E. Pauline Johnson
Part 2 out of 5
Jack found sleep impossible. "I feel myself such a cad," he began to
Larry, "such a sneak ever to have doubted our Fox-Foot; but oh, Larry,
things did look so against him."
"They certainly did, son," assented Matt Larson, "and I feel just as
caddish as you do--more so, in fact, for I should have known, and you
were not expected to. From now on, Jack, let's you and I make it a life
rule, no matter how much things look against any chap, not to believe
it of him, but just believe the best and the noblest of everybody."
"My hand on it!" came Jack's reply, and once more those two fell fast
asleep, palm to palm, but with a vastly different emotion from the one
they had felt a few hours before.
"He will try once more," said Fox-Foot, as they swallowed a hurried
breakfast. "He not quite give up yet. At the head of that first big
rapid--you know where we portaged over Red Rock Falls--there's short cut
through woods to Lake Nameless. Maybe he catch us there. We there about
to-morrow noon. But he can't shoot; his gun here." And the boy tapped
his shirt with an air of confidence.
"Yes, thanks to your stratagem, you young schemer," said Larry. "What do
you think, Jack? Are you equal to a good tussle with his mackinaw nibs?"
"I'm not only equal, but aching to get at him," responded the boy, with
spirit. "I'd give him enough to battle against."
But the man in the mackinaw had to battle against a far more formidable
enemy than this little crew of three venturesome stalwarts.
For the next twenty-four hours things went on much as usual, then came
the sweeping bend in the river, and the roar of the distant falls. This
meant to put ashore and to portage the canoe, duffle, guns and gold
bags around to the foot of the falls, for no canoe could possibly
live through such a cataract, and there was no record, even among the
Indians, of anyone ever having "run" it. All the morning Jack had
paddled bow, and worked like a nailer, so the other two lifted the canoe
to their shoulders, scrambling up the steep, rocky shores, and leaving
Jack to bear the lighter burdens of blankets, tin kettles and one
Following their prearranged plan, Jack left the sack beside the water
where he could keep a constant eye on it, while he made several trips up
the heights, leaving his various packs on the summit only to return for
more. Last of all he shouldered the heavy gold sack, stumbling among the
rocks under its weight. As he reached the shore heights he noticed his
comrades had already been swallowed up in the woods, canoe and all, but
he could hear their voices and their feet crunching through the
"Hi, boys, you're doing well!" he called gayly after them, when suddenly
a dark circle seemed to wheel about his head, drop over his shoulders,
then grip him around the arms. Instantly he felt the rope tighten.
Someone had thrown a noose--lassoed him as they lasso cattle on the
prairies. In another second he was thrown flat on his back, the gold
sack was jerked from his fingers by the concussion, and a dark, evil
face was leaning above his own. The man in the mackinaw had caught him
Oddly enough in that tense moment he seemed to hear his father's voice
saying to him, "Why, boy, you're built like an ox!" The memory was like
a match to tinder. He flung his hard young legs about the man's ankles,
bringing him down like a dead weight upon his own body. With the wind
half crushed out of him, he struggled and rolled to protect his
revolver. A dozen times the man snatched, plunged and parried to secure
it, and as many times Jack rolled on top of it, keeping it securely in
his hip pocket. Not a word was spoken, not a sound uttered. Only those
two, the evil, avaricious, brutal man, and the fair, weak-eyed, brave
boy, battling, rolling, lunging, each for the mastery. Then something
caused the rope to give, the knot slipped, and with a mighty effort Jack
wrenched one arm loose, felt for his revolver, drew it, and fired, once,
twice, not at his enemy, but straight into the air.
"No, you don't!" snarled the man, reaching for Jack's gun with one hand,
and his throat with the other. But with the agility of a cat the boy had
thrown the gun directly behind him, where it fell clear of the bank and
splashed into the river. The sound fell on Jack's ears like a death
knell. He had not thought they were so near the brink. One more struggle
and they would both be over. Then his breath left him, squeezed out by
the demon hand clutching at his throat.
But those two shots had told their story. With almost stunning horror
Larry and Fox-Foot heard them.
"He's got him! He's got Jack!" gasped the Indian, dropping the canoe,
and turning with the fleetness of a deer, he disappeared up the portage.
Spitting out the strange foreign word he only used in extreme moments,
Larry followed hard on his heels.
"He's got him down! He's choking him!" drifted back the Indian's voice,
shaking with dismay and rage. Then both would-be rescuers stood stock
still, awed by the sight before them. Jack had once again clutched his
sturdy legs about the man's knees, twisting him so that the iron fingers
relaxed from their grip at the boy's throat. The man was now clutching
the gold sack, but with a springy, rapid turn Jack wrenched it free. The
two rolled over and over, for a short, sharp struggle, and Larry and the
Indian appeared only in time to see the two shoot over the bank. Nothing
remained in sight but a single hand clinging to a cedar root that
projected from the rocks. It was the work of an instant to reach the
hand--Jack's hand, fortunately--to lift him from his perilous position,
while all but breathless he gasped, "Save him! save him! He's in the
river! He'll go over the falls!"
Then their horrified eyes discovered the man, by this time far out in
midstream, drifting more surely, more rapidly every second, towards the
"Here, take this rope! Save him!" cried the boy, wrenching from his poor
bruised sides the very rope his enemy had secured him with.
Larry snatched it, crashing down the shore in the vain hope of reaching
the drifting body. The canoe was up in the woods where they had dropped
it at the sound of Jack's gunshots. He could not begin to get near
enough with that twenty-foot rope. There was but one hope left--a huge
overhanging pine tree a little above the falls--perhaps he could help
the struggling man from its branches. But before he could even reach the
tree, let alone crawl out above the river, the dark, drifting mass, with
its struggling arms and white face, had already been sucked far past
its furthest branches. Beside Jack, whose straining eyes watched for
the inevitable end, stood Fox-Foot, his arms folded tightly across his
chest, his gaze riveted on the drifting speck. Then both boys shuddered,
for the swirling speck seemed suddenly to stand erect, then plunged feet
foremost over the brink.
Larry returned very slowly, his legs lagging heavily at every step. All
day they searched in the river far below the falls, but not a trace
could be found of the man in the mackinaw.
"Is there a particle of chance that the poor fellow _could_ escape
death?" asked Larry of Fox-Foot that night, when, wearied and thoroughly
played out, they pitched their camp for the last night in the forest.
"Yes; one chance in fifty. My father he knows two men escape long
"It strikes me," said Larry, grimly, "that if there is a ghost of a
chance he'll get it."
"I hope so," declared Jack, fervently. "My neck will be purple from his
claws for some time yet, but, oh! I _hope_ he escaped."
"Yes," echoed Larry, solemnly, "it would be miserable to think that
I had secured this gold at the price of a man's life, no matter how
degraded that man may be. No, I would not want the gold at that price."
So with this shadow surrounding them, their last day in the wilds was
very quiet, and, when at last they paddled into the little settlement,
it was with a sigh of both regret and relief that Matt Larson lifted
his gold sacks from the canoe.
The Hudson's Bay trader greeted them cordially. "Got any furs for me,
Larry?" was the first thing he asked.
Then Matt Larson threw back his head and laughed heartily for the first
time in days. He had forgotten all about that old tale that he was going
north for "furs." So now he related all his story, showing his gold to
the bluff, old, honest trader.
"You're lucky to get it to the front," said that person. "There's been
one of our notorious Northern 'bad men' up in the bush for weeks. If
you'd come across him now, you would never have got those nuggets here
safely. But you're all right from now on. He drifted in here to-day and
took the noon train west."
All three adventurers sprang to their feet.
"_What_!" yelled Larry. "Came here _to-day_! What did he look like?"
"Looked more like mincemeat than any human being I ever saw," replied
the trader. "Tall, dark, evil-looking man. Wore a mackinaw, was wringing
wet to the skin, had one arm in a sling made of a wild grapevine, face
slit up in ribbons as if he'd been fighting bears, limped as if he had
stringhalt. Said he was going to the hospital at Port Arthur."
Larry's reply was an odd one. He turned abruptly to Fox-Foot. "Boy," he
said, "you're coming East with us to-night. Right now! Don't say 'no,'
for I tell you you're coming. After the tricks you played on that
villain your life would not be worth the smallest nugget in those sacks
if you stayed here. We'll come back after a time, but you are coming
with me, _now_!"
Jack Cornwall found he could not speak a word, but just held out both
hands to the Chippewa. And that night as the three sat together in the
cozy sleeper, while the train thundered its way eastward, Jack wondered
why he was so wonderfully happy. Was it because he had proved himself a
man on this strange, wild journey? Was it because of those heavy sacks
beside him, filled with the King's Coin, which Larry declared he was to
share? He could hardly define the reason, until, glancing up suddenly,
he found himself looking into a pair of dark eyes of very rare beauty.
Then he knew that this strangely happy feeling came from the simple fact
that there were to be no "good-byes," that Fox-Foot was still beside
A Night With "North Eagle"
A Tale Founded on Fact.
The great transcontinental express was swinging through the Canadian
North-West territories into the land of the Setting Sun. Its powerful
engine throbbed along the level track of the prairie. The express, mail,
baggage, first-class and sleeping coaches followed like the pliant tail
of a huge eel. Then the wheels growled out the tones of lessening speed.
The giant animal slowed up, then came to a standstill. The stop awoke
Norton Allan, who rolled over in his berth with a peculiar wide-awake
sensation, and waited vainly for the train to resume its flight towards
the Rockies. Some men seemed to be trailing up and down outside the
Pullman car, so Norton ran up the little window blind and looked out.
Just a small station platform, of a small prairie settlement, was all
he saw, but he heard the voices very distinctly.
"What place is this?" someone asked.
"Gleichen, about sixty miles east of Calgary," came the reply.
"Construction camp?" asked the first voice.
"No," came the answer, "_This_ line was laid about when _you_ were
born, I guess."
Someone laughed then.
"But what are all those tents off there in the distance?" again asked
the curious one.
"Indian tepees," was the reply. "This is the heart of the Blackfoot
Norton's heart gave a great throb--the far-famed Blackfoot Indians!--and
just outside his Pullman window! Oh, if the train would only wait there
until morning! As if in answer to his wish, a quick, alert voice cut in
saying, "Washout ahead, boys. The Bow River's been cutting up. We're
stalled here for good and all, I guess." And the lanterns and voices
faded away forward.
Norton lay very still for a few moments trying to realize it all. Then
raising himself on one elbow, he peered out across an absolutely level
open prairie. A waning moon hung low in the west, its thin radiance
brooding above the plains like a mist, but the light was sufficient to
reveal some half-dozen tepees, that lifted their smoky tops and tent
poles not three hundred yards from the railway track. Norton looked
at his watch. He could just make out that it was two o'clock in the
morning. Could he _ever_ wait until daylight? So he asked himself over
and over again, while his head (with its big mop of hair that _would_
curl in spite of the hours he spent in trying to brush it straight)
snuggled down among the pillows, and his grave young eyes blinked
longingly at those coveted tepees. And the next thing he knew a face was
thrust between his berth-curtains, a thin, handsome, clean-shaven face,
adorned with gold-rimmed nose glasses, and crowned with a crop of hair
much like his own, and a voice he loved very much was announcing in
imitation of the steward, "Breakfast is now ready in the dining-car."
