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- The Little Savage - 5/51 -
I felt the knives, the blades were sharp; I put the lanyard of the clasp knife round my neck; the sheath knife, which was a formidable weapon, I made fast round my waist, with a piece of the fishing lines, which I cut off; and I then turned my steps towards the cabin, as night was coming on, though the moon was high in the heavens, and shining brightly. On my return, I found Jackson in his bed-place; he heard me come in, and asked me, in a quiet tone, whether I would bring him some water? I answered,
"No, that I would not, for what he had said about me, and what he would do, if he got me into his power. I'll tame you," cried I. "I'm master now, as you shall find."
"You may be," replied he, quickly, "but still, that is no reason why you should not let me have some water. Did I ever prevent you from having water?"
"You never had to fetch it for me," I rejoined, "or you would not have taken the trouble. What trouble would you take for me, if I were blind now, and not you? I should become of no use to you, and you would leave me to die. You only let me live that you might make me work for you, and beat me cruelly. It's my turn now--you're the boy, and I'm the master."
The reader must remember that I did not know the meaning of the word "boy"; my idea of it was, that it was in opposition to "master," and boy, with me, had the same idea as the word "slave."
"Be it so," replied he, calmly. "I shall not want water long."
There was a quietness about Jackson which made me suspect him, and the consequence was, that although I turned into my bed-place, which was on the ground at the side of the cabin opposite to his, I did not feel inclined to go to sleep, but remained awake, thinking of what had passed. It was towards morning when I heard him move; my face being turned that way, I had no occasion to stir to watch his motions. He crept very softly out of his bed-place towards me, listening, and advancing on his knees, not more than a foot every ten seconds. "You want me in your grasp," thought I, "come along," and I drew my American knife from its sheath, without noise, and awaited his approach, smiling at the surprise he would meet with. I allowed him to come right up to me; he felt the side of my bed, and then passed his right hand over to seize me. I caught his right hand with my left, and passing the knife across his wrist, more than half divided it from his arm. He gave a shriek of surprise and pain, and fell back.
"He has a knife," exclaimed he, with surprise, holding his severed wrist with the other hand.
"Yes, he has a knife, and more than one," replied I, "and you see that he knows how to use it. Will you come again? or will you believe that I'm master?"
"If you have any charity or mercy, kill me at once," said he, as he sat up in the moonlight, in the centre of the floor of the cabin.
"Charity and mercy," said I, "what are they? I never heard of them."
"Alas! no," replied he, "I have shewed none--it's a judgment on me-- a judgment on me for my many sins; Lord, forgive me! First my eyes, now my right hand useless. What next, O Lord of Heaven?"
"Why, your other hand next," replied I, "if you try it again."
Jackson made no reply. He attempted to crawl back to his bed, but, faint with loss of blood, he dropped senseless on the floor of the cabin. I looked at him, and satisfied that he would make no more attempts upon me, I turned away, and fell fast asleep. In about two hours, I awoke, and looking round, perceived him lying on the floor, where he had fallen the night before. I went to him and examined him-- was he asleep, or was he dead? He lay in a pool of blood. I felt him, and he was quite warm. It was a ghastly cut on his wrist, and I thought, if he is dead, he will never tell me what I want to know. I knew that he bound up cuts to stop the blood. I took some feathers from the bed, and put a handful on the wound. After I had done it, I bound his wrist up with a piece of fishing-line I had taken to secure the sheath knife round my waist, and then I went for some water. I poured some down his throat; this revived him, and he opened his eyes.
"Where am I?" said he faintly.
"Where are you?--why, in the cabin," said I.
"Give me some more water."
I did so, for I did not wish to kill him. I wanted him to live, and to be in my power. After drinking the water he roused himself, and crawled back to his bed-place. I left him then, and went down to bathe.
The reader may exclaim--What a horrid tyrant this boy is--why, he is as bad as his companion. Exactly--I was so--but let the reader reflect that I was made so by education. From the time that I could first remember, I had been tyrannised over; cuffed, kicked, abused and ill-treated. I had never known kindness. Most truly was the question put by me, "Charity and mercy--what are they?" I never heard of them. An American Indian has kind feelings--he is hospitable and generous--yet, educated to inflict, and receive, the severest tortures to and from, his enemies, he does the first with the most savage and vindictive feelings, and submits to the latter with indifference and stoicism. He has, indeed, the kindlier feelings of his nature exercised; still, this changes him not. He has been from earliest infancy brought up to cruelty, and he cannot feel that it is wrong. Now, my position was worse. I had never seen the softer feelings of our nature called into play; I knew nothing but tyranny and oppression, hatred and vengeance. It was therefore not surprising that, when my turn came, I did to others as I had been done by. Jackson had no excuse for his treatment of me, whereas, I had every excuse for retaliation. He did know better, I did not. I followed the ways of the world in the petty microcosm in which I had been placed. I knew not of mercy, of forgiveness, charity, or goodwill. I knew not that there was a God; I only knew that might was right, and the most pleasurable sensation which I felt, was that of anxiety for vengeance, combined with the consciousness of power.
After I had bathed, I again examined the chest and its contents. I looked at the books without touching them. "I must know what these mean," thought I, "and I will know." My thirst for knowledge was certainly most remarkable, in a boy of my age; I presume for the simple reason, that we want most what we cannot obtain; and Jackson having invariably refused to enlighten me on any subject, I became most anxious and impatient to satisfy the longing which increased with my growth.
For three days did Jackson lie on his bed; I supplied him with water, but he did not eat anything. He groaned heavily at times, and talked much to himself, and I heard him ask forgiveness of God, and pardon for his sins. I noted this down for an explanation. On the third day, he said to me,
"Henniker, I am very ill. I have a fever coming on, from the wound you have given me. I do not say that I did not deserve it, for I did, and I know that I have treated you ill, and that you must hate me, but the question is, do you wish me to die?"
"No," replied I; "I want you to live, and answer all my questions, and you shall do so."
"I will do so," replied he. "I have done wrong, and I will make amends. Do you understand me? I mean to say, that I have been very cruel to you, and now I will do all you wish, and answer every question you may put to me, as well as I can."
"That is what I want," replied I.
"I know it is, but my wound is festering and must be washed and dressed. The feathers make it worse. Will you do this for me?"
I thought a little, and recollected that he was still in my power, as he could not obtain water. I replied, "Yes, I will."
"The cord hurts it, you must take it off."
I fetched the kid of water, and untied the cord, and took away the feathers, which had matted together with the flow of blood, and then I washed the wound carefully. Looking into the wound, my desire of information induced me to say, "What are these little white cords, which are cut through?"
"They are the sinews and tendons," replied he, "by which we are enabled to move our hands and fingers; now these are cut through, I shall not have the use of my hand again."
"Stop a moment," said I, rising up, "I have just thought of something." I ran down to the point where the chest lay, took a shirt from the rock, and brought it back with me, and tearing it into strips, I bandaged the wound.
"Where did you get that linen?" said Jackson.
I told him.
"And you got the knife there, too," said he, with a sigh. I replied in the affirmative.
As soon as I had finished, he told me he was much easier, and said,
"I thank you."
"What is I thank you?" replied I.
"It means that I am grateful for what you have done."
"And what is grateful?" inquired I again. "You never said those words to me before."
"Alas, no," replied he; "it had been better if I had. I mean that I feel kindly towards you, for having bound up my wound, and would do anything for you if I had the power. It means, that if I had my eyesight, as I had a week ago, and was master, as I then was, that I would not kick nor beat you, but be kind to you. Do you understand me?"
"Yes," replied I, "I think I do; and if you tell me all I want to know I shall believe you."
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