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"is Kaya afraid to ride further into the country of the Flatheads?" "When Kaya was a boy, he sold fear for scalps," replied the mountaineer; "and he is now a grown-up man; but he has crossed the mountains-has he not kept his faith?" and, receiving no answer to his inquiry, he coolly alighted, lifted the light pack from the back of his tired horse, knelt, and tied a broad deer-skin thong above the pasterns of the animal, and then drove him forth to move, step by step, along the rich pasturage of bunch-grass by which they were surrounded.
He then sat quietly down on his saddle, and, taking out a bag of kini kinik, filled his stone pipe, lighted it, and, first offering it to his companions, smoked as composedly as if still in the commodious lodge where they sought him, on the banks of the Missouri. The hot blood of Wilson fired at the supposed insult. "Are we to be bought and sold by this crazy voyageur in this manner," he said; "he has galloped his half-wild horse throughout the day, broken down both our ponies, and now, when the evening air begins to recruit them, and there is a reasonable hope of reaching the Mission, he turns his dare-devil nag loose, and sits down to enjoy a comfortable pipe. Halloo! sirrah!" he continued, "what does all this mean? Get up and saddle your horse, or I'll sound your senses with a revolver bullet."
The half-breed had taken from his buckskin pouch a number of bullets, and was attentively counting them-telling them off in sections of ten, and breaking a blade of grass for each little heap of lead which he thus enumerated. "Speak to the yellow hound," said Wilson; "I verily believe him crazy; he is muttering to himself, and counting his bullets." "Hush," replied Gardiner; "the man is in trouble. Something has occurred of which we know nothing, and the pride of Kaya does not permit him to explain it. We engaged him, you know, only to cross the mountains, and here we are. We must sit down and smoke with him, and wait until the spirit moves. These men of the mountain are red Quakers-they have the moroseness of the Indian, with all the evil pride of the white race to give it
character. Kaya appears more grieved than angry, and is evidently deeply moved. Come, seat yourself and make the best of it." The friends threw themselves upon the ground, Wilson subduing his vexation, as, for the first time, he marked the troubled look in the stern, dark eye of the celebrated guide, of whom he had heard so much, and became more anxious to learn the cause of his strange behavior.
The pipe passed slowly round the little circle, and a short interval of silence elapsed; then Kaya stood up and faced the friends, with his hand extended. He was a splendid type of humanity, full six feet in height, deepchested, broad-shouldered, but rather sinewy than muscular. His form was indurated by exposure, and erect as if he had never encountered the fifty years of hardship which had streaked his dark hair with gray. He stood forward like the genius of the old mountain-path, and was gorgeously clad in the costume of his race. It was a gala visit, and, to go into the country of the Flatheads, Kaya had donned his mountain finery. His hunting-shirt of softly-dressed antelope skin, and white as snow, was ornamented with stained elk-hair, and fringed with the small colored beads of the forts. The broad leggins which he wore were fringed with scalps throughout their length, and the bells upon his shoulders shook musically at his slightest move
"Kaya is a man," he said; "his word is like a brook, which does not turn back and run again up the mountain. White men are like streams that the beavers dam up; but it would take many sticks and more mud and brush than grow on the bottoms of the Marias to stop the Kaya. My brother is very young," he continued, turning to Wilson; he has set many things down in the little book that he carries. Let him say to it one thing more, that it may speak very loud to his nation when he gets home to the distant lodges. Let him say to it that a grizzly does not dig roots when the berries of the swamps are ripe, and a half-breed does not stop on an open trail without a reason. There is a Piegan band on the plains of the Missouri. I have counted more moccasin tracks than my fingers can number
The leaf of the mountain cranberry, used by the northern half breeds as a substitute for tobacco. The same term is applied to the inner bark of the red willow.
twice held up. I must ride fast to save my squaw and my papoose, but I have crossed the mountain-Kaya has kept his faith. Here is the first water of the western slope; follow the trail; the path is open and there is no danger, for we have come fast, and are deep in the country of the Flatheads. When his horse is rested, and the night has come, Kaya must ride again." Raising his hand, and throwing back his head, he struck his chest a smart blow, and uttered the deep, guttural sound which, in Indian custom, signifies the earnestness of the narrator in the meaning of the words he has spoken. He then seated himself in an attitude of attention, to listen to what his auditors might have to communicate.
