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Rolf in the Woods(Chapter50)

2006-09-08 19:49

  CHAPTER L Back At Van Trumper's

  Nibowaka" —— Quonab always said "Nibowaka" when he was impressed with Rolf's astuteness —— "What about the canoe and stuff?"

  "I think we better leave all here. Callan will lend us a canoe." So they shouldered the guns, Rolf clung to his, and tramped across the portage, reaching Callan's in less than two hours.

  "Why, certainly you can have the canoe, but come in and eat first," was the kindly backwoods greeting. However, Rolf was keen to push on; they launched the canoe at once and speedily were flashing their paddles on the lake.

  The place looked sweetly familiar as they drew near. The crops in the fields were fair; the crop of chickens at the barn was good; and the crop of children about the door was excellent.

  "Mein Hemel! mein Hemel! " shouted fat old Hendrik, as they walked up to the stable door. In a minute he was wringing their hands and smiling into great red, white, and blue smiles. "Coom in, coom in, lad. Hi, Marta, here be Rolf and Quonab. Mein Hemel! mein Hemel! what am I now so happy."

  "Where's Annette?" asked Rolf.

  "Ach, poor Annette, she fever have a little; not mooch, some," and he led over to a corner where on a low cot lay Annette, thin, pale, and listless.

  She smiled faintly, in response, when Rolf stooped and kissed her.

  "Why, Annette, I came back to see you. I want to take you over to Warren's store, so you can pick out that dress. See, I brought you my first marten and I made this box for you; you must thank Skookum for the quills on it."

  "Poor chile; she bin sick all spring," and Marta used a bunch of sedge to drive away the flies and mosquitoes that, bass and treble, hovered around the child.

  "What ails her?" asked Rolf anxiously.

  "Dot ve do not know," was the reply.

  "Maybe there's some one here can tell," and Roll glanced at the Indian.

  "Ach, sure! Have I you that not always told all-vays —— eet is so. All-vays, I want sumpin bad mooch. I prays de good Lord and all-vays, all-vays, two times now, He it send by next boat. Ach, how I am spoil," and the good Dutchman's eyes filled with tears of thankfulness.

  Quonab knelt by the sufferer. He felt her hot, dry hand; he noticed her short, quick breathing, her bright eyes, and the untouched bowl of mush by her bed.

  "Swamp fever," he said. "I bring good medicine." He passed quietly out into the woods. When he returned, he carried a bundle of snake-root which he made into tea.

  Annette did not wish to touch it, but her mother persuaded her to take a few sips from a cup held by Rolf.

  "Wah! this not good," and Quonab glanced about the close, fly-infested room. "I must make lodge." He turned up the cover of the bedding; three or four large, fiat brown things moved slowly out of the light. "Yes, I make lodge."

  It was night now, and all retired; the newcomers to the barn. They had scarcely entered, when a screaming of poultry gave a familiar turn to affairs. On running to the spot, it proved not a mink or coon, but Skookum, up to his old tricks. On the appearance of his masters, he fled with guilty haste, crouched beneath the post that he used to be, and soon again was, chained to.

  In the morning Quonab set about his lodge, and Rolf said: "I've got to go to Warren's for sugar." The sugar was part truth and part blind. As soon as he heard the name swamp fever, Rolf remembered that, in Redding, Jesuit's bark (known later as quinine) was the sovereign remedy. He had seen his mother administer it many times, and, so far as he knew, with uniform success. Every frontier (or backwoods, it's the same) trader carries a stock of medicine, and in two hours Rolf left Warren's counter with twenty-five pounds of maple sugar and a bottle of quinine extract in his pack.

  "You say she's bothered with the flies; why don't you take some of this new stuff for a curtain? " and the trader held up a web of mosquito gauze, the first Rolf had seen. That surely was a good idea, and ten yards snipped off was a most interesting addition to his pack. The amount was charged against him, and in two hours more he was back at Van Trumper's.

  On the cool side of the house, Quonab had built a little lodge, using a sheet for cover. On a low bed of pine boughs lay the child. Near the door was a smouldering fire of cedar, whose aromatic fumes on the lazy wind reached every cranny of the lodge.

  Sitting by the bed head, with a chicken wing to keep off the few mosquitoes, was the Indian. The child's eyes were closed; she was sleeping peacefully. Rolf crept gently forward, laid his hand on hers, it was cool and moist. He went into the house with his purchases; the mother greeted him with a happy look: Yes, Annette was a little better; she had slept quietly ever since she was taken outdoors. The mother could not understand. Why should the Indian want to have her surrounded by pine boughs? why cedar-smoke? and why that queer song? Yes, there it was again. Rolf went out to see and hear. Softly summing on a tin pan, with a mudded stick, the Indian sang a song. The words which Rolf learned in the after- time were:

  "Come, Kaluskap, drive the witches; Those who came to harm the dear one."

  Annette moved not, but softly breathed, as she slept a sweet, restful slumber, the first for many days.

  "Vouldn't she be better in de house?" whispered the anxious mother.

  "No, let Quonab do his own way," and Rolf wondered if any white man had sat by little Wee-wees to brush away the flies from his last bed.

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