I held my breath.
"Not for several days," he told me; and I let go
and give it up.
"He kept coming to me for money and I reckon
he's had a big spree. The last time I saw him four
or five days ago he bought a bill of goods which
he told me he was sending up the river with a boat.
His money's all been drawn, and he may have gone
himse'f ; but I reckon you'll find him about town."
I knowed I wouldn't, though I'd look. He had
waited more than ten days, I figured. There wa'n't
any time to fool. I got three hundred dollars and
"Are you going up the river, Mounts?" Mr. Ship-
man asked, walking with me towards the door.
"I haven't made up my mind, yet, sir," I says.
"But anyway I need a hoss and some things." I
wouldn't have to buy a rifle, noway. Dad's was
mine, and there wa'n't any better gun.
I went every place; and asked nigh everybody I
reckoned might know of Mac, if they'd seen him;
but they hadn't, not for days. Some men said he
was gone, they reckoned, and others said he was
here, or there, they reckoned; but I could see they
was only making talk. I was leaving the Albemarle
tavern and dance-hall when somebody called me by
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 315
name, making me nigh jump out of my boots. It
was Alex Beasley, sober as a judge, and as tickled
to see me as I was to see him.
"You seen Mac?" I says first thing.
"He's pulled out," he told me. "He had a big
spree, him an* a Frenchman, St. Pierre. I was with
them six nights ago, and they said they was going
up the river in the morning. I ain't seen 'em since."
That settled it. Even though I'd knowed he was
gone, when Alex told me I felt plumb left out and
We went back into the tavern and Alex, moving
a chair to a table, says, "Sit down, Lige," and we
both sat down to visit. It was good to see Alex
again, and I needed to talk.
"Tell me how you made out with the Crees," he
says, going on, before I could start, to tell me that
Jake and himse'f was pulling out in a day or two
for old Fort Lisa with the last supplies they'd use
there. " 'Tain't far from the mouth of the Platte,"
he says, pouring liquor into two glasses the man
fetched to the table.
"Better go along with us," he says, lifting a glass.
"Come," he says, "here's to old Dad, the best man
that was ever on the plains !"
I picked up my glass and downed the liquor. I'd
drink to that. Alex was Dad's pardner and mine.
I told him about my luck and finally about the
fight with the Blackfeet hoss thieves. That tickled
him and he poured put more liquor, and I drank
with him. Directly they lit candles, but having so
much to say, we never budged. I drank when Alex
did, though not so much, at first.
Directly some women come in, and the fiddles
started. Alex got up and danced, but not knowing
316 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
how to dance, I sat there till he'd finished. Then
he and two women sat down at the table and he got
one of them called Belle to sing "Should Auld
Acquaintance Be Forgot." Alex cried over the
song, till Belle says, "Come on. Good God! let's
not be mournful. Let's dance."
They wanted me to try it, and at last I did,
though I knowed I couldn't dance a lick. There was
a lot of singing and two fights. But the fights was
stopped quick as they started. A big yaller nigger
took care of that. He was a bully and needed kill-
ing. I saw him hit a Frenchman and break his jaw,
because he put his arm around a couple that was
dancing. It made me want to go to war, myse'f .
That was early in the evening. But what went on
afterwards I don't remember.
It was afternoon when I waked up, in a stuffy
little room without a window in it. My head was
thumping awful, and the room was a sight every-
thing on the floor, including myse'f old clothes,
men's and women's, and jugs, and filth, too. My
mouth was parched, so that when I tried to call
Alex, I couldn't.
I got up and went to the door that let in what
light there was. I felt sick and dizzy. I went out
into a hall, nigh as dark as the room, and stumbled
along to a door at its end. Cracky ! when I opened
it the light cut through my eyes into my brain, and
I nigh fell down. Every heart-beat felt like some-
thing was pounding on a boil in my head.
"Mornin'." A big fat-faced man was slapping at
flies on the bar with a towel.
"Howdy," I says, wondering where I was.
"Hev a little something?" he says, reaching for
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 317
"Not by a damn sight !" I says, and I went on out
through the front door.
I cut straight as I could for the river bank and
kneeling down in the shade of a big warehouse,
drank till I thought I'd bust. Then I crawled up
and layed down in the shade, too sick to care what
was going on.
