Read CHAPTER EIGHT of The Dog Crusoe and his Master , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on


The Pawnee village, at which they soon arrived, was situated in the midst of a most interesting and picturesque scene.

It occupied an extensive plain which sloped gently down to a creek, [In America small rivers or riverlets are termed “creeks”] whose winding course was marked by a broken line of wood, here and there interspersed with a fine clump of trees, between the trunks of which the blue waters of the lake sparkled in the distance.  Hundreds of tents or “lodges” of buffalo skins covered the ground, and thousand of Indians ­men, women, and children ­moved about the busy scene.  Some were sitting in their lodges, lazily smoking their pipes.  But these were chiefly old and infirm veterans, for all the young men had gone to the hunt which we have just described.  The women were stooping over their fires, busily preparing maize and meat for their husbands and brothers, while myriads of little brown and naked children romped about everywhere, filling the air with their yells and screams, which were only equalled, if not surpassed, by the yelping dogs that seemed innumerable.

Far as the eye could reach were seen scattered herds of horses.  These were tended by little boys who were totally destitute of clothing, and who seemed to enjoy with infinite zest the pastime of shooting-practice with little bows and arrows.  No wonder that these Indians become expert bowmen.  There were urchins there, scarce two feet high, with round bullets of bodies and short spindle-shanks, who could knock blackbirds off the trees at every shot, and cut the heads of the taller flowers with perfect certainty!  There was much need, too, for the utmost proficiency they could attain, for the very existence of the Indian tribes of the prairies depends on their success in hunting the buffalo.

There are hundreds and thousands of North American savages who would undoubtedly perish and their tribes become extinct if the buffaloes were to leave the prairies or die out.  Yet, although animals are absolutely essential to their existence, they pursue and slay them with improvident recklessness, sometimes killing hundreds of them merely for the sake of the sport, the tongues, and the marrow-bones.  In the bloody hunt described in the last chapter, however, the slaughter of so many was not wanton, because the village that had to be supplied with food was large, and, just previous to the hunt, they had been living on somewhat reduced allowance.  Even the blackbirds, shot by the brown-bodied urchins before mentioned, had been thankfully put into the pot.  Thus precarious is the supply of food among the Red-men, who on one day are starving, and the next are revelling in superabundance.

But to return to our story.  At one end of this village the creek sprang over a ledge of rock in a low cascade and opened out into a beautiful lake, the bosom of which was studded with small islands.  Here were thousands of those smaller species of wild water-fowl which were either too brave or too foolish to be scared away by the noise of the camp.  And here, too, dozens of children were sporting on the beach or paddling about in their light bark canoes.

“Isn’t it strange,” remarked Dick to Henri, as they passed among the tents towards the centre of the village, “isn’t it strange that them Injuns should be so fond o’ fightin’ when they’ve got all they can want ­a fine country, lots o’ buffalo, an’ as far as I can see, happy homes?”

“Oui, it is remarkaibel, vraiment.  But dey do more love war to peace.  Dey loves to be excited, I s’pose.”

“Humph!  One would think the hunt we seed a little agone would be excitement enough.  But, I say, that must be the chief’s tent, by the look o’t.”

Dick was right; the horsemen pulled up and dismounted opposite the principal chief’s tent, which was a larger and more elegant structure than the others.  Meanwhile an immense concourse of women, children, and dogs gathered round the strangers, and, while the latter yelped their dislike to white men, the former chattered continuously, as they discussed the appearance of the strangers and their errand, which latter soon became known.  An end was put to this by San-it-sa-rish desiring the hunters to enter the tent, and spreading a buffalo robe for them to sit on.  Two braves carried in their packs and then led away their horses.

All this time Crusoe had kept as close as possible to his master’s side, feeling extremely uncomfortable in the midst of such a strange crowd, the more especially that the ill-looking Indian curs gave him expressive looks of hatred, and exhibited some desire to rush upon him in a body, so that he had to keep a sharp look out all round him.  When, therefore, Dick entered the tent Crusoe endeavoured to do so along with him, but he was met by a blow on the nose from an old squaw, who scolded him in a shrill voice and bade him begone.

Either our hero’s knowledge of the Indian language was insufficient to enable him to understand the order, or he had resolved not to obey it, for instead of retreating he drew a deep gurgling breath, curled his nose, and displayed a row of teeth that caused the old woman to draw back in alarm.  Crusoe’s was a forgiving spirit.  The instant that opposition ceased he forgot the injury, and was meekly advancing when Dick held up his finger.

“Go outside, pup, and wait.”

Crusoe’s tail drooped; with a deep sigh he turned and left the tent.  He took up a position near the entrance, however, and sat down resignedly.  So meek, indeed, did the poor dog look, that six mangy-looking curs felt their dastardly hearts emboldened to make a rush at him with boisterous yells.