Norton sprang up, pitching the blankets aside, and seized Professor
Allan by the arm. "Oh, Pater," he cried, pointing to the window, "do you
see them---the Indians, the tepees? It's the Blackfoot Reserve! I heard
the trainmen say so in the night."
"Yes, my boy," replied the Professor, seating himself on the edge of his
son's berth. "And I also see your good mother and estimable father dying
of starvation, if they have to wait much longer for you to appear with
them in the dining-car--"
But Norton was already scrambling into his clothes, his usually solemn
eyes shining with excitement. For years his father, who was professor
in one of the great universities in Toronto, had shared his studies on
Indian life, character, history and habits with his only son. They had
read together, and together had collected a splendid little museum of
Indian relics and curios. They had always admired the fine old warlike
Blackfoot nation, but never did they imagine when they set forth on
this summer vacation trip to the Coast, that they would find themselves
stalled among these people of their dreams.
"Well, Tony, boy, this _is_ a treat for you and father," his mother's
voice was saying, "and the conductor tells me we shall be here probably
forty-eight hours. The Bow River is on the rampage, the bridge near
Calgary is washed away, and thank goodness we shall be comfortably
housed and fed in this train." And Mrs. Allan's smiling face appeared
beside the Professor's.
"Tony," as his parents called him, had never dressed so quickly in all
the sixteen years of his life, notwithstanding the cramped space of a
sleeping-car, and presently he was seated in the diner, where the broad
windows disclosed a sweeping view of the scattered tepees, each with its
feather of upward floating smoke curling away from its apex. Many of
the Indians were already crowding about the train, some with polished
buffalo horns for sale, and all magnificently dressed in buckskin,
decorated with fine, old-fashioned bead work, and the quills of the
An imperial-looking figure stood somewhat back from the others,
exceptionally tall, with finely cut profile, erect shoulders, rich
copper-colored skin, and long black hair interbraided with ermine tails
and crested with a perfect black and white eagle plume; over his costly
buckskins he wore a brilliant green blanket, and he stood with arms
folded across his chest with the air of one accustomed to command.
Beside him stood a tall, slender boy, his complete counterpart in
features and dress, save that the boy's blanket was scarlet, and he
wore no eagle plume.
"What magnificent manhood!" remarked the Professor. "No college our
civilization can boast of will ever give what plain food, simple hours,
and the glorious freedom of this prairie air have given that brave and
his boy. We must try to speak with them, Tony. I wonder how we can
"Some circumstance will lead to it, you may be sure," said Mrs. Allan,
cheerfully. "You and Tony walk out for some fresh air. Something will
happen, you'll see." And it did.
Crowds of the train's passengers were strolling up and down when the
Professor and Norton went outside. "I wish they would not stand and
stare at the Indians like that!" remarked the boy indignantly. "The
Indians don't stare at us."
"For the best of all reasons," said the Professor. "Indians are taught
from the cradle that the worst possible breach of politeness is to
stare." And just as they began a little chat on the merits of
this teaching, a dapper, well-dressed passenger walked up to the
distinguished Indian, and in a very loud voice said, "Good morning,
friend. I'd like to buy that eagle feather you have in your hair.
Will you sell it? Here's a dollar."
Instantly Norton Allan turned angrily to the passenger. "What do you
shout at him for?" he demanded. "He isn't deaf because he's Indian."
"Oh!" said the passenger, rather sheepishly, but in a much lower tone.
Then, still raising his voice again, he persisted, "Here's two dollars
for your feather."
The Indian never even glanced at him, but with a peculiar, half regal
lift of his shoulders, hitched his blanket about him, turned on his
heel, and walked slowly away. Just then the train conductor walked past,
and the bewildered passenger assailed him with, "I say, conductor, that
Indian over there wouldn't take two dollars for that chicken wing in his
The conductor laughed. "I should think not!" he said. "'That Indian' is
Chief Sleeping Thunder, and ten miles across the prairie there, he has
three thousand head of cattle, eighty horses, and about two thousand
acres of land for them to range over. _He_ doesn't want your two
"Oh!" said the passenger again, this time a little more sheepishly than
before; then he wisely betook himself to the train.
Meantime the boy with the scarlet blanket had not moved an inch, only
let his eyes rest briefly on Norton when the latter had reproved the
"And this," continued the conductor kindly, as he paused beside the boy,
"is Chief Sleeping Thunder's son, North Eagle."
Norton Allan stepped eagerly forward, raised his cap, and holding out
his hand shyly, said, "May I have the pleasure of shaking hands with
you, North Eagle?"
The Indian boy extended his own slim brown fingers, a quick smile swept
across his face, and he said, "_You_ not speak loud." Then they all
laughed together, and the Professor, who had been a silent but absorbed
onlooker, was soon chatting away with the two boys, as if he, too, were
but sixteen years old, with all the world before him.
That was a memorable day for Norton, for, of course, he met Chief
Sleeping Thunder, who, however, could speak but little English; but so
well did the friendship progress that at noon North Eagle approached
the Professor with the request that Norton should ride with him over to
his father's range, sleep in their tepee that night, and return the
following morning before the train pulled out.
At North Eagle's shoulder stood Sleeping Thunder, nodding assent to all
his son said.
Of course, Mrs. Allan was for politely refusing the invitation. She
would not for a moment listen to such an idea. But the Professor took
quite the opposite stand. "We must let him go, mother--let him go, by
all means. Tony can take care of himself, and it will be the chance of
his life. Why he is nearing manhood now. Let him face the world; let
him have this wonderful experience."
"But they look so wild!" pleaded the poor mother. "They _are_ wild.
Fancy letting our Tony go alone into the heart of the Blackfoot country!
Oh! I can't think of it!"
Fortunately for her peace of mind the train conductor overheard her
words, and, smiling at her fears, said, rather dryly:
"Madam, if your boy is as safe from danger and harm and evil in the city
of Toronto as he will be with North Eagle in the prairie country, why, I
The words seemed to sting the good lady. She felt, rather than knew, the
truth of them, and the next moment her consent was given.
The face of North Eagle seemed transformed when he got her promise to
let Tony go. "I bring him back safe, plenty time for train," was all
Then Sleeping Thunder spoke for the first time--spoke but the one word,
"Safe." Then pointing across the prairie, he repeated, "Safe."
"That's enough, my dear," said the Professor firmly. "Tony is as safe as
in a church."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Allan, "the chief means that word 'safe.' And as for
that boy, I believe he would die before he'd let Tony's little finger be
And as events proved, she was almost right.
Within the hour they were off, North Eagle bareback on a wiry cayuse,
Tony in a Mexican saddle, astride a beautiful little broncho that loped
like a rocking-horse.
At the last minute, Sleeping Thunder was detained by cattlemen, who
wanted to purchase some of his stock, so the two boys set out alone. The
last good-bye was to the conductor, who, after charging them to return
in ample time to catch the train, said seriously to Norton:
"Let nothing scare you, sonny. These Indians _look_ savage, in their
paint and feathers, but King Edward of England has no better subjects;
and I guess it is all the same to His Majesty whether a good subject
dresses in buckskin or broadcloth."
Then there was much waving of hats and handkerchiefs. The engineer
caught the spirit of the occasion, and genially blew a series of frantic
toots, and with the smile of his father and the face of his mother as
the last things in his vision, and with North Eagle's scarlet blanket
rocking at his elbow, young Norton Allan hit the trail for the heart of
the Blackfoot country.
For miles they rode in silence. Twice North Eagle pointed ahead, without
speech--first at a coyote, then at a small herd of antelope, and again
at a band of Indian riders whose fleet ponies and gay trappings crossed
the distant horizon like a meteor.
By some marvellous intuition North Eagle seemed to know just what would
interest the white boy--all the romance of the trail, the animals, the
game, the cactus beds, the vast areas of mushrooms growing wild, edible
and luscious, the badger and gopher holes, and the long, winding, half
obliterated buffalo trails that yet scarred the distant reaches. It was
only when he pointed to these latter, that he really spoke his mind,
breaking into an eloquence that filled Tony with envy. The young redskin
seemed inspired; a perfect torrent of words rushed to his lips, then
his voice saddened as he concluded: "But they will never come again,
the mighty buffalo my father and my grandfather used to chase. They
have gone, gone to a far country, for they loved not the ways of the
paleface. Sometimes at night I dream I hear their thousand hoofs beat
up the trail, I see their tossing horns, like the prairie grass in the
strong west winds, but they are only spirits now; they will never come
to me, and I have waited so long, so many days, watching these trails,
watching, watching, watching--but they never come; no, the buffalo never
Tony did not speak. What was there to be said? He only shook his head
comprehendingly, and bit his under lip hard to keep back--something, he
scarcely knew what. But he, too, watched the buffalo runs with longing
eyes, hoping, hoping that even _one_ glorious animal would gallop up
out of the rim of grass and sky. But young North Eagle was right--the
buffalo was no more.
Tony was just beginning to feel slightly sore in the saddle when the
Indian pointed off to the south-west and said, "There is my father's
tepee," and within five minutes they had slipped from their mounts, and
stood on the Chief's domain. A woman, followed by three children, came
to the door. She was very handsome, and wore the beautiful dress of her
tribe. Her cheeks were painted a brilliant crimson, and the parting of
her hair was stained a rich orange. North Eagle turned and spoke rapidly
to her for a moment in the Blackfoot tongue. She replied briefly. "Here
is my mother," said the boy simply. "She speaks no English, but she
says you are welcome and her heart is warm for you."
Tony lifted his cap while he shook hands. The woman noiselessly put
back the door of the tepee and motioned for him to enter. For a moment
he thought he must be dreaming. The exterior of the tepee had been
wonderful enough, with its painted designs of suns and planets and wolf
heads and horses, but the inside betokened such a wealth of Indian
possessions that the boy was fairly astounded. The tepee itself was
quite thirty feet in diameter, and pitched above dry, brown, clean
prairie sod, which, however, was completely concealed by skins of many
animals--cinnamon bear, fox, prairie wolf, and badger. To the poles were
suspended suit after suit of magnificent buckskin, leggings, shirts,
moccasins, all beaded and embroidered in priceless richness, fire bags,
tobacco pouches, beaded gun cases, and rabbit robes. Fully a dozen suits
were fringed down the sleeves and leggings with numberless ermine tails.
At one side of the tepee lay piled quite a score of blankets in mixed
colors, a heap of thick furs, pyramids of buffalo horns, and coils and
coils of the famous "grass and sinew" lariats for roping cattle and
The contents of that tepee would have brought thousands of dollars in
New York City.
Across Norton's mind there flashed the recollection of the passenger
offering his paltry two dollars to Sleeping Thunder for the eagle plume
in his hair. No wonder the train conductor had laughed! And just here
North Eagle entered, asking him if he would care to see the cattle that
were ranging somewhere near by. Of course he cared, and for all the
years to come he never forgot that sight. For a mile beyond him the
landscape seemed blotted out by a sea of gleaming horns and shifting
hoofs--a moving mass that seemed to swim into the sky. It was a great
possession--a herd like that--and Norton found himself marvelling at the
strange fact that he and his parents, travelling in luxurious Pullmans,
and living in a great city, were poor in comparison with this slender
Blackfoot boy who was acting host with the grace that comes only with
perfect freedom and simplicity.