It was nigh sundown when I sat up and went
down to the water to drink again. I slipped out of
my clothes and into the river. How good and clean
it felt! I washed me with sand from the bank.
When I come to scrub my hands I caught my breath
like somebody had hit me in the stomach. My ring
was gone !
I waded out and took up my clothes. Every
pocket was empty. "Twice in two weeks," I says
aloud. "Twice in two weeks ; and in the land where
there's law and religion." And I knowed they'd
done it oftener, mebby if I hadn't been in bed most
of the time.
I dressed and sat down and thought it out. I
hadn't wanted to go back, but everything connived
to make me go. I'd tried to keep away from it, hard
as any man ever tried; but it wa'n't any use. I'd
go back. And once I made up my mind I felt bet-
ter as though I could have cured myse'f of a sick-
ness any time I had minded to. I got up and lit out
for Shipman and Company's store. "Give me my
clothes and my rifle/ I says, breathless, "an' five
Mr. Shipman handed them out, and the money.
"Going back up the river?" he asked, smiling.
"Yes, sir," I says, "I reckon I am." And I went
out and down to the warehouse again to change my
S18 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
It didn't take long, I can tell you. And when I
threw the coat and pants and vest and boots into
the river, "Keep out of the shadows," I told them,
feeling better'n I had in a month. "Keep close to-
gether, an' mebby you'll find more law. I'm goin'
back where there ain't any !"
I bought the best hoss I could find, and next
morning dickered for two good pack-hosses, besides.
Then I went back to the store and bought all they
could carry of goods and presents and powder and
lead. I drew out what money was left, and by sun-
down I was ready to go.
I found Alex and Jake and camped with them
that night, so that we started early for Fort Lisa;
where after more than twenty days' traveling, I left
them, to go it alone. I lightened packs a little there,
and at a profit, and rested a week before I set out
to try to get to the Marias and find the Crees.
I traveled early and late. The nearer I got to the
mouth of the Yellowstone, the faster I wanted to go,
till both myse'f and the hosses was plumb wore out.
I knowed I was in bad Injin country, but I couldn't
go any farther. I had to sleep and rest my stock.
It was on the Little Missouri that I hid away in
a snug grove of young quaking aspens, with here
and there a cottonwood. I had only rested three
times for a day and a night, and my hosses was
skin and bone. Here the grass was good, and I
staked them out where they could be close in, and
made me a bed. When I waked the hosses had
cleaned up the grass around them, so I got up and
moved to a new place. I couldn't keep awake, now
I'd let go, though I knowed I was taking a big
chance when I layed down again.
I moved the hosses and packs three times, and for
three days slept most of the time, feeling somehow
surer and surer that I was safe. One afternoon
320 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
when it was hot as all time, the plains blistering,
not a breath of air stirring, and not a speck in the
sky, my saddle-hoss suddenly snorted and pricked
his ears. I was up and had my rifle cocked quicker'n
a wink. I couldn't see nor hear a thing, but I
knowed I was in for it, and my knees went weak a
little when I thought what a fool I'd been. The
sweat prickled out on my face, and I turned around.
"Don't be foolish, man."
English! A man's voice. And in a clump of
bushes I saw a black face with a great nose mashed
and scarred. God ! what a face.
"Ha, ha, ha ! I ain't much shakes for beauty, be
I?" His laugh made shivers run up and down my
back. I was glued to the spot.
"Don't ye make any bad motions," he says, get-
ting up on his knees. "The Crows is all around ye.
They've got yer hosses already, an' they'll take yer
hair, too, if ye ain't mighty keerful." He stood up,
a giant of a man, coming towards me, his sullen
eyes fixed on mine like a snake's. "Put down yer
rifle. I'm Rose," he said, "an' I'm Chief of the
Crow-people; Edwin Rose."
I lowered my gun. I knowed they had me, though
mebby there'd be some way out. I could have killed
him easy; but I knowed the brush was alive with
Crows and that I'd die with him.
"I reckon you got me, Rose," I says, as calm as I
could. "What do you want?"
He laughed again, and I'd rather have heered
"Yes," he says, "easy, easy ! But where's the rest
of yer outfit. Who's with ye?"
