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Title: White Otter
Author: Gregor, Elmer Russell, 1878-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "White Otter" ***

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  [Illustration: "The hunt became a mad break-neck scramble across the
  rocky plain."      [PAGE 143]]



  WHITE OTTER

  BY
  ELMER RUSSELL GREGOR

  AUTHOR OF "CAMPING ON WESTERN TRAILS," "THE RED ARROW," ETC.


  FRONTISPIECE BY
  D. C. HUTCHISON


  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
  NEW YORK       LONDON
  1924



  By ELMER R. GREGOR


  JIM MASON, BACKWOODSMAN
  JIM MASON, SCOUT


  _Western Indian Series...._

  WHITE OTTER
  THE WAR TRAIL
  THREE SIOUX SCOUTS


  _Eastern Indian Series_

  SPOTTED DEER
  RUNNING FOX
  THE WHITE WOLF



  COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY
  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY


  Printed in the United States of America



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                   PAGE

      I. RIDERS OF THE NIGHT                   1

     II.  THE WAR PARTY                       14

    III.  TRAILING THE ENEMY                  31

     IV.  A PERILOUS ADVENTURE                50

      V.  A SURPRISE                          66

     VI.  A FIGHT IN THE DARK                 85

    VII.  THE MINNECONJOUX CAMP               97

   VIII.  VISITORS FROM THE NORTH            114

     IX.  THE GREAT BUFFALO DRIVE            137

      X.  AN ADVENTURE AMONG THE PEAKS       156

     XI.  A CALL TO WAR                      177

    XII.  A NIGHT OF UNCERTAINTY             189

   XIII.  RACING TO THE RESCUE               212

    XIV.  THE PLIGHT OF THE OGALALAS         222

     XV.  WHITE OTTER'S BOLD RESOLVE         241

    XVI.  A BAFFLING TRAIL                   253

   XVII.  A PEEP INTO THE PAWNEE CAMP        267

  XVIII.  A DARING ATTEMPT                   278

    XIX.  A SPLENDID VICTORY                 292

     XX.  THE CROWN OF EAGLE PLUMES          305



WHITE OTTER



CHAPTER I

RIDERS OF THE NIGHT


It was the time of the new-grass moon. The long cold winter had finally
passed, and the season of abundance was at hand. The Sioux gave thanks
to the Great Mystery with song and dance. They knew that vast herds of
buffaloes would soon appear from the south, and then every want would be
supplied. The hunters were already making plans for the great buffalo
drive which would provide the camp with meat for many days.

It was at this season that White Otter, the grandson of Wolf Robe, the
famous Ogalala war chief, had planned to visit the Minneconjoux camp to
see his friends, Sun Bird and his brother Little Raven. The three young
warriors had shared many perilous adventures the previous year, when
White Otter won fame by recovering the Red Arrow, a Sioux medicine
trophy which had been stolen by the Pawnees, and Sun Bird rescued his
brother from captivity. At that time the lads pledged themselves to an
undying friendship, and Sun Bird and Little Raven accompanied White
Otter to the Ogalala village. When they departed White Otter gave each
two splendid ponies, and promised to visit them the following spring.
Now the time was at hand and he was eager to go.

When Wolf Robe learned White Otter's intention he said: "It is good; the
Minneconjoux are our brothers. Curly Horse, their chief, is a great man.
You will see many brave warriors in that camp. Sun Bird and Little Raven
are your friends. They will tell their people about you. Go and tell the
Minneconjoux that Wolf Robe is thinking about them."

Two days later White Otter set out upon his journey. As he was anxious
to make a good appearance before the proud people whom he planned to
visit, he had arrayed himself with elaborate care. He was dressed in all
the finery of a Sioux warrior. He wore soft doeskin leggings extending
to his thighs, a buckskin breech-cloth, moccasins gayly decorated with
dyed deer-hair, a rawhide belt from which hung his knife-sheath, his
weaselskin pouch containing his fire-sticks and a small buckskin bag
filled with dried meat. His bow and arrows were in a wolfskin case which
was slung across his back, and at his side hung his buffalo-hide war
shield. His robe was a beautifully tanned pelt of the grizzly bear. His
hair was arranged in two braids which were bound with otter fur, and
fastened to his scalp-lock was a tail-feather of the golden eagle, which
proclaimed him a warrior. He rode his fastest war pony, a nervous little
roan, and in its mane and tail he had fastened many hawk feathers, and
strips of fur. Thus equipped, the lad of seventeen winters was an
imposing figure. Tall and manly, he carried himself with the commanding
dignity which he had inherited from his father, Standing Buffalo, and
his grandfather, Wolf Robe, the stern old war chief of the Ogalalas.

As White Otter left his grandfather's lodge and rode through the center
of the village the people greeted him with shouts of approval. He had
won an everlasting place in their hearts, and they looked upon him with
pride and affection. Most of the boys, many of the old men and some of
the women followed him from the village, singing his praise and calling
his name. Once he had left the camp, however, White Otter soon urged his
pony into a canter, and rode away from his enthusiastic admirers.

"The Minneconjoux will see that White Otter, the grandson of the great
war chief of the Ogalalas, is a man," said Yellow Horse, the
medicine-man.

"Yes, he is brave like his father, Standing Buffalo, who has gone on the
Long Trail," replied Wolf Robe, as he looked admiringly after his
grandson.

White Otter rode away with a light heart, for he was overjoyed at the
thought of rejoining his friends. He had never been to the Minneconjoux
village, but he knew that it was far to the westward near the great
mountains, and as Wolf Robe had carefully described certain prominent
landmarks along the route he had little fear of missing his destination.
The young Sioux had heard many tales relating to the courage and valor
of his distant tribesmen, and he was eager to meet the famous warriors
of whom he had heard. He was particularly anxious to see Curly Horse,
the renowned Minneconjoux war chief, and Sun Bird's father, Rain Crow, a
famous medicine-man.

At midday White Otter came to a great village of the little Underground
People, the prairie dogs. He rode slowly between the small earth lodges,
and saw hundreds of the eccentric little creatures sitting up to watch
him. One old gray-whiskered sentinel chattered shrilly as the pony
approached, and finally dove frantically into his burrow. Most of the
Underground People followed his example. White Otter laughed at their
fright. He stopped his pony and waited for them to reappear. When the
gray nose of the cautious old patriarch finally came in sight, the young
Sioux called a greeting.

"Ho, you Underground People. Do you see who I am? Ho, you old man. Why
do you chatter like a frightened old woman? Come out and call to your
people. Tell them that White Otter is their friend. See, at my side is
the scalp of your enemy, the weasel. See, on my back is the scalp of
your enemy, the wolf. See, in my hair is a feather of your enemy, the
great war bird. I am telling you about this so that you can tell it to
your children. Now I am going away from here. Keep my words in your
heart."

As White Otter rode slowly on his way all the little Underground People
came from their burrows, and sat up on the low mounds of earth to watch
him. When he looked back and saw them he laughed, and raised his hand in
greeting. Then he cantered away and disappeared from sight over a low
rise of the plain. He rode until sunset, when he saw the first of the
landmarks which Wolf Robe had described: it was a small grove of aspens
which he had been told concealed a water-hole.

Although he was still on the hunting grounds of his people, and believed
he had little to fear from prowling enemies, White Otter approached the
spot with his customary caution. He knew that carelessness had betrayed
more than one brave warrior into the hands of his foes, and he
determined to run no unnecessary risks. Before exposing himself within
arrow range, therefore, he rode slowly around the grove, watching for a
sign of concealed foes, and studying the ground for fresh pony tracks.
When he had ridden several times around the spot without discovering
anything to rouse his suspicions, he drew his weapons, and dropped to
the side of his pony. Then he walked boldly toward the trees. He found
the grove unoccupied, and as it contained a pool of fresh water he
decided to camp there for the night.

It was barely dark, however, when White Otter's fancied security was
shattered by a noise which filled him with alarm. Rushing to the edge of
the plain to listen, he caught the unmistakable sound of galloping
hoofs. The truth instantly flashed into his mind. A company of horsemen
were approaching his camp-site. Were they friends or foes? White Otter
dared not wait to learn. He realized that safety lay in flight. There
was not a moment to spare, for the riders would soon be within bow-shot.
Running to his pony, he fastened a buckskin muzzle over its nose, and
leaped upon its back. Then he rode cautiously out upon the plain.

After he had gone a short distance the young Sioux stopped to assure
himself that the unknown horsemen were continuing in his direction. He
was surprised to learn that the sounds had ceased. However, the
stillness failed to deceive him. He knew that, like himself, the riders
were taking every precaution against a surprise. He believed that the
main company had stopped some distance out on the plain to wait until
one or more unmounted scouts could steal up to the water-hole to
reconnoiter. Fearing that these scouts might circle about the grove and
eventually discover him, he turned his pony toward the east and rode
slowly away.

White Otter made his way toward a deep ravine which he had crossed a
short time before he reached the water-hole. He planned to picket his
pony in the ravine, and then hurry across the plain on foot to
reconnoiter the camp of the mysterious horsemen. He had not gone far,
however, when he heard an owl calling in the vicinity of the pool, and
he knew that the scouts who had been sent forward to reconnoiter were
calling their companions. The signal was answered by the cry of a coyote
on the open plain, and it was evident that the riders were advancing
toward the grove.

Soon afterward White Otter found the ravine, and picketed his pony. Then
he climbed to the plain, and set out to spy upon the camp in the aspen
grove. As he made his way cautiously through the dark he tried to guess
the identity of the people who had driven him from the water-hole. It
was possible that they might prove to be a party of Sioux hunters from
the Minneconjoux village, but White Otter determined to risk nothing on
the chance. He believed it far more probable that they were a scouting
party of Crows or Blackfeet from the north who had ventured upon the
Sioux hunting grounds to look for buffaloes.

White Otter hurried across the vast star-lit plain with a firm
determination to solve the riddle. He realized that to learn what he
wished to know he must expose himself to considerable danger, but he was
without fear. He had already established an enviable reputation as a
warrior, and had passed through many perilous adventures on the war
trail.

The young Sioux guided himself by the stars, and soon arrived in the
general vicinity of the aspen grove. When he believed that he was within
hailing distance, he stopped to reconnoiter. He stood a long time
peering anxiously into the dark to catch the glow of a camp-fire, and
listening for some sound which would tell him the exact whereabouts of
the people whom he wished to see. His efforts were fruitless, however,
and he realized that he was farther from the camp than he had supposed.
As there was nothing to gain by loitering where he was, he continued
across the plain.

White Otter had gone some distance farther, when he was suddenly stopped
by the shrill whinny of a horse. It sounded directly ahead of him, but
apparently quite far away. Believing that the call had come from the
vicinity of the grove, White Otter looked eagerly in that direction. For
a few moments he saw only the vast black plain, and the star-studded
heavens. Then he caught a gleam of light far off to the westward. It
filled his heart with joy, for he knew that he had located the camp. It
also assured him that the horsemen had actually stopped in the grove,
and he felt greatly relieved. More than once he had been troubled by
the fear that the travelers had merely visited the pool to refresh their
ponies and had then resumed their journey. However, now that he was
certain of finding them in the grove, he was more perplexed than before.
He knew that a hostile war party would be almost sure to travel by
night, especially when they found themselves in the very center of the
Sioux hunting grounds. Therefore, White Otter concluded that these
people were hunters either from the Minneconjoux village, or from that
of one of the hostile tribes farther to the north.

Having definitely located the camp, the young Sioux determined to
approach it without further delay. He knew that to learn the identity of
these people he must get near enough to reconnoiter while the light from
the fire made it possible to see them. Therefore, he drew his weapons
and advanced toward the water-hole. As he finally neared the grove he
stopped at the end of every third stride to listen. Then when he heard
the ponies stamping restlessly he knew that he was within arrow-range,
and he sank noiselessly to the ground. He realized that if these people
were enemies they had probably stationed scouts about the grove, and he
feared to move lest he might encounter one of the alert sentinels at any
moment.

As White Otter lay upon the plain determining the safest way to approach
the camp, he heard sounds which led him to suspect that the horsemen
were preparing to leave the grove. At the same time he noted that they
were placing fresh fuel upon the fire. The maneuver made him suspicious.
"These people are not Sioux," he told himself.

Fearing that they would go away before he could identify them, the eager
lad rose and hurried toward the grove. Before he had covered half the
distance, however, the unknown riders mounted their ponies and rode away
at a gallop. They went toward the south, and White Otter felt sure that
they were foes.

The young Sioux listened with a heavy heart until the mocking hoof-beats
finally died away in the distance, and then he made his way to the
little pool. The fire was blazing fiercely, and he felt certain that it
had been left to give the impression that the riders were encamped in
the grove. Their hasty departure convinced him that the horsemen
believed themselves pursued. It seemed as if his earlier fears had been
confirmed. These people were evidently retreating from a larger company
of foes. The thought made White Otter serious. He wondered if his
tribesmen, the Minneconjoux, were involved in the mystery.

However, as White Otter saw no way of learning what he wished to know
until he reached the Minneconjoux camp, he told himself that he must be
patient. He concealed himself near the pool and waited some time, hoping
that a pursuing company of horsemen might soon appear. But the
possibility that they might be Crows or Blackfeet caused him
considerable uneasiness, and he finally determined to return to his pony
and spend the balance of the night in the ravine.



CHAPTER II

THE WAR PARTY


At daylight White Otter crept cautiously up the side of the gully to
survey the plain. Far away toward the west he saw the little grove of
aspens, and he wondered if another company of riders were encamped at
the water-hole. He searched the sky above the trees for a trace of
smoke, but he believed that the precaution was useless, for he told
himself that a war party on the trail of foes would never betray
themselves in such a manner. White Otter watched a long time, but saw
nothing except a distant band of antelope, and several animals which he
thought were prairie wolves. Soon after sunrise he led his pony from the
ravine, and rode away.

Once again the young Sioux circled cautiously about the aspens, and when
he had made sure that the spot was free of foes he entered the grove. He
and his pony drank heartily at the little pool, and then resumed their
journey toward the Minneconjoux camp. White Otter was still pondering
upon the identity of the mysterious riders. He was sorely disappointed
at the failure of his bold reconnaissance the previous night. However,
he consoled himself with the thought that his friends might be able to
tell him something about the horsemen. The possibility made him
impatient, and he hurried along at a rapid pace. He kept a sharp watch
for buffaloes, but it was evident that those great beasts were still
farther south. Antelope were plentiful, but as White Otter had a
sufficient supply of dried meat he made no attempt to hunt them.

Later in the day as he was crossing a wide stretch of grassy prairie
White Otter saw a solitary horseman watching him from the summit of a
distant knoll. Convinced that he had already been discovered, he
realized that it would be folly to attempt to hide. He stopped his pony,
therefore, and waited to see what the stranger would do. The latter,
however, was apparently using the same tactics against White Otter. Thus
many minutes passed while the two riders sat motionless on their
ponies, and watched with distrust and suspicion. They were too far apart
to identify each other, but neither showed any inclination to approach
nearer. At last the stranger turned his pony, and disappeared over the
crest of the rise.

White Otter did not know exactly what to do. The appearance of the lone
horseman had filled him with all sorts of alarming suspicions. First of
all, he felt quite sure that the rider was a scout reconnoitering in
advance of a war party. The idea suggested several interesting
possibilities. Perhaps it was a company of Sioux. The thought thrilled
him. He realized, however, that he must not permit the hope to betray
him. He feared it more likely that he was confronted by a roving band of
foes. As the horseman had made no attempt to conceal himself, White
Otter believed that he was endeavoring to decoy him into a trap. It was
quite probable that a large body of warriors were lurking behind the low
ridge over which the rider had disappeared. The thought was somewhat
alarming, and for a moment White Otter was tempted to flee. As the plain
was level and open, however, and he was well beyond bow-shot of the
ridge, he believed that he was in little immediate danger after all. He
saw that it would be impossible for an enemy to steal upon him
unobserved, and the assurance made him bold. Banishing all idea of
retreating until he learned more about the lone horseman, he determined
to hold his ground and wait for further developments.

It was not long before the rider again showed himself on the summit of
the knoll. A moment afterward he was joined by a companion. The
appearance of the second horseman convinced White Otter that a war party
was concealed behind the ridge. He watched anxiously to learn what the
two scouts intended to do.

In a few moments one of the riders raised his right hand above his head
and moved it slowly to the right and left. White Otter instantly
understood the signal, which meant, "I do not know you. Who are you?"
Unwilling to proclaim himself until he knew more about the strangers,
the young Sioux replied by repeating the question. Then the horseman who
was conversing with him again raised his right hand, but this time be
held it motionless. It was the sign for friendship. The second horseman
waved his robe, and then spread it upon the ground. White Otter
understood it as an invitation to come and talk with them. He began to
hope that he was in communication with a company of his own people.
Still he realized that he must take every precaution before exposing
himself. Therefore, he answered the invitation by clasping his hands and
raising them above his head, which meant, "Are you peaceful?" The
horseman pledged himself by repeating the signal.

"My heart tells me that these people are Sioux," White Otter assured
himself.

Then he again raised his right hand above his head, and swept it forward
and downward to his side, which meant, "Come here." He watched eagerly
while the horsemen seemed to be considering the invitation. At length
one of the riders turned his pony down the ridge and rode toward White
Otter. The latter saw that his invitation had been accepted, and he
determined to be very cautious. When the horseman finally stopped, and
signaled for White Otter to advance, the lad made no reply. He had no
intention of placing himself one stride nearer the ridge until he knew
the intentions of the strangers. As he showed no inclination to meet the
horseman, therefore, the latter betrayed considerable impatience. After
repeating the sign for friendship a number of times, and asking White
Otter to meet him, he finally turned to rejoin his companion.

In the meantime White Otter had been studying him closely, and although
he could not be sure at that distance he believed that the disgruntled
warrior was a Sioux. Therefore, as the latter showed every intention of
terminating the interview, White Otter made haste to pacify him. As the
scout looked back to make sure that he was not followed, the young Sioux
rode slowly forward.

The stranger instantly wheeled his pony and waited for White Otter to
approach. The latter advanced with the alert, watchful caution of a fox.
He made no attempt to conceal his suspicions, and to reassure him the
unknown rider raised his hand in token of peace. Neither White Otter nor
the warrior who awaited him had drawn their weapons, for to have done
so under the circumstances would have been a grave breach of etiquette.
However, White Otter stopped before he was within arrow-range, and
looked searchingly at the man before him. He had all the characteristics
of a Sioux, but the cautious lad determined to take nothing for granted.
As he was now sufficiently near to open negotiations in the sign
language, White Otter extended his right hand a short distance and
turned the open palm slowly from right to left. Then he pointed toward
the rider. The signs meant, "Who are you?"

The horseman replied by raising his right hand to the level of his
shoulder, and drawing his flat palm swiftly across his throat, which was
the sign for the great Sioux nation.

The announcement filled White Otter's heart with joy. Still he
determined to demand further proof before venturing within arrow-range.
He, too, made the sign for Sioux. Then he elevated his hands and brought
the tips of his fingers together so that his palms formed the familiar
outlines of a lodge or tepee, which was the sign for village. Then he
repeated the signs for "Who are you?" Thus he demanded to know from
what tribe or village the stranger had come.

The latter extended his clenched fists in front of him, and placed the
right thumb upon the left thumb, twisting his hands to represent the
motion for grinding corn. Then he opened his hands, and held them before
him with the thumbs uppermost and the fingers pointing forward. He moved
his hands by wrist action so that the fingers moved downward and to the
front, and then raised them and moved his hands slightly to the right.
These motions were repeated several times.

White Otter uttered an involuntary exclamation of delight, for he knew
that the motions were the signs for Minneconjoux Sioux. Then as the
rider was demanding an answer, White Otter pointed to the ground,
brought his clenched right hand, with the back outward, in front of his
face and snapped his fingers toward his eyes. It was the symbol for
Ogalala Sioux.

Having convinced each other that there was no need for further caution,
the two riders advanced. As they came within easy hailing distance the
Minneconjoux scout raised his hand and called a greeting.

"Ho, my brother, I see that you are a Sioux. It is good; we will talk
together."

"Ho, my brother, I have heard your words. They are the words of my
people. Yes, I will talk with you," said White Otter, as he hurried
forward to meet his tribesman.

A few moments later they dismounted and clasped hands. White Otter saw
that the Minneconjoux was a tall, broad-shouldered warrior in the prime
of life. He looked as sinewy and active as one of the great mountain
cats, and White Otter recalled the stories he had heard about this
powerful tribe of the Dacotah nation.

"I see that you are a young man. But you wear a feather of the great war
bird, and I know that you are a warrior. I do not know who you are, but
I will tell you that I am Feather Dog. I have fought in many battles.
You say that you are an Ogalala. Those people are very brave. I have
talked with the great chief Wolf Robe," said Feather Dog.

"Feather Dog, I have listened to your words. I believe you are a brave
warrior. The great chief Wolf Robe is my grandfather. I am White Otter;
my father was Standing Buffalo. You say that you are a Minneconjoux. I
am going to your village to see the great chief Curly Horse, and Rain
Crow, the medicine-man. I will meet my brothers, Sun Bird and Little
Raven," replied White Otter.

"Yes, now I know about you," said Feather Dog. "You are young, but you
are a great warrior. I have heard my people talk about you. You have
done a great thing. You call Sun Bird and Little Raven your brothers. It
is true. I will tell you about them."

Feather Dog told White Otter that he and Sitting Eagle, who was still
watching from the summit of the ridge, were scouting in advance of a
small Minneconjoux war party. He said that they were in pursuit of a
band of Utes from the south, who had stolen a number of Sioux ponies.
When White Otter heard that, he knew at once the identity of the
mysterious riders at the water-hole.

"I will tell you about those people," he told Feather Dog.

"Yes, tell me about them," the Minneconjoux scout said, eagerly.

"One sun back I camped over there," said White Otter, pointing toward
the east. "It is a place my grandfather told me about. Over there are
many of the trees whose leaves always tremble, and some good water. Do
you know about it?"

"Yes, I have been there many times," said Feather Dog.

"When I was at that place I heard some ponies. Yes, it was dark, and I
said: 'Perhaps it is my brothers, the Minneconjoux.' But I did not wait
there. No, I rode away, and left my pony in a ravine. Then I went back
to look at those people. When I got near them I heard them going away.
Then I hurried ahead to see them. But it was dark, and they went away. I
said: 'Those people are not Sioux. They are running away. Perhaps my
brothers, the Minneconjoux, are chasing them.' Now I know about it,"
said White Otter.

"Come, we will go over there, and tell this thing to Sitting Eagle,"
proposed Feather Dog.

As they cantered across the plain White Otter learned that the war
party was farther toward the west, as the Minneconjoux believed that the
Utes had retreated along the edge of the great mountains. White Otter
was overjoyed to learn that both Sun Bird and Little Raven were in the
war party. Feather Dog told him that among the ponies carried away by
the Utes was one which White Otter had presented to Sun Bird. Feather
Dog said that a boy was driving the animals toward the village, when the
Utes rode out of a gully and ran off the Minneconjoux ponies.

"I do not know those people," said White Otter.

"No, they do not go to your country. They are enemies of my people,"
replied Feather Dog.

"Then I will go to fight them," declared the loyal young Sioux.

A few moments afterward they joined Sitting Eagle on the crest of the
ridge. Feather Dog soon told his companion what White Otter had seen,
and Sitting Eagle listened with much interest. He, too, was a man in his
prime, and his splendid physique and bold flashing eyes filled his
young tribesman with admiration. When Feather Dog finished speaking
Sitting Eagle remained silent, while his eyes searched the face of the
youthful Ogalala. White Otter met his gaze unflinchingly, and the stern
Minneconjoux scout seemed impressed by the lad's boldness.

"Feather Dog has told me your words. I have listened. They are good. I
know about you. You have done a great thing. Yes, the Sioux will talk
about it a long time. You say that you have found the trail of our
enemies, the Black Faces. It is good. See, our people are coming over
there," he said, as he extended his arm toward the west.

A company of horsemen were riding rapidly toward them. When they saw the
three riders on the ridge they seemed to grow suspicious. They were
still too far away to recognize Sitting Eagle and Feather Dog. It was
evident that they intended to take every precaution. They had already
stopped, and were apparently gathered in council. Then Sitting Eagle
rode down the ridge and galloped to meet them. This maneuver soon
dispelled their suspicions, and when the scout raised his voice in the
Sioux war cry, his companions came on at the top speed of their ponies.

White Otter watched them with considerable emotion. Even at a distance
he recognized the two friends with whom he had shared so many
adventures. As they approached he was tempted to ride across the plain
to meet them, but he saw Feather Dog watching him closely, and he
determined to conceal his feelings. However, when the approaching
horsemen learned the identity of the rider with Feather Dog, Sun Bird
and Little Raven urged their ponies to a furious sprint and raced
forward in advance of their companions. When they reached the top of the
ridge they jumped to the ground and ran forward to greet their comrade.

"My brother, I have taken your hand, and my heart is filled with
sunshine," said Sun Bird.

"I have been thinking about you a long time," replied White Otter. "Now
I am talking with you. It is good; your words are like the songs of the
birds in my ears."

"See, my brother, I am riding the pony which you gave me. Yes, I am a
warrior. But I am not thinking about these things. I am singing in my
heart because I have taken your hand," said Little Raven.

"Your words are the words of a true friend. I will keep them in my
heart," replied White Otter.

Then as the warriors gathered about them White Otter told of his
experience at the water-hole. Convinced that the mysterious horsemen
were the Utes who had stolen the ponies, the war party determined to
ride to the aspen grove. The sun was still some distance above the
horizon, and they felt sure that they would reach the camp-site soon
after dark. As there was little chance of overtaking the Utes before
they reached their village, the daring Sioux resolved to follow them to
their camp, and retaliate for the affront by running off a large bunch
of ponies. They planned to spend the night at the water-hole, therefore,
and set out on the trail of their foes at dawn. When White Otter learned
their intention he volunteered to join the war party, and was speedily
accepted.

"When I see you riding beside me I feel very brave," said Sun Bird. "It
is good; we will take many ponies from our enemies, the Black Faces."

"Tell me about those people," said White Otter.

Sun Bird told him that they lived several days' journey toward the
south. He said that they were smaller than the Sioux, and very dark. "My
people call them the Black Faces," said Sun Bird. He added that they
were very fearless, and he said that the Minneconjoux had fought many
furious battles with them.

"It is good," said White Otter. "I will fight these brave people. Then I
will tell my people about it."

When the war party finally reached the water-hole night had already
fallen, and the wily Minneconjoux halted out of arrow-range, while
Feather Dog and Sitting Eagle went forward to investigate. It was not
long before they signaled that all was well, and the war party advanced.
After picketing the ponies in the timber, the Sioux made a fire of dry
sticks, and broiled a quantity of antelope meat which they had secured
earlier in the day. When they finished eating they stationed several
warriors to guard the horses, and then the balance of the company
wrapped themselves in their robes and went to sleep.

"Perhaps we will have a hard fight to get those ponies," said Sun Bird,
as he lay down beside White Otter.

"A Sioux is always ready to fight," replied White Otter.



CHAPTER III

TRAILING THE ENEMY


The Sioux set out on the trail at daybreak. White Otter thrilled with
pride as he realized that they were about to enter the stronghold of
their foes to contend with a force vastly superior in numbers. Sun Bird
said that the Minneconjoux war party would have been considerably larger
but for a rumor that the Crows were gathering a great war party.
Suspecting that those inveterate foes intended to invade their
territory, the Sioux feared to leave their village unprotected. He told
White Otter that the present company was composed of a few loyal
friends, several of whom had lost ponies in the band which had been run
off by the Utes. As White Otter saw nothing of Feather Dog and Sitting
Eagle he felt sure that they had already departed to scout in advance of
the war party.

"Yes, they are as wise as the fox," said Sun Bird, when White Otter
mentioned their absence. "They will find the Black Faces, and tell us
about them."

As the three lads rode along in company they attracted much favorable
comment from their companions. They were a striking trio. The young
Ogalala was taller and more slender than either of his friends. He lost
nothing by comparison, however, for his figure was splendidly
proportioned and showed the sinewy strength of the young mountain cat;
while the shorter, more compact forms of the Minneconjoux betokened the
heavier power of the young bear. It was evident that White Otter and Sun
Bird were about the same age, but Little Raven looked several years
younger. Sun Bird, like White Otter, wore an eagle feather in his
scalp-lock, while Little Raven wore the tail feather of a hawk.

The Sioux had not gone far when they saw one of the scouts signaling
from a rise of ground some distance to the south of them. When he had
attracted their attention he began to ride his pony in a circle while he
waited for them to come up with him.

"See, that is Feather Dog. He has found something," said Sun Bird.

Then the little company of riders galloped eagerly toward their comrade.
When they reached him he led them to a wide meadow-like stretch of
sloughy ground, and showed them the fresh hoof-prints of many ponies.
The Sioux studied them in silence. It was evident that they were waiting
for Feather Dog to tell them what was in his mind.

"There are the tracks of many ponies. Those ponies carried our enemies,
the Black Faces. Those people took away two ponies that I know about.
Yes, I have used them many times. One of those ponies made that mark,"
said Feather Dog, stooping and placing his fingers in a hoof-print.

Then his companions dismounted to inspect the track. Upon examining it
closely they found that it showed an unusual bulge in the center.
Convinced that they were actually on the trail of their foes, the Sioux
began to chant their war songs and make boastful threats against the
people who had incurred their wrath.

"What Feather Dog says is true," declared Sun Bird. "Yes, the Black
Faces are running toward the mountains."

As the trail led away toward the west, the suggestion received unanimous
indorsement. The Sioux suspected that the crafty Utes had attempted to
make them the dupes of a wily stratagem. It was evident that the latter
had fled to the water-hole solely to confuse their pursuers. White Otter
now understood the purpose of the fire which they left blazing in the
grove while they fled toward the mountains. However, Feather Dog's
wolf-like keenness in following a trail had made their efforts of no
avail.

The Sioux waited until Feather Dog had again gone forward in advance of
them, and then they rode away toward the south. They kept a sharp watch
for foes, for they realized that they were in peril not only from the
Utes, but from roving bands of Kiowas and Pawnees as well.

"Perhaps we will see our enemies the Wolf People," said Sun Bird,
referring to the latter tribe.

"We have fought a great battle with those people. I feel it in my heart
that we will fight them again," White Otter prophesied grimly.

The day was well advanced before the war party again came into
communication with the scouts. Then Feather Dog suddenly appeared from a
gully, and rode furiously to and fro. It was the danger signal, and the
Sioux knew that he had discovered something which had alarmed him.

"Perhaps we are near our enemies," said Sun Bird. "Feather Dog has seen
something. We must be very cautious."

When they reached him he told them that he and Sitting Eagle, who had
joined him earlier in the day, had discovered smoke some distance to the
south. Sitting Eagle had gone forward to reconnoiter, and Feather Dog
advised the war party to wait in the ravine until the scout returned.

"It is the best thing to do," agreed Sun Bird.

"Yes, we must wait until we know about this thing," said White Otter.

The Sioux picketed their ponies in the bottom of the ravine, and
composed themselves to await the return of their comrade. They knew that
to be successful they must be patient as well as cautious. Feather Dog
pointed out the spot where he had seen the smoke, but it had faded from
the sky before the war party arrived.

"Perhaps it was a signal," suggested a warrior named Spotted Elk.

"No, it was different," declared Feather Dog, with conviction.

They watched anxiously for Sitting Eagle, but the day ended and he
failed to return. As night closed down the Sioux posted sentinels on
both sides of the ravine. Then they waited in silence, straining their
ears to catch the first warning of the scout's return. However, as the
time passed and he failed to appear some of the younger warriors showed
signs of uneasiness.

"Perhaps Sitting Eagle has been captured," suggested Little Raven.

"A Sioux does not turn back until he sees what he goes to know about,"
said Sun Bird. "Sitting Eagle is as cautious as an old wolf. He will
come back and tell us about this thing. A warrior must know how to
wait."

"You speak wise words. I will keep them in my heart," Little Raven
replied, humbly.

The night was far spent when the Sioux were roused by the shrill bark of
the little gray fox. It sounded from the east, and seemed close at hand.
They listened anxiously, and in a few moments they heard it again. The
keenest ear among them could detect no flaw in the call, and they
wondered if the animal itself was deceiving them. Then they heard it the
third time, and their suspense was ended. They knew it was a signal from
their absent tribesman. One of the sentinels barked twice in rapid
succession. Then they heard the sound of hoofs, and a few moments later
Sitting Eagle led his pony into the ravine.

"You have returned; it is good," said Feather Dog.

"Yes, I have looked at those people," replied Sitting Eagle. "Now I will
tell you about it."

