and I went to my lodge where Mac had a fire burn-
ing. The old warrier stayed more than an hour,
smoking with us and visiting. Then he went out,
and Mac with him.
Eagle had finished the cut grass and was pawing
for company. I knowed how he felt and went out-
side and turned him loose to go out with the pony
band. He didn't wait, I can tell you, but whinny-
ing at nigh every jump, he tore out to find his own
I reckoned that was what I would do as soon as
the ice went out of the river.
Mac didn't come back that night, and I turned in
pretty early, but I didn't go to sleep till nigh mid-
night. I got to running over what Bluebird had
said. And I reckoned that every word was true.
Mebby she did intend to liken me and my kind to
the hawks, but I reckoned that after all, we was
hawks. We prey upon everything and mighty nigh
everybody that will stand it. And I didn't know
anything about the beauty on the plains and in the
forest. I hadn't ever noticed never cared, when a
buck antelope was dead, to notice his markings. It
was meat that I wanted.
Mebby I was missing a heap. I would pay at-
tention to everything I saw from now on. I made
up my mind to that. I could think of more than a
dozen birds and animals with fine colorings, some
even as bright as all get out, that did seem to hide
the wearer, though once you got your eyes on them
you couldn't lose them if you tried. Things did grow
in beauty if you only knowed beauty when you saw
it. I reckoned that Bluebird was right, and that I
would like to talk to her again. "Lone Wolf, if you
do not look for much you will see but little," was the
last thing I remembered before I went to sleep.
Mac waked me early by kindling a fire in the
lodge. "Yellow Bear is better this morning," he
said when I sat up. "He is glad of your visit of
yesterday. You are a warrior now, and he has sent
you the scalp of the Blackfoot you killed."
I didn't want the thing, and said so, but Mac hung
268 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
it on my back-rest with the eagle's wing, and I let
it stay there.
That day we traded a lot, and every man that
come into the lodge said something about the scalp,
and I saw that it he'ped make friends with the
Crees, though I reckoned it might be different with
the Blackf eet.
Towards sundown Black Bear sent me a painted
shield made from the skin of an old buffalo bull's
neck, that would glance an arrow if it wa'n't com-
ing straight on, and even then, sometimes.
Everybody wanted to smoke with me and talk
about Eagle. I never did see such a change in peo-
ple. They had always been pleasant, but now they
was plumb friendly, and there wa'n't anything in
reason that they wouldn't do for me if I asked them.
By night we had traded off a right smart of our
goods. It seemed like everybody wanted to trade
at once, so that when Mac and I turned in there
wa'n't more than a quarter of our goods left in the
lodge. We went at it and baled up our fur and
robes, but we tired before it was finished. I begun
to feel perter ; and Mac was so plumb tickled that I
was glad I was there and responsible for his happi-
ness. I slept sound all night and beat Mac making
the fire when morning come. It was only breaking
day when I lit it, and we hustled up our breakfast
and went to baling fur and robes again.
The spare guns was all gone, except the scatter-
gun. We had never used it yet, and I wanted to
trade it off, but Mac said it was big medicine and
we kept it, though I figured it was only in the way.
I kept Dad's rifle cleaned up and oiled, like he did,
and figured on keeping it always.
I needed some moccasins and reckoned I would
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 269
get a dozen pairs so that I would have enough to last
me clean to St. Louis. And I would buy them of
Bluebird. I didn't tell Mac, but when he'd gone to
his lodge I slipped over to Red Robe's and put in
Neither Red Robe nor his woman was in the
lodge, though the other children was there with
Bluebird. She measured my feet and promised to
set to work making me twelve pairs of moccasins.
"Are you going to war that you need so many at
one time?" she laughed.
"No," I says, "only to St. Louis with our robes
and fur when the time comes."
She looked straight into my eyes. "And shall
you come back to the plains, Lone Wolf?" she asked.
"I do not know," I told her. "Sometimes I think
that I shall stay among my own people. Then
sometimes I believe that I shall want to come back
here. I do not know, Bluebird."
She laid a stick on the lodge-fire. "Tell me, if
you will, of the whiteman's God," she said in that
soft voice that I liked to hear.
