The Shagganappi

by Emily Pauline Johnson



The Shagganappi


    WHEN “Fire-Flint” Larocque said good-bye to his parents, up in the Red River Valley, and started forth for his first term in an Eastern college, he knew that the next few years would be a fight to the very teeth. If he could have called himself “Indian” or “White” he would have known where he stood in the great world of Eastern advancement, but he was neither one nor the other—but here he was born to be a thing apart, with no nationality in all the world to claim as a blood heritage. All his young life he had been accustomed to hear his parents and himself referred to as “half-breeds,” until one day, when the Governor-General of all Canada paid a visit to the Indian school, and the principal, with an air of pride, presented “Fire-Flint” to His Excellency, with “This is our head pupil, the most diligent boy in the school. He is Trapper Larocque’s son.”
    “Oh? What tribe does he belong to?” asked the Governor, as he clasped the boy’s hand genially.
    “Oh, Fire-Flint belongs to no tribe; he is a half-breed,” explained the principal.
    “What an odd term!” said the Governor, with a perplexed wrinkle across his brows; then, “I imagine you mean a half-blood, not breed.” His voice was chilly and his eyes a little cold as he looked rather haughtily at the principal. “I do not like the word ‘breed’ applied to human beings. It is a term for cattle and not men,” he continued. Then, addressing “Fire-Flint,” he asked, “Who are your parents, my boy?”
[Page 11]
    “My father is half French and half Cree; my mother is about three-quarters Cree; her grandfather was French,” replied the boy, while his whole loyal young heart reached out towards this great man, who was lifting him out of the depths of obscurity. Then His Excellency’s hands rested with a peculiar half fatherly, half brotherly touch on the shoulders of the slim lad before him.
    “Then you have blood in your veins that the whole world might envy,” he said slowly. “The blood of old France and the blood of a great aboriginal race that is the offshoot of no other race in the world. The Indian blood is a thing of itself, unmixed for thousands of years, a blood that is distinct and exclusive. Few white people can claim such a lineage. Boy, try and remember that as you come of Red Indian blood, dashed with that of the first great soldiers, settlers and pioneers in this vast Dominion, that you have one of the proudest places and heritages in the world; you are a Canadian in the greatest sense of that great word. When you go out into the world will you remember that, Fire-Flint?” His Excellency’s voice ceased, but his thin, pale, aristocratic fingers still rested on the boy’s shoulders, his eyes still shone with that peculiar brotherly light.
    “I shall remember, sir,” replied Fire-Flint, while his homeless young heart was fast creating for itself the foothold amongst the great nations of the earth. The principal of the school stood awkwardly, hoping that all his attention would not spoil his head pupil; but he never knew that boy in all the five years he had instructed him, as His Excellency, Lord Mortimer, knew him in that five minutes’ chat.
    “No,” said the Governor, again turning to the principal, “I certainly do not like that term ‘half-breed.’ Most of the people on the continent of America are of mixed nationality—how few are pure English or Scotch or Irish—or indeed of any particular race? Yet the white [Page 12] people of mixed nations are never called half-breeds. Why not? It would be quite reasonable to use the term regarding them.” Then, once again addressing Fire-Flint, he asked, “I suppose all the traders use this term in speaking of your parents and of you?”
    “Of my parents, yes, sir,” replied the boy.
    “And you?” questioned His Excellency, kindly.
    “They call me the ‘Shagganappi,’” replied Fire-Flint.
    “I am afraid that is beyond me, my boy,” smiled His Excellency. “Won’t you tell me what it means?” The boy smiled responsively.
    “It is a buckskin, a color; a shagganappi cayuse is a buckskin color. They say I look that way.”
    “Ah, I understand,” replied His Excellency, as his eyes rested on the dark cream brown tint of the boy’s face. “Well, it is a good name; buckskin is a thing essential to white people and to Indians alike, from the Red River to the Rockies. And the cayuse—well, the horse is the noblest animal known to man. So try to be worthy of the nickname, my boy. Live to be essential to your people—like the buckskin; to be noble—like the horse. And now good-bye, Shagganappi, and remember that you are the real Canadian.”
    Another handclasp and Lord Mortimer was walking away with the principal at his side, who was saying, “Your Excellency, you have greatly encouraged that boy; I think he always felt terribly that he was a half-bree—half-blood. He would have loved to claim either all Cree or all French ancestry.”
    “He is a fine lad and I like him,” returned Lord Mortimer, rather shortly, for he felt a little impatient with the principal, who could so easily have lightened the boy’s heart from the very first year he had entered the school, by fostering within him pride of the two great races that blended within his veins into that one mighty nation called Canadian. [Page 13]
    But that day proved the beginning of a new life for Fire-Flint; Lord Mortimer had called him Shagganappi in a half playful way, had said the name meant good and great things. No more did the little half-blood despise his own unusually tinted skin, no more did he hate that dash of grey in his brown eyes that bespoke “white blood,” no more did he deplore the lack of proper coloring that would have meant the heritage of pure Indian blood. He was content to fight it out, through all his life to come, as “The Shagganappi,” and when the time came for him to go to the great Eastern college in Ontario he went with his mind made up that no boy living was going to shoulder him into a corner or out-do him in the race for attainment.

