E. Pauline Johnson
Part 4 out of 5
"Fish-Carrier," the other hunter, nodded his head understandingly,
refilled his stone pipe, and said tauntingly, "I know some Indians that
don't know as much as a bear."
Fire-Flower chuckled, passing the insinuation with a knowing smile. "No
bear knows more than _this_ Indian," he boasted. "At least no bear I
ever came across could outwit me."
"We'll hear what you have to tell," answered Fish-Carrier, with great
Young Wampum sat erect then. He knew the tale was going to be a good
Teasingly, old Fire-Flower took an unnecessarily long time to "light
up," but his two auditors were Indians, like himself, and had patience
with his whims. Then the great hunter settled himself, and began his
story by shaking his head, boastingly, and chuckling:
"It was two white men, and, as usual, they knew nothing, but they had
good guns, and a fine canoe, and they paddled many days to get to the
'Indian Bush' to hunt. I was up there, across from the island in the
river, when I first saw them, and their faces were paler than any
paleface I ever saw before or since. It seems they had pulled up on the
shore, built a little campfire to make their tea and to eat, when out
of the bush arose a big black bear, gruffing and grunting and eating
berries. When they saw it they gave a worse war-whoop than the Cherokees
ever did. They reached for their guns, then started to shake and tremble
as though the bush ague were upon them. 'He's chewing!' yelled one.
'He's chewing at us, he'll eat us alive.' But the other put on a face
like a great brave. 'We'll kill him,' he said with great boasting.
'That's what we came for, to kill bears.' But just then the bear came
towards them, still eating his berries. They were too scared to fire.
One just struck him over the head with his gun, then they both turned
and made for the canoe. The blow made the bear angry as the Thunder God,
and before they could push off shore the bear got his claws on the
edge of the canoe, and away they all went sailing into midstream, the
palefaces paddling for all their lives, and the black bear clinging on
to the canoe. In their fright they had left their guns ashore, and
while one paddled, the other beat the bear's head with the paddle blade.
It was then that I first saw them. I stood on the shore with a very
sickness from laughter in all my bones." Here he ceased talking, for
Fish-Carrier and Wampum had broken into such bursts of merriment that
Fire-Flower was compelled to join them.
"Oh, that I could have seen them, that I could have seen it all!" moaned
Fish-Carrier between gasps. "That must have been a thing to make men
laugh for many moons." But Wampum said nothing; it was not the etiquette
of his race that he should join in the talk of older men, unasked, but
he, too, gulped down his uproarious laughter while Fire-Flower
"The black bear was getting the best of them, for the beating on the
head maddened him. He began to climb up the edge of the canoe, and his
great weight was beginning to overbalance it. I called to them, but as
I do not speak the white man's language, they did not understand. Fear
gripped at their hearts, and, as the bear climbed into the canoe, they
leaped into the river and swam for shore, while the canoe drifted slowly
down stream, the big black bear seated proudly within it like some great
brave who had scalped his enemies."
Another outburst of mirth shook his listeners.
"I am an old man," continued Fire-Flower, "but I have never seen
anything which made me laugh so hard, so long, so loud. The palefaces
swam back to their camp and their guns, calling out to me over and over
to save their canoe for them. So I put out in my own dugout and gave
chase. I caught their canoe, overturned it, and into the water rolled
the bear. Then as he came at me, catching my canoe in his big claws,
I just drowned him the old Indian way."*
[*The above incident really occurred on the Grand River, about the
year 1850, the writer's father having witnessed it.]
More laughter greeted this. Then young Wampum made bold to speak. "My
uncle," he addressed Fire-Flower, "I am but a boy, only beginning to
hunt, though the great braves have been kind in giving me praise for
what I have done already, but I am full of ignorance when compared to
you and the great hunters; so, to help me in the days to come, will
you not tell me how you drowned the bear, for I do not know all these
"A fine boy, Wampum is. He knows whom to ask advice and learning from,"
said Fire-Flower pompously, greatly pleased at the boy's flattery. "It
is an easy thing to do, to drown a bear," he said. "The frailest canoe
is safe even in the clutches of the fiercest. Just lay your paddle
lightly across the bear's neck, back of his ears. He will at once catch
at it each side with his claws, and he will pull, pull his own head
under water. The more he struggles the deeper he sinks."
"Yes, that is the Indian fashion of killing a bear in midstream," echoed
Fish-Carrier, "and it is a great thing for a hunter to know."
"Thank you for telling me," said the boy, rising to take his leave. "I
value all this wisdom I can learn from my own people."
"And where do you go now, Wampum?" asked Fire-Flower. "Will you not stay
and learn more wise things? You are brave, and we like you to hear us
"And your talk is good," replied the boy, smiling. "You make me feel
like the laughing loon bird, when you tell your tales and smile and
laugh yourselves. But I must leave you. I am to drive the missionary
to-day. He goes to the Delaware line once more."
"Ha! The Delawares!" sneered old Fire-Flower. "I like not those
Delawares. They worship idols. It is not good to dance around idols."
"Not good," again echoed Fish-Carrier.
"Still the Delawares are not really bad people," said Wampum. "I don't
like their hideous idol, and some day I hope to see it cut down," he
"Then it will be a brave man who will do it," asserted Fire-Flower. "The
Delawares are a fierce tribe. Their eyes are too black. They cannot be
trusted. We Mohawks are brave, but I know of none who would dare cut
down that idol."
"I hope the Black Coat* won't try it himself," said Fish-Carrier.
"He is a good man. I don't want to see the Delawares kill him."
[*The Indians call missionaries "The Black Coats."]
"He certainly _will_ try it himself," said Wampum. "His heart is set on
turning the dark Delaware to his Christianity."
Fire-Flower sneered. "How little those white men know, even such great
white men as the Black-Coat!" he remarked loftily. "He thinks because
the Mohawks all turned to his Christianity, that he can get the dark
Delawares. He seems to think there is small difference in Indians,
that they are all alike. He does not know that we Mohawks despise the
Delawares because they worship idols. Before we were Christians we
worshipped the Great Spirit, the God of all good, but _never_ idols.
What good can come of people who dance round idols?" and the old hunter
wrinkled his very nose in contempt.
Young Wampum knew his place too well to argue with the arrogant old
hunter, so he smilingly said good-bye, and leaving them to their pipes
and their memories, he set out for the Mission house, from whence he was
to drive the Reverend James Nelson over to the "Delaware Line" to have
one of his frequent talks with the stubborn old chief, "Single-Pine,"
who for ten years had held out against Christianity, clinging with
determined loyalty to the religion of his forefathers, worshipping the
repulsive wooden idol that, even in their old pagan state, the Mohawks
so despised. Wampum was a great friend of Mr. Nelson's. He was only a
boy of sixteen, but he helped in all the church work, translated Mr.
Nelson's speeches from English into Mohawk and the various other Indian
dialects spoken on the Reserve, drove him about through the rough forest
roads, paddled him down the river, and was the closest companion the
good missionary had in all that wild, remote country. Even Wampum's
parents were Christian church workers, but, kindly as their hearts were,
they, too, shook their heads sorrowfully over the hopelessness of trying
to Christianize the dark, idol-worshipping Delawares.
"Ah, Wampum, boy," greeted the missionary as the young Indian presented
himself at the mission house, "we have good work before us to-day. I
hear the Delawares are having a feast day. They have been dancing about
that deplorable idol for two days and two nights. They tell me that old
Chief Single-Pine danced eight hours without ceasing; that they have
decorated the idol with silver brooches, wampum beads, every precious
thing they possess. It is terrible, and my heart aches, boy, when I
think how hopeless it seems. I fear they will be worshipping that wooden
thing long after you and I have ceased working for Christ's kingdom."
"Mr. Nelson," said the boy, half-shyly. "I don't agree with you. I
heard, not long ago, that old Chief Single-Pine said he only kept to
the idol because his people did--that he dared not cross them, but that
after these ten years of your talking with him, he himself believed in
the white man's Christ."
"Oh, Wampum, if I could only believe that! If I could, I would die
happy. Who told you this glorious thing?" cried the encouraged
"A Delaware boy," replied Wampum, "but when he told me he spat, like a
snake does venom. He said he and all the tribe hated Single-Pine, for
listening to you."
For a moment the missionary was silent, then he arose, the dawn of a
majestic hope in his face. "They may hate him," he said, "but they will
follow him. He is most powerful. They dare not rebel where he leads. If
we have won Single-Pine to Christianity, we have won the whole tribe,
Wampum. You have never failed me yet; will you stand by me now? Will you
help me in this great work?"
"I will help you, sir," replied the boy, his young face glowing with
"But," hesitated the missionary, "remember, it is dangerous. They are a
fierce, savage tribe, these Delawares. Suppose--" and the good man's
voice ceased. He thought of his wife and his two baby girls. Then he
Wampum seemed to catch that thought, and instantly a strange inspiration
lighted up his wonderful dark face. He set his strong white teeth
together, but kept his determination to himself.
As they prepared to leave the Mission house, Wampum hung back a little,
and when Mr. Nelson was not looking, he slipped into the woodshed, got
the axe, and adroitly hid it under the wagon-seat. He told himself that
in case of trouble he would at least have some weapon with which to
defend the missionary's life, and fight for his own. Had the man of
peace known this, he would have remonstrated, but Wampum, although a
Christian, had good fighting Indian blood in his veins, and had no such
horror of battle. He was like one of the old Crusaders, ready to fight
for his faith, even if the fighting had to be done with an axe.
Long before they reached the Delaware Line, they could hear the sounds
of feasting and dancing. It was growing dark, and the great heathen
ceremonies were at their height. Many a time had the good old missionary
attended these dances, always putting in a word for Christianity
whenever he saw a fitting opening, always hoping that the day would
come when the hideous idol would be laid low, and these darkened souls
brought to the Light of the World. But to-night he felt strangely
fearful, almost cowardly, for the whole tribe had gathered to pay
tribute to their god, and it is a dangerous thing to belittle the god
or the faith of any nation that is in earnest in its belief.
Old Chief Single-Pine welcomed the missionary and Wampum graciously, but
his people scowled and looked menacingly at the sight of "The Black
Coat," then continued their dancing. The great Delaware idol was there
in all its hideousness, life size, in the form of a woman, and carved
from one solid block of wood, then painted and stained the Indian copper
color. It stood on a slight elevation in the centre of the big log
"church," grotesque and repulsive as an image could well be made. Wampum
hated the thing, and found it difficult not to hate these people who
worshipped it. His own ancestors had been pagans, but never heathen.
They had worshipped a living God, not a wooden one, and the boy turned
in sadness, and some horror, from the spectacle of these idolatrous
Delawares. Then his eyes lighted with pleasure, for there, near the
door, stood Fire-Flower and Fish-Carrier. True, they were not now
telling their boastful but harmless tales of mighty hunting and prowess,
but their friendly faces still looked laughter-loving and genial, and
Wampum moved quickly towards them. "I did not know you ever came here,"
"Not often," said Fire-Flower. "But you said you were to bring the
missionary, so we came."
Something in his voice gave Wampum a hint that perhaps the loyal old
hunters expected trouble, and so had come in case they were needed.
"Thank you," was all the boy replied, but they knew he understood.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nelson was talking with Single-Pine, who, exhausted with
dancing, was allowing himself a brief rest and smoke. "My friend," began
the missionary, "do you really believe in the power of that god of
The old chief glanced about cautiously, then, lowering his voice, said:
"I am tired, oh, Black Coat, of this thing! I would come to the
Christian's God if I could, but my people will not let me."
