HotFreeBooks.com
The Cave Twins
by Lucy Fitch Perkins
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

There were great cliffs and jagged rocks along its coast in some places, and there were beautiful broad sandy beaches right next to them. The waves had washed holes clear through some of these great rocks and left them standing there like huge ruins.

The beaches were covered with star-fish and beautiful shells and seaweed and crabs and jelly-fish and stones of all colours. The Twins found something new every time they played there.

Inland there were hills and valleys with sparkling streams of clear water running through them. There were sunny open meadows where bison grazed. In the woods there were deer and small game of all kinds, but though Hawk-Eye went everywhere in the days that followed the earthquake, he never saw a sign of a cave bear or of tigers or lions, or any of the more savage beasts which made life in their old home so full of terror.

Neither did he find a trace of any other human beings.

The season was early on the warm southern side of the island. The wild fruit trees were already in blossom, making the air sweet with fragrance, and giving promise of fruit later on.

There were all sorts of wild flowers and all kinds of trees in the woods, and everything was so beautiful and seemed so safe that it was easy to believe, as Limberleg said, that the water gods did mean to take care of them.

————————————————————————————————————

Two.

One day when Hawk-Eye and Limberleg had gone deer-hunting, Firetop and Firefly climbed a high cliff on the east coast to hunt for pigeons' eggs. From the top of the hill, they could see for miles and miles in every direction. The cliffs were on a long point of land, and behind the point was a deep bay, where all sorts of things could be picked up, when the tide was low. In a cleft of the rock Firetop found a nest with four eggs in it. He and Firefly were sitting on top of the hill eating them, when Firefly saw a queer black spot part way down the cliff, toward the east.

"What's that?" she said, pointing.

"Let's go and find out," said Firetop.

They climbed cautiously down to a lower level and worked their way through the bushes and vines which covered the sloping side of the bluff.

"It must be somewhere near here," said Firetop, "but I can't see it. It's hidden behind the bushes, whatever it is."

"Maybe it was a bear and he has moved," said Firefly, looking fearfully over her shoulder.

Of course they could not be quite sure there were no such creatures on the island.

"Pooh," said Firetop, "I'm not afraid. Come along."

They hunted up and down and sideways for some distance along the bluff, and were almost ready to give up, when a branch that Firetop was holding broke and he fell backward down the slope. He rolled over two or three times, and when he stopped rolling and sat up he was looking directly into the mouth of a great dark cave. A lot of stones and dirt came tumbling down with him, and, with that and some noise that Firetop made himself, there was quite a disturbance.

The cave was full of owls, and when the stones and dirt and a boy dropped in on them suddenly, they were very much surprised. No fewer than six of them flew out of the cave, and as they were blinded by the light, they bumped right into Firetop.

Those still in the cave flew about and beat their wings against the rocks. This made a terrible sound in the hollow cave, and besides that, they hooted. Firetop had never met an owl at such short range before, and his red hair stood straight up on his head, he was so scared. He beat the owls off with his arms and yelled at the top of his lungs.

Firefly heard him and came plunging through the bushes after him. In another minute she too had fallen through the same place and landed beside Firetop. By the time they had picked themselves up, the owls had flown to a shelf on the rock, and there they roosted in a row, staring solemnly at the Twins.

They neither moved nor spoke. Somehow the Twins expected them to speak and say something very reproving. They looked just that way. The Twins didn't wait to find out what it would be, however. They went crashing through the bushes and back to the top of the rock as fast as they could go.

That afternoon, when Hawk-Eye and Limberleg came home, bringing a young deer on their shoulders, the children told them about the cave and pointed it out from the top of the rock. Hawk-Eye at once threw down the deer and made a fire. Then he took a flaming torch in one hand and his spear in the other and started down the bluff.

"How did you get to the cave?" he asked Firetop.

"We went part way down the bluff and fell in," said Firetop.

Hawk-Eye laughed. "I'll see if I can't find a better way," he said.

He crept cautiously down the steep slope, and when he reached the cave, he held his torch above his head so as to light the inside of it, and with his other hand he held his spear, ready to kill any wild animal that might be living in it. It was just the sort of cave where one might expect to find wolves at least.

The owls came hooting out again just as they had when Firetop visited them, but nothing else stirred, and Hawk-Eye went boldly in. The cave was quite large, and as it was in a chalk cliff, it was white and clean except where the owls had made their nests.

