looked like. "Thank you, Judge," he says, sitting
down at the table. He pulled some paper out of his
pocket and spread it out, reached for a quill on the
table, and turning to me, says, "Now Mounts, let's
I told it short as I could. But whenever I skipped
the Judge or Mr. Taylor knowed it and questioned
me, till first I knowed I'd told it all, or mighty nigh
"Thank you, Judge, and Mounts." Mr. Taylor got
up to go, nodding to both of us. "The Gazette will
be out some time between now and morning, gen-
tlemen, and I've got to bid you good evening if this
story is to be in."
"There, Tom," said the Judge, after Taylor had
gone, "we have been of service to Tuck, and set
Mounts right before the world at the same time."
Men was going and coming up and down the
muddy streets and in and out of lighted places
when Mr. Shipman and I went back to the store. On
the way, after a long spell of silence, each picking
his trail through the mud, Mr. Shipman said, "We
do business in a queer way, Mounts. I was think-
ing of the order you gave to Beasley and Aber-
nathy. I paid it because I knew them, though I
didn't know you. I knew Lamkin well enough, of
course. But we do business with queer people
people who do almost anything but cheat. Did
Beasley or Abernathy know about Wash Lamkin's
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 299
"No, sir," I says, "I don't reckon they did. They
just signed the paper for Dad."
Mac and St. Pierre was gone. I expected it,
but it pestered me. "You'll find them in the first
dance hall, Mounts," laughed Mr. Shipman. "And
I'd go slow while I was in town if I was you."
Mac had a lot of money on him. I ought to find
him. I turned to go out. "Good-night," I said,
shaking hands. "And thank you, sir, for what
you've done for me."
"You're entirely welcome," he smiled. "Going
back up the river soon?" he asked me.
"I reckon I'm plumb through, sir," I says. "The
way I got it figured now, I'm going home to Coon
Creek to stay."
He reached for a quill on his desk. "No," he said.
"You aren't through. They never get through,
somehow. You are a born plainsman, Mounts, and
you'll go back. It's in your blood."
"Good-night," I says, and walked out. I was
lonesome as all get out ; and in St. Louis.
I looked into two dance halls and a tavern but
Mac and St. Pierre wa'n't there. Then I crossed the
street to a bright-lit place where there was a heap
of music and noise. And there they was. St.
Pierre with one arm around Mac's neck, was flour-
ishing a glass of liquor, singing and keeping time
with the slopping glass, over Mac's head.
I elbowed my way inside. I couldn't hear myse'f
think. I reached over and touched Mac. "Come
out," I said in Cree. "I must speak with you."
He was drunk. I could see that. But his face
sobered quick. He thought I was in trouble. He
shook himse'f loose from St. Pierre's arm and fol-
lowed me outside.
300 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
"Let us go to bed," I said, taking his arm.
He pulled back. "No, Lone Wolf," he said. "I
am in St. Louis. I am playing now, and I shall play
until I have finished four days that way. Then,"
he reached for my shoulder to steady himse'f.
"Then I shall go back with presents for my woman
and children. Are you going with me, Lone Wolf?"
"I am going to my home tomorrow," I told him.
"When will you come back, back here from your
home?" he asked anxiously.
I felt of my ring. If I gave it to him now he
would lose it.
"In ten days," I said. "Then I will know if I am
going back up the river."
"I will wait ten days, then, Lone Wolf," he said.
"Come, let us go to St. Pierre and sing."
"No," I said. "I am going to my bed, and I wish
you were going, too."
But I knowed him. When he said "no" he was set
as a mule, and there wa'n't any use to coax.
I didn't sleep a wink. I thought of Mac all night.
Then, too, I got to itching to see Aunt Lib till I
wanted to get up and go afoot. I was glad when
day come, and I got up and ate breakfast as quick
as I could.
After that I went to the store and got two thou-
sand and five hundred dollars and a suit of clothes
that had been made for Mr. Shipman himse'f. They
fitted me fine and looked good on me. I had neve*
owned a regular suit of clothes before, and I felt
proud, though mighty uncomfortable in them, after
the clothes I'd been wearing. I rolled up my duds
and Mr. Shipman promised to keep them, and Dad's
rifle, till I called for them. Then I went out to find
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 301
I hunted the town over. But some places was
shut up and in others that was open only niggers
was in them, cleaning up after the night's carouse.
I had to give it up.
At a sales corral I bought me a good hoss and
saddle, after which I went back to the store to say
good-bye to Mr. Shipman and ask him to keep an
eye on Mac. He said he'd do the best he could, and
laughed when I told him I'd be back in ten days,
and handed me a copy of the Gazette. "Your story
is in it," he said, "and Tuck has told it well."
