The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins. — H. L. Mencken

With Lieutenant Pike - Edwin Sabin

On the Trail of the Spaniards

Early in the morning, before yet even the squaws were stirring, Scar Head slipped out to get the horse. He found it picketed near the river, just where Skidi had cleverly concealed it. He led it in and tied it short, before the lodge door. Then he crept back to bed again. It would be safe, for nobody would dare remove it from the limits of the chief's lodge.

The squaws were up first, of course, to start the fires and prepare the breakfasts. Charakterik's two wives, an old one and a young one, arose and went outside. Lying quiet Scar Head heard them talking.

"Someone has brought a horse "said the young squaw. "It is a Pawnee horse."

"That is queer," said the old squaw. "Who is making White Wolf such a present? This must be the horse that was stolen from the Americans.

"The thief has changed his heart, and grown afraid."

"Or else it is a marriage gift," giggled the young squaw "Someone is looking for a wife in our lodge."

"Who is there, to be married?" the old squaw demanded.

"We are the only women, so it must be that someone is in love with me," the young squaw giggled again.

"You!" scoffed the old squaw. "Who would look at you? You are not worth a horse. No; the horse offering is made for me."

And they both laughed. They knew better than to rouse Charakterik and tell him. Their business was to get the breakfast, and let him discover the horse, himself.

White Wolf and the American soldier were still snoozing upon their buffalo-robe couches. Pretty soon Scar Head could wait no longer. He went outside, yawning and rubbing his eyes, and pretended to be surprised by the horse.

"Whose horse is that?" he queried.

"Ask it, and maybe you will know more than we do."

"Who brought it?"

"That is none of our affair; nor of yours, either. It was here when we came out."

"It had not been here very long," added the young squaw, to the elder. "See? The ground is only little trampled."

"If you want to know where it came from," continued the old squaw, to Scar Head, "you should trail it back, instead of asking silly questions."

"Yes, and get into trouble. A gift is a gift, and not to be doubted," the young squaw added.

At this, Scar Head ran off, to the river, for his morning swim. When he returned, Chief Charakterik and the American soldier were up and out, too, and surveying the horse.

"Do you know where this horse came from?" White Wolf questioned, of his wives.

"No. It was here. That is all."

"The man who stole the horse from the Americans has returned it," declared White Wolf. "Good. Is this the horse you are waiting for?" he asked, of the soldier.

The soldier did not understand the words, but he understood the gesture. Now he smiled and replied in his own language—which nobody else understood. But he nodded and pointed to the horse and in the direction of the Americans; and they all understood that.

"After you have eaten, you may take the horse and go your way," White Wolf bade, well satisfied.

So the matter seemed to be settled; but somehow, Scar Head did not feel quite happy. The matter was settled too easily. In a few minutes the soldier would go; then all the Americans would be gone, and he himself would have lost them. In fact, he didn't seem to be getting much out of his scheme, except that he may have saved the soldier's scalp. Skidi would be angry, too, when he found out that the horse and soldier both had gone. Somebody would suffer—and Scar Head rather foresaw who that somebody might be! Skidi could make things very uncomfortable.

But before they were done eating, here came Skidi and several others, of the men, all furious.

"There is the horse," exclaimed Skidi. "And there is the red-haired white man. We are in time."

"What is all this shouting about?" reproved White Wolf. "This is no way to come to a chief's lodge."

"We come for a horse that has been stolen by that white man," Skidi boldly retorted. "There it is. We claim it."

"No. The horse belongs to the American chief. His soldier is here to get it. We talked about that yesterday. I will talk no more."

"I will talk, for I am a man," answered Skidi. "You let the white man eat at your fire and sleep in your lodge, and during the night he steals a horse. Are you a chief, that you close your eyes to such things? We ask for our horse, or else a large present."

"Whose horse is it?"

"It is a Pawnee horse, and that is enough."

"The horse was not here last night, but it was here early this morning," announced White Wolf. "The American did not go out and get it. I am sure of that. If he did, why should he have brought it here, if he had stolen it? He could have easily made off with it, and others. No; the thief who took the horse from the Americans has returned it, as is right. Let the man who claims to own the horse come forward. But I think there is nothing more to be said."

The soldier was sitting, in his stained blue clothes, and gazing around with a good-natured smile on his hairy face; but Scar Head could see that he was thinking fast, and ready to spring for the lodge and his gun.

"Are you going to send him away with the horse?"

"Who owns the horse?" White Wolf replied. "Why was it left at my lodge door if not for the American to take with him? Somebody had bad dreams, and went and got the horse, so that he might sleep."

"In that case, the man deserves a present," Skidi declared. "Let a present be given in exchange for the horse and the American may go."