The day was very warm, so supper was prepared outside the tepee, North
Eagle showing Tony how to build a fire in a prairie wind, lee of the
tepee, and midway between two upright poles supporting a cross-bar from
which the kettles hung. Boiled beef, strong black tea, and bannock, were
the main foods, but out of compliment to their visitor, they fried a
quantity of delicious mushrooms, and, although the Blackfeet seldom eat
them, Tony fairly devoured several helpings. After supper North Eagle
took him again into the tepee, and showed him all the wonderful buckskin
garments and ornaments. Tony was speechless with the delight of it all,
and even begrudged the hours wherein he must sleep; but the unusual
length of the ride, the clear air, and the hearty supper he had eaten,
all began to tell on his excitement, and he was quite ready to "turn in"
with the others shortly after sunset.
"Turning in" meant undressing, folding a Hudson's Bay blanket about him,
and lying near the open flap of the tepee, on a heap of wolf skins as
soft as feathers and as silvery as a cloud.
Night crept up over the prairie like a grey veil, and the late moon,
rising, touched the far level wastes with a pale radiance. Through
the open flap of the tepee Tony watched it--the majestic loneliness
and isolation, the hushed silence of this prairie world were very
marvellous--and he loved it almost as if it were his birthright, instead
of the heritage of the Blackfoot boy sleeping beside him. Then across
the white night came the cry of a wandering coyote, and once the whirr
of many wings swept overhead. Then his wolfskin couch grew very soft
and warm, the night airs very gentle, the silence very drowsy, and
It was daylight. Something had wakened him abruptly. Instantly all
his faculties were alert, yet oddly enough he seemed held rigid and
speechless. He wanted to cry out with fear, he knew not of what, and
the next moment a lithe red body was flung across his, and his hand was
imprisoned in strong, clinging fingers. There was a brief struggle, a
torrent of words he did not understand, a woman's frightened voice.
Then the lithe red body, North Eagle's body, lifted itself, and Tony
struggled up, white, scared, and bewildered. The Blackfoot boy was
crouching at his elbow, and some terrible thing was winding and lashing
itself about his thin dark wrist and arm. It seemed a lifetime that
Tony's staring eyes were riveted on the horror of the thing but it
really was all over in a moment, and the Indian had choked a brutal
rattlesnake, then flung it at his feet. No one spoke for a full minute,
then North Eagle said, very quietly, "He curl one foot from your right
hand, he lift his head to strike. I wake--I catch him just below his
head--he is dead."
Again there was silence. Then North Eagle's mother came slowly, placed
one hand on her son's shoulder, the other on Tony's, and looking down at
the dead reptile, shook her head meaningly. And Tony, still sitting on
the wolf skins, stretched out his arms and clasped them about North
Mrs. Allan was right--the Indian boy had risked his life to save her son
from danger. Rattlesnakes were so rare in the Blackfoot country that it
gave them all a great shock. It was almost too tense and terrible a
thing to talk much of, and the strain of it relaxed only when the boys
were mounted once more, galloping swiftly away toward Gleichen and the
But, notwithstanding this fright, Tony left the tepee with the greatest
regret. Before going, North Eagle's mother presented him with a very
beautiful pair of moccasins and a valuable string of elk's teeth, and
North Eagle translated her good-bye words: "My mother says you will live
in her heart; that your hair is very beautiful; that she feels the sun's
heat in her heart for you, because you do not speak loud to her."
It was a glorious, breezy gallop of ten miles in the early morning, and
as they came up the trail Tony could distinguish his mother, already
on the watch, waving a welcome as far as her eyes could discern them.
Outside the settlement the boys slackened speed, and talked regretfully
of their coming separation. North Eagle was wearing an extremely
handsome buckskin shirt, fringed and richly beaded. He began unfastening
it. "I give you my shirt," he said. "My mother says it is the best she
ever made--it is yours."
For a second Tony's thoughts were busy, then, without hesitation, he,
too, unfastened his shirt, which luckily was a fine blue silk "soft"
one. "And I give you mine," he said simply.
Thus did they exchange shirts, and rode up to the station platform, the
Indian stripped to the waist, with only a scarlet blanket about his
shoulders, and a roll of blue silk under his arm; the Toronto boy with
his coat buttoned up to conceal his underwear, and a gorgeous garment
of buckskin across his saddle bow.
The greetings and welcomings were many and merry. Professor and Mrs.
Allan were hardly able to take their eyes from their restored son.
But the shadow of the coming good-bye hung above Tony's face, and he
experienced only one great glad moment on the station platform. It
was when Sleeping Thunder came up, and before all the passengers,
deliberately took the eagle plume from his hair and slipped it into
Tony's hand. Then North Eagle spoke: "My father says you are brave,
and must accept the plume of the brave. His heart turns to you. You
do not speak loud to him."
"All aboard for Calgary!" came the voice of the train conductor. For a
moment the clinging fingers of the Indian and the white boy met, and
some way or other Tony found himself stumbling up the steps into the
Pullman, and as the train pulled out towards the foothills he stood on
the rear platform watching the little station and the tepees slip away,
away, away, conscious of but two things--that his eyes were fighting
bravely to keep a mist from blinding them, and that his hands were
holding the eagle plume of Sleeping Thunder.
Hoolool of the Totem Pole
A Story of the North Pacific Coast
The upcoast people called her "Hoolool," which means "The Mouse" in the
Chinook tongue. For was she not silent as the small, grey creature that
depended on its own bright eyes and busy little feet to secure a living?
The fishermen and prospectors had almost forgotten the time when she
had not lived alone with her little son, "Tenas," for although Big Joe,
her husband, had been dead but four years, time travels slowly north
of Queen Charlotte Sound, and four years on the "Upper Coast" drag
themselves more leisurely than twelve at the mouth of the Fraser River.
Big Joe had left her with but three precious possessions--"Tenas," their
boy, the warm, roomy firwood house of the thrifty Pacific Coast Indian
build, and the great Totem Pole that loomed outside at its northwestern
corner like a guardian of her welfare and the undeniable hallmark of
their child's honorable ancestry and unblemished lineage.
After Big Joe died Hoolool would have been anchorless without that Totem
Pole. Its extraordinary carving, its crude but clever coloring, its
massed figures of animals, birds and humans, all designed and carved
out of the solid trunk of a single tree, meant a thousand times more to
her than it did to the travellers who, in their great "Klondike rush,"
thronged the decks of the northern-bound steamboats; than it did even
to those curio-hunters who despoil the Indian lodges of their ancient
wares, leaving their white man's coin in lieu of old silver bracelets
and rare carvings in black slate or finely woven cedar-root baskets.
Many times was she offered money for it, but Hoolool would merely shake
her head, and, with a half smile, turn away, giving no reason for her
"The woman is like a mouse," those would-be purchasers would say, so
"Hoolool" she became, even to her little son, who called her the quaint
word as a white child would call its mother a pet name; and she in
turn called the little boy "Tenas," which means "Youngness"--the young
spring, the young day, the young moon--and he was all these blessed
things to her. But all the old-timers knew well why she would never
part with the Totem Pole.
"No use to coax her," they would tell the curio-hunters. "It is to her
what your family crest is to you. Would you sell your _crest_?"
So year after year the greedy-eyed collectors would go away
empty-handed, their coin in their pockets, and Hoolool's silent refusal
in their memories.
Yet how terribly she really needed their money she alone knew. To be
sure, she had her own firewood in the forest that crept almost to her
door, and in good seasons the salmon fishing was a great help. She
caught and smoked and dried this precious food, stowing it away for
use through the long winter months; but life was a continual struggle,
and Tenas was yet too young to help her in the battle.
Sometimes when the silver coins were very, very scarce, when her
shoulders ached with the cold, and her lips longed for tea and her mouth
for bread, when the smoked salmon revolted her, and her thin garments
grew thinner, she would go out and stand gazing at the Totem Pole, and
think of the great pile of coin that the last "collector" had offered
for it--a pile of coin that would fill all her needs until Tenas was
old enough to help her, to take his father's place at the hunting, the
fishing, and above all, in the logging camps up the coast.
"I would sell it to-day if they came," she would murmur. "I would not be
strong enough to refuse, to say no."
Then Tenas, knowing her desperate thoughts, would slip, mouse-like,
beside her and say:
"Hoolool, you are looking with love on our great Totem Pole--with love,
as you always do. It means that I shall be a great man some day, does it
Then the treachery of her thoughts would roll across her heart like a
crushing weight, and she knew that no thirst for tea, no hunger for
flour-bread, no shivering in thin garments, would ever drive her to part
with it. For the grotesque, carven thing was the very birthright of
her boy. Every figure, hewn with infinite patience by his sire's, his
grandsire's, his great-grandsire's, hands meant the very history from
which sprang the source of red blood in his young veins, the birth of
each generation, its deeds of valor, its achievements, its honors, its
undeniable right to the family name.
Should Tenas grow to youth, manhood, old age, and have no Totem Pole to
point to as a credential of being the honorable son of a long line of
honorable sons? Never! She would suffer in silence, like the little
grey, hungry Hoolool that scampered across the bare floors of her
firwood shack in the chill night hours, but her boy must have his
birthright. And so the great pole stood unmoved, baring its grinning
figures to the storms, the suns, the grey rains of the Pacific Coast,
but by its very presence it was keeping these tempests from entering
the heart of the lonely woman at its feet.
It was the year that spring came unusually early, weeks earlier than the
oldest Indian recalled its ever having come before. March brought the
wild geese honking northward, and great flocks of snow-white swans came
daily out of the southern horizon to sail overhead and lose themselves
along the Upper Coast, for it was mating and nesting time, and the heat
of the south had driven them early from its broad lagoons.
Every evening Tenas would roll himself in his blanket bed, while he
chatted about the migrating birds, and longed for the time when he would
be a great hunter, able to shoot the game as they flitted southward with
their large families in September.
"_Then_, Hoolool, we will have something better to eat than the smoked
salmon," he would say.
"Yes, little loved one," she would reply, "and you are growing so fast,
so big, that the time will not be long now before you can hunt down the
wild birds for your Hoolool to eat, eh, little Spring Eyes? But now you
must go to sleep; perhaps you will dream of the great flocks of the fat,
young, grey geese you are to get us for food."
"I'll tell you if I do; I'll tell you in the morning if I dream of the
little geese," he would reply, his voice trailing away into dreamland as
his eyes blinked themselves to sleep.
"Hoolool, I _did_ dream last night," he told her one early April day,
when he awoke dewy-eyed and bird-like from a long night's rest. "But it
was not of the bands of grey geese; it was of our great Totem Pole."
"Did it speak to you in your dreams, little April Eyes?" she asked,
"No-o," he hesitated, "it did not really _speak_, but it showed me
something strange. Do you think it will come true, Hoolool?" His
dark, questioning eyes were pathetic in appeal. He _did_ want it to
"Tell your Hoolool," she replied indulgently, "and perhaps she can
decide if the dream will come true."
