Title: Young Sioux Warrior Author: Francis Lynde Kroll Language: English
Use ctrl+f and type in the text below to find the chapter you wish to read.
- CHAPTER ONE
- CHAPTER TWO
- CHAPTER THREE
- CHAPTER FOUR
- CHAPTER FIVE
- CHAPTER SIX
- CHAPTER SEVEN
- CHAPTER EIGHT
- CHAPTER NINE
- CHAPTER TEN
- CHAPTER ELEVEN
Little Bear sat far back in the great wigwam. The warriors formed a circle around the council fire in front of him. Little Bear had listened to the long debate wishing he dared speak. Plainly two of the older warriors wanted this small hunting party to return to the main Sioux camp. He bent forward to listen as Big Buffalo, one of those two warriors, stood up to speak.
“It is foolish to stay longer.” Big Buffalo spoke slowly. “The Pawnees have driven the buffalo from our hunting grounds. Next they will attack this small party.”
The moment Big Buffalo sat down, Flying Arrow leaped to his feet.
“Let’s drive the Pawnees out,” he roared.
Little Bear had to clap his hands over his mouth to keep from shouting his approval. With deep disappointment he saw the heads around the circle shake in disagreement. Even the young warriors, whom he would have expected to approve Flying Arrow’s words, shook their heads. Little Bear’s eyes lighted with hope when he saw his grandfather, Great Bear, get to his feet.
“The Pawnees on the other side of the river are many,” Great Bear pointed out. “We are too few to attack them. We could send to the main camp for more warriors, but that would take long. Yet, if we are alert, we can get meat to take back to the main camp.”
When Great Bear sat down, Rain-Maker got to his feet.
“Great Bear spoke words of wisdom,” Rain-Maker agreed. “We can hunt buffalo on our way back to the main camp. We may get much meat.”
Little Bear looked expectantly at his grandfather. He knew this wasn’t the plan Great Bear had in his mind. The old warrior would never suggest they should run from the Pawnees. Little Bear expected Grandfather to jump up and angrily deny that this was his plan. But Grandfather made no move to get to his feet. Instead, he waited to give others a chance to speak.
“He meant we’d hunt buffalo here and not run from the Pawnees.” Little Bear was frightened when he realized he had spoken aloud.
He drew his blanket over his head and huddled down to make himself as small as possible. He wanted to stand up and dash out of the wigwam, but that would be still worse. A Sioux boy must wait and follow the warriors. He held himself quiet. He had spoken, in the warriors’ council without permission. He must stay and take his punishment.
“The small one with the big mouth has spoken truly.” Flying Arrow had stood and was talking. “Great Bear would not counsel us to run from the Pawnees.”
Little Bear hung his head in shame. He had been called “the small one with the big mouth.” He knew he deserved the name. It would not have seemed quite so bad if someone other than Flying Arrow had given it to him.
Nevertheless from then on, the discussion changed. There was no more talk of starting back to the main camp without meat. The warriors agreed the Pawnees were not likely to attack while the Sioux were on their own hunting grounds. They decided they would stay and hunt buffalo. When they had enough meat, they would start for the main camp. Even though they were sure the Pawnees would not attack, they decided they would have outriders, scouts, and sentinels on every hunting trip.
When the council was over, Great Bear was among the first to leave the council wigwam. Little Bear waited until every warrior had stepped through the flap before he left. As soon as he was out of the wigwam, he hurried to catch Grandfather. His hope that Grandfather would let him go with the warriors on tomorrow’s hunting trip made him forget he would be scolded for speaking in the council.
Great Bear reached his tepee before Little Bear caught up with him. The old warrior went into the tepee without stopping. Little Bear knew his grandfather would want to make medicine before tomorrow’s hunt. There was nothing he could do except wait outside until Grandfather came out.
Time dragged slowly. It seemed to Little Bear the sun had stopped in the western sky and wasn’t trying to sink to rest in the west. At last there was a faint rustle at the flap of the tepee. Little Bear looked up to see Great Bear step outside. For some time Great Bear stood looking silently at him.
“You spoke in the council today,” Great Bear said sternly. “It was a great honor to a boy to be allowed to enter the council tent with the warriors. Speaking without permission was poor repayment of an honor.”
“I know, Grandfather.” Little Bear spoke hesitantly with his eyes upon the ground. “I am ashamed.”
“You earned a new name. One which will be hard to live down.”
There was a hint of a smile in the old warrior’s eyes.
“I am ashamed,” Little Bear repeated.
Without another word Grandfather turned and reached inside the tepee. He straightened up with a bow in his hand.
“Tomorrow you will be twelve summers,” Great Bear told him. “It is time you learned to use a good Sioux bow. I made this for you.”
Little Bear took the bow Grandfather held out to him. He tried to find words to thank his grandfather, but there was a lump in his throat. For a terrible moment he thought he was going to cry. Any warrior in the Sioux camp would be proud to own a bow Great Bear had made. He held the bow towards his grandfather.
He tried to find words to thank his grandfather
“Keep it, Grandfather,” he said slowly, “until I earn the right to have it.”
“Nonsense.” Great Bear spoke sharply. “Even Sioux warriors make mistakes. The bow is yours. Tomorrow we shall have a lesson in its use.”
“Thank you, Grandfather.” Little Bear smiled happily. Then he understood the meaning of Grandfather’s words. “Tomorrow we shall have a lesson? Aren’t we going with the hunting party?”
“No.” Great Bear shook his head. “The Great Spirit warned me I should stay in camp. You and I and the two old ones will stay while the others hunt.”
The next morning Little Bear was up early. He carried his new bow as he went to watch the hunting party leave camp. By the time the hunters had ridden out of sight, Little Bear was feeling less disappointed. Grandfather was going to give him lessons in the use of the bow. That would be almost as good as the excitement of a buffalo hunt.
“First you and I will scout to the river to see if any Pawnees are near,” Great Bear told him.
Grandfather took two arrows from his quiver and handed them to Little Bear. As he followed his grandfather out of camp, Little Bear felt he was almost a warrior. As soon as they were out of camp, Great Bear moved as carefully as he could. At each step he made sure he didn’t tread on a stick that might snap under his foot. Little Bear followed carefully behind him, stepping in Grandfather’s tracks. Instead of following the most direct route to the river, Great Bear took advantage of all cover.
When they were near the river, Great Bear got to his hands and knees and then stretched out on his stomach. Little Bear needed no signal to follow his example. They inched forward until they were near the river’s bank. Here they lay silently watching the opposite bank for any sign of their enemies. A big ant crawled across Little Bear’s shoulders, but he made no move to brush it off. Slowly the sun climbed high in the sky, and yet Great Bear continued to watch. Finally he began to edge back from the river bank. They crawled back many paces before Great Bear got to his feet.
“The Pawnees must have moved upstream,” he decided.
Little Bear thought of the Sioux hunting party riding upstream on their own side of the river.
“Shouldn’t we warn our hunters?” he asked.
“If they have scouts ahead and a sentinel behind as we agreed,” Grandfather explained, “they can’t be surprised.”
When they were well back from the river, Great Bear stopped. He took Little Bear’s bow and aimed an arrow at a sapling about twenty paces away. Little Bear watched closely. Great Bear pulled the bow string back and let the arrow fly. There was a sharp thud as the arrow struck. It split the sapling in two. Grandfather handed the bow to Little Bear.
“Put an arrow in that sapling next to the one I hit,” he directed.
The other sapling was larger than the one Great Bear had hit. Little Bear had used a bow and arrow before. He had owned a small bow as long as he could remember. This large bow was better made than his small one and would shoot much straighter. He fitted an arrow to the string and aimed just as Grandfather had done. He fired for the sapling. The arrow whizzed past it.
“I missed,” he exclaimed disappointedly.
“That was close,” Grandfather encouraged him. “Let’s get the arrows and you can try again.”
It took some time to find the arrow Little Bear had shot. When they did find it, he started practicing again. Grandfather watched him and showed him better ways of holding the bow and taking aim. Although few of Little Bear’s arrows hit the sapling, most of them came close.
“Practice every time you have a chance,” Great Bear advised. “You are doing very well.”
The sun was almost straight overhead when they returned to camp. Little Bear wondered at Grandfather’s restlessness. Plainly he was worried about something. As soon as he had eaten, Little Bear started towards the meadow to see about their horses. The warriors had been sure no Pawnee would dare try to steal horses so near a Sioux camp and they had left no guards. Little Bear was sure the warriors were right, but he knew Grandfather would expect him to look anyway.
He climbed the low hill to the north of the camp. From the top of it he could look down into the small valley where the horses were grazing. He gave a little gasp of dismay. Great Bear’s best horse wasn’t with the rest of the herd. Little Bear felt a tremendous relief when a group of horses, standing close together, moved apart and he saw Great Bear’s horse was there after all. Next he turned his attention to a roan colt owned by Flying Arrow. The colt was not yet two summers old, but he was almost large enough to begin his training. Little Bear wanted to own that colt. It was going to grow into a fine horse, but Flying Arrow prized it highly, too. He would want a tremendous price for it.
“I’m going to find a way to own that horse,” Little Bear promised himself.
He turned back towards the camp. When he came within sight of their tepee, he saw that Grandfather was waiting for him. He increased his speed.
“The horses are all right, Grandfather,” he reported.
“Good.” Grandfather nodded. “I am glad you went to look at them without waiting to be told. A good warrior looks after his horse.”
Little Bear glowed with pleasure. Grandfather was quick to scold when he did wrong, but he was equally quick to praise when Little Bear did well.
Great Bear went into the tepee to rest. Little Bear sat outside to wait. He would have liked to take his bow and go hunting. However, Grandfather hadn’t told him to go. Perhaps it would be better to wait until Great Bear was ready to go with him.
He had sat in front of the tepee for some time when he became aware of a faint drumming sound. He listened carefully. The sound was too faint for him to be sure, but it did seem to be that of a horse ridden at full gallop. He stepped away from the tepee in order to hear better. Now the sound was quite plain.
Little Bear had heard no sound from the tepee, but there was Grandfather standing beside him. They had stood together for only a few breaths when the rider raced into view.
“It’s Flying Antelope,” Great Bear exclaimed.
It was Flying Antelope, one of the hunters, charging into camp as though the whole Pawnee nation were chasing him. The other two warriors who had stayed in camp came hurrying towards them as Flying Antelope pulled his horse to a sliding stop.
“The Pawnees have our hunting party cornered in Buffalo Trap Canyon,” Flying Antelope gasped. “I must ride to the main camp for help.”
“It is a long journey,” Great Bear protested. “Help will be too late.”
“It is my only chance,” Flying Antelope insisted.
Great Bear looked at the other two warriors. They shook their heads. They had no other plan to offer.
“Then you must have a fresh horse,” Great Bear decided. “Little Bear, bring one of my horses for Flying Antelope.”
Almost before Great Bear had finished speaking, Little Bear was racing up the hill towards the meadow where the horses were grazing. As soon as he crossed the hill, he slowed to a walk. He didn’t want to startle the horses. He gave a low, shrill whistle. His own horse raised its head. When Little Bear repeated the whistle, the horse started towards him. He noticed that Flying Arrow’s roan colt took a few steps towards him, and he thought how easily the colt could be trained.
In a moment Little Bear had mounted his own horse. It took him only a short time to catch one of Grandfather’s horses. Then, sure that Great Bear would want a horse for his own use, he caught another one.
As soon as Little Bear returned to camp, Flying Antelope mounted one of the horses and sped out of camp.
“He will be too late,” Great Bear said, shaking his head.
Little Bear watched silently as Grandfather moved restlessly about the camp. He seemed to be studying, trying to find some plan by which he could rescue the hunters from the Pawnees. Little Bear had decided he might as well take the horses back to the meadow when Grandfather spoke.
“Flying Antelope will be too late,” Great Bear repeated. “I will ride to Buffalo Trap Canyon. Perhaps I can find a plan to save our warriors.”
Little Bear waited, hoping Grandfather would tell him to come, too. But Great Bear mounted his horse without another word.
“Suppose you want to send a message back?” Little Bear asked. “You have no one to bring it, Grandfather.”
A brief smile touched the corners of Great Bear’s mouth.
“You were going to offer to go with me and be my messenger?” he asked. He shook his head. “It is too dangerous.”
“I am a Sioux.” Little Bear drew himself up proudly. “Many times you have told me, ‘A Sioux’s first duty is to his tribe.’”
Still Great Bear hesitated. At last he nodded.
“I can trust you to obey orders,” he agreed. “I will have you stay behind, as much out of danger as possible. I may need a messenger.”
Great Bear turned his horse to the west, and Little Bear followed him. Little Bear wanted to ride as fast as their horses could go. He was afraid the Pawnees might start an attack before he and Great Bear could get to Buffalo Trap Canyon. But Grandfather kept his horse at a steady, ground-eating lope. Despite his impatience, Little Bear knew Grandfather was right. When they reached the canyon, their horses would not be too tired to run.
He watched anxiously as the sun climbed across the sky. It seemed to Little Bear they must have ridden far enough to reach the place where the sun went to rest at night. At last Great Bear pulled his horse to a stop in a small valley.
“Buffalo Trap Canyon is not far ahead,” Grandfather explained. “You watch the horses. I will go to the top of the hill and see what is happening.”
“And if you need a messenger, Grandfather?” Little Bear asked.
“I am old and slow,” he admitted. “We might need speed. You follow me. If anything happens to me, you are to run to our horses and ride to our camp. You will wait there until help comes from the main camp.”
Great Bear led the way up the hill. Near the top he got on his hands and knees and crawled forward. Little Bear followed his lead. It was slow work as they had to be careful not to make the least sound. The top of the hill was flat with a few small trees scattered about. It was covered with thick, dry grass.
Now they had to be doubly careful. They had to get through the dry grass without making a sound and at the same time keep a sharp watch for enemies. The Pawnees might be careful enough to have a lookout on this hill. They edged forward to the rim of the hill. The last few yards they lay on the ground and wriggled forward like snakes. When Little Bear parted the grass and looked down, he could see a small valley with a little stream running through it. Across the stream a large party of Pawnees was waiting at the mouth of Buffalo Trap Canyon.
“That is the only way out of Buffalo Trap Canyon,” Great Bear whispered. “Our men can’t escape.”
“We must help them,” Little Bear whispered fiercely.
“What can two of us do against all those Pawnees?” Great Bear asked hopelessly.
“Perhaps we could give the Sioux war cry,” Little Bear suggested. “They might think a war party was coming to help our hunters.”
“The Pawnees aren’t very smart,” Great Bear answered, “but they are too smart to be fooled so easily.”
