The World, July 16, 1907




OF all the large and powerful tribe of the Black Bollygollas, who carried on existence in the wilds of Kentucky, none was so highly esteemed by his fellows as Cavorting Skunk, a romantic and widely red Indian of prepossessing exterior and courtly manners. Few of his contemporaries could pick off a sitting wigwam with his unerring skill. Nor was he deficient in brains. When a prisoner was brought in it was a common thing to read in the Bollygolla Clarion and Red Indian Advertiser next day that “many of the most ingenious and mirth-provoking tortures were the fruit of the agile mind of our brilliant young fellow-tribesman, Cavorting Skunk, whose tortures are always so instinct with the true artistic feeling.” And more to the same effect. He was in fact, the Admirable Crichton of the tribe.

But if there was one thing more than another for which we fellows looked up to him, it was his collection of scalps. Tastefully arranged under glass cases, and patiently classified, they were on view to visitors (on presentation of a visiting-card) every second and fourth Thursday. Every week saw fresh additions made to the collection.

It was the apple of its owner’s eye. Even the victims from whose heads the trophies were detached would have appreciated the compliment if they could have seen the value placed on their whilom head-covering.

One day as Cavorting Skunk made his way over the boundless prairie he came upon a settler busily occupied in tending his three acres and his cow.

As he watched, the settler removed his hat in order to mop his heated brow; and the sight that met Cavorting Skunk’s eyes filled him with a whirl of emotions so ecstatic that he was obliged to sit down for a moment on a handy stump and take a drop of fire-water to steady him.

Never had he seen so noble a scalp. It was auburn and curly. It was the last word in scalps.

To seize his tomahawk—like all his tribe he had his tomahawker’s licence—and spring upon the back of the now stooping settler took Cavorting Skunk but a moment. Sitting resolutely on his opponent’s spine, he obtained the scalp; then, rising hurriedly, he departed before the other could recover sufficient breath to continue the argument.

Arrived at his home, he desired his friend the medicine-man of the tribe to step round and see his latest acquisition.

“There,” he said, proudly stepping back with his head on one side, “there’s a scalp for you, my boy! What about that for a scalp? Stand just here, and you get the light on it properly. It will be the gem of my collection.”

But the medicine-man shook his head, and sighed.

“Alas, my brother!” he said. “The above is not a scalp. It is indeed a wig (by Clarkson).”

There was a dull, sickening thud as the body of Cavorting Skunk fell inertly to the floor.

The medicine-man knelt beside him and chafed his hands. Cavorting Skunk sat up.

“This is too much,” he said. “Life is henceforth a blank. I shall never get over this shock.” And he wept.

The medicine-man comforted him.

“Cheer up,” said the medicine-man, “things may not be so bad after all. There is a proverb which says that all that glitters is not gold. Still, if people think that it is gold, then for all practical purposes it is just as good. Same here. Tell nobody about this. I will not blow the gaff, if I may so phrase it. Put the wig with the scalps under a glass case and label it, and ten to one nobody will know.”

Cavorting Skunk pressed his hand in silence.

In the “Round the Museums” column of the Bollygolla Clarion and Red Indian Advertiser next day unstinted eulogies were bestowed upon “our brilliant young fellow-tribesman, Cavorting Skunk, who has added to his collection one of the finest scalps it has ever been our good fortune to see. The specimen is singularly well preserved, scarcely a hair, to judge by the naked eye, being missing. Our young fellow-tribesman’s exhibition should be the rendezvous of the fashionable monde for some weeks to come. We should advise everybody who appreciates really artistic scalping to pay Mr. Skunk a visit.”

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

That night the medicine-man received a case of the best fire-water “from a friend.”