Short Stories » The Challenge
The Challenge - Page 2 of 8
It was near the close of the moon of black cherries, when elk and antelope roam in great herds, and the bears are happiest, because it is their feasting- time. There was to be a friendly contest in the hunting. All agreed to use no weapon save the bow and arrows, although the "mysterious iron" and gunpowder had already been introduced. Furthermore, they agreed that no pony should be used in running down the game. Thus the rules which should govern the character of the hunt were all determined upon in advance, and the natural rivalry between the hunters was to be displayed in a fair and open trial of skill and endurance. It was well known that these five were all tried and mighty men beyond most of their fellows. This does not mean that they were large men ; on the contrary, none was much above the medium height, but they were exceptionally symmetrical and deep-chested.
On the second morning, the men scattered as usual, after selecting a camping-ground at which all would meet later in the day. Each hunter was attired in his lightest buck-skin leggings and a good running pair of moccasins, while only a quiver with the arrows and bows swung over his stalwart shoulders. All set out apparently in different directions, but they nevertheless kept a close watch upon one another, for the chief occasion of an Indian's mirth is his friend's mistakes or mishaps in the chase.
Flying Bee hastened along the upper ridges overlooking the plain. What! a great herd of elk grazing not far away! It was needful to get as close to them as possible in order to make a successful chase. He threw off all superfluous garments, tossed his quiver to one side, and took three arrows with the bow in his hand. He then crept up a ravine until he came within a short distance of the herd. As he cautiously raised his head for a survey, he saw a jack-rabbit's long ears a little way off, while a yearling antelope showed itself above the long grass to the left.
' Ugh, you may fool the elk, but you can't fool me!" he remarked as he smiled to himself.
Again, on the farther side, a fawn's head was turned in the direction of the herd.
"Ho, ho!" chuckled Flying Bee. "Where is the other?"
Just then, at his right, a little buffalo calf's head was pushed cautiously above a bunch of grass.
" Ugh, you are all here, are you? Then I will show you how to chase the elk."
He pulled a large bunch-weed and held it in front of him so that the elk could not see him for a moment. Then he ran forward rapidly under cover of the weed.
He had scarcely done this when Charging Bear emerged from the direction of the fawn display. Tawahinkpeota came forth from the antelope head, while Black Hawk and Antler rose up where the jack-rabbit and calf had lain. Bee disappeared in the midst of the fleeing herd, as he was a runner of exceptional swiftness. The great herd de- parted in a thunder of hoofs, and the five friends paused to smoke together and ex- change jokes before going to examine their game. Black Hawk, whose quarry had gone with the rest, carrying his arrows, was greatly disappointed, and he immediately became a butt for the wit and ridicule of the others.
'How is this, friend? Have the elk such a fear of the harmless jack-rabbit ? It seems that they did not give you a chance to make your swift arrows count."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Tawahinkpayota. " The elk people never knew before that a rabbit would venture to give them chase."