the great trees should stand and grow as in the bright bygone; where the Coon, the Mink and the Partridge should live and flourish forever. No, indeed, no one else should know of it, for if the secret got out, at least hosts of visitors would come and Glenyan be defiled. No, better that the secret should "die with him," he said. What that meant he did not really know, but he had read the phrase somewhere and he liked the sound of it. Possibly he would reveal it on his deathbed.
Yes, that was the proper thing, and he pictured a harrowing scene of weeping relatives around, himself as central figure, all ceasing their wailing and gasping with wonder as he made known the mighty secret of his life—delicious! it was almost worth dying for.
So he kept the place to himself and loved it more and more. He would look out through the thick Hemlock tops, the blots of Basswood green or the criss-cross Butternut leafage and say: "My own, my own." Or down by some pool in the limpid stream he would sit and watch the arrowy Shiners and say: "You are mine, all; you are mine. You shall never be harmed or driven away."
A spring came from the hillside by a green lawn, and here Yan would eat his sandwiches varied with nuts and berries that he did not like, but ate only because he was a wildman, and would look lovingly up the shady brookland stretches and down to the narrow entrance of the glen, and say and think and feel. "This is mine, my own, my very own."
He had none but the poorest of tools, but he set about building a shanty. He was not a resourceful boy. His effort to win the book had been an unusual one for him, as his instincts were not at all commercial. When that matter came to the knowledge of the Home Government, he was rebuked for doing "work unworthy of a gentleman's son" and forbidden under frightful penalties "ever again to resort to such degrading ways of raising money."
They gave him no money, so he was penniless. Most boys would have possessed themselves somehow of a good axe and spade. He had neither. An old plane blade, fastened to a stick with nails, was all the axe and spade he had, yet with this he set to work and offset its poorness as a tool by dogged persistency. First, he selected the quietest spot near the spring—a bank hidden by a mass of foliage. He knew no special reason for hiding it, beyond the love of secrecy. He had read in some of his books "how the wily scouts led the way through a pathless jungle, pulled aside a bough and there revealed a comfortable dwelling that none without the secret could possibly have discovered," so it seemed very proper to make it a complete mystery—a sort of secret panel in the enchanted castle—and so picture himself as the wily scout leading his wondering companions to the shanty, though, of course, he had not made up his mind to reveal his secret to any one. He often wished he could have the advantage of Rad's strong arms and efficacious tools; but the workshop incident was only one of many that taught him to leave his brother out of all calculation.
Mother Earth is the best guardian of a secret, and Yan with his crude spade began by digging a hole in the bank. The hard blue clay made the work slow, but two holidays spent in steady labour resulted in a hole seven feet wide and about four feet into the bank.
In this he set about building the shanty. Logs seven or eight feet long must be got to the place—at least twenty-five or thirty would be needed, and how to cut and handle them with his poor axe was a question. Somehow, he never looked for a better axe. The half-formed notion that the Indians had no better was sufficient support, and he struggled away bravely, using whatever ready sized material he could find. Each piece as he brought it was put into place. Some boys would have gathered the logs first and built it all at once, but that was not Yan's way; he was too eager to see the walls rise. He had painfully and slowly gathered logs enough to raise the walls three rounds, when the question of a door occurred to him. This, of course, could not be cut through the logs in the ordinary way; that required the best of tools. So he lifted out all the front logs except the lowest, replacing them at the ends with stones and blocks to sustain the sides. This gave him the sudden gain of two logs, and helped the rest of the walls that much. The shanty was now about three feet high, and no two logs in it were alike: some were much too long, most were crooked and some were half rotten, for the simple reason that these were the only ones he could cut. He had exhausted the logs in the neighbourhood and was forced to go farther. Now he remembered seeing one that might do, half a mile away on the home trail (they were always "trails"; he never called them "roads" or "paths"). He went after this, and to his great surprise and delight found that it was one of a dozen old cedar posts that had been cut long before and thrown aside as culls, or worthless. He could carry only one at a time, so that to bring each one meant a journey of a mile, and the post got woefully heavy each time before that mile was over. To get those twelve logs he had twelve miles to walk. It took several Saturdays, but he stuck doggedly to it. Twelve good logs completed his shanty, making it five feet high and leaving three logs over for rafters. These he laid flat across, dividing the spaces equally. Over them he laid plenty of small sticks and branches till it was thickly covered. Then he went down to a rank, grassy meadow and, with his knife, cut hay for a couple of hours. This was spread thickly on the roof, to be covered with strips of Elm bark then on top of all he threw the clay dug from the bank, piling it well back, stamping on it, and working it down at the edges. Finally, he threw rubbish and leaves over it, so that it was confused with the general tangle.
Thus the roof was finished, but the whole of the front was open. He dreaded the search for more logs, so tried a new plan. He found, first, some sticks about six feet long and two or three inches through. Not having an axe to sharpen and drive them, he dug pairs of holes a foot deep, one at each end and another pair near the middle of the front ground log.
Into each of these he put a pair of upright sticks, leading up to the eave log, one inside and one outside of it, then packed the earth around them in the holes. Next, he went to the brook-side and cut a number of long green willow switches about half an inch thick at the butt. These switches he twisted around the top of each pair of stakes in a figure 8, placing them to hold the stake tight against the bottom and top logs at the front.
Down by the spring he now dug a hole and worked water and clay together into mortar, then with a trowel cut out of a shingle, and mortar carried in an old bucket, he built a wall within the stakes, using sticks laid along the outside and stones set in mud till the front was closed up, except a small hole for a window and a large hole for a door.
Now he set about finishing the inside. He gathered moss in the woods and stuffed all the chinks in the upper parts, and those next the ground he filled with stones and earth. Thus the shanty was finished; but it lacked a door.
The opening was four feet high and two feet wide, so in the woodshed at home he cut three boards, each eight inches wide and four feet high, but he left at each end of one a long point. Doing this at home gave him the advantage of a saw. Then with these and two shorter boards, each two feet long and six inches wide, he sneaked out to Glenyan, and there, with some nails and a stone for a hammer, he fastened them together into a door. In the ground log he pecked a hole big enough to receive one of the points and made a corresponding hole in the under side of the top log. Then, prying up the eave log, he put the door in place, let the eave log down again, and the door was hung. A string to it made an outside fastening when it was twisted around a projecting snag in the wall, and a peg thrust into a hole within made an inside fastener. Some logs, with fir boughs and dried grass, formed a bunk within. This left only the window, and for lack of better cover he fastened over it a piece of muslin brought from home. But finding its dull white a jarring note, he gathered a quart of butternuts, and watching his chance at home, he boiled the cotton in water with the nuts and so reduced it to a satisfactory yellowish brown.
