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Rolf in the Woods(Chapter8)

2006-09-08 19:30

  CHAPTER VIII Rolf Works Out with Many Results

  He is the dumbest kind of a dumb fool that ain't king in some little corner. —— Sayings of Si Sylvanne

  The man who has wronged you will never forgive you, and he who has helped you will be forever grateful. Yes, there is nothing that draws you to a man so much as the knowledge that you have helped him.

  Quonab helped Rolf, and so was more drawn to him than to many of the neighbours that he had known for years; he was ready to like him. Their coming together was accidental, but it was soon very clear that a friendship was springing up between them. Rolf was too much of a child to think about the remote future; and so was Quonab. Most Indians are merely tall children.

  But there was one thing that Rolf did think of —— he had no right to live in Quonab's lodge without contributing a fair share of the things needful. Quonab got his living partly by hunting, partly by fishing, partly by selling baskets, and partly by doing odd jobs for the neighbours. Rolf's training as a loafer had been wholly neglected, and when he realized that he might be all summer with Quonab he said bluntly:

  "You let me stay here a couple of months. I'll work out odd days, and buy enough stuff to keep myself any way." Quonab said nothing, but their eyes met, and the boy knew it was agreed to.

  Rolf went that very day to the farm of Obadiah Timpany, and offered to work by the day, hoeing corn and root crops. What farmer is not glad of help in planting time or in harvest? It was only a question of what did he know and how much did he want? The first was soon made clear; two dollars a week was the usual thing for boys in those times, and when he offered to take it half in trade, he was really getting three dollars a week and his board. Food was as low as wages, and at the end of a week, Rolf brought back to camp a sack of oatmeal, a sack of cornmeal, a bushel of potatoes, a lot of apples, and one dollar cash. The dollar went for tea and sugar, and the total product was enough to last them both a month; so Rolf could share the wigwam with a good conscience.

  Of course, it was impossible to keep the gossipy little town of Myanos from knowing, first, that the Indian had a white boy for partner; and, later, that that boy was Rolf. This gave rise to great diversity of opinion in the neighbourhood. Some thought it should not be allowed, but Horton, who owned the land on which Quonab was camped, could not see any reason for interfering.

  Ketchura Peck, spinster, however, did see many most excellent reasons. She was a maid with a mission, and maintained it to be an outrage that a Christian boy should be brought up by a godless pagan. She worried over it almost as much as she did over the heathen in Central Africa, where there are no Sunday schools, and clothes are as scarce as churches. Failing to move Parson Peck and Elder Knapp in the matter, and despairing of an early answer to her personal prayers, she resolved on a bold move, "An' it was only after many a sleepless, prayerful night," namely, to carry the Bible into the heathen's stronghold.

  Thus it was that one bright morning in June she might have been seen, prim and proper —— almost glorified, she felt, as she set her lips just right in the mirror —— making for the Pipestave Pond, Bible in hand and spectacles clean wiped, ready to read appropriate selections to the unregenerate.

  She was full of the missionary spirit when she left Myanos, and partly full when she reached the Orchard Street Trail; but the spirit was leaking badly, and the woods did appear so wild and lonely that she wondered if women had any right to be missionaries. When she came in sight of the pond, the place seemed unpleasantly different from Myanos and where was the Indian camp? She did not dare to shout; indeed, she began to wish she were home again, but the sense of duty carried her fully fifty yards along the pond, and then she came to an impassable rock, a sheer bank that plainly said, "Stop!" Now she must go back or up the bank. Her Yankee pertinacity said, "Try first up the bank," and she began a long, toilsome ascent, that did not end until she came out on a bigh, open rock which, on its farther side, had a sheer drop and gave a view of the village and of the sea.

  Whatever joy she had on again seeing her bome was speedily queued in the fearsome discovery that she was right over the Indian camp, and the two inmates looked so utterly, dreadfully savage that she was thankful they had not seen her. At once she shrank back; but on recovering sufficiently to again peer down, she saw something roasting before the fire —— "a tiny arm with a hand that bore five fmgers," as she afterward said, and "a sickening horror came over her. " Yes, she had heard of such things. If she could only get home in safety! Why had she tempted Providence thus? She backed softly and prayed only to escape. What, and never even deliver the Bible? "It would be wicked to return with it!" In a cleft of the rock she placed it, and then, to prevent the wind blowing off loose leaves, she placed a stone on top, and fled from the dreadful place.

  That night, when Quonab and Rolf had finished their meal of corn and roasted coon, the old man climbed the rock to look at the sky. The book caught his eye at once, evidently hidden there carefully, and therefore in cache. A cache is a sacred thing to an Indian. He disturbed it not, but later asked Rolf, "That yours?"

  "No."

  It was doubtless the property of some one who meant to return for it, so they left it untouched. It rested there for many months, till the winter storms came down, dismantling the covers, dissolving the pages, but leaving such traces as, in the long afterward, served to identify the book and give the rock the other name, the one it bears to-day - "Bible Rock, where Quonab, the son of Cos Cob, used to live."

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