An Indian at last.
“What’s the matter?” asked Philip, rubbing his eyes, for he was hardly able—so suddenly had he been roused from sleep—to comprehend the situation.
Henry, as white as a sheet, could only point at the tall Indian, who, standing motionless, was gazing as intently at the boys.
He made one step forward, and Henry thought he was about to be killed and scalped forthwith.
“Oh, Mr. Indian Chief,” he exclaimed, in tremulous accents, “don’t kill me! I—I ain’t ready to die!”
The Indian looked amazed, and laughed gutturally, but did not speak. His laugh increased Henry’s dismay.
“I’ve got a revolver. I’ll give it to you if you won’t kill me,” continued Henry.
Then the Indian spoke.
“Why should I kill white boy?” he asked in a mild tone, which ought to have convinced Henry that he had nothing to fear.
But the boy was so frenzied with terror, and so possessed of the thought that the Indian was just like the savage warriors of the plains, of whom he had read so much, that he still felt his life to be in danger, and answered the question in a way not expected.
“I suppose you want my scalp,” he said; “but I am only a boy, and I don’t mean any harm. I hope you’ll spare my life.”
Another fit of guttural laughter from the Indian, which perplexed Henry, and after a pause he said:
“Me no want white boy’s scalp! Me good Indian!”
An immense burden seemed lifted from poor Henry’s breast.
“Then you don’t want to kill me?” he said.
“Then why do you come here?”
“Me live here.”
The secret was out—a secret which Philip had suspected from the first, though Henry had not dreamed of it.
They had lain down in the Indian’s cabin, appropriating his blanket, and were simply intruders.
Philip thought it was time for him to take part in the conversation,
“I hope you’ll excuse us,” he said, “for coming here. We had no idea any one lived here.”
“No matter,” said the Indian civilly—that being one of the phrases which his knowledge of English included.
“Henry,” said Philip, “let us get up. We are sleeping in this—this gentleman’s bed.”
He felt a little at a loss how to designate the Indian, but felt that it was best to be as polite as possible.
The two boys started up, in order to yield to the master of the house the bed which properly belonged to him.
“No,” said the Indian, with a wave of his hand. “White boys stay there. Indian sleep anywhere.”
So saying, he lay down in one corner of the cabin, and settled himself apparently to repose.
“But,” said Philip, “we don’t want to take your bed.”
“No matter!” said the Indian once more.