Andrew Lang.

The red book of animal stories online

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quickening his steps, arrived shortly at the outskirts of
the forest in sight of a great green plain with a line of
mountains beyond. To his joy a thin column of smoke
in the distance gave signs of some habitation, and he struck
at once towards it.



346 HOW TOM WAS BORN A FRENCHMAN

It had grown dark before the Captain reached the hut
from which came the smoke. As he drew near he saw
that the door stood open and that a bright fire burnt on
the hearth within. Before the fire the dark shadow of a
woman passed to and fro.

He paused on the threshold, asking leave to enter, and
on receiving an answering grunt, he stepped in and drew
up an old stool near the fire. Opposite him crouched a
young Sioux Indian, holding his head between his hands
and seeming deaf to any sound of the stranger's approach.

Pamphile looked at him, wondering were he friend or
foe.

' Does my brother sleep ? ' he asked at last.

The Indian raised his head and pointed to one of his
eyes which had evidently just been shot out by an arrow.
The Captain asked no more questions, but turning to the
old woman said : ' The traveller is tired and hungry ;
can his mother give him food and shelter ? '

' There is a cake under those ashes and a bearskin in
yonder corner,' replied she. ' My son can eat the one
and sleep in the other. '

' Have you nothing else to eat ? ' inquired Pamphile.

' Oh, yes ; I've got other things,' said the crone, fixing a
longing gaze on the Captain's watch-chain. ' I have
that's a fine chain of my son's I have salted buffalo and
some good venison. I wish I had such a chain.'

' Well, well, bring me some meat,' replied Pamphile,
avoiding a refusal ; ' and have you a bottle of corn brandy
by you ? '

The old 1 woman raised a partition of matting and
disappeared into the inner part of the hut. As she
vanished the Indian raised his head.

' Does my brother know where he is ? ' he asked the
Captain.

' Ton my word, no,' was the careless answer.

' Has my brother any weapon with which he could
defend himself? '




THE CAPTAIN HAD A STKAXGE DKEAM



HOW TOM WAS BORN A FRENCHMAN 349

' None.'

' Then let him take this knife, and be careful not to go
to sleep.'

' And you ? ' asked Pamphile, hesitating to accept.

' I have my tomahawk silence ! '

So saying, he dropped his head between his hands
again and became immovable.

The old woman raised the matting and brought in
supper, and the Captain slipped the knife into his belt,

The woman's eyes turned to the chain once more.

' No doubt,' said she, ' my son met some white man
on the war-path. He slew the man and took his
chain.'

' You are mistaken, mother,' said the Captain ; ' I have
been hunting buffalo and beaver as far up as Lake
Superior ; then I took the skins to the town and changed
half for this watch-chain.'

' I have two sons,' remarked the woman, placing the
supper on the table. ' They have hunted these ten years,
but have never managed to get such a chain as that.
My son said he was hungry and thirsty ; let him eat and
drink.'

' Does not my brother of the prairie sup ? ' asked
Pamphile, drawing his stool to the table.

' Pain stops appetite,' was the reply. ' I am not
hungry, but I am weary, and going to sleep. May the
Great Spirit keep my brother.'

' How many skins did my son give for the chain ? '
began the covetous woman.

'Fifty.' said Pamphile at haphazard, falling to on
his supper.

' I have ten bear and twenty beaver skins here. I will
give them for the chain/

* The chain is fastened to the watch.' replied the Cap-
tain. ' They cannot be separated, nor do I wish to get rid
of them.'

' It is well," said the woman with an evil smile. ' Let



350 HOW TOM WAS BOEN A FRENCHMAN

my son keep them. Every living man is master of
his property ; only the dead possess nothing.'

The Captain glanced hastily towards the Indian, who
did not move, and fell to on his supper as heartily as if he
feared no danger. When he had finished he threw
himself on the buffalo skin, but with no idea of going to
sleep.

He had not been lying down very long, when the
matting was raised and the woman peeped in cautiously.
Neither sleeper stirred, so she went to the door of the hut
and listened. No one was in sight, and she turned back
and began to sharpen a long knife. The Captain watched
her through his eyelashes and drew his own knife from
his belt, opened it, and felt the edge.

Then steps were heard, and a minute later two big
young men appeared bearing some game. They paused
to look at the sleepers, and one of them asked his mother
how they came there. For reply she led them silently
behind the partition.

