Read CHAPTER XII of Wolfville Nights, free online book, by Alfred Lewis, on

Bill Connors of the Osages.

“Nacherally, if you-all is frettin’ to hear about Injuns,” observed the Old Cattleman in reply to my latest request, “I better onfold how Osage Bill Connors gets his wife. Not that thar’s trouble in roundin’ up this squaw; none whatever. She comes easy; all the same said tale elab’rates some of them savage customs you’re so cur’ous concernin’.”

My companion arose and kicked together the logs in the fireplace. This fireplace was one of the great room’s comforts as well as ornaments. The logs leaped into much accession of flame, and crackled into sparks, and these went gossiping up the mighty chimney, their little fiery voices making a low, soft roaring like the talk of bees.

“This chimley draws plenty successful,” commented my friend. “Which it almost breaks even with a chimley I constructs once in my log camp on the Upper Red. That Red River floo is a wonder! Draw? Son, it could draw four kyards an’ make a flush. But that camp of mine on the Upper Red is over eight thousand foot above the sea as I’m informed by a passel of surveyor sports who comes romancin’ through the hills with a spyglass on three pegs; an’ high altitoods allers proves a heap exileratin’ to a fire.

“But speakin’ of Bill Connors: In Wolfville which them days is the only part of my c’reer whereof I’m proud an’ reviews with onmixed satisfaction Doc Peets is, like you, inquis’tive touchin’ Injuns. Peets puts it up that some day he’s doo to write books about ’em. Which in off hours, an’ when we-all is more or less at leesure over our Valley Tan, Peets frequent comes explorin’ ’round for details. Shore, I imparts all I saveys about Bill Connors, an’ likewise sech other aborigines as lives in mem’ry; still, it shakes my estimates of Peets to find him eager over Injuns, they bein’ low an’ debasin’ as topics. I says as much to Peets.

“‘Never you-all mind about me,’ says Peets. ’I knows so much about white folks it comes mighty clost to makin’ me sick. I seeks tales of Injuns as a relief an’ to promote a average in favor of the species.’

“This Bill Connors’ is a good-lookin’ young buck when I cuts his trail; straight as a pine an’ strong an’ tireless as a bronco. It’s about six years after the philanthrofists ropes onto Bill an’ drags him off to a school. You-all onderstands about a philanthrofist one of these sports who’s allers improvin’ some party’s condition in a way the party who’s improved don’t like.

“‘A philanthrofist,’ says Colonel Sterett, one time when Dan Boggs demands the explanation at his hands; ’a philanthrofist is a gent who insists on you givin’ some other gent your money.’

“For myse’f, however, I regyards the Colonel’s definition as too narrow. Troo philanthrofy has a heap of things to it that’s jest as onreasonable an’ which does not incloode the fiscal teachers mentioned by the Colonel.

“As I’m sayin’; these well-meanin’ though darkened sports, the philanthrofists, runs Bill down it’s mebby when he’s fourteen, only Injuns don’t keep tab on their years none an’ immures him in one of the gov’ment schools. It’s thar Bill gets his name, ‘Bill Connors.’ Before that he cavorts about, free an’ wild an’ happy onder the Injun app’lation of the ‘Jack Rabbit.’

“Shore! Bill’s sire a savage who’s ‘way up in the picture kyards, an’ who’s called ‘Crooked Claw’ because of his left hand bein’ put out of line with a Ute arrow through it long ago gives his consent to Bill j’inin’ that sem’nary. Crooked Claw can’t he’p himse’f; he’s powerless; the Great Father in Washin’ton is backin’ the play of the philanthrofists.

“‘Which the Great Father is too many for Crooked Claw,’ says this parent, commentin’ on his helplessness. Bill’s gone canterin’ to his old gent to remonstrate, not hungerin’ for learnin’, an’ Crooked Claw says this to Bill: ‘The Great Father is too many for Crooked Claw; an’ too strong. You must go to school as the Great Father orders; it is right. The longest spear is right.’

