see St. Louis, but I didn't say so.
I went to Red Robe's lodge that night, but I didn't
stay a long spell. They seemed to think I'd come
back, and I didn't figure on making it any harder
for me to leave by telling them that I had made up
my mind I wouldn't. They was good folks and I
liked them a heap.
Nights when I'd get to thinking about Bluebird
I'd tell myse'f that it wa'n't fair to like her too
much, noway. If I had been going to stay on the
plains it would have been different, but she was of
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 283
the plains and I wa'n't a plainsman. She couldn't
live in my country and be happy noway, and I sure
couldn't stand the plains, myse'f . I'd run it all over
and over in my mind that way; and I couldn't see
my way out only to go away and let her plumb alone.
Even if I wanted to stay on the plains just then,
how could I be sure I wouldn't flop around and want
to quit. I'd let her alone. It was what I'd ought to
do what any honest man would do. I called myse'f
honest, and I'd let it go at that.
The leaves was showing on the trees and meadow
larks piped up the sun of mornings, but the river
paid no attention and just wouldn't come up an
inch. Ducks and geese millions of them was
everywhere and great flocks of curlews with their
long, crooked bills that turn downwards, and sand-
hill cranes, with their echoing voices flew over the
village in long strings, their thin legs sticking way
out behind like they didn't belong there. And
blamed if the plains wa'n't turning greenish with
the new grass that was crowding up under the old,
before the water showed any sign of raising. I
never will forget how glad I was when at last Mac
had to admit that it was coming up.
Drift logs begun to come down logs that the
freshet of the year before had left on sandbars up
above us. I watched them go sailing down the
stream till they got plumb out of sight, and mighty
nigh wished I was a log, myse'f.
One afternoon a big one come on by, a rough-
barked cottonwood with scraggly roots, and broke
off nigh the middle. It caught on a bar just above
me and I reckoned it would have to wait for higher
water, too. But directly it swung around and got
loose, and I saw two fat muskrats sitting close to-
284 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
gether on the log. They was faced down-stream
like two cronies going to market and not hardly
able to wait to get to St. Louis. I started to run
along the bank, keeping abreast of the log, and if I
didn't talk to them like they was men I'm a nigger.
"I'll be along directly !" I says, and felt foolish when
I heered my voice. I watched them round the bend
below the village and turned back. I'd made up my
mind to move. I wouldn't wait another day.
But I didn't have to argue with Mac. He was
working on the packs when I got to the lodge.
"Let us start in the morning !" I said, pitching in
to he'p him. Then I knowed we couldn't possibly
make it, so I says, "Or the morning after."
"Good !" he says ; and I was mighty tickled.
I had kept out some beads, two axes, two knives,
a keg of powder, and ten bars of lead, for presents.
I reckoned I'd give them all to Red Robe's folks.
Then all of a sudden misery come to me. We was
going to trade off the hosses and mules for a macki-
naw-boat at the Ashley-Henry Post. I couldn't take
Eagle on down the river. And I wouldn't trade him
off. I sat down to think how I'd manage ; but there
wa'n't any 1 way unless we went clean on to St. Louis
by land, and I knowed we never could make it.
Woodpecker, Spotted Elk, and Standing Bear would
only go with us as far as the mouth of the Yellow-
stone, and I couldn't blame them. The Grosventres
would take us in if the Crows didn't. I layed awake
nigh half the night thinking about it ; but I couldn't
figure out any way, only to leave him with Bluebird.
I wouldn't give him to her. I'd just leave him with
her, like. Once I made up my mind to it, I went to
We got all ready for an early start and spent the
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 285
day changing and fixing packs. We had twenty
pack animals loaded light enough to travel fast and
had to get six extra hosses from the Crees to make
out. Besides our own robes and furs we was taking
along the packs of beaver skins belonging to Red
Robe, promising to pay the trader at the Ashley-
Henry Post for him.
I couldn't wait for daylight. I got up and built a
fire an hour before dawn. Mac turned out and went
out for the stock, while I got breakfast, as nervous
as a girl, dropping everything and burning my
Woodpecker and Standing Bear come in before
Mac got back, and when he run in the stock Spotted
Elk was with him. The Crees begun to saddle up
while Mac and I ate.
"You give this lodge to somebody and I will give
Dad's to Yellow Bear," I said.
"Good," he said, and that was settled. But some-
how I wa'n't so glad to do it as I thought I'd be.
Eagle was pestering me, too.
