Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org



Title: While Smoke Rolled
Author: Robert E. Howard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0608701.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: November 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html


To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au


While Smoke Rolled
Robert E. Howard



"The War of 1812 might have had a very different ending if Sir
Wilmot Pembroke had succeeded in his efforts to organize the Western
Indians into one vast confederacy to hurl against the American
frontier; just why he did fail is as great a mystery as is the nature
of the accident which forced his companions to carry him back to
Canada on a stretcher."
--Wilkinson's "History of the Northwest."



Wolf Mountain, Texas.
March 10, 1879
Mister WN. Wilkinson.
Chicago, Illinoy.

Dear Sir:

The schoolmarm down to Coon Creek was reading the above passage to
me out of yore history book which you writ. It ain't no mystery. It's
all explained in this here letter which I'm sending you which has been
sticking in the family Bible along with the birth records for years.
It was writ by my grandpap. Please send it back when you've read it,
and oblige.

Yores respeckfully.

Pike Bearfield, Esquire.

 * * * *

Aboard the keelboat _Pirut Queen_.
On the Missoury.
September, 1814.
Mister Peter Bearfield.
Nashville, Tennessee.

Dear Sir:

Well, pap, I hope you air satisfied, perswading me to stay out
here on the Missoury and skin bufflers and fight musketeers, whilst
everybody else in the family is having big doings and enjoying
theirselves. When I think about Bill and John and Joel marching around
with Gen'ral Hickory Jackson, and wearing them gorgeous unerforms, and
fighting in all them fine battles yore having back there I could dang
near bawl. I ain't going to be put on no more jest because I'm the
youngest. Soon's I git back to Saint Louis I'm going to throw up my
job and head for Tennessee, and the Missoury Fur Company can go to
hell. I ain't going to spend all my life working for a living whilst
my wuthless brothers has all the fun, by golly, I ain't. And if you
tries to oppress me any more, I'll go and enlist up North and git to
be a Yankee; you can see from this how desprut I be, so you better
consider.

Anyway, I jest been through a experience up beyond Owl River which
has soured me on the whole dern fur trade. I reckon you'll say what
the hell has he been doing up the river this time of year, there ain't
no furs up there in the summer. Well, it was all on account of Big
Nose, the Minnetaree chief, and I git sick at my stummick right now
every time I see a Minnetaree.

You know the way the guvment takes Injun chiefs East and shows 'em
the cities and forts and armies and things. The idea being that the
chief will git so scairt when he sees how strong the white man is,
that when he gits home he won't never go on the war-path no more. So
he comes home and tells the tribe about what he seen, and they accuse
him of being a liar and say he's been bought off by the white folks;
so he gits mad and goes out and sculps the first white man he meets
jest to demonstrate his independence. But it's a good theery, anyway.

So they taken Big Nose to Memphis and would of took him all the
way to Washington, only they was scairt they'd run into a battle
somewheres on the way and the cannon would scare Big Nose into a
decline. So they brung him back to Saint Charles and left him for the
company to git him back to his village on Knife River. So Joshua
Humphrey, one of the clerks, he put a crew of twenty men and four
hunters onto the _Pirut Queen_, and loaded Big Nose on, and we
started. The other three hunters was all American too, and the boatmen
was Frenchies from down the Mississippi.

I wisht you could of saw Big Nose. He had on a plug hat they give
him, and a blue swaller-tailed coat with brass buttons, and a big red
sash and broadcloth britches--only he'd cut the seat out of 'em like a
Injun always does; and the boots they give him hurt his flat feet, so
he wore 'em tied around his neck. He was the most pecooliar-looking
critter I ever laid eyes onto, and I shuddered to think what'd happen
when the Sioux first ketched sight of him. Big Nose shuddered too, and
more'n I did, because the Sioux hated him anyhow, and the Tetons had
swore to kiver a drum with his hide.

