Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
A Crippled Warrior and the Mud Albums
“Say, Sam; what about Guy? Do we want him?”
“Well, it’s just like this. If it was at school or any other place I wouldn’t be bothered with the dirty little cuss, but out in the woods like this one feels kind o’ friendly, an’ three’s better than two. Besides, he has been admitted to the Tribe already.”
“Yes, that’s what I say. Let’s give him a yell.”
So the boys uttered a long yell, produced by alternating the voice between a high falsetto and a natural tone. This was the “yell,” and had never failed to call Guy forth to join them unless he had some chore on hand and his “Paw” was too near to prevent his renegading to the Indians. He soon appeared waving a branch, the established signal that he came as a friend.
He came very slowly, however, and the boys saw that he limped frightfully, helping himself along with a stick. He was barefoot, as usual, but his left foot was swaddled in a bundle of rags.
“Hello, Sappy; what happened? Out to Wounded Knee River?”
“Nope. Struck luck. Paw was bound I’d ride the Horse with the scuffler all day, but he gee’d too short an’ I arranged to tumble off’n him, an’ Paw cuffled me foot some. Law! how I did holler! You should ’a’ heard me.”
[Illustration: “He soon appeared, waving a branch."]
“Bet we did,” said Sam. “When was it?”
“Yesterday about four.”
“Exactly. We heard an awful screech and Yan says, says he, ’There’s the afternoon train at Kelly’s Crossing, but ain’t she late?’
“’Train!’ says I. ’Pooh. I’ll bet that’s Guy Burns getting a new licking.’”
“Guess I’ll well up now,” said War Chief Sapwood, so stripped his foot, revealing a scratch that would not have cost a thought had he got it playing ball. He laid the rags away carefully and with them every trace of the limp, then entered heartily into camp life.
The vast advantage of being astir early now was seen. There were Squirrels in every other tree, there were birds on every side, and when they ran to the pond a wild Duck spattered over the surface and whistled out of sight.
“What you got?” called Sam, as he saw Yan bending eagerly over something down by the pond.
Yan did not answer, and so Sam went over and saw him studying out a mark in the mud. He was trying to draw it in his note-book.
“What is it?” repeated Sam.
“Don’t know. Too stubby for a Muskrat, too much claw for a Cat, too small for a Coon, too many toes for a Mink.”
“I’ll bet it’s a Whangerdoodle.”
Yan merely chuckled in answer to this.
“Don’t you laugh,” said the Woodpecker, solemnly, “You’d be more apt to cry if you seen one walk into the teepee blowing the whistle at the end of his tail. Then it’d be, ’Oh, Sam, where’s the axe?’”
“Tell you what I do believe it is,” said Yan, not noticing this terrifying description; “it’s a Skunk.”
“Little Beaver, my son! I thought I would tell you, then I sez to meself, ’No; it’s better for him to find out by his lone. Nothing like a struggle in early life to develop the stuff in a man. It don’t do to help him too much,’ sez I, an’ so I didn’t.”
Here Sam condescendingly patted the Second War Chief on the head and nodded approvingly. Of course he did not know as much about the track as Yan did, but he prattled on:
“Little Beaver! you’re a heap struck on tracks–Ugh–good! You kin tell by them everything that passes in the night. Wagh! Bully! You’re likely to be the naturalist of our Tribe. But you ain’t got gumption. Now, in this yer hunting-ground of our Tribe there is only one place where you can see a track, an’ that is that same mud-bank; all the rest is hard or grassy. Now, what I’d do if I was a Track-a-mist, I’d give the critters lots o’ chance to leave tracks. I’d fix it all round with places so nothing could come or go ’thout givin’ us his impressions of the trip. I’d have one on each end of the trail coming in, an’ one on each side of the creek where it comes in an’ goes out.”
“Well, Sam, you have a pretty level head. I wonder I didn’t think of that myself.”
