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Frank Bird Linderman.

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ber the story," he said, his deep-lined face set hard
at his thoughts of the past. He drew a brand from
the fire and lit the pipe. "Fine Bow was a great
warrior," he said. "But his years were few. I saw
him die, and I hope to die as he did, fighting the
Blackf eet. I have finished."

Everybody laughed over the story, but I didn't
laugh. Left Hand's face held my eyes and kept me
from laughing. I wished he would tell another yarn.
But before there was time we had another caller.
Black Bear, the old medicine-man, come into the
lodge.

Left Hand greeted him warm, placing a back-
rest made of little willows held together with sinew
and thongs for the old man at the head of the lodge ;
and everybody said "how" when he sat down and
leaned against it. He had the sternest face I ever
saw. His mouth was bigger than Dad's, but
straight cut like his was, and square-looking. His
hair was getting gray, and that is a mark of dis-
tinction among In j ins, always, a proof that the
Great Mystery has favored the owner. Black Bear
wore a necklace made of the teeth of grizzly bears,
and in his ears two shells as big as dollars. Right
over his high, broad forehead was a little knot of
hair, braided and wound up tight, with a bone
whistle sticking through it. Mac said the whistle



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 219

was made from the bone of an eagle's wing and was
a medicine-whistle. He must have been eighty, but
his eyes was bright as a boy's and when he looked
at me I was sure he knowed what I was thinking
about.

Left Hand filled the pipe but didn't light it. He
passed it to Black Bear, and I watched careful to
see how it was handled, for whenever the old man
smoked it was a sight to watch how deliberate and
careful he was of his pipe's movements.

He lit the pipe and rose to his knees. His face
was solemn and his eyes saw nobody about the lodge
fire. His lips moved but made no sound, as he
turned the pipe's stem slow towards the sky and
held it there with bowed head. Then he pointed it
at the earth near the fire, his lips still moving silent,
while he offered it to the "mother" of all things. I
could have counted twenty before he moved it and
oifered it to the four winds, the four seasons, or the
north, east, south, and west. I never saw a thing
done so solemn, nor with such grace; though I'd
have bet the pipe was out.

But it wa'n't. Black Bear smoked before passing
it back to Left Hand. After that it went around
the fire and I noticed that the stem was always
pointed towards the lodge wall and that it was
passed in the same direction the Sun travels. I
thought of the buffalo in the bloody corral. No
wonder they noticed and followed such customs.
Mebby superstition is behind a heap of them, but
it's hard for me to draw a line between it and a sen-
sible creed. I reckon they're related, one to the
other, anyhow. I've never forgot what Dad said
about the ring on the finger and the ring in the
nose. I try to go slow in branding things I don't



220 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

understand, as frauds. But I've seen queer doings
and heered strange things in Injin camps things
I don't try to explain. They lay hold of me, too,
sometimes; though I reckon it's only the mystery
that is wrapped around them that does it, mebby.
Anyway, most always I've found that if you believe
a thing strong enough it's likely to be true, or seem
true.

But whatever an Injin believes in he never in-
sists on you accepting it as your own belief, and he
thinks no less of you if you don't believe like he
does. He holds that you have a right to your
opinion and claims that same right for himse'f . He
never scorns another's creed, no matter how much
it may differ from his own

That night Black Bear told this story; and when
he had finished I wished that Dad might have lived
to hear it and tell me what he thought of it. It
left me wondering and I've wondered often since.
They believe things that we don't believe, and do
things that we can't do. I'll let it go at that.

"When I was a boy," begun Black Bear, "our
people had camped in the Cypress Hills. There
were no buffalo, and the Crees were hungry. The
heat had burned the buffalo range and the Black-
feet had whipped us hard. There was much mourn-
ing among the women and many faces were painted.
The old men said that the buffalo had left the world,
had hidden away in a great hole in the ground to
the eastward. There were no antelope. Maybe they
had gone into hiding with the buffalo. I do not
know. The plains were bare, all bare, and brown.
The people knew why all this had come upon them.
Wah-pi-oose, the buffalo-man had lost the great
buffalo-stone of the Crees; it could not be found;



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 221

and they must starve. Their hearts were on the
ground !