He said that after leaving Feather Dog he had advanced across the plain
with great caution until he finally discovered a camp situated in a
scattered growth of timber beside a stream. As he saw a number of lodges
among the trees, however, he began to doubt that these were the people
whom he wished to find. He knew that a war party setting out to steal
ponies would never incumber themselves in that manner. Besides, the
lodges implied the presence of women and children. Sitting Eagle was
convinced, therefore, that these people were not on the warpath. The
thought troubled him. The trail of the people who had stolen the Sioux
ponies led in the general direction of this camp. For a time the scout
was sorely perplexed. At last he decided that these people were hunters,
roaming the plains in search of buffaloes. He believed that the Sioux
ponies had been stolen by a company of young warriors from this camp.
However, Sitting Eagle realized that his opinions were of no value until
he learned whether these people were actually his enemies, the Black
Faces. To gain this information he knew that he must approach
sufficiently near to recognize them. As it would have been sheer madness
to attempt such a maneuver in daylight, he waited until dark. Then he
concealed his pony, and advanced toward the camp on foot. He gained the
edge of the camp in safety, and soon convinced himself that the people
who occupied it were his foes, the Utes. Then he looked for evidence to
connect them with the theft of the ponies. Determined to supply positive
proof to his tribesmen, the daring scout risked his life to obtain the
information. Waiting until the fire made it possible to see every detail
of the camp, Sitting Eagle crawled forward in the shadows until he could
study the band of ponies. It was not long before he discovered the
animals which had been stolen from his people. Then having learned all
that he wished to know he retreated to his pony, and raced away to join
his companions.

"Sitting Eagle has done a good thing," said Feather Dog, as the scout
finished his story. "I have listened to his words. Yes, now I know about
that smoke. I know about another thing. The Black Faces have made a
fire. Yes, they have cooked some meat. Then I know that they will travel
easy. It is good; they are not thinking about us. Well, we will follow
these people. Perhaps they will stop to hunt. If they camp, then we
will run off many ponies. But I will tell you another thing. Perhaps
they are near the great village. If they meet their people, then I do
not know how the thing will be. My brothers, this is what I am thinking
about."

"Feather Dog has spoken. He is a great warrior. You have heard his
words," said Sun Bird, who appeared to be the leader of the war party.
"I believe he has told the thing as it is. We must watch the Black
Faces. When it is light perhaps they will go away from that place. Then
we will follow them. Now I will ask my brother, Sitting Eagle, to go
with me to watch those people. Now I will ask you, my friends, to wait
here until we know about this thing. I have finished."

"My brothers, Sun Bird has told you a good thing to do. Yes, he is a
good war leader. Now I will go with my brother to watch the Black
Faces," declared Sitting Eagle.

"When a war leader speaks his brothers listen," said the warrior,
Spotted Elk. "Sun Bird is a young man, but he is a brave warrior. What
he says is good. We will do this thing."

Daylight was close at hand, and Sun Bird and his companion realized that
there was not a moment to spare. They knew that they must arrive within
sight of the camp and conceal themselves while it was still dark. They
sprang upon their ponies, therefore, and rode away at a gallop. Little
Raven was eager to accompany them but Sun Bird refused his request. He
promised, however, that both White Otter and Little Raven should share
the honor of entering the Ute camp to lead out the ponies.

The first hint of daylight was showing in the east as Sitting Eagle
finally led Sun Bird to a low ridge within sight of the camp. After they
had picketed the ponies the two scouts crawled to the top of the rise to
reconnoiter. It was still too dark to see anything beyond bow-range, and
they withdrew behind the ridge and waited impatiently for dawn to raise
the curtain which concealed their foes.

"Perhaps those people are waiting at that place for buffaloes,"
suggested Sun Bird. "Perhaps the warriors will ride around and see us.
Now it is getting light; we must be as wise as the fox."

"Yes, we will be very cautious," replied Sitting Eagle.

Darkness was slowly giving way to twilight, and the eager scouts again
peered cautiously over the top of the ridge. It was still impossible to
locate the camp, but they continued to watch. Each moment the light grew
stronger and enabled them to see farther across the plain. At last they
saw the trees, and a few moments afterward they discovered the lodges.

"It is good; the Black Faces have not gone away," Sitting Eagle said,
with apparent relief.

Soon afterward they saw a thin column of blue smoke rising into the sky.
It filled their hearts with hope. They believed that the Utes intended
to remain at the stream another day. In that event the Sioux knew that
their task would be easier than it would if they were compelled to
invade the main Ute village. They watched anxiously, therefore, until
they saw a number of horsemen leave the camp and ride away in different
directions. This maneuver convinced them that the Utes had no intention
of moving the camp.

"My words have come true," declared Sun Bird. "These people are waiting
for buffaloes. Those riders are going out to look around. It is bad;
perhaps they will come over here and find us."

"Yes, I believe we are in danger," agreed Sitting Eagle, as he looked
anxiously about him in the hope of finding a hiding place.

The wide expanse of sage-grown plain offered little concealment for the
ponies, and the Sioux knew that it would be folly to leave the animals
in open sight at the base of the ridge. They realized, therefore, that
they must take them away before the Ute scouts approached any nearer.

"Now I know how to do this thing," said Sun Bird. "My brother, I will
ask you to take the ponies to our people. I will hide here in the sage,
and watch the camp. When it is dark you must come back with the war
party. You must come ahead, and make the call of the little gray fox.
When you hear another fox barking on the ridge, then you will know I am
here. Then you must call the war party, and we will go to the camp for
the ponies. But if your ears tell you nothing, then you will know that
I have gone away to follow the Black Faces. This is the best thing to
do. I have finished."

"You are a brave warrior and a good war leader," replied Sitting Eagle.
"I will do what you tell me. If we do not find you here, then we will
follow on the trail. Now I am going away with the ponies."

Sitting Eagle hurried down the ridge, and retreated with the ponies. He
was entirely screened from the camp, and was in little danger of being
discovered. Sun Bird watched until his comrade finally passed from sight
over a distant rise of the plain. Then, feeling sure of Sitting Eagle's
safety, the loyal lad concealed himself in a clump of sage, and began
the long, tedious vigil that would end at nightfall.

Sun Bird had not been long in concealment when he saw two of the
horsemen from the camp approaching the very ridge on which he was
hiding. Feeling sure that they would climb the ridge to reconnoiter the
country beyond, the young Sioux realized that his predicament was
serious. For a moment he thought of crawling down the side of the ridge,
and moving out on the plain. However, upon second thought, he realized
that if he left his hiding place he might be unable to return before
dark, and in the meantime the Utes might move their camp. Therefore, he
determined to remain where he was.

Having made this bold decision, Sun Bird sought to lessen the chance of
discovery by tying branches of sage to his head and shoulders. Then he
pressed himself against the ground, and waited for the approaching
horsemen, who were already within arrow-range. It was evident that the
Utes were making almost directly for his place of concealment. However,
Sun Bird had little fear, for he had passed through several similar
experiences, and he hoped to be equally fortunate this time.

When the horsemen reached the base of the ridge they stopped, and one
dismounted and left his pony with his comrade. A few moments later Sun
Bird saw the unmounted warrior crawling directly toward him. The Sioux
believed that he had been discovered. An encounter appeared unavoidable.
Sun Bird had already fitted an arrow to his bow, and now he prepared to
drive it through the heart of his foe.

Then the Ute turned aside to avoid some bowlders, and crawled to the
crest of the ridge several bow-lengths away. Sun Bird was much relieved
to know that he had not been seen. He had no desire to force an
encounter, for he knew that even if he were victorious the Utes would
learn of his presence in the vicinity of their camp, and then it would
be impossible to secure the ponies without a desperate battle.

The Ute peered carefully over the ridge, and Sun Bird smiled as he
realized that for the moment he held his foe completely at his mercy.
However, he overcame the desire for personal glory, for he knew that the
recovery of the Sioux ponies should be his first consideration. A moment
afterward the Ute signaled to his companion, and the latter brought the
ponies. The two warriors spent some time in earnest conversation, and
then they mounted and rode slowly down the ridge. When they reached the
level plain they rode away at a gallop.

"That is bad," Sun Bird told himself, as he watched them disappear
toward the north. Two alarming possibilities suggested themselves to his
mind. He feared that the Utes would find the trail of Sitting Eagle, and
if they failed in that he feared they might discover his friends in the
distant ravine. He encouraged himself with the assurance that the Sioux
were far too wise to be caught unawares. However, as the day wore on,
and the two scouts failed to return, his uncertainty increased. He knew
that they had not gone in search of buffaloes, for in that event they
would have ridden toward the south. Furthermore, the haphazard manner in
which they had chosen their route led him to suspect that they had
originally planned to travel in another direction. Why had they changed?
He wondered if they anticipated the appearance of a Sioux war party.

Toward the end of the day all the other riders returned, but the two
warriors who had ridden into the north failed to appear. Sun Bird feared
that their tardiness betokened a meeting with his friends. The thought
kept him in trying suspense. He wondered if there had been a skirmish.
Perhaps the Sioux had either killed or captured the two Ute scouts. His
heart bounded at the possibility. However, he knew that it was equally
possible that the Utes had discovered the Sioux war party, and were
waiting to learn the strength of the invaders before returning to warn
their people.

Twilight was already settling upon the plain when the perplexed young
Sioux finally saw two horsemen approaching from the north. As they drew
nearer he recognized them as the Ute scouts. They were riding at the top
speed of their ponies, and Sun Bird wondered if they were bringing news
of the Sioux war party. They crossed the ridge some distance from him,
and raced toward the camp, shouting and waving their weapons. A number
of people ran out to meet them, and from the general excitement it was
evident that the riders brought news of considerable importance.

Sun Bird was greatly disturbed. He knew that if the Ute scouts had
discovered his friends the camp would be closely guarded, and it might
be impossible to obtain the ponies. He watched with much anxiety,
therefore, hoping to get some clew which would enable him to guess the
nature of the information which the two horsemen had brought their
people.

As darkness fell he waited impatiently for the glow from the Ute
camp-fires. When he finally saw them he was filled with delight, for he
felt sure that the Utes knew nothing of the approaching war party. Then
an alarming doubt entered his mind. He wondered if the crafty Utes were
repeating the stratagem which they had employed at the water-hole.
Perhaps they were again deserting their camp under cover of the night.
It might also be possible that they had learned the weakness of the
Sioux in numbers, and were attempting to lure them into a trap. As Sun
Bird watched the twinkle of the distant fires he had grave fears for the
safety of the courageous little company who were advancing to meet him.
Still he saw no way of warning them, for he feared to leave his hiding
place lest he should pass his friends in the dark. He waited, therefore,
listening eagerly for the signal from Sitting Eagle.



CHAPTER IV

A PERILOUS ADVENTURE


Each moment seemed an age to the anxious lad watching on the crest of
the ridge. The night hush had fallen upon the plain, and the very
stillness oppressed him. His mind became a prey to all sorts of gloomy
forebodings. He began to give way to his imagination. He feared that he
was surrounded by prowling, sharp-eared scouts from the Ute camp, and
that some of them had concealed themselves on the ridge to wait for the
Sioux war party. The thought startled him. Every few moments he held his
breath to listen. The slightest rustling of the sage set his heart
beating wildly, but his fear was not for himself. He had already been
exposed to sufficient peril to make him indifferent. However, this was
the first time he had gone out as a war leader, and he knew that his
reputation would suffer severely if disaster befell the little company
who had enlisted under him. He raised his face toward the vast starry
heavens, and asked aid from the Great Mystery.

A few moments later the sharp, snappy bark of the little gray fox
sounded through the night. Sun Bird fairly trembled with delight. He
felt sure that it was Sitting Eagle, but he determined to take every
precaution. He waited, therefore, until the signal had been repeated
twice more, and then he knew it was genuine. Fearing to reply from his
hiding place, the wily lad crawled stealthily from concealment, and
wriggled cautiously down the ridge. Then as he heard nothing to rouse
his suspicions he glided away in the direction of the sound. When he had
gone an arrow-flight he stopped, and barked twice, very softly. Then he
listened for an answer. It came out of the darkness directly ahead of
him, and he fitted an arrow to his bow and advanced as noiselessly as a
shadow. When he finally heard the soft, guarded tread of a led pony he
stopped and uttered a low-voiced challenge.

"If you are a Dacotah you will tell me about something," he said.

"It is good; what your eyes do not see, your ears must tell you,"
replied the familiar voice of Sitting Eagle.

A few moments afterward they met. Sitting Eagle said that the war party
was waiting some distance back on the plain. When Sun Bird told about
the two Ute scouts the older warrior assured him that the Sioux had seen
nothing of them. He declared that they had kept a sharp watch, and that
it would have been impossible for the Utes to have discovered them
without being seen.

"Then I do not know about this thing," acknowledged the perplexed young
Sioux.

"Come, I will go up on this ridge and look around," proposed Sitting
Eagle.

Then Sitting Eagle surrendered his pony to Sun Bird, and said that he
would climb the ridge alone. When Sun Bird objected the older warrior
reminded him that one must remain with the pony.

"My brother, you have seen this thing. Now I must see it. Then we can
talk about it. Yes, I will ask you to wait here until I come back," said
Sitting Eagle.

"You have been on many war journeys. I will listen to your words,"
agreed Sun Bird.

A moment later Sitting Eagle disappeared into the night. He was gone a
long time. When he returned he said that he had reconnoitered the ridge
and the plain on both sides of it, and was convinced that the approach
to the Ute camp was unguarded.

"The Black Faces will not know about this thing until we have run off
the ponies," said Sitting Eagle. "Now, my brother, I will ask you to
wait here. Yes, I am going back to call our friends."

When Sitting Eagle had gone Sun Bird again crawled to the summit of the
ridge to watch the distant fires. The actions of the two Ute horsemen
still troubled him. He was unable to convince himself that their
apparent excitement had nothing to do with the Sioux war party. He
dismissed the doubts from his mind, however, for he knew that he would
never become a great war leader by giving way to imaginary perils.

"No, when my friends come I will lead them to that camp to lead out the
ponies," he declared, resolutely.

It was not long before he again heard the call of the little gray fox,
and a few moments afterward he joined his friends at the base of the
ridge. As he took his pony from Sitting Eagle, Sun Bird realized that he
must assume command of the enterprise. He knew that the time for
doubting had passed, and that he must fill the hearts of his comrades
with courage and confidence.

"My brothers, you have come with me to do a great thing. It is good.
Yes, we will take many ponies from our enemies, the Black Faces. Pretty
soon you will see the fires in that camp. The Black Faces are like
children; they do not know how to watch. My brothers, I will ask you to
follow me to that camp. Perhaps we will fight. Then we will remember
that we are Dacotahs. I have finished," said Sun Bird.

"Sun Bird has spoken like a brave war leader. I believe we are about to
do a great thing," said Feather Dog.

Then Sun Bird called White Otter to his side, and together they led the
gallant little company forward to invade the camp. They stopped on the
summit of the ridge a few moments, and then they rode carefully down the
slope and moved cautiously across the plain. The Ute fires were still
twinkling among the trees and the Sioux realized that they could do
nothing until the camp became dark. They approached slowly, therefore,
until they were as near as Sun Bird thought it wise to venture and then
he ordered a halt.

"My brothers, now we are near our enemies. I will tell you what I am
going to do," said Sun Bird. "I will ask my brother White Otter to go
into that camp with me. I will ask my brother Sitting Eagle to go into
that camp with me. I will ask my brother Little Raven to go into that
camp with me. I will ask my other brothers to wait here with the ponies.
I will tell you that your ears must be as sharp as the ears of the wolf.
I will tell you that your minds must be as wise as the mind of the fox.
I will tell you that your hearts must be as brave as the heart of the
bear. Perhaps the Black Faces will hear us. Perhaps there will be a
fight. When we call you, my brothers, you must come as fast as the deer
and as strong as the buffalo. Now we will go close to the camp to wait
until we can go in after the ponies. I have finished."

"I have listened to the words of Sun Bird. I have been in many war
parties. Yes, I have gone into many camps to lead out ponies. Sun Bird
has told the best way to do this thing. I would like to go into that
camp and lead out some ponies, but I will not go. No, I will wait here.
My brothers, I will ask you to remember what Sun Bird has spoken. I have
finished," said Feather Dog.

His words received the silent indorsement of his companions, and it was
evident that Sun Bird possessed the full confidence of his friends. As
there was no opposition to his plan, therefore, the youthful war leader
determined to carry it out without delay. Leaving their ponies with
their comrades, the four daring scouts who intended to enter the camp
hurried away on their hazardous undertaking.

"The son of Rain Crow is very brave," said Spotted Elk. "I believe he
will lead out many ponies."

"Yes, he will bring us some good horses," replied Feather Dog.

Sun Bird and his companions made their way across the plain with great
caution, for the story of the Ute scouts had roused their suspicions and
they feared a trap. As they drew near the camp they stopped and lay down
beside one another to watch. The fires were still burning brightly, and
the Sioux wondered whether the Utes had again fled under cover of the
night. Then one of the twinkling lights was blotted from their sight for
a few moments, and their hopes revived.

"It is good. My eyes tell me that the Black Faces are in that place.
Yes, someone was moving around that fire," said Sun Bird.

"What you say is true," agreed White Otter. "But I will tell you another
thing. Perhaps the Black Faces are getting ready to ride away. I am
thinking about that time at the water-hole."

"You are as wise as the fox," replied Sun Bird. "Yes, we will find out
about this thing. Come, we must go nearer to that place."

Determined to learn what the Utes intended to do, the four scouts rose
and advanced toward the camp. They moved along close together, peering
anxiously into the night and listening eagerly for a warning of the
sentinels who they feared might be scattered about the plain. As they
advanced they noticed that one of the fires was growing dull.

"See, that fire is dying down. Yes, I believe the Black Faces will stay
here," said Sitting Eagle.

"Well, I will tell you what is the best thing to do," replied Sun Bird.
"I will ask you, my brothers, to wait here until I creep up to the camp
and find out about this thing."

White Otter and Little Raven instantly objected. They demanded to be
allowed to share his peril. Sitting Eagle, however, agreed with Sun
Bird. Many thrilling experiences on the war-trail had made the older
warrior indifferent not only to danger for himself, but also for others.
He knew that it was the duty of a war leader to assume the most perilous
rôles of the undertaking. Sitting Eagle himself had often placed his
life in jeopardy while acting in that capacity, and he saw no reason to
ask Sun Bird to alter his decision.

"My young brothers, Sun Bird has spoken like a Sioux warrior. He is
going to find out about those people. It is good. A war leader must do
these things alone. We will wait here until he knows about this thing. I
am telling you this because it is the best thing to do. I am not afraid
to go to that camp alone. If my brother Sun Bird tells me to do that
then I will go. It would be bad for more than one to do this thing. A
war leader must do as he finds it in his heart. I have finished," said
Sitting Eagle.

"White Otter, you have heard the words of a great Minneconjoux warrior.
Little Raven, you must keep those words in your heart," declared Sun
Bird. "It is enough. Now I am going to know about this thing."

"Well, I believe that you are doing a good thing," replied White Otter.
"Yes, what Sitting Eagle says is true. I am not afraid to go into that
camp alone. But I will wait here until you come back."

After Sun Bird had gone his companions waited in much suspense, ready
and eager to rush to his assistance at the first hint of danger.
However, as the time passed and they heard nothing to rouse their
suspicions they believed that their comrade had approached the camp in
safety. One of the fires had already disappeared, and the glow from the
remaining one was growing fainter each moment. The watchers had hopes
that the Utes were already slumbering.

"Listen!" cautioned White Otter. "Someone is coming."

A moment afterward Sun Bird rejoined them.

"My brothers, I will tell you that the Black Faces are sleeping. Come,
we will go into the camp and lead out the ponies," said the resolute
young war leader.

They followed him across the silent black plain until they were within
bow-shot of the trees, and then they stopped to listen. The stillness
was unbroken, and except for a few glowing embers from the smoldering
fires the camp was smothered in blackness. Led by Sun Bird, the little
company of scouts moved stealthily through the dark. The lodges were
well separated, and the Sioux made their way between them with little
likelihood of being heard. Once in the camp, they drew their knives and
hurried toward the ponies. It took only a few moments for each daring
intruder to sever the picket ropes of three ponies and lead them
cautiously from the camp. White Otter led out the horse he had
originally presented to Sun Bird. When they reached the plain they
decided that one should remain with the captured ponies, while the
others again ventured into the camp.

"My brother, Little Raven, you have done a brave thing. You have led
ponies out of this camp. But you are the youngest. Yes, I will ask you
to wait here with the horses. If you hear the long cry of the big gray
wolf, ride away as fast as you can," said Sun Bird.

"I would like to go into that camp again, and lead out some more
ponies," replied Little Raven. "But I will listen to your words."

Then his companions left him, and returned to the camp. Once again Sun
Bird led the way, and White Otter and Sitting Eagle followed close
behind him. They were passing noiselessly between two lodges when a pony
whinnied shrilly, and the next moment several of the horses on the
plain answered. Instantly the camp was in a commotion. Taking advantage
of the first confusion, the three Sioux rushed to the horses and began
to cut the picket ropes. They secured six ponies before the Utes
realized what was happening. Then as the Sioux attempted to ride from
the camp they found themselves surrounded by foes.

"Remember that we are Dacotahs!" cried Sun Bird, as he rode into the
midst of his enemies.

White Otter rode close beside him and a bow-length back followed Sitting
Eagle. Crouching low over their ponies' flanks, the determined Sioux
knocked down all who attempted to bar their way, and escaped from the
camp unhurt. Then they raced to Little Raven, who was waiting where they
had left him.

"Come, we have escaped, but the Black Faces are close behind us!" cried
Sun Bird.

Dividing the captured ponies between them, they raced across the plain
to join their comrades. As they rode they raised their voices in the
ringing war cry of their nation, and the war party echoed the cry and
rushed to meet them.

Realizing that the Sioux had followed and surprised them, the Utes were
in a frenzy of rage. Mounting the ponies which were still in the camp,
the riders raced away in pursuit of their foes, while other warriors
rushed wildly about the plain attempting to round up the horses that had
been turned loose to graze. However, when they heard the Sioux war cry
ringing through the night they became alarmed. They began to fear that
the camp had been surrounded by a large Sioux war party, and the thought
made them cautious. Besides, the women and children were in a state of
panic, and the bewildered Utes realized that in the event of a sudden
attack it would be difficult to keep them under control. As fast as the
unmounted warriors secured ponies, therefore, they rode madly about the
camp, yelling and singing their war songs to intimidate any of their
foes who might be lurking in the vicinity.

In the meantime the triumphant Sioux were racing across the plain with
the captured ponies. They had turned abruptly toward the west and were
riding in silence in the hope of throwing their pursuers from the
trail. However, having successfully run off the horses they believed
there was little to fear. They knew that the main company of Utes would
be delayed some time in procuring mounts, and they felt themselves more
than a match for the small company who were pursuing them. In fact
several of the younger warriors were eager to turn about and engage the
Utes in battle.

"No, that would be foolish," Sun Bird declared, when they suggested the
plan. "We have done a good thing. We are taking back more ponies than
the Black Faces ran off. Those people did not kill any of us. It is
good. We will ride into our village singing. It would be bad to have our
friends killed. Yes, the old men would say, 'Sun Bird is a foolish war
leader; he takes ponies but he loses his friends.' No, my brothers, we
have done what we set out to do. Now we will go to our people and tell
them about it."

His words found instant favor with the majority of the war party. Having
accomplished the object of their perilous expedition, they were eager to
regain their village without loss. They saw no wisdom in waiting to risk
themselves in a skirmish which could add nothing to the glory of their
exploit.

"Does the wolf come back to fight after it has taken the young buffalo?"
demanded Sitting Eagle. "No, that would be foolish. Sun Bird has done a
brave thing. A good war leader does not exchange warriors for ponies. We
have a long way to go. Perhaps we will meet enemies. We must keep
ourselves strong. I have finished."



CHAPTER V

A SURPRISE


The Sioux rode until dawn, and then they took shelter in a dense stand
of willows on the bank of a shallow stream. They knew that they were far
west of the Ute camp, and as they believed that they had eluded their
pursuers they determined to stop and rest the ponies until dark. Then as
a precaution against attack they sent scouts to the ridges to watch the
plain.

The day was more than half gone when a young warrior named Short Bear
brought word of a large company of horsemen approaching from the east.
He said that they were a long distance off, and were riding slowly.
Nevertheless the announcement caused great excitement.

"It is the Black Faces!" cried several of the war party.

"No, I believe they are different people," declared Sun Bird. "Does a
war party ride easy on the trail of an enemy? See, the ground is hard.
You all have sharp eyes, but do you see any tracks? No, the ground tells
you nothing. The wolf can follow a trail with his nose, but a warrior
must use his eyes. Are the Black Faces like the wolf? No, I do not
believe they can follow us. But perhaps we will meet other enemies in
this place. Yes, we must know about this thing."

Short Bear and a companion were sent back to watch the unknown horsemen,
and White Otter and Little Raven galloped away to find and warn the
Sioux scouts. Then Sun Bird advised his followers to remain in the
timber until they learned something about the plans of the strangers. He
said that the latter might pass at a safe distance, and that it would be
folly to venture upon the open plain until they knew that there was no
other alternative.

"Yes, we must wait here until Short Bear comes back," said Sitting
Eagle.

A short time afterward the scout returned. He declared that the horsemen
had altered their course and were riding farther toward the north.
Short Bear said that he did not believe the travelers would even come
within sight of the Sioux hiding place. Therefore, as the day would soon
be over, he advised his friends to remain where they were until darkness
made it safe to resume their journey across the plain.

"Do you know about those people?" inquired Sun Bird.

Short Bear said that although he and Lean Wolf, his companion, had
crawled as near as they dared on the open plain they were unable to
approach sufficiently close to identify the riders. However, they felt
quite sure that they were not Utes. Lean Wolf, who had remained behind
to watch, believed that the horsemen were Pawnees, but Short Bear did
not agree with him.

"No, my heart tells me something different. I believe those people are
Kiowas," he told Sun Bird.

"Well, we must know about it, my brother," replied Sun Bird. "I will ask
you to follow those people until they camp. Then you must come back and
tell us about it."

Short Bear was scarcely out of sight when another scout rode in from
the north. He, too, had discovered the horsemen. He had also seen Lean
Wolf following cautiously on their trail, and after making sure that the
scout was one of his own people he had set out to warn his companions.
This warrior had seen nothing of White Otter and Little Raven. While he
was talking, however, those very riders returned. They said that they
had found and warned the two remaining scouts.

"It is good," said Sun Bird. "Now we will wait here until we know where
those people have stopped."

Just before dark the other scouts arrived, but Short Bear and Lean Wolf
had not yet returned. The riders who had been watching to the south and
west of the camp said that they had seen nothing but antelope and
prairie wolves. Therefore, the Sioux waited in considerable suspense to
hear what Short Bear and his companion had learned about the travelers.

Night had already fallen when the two scouts finally returned. They said
that they had followed the riders until sunset, when they stopped and
made camp at a water-hole some distance to the north. Waiting until it
was dark, Short Bear left his pony with Lean Wolf, and approached
sufficiently near to identify the horsemen as Kiowas. He learned
furthermore that they were armed and painted for war.

"It is bad," declared Sitting Eagle. "Perhaps those people are going to
steal Sioux ponies. We must hurry away from here, and go back to our
village."

"Yes, that is the best thing to do," agreed Feather Dog. "The Kiowas are
our enemies. If they are traveling toward our village we must get ahead
of them and warn our people."

"What you say is true," declared Sun Bird. "I will tell you what it is
in my mind to do. I will ask my brother Sitting Eagle, and my brother
Lean Wolf to ride ahead and tell our people about this thing. We will
follow with the horses."

A few moments later the two warriors who had been selected to ride ahead
of the war party mounted their ponies and rode away. Their companions
followed soon afterward. Sun Bird and White Otter rode together at the
head of the company, and the others followed in single file, leading
the captured ponies. They rode some distance farther toward the west and
then they turned toward the north and hastened along at a brisk canter.
They had not gone far, however, when they were halted by a wide stream
which the spring freshets had transformed into an impassable barrier.
Even the most daring among them saw at once that it would be sheer
madness to attempt to swim the ponies through that raging flood.
However, they soon learned that their dilemma was not as serious as it
appeared, for Feather Dog and Spotted Elk both knew the stream. They
declared that if they followed it toward the east they would find that
it turned abruptly toward the north, and they could travel along
parallel with it.

"But if we go over there perhaps we will meet the Kiowas," suggested Sun
Bird.

"No, we will not go so far," replied Feather Dog. "But we must be very
cautious."

They changed their route, and rode swiftly along beside the swollen
stream. Short Bear declared that they were a long way west of the spot
where the Kiowas had encamped. However, the Sioux determined to take
every precaution, and after they had gone some distance they stopped and
sent Short Bear and Feather Dog forward to reconnoiter. They soon
returned and said that a short distance farther on the stream turned
toward the north. Short Bear told his companions that he had crawled to
the top of a ridge to look for the Kiowa camp, but had been unable to
find it. He had recognized the general contour of the plain, however,
and he said he felt sure that their foes were too far away to cause
concern.

Encouraged by the report of the scouts, Sun Bird gave the word to
advance. The little company rode along in silence, for they were
suspicious and apprehensive of an attack. They knew that if the Kiowas
were on a war expedition they would be almost sure to resume their
journey before daylight, and the Sioux feared they might encounter them
somewhere along their route. They reached the abrupt turn in the stream,
and had ridden an arrow-flight toward the north, when White Otter
suddenly stopped his pony and placed his hand on Sun Bird's arm.

"Stop!" he whispered. "My ears tell me there is danger."

The Sioux brought their ponies to a stand, and listened anxiously to
learn the cause of White Otter's alarm. For some moments they heard
nothing but the sullen roar of the torrent beside them, and then
directly ahead of them they heard the approach of a pony. As they fitted
arrows to their bows and peered eagerly into the dark the sound ceased.
It was evident that the rider had stopped. They wondered if he had
discovered them. Then one of the ponies snorted, and an instant later
they heard the mysterious horseman galloping wildly across the plain.

The perplexed Sioux remained silent as the hoofbeats of the racing pony
echoed through the night, for they were anxious to make sure which way
the rider had gone. Still they realized that they could not place much
confidence in such a hint, for they knew that an experienced scout would
alter his course to fool them. Therefore, when the hoofbeats finally
died away in the north the anxious listeners were unable to place much
faith in the clew.

"It is bad," said White Otter. "Whoever that rider is, I believe he has
gone to tell his people about us. Perhaps he is a Kiowa."

"Yes, I believe he is with the war party," replied Sun Bird. "My
brothers, I will tell you how the thing is in my mind. If we wait here
that scout will bring his people to fight us. If we go back perhaps we
will meet the Black Faces. We cannot cross this water. If we go the
other way we will find the Kiowas. There is only one thing to do. Come,
we will go ahead. If we find our enemies there then we must fight. I
have finished."

His words received the hearty approval of his companions, and as there
seemed to be no other alternative they resumed their way toward the
north. They rode in pairs with the captured ponies between them. Having
been discovered, they feared that an attack was unavoidable, and they
prepared to make a valiant defense. While they could not be sure of the
identity or whereabouts of the people who threatened them, still they
believed that they were Kiowas, who were advancing from the west. The
fact that the lone scout had galloped toward the north without
attempting to conceal his flight made the Sioux suspicious. They felt
quite sure that the maneuver was a clever ruse to mislead them. Hoping
that the way before them was unguarded, therefore, they raced through
the night at top speed.

A short distance farther on, however, they collided with a large company
of horsemen who had been awaiting them at the top of a shallow ravine.
As the Sioux slackened their pace to cross the gully the unknown war
party rushed upon them. For a moment all was confusion, and Sun Bird saw
his little force hesitating on the verge of panic. Then as he called
upon them to be men they recovered themselves, and began to fight
furiously.

"Stop! Stop! These people are not Kiowas. They are our brothers, the
Cheyennes!" cried Feather Dog, after the skirmish had continued a few
moments.

"Cheyennes, hold your arrows! We are fighting our brothers, the Sioux!"
shouted a warrior of the opposing force.

Then the conflict ended as suddenly as it began, for the two war parties
had quickly recognized each other. Fortunately no one had been killed,
and beyond the loss of several ponies and the slight wounding of a
Cheyenne warrior no serious damage had been done.

Once the blunder had been discovered order was soon restored, and the
two forces met to offer apologies and pledge their friendship. It was
then that Sun Bird and White Otter learned that the Cheyenne war party
was under the leadership of an old friend, a warrior named Red Dog, whom
they had saved from the Pawnees the year previous. At that time the two
young Sioux had joined forces with a large Cheyenne war party, which had
ultimately met defeat and disaster at the hands of a great company of
Pawnees. Now as the Cheyennes came forward to see the people whom they
had mistaken for Kiowas, the two lads were speedily recognized. As both
had established an enviable reputation among the Cheyennes they soon
found themselves surrounded by a host of enthusiastic admirers.

"My brothers, this thing has made clouds in my heart," Red Dog assured
the Sioux, in their own dialect. "We have done a foolish thing, but I
do not believe your hearts are black against us. No, we have not killed
any of your people. It is good. If we have killed some of your ponies we
will give you others. You have not killed any of my people. It is good.
The Great Mystery does not wish brothers to kill each other. But I see
that you have wounded my brother Running Buffalo. Well, I will tell you
that the sting of an arrow is nothing to a Cheyenne warrior. My
brothers, our hearts are peaceful toward you."

