A Kinsman Of Red Cloud
From: The Jimmyjohn Boss And Other Stories
It was thirty minutes before a June sundown at the post, and the first
call had sounded for parade. Over in the barracks the two companies
and the single troop lounged a moment longer, then laid their police
literature down, and lifted their stocking feet from the beds to get
ready. In the officers' quarters the captain rose regretfully from
after-dinner digestion, and the three lieutenants sought their helmets
with a sigh. Lieutenant Balwin had been dining an unconventional and
impressive guest at the mess, and he now interrupted the anecdote which
the guest was achieving with frontier deliberation.
"Make yourself comfortable," he said. "I'll have to hear the rest about
the half-breed when I get back."
"There ain't no more--yet. He got my cash with his private poker deck
that onced, and I'm fixing for to get his'n."
Second call sounded; the lines filed out and formed, the sergeant of
the guard and two privates took their station by the flag, and when
battalion was formed the commanding officer, towering steeple-stiff
beneath his plumes, received the adjutant's salute, ordered him to his
post, and began drill. At all this the unconventional guest looked on
comfortably from Lieutenant Balwin's porch.
"I doubt if I could put up with that there discipline all the week," he
mused. "Carry--arms! Present--Arms! I guess that's all I know of it."
The winking white line of gloves stirred his approval. "Pretty good
that. Gosh, see the sun on them bayonets!"
The last note of retreat merged in the sonorous gun, and the flag
shining in the light of evening slid down and rested upon the earth.
The blue ranks marched to a single bugle--the post was short of men and
officers--and the captain, with the released lieutenants, again sought
digestion and cigars. Balwin returned to his guest, and together they
watched the day forsake the plain. Presently the guest rose to take his
leave. He looked old enough to be the father of the young officer, but
he was a civilian, and the military man proceeded to give him excellent
"Now don't get into trouble, Cutler."
The slouch-shouldered scout rolled his quid gently, and smiled at his
superior with indulgent regard.
"See here, Cutler, you have a highly unoccupied look about you this
evening. I've been studying the customs of this population, and I've
noted a fact or two."
"Let 'em loose on me, sir."
"Fact one: When any male inhabitant of Fort Laramie has a few spare
moments, he hunts up a game of cards."
"Well, sir, you've called the turn on me."
"Fact two: At Fort Laramie a game of cards frequently ends in
"Fact three: Mr. Calvin, in them discussions Jarvis Cutler has the last
word. You put that in your census report alongside the other two."
"Well, Cutler, if somebody's gun should happen to beat yours in an
argument, I should have to hunt another wagon-master."
"I'll not forget that. When was you expecting to pull out north?"
"Whenever the other companies get here. May be three days--may be three
"Then I will have plenty time for a game to-night."
With this slight dig of his civilian independence into the lieutenant's
military ribs, the scout walked away, his long, lugubrious frockcoat
(worn in honor of the mess) occasionally flapping open in the breeze,
and giving a view of a belt richly fluted with cartridges, and the ivory
handle of a pistol looking out of its holster. He got on his horse,
crossed the flat, and struck out for the cabin of his sociable friends,
Loomis and Kelley, on the hill. The open door and a light inside showed
the company, and Cutler gave a grunt, for sitting on the table was the
half-breed, the winner of his unavenged dollars. He rode slower, in
order to think, and arriving at the corral below the cabin, tied his
horse to the stump of a cottonwood. A few steps towards the door, and he
wheeled on a sudden thought, and under cover of the night did a crafty
something which to the pony was altogether unaccountable. He unloosed
both front and rear cinch of his saddle, so they hung entirely free in
wide bands beneath the pony's belly. He tested their slackness with his
hand several times, stopping instantly when the more and more surprised
pony turned his head to see what new thing in his experience might be
going on, and, seeing, gave a delicate bounce with his hind-quarters.
"Never you mind, Duster," muttered the scout. "Did you ever see a
skunk-trap? Oughts is for mush-rats, and number ones is mostly used
for 'coons and 'possums, and I guess they'd do for a skunk. But you and
we'll call this here trap a number two, Duster, for the skunk I'm after
is a big one. All you've to do is to act natural."
Cutler took the rope off the stump by which Duster had been tied
securely, wound and strapped it to the tilted saddle, and instead of
this former tether, made a weak knot in the reins, and tossed them over
the stump. He entered the cabin with a countenance sweeter than honey.
