Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
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.