The Crees begun to pack and a crowd gathered to
look on. Bluebird was there, and Red Robe and his
woman and the other children, but I went at it and
took a hand at the packing. The mules was ornery
not having done any work for so long a spell, and
some of them cut up, making everybody laugh. But
one by one they was packed, all of us working hard
and fast to get the outfit strung out so the mules
wouldn't lay down and roll. I was sweating like a
nigger when Mac swung onto his hoss and leading
the bell-mare, headed out onto the plains to clear
the bad-land breaks before turning down the Mis-
Eagle, like he knowed what was going on, made
286 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
out to follow, but I caught him up and led him to
Bluebird. He whinnied and pawed and rared up,
and I mighty nigh weakened and took him along.
The crowd of folks fell back and begun to go away
to their lodges, when holding onto Eagle with one
hand, I held out my other to Bluebird. She took it,
her eyes falling when I squeezed her hand. It was
little and slender, but hardened with work, and I
saw again how the nails on the tapering fingers was
broke from dressing heavy robes. Directly she
drew it away from me gently and brushed her fore-
head. How pretty she looked, and good ! Her black
hair, parted exactly in the middle, hung in heavy
braids that reached below her waist, one in front
over her breast, the other behind a half-naked
shoulder as pretty as any woman could own. Her
head being bent showed the part in her hair which
was fresh-painted, and there was pearl shells in her
ears not big pieces, but pretty ones, round and
"Bluebird," I begun, "will you keep Eagle for
She looked up and her eyes held onto mine like
they was afraid I'd lie. "Shall you come back?" she
asked in that nigh-whispered voice, "back here to
It was the first time I knowed how much she
liked me; and right then my job got harder to do.
I knowed I couldn't lie to her; and I wouldn't, no-
"I am going down the river to my home, and I
may come back. I think now that I like the ways
of my own people better, and that I shall stay
there," I says. "But if I come back I will stay."
She turned to look out on the plains where the
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 287
pack-train was still going nigh straight away. Her
eyes didn't change, nor her face. Then she took
hold of Eagle's rope. "I will keep him, Lone Wolf,"
she said, "keep him till he dies."
I couldn't hardly hear that word. I prickled at it.
Her father and mother was standing just behind
her, but far enough away so that I knowed they
didn't hear. I wouldn't run off and leave her with-
out fixing it so she would know if I wa'n't coming
back. I took off my ring. The shield on it was nigh
worn away now, but I handed it to her.
"Look at it carefully," I said. "If after I have
visited my people I make up my mind that I shall
not come back to the plains I will send it to you so
that you will know."
She took the ring, and when she give it back I
was sure she'd know it any place. "Do not lose it,
Lone Wolf," she whispered, "or I might never
How her eyes looked into mine !
"If I should lose it, I will let you know some other
way, Bluebird, and before the month of roses shall
have passed a second time from this day. I have
spoken and I have not lied."
I took her hand again. It trembled in mine, but
her fingers closed about my own and she led me to-
wards her father. "Tell him what you have said to
me, Lone Wolf," she begged. "Tell him all, that he
may not listen to other men who may want me."
I told him every word. His sharp eyes never left
my own while I was speaking. But afterwards he
says without hesitating: "I will not listen to other
young men until the month of roses shall have
passed a second time from this day, or until the ring
288 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
has come back to her. You are young, Lone Wolf,
your heart is strong, and there is yet time. Ho !"
He walked away and his woman followed.
I turned back to Bluebird. "There are some pres-
ents for you in the lodge," I said. "Get them before
they move it."
She didn't hear me. Eagle was restless and I
took the rope from her hand and tied him to a tree.
"Good-bye, Bluebird," I said, and got onto my
"Good-bye," she whispered. "Do not forget us."
Her arms went around Eagle's white neck and she
buried her face in his mane.
I rode away. Twice I heered Eagle whinny, but
I didn't dare to look back. I felt as ornery and low-
down as Mike Fink, and my conscience got to pes-
tering me like it did when I'd caught myse'f being
glad it was Joe instead of Dad that was killed. And
it kept at it till I caught up to the pack-train. Then
it let up a little and I showed myse'f again that I
was only doing the right thing, the honest thing. I
couldn't stay on the plains and to take Bluebird and
then leave her would be lower-down than a skunk.