Mr. Nelson grasped the dark fingers resting near his own. "Chief
Single-Pine," he said excitedly, "will you yourself give me leave to do
away with this idol? Will you promise me that if I cut it down you will
make no outcry--that you will not defend it; that you will not urge your
people to rise against me; that you will sit silently, wordlessly; that
you will take my part?"
For a moment the old Indian wavered, hesitated, then said desperately,
The missionary arose, removed his hat, and lifting his white face to
heaven, prayed aloud, "God help me, make me strong and fearless to do
this thing." But at his side was Wampum, his clinging brown fingers
clutching the black-coated arm. He had overheard all the conversation,
and his young face took on grayish shadows and lines of anxiety as he
said, "No, no, Mr. Nelson, _not you_! They may kill you. Your wife,
your girl babies--remember them. Think of them. This is _my_ work, not
yours." Instantly he dashed outside, returning with the axe he had
hidden in the wagon. Without a glance in any direction, he strode into
the centre of the log lodge, the dark worshippers fell aside, surprised
into silence, and the slender Mohawk boy braced his shoulders, lifted
his head, and--
"Don't, don't, Wampum, boy!" choked the missionary, "It is wild, it is
useless. Stop, oh, stop!"
But he might as well have ordered a hurricane to stop. With a splendid
sweep of strong young arms, the boy whirled the axe in a circle above
his shoulders and brought it down crashing with full force on the idol.
The figure split from top to base, the neck was severed, and the painted
wooden head rolled ingloriously to the floor. Then, amid a stony
silence, more menacing than any words, the boy stood with squared
shoulders and uplifted chin, his fierce beauty more imperial, more
majestic, than ever before.
For an instant the black eyes of a hundred Delaware warriors glared at
him with hate and bloodshed in their depths. Then, with a furious yell,
they turned to their chief for his commands, but old Single-Pine sat
with bowed head, his face hidden in his hands, his lips silent. A sullen
murmur ran through the throng, but they knew their chief had at last
taken the great step into Christianity; and while Wampum yet stood alone
and unafraid, his axe in his hand, and the head of the ruined idol at
his feet, the entire tribe filed past, and one by one shook hands with
the white-haired old missionary, for, as faithful followers of their
chief, they, too, must embrace the white man's faith.
It was Fire-Flower who spoke first, touching the boy's hand. Wampum
started, as if from a dream.
"Boy," said the old hunter, "I have seen no man so brave."
Wampum shuddered. "My uncle," he said proudly, "I have lived among brave
people, but--" here he shuddered again, for he was only a boy, after
all. "Oh, how black their eyes were, and how they hated me!"
"They never hated you as much as we love you," returned the old hunter.
The word "love" had never passed his lips before, and Wampum knew then
that not only had his courageous act brought the blessing of the white
man's God, but it had won for him the priceless friendship of this
stalwart old Indian, whose wisdom and whose laughter would be shared
with him through all his coming life.
The good missionary said never a word as they drove home through the
dark, but as they parted for the night he laid his hand silently,
gently, on the proud, dark young head. No word was spoken, but the boy
knew that a blessing was not always expressed in language, and that
there are some kinds of courage that do not need scalps at one's belt
to show that one has fought a good fight.
The King Georgeman
"So the little King Georgeman comes to-morrow, eh, Tillicum?" asked
the old Lillooet hunter.
"Yes, comes for all summer," replied "Banty" Clark, "and I've got to be
polite and show him around, and, I suppose, stay in the ranch house all
the hot weather while his nibs togs up in his London clothes, 'don't yer
know,' and drinks five-o'clock tea, and does nothing but stare at the
toes of his patent leather shoes. Pshaw! What a prospect! Ever see
patent leather shoes, Eena?" asked Banty, with some disgust.
"I don't know, me. I think not," replied The Eena.
"You're lucky," went on Banty. "But my cousin's sure to wear them,
and they're spoil-sport things, I can tell you! No salmon fishing,
no mountaineering, no hunting while they're around. But, Eena, why
do you call my cousin a King Georgeman?"
"It is the Chinook for what you call an Englishman," replied the Indian.
"Why, what a dandy idea!" exclaimed the boy. "I think I shall like my
cousin better because of that Chinook term. I can even go the patent
leather shoes; I believe I'd almost wear them myself to be called a King
"You'll like your Ow" (Ow is Chinook for young cousin or brother),
encouraged The Eena. "King Georgeman all good sport, all same fine
fellows, learn Indian ways quick."
"I hope you're right," said Banty, a little doubtfully, for, truth to
tell, he had small liking of the idea of a brand-new English cousin on
his hands for the summer, a Londoner at that, who knew nothing of even
the English country, let alone the wilderness of mountains, canyons,
and the endless forests of British Columbia. Poor Banty had been so
accustomed to chum about with the old Lillooet hunter whom he had
nicknamed "The Eena" (which is the Chinook for "Beaver") that the
thought of a perfect outsider breaking into their companionship for
all the holidays was little short of misery.
But the next day when Banty drove down to Kamloops to meet the train,
and his cousin stepped from the sleeper on to the station platform,
things looked worse than threatened misery. The future loomed before him
like a tragedy; he almost groaned aloud, for swinging towards him with a
loose-jointed English gait was a tall, yellow-haired chap, the size of
a man, with a face sea-tanned between a pink and a brown, his long neck
encircled with a very high, very stiff collar, his light grey suit
pressed as if it had just arrived from the tailor's, and poor Banty's
quick eye flew from the smiling pink face to the faultlessly-trousered
legs--horrors! The trousers were _long_. (Banty had at least expected
a boy of his own size and age.) But, worst of all, below the trousers
gleamed immaculate shoes of patent leather!
"I'm glad Eena didn't come," moaned Banty. "If he'd seen _this_, he
would have steered clear of the ranch for weeks." Then, bracing himself
like a man, he went forward with outstretched hand to greet his
unwelcome relative. The English lad blushed like a girl as he met his
Canadian cousin, but his handclasp was decidedly masculine as his soft
London voice said: "Awfully good of you to come and fetch me, don't
you know. I suppose you're my Cousin Bantmore?"
"'Banty,'" was all the stricken boy could reply.
"Oh, good! I like that, 'Banty.' That's a great name!" exclaimed the
tall Britisher. "You're lucky! What would you do if you were handicapped
with a tag like mine--Constantine--with all the dubs at school calling
you 'Tiny' for short, while you stood a good five feet nine in your
socks? Isn't it dreadful?"
Instantly Banty found his heart warming towards this big pink cousin,
who bore with such sturdy good humor the affliction of such a terrible
name. "It _is_ bad," he assented, "but it might be doctored. Haven't you
got a middle name?"
"It's worse," grinned the victim. "It's St. Ives. I tried it on the
second term, and the crowd called me 'Ivy,' and one smartie sent me a
piece of blue ribbon to tie my yellow curls with--he wrote _that_ in
an insulting note."
"What'd you do?" gasped Banty.
"Licked him in full view of the whole school, and he was a senior;
trimmed him till he couldn't see," was the smiling reply.
"Good boy!" almost shouted Banty. "You're the stuff for out West. I'm
glad you came."
"I'm glad, too," answered his cousin, "but I'll be 'gladder' if you will
tell me where I can get some togs like yours. I declare, but I like that
outfit," and he looked enviously at Banty's leather chaps, blue flannel
shirt, scarlet silk neckerchief and cowboy hat.
"These duds?" questioned Banty. "Oh, you can get them anywhere. They'd
hardly suit you, though." And he measured the stranger with a critical
"Suit or not, I'm going to have them," said "Con"--as his genial father
called him. "Let's go right to the shops and get an outfit now."
So Banty tied up the horses, stowed the luggage away in the afterpart of
the trap, and led the way to the trader's.
When they started for the ranch, Con had, in addition to his English
bags, boxes, shawl-straps and portmanteaus, a most beautiful outfit of
typical Western finery, a handsome Mexican saddle, a crop, a quirt,
fringed gauntlet gloves, chaps, Stetson hat, silk handkerchief, ties,
and three pairs of sporting and riding boots.
"We'll put these patent leathers gently into the river, or on a shelf,
until I face the East again," he said, half apologetically. Then with a
quick burst of English simplicity, he said: "Oh, Banty, I want to be one
"And you're going to be one of us," said that sturdy young Westerner.
"In fact, Con--well, you just _are_ one of us," he added.
The lanky, pink-faced boy grew pinker.
"I know I'm an awful length and all that," he said, "but I'm only
sixteen, don't you know!"
Banty grinned. The "Don't you know," which at first horrified him, was,
oddly enough, growing to be almost fascinating. Banty would have felt
himself an awful owl were he to say it, but it somehow suited the tall,
pink boy, and did not sound one particle "dudish," or offensive, and
during the ten-mile drive across the Kamloops Hills Banty decided that
Con was a first-rate fellow, notwithstanding his abominable clothes and
"swagger" English accent. At the ranch house door they were greeted
by Banty's parents and a couple of range riders, and Eena, who,
Indian-like, never revealed the fact by word or look that he had
observed the patent leather shoes, and the wonderful high collar; who,
also Indian-like, in spite of these drawbacks, liked the stranger
without cause, a peculiar instinct of liking that came when the young
King Georgeman shook hands with him, a wholesome British "shake" that
"You will be tired, Constantine," said Mrs. Clark, with motherly care,
"and not accustomed to this extreme heat. Come at once and rest. I have
made a great jug of lemonade. Do come in at once."
"If it's all the same to you, aunt, may I have some tea? And do _please_
call me 'Con,'" he replied. No shadow of expression crossed The Eena's
face, but when Mrs. Clark had led Con indoors, the Indian turned to
Banty and remarked quietly, "You're right some ways; he wants tea, and
the sun shines in his shoes, but he good King Georgeman all same, I
"Guess you're right, Eena," said Banty. "There's something about him
that's fine, just fine and simple and--English." The Indian nodded and
he made but one more comment. "He brave," he muttered.
"How do you know that?" asked Banty.
"The--what you name it? I think you call it _nostril_ of his nose long,
thin, fine. That shows brave people. When nostril just round and thick
like bullet-hole it shows coward."
Banty laughed aloud, but all the same his fingers flew to his own
nostrils, and notwithstanding his merriment he was gratified to find
fairly long, narrow breathing spaces at the edge of his own nose.
"What queer old ideas your people have, Eena," he commented.
"But it's right, even if queer," smiled the Indian. "You see, maybe this
summer, Indian's right about that nose."
But Mrs. Clark and Con were now returning, Con having swallowed his tea,
and, looking refreshed by it, he settled himself in a porch chair,
stretched out his long legs and thoughtfully regarded the toes of his
patent leathers. Banty grinned openly, but The Eena gravely shook his
head, and, with the tip of his little finger, touched his own fine,
narrow nostril. Banty understood, but then he and The Eena always
understood each other, and now the boy knew that the old hunter meant to
remind him of the best qualities of his English cousin, and to overlook
the little oddities that after all did not carry weight when it came to
a boy's character.
"King Georgeman, you come with me to-morrow, me fish, or hunt?" asked
the Indian, his solemn eyes regarding Con kindly. Banty explained the
term "King Georgeman."
"Indeed I will, if you'll have me!" exclaimed Con, excitedly. "I've
bought some decent clothes, and will look fitter in them than I do
in these togs. Don't I look bally in them?"
"I not sabe 'bally,' me," answered the Indian.
The pink King Georgeman looked puzzled.