"Natuse; ah, I remember that great medicine-
man ! Natuse went away alone. For four days and
four nights he stayed away. Then some young men
saw him returning. They went to meet him. He
was crawling over the hot plains crawling on his
belly as a snake travels. He would not speak to
the young men, nor would he allow them to help
him, but kept crawling painfully on. He did not
reach the village until it was dark. His finger nails
were torn away and his hands were cut and bleed-
ing. Blood had dried upon his face where the
bushes had scratched it, for he had come straight
for the village, as his medicine had told him he
must. Natuse stopped near to my father's lodge.
'Bring me a knife/ he called. My father gave his
knife to him. Then Natuse cut off his little finger
and buried it in the ground under him. 'Ho! my
people/ he said, rising to his feet. 'I bring good
news/

"The Crees gathered near him to listen. 'In the
early morning/ said Natuse, 'the buffalo will come.
The plains will be blackened with them. Let the
hunters prepare. Let the women get ready, for
there will be much to do. Let no one leave the vil-
lage, but keep some young men upon that knoll
where they can watch the little lake. They must
not take their eyes off its water. With the buffalo
will come one that wears a white robe. A warrior
will kill that buffalo, but he must not take his robe.
Let him who kills the white buffalo remember this,
and come here for me when it is slain. I have
finished/

"The people were glad. Natuse was powerful.



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My father has told me that Natuse foretold the
coming of the whitemen, and that he even described
their weapons before any people on the world had
even seen them. Yes, I remember Natuse when he
was very old, and now I am as old as he was when
he did what I am telling.

"The village that night was as still as the places
where the dead are buried. All the night the young
men were upon the knoll watching the lake. A
bright star looked at me through the smoke-hole of
my father's lodge. I saw it move a little. Then a
star that was near it fell and a streak of light made
a glow upon the dark lodge wall. A grasshopper
crawled upon my arm and sang in the night. I was
frightened. I crept out of the lodge without mak-
ing a noise. The day was not far off, I thought, for
a wind was beginning to stir as it does when the
day is coming. I crept to a hilltop not far from the
knoll where the young men were watching the lake.
I heard a wolf howl down where the shadows were
thick near the water, and a stone I had loosened in
walking went tumbling down the slope towards
the village. Then a dog howled and my body felt
as though a cactus were being pressed against it,
for I feared that all the dogs would answer. But
they did not, and I sat down to watch the lake.
After a time I heard a strange noise (Black Bear
made a humming sound deep down in his throat).
I could see nothing that was making it; but the air
felt queer about me. I was very young and the
noise scared me. It came again, louder than before,
and then I saw that the lake was disturbed. White
smoke was coming from the water. Then it bubbled
and boiled, just as a kettle does over a fire. The
ground trembled and the noise came again. Mn-



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 223

mn-mn-mn ugh-ugh! Mn-mn-mn-mn ugh-ugh! The
air became heated and the ground shook and stirred
under me. I could scarcely get my breath. It was
terrible.

"The people in the village were awake, too, but
they did not hear the strange! noise as I did. I kept
my eyes upon the lake. Suddenly the water rose in
the middle and the lump was like a ball of water.
The ball began rolling towards the shore, rolling,
rolling, rolling, until it struck the beach and burst
with much white smoke. Ho! Out of the mist of
white smoke there walked a buffalo. He was white
as the snow. Ho! He stood on the land looking
towards the east. He was the Medicine Buffalo that
Natuse had told us would come.

"Then lumps rose up all about the lake and began
rolling towards the shore. Each lump burst with
a puff of white smoke and a buffalo came out of it.
When the shore was black with buffalo the white
bull began to move eastward, and the rest followed
as fast as they reached the land. The white smoke
hung over the lake until it almost hid the mighty
herd that was coming out of the water. They could
not be counted. The ground trembled with their
weight; and as far eastward as I could see there
were buffalo without end. The hunters went after
them and the travois followed to bring in the meat.
My father killed the white bull. Natuse skinned
him and gave the white robe to the Sun. I have
finished."

Left Hand filled the pipe again.

"My grandfather was Natuse's brother," said
Sitting Horse, a man as old as Black Bear.

"Ahh!" both Left Hand and the old medicine-
man said, like they both had knowed him.



224 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

Black Bear smoked and passed the pipe as before,
but nobody spoke till it was back with Left Hand.
It was plain that Sitting Horse was expected to go
on. And he did.