His final task was to remove all appearance of disturbance and to fully hide the shanty in brush and trailing vines. Thus, after weeks of labour, his woodland home was finished. It was only five feet high inside, six feet long and six feet wide—dirty and uncomfortable—but what a happiness it was to have it.
Here for the first time in his life he began to realize something of the pleasure of single-handed achievement in the line of a great ambition.
Beginnings of Woodlore
During this time Yan had so concentrated all his powers on the shanty that he had scarcely noticed the birds and wild things. Such was his temperament—one idea only, and that with all his strength.
His heart was more and more in his kingdom now he longed to come and live here. But he only dared to dream that some day he might be allowed to pass a night in the shanty. This was where he would lead his ideal life—the life of an Indian with all that is bad and cruel left out. Here he would show men how to live without cutting down all the trees, spoiling all the streams, and killing every living thing. He would learn how to get the fullest pleasure out of the woods himself and then teach others how to do the same. Though the birds and Fourfoots fascinated him, he would not have hesitated to shoot one had he been able, but to see a tree cut down always caused him great distress. Possibly he realized that the bird might be quickly replaced, but the tree, never.
To carry out his plan he must work hard at school, for books had much that he needed. Perhaps some day he might get a chance to see Audubon's drawings, and so have all his bird worries settled by a single book.
That summer a new boy at school added to Yan's savage equipment. This boy was neither good nor bright; he was a dunce, and had been expelled from a boarding school for misconduct, but he had a number of schoolboy accomplishments that gave him a tinge of passing glory. He could tie a lot of curious knots in a string. He could make a wonderful birdy warble, and he spoke a language that he called Tutnee. Yan was interested in all, but especially the last. He teased and bribed till he was admitted to the secret. It consisted in spelling every word, leaving the five vowels as they are, but doubling each consonant and putting a "u" between. Thus "b" became "bub," "d" "dud," "m" "mum," and so forth, except that "c" was "suk," "h" "hash," "x" "zux," and "w" "wak."
The sample given by the new boy, "sus-hash-u-tut u-pup yak-o-u-rur mum-o-u-tut-hash," was said to be a mode of enjoining silence.
This language was "awful useful," the new boy said, to keep the other fellows from knowing what you were saying, which it certainly did. Yan practised hard at it and within a few weeks was an adept. He could handle the uncouth sentences better than his teacher, and he was singularly successful in throwing in accents and guttural tones that imparted a delightfully savage flavour, and he rejoiced in jabbering away to the new boy in the presence of others so that he might bask in the mystified look on the faces of those who were not skilled in the tongue of the Tutnees.
He made himself a bow and arrows. They were badly made and he could hit nothing with them, but he felt so like an Indian when he drew the arrow to its head, that it was another pleasure.
He made a number of arrows with hoop-iron heads, these he could file at home in the woodshed. The heads were jagged and barbed and double-barbed. These arrows were frightful-looking things. They seemed positively devilish in their ferocity, and were proportionately gratifying. These he called his "war arrows," and would send one into a tree and watch it shiver, then grunt "Ugh, heap good," and rejoice in the squirming of the imaginary foe he had pierced.
He found a piece of sheepskin and made of it a pair of very poor moccasins. He ground an old castaway putty knife into a scalping knife; the notch in it for breaking glass was an annoying defect until he remembered that some Indians decorate their weapons with a notch for each enemy it has killed, and this, therefore, might do duty as a kill-tally. He made a sheath for the knife out of scraps of leather left off the moccasins. Some water-colours, acquired by a school swap, and a bit of broken mirror held in a split stick, were necessary parts of his Indian toilet. His face during the process of make-up was always a battle-ground between the horriblest Indian scowl and a grin of delight at his success in diabolizing his visage with the paints. Then with painted face and a feather in his hair he would proudly range the woods in his little kingdom and store up every scrap of woodlore he could find, invent or learn from his schoolmates.
Odd things that he found in the woods he would bring to his shanty: curled sticks, feathers, bones, skulls, fungus, shells, an old cowhorn—things that interested him, he did not know why. He made Indian necklaces of the shells, strung together alternately with the backbone of a fish. He let his hair grow as long as possible, employing various stratagems, even the unpalatable one of combing it to avoid the monthly trim of the maternal scissors. He lay for hours with the sun beating on his face to correct his colour to standard, and the only semblance of personal vanity that he ever had was pleasure in hearing disparaging remarks about the darkness of his complexion. He tried to do everything as an Indian would do it, striking Indian poses, walking carefully with his toes turned in, breaking off twigs to mark a place, guessing at the time by the sun, and grunting "Ugh" or "Wagh" when anything surprised him. Disparaging remarks about White-men, delivered in supposed Indian dialect, were an important part of his pastime. "Ugh, White-men heap no good" and "Wagh, paleface—pale fool in woods," were among his favourites.
He was much influenced by phrases that caught his ear. "The brown sinewy arm of the Indian," was one of them. It discovered to him that his own arms were white as milk. There was, however, a simple remedy. He rolled up his sleeves to the shoulder and exposed them to the full glare of the sun. Then later, under the spell of the familiar phrase, "The warrior was naked to the waist," he went a step further—he determined to be brown to the waist—so discarded his shirt during the whole of one holiday. He always went to extremes. He remembered now that certain Indians put their young warriors through an initiation called the Sun-dance, so he danced naked round the fire in the blazing sun and sat around naked all one day.
He noticed a general warmness before evening, but it was at night that he really felt the punishment of his indiscretion. He was in a burning heat. He scarcely slept all night. Next day he was worse, and his arm and shoulder were blistered. He bore it bravely, fearing only that the Home Government might find it out, in which case he would have fared worse. He had read that the Indians grease the skin for sunburn, so he went to the bathroom and there used goose grease for lack of Buffalo fat. This did give some relief, and in a few days he was better and had the satisfaction of peeling the dead skin from his shoulders and arms.
