Pretty Wolverine's Fifht Husband
The story of the Mounted Police hunt for the Indian outlaw, Charcoal, otherwise known as Bad Young Man, whose challenge tested the Force to the utmost
T. MORRIS LONGSTRETH and HENRY VERNON
IT MAY have been something in the assured smile of the tall young Englishman that opened the way for him to the office of the comptroller of the North West Mounted Police at Ottawa on that July morning in 1882. It may have been some subtler emanation of a magnetic personality. Whatever it was that impressed the comptroller, it also impressed the officers at the Fort Walsh headquarters, where William Brock Wilde took up his duties as a constable in the Force. Even the surgeon was stirred from his customary infestivity to report that the new recruit was “an excellent subject for the Force.” A body six feet one inch in height, slimly yet powerfully built, healthy to the marrow and without a blemish, was some excuse for the examiner’s unwonted enthusiasm.
Wilde’s temperament and his English thoroughness brought him promotion with extraordinary rapidity in a corps where the higher positions were tenaciously contested. In four years he was a sergeant. He was broken at least once to curb his occasional exuberance, but even discipline, in the person of the assistant commissioner, explained to Ottawa that a week’s demotion with consequent loss of seniority should be “sufficient punishment for this offense and for a man of his spirit.”
For eight years from 1882 the ex-life guardsman added lustre to the Mounted Police activities in Southern Saskatchewan, chiefly at Wood Mountain, the scene of Sitting Bull’s Canadian exile. Then to Calgary, and for the rest of his Police career the ranges and reserves of Southern Alberta were his home.
In due course he was detailed to Pincher Creek, an important post guarding the approaches to Crow’s Nest Pass, a favorite exit for would-be fugitives from justice. And here he was when the Police and the population of the entire Northwest were stirred by the excitement of the search for the outlaw Indian, Almighty Voice, who had killed a Police officer; and here he was when the Almighty Voice affair was followed by another almost equally exciting.
The Mysterious Second Murder
TN OCTOBER of 1896 the women on the Blood Indian L Reserve south of Macleod were pre-occupied with wood-gathering for the imminent winter. By an omission of Nature, the 550 square miles of the Reserve lying between the St. Mary’s and the Betty rivers were almost destitute of trees, and to compensate for this the Government set aside a few acres of timber in the Rockies about a mile and a half from the United States. But this was a long way to go, nearly forty miles, and the squaws often contented themselves with combing the clumps of poplar in the river bottoms.
A party of six young squaws had wandered over the border of the Reserve on such an errand, and were passing a corral on the Cochrane Ranch, when Troubles
Shining, one of the women, climbed the fence to see if there was any loose wood to be had. The door of a small cattle shed was open, and the sight of what seemed to be a man’s body drew an excited cry from the Indian girl. She called to Singing on the Shore, her friend, and suggested that they go closer. Rag Woman, the eldest, stopped them, saying that they would all get into trouble; it would be better to go away and say nothing. Fishing Woman, Hairy Woman, and Pipe Woman were swayed by Rag Woman’s caution and promised to remain silent.
But too many were in the secret, and before many hours had passed the gossip had reached even the white trader nearby. It was very likely a drunken buck sleeping off a debauch, he reasoned, but he strolled over to the cattle shed and found the rumor true. It was a dead body, that of a young Indian bearing the impressive name of Medicine Pipe Man Returning With The Crane Warwhoop. But when wanted quickly they called him Medicine Pipe Stem. The trader had seen him in his store less than two weeks earlier.
The body was stretched out on its right side with the head resting on a folded waistcoat, and both eyes were closed as if death had come during slumber. There were bloodstains, dried, over both eyes, at the corner of the mouth and around the nostrils, but no signs of violence.
The trader reached the Indian agent with this news, to find that official already considerably agitated. Someone had just shot at and seriously wounded Farm Instructor McNeill while at work in his office. Only a flowerpot in the line of fire, by deflecting the bullet, had kept McNeill from being killed.
What was happening? Was this the dreaded influence of Almighty Voice taking shape at last? Word of the deliberate attempt at assassination was sent to the Mounted Police, and they, said the agent, could look into Medicine Pipe Stem’s death at the same time; the coroner should be notified also.