“Bill is re-branded, ‘Bill Connors,’ an’ then he’s done bound down to them books. After four years Bill gradyooates; he’s got the limit an’ the philanthrofists takes Bill’s hobbles off an’ throws him loose with the idée that Bill will go back to his tribe folks an’ teach ’em to read. Bill comes back, shore, an’ is at once the Osage laughin’-stock for wearin’ pale-face clothes. Also, the medicine men tells Bill he’ll die for talkin’ paleface talk an’ sportin’ a paleface shirt, an’ these prophecies preys on Bill who’s eager to live a heap an’ ain’t ready to cash in. Bill gets back to blankets an’ feathers in about a month.

“Old Black Dog, a leadin’ sharp among the Osages, is goin’ about with a dab of clay in his ha’r, and wearin’ his most ornery blanket. That’s because Black Dog is in mournin’ for a squaw who stampedes over the Big Divide, mebby it’s two months prior. Black Dog’s mournin’ has got dealt down to the turn like; an’ windin’ up his grief an’ tears, Osage fashion, he out to give a war-dance. Shore; the savages rings in a war-dance on all sorts of cer’monies. It don’t allers mean that they’re hostile, an’ about to spraddle forth on missions of blood. Like I states, Black Dog, who’s gone to the end of his mournful lariat about the departed squaw, turns himse’f on for a war-dance; an’ he nacherally invites the Osage nation to paint an’ get in on the festiv’ties.

“Accordin’ to the rooles, pore Bill, jest back from school, has got to cut in. Or he has his choice between bein’ fined a pony or takin’ a lickin’ with mule whips in the hands of a brace of kettle-tenders whose delight as well as dooty it is to mete out the punishment. Bill can’t afford to go shy a pony, an’ as he’s loth to accept the larrupin’s, he wistfully makes ready to shake a moccasin at the baile. An’ as nothin’ but feathers, blankets, an’ breech-clouts goes at a war-dance the same bein’ Osage dress-clothes Bill shucks his paleface garments an’ arrays himse’f after the breezy fashion of his ancestors. Bill attends the war dance an’ shines. Also, bein’ praised by the medicine men an’ older bucks for quittin’ his paleface duds; an’ findin’ likewise the old-time blanket an’ breech-clout healthful an’ saloobrious which Bill forgets their feel in his four years at that sem’nary he adheres to ’em. This lapse into aboriginal ways brews trouble for Bill; he gets up ag’inst the agent.

“It’s the third day after Black Dog’s war-dance, an’ Bill, all paint an’ blankets an’ feathers, is sa’nterin’ about Pawhusky, takin’ life easy an’ Injun fashion. It’s then the agent connects with Bill an’ sizes him up. The agent asks Bill does he stand in on this yere Black Dog war-dance.

“‘Don’t they have no roast dog at that warjig?’ asks Dan Boggs, when I’m relatin’ these reminiscences in the Red Light.

“‘No,’ I says; ‘Osages don’t eat no dogs.’

“‘It’s different with Utes a lot,’ says Dan, ’Which Utes regyards dogs fav’rable, deemin’ ’em a mighty sucyoolent an’ nootritious dish. The time I’m with the Utes they pulls off a shindig, “tea dance” it is, an’, as what Huggins would call “a star feacher” they ups an’ roasts a white dog. That canine is mighty plethoric an’ fat, an’ they lays him on his broad, he’pless back an’ shets off his wind with a stick cross-wise of his neck, an’ two bucks pressin’ on the ends. When he’s good an’ dead an’ all without no suffoosion of blood, the Utes singes his fur off in a fire an’ bakes him as he is. I partakes of that dog some. I don’t nacherally lay for said repast wide-jawed, full-toothed an’ reemorseless, like it’s flapjacks I don’t gorge myse’f none; but when I’m in Rome, I strings my chips with the Romans like the good book says, an’ so I sort o’ eats baked dog with the Utes. Otherwise, I’d hurt their sens’bilities; an’ I ain’t out to harrow up no entire tribe an’ me playin’ a lone hand.’

“That agent questions Bill as to the war-dance carryin’s on of old Black Dog. Then he p’ints at Bill’s blankets an’ feathers an’ shakes his head a heap disapprobative.