For a time they watched the Pawnees in silence. It soon became plain the Pawnees were ready to go into action. Whatever the two of them would try to do to save the hunters, they would have to do soon. There were four mounted warriors at the entrance to Buffalo Trap Canyon. Now one of them wheeled his horse and raced up to the main group of Pawnees. He waved his bow and shouted something to the other warriors. Immediately they began to gather their bows and equipment. They were ready to start their attack!
“This isn’t a very good plan,” Little Bear whispered, “but if I can get down this hill without being seen, it may work.”
Quickly he outlined his plan to Great Bear. He pointed out the tall grass next to the stream as he spoke. Great Bear looked where Little Bear pointed. He studied the hiding places the hillside offered. He turned his glance towards the Pawnees. They had hesitated and were talking together. At last Great Bear nodded.
“It might work,” he agreed. “Only I shall go and you will stay here.”
“That wouldn’t work, Grandfather,” Little Bear pointed out. “I am small. I can bend over and go rapidly. If the Pawnees see the grass moving, they will think I am some kind of animal. Besides, if I have to run, your bow will protect me.”
Great Bear hesitated for so long a time that Little Bear was sure he was not going to give his consent.
“We must try, Grandfather,” Little Bear insisted.
“Yes.” Grandfather nodded grimly. “You may be able to do it. Be sure your first arrow only scares a horse. As soon as you shoot, turn and run this way.”
Now that it was time for action, Little Bear was thoroughly frightened. He could feel his heart pounding against his ribs. It took all of the power of his will to force his legs to shove him forward across the rim of the hill. The top part of the slope was almost bare of grass. If a Pawnee warrior looked that way, he would be sure to see Little Bear. It seemed to Little Bear it took hours for him to wriggle forward until he was in grass high enough to cover him.
A bit farther on he came to grass high enough so that he could get on his hands and knees. Now he could go faster. As the grass bent in front of him, he was able to watch the Pawnees. One of them turned towards him. Little Bear came to a complete halt, holding his breath. The Pawnee took a step in his direction. Little Bear could see the warrior so plainly that it seemed impossible the warrior would fail to see him. Another warrior spoke to the one watching. The watcher turned towards the speaker. Little Bear let his breath out in a sigh of relief.
The warrior did not turn back towards Little Bear. With new hope Little Bear started forward. He kept his eyes on the Pawnees and was not able to watch where he put his hands and knees. Sharp stones cut into his hands and through his leggings. He saw the warriors were ready to start for their horses. He moved ahead more rapidly.
When he reached the grass at the side of the stream, he found it wasn’t as high as it had looked from the top of the hill. He didn’t dare stand erect. He fitted an arrow to his bow and, still kneeling, took careful aim. The Pawnees were moving towards their horses. They were sure to see the arrow and mark the spot from which it came. This first one had to be exactly right. There would be no chance to fire a second one. Little Bear drew the bow back and let the arrow fly.
It was an almost perfect shot. The arrow scraped across the back of one of the Pawnee horses, just enough to hurt and frighten it. The horse gave a squeal of terror and lunged forward. Instantly the whole herd of horses stampeded.
The Pawnees had seen the arrow almost the moment it left Little Bear’s bow. Two of them whirled towards him, drawing their bow strings back as they turned. One of them sent an arrow flying towards Little Bear, but before the other one could shoot, an arrow from the top of the hill knocked him to the ground.
For a moment the Pawnees were in complete confusion. Little Bear sent an arrow towards them and then slipped downstream in the tall grass. He moved so carefully that the Pawnees could not tell he had left his hiding place. Arrows struck where he had been hiding moments before. He lay quiet, hoping they would think that they had hit him.
He raised his head enough to get a look at the war party. Their leader had taken charge. He had called the mounted men from the entrance to Buffalo Trap Canyon and sent them after the horses. Two warriors were starting up the hill towards Great Bear and two more were coming towards Little Bear. The rest of the party were running to try to help recapture their horses.
Little Bear hesitated only a moment. He knew he would have no chance against two Pawnee warriors. If the Sioux warriors would come charging out of the canyon while the Pawnees were scattered, all of them could escape. But evidently the Pawnees had kept the hunters so far back in the canyon that they couldn’t see what was going on outside. Little Bear knew there was only one chance for him to escape. He leaped to his feet giving the Sioux war cry.
The two Pawnees, taken by surprise, hesitated. Little Bear turned and started running up the steep hill. He heard Great Bear echo the war cry. Then he gave all of his attention to escaping his pursuers. He ran in a zig-zag course to make it harder for them to hit him. He saw Great Bear stand and saw his arrow come whizzing by. There was a cry behind him. Great Bear had stopped one of the pursuers.
Little Bear risked a backward glance. Great Bear’s arrow had knocked down one of the Pawnees. The other warrior was bending over the one on the ground. The two warriors who had been going towards Great Bear had stopped. Both of them were sighting arrows towards Great Bear. Little Bear gave a warning cry, but Great Bear was too slow. Little Bear saw the Pawnee’s arrow strike and Great Bear crumple to the ground. Little Bear stopped and turned towards the Pawnees. But their leader had seen the danger of the Sioux hunters charging from the canyon. He was roaring orders at the Pawnee warriors. The two who had started towards Great Bear turned back. They went over and helped carry the warrior Great Bear had hit.
The Pawnees, who were afoot, formed a compact squad and moved away from the canyon mouth. At first they moved slowly, but when Little Bear again raised the Sioux war cry, they broke into a run. Little Bear didn’t wait to see if the hunters came out of the canyon to pursue the Pawnees. He turned and dashed up the hill to Great Bear.
As Little Bear ran up to him, Great Bear was just struggling to a sitting position. The Pawnee arrow had grazed the side of his head. It had made a deep cut in the skin, which was bleeding badly. Little Bear examined the cut quickly.
“I’m all right,” Great Bear assured him. “It just knocked me down.”
He got to his feet. Little Bear again gave the Sioux war cry, and Great Bear joined him. They saw a Sioux warrior carefully edge out of the entrance to the canyon. Both of them waved at the warrior. He saw them and returned the signal. Then he darted back into the canyon. A few minutes later the whole Sioux hunting party charged out of the canyon. They crossed the stream and raced towards Little Bear and his grandfather.
When the hunters were safely on top of the hill, all of them turned to look towards the Pawnees. It was plain that the stampeded horses had not yet been caught. A rider had come back to get the wounded warriors. The others were still plodding away from the canyon.
“They won’t be back,” Big Buffalo stated.
“What became of their horses?” Flying Arrow asked.
“Stampeded,” Great Bear answered. “Big Buffalo is right. By the time they catch their horses, they won’t want any more fighting.”
“You have saved our lives, Great Bear,” Flying Arrow said.
“Not I,” Great Bear answered quickly. “Little Bear stampeded their horses.”
Flying Arrow turned to Little Bear.
“In the council I said you had a big mouth.” He spoke slowly and gravely. “Now I say I was wrong. You shoot well. You have a strong right arm.”
There were grunts of approval from the other warriors. Flying Arrow held up his hand for silence.
“Since you have saved my life,” he went on, “I want to give you a present. I know you want my roan colt. He is yours.”
Little Bear gave a choked gasp of pleasure. He had the bow Grandfather had made for him and now the young horse he wanted. He searched his mind for words with which to thank Flying Arrow. His glance moved to his grandfather. Great Bear was watching him intently. There was some question in Grandfather’s sober eyes, but Little Bear couldn’t decide what it was. He wished he could ask Grandfather. Then he remembered something Great Bear had told him about when it was proper to accept gifts from friends. Slowly he turned towards Flying Arrow.
“I thank you.” He spoke as gravely as Flying Arrow had. “I cannot accept my friend’s horse for doing what any Sioux should do. But if my friend should care to give me something he has made with his own hands, I would treasure it.”
A chorus of approval ran around the circle of warriors. Little Bear saw the pleased look on Great Bear’s face. He heard one of the warriors say, “Spoken like a Sioux warrior.”
Flying Arrow smiled at him.
“Sometime I will repay you, Little Bear,” he promised. “I see Great Bear has made you a bow. Take this quiver I made. May it always hold arrows that fly true!”
Flying Arrow took his quiver from around his neck. He tied his arrows with a thong and handed the quiver to Little Bear. It was a beautiful piece of leather. On it, Flying Arrow had carved a warrior chasing a buffalo. He had worked the top with beads. As soon as Flying Arrow had handed Little Bear the quiver, each of the warriors selected his straightest arrow and put it in the quiver.
As Little Bear was trying to find the right words to express his thanks, Flying Arrow glanced towards Great Bear.
“We must have buffalo fat for Great Bear’s wound,” the warrior said. “Bring one of the fat young buffalo we killed.”
“That was a large party of Pawnees,” Rain-Maker reminded him. “They may come back to attack us.”
“I don’t believe they will,” Flying Arrow answered. “However, the wind is blowing from the north. When you get across the stream, set the grass afire. They will have to flee from a prairie fire.”
Rain-Maker and another young warrior mounted horses and rode towards Buffalo Trap Canyon. As soon as they were across the stream, they stopped and set the grass afire. Then they raced into the canyon to be out of the path of the fire. When they returned, they were carrying the meat they had taken from the carcass of a young buffalo. Some of the hunters had built a fire. While Flying Arrow tied buffalo fat across Great Bear’s wound, others cooked meat for their meal. Little Bear stood and watched the fire Rain-Maker and his companion had started. It had already burned across the valley below and was sweeping over the hill. Any Pawnees in front of it would have to run for their lives.
As soon as they had eaten, the hunters returned to Buffalo Trap Canyon. They removed the meat from the buffaloes they had slain, wrapped it in buffalo hides, and loaded it on the extra horses. When the party was ready to leave, two young warriors were sent ahead. They were to ride in front and stop any war party that might be coming from the main Sioux camp. There was no longer any danger from the Pawnees.
The sun was down and it was almost dark when the party rode into camp. The warriors dismounted and unloaded the meat from the pack horses. Then Little Bear drove all of the horses across the hill to the meadow. At the top of the hill he dismounted and let his own horse go with the others.
He hurried back to Grandfather’s tepee and crawled into his blankets. Soon he was fast asleep, dreaming he was training the roan colt Flying Arrow had wanted to give him.
Little Bear was out of the tepee the next morning before the sun had started up the eastern sky. Early as he was, Great Bear was already broiling buffalo steaks over a low fire.
“You are early this morning, Grandfather,” Little Bear greeted him.
“It seemed the Great Spirit was trying to warn me,” Great Bear explained. “He wouldn’t let me sleep. I feel there is danger.”
Little Bear had no thought of laughing at his grandfather. Many times Grandfather had thought the Great Spirit was trying to warn him of danger, and danger had appeared soon afterwards. No, if Great Bear was afraid of danger, danger must be near.
“Bring me a horse,” Great Bear ordered. “I’ll make a scouting trip before the others are ready to break camp.”
“Have our hunters decided to return to the main camp?” Little Bear asked.
“It is time for Old-Man-of-the-North to send snow,” Great Bear answered. “We will join the other Sioux and move with them to the winter camp.”
Little Bear opened his mouth to make a request, but thought better of it and remained silent. Grandfather noticed his hesitation.
“Bring your horse, too.” He smiled. “You may as well learn about scouting. Besides, you were a great help yesterday.”
Little Bear looked at the wound on the side of Great Bear’s head. Great Bear had removed the bandage. The wound had healed remarkably overnight and now seemed only a deep scratch.
“Your wound is healing well,” Little Bear said.
“It was just a scratch.” Great Bear snorted. “Off with you.”
Little Bear didn’t want Grandfather to change his mind about the scouting trip. He turned and hurried away towards the meadow. As usual, when he came within sight of the horses, Little Bear slowed to a walk. As he neared the herd, he gave that low whistle.
He knew at once something was wrong. He saw his own horse lift its head and look towards him. He repeated the whistle, still looking carefully at the herd. He was sure some of the horses were gone. He gave a gasp of dismay. Flying Arrow’s roan colt was gone. Impatiently he whistled again. His horse left the herd and trotted towards him. As he was waiting for his own horse, Little Bear saw the roan colt come out of the brush to the west and join the rest of the herd. At least it wasn’t gone.
He mounted his horse and rode into the herd. He had been right. Some of the horses were gone. Grandfather’s best buffalo horse, the black one, wasn’t there. Flying Arrow’s Blazed Face and some of the other horses were missing, too. He turned his horse and rode around the herd to the place where he had seen the colt coming out of the underbrush. There he found tracks leading from the meadow.
Little Bear was careful to keep his horse away from the trail the other horses had left. If the horses had been stolen, he wanted to leave all possible signs for the trackers to read. He followed the trail some distance, but he didn’t find the missing horses. He pulled his horse to a stop and sat motionless, trying to decide what to do. If the horses had merely wandered from the herd, the sooner he hunted for them, the easier it would be to find them. But it didn’t seem likely that a few of the horses had wandered off and the others remained. Far more likely the missing ones had been stolen. He should notify Great Bear and the other warriors at once.
He swung his horse around and rode back to the herd. It would save time if he brought the horses into camp for the warriors. He drove most of the herd ahead of him into camp. Grandfather and several other warriors heard him coming. They were waiting for him beside Great Bear’s tepee.
“Some of our horses were stolen during the night,” Little Bear reported.
“The Pawnees wouldn’t dare,” Red Cloud growled. “The horses have strayed away.”
“I hunted for them,” Little Bear explained. “Their trail showed they had gone fast. If they had strayed, they would have stopped often to graze.”
“The Pawnees had their lesson yesterday,” Red Cloud insisted. “They wouldn’t dare come back that close to our camp.”
“Others besides Pawnees like Sioux ponies,” Great Bear observed.
The warriors looked questioningly at Great Bear.
“Crows steal Sioux horses, too,” he explained.
Flying Arrow nodded excitedly. “Let’s follow their trail and get our horses back,” he exclaimed.
“It may not be so easy,” Great Bear warned. “Whoever stole our horses has a long start. Perhaps he was careful to leave a poor trail. Little Bear, take us to the trail.”
Little Bear led the way back to the place where he had found the trail. The other warriors waited while Great Bear got down and examined the tracks. He studied them carefully. At last he turned to the other warriors.
“It was a Crow,” he told them, “and only one. He got our horses soon after our camp went to sleep. He has almost a sun’s start on us, and you may be sure he will try to hide his trail as soon as he is away from our camp.”
“We must follow at once,” Flying Arrow insisted. “We won’t let him steal our horses.”
“Some of us must stay and guard the meat,” Red Cloud objected. “The chiefs will be expecting us to bring it to the main camp.”
“The chiefs will be angry if we delay the tribe’s start to winter camping grounds,” Limping Fox warned. “It will not be long until Old-Man-of-the-North sends snow flying.”
