Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
IN THE WOODS
Really in the Woods
“Ye seem to waste a powerful lot o’ time goin’ up an’ down to yer camp; why don’t ye stay thayer altogether?” said Raften one day, in the colourless style that always worried every one, for they did not know whether it was really meant or was mere sarcasm.
“Suits me. ’Tain’t our choice to come home,” replied his son.
“We’d like nothing better than to sleep there, too,” said Yan.
“Well, why don’t ye? That’s what I’d do if I was a boy playin’ Injun; I’d go right in an’ play.”
“_All right now,” drawled Sam (he always drawled in proportion to his emphasis), “that suits us; now we’re a-going sure.”
“All right, bhoys,” said Raften; “but mind ye the pigs an’ cattle’s to be ’tended to every day.”
“Is that what ye call lettin’ us camp out–come home to work jest the same?”
“No, no, William,” interposed Mrs. Raften; “that’s not fair. That’s no way to give them a holiday. Either do it or don’t. Surely one of the men can do the chores for a month.”
“Month–I didn’t say nothin’ about a month.”
“Well, why don’t you now?”
“Whoi, a month would land us into harvest,” and William had the air of a man at bay, finding them all against him.
“I’ll do Yahn’s chores for a fortnight if he’ll give me that thayer pictur he drawed of the place,” now came in Michel’s voice from the far end of the table–"except Sunday,” he added, remembering a standing engagement, which promised to result in something of vast importance to him.
“Wall, I’ll take care o’ them Sundays,” said Si Lee.
“Yer all agin me,” grumbled William with comical perplexity. “But bhoys ought to be bhoys. Ye kin go.”
“Whoop!” yelled Sam.
“Hooray!” joined in Yan, with even more interest though with less unrestraint.
“But howld on, I ain’t through–”
“I say, Da, we want your gun. We can’t go camping without a gun.”
“Howld on, now. Give me a chance to finish. Ye can go fur two weeks, but ye got to go; no snakin’ home nights to sleep. Ye can’t hev no matches an’ no gun. I won’t hev a lot o’ children foolin’ wid a didn’t-know-it-was-loaded, an’ shootin’ all the birds and squirrels an’ each other, too. Ye kin hev yer bows an’ arrows an’ ye ain’t likely to do no harrum. Ye kin hev all the mate an’ bread an’ stuff ye want, but ye must cook it yerselves, an’ if I see any signs of settin’ the Woods afire I’ll be down wid the rawhoide an’ cut the very livers out o’ ye.”
The rest of the morning was devoted to preparation, Mrs. Raften taking the leading hand.
“Now, who’s to be cook?” she asked.
“Sam"–"Yan"–said the boys in the same breath.
“Hm! You seem in one mind about it. Suppose you take it turn and turn about–Sam first day.”
Then followed instructions for making coffee in the morning, boiling potatoes, frying bacon. Bread and butter enough they were to take with them–eggs, too.
“You better come home for milk every day or every other day, at least,” remarked the mother.
“We’d ruther steal it from the cows in the pasture,” ventured Sam, “seems naturaler to me Injun blood.”
“If I ketch ye foolin’ round the cows or sp’ilin’ them the fur’ll fly,” growled Raften.
“Well, kin we hook apples and cherries?” and Sam added in explanation; “they’re no good to us unless they’re hooked.”
“Take all the fruit ye want.”
“Well, if ye don’t take more’n ye need.”
“An’ cakes out of the pantry? Indians do that.”
“No; howld on now. That is a good place to draw the line. How are ye goin’ to get yer staff down thayer? It’s purty heavy. Ye see thayer are yer beds an’ pots an’ pans, as well as food.”
“We’ll have to take a wagon to the swamp and then carry them on our backs on the blazed trail,” said Sam, and explained “our backs” by pointing to Michel and Si at work in the yard.
“The road goes as far as the creek,” suggested Yan; “let’s make a raft there an’ take the lot in it down to the swimming-pond; that’d be real Injun.”
“What’ll ye make the raft of?” asked Raften.
“Cedar rails nailed together,” answered Sam.
“No nails in mine,” objected Yan; “that isn’t Injun.”
“An’ none o’ my cedar rails fur that. ’Pears to me it’d be less work an’ more Injun to pack the stuff on yer backs an’ no risk o’ wettin’ the beds.”
So the raft was given up, and the stuff was duly carted to the creek’s side. Raften himself went with it. He was a good deal of a boy at heart and he was much in sympathy with the plan. His remarks showed a mixture of interest, and doubt as to the wisdom of letting himself take so much interest.
“Hayre, load me up,” he said, much to the surprise of the boys, as they came to the creek’s edge. His broad shoulders carried half of the load. The blazed trail was only two hundred yards long, and in two trips the stuff was all dumped down in front of the teepee.
Sam noted with amusement the unexpected enthusiasm of his father. “Say, Da, you’re just as bad as we are. I believe you’d like to join us.”
“’Moinds me o’ airly days here,” was the reply, with a wistful note in his voice. “Many a night me an’ Caleb Clark slep’ out this way on this very crick when them fields was solid bush. Do ye know how to make a bed?”
