Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
“Say, Yan, I saw a Blood-Robin this morning.”
“That’s a new one,” said Yan, in a tone of doubt.
“Well, it’s the purtiest bird in the country.”
“What? A Humming-bird?”
“Na-aw-w-w. They ain’t purty, only small.”
“Well, that shows what you know,” retorted Yan, “’for these exquisite winged gems are at once the most diminutive and brilliantly coloured of the whole feathered race.’” This phrase Yan had read some where and his overapt memory had seized on it.
“Pshaw!” said Sam. “Sounds like a book, but I’ll bet I seen hundreds of Hummin’-birds round the Trumpet-vine and Bee-balm in the garden, an’ they weren’t a millionth part as purty as this. Why, it’s just as red as blood, shines like fire and has black wings. The old Witch says the Indians call it a War-bird ’cause when it flew along the trail there was sure going to be war, which is like enough, fur they wuz at it all the hull time.”
“Oh, I know,” said Yan. “A Scarlet Tanager. Where did you see it?”
“Why, it came from the trees, then alighted on the highest pole of the teepee.”
“Hope there isn’t going to be any war there, Sam. I wish I had one to stuff.”
“Tried to get him for you, sonny, spite of the Rules. Could ’a’ done it, too, with a gun. Had a shy at him with an arrow an’ I hain’t been bird or arrow since. ’Twas my best arrow, too–old Sure-Death.”
“Will ye give me the arrow if I kin find it?” said Guy.
“Now you bet I won’t. What good’d that be to me?”
“Will you give me your chewin’ gum?”
“Will you lend it to me?”
“Well, there’s your old arrow,” said Guy, pulling it from between the logs where it had fallen. “I seen it go there an’ reckoned I’d lay low an’ watch the progress of events, as Yan says,” and Guy whinnied.
Early in the morning the Indians in war-paint went off on a prowl. They carried their bows and arrows, of course, and were fully alert, studying the trail at intervals and listening for “signs of the enemy.”
Their moccasined feet gave forth no sound, and their keen eyes took in every leaf that stirred as their sinewy forms glided among the huge trunks of the primeval vegetation–at least, Yan’s note-book said they did. They certainly went with very little noise, but they disturbed a small Hawk that flew from a Balsam-fir–a “Fire tree” they now called it, since they had discovered the wonderful properties of the wood.
Three arrows were shot after it and no harm done. Yan then looked into the tree and exclaimed:
“Looks to me like a fuzz-ball,” said Guy.
“Guess not,” replied Yan. “Didn’t we scare the Hawk off?”
He was a good climber, quite the best of the three, and dropping his head-dress, coat, leggings and weapon, she shinned up the Balsam trunk, utterly regardless of the gum which hung in crystalline drops or easily burst bark-bladders on every part.
He was no sooner out of sight in the lower branches than Satan entered into Guy’s small heart and prompted him thus:
“Le’s play a joke on him an’ clear out.”
Sam’s sense of humour beguiled him. They stuffed Yan’s coat and pants with leaves and rubbish, put them properly together with the head-dress, then stuck one of his own arrows through the breast of the coat into the ground and ran away.
Meanwhile Yan reached the top of the tree and found that the nest was only one of the fuzz-balls so common on Fir trees. He called out to his comrades but got no reply, so came down. At first the ridiculous dummy seemed funny, then he found that his coat had been injured and the arrow broken. He called for his companions, but got no answer; again and again, without reply. He went to where they all had intended going, but if they were there they hid from him, and feeling himself scurvily deserted he went back to camp in no very pleasant humour. They were not there. He sat by the fire awhile, then, yielding to his habit of industry, he took off his coat and began to work at the dam.
He became engrossed in his work and did not notice the return of the runaways till he heard a voice saying “What’s this?”
On turning he saw Sam poring over his private note-book and then beginning to read aloud:
“Kingbird, fearless crested Kingbird Thou art––”
But Yan snatched it out of his hands.
“I’ll bet the rest was something about ’Singbird,’” said Sam.
