A Kinsman Of Red Cloud





I



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

advice.



"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

discussion."



"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

weeks."



"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

his knee.



"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

benefit, Joole."



"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

half-breed.



"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

of conviction.



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

and Kelley.



"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

he.



"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

ones."



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

Kelley.



"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

away.





II



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

his occupation.



"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

Toussaint.



"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.





III



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

the walk:



"What's the trouble, Cutler?"



"Don't know as there's any trouble."



"Come to your point, man; you're not a scout now."



"Toussaint's here."



"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

Toussaint?"



"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?"



"Well, well?"



"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

it.



"Indian!" asserted Balwin, panting.



"Ran away, though," said Powell.



"So'd you run. Think any Sioux'd stay when an army officer comes gunning

for him?"



"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.





A Judicial Puppet A Leading Lady They Would Make Of Jean facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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