"My grandfather was with a war-party once that
was led by Natuse," he said. "Grandfather was
young then. He told me this:

"One night they camped in a dark forest where
great pine trees grew. It was far to the eastward.
The war-party numbered thirty men. It was in the
month of roses and rain fell every day and night.
They had found no enemy. In the night a great
stillness came in the darkness. The heavy rain had
stopped but a fine mist was falling. The great trees
leaked water through their tops and no dry places
could be found. There was something that made
them afraid. Even Natuse felt it. None could tel]
what it was that frightened them. That made it
worse. The men tried to sleep but the stillness
among the pine trees made it hard for them to get
breath.

"Suddenly Natuse sat up straight near my grand-
father and there came a terrible crashing sound
that hurt the ears. With it came a flood of light
that went away as soon as it came. The air
smelled of something that did not belong in the
world. Ten of the war-party were dead and two
that lived were blind forever. A great hole was
torn in the ground near Natuse and grandfather
and flying dirt had covered them. It was long be-
fore they could speak or move. Then Natuse and
grandfather walked down into the hole the great
noise had made. In the bottom they found a
feather. It was green as the new grass in the early
spring and was as long as a war-bow. It came from



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 225

the wing of the thunder-bird, Natuse told my
grandfather. It was the thunder-bird that made
the hole in the ground and brought the great light.
It was the thunder-bird that killed the warriors.
The rest came back to the village. I have finished."
Right away I knowed it was lightning that dug
the hole and killed the men. (White folks are
mighty sure of theirse'fs and know a heap.) But
I couldn't understand the green feather. Natuse
didn't lie, and Sitting Horse believed every word of
what he told. So did all the rest all but me; and
I wondered why. I knowed that dreams figured in
the lives of Injins and thought mebby a dream had
mixed itse'f up with a thunder storm 'way back
yonder when Sitting Horse's grandfather was a boy.
But dream or no dream, the thing that grabs you
the thing you think you can explain and can't, was
in the story. I don't know how to say it, but it
dared you, somehow; and I liked it the way I'd
liked the Robinson Crusoe book of Abner Hastings'.
And the green feather made me feel like I knowed
he felt when he run onto the man's track in the
sand.



CHAPTER XXV

When I sat by my own fire after Mac had gone to
his lodge for the night I thought about the stories
some more. White folks that lived long ago and
was wild like the In j ins held to queer beliefs and
their medicine-men told of chariots of fire and folks
that turned to salt. Nobody disputed them, and
even now it won't do to make light of it. And I
wouldn't do it, noway. I reckon that mixed with
the truth in every belief there is a passel of impos-
sibilities which folks could separate if they dared,
and that whether they admit it or not, both white
and red folks'll bear shackles of mystery rather
than to pick and choose.

Once when I was little old Nate Busey that lives
down on Coon Creek below the mill told me to watch
out for devil's darning needles, those big dragon
flies that stays around water. He said they'd sew
up the lips of boys that used bad words. I told it
to Jeff Hawkins and after that we was both afraid
of them and was mighty careful what we said when
we was fishing. I've even set out to kill them with
a stick, holding one hand over my lips. And
blamed if I ain't half afraid of them to this day,
even though I sure know they're harmless.

I figured that we had owned beliefs as rickety as
anybody's and that the difference, if there was any,
was less than between the bow-and-arrow and my
rifle. And I let it go at that.

It was a long time before I went to sleep. In
spite of all I could do to keep it off, lonesomeness
layed hold of me. I built up my fire, but it didn't

226



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 227

he'p, and I let it go plumb out and layed on my back
looking up through the smoke-hole at the stars.
But I couldn't fit myse'f to the plains, noway. I
mean, to live there always. While Dad was living
I'd never thought about living there always; just
thought about one day at a time, like, leaving things
to him to settle, I reckon. But now I'd got to think
for myse'f.

I could see clear that I ought to get back where I
come from; and I wanted to. Then when I'd set-
tled it and tried to go to sleep, I got to thinking of
Bluebird. I tried to shut her out, but whenever I
turned my thoughts away from her I couldn't hold
to it, and back she'd come.

It's queer, but when you try to keep from thinks
ing of anything the trying itse'f won't let go of
what you want to turn loose, and it hangs around
till finally you give up. I wished that she hadn't
fetched the kettle that night, and felt plumb
ashamed of it as soon as I'd wished it. I got to
asking questions and answering myse'f honest.