"You know how I longed to dream of the great flocks of young geese
flying southward in September," he said, longingly, his little thin
elbows propped each on one of her knees, his small, dark chin in his
hands, his wonderful eyes shadowy with the fairy dreams of childhood.
"But the flocks I saw were not flying grey geese, that make such fat
eating, but around the foot of our Totem Pole I saw flocks and flocks of
little tenas Totem Poles, hundreds of them. They were not _half_ as high
as I am. They were just baby ones you could take in your hand, Hoolool.
Could you take my knife the trader gave me and make me one just like our
big one? Only make it little, young--oh, _very_ tenas--that I can carry
it about with me. I'll paint it. Will you make me one, Hoolool?"
The woman sat still, a peculiar stillness that came of half fear, half
unutterable relief, and wholly of inspiration. Then she caught up the
boy, and her arms clung about him as if they would never release him.
"I know little of the white man's God," she murmured, "except that He is
good, but I know that the Great Tyee (god) of the West is surely good.
One of them has sent you this dream, my little April Eyes."
"Perhaps the Great Tyee and the white man's God are the same," the
child said, innocent of expressing a wonderful truth. "_You_ have two
names--'Marna' (mother, in the Chinook) and 'Hoolool'--yet you are the
same. Maybe it's that way with the two Great Tyees, the white man's and
ours. But why should they send me dreams of flocks of baby Totem Poles?"
"Because Hoolool will make _you_ one to-day, and then flocks and flocks
of tenas poles for the men with the silver coins. I cannot sell them our
great one, but I can make many small ones like it. Oh! they will buy the
little totems, and the great one will stand as the pride of your manhood
and the honor of your old age." Her voice rang with the hope of the
future, the confidence of years of difficulty overcome.
Before many hours had passed, she and the child had scoured the nearby
edges of the forest for woods that were dried, seasoned, and yet solid.
They had carried armfuls back to the fir shack, and the work of carving
had begun. The woman sat by the fire hour after hour--the fire that
burned in primitive fashion in the centre of the shack, stoveless and
hearthless, its ascending smoke curling up through an aperture in the
roof, its red flames flickering and fading, leaping and lighting the
work that even her unaccustomed fingers developed with wonderful
accuracy in miniature of the Totem Pole at the north-west corner
outside. By nightfall it was completed, and by the fitful firelight
Tenas painted and stained its huddled figures in the black, orange,
crimson and green that tribal custom made law. The warmth of the burning
cedar knots dried the paints and pigments, until their acrid fragrance
filled the little room, and the child's eyelids drooped sleepily, and in
a delightful happiness he once more snuggled into his blanket bed, the
baby Totem Pole hugged to his little heart. But his mother sat far into
the night, her busy fingers at work on the realization of her child's
dream. She was determined to fashion his dream-flock of "young" totems
which would bring to them both more of fat eating than many bands of
grey geese flying southward. The night wore on, and she left her task
only to rebuild the fire and to cover with an extra blanket the little
form of her sleeping boy. Finally she, too, slept, but briefly, for
daybreak found her again at her quaint occupation, and the following
nightfall brought no change. A week drifted by, and one morning, far
down the Sound, the whistle of a coming steamer startled both boy and
woman into brisk action. The little flock of Totem Poles now numbered
nine, and hastily gathering them together in one of her cherished
cedar-root baskets she clasped the child's hand, and they made their
way to the landing-stage.
When she returned an hour later, her basket was empty, and her kerchief
filled with silver coins.
On the deck of the steamer one of the ship's officers was talking to a
little group of delighted tourists who were comparing their miniature
purchases with the giant Totem Pole in the distance.
"You _are_ lucky," said the officer. "I know people who have tried
for years to buy the big Pole from her, but it was always 'No' with
her--just a shake of her head, and you might as well try to buy the
moon. It's for that little boy of hers she's keeping it, though she
could have sold it for hundreds of good dollars twenty times over."
That all happened eleven years ago, and last summer when I journeyed far
north of Queen Charlotte Sound, as the steamer reached a certain landing
I saw a giant Totem Pole with a well-built frame house at its base.
It was standing considerably away from the shore, but its newness was
apparent, for on its roof, busily engaged at shingling, was an agile
Indian youth of some seventeen years.
"That youngster built that house all by himself," volunteered one of the
ship's officers at my elbow. "He is a born carpenter, and gets all the
work he can do. He has supported his mother in comfort for two years,
and he isn't full grown yet."
"Who is he?" I asked, with keen interest.
"His name is Tenas," replied the officer. "His mother is a splendid
woman. 'Hoolool,' they call her. She is quite the best carver of Totem
Poles on the North Coast."
Leloo's father and mother were both of the great Lillooet tribe of
British Columbia Indians, splendid people of a stalwart race of red men,
who had named the boy Leloo because, from the time he could toddle about
on his little, brown, bare feet, he had always listened with delight
to the wolves howling across the canyons and down the steeps of the
wonderful mountain country where he was born. In the Chinook language
Leloo means wolf, and before the little fellow could talk he would stand
nightly at the lodge door and imitate the long, weird barking and
calling of his namesakes, while his father would smile knowingly and
say, "He will some day make a great hunter, will our little Leloo," and
his mother would answer proudly, "Yes, he has no fear of wild things.
No wolf in the mountains will be mighty enough to scare him--our little
So he grew from babyhood into boyhood with a love for the furry-coated
wild creatures that prowled along the timber line, and their voices were
to him the voices of friends who had sung him to sleep ever since he
could remember anything.
But the night of his famous ride up the Cariboo Trail where it skirts
the Bonaparte Hills proved to him how wise a thing it was that he had
long ago made friends, instead of foes, of the wolves, for if he had
feared them, it would have been a ride of terror instead of triumph, as
it was his love for them that helped him to do a great, heroic thing
which made the very name "Leloo" beloved by every man, both white and
Indian, in all the Lillooet country.
It was one day early in the autumn that Leloo's father sent him down the
trail some ten or fifteen miles with a message to the "boss" of the
great railway construction camp that the Lillooet Indians would supply
fifty men to work on the Company's roadway. So the boy mounted his pet
cayuse and started off early, swinging down the mountain trails into the
canyons, then climbing again across the summit, with its dense growth of
timber. His little legs were almost too short to grip his horse's middle
as his father could have done, so he went more slowly and carefully over
the dangerous places, marking every one in his mind, in case he was late
in returning. When he reached the camp the "boss" was absent, and,
Indian-like, he would deliver his message to no one else except the man
it was intended for, and when the "boss" returned at supper time from
far down the grade, he insisted upon Leloo sharing his pork and beans
and drinking great quantities of tea.
"Better stay all night, youngster," said the boss kindly; "It's a long
ride back, and it's going to be dark."
"No stay to-night," answered Leloo. "Maybe some time I stay, but no
"Well, you know best, kid," replied the boss. "There's one thing--no
harm will ever come to an Indian boy on a mountain trail. But be
careful; the canyons are deep, and the trail is bad in spots."
"Me know, me careful," smiled Leloo, and mounting his cayuse, trotted
off gayly, just as the sun was lost behind a grim, rocky peak in the
west. But the "boss" was right: night comes quickly in the mountains,
and this night was unusually dark. Leloo had to ride very slowly, for
the narrow trail was a mere ledge carved out from the perpendicular
walls of the cliffs, which arose on the left, a sheer precipice hundreds
of feet above him, and fell away to the right in a yawning chasm, black,
and deep and unexplored. But the sure-footed cayuse stepped gingerly and
knowingly, neither halting nor stumbling, and his wise little rider let
the animal pick its own way, knowing well that a horse's senses in the
dark are more acute than a human's. Presently from far across the canyon
arose a weird, prolonged howl. Then from the heights above came an
"Ah, my brothers!" called Leloo aloud. "You have come to greet me
through the night," and his eyes lighted like twin black fires, for he
loved these wolves that made their dens and lairs along the Cariboo
Trail, and to-night they were to serve him in the oddest fashion that a
wild animal was ever called upon to do. As he rode on, he would--just
for company's sake--call back to the wolves, answering their cries with
such a perfect imitation of their wild voices that they would reply to
him, from far below, then again from far above, and Leloo would smile
to himself and say, "That is right, O great and fierce Leloos; answer
me, for you are my kin and my cousins."
But the trail was growing steeper, narrower every moment, and after a
time Leloo forgot to reply to his forest friends, and just rode on,
peering through the shadows to avoid the dangers on all sides. Presently
a sound that belonged to neither crag nor canyon fell across his quick,
Indian ears. It was a man's voice, hushed, subdued, speaking very low,
and speaking in English. It said:
"I hear a horse coming."
"Shut up! Don't talk so loud," replied another voice.
"I tell you I hear horses," answered the first voice irritably. "It must
be the stage coming. Get ready!"
"You're clean crazy," said the other voice. "The stage makes more
noise than that, and I know for sure there's no horseman up the trail
to-night. It's some wild animal you hear."
Leloo pulled his cayuse stock still. He did not understand English
readily, he was not versed in the ways of the white man, but his
wonderful native wit and instinct told him at once that there was
something wrong--the wrong things that white men were sent to jail for
sometimes. He asked himself, "Why should they hide and whisper?" Only
hunters hid and refused to speak aloud. Then he remembered--the stage.
How often his father had talked of the great lumps of gold the white men
were digging up, two hundred miles north, up the Frozen River--"Cariboo
gold," his father had called it, and said that it was sent down in
numberless bags to "the front," and the stage brought it. And his father
would always finish the tale with, "The white men will risk their lives
and kill each other for this gold."
Leloo could never understand it, for he would much rather have a soft
wolf skin to lie on, a string of blue Hudson's Bay beads around his dark
throat, and fine, beaded moccasins, than all the gold in the world. But
while he sat stock still, the voices continued:
"There, it's stopped. I knew it was an animal. The stage won't be along
for an hour yet."
"They are white men, but the gold does not belong to them," Leloo told
himself. "It belongs to the white men on the stage, or up in the
Barkerville gold ledges. These white men here are 'bad medicine.' They
shall not find that stage."
But even as he thought it out, the voices began afresh.
"There's something wrong with my gun," said one, "it won't work."
"There's nothing wrong with _mine_," came the sneering reply. "_Mine_
will work all right. I'm going to have that gold."
"How much did Jim Orton say there was a-coming down on the stage?"
whispered the other.
"Some twenty thousand dollars' worth of nuggets," was the answer. "And
you'll use your gun, too, to get it, if you don't turn coward."
Then there was silence. So his father was right. These white men would
kill each other for gold--gold that belonged to another, to the men who
were working day and night for it up at the ledges, two hundred miles
north. Instantly Leloo's plan was formed. He would save the gold for the
men who owned it; save the good stage driver from the bullets of these
hiding, whispering sneaks and robbers. But how was he to do it? How
could he dare to move a step unless to turn backward? Twenty yards ahead
of him the two men crouched. Even by their lowered voices he could
locate them as hiding behind a giant boulder, some ten feet above the
trail. If he was to advance to meet the stage and warn the driver,
he needs must pass under their very feet. Was it quite impossible to
daringly gallop under their guns and be lost in the darkness before they
could recover from their surprise? Leloo could trust his cayuse, he
knew. The honest little creature was at this moment standing still as
the silence about them. Then acutely across that silence cut the long
wail of a lonely wolf wandering across the heights. A very inspiration
seized Leloo. In a second he had flung back his head, and from his thin,
Indian boyish lips there issued a weird, prolonged howl. He was
answering the wolf in his own language.