Gardiner waited a few moments, and then, rising and facing the half-breed, said to him: "Kaya, was it not wrong to keep from us your knowledge that the signs we saw this morning were those of the Blackfeet? We might have wished to return to the fort, and it is now too late. But it is madness for you to think of going back; your gray horse and white dress will be at once noticed on the open prairie. I have too much interest in your welfare to permit it. You must explain your self more fully before I consent to such a risk as you seek to encounter; besides
that, your tired horse will never bear you back again to your lodge."
Kaya again stood up: "Men of the settlements," he said, "are like tall weeds-when the wind blows from the north, they bend down to the earth; and when the south wind blows, then they lean again toward the regions of cold. They are like children-so very small that the little stalks of the prairie grass can throw them down. My brother is a chief of his nation, but he has forgotten that Kaya is a free man. He has no chief. He has never packed for the company at the fort. He has never pounded pemmican, nor broken corn between two stones like a squaw. Kaya is a warrior, and his mother was a woman of the Chippewas of the north, the daughter of a chief; yet the heart of a strong man is to-day quite weak. A very little child, who is neither white nor red, has held a bow over him, which is as bright to Kaya as the red sign in the clouds after a summer rain--but Kaya has no power to bend it. Kaya is now very feeble; his heart is soft as an old squaw's when she hears the scalp-whoop for the last of her children; but Kaya has been strong enough to keep his word-he has crossed the mountain, and to-night he will go back and fight for a daughter of the Crows, who left her people to come into his
lodge, and for the little child that she hides in her blanket where she is waiting for him."
The friends renewed their importunities, but without effect. The taciturn half-breed would not continue to answer their questions. He arose and went to the brook, bathed his thick locks, and, after a long ablution, returned to them with stripes of red across his fine features; others extended from the roots of his hair to his chin.
"He signs himself with the cross, at any rate," said Wilson. "Now, what do you suppose Kaya means by such confounded flummery? He is, in reality, a most sensible fellow, and speaks the English language more correctly than many a Yankee." "Only," replied his companion, that Kaya probably believes that we are the last of his race, or, rather, the last of his friends whom he will ever see. He has
dedicated himself to a forlorn hope-a desperate, wild endeavor, and he knows very well that every detail of our late conference and a description of his own movements will be required from us by his fierce companions. He has put on his war-paint, and is prepared for death. But, like the animal whose name he bears, in my opinion Kaya will die hard. He has been known to kill ten buffalo or bison in a single run, or before his horse tired. I have never described to you the manner in which these half-breeds of the north hunt the bison. Although better weapons have been offered to them, they still use the old northwest or Hudson Bay Company's light flint-lock gun. Mounted on their fine horses, they ride up to the leeward of a herd of bison. At a given signal, start at full speed. Each rider holds in his mouth ten spare bullets. They approach the bison on the
HUNTING THE BISON.
right or off side. The gun is not placed at the shoulder, but held breast high, and discharged with great accuracy. The bison is shot either in the heart, or across the spine at the kidneys. Each bull is brought to the ground with a single bullet. The hunter, riding at full speed, now places the butt of the gun upon his foot, pours another charge of powder into his hand, which is clasped to prevent the wind or rapid movement from causing the loss of the 'villainous saltpetre,' places it in the gun, and, taking a bullet from the half score he has held in his mouth, drops it into the barrel of the arm, without
using the rammer. The wet bullet sticks fast on reaching the powder; the gun, by a jar against the stirrup, is primed; and the rider, who is all this time galloping at racing speed in the midst of the dust and confusion of the maddened herd, is ready to select the next fat bison as a victim.
"It is my opinion, that were Kaya's horse fresh, he would make a terrible running fight to his lodge. He has been engaged trapping the beaver, on the upper meadows of the Missouri, where we found him. His canoe is there, and will permit his squaw to es cape with her child to the fort; there
fore I do not precisely understand his extreme anxiety, which he does not seem inclined to explain to us."
As the conversation ended. Kaya came gracefully forward. You are both tired with a long ride," he said; "sit upon the earth; it is thus men grow strong." He then quickly stripped the trappings from the animals, hobbled them, turned them loose, and performed the ordinary service of the camp with an alacrity and skill which astonished the travelers.
He cut long willow rods by the brook, and sharpened a stake, which he then drove into the earth near the fire he had kindled of pitch-wood. Then, pulling it up, he placed upright in the orifice thus made one of his willow rods. In this manner he made an oval of upright wands. He then braided or wove together the topmost branches of the willows. To these he lashed cross-braces with couplings of withes and bark. Within he placed the blankets of the travelers.