Crusoe did not rise.  He did not even condescend to turn his head toward them, but he looked at them out of the corner of his dark eye, wrinkled ­very slightly ­the skin of his nose, exhibited two beautiful fangs, and gave utterance to a soft remark, that might be described as quiet, deep-toned gargling.  It wasn’t much, but it was more than enough for the valiant six, who paused and snarled violently.

It was a peculiar trait of Crusoe’s gentle nature, that, the moment any danger ceased, he resumed his expression of nonchalant gravity.  The expression on this occasion was misunderstood, however, and, as about two dozen additional yelping dogs had joined the ranks of the enemy, they advanced in close order to the attack.

Crusoe still sat quiet and kept his head high, but he looked at them again and exhibited four fangs for their inspection.  Among the pack there was one Indian dog of large size ­almost as large as Crusoe himself ­which kept well in the rear, and apparently urged the lesser dogs on.  The little dogs didn’t object, for little dogs are generally the most pugnacious.  At this big dog Crusoe directed a pointed glance, but said nothing.  Meanwhile a particularly small and vicious cur, with a mere rag of a tail, crept round by the back of the tent, and, coming upon Crusoe in the rear, snapped at his tail sharply, and then fled shrieking with terror and surprise, no doubt, at its own temerity.

Crusoe did not bark; he seldom barked; he usually either said nothing, or gave utterance to a prolonged roar of indignation of the most terrible character with barks, as it were, mingled through it.  It somewhat resembled that peculiar and well-known species of thunder, the prolonged roll of which is marked at short intervals in its course by cannon-like cracks.  It was a continuous, but, so to speak, knotted roar.

On receiving the snap, Crusoe gave forth the roar with a majesty and power that scattered the pugnacious front rank of the enemy to the winds.  Those that still remained, half stupefied, he leaped over with a huge bound and alighted, fangs first, on the back of the big dog.  There was one hideous yell, a muffled scramble of an instant’s duration, and the big dog lay dead upon the plain!

It was an awful thing to do; but Crusoe evidently felt that the peculiar circumstances of the case required that an example should be made ­and to say truth, all things considered, we cannot blame him.  The news must have been carried at once through the canine portion of the camp, for Crusoe was never interfered with again after that.

Dick witnessed this little incident; but he observed that the Indian chief cared not a straw about it, and as his dog returned quietly and sat down in its old place, he took no notice of it either, but continued to listen to the explanations which Joe gave to the chief, of the desire of the Pale-faces to be friends with the Red-men.

Joe’s eloquence would have done little for him on this occasion had his hands been empty; but he followed it up by opening one of his packs, and displaying the glittering contents before the equally glittering eyes of the chief and his squaws.

“These,” said Joe, “are the gifts that the great chief of the Pale-faces sends to the great chief of the Pawnees, and he bids me say that there are many more things in his stores which will be traded for skins with the Red-men, when they visit him; and he also says that if the Pawnees will not steal horses any more from the Pale-faces they shall receive gifts of knives, and guns, and powder and blankets every year.”

Wah!” grunted the chief; “it is good.  The great chief is wise.  We will smoke the pipe of peace.”

The things that afforded so much satisfaction to San-it-sa-rish were the veriest trifles.  Penny looking-glasses in yellow gilt tin frames, beads of various colours, needles, cheap scissors, and knives, vermilion paint, and coarse scarlet cloth, etcetera.  They were of priceless value, however, in the estimation of the savages, who delighted to adorn themselves with leggings made from the cloth, beautifully worked with beads by their own ingenious women.  They were thankful, too, for knives even of the commonest description, having none but bone ones of their own; and they gloried in daubing their faces with intermingled streaks of charcoal and vermilion.  To gaze at their visages, when thus treated, in the little penny looking-glasses is their summit of delight!

Joe presented the chief with a portion of these coveted goods and tied up the remainder.  We may remark here, that the only thing which prevented the savages from taking possession of the whole at once, without asking permission, was the promise of the annual gifts, which they knew would not be forthcoming were any evil to befall the deputies of the Pale-faces.  Nevertheless, it cost them a severe struggle to restrain their hands on this occasion, and Joe and his companions felt that they would have to play their part well in order to fulfil their mission with safety and credit.

“The Pale-faces may go now and talk with the braves,” said San-it-sa-rish, after carefully examining everything that was given to him; “a council will be called soon, and we will smoke the pipe of peace.”

Accepting this permission to retire, the hunters immediately left the tent, and being now at liberty to do what they pleased, they amused themselves by wandering about the village.

“He’s a cute chap that,” remarked Joe, with a sarcastic smile; “I don’t feel quite easy about gettin’ away.  He’ll bother the life out o’ us to get all the goods we’ve got, and, ye see, as we’ve other tribes to visit, we must give away as little as we can here.”

