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MARTIN MEETS WITH SAVAGES
When, on waking next morning, Martin took his first peep over the
grass, there, directly before him, loomed the great blue hills, or
Sierras as they are called in that country. He had often seen them,
long ago in his distant home on clear mornings, when they had
appeared like a blue cloud on the horizon. He had even wished to get
to them, to tread their beautiful blue summits that looked as if
they would be soft to his feet--softer than the moist springy turf
on the plain; but he wished it only as one wishes to get to some
far-off impossible place--a white cloud, for instance, or the blue
sky itself. Now all at once he unexpectedly found himself near them,
and the sight fired him with a new desire. The level plain had
nothing half so enchanting as the cloud-like blue airy hills, and
very soon he was up on his feet and hurrying towards them. In spite
of hurrying he did not seem to get any nearer; still it was pleasant
to be always going on and on, knowing that he would get to them at
last. He had now left the drier plains behind; the earth was clothed
with green and yellow grass easy to the feet, and during the day he
found many sweet roots to refresh him. He also found quantities of
cam-berries, a round fruit a little less than a cherry in size,
bright yellow in colour, and each berry inside a green case or
sheath shaped like a heart. They were very sweet. At night he slept
once more in the long grass, and when daylight returned he travelled
on, feeling very happy there alone--happy to think that he would get
to the beautiful hills at last. But only in the early morning would
they look distinct and near; later in the day, when the sun grew hot,
they would seem further off, like a cloud resting on the earth,
which made him think sometimes that they moved on as he went towards
On the third day he came to a high piece of ground; and when he got
to the top and looked over to the other side he saw a broad green
valley with a stream of water running in it: on one hand the valley
with its gleaming water stretched away as far as he could see, or
until it lost itself in the distant haze; but on the other hand, on
looking up the valley, there appeared a great forest, looking blue
in the distance; and this was the first forest Martin had ever seen.
Close by, down in the green valley before him, there was something
else to attract his attention, and this was a large group of men and
horses. No sooner had he caught sight of them than he set off at a
run towards them, greatly excited; and as he drew near they all rose
up from the grass where they had been sitting or lying to stare at
him, filled with wonder at the sight of that small boy alone in the
desert. There were about twenty men and women, and several children;
the men were very big and tall, and were dressed only in robes made
of the skins of some wild animal; they had broad, flat faces, and
dark copper-coloured skins, and their long black hair hung down
loose on their backs.
These strange, rude-looking people were savages, and are supposed to
be cruel and wicked, and to take pleasure in torturing and killing
any lost or stray person that falls into their hands; but indeed it
is not so, as you shall shortly find. Poor ignorant little Martin,
who had never read a book in his life, having always refused to
learn his letters, knew nothing about savages, and feared them no
more than he had feared old Jacob, or the small spotted snake, the
very sight of which had made grown-up people scream and run away. So
he marched boldly up and stared at them, and they in turn stared at
him out of their great, dark, savage eyes.
They had just been eating their supper of deer's flesh, roasted on
the coals, and after a time one of the savages, as an experiment,
took up a bone of meat and offered it to him. Being very hungry he
gladly took it, and began gnawing the meat off the bone.
When he had satisfied his hunger, he began to look round him, still
stared at by the others. Then one of the women, who had a
good-humoured face, caught him up, and seating him on her knees,
tried to talk to him.
"Melu-melumia quiltahou papa shani cha silmata," she spoke, gazing
very earnestly into his face.
They had all been talking among themselves while he was eating; but
he did not know that savages had a language of their own different
from ours, and so thought that they had only been amusing themselves
with a kind of nonsense talk, which meant nothing. Now when the
woman addressed this funny kind of talk to him, he answered her in
her own way, as he imagined, readily enough: "Hey diddle-diddle, the
cat's in the fiddle, fe fo fi fum, chumpty-chumpty-chum, with bings
on her ringers, and tells on her boes."
They all listened with grave attention, as if he had said something
very important. Then the woman continued: "Huanatopa ana ana
To which Martin answered, "Theophilus Thistle, the thistle-sifter,
sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles; and if Theophilus--oh, I won't
say any more!"
Then she said, "Quira-holata silhoa mari changa changa."
"Cock-a-doodle-do!" cried Martin, getting tired and impatient.