"He means he doesn't understand what 'bally' is," explained Banty.
Con laughed. "Tell him that _I'm_ 'bally,' in these clothes; he'll grasp
then what a fearful thing 'bally' means."
It was that remark, "poking fun" at his own appearance, that thoroughly
won Banty's loyalty to his cousin from over seas. A chap that could
openly laugh and jeer at his own peculiarities must surely be a good
sort, so forthwith Banty pitched in heart and soul to arrange all kinds
of excursions and adventures, and The Eena planned and suggested, until
it seemed that all the weeks stretching out into the holiday months were
to be one long round of sport and pleasure in honor of the lanky King
Georgeman, who was so anxious to fall easily into the ways of the West.
Just as The Eena predicted, Con proved an able fisherman and excellent
"trailsman." He could stay in the saddle for hours, could go without
food or sleep, had the endurance of a horse and the good nature of a big
romping kitten. He was generous and unselfish, but with a spontaneous
English temper that blazed forth whenever he saw the weak wronged or the
"I'll never make a really good hunter, Eena," he regretted one day, "I
can't bear to gallop on a big cayuse after a little scared jack rabbit,
and run him down and kill him when he's so little and doesn't try to
fight me with his claws or fangs like a lynx will do. It's not a fair
"But when one camps many leagues from the ranch house, one must eat,"
observed the Indian.
"Yes, that's the pity of it," agreed Con, "but it seems to me a poor
sort of game to play at."
Nevertheless he did his part towards providing food when they all went
camping up in the timberline in August, and frequently he, Banty and the
Indian would go out by themselves on a three or four days' expedition
away from the main camp, "grubbing" themselves and living the lives of
semi-savages. And it was upon one of these adventures that the three
got separated in some way, Banty and the Indian reaching camp a little
before sunset, and waiting in vain for Con's appearance while the hours
slipped by, and they called and shouted, and fired innumerable shots
thinking to guide him campwards, while they little knew that all the
gold in British Columbia could not have brought Con's feet to enter that
little tent for many days to come; that with all his newborn affection
for Banty, Con would make him most unwelcome should chance bring them
face to face again.
It happened so strangely, so quickly, that Con gave himself no time
to think. They had been trailing a caribou, just for sport, for the
hunting season was closed, and Con struck into the wrong trail on the
return journey. Thinking to overtake the others, he worked his cayuse
hard, galloping on and on until the hills and canyons began to look
unfamiliar. Feeling that he was lost, he fired his gun, once, twice.
Far down in the valley came a response, so he loped down the winding
trail until he suddenly came upon a little shack surrounded by fields
of alfalfa, and a few cattle grazing along a creek.
As he neared the ranch a shot was fired from the shack window, he jerked
his animal up shortly, and was about to wheel and gallop back, when a
pitiful groan reached his ears, and a man's voice begged: "Water, water,
for the love of heaven bring me water!" Then, unfamiliar as Con was to
Western life, instinct told him that the revolver shot was meant to call
him to some one's aid.
"Coming," he shouted, slipping from his saddle, "buck up, I'll fetch
water," but before he could enter the door, a terrible, repulsive face
was lifted to the window, and the man almost shrieked:
"Don't come in, don't, I say; just hand me some water from the creek.
I'm too weak to walk."
"Of course I'm coming in," blurted Con, indignantly. "Why, man, you're
"Don't!" choked the man; "oh, boy, don't come near me, _I've got
For one brief second Con stood, stiff with horror. "Who's with you,
helping you, nursing you?" he demanded.
"No one, I'm alone, alone; oh! water, water," moaned the man.
Con flung open the door. There was no hesitation, no fear, no thought of
self; just a great human pity in his fair young face, and a wonderful
tenderness in his strong young arms as he lifted the loathsome sufferer
from the floor where he had fallen in his weakness, after crawling to
the window in that last, almost hopeless effort to call assistance.
On the soiled and tumbled bed he laid the man, who still shrieked: "Go
away, go away, you're crazy to come in here!" Then without a word of
even kindly encouragement the boy seized a bucket and dashed down to
the creek. "It's water, not words, he wants now," he said to himself,
running back, and in another moment his good right arm was slipping
under the sick man's shoulders, and he was lifting him up and holding
to the fever-cracked lips a cup of gloriously cold water.
"Bless you! The dear good God himself bless you! But, oh, boy, go away,
go away!" murmured the man, weakly.
"Go away and leave you here alone, perhaps to die? And then have to face
my parents and Banty and The Eena, and--and England again and tell what
I've done? Not I!" cried the boy, indignantly. "Look at this shack, the
state it's in; look at you. How did you come to be here alone?"
"I had a pardner, but he left me, just skinned out, when he suspected
what I had," said the man, hopelessly. It was then that Con burst forth
in that quick flashing English temper that was always aroused at the
sight of injustice, of unmanliness, or of underhand dealings. He was
so furious that he took his temper out in cleaning up the shack, and
cooking some soft foods for the patient, and every time the wretched man
begged him to go away he got so indignant and abusive that the sick one
finally laughed outright, thereby lifting them both out of the depths of
"That's the way, 'Snooks,'" commented Con. (He had nicknamed his
shack-mate "Snooks.") "Just you laugh, it will do you no end of good,
don't you know."
But in spite of his heroic attempts at cheering up the sick man, Con
was undergoing a frightful experience. In the first place, there were
practically no medicines and no disinfectants in the shack. The boy
found a cake of tar soap, a bottle of salts, and a package of sulphur.
The latter he burnt daily, sprinkling it on a shovel of coals. The tar
soap was a blessing both to himself and the patient, and the salts they
both swallowed manfully and daily. There was rice, oatmeal, tapioca,
jam, tinned stuffs and prunes, and Con knew as little of cookery as he
knew of nursing, but he made shift with the little store in hand. Snooks
kept alive and the boy remained well. But the nights were long periods
of horror. Snooks would become delirious with fever, and the torture of
the foul disease would become unbearable.
Once they had an out-and-out fight. Snooks, fever crazed, struggled to
get out of bed, crying that he was going to sink his agonized body in
the creek, and Con gripped the poor abhorrent wrists, forcing the man
to his back. Then flinging his whole weight above the prostrate body he
held him by sheer force, conquering and saving this life which had no
claims on him except that of all common humanity. An onlooker would have
thought that the dread disease had no horrors for the boy, but Con was
only human, and many a time he fought it out with himself when the
terrors of the threatened infection were upon him. Then he would say
to himself, "Con, are you going to try and be a gentleman through your
whole life, or just be a cad?" Then all thought of quitting would
vanish, and back he would go to the shack, to be rewarded by a wonderful
look of dog-like gratitude that would shine in Snooks' festered eyes,
replacing the haunting fear that always lurked there whenever the boy
remained outside any length of time--the fear that Con, too, had gone,
as had his "pardner," leaving him forever alone.
"Don't you get scared," Con would say on these occasions. "I'm with you
to the finish for good or ill, and it will be for good, I think."
"It sure is for _my_ good," Snooks had said once. "If I pull out of this
I'll be another man, and it will be owing to having known you, pard. I
had forgotten that such bravery and decency and unselfishness existed.
"Oh, quit it! Stop it!" Con smiled. "This isn't anything--don't you
know." But Snooks shook his head thoughtfully, muttering, "I _do_ know,
and you're making another man of me."
One day, after two weeks had dragged wearily past wherein no human being
had passed up the unfrequented trail, Con heard gun shots, distant at
first, then nearing the shack. Like a wild being he sprang to the door,
hoping some range rider, chancing by, would at least bring food and a
doctor, when, to his horror, he saw Banty riding by, almost exhausted,
peering to right and left of the trail, searching--searching, he well
knew, for his lost cousin. Con made a rapid bolt for a hiding place, but
Banty, whose quick eyes had caught sight of the fleeting figure, gave a
yell of delight as he leaped from his saddle.
"Don't you come _near_ this place! Get out, _get_ out, I tell you!"
screamed Con, while Banty stood as if petrified, staring wide-eyed at
his seemingly insane cousin.
"You come near here and I'll trim you within an inch of your life," Con
roared anew, shaking his fist menacingly. "I'll trim you the way I did
the fellow who sent me the blue ribbon for my hair. We've got smallpox
here. I'm looking after a chap who is down with it. Get us a doctor and
beef tea and more tar soap and food, but don't you come an inch nearer,
Banty, _don't_. Think of aunt and the people at the ranch. You can't do
any good, and I'll go clean crazy if you expose yourself to this. Oh,
Banty, get out of this, get out of this, or, I tell you, _honest_, I'll
lick you if you don't."
Banty was no coward, but Con looked terrifyingly fierce and in dead
earnest, and the boy's common sense told him that he could far better
serve these stricken shackmen in doing as he was bidden. So after
more explanations and instructions, he mounted and rode away like one
possessed, Con's last words ringing in his ears: "Don't forget _barrels_
of tar soap, and _tons_ of tea. I haven't had a drink of tea for ten
Late that night a young doctor rode up from Kamloops, and in his wake
a professional nurse with supplies of food, medicines, and exquisitely
fresh, clean sheets. While the physician bent over the sick man, Con
seized a package of groceries and in five minutes was drinking a cup of
his beloved English tea, as calmly as if he had been nursing a friend
with a headache.
Presently the doctor beckoned him outside. Con put down his cup
regretfully and followed.
"Young man," said the doctor, eyeing him curiously, "Do you know who
this man is you've been nursing, exposing yourself to death for?"
"Haven't an idea; I call him 'Snooks,'" said Con.
"Much better call him 'Crooks,'" said the doctor, angrily. "You've been
risking your life and that pretty pink English skin of yours for one of
the most worthless men in British Columbia; he's been a cattle rustler,
a 'salter' of gold mines, and everything that is discreditable; it makes
me indignant. He tells me he at least had the decency to warn you, when
you came here. What ever made you come on--in?"
Con stared at the doctor, a cold, a "stony British" stare. "Why,
doctor," he said, "because Snooks has been a--a--failure, I don't see
that's any reason why I should be a cad."
The doctor looked at him hard. "I wish I had a son like you," he
"My father is an army surgeon; he's been through the cholera scourge in
India twice. I never could have looked him in the face again if I hadn't
seen Snooks through," said Con, simply.
"Well, you can look him in the face now all right, boy!" the doctor
replied, gravely. "Say good-bye to your sick friend, for we've brought a
tent and you are to be soaked in disinfectants and put into quarantine.
No more of this pest-shack for you, my boy."
So Con went back to shake hands with "Snooks," who said very quietly: "I
can't even say 'Thank you,' as I want to; I guess the best way to thank
a pard is to live it, not speak it. I ain't said a prayer for years till
the day you came here, and I've prayed night and day, _real_ prayers,
that you wouldn't get this disease. Maybe that'll show you, pard, that
I've started to be a new man."
"Yes, that shows," answered Con confidentially, and with another
handclasp, he left for his little tent, with a great faith in his heart
that the sick man's prayers would be answered.
At last one joyous day the doctor sent for Banty, who rode over with a
led horse, and Con, leaping into the saddle, waved good-bye to Snooks,
who, now convalescent, stood in the door of the distant shack. As the
boy galloped off up the trail, Snooks turned to the nurse and said:
"I'm going to live so that youngster will never regret what he's done.
That's about the only reward I can give him."
The nurse looked up gravely. "If I have estimated that boy right," she
said, "I think that's about the only reward he would care to have."
