When Mary entered the children's bedroom one bright, pleasant morning she was amazed at finding both of the beds empty and a piece of foolscap paper pinned to the dressing table. The writing on it was beyond her power to read. She remembered now that the children had begged her not to come very early in the morning to wake them up, and as their requests were as a law she had lingered as long as she dared, and indeed had only gone to call them when her mistress had asked the reason for their nonappearance. Not until she had shown the paper, with its inscription, to the kitchen maid, who could read English, did its full meaning burst upon her. Of course, she was very much troubled, and yet such was her loyalty to the children that she hesitated about letting the parents know what had occurred. She was fully aware that she could not long keep the startling news from them, and yet she was still resolved that never should any information be imparted by her that might bring down upon them any punishment, no matter how much deserved.
It was a long, rough trail through the primitive forest to the wigwam of Souwanas. How long the children had been away she could not tell. Mary, with Indian shrewdness, had felt their beds, and had found them both quite cold, so she knew the little mischiefs had been off at least an hour. She interrogated not only the maid in the kitchen but also Kennedy, the man of all work, outside. Neither of them had seen or heard anything of the children, and as they did not share Mary's ideas the escapade of the children was soon known.
The parents were naturally alarmed when they heard the news. At once the father, accompanied by Kennedy and the dogs, Jack and Cuffy, started off on the trail of the runaways. The intelligent dogs, having been shown a couple of garments recently worn by the missing boy and girl and being told to find them, at once took up the trail in the direction of the wigwam of Souwanas, running with such rapidity that if they had not been restrained by the voice of their master they would very quickly have left him and his Indian attendant far behind.
At length, with a sudden start, both dogs, growling ominously, dashed off ahead, utterly regardless of all efforts made by their master to restrain them. This suspicious conduct on the part of the dogs of course alarmed the father and his Indian companion, and as rapidly as the rough trail would allow they hurried on in the direction taken by the dogs. Soon their ears were greeted by a chorus of loud and angry yelping. Fear gave speed to both the men, and soon they dashed out from the forest into the opening of an Indian's clearing. Here was a sight that filled them with alarm, and almost terror. Standing on a pile of logs were little Sagastao and Minnehaha. Sagastao erect and fearless, with a club about as large as an ordinary cane, while behind him, leaning against a high fallen log, was Minnehaha. Surrounding them were several fierce, wolfish Indian dogs, among whom Jack and Cuffy, wild and furious, were now making dire havoc. One after another, wounded and limping, the curs skulked away as the two men rushed up to the children.
"Ha! ha! hurrah for our Jack and Cuffy; aren't they the boss dogs!" shouted the fearless little runaways, and now that the victory was won they nimbly sprang down from their high retreat and, apparently without the slightest fear, congratulated both their father and the Indian on the superiority of their own dogs.
Trembling with anxiety, the anxious father, thankful at the narrow escape of his children, as he clasped them in his arms could not but be amazed at the indifference of the little ones to the great danger from which they had just escaped. After petting Jack and Cuffy for their great bravery and courage the return journey was begun, much to the regret of the children, who pleaded hard to be allowed to resume their trip to the wigwam of Souwanas to hear the stories of Nanahboozhoo.
'Surrounding them were several fierce, wolfish Indian dogs.'
The father was perfectly amazed at this request, and of course it was sternly refused. He had started off in pursuit of the runaways with a resolve to punish them for this serious breach of home discipline, but his alarm at their danger and his thankfulness for their escape had so stirred him that he could not punish them nor even chide them at the time. All he could do was to bring them safely home again and, as usual in such emergencies, turn them over to the tender mercies of their mother.
Sturdily the children marched on ahead for a while, then Kennedy, the Indian, took Minnehaha in his arms. He had not carried her many hundred yards before the weary little one fell fast asleep, softly muttering as she slipped off into the land of dreams, "Wanted to hear about Nanahboozhoo."
Great was the excitement at home when the party returned. Sagastao rushed into the arms of his mother, and without the slightest idea of having done anything wrong began most dramatically to describe how "our Jack and Cuffy thrashed those naughty Eskimo dogs" that chased Minnehaha and him upon that great pile of logs. Mary in the meantime had taken from Kennedy's arms the still sleeping Minnehaha, and almost smothered her with kisses as she bore her away to bed.
There was great perplexity on the part of the parents to know just what to do to impress upon the little ones that they had been very naughty in thus running away, for it was very evident from the utterances of both that they had not considered the matter in that light. Now, in view of the weariness of Minnehaha, it was decided to leave the matter of discipline in abeyance until a little of the excitement had passed away.