"I have listened to the words of my brother, Red Dog," replied Sun Bird.
"Yes, you have done a foolish thing, but we have wiped it out of our
minds. It is true that the Cheyennes are our brothers. We have smoked
the peace pipe together. It is good that the Great Mystery put the great
black robe between us so that our arrows went past. I see that there is
some blood on the arm of Running Buffalo, and my heart is heavy with
shame. I do not know what arrow did that. But I will tell you that I am
the war leader, and I will ask Running Buffalo to draw his knife and
take some blood from my arm. Yes, then the thing will be wiped out of
our hearts. I have finished."

There were few of the Cheyennes who understood the Sioux tongue, but Red
Dog translated Sun Bird's words, and it was apparent that the listeners
were much impressed. When he had finished there were many signs of
approval. Then all eyes turned upon Running Buffalo. The latter advanced
to meet Sun Bird, speaking earnestly in the Cheyenne dialect, which Red
Dog translated into Sioux.

"Running Buffalo says that he has listened to the words of his brother,
Sun Bird," said Red Dog. "He says that they have taken the sting from
his arm. He says that his heart is peaceful toward his brothers, the
Sioux. He says that Sun Bird's words must be carried out, so that the
thing will be forgotten."

Then Running Buffalo drew his knife, and turned to Sun Bird. The young
Sioux smiled and offered his arm. The Cheyenne pricked the flesh just
enough to draw blood. Then they clasped hands.

"It is good; now the thing is forgotten between us," said Sun Bird.

"Yes, Running Buffalo says that he has wiped it from his heart,"
declared Red Dog.

After this formal ceremony had been completed the two war parties
gathered in council. As the Cheyenne war leader dismounted to talk the
Sioux saw that he was badly crippled in both legs. He walked with
considerable difficulty, and once off his horse seemed quite helpless.
White Otter told his companions that Red Dog had been desperately
wounded the year previous, when in a fierce encounter with a roving band
of Pawnees he had been pinned beneath his dying pony and left for dead.
Some time later White Otter and Sun Bird, who had witnessed the battle
from a distant ridge, visited the battlefield to learn the identity of
the combatants. They discovered the wounded Cheyenne hiding in a clump
of sage. After convincing him that they were friends, they carried him
to a stream and attended him until his people returned with
reënforcements under cover of the night.

"That is why Red Dog has the legs of an old man," said White Otter.

Red Dog told the Sioux that he and his warriors had left the Cheyenne
village to intercept a large war party of Kiowas, who were advancing to
attack the Cheyenne camp. He said that when scouts brought word of the
intended attack, the Cheyennes had decided to organize a war party and
advance across the plain to surprise their foes. Red Dog said that one
of the scouts had discovered a dust-cloud along the stream late in the
day, and believing that their enemies were advancing along the water,
the Cheyennes followed the stream in the hope of surprising the Kiowas
under cover of the dark. When the lone scout reconnoitering in advance
of the war party collided with the Sioux he believed that he had found
the enemy, and raced back to warn his companions. The war party
determined to attack their foes at the ravine, and it was thus that the
blunder had occurred. Red Dog declared that several other scouts were
riding farther to the east, and he believed that they would soon bring
word of the Kiowas.

"I will tell you about those people," said Sun Bird, when the Cheyenne
had finished speaking.

"Have you seen them?" Red Dog inquired, eagerly.

"No, I have not seen them. But I will ask my brother, Short Bear, to
tell you about it," replied Sun Bird.

Short Bear told how he had discovered the Kiowa war party, and how he
and Lean Wolf had trailed them until they camped at the water-hole. When
Red Dog translated the talk to his companions they became greatly
excited, and were eager for Short Bear to lead them to the camp of their
enemies. While they were talking, however, two of the Cheyenne scouts
returned and said that they had found the Kiowas. They said that the
latter were still at the water-hole, and that by riding fast it would be
possible to reach the camp-site and make an attack before daylight.

When the Sioux learned that the Cheyennes were going to fight the
Kiowas, they held a council among themselves, and most of them wished to
enlist in the war party. Sun Bird at first talked against it, but when
he found White Otter and several of his closest friends determined to
go, he yielded.

"My brothers, a good war leader must always listen to the words of his
friends. You say that you will go to fight the Kiowas. You say that
those people have many good ponies. You say that the Kiowas are our
enemies. You say that the Cheyennes are our brothers. You say that a
Dacotah must help his brother, and fight his enemy. Well, I will tell
you that those words are true. But we have taken some good ponies from
the Black Faces. Yes, we have done what we set out to do. I did not ask
you to come out to fight the Kiowas. I am not going to fight those
people. No, I am going on with these ponies. I will show my people that
we have done what we set out to do. It is enough. If any of you go to
fight the Kiowas I will tell you that I have nothing to do with it. I
have brought you through what we set out to do. Now if you get killed I
have nothing to do with it. My brothers, I will ask some of you to help
me take the ponies to the village. I have finished."

When Sun Bird had finished speaking all but five of his companions
agreed to abandon the idea of fighting the Kiowas. Those who persisted
in their determination to go with the war party were White Otter, Little
Raven, Short Bear, Feather Dog and Spotted Elk and Sun Bird said
nothing further to deter them.

"My brother, it is in my heart to do this thing, and I must go," said
White Otter. "I believe we will bring back some fast ponies."

"You are very brave, and I will not ask you to hold back," replied Sun
Bird. "I will go to my people, and tell them that a great warrior is
coming to see them."

The Cheyennes were already mounting their ponies, and when Red Dog
learned that five of the Sioux had decided to join his company he was
overjoyed. He knew that White Otter was looked upon as a great warrior,
and he believed that the presence of the young Sioux would stimulate the
Cheyennes to deeds of great valor. When he told his followers that White
Otter and four of his companions were going to fight the Kiowas, the
Cheyennes greeted the announcement with shouts of approval.

"My brothers, the Sioux have brave hearts," said Red Dog. "It is good
that you are going with us to fight the Kiowas. Yes, we will count many
coups, and bring back some good ponies."

Both war parties were mounted and ready to depart. Before riding away,
however, Sun Bird called Little Raven and White Otter to his side.

"My brothers, you are going to fight our enemies, the Kiowas. It is
good. I believe you will bring back some ponies. White Otter, you are a
great warrior. The song of the arrow is sweet to your ears. Little
Raven, you are very young, but you are brave. You have taken some
ponies, but you have never fought in a great battle. I will tell you to
keep close to White Otter, and do what he tells you. I will ask the
Great Mystery to help you. Now, my brothers, I will take you by the
hand. Then I will go to the village to wait for you," said Sun Bird.

"I will keep your words in my heart," declared Little Raven.

Then White Otter and Little Raven rode away toward the east in pursuit
of the Cheyennes who had already departed, and a few moments afterward
Sun Bird and his companions resumed their journey toward the north.



CHAPTER VI

A FIGHT IN THE DARK


When White Otter and Little Raven overtook the Cheyennes they found
their three companions riding with Red Dog at the head of the war party.
It was an unusual honor, and the Sioux were much impressed. The Cheyenne
scouts had gone on in advance, and Short Bear was acting as guide. He
told Red Dog that his force was superior to the Kiowas, and assured him
that he would win an easy victory.

"Those are good words," said Red Dog. "Yes, I believe we will drive
those people back to their village."

It was evident that the Cheyennes shared his confidence. They rode along
in high spirits, chanting their war songs and making all sorts of
boastful threats against the Kiowas. If they had any doubts about the
result of the encounter they were sufficiently experienced to conceal
them.

"These people are very brave," said Little Raven.

"Yes, our brothers, the Cheyennes, know how to fight," declared White
Otter.

A short distance farther on they were intercepted by one of the Cheyenne
scouts. He said that the Kiowas were still at the water-hole. This news
greatly pleased Red Dog and his followers. They had feared that their
foes might desert the camp, and hurry forward under cover of the dark.
Now it seemed that they intended remaining until daylight. It was
evident, therefore, that they were sparing their ponies to have them in
good condition when they attacked the Cheyenne camp.

"The Kiowas think they are doing a good thing. Well, we will fool them,"
laughed Red Dog.

The Cheyennes had suddenly turned serious. They had learned that they
were close upon their enemies, and the thought sobered them. They knew
that a war party had the ears of a fox, and they advanced in silence
until the scout cautioned them to halt. He declared that they were
within sight of the Kiowa camp, and pointed out its exact location, but
they were unable to find it in the darkness.

"My brothers, you have heard the words of Standing Hawk," said Red Dog.
"We are near our enemies, the Kiowas. Pretty soon we will begin to
fight. But first we must surround the camp. Then we will close in, and
when I make the cry of the prairie wolf we will rush upon our enemies.
My brothers, I will tell you to look at these Sioux. They are very
brave. I want them to tell their people about this fight. Cheyennes, I
will ask you to be men."

While Red Dog was speaking another Cheyenne scout joined the war party.
He said that the Kiowas were apparently sleeping, but he felt sure that
the camp was surrounded by wide-awake sentinels. This was to be
expected, and the announcement seemed to give the Cheyennes little
concern. They knew that it was the duty of a war leader to overcome or
sweep aside such barriers, and they felt confident that Red Dog would
lead them to sure and speedy victory.

When the scout had finished speaking, therefore, the Cheyennes gathered
about Red Dog to receive final instructions for attacking the camp. As
the night was well advanced he said that they must proceed without
further delay. Red Dog told his followers that they must advance until
they saw the little stand of timber which sheltered their foes, and then
they must encircle the camp. Having done that, he ordered them to ride
slowly forward until he raised the cry of the prairie wolf. "Then you
must rush in, and fight," he concluded.

A few moments afterward the war party advanced cautiously in the
direction of the Kiowa camp. The two scouts rode on ahead, Red Dog
followed with the Sioux close behind him, and then came the gallant
force of Cheyenne fighting men. All moved forward in grim silence, ready
and eager to grapple with their foes. When they finally saw the little
patch of timber, they stopped to listen.

"See, there is the place where our enemies are sleeping. Now we will
surround them," said Red Dog.

The war party separated into two companies which filed away in opposite
directions, to meet behind the camp and draw the fatal circle about
their enemies. Red Dog remained where he was, and requested the two
scouts and the little company of Sioux to attend him. The latter
realized that his request was a compliment to their courage. They knew
that he would lead the attack against the camp, and that they would be
sure to participate in the fiercest fighting.

"I believe that Red Dog will take us into great danger," White Otter
told Little Raven. "When we rush in to fight the Kiowas you must stay
close by me. If you go ahead alone you may be killed."

"I will do as you tell me," replied Little Raven. "I have never fought
in a great battle, but I have done other things. Yes, I have led ponies
out of the Pawnee camp, and I have taken ponies from the Black Faces.
Now I am going to fight the Kiowas. Well, I will tell you that I am not
afraid."

Red Dog waited until he felt sure that his warriors were on every side
of the camp, and then he began to advance. The Cheyenne scouts and the
Sioux accompanied him. White Otter and Little Raven kept close
together. They realized that the Cheyennes were closing the net about
their foes, and they knew that the fight might begin at any moment. Then
a wild yell echoed across the plain, and it was evident that some of the
war party had encountered a Kiowa sentinel. Aware that further caution
would be useless, Red Dog raised his voice in the dismal howl of the
prairie wolf, and raced his pony toward the Kiowa camp.

A moment afterward the night reverberated with the defiant yells of the
attacking Cheyennes. They rode recklessly into the Kiowa camp, and
attempted to gain possession of the ponies. In spite of having been
completely surprised, however, the Kiowas soon rallied and fought
desperately. The little patch of timber was now the scene of a terrific
conflict. The fighting was at close range, and as darkness made it
difficult to distinguish between friend and foe, the wildest confusion
followed. To add still further disorder, many of the Kiowa ponies pulled
the picket stakes and raced madly among the excited combatants. The
Sioux soon found themselves in the thick of the combat. They kept close
together, and fought with great bravery. White Otter and Short Bear had
their ponies killed beneath them, but both secured new mounts and
continued the fight. Then the superior numbers of the Cheyennes began to
tell, and the Kiowas were forced to give way. They had lost many of
their ponies, and almost half of the warriors were fighting on foot.
They fought stubbornly until they were driven from the timber, and then
they scattered and fled across the plain.

"See, the Kiowas are running!" cried White Otter. "Come, we must take
some ponies."

At that instant, however, several mounted warriors dashed forward and
attacked the Sioux with great ferocity. In the desperate hand to hand
fighting which followed Little Raven was dragged from his pony, and
would surely have been killed but for the timely assistance of White
Otter. Then the Sioux vanquished their foes, and captured three ponies.
They had escaped unharmed, and as they heard the Cheyennes whooping
excitedly on the plain they galloped from the timber to join them.

"Come, we have chased away the Kiowas, now we will ride around and look
for ponies," said White Otter.

Once on the plain they separated, and began to look for horses. They
soon learned the folly of this maneuver, however, for White Otter had
barely left his companions when he was attacked by three mounted Kiowas.
After a desperate running fight he finally escaped with another Kiowa
pony. Similar encounters were being fought everywhere, for the crafty
Kiowas had separated into small bands and were lurking in the dark to
attack their foes whenever they could catch them at a disadvantage.

"It is bad," White Otter declared, as he rejoined his companions. "Yes,
we must keep together. We are in great danger. The big fight is over,
but perhaps we will be killed. The Kiowas are all around us. They are
like the wolves, which wait in the dark to pull down the elk that goes
out alone. We have helped our brothers, the Cheyennes. We have taken
some ponies for ourselves. There is nothing else to do. It is foolish to
wait here. Come, we will find Red Dog, and talk with him about this
thing."

"It is the best thing to do," agreed Feather Dog.

Then they heard the call of the prairie wolf a short distance to the
west of them, and they believed that Red Dog was summoning his warriors.
Still they determined to act with great prudence, for it was possible
that the Kiowas were attempting to decoy them into a trap. However, when
the signal was repeated they determined to investigate. They had not
gone an arrow-flight, when they heard a company of horsemen racing
directly toward them. Scorning to avoid an encounter, the Sioux fitted
arrows to their bows, and sent their war cry ringing through the night.
The approaching riders stopped at the sound, and the Sioux heard the low
murmur of their voices.

"Come, we will ride over there and fight these people," proposed Short
Bear.

"No, we must wait until we know who they are," cautioned White Otter.

A moment afterward his caution was rewarded. They heard themselves
addressed in their own tongue, and learned that the horsemen were their
allies, the Cheyennes. The latter instantly joined them, and the Sioux
saw that they were leading a number of captured ponies. The warrior who
spoke the Sioux dialect assured them that the Kiowas had been decisively
beaten, and were in full flight toward their village.

"It was a great fight, but I believe that some of our people were
killed," he said soberly.

Then they galloped across the plain to join Red Dog. When they reached
him they found the balance of the war party with many Kiowa ponies. The
Cheyenne war leader was thoughtful and serious, and the Sioux believed
that some of his friends had been killed in the fighting. They saw that
Red Dog himself had been severely wounded, but he appeared to be
unmindful of his injury. When he saw the Sioux he called them to him and
complimented them upon their courage. Then he addressed his warriors.

"My brothers, we have fought our enemies, the Kiowas. Yes, we have
chased them away like rabbits. We have taken many ponies. Now our
village is safe. The old men and the women and children can sleep
without fear. But my heart is filled with clouds because some of our
people have been killed. We will wait here until it is light, and then
we will go and tell our people about this fight. I have finished."

When Red Dog had ceased speaking a warrior called out the names of four
Cheyennes who had lost their lives in the encounter, and then their
friends rose and rendered glowing tribute to their memory. Among those
killed was Standing Hawk, the scout, a close friend of Red Dog, and a
man of prominence and influence in the tribe. A number of warriors had
been more or less severely injured, but, like Red Dog, they made light
of their injuries and scorned the concern and sympathy of their
companions.

Having rendered the customary honors to their dead, the Cheyennes turned
their attention to celebrating the victory over the Kiowas. The captured
ponies were paraded in a circle, and the warriors rushed forward and
counted coup upon them as they passed. Other trophies were exhibited
with much pride and boasting on the part of the warriors who had taken
them. The Sioux, too, were invited to take a prominent part in the
ceremonies. They had heard themselves complimented and praised by all
the speakers, and they saw that Red Dog and his followers desired to
show them every possible honor. White Otter, Short Bear and Feather Dog
all made speeches in which they highly commended the Cheyennes for their
bravery, and promised to tell the great chief, Curly Horse, and his
people about them. The celebration finally ended with a dance. Then
sentinels were posted about the camp, and the tired Cheyennes wrapped
themselves in their robes to rest until daylight.



CHAPTER VII

THE MINNECONJOUX CAMP


The Sioux traveled with the Cheyennes until late the following day.
Then, as the latter turned toward the east to reach their camp, White
Otter and his companions left them and continued toward the north. Red
Dog presented each of his allies with two ponies, and as they had taken
a number from the Kiowas they felt very well repaid for having joined
the war party.

"We have done a good thing," said Short Bear. "Yes, we will show our
people some good ponies."

"Sun Bird has brought back what the Black Faces took away. Now we are
bringing more ponies. Our people will talk about it a long time,"
declared Feather Dog.

The Sioux made their way across the plain with great caution, for they
were fearful of losing their prizes to a superior force of foes. As a
precaution, therefore, White Otter and Feather Dog proceeded some
distance ahead of their companions, reconnoitering from the ridges and
keeping a sharp watch for enemies. However, they saw only antelope and
wolves on the plain, and deer and elk in the swales and along the base
of the foothills. The third day after leaving the Cheyennes they came in
sight of their destination.

"See, there are the lodges of my people," said Feather Dog, as he and
White Otter stopped on the crest of a low ridge to wait for their
comrades.

Some distance farther to the west the plain ended at a range of low
pine-clad foothills, and within their shadows was the great Minneconjoux
camp. It was located beside a wide stream that flowed down from towering
snow-topped peaks still farther to the west. The young Ogalala saw many
lodges, and great numbers of ponies grazing on the fertile plain near
the village.

"My eyes tell me that this is a great camp," said White Otter.

"Yes, you will find many people in that village," Feather Dog assured
him. "But see, we have been discovered."

White Otter saw that he and Feather Dog had caused a sudden stir in the
Minneconjoux camp. A great crowd had gathered at the edge of the
village, and seemed to be regarding them with considerable suspicion.
Several horsemen were riding excitedly about the plain driving the
ponies toward the camp, and it was evident that the Sioux feared an
attack.

"Perhaps your people believe that we are Crow scouts," suggested White
Otter.

"No, it is not so. My people have eyes like the eagle, but they are very
cautious," laughed Feather Dog.

A few moments later Short Bear and his two companions rode to the top of
the ridge with the captured ponies. Their appearance instantly reassured
their tribesmen and threw them into an ecstasy of delight, for the
riderless ponies proclaimed the success of the gallant little company
who had parted from Sun Bird to join the Cheyenne expedition against the
Kiowas.

Aware that they had been recognized, Feather Dog and his companions
galloped toward the camp, shaking their weapons and yelling
triumphantly. A company of warriors raced to meet them, and the plain
reverberated with the shouts of the excited throng at the edge of the
village. As the horsemen approached one another White Otter saw that the
riders from the camp were led by Sun Bird, and his heart filled with
emotion. Both companies rode at full speed until they were only several
bow-lengths apart. Then they pulled their ponies to their haunches, and
stopped in a choking smother of dust.

Sun Bird greeted Little Raven with much affection, and praised him for
bringing ponies to the camp. Then he turned to his friend, White Otter.

"My brother, I have waited for you. Now you have come. It is good; my
heart is filled with sunshine. I see that you have taken some more
ponies. You are a great warrior. I have told the great chief, Curly
Horse, and Rain Crow, my father, about you. They have told the people
about you. Now they are waiting to see you. Come, we will ride into the
village, and I will take you to my father's lodge," said Sun Bird.

"Sun Bird, it is true that you are my brother," replied White Otter.
"Your people are the brave Minneconjoux and I am an Ogalala, but we have
the same blood. Yes, we are Dacotahs. I have listened to your words, and
I am glad I came here. It is bad when I am away from you. Now we are
together. It is good; I can sing again. You say you have told the great
chief, Curly Horse, about me. Well, I will tell him the words of my
grandfather, the great chief, Wolf Robe. You say you have told the great
medicine-man, Rain Crow, about me. Well, when I take his hand then I
will talk about it until I am an old man. Yes, I will go to your village
with a good heart. The Minneconjoux are my brothers."

As they neared the camp they heard the people singing songs of welcome
and shouting their names, and they thrilled with pride. A few old men
and most of the boys ran out on the plain to meet them, and count coup
on the captured ponies. When they entered the village, however, they
were greeted with more dignity by the warriors who had assembled to
receive them. It was apparent that the Minneconjoux fighting men had
determined to maintain a proud reserve before their famous young
tribesman from the Ogalala village.

However, Sun Bird gave them little opportunity to satisfy their vanity,
for he rode past them and escorted White Otter directly to the lodge of
Curly Horse. They dismounted before the entrance, and the young Ogalala
tied three ponies, which he had brought from the Cheyennes, to the
picket-post. Then he waited outside while Sun Bird entered to announce
him to the Minneconjoux war chief.

"Curly Horse says that he is waiting to see his young brother," Sun Bird
said, when he rejoined his friend a few moments afterward.

Then Sun Bird and White Otter entered the lodge. They saw two warriors
seated opposite the entrance. One, a middle-aged man of massive
physique, wore a splendid head-dress of eagle feathers, and White Otter
had little difficulty in recognizing him as Curly Horse. The other, who
looked somewhat older and less robust, wore a head-piece of beaver
ornamented with the horns of a bull buffalo, while his dress and
insignias proclaimed him a medicine-man. White Otter felt sure,
therefore, that he was Rain Crow, the father of Sun Bird. The two lads
advanced around the left side of the lodge until they finally stood
before the warriors. For some moments the older men remained silent,
while they peered searchingly into the face of the Ogalala. Apparently
impressed with what they saw, they exchanged a few words in an
undertone, and then the chief addressed Sun Bird.

"Tell him who I am," he said, curtly.

"My brother, I will tell you that you are looking at Curly Horse, the
great war chief of the Minneconjoux. He has fought in many battles. He
has killed many enemies. He has taken many ponies. He has given his
people good words. When Curly Horse speaks you must open your ears, for
he is a great man," said Sun Bird.

When the eulogy was finished Curly Horse rose and offered his hand to
White Otter.

"Now you know who I am," said Curly Horse. "It is good. I have taken
your hand. Now I will tell you what I am thinking about. First I will
tell you that I am glad you have come here. I have heard about you. You
are a young man, but you have done some good things. I have talked with
your father, Standing Buffalo. Yes, a long time ago he came here with
some young men to help us fight the Black-feet. He was a very brave
warrior. I know about your grandfather, the great chief Wolf Robe. The
Minneconjoux and the Ogalalas are brothers. Our lodges are always open
to our brothers. Perhaps you will stay here a long time. Then I will
talk to you again. Now I am going to tell you about this great man who
is standing beside me. He is Rain Crow. He is a great medicine-person.
He has done some great things. Some time I will tell you about it. I
have finished."

"I have listened to the words of a great chief," replied White Otter. "I
have taken the hand of Curly Horse. I have painted these things on my
heart. You say that the Ogalalas are your brothers. It is true. Now I
will tell you the words of the great chief, Wolf Robe. He said, 'The
Minneconjoux are our brothers. Curly Horse, their chief, is a great
man. You will see many brave warriors in that camp. Sun Bird and Little
Raven are your friends. They will tell their people about you. Go, and
tell the Minneconjoux that Wolf Robe is thinking about them.' I have
brought you these words. You say that you have talked with my father.
Then you have seen a man. But I must tell you that he has gone on the
Long Trail. Now I will talk to that great man beside you. Rain Crow, you
are a great medicine-person. My people know about you. You are the
father of my brother Sun Bird, and my brother Little Raven. I will call
you my father. Now I have taken your hand. Well, I will tell about it a
long time. Now I will tell you something else. I have tied three ponies
out there for Curly Horse. Well, I took some more ponies from your
enemies, the Black Faces. One of those ponies belongs to my brother, Sun
Bird. But I will give three other ponies to my father, Rain Crow. This
is how it is in my heart to do. I have finished."

"My son, you talk like a man," said Rain Crow. "It is good that you have
called me your father. Yes, Sun Bird has told me about you. I know that
you are as cautious as the fox, and as brave as the bear. It is enough.
You will be a great war chief, like your grandfather. I am glad you have
come here. Perhaps you will stay many days. It is good. I may tell you
some great things. I have spoken."

A few moments afterward the lads left the lodge. They found a crowd
gathered to see them. As they appeared the people ceased talking, and
the warriors came forward to greet White Otter. They welcomed him with
great warmth, and several of the principal men of the tribe announced
feasts in his honor.

"My brothers, I see that you are great warriors," replied White Otter.
"I have heard my people talk about you. Now I have taken your hands. You
have told me something good. You have called me your brother. Yes, it is
true. It is a good thing I came here. Now I see what kind of people you
are. I know I will have plenty to eat here. I know I will have a good
place in my brother's lodge. I know I will hear some good talks. When I
go away from here I will tell my people about it. But perhaps I will
stay here many days. My brothers, my heart is peaceful toward you."

Then Sun Bird took him to Rain Crow's lodge. It was located in about the
center of the village. As it was decorated with two figures of the
mysterious Thunder Bird, White Otter knew that Rain Crow had seen these
things in a dream or vision. He knew the custom governing these sacred
dreams, which entitled the dreamer to decorate his personal property
with the symbol of his dreams. At his death the privilege was inherited
by his oldest son, who might make four copies of the mysterious emblem.
Unless the latter happened to see or dream the same vision, however, the
privilege of using the symbol ended with his death. The young Ogalala
had been taught to reverence these mysterious dreamers of visions, and
he looked with superstitious awe upon the crude red emblems which
announced Rain Crow's mysterious powers to the people. The
medicine-man's buffalo-hide war shield was suspended from a tripod of
poles beside the lodge, and White Otter particularly noted the two red
pipes which had been painted on it.

"My brother, I see that your father is a very great man," he told Sun
Bird. "He has seen the mysterious Thunder Beings. That is a wonderful
thing to happen to a man. I see two pipes on his war shield. Now I know
that he has led two war parties. It is a great thing to sit in his
lodge. I will tell my grandfather about it."

When they entered the lodge they found Little Raven and his mother,
Dancing Fawn. It was evident that the youthful warrior had been relating
a vivid account of his exploits.

"My mother, I have brought you another son," said Sun Bird. "White Otter
is my brother. I have told you about him. He is a great warrior. The
brave Ogalalas are his people. I have lived in their lodges. Now White
Otter has come to talk with his brothers. Make him welcome."

"My son, I have listened to your words. What you have told me is good.
Your brother, White Otter, shall be my son. He shall spread his robe in
Rain Crow's lodge. I will make his moccasins and cook his meat,"
declared Dancing Fawn.

"Mother, I will keep your words in my heart," replied White Otter.

Sun Bird showed him where to spread his robe, and thus establish his
place in the lodge. Then the two lads sat down beside each other to
talk. Believing that they wished to be alone, Dancing Fawn and Little
Raven immediately went outside. Sun Bird told White Otter that as soon
as it grew dark the Minneconjoux would celebrate the triumphant return
of the war party. Even while he spoke they heard criers walking about
the village calling to the people to assemble at nightfall. Soon
afterward the odor of smoke and the fragrance of broiling meat told the
lads that the day had ended, and the women were busy with the evening
meal.

"Come, we will go out and see what our mother has for us," proposed Sun
Bird.

They found Dancing Fawn and several other women broiling antelope meat
over the glowing embers of a cooking fire. The fire was shared by the
occupants of several lodges, and while the women prepared the food the
warriors sat together smoking and telling stories. Rain Crow was in the
party, and he immediately invited the lads to join him. Similar fires
were twinkling in all parts of the camp, and about each sat a little
company of men and boys. The meal was the occasion for much
light-hearted mirth, and the village resounded with song and laughter.
The success of Sun Bird and his war party had fired the pride of the
people, and they were prepared to celebrate the victory with customary
enthusiasm.

"See, my people have good hearts because we have done this thing," said
Sun Bird. "They will talk about it a long time. Pretty soon Curly Horse
will call the warriors. Then we will sing the war songs, and dance the
medicine dances."

"It is good. I will tell my people about it," replied White Otter.

Soon afterward they heard the familiar throbbing of the buffalo-hide war
drums, and they knew it was the signal to assemble. At the summons the
people sprang to their feet and hurried to the center of the village,
where they found Curly Horse and a number of prominent men awaiting
them.

The warriors formed a circle about two great fires which blazed
fiercely. Behind them stood the old men, and still farther in the
background were the women and children. The war chief and prominent men
of the tribe stood together outside the circle, and close by them were
the musicians with their buffalo-hide drums. When all were ready to
begin the ceremony Curly Horse stepped forward to deliver the customary
address.

"People of the great Dacotah nation, we have come together to sing about
a great thing. Our young men have returned from the war trail with many
ponies. The Black Faces took some horses, but our young men went to
their camp. Now we are laughing about it. Our enemies, the Kiowas, have
lost some good ponies. Do you know where they are? Well, if you look
around you will see them. Now I will ask my young brother, Sun Bird, to
tell us how they came here," said Curly Horse.

Sun Bird advanced into the center of the circle, and gave a vivid
account of his adventures. When he had finished the musicians began to
beat the drums, and the warriors began to dance. They circled slowly
about the fires, waving their trophies and singing boastful songs
against their foes. From time to time a dancer would rush excitedly into
the center of the circle and tell his part in bringing success and glory
to the expedition. Each moment added to the general excitement, and the
people seemed to have been roused into a nervous frenzy. The dance was
continued until many of the older warriors were completely exhausted,
and then it was temporarily stopped.

While the dancers rested from their strenuous efforts, White Otter was
asked to speak. He told of the expedition against the Kiowas, and
rendered glowing tribute to the courage of Little Raven and the other
Sioux who had joined the war party. His words touched the vanity of the
Minneconjoux and roused them into resuming their wild celebration. Thus
the ceremonies were continued until the night was three-quarters gone,
and then the people succumbed to their fatigue and retired to the
lodges.

"Well, my brother, you have seen a great thing," said Sun Bird, when he
and White Otter reached Rain Crow's lodge.

"It is true. Those songs will stay in my ears a long time," replied
White Otter.

"Well, you will see something else when the next sun comes," declared
Sun Bird. "My people will dance the great Buffalo Dance. You will see
how they do it. You will see scouts go away to watch on the ridges. And
I will tell you another thing. Our brothers, the brave Uncapapas, are
coming to hunt with us. You will see a great camp. Many things will
happen while these people are with us. Yes, we will run races, and ride
horses, and try our arrows. The Uncapapas are great warriors. They have
fought in many battles. You will hear about it. All the people will sing
the buffalo songs, and you will see how my father brings the buffaloes
to his people."

"When I have seen all these things, then I will tell my grandfather
about it," said White Otter.



CHAPTER VIII

VISITORS FROM THE NORTH


At dawn the three lads stole noiselessly from the lodge and raced away
to the stream, lured on by the shouts and laughter of a jolly little
company who were already in the water. The first plunge into the icy
current from the mountains dispelled the last traces of drowsiness and
sent the blood bounding through their veins. Then followed a few moments
of wild frolicking, for all the boys and most of the younger men of the
tribe were assembled at the stream. When they emerged from the water
they chased one another about the plain until they were thoroughly dry
and glowing with health. Then they ran to the camp to eat bountifully of
the food which the women were already preparing.

At sunrise the warriors who had been selected to dance in the Buffalo
Dance walked to the center of the village. Each of the dancers wore the
skin of a bull buffalo, including the head and horns, and about his
ankles were tied tufts of buffalo hair. Their faces and bodies were
streaked and spotted with clay of various colors, and fastened to their
backs were small bundles of willow branches. They carried their hunting
weapons, and small rawhide rattles filled with pebbles.

While the dancers were assembling, a number of scouts mounted their
ponies and galloped away to watch from the ridges about the camp. At the
same time Rain Crow made his way out on the plain with the sacred
medicine-pipe, and seated himself beside a painted buffalo skull to
smoke and petition the Great Mystery to send the great herds of
buffaloes near the Minneconjoux camp.

The beating of the war drums drew the people to the spot selected for
the ceremony, and when the tribe was finally assembled the dance
commenced. About twenty warriors took part, and as the old men sang the
sacred buffalo songs the dancers began to imitate the animals which they
were supposed to represent. Keeping time with the drums, they moved
slowly around in a circle, performing all the antics of the great beasts
which they believed they were luring to their hunting grounds. Once
begun, the dance might be continued for several days, unless the animals
suddenly appeared and abruptly ended the ceremony. When a dancer became
tired he stooped over, and one of the onlookers, who were waiting to
take advantage of such an emergency, immediately pretended to drive an
arrow through him. Then the exhausted dancer fell and was dragged from
the circle, and the fresh recruit gladly surrendered himself to the
strenuous exertions of the dance.

"That man who is throwing dirt over himself is Kicking Bull. He is a
great hunter," Sun Bird told White Otter. "Once he sent his arrow right
through a bull buffalo. Another time he killed three bears that were
bigger than his pony. You will see him do some great things when we go
out to hunt the buffaloes."