*              *              *              *              *              *

    “Hello, fellows, there is an Indian blown in from the North-West. Cracker-jack of a looking chap,” announced “Cop” Billings to his roommates late one morning, as he burst into the room after his early mile run to find them with yet ten minutes to spare before the “rising bell.”
    “Shut up, and let a fellow sleep,” growled “Sandy,” from his bed in the corner.
    “Indian?” exclaimed young Locke, sitting bolt upright; ‘this ain’t a Redskin school; he’s got to get put out, or I’m a deader.”
    “You’ll be a deader if you try to put him out,” sneered Cop Billings; “first place he’s got an arm like braided whipcord, and he’s got a chin—hanged determined swat-you-in-the-face sort of chin—not a boiled-fish sort of jaw like yours,” and he glared at the unfortunate Locke with sneering disapproval.
    “Where’d you see him?” ventured little chunky Johnny Miller, getting into his clothes.
    “Saw him in the library as I passed. The Head called me in and—” [Page 14]
    “Stow it! stow it!” they all yelled; then Locke jeered, “The Head is never up at six-thirty—we are not rabbits.”
    “Just where you get left; the Head was up at five-thirty and went to the station to meet mister Indian.”
    “Well, I’ll be jing-banged,” exclaimed Sandy, nearly awake; “what’s the meaning of it all?”
    “Meaning’s just this, my son,” replied Cop, getting out of his limited running togs into something more respectable, “that if you chumps guessed all day you’d never strike just how the Indian came to this school. Who do you suppose wrote to the Head recommending him to take the Redskin, and kind of insinuating that the college would do well to treat him properly? None other than His Excellency Lord Mortimer, Governor-General of ‘this Canada of ours.’ Now, Locke, will you act good and pretty, and take your bread and milk like a nice little tootsy-wootsy and allow the Indian to stay?”
    “Whew!” bellowed Locke, “I guess I’m it, fellows.”
    “Just found it out, eh?” answered Cop; then, as the first bell clanged throughout the building and hustling was in order, he proceeded to explain that as he passed the library door on his way to the baths, Professor Warwick called him in and introduced him to the tall, lithe Westerner, who had wonderfully easy manners, a skin like a tan-colored glove, and whose English was more attractive than marred by a strong accent that sounded “Frenchy.”
    “When he found that I was heading for the baths he asked to come, too,” rattled Cop; “been on the train over three days and nights coming from Winnipeg; said he felt grimy, so I took him along. Jingo, you should see his clothes—silk socks, silk shirt, top-coat lined with mink, an otter collar—must have cost hundreds. Says I, ‘Well, pal, your governor must be well fixed.’ Says he, ‘My father is a trapper and trades with the Hudson’s Bay Company. He trapped all these minks, and my other clothes—oh, we buy those at the H.B.C. in Winnipeg.’ [Page 15] Wouldn’t that phase you, fellows? But I forgot his clothes when I saw him strip. Jiminy Christmas! I never say such a body. I’m in bully training, but I’m a cow compared to ‘Shag.’”
    “What a rum name!” said Locke, still a little resentful.
    “Found out all about that, too,” went on Cop. “Seems he has a whole string of names to choose from. Heard him tell the Head that his first name is ‘Fire-Flint,’ and his last name is ‘Larocque.’ Seemed to kind of take the Head where he is weakest.
    “‘If you don’t like it,’ says the Indian, with a dead-quiet, plumb-straight look at the Head, ‘you may call me what the people up along the Red River call me; I’m known there as the Shagganappi—Shag, if you want to cut off part of the word. The other boys may call me Shag if they want to.’ Say, fellows, I liked him right there and then. He may chum up with me all he likes, for all his silk socks and shirts.”
    “What did the Head say?” asked little Johnnie Miller.
    “Said he liked the name Shag,” replied Cop. “‘Then I’m Shag to you, sir, and the others here,’ speaks up his Indian nibs. Then he and I struck for the tubs, then they took him to get his room, and I came up here.”
    As Cop finished speaking the chapel bell sounded and all four boys scrambled down to prayers. As they entered the little sanctuary, one of the masters, standing irresolute near the door, beckoned to Cop. “Billings,” he whispered, “Will you please go and ask Larocque if he cares to come to prayers? He’s in room 17; you met him this morning, I believe.”
    “Certainly, sir,” replied Cop, dashing up the nearest stairway.
    “Entrez,” replied an even voice to Cop’s unusually respectful knock. Then the voice rapidly corrected itself, “Enter, come in,” it said in English. [Page 16]
    “How about prayers?” asked Cop. “Perhaps you’re tired and don’t care to come?”
    “I’ll go,” replied the Indian, and followed noiselessly where Billings led the way.
    They entered just as Professor Warwick was beginning prayers, and although the eighty or so boys present were fairly exemplary, none could resist furtive looks at the newcomer, who walked up the little aisle beside Billings with a peculiarly silent dignity and half-indifference that could not possibly be assumed. How most of them envied him that manner! They recalled their own shyness and strangeness on the first day of their arrival; how they stumbled over their own feet that first morning at prayers; how they hated being stared at and spoken of as “the new boy.” How could this Indian come among them as if he had been born and bred in their midst? But they never knew that Larocque’s wonderful self-possession was the outcome of his momentary real indifference; his thoughts were far away from the little college chapel, for the last time he had knelt in a sanctuary was at the old, old cathedral at St. Boniface, whose twin towers arose under the blue of a Manitoba sky, whose foundations stood where the historic Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet, about whose bells one of America’s sweetest singers, Whittier, had written lines that have endeared his name to every worshipper that bends the knee in that prairie sanctuary. The lines were drifting through his mind now. They were the first words of English poetry he had learned to memorize:

“Is it the clang of the wild geese?
      Is it the Indian’s yell,
That lends to the call of the north-wind
      The tones of a far-off bell?

“The voyageur smiles as he listens
      To the sound that grows apace.
Well he knows the vesper ringing
      Of the bells of St. Boniface. [Page 17]

“The bells of the Roman mission—
      That call from their turrets twain
To the boatman on the river,
      To the hunter on the plain.”

