Summary: This could be considered a WHN of The Paiute War although it takes place two years after the events of that episode.
Word Count: 8,800
It was Hoss who put his hand on the door of the Mercantile, and as it opened, some pressure from inside the store forced it to close up against his hand. He pushed again, upon which thrust the door swung open. Laughter was loud, ringing out in crude rasping bellows, echoed by shrill cackling chuckles and yet the atmosphere was tense, so tense that it fell upon the two Cartwright brothers like a blanket.
“What’s going on here?” Adam was the first to speak as the laughter died away upon their entrance, and any movement paused or stopped altogether.
“It’s nothing, Adam.” Mr. Cameron said quickly. “Just a misunderstanding.”
“A misunderstanding?” Hoss stepped forward and his boots crushed sugar under his feet; he glanced down to observe sugar and flour spilled randomly upon the floor boards. Now he looked up and observed more closely the actors in the scene they had just interrupted.
A young woman stood close to Mrs. Cameron; both women looked frightened and nervous, although the younger was making an attempt to look more dignified and calm. Mr. Cameron was behind the counter, his hand upon a packet of coffee grains, his grasp indicating that he was not going to allow it to go the way of the other food stuffs without a fight.
A young man stood with his back against the counter, slightly crouched over, defensive, his hand hovering close to a knife still in its sheath at his waist. His long black hair hung over his face like a shroud so that his features were obscured by it.
Three other men stood opposite the younger man, spaced apart a few paces; one still held the empty sack which had contained the flour which was still falling, drifting, onto the floor.
“It’s nothing,” one of them said. “We were just having some fun.”
“At someone else’s expense?” Adam’s voice was clipped, betraying his annoyance at seeing the harassment being meted out to the younger couple.
“Look, if they’re expecting us to…” Another stepped forward, blurting out his grievance in hot angry words but was held back by Hoss, who placed his hand against his chest.
“They’re expecting us to treat them like any other customer should be treated,” Mr. Cameron cried in protest, “They paid with good coin, just like anyone else.”
“Yeah, but they ain’t just anyone else, are they? They’re nothing. They’re Paiute and have no right being here in town, breathing our air and buying our goods,” the man with the mouth shouted and earned himself a slight push in the chest from Hoss.
“So you’d rather waste good food by throwing it away like this?” Mrs. Cameron’s voice was shrill; a rather excitable woman, her nerves now giving her words a sharp edge.
“Here…” Hoss grabbed a broom and threw it at one of the men, the one who had been holding the sack of flour. “You made the mess, you clear it up.”
“I ain’t gonna do no such thing,” came the blunt reply, and the broom was cast across the room. “If they want it so much, they can sweep it up themselves.”
“That’s enough.” Cameron’s voice carried sufficient authority for them to pause and turn towards him; even the young Paiute had relaxed enough to step towards the woman, and stand by her side as though what was happening had happened, no longer involved them. “Just get out of my store, the three of you. Don’t come back either, I don’t want any of your sort in here again.”
“OUR sort? Jest who do you think…”
“Shuddup, Judd; let’s go. The air in here stinks enough as it is. It’s choking me.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Sullenly, the three men turned and glared into Adam and Hoss’ faces as they passed them, as though to impress upon their minds the fact that they wouldn’t be forgotten for interfering and would pay for it later. The bell above the door tinkled as it opened and closed behind them.
“I’m so sorry.” Mrs. Cameron’s voice was contrite as she turned to the young couple who now stood as though wondering what to do next. “I’ll get some more sugar and flour for you.”
“We not pay for more,” the young man said, and he thrust out his chin defensively. “No more coin.”
“We wouldn’t expect you to,” Mr. Cameron replied as he pushed back a strand of black hair anxiously. “As far as we’re concerned, you’ll always be welcome here, Black Raven.”
Mrs. Cameron returned with her arms loaded with the goods that Black Raven and his woman had already paid for and seen cast upon the floor. Along with the coffee and other items, they were put into a sack and handed to the pair.
As the Indians passed the Cartwright brothers, they also glared into the brother’s faces. There were no words of thanks — they were too proud a race to speak the words — and the brothers knew enough about them not to expect it. Again the bell tinkled as the door opened and closed behind them.
Adam walked to the door and looked through the glass panel to watch the couple as they mounted their horses, the sack of goods fastened securely. No one stepped forward to prevent them mounting their animals and riding out of town. Satisfied, he sighed and turned, with raised eyebrows, to look at the Camerons. “Things look as though they were getting rather heated in here?” he said, joining Hoss at the counter.
“It was,” Mr. Cameron nodded. “I detest the way those people are bullied and harassed whenever they come into town. I keep telling Sheriff Coffee about it, but nothing’s done.”
“You can’t change human nature that easily,” Hoss sighed. “It takes time. There will always be those with prejudices and enough ignorance to use force when they have a mind to do so.”
“By heavens, Hoss, I wish you were wrong…” Cameron replied. He looked at his wife as she picked up the broom and began to clear away the mess; the sound of sugar being crunched underfoot was one they were going to have to get used to for a while. He shook his head. “What a waste.”