Hawk-Eye didn't like the looks of owls. He didn't like their staring ways. So he tore up their nests and threw them down the bluff.

Then he came out of the cave and began to climb about on the slope, as if he were searching for something. It was not long before he gave a shout of joy and beckoned to Limberleg and the Twins, who were watching him eagerly.

They came bounding down the hillside at once. Hawk-Eye met them at the cave-entrance. "Here's our home," he said, pointing to the cave. "Nothing could be better. I have found a spring of fresh water near by! It is safer than any place we have ever found. Go in and see!"

Limberleg went in and looked all about. She was just as pleased with it as Hawk-Eye was. She didn't even say, "Let's see if we can't find another cave that suits us better."

She just threw her deer-skin down on the floor of the cave and laid her spear on one of the shelving rocks and began to live there right away. They always had their weapons with them, all of them. So there was nothing more to do but start a fire at the cave-mouth and begin to get supper. It was just as easy as moving into a furnished flat.

Hawk-Eye went back to the top of the hill and brought down the deer. He also brought some live fire-brands from the fire he had kindled. With these he started a new fire at the cave-mouth.

While Limberleg cut up the meat and the Twins broiled great pieces of it over the coals, Hawk-Eye took his stone axe and cut a rough path through the underbrush from the cave-entrance to the spring, and another to the hill-top. The paths were so hidden by tall weeds and bushes that they could run through them without being seen.

When at last they sat down beside the fire at the cave-entrance to eat their first dinner of roast venison in their new home, they felt as rich as—well it's really quite impossible to tell you just how rich they did feel.

The Cave Twins—by Lucy Fitch Perkins

CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE RAFT.

When Limberleg woke the next morning, the bright sunshine was pouring into the cave, lighting up the very farthest corner of it. The vines which overhung the entrance were waving in the breeze, and their shadows were dancing gayly on the chalk floor.

Limberleg sat up and looked out. From the door she could see miles and miles of open water. To the north were the shores of England. Below was a beautiful sandy beach, and a little way from the shore there were rocks sticking out of the water. Gulls were wheeling and screaming about the rocks.

Limberleg took the gourd and went down the little green path to the spring for water. When she came back, the others were still sleeping. So she crept out through the path to the hill-top and gathered sticks to replenish the fire.

She was already broiling the venison when the others woke.

At breakfast, she said to Hawk-Eye, "I believe I will stay in the cave to-day, it is such a lot of work to start a new fire every day, and I can keep this one burning. Besides, the Twins must have new skins pretty soon. Those fox-furs they are now wearing are getting shabby. I will cure the deer-skin we brought home last night for them."

"We must get more skins," said Hawk-Eye. "We shall need them when cold weather comes. I will get the meat, and you can cook, and cure the skins, and tend the fire."

Then Hawk-Eye went off hunting, to be gone all day. The Twins ran down to the beach and went in wading. They were not so afraid of the water as they had been, but they stayed near shore because they could see great fish tumbling about in the waves, and they didn't know whether they ate children or not. Probably the fish didn't know, either. They had never had any to try. Anyway, the Twins thought they would not find out what their tastes were in the matter, and so they stayed near the shore,—or at least they meant to.

Ever since the great storm there had been logs and broken tree-branches floating about in the water, and on this morning, the Twins found two of them bobbing about near the beach-line. They were not very large, and the Twins thought it would be fun to play with them. They waded out and pulled them in toward shore.

"Let's ride on these the way we rode that log in the river," said Firetop.

Firefly was always ready to do whatever Firetop did, so she got astride one, and Firetop mounted the other, and they went bouncing along through the water, half floating and half walking on the sandy bottom.

It was great fun, but the long branches stuck in the sand and scratched their legs, so they drew the logs nearer shore and tried to pull off the branches. But some of them were too tough.

"We can twist them together," said Firetop. "That will keep them out of the way and maybe the logs won't roll so much."

They twisted the branches of the two logs roughly together, so they could not stick down into the water and then mounted their sea horses again and rode away. They were delighted to find that now the logs behaved much better, and they grew so bold that they ventured out into deeper water. They had made a wonderful plaything.

