Just – William Page 14

“That was Red Indian what I was talkin’ then,” he explained in his ordinary voice, then sinking it to its low, roaring note and scowling more ferociously than ever, “Snake Face says the Pale-face must be scalped and cooked and eat!”

He took out a penknife and opened it as though to perform the operation, then continued, “But me and the others say that if you’ll be a squaw an’ cook for us we’ll let you go alive.”

Miss Cannon dropped on to her knees.

“Most humble and grateful thanks, great Red Hand,” she said. “I will with pleasure be your squaw.”

“I’ve gotter fire round here,” said William proudly, leading her to the back of the wigwam, where a small wood fire smouldered spiritlessly, choked by a large tin full of a dark liquid.

“That, O Squaw,” said Red Hand with a dramatic gesture, “is a Pale-face we caught las’ night!”

The squaw clasped her hands together.

“Oh, how lovely!” she said. “Is he cooking?”

Red Hand nodded. Then,

“I’ll get you some feathers,” he said obligingly. “You oughter have feathers, too.”

He retired into the depth of the wigwam and returned with a handful of hen feathers. Miss Cannon took off her big shady hat and stuck the feathers into her fluffy brown hair with a laugh.

“This is jolly!” she said. “I love Red Indians!”

“I’ve got some cork you can have to do your face, too,” went on William with reckless generosity. “It soon burns in the fire.”

She threw a glance towards the chimneys of the house that could be seen through the trees and shook her pretty head regretfully.

“I’m afraid I’d better not,” she said sadly.

“Well,” he said, “now I’ll go huntin’ and you stir the Pale-face and we’ll eat him when I come back. Now, I’ll be off. You watch me track.”

He opened his clasp-knife with a bloodthirsty flourish and, casting sinister glances round him, crept upon his hands and knees into the bushes. He circled about, well within his squaw’s vision, obviously bent upon impressing her. She stirred the mixture in the tin with a twig and threw him every now and then the admiring glances he so evidently desired.

Soon he returned, carrying over his shoulder a door-mat which he threw down at her feet.

“A venison, O squaw,” he said in a lordly voice. “Let it be cooked. I’ve had it out all morning,” he added in his ordinary tones; “they’ve not missed it yet.”

He fetched from the “wigwam” two small jagged tins and, taking the larger tin off the fire, poured some into each.

“Now,” he said, “here’s some Pale-face for you, squaw.”

“Oh,” she said, “I’m sure he’s awfully good, but——”

“You needn’t be frightened of it,” said William protectively. “It’s jolly good, I can tell you.” He picked up the paper cover of a packet of soup from behind the trees. “It’s jus’ that and water and it’s jolly good!”

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