Both brothers were feeling rather subdued after what they had experienced in the store. As a result, neither one wished to start a conversation that would put them both into further depths of depression. They had walked towards the wagon when Hoss finally opened his mouth to speak. Just as he did so, a loud voice right behind them cried, “Have you seen my sumpter?”
Two children stared at the man, looked baffled, and ran off giggling, whereupon he sighed heavily and took off his hat, mopped his brow and cast another look around, and then turned to look up and down the street.
“Are you all right, old man?” Hoss asked kindly, which caused the man to turn and survey the two Cartwrights standing there on the sidewalk.
Mike Baldwin replaced his hat and shrugged. “Seems no one around here knows how to speak English anymore,” he said, and extended his hand. “Mike Baldwin at your service, sirs.”
“Hoss Cartwright, my brother Adam,” Hoss replied, and indicated the tall dark clad man at his side who tipped his hat politely to the stranger.
“Anything we can do to help?” Adam asked, noting that the old man, despite his disheveled appearance, had once been well dressed and his accent was that of a well educated man. He had obviously fallen on hard times, and was, perhaps, looking out for a hand out.
“Thank you; I wonder if you could help me. I’ve lost my sumpter.” Baldwin looked from one to the other of them, noted the baffled expression on one man’s face and the slight smile on the other,
“When did you lose it?” Adam replied, showing more interest than his brother, who was peering up and down the street expecting who knew what to appear.
“The other evening when I was camped out yonder. I don’t want to press the matter too much, but it is important to me. The creature has all my worldly possessions on its back. My books, my thesis, everything.”
Hoss narrowed his eyes and looked puzzled. He just couldn’t get a handle on this old man at all. He looked at Adam, who appeared to know what was going on. Once books had been mentioned, Adam slipped into another world, as though recognizing a kindred spirit, and, as Hoss fully appreciated, there was no one in town, or even in the whole territory, who could eclipse Adam for intelligence.
“Are you some kind of learning man?” Hoss asked with his eyebrows raised politely in enquiry.
“I’m a scientist. I’ve been travelling the west for some time now and I am writing a thesis on some of the myths and traditions of the Native American.”
“Who are they?” Hoss asked, baffled once more.
“The indigenous people of a country or land, Hoss,” Adam replied smugly, a smile broadening now on his face. Hoss nodded as though he understood and thought once again, there you are, you just couldn’t get a man to eclipse Adam for know how. That was what becomes of getting educated.
“That’s right. I’ve studied the Sioux and the Cheyenne, Shoshone and Bannocks, and now I thought I’d visit Winnemucca and his people, the Paiute. Unfortunately there was an eclipse of the sun the other day, and the creature acted up, ran off, took everything I own with it.”
“I remember that,” Hoss said, clicking his fingers with pleasure. “I was out with my brother Joe, and we watched it from the bluff just above from Millers Creek. Sure was a sight.”
“Scientifically, a wonder of creation, but to the Paiute, something deeply spiritual. Now I’ve no means to record any of the information I have, and the stupid creature has ran off with everything.” Baldwin shrugged, waved his arms about, and looked completely crestfallen.
“We’ll find it for you, Mr. Baldwin,” Hoss declared. “Don’t you fret none. We’ll handle this for you, won’t we, Adam?”
Adam nodded and smiled, and once again Mike Baldwin looked from one to the other of them and then relaxed. “I’ve a little money still so I’ll go into the restaurant and get something to eat and drink, while you both – uh – handle the matter. She’s a pretty little creature really and not usually prone to running off, but then…” — he shrugged — “an eclipse of the sun is rather a mystical moment, even for an animal.”
Hoss watched Baldwin as he departed towards the restaurant. He looked at Adam. “He’s a pleasant enough guy, ain’t he?”
“He is; highly intelligent too.”
“So – uh – what exactly are we looking fer, Adam? An animal or a machine? I mean, him being scientific an’ all, I was thinking he was referring to some kind of machine with an engine to it that needed winding up with a handle, then he started on about an animal. I don’t suppose you know what we’re looking fer, would you?”
“Of course I do,” Adam said coolly, and began to stroll down the sidewalk towards a rather dusty heavily laden packhorse that was wandering down the main street. “And I think I’ve found it.”
Hoss grinned and thumbed his hat to the back of his head. There now, wasn’t he right? Who on earth other than Adam would have known what that old man was talking about, he sighed, and watched his brother stroke the dusty neck of a heavily laden pack horse. Obviously the sumpter was packed away somewhere among all the boxes the poor creature was bearing.
Having tethered the animal to the hitching post outside the restaurant into which Mr. Baldwin, or The Professor as Hoss preferred to consider him, was eating his lunch, the brothers returned to the Camerons store to collect their order and stow their packages into the wagon. Cameron watched them from the doorway, his face creased in a deep frown
“Anything bothering you, Mr. Cameron?” Adam asked as he gave the last sack of flour a hefty shove to pack it in more tightly with the other goods. He then turned to give the man his full attention, the dark eyes kindly in order to encourage Mr. Cameron to speak out.