“My son, the Great Chief does the thinking. It’s the rabble–that’s you and Sappy–that does the work.”
But all the same he set about it at once with Yan, Sappy following with a slight limp now. They removed the sticks and rubbish for twenty feet of the trail at each end and sprinkled this with three or four inches of fine black loam. They cleared off the bank of the stream at four places, one at each side where it entered the woods, and one at each side where it went into the Burns’s Bush.
“Now,” said Sam, “there’s what I call visitors’ albums like the one that Phil Leary’s nine fatties started when they got their brick house and their swelled heads, so every one that came in could write their names an’ something about ’this happy, happy, ne’er-to-be-forgotten visit’–them as could write. Reckon that’s where our visitors get the start, for all of ours kin write that has feet.”
“Wonder why I didn’t think o’ that,” said Yan, again and again. “But there’s one thing you forget,” he said. “We want one around the teepee.”
This was easily made, as the ground was smooth and bare there, and Sappy forgot his limp and helped to carry ashes and sand from the fire-hole. Then planting his broad feet down in the dust, with many snickers, he left some very interesting tracks.
“I call that a bare track” said Sam.
“Go ahead and draw it,” giggled Sappy
“Why not?” and Yan got out his book.
“Bet you can’t make it life-size,” and Sam glanced from the little note-book to the vast imprint.
After it was drawn, Sam said, “Guess I’ll peel off and show you a human track.” He soon gave an impression of his foot for the artist, and later Yan added his own; the three were wholly different.
“Seems to me it would be about right, if you had the ways the toes pointed and the distance apart to show how long the legs wuz.”
Again Sam had given Yan a good idea. From that time he noted these two points and made his records much better.
“Air you fellers roostin’ here now?” said Sappy in surprise, as he noted the bed as well as the pots and pans.
“Well, I wanter, too. If I kin git hol’ o’ Maw ’thout Paw, it’ll be O.K.”
“You let on we don’t want you and Paw’ll let you come. Tell him Ole Man Raften ordered you off the place an’ he’ll fetch you here himself.”
“I guess there’s room enough in that bed fur three,” remarked the Third War Chief.
“Well, I guess there ain’t,” said Woodpecker. “Not when the third one won first prize for being the dirtiest boy in school. You can get stuff an’ make your own bed, across there on the other side the fire.”
“Don’t know how.”
“We’ll show you, only you’ll have to go home for blankets an’ grub.”
The boys soon cut a Fir-bough bed, but Guy put off going home for the blankets as long as he could. He knew and they suspected that there was no chance of his rejoining them again that day. So after sundown he replaced his foot-rags and limped down the trail homeward, saying, “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” and the boys knew perfectly well that he would not.
The evening meal was over; they had sat around wondering if the night would repeat its terrors. An Owl “Hoo-hoo-ed” in the trees. There was a pleasing romance in the sound. The boys kept up the fire till about ten, then retired, determined that they would not be scared this time. They were barely off to sleep when the most awful outcry arose in the near woods, like “a Wolf with a sore throat,” then the yells of a human being in distress. Again the boys sat up in fright. There was a scuffling outside–a loud and terrified “Hi–hi–hi–Sam!” Then an attack was made on the door. It was torn open, and in tumbled Guy. He was badly frightened; but when the fire was lighted and he calmed down a little he confessed that Paw had sent him to bed, but when all was still he had slipped out the window, carrying the bedclothes. He was nearly back to the camp when he decided to scare the boys by letting off a few wolfish howls, but he made himself very scary by doing it, and when a wild answer came from the tree-tops–a hideous, blaring screech–he lost all courage, dropped the bedding, and ran toward the teepee yelling for help.
The boys took torches presently and went nervously in search of the missing blankets. Guy’s bed was made and in an hour they were once more asleep.
In the morning Sam was up and out first. From the home trail he suddenly called:
“Yan, come here.”
“Do you mean me?” said Little Beaver, with haughty dignity.