"I'm plumb alone," I told him.
He sat down, and I did. I couldn't do anything
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 321
else, and I knowed it. "I'm trying to get to the
Crees," I says. "They are my friends, and I want to
get back to them. I'm plumb wore out.
I thought I saw scheming quicken his dull eyes.
He spoke loud in Crow to some In j ins that had
closed in on my camp and they sat down where they
was. One of them had my saddle-horse. Rose filled
his pipe and struck a light with his flint and steel.
Then, like we was old friends, he passed his pipe to
me. I knowed my life was safe then, though I
wa'n't sure what he'd do with me.
"The Crees are enemies of the Blackfeet, an' so
are we," he said, taking back the pipe. "Give us
some powder an* lead an* I'll let ye go. But don't
sleep no more."
I remembered what Dad had said of Rose. "Nez
Coup," he called him. Likely he figured I'd he'p
hold the Crees friendly to him. I took his hand and
shook it. "I'll give you half I got," I told him, "and
if after I get to the Crees, you ever need me, I'll
he'p you, if I can."
He didn't answer nor speak for nigh a minute.
Then he says, "Git the powder and lead. They
won't bother ye. Then you git out of this country."
"I'm going to," I said "But do you know where
I'm likely to find the Crees now?"
"Up, 'way up the Marias," he told me. "Remem-
ber, don't sleep, keep traveling," he says.
I give him four kegs of powder and half my lead.
"If the Blackfeet ketch ye they won't treat ye as
I do," he says, like he was half -sorry he'd smoked
But I hustled up and packed so I could travel with
them as long as they went my way, for I knowed
322 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
that after making peace the way they did they
would stay friendly while I was with them, anyway.
They was bigger and taller than the Crees, I
thought, and some of them was fat. All rode fine
hosses and all had good weapons bows and quite
a few guns. Before sundown they turned off south,
and I left them, to go it alone.
As soon as they was out of sight I tailed up my
hosses and lit out as fast as I could go, tickled nigh
to death to be alive.
I was rested and my hosses feeling a heap better :
so I kept on till I come to a little stream that
emptied into the Missouri, where I camped. I didn't
make a fire but ate a cold snack of dried meat. The
night was sultry and hot, and the buffalo-gnats
mighty nigh drove the hosses crazy, and me too.
They was thick in the air and I could hear them
hum the night through, and twice breathed them
into my lungs. "No-seeums," the In j ins call them.
I reckon nothing that lives is worse, or harder to
get along with. I'd have gone on, only I knowed
that I'd have to save my hosses more and more now,
for I might be jumped any minute and have to make
a run for it. I couldn't have slept if I'd wanted to.
I sat out where I could see over the plains and along
the willows and brush up and down the creek.
Wolves fooled me more than once, slipping along
the brush like shadows, and towards morning a
band of antelope like to run over me. If I could
only make the Ashley-Henry Post, I'd rest for a
whole week, before I went on.
I knowed that when the sun got up it would be
hotter'n all time, so I was traveling before day-
light, and kept a good gait for a long spell. I had
been cutting across the country like we had done
before, to save time, and by four o'clock made out
by the trees where the Missouri and the Yellow-
stone come together. I knowed I could make it by
sundown. It was worth trying, because once inside
the stockade I could sleep and rest the hosses. I
got on and whipped up, though I knowed it was
324 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
hard on them, telling myse'f it was right to hurry
when I knowed it wa'n't, for I was so wore out I
I strained my eyes on the spot where I remem-
bered the Post was, till the tears come. Nobody was
in sight. I knowed my outfit would look small and
no-account, but somebody would meet me ; somebody
would know I was white and ride out to say a
"howdy." I was sure of it.
Directly I passed the spot where they'd met up
with us before, and right then a dread layed hold
of me that was hard and cold as ice. I tried to
shake it off. "They're busy, likely," I says. But
my feelings was hurt. I'd figured on being met up
with, and for more'n a month it had seemed like a
big gobbler at a turkey-shoot something worth
while to win. I didn't slow down. I couldn't. I
was shaky all over, and hungry for cooked meat.
Mebby they took me for an Injin. I reckoned that
Directly I could see the mouth of the Yellowstone.