“I was just worried about that incident earlier,” Cameron admitted and wiped his hands on his immaculately white apron. “I’ve not been here that long, as you know, and it’s upset my wife…” He paused. “It’s upset me too; I hadn’t expected that kind of thing to happen here.”
“Things are always different from back East in towns like this, Mr. Cameron. You should have expected changes.”
“I did, and anticipated quite a few accurately. But I failed to appreciate that feelings still ran high against the Indians here.”
“Those men were miners.” Adam tipped his hat back a little further and narrowed his eyes slightly to observe the other man, “probably not getting much from their diggings and wanting to move onto Winnemucca’s land. I know some that have already and been chased off as a result. Winnemucca has every right to stop the miners going over the borders and digging on his people’s land.”
“I understand that, but when it comes to the kind of thing that happened in here this morning, it goes against the grain.”
Adam nodded; he felt there was little more to say on the subject and wished that the matter could have been set aside. He tipped his hat politely to Mrs. Cameron and took his seat on the wagon, preferring to let Hoss take the reins while he stretched out his legs and enjoyed the ride.
“They took that hard, didn’t they?” Hoss muttered as the wagon lurched away from the sidewalk and edged into the main thoroughfare. “Reckon they’ll toughen up?”
“They’re going to have to if they want to survive.” Adam replied and raised a hand to acknowledge the friendly wave from Mike Baldwin who was now standing beside his packhorse.
“Wonder if he found his whatever he called it thingy?” Hoss muttered, glancing over his shoulder to observe Baldwin untethering the animal.
Adam said nothing to that; he merely sighed and slouched lower in his seat.
Roy Coffee was leaning against a post outside the Sheriff’s office and nodded over at them. It seemed just like any other day in Virginia City with nothing much happening, the sun was shining, a cool breeze drifted around them preventing them from getting too hot, and the wheels of the wagon kept turning without any threat of falling off. Hoss sighed; somehow he just didn’t have that satisfied feeling he usually had when he left town on a day such as this one.
Ben listened attentively to Adam’s account of the incident in Cameron’s store. His dark eyes were half hooded and it was obvious from the downward turn of his mouth that the narrative did not impress him. Finally he shook his head and ran a hand over his graying hair. “I can see this situation getting far worse before it starts to improve,” he said quietly.
“What do you think could happen, Pa?” Joe asked from the comfort of the big leather chair. He had listened to what his brother had said, mentally making adjustments as to how he would have dealt with the matter had he been there but finally accepting that, as he had not been, then Hoss and Adam had acted well enough.
“What could happen is that the miners will just get more and more determined to move onto Winnemucca’s land. Winnemucca’s young men will then decide to beat them back and…” again Ben shook his head and frowned, “and then there will be blood shed.”
“Which will result in the army being called in again, and Winnemucca and his people losing more land to appease the miners.” Adam’s voice was a growl of dissent. He had been sitting in the hard backed blue chair but now leaned forward towards his father, “Cameron said these incidents were happening more and more frequently. What’s Roy doing about it?”
“Everything he can do at the moment.” Ben sighed, and glanced at Hoss who was munching on an apple. “Do you have to chomp that apple quite so loudly, Hoss?”
“Sorry, Pa.” Hoss grimaced and looked at his apple regretfully; somehow he knew that if he ate it ‘quietly’ it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable.
“If the miners keep harassing the Paiute women and the younger men when they come into town, there could be trouble even before they make any attempt to mine on their land. Remember what happened as a result of the Wilsons?” Adam rubbed his temple with his fingers, his eyes fell upon the logs in the fire, and he sighed. “We could have another situation like that blow up in our faces before we have time to blink.”
“So far, Roy’s keeping things pretty well under control.” Joe crossed his legs and folded his arms behind his head. “But I’d feel safer with the army in town.”
“A show of military force may make you feel safer, but it would be like a red rag to a bull for the Paiute,” his brother responded hotly. “They’d feel threatened, and…”
“Alright, Adam, calm down.” Ben’s voice was stern, somewhat soothing but not by much, as he was in total agreement with what Adam was saying. “Winnemucca’s a wise man, and I agree, as I don’t go along with the idea of getting the army in at the moment. Roy knows what he’s doing; just trust him on this.”
Adam bit down on his bottom lip and scowled somewhat darkly at the fire.
Hoss put down his apple and decided it was time for a change in the conversation. “Hey, Pa, something else happened in town today. We met a prospector who lost his something in town. His something or other, weren’t it, Adam?”
“Humph, sumpter,” Adam grunted. Still mentally tussling over the conversation prior to this, he sighed, and leaned back in his chair and allowed his thoughts to drift back into the past, when he had been a youth and another youth whom he had considered his best friend had taken him on an early morning journey.
As his father and brothers chuckled over the incident of Mike Baldwin’s pack horse and their voices faded into the background, Adam relived the time when past, present and future seemed to collide, a time when a friendship ended, and without him realizing it, a prophecy had began its tragic path to fulfillment.
It had been on a morning when the breeze was light but strong enough to ruffle the long black hair of a youth who squatted by the side of another. He had peered narrow-eyed about him, as his hair drifted across his face and back. His copper skin gleamed and his chest heaved, for the ascent up the mountain had been far from easy, even for a youth like himself with seemingly boundless enthusiasm and vigor.