The Police surgeon who accompanied the sergeant sent to look at the dead Indian went over the body and was clearly puzzled. The jawbone was broken, he said, but without sign of violence to account for it. While speaking he lifted the blood-stained eyelid, and whistled softly in comprehension. There was a dark hole through the eyeball. Examination showed the palate to have been blown away, the bullet afterward striking the jawbone and fracturing it. An autopsy would determine the subsequent course of the bullet. From the degree of rigor mortis, it looked as if death had taken place ten days before.
Inspector Jarvis, sent to investigate, wondered if there could be a connection between the murder of Medicine Pipe Stem and the attempt to kill McNeill, but none of the Indians were helpful in throwing light
on either happening.
The dead Indian had been missed by his relatives for several days, but they could not say where he had gone. The inspector, pending the coroner’s arrival, had a constable make enquiries of all the Indians who had been near the Cochrane corral, but nothing was learned, and the Indians themselves manifested some signs of uneasiness, barring doors and pegging down tent flaps.
The Killer Identified
FALLING PINE, a middle-aged Indian of some authority who had gone with the Police to the corral, was awakened some hours later by the snorting of his horses picketed outside the tepee. Looking out, he saw a man on horseback approaching. Falling Pine’s two wives were sleeping beside the entrance, but he stepped over them as he heard the midnight visitor calling him softly by name. The voice was unfamiliar and Falling Pine asked him what he wanted, at the same time telling his wives to get up and light a fire.
The still unrecognized visitor entered the tent, gun in hand, and asked for something to eat. By the flames Falling Pine recognized him, Charcoal, one of the Reserve Indians. The two men squatted opposite each other in silence while the women brought food. The elder Indian knew from Charcoal’s demeanor that something was wrong, but he waited.
At last Charcoal spoke. He was in trouble, he said. It was he who had killed Medicine Pipe Stem and then shot at McNeill. He had first intended to kill the agent, but not getting near enough had turned to the farm instructor. Now he was going away from the Reserve before the Police had found out what had happened. “They have found out,” said Falling Pine.
“Then I shall go before they catch me.”
“They think it is a white man,” said Falling Pine cunningly.
The old Indian was of two minds. Charcoal was an Indian, was one of them; but a dangerous one, and perhaps it would be better for the Police to take him before he turned on others. And this might happen, to hear the visitor. Broodingly he went on talking, this thin, stooped, delicate-looking small man with sunken
cheeks, his looks belying his words. For now that he had killed Medicine Pipe Stem, he said, he had decided that he might as well kill his other enemies. There was Chief Red Crow. As yet he had had no opportunity. His conversation ended with the meal, and without another word he got up, took horse, and rode away.
Instantly Falling Pine’s wives, who had been a silent but wide-eyed audience, demanded other shelter for the rest of the night; and each of them, taking a child, went off to other tepees. Falling Pine was troubled as to what to do and at last rode off after Charcoal, catching up to him at Bull Horn Coulee, where his four wives and two sons were camping. Falling Pine set himself to inducing Charcoal to remain on the Reserve, and the wives added their arguments to Falling Pine’s.
Charcoal did at length start to ride back with Falling Pine, but halted soon, exclaiming that Falling Pine was trying to mislead him. The older Indian denied this and finally had Charcoal sitting before his fire to wait out the watches of the night. With dawn Charcoal’s suspicions grew, and Falling Pine left for Big Snake’s place to beg his assistance in taking Charcoal forcibly. Big Snake, reluctant at first to interfere, finally returned with Falling Pine. But the place was bare. Charcoal, wives, children, tent and all had disappeared.
The Indian agent and Inspector Jarvis heard Falling Pine’s story with quite different emotions. The agent was astonished. Although Charcoal’s given name was Bad Young Man, this prophetic christening had been no more applicable than erect old Falling Pine’s, and Charcoal had lived an inoffensive if rather over-familied life. Something, the agent insisted, must have hit him hard to cause this trouble.
Inspector Jarvis, conceding the cause, was relieved to have the murderer’s identity disclosed. What had promised to be an awkward mystery had happily resolved itself into a case merely requiring dispatch and a straight arrest. Charcoal, encumbered with his suite, could scarcely get rapidly away, and so Jarvis, stopping only long enough to pen a report to Superintendent Sam Steele, organized pursuit.