"To whom shall the present be given?" White Wolf inquired.

"I will take the present, and give it to the man who owns the horse," said Skidi. "But of course if he has done this good deed he may wish to be secret about it, and if he is accused of having done an evil deed in the first place, he does not wish to be pointed at as a thief."

"The American chief sent no present. He only asked for a horse that had been taken from him. Here it is, left on the prairie at my door, and I give it back to him."

With that, Chief Charakterik stood and folded his robe around him, as sign that he was done. The soldier rose, also.

But the squad led by Skidi murmured angrily. Somebody reached to grasp the horse's neck rope

"No. Let him take it. He will not go far."

"There will be a red scalp, for a dance, to-night."

"The Americans will think the Pawnee are cowards, if all they need do is ask for a horse and get it."

"You talk like children," White Wolf reproved. "Who among you claims the horse? Nobody. Why was it left at my door, if not for me? Or did it come of itself? It is mine and I can do with it as I please."

"But the present! You will shame all the town if you, a great chief, yield this way to the Americans. There is no proof that they have lost a horse, and why should you give one up to them, for nothing? You have no right to give the horse away until you find out why it was left at your lodge. You should wait and find out. People do not leave horses at lodges without expecting something in return. I may have left the horse, myself; and I might look for a present. Where is the present?"

Thus Skidi cunningly argued.

"Yes, where is the present?" they all demanded. "You need not make it, yourself. You can ask it from the Americans. Or tell the soldier to go; and if he doesn't like to go alone, we will help him on his way."

Scar Head suddenly spoke up.

"The American can have the horse, White Wolf. I brought it, and I want no present."

Everybody gaped. White Wolf turned on him severely.

"You? You are a boy. Why do you say the American can have the horse? If you brought it, where did you get it?"

"I found it."

"Whose horse is it?"

"It belongs to the American chief. It is the one he lost."

"How do you know?"

"I know," said Scar Head. "It was hidden, but I went and got it."

"You lie! You are a meddler!" Skidi stormed, furious. "Wait till I lay my hands on you."

"I do not lie. I brought the horse, and I can show where I found it," Scar Head answered.

"That is boy's talk," appealed Skidi. "Look at him! He is no Pawnee, as everybody knows. He is not even an Indian. Who can believe what he says? Are warriors to be ruled by a boy? I demand a council, on this horse—and I will attend to that piece of impudence when I catch him away from the lodge."

Chief Charakterik hesitated. Attracted by the loud voice of Skidi the village was gathering; Iskatappe had come, and Old Knife, and other leading men who were unfriendly to the Americans; and Scar Head felt small. Now Skidi had called for a council; and between the council and Skidi the red-haired soldier and he himself were likely to fare rather badly. Charakterik, too, looked angry. Only the soldier stood smiling, backed against the lodge doorway, his gun in his hands.

But right in the midst of the crisis, somebody else arrived. It was Baroney, the interpreter for Chief Pike.

"Go into the lodge," ordered White Wolf, to Scar Head. "You have made bad work. I will talk with you later."

Scar Head went in, disgraced. Outside, the voices continued, with White Wolf, and Skidi, and Baroney doing most of the speaking, and Rich Man and Letalesha adding remarks.

After a short time they all quit. White Wolf entered, with Baroney and the soldier.

"You are going away," he said. "You may get your yellow pony and make ready."

"Where am I going?"

"With these two men, to the American camp. The horse matter is settled. The American chief has sent a present, for the horse. Everybody is satisfied. But you did a wrong thing, when you interfered in men's affairs. Why did you do that?"

"I like the Americans," Scar Head stammered.

"Yes," replied White Wolf. "What Skidi said is true. You are not red, you are white, and they all know it. You can never be an Indian. Now you have lost friends. The Pawnee will always look at you sideways, and Skidi is likely to harm you. So I g1Ve you to the American chief, to be rid of you before you are hurt. He asked me to send you away. If I keep you it may mean trouble for me also. Get your horse. These two men are waiting."

His brain in a whirl, Scar Head hastened out, for his yellow pony. As he passed through the village, there were scowls and jeers, because now nobody respected him as the chief's son; but he did not care. He was an American, and these Pawnees were no longer his people. So he tried to walk fast, like an American, and pay no attention to the black looks and the slurs.

He rode back, on his pony. The two men were waiting, on their horses, with the other horse in tow. White Wolf's lodge received him kindly. His brother, White Wolf's real son, handed him a horn bow and otter-skin quiver of arrows.

"They are for you. Do not forget your brother."

The old squaw put new beaded moccasins upon his feet.

"They are for you. Do not forget your mother."