Adam had been a long-legged youth with a tanned skin and smoky brown eyes. At the peak of the cliff, he had turned towards the breeze to allow the coolness of it to dry off the perspiration on his face and to cool his body. His loose shirt was stained by wet patches of sweat as a result of his exertions as he had followed Young Wolf’s ascent of the high cliff. They had begun the climb before daybreak, not too difficult a clamber, just a steady march but the haste with which the other youth had walked had been hard and arduous.
Adam had looked about him with keen eyes, alert to everything new in his experience so that he could add to the fountain of knowledge at which he so eagerly drank.
His companion had continued to stare in silence at the mountain facing them. The sky was still that purple pink hue that signals the coming of the new sun. He touched his companion by the arm and pointed towards the horizon. “Son of Ben Cartwright, look!”
Adam Cartwright had turned his face towards the direction his companion had indicated. He had never climbed so far before and would never have dared to do so had it not been for the encouragement of his Paiute companion. He had gazed down at the vast sweep of land that span out before them, rolling miles, acres and acres of rich pasture, tall pines, and majestic mountains. It was then, and was still, an awesome sight.
“This is what belongs to my people now, son of Ben Cartwright. But see – yonder there – and there – was once a time we could travel without seeing any other and all of it was our land. But now, we are told, only here and only so far can you go.”
“It’s a lot of land, Young Wolf, and beautiful.”
The other youth, barely into his teen years, had looked at his young friend and smiled, but his eyes had been unbearably bleak. “Beautiful, yes. Soon we will not be able to say it is ours, soon it will belong to the diggers.”
“The diggers?” Adam had frowned, and scanned his friends’ face with anxiety in his eyes. He knew that prospectors were already scouring the land for more gold. The El Dorado of legend was still to be found … and many were prepared to die in order to find it.
“See yonder the mountain we call Sun Mountain. Soon you will see why the diggers will come. It will be a false journey but you will see and understand.”
“Understand what, Young Wolf?”
“Why it is called Sun Mountain … see, the new day comes and the sun kisses our land and look …”
Adam had looked, anxious not to miss this mystery that meant so much to his companion. He had witnessed the sun break upon the side of the mountain like a golden ball colliding with some brilliant obstacle and sending flashes of light streaking across the horizon. He had seen the whole side of the mountain illuminated and shining as though it were made entirely of gold. It was so brilliant an illusion that he had to raise his arm to shield his eyes.
The other youth smiled and touched his arm, this time amusement had gleamed in his eyes. “You see? Time and times ago, the men from far away came with their shining suits and their horses. They saw the golden mountain and thought it was there that they would find this metal that sends the diggers mad with greed. They saw the sun kiss the golden rocks and desired what their eyes saw, even though it were just a dream.”
“What happened to them?” Adam had asked quietly, as he’d watched the sun’s rays slide along the mountain side like a golden caress.
“The men in their shining suits? Ah, some lived to go back to their homelands; many left their bones to dry in the mountains. See – they called it Mont d’or but we know it as Sun Mountain, for in the mornings the sun greets the rocks with a blessing from the Mighty One.” He heaved a sigh and bowed his head. His long black hair fell like a raven mantle across his face.
“Does this have anything to do with the dream you had?”
“Yes.” The Paiute sighed and looked up at his friend. “In my dream, I saw a battle here, perhaps the last battle my people will fight with the white soldiers. I saw my death here on Sun Mountain.”
“You don’t believe it will come true, surely?”
“Who are we to say whether or not it will be so? Today will be the last day you shall know me as your friend, for you will no longer be my friend, son of Ben Cartwright.”
“Because you were in my dream. Because of you, I shall die.”
They had looked into each other’s eyes. Near black confronted smoky brown. Young Wolf extended his hand which the other took in a gesture of friendship. Adam knew better than to argue against the reasonings of this youth. The ways of the Paiute were full of mysteries beyond his understanding. He had watched as the other turned away to walk back to their horses, and he had again glanced back at Sun Mountain…the golden glow had disappeared. It had rained later.
“Adam.” His name being called and a tug at his sleeve brought him back from his memories. He sighed, and turned to look at his father, who smiled at him despite an anxious look in his eyes. “Wool gathering, Adam?” he chided his son gently.
“Stepping back in time,” Adam replied as his brow crinkled, “when Young Wolf showed me the sun dawning on Sun Mountain. He told me he was going to die there…”
“Well, he was partly right; he did die, but not on Sun Mountain.” Joe retorted sharply, and he rose to his feet, stretched and yawned. “Well, I’m for bed; it’s been a long day.”
“Yeah, me too.” Hoss tossed his apple core into the fire, bade his father and brothers good night and followed Joe up the stairs to his room.
They heard the doors closing simultaneously, the sound of footsteps overhead. Ben looked over at Adam, and without a word, began to fill his pipe with tobacco. It was a quiet evening, pleasant. The flames crackled against the wood and the lamps sent a warm glow around the room. He struck a match, and through the flare of the match’s flame, observed his son, “You haven’t mentioned that morning for a long time.”
