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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSix Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 17. In Chief Black Bear's Wigwam
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Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 17. In Chief Black Bear's Wigwam Post by :netgurus Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1356

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Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 17. In Chief Black Bear's Wigwam


"Where is Black Bear, Mary?" asked Cowboy Jack of an old woman who was cooking something in a pot over one of the fires in the open.

"Out on the job, Mr. Jack," was the reply. "They ought to be in soon, for the sun is too low for good light. You can go into Bear's wikiup if you want to."

"Oh! A bear!" whispered Vi, clinging to daddy's hand. "Is it loose?"

"I expect it is loose, all right," chuckled daddy. "But you will probably not find it a very savage bear."

"Has it teeth--and claws?" pursued the little girl. "Bears bite, don't they?"

"I promise you that this one won't bite you," boomed Cowboy Jack's great voice. "He's just as tame a bear as ever you saw. Isn't he, Mary?"

The old woman smiled kindly at the children and nodded. She was old and wrinkled, and her face looked as though it had been cured in the smoke of many campfires. Nevertheless, she was a pleasant woman and even Vi felt some confidence in her statement. At least, all four little Bunkers went with Cowboy Jack and daddy to the big skin and canvas tent that stood in the middle of the camp. It was the biggest tent of all.

It was rather dark inside the tent; but Cowboy Jack had a hand-torch in his pocket, and he took this out and flashed the light all about the interior of the tent by pressing his thumb on the switch of the torch.

"Never know what you'll find in these Injun shanties," muttered Cowboy Jack. "Black Bear is college bred, but he's Injun just the same----"

"Goodness me! what does he say?" gasped Rose.

"Why, this Black Bear is a man!" exclaimed Russ. "He's an Indian. And I guess he must be a chief of the tribe. Is he, Daddy?"

"You've guessed it," laughed Daddy.

"Was he one of those awful painted Indians we saw riding down on the cabin?" queried Rose. "Are they safe?"

Daddy laughed and assured her that "out of business hours" the painted Indians were quite as gentle as the women and children about the camp. But Rose and Russ could not just understand what the Indians' "business" could be. It was a very great mystery, and no mistake!

Vi and Laddie were so curious that they wished to examine everything in the wikiup. And there were many, many things strange to the children's eyes. Brilliant colored blankets hung from the walls, feather headdresses with what Vi called "trails," so that when a man wore one the tail of it dragged to his heels. There were beaded shirts and pretty moccasins and long-stemmed pipes decorated with beads and feathers in bunches. There were, too, little skins and big skins hanging from the framework of the Indian tent, and most of the floor was soft with cured wolf hides, the hair side uppermost.

"Black Bear is 'heap big chief,'" chuckled Cowboy Jack. "When he travels he takes a lot of stuff with him. Hello! Here they come, I reckon."

The four small Bunkers heard the pounding of the ponies' hoofs on the plain. They peered out of the "door" of the wikiup as daddy held back the blanket that served as a curtain over the entrance.

"Oh, they _are the painted Indians!" wailed Vi, and immediately hid her face against Rose's dress.

"They won't hurt you," scoffed Laddie. "You know they won't with daddy and Mr. Cowboy Jack here."

"But--but what did they do to that woman at the cabin--and her baby?" wondered Vi with continued anxiety.

"I don't see any scalps," said Laddie confidently. "Maybe it isn't the fashion to scalp folks any more out here."

"You can ask Black Bear about that," chuckled Cowboy Jack. "I'm not up in the fashions, as you might say."

The big ranchman was evidently vastly amused by the little Bunkers' comments. The four children peered out of the wikiup and saw the party of horsemen dismount. A tall figure, with a waving headdress, came striding toward the children. Vi and Laddie, it must be confessed, shrank back behind the ranchman and daddy.

"Hullo!" exclaimed Cowboy Jack. "Here's Black Bear now."

"But he doesn't look like a bear," Laddie whispered. "Bears don't walk on their hind feet."

"Sometimes they do," said Daddy Bunker. "And this Bear does all the time. He is 'Mr. Bear' just the same as my name is 'Mr. Bunker.'"

The tall man lifted off his headdress and handed it to one of the women who came running to help him. Underneath, his hair was not like an Indian's at all--at least, not like the Indians whose pictures the Bunker children had seen. Black Bear's hair was cut pompadour, and if it had not been for the awful stripes across his face he would not have looked bad. Even Rose admitted this, in a whisper, to her brother Russ.