All the morning they rode the logs, and when the tide began to come in, they had the best time of all. It picked up the little raft and floated the children, screaming with joy, far up the beach on a long, low, rolling wave.

Limberleg had been so busy making a frame of sticks to stretch the deer-skin on that she had paid no attention to the Twins. But when she heard their screams, she came to the door of the cave and looked out on the beach. When she saw what they were doing, she came running down the bluff. She ran so fast she was all out of breath, but she gasped out: "You naughty, careless children! You must not do that any more—ever! You will certainly be eaten up by a big fish—or get drowned—or maybe both—if you do!" The Twins thought that their mother was very foolish, and, being cave twins, and not knowing any better, they said: "Aw, mother, we have been doing it all the morning, and never got drowned or eaten up once! Try it yourself and just see how easy it is."

But Limberleg was very unreasonable. She only said, "If you do it again, you know what will happen," and started back up the bluff. When she was out of sight, Firetop said: "Let's do it once more. She won't see us!" This shows just how wicked and disobedient cave children could be!

They pushed their raft out into the water and got on board. They were at the very farthest point from shore, when suddenly Limberleg came right out of the bushes and looked at them! When they saw her, the Twins were very much embarrassed. They thought perhaps they had better stay off shore a while.

They reached their feet down and dug their toes in the sand, but the tide was still coming in, and in spite of all they could do, it lifted them up and carried them right to where Limberleg stood. She looked at them very sternly. She had a switch in her hand. She said: "I told you what would happen! I shall have to punish you, but it hurts me worse than it hurts you." I suppose that was the first time any parent ever said that. Then she began to use the switch on their bare legs.

Perhaps you never have been switched on your wet bare legs, so I'll explain that it hurts. Firetop and Firefly didn't understand how it could hurt her more than it did them. However, they didn't say so. They just ran for the cave as fast as they could go. But I have already told you that Limberleg could run faster than anybody and she kept right up with them all the way.

When they were in the cave again, any one passing by would certainly have thought from the sounds that a pack of wildcats lived there. At last Limberleg said to them, "Now, you see, I will be minded," and then she made them sit still in the corner of the cave until she had finished the wooden frame and stretched the deer-skin over it.

I suppose that if she had been a reasonable and kind mother she would have let them go on and get drowned or eaten up by a shark. But she wasn't, and so they weren't, or else you can very well see that this story would have had to end right here.

When Hawk-Eye came home that afternoon with two live rabbits which he had snared, the Twins were so delighted with them that they forgot all about their troubles of the morning.

"Can't we keep the rabbits alive?" they begged.

"How can you keep them?" said Hawk-Eye. "They'll run away."

"We can tie them by their legs," said Firetop.

"We can cut sticks and drive them down in the ground, and keep the rabbits inside the sticks," cried Firefly.

"What will you cut them with?" asked Hawk-Eye.

"With your stone axe," Firefly answered as quick as a wink.

Hawk-Eye looked very solemn. "Will you be sure to bring it back to the cave, if I let you take my axe?" he said.

"Of course," cried the Twins. They took the axe at once and rushed out to begin the fence of sticks, while Hawk-Eye tied the rabbits by their hind legs to a little tree near the cave.

When they finished the fence the next day, I regret to say the stone axe was nowhere to be found, and it was three days before it turned up under a bush where they had cut sticks.

While the children were busy fencing in the rabbits, Limberleg told Hawk-Eye about the raft.

"You can see it down thereon the beach," she said. "I really think it was very clever of them to make such a thing, but of course I didn't tell them so."

"Of course not," said Hawk-Eye.

Now, wasn't that just like parents?

Pretty soon, while Limberleg was cooking supper, Hawk-Eye slipped down to the beach by himself and took a look at the raft. Then he dragged it down to the water and tried it himself. He tried it several times. He didn't say anything about it when he got back to the cave, but the Twins saw how very clean his skin looked. And they nodded knowingly at each other. They had their suspicions.

The Cave Twins—by Lucy Fitch Perkins

CHAPTER NINE.

THE SURPRISE.

What with fish and clams and crabs and periwinkles and roots and game and berries and wild plums and all sorts of other good things to eat, as the summer came on, the Twins and their father and mother began to grow fat.

Limberleg didn't go hunting as she used to. There was no need of it now, for Hawk-Eye could bring home more game than they needed. So she stayed by the cave and kept the hearth fire bright and cooked the food and cured the skins and looked after the children.