But all the way up the Lower River he was like a hawg in clover,
because the Omahas and Osages and Iowas would come down to the bank
and look at him, clap their hands over their open mouths to show how
astonished and admireful they was. He strutted and swelled all over
the boat. But the further away from the Platte we got the more his
feathers drooped; and one day a Injun rode up on the bluffs and looked
at us as we went past, and he was a Sioux. Big Nose had a chill and we
had to revive him with about a quart of company rum, and it plumb
broke my heart to see all that good licker going to waste down a
Injun's gullet. When Big Nose come to, he shed his white man's duds
and got into his regular outfit--which was mostly a big red blanket
that looked like a prairie fire by sunset. I told Joshua he better
throw the blanket overboard, because it was knowed all up and down the
river, and any Sioux would recognize it at a glance. But Joshua said
if we threw it overboard we'd have to throw Big Nose overboard too,
because he thought it was big medicine. Anyway, he said, they warn't
no use trying to keep the Sioux from knowing we was taking Big Nose
home. They knowed it already and would take him away from us if they
could. Joshua said he aimed to use diplomacy to save Big Nose's sculp.
I didn't like the sound of that, because I notice when somebody I'm
working for uses diplomacy it generally means I got to risk my neck
and he gits the credit. Jest like you, pap, when you git to working
and figgering, like you say, the way it always comes around you do the
figgering and I do the working.

The further north we got, the closter Big Nose stayed in the cabin
which ain't big enough to swing a cat in; but Big Nose didn't want to
swing no cat, and every time he come on deck he seen swarms of Sioux
all over the bluffs jest fixing for to descent on him. Joshua said it
was hallucernations, but I said it would be delirium trimmings purty
soon if that jug warn't took away from him.

We made purty good time, ten to twenty miles a day, except when we
had winds agen us, or had to haul the boat along on the cordelle--
which is a big line that the Frenchies gits out and pulls on, in case
you don't know. Towing a twenty-ton keelboat in water up to yore neck
ain't no joke.

Every day we expected trouble with the Sioux, but we got past the
mouth of the Owl River all right, and Joshua said he guessed the Sioux
knowed better'n to try any monkey business with _him_. And that very
day a Yankton on a piebald hoss hailed us from the bluffs, and told us
they was a hundred Tetons laying in ambush for us amongst the willers
along the next p'int of land. We'd have to go around it on the
cordelle; and whilst the boatmen was tugging and hauling in water up
to their waists, the Sioux aimed to jump us. The Yankton said the
Tetons didn't have nothing personal agen us white men, and warn't
aiming to do us no harm--outside of maybe cutting our throats for a
joke--but you oughta herd what he said they was going to do to Big
Nose. It war plumb scandalous.

Big Nose ducked down into the cabin and started having another
chill; and the Frenchies got scairt and would of turnt the boat around
and headed for Saint Charles if we'd let 'em. Us hunters wanted Joshua
to put us ashore and let us circle the p'int from inland and come onto
the Sioux from behind. We could do a sight of damage to 'em before
they knowed we was onto 'em. But Joshua said not even four American
hunters could lick a hundred Sioux, and he furthermore said shet up
and let him think. So he sot down on a kag and thunk for a spell, and
then he says to me: "Ain't Fat Bear's village out acrost yonder about
five mile?"

I said yes, and he said: "Well, look, you put on Big Nose's
blanket and git on the Yankton's hoss and head for the village. The
Sioux'll think we've throwed Big Nose out to root for hisself; and
whilst they're chasin' you the boat can git away up the river with Big
Nose."

"I don't suppose it matters what happens to _me!_" I says
bitterly.

"Oh," says he, "Fat Bear is yore friend and wunst you git in his
village he won't let the Sioux git you. You'll have a good start
before they can see you, on account of the bluffs there, and you ought
to be able to beat 'em into the village."

"I suppose it ain't occurred to you at all that they'll shott
arrers at me all the way," I says.

"You know a Sioux cain't shoot as good from a runnin' hoss as a
Comanche can," he reassured me. "You jest keep three or four hundred
yards ahead of 'em, and I bet they won't hit you hardly any at all."