"Good-evening, boys," he said. "Why, Toussaint, how do you do?"
The hand of Toussaint had made a slight, a very slight, movement towards
his hip, but at sight of Cutler's mellow smile resumed its clasp upon
"Golly, but you're gay-like this evening," said Kelley.
"Blamed if I knowed he could look so frisky," added Loomis.
"Sporting his onced-a-year coat," Kelley pursued. "That ain't for our
"No, we're not that high in society." Both these cheerful waifs had
drifted from the Atlantic coast westward.
Cutler looked from them to his costume, and then amiably surveyed the
"Well, boys, I'm in big luck, I am. How's yourn nowadays, Toussaint?"
"Pretty good sometime. Sometime heap hell." The voice of the half-breed
came as near heartiness as its singularly false quality would allow, and
as he smiled he watched Cutler with the inside of his eyes.
The scout watched nobody and nothing with great care, looked about him
pleasantly, inquired for the whiskey, threw aside hat and gloves, sat
down, leaning the chair back against the wall, and talked with artful
candor. "Them sprigs of lieutenants down there," said he, "they're a
surprising lot for learning virtue to a man. You take Balwin. Why, he
ain't been out of the Academy only two years, and he's been telling me
how card-playing ain't good for you. And what do you suppose he's been
and offered Jarvis Cutler for a job? I'm to be wagon-master." He
paused, and the half-breed's attention to his next words increased.
"Wagon-master, and good pay, too. Clean up to the Black Hills; and the
troops'll move soon as ever them reinforcements come. Drinks on it,
boys! Set 'em up, Joole Loomis. My contract's sealed with some of Uncle
Sam's cash, and I'm going to play it right here. Hello! Somebody coming
to join us? He's in a hurry."
There was a sound of lashing straps and hoofs beating the ground, and
Cutler looked out of the door. As he had calculated, the saddle had
gradually turned with Duster's movements and set the pony bucking.
"Stampeded!" said the scout, and swore the proper amount called for by
such circumstances. "Some o' you boys help me stop the durned fool."
Loomis and Kelley ran. Duster had jerked the prepared reins from the
cottonwood, and was lurching down a small dry gulch, with the saddle
bouncing between his belly and the stones.
Cutler cast a backward eye at the cabin where Toussaint had stayed
behind alone. "Head him off below, boys, and I'll head him off above,"
the scout sang out. He left his companions, and quickly circled round
behind the cabin, stumbling once heavily, and hurrying on, anxious lest
the noise had reached the lurking half-breed. But the ivory-handled
pistol, jostled from its holster, lay unheeded among the stones where he
had stumbled. He advanced over the rough ground, came close to the logs,
and craftily peered in at the small window in the back of the cabin. It
was evident that he had not been heard. The sinister figure within still
sat on the table, but was crouched, listening like an animal to the
shouts that were coming from a safe distance down in the gulch. Cutler,
outside of the window, could not see the face of Toussaint, but he saw
one long brown hand sliding up and down the man's leg, and its movement
put him in mind of the tail of a cat. The hand stopped to pull out a
pistol, into which fresh cartridges were slipped. Cutler had already
done this same thing after dismounting, and he now felt confident that
his weapon needed no further examination. He did not put his hand to his
holster. The figure rose from the table, and crossed the room to a set
of shelves in front of which hung a little yellow curtain. Behind it
were cups, cans, bottles, a pistol, counters, red, white, and blue, and
two fresh packs of cards, blue and pink, side by side. Seeing these,
Toussaint drew a handkerchief from his pocket, and unwrapped two further
packs, both blue; and at this Cutler's intent face grew into plain shape
close to the window, but receded again into uncertain dimness. From down
in the gulch came shouts that the runaway horse was captured. Toussaint
listened, ran to the door, and quickly returning, put the blue pack
from the shelf into his pocket, leaving in exchange one of his own. He
hesitated about altering the position of the cards on the shelf, but
Kelley and Loomis were unobservant young men, and the half-breed placed
the pink cards on top of his blue ones. The little yellow curtain again
hung innocently over the shelves, and Toussaint, pouring himself a drink
of whiskey, faced round, and for the first time saw the window that had
been behind his back. He was at it in an instant, wrenching its rusty
pin, that did not give, but stuck motionless in the wood. Cursing,
