Short Stories » The Gray Chieftain
The Gray Chieftain - Page 5 of 5
“They are trained to leap chasms on all-fours, and finally the upward jump, which is a more difficult feat. If the height is not great they can clear it neatly, but if it is too high for that they will catch the rocky ledge with their fore-feet and pull themselves up like a man.
' In assisting their young to gain upper terraces they show much ingenuity. I once saw them make a ladder of their bodies. The biggest ram stood braced against the steep wall as high as his body could reach, head placed between his fore-feet, while the next biggest one rode his hind parts, and so on until the little ones could walk upon their broad backs to the top. We know that all animals make their voung practise such feats as are necessary to their safety and advantage, and thus it is that these people are so well fitted to their peculiar mode of life.
' How often we are outwitted by the animals we hunt! The Great Mystery gives them this chance to save their lives by eluding the hunter, when they have no weapons of defence. The ewe has seen us, and she has doubtless warned all the clan of danger."
But there was one that she did not see. When the old chief left his clan to go to the secret place for chipping his horns, the place where many a past monarch of the Bad Lands has performed that painful operation, he did not intend to rejoin them immediately. It was customary with him at this time to seek solitude and sleep.
The two hunters found and carefully examined the tracks of the fleeing clan. The old ram was not among them. As they followed the trail along the terrace, they came to a leaping-place which did not appear to be generally used. Gray foot stopped and kneeled down to examine the ground below.
"Ho!" he exclaimed; "the old chief has gone down this trail but has not returned. He is lying down near his chipping-place, if there is no other outlet."
Both men leaped to the next terrace below, and followed the secret pass into a rocky amphitheatre, opening out from the terrace upon which they had first seen the old ram. Here he lay asleep.
Wacootay pulled an arrow from his quiver.
"Yes," said his friend. "Shoot now! A warrior is always a warrior and we are looking for horn for spoons."
The old chief awoke to behold the most dreaded hunter man upon the very thresh-old of his sanctuary. Wildly he sprang upward to gain the top of the cliff; but Wacootay was expert and quick in the use of his weapon. He had sent into his side a shaft that was deadly. The monarch's fore- hoofs caught the edge he struggled bravely for a moment, then fell limp to the rocky floor.
"He is dead. My friend, the noblest of chiefs is dead!" exclaimed Grayfoot, as he stood over him, in great 'admiration and respect for the gray chieftain.