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Wa-pee Moos-tooch
Chapter X
Single-handed He Brings in Several Horses


IN A SHORT TIME there came a day and a night, and White Buffalo was missing. When his belongings were counted it was found that his war paraphernalia was gone with him. Snake Skin told his mother that it was all right. She need not worry. He would come back in due time. Neverthless, she did worry. In the meanwhile White Buffalo was tramping out steadily in a new direction, aiming to cross the south branch and hunt the lodges of the enemy in the big country stretching away into the northwest. He had fully determined to test himself. Coming to the big river, he tied a few small sticks together, and, fastening all his clothes and weapons on this light raft, he pushed it ahead of him and swam the stream. This was his first big crossing of a strong current in a wide river, and he was thankful he had done it. So far so good. Now then for the new country to the west. On he went, always carefully under cover, his business to see but never he seen. During his fourth day from the river crossing he came upon fresh tracks of people, and that same afternoon saw two horsemen and watched them make a kill, and, while they were skinning and cutting up the game, he crept nearer and made sure that they were of the Blackfoot tribe, and legitimate prey for him. He saw that they were armed as he was, and, selecting two arrows, he shot both men, and running in took their scalps and all their outfit. He had now to be extra careful, for he had two horses as well as himself to keep under cover. He reasoned that these men must must come from a camp not far away. He had some time before he discovered the enemy, crossed a little creek where there was a small growth of scrub willows and mesaquits, so determined to take the horses back there and tether them, and then seek the camp on foot. White Buffalo was out for big adventure. As he said to himself: "I want to know if I am fit to stand in the lodges of my people, and to lead my fellowmen. More than this, I want to find myself worthy of Nagos, the Little Mother," and he would fondly murmur her name, and hum a love song of his own improvising, and feel as if he could do great things for the sake of Nagos. But he must hurry, for the two he had slain would be missed, and doubtless search made, and away he ran to venture and risk on his quest for glory. He had not gone many miles when he was sure of the vicinity of a large camp, and, scouting from an eminence, he saw many lodges and also saw a party of horsemen, and as there were a large number of women and boys following he determined that this was a hunting party. The buffalo were moving north at this time. So White Buffalo said to himself:

"I will run over and watch these people in their hunt. Something may come to me by so doing."

Then with a quick glance over the topography of the country, he was away as swift and as light as a deer. He very well knew that he must not be discovered. To be seen would be fatal to all his purpose. Reaching a knoll from whence to look, he found he was within a short distance of the hunting party. Yonder were the buffalo. Making sure of his rear, he stretched himself to watch the charge. There was one horse which at once took his attention, a large dappled iron gray. This horse fascinated our lone warrior, and he determined to watch him in the run which was about to take place. Soon the hunters were ready, and moved out quickly towards the herd, and in a very little while they were away on the full race, and as White Buffalo keenly watched, he was glad to see the big gray shoot like an arrow from a bow out from the racing horses beside him and easily distance the rest, and to note that before the other horses came up already the rider on the grey had let some arrows fly and made his kill before the other hunters had really begun their hunt.

"Ah" thought White Buffalo. "if I can secure that horse, it will have been worth my while coming out here alone, and if he is gentle, as I think he is, he would be just the horse for my Nagos to own and ride, as we travel from place to place."

Alone in his enemy's country, and far from human help, this valiant soul was for the moment in spirit with his beloved Nagos in the lodge far down the continent where the multiple streams and the great forest did flourish. Just then, and when White Buffalo came out of his dream and was face to face with his sublime loneliness, he caught sight of a great wolf looking at him, and again he felt his blood surging through his veins, and his soul as if lifted up. for he was not alone. Here was the visible manifestation of his Pawakun, "the spirit of his dreams," watching over him, and as he looked the vision was gone. Then he turned to look out upon the scene before him for an opening wherein to do and dare, and as if in answer to his purpose the rider of the dappled gray, having seen to the straightening out of his kill, and having directed his people to them, was now riding over in the direction of where White Buffalo was stretched. The latter moved into better cover, and saw with profound satisfaction the dapple grey and his rider come slowly out from the hunting field into the range of hills behind one of which he was waiting.

"Just go a little farther from your people, if you will," was the ardent wish of the Cree scout. And carefully and swiftly he crawled and wriggled and ran and dropped behind the big horse and his rider. The latter was carelessly allowing his long lariat, one end of which was also his bridle, to drag as he rode, and in this way was playing right into the hand of his brave and cunning foe, who was now close beside him. White Buffalo eagerly scanned the hills ahead, and quickly picked upon a spot for the deed lie was about to attempt. It came to him as an inspiration to capture this horse without killing his rider. By this time all three—horse, rider and foe—were close to the spot chosen by the latter, who, having taken a couple of arrows from his quiver, and throwing one into position, picked up the end of the lariat and gently pulled the horse around. The astonished Blackfoot sat his horse and looked straight into the face of White Buffalo, who, with bow drawn and arrow pointed, smiled at him. The Blackfoot was taken altogether by surprise, and paled with the immediate presence of death. But White Buffalo signed to him to throw his bow and quiver and knife down, and he, quickly comprehending, did so. Then White Buffalo signed to him to alight from the horse, which he also did. Then White Buffalo, gathering up the bow and quiver and knife, waved his captive over to a position near by, and then, throwing the how and quiver of his enemy over his own shoulders and sticking the knife in his belt, he mounted the horse, and sending a kind good-bye to the astonished Blackfoot, he rode away. He knew it would be some time before the humiliated warrior-hunter could give the alarm, so he leisurely cantered in an opposite direction to his real course. Then, when well in the hills, he circled to the spot where he had left the horses of his slain. Corning to the place he found the horses and saddles and everything even as he had left them. Taking stock, he found himself in possession of three horses, one of these a fortune in himself, and all fitted out with saddles and saddle-cloths and lines. He also had the weapons of three of the warriors of the enemies of his people, and the scalp locks of two of them, and as he summed up his effort he felt great satisfaction in having spared the life of the last one. A strong, quick pull of that bow and the sharp arrow would have gone through his heart; but no, it is better, far better, that he is living. Hastily packing the weapons on the hack of one horse, and mounting another, and leading the two, he started homeward. As he rode he picked the clean-cropped portions of the country, and every little while doubled on his course, so that anyone seeking to follow him would have more or less trouble to track him and his three horses. He rode, with little intervals for rest and feed, all the evening and night, and when morning dawned was near the big river. And he said to himself:

"I will put the river between me and pursuit before I rest myself or these horses the spirits have given me to possess." Coming to the river, he let his horses cool, and then put all the saddles on the big gray, one on top of the other, and on the top of all this he fastened all his weapon loot, knives and war clubs, etc. Then he fastened the grey to the tail of the horse he was going to swim beside, and the third horse he also fastened in turn to the tail of the gray, and thus arranged he rode his lead horse out into the current. When his horse lost bottom he slipped to the lower side and swam beside him with the current to the opposite shore. Safely landing, he was glad and thankful, for he was now on the home side of the big river, and a long distance from the scenes of his recent exploits. He felt elated that this test of himself was satisfactory. He was grateful to the spirit of his dreams for timely approbation, and his heart filled within him as he thought of the great good spirit, the Creator, the wonderful Providence. and he sang in joyous thanksgiving as his whole being prompted him to do in his fullness of gratitude. What he had done were the ideals of his race, and he was but going beyond many or most of his fellows in his heroism. And now he sought a screened spot wherein to rest his new-found steeds. And then for himself he looked up a vantage place, whereon to rest as best he could for a few hours before continuing his journey.

These three horses were every one of them prizes. There was Wepatim, a splendid square-built brown. and Wapastim, a beautiful white pony, and then there was Kesketawapwam, the Blackthigh, as his people would undoubtedly christen his dapple gray. Why, he was a glorious prize in himself, well worth travelling hundreds of miles and swimming big rivers and killing men to gain such a horse as this. As White Buffalo watched the graceful animal nibble grass, and look up at him with his big gentle eyes he felt conscious of a great possession, and he pictured the glad day when he could say to Nagos, "He is yours, my beloved," and he saw the wondering gaze of the forest maiden turn to the horse in bewildering astonishment, and then to himself in love and gladness. For hours he lay and watched and could not sleep for joy, all the while busy with his youthful castle-building.

White Buffalo was truly normal. Lung and limb and stomach and liver and brain and heart were sound. He came of pure blood, and none of the complex foods of the white man had as yet disturbed his digestion. One class of food had been the habit of his people for countless generations, and this child of nature was absolutely natural. Nor yet had he lived and slept in stuffy, draughty houses. No shack, with its microbe- burdened air, had taken him in. No, in clean, pure air, in all out of doors, he had dwelt, and was sound and strong. Ten miles an hour for several hours at a stretch would be a common run for such as he. But now he need not run, for yonder are three splendid steeds and he is approaching them, and presently they are saddled and packed and mounted and in the lead, and he is away towards yonder camp which was three nights distant as he now could travel, but which by this time might be farther away. At any rate, he would go as straight as he could for where it had been. Then he could take up the trail.

All this time White Buffalo travelled with great care. He seemed to feel the need of special care all the more as he neared the spot where his people were camped when he left them last. Leaving his horses in a hidden place he scouted to the old camping ground, and he found that his people had moved easterly and had done so soon after he had started on his trip. Continuing his search, he found fresh tracks of footmen, and this made him keenly alert, and quickly he discovered that a large war party was on the trail of his home camp. This filled him with great anxiety. His mother and father, Snake Skin and all the other people, all this jumped into his mind at once, and more carefully scanning the fresh tracks, he was filled with the hope that he might reach his home camp before the war party.

Running back to his horses, he in his turn took up the trail of the trackers. That same day he passed several old encampments, and noticed that the course was more northerly, and that the tracks of the Blackfeet were quite fresh. He saw that this war party was large, and felt sure that this was a revenge enterprise, which had traced his own party back to the camp of the Crees.

"Ah!" thought he, "if I can reach my people before you do, my brave Blackfoot warriors, we will give you a great welcome."

And the thrill of the coming battle, and this his chance to warn his people, stirred his whole being with firm resolve to hurry on and spare neither himself nor horses to circumvent the foes of his people. Away went our warrior with his heart aflame to rescue his friends, and if possible defeat his enemies. Forever watching, keenly scouting, White Buffalo followed the line of movement of the big camp, and also that of the Blackfoot war party. He had not gone very far when he discovered one of the rear scouts of this avenging crowd, and was sorely tempted to slay this lone man, who was altogether unconscious of his presence. But his anxiety really was to reach his own camp before these men could make their charge against it. Moreover, he now knew that the main body of the Blackfeet could not be so very far ahead, and, as evening was near, he determined to take stock of them before pushing on towards his own people. Accordingly, he turned aside and sought a good place wherein to cache his horses and outfit. Having done this, he ran out in the early night to where he calculated the main body might he, and in due time he came upon them, secure as they thought, with scouts in advance and in their rear. They never dreamed of a foe almost in their midst. From the quiet clatter of hushed voices and movement, he concluded that their number was large. But he felt confident that there was to be no attack made that night. For this he was thankful, and, running back to his horses, he again rode on, and travelling the most of the night presently he heard a dog bark, and determined to wait for daybreak. As he lay resting, with his horses cropping grass beside him, he could not but hum a song of thanksgiving for thus being brought upon the scene in time to help his people and punish their constant foes. Then he thought of his parents, and was glad to be able to save them from alarm and possible death, and, as was most natural, on sped his thoughts northward to the big forest country where Nagos and her people forever roamed. And for a little space of time he forgot all things else, and thought only of the Little Mother, and revelled in his dream of love.

And now it was coming daylight, and hastily making a toilet, he gathered up the lines of his horses, and, mounting one of them, quietly scouted in the direction of where he had heard the dog bark. Soon he came upon one of his own companions who had been out on guard all night, and who drew his bow at him, but a word sufficed, and with joy his friend ran up and kissed White Buffalo.

"Oh!" said he, "my heart is glad to see you."

And White Buffalo said, "Here, mount this horse, and as we ride tell me the news of camp," and the young fellow gave his budget of happenings since White Buffalo had disappeared, and wound up with the exclamation: "But now there will be great rejoicing in all our camp because of your safe arrival."

Notwithstanding Snake Skin's assurances, and repeated visits to the lodge of White Buffalo's parents, his mother had been much troubled, and her thought was always with her noble boy. In her heart she was forever petitioning the Great Spirit, and all the spirits, on his behalf. And this night she had not slept, but lay and thought of her beloved son, and when the first gleam of coming dawn appeared, she got up, and \vent out of the lodge, and looked, and looked; and then she lit the fire in the lodge, and presently she saw two riders and a led horse approaching camp, and her heart stirred within her, and all her strong maternal being spoke and said : ''It is my boy! It is my boy!"

Addressing the spirits, she said: "I thank you; I thank you my son is here."

And the father heard and sprang from his couch, and stood beside his wife, and sure enough here was their boy, alive and well, and with a bound he was beside them, and their joy was full.

To the observing scout who had ridden in with him, and to his parents, and indeed to all who hurried to the spot, it was not necessary to ask. "Where have you been—what has happened?" The scalps spoke, the horses talked, the bows and quivers and war clubs told the tale. And the details could wait.

"White Buffalo, our young chief, has returned, is well; rejoice, oh people!" was the shout that went through the camp. And Snake Skin heard and came on the jump to embrace his hero and much-loved friend. Said he:

"I dreamed of you, I felt you near, and now I am rejoiced to have you again beside me. What can I do, White Buffalo?"

And White Buffalo told him to gather the chief and council and before them he would make his tidings known. The mother set her best food before her boy, soft fat pemmican, and pounded meat, and marrow fat and berries, and all the while she was devouring him with her mother glances, and touching his shoulder or hair or foot as she moved in her joyful task. The lost was found, and every mother in the large camp sympathized with her, and all were glad for her sake. The boys and girls and children were looking at him, and admiring the horses and saddles and weapons of the Blackfeet which White Buffalo had brought home. Already the young fellow of the morning had fastened the two scalp-locks on a pole, and put this up by the lodge, and all over the camp the people looked and saw them, and hummed snatches of the victory song. Soon Snake Skin was back and said:

"Come, my friend, the gathering is ready." And he and White Buffalo's father went with White Buffalo to the council lodge, where were assembled the chief and head men of the various bands comprising this large camp. And with a sign from the head chief Snake Skin led our warrior to a place of honor, and in silence the big pipe was filled and lit and held aloft before the deity, and pointed to all the cardinal directions, and then the chief smoked and passed it to White Buffalo, and when he had drawn a few puffs, he passed it on and the chief said:

"White Buffalo, we are glad to see you. All the people are rejoiced to have you back with us again, and now we will listen to your message of tidings." And White Buffalo said:

"My friends, the Great Spirit is good to us, for he has brought me home at an opportune time. On the way I have found that this camp was being followed by a large number of our foes. Last evening, when the night was still young, I saw them and heard them, and they are many, and doubtless their advance scouts are not very far away at this time. I think we have today and tomorrow to prepare, and the second morning will be the time of their charge on us."

There was a solemn hush as the crowd had listened to White Buffalo. And now the chief spoke:

"Truly as you have said, White Buffalo, the spirits are good to us as a people, in thus permitting you to discover our enemies, and now we want you to Speak further, and tell us your mind as to what we should do to protect our people and punish our enemies."

Then White Buffalo answered: "I am but a child, let the older men speak."

But the chief said: "No, White Buffalo, we as a people fully recognize that in the conduct of war you have been given much wisdom. Forget your youth, and speak out your mind freely."

Thus encouraged, White Buffalo did say:

"Friends, these men I saw last night are no doubt the survivors and friends some of us attacked some moons since. They are thirsting for our blood. Revenge is strong in them. They have prepared for this purpose. They are tracking us to this camp. By good fortune we now know of their coming. Of this our knowledge they do not know. We can prepare for them such a surprise that they and their people will always remember. My mind is, let this camp open lodges and move them down into the valley of the river which is close by. Let this move be made slowly and in quiet, without hurry or excitement. Let everybody in and out of this camp move as if there was no dread of danger in our minds. At the same time, let every man be ready with his weapons, and while the camp is moving and our scouts watch their approach, we will make our arrangements, and surprise our enemies."

Then the chief, addressing the council and the assembled crowd, said: "What White Buffalo has spoken is good, and we will do this without noise or hurry. We will quietly move camp today, and we will put all the plan of the defence of our camp, and the meeting with our foes, in the hands of White Buffalo, and in all this he must be obeyed."

And the council and the whole crowd shouted their satisfaction, and promised strict obedience. Snake Skin was proud, and glad, that his friend was thus honored. All day and as in ordinary the large camp folded its tents and packed up its belongings, and horses and dogs and humanity, packed and pulled, and the transfer was made down and across the valley. And in regular form the lodges were pitched and camp life went on as usual. Even such would have been the thought of the observer who did not know of the undercurrent of excitement which was in the minds of its people.

White Buffalo's report was not questioned in any way. The Blackfeet were close, and a struggle was coming, and before the night was far spent of this first day of White Buffalo's arrival several scouts came in with corroborative evidence. A large party of the enemy was within a short day's journey, and moving straight for them. White Buffalo made Snake Skin his second. Papamotao, who was the older man, had suggested this to White Buffalo at once, and said:

"I will do whatever you want me to do, but depend on Snake Skin, he is yours to the death."

And White Buffalo's heart was strangely stirred to have these evidences of loyalty. In the meantime, he rested, and then mounting Blackfoot, he carefully reconnoitered the surrounding country and made up his plan of ambush and attack. For he had decided in his own mind that there would be no charge on his camp by the Blackfoot party. He would meet the enemy, and thrust him back, and in doing so destroy as many as he could. That night White Buffalo and Snake Skin and Rapamotao took stock of their fighting force, and White Buffalo divided these into four equal commands. The chief and older men were to guard the camp. Snake Skin and Papamotao were each to command a force and fight on foot; and himself with the other fourth on horseback were to spring upon the rear of the enemy and harass and damage their flight. White Buffalo had located the spot from whence the enemy would come down into the valley, and he planned to have Papamotao on one side and Snake Skin on the other and himself with his horsemen meet and chase his foes as these would rush back the way they had come. Early that night the scouts got word of a multitude close at hand, but this caused no panic in camp, as all believed in the pluck and tact of their leader and his force. Then to help matters, the seer went into a trance, and sent his spirit out to meet the foe, and coming to, he told the waiting and anxious crowd that these were the same men that they had chased and spared this season in the far west, and that now their scalps and blood would be the penalty for their coming into the Cree country, and particularly after this camp wherein White Buffalo dwelt.

"Yes, White Buffalo, I see it clearly coming. Your victory is coming, my son!"

Of course, this helped everybody, for Kosopachehao had a good record. They said of him: "He sees beyond." Nevertheless, it was a night of anxiety in every lodge, and many prayers went up from the hearts of mothers and wives and loved ones because of the battle that was at hand. By midnight White Buffalo had all his men placed, and his scouts brought him in the news that his view of the enemy's movements was correct. They were approaching, even as he had planned for them to come.

Because of their numbers, the Blackfeet were bold, and long before daylight they were looking down upon the camp, and as the day star began to appear they gathered to descend into the valley by way of a coulée or depression which sloped from either side down to the river. When the main body was well into the hollow, and, as had been previously arranged, Snake Skin howled like a wolf, and was answered by Papamatao from the other side of the coulée. Then Snake Skin gave the clear loud war-whoop, and back from across came another great whoop, and the charge was on, and from both slopes down came the Crees. The Blackfeet were thunderstruck with the assault, and vainly fought, and rushed back up the hill. For already answering war cries were coming from the camp, and they felt the only way was back. But with those who reached the plain there came upon them the charge of White Buffalo, and his horsemen, and the carnage was quick and awful to the Blackfeet. They were taken on every hand, and had it not been that they are such experts at hiding on the plain, there would have been none left alive to carry the news of their defeat to the western camps.

When the fight was over, it was found that the Cree loss was small, only six being killed, and some few slightly wounded. But of their enemies they found over a hundred victims. By noon of this day their-scalp-locks were hanging in the breeze, and on many a triangle all through the camp there hung and dangled the bows and quivers and war clubs and costumes and trinkets of the slain. The chief sent out the word: "Rejoice, oh my people, and be glad! Let every heart be thankful. The Spirits have smiled upon us, and have given to us as a people a worthy son. White Buffalo is his name. And to him we owe our deliverance today. Let the drums beat, and the dancers come forth, and all the camp sing in honor of our young war chief."

And in all this camp, no one was more rejoiced than Snake Skin.


 


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