The Outcasts

Language: English
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A'tim the Outcast was half Wolf, half Huskie Dog. That meant ferocity and bloodthirst on the one side, and knowledge of Man's ways on the other. Also, that he was an Outcast; for neither side of the house of his ancestry would have aught of him.

A'tim was bred in the far Northland, where the Cree Indians trail the white snow-waste with Train Dogs; and one time A'tim had pressed an unwilling shoulder to a dog-collar. Now he was an outcast vagabond on the southern prairie, close to the Montana border-land.

It was September; and all day A'tim had skulked in the willow cover of Belly River flat-lands, close to the lodges of the Blood Indians.

Nothing to eat had come the way of the Dog-Wolf; only a little knowledge of something that was to happen, for he had heard things,—the voices of the Indians sitting in council had slipped gently down the wind to his sharp Wolf ears.

As he crawled up the river bank close to Belly Buttes and looked across the plain, he could see the pink flush of eventide, like a fairy veil, draping the cold blue mountains—the Rockies.

"Good-night, warm Brother," he said, blinking at the setting sun; "I wonder if you are going to sleep with an empty stomach, as must A'tim."

The soft-edged shafts of gold-yellow quivered tremblingly behind the blue-gray mountains, as though Sol were laughing at the address of the Outcast. The Dog-Wolf looked furtively over his shoulder at the smoke-wreathed cones of the Blood tepees. The odor of many flesh-pots tickled his nostrils until they quivered in longing desire. Buh-h-h! but he was hungry! All his life he had been hungry; only at long intervals had a gorge of much eating fallen to his lot.

"Good-night, warm Brother," he said again, turning stubbornly from the scent of flesh, and eying the crimson flush where the sun had set; "one more round of your trail and I shall sleep with a full stomach, for to-morrow the Bloods make a big Kill—the Run of many Buffalo."

A'tim, sitting on his haunches, and holding his nose high in air until his throat pipe drew straight and taut, sang: "O-o-o-o-o-h! for the blood drinking! W-a-u-g-ha! the sweet new meat—hot to the mouth!"

The Indian Dogs caught up the cry of A'tim as it floated over the Belly River and voiced it from a thousand throats.

"The Blackfeet!" screamed Eagle Shoe, rushing from his tepee. "It's only a hungry Wolf," he grunted, as he sat in the council again; "let us talk of the Buffalo Run."

That was what the Dog-Wolf had heard lying in the tangle of gray willow, close to the tepee of Eagle Shoe, the Blood Indian; and he would sleep peacefully, his hunger stayed by the morrow's prospect. As he sat yawning toward the rose sky in the West, a huge, dark form came majestically from a cleft in the buttes, and stood outlined, a towering black mass. A'tim flattened to earth as though he had been shot, looking not more than a tuft of withered bunch-grass. Then he arose as suddenly, chuckled to himself, and growled nervously: "Oh! but I got a start—it's only old Shag, the Outcast Bull. Ha, ha! A'tim to fear a Buffalo! Good-evening, Brother," he exclaimed; "you quite frightened me—I thought it was that debased Long Knife, Camous."

"Thought me Camous!" bellowed the Bull, snorting indignantly; "he's but a slayer and a thief....