"I will keep close beside him," declared White Otter.

White Otter was thoroughly familiar with every detail of the interesting
ceremony, for he had seen the Ogalalas dance the Buffalo Dance many
times. Like all his people, he had deep reverence for these mysterious
medicine-rites, and he believed implicitly in their alleged power to
bring about the desired result. He had little doubt, therefore, that the
combined efforts of Rain Crow and the dancers in the present ceremony,
would soon bring the buffaloes within sight of the village.

"Come, now we will go and watch my father," Sun Bird proposed, after
they had spent some time at the dance.

When they arrived at the edge of the village they saw Rain Crow standing
rigid and immovable some distance out on the plain. He held the sacred
medicine-pipe before him at arm's length.

"See, my father is pointing the pipe toward the place where we first see
the buffaloes," said Sun Bird. "Now he is looking up and singing to the
Great Mystery. He is making strong medicine. Pretty soon he will bring
the buffaloes."

They would have liked to approach sufficiently near to hear the words of
the mysterious medicine-songs, but they knew better than to make the
attempt. To have intruded upon Rain Crow at that time would have broken
his power, and invited the censure of the entire tribe. Therefore, they
curbed their curiosity, and contented themselves with watching him from
the border of the camp. They had not been there long when they were
approached by a prominent member of Sun Bird's war party, who invited
them to his lodge to partake of a feast which he had prepared in honor
of White Otter.

"My brother, you have opened your lodge. It is good. I will go in and
eat with you," said White Otter.

When the young Ogalala parted from his host some time later he was
immediately invited to accept the bounteous hospitality of another
admirer. Aware that a refusal would be interpreted as an insult, White
Otter saw nothing to do but to accept. As the etiquette of his people
required a visitor to eat heartily at each lodge to which he was
invited, and as each host invariably endeavored to offer a more
sumptuous repast than his neighbor, White Otter foresaw embarrassing
complications ahead of him. By the time he had fulfilled his
obligations at three of these feasts he found himself almost helpless
from the effects of his enforced gluttony. Sun Bird and Little Raven
were in a similar state of discomfort, for they had felt it a matter of
duty to accompany their friend to each lodge to which he had been
invited. As the day was but half over the situation looked serious.
Having accepted the first invitations, they realized that it would be
impossible to refuse those that were sure to follow. Still, they knew it
would be equally impossible to consume more food, and they were aware
that to attend a feast and slight the repast would be a greater insult
than to stay away. They were searching their brains for a way of escape,
when they were unexpectedly delivered from their awkward dilemma.

"See, Feather Dog is returning. He has something to tell about," cried
Sun Bird, pointing toward a solitary horseman who was galloping toward
the camp.

The cry was echoed through the village, and the people rushed from the
lodges in a state of wild excitement. Some feared that he was bringing
warning of an impending attack by the Crows, others declared that the
buffaloes were in sight, and still others that the Uncapapas were
approaching from the north. Determined to be prepared for an emergency,
Curly Horse instantly assembled the fighting men and held himself in
readiness to defend the camp. When Feather Dog finally came within
shouting distance, however, he called out that a great company of
Uncapapas were approaching the village. The news filled the Minneconjoux
with delight, and when Feather Dog rode into the camp they crowded
eagerly around him to inquire about the famous people who were coming to
visit them. Then Curly Horse called the warriors in council, and made an
address.

"My people, you have heard the words of Feather Dog. He has told you
that our brothers, the great chief Laughing Bird and his people, are
coming here. It is good. I will ask you to open your lodges to them.
Pretty soon you will see Laughing Bird and some great warriors come
across the plain. We will go to meet them. Feather Dog, I will ask you
to go back and tell Laughing Bird that Curly Horse will ride out to
meet him. I have finished," said the Minneconjoux war chief.

As Feather Dog raced away with a message of welcome, Curly Horse went
slowly about the group of Minneconjoux fighting men selecting the
warriors whom he wished to accompany him. He chose twenty-five of the
most renowned men of the tribe, and ordered them to prepare themselves
to meet Laughing Bird and his escort. The warriors rushed to their
lodges to array themselves in all their finery, while the boys brought
in their fastest ponies, which the women proceeded to decorate with
feathers and strips of fur.

When the escort for Curly Horse finally assembled in the center of the
village they made a striking appearance, and the people greeted them
with shouts of approval. They were a splendid-looking body of men, and
the eyes of the Minneconjoux chief flashed with pride as he inspected
them. Then he called Rain Crow to his side, and together they led the
gallant little company from the camp. As they cantered slowly across the
plain, the people watching from the border of the village saw another
company of riders appear on the summit of a ridge to the north. These
horsemen watched the Minneconjoux a few minutes, and then they galloped
forward to meet them.

"See, Laughing Bird and his warriors are coming to talk with our
people," said Sun Bird, as he stood at the edge of the camp with White
Otter. "When those people come here you will see a great man."

The two chiefs advanced with their escorts until they were less than a
bow-shot apart, and then each halted his followers and rode forward
alone. They met and clasped hands, and after a complimentary exchange of
greetings they signaled their warriors to join them. The latter appeared
to splendid advantage as they moved slowly forward in perfect alignment,
each rider sitting erect and dignified on his prancing pony, with his
great war bonnet of eagle feathers reaching almost to the ground behind
him. They had streaked the upper part of their bodies with colored clay,
and had dressed themselves in their finest ceremonial attire. Each
warrior carried his coup-stick with its complement of fluttering eagle
feathers so that all who saw him might instantly recognize him as a man
of courage and valor. The two companies of fighting men stopped a short
distance apart while Curly Horse and Laughing Bird addressed them. The
former welcomed the Uncapapa war chief and his escort and invited the
Uncapapas to make their camp beside his village. Laughing Bird accepted
the invitation with proper courtesy, and immediately dispatched a
courier to bring his people, who were waiting far out on the plain.
Then, after all the warriors had greeted one another and exchanged the
customary compliments, the entire company cantered toward the
Minneconjoux camp.

"Now you will hear some good words," said Sun Bird, as he and White
Otter hurried to join the warriors who had assembled before the council
lodge to receive the visitors.

Laughing Bird and his warriors received a royal welcome from the
Minneconjoux. Much time was consumed in making speeches and exchanging
greetings, but White Otter gave little attention to the talk. He was
more interested in studying these distant tribesmen whom he had never
seen. He saw that the Uncapapa chief was a young man, tall and wiry,
with an alert, fearless face which was somewhat disfigured by a great
scar extending entirely across the left cheek from ear to chin. The
young Ogalala believed that it was the record of some thrilling combat,
and he hoped to hear the story. The warriors who accompanied Laughing
Bird were superb specimens of manhood. They were slighter and
considerably taller than the Minneconjoux, but they had the Dacotah
characteristics, and White Otter would have recognized them as his
people even before they spoke.

However, White Otter's attention was suddenly diverted by the shouts of
some boys at the edge of the camp. "The Uncapapas are coming! The
Uncapapas are coming!" they cried excitedly. Rushing to the border of
the village, the Minneconjoux saw a great company of people advancing
slowly across the plain. It was an impressive spectacle. In front were
the warriors, each leading one or more ponies besides the animal he
rode. Behind them came the slower pack animals, carrying the women and
children and dragging the lodge poles, to which was lashed the property
of the owners. Then followed the herd of unburdened animals in charge of
a noisy company of youths and boys. The interesting cavalcade was
flanked on all sides by stray companies of dogs of various sizes and
colors, many of the larger animals dragging small loads behind them like
the ponies.

Curly Horse sent a delegation of warriors to meet and welcome the
Uncapapas, while Laughing Bird and his escort galloped along the stream
to find a suitable camp-site. They selected a spot some distance below
the Minneconjoux village, and a few minutes afterward it was the scene
of bustling activity. The women soon had the horses unpacked and the
lodge poles in place, and then the great buffalo-hide covers, each
composed of from fifteen to twenty skins of the bull buffalo, were
wrapped about the frame and the shelter was completed. In the meantime
the older women and the children were searching through the timber for
fuel, while the warriors walked about giving orders to the boys who were
busy picketing the riding ponies, and stretching rawhide lariats
between the trees to form a temporary corral for the pack animals. In
spite of these various activities, however, there was little confusion,
and by the time the evening shadows settled upon the plain the great
Uncapapa camp was entirely in order.

At nightfall the Minneconjoux and the Uncapapas began to exchange
visits, and as both camps vied with each other in the number and
bounteousness of their feasts, the people had little chance to rest. In
the meantime the Buffalo Dance drew fresh recruits from the Uncapapas,
and the entire night was passed in ceremony and celebration. Dawn was
already breaking in the east as Sun Bird and White Otter finally stole
away to Rain Crow's lodge for a few winks of sleep.

The following day the scouts again rode away to watch on the ridges, and
Rain Crow took the sacred pipe and went out on the plain to pray to the
Great Mystery. The Buffalo Dance, too, was continued with undiminished
enthusiasm. However, as but few were able to participate in the ceremony
at one time, the majority of the people occupied themselves with less
serious affairs. The people from the two camps mingled together with
less evidence of reserve, and more jolly comradeship than on the
previous day. The warriors met to trade ponies and boast of their
exploits; the old men sat in the shade and recalled the days that had
gone; the women gossiped and compared their handiwork; and the boys met
on the plain to play their games. Thus the morning passed, and at midday
criers went through the camps announcing the sports that had been
arranged to while away the time until the buffaloes appeared. The
announcement was received with shouts of enthusiasm, for there was keen
rivalry between the tribes and each was eager for an opportunity to
prove the superiority of its champions.

The sports began soon afterward, and were so hotly contested that the
results were always in doubt until the last moment of the contest. There
were foot races, and jumping contests, and games of shinny and ball, and
pony races, and various competitions for the women and girls; but
neither tribe was able to secure much of an advantage, and when these
sports were finally ended the total scores were exactly even. Then came
the final, and perhaps the most popular event of the day, which was
known as the Arrow Game.

When White Otter heard it announced his heart began to beat excitedly.
It was a favorite game of his people, and one at which he excelled. He
had been forced to practice it from the time he received his first small
bow and blunt wooden arrows. Now there were none in his tribe who could
equal his skill, and the Ogalalas proudly acknowledged him as their
champion. Therefore, as he realized that the result of this contest
would give the day's victory to the tribe of the winner, he determined
to enter the event on the side of the Minneconjoux.

Two teams were soon selected, and the rival contestants marched solemnly
to the spot which had been set apart for the event. Sun Bird as well as
White Otter had secured a place on the Minneconjoux team. The object of
the contest was to see who could shoot the most arrows into the air
before the first one reached the ground. It was a sport which demanded
agility as well as skill, and only the most expert took part.

When the rival teams reached the meeting place they formed in two lines
some distance apart. Then Curly Horse and Laughing Bird walked between
them urging the warriors of their respective tribes to do their utmost
to win the victory for their people. The words of the Minneconjoux war
chief filled White Otter with enthusiasm. Having already won the
championship of his own tribe, he was anxious to establish his title
among the other tribes of the great Dacotah nation. Besides, he was
equally eager to crown the strenuous efforts of the Minneconjoux with
final victory. Therefore, as he strung his bow and took his place beside
Sun Bird, he raised his eyes to the sky and offered a silent petition to
the Great Mystery to aid him in securing the coveted victory.

The first warrior to try his skill was an Uncapapa, who succeeded in
discharging six arrows before the first returned to earth. He was
followed by the warrior at the head of the Minneconjoux line, who
fumbled at the fourth arrow and scored only five. The next Uncapapa, a
great, powerful fellow of striking appearance, sent eight arrows into
the air and caused enthusiastic rejoicing among his tribesmen. The
Minneconjoux who was his rival scored six. The following Uncapapa was so
anxious to surpass his comrade that he splintered his bow and eliminated
himself from the contest. Then a Minneconjoux named Little Rabbit
succeeded in tying the score with eight arrows in the air at once, and
his people went wild with joy. Their delight was short-lived, however,
for a few moments afterward an Uncapapa discharged nine arrows in the
allotted time.

"That is a great thing to do," Sun Bird told White Otter, with apparent
uneasiness.

White Otter made no reply. He was at the very end of the Minneconjoux
line, and he began to realize that perhaps the final result might depend
upon him. The thought startled him. He watched each contestant with
intense interest. More than half of the warriors on each side had
already made their attempts and the honors still rested with the
Uncapapas.

Then a Minneconjoux shot ten arrows from his bow before the first one
struck the ground. The feat threw the entire assemblage into a frenzy
of excitement, friend and rival alike yelling approval of his skill. It
seemed that victory was about to fall to the Minneconjoux, and Curly
Horse and his warriors made no attempt to conceal their delight. Their
hopes were rudely shattered, however, when an Uncapapa duplicated the
remarkable achievement. Once again the score was tied. As only four
remained to try for each side, it looked as if the all-day struggle
between the tribes was doomed to end in a deadlock.

White Otter awaited his turn with feverish impatience. If the other
contestants failed to better the score he believed that he might still
win for the Minneconjoux, for on two occasions he had surpassed the
score of the Uncapapa. Both times he had succeeded in having eleven
arrows in the air at one time. However, the young Ogalala knew that such
a record was not easily duplicated. The slightest mishap would ruin his
chances. He dared not hope.

A few moments later an Uncapapa sent eleven arrows into the air in the
specified interval of time. The people were now beside themselves with
excitement. The Uncapapas were yelling and waving their robes in a
delirium of joy, while the crestfallen Minneconjoux were calling upon
all sorts of mysterious powers to save them from defeat. But three more
contestants remained to try for victory, Sun Bird and White Otter on the
Minneconjoux side, and one Uncapapa.

Sun Bird felt the responsibility that was resting upon him, but he knew
that he was powerless to save his people from defeat. He had never done
better than eight arrows in the air at once. He determined to make a
supreme effort, however, and succeeded so well that he actually bettered
his record and scored nine. The Minneconjoux accepted his gallant
attempt with a murmur of approval, but their hearts were filled with
gloom.

The remaining Uncapapa scored only six, but his people were well
satisfied with his indifferent performance, as they were now sure of
their victory.

Then White Otter prepared to make his attempt. He was the target for
every eye in the great assemblage as he stepped out to make the final
effort for the Minneconjoux. The young Ogalala appeared calm and
confident, but his heart was beating furiously and his blood raced
through his veins. He knew that to save the Minneconjoux from defeat he
must duplicate his best performance, and under the circumstances the
odds all seemed against him. For a moment he lost confidence. Then he
heard a mocking laugh over among the Uncapapas, and it drove the hot
fighting blood to his brain. His eyes flashed a challenge along the line
of Uncapapa warriors, and he slowly drew twelve arrows from his quiver
and held them in his left hand. There was something in his manner that
commanded respect, and the Uncapapas began to ask one another his name.
They saw that this cool young warrior intended to make a determined
effort to steal their victory, and the idea caused them considerable
uneasiness.

"My brother, if you do this thing my people will make you a great man,"
Sun Bird said, in a voice trembling with eagerness.

White Otter remained silent. He had tested his bow, and was ready to fit
the first arrow. Then as an expectant hush settled upon the throng of
tense spectators, the lad raised his face toward the sky and stood a
few moments with closed eyes, while he asked the aid of the Great
Mystery. When he had ended his simple appeal, he crouched and raised his
bow in his left hand, while he tightened the bow-string until the point
of the arrow was almost even with the weapon. He held it an instant, and
then he sent it whizzing toward the sky. As it soared upward his agile
hands worked with a speed that actually baffled the onlookers, and
caused them to cry out in admiration of his skill. The humming arrows
sped from his bow in such rapid succession that it was difficult to
count them. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Eleven--TWELVE! soared into space before the first one returned to the
ground. Then, flushed with the pride of victory, the young champion
straightened and smiled triumphantly into the eyes of his friend.

Having turned what seemed like sure defeat into a glorious victory,
White Otter found himself a hero among the Minneconjoux. Curly Horse was
the first to greet him.

"My son, you have done a great thing," said the Minneconjoux chief. "You
have filled the hearts of my people with the song of victory. It has
been a great day, but you have done the best thing. Yes, we will have
something to tell about when people come to our lodges."

Even the vanquished Uncapapas crowded eagerly forward to praise the
young tribesman who had defeated them. The sting of their unexpected
downfall was relieved by the pride they got from assuring themselves
that none but a Dacotah could have performed such an exploit.

"My young brother, you have done the best of all. You are as quick as
the panther, and as steady as the rock. You have done a good thing for
our brothers, the Minneconjoux. But I will tell you that our hearts are
glad about it. Yes, you are a Dacotah. It is enough. We will talk about
you at the council fire," said the famous Uncapapa war chief.

Sun Bird kept his praise until they reached the seclusion of Rain Crow's
lodge. Then he seized White Otter's hand and spoke with great feeling.

"My brother, you have done a great thing. You have heard many good
words. What you have done makes me feel like a great chief. When I
think about it my heart is very big. I cannot say any more. But you know
how my heart is toward you," said Sun Bird.

"Yes, I have heard many good words," replied White Otter. "But I will
tell you that the words of Sun Bird, my brother, are the sweetest to my
ears."



CHAPTER IX

THE GREAT BUFFALO DRIVE


Early the following day the Sioux saw several of the scouts who had been
sent to the ridges to watch for buffaloes racing wildly toward the
Minneconjoux village. It was evident that they had news of great
importance, and the people became much excited. Rain Crow was out on the
plain continuing his mysterious ceremony to bring the buffaloes. As the
riders passed they called to him, and he immediately rose and extended
the sacred pipe toward the heavens. Then a joyous shout went up from the
village, for the Minneconjoux knew that his appeal had been answered,
the Great Mystery had listened to their prayers.

"The buffaloes have come! The buffaloes have come!" the scouts cried,
eagerly, as they approached the lodges.

The cry was soon ringing through the camps, and all who heard it were
thrown into wild transports of joy. Shouting and laughing, the
delighted Sioux ran to make preparations for the great buffalo hunt, the
most important event in their lives. The boys were sent to bring in the
ponies, while the warriors hurried to the lodges to collect their
weapons and decorate themselves for the occasion. The women were as busy
as the men, for their task was to follow after the hunters to cut up and
pack in the meat. Even the aged veterans who were too old to participate
hobbled about chuckling gleefully in anticipation of the feasts which
were now assured. It was indeed a time of general rejoicing, and the
villages were in a noisy uproar.

The buffaloes had been discovered feeding on a vast rolling plain to the
south, and the scouts declared that it would be easy to circle around
behind the ridges and surround the herd.

"My people, you have heard about this thing," said Curly Horse. "The
Great Mystery has listened to our words. Yes, he has taken pity on us.
He has sent the buffaloes. It is good. We will have plenty to eat. We
will have plenty of hides for robes and moccasins. Now I will tell you
what to do. You must get your best ponies, and go out there and kill
some meat. I have finished."

Soon afterward the Minneconjoux and the Uncapapas united in a great
hunting party which included every active warrior in both tribes. It was
a noble assemblage. As the great host of warriors galloped away the very
earth seemed to tremble beneath the thundering hoofs of their ponies.
Only the old men and the women and children were left behind. They stood
together at the edge of the camps watching the imposing cavalcade until
it finally passed from sight over a swell of the plain, and left a great
yellow cloud of dust to roll back toward the deserted villages.

Curly Horse and Laughing Bird rode together at the head of the warriors.
Far in advance of them, however, was a company of picked scouts whose
duty was to locate the buffaloes and reconnoiter the country over which
the hunters would advance to surround the herd. On either flank of the
hunting party rode the Dog Soldiers, whose task was to maintain order
and system. These warriors were men of courage and wisdom, whose sound
judgment and impartial justice qualified them to act as the guardians of
peace and discipline in their respective tribes. Their insignia of
office was a raven skin which they usually wore attached to their belts.
Their power was unquestioned, and at all times they commanded the
respect and ready obedience of their comrades.

The Sioux cantered across the plain in high spirits. The return of the
buffaloes assured them an abundance of meat for many days, and the
thought filled them with enthusiasm. Light-hearted laughter, and
snatches of song, made it evident that the stern Dacotah warrior had
thrown off his reserve and softened his heart to enjoy the gentler
excitement of the chase.

White Otter rode with Sun Bird and Little Raven. He was mounted on a
fiery little buckskin which he had captured from the Kiowas. His two
companions rode the splendid hunting ponies with which he had presented
them when they visited the Ogalala village the year previous. All three
lads were eager and excited, for the hunt promised plenty of thrills.

The sun was some distance past the meridian when the Sioux finally came
in sight of the buffaloes. Then the chiefs and the Dog Soldiers
immediately held a council, while the hunting party waited behind a low
ridge. When the plan of attack had finally been decided upon, the force
was divided into three companies. Curly Horse took command of one,
Laughing Bird of another, and Rain Crow of the third. The latter was
told to hold his warriors behind the ridge until the chiefs and their
followers had advanced along both flanks of the herd. Then at the proper
signal the three companies of hunters were to charge forward and
surround the buffaloes.

The young Ogalala and his two friends remained with Rain Crow. In this
party were some of the most famous Minneconjoux hunters. White Otter was
particularly pleased when he saw Kicking Bull, the warrior of whom Sun
Bird had told him so many wonderful things.

"It is good. I see that Kicking Bull is here," said White Otter.

"If you watch him you may see something to talk about," replied Sun
Bird.

"Look, my brothers, something has happened!" cried Little Raven.

The scouts who had been looking over the crest of the ridge were
gesticulating excitedly, and calling to the hunters. They said that the
buffaloes had discovered Curly Horse and his warriors, and were already
fleeing across the plain.

"That is bad. But come, my brothers, we must go after them," shouted
Rain Crow, as he raced his pony to the top of the ridge, and the others
urged their horses after him.

Then the hunt began. As Rain Crow and his companions swept over the
ridge they saw the buffaloes thundering away in a stifling smother of
dust, pursued on both flanks by long lines of whooping horsemen. The
latter were riding furiously in an endeavor to get far enough ahead to
turn the animals at the front of the herd.

"Come, we must ride fast!" cried White Otter, as he galloped away from
his friends.

Sun Bird and Little Raven raced after him, with the other riders close
behind them. Yelling excitedly, the Sioux urged their ponies to top
speed, and for the moment the hunt became a mad break-neck scramble
across the rocky plain. A false step on the part of a pony meant severe
injury or death for itself and its rider, but the nimble little beasts
kept their feet and soon overtook the clumsy animals ahead of them. Once
within arrow-range, Rain Crow and his warriors began a furious attack
upon the rear of the herd, while Curly Horse and Laughing Bird closed in
on them from the sides.

White Otter soon found that his confidence in the pony which he had
taken from the Kiowas was well placed. He had no difficulty in keeping
up with the fastest animals in the company, and he believed that the
buckskin had still greater speed in reserve. When the buffaloes were
overtaken, the Kiowa pony quickly proved that it was familiar with every
detail of the exciting sport. It seemed to know exactly which animal the
rider wished to attack. Having maneuvered to a favorable position, it
would run beside the doomed buffalo until the twang of the bow-string
gave warning that the fatal arrow had sped to its mark; then the clever
little beast would instantly swerve aside to avoid the death lunge of
the animal it had helped to kill.

"That is a very fast pony," said Sun Bird.

"Yes, I believe it belonged to a great buffalo hunter," replied White
Otter.

Then the warriors began to ride recklessly into the herd, and the three
lads became separated. White Otter saw Kicking Bull, and immediately
turned to follow him. The famous Minneconjoux hunter was talking to his
pony and laughing with boyish glee as he drove his arrows into the
helpless buffaloes. As each of his victims fell to the plain he
dismounted beside it and recovered his arrow. Then he leaped upon his
pony and raced after the retreating herd.

The Sioux had already killed many buffaloes, and the plain was dotted
with carcasses. Some of the warriors had deserted the main hunt to run
down the wounded animals that had been left behind in the wild stampede.
At the same time the horsemen on both flanks, having failed in their
efforts to turn the leaders, were breaking into the herd and killing as
many animals as possible before the buffaloes ran too far from the
camps.

Having followed Kicking Bull some distance into the herd, White Otter
found himself in close quarters. The buffaloes had crowded so closely
together that there was danger of the pony and its rider being crushed
to death in the jam. It was not a new experience for the young Ogalala,
however, for he had passed through a somewhat similar trial once before.
Although he was fully alive to his peril, he had little fear. He
believed that the Kiowa pony had learned to care for itself in just such
an emergency. The thought gave him confidence, and he began to shoot his
arrows at the animals behind him in the hope of opening an avenue of
escape.

Then he saw Kicking Bull a short distance ahead of him. It was evident
that the noted hunter was in a similar predicament, and White Otter
watched anxiously to learn how he would extricate himself. He saw two
huge bulls crowding the Minneconjoux pony between them, and it looked as
if both horse and rider were doomed to instant destruction. For a
moment or two the active little beast kept on its feet, and then it
stumbled and disappeared beneath the great brown avalanche of frenzied
buffaloes.

As the unfortunate pony went to its death, however, Kicking Bull grasped
the coarse shaggy mane of the nearest bull, and succeeded in drawing
himself upon its back. It was all done so quickly that White Otter could
scarcely believe his eyes. However, when the daring hunter turned and
shook his bow at him, the young Ogalala realized that what he saw
actually had happened.

Having escaped death by the slightest margin, Kicking Bull was still in
a desperate predicament. The great beast upon which he had taken
temporary refuge was making frantic efforts to dislodge him, and he was
in imminent danger of losing his grip and falling from its back. To make
matters worse, the buffaloes on either side were crowding so closely
that the bull was liable to stumble and share the fate of the missing
pony.

In the meantime White Otter was making an heroic attempt to reach his
tribesman. He realized that if he could ride his pony up beside Kicking
Bull he might be able to carry him safely from the herd. He knew that it
was a desperate undertaking which might end in bringing both of them to
a sudden death, but he was willing to risk his life in the attempt.
Strive as he might, however, he was unable to clear a way for his pony,
and as he knew that it would be fatal to kill the buffaloes directly in
front of him he saw little chance of rendering aid to the unfortunate
Minneconjoux. His heart filled with dismay as he realized his utter
helplessness to save the famous hunter whose daring career was about to
come to a tragic end.

The buffaloes were crowding closer together each moment, and White Otter
suddenly realized that unless he found a way to escape from the jam he,
too, was sure to suffer a similar fate. He again turned his attention to
the animals behind him, and when he had opened a gap he slackened the
speed of his pony, hoping that the buffaloes might run past him. It was
an old trick of the Sioux hunters, and one which the young Ogalala had
already used successfully. However, as he thought of abandoning the
brave man who was still clinging to the back of the great bull, all his
instincts rebelled. Although he knew that for the moment he was
powerless to help him, still the loyal lad believed that the opportunity
might present itself at any moment. Therefore, he determined to forfeit
his own chance in the hope of saving his tribesman.

A few moments afterward the animals ahead of him separated, and White
Otter forced his pony into the gap. At that instant Kicking Bull turned
his head and saw that the courageous lad was attempting to help him.
Fully aware of the peril, the gallant Minneconjoux waved his hand toward
the rear of the herd, as a signal for White Otter to attempt to save
himself by that avenue of escape. The latter shook his head, and made it
plain that he was determined to remain where he was while there was a
possibility of rendering aid.

Realizing that each moment of delay only lessened the chance of escape
for both of them, White Otter again attempted to open a way to the
Minneconjoux hunter. Laying vigorously about him with his heavy riding
quirt he succeeded in crowding several more animals from his path, and
advancing considerably closer to Kicking Bull. They were now
sufficiently near to call to each other, and the Minneconjoux turned his
head and addressed White Otter.

"I see what you are trying to do," he said. "You are very brave. You
cannot do this thing. No, if you stay here you may be killed. Perhaps I
will not come out of this. But I am not afraid. See how the buffaloes
crowd against my legs. Pull back your pony, and keep your life. You are
a young man. I have told you the best thing to do."

"I am a Dacotah," cried White Otter. "I have closed my ears to your
words. I will stay here until something happens. Perhaps I will find a
way to help you."

Roused by the possibility, White Otter redoubled his efforts, and
crowded forward until he was on a line with Kicking Bull. There were a
number of animals between them, however, and they were so close together
that it was impossible to separate them. It looked, therefore, as if his
gallant attempt at rescue had been made in vain. Instead of being able
to save his tribesman, it began to look as though White Otter was
doomed to share the same tragic fate. As he peered anxiously through the
blinding smother of dust he saw that he was entirely closed in, and he
had slight hope of opening a path through the closely packed ranks of
panic-stricken beasts that imprisoned him.

Then he heard a warning shout from Kicking Bull. A moment later the
daring Minneconjoux made known his intention of reaching him over the
backs of the intervening buffaloes. For a moment White Otter was dazed
by the very boldness of the plan. It seemed like the wild whim of a
madman, and he wondered whether Kicking Bull had actually lost his
senses. As soon as he had recovered from his astonishment, therefore,
White Otter called out to warn his tribesman against attempting
something which he felt sure would end in certain death.

"No, it is the only thing to do," declared Kicking Bull. "I will do this
thing. Now I am getting ready. You must watch me. Then you will know how
to save yourself from the buffaloes. Now I am going to start."

Before White Otter could offer further remonstrance, the Minneconjoux
slung his weapons across his back and prepared to make the desperate
attempt at escape. Seizing the long hair which covered the shoulders of
the great bull, Kicking Bull rose to his knees. He balanced himself in
that position a moment or two, while his flashing eyes studied the dusty
backs of the buffaloes between him and White Otter. Then, having decided
what to do, he rose to his feet, still clinging to the coarse mane of
the infuriated beast beneath him. For an instant he hesitated, while he
caught his balance. Then, as White Otter called a warning, the
Minneconjoux relaxed his hold, and half straightened. The next instant
he stepped lightly to the back of the next buffalo, steadied himself a
moment, and then sprang to the one beyond, and then moved quickly from
one to another until he dropped upon the animal beside White Otter. The
marvelous exploit was performed so quickly, and so skillfully, that the
astounded young Ogalala scarcely realized what had happened.

"Now you have seen something to tell about," laughed Kicking Bull, as
he threw his arm about White Otter and drew himself upon the pony.

When White Otter realized that Kicking Bull had actually reached him he
was overwhelmed with joy. He felt repaid for having risked his life, and
he determined to make a desperate attempt to escape from the herd. The
Kiowa pony seemed unmindful of its double burden, and despite the odds
against it, the young Ogalala believed that it would eventually carry
them to safety. The buffaloes had run a considerable distance since the
beginning of the hunt, and most of the Sioux had already abandoned the
chase and turned back to claim a share of the spoils. It seemed,
therefore, that the panting beasts would soon slacken their pace, and
White Otter believed the safest plan would be to continue with the herd
until the tired buffaloes finally slowed down sufficiently to allow the
pony to escape from their midst. Kicking Bull destroyed his hope,
however, by warning him that not far ahead was a rocky stretch of plain
which would cause sad havoc if the buffaloes attempted to race over it.
He said that many of the awkward brutes would be sure to fall, and the
pony would be powerless to save itself from sharing their fate.

Aware that every moment was precious, the Sioux immediately attempted to
open a way of escape. While Kicking Bull drove his arrows into the
buffaloes directly behind them, White Otter began an attack against
those that were crowding from the sides. After a few minutes of vigorous
fighting they finally opened up a small gap, and before the buffaloes
could close it White Otter pulled the buckskin into the opening. Then
they continued to attack the animals behind them, and at last they
succeeded in turning them to either side. Once started, the gap
continually widened until the little buckskin was soon dropping slowly
back toward the rear of the herd, while the buffaloes galloped past on
either flank. When they finally escaped, the two Sioux slid from the
lathery pony, and looked searchingly into each other's eyes.

"You have done the bravest thing I ever saw," said White Otter. "Now I
will have something to tell my people."

"Well, I am glad you saw it. But I will tell you that you are very
fearless. You brought me out here. That was a great thing to do. I will
tell the Minneconjoux about it," declared Kicking Bull.

The buffaloes had already disappeared over a swell of the plain, and the
two Sioux again mounted the buckskin and rode slowly back to join their
comrades. They found the course of the hunt marked with the bodies of
dead buffaloes, and at each carcass were several hunters who were busy
removing the pelt and cutting out the choicest meat. Farther back they
found the women and some of the old men who had followed after the
hunters with the pack horses. They were already loading the meat upon
the ponies and the scene was one of bustling activity. White Otter found
Sun Bird and Little Raven cutting up a fat yearling cow, and he stopped
to help them.

The purple twilight shadows were already settling upon the plain when
the great Sioux hunting party finally set out for the camps beside the
stream. The warriors returned on tired, sweat-caked ponies, but the
hearts of the riders were filled with joy. They rode along singing songs
of thanks to the Great Mystery who had sent them an abundance of meat
to nourish the old people and the children, and make the warriors bold
and strong. Behind the hunters followed the women, leading the pack
animals loaded with buffalo meat. There was a great quantity, and the
Sioux attributed their success to the efforts of Rain Crow and the
Buffalo Dancers, who they believed had gained the favor of the Great
Mystery.

"You have been very brave; Kicking Bull has told me about it," said Sun
Bird, as he and White Otter rode along together.