"Well, why don't _you_ do it, then?" I demanded.

At this Joshua bust into tears. "To think that you should turn
agen me after all I've did for you!" he wept--though what he ever done
for me outside of trying to skin me out of my wages I dunno. "After I
taken you off'n a Natchez raft and persuaded the company to give you a
job at a princely salary, you does this to me! A body'd think you
didn't give a dern about my personal safety! My pore old grandpap used
to say: 'Bewar' of a Southerner like you would a hawk! He'll eat yore
vittles and drink yore licker and then stick you with a butcher knife
jest to see you kick!' When I thinks--"

"Aw, hesh up," I says in disgust. "I'll play Injun for you. I'll
put on the blanket and stick feathers in my hair, but I'll be derned
if I'll cut the seat out a my britches."

"It'd make it look realer," he argued, wiping his eyes on the
fringe of my hunting shirt.

"Shet up!" I yelled with passion. "They is a limit to everything!"

"Oh, well, all right," says he, "if you got to be temperamental.
You'll have the blanket on over yore pants, anyway."

So we went into the cabin to git the blanket, and would you
believe me, that derned Injun didn't want to lemme have it, even when
his fool life was at stake. He thought it was a medicine blanket, and
the average Injun would ruther lose his life than his medicine. In
fack, he give us a tussle for it, and they is no telling how long it
would of went on if he hadn't accidentally banged his head agen a
empty rum bottle I happened to have in my hand at the time. It war
plumb disgusting. He also bit me severely in the hind laig, whilst I
was setting on him and pulling the feathers out of his hair--which
jest goes to show how much gratitude a Injun has got. But Joshua said
the company had contracted to deliver him to Hidatsa, and we was going
to do it if we had to kill him.

Joshua give the Yankton a hatchet and a blanket, and three shoots
of powder for his hoss--which was a awful price--but the Yankton
knowed we had to have it and gouged us for all it was wuth. So I put
on the red blanket, and stuck the feathers in my hair, and got on the
hoss, and started up a gully for the top of the bluffs. Joshua yelled:
"If you git to the village, stay there till we come back down the
river. We'll pick you up then. I'd be doin' this myself, but it
wouldn't be right for me to leave the boat. T'wouldn't be fair to the
company money to replace it, and--"

"Aw, go to hell!" I begged, and kicked the piebald in the ribs and
headed for Fat Bear's village.

When I got up on the bluffs, I could see the p'int; and the Sioux
seen me and was fooled jest like Joshua said, because they come
b'iling out of the willers and piled onto their ponies and lit out
after me. Their hosses was better'n mine, jest as I suspected, but I
had a good start; and I was still ahead of 'em when we topped a low
ridge and got within sight of Fat Bear's village--which was, so far as
I know, the only Arikara village south of Grand River. I kept
expectin' a arrer in my back because they was within range now, and
their howls was enough to freeze a mortal's blood; but purty soon I
realized that they aimed to take me alive. They thought I was Big
Nose, and they detested him so thorough a arrer through the back was
too good for him. So I believed I had a good chance of making it after
all, because I seen the piebald was going to last longer'n the Tetons
thought he would.

I warn't far from the village now, and I seen that the tops of the
lodges was kivered with Injuns watching the race. Then a trade-musket
cracked, and the ball whistled so clost it stang my ear, and all to
wunst I remembered that Fat Bear didn't like Big Nose no better'n the
Sioux did. I could see him up on his lodge taking aim at me again, and
the Sioux was right behind me. I was in a hell of a pickle. If I taken
the blanket off and let him see who I was, the Sioux would see I
warn't Big Nose, too, and fill me full of arrers; and if I kept the
blanket on he'd keep on shooting at me with his cussed gun.

Well, I'd ruther be shot at by one Arikara than a hundred Sioux,
so all I could do was hope he'd miss. And he did, too; that is he
missed me, but his slug taken a notch out of the piebald's ear, and
the critter r'ared up and throwed me over his head; he didn't have no
saddle nor bridle, jest a hackamore. The Sioux howled with glee and
their chief, old Bitin' Hoss, he was ahead of the others; and he rode
in and grabbed me by the neck as I riz.

