2019 JAN FEB DOWN COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE DCR Jan.Feb.2019 web - Page 57

showed­plainly­that­Gitche­Manitou­was­still­angry. Lone­Wolf­gathered­his­remnants­about­him­and­journeyed south­to­Spotted­Tail. There­he­enjoyed­the­discontented­tranquility­of­a­United States­reservation,­with­occasional­privileges­if­he­was­good. Lone­Wolf­had­gone­into­the­north­country­at­the­head­of three­hundred­efficient­fighting­men,­well­armed­with­rifles, rich­in­ammunition,­ponies,­and­the­luxuries­of­daily­existence. He­came­back­as­the­nominal­chief­of­thirty-five­warriors,­with few­firearms,­and­less­wealth.­Counting­in­the­women,­chil- dren,­and­old­men,­his­original­band­had­numbered­nearly­a thousand­souls­—­a­large­camp­even­for­the­old­days.­Now there­remained­barely­a­tenth­of­that­number. Misfortunes­such­as­these­must­have­a­reason.­Gitche­Man- itou­is­stern,­but­he­is­not­unjust.­Everybody­knows­that.­And the­reason­Lone­Wolf’s­band­was­so­afflicted,­Big­Thunder,­the medicine­man,­had­discovered,­lay­in­the­fact­that­the­defiling of­the­tribe’s­token,­after­the­Little­Big­Horn,­had­been­done­by a­member­of­the­tribe­itself.­Until­the­culprit­should­be­brought to­justice­the­wrath­of­Gitche­Manitou­would­continue­to­be visited­impartially­on­the­entire­band. The­recognition­of­Rippling­Water­made­a­profound­im- pression­ on­ those­ standing­ about.­ There­ flashed­ into­ Lone Wolf’s­eagle­face­a­gleam­of­satisfaction­so­intense­that­Black Mike­started.­He­had­not­the­remotest­notion­that­he­was­in­any actual­danger,­for­his­dealing­with­the­tribe­in­those­old­times when­he­had­been­a­member­of­it­had­always­been­rather­to­its advantage­than­to­his­own.­That­it­was­unfriendly­to­him­be- cause­of­his­unceremonious­desertion­of­it,­he­did­not­doubt. Nor­did­he­hope­to­escape­a­typical­Indian­tirade­from­the­two old­hags­who,­so­short­a­time­ago,­had­been­his­not­unattractive young­wives.­But­beyond­this,­and­perhaps­—­as­he­glanced over­the­motley­indications­of­their­poverty­—­the­promise­of gifts,­he­anticipated­nothing­more­serious­in­the­end­than­a delay.­A­delay,­however,­was­what­he­could­not­at­present­af- ford. “Ah,­well,”­he­acknowledged­in­the­Indian­tongue,­“I­am he,­Man-who-speaks-Medicine.­You­have­known­me.­It­is­I.­It is­many­moons­that­I­have­not­seen­my­brothers,­but­I­have­ac- complished­ many­ things,­ and­ I­ have­ gathered­ gifts­ for­ my brothers­which­will­rejoice­their­hearts.­I­go­to­the­lodges­of the­white­men­near­Swift-water­now,­and­I­haste;­so­I­cannot linger­to­clasp­my­brothers’­hands,­but­tomorrow­I­return­bear- ing­the­gifts.” He­took­up­his­reins­with­all­confidence,­for­in­those­days­no one­was­afraid­of­Indians­—­at­least­when­they­were­accom- panied­ by­ their­ women­ and­ children.­The­ two­ bucks­ at­ the horses’­heads­did­not­move,­however,­and­at­a­signal­from­Lone Wolf,­three­others­leaped­lightly­into­the­wagon-body­behind the­half-breed­and­pinned­his­arms­to­his­sides.­So­suddenly was­it­done­that­Lafond­could­not­even­struggle. His­captors­tied­his­elbows­together­at­the­back­and­lifted him­to­the­ground,­where­a­number­of­others­hustled­him­into a­ wigwam,­ and,­ after­ tying­ his­ feet,­ left­ him­ lying­ on­ the ground.­In­a­moment­he­heard­the­faint­sound­of­wheels­some- where­above­him,­by­which­he­knew­that­Billy­Knapp­and Buckley­were­passing­the­point­of­his­intended­ambush.­He drew­a­deep­breath­and­shouted.­Instantly­two­young­Sioux­ran in­and­threw­a­blanket­over­his­head,­nearly­smothering­him. The­sound­of­the­wheels­died­into­the­distance. After­perhaps­two­hours,­he­heard­the­hoof-beats­of­a­large party­of­horsemen.