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Frank Bird Linderman.

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can finish trading and go?" I asked.

"When the ice goes from the river and the water
begins to rise," he said. "We must start soon after
that and travel fast. The country is not good for
travellers. Often there are many Indians between
this place and the mouth of the Yellowstone. They
are at war with strangers. And farther down
along the river the whitemen are not all honest.
Some there are who would plunder us if they could."

I knowed he was right; and I thought of such as
Mike Fink; but he'd been a pardner of mine, and I
didn't speak his name, even to Mac.

"Shall you come back to the plains, Lone Wolf?"
Mac's voice was always low-toned, but now I hardly
heered him.

I didn't want to hurt him. "I do not know. Lit-



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 251

tie Knife," I says. "Sometimes I think I shall not
come back." And that was the truth.

He moved the sticks in the fire. The days had
been getting longer and I had noticed too that the
nights wa'n't so long. Spring wa'n't so far away.
We sat silent, each with his own thoughts, when
suddenly there was a great stir in the village. Dogs
was howling.

"Hark!" Mac raised to his knees with his hand
behind his ear. I thought of the night in the
stockade and stood up.

Men was calling tp each other. Mac bolted into
the dark with me at his heels. We couldn't see any-
thing at first. The light of our lodge-fire was still
in our eyes. Men was mounting their hosses.
"What is the matter?" Mac asked a man who I saw
was Fish Hawk.

"The Blackfeet have stolen many horses and
wounded Three Leggings," he says. "We are going
after our horses."

"Let us go with them, Little Knife," I says.
"Maybe they have stolen some of ours."

They'd killed Dad. Hate layed hold of me, and I
felt like I did that morning at the gate with Caley
Byers, only worse.

"They have taken two of your mules and several
of your horses, the herders say."

It was Red Robe who answered. Bluebird was
by his side, but I hardly saw her. I was thinking
of Eagle. What if they'd got him! I run into the
lodge for my rifle, feeling mighty anxious, and from
there to the rope corral, half afraid I wouldn't find
him.

But I spotted him, quicker'n you could wink, and
felt glad all over, while I caught him up and got my



252 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

pad on him. "We'll get even, little boss!" I says,
swinging onto him, and I rode up to where Mac and
nigh fifty more under Yellow Bear was ready to go.

The night wa'n't cold; and excepting patches of
crusted snow and a few drifts that the coulees shel-
tered, the plains was bare. The Northern Lights
was playing on the sky northward towards Hud-
son's Bay, spreading up and out like a fan. There
wa'n't any moon, so that Oo-check-a-tuck, the Big
Dipper, was 'specially plain. Every star was out
and the sky plumb peppered with them, some look-
ing bigger than usual and some so little and dim
you couldn't hardly make them out.

The wind was out of the west, but not very
strong, when we crossed the Marias and whipped
up. Some scouts was ahead of us. I could see them
dim under the stars. After crossing the stream we
rode faster. The Blackfeet wa'n't half an hour
ahead of us and we figured on overhauling them,
they having to drive the stolen bosses.

But for more than an hour we didn't see hide nor
hair of them. I was beginning to reckon they'd
got away, when from the top of a knoll two scouts
sighted the flying pony band and waited till we
come up. Yellow Bear sent ten men straight after
them, and the rest of us turned off to try to ride
around the stolen pony band and head it back.

I leaned low over Eagle's neck. "Now!" I says,
and let plumb loose of the rope. He knowed what
was wanted; and I begun to draw away from the
rest. I passed the ten Crees and come abreast of
the Blackfeet. An arrow zipped in front of my
face. I felt the wind of its feathers and bent lower.
The Blackfeet was yelling. Shots flashed behind
the pony band. They cracked loud above the steady



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 253

roar of pounding hoofs. But if they was shooting
at me I didn't know it, nor care.

The Crees was behind me and coming, but Eagle
was gaining on the band at every jump. I'd passed
the Blackf eet and was abreast of the trailers in the
pony band, when an arrow pinned my shirt sleeve
to my pad, thud! I reached over and broke the
shaft to free my arm. I'd get me one of them yet,
if only I could turn the pony band. I thought of
Mike Fink even excusing him for notching his
rifle-stock. Then I touched Eagle's sides with my
heels. The wind whistled in my hair. I was creep-
ing up, up, up, as steady as a clock ticks and as sure.
"Oh, stand it, little man! stand it for old Dad's
sake!" I whispered, and felt myse'f tighten up to
he'p him. The leaders of the band wa'n't far ahead.
I gathered my rope to be ready to swing him, and
untied my shirt. Only three more to pass only
two only one but they was so close-bunched I
daren't cut in between them, lest I make a fizzle of
it. I got one arm out of my shirt, then pulled it
off. It was like I'd spurred him. He sprung for-
ward and a fleck of hot foam struck my cheek. His
nose went ahead of the leader's like he was standing
still. I swung my shirt over my head and yelled.
The leader swerved off and turned back towards
the Marias with the whole band at his heels. He'd
done it. The little hoss had beat them all !