I'd lost my rifle in the fall, but I hit Bitin' Hoss betwixt the
eyes with my fist so hard I knocked him off'n his hoss and I bet he
rolled fifteen foot before he stopped. I grabbed for his hoss, but the
critter bolted, so I shucked that blanket and pulled for the village
on foot. The Sioux was so surprized to see Big Nose turn into a white
man they forgot to shoot at me till I had run more'n a hundred yards;
and then when they did let drive, all the arrers missed but one. It
hit me right where you kicked Old Man Montgomery last winter and I
will have their heart's blood for it if it's the last thing I do. You
jest wait; the Sioux nation will regret shooting a Bearfield behind
his back. They come for me lickety-split but I had too good a start;
they warn't a hoss in Dakota could of ketched me under a quarter of a
mile.

The Arikaras was surprized too, and some of 'em fell off their
_tipis_ and nearly broke their necks. They was too stunned to open the
gate to the stockade, so I opened it myself--hit it with my shoulder
and knocked it clean off'n the rawhide hinges and fell inside on top
of it. The Sioux was almost on top of me, with their arrers drawed
back, but now they sot their hosses back onto their haunches and held
their fire. If they'd come in after me it would of meant a fight with
the Arikaras. I half expected 'em to come in anyway, because the Sioux
ain't no ways scairt of the Arikaras, but in a minute I seen why they
didn't.

Fat Bear had come down off of his lodge, and I riz up and says:
_"Hao!"_

_"Hao!"_ says he, but he didn't say it very enthusiastic. He's a
fat-bellied Injun with a broad, good-natured face; and outside of
being the biggest thief on the Missoury, he's a good friend of the
white men--especially me, because I wunst taken him away from the
Cheyennes when they was going to burn him alive.

Then I seen about a hundred strange braves in the crowd, and they
was Crows. I recognized their chief, old Spotted Hawk, and I knowed
why the Sioux didn't come in after me in spite of the Arikaras. That
was why Fat Bear was a chief, too. A long time ago he made friends
with Spotted Hawk, and when the Sioux or anybody crowded him too
clost, the Crows would come in and help him. Them Crows air scrappers
and no mistake.

"This is plumb gaudy!" I says. "Git yore braves together and us
and the Crows will go out and run them fool Tetons clean into the
Missoury, by golly."

"No, no, no!" says he. He's hung around the trading posts till he
can talk English nigh as good as me. "There's a truce between us! Big
powwow tonight!"

Well, the Sioux knowed by now how they'd been fooled; but they
also knowed the _Pirut Queen_ would be past the p'int and outa their
reach before they could git back to the river; so they camped outside,
and Bitin' Hoss hollered over the stockade: "There is bad flesh in my
brother's village! Send it forth that we may cleanse it with fire!"

Fat Bear bust into a sweat and says: "That means they want to bum
you! Why did you _have_ to come here, jest at this time?"

"Well," I says in a huff, "air you goin' to hand me over to 'em?"

"Never!" says he, wiping his brow with a bandanner he stole from
the guvment trading post below the Kansas. "But I'd rather a devil had
come through that gate than a Big Knife!" That's what them critters
calls a American. "We and the Crows and Sioux have a big council on
tonight, and--"

Jest then a man in a gilded cock hat and a red coat come through
the crowd, with a couple of French Canadian trappers, and a pack of
Soc Injuns from the Upper Mississippi. He had a sword on him and he
stepped as proud as a turkey gobbler in the fall.

"What is this bloody American doing here?" says he, and I says:
"Who the hell air you?" And he says: "Sir Wilmot Pembroke, agent of
Indian affairs in North America for his Royal Majesty King George,
that's who!"

"Well, step out from the crowd, you lobster-backed varmint," says
I, stropping my knife on my leggin', "and I'll decorate a sculp-pole
with yore innards--and that goes for them two Hudson Bay skunks, too!"

