more good ones, but still he didn't stir. So I set up
to move him. He was dead, son, stone dead, with
108 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
his glassy eyes wide open an* his ugly mouth agap.
Next to me was another corpse the feller that was
layin' on my arm when I waked up. His jaw an'
chin was all shot away an* his teeth hung like fringe
from shreds of flesh an' bone.
"There was three of 'em besides me under that
robe, an* the others was dead men. I didn't camp
there long, son. I moved out. Jest as I did a
wagon with four men in it backed up to the robe.
They hed some shovels; an* ye'd oughter seen 'em
stare at me gittin' away from that herd of dead
ones. Son, if I'd a-slept jest a leetle longer they'd
hev buried me sure's hell's afire. That's when I
"Cracky!" I says. "How was the men killed,
"Well, ye see, sometime after I went outside a
big fight started, an' there was a heap of shootin'
done. After it was over they jest gathered up the
dead, an' findin' me near the hitch-rack in the pud-
dle with blood all over me, they jest natcherly
counted me in, too. Yes, son, if I'd a-slept jest a
leetle longer, I'd a-been buried alive. I know I
"Cracky!" I says. "What became of Dug Tiley?"
"Never got over it. Took cold in his wounds an'
died a month after. I camped with him till he
crossed. Hated awful to see him go, for he was a
good man, Dug was. Wished Bill wa'n't so keen
fer liquor, but I orten't complain, I reckon; fer if
it hedn't a-been fer what I told ye, I'd a-been
worse'n him. If I was you I'd never start it, son.
It's a trail that don't lead nowhere."
I was right glad he told me that story. Some-
times I'd wondered why, unlike the rest, he never
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 109
touched liquor, but watched his friends drink with-
out much objection. I'd felt that if he had been
hard set against drinking like some folks is, he
wouldn't have acted the way he did; but his story
made me see why he let liquor alone, himse'f .
It was right dusky in the lodge now and a heap
cooler since the sun had set. I was unrolling my
bed when a man come to the door.
"Hello, Jim! Come in an* rest yourse'f," says
Dad, moving so that the visitor could sit down be-
side him. I never knowed his last name. They
called him Big Jim, and he was one of the men who
brought in our pack train that afternoon. Also he'd
been Little Pete's pardner.
"Do ye reckon 'twas Blackfeet that jumped Lit-
tle Pete, Jim?" says Dad when the big fellow had
set down in the lodge.
"Ain't noway sure," he says. "I was wantin' to
talk to ye about it."
He commenced to fill his pipe, slow, and awkward
with his hands. His shirt was black with grease
and one sleeve was untied so his big sinewy arm
was bare to the elbow. He bent over to dig out a
coal of fire from the ashes, and I could see his mid-
dle finger was gone from his left hand. When he
straightened up and spoke it was slow and with a
half stutter to his words.
"Ye see," he begun, "Little Pete was plumb alone
when he went under. Last winter me an' him
trapped the Missouri below the Post an' worked
some on the Yellerstone. I ain't noways supersti-
tious, but Thanksgivin' day, near as I know, we set
fourteen traps on the Yellerstone. In the mornin'
when we visits 'em, every trap was sprung an' in
the last one down the stream was an arrow a Crow
110 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
arrow with a cross down nigh the feathers. It was
painted on the shaft with blue paint. The next day
one of my pack-hosses come into camp with an ar-
row stickin' in his flank. I pulled it out, an' it was
a mate to the one in the trap cross an' all. We
moved down towards the Post a day's drive; an'
when I went to build a fire, damned if an arrow
wa'n't stickin' straight up on the spot where I'd
intended buildin' it. That arrow belonged to the
same quiver with the other two. It was Crow, ex-
cept the cross.
"I didn't say nothin' to Pete just then. In the
mornin' when I woke up it was early. Pete was
with the stock. We intended trappin' from where
we was down to the Post below; but we didn't set
a trap. Not one. Another arrow was in camp, an'
it had been sent by a bow. We come on into the
Post an' started to trap the Missouri, all the time
lookin' f er more arrows ; but nary one did we see !"
"Curious, Jim. Mighty curious," says Dad.
"Tryin' to scare ye off the Yellerstone, mebby. But
why all the trouble? 'Pears to me that if the
Crows wait "
"Ye've struck it," interrupted Jim. " 'Twa'n't
Injins. But I didn't guess it until a month later
after Christmas, anyhow. I was in the Post to get
some lead an' trade in some beaver. A Crow vil-
lage was camped just across the river an' a big
bunch of 'em was tradin' when I got in. A whalin'
big brute who seemed to be a chief among 'em was
talkin' English to the trader. If there was any
Injin in his breedin' it was hid by nigger blood,
though he was part white."
