Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
The White Revolver
In the morning Caleb had the satisfaction of eating a breakfast prepared by the son of his enemy, for Sam was cook that day.
The Great Woodpecker expressed the thought of the whole assembly when after breakfast he said: “Now I want to go and see that grave. I believe Yan wrote his name on some old cow that was lying down and she didn’t like it and said so out loud!”
They arrived at the spot in a few minutes. Yes, there it was plainly written on the rude gravestone, rather shaky, but perfectly legible–"Yan.”
“Pretty poor writing,” was Guy’s remark.
“Well, you sure done it! Good boy!” said Sam warmly. “Don’t believe I’d ’a’ had the grit.”
“Bet I would,” said Guy.
“Here’s where I crossed the ditch. See my trail in the mud? Out there is where I heard the yelling. Let’s see if ghosts make tracks. Hallo, what the–”
There were the tracks in the mud of a big man. He had sprawled, falling on his hands and knees. Here was the print of his hands several times, and in the mud, half hidden, something shining–Guy saw it first and picked it up. It was a white-handled Colt’s revolver.
“Let’s see that,” said Caleb. He wiped off the mud. His eye kindled. “That’s my revolver that was stole from me ’way back, time I lost my clothes and money.” He looked it over and, glancing about, seemed lost in thought. “This beats me!” He shook his head and muttered from time to time, “This beats me!” There seemed nothing more of interest to see, so the boys turned homeward.
On the way back Caleb was evidently thinking hard. He walked in silence till they got opposite Granny de Neuville’s shanty, which was the nearest one to the grave. At the gate he turned and said: “Guess I’m going in here. Say, Yan, you didn’t do any of that hollering last night, did you?”
“No, sir; not a word. The only sound I made was dragging the ring-stone over the boulder.”
“Well, I’ll see you at camp,” he said, and turned in to Granny’s.
“The tap o’ the marnin’ to ye, an’ may yer sowl rest in pace,” was the cheery old woman’s greeting. “Come in–come in, Caleb, an’ set down. An’ how is Saryann an’ Dick?”
“They seem happy an’ prosperin’,” said the old man with bitterness. “Say, Granny, did you ever hear the story about Garney’s grave out there on the road?”
“For the love av goodness, an’ how is it yer after askin’ me that now? Sure an’ I heard the story many a time, an’ I’m after hearin’ the ghost last night, an’ it’s a-shiverin’ yit Oi am.”
“What did you hear, Granny?”
“Och, an’ it was the most divilish yells iver let out av a soul in hell. Shure the Dog and the Cat both av thim was scairt, and the owld white-faced cow come a-runnin’ an’ jumped the bars to get aff av the road.”
Here was what Caleb wanted, and he kept her going by his evident interest. After she tired of providing more realistic details of the night’s uproar, Caleb deliberately tapped another vintage of tittle-tattle in hope of further information leaking out.
“Granny, did you hear of a robbery last week down this side of Downey’s Dump?”
“Shure an’ I did not,” she exclaimed, her eyes ablaze with interest–neither had Caleb, for that matter; but he wanted to start the subject–"An” who was it was robbed?”
“Don’t know, unless it was John Evans’s place.”
“Shure an’ I don’t know him, but I warrant he could sthand to lose. Shure an’ it’s when the raskils come after me an’ Cal Conner the moment it was talked around that we had sold our Cow; then sez I, it’s gittin’ onraisonable, an’ them divils shorely seems to know whin a wad o’ money passes.”
“That’s the gospel truth. But when wuz you robbed, Granny?”
“Robbed? I didn’t say I wuz robbed,” and she cackled. “But the robbers had the best av intintions when they came to me,” and she related at length her experience with the two who broke in when her Cow was reported sold. She laughed over their enjoyment of the Lung Balm, and briefly told how the big man was sulky and the short, broad one was funny. Their black beards, the “big wan” with his wounded head, his left-handedness and his accidental exposure of the three fingers of the right hand, all were fully talked over.
“When was it, Granny?”
“Och, shure an’ it wuz about three years apast.”
Then after having had his lungs treated, old Caleb left Granny and set out to do some very hard thinking.
There had been robberies all around for the last four years; There was no clue but this: They were all of the same character; nothing but cash was taken, and the burglars seemed to have inside knowledge of the neighbourhood, and timed all their visits to happen just after the householder had come into possession of a roll of bills.
As soon as Caleb turned in at the de Neuville gate, Yan, acting on a belated thought, said:
“Boys, you go on to camp; I’ll be after you in five minutes.” He wanted to draw those tracks in the mud and try to trail that man, so went back to the grave.