His party included a mounted policeman, several Police scouts and trailers, and a number of reliable
Blood Indian volunteers. Charcoal’s rather indiscriminate threats had given megrims to the Reserve, and many of the Indians shared Falling Pine’s views that Bad Young Man should be taken prisoner as soon as possible. Sam Steele, the officer commanding at Macleod, at once expanded the scope of the search, and the pursuit was on.
An Easterner, looking at the map of the country, would have been appalled by the possibilities the search presented. The Blood Reserve itself, although vast in area, offered no very great impediments as there was so very little cover. But west of the Blood Reserve lay the Piegan Reserve, where there was brush, and the wooded coulees of the Porcupine Hills, and the Rockies themselves a bare twenty-five miles distant with their infinite variety of shelter.
Steele’s first aim was to throw a cordon across the line of Charcoal’s probable escape. While Jarvis and his party searched the river bottom in the direction taken by the Indian, another party rode out from Macleod to prevent escape along the north, while still another moved from Lee’s Creek, southeast of the Reserve, in a northwesterly direction toward the mountains. From Pincher Creek hurried a fourth party to close the circle, and a strong guard was posted at Crow’s Nest Pass to close it. Unless Charcoal had moved extraordinarily fast in his first few hours start, he was seined within this surrounded area.
While this was going on, others of the Force were hunting confirmation of Falling Pine’s account of Charcoal’s confession. To ascertain the murderer’s motive might disclose other moves.
The old, old story was disclosed. Pretty Wolverine, one of Charcoal’s wives and as sly as she was pretty, had been greatly taken by Medicine Pipe Stem, who had cast longing eyes upon her. As Pretty Wolverine had already progressed from husband to husband until Charcoal was her fifth, it was not unlikely that she had encouraged him, to suppose the least. Charcoal had grown suspicious and in the fatal corral had surprised the two in their affair. It was probable that Medicine Pipe Stem’s first warning was the arrival of the killing bullet.
SIX days of unremitting hunt had passed and the fugitive remained uncaught. Wide areas had been searched before the trackers uncovered the first sign that the Indian was making for the mountains at a point which would bring him close to the international line. He must have covered a remarkable distance at first, before the Police party from Lee’s Creek had got under way. Two courses had been open to him; to work up the Kootenai River, or to follow up the Belly River
in the mountains, where it formed the eastern boundary of the few acres of the Blood timber limit. Jarvis divided his party in order to pursue both courses.
On reaching the foothills, Jarvis received a report from the nearest Police detachment. A settler had reported seeing an Indian steal an overcoat from a wagon while its owner was -working in the timber. The settler, at some risk, had given chase, but the Indian had vanished in the bush.
That night Jarvis’ re-united force camped in the timber limit awaiting daylight. Everything pointed to the closing in on and capture of the quarry before another nightfall. Undoubtedly the similarity to the situation with Almighty Voice stood in each man’s mind.
At dawn, each scout having removed his hat and boots to make the advance as inconspicuous as possible, the searchers spread out in line, alert for the slightest sign. Signals had been arranged, and there was no sound as the twenty-two shapes flitted in and out of the semimurk of the dense undergrowth. The rustle of dried leaves, the crack of a limb, was enough to freeze into immobility the nearest seekers until satisfied of the sound’s source. For five miles the men crept forward, when suddenly excitement came along the line; the end man had given the signal of discovery.
By now the valley was far below, with thick woods on every side and mountains above. At the opposite end could be seen the outlet, and in the centre a tepee. It was Charcoal’s.
With the utmost care the party spread out, endeavoring to envelop as much of the valley as possible in case Charcoal should dash for the outlet. The undergrowth grew thicker and thicker as the valley level neared, until instinct rather than sight was the pursuers’ guide. At length one horn of the line reached a point where the underbrush slightly thinned. The clearing was visible twenty-five yards ahead. There was no sign of a soul.
One of the party, in his excitement and desire to get closer, relaxed caution and trod heavily. A branch snapped under his foot with a report sounding like a gun to the keyed-up men. They swore softly at the clumsy fool and prayed that their quarry might not take alarm.