"Good-bye, sir," I says. "And I'll sure be back
in ten days."
When I got down at the gate and opened it, it
squeaked loud like it always did. And here come
old Bugle, tickled plumb to death, and Bing with
him. They set up a howl that you could hear a mile
and I was mighty nigh as tickled as they was. Then
Aunt Lib come running down the walk. "If it ain't
Lige!" she says, hugging me tight and beginning to
cry. It was a regular bedlam for a spell, with the
children all talking at once and asking questions.
When I'd got loose from Aunt Lib, Uncle Eldin
shook hands. "Glad to see ye again, boy," he says ;
"and supper's ready, too."
"An* we got chicken," says Jinny.
"Fried chicken, Lige," piped Jane Ellen, taking
hold of my hand.
"Yes, an I'd better be 'tendin' to it," says Aunt
Lib, wiping her eyes on her apron.
We walked in a bunch, with the hounds wriggling
about us. "Where's Eben?" I asked, not seeing
"Pap bound him out," says Jinny, and that set off
"The crops wa'n't much last fall, Lige," she told
me, "an' Eldin had to mortgage, so we bound Eben
out, though goodness knows we needed him bad
enough. Now git washed, Lige. Eldin'll take keer
of yer hoss."
She fussed around the stove and table, talking
fast and fretting, like she always did. "I never was
so glad of a thing as I was to git yer letter, Lige,"
she says, pouring the tea. "I jest cried an' cried
till it got here."
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 303
And I was mighty glad it had got there, even if
it did take a time, because I knowed she had fretted
After supper I told them about my trip, some of
it. Then I gave Uncle Eldin the Gazette and he
read what it said aloud. It was pretty nigh the
truth, only Taylor had made the fights seem worse
than they was. I'd read it the night before and
knowed that, but I let it go.
"Massey sakes ! Lige, I don't see how you ever did
git here alive!" Aunt Lib hugged me like she had
at the gate. "It's awful to think of that pore man
tellin' of killin' Caley Byers with his last breath,"
she says. "I 'low ye got enough of that life to last
ye, ain't ye, Lige?"
Her voice sounded like she'd bet I had.
"I don't know, Aunt Lib," I says. "That's what's
pestering me. I wanted to get back here bad
enough; but just as soon's I did, everything looked
small to me, and fenced-in, like. I never knowed
Coon Creek was so small and lazy-looking. But it
sure is; an' muddy." Then I thought I was mebby
fretting her, so I says, "Eben must have growed a
lot in a year. I wish he was here."
I knowed they'd sleep better, so I told them they
could buy Eben off and that I had fetched them two
thousand dollars for their own. Aunt Lib was sure
then we'd all be killed for the money in the night,
and I reckoned mebby I'd made a mistake to tell
them, though it would be a change of torments, any-
how, I figured. But she said she wouldn't take the
money noway, and cried.
"There's more where it come from," I told her.
And that set her off again.
"Ye won't never go back up the river, will ye,
304 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
Lige?" she whimpered. "The Injins'll kill ye or
ye'll git yerse'f drowned. Stay here where folks
has got religion and fears God."
I couldn't sleep that night. It was smothering
and close, and the bed was too soft. I thought of
what Aunt Lib had said about folks fearing God,
and then I thought of St. Louis and Bluebird and
Mac, until everything was mixed and upside down.
I had told myse'f there was peace here, and there
was. At least, there wa'n't any fighting between
men. But somehow it wa'n't the kind of peace that
let a man go to sleep.
Nigh, two o'clock I heered a fuss in the barn.
Then directly Uncle Eldin got up and went out.
When he come back I heered him ask, "Where's the
hoss-medicine, Lib?" and her tell him it was in the
cupboard on the top she'f . I got up and dressed.
Poor old Becky was dead in the barn. It upset
me, and I knowed Aunt Lib would fret. The mare
was old and wore out, but she'd been faithful and
he'ped a heap to make the place for us there.
I walked out under the stars. The night air
smelled so good after the loft that I didn't want to
go back. An owl hooted over in the timber, and I
thought right away of the Crees of Bluebird. "A
warrior is dead, sure 'nough," I thought. "And
even old Black Bear couldn't have saved her."
I knowed I had to go in with Uncle Eldin, but the
minute I set my foot inside I wished I was out
"How is she, Eldin?" Aunt Lib's voice was full
"She's dead," Uncle Eldin says, setting the Ian-
thorn on the table and sighing.