"No!" says Fat Bear, grabbing my arm. "There is a truce! No blood
must be spilled in my village! Come into my lodge."

"The truce doesn't extend beyond the stockade," says Sir Wilmot.
"Would you care to step outside with me?"

"So yore Teton friends could fill me with arrers?" I sneered. "I
ain't as big a fool as I looks."

"No, that wouldn't be possible," agreed he, and I was so overcame
with rage all I could do was gasp. Another instant and I would of had
my knife in his guts, truce or no truce, but Fat Bear grabbed me and
got me into his _tipi._ He had me set on a pile of buffler hides and
one of his squaws brung me a pot of meat; but I was too mad to be
hungry, so I only et four or five pounds of buffler liver.

Fat Bear sot down his trade musket, which he had stole from a
Hudson Bay Company trapper, and said: "The council tonight is to
decide whether or not the Arikaras shall take the warpath against the
Big Knives. This Red-Coat, Sir Wilmot, says the Big White Chief over
the water is whipping the Big White Father of the Big Knives, in the
village called Washington."

I was so stunned by this news I couldn't say nothing. We hadn't
had no chance to git news about the war since we started up the river.

"Sir Wilmot wants the Sioux, Crows and Arikaras to join him in
striking the American settlements down the river," says Fat Bear. "The
Crows believe the Big Knives are losing the war, and they're wavering.
If they go with the Sioux, I must go too; otherwise the Sioux will
burn my village. I cannot exist without the aid of the Crows. The Red-
Coat has a Soc medicine man, who will go into a medicine lodge tonight
and talk with the Great Spirit. It is big medicine, such was never
seen before on any village on the Missouri. The medicine man will tell
the Crows and the Arikaras to go with the Sioux."

"You mean this Englishman aims to lead a war-party down the
river?" I says, plumb horrified.

"Clear to Saint Louis!" says Fat Bear. "He will wipe out _all_ the
Americans on the river!"

"He won't neither," says I with great passion, rising and drawing
my knife. "I'll go over to his lodge right now and cut his gizzard
out!"

But Fat Bear grabbed me and hollered: "If you spill blood, no one
will ever dare recognize a truce again! I cannot let you kill the Red-
Coat!"

"But he's plannin' to kill everybody on the river, dern it!" I
yelled. "What'm I goin' to do?"

"You must get up in council and persuade the warriors not to go on
the war-path," says he.

"Good gosh," I says, "I can't make no speech."

"The Red-Coat has a serpent's tongue," says Fat Bear, shaking his
head. "If he had presents to give the chiefs, his cause would be as
good as won. But his boat upset as he came along the river, and all
his goods were lost. If you had presents to give to Spotted Hawk and
Biting Horse--"

"You know I ain't got no presents!" I roared, nigh out of my head.
"What the hell am I goin' to do?"

"I dunno," says he, despairful. "Some white men pray when they're
in a pickle."

"I'll do it!" I says. "Git outa my way!" So I kneeled down on a
stack of buffler robes, and I'd got as far as: _"Now I lay me down to
sleep--"_ when my knee nudged something under the hides that felt
familiar. I reched down and yanked it out--and sure enough, it was a
keg!

"Where'd you git this?" I yelped.

"I stole it out of the company's storehouse the last time I was in
Saint Louis," he confessed, "but--"

"But nothin'!" exulted I. "I dunno how come you ain't drunk it all
up before now, but it's my _wampum!_ I ain't goin' to try to out-talk
that lobster-back tonight. Soon's the council's open, I'll git up kind
of casual and say that the Red-Coat has got a empty bag of talk for
'em, with nothin' to go with it, but the Big White Father at
Washington has sent 'em a present. Then I'll drag out the keg. T'aint
much to divide up amongst so many, but the chiefs is what counts, and
they's enough licker to git _them_ too drunk to know what Sir Wilmot
and the medicine man says."

"They know you didn't bring anything into the village with you,"
he says.

