Produced by Eric Eldred, Debra Storr, and Project br/>Distributed Proofreaders
“‘Arr-rr-ump!’ I said”
THE TRAIL BOOK
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY MILO WINTER
TO MARY, MY NIECE
IN THE HOPE THAT SHE MAY FIND THROUGH THE TRAILS OF HER OWN COUNTRY THE ROAD TO WONDERLAND CONTENTS
IV THE SECOND PART OF THE MASTODON STORY, CONCERNING THE TRAIL TO THE SEA AND THE TALKING STICK OF TAKU-WAKIN
IX HOW THE LENNI-LENAPE CAME FROM SHINAKI AND THE TALLEGEWI FOUGHT THEM: THE SECOND PART OF THE MOUND-BUILDER’S STORY
XI THE PEARLS OF COFACHIQUE: HOW LUCAS DE AYLLON CAME TO LOOK FOR THEM AND WHAT THE CACICA FAR-LOOKING DID TO HIM; TOLD BY THE PELICAN.
XII HOW THE IRON SHIRTS CAME TO TUSCALOOSA: A TELLING OF THE TRIBUTE ROAD BY THE LADY OF COFACHIQUE.
XV HOW THE MEDICINE OF THE ARROWS WAS BROKEN AT REPUBLICAN RIVER; TOLD BY THE CHIEF OFFICER OF THE DOG SOLDIERS
From the time that he had first found, himself alone with them, Oliver had felt sure that the animals could come alive again if they wished. That was one blowy afternoon about a week after his father had been made night engineer and nobody had come into the Museum for several hours.
Oliver had been sitting for some time in front of the Buffalo case, wondering what might be at the other end of the trail. The cows that stood midway in it had such agoinglook. He was sure it must lead, past the hummock where the old bull flourished his tail, to one of those places where he had always wished to be. All at once, as the boy sat there thinking about it, the glass case disappeared and the trail shot out like a dark snake over a great stretch of rolling, grass-covered prairie.
He could see the tops of the grasses stirring like the hair on the old Buffalo’s coat, and the ripple of water on the beaver pool which was just opposite and yet somehow only to be reached after long travel through the Buffalo Country. The wind moved on the grass, on the surface of the water and the young leaves of the alders, and over all the animals came the start and stir of life.
And then the slow, shuffling steps of the Museum attendant startled it all into stillness again.
The attendant spoke to Oliver as he passed, for even a small boy is worth talking to when you have been all day in a Museum where nothing is new to you and nobody comes.
“You want to look out, son,” said the attendant, who really liked the boy and hadn’t a notion what sort of ideas he was putting into Oliver’s head. “If you ain’t careful, some of them things will come downstairs some night and go off with ye.”
And why should MacShea have said that if he hadn’t known for certain that the animalsdidcome alive at night? That was the way Oliver put it when he was trying to describe this extraordinary experience to his sister.
Dorcas Jane, who was eleven and a half and not at all imaginative, eyed him suspiciously. Oliver had such a way of stating things that were not at all believable, in a way that made them seem the likeliest things in the world. He was even capable of acting for days as if things were so, which you knew from the beginning were only the most delightful of make-believes. Life on this basis was immensely more exciting, but then you never knew whether or not he might be what some of his boy friends called “stringing you,” so when Oliver began to hint darkly at his belief that the stuffed animals in the Mammal room of the Museum came alive at night and had larks of their own, Dorcas Jane offered the most noncommittal objection that occurred to her.
“They couldn’t,” she said; “the night watchman wouldn’t let them.” There were watchmen, she knew, who went the rounds of every floor.
But, insisted Oliver, why should they have watchmen at all, if not to prevent people from breaking in and disturbing the animals when they were busy with affairs of their own? He meant to stay up there himself some night and see what it was all about; and as he went on to explain how it would be possible to slip up the great stair while the watchmen were at the far end of the long hall, and of the places one could hide if the watchman came along when he wasn’t wanted, he said “we” and “us.” For, of course, he meant to take Dorcas Jane with him. Where would be the fun of such an adventure if you had it alone? And besides, Oliver had discovered that it was not at all difficult to scare himself with the things he had merely imagined. There were times when Dorcas Jane’s frank disbelief was a great comfort to him. Still, he wasn’t the sort of boy to be scared before anything has really happened, so when Dorcas Jane suggested that they didn’t know what the animals might do to any one who went among them uninvited, he threw it off stoutly.