That was a great night at the ranch. Most delicious things to eat and
drink awaited Con after his long isolation, and Mr. and Mrs. Clark
welcomed him as if he had been a son instead of a nephew. The range
riders came in, each one getting him to tell of his antics with the
sulphur and shovel of coals, over which they roared with laughter.
Banty's delight at having his comrade back from danger knew no bounds,
and when The Eena appeared Banty flung an arm about Con's shoulders,
exclaiming: "Isn't this old chap a splendid King Georgeman, Eena?"
The old hunter replied with much self-satisfaction: "Maybe now you not
think old Indian saying so queer. Did I not say, me, that narrow,
thin--what you name it,--nostril, shows man that is brave, man that has
no fear? Me sabe now. He _not_ 'bally.'"
"No, sir! Not for me," Bert Hooper was saying. "I won't join the crowd
if Billy is going. Do you fellows suppose I'm going to have my holiday
all spoiled, and not get any game, all because you want Billy? _He's_
no good on a hunting trip. I tell you he's gun-shy."
"That's so," said another boy. "I've seen him stop his ears with his
fingers when Bert shot his gun off--more than once, too."
"Ought to be named 'Gussie,'" said Bert. "A great big fellow like Billy,
_scared of a gun_! He must be sixteen, and large for his age at that.
He's worse than that dog I had last year--don't you remember, boys? He'd
follow us for miles through the bush, raise game, point a partridge all
right, and the second we shot a gun off--no more dog. All you'd see was
a white-and-tan streak with its tail curled under it, making for home."
"Well," said Tommy McLean, a boy who never spoke until all the rest had
thrashed a subject out, "I'd rather see a fellow gun-shy than see him
a bally idiot with fire-arms. I know when I got my gun, I got a lesson
with it. Father gave it to me himself, when I was fourteen, last year.
I never saw him look so serious as when he put it in my hands and said,
'Tom,' (he always calls me Tom, not Tommy, when he's in earnest)--'Tom,'
he said, 'a gun is a good thing in the right hands, a bad thing in the
wrong. A boy that is careless with a gun is worse than a born idiot; a
boy that in play points a gun, loaded or unloaded, at any person, place,
or thing, should be, and often does, land in prison. A gun is made for
three things only: the first, to shoot animals and birds for food alone,
not for sport; the second, to defend one's life from the attack of wild
beasts; the third, to shoot the tar out of the enemy when you are
fighting as a soldier for your sovereign and your flag.'"
"Bully for Tommy's father!" yelled Bert. "I hate being lectured, but
that sounds like good common sporting sense, and we'll all try to stick
by it on this hunting trip."
They were a nice lot of boys, all jolly, sturdy, manly chaps, who,
however, seldom included Billy Jackson in their outings, for every
holiday seemed to find him too busy to join them. For notwithstanding
his unfortunate fear of a gunshot, Billy had always been a great lover
of a uniform. As a youngster he would follow the soldiers every parade
day, not for the glory of marching in step to the music of the band, but
for the chance it gave him to throw back his shoulders, puff out his
small chest, and blow on his tin pipe-whistle in adoring imitation of
the bugler. He thought there was nothing in the world so important as
the bugler. Billy thought it did not matter that the shining little
"trumpet" merely voiced an officer's commands. The fact always remained
that at the clear, steady notes the soldiers wheeled to do his bidding;
that the bugler was a power for courage or cowardice, whichever way a
boy was built.
Then, as he grew older, he, too, began to practise on a bugle. He would
sit out on the little side verandah, early and late, tooting every
regimental call he could remember, until the time came when his
perseverance met with reward. He actually found himself installed as
bugler to the little regiment of smartly-uniformed men that was the
pride of the gay Ontario city that Billy called home.
Then it was that the other boys never got Billy on a holiday. When
Victoria Day came the soldiers always went "into camp" for three days,
strict military discipline reigned, and Billy must be with his company.
When Dominion Day arrived the regiment always visited some distant city
to assist in some important patriotic celebration. Thanksgiving Day
always found them in the thick of annual drill, and there was sure to be
a "sham battle" at which poor Billy had to toot the commands, his eyes
blinking and the nerves chasing themselves up and down his back, while
the blank cartridges peppered away harmlessly, and the field-pieces
roared innocently past his ears.
"The boys" usually came with throngs of citizens to see the "sham
fights." They would range themselves on a slope of hills, as near as
possible to the "battlefield," and often above the bellowing guns, above
the colonel's command, above his own shrill bugle calls, Billy could
hear Bert Hooper and Tommy McLean egging him on, sometimes with jeers,
sometimes with admiration, telling him to "Look up plucky now, Billy,
and don't stop your ears with your fingers!" He used to be astonished
at himself that he cared so little whether they teased or cheered. He
seemed to care for nothing in all the world but the Colonel's voice
and his bugle.
Then the day came when he knew there was something greater than the
colonel to be obeyed, something dearer than his bugle to be proud of.
For many weeks the newspapers had teemed with little else but news of
the South African War. Nothing was talked of in all Canada, from the
Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, but the battles, the hardships, the
privations, of the gallant British regiments in the far-off enemy's
country. Then came the cry, wrung from England's heart to her colonies,
"Come over and help us!"
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, sprang to their feet like obedient
children, ready and anxious to fight and die for their mother at her
Billy and his father faced each other--one was sixteen, the other forty.
They did not stand looking at each other as father and son, but as man
"Billy," said his father, "you don't remember your mother; she died
while you were still a baby. If she were living, I would not hint of
this to you, but--_I_ go to South Africa with the very first Canadian
contingent. You are the best bugler in Canada. What do _you_ want to
For an instant Billy was speechless. His nerves shook with a boy's first
fear of battle. His old gun-shyness had him in its grip. Then his heart
swelled with the pride aroused by his father's words; he raised his
head, his chin, his eyes, and suddenly his look caught a picture hanging
in its deep gold frame on the wall. It was a picture of a little old
gray-haired woman--a sad-faced old woman dressed in black and wearing a
widow's cap. It was a picture of Queen Victoria.
Then Billy's voice came.
"I can't remember ever having heard my mother speak, but"--pointing to
the picture--"_she_ has been calling me ever since the war began. I know
I'm only a big kid, and I can't fight with the men, but I _can_ bugle,
and, Dad, you and I'll go together."
Once more they looked at each other as man to man. Then Billy's father
shook hands with him--a hard, true, clinging shake--and, without a
word, left the room.
Oh, what a day it was for the little city when the picked men of the
regiment marched out in their khaki uniforms, halting at the railway
station for all the last good-byes before the train pulled them out
eastward, to board the transport ships that swung so impatiently in
Halifax harbor! The whole town was at the station, every boy in the
place shouting and cheering and wishing he were grown up, were clad in
khaki, were shouldering an Enfield rifle, and were going to fight for
the queen. When it was all over Bert and Tommy stood watching with
straining eyes the fast disappearing train, handkerchiefs and caps and
hands were waving from every window, faint snatches of cheers, and the
tune of "The Girl I Left Behind Me," came floating backward. But the
boys only saw a small blotch of khaki color on the rear platform of the
train, and a brilliant point of light where the golden Canada sun flung
back its reflections from a well-polished bugle. They watched that light
growing less and less in the distance, until it finally faded like a
* * * * * * * *
Weeks afterwards the newspapers rang with the glory of it all. The fame
and the bravery of the Canadian regiments at the terrible battle of
Paardeburg was known to all the world. Bert and Tommy and the rest of
the boys devoured every line that touched on that wonderful fight, but
their pride fairly broke bounds when in the great city papers they read
"Throughout the thickest of the fight, a small but noticeable figure
held his ground like a rock. It was a stocky little 'Canuck' bugler,
whose life seemed almost charmed, so thickly did the Boer bullets pepper
about him, leaving him absolutely unhurt."
"That's Billy!" they shouted hoarsely at each other. "Billy, as sure
as you're alive!" Then they fairly covered the town with the news,
gathering all the boys together in one big rejoicing crowd, telling each
other over and over again the story of the battle, and joining in the
monster parade, carrying banners, flags, lanterns and torches, to give
honor to Canadian pluck and patriotism.
* * * * * * * *
And then, one day, a train came steaming and roaring into the station.
The thronging crowds, the gay flags, the merry bands, and the ringing
cheers, were a welcome greeting for the little knot of war-worn men who
had fought so loyally for queen and country.
"The stocky little Canuck!" as everyone now called Billy Jackson, was
almost the last to alight from the train. He looked terribly shy and
bashful at the uproarious reception he got; but he stood erect in his
faded and patched old khaki uniform, his battered bugle still flashed
back the sunlight, and his handgrip was as firm as his father's as
the boys crowded up, yelling, "What's the matter with Gun-Shy Billy?
_He's all right_!"
But even as they cheered and welcomed him, Billy's eyes grew strangely
odd-looking. The shyness and the smile seemed to sink out of them. His
glance had caught sight of a slender, black-draped figure standing far
back from the welcoming crowd--the figure of a young woman whose fingers
clasped the chubby hand of a boy about three years old. For an instant
Billy stood voiceless, his eyes staring, his mouth twitching nervously,
his hands rigid and icy.
"Come on! Come on, fellows!" shouted the boys, as the crowd surged
closer about him, and friendly hands seized him by arm and shoulder.
But he moved not a step.
"Why, Billy, what's up?" exclaimed a dozen excited voices. "Come on! The
carriages are waiting to start the parade! The band's getting in line.
Hurry up! Hurry up!"
Then Billy spoke. His voice came, shaky, as in the old, gun-shy days;
but quietly as he spoke, the words seemed to reach across the whole
"Boys! Oh, boys! There's poor Jack Morrison's wife and the little lad he
sent his love to!"
The crowd hushed its gay clamor and every head turned towards the
woman in black and the chubby child. They stood quite alone, silent,
white-faced, weary. Jack Morrison was the only one who had not returned
with the brave little band of soldiers who had set forth so valiantly
"I saw him fall," said Billy hoarsely; "fall, shot in a dozen places.
For a moment, boys, I think I failed to bugle. I dropped on my knees and
raised his poor face out of the dust. 'Billy,' he said, 'Billy, when
you get home, give my love to my wife and little Buddie.' Then he just
seemed to sink into a heap, and I sprang up to 'commands.' Boys, through
the rest of that fight I could see nothing but Mrs. Morrison's white
face, hear nothing but her sobs. Oh, the misery of it all! I seemed to
grow into an old man all at once. I could see myself coming home, and
all of us here cheering--all but Jack Morrison."
No one spoke. A vast silence fell, and the cheering ceased. Then Billy
walked quietly through the crowd, and standing beside the white-faced
widow, picked up the child in his strong young arms. He was not used
to babies, and looked awkward and stiff and terribly conscious. Then
he pulled himself together.
"I have a message for you, Mrs. Morrison, and for this little chap here.
I'll come and see you to-morrow, if I may, when all this fuss and
flag-waving is over."
The woman looked blankly at him, with eyes that seemed watching for
something--something that never came. Billy dared not trust himself
to say another word. He finally set the child down and turned away.