While Gardiner prepared the coffee, and took charge of that portion of their meal which partook of a more civilized character, Kaya sought some grasshoppers. These unfortunate insects he lashed with a horse-hair to the fishhook of a line of the same material.
KAYA AT THE STREAM.
He ran down to the stream, and soon returned with several of the splendid trout of the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. These he transfixed, from tail to gills, with a sharp, thin rod. The rod he placed upright before the fire,
and, with this savory addition to their evening meal, it was soon ready and finished.
"There," said Wilson.
An hour later, the travelers lay on their couch of blankets, beneath the bower of bent boughs which the care of Kaya had provided, and the wild half-breed, with his feet to the fire, and the starlit sky for a covering, slumbered as calmly as if untried by sorrow. he has already thought better of his resolution; mark how soundly he sleeps. He has no intention of taking the midnight ride, after all. He is like the rest of his French race-all talk and splutter. These fellows always remind me of a roasting apple."
"You, not unlike many other Americans," replied Gardiner, "cherish the idea of Saxon parentage, and believe no race equal to your own. You forget that the great explorer, Frémont, is of French origin, and that from the French peasantry were formed the immortal armies of Napoleon. The father of Kaya, however, was a Scotchman. His mother was a sister of the great Holein-the-day'-or the Shadow-chief of the Chippewas. But I am too tired to talk, and as Kaya does not seem to see the necessity of keeping guard to-night, and as the horses are hobbled, suppose we try to sleep."
It was late in the day when the young men awoke. Kaya was gone.
Now," said Gardiner, triumphantly, "what do you think of the midnight ride? Kaya is half way to the mouth of Beaver river, and all we have to do is to catch up,' as the mountaineers term it, and go on." "Go on," returned his companion; "we should do well to go on, neither of us speaking a word of the Flathead tongue, and interlopers from the land of an enemy. Culbertson warned us, that if we met the companies of the Nez Percés, we should be in great danger, and, on no account, to attempt the incursion without Kaya; and Culbertson's word, as you have always affirmed, is mountain-law. Now, what I propose is, to pack and return towards the fort. We can take the upper trail, and thus avoid any danger from the Blackfeet.
"Better follow Kaya," rejoined Gardiner. "The Blackfoot party is going toward the south; probably they are seeking the Crow tribes, to steal horses; Kaya will ride straight to his wife and
child, and then push for the fort, or, perhaps, up Teton river. I will stake the half-breed against the Blackfeet if he ever reaches his mountain brood and canoe."
"It is at least a half-day's journey before we can leave the mountainpass," said his companion. "We can, at any rate, pack and start."
Their arrangements were soon made, and they turned back upon the trail.
"Men armed with Sharp's rifles and a pair of dragoon's six-shooters each, should not hesitate to follow where a half-breed has gone with a single flintlock gun," said the fiery southerner.
They rode rapidly on. Toward the close of the day, a sound, never heard unnoticed in the wild domain of the Indian. startled them to a sudden halt and wakeful attention. ..That was not the
report of a rifle," said the experienced Gardiner ; "it was an Indian gun." "Perhaps shot at an antelope or buffalo," rejoined his friend.
At this moment two other shots were
"From Indian guns," said Gardiner, in reply. to the inquiring look of his companion; "not a rifle yet. It is no buffalo-hunt. There are no herds of buffalo so high up the country at this season of the year. It is, doubtless, the Kaya, the bold grizzly of the mountains, overtaken by the Blackfeet and fighting for his life."
They saw the indented toe-marks made by the unshod hoofs of the wild mountain-steed of the half-breed, who had apparently ridden with the same headlong speed, through the dark hours of the night, that had characterized their progress of the previous day.
They pushed on, and at noon had reached the eastern extremity of the pass.
They could see the broad rolling country of the upper Missouri, broken by the great waters of the Beaver, Sun, and Teton rivers, spread out before them.
Here they made a short halt, to recruit their tired horses, took refreshment, and in their conference decided to ride towards the camp of Kaya.
"We will go to him," said Wilson. "By heaven, no Carolinian ever forsook a friend in need. I spoke harshly to him last night, and I will now aid him, if they burn me at the stake. Let us on," he continued, spurring his jaded horse.
"Stop," said the stern New Englander. "This is no boy's play. Let us be men. We will fight for Kaya; but God gives to man discretion that he may use it The grass is high. We can approach these beasts, who have not the scent of the wild animals of the plains, and aid the mountaineer better by aiding him with judgment."
Gardiner had turned in his saddle to address his companion, and he sat upon