Yan made a number of vessels out of Birch bark, stitching the edges with root fibers, filling the bottom with a round wooden disc, and cementing the joints with pine gum so that they would hold water.
In the distant river he caught some Catfish and brought them home—that, is, to his shanty. There he made a fire and broiled them—very badly—but he ate them as a great delicacy. The sharp bone in each of their side fins he saved, bored a hole through its thick end, smoothed it, and so had needles to stitch his Birch bark. He kept them in a bark box with some lumps of resin, along with some bark fiber, an Indian flint arrow-head given him by a schoolmate, and the claws of a large Owl, found in the garbage heap back of the taxidermist's shop.
One day on the ash heap in their own yard in town he saw a new, strange bird. He was always seeing new birds, but this was of unusual interest. He drew its picture as it tamely fed near him. A dull, ashy gray, with bronzy yellow spots on crown and rump, and white bars on its wings. His "Birds of Canada" gave no light; he searched through all the books he could find, but found no clew to its name. It was years afterward before he learned that this was the young male Pine Grosbeak.
Another day, under the bushes not far from his shanty, he found a small Hawk lying dead. He clutched it as a wonderful prize, spent an hour in looking at its toes, its beak, its wings, its every feather; then he set to work to make a drawing of it. A very bad drawing it proved, although it was the labour of days, and the bird was crawling with maggots before he had finished. But every feather and every spot was faithfully copied, was duly set down on paper. One of his friends said it was a Chicken-hawk. That name stuck in Yan's memory. Thenceforth the Chicken-hawk and its every marking were familiar to him. Even in after years, when he had learned that this must have been a young "Sharp-shin," the name "Chicken-hawk" was always readier on his lips.
But he met with another and a different Hawk soon afterward. This one was alive and flitting about in the branches of a tree over his head. It was very small—less than a foot in length. Its beak was very short, its legs, wings and tail long; its head was bluish and its back coppery red; on the tail was a broad, black crossbar. As the bird flew about and balanced on the boughs, it pumped its tail. This told him it was a Hawk, and the colours he remembered were those of the male Sparrow-hawk, for here his bird book helped with its rude travesty of "Wilson's" drawing of this bird. Yet two other birds he saw close at hand and drew partly from memory. The drawings were like this, and from the picture on a calendar he learned that one was a Rail; from a drawing in the bird book that the other was a Bobolink. And these names he never forgot. He had his doubts about the sketching at first—it seemed an un-Indian thing to do, until he remembered that the Indians painted pictures on their shields and on their teepees. It was really the best of all ways for him to make reliable observation.
The bookseller of the town had some new books in his window about this time. One, a marvellous work called "Poisonous Plants," Yan was eager to see. It was exposed in the window for a time. Two of the large plates were visible from the street; one was Henbane, the other Stramonium. Yan gazed at them as often as he could. In a week they were gone; but the names and looks were forever engraved on his memory. Had he made bold to go in and ask permission to see the work, his memory would have seized most of it in an hour.
In the wet sand down by the edge of the brook he one day found some curious markings—evidently tracks. Yan pored over them, then made a life-size drawing of one. He shrewdly suspected it to be the track of a Coon—nothing was too good or wild or rare for his valley. As soon as he could, he showed the track to the stableman whose dog was said to have killed a Coon once, and hence the man must be an authority on the subject.
"Is that a Coon track?" asked Yan timidly.
"How do I know?" said the man roughly, and went on with his work. But a stranger standing near, a curious person with shabby clothes, and a new silk hat on the back of his head, said, "Let me see it." Yan showed it.
"Is it natural size?"
"Yep, that's a Coon track, all right. You look at all the big trees near about whar you saw that; then when you find one with a hole in it, you look on the bark and you will find some Coon hars. Then you will know you've got a Coon tree."
Yan took the earliest chance. He sought and found a great Basswood with some gray hairs caught in the bark. He took them home with him, not sure what kind they were. He sought the stranger, but he was gone, and no one knew him.
How to identify the hairs was a question; but he remembered a friend who had a Coon-skin carriage robe. A few hairs of these were compared with those from the tree and left no doubt that the climber was a Coon. Thus Yan got the beginning of the idea that the very hairs of each, as well as its tracks, are different. He learned, also, how wise it is to draw everything that he wished to observe or describe. It was accident, or instinct on his part, but he had fallen on a sound principle; there is nothing like a sketch to collect and convey accurate information of form—there is no better developer of true observation.
One day he noticed a common plant like an umbrella. He dug it up by the root, and at the lower end he found a long white bulb. He tasted this. It was much like a cucumber. He looked up "Gray's School Botany," and in the index saw the name, Indian Cucumber. The description seemed to tally, as far as he could follow its technical terms, though like all such, without a drawing it was far from satisfactory. So he added the Indian Cucumber to his woodlore.
On another occasion he chewed the leaves of a strange plant because he had heard that that was the first test applied by the Indians. He soon began to have awful pains in his stomach. He hurried home in agony. His mother gave him mustard and water till he vomited, then she boxed his ears. His father came in during the process and ably supplemented the punishment. He was then and there ordered to abstain forever from the woods. Of course, he did not. He merely became more cautious about it all, and enjoyed his shanty with the added zest of secret sin.
An Irish-Canadian servant girl from Sanger now became a member of their household. Her grandmother was an herb-doctor in great repute. She had frequently been denounced as a witch, although in good standing as a Catholic. This girl had picked up some herb-lore, and one day when all the family were visiting the cemetery she darted into various copses and produced plants which she named, together with the complaint that her grandmother used them for.
"Sassafras, that makes tea for skin disease; Ginseng, that's good to sell; Bloodroot for the blood in springtime; Goldthread, that cures sore mouths; Pipsissewa for chills and fever; White-man's Foot, that springs up wherever a White-man treads; Indian cup, that grows where an Indian dies; Dandelion roots for coffee; Catnip tea for a cold; Lavender tea for drinking at meals; Injun Tobacco to mix with boughten tobacco; Hemlock bark to dye pink; Goldthread to dye yellow, and Butternut rinds for greenish."
All of these were passing trifles to the others, but to Yan they were the very breath of life, and he treasured up all of these things in his memory. Biddy's information was not unmixed with error and superstition:
"Hold Daddy Longlegs by one leg and say, 'tell me where the cows are,' and he will point just right under another leg, and onct he told me where to find my necklace when I lost it.