It was a vain hope. While they waited, stiffened like so many statues, Charcoal’s small intense form appeared at the opening of the tepee and scanned the surroundings. An Indian in Jarvis’ party, in defiance of that officer’s definite orders, fired at Charcoal.
The shot went wide. Charcoal stepped nimbly behind the tepee and reached the brush on the other side, where he turned, raised gun and fired. His bullet passed through Jarvis’ hat, scraping the skin, as Jarvis, throwing all caution aside, pressed forward to the tepee. Four more shots came in rapid succession from Charcoal’s shelter.
The Indians in Jarvis’ party gave way to their excitement and pumped volley after volley into the bush, calling out tauntingly to the outlaw. Charcoal replied in the same vein. With difficulty Jarvis and the other policeman tried to stop the mêlée, and were at last successful when Charcoal’s wives appeared in front of the tepee in the line of fire.
Only one move offered—to surround Charcoal and prevent him from vanishing without giving him an opportunity to shoot. While this was being done, Jarvis climbed a higher point and observed the Lee’s Creek party entering the valley. He sent a messenger instructing them to maintain a guard at the outlet, the rest to join him.
The odds against Charcoal seemed to be piling up, but, with Almighty Voice in mind, Jarvis gave commands against recklessness. Dusk was bringing a difficult time. Each member of the party was told not to fire unless he was certain his object was not a friend. The captured tepee, ponies, provisions, two squaws and one child were hostages, in a way. The food was a great loss, being sufficient to have kept the Indian and his
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family for two months, and the carcass of a steer showed that the outlaw was equal to living off the country.
The long night passed in suspense but without a suspicious move of the encircled Indian having been noticed. The large loose circle was given orders to contract, with the necessity of restraint being again emphasized.
It was a ticklish and deadly business. The Indian, somewhere ambushed, would undoubtedly have a chance to sell his life dearly. He had already shown his readiness to shoot. Only the slowest, surest scrutiny of the thickets ahead could prevent death, a succession of deaths. Yet it was the temper of no one to wait for a siege, and so the searchers began to move warily forward. Soon the two wives and the other child must be seen.
Sounds of someone moving, the rustle of stealthy progress, came to ear. Would it be Charcoal? Would it be a friend? It was always a friend. A number of shadowy forms explained themselves. Taut nerves went slack. Men looked at each other in interrogation. Was it possible that a man, even an Indian, could extricate himself and three others from living net such as theirs? He must have found a hole to hide in. He might have climbed a tree.
Jarvis was suffering the pangs of indecision, not knowing whether to repeat the manoeuvre through the bush or to pursue afresh, when a message from the Lee’s Creekers said that two horses had been stolen from a near-by ranch sometime between darkness and dawn. The tracks showed that the thieves were Indians.
This looked like another Charcoal coup, and Jarvis now tasted defeat. The officer’s bitterness was increased by the fact that he had just sent word to Steele that the fugitive had been surrounded. Jarvis knew that this message would speed to Ottawa. It would be sent to all near-by detachments. It would be gloated over in barracks. And then the anticlimax.
Charcoal Outwits His Pursuers
AT WILDE’S detachment, Pincher Creek, the first report of Charcoal’s crime and escape toward them had brought to a head the impatience born at the news of Almighty Voice’s escape. This was what they had been waiting for. Instantly the greatest eagerness to locate his trail, to pursue and take the man filled them. Then came the let-down of the supposed capture. They profanely awaited definite news.
It came but in an indirect and startling fashion. An Indian galloped into the barrack grounds. It was a scout named Piegan Joe. He asked excitedly to be taken to Inspector Cuthbert. Charcoal had been seen. He was even then visiting a ranch, or at least had just left it, only few miles away. The rancher’s wife had seen an Indian crawling toward the back of the house. She had fled with the children into the front room and locked herself in. Charcoal, brandishing butcher knife, helped himself to supplies. She knew it for Charcoal because he was small but quick in his movements. The children screamed, and Charcoal, possibly suspecting the presence of men, hurried off
Wilde and the Pincher Creek crowd were delighted. At full gallop the Police surrounded the ranch. Piegan Joe picked up the trail and brought them along until it joined another, a squaw’s. It vanished, but its trend showed that the outlaw was heading for the Piegan Reserve. Inspector Cuthbert pressed forward for the western part of the Reserve, where the rolling plain merged into the brushland and coulees of the famous Porcupine Hills.