“Don’t know a thing,” and Sam winked at Yan. “Show us.”
“I’ll show ye the rale thing. Where’s the axe?”
“Haven’t any,” said Yan. “There’s a big tomahawk and a little tomahawk.”
Raften grinned, took the big “tomahawk” and pointed to a small Balsam Fir. “Now there’s a foine bed-tree.”
“Why, that’s a fire-tree, too,” said Yan, as with two mighty strokes Raften sent it toppling down, then rapidly trimmed it of its flat green boughs. A few more strokes brought down a smooth young Ash and cut it into four pieces, two of them seven feet long and two of them five feet. Next he cut a White Oak sapling and made four sharp pegs each two feet long.
“Now, boys, whayer do you want yer bed?” then stopping at a thought he added, “Maybe ye didn’t want me to help–want to do everything yerselves?”
“Ugh, bully good squaw. Keep it up–wagh!” said his son and heir, as he calmly sat on a log and wore his most “Injun brave” expression of haughty approval.
The father turned with an inquiring glance to Yan, who replied:
“We’re mighty glad of your help. You see, we don’t know how. It seems to me that I read once the best place in the teepee is opposite the door and a little to one side. Let’s make it here.” So Raften placed the four logs for the sides and ends of the bed and drove in the ground the four stakes to hold them. Yan brought in several armfuls of branches, and Raften proceeded to lay them like shingles, beginning at the head-log of the bed and lapping them very much. It took all the fir boughs, but when all was done there was a solid mass of soft green tips a foot thick, all the butts being at the ground.
“Thayer,” said Raften, “that’s an Injun feather bed an’ safe an’ warrum. Slapin’ on the ground’s terrible dangerous, but that’s all right. Now make your bed on that.” Sam and Yan did so, and when it was finished Raften said: “Now, fetch that little canvas I told yer ma to put in; that’s to fasten to the poles for an inner tent over the bed.”
Yan stood still and looked uncomfortable.
“Say, Da, look at Yan. He’s got that tired look that he wears when the rules is broke.”
“What’s wrong,” asked Raften.
“Indians don’t have them that I ever heard of,” said Little Beaver.
“Yan, did ye iver hear of a teepee linin’ or a dew-cloth?”
“Yes,” was the answer, in surprise at the unexpected knowledge of the farmer.
“Do ye know what they’re like?”
“Well, I do; that’s what it’s like. That’s something I do know, fur I seen old Caleb use wan.”
“Oh, I remember reading about it now, and they are like that, and it’s on them that the Indians paint their records. Isn’t that bully,” as he saw Raften add two long inner stakes which held the dew-cloth like a canopy.
“Say, Da, I never knew you and Caleb were hunting together. Thought ye were jest natural born enemies.”
“Humph!” grunted Raften. “We wuz chums oncet. Never had no fault to find till we swapped horses.”
“Sorry you ain’t now, ’cause he’s sure sharp in the woods.”
“He shouldn’t a-tried to make an orphan out o’ you.”
“Are you sure he done it?”
“If ’twasn’t him I dunno who ’twas. Yan, fetch some of them pine knots thayer.”
Yan went after the knots; it was some yards into the woods, and out there he was surprised to see a tall man behind a tree. A second’s glance showed it to be Caleb. The Trapper laid one finger on his lips and shook his head. Yan nodded assent, gathered the knots, and went back to the camp, where Sam continued:
“You skinned him out of his last cent, old Boyle says.”
“An’ whoi not, when he throid to shkin me? Before that I was helpin’ him, an’ fwhat must he do but be ahfter swappin’ horses. He might as well ast me to play poker and then squeal when I scooped the pile. Naybours is wan thing an’ swappin’ horses is another. All’s fair in a horse trade, an’ friends didn’t orter swap horses widout they kin stand the shkinnin’. That’s a game by itself. Oi would ’a’ helped him jest the same afther that swap an’ moore, fur he wuz good stuff, but he must nades shoot at me that noight as I come home wit the wad, so av coorse–”
“I wish ye had a Dog now,” said the farmer in the new tone of a new subject; “tramps is a nuisance at all toimes, an’ a Dog is the best med’cine for them. I don’t believe old Cap’d stay here; but maybe yer near enough to the house so they won’t bother ye. An’ now I guess the Paleface will go back to the settlement. I promised ma that I’d see that yer bed wuz all right, an’ if ye sleep warrum an’ dry an’ hev plenty to ate ye’ll take no harrum.”
So he turned away, but as he was quitting the clearing he stopped,–the curious boyish interest was gone from his face, the geniality from his voice–then in his usual stern tones of command:
[Illustration: “If ye kill any Song-birds, I’ll use the rawhoide on ye."]
“Now, bhoys, ye kin shoot all the Woodchucks yer a mind ter, fur they are a nuisance in the field. Yer kin kill Hawks an’ Crows an’ Jays, fur they kill other birds, an’ Rabbits an’ Coons, fur they are fair game; but I don’t want to hear of yer killin’ any Squirrels or Chipmunks or Song-birds, an’ if ye do I’ll stop the hull thing an’ bring ye back to wurruk, an’ use the rawhoide on tap o’ that.”