“I’ve not wanted to,” Adam replied. He laced his fingers together behind his head and stared with hooded eyes into the dark shadows of the room. “I liked Young Wolf; he was a good friend. I couldn’t believe he could sever the friendship so thoroughly and as quickly as he did that day. All for the sake of a dream…”
“They view things differently from us, Adam.” Ben sucked on the pipe’s stem, willing it to draw, the tobacco in the bowl glowed red.
“I know. Then after that fiasco with the Wilson brothers, Young Wolf was dead and so many others killed. It took a lot of wisdom on your part and Winnemucca’s for everyone to be able to walk away from that without any further incidences. Suddenly, today, it all came back to haunt me. To haunt us all.”
Ben said nothing but looked at his eldest son anxiously. Through the smoke from his pipe, his son looked anxious and as tense as a coiled spring. He looked away, preferring to watch the flames of the dying fire in an attempt to block out his own fears of any trouble with the Paiute.
It was like being haunted, Adam mused as he sat in the chair with his long legs stretched out and his hands clasped behind his head. Memories of that trip up the mountain with Young Wolf now trickled into those of more recent years, with those of Young Wolf dead on the ground and his father mourning over him. There was the memory of those black eyes that had looked at him with such loathing that it had been hard to believe then — and was still difficult to accept — that the young man had once been Adam’s closest friend. It was strange — Adam frowned at the thought — but it was strange that memories of the adventures and fun they had shared together as boys, youths, were overshadowed by the more negative ones.
“You know,” Ben’s voice suddenly broke the silence in the room and cut through Adam’s thoughts, “Young Wolf knew he was going to die a violent death; there was nothing prophetic about it.”
“How do you mean?” The darkly tanned brow furrowed again and the dark eyes turned to his father questioningly.
“That time on the mountain, he’d started brooding over the losses of his people, building up resentment and hatred. He was bound to kick over the traces eventually, take the young bucks off to fight when the chance came. He wanted to die a hero’s death for the sake of his people. It was inevitable.” Ben sucked on the stem of his pipe again, and his dark brows bent into a ferocious scowl, “He poisoned his life with loathing – that’s why he had to break off his friendship with you. You were his weak link; he liked and respected you as his friend and white brother.”
“Well, he certainly didn’t feel that way the day he wanted to cut my throat and take my scalp.” Adam grinned, and glanced at his father. “You’re a wise old pirate, aren’t you?” He chuckled a little as he spoke the words.
“Not really, it’s experience of life, and logic.” Ben smiled but was pleased with his son’s comment; he enjoyed such moments of repartee from this far too serious young man. “This man you met in town today, the one who was talking about the eclipse and going to visit the Paiute, what did you make of him?”
“I thought he was a very intelligent man. From the look of the packages on his packhorse, he was going to a lot of trouble getting his research. He’s probably going to scotch a lot of myths and superstitions in some very dry thesis.” He pulled a wry grin, “I only hope he doesn’t manage to rile Winnemucca in the process.”
The days trickled by as days are wont to do, adding to the pile of those already passed and spent. Ben had sent Adam to check on the timber, three-year-old saplings that were growing close to the boundaries of their land with the Paiute territories. Some years earlier, there had been an unfortunate incident when one of the Ponderosa men had strayed on the Paiute land, seen a deer and shot at it without realizing that a party of young bucks had been stalking the animal for some time. The consequential dispute had only been settled by Ben’s promise that in future he would only send his sons to check the land on that side of the Ponderosa.
Now Adam wove his way along the thin track that kept him well away from the markers that were the warning signs set down by the Paiute. He was not a nervous man but he was a sensitive one. As he rode along, he was more than aware that there were eyes watching him from behind the trees, upon the crags, among the shrubs. The young trees, however, were growing well. The soil suited them and the dry duff from the fallen pine needles of the older trees provided the young roots good nourishment and nutrients during their tender and more vulnerable years.
A movement caught his eye and he forced himself not to put his hand to his gun holster but to keep them in sight of any onlooker. He cleared his throat and urged Sport forwards only to find himself confronted with a familiar sight, a loaded down pack horse who looked at him mournfully from soulful brown eyes.
“Where’d you spring from?” Adam asked softly, riding towards the creature and leaning down to take the trailing reins, “Where’s your master, huh? Seems as though one or other of you is always getting lost.”
His brow creased a little as he looked down at the tracks the animal had made, tracks that led him pass a marker into Winnemucca’s land. He grimaced and stopped his horse.
“Now, there’s a thing,” he muttered and bit down on his bottom lip, scratched his nose and then pushed his hat to the back of his head. “Well, I guess the only thing to do is go ahead and find out what’s happened, huh?” He reached down and pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and was grateful that he had actually picked up a white one that morning.
He picked off a dry twig and tied the handkerchief to it, then with that fluttering like a merry little flag, he rode onto the other side of the marker, pulling the pack horse along behind him.