"Great guns!" ejaculated one of the highwaymen, "that wolf's right under
our feet. There he goes now. I hear him prowling past." For with the
howl, Leloo had started his cayuse gently, and the wise creature was
slipping beneath the dreaded boulder almost noiselessly. The boy fairly
held his breath. Suppose they should peer through the dark, and see that
it was a horse and rider, and no wild animal padding up the trail? Then
his wolf friend from the heights answered him, and Leloo once more
lifted his head, and the strange half-barking, half-sobbing cry again
broke the silence. He was well past the boulder now, ten, twenty, thirty
yards, when his innocent little cayuse gave that peculiar snort which a
horse always gives when some sudden fear or danger threatens. The
animal's instinct had evidently detected the presence of enemies.
"It's a horseman, not a wolf," fairly yelled a voice behind him; but
Leloo had already struck the cayuse a smart blow on the flank, at which
the animal bunched its four hoofs together, shivered, snorted again,
then plunged, galloping like mad down the trail, down, blindly down into
the darkness ahead. One, two, three sharp revolver shots rang out behind
him, the bullets falling wide of their mark in the blackness of the
night, rapidly running feet that seemed to gain upon him, the crash of
a falling man, then terrible language--all rang in his ears in quick
succession, but the boy never drew rein, never halted. On plunged the
horse, heedlessly, wildly, but Leloo stuck to his back, scorning the
fear of a horrible death in the canyon below, thinking only of the
danger of the treasure-laden stage and of the safety of Big Bill, the
driver, whom his father loved, and whom every Indian of the Lillooet
The stones were now rattling from the rush of his horse's hoofs, and
once or twice the boy held his breath, as they swung round a boulder in
the dark, and the sturdy animal almost lost its balance. Sometimes he
heard the robbers scrambling down the trail far above him, the trail
he had already covered, and twice they fired on him; but the kindly
darkness saved him. He was nearing the foot of the mountain now, and the
cayuse was beginning to heave badly, but Leloo still struck the sweating
flanks, and the creature still plunged on, until, finally, in fear and
exhaustion, it stumbled. Instantly it recovered itself, but Leloo knew
that this was the first sign of the coming end. Then only did he stop.
In his mad ride Leloo had been so intently listening for sounds from
behind that he never once thought of sounds ahead, and in this pause
of the rattling hoofs and flying stones, his ears caught the rumble
of wheels coming towards him, the gentle beat of six horses trotting
slowly, and the cheery whistle of the big Canadian who drove the Cariboo
stage. As Leloo came slowly upon them, the big driver called, "Who's
there--ahead in the trail? Who's shooting around here?"
"Go back, you!" cried the boy. "Two bad men's up trail. They shoot you.
They get gold."
"Gee whiz!" yelled Big Bill, bringing his six-in-hand to a standstill.
"Holdup, eh? I declare, but that's a narrow escape. I guess Big Bill
won't cross the divide to-night."
"No, you go back," reiterated the boy.
"Well, I'll be blowed if it isn't just a kid!" exclaimed the driver, as
Leloo rode up close beside him. "And look at the horse of him, clean
played out. I say, boy, no wonder you rode hard, with all that gunning
behind you. I'm rather handy with a gun myself, and I never drive the
'gold' stage without these two here," tapping the revolvers in his big
belt, "but if our friends up there had got the drop on me first, there'd
have been a dead driver, and no gold for the boys in the bank, I'm
thinking. What is your name, anyway, boy?"
"Me? I'm Leloo," the little Indian replied. "My father, he Chief
Buckskin, Lillooet tribe."
"Whew!" gasped Big Bill. "Old Buckskin's son, eh? Then you're all right,
for Buckskin is 'white'--all but his skin. You climb up beside me here,
and give that poor, busted horse of yours a rest. This outfit is a-goin'
to turn back, and we'll all sleep at Pete's place to-night. But how did
you get past those sneaking gunners up there? That's what I want to
And later when Leloo, safely seated beside the big driver, related how
he had tricked the scoundrels, Big Bill was as proud as if he had been
the boy's father. "The whole Cariboo trail from end to end shall know of
this," he declared, "know just how you saved me and the miners' gold."
"Me no save," said Leloo, shaking his head with denial. "Not me save,
just save by big wolf-brother. He teach me to make his cry, he answer me
when I talk his talk to him."
And it must have been this speech that the big driver told far and wide,
for at the next great "potlatch" (feast) given by the Lillooets, the
entire tribe conferred the great honor of a new name upon Leloo, the
name he had won for himself--"Wolf-Brother."
A Story of a Boy and a Dog
We-hro was a small Onondaga Indian boy, a good-looking, black-eyed
little chap with as pagan a heart as ever beat under a copper-colored
skin. His father and grandfathers were pagans. His ancestors for a
thousand years back, and yet a thousand years back of that, had been
pagans, and We-hro, with the pride of his religion and his race, would
not have turned from the faith of his fathers for all the world. But the
world, as he knew it, consisted entirely of the Great Indian Reserve,
that lay on the banks of the beautiful Grand River, sixty miles west of
he great Canadian city of Toronto.
Now, the boys that read this tale must not confuse a pagan with a
heathen. The heathen nations that worship idols are terribly pitied
and despised by the pagan Indians, who are worshippers of "The Great
Spirit," a kind and loving God, who, they say, will reward them by
giving them happy hunting grounds to live in after they die; that is,
if they live good, honest, upright lives in this world.
We-hro would have scowled blackly if anyone had dared to name him a
heathen. He thoroughly ignored the little Delaware boys, whose fathers
worshipped idols fifty years ago, and on all the feast days and dance
days he would accompany his parents to the "Longhouse" (which was their
church), and take his little part in the religious festivities. He could
remember well as a tiny child being carried in his mother's blanket
"pick-a-back," while she dropped into the soft swinging movement of
the dance, for We-hro's people did not worship their "Great Spirit"
with hymns of praise and lowly prayers, the way the Christian Indians
did. We-hro's people worshipped their God by dancing beautiful, soft,
dignified steps, with no noisy clicking heels to annoy one, but only the
velvety shuffle of the moccasined feet, the weird beat of the Indian
drums, the mournful chanting of the old chiefs, keeping time with the
throb of their devoted hearts.
Then, when he grew too big to be carried, he was allowed to clasp his
mother's hand, and himself learn the pretty steps, following his father,
who danced ahead, dressed in full costume of scarlet cloth and buckskin,
with gay beads and bear claws about his neck, and wonderful carven
silver ornaments, massive and sold, decorating his shirt and leggings.
We-hro loved the tawny fringes and the hammered silver quite as much as
a white lady loves diamonds and pearls; he loved to see his father's
face painted in fierce reds, yellows and blacks, but most of all he
loved the unvarying chuck-a, chuck-a, chuck-a of the great mud-turtle
rattles that the "musicians" skilfully beat upon the benches before
them. Oh, he was a thorough little pagan, was We-hro! His loves and his
hates were as decided as his comical but stately step in the dance of
his ancestors' religion. Those were great days for the small Onondaga
boy. His father taught him to shape axe-handles, to curve lacrosse
sticks, to weave their deer-sinew netting, to tan skins, to plant corn,
to model arrows and--most difficult of all--to "feather" them, to
"season" bows, to chop trees, to burn, hollow, fashion and "man" a
dugout canoe, to use the paddle, to gauge the wind and current of that
treacherous Grand River, to learn wild cries to decoy bird and beast for
food. Oh, little pagan We-hro had his life filled to overflowing with
much that the civilized white boy would gave all his dimes and dollars
And it was then that the great day came, the marvellous day when We-hro
discovered his second self, his playmate, his loyal, unselfish, loving
friend--his underbred, unwashed, hungry, vagabond dog, born white and
spotless, but begrimed by contact with the world, the mud, and the white
It happened this way:
We-hro was cleaning his father's dugout canoe, after a night of fish
spearing. The soot, the scales, the fire ashes, the mud--all had to be
"swabbed" out at the river's brink by means of much water and an Indian
"slat" broom. We-hro was up to his little ears in work, when suddenly,
above him, on the river road, he heard the coarse voice and thundering
whipfalls of a man urging and beating his horse--a white man, for no
Indian used such language, no Indian beat an animal that served him.
We-hro looked up. Stuck in the mud of the river road was a huge wagon,
grain-filled. The driver, purple of face, was whaling the poor team, and
shouting to a cringing little drab-white dog, of fox-terrier lineage, to
"Get out of there or I'll--!"
The horses were dragging and tugging. The little dog, terrified, was
sneaking off with tail between its hind legs. Then the brutal driver's
whip came down, curling its lash about the dog's thin body, forcing from
the little speechless brute a howl of agony. Then We-hro spoke--spoke in
all the English he knew.
"Bad! bad! You die some day--you! You hurt that dog. White man's God,
he no like you. Indian's Great Spirit, he not let you shoot in happy
hunting grounds. You die some day--you _bad_!"
"Well, if I _am_ bad I'm no pagan Indian Hottentot like you!" yelled
the angry driver. "Take the dog, and begone!"
"Me no Hottentot," said We-hro, slowly. "Me Onondaga, all right. Me
take dog;" and from that hour the poor little white cur and the
copper-colored little boy were friends for all time.
* * * * * * * *
The Superintendent of Indian Affairs was taking his periodical drive
about the Reserve when he chanced to meet old "Ten-Canoes," We-hro's
The superintendent was a very important person. He was a great white
gentleman, who lived in the city of Brantford, fifteen miles away. He
was a kindly, handsome man, who loved and honored every Indian on the
Grand River Reserve. He had a genial smile, a warm hand-shake, so when
he stopped his horse and greeted the old pagan, Ten-Canoes smiled too.
"Ah, Ten-Canoes!" cried the superintendent, "a great man told me he was
coming to see your people--a big man, none less than Great Black-Coat,
the bishop of the Anglican Church. He thinks you are a bad lot, because
you are pagans; he wonders why it is that you have never turned
Christian. Some of the missionaries have told him you pagans are no
good, so the great man wants to come and see for himself. He wants to
see some of your religious dances--the 'Dance of the White Dog,' if
you will have him; he wants to see if it is really _bad_."
Ten-Canoes laughed. "I welcome him," he said, earnestly, "Welcome the
'Great Black-Coat.' I honor him, though I do not think as he does. He
is a good man, a just man; I welcome him, bid him come."
Thus was his lordship, the Bishop, invited to see the great pagan
Onondaga "Festival of the White Dog."
But what was _this_ that happened?
Never yet had a February moon waned but that the powerful Onondaga tribe
had offered the burnt "Sacrifice of the White Dog," that most devout of
all native rites. But now, search as they might, not a single spotlessly
white dog could be found. No other animal would do. It was the law of
this great Indian tribe that no other burnt sacrifice could possibly be
offered than the strangled body of a white dog.