He studied the marks most carefully and by opening out the book he was able to draw the boot tracks life-size, noting that each had three rows of small hobnails on the heel, apparently put in at home because so irregular, while the sole of the left was worn into a hole. Then he studied the hand tracks, selected the clearest, and was drawing the right hand when something odd caught his attention.
Yes! It appeared in all the impressions of that hand–the middle finger was gone.
[Illustration: The three-fingered hand-print]
Yan followed the track on the road a little way, but at the corner it turned southward and was lost in the grass.
As he was going back to camp he overtook Caleb also returning.
“Mr. Clark,” he said. “I went back to sketch those tracks, and do you know–that man had only three fingers on his right hand?”
“Consarn me!” said Caleb. “Are you sure?”
“Come and see for yourself.”
Yes! It surely was true, and Caleb on the road back said, “Yan, don’t say a word of this to the others just now.”
The old Trapper went to the Pogue house at once. He found the tracks repeated in the dust near the door, but they certainly were not made by Dick. On a line was a pair of muddy trousers drying.
From this night Yan went up and Guy went down in the old man’s opinion, for he spoke his own mind that day when he gave first place to grit. He invited Yan to come to his shanty to see a pair of snow-shoes he was making. The invitation was vague and general, so the whole Tribe accepted. Yan had not been there since his first visit. The first part of their call was as before. In answer to their knock there was a loud baying from the Hound, then a voice ordering him back. Caleb opened the door, but now said “Step in.” If he was displeased with the others coming he kept it to himself. While Yan was looking at the snow-shoes Guy discovered something much more interesting on the old man’s bunk; that was the white revolver, now cleaned up and in perfect order. Caleb’s delight at its recovery, though not very apparent, was boundless. He had not been able to buy himself another, and this was as warmly welcomed back as though a long-lost only child.
“Say, Caleb, let’s try a shot. I bet I kin beat the hull gang," exclaimed Sapwood.
Caleb got some cartridges and pointed to a white blaze on a stump forty yards away. Guy had three or four shots and Yan had the same without hitting the stump. Then Caleb said, “Lemme show you.”
His big rugged hand seemed to swallow up the little gun-stock. His long knobbed finger fitted around the lock in a strange but familiar way. Caleb was a bent-arm shot, and the short barrel looked like his own forefinger pointing at the target as he pumped away six times in quick succession. All went into the blaze and two into the charcoal spot that marked the centre.
“By George! Look at that for shooting!” and the boys were loud in their praise.
“Well, twenty year ago I used to be a pretty good shot,” Caleb proceeded to explain with an air of unnecessary humility and a very genial expression on his face. “But that’s dead easy. I’ll show you some real tricks.”
Twenty-five feet away he set up three cartridges in a row, their caps toward him, and exploded them in succession with three rapid shots. Then he put the revolver in the side pocket of his coat, and recklessly firing it without drawing, much less sighting or even showing it, he peppered a white blaze at twenty yards. Finally he looked around for an old fruit tin. Then he cocked the revolver, laid it across his right hand next the thumb and the tin across the fingers. He then threw them both in the air with a jerk that sent the revolver up ten feet and the tin twenty. As the revolver came down he seized it and shot a hole through the tin before it could reach the ground.
The boys were simply dumbfounded. They had used up all their exclamations on the first simple target trial.
Caleb stepped into the shanty to get a cleaning-rag for his darling, and Sam burst out:
“Well, now I know he never shot at Da, for if he did he’d ’a’ got him sure.”
It was not meant for Caleb’s ears, but it reached him, and the old Trapper came to the door at once with a long, expressive “H-m-m-mrr.”
Thus was broken the dam of silent scorn, for it was the first time Caleb had addressed himself to Sam. The flood had forced the barrier, but it still left plenty of stuff in the channel to be washed away by time and wear, and it was long before he talked to Sam as freely as to the others, but still in time he learned.
There was an air of geniality on all now, and Yan took advantage of this to ask for something he had long kept in mind.
“Mr. Clark, will you take us out for a Coon hunt? We know where there are lots of Coons that feed in a corn patch up the creek.”
If Yan had asked this a month ago he would have got a contemptuous refusal. Before the visit to Carney’s grave it might have been, “Oh, I dunno–I ain’t got time,” but he was on the right side of Caleb now, and the answer was:
“Well, yes! Don’t mind if I do, first night it’s coolish, so the Dog kin run.”
[Illustration: Raccoon in tree]