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III the council on the powder Serenely now the ghost of summer dreamed On Powder River. ’Twas the brooding time, With nights of starlight glinting on the rime1 That cured the curly grass for winter feed, And days of blue and gold when scarce a reed Might stir along the runnels,2 lean with drouth. Some few belated cranes were going south, And any hour the blizzard wind might bawl; But still the tawny3 fingers of the Fall, Lay whist4 upon the maw5 of Winter. Thrice6 The moon had been a melting boat of ice Among the burning breakers7 of the west,8 Since Red Cloud, bitter-hearted, topped the crest Above the Fort and took the homeward track, The Bad Face Ogalalas at his back And some few Brulés.9 Silently he rode, And they who saw him bent as with a load Of all the tribal sorrow that should be, Pursued the trail as silently as he— A fateful silence, boding little good. Beyond the mouth of Bitter Cottonwood10 They travelled; onward through the winding halls Where Platte is darkened;11 and the listening walls Heard naught of laughter—heard the ponies blow, The rawhide creak upon the bent travaux,12 The lodge-poles skid and slidder in the sand. Nor yet beyond amid the meadowland Was any joy; nor did the children play, Despite the countless wooers13 by the way— Wild larkspur, tulip, bindweed, prairie pea. The shadow of a thing that was to be Fell on them too, though what they could not tell. Still on, beyond the Horseshoe and La Prele, They toiled up Sage Creek14 where the prickly pear Bloomed gaudily about the camp. And there The Cheyenne, Black Horse, riding from the south, Came dashing up with sugar in his mouth To spew on bitter moods.15 “Come back,” he whined; “Our good white brothers call you, being kind And having many gifts to give to those Who hear them.” But the braves unstrung their bows And beat him from the village, counting coup,16 While angry squaws reviled the traitor too, And youngsters dogged him, aping what he said. Across the barren Cheyenne watershed Their ponies panted, where the sage brush roots Bit deep to live. They saw the Pumpkin Buttes17 From Dry Fork.18 Then the Powder led them down A day past Lodge Pole Creek.19 Here Red Cloud’s town, With water near and grass enough, now stood Amid a valley strewn with scrubby wood; And idling in the lazy autumn air The lodge-smoke rose. The only idler there! For all day long the braves applied their hate 332 the song of the indian wars To scraping dogwood switches smooth and straight For battle-arrows; and the teeth that bit The gnarly shaft, put venom into it Against the day the snarling shaft should bite. Unceasingly from morning until night The squaws toiled that their fighting men might eat, Nor be less brave because of freezing feet. By hundreds they were stitching rawhide soles To buckskin uppers. Many drying-poles Creaked with the recent hunt; and bladders, packed With suet, fruit and flesh, were being stacked For hungers whetted by the driving snow. Fresh robes were tanning in the autumn glow For warriors camping fireless in the cold. And noisily the mimic battles rolled Among the little children, grim in play. The village had been growing day by day Since Red Cloud sent a pipe to plead his cause Among the far-flung Tetons.20 Hunkpapas, Unhurried by the fear of any foe, Were making winter meat along Moreau21 The day the summons came to gird their loins.22 The San Arcs, roving where the Belle Fourche joins The Big Cheyenne,23 had smoked the proffered24 pipe When grapes were good and plums were getting ripe. Amid the Niobrara25 meadowlands And up the White,26 the scattered Brulé bands, That scorned the talk at Laramie, had heard. Among the Black Hills went the pipe and word To find the Minneconjoux killing game Where elk and deer were plentiful and tame 333 The Council on the Powder And clear creeks bellowed from the canyon beds. Still westward where the double Cheyenne heads, The hunting Ogalalas hearkened too. So grew the little camp as lakelets do When coulees27 grumble to a lowering sky. Big names, already like a battle cry, Were common in the town; and there were some In which terrific thunders yet were dumb28 But soon should...


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