"Rose," says Dad, reaching for his pipe.
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 111
"Edwin Rose," says Jim. "An* if ever I laid
eyes on a bad one that was the man. I'd like to
hev pulled an arrow from his quiver, but I knowed
I'd start somethin' if I did. I was shore he was
better acquainted with me than I was with) him,
"I hev seen him," said Dad. "He was a river-
pirate between New Orleans an' St. Louis till the
law got him fer murder. He got free some way an'
now he's a chief among the Crows. He's a mulatto
an' as full of fight as a badger. I've heered good
things of Rose as well as bad, but he's an outlaw
from the States. He wants to keep us off the Yel-
lerstone, likely; an' with his backin' I'll remember
it. He stands high with the 'Rees, too. He's with
them as much as he is with the Crows. He's a bad
man. But he shore was square with Colonel Leav-
enworth last spring in the battle with the 'Rees,
even if Hunt was afraid of him twelve years ago.
c Nez Coupe.' Yes, I know him; an' I've wondered
that he don't burn this Post."
I sat there waitin' for them to go on. But I
reckon to them it seemed like they'd said all there
was to say.
Dad thought a minute, listening to the racket
over at the store. "Son, mebby me an' you'd better
try to git Bill to camp," he says.
We all went over, Dad, Big Jim, and me. The
door was wide open and the place dim-lit by cups
of grease with burning rags in them, smelling fear-
ful. And such carrying on ! A fiddle was going to
beat all time and men dancing to the music with
their arms around each other like one of them was
a girl, It was hotter'n blazes in there, made hotter
112 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
by the burning grease and the dancers ; but nobody
seemed to notice the heat and sang or danced to the
fiddle as hard as they could go. Everybody was
dripping sweat, except two Injins who was squatted
against the wall looking on. I couldn't figure
whether they thought the men was plain fools or
just crazy. Their faces didn't tell.
We went over against the wall and looked around
for Bill. Directly we saw him back in the shadows
in a corner. Dad went towards him and I slipped
down nigh the fiddler who was setting on the count-
er. His face, shiny with sweat, was nigh black and
had deep pock marks. There was rings in his ears
and an ugly whitish scar reaching up from the
corner of his mouth to his left eye, which was sunk
in, like, and never moved nor winked no matter
which way he looked. His other eye'd laugh but
that one, never. It just stared like it wa'n't no
relation to its mate and wouldn't get glad no mat-
ter what happened to tickle its pardner. His head
was tied round with a dirty red cloth and his hair
was fresh bobbed and blacker'n a crow. Cracky!
I used to see that face in my dreams, and do yet
when I'm upset by something or other. I just
couldn't take my eyes off him. He worked like a
nailer, too, fiddling fast and steady and keeping
time with his heel against the counter, while the
sweat poured off him; and that one eye that never
winked just fastened on my own, though it didn't
seem to see me or anything else.
I slipped down along the wall a bit to get closer.
A drunk Frenchman stopped me, singing,
"Dans mon chemin j'ai rencontre
Trois cavalieres bien montees . . . ."
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 113
and slopped a cup of liquor on my arm. He never
noticed it but waved the cup:
"L'on, ton, laridon danee
I've heered it a thousand times since then.
"What's the matter with that man's eye?" I says
to make talk and mebby get away without a quarrel.
He teetered back and forth, spilling about all that
was left in the cup. "Dat's glass heye," he hic-
cuped. "She's buy heem New Orlean." He took
hold of my shirt to steady himse'f and leaning for-
ward till his chin was mighty nigh against me,
whispered "Ma frien', de hoi' man, she's see hout
dat heye. Yas siree ! She do. Wan day me an' de
hoi' man is look por de 'orse." He begun to look
towards the fiddler as though he was afraid he'd
hear what he was saying; but finding he was busy
with his music, he went on, "Jes' bimeby me HI'm
seeum some 'orse mebby ten, twelve. HI'm say,
'Hoi man, me, HI'm seeum some 'orse' an' HI'm
point ma finger. By gar! de hoi man, she's tak
hout dat damn heye, she's wipe heem wid piece
buckskeen, she's put de heye back hon de 'ole, she's
look queek. 'Yes sar, Pete,' she's says, 'dat's dem
'orse, by gar!' She's see hout dat heye same lak
de nodder wan."