“Pshaw! They can’t do anything to us! They’re stuffed, Silly!”
And to Dorcas Jane, who was by this time completely under the spell of the adventure, it seemed quite likely that the animals should be stuffed so that they couldn’t hurt you, and yet not stuffed so much that they couldn’t come alive again.
It was all of a week before they could begin. There is a kind of feeling you have to have about an adventure without which the affair doesn’t come off properly. Anybody who has been much by himself in the woods has had it; or sometime, when you are all alone in the house, all at once there comes a kind of pricking of your skin and a tightness in your chest, not at all unpleasant, and a kind of feeling that the furniture has its eye on you, or that some one behind your shoulder is about to speak, and immediately after that something happens. Or you feel sure it would have happened if somebody hadn’t interrupted.
Dorcas Janeneverhad feelings like that. But about a week after Oliver had proposed to her that they spend a part of the night in the long gallery, he was standing in front of the Buffalo case, wondering what actually did happen when a buffalo caught you. Quite unexpectedly, deep behind the big bull’s glassy eye, he caught a gleam as of another eye looking at him, meaningly, and with a great deal of friendliness. Oliver felt prickles come out suddenly all over his body, and without quite knowing why, he began to move away from that place, tip-toe and slippingly, like a wild creature in the woods when it does not know who may be about. He told himself it would never do to have the animals come alive without Dorcas Jane, and before all those stupid, staring folk who might come in at any minute and spoil everything.
That night, after their father had gone off clanking to his furnaces, Dorcas heard her brother tapping on the partition between their rooms, as he did sometimes when they played “prisoner.” She knew exactly what he meant by it and tapped back that she was ready.
Everything worked out just as they had planned. They heard the strange, hollow-sounding echoes of the watchman’s voice dying down the halls, as stair by stair they dropped the street lamps below them, and saw strange shadows start out of things that were perfectly harmless and familiar by day.
There was no light in the gallery except faint up-and-down glimmers from the glass of the cases, and here and there the little spark of an eye. Outside there was a whole world of light, the milky way of the street with the meteor roar of the Elevated going by, processions of small moons marching below them across the park, and blazing constellations in the high windows opposite. Tucked into one of the window benches between the cases, the children seemed to swing into another world where almost anything might happen. And yet for at least a quarter of an hour nothing did.
“I don’t believe nothing ever does,” said Dorcas Jane, who was not at all careful of her grammar.
“Sh-sh!” said Oliver. They had sat down directly in front of the Buffalo Trail, though Dorcas would have preferred to be farther away from the Polar Bear. For suppose it hadn’t been properly stuffed! But Oliver had eyes only for the trail.
“I want to see where it begins and where it goes,” he insisted.
So they sat and waited, and though the great building was never allowed to grow quite cold, it was cool enough to make it pleasant for them to sit close together and for Dorcas to tuck her hand into the crook of his arm….
All at once the Bull Buffalo shook himself.
“Wake! Wake!” said the Bull Buffalo, with a roll to it, as though the word had been shouted in a deep voice down an empty barrel. He shook the dust out of his mane and stamped his fore-foot to set the herd in motion. There were thousands of them feeding as far as the eye could reach, across the prairie, yearlings and cows with their calves of that season, and here and there a bull, tossing his heavy head and sending up light puffs of dust under the pawings of his hoof as he took up the leader’s signal.
It rolled along the ground like thunder. At the sound the herds gathered themselves from the prairie, they turned back from the licks, they rose upplopfrom the wallows, trotting singly in the trails that rayed out to every part of the pastures and led up toward the high ridges.
“Wa-ak–” began the old bull; then he stopped short, threw up his head, sniffing the wind, and ended with a sharp snort which changed the words to “What? What?”
“What’s this,” said the Bull Buffalo, “Pale Faces?”
“They are very young,” said the young cow, the one with thegoing look. She had just been taken into the herd that season and had the place of the favorite next to the leader.