It was only fair. And I told her the best I could,
and all that I could. She didn't miss a word. She
was all attention, her eyes hardly winking till I
was through. I knowed that it wa'n't a good job
I'd done, but it was the first time I had even thought
what it means to be asked to tell about our God or
our beliefs; so I hardly knowed where to begin or
The fire popped and snapped, but there waVt
another sound in the lodge while I was talking.
Bluebird's arm slipped softly around the waist of
Sits-and-Sings. They leaned their heads together
so that their hair touched ; and even the small chil-
270 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
dren was so still that I forgot they was there. Even
after I'd finished they didn't move for a spell, and
their faces was solemn and puzzled. A stick rolled
off the fire and Bluebird put it back.
"I have thought, oh, many times, that the white-
man's God must be powerful, for His people do won-
derful things," she said. And then, like she wanted
to believe in Him but daren't, she asked, "But how
can a Man-god be greater than Manitou, when He,
your God, is part of All is Manitou?"
I knowed there wa'n't any use in trying to an-
swer that. I knowed, too, that they was honest in
their beliefs, and that they respected the beliefs of
others. "Tell me of Manitou," I said.
She drew away from Sits-and-Sings, as though if
in speaking she herse'f did wrong, no blame could
come to her sister.
"We do not speak His name often," she began
softly. "The sun, the earth, and everything that lives
is Manitou, even the ants and the tiny things that
live under the leaves that lie on the ground beneath
the forest trees." Her eyes shone bright and her
lips trembled with earnestness. "Greater and more
wonderful than the moon and stars is the sun, but
All is Manitou. The Sun, the father, makes the
grass and the flowers to grow upon Earth, the
mother, of all things. And through the great Sun
we thank Manitou with the Sun-dance each year.
Always when medicine-men or warriors smoke they
pray. To smoke is to pray, for the thoughts of the
smoker are softened and are kind. And kind
thoughts are prayers, for they are good."
"Why then dare the people kill the buffalo if the
buffalo, being a part of All, are Manitou?" I asked,
wondering how a man could dare to hurt his God.
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 271
"The buffalo strive to live as we do. Striving to
keep alive is payment for life's breath. Manitou
knows when it is time for His creatures to die. He
has made nearly everything to prey upon other,
weaker things. But they all live again, so that noth-
ing of Manitou is lost. How could it be?"
"Why then, if everything lives again do warriors
fight to live this life?" I asked her.
"Because they are afraid not to love this life
given them by Manitou. It is He who sets the num-
ber of their days, and they do all in their power to
keep their breath in their bodies until he calls.
Then, no matter when or how it comes, death takes
them to the Shadow-hills where the summer stays
She stopped speaking. The lodge door had lifted.
Red Robe come in.
"How, how, Lone Wolf," he greeted me, sitting
down by my side. "Let us smoke," he says, and
got out his pipe.
I didn't stay long; and when I got back to the
lodge Mac had been there and had gone again. I
reckoned that he wouldn't come back that night, so
I cooked and ate my supper. Along about eight
o'clock, I reckon, the wind begun to blow like all
get out, and when I went to bed the village dogs
begun to howl. They pestered me; and the lodge
shook now and again, till I got up and smoked a
pipe. When I turned in again I went to sleep. But
I had a bad dream.
I thought that I was at home. It was Sunday
morning and we was all going to church at the
Crossing. The road was dusty and the wild flow-
ers that stuck through between the rails of the
worm-fence along the way was all grimy. Then
272 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
the bell in the little log church begun to ring. It
was tolling. And Bugle under the wagon behind
old Tom and Becky, begun to howl. Aunt Lib said
it was a scandal and blamed me, but somehow I
couldn't stop Bugle's voice till I saw Joshua Moulds.
Then I managed it, but I didn't know how. We
went into the church and I couldn't breathe, the air
was so hot and filled with the perfume of flowers.
It wa'n't a regular service. It was a funeral.
I wished they would open the windows. I couldn't
stand it a minute longer. I would tip-toe out and
wait under the trees.