There was the old cottonwood snag with the goose-
nest on it, and the square-topped knoll, and the yel-
low bank. But where was the Post? Where was
I got down off my hoss and run up a little knoll
to look. The Post was gone! Plumb gone! Only
a part of the stockade was standing and even that
was black and charred by fire. The Blackfeet, or
mebby Nez Coup and his Crows, had burned it.
There wa'n't any Post !
It was a gut-shot. I sat down, plumb wore out,
and sick, with a misery that a man hates to own
up to knowing. I was scared and homesick and
lonesome all in one, and mighty bad. Sweat
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 325
prickled out all over me. Then a wild goose gonked
down on the water, and I got hold of myse'f to
think. He could take care of himse'f , and I could.
I went back to my hosses. One of them was laying
down with his pack, all sweaty and weak. I got
him up, feeling plumb ashamed of myse'f, and
mighty soon found a place to hide and rest up.
I knowed I wouldn't get any more sleep than a
rabbit staked to an ant-hill; but just as soon as I
did know it I cooled off and begun to figure. I'd
crossed the Missouri where we had crossed it with
Mike Fink, and I wouldn't go back. I'd cross the
Yellowstone and then cut the country till I struck
the Missouri again. When I did strike it, I'd
I had a time fording the Yellowstone; keeping
my packs dry and safe, but after three days' rest I
made it, and lit out. More than once I was sorry
for leaving the Missouri, and thought sometimes
I'd never reach it again. But I did, and crossed it,
I hadn't built a decent fire in more'n a month,
and was so plumb tired of half-roasted sage-hens
that I'd have given a heap for a buffalo-steak. But
I daren't kill anything with my rifle. I got my sage-
hens with rocks, and more than once weakened and
didn't cook them after I'd killed them.
When I crossed the Missouri I begun to hide out
all day and travel all night. It was cooler and safer
and my hosses even picked up a little, though their
feet was mighty sore. I reckoned that if I could
only get to the Crees I'd turn them into the pony
band and just let them feed up and rest till they
The nearer I got to the Marias the more scared I
326 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
was that I'd never make it. I hadn't slept five hours
in more'n a week, and nigh anything would make
me jump and prickle. Once just at sunup signal
smoke made me hide away mighty quick. Twice I
found where buffalo had been fresh-killed, and one
time I got some meat that was left, but only a little.
My moccasins, the last I had, was playing out, for
I'd walked a heap to keep my hoss rested. I never
knowed when I'd need all that was in him, and I
saved him what I could.
Passing in sight of the Little Mountains, blue in
the sunset light, I run onto fresh Injin sign in a
cottonwood grove. A big village had been there and
had moved on down the stream, so that I figured I'd
passed them without knowing it.
The nights had been getting cooler for a long
spell, and the grass on the plains was dry' now.
Signs of fall was on every bush; and by the time I
come to the Marias the leaves on the quaking aspens
had turned yellow and gold.
Our stockade was gone burned up, with only a
charred log left here and there. I had figured on
that, so it wa'n't a surprise to me like the other had
been. It was getting daylight when I come onto it,
so I hid away nigh half a mile up the Marias and
waited for night to close in again. I didn't intend
to move early, nohow, so when dark fell I slipped
over to where Dad and Bill was resting and sat
down. It was a chill night, and no moon, but the
sky was plumb peppered with stars, like I'd seen
it many a time before; and sitting there I felt like
I was back with home-folks.
"Dad," I says out loud, like he could hear me, "I
been down yonder for a spell, and I reckon I've
come back here to stay. I remember all you said;
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 327
but it's a heap better here than in the lower coun-
try, and I've come back. I've got your rifle, Dad.
I kep' it," I says, "an' always will. I'm plumb tired
and off my feed and fretting, like, but I don't aim
to go away any more, Dad. I'll come to see you
again, some day, if they don't get me and Bill," I
says, feeling like I'd forgot and left him plumb out.
I mighty nigh let go, I was so wore out; but I
held onto myse'f and went back where my camp
was hid to pack up and light out again.
I didn't ride a step, though my feet was nigh
bare, so that I flinched when I set them on sharp
stones. I made out to keep at it right steady for
three nights, feeling sure that luck was with me,
but being half afraid to let on that I knowed it, for
fear it would quit. On the fourth morning, and
just when I'd begun to look for a place to hide for
the day, I saw a hoss.