“‘Shuck them blankets an’ feathers,’ says the agent, ‘an’ get back into your trousers a whole lot; an’ be sudden about it, too. I puts up with the divers an’ sundry rannikabooisms of old an’ case-hardened Injuns who’s savage an’ ontaught. But you’re different; you’ve been to school an’ learned the virchoos of pants; wherefore, I looks for you to set examples.’

“It’s then Bill gets high an’ allows he’ll wear clothes to suit himse’f. Bill denounces trousers as foolish in their construction an’ fallacious in their plan. Bill declar’s they’re a bad scheme, trousers is; an’ so sayin’ he defies the agent to do his worst. Bill stands pat on blankets an’ feathers.

“‘Which you will, will you!’ remarks this agent.

“Then he claps Bill in irons mighty decisive, an’ plants him up ag’in the high face of a rock bluff which has been frownin’ down on Bird River since Adam makes his first camp. Havin’ got Bill posed to his notion, this earnest agent, puttin’ a hammer into Bill’s rebellious hand, starts him to breakin’ rock.

“‘Which the issue is pants,’ says the obdurate agent sport; ‘an’ I’ll keep you-all whackin’ away at them boulders while the cliff lasts onless you yields. Thar’s none of you young bucks goin’ to bluff me, an’ that’s whatever!’

“Bill breaks rocks two days. The other Osages comes an’ perches about, sympathetic, an’ surveys Bill. They exhorts him to be firm; they gives it out in Osage he’s a patriot.

“Bill’s willin’ to be a patriot as the game is commonly dealt, but when his love of country takes the form of poundin’ rocks, the noble sentiments which yeretofore bubbles in Bill’s breast commences to pall on Bill an’ he becomes none too shore but what trousers is right. By second drink time only savages don’t drink, a paternal gov’ment barrin’ nosepaint on account of it makin’ ’em too fitfully exyooberant by second drink time the second evenin’ Bill lays down his hand pitches his hammer into the diskyard as it were an’ when I crosses up with him, Bill’s that abject he wears a necktie. When Bill yields, the agent meets him half way, an’ him an’ Bill rigs a deal whereby Bill arrays himse’f Osage fashion whenever his hand’s crowded by tribal customs. Other times, Bill inhabits trousers; an’ blankets an’ feathers is rooled out.

“Shore, I talks with Bill’s father, old Crooked Claw. This yere savage is the ace-kyard of Osage-land as a fighter. No, that outfit ain’t been on the warpath for twenty years when I sees ’em then it’s with Boggs’ old pards, the Utes. I asks Crooked Claw if he likes war. He tells me that he dotes on carnage like a jaybird, an’ goes forth to battle as joobilant as a drunkard to a shootin’ match. That is, Crooked Claw used to go curvin’ off to war, joyful, at first. Later his glee is subdooed because of the big chances he’s takin’. Then he lugs out ’leven skelps, all Ute, an’ eloocidates.

“‘This first maverick,’ says Crooked Claw of course, I gives him in the American tongue, not bein’ equal to the reedic’lous broken Osage he talks ’this yere first maverick,’ an’ he strokes the braided ha’r of a old an’ smoke-dried skelp, ’is easy. The chances, that a-way, is even. Number two is twice as hard; an’ when I snags onto number three I downs that hold-up over by the foot of Fisher’s Peak the chances has done mounted to be three to one ag’in me. So it goes gettin’ higher an’ higher, ontil when I corrals my ’leventh, it’s ’leven to one he wins onless he’s got killin’s of his own to stand off mine. I don’t reckon none he has though,’ says Crooked Claw, curlin’ his nose contemptuous. ‘He’s heap big squaw a coward; an’ would hide from me like a quail. He looks big an’ brave an’ strong, but his heart is bad he is a poor knife in a good sheath. So I don’t waste a bullet on him, seein’ his fear, but kills him with my war-axe. Still, he raises the chances ag’inst me to twelve to one, an’ after that I goes careful an’ slow. I sends in my young men; but for myse’f I sort o’ hungers about the suburbs of the racket, takin’ no resks an’ on the prowl for a cinch, some sech pick-up as a sleeper, mebby. But my ’leventh is my last; the Great Father in Washin’ton gets tired with us an’ he sends his walk-a-heaps an’ buffalo soldiers’ these savages calls niggers ‘buffalo soldiers,’ bein’ they’re that woolly ’an’ makes us love peace. Which we’d a-had the Utes too dead to skin if it ain’t for the walk-a-heaps an’ buffalo soldiers.’