Just as I moved to go Bluebird stood up before
the congregation. I sunk back in my seat. How
did she get there? Somebody was crying soft down
nigh the front. Bluebird raised her right hand,
palm outward, and the crying stopped. Everybody
was still as death, and the heated air nigh smoth-
ered me. "How can a Man-god be greater than
Manitou, when He, your God, is a part of All is
Manitou?" Her voice was soft and sweet. There
wa'n't anything ornery in it, and her eyes was mild
and looked inquiring about the room, as though they
begged an answer. The people stirred, and the cry-
ing commenced again. I heered the scrape of heavy
boots on the puncheon floor, like the men was
angry. My face burned and I sunk lower behind
the back of my seat. She shouldn't have followed
me. I would crawl down the aisle and leave her
there. I tried to move, but something held me
down. Then a man stood up in the church, a man
with the face of a fiend. A great livid scar
stretched from his thick lips to a staring eye that
didn't wink. The fiddler! The fiddler at the Post !
I would save her from him. Who was holding me?
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 273
God! The fiddler grabbed at Bluebird, caught one
of her black braids of hair in his dirty hand. She
cried out. I wrenched loose.
My head struck against a lodge-pole. For more
than a minute I didn't know where I was. Sweat
was dripping from my forehead and I was wet as
though I'd been in a sweat-lodge. Cracky! I was
as weak as a cat and scared as a little boy. But I
soon found what had brought on the dream. A bale
of buffalo-robes had turned over and fell on my
face while I slept, nigh smothering me.
I kindled the fire and smoked. I knowed that
fiddler would ha'nt my dreams some night before I
died. Cracky ! what a face he had.
When the fire burned bright I got to running
over my dream, and Bluebird's question kept com-
ing back. Wolves was howling above the wind and
the village dogs had quit. A feeling of sure enough
homesickness settled down on me, and I wanted to
go back. I would go back, and I'd stay there. I
made up my mind to that.
Then at last I turned in once more and slept till
March come and it snowed again. A darker,
meaner morning couldn't have been. When I went
down to the river for water all signs of spring was
buried, and it looked as though winter had just
begun. The wind howled and the snow was piled
about the lodges, like it would plumb hide them out
of sight by night. The smoke that come out of their
tops was snatched by the gale before it got fairly
outside, and whipped in every direction. Here and
there about the village a hoss, tied up, stood with
his back humped and his four feet in a pile, like
misery on dress parade.
I wa'n't in a good humor, noway. The storm that
wiped out the signs of spring, and the sight of the
snowed-in lodges made me hate the plains. Yes-
terday I'd thought that the winter was dead. Now
I could have swore that the plains had never knowed
a summer's day.
I turned back with a kettle of water. It bumped
and slopped against a rose bush and out jumped a
red fox. He sank nigh out of sight in the snow
and wallowed. There was feathers sticking to his
whiskers, and I looked into the rose bush and found
he'd been eating a willow grouse while the blowing
snow covered him up. I thought of the chance he'd
taken with the village dogs, in looking for his break-
fast. But all life was a chance on the plains. The
grouse driven into the rose bush for shelter couldn't
save himse'f from the fox, though he had tried. I
wondered if he would live again. I couldn't see
why he shouldn't if we did. God made both of us,
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 275
and I reckoned it wa'n't becoming of us to promise
only ourse'fs a hereafter, mebby. It sure was fair,
anyway, to believe that way, and it didn't seem so
much like setting ourse'fs ahead of all other crea-
tions of the Almighty. Mebby He saved birds as
well as men. And then I thought of Mike Fink.
I scraped away the snow nigh my lodge door so
folks would know I was up and stirring; then I
broiled a steak and had my breakfast with some
tea for trimming.
Directly I heered a woman laughing two of
them. And I went out to see what was going on.
Bluebird and Sits-and-Sings was rolling in the
snow, each trying to bury the other and both nigh
choked with laughing. Red Robe with the snow
above his knees was watching them, his face full of
fun, and nothing at all on him except his leggings
I went closer and Red Robe greeted me. Then
both of the girls, as though they'd planned it there
in the snow, bounced up and tackled me. It was
mighty sudden, so I had my hands plumb full to
keep my feet. Mac and his woman and children
come out to look on, and of all the laughing I ever
heered it was then. At last I got them down and
held them, and they was worse than bob-cats to
hold; but as soon as they layed still, I let them up.
We was all panting like running buffalo; and the
bad humor that had got out of bed with me was
There was snow in Bluebird's hair and her face
was wet, but her eyes sparkled and danced with fun.
I had never seen eyes that laughed like hers.
I pulled my head-silk off and begun to brush the
snow from her back. Her laugh quit when I
276 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
touched her, but I could hear her breathing fast.
Directly she turned and faced me, and I went on
brushing, even after the snow was all off.