Besides I reckoned that I was as bad-hurt as she
was mebby. I hoped I was, anyway; for I reckoned
I deserved to be hurt more than she did, a heap
more. I'd ought to have stayed plumb away from
her, and I hadn't. But I couldn't he'p it now. I'd
keep my promise and send the ring.
Mac had turned down the stream; and the pack-
train, beginning to settle to work, looked mighty
fine, the loaded animals following him over the roll-
ing plains. First was Mac, then some stock, then
Spotted Elk, then more packs, then Woodpecker
and more mules, then Standing Bear, and finally
me all headed for the mouth of the Yellowstone.
The morning was fine, and there was a rich smell
of spring in the air. The buffalo was shedding their
hair, and it was sticking to every bush. Little rolls
of it, fine as silk, blowed by the wind, bounded about
like queer, shapeless animals looking for a place to
hide. Directly we passed a herd, and the animals
was all ragged and looked towsley as all get out,
with their long hair coming off in wads and still
sticking about their bodies like it hated to let go.
They was in good fix, but didn't look much like the
buffalo we'd killed during the fall and winter. And
the young calves, all legs and heads, that trotted by
their mothers' sides, looked for all the world like
bad-made toy animals that had come to life in a
Wolves, packs of them, skulked close every min-
ute, hoping to pick up a new-born calf or to find a
crippled buffalo to kill. They was shedding, too,
and looked tattered and tired, their tongues lolling
out, and panting even when they sat down to watch
us go by. Now and again I'd see one scratch him-
se'f like he wanted to get rid of his winter coat and
was half mad because it wouldn't come off.
I could see the tree tops down along the Missouri,
290 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
showing right green with young leaves. The plains
was a picture; and you'd have sworn that they
never could know bad weather and that misery
never come that way.
Every day things went smooth and easy. It would
be cloudy and rain, then the sun would come out
again before night. We didn't see an Injin; not
one ; nor any sign, till we got opposite the mouth of
the Yellowstone and had kindled a fire. Then a dug-
out come over to us from the Post, fetching a white
man and an Injin. I was tickled to see one of my
own kind again, I can tell you. They stayed with
us all night and we visited till late.
At daylight Mac and I went to the Post with
them, taking Red Robe's beaver skins along. We
struck a bargain easy for a mackinaw, but part of
the agreement didn't suit me. We had to take as
many bales of freight belonging to the traders at
the Post as the mackinaw would carry, besides our
own. There wa'n't no way out of it. But they was
to send a man along to he'p us and take care of the
goods belonging to them. Mac was plumb tickled at
that. He knowed I wa'n't any hand with a boat and
so was mighty glad when a little black Frenchman
was sent across to our camp with the mackinaw.
We loaded up, taking some dainties like meal and
sugar got at the Post. We'd paid off the Crees be-
fore we left the Marias, so we said good-bye to them
and shoved off at about ten o'clock.
There was two oars up nigh the bow of the boat,
which Mac and I manned while St. Pierre handled
the steering oar at the stern. The river was coming
up fast and the current was mighty strong, so that
we was out of sight of the Post in no time. Cracky !
We was bound for St. Louis at last. I couldn't be-
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 291
lieve it. If I lived to get there with what belonged
to me I'd be rich.
St. Pierre begun to sing, but Mac said something
in French and he quit. It had sounded funny and
"HFm say no good por seeng now," Mac says,
turning to me. "T'ree man is stan' dam* poor show
wit* planty Hinjin. Me, HFm lakum song jist de
sam' nodder man, but not now, by gar! Not jist
I knowed he was right and said so. Each bend in
the big river held a mystery and we never turned
one of them without wondering if our luck would
hold or break. Any turn might show up an Injin
village or a war-party looking for trouble. Many
a boat had been captured and its crew killed, even
away below where the country was better known to
whitemen. There had been a heap of fights
along the river. I reckoned that one of them had
figured in fetching me to the plains, mebby. But
we didn't stop. We went on and on, 'round bend
after bend till plumb dark, before we ate a bite.
Then we changed things some. I took a nap while
Mac pulled on one oar and St. Pierre steered in the
stern. But we didn't stop, not a minute, all night
long. We changed once, nigh midnight, when I took
a hand at the oar and Mac took St. Pierre's place
in the stern.
There was a quite a difference in the looks ot
things when morning come. The leaves on the trees
was nigh full-grown ; for we had traveled more than
a hundred miles, and I could notice that it was
I quit pulling the oar and got some breakfast
ready. Then we called St. Pierre and ate. After
292 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
that Mac took a nap till nigh noon, while I pulled
the oar and St. Pierre steered.