We-hro heard all the great chiefs talking of it all. He listened to
plans for searching the entire Reserve for a dog, and the following
morning he arose at dawn, took his own pet dog down to the river and
washed him as he had seen white men wash their sheep. Then out of the
water dashed the gay little animal, yelping and barking in play, rolling
in the snow, tearing madly about, and finally rushing off towards the
log house which was We-hro's home and scratching at the door to get in
by the warm fire to dry his shaggy coat. Oh! what an ache that coat
caused in We-hro's heart. From a dull drab grey, the dog's hair had
washed pure white, not a spot or a blemish on it, and in an agony of
grief the little pagan boy realized that through his own action he had
endangered the life of his dog friend; that should his father and his
father's friends see that small white terrier, they would take it away
for the nation's sacrifice.
Stumbling and panting and breathless, We-hro hurried after his pet, and,
seizing the dog in his arms, he wrapped his own shabby coat about the
trembling, half-dry creature, and carried him to where the cedars grew
thick at the back of the house. Crouched in their shadows he hugged his
treasured companion, thinking with horror of the hour when the blow
would surely fall.
For days the boy kept his dog in the shelter of the cedars, tied up
tightly with an old rope, and sleeping in a warm raccoon skin, which
We-hro smuggled away from his own simple bed. The dog contented himself
with what little food We-hro managed to carry to him, but the hiding
could not keep up forever, and one dark, dreaded day We-hro's father
came into the house and sat smoking in silence for many minutes. When
at last he spoke, he said:
"We-hro, your dog is known to me. I have seen him, white as the snow
that fell last night. It is the law that someone must always suffer for
the good of the people. We-hro, would you have the great 'Black-Coat,'
the great white preacher, come to see our beautiful ceremony, and would
you have the great Onondaga tribe fail to show the white man how we
worship our ancient Great Spirit? Would you have us fail to burn the
sacrifice? Or will you give your white dog for the honor of our people?"
The world is full of heroes, but at that moment it held none greater
than the little pagan boy, who crushed down his grief and battled back
his tears as he answered:
"Father, you are old and honored and wise. For you and for my people
alone would I give the dog."
At last the wonderful Dance Day arrived. His lordship, the Bishop of the
Anglican Church, drove down from the city of Brantford; with him the
Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and a man who understood both the
English and the Onondaga languages. Long before they reached the
"Longhouse" they could hear the wild beat of the drum, could count the
beats of the dance rattles, could distinguish the half-sad chant of the
worshippers. The kind face of the great bishop was very grave. It pained
his gentle old heart to know that this great tribe of Indians were
pagans--savages, as he thought--but when he entered that plain log
building that the Onondagas held as their church, he took off his hat
with the beautiful reverence all great men pay to other great men's
religion, and he stood bareheaded while old Ten-Canoes chanted forth
"Oh, brothers of mine! We welcome the white man's friend, the great
'Black-Coat,' to this, our solemn worship. We offer to the red man's
God--the Great Spirit--a burnt offering. We do not think that anything
save what is pure and faithful and without blemish can go into the sight
of the Great Spirit. Therefore do we offer this dog, pure as we hope
our spirits are, that the God of the red man may accept it with our
devotion, knowing that we, too, would gladly be as spotless as this
Then was a dog carried in dead, and beautifully decorated with wampum,
beads and porcupine embroidery. Oh! so mercifully dead and out of pain,
gently strangled by reverent fingers, for an Indian is never unkind
to an animal. And far over in a corner of the room was a little brown
figure, twisted with agony, choking back the sobs and tears--for was he
not taught that tears were for babies alone, and not for boys that grew
up into warriors?
"Oh, my dog! my dog!" he muttered. "They have taken you away from me,
but it was for the honor of my father and of my own people."
The great Anglican bishop turned at that moment, and, catching the sight
of suffering on little We-hro's face, said aloud to the man who spoke
"That little boy over there seems in torture. Can I do anything for him,
do you think?"
"That little boy," replied the man who spoke both languages, "is the
son of the great Onondaga chief. No white dog could be found for this
ceremony but his. This dog was his pet, but for the honor of his father
and of his tribe he has given up his pet as a sacrifice."
For a moment the great Anglican bishop was blinded by his own tears.
Then he walked slowly across the wide log building and laid his white
hand tenderly on the head of the little Onondaga boy. His kindly old
eyes closed, and his lips moved--noiselessly, for a space, then he said
"Oh, that the white boys of my great city church knew and practiced
half as much of self-denial as has this little pagan Indian lad, who
has given up his heart's dearest because his father and the honor of
his people required it."
[*"Potlatch" is a Chinook word meaning "a gift." Among the Indian
tribes of British Columbia it is used as the accepted name of a
great feast, which some Indian, who is exceedingly well off, gives
to scores of guests. He entertains them for days, sometimes for
weeks, together, presenting them with innumerable blankets and much
money, for it is part of the Indian code of honor that, which one
has great possessions, he must divide them with his less fortunate
tribesmen. The gifts of money usually take the form of ten-dollar
bank notes, and are bestowed broadcast upon any man, woman or child
who pleases the host by either dancing the tribal dances very
beautifully, or else originates an attractive dance of their own.]
Young Ta-la-pus sat on the highest point of rock that lifted itself on
the coast at the edge of his father's Reserve. At his feet stretched the
Straits of Georgia, and far across the mists of the salt Pacific waters
he watched the sun rise seemingly out of the mainland that someone had
told him stretched eastward thousands of miles, where another ocean,
called the Atlantic, washed its far-off shore, for Ta-la-pus lived on
Vancouver Island, and all his little life had been spent in wishing and
longing to set his small, moccasined feet on that vast mainland that the
old men talked of, and the young men visited year in and year out. But
never yet had he been taken across the wide, blue Straits, for he was
only eleven years old, and he had two very big brothers who always
accompanied their father, old chief Mowitch, on his journeyings, for
they were good fishermen, and could help in the salmon catch, and bring
good chicamin (money) home to buy supplies for the winter. Sometimes
these big brothers would tease him and say, "What can you expect? Your
name is Ta-la-pus, which means a prairie wolf. What has a prairie wolf
to do with crossing great waters? He cannot swim, as some other animals
can. Our parents gave us better names, 'Chet-woot,' the bear, who swims
well, and 'Lapool,' the water fowl, whose home is on the waters, whose
feet are webbed, and who floats even while he sleeps. No, our young
brother, Ta-la-pus, the prairie wolf, was never meant to cross the
great salt Straits."
Then little Ta-la-pus would creep away to his lonely rock, trying to
still the ache in his heart and forcing back the tears from his eyes.
Prairie wolves must not cry like little girl babies--and sometimes when
his heart was sorest, a clear, dazzlingly bright day would dawn, and
far, far off he could see the blur of the mainland coast, resting on the
sea like an enormous island. Then he would tell himself that, no matter
what his name was, some day he would cross to that great, far country,
whose snow-crowned mountain peaks he could just see merging into the
Then, late in the summer, there came one marvellous night, when his
father and brother returned from the sockeye salmon fishing, with news
that set the entire Indian village talking far into the early morning.
A great Squamish chief on the mainland was going to give a Potlatch. He
had been preparing for it for weeks. He had enjoyed a very fortunate
fishing season, was a generous-hearted man, and was prepared to spend
ten thousand dollars* in gifts and entertainment for his friends and
all the poor of the various neighboring tribes.
[*Fact. This amount has frequently been given away.]
Chief Mowitch and all his family were invited, and great rejoicing and
anticipation were enjoyed over their salmon suppers that night.
"You and the boys go," said his wife. "Perhaps you will be lucky and
bring home chicamin and blankets. The old men say the winter will be
cold. Grey geese were going south yesterday, three weeks earlier than
last year. Yes, we will need blankets when the ollalies (berries) are
ripe in October. I shall stay at home, until the babies are older.
Yes, you and the boys go."
"Yes," responded the chief. "It would never do for us to miss a great
Squamish Potlatch. We must go."
Then the elder son, Chet-woot, spoke joyously:
"And, mama,* we may bring back great riches, and even if the cold does
come while we are away, our little brother, Ta-la-pus, will care for you
and the babies. He'll carry water and bring all the wood for your
[*The Chinook for father and mother is "papa" and "mama", adopted
from the English language.]
The father looked smilingly at Ta-la-pus, but the boy's eyes, great and
dark, and hungry for the far mainland, for the great feasts he had heard
so much of, were fastened in begging, pleading seriousness on his
father's face. Suddenly a whim seized the old chief's fancy.
"Ta-la-pus," he said, "you look as if you would like to go, too. Do you
want to take part in the Potlatch?"
Instantly Chet-woot objected. "Papa, he could never go, he's too young.
They may ask him to dance for them. He can't dance. Then perhaps they
would never ask us."
The chief scowled. He was ruler in his own lodge, and allowed no
interference from anyone.
"Besides," continued Chet-woot, "there would be no one to fetch wood for
mama and the babies."
"Yes, there would be someone," said the chief, his eyes snapping
fiercely. "_You_ would be here to help your mama."
"I?" exclaimed the young man. "But how can I, when I shall be at the
Potlatch? I go to _all_ the Potlatches."
"So much more reason that you stay home this once and care for your mama
and baby sisters, and you _shall_ stay. Lapool and little Ta-la-pus will
go with me. It is time the boy saw something of the other tribes. Yes,
I'll take Lapool and Ta-la-pus, and there is no change to my word when
it is once spoken."
Chet-woot sat like one stunned, but an Indian son knows better than to
argue with his father. But the great, dark eyes of little Ta-la-pus
glowed like embers of fire, his young heart leaped joyously. At last,
at last, he was to set foot in the country of his dreams--the far,
blue, mountain-circled mainland.
All that week his mother worked day and night on a fine new native
costume for him to wear on the great occasion. There were trousers of
buckskin fringed down each side, a shirt of buckskin, beaded and
beautified by shell ornaments, a necklace of the bones of a rare fish,
strung together like little beads on deer sinew, earrings of pink and
green pearl from the inner part of the shells of a bivalve, neat
moccasins, and solid silver, carven bracelets.
She was working on a headdress consisting of a single red fox-tail and
eagle feathers, when he came and stood beside her.
"Mama," he said, "there is a prairie wolf skin you cover the babies with
while they sleep. Would you let me have it this once, if they would not
be cold without it?"
"They will never be cold," she smiled, "for I can use an extra blanket
over them. I only use it because I started to when you were the only
baby I had, and it was your name, so I covered you with it at night."
"And I want to cover myself with it now," he explained, "its head as my
headdress, its front paws about my neck, its thick fur and tail trailing
behind me as I dance."
"So you are going to dance, my little Ta-la-pus?" she answered proudly.
"But how is that, when you do not yet know our great tribal dances?"
"I have made one of my own, and a song, too," he said, shyly.
She caught him to her, smoothing the hair back from his dark forehead.
"That is right," she half whispered, for she felt he did not want anyone
but herself to know his boyish secret. "Always make things for yourself,
don't depend on others, try what you can do alone. Yes, you may take the
skin of the prairie wolf. I will give it to you for all time--it is
That night his father also laid in his hands a gift. It was a soft,
pliable belt, woven of the white, peeled roots of the cedar, dyed
brilliantly, and worked into a magnificent design.