he turned and hurried out of the door and round the cabin. No one was
there. Some hundred yards away the noiseless Cutler crawled farther
among the thickets that filled the head of the gulch. Toussaint whipped
out a match, and had it against his trousers to strike and look if there
were footprints, when second thoughts warned him this might be seen, and
was not worth risking suspicion over, since so many feet came and went
by this cabin. He told himself no one could have been there to see him,
and slowly returned inside, with a mind that fell a hair's breadth short
The boys, coming up with the horse, met Cutler, who listened to how
Duster had stood still as soon as he had kicked free of his saddle,
making no objection to being caught. They suggested that he would not
have broken loose had he been tied with a rope; and hearing this, Cutler
bit off a piece of tobacco, and told them they were quite right: a
horse should never be tied by his bridle. For a savory moment the scout
cuddled his secret, and turned it over like the tobacco lump under his
tongue. Then he explained, and received serenely the amazement of Loomis
"When you kids have travelled this Western country awhile you'll keep
your cards locked," said he. "He's going to let us win first. You'll
see, he'll play a poor game with the pink deck. Then, if we don't call
for fresh cards, why, he'll call for 'em himself. But, just for the fun
of the thing, if any of us loses steady, why, we'll call. Then, when he
gets hold of his strippers, watch out. When he makes his big play, and
is stretchin' for to rake the counters in, you grab 'em, Joole; for by
then I'll have my gun on him, and if he makes any trouble we'll feed him
to the coyotes. I expect that must have been it, boys," he continued, in
a new tone, as they came within possible ear-shot of the half-breed in
the cabin. "A coyote come around him where he was tied. The fool horse
has seen enough of 'em to git used to 'em, you'd think, but he don't.
There; that'll hold him. I guess he'll have to pull the world along with
him if he starts to run again."
The lamp was placed on the window-shelf, and the four took seats, Cutler
to the left of Toussaint, with Kelley opposite. The pink cards fell
harmless, and for a while the game was a dull one to see. Holding a pair
of kings, Cutler won a little from Toussaint, who remarked that luck
must go with the money of Uncle Sam. After a few hands, the half-breed
began to bet with ostentatious folly, and, losing to one man and
another, was joked upon the falling off of his game. In an hour's time
his blue chips had been twice reinforced, and twice melted from the neat
often-counted pile in which he arranged them; moreover, he had lost a
horse from his string down on Chug Water.
"Lend me ten dollar," he said to Cutler. "You rich man now."
In the next few deals Kelley became poor. "I'm sick of this luck," said
"Then change it, why don't you? Let's have a new deck." And Loomis rose.
"Joole, you always are for something new," said Cutler. "Now I'm doing
pretty well with these pink cards. But I'm no hog. Fetch on your fresh
The eyes of the half-breed swerved to the yellow curtain. He was by
a French trapper from Canada out of a Sioux squaw, one of Red Cloud's
sisters, and his heart beat hot with the evil of two races, and none of
their good. He was at this moment irrationally angry with the men who
had won from him through his own devices, and malice undisguised shone
in his lean flat face. At sight of the blue cards falling in the first
deal, silence came over the company, and from the distant parade-ground
the bugle sounded the melancholy strain of taps. Faint, far, solemn,
melodious, the music travelled unhindered across the empty night.
"Them men are being checked off in their bunks now," said Cutler.
"What you bet this game?" demanded Toussaint.
"I've heard 'em play that same music over a soldier's grave," said
"You goin' to bet?" Toussaint repeated.
Cutler pushed forward the two necessary white chips. No one's hand was
high, and Loomis made a slight winning. The deal went its round several
times, and once, when it was Toussaint's, Cutler suspected that special
cards had been thrown to him by the half-breed as an experiment. He
therefore played the gull to a nicety, betting gently upon his three
kings; but when he stepped out boldly and bet the limit, it was not
Toussaint but Kelley who held the higher hand, winning with three aces.
Why the coup should be held off longer puzzled the scout, unless it was
that Toussaint was carefully testing the edges of his marked cards to
see if he controlled them to a certainty. So Cutler played on calmly.
