"Tell us, Mary, a story about the boys of the old times among the Indians," said Sagastao.
"About bad boys," said Minnehaha with a mischievous look in her eyes; "for this morning brother and papa had to have a 'settlement,' and it might do Sagastao good to hear about other bad boys and what was done with them."
These words of Minnehaha made Mary very angry. She thought more of Sagastao than she did of any other member of the family, and nothing threw her into a rage quicker than for anyone to cross him or even to question the wisdom of anything he said. Now, indignant that his father had been obliged to call him into his study for some misdemeanor, Mary was greatly annoyed to hear these words.
"O, pshaw, Sakehow," said Sagastao; "do not be so touchy. I deserved the talking to that papa gave me. It was wrong of me to whack that Indian boy with my bat as I did, and I ought to have been punished; so if you have any jolly good stories about bad Indian boys, and how they were punished, why, let us have one."
This confession of her favorite, who, after his temper cooled, was always quick to admit that he had been in the wrong, quite pacified Mary, and she settled down on the wolfskin rug with the children and began her story.
"Long ago all the Indians believed in Windegoos and other spirits that were more or less friendly to good people. Some were man-eaters and, of course, were always to be feared. Some Indians were in such fear of these cannibals that they would never leave the wigwam after dark for fear of being gobbled up by some of the monsters that might be skulking about.
"There was one great creature called Annungitee, or Two Faced. He had a great habit of looking out for bad boys, very bad boys. It was said that he could not see really good boys; that they were like glass, and he could not see them. But when a boy became very bad he was then so black that he was easily seen, and Annungitee could espy him a long way off and was very likely to come after him.
"Fortunately Annungitee always made a noise when he was passing along. This was a good thing for bad boys, for it gave them time to scurry into the wigwams, out of his way. He was so big that when he set one of his feet down on the ground there would be sounds like the ringing of bells and the hooting of owls. When he put the other foot down the sound was like the roaring of buffalo bulls when they are going to fight each other. Even when he tried to move softly there would be sounds like birds and beasts crying out. All the Indians who had heard this great terrible fellow were afraid of him, and yet no two were able to give the same description of him. But they did agree on one thing, and that was that when he caught a very wicked man, which he did sometimes, or very bad boys, which he often did, he just threw him into one of his big ears and held him there. Indeed, it was believed that he could hold three big men or six bad boys in one of his ears at the same time. Nobody knew where he lived, as no one had been found brave enough to follow and see, and no daring hunter had ever found his abode in any of his hunting expeditions.
"Now a certain Indian man and his wife who lived in a wigwam quite apart from other families had one boy. He was their only child. He had been a very bad, cruel, unkind boy. His father had to work hard as a hunter to obtain sufficient game to keep them from starving. His mother cut the wood, carried up the water from the distant river, dressed the skins of the animals that were shot by her husband, and did all the work of the wigwam. The boy would not lift a finger to help in any way. One day the mother, who was quite sick, asked him to go for some water. He refused, and was very saucy to her. Then she asked him if he would please bring in some wood for her, as she felt cold. No, he would not do anything of the kind. She then became quite angry with him, and said:
"'If you do not be a better boy I will put you out of the wigwam, and Annungitee will toss you into his ear.'
"All the same, she did not really believe he would, as she had not heard of Annungitee or any other kind of ghost being around for a long, long time. She only said what she did to frighten the bad boy into obedience. Indeed she had often said to him, when she was angry with him, 'I do hope a ghost will catch you.' But the more she talked to him the worse he became. So one day when he had been very lazy and very rude to her she sprang up and, seizing him by the arm, undertook to put him out of the wigwam. He became much frightened at this and began to cry. But she, knowing that he deserved to be punished, pushed him out and securely fastened the doorway, calling out:
"'May Annungitee catch you!'
"She did not really mean it, of course. No mother could wish her boy to have such a terrible misfortune. The frightened boy then began running round and round the wigwam, trying to find some place where he could get in, but he could find no opening. After a while his crying and his efforts to get into the wigwam ceased, and all became still and silent. His mother listened attentively, and every moment expected to hear his voice again, but there was no sound except something like the sound of the singing of birds and the rattling of small bells dying away in the distance. At this she became very much frightened and began to cry, and to call for her boy. She threw open the door flap and began to search all around her wigwam for her son. But all in vain! He was nowhere to be found.
"When the father came home from his hunting she told him of the sudden disappearance of their boy, and he, too, was very much alarmed. They set out and visited the lodges of all the people around. But no one had seen or heard anything of the missing boy. They returned to their own silent wigwam very sorrowful, and for days they mourned over the loss of their son. One night, as the mother was weeping on account of her great loss, she heard some one crying out to her:
"'Hi! Hi!' and at the same time she heard the sounds of bells ringing and owls hooting. This happened several nights, and then one night there was a voice saying:
"'You said, "Ghost, take that boy." Hi! Hi!'
"Next morning the wife told her husband what she had heard during the previous night, and she added:
"'I believe the ghost Annungitee has taken our boy.'
"Her husband was very angry when he heard this, and said:
"'Yes, a ghost has taken our boy. You gave him to him, and he has taken you at your word. So why should you complain? It serves you right.'
"At this the mother lifted up her voice and cried out so loud that it could be heard a great distance.
"'Husband,' she said, 'I deserve what you have said, but I am going to try and get back our boy, and so to-night I will hide in the pile of wood that is outside the wigwam, and if the ghost comes along again, as he has been coming, I will catch him by the leg, and you must rush out and try to rescue our son.'
"So that night she hid herself in the wood pile, and, sure enough, after a while she heard the sound of bells ringing and animals softly crying out, and then a loud 'Hi! Hi!' after which all was still.
"Then, as she cautiously looked out from her hiding place, there before her was a great creature standing beside the wigwam. He was so tall that his head was higher than the smoke hole at the top, and he was peeping down into the wigwam. But, big as he was, she had a mother's loving heart after all, and as she thought of her boy fastened up there in one of his big ears she was determined to rescue him if possible. So she cautiously moved along until she was able to seize one of his legs, which she did with all her strength, and at the same instant she shouted for her husband to come and help. Out he rushed, and between them they tumbled the tall ghost over and, sure enough, in one of his big ears they found their little boy.
"Poor little fellow. He was half-starved, and so thin and weak that he could hardly stand. But they helped him into the wigwam and gave him some soup, made out of some birds that his father had killed that day.
"The tall ghost was so frightened by the sudden way in which he had been seized that as soon as he could get up he hurried away, and was never seen in that part of the country again. Some tribes say he went South, and there, when he was stealing children and carrying them off in his ears, he was caught by the angry parents and burned to death on a big wood pile."
"Did the little boy get better?" asked Minnehaha.
"O yes, he did, after a while; but he was a long time in getting over the fright he had had. It did him good, however, for after that he was never rude and saucy to his mother and did all he could to help her."
"Did it do the mother any good?" asked Sagastao, who had not been altogether satisfied with her treatment of the boy.
"Yes, indeed," said Mary; "for after that terrible fright she was never known to shout out at her boy such words as, 'I hope the ghost will catch you,' or any other of the unpleasant ones which she sometimes had used when she was angry with him."
"Thank you, Sakehow," said both the children. "A pretty good story, that."
Then what a jolly romp they had with Jack and Cuffy! The two splendid dogs were the children's special protectors and companions.