Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
“How’d you sleep, Sam?”
“Didn’t sleep a durn bit.”
“Neither did I. I was shivering all night. I got up an’ put the spare blanket on, but it didn’t do any good.”
“Wonder if there was a chills-and-fever fog or something?”
“How’d you find it, Sappy?”
“Didn’t smell any fog?”
The next night it was even worse. Guy slept placidly, if noisily, but Sam and Yan tumbled about and shivered for hours. In the morning at dawn Sam sat up.
“Well, I tell you this is no joke. Fun’s fun, but if I am going to have the shivers every night I’m going home while I’m able.”
Yan said nothing. He was very glum. He felt much as Sam did, but was less ready to give up the outing.
Their blues were nearly dispelled when the warm sun came up, but still they dreaded the coming night.
“Wonder what it is,” said Little Beaver.
“’Pears to me powerful like chills and fever and then again it don’t. Maybe we drink too much swamp water. I believe we’re p’isoned with Guy’s cooking.”
“More like getting scurvy from too much meat. Let’s ask Caleb.”
Caleb came around that afternoon or they would have gone after him. He heard Yan’s story in silence, then, “Have ye sunned your blankets sense ye came?”
Caleb went into the teepee, felt the blankets, then grunted: “H-m! Jest so. They’re nigh soppin’. You turn in night after night an’ sweat an’ sweat in them blankets an’ wonder why they’re damp. Hain’t you seen your ma air the blankets every day at home? Every Injun squaw knows that much, an’ every other day at least she gives the blankets a sun roast for three hours in the middle of the day, or, failing that, dries them at the fire. Dry out your blankets and you won’t have no more chills.”
The boys set about it at once, and that night they experienced again the sweet, warm sleep of healthy youth.
There was another lesson they had to learn in campercraft. The Mosquitoes were always more or less of a plague. At night they forced the boys into the teepee, but they soon learned to smudge the insects with a wad of green grass on the hot fire. This they would throw on at sundown, then go outside, closing the teepee tight and eat supper around the cooking fire. After that was over they would cautiously open the teepee to find the grass all gone and the fire low, a dense cloud of smoke still in the upper part, but below it clear air. They would then brush off the Mosquitoes that had alighted on their clothes, crawl into the lodge and close the door tight. Not a Mosquito was left alive in it, and the smoke hanging about the smoke-vent was enough to keep them from coming in, and so they slept in peace. Thus they could baffle the worst pest of the woods. But there was yet another destroyer of comfort by day, and this was the Blue-bottle flies. There seemed more of them as time went on, and they laid masses of yellowish eggs on anything that smelled like meat or corruption. They buzzed about the table and got into the dishes; their dead, drowned and mangled bodies were polluting all the food, till Caleb remarked during one of his ever-increasing visits: “It’s your own fault. Look at all the filth ye leave scattered about.”
There was no blinking the fact; for fifty feet around the teepee the ground was strewn with scraps of paper, tins and food. To one side was a mass of potato peelings, bones, fish-scales and filth, and everywhere were the buzzing flies, to be plagues all day, till at sundown the Mosquitoes relieved them and took the night shift of the office of torment.
“I want to learn, especially if it’s Injun,” said Little Beaver. “What had we best do?”
“Wall, first ye could move camp; second, ye could clean this.”
As there was no other available camp ground they had no choice, and Yan said with energy: “Boys, we got to clean this and keep it clean, too. We’ll dig a hole for everything that won’t burn.”
So Yan seized the spade and began to dig in the bushes not far from the teepee. Sam and Guy were gradually drawn in. They began gathering all the rubbish and threw it into the hole. As they tumbled in bones, tins and scraps of bread Yan said: “I just hate to see that bread go in. It doesn’t seem right when there’s so many living things would be glad to get it.”
At this, Caleb, who was sitting on a log placidly smoking, said:
“Now, if ye want to be real Injun, ye gather all the eatables ye don’t want–meat, bread and anything, an’ every day put it on some high place. Most generally the Injuns has a rock–they call it Wakan; that means sacred medicine–an’ there they leave scraps of food to please the good spirits. Av coorse it’s the birds and Squirrels gets it all; but the Injun is content as long as it’s gone, an’ if ye argy with them that ’tain’t the spirits gets it, but the birds, they say: ’That doesn’t matter. The birds couldn’t get it if the spirits didn’t want them to have it,’ or maybe the birds took it to carry to the spirits!”
Then the Grand Council went out in a body to seek the Wakan Rock. They found a good one in the open part of the woods, and it became a daily duty of one to carry the remnants of food to the rock. They were probably less acceptable to the wood creatures than they would have been half a year later, but they soon found that there were many birds glad to eat at the Wakan; and moreover, that before long there was a trail from the brook, only twenty-five yards away, that told of four-foots also enjoying the bounty of the good spirits.
Within three days of this the plague of Bluebottles was over, and the boys realized that, judging by its effects, the keeping of a dirty camp is a crime.
One other thing old Caleb insisted on: “Yan,” said he, “you didn’t ought to drink that creek water now; it ain’t hardly runnin’. The sun hez it het up, an’ it’s gettin’ too crawly to be healthy.”
“Well, what are we going to do?” said Sam, though he might as well have addressed the brook itself.
“What can we do, Mr. Clark?”
“Dig a well!”
“Phew! We’re out here for fun!” was Sam’s reply.
“Dig an Injun well,” Caleb said. “Half an hour will do it. Here, I’ll show you.”
He took the spade and, seeking a dry spot, about twenty feet from the upper end of the pond he dug a hole some two feet square. By the time he was down three feet the water was oozing in fast. He got it down about four feet and then had to stop, on account of inflow. He took a bucket and bailed the muddy stuff out right to the bottom, and let it fill up to be again bailed out. After three bailings the water came in cold, sweet, and pure as crystal.
“There,” said he, “that water is from your pond, but it is filtered through twenty feet of earth and sand. That’s the way to get cool, pure water out of the dirtiest of swamps. That’s an Injun well.”