Presently two aces came to him in Toussaint's deal, and he wondered how
many more would be in his three-card draw. Very pretty! One only, and he
lost to Loomis, who had drawn three, and held four kings. The hands
were getting higher, they said. The game had "something to it now." But
Toussaint grumbled, for his luck was bad all this year, he said. Cutler
had now made sure that the aces and kings went where the half-breed
wished, and could be slid undetected from the top or the middle or the
bottom of the pack; but he had no test yet how far down the scale the
marking went. At Toussaint's next deal Cutler judged the time had come,
and at the second round of betting he knew it. The three white men
played their parts, raising each other without pause, and again there
was total silence in the cabin. Every face bent to the table, watching
the turn repeat its circle with obstinate increase, until new chips and
more new chips had been brought to keep on with, and the heap in the
middle had mounted high in the hundreds, while in front of Toussaint
lay his knife and a match-box--pledges of two more horses which he had
staked. He had drawn three cards, while the others took two, except
Cutler, who had a pair of kings again, and drawing three, picked up two
more. Kelley dropped out, remarking he had bet more than his hand was
worth, which was true, and Loomis followed him. Their persistence had
surprised Toussaint a little. He had not given every one suspicious
hands: Cutler's four kings were enough. He bet once more, was raised by
the scout, called, and threw down his four aces.
"That beats me," said Cutler, quietly, and his hand moved under his
frock-coat, as the half-breed, eyeing the central pile of counters in
triumph, closed his fingers over it. They were dashed off by Kelley, who
looked expectantly across at Cutler, and seeing the scout's face wither
into sudden old age, cried out, "For God's sake, Jarvis, where's your
gun?" Kelley sprang for the yellow curtain, and reeled backward at the
shot of Toussaint. His arm thrashed along the window-sill as he fell,
sweeping over the lamp, and flaring channels of oil ran over his body
and spread on the ground. But these could no longer hurt him. The
half-breed had leaped outside the cabin, enraged that Cutler should have
got out during the moment he had been dealing with Kelley. The scout was
groping for his ivory-handled pistol off in the darkness. He found
it, and hurried to the little window at a second shot he heard inside.
Loomis, beating the rising flame away, had seized the pistol from the
shelf, and aimlessly fired into the night at Toussaint. He fired again,
running to the door from the scorching heat. Cutler got round the house
to save him if he could, and saw the half-breed's weapon flash, and the
body pitch out across the threshold. Toussaint, gaining his horse, shot
three times and missed Cutler, whom he could not clearly see; and he
heard the scout's bullets sing past him as his horse bore him rushing
Jarvis Cutler lifted the dead Loomis out of the cabin. He made a try
for Kelley's body, but the room had become a cave of flame, and he was
driven from the door. He wrung his hands, giving himself bitter blame
aloud, as he covered Loomis with his saddle-blanket, and jumped bareback
upon Duster to go to the post. He had not been riding a minute when
several men met him. They had seen the fire from below, and on their way
up the half-breed had passed them at a run.
"Here's our point," said Cutler. "Will he hide with the Sioux, or
will he take to the railroad? Well, that's my business more than being
wagon-master. I'll get a warrant. You tell Lieutenant Balwin--and
somebody give me a fresh horse."
A short while later, as Cutler, with the warrant in his pocket, rode
out of Fort Laramie, the call of the sentinels came across the night:
"Number One. Twelve o'clock, and all's well." A moment, and the refrain
sounded more distant, given by Number Two. When the fourth took it up,
far away along the line, the words were lost, leaving something like the
faint echo of a song. The half-breed had crossed the Platte, as if he
were making for his kindred tribe, but the scout did not believe in this
too plain trail.
"There's Chug Water lying right the other way from where he went, and
I guess it's there Mr. Toussaint is aiming for." With this idea Cutler
swung from north to southwest along the Laramie. He went slowly over
his shortcut, not to leave the widely circling Toussaint too much in his
rear. The fugitive would keep himself carefully far on the other side of
the Laramie, and very likely not cross it until the forks of Chug Water.