"Lone Wolf ! Lone Wolf !" they cried behind me.
And the Crees come thundering up, sweeping the
pony band with them.

But with the runaway band turned, the Blackfeet
was trapped. There was shots and shouts and war
clubs swinging and arrows zipping like all get out,



254 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

and the Blackfeet broke and ran in every direction,
followed by Crees.

I pulled up. I wa'n't going to kill Eagle, even to
get me a Blackfoot. And in less time than I can
say it in I was plumb alone. It seemed like I'd
been lifted in a second out of a whirling, yelling
bedlam and dropped down in a still place that no
living man had ever seen. I heered two or three
shots, but they was faint and far off. Eagle's sides
was heaving, so I got down to walk and rest him.
The wind come in little gusts and when I stepped
on spots of snow the crust broke and made a noise.
The Northern Lights had quit playing, but there
was still a greenish glow on the sky to northward
when I set out for the Marias, wondering if Mac
was all right and wishing he was with me. But if
he had followed the Blackfeet I couldn't have hoped
to overtake him.

I figured that I'd turn and cut south a little, keep-
ing a sharp look-out around me. Directly I saw
four little knots on the rim of a knolltop between
me and the sky. I stopped and watched them. One
of them moved a little and then I knowed they was
only wolves and went on.

I crossed the knoll, stopping to look and listen on
its top. But there wa'n't a sound, only the wind,
so I started on. Suddenly, though, Eagle stopped
in his tracks. His ears was pricked forward and
his nostrils working like a dog's. I heered a hoss
coming over the frozen ground and cocked my rifle.
Directly I could see him. He was headed straight
for me. But he turned off at the foot of the knoll
and I made out that he was a loose hoss trailing a
rope. He was out of sight almost as soon as I saw
him, but I heered him for quite a spell. When I



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 255

started on I was mighty careful. Somebody was
down and afoot. I knowed that; and I reckoned I
might meet up with him.

Directly I come to a little knoll with a flat place
on its top. Right at the edge of the flat both Eagle
and I stopped sudden, like we was grabbed and
held. Something moved just ahead. It was against
the background of a higher knoll. I couldn't make
it out. Directly it moved again. And then I saw
another black form stir and bend over. It was a
man. They was both men. I cocked my rifle and
squatted, quiet, just as they rushed together and
clinched, bending and twisting. They was coming
my way. I rested my elbows on my knee, ready.
They stopped, straining like pulling hosses. I could
hear their panting breath and smell blood. An arm
raised up and went down, thud!

"Ahh! dog of a Blackfoot!"

The words was gasped out, and they was Cree.

The two was stone-still a minute. Then they
staggered apart for wind like two fighting dogs that
won't quit. Both was naked and so blind with hate
that a buffalo herd could have passed unnoticed.
One laughed, the one nighest to me, and cold shivers
went up my backbone. It was like a whip-lash to
the other. He rushed and they clinched again. I
couldn't tell which was the Cree.

For a moment they struggled, trying to stab, but
not moving either way. Then they come on, one,
the laugher, being forced backward and backward,
his breath hissing in his awful effort to hold his
ground, till his heels was plumb against a sage-
bush. I held my breath. Was it the Cree?

There was a sudden lunge and they went over, the
laugher underneath, not ten feet away, and heads



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towards me. I could hear my own heart beat. My
finger was on the trigger. Which was the Cree? I
had to know.

The man on top begun to raise his knife, slow.
I saw it plain when he wiped the blood from his
eyes with his bare arm, and the stain on his wrist.
Words muttered with burning hate come from be-
tween his teeth. They wa'n't Cree words! And I
pulled the trigger. Eagle jumped at the flash of the
gun, and the man with the knife rolled over. I'd
got my Blackfoot 'thout trying.

I stood up and commenced to reload, watching
the two forms on the ground. One moved, the one
that had laughed, the Cree. "How!" I says, prim-
ing my rifle pan.

