List Of Contents | Contents of The Patrol of the Sun Dance Trail
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His home and his family and those of his neighbors were in danger
of the most horrible fate that could befall any human being.  If
the cattle-raid were carried through by the Piegan Indians its
sweep would certainly include the Big Horn Ranch, and there was
every likelihood that his home might be destroyed, for he was an
object of special hate to Eagle Feather and to Little Thunder; and
if Copperhead were in the business he had even greater cause for

But what was to be done?  The Indian boy had taken three days to
bring the news.  It would take a day and a night of hard riding to
reach his home.  Quickly he made his plans.  He passed into the
hotel, found the room of Billy the hostler and roused him up.

"Billy," he said, "get my horse out quick and hitch him up to the
post where I can get him.  And Billy, if you love me," he implored,
"be quick!"

Billy sprang from his bed.

"Don't know what's eatin' you, boss," he said, "but quick's the

In another minute Cameron was pounding at Dr. Martin's door
upstairs.  Happily the doctor was in.

"Martin, old man," cried Cameron, gripping him hard by the
shoulder.  "Wake up and listen hard!  That Indian boy you and Mandy
pulled through has just come all the way from the Piegan Reserve to
tell me of a proposed cattle-raid and a possible uprising of the
Piegans in that South country.  The cattle-raid is coming on at
once.  The uprising depends upon news from the Crees.  Listen!  I
have promised Superintendent Strong to spend the next two days
recruiting for his new troop.  Explain to him why I cannot do this.
He will understand.  Then ride like blazes to Macleod and tell the
Inspector all that I have told you and get him to send what men he
can spare along with you.  You can't get a man here.  The raid
starts from the Piegan Reserve.  It will likely finish where the
old Porcupine Trail joins the Sun Dance.  At least so I judge.
Ride by the ranch and get some of them there to show you the
shortest trail.  Both Mandy and Moira know it well."

"Hold on, Cameron!  Let me get this clear," cried the doctor,
holding him fast by the arm.  "Two things I have gathered," said
the doctor, speaking rapidly, "first, a cattle-raid, then a general
uprising, the uprising dependent upon the news from the North.  You
want to block the cattle-raid?  Is that right?"

"Right," said Cameron.

"Then you want me to settle with Superintendent Storm, ride to
Macleod for men, then by your ranch and have them show me the
shortest trail to the junction of the Porcupine and the Sun Dance?"

"You are right, Martin, old boy.  It is a great thing to have a
head like yours.  I shall meet you somewhere at that point.  I have
been thinking this thing over and I believe they mean to make
pemmican in preparation for their uprising, and if so they will
make it somewhere on the Sun Dance Trail.  Now I am off.  Let me
go, Martin."

"Tell me your own movements now."

"First, the ranch," said Cameron.  "Then straight for the Sun

"All right, old boy.  By-by and good-luck!"

Cameron found Billy waiting with Ginger at the door of the hotel.

"Thank you, Billy," he said, fumbling in his pocket.  "Hang it, I
can't find my purse."

"You go hang yourself!" said Billy.  "Never mind your purse."

"All right, then," said Cameron, giving him his hand.  "Good-by.
You are a trump, Billy."  He caught Ginger by the mane and threw
himself on the saddle.

"Now, then, Ginger, you must not fail me this trip, if it is your
last.  A hundred and twenty miles, old boy, and you are none too
fresh either.  But, Ginger, we must beat them this time.  A hundred
and twenty miles to the Big Horn and twenty miles farther to the
Sun Dance, that makes a hundred and forty, Ginger, and you are just
in from a hard two days' ride.  Steady, boy!  Not too hard at the
first."  For Ginger was showing signs of eagerness beyond his wont.
"At all costs this raid must be stopped," continued Cameron,
speaking, after his manner, to his horse, "not for the sake of a
few cattle--we could all stand that loss--but to balk at its
beginning this scheme of old Copperhead's, for I believe in my soul
he is at the bottom of it.  Steady, old boy!  We need every minute,
but we cannot afford to make any miscalculations.  The last quarter
of an hour is likely to be the worst."

So on they went through the starry night.  Steadily Ginger pounded
the trail, knocking off the miles hour after hour.  There was no
pause for rest or for food.  A few mouthfuls of water in the
fording of a running stream, a pause to recover breath before
plunging into an icy river, or on the taking of a steep coulee
side, but no more.  Hour after hour they pressed forward toward the
Big Horn Ranch.  The night passed into morning and the morning into
the day, but still they pressed the trail.