"That was great fun," she smiled, and catching
hold of my arm, "You have finished, Lone Wolf,"
she says. "Come into the lodge and smoke with my
I shook my head-silk and put it on. My own hair
was full of snow and wet. Not a soul was in sight
except Bluebird. They had gone into their lodges
and left us. She moved towards the lodge like she
expected me to follow.
"Will you tell me about the bluebirds if I come?"
I asked her.
She turned her head and tipped it to one side,
like. Cracky! I though I'd like to kiss her. I
reckoned she'd never heered of kissing.
"Maybe," she said, in that voice that was so low
I wondered how I heered it above the storm.
They made room for us at the lodge fire. Just
as we sat down a strong gust jerked at the thongs
that held the poles to the ground, as though the
storm was warning us to be thankful for shelter.
I was afraid mebby the lodge would turn over.
"This is a bad storm," I says, taking off my head-
silk again to dry it by the fire.
"Yes." Red Robe glanced at the thongs. "The
buffalo may drift far in this weather."
"I hate strong wind and deep snow," I says, turn-
ing my head-silk.
"Let me braid your hair." Bluebird moved to my
side and with a comb made from the tail of a porcu-
pine, begun to straighten out the tangles. Then
when her slender fingers begun to work, she said,
"Lone Wolf, it is not good to cry out against the
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 277
seasons. It is well to be silent when we are trou-
bled or in pain. If the grass is poor the buffalo
seek another and better range. If they cannot find
it, they die. If one buffalo is badly wounded he fol-
lows the rest as best he can without troubling the
others. When he can keep up no longer he falls
behind and dies. Shall the buffalo be more patient
in the sight of Manitou than we are, Paok Mah-he-
She fastened the end of the braid with sinew and
begun to make the other. She was petting and
scolding again, but I knowed she was right this
time. A man hadn't ought to complain against
what he can't he'p, noway.
Then, as though she knowed my thoughts, she
said, "It is useless to cry out against things we can-
not prevent. To do so is but to waste the very
breath that might give us strength to stifle a groan
that would torment our friends or please our ene-
mies. The storm that has passed and gone leaves
us always more love for the sunshine. If the sun
never hid away we would grow careless of his
worth. The storms come to help us and strengthen
our appreciation for the sun."
She finished the other braid and I put on my
head-silk. "I have heered Black Bear pray that
the wind be still," I said, and was tickled I'd
thought of it.
"Yes," she agreed, "but our people would have
found no fault if the winds had not been still," she
said, picking up her comb. "They would not dare.
They know that there is no created thing that is al-
ways free from trouble. The flowers of spring and
the young leaves upon the trees often creep out of
their winter lodges to meet the summer and are
278 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
chilled by the north wind. Many die. Some are
crippled, but last the season through and lend their
scant breath to the summer's breeze. Often the
flowers are hungry and thirst is never far away;
but they do not often let us know. When the berry
is ripe it dies. So men die."
She moved away to the other side of the fire, and
Red Robe, excusing himse'f, left the lodge to visit
Mac. I was mighty nigh ready to follow him. I
was bristling inside, but held onto myse'f because I
knowed I needed to be talked to that a-way. "You
promised to tell me about the bluebirds," I said,
filling my pip.
"No, I have never promised that," she said, glanc-
ing at her mother, who turned square around and be-
gun unlacing a parfleche, like she hadn't heered me.
"I said 'maybe'." Then she come back on my side of
the fire, picked up one of my moccasins that she
had been making, and sat down near me.
"My people are fond of the bluebirds," she says,
almost under her breath. "They love to see them
always. Whenever a bluebird comes to a lodge "
she bent over the moccasin till her face nigh touched
it, "they say that the owner of the lodge-skin will
be lucky because the bluebird came. If a bluebird
lights upon a lodge-pole it means health and joy.
But if the bird should come inside, as they some-
times do, then great good fortune is sure to follow
through the door. That is all."
But before I could speak she said, "If a butterfly
should come into a lodge and light on a sleeping
child there and fan it with its sleep-wings, then the
child will surely die. And the owl is bad, too," she
went on, like she didn't want to talk about the blue-
birds. "They are the spirits of the dead, ghosts
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 279
that come out of the Shadow-hills because they can-
not rest there. If an owl comes close to a lodge
and cries out, it is a bad thing for someone within
that lodge. On the night before the battle with the
Blackfeet you heard the owl. You heard Black
Bear and you knew that the Crees were troubled
and were sure that a great warrior would die. One
did die. It was your friend. Owls are wise and
bad, and we never bother them."
