Short Stories » The River People
The River People - Page 6 of 6
'It may be a haunted pond," said One Feather.
" It is certain that some strange thing lives in this deep water," added Red Blanket, with gravity. They were fully concealed by the tall grass, and their dogs lay quietly at their sides.
'Look, my friend, it is he!" exclaimed One Feather, suddenly. They quickly faced about to behold an animal scramble up the steep bank. Both of his ears were entirely gone. The hair of his head and face was quite gray, including the few coarse whiskers that the beaver people wear. It looked very like the unshaven face of an old man. The hair of his body was short and rough the silky, reddish coat was gone.
'It is an old, old beaver," whispered One Feather. "Ah, he is the grandfather of the village! I see now why this pond is not much used by the young folks. The old people live here."
He was apparently half blind and hard of hearing, as they had made enough noise to attract Hezee's attention, but he did not move. Soon Chapawee came up slowly and sat beside her old man. As the two sat there, upright, sunning themselves, there came from a distance an undertone call. Then a large female beaver glided up the stream, bearing in her mouth the fine, branchy bough of a tree, which she must have gone some miles to get. She approached the old pair, and kindly set the branch before them. While they greedily nibbled at it, the young woman quietly disappeared.
'These arc people much like us. Surely they build much warmer houses than we do," said Red Blanket, laughing. "Yes, they are a wonderful people," re- plied his friend, with a serious face. ' This is the grandmother's pond. We shall respect it to-morrow," he continued. 'We shall open the other dams and drain the water off, then the entrances will all be dry and our dogs will enter their homes and drive them out. When they come out, we shall spear them." This was the plan of One Feather, to which his companion assented.
It was a sad day for the river people. Presently the two slayers came to the pond of Hezee and Chapawee, where they lay nestled together in their old, warm bed.
' ' I would like to leave the two old people alone," said One Feather. ' But we cannot get at the upper ponds without draining this one." So it was decided to break down both of their dams. When the entrance to their house was exposed, the dogs rushed in and were beginning to bark, but One Feather called them back.
The work was accomplished, but it had taken two days. It was a sad massacre!
" We must repair the dam for the old folks before we go, and I have left four young ones alive, so that they can help feed them. I do not want their spirits to follow us," said One Feather. So on the very next morning the two hunters came back to the middle pond. Red Blanket with his dog was a little in advance.
"Come here, friend!" he called. There Hezee and Chapawee lay cold and stiff in the open.
They had gone out in the dark to rebuild their dam, according to the habit of a long life. Then they visited some of their children's homes for aid, but all were silent and in ruins. Again they came back to work, but it was all in vain. They were too old; their strength had left them ; and who would care in such a case to survive the ruins of his house ?