Toward the close of the day Cameron found himself within an hour's
ride of his own ranch with Ginger showing every sign of leg
weariness and almost of collapse.

"Good old chap!" cried Cameron, leaning over him and patting his
neck.  "We must make it.  We cannot let up, you know.  Stick to it,
old boy, a little longer."

A little snort and a little extra spurt of speed was the gallant
Ginger's reply, but soon he was forced to sink back again into his
stumbling stride.

"One hour more, Ginger, that is all--one hour only."

As he spoke he leapt from his saddle to ease his horse in climbing
a long and lofty hill.  As he surmounted the hill he stopped and
swiftly backed his horse down the hill.  Upon the distant skyline
his eye had detected what he judged to be a horseman.  His horse
safely disposed of, he once more crawled to the top of the hill.

"An Indian, by Jove!" he cried.  "I wonder if he has seen me."

Carefully his eye swept the intervening valley and the hillside
beyond, but only this solitary figure could he see.  As his eye
rested on him the Indian began to move toward the west.  Cameron
lay watching him for some minutes.  From his movements it was
evident that the Indian's pace was being determined by some one on
the other side of the hill, for he advanced now swiftly, now
slowly.  At times he halted and turned back upon his track, then
went forward again.

"What the deuce is he doing?" said Cameron to himself.  "By Jove!
I have got it!  The drive is begun.  I am too late."

Swiftly he considered the whole situation.  He was too late now to
be of any service at his ranch.  The raid had already swept past
it.  He wrung his hands in agony to think of what might have
happened.  He was torn with anxiety for his family--and yet here
was the raid passing onward before his eyes.  One hour would bring
him to the ranch, but if this were the outside edge of the big
cattle raid the loss of an hour would mean the loss of everything.

"Oh, my God!  What shall I do?" he cried.

With his eyes still upon the Indian he forced himself to think more
quietly.  The secrecy with which the raid was planned made it
altogether likely that the homes of the settlers would not at this
time be interfered with.  This consideration finally determined
him.  At all costs he must do what he could to head off the raid or
to break the herd in some way.  But that meant in the first place a
ride of twenty or twenty-five miles over rough country.  Could
Ginger do it?

He crawled back to his horse and found him with his head close to
the ground and trembling in every limb.

"If he goes this twenty miles," he said, "he will go no more.  But
it looks like our only hope, old boy.  We must make for our old
beat, the Sun Dance Trail."

He mounted his horse and set off toward the west, taking care never
to appear above the skyline and riding as rapidly as the uncertain
footing of the untrodden prairie would allow.  At short intervals
he would dismount and crawl to the top of the hill in order to keep
in touch with the Indian, who was heading in pretty much the same
direction as himself.  A little further on his screening hill began
to flatten itself out and finally it ran down into a wide valley
which crossed his direction at right angles.  He made his horse lie
down, still in the shelter of the hill, and with most painful care
he crawled on hands and knees out to the open and secured a point
of vantage from which he could command the valley which ran
southward for some miles till it, in turn, was shut in by a further
range of hills.

He was rewarded for his patience and care.  Far down before him at
the bottom of the valley a line of cattle was visible and hurrying
them along a couple of Indian horsemen.  As he lay watching these
Indians he observed that a little farther on this line was
augmented by a similar line from the east driven by the Indian he
had first observed, and by two others who emerged from a cross
valley still further on.  Prone upon his face he lay, with his eyes
on that double line of cattle and its hustling drivers.  The raid
was surely on.  What could one man do to check it?  Similar lines
of cattle were coming down the different valleys and would all mass
upon the old Porcupine Trail and finally pour into the Sun Dance
with its many caves and canyons.  There was much that was
mysterious in this movement still to Cameron.  What could these
Indians do with this herd of cattle?  The mere killing of them was
in itself a vast undertaking.  He was perfectly familiar with the
Indian's method of turning buffalo meat, and later beef, into
pemmican, but the killing, and the dressing, and the rendering of
the fat, and the preparing of the bags, all this was an elaborate
and laborious process.  But one thing was clear to his mind.  At
all costs he must get around the head of these converging lines.