In the meantime Sagastao was ready to talk with everybody about the whole affair. It seems that he and Minnehaha had decided that Mary was "no good" in telling stories. He said her stories neither frightened them nor made them cry, but Souwanas was the boss man to tell Nanahboozhoo stories. He said they got up before anybody was stirring, that morning, and dressed themselves so quietly that nobody heard them. They remembered the trail along which Souwanas and Jakoos had carried them. After they had walked for some time they came to where there was a larger trail, and they turned into it, and came upon a lot of dogs that had been chasing some rabbits. Soon the rabbits got away from the dogs, when they reached those trees that had been chopped down. Minnehaha was the first to notice that the dogs had turned back, and were coming after them, and she shouted:
"'O, look! those dogs think we are rabbits, and they are coming for us!'"
"When I saw they really were coming," said Sagastao, "Minnehaha and I jumped up on the logs, and we climbed up as high as we could, and I took up a stick, and then I stood up with Minnehaha behind me, and I shook the stick at them, and—and I shouted:
"'A wus, atimuk!'" (Get away, you dogs!)
"They came so near on the logs that I hit one or two of them, while all of the others on the ground kept barking at us. But I kept shouting back at them, 'A wus, atimuk!' My! it was great fun. Then all at once we heard Jack and Cuffy, and, I tell you! soon there was more fun, when our big dogs sprang at them. Every time an Eskimo was tackled by Jack or Cuffy he went down, and was soon howling from the way in which he was shaken. And they had nearly thrashed the whole of them when papa and Kennedy came rushing up. I wished they had been there sooner, to have seen all the fun."
Thus the lad's tongue rattled on, while it was evident he was utterly unconscious of the danger they had been in.
After some deliberation it was decided that, in view of this runaway being the first offense of the kind, the punishment should be confinement to their own room the next day, until six o'clock in the evening, on a diet of bread and water. At this Mary was simply furious. She well knew, however, that it was necessary for her to control herself in her master's and mistress's presence. She managed to hold her tongue, but her flashing eyes and an occasional mutter, which would come out as she went about her usual duties, showed the smoldering fire that was burning inside. The children had been duly lectured for their breach of discipline and then, that evening, consigned to their room for their imprisonment which was to last until the next evening. That night Mary took up her mattress and blankets and went and slept on the floor between the two beds of the children, and in spite of orders, so the maid said, she secretly carried up a goodly sized bundle from the kitchen.
The day was one of unusual quietness, as the lively pair, who generally kept the house full of music, were now supposed to be away in humiliation and disgrace. All regretted that the punishment had to be inflicted and the children made to realize their naughtiness in thus running away, and all were looking forward to the hour of six o'clock with pleasant anticipation. When it arrived word was sent to the children that their hours of imprisonment were over, and that they were to present themselves in the library. Quick and prompt was the response, and noisily and hurriedly the two darlings came rushing down the stairs, followed by Mary. They were arrayed in their most beautiful apparel, and were evidently prepared by their nurse to go with her for a walk.
The father, feeling that it was necessary, began to make a few remarks expressive of regret that he had thus been obliged to punish them, when he was interrupted by little Sagastao with the honest and candid remark, spoken in a way which, while perfectly fearless, was yet devoid of all rudeness or impertinence:
"O, father dear, you needn't feel badly about us at all, as Mary has been with us all day and has told us lovely stories."
"And Mary brought us taffy candy," broke in darling Minnehaha, with equal candor; "and some currant cakes and other nice things, so we got on very well after all."
These candid utterances on the part of the two children not only amazed but amused the parents, and were another revelation of Mary's wonderful love for the children and her defiance of disciplinary measures which she thought might cause the slightest pain or sorrow. And here she stood in the open door, and as soon as their father's words and their own rather startling "confessions" were ended she called them to her and away they went for a long walk along the beautiful shore of the lake, leaving their parents to conjecture whether the punishment that had been inflicted would produce any very salutary results.
When the children were gathered that evening in the study with their parents little Sagastao said:
"Papa, Minnehaha and I have been talking it all over with Mary and she has shown us that it was naughty on our parts to run away as we did; and we are sorry that we did anything that caused you and mamma sorrow and anxiety about us, and so, ... Well, we know you will forgive us." And as the four little arms went twining around the parents' necks there was joy and gladness all round, and it was evident that there was no danger of the escapade being repeated.
