Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
WINNING BACK THE FARM
Oh, the magic of the campfire! No unkind feeling long withstands its glow. For men to meet at the same campfire is to come closer, to have better understanding of each other, and to lay the foundations of lasting friendship. “He and I camped together once!” is enough to explain all cordiality between the men most wide apart, and Woodcraft days are days of memories happy, bright and lifelong.
To sit at the same camp fireside has always been a sacred bond, and the scene of twenty years before was now renewed in the Raften woods, thanks to that campfire lit a month before–the sacred fire. How well it had been named! William and Caleb were camped together in good fellowship again, marred though it was with awkwardness as yet, but still good fellowship.
Raften was a magistrate. He sent Sam with an order to the constable to come for the prisoner. Yan went to the house for provisions and to bring Mrs. Raften, and Guy went home with an astonishing account of his latest glorious doings. The tramp desperado was securely fastened to a tree; Caleb was in the teepee lying down. Raften went in for a few minutes, and when he came out the tramp was gone. His bonds were cut, not slipped. How could he nave gotten away without help?
“Never mind,” said Raften. “That three-fingered hand is aisy to follow. Caleb, ain’t that Bill Hennard?”
The men had a long talk. Caleb told of the loss of his revolver–he was still living in the house with the Pogues then–and of its recovery. They both remembered that Hennard was close by at the time of the quarrel over the Horse-trade. There was much that explained itself and much of mystery that remained.
But one thing was clear. Caleb had been tricked out of everything he had in the world, for it was just a question of days now before Pogue would, in spite of Saryann, throw off all pretense and order Caleb from the place to shift for himself.
Raften sat a long time thinking, then said:
“Caleb, you do exactly as Oi tell ye and ye’ll get yer farrum back. First, Oi’ll lend ye wan thousand dollars for wan week.”
A thousand dollars!!! Caleb’s eyes opened, and what was next he did not then learn, for the boys came back and interrupted, but later the old Trapper was fully instructed.
When Mrs. Raften heard of it she was thunderstruck. A thousand dollars in Sanger was like one hundred thousand dollars in a big city. It was untold wealth, and Mrs. Raften fairly gasped.
“A thousand dollars, William! Why! isn’t that a heavy strain to put on the honesty of a man who thinks still that he has some claim on you? Is it safe to risk it?”
“Pooh!” said William. “Oi’m no money-lender, nor spring gosling nayther. Thayer’s the money Oi’ll lend him,” and Raften produced a roll of counterfeit bills that he as magistrate had happened to have in temporary custody. “Thayer’s maybe five hundred or six hundred dollars, but it’s near enough.”
Caleb, however, was allowed to think it real money, and fully prepared, he called at his own–the Pogue house–the next day, knocked, and walked in.
“Good morning, father,” said Saryann, for she had some decency and kindness.
“What do you want here?” said Dick savagely; “bad enough to have you on the place, without forcing yerself on us day and night.”
“Hush now, Dick; you forget–”
“Forget–I don’t forget nothin’,” retorted Dick, interrupting his wife. “He had to help with the chores an’ work, an’ he don’t do a thing and expects to live on me.”
“Oh, well, you won’t have me long to bother you,” said Caleb sadly, as he tottered to a chair. His face was white and he looked sick and shaky.
“What’s the matter, father?”
“Oh, I’m pretty bad. I won’t last much longer You’ll be quit o’ me before many days.”
“Big loss!” grumbled Dick.
“I–I give you my farm an’ everything I had–”
“Oh, shut up. I’m sick of hearing about it.”
“At least–’most–everything. I–I–I–didn’t say nothing about a little wad o’–o’–bills I had stored away. I–I–” and the old man trembled violently–"I’m so cold.”
“Dick, do make a fire,” said his wife.
“I won’t do no sich fool trick. It’s roastin’ hot now.”
“’Tain’t much,” went on the trembling old man, “only fif–fif–teen hundred–dollars. I got it here now,” and he drew out the roll of greenbacks.
FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS! Twice as much as the whole farm and stock were worth! Dick’s eyes fairly popped out, and Caleb was careful to show also the handle of the white revolver.