The trees were thickly packed in close together hereabouts and he slowed Sport to a cautious walk, threading in and around the trees in order to keep the tracks clearly visible. He must have travelled for over an hour, always conscious of others riding close, shadowing him, dark shadows themselves among the dense cover of the pines, when he saw the man ahead of him.
Mike Baldwin was sprawled out upon the ground as though already dead. Adam dismounted quickly, his pulses racing and fear that the old man had been murdered by the Paiute, triggering off dread as the thought of what could follow as a result. He knelt beside him and gently placed a hand on the other man’s chest. A heart beat thudded steadily beneath his palm and Adam felt his own body relax as a result. It didn’t take long to realize that the man’s injury must have been the result of a fall from his mount, for his fibula — the slender outer bone of the lower leg — had broken, pierced the flesh and skin and bloodied quite unpleasantly around the area of the injury.
As Adam was examining the extent of the injury, Mike Baldwin groaned, coughed and stammered a few words of nonsense before his hand grabbed at Adam’s wrist. “Fell off…horse,” he mumbled.
“Broke your leg as a result. How long ago was it?”
“Early morning. Managed to crawl this far. Lost my…my horse, packhorse…lost…” His eyes rolled up into their sockets and closed, his last word faded into a hoarse whisper.
It didn’t take too long to make up a splint of sorts to keep the broken leg steady. The break was a clean one, and to a man used to such things, it was not difficult for Adam to straighten the bone sufficiently for both ends to make contact. As he tied the splints together with some cloth he found in Baldwin’s saddlebags, Adam wondered what to do next.
The first thought was that the man needed a doctor, and quickly, before fever and blood poisoning set in. Were that to happen, the possibility of losing the leg was a very real one, the chances of losing his life – well, that too was possible. Adam wiped his brow on the back of his sleeve, and straightened up to look about him. The nearest doctor was in town, and here he was several miles on Paiute land; that meant that town and doctor were several days ride away. Whereas, he licked dry lips and glanced down at Baldwin, there was another recourse he could pursue, for if he were right with regard to his sense of direction, then Winnemucca’s camp was a mere few hours distance.
He rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully before deciding what to do next. Slowly he unbuckled his gun belt and hung it loosely over the bedroll behind his saddle. He took off his yellow coat and draped that over the top of the gun belt. Now those men in the shadows could see that he was unarmed, meant no trouble, no harm. Then, very carefully, he picked the injured man up into his arms and carried him to his horse.
The white handkerchief fluttered bravely as they made their way through the pine trees. Mike Baldwin, now in a deep faint, was unaware of pain as he lolled about rather gracelessly in Adam’s arms, his head resting against the younger mans chest. Sometimes, if Adam moved his eyes quickly enough to left or right, he caught sight of some dark horsemen riding parallel to him, but he knew better than to turn his head for a closer look. He urged Sport forward, slowly.
Runners hurried swiftly in order to tell Winnemucca that Ben Cartwrights son was riding in to the village with the injured old man. By the time Adam arrived in the center of the village, Winnemucca was standing waiting for him outside his lodge.
Two years had passed since Adam had seen Winnemucca last, and as he drew Sport to a halt, a quick glance at the older man showed him to be still proud, still bearing himself erect and straight backed, but the hair had silvered and the skin hung looser about his face. Within his dark eyes, he seemed to hold all the misery of the world.
Other men stood alongside the Chief, men whom Adam recognized from previous visits to the Paiute, obviously there to listen and advise as they stood immutable and inscrutable. The shadows that had trailed him through the woods had silently appeared and Adam knew without turning his head that he had ridden through the village with an escort of probably ten men at least. He was not far wrong; it was actually thirteen.
Winnemucca looked thoughtfully at the white men, and realized without Adam having to say a word, the reason for this visit. He turned to the left, and with an abrupt wave of the hand, indicated to the shaman to come forward. A tall man approached his Chief, listened to what he was being told, and with a curt nod of the head, a positively hate-filled look at Adam, he signaled to two men to help him with the injured man.
“Have you come as a guest to my lodge, Adam?” Winnemucca asked in his deep voice, slow and dignified, always gentle and firm.
“It would be my pleasure, Chief Winnemucca,” Adam replied and swiftly dismounted.
“The old man has been our guest. You bring him back to us; that is an honor.”
“Thank you. He must have fallen as his leg is broken. I didn’t dare to risk taking him to the town; I wasn’t sure he would survive the trip.”
Winnemucca smiled slowly, nodded his head and then stepped towards his lodge with Adam close behind him. It was no surprise to him that the other men followed him so that quite a close circle of men sat down around the small fire burning in the Chief’s lodge.
“How is my friend, Ben, your father?”
“He is well.”
Winnemucca bowed his head and turned towards the shadows where a woman was preparing the food; it was promptly brought to them.
“The old man came to speak about many things. He spoke of the day when the sun caught the moon, and for a moment shared time with it so that the earth was dark.” He looked at Adam with his hand in the dish, and then he smiled and passed the food to his guest. “This meat is good, eat.”
Adam took it from the Chief’s hand, ate it and nodded in agreement. This was a special privilege, to be given food from the Chief’s own hand. Adam knew that it was Winnemucca’s way to let the other Elders there know that Adam had his special protection, that no harm was to befall him while he was there.