He waited there till the valley was clear of cattle and Indians,
then, mounting his horse, he pushed hard across the valley and
struck a parallel trail upon the farther side of the hills.
Pursuing this trail for some miles, he crossed still another range
of hills farther to the west and so proceeded till he came within
touch of the broken country that marks the division between the
Foothills and the Mountains.  He had not many miles before him now,
but his horse was failing fast and he himself was half dazed with
weariness and exhaustion.  Night, too, was falling and the going
was rough and even dangerous; for now hillsides suddenly broke off
into sharp cut-banks, twenty, thirty, forty feet high.

It was one of these cut-banks that was his undoing, for in the dim
light he failed to note that the sheep track he was following ended
thus abruptly till it was too late.  Had his horse been fresh he
could easily have recovered himself, but, spent as he was, Ginger
stumbled, slid and finally rolled headlong down the steep hillside
and over the bank on to the rocks below.  Cameron had just strength
to throw himself from the saddle and, scrambling on his knees, to
keep himself from following his horse.  Around the cut-bank he
painfully made his way to where his horse lay with his leg broken,
groaning like a human being in his pain.

"Poor old boy!  You are done at last," he said.

But there was no time to indulge regrets.  Those lines of cattle
were swiftly and steadily converging upon the Sun Dance.  He had
before him an almost impossible achievement.  Well he knew that a
man on foot could do little with the wild range cattle.  They would
speedily trample him into the ground.  But he must go on.  He must
make the attempt.

But first there was a task that it wrung his heart to perform.  His
horse must be put out of pain.  He took off his coat, rolled it
over his horse's head, inserted his gun under its folds to deaden
the sound and to hide those luminous eyes turned so entreatingly
upon him.

"Old boy, you have done your duty, and so must I.  Good-by, old
chap!"  He pulled the fatal trigger and Ginger's work was done.

He took up his coat and set off once more upon the winding sheep
trail that he guessed would bring him to the Sun Dance.  Dazed,
half asleep, numbed with weariness and faint with hunger, he
stumbled on, while the stars came out overhead and with their mild
radiance lit up his rugged way.

Suddenly he found himself vividly awake.  Diagonally across the
face of the hill in front of him, a few score yards away and moving
nearer, a horse came cantering.  Quickly Cameron dropped behind a
jutting rock.  Easily, daintily, with never a slip or slide came
the horse till he became clearly visible in the starlight.  There
was no mistaking that horse or that rider.  No other horse in all
the territories could take that slippery, slithery hill with a
tread so light and sure, and no other rider in the Western country
could handle his horse with such easy, steady grace among the
rugged rocks of that treacherous hillside.  It was Nighthawk and
his master.

"Raven!" breathed Cameron to himself.  "Raven!  Is it possible?  By
Jove!  I would not have believed it.  The Superintendent was right
after all.  He is a villain, a black-hearted villain too.  So, HE
is the brains behind this thing.  I ought to have known it.  Fool
that I was!  He pulled the wool over my eyes all right."

The rage that surged up through his heart stimulated his dormant
energies into new life.  With a deep oath Cameron pulled out both
his guns and set off up the hill on the trail of the disappearing
horseman.  His weariness fell from him like a coat, the spring came
back to his muscles, clearness to his brain.  He was ready for his
best fight and he knew it lay before him.  Swiftly, lightly he ran
up the hillside.  At the top he paused amazed.  Before him lay a
large Indian encampment with rows upon rows of tents and camp fires
with kettles swinging, and everywhere Indians and squaws moving
about.  Skirting the camp and still keeping to the side of the
hill, he came upon a stout new-built fence that ran straight down
an incline to a steep cut-bank with a sheer drop of thirty feet or
more.  Like a flash the meaning of it came upon him.  This was to
be the end of the drive.  Here the cattle were to meet their death.
Here it was that the pemmican was to be made.  On the hillside
opposite there was doubtless a similar fence and these two would
constitute the fatal funnel down which the cattle were to be
stampeded over the cut-bank to their destruction.  This was the
nefarious scheme planned by Raven and his treacherous allies.

Swiftly Cameron turned and followed the fence up the incline some
three or four hundred yards from the cut-bank.  At its upper end
the fence curved outward for some distance upon a wide upland
valley, then ceased altogether.  Such was the slope of the hill
that no living man could turn a herd of cattle once entered upon
that steep incline.

Down the hill, across the valley and up the other side ran Cameron,
keeping low and carefully picking his way among the loose stones
till he came to the other fence which, curving similarly outward,
made with its fellow a perfectly completed funnel.  Once between
the curving lips of this funnel nothing could save the rushing,
crowding cattle from the deadly cut-bank below.

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