Yan’s face was burning with shame and anger. He had a poetic streak, and was morbidly sensitive about any one seeing its product. The Kingbird episode of their long evening walk was but one of many similar. He had learned to delight in these daring attacks of the intrepid little bird on the Hawks and Crows, and so magnified them into high heroics until he must try to record them in rhyme. It was very serious to him, and to have his sentiments afford sport to the others was more than he could bear. Of course Guy came out and grinned, taking his cue from Sam. Then he remarked in colourless tones, as though announcing an item of general news, “They say there was a fearless-crested Injun shot in the woods to-day.”
The morning’s desertion left Yan in no mood for chaffing. He rightly attributed the discourtesy to Guy. Turning savagely toward him he said, meaningly:
“Now, no more of your sass, you dirty little sneak.”
“I ain’t talkin’ to you,” Guy snickered, and followed Sam into the teepee. There were low voices within for a time. Yan went over toward the dam and began to plug mud into some possible holes. Presently there was more snickering in the teepee, then Guy came out alone, struck a theatrical attitude and began to recite to a tree above Yan’s head:
“Kingbird, fearless crested Kingbird, Thou art but a blooming sing bird–”
But the mud was very handy and Yan hurled a mass that spattered Guy thoroughly and sent him giggling into the teepee.
“Them’s the bow-kays,” Sam was heard to say. “Go out an’ git some more; dead sure you deserve ’em. Let me know when the calls for ’author’ begin?” Then there was more giggling. Yan was fast losing all control of himself. He seized a big stick and strode into the teepee, but Sam lifted the cover of the far side and slipped out. Guy tried to do the same, but Yan caught him.
“Here, I ain’t doin’ nothin’.”
The answer was a sounding whack which made him wriggle.
“You let me alone, you big coward. I ain’t doin’ nothin’ to you. You better let me alone. Sam! S-A-M! S-A-A-A-M!!!” as the stick came down again and again.
“Don’t bother me,” shouted Sam outside. “I’m writin’ poethry–terrible partic’lar job, poethry. He only means it in kindness, anyhow.”
Guy was screaming now and weeping copiously.
“You’ll get some more if you give me any more of your lip,” said Yan, and stepped out to meet Sam with the note-book again, apparently scribbling away. As soon as he saw Yan he stood up, cleared his throat and began:
“Kingbird, fearless crested–”
But he did not finish it. Yan struck him a savage blow on the mouth. Sam sprang back a few steps. Yan seized a large stone.
“Don’t you throw that at me,” said Sam seriously. Yan sent it with his deadliest force and aim. Sam dodged it and then in self-defense ran at Yan and they grappled and fought, while Guy, eager for revenge, rushed to help Sam, and got in a few trifling blows.
Sam was heavier and stronger than Yan, but Yan had gained wonderfully since coming to Sanger. He was thin, but wiry, and at school he had learned the familiar hip-throw that is as old as Cain and Abel. It was all he did know of wrestling, but now it stood him in good stead. He was strong with rage, too–and almost as soon as they grappled he found his chance. Sam’s heels flew up and he went sprawling in the dust. One straight blow on the nose sent Guy off howling, and seeing Sam once more on his feet, Yan rushed at him again like a wild beast. A moment later the big boy went tumbling over the bank into the pond.
“_You see if I don’t get you sent about your business from here,” spluttered Sam, now thoroughly angry. “I’ll tell Da you hender the wurruk.” His eyes were full of water and Guy’s were full of stars and of tears. Neither saw the fourth party near; but Yan did. There, not twenty yards away, stood William Raften, spectator of the whole affair–an expression not of anger but of infinite sorrow and disappointment on his face–not because they had quarrelled–no–he knew boy nature well enough not to give that a thought–but that his son, older and stronger than the other and backed by another boy, should be licked in fair fight by a thin, half-invalid.
It was as bitter a pill as he had ever had to swallow. He turned in silence and disappeared, and never afterward alluded to the matter.
[Illustration: “There stood Raften, spectator of the whole affair."]