There was now a more relaxed air in the lodge. Some of the men there had lost their sons, brothers, friends in the fight that had been caused by Wilson’s lies and brutality, but they seemed prepared to let bygones be bygones and to talk of other things.
For a while they talked about the strange white man who asked so many questions from them and wrote down what they said in a notebook.
“What trouble is this going to cause us now?” one of the men suddenly asked. “Why does he come now to ask these things of us?”
“I don’t know,” Adam replied. “Did you not think to ask him?”
“He said that it was to learn more about us,” came the rather stiff reply.
“Then that is why he came. With more knowledge and understanding about you and your people’s ways will come better communication between our peoples,” Adam said.
“Hummm. He asked us about how we worship the Great One,” an old man mumbled, in between picking meat out from between the few teeth he had left in his gums. “That was bad.”
“No one should ask us about God,” said another and there was a rumble of assent among them.
“It is true,” Winnemucca nodded. “We may fight about many things – women, land, and food – but never God. You white people fight even about Him. That is wrong.”
“Yes,” Adam nodded, “it is wrong.”
Silence fell now and they began to eat with a great deal of smacking of lips, until finally the old man leaned forward to have another mumble. “Why do the diggers keep coming? They keep coming here even though papers are signed that tell them not to come on our land.”
“They want the gold,” another said. “You know that is why they come; they want the gold they think is on our land.”
“Yes, but their Government tells them not to come yet still they do.” He looked at Adam. “What does your father say about that?”
“He agrees with you,” Adam replied quietly.
“Our young women are not safe in your town. Men in your town hurt them; it is not good.”
Adam nodded, once again he agreed with them. Winnemucca stood up; the meal was over. If anyone wanted to eat more, then it was too bad; they also had to stand up and leave it. They walked out from the close stuffy confines of the lodge into the daylight where the sun shone down dry and warm, casting long shadows across the dry ground.
The other men trailed away to their own lodges and left Winnemucca and Adam standing alone together. The Chief turned to Adam, looked him up and down before he gave him his grave smile. “You look well, Adam. I am glad you are come here at last.”
“Thank you, Winnemucca. To be honest, I found it hard to come after what happened.”
Winnemucca nodded; briefly his mind returned to the day his son died, full of hate and anger, and the cause of many other deaths.
“My young men are finding it hard to keep patient with the diggers, Adam. It is getting more difficult to stop them from harming these white men. I am afraid a day will come when they will go too far, and then I know the Army men will ride here again, perhaps force us to leave here as many of the people have been forced, going where they do not wish to go, and dying as a result. That is not what I want for my people.”
“I understand, Chief, but the greed for gold is strong.”
“Yes, and the greed for revenge can be strong also.”
The shaman’s presence prevented any further discussion between them as they both turned to hear what he had to say about the injured man. Once again Adam was treated to a deep look of dislike from the shaman before he spoke to Winnemucca, who smiled as he listened and gravely nodded his head. “The old man would wish to speak to you,” he informed Adam. “You must tell him that he is welcome to stay here until he recovers.” He paused again and then gave Adam a long penetrating look that reminded Adam of Young Wolf all those years ago on the cliff top as they watched the sun rise over the mountain. “You, too, are welcome to stay here.”
“Thank you, but I should return home; there is much to be done at home.” He smiled to soften the rejection of Winnemucca’s invitation, and the old man nodded, and extended his hand which Adam grasped in a mutually firm grip.
Adam stepped into the shaman’s lodge and looked at the frail body of the older man who was resting upon a pile of buffalo hides. He looked relaxed and pain free, his eyes heavy with the desire to sleep, but when he saw Adam, he raised a hand in greeting before extending it to him. Once again, Adam found himself shaking hands before he sat down cross-legged on the ground by the bedside
“Well, Mr. Baldwin, you seem to have got yourself into some trouble this time.”
“I can’t believe it,” Mike Baldwin sighed. “All the miles I’ve travelled and then I fall off my horse and break my leg. Thank you for not leaving me and for bringing me here. I’ll probably learn a lot more about the Paiute for my thesis.”
“It’s hardly the best way to go about it.” Adam smiled more broadly. “What’s the thesis for exactly?”
“What’s it for?” Baldwin looked startled and then shook his head, “It’s for education, young man, so that others can learn more about these people and as a result fear them less. It’s fear that causes so much trouble among the different races, you know?”
“I’m more inclined to think it’s greed.” Adam sighed, and looked quizzically at Mike who had narrowed his eyes to survey him more thoughtfully. “Greed and fear.” He raised an eyebrow and smiled.
“A compromise. Very good. A scholarly deduction. Actually, I was commissioned to undertake this assignment by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology. You’ve heard of them, no doubt?” He raised a quizzical eyebrow now and looked keenly into the other man’s face; when Adam nodded, he couldn’t conceal both his surprise and his delight. “Excellent. So you’ll understand why I am so pleased that I broke my leg in such an appropriate place.”