"So much the better," I says. "I'll tell 'em it's _wakan_ and I
can perjuice whiskey out of the air."

"They'll want you to perjuice some more," says he.

"I'll tell 'em a evil spirit, in the shape of a skunk with a red
coat on, is interferin' with my magic powers," I says, gitting
brainier every minute. "That'll make 'em mad at Sir Wilmot. Anyway,
they won't care where the licker come from. A few snorts and the Sioux
will probably remember all the gredges they got agen the Socs and run
'em outa camp."

"You'll get us all killed," says Fat Bear, mopping his brow. "But
about that keg, I want to tell you--"

"You shet up about that keg," I says sternly. "It warn't yore keg
in the first place. The fate of a nation is at stake, and you tries to
quibble about a keg of licker! Git some stiffenin' into yore laigs;
what we does tonight may decide who owns this continent. If we puts it
over it'll be a big gain for the Americans."

"And what'll the Indians get out of it?" he ast.

"Don't change the subjeck," I says. "I see they've stacked buffler
hides out at the council circle for the chiefs and guests to get on--
and by the way, you be dern sure you gives me a higher stack to get on
than Sir Wilmot gits. When nobody ain't lookin', you hide this keg
clost to where I'm to set. If I had to send to yore lodge to git it,
it'd take time and look fishy, too."

"Well," he begun reluctantly, but I flourished a fist under his
nose and said with passion: "Dang it, do like I says! One more blat
outa you and I busts the truce and yore snoot simultaneous!"

So he spread his hands kinda helpless, and said something about
all white men being crazy, and anyway he reckoned he'd lived as long
as the Great Spirit aimed for him to. But I give no heed, because I
have not got no patience with them Injun superstitions. I started out
of his lodge and dang near fell over one of them French trappers which
they called Ondrey; t'other'n was named Franswaw.

"What the hell you doin' here?" I demanded, but he merely give me
a nasty look and snuck off. I started for the lodge where the Crows
was, and the next man I met was old Shingis. I dunno what his real
name is, we always call him old Shingis; I think he's a Iowa or
something. He's so old he's done forgot where he was born, and so
ornery he jest lives around with first one tribe and then another till
they git tired of him and kick him out.

He ast for some tobaccer and I give him a pipe-full, and then he
squinted his eye at me and said: "The Red-Coat did not have to bring a
man from the Mississippi to talk with Waukontonka. They say Shingis is
_heyoka._ They say he is a friend of the Unktehi, the Evil Spirits."

Well, nobody never said that but him, but that's the way Injuns
brag on theirselves; so I told him everybody knowed he was _wakan_,
and went on to the lodge where the Crows was. Spotted Hawk ast me if
it was the Red-Coats had burnt Washington and I told him not to
believe everything a Red-Coat told him. Then I said: "Where's this
Red-Coat's presents?"

Spotted Hawk made a wry face because that was a p'int which stuck
in his mind, too, but he said: "The boat upset and the river took the
gifts meant for the chiefs."

"Then that means that the Unktehi air mad at him," I says. "His
medicine's weak. Will you foller a man which his medicine is weak?"

"We will listen to what he has to say in council," says Spotted
Hawk, kind of uncertain, because a Injun is scairt of having anything
to do with a man whose medicine is weak.

It was gitting dark by this time, and when I come out of the lodge
I met Sir Wilmot, and he says: "Trying to traduce the Crows, eh? I'll
have the pleasure of watching my Sioux friends roast you yet! Wait
till Striped Thunder talks to them from the medicine lodge tonight."

"He who laughs last is a stitch in time," I replied with dignerty,
so tickled inside about the way I was going to put it over him I was
reconciled to not cutting his throat. I then went on, ignoring his
loud, rude laughter. _Jest wait!_ thunk I, _jest wait! Brains always
wins in the end._

I passed by the place where the buffler hides had been piled in a
circle, in front of a small _tipi_ made out of white buffler skins.
Nobody come nigh that place till the powwow opened, because it was
_wakan,_ as the Sioux say, meaning magic. But all of a sudden I seen
old Shingis scooting through the _tipis_ clostest to the circle,
making a arful face. He grabbed a water bucket made out of a buffler's
stummick, and drunk about a gallon, then he shook his fists and talked
to hisself energetic. I said: "Is my red brother's heart pained?"