Dawn had ceased to be gray, and the doves were cooing incessantly among
the river thickets, when Cutler, reaching the forks, found a bottom
where the sage-brush grew seven and eight feet high, and buried himself
and his horse in its cover. Here was comfort; here both rivers could be
safely watched. It seemed a good leisure-time for a little fire and some
breakfast. He eased his horse of the saddle, sliced some bacon, and put
a match to his pile of small sticks. As the flame caught, he stood up to
enjoy the cool of a breeze that was passing through the stillness, and
he suddenly stamped his fire out. The smell of another fire had come
across Chug Water on the wind. It was incredible that Toussaint should
be there already. There was no seeing from this bottom, and if Cutler
walked up out of it the other man would see too. If it were Toussaint,
he would not stay long in the vast exposed plain across Chug Water, but
would go on after his meal. In twenty minutes it would be the thing
to swim or wade the stream, and crawl up the mud bank to take a look.
Meanwhile, Cutler dipped in water some old bread that he had and sucked
it down, while the little breeze from opposite hook the cottonwood
leaves and brought over the smell of cooking meat. The sun grew warmer,
and the doves ceased. Cutler opened his big watch, and clapped it shut
as the sound of mud heavily slopping into the other river reached
him. He crawled to where he could look at the Laramie from among his
sagebrush, and there was Toussaint leading his horse down to the water.
The half-breed gave a shrill call, and waved his hat. His call was
answered, and as he crossed the Laramie, three Sioux appeared, riding to
the bank. They waited till he gained their level, when all four rode up
the Chug Water, and went out of sight opposite the watching Cutler. The
scout threw off some of his clothes, for the water was still high, and
when he had crossed, and drawn himself to a level with the plain, there
were the four squatted among the sage-brush beside a fire. They sat
talking and eating for some time. One of them rose at last, pointed
south, and mounting his horse, dwindled to a dot, blurred, and
evaporated in the heated, trembling distance. Cutler at the edge of the
bank still watched the other three, who sat on the ground. A faint shot
came, and they rose at once, mounted, and vanished southward. There was
no following them now in this exposed country, and Cutler, feeling sure
that the signal had meant something about Toussaint's horses, made his
fire, watered his own horse, and letting him drag a rope where the feed
was green, ate his breakfast in ease. Toussaint would get a fresh mount,
and proceed to the railroad. With the comfort of certainty and tobacco,
the scout lolled by the river under the cottonwood, and even slept. In
the cool of the afternoon he reached the cabin of an acquaintance twenty
miles south, and changed his horse. A man had passed by, he was told.
Looked as if bound for Cheyenne. "No," Cutler said, "he's known there";
and he went on, watching Toussaint's tracks. Within ten miles they
veered away from Cheyenne to the southeast, and Cutler struck out on a
trail of his own more freely. By midnight he was on Lodge-Pole Creek,
sleeping sound among the last trees that he would pass. He slept
twelve hours, having gone to bed knowing he must not come into town
by daylight. About nine o'clock he arrived, and went to the railroad
station; there the operator knew him. The lowest haunt in the town had
a tent south of the Union Pacific tracks; and Cutler, getting his irons,
and a man from the saloon, went there, and stepped in, covering the room
with his pistol. The fiddle stopped, the shrieking women scattered, and
Toussaint, who had a glass in his hand, let it fly at Cutler's head, for
he was drunk. There were two customers besides himself.
"Nobody shall get hurt here," said Cutler, above the bedlam that was
now set up. "Only that man's wanted. The quieter I get him, the quieter
it'll be for others."
Toussaint had dived for his pistol, but the proprietor of the
dance-hall, scenting law, struck the half-breed with the butt of
another, and he rolled over, and was harmless for some minutes. Then
he got on his legs, and was led out of the entertainment, which resumed
more gayly than ever. Feet shuffled, the fiddle whined, and truculent
treble laughter sounded through the canvas walls as Toussaint walked
between Cutler and the saloon-man to jail. He was duly indicted, and
upon the scout's deposition committed to trial for the murder of Loomis
and Kelley. Cutler, hoping still to be wagon-master, wrote to Lieutenant
Balwin, hearing in reply that the reinforcements would not arrive for
two months. The session of the court came in one, and Cutler was the
Territory's only witness. He gave his name and age, and hesitated over
"Call it poker-dealer," sneered Toussaint's attorney.
"I would, but I'm such a fool one," observed the witness. "Put me down
as wagon-master to the military outfit that's going to White River."
"What is your residence?"
"Well, I reside in the section that lies between the Missouri River and
the Pacific Ocean."
"A pleasant neighborhood," said the judge, who knew Cutler perfectly,
and precisely how well he could deal poker hands.