"How, how! Paok Mah-he-ean!"

The voice was weak. I went over to his side and
lifted his head. It was Yellow Bear.

"Rest," I says. "I will wait while you rest."

But he sat up and looked at his enemy. "That
was a great warrior," he said, his voice full of ad-
miration. "He was brave and strong. I shall take
his scalp when I have rested."

He was bleeding bad, and I counted his hurts, six
of them two arrows and four knife-wounds,
enough to kill two ordinary men.

I cut up my shirt and bound up his cuts the best
I could so as to stop some of the blood.

"My life belongs to you, Lone Wolf," he says.
And directly he got to his feet.

"Get on my horse," I urged him.

But he took the scalp of the dead Blackfoot, and
turning towards the Marias, says, "No, I am strong.
I will walk. It was the white horse that turned the
stolen band. Let him rest."



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 257

So we walked slow, looking out for bosses as we
went. "Fish Hawk is dead," said Yellow Bear,
after a long silence. "There will be mourning in
the village. But you are now a warrior, Lone Wolf,
and my life belongs to you."

"It was chance," I told him, "just chance that led
me towards you while you fought. I was not guided
by sounds."

"No, it was not chance, Lone Wolf," he said. And
he meant it. "It was to be so. It was not my time
to die, although I thought that it was. Let us rest.
I am dizzy."

We sat down in a coulee out of the wind that was
freshening some, and Yellow Bear filled and lit his
war-pipe. "Smoke, brother, warrior," he said.

And I took it from his hand. Somehow I sud-
dently felt like I was part of the plains like I had
always been a plainsman, and wanted to stay one!

The stars was fading out of the sky. Day wa'n't
far off. I wished it would come on. I knowed
Yellow Bear was bad off and suffering, though he
didn't whimper. I covered him with a robe that
was under Eagle's pad and went up on the top of a
ridge to look for Crees. I knowed they would soon
be hunting for us. The sky was showing day and
the wind was coming stronger and from the east.
I was cold without my shirt, but I thought how Yel-
low Bear had called me warrior, and stood the wind
on my bare hide like it was summer.

I could see the Marias, and while I looked hard I
saw riders coming. I didn't wait but run back to
Yellow Bear. "They are coming!" I cried; and he
got up, but wouldn't get on Eagle no matter how
much I begged him.

The Crees had reckoned I'd been killed and Mac



258 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

was nigh tickled to death when he saw me. They
led Eagle like he was tribal property and a prize.
I felt mighty proud and I don't deny it. There
never was a better little hoss.

We rode into the village just as daylight was com-
ing on. Everybody was out. Two was badly
wounded besides Yellow Bear, and Fish Hawk was
dead. But they sang of victory even Yellow Bear.
When he come to the Chief's lodge he stopped and,
still lashed to his hoss, begun to talk and sing.

"It was Lone Wolf who turned the flying horses !
It was Lone Wolf who saved my life! His bullet
went straight in the darkness and a Blackf oot war-
rior died ! Lone Wolf is brave and a warrior ; my
life belongs to him. Let all my relations remember
him as my brother ! I have finished."

Then he rode oif to his lodge.

Cracky! I'll never again feel like I did then. I
was proud a-plenty and grateful too, though I
hadn't done much myse'f . Eagle did the most. But
I didn't say so; I let it go.

A bright fire was burning in the Chief's lodge and
the old man stepped out. "How! Lone Wolf, war-
rior!" he says, and he handed me a painted robe
while a lot of young men and women looked and
smiled, as happy as I was. They crowded around
me, all talking at once. But I got down and made
my way to my lodge with Eagle. I would cover him
with robes and keep him near me.

When I come out with the robes Bluebird was by
his side, emptying a robeful of grass on the ground
at his feet.

"I heard of your wonderful ride before you
reached the village," she said. "See, I have cut
grass for your Eagle, that so great a horse may



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 259

feast." She put her little hand on his neck and he
went after the grass greedily.

"Thank you," I said, tying a robe over Eagle's
back. I couldn't think of anything worth while to
say.

She begun to braid Eagle's mane, looking over
his neck at me. "I heard what Yellow Bear said
and saw Big Bear give you the painted robe," she
told me. And there was pride in her eyes when
she looked down at the grass she had cut. She be-
gun another braid, her fingers working swift and
without the guide of her glance. "Yellow Bear is
my father's youngest brother, Lone Wolf, warrior;
and I am proud that you are my friend." Her voice
barely reached me across Eagle's white neck.