“To the hunter on the plain,” said Shag’s thoughts, over and over. Perhaps the hunter was his trapper father, who with noiseless step and wary eye was this very moment stalking some precious fur-bearing animal, whose pelt would bring a good price at the great Hudson’s Bay trading-post; a price that would go toward keeping his son at this Eastern college for many terms. Shag’s grey-brown eyes grew dreamy. He saw the vast prairies sweeping away into the West, and his father, a mere speck on the horizon, the ever-present “gun,” the silent moccasin, the scarlet sash, the muffled step, all proclaiming “the hunter on the plain.”
    The prayers were ended and Shag found that he was not really watching his father coming up some prairie trail, but that before him was a different type of man, Professor Warwick, whose studious eyes now required glasses to see through, and whose hand was white and silken in its touch—how hopelessly lost this little man would be should circumstances turn him forth to gain his livelihood at hunting and trapping. Old Larocque himself would hardly be more incongruous teaching in this college. It was this thought that made Shag smile as he rose from his knees, with the echoes of the bells of St. Boniface haunting his heart.
    Then the chapel emptied, each boy on breakfast bent. “Cop” Billings still remained at the Indian’s elbow, but at the door one or two of the masters stopped to greet the new arrival, and a tall, remarkably handsome lad waited, apparently to speak. He was a boy that anyone would pick from a crowd of fifty—straight, well-built, with fine, strong, thin hands, and a face with contradictory eyes, for they twinkled and danced as if nothing so [Page 18] serious as thoughtfulness ever disturbed them. As the two boys approached him he stepped impulsively forward, extending his hand to Shag with the words, “May I shake hands with you and say hello?”
    “Thank you,” replied Shag; “the way you boys are treating me makes me feel less strange.”
    “Oh, no one feels strange here,” laughed the handsome boy. “You must try and like us. So you’re from Manitoba, are you?”
    “Yes, Red River,” answered Shag.
    “Father’s been up there, and grandfather, too,” said the other, falling in step with the two boys on their way to the dining-room. “Come up to my ranch some time soon—to-night if you like. Cop will bring you,” he added with a parting nod, as he left them for his own table at the other side of the room.
    Cop stared hard at his companion. “Thunderation!” he blurted, “but you’re the lucky kid!”
    “Yes?” questioned Shag. “Never mind the luck, but tell me who that chap is; he’s very nice; I like him.”
    “Like him!” almost yelled Cop; “I should think you would like him! Why, he’s the ‘Pop!’”
    “‘Pop?’ What’s that?” said Shag, with a puzzled air.
    “Popular, the most popular boy in college—head in everything—clubs, classes, sports. Everybody is dippy over him from the Head right down to ‘Infant’ Innis, that little geezer in shorts across the table, who is only eleven last birthday. Even Dirty Dick, the gardener, is batty about him; and here he's put himself out to shake your fin, and ask you up to his room—thing he’s only done twice since he entered college. You are lucky, kid!”
    “Does he think a lot of himself?” asked Shag with some suspicion.
    “He? Not much! Just the bulliest old pal in the world. Why, he wouldn’t be the ‘pop’ if he threw on side,” asserted Cop loyally.
    “You haven’t told me who he is yet,” said Shag. [Page 19]
    “Oh, I forgot,” apologized Cop. “It seems so funny that everybody shouldn’t know. Why, he’s Harry Bennington. You must have heard of Sir George Bennington, big railroad man. Queen Victoria knighted him for some big scoop he made for Canada or the Colonies or something. Well, Hal’s his son; but do you suppose that his dad’s title makes any difference to Hal? Not much! But Hal’s handshake will make a big difference to you in this college, I’ll tell you that, Shag. You’re made, that’s what you are—just made; even Lord Mortimer back of you couldn’t give you the place among the crowd here that Hal Bennington’s grip did to-day.”
    Shag did not reply; he was looking across the room at Sir George Bennington’s son. He knew the name of the wealthy man whom Queen Victoria had honored, knew it well. His father, Trapper Larocque, had met Sir George in the old pioneer days of the railroad in the North-West. There was a little story about Sir George, well-known in the Red River Valley; Trapper Larocque knew it, the Hudson’s Bay Company knew it, Shag knew it, and was asking himself if Hal knew it. Then the boy from Manitoba took the story and locked it within his heart, sealed his lips above it, and said to his soul, “Hal Bennington won’t know it from me, nor will anyone else. He’s made my first day at this school an easy day; the fight won’t be half what I thought it would. I owe much to him, and above all I own him my silence.”
    “Coming up, fellows?” asked Hal genially, as Cop Billings stretched his big frame after grind in the evening at recreation hour before going to bed. The word “fellows” embraced him with a look that included Shag.
    “Thanks, I guess we will,” said Cop, and the three boys proceeded upstairs to the private room occupied by Hal and one other, a stocky fellow known as “Shorty” Magee, who was just settling to his letter-writing as the boys entered. He nodded curtly, said “Hello!” rather [Page 20] grumpily, and did not offer to shake hands when Hal introduced Shag Larocque. Shorty always hated to be disturbed at anything, even if it were the irksome weekly letter home. He shoved aside his note-paper, however, and sat with his hands in his trousers pockets, his feet stretched out in front of him, and a tolerant expression on his face.