"Trois cavalieres bien montees
L'une a cheval, 1'autre a pied.
away he went, whirling and staggering about the
room, seeing mighty little and hearing less. I'd
never before heered of a glass eye, nor seen one,
114 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
and I couldn't more'n half believe there was any
Suddenly I perked up. Someone was shouting
above the racket: "My full an' complete name is
M-I-C-K-E P-H-I-N-C-K, Mike Fink!" And there
he was on the other side of the fiddler, pounding
the counter with his fist, though the fiddler kept
right on playing like he wa'n't there. "Hi ! Good-
eye," yelled Fink. "Stop that damned fiddlin'. I'm
The fiddle stopped and the singing, too. Even
the dancers stood where they was while Mike spelled
out his name again. "As fer East as Pittsburgh
they give me the fifth quarter of beef not to shoot
agin 'em," he says, pounding the counter harder'n
ever and talking louder.
Carpenter slipped nigh to him; and I reckon he
knowed Mike was wanting to go to war, for he com-
menced to talk low to him and put his hand on his
shoulder, friendly, like, and anxious.
"Git away from me !" Mike shook off Carpenter's
hand, "Git clean away!" he snarls. "Ye stole my
squaw, ye low-down skunk!"
Talbot run up to them, sobered. "Don't quarrel,
boys," he begs, pulling Carpenter away.
Mike spit after them, ornery and mean as a bob-
cat. "I kin lick any white man, Frenchman, er
Injin in this here Post any of 'em," he says, grit-
ting his teeth till I could hear it plain. "My name
is M-I-C-K-E P-H-I-N-C-K Mike Fink!"
It got still again in the store ; but the little drunk
Frenchman, full of good nature and not realizing
Mike was mad, staggered across the room with his
cup. "Have a drink, Meester Fink," he says, teeter-
ing like he might fall over on top of Fink.
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 115
Mike was made madder by the fellow's good na-
ture. He grabbed the cup out of his hand and
threw the liquor plumb in his face. "Hell, if I want
a drink I kin git it myse'f, can't I?" he yells. "Keep
away from me clean away !"
Then he walked right out of the door as straight's
a string. I was glad, and so was everybody else, I
reckon; for right away the fiddle started up again
and the little drunk Frenchman begun to sing his
song, like he didn't know he mighty nigh had a peck
"Well, son," says Dad, coming up to me with Bill,
"let's go to camp and hev a good sleep. Bill's comin'
The fresh air smelled mighty good. A little night
breeze was stirring, and back of the Post, a piece,
a wolf was howling like all get out. On the runway
two men was walking back and forth; but besides
them we didn't see a soul. The lodges was all dark.
Two Injin dogs was answering the wolf now and
again; but that and the wolf howling was about the
only noise we heered, except the racket back in the
Dad kindled a little fire and made a cup of tea for
Bill, and we all took a cup with him.
"That quarrel of Fink's an' Carpenter's ain't done
yit," says Dad over his tea. "They's a woman in it,
an' that kind o' trouble's like a carbuncle. Old
friendships may salve it an' keep it down fer a
spell, but it's bound to come to a head."
"They'll make it up agin before mornin'," laughed
Bill. "Mebby 'twon't stay made up; but they'll all
three be back in the store inside an hour."
"Mebby," says Dad. "When I was over there the
trader told me that Alex Beasley an* Jake Aber-
116 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
nathy left word with him to tell me an* you they
figured on throwin* in with us this fall an* winter.
The trader said they'd ought to be here now an* if
we liked the arrangement we'd better wait a spell
till they got here. How does it strike you, Bill?"
"Jake an' Alex's good men," says Bill. "I figure
'twould be a good plan to have 'em with us."
"Good. Son, how doj ye feel about hevin' two
more men in the party two more besides their
skinner and flesher?" Dad says.
"I'm agreeable to whatever you an* Bill says is
for the best," I answered, feeling mighty good to
"Then we'll wait a spell," says Dad. "If they
ain't too long gittin' here, we'll make one party out
of theirs an' ours."
"What are we goin* to do fer a skinner and
flesher in Joe's place?" asked Bill.
"I can't answer," says Dad. "We'll think about
it tonight an* talk about it tomorrow. Let's turn
I layed awake a long time after Dad and Bill
was asleep. The noise from the store, now high,
then low, kept up as long as I remembered any-
thing. And I thought a good deal about our new
pardners. I half wished they wouldn't turn up. I
was afraid I might not like them. I tried to picture
Alex, but I couldn't make him fit our party, some-
how, and Jake was oif color, too. I reckoned it was
his name, mebby, for the only Jake I knowed was
a worthless lot. Then I thought of Joe fer a spell,
wondering what sort of a man might take his place.