“An’ at this Crooked Claw tosses the bunch of Ute top-knots to one of his squaws, fills up his red-stone pipe with kinnikinick an’ begins to smoke, lookin’ as complacent as a catfish doorin’ a Joone rise.

“Bill Connors has now been wanderin’ through this vale of tears for mebby she’s twenty odd years, an’ accordin’ to Osage tenets, Bill’s doo to get wedded. No, Bill don’t make no move; he comports himse’f lethargic; the reesponsibilities of the nuptials devolves on Bill’s fam’ly.

“It’s one of the excellentest things about a Injun that he don’t pick out no wife personal, deemin’ himse’f as too locoed to beat so difficult a game.

“Or mebby, as I observes to Texas Thompson one time in the Red Light when him an’ me’s discussin’, or mebby it’s because he’s that callous he don’t care, or that shiftless he won’t take trouble.

“‘Whatever’s the reason,’ says Texas, on that o’casion, heavin’ a sigh, ’thar’s much to be said in praise of the custom. If it only obtains among the whites thar’s one sport not onknown to me who would have shore passed up some heartaches. You can bet a hoss, no fam’ly of mine would pick out the lady who beats me for that divorce back in Laredo to be the spouse of Texas Thompson. Said household’s got too much savey to make sech a break.’

“While a Osage don’t select that squaw of his, still I allers entertains a theery that he sort o’ saveys what he’s ag’inst an’ no he’pmeet gets sawed off on him objectionable an’ blind. I figgers, for all he don’t let on, that sech is the sityooation in the marital adventures of Bill. His fam’ly picks the Saucy Willow out; but it’s mighty likely he signs up the lady to some discreet member of his outfit before ever they goes in to make the play.

“Saucy Willow for a savage is pretty pretty as a pinto hoss. Her parent, old Strike Axe, is a morose but common form of Osage, strong financial, with a big bunch of cattle an’ more’n two hundred ponies. Bill gets his first glimpse, after he comes back from school, of the lovely Saucy Willow at a dance. This ain’t no war-dance nor any other ceremonious splurge; it’s a informal merrymakin’, innocent an’ free, same as is usual with us at the Wolfville dance hall. Shore, Osages, lacks guitars an’ fiddles, an’ thar’s no barkeep nor nosepaint none, in trooth, of the fav’rable adjuncts wherewith we makes a evenin’ in Hamilton’s hurdygurdy a season of social elevation, an’ yet they pulls off their fandangoes with a heap of verve, an’ I’ve no doubt they shore enjoys themse’fs.

“For two hours before sundown the kettle-tenders is howlin’ an’ callin’ the dance throughout the Osage camp. Thar’s to be a full moon, an’ the dance the Ingraska it is; a dance the Osages buys from the Poncas for eight ponies is to come off in a big, high-board corral called the ‘Round House.’

“Followin’ the first yell of the kettle-tenders, the young bucks begins to paint up for the hilarity. You might see ’em all over camp, for it’s August weather an’ the walls of the tents an’ teepees is looped up to let in the cool, daubin’ the ocher on their faces an’ braidin’ the feathers into their ha’r. This organisin’ for a baile ain’t no bagatelle, an’ two hours is the least wherein any se’f-respectin’ buck who’s out to make a centre shot on the admiration of the squaws an’ wake the envy of rival bucks, can lay on the pigments, so he paints away at his face, careful an’ acc’rate, sizin’ up results meanwhile in a jimcrow lookin’ glass. At last he’s as radiant as a rainbow, an’ after garterin’ each laig with a belt of sleigh-bells jest below the knee, he regyards himse’f with a fav’rable eye an’ allows he’s ondoubted the wildest wag in his set.