    Hal, always gracious and kindly, seemed more so than ever to-night, evidently trying to make up for his roommate’s moroseness by his own geniality. He showed Shag his treasures, his collection of curiosities, his two lynx-skin rugs—animals shot by his father years before—his pet books, and finally came to his photographs.
    “This is a splendid one of father,” he said enthusiastically; “it was taken when he was a young man surveying out West before they put the railroad through. That group of men to the left are axe-men. It should interest you, for Professor Warwick told me you came here to study surveying.”
    “Yes,” said Shag, “that is my chosen work.”
    “Then,” continued Hal, “that splendid-looking chap on father’s right was his guide and personal cook—the one in the blanket coat and sash. He was part French but mostly Indian, I fancy—Why, what’s the matter, Larocque?” for Shag had suddenly made some inarticulate exclamation, and had carried the photograph nearer the light.
    “That is my father,” he said quietly. As he spoke the words he was well aware that they might tell against him some time or other. He knew enough of the civilization of the white people to understand that when two boys attend the same school, one with a titled father and the other with a father who cooked for the titled one, that things are apt to become strained; but never for one second did he hesitate about claiming the Red River trapper as his sire. He would have despised himself far more than any boy in the school could possibly do now, [Page 21] had he failed to say the words, “That is my father.” The attitude of his three listeners was certainly a study. Cop Billings stood staring at him for a moment, then said, “Well, if your dad did cook he gets you far better shirts and socks than mine does for me.” Shorty Magee uttered the four words, “Cooked for Sir George!” and with an ugly sneer turned again to his letter-writing.
    Hal Bennington had sprung forward, tossing his arms about the Indian’s shoulders and exclaiming, “Your father! Is French Pete your father? Oh, I’m so glad! Father will be delighted when I tell him. I have heard him say a hundred times that he would never have lived to be ‘Sir’ George if it hadn’t been for French Pete.”
    “Yes, they call my father French Pete because, although he is nearly all Indian, he speaks French so well,” announced Shag.
    Then followed a narration of two occasions when Shag’s father had saved Sir George’s life, once from drowning in the Assiniboine and once from freezing to death on the plains. The recreation interval was all too short for the boys to have their talk out, and when the “good-nights” came Hal wrung Shag’s had with a sincerity and heartiness that brought a responsive thrill into the fingers of the lonely boy who was spending his first night fifteen hundred miles from home.
    “Well,” snorted Shorty, as the two boys left for the night, “going to chum around with the son of your father’s cook, are you?”
    Hal whirled on his heel, his hand clenched, his knuckles standing out white and bony; then he checked the torrent of words that sprang to his lips and answered quietly, “Yes, I am.”
    “Going to take him to Sir George and Lady Bennington’s city residence for the Easter Vac?” sneered Shorty.
    The answer came again quietly, “Yes, I am”; then, after a brief interval, “if he will pay me the compliment of coming.” [Page 22]
    Shorty subsided; he had not expected this, and, truth to tell, he felt at that moment that his sneers had accomplished precisely the opposite effect to what he had intended; but Hal made no comment until just before they got into their beds; then he said evenly:
    “Shorty, you and I are room-mates, we have been pals for over a year; we won’t discuss Shag Larocque, for I see that we shall never agree about him.”
    “I hate a mongrel,” sniffed Shorty; “this fellow is neither Indian nor white.”
    “He’s more Indian than white, and better for it, too,” said Hal; “but, I say, Shorty—what nationality was your father?”
    “Irish,” said Shorty, with some pride.
    “And your mother?” persisted Hal relentlessly.
    “Oh, mother’s parents were English; she was born here in Canada,” replied Shorty a little weakly.
    “Oh!” was all Hal said, but it held a world of meaning.
    “Now, see here, Hal,” began Shorty apologetically, “I know what you are thinking, but I’m British right through and my skin’s white, no matter how you take it. I’m white on both sides of the family; I’m not splashed with tinted blood like this fellow from the North-West that’s strayed in here; his skin’s almost yellow.”
    “Yes,” acquiesced Hal, “his skin is tinted—it is tinted, not tainted. There’s a big difference, Shorty. Do you know, I’d give the world if I had as much of a copper-colored tint to my skin as Shag has.”
    “Rot!” ejaculated Shorty.
    “No rot at all,” cut in Hal; “I love the Indian people. You call this chap a ‘mongrel,’ but I tell you he is Indian—anyone can see it, and I know it. His father may have cooked in camp for my father, and did so, but from what my father told me, he, French Pete, was an honest man, and a brave one, too, and his son’s good enough for me, and I’m his friend until the last dog’s hung.” [Page 23]
    That ended things for the time, for the college bells clanged out “lights out,” and the inmates, both white and Indian, slept.