“I met John Wesley Powell once, some time ago,” Adam said slowly, remembering now the earnest young man who had such an interest in the natural sciences, who had walked across Wisconsin in ‘55, and in ‘59 had been elected to the Illinois Natural History Society.
“You did?” Baldwin raised himself upright and leaned heavily upon his elbows, “Fascinating. When I have the time, we shall have to talk more about that. At the moment, though, I have to admit being somewhat in pain. Will you do me a kindness, sir?”
“Certainly, if it within my power to do so.” Adam smiled, although his eyes narrowed a little with caution.
“Take my papers that I have in an oilskin package and send them off to Powell. They are up-to-date notes on everything I’ve learned so far. It’s just in case…” His brow creased and Adam was able to detect beads of perspiration within the creases of the furrows. “Just in case I don’t make it. I am no longer a young man, old bones don’t heal so well as young ones and…” he shivered slightly, “and I can’t guarantee that I’ll survive this excursion.”
Adam placed a hand on the other man’s shoulder, and was surprised at the heat that he felt through the soft linen shirt. The man was obviously developing a high fever and anxiously he looked at the shaman. “My friend is getting a fever…”
The shaman said nothing, but glanced at Baldwin thoughtfully before he approached the sick man and knelt beside him. Baldwin nodded at Adam and signaled to him to leave. “Don’t forget my notes…” he said quietly before lowering himself down upon the bed.
The promise made, Adam left the lodge and walked to the packhorse where he soon located the package and placed it in his own saddlebags. Thereupon he remounted Sport, and finding that Winnemucca and the other Elders had vacated the area, turned his horse out of the village.
This time no shadowy figures followed him. He made his way to where the woodland opened onto the dry hard packed earthen road towards Virginia City, which he took, knowing that in half a day’s time he would have to take the branch from that road which would take him to the Ponderosa.
There was a week that slipped effortlessly by, the package had been sent to Mr. Powell, and work had resumed at its usual frenetic pace on the Ponderosa. It was as dusk was drawing in that sounds of horses in the yard disturbed the supper of the Cartwright family and Hoss was the one who left the table to open the door.
Momentarily there was a silence, a significant pause, before he said, very quietly. “Pa – Adam – Joe – I reckon you should come here.”
Mystified, the three men left their meal and hurried to stand by Hoss’ side and to look out at the scene that had presented itself to his eyes.
There were at least twenty Paiute in the yard, mounted on their restless strong-limbed horses. As soon as Ben appeared, one of them left the group and rode towards them, dragging a travois behind him upon which was the body of the old Professor, Mike Baldwin.
Nothing was said, not a single word passed between them. Paiute surveyed the white men and the white men surveyed the group of Paiute. Then Hoss stepped forward approached the travois, looked down at the body and sighed. “He’s dead, Pa.”
Ben, already informed all about Mike from his son, stepped forward now and after glancing down at the body, glanced up at the man who had brought him to them. “Thank you for bringing him here, we’ll see he gets a proper Christian burial,” he said.
There was nothing else left to be said. The Paiute nodded, Hoss unmetered the poles of the travois and lowered it to the ground so that the horseman, now disencumbered of his load, could turn his pony back and join his companions. As he did so, another rode forward to stop his horse only feet away from where Adam and Ben stood. This was the shaman, dressed resplendently in his robes of office, and his staff in his hand. He looked at the four white men and nodded. “The old man came to learn about my people.” His voice was brusque, not angry, and quite calm. His black eyes pierced into Adam’s face and Adam was reminded of the hate that had burned there when they had met in the village previously.
“He and I talked much. He learned but I – Wovoka* – also learned much. My heart burned with much hate towards the white men when my son and my brother were killed at the battle in the moon when the big guns came and shot into the mountain. My heart was bad with hate towards you, Adam Cartwright, and you, Ben Cartwright. But…” he paused while a slight frown furrowed his brow, “but from this white man, I learned that hate came from fear. I learned that there was a hope for my people, and now I hate no more. I learned much.” He brought from his robes a pocket book which he handed to Ben. “The Old Man said to give this to you for others to learn.”
The silence fell upon them again just as the light disappeared and night descended. There was the sound of the horses, but nothing more than that as they turned around in order to return to their home.
“More notes?” Adam murmured when they were inside and the door firmly closed behind them.
“He must have been a busy man during his last days,” Ben said as the pages of the note book flicked through his fingers.
Adam nodded. To get a man to leave behind his hate, to bury it and to find hope – yes, Mike Baldwin must have worked hard during the days he was dying.
In the morning, the stranger who had so briefly touched their lives was buried on Ponderosa soil. Although his stay was brief, what he had shared with Wovoka was like a seed that grew and was eventually blossom forth. Wovoka became like a prophet to the nations of Indians, preaching a ministry of hope, a restoration of life to the Indians that had died. His words brought alive the cult of the Grey Shirts, sacred garments which would protect the wearer of any bullet, and the Ghost Dance was born. The message was one of love, kindness, of the Messiah and the resurrection, but the Dance United Indians from all the reservations and the U.S. Government reacted.
It all came to an end at the massacre at Wounded Knee, Dakota, in December 1890.