Wa'n't it a kind act, fetching the kettle?

It sure was.

Wa'n't she as fine a little woman as I ever saw?

Yes, she was.

Had she made eyes at me or tried to get ac-
quainted?

No, not by a long shot.

And then I got mad at her ducking back into her
father's lodge that morning when she saw me. She
didn't want to have anything to do with me. And
she needn't. I was a whiteman and she was only
an Injin woman. As soon as that come out I felt
as sneaking as a coyote and took it back. And
that's the way I spent more than two hours.



228 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

Mac come early to the lodge, but I was up and
stirring when he lifted the door and entered.

"Did you rest well?" he asked, kneeling beside
the fire.

"No," I answered, and looked into his eyes.
There was something in his voice that told me I
needn't have answered that he knowed I'd spent a
restless night.

He stirred the fire with a stick; then dropped it
on the blaze. "The ways of your people are dif-
ferent from the ways of the Crees, Lone Wolf," he
said. "Do you think that Bluebird is a fool, or that
Red Robe has no eyes?" He begun to fill his pipe,
absent, with his thin fingers, while his glance was
on me without seeing that I was there.

I could feel my face getting hot. "What do you
mean?" I asked. But I was sure he knowed I
didn't mean for him to answer me.

"I know but little of the ways of my father's peo-
ple and your own," he went on directly, leaning for-
ward to take a brand from the fire to light the pipe.
"Be wise, Lone Wolf. Do not seem to steal about
among the Crees. Their customs are their own and
you are here with them. Speak out, that they may
know what you mean and what is in your heart, lest
they think you treacherous, all because they do not
know the whiteman's ways. If you want Bluebird
go to her father."

He passed me the pipe and I took it. Before I
could speak his hands flashed the signs "smoke first."
It is a good rule and I have followed it since then.
My feeling wa'n't all clean resentment. It was a
mixed feeling, with some anger. But it weakened
before the quiet little man across the lodge-fire, and
when I spoke I'd killed it off.



UGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 229

"I have not even told myself that I want her, Lit-
tle Knife," I said. "But I would like to know her,
like to learn if I do want her. That is the way of
my people. And if she does not want me I would
not have her, even though I could."

I was speaking the truth, I had not thought of
having Bluebird for my wife. If it had been in my
mind I hadn't knowed it. I'd took to her from the
first, the same as I had to Dad. She seemed to draw
me, and I wanted to talk to her and be friendly.
But I couldn't stay on the plains always. And I
remembered what Dad had said just before he went
and how all along he'd tried to keep me away from
her.

"I do not think that I want her, Little Knife," I
said, handing back the pipe.

He paid no attention to that. "Your ways are
different from ours," he says, putting away his pipe.
"Bluebird is a Cree woman and will do as her father
decides. I have spoken."

"She seems to be afraid of me," I said. But he
didn't answer.

"The weather will change soon. There will be
snow again," he said finally. "We must kill some
meat."

"They are curious folks," I thought. "I am
ready to hunt for meat," I told him. "But let us
begin trading soon." Our talk had made me want
to get away more than ever. I wanted to get the
thing settled. "When can we start our trading?"
I asked.

"There is no good in haste," he smiled. "The
robes and fur will come to us and to no others. It
is quite a time until spring and while we may begin
to trade even now, it is well to be slow, for we shall



230 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

be able to choose the best by taking time. Let us
go out on the plains today."

So we set out up the Marias after buffalo. The
morning was chill. A strong wind was blowing,
but the plains was nigh bare of snow. I rode Bill's
hoss to save Eagle, though they was all fat enough
and fit; but I reckoned to save Dad's war-hoss for
special occasions.

I hadn't ever yet run buffalo; and no sooner had
we started than my hoss, going as fast as he could,
fell with me and mighty nigh laid me up. My head
hit the frozen ground and I went plumb asleep for
a spell. When I come to Mac was with me. I felt
light-headed and sick at my stomach.

The herd was only a small one and it was more'n
three miles away when I got straightened out. But
Mac had killed a fat cow, so we called it good and
quit.

A lump was swelling above my ear and I felt
worse than I let on when we started back for the
village. Before we got there I had to get down, or
I'd have fallen off, I reckon. Mac got down, too,
and we both waited a spell till I felt better ; but my
head wa'n't right by a long shot when we got in.