The Captain noiselessly turned so as to face the young
Sioux, and noticed that, though apparently sound asleep,
his head rested only on one hand, while the other lay by
his side near his tomahawk.

Just then the matting was raised and the young men
crawled silently under it, their mother's head just peeping
out behind them.

Each approached one of the sleepers, then paused,
looking at their mother.

' They sleep,' she w r hispered ; ' go on ! '

At her word each son raised his arm to strike, but
instantly fell back with a cry.

The Captain had plunged his knife into the breast of
one, and the Sioux had split the skull of the other.

The old woman uttered a despairing shriek, and
rushed off to the forest, and the Indian, picking up a
lighted brand from the hearth, proceeded to set fire to the
hut, whilst he executed a triumphant war dance round it.



HOW TOM WAS BOEN A FBENCHMAN 351

Then he turned to Captain Pamphile : ' Where does
my brother wish to go ? ' he said.

' To Philadelphia.'

' Follow me, then,' and the Indian strode towards
the forest.

They walked all night, and at daybreak came to the
open plains. Here the Indian halted.

' My brother has arrived,' he said ; ' from the top of
that mountain he will see Philadelphia.'

With these words he plunged back into the forest,
a-nd the Captain set out to climb the mountain.

On reaching the top he found his guide had said true,
and he saw Philadelphia lying between the green waters
of the Delaware and the blue waves of the ocean. Off
he started in high glee, though his goal looked quite a
two days' march off. He was stepping briskly along,
humming a tune and swinging a stick, when he noticed
a black object at some distance. As he drew nearer the
object seemed to approach too, and at length he made it
out to be a negro.

This was lucky, for he wished to find some place
where he could sleep. So he hurried on till he was face
to face with the person he had seen.

Then he discovered his mistake. It was not a negro
but a bear !

The Captain saw his danger, but he did not lose his
presence of mind though a glance round showed him
there was no means of escape.

The bear on his side halted some yards off and
examined the Captain.

The Captain reflected that many bullies are cowards
at heart, and that possibly the bear might be as much
afraid of him as he was of the bear ; so he advanced.

The bear, not a bit frightened, advanced too.

The Captain turned on his heels to retreat, but after
three steps found his way barred by a rock. Leaning
against it, so as not to be surprised in the rear, he waited.



352 HOW TOM WAS BORN A FRENCHMAN

He had not long to wait. The bear, a huge animal,
followed exactly in his footsteps and marched straight
upon him.

The situation was unpleasant, for the Captain's only
weapon was his stick, and when the bear arrived within
two paces of him, the Captain raised it. The bear in-
stantly rose on his hind legs and began to dance !

It was a tame bear, which had broken loose and
escaped.

Captain Pamphile, reassured by his enemy's deport-
ment, now noticed that he was muzzled, and that part of
the broken chain still hung at his neck.

He at once saw all the advantages to be derived from
such companionship, so, seizing the end of the chain, he
resumed his journey, leading the bear like a dog.

Towards evening, as they were crossing a great field,
he noticed that the bear tried to stop near certain plants,
which were unknown to him. Thinking there must be
some special reason for this, he made a halt the next time
it happened. The bear began to claw the ground and
grubbed up a number of tubers or roots. Pamphile tasted
one, and found it excellent, with a flavour reminding him
of truffles. This was a valuable discovery, so he let the
bear continue his hunt, and in an hour they had collected
an ample supper for man and beast.

Then the Captain took note of a tree standing by
itself, and having carefully examined it without discover-
ing the trace of any reptile, he tied his bear to the trunk,
used his back as a stepping-stone to the branches, and
soon made himself a bed, where he slept soundly all
night.

Next morning he woke refreshed and saw the bear
sleeping quietly below. He climbed down and roused
him, and both marched on so briskly that they reached
Philadelphia by eleven o'clock that night.

Here a fresh difficulty arose. No innkeeper cared to
house a savage bear at such a late hour. One after




A A



HOW TOM WAS BORN A FRENCHMAN 355

another refused, and our Captain was beginning to despair
when he spied a brightly lighted inn from which came
sounds of singing and laughing. He felt certain some
ship's crew was making merry within, and pressed on,
when the sound of a well-known song of his own country
caused him to stop suddenly. He listened, with a
heart beating for joy, and waited for the chorus. Yes,
he was right ! These were his fellow-countrymen, and,
looking through the open door, he saw that they were not
only his countrymen, but the crew of his own ship the
' Eoxalana.'

He did not hesitate an instant. Thanks to his priva-
tions and adventures he was hardly recognisable. He
pushed the door wide open and walked in, followed by his
bear.

A loud cheer greeted them.

The Captain regretted not having held any rehearsal,
but the bear took the whole matter into his own hands
or paws.

He began by trotting round to clear a circle. The
sailors stood on the benches, the first mate seated himself
on the top of the stove, and the show began.

Eveiything a bear could learn that bear knew. He
danced the minuet, rode astride on a broomstick, and
pointed out the greatest rogue in the company. Such a
shout of delight greeted the end of the performance that
the mate offered to buy the bear as a present to the crew.

The Captain accepted the offer, but slipped out at the
beginning of the second part of the performance without
being recognized by any one.

He made his way to the harbour, and after some time
succeeded in finding the ' Eoxalana,' swung himself on
deck, and went quietly down to his cabin and to bed.

The crew came on board much later, and what was
their surprise next morning to see their missing captain
appear among them and take command of the vessel as
if he had never been absent.

AA2



356 HOW TOM WAS BOEN A FBENCHMAN

He at once set sail for France, taking the bear with
him, and as soon as possible after reaching port he set
out for Paris, intending to present his capture to Monsieur
Cuvier, the naturalist.

Just after reaching Paris, the bear gave birth to two
little cubs, and the Captain, always pleased with a good
bargain, sold one to the hotel-keeper, who sold it again
to an English gentleman by whom it was brought to
London.

The other cub was sold to Alexandre Decamps, who
named it ' Tom,' and confided its education to his friend
Fau, with the admirable results we have read of in the
' Blue Animal Story Book.'

(Adapted from A. Dumas.)



357



CHAELEY

IT is nearly seventy years since an American, named
Catlin, set out from his home in Wyoming to travel
westwards through the great country which was then
only inhabited by Indians and wild animals, but is now
full of flourishing towns.

In the course of one of these journeys Catlin fell very
ill, and it was many weeks before he was fit to leave his
bed. When, however, he got better again, he sent for
his horse, Charley, which had grown fat on prairie grass
and looked very unlike his master and the two pre-
pared to start for the Eiver Missouri, more than five
hundred miles away.

Catlin's heavy luggage was sent by steamer to meet
him at St. Louis, on the Mississippi, but there was still a
good deal left for Charley to carry. A bear-skin and a
buffalo robe were spread across his saddle, a coffee-pot
and a teacup were tied to it, a small portmanteau was
fastened somewhere else, and in the portmanteau was a
supply of hard biscuits ; while Catlin sat in any space
that was left, with a little compass in his pocket to show
him which way to go, and a gun and a pair of pistols in
his belt, in case man or beast should attack him.

So day after day Charley and his master rode on
toward the north, through plains of grass all covered
with flowers. Every night when the sun set Catlin
jumped off and unloaded his horse, which he tied up, or
' picketed,' with a long rope, so that Charley should have
plenty of room for feeding. Then he lit a fire to keep off



358 CHAELEY

the wolves, whose snarls and howls were always to be
heard in the distance, and lying down on his bearskin
with his saddle for a pillow and his buffalo robe for a
blanket, Catlin curled himself up, and slept soundly till
morning.

One evening Charley was picketed as usual, and his
master had gone down to the banks of the stream to get
some water for his coffee, when the horse, being in a
mischievous frame of mind, slipped his rope, and went off
towards a patch of grass, which he thought looked much
greener and juicier than what he had been eating. Catlin
soon saw what had happened, and picking up the lasso
with which wild horses are always caught, he started
after the runaway.

But it was no use ; Charley knew all about lassoes,
and exactly how far it was safe to let them get near you.
Besides, he wanted to have a little fun and to tease his
master, and each time the lasso was thrown Charley was
always just a tiny bit out of reach. It soon grew too dark
even to see where the horse was, and as Catlin was still
weak from his illness, and easily tired, he gave up the
chase, and stretching himself out before the fire, made
up his mind that he would have to finish his journey on
foot.

It was the middle of the night when he woke with a
start, feeling some huge creature bending over him. An
Indian, of course, which had tracked him while he slept,
and had followed him to take his scalp ! For an
instant the poor man's heart stood still ; then a soft nose
touched him and the Indians' noses are not soft, and
they are not much in the habit of rubbing people's faces
with them ! It must be Charley after all, and Charley it
was, standing with bis fore-paws on his master's bed, his
head nodding in a sound slumber !

As soon as Catlin got over his fright he went off to
sleep again, and did not wake until the sun was well
above the horizon. His first thought was for Charley,




THEN A SOFT NOSE TOUCHED HIJI



*A A 4



CHARLEY 361

and great was his relief to see that naughty animal having
breakfast at the edge of the stream, looking as if no idea
of running away had ever occurred to him ! But he was
still inclined for a game, for when his master, after a
hasty meal of coffee and biscuit, came down to the stream
to catch him, Charley danced about a little more, taking
care just to keep out of reach.

At last Catlin thought he would try what a trick
would do, and flinging the skins round his own body, and
the saddle over his back, he began to walk away. For a
quarter of a mile he tramped on steadily without once
looking round, then he took a hasty glance over his
shoulder. Charley was standing quite still near the
fire, which was still burning, watching his master.
Suddenly he went straight up to the place where Catlin
had slept, and finding nothing there, threw up his head
and neighed loudly. In another moment something
rushed wildly past Catlin, who was walking steadily on,
and, wheeling sharply round, stood trembling before him.

Catlin took care not to do anything which might
startle the penitent, and called him gently by his name.
But Charley had had a fright, too, and had no longer any
wish to play with his master. So when Catlin drew
near him with the bridle in his hand, he actually bent
his head to receive it, and remained perfectly quiet while
the saddle was being fastened on his back.

All through that day they journeyed on over the
prairie, with its endless waves of flowery grass, and late
in the afternoon arrived at a beautiful little valley, where
Catlin determined to pass the night and this time he
determined he would run no risks with Charley. A clear
stream ran through a smooth lawn, and in the stream were
fish, and on it was a brood of fine young ducks. Large
trees were dotted over the smooth grass, and between the
wild plum and cherry trees laden with fruit hung vines
bearing clusters of purple grapes. Underneath, the ground
was bright with sunflowers and sweet with lilies and violets.



362 CHARLEY

No place could be more lovely and peaceful ; and after
making a hearty supper of perch and broiled duck, Catlin
went for a stroll to explore a little further.

Five hundred miles is a long way to ride, and in the
course of his journey through the prairies Catlin had to
cross several of the big rivers which run into the
Missouri or the Mississippi. This was not always easy,
for there were no bridges to be found, and the streams
were often both deep and rapid. There was also another
danger to be feared, besides that of being drowned or
falling a prey to the Indians ; and this was the very deep
ditches or sunken streams, with their tops entirely hidden
by the long grass, into which a horse might suddenly fall
and injure himself and his rider. After a while, Catlin
learned to be on the look-out for these pitfalls, and to
know their signs, and as they had to be crossed somehow,
there was nothing for it but to go at them boldly, and to
trust to luck to getting out again. This was generally a
very difficult matter ; the streams were often full of mud,
and till you were in the middle of them you had no
notion how deep they were, and not always then. On
one occasion Catlin had ridden along the edge of a stream
of this kind, in order to find a ford, but as this seemed
hopeless, he plunged in at a place where it was six or
eight yards wide as to the bottom, they never touched
that at all. They made for the bank, which was of clay, and
rose straight out of the water. Catlin managed to catch
hold of the top and drag himself up, clutching Charley's
bridle in his hand; but he saw directly it was quite
impossible for the poor horse to follow him. Still holding
the bridle, Catlin pushed his way for a mile through the
tall grass, that often closed in above his head, Charley
patiently swimming all the while in the thick muddy
water. At length it was clear he could not keep up much
longer, and his master, nearly as exhausted as himself,
was just about to drop the bridle, and leave him to his
fate, when they came to a spot where the banks had been



CHAELEY 363

trodden down by a herd of buffaloes, and, trembling with
fatigue and fear, Charley staggered out, and lay down in
the soft grass to be dried by the sun.

When the two travellers reached the Osage river they
found it so swollen by the heavy rains that it had spread
to a width of sixty or eighty yards, and had a fierce and
rapid current that swept everything before it. Catlin at
once unloaded Charley and tied him safely up to feed,
while he wandered along the banks for some distance
collecting all the wood that had been carried down by the
stream and had stuck along the edge. With this he
made a small raft, and on the raft he lashed his skins,
his guns, his portmanteau, and even the clothes he had
on. This done, Charley was driven into the river, and
left to cross by himself, which he managed very well, in
spite of the current, and soon might be seen enjoying his
dinner on the opposite shore. Then his master plunged
in after him, and pushing the raft in front, landed it safely
about half a mile below. This sounds easy enough in
the telling, but any one who has ever watched a river in
flood, and knows the great trees and big animals that it
hurries along, will understand how many things Catlin
had to dodge in that short distance, and how glad he
must have felt to be on Charley's back again.



364



FAIRY RINGS; AND THE FAIRIES WHO
MAKE THEM

TKAVELLEKS along the great grassy plains that extend for
hundreds of miles on the eastern side of the Rocky
Mountains, to an immense distance north and south,
have been surprised to see dotted about, circles of grass
much greener and richer than the rest of the country, to
which they have given the name of ' fairy rings.'

They might watch for many moonlight nights without
seeing the fairies making these rings in their dances, or if
any traveller did happen to pass them by, he would not
for one moment guess whose fairy feet tread made the
grass so thick and bright. For the real fairies are huge
clumsy creatures, with such enormous heads that it
seems as if the animal must always be tumbling over
from the weight, and they are covered from head to foot
with very dark thick hair, which forms a dense shaggy
mane over the head and shoulders. And these fairies
have horns, not long, but very powerful, and are fond of
fighting, which they have plenty of time for, as they are
very sociable, and live together in large herds, some-
times, as many as three or four thousand at once. And
they are known in the countries they inhabit by the name
of bisons or buffaloes.

Now, it may be thought that the buffaloes which live
on the prairies or plains on the borders of Texas and
Mexico would lead a much easier and pleasanter life than
their brothers far away up in Canada, but this is not so.



FAIRY BINGS 365

After passing a winter amidst the deep snow of the north
they are a great deal fatter and stronger than if they
had been spending it in the sunny south. For the
grass and juicy plants on which the buffaloes feed have
been completely dried up during a long hot autumn,
while in Canada the animals can generally manage to get
good grass by scraping away the snow, which has kept the
herbage wholesome and fresh under its] white covering.

Still, in Canada, as well as in Texas, the summers are
very hot, and the poor buffaloes, in their thick coats,
suffer a great deal. So they seek out some low plain,
where they know by experience that there is a chance
of finding a marshy place left by the winter's rains.
What happiness for the poor tired creatures who have
been walking perhaps for hours under the burning sun,
carrying their huge bodies, which often weigh as much as
2,000 lb., to come on one of these little oases, as they
would be called in Arabia or the Sahara ! But even the
prospect of a cool bath does not affect their good manners
and sense of discipline. They all hold back and let the
leader of the herd come forward. He sinks carefully on
one knee in the soft green place, and putting down his
head, stirs up the wet earth, so that the water gradually
bubbles up, and a little pool is formed, though, to be sure,
it is more liquid mud than anything else. When the bull
has got all the water he -thinks he is likely to have, he
throws himself on his side, and turns himself round two
or three times till he has made a circular pond large
enough to cover him almost entirely. Then he feels com-
fortable again, and comes out, such a mass of mud from
head to foot that it is wonderful how he manages to
walk at all.

Sometimes it happens that the leader of the herd will
not take the trouble to make the pool for himself, but
suffers one of the other bulls to begin the work, which is the
most difficult part. However, when this is done, the
leader (who has been chosen by the rest as being stronger



366 FAIEY RINGS

and a better fighter than any of the other bulls) comes
forward, and goes straight into the bath that has been
prepared for him. The remainder of the herd stand
humbly by till he has had enough, and the moment he
steps out, the bull of next importance steps in, and so
on till all have had their turn. By this time the hole is
often fifteen or twenty feet across, and two feet deep, and
into this the water gradually bubbles up. In a few years'
time the place is covered with fresh green grass, that
looks even greener by the contrast with the burnt-up stuff


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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe red book of animal stories → online text (page 21 of 22)