"It's not a pleasant neighborhood for some." And Cutler looked at
"You think you done with me?" Toussaint inquired, upon which silence was
ordered in the court.
Upon Cutler's testimony the half-breed was found guilty, and sentenced
to be hanged in six weeks from that day. Hearing this, he looked at the
witness. "I see you one day agin," he said.
The scout returned to Fort Laramie, and soon the expected troops
arrived, and the expedition started for White River to join Captain
Brent. The captain was stationed there to impress Red Cloud, and had
written to headquarters that this chief did not seem impressed very
deeply, and that the lives of the settlers were insecure. Reinforcements
were accordingly sent to him. On the evening before these soldiers left
Laramie, news came from the south. Toussaint had escaped from jail. The
country was full of roving, dubious Indians, and with the authentic news
went a rumor that the jailer had received various messages. These were
to the effect that the Sioux nation did not desire Toussaint to be
killed by the white man, that Toussaint's mother was the sister of Red
Cloud, and that many friends of Toussaint often passed the jailer's
house. Perhaps he did get such messages. They are not a nice sort to
receive. However all this may have been, the prisoner was gone.
Fort Robinson, on the White River, is backed by yellow bluffs that break
out of the foot-hills in turret and toadstool shapes, with stunt pines
starving between their torrid bastions. In front of the fort the land
slants away into the flat unfeatured desert, and in summer the sky is a
blue-steel covet that each day shuts the sun and the earth and mankind
into one box together, while it lifts at night to let in the cool of the
stars. The White River, which is not wide, runs in a curve, and around
this curve below the fort some distance was the agency, and beyond it
a stockade, inside which in those days dwelt the settlers. All this was
strung out on one side of the White River, outside of the curve; and at
a point near the agency a foot-bridge of two cottonwood trunks crossed
to the concave of the river's bend--a bottom of some extent, filled with
growing cottonwoods, and the tepees of many Sioux families. Along the
river and on the plain other tepees stood.
One morning, after Lieutenant Balwin had become established at Fort
Robinson, he was talking with his friend Lieutenant Powell, when Cutler
knocked at the wire door. The wagon-master was a privileged character,
and he sat down and commented irrelevantly upon the lieutenant's
pictures, Indian curiosities, and other well-meant attempts to conceal
"What's the trouble, Cutler?"
"Don't know as there's any trouble."
"Come to your point, man; you're not a scout now."
"What! in camp?"
"Hiding with the Sioux. Two Knives heard about it." (Two Knives was a
friendly Indian.) "He's laying for me," Cutler added.
"You've seen him?"
"No. I want to quit my job and go after him."
"Nonsense!" said Powell.
"You can't, Cutler," said Balwin. "I can't spare you."
"You'll be having to fill my place, then, I guess."
"You mean to go without permission?" said Powell, sternly.
"Lord, no! He'll shoot me. That's all."
The two lieutenants pondered.
"And it's to-day," continued Cutler, plaintively, "that he should be
gettin' hanged in Cheyenne."
Still the lieutenants pondered, while the wagon-master inspected a
photograph of Marie Rose as Marguerite.
"I have it!" exclaimed Powell. "Let's kill him."
"How about the commanding officer?"
"He'd back us--but we'll tell him afterwards. Cutler, can you find
"If I get the time."
"Very well, you're off duty till you do. Then report to me at once."
Just after guard-mounting two days later, Cutler came in without
knocking. Toussaint was found. He was down on the river now, beyond the
stockade. In ten minutes the wagon-master and the two lieutenants were
rattling down to the agency in an ambulance, behind four tall blue
government mules. These were handily driven by a seventeen-year-old boy
whom Balwin had picked up, liking his sterling American ways. He had
come West to be a cow-boy, but a chance of helping to impress Red Cloud
had seemed still dearer to his heart. They drew up at the agency store,
and all went in, leaving the boy nearly out of his mind with curiosity,
and pretending to be absorbed with the reins. Presently they came out,
Balwin with field-glasses.
"Now," said he, "where?"
"You see the stockade, sir?"
"Well?" said Powell, sticking his chin on Cutler's shoulder to look
along his arm as he pouted. But the scout proposed to be deliberate.
"Now the gate of the stockade is this way, ain't it?"