The following are a couple of the legends that Mary told them while they were prisoners in their own room that day.
"Long ago," said Mary, "there were some Indian families who lived on the top of a very high hill, like a mountain. They had quite a number of small children, and I am sorry to say they were very naughty and would often disobey their parents. One of their bad deeds was to run away, and thus make the father and mother very unhappy until they returned. Their parents were very much afraid that some of the Windegoos or wild animals would catch them when they thus ran away by themselves, with no strong man to guard them.
"So the parents tried to make their homes as nice as possible for them. They made all sorts of toys for them and gave them nice little bows and arrows, and other things, that ought to have amused them and kept them happy at home. All the efforts of their parents, however, were of no use. They soon were tired of their home amusements, and when their parents' backs were turned they would run away.
"At length their conduct became so bad, and the parents found themselves so powerless to prevent it, that they decided to appeal to the Indian Council for assistance. For a time the stern commands of the Chief were listened to and obeyed. Then they neglected his words, and about as frequently as ever they were found playing truant from their homes and parents.
"At length, on one occasion when they had all run away and had been off for several days and could not be found, their fathers and mothers called upon Wakonda to look for them and to send them home. Wakonda was very angry when he heard about these naughty children running away so much, and so he set off in a hurry to find them. After a long search he discovered them on the bank of a muddy river making mud huts and mud animals. He was so angry at them that he at once turned them into swallows, and said, 'From this time forward you will ever be wanderers and your homes will always be made of mud,' and so it has been."
"I say, Mary, did you remember that yarn because Minnehaha and I ran away?" said Sagastao.
"Well, we were not making mud huts," said Minnehaha.
Mary was not to be caught, however, even if she did love them so much, and she did not answer Sagastao's question, although in her heart she was not sorry if he saw something in the legend that would deter him from again running away.
"There was once an old grandmother who was left alone with only an orphan grandson. All of her other relatives were dead. This boy was a very industrious little fellow, and did all that he could to help his grandmother. They both had to work very hard to have sufficient to keep them from starving. Together they would go out in their canoe and catch fish. They also set many snares in the forest to catch rabbits, partridges, and other small game.
"Because they were so poor the clothing of this orphan boy was made partly of rabbitskins and partly of the skins of birds. When he was not busy helping his grandmother he, like other little boys, was pleased to go out and play with the other children of the village. Some of the men of the village were very fond of teasing him, and some were even cruel to him, because of the poor clothing he had to wear. Often the poor boy would return to the wigwam of his grandmother crying and weeping because the men of the village had not only teased him on account of his poor clothing but had almost torn his coat into pieces. His grandmother entreated the men to stop teasing the poor boy, who could not help his poverty. She would patiently mend his poor torn clothes and try to cheer him up with the hope that soon these foolish, cruel men would see how wrong it was to treat him thus.
"But they only seemed to get worse instead of better, and so the grandmother got very angry at last and determined to have it stopped.
"So she went off to Wakonda and told him all about it. Wakonda was very busy just then, but he gave her some of his magical powers and told her what to do when she reached her home.
"When she arrived there she found her grandson almost naked from the abuse of the cruel men, who, finding that she was absent, had been more cruel than ever to him. She then informed him that she was able now to put a stop to all their cruel actions. So she told him to dive into a pool of water that was near at hand. He did as she had commanded, and there he found an underground channel that led out into the great lake.
"When he came up to the top of the water in the lake he found himself transformed into a beautiful seal. He at once begun playing about in the waves as seals are often seen doing.
"It was not long before he was seen by the people of the village, and, of course, the men were very anxious to secure this valuable seal. Canoes were quickly launched and away the men paddled with their spears to try and capture it. But the boy, now transformed into the seal, quickly swam away from them, as instructed by his grandmother, and so kept them busy paddling on and on farther from the shore. When they seemed almost discouraged the seal would suddenly dive down, and then reappear in the water just behind them. Then, before the men could turn around and spear him, he as suddenly dived under the water again. The pursuit was so exciting that these cruel men did not notice how far out from land they had now come. They did, however, after a time see their danger, for suddenly a fierce gale sprang up, and the waves rose in such fury that they upset the canoes and all of the wicked men were drowned. When the old grandmother saw this she once more exerted the magical powers with which she had been intrusted by Wakonda, and calling to her grandson to return home he instantly complied with her request. He speedily swam back to her, and she at once transformed him into his human form.
"Thus freed from his tormentors, he very rapidly grew up to manhood and became a great hunter, and was kind to his grandmother as long as she lived."