I leaned forwards sudden and reached for her
hand, but she drew it away. "Come into my lodge,
Bluebird," I begged. "Come, and pick what you
will for a present."

"No, no," she said, stepping backward. "I can-
not," looking straight into my eyes. "I must go
now. But my father would be glad to see you in
his lodge to talk and smoke with you and hear you
tell of your ride and the fight. You are hungry."
She moved towards me again and her voice fell to
that tone I liked so well. "There is no fire in your
lodge, no meat," she said. "Will you come to my
father's lodge now?" She was backing away again,
still looking into my eyes. How pretty she was,
and how little ! "Shall I tell my father that you are
coming?" she asked, and turned away from me.

"Yes," I told her. "I will come."

My arm was around Eagle's neck and I watched
her go to her father's lodge and disappear inside.

When she was gone Mac raised his lodge door



260 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

and stepped out. "How! Lone Wolf, warrior!"
He came to me. "I would have been first to greet
you," he said, "but an arrow wounded my arm and
my woman was binding it up." He held out his arm,
but I knowed why he hadn't come to me sooner and
wondered if he'd heered what Bluebird had said.

"I am going to Red Robe's lodge to feast," I told
him, half daring him to smile or plague me. But
he tightened the thongs that held Eagle's robe and
when he spoke it was of the hoss himse'f.

"Nothing can beat him," ha says, patting his
neck. "I feel as proud as yourself over his great
run. I shall spend the night with you ; but you will
be long at Red Robe's lodge. The day is yet young.
Do not hurry. I shall have a fire waiting for you
when you have feasted."



CHAPTER XXIX

There never was a more comfortable lodge than
Red Robe's. It was large and roomy and taller than
most of the others. Its painted lining was of
dressed elk skins smoked to a rich yellow and deco-
rated with pictures of the old warrior's deeds in
war, done in red and blue. And it was in order;
not topsy-turvy like some I'd seen.

There was parfleches filled with pemmican lean
meat cut thin and dried and pounded to a pulp, with
melted back-fat and dried berries poured on it and
mixed. It's good grub to do a hard ride on, for a
little of it goes a long way towards keeping a man's
stomach from gnawing. There was three bales of
prime beaver skins done up fine, to pay the trader
at the Ashley-Henry Post at the mouth of the Yel-
lowstone. They was the first things he showed me,
being plumb tickled because he could pay for the
goods he had bought in the fall. He looked mighty
comfortable leaning against his willow back-rest,
his weapons ready at hand and his family about his
bright fire. Anybody could see that he was a good
provider and that his was a contented household.

The women his woman and Bluebird and Sits-
and-Sings was busy making moccasins. The other
children was younger and was hot at the ring-and-
arrow game when I come in. It made me feel right
good to see them ; and when I leaned against a back-
rest beside Red Robe at the head of the lodge I sure
thought I'd never before been in so cozy a place.

We feasted. I was hungry as a wolf and Blue-
bird made some black tea that was better than any

261



262 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

I'd ever tasted. Red Robe had traded for the tea
at a Hudson's Bay Post up north. It was strong
and had a fine flavor.

When he lit the pipe and passed it he asked me
to tell the story of the race to turn the stolen hosses
and about the fight. I told it, but I didn't make a
long yarn of it, and he said so. He told me that
Yellow Bear was bad hurt and might not get well.
I proposed we go and see him and he said he would
go with me after we'd finished talking.

He spoke to Bluebird and she fetched a parfleche
to him. He unlaced it and spread it out so I could
see what was in it. His war-bonnet, shirt, leg-
gings, fancy bullet-pouch, and pretty moccasins, and
a lot of other finery. He took out an eagle's wing,
all worked with colored porcupine quills up and
down the quill of each feather, and give it to me.
He said that none but a warrior could carry such
a thing, and that whenever I sat with warriors
about a fire I had a right to hold the wing. Next
he give me an eagle feather to put in my hair and
showed me how to wear it crosswise, or sticking
out from one side of my head. That meant I'd
killed an enemy in battle. If the feather was worn
straight up behind the head it meant you'd killed
three enemies in fight. In between the straight-up
position and the crosswise showed that you'd got
two enemies in close conflict. He taught me the
paint-marks on hosses too, and I was surprised to
learn that each had a meaning of its own.

We smoked two pipes and then he showed me his
leggings. "Bluebird made these," he says, laying
them across my knees.