"Never mind, Aunt Lib," I says, hurrying to keep
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 305
her from crying if I could. "We'll buy a team of
good bosses tomorrow. By cracky! we can afford
But she had something else on her mind. "Pore
oF Becky," she says, and then, "I believe Alexander
Hamilton's got the fever. He's jest a-burnin' up,
an* so cross a body cain't live with him. You'd best
see Doc Seaberry tomorrow, Eldin, an' git him some
medicine. Take Lige's hat. Good land!" she says.
"An' blow out that lanthorn. It's nigh the last can-
dle in the house, till I git time to make some more.
If 'tain't one thing, it's another."
I reckoned it was with nothing between them,
and climbed the ladder to the loft.
But I couldn't sleep. It was all I could do to
breathe. I looked out at the stars till they faded.
Then I got up and went to the barn and hitched old
Tom to the stoneboat. I reckoned I'd get old Becky
out of sight before Aunt Lib got to see her. So I
hauled her over into the timber and left her there
for the varmi'ts. They was the sneaky kind that
didn't howl over a feast, nor kill their meat; and
some way I got to thinking of the strength of men
and brutes that lived on the plains.
Smoke was coming out of the chimney when I got
back from the timber. And after all my trying to
get home, I didn't want to go in the house. But I
knowed I had to.
Aunt Lib met me at the door, askin', "Where on
airth have ye been?"
Not waiting for me to answer, she went on,
"Alexander Hamilton's right sick this morning, and
Eldin'll have to go to the Crossin', Lige."
"I'm goin' too," I told her. "And we'll fetch
home a good team and some medicine. Then tomor-
row we'll fetch Eben home."
306 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
I thought that ought to quiet her; but Aunt Lib
couldn't be quiet noway, I reckon.
As soon as breakfast was over we set out afoot
for the Crossing, Uncle Eldin, Charles, and me,
though Charles ought to have stayed home to he'p,
I thought. The trail hadn't changed, nor Dan's
Clearing. The big down-tree was there with its
scraggly roots; but there wa'n't any squirrel on
them, and Dad was up on the Marias. I thought of
that morning when I took the corn to the mill and
how mighty nigh I'd come to looking behind the
down-tree when the squirrel barked so hard. If I
had, mebby everything would have been different
now. Mebby Dan would be alive, and Caley Byers.
Mebby the owl when he flew out of the bushes and
made me believe it was him the squirrel was bark-
ing at, took two lives and changed another. Charles
was ahead, and Uncle Eldin. They didn't notice the
down-tree, and I kept my thoughts to myse'f . It
seemed like both of them was plumb strangers to
me, and of another tribe.
I got to figuring. It took two days of hard riding
to come from St. Louis, and it would take two to
go back, without mishap; I'd best call it three.
That was five days out of the ten. If I kept my
word I'd have to hustle to get back to St. Louis to
catch Mac and give him the ring. And I'd have to
do that. Two or three days was all I dared to wait
before I started back. I made up my mind to that.
I knowed Mac would wait the ten days but no
longer, and I must see him and send Bluebird the
There was a lot of men in Hawkins' store, and
Mr. Hawkins was reading the Gazette aloud, when
we went in. They all wanted to shake hands at
once and was all mighty curious about Dad. "An'
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 307
thet was the first time ye knowed he'd killed Caley
Byers, eh? Gosh A'mighty! What if he'd a-died
'thout tellin' ye?" says the blacksmith, spitting at a
box of sawdust clean across the store.
"Well, didn't I always say Lige never shot Caley
Byers? Didn't I, say?" Mr. Hawkins looked from
one to the other, till finally the blacksmith he'ped
"Yep," he says, "ye kep' a-sayin' it, shore 'nuff."
And Mr. Hawkins took a chew of tobacco and give
There was teams a-plenty for sale, and directly
Uncle Eldin and I went to look at them that was
nearby. Charles went off with Lem Cutts' girl,
Mandy, and I could see it was a mash, sure enough.
But she wa'n't much. Her hair was always mussed
like she'd just got up, and her aprons wa'n't ever
clean. Besides she was hog-fat, and lazy as Charles
We bought a good team of bay mares and paid
off the mortgage on the place. Ezra Dyke held to
it till I had to pay a whole year's interest that
wa'n't due, before he'd let go. Then Uncle Eldin
went over to see Doc Seaberry; so by the time we
got started back it was past two o'clock, and cloudy.
I was up early next morning, and figuring on how
to tell Aunt Lib I had to go back to St. Louis, I
walked down the Coon Creek trail a piece with
Bugle. The meadow larks was singing just like
they did on the plains, the notes a little different,
though, and not so sweet. I could see in my mind
the great, endless stretches of green, the rolling
land, the treeless land of the buffalo, and I felt
shut-in, like, and tied.