In a few minutes the "procession" was in full swing, Billy and his
father, in one of the carriages, being driven beneath arches and
banners, and handclasped on all sides. Somehow, he got through that
uproarious day smiling, but shy as usual, but when night came he was
tired and utterly undone, and "turned in" early. But sleep would not
come. Then he arose and crept to his little bedroom window, standing
there a long, long time alone in the dark--thinking. How glorious it all
had been!--the glad, loyal faces of his boy friends, the magnificent
welcome home--if only they could have brought Jack Morrison back with
them! Oh! Billy would have given up all the glory, the music, the
cheers, the banners, to get away from the haunting memory of a woman's
white, suffering face and black-robed figure, and the feel of the
clinging hands of a tiny fatherless boy! His eyes did not see the homely
street at his feet--the dying rockets and fireworks glaring against the
sky. He saw only a simple grave in the open veldt in far-away Africa--a
grave that he, himself, had heaped with stones formed in the one word
"Canada." At the recollection of it, poor Billy buried his aching head
in his hands. The glory had paled and vanished. There was nothing left
of this terrible war but the misery, the mourning, the heartbreak of
"What is the silver chain for, Queetah?" asked the boy, lifting the
tomahawk* and running the curious links between his thumb and fingers.
"I never saw one before."
[*The tomahawk and avenging knife spoken of in the story are both
in the possession of the writer, the knife having been buried for
seventy-three years on the estate where she was born.]
The Mohawk smiled. "That is because few tomahawks content themselves
with times of peace. While war lives, you will never see a silver chain
worn by an Iroquois, nor will you see it on anything he possesses," he
"Then it is the badge of peace?" questioned the boy.
"The badge of peace--yes," replied Queetah.
It was a unique weapon which the boy fingered so curiously. The tomahawk
itself was shaped like a slender axe, and wrought of beaten copper, with
a half-inch edge of gleaming steel cleverly welded on, forming a deadly
blade. At the butt end of the axe was a delicately shaped pipe bowl,
carved and chased with heads of animals, coiling serpents and odd
conventional figures, totems of the once mighty owner, whose war cry
had echoed through the lake lands and forests more than a century ago.
The handle was but eighteen inches long, a smooth polished stem of
curled maple, the beauty of the natural wood heightened by a dark strip
of color that wound with measured, even sweeps from tip to base like
a ribbon. Queetah had long ago told the boy how that rich spiral
decoration was made--how the old Indians wound the wood with strips of
wet buckskin, then burnt the exposed wood sufficiently to color it. The
beautiful white coils were the portions protected by the hide from the
flame and smoke.
Inlaid in this handle were strange designs of dull-beaten silver, cubes
and circles and innumerable hearts, the national symbol of the Mohawks.
At the extreme end was a small, flat metal mouthpiece, for this strange
weapon was a combination of sun and shadow; it held within itself the
unique capabilities of being a tomahawk, the most savage instrument in
Indian warfare, and also a peace pipe, that most beautiful of all Indian
"It is so strange," said the boy, fingering the weapon lovingly. "Your
people are the most terrible on the warpath of all the nations in the
world, yet they seem to think more of that word 'peace,' and to honor it
more, than all of us put together. Why, you even make silver chains for
emblems of peace, like this," and he tangled his slim fingers in the
links that looped from the lower angle of the steel edge to the handle.
"Yes," replied Queetah, "we value peace; it is a holy word to the red
man, perhaps because it is so little with us, because we know its face
so slightly. The face of peace has no fiery stripes of color, no streaks
of the deadly black and red, the war paints of the fighting Mohawks. It
is a face of silver, like this chain, and when it smiles upon us, we
wash the black and red from off our cheeks, and smoke this pipe as a
sign of brotherhood with all men."
"Brotherhood with all men," mused the boy, aloud. "We palefaces have
no such times, Queetah. Some of us are always at war. If we are not
fighting here, we are fighting beyond the great salt seas. I wish we had
more of your ways, Queetah--your Indian ways. I wish we could link a
silver chain around the world; we think we are the ones to teach, but I
believe you could teach us much. Will you not teach me now? Tell me the
story of this tomahawk. I may learn something from it--something of
Indian war, peace and brotherhood."
"The story is yours to hear," said the Mohawk, "if you would see how
peace grows out of deeds of blood, as the blue iris grows from the
blackness of the swamp; but it is the flower that the sun loves, not
the roots, buried in the darkness, from which the blossom springs. So
we of the red race say that the sun shines on peace alone, not the
black depths beneath it."
The Mohawk paused and locked his hands about his knees, while the boy
stretched himself at full length and stared up at the far sky beyond the
interlacing branches overhead. He loved to lie thus, listening to the
quaint tales of olden days that Queetah had stored up in his wonderful
treasure-house of memory. Everything the Indian possessed had associated
with it some wild tale of early Canadian history, some strange
half-forgotten Indian custom or legend, so he listened now to the story
of the last time that the ancient Indian law of "a life for a life" was
carried out in the beautiful Province of Ontario, while the low, even
voice of the Mohawk described the historical event, giving to the tale
the Indian term for the word "peace," which means "the silver chain that
does not tarnish."
"This was the tomahawk of my grandsire, who had won his eagle plume by
right of great bravery. For had he not at your age--just fifteen
years--stood the great national test of starving for three days and
three nights without a whimper? Did not this make him a warrior, with
the right to sit among the old men of his tribe, and to flaunt his eagle
plume in the face of his enemy? Ok-wa-ho was his name; it means 'The
Wolf,' and young as he was, like the wolf he could snarl and show his
fangs. His older brother was the chief, tall and terrible, with the
scowl of thunder on his brow and the gleaming fork of lightning in his
eyes. This chief thought never of council fires or pipes or hunting or
fishing, he troubled not about joining the other young men in their
sports of lacrosse or snow-snake, or bowl-and-beans; to him there was
nothing in life but the warpath, no song but the war cry, no color but
the war paint. Daily he sharpened his scalping knife, daily he polished
his tomahawk, daily feathered and poisoned his arrows, daily he sought
enemies, taunted them, insulted them, braved them and conquered them;
while his young brother, Ok-wa-ho, rested in their lodge listening to
the wisdom of the old men, learning their laws and longing for peace.
Once Ok-wa-ho had said, 'My brother, stay with us, wash from thy cheeks
the black and scarlet; thy tomahawk has two ends: one is an edge, dyed
often in blood, but show us that thou hast not forgotten how to use the
other end--fill thy pipe.'
"'Little brother,' replied the chief, 'thou art yet but a stripling boy;
smoke, then, the peace pipe, but it is not for me.'
"Ok-wa-ho felt this to be an insult. It was a taunt on his bravery. He
squared his boyish shoulders, and, lifting his narrow chin, flung back
the answer, 'I, too, can use both ends, the edge as well as the pipe.'
The great chief laughed. 'That is right, Little Brother, and some day
the tribe will ask you to show them how well you can use the edge. I
shall not always be victor; some day I shall fall, and my enemy will
place his foot on my throat and voice the war cry of victory, just as
I have done these many days. Hast thou sat among the wise men of our
people long enough to learn what thou must do then--when the enemy
laughs over my body?'
"'Yes,' replied the boy, 'I am thy nearest of kin. Indian law demands
that I alone must avenge thy death. Thy murderer must die, and die by
no hand but mine. It is the law.'
"'It is the law,' echoed the chief. 'I can trust you to carry it out,
eh, Little Brother?'
"'You can trust me, no matter how great a giant thy enemy may be,'
answered the boy.
"'Thy words are as thy name,' smiled the chief. 'Thou art indeed worthy
of thy eagle plume. Thou art a true Ok-wa-ho.' Then placing his scalping
knife in its sheath at his belt he lifted his palm to his lips, a long,
strange, quivering yell rent the forest trails--a yell of defiance, of
mastery, of challenge; his feet were upon the warpath once more.
"That night, while the campfires yet glowed and flickered, painting the
forest with black shadows, against which curled the smoke from many pipe
bowls, a long, strange, haunting note came faintly down on the wings of
the water--the dark river whispering past bore on its deep currents the
awful sound of the Death Cry.
"'Some mighty one has fallen,' said the old men. 'The victor is voicing
his triumph from far upstream.' Then as the hours slipped by, a runner
came up the forest trail, chanting the solemn song of the departed. As
he neared the campfires he ceased his song, and in its place gave once
again the curdling horror of the Death Cry.
"'Who is the victor? Who the fallen brave?' cried the old men.
"'Thy chief this hour hunts buffalo in the happy hunting grounds, while
his enemy, Black Star, of the Bear Clan, sings the war song of the Great
Unconquered,' replied the runner.
"'Ah, ha!' replied the old men. 'Ok-wa-ho here is next of kin, but this
stripling boy is too young, too small, to face and fight Black Star. But
the law is that no other hand but his may avenge his brother's death.
So our great dead chief must sleep--sleep while his murderer sings and
taunts us with his freedom.'
"'Not so!' cried the young Ok-wa-ho. 'I shall face Black Star. I shall
obey the law of my people. My hand is small but strong, my aim is sure,
my heart is brave, and my vengeance will be swift.'
"Before the older men could stay him he was away, but first he snatched
the silver chain from off his tomahawk, emptied the bowl of tobacco,
destroyed all the emblems of peace, and turned his back upon the council
fire. All night long he scoured the forest for his brother's slayer,
all night long he flung from his boyish lips the dreaded war cry of the
avenger, and when day broke he drank from the waters of the river, and
followed the trail that led to the lodge of his mighty enemy. Outside
the door sat Black Star of the Bear Clan; astride a fallen tree he
lounged arrogantly; his hands, still red with last night's horrors, were
feathering arrows. His savage face curled into a sneer as the boy neared
him. Then a long, taunting laugh broke over the dawn, and he jeered:
"'So, pretty maiden-boy, what hast thou to do with the Great
"'I am the brother of thy victim,' said Ok-wa-ho, as he slipped his
tomahawk from his belt, placing it on the low bark roof of the lodge,
in case he needed a second weapon.
"'The Avenger, eh?' scoffed Black Star, mockingly.
"'The Avenger--yes,' repeated the boy. Then walking deliberately up to
the savage warrior, he placed his left hand on the other's shoulder,
and, facing him squarely, said: 'I am here to carry out the law of our
people; because I am young, it does not mean that I must not obey the
rules of older and wiser men. Will you fight me now? I demand it.'
"The other sneered. 'Fight _you_?' he said disdainfully. 'I do not fight
babies or women. Thou hast a woman's wrist, a baby's fingers. They could
not swing a tomahawk.'
"'No?' the boy sneered. 'Perhaps thou art right, but they can plunge a
knife. Did thou not lend my brother a knife last night? Yes? Then I have
come to return it.' There was a flash of steel, a wild death cry, and
Ok-wa-ho's knife was buried to the hilt in the heart of Black Star of
the Bear Clan."
Queetah ceased speaking, for the paleface boy, lying at his feet, had
shuddered and locked his teeth at the gruesome tale.
"But, Queetah," he said, after a long pause, "I thought this was a story
of peace, of 'the silver chain that does not tarnish.'"
"It is," replied the Indian. "You shall hear how peace was born out of
that black deed--listen:
"When Black Star of the Bear Clan lay dead at his feet, the centuries
of fighting blood surged up in the boy's whole body. He placed his
moccasined foot on the throat of the conquered, flung back his head,
and gave the long, wild Mohawk war cry of victory. Far off that cry
reached the ears of the older men, smoking about their council fire.
"'It is Ok-wa-ho's voice,' they said proudly, 'and it is the cry of
victory. We may never hear that cry again, for the white man's law and
rule begins to-day.' Which was true, for after that the Mohawks came
under the governmental laws of Canada. It was the last time the red
man's native law of justice, of 'blood for blood,' was ever enacted in
Ontario. This is history--Canadian history--not merely a tale of horror
with which to pass this winter afternoon." Again Queetah ceased
speaking, and again the boy persisted.