“Each buck arrives at the Round House with his blanket wropped over his head so as not to blind the onwary with his splendours. It’s mebby second drink time after sundown an’ the full moon is swingin’ above effulgent. The bucks who’s doo to dance sets about one side of the Round House on a board bench; the squaws not bein’ in on the proposed activities occupies the other half, squattin’ on the ground. Some of ’em packs their papooses tied on to a fancy-ribboned, highly beaded board, an’ this they makes a cradle of by restin’ one end on the ground an’ the other on their toe, rockin’ the same meanwhile with a motion of the foot. Thar’s a half hoop over the head-end of these papoose boards, hung with bells for the papoose to get infantile action on an’ amoose his leesure.

“The bucks settin’ about their side of the Round House, still wrops themse’fs in their blankets so as not to dazzle the squaws to death preematoor. At last the music peals forth. The music confines itse’f to a bass drum paleface drum it is which is staked out hor’zontal about a foot high from the grass over in the centre. The orchestra is a decrepit buck with a rag-wropped stick; with this weepon he beats the drum, chantin’ at the same time a pensive refrain.

“Mebby a half-dozen squaws, with no papooses yet to distract ’em, camps ‘round this virchuoso with the rag-stick, an’ yoonites their girlish howls with his. You-all can put down a bet it don’t remind you none of nightingales or mockin’ birds; but the Injuns likes it. Which their simple sperits wallows in said warblin’s! But to my notion they’re more calc’lated to loco a henhawk than furnish inspiration for a dance.

“‘Tunk! tunk! tunk! tunk!’ goes this rag-stick buck, while the squaws chorus along with, ’Hy-yah! hy-yah! hy-yah-yah-yah! Hy-yah! hy-yah! hy-yah-yah-yah!’ an’ all grievous, an’ make no mistake!

“At the first ‘tunk!’ the bucks stiffen to their feet and cast off the blankets. Feathers, paint, an’ bells! they blaze an’ tinkle in the moonlight with a subdooed but savage elegance. They skates out onto the grass, stilt-laig, an’ each buck for himse’f. They go skootin’ about, an’ weave an’ turn an’ twist like these yere water-bugs jiggin’ it on the surface of some pond. Sometimes a buck’ll lay his nose along the ground while he dances sleigh bells jinglin’, feathers tossin’! Then he’ll straighten up ontil he looks like he’s eight foot tall; an’ they shore throws themse’fs with a heap of heart an’ sperit.

“It’s as well they does. If you looks clost you observes a brace of bucks, and each packin’ a black-snake whip. Them’s kettle-tenders, floor managin’ the baile they be; an’ if a buck who’s dancin’ gets preeoccupied with thinkin’ of something else an’ takes to prancin’ an’ dancin’ listless, the way the kettle-tenders pours the leather into him to remind him his fits of abstraction is bad form, is like a religious ceremony. An’ it ain’t no bad idée; said kettle-tenders shore promotes what Colonel Sterett calls the elan of the dancin’ bucks no end.

“After your eyes gets used to this whirlin’ an’ skatin’ an’ skootin’ an’ weavin’ in an’ out, you notes two bucks, painted to a finish an’ feathered to the stars! who out-skoots an’ out-whirls an’ out-skates their fellow bucks like four to one. They gets their nose a little lower one time an’ then stands higher in the air another, than is possible to the next best buck. Them enthoosiasts ain’t Osages at all; which they’re niggers full-blood Senegambians they be, who’s done j’ined the tribe. These Round House festivals with the paint, the feathers, an’ the bells, fills their trop’cal hearts plumb full, an’ forgettin’ all about the white folks an’ their gyarded ways, they’re the biggest Injuns to warm a heel that night.