"Kicking Bull is a great man," replied White Otter, affectionately
stroking the neck of the faithful little buckskin.



CHAPTER X

AN ADVENTURE AMONG THE PEAKS


Several days after the great buffalo drive, White Otter and his two
friends set out to explore the gigantic snow-clad peaks which showed
against the sky, a day's journey to the westward. Sun Bird and Little
Raven had told the Ogalala many wonderful tales about a mysterious rocky
cave, whose walls were decorated with all sorts of queer drawings
representing animals and birds and reptiles. These fanciful stories had
aroused White Otter's curiosity, and he was anxious to see this strange
place, which Little Raven solemnly declared was the abode of all sorts
of uncanny monsters.

"I have never seen it, but I have heard the old men tell about it,"
Little Raven said, very seriously. "Yes, old Spotted Face was there a
long time ago. I have heard him talk about it. He says he met some funny
little people way back there in the darkness. He did not see them, but
he saw their eyes shine and heard them squeak like ground dogs. He says
they told him if he came any nearer he would be killed. Then he ran
out."

"Yes, what Little Raven says is true," agreed Sun Bird. "My people know
about this place. Short Bear once went far inside. Then he heard a great
noise, and he ran out. I have seen this place, but I have never gone in
so far."

These superstitious tales made a deep impression upon White Otter. Like
all his people, he had implicit faith in the weird stories which the old
men told around the fires on winter nights, and he had no doubt that the
queer hobgoblins of their imaginations really existed. It was part of
his life and faith. To have doubted the existence of both those good and
evil spirits which his people believed were constantly interfering in
their daily affairs, would have made him an object of ridicule and
distrust among his tribesmen. Therefore, having had his mind filled with
these simple superstitions since early infancy, White Otter saw no
reason to doubt the stories about the rocky den on the distant
snow-capped peak.

The three lads left the village soon after sunrise, and made their way
to the foothills. They followed the elk trails over the low ridges, and
descended into a beautiful wooded valley that extended to the base of
the great peaks they wished to reach. It was watered by the stream which
flowed past the Minneconjoux village, and well timbered with aspen,
birch and pine. This sheltered vale fairly teemed with game, and the
Sioux found themselves in a veritable "Happy Hunting Ground." They saw
many elk, the cows with long-legged spotted calves beside them, and the
bulls with their short, knobby velvet-covered horns of early spring;
deer bounded from the thickets; wild turkeys rose from beside the
stream; antelope appeared in the open parks; beavers swam about the
flooded meadows; song birds filled the balmy air with melody; and far
above in the azure sky a great golden eagle, the war bird of their
people, soared about on motionless wings.

The Sioux traveled slowly through this wonderful valley, and at the end
of the day they camped in the timber at the base of the mountains. Just
before dark White Otter killed a yearling black-tail deer, and they
immediately made a fire and broiled some of the meat. Then, as the night
closed in about them, they sat in the ruddy glow of the fire, talking
about the great peaks among which they intended to venture on the
following day. Sun Bird had explored their grim fastnesses many times,
but White Otter was a lad of the open prairie, and had only reached the
mountains on one other occasion, when he unexpectedly met Sun Bird.
Little Raven had never been above the foothills and pine-clad ridges.

The night passed without incident, and shortly after daylight the lads
picketed their ponies in an open park half-way up the steep wooded
slope, and set out to explore the snow-topped peaks that towered above
them. They followed a well-marked game trail up through the timber until
they reached the desolate reaches of slide-rock. Then they climbed
laboriously over the confused jumble of slabs and bowlders until they
were halted by a great precipitous field of snow. Sun Bird said that the
mysterious cave was above it, and the lads stopped and gazed
thoughtfully at the rugged pinnacles of rock that rose from the
treacherous white barrier like the warning fingers of some buried giant.

"Have you been up there?" White Otter asked Sun Bird.

"Yes, I have been there many times," replied Sun Bird.

"Then we will go," declared the Ogalala.

Sun Bird led the way, Little Raven followed, and White Otter brought up
the rear. It was slow, difficult climbing, and to guard against accident
Sun Bird continually tested the uncertain footing by thrusting his bow
into the snow ahead of him. When they were half-way to the top they
stopped to rest. As they stood gasping for breath they heard an ominous
rumble above them, and looking up they saw a large bowlder bounding down
the incline directly toward them. For an instant they seemed paralyzed
with fear. Then Sun Bird called a warning, and moved carefully to one
side. Little Raven and White Otter followed his example.

However, in his eagerness to escape from the bowlder, Little Raven
threw caution to the winds, and promptly lost his footing. With a wild
cry of alarm he sped down the steep descent, toward the rocks below. His
dismayed companions realized that he would be dashed to death unless he
checked his wild slide in time to save himself. They shouted
instructions, but the terrified young Minneconjoux failed to hear them.
Instinct, however, came to his aid, and, pressing with his feet and
clutching with his fingers, he finally stopped himself two-thirds of the
way down the slide. Then, waiting until he had regained some of his
confidence, he again began the laborious climb. Warned and encouraged by
his anxious comrades, he finally reached them without further mishap.

Once at the base of the massive granite peaks, the lads hurried on in
the direction of the mysterious cave. As they were moving carefully
along a narrow ledge, Sun Bird suddenly stopped and stooped to examine
something which had attracted his attention. He saw by several
indistinct marks on the rock, and several dislodged fragments of stone,
that something had passed across the narrow trail ahead of him.

"My brothers, something has gone along here," he said, soberly.

The announcement instantly aroused the interest of his comrades. Having
failed to discover a trail on the snow-field, they were at a loss to
account for the evidence discovered by Sun Bird. As they stopped to
study his find, they immediately began to think of the weird tales
connected with the rocky den.

"We have seen no footprints. Perhaps we have found the trail of the
mysterious people who live in the cave," suggested Little Raven.

"Well, perhaps it is so," replied Sun Bird. "But we will go on and find
out about it."

They moved cautiously along the narrow ledge, and although they examined
every foot of the rocky trail with great care they failed to discover
any further clews. Then a sudden explanation flashed across White
Otter's mind.

"My brothers, I have been thinking about that thing," he said. "I will
tell you about it. Perhaps the great war bird made those marks. See, he
is flying up there above us. I believe his lodge is near this place."

"Yes, that is true," replied Sun Bird. "But we have not seen the thing.
What we see we know about. Perhaps you have told how it happened. I do
not know about it."

"No, I do not believe it is that way," declared Little Raven. "I believe
that some of the mysterious Thunder People went along there."

A few moments afterward they came to a wider shelf of rock, and Sun Bird
stopped and pointed to a large cavern, which he declared was the
mysterious cave. They stood and gazed upon it for some time, and then
Sun Bird led them toward the entrance. When they reached it they found
that it apparently extended some distance into the granite cap of the
mountain. The smooth rock sides were decorated as described by Sun Bird.
White Otter saw all sorts of queer emblems and crude imitations of
animals, birds and reptiles. These mysterious picture-writings appeared
to have been chiseled into the rough granite, and some of them were
apparently very old, as they were dim and scarcely discernible. The lads
examined them with eager interest, for they had little doubt that they
had been made by the wonderful beings who were believed to dwell upon
the bleak, inhospitable peaks of these great mountains. Sun Bird
declared that his people had no knowledge of their origin, but he said
that his father had often told him that he understood their meaning.

"Perhaps he will tell us about it," suggested White Otter.

"No, that would break his medicine," Sun Bird assured him. "It is bad to
tell such things. My father is a great medicine-person. That is why he
knows those things. But he will not talk about it."

After they had spent some time studying these baffling decorations, the
lads advanced a little farther into the cavern. They moved very
cautiously, peering expectantly ahead of them, and straining their ears
to catch some of the strange noises which they had heard described. At
first they were able to stand upright, but after going a short distance
they found the dimensions of the cave shrinking, and they were compelled
to crouch to avoid striking their heads on the rocky roof. Sun Bird
said that he had never penetrated farther than that point, and he showed
no inclination to continue.

"If we stay here and listen, perhaps we will hear something," he said,
somewhat uneasily.

They squatted down close together, and waited in considerable suspense
to hear some strange sound from the interior of the cave. Ahead of them
all was dark, and still and mysterious. Behind them they still saw the
light of day streaming in at the mouth of the cave, and weakening as it
followed the rocky passageway until it faded to a dim, misty twilight at
the spot where they had stopped. When they had waited some time without
hearing anything, White Otter proposed that they should proceed to
explore the black recesses beyond them.

"No, my heart tells me that it would be a bad thing to do," declared Sun
Bird. "I have never gone beyond this place. Back there in that black
place are the Evil People. Yes, I have heard my father tell about them.
If you go back there, I believe something will happen to you."

"Well, now I know how you feel about this thing," said White Otter.
"You must do as you find it in your heart. But, my brother, I must tell
you that I am going back there. Yes, it is in my heart to do this thing.
Perhaps if I hear something I will run out. But I am going to start in
there. Perhaps I will meet those Evil People. I believe that this is a
very mysterious place, but I am going to find out something. Now I am
going ahead. My brother, Little Raven, how do you feel about this
thing?"

"I believe that you are very brave, but it is a foolish thing to do,"
replied Little Raven. "You do not know about this place. I have heard
some very brave warriors tell about it. If you go in there, I believe
that you will surely come to harm. No, I will not go any farther."

"Well, my brothers, I must do what it is in my heart to do," declared
White Otter, as he prepared to advance into the black depths of the
cave.

Aware that it would be useless to attempt to dissuade him, Sun Bird and
Little Raven remained silent. Their hearts filled with gloomy
misgivings, however, as White Otter drew several arrows from his quiver,
and crawled slowly forward into the dark, forbidding interior of the
cavern. When he had disappeared from their sight they sat in glum
silence, listening fearfully for some sound which might warn them of the
fate of their comrade. When they heard nothing their fears increased,
and Sun Bird called softly into the darkness. Then they waited in
nervous suspense as the moments passed and their eager inquiry went
unanswered. Tortured by a multitude of alarming possibilities, Sun Bird
again sent an anxious inquiry into the black depths of the cavern. This
time they received a short, indistinct reply. It assured them that for
the moment their comrade was safe, and their hearts bounded with joy.

"White Otter is very brave to do this thing," declared Little Raven.

"Yes, he is very fearless, but it is a bad thing to do," replied Sun
Bird. "Perhaps he will make the Evil People mad. Then they may bring
trouble to our people."

In the meantime the young Ogalala was advancing cautiously into the
unexplored depths of the cavern. As he continued he found that the cave
shrunk greatly in height, while it lost little in width. Therefore,
although he was compelled to crawl painfully along on his hands and
knees, he still had plenty of room if he cared to turn around. White
Otter found himself in a smother of darkness, which made it impossible
to see a bow-length before him. As his eyes were of little avail, he
depended upon his ears to warn him of peril. Keeping in mind the tales
which he had heard from Sun Bird and Little Raven, he moved forward very
slowly, stopping after every short advance to listen for the strange
noises which he expected to hear at any moment.

Then from somewhere in the impenetrable blackness came a peculiar
whimpering cry that sent a thrill through him, and made his heart beat
wildly. After waiting some moments in trying suspense he again heard the
uncanny sound, and located it some distance ahead of him. For some time
White Otter was undecided just what to do. His first impulse was to turn
about, and retreat from the weird place into which he had so rashly
ventured. Then curiosity overcame fear, and he determined to at least
have a look at these unknown demons that created such fear among the
superstitious Minneconjoux. He recalled that whoever claimed to have
ventured into the depths of the cave had escaped unhurt, and old Spotted
Face even declared that he had actually seen the eyes of these
mysterious creatures before he was warned to retreat from their
stronghold. Therefore, White Otter believed that he, too, would be
equally fortunate, and he decided to hold his ground and await further
developments.

Convinced that whatever threatened him was still in front, White Otter
peered anxiously forward into the darkness. The sounds had ceased,
however, and he wondered whether he had been discovered. Fitting an
arrow to his bow, he waited to be attacked. Then, as nothing came to
disturb him, he became bolder. Determined to learn what had made the
strange noise, he again crawled forward to investigate.

White Otter had not gone a bow-length when the same strange whimpering
cry brought him to a stop. Then, as he listened to hear it repeated,
another sound reached his ears. It was a low rumbling growl, and the
young Ogalala immediately read defiance in the tone. At first he failed
to recognize it, and all sorts of superstitious fears crowded into his
mind. He wondered if he had actually invaded the home of some great
Thunder Being. His confidence weakened at the thought, for he knew that
the bravest warrior could not survive an encounter with one of those
terrific monsters. Then he again heard the angry challenge, and at once
it became familiar. A few moments later he saw two spots of greenish
light shining in the darkness, and he realized that he was confronted by
one of the great mountain cats. Once before he had fought a fierce
encounter with one of these savage creatures, and he knew what to
expect. However, he was greatly relieved to know that he was threatened
by an adversary that was without magic power to turn aside his arrows,
as the mysterious Thunder Beings were said to do.

Realizing that this fierce beast had its den somewhere in the back of
the cavern, the young Ogalala believed that the strange noises had been
made by the kittens of the great cat. He felt sure, therefore, that the
latter would attack him with great fury, and he determined to kill it
before it came sufficiently near to spring at him.

In the meantime the weird glowing eyes had disappeared, and White Otter
wondered what had happened. He wondered whether the snarling brute had
slunk farther back into the cave. Then a more alarming possibility
entered his mind--perhaps the great cat was attempting to slink past him
to make an attack from the rear. He looked anxiously on both sides of
him, but saw nothing. Then he heard the whimpering cries ahead of him.
Holding his arrow ready for instant use, he peered expectantly forward
into the blackness. In a few moments he caught a flash of the blazing
eyes; they were considerably nearer. However, they disappeared before he
could release his arrow. Long, anxious moments passed before he again
saw the glowing signals. Then, as he aimed his arrow, a defiant,
deep-throated growl warned him that the fearless creature was about to
attack him. Aware that a moment's hesitation might prove fatal, White
Otter released his bow-string and sent his arrow at the tempting
target.

The next instant the cave echoed with the piercing scream of the dying
lioness, and Sun Bird and Little Raven looked at each other in wild
alarm. For an instant they hesitated, as a confused babel of sound came
from the black interior of the cavern. Then, as they realized that
something was happening to their comrade, they overcame their fears and
determined to go to his aid.

"Something has happened to White Otter!" cried Sun Bird. "Perhaps he has
met the Evil People. I am going in there to help him. If I do not come
out, you must tell our people about it. Now I am going."

"Well, I am going with you," declared Little Raven. "I am afraid of
those Evil People, but I will go in there to die with you. You are my
brother; White Otter is my friend. It is enough."

The excited lads hurried back into the cave, calling nervously to White
Otter. However, their frantic appeals were drowned by the fierce bedlam
of sound ahead of them. Screams, snarls and choking sobs were echoed
along the rocky passageway, and it really seemed that the mysterious
black cavern was indeed the abode of all the demons with which the vivid
imaginations of the Minneconjoux had peopled it. Still the loyal lads
continued to advance. They had little doubt that they were going to some
horrible death, but they were unwilling to save themselves by abandoning
their friend.

Then the sounds ceased as suddenly as they had begun, and Sun Bird and
Little Raven stopped in bewilderment. For a moment the unexpected
stillness was even more alarming than the wild outburst that had
preceded it. A sickening fear gripped their hearts. They believed that
White Otter had met some terrible fate. As they lay one behind the other
in the low black passageway, they felt that the last ray of hope had
fled. They would not retreat, and yet they had little doubt that to
continue meant death.

"We must go on," Sun Bird declared, resolutely.

"I will follow you, my brother," Little Raven said, quietly.

As they crawled slowly forward, Sun Bird again called the name of the
Ogalala. The next instant he heard his friend's voice from the blackness
directly ahead of him.

"Ho, my brother, you have come to see about this thing," cried White
Otter. "Well, I will tell you that I have had a great fight, but I am
alive. Yes, I will show you something."

"Have you met the Evil People?" Little Raven asked, excitedly.

"Ho, Little Raven, you are very brave to come in here. No, I have not
seen those mysterious people. But I have killed a very fierce animal,"
replied White Otter.

When his companions crawled to him, he told them how he had killed the
lioness. He said that the latter had destroyed her two kittens in her
dying rage. As Sun Bird and Little Raven could not see the great beast
in the impenetrable darkness, they crawled forward and passed their
hands over the carcass. Then White Otter said that after killing the
lioness he had crept forward to the den, which was in a rocky recess at
the end of the cave. A short distance beyond the body of his victim he
had found the mutilated bodies of the two kittens.

"Now we will pull this animal out of here," proposed the young Ogalala.

It took them a long time to drag the heavy body of the mountain lion to
the mouth of the cave. Once outside, however, they each counted coup
upon the carcass, and danced joyfully about the trophy. Then White Otter
cut off the claws, and removed the coarse tawny pelt. He also cut out
the heart, which he said they would eat at their fire, as old Yellow
Horse, the Ogalala medicine-man, declared it would give the hunter the
strength and courage of the great cat itself.

"Yes, it is true," declared Sun Bird. "I have heard my father say it is
a good thing to do."

The day was far spent when the lads finally returned to the ponies.
Realizing that they could not reach the Minneconjoux village until long
after dark, they moved farther down the wooded slope, and camped at the
spot where they had passed the previous night.

"I am thinking about that mysterious place up there," said Sun Bird, as
they sat before their fire. "I have heard my people tell how the Evil
People change themselves into animals. Perhaps that great mountain cat
was one of those people."

"I believe it is true," Little Raven declared, impulsively. "White
Otter, perhaps you have done a bad thing. Those people may find out that
you have killed a great chief. Perhaps they will do something bad to our
people."

"No, I do not feel that way," replied White Otter. "We cannot kill those
people with our arrows. No, I am not afraid about that."



CHAPTER XI

A CALL TO WAR


Late the next day, as the lads came within sight of the Sioux camps,
they were astonished to hear the ominous booming of the war drums. As
they stopped to listen they heard the people singing and shouting, and
it was evident that the camps were in a wild commotion.

"My ears tell me that our people are getting ready for war," said Sun
Bird. "Perhaps our enemies, the Crows, are coming to fight us."

"Well, we will go and find out about it," proposed White Otter.

They galloped toward the Minneconjoux village at top speed. When they
reached the camp they found the people in an uproar. Then White Otter
saw High Eagle, a warrior from his own tribe, and his heart was
immediately filled with grave misgivings.

"It is bad; something has happened to my people," he cried, as he
dismounted and ran to question the Ogalala scout.

"My brother, our enemies, the Pawnees, have come to fight us," declared
High Eagle. "They are on every side of the camp. It is a great war
party. They are like the grass. When Wolf Robe saw so many warriors he
said: 'High Eagle, when it is dark you must crawl away and go and ask
the Minneconjoux to help us.' Well, I will tell you that I got away when
it was dark. Now I have told this thing to the great chief, Curly Horse.
He has told his warriors about it. See, they are ready to fight. Yes,
the Uncapapas are dancing. Laughing Bird, their chief, has talked to
them. They will go to fight the Pawnees."

"High Eagle, your words have filled my heart with clouds," declared
White Otter. "Perhaps my grandfather has been killed. Perhaps the
Pawnees have captured the village. Perhaps they have killed my
grandmother. Do you know about it?"

"No, I do not know about it," replied the scout. "But I will tell you
that I do not feel it in my heart. I did not see the fight, but I
believe our people drove the Pawnees away."

Somewhat reassured by High Eagle's confidence, White Otter hurried away
to tell Sun Bird what he had learned. The young Minneconjoux had already
heard the story from his father, and White Otter found him preparing for
the war trail.

"Yes, I know about this thing," said Sun Bird. "I will go with you to
fight our enemies, the Pawnees."

"You are a brave warrior, and a true friend," White Otter declared with
considerable emotion.

As the Ogalala left the lodge to find Curly Horse, he met Little Raven.
He saw at once that the latter, too, was preparing to join the war
party.

"My brother, I have heard the words of High Eagle," said Little Raven.
"The Pawnees are our enemies. Yes, the great chief, Curly Horse, and his
warriors are going to help their brothers, the brave Ogalalas. And I
will tell you that I have heard the Uncapapas singing their war songs.
Yes, those fearless warriors are going with my people. Now I will tell
you that I am going with my brother, White Otter. I have finished."

"You are very brave, like your brother, Sun Bird," declared White Otter,
as he clasped Little Raven's hand.

When White Otter reached the center of the village, a few moments later,
he found a number of warriors already engaged in the war dance. The
company was composed of both Minneconjoux and Uncapapas, and his heart
filled with gratitude toward the brave men who were willing to risk
their lives to help his people. It was a splendid exhibition of the
loyalty that existed between the various tribes of the great Dacotah
nation, and it made White Otter thrill with pride. He saw High Eagle
participating in the ceremony, and, as he heard the dancers calling him,
he hastened to join them.

The dance was stopped, soon afterward, by the appearance of Curly Horse
and Laughing Bird, accompanied by the most prominent men in both tribes.
These famous warriors had been sitting in council to decide the best way
to deal with the unexpected emergency, and the people were anxious to
learn their verdict. Therefore, as they advanced slowly from the
council-lodge, and took their places inside the circle of warriors, a
sudden hush fell upon the camp. The drums were stilled, the songs
ceased, the dancers stood quietly in their places, and the vast
assemblage waited silently to hear the decision of the great war chiefs.
In a few moments Curly Horse began to talk.

"People of the great Dacotah nation, you know what has happened," he
said. "Our brothers, the brave Ogalalas, have asked us to help them.
There is only one thing to do--we must go. But I will tell you that we
must think about another thing. Our enemies, the Crows, are somewhere
about. We must not leave our women and children behind us. We cannot
take them on the war trail. Well, I will tell you how we must do this
thing. I will lead half of the warriors to help our brothers, the
Ogalalas. Rain Crow will stay behind with the other half of the warriors
to guard the camp. It is the best thing to do. I have finished."

The plan of the Minneconjoux war chief met with the instant approval of
his people, although the warriors immediately began to debate about who
should go to fight and who should remain behind to guard the camp. As
all of them were eager to meet the Pawnees, the selection of the war
party threatened to be a serious problem. While they were discussing it,
however, Laughing Bird began to speak, and the argument was temporarily
halted.

"Men of the Uncapapas, you have heard the words of the great chief,
Curly Horse," said Laughing Bird. "He has told you the best way to do
this thing. Now I will ask you to listen to my words. The Minneconjoux
are our brothers. They are going to fight the Pawnees. The Ogalalas are
our brothers. They have asked us to help them. We are Dacotahs. Does a
Dacotah stay back when his brothers go to war? No, we will go to help
these brave men. I will lead our people to fight the Pawnees. But I will
tell you that we must follow the advice of Curly Horse. Yes, we must
leave some warriors here to guard the camp. I will tell you how to do
this thing. First, I will ask Two Dogs to stay here. Yes, he will be the
leader. Now I will call out the name of a warrior. That man will go
with me to fight the Pawnees. Then Two Dogs will call out the name of a
warrior. That man will stay here with him to guard the camp. Then we
will keep calling out until every one is taken. It is the only way to
do. I have finished."

Thus the diplomatic Uncapapa chief quickly settled the dispute over the
selection of the war parties. His plan offered no chance for argument.
Everyone saw at once that it was the wisest and fairest way of arranging
the matter, and there was no further discussion. The Minneconjoux
accepted it as willingly as the Uncapapas, and the four leaders
immediately began to select their men. It was a time of intense
excitement, as the people of both camps crowded eagerly around the rival
bidders to learn the names of the men they had chosen. The warriors
listened with breathless interest, each hoping that he might be
sufficiently fortunate to be enrolled in the war party. The men who won
the honor immediately withdrew from the throng, and rushed away to get
their favorite ponies, and array themselves for the war trail. Among
these lucky ones were White Otter, Sun Bird and Little Raven. As each
tribe contained a great host of fighting men, the day had ended and the
evening shadows were already settling upon the plain when the last
warrior was called.

Then several great fires were started in each camp, and the warriors
whom fate had forced to remain behind attempted to overcome their
disappointment with the strenuous exertions of the war dance. While they
were thus employed their more fortunate comrades appeared in full war
regalia. They looked like weird demons from another world, as they led
their decorated ponies into the light, for they had blackened their
faces with charcoal, and streaked and spotted their bodies with red and
yellow clay. Their scalp-locks were ornamented with the feathers of the
eagle, and some of the more famous warriors wore splendid war bonnets of
those coveted plumes, whose trailing streamers touched the ground behind
them. Each member of the war party carried his favorite weapons, his
buffalo-hide war shield and his robe.

When the two forces had finally assembled, they united before the
Uncapapa camp. Then, as the Minneconjoux were somewhat stronger in
numbers, Curly Horse was chosen as the leader of the entire force. It
was an honor for even one as famous as he, for the combined company
numbered hundreds of warriors, each one a veteran of the war trail. They
were men accustomed to hardship and indifferent to peril; men for whom
death had no terrors. Their stern faces, and bold, defiant eyes
proclaimed their fearlessness. As crafty and cautious as the fox, they
possessed the unconquerable courage of the bear. Once aroused, they
would fight to the death. Willing to sacrifice their lives for their
friends, they were unforgiving and merciless to their foes. These were
the men whom Curly Horse was leading to the rescue of Wolf Robe and his
people.

"Dacotahs, I will only give you a few words," cried the Minneconjoux
chief, as the war party was about to ride away. "You see many brave
warriors. Some are Minneconjoux. Some are Uncapapas. But we all are
Dacotahs. You see the great war chief, Laughing Bird. He is a great man.
Well, you know what we are going to do. Perhaps some of these brave men
will not come back. But you must not think about that. Now I will tell
you that many brave men have been left here. It is good. Our hearts will
be easy. Yes, we will know that the Crows will be afraid to try to get
into the camp. But if those people come, then Rain Crow must send a
rider to tell us about it. Then we will send some of these fearless men
back to help you. I see two great leaders staying here with you. Rain
Crow is a brave man. Two Dogs is a great Uncapapa leader. Now we are
going away. Yes, I hear the calls of my brothers, the Ogalalas. Come, my
brothers, we will go to help those brave people drive away the Pawnees."

Then the great host of fighting men raised their voices in the thrilling
battlecry of their nation, and thundered away into the night. As they
raced across the plain, their shouts were echoed from the camps, where
their comrades were dancing, and singing the war songs, to bring success
to the expedition. Once beyond hearing of the camps, however, the Sioux
slackened their pace, for they had several days' journey before them,
and they were anxious to save their ponies. Most of the warriors were
provided with two animals, a good horse for ordinary riding, and a fiery
war pony for use in battle. After the first flurry of excitement had
passed, Curly Horse called White Otter and High Eagle to ride beside
him.

"My brothers, you are Ogalalas. You know about this country. I will ask
you to go ahead, and see what you can find. If you want anyone to go
with you, tell me about it. You must keep in sight of us. If you see the
Wolf people, you must ride back here and tell us about it. Now you know
what to do," said the Minneconjoux.

"I have listened to the words of Curly Horse; they are good," replied
White Otter. "We will do as you say. Now I will tell you that I will ask
my brother, Sun Bird, and my brother, Little Raven, to go ahead with
me."

"It is good," said Curly Horse.

Then White Otter turned back to find his friends. They were riding some
distance in the rear.

"Come, my brothers, we are going ahead to watch out for our enemies,"
White Otter told Sun Bird. "The great chief, Curly Horse, has told me to
do this thing. I will ask you to go with me. High Eagle will go with
us."

"My brother, we will go with you," replied Sun Bird.

"Yes, we will keep together," declared Little Raven.

Then the four scouts urged their ponies to a faster pace, and made their
way to the front of the cavalcade. They stopped a few moments to talk
with Curly Horse and Laughing Bird, and then they galloped away and
disappeared into the night.



CHAPTER XII

A NIGHT OF UNCERTAINTY


Hollow Bear and Little Wolf were a half day's journey south of the
Ogalala camp, looking for buffaloes, when they suddenly discovered a
heavy dust-cloud rising above a low ridge to the east of them. It
suggested a number of alarming possibilities, and the Sioux determined
to take every precaution. Riding hurriedly into a nearby ravine, they
muzzled the ponies with buckskin, and then crawled cautiously to the top
of the steep embankment to watch.

"It is bad," said Hollow Bear. "If that dust is raised by buffaloes,
then they are running hard. Perhaps the Kiowas or the Pawnees are
chasing them. We must be very cautious."

"Well, perhaps what you say is true," replied Little Wolf. "But I must
tell you that I believe it is different. I believe that dust is raised
by the hoofs of many ponies."

They watched anxiously, hoping each moment to learn the answer to the
riddle. Nothing appeared on the summit of the ridge, however, and as
they noticed that whatever caused the dust was moving directly north, in
the direction of the Ogalala village, their fears increased. They
wondered if it were a hostile war party. The thought roused them to
action. They knew that if the fear proved true there would not be a
moment to spare. The slightest delay might bring disaster to their
people. Therefore, they determined to leave their hiding place, and ride
boldly to the ridge to reconnoiter.

"Come, perhaps our people are in danger; we must know about this thing,"
declared Hollow Bear, as he descended into the ravine for his pony.

They mounted and rode boldly out upon the plain. They knew that they
were placing themselves in great peril, but concern for their people
made them daring. However, the possibility that keen-eyed scouts were
lying concealed on the crest of the ridge made them watchful and wary.
As they neared the perilous swell of ground that concealed what they
wished to see, they slackened their pace and approached with great
caution. Then, before they finally ventured within arrow-range, they
stopped and searched the ridge for evidence of hidden foes. They saw
nothing to rouse their suspicions. Therefore, they determined to
investigate. Aware that it would be folly for both to expose themselves,
Little Wolf dismounted and hurried to the base of the ridge, while
Hollow Bear remained a short distance away with the ponies.

Little Wolf crawled quickly up the grassy slope, and peered cautiously
over the crest of the ridge. What he saw sent his heart into his throat.
A great company of horsemen were cantering rapidly across the plain, in
the direction of the distant Ogalala village. The scout instantly
recognized them as Pawnees, and his sharp eyes soon told him that it was
a war party. He had little doubt that these hated foes were on their way
to attack the Sioux camp. The thought enraged him. For a moment he
glared defiantly at the long line of distant horsemen, and his heart
burned with a desire to fight. Then he realized that he had no time to
waste on such futile thoughts. He knew that his first duty was to carry
a warning to his people. The day was not yet half gone, and he felt sure
that the Pawnees would make their attack against the Ogalala village
that very night. Realizing that he must act at once, he withdrew behind
the ridge and hurried down the slope.

"That dust is raised by many ponies," Little Wolf told his companion.
"There is a great war party of Pawnees over there. I believe that they
are going to fight our people. Come, my brother, we must go and tell
Wolf Robe about it."

"Yes, we will go," agreed Hollow Bear. "But first I must go up there,
and see this thing."

Hollow Bear left his pony with Little Wolf, and hurried to the top of
the ridge. He watched only a few moments, however, and then he ran down
to join his tribesmen. Little Wolf saw at once that he was greatly
excited, and he wondered what he had seen.

"Come, we must go fast!" cried Hollow Bear. "Two riders are galloping
toward this place."

"Well, we will hide here, and kill them," proposed Little Wolf, as the
fierce glow of hate showed in his eyes.

"No, that would be a bad thing to do," declared Hollow Bear. "If the
Pawnees know that we are here, then we will not get away. Come, we will
ride over there and hide in that gully until those scouts go away. Then
we will go and tell our people about this thing. My brother, it is the
best way to do."

"Yes, I believe it is true," agreed Little Wolf.

They leaped upon their ponies, and raced toward the ravine. Once they
reached it, they again muzzled the panting beasts, and crept to the top
of the embankment to watch the ridge. For some time they saw nothing,
and they began to wonder whether the Pawnee scouts had changed their
plans. Then Hollow Bear thought he saw something appear for an instant
above the summit of the ridge.

"I believe someone is looking over that place," he told Little Wolf.

A few moments afterward they saw the suspicion verified, as a small
black dot appeared against the sky. They knew at once that it was the
head of a warrior. It remained in sight some time, and it was evident
that the cautious scout was carefully reconnoitering the plain. Then he
disappeared, and the Sioux wondered whether he had actually gone.

"We must be very cautious," declared Hollow Bear. "The Pawnees are as
sharp as the wolf."

"Yes, we will stay here and watch until we know about this thing,"
replied Little Wolf.

As they waited, however, they saw the disturbing clouds of dust
continually rising farther to the north, and they became uneasy and
impatient. The thought of the hostile war party drawing nearer to the
Ogalalas each moment, while they lingered in concealment, drove them
into a frenzy. They looked anxiously toward the ridge, and wondered
whether the Pawnee scout was still watching. At last they determined to
run the risk rather than lose more time.

"Come, we will ride away," proposed Hollow Bear. "We are far enough from
that ridge, and our ponies are fast. We will get away."

"My brother, I believe it is the best thing to do," agreed Little Wolf.

They waited a moment longer to search the crest of the ridge with eager,
straining eyes. Then, as they saw nothing of the scout, they mounted
their ponies and rode from the ravine. Once on the open plain they
turned toward the west, and rode away at a furious gallop. They glanced
backward many times, but saw nothing to arouse their suspicions. When
they finally rode over a rise of the plain, and passed from sight of the
distant ridge, they felt somewhat easier.