"But the silver chain?"
With a dreamy, far-away look the Indian continued:
"One never uses an avenging knife again. The blade even must not be
wiped; it is a dark deed, even to an Indian's soul, and the knife must
be buried on the dark side of a tree--the north side, where the sun
never shines, where the moss grows thickest. Ok-wa-ho buried his
blood-stained knife, slipping it blade downwards beneath the moss,
took his unused tomahawk, and returned to his people. 'The red man's
law is ended,' he said.
"'Yes, we must be as white men now,' replied the older men, sadly.
"That night Ok-wa-ho beat into this handle these small silver hearts.
They are the badge of brotherhood with all men. The next day white men
came, explaining the new rule that must hold sway in the forest. 'If
there is bloodshed among you,' they said, 'the laws of Canada will
punish the evil-doer. Put up your knives and tomahawks, and be at
"And as the years went on and on, these ancient Indian customs all
dropped far into the past. Only one thing remained to remind Ok-wa-ho of
his barbarous, boyish deed: it was the top branch of a tall tree waving
above its fellows. As he fished and paddled peacefully miles up the
river, he could see that treetop, and his heart never forgot what was
lying at its roots. He grew old, old, until he reached the age of
eighty-nine, but the tree-top still waved and the roots still held their
"He came to me then. I was but a boy myself, but his grandson, and he
loved me. He told me this strange tale, adding: 'Queetah, my feet must
soon travel up the long trail. I would know what peace is like before I
go on the journey--come, we will unearth the knife.' I followed where he
led. We found the weapon three feet down in the earth, where the years
had weighted it. In places the steel was still bright, but in others
dark patches of rust covered the scarlet of Black Star's blood, [Fact.]
fresh seventy-three years before.
"'It is yours,' said Ok-wa-ho, placing it in my hand. 'See, the sun
shines on it; perhaps that will lessen the darkness of the deed, but
I obeyed the Indian law. Seventy-three years this knife has lain
buried. [Fact.] It was the last law, the last law.'
"That night Ok-wa-ho began to hammer and beat and mold these silver
links. When they were finished he welded them firmly to the tomahawk,
and, just before he went up the long, long trail, he gave it to me,
saying, 'This blade has never tasted blood, it will never have dark
spots on it like those on the knife. The silver chain does not tarnish,
for it means peace, and brotherhood of all men.'"
Queetah's voice ceased. The tale was ended.
"And peace has reigned ever since?" asked the boy, still looking at the
far-off sky through the branches overhead.
"Peace has reigned ever since," replied Queetah. "The Mohawks and the
palefaces are brothers, under one law. That was the last Avenging Knife.
It is Canadian history."
The Signal Code
Ever since Benny Ellis had been a little bit of a shaver he had played
at "railroad." Not just now and again, as other boys do, but he rarely
touched a game or a sport before he would ingeniously twist it into a
"pretend" railroad. Marbles were to him merely things to be used to
indicate telegraph poles, with glass and agate alleys as stations.
Sliding down hill on a bobsleigh, he invariably tooted and whistled like
an engine, and trudging uphill he puffed and imitated a heavy freight
climbing up grade. The ball grounds were to him the "Y" at the Junction,
the shunting yards, or the turn bridge at the roundhouse, for Benny's
father was an engineer, who ran the fast mail over the big western
division of the new road, where mountains and forests were cut and
levelled and tunnelled for the long, heavy transcontinental train to
climb through, and in his own home the boy heard little but railroad
talk, so he came by his preferences honestly.
"Well, Benny, been railroading to-day?" his father would often ask
playfully, on one of the three nights in the week when he was home,
with the grime of the engine coal-oiled from his big hands, and his
blue over-jeans hanging out behind the kitchen door.
"Yes, daddy," the youngster would begin excitedly, and climbing on to
the arm of his father's chair, he would beat his little heels together
in his eagerness to get the story out in speech, and proceed to explain
how he had built a "pretend" track in the yard with curves and grades,
over which his little express cart ran "bully." "And 'round the curves
we just signal to the other train and have whistles with real meanings
to them, like a really big train."
"Oho! getting up the signal system, are you, now?" his father would
grin. "Why, you'll be big enough and wise enough soon to come on Number
27 and wipe the engine or 'fire' for daddy. Won't that be nice?" Then
the big man would set the chubby child of six years down on the floor
to play, as he winked knowingly at Benny's mother, who nodded a smiling
But it did not take many years to make Benny a pretty big boy, and
one of the boy-kind who always start schemes and devices among their
schoolfellows. He seemed to be a born leader, with a crowd of other boys
always at his heels ready to follow where he ventured, or to mimic what
he did. No one ever walked ahead of him, no one ever suggested things to
do or places to go, when the engineer's son was around. He was always
the vanguard, but fortunately was the kind of boy who rarely, if ever,
led his followers into trouble. Finally someone nicknamed him "the Con,"
as short for "Conductor," for he still played at railroading, and had
long since decided that when school days were over he would go as a
train hand, and perhaps be lucky enough to be sometimes in his father's
crew. It was about this time, when Benny was twelve, that he invented
the signal code, and more than once it got "the gang" out of serious
trouble. The little divisional town where he lived was shut in between
hills so closely that it was a veritable furnace in summer, and all who
could went out camping, or built shacks on the Three Islands in the
little lake two miles farther down the track. So Benny and his little
brother and sister went with their mother to join some neighbors
camping, and dad would come down on a hand-car on off nights to get a
breath of air, and the coal dust blown out of his keen eyes. It did not
take the shrewd engineer long to discover that the boys on the islands
had a signal code. One would stand on his boat landing and wave a strip
of white cotton into a lot of grotesque figures, and far off on another
island some other boy would reply with similar figures, and after much
"talking," the various boys would act with perfect understanding, either
meeting out on the lake, in the boats, or going swimming, or building
camp fires--it did not matter much what they decided upon, but after
these signals they all worked in unison.
And one night something happened of real import. It was just sunset one
beautiful August day, and Mr. Ellis, wearied with a long, hard run, lay
drinking in the wild beauty of the lonely lake, with its forest-covered
shores and its rocky islands. Over on the mainland the McKenzie's camp
gleamed white in the sunset. One could discern every movement in the
clear air, although the tents were a full mile, if not more, from where
the wearied engineer lay, grateful for the stillness, after hours of
the heated convulsions of the great steed he drove, day after day.
"There go the McKenzie boys for a swim, Benny," called out his father.
"Too bad you're not with them, but you and I'll go in together here,
if you like."
"All right, dad," answered Benny, leaving his fishing tackle to watch
his young neighbors. Then, "Say, the boys have a dandy beach there. I
wish ours was as good. The only trouble is you've got to swim around
that big rock to it. There's no climbing over it, and there's only one
resting place on the way, but we always go. It's great! See, dad, there
they go!" as the two white, gleaming young bodies plunged into the
lake. No sooner were they well out than right at the base of the rock,
and along the very beach they were heading for, came, stealthily and
ponderously, a huge black bear and two woolly cubs. Straight for the
water's edge they paddled their way; then stood drinking, drinking,
"Great Caesar! Benny, look, look!" yelled Mr. Ellis, sitting upright and
rigid. "The boys, the McKenzie boys are heading right round that rock.
They'll head on right into that she-bear!" Benny stood, perfectly
voiceless, paralyzed with the sight. "The animal's savage with heat and
thirst. They always are when they have cubs along, and there are those
naked boys making straight for her."
Then he sprang to his feet, yelling at the top of his lungs, "Take care!
Go back! Go back!" But the boys still swam on. They either could not
hear him, or else his voice carried no warning. "Quick, Benny!" he
shouted, "get my revolver on the shelf. I'll get the boat out. We must
go to help them. They're dead boys, as sure as anything."
But Benny had found his tongue and his wits. "There they go, climbing on
to the resting-place. They'll stay a second there, and--"
But at that instant he broke off, and dashing into the shack, seized the
white tablecloth, scattering the supper dishes far and wide. With a rush
he was at a point of rock which the dying sun flooded with a brilliant
red light. In this radiance the boy stood, swinging about his head the
white cloth until it circled five times, then dropped to his feet.
Seizing it again, he held it at arm's length in his right hand, then
dexterously tossed it over his head and caught it in his left.
"Oh, I wonder if they see me!" he cried, shakily, then once more went
through the signals. A faint, far whistle reached his ears. Then, in a
weakness of relief, he dropped down on the rocks, shouting, "They'll
never budge, dad. They understand."
But Mr. Ellis was already in the boat, revolver in hand, and three
seconds later he and Benny were pulling for all they were worth towards
the shivering swimmers, who crouched on the resting-place, unconscious
of why they must remain there, or what danger threatened.
Very little was said until Benny and his dad had them safely in the
boat, and had rowed them round the rock and pointed silently at the bear
and cubs, which still lapped the water at the edge of the beach. As
she caught sight of the boat, the mother growled sullenly, and her red
tongue dripped saliva as she started for them until she was breast high
in the water. But strong arms pulled the boat out far beyond danger, and
the tragedy that might have been was averted by a boy's invention and
quick wit. It was very late when the Ellis family had supper that night,
but Mrs. Ellis did not mind the broken and scattered dishes when she saw
what a rescue Benny had accomplished. They all talked until they were
tired, just as the McKenzie boys talked at their camp. Later Mr. and
Mrs. McKenzie rowed across the lake in the dark, to tell their gratitude
to Benny and his father. But Mr. Ellis would have none of it. "You just
owe it to Benny, here," he laughed. "But what he did with that white
tablecloth beats me."
"That's part of my signal code," said the boy, a little shyly. "I
invented it; it's our Scout Society Code, but I don't mind telling you,
after all this, that three circles of any white cloth above one's head
means 'Danger,' five circles means 'Great Danger,' and a toss from one
hand to the other up through the air means 'Don't move. Stay where you
"Well, I never knew that child's play would save my boys' lives," said
Mr. McKenzie gratefully. "I knew these kiddies had some fool 'code' they
played at, but this beats me, as well as you."
"It's no 'fool' code, friend Mack," answered the engineer. "It's what an
engine whistle or the swing of a lantern is to us trainmen, and I'm glad
our boys play at something so sensible. It's a mighty good thing once in
a while, as we saw to-day--this 'Signal Code.'"
* * * * * * * *
It was late in September when the little colony on the lake struck camp
and pulled into town. The hunting season was well on, and sportsmen
were out after deer and partridge, and Benny and his friends had been
fortunate enough to shoot two birds and a jack rabbit. This, of course,
meant that every Saturday they took to the woods, with the one little
shotgun the crowd possessed, for in the wild, new railway districts it
is a good thing for boys to learn to be good shots while yet young.
Often in the snowbound winters meat is scarce, and one's food is
frequently the result of being a dead shot, so guns in the hands of
boys of ten and twelve are nothing unusual. One wonderful autumn day
six of "the gang" had prowled the forest for hours, and had succeeded
in bugging some plump partridges, and late in the afternoon they all
sprawled out in the Indian summer sunshine, finishing the remnants of
their luncheon, and looking about the marvellous cavern that, formed by
the pine-crowned hills, lay like a cup at their feet. In and out wound
the railroad track, a lonely, isolated bit of man's handiwork threading
through the vastness of nature. It was the only sign of human life
visible, until, after a long, lazy hour, Benny sat up staring with round
eyes into the valley below. A thin scarf of blue smoke was indolently
curling up from a spot apparently in the forest. He called the attention
of the boys to it, and for want of something else to do they lay and
watched it. Presently a puff arose more rapidly. Then another.