There they first saw the horses, two of them, both showing signs of having been ridden hard. They might have been Charcoal’s. If so he would have to get others, would have to steal them from the Piegans. But what was his strategy? L push into the mountainous wastes ahexd, probably to starve? Or was there a possibility that he was riding a circle, hoping to draw away the patrols from Pincher Creek that he might get tñrough Crow’s Nest into British Columbia? First, to warn the Piegans and settlers, Inspector Cuthbert sent off a messenger, and then the party set about searching the course of the Old Man River.
It was now that Steele, convinced that Charcoal was making a dash north, hastened to Pincher Creek. He had a description of the two horses stolen from the ranch south, and identified the two found abandoned on the Piegan Reserve as the same. Doubts dissolved; Charcoal was somewhere ahead.
For ten days the chase intensified. Too much was locally at stake to spare any endeavor. The capture of a murderer was only a third of the motivation. If Indians found that they could kill and run at pleasure, the police influence would be exceedingly disturbing. And, again, too much had been said, even if in jest, by those of “D” to allow them to have an Almighty Voice affair on their hands. So the Police and their Indian allies were reinforced by ex-policemen and volunteering settlers and set to combing the western portion of the Piegan Reserve, while a line of searchers was swung farther west to prevent Charcoal from reaching the Porcupine Hills.
To realize the difficulty of such an effort one must visit this country in person, must gaze from some eminence over the undulations of bush and the rugged watercourse, largely dried in the late autumn, and let the eye wander back into the ever-rising wilderness of forest and butte. It was a gigantic arena for hide-and-seek, especially with a quick and desperate Indian as quarry.
He was handicapped, however, by his remaining two wives and a child. And the army of searchers included Indians as sharp-eyed as himself. Several times, indeed, they discerned tracks of the fugitive, but as many times did the tracks disappear in the bush. That Charcoal was not being too seriously pressed was evidenced by a contemptuous act of his while the search was at its peak. The little outlaw actually returned to the Piegan Reserve and filched three more horses from under the redskins’ noses.
But numbers and pressure were beginning to tell. At one time the pursuers seemed so ubiquitous that Charcoal was forced to leave his second son behind. This naive child readily explained to the scarlet coats that his father and mothers were camping in the hills. He agreed to take the Police to the spot.
It was another coup for Charcoal. The child was not so naive after all. Time had been wasted and hopes raised, the camp had been long abandoned and the forest offered no sign. A day or two later the two squaws appeared at the Blood Reserve, out of nowhere. Charcoal was in the spacious wilds, and the women, though dreading their inevitable detention, would not tell where.
A Third Martyr to Duty
SERGEANT WILDE, whose duties had forced his return to Pincher Creek, followed the uncertain hunt with keenest interest. The leaves were off the trees and snow would soon fall. A month was nearly up.
Effort was at its highest pitch. The Indians on foot wore out their moccasins and had to go back for new, the Police
horses became exhausted but fresh ones were provided. The patrols, praying for snow, went on. Meanwhile rumor crowded upon rumor. Charcoal was here, was there, and had been elsewhere. Steele was not swerved from his belief that Charcoal had not left the Porcupine Hills. A shot fired one night by an Indian trying to steal a mounted policeman’s horse at Lee’s Creek momentarily weakened confidence, but the scarlet line was not relaxed. A few more days would tell. At last snow fell deeply, and next day a patrol on the Beaver Creek found traces of a camp there and the tracks of two Indian ponies going south. The constable in charge of the patrol sent word to Pincher Creek.
In the absence of the officer commanding, Sergeant Wilde was in charge. In a few minutes he rode from the barracks with an interpreter and two Indians. Charcoal, he reasoned, would have made for Dry Forks if he maintained the direction mentioned in the message, and providing it was Charcoal. Wilde pushed the disappointing alternative from his mind.
He struck trail between the other Police patrol and the suspected fugitive and pressed on. The tracks were fresh and the snow deep. Charcoal could not be far ahead. So near might he be that Wilde stopped his party long enough to give final and definite instructions. They were not to go closer to Charcoal than fifty yards. The fugitive was to be given a chance to surrender. If he refused, he was to be shot. Unnecessary chances were not to be taken. All agreed.
The party had covered about twenty miles in the eight-inch snow when the trail swung toward a house and from house to haystack, then on again over a rise of ground. Wilde, leading, started up the slope and caught sight of the rider ahead, a scant 400 yards distant. At the same instant the interpreter exclaimed, “Charcoal ! That's him.”
It was unmistakably the small, indomitable savage. He was riding a sorrel up out of the Dry Fork and leading a brown horse. Wilde and his party rapidly advanced, cutting down the distance. Charcoal, hearing strange sounds, looked around. The interpreter shouted to him to stop. Charcoal shouted back as his horse bounded forward. The interpreter translated: “He say ‘come on.’ ” The redskin’s long harried but wilful spirit was not yet broken.
The interpreter leaped from his horse and took careful aim at the fleeing Indian, now only a hundred yards away. Once, twice, his finger pulled the trigger of his rifle. No report. The shots had missed fire. The intense cold had frozen the oil and clogged the breach.
One of those decisions which rise up from the whole nature of a man was required of Wilde. He gave his horse the rein.
The animal was a magnificent one, chosen by one who knew horses well, and in spite of the twenty miles he raced forward in a burst of speed which made the efforts of Charcoal’s nag—although Charcoal had thoughtfully chosen the best horse on the Piegan Reserve—look insignificant. He gained, surely and swiftly. Charcoal changed his direction, heading for the mountains. Wilde followed. The advantage gained by the Indian while the party was climbing the rise of ground had been dissipated; Wilde was less than twenty yards behind, and pressing on, forgetful of his instructions to take no chances, oblivious of the carbine across his horse, scornful of the revolver in his holster. Sportsmanship, the convention against shooting in the back, waved the idea of security aside, and pursuer and pursued galloped toward an opening between two hills. At the top of one appeared a man driving cattle. He stood, astonished, looking down at the imminent drama.
He could not see, however, the most interesting thing—what was going on in
Wilde’s mind. Memories of the talk at Pincher Creek barracks, his men’s contempt for what they felt had been excessive caution when Jarvis’ party had let Charcoal escape, recollection of how that other fugitive, Almighty Voice, had killed Sergeant Colebrooke—these memories and indignations undoubtedly boiled up within Wilde and he determined to avenge Colebrooke by taking this redskin barehanded.
The watcher on the hill saw Wilde’s horse pull steadily closer to Charcoal’s. Now it was but two lengths behind, now one, now almost abreast. The mounted policeman reached forward to clutch the outlaw, to drag him from the saddle. Charcoal gave his horse a sudden swerve to the left. Wilde’s momentum carried him alongside. Charcoal turned, threw his gun to his shoulder, and fired, then spurred his laboring mount.
The figure of the policeman recoiled, shuddered, and fell backward on the horse, which slackened speed at the loss of the firm hand on the reins. For a few yards Wilde remained in the saddle, then slowly he toppled to the ground.
Still far in the rear, the interpreter and the other Indian saw Charcoal pull his horse around, as Wilde slid into the snow, and gallop back to the red-coated figure. He jumped from his horse and looked at his recent pursuer. Then, for finality’s sake, he shot the sergeant once more as he lay.
It was the work of a second to seize Wilde’s horse and gun and be off again. When the interpreter drew up to the body of his leader, Charcoal was disappearing into the bush. He stooped over the motionless figure and looked for a sign of life. But Sergeant William Brock Wilde was dead.
While the interpreter looked after Wilde’s body, Many Tail Feathers, the scout, resumed the pursuit of Charcoal. The outlaw must be prevented from reaching the high hills. Nursing his horse, the scout managed to keep the double murderer in sight, taking advantage of every dip and depression to get between Charcoal and the mountains. His was a
straight course across which Charcoal could not cut, though he twisted spurted, and pushed the great Police horse inexorably. As dusk fell Many Tail Feathers had the satisfaction of seeing Charcoal turn to the east. He had given up hope of heavy timber at least for that night.
rPHE news of Wilde’s killing came as a stunning surprise to each detachment and every division of the Force as the tidings spread. A fury of rage at their impotence spread throughout the ranks. Superintendent Steele now pressed the operations with even greater vigor. Southwestern Alberta became a camp of armed parties weaving to and fro seeking one man. Inspector Sanders with fifteen men set out for the Kootenai country. The parties in the south moved to intercept Charcoal should he double south again. Civilians offered their services and preparations were made to start them out at daybreak. On the Blood Reserve a score of Charcoal’s relatives were arrested and placed in the guardroom lest help be given.