I heered shots twice, but they didn't disturb Dad
or Bill; and at last I went to sleep.
Dad had a fire kindled outside the lodge when I
waked up. The store was plumb still and I could
see men stretched out under the runway asleep.
Two was setting up against the store with their
heads lopped over and their mouths wide open,
sleeping sound but not very still. They looked silly.
Bill laughed. "I'm glad I ain't one of 'em," he said
starting for water.
When he come back, Dad, thinking it was a good
time, I reckon, said, "Bill, ye'd please me if ye'd
call the spree over. Jake an' Alex oughter be here
any day now, an* as soon as we kin we ought to be
jiggin' fer winter quarters. What say?"
"I'm plumb through, Dad," he says, and I saw
he meant it.
We wa'n't in no hurry with breakfast. There
wa'n't a thing that needed doing except my letter,
118 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
and as soon as I could do it without letting on it
was pestering me, I reminded Dad of it again.
"I've got a quill an* some paper in the packs," he
says, "but I callate we'd best write it over to the
store. We got to give the letter to the trader any-
way, an* it'll save me hevin' to dig 'em out. We'll
wait a spell 'fore we go over, son, an' let folks git
the kinks out of theirse'fs. Ain't no call to hurry,
nohow. The mail don't leave this p'int every day,"
he says, laughin' and pourin' his tea.
But other folks didn't wait to visit the store, I
noticed. For directly the gate opened and some
Injins rode inside, men, women and children, going
straight to the store, where they got down and went
in some of them. One old woman was riding a
pudgy mare with a spotted colt following close be-
hind. She didn't more than slow up when the little
feller went after his breakfast. It didn't bother
her a bit. She got off on the other side and let him
fill up while she went in to trade.
By the time most of the Injins had got down and
before the man had the gate closed, in come some
more half -breeds, mostly, I reckoned, and not nigh
so trim-looking nor tidy as the Injins, theirse'fs.
Colors ! Cracky ! It was nigh as bright as St. Louis
in front of the store. And the hosses was of every
color, too. In less'n no time there was nigh forty
of them, lots of them spotted, some of them with
mighty showy rigging, and others without any rig
at all, only a rawhide rope hitched on the underjaw.
I could see it was going to be a hot day still and
the sky clear of clouds, though the beginning of a
hot wind was flapping the ears of the lodge a little,
and over there, the trappings of the Injins' hosses.
The women begun to unload some of them that was
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 119
packed with robes, and as fast as they could they
carried the stuff into the store. I was itching to go
over and watch the trading; but I let it go for
more'n an hour.
They was still at it when Dad and I did go,
though most of them had made their trade and was
packing up to get out again. Every one of them
seemed to know just what he wanted and got it as
quick as he could.
But one, a tall, thin, man, was standing still
close to the door and just inside. He had a mighty
fine face, though it was seamed up right smart and
looked stern and proud. Someway, he reminded
me of Dad, only he wa'n't so tall. Now and again
while the others was trading he'd say a few words
to a girl by his side.
It ain't right easy when you've seen a body a
heap o' times, to remember how they looked the
first time you ever saw them, 'thout adding things
you've kinder discovered a little at a time. But I
remember plain how she looked that day.
She was pretty as any young woman I ever saw,
her black eyes eager, though she stuck timidly to
the man's side like she'd give a lot to be through
and away from there. Her black hair hung long in
two thick braids over half -naked shoulders that was
round and brown and smooth-looking. Her arms
was bare to the elbows, and she had little hands and
little feet. Her dress was made of brand new elk-
skin, not smoked much, so that it was mighty nigh
white, all quill-worked and pretty's could be. So
was her moccasins which fit her like her feet was
made for 'em. There was a little streak of bright
red paint in the part of her hair ; and whenever she
moved the long, thin fringe of her dress trembled.
120 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
I'd never seen a nicer dress nor a prettier girl. But
she wouldn't look at anybody, only the Injin I
knowed was her father.
When the last load of goods was packed out the
man walked over to the counter and made some
signs to the trader.
"Wants credit," says Dad. "They're Crees."
The trader signed back without hesitating, and
Dad says, "He gits it, too. Now watch 'em."
And I did watch them. I made up my mind to
learn how to make signs, too.
Up and down along the counter the Injin walked,
the girl behind him like a shadow just as still and
just as easy. The man bought one thing after an-
other, the girl taking whatever he got and piling
it careful on the floor; till finally he quit. Then he
turned around and put his hand on her arm, saying
something to her and pushing her gently to the
"It's her turn now," says Dad. "I bet I know
what she'll buy."
