Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Public Domain Books
On the Old Camp Ground
It was threatening to rain again in the morning and the Indians expected to tramp home heavy laden in the wet. But their Medicine Man had a surprise in store. “I found an old friend not far from here and fixed it up with him to take us all home in his wagon.” They walked out to the edge of the rough land and found a farm wagon with two horses and a driver. They got in, and in little less than a hour were safely back to the dear old camp by the pond.
The rain was over now, and as Caleb left for his own home he said:
“Say, boys, how about that election for Head Chief? I reckon it’s due now. Suppose you wait till to-morrow afternoon at four o’clock an’ I’ll show you how to do it.”
That night Yan and his friend were alone in their teepee. His arm was bound up, and proud he was of those bandages and delighted with the trifling red spots that appeared yet on the last layer; but he was not in pain, nor, indeed, the worse for the adventure, for, thanks to his thick shirt, there was no poisoning. He slept as usual till long after midnight, then awoke in bed with a peculiar feeling of well-being and clearness of mind. He had no bodily sense; he seemed floating alone, not in the teepee nor in the woods, but in the world–not dreaming, but wide awake–more awake than ever in his life before, for all his life came clearly into view as never before: his stern, religious training; his father, refined and well-meaning, but blind, compelling him to embark in a profession to which he was little inclined, and to give up the one thing next his heart–his Woodcraft lore.
Then Raften stepped into view, loud-voiced, externally coarse, but blessed with a good heart and a sound head. The farmer suffered sadly in contrast with the father, and yet Yan had to suppress the wish that Raften were his father. What had they in common? Nothing; and yet Raften had given him two of the dearest things in life. He, the head of the house, a man of force and success, had treated Yan with respect. Yan was enough like his own father to glory in the unwonted taste; and like that other rugged stranger long ago in Glenyan, Raften had also given him sympathy. Instead of considering his Woodcraft pursuits mere trifling, the farmer had furthered them, and even joined to follow for a time. The thought of Bonnerton came back. Yan knew he must return in a year at most; he knew that his dearest ambition of a college course in zoology was never to be realized, for his father had told him he must go as errand boy at the first opening. Again his rebellious spirit was stirred, to what purpose he did not know. He would rather stay here on the farm with the Raftens. But his early Scriptural training was not without effect. “Honour thy father and thy mother” was of lasting force. He felt it to be a binding duty. He could not rebel if he would. No, he would obey; and in that resolution new light came. In taking him from college and sending him to the farm his father had apparently cut off his hope of studies next his heart. Instead of suffering loss by this obedience, he had come to the largest opportunity of his life.
Yes! He would go back–be errand boy or anything to make a living, but in his hours of freedom he would keep a little kingdom of his own. The road to it might lie through the cellar of a grocer’s shop, but he would not flinch. He would strive and struggle as a naturalist. When he had won the insight he was seeking, the position he sought would follow, for every event in the woodland life had shown him–had shown them all, that his was the kingdom of the Birds and Beasts and the power to comprehend them.
And he seemed to float, happy in the fading of all doubt, glad in the sense of victory. There was a noise outside. The teepee door was forced gently; a large animal entered. At another time Yan might have been alarmed, but the uplift of his vision was on him still. He watched it with curious unalarm. It gently came to his bed, licked his hand and laid down beside him. It was old Turk, and this was the first time he had heeded any of them but Caleb.
[Illustration: Old Turk]