"Your great-grandmother made it," said the chief. "Wear it on your first
journey into the larger world than this island, and do nothing in all
your life that would make her regret, were she alive, to see it round
So little Ta-la-pus set forth with his father and brother, well equipped
for the great Potlatch, and the meeting of many from half a score of
They crossed the Straits on a white man's steamer, a wonderful sight to
Ta-la-pus, who had never been aboard any larger boat than his father's
fishing smack and their own high-bowed, gracefully-curved canoe. In and
out among the islands of the great gulf the steamer wound, bringing them
nearer, ever nearer to the mainland. Misty and shadowy, Vancouver Island
dropped astern, until at last they steamed into harbor, where a crowd of
happy-faced Squamish Indians greeted them, stowed them away in canoes,
paddled a bit up coast, then sighted the great, glancing fires that were
lighting up the grey of oncoming night--fires of celebration and welcome
to all the scores of guests who were to partake of the lavish
hospitality of the great Squamish chief.
As he stepped from the great canoe, Ta-la-pus thought he felt a strange
thrill pass through the soles of his feet. They had touched the mainland
of the vast continent of North America for the first time; his feet
seemed to become sensitive, soft, furry, cushioned like those of a wild
animal. Then, all at once, a strange inspiration seized him. Why not try
to make his footsteps "pad" like the noiseless paws of a prairie wolf?
"pad" in the little dance he had invented, instead of "shuffling" in
his moccasins, as all the grown men did? He made up his mind that when
he was alone in his tent he would practise it, but just now the great
Squamish chief was coming towards them with outstretched greeting hands,
and presently he was patting little Ta-la-pus on the shoulder, and
saying, "Oh, ho, my good Tillicum Mowitch, I am glad you have brought
this boy. I have a son of the same size. They will play together, and
perhaps this Tenas Tyee (Little Chief) will dance for me some night."
"My brother does not dance our tribal dances," began Lapool, but
Ta-la-pus spoke up bravely.
"Thank you, O Great Tyee (Chief), I shall dance when you ask me."
His father and brother both stared at him in amazement. Then Chief
Mowitch laughed, and said, "If he says he will dance, he will do it. He
never promises what he cannot do, but I did not know he could do the
steps. Ah! he is a little hoolool (mouse) this boy of mine; he keeps
very quiet, and does not boast what he can do."
Little Ta-la-pus was wonderfully encouraged by his father's notice of
him and his words of praise. Never before had he seemed so close to
manhood, for, being the youngest boy of the family, he had but little
companionship with any at home except his mother and the little sisters
that now seemed so far behind him in their island home. All that evening
the old chiefs and the stalwart young braves were gravely shaking hands
with his father, his brother Lapool, and himself, welcoming them to the
great festival and saying pleasant things about peace and brotherhood
prevailing between the various tribes instead of war and bloodshed, as
in the olden times. It was late when the great supper of boiled salmon
was over, and the immense bonfires began to blaze on the shore where the
falling tides of the Pacific left the beaches dry and pebbly. The young
men stretched themselves on the cool sands, and the old men lighted
their peace pipes, and talked of the days when they hunted the mountain
sheep and black bear on these very heights overlooking the sea.
Ta-la-pus listened to everything. He could learn so much from the older
men, and hour by hour he gained confidence. No more he thought of his
dance with fear and shyness, for all these people were kindly and
hospitable even to a boy of eleven. At midnight there was another feast,
this time of clams, and luscious crabs, with much steaming black tea.
Then came the great Squamish chief, saying more welcoming words, and
inviting his guests to begin their tribal dances. Ta-la-pus never forgot
the brilliant sight that he looked on for the next few hours. Scores of
young men and women went through the most graceful figures of beautiful
dances, their shell ornaments jingling merrily in perfect time to each
twist and turn of their bodies. The wild music from the beat of Indian
drums and shell "rattles" arose weirdly, half sadly, drifting up the
mountain heights, until it lost itself in the timber line of giant firs
that crested the summits. The red blaze from the camp fires flitted
and flickered across the supple figures that circled around, in and
out between the three hundred canoes beached on the sands, and the
smoke-tipped tents and log lodges beyond the reach of tide water. Above
it all a million stars shone down from the cloudless heavens of a
perfect British Columbian night. After a while little Ta-la-pus fell
asleep, and when he awoke, dawn was just breaking. Someone had covered
him with a beautiful, white, new blanket, and as his young eyes opened
they looked straight into the kindly face of the great Squamish chief.
"We are all aweary, 'Tenas Tyee' (Little Chief)," he said. "The dancers
are tired, and we shall all sleep until the sun reaches midday, but my
guests cry for one more dance before sunrise. Will you dance for us, oh,
The boy sprang up, every muscle and sinew and nerve on the alert. The
moment of his triumph or failure had come.
"You have made me, even a boy like me, very welcome, O Great Tyee," he
said, standing erect as an arrow, with his slender, dark chin raised
manfully. "I have eaten of your kloshe muck-a-muck (very good food),
and it has made my heart and my feet very skookum (strong). I shall do
my best to dance and please you." The boy was already dressed in the
brilliant buckskin costume his mother had spent so many hours in making,
and his precious wolfskin was flung over his arm. The great Squamish
chief now took him by the hand and led him towards the blazing fires
round which the tired dancers, the old men and women, sat in huge
circles where the chill of dawn could not penetrate.
"One more dance, then we sleep," said the chief to the great circle of
spectators. "This Tenas Tyee will do his best to amuse us."
Then Ta-la-pus felt the chief's hand unclasp, and he realized that he
was standing absolutely alone before a great crowd of strangers, and
that every eye was upon him.
"Oh, my brother," he whispered, smoothing the prairie wolf skin, "help
me to be like you, help me to be worthy of your name." Then he pulled
the wolf's head over his own, twisted the fore legs about his throat,
and stepped into the great circle of sand between the crouching
multitude and the fires.
Stealthily he began to pick his way in the full red flare from the
flames. He heard many voices whispering, "Tenas," "Tenas," meaning "He
is little, he is young," but his step only grew more stealthy, until he
"padded" into a strange, silent trot in exact imitation of a prairie
wolf. As he swung the second time round the fires, his young voice
arose, in a thin, wild, wonderful barking tone, so weird and wolf-like
that half the spectators leaped up to their knees, or feet, the better
to watch and listen. Another moment, and he was putting his chant into
"They call me Ta-la-pus, the prairie-wolf,
And wild and free am I.
I cannot swim like Eh-ko-lie, the whale,
Nor like the eagle, Chack-chack, can I fly.
"I cannot talk as does the great Ty-ee,
Nor like the o-tel-agh* shine in the sky.
I am but Ta-la-pus, the prairie-wolf,
And wild and free am I."
With every word, every step, he became more like the wolf he was
describing. Across his chanting and his "padding" in the sand came
murmurs from the crowd. He could hear "Tenas, tenas," "To-ke-tie Tenas"
(pretty boy), "Skookum-tanse," (good strong dance). Then at last, "Ow,"
"Ow," meaning "Our young brother." On and on went Ta-la-pus. The wolf
feeling crept into his legs, his soft young feet, his clutching fingers,
his wonderful dark eyes that now gleamed red and lustrous in the
firelight. He was as one inspired, giving a beautiful and marvellous
portrait of the wild vagabonds of the plains. For fully ten minutes he
circled and sang, then suddenly crouched on his haunches, then, lifting
his head, he turned to the east, his young throat voiced one long,
strange note, wolf-like he howled to the rising sun, which at that
moment looked over the crest of the mountains, its first golden shaft
falling full upon his face.
His chant and his strange wolf-dance were ended. Then one loud clamor
arose from the crowd. "Tenas Tyee," "Tenas Tyee," they shouted, and
Ta-la-pus knew that he had not failed. But the great Squamish chief was
"Tillicums,"* he said, facing the crowd, "this boy has danced no
tribal dance learned from his people or his parents. This is his own
dance, which he has made to deserve his name. He shall get the first
gifts of our great Potlatch. Go," he added, to one of the young men,
"bring ten dollars of the white man's chicamin (money), and ten new
blankets as white as that snow on the mountain top."
[*Friends, my people.]
The crowd was delighted. They approved the boy and rejoiced to see the
real Potlatch was begun. When the blankets were piled up beside him they
reached to the top of Ta-la-pus' head. Then the chief put ten dollars in
the boy's hand with the simple words, "I am glad to give it. You won it
well, my Tenas Tyee."
That was the beginning of a great week of games, feasting and tribal
dances, but not a night passed but the participants called for the wild
"wolf-dance" of the little boy from the island. When the Potlatch was
over, old Chief Mowitch and Lapool and Ta-la-pus returned to Vancouver
Island, but no more the boy sat alone on the isolated rock, watching the
mainland through a mist of yearning. He had set foot in the wider world,
he had won his name, and now honored it, instead of hating it, as in the
old days when his brothers taunted him, for the great Squamish chief, in
bidding good-bye to him, had said:
"Little Ta-la-pus, remember a name means much to a man. You despised
your name, but you have made it great and honorable by your own act,
your own courage. Keep that name honorable, little Ta-la-pus; it will
be worth far more to you than many blankets or much of the white man's
The Scarlet Eye
"I tell you that fellow is an Indian! You can't fool me! Look at the way
he walks! He doesn't _step_; he _pads_ like a panther!"
Billy ceased speaking, but still pointed an excited forefinger along the
half-obliterated buffalo trail that swung up the prairie, out of the
southern horizon. The two boys craned their necks, watching the coming
figure, that advanced at a half-trot, half-stride. Billy was right. The
man seemed to be moving on cushioned feet. Nothing could give that slow,
springing swing except a moccasin.
"Any man is welcome," almost groaned little Jerry, "but, oh, how much
more welcome an Indian man, eh, Billy?"
"You bet!" said Billy. "He'll show us a way out of this. Yes, he's
Indian. I can see his long hair now. Look! I can see the fringe up the
sleeves of his shirt; it is buckskin!"
"Do you think he sees us?" questioned Jerry.
Billy laughed contemptuously. "Sees us! Why, he saw us long before we
saw him, you can bet on that!"
Then Billy raised his arm, and whirled about his head the big bandanna
handkerchief which he had snatched from his neck. The man responded to
the signal by lifting aloft for a single instant his open palm with
"Yes, he's Indian! A white man would have wiggled his wrist at us!"
sighed Jerry contentedly. "He'll help us out, Billy. There's nothing he
won't know how to do!" And the little boy's eyes grew moist with the
relief of knowing help was at last at hand.
Ten minutes more and the man slowed up beside them. He was a tall,
splendidly made Cree, with eyes like jewels and hands as slender and
small as a woman's.
"You savvy English?" asked Billy.
"Little," answered the Indian, never looking at Billy, but keeping his
wonderful eyes on the outstretched figure, the pallid face, of young
Jerry, whose forehead was wrinkled with evident pain.
"We have met with an accident," explained Billy. "My little brother's
horse loped into a badger hole and broke its leg. I had to shoot it."
Here Billy's voice choked, and his fingers touched the big revolver at
his belt. "My brother was thrown. He landed badly; something's wrong
with his ankle, his leg; he can't walk; can't go on, even on my horse.