After breakfast we went after Eben, and bar-
gained with old man Yenney till I mighty nigh
308 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
shook him. At last he let the boy go for sixty dol-
lars, and he come home behind the new team.
I reckoned I'd done nigh all I could and that I
might's well have it over with, so after supper I
says, "I've got to go back to St. Louis right away
and find Mac. I haven't made up my mind yet, but
I reckon I'll come back here. But if I don't, you'll
"That ye've gone back up that river to git yerse'f
killed!" Aunt Lib begun to fret again.
"Mebby I'll come back," I told her. "Anyway,
here's four hundred dollars for your own, Aunt Lib.
I want you to spend it for anything you want. It's
only for you."
Then she did cry. And I couldn't stop her.
I called Uncle Eldin out and give him all but ten
dollars of what I had left. "Uncle Eldin," I says,
"you're a man, an' know I've plumb got to keep my
word. I told Mac I'd be back in ten days ; and he's
"When must ye go, boy, to make it?" he asked,
going back in the house with me.
"Soon," I says.
And right away I climbed up the ladder to the
I waited till I reckoned they was all asleep ; then,
carrying my boots and rifle, I crept out on the shed-
roof and let myse'f down to the ground. I felt like
it was low-down and ornery to sneak away from
my own kin ; but I jest couldn't stand it to see Aunt
Lib take on and cry.
Bugle come dancing around me, and into the barn
where my hoss and saddle was. When I led out my
hoss, though I knowed he'd howl like all get out, I
shut the door on him and rode off.
When the gate creaked Bugle begun to let folks
know where he was. I got on and struck the Injin
trot and never quit till plumb noon, when I stopped
at a clearing to 'tend to my hoss good, and get my
dinner. I waited an hour afterwards to rest my
hoss, and then went on. I had to catch Mac, and I
didn't have but three days to do it, though I reck-
oned that was plenty. I'd send the ring to Bluebird
and let it go at that. But I knowed I'd never stand
it to live with Aunt Lib again. I reckoned I'd get
me a place in St. Louis and stay there. Then if the
folks needed me I could he'p them.
It had been more or less cloudy all day, and along
about six o'clock I heered thunder. I couldn't only
see a little of the sky through the tree-tops, and it
was bad and black, so I reckoned I'd camp at the
next clearing and call it a day.
Directly some big rain drops splattered on me,
and the wind, like it had been hid and waiting for a
signal, charged the bushes and tree-tops, and they
bent and twisted and tossed, their leaves trembling
and showing their under sides as though they was
scared. Right then, like the wind had shook him
down off a limb, a tall man with a long black beard
stood in the road ahead, waving his arms.
I pulled up beside him. He was bare-headed and
ragged. "Howdy," I says. And he begun to whim-
per and take on mighty bad.
I got down. "What's ailing you?" I says, taking
hold of his arm.
Then he broke plumb down and cried. His big
body shook with sobs and he couldn't talk.
310 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
"I'll he'p you, stranger," I says. "Tell me what's
wrong." And I put my hand on his shoulder.
"I'm af eered she's dyin'," he says, his voice shak-
ing like he had the chills.
It layed hold of me. "What's happened?" I says.
"And where is she?"
"She fell over yonder," he says, pointing out
into the heavy timber.
Mebby we could get her on my hoss, I thought.
"Well, let's not stand here," I says.
He wiped his eyes with his big, dirty hand, and
struck out, me at his heels leading my hoss
It was sprinkling again and thunder was growl-
ing. The clouds overhead being black, it was nigh
dark under the trees. I could just make out the
man's broad back ahead of me as he picked his way
among the wet bushes. Directly there come a blind-
ing flash of lightning right with a clap of thunder.
I thought of that night under the bed in my father's
cabin, and Lafe Daws' big cowhide boots leaking
water. I was wet plumb to my skin.
The man stopped by the big root of an over-
turned tree. "Look yonder under there," he says,
just so I could hear him above the pelting rain.
"Ain't it a sight, stranger?" and he begun to whim-
per and cry again.
I bent over and looked into a deep hole the root
had tore in the ground. There was a cracking
sound that sizzled, like, and a light streaked in my
eyes and went out. That's the last I knowed for a
When I opened my eyes it was daylight and I was
laying on my back in a pool of water. I tried to sit
up, but didn't make it. Gobs of mud fell off the
root when I moved and rain was falling down
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 311
through the shining leaves overhead. I was stiff
and my head hurt me. I couldn't figure it out. I
tried again to sit up, and made it. Then I climbed
out of the hole; and the minute I got on my feet I
My rifle was gone, and my hoss. My pockets was
turned inside out. I was mad clean through, and I
reckon that was good for me, warming me up, like.