“Red Cloud and Limping Fox have spoken wisely,” Great Bear agreed. “We must take our meat to the main tribe at once, but I will not lose my horses to a thieving Crow. While the rest of you return to camp, I will go after the horses.”
“You should not go alone,” Flying Arrow protested. “I will go with you.”
“The chiefs put you in charge of this hunting party,” Great Bear reminded him. “You must return with it.”
“That is true,” Flying Arrow admitted. “Still, you should not go alone.”
“I will go with Grandfather,” Little Bear offered.
“Why of course,” Great Bear exclaimed. “I should have thought of that. Little Bear has proved himself dependable.”
None of the warriors offered a protest. If any of them thought a boy would be small help on so dangerous an errand, they didn’t say so. The party rode back into camp where Great Bear busied himself gathering the things they would take with them. When he had finished, there were only two small bundles.
“We can travel faster if we travel light,” he explained. “We will find our food as we need it.”
Despite their haste, the sun was almost overhead when they reached the trail again. Great Bear took the lead and Little Bear followed behind. They went rapidly, as whoever had stolen the horses had made no attempt to hide his trail. They had not gone far before Little Bear realized the trail was leading straight towards Buffalo Trap Canyon. He could see Grandfather was troubled because the trail was running so straight and was so well marked.
When they came to the stream that ran through the valley in front of the entrance to Buffalo Trap Canyon, Little Bear saw why Grandfather had been troubled by the plain trail. The trail led straight across the stream into the place where the grass had been burned off. Here it became a maze of criss-crossing tracks. Great Bear dismounted and carefully studied the marks. Little Bear jumped from his horse and looked, too. The tracks completely puzzled him.
“He led the horses in and out of the stream so that we wouldn’t know whether to look upstream or downstream for his trail,” Great Bear explained.
He led Little Bear along the trail upstream. There were many places where the horses had been led into the stream and back out again. They returned to the stream they had followed and went downstream. It was the same here. The horses had been led in and out of the water so many times it was impossible to tell whether they had finally gone upstream or down.
“He is clever,” Great Bear admitted grudgingly. “We shall have to search upstream and downstream to find which way he really went.”
Little Bear looked over the valley where yesterday’s fire had burned off the grass.
“Perhaps it wouldn’t make any difference whether he went upstream or downstream,” Little Bear suggested. “I think he would circle around and get on the trail the Pawnees made when they ran yesterday. He would think we couldn’t find his trail there.”
Great Bear gave him a surprised look.
“Very good,” he praised. “Of course that is what he would do. When we find the Pawnees’ trail, we shall find his, too.”
Where the fire had burned, it had covered all traces of the Pawnees’ tracks. But Great Bear judged the Pawnees would ride out of the path of the fire as quickly as possible. He led the way out of that valley and into the next one. The fire had burned over this one, too, but had not gone very high on the hills that formed the south boundary of it. Great Bear led the way in that direction.
Little Bear anxiously watched the sun. It was dropping to the ground rapidly. It seemed to be trying to hide its light so that they would have more trouble finding the Crow. From the time he and Great Bear had started on the trail, he had known they couldn’t find the horses before night. Still, he had hoped they could at least find the Pawnees’ trail before darkness fell. Suddenly Great Bear stopped his horse.
“Here is the Pawnee trail,” he pointed out. “The Crow didn’t ride along it here, but I think you are right. In the morning we shall find his trail, too.”
They rode across the next ridge of hills and down into another small valley. Here the grass was tall and a small spring gurgled up. Little Bear hobbled their horses while Grandfather got out cold meat for their supper.
“We’ll have no fire tonight,” Grandfather told him.
While they were eating, Grandfather explained to Little Bear that the Crow warrior must have seen the Sioux escape from the Pawnee trap. The Crow would know the Sioux would feel safe after the Pawnees had fled. He would guess they wouldn’t have a guard watching their horses. It would give him a good chance to make a raid.
“He would go towards the land of the setting sun, wouldn’t he?” Little Bear asked.
“He would circle around and get onto the Pawnees’ trail. He would follow it until he was sure we had given up trailing him. Then he would turn directly towards the land of the setting sun,” Great Bear judged.
As soon as he had finished eating, Little Bear rolled himself up in his buffalo robe and quickly fell asleep. He was awakened during the night by the sounds of the horses moving about. He sat up quickly. Then he remembered the horses were not used to hobbles. They were making so much noise because they were moving awkwardly. He rolled himself in his robe again and fell asleep.
Morning light was showing only faintly in the east when Grandfather awakened him. Little Bear rolled his robe into a bundle and tied it on his horse. He accepted the food Grandfather gave him and munched it as they rode towards the Pawnees’ trail. When they reached the trail, Grandfather rode to the left of it and motioned for Little Bear to ride to the right.
Little Bear would have liked to let his horse go racing along the trail. He was sure the Crow was speeding away with the stolen horses while they were following slowly, searching for his trail. But he knew they couldn’t find the Crow’s trail unless they went slowly. The farther they rode, the surer Little Bear became that his idea had been wrong. The Crow wouldn’t have circled that far before getting on the Pawnees’ trail. He looked across at Great Bear. How much farther would Grandfather ride before he gave up and turned back to search for the Crow’s trail at the stream?
Then Grandfather called to him softly. “Here’s where he rode into the Pawnees’ trail.”
Little Bear turned his horse to Grandfather’s side of the trail. The grass was bent down, and there were plain tracks where the rider had brought his horses into the trail. Grandfather dismounted and studied the tracks.
“One horse has a bad stone bruise,” he pointed out. “See how light the foot print is. That horse is limping.”
Little Bear dismounted and bent over the tracks. He could see that one hoof had not cut as deeply as the others.
“We should soon catch him,” he exclaimed.
“We have lost much time finding the trail,” Great Bear reminded him. “He is far ahead and today we must find game. Our food is gone.”
He smiled at Little Bear’s look of disappointment.
“Never fear,” he promised. “We will catch him and get our horses.”
Grandfather’s words warned Little Bear the chase was going to be much longer than they had planned. If there were hope of catching the thief before another sunrise, Grandfather wouldn’t stop to find food. He began to worry that a storm might erase the trail, or that the warrior would get back to the land of the Crows, where he would have friends to help him and it would be too dangerous for them to follow.
Now that they were sure they were on the trail of the Crow, Grandfather increased the pace to an easy lope. It was a pace the horses could keep up all day. It would carry them over a great distance. The Pawnees’ trail led almost due west so that there was no need to watch for a place where the Crow had left it. He was sure to stay on it as long as it went in that direction. The sun was almost straight overhead when they came to a small stream. Both Grandfather and Little Bear knelt and drank the clear, cool water. They let the horses drink their fill, too.
Grandfather and Little Bear sprawled in the sun while they allowed the horses to graze. Little Bear was very hungry, but he made no complaint.
“This afternoon we will get a buffalo,” Great Bear announced.
“Food will be good,” Little Bear agreed.
After a short rest, they started on the trail again. It led them across a shallow, sandy stream, wider than any they had crossed before. They had ridden about an hour after crossing the stream when the trail turned sharply to the left. Great Bear kept his horse to the right side of the trail and motioned for Little Bear to follow behind him. Both watched to the right. It was certain the Crow would not follow the trail far in this direction, and when he turned off, he would turn to the right and go west. After a time Great Bear slowed his horse to a walk.
“He wouldn’t have followed the Pawnees’ trail much farther,” Grandfather said uneasily. “We must be sure we don’t lose his trail. If we do, we’ll lose more time.”
Both of them watched the trail carefully. The grass on both sides was tall and dry. Five or six horses, turning out of the trail, would leave a track that could easily be seen. Yet they went on and on without finding a sign that any horses had turned out of the trail. Finally Great Bear stopped his horse and dismounted. He bent over the trail and studied it carefully.
“There is no sign of a limping horse,” he said.
“The warrior could have the lame horse at the front of the line so that the others would walk over his tracks and hide them,” Little Bear suggested.
“He could,” Great Bear agreed, “but I don’t think he would. He’s probably sure no one is following him and the lame horse would travel better at the end of the line.”
“Grandfather,” Little Bear exclaimed in dismay. “Do you remember that wide, sandy stream we crossed far back there?”
Little Bear almost had to laugh at the disappointed look on Great Bear’s face.
“Of course,” Great Bear moaned. “The stream is wide enough so that the Crow could lead his horses up it and hide his trail. That is where he turned off.”
He and Little Bear turned their horses back the way they had come. Now they rode at a headlong pace, as though trying to recapture the time they had lost. When they came to the river, Great Bear turned upstream. Both Grandfather and Little Bear rode slowly along the bank, watching for the place where the Crow had left the stream. They had gone so far that Little Bear was wondering if they had been wrong, when Grandfather stopped his horse and pointed. There was the trail the horses had left as the Crow brought them out of the water.
The plainly marked trail led straight west. No one could have hidden a trail made by several horses in that dry grass.
“It is nearing time for the sun to go to rest,” Grandfather said after they had followed the trail some distance. “We must get a buffalo for our food.”
Great Bear kept a careful watch to each side. Little Bear was puzzled by the old warrior’s carefulness. Finally Great Bear stopped by a tree-lined stream.
“I have been watching for signs of buffalo,” Great Bear explained. “I am sure there are buffalo near. You gather wood while I go to the top of that hill to the north.”
Great Bear left his horse with Little Bear and set off on foot for the top of the hill. While Grandfather was gone, Little Bear searched for wood. He picked up only sticks which were thoroughly dry. These would make a hot fire, but would give off very little smoke or flame. An enemy would have to be close to find a fire built with such wood.
Great Bear soon returned.
“There is a big herd of buffalo in the valley across the hill,” he told Little Bear, “but I am afraid we don’t dare shoot one of them.”
“Why?” Little Bear asked anxiously.
“The hills to the north of the herd are high and steep,” Great Bear explained. “When we ride towards the herd, the buffaloes will run to the west. If they run far, their dust and noise will warn the Crow someone is following him.”
“Couldn’t we ride to the west and come towards the herd from that direction?” Little Bear suggested.
“Of course not,” Great Bear answered sharply. “The wind blows from that direction. The buffaloes would catch our scent long before we were near them.”
Little Bear was ashamed of the question he had asked. He should have remembered the wind would carry the scent of anyone to the west of the herd.
“I could ride to the setting sun and start the buffaloes running this way,” Little Bear proposed. “You could ride from this direction and shoot a buffalo for us.”
“That plan might work,” Grandfather agreed. “However, the one riding from the west would need to know how close he dared ride and how fast. Only an experienced hunter would know that.”
“Perhaps you could circle the herd and I could shoot a buffalo for us,” Little Bear suggested.
“It is our best chance,” Great Bear agreed. “We shall try it.”
Grandfather gave Little Bear careful instructions as to how long he should wait before crossing the hill and just how he was to shoot a buffalo when he rode into the herd.
“Shoot the first fat calf you can,” Great Bear instructed. “Then wait for me.”
After Grandfather had left to circle to the west of the herd, Little Bear checked his arrows. Two of them were not quite true. These he laid near the wood he had gathered for the fire. Then he mounted his horse and rode halfway up the hill. He dismounted and tied his horse to a shrub.
On foot, Little Bear went forward slowly and carefully. Halfway from his horse to the top of the hill, he dropped to his hands and knees and crawled forward. Near the top of the hill he lay on his stomach and squirmed ahead. When he reached the top of the hill, he slowly raised his head and looked into the valley below him.
It was a much larger valley than any they had crossed that day. The hill on which he was lying sloped gently down to the valley floor. There were so many buffaloes in the valley that trying to count them would be like trying to count the sands on a river bank. Many of the buffaloes were grazing. A few young ones were scuffling. Not far from Little Bear an old bull buffalo was rolling on the ground. There were many buffalo cows with calves at their sides. Little Bear picked out one large, fat calf as the one he would shoot for their food.
He waited patiently for the signs Great Bear had told him the buffaloes would make when they caught the first faint trace of man scent. He saw a cow, far out in the valley, lift her head and sniff to the west. Another cow did the same. This was the sign they were catching a trace of Great Bear’s scent. Little Bear slid back a few paces, jumped up, and ran to his horse.
Little Bear’s horse pulled excitedly at its rope. Grandfather had used that horse as his buffalo-hunting horse before he gave it to Little Bear. It had caught the scent of buffalo and was as excited about taking part in the chase as Little Bear was. The moment Little Bear untied the horse and jumped on its back, it sped off like an arrow shot from a bow.
When horse and rider charged over the hill, the bull buffalo that had been rolling on the ground scrambled awkwardly to his feet. The buffaloes nearest Little Bear pushed forward. In a matter of moments the whole herd was running. The cows and calves moved to the front while the bulls ran clumsily at the rear of the herd.
Little Bear spied the calf he had selected. By the pressure of his knees against the horse’s side, he guided it towards the calf. Two bulls, running side by side, were in the way. The horse raced straight towards them. The bulls floundered aside and the horse sped between them.
Nearer and nearer to the calf the racing horse carried its rider. Little Bear fixed an arrow to his bow. As his horse brought him alongside of the calf, Little Bear let the arrow fly. It struck the calf in the foreleg, but the calf didn’t even waver in its stride. Little Bear fitted another arrow to his bow. He pressed his knees tightly against the horse’s side and leaned far over towards the calf. He took careful aim for the spot just back of the calf’s foreleg, as Great Bear had told him to do. He drew the bow string back with all of his strength and let the arrow fly. It flew straight to the mark. The calf lunged forward and fell to the ground.
Little Bear pulled his excited horse to a stop and turned back to the calf. The buffaloes that had been behind swerved to the side and raced on. Little Bear saw the herd veer from the west and make for the steep hills at the north end of the valley. After a time Great Bear rode into sight from the west.
The buffaloes soon slowed their speed. Little Bear had heard warriors tell that buffaloes couldn’t see very far. This herd soon proved the truth of the warriors’ statement. As soon as the buffaloes had run far enough to lose Great Bear’s scent, they stopped. The plan had worked. Even if the buffalo herd was near the Crow who had stolen the Sioux horses, it had not run far enough to alarm him.
Grandfather pulled his horse to a stop beside Little Bear. He glanced down at the buffalo calf.
“Good,” he praised. “Not many hunters are able to get their first buffalo with only two arrows.”
Little Bear helped his grandfather skin and butcher the buffalo. Despite the fact that they wanted to travel light, Great Bear insisted that they save the buffalo hide.
“A hunter should save the hide of his first buffalo,” he said.
They returned to the spot they had selected for their camp. Great Bear examined the sticks Little Bear had collected for their fire. He nodded approval. He was very careful as he started the fire to make sure he didn’t put too much fuel on at once. He wanted no tell-tale smoke rising from the flames. He did so well that Little Bear could see no smoke rising from the fire when he was only a few paces away.