"Now we must look back and see if anyone is following us," said Hollow
Bear as he stopped his pony.

Little Wolf dismounted and crawled cautiously to the top of the slope
behind them. He remained there some time, watching their back-trail.
Then he hurried down to his companion.

"My eyes tell me nothing," he said.

"It is good," replied Hollow Bear. "Come, now we will ride toward our
people."

Having made the wide detour toward the west to deceive anyone who might
have been watching, the crafty Sioux now turned toward the north. They
forced the ponies to a desperate pace, for they realized that they must
reach the Ogalala camp without a moment of unnecessary delay. They had
not gone far, however, when they saw what looked like the heads of
several prairie wolves, above a rise of ground to the west. There was
something about them that instantly roused the suspicions of the
Ogalalas. They felt sure that the "wolves" were disguised scouts.

"It is bad," cried Hollow Bear. "Those things are not wolves. No, they
are Pawnee scouts. We have been discovered. We must keep watching that
place. I believe there is another big war party over there."

"Yes, I believe it is so," declared Little Wolf. "Those people are
watching for their brothers. I believe that all the Pawnees are coming
to fight our people. They will come up on both sides of the village.
See, those scouts have gone away. I believe that they have gone to tell
their people about us."

"Well, there is one over there," replied Hollow Bear. "See, he is
looking over that rock."

"Your eyes are like the eyes of the great war bird," said Little Wolf.
"Now I see him. Yes, he is watching us."

The Sioux were much depressed by what they had seen. It was evident that
a vast force of Pawnees were approaching the Ogalala village. The two
scouts felt sure that their people would be greatly outnumbered, and as
the Ogalala camp contained many women and children, besides the aged,
they dared not think what would happen if the pitiless Pawnees once
forced their way into the village. They realized that they must reach
the village far enough ahead of their foes to give Wolf Robe and his
warriors time to prepare for the attack. Roused by the thought, they
urged their ponies to the limit of endurance. Then, as they glanced
uneasily over their shoulders, they saw a small company of horsemen
watching them from the ridge to the westward.

"We are too far away; they will not ride after us," declared Hollow
Bear.

"Perhaps they do not know that we are Dacotahs," suggested Little Wolf.

"They cannot see our faces, but they will say: 'See, those riders go
very fast. They are running toward the camp of our enemies, the Sioux.
They are scouts. If they were Kiowas they would go the other way. If
they were Black-feet they would ride over this way to go around their
enemies, the Sioux. The Crows do not come down so far. No, they are
Sioux.' Yes, that is how the Pawnees will know about us," declared
Hollow Bear with conviction.

"You are as wise as the fox," said Little Wolf.

As they looked back they saw several horsemen galloping wildly across
the plain toward the east. For a moment the unexpected maneuver baffled
them, and then they suddenly realized the object of it.

"Now I know about it," declared Little Wolf. "Those riders are scouts.
They are going over there to look for their brothers. They will tell
them about us. It is good. Perhaps the war leaders will come together to
talk about it. Then our people will have time to do something."

"I believe you have told the thing as it is," agreed Hollow Bear.

The western sky was ablaze with the glories of the sunset as they
finally came in sight of the Ogalala camp. It was still some distance
away, however, and the eager scouts lashed their ponies without mercy as
they raced across the plain to warn their people. They believed that the
Pawnees were following swiftly on their trail, with the hope of
attacking the Sioux before they had an opportunity to prepare
themselves.

The great Ogalala camp was the scene of peaceful tranquillity. The herds
of unprotected ponies grazing on the plain, the smoke rising lazily
above the lodges, the absence of sentinels from the ridges, all these
things proclaimed the fancied security of the unsuspecting Ogalalas. The
excited scouts groaned as they realized it. As they neared the lodges
they began to shout at the top of their voices, and in a few moments the
people rushed to the edge of the camp. Hollow Bear and Little Wolf
pointed excitedly toward the south, and then toward the herds of ponies,
at the same time sounding the piercing war cry of the Dacotahs.

"The Pawnees are coming! Drive in the ponies. Get ready to fight!" they
cried when they came within shouting distance.

The warning instantly caused a commotion in the village. The warriors
rushed for their weapons, the women dragged the frightened children to
the lodges, and a company of boys ran out on the plain to drive in the
horses. The war ponies, as usual, were picketed in the camp. Then, when
the riders dashed into the village and told their story, a number of
scouts leaped upon their ponies and raced away to watch for the Pawnees.

A few moments afterward Wolf Robe, the Ogalala war chief, called his
warriors together in council. He realized at once that the situation was
serious, and he was troubled and fearful of the outcome. The presence of
the women and children filled his heart with gloomy misgivings, for he
saw no way of getting them away. Ordinarily they would have been sent to
the hills under a strong escort of warriors, but in the present
emergency he knew that such an attempt would be almost sure to end
disastrously. The nearest foothills were far away to the west, in the
country of the Minneconjoux, and the experienced old chief realized that
the first maneuver of his foes would be to surround the Ogalala camp.
But even if the women and children were taken from the village before
the way was barred, Wolf Robe knew that it would be folly to send them
across the open plain under as feeble an escort as he could spare for
their protection. Hollow Bear and Little Wolf both assured him that
there were at least four Pawnees for every Ogalala, and Wolf Robe
believed that in the face of such overwhelming odds the village itself
would be the best safeguard for his people. Protected somewhat by the
lodges, he believed that they might hold off their foes until help could
arrive. Therefore, he determined to keep the women and children in the
camp, at least until he learned the actual strength and disposition of
the Pawnee forces.

"My brothers, you have heard about this thing," he told the warriors.
"Our enemies, the Pawnees, are coming to fight us. But the sharp eyes
of our scouts found them. It is good. Now we know about it. We are ready
to fight. But our women and children are in this camp. We cannot get
them out. No, the Pawnees are all around us. There are many warriors. We
must keep them out of the village. Perhaps it will be a hard thing to
do. I will ask you to be men. When it is dark I will send a scout to our
brothers, the brave Minneconjoux. They will come here to help us. White
Otter will come. I believe the Pawnees are doing this thing because
White Otter brought the Red Arrow from their medicine-lodge. Now it is
in the lodge of Yellow Horse. Now the Pawnees will try to take it away
again. Well, we are Dacotahs. I will ask you to make your hearts brave
against these boastful Wolf People. You have heard the words of Wolf
Robe."

The Ogalalas received the speech with enthusiasm. All of the warriors
were eager to fight, and, although they knew that they were greatly
outnumbered, there was not one among them who had any doubt of their
ability to keep the Pawnees from entering the village. Having endorsed
the words of their chief, therefore, they were now ready to obey his
commands.

Wolf Robe immediately made preparations for the battle. The ponies were
driven in from the plain and picketed in the center of the village; the
women and children were sent to the inside lodges; and the warriors took
their places along the edge of the camp. Then the stern old war chief
waited impatiently for word from his scouts. Darkness was already
settling upon the plain when several riders returned to the village to
report. They said that the Pawnees were divided into three great war
parties, each composed of more warriors than were in the Ogalala camp.
The scouts declared that the enemy had halted some distance out on the
plain, but they warned Wolf Robe that the camp was entirely surrounded.
They said that they had little doubt that Pawnee scouts were already
creeping forward to reconnoiter the village.

"Then we must watch," replied the Ogalala war chief.

After the scouts had ridden away, Wolf Robe hurried around the edge of
the camp, telling his warriors what he had learned. He warned them
against the Pawnee scouts, and urged them to be as watchful as the fox.
Then he stopped beside High Eagle, one of the most famous warriors of
the tribe.

"My brother, there are a great many Pawnees out there," said Wolf Robe.
"Our women and children are in the lodges. They cannot get away. The
village is surrounded by the Wolf People. Perhaps there will be too many
against us. I am troubled in my heart. You have done many great things.
You are very brave. Now I will ask you to risk your life."

"My ears are open--I am waiting for your words," replied High Eagle, as
the old chief hesitated.

"Well, I will ask you to take your best pony, and go to tell our
brothers, the brave Minneconjoux, about this thing. Perhaps you will be
killed. But if you get away you will do a great thing," declared Wolf
Robe.

"I will go," said High Eagle. "If I get away I will give the call of the
prairie wolf. But if you do not hear it, then you will know that I have
been killed. Then you must send another scout to do this thing. Now I am
going."

"You are a great warrior," declared Wolf Robe.

A few moments afterward High Eagle led his muzzled pony from the village
and disappeared into the night. The people waited anxiously. It was a
long time before they finally heard the dismal call of the prairie wolf,
far away toward the west. Then their hearts filled with joy, and they
began to shout and sing their war songs.

"It is good. High Eagle has crept past the Pawnees. Now he will bring
our brothers, the Minneconjoux, to help us," declared Wolf Robe.

Then the bark of the little gray fox sounded close to the edge of the
camp, and the Ogalalas knew that one of the scouts was returning. When
the signal had been repeated the proper number of times, it was answered
from the village. A few moments afterward Crooked Dog rode into the
camp. He said that the Pawnees to the south of the village were
advancing. While he was talking another signal sounded through the
darkness and a scout rode in from the west. He, too, declared that the
war party on that side of the camp was moving forward. Then the other
scouts returned and gave warning that their foes were closing in on all
sides of the village.

"My brothers, the Pawnees are coming to fight us!" cried Wolf Robe. "You
must watch with the eyes of a fox; you must fight with the heart of a
bear. Do not run out to meet them. No, that would be foolish. Keep close
together, near the lodges. Then the Pawnees cannot get into the camp.
Listen! I hear the great war cry of the Dacotahs. Yes, it is what I am
listening for. We must drive off these boastful people until our
brothers come here to help us. Then we will run out and chase the Wolf
People back to their lodges. Dacotahs, I will ask you to fight like men.
Now I am taking my weapons. I am going to the edge of the camp to kill
many Pawnees. I have told you what to do."

Roused by the fearlessness of their aged chief, the Ogalala fighting men
raised their voices in a mighty shout of defiance that rang out across
the somber black plain, and carried an ominous warning to the ears of
the advancing Pawnees. Then, having sent their challenge, they subsided
into grim, silent watchfulness. Crouching close beside one another at
the edge of the camp, they peered anxiously into the night, straining
their ears to catch the first warning of their crafty foes.

For some time the stillness was unbroken, and the Sioux waited in trying
suspense. Then the cry of the great gray wolf sounded a short distance
to the west of the camp. The Dacotahs knew at once that it was a signal,
and they believed the attack was about to begin. A few moments later a
similar signal sounded from the south. The eyes of the Sioux flashed
angrily as they listened. Then a third call came from the east.

"The Wolf People are all around us," said Wolf Robe. "When the next call
sounds above the camp, then they will rush ahead and the fight will
begin."

It was evident, however, that the company of warriors who were to attack
the Ogalala village from the north had been longer in reaching their
position, for as yet no signal had come from that direction. While the
Sioux waited expectantly for the final signal another cry sounded from
the west. It was apparent that the Pawnees were impatient at the
tardiness of their comrades. Again an answer came from the east, and, a
few moments afterward, another from the south. The north was still
silent.

"I do not know about that thing," Wolf Robe told Yellow Horse, the
medicine-man.

Before the latter could reply, however, the weird, long-drawn-out howl
of the timber wolf rose in the north. Every Dacotah's heart bounded at
the sound. They knew that the circle had been completed, the last gap
had been closed, the camp was surrounded. The thought steadied the
warriors for the fight. They realized that upon them depended the fate
of their women and children, and they told one another that they must
fight to the death to keep the Pawnees from the village. Then they
waited calmly for their foes to appear.

It was not long before a piercing yell sounded to the west of the
village, and a moment afterward it was echoed on all sides of the camp.
Then the great horde of frenzied Pawnees charged. Instantly all was
confusion. The shouts and whoops of the warriors, the hysterical screams
of the terrorized women and children, the barking of the dogs, the
neighing of the frightened ponies were combined in one deafening uproar
that turned the besieged camp into a bedlam. Darkness added to the
disorder. In spite of the tumult, however, the fearless men at the edge
of the village continued calm and undismayed. They faced the furious
assault without a tremor, and fought with a sullen ferocity that
bewildered their foes.

Once within arrow-range of the Ogalala camp, the Pawnees thronged out of
the night like a great swarm of angry bees. Realizing the importance of
making their first onslaught successful, they risked themselves with
foolhardy recklessness, and charged to the very border of the village.
Then they found themselves face to face with a foe as determined as
they, and a terrific hand to hand conflict ensued. In spite of their
superior numbers, however, the Pawnees were unable to gain a foothold in
the camp. The Sioux held their ground with a dogged stubbornness that
frustrated all attempts to break through them. Partly sheltered by the
lodges, they inflicted severe punishment upon their enemies, with slight
loss to themselves. The Pawnees were quick to realize that the fight was
going against them. The idea roused them to a frenzy of rage, and they
fought like demons. Again and again they strove to break through the
impenetrable circle of grim Dacotah warriors, and each time they were
hurled back with heavy losses. Here and there a hostile warrior did
succeed in gaining a temporary foothold at the edge of the camp, but in
every case he forfeited his life to his valor. Aware that their efforts
were proving futile, the Pawnees finally became demoralized, and
withdrew in confusion. As they retreated into the night, their ears rang
with taunts and challenges of the triumphant Ogalalas.

When the Pawnees had gone from hearing, the Sioux took account of their
losses. A number of warriors had been killed, and many more had been
wounded. As the names of the dead were called out great wailing and
lamenting began among the women. The more desperately wounded were
carried to the center of the camp, and their places were filled by the
older boys, who were delighted at the opportunity to participate in the
fight.

The Sioux realized that they were in a desperate plight. They had little
doubt that the Pawnees would renew the attack at dawn, and the thought
suggested all sorts of alarming possibilities. In spite of their
temporary success, therefore, the Ogalalas were depressed and doubtful.

"My brothers, you have made a great fight," cried Wolf Robe, as he
walked along the edge of the camp. "We have kept the Wolf People out of
the camp. They have carried away many dead warriors. But I must tell you
that they will come again. When the light comes over there in the sky
then you must watch like the fox. We must keep them off. Our brothers,
the brave Minneconjoux, will come to help us. We must keep alive until
they get here. It will be a hard thing to do. Perhaps it will be a long
time. But I will ask you to make your hearts strong to do this thing. I
have finished."



CHAPTER XIII

RACING TO THE RESCUE


As White Otter and his companions raced through the night in advance of
the war party, the troubled young Ogalala turned his eyes to the vast,
star-lit heavens, and asked the Great Mystery to help his people. His
mind was filled with all sorts of vague fears for the safety of the
Ogalala camp, and he regretted that he was not there to share the peril
with its gallant defenders. Then he suddenly realized that he might be
able to render still greater aid in his present position, and he sought
to comfort himself with the thought.

"My brother, I see that you feel bad in your heart," Sun Bird said
soothingly.

"It is true; my heart is filled with clouds," replied White Otter. "I am
thinking about my grandfather, the great chief Wolf Robe. I am thinking
about my grandmother, the good Singing Wind. I am thinking about my
friends. High Eagle has told me something bad. The Pawnees are on every
side of the village. They are like the grass. It is bad. The Ogalalas
are very brave, but many wolves can kill a bear. I do not know what has
happened. Two suns have passed since High Eagle left that camp. We are
riding fast, but another sun will pass before we come near that place.
Perhaps my people have been wiped away. My brothers, I am thinking about
these things. Yes, I feel bad in my heart."

White Otter's gloomy words were received in silence. His companions
found nothing to say in reply. High Eagle felt quite as hopeless as his
tribesman, and Sun Bird and Little Raven dared not fill the Ogalala's
heart with false hopes. The four anxious scouts galloped along in
silence, therefore, each hoping that his fears for the Ogalala camp
would prove groundless. They rode thus until the first gray hint of
daylight showed in the eastern sky, and then White Otter seemed to rally
from his gloom.

"See, my brothers, the Great Mystery is wiping away the darkness," he
said eagerly. "Pretty soon it will be gone. Then the sun will come.
That makes me feel good again. Yes, I will wipe the clouds from my
heart. I will be a warrior. See how the Great Mystery does this thing. I
am thinking about it. When the darkness is gone, then everything is
good. The birds sing. Yes, my brothers, it is a great thing to do. Well,
I will wipe the darkness out of my heart. Then the sun will come there.
It is good. I will sing my war songs. Yes, I will be strong to help my
people. Ho, my brothers, we are Dacotahs! It is enough."

This unexpected display of cheerfulness had an instant effect upon his
comrades. Stimulated by his fortitude, they, too, roused themselves from
their depression and became light-hearted and hopeful. The dawn of a new
day restored their confidence.

"White Otter, you have spoken brave words," said High Eagle. "Now I feel
different in my heart. I believe our people will keep the Pawnees out of
the camp. Pretty soon this great war party will come to that place. Then
the Wolf People will run like rabbits."

As the light strengthened they saw that they had left the war party far
behind, and they realized that they had ridden desperately. However,
except for their rapid breathing and lathery sides, the wiry little
ponies showed no effects of the strenuous pace, and their riders felt
greatly relieved. They rode to the summit of a rocky knoll and
dismounted to watch the plain.

It was not long before they saw the dust from the war party rising some
distance away to the west. Shortly afterward the foremost riders
galloped into view. They immediately discovered the four scouts and
stopped to study them. Then Sun Bird mounted his pony and rode rapidly
in a circle. Assured by the maneuver, the great company of Sioux
warriors thundered across the plain to join their tribesmen.

When Curly Horse and Laughing Bird learned that the scouts had seen
nothing to arouse suspicion, they led the war party to a distant grove
of aspens, which High Eagle said marked a water-hole. White Otter and
his companions accompanied them, but as soon as they had refreshed
themselves and their ponies at the little pool they galloped away to
reconnoiter in advance of the company.

The alert scouts proceeded with more caution as the day wore on, for
although they knew that they were still a long distance from the
besieged camp, they feared that the Pawnees might have sent riders far
out on the plain to watch for reënforcements from the Minneconjoux camp.

"Perhaps the Wolf People know about this thing; we must keep watching
ahead," declared White Otter.

"Yes, if they see us it will be a bad thing," replied Sun Bird. "Then
they will tell their people, and they will get away before this great
war party can catch them."

"I do not believe that the Pawnees know about this thing," High Eagle
said hopefully. "No, I crawled away as easy as a snake. I do not believe
that the Pawnees will know about this great war party until we come to
fight them."

The day passed without incident, and at sunset they came in sight of the
grove where White Otter had encountered the Ute war party. His heart
beat fast with emotion as he saw the little patch of trees, and realized
that he might reach the Ogalala village before daylight. All his anxiety
returned at the thought, and once more he became a prey to all sorts of
doubts and fears.

"My brothers, we are getting close to my people," he said soberly. "Over
there is the place where I heard the Black Faces. It is not far from the
Ogalala camp. Our ponies are fresh. Perhaps we will get to that place
before another sun comes. But we must be very cautious. Perhaps some of
the Wolf People are hiding over there among the trees. I will ask my
brother, Sun Bird, and my brother, Little Raven, to wait here behind
this ridge to watch for Curly Horse and his people. Come, High Eagle, we
will go over there and see if anyone is hiding in that place."

"Well, I will wait here with Little Raven," agreed Sun Bird.

Then White Otter and High Eagle mounted their ponies and rode toward the
timber. As they approached it they dropped to one side of their mounts
and advanced very cautiously. They found the grove free of enemies, and
immediately signaled the news to Little Raven, who was watching from the
ridge. Soon afterward the Dacotah war party galloped across the plain.
The two Ogalalas thrilled with pride as they watched the great force of
Sioux fighting men approach. They felt certain that they would soon
vanquish the Pawnees, and their only fear was that they might be too
late. They realized that three days had passed since High Eagle had
crawled safely through the Pawnee lines, and they feared that the battle
had been won or lost in the meantime. The latter possibility filled them
with dread, for they knew that defeat meant death for most of the people
in the Ogalala camp.

"If our people have been wiped away, then I will go and let the Pawnees
kill me," declared White Otter.

"Well, if you do that, then I will go with you," said High Eagle.

When the war party reached the grove, the warriors dismounted from their
sweating ponies and threw themselves upon the ground for a few moments
of rest. However, Curly Horse had no intention of loitering longer than
was actually necessary for the tired ponies. He knew that every moment
was precious in such an emergency, and he was eager to reach the scene
of the conflict as soon as possible.

"My brothers, I must tell you that we are near the place where the brave
Ogalalas are fighting the Pawnees," he told his warriors. "It is true
that we have come a long way. But we must not stay here. No, if we wait
here the Wolf People will get into that camp and kill many of our
people. Our brothers are waiting for us. They are listening to hear the
war cry of the great Dacotah nation. It will make them strong to fight.
I believe that we are as many as the Pawnees. We will wait here a little
time so that our ponies will be fresh. Then we will go on. I have
spoken."

The Sioux remained at the water-hole until the ponies had recovered from
their violent exertions, and then they mounted and galloped away toward
the east. The thought that they were actually nearing the besieged camp
made them eager and impatient to come within striking distance of their
foes, and they raced on at a desperate pace. White Otter and his
companions rode some distance in advance of the war party.

"Look!" cried Little Raven, as the four scouts raced over the summit of
a low ridge.

They were dismayed to see two horsemen suddenly appear from a ravine
directly ahead of them and ride furiously toward the east. They had
little doubt that the unknown riders were Pawnee scouts who had been
watching the advance of the Sioux war party. As they were too far away
to be overtaken, there was nothing to do but report the discovery to
Curly Horse.

"It is bad," said High Eagle. "Those scouts will tell their people about
this great war party. Perhaps the Wolf People will rush into the camp
before we get there."

"I will ride back and tell Curly Horse about this thing," cried Sun
Bird.

"Yes, it is the best thing to do," replied White Otter. "We have found
out something bad. But I will tell you that I believe my people have
kept the Pawnees out of the camp. When I think about it my heart grows
strong. If the Pawnees got into the village those scouts would not be
watching in that ravine. I believe that the fight is still going on. Go,
Sun Bird, my brother, and tell your great chief to come as fast as the
wind. The Pawnees know about us. Now they will do some brave things to
get into the village. We must help the brave Ogalalas. Now I am going
ahead to do something."

A moment afterward the loyal lad raced away, with High Eagle and Little
Raven beside him, while Sun Bird wheeled his pony and galloped back to
meet Curly Horse and the great company of Sioux fighting men.



CHAPTER XIV

THE PLIGHT OF THE OGALALAS


Two anxious days and two terrible nights had passed since High Eagle had
crawled successfully through the Pawnee lines. During that time the
great host of Pawnee fighting men had made many desperate attempts to
enter the Ogalala village. In each attack, however, they had been
compelled to recoil before the heroic defense of the Sioux. At the dawn
of the third day, therefore, the camp was still in possession of its
gallant defenders.

In spite of their apparent success, however, the Ogalalas were in a
desperate plight. Many of the warriors had been killed, and many more
had been wounded. Thus the Sioux force, which was outnumbered four to
one at the beginning of hostilities, had been still further weakened,
and most of the boys and all the old men had been called upon to take
part in the fight. The food supply was exhausted, and they had already
killed several ponies for meat. Fortunately the pool which supplied the
water was located close to the edge of the village, and as yet the
Pawnees had been unable to gain possession of it.

"My people, over there you see the first light of a new day," Wolf Robe
told the Ogalalas as the dawn crept slowly above the rim of the plain.
"Two suns have passed since the Wolf People came here to fight us. Well,
we are still alive. The Pawnees have made many boasts, but we have
laughed at them. Our women and children are safe in the lodges. We have
killed many of our enemies. Pretty soon our brothers, the Minneconjoux,
will come here. Yes, I am listening for the noise of their ponies. White
Otter will lead them to this place. Then you will see how the Pawnees
can run. My brothers, we have made a great fight. But I must tell you
that it is not over. No, the Wolf People will keep trying to get into
the village. Perhaps another sun will pass before the great chief, Curly
Horse, and his warriors come here. Yes, perhaps two suns will pass.
Well, we will keep off our enemies. They are many more than we are, but
that is nothing to a Dacotah. We have plenty of ponies. We can give meat
to our people. We have water. The Pawnees cannot get that. Yes, we will
keep up the fight until our people come. You have heard the words of
Wolf Robe."

"Ogalalas, you have listened to a great war chief," cried Yellow Horse,
the medicine-man. "Wolf Robe has led us in many battles. We will keep
his words in our hearts. Yes, we will show the boastful Pawnees that it
takes many wolves to kill the bear in his den. We are Dacotahs! It is
enough. Now it is getting light. We must watch."

As the narrow streak of light gradually broadened and reached across the
sky, the Sioux listened expectantly for the first warning yell from
their foes. They felt sure that they would make another attack before
sunrise, and each moment's delay increased the suspense. However, when
darkness finally merged into twilight, a long, quavering cry rose in the
south. Then the Ogalalas knew that the expected assault was at hand. An
ominous silence followed the signal. The Sioux looked anxiously for
their foes. Their efforts were fruitless, however, for the light was
still too weak to disclose objects beyond bow-shot, and it was evident
that the cautious Pawnees were safely beyond that distance. The
stillness was baffling. The Ogalalas were perplexed. They wondered why
the Pawnees were delaying their attack. The maneuver made them
suspicious.

"My brothers, we must keep watching," cried Wolf Robe. "The Wolf People
are very sly. Perhaps they are moving forward like the fox. Then they
will rush ahead. If we are not ready, then----"

At that instant he was interrupted by a wild outburst of piercing
whoops, and a multitude of yelling horsemen emerged from the shadows and
swept toward the camp. Having entirely surrounded the village, they
charged with a reckless fury that might have temporarily demoralized the
bravest foes. However, the Sioux faced them with the same calm
determination that had made their resistance so effective in the
previous attacks. Reserving their arrows until the Pawnees were close
upon them, their deadly volleys took costly toll of ponies and riders.
Although they exposed themselves with great bravery, the invaders were
again prevented from reaching the village. Realizing, at length, that
they were sacrificing themselves in vain, the Pawnees wheeled and raced
from danger. Once beyond bow-shot, they rode furiously around the camp,
shaking their weapons and shouting idle threats at the jeering Sioux.

The Ogalalas had repulsed this last attack without losing a man,
although a number of warriors had been more or less severely wounded.
They knew that they had inflicted heavy punishment upon the Pawnees, and
they believed that the latter would be slow to renew the fight. The
thought gave them considerable relief. They hoped that a strong force of
tribesmen were racing to their aid, and they realized that if they could
hold out another day they might be saved.

The Pawnees soon tired of riding around the village, and finally
withdrew far out on the plain. Then, leaving a sufficient number of
sentinels on each side of the camp, the several war parties united and
rode from sight over a distant ridge. The Sioux knew at once that they
had gone to hold a council of war, and they hoped that they might decide
to abandon the siege.

"No, I do not believe that they will go away," said Wolf Robe. "They
have come here to do a great thing. We have killed many of their people.
Their hearts are very black against us. We must watch them. Perhaps they
will wait until it is dark. But I must tell you that I believe they will
make another great fight. Perhaps our brothers, the Minneconjoux, will
come before that time. If they do not come here, then I do not know what
will happen. I have spoken."

Soon after sunrise the Pawnees reappeared. Once more they separated into
four companies. The suspicious Sioux watched them with much anxiety.
However, it was soon evident that for the moment, at least, they had no
intention of attacking the camp. They sat quietly on the ponies,
watching the village like a pack of hungry wolves around a herd of
buffaloes.

"Those people are thinking about something," said Yellow Horse. "We
must be very cautious."

"Yes, I believe they will try to fool us," declared old Crying Wolf, a
warrior who had seen more than ninety winters.

However, as the day wore on, and the Pawnees made no further attempts
against the village, the Sioux began to take heart. They believed that
their determined foes were waiting to make one supreme effort under
cover of the night, and they comforted themselves with the thought that
their tribesmen would come to their assistance in the meantime. They
felt sure that High Eagle had reached the Minneconjoux and delivered his
appeal for aid. They peered anxiously toward the west, therefore, hoping
each moment to see the dust signal that would tell them that help was at
hand.

Then, when the long day finally passed, and the sun disappeared below
the plain, their hopes began to dwindle. The thought of night filled
them with dread. They had a gloomy premonition that unless the
Minneconjoux arrived before dark, their own efforts would at last prove
ineffectual. They believed that the vastly superior strength of their
foes would eventually give them the victory. As yet the Pawnees had
withdrawn before the deadly volleys that met them at the edge of the
camp, but the Sioux feared that in the final attempt they might make one
supreme sacrifice to achieve their object. In that event the Ogalalas
realized that it would be impossible to keep them from the village. Once
they had gained a foothold, their superiority in numbers would soon give
them the victory. The bravest Sioux heart faltered at the possibility.
They knew that it would mean torture and death for themselves, and
captivity and slavish drudgery for their women and children. The peril
appalled them. They turned their anxious faces to the sky and asked the
Great Mystery to help them. Then they waited calmly for the falling of
darkness, determined to meet whatever fate awaited them with the undying
courage of their race.

"My people, I must tell you that my heart is heavy," said Wolf Robe, as
the light slowly faded from the plain. "I have looked for something,
but it has not come. I have listened for something, but I have not heard
it. Curly Horse and his warriors are not here. Pretty soon it will be
dark. I feel bad about it. Some of our bravest men are dead. Some are
hurt and cannot fight. We have used many arrows. The Pawnees are very
strong. They are like mad wolves. Their medicine-men will talk to them.
They will tell them to do great things. When it is dark I believe they
will rush ahead to fight us. Perhaps they will leave their ponies and
crawl close to the lodges. We must watch with the eyes of the great war
bird, and listen with the ears of the deer. But if they get into the
camp, then we must fight until we die. Our women and children are in
those lodges. I will ask you to keep thinking about it. Perhaps
something has happened to High Eagle. The Minneconjoux have not come. I
do not know about that. I have finished."

When Wolf Robe had ceased speaking, several famous warriors ran to the
center of the camp and called out in a loud tone so that all might hear.
They urged their comrades to be brave, and declared that the odds
against them were not sufficient to cause defeat. They reminded their
listeners that having successfully repulsed every attack of their foes,
there was no reason to believe that they would not be equally successful
in the final assault. They declared that they had no doubt that a great
Minneconjoux war party was racing to their aid. They recalled many
desperate battles with these same hated foes in which they had turned
apparent defeat into victory. In this way these stout-hearted men
infused their own heroic confidence into the hearts of their tribesmen,
and roused them from the depths of gloom to the highest pitch of
enthusiasm.

"My brothers, I have listened to the words of those brave men," cried
old Crying Wolf. "I am a very old man. My arms are weak. My eyes do not
travel far. I am like a crooked stick. But those great words have made
me strong. Yes, I am anxious to fight the Pawnees. I cannot send my
arrows far, but if any of those people rush into the village I will
count another coup before I die. My people, listen to the words of a
very old man. Well, I must tell you what is in my heart. I believe that
White Otter will do another great thing. Yes, I believe he will bring
the great chief, Curly Horse, and his people to help us. I do not
believe I will come out of this battle. But I will tell you that I am
not afraid. No, I have been in many fights. I have killed many enemies.
I have lived a long time. It is enough. Now I will do the best I can. I
have finished."

The simple heroism of this famous old warrior found a ready sympathy in
the hearts of his people. As he tottered toward the edge of the camp to
take his place in the fighting line, his loyal self-sacrifice fired the
resolution of the warriors and filled them with a determination to
uphold the splendid traditions for which this aged veteran was willing
to die.

As the evening shadows gradually closed in about the camp the Pawnees
showed sudden signs of renewed activity. They approached nearer to the
village, as if they feared that the Sioux might attempt to send away
scouts under cover of the dusk. Then riders began to race about the
plain, apparently carrying instructions to the various war companies.
This maneuver made the Ogalalas believe that their foes had become
impatient, and intended to attack them without further delay.

"Those riders are telling the war leaders the words of the great war
chief," said Wolf Robe. "Pretty soon they will rush ahead to fight us.
Curly Horse and his people are not here. We must make this great fight
alone."

A few moments afterward the Pawnees faded from sight in the gathering
gloom, and the Sioux increased their vigilance. The thought of what
might happen before the dawn of another day filled them with many
disturbing misgivings. Still they knew that it would be fatal to give
way to those dismal premonitions. Therefore, they fought down their
doubts and fortified themselves with the determination to administer a
final, crushing defeat to their foes.

During the day Wolf Robe had ordered the women to collect the supply of
fire-wood and distribute it in a number of piles along the edge of the
camp. Now, as darkness closed down, he appointed a lad, with a buffalo
horn containing tinder and several glowing embers, to stand beside each
pile of fuel. In the event of the Pawnees dismounting and attempting to
steal into the camp under cover of the night, the crafty Ogalala chief
planned to ignite his beacons and flood the village and the surrounding
plain with light.