                          *              *              *              *              *              *

    “Yes, my dear boy,” wrote Sir George, some weeks later, “by all means bring young Larocque home for the Easter vacation; I shall welcome the son of my old friend and guide with the greatest delight. I have frequently told you of French Pete’s heroism and unselfishness, and if by a little hospitality I can show the son what I think of the father, I shall regard it as a privilege. Your dear mother will write you to-night, and will enclose a little note of invitation from us both to your friend ‘Shagganappi’—how that good old North-West word brings back my youth! I think I like your friend, even before I see him, just because he has adopted that name.”
    So it was all arranged that Shag should spend the Easter vacation at the palatial home of the Benningtons in Montreal. As Hal was so popular, this holiday invitation was always regarded as the greatest compliment by any boy who was fortunate enough to receive it, but never before had Lady Bennington written personally to invite one of Hal’s friends.
    It was such a dear little note, too; Hal never admired his mother quite so much as when Shag handed him the invitation to read. Lady Bennington was famous as one of the few women who always say and do the right thing at the right moment. The note ran:
        “Dear Shagganappi,—
            “Do come with my boy at Eastertide; we want you—come.


                        “Your friend, Hal’s mother,

                                    “CONSTANCE BENNINGTON.”

    So Easter found the boys at Montreal, Shag a little shy at first amidst all the grandeur and wealth of Hal’s home, but covering that shyness with a quiet dignity that sat [Page 24] very well on his young shoulders. With a wonderful knack of delicacy, Hal would smooth out any threatened difficulty for the Indian boy—little table entanglements, such as new dishes or unaccustomed foods. But Shag was at times surprisingly outspoken, and the first night at dinner seemingly won Sir George’s heart by remarking when the fruit plates and finger-glasses were served, “Now, Hal, don’t be afraid that I won’t understand this; fortunately I dined on the dining-cars on the way East.” Everyone laughed then, including Shag, and Sir George said, “Then you are better up in things than I was at your age, my boy. I never saw a finger-glass until I was twenty.” So this little confidence put them all on a kind of family footing; and during the rest of his visit Shag was not afraid to ask and learn any of the usages of wealthy city houses and manners that might puzzle him. When he left he had endeared himself to Hal’s parents as no other boy had done before. Lady Bennington especially seemed to have become attached to him. Once when Hal was taking some snapshots of the grounds, she called Shag to her side, and, placing one hand on his shoulder, asked Hal to photograph them together. Shag almost trembled with pleasure, but his delight knew no bounds when a week after their return to school he received a little copy of the photograph framed in silver and inscribed on the back with “To Shagganappi Larocque, with love from Hal’s mother.”
    “I don’t know why you and your people are so good to me,” he declared to Hal, when they both had duly admired the little picture. Hal stared at him rather oddly, but did not reply, and it was many months before Shag understood what that look meant; but when it was explained the Indian recalled many things that had once perplexed him.