The Twins kept the rabbits and fed them every day with fresh leaves and roots, and by and by there were six baby rabbits in the cage too.

"We might make the cage larger and have more rabbits," said Hawk-Eye, "and then in winter, we should always have plenty of fresh meat right at hand."

"What a good idea!" said Limberleg. "The children can feed them."

"Yes," said Hawk-Eye, "if they don't forget it."

"I'll see that they don't forget it," said Limberleg.

The Twins heard her say it.

"I think probably she will," said Firetop. He had great confidence in his mother.

"Will what?" said Firefly.

"Will see that we don't forget it," said Firetop, and they guessed right. She did.

By July they had a large enclosure fenced off and ever so many rabbits in it. For cave people they were now very rich. They had a fine cave home, plenty of skins, and plenty of food.

Limberleg had made herself a good needle out of bone and had sewed nice soft deer-skins into clothes for them, all ready for cold weather. She had even made beautiful necklaces of shells for Firefly and herself.

One summer evening, as they sat looking at the moon, Limberleg said: "You see I was right about the water gods. There haven't been any more earthquakes, and we have everything we want to eat, and plenty of warm skins and a fine cave to live in. There is just one thing more I want. I don't care much for society, but I should like more people to talk to."

"I wish Grannie and the rest were here," said Firetop. "I should like to show Squaretoes our rabbits."

"And I should like to show Robin my necklace," said Firefly.

"It's no use wishing," said Firetop. "There's all that water."

Hawk-Eye, as usual, said nothing, but all the time he was thinking hard about the floating log that the Twins had crossed the river on, and the raft they had made of the two floating trees.

It was not long after this that Limberleg began to notice that though he was gone all day every day, Hawk-Eye often came home without game. One day she heard the sound of his stone axe, as if he were cutting down a tree, but she thought nothing more about it.

After that she heard the sound of the axe every day for many days. It seemed to come from the bay behind the point of land. At last she said to him: "What in the world are you doing with your axe? I hear such a pounding everyday." Hawk-Eye did not tell her what he was making. He only said, "Maybe some day, when I get it done, you will see."

The Twins heard the axe too, and they made up their minds they were going to find out what was going on. The next day, as they were playing in their cave back of their bluff at low tide, Firefly saw a little column of smoke rising out of the woods near the place where a small stream flowed into the bay. She also heard the axe. The sound seemed to come from somewhere near the smoke. She pointed the smoke out to Firetop, and the two children ran swiftly around the beach and up the little stream for a short distance.

There they found Hawk-Eye. He was working away at the log of a good-sized tree which he had cut down. He had made the log almost flat on one side by chipping off pieces with his axe, and he had shaped the ends a little. Now he was hollowing out the inside. He was doing this partly with his axe and partly by burning it.

Hawk-Eye was working so busily he did not know that any one was near him until Firetop called out, "What are you making, Father?"

Hawk-Eye stopped chopping. "It's a secret," he said. "If I tell you, you'll tell."

"No, we won't. Anyway, there's no one to tell but Mother," said Firefly.

"She's just the one I want to keep it from," said Hawk-Eye. "It's a surprise."

"Oh, well, if it is a surprise, of course we won't tell," said Firetop.

"Do you know what it is, or is it a surprise to you too?" asked Firefly.

"Maybe it is," said Hawk-Eye. "I'm not sure yet. When I get the inside of this log all cut out, I'm going to see if it will float without rolling over. Maybe I can get in it and make it go where I want it to. If I can, then all sorts of things may happen, but you must not tell Mother."

"Why?" asked Firefly. "Wouldn't she let you play with it?"

"Maybe not," said Hawk-Eye.

"You'd better be careful," said Firefly, shaking her head, "or you know what will happen!"

Hawk-Eye laughed and went on chopping. Every day after that the Twins followed their father to the little cove and watched him work. Every evening they nearly burst trying not to tell. One day when they went down to the cove, they found their father taking out the last chips from the inside of the log.

"When the tide comes in, it backs up into the stream," said Hawk-Eye, "and the next time it does it, I'm going to push the log into the water and then out into the bay. If it floats right side up, I am going for a ride."