Wolf Robe's precaution was a timely one, for the wily Pawnees did
exactly what he feared they might attempt. Dismounting some distance
from the village, they left their ponies under a strong guard and
advanced noiselessly on foot. They were within bow-shot of the camp
before the Sioux discovered them. Then, as they heard the alarm, they
rushed forward, yelling at the top of their voices to confuse their
enemies.

However, the Sioux had already called to the boys with the embers, and
before the Pawnees actually reached the edge of the village the dry fuel
was blazing fiercely, and the camp was flooded with light. The
unexpected illumination completely surprised the invaders, and for a
moment they hesitated in bewilderment. The Sioux took advantage of the
opportunity, and delivered a furious volley of arrows at short range.
Attacked at the very moment when they were attempting to rally from
their sudden surprise, the Pawnees fell back in dismay. Then, as the
arrows of the Sioux continued to thin their ranks, they recovered from
their bewilderment and rushed recklessly to the border of the camp. A
desperate struggle immediately followed, as the opposing forces met in a
deadly hand-to-hand encounter. Warrior grappled with warrior, and the
fight became a series of personal combats. The Sioux were greatly
handicapped by the odds against them, but the terrorized cries of the
women and children in the lodges gave them courage, and they fought with
a strength and courage that astounded their foes. The old men and the
boys fought as heroically as the warriors. For a time their gallant
efforts seemed of little avail, for the Pawnees were determined to enter
the village. In spite of their superior numbers, however, they were
unable to fight their way between the valiant Ogalalas. The latter were
resolved to die rather than yield a foot of ground, and their
indomitable courage made them invincible. At last their heroic struggle
was crowned with success, for the Pawnees began to give way. Fearing a
trap, Wolf Robe called out and warned his people against leaving the
camp to follow them. There was one, however, for whom the caution had no
meaning. It was old Crying Wolf. He seemed to have suddenly gone mad
from excitement. Whooping shrilly, the aged warrior left the village and
hobbled boldly after the retreating Pawnees. As several Ogalalas rushed
to his rescue he fell, a bow-shot from the camp, with a Pawnee arrow
through his heart.

When their foes had retreated into the night, the Sioux took account of
their loss. They found that the encounter had cost them dear, for many
prominent warriors had sacrificed themselves to keep the Pawnees from
the village. The death of old Crying Wolf filled them with gloom, and
they recalled his ominous prophecy on the eve of the battle.

"He was a great man," said Wolf Robe, who had survived the encounter
unharmed. "Crying Wolf did many things for his people. But he was very
old. He died like a warrior. I believe it is the thing he wanted to do.
Now he has gone on the Long Trail. Well, we will talk about him a long
time."

However, the Ogalalas found little time to either eulogize the dead or
attend the wounded, for it was not long before the night again rang with
excited whoops. It was evident that the Pawnees intended to make another
attempt to enter the camp. The Sioux threw fresh fuel on the fires, and
watched anxiously for their foes to appear within the great circle of
light that surrounded the village. The yells were quickly followed by
the thunder of hoofs, and the Ogalalas realized that the Pawnees were
again relying on their ponies to force their way into the village.

This time the fighting was even fiercer than in the preceding attacks.
The reckless bravery of the invaders soon made it evident that they were
staking everything on one great final assault. The thought nerved the
Sioux to fight as they had never fought before. In spite of their
heroism, however, some of the Pawnees found a weak spot in the line of
defense, and gained a foothold in the village. Before they could reach
the ponies, or the lodges which sheltered the women and children, Wolf
Robe led a picked company of warriors to attack them. They fought with a
wild fury that finally forced the invaders from the camp. In the
desperate encounter, however, Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse were separated
from their companions, and surrounded by their foes. The Pawnees
instantly recognized these two famous warriors, and, instead of killing
them, they made them prisoners, and carried them away before the
Ogalalas knew what had happened.

A few moments later word of the capture was carried through the entire
force of Pawnees. They immediately abandoned the attack on the camp, and
raced away, yelling in triumph. The unexpected maneuver caused wild
rejoicing among the Ogalalas, who were still ignorant of the desperate
plight of their unfortunate tribesmen.

The Pawnees had already ridden beyond hearing when the first inquiry for
Wolf Robe was made. Then, as they were searching for him among the
warriors at the edge of the camp, they suddenly missed Yellow Horse.
When they failed to find them, the Ogalalas were thrown into a frenzy of
despair. At first they believed that both these great men had been
killed, but when they did not find them among those who had fallen in
the fight, the truth suddenly flashed into their minds.

"Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse have been carried away by the Pawnees!"

When the terrible announcement rang through the camp, the Ogalalas were
stunned into silence. It was the crowning shock of the great disaster
which had befallen them, and they were unable to rally from the blow.
They realized the hopelessness of attempting an immediate rescue, and
they feared that to delay would mean certain death to their famous
tribesmen. While the principal men of the tribe were gathered in gloomy
council, attempting to determine the wisest plan of action, they were
roused by a joyous shout from the warriors along the west side of the
camp.

"We have heard the bark of the little gray fox!" they cried, excitedly.
"Yes, our people are coming. Listen, someone is leading ponies to the
camp."

"We must be cautious; perhaps they are Pawnees," warned Spotted Dog, a
famous war leader, who had assumed command.

"Well, pretty soon they will come into the light. Then we will see who
they are," declared the impatient watchers.



CHAPTER XV

WHITE OTTER'S BOLD RESOLVE


White Otter's anxiety for his people made him indifferent to his own
safety, and he rode recklessly through the night, risking ambush and
sudden death at the hands of his foes. High Eagle and Little Raven
seemed equally unconcerned. They were willing to take desperate chances
to get within sight of the Ogalala village and learn the answer to the
question that was torturing their minds. As they actually neared the
vicinity, however, White Otter himself advised greater caution.

"We are coming close to our enemies," he said. "If they kill us then
what we have done will be foolish. A scout must save himself to help his
people. Now we will go ahead easy. We must watch, and listen like the
fox."

They slackened their ponies and advanced very cautiously. For a long
time they heard nothing to rouse their suspicions, and the very
stillness added to their fears. They wondered whether the Pawnees,
having achieved their object, had already ridden away. Their courage
weakened at the thought. Then, as they stopped on the crest of a ridge,
they heard a wild outburst of yells, far away toward the east. Their
hearts beat frantically as they turned to one another with flashing
eyes.

"Listen!" cried White Otter. "The fight is still going on. Yes, the
Ogalalas are keeping the Wolf People out of the camp. Come, we will ride
over there and try to do something."

They galloped away in the direction of the Ogalala camp. However, when
they again stopped to listen, the noise had ceased. They listened
anxiously, hoping to hear something that would tell them that the Sioux
had successfully withstood the attack. The silence troubled them. It
made it evident that the fight was over. The thought suggested a number
of alarming possibilities.

"Come, my brothers, we must go near to the camp," declared White Otter.
"Then we will know about this thing."

As they started away they again heard a wild clamor in the direction of
the Ogalala village, and they believed that the fight had been renewed.
The thought filled them with hope, for they knew that the Sioux had
repulsed the first attack successfully. As the confused babel of sound
echoed faintly across the plain, the three scouts stopped and made an
earnest appeal to the Great Mystery. Then they lashed their ponies into
a furious sprint, and raced away to aid their tribesmen.

"I believe those scouts have told their people about us," cried White
Otter. "Now they know about the war party that is coming to fight them.
They are making another great fight to get into the camp. Perhaps they
will do this thing. I am thinking about it. It is bad."

A short time afterward they rode to the top of another low ridge, and
saw the glow of the Ogalala fires. As they were watching them, however,
they heard the shouts and whoops of the Pawnees rising some distance
south of the camp. Each moment the noise sounded farther from the
village, and it soon became evident that the Pawnees were withdrawing.
A mighty chorus of yells from the camp convinced White Otter and his
companions that the Sioux had finally been victorious. The thought sent
them into an ecstasy of joy.

"Listen, my brothers!" White Otter cried, delightedly. "The Pawnees are
running away. Yes, my people have made a great fight. The Wolf People
know about this great war party. They are running away before our people
come. But we will follow them. Yes, Curly Horse and Laughing Bird will
chase them. Now we will go ahead, and find out about this thing."

"My brother, I believe that what you say is true," replied Little Raven.
"If your people have chased away all those Pawnees they have done a
great thing. Pretty soon we will know about it. But when our people come
here, then we must go on to fight the boastful Wolf People. Yes, I
believe I will count many coups, and take some good ponies."

"Yes, the Pawnees are going away," declared High Eagle. "But it has been
a great battle. I believe many of our brothers have been killed. Yes, I
am proud about this thing, but I must tell you that my heart is heavy.
I believe that something bad has happened to our people. I do not like
to talk about it. I have been in many battles. When I feel like that in
my heart it is always bad."

The older warrior's gloomy prophecy instantly sobered White Otter and
Little Raven. They began to realize that the victory might have been a
costly one. The thought increased White Otter's anxiety, and he
determined to learn exactly what had happened without further delay. He
felt certain that the Pawnees had really departed, and he raced toward
the camp with little attempt at concealment.

"We must be cautious when we come near the village," High Eagle warned
him. "Our people will be watching. When they hear us perhaps they will
take us for Pawnees. Perhaps they will send their arrows through us."

"Yes, what you say is so," agreed White Otter. "But we will stop before
we go near enough to be killed. Then I will make the sound of the little
gray fox. When our people hear that they will feel good again."

When they finally came close to the camp, they stopped, and White Otter
imitated the bark of the prairie fox. In a few moments an answer sounded
from the border of the village. Then he repeated the signal three times,
and, when he received a reply, he and his companions rode boldly toward
the lodges. As they showed themselves in the glow from the fires, they
were immediately challenged by the suspicious guards at the edge of the
camp.

"Ho, my brothers, we are Dacotahs; we have come to tell you something
good," cried White Otter.

"It is White Otter!" cried the delighted Ogalalas. "He has brought Curly
Horse and his people to help us."

When the three scouts rode their exhausted ponies into the village, a
few moments later, they saw all the evidences of a tragedy. It was
apparent that the Sioux loss had been even greater than they had
anticipated. White Otter and High Eagle recognized many loyal friends
among the dead and wounded, and as they gazed upon them they were filled
with a wild desire for vengeance. Then White Otter turned to search the
great throng of people who were crowding eagerly about them. When he
failed to discover his grandfather, a great fear entered his heart. He
had grave doubts of Wolf Robe's safety, and he feared to ask for him.
Before he could frame the difficult inquiry, however, he was startled by
a series of piercing screams from one of the lodges. The next moment
Singing Wind, his grandmother, rushed toward him, frantically waving her
arms, and crying out hysterically.

"My grandfather has been killed," White Otter told High Eagle.

As Singing Wind reached his side she fell to the ground, prostrated by
her grief. White Otter and High Eagle raised her with great tenderness,
and attempted to comfort her. The loyal old woman was beside herself,
and it was some moments before she could speak. Then she threw her arms
about White Otter and sobbed out her story.

"Ah, my son, I must tell you something bad," she cried. "Your
grandfather, the great chief, Wolf Robe, has been taken away by the
Pawnees. Yes, there is a great hole in my heart. Perhaps they have
killed him. You must find out about it. If he is dead, then I will die.
You have done some great things, my son. Now I will ask you to do the
greatest thing of all. Yes, I will ask you to go and find out about your
grandfather. If the Pawnees have killed him, then you must come back and
tell me. But if he is alive in that camp, then you must take him away.
You are the son of Standing Buffalo--I believe you can do this thing.
That is all I can say."

As Singing Wind ended her frantic appeal she tottered backward and would
have collapsed had not White Otter thrown his arm about her. The
Ogalalas watched in silence as the striking young warrior and the frail
old woman looked searchingly into each other's eyes. Then, when Singing
Wind finally recovered her strength, White Otter made his reply.

"My mother, I have heard your words; they have cut into my heart like
Pawnee arrows," he said. "But I am a Dacotah. Yes, I am the son of
Standing Buffalo. It is enough. I know what to do. I will follow the
Pawnees and find out about my grandfather. If he has been killed, then I
will not come back. No, I will rush into the camp and fight until I
die. But if he is alive I will bring him away. Spotted Dog has told me
about Yellow Horse. Well, I will find out about him. Now I must tell my
brothers, the Ogalalas, that a great war party is coming behind me. Yes,
pretty soon you will hear a big noise, like the Thunder Birds flapping
their wings. It is the sound of racing ponies. They are carrying Curly
Horse, and a great war party of Minneconjoux. But I will tell you
something better. They are carrying the great war chief, Laughing Bird,
and a great war party of Uncapapas. Pretty soon these people will come
here. Then you must tell my brother, Sun Bird, about me. Perhaps he will
tell Curly Horse about it. Then our people will go to the Pawnee camp to
fight. I will watch for them. Now I am going to take a fast pony. Yes, I
am going away. My mother, you must keep your heart strong. If I come
back I will bring my grandfather. If you do not see me again, then you
will know that I have done what I told you about. I have finished."

White Otter was immediately besieged by a host of volunteers, who were
eager to accompany him on his perilous mission. He refused them,
however, and told them to wait for the great war party which he felt
sure would follow him to the Pawnee camp. Still, there was one who would
not be denied. It was Little Raven.

"My brother, it is true that I have not done many great things," said
the loyal Minneconjoux lad. "But I am not afraid to die. You say if you
do not find your grandfather you will go into the Pawnee camp and fight
until they kill you. Well, it is a brave thing to do. But I will go with
you. If we go together, we will kill more Pawnees. If the great chief,
Wolf Robe, and the great medicine-man, Yellow Horse, are alive, perhaps
I will help you. No, my brother, I will not stay back. I am a Dacotah.
Yes, I am the son of Rain Crow. I must carry out what it is in my heart
to do. I will ask you for a fast pony. Yes, I am going with you."

"Little Raven, your words make me feel big in my heart," White Otter
replied, with genuine emotion. "But I must tell you that you are doing
a foolish thing. You are very brave, but you must keep your life. Wolf
Robe is my grandfather. He has given me many good things. There is only
one thing to do if he is alive: I must try to get him away. There is
only one thing to do if he is dead: I must go into the camp and kill as
many Pawnees as I can. You say you will go with me. Well, I must tell
you another time that it is a foolish thing to do. But I know that you
are a Dacotah. Yes, you will do what it is in your heart to do. Perhaps
this thing will make you a great man. Perhaps you will be killed. I have
finished."

"White Otter, I must go with you," declared Little Raven.

"Ogalalas, I must tell you something," cried White Otter. "Little Raven,
the son of Rain Crow, the great Minneconjoux medicine-man, is going with
me to the Pawnee Camp."

Then the two fearless young warriors rode away on two of Wolf Robe's
fastest ponies. The Ogalalas were too heavily burdened with grief to
rouse themselves sufficiently to make a demonstration, and except for
the wailing of the women and the excited cries of a few old men, the
lads were permitted to depart in silence.

"White Otter is very brave. Yes, he is as cautious as the fox. He has
done a great thing. But I believe he will be killed," Spotted Bear
declared, gloomily, as the hoof-beats of the ponies died away in the
distance.

The Ogalalas endorsed his words with their silence. There were few among
them who expected to again see the courageous youths who had just ridden
away.



CHAPTER XVI

A BAFFLING TRAIL


White Otter felt certain that the Pawnees had been warned of the
approaching Sioux war party, and he believed that they would ride
furiously to reach their own territory before the Dacotahs overtook
them. He realized, therefore, that it would be foolhardy to attempt to
come up with them before they arrived at their permanent camp. However,
the thought of what might happen to Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse in the
meantime filled him with despair. He knew only too well the intense
hatred that the Sioux and the Pawnees held for each other, and he feared
that the latter might take sudden vengeance upon their helpless
captives. His one hope was that the war chiefs would insist that the
prisoners be spared until they reached the camp, so that the entire
Pawnee nation might participate in their punishment and death. Still, he
realized that even if his unfortunate tribesmen reached the Pawnee
village in safety his chances for saving them were slight indeed. He
feared that the Pawnees would waste little time in putting them to
death, and he knew that unless he arrived at the hostile camp soon after
his foes he might be too late.

"We must keep near the Wolf People," he told Little Raven. "If they take
those two brave warriors to the camp, perhaps they will kill them before
we come to that place. Well, we must be near enough to do something."

"You are the leader," replied Little Raven, "I will listen to your
words."

At daylight they searched the plain for signs of the Pawnees. When they
failed to discover them, they separated and reconnoitered in different
directions. It was not long until White Otter found the fresh tracks of
the Pawnee ponies. He immediately called Little Raven, and they hurried
away on the trail.

"Perhaps some scouts are watching," suggested White Otter. "We must look
sharp."

"Yes, we will keep watching ahead," replied Little Raven.

The day was more than half gone before they saw anything to awaken their
suspicions. Then they suddenly discovered that the trail divided into
three distinct branches. The main trail continued toward the south,
another trail turned abruptly toward the west, and a third trail swerved
toward the east. White Otter regarded them in dismay. He instantly
recognized the unexpected maneuver as a wily bit of stratagem to confuse
the Sioux war party. It was evident that the crafty Pawnees feared
pursuit, and hoped in this manner to throw their enemies from their
trail. However, it was also possible that they hoped to induce the Sioux
force to separate into smaller companies to follow them. Then they might
suddenly unite, and attack one of the weakened commands. But whatever
was the reason for the ruse, it completely bewildered the anxious young
Ogalala.

"This thing fills my heart with clouds," he told Little Raven. "I do not
know about it. The Wolf People have fooled us. It is bad. I do not know
what to do."

Little Raven remained silent. He realized that in such a predicament he
must submit to the greater experience of White Otter. The loyal
Minneconjoux had implicit confidence in the ability of his friend. He
believed that the sharp-witted Ogalala would eventually think of a way
to overcome the difficulty. Many moments passed while they sat quietly
on their ponies, gazing gloomily at the confusing trails. Then White
Otter determined on a plan of action.

"There is only one thing to do," he said. "We must find out if these
trails go far. You must go one way and I will go another way. Perhaps we
will come together. But if these trails do not turn before the sun goes
away, then we will come back here and talk about it. Perhaps the Pawnees
are watching to see someone do this thing. I will tell you to be very
cautious."

"I will use my eyes," Little Raven promised.

A moment later they separated. White Otter followed the trail toward the
west, and Little Raven turned toward the east. They rode until sunset,
and then, as the tracks showed no signs of turning to join the original
trail toward the south, the discouraged young scouts returned to the
place where they had parted. It was dark when they finally met.

"My brother, I must tell you something bad," White Otter said,
disconsolately. "That trail does not turn around. There is only one
thing to do. I must follow it."

"White Otter, I must tell you that I saw the same thing," replied Little
Raven. "I went a long way but those tracks went straight ahead. When the
sun went away I thought about your words. Then I turned around and came
here. Now you must tell me how to do this thing."

For some moments White Otter remained silent. It was evident that the
baffling maneuver of his foes had greatly upset him. He knew that it
meant a delay, and he realized that each lost moment weakened his chance
of saving the Ogalala prisoners. Still, he knew that it would be fatal
to give way to his fears.

"Yes, I will tell you how to do this thing," he assured Little Raven.
"We must wait here until it is light. Then we will go different ways.
We will follow those trails and find out where they go. If they come
back to this straight trail, then we will leave three stones in three
tracks. That will tell us that we are both on that trail. If I find
those stones, I will keep going until I come up with you. If you find
those stones, then you must keep going until you find me. I have
finished."

"My brother, I have listened to your words--now I know what to do," said
Little Raven. "But I must tell you that I am heavy in my heart. Perhaps
we will not see each other again. Perhaps the Pawnees will kill us.
Well, I will not think about it."

"You are a warrior," White Otter reminded him. "A warrior wipes those
things from his heart."

Fearing that Pawnee scouts might follow the trail back under cover of
the night, to learn if they were followed, the wily young Sioux made a
long detour and camped farther to the west. They muzzled and picketed
the ponies, and took turns watching until the faint gray streak in the
east finally ended their suspense.

"Now we must go away," White Otter said soberly. "Little Raven, you are
my brother. You are very brave. You are going to do a hard thing.
Perhaps you will be killed. I will take your hand."

"White Otter, you have called me your brother--it is true," replied
Little Raven. "Yes, we are going away from each other. Perhaps we will
never meet again. Well, I will do the best I can. Now I will take your
hand."

They stood a moment, silently clasping hands. Then they mounted their
ponies and rode away. The eastern sky was tinged with gray, but the
plain was still dark. They rode rapidly toward the place where each had
abandoned his search the day before.

Darkness had already given way to daylight when White Otter reached the
grassy swale where he had ended his reconnoissance the previous day. He
immediately set out on the trail, riding slowly, and keeping a sharp
watch for Pawnee scouts. There was constant peril of running into an
ambush, and, wherever the plain offered suitable concealment for his
foes, he made a wide detour, and kept safely out of arrow-range. As the
trail continued directly toward the west, he feared that this company
of Pawnees were actually from another village. The possibility caused
him much concern. He realized that once the main force of his foes
divided into different bands, it might be necessary to visit each camp
before he could locate his tribesmen. In that event he felt certain that
his efforts would be useless, as he had little doubt that Wolf Robe and
Yellow Horse would have already met their fate before he could even find
them. Therefore, the anxious lad rode along with a heavy heart, and a
mind filled with all sorts of disquieting misgivings.

The day was far advanced when he finally learned that his long detour
had been in vain. The trail suddenly ended in an intricate maze of
tracks, which scattered in all directions. As White Otter realized how
easily he had fallen into the wily trap that had been set for him, a
great rage entered his heart, and his eyes flashed threateningly. He
knew at once that the Pawnees had simply separated temporarily to delay
their pursuers. Having lured them a day's journey from the real trail,
they had scattered and gone to join the main command. White Otter saw
it all plainly enough now, but he feared that the trick had already
achieved its purpose. He believed that the delay would prove fatal to
Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse.

For a moment the discouraged Ogalala lost heart. It seemed mere folly to
continue in the face of the unexpected difficulties that beset him.
Still, he banished all idea of turning back. He had given his word to
his grandmother, and even if he could not save Wolf Robe, he was
determined to rush into the Pawnee village and avenge him. The frantic
appeals of old Singing Wind rang in his ears, and the memory of her
grief restored his confidence. He told himself that he might still save
the Ogalala war chief. The possibility drove him to action. Wheeling his
pony, he raced madly toward the east.

White Otter knew that there were two things to do. The first was to
return to the main trail of the Pawnees and leave a sign to warn the
Sioux war party from repeating his blunder. The second was to find
Little Raven. He felt sure that the false trail which the Minneconjoux
had followed would either end in a hopeless tangle of tracks, or
eventually return to the original trail. Therefore, he hoped to find
Little Raven somewhere along the route taken by the main company of
Pawnees.

It was almost dark when White Otter again returned to the place where
the false trails began. His heart burned with anger as he realized the
time he had lost, each precious moment a link in the chain that was
dragging Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse to their doom. Still, he hoped that
in spite of the delay he might yet arrive at the Pawnee village in time
to aid his tribesmen. It was barely possible that the Pawnees might
spare the captives for several days, and White Otter strengthened his
confidence with the thought.

Aware that there was not an instant to lose, he proceeded to leave a
warning for the war party. Riding to a little patch of willows, he
selected a long, slender branch, and peeled the bark from one end. Then
he stuck it in one of the hoof-prints, with the peeled end pointing in
the direction of the Pawnee village. Next, he placed a barrier of small
stones across each of the false trails. Then he mounted his pony and
galloped along the original trail.

When night finally closed down, White Otter dismounted to follow the
tracks of the Pawnee ponies. He moved slowly forward, listening and
watching for some evidence of Little Raven. As time passed and he failed
to find him he began to worry. He wondered whether the fearless lad had
fallen into the hands of the Wolf People. He tried to reassure himself
with the possibility that the trail toward the east had actually
continued to another camp.

Then a sound came out of the night, a short distance ahead of him, and
he instantly drew his pony from the trail, and prepared his bow. As he
listened the noise was repeated, and he recognized it as the attempt of
a muzzled pony to call to one of its kind. His own horse tried to reply,
but he instantly grasped its nostrils and smothered it with a heavy fold
of buckskin. Then he imitated the bark of the little gray fox. In a few
moments he received a crude reply. He knew at once that it came from
Little Raven.

"Ho, my brother, I see that you have come back; it is good," White Otter
called softly.

"My ears tell me that you are my brother, White Otter," replied Little
Raven.

A moment afterward they met. Little Raven said that the tracks which he
had followed had rejoined the main trail at that very spot. He declared
that he had seen nothing but antelope and buffaloes and some stray
prairie wolves.

"Perhaps they were Pawnee scouts," White Otter suggested.

"No, I came close to those animals, and I know that they were wolves,"
Little Raven assured him.

"Well, now we know about this thing," said the Ogalala, "we must go on.
Perhaps the Pawnees have reached their camp. Perhaps they have sent Wolf
Robe and Yellow Horse on the Long Trail. But we must not wait. Now I
will go to that village and do the thing I have set out to do. If my
grandfather is not there, then I will rush into the camp and throw
myself away. But I will kill many Pawnees before I die. My brother, this
is how it is in my heart to do. If you feel different, then you must
turn back. I have finished."

"My brother, you have spoken brave words," declared Little Raven. "But I
must tell you that I will not turn around. Perhaps we will help Wolf
Robe and Yellow Horse. But if they have been sent away, then I will go
into the camp to die with you. This is how the thing is in my heart."

"You are as brave as your brother, Sun Bird," said White Otter. "If you
come out of this thing, you will be a great warrior. Yes, I will tell
all the Dacotahs about you. Now we will go."

As they cantered boldly forward into the night, the long, dismal wail of
the prairie wolf sounded some distance away toward the west. White Otter
instantly stopped his pony to listen. In a few moments an answer came
from the east. The calls were so perfect, however, that the keen ears of
the Ogalala could find no reason to suspect them. Still, he was
suspicious. He was unable to overcome a disturbing premonition that had
worried him throughout the day; he felt almost certain that both Little
Raven and he had been watched by Pawnee scouts.

"I believe that the Pawnees are telling about us," White Otter
whispered, uneasily.

"Do your ears tell you that?" inquired Little Raven.

"No, my ears tell me that it is the cry of the wolf, but my heart tells
me a different thing," replied White Otter.

They waited some moments longer, but the calls were not repeated. Then
the two daring young scouts resumed their perilous advance through the
darkness. They had not gone far, however, when the lonely cry in the
west was repeated. This time they did not stop, but listened anxiously
as they cantered along. There was no answer from the east, and Little
Raven felt somewhat reassured.

"I believe it is a wolf," he told White Otter.

The Ogalala made no reply.



CHAPTER XVII

A PEEP INTO THE PAWNEE CAMP


The lads rode continuously throughout the night, guiding themselves by
the stars, and traveling toward the south. At dawn they again found the
tracks of the Pawnee ponies. However, they feared to follow the trail in
daylight. They had little doubt that alert Pawnee scouts had been
stationed on the ridges to watch for the Sioux war party. There seemed
nothing to do, therefore, but to spend the day in concealment, until
darkness again made it safe to venture forward in search of the Pawnee
camp. It meant another perilous delay, and White Otter's heart sank at
the thought of the possible consequences. Still, he knew that it would
be foolhardy to risk being seen by hostile scouts. He felt sure that
such an unfortunate mishap would destroy the last chance of the
prisoners whom he wished to save.

"Yes, we must wait here until it is dark," he told Little Raven. "It is
bad. But I believe it is the only thing to do. If we go ahead, perhaps
the Pawnees will see us. Then they will know what we are trying to do.
It is enough. They will kill Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse. They must not
know about us. We will wait here. Now we must look around for a good
place to hide in."

"Well, if that is how the thing is in your heart, then we must do it,"
replied Little Raven.

The plain was still shrouded in the dim, misty half-light of dawn, and
they had little fear of being seen. Riding a short distance west of the
Pawnee trail, they came upon the dry rocky bed of a stream. As it was
considerably below the level of the plain, it offered an ideal place of
concealment. Furthermore, it led away in a general southerly direction,
and the eager young scouts hoped that by following it they might
eventually come within sight of the Pawnee camp.

Once in the bottom of the ravine, the Sioux immediately set out along
the tortuous, rocky stream-bed. As daylight strengthened, White Otter
crept up the bank to reconnoiter. A long, undulating sweep of the plain
obstructed his view toward the south, but in every other direction he
saw to the horizon. The ground was open and bare of cover, and he
discovered nothing to awaken his suspicions. The south, however, was
still a mystery. The low ridge that barred his vision suggested many
alarming possibilities, and White Otter regarded it with much distrust.
He saw that the stream-bed apparently cut through it, in a deep ravine,
farther to the west. It looked like an ideal spot for an ambush. He
wondered whether Pawnee sentinels were concealed at that perilous pass.
Then, having learned all that it was possible to know for the moment,
the Ogalala descended into the gully to join his companion.

"Well, I have looked around and I will tell you about it," he told
Little Raven. "I did not see any Pawnees. No, on both sides, and back
there where we came from, I saw everything. There is no place to hide,
and there is nothing to harm us. But ahead of us it is different. Yes,
that way I saw a ridge. Perhaps some scouts are watching there. Perhaps
the Pawnee camp is behind it. I do not know about it. But I will tell
you that this gully goes through it. Yes, over there I saw the place
where it crawls through. I believe we will be in great danger if we go
over there before it is dark. But if we wait, perhaps it will be too
late to help Wolf Robe. Yes, I am going ahead to find out about this
thing. When we come near that place I will ask you to stay behind with
the ponies. Then I will crawl ahead as easy as the fox. I believe it is
the only thing to do."

"I will listen to your words," agreed Little Raven.

They advanced cautiously along the dry watercourse until it made an
abrupt turn toward the west. Then White Otter again crawled carefully to
the top of the bank. He saw that the bed of the stream continued still
farther toward the west, and then turned sharply toward the ravine that
cut through the ridge. He believed, therefore, that it would be perilous
to take the ponies any farther until he had made a thorough
reconnoissance.

As White Otter was about to descend into the ravine to announce his plan
to Little Raven, his sharp eyes discovered something against the sky,
above the crest of the ridge. For several moments he was unable to
convince himself that he had actually seen it, and he watched anxiously
to learn whether his eyes had played him a trick. Then he saw it again,
more distinctly than before, and his heart beat wildly. It was smoke.
Aware that he was within a short distance of the great Pawnee camp,
White Otter scrambled frantically down the rocky bank of the ravine to
tell Little Raven of his discovery.

"My brother, my eyes have found a great thing!" he cried, excitedly.
"Yes, I saw smoke rising behind that ridge. We are close to the great
Pawnee village. We must be very cautious. I believe it would be foolish
to go any nearer before it is dark. We will wait here and watch. Then,
when it is dark, I will go ahead. I will crawl through that ravine, and
try to get near the camp. Perhaps I will find out about Wolf Robe and
Yellow Horse. Now I am going to crawl up there to watch."

"White Otter, I have listened to your words," replied Little Raven. "You
have told how you will do this thing. Well, I must tell you that I will
go with you. If you do not find your people, then you will rush into the
camp to die. I will not stay behind. No, I have told what I will do. I
must go through with it. I have spoken."

"What you say is true," declared White Otter. "I will not keep you from
doing what you have set out to do. But first I must find out about this
thing. I will tell you that if I do not see my people in that camp, then
I will come back. Yes, I will tell you what I am going to do. If you
feel like going into the camp to die with me, then you must do it. But
perhaps I will find my people. You must wait here until I know about it.
I am the son of Standing Buffalo, and I have spoken."

"You say that you will come back here," replied Little Raven. "It is
enough. I will wait. But I must tell you something different. Perhaps
the Pawnees will come here and find us before it is dark."

"When the fox hides, it is hard to find him," declared White Otter. "We
will be very cautious."

Although the lads watched steadily until night-fall, they failed to see
anything of their enemies. However, they had little doubt that a number
of Pawnee scouts were concealed along the summit of the ridge. The
possibility made them extremely wary, and they waited until the last ray
of light had faded from the plain before they ventured to advance. Then,
when they reached the sharp turn toward the south, White Otter left his
pony with Little Raven, and disappeared into the night.

The young Ogalala moved cautiously along the rocky bed of the stream,
with the swift, noiseless tread of a panther. He advanced until he saw
the sharp, clear-cut edge of the ravine showing against the sky. Then he
stopped. For some moments he crouched in the shadow of the bank,
listening for some warning of his foes. The stillness failed to quiet
his suspicions. He felt sure that the narrow pass was guarded by
keen-eared sentinels. He feared it. For a moment or so he was undecided
just how to proceed. Then he made his decision, and climbed noiselessly
up the side of the gully.

Once on the plain, White Otter made a short detour toward the east.
Then, when he was several arrow-flights from the stream, he turned
directly toward the ridge. As he came within bow-shot of it, he again
stopped to listen. Hearing nothing to arouse his fears, he advanced
through the darkness as quietly as a shadow. He reached the low, grassy
slope in safety, and crawled cautiously to the summit. As he peered
carefully over the crest of the ridge, he saw the fires twinkling in the
great Pawnee camp. It was scarcely more than a bow-shot away, and the
anxious Ogalala fairly trembled with eagerness.