                          *              *              *              *              *              *

    It was late in May when Sir George and Lady Bennington left on their yearly visit to England, leaving Hal with [Page 25] the enviable holiday ahead of him of playing host at their summer residence in the Thousand Islands. He was privileged to ask what boys he liked; he could have his own canoe and sailboat, any of the servants from the city residence that he wished, and just put in one long, golden, summer, swimming, boating, rollicking around, getting tanned and healthy. The only stipulation his parents made was that in addition to the crowd of boys asked he must invite one of the masters. It did not matter which one, so what did Hal do but “cheek it up” to the Head, who had no family to summer with, and who usually wandered off to some lonely mountain resort by himself for the entire vacation. Professor Warwick was amazed.
    “Why, Bennington,” he exclaimed, “what ever do you want an old codger like me for? There’s young Graham, almost a boy himself, and Lewes, the science man, a funny chap. I always think Mr. Lewes is more fun than a cage of cats. I’m a dried-up old fellow that most of the boys are afraid of. You won’t enjoy yourself with me around all the time.”
    “We’re only afraid of you in classes, sir,” laughed Hal; “no one is afraid of you outside. I’ve heard the boys josh you on the ball grounds and at the sports no end of times. You’ve just got to come, Professor!” And the old gentleman did go, to the delight of Hal’s parents, who left for England perfectly satisfied that the boys would be well looked after if the Professor was an inmate of their island home.
    The party was just about the right size; two of the little boys who lived at the Pacific coast were asked, then Shorty and Cop and little chunky Johnny Miller and Shag Larocque—seven all told, including Hal, and eight, counting the Professor, who, on the first night in camp said, a little gravely, “Hal, my boy, it is a great privilege to be the son of a wealthy man. I have never cared for money, but I would like to be in a position where I could have the [Page 26] pleasure of entertaining my friends in this delightful way.”
    “I hope I appreciate it, Professor,” replied the boy. “Dad is always reminding me of the stacks of people not so well fixed as we are. He frequently tells me of the times when he went hungry—really hungry, without twenty-five cents with which to buy a meal, and he says if ever I forget it and try to put on ‘side’ that he will thrash me within an inch of my life, even after I am twenty-one.”
    The Professor roared, a regular boyish shout. “And he’d do it, too, I believe,” he chuckled. “That is what makes Sir George so wonderful; with all his wealth he is the same dear old chap he always was. I knew him when he was your age almost—and the only thing that has changed is his hair; it is a little thinner now—and grey.”
    “Yes, dad’s a boy yet,” smiled Hal, “but I won’t give him a chance to lick me on the money score; it’s too good fun having you all here, and a royal holiday ahead of us, without hunting for a trimming from dad because I play the la-de-da, or think I’m the whole thing.”
    Shag was thinking hard, but he said nothing; yet, little as he knew of the world, he was quite aware how few boys in Hal’s position would act as he had done. Had it not been for Sir George’s son what would his life at college have been? He knew Locke never liked him, he knew that Shorty positively disliked him, he knew there was a strong element of prejudice in the school against him, and he knew positively that, were it not for Lord Mortimer’s influence and recommendation, he would never have been accepted in this exclusive college as a student. What then did he owe to Hal? Everything as far as making life in the East bearable, as far as being received on an equality with the other boys went. It was a tremendous debt that he owed this handsome boy who was his host for the summer. But before the holiday [Page 27] was ended Shag paid that debt with his heart, and almost with his life.
    It happened one day from the simple cause that the camp had run short of bread, and one of the youngsters from the Pacific coast, Freddy by name, had volunteered to paddle over to the mainland for it. The sailboat being laid up for repairs, Freddy ran out the light little Peterborough, and was just getting away from the island when Hal descried him and shouted to him to wait. “Think I’d let you go alone in that canoe, kiddie?” he asked. “There’s too much wind to-day; look at her sweep down the north channel. Why, she’d turn you round and round like ‘Willie waltzing.’ Hold on, I’m coming with you.” With that he sprang into the canoe and they were away.
    It was rather a cold wind for early September, and the two boys were glad to paddle hard to keep their circulation up. Both were in shirt sleeves and both somewhat chilled; but by the time they had reached the mainland they were all tingling with rioting blood and with appetites ready to attack their cargo of bread, even minus the butter. They started back in good shape, although Hal’s weather eye observed that the wind was picking up and that they would have to work for it to make the island in good time for supper. All went well for some distance, although sometimes the waves galloped up and slipped over the bow where Freddy knelt, plying his paddle in good form. Out in mid-stream, with both wind and current against him, Hal had considerable difficulty in steering; his strong, muscular arms pulled little Freddy’s stroke around, and he bent to the work of “digging potatoes” with a vengeance. The bow with its light boyish ballast would rise and rise again, slapping down on the surface or taking the waves like a cork. Then came a line of combers, one on top of another. The taut little Peterborough rode the first like a shell, the second she dipped, the third she shipped a whole bucketful of water. As it poured over the deck, little Freddy flung himself [Page 28] backward to escape the drenching, the canoe dipped, Freddy landed full weight on the leeward gunwale—and they were over. For the first instant, Hal was conscious of but one thing, that he was being struck through with the chill of the water on top of being in a heat of perspiration with battling the canoe through the waves. Then he came to the surface to see the canoe, turned turtle, floating bottom up three yards away. Then a limp mass of brown clothes and brown curls cannoned into him, and reaching out, he grasped Freddy.
    “Don’t get scared, kid,” he gasped, spluttering the water out of his throat; “keep cool and don’t clutch me too tight.” He might as well have spoken to the winds, for little Freddy, chilled through and terror-stricken, was clinging to him like an octopus, impeding his arm and leg action, and almost choking the breath out of his lungs. “Oh, Hal, we’re in mid-stream!” gulped the child; “we’ll be drowned!”
    “Not on your life, kiddie!” spluttered Hal. “I’ll get that bally canoe. Only don’t hold on around my neck, that’s a good kiddie. There, that’s better,” as Freddy loosened his fingers from Hal’s shirt collar, and the boy struck out with one arm around the child and the other working for all the grit and muscle there was in it. His magnificent stroke, helped by the wind and current, soon overhauled the canoe. By a supreme effort he clutched the immersed gunwale. With one arm around Freddy he could never hope to right the boat, but even bottom up she was a salvation. “Grip her, kiddie, grip her as I shove you up,” he gasped, “and don’t let go; straddle her and hang on! Promise me you will hang on,—promise me!” he cried.