“Ha! you is right,” said Henri; “dat fellow’s eyes twinkle at de knives and tings like two stars.”

“Fire-flies, ye should say.  Stars are too soft an’ beautiful to compare to the eyes o’ yon savage,” said Dick, laughing.  “I wish we were well away from them.  That rascal Mahtawa is an ugly customer.”

“True, lad,” returned Joe; “had he bin the great chief our scalps had bin dryin’ in the smoke o’ a Pawnee wigwam afore now.  What now, lad?”

Joe’s question was put in consequence of a gleeful smile that overspread the countenance of Dick Varley, who replied by pointing to a wigwam towards which they were approaching.

“Oh! that’s only a dandy,” exclaimed Joe.  “There’s lots o’ them in every Injun camp.  They’re fit for nothin’ but dress, poor contemptible critters.”

Joe accompanied his remark with a sneer, for of all pitiable objects, he regarded an unmanly man as the most despicable.  He consented, however, to sit down on a grassy bank and watch the proceedings of this Indian dandy, who had just seated himself in front of his wigwam for the purpose of making his toilet.

He began it by greasing his whole person carefully and smoothly over with buffalo-fat, until he shone like a patent leather boot; then he rubbed himself almost dry, leaving the skin sleek and glossy.  Having proceeded thus far he took up a small mirror, a few inches in diameter, which he or some other member of the tribe must have procured during one of their few excursions to the trading forts of the Pale-faces, and examined himself, as well as he could, in so limited a space.  Next, he took a little vermilion from a small parcel and rubbed it over his face until it presented the somewhat demoniac appearance of a fiery red.  He also drew a broad red score along the crown of his head, which was closely shaved, with the exception of the usual tuft or scalp-lock on the top.  This scalp-lock stood bristling straight up a few inches, and then curved over and hung down his back about two feet.  Immense care and attention was bestowed on this lock.  He smoothed it, greased it, and plaited it into the form of a pigtail.  Another application was here made to the glass, and the result was evidently satisfactory, to judge from the beaming smile that played on his features.  But, not content with the general effect, he tried the effect of expression ­frowned portentously, scowled savagely, gaped hideously, and grinned horribly a ghastly smile.

Then our dandy fitted into his ears, which were bored in several places, sundry ornaments, such as rings, wampum, etcetera, and hung several strings of beads round his neck.  Besides these he affixed one or two ornaments to his arms, wrists, and ankles, and touched in a few effects with vermilion on the shoulders and breast.  After this, and a few more glances at the glass, he put on a pair of beautiful moccasins, which, besides being richly wrought with beads, were soft as chamois leather, and fitted his feet like gloves; a pair of leggings of scarlet cloth were drawn on, attached to a waist-belt, and bound below the knee with broad garters of variegated bead-work.

It was some time before this Adonis was quite satisfied with himself.  He re-touched the paint on his shoulders several times, and modified the glare of that on his wide-mouthed, high-cheek-boned visage before he could tear himself away; but at last he did so, and, throwing a large piece of scarlet cloth over his shoulders, he thrust his looking-glass under his belt, and proceeded to mount his palfrey, which was held in readiness near to the tent door by one of his wives.  The horse was really a fine animal, and seemed worthy of a more warlike master.  His shoulders, too, were striped with red paint, and feathers were intertwined with his mane and tail, while the bridle was decorated with various jingling ornaments.

Vaulting upon his steed, with a large fan of wild goose and turkey feathers in one hand, and a whip dangling at the wrist of the other, this incomparable dandy sallied forth for a promenade ­that being his chief delight when there was no buffalo hunting to be done.  Other men who were not dandies sharpened their knives, smoked, feasted, and mended their spears and arrows at such seasons of leisure, or played at athletic games.

“Let’s follow my buck,” said Joe Blunt.

“Oui.  Come ’long,” replied Henri, striding after the rider at a pace that almost compelled his comrades to run.

“Hold on!” cried Dick, laughing; “we don’t want to keep him company.  A distant view is quite enough o’ sich a chap as that.”

“Mais, you forgit, I cannot see far.”

“So much the better,” remarked Joe; “it’s my opinion we’ve seen enough o’ him.  Ah! he’s goin’ to look on at the games.  Them’s worth lookin’ at.”

The games to which Joe referred were taking place on a green level plain close to the creek, and a little above the waterfall before referred to.  Some of the Indians were horse-racing, some jumping, and others wrestling; but the game which proved most attractive was throwing the javelin, in which several of the young braves were engaged.