It was interesting for the four little Bunkers to watch Black Bear get rid of the paint with which his face was smeared. He stripped off the deerskin shirt he wore and squatted down on his heels before a box in the middle of the tent--a box like a little trunk. When he opened the cover and braced it up at a slant, the children saw that there was a mirror fastened in the box lid.

The Indian woman held a lantern, and Black Bear dipped his fingers in a jar of cold-cream and began to smear his whole face and neck. He looked all white and lathery in a moment, and he grinned in a funny way up at Cowboy Jack and Mr. Bunker.

"Makes me think of the time they cast me for the part of the famous _Pocahontas in the college play of 'John Smith,'" said Black Bear. "That was some time--believe me! We made a barrel of money for the Athletic Association."

"Oh!" murmured Rose, "he talks--he talks just like Captain Ben--or anybody!"

"He doesn't talk like an Indian, that's _so_," whispered back Russ, quite as much amazed.

But Violet could not contain her curiosity politely. She came right out in the lantern-light and asked:

"Say, Mister Black Bear, are you a real Indian, or just a make-believe?"

"I am just as real an Indian, little girl, as you ever will see," replied the young chief, still rubbing the cream into his face and neck. "I'm a full-blood, sure-enough, honest-Injun Indian! You ask Mr. Scarbontiskil."

"But you're not savage!" said the amazed Vi. "Not as savage as you all looked when you were riding down on that cabin to-day. We saw you and we ran home again. We were scared."

"No. I'm pretty tame. I own an automobile and a talking-machine, and I sleep in a brass bed when I'm at home. But, you see, I _work at being an Indian, because it pays me better than farming."

"Oh! Oh!" gasped Laddie. "Scalping people, and all that?"

"No. There is a law now against scalping folks," said Mr. Black Bear, smiling again. And now that he had got the yellow and red paint off his face his smile was very pleasant. "We all have to obey the law, you know."

"Oh! Do Indians, too?" gasped Rose.

"Indians are the most law-abiding folks there are," declared the chief earnestly.

"Then I guess I won't feel afraid of Indians again," confessed Rose Bunker. "Will you, Russ?"

But Russ did not answer. He felt that there was a trick about all this. He could not see through it yet; but he meant to. It was worse than one of Laddie's riddles.

By and by Chief Black Bear got all the paint off his face. Then he washed the cold-cream off. He pulled on a pleated, white-bosomed shirt, and buttoned on a collar and tied a butterfly tie in place. Then he went behind a blanket that was hung up at one side of the wikiup, all the time talking gaily to Cowboy Jack and Mr. Bunker, and when he reappeared he was dressed just as Daddy Bunker dressed back home when he went to the lodge or to a banquet!

The four little Bunkers stared. They could not find voice for any comment upon this strange transformation in Black Bear's appearance. But Cowboy Jack was critical.

"Some dog that boy puts on, doesn't he, Charlie?" he said to Mr. Bunker. "He thinks he's down in New Haven, or somewhere, where he went to college. Beats me what a little smatter of book-learning will do for these redskins."

This did not seem to annoy Chief Black Bear at all. He laughed and slapped the big ranchman on the shoulder.

"Of course I'm a redskin--just as you are a whiteskin. Only I have improved my opportunities, Jack, while you have allowed yourself to deteriorate." That last was a pretty hard word, but Russ and Rose understood that it meant "fall behind." "Probably your grandfather had a college education, Jack," went on the Indian chief. "But your father and you did not appreciate education. _My father and grandfathers, away back to the days of LaSalle and even to Cortez's followers who marched up through Texas, had no educational advantages. I appreciate my chance the more."

"But a boiled shirt and a Tuxedo coat!" snorted Cowboy Jack.

"Keeps me a 'good Indian,'" laughed Black Bear. "No knowing how savage I might be if I didn't dress for dinner 'most every night."

Russ knew all this was joking between the chief and the ranchman, and he saw that Daddy Bunker was very much amused. But the boy did not understand what the Indians were doing here in Cowboy Jack's ranch, and why they should dress up like wild savages in the daytime, and then dress in civilized clothes when evening came.

Russ Bunker had never been more puzzled by anything in his life before. He felt, of course, that Daddy Bunker would explain if he asked him; but Russ liked to find out things for himself.

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