But where was the road? I was all turned around
and fuddled. There wa'n't any feeling in my legs,
and my arms ached, and my head. I didn't know
which way to go, but struck out, stumbling in the
bushes that showered me, and falling over logs that
barked my shins, till common sense come to he'p
me and I sat down to let it. I'd find the sun first;
then I'd know where the road was. I reached for
my knife, but the pocket being inside-out, I peeled
a little twig with my fingers and wet my thumb nail.
I set the twig on it, and found the sun, not more
than two hours high. Cracky! I might miss Mac.
Mebby I'd been a week in the hole. I didn't know.
My heart nigh smothered me when I thought mebby
the ten days was up. I started on, walking faster
than was good for me, till I run onto the road. Then
I set out towards St. Louis, weak and sick as a cat.
I don't know how long I traveled, nor what time it
was, for it was dark when I saw a light in the win-
dow of a cabin.
I remember of somebody opening the door, and
that I tried to tell them what had happened to me.
Losing my rifle was on my mind, and Mac; but
while I was speaking the room teetered and com-
menced to whirl. I reached out to take hold of a
chair. Then the light went out.
Directly I heered a man say, "He's coming
312 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
'round. He'p me lift him on the bed. His head's
bad-cut an' his hair's full of blood."
Then I knowed somebody was carrying my head
and feet. My body didn't seem to be there; but I
didn't care what became of me, noway.
Directly the light come on and everything was
still for a spell, till I heered a woman say, "Mas-
sey! he's only a boy. Ye'd best saddle Rusty an'
fetch Doc Tate to see him, Laf e. He's got a fever."
I waked up and went to sleep over and over again,
all the time pestering about Mac and my rifle, but
only half caring about either. Sometimes I knowed
I was talking, though it seemed like somebody fur-
nished the words, and they didn't make sense, which
I knowed. I'd try to straighten them out, like I was
changing Cree to English, but in spite of me they
was gibberish, I dreamed a lot of Bluebird; and
once I saw the man with the black beard wearing
the necklace of little shells she had given me. He
had taken it out of my coat pocket, and I followed
him till I was plumb tired out trying to get it back.
By and by my mind got clear and I saw that I
was in a bed. A woman come to the bed and bent
over me, a woman with a kind, sweet face.
"How long have I been here?" I asked her, afraid
of her answer.
"This is the tenth day," she says, "but don't fret
none, boy. We got plenty of room and lots to eat.
Massey! We're right glad to he'p ye."
Tenth day! Mac had gone. I couldn't send the
ring to Bluebird. Mac had said he'd wait ten days.
I knowed him. He was gone. I just weakened
down, like, and if I'd been a woman I'd sure have
"Gee, Buck ! Blue !" I could hear a man plowing
over in the clearing and see him through the open
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 313
door which was bordered with morning-glory vines
in bloom. A blue jay in a stick cage on a bench out-
side, jabbered at others of his kind in the trees,
like he envied them; and I sure knowed he did.
There was a clock that ticked slow, with brass
hands, and a picture of George Washington on a
hoss. The glass was cracked on it, and I reckoned
the roof had leaked sometimes, for the picture was
mighty nigh spoiled by a yellow streak cutting the
hoss plumb in two.
"Cracky!" I says, fretting, and the woman sat
down on my bed and put a cold cloth on my fore-
head. I shut my eyes to think. I'd have to find
somebody to take the ring up the river. I'd have
to. I couldn't lay there like a knot on a log, noway.
I opened my eyes again and they lit on a good-look-
ing rifle over the fireplace. I hoped mine would
bust and kill the man that stole it; only I hated to
have the old gun spoiled, or bear the disgrace of
"I plumb got to get to St. Louis," I says, trying
to sit up.
"There," she says, pushing me back, kind and
gentle. "I know it's been pesterin' ye right smart,"
she says, like I'd told it before, "but ye cain't travel
yit. Mebby in four or five days if ye're good an*
stay quiet. Lafe'll take ye to town as soon's ye
And there wa'n't anything to do, only lay there
and wait; and I knowed it.
Their name was Bartlett Lafe and Susan Bart-
lett good folks as ever lived, and kind. I sure
made it up to them both, with an extra present for
her, besides, when at last Lafe drove me to St.
Louis. I'll never forget them as long as I live, and
keep my mind.
Mr. Shipman was right glad to see me and won-
dered what had kept me. I told him what hap-
pened, and quick as I could, says, "Have you seen