"#%&*@!" says old Shingis. "There is a man of black heart in this
village! Let him beware! Shingis is the friend of the Unktehi!"

Then he lit out like a man with a purpose, and I went on to Fat
Bear's lodge. He was squatting on his robes looking at hisself in a
mirrer he stole from the Northwest Fur Company three seasons ago.

"What you doin'?" I ast, reching into the meat pot.

"Trying to imagine how I'll look after I'm scalped," says he. "For
the last time, that keg--"

"Air you tryin' to bring that subjeck up agen?" I says, rising in
wrath; and jest then a brave come to the door to say that everybody
was ready to go set in council.

"See?" whispers Fat Bear to me. "I'm not even boss in my own
village when Spotted Hawk and Biting Horse are here! _They_ give the
orders!"

We went to the powwow circle, which they had to hold outside
because they warn't a lodge big enough to hold all of 'em. The
Arikaras sot on one side, the Crows on the other and the Sioux on the
other. I sot beside Fat Bear, and Sir Wilmot and his Socs and
Frenchmen sot opposite us. The medicine man sot cross-legged, with a
heavy wolf-robe over his shoulders--though it was hot enough to fry a
aig, even after the sun had went down. But that's the way a _heyoka_
man does. If it'd been snowing, likely he'd of went naked. The women
and chillern got up on top of the lodges to watch us, and I whispered
and ast Fat Bear where the keg was. He said under the robes right
behind me. He then started humming his death-song under his breath.

I begun feeling for it, but before I found it, Sir Wilmot riz and
said: "I will not worry my red brothers with empty words! Let the Big
Knives sing like mosquitos in the ears of the people! The Master of
Life shall speak through the lips of Striped Thunder. As for me, I
bring no words, but a present to make your hearts glad!"

And I'm a Choctaw if he didn't rech down under a pile of robes and
drag out Fat Bear's keg! I like to keeled over and I hear Fat Bear
grunt like he'd been kicked in the belly. I seen Ondrey leering at me,
and I instantly knowed he'd overheard us talking and had stole it out
from amongst the hides after Fat Bear put it there for me. The way the
braves' eyes glistened I knowed the Red-Coats had won, and I was
licked.

Well, I war so knocked all of a heap, all I could think of was to
out with my knife and git as many as I could before they got me. I
aimed to git Sir Wilmot, anyway; they warn't enough men in the world
to keep me from gutting him before I died. A Bearfield on his last
rampage is wuss'n a cornered painter. You remember great-uncle Esau
Bearfield. When the Creeks finally downed him, they warn't enough of
'em left alive in that war party to sculp him, and _he_ was eighty-
seven.

I reched for my knife, but jest then Sir Wilmot says: "Presently
the milk of the Red-Coats will make the hearts of the warriors sing.
But now is the time for the manifestations of the Great Spirit, whom
the Sioux call Waukontonka, and other tribes other names, but he is
the Master of Life for all. Let him speak through the lips of Striped
Thunder."

So I thought I'd wait till everybody was watching the medicine
lodge before I made my break. Striped Thunder went into the lodge and
closed the flap, and the Socs lit fires in front of it and started
dancing back and forth in front of 'em singing:

_"Oh, Master of Life, enter the white skin lodge!_

Possess him who sits within!

Speak through his mouth!"

I ain't going to mention what they throwed on the fires, but they
smoked something fierce so you couldn't even see the lodge, and the
Socs dancing back and forth looked like black ghosts. Then all to
wunst they sounded a yell inside the lodge and a commotion like men
fighting. The Injuns looked like they was about ready to rise up and
go yonder in a hurry, but Sir Wilmot said: "Do not fear! The messenger
of the Master of Life contends with the Unktehi for possession of the
medicine man's body! Soon the good spirit will prevail and we will
open the lodge and hear the words of Waukontonka!"