"That's a real fire, sure enough," said Benny. "Bet you it will burn
among the timber for a month this dry season."
"Doesn't look among the timber," said another boy. "Looks as if it was
along the track."
"Let's go down there and see," said someone else, and forthwith "the
gang" scrambled to their feet, grabbed their gun and ammunition bag and
birds, and proceeded to slip and slide and scramble down the steeps,
until a half-hour brought them to the railroad, along which they ran
towards the direction from where they had seen the smoke. They ran
through a big cut, rounded an abrupt curve, and dashed right into a
cloud of smoke, while the crackle of flame spit and sparkled, bringing
them up short with speechless horror. The huge, wooden railroad trestle
spanning Whitefish Creek was in flames. For an instant the entire gang
gazed at it dumbly. Then a boy yelled:
"Great Scott, fellows, isn't it good there's no train due? She'd plunge
round this curve right into it."
Then Benny Ellis went white. "Who's got a watch?" he asked very quietly.
"My Ingersoll says five-fifteen, and she's right, too," replied Joe
Benny gulped; he seemed to find a difficulty in speaking, but the words
finally came. "My dad went down to Grey's Point to bring up a special
to-night, the Divisional Superintendent's private car and some fast
freight. They're--they're--they're due about now."
"Thanks be! Grey's Point is this side of the trestle. We can stop them,"
shouted Joe, and without argument "the gang" turned, tearing at a
breakneck pace around the curve, and through the cut, in a hopeless
effort to make their home town before the special reached it.
Breathlessly they ran for ten minutes, stumbling along the sleepers,
recovering, then forging ahead, until, cutting the evening air, came
a long, thin whistle, and immediately afterwards the black nose of an
engine and a ribbon of smoke rounded a distant curve, and came bearing
down on them at the rate of forty-five miles an hour.
"The gang" paused, standing rock still for an instant, then five of them
danced up and down, waving their arms wildly, to signal the train to
stop. But the sixth boy--Benny Ellis--white as a sheet, was tearing
madly at his collar, and dragging off his coat. Then quick as a flash he
skinned from his narrow shoulders his blue cotton shirt, faded almost
white by the summer suns, and dashing down the track towards the
oncoming engine, whirled it high above his head in five distinct
circles. while his young voice, hoarse with a frenzy of fear, shrieked,
"Father, father! Oh, dad, try to remember. Try, try!"
And from the cab of the great mogul, Engineer Ellis was peering out with
his keen eyes piercing the track ahead, his hand at the throttle.
"Jim," he called abruptly to his fireman. There was something in his
tone that made Jim fling himself to the window. Then both men exclaimed
simultaneously, "It's a hold-up."
"There's six of them, and one's got a gun," gasped the engineer. "We'll
have to crowd on steam and rush them, unless they've wrecked the track."
Then, as the huge iron monster lifted itself to greater speed, Mr. Ellis
saw something like a white flag wave in the air then fall. Once more it
circled, one, two, three, four, five times above someone's head, fell
again, then was tossed from one hand high in the air and caught in the
"Jim, I've seen that signal somewhere. It means something." Then, like a
photograph, he seemed to see a lake, two boys swimming, and a black bear
and cubs on a far shore, while Benny's voice rang in his ears: "Five
circles means 'Great danger,' and a toss from one hand to the other up
through the air means 'Don't move; stay where you are.'"
"It's the boys, Jim," gasped the engineer. "There's something wrong."
Before the words had left his lips the shrill whistle was shrieking for
"brakes"--"double brakes" at that--and the gigantic engine almost leaped
from the rails as the halter was thrown about her neck. On she rushed,
slipping, grinding, rocking in her restraint. The train crew and
passengers in the rear car pitched almost on their faces with the
violent checking of speed, until, snorting and pulsing and belching,
the great mogul came to a standstill.
"Oh, daddy, you _did_ remember, you _did_, after all!" cried a very
white-faced little boy who peered up into the cab window with horrified
eyes, while his naked shoulders heaved, and his hand clutched a torn,
faded blue shirt.
"What's the meaning of this nonsense, Ellis?" thundered an angry voice
behind him, and the superintendent, black with scowling, glared at first
the boy, then the engineer. "What's this stop for, when you know I
haven't a minute to spare getting to Dubuc? You nearly broke my neck,
too, downing brakes. What does it mean, I say?"
But when the boys, bold with excitement, dragged the great man around
the curve, and pointed to the doomed trestle, with its already falling
timbers, it was another story altogether. From the engineer's white lips
he listened to the history of Benny's "signal code." Then for a long
time the great man stood looking at the burning trestle. Once he
muttered aloud, "All our lives, a priceless engine, valuable freight,
rolling stock, _all saved_!" Then, whirling rapidly on his heel, he
said, "Ellis, we want your boy on the road when he's bigger. The boy
who can invent a useful plaything and keep his head in an emergency is
the boy we want to make into a man on the great Transcontinental. Will
you let us have him?"
"Ask Benny what he wants to do!" smiled the engineer.
"Well, little 'Signal Code' man, what do you want to do?" asked the
superintendent. "Speak, old man."
The boy was looking him directly in the eyes. "Go on the great
Transcontinental, if I get the chance," he replied.
"You'll get the chance all right," said the superintendent. "_I'll_ see
that you get it. Ellis, you may back the train down into town now.
There's lots to see to about reconstructing the trestle." Then under his
breath he added: "That's the sort of boy we want on the railroad. That's
the sort of boy!"
The Shadow Trail
A Christmas Story
Peter Ottertail was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian, who, notwithstanding
his almost eighty years, still had the fine, thin features, the upright
shoulders, and the keen, bright eyes of the ancient, warlike tribe to
which he belonged. He was a great favorite with Mr. Duncan, the earnest
Scotch minister, who had made a personal companion of Peter all through
the years he had been a missionary on the Indian Reserve; and as for the
two Duncan boys, they had literally been brought up in the hollow of the
old Indian's hands. How those boys had ever acquired the familiar names
of "Tom" and "Jerry" no one seemed to remember; they really had been
christened Alexander and Stuart by their own father in his own church.
Then Peter Ottertail had, after the manner of all Indians, given them
nicknames, and they became known throughout the entire copper-colored
congregation as "The Pony" and "The Partridge." Peter had named
Alexander, alias "Tom," "The Pony," because of his sturdy, muscular back
and firm, strong little mouth, that occasionally looked as if it could
take the bit right in its teeth and bolt; and Stuart, alias "Jerry,"
was named "The Partridge," because of his truly marvellous habit of
disappearing when you tried to drum him up to go errands or carry wood.
Fortunately for the boys themselves, they were made of the good stuff
that did not mind nicknames and jests; and when, at the ages of ten and
twelve, they were packed off to school in a distant city, they were
the very first to tell their schoolfellows Peter's pet names, which,
however, never "took root" on the school playground, "Tom" and "Jerry"
being far more to the taste of young Canadian football and lacrosse
During the school terms, old Peter Ottertail would come to the parsonage
every Sunday after church, would dine seriously with Mr. and Mrs.
Duncan, and, when saying good-bye, would always shake his head solemnly,
and say, "I'll come no more until my Pony and Partridge come home." But
the following Sunday saw him back again, and the first day of vacation
was not hailed with greater delight by the boys than by their old friend
Peter. The nearest railway station was eleven miles distant, but rain or
shine, blood-heat or zero, Peter always hitched up his own team and set
out hours too early to meet the train. On arriving at the station, he
would tie up his horses and sit smoking his black stone pipe for a long
time. The distant whistle of the incoming train alone aroused him from
rapt thought, and presently his dark old face was beaming on his boys,
who always surprised him by having grown greatly during the term, and
who made as much fuss and hilarious welcome over him as if Mr. Duncan
himself had come to drive them home. So this delightful comradeship went
on, year in, year out. The boys spent every day of their holidays in the
woods or on the river with Peter. He taught them a thousand things few
white boys have the privilege of learning. They could hollow canoes,
shape paddles, make arrows and "feather" them, season bows, distinguish
poisonous plants from harmless ones, foretell the wind and the weather,
the various moons, and the habits of game and fish, and they knew every
tale and superstition on the reserve.
One day, just before the Christmas holidays old Peter appeared at the
parsonage. Mrs. Duncan herself opened the door, smiling, sweet and a
little younger-looking than when he had seen her the previous Sunday.
"Come in! Come in, Peter!" she cried, brightly. "We're all in a turmoil,
but happy as kittens! Tom and Jerry are coming to-morrow, and bringing
two friends with them, nice boys from Jamaica, who are too far away from
their home to return for Christmas. They've never seen snow in their
lives until this winter, and we must all try to give the little fellows
a good time, Peter. I'm busy already with extra cooking. Boys must eat,
"Yes, Mis' Duncan," answered the old man, slowly, "and these snow-seers
will eat double in the north country. Yes, I'll go and fetch them with
my big lumber sleigh, and take plenty of buffalo robes and wolf skins to
keep these children of the sun warm."
Mrs. Duncan smiled. She could already hear Peter nicknaming the little
chaps from Jamaica "The Snow-Seer" and "The Sun Child," in his own
beautifully childlike and appropriate fashion. And she was quite right.
Peter had hardly shaken hands and tucked the four boys snugly into his
big bob-sleigh, before the names slipped off his tongue with the ease of
one who had used them for a lifetime.
Tom and Jerry had fully prepared their Southern friends for everything.
They had talked for hours with great pride of their father's devotion
to his Indian congregation, of their mother's love for the mission, of
the Indians' responsive affection for them, of the wonderful progress
the Mohawks had made, of their beautiful church, with its city-like
appointments, its stained windows, its full-toned organ and choir of all
Indian voices, until the Jamaica boys began to feel they were not to see
any "wild" Indians at all. Peter, however, reassured them somewhat, for,
although he was not clad in buckskin and feathers, he wore exquisitely
beaded moccasins, a scarlet sash about his waist, a small owl feather
sticking in his hat band, and his ears were pierced, displaying huge
earrings of hammered silver. Yes, they decided that Peter Ottertail was
unmistakably a Mohawk Indian.
Tom and Jerry had never entertained any boys before, and, after the
first day at home, they began to fear things would be dull for their
friends at Christmas, who always spent such gay city holidays. They
need not have worried, however, for the boys found too much novelty even
in this forest home ever to feel the lack of city life. They of course,
fell in love with old Peter at once, and not a day passed but all four
of them could be seen driving, snowshoeing, tobogganing, skating,
with the old Mohawk looming not very far distant; and, as Christmas
approached, with all its church interests, they swung into the
festivities of the remote mission with all the zest that boys in their
early teens possess.
The young Southerners had never visited at a minister's house before,
and at first they were very sedate, laughed not too loudly, and carried
themselves with the dignity of little old gentlemen; but within a day
they learned that, because a man was a great, good, noble missionary, it
did not necessarily mean that he must look serious and never enjoy any
fun with the boys. Mr. Duncan always made it a rule that no house in
existence must be more attractive to Tom and Jerry than their own home,
and that it depended very largely upon their father as to whether they
longed to stay in their own home and bring their young friends in, too,
or whether they longed to go outside their father's house to meet their
playfellows. Needless to say that, with such a father, Tom and Jerry had
a pretty good time at home, and it was only what they expected when, the
day before Christmas, as all four boys were racketing around the kitchen
and nearly convulsing Mrs. Duncan with laughter by their antics, while
she tried almost vainly to finish cooking the last savory dainties for
the morrow, that Mr. Duncan should suddenly appear in the doorway, and
"Now, boys, to-night will be Christmas Eve. You know in the heart of the
forest we can't get much in the way of entertainment, and I don't want
our young Jamaica friends to feel homesick for their beautiful, Southern
country to-night of all nights. I've racked my brains to think of some
amusement after supper this Christmas Eve, but I seem to have failed.