"How will you push it?" asked Firetop. "Are you going to let your legs hang over and hitch yourself along that way?"

"I shan't need any turtles to bite me to make me go anyway," said Hawk-Eye. "I'm going to push it with a pole."

The pole was already in the log. The tide began to flow in. As soon as the water was deep enough Hawk-Eye pushed the log into the water. It floated, of course. Hawk-Eye waded along beside it into deeper water. Then he undertook to get aboard, but he put his weight too much on one side. It rolled over, and he rolled with it, and went splash on his stomach right into the water! Firetop and Firefly danced on the beach with glee.

Hawk-Eye got up all dripping wet and tried again. This time he stepped into the middle of the boat. He got safely in, but it was still very tippy, so he put sand in the bottom of it and made it heavier. Then he tried again.

It was a proud moment when at last he took his pole and pushed off.

"I'm going to keep close to shore and go around the point if I can," he said.

The children tore up the bank and over the hill to get back to the cave in time to see him coming. Limberleg was weaving a berry basket out of strips of bark, when the children came racing into the cave. They were so excited they couldn't keep still.

"What in the world is the matter with you?" cried Limberleg, at last. "You've been running to the edge of the bluff and back again ever since you came in. What are you looking at?"

"At that! at that!" shrieked Firetop, pointing down to the water.

There, coming close to the shore around the bend, was Hawk-Eye in the very first boat that was ever made—in that part of the world at least.

Limberleg was so astonished that she couldn't speak. She dashed down the side of the bluff without stopping for the path, and the Twins came tumbling after her. Of course, Limberleg got there first. She always did. And when the Twins reached the water's edge, she was already in the boat with Hawk-Eye. She was certainly a brave woman!

The Cave Twins—by Lucy Fitch Perkins

CHAPTER TEN.

THE VOYAGE.

After Limberleg had had a ride, the Twins took a turn, while their mother watched them from the shore.

"It's almost more fun than our logs," said Firetop, when he took his first ride.

They played with the boat and tried all sorts of experiments with it, and were so happy and excited that it grew dark and the moon came out before one of them so much as thought of anything to eat.

For days and days after that, Hawk-Eye worked on his boat. He found out all its tricks. He even found out that he could go in deep water if he paddled. He found it out first by using his hands for oars. Then he chopped out a clumsy flat paddle.

All this took him some time, but by midsummer he had become quite expert with his clumsy craft. He could keep it right side up and make it go where he wanted it to at any rate.

Sometimes he ventured out into the deep water around the gulls' rocks. One day he even rowed all round them. He could look down into the water and see shoals of fish swimming about, but he could not catch them.

When he went back to the cave that day, he said to Limberleg: "I have an idea. Why can't you weave a kind of net out of leather thongs? I can fasten it in the water out by the rocks and catch fish in it. The water gods may like us very much, as you say, but they haven't been throwing any fish up on land for us since the earthquake, so I'm going to try to catch some."

"To be sure," said Limberleg. "We snare rabbits, why shouldn't we snare fish?"

They had made hooks out of bone and had caught river fish sometimes when they lived back in the forest, but they had not brought any hooks with them on their journey. They had always been more used to hunting game than to fishing, anyway. Now with a sea full of fish right at hand, waiting to be caught, they began to think more about it.

"If we could catch fish, we should have more food right at hand than we could possibly eat, without ever hunting at all, if we didn't want to," said Hawk-Eye.

After that Limberleg spent days and days tying leather thongs together in a coarse net, while Hawk-Eye made bone fish-hooks for himself and Limberleg and the Twins, and fastened them to long fine strings of leather.

By August, Hawk-Eye had taught the Twins how to fish the streams for trout, and he himself had learned how to fasten his net between two of the gull rocks and catch the fish that swam in deep water.

There was nothing Hawk-Eye liked so much as going out in his boat. He went up and down the coast for miles, and it was not long before he knew every little creek and inlet and bay on the eastern end of the island.

At last, one day in August, he said to Limberleg: "I am going to load the boat with food to last a few days and see if I can't get over to the mainland. It is only a short distance across to the nearest point. I've been farther than that in my boat already."

"But I am afraid you'll be drowned," cried Limberleg, "and then what shall we do?"

"You can take care of yourselves," said Hawk-Eye. "The children can already fish in the streams, and there are the rabbits and the clams. You will not want for anything while I am away."