It happened over there, about two miles." Here Billy pointed across the
prairie to where a slight hump showed where the dead horse lay. "I got
him over here," he continued, looking about at the scrub poplar and
cottonwood trees, "where there was shelter and slough water, but he
can't go on. Our father is Mr. MacIntyre, the Hudson's Bay Factor at
Fort o' Farewell."
As Billy ceased speaking the Indian kneeled beside Jerry, feeling with
tender fingers his hurts. As the dark hand touched his ankle, the boy
screamed and cried out, "Oh, don't! Oh, don't!" The Indian arose,
shaking his head solemnly, then said softly, "Hudson's Bay boys, eh?
Good boys! You good boy to bring him here to trees. We make camp! Your
brother's ankle is broken."
"But we must get him home," urged Billy. "We ought to have a doctor.
He'll be lame all his life if we don't!" And poor big Billy's voice
"No. No lame. I doctor him," said the Indian. "I good doctor. My name
"Five Feathers!" exclaimed Billy. "Oh, I've often heard father speak of
you. Father loves you. He says you are the best Indian in the whole
Hudson's Bay country."
Five Feathers smiled. "Your father and me good friends," he said simply.
Then added, "How you come here?"
"Why, you see," said Billy, "we were returning from school at Winnipeg;
it's holiday now, you know. Father sent the two ponies to 'the front'
for us to ride home. Some Indians brought them over for us. It's a
hundred and sixty miles. We started yesterday morning, and slept last
night at Black Jack Pete's place. We must be a full hundred miles from
home now." Billy stopped speaking. His voice simply _would_ not go on.
"More miles than hundred," said the Indian. "You got something eat?"
Billy went over to where his horse was staked to a cottonwood, hauled
off his saddlebags, and, returning, emptied them on the brown grass.
They made a good showing. Six boxes of matches, a half side of bacon,
two pounds of hardtack, a package of tea, four tins of sardines, a big
roll of cooked smoked antelope, sugar, three loaves of bread, one can of
tongue, one of salmon, a small tin teapot, two tin cups, one big knife,
and one tin pie plate, to be used in lieu of a frying-pan. "I wish we
had more," said the boy, surveying the outfit ruefully.
"Plenty," said the Indian; "we get prairie chicken and rabbit plenty."
But his keen eyes scarcely glanced at the food. He was busy slitting one
of the sleeves from his buckskin shirt, cutting it into bandages. His
knife was already shaping splints from the scrub poplar. Little Jerry,
his eyes full of pain, watched him, knowing of the agony to come,
when even those gentle Indian fingers could not save his poor ankle
from torture while they set the broken bone. Suddenly the misery of
anticipation was arrested by a great and glad cry from the Indian, who
had discovered and pounced upon a small scarlet blossom that was growing
down near the slough. He caught up the flower, root and all, carrying
it triumphantly to where the injured boy lay. Within ten minutes he had
made a little fire, placed the scarlet flower, stem and root, in the
teapot, half filled it up with water, and set it boiling. Then he turned
"Sleeping medicine," he said, pointing to the teapot. "He not have pain.
You stay until he awake, then you ride on to Fort o' Farewell. You take
some food. You leave some for us. You send wagon, take him home. I stay
with him. Maybe four, five days before you get there and send wagon
back. You trust me? I give him sleeping medicine. I watch him. You trust
But Jerry's hand was already clasping the Indian's, and Billy was
"Trust you? Trust Five Feathers, the best Indian in the Hudson's Bay
country? I should think I will trust you!"
The Indian nodded quietly; and, taking the teapot from the fire, poured
the liquid into one of the cups, cooling it by dripping from one cup to
the other over and over again. Presently it began to thicken, almost
like a jelly, and turned a dull red color, then brighter, clearer,
redder. Suddenly the Indian snatched up the prostrate boy to a sitting
posture. One hand was around the boy's shoulder, the other held the tin
cup, brimming with reddening, glue-like stuff.
"Quick!" he said, looking at Billy. "You trust me?"
"Yes," said the boy, very quietly. "Give it to him."
"Yes," said Jerry; "give it to me."
The Indian held the cup to the little chap's lips. One, two, three
minutes passed. The boy had swallowed every drop. Then the Indian laid
him flat on the grass. For a moment his suffering eyes looked into those
of his brother, then he glanced at the sky, the trees, the far horizon,
the half-obliterated buffalo trail. Then his lids drooped, his hands
twitched, he lay utterly unconscious.
With a rapidity hardly believable in an Indian, Five Feathers skinned
off the boy's sock, ran his lithe fingers about the ankle, clicked the
bone into place, splinted and bandaged it like an expert surgeon; but,
with all his haste, it was completed none too soon. Jerry's eyes slowly
opened, to see Billy smiling down at him, and Five Feathers standing
calmly by his side.
"Bully, Jerry! Your ankle is all set and bandaged. How do you feel?"
asked his brother, a little shakily.
"Just tired," said the boy. "Tired, but no pain. Oh, I wish I could have
"Stayed where?" demanded Billy.
"With the scarlet flowers!" whispered Jerry. "I've been dreaming, I
think," he continued. "I thought I was walking among fields and fields
of scarlet flowers. They were so pretty."
Five Feathers sprang to his feet. "Good! Good!" he exclaimed. "I scared
he would not see them. If he see red flowers, he all right. Sometimes,
when they don't see it, they not get well soon." Then, under his breath,
"The Scarlet Eye!"
"I saw them all right!" almost laughed the boy. "Miles of them. I could
see and smell them. They smelled like smoke--like prairie fires."
"Get well right away!" chuckled the Indian. "_Very_ good to smell them."
Then to Billy: "You eat. You get ready. You ride now to Fort o'
So they built up the dying fire, made tea, cooked a little bacon, and
all three ate heartily.
"I'll leave you the teapot, of course," said Billy, taking a dozen
hardtack and one tin of sardines. "Slough water's good enough for me."
But Five Feathers gripped him by the arm--an iron grip--not at all with
the gentle fingers that had so recently dressed the other boy's wounded
ankle. "You not go that way!" he glared, his fine eyes dark and
scowling. "Yes, we keep teapot, but you take bread, and antelope, and
more fat fish," pointing to the sardines. "Fat fish very good for long
ride. You take, or I not let you go!"
There was such a strange severity in his dark face that Billy did not
argue the matter, but quietly obeyed, taking one loaf of bread, half
the antelope, and three tins of the "fat fish."
"Plenty prairie chicken here," explained the Indian. "I make good soup
for Little Brave."
"What a nice name to call me, Five Feathers!" smiled Jerry.
"Yes, you Little Brave," replied the Indian. "Little boy, but very big
At the last moment Jerry and his brother clasped hands. "I hate to leave
you, old man," said Billy, a little unsteadily.
"Why, I'm not afraid," answered the boy. "You and father and I all know
that I am with the best Indian in the Hudson's Bay country--we _do_ know
it, don't we, Billy?"
"I'll stake my life on that," replied Billy, swinging into his saddle.
"Remember, Jerry, it's only a hundred miles. I'll be there in two days,
and the wagon will be here in another two."
"Yes, I'll remember," replied the sick boy.
Then Billy struck rather abruptly up the half-obliterated buffalo trail.
Several times he turned in his saddle, looking back and waving his
bandanna, and each time the Indian stood erect and lifted his open palm.
The receding horse and rider grew smaller, less, fainter, then they
blurred into the horizon. The sick boy closed his eyes, that ached from
watching the fading figure. He was utterly alone, with leagues of
untracked prairie about him, alone with Five Feathers, a strange Indian,
who sat silently nearby.
When Jerry awoke, the sun was almost setting, and Five Feathers was
in precisely the same place and in precisely the same attitude. Once,
in his dreams, wherein he still wandered through fields of scarlet
flowers, he watched a bud unfolding. It opened with a sound like a
revolver shot, or was it really a revolver? The boy turned over on his
side, for a savory odor greeted his nostrils, and he looked wonderingly
around. Five Feathers had evidently not been sitting there throughout
that long June afternoon, for, within an arm's length was the jolliest
little tepee made of many branches of poplar and cottonwood, sides and
roof all one thick mass of green leaves and branches woven together like
basketwork, a bed of short, dry prairie grass, fragrant and brown, his
own saddlebags and single blanket for pillow and mattress. And on the
fire the teapot, steaming with that delicious savory odor.
"What is it?" asked the boy, indicating the cooking.
"Prairie chicken," smiled the Indian. "I shoot while you sleep."
So _that_ was the bursting of the scarlet bud!
"Very good chicken," continued the Indian. "Very fat--good for eat, good
So they made their supper off the tender stew, and soaked some hardtack
in the soup. It seemed to Jerry a royal meal, and he made up his mind
that, when he arrived home, he would get his mother to stew a prairie
hen in the teapot some day; it tasted so much better than anything he
had ever eaten before.
The sun had set, and the long, long twilight of the north was gathering.
Five Feathers built up the fire, for the prairie night brings a chill,
even in June.
"Did you see them again, the red flowers, while you slept?" he asked the
"Yes; fields of them," replied Jerry. Then added, "Why?"
"It is good," said the Indian. "Very good. You will now have what we
call 'The Scarlet Eye.'"
"What's that?" asked Jerry, half frightened.
"It's very good. You will yourself be a great medicine man--what you
white men call 'doctor.' You like to be that?"
"I never thought of studying medicine until to-day," said the boy,
excitedly; "but, just as Billy rode away, something seemed to grip me.
I made up my mind then and there to be a doctor."
"That is because you have seen 'The Scarlet Eye,'" said the Indian,
"Tell me of it, will you, Five Feathers?" asked the boy, gently.
"Yes, but first I lift you on to bed." And, gathering Jerry in his
strong, lean arms, he laid him on the grass couch in the green tepee,
looked at his foot, loosened all his clothing, spread the one blanket
over him, stirred up the fire, and, sitting at the tepee door, began
THE SCARLET EYE
"Only the great, the good, the kindly people ever see it. One must live
well, must be manly and brave, and talk straight without lies, without
meanness, or 'The Scarlet Eye' will never come to them. They tell me
that, over the great salt water, in your white man's big camping-ground
named London, in far-off England, the medicine man hangs before his
tepee door a scarlet lamp, so that all who are sick may see it, even in
the darkness.* It is the sign that a good man lives within that tepee,
a man whose life is given to help and heal sick bodies. We redskins of
the North-West have heard this story, so we, too, want a sign of a
scarlet lamp, to show where lives a great, good man. The blood of the
red flower shows us this. If you drink it and see no red flowers, you
are selfish, unkind; your talk is not true; your life is not clear; but,
if you see the flowers, as you did to-day, you are good, kind, noble.
You will be a great and humane medicine man. You have seen the Scarlet
Eye. It is the sign of kindness to your fellowmen."
[*Some of the Indian tribes of the Canadian North-West are familiar
with the fact that in London, England, the sign of a physician's
office is a scarlet lamp suspended outside the street door.]
The voice of Five Feathers ceased, but his fingers were clasping the
small hand of the white boy, clasping it very gently.
"Thank you, Five Feathers," Jerry said, softly. "Yes, I shall study
medicine. Father always said it was the noblest of all the professions,
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