I turned into the brush quick, unpacked, and tied
up the stock. Then I set out to see how bad a fix
I was in. Goodness knows, I'd been hoping to see
hosses, but it made a heap of difference who owned
them. I slipped up a coulee till I come to a knoll
high enough to he'p me look around, and climbed it.
There, not two miles away, was a pony band, hun-
dreds of hosses. I plumb had to know who they
belonged to. I layed there flat on my belly till nigh
noon, when I saw two Injins coming towards me,
riding slow. Figuring that if they come on they'd
see me, and that I could slip back and down the
coulee, and mebby get into the brush, I was about
to move, when here come four more. I begun to
wonder if I'd been seen, and if they was out to
jump me. I slid back out of sight, but just as I
328 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
a band of antelope off to my left a little. My
breath come easier. They was out to kill antelope,
and was getting the wind of them, likely. I poked
my head back up over the knoll. In a minute I
knowed they was Crees. My heart skipped a beat,
I was so glad.
First I thought I'd stand up and call; but I
didn't; I let them go on. And I run down that lit-
tle coulee, talking to myse'f and laughing like I was
plumb crazy. I got the packs back on quick as I
could, though my fingers fumbled, and headed
across a big bend the Marias made. I'd seen it
from the knoll, and figured the village was there
behind the hill.
Directly I saw a scout stand up on the hilltop.
He would signal the village. I'd stop him. I
waved my rifle and hollered; but he swung a buf-
falo robe in a circle over his head, and before I
could cut loose, disappeared. It would set men to
running for their hosses. I tugged hard at the
lead-rope, nigh dragging the packs to the top of the
hill. There I saw them more'n a hundred big
lodges, sleek and smooth in the sunlight, beside the
I could see men mounting war-hosses and women
running about the lodges. I'd stop the fuss. I
commenced to sing a Cree song a love song, riding
down the hill and looking at the village like it was
my home and I'd been gone too long.
The fussing stopped, and a drum begun to beat.
They knowed me ! Voices took up the song till half
the village was singing. Wore out as I was I felt
my heart jump and get light inside me. They was
coming to meet me Mac, good old Mac, was com-
ing ! I snatched off my head-silk and waved it, my
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 329
heels pounding my boss's sides. He was bare-
headed, the wind ruffling his hair ; and he was laugh-
ing laughing as a child laughs that is nigh to
tears, when we met up.
"Oh, Lone Wolf!" be cried, throwing his arms
'round my waist like he'd lift me down. "I thought
that I had lost you. My heart was on the ground !"
Yellow Bear, his good face smiling his gladness,
struck his deep chest with his fist. "Ho! Lone
Wolf, brother !" he cried. "My heart is big with the
joy of your coming." He took the lead-rope from
my hand to walk into the village beside my boss.
"See," he pointed, "Red Robe is waiting at his lodge
door to give you welcome."
He was ! And Bluebird, and all the family, nigh
the open door. Her lips was smiling and I thought
her eyes looked glad.
"Lone Wolf ! Lone Wolf !" Men called my name,
laughing happy, and women moving with them fol-
lowed us to Red Robe's lodge, where I stopped and
held up my hand.
"Hear, all the people!" I says, my heart filled
with pride. "From this day on forever Lone Wolf
To-tum, to-tum, to-tum, a drum begun to beat
again, and some young men sang of hunting.
I got down, from my boss.
"I have not lied," I said to Red Robe. "The
month of roses has not passed a second time since I
went away. And now I have come back for your
daughter; for Bluebird, my woman."
Then I looked at her, and her eyes was waiting.
They couldn't lie. They was full of soft, unspoken
words. I wondered how I could have left her. I
heered Red Robe talking. "Shall you pitch your
330 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
lodge with us, her people, or shall you leave us,
"Wherever you go, there I will go, Red Robe," I
told him, and heered the people murmur, "Mee-
"Ho! my son," he said.
Then, gentle as a woman, he put Bluebird's hand
in mine, and turned away.
And Mac, good Mac, to he'p us, pulled a robe
from my saddle and tossed it over her head and
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