“Saucy Willow is up by the damaged rag-stick buck lendin’ a mouthful or two of cl’ar, bell-like alto yelps to the harmony of the evenin’. Bill who’s a wonder in feathers an’ bells, an’ whose colour-scheme would drive a temp’rance lecturer to drink, while zippin’ about in the moonlight gets his eye on her. Mighty likely Bill’s smitten; but he don’t let on, the fam’ly like I relates, allers ropin’ up a gent’s bride. It’s good bettin’ this yere Saucy Willow counts up Bill. If she does, however, no more than Bill, she never tips her hand. The Saucy Willow yelps on onconcerned, like her only dream of bliss is to show the coyotes what vocal failures they be.

“It’s a week after the Ingraska, an’ Bill’s fam’ly holds a round-up to pick Bill out a squaw. He ain’t present, havin’ the savey to go squanderin’ off to play Injun poker with some Creek sports he hears has money over on the Polecat. Bill’s fam’ly makes quite a herd, bucks an’ squaws buttin’ in on the discussion permiscus an’ indiscrim’nate. Shore! the squaws has as much to say as the bucks among Injuns. They owns their own ponies an’ backs their own play an’ is as big a Injun as anybody, allowin’ for that nacheral difference between squaw dooties an’ buck dooties one keeps camp while the other hunts, or doorin’ war times when one protects the herds an’ plunder while the other faces the foe. You hears that squaws is slaves? However is anybody goin’ to be a slave where thar’s as near nothin’ to do in the way of work as is possible an’ let a hooman live? Son, thar ain’t as much hard labour done in a Injun camp in a week ain’t as much to do as gets transacted at one of them rooral oyster suppers to raise money for the preacher!

“Bill’s fam’ly comes trailin’ in to this powwow about pickin’ out a squaw for Bill. Besides Crooked Claw, thar’s Bill’s widow aunt, the Wild Cat she’s plumb cunnin’, the Wild Cat is, an’ jest then bein’ cel’brated among the Osages for smokin’ ponies with Black B’ar, a old buck, an’ smokin’ Black B’ar out of his two best cayouses. Besides these two, thar’s The-man-who-bleeds, The-man-who-sleeps, Tom Six-killer, The-man-who-steps-high, an’ a dozen other squaws an’ bucks, incloosive of Bill’s mother who’s called the Silent Comanche, an’ is takin’ the play a heap steady an’ livin’ up to her name.

“The folks sets ‘round an’ smokes Crooked Claw’s kinnikinick. Then the Wild Cat starts in to deal the game. She says it’s time Bill’s married, as a onmarried buck is a menace; at this the others grunts agreement. Then they all turns in to overhaul the el’gible young squaws. Which they shore shows up them belles! One after the other they’re drug over the coals. At last the Wild Cat mentions the Saucy Willow jest as every savage present knows will be done soon or late from the jump. The Saucy Willow obtains a speshul an’ onusual run for her money. But it’s settled final that while the Saucy Willow ain’t none too good, she’s the best they can do. The Saucy Willow belongs to the Elk clan, while Bill belongs to the B’ar clan, an’ that at least is c’rrect. Injuns don’t believe in inbreedin’ so they allers marries out of their clan.

“As soon as they settles on the Saucy Willow as Bill’s squaw, they turns in to make up the ‘price.’ The Wild Cat, who’s rich, donates a kettle, a side of beef, an’ the two cayouses she smokes outen the besotted Black B’ar. The rest chucks in accordin’ to their means, Crooked Claw comin’ up strong with ten ponies; an’ Bill’s mother, the Silent Comanche, showin’ down with a bolt of calico, two buffalo robes, a sack of flour an’ a lookin’ glass. This plunder is to go to the Saucy Willow’s folks as a ‘price’ for the squaw. No, they don’t win on the play; the Saucy Willow’s parents is out dinero on the nuptials when all is done. They has to give Bill their wickeyup.