“Grandfather?” Little Bear questioned as they were eating their supper. “If we get Flying Arrow’s horses back for him, would it be right for me to accept the roan colt as a reward?”
“It would be.” Grandfather nodded. “The Sioux law is that horses which have been stolen and are not recovered within three days belong to whoever recaptures them later.”
“When we find that Crow,” Little Bear went on, “will you let me help recapture the horses?”
“You are anxious to have that roan colt, aren’t you?” Great Bear smiled.
“He will grow up to be a fine horse,” Little Bear replied. “Will you let me help capture the horses?”
“No matter which of us takes the horses,” Great Bear explained, “they will belong equally to each of us. Each is doing his part to get them.”
They sat together in silence as the fire died down. Little Bear was thinking of what a good horse he could train that roan colt to be. The horse he had now was the best trained in the whole Sioux camp, and it had been almost too old to train when Grandfather gave it to him. If he had the colt to train, he could do still better.
“The Great Spirit does not help us much,” Great Bear said after they had sat in silence for some time.
“The Crow has strong medicine,” Little Bear agreed. “His trail is hard to follow.”
“We are nearing the place of water-that-falls,” Great Bear told him. “If we are not near the Crow tomorrow when the sun sinks, we will turn aside. I shall go to the falls and listen for a message from the Great Spirit.”
“May I try to get a message from the Great Spirit, too?” Little Bear requested. “I should like to find medicine which will make sure that I get the roan colt.”
“You may try for a vision,” Great Bear agreed. “Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls may have a message for you. Now go to sleep. In the morning we start early.”
Obediently Little Bear curled up in his robe. The last thing he saw as he pulled the robe over his head was the hide of the buffalo he had shot. Grandfather had hung it over a large bush. Little Bear dropped off to sleep, dreaming he was mounted on a big roan horse and chasing the whole Crow tribe ahead of him.
The light of the tiny fire Great Bear had kindled awakened Little Bear the next morning. Grandfather had meat cooked for their meal. As soon as they had finished eating, Great Bear cooked all of the meat that was left.
“When we get near the Crow, we won’t dare start a fire,” he explained.
They lost little time getting started. Great Bear packed the cooked meat in one bundle and tied it on his horse. The buffalo hide was added to Little Bear’s pack. They pushed their horses as fast as they dared. Little Bear watched the trail left by the Crow. He was disappointed to see it was getting no fresher. Their enemy was traveling as fast as they were.
Their rest at noon was brief. When they started on again, Little Bear noticed Grandfather was constantly looking towards the northwest. As the afternoon wore on, the old warrior showed more and more anxiety. Little Bear noticed a bank of rain clouds in the northwest, but it was odd for Great Bear to worry about so small a thing as a soaking by a rainstorm.
“Why do the clouds trouble you, Grandfather?” Little Bear asked.
“I have the feeling of bad weather,” Great Bear replied. “These canyons are dangerous places when Old-Man-of-the-Sky dumps much water.”
They had left the wide flat valleys and were riding through narrow canyons with steep sides. There were many openings leading into these canyons. Little Bear wondered if Grandfather could find his way if there were no trail to follow. Probably he could. He seemed to know where they were. Little Bear had been thinking how easy it would be for the Crow to hide his horse in one of the canyons leading from the one they were in. He could wait for them and easily ambush them. He hadn’t thought at all of the danger of a heavy rain sending water roaring down the narrow canyon. Now that Grandfather had mentioned his fears, Little Bear remembered tales of warriors who had been caught in sudden floods and drowned.
He heard the faint roll of distant thunder. Soon the sound came nearer and became an almost continuous rumble. Little Bear saw a fork of lightning streak across the clouds.
“We must get to higher ground,” Great Bear warned. “Watch for a way out of this canyon.”
They urged their horses to a faster pace. The sound of thunder was no longer a distant rumble, but had become a crashing roar. Old-Man-of-the-Sky was throwing his lightning bolts all around them. Great Bear halted at a place where it seemed it might be possible for the horses to climb the canyon wall. He jumped from his horse and grabbed the halter rope. It was a steep slope and the ground was loose, giving the horse poor footing. With Great Bear pulling at the rope, the horse slowly struggled up the bank. Little Bear waited until Great Bear had his horse halfway up before he started to follow. Both horses slipped and struggled, but slowly fought their way ahead.
At last they came to a wide shelf on the side of the hill. It didn’t appear to be a very safe place. Little Bear wondered how much rain it would take to loosen the ledge from the side of the cliff and send it crashing to the bottom of the canyon. They had no choice except to stay. The walls of the canyon above them were so steep that they couldn’t go any higher.
The rain started with a few scattered drops which soon became a pounding downpour. Both Little Bear and Grandfather grabbed their buffalo robes and pulled them around their shoulders as they crouched against the side of the cliff. Little Bear could hear the thunderbolts, which Old-Man-of-the-Sky was throwing at the earth, crashing and bouncing back. There was the mounting roar of the wind around them.
The horses had moved about the ledge, looking for grass. As the wind rose, they, too, crowded against the cliff for shelter. Little Bear thought he could hear another roar mounting above the roar of the wind. Great Bear crouched forward in order to hear better.
“It is a wall of water going down the canyon,” Great Bear guessed, shouting to make his voice heard.
“Will it be this high?” Little Bear tried to keep the fear out of his voice.
“We can only wait and see,” Grandfather answered.
The storm had shut out the light so quickly that it was almost dark. Little Bear crouched despairingly against the cliff. He felt above his head in the hope he could find rough places which could be used as steps out of the canyon. The wall was smooth and water running down it made it slippery. If the water in the canyon rose to their shelf, there was no way of escape.
He couldn’t talk to Great Bear. The thundering, crashing roar of water was so loud he couldn’t have made himself heard if he had leaned close to Great Bear’s ear and shouted. The rain began to slacken, but the roar of water in the canyon grew louder. Little Bear knew that even if the rain stopped at once, the water in the canyon might still rise to their shelf.
He waited for what seemed hours. The rain decreased until there was only a light drizzle falling. Little Bear’s muscles ached from sitting in his cramped position. At last he could stand it no longer. Slowly he got to his feet. Sharp pains ran up and down his arms and legs, but as he continued to move around, the pains soon left. Was the deafening roar of water in the canyon decreasing? He waited, listening. He saw Great Bear raise his head in a listening attitude. Slowly Grandfather got to his feet.
“The water is going down,” Great Bear shouted.
It was true. Only a few minutes earlier he couldn’t have heard Grandfather shout. The roar of rushing water lessened rapidly. In a short time the sound was no more than what a small river would have made.
Not until his fear of rising water had completely disappeared did Little Bear realize how uncomfortable he was. He was wet through and thoroughly chilled. He had to clamp his jaws tight to keep his teeth from chattering.
As the downpour of rain had lessened into a drizzle, it had grown lighter, but it was only the light of evening. Soon it would be pitch-dark again.
“We must find fuel and build a fire,” Great Bear warned.
There were no trees on the small shelf. Finding wood appeared to be a hopeless task. Darkness fell rapidly, adding to their difficulties. Little Bear searched to the right and Grandfather to the left. Little Bear found a small clump of brush and a few dead branches. He got down on his hands and knees and groped around, but could find no more. He carried the few he had found back to the cliff. Great Bear had been more fortunate. He had brought back a large, dead limb.
“There must be more wood where I found this branch,” Great Bear said. “It must have blown from a tree at the top of the cliff. When we get a fire started, we may be able to find more.”
They had a hard time starting a fire. The branch Great Bear had found seemed to be soaked almost entirely through. Great Bear took his knife and peeled away the outer part of the limb. When he had whittled to a part of the limb that was almost dry, he had Little Bear hold his robe to shield the shavings from the rain. Grandfather whittled off a good-sized pile of shavings and then cut a few thicker pieces of wood.
When he thought he had enough shavings to start a fire, Great Bear laid aside his knife and picked up flint and steel. He struck them together. A spark fell on the pile of shavings and immediately went out. Great Bear moved the shavings about, trying to get drier ones to the top of the pile. He struck another spark, but again it died without lighting the shavings.
“These shavings aren’t dry enough,” Great Bear declared. “I’ll have to get drier shavings.”
He took up his knife and cut into the branch in another place. Little Bear’s arms were aching from holding the heavy buffalo robe. Great Bear whittled carefully until he had another pile of shavings ready. He struck flint to steel. A spark dropped on the shavings and went out. He struck again. Another spark fell, smouldered a moment, and blazed up in a tiny flame. Great Bear slowly added shavings and, as the flame leaped up, put thicker pieces on the fire.
“You won’t need to hold the robe over it now,” he told Little Bear.
Thankfully Little Bear laid the buffalo robe on the ground. He would have liked to sit down and rest, but they needed more fuel. As Great Bear slowly built up the fire, Little Bear started out to find more wood. The tiny fire gave little light. Yet when Little Bear was some distance from the fire and turned to face it, he could see better. He found two more small limbs.
As soon as Great Bear had the fire burning well enough so that he dared leave it, both of them went back and searched. In the darkness they had to move carefully for fear they would slip over the edge of the cliff. Although they searched carefully, they found only two small handfuls of wood. By the time they returned to the fire, the rain had stopped.
“We’ll dry our robes first,” Great Bear decided.
He set up some of the larger sticks to make a framework near the fire. They laid the robes over the framework. When the robes were dry, they removed their clothes, wrapped themselves in the robes, and hung their clothes on the framework to dry.
It was not until he was comfortably warm that Little Bear realized how hungry he was. He found the package of meat they had brought with them. While they were eating, Little Bear noticed how their tiny fire made a flickering light on the canyon wall.
“Won’t our enemies be able to see this fire a great distance?” he asked anxiously.
“No,” Great Bear assured him. “There are hills high above us in every direction. Besides, anyone caught in this rain would be as busy trying to get dry as we are.”
It was then that a terrible thought struck Little Bear. “The rain washed away the Crow’s trail,” he exclaimed.
“Yes,” Grandfather agreed sadly. “Now we won’t be able to track him. We may as well start for the winter camp in the morning.”
“We can’t give up,” Little Bear protested, thinking of that roan colt he hoped to own when he returned Flying Arrow’s other horses. “We must be near the Crow.”
“Very likely we are near him,” Great Bear agreed, “but this land is made up of many small canyons like the ones we came through. How are we to find the Crow?”
“You said we are near the place of water-that-falls,” Little Bear said thoughtfully. “Let’s go there before we give up. Perhaps Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls will guide us to our enemy.”
“All of the spirits seem to work for our enemy,” Great Bear pointed out. “Yet it might be a gift would win the help of Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls. But what do we have to offer as a gift?”
“We could make him a present of the buffalo hide,” Little Bear suggested. “He should like a present of the hide of my first buffalo.”
“That would be a fine present indeed.” Great Bear smiled. “We shall take it to him tomorrow.”
Little Bear wrapped himself in his robe and fell into a fitful sleep. He dreamed that he was climbing up and down steep canyon walls while a splendid roan horse was leaping across the canyons. The horse seemed never to run off and leave him, but always stayed just the width of one canyon ahead of him.
The sun was just climbing over the hill to the east when Little Bear awoke. There was an unusual stillness about the camp. He sat up with a puzzled look. A glance at Great Bear’s robe showed part of the reason for the stillness. Great Bear was still asleep. Little Bear crawled silently out of his robe and looked around. The horses were gone!
Into Little Bear’s mind flashed a picture of Grandfather and him, trudging afoot that long, weary journey to the main Sioux camp. He went over to the spot where the horses had been standing. He felt some relief when he wasn’t able to find any moccasin tracks. If the horses had strayed off, he might be able to catch them.
The horses’ tracks led to the edge of the shelf and down the steep bank. There were great furrows plowed in the soft mud where the horses had set their feet and slid down. Little Bear went slipping and sliding down the trail the horses had made. When he got to the bottom of the canyon, he found a small stream of water was still running. He noticed the horses had stopped to drink from the muddy stream. He glanced back at the side of the canyon. The high water mark was far above his head. He and Grandfather would have been swept away by the torrent if they hadn’t climbed out of it when they did.
He had no trouble following the horses’ tracks. The animals’ hooves had left deep marks in the wet ground. Nevertheless he was pleased to find the two horses grazing on some bunches of grass that had not been covered with mud. Since he was sure the horses would not stray far, Little Bear started back to camp. He had trouble climbing up the slippery bank, but finally got back to the shelf. Great Bear was crawling out of his robe as Little Bear returned.
“Where are the horses?” Great Bear demanded anxiously.
“They are grazing in the canyon,” Little Bear explained.
“If we can find wood, we will build a fire,” Great Bear decided. “There is small danger anyone will see the smoke.”
They searched the place where they had found wood for last night’s fire. There were only a few small sticks they had missed in the darkness. Great Bear whittled these into fine shavings. After many failures, he finally managed to get a fire started. The damp wood didn’t make a very good fire, but it did give off some heat.
“How far is it to the place of tumbling waters?” Little Bear asked.
“Not far,” Grandfather answered. “We should be there by the time the sun is straight overhead.”
The trip towards the place of tumbling waters was slow and tiresome. Great Bear had lost all hope of recapturing the stolen horses. Little Bear, too, was greatly discouraged. Unless Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls told one of them in a dream how to find the trail, the Crow was almost sure to escape. At first Little Bear took some pleasure from the thought that the Crow might have been caught in the flood. It would be good to have the Great Spirit get rid of one enemy. Then he remembered that if the Crow were drowned in a flood, the horses would be, too, and the thought was less pleasant.
Great Bear’s horse plodded slowly along with Little Bear’s following. There was a heavy carpeting of grass in the canyon, but the flood had so soaked the ground that the horses sank deep. The sun was almost straight overhead when they came out of the canyon onto higher ground. Here the footing was more solid and the horses moved faster.
“Are we getting near, Grandfather?” Little Bear asked.
“It will take longer than I expected,” Grandfather admitted. “Still, we should be there before dark.”
After following high ground for a time, Great Bear turned his horse to the left. The ground sloped to the south, and soon Little Bear saw they were nearing a river. Grandfather led the way along the bank of the stream. For some time Little Bear had thought he heard a roaring sound like that of the night before. Now there could be no doubt of it. It was the roar of rushing water. He wondered anxiously why Great Bear didn’t turn towards higher land so that they could escape this flood.
“We are near the place of tumbling waters,” Great Bear explained, stopping his horse. “We will turn the horses loose to graze while we go ahead on foot.”