They was beautiful things. The design and
colors beat any I'd ever seen, and I said so. I looked



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 263

at her, but her head was bent over her work and
her needle never missed a lick, nor she didn't look
up.

"Where did you learn this design, Bluebird?" I
asked her.

She stuck her needle into the elk-skin and looked
at me. Her eyes was shining like her mind was
full of words. Her father smiled good-natured and
nodded like he would listen to what she said.

"Look, Lone Wolf," she says, "and you will find
it and others as beautiful. They are everywhere
in the forests, on the plains, on the ice when the
frost has worked its magic under the moon, and
even in the white snow-flakes that fall and drifting
deep, make life a battle."

"But the colors?" I says. "How did you learn
to use them so skillfully?"

I saw her bosom rise and fall quick. She wanted
to talk. If only we was alone !

"Paok Mah-he-can, if you do not look for much
you will see but little. The colors are upon the
plains and in the forests. It is there that we learn
to use them. Napa has painted the bird-people and
the animal-people. Carefully has he made the
colors to blend. And we have but to copy his work
to do well. Some of the least things are the most
beautiful. Upon the backs and wings of moths and
butterflies are wonderful designs where colors
blend. And so cunningly has he made them that we
cannot follow the wearer always. They beautify
and yet hide him from sight. Only the sharp eye
can see. Only the trained ear hears the sounds
that attend the beautiful of the forests and plains.
Manitou would have the beauty wrought by His
servant Napa admired. It was intended to com-



264 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

mand our admiration. There is beauty for every
sense: the eye, the ear, the tongue, and the body
itself. Is it not wrong to close the eye to beauty
and the nose to the perfumes which the flowers give
to the winds?"

She stopped and her head again bent over her
work. I could see the red part in her hair.

"I am afraid that I have not noticed the bugs and
worms," I says, feeling I'd missed a good deal, "but
after this I will notice them. You will show me
the designs, won't you, Bluebird?"

She laughed softly and raised her head There
was merriment in her eyes now, and mischief. "I
cannot make you see beauty with honest eyes," she
said, so low I scarcely heered her. "If you do not
find beauty for yourself how could you know that I
did not lie when I declared it to be before your
eyes? Most things grow in beauty for those who
pause to look upon them. But to the hawk no bird
is beautiful, save those of his own tribe. Yet the
little birds he preys upon bathe and plume them-
selves. They do not do this to be beautiful in the
eyes of the hawk-people, but to those who know
beauty and love it." She turned the moccasin she
was making inside out and inspected her work, then
layed it away.

She knowed I belonged to another race a peo-
ple who don't take the time to learn the little things
in the great out-of-doors and her words, gentle as
they was, pricked and shamed me. I felt like I'd
been petted and scolded, all in one just like I did
when Aunt Lib jawed me for wearing my boots in
the front room. But I didn't like it when she com-
pared white folks to hawks; and I was willing to
bet that was what she meant to do. "Let us go to



LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 265

the lodge of Yellow Bear," I says, turnng to Red
Robe.

"Ho!" he laughed, like he'd noticed that I wa'n't
altogether tickled at what Bluebird had said; and
we went out oi; the lodge.

The sun was bright and warm and the ice on the
big river soggy-looking and nigh the color of lead,
so that I knowed the spring wa'n't far off.

Yellow Bear was in bad shape, but he was glad
to see us, especially me, and told his woman to give
me his best leggings. He said no word about his
suffering and his eyes brightened when we spoke
of the fight. "See," he said, pointing to a fresh
scalp sewed in a little hoop of willow that hung on
his coup-stick, "that is the scalp of a brave man."

He asked how I'd fared and if I wanted anything.
I told him that I'd feasted and that I was happy to
see him alive.

"I shall get well," he said, "and be as good as
ever. Do not worry about me."

His family treated me with a heap of respect and
waited on me every chance that offered. There was
three boys and two girls, the oldest a girl about
Bluebird's age, I reckoned.

While we was talking Black Bear come into the
lodge with his rattle and medicine sack. He told
us to go away, and the family followed us out, leav-
ing the old medicine-man alone with his patient.

Directly I could hear Black Bear singing and
Shaking his rattle to drive away the pain. But
Aunt Lib believed that a soiled stocking tied around
a sore throat would work a cure, so I didn't see
that our kind had much to brag about. Besides,
the In j ins do as they please in such matters and



266 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER

allow others equal privilege without cutting their
acquaintance or branding them as fools.

Yellow Bear's family went visiting friends while
the medicine-man worked his charms, and Red Robe


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