Short Stories » The Great Cat's Nursery

The Great Cat's Nursery - Page 6 of 6

When she got to the den it was clear to Nakpaksa (Torn Ear) that this was not a regular home, so that she had a right to enter and investigate. To her surprise she found a little Igmutanka baby, and he cried when he saw her and seemed to be hungry. He was the age of her own baby which she had left not long before, and upon second thought she was not sure but that he was her own and that he had been stolen. He had evidently not been there long, and there was no one near to claim him. So she took him home with her. There she found her own kitten safe and glad to have a playmate, and Nakpaksa decided, untroubled by any pangs of conscience, to keep him and bring him up as her own.

It is clear that had Igmu returned and missed her baby there would have been trouble in the family. But, as the event proved, the cousin had really done a good deed.

It was sad but unavoidable that Igmu should pass near her old home in returning for the other kitten. When she crawled along the rocky ledge, in full view of the den, she wanted to stop. Yet she could not re- enter the home from which she had been forced to flee. It was not the custom of her people to do so. The home which they vacate by chance they may re-enter and even re-occupy, but never the home which they are forced to leave. There are evil spirits there!

Hurt and wearied, yet with courage unshaken, the poor savage mother glided along the stream. She saw Mrs. Bobtail and her old man cutting wood dangerously far from the water, but she could not stop and warn them because she had borrowed one of their deserted houses without their permission.

"Mur-r-r-r!" What is this she hears? It is the voice of the wild men's coyotes! It comes from the direction of the kitten's hiding-place. Off she went, only pausing once or twice to listen; but it became more and more clear that there was yelling of the wild men as well.

She now ran along the high ledges, concealing herself behind trees and rocks, until she came to a point from which she could overlook the scene. Quickly and stealthily she climbed a large pine. Behold, the little Igmu was up a small willow-tree! Three Indians were trying to shake him down, and their dogs were hilarious over the fun.

Her eyes flamed once more with wrath and rebellion against injustice. Could neither man nor beast respect her rights? It was horrible! Down she came, and with swift and cautious step advanced within a very few paces of the tree before man or beast suspected her approach.

Just then they shook the tree vigorously, while the poor little Igmu, clinging to the bough, yelled out pitifully, "Waw, waw, waw !'

Mother-love and madness now raged in her bosom. She could not be quiet any longer! One or two long springs brought her to the tree. The black coyotes and the wild men were surprised and fled for their lives.

Igmu seized and tore the side of one of the men, and threw a dog against the rocks with a broken leg. Then in lightning fashion she ran up the tree to rescue her kitten, and sprang to the ground, carrying it in her teeth. As the terrified hunters scattered from the tree, she chose the path along the creek bottom for her flight.

Just as she thought she had cleared the danger-point a wild man appeared upon the bank overhead and, quick as a flash, sent one of those winged willows. She felt a sharp pang in her side a faintness she could not run! The little Igmu for whom she had made such a noble fight dropped from her mouth. She staggered towards the bank, but her strength refused her, so she lay down beside a large rock. The baby came to her immediately, for he had not had any milk since the day before. She gave one gentle lick to his woolly head before she dropped her own and died.

'Woo, woo! Igmutanka ye lo ! Woo, woo!" the shout of triumph resounded from the cliffs of Bear-runs-in-the-Lodge. The successful hunter took home with him the last of the Igmu family, the little orphaned kitten.

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