"Shoot the Swallows and the cows give bloody milk. That's the way old Sam White ruined his milk business—shooting Swallows.
"Lightning never strikes a barn where Swallows nest. Paw never rested easy after the new barn was built till the Swallows nested in it. He had it insured for a hundred dollars till the Swallows got round to look after it.
"When a Measuring-worm crawls on you, you are going to get a new suit of clothes. My brother-in-law says they walk over him every year in summer and sure enough, he gets a new suit. But they never does it in winter, cause he don't get new clothes then.
"Split a Crow's tongue and he will talk like a girl. Granny knowed a man that had a brother back of Mara that got a young Crow and split his tongue an' he told Granny it was just like a girl talking—an' Granny told me!
"Soak a Horse-hair in rainwater and it will turn into a Snake. Ain't there lots uv Snakes around ponds where Horses drink? Well!
"Kill a Spider an' it will rain to-morrow. Now, that's worth knowin'. I mind one year when the Orangeman's picnic was comin', 12th of July, Maw made us catch twenty Spiders and we killed them all the day before, and law, how it did rain on the picnic! Mebbe we didn't laugh. Most of them hed to go home in boats, that's what our paper said. But next year they done the same thing on us for St. Patrick's Day, but Spiders is scarce on the 16th of March, an' it didn't rain so much as snow, so it was about a stand-off.
"Toads gives warts. You seen them McKenna twins—their hands is a sight with warts. Well, I seen them two boys playing with Toads like they was marbles. So! An' they might a-knowed what was comin'. Ain't every Toad just covered with warts as thick as he can stick?
"That there's Injun tobacco. The Injuns always use it, and Granny does, too, sometimes." (Yan made special note of this—he must get some and smoke it, if it was Indian.)
"A Witch-hazel wand will bob over a hidden spring and show where to dig. Denny Scully is awful good at it. He gets a dollar for showing where to sink a well, an' if they don't strike water it's because they didn't dig where he said, or spiled the charm some way or nuther, and hez to try over.
"Now, that's Dandelion. Its roots makes awful good coffee. Granny allers uses it. She says that it is healthier than store coffee, but Maw says she likes boughten things best, and the more they cost the better she likes them.
"Now, that's Ginseng. It has a terrible pretty flower in spring. There's tons and tons of it sent to China. Granny says the Chinese eats it, to make them cheerful, but they don't seem to eat enough.
"There's Slippery Elm. It's awfully good for loosening up a cold, if you drink the juice the bark's bin biled in. One spring Granny made a bucketful. She set it outside to cool, an' the pig he drunk it all up, an' he must a had a cold, for it loosened him up so he dropped his back teeth. I seen them myself lying out there in the yard. Yes, I did.
"That's Wintergreen. Lots of boys I know chew that to make the girls like them. Lots of them gits a beau that way, too. I done it myself many's a time.
"Now, that is what some folks calls Injun Turnip, an' the children calls it Jack-in-a-Pulpit, but Granny calls it 'Sorry-plant,' cos she says when any one eats it it makes them feel sorry for the last fool thing they done. I'll put some in your Paw's coffee next time he licks yer and mebbe that'll make him quit. It just makes me sick to see ye gettin' licked fur every little thing ye can't help.
"A Snake's tongue is its sting. You put your foot on a Snake and see how he tries to sting you. An' his tail don't die till sundown. I seen that myself, onct, an' Granny says so, too, an' what Granny don't know ain't knowledge—it's only book-larnin'."
These were her superstitions, most of them more or less obviously absurd to Yan; but she had also a smattering of backwoods lore and Yan gleaned all he could.
She had so much of what he wanted to know that he had almost made up his mind to tell her where he went each Saturday when he had finished his work.
A week or two longer and she would have shared the great secret, but something took place to end their comradeship.
One day as this girl went with him through a little grove on the edge of the town, she stopped at a certain tree and said:
"If that ain't Black-cherry!"
"You mean Choke-cherry."
"No, Black-cherry. Choke-cherry ain't no good; but Black-cherry bark's awful good for lung complaint. Grandma always keeps it. I've been feeling a bit queer meself" [she was really as strong as an ox]. "Guess I'll git some." So she and Yan planned an expedition together. The boldness of it scared the boy. The girl helped herself to a hatchet in the tool box—the sacred tool box of his father.
Yan's mother saw her with it and demanded why she had it. With ready effrontery she said it was to hammer in the hook that held the clothesline, and proceeded to carry out the lie with a smiling face. That gave Yan a new lesson and not a good one. The hatchet was at once put back in the box, to be stolen more carefully later on.
Biddy announced that she was going to the grocery shop. She met Yan around the corner and they made for the lot. Utterly regardless of property rights, she showed Yan how to chip off the bark of the Black-cherry. "Don't chip off all around; that's bad luck—take it on'y from the sunny side." She filled a basket with the pieces and they returned home.
Here she filled a jar with bits of the inner layer, then, pouring water over it, let it stand for a week. The water was then changed to a dark brown stuff with a bitter taste and a sweet, aromatic smell.
"It's terrible good," she said. "Granny always keeps it handy. It cures lots of people. Now there was Bud Ellis—the doctors just guv him up. They said he didn't have a single lung left, and he come around to Granny. He used to make fun of Granny; but now he wuz plumb scairt. At first Granny chased him away; then when she seen that he was awful sick, she got sorry and told him how to make Lung Balm. He was to make two gallons each time and bring it to her. Then she took and fixed it so it was one-half as much and give it back to him. Well, in six months if he wasn't all right."
Biddy now complained nightly of "feelin's" in her chest. These feelings could be controlled only by a glass or two of Lung Balm. Her condition must have been critical, for one night after several necessary doses of Balm her head seemed affected. She became abusive to the lady of the house and at the end of the month a less interesting help was in her place.
There were many lessons good and bad that Yan might have drawn from this; but the only one that he took in was that the Black-cherry bark is a wonderful remedy. The family doctor said that it really was so, and Yan treasured up this as a new and precious fragment of woodcraft.
Having once identified the tree, he was surprised to see that it was rather common, and was delighted to find it flourishing in his own Glenyan.
This made him set down on paper all the trees he knew, and he was surprised to find how few they were and how uncertain he was about them.