Little Bear looked about the place where they had stopped. He saw a small stream winding through a clump of willows and emptying into the river. Great Bear led the way along the bank of this stream. As they went ahead, the roar increased steadily. Little Bear kept a watch on all sides, half expecting Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls, or some other spirit, to step out and stop them. Little Bear was carrying the skin of the buffalo he had shot, and he was ready to drop it and run if a spirit appeared.
They rounded a clump of trees and came into view of the waterfall. Little Bear stopped to look. High above them the water dropped over a rocky ledge and came cascading down to a pool below. Part way down, a huge boulder split the sheet of water into two separate sprays. Both sprays fell into one large pool and churned the water up as though there were an evil spirit stirring it.
Great Bear had to lean close to Little Bear’s ear to make himself heard above the roar of the falling water.
“You go behind that fall,” he directed, pointing to the fall at the left. “Behind it you will find a place that is almost dry. Lay the buffalo skin near the water where the Spirit will be sure to find it. Then sit down and wait for a vision. I will go behind this one. If the Spirit sends you a vision, be sure to ask how we can get our Sioux horses back.”
Little Bear nodded. He went to a narrow place below the pool and jumped to the other side. He went slowly and fearfully towards the roaring falls. If he had been alone, he would have turned back. He wondered how he could possibly get through that sheet of falling water to get behind it. But as he came closer, he saw that the water spurted out a considerable distance from the bank. He could walk to one side and get behind the falls.
Behind the falls the roar of water was not nearly so loud. Little Bear took the buffalo skin and carefully stretched it out near the falling water. There was a fine mist spraying upon him, but when he moved back near the bank, the spray no longer hit him. He found a large boulder where he could sit with his back against the wall. He held himself motionless, waiting for a visit from Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls.
He went slowly and fearfully towards the roaring falls
Perhaps it was because he was more than a little frightened at being there, or because it was all new and wonderful that he was alert and wide-awake. In all of the stories Grandfather and other warriors had told him of speaking with spirits, the warriors had always been asleep when the spirits appeared. Little Bear tried closing his eyes, but that did no good. He thought of getting up and walking around, but there was scarcely enough room behind the falls.
He noticed mud swallows were darting about behind the sheet of falling water. The small birds would light on the ground, dip their beaks in the mud, and fly high up on the face of the cliff. They never flew in a straight course, but always zig-zagged irregularly. Since he had nothing better to do and needed practice with his bow, Little Bear began to shoot at the darting birds. They flew so swiftly and darted so unexpectedly that he couldn’t hit any of them. He had shot his fifth arrow when suddenly a large warrior, mounted on a beautiful roan horse, rode out of the falls straight towards him. Little Bear knew at once this was Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls coming to visit him.
“I see you like my little birds,” the Spirit said in a rumbling voice.
Little Bear could find no words to answer him.
“I know you are here because a Crow warrior has stolen horses from your hunting party,” the Spirit went on. “You want to get them back so that your grandfather will have a good buffalo hunting horse and you can trade for a roan colt. You gave me a present. Come, I will show you how to get your horses.”
Little Bear got on the horse behind the Spirit and they rushed off towards the setting sun. They soon saw the Crow running ahead of them. They followed him through woods, across streams, and over rocky ground. Once they lost the Crow in a snowstorm. The wind blew the snow at them so hard that the Spirit and Little Bear had to get off and walk. They came upon the Crow again in a small canyon. He was scraping snow aside to make a place where he could build a fire.
“We can get the horses while he isn’t watching,” the Spirit said.
At that moment Little Bear woke up. He was still sitting on the rock behind the waterfall. He was cold, hungry, and bewildered. Had Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls shown him how to get their horses back, or was the whole adventure only a dream? Perhaps Grandfather could tell him. Little Bear gathered his arrows and stepped out from behind the waterfall. The sun had gone down and it was almost dark. Great Bear was waiting for him below the pool.
Little Bear jumped across the stream and joined his grandfather. Without a word Great Bear led the way back to their horses. Little Bear noticed Grandfather seemed even more discouraged and disturbed than when they had started for the falls. As he gathered wood for a fire, Little Bear became more worried, too. Probably he hadn’t had a message from the Spirit, but had only dreamed the whole thing.
“Did you get a message from Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls?” Grandfather asked as they were eating.
Little Bear told him what had happened. “Was it a message or only a dream, Grandfather?”
“I don’t know,” Great Bear answered sadly. “I, too, had a vision. All I saw was that we were going towards the land of the setting sun.”
Suddenly his face lighted up.
“Of course it is a message.” Great Bear gasped. “The Crow is going towards the setting sun. We shall find his trail again.”
The next morning they were up early. The sun had not yet risen over the hill when they mounted and rode off. They rode out of the valley and then turned west. Instead of having Little Bear follow as before, Great Bear had him ride well to the left. Both of them constantly searched the ground for signs of their enemy’s trail. They were so intent on watching for signs of a trail that neither of them noticed that birds were no longer flying up, ahead of them. They would have ridden straight on if Little Bear’s horse hadn’t tossed its head and come to a stop.
“There is something ahead,” Great Bear warned in a low voice. “Quick, get into that clump of brush.”
They put their horses behind a small clump of brush growing on the hillside. The clump was too small to make a good hiding place, but anyone coming from the other side of the hill would have to get to the top of the hill before he could see them there.
“What do you think is over there?” Little Bear whispered as they tied their horses.
“It must be that Crow warrior we are hunting,” Great Bear guessed. “Probably he had to make a circle after the flood. He must be just ahead. We will scout to the top and see.”
They crouched low and slowly worked their way to the top of the hill. At the top Little Bear had to choke back a gasp of surprise. A party of at least twenty Pawnees was riding into the glade on the other side of the hill. If Little Bear’s horse hadn’t given the warning, the two Sioux would have ridden straight into that Pawnee war party without a chance of escape. Even now the danger was great. The Pawnees were sure to send scouts to the top of the hill. Grandfather and Little Bear must move quickly to have a chance of escaping.
Careful to make no sound they crawled back. As soon as they were far enough down the hill, they got to their feet and hurried to the horses. They jumped on their horses and started back the way they had come. Little Bear would have liked to kick his horse with his heels and send it flying, but Grandfather led the way at a walk. Although the ground was soft from the heavy rain, the sound of running horses would carry across the hill to the Pawnees.
Great Bear turned his horse towards a coulee which cut into the hillside for some distance. Little Bear kept a constant watch towards the top of the hill. He and Grandfather were almost to the coulee when he saw the head feathers of a Pawnee warrior rising from the other side of the hill.
“Run for it, Grandfather,” he whispered urgently, but at that moment the head feathers disappeared.
The Pawnee had turned back before he had reached a point high enough so that he could see them.
“He turned back,” Little Bear called softly.
No other Pawnee appeared before Great Bear led the way into the coulee. When Little Bear and his grandfather dismounted, the banks of the coulee were almost high enough to conceal the horses. Great Bear motioned for Little Bear to take the halter ropes and lead the horses down the coulee. Great Bear leaned against the bank and watched towards the top of the hill.
“Wait,” Great Bear ordered. “Two warriors are coming over the hill.”
Little Bear stopped. He crouched low and held the lead ropes firmly so that the horses could not toss their heads. The Pawnees would be sure to investigate any movement in the coulee.
“They turned back.” Great Bear spoke in relief.
Little Bear got to his feet and started forward again.
“Here comes another one,” Great Bear whispered warningly.
Little Bear crouched and waited. He saw Great Bear fit an arrow to his bow. Little Bear waited tensely. If the warrior came only a short distance over the hill, he would be able to see into the coulee. Great Bear could pick him off with an arrow, but the Pawnee’s horse would be sure to bolt back to the Pawnee camp. Chance of escaping was fading rapidly.
“He turned back.” Great Bear breathed a great sigh of relief. “We’ll go ahead now.”
Little Bear led the horses while Grandfather stayed behind to watch for other Pawnees. The coulee deepened rapidly until soon Little Bear and the horses were well hidden. As soon as Little Bear had the horses in the deeper part of the coulee, Great Bear joined him. They pushed through the coulee until it opened into a small valley. Here Great Bear called a halt.
“It will be better for us to wait here until the sun sets,” he decided.
“I believe those are the Pawnees who had our hunting party trapped,” Little Bear said as they waited. “I thought I recognized some of the horses.”
“I’m sure it is the same party,” Great Bear agreed.
“We ought to punish them,” Little Bear suggested.
There was a hint of a smile at the corners of Great Bear’s mouth.
“And how do you think two of us are to punish twenty Pawnee warriors?” he asked.
“We could capture some of their horses,” Little Bear proposed.
Grandfather remained thoughtfully silent for a long time.
“It might be done,” he agreed finally, “although it would be dangerous. Pawnee war parties usually hobble their horses and keep them near camp.”
“Then there will be no sentry watching the horses,” Little Bear pointed out.
“We shall try,” Great Bear agreed. “I shall try to think of a plan that will work.”
While Great Bear was trying to think of a plan, Little Bear was thinking, too. He remembered how easily the Crow had made off with the Sioux horses, but those horses had been across a hill from camp. The Pawnees would have their horses near their camp. Besides, the horses would be hobbled. The hobbles would have to be removed before the horses could be taken and that would add much to the danger of the attempt.
“I believe I have a plan,” Great Bear said. “When the Pawnees are asleep, we shall approach their horses from this side. That way the horses will be between us and the Pawnee camp. There will be less danger of our being seen. Above all, we must be careful not to excite the horses. The Pawnees will be sure to investigate any unusual sounds.”
As soon as the sun had gone down, and before darkness closed in, they started off. As usual Great Bear led the way. The path he chose followed the valley in a winding course to the west.
“We should be directly south of their camp now,” Great Bear said as he halted. “This is a good place to leave our horses.”
They tied their horses and started north on foot. Their way led up a gently sloping hill, which divided their valley from the one in which the Pawnees were camped. By the time Little Bear and his grandfather had reached the top of the hill, darkness had closed around them.
The Pawnees had selected a good spot for their camp. It was in the middle of a saucer-like valley. There were a few scattered trees in the valley, but not enough to offer hiding for anyone trying to sneak up on the camp. The Pawnees had eaten their supper and were lounging about a big campfire. Little Bear could see large bundles lying at the edge of the firelight. He knew those were bundles of meat wrapped in buffalo hides.
“They are foolishly brave.” Great Bear grunted. “They have killed buffalo on Sioux hunting grounds, and now they have a big campfire, as though they were in their own land.”
“We will teach them to stay off Sioux hunting grounds,” Little Bear whispered fiercely.
The two lay and watched the camp. The north wind was chilly, making the campfire look inviting. As Great Bear had planned, the Pawnee horses were south of the camp. He and Little Bear wouldn’t have to circle the Pawnee camp to get to the horses.
It seemed to Little Bear the warriors would never roll up in their blankets and go to sleep. The campfire died down to glowing embers. Finally the last Pawnee warrior rolled up in his blankets. Little Bear started to crawl forward, but Grandfather reached out and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Wait,” Great Bear ordered. “Pawnees are sly.”
Little Bear waited impatiently. It would take a long time to crawl to those horses and still longer to untie hobbles and get away from the Pawnee camp. If he and Grandfather didn’t start soon, the sun would be up before they were out of the valley. Great Bear lay motionless, and in a moment Little Bear understood the wisdom of Grandfather’s caution. He saw a shadowy movement in the Pawnee camp. An ember in the dying fire broke and sent up a flame of light. In that light Little Bear saw a warrior crawl out of his blankets and start circling the herd of horses.
The warrior made a complete circuit of the herd. Sometimes he was hidden from view behind a horse or in its shadow, but at last Little Bear saw the warrior return to his blankets. Still Great Bear made no move to start towards the horses. After a time, another warrior left his blankets as the first one had done. It was so dark Little Bear couldn’t follow the warrior’s movements after he left the glow of the fire, but at last he saw that warrior complete his circuit and return to his blankets.
“Will they do that all night?” Little Bear whispered despairingly.
“No,” Great Bear reassured him. “But there will be one more and perhaps two.”
To Little Bear it seemed certain the night would be gone while he and Grandfather waited. At last he saw a shadowy movement that told him a third warrior was making a circuit of the herd.
“There may be another one,” Great Bear warned, “but we can wait no longer. Keep a sharp watch. We are starting.”
For some time they crawled forward side by side. When they reached a point about halfway to the horses, they separated as Great Bear had planned. Little Bear swerved to the left and Great Bear to the right. Little Bear inched forward until he was near enough to the horses so that the sounds they made would hide any little noise he made as he crept forward. He got to his hands and knees and moved more rapidly. Suddenly he flattened out and lay motionless. A few steps ahead, between him and the horses, a Pawnee warrior was circling the herd. Little Bear dared not cry out a warning to Grandfather.
Little Bear’s heart was thumping so loudly he was sure the Pawnee must come to investigate the sound. Even when the warrior moved on, Little Bear’s heart continued to race. The Pawnee might still discover Great Bear. The minutes dragged by with no unusual sounds until finally Little Bear was sure the warrior hadn’t seen Grandfather either.
Little Bear started forward again. When he was near enough to the horses so that they would hide him from the camp, he slowly got to his feet. The nearest horse snorted loudly and moved back awkwardly. Little Bear stood motionless until the horse again started to graze. Carefully Little Bear moved to the side of the horse. It tossed its head restlessly and then stood quietly.
Now Little Bear moved in front of the horse and knelt down. Quickly he unknotted the hobble ropes. He got to his feet and moved to the next horse. It reared back excitedly. Little Bear dared not take time to quiet an excited horse, and so he left it and stepped up beside another one. This horse scarcely raised its head as Little Bear stroked its side. He knelt and unhobbled it.
When Little Bear got to his feet again, he stood motionless, trying to see into the darkness. Any warrior making a circuit of the herd would be sure to spot horses moving without hobbles. He would investigate immediately. At last, satisfied there was no warrior near, Little Bear put his hand on the horse’s mane and guided it towards the other horse he had unhobbled. He kept the horse walking slowly so that its movements would not easily be seen by a watcher. At last he had the two unhobbled horses together.
Little Bear had thought that when he got the two horses together, the most dangerous part of the raid would be over. He saw now he had been wrong. The only way he could get his horses to the edge of the herd was to keep them moving side by side. He had to walk between them with a hand in the mane of each. Instead of staying close to other horses so that their movements would hide the movements of his horses, Little Bear had to find places where the horses were widely separated. At the edge of the herd, he stopped his horses and wiped the sweat from his brow.
He left the horses standing and scouted a short distance in the direction from which each of the Pawnees had come to circle the herd. He saw something move ahead of him. Little Bear waited until he was sure it was a Pawnee warrior. Then he carefully slipped back and stood between his two horses. He put a hand in the mane of each and held them quiet. The Pawnee warrior came close. One of the horses took a step forward, and Little Bear’s heart quit beating. But the Pawnee didn’t notice the horse wasn’t hobbled. He went on around the herd.
Little Bear waited for a long time after the warrior had passed. He would have liked to jump on the back of one of the horses and go racing away from the Pawnee camp. Still he obeyed Grandfather’s orders and waited silently. At last, sure the Pawnee warrior had returned to his blankets, Little Bear started his horses forward. Often he turned to look behind him. He saw two horses come out of the herd and start towards him. For a panic stricken moment he was sure it was a Pawnee warrior using the horses as a screen. He almost laughed aloud with relief when he realized it was Great Bear with the two horses he had captured.
Little Bear swung his horses to the right so that the four of them would be farther apart and not so noticeable. He no longer allowed his horses to stop and graze, but kept them moving. Slowly he came towards the top of the hill. Every moment he expected to hear an outcry from the camp below. He reached the top of the hill, and still there was no sound from the Pawnee camp. It seemed to take hours to cross the hill and get far enough down the other side to be out of sight of the camp, but at last it was done. The first part of their raid had been successful.
“We made it,” Little Bear gloated as Grandfather joined him beside their own horses.
“We aren’t away yet,” Great Bear reminded him. “The Pawnees will try to catch us.”
“How soon do you think they will miss the horses?” Little Bear asked.
“Not until morning,” Great Bear guessed. “We’d better start.”
“We will be a long way by morning,” Little Bear vowed.
“Not as far as I would like to be,” Great Bear warned. “We have to circle their camp and then go north. If they guess that is what we are doing, the Pawnees will take a short cut. They may be able to catch us.”
Grandfather and Little Bear each mounted his own horse and led the ones which he had captured. Once the captured horses were well away from the Pawnee camp, it would be easier to drive them, but now there was too much danger the horses would make a break for camp. It was so dark Little Bear wondered how Grandfather could find the way. Although they went slowly, they went steadily. They had gone a great distance before Great Bear turned north.
Little Bear judged they must be about straight west of the Pawnee camp when the first faint light showed in the east. Grandfather had been right. They were still too close to the Pawnee camp. If the Pawnees guessed the route he and Grandfather were taking, there was still grave danger. As it became light enough to see, Great Bear urged his horse to an easy lope.
They rode into a country which was even rougher than that behind them. There were narrow valleys surrounded by steep hills. Great Bear kept at an almost straight course, as though he were sure of the route they were to follow. Every time they started up a hill, Great Bear rode ahead. Then he would dismount and walk in front of his horse. At the top of each hill he would look back and make sure no Pawnees were in sight before he would signal Little Bear to bring the horses across the top of the hill. When the sun was straight overhead, Great Bear halted beside a small stream.
“We are safe now.” He smiled. “The Pawnees will not dare follow us farther into Sioux hunting grounds.”
Little Bear toppled off his horse and stretched out on the ground. He hadn’t believed anyone could get so tired riding a horse. Grandfather stretched out beside him.
“We have been successful enough that we can return to the main camp proudly,” Great Bear exclaimed happily.
“Aren’t we going to try to catch that Crow?” Little Bear asked.
Great Bear shook his head.
“You have two good horses,” he pointed out. “I am sure Flying Arrow will trade you the roan colt for either of them.”
“I suppose he will,” Little Bear agreed. “And you have two good horses, but I don’t believe either of them is as good as your buffalo horse the Crow took.”
“We should return to the main camp,” Great Bear insisted. “We have won a victory over the Pawnees. That is enough.”
Little Bear looked at the four captured horses. They were good horses. He and Grandfather had been lucky to pick out such good horses in the dark. Undoubtedly Flying Arrow would trade the roan colt for any one of the horses. Little Bear knew he and Grandfather could ride into the main Sioux camp in triumph. No other boy in the entire Sioux nation was the owner of three such fine horses. Yet it angered him to think of the Crow warrior going unpunished. The Pawnees had been punished for their attack on the Sioux hunting party. That Crow warrior should be taught it wasn’t safe to steal Sioux horses.
“Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls pointed out we could find the Crow if we went towards the setting sun,” Little Bear reminded his grandfather.
“He warned of snow,” Great Bear remembered, “and he said nothing of Pawnees. I think it was only a dream and no message from a spirit.”
“As you say, Grandfather,” Little Bear agreed, “although I think that Crow should be punished and I would like to have you get your buffalo horse back.”
Great Bear smiled proudly.
“Someday you will be a great chief, Little Bear,” he prophesied. “You have a ready tongue and the courage to do what your tongue suggests. We shall spend two more days trying to find the Crow’s trail.”
Since their supply of meat was almost all used, Great Bear decided he should get a buffalo. While Great Bear was gone, Little Bear busied himself around the camp. He took the ropes with which the Pawnee horses had been hobbled and spliced them to make two long ropes. The long ropes could be used to tie packs onto the backs of horses. He was just finishing when Grandfather returned to camp.
Grandfather had killed and butchered a fat buffalo cow. He had the meat tied in two large bundles, each bundle wrapped in half of the buffalo hide. They used one of the ropes Little Bear had spliced and tied the packs securely on the back of one of the captured horses.
“We shall ride west until time to make camp,” Great Bear decided. “Tomorrow we shall go south and west to see if we can find our enemy’s trail.”
As both of them were tired from the long, hard day’s ride, they stopped early to make camp. Great Bear selected a small valley in which there was a large grove of trees. Wood was plentiful and as they were so deep within Sioux territory, it was safe to build a fire. When the fire died down to embers, Great Bear roasted buffalo tongue over the coals. Little Bear gorged himself on the delicious meat.
They made an early start the next morning. It was a cloudy, damp day and Little Bear began to wonder if he had made a mistake, urging Grandfather to return to pursuit of the Crow. Spirit-of-Water-That-Falls had promised a victory over the Crow. But the Spirit had allowed a victory over the Pawnees. Perhaps one victory was all the Spirit intended for them to win.
“It looks as though the Great Spirit will send more rain to hide the Crow’s trail again,” Grandfather said, interrupting Little Bear’s thoughts.
“We must be getting near the Crow.” Little Bear spoke encouragingly.
“We should be,” Great Bear agreed. “After the big rain, the Crow must have seen signs of the Pawnees. He would lose much time hiding his trail from them.”
“We’ll catch him,” Little Bear insisted stoutly.
By noon, when they stopped to rest their horses and cook food for themselves, the rain Great Bear had expected began to fall. It was only a light mist, but a light breeze from the southeast drove it into their faces. Little Bear noticed Grandfather was constantly casting anxious glances towards the north.
“Why do you watch the north?” Little Bear asked.
“I am afraid Old-Man-of-the-North is getting ready to send snow,” Great Bear explained.
“Not this early,” Little Bear protested. “We have had no ice yet.”
“Sometimes Old-Man-of-the-North is unreasonable,” Great Bear answered. “It seems all of the spirits have been working to protect the Crow. I feel Old-Man-of-the-North is sending snow.”
“Then let’s lose no time,” Little Bear urged. “We must find the Crow’s trail before snow covers it.”
“We are now on Crow hunting grounds,” he said. “We cannot go much farther.”
When they started again, Little Bear took charge of the captured horses so that Grandfather could give all of his attention to looking for the Crow’s trail. The rain was becoming heavier, but it was warm rain. Great Bear’s fears that Old-Man-of-the-North was sending snow seemed foolish. Little Bear’s spirits rose. He knew Grandfather was sure they were near the Crow. Otherwise the old warrior would not take the time to follow so zig-zag a course. So Little Bear was not greatly surprised when Grandfather pulled his horse to a stop and triumphantly pointed to the ground.
“Here’s the Crow’s trail,” Great Bear announced.
Little Bear rode alongside. Both of them dismounted and studied the marks left by the horses.
“I don’t see a track made by the horse with a stone bruise,” Little Bear said doubtfully.
“He could be at the head of the string,” Great Bear pointed out, “or since the ground is soft from so much rain, the bruise may have healed quickly. I am sure this is the Crow’s trail.”
Little Bear knew Grandfather’s ability at reading signs on a trail too well to doubt his explanation.
“The trail is new,” Little Bear suggested. “The Crow cannot be far ahead.”
“You are learning to read trail signs.” Grandfather nodded approvingly. “We must go carefully so that the Crow will not know we are near. You stay behind with our horses. I will scout ahead.”
Little Bear waited until Grandfather was many paces ahead before he started with the horses. The trail followed the low lands where the Crow could travel easily. Evidently he was so sure no one was following him that he didn’t even stop on high ground to watch the trail behind him. Occasionally while Grandfather was carefully making his way to high ground to get a better look ahead, Little Bear would dismount and study the Crow’s trail. Even if Old-Man-of-the-North did send the snow Grandfather feared, the Crow wouldn’t escape. Grandfather was sure to lead a raid against the Crow’s camp tonight.
With a fire in front it made a comfortable shelter
Without warning the wind switched to the north. Strong gusts whipped rain into Little Bear’s face. It wasn’t long until the rain carried an icy sting and flakes of snow were floating among the rain drops. In a surprisingly short time the rain had completely changed to driving snow.
Grandfather waited for Little Bear in the shelter of a clump of trees.
“We must make camp,” Great Bear told him. “These early storms are often bad in this country.”
Little Bear jumped from his horse and quickly pulled the bundles off the pack horse. He turned the horses loose to graze before snow could cover the grass. Both he and Great Bear worked rapidly making camp. There were many dry branches under the trees. These they heaped in a pile for firewood.
They had just turned to the work of cutting green poles to use in building a lean-to shelter when the snow quit falling. The wind died down, and there was a rift in the clouds to the west letting the sun shine through.
“It’s over,” Little Bear exclaimed. “Now we can get back on the trail.”
“It’s only a lull,” Great Bear warned without stopping work. “It will be worse in a few minutes.”
Great Bear was proved right almost at once. The wind came up again, driving icy snow into their faces. The trees with their low branches offered some protection, but even here the swirling snow made it difficult for Little Bear and his grandfather to see. They worked as rapidly as possible. They drove two large poles into the ground and lashed a third pole to those two. Great Bear laid smaller poles with one end against the cross pole and the other on the ground. Little Bear helped pile branches against the poles until the shelter was completed. The finished shelter was a lean-to, closed to the north and open to the south.
Grandfather started a fire on the south side of the lean-to where some of the heat would reflect back into the shelter. Little Bear went to a near-by pine tree and broke off great armfuls of small branches. He shook the snow from these and piled them in the lean-to. He spread the buffalo robes over the branches. With a fire in front the lean-to made a comfortable shelter.
Great Bear took enough meat from one of the packs for a couple of meals. He rerolled the pack and hung it and the other pack of meat in a tree.
“Animals can’t get our food there,” he said.
Little Bear shivered as he thought of the kind of camp they would have had to make if the snow had caught them on the prairie. Out on the plains with no protection from the wind, it would have been almost impossible to make a camp and find fuel. Still Little Bear knew that if he hadn’t coaxed Grandfather to continue in pursuit of the Crow, the two of them might now be safe in the main Sioux camp.
“It is my fault Old-Man-of-the-North caught us here with his snow,” Little Bear admitted.
Great Bear looked at him thoughtfully.
“It doesn’t matter whether we are here or far to the north,” Great Bear answered. “Old-Man-of-the-North would have found us with his snow. The Crow has strong medicine. The spirits are protecting him.”
“Yet we are nearer to him than we have been before,” Little Bear pointed out. “He can’t run from us until the storm stops and then he will leave a plain trail.”
“That is true,” Great Bear agreed hopefully. “Perhaps his medicine is not as strong as I thought.”
For a time they sat in silence. The wind rose, and the drifting snow seemed to close them off from the rest of the world. If the storm continued this way much longer, drifts would be piled so high the horses would not be able to wade through them. A short time before, Little Bear had been eager to keep Great Bear searching for the Crow. The storm showed him they should start for the Sioux winter camp as soon as possible.
“Will the storm be over so we can start for camp tomorrow, Grandfather?” he asked.
Great Bear raised his eyes from the fire.
“Not tomorrow,” he replied. “Perhaps the day after. But we are not starting back without the horses that Crow stole from our herd.”
Little Bear gave him a surprised look.
“The Crow’s trail will be covered,” Little Bear protested.
“We may not need to find the trail,” Grandfather said thoughtfully. “Tell me about that dream you had at the place of water-that-falls.”
Little Bear related what seemed to have happened in his dream. Great Bear listened closely as his grandson told about the part where he and the warrior had ridden the roan horse and especially to the part where they had walked to the Crow’s camp during a snowstorm.
“It must have been a message.” Great Bear nodded at the end. “It is the very place the Crow would pick to camp until this storm is over.”
Little Bear began to take new hope.
“Do you have a plan, Grandfather?” he asked excitedly.
“If it is still snowing in the morning, we may be able to surprise the Crow and get the horses,” Great Bear said. “If it stops snowing before morning, we will get the horses tomorrow night.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to get them tonight?” Little Bear urged. “We know the Crow will be in camp now. In this storm he won’t expect a raid.”
“There are several reasons why we couldn’t get them tonight,” Great Bear pointed out. “It would be difficult to find our way. Besides, we might not be able to get the horses to move out of the valley in the dark and the storm.”
“How shall we be able to get them in daylight?” Little Bear wondered.
“I believe the place where the Crow is camped is a small canyon like Buffalo Trap Canyon,” Great Bear explained. “It has only one entrance and the Crow won’t be camped there. He will find a protected place behind some trees. The horses will be at the north end of the canyon where high cliffs will protect them. If we are careful, we may be able to get all of the Crow’s horses without his seeing us.”
“Tomorrow we will get the horses,” Little Bear vowed.
There was no sign of the storm’s lessening. To Little Bear it seemed the wind was blowing harder than before. As darkness deepened, the fire lighted up a space of only a few feet in each direction. Before he crawled into his buffalo robe, Great Bear rolled two large branches on the fire.
“These will hold fire until morning,” he said.
When Little Bear awoke the next morning, Grandfather was just getting up. Little Bear rolled over and lifted his head for a look out from the lean-to. Snow was still swirling in the air. It had drifted over the pile of wood and up near the fire. Parts of the two large branches Great Bear had put on the fire were still there, but the fire itself seemed to be out.
Great Bear went over to the fire. He tilted one of the pieces of wood up and blew against the charred end. Smoke began to curl from that end, and soon a blaze flamed up. Great Bear went to the wood pile. He brushed some of the snow away and drew some small branches from the bottom of the pile. He placed the small branches against the charred end of the wood and again blew on it. A flame leaped up, caught the small branches, and in a moment the fire was blazing cheerfully. Little Bear crawled out of his buffalo robe and stood beside the fire.
“I’ll see about our horses,” he offered.
He stepped away from the shelter and faced directly into the wind. Hard-driven snowflakes pelted his face. He could scarcely move forward. By every small shrub there was a drift of loose snow through which he had to wallow. The strong wind drew the breath from his lungs so that he often had to stop and turn his back. When he got near the hills at the north end of the valley, the snow was deeper, but the wind hit him with less force.
Little Bear found the horses standing at the foot of the hills. They were huddled together with their heads pointing away from the wind. The grass was covered with deep snow drifts, but Little Bear knew the horses wouldn’t starve. When the animals got hungry, they would paw through the loose snow to the grass.
The trip back to camp was much easier. The wind shoved Little Bear forward, and he could see far enough ahead to avoid the deepest drifts.
“How are the horses?” Great Bear asked.
“They’re near some steep hills to the north,” Little Bear replied. “The hills protect them from the wind.”
“They’ll be all right until we get back,” Great Bear said.
“Isn’t there danger a mountain lion might kill some of them?” Little Bear wondered. “I have heard warriors tell of mountain lions attacking horses after a storm.”
“It has happened,” Grandfather agreed, “but usually only after a storm has lasted several days. There will be no danger before we get back.”
They ate the food Great Bear had cooked. When they had finished, he cooked more and made two small bundles of it. One he gave to Little Bear, and the other he kept himself. Great Bear stood for a long time looking at the buffalo robes.
“Why are you looking at our robes?” Little Bear asked.
“I am trying to decide whether or not we should take them with us,” Great Bear explained.
Little Bear thought of the drifts of loose snow through which he had waded on his way to look at the horses.
“They would make a heavy pack to carry through loose snow,” he protested.
“They would.” Great Bear nodded. “And yet, if we are delayed in the storm, they would save us much suffering.”
At last he made up his mind.
“We shall leave them,” he decided.
They gathered more wood and piled it near the lean-to. It took some time to find a large log to hold fire. Little Bear finally found one under a large tree. Together he and Grandfather dragged it to the fire and rolled it onto the coals.
“It will hold fire until we get back,” Great Bear stated.
Great Bear led the way from camp. He went directly west. As soon as the two of them stepped from behind the sheltering trees, the wind hit them with full fury. Snow pelted their faces so that they had to bend forward and walk with eyes squinted. The nearer they came to the base of the hills, the deeper the snow became. Their progress was painfully slow. They had not gone far through the deeper drifts when Great Bear turned his back to the wind and stopped to rest.
“I’ll take a turn at breaking trail,” Little Bear offered.
“All right,” Great Bear assented.
Little Bear stepped past his grandfather and began to plow through the loose snow. At every step the drifts were deeper. They hadn’t gone many paces when Little Bear had to stop to rest. Grandfather stepped past him and took the lead again. Thus, taking turns at breaking a path, they slowly moved forward. As they started up the slope, they found the drifts were not so deep. Halfway up the hill there was scarcely any snow at all.
While the snow was not as deep when they got higher, the wind hit them with greater force. The snow swirled around them until Little Bear wondered how Grandfather could find his way. If there were any landmarks, drifting snow hid them. Still Grandfather moved forward as surely as though he were following a marked trail.
By the time they reached the top of the hill, both of them were gasping for breath. They tramped down the snow in the next drift they came to and crouched down to rest. Out of reach of the wind they were almost comfortable. Little Bear dreaded starting again, but if they were to reach the Crow’s camp and get back before dark, they couldn’t lose much time.
When they started on again, they were on a flat plateau at the top of the hill. Here they felt the full force of the wind. However, there was an advantage, too. The wind had swept most of the snow away and walking was easier. They stopped only once while crossing the plateau. The wind bit through their clothes so that they were quickly chilled.
Great Bear led the way into another valley. Here the drifts were deep and walking was difficult. Little Bear thought with dread of another hill ahead of them. He wondered if he could climb it. He was so tired it seemed every step must be his last. Yet he followed without protest until Great Bear halted behind a clump of trees.
They tramped out another shelter in the loose snow and sank down to rest. Great Bear opened one of the packages of food. Little Bear had thought he was too tired to eat, but the food tasted surprisingly good. He felt much better after he had eaten and had rested a few minutes.
“If I have judged correctly,” Great Bear told him, “our enemy is camped in the next canyon. It is a narrow one with the only entrance from the south.”
“Shall we have to take the horses out that entrance?” Little Bear asked.
“It is the only way,” Great Bear replied. “We must use great care so that the Crow does not see nor hear us. He could easily ambush us at the entrance.”
“Do we go in through that entrance?” Little Bear wondered.
“It is the easiest way,” Great Bear pointed out. “Besides, we want to make sure the Crow isn’t camped near it.”
Rest and food had so completely restored Little Bear that he waited impatiently for Grandfather to start. Great Bear smiled at his impatience.
“This will be our last rest until we are back in our own camp,” he warned.
At last Great Bear started on. He led the way to the hills at the west side of the valley and there turned south. Despite deep snow Grandfather and Little Bear moved rapidly. The wind at their backs pushed them along. They kept close to the hills until there was an opening to the west. Here they again turned west. Now they had a steep hill protecting them from the wind. The hill was so high and steep that snow did not fall at its base. That left a bare path for the two Sioux to follow. In a short time they came to the end of the hill. There was an opening leading north. Great Bear stopped.
“This is the entrance to the canyon,” he pointed out. “We will go slowly. This canyon widens after a short distance. It will be safest for us to stay at the east side and follow that side to the north end. I am sure the horses will be at that end.”
“And the Crow?” Little Bear wondered.
“I hope he has made camp behind trees on the west side,” Great Bear responded. “It would be the best place for a camp. If I am right, we can get to the horses without the Crow’s seeing us.”
“He is our enemy,” Little Bear reminded his grandfather. “Perhaps we should hunt the Crow before we take the horses.”
Great Bear hesitated, but finally shook his head.
“It is what I should like to do,” he admitted, “but we can’t take the time. If I am wrong and he is not in this canyon, we shall scarcely have time to get back to our camp before dark.”
To follow Grandfather’s plan, they had to turn directly into the wind. It whistled through the narrow entrance to the canyon with such force they could hardly move ahead. They struggled ahead for a long time before the canyon widened and they changed their direction. Along the east edge of the canyon the snow was piled high. Again Little Bear alternated with his grandfather at the job of breaking trail.
The worst came when they turned straight north into the face of the wind. Either the strong wind or the deep snow would have made walking a difficult task. The two together made it almost impossible. Slowly Grandfather and Little Bear fought their way forward. At last they reached the hills which formed the north rim of the canyon. Little Bear was breaking trail. He turned west. Now he could go faster. The high hills broke the force of the wind and there was no snow close to the base of the cliffs.
“Go slowly,” Grandfather warned. “The Crow may be camped east of the horses.”
Little Bear nodded. He knew it would be easy to stumble into the Crow’s camp. He came to a sudden stop and held up his hand warningly.
“There are the horses,” he exclaimed.
Great Bear stepped up beside Little Bear to get a better look.
“We must go carefully,” Great Bear warned. “The Crow may be camped near his horses.”
Great Bear took the lead. He led the way out into the canyon away from the shelter of the cliffs. In the deep snow it would have been impossible for them to move swiftly. To the impatient Little Bear, it seemed they were scarcely moving at all. But, at last, they were beside the horses. Little Bear counted ten horses. So not only would he and Grandfather get back the horses the Crow had stolen from the Sioux, but they would get some of the Crow’s horses, too.
Grandfather and Little Bear had mapped their plans when they stopped to rest. Now both of them acted as they had agreed. Great Bear went to his own buffalo horse. He mounted and rode a few paces along the trail he and Little Bear had made. Little Bear went to one of the horses that had belonged to Flying Arrow. He climbed onto it and turned it towards the rear of the herd. The horse hung its head low and refused to move. Desperately Little Bear drummed his heels against the horse’s side until it finally started. Little Bear had to fight the horse all of the way, but finally got it to the rear of the herd.
Blowing snow almost hid Great Bear from sight where he was waiting ahead of the herd. He was watching Little Bear. As soon as he saw Little Bear was in place, Great Bear started. At first the herd was unwilling to move from its sheltered place. Little Bear crowded his horse towards the herd. The other horses hesitated, but finally started to follow Grandfather.
One horse broke from the herd and tried to turn back. Little Bear’s horse, which had been so reluctant to move before, suddenly darted aside. It got in front of the runaway horse and turned it back with the rest of the herd. Two other horses tried to break from the herd, but Little Bear’s horse was too quick for them. Once aroused, it seemed to enjoy keeping the other horses in line. The entire herd finally settled into line following Great Bear.
“We have done it,” Little Bear gloated to himself. “We have really punished that Crow. He will have to walk to the Crows’ winter camp.”
Little Bear had to stifle the triumphant Sioux war cry that welled up in his throat. The next moment he was struck a terrific blow on his left shoulder. The force of the blow spun him off his horse, headlong into the deep snow. He lay dazed, half choked by snow in his nose and mouth. He put his right hand to his shoulder. His shirt was badly torn and blood was running down his arm. He forced his fingers to feel the wound. It was deep, but not deep enough to cripple his arm. He flexed the fingers of his left hand. Although it hurt badly, he could move them.
After his first dazed fright, Little Bear regained control of himself. He knew what had happened. The Crow had seen him. While Little Bear was intent on driving the horses, the Crow had sneaked up on him and shot. If it had not been for snow and wind, the arrow would have struck Little Bear’s heart.
Little Bear’s horse had stopped and was standing with head hanging low. Little Bear could look under the horse in the direction from which the arrow had come. He could see no sign of the Crow. Little Bear waited, puzzled by the lack of movement. Suddenly it dawned upon him what plan the Crow would follow.
Little Bear got to his feet, putting his bow in his left hand. There was a sharp pain in his shoulder when he grasped the bow firmly, but he forced his fingers to hold it. With his right hand he fitted an arrow to the bowstring. He stepped around his horse. His guess had been right. The Crow had slipped ahead and was taking aim at Great Bear. Great Bear had sensed something was wrong. He had stopped his horse and was turning his head to look back at the herd of horses. His startled glance fell on the Crow.
Great Bear reached for his bow, but he didn’t have a chance. The Crow’s arrow was pointed straight at him. The Crow’s movements were deliberate. He was certain he had plenty of time, and he was making sure his first arrow got rid of his enemy. Hurriedly Little Bear brought up his bow. He had no time to take aim. He pulled the bowstring tight and let the arrow fly. The arrow struck the Crow a glancing blow along his arm and knocked the warrior’s bow out of his hand.
The Crow bent forward quickly to pick up his bow, but his left hand couldn’t grasp it. Great Bear swung his horse to face the Crow. Little Bear stepped forward, fitting another arrow to his bow. When the Crow realized his arm was so injured that he couldn’t use his bow, he straightened up. He stood with his injured arm hanging at his side and turned to face Great Bear.
Great Bear rode slowly towards the Crow. The warrior stood unflinchingly watching his enemy. Great Bear took careful aim. Still the Crow stood facing him. Little Bear came to a halt and watched in amazement.
“That Crow is as brave as a Sioux,” he admitted to himself admiringly and was sorry it was necessary to kill so brave an enemy.
At the last moment Great Bear swerved his horse aside and rode past the Crow. If his plan had been to torment the Crow into showing fear, it failed. The Crow stood as motionless as a wood carving.
Great Bear completed a circle and for the second time rode at the Crow. Little Bear was ashamed of his own urge to cry out for Grandfather to spare the warrior. The Crow was his enemy. He had stolen Sioux horses and shot at Little Bear. The Crow deserved to die, and yet it took all of Little Bear’s will power to force his eyes to watch the scene. The Crow faced Great Bear without a sign of fear. Great Bear stopped his horse a few paces from the warrior. He drew his bowstring taut and took careful aim. Then slowly he lowered his bow. Great Bear raised his right hand in the sign of peace. He untied the package of food from his belt and dropped it for the Crow. Then he turned his horse and rode back to the head of the herd.
Little Bear watched unbelievingly. He kept an arrow pointed at the Crow, ready in case of treachery. The Crow picked up the package of food and, with one hand, awkwardly knotted it to his belt. Without another look towards Grandfather and Little Bear, the Crow turned and started away.
Little Bear climbed back onto his horse. As there was no longer any need to avoid the Crow, Great Bear turned off the trail and led the way directly towards the canyon entrance. The snow was not so deep in the middle of the canyon, and Grandfather was able to set a faster pace. Little Bear could feel blood oozing from his wound. It hurt badly, but he gave no sign.
The struggle back to camp in the swirling snow was a blur in Little Bear’s mind. His horse kept the unwilling herd following Great Bear. Little Bear used all his remaining strength to cling to his horse’s back. It seemed to him he had been riding for hours by the time Grandfather halted in front of the lean-to. Little Bear slid awkwardly from his horse and staggered to the shelter. He sprawled out on his buffalo robe.
Grandfather came hurrying anxiously back to the lean-to. He bent over Little Bear.
“You are wounded,” he exclaimed angrily. “I should have killed that Crow.”
“He was too brave,” Little Bear murmured and fell asleep.
Little Bear didn’t know how long he slept. When he awoke, it was dark except for the light of the campfire. The horses were gone. Little Bear guessed Grandfather had put them with their other horses. He could see Grandfather was cooking something over the fire.
Little Bear lifted his head to watch. He saw with relief that there were no flakes of snow drifting down into the fire. The storm was over. Grandfather glanced towards the lean-to.
“How is the shoulder?” Great Bear asked when he saw Little Bear was awake.
Little Bear felt of his shoulder. Grandfather had cut the shirt away and applied a poultice. The wound was sore, but the throbbing pain was gone.
“It is better,” Little Bear answered.
Grandfather came from the fire carrying something on a clean piece of bark. He bent over Little Bear and removed the poultice. Very gently Great Bear applied a new poultice.
“The soreness should be gone by morning,” he assured Little Bear.
Grandfather returned to the fire and began broiling the steaks he had cut. Little Bear’s mouth watered at the smell of cooking meat. He couldn’t remember ever having been so hungry before. Despite his hunger, when Grandfather offered him the first steak, Little Bear remembered his manners.
“You first, Grandfather,” he said.
“Wounded warriors are always fed first.” Great Bear smiled.
Little Bear felt a glow of pride. Grandfather had said “wounded warriors.” Had Grandfather meant to call him a warrior?
Little Bear was still puzzling over that question when he went to sleep. It was his first thought when he wakened the next morning. He sat up in his buffalo robe, happy to find his shoulder hardly pained at all.
There was no snow falling and the sky was clear. As soon as the sun was a short way up in the sky, it would start to melt the snow.
“Shall we start for home today?” Little Bear asked.
“If your wound is healed enough,” Great Bear answered.
Grandfather removed the poultice and examined the wound.
“You can travel,” he decided. “I’ll put a bandage on for safety.”
Little Bear went with Grandfather to get the horses. As the two of them approached the herd, Little Bear stopped to admire their horses. He and Grandfather together had sixteen good mounts, enough for a small hunting party. Grandfather watched Little Bear’s pleasure.
“You are rich.” Great Bear smiled. “Few warriors own that many ponies. You can pick a fine horse from this herd and it won’t matter whether you are able to buy Flying Arrow’s roan colt or not.”
“We have many good horses,” Little Bear agreed, “but I must have that roan colt.”
Little Bear and his grandfather each selected a horse to ride. They returned to camp, packed the meat they had left, and tied it on the back of one of the other horses. They turned out of the valley and rode northward. As much as possible Grandfather avoided the deep drifts. Despite his care, they rode through much deep snow and their progress was slow.
Although the sun shone warmly most of the day, the snow melted very little. Great Bear constantly looked to the northwest. Early in the afternoon he called a halt. He had chosen a small valley, well supplied with trees, for their camping place. Little Bear found a place where the horses could paw through the snow to grass.
“I saw you often looked to the northwest,” Little Bear said, as they sat by their campfire. “Are you afraid there will be more snow?”
“I am.” Great Bear nodded. “It doesn’t feel like snow weather, but we have been fortunate. The spirits have helped us. Some of them are sure to turn against us. I am afraid Old-Man-of-the-North will send another snowstorm.”
Despite Great Bear’s prediction the next morning dawned clear. He and Little Bear made an early start. In the country across which they were now traveling, the snow had not piled up so much. They were able to avoid most of the deep drifts. They went much farther that day than they did the first day.
“How long will it take us to reach the Sioux home camp?” Little Bear asked when they stopped for the night.
“If this weather holds, we shall be there in three more days,” Great Bear judged.
The next day was another clear, sunny day. Grandfather and Little Bear moved steadily ahead. When they had started, Great Bear had always ridden at the front of the herd. Little Bear was proud that now Grandfather often let him ride ahead. It was almost admitting he was a warrior.
When they camped that night, Grandfather was very pleased.
“With another day’s travel as good as this,” he exulted, “we’ll get home the following day even if Old-Man-of-the-North does send more snow.”
They moved as steadily ahead the next day as they had the day before. About the middle of the afternoon Little Bear was riding in the lead. He rode to the top of a small hill. In a wide valley just across the hill was a great herd of buffaloes. The herd was moving east. Since the wind was from the north, Little Bear’s scent was not carried to the buffaloes. He whirled his horse around and rode back to stop Grandfather and the horses.
“What is wrong?” Great Bear demanded anxiously.
“There is a great herd of buffalo just ahead of us,” Little Bear told him.
Great Bear dismounted and walked to the top of the hill. He soon returned.
“The herd is moving to the lowlands ahead of the snows,” Great Bear explained. “We can get all the meat our horses can carry.”
Little Bear’s eyes sparkled. He and Great Bear would ride into camp with a long string of captured horses. If they brought those horses in, loaded with meat, they surely would be heroes.
“Let’s get some buffaloes,” he urged.
Grandfather had been as excited as Little Bear. Now he hesitated.
“Riding into a big herd when it is on the move is dangerous,” he cautioned.
“I have killed a buffalo,” Little Bear reminded him.
“I know you have.” Great Bear’s voice snapped. “I know, too, the last time you visited a council, you were called boy-with-the-big-mouth.”
“I am sorry, Grandfather.” Little Bear hung his head. “I did not mean to boast.”
“You have done enough to make the warriors forget that other name.” Great Bear’s voice was softer. “Don’t boast and get it back. Remember, when you do great deeds, others will speak of them.”
“I will remember,” Little Bear promised.
“That is good,” Great Bear approved. “Now, let us make plans for our buffalo hunt. This time we want no calves; just young, fat cows.”
They sat together while Great Bear explained how they were to hunt buffaloes. When Great Bear had finished, he and Little Bear hobbled all of their horses except two. Little Bear started to mount the horse he had ridden when they took the horses from the Crow. Grandfather stopped him.
Little Bear picked out a young fat cow
“You will ride my buffalo horse,” Grandfather told him. “I have hunted more times than you. I want you to have a well-trained horse so that you will be sure to get two buffaloes.”
Buffaloes are nearsighted creatures, depending upon their sense of smell to warn them of danger. Since the wind was blowing from the herd towards the two hunters, they were able to get close before the buffaloes were aware of danger.
Little Bear picked out a young, fat cow and started his horse towards it. He gave his whole attention to his bow and arrows, depending upon his horse to bring him alongside of the buffalo. When he was beside the buffalo, Little Bear fired for the spot just back of the foreleg. The arrow struck a bone and glanced off. Little Bear took careful aim. This time the arrow struck just back of the buffalo’s foreleg and buried itself to the shaft. The buffalo took two stumbling steps before it fell.
Little Bear’s horse raced after another buffalo. The buffalo swerved farther into the herd and the horse followed. As the horse carried Little Bear alongside of the buffalo, some movement at the edge of the herd pushed the buffaloes close together. The one Little Bear was after was so close to him he couldn’t get a shot at a vital spot. He took a quick look over his shoulder. Two big bulls were crowding close behind his horse. He was surrounded by a sea of buffaloes. If his horse stumbled, there would be no escape.
Desperately Little Bear pressed his right knee against the side of his horse to try to force it away from the buffalo on that side. The horse tried to crowd over, but the close-packed buffaloes did not yield. Little Bear knew he had to get out of that herd. If a buffalo ahead of him stumbled, or his horse missed a step, he would be thrown under the herd and trampled to death. A cow, ahead of him and slightly to the left, did stumble to its knees. There was a momentary lessening of the pressure. The horse crowded to the left. Now Little Bear had enough room to try a shot at the buffalo he had been following. He fired an arrow and saw it sink in. The buffalo crumpled to the ground.
Instantly Little Bear’s horse moved over into the opening left by the slain buffalo. Before the herd could close together again, the horse was edging to the right. With the skill of a tightrope walker the horse worked its way through narrow openings towards the fringe of the herd. Time and again Little Bear thought his mount would be knocked down and both of them trampled underfoot, but each time the horse escaped.
At last the horse carried its rider out of the herd. Little Bear ran his hand across his wet brow. He was thankful Grandfather had insisted that he take this horse. No other horse could have carried him out of that herd.
When he had somewhat recovered, Little Bear looked around. Great Bear was busy butchering one of the buffaloes he had slaughtered. Little Bear rode back to help. He and his grandfather worked steadily until they had skinned and butchered all the five buffaloes they had killed. The sun had gone down by the time the task was finished.
Little Bear brought up the other horses while Grandfather put the meat in packs. They loaded the meat on the horses and rode on until they found a suitable place for a camp.
“Shall we reach the main camp tomorrow?” Little Bear asked, as he helped Grandfather prepare their camp.
“We can,” Great Bear assured him. “However, if we ride to a place near the camp and wait until morning, everyone in camp will see us come in with our fine string of horses and our big supply of meat.”
“That would be a way of boasting,” Little Bear objected.
Grandfather smiled. “It would be,” he agreed.
Little Bear was up before daylight the next morning. He built up the fire and, as soon as he saw Great Bear stirring, set off to get their horses. When he returned with them, Grandfather had food cooked.
“You are eager to start.” Grandfather smiled.
“I want to get back to the tribe.” Little Bear nodded.
Great Bear’s guess that Old-Man-of-the-North would send another snow before the main Sioux camp was reached was surely wrong. The sun climbed out of the east into a cloudless sky. Little Bear helped his grandfather pack the meat on the horses they had captured from the Pawnees and on the two Crow ponies. He wondered why Grandfather didn’t put some of the meat on the Sioux ponies, but Great Bear offered no explanation.
Each of them mounted the same horse he had ridden when the two of them left the Sioux hunting party. Little Bear knew this was done to call attention to the horses they had captured.
At times it seemed to Little Bear they were scarcely moving. Yet he knew they were going faster than on any other day since they had started towards the winter camp. There was little snow on the ground and no deep drifts. The horses seemed to sense the long journey was almost done. They pushed ahead rapidly with little urging.
Each time Little Bear looked at the string of horses, he wondered again why Great Bear hadn’t loaded any of the Sioux horses. Surely Grandfather didn’t intend to give the horses back to their former owners.
“You told me,” Little Bear began when they were stopped at noon, “that stolen Sioux horses not recaptured within three days belong to whoever takes them after that time.”
Great Bear glanced towards the string of horses.
“That is right.” He nodded.
“Then all of these horses belong to us,” Little Bear insisted.
“They do.” Great Bear nodded again. “However, when hunters or warriors return from a successful raid, they should give presents to the poor and to their friends.”
“We should give half of our meat to Lone Eagle’s widow and her children,” Little Bear suggested.
“That will be good.” Grandfather smiled. “Half of it is a generous gift. I am proud that you are generous.”
They were silent for some time. Little Bear had the odd feeling that Grandfather was not quite pleased with him. Grandfather had said that he was proud, but something was lacking.
“And our friends?” Grandfather asked after a time.
Little Bear looked towards the horses. He turned his eyes towards Grandfather, but the old warrior was looking off to the west.
“We must bring our friends some presents,” Little Bear agreed. “Do—do you think we should give the horses back to the men they were stolen from?”
“By Sioux law the horses are ours.” Great Bear spoke gravely. “This has been your first raid. You have played a warrior’s part. Now you must make a warrior’s decision. Whatever you decide we should do with the horses, we will do.”
While they were still some distance from the camp, Little Bear decided about the horses. The gift of half of the meat to the widow and her children was far more generous than anyone would expect. He and Grandfather could make presents for their friends. Flying Arrow might demand two horses for the roan colt or even three. Little Bear was determined the only horses with which he would part were the ones Flying Arrow would demand for the roan colt.
Long before Grandfather and Little Bear came within sight of the main Sioux camp, they could hear the dogs barking. Little Bear knew scouts would see Grandfather and him. There would be a delegation of warriors riding out to meet them. Great Bear wanted his grandson to ride ahead, but Little Bear refused.
“You are the leader,” Little Bear insisted. “You must lead into camp.”
As they rode around a high cliff and came in sight of the Sioux camp spread over a great valley, they saw a party of horsemen riding to meet them. Great Bear raised his voice in the victory chant, and Little Bear joined him.
The warriors circled the string of horses, gazing admiringly at them. Flying Arrow’s face lighted up when he saw the two horses he had lost. Little Bear heard the warriors praise Great Bear for his victory. It was strange that Grandfather didn’t tell the warriors Little Bear had helped win the victory. After the warriors had circled the captured horses several times, they formed a line on each side. Little Bear thrilled with pride as he and Grandfather were escorted into camp.
Before the party reached the first tepee, every boy in camp was following. Great Bear rode directly to the lodge of Lone Eagle’s widow. He stayed on his horse and waited. Little Bear ran forward and started unloading meat. There were exclamations of approval when he left half of the meat at the widow’s lodge. The procession moved on to Great Bear’s lodge. Here the rest of the meat was unloaded.
“I’ll take the horses to the corral, Grandfather,” Little Bear offered.
Grandfather hesitated. He seemed about to say something, but changed his mind. He nodded and turned away.
Little Bear declined the offers of help from the boys surrounding the horses. He rode slowly towards the corral. When he was near it, he hesitated for some time. Finally he made up his mind. He jumped from his horse, tied the halter rope up, and turned the horse into the corral. He did the same with Great Bear’s horse, the two that had belonged to the Crow and the four they had captured from the Pawnees. When he came to the Sioux horses he and Grandfather had taken from the Crow, he removed the halter from each before he put it in the corral. He carried the halters back to Great Bear’s tepee.
When Little Bear entered the tepee, Great Bear was gone.
“The warriors have called him to the council to tell of our adventure,” Little Bear thought to himself.
He stretched out on the buffalo robes to rest. His head had hardly touched the soft fur when a young warrior stuck his head inside the tepee.
“You are wanted at the council tent,” the warrior announced.
Little Bear scrambled excitedly to his feet. This was indeed a great honor. He wrapped a bright blanket around his shoulders and picked up the halters. He hid the halters under the blanket so that no one could see them.
At the council wigwam, the young warrior held the flap aside and politely waited for Little Bear to enter. Little Bear’s heart skipped a beat when Rain-Maker waved him to a place of honor beside Great Bear in the council circle.
There was a brief silence as Little Bear settled down beside his grandfather. At a signal from Rain-Maker, Great Bear got to his feet.
“It was a good raiding party.” Great Bear spoke slowly. “It is unseemly for a grandfather to boast of his grandson, yet often, when I would have turned back, like a true Sioux, Little Bear urged me to go on. Much of what we have done, we have done because he wouldn’t give up. He suggested the generous present for the widow. He will tell you of presents we plan for our friends.”
Great Bear sat down. Every eye in the council wigwam turned on Little Bear. He was frightened, but not too frightened to wonder how Grandfather had guessed about the presents. Grandfather would not have mentioned presents unless he was sure Little Bear had some for their friends. Then he understood. It was what Grandfather thought right. Great Bear had been so sure Little Bear would see and do the right thing that he had announced the presents without waiting to hear Little Bear’s plans.
Slowly Little Bear got to his feet. His eyes searched out the hunters who had lost horses to the Crow. To each of these he handed a halter.
“This is the halter of the horse a Crow stole from you,” he said to each warrior, as he held out a halter. “Your friends, Great Bear and I, are returning your horses to you.”
Flying Arrow was last. To him Little Bear handed two halters. There was a chorus of approval from the council as Little Bear sat down beside his grandfather. When Grandfather smiled proudly at him, Little Bear forgot he didn’t have any horses left that were good enough to trade for the roan colt.
Flying Arrow jumped to his feet.
“In many ways Little Bear has proved himself a warrior,” Flying Arrow said. “Twice he has done me a great service. I have a roan colt which I want to have belong to a good warrior. Since Little Bear has proved we are friends, he cannot refuse my gift.”
With all the warriors watching, Flying Arrow stepped in front of Little Bear. He drew a halter from under his blanket and held it towards Little Bear.
“My friend,” he said, “your roan colt is in the corral. You will train him to be the good horse of a good Sioux warrior.”
Little Bear hung his head. No one must see his eyes. He knew those tears stinging the backs of his eyelids were not warrior-like, but he was so happy he couldn’t stop them. He had been called a warrior and the roan colt was his!