"You start there and follow the fence to the corner--the left corner,
towards the river. Then you follow the side that's nearest the river
down to the other corner. Now that corner is about a hundred yards from
the bank. You take a bee-line to the bank and go down stream, maybe
thirty yards. No; it'll be forty yards, I guess. There's a lone
pine-tree right agin the edge." The wagon-master stopped.
"I see all that," said Lieutenant Balwin, screwing the field-glasses.
"There's a buck and a squaw lying under the tree."
"Naw, sir," drawled Cutler, "that ain't no buck. That's him lying in his
Injun blanket and chinnin' a squaw."
"Why, that man's an Indian, Cutler. I tell you I can see his braids."
"Oh, he's rigged up Injun fashion, fust rate, sir. But them braids of
his ain't his'n. False hair."
The lieutenants passed each other the fieldglasses three times, and
glared at the lone pine and the two figures in blankets. The boy on the
ambulance was unable to pretend any longer, and leaned off his seat till
he nearly fell.
"Well," said Balwin, "I never saw anything look more like a buck Sioux.
Look at his paint. Take the glasses yourself, Cutler."
But Cutler refused. "He's like an Injun," he said. "But that's just what
he wants to be." The scout's conviction bore down their doubt.
They were persuaded. "You can't come with us, Cutler," said Powell. "You
must wait for us here."
"I know, sir; he'd spot us, sure. But it ain't right. I started this
whole business with my poker scheme at that cabin, and I ought to stay
with it clear through."
The officers went into the agency store and took down two rifles hanging
at the entrance, always ready for use. "We're going to kill a man," they
explained, and the owner was entirely satisfied. They left the rueful
Cutler inside, and proceeded to the gate of the stockade, turning there
to the right, away from the river, and following the paling round the
corner down to the farther right-hand corner. Looking from behind it,
the lone pine-tree stood near, and plain against the sky. The striped
figures lay still in their blankets, talking, with their faces to the
river. Here and there across the stream the smoke-stained peak of a
tepee showed among the green leaves.
"Did you ever see a more genuine Indian?" inquired Baldwin.
"We must let her rip now, anyhow," said Powell, and they stepped out
into the open. They walked towards the pine till it was a hundred yards
from them, and the two beneath it lay talking all the while. Balwin
covered the man with his rifle and called. The man turned his head, and
seeing the rifle, sat up in his blanket. The squaw sat up also. Again
the officer called, keeping his rifle steadily pointed, and the man
dived like a frog over the bank. Like magic his blanket had left his
limbs and painted body naked, except for the breech-clout. Balwin's
tardy bullet threw earth over the squaw, who went flapping and
screeching down the river. Balwin and Powell ran to the edge, which
dropped six abrupt feet of clay to a trail, then shelved into the swift
little stream. The red figure was making up the trail to the foot-bridge
that led to the Indian houses, and both officers fired. The man
continued his limber flight, and they jumped down and followed, firing.
They heard a yell on the plain above, and an answer to it, and then
confused yells above and below, gathering all the while. The figure ran
on above the river trail below the bank, and their bullets whizzed after
"Indian!" asserted Balwin, panting.
"Ran away, though," said Powell.
"So'd you run. Think any Sioux'd stay when an army officer comes gunning
"Shoot!" said Powell. "'S getting near bridge," and they went on,
running and firing. The yells all over the plain were thickening. The
air seemed like a substance of solid flashing sound. The naked runner
came round the river curve into view of the people at the agency store.
"Where's a rifle?" said Cutler to the agent.
"Officers got 'em," the agent explained.
"Well, I can't stand this," said the scout, and away he went.
"That man's crazy," said the agent.
"You bet he ain't!" remarked the ambulance boy.
Cutler was much nearer to the bridge than was the man in the
breech-clout, and reaching the bank, he took half a minute's keen
pleasure in watching the race come up the trail. When the figure
was within ten yards Cutler slowly drew an ivory-handled pistol. The
lieutenants below saw the man leap to the middle of the bridge, sway
suddenly with arms thrown up, and topple into White River. The current
swept the body down, and as it came it alternately lifted and turned and
sank as the stream played with it. Sometimes it struck submerged stumps
or shallows, and bounded half out of water, then drew under with nothing
but the back of the head in sight, turning round and round. The din of
Indians increased, and from the tepees in the cottonwoods the red Sioux
began to boil, swarming on the opposite bank, but uncertain what had
happened. The man rolling in the water was close to the officers.