Well, hell, I knowed Striped Thunder wouldn't say nothing but jest
what Sir Wilmot had told him to say; but them fool Injuns would
believe they was gitting the straight goods from the Great Spirit
hisself.

Things got quiet in the lodge and the smoke died down, and Sir
Wilmot says: "Thy children await, O Waukontonka." He opened the door,
and I'm a Dutchman if they was anything in that lodge but a striped
polecat!

He waltzed out with his tail h'isted over his back and them Injuns
let out one arful yell and fell over backwards; and then they riz up
and stampeded--Crows, Arikaras, Sioux, Socs and all, howling: "The
Unktehi have prevailed! They have turned Striped Thunder into an evil
beast!"

They didn't stop to open the gate. The Sioux clumb the stockade
and the Crows busted right through it. I seen old Biting Hoss and
Spotted Hawk leading the stampede, and I knowed the great Western
Injun Confederation was busted all to hell. The women and chillern was
right behind the braves, and in sight of fifteen seconds the only
Injun in sight was Fat Bear.

Sir Wilmot jest stood there like he'd been putrified into rock,
but Franswaw he run around behind the lodge and let out a squall.
"Somebody's slit the back wall!" he howled. "Here's Striped Thunder
lying behind the lodge with a knot on his head the size of a egg!
Somebody crawled in and knocked him senseless and dragged him out
while the smoke rolled!"

"The same man left the skunk!" frothed Sir Wilmot. "You Yankee
dog, you're responsible for this!"

"Who you callin' a Yankee?" I roared, whipping out my knife.

"Remember the truce!" squalled Fat Bear, but Sir Wilmot was too
crazy mad to remember anything. I parried his sword with my knife as
he lunged, and grabbed his arm, and I reckon that was when he got his
elber dislocated. Anyway he give a maddened yell and tried to draw a
pistol with his good hand; so I hit him in the mouth with my fist, and
that's when he lost them seven teeth he's so bitter about. Whilst he
was still addled, I taken his pistol away from him and throwed him
over the stockade. I got a idee his fractured skull was caused by him
hitting his head on a stump outside. Meanwhile Ondrey and Franswaw was
hacking at me with their knives, so I taken 'em by their necks and
beat their fool heads together till they was limp, and then I throwed
'em over the stockade after Sir Wilmot.

"And I reckon that settles that!" I panted. "I dunno how this all
come about, but you can call up yore women and chillern and tell 'em
they're now citizens of the United States of America, by golly!"

I then picked up the keg, because I was hot and thirsty, but Fat
Bear says: "Wait! Don't drink that! I--"

"Shet up!" I roared. "After all I've did for the nation tonight, I
deserves a dram! Shame on you to begredge a old friend--"

I taken a big gulp--and then I give a maddened beller and throwed
that keg as far as I could heave it, and run for water. I drunk about
three gallons, and when I could breathe again I got a club and started
after Fat Bear, who clumb up on top of a lodge.

"Come down!" I requested with passion. "Come down whilst I beats
yore brains out! Whyn't you tell me what was in that keg?"

"I tried to," says he, "but you wouldn't listen. I thought it was
whiskey when I stole it, or I wouldn't have taken it. I talked to
Shingis while you were hunting the water bucket, jest now. It was him
that put the skunk in the medicine lodge. He saw Ondrey hide the keg
on Sir Wilmot's side of the council circle; he sneaked a drink out of
it, and that's why he did what he did. It was for revenge. The
onreasonable old buzzard thought Sir Wilmot was tryin' to pizen him."

So that's the way it was. Anyway, I'm quitting my job as soon as I
git back to Saint Louis. It's bad enuff when folks gits too hifaluting
to use candles, and has got to have oil lamps in a trading post. But
I'll be derned if I'll work for a outfit which puts the whale-oil for
their lamps in the same kind of kegs they puts their whiskey.

Your respeckful son.

Boone Bearfield.



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia