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   Chapter 4 The New Lodge

The Way of an Indian By Frederic Remington Characters: 12870

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The Yellow-Eyes had departed, and at the end of four days the Bat and Red Arrow drove a band of thirty ponies and mules upon the herd-grounds, where they proceeded to cut them into two bunches-fifteen horses for each young man. This was not a bad beginning in life, where ponies and robes were the things reckoned. The Bat got down from his horse and tossed a little brother onto it, telling him to look after them. The copper-colored midget swelled perceptibly as he loped away after the Bat's nineteen horses, for the twentieth, which was the war-pony, was taken to be picketed by Big Hair's Lodge.

As the Bat stalked among the Chis-chis-chash, he was greeted often-all eyes turned to him. No mere boys dared longer to be familiar; they only stood modestly, and paid the tribute to greatness which much staring denotes. The white man's new rifle lay across his left arm, his painted robe dragged on the ground, his eagle-feather waved perpendicularly above the dried Bat's skin, the sacred red paint of war bloodied his whole face, and a rope and a whip-symbols of his success with horses-dangled in his right hand, while behind him followed the smart war-pony, covered with vermilion hand-prints as thickly as the spots on a brook-trout. The squaws ran from their fleshing, their chopping or their other work to look at the warrior who made all the camp talk. Wisdom mellowed by age, in the forms of certain old men, sat back and thought disturbedly of the future, as is the wont of those who have little time to live. They feared for the trade with the Yellow-Eyes, for no Chis-chis-chash could forge iron into guns and knives, which were the arbiter between the tribes. This the Bat had brought upon them. But still they thought more than they said; warriors as promising as this young one did not often appear.

There was a feast at the lodge. The Bat told his exploits to the warriors, as he strode about the night-fire in the tepee, waving his arms, giving his war-yell until he split the air and made his listeners' ears ring. The medicine Bat had made him strong; it had opened the way and he had proved his faith. He sang while a man beat on a dried skin drum:

"Hi-ha-s' yehe's' yeye'!

'Hi-he-e' yehe' e' yeye'!

'Hi' niso' nihu'-Hi' yeye'!

'Hi' niso' nihu'-Hi' yeye'!"

And the yelping chorus came from the fire-lit circle, "Hi ya-hi y a-hi-ye'ye'!-ya'-ya'-ya'-ya!-e' e' e'."

On the morrow, men from the military order of the "red lodges," the "miayuma," came to the Bat with charcoal, and he fasted many days before undergoing his initiation. The sacred symbols of the body, their signs and ceremonies, were given him, and he had become a pillar in the Chis-chis-chash social structure.

The nights were growing cold, and occasional bleak winds blew down from the great mountains, warning the tribe to be about its mission. The loads of dry meat made the horses weary, when the camp was broken; the tepee-poles were bright and new, and the hair began to grow on the ponies.

One day, as they moved, they could see far ahead on the plains the colorless walls of Fort Laramie, and the wise-men feared for their reception, but the pillage of the traders' horses sat lightly on the people. The Yellow-Eyes should have a care how they treated the Chis-chis-chash. It was in their power to put out the white man's fires. The Bat's people were an arrogant band, and held their heads high in the presence of aliens. Their hands were laid heavily and at once on anyone who stood in their path. All the plains tribes, the French Indians at the posts and the Yellow-Eyed trapper-bands stood in awe of them. With the exception of the chief, the people had never been inside of the second gate at Laramie. They traded through a hole in the wall, and even then the bourgeois Papin thought he played with fire. Their haughty souls did not brook refusal when the trader denied them the arrangement of the barter.

The tribe encamped, and got rid of what ponies, robes and meats it could dispose of for guns and steel weapons, and "made whisky." The squaws concealed the arms while the warriors raged, but the Chis-chis-chash in that day were able to withstand the new vices of the white men better than most people of the plains.

On one occasion, the Bat was standing with a few chiefs before the gateway of the fort. M. Papin opened the passage and invited them to enter. Proudly the tall tribesmen walked among the engages-seeming to pay no heed, but the eye of an Indian misses nothing. The surroundings were new and strange to the young man. The thick walls seemed to his vagabond mind to be built to shield cowards. The white men were created only to bring goods to the Indians. They were weak, but their medicine was wonderful. It could make the knives and guns, which God had denied to the Bat's people. They were to be tolerated; they were few in number-he had not seen over a hundred of them in all his life. Scattered here and there about the post were women, who consorted with the engages-half-breeds from the Mandaus and Dela-wares, Sioux and many other kinds of squaws; but the Chis-chis-chash had never sold a woman to the traders. That was a pride with them.

The sisterhood of all the world will look at a handsome man and smile pleasantly; so nothing but cheerful looks followed the Bat as he passed the women who sat working by the doorways. They were not ill-favored, these comforters of the French-Creole workmen, and were dressed in bright calicos and red strouding, plentifully adorned with bright beads. The boy was beginning to feel a subtle weakening in their presence. His fierce barbarism softened, and he began to think of taking one. But he put it aside as a weakness-this giving of ponies for these white men's cast-offs. That thought was unworthy of him-a trade was not his wild way of possessing things.

He stood quietly leaning against a door on Papin's balcony, observing the men laboring about the enclosure, his lip curling upward with fine contempt. The "dogs" were hewing with axes about some newly made carts, or rushing around on errands as slaves are made to do. Everyone was busy and did not notice him in his brown study.

From within the room near by he heard a woman sing a few notes in an unknown tongue. Without moving a muscle of his face he stepped inside the room, and when his eye became accustomed to the light, saw a young squaw, who sat beading,

and wore a dress superior to that of the others. She stared a moment and then smiled. The Bat stood motionless for a long time regarding her, and she dropped her gaze to her needlework.

"I' nisto' niwon (You were humming)," spoke the statued brave, but she did not understand.

Again came the clicking gutturals of the harsh Chis-chis-chash tongue: "Whose squaw are you?"-which was followed by the sign-talk familiar to all Indians in those days.

The woman rose, opening her hand toward him and hissing for silence. Going to the door, she looked into the sunlighted court, and, pointing to the factor who was directing workmen, replied,

"Papin." He understood.

She talked by signs as she drew back, pointing to the Bat, and then ran her hand across her own throat as though she held a knife, and then laughed while her eyes sparkled.

Again he understood, and for the first time that day he smiled. There are no preliminaries when a savage warrior concludes to act. The abruptness of the Bat's love-making left room for few words, and his attentions were not repulsed except that the fear of her liege lord out by the carts made her flutter to escape that she might reassure herself. She was once again covered by the sweep of the warrior's robe, and what they whispered there, standing in its folds, no man can tell. The abrupt entrance of Papin drowned all other thoughts, and filled the quiet fort with a whirl of struggles and yells, in which all joined, even to the dogs.

The outcome was that the Bat found himself thrown ignominiously into the dust outside the walls, and the gate slammed after him. He gathered himself together and looked around. No one of his people had seen the melee from which he had emerged so ingloriously, yet humiliation was terrible. Nothing like this had occurred before. Cowardly French half-breeds had laid their hands on the warrior's body, even on his sacred bat and eagle-plume; and they had been content to throw him away as though he were a bone-merely to be rid of him.

His rage was so great that he was in a torpor; he did not even speak, but walked away hearing the shrieks of the squaw being beaten by Papin.

Going to the camp, he got a pony and rode to the hills, where he dismounted and sat down. The day passed, the night came, and morning found the Bat still sitting there.

He seemed not to have moved. His eyes burned with the steady glare of the great cats until, allowing his robe to fall away, he brought out his firebag and lighted his pipe. Standing up, he blew a mouthful of smoke to each of the four corners of the world; then lowered his head in silence for a long while. He had recovered himself now. The Bat no longer shrieked, but counciled coldly for revenge. His shadow beside him was blood-red as he gazed at it.

Presently he mounted and rode toward camp; his eyes danced the devil's dance as they wandered over the battlements of Fort Laramie. He wanted a river of blood-he wanted to break the bones of the whites with stone hatchets-he wanted to torture with fire. He would have the girl now at any cost.

After eating at Big Hair's lodge, he wandered over to the Fort. He said not a word to anyone as he passed. An old chief came out of the gate, turned the corner, saw the Bat, and said: "The white chief says you tried to steal his squaw. His heart is cold toward our people. He will no longer trade with us. What have you done?"

The Bat's set eyes gazed at the old man, and he made no reply, but stood leaning against the walls while the chief passed on.

No one noticed him, and he did not move for hours. He was under that part of the wall behind which was the room of the woman, and not unexpectedly he heard a voice from above in the strange language which he did not understand. Looking up, he saw that she was on the roof. He motioned her to come down to him, at the same time taking his rifle from under his robe.

The distance was four times her height, but she quickly produced a rawhide lariat, which she began to adjust to a timber that had been exposed in the roof, dirt having been washed away. Many times she looked back anxiously, fearful of pursuit, until, testing the knot and seeming satisfied, she threw her body over the edge and slid down.

The Bat patted her on the back, and instinctively they fled as fast as the woman could run until out of rifle-shot, when her new brave stayed her flight and made her go slowly that they might not attract attention. They got at last to the pony-herds, where the Bat found his little brother with his bunch of ponies. Taking the cherished war-pony and two others, he mounted his new woman on one, while he led the other beside his own. They galloped to the hills. Looking back over the intervening miles of plain, their sharp eyes could see people running about like ants, in great perplexity and excitement. Papin had discovered his woes, and the two lovers laughed loud and long. He had made his slaves lay violent hands on the Bat and he had lashed the girl, Seet-se-be-a (Mid-day Sun), with a pony whip, but he had lost his woman.

Much as the Bat yearned to steep his hands in the gore of Papin, yet the exigencies of the girl's escape made it impossible now, as he feared pursuit. On the mountain-ridge they stopped, watching for the pursuing party from the Fort, but the Cheyennes swarmed around and evidently Papin was perturbed.

So they watched and talked, and fondled each other, the fierce Cheyenne boy and Minataree girl-for she proved to be of that tribe-and they were married by the ancient rites of the ceremony of the Fastest Horse.

Shortly the tribe moved away to its wintering-grounds, the young couple following after. The Bat lacked the inclination to stop long enough to murder Papin; he deferred that to the gray future, when the "Mid-day Sun" did not warm him so.

As they entered the lodges, they were greeted with answering yells, and the sickening gossip of his misadventure at Laramie was forgotten when they saw his willing captive. The fierce old women swarmed around, yelling at Seet-se-be-a in no complimentary way, but the fury of possible mothers-in-law stopped without the sweep of the Bat's elk-horn pony whip.

Before many days there was a new tepee among the "Red Lodges," and every morning Seet-se-be-a set a lance and shield up beside the door, so that people should know by the devices that the Bat lived there.

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