    “I’ll promise,” gulped the child. Then Hal’s powerful arm flung itself upwards, his two hands “boosted,” and Freddy landed on the upturned canoe, gripping it with all fours and coughing the water from his mouth.
    Hal made an attempt to climb up, his fingers slipped; [Page 29] then two terrible little demons seemed to grasp the calves of his legs; their fingers ripped the muscles out and tied them into knots, knots that extended to his knees, his hips, his stomach; his fingers weakened with the agony of it—Hal Bennington knew he was going down with cramps.
    Away off to the right he thought he heard a voice; it was saying, “Keep up, Hal, keep up, I’m coming!” but he could not answer. With a last effort he literally screamed, “Hang on, Freddy, hang on!” Then he felt numb, very numb, and all was dark.
    Professor Warwick had gone out to furl the awnings against the rising wind. His kindly little eyes were peering through their spectacles at sea and sky when suddenly they rested on a frail canoe that was taking an erratic course toward the island. Instantly he was around at the other side of the cottage. “Boys, boys,” he shouted frantically, “Quick, get out the sailboat, Hal’s canoe is in danger!”
    “Sailboat!” gasped Cop Billings, springing to his feet; “she’s no good; bottom’s out, a whole patch of her. She’s being repaired.” But while he talked he was running wildly to the boathouse followed by all the others. As they reached the little wharf they were just in time to see the combers strike the canoe, to see Freddy start, then to see it capsize. For a moment they were horror-stricken, speechless, then Cop yelled, “He’s got Freddy! See, he’s got him!” It seemed an eternity before they saw Hal grasp the child, then with more horror they saw the upturned canoe floating away, away, away.
    “Boys, boys, can nothing be done to help them?” choked the Professor. “Oh, boys, this is terrible!”
    “Who swims?” yelled Shorty, “—swims, well, I mean.”
    “You do,” jerked Shag at his elbow, with a face bloodless and drawn. “You’re the best swimmer in the school. Will you come with me?”
    “Come with you?” yelled Shorty. “Out there? Why, [Page 30] you know as well as I do that I can’t swim that far, not nearly that far; neither can you.”
    “I can, and I will,” announced Shag in a strangely quiet voice, while with rapid fingers he stripped off his coat and boots.
    “You shan’t go alone,” shouted Cop, beginning to undress; “I’m with you!”
    “No, you don’t,” said the Indian, gripping him by the wrist. “You can’t swim twenty yards—you know you can’t; and if you get played out, Cop, I tell you right here that I can’t stop to help you; I’m going to help Hal.”
    “Why can’t you try it, Shorty?” roared Cop. “Anything rather than let him go alone!”
    But Shorty stood resolute. “I tell you I can’t swim that far and back, and I ain’t going to try it only to get drowned,” he snarled; but even as he spoke there flashed past him a lithe, tan-colored body in skintight silken underwear; there followed a splash, and Shag’s clean, dark face rose to the surface as he struck out towards the unfortunates.
    The Professor was beside himself with horror. “Boys, boys!” he cried aloud, “Hal’s going down! Something is wrong; he’s sinking!” The words reached Shag’s ears and he seemed to leap ahead like a giant fish.
    “Heaven help them!” moaned poor Cop. “Oh, what an idiot I was never to practise more!”
    “It’s awful!” begged Shorty.
    “Don’t you open your head!” shouted Cop; “if I could swim like you nothing would keep me ashore.”
    “Never mind, boys,” moaned Professor Warwick; “don’t quarrel with this tragedy before us. Look, Shag’s simply leaping ahead. There goes Hal again—that’s the second time he’s gone under! Oh, my boy!—my poor Hal!” and the little old man rushed wildly up to the servants’ quarters for the cook and the pantry-boy and ropes—anything, everything that would hold out a hope of rescue. [Page 31]
    And on against wind and current Shag battled his way; inch by inch, foot by foot, yard by yard he forged forward, until he saw Hal loose his grip and sink, and then rise and fight to reach the canoe again. It was then that Shag raised his chin and shouted hoarsely, “Keep up, Hal, keep up! I’m coming!” the words faintly reached Hal’s ears before the silence and the dark came. Then as he rose from the depths, an unconscious, helpless hulk, a strong tan-colored arm wound around him like a lifebelt, and a well-nigh breathless boy, with almost superhuman strength, flung him, limp and nearly lifeless, across the canoe. The impact almost hurled Freddy from his slender hold, but for a few seconds the two boys were safe. Above the slippery bow poor Shag clasped his arms, allowing his body to drift.
    With but this frail anchorage, he well knew that the canoe would never float them all. There was but little of her above the water. The waves were beating hard now; any moment weak little Freddy and unconscious Hal might be swept off. Once, as the fear of losing life gripped him, he began to struggle on to the canoe; then he remembered, and slipped back to float, to cling, to slowly—slowly—await the hours of the unknown.
    For five terrible minutes they drifted, minutes that were an eternity to those on shore, and to those fighting for life in mid-stream. Then around the bend of the island came the thin, shrill whistle of a steam launch as it headed directly for the upturned canoe, the skipper signaling to those on the island that he was hot on the way to the rescue.
    Old Professor Warwick wept like a woman when he saw it fly past, and the boys gulped back their breath. They dared not even try to cheer; their voices were strangled in their throats.
    “Just in time, and that’s all, captain,” said the engineer as he brought the launch about. “Better reach for the chap in the water first.” [Page 32]
    “No,” Shag managed to say, “take the kiddie; he’s slipping off. I’m good for a minute longer.” So they lifted Freddy into the launch, then poor unconscious Hal, and lastly Shag, exhausted but gritty and game to the last.
    Hal had been in his own bed for two hours before he spoke, and the first word he said was “Freddy?”
    “Freddy’s here,” trembled Professor Warwick, “here safe and sound, and you’re safe, too.”
    “I dreamt I heard Shag call, call that he was coming to me,” said Hal feebly.
    “It was no dream, Hal,” answered the Professor; “he did call and went to you, saved you, swam out like the prince he is—saved you, Hal, saved you!” Hal started up, his eyes wild with fear.
    “Where is he? Where’s Shag?” he demanded.
    “Here, Hal,” said the Indian from the opposite side of the room.
Hal stretched out his hand; Shag walked very shakily across and clasped it within his own.
    “If you hadn’t been here, Shag, I could never have looked dad and mother in the face again," he sighed.
    “But I am here,” smiled Shag, “and, what is better, you’re here and Freddy, too.”
    “Yes, but I know the reason that I’m here is that you somehow pulled me out,” said Hal. “I had an idea once that Shorty might come, he swims so well; but you came, Shag!” Then he fell asleep; but Shag did not remove his hand, although the boy slept for hours.