"But we shall be lonesome," cried Limberleg; "and suppose you should never come back!"

"But I shall come back," said Hawk-Eye. "You'll see."

Limberleg knew it was useless to say any more, and the very next day she and the Twins helped him load his boat with deer-meat and wild plums and acorns, and then Hawk-Eye put in his spear and his stone axe and hooks and line, and got in himself.

The three of them stood on the beach and watched him push off from their island and start across the channel toward the main land. They watched him until the boat was a mere black speck in the distance. Then they trudged slowly back to their lonely cave.

There followed many anxious days and nights. Limberleg went back to hunting again. She took the Twins with her, and began to teach them to hunt like men.

"If anything should happen to me, you could take care of yourselves if you knew how to hunt and trap as well as fish," she said.

Beside getting food for their daily needs, they began to store it for the winter. They gathered nuts by the bushel and piled them in heaps in the corner of the cave. Whenever they were not sleeping or doing anything else, they were always gathering wood for the fire.

In this way four long weeks went by. At last came a day when the wind was sharp, and it seemed as if summer were nearly over.

Limberleg and the Twins had gone down to the cave behind their bluff to get clams for supper. They had one of Limberleg's baskets with them, and had nearly filled it with clams. They were out some distance from the beach-line, for the tide was low.

Suddenly the water began to rise. The returning tide came in such a flood that they had to run as fast as their legs could carry them to get safely ashore. They had reached the bank and were just beginning to climb slowly up the bluff, when they heard a shout behind them. Limberleg was so startled that her knees gave way under her and she sat right down in the basket of clams!

They looked across the cove, and there, coming in with the tide, was their own boat, with brave Hawk-Eye in it waving his hand to them. They could see three other heads beside Hawk-Eye's, but neither Limberleg nor the Twins could tell whose heads they were. They left the basket of clams on the side of the bluff and tore down to the water's edge.

As the boat came near the shore, they saw Grannie, looking scared to death, sitting in the bottom of the boat, and holding on to each side with all her might. Behind her were Blackbird and Squaretoes!

The moment the boat came near shore, the two boys tumbled out of the back end of it, nearly upsetting Grannie, and splashed through the shallow water to the shore. They butted Firetop in the stomach and knocked him flat, and spun Firefly around in the sand to show how glad they were to see them.

When at last the prow of the boat grated on the sand, and Grannie and Hawk-Eye got out, the four children ran round them in circles like puppies, screaming with joy. Even Limberleg danced. Grannie clapped her hands over her ears.

When the noise had calmed down a little, she seized Firetop and Firefly and shook them soundly.

"You little red-headed wretches," she cried. "Here you are alive and well, and fat as rabbits, and all this time I've worried the heart nearly out of me wondering what had become of you!"

It had been such a long time since the spring morning when the Twins had stolen away out of the cave that at first they did not know what Grannie was talking about. They had never thought how she must have felt when she found that they were gone.

Hawk-Eye laughed. "I've brought Grannie back with me on purpose to give you what you deserve," he said. "She told me she was going to take a stick to you as soon as she saw you, for playing such a trick on her."

"Just you wait until I get a stick," cried Grannie. She looked fierce as she said it, but the Twins knew very well she was just as glad to see them as they were to see her. They seized her hands, one on each side, and began to pull her up the hill. Blackbird and Squaretoes pushed from behind.

"Go along with you," screamed Grannie, holding back with all her might. "I can't run so fast; I am all out of breath."

"We'll run you, then," screamed the children, and they pulled and pushed until they got her panting and breathless to the top of the hill. Hawk-Eye had drawn his precious boat high up on the beach out of reach of the tide, and he and Limberleg followed more slowly with the basket of clams.

At the top of the hill, the Twins, with Blackbird and Squaretoes, ducked into the hidden path that led to the cave, just like mice diving down a mouse-hole.

Grannie was left standing alone on the hill-top. She couldn't see what had become of the children. She could hear their voices, and down the bluff she could see a thin column of smoke rising. She knew the cave must be there, but she didn't know how to get to it.

When Hawk-Eye and Limberleg came up, they took her with them through the little green alley that led to the cave. When they reached it the children had flung a great pile of dry sticks on the fire, and the flames were leaping high in the air to welcome them.