Directly we passed Little Pete's corral. It was
still standing. I could see just where Dad and I
was laying when Joe was shot. It didn't take long
to pass the place; but while we was drifting by, I
saw most everything and thought of everything. A
band of antelope was drinking where they'd drunk
that day. I wondered if they was the same ones.
I didn't say anything to St. Pierre; it wasn't worth
while; but I got to thinking hard.
Dad was dead, and Bill, and Joe. Even Fink
and Carpenter and Talbot had gone under. I was
the only one left alive. If I could only get to St.
Louis I'd go home and stay there.
Then I thought of Bluebird and Eagle. I reckoned
I'd been square and honest with both, and that I
loved both more than anything else in the world.
But there wa'n't any way I could have them.
We didn't stop but twice in eight days and nights.
Then we only tied up at islands and cooked, being
mighty careful about making our fires. We baked
up a lot of corn bread and took wood so that we
could make a little tea on the boat while we was
traveling. But on the morning of the ninth day I
killed a fat whitetail buck and we landed. It was
the first shot we'd fired and the first fresh meat
we'd had in nigh a week. We could have had tons
of meat any day, but we daren't shoot. Mac held
to it that we must keep quiet and make time, and
we did. I was cramped and tired with the stillness,
and the bad-lands, pretty and queer as they was,
got on my nerves more and more ; though now they
was changing fading out, like, and I was mighty
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 293
It was on the morning of the tenth day when it
begun to rain like sixty. We was all up and awake.
Mac, pulling at the oar, says, "Now, St. Pierre,
you'll seeng planty."
Cracky! The Frenchman didn't wait, but struck
up a lively tune, and Mac joined him. It was like
letting out a tight cinch, and I felt tickled.
They sang song after song all in French, but
sounding good to me. The dangerous country had
been safely passed and we hadn't anything to fear.
Rank vines and weeds with bright-colored flowers
lined the banks now, and the timber was thicker and
bigger and reached farther back from the river.
Directly we passed a log cabin and cheered till we
was hoarse. A man come to the door and waved
his hand ; but he wa'n't white, he was a mixed-blood
on the outskirts of civilization, though I knowed his
next neighbor was likely to be white.
Near sundown we went by a clearing just a lit-
tle one without a fence. Then, before dark we saw
a dozen good-sized cabins, and a mile or two below
them went ashore to stretch our legs. We slept on
land and built a fire and cooked, all we wanted.
But at daylight we went on. It rained hard that
day and the next. The cabins and clearings was
nearer together now; and when the sun come out
again, there she was old St. Louis, not a mile
ahead! We'd come into the Mississippi and never
We tied up at a low-lying wharf. Almost before
we got out of the boat we had visitors. But they
was loafers, all of them, and mean-looking. Direct-
ly, a fiddle commencing to play, St. Pierre begun to
jig on the dock like a crazy man. I saw right away
that I'd have to be careful and fast if I got shed
of the trader's freight before St. Pierre run off with
the wild bunch, so I says, "You stay right here with
the boat till I come back, both of you."
I saw a fat man coming towards us packing a jug.
I waited till he come up to St. Pierre and spoke in
French to him. He poured out a tin cup full of
liquor from the jug and St. Pierre downed it,
hungry. The man passed to Mac and give him a
drink too. Then he come on to me. "None for me,"
I says. "There's plenty time for that."
They both promised to let it alone while I was
gone, so I set out to look up the Ashley-Henry place
in St. Louis. I knowed that Mac's word was plumb
good, but I couldn't trust St. Pierre noway, and I
Mud was deep in the streets and there was holes
and puddles of water everywhere. Great teams of
yoked cattle was coming and going between the
levee and the warehouses, the wheels on the heavy
wagons cutting down deep into the rain-soaked
road. In mighty nigh half of the open doors,
women, dressed up fine, stood or leaned against the
casing like they was waiting for somebody. Some
of them spoke to me and wanted me to stop and talk
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 295
a spell, but I wanted to get shed of my responsibil-
ity as well as our fur and robes and I kept on till
I'd found the Ashley-Henry place.
They sent some men down to the boat with a
wagon right away, so that I felt there wa'n't so
much need to hurry now. But I went right off to
Shipman and Company's store and showed Mr.
Shipman the paper Dad had give me.