This game is played by two competitors, each armed with a dart, in an arena about fifty yards long.  One of the players has a hoop of six inches in diameter.  At a signal they start off on foot at full speed, and on reaching the middle of the arena the Indian with the hoop rolls it along before them, and each does his best to send a javelin through the hoop before the other.  He who succeeds counts so many points ­if both miss, the nearest to the hoop is allowed to count, but not so much as if he had “ringed” it.  The Indians are very fond of this game, and will play at it under a broiling sun for hours together.  But a good deal of the interest attaching to it is owing to the fact that they make it a means of gambling.  Indians are inveterate gamblers, and will sometimes go on until they lose horses, bows, blankets, robes, and, in short, their whole personal property.  The consequences are, as might be expected, that fierce and bloody quarrels sometimes arise in which life is often lost.

“Try your hand at that,” said Henri to Dick.

“By all means,” cried Dick, handing his rifle to his friend, and springing into the ring enthusiastically.

A general shout of applause greeted the Pale-face, who threw off his coat and tightened his belt, while a young Indian presented him with a dart.

“Now, see that ye do us credit, lad,” said Joe.

“I’ll try,” answered Dick.

In a moment they were off.  The young Indian rolled away the hoop, and Dick threw his dart with such vigour that it went deep into the ground, but missed the hoop by a foot at least.  The young Indian’s first dart went through the centre.

“Ha!” exclaimed Joe Blunt to the Indians near him, “the lad’s not used to that game, try him at a race.  Bring out your best brave ­he whose bound is like the hunted deer.”

We need scarcely remind the reader that Joe spoke in the Indian language, and that the above is a correct rendering of the sense of what he said.

The name of Tarwicadia, or the little chief, immediately passed from lip to lip, and in a few minutes an Indian, a little below the medium size, bounded into the arena with an indiarubber-like elasticity that caused a shade of anxiety to pass over Joe’s face.

“Ah, boy!” he whispered, “I’m afeared you’ll find him a tough customer.”

“That’s just what I want,” replied Dick.  “He’s supple enough, but he wants muscle in the thigh.  We’ll make it a long heat.”

“Right, lad, yer right.”

Joe now proceeded to arrange the conditions of the race with the chiefs around him.  It was fixed that the distance to be run should be a mile, so that the race would be one of two miles, out and back.  Moreover, the competitors were to run without any clothes, except a belt and a small piece of cloth round the loins.  This to the Indians was nothing, for they seldom wore more in warm weather, but Dick would have preferred to keep on part of his dress.  The laws of the course, however, would not permit of this, so he stripped and stood forth, the beau-ideal of a well-formed, agile man.  He was greatly superior in size to his antagonist, and more muscular, the savage being slender and extremely lithe and springy.

“Hah!  I will run too,” shouted Henri, bouncing forward with clumsy energy, and throwing off his coat just as they were going to start.

The savages smiled at this unexpected burst and made no objection, considering the thing in the light of a joke.

The signal was given, and away they went.  Oh! it would have done you good to have seen the way in which Henri manoeuvred his limbs on this celebrated occasion!  He went over the ground with huge elephantine bounds, runs, and jumps.  He could not have been said to have one style of running; he had a dozen styles, all of which came into play in the course of half as many minutes.  The other two ran like the wind; yet, although Henri appeared to be going heavily over the ground, he kept up with them to the turning point.  As for Dick, it became evident in the first few minutes that he could outstrip his antagonist with ease, and was hanging back a little all the time.  He shot ahead like an arrow when they came about half-way back, and it was clear that the real interest of the race was to lie in the competition between Henri and Tarwicadia.

Before they were two-thirds of the way back, Dick walked in to the winning point, and turned to watch the others.  Henri’s wind was about gone, for he exerted himself with such violence that he wasted half his strength.  The Indian, on the contrary, was comparatively fresh, but he was not so fleet as his antagonist, whose tremendous strides carried him over the ground at an incredible pace.  On they came neck and neck, till close on the score that marked the winning point.  Here the value of enthusiasm came out strongly in the case of Henri.  He felt that he could not gain an inch on Tarwicadia to save his life; but, just as he came up, he observed the anxious faces of his comrades and the half-sneering countenances of the savages.  His heart thumped against his ribs, every muscle thrilled with a gush of conflicting feelings, and he hurled himself over the score like a cannon shot, full six inches ahead of the little chief!

But the thing did not by any means end here.  Tarwicadia pulled up the instant he had passed.  Not so our Canadian.  Such a clumsy and colossal frame was not to be checked in a moment.  The crowd of Indians opened up to let him pass, but unfortunately a small tent that stood in the way was not so obliging.  Into it he went, head-foremost, like a shell, carried away the corner-post with his shoulder, and brought the whole affair down about his own ears, and those of its inmates, among whom were several children and two or three dogs.  It required some time to extricate them all from the ruins, but when this was effected, it was found that no serious damage had been done to life or limb!