John Ermine of the Yellowstone

John Ermine of the Yellowstone by Frederic Remington Read Free Book Online

Book: John Ermine of the Yellowstone by Frederic Remington Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frederic Remington
their mothers’ milk. He was one of the tribal institutions, a matter of course; and while his body was denied them, his advice controlled in the council-lodges. His were the
words from God.
    Weasel was in the most tremendous frame of mind about this venture. He was divided between apprehension and acute curiosity. He had left his mother sobbing, and the drawn face of his father
served only to tighten his nerves. Why should the great man want to see White Weasel, who was only a herd-boy? Was it because his hair and his eyes were not the color of other boys’? He was
conscious of this difference. He knew the traders were often red and yellow like him, and not brown and black as the other people were. He did not understand the thing, however. No one had ever
said he was anything else than an Absaroke; he did not feel otherwise.
    Approaching the mountains, the travellers found the snow again, and climbed more slowly along the game-trails. They had blinded their path by following up a brook which made its way down a
coulée. No one left the road to Crooked-Bear’s den open to the prowling enemy. That was always understood. Hours of slow winding took them high up on the mountains, the snow growing
deeper and less trodden by wild animals, until they were among the pines. Making their way over fallen logs, around jagged boulders, and through dense thickets, they suddenly dropped into a small
wooded valley, then up to the foot of the towering terraces of bare rock, checkered with snow, where nothing came in winter, not even the bighorns.
    Soon Weasel could smell fire, then dogs barked in the woods up in front. Fire-Bear called loudly in deep, harsh Indian tones, and was answered by a man. Going forward, they came first to the
dogs—huge, bold creatures—bigger and different than any Weasel had ever seen. Then he made out the figure of a man, low in tone and softly massed against the snow, and beside him a
cabin made of logs set against the rock wall.
    This was Crooked-Bear. Weasel’s mind had ceased to act; only his blue eyes opened in perfect circles, seemed awake in him, and they were fixed on the man. The big dogs approached him
without barking—a bad sign with dogs. Weasel’s mind did not concern itself with dogs. In response to strange words from the white medicine-man they drew away. Weasel sat on his pony
while the older men dismounted and greeted Crooked-Bear. They did not shake hands—only “hat-wearers” did that. Why should an Indian warrior lose the use of his right hand for even
an instant? His hand was only for his wife and children and his knife.
    In response to the motion of his father’s hand, the boy slid off his pony. Taking him by the shoulder, the father drew him slowly toward Crooked-Bear until they were directly in each
other’s presence. Weasel’s eyes could open no farther. His whole training was that of an Indian. He would not have betrayed his feelings under any circumstances; he was also a boy, and
the occasion was to him so momentous that he was receiving impressions, not giving them. A great and abiding picture was fast etching itself on his brain; his spongelike child-mind drank up every
drop of the weird situation.
    He had seen a few white men in his life. He had not forgotten Virginia City, though terror had robbed him of his powers of observation during that ordeal. He had seen the traders at the post; he
had seen the few white or half-white men who lived with his people, but they were not like this one.
    The old man of the mountain was crooked as his name implied. He also suggested a bear. He looked rude even to the Indians. It seemed that Nature had laid her hands on his shoulder and telescoped
him together. He was humpbacked. His arms and legs were as other men’s are, though his shortened body made his hands fall to his knees.
    He was dressed in Indian buckskin, greased to a shine and bronzed by smoke. He leaned on a long breech-loading rifle, and carried a huge

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