He read the paper and called a man named
Bracket to read it, too. "Mounts," he says, looking
interested, "this will clear you of the charge of
murder. I knew, of course, that; Wash Lamkin was
dead and I paid the order you gave to Beasley and
Abernathy; but I knew nothing of Lamkin's con-
fession till now not a word."
Mr. Bracket handed back the paper, looking
curious at me.
"Remember what you've read, Bracket," said Mr.
Shipman. "And Mounts, as soon as you can spare
the time I'll go with you to see Judge Perkins," he
says. "You aren't likely to get into trouble for a
little while; but as soon as you can we'd best make
He put the paper in an iron box, and I was satis-
fied to leave it there.
Before dark the mackinaw was empty and we'd
sold her for thirty dollars. Sixty-nine hundred and
fifty dollars was what Shipman and Company paid
us for our robes and fur, and half of it was mine,
besides the money left from what Dad had given
me. I felt rich, I can tell you, and happy. I asked
Mr. Shipman to take care of the money for us till
we wanted it, and we took a receipt for nigh all
only keeping out some for spending money. Mac
held out more than I did, though I tried to talk him
296 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
out of it. But I couldn't and I had to leave him to
go see the Judge.
His home was up on the bluffs among a grove of
big trees, and there was a mighty good-looking
hound-dog in the yard. Mr. Shipman knocked and
a nigger let us in.
Right away after introducing me he handed Dad's
paper to the Judge, a little fat man with a bald
head, and smooth-shaved. The Judge put on his
glasses. "Sit down, gentlemen, sit down," he says,
beginning to read.
Directly he finished, "Wash Lamkin? Why, I
grew up with Wash," he says, taking off his glasses
and wiping them on his coat-tails. "And I reckon
I know why he shot Caley Byers. Everybody ex-
pected it in our parts long ago." He looked like he
felt important, and shaking hands with me, says,
"Mounts, I'll give you a copy of this paper to have
with you, but I reckon I'd best keep the original
document, myse'f ," he says. "Oh, Eph ! Eph !"
The nigger that let us in come to the door. "You
go and fetch Tuck Taylor here. Tell him I want
him mighty quick," the Judge says. "Tell him I got
some news that's worth his time. Understand?"
"Tuck runs the Gazette," he told me, after the
nigger had gone (and he went mighty quick. I
reckoned he was afraid of the Judge, likely) .
The Judge filled a long-stemmed pipe and lit it.
"A little publicity will he'p Mounts, Tom," he said
to Mr. Shipman. "Besides, Tuck is mighty keen for
news from up river, so it will be water on his wheel,
too." He sat down nigh me. "Had a right smart
brush with the Injins, I reckon?" he says, hitching
his chair nigher mine.
"Yes, sir," I told him.
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 297
"Good fighters, ain't they?"
"Yes, sir," I says.
"Mighty good, I reckon, from what honest folks
have told me," he said, puffing hard at his pipe.
"But when I was a boy I knew a man who used to
tell me that one good whiteman could lick a whole
tribe of Indians. He lived in our town and said
he'd been a trapper once before he came there. His
name was Alvin Levigood, and he was a cooper by
trade. Old Al'd sit straddle of a log that used to
lie down by the cooper-shop and tell us boys about
his Indian fights, till we could see blood all over
everything. Al always won the fight, no matter
how it started or how many were engaged against
him. He had a bad scar on his side, a mighty nasty-
lookin' scar, that he said was made by an Indian's
lance; and he'd pull up his shirt and show us the
scar every time he yarned about his battles. He'd
say, 'I jest wrenched the durn spear out of his
hands an' druv it clean thoo his belly. Then I tuck
his scalp ; yes, sir, an* I kep' it f er a long time, too.'
"Old Al was a hero ; I mean our hero ; till one day
his wife chased him clean to Hawkins' Ferry with
a mop, right through town lickety-split. That set-
tled it with me. I never believed a word of Al's
stories after that. Hark," the Judge says, getting
up and going to the door. "Here's Tuck now."
He introduced me to a thin little man with eyes
like a mink's. "Here, Tuck," he says, looking more
important than ever, "read this paper first; then
Mounts will tell you his story. You remember the
Byers killing, of course? Well, Tuck, I know the
whole story. Grew up with the Lamkins and
Byerses. And you can say in your paper that I
298 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
know what Wash Lamkin says in that paper is
Mr. Taylor didn't answer nor look up till he'd
finished reading. He wa'n't a man to talk much, it