Maple—hard and soft. Beach. Elm—swamp and slippery. Ironwood. Birch—white and black. Ash—white and black. Pine. Cedar. Balsam. Hemlock and Cherry.
He had heard that the Indians knew the name and properties of every tree and plant in the woods, and that was what he wished to be able to say of himself.
One day by the bank of the river he noticed a pile of empty shells of the fresh-water Mussel, or Clam. The shells were common enough, but why all together and marked in the same way? Around the pile on the mud were curious tracks and marks. There were so many that it was hard to find a perfect one, but when he did, remembering the Coon track, he drew a picture of it. It was too small to be the mark of his old acquaintance. He did not find any one to tell him what it was, but one day he saw a round, brown animal hunched up on the bank eating a clam. It dived into the water at his approach, but it reappeared swimming farther on. Then, when it dived again, Yan saw by its long thin tail that it was a Muskrat, like the stuffed one he had seen in the taxidermist's window.
He soon learned that the more he studied those tracks the more different kinds he found. Many were rather mysterious, so he could only draw them and put them aside, hoping some day for light. One of the strangest and most puzzling turned out to be the trail of a Snapper, and another proved to be merely the track of a Common Crow that came to the water's edge to drink.
The curios that he gathered and stored in his shanty increased in number and in interest. The place became more and more part of himself. Its concealment bettered as the foliage grew around it again, and he gloried in its wild seclusion and mystery, and wandered through the woods with his bow and arrows, aiming harmless, deadly blows at snickering Red-squirrels—though doubtless he would have been as sorry as they had he really hit one.
Yan soon found out that he was not the only resident of the shanty. One day as he sat inside wondering why he had not made a fireplace, so that he could sit at an indoor fire, he saw a silent little creature flit along between two logs in the back wall. He remained still. A beautiful little Woodmouse, for such it was, soon came out in plain view and sat up to look at Yan and wash its face. Yan reached out for his bow and arrow, but the Mouse was gone in a flash. He fitted a blunt arrow to the string, then waited, and when the Mouse returned he shot the arrow. It missed the Mouse, struck the log and bounded back into Yan's face, giving him a stinging blow on the cheek. And as Yan rolled around grunting and rubbing his cheek, he thought, "This is what I tried to do to the Woodmouse." Thenceforth, Yan made no attempt to harm the Mouse; indeed, he was willing to share his meals with it. In time they became well acquainted, and Yan found that not one, but a whole family, were sharing with him his shanty in the woods.
Biddy's remark about the Indian tobacco bore fruit. Yan was not a smoker, but now he felt he must learn. He gathered a lot of this tobacco, put it to dry, and set about making a pipe—a real Indian peace pipe. He had no red sandstone to make it of, but a soft red brick did very well. He first roughed out the general shape with his knife, and was trying to bore the bowl out with the same tool, when he remembered that in one of the school-readers was an account of the Indian method of drilling into stone with a bow-drill and wet sand. One of his schoolmates, the son of a woodworker, had seen his father use a bow-drill. This knowledge gave him new importance in Yan's eyes. Under his guidance a bow-drill was made, and used much and on many things till it was understood, and now it did real Indian service by drilling the bowl and stem holes of the pipe.
He made a stem of an Elderberry shoot, punching out the pith at home with a long knitting-needle. Some white pigeon wing feathers trimmed small, and each tipped with a bit of pitch, were strung on a stout thread and fastened to the stem for a finishing touch; and he would sit by his camp fire solemnly smoking—a few draws only, for he did not like it—then say, "Ugh, heap hungry," knock the ashes out, and proceed with whatever work he had on hand.
Thus he spent the bright Saturdays, hiding his accouterments each day in his shanty, washing the paint from his face in the brook, and replacing the hated paper collar that the pride and poverty of his family made a daily necessity, before returning home. He was a little dreamer, but oh! what happy dreams. Whatever childish sorrow he found at home he knew he could always come out here and forget and be happy as a king—be a real King in a Kingdom wholly after his heart, and all his very own.
At school he was a model boy except in one respect—he had strange, uncertain outbreaks of disrespect for his teachers. One day he amused himself by covering the blackboard with ridiculous caricatures of the principal, whose favourite he undoubtedly was. They were rather clever and proportionately galling. The principal set about an elaborate plan to discover who had done them. He assembled the whole school and began cross-examining one wretched dunce, thinking him the culprit. The lad denied it in a confused and guilty way; the principal was convinced of his guilt, and reached for his rawhide, while the condemned set up a howl. To the surprise of the assembly, Yan now spoke up, and in a tone of weary impatience said:
"Oh, let him alone. I did it."
His manner and the circumstances were such that every one laughed. The principal was nettled to fury. He forgot his manhood; he seized Yan by the collar. He was considered a timid boy; his face was white; his lips set. The principal beat him with the rawhide till the school cried "Shame," but he got no cry from Yan.
That night, on undressing for bed, his brother Rad saw the long black wales from head to foot, and an explanation was necessary. He was incapable of lying; his parents learned of his wickedness, and new and harsh punishments were added. Next day was Saturday. He cut his usual double or Saturday's share of wood for the house, and, bruised and smarting, set out for the one happy spot he knew. The shadow lifted from his spirit as he drew near. He was already forming a plan for adding a fireplace and chimney to his house. He followed the secret path he had made with aim to magnify its secrets. He crossed the open glade, was, nearly at the shanty, when he heard voices—loud, coarse voices—coming from his shanty. He crawled up close. The door was open. There in his dear cabin were three tramps playing cards and drinking out of a bottle. On the ground beside them were his shell necklaces broken up to furnish poker chips. In a smouldering fire outside were the remains of his bow and arrows.
Poor Yan! His determination to be like an Indian under torture had sustained him in the teacher's cruel beating and in his home punishments, but this was too much. He fled to a far and quiet corner and there flung himself down and sobbed in grief and rage—he would have killed them if he could. After an hour or two he came trembling back to see the tramps finish their game and their liquor; then they defiled the shanty and left it in ruins.
The brightest thing in his life was gone—a King discrowned, dethroned. Feeling now every wale on his back and legs, he sullenly went home.
This was late in the summer. Autumn followed last, with shortening days and chilly winds. Yan had no chance to see his glen, even had he greatly wished it. He became more studious; books were his pleasure now. He worked harder than ever, winning honour at school, but attracting no notice at the home, where piety reigned.