"Baa, baa, black sheep, bow, wow, wow; goosey, goosey gander; see-saw,
Mary Daw; chick-a-dee-dee, will you listen to me. And now let me go!"
But she held him fast and kept on talking her nonsense language to
him, until becoming vexed he caught hold of her hair and pulled it.
She only laughed and tossed him up into the air and caught him again,
just as he might have tossed and caught a small kitten. At length
she released him, for now they were all beginning to lie down by the
fire to sleep, as it was getting dark; Martin being very tired
settled himself down among them, and as one of the women threw a
skin over him he slept very comfortably.
Next morning the hills looked nearer than ever just across the river;
but little he cared for hills now, and when the little savage
children went out to hunt for berries and sweet roots he followed
and spent the day agreeably enough in their company.
On the afternoon of the second day his new playfellows all threw off
their little skin cloaks and plunged into the stream to bathe; and
Martin, seeing how much they seemed to enjoy being in the water,
undressed himself and went in after them. The water was not too deep
in that place, and as it was rare fun splashing about and trying to
keep his legs in the swift current and clambering over slippery rocks,
he went out some distance from the bank. All at once he discovered
that the others had left him, and looking back he saw that they were
all scrambling out on to the bank and fighting over his clothes.
Back he dashed in haste to rescue his property, but by the time he
reached the spot they had finished dividing the spoil, and jumping
up they ran away and scattered in all directions, one wearing his
jacket, another his knickerbockers, another his shirt and one sock,
another his cap and shoes, and the last the one remaining sock only.
In vain he pursued and called after them; and at last he was
compelled to follow them unclothed to the camping ground, where he
presented himself crying piteously; but the women who had been so
kind to him would not help him now, and only laughed to see how
white his skin looked by contrast with the dark copper-coloured skins
of the other children. At length one of them compassionately gave
him a small soft-furred skin of some wild animal, and fastened it on
him like a cloak; and this he was compelled to wear with shame and
grief, feeling very strange and uncomfortable in it. But the feeling
of discomfort in that new savage dress was nothing to the sense of
injury that stung him, and in his secret heart he was determined not
to lose his own clothes.
When the children went out next day he followed them, watching and
waiting for a chance to recover anything that belonged to him; and
at last, seeing the little boy who wore his cap off his guard, he
made a sudden rush, and snatching it off the young savage's head,
put it firmly upon his own. But the little savage now regarded that
cap as his very own: he had taken it by force or stratagem, and had
worn it on his head since the day before, and that made it his
property; and so at Martin he went, and they fought stoutly together,
and being nearly of a size, he could not conquer the little white boy.
Then he cried out to the others to help him, and they came and
overthrew Martin, and deprived him not only of his cap, but of his
little skin cloak as well, and then punished him until he screamed
aloud with pain. Leaving him crying on the ground, they ran back to
the camp. He followed shortly afterwards, but got no sympathy, for,
as a rule, grown-up savages do not trouble themselves very much about
these little matters: they leave their children to settle their own
During the rest of that day Martin sulked by himself behind a great
tussock of grass, refusing to eat with the others, and when one of
the women went to him and offered him a piece of meat he struck it
vindictively out of her hand. She only laughed a little and left him.
Now when the sun was setting, and he was beginning to feel very cold
and miserable in his nakedness, the men were seen returning from the
hunt; but instead of riding slowly to the camp as on other days,
they came riding furiously and shouting. The moment they were seen
and their shouts heard the women jumped up and began hastily packing
the skins and all their belongings into bundles; and in less than
ten minutes the whole company was mounted on horseback and ready for
flight. One of the men picked Martin up and placed him on the
horse's back before him, and then they all started at a swift canter
up the valley towards that great blue forest in the distance.
In about an hour they came to it: it was then quite dark, the sky
powdered with numberless stars; but when they got among the trees
the blue, dusky sky and brilliant stars disappeared from sight, as
if a black cloud had come over them, so dark was it in the forest.
For the trees were very tall and mingled their branches overhead;
but they had got into a narrow path known to them, and moving slowly
in single file, they kept on for about two hours longer, then
stopped and dismounted under the great trees, and lying down all
close together, went to sleep. Martin, lying among them, crept under
the edge of one of the large skin robes and, feeling warm, he soon
fell fast asleep and did not wake till daylight.
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