“Yep, Great Chief; git a move on you. Hustle out here. Made a find. Do you see who was visiting us last night while we slept?” and he pointed to the “album” on the inway. “I hain’t shined them shoes every week with soot off the bottom of the pot without knowin’ that one pair of ’em was wore by Ma an’ one of ’em by Da. But let’s see how far they come. Why, I orter looked round the teepee before tramplin’ round." They went back, and though the trails were much hidden by their own, they found enough around the doorway to show that during the night, or more likely late in the evening, the father and mother had paid them a visit in secret–had inspected the camp as they slept, but finding no one stirring and the boys breathing the deep breath of healthy sleep, they had left them undisturbed.
“Say, boys–I mean Great Chiefs–what we want in camp is a Dog, or one of these nights some one will steal our teeth out o’ our heads an’ we won’t know a thing till they come back for the gums. All Injun camps have Dogs, anyway.”
The next morning the Third War Chief was ordered out by the Council, first to wash himself clean, then to act as cook for the day. He grumbled as he washed, that “’Twan’t no good–he’d be all dirty again in two minutes,” which was not far from the truth. But he went at the cooking with enthusiasm, which lasted nearly an hour. After this he did not see any fun in it, and for once he, as well as the others, began to realize how much was done for them at home. At noon Sappy set out nothing but dirty dishes, and explained that so long as each got his own it was all right. His foot was very troublesome at meal time also. He said it was the moving round when he was hurrying that made it so hard to bear, but in their expedition with bows and arrows later on he found complete relief.
“Say, look at the Red-bird,” he shouted, as a Tanager flitted onto a low branch and blazed in the sun. “Bet I hit him first shot!” and he drew an arrow.
“Here you, Saphead,” said Sam, “quit that shooting at little birds. It’s bad medicine. It’s against the rules; it brings bad luck–it brings awful bad luck. I tell you there ain’t no worse luck than Da’s raw-hide–that I know.”
“Why, what’s the good o’ playin’ Injun if we can’t shoot a blame thing?” protested Sappy.
“You kin shoot Crows an’ Jays if you like, an’ Woodchucks, too.”
“I know where there’s a Woodchuck as big as a Bear.”
“Ah! What size Bear?”
“Well, it is. You kin laugh all you want to. He has a den in our clover field, an’ he made it so big that the mower dropped in an’ throwed Paw as far as from here to the crick.”
“An’ the horses, how did they get out?”
“Well! It broke the machine, an’ you should have heard Paw swear. My! but he was a socker. Paw offered me a quarter if I’d kill the old whaler. I borrowed a steel trap an’ set it in the hole, but he’d dig out under it an’ round it every time. I’ll bet there ain’t anything smarter’n an old Woodchuck.”
“Is he there yet?” asked War Chief No. 2.
“You just bet he is. Why, he has half an acre of clover all eat up.”
“Let’s try to get him,” said Yan. “Can we find him?”
“Well, I should say so. I never come by but I see the old feller. He’s so big he looks like a calf, an’ so old an’ wicked he’s gray-headed.”
“Let’s have a shot at him,” suggested the Woodpecker. “He’s fair game. Maybe your Paw’ll give us a quarter each if we kill him.”
Guy snickered. “Guess you don’t know my Paw,” then he giggled bubblously through his nose again.
Arrived at the edge of the clover, Sam asked, “Where’s your Woodchuck?”
“Right in there.”
“I don’t see him.”
“Well, he’s always here.”
“Not now, you bet.”
“Well, this is the very first time I ever came here and didn’t see him. Oh, I tell you, he’s a fright. I’ll bet he’s a blame sight bigger’n that stump.”
“Well, here’s his track, anyway,” said Woodpecker, pointing to some tracks he had just made unseen with his own broad palm.
“Now,” said Sappy, in triumph. “Ain’t he an old socker?”
“Sure enough. You ain’t missed any cows lately, have you? Wonder you ain’t scared to live anyways near!”