The teachers and some of the boys remarked that Yan was getting very thin and pale. Never very robust, he now looked like an invalid; but at home no note was taken of the change. His mother's thoughts were all concentrated on his scapegrace younger brother. For two years she had rarely spoken to Yan peaceably. There was a hungry place in his heart as he left the house unnoticed each morning and saw his graceless brother kissed and darlinged. At school their positions were reversed. Yan was the principal's pride. He had drawn no more caricatures, and the teacher flattered himself that that beating was what had saved the pale-faced head boy.
He grew thinner and heart-hungrier till near Christmas, when the breakdown came.
* * * * *
"He is far gone in consumption," said the physician. "He cannot live over a month or two"
"He must live," sobbed the conscience-stricken mother. "He must live—O God, he must live."
All that suddenly awakened mother's love could do was done. The skilful physician did his best, but it was the mother that saved him. She watched over him night and day; she studied his wishes and comfort in every way. She prayed by his bedside, and often asked God to forgive her for her long neglect. It was Yan's first taste of mother-love. Why she had ignored him so long was unknown. She was simply erratic, but now she awoke to his brilliant gifts, his steady, earnest life, already purposeful.
As winter waned, Yan's strength returned. He was wise enough to use his new ascendency to get books. The public librarian, a man of broad culture who had fought his own fight, became interested in him, and helped him to many works that otherwise he would have missed.
"Wilson's Ornithology" and "Schoolcraft's Indians" were the most important. And they were sparkling streams in the thirst-parched land.
In March he was fast recovering. He could now take long walks; and one bright day of snow he set off with his brother's Dog. His steps bent hillward. The air was bright and bracing, he stepped with unexpected vigour, and he made for far Glenyan, without at first meaning to go there. But, drawn by the ancient attraction, he kept on. The secret path looked not so secret, now the leaves were off; but the Glen looked dearly familiar as he reached the wider stretch.
His eye fell on a large, peculiar track quite fresh in the snow. It was five inches across, big enough for a Bear track, but there were no signs of claws or toe pads. The steps were short and the tracks had not sunken as they would for an animal as heavy as a Bear.
As one end of each showed the indications of toes, he could see what way it went, and followed up the Glen. The dog sniffed at it uneasily, but showed no disposition to go ahead. Yan tramped up past the ruins of his shanty, now painfully visible since the leaves had fallen, and his heart ached at the sight. The trail led up the valley, and crossed the brook on a log, and Yan became convinced that he was on the track of a large Lynx. Though a splendid barker, Grip, the dog, was known to be a coward, and now he slunk behind the boy, sniffing at the great track and absolutely refusing to go ahead.
Yan was fascinated by the long rows of footprints, and when he came to a place where the creature had leaped ten or twelve feet without visible cause, he felt satisfied that he had found a Lynx, and the love of adventure prompted him to go on, although he had not even a stick in his hand or a knife in his pocket. He picked up the best club he could find—a dry branch two feet long and two inches through, and followed. The dog was now unwilling to go at all; he hung back, and had to be called at each hundred yards.
They were at last in the dense Hemlock woods at the upper end of the valley, when a peculiar sound like the call of a deep-voiced cat was heard.
Yow! Yow! Yowl!
Yan stood still. The dog, although a large and powerful retriever, whimpered, trembled and crawled up close.
The sound increased in volume. The yowling meouw came louder, louder and nearer, then suddenly clear and close, as though the creature had rounded a point and entered an opening. It was positively blood-curdling now. The dog could stand it no more; he turned and went as fast as he could for home, leaving Yan to his fate. There was no longer any question that it was a Lynx. Yan had felt nervous before and the abject flight of the dog reacted on him. He realized how defenseless he was, still weak from his illness, and he turned and went after the dog. At first he walked. But having given in to his fears, they increased; and as the yowling continued he finally ran his fastest. The sounds were left behind, but Yan never stopped until he had left the Glen and was once more in the open valley of the river. Here he found the valiant retriever trembling all over. Yan received him with a contemptuous kick, and, boylike, as soon as he could find some stones, he used them till Grip was driven home.
* * * * *
Most lads have some sporting instinct, and his elder brother, though not of Yan's tastes, was not averse to going gunning when there was a prospect of sport.
Yan decided to reveal to Rad the secret of his glen. He had never been allowed to use a gun, but Rad had one, and Yan's vivid account of his adventure had the desired effect. His method was characteristic.
"Rad, would you go huntin' if there was lots to hunt?"
"Course I would."
"Well, I know a place not ten miles away where there are all kinds of wild animals—hundreds of them."
"Yes, you do, I don't think. Humph!"
"Yes, I do; and I'll tell you, if you will promise never to tell a soul."
"Well, I just had an adventure with a Lynx up there now, and if you will come with your gun we can get him."
Then Yan related all that had passed, and it lost nothing in his telling. His brother was impressed enough to set out under Yan's guidance on the following Saturday.
Yan hated to reveal to his sneering, earthy-minded brother all the joys and sorrows he had found in the Glen, but now that it seemed compulsory he found keen pleasure in playing the part of the crafty guide. With unnecessary caution he first led in a wrong direction, then trying, but failing, to extort another promise of secrecy, he turned at an angle, pointed to a distant tree, saying with all the meaning he could put into it: "Ten paces beyond that tree is a trail that shall lead us into the secret valley." After sundry other ceremonies of the sort, they were near the inway, when a man came walking through the bushes. On his shoulders he carried something. When he came close, Yan saw to his deep disgust that that something was the Lynx—yes, it surely was his Lynx.
They eagerly plied the man with questions. He told them that he had killed it the day before, really. It had been prowling for the last week or more about Kernore's bush; probably it was a straggler from up north.
This was all intensely fascinating to Yan, but in it was a jarring note. Evidently this man considered the Glen—his Glen—as an ordinary, well-known bit of bush, possibly part of his farm—not by any means the profound mystery that Yan would have had it.
The Lynx was a fine large one. The stripes on its face and the wide open yellow eyes gave a peculiarly wild, tiger-like expression that was deeply gratifying to Yan's romantic soul.
It was not so much of an adventure as a might-have-been adventure; but it left a deep impress on the boy, and it also illustrated the accuracy of his instincts in identifying creatures that he had never before seen, but knew only through the slight descriptions of very unsatisfactory books.
