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Under the Redwoods eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 186 pages of information about Under the Redwoods.
through quiet and the simplest environment.  The lee side of a straggling vine in the meadow, or even the thin ridge of cast-up drift on the shore, behind which they would lie for hours motionless, was a sufficient barrier against prying eyes.  In this occupation they no longer talked together, but followed each other with the blind instinct of animals—­yet always unerringly, as if conscious of each other’s plans.  Strangely enough, it was the real animal alone—­their nameless dog—­who now betrayed impatience and a certain human infirmity of temper.  The concealment they were resigned to, the sufferings they mutely accepted, he alone resented!  When certain scents or sounds, imperceptible to their senses, were blown across their path, he would, with bristling back, snarl himself into guttural and strangulated fury.  Yet, in their apathy, even this would have passed them unnoticed, but that on the second night he disappeared suddenly, returning after two hours’ absence with bloody jaws—­replete, but still slinking and snappish.  It was only in the morning that, creeping on their hands and knees through the stubble, they came upon the torn and mangled carcass of a sheep.  The two men looked at each other without speaking—­they knew what this act of rapine meant to themselves.  It meant a fresh hue and cry after them—­it meant that their starving companion had helped to draw the net closer round them.  The Indian grunted, Li Tee smiled vacantly; but with their knives and fingers they finished what the dog had begun, and became equally culpable.  But that they were heathens, they could not have achieved a delicate ethical responsibility in a more Christian-like way.

Yet the rice-fed Li Tee suffered most in their privations.  His habitual apathy increased with a certain physical lethargy which Jim could not understand.  When they were apart he sometimes found Li Tee stretched on his back with an odd stare in his eyes, and once, at a distance, he thought he saw a vague thin vapor drift from where the Chinese boy was lying and vanish as he approached.  When he tried to arouse him there was a weak drawl in his voice and a drug-like odor in his breath.  Jim dragged him to a more substantial shelter, a thicket of alder.  It was dangerously near the frequented road, but a vague idea had sprung up in Jim’s now troubled mind that, equal vagabonds though they were, Li Tee had more claims upon civilization, through those of his own race who were permitted to live among the white men, and were not hunted to “reservations” and confined there like Jim’s people.  If Li Tee was “heap sick,” other Chinamen might find and nurse him.  As for Li Tee, he had lately said, in a more lucid interval:  “Me go dead—­allee samee Mellikan boy.  You go dead too—­allee samee,” and then lay down again with a glassy stare in his eyes.  Far from being frightened at this, Jim attributed his condition to some enchantment that Li Tee had evoked from one of his gods—­just as he himself

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