“When Bill’s outfit’s fully ready to deal for blood they picks out some bright afternoon. The Saucy Willow’s fam’ly is goin’ about lookin’ partic’lar harmless an’ innocent; but they’re coony enough to be in camp that day. A procession starts from the Crooked Claw camp. Thar’s The-man-who-steps-high at the head b’arin’ a flag, union down, an’ riotin’ along behind is Tom Six-killer, The-man-who-sleeps, the Wild Cat and others leadin’ five ponies an’ packin’ kettles, flour, beef, an’ sim’lar pillage. They lays it all down an’ stakes out the broncos about fifty yards from Strike Axe’s camp an’ withdraws.

“Then some old squaw of the Strike Axe outfit issues forth an’ throws the broncos loose. That’s to show that the Saucy Willow is a onusual excellent young squaw an’ pop’lar with her folks, an’ they don’t aim to shake her social standin’ by acceptin’ sech niggard terms.

“But the Crooked Claw outfit ain’t dismayed, an’ takes this rebuff phlegmatic. It’s only so much ettyquette; an’ now it’s disposed of they reorganise to lead ag’in to win. This time they goes the limit, an’ brings up fifteen ponies an’ stacks in besides with blankets, robes, beef, flour, calico, kettles, skillets, and looking-glasses enough to fill eight waggons. This trip the old Strike Axe squaw onties the fifteen ponies an’ takin’ ’em by their ropes brings ’em in clost to the Strike Axe camp, tharby notifyin’ the Crooked Claw band that their bluff for the Saucy Willow is regyarded as feasible an’ the nuptials goes. With this sign, the Crooked Claws comes caperin’ up to the Strike Axes an’ the latter fam’ly proceeds to rustle a profoosion of grub; an’ with that they all turns in an’ eats old Strike Axe outen house an’ home. The ‘price’ is split up among the Strike Axe bunch, shares goin’ even to second an’ third cousins.

“Mebby she’s a week later when dawns the weddin’ day. Bill, who’s been lookin’ a heap numb ever since these rites becomes acoote, goes projectin’ off alone onto the prairie. The Saucy Willow is hid in the deepest corner of Strike Axe’s teepee; which if she’s visible, however, you’d be shore amazed at the foolish expression she wears, but all as shy an’ artless as a yearlin’ antelope.

“But it grows time to wind it up, an’ one of the Strike Axe bucks climbs into the saddle an’ rides half way towards the camp of Crooked Claw. Strike Axe an’ Crooked Claw in antic’pation of these entanglements has done pitched their camps about half a mile apart so as to give the pageant spread an’ distances. When he’s half way, the Strike Axe buck fronts up an’ slams loose with his Winchester; it’s a signal the baile is on.

“At the rifle crack, mounted on a pony that’s the flower of the Strike Axe herd, the Saucy Willow comes chargin’ for the Crooked Claws like a shootin’ star. The Saucy Willow is a sunburst of Osage richness! an’ is packin’ about five hundred dollars’ worth of blankets, feathers, beads, calicoes, ribbons, an’ buckskins, not to mention six pounds of brass an’ silver jewelry. Straight an’ troo comes the Saucy Willow; skimmin’ like a arrow an’ as rapid as the wind!

“As Saucy Willow embarks on this expedition, thar starts to meet her afoot they be but on the run Tom Six-killer an’ a brace of squaw cousins of Bill’s. Nacherally, bein’ he out-lopes the cousins, Tom Six-killer runs up on the Saucy Willow first an’ grabs her bronco by the bridle. The two young squaw cousins ain’t far behind the Six-killer, for they can run like rabbits, an’ they arrives all laughter an’ cries, an’ with one move searches the Saucy Willow outen the saddle. In less time than it takes to get action on a drink of licker the two young squaws has done stripped the Saucy Willow of every feather, bead an’ rag, an’ naked as when she’s foaled they wrops her up, precious an’ safe in a blanket an’ packs her gleefully into the camp of Crooked Claw. Here they re-dresses the Saucy Willow an’ piles on the gew-gaws an’ adornments, ontil if anything she’s more gorgeous than former. The pony which the Saucy Willow rides goes to the Six-killer, while the two she-cousins, as to the balance of her apparel that a-way, divides the pot.