From now on to the spring Yan was daily gaining in strength, and he and his mother came closer together. She tried to take an interest in the pursuits that were his whole nature. But she also strove hard to make him take an interest in her world. She was a morbidly religious woman. Her conversation was bristling with Scripture texts. She had a vast store of them—indeed, she had them all; and she used them on every occasion possible and impossible, with bewildering efficiency.
If ever she saw a group of young people dancing, romping, playing any game, or even laughing heartily, she would interrupt them to say, "Children, are you sure you can ask God's blessing on all this? Do you think that beings with immortal souls to save should give rein to such frivolity! I fear you are sinning, and be sure your sin will find you out. Remember, that for every idle word and deed we must give an account to the Great Judge of Heaven and earth."
She was perfectly sincere in all this, but she never ceased, except during the time of her son's illness, when, under orders from the doctor, she avoided the painful topic of eternal happiness and tried to simulate an interest in his pursuits. This was the blessed truce that brought them together.
He found a confidante for the first time since he met the collarless stranger, and used to tell all his loves and fears among the woodfolk and things. He would talk about this or that bird or flower, and hoped to find out its name, till the mother would suddenly feel shocked that any being with an immortal soul to save could talk so seriously about anything outside of the Bible; then gently reprove her son and herself, too, with a number of texts.
He might reply with others, for he was well equipped. But her unanswerable answer would be: "There is but one thing needful. What profiteth it a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
These fencing bouts grew more frequent as Yan grew stronger and the doctor's inhibition was removed.
After one of unusual warmth, Yan realized with a chill that all her interest in his pursuits had been an affected one. He was silent a long time, then said: "Mother! you like to talk about your Bible. It tells you the things that you long to know, that you love to learn. You would be unhappy if you went a day without reading a chapter or two. That is your nature; God made you so.
"I have been obliged to read the Bible all my life. Every day I read a chapter; but I do not love it. I read it because I am forced to do it. It tells me nothing I want to know. It does not teach me to love God, which you say is the one thing needful. But I go out into the woods, and every bird and flower I see stirs me to the heart with something, I do not know what it is; only I love them: I love them with all my strength, and they make me feel like praying when your Bible does not. They are my Bible. This is my nature. God made me so."
The mother was silent after this, but Yan could see that she was praying for him as for a lost soul.
A few days later they were out walking in the early spring morning. A Shore-lark on a clod whistled prettily as it felt the growing sunshine.
Yan strained his eyes and attention to take it in. He crept up near it. It took wing, and as it went he threw after it a short stick he was carrying. The stick whirled over and struck the bird. It fell fluttering. Yan rushed wildly after it and caught it in spite of his mother's calling him back.
He came with the bird in his hand, but it did not live many minutes. His mother was grieved and disgusted. She said. "So this is the great love you have for the wild things; the very first spring bird to sing you must club to death. I do not understand your affections. Are not two sparrows sold for one farthing, and yet not one of them falls to the ground without the knowledge of your heavenly Father."
Yan was crushed. He held the dead bird in his hand and said, contradictorily, as the tears stood in his eyes, "I wish I hadn't; but oh, it was so beautiful."
He could not explain, because he did not understand, and yet was no hypocrite.
Weeks later a cheap trip gave him the chance for the first time in his life to see Niagara. As he stood with his mother watching the racing flood, in the gorge below the cataract, he noticed straws, bubbles and froth, that seemed to be actually moving upstream. He said:
"Mother, you see the froth how it seems to go up-stream."
"Yet we know it is a trifle and means nothing. We know that just below the froth is the deep, wide, terrible, irresistible, arrowy flood, surging all the other way."
"Yes, my son."
"Well, Mother, when I killed the Shore-lark, that was froth going the wrong way, I did love the little bird. I know now why I killed it. Because it was going away from me. If I could have seen it near and could have touched it, or even have heard it every day, I should never have wished to harm it. I didn't mean to kill it, only to get it. You gather flowers because you love to keep them near you, not because you want to destroy them. They die and you are sorry. I only tried to gather the Shore-lark as you would a flower. It died, and I was very, very sorry."
"Nevertheless," the mother replied, "the merciful man is merciful unto his beast. He who hearkens when the young Ravens cry, surely took note of it, and in His great Book of Remembrance it is written down against you."
And from that time they surely drifted apart.
SANGER & SAM
The New Home
Yan was now fourteen years old long-legged, thin, and growing fast The doctor marked this combination and said: "Send him on a farm for a year."
Thus it was that an arrangement was made for Yan to work for his board at the farmhouse of William Raften of Sanger.
Sanger was a settlement just emerging from the early or backwoods period.
The recognized steps are, first, the frontier or woods where all is unbroken forest and Deer abound; next the backwoods where small clearings appear; then a settlement where the forest and clearings are about equal and the Deer gone; last, an agricultural district, with mere shreds of forest remaining.
Thirty years before, Sanger had been "taken up" by a population chiefly from Ireland, sturdy peasantry for the most part, who brought with them the ancient feud that has so long divided Ireland—the bitter quarrel between the Catholics or "Dogans" (why so called none knew) and Protestants, more usually styled "Prattisons." The colours of the Catholics were green and white; of the Protestants orange and blue; and hence another distinctive name of the latter was "Orangemen."
These two factions split the social structure in two vertically. There were, in addition, several horizontal lines of cleavage which, like geological seams, ran across both segments.
In those days, the early part of the nineteenth century, the British Government used to assist desirable persons who wished to emigrate to Canada from Ireland. This aid consisted of a free ocean passage. Many who could not convince the Government of their desirability and yet could raise the money, came with them, paying their regular steerage rate of $15. These were alike to the outside world, but not to themselves. Those who paid their way were "passengers," and were, in their own opinion, many social worlds above the assisted ones, who were called "Emmy Grants." This distinction was never forgotten among the residents of Sanger.
