Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
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.
[Illustration: “It surely was a Lynx."]
“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.