“An’ now like a landslide upon the Crooked Claws comes the Strike Axe household. Which they’re thar to the forty-’leventh cousin; savages keepin’ exact cases on relatives a mighty sight further than white folks. The Crooked Claw fam’ly is ready. It’s Crooked Claw’s turn to make the feast, an’ that eminent Osage goes the distance. Crooked Claw shorely does himse’f proud, while Bill’s mother, the Silent Comanche, is hospitable, but dignified. It’s a great weddin’. The Wild Cat is pirootin’ about, makin’ mean an’ onfeelin’ remarks, as becomes a widow lady with a knowledge of the world an’ a bundle the size an’ shape of a roll of blankets. The two fam’lies goes squanderin’ about among each other, free an’ fraternal, an’ thar’s never a cloud in the sky.

“At last the big feed begins. Son, you should have beheld them fool Osages throw themse’fs upon the Crooked Claw’s good cheer. It’s a p’int of honour to eat as much as you can; an’ b’arin’ that in mind the revellers mows away about twenty pounds of beef to a buck the squaws, not bein’ so ardent, quits out on mighty likely it’s the thirteenth pound. Tom Six-killer comes plenty clost to sacrificin’ himse’f utter.

“This last I knows, for the next day I sees the medicine men givin’ some sufferer one of their aboriginal steam baths. They’re on the bank of Bird River. They’ve bent down three or four small saplin’s for the framework of a tent like, an’ thar’s piled on ’em blankets an’ robes a foot deep so she’s plumb airtight. Thar’s a fire goin’ an’ they’re heatin’ rocks, same as Colonel Sterett tells about when they baptises his grandfather into the church. When the rocks is red-hot they takes ’em, one by one, an’ drops ’em into a bucket of water to make her steam. Then they shoves this impromptoo cauldron inside the little robe house where as I’m aware for I onderstands the signs from the start thar’s a sick buck quiled up awaitin’ relief. This yere invalid buck stays in thar twenty minutes. The water boils an’ bubbles an’ the steam gets that abundant not to say urgent she half lifts the robes an’ blankets at the aiges to escape. The ailin’ buck in the sweat tent stays ontil he can’t stay no more, an’ then with a yowl, he comes burstin’ forth, a reek of sweat an’ goes splashin’ into the coolin’ waters of Bird River. It’s the Six-killer; that weddin’ feast comes mighty near to downin’ him gives him a ‘bad heart,’ an’ he ondergoes the steam bath for relief.

“But we’re strayed from that weddin’. Bein’ now re-arrayed in fullest feather the Saucy Willow is fetched into the ring an’ receives a platter with the rest. Then one of the bucks, lookin’ about like he’s amazed, says: ‘Wherever is the Jack Rabbit?’ that bein’ Bill’s Osage title. Crooked Claw shakes his head an’ reckons most likely the Jack Rabbit’s rummagin’ about loose some’ers, not knowin’ enough to come in an’ eat. A brace of bucks an’ a young squaw starts up an’ figgers they’ll search about an’ see if they can’t round him up. They goes out an’ thar’s Bill settin’ off on a rock a quarter of a mile with his back to the camp an’ the footure.

“The two sharps an’ the squaw herds Bill into camp an’ stakes him out, shoulder to shoulder, with the little Saucy Willow. Neither Bill nor the little Saucy Willow su’gests by word, screech or glance that they saveys either the game or the stakes, an’ eats on, takin’ no notice of themse’fs or any of the gluttons who surrounds ’em. Both Bill an’ the little Saucy Willow looks that witless you-all would yearn to bat ’em one with the butt of a mule whip if onfortoonately you’re present to be exasperated by sech exhibitions. At last, however, jest as the patience of the audience is plumb played, both Bill an’ the little Saucy Willow gives a start of surprise. Which they’re pretendin’ to be startled to find they’re feedin’ off the same dish. Thar you be; that makes ’em ‘buck an’ squaw’ ’man an’ wife;’ an’ yereafter, in Osage circles they can print their kyards ‘Mister an’ Missis Bill Connors,’ while Bill draws an’ spends the little Saucy Willow’s annooty on payment day instead of Strike Axe.”