                          *              *              *              *              *              *

    Not long after this college opened for the autumn term, and Professor Warwick and his charges were well settled in residence before the old gentleman was obliged to acknowledge that Hal seemed unable to throw off the shock of the accident, or the chill that seemed to cling to him in spite of all care; but he tucked in bravely at his studies, and only the Professor knew that the boy was not his own self. [Page 33]
    But a great event was now absorbing the attention of all the faculty and students. His Excellency Lord Mortimer was to visit the city, and had expressed his wish to spend an hour or two at this famous college for boys, so with much delight at the compliment paid, the entire school began to make preparations. A handsome address was prepared, and a programme of sports—for the Governor dearly loved athletic boys. In fact, gossip at the capital frequently stated that His Lordship would rather witness a good lacrosse match than eat a good dinner. Such a thing as voting as to who should represent the school and read the address was never even thought of. Hal Bennington was the head boy of the whole college, he was the most popular, the best beloved, he had not an enemy in all the scores of boys within its gates, so of course it was a foregone conclusion.
    “I hate the idea of it,” asserted Hal. “I hate these public show-offs, besides, I don’t feel well. I wish they would make some other chap do it.” But neither masters nor boys would take no for an answer. Then disaster threatened, for a week before the event Hal fell really ill; a slow fever seemed to grip him, and if Sir George and Lady Bennington had not been already on the sea on their homeward way, Professor Warwick would have felt very much like cabling them. Hal was utterly disgusted when it was mentioned to him. “Don’t you think of it,” he growled. “You’ve done as I wished about not telling them about that bally accident, and don’t you hurry them home for me.” So the boy was made to stay in bed, and, truth to tell, he was too ill to remonstrate much.
    But the night before the viceregal visit Hal knew in his heart that he was too ill to go out and read the address. Late at night he sent for Professor Warwick, told him the truth, and asked him to get a substitute.
    “My boy, I am more distressed than I can say,” began the Professor. “Your illness is worse than any upsetting of arrangements; we are getting a trained nurse for you, [Page 34] and I shall relieve your mind of all worries. We have hardly time now to consult everyone about a substitute, but if I tell the boys you have appointed a deputy, so to speak, I think they will be satisfied.”
    “Then let Shag Larocque take my place,” decided Hal instantly.
    “Very appropriate, too, I should say,” replied the Professor spontaneously. “Lord Mortimer has seen Shag and knows him; very appropriate."
    So Hal slept that night contently, with never a dream of the storm that would burst on the morrow.
    The first indication of the tempest was when Locke burst into his room after breakfast, with, “Hal, you must be sick! Why, man alive, you are clean batty! Shag read that address—why, it is impossible!”
    “And why?” said Hal, glaring at him.
    “He can’t do it; we won’t let him; we won’t have that Indian heading the whole school!”
    “Who won’t?”
    “We! we! we!—Do you hear it? We!” yelled Locke.
    “You and Shorty and Simpson and about two others, I suppose,” answered Hal. “Well, he’s going to read it; now, get out and shut the door—I feel a draft.”
    “Well, he isn’t going to read it!” thundered Locke, banging the door after himself as he stormed down the hall to the classrooms, where the boys were collecting to arrange details for the day. Hal shivered back into the bedclothes, listening anxiously to various footsteps trailing past. He could occasionally catch fragments of conversation; everyone seemed to be in a high state of excitement. He could hear his own name, then Shag’s, then Shorty’s, and sometimes Locke’s.
    “I’ve evidently kicked up a hornets’ nest,” he smiled weakly to himself, too tired and ill to care whether the hornets stung or not. Presently Locke returned. “I tell you, Hal, it won’t do; that Indian isn’t a fit representative of this college.” [Page 35]
    “The masters won’t do a thing; you’ve got to appoint someone else. You’re disgracing the college,” said Shorty at the door. “We won’t stand for it, Hal; this is no North-West Indian school. We won’t have it, I tell you!”
    “Shag’s going to read that address!” said Hal, sitting up with an odd drawn but determined look around his mouth.
    “Well, he isn’t!” blurted Shorty. “There’s a big meeting in the classroom, and there’s a row on—the biggest row you ever saw.”
    “Shag Larocque read that address!” yelled Simpson from the hall; “not if I know it! He’s not a decent sport, even—he won’t resent an insult. I called him a Red River halfbreed and he never said a word—just swallowed it!”
    “Shut that door!” shouted Hal, the color surging into his face, “and shut yourselves on the outside! Go to the classroom, insult him all you like, but you’ll be sorry for it—take my word for it!”
    Once more they banged the door. No sooner was it closed than Hal sprang out of bed. His legs shook with weakness, his hands trembled with illness, but he began to get into some clothes, and his young face flushed scarlet and white in turn.
    Out in the classroom a perfect bedlam reigned. Dozens of voices shouted, “Shag’s the man for us! Hurrah for Shag!” and dozens replied, “Who will join the anti-Indians? Who will vote for a white man to represent white men? This ain’t an Indian school—get out with the Indians!”
    Then Shorty took the floor. “Boys,” he yelled, “we won’t stand for it. No Indian’s going to be head of this school, and Shag Larocque isn’t even a decent Indian, he’s a halfbreed, a French halfbreed, he’s—”
    The door burst open and Hal Bennington flung himself into the room; his trousers were dragged up over his [Page 36] nightshirt, his feet were in slippers without socks, his hair was unbrushed, his eyes were brilliant with fever, his face was pinched and grey; but his voice rang out powerfully, “Stop it, boys!” He had taken in the situation instantly—the crowd breaking from all rule, two masters endeavoring to restore order, and Shag, alone, terribly alone, his back to the wall, his face to the tumult, standing like a wild thing driven into a corner, but yet gloriously game. “Shorty, how dare you speak of Shag Larocque like that?” Hal cried furiously.
    “And how dare you support him?” Shorty flung back. “How dare you ask us to have as our leader a halfbreed North-West Indian, who is the son of your father’s cook?”
    “Yes, he is the son of my father’s cook, and if I ever get the chance I’ll cook for him on my knees—cook for him and serve him; he saved my life and nearly lost his own—while you, Shorty, a far better swimmer, would have let me drown like a dog.”
    “He’s nothing but a North-West halfbreed,” sneered Shorty, hiding his cowardice behind ill words for others.
    “So is my mother a North-West halfbreed, and she’s the loveliest, the grandest woman in all Canada!” said Hal in a voice that rang clear, sharp, strong as a man’s.
    There was a dead silence. “Do you hear me, you fellows?” tormented Hal’s even voice again, “you who have of your own free will placed me, a quarterblood, as the leading boy in this school, my mother a halfbreed, if you wish to use that refined term, and my mother is proud of it. Her mother, my grandmother, wore a blanket and leggings and smoked a red stone pipe upon the Red River years ago, and I tell you my mother is proud of it, and so am I. I have never told you fellows this before—what was the use? I felt you would never understand, but you hear me now! Do you quite grasp what I am telling you—that my mother is a half-breed?”
    Shorty’s hand went blindly to his head; he looked [Page 37] dazed, breathless. “Lady Bennington a halfbreed!” was all he said.
    “Yes, Lady Bennington,” said Hal. “And now will you let Shag read that address?” But Shag was at his elbow.
    “Hal, Hal, oh, why did you tell them?” he cried.
    Hal whirled about like one shot. “Tell them—what do you mean by tell them? Did you know this all along?”
    “Yes,” said Shag regretfully. “I always knew that Lady Bennington was half Indian, but I thought that you didn’t, and I promised father that I should never tell when I came down East.” But softly as he spoke, the boys near by heard him. “Do you mean to say,” Locke, gripping Shag’s shoulders in vice-like fingers, “that all this time we have been ragging you and running on you, that you knew Hal’s mother was a half Indian and you never said a word?”
    “Why should I?” asked Shag, raising his eyebrows.
    “Boys,” said Locke, facing the room like a man, “we’ve been—well, just cads. And right here I propose that Shag Larocque read the address to His Excellency to-day.”
    “And I second the motion,” said Shorty—“second it heartily”; then he walked over to Shag.
    “I’m not going to ask you to shake hands with me, Larocque,” he said; “I’ve been too much of a cad for that. You must despise me too much to forgive me, despise me for my cowardice in not going with you to help Hal when he was drowning, despise me for my mean prejudices, despise me for—oh, pshaw! I ain’t fit to even ask you to forgive me. I ain’t fit to even offer you my hand.”
    “Hold on! Hold on!” smiled Shag. “There is nothing to despise in a chap who is big enough to offer an apology. Here’s my hand, Shorty. Will you take it at last?”
    And Shorty took it. [Page 38]
    A few hours later, just before Shag stepped out on the platform to read the address to His Excellency, he paid a flying visit to Hal, who, feeling much better, in fact quite on the mend, was sitting up in bed devouring toast and broth.
    “Luck to you, old Shag,” he said between mouthfuls.
    “Oh, Hal, you’ve been all the world to me,” was all he could reply.
    “And you’ll be all the world to my dad and mother when they hear what you have done, fishing me out of the drink and saving my life.” But Shorty shouting up the hall interrupted them.
    “Come on, Shag,” he called; then, as he appeared in the doorway, he said bravely, “I haven’t been so happy for years; I’ve been a sneak and now that I say it I feel better. Shag, there isn’t a boy living who I consider better fitted to represent this school than you. Do you believe me?”
    “I do believe you, and I thank you, Shorty, old chap,” said Shag happily, and linking arms they left Hal’s room together, for cheers outside were announcing the approach of Lord Mortimer—and the feud was ended forever. [Page 39]