Yet two other social grades existed. Every man and boy in Sanger was an expert with the axe; was wonderfully adroit. The familiar phrase, "He's a good man," had two accepted meanings: If obviously applied to a settler during the regular Saturday night Irish row in the little town of Downey's Dump, it meant he was an able man with his fists; but if to his home life on the farm, it implied that he was unusually dexterous with the axe. A man who fell below standard was despised. Since the houses of hewn logs were made by their owners, they reflected the axemen's skill. There were two styles of log architecture; the shanty with corners criss-cross, called hog-pen finish, and the other, the house with the corners neatly finished, called dovetail finish. In Sanger it was a social black eye to live in a house of the first kind. The residents were considered "scrubs" or "riff-raff" by those whose superior axemanship had provided the more neatly finished dwelling. A later division crept in among the "dovetailers" themselves when a brickyard was opened. The more prosperous settlers put up neat little brick houses. To the surprise of all, one Phil O'Leary, a poor but prolific Dogan, leaped at once from a hog-pen log to a fine brick, and caused no end of perplexity to the ruling society queens, simply paralyzing the social register, since his nine fat daughters now had claims with the best. Many, however, whose brick houses were but five years old, denounced the O'Learys as upstarts and for long witheld all social recognition. William Raften, as the most prosperous man in the community, was first to appear in red bricks. His implacable enemy, Char-less (two syllables) Boyle, egged on by his wife, now also took the red brick plunge, though he dispensed with masons and laid the bricks himself, with the help of his seventeen sons. These two men, though Orangemen both, were deadly enemies, as the wives were social rivals. Raften was the stronger and richer man, but Boyle, whose father had paid his own steerage rate, knew all about Raften's father, and always wound up any discussion by hurling in Raften's teeth: "Don't talk to me, ye upstart. Everybody knows ye are nothing but a Emmy Grant." This was the one fly in the Raften ointment. No use denying it. His father had accepted a free passage, true, and Boyle had received a free homestead, but what of that—that counted for nothing. Old Boyle had been a "PASSENGER," old Raften an "EMMY GRANT."
This was the new community that Yan had entered, and the words Dogan and Prattison, "green" and "orange and blue," began to loom large, along with the ideas and animosities they stood for.
The accent of the Sangerite was mixed. First, there was a rich Irish brogue with many Irish words; this belonged chiefly to the old folks. The Irish of such men as Raften was quite evident in their speech, but not strong enough to warrant the accepted Irish spelling of books, except when the speaker was greatly excited. The young generation had almost no Irish accent, but all had sifted down to the peculiar burring nasal whine of the backwoods Canadian.
Mr. and Mrs. Raften met Yan at the station. They had supper together at the tavern and drove him to their home, where they showed him into the big dining-room—living-room—kitchen. Over behind the stove was a tall, awkward boy with carroty hair and small, dark eyes set much aslant in the saddest of faces. Mrs. Raften said, "Come, Sam, and shake hands with Yan." Sam came sheepishly forward, shook hands in a flabby way, and said, in drawling tones, "How-do," then retired behind the stove to gaze with melancholy soberness at Yan, whenever he could do so without being caught at it. Mr. and Mrs. Raften were attending to various matters elsewhere, and Yan was left alone and miserable. The idea of giving up college to go on a farm had been a hard one for him to accept, but he had sullenly bowed to his father's command and then at length learned to like the prospect of getting away from Bonnerton into the country. After all, it was but for a year, and it promised so much of joy. Sunday-school left behind. Church reduced to a minimum. All his life outdoors, among fields and woods—surely this spelled happiness; but now that he was really there, the abomination of desolation seemed sitting on all things and the evening was one of unalloyed misery. He had nothing to tell of, but a cloud of black despair seemed to have settled for good on the world. His mouth was pinching very hard and his eyes blinking to keep back the tears when Mrs. Raften came into the room. She saw at a glance what was wrong. "He's homesick," she said to her husband. "He'll be all right to-morrow," and she took Yan by the hand and led him upstairs to bed.
Twenty minutes later she came to see if he was comfortable. She tucked the clothes in around him, then, stooping down for a good-night kiss, she found his face wet with tears. She put her arms about him for a moment, kissed him several times, and said, "Never mind, you will feel all right to-morrow," then wisely left him alone.
Whence came that load of misery and horror, or whither it went, Yan never knew. He saw it no more, and the next morning he began to interest himself in his new world.
William Raften had a number of farms all in fine order and clear of mortgages; and each year he added to his estates. He was sober, shrewd, even cunning, hated by most of his neighbours because he was too clever for them and kept on getting richer. His hard side was for the world and his soft side for his family. Not that he was really soft in any respect. He had had to fight his life-battle alone, beginning with nothing, and the many hard knocks had hardened him, but the few who knew him best could testify to the warm Irish heart that continued unchanged within him, albeit it was each year farther from the surface. His manners, even in the house, were abrupt and masterful. There was no mistaking his orders, and no excuse for not complying with them. To his children when infants, and to his wife only, he was always tender, and those who saw him cold and grasping, overreaching the sharpers of the grain market, would scarcely have recognized the big, warm-hearted happy-looking father at home an hour later when he was playing horse with his baby daughter or awkwardly paying post-graduate court to his smiling wife.
He had little "eddication," could hardly read, and was therefore greatly impressed with the value of "book larnin'," and determined that his own children should have the "best that money could git in that line," which probably meant that they should read fluently. His own reading was done on Sunday mornings, when he painfully spelled out the important items in a weekly paper; "important" meant referring to the produce market or the prize ring, for he had been known and respected as a boxer, and dearly loved the exquisite details of the latest bouts. He used to go to church with his wife once a month to please her, and thought it very unfair therefore that she should take no interest in his favourite hobby—the manly art.
Although hard and even brutal in his dealings with men, he could not bear to see an animal ill used. "The men can holler when they're hurt, but the poor dumb baste has no protection." He was the only farmer in the country that would not sell or shoot a worn-out horse. "The poor brute has wurruked hard an' hez airned his kape for the rest av his days." So Duncan, Jerry and several others were "retired" and lived their latter days in idleness, in one case for more than ten years.
Raften had thrashed more than one neighbour for beating a horse, and once, on interfering, was himself thrashed, for he had the ill-luck to happen on a prizefighter. But that had no lasting effect on him. He continued to champion the dumb brute in his own brutal way.
Among the neighbours the perquisites of the boys were the calfskins. The cows' milk was needed and the calves of little value, so usually they were killed when too young for food. The boys did the killing, making more or less sport of it, and the skins, worth fifty cents apiece green and twenty-five cents dry, at the tannery, were their proper pay. Raften never allowed his son to kill the calves. "Oi can't kill a poor innocent calf mesilf an' I won't hev me boy doin' it," he said. Thus Sam was done out of a perquisite, and did not forget the grievance.