Short Stories » The River People
The River People - Page 5 of 6
But Chapawee and Hezee were now very old. They occupied a pond to themselves. Both were half blind and toothless, but there were certain large weeds which were plentiful and afforded them delicious food. They remained in-doors a great deal of the time.
'Ho, koda!" was the greeting of two Indian men who appeared one day at the door of the old American Fur Company's store upon the Sioux reservation in Minnesota.
"How, Red Blanket! How, One Feather!" was the reply of the trader. "Isn't it about time for you people to start in on your fall trapping?"
" Yes, that is what we came for. We want traps, ammunition, and two spades on account. We have learned from the prairie Indians that the Big Sioux and its tributaries are full of beaver, otter, mink, and musk-rats. We shall go into that region for two months' hunting," said Red Blanket, speaking for the two. Both men were experienced trappers.
" We must strike the Pipestone Quarry and then follow down that stream to its mouth," remarked One Feather to his friend, after they had returned to camp with a load of goods that they had secured on credit, and had cut up some of the tobacco for smoking.
A few days later two solitary teepees stood on the shore of the pond, under the red cliffs of the Pipestone Quarry.
Red Blanket had gone down the stream to examine the signs. Toward evening, he came in with a large beaver on his shoulder.
" Koda, the stream is alive with beaver! I saw all of their dams and their houses, and many were out swimming without fear. They have not been disturbed in many years."
Soon both hunters emerged from their teepees heavily laden with traps, each man accompanied by his intelligent dog. They saw many fresh tracks of the inhabitants as they approached the beaver village. Their houses above ground were large and numerous, and their underground homes were as many, but the entrances were concealed by the water. The slides were still wet with recent plays.
" It is the home of their great chief," said Red Blanket, impressively. ' Friend, let us sit down and offer the pipe ! We must smoke to the beaver chief's spirit, that he may not cast an evil charm upon our hunting."
Both men sat down upon their crossed feet in the tall meadow-grass to carry out the familiar suggestion. One Feather pulled the leather tobacco-pouch from his hunting- belt, and filled the pipe. He held the mouth- piece to the four corners of the earth before handing it to his companion. As they smoked, their faces were serious, and ex- pressed the full dignity and importance they had given to their intended massacre of a harmless and wise people.
'Let us go down a little way," said One Feather, finally. "I want to see how far the dams extend, and if it is only one family or many."
When they reached the second dam, the pond contained very little sign of beaver. There were landing and feeding places, but apparently they were not much used. The water was very deep and clear. Beyond this pond were many fresh signs again. This raised a new question in the minds of the Red hunters. On the way back again, they stopped on the shore of this pond and smoked again, while they discussed why there was not much life there, when there was such fine, deep, clear water, and the dams in such perfect condition.