"See," cried Limberleg, "even the fire dances with joy at your coming."

She took Grannie into the cave and showed her the piles of warm skins, and the heaps of nuts: then she showed Grannie how to cook clams.

The Twins had taken Blackbird and Squaretoes the very first thing to see the rabbits. Then they came back for Grannie and made her go and see them too, and when every one had seen everything there was to see, it was dark, and Limberleg had a real feast ready for them to eat.

She had killed a deer the day before, and so they had broiled venison, seasoned with sea salt. They had clams steamed with seaweed, and they had nuts and wild plums.

When they had all stuffed themselves full, Limberleg said to Hawk-Eye: "Now tell us all about your journey. When you went away, we watched you from the hill-top until you were a mere speck on the water. We knew nothing more of you until we heard your shout to-day. There were many weary days between."

"They were not weary to me," said Hawk-Eye. "I reached the other shore in safety, and then turned my boat toward the sunset. I kept in the shallow water near the shore, and followed the coast around the end of the point of land which we crossed when we came here.

"I knew our river must empty into the big water not far away, and so I paddled up the first stream I found. I slept in the boat at night. The first night I was awakened by the howling of wolves. But I had only to push my boat out into the stream. They would not follow me there.

"For two days I paddled up-stream. The second day I began to see things that I knew, and on the morning of the third I reached the river path just as Grannie was coming down for water."

"Yes, yes," cried Grannie. "I thought I was dreaming! The boat frightened me. I thought Hawk-Eye was dead and that I saw his spirit. I started to run to the cave."

"Did you think we were all dead?" asked Limberleg.

"Yes," said Grannie. "I thought some cave bear or tiger had got you. You were always so bold and venturesome. And as for these worthless ones," she added, patting Firetop on the head, "I didn't know whether they had gone with you, or had stolen away into the woods and been eaten by old Sabre-tooth."

"Well, you see," cried Limberleg, laughing, "it pays to be bold and brave." When she said "bold and brave," she looked right at Hawk-Eye. She thought he was the boldest and bravest man in the world.

"There aren't any sabre-toothed tigers on this island, and there's plenty to eat every day. Didn't the others want to come too when you told them about it?" she said to Hawk-Eye.

"They all wanted to come," Hawk-Eye answered, "but the boat would not hold so many. So I stayed to show them how to make boats for themselves. Long Arm and Big Ear and Grey Wolf are all at work on them now, and they will come in the spring or summer if they get them done."

"How will they know the way?" asked Firetop.

"I told them just how to follow the river and the coast, and where to cross," said Hawk-Eye. "They can't help finding the island, and if they find the island, they can't help finding us. I told them we were on the side where the sun rises out of the water."

It had grown very dark as they talked. There was only firelight in the cave, but just then Limberleg saw a bright streak on the edge of the water toward the east.

"Look, Grannie, look," she cried, pointing to it. "We have discovered the secret of the sun and the moon! They both sleep in the water!"

The children and Grannie and Hawk-Eye and Limberleg all watched together until the white streak grew brighter and stretched in a silver path across the water to the beach below. They saw the pale disk of the moon slowly rise into the deep blue of the night sky, and the stars wink down at them.

"I suppose no one else in the whole world knows the secret," said Limberleg solemnly. "You see this is the end of the world. You can't go any farther."

"Except in my boat," said Hawk-Eye.

"The spirits of the water have been good to us," said Limberleg. "We will not tempt them too far. If there are more secrets, we will not try to find them out."

"Some day," said Hawk-Eye, "someday I mean to go,"—but Limberleg would not let him finish.

"No," she said, putting her hand over his mouth, "no, you are not going any where at all, ever again! You are going to stay right here with us and be happy."

POSTSCRIPT.

L'envoi.

Long, long ago, when the Earth was young And Time was not yet old, Ere all the stars in the sky were hung, Or the silver moon grown cold;

When the clouds that sail between the worlds Were fanned with fluttering wings, And over all the land there curled The fronds of growing things;

When fishes swarmed in all the seas, And on the wooded shore There roamed among the forest trees A million beasts or more;

Then in the early morn of Time, Called from the formless clod, Came Man, to start the weary climb From wild beast up to God,—

Oh, bravely did he dare and do, And bravely fight and die, Or you to-day could not be you And I could not be I.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse