In that time we had two snows, one a severe one, but our cabin roof was secure and we defied it. Jerry wanted to stay at the cabin all winter, a wish that I might easily have shared, for the life in the open and the companionship of the boy had put new marrow into my dry bones. I had smuggled into camp three books, “Walden,” “Rolf in the Woods” and “Treasure Island,” one for Jerry’s philosophy, one for his practical existence and one for his imagination. In the evenings sometimes I read while Jerry whittled, and sometimes Jerry read while I worked at the snowshoes or the vessels of birch bark.
[Illustration: “In the evenings sometimes I read while Jerry whittled.”]
In those two months was formed the basis of Jerry’s idea of life as seen through the philosophy of Roger Canby. We had many talks, and Jerry asked many questions, but I answered them all, rejoicing in his acuteness in following a line of thought to its conclusion, a procedure which, as I afterward discovered, was to cause me anxious moments. “Walden” made him thoughtful, but he caught its purpose and understood its meaning. “Rolf in the Woods” made his eyes bright with the purpose of achievement in woodcraft and a desire (which I suppressed) to stalk and kill a deer. But “Treasure Island” touched some deeper chord in his nature than either of the other books had done. He followed Jim and the Squire and John Silver in the Hispaniola with glowing eyes.
“But are there bad men like that now out in the world, Mr. Canby?” he broke in excitedly.
“There are bad men in the world, Jerry,” I replied coolly.
“Like John Silver?”
“Not precisely. Silver’s only a character. This didn’t really happen, you know, Jerry. It’s fiction.”
“A story, like Grimm’s tales.”
“Oh!” His jaw dropped and he stared at me. “What a pity!”
I had wanted to stir in him a knowledge of evil and chose the picturesque as being the least unpleasant. But he couldn’t believe that old John Silver and the Squire and Benn Gunn hadn’t been real people. The tale dwelt in his mind for days, but the final defeat of the mutineers seemed to satisfy him as to the intention of the narrative.
“If there are evil men in the world like those mutineers, Mr. Canby, it must be a pretty bad place to live in,” was the final comment, and I made no effort to undeceive him.
It is not my intention to dwell too long upon the first stages of my tutorship, which presented few difficulties not easily surmounted, but it is necessary in order to understand Jerry’s character that I set down a few facts which show certain phases of his development. Of his physical courage, at thirteen, I need only relate an incident of one of our winter expeditions. We were hunting coons one night with the dogs, a collie and the bull pup, which now rejoiced in the name of Skookums, already mentioned. The dogs treed their game three miles from the Manor house, and when we came up were running around the tree, whimpering and barking in a high state of excitement. The night was dark and the branches of the tree were thick, so we could see nothing, but Jerry clambered up, armed with a stout stick, and disappeared into the gloom overhead.