The Atavism of John Tom Little Bear (Henry)

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The Atavism of John Tom Little Bear
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man named John Tom Little Bear, an educated Cherokee Indian, and his friend Jeff Peters embark on a swindling scheme in Kansas, but their plans are interrupted when they encounter a young boy who believes he is a boy avenger hunting Indians.

I ran into Jeff Peters, a man of many occupations, in town. He was packing his bags to go to Florida to look at an orange grove. We started talking about the Philippines and Jeff expressed his belief that the tropical races would be better off with their own leaders. He then told me a story about his friend, John Tom Little Bear, an educated Cherokee Indian.

John Tom Little Bear — educated Cherokee Indian; gentlemanly, educated, conflicted.

Jeff and John Tom had come up with a plan to swindle people in Kansas. They sold various items, including a magic soap and an Indian remedy. One night, while they were camping, a young boy tried to shoot John Tom with a toy gun.

‘Here, you pappoose,’ says John Tom, ‘what are you gunning for with that howitzer? You might hit somebody in the eye. Come out, Jeff, and mind the steak. Don’t let it burn, while I investigate this demon with the pea shooter.’

They discovered that the boy had run away from home and decided to keep him. They named him Roy and he became a part of their group.

Roy (The Boy Avenger) — young boy; believes he is a boy avenger hunting Indians; adventurous, curious.

However, Roy's mother eventually found them and took him back.

Mrs. Conyers — Roy's mother; worried, emotional.

Later, John Tom went on a drinking spree and returned with Roy, who had been kidnapped by his abusive father.

‘Pappoose!’ says John Tom, and I notice that the flowers of the white man’s syntax have left his tongue. He is the original proposition in bear’s claws and copper color. ‘Me bring,’ says he, and he lays the kid in his mother’s arms. ‘Run fifteen mile,’ says John Tom—‘Ugh! Catch white man. Bring pappoose.’

They reunited Roy with his mother and John Tom sobered up.