So did I. I'd noticed a while back that whenever
some of the other women got a red blanket she
would say something to her father. I could tell by
the way she looked she wanted one, too, and I shore
hoped she'd get one. I watched her sign the trader.
I tell you, she had pretty hands and arms. As soon
as she'd made her wants known, sure enough the
trader and she come back to the pile of blankets
beside Dad and me. He showed her white ones and
green ones and striped ones; but she knowed just
what she wanted.
It was a red one. Her eyes wa'n't lying when
the other women got theirs. She didn't put that
blanket in the pile with the other things. She put
LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER 121
it on Injin fashion, over her dress. But it didn't
look half so nice as the dress, and I wanted to tell
Next she bought some beads about a tin cup
full, I reckon, of all colors, every color separate on
a string. When she took the pile in her hands, so
plumb tickled she was afraid she'd drop or break
them, she looked up at her father and said some-
thing. He laughed, low and glad, and made signs
to the trader, who smiled and nodded like he was
interested. He was a good trader an' knowed how.
"She says she will make her father somd fine
leggings with the beads," Dad told me.
The trader tried to sell her more. But, no, she
had everything she wanted. She was plumb satis-
fied, and you could see it in her face. Dad and her
father begun to talk in signs then, and she to make
packs out of the stuff they'd bought, laying her new
blanket on the counter near me.
I watched her work. Her hands was quick as
lightning ; and the closer I got the prettier I thought
her, which ain't always the way it turns out.
I reckon I'd been looking at her right steady,
when suddenly she straightened up and her eyes lit
right on mine. Cracky! Hers dropped quicker'n
scat. She said something to her father in a voice
so low I didn't reckon he'd hear it. But he turned
and come to her side, picked up the biggest part of
the packs, and started for the door. "Ho !" ha says,
and laughed out loud. It made him look mighty
different, that laugh, when his face lit up, and I
The girl shouldered the rest of the goods and fol-
lowed him. It looked like a big load, for she was
little. I'd have carried it out, but I didn't reckon
122 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
she'd let me. Anyhow, I followed them to the door
and watched them pack a couple of hosses with the
stuff. She was handy as a man, and as quick. She
worked on the off side and knowed her job as well
as Dad or Bill, and heaps better'n I did, though I'd
been making a hand ever since Joe was killed.
"Here, son." It was Dad, and he was grinning.
"Better take this here quill an* paper an* git that
letter wrote before ye fergit it," he says. "The
trader told me a mackinaw is leavin' fer St. Louis
tomorrow, an* that's lucky.
I could feel my face getting red, but I took the
quill and paper. "Do you reckon that officer was
bad hurt, Dad?" I says.
"Shoo ! no. He's plumb forgot all about that little
tap before now. Ain't no call to mention any sech
argument in yer letter, nohow, son," he laughed.
"I'd jest write an' tell 'em ye didn't know nothin'
'bout that killin', an' say I was well an' gittin' along.
I've fixed it so's the boat will take yer letter, an*
when it's wrote jest give it to the trader. I'll step
over to the lodge, I reckon, an' when ye're through
ye kin f oiler me."
It was harder to write that letter than I had
thought. I knowed it looked mighty bad of me,
running away like I did ; and when I got the words
down on the paper telling I didn't kill Caley Byers,
I couldn't excuse myse'f for running off. I didn't
try to. If I had, I would have had to say something
about Dad hitting the officer. I couldn't say that,
so I just said I didn't kill Caley Byers and didn't
even know al?out it till I was in St. Louis. Some-
how, I reckoned Aunt Lib would believe me, and
that I was well. Then I quit. It seemed as though
if I couldn't tell it all, I couldn't tell any part that
would excuse me in running off.
I gave my letter to the trader and was just start-
ing for the door when Mike Fink and Carpenter
come in. I tried to slip out, pretending to be fixing
my belt; but Mike called, "Come, boy, let's licker
"I don't drink," I says, and got to the door.
But he started for me. "Wait," he says, and I
saw he was more'n half drunk.
Carpenter caught hold of his arm. "No, no,
Mike," he says, pulling him back. "Let the boy
alone. Let's me an' you take our licker by ourse'f s.
It's my treat."
Fink begun to laugh. It sounded nasty and
mean; but he let Carpenter lead him towards the
back end where the liquor was ; and I went on over
to the lodge.
Dad was inside mending my saddle that was Joe's
124 LIGE MOUNTS: FREE TRAPPER
and Bill was half asleep on a robe, with the sweat
prickling out on his forehead.
"It's hotter'n fire in here," Dad says when I sat