Fearing that a moment's delay might prove fatal, White Otter crept
slowly over the summit of the ridge, and descended to the level plain on
the other side. Then he hurried toward the Pawnee village. As he neared
the edge of the camp, he sank to his hands and knees, and crawled
forward with the stealth and caution of a lynx. He advanced to the very
border of the village. Then he concealed himself in the heavy shadows
from the lodges, and peered anxiously into the camp. It was brightly
illuminated by a number of great fires, and White Otter was able to
study his foes at close range. The entire tribe seemed to be assembled,
and he believed that the people were discussing something of importance.
Then, as his eyes traveled swiftly over the great company of warriors,
he started, and almost cried out in his excitement. With the Pawnees
were Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse. Both were securely bound, and closely
guarded, but neither seemed to have been harmed. White Otter looked upon
them with amazement. His great joy bewildered him. He had approached the
camp with little hope of finding them alive. Now, as he saw them
apparently uninjured, he could scarcely believe his eyes. He wondered
why the Pawnees had spared them. However, he lost little time attempting
to solve the riddle. His one thought was how he might take advantage of
the temporary respite that had been granted to his tribesmen.

White Otter was soon convinced that no matter what the final fate of the
prisoners might be, they were to be spared for the night at least. The
thought filled him with hope. If the Pawnees would only wait until the
following night, he believed he could save the captives. He felt sure
that by that time the great Sioux war party would be within striking
distance of the camp, and he believed they would surprise and completely
overwhelm their foes. Still, he knew that unless he could think of a way
to protect the helpless prisoners, the Pawnees would kill them at the
first warning of an attack. He waited, therefore, until he saw Wolf Robe
and Yellow Horse taken to one of the lodges. Then he withdrew from the
camp, and made his perilous return to Little Raven.

"My brother, my heart is filled with the songs of birds," White Otter
cried, joyously, as he finally rejoined the loyal Minneconjoux. "Yes, I
have seen my grandfather, the great chief, Wolf Robe, and Yellow Horse,
the wonderful medicine-man. They are alive in the Pawnee camp. I watched
until I saw them taken into a lodge. Then the camp quieted down. Now I
know where they are. I do not believe that the Pawnees will kill them
before another sun goes by. I believe we will get them out of that
camp."

"Your words have filled my heart with sunshine," declared Little Raven.
"You have done a good thing. I believe we will take your people out of
that camp. But I must tell you another thing. After you went away, I
heard something. I listened a long time. Then I heard someone coming. I
tried to lead away the ponies. But someone was right behind me. Pretty
soon I heard two people talking. They were speaking Sioux words. Then my
heart was glad. I called out and told them my name. Pretty soon Short
Bear and two Uncapapas came here. Yes, the great war party is back there
on the plain. The Uncapapas have gone away to tell about us, but Short
Bear will take us to Curly Horse."

"Where is Short Bear?" inquired the Ogalala.

"I am here, my brother," replied the famous Minneconjoux, as he suddenly
appeared out of the night.

"It is good. We will go," said White Otter.



CHAPTER XVIII

A DARING ATTEMPT


The night was almost gone when Short Bear and his companions finally
reached the great company of Sioux warriors. They were concealed behind
a high ridge, about half a day's journey from the Pawnee camp. White
Otter found that Spotted Bear and a strong force of Ogalalas had joined
the war party. The lads went directly to Curly Horse, and told him what
they had learned. When the Ogalalas heard that their two famous
tribesmen were still alive, they were beside themselves with excitement.
Some of the more impulsive warriors wished to attack the Pawnees at
once, but the war chiefs and the older men advised them to wait.

"Men of the Dacotah nation, you have heard good words," said Curly
Horse. "Yes, White Otter has found his people in the Pawnee camp. It is
good. We must try to get them away. I will tell you the best way to do
this thing. Pretty soon it will be light. Well, it would be foolish to
go ahead when the Pawnees can see us. Then the scouts would ride into
the village, and tell about us. If the Wolf People see us coming to
fight them, I believe they will kill those two brave Ogalalas. No, we
must not let them see us. We will wait here until another sun passes.
But we will send out scouts to watch. Then, when it is dark again, I
will send some brave men to crawl into the camp. They must go to the
edge of the village, and wait. Then this great war party will go ahead.
When we come near the lodges, we will rush forward. When we make our
great war cry, then those men at the edge of the village must run into
the camp, and save the Ogalalas. I believe it is the best way to do this
thing. But I will ask my brother, the great chief, Laughing Bird, to
talk about it. Yes, I will listen to the words of the brave Ogalala
leader, Spotted Bear. I have finished."

"Dacotahs, you have listened to a great man," declared Laughing Bird.
"What Curly Horse says is true. He is a good leader. Yes, I know that
he has been in many battles. I believe he has told the best way to get
our brothers out of that camp. I will not say anything different. I have
spoken."

"My brothers, I am an Ogalala," said Spotted Bear. "Our great chief,
Wolf Robe, and Yellow Horse, the great medicine-man, are in that camp. I
have come here to help them. I am the leader of my people in this fight,
but I am not a great chief. No, many of our great men have been killed.
That is how I was made the leader. I have fought in many battles. But I
will listen to the words of those great chiefs who have just talked. I
believe that they have told the best way to do this thing. No, I will
not say anything against it. I have finished."

The plan suggested by the Minneconjoux chief was quickly adopted, and
Curly Horse immediately called a council of the principal men in each
tribe, to work out the final details of the attack against the Pawnee
camp. When they finally completed their task day had already dawned.

"My brothers, I will tell you what we have decided to do," declared
Curly Horse. "First, we will send scouts to watch the Pawnees. Then we
will wait here until it is dark. When it is dark, I will ask Spotted
Bear to send some of his people into that camp. Then this great war
party will separate. Laughing Bird and his warriors will go on one side
of the camp. I will lead the Minneconjoux in the center. Spotted Bear
and the Ogalalas will come up on the other side. We will ride ahead
until we find the Pawnee scouts. Then we will rush into the village. I
have told you how we must do this thing."

When he had finished speaking, Curly Horse selected a number of warriors
to act as scouts. These men, most of whom were Minneconjoux, immediately
mounted their ponies and galloped away to watch the Pawnee camp. Then
the great host of Sioux fighting men picketed their ponies, and threw
themselves upon the plain to rest until the time for attacking the
hostile camp arrived.

In the meantime Spotted Bear had made White Otter the leader of the
gallant little company who were to invade the Pawnee village in an
attempt to save the Ogalala prisoners. It was a great honor, and the
fearless young warrior determined to justify the confidence reposed in
him. He chose three famous Ogalala warriors to accompany him; they were
Little Wolf, High Eagle and Black Moccasin. Besides, he asked Sun Bird
and Little Raven.

"Yes, my brother, I will go with you," declared Sun Bird. "It is a great
thing to do. If I come out of this fight, I will have something good to
talk about."

"You have asked me to go with you to do a great thing," said Little
Raven. "That makes me feel very brave. I will do the best I can."

The Sioux waited impatiently while the tedious day dragged slowly along.
The scouts returned at frequent intervals, and reported about their
foes. They said that the Pawnees had stationed watchers on all the
ridges in the vicinity of the camp. It was evident, however, that they
thought it quite unnecessary to send riders farther out on the plain to
reconnoiter beyond sight of the sentinels. The Dacotahs hoped,
therefore, that failing to see anything to rouse their suspicions, the
Pawnees might somewhat relax their vigilance and make it easier for the
little company of Ogalalas to enter the camp.

As twilight finally gathered upon the plain, Curly Horse sent for White
Otter and the warriors who were to accompany him in his perilous
undertaking. They found the stern Minneconjoux war chief and Laughing
Bird waiting to receive them.

"My brothers, I have called you here to tell you what is in my heart,"
said Curly Horse, as the Ogalalas stood before him. "Pretty soon you are
going ahead to do a hard thing. You will be in great danger. White
Otter, you are the leader. You are a young man. It is true that you have
done some great things. But I have seen many more winters. Yes, I have
been in many more battles. You must listen to my words."

"When the great chief, Curly Horse, speaks, my ears are open," replied
the young Ogalala.

"It is good," resumed Curly Horse. "Now I will tell you what to do. If
you live to get to the edge of that camp, you must wait there until you
hear the great Dacotah war cry. When you hear that, you must rush into
the camp. After that you must do whatever comes into your heart. If you
get your people away, then you must keep shouting, so that we will not
kill you. Yes, we will be right up to the camp. Then we will go in and
take some ponies. I believe it will be a great fight. Now I have told
you all I know about it."

"Curly Horse, I will keep your words in my heart," White Otter assured
the Minneconjoux chief. "I see that the great chief, Laughing Bird, is
standing beside you. Well, I will ask him if he has any words."

"My young brother, I am not the leader of this great war party," replied
Laughing Bird. "Curly Horse has told you what to do. It is enough. But I
will tell you that if you do this thing, it will be something to talk
about. You are standing here with those brave men who are going with
you. I see that two of them are very young. It makes me feel sad.
Perhaps I will never see any of you again. I see that four of you are
Ogalalas, and two of you are Minneconjoux. I am an Uncapapa, but you all
are my brothers. Yes, we are Dacotahs. The Dacotahs have hearts like
the bear. It is good. Go. I have finished."

Soon afterward White Otter and his gallant little company rode away to
risk their lives in the desperate attempt to save the Ogalala captives.
Night had fallen upon the plain, and they had little fear of being
discovered before they actually neared the Pawnee camp. Still, they
determined to take every precaution, for they fully realized the heavy
responsibility that rested upon them. White Otter and Sun Bird each led
an extra war pony, for the use of Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse. They had
gone some distance when they were suddenly stopped by the sharp bark of
the little gray fox.

"It is a Sioux," said White Otter.

After he had repeated the signal three times, they heard the slow,
measured hoof-beats of a walking pony. A few moments afterward a
Minneconjoux scout appeared out of the darkness.

"Ho, my brother, Big Weasel," said Sun Bird. "You have the ears of a
fox."

"Ho, my brothers," replied the Minneconjoux. "I see that you are going
ahead to do something. Well, I will tell you that there are Pawnee
scouts watching on the ridges near the village. Now I will ask you what
you are going to do."

"We are going into that camp, to help Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse," White
Otter told him. "Yes, we will wait near the lodges until we hear the
great war cry of our people. Then we will rush ahead to keep the Pawnees
from killing our brothers."

"Well, it is a brave thing to do, but I believe you will be killed,"
declared Big Weasel.

"We are Ogalalas," boasted High Eagle. "Wolf Robe is our chief. Is a
Dacotah afraid to die for his chief?"

Then Big Weasel left them, and they continued their perilous journey
toward the south. They had gone but a short distance, however, when they
heard the Minneconjoux imitate the bark of the prairie fox six times in
rapid succession. They knew at once that he was advising his companions,
in other parts of the plain, that a company of six Sioux were passing.

When White Otter finally came upon the dry stream-bed where he and
Little Raven had concealed themselves, he warned his companions that
they were nearing the ridge that hid the camp. They advanced with great
caution until they came within sight of the long slope itself. Then they
stopped, and, after they had muzzled the ponies, the young Ogalala
issued his instructions.

"The great Pawnee camp is behind that ridge," he said, softly. "Our
people are in that camp. We have come here to help them. Now I will tell
you how to do it. First, I will ask my brother, Little Wolf, and my
brother, Black Moccasin, to wait here with the ponies. Then I will lead
Sun Bird, and Little Raven, and High Eagle to the edge of the camp. I
believe that Little Wolf and Black Moccasin would like to go with us.
Well, I will tell you that someone must be ready to help us with the
ponies. When you hear us make the long howl of the big gray wolf, then
you must rush ahead with the ponies until you find us. If you do not do
this thing, then we will surely be killed. I have finished."

"My brother, it is true that I would like to go with you," declared
Little Wolf, striving to conceal his bitter disappointment. "But I know
that you have told us the best way to do. Yes, I know that we will have
a hard thing to do. I believe that we will get into the fight. Well, I
will wait here with the ponies."

"White Otter, I have listened to your words. You are the leader. I will
do as you say," said Black Moccasin.

"It is good," replied White Otter.

Then the four daring scouts who intended to enter the camp surrendered
their ponies to Little Wolf and Black Moccasin, and advanced fearlessly
into the darkness on foot. They knew that each stride forward was
placing them in greater peril, and the thought made them as wary as
deer. White Otter led, and the others followed in his cautious
footsteps. He knew that hostile scouts were on guard along the summit of
the ridge, and he realized the difficulty of crawling between them
without being discovered. Therefore, when he finally came within
bow-shot of the low slope that caused him so much uneasiness, he asked
his companions to wait while he crawled forward to investigate.

He was gone a long time, and his three anxious comrades were growing
impatient when he finally returned. He told them that he had actually
crawled to the top of the ridge, and looked upon the flickering Pawnee
fires. Then he asked them to follow him.

When they arrived at the foot of the slope, they stopped and spent some
time listening anxiously. As they heard nothing to furnish them with a
clew to the whereabouts of their foes, they saw no reason for further
delay. Dropping to their hands and knees, they followed White Otter up
the ridge. Just as they reached the top, however, they heard someone
talking a few bow-lengths to the west of them.

Warned by a low hiss from White Otter, the alarmed Sioux prepared their
weapons, and began to wriggle slowly down the south side of the ridge.
They feared to move rapidly, for they knew that careless haste would be
almost sure to betray them to their enemies. Their one hope was to get
far enough down the slope to avoid being seen if the speakers should
advance in their direction. But it soon was evident that the Pawnees
were moving in the opposite direction. The Sioux' hearts filled with
relief at the thought. Still, they knew that the danger had not passed.
A dislodged bowlder or the tell-tale rattle of sliding gravel would be
quite sure to reach the sharp ears of the suspicious sentinels who had
just passed. Therefore, they continued down the ridge with the greatest
caution, feeling carefully with their hands and feet before they
attempted to move their bodies.

Once at the base of the slope, they lost little time in advancing toward
the camp. As they eventually crept within bow-shot of the lodges, White
Otter again asked them to wait, while he went forward to reconnoiter. It
was not long before he returned, and told them that the Pawnees were
holding an important council.

"I believe that they are talking about Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse," he
said.

"Did you see our people?" High Eagle asked anxiously.

"No, I did not see them," replied White Otter. "But my heart tells me
that they are alive."

Then he led the way toward the hostile camp. They crept cautiously
forward, one behind the other, keeping in the heavy shadows, and moving
toward the spot from which White Otter had made his reconnoissance. It
was a low, bushy knoll within leaping distance of the edge of the
village. When they finally reached it, they sank to the ground and
peered eagerly into the camp.



CHAPTER XIX

A SPLENDID VICTORY


The Sioux watched the Pawnees with breathless interest. The intense
emotion of the speakers, and the apparent excitement of the audience,
soon convinced them that the entire tribe was on the verge of an
hysterical outburst. The anxious scouts at the edge of the camp had
little doubt that the fate of the unfortunate captives was the topic of
discussion. The prisoners themselves were nowhere in sight. However,
White Otter pointed out the lodge into which they had been taken the
previous night. The Sioux looked upon it with longing eyes. The same
thought was in the mind of each. Still, they knew that it would be
impossible to reach the shelter without being seen. It was located some
distance from the outside of the village, and the brilliant light from
the fires illuminated every inch of the ground about it. They realized,
therefore, that for the moment, at least, there was nothing to do but to
wait.

"I know that man," whispered Little Raven, as a new speaker rose to
address the people. "Yes, he is Yellow Cloud. He is the great war chief
of all the Pawnees."

The Sioux saw a tall, broad-shouldered warrior of wonderful physique. He
wore a trailing head-dress of eagle plumes, and carried a beautiful robe
of the white buffalo. His appearance and manner marked him as a man of
great distinction. As he began to talk, the Pawnees listened with an
eager attention that promised ready obedience to his commands. The Sioux
regretted that they were not nearer to him, for Little Raven had been a
prisoner of the Pawnees, and was familiar with their dialect. They
watched the chief with great anxiety, hoping to gain a clew to his
thoughts.

When Yellow Cloud finally ended his harangue, the Sioux saw that the
people had been greatly impressed. They began to talk earnestly among
themselves, and it seemed as if most of them endorsed the ideas of their
chief. Then several other warriors spoke, and as the last rose to his
feet, Little Raven seized White Otter's arm with much agitation.

"That man is Standing Elk; he is a great medicine-man!" he whispered,
excitedly. "Yes, I knew him when I was a prisoner in the village of the
great chief, Two Moons. But Two Moons was killed by our brothers, the
brave Cheyennes. Now I believe that Standing Elk is a great chief. I
will tell you that his people will listen to his words. His heart is
black against the Dacotahs. I believe he will ask the Pawnees to kill
our people."

"Perhaps they will not kill a great medicine-man like Yellow Horse,"
White Otter said, hopefully.

The idea had sustained him ever since he had learned of the plight of
his tribesmen. He knew that even the most bitter enemies often spared
the lives of these powerful men of mystery, and he had hoped that Yellow
Horse's great gifts of magic would protect Wolf Robe as well as himself.
Now he began to doubt. Having learned the identity of the warrior who
was apparently working himself into a perfect frenzy of excitement, the
young Ogalala dreaded the effect on his audience. It was soon apparent
that his words were changing the opinions of many of the warriors. As he
proceeded with his wild harangue, a number of the younger men began to
call out in approval of his talk. Their enthusiasm quickly spread to
their companions, and it was not long before the vengeful medicine-man
had injected his own bitterness and hate into the hearts of his
listeners. The Pawnees were fast losing control of themselves. It was
evident that Standing Elk was deliberately rousing them into a fury.

"That man will make it bad for our people," whispered White Otter, as
his eyes flashed dangerously.

"Yes, he is putting fire into the hearts of the Wolf People," replied
Sun Bird.

The Sioux longed to drive their arrows into his heart, but they knew
that it would only hasten the death of the men whom they wished to save.
They realized that it would be folly to act until they learned what the
Pawnees really planned to do with the prisoners. Their one hope was that
Standing Elk's talk would lead to further discussion, and more delay.
The night was already half gone, and each moment gained strengthened the
chances of Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse. Therefore, although they saw that
his words were rousing the wrath of the people to uncontrollable bounds,
the Sioux were eager for him to continue.

"If that man keeps talking, perhaps we will get a chance to do what we
came here to do," said Sun Bird. "But if he stops, then I believe we
will have to die with our people."

"Well, I believe that we will hear the great Dacotah war cry pretty
soon," High Eagle declared, hopefully.

Then Standing Elk suddenly ended his talk, and all hope fled from the
hearts of the anxious watchers at the border of the camp. The people
were carried away with excitement, and the camp was instantly in a
turmoil. A number of warriors had already begun to dance and sing, and
others quickly joined them. As the excitement increased, several men
rushed toward the lodge which the Sioux believed contained the
prisoners.

"Come!" White Otter cried, recklessly. "We will rush into the camp, and
die with our people."

"Wait," cautioned High Eagle. "Perhaps we can do something better."

The next moment proved the wisdom of his caution, for Yellow Cloud cried
out in a tone of commanding authority, and the warriors who were about
to enter the lodge stopped short at his challenge. As they turned, the
chief beckoned for them to return, and they obeyed without a moment's
hesitation. Then Yellow Cloud again addressed the council. He spoke with
a ringing eloquence that compelled instant attention. The Pawnees
listened in respectful silence, and it was only a few moments before he
had the vast assemblage completely under his control. The Sioux looked
upon him with admiration. It was a remarkable exhibition of the
influence and power which this great chief exercised over his people,
and the Dacotahs were much impressed.

"He is a great man," said Sun Bird.

"Yes, I believe that the Pawnees will do what ever he says," replied
White Otter.

Yellow Cloud did not talk long. He spoke with an earnestness that
carried conviction, and the Sioux would have given much to know what he
said. However, they read a clew from the face and manner of Standing
Elk, the warlike medicine-man. He soon made it plain that the Pawnee
chief was talking against him. The Dacotahs wondered, therefore, whether
Yellow Cloud was actually pleading for the lives of his captives. It
seemed too much to hope, and still they realized that he might fear to
kill a man possessing the mysterious powers credited to Yellow Horse. At
any rate the Sioux felt quite sure that he would at least prolong the
delay, and for the moment it satisfied them.

When the Pawnee chief had finished speaking, his tribesmen maintained an
impressive silence. As they waited, the warriors turned their eyes upon
the glowering face of the medicine-man, but Standing Elk made no attempt
to resume his talk. Then Yellow Cloud called several stalwart warriors,
and sent them to the lodge which apparently sheltered the Ogalalas.

"Now we must be ready to do something," White Otter told his companions.

The lodge into which the Pawnees had disappeared was between the great
assemblage of warriors and the border of the camp, and the Dacotahs
realized that if they would help their tribesmen they must act while
Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse were being taken from the lodge to the
council-fire. Still, uncertainty as to what the Pawnees planned to do
with the prisoners made them hesitate. The talk of the Pawnee war chief
had filled them with hope, and yet the fact that he had actually sent
for the captives had awakened their distrust. They knew that a word, a
look, a gesture might suddenly rouse the passion of that great company
of warlike people, and bring instant death upon the helpless prisoners.
To delay, therefore, in the hope that Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse would
survive the interview unharmed, seemed like abandoning them to their
fate. White Otter and his companions realized that once the Ogalalas
were engulfed in the great throng of Pawnee fighting men, all attempts
to save them would be futile.

"No, there is only one thing to do," White Otter whispered, excitedly,
as he watched the entrance of the lodge. "We have come here to help our
people. When they come out of that lodge, we must do something. I will
give the bark of the little gray fox. Then Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse
will know that we are here. Perhaps they will try to help us. But we
must be ready to rush into the camp, and do the best we can. I have told
you what I am going to do. Now I will ask you to follow me."

"You are the leader; we will follow you," Sun Bird said, calmly.

Aware that the fateful moment was at hand, the Sioux nerved themselves
for the desperate attempt to rescue the Ogalalas. Each member of the
heroic little band knew that he was probably going to his death, and
still there was not a trace of fear in the heart of any of them. Fitting
arrows to their bows, they fastened their attention upon the lodge, and
watched anxiously for the prisoners.

Their suspense was soon ended, however, for in a few moments the
wolfskin over the entrance of the lodge was drawn aside, and two of the
three Pawnee guards came out. Then Wolf Robe appeared, and a moment
later Yellow Horse followed. The third Pawnee brought up the rear. The
Sioux saw that the arms of the Ogalalas were bound, but their feet were
free. At sight of them the Pawnees began to shout and jeer, and it was
evident that the captives were in considerable peril of violence. They
walked fearlessly forward, however, accompanied by their stalwart
guards.

The prisoners had not taken three strides, when a piercing yell rose
through the night, some distance to the south of the camp. The next
instant the plain reverberated with the ringing war cry of the Dacotahs
and the thunderous hoofbeats of their ponies.

"Come!" cried White Otter, as he sprang to his feet, and drove his arrow
through the Pawnee behind the prisoners.

Sun Bird and High Eagle had already disabled the other guards, and, as
Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse seized their opportunity and dashed behind
the nearest lodge, their determined tribesmen at the edge of the camp
covered their retreat with a deadly volley of arrows. The captives
reached the border of the village in safety, and were instantly freed
from their bonds by their delighted rescuers.

"Listen, our people are here!" White Otter cried, delightedly, as the
Dacotah battle cry rang out on all sides of the camp.

Rushing wildly out on the plain, the little band of Sioux raised their
voices in the thrilling cry that was striking terror into the hearts of
the demoralized Pawnees. They had not gone much farther than a bow-shot
from the camp, when they encountered Little Wolf and Black Moccasin,
racing forward in advance of the war party, with the ponies.

Once mounted, Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse dashed away toward the east, to
lead their people in the attack on the Pawnee village. White Otter
followed them, whooping triumphantly, and with him went Sun Bird and
Little Raven.

Having been taken entirely unawares, the Pawnees were thrown into
terrific confusion. A company of them rode recklessly out on the plain
in pursuit of the escaped Ogalalas, and were soon surrounded and almost
annihilated by a great force of Minneconjoux. The few who escaped rushed
into the camp and told the people that the plain was actually covered
with Sioux. Then Yellow Cloud rallied his warriors for the defense of
the village.

"This is the work of that great Sioux medicine-man!" cried the
superstitious Pawnees, as they heard their foes yelling savagely on all
sides of the camp.

A few moments later the Sioux made their attack. Led by their famous war
chiefs, each tribe tried to outdo the others in recklessness and
bravery. They raced their ponies to the very border of the camp, and
quickly fought their way into the village. Then the panic-stricken
Pawnees fled before them in an effort to secure the ponies, and escape
into the protection of the night. The Sioux followed close on their
heels, however, and fought with a ferocity that knew neither fear nor
pity. It was Yellow Horse who overtook Standing Elk, the Pawnee
medicine-man, and killed him in a savage hand to hand encounter.

"Come, my brothers, these people have called us women; now we will show
them how to fight!" cried Wolf Robe, as he led his warriors into the
camp.

The Sioux were entirely successful, and it was not long before they
found themselves in possession of the village. Unable to beat back the
furious assault of their foes, the Pawnees had fled in wild disorder,
leaving most of their ponies and all their lodges in the hands of their
enemies. The Dacotahs pursued them far out on the plain, inflicting
still greater punishment, and taking many prisoners. Having made their
attack a complete surprise, their own losses were comparatively light,
and they were wild with joy over their splendid victory.

"Men of the Dacotah nation," cried Curly Horse, as the triumphant war
party gathered in the Pawnee camp, "I will tell you that we have done a
great thing. It is something to tell about. When the next sun comes, we
will start back to our people. We will bring them many ponies and many
prisoners. When our brothers see what we have done, they will say some
good things about us. Yes, they will sing about it a long time."



CHAPTER XX

THE CROWN OF EAGLE PLUMES


Some days later as the victorious war party approached the vast Sioux
encampment, where the Ogalalas had joined the Minneconjoux and the
Uncapapas, a great company of warriors galloped across the plain to meet
them. When they saw Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse, alive and unharmed, they
raced madly back toward the Ogalala lodges, shouting the good tidings at
the top of their voices.

"Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse are alive! Yes, they are coming with the
great war party!" cried the couriers.

The three camps were soon ringing with the welcome announcement, and the
people were thrown into a delirium of joy. The warriors immediately
began to beat the war drums, and sing their boastful songs of victory.
The women, too, shouted and sang, and the entire nation united in the
wild rejoicing.

The war party halted several bow-shots from the camps, and then Wolf
Robe and Yellow Horse rode toward the Ogalala camp. As they neared the
lodges, the people rushed out on the plain to welcome them. When old
Singing Wind saw Wolf Robe riding to meet her, she became delirious from
joy.

"You have come back; it is enough!" she cried, hysterically, as she ran
to meet him. "White Otter, my son, has kept his word. He has done what
he set out to do."

"Yes, he is a great man," declared Wolf Robe, as he dismounted to greet
Singing Wind.

Then the entire war party paraded around the border of the great
encampment. It was a wonderful spectacle, and the Dacotahs realized that
it might never be equalled. It was the first time that these powerful
tribes had combined in one vast war company, and the oldest man in the
nation could not recall having ever seen anything like it.

"Men of the Dacotahs, look at this thing a long time," cried Rain Crow,
the Minneconjoux medicine-man. "Many winters have passed over my head,
but I have never looked at anything like this. I do not believe I will
ever see so many great warriors together again. Look, Dacotahs, and keep
this great sight in your hearts. It is something to talk about as long
as you live."

The great host of Sioux fighting men circled slowly around the camp,
counting their coups and singing their war songs. They were led by the
famous chief, Curly Horse, who shared the honor of the victory with
White Otter, whom he invited to ride beside him. They were followed by
the sub-chiefs and warriors of the Minneconjoux tribe. Then came
Laughing Bird, and with him rode Little Raven, to whom the honor had
been accorded in recognition of his courage and loyalty. They were
followed by the great force of Uncapapas, men whose valor and
fearlessness made them the idols of the Dacotah nation. After them
followed Wolf Robe and Yellow Horse, with Sun Bird riding between them.
Their appearance was the signal for an enthusiastic demonstration from
the throng of spectators along the border of the camp. The Ogalala
fighting force had been sadly weakened in the two furious engagements
with, the Pawnees, and many famous warriors were missing from the
company. Still, these lion-hearted people sang their songs of triumph
with as much spirit as their more fortunate tribesmen.

After the Dacotahs had ridden about the camp, the prisoners and the
captured ponies were taken into the Minneconjoux village. Then the great
company of Sioux warriors rode out on the plain, and formed in a huge
square, with the three war chiefs and Rain Crow and Yellow Horse, the
medicine-men, in the center. Rain Crow lighted the sacred pipe and
smoked to the Great Mystery, to the earth, and to each of the four
winds. Then he passed the pipe to Yellow Horse, who repeated the
ceremony, and passed the pipe to Curly Horse. After each chief had
smoked, the pipe was returned to Rain Crow, who emptied it, and wrapped
it in the sacred medicine-bundle. Then Curly Horse addressed the
Dacotahs.

"My people, my heart is filled with brave thoughts," declared the
distinguished warrior, as he looked proudly upon the great throng of
stern Sioux fighting men. "We have won a great fight. We have brought
back many prisoners and many ponies. It is a great thing to tell about.
Our people have been very brave. Yes, those brave Ogalalas and those two
brave Minneconjoux who went to the Pawnee camp are great warriors. They
got those two great men out of the camp. It was a wonderful thing to do.
It makes me feel strong in my heart. Well, you will hear about it when
we sit together at the council-fire. Yes, you will hear about some brave
things. We will all camp together many days, and sing many songs about
this great fight. Now I will ask the great chief, Laughing Bird, to say
something. I have finished."

"Dacotahs, you have done a great thing," said Laughing Bird. "I have
been in many battles, but that fight was the greatest of them all. My
people fought very hard. But I must tell you that the great chief, Curly
Horse, is a good leader. His people did some big things. Yes, I must
tell you that Wolf Robe and his people were as brave as the bear. But
those fearless warriors who went to the Pawnee camp were the bravest of
all. When I think about it, I feel good in my heart. I am going to give
some ponies to those brave men before I go away. I see the great chief,
Wolf Robe, with us here. Well, I will ask him to tell you something."

The venerable war chief of the Ogalalas was greeted with shouts of
approval as he prepared to speak. It was some minutes before the noisy
ovation finally subsided. Then Wolf Robe began to talk.

"My brothers, you see me sitting on my pony, and you hear my voice," he
said. "Do you know how I come to be here? Well, I will tell you about
it. My brother, Curly Horse, and his people came to help me. They were
very brave. My brother, Laughing Bird, and his people came to help me.
They were very brave. My brother, Spotted Bear, and my people came to
help me. They were very brave. All those great warriors rode a long way
to get me out of that camp. But I must tell you that White Otter, and
Sun Bird, and Little Raven, and High Eagle, and Black Moccasin and
Little Wolf were the men who saved my life. Yes, they came to the edge
of the camp, and drove their arrows through the Pawnees. They made it
easy for us to run out of the village. I am going to ask those brave men
to ride out here in front of me."

As the heroic little company rode into the center of the square to meet
the chiefs, they received a stirring ovation from their tribesmen. As
they lined up before the Ogalala chief, he turned and spoke a few words
with his associates. Then he asked Yellow Horse to address the six
heroes.

"My brothers, you have heard some good words from Wolf Robe," he told
them. "Well, they are true. You have saved my life. You are very brave.
Three of you are young men. It was a great thing to do. Now I am going
to do something good. I am going to give three fast ponies to each of
you. I have finished."

"Well, you have heard Yellow Horse," said Wolf Robe. "Now I am going to
tell you something good. I am going to give Little Raven ten fast
ponies, because he is very young, and he has done a great thing. I am
going to give Sun Bird, and High Eagle, and Black Moccasin and Little
Wolf each five ponies because they have saved my life. Now, Dacotahs,
you must listen to what I am going to say. I am getting old. I have
fought in many battles. I have led my people to many victories. It is
enough. Pretty soon a young man must take my place. I have no son. But
the son of Standing Buffalo, who has gone on the Long Trail, is my
grandson. He has done some great things. He is as sly as the fox and as
brave as the bear. He has saved my life. He has done a great thing for
his people. Now I am going to take off this war bonnet. See, Dacotahs, I
am going to give it to my grandson, White Otter. He is brave enough to
wear it. He will lead the Ogalalas to many victories. I have spoken."

As he concluded his speech, the Ogalala war chief asked White Otter to
dismount. Then he, too, slid from his pony. For a moment or so the
battle-scarred veteran and the famous young warrior stood, clasping
hands. Then Wolf Robe smiled, and placed the coveted head-dress of eagle
plumes upon the lad's head. The Ogalalas sanctioned the deed with a
mighty shout of approval, and a moment afterward the entire company of
Dacotahs acclaimed the young leader with the nation's ringing war cry.



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


Italics indicated _like this_.

Small Caps are capitalized LIKE THIS.

The following misprints have been corrected:

  p.  10: "canght" corrected to "caught"
  p. 112: "seemd" corrected to "seemed"
  p. 227: quotation marks supplied before "You have done"

All other text retained as in original including words with multiple
spellings such as "Blackfeet and Black-feet", "hoofbeats and hoof-beats"
and "nightfall and night-fall."





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