“Why, father,” exclaimed Saryann, “you are ill: Let me go get you some brandy. Dick, make a fire. Father is cold as ice.”
“Yes–please–fire–I’m all of–a–tremble–with–cold.”
Dick rushed around now and soon the big fire place was filled with blaze and the room unpleasantly warm.
“Here, father, have some brandy and water,” said Dick, in a very different tone. “Would you like a little quinine?”
“No, no–I’m better now; but I was saying–I only got a few days to live, an’ having no legal kin–this here wad’d go to the gover’ment, but I spoke to the lawyer, an’ all I need do–is–add–a word to the deed o’ gift–for the farm–to include this–an’ it’s very right you should have it, too.” Old Caleb shook from head to foot and coughed terribly.
“Oh, father, let me send for the doctor,” pleaded Saryann, and Dick added feebly, “Yes, father, let me go for the doctor.”
“No, no; never mind. It don’t matter. I’ll be better off soon. Have you the deed o’ gift here?”
“Oh, yes, Dick has it in his chest.” Dick ran to get the deed, for these were the days before registration in Canada; possession of the deed was possession of the farm, and to lose the deed was to lose the land.
The old man tremblingly fumbled over the money, seeming to count it–"Yes–just–fif-teen hun’erd,” as Dick came clumping down the ladder with the deed.
“Have you got a–pen–and ink–”
Dick went for the dried-up ink bottle while Saryann hunted for the pen. Caleb’s hand trembled violently as he took the parchment, glanced carefully over it–yes, this was it–the thing that had made him a despised pauper. He glanced around quickly. Dick and Saryann were at the other end of the room. He rose, took one step forward and stuffed the deed into the blazing fire. Holding his revolver in his right hand and the poker in the left, he stood erect and firm, all sign of weakness gone; his eyes were ablaze, and with voice of stern command he hissed ’Stand back!_” And pointed the pistol as he saw Dick rushing to rescue the deed. In a few seconds it was wholly consumed, and with that, as all knew, the last claim of the Pogues on the property, for Caleb’s own possessory was safe in a vault at Downey’s.
“Now,” thundered Caleb, “you dirty paupers, get out of my house! Get off my land, and don’t you dare touch a thing belonging to me.”
He raised his voice in a long “halloo” and rapped three times on the table. Steps were heard outside. Then in came Raften with two men.
“Magistrate Raften, clear my house of them interlopers, if ye please.”
Caleb gave them a few minutes to gather up their own clothes, then they set out on foot for Downey’s, wild with helpless rage, penniless wanderers in the world, as they had meant to leave old Caleb.
Now he was in possession of his own again, once more comfortably “fixed.” After the men had had their rough congratulations and uproarious laughter over the success of the trick, Raften led up to the question of money, then left a blank, wondering what Caleb would do. The good old soul pulled out the wad.
“There it is, Bill. I hain’t even counted it, and a thousand times obliged. If ever you need a friend, call on me.”
Raften chuckled, counted the greenbacks and said “All right!” and to this day Caleb doesn’t know that the fortune he held in his hand that day was nothing but a lot of worthless paper.
A week later, as the old Trapper sat alone getting his evening meal, there was a light rap at the door.
A woman entered. Turk had sprung up growling, but now wagged his tail, and when she lifted a veil Caleb recognized Saryann.
“What do you want?” he demanded savagely.
“’Twasn’t my doing, father; you know it wasn’t; and now he’s left me for good.” She told him her sorrowful story briefly. Dick had not courted Saryann, but the farm, and now that that was gone he had no further use for her. He had been leading a bad life, “far worse than any one knew,” and now he had plainly told her he was done with her.
Caleb’s hot anger never lasted more than five minutes. He must have felt that her story was true, for the order of former days was reestablished, and with Saryann for housekeeper the old man had a comfortable home to the end of his days.
Pogue disappeared; folks say he went to the States. The three-fingered tramp never turned up again, and about this time the serious robberies in the region ceased. Three years afterward they learned that two burglars had been shot while escaping from an American penitentiary. One of them was undoubtedly Dick Pogue, and the other was described as a big dark man with three fingers on the right hand.