"It's not our man," said Balwin. "Did you or I hit him?"
"We're gone, anyhow," said Powell, quietly. "Look!"
A dozen rifles were pointing at their heads on the bank above. The
Indians still hesitated, for there was Two Knives telling them these
officers were not enemies, and had hurt no Sioux. Suddenly Cutler pushed
among the rifles, dashing up the nearest two with his arm, and their
explosion rang in the ears of the lieutenants. Powell stood grinning at
the general complication of matters that had passed beyond his control,
and Balwin made a grab as the head of the man in the river washed by.
The false braid came off in his hand!
"Quick!" shouted Cutler from the bank. "Shove him up here!"
Two Knives redoubled his harangue, and the Indians stood puzzled, while
the lieutenants pulled Toussaint out, not dead, but shot through the
hip. They dragged him over the clay and hoisted him, till Cutler caught
hold and jerked him to the level, as a new noise of rattling descended
on the crowd, and the four blue mules wheeled up and halted. The boy had
done it himself. Massing the officers' need, he had pelted down among
the Sioux, heedless of their yells, and keeping his gray eyes on his
team. In got the three, pushing Toussaint in front, and scoured away for
the post as the squaw arrived to shriek the truth to her tribe--what Red
Cloud's relation had been the victim.
Cutler sat smiling as the ambulance swung along. "I told you I belonged
in this here affair," he said. And when they reached the fort he was
saying it still, occasionally.
Captain Brent considered it neatly done. "But that boy put the finishing
touches," he said. "Let's have him in."
The boy was had in, and ate a dinner with the officers in glum
embarrassment, smoking a cigar after it without joy. Toussaint was given
into the doctor's hands, and his wounds carefully dressed.
"This will probably cost an Indian outbreak," said Captain Brent,
looking down at the plain. Blanketed riders galloped over it, and
yelling filled the air. But Toussaint was not destined to cause this
further harm. An unexpected influence intervened.
All afternoon the cries and galloping went on, and next morning (worse
sign) there seemed to be no Indians in the world. The horizon was
empty, the air was silent, the smoking tepees were vanished from the
cottonwoods, and where those in the plain had been lay the lodge-poles,
and the fires were circles of white, cold ashes. By noon an interpreter
came from Red Cloud. Red Cloud would like to have Toussaint. If the
white man was not willing, it should be war.
Captain Brent told the story of Loomis and Kelley. "Say to Red Cloud,"
he ended, "that when a white man does such things among us, he is
killed. Ask Red Cloud if Toussaint should live. If he thinks yes, let
him come and take Toussaint."
The next day with ceremony and feathers of state, Red Cloud came,
bringing his interpreter, and after listening until every word had been
told him again, requested to see the half-breed. He was taken to the
hospital. A sentry stood on post outside the tent, and inside lay
Toussaint, with whom Cutler and the ambulance-boy were playing
whiskey-poker. While the patient was waiting to be hanged, he might as
well enjoy himself within reason. Such was Cutler's frontier philosophy.
We should always do what we can for the sick. At sight of Red Cloud
looming in the doorway, gorgeous and grim as Fate, the game was
suspended. The Indian took no notice of the white men, and walked to the
bed. Toussaint clutched at his relation's fringe, but Red Cloud looked
at him. Then the mongrel strain of blood told, and the half-breed poured
out a chattering appeal, while Red Cloud by the bedside waited till it
had spent itself. Then he grunted, and left the room. He had not spoken,
and his crest of long feathers as it turned the corner was the last
vision of him that the card-players had.
Red Cloud came back to the officers, and in their presence formally
spoke to his interpreter, who delivered the message: "Red Cloud says
Toussaint heap no good. No Injun, anyhow. He not want him. White man
hunt pretty hard for him. Can keep him."
Thus was Toussaint twice sentenced. He improved under treatment, played
many games of whiskey-poker, and was conveyed to Cheyenne and hanged.
These things happened in the early seventies; but there are Sioux
still living who remember the two lieutenants, and how they pulled the
half-breed out of White River by his false hair. It makes them laugh to
this day. Almost any Indian is full of talk when he chooses, and when he
gets hold of a joke he never lets go.
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