Among these relatives were Left Hand and Bear’s Back Bones, Charcoal’s brothers. Left Hand was anxious to convince Steele that he had nothing in common with Charcoal and freely asserted that any man who had behaved like Charcoal was better kept confined. He was willing to promise to tell the Police if Charcoal communicated with him, and he was so obviously sincere that Steele ordered him released, at the same time arranging with a few reliable Indians for a watch on Charcoal’s house. Three mounted policemen were stationed at the farm instructor’s home near by in case of call.
For Charcoal there was no respite with darkness. Many Tail Feathers, since seeing Wilde lifeless in the snow, laid aside all thoughts of blood kinship. Charcoal was a bad man, Wilde a good man. That summed the matter, and as the scout’s horse bore him on mile after mile through the cold November night,
his determination only deepened. To complicate affairs, snow started to fall, but it was clear that Charcoal was making for the Kootenai. Many Tail Feathers perforce slackened his pace.
Suddenly a horseman broke from cover in the dimness ahead. He had been resting. Many Tail Feathers grunted. Charcoal should get no rest this night. Taken by surprise, Charcoal’s horse was urged ahead in the only direction possible, due east, on a line for the Blood Reserve. The snow came thicker. Many Tail Feathers saw the remarkable Indian’s trail grow dimmer, fade, merge into the blank of greyish white. It was lost, Charcoal was lost, and Many Tail Feathers, running into a Police patrol on the Reserve, dismounted wearily to tell his story. He had ridden, around buttes and lakes and sloughs and hills, more than seventy miles since Wilde had fallen.
What, then, of, Charcoal? Desperately pursued, hungry, cold, and without respite, what endurance he had shown! What weariness must possess his frame and spirit!
It was still dark at four o’clock next morning .when the brothers of Charcoal were roused by a tap on the door. Left Hand opened it, glancing significantly at Bear’s Back Bones. No one stood at the threshold, but in the dimness they made out a horse and beside him a shape. It was Charcoal. Left Hand professed his joy at seeing his brother and invited him in. Charcoal entered, not seeing White Top Knot move from a clump of sheltering bush a hundred yards back and disappear.
But Charcoal, son of instinct, when inside the house was not at ease. Even through his weariness he perceived suspicious glances passing between his brothers. He rose, opened the door and reached his horse. Left Hand followed and seized him, calling for assistance. Too worn to oppose these new enemies, Charcoal was disarmed and bound. Moodily he sat, the long chase over. It was just before dawn that his captors noticed a ribbon of red oozing down one of his wrists. Their outlaw brother had pierced a vein in each arm with an awl and was bleeding profusely from both wounds. But even this release was denied him.
So Charcoal was in custody! The information brought relief to widespread communities. For a month this little, seemingly insignificant Bad Young Man had kept the entire Southwest in a state of tension and growing alarm. He had killed one man, had tried to kill another, had expressed regret for his inability to kill a third. He had turned and shot the brave, impetuous Wilde. Delicate and exhausted, he had ridden ninety miles in a day of breathless pursuit, one puny Indian against a field of vengeance. And then he had been delivered up by his brothers. Thus ended the chain of shootings, struggle, and misery begun by the fickleness of Pretty Wolverine.
For all of Charcoal’s unforgivable crimes, the end left a bad taste in the mouth; but it was the end. Many things had to be done before the trial satisfied Canadian standards of justice. But the noose was inevitable and pity was veiled by memories of the other funeral at Fort McLeod, when all the Police and the white population turned out to pay their last respects to the man who had won their friendship and respect when first he appeared among them. It was significant, too, that Red Crow, chief of all the Bloods, as well as all the other chiefs of the Blood and Piegan camps, should appear as the cortege left the barracks to follow it to the cemetery.
The town of Pincher Creek gave Wilde a monument, but his memory was already established far more widely in the hearts of those who had known him. There it stands today with those who are still alive, and it will always live strikingly in the annals of the Force through the years to come.