Can't you, Tom and Jerry, help me out?"
There was a brief silence; then, of course, the sweet busy mother spoke:
"Peter Ottertail and I have schemed together for that. I have invited
him to supper, and we are to have a roaring fire built here in the
kitchen, and Peter is to tell the four boys some Indian stories, while
you and I, father, finish the Christmas tree in the parlor. What do you
think of my idea?"
She need not have asked, for such a clamor of delight went up that her
own words were drowned.
"Excellent!" cried Mr. Duncan, when finally he could be heard.
"Excellent, for we don't want you young mischiefs in the parlor at all,
seeing your presents the day before; and the only one I know who could
keep you out is Peter. Splendid idea of yours, Mary. Boys, it's these
mothers who have the real Christmas things in their hearts."
"Yes, and in the oven, too!" laughed Mrs. Duncan, extracting therefrom a
big pan of deliciously light cake, whose spicy fragrance assailed the
boys' nostrils temptingly. "This," she continued, "is to be eaten here
in the kitchen to-night. It goes with Peter's stories."
"Jolly!" said someone, and the four youthful voices immediately swung
"For mother's a jolly good fellow,
For mother's a jolly good fellow,
For mother's a jolly good fellow,
Which nobody can deny!"
And, joining in the last line, there boomed a fifth voice which sounded
suspiciously like Mr. Duncan's.
* * * * * * * *
A crackling wood fire was roaring up the chimney from the large stove
in the kitchen. On the spotlessly white pine floor were spread soft,
grey lynx skins, one or two raccoon skins with their fluffy, ringed
tails, and a couple of red fox pelts. On these sprawled the four boys
in various and intricate attitudes. In the corner back of the stove
lounged Peter Ottertail, on a single brown buffalo robe. With a bit of
sharp-edged flint he scraped tiny curls of shavings from a half-formed
ashwood arrow, which, from time to time, he lifted even with one eye to
look along its glimmering length toward the light, to see that it was
straight and flawless, his soft, even voice warbling out the strangely
beautiful Indian tradition of
THE SHADOW TRAIL
"You young palefaces that are within my heart know well what a path
through the forest is, or what a track across the valley means, but
the Indian calls these footways 'a trail,' and some trails are hard to
follow. They hide themselves in the wilderness, bury themselves in the
swamps and swales, and sometimes a man or a buffalo must beat his own
trail where never footstep has fallen before. The Shadow Trail is not of
these, and at some time every man must walk it. I was a very small, very
young brave when I first heard of it. My grandsire used to tell me, just
as I tell you now, of the wonder country through which it led, of the
wise and knowing animals that had their lairs and dens beside it, of the
royal birds that had their nests and eyries above it, of the white stars
that hovered along its windings, of the small, whispering creatures of
the night that made music with their cobweb wings. These things all talk
with a man as he takes the Shadow Trail; and the oftener they speak and
sing to him, the higher climbs the trail; and, if he listens long enough
to their voices, he will find the trail has lifted its curving way aloft
until it creeps along the summit of the mountains, not at their base.
It is here that the stars come close, and the singing is hushed in the
great, white silence of the heights; but only he who listens to the wise
animals and the eagles and the gauzy-winged insects will ever climb so
high. This is the Shadow Trail the wild geese take on their April flight
to the north, as, honking through the rain-warm nights, they interweave
their wings with the calling wind. They leave no footprints to show
whither they go, for the northing bird is wise.
"This is the Shadow Trail that countless buffaloes thundered through
when, hunted by the white men, they journeyed into the great unknown.
Wise men who are nearing the height of the trail say they can hear the
booming of myriad hoofs, and see the tossing of unnumbered horns as
the herds of bison yet travel far ahead. This is the Shadow Trail the
Northern Lights dance upon, shimmering and pale and silvery. We Indians
call them the 'Dead Men's Fingers,' though sometimes they pour out in
great splashes of cold blue, of poisonous-looking purple, of burning
crimson and orange. We speak of them then as the 'Sky Flowers of the
North,' that scatter their deathless masses along the lifting way.
"And this is the Shadow Trail the red man has followed these many, many
moons. His moccasined feet have climbed the heights silently, slowly,
firmly. He knows it will lead beyond the canyons, beyond the crests;
that behind the mountains it merges into a vast valley of untold beauty.
We Indians call it 'the Happy Hunting Grounds.'
"Only one person ever returns from the 'Shadow Trail,' and he comes
once a year on this night--Christmas Eve. The stars wake and sing as he
passes, the Sky Flowers of the North surround him on his journey from
the summits to this valley where we live. He is a little Child, who was
born hundreds of years ago in a manger beneath the Eastern stars, in the
Land of Morning. Many times I have met him on the Shadow Trail, for I
have travelled towards its heights for nearly eighty years. Perhaps I
shall see the little Child again to-night, for Indian eyes can see a
long way. Indian ears catch oftenest the singing of the stars, and the
Indian heart both sees and hears."
Peter Ottertail's voice ceased. The boys lay very silent, the soft
fur rugs half hiding their rapt faces. No one spoke, for each was
watching the "Shadow Trail." Then the deep-toned clock struck
one--two--three--four--evenly on to twelve--midnight!
The door opened from the inner hall.
"Merry Christmas, dears! Merry Christmas!" came the hearty, loving
voices of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, as they bustled into the kitchen, the
boys and Peter all scrambling to their feet to meet them.
"Merry Christmas! And off to bed with the whole lot of you, or we'll
have a nice pack of sleepyheads in the morning! Peter, you're surely not
going home to-night!" as the old Indian began to get into his overcoat
and scarlet sash.
"Yes," he said, "I'll go." And, after gay good wishes and handshakes,
the old man went out into the night, perhaps to watch for the Christmas
Child coming down the Shadow Trail!
The Saucy Seven
Probably Bob Stuart would never have been asked to join the camping
party had he not been the best canoeist in the Club. He was so much
younger than the other half dozen that composed the party that his
joining was much discussed, but there were no two opinions about Bob's
paddling nor yet about his ability to pitch a tent, cast a fly, shoot
small game at long range, and, when you are far up North, on a canoe
cruise, and have to depend on the forest and river to supply your
dinner, you don't sneer at an enthusiastic fisherman or a good shot. So
one royal August day Bob found himself on the train with six University
graduates, bound for "up North," for a glorious three weeks' outing.
Their canoes, tents and duffle were all stored away in the express car
ahead. Their cares and their studies were packed away in the weeks left
behind, their hearts as merry, their clothes as hideous as a jolly crowd
of merry-makers could desire. It was a long, hot, dusty railway journey,
but at last the tiny Northern railway station hove in sight, the rasping
screech of the sawmill rivalled the shrill call of the locomotive, and
directly behind the little settlement stretched the smooth surface of
"Lake Nameless," ready and waiting to be ruffled by the dip of paddle
It does not take long for seven practical campers to get their kit and
canoes in shape to pitch canvas for the night, and just as the sun
dropped behind a rim of dense fir forest, "the Saucy Seven," as the boys
had christened themselves, lighted their first camp fire and hung their
kettle for supper. The two tents were already up, white and gleaming
against the lake line, the three cruising canoes were safely beached for
the night, blankets were already spread over beds of hemlock boughs, and
the goodly smell of frying bacon arose temptingly in the warm, still,
twilight air. Seven hungry mouths took a long time to be satisfied, but
the frying-pan and the tea-pot were empty at last, and the boys ready to
turn in early, after their long journey and busy settling. The first
night in camp is always a restless one. The flapping tent, the straining
guy ropes, the strange wild sounds and scents seem to prop your eyelids
open for hours. The night birds winging overhead, the far laugh of loons
across the waters, the twigs creaking and snapping beneath the feet of
little, timid animals, the soft singing of the pines above the canvas,
these things get into one's blood, one's brain, and almost before you
know it the night is gone, and a whole chorus of song arises with the
coming of day. There is nothing in all the world more enjoyable than
tumbling from your blankets, to unlace the "flap" of the tent, to fling
it wide and step out into the soft grey world before sunrise, to swallow
whole breaths of fresh, sweet morning air; then to plunge into a still,
cool lake, and drive sleep from the corners of your eyes, as the winking
sun drives night from the forest. Then another enjoyable thing is to
have Tom, Dick or Harry hustle about and get the kettle boiling and fish
frying while you are yet plunging about like a frog, and by the time you
have rushed ashore, and into your shorts and sweater and "wigwam" shoes,
the aforesaid pleasant persons have breakfast ready, and you come around
just in time to make away with vast bowls of coffee, and unlimited fish
This is all very well, if you have the whole lake and its outletting
river all to yourselves, with no one to scare the fish and game, and
none to trespass on your camp ground; but picture to yourselves the
consternation that assailed the boys when, the following night, the
train brought in another camping crowd, that trailed up the shore with
a great deal of fuss, and pitched camp directly across the point from
them--a crowd of at least ten men. No rollicking boys there, all big,
full-grown men with beards and whiskers, with a dozen gun cases,
stretcher camp beds, and some scarlet velvet rugs--actually _rugs_.
The boys just stood and stared, then sneered.
"Nice 'Saucy Seven' those chaps will make of our holiday," groaned one
of the grads. "'Sorry Seven,' we'd better call ourselves, I say, and
to-morrow I'm for moving, striking camp at daylight and getting away
from that gang that camps with _rugs_." The last word took on the
expression of an article of actual disgrace. "Hello! They're running up
the colors," interrupted Bob. "It's a Union Jack, all right. Perhaps
they're not such rummies, after all."
Then, after much peering and squinting, they made out that the biggest
tent stretched directly at the base of the flagstaff, and contained the
despised scarlet rugs, which the boys were still jeering at when they
noticed a little canoe, singly manned, put out from the rocky ledge and
make swiftly towards them. The Saucy Seven unbent sufficiently to all
go in a body to the landing. Their minds were fully made up to invite
the intruder to "shinny on his own side," and not come "moseying"
around the camp, when the canoeist beached his bow and sprang lightly
ashore. He was a very handsome young man, clean shaven and merry-eyed,
and, touching his cap lightly, he said in a tremendously English voice:
"Beg pardon, gentlemen, sorry to trouble you, but His Excellency, the
Governor-General, presents his compliments, and would you kindly lend
him a can of condensed milk? Our cook seems to have forgotten
everything. We haven't a drop for our coffee."
The Saucy Seven raised seven disgraceful-looking caps, but only one
spoke. It was the biggest grad. "Why, we're honored. We had no idea who
"Oh, that's all right," answered the Englishman. "You know His
Excellency goes camping for a day or two every year, just for the fun
and fish and things."
"Fish? Does he like fish?" asked Bob. Then, without waiting for a reply,
he disappeared, only to return with the can of condensed milk and three
splendid four-pound bass he had landed for their own supper. He looked
shyly at the young aide-de-camp, handing him the can, and said, "Will
you present our compliments to His Excellency, and ask him to accept
these for supper?"
"Delighted, I'm sure," said the officer. "He's fond of bass. Thanks
for the milk, gentlemen. Perhaps we can help you out some time." And
in another minute the canoe was skimming away towards the point, where
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