The Hidden Children HTML version

Chapter 8. Old Friends
The sunrise gun awoke me. I rolled out of my blanket, saw the white cannon-smoke
floating above the trees, ran down to the river, and plunged in.
When I returned, the Sagamore had already broken his fast, and once more was engaged
in painting himself-- this time in a most ghastly combination of black and white, the
startling parti-coloured decorations splitting his visage into two equal sections, so that his
eyes gleamed from a black and sticky mask, and his mouth and chin and jaw were like
the features of a weather-bleached skull.
"More war, O Mayaro, my brother?" I asked in a bantering voice. "Every day you prepare
for battle with a confidence forever new; every night the army snores in peace. Yet, at
dawn, when you have greeted the sun, you renew your war-paint. Such praiseworthy
perseverance ought to be rewarded."
"It has already been rewarded," remarked the Indian, with quiet humour.
"In what manner?" I asked, puzzled.
"In the manner that all warriors desire to be rewarded," he replied, secretly amused.
"I thought," said I, "that the reward all warriors desire is a scalp taken in battle."
He cast a sly glance at me and went on painting.
"Mayaro," said I, disturbed, "is it possible that you have been out forest-running while
I've slept?"
He shot a quick look at me, full of delighted malice.
And "Ho!" said he. "My brother sleeps sounder than a winter bear. Three Erie scalps
hang stretched, hooped, and curing in the morning sun, behind the bush-hut. Little
brother, has the Sagamore done well?"
Straightway I whirled on my heel and walked out and around the hut. Strung like drying
fish on a willow wand three scalps hung in the sunshine, the soft July breeze stirring the
dead hair. And as soon as I saw them I knew they were indeed Erie scalps.
Repressing my resentment and disgust, I lingered a moment to examine them, then
returned to the hut, where the Siwanois, grave as a catamount at his toilet, squatted in a
patch of sunshine, polishing his features.