The Shagganappi

by Emily Pauline Johnson



The King Georgeman


CHAPTER I.

    “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 Georgeman.”
    “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.” [Page 191]
    “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 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 gray 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 [Page 192] 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 me 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’ve come.”
    “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 eye.
    “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 [Page 193] handsome Mexican saddle, a crop, a quirt, fringed gauntlet gloves, chaps, Stetson hat, a 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 of you!”
    “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 engendered confidence.
    “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 [Page 194] 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 know, me.”
    “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 [Page 195] 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 timid terrified.
    “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 deal.” [Page 196]
    “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 timber-line 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.

CHAPTER II.

    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 [Page 197] 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 dead sick!”
    “Don’t!” choked the man; “oh, boy, don’t come near me, I’ve got smallpox.”
    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. [Page 198]
    “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 gray despair.
    “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. [Page 199] Snooks would become delirious with fever, and the torture of the foul disease would be 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 scourge 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 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. I had—”
    “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 [Page 200] 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 days.”
    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. [Page 201]
    Presently a 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 “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 him at him hard. “I wish I had a son like you,” he remarked.
    “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 [Page 202] 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.’” [Page 203]