­They,­too,­died­away.­The­men­composing the­party­were­looking­for­him,­Michail­Lafond,­but­this­he­did not­know.­He­tried­to­distinguish­from­the­noises­just­outside what­was­taking­place­in­the­little­camp,­but­he­could­not. At­the­end­of­another­half-hour,­the­two­young­men­who­had been­appointed­as­his­guards­led­him­out­to­a­horse,­on­which, after­his­feet­had­been­untied,­he­was­compelled­to­mount.­He asked­ them­ questions,­ to­ which­ they­ vouchsafed­ no­ reply. Looking­about­him­curiously,­he­saw­that­the­camp­had­been struck.­The­long­teepee­poles,­bound­on­each­side­of­the­ponies, trailed­their­ends­on­the­ground,­and­on­the­litters­thus­formed, the­skins­of­the­lodges,­all­the­household­utensils,­and­many­of the­younger­children­had­been­placed.­Squaws­bestrode­the­lit- tle­animals.­The­warriors,­ridiculously­incongruous­in­their overalls­and­flannel­shirts,­sat­motionless­on­their­mounts.­La- fond­recognized­his­own­team,­but­could­not­discover­either his­wagon­or­the­harness.­These­had­been­dragged­away­into the­bushes­and­left,­for­very­good­reasons. The­cavalcade­took­its­way­directly­down­the­narrow,­over- grown­little­cañon,­riding­in­single­file.­Lafond­could­not­un- derstand­this.­The­road­above­would­have­been­much­easier. After­an­hour’s­hard­work­in­dodging­obstructions,­getting around­ fallen­ trees­ or­ between­ standing­ timber,­ the­ party emerged­on­the­broad,­rolling­foothills,­grass-covered­and­bare of­trees.­Here­Lone­Wolf­led­the­way­south-east­for­several miles,­and­finally­came­to­a­halt­on­the­brow­of­a­round­hill­of gentle­descent.­The­band­at­once­dismounted.­A­number­of­the squaws­deftly­relieved­the­ponies­of­their­burdens,­and­the younger­boys­led­them­away­to­the­bottom-lands­for­pasture. The­women­then­began­without­delay­to­erect­the­lodges­in­a wide­circle­surrounding­the­brow­of­the­hill,­so­arranging­them that­the­flaps­or­doorways­opened­into­the­common­centre. After­this­had­been­done,­they­built­in­the­middle­of­the­circle a­huge­fire­of­wood­brought­from­the­Hills,­but­did­not­light­it as­yet.­Then­all­silently­disappeared­to­the­bottom-lands,­where they­made­little­fires­and­set­about­supper. Before­ each­ lodge­ a­ warrior­ established­ himself,­ cross- legged,­and­began­to­smoke.­When­the­sun­dipped­behind­the Hills­and­threw­their­long­shadows­silently­out­across­to­the Bad­Lands,­the­chill­of­twilight­struck­in,­and­so­the­Indians wrapped­themselves­closely­in­their­blankets.­As­by­a­stroke of­enchantment,­with­the­concealment­of­the­shirt­and­overall, the­Past­returned.­Against­the­sky­of­evening,­the­silhouettes­of the­pointed­wigwams­and­the­suggestion­of­the­shrouded­war- riors­smoking­solemnly,­silently,­their­pipes,­all­belonged­to the­nomadic­age­before­such­men­as­Michail­Lafond­had­“civ- ilized”­the­country. After­a­time­they­rose­and­departed­silently­to­the­bottom- land­for­a­while,­leaving­Lafond­in­charge­of­the­two­young men.­They­had­gone­to­eat­their­suppers.­The­half-breed­had­not tasted­food­since­the­early­morning,­nor­slept­for­thirty-odd hours. The­stars­came­out­one­by­one,­and­the­stillness­of­that­great inland­sea­men­call­the­prairies­fell­on­the­world.­Such­occa- sional­sounds­as­rose­from­the­creek­bottom­seemed­but­to­em- phasize­ the­ peace.­ And­ then­ suddenly,­ from­ the­ shadows somewhere,­ without­ disturbance,­ the­ blanketed­ figures­ ap- peared­and­took­their­places­again.­A­squaw­came­bearing­a torch,­and­lit­a­fire­in­the­centre­of­the­circle,­and­there­sprang up­a­broad­shaft­of­light­which­drew­about­the­little­scene­a great­canopy­of­imminent­blackness.­From­hand­to­hand­passed DOWN COUNTRY ROADS 57