The young squaw clasped a silver bracelet upon his wrist.

"It is for you. Do not forget your sister."

White Wolf threw a white-tanned robe, soft and warm, from a young buffalo-cow, over his shoulders.

"Do not forget your father. You did wrong, but your heart was good. Remember that you have been a chief's son. Always bear yourself like a warrior. To a warrior, heat and cold and thirst and hunger are nothing. A brave man lives, while a coward dies. Now go."

"Come," said Baroney. The stocky soldier smiled brightly.

With never a backward glance they galloped out of the town, into the south and on.

Baroney began to lead. With the horse in tow, the soldier slackened, to ride alongside Scar Head. He grinned, and spoke.

"Hello," he said, again.

"H'lo," responded Scar Head.

The soldier rubbed his nose, as if figuring upon what to say next.

"American, you?" he queried.

Scar Head caught the word, and nodded. The soldier spoke farther, with another question.

"He asks your name," called back Baroney. "I will tell him. His name is Sparks. He is a good man. They are all good men. You will be happy with the Americans."

"Sparks!" That was a simple name and a good one, because it fitted. Fire might be his medicine; the stiff bright hairs of his face were the red sparks, shooting out.

The American chief had camped at only a short distance from the Pawnee town, waiting on peace or war. There were shouts of welcome, for Baroney and Sparks, and many curious gazes for Scar Head. He rode proudly, on his yellow pony, with his warrior's bow and arrows, his chief-beaded moccasins, his bracelet and his white cow-robe. He was no longer afraid of the Americans. Baroney took him on to Chief Pike, who was standing beside his saddled horse.

The camp lodges had been struck, the Americans were ready to march.

Baroney explained to the young chief. Chief Pike listened—he nodded, and spoke, and with a smile reached to shake Scar Head's hand. The medicine man also spoke, and smiled, and shook hands. The young second chief came and did the same. Then they got on their horses.

"It is well," said Baroney to Scar Head. "You will ride in front, with the chiefs."

"Where do we go?"

"We go to the mountains, and to find the Ietans."

Scar Head said nothing, to that. It was a long way, and the danger way, but he was with braves who seemed to feel no fears. They appeared to know what they were about.

Chief Pike shouted a command and led out. The second chief repeated the command, and turned in his saddle to see that it was obeyed; then he galloped to the fore. The two chiefs rode first, side by side. Baroney signed, and Scar Head found himself between Baroney and the medicine-man. Four Osages, still—Chief Pretty Bird, two warriors and a woman—followed. The American warriors trudged after, two by two, in a column, with the extra horses bearing packs.

The warriors numbered eighteen. It was a small party, for a great nation, when one remembered that the Spanish had sent several hundred and that the Padoucahs or Ietans (the Comanches) numbered thousands. The Osages of course need not be counted. The Pawnees thought little of Osages—a poor and miserable people.

The Spanish had left a very broad, plain trail. The Americans were following it, although it was an old trail and the Spanish chief had been gone several weeks. It stretched straight southward, toward the Kansas country, and the Padoucah and the Spanish country, beyond. If the young chief Pike followed far enough, in that direction, he would have need of all his medicine to get out again. But perhaps he would turn west, in time, and aim for the unknown mountains, many days' journey—although what he expected to find there, nobody might say.

It was the home of the Utahs, who warred upon plains people and were friendly to only the Spanish.

He was a bold man, this young Chief Pike.

The march southward continued all (lay, pursuing the trail, until when the sun was getting low and the shadows long a place was reached where the Spanish had camped.

Chief Pike examined the signs. The Spanish of Chief Melgares had camped in a circle. There were fifty-nine burnt spots, from campfires. Allowing six warriors to each fire, that counted up over three hundred and fifty. The grasses had been eaten off by the horses.

Chief Pike led his eighteen warriors on a little distance, and ordered camp for the night beside a fork of the river of the Kansas. Scar Head was well treated; the American medicine man or "doctor" eyed him a great deal, but did him no harm; the warrior Sparks grinned at hint, and beckoned to him, but he did not go. It was a cheerful camp, with the men singing and joking in their strange language.

He ate at the fire of the two chiefs and the medicine-man. They and Baroney the interpreter talked together. Soon after dark everybody went to bed, except the guards, and except Chief Pike, who sat up, in his lodge, making black marks on white leaves, by the fire of a sputtering white stick!

Scar Head rolled in his buffalo robe, at one side of the lodge; the couch for the medicine-man (who was already on it) and for the chief, was at the other side. He stayed awake as long as he could, watching lest the medicine-man should try to feel of the spot on his head, again; but he was tired, and before the chief had finished making marks, he fell asleep.