It had suddenly quit snowing and the wind was
coming from a different direction, so she got up and
went outside to change the smoke-ears on the lodge.
I followed her outside.
"See," she said, "It is Sow-un-you-tin that blows.
Tomorrow the snow will be gone again, and the ice
will soon leave the river."
Then she untied a necklace of little shells from
her neck and gave it to me. "Your moccasins will
be finished in two days, and you will follow the ice
down the stream," she said.
The storm had suddenly turned and a Chinook
was blowing. All night the wind howled and the
snow fell from the walls of the lodges where the
storm had blowed it. The air was so warm that a
fire was uncomfortable, so that I left my door open.
The village dogs, glad of the change, prowled about
to find and gnaw bones that had been hid under the
snow that was going away fast as it had come. One
of the miracles of the plains was being worked, and
I knowed that by morning everything would be
soaking wet and that the plains would be bare
A drowsiness that comes to man and beast when,
after a bad storm, a Chinook blows, layed hold of
me and I fell asleep. It was late in the night when
I woke. The wind wa'n't so strong, but I could
hear the dripping of water from the trees and
bushes and the ashes in the fire-ring was wet when
I kindled a fire. It was raining. The ice would
go out of the river. I closed the lodge door and
layed down again, and before the fire had burned
out I was sound asleep.
The morning was dark. The heavy clouds was
so low that they didn't look to be far from the
ground, and a fine drizzling rain was falling mighty
nigh straight down, for the wind had plumb quit.
I went to the river for water and found the ice
flooded from shore to shore and cracking. I heered
a wild goose gonk up somewhere in the dark sky,
and my heart jumped I was so glad he'd come. The
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 281
snow was mighty nigh all gone, and by noon the
plains would be bare as they had been in the fall.
Spring was coming! I begun to whistle a tune.
The way was open to the mouth of the Yellowstone
and soon the river would carry us down to good old
St. Louis from the Ashley-Henry Post.
Mac was setting by the fire in the lodge when I
got back. "Ho!" he says, "Sow-un-you-tin blew
hard last night. The winter is dead, Lone Wolf."
I can't make you know how his words set me afire
to get away.
"Let us finish our trading and start when it quits
raining." I could jest see St. Louis see the white-
men and hear the fiddles through the open doors of
the town. But they seemed to me to be at the other
end of nowhere and I itched to begin traveling to-
"We must not go until the water begins to rise,
Lone Wolf." His voice seemed to be warning me
that would be months from then, and it made me
bristle. "There will be storms yet and the ice must
go first," he said, laying down on a robe.
He wa'n't ever in a hurry! I got up and moved
a bale of robes. It didn't need moving, but I plumb
had to move something. "I don't want to stay here
forever," I said, and sat down again.
He got up and filled his pipe. "We are lucky,"
he smiled. "If the Crees had moved we should have
been obliged to pack all our furs and robes and
move with them, Lone Wolf; or stay here and fall
an easy prey to the Blackfeet." He lit his pipe and
passed it to me. "Even now the Crees might have
to move to follow the buffalo before we are ready
to start on our way."
It was true. I hadn't thought of it. I slowed
282 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
down right away. "Well, let us get rid of the rest
of our goods, anyway," I says.
He agreed to that; and, the next morning we
drummed up some traders, so that by night we was
I took to watching the river; but as Aunt Lib
says, "a watched pot never will boil," and it was slow
and tiresome. The ice did go out at last, but there
was one bad storm after another to keep us back.
Did you ever hold a hound-dog by a tether while
he snuffled and rared to go on a hot trail? Well, I
was like that every minute, and worse. Days I'd
watch the river, and nights I'd dream of St. Louis
till I'd mighty nigh get up and walk towards it in
The first wild flowers blossomed in sunny spots,
hiding, like, near the bushes and under the river's
banks. I run onto Bluebird and Sits-and-Sings one
day picking flowers by the river. Bluebird asked
me to tell her about St. Louis, and I did; all I
"And do the people stay always in that one
place?" she asked, as though she reckoned they'd
starve to death if they did. I wished that she could