As we passed Red Robe's lodge, Bluebird come
out. She had a kettle in her hand.

"What is wrong?" she asked, dropping the kettle
and coming to meet us. I thought she looked
scared.

"His horse fell with him. His head is hurt," Mac
said, starting on.

"Come into the lodge." She turned and walked
to it in that silent way of hers and raised the door.
"Lone Wolf is hurt," she said, and I heard them
murmur "Ahh," inside.



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 231

I was glad to sit down, but the warmth of the
lodge made me light-headed again and I layed down
on a robe. I wa'n't out of my mind. I could hear
them talking and knowed what was going on, but it
was dim, and I didn't care. Somebody undid my
head-silk. And I knowed it was her. I tried to
sit up, but she pressed her hand against my breast
and I give up. It was good to be still. She put
something cold on my head and I could hear them
pounding up some roots to make medicine that
would he'p me. But I dozed off.

I must have slept a long spell, for when I woke
it was plumb dark. The fire was crackling and I
could see them all in its dim light. I stirred a lit-
tle, and Bluebird come and changed a cloth on my
head.

"You are better," she said, pressing down the
cloth gentle and careful. "You must have had a
bad fall. Lie still yet a while."

I had moved to get up. I wished she would talk
some more, but she sat down where I couldn't even
see her and was still. The rest went on talking in
low voices ; and Mac was there.

Directly I sat up and the cloth that smelled strong
of herbs, fell off.

"How," smiled Red Robe, rising to his knees
across the fire. And Mac come over and sat down
by my side.

"I am better," I said. "I have had a good nap."
My head pained me some but I wa'n't dizzy no more
nor sick. I was hungry. "Come," I says to Mac,
"let us go to our own lodge."

But his hand was on my arm and I did not get up.

"I would speak," he said to Red Robe. And the
warrior straightened his body.



232 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

"Your lodge is a good place." Mac spoke slow
and in a low voice. "Manitou gives comfort to
those who are cunning with weapons, and you are a
great hunter.

"I would speak for my friend, Lone Wolf. I
would tell what is in his heart. He did not know
that I would speak, did not guess that I would tell
you. He did not ask me to speak for him, but Lit-
tle Knife is the friend of Lone Wolf. The ways of
the whiteman are not our ways, and that my friend
may not be misunderstood, that you may respect
him as he goes about the village, I will speak for
him before you while his own ears listen.

"Lone Wolf thinks much of Bluebird. He would
talk to her often and learn to know her well. He
would not seek to take her to his lodge unless she
wished to go there as his woman. That is the way
of his people. He has told me this, and I am his
friend, that he would first be sure that Bluebird
was the woman he wanted and that he was the man
she desired before he spoke to you, her father.
Lone Wolf will have but one woman. That, too, is
the way of his people. Red Robe knows that Lone
Wolf is a good hunter, that his heart is kind, and
that he has many goods and horses. I have fin-
ished."

Red Robe drew his pipe from his fire-bag slowly
and laid it before him. A puppy whined at the
lodge-door and Bluebird raised it and lifted in the
shivering, fuzzy mite, born plumb out of season.

I can't tell you how I felt. I was angry at Mac
and sorry for her all in one. But it was done. I
wanted to get out of there; but I couldn't see any
way to do it right.

"You'll spick now," said Mac in English. "You'll



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 233

tell heem I ha'n't lie, me. Dat's bes' way, ma
frien'." His voice seemed to beg me to do like he
said.

"What Little Knife has spoken is true," I says.
"I did not know that he would do as he has done.
I did not ask him to do it. But he has not lied.
There/' I thought, "I've done it."

Bluebird's mother put a stick on the fire but no-
body spoke. The other children was staring at me,
their black eyes searching my face. I felt my head
throb, and looked at Bluebird. She was snuggling
the puppy in her arms with her head bent over him.

Red Robe filled the pipe with tobacco and willow
bark and when he reached for a fire-brand the light
fell on his face. It was seamed deep, like Dad's,
and honest-looking and kind. He lit the pipe and
offered it to the Sun, the father, and then to the
Earth, the mother, of all things, before he passed
it to me. I took it and smoked as he had and as
careful. Then, after Mac had smoked, the old war-
rior spoke and I haven't forgot his words. They
was fair.

"All people have their ways," he said, looking
straight at me. "The Blackf eet and the Crows and


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