Thunder Moon - George Owen Baxter - ebook

Thunder Moon ebook

George Owen Baxter

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The "Thunder Moon" series by the very prolific author Frederick Faust (published under his favorite pseudonym Max Brand) is a series of pulp fiction Western and adventure novels. In order, the works appear in four volumes as "The Legend of Thunder Moon", "Red Wind and Thunder Moon", "Thunder Moon and the Sky People", and "Farewell, Thunder Moon". Thunder Moon was the adopted son of a great warrior, unaware that he was born the son of a white man. And though he grew bigger and stronger than the other Indian boys, he was not accepted until the day a water snake bit him and began an adventure that would make him a legend among Indians and white man alike! It is the first novel in the series that came out in the year 1970.

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Liczba stron: 280

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER I

FIRST of all, before anything else is attempted, you must understand that December means Big Hard Face, just as November is called simply Hard Face by the Cheyennes.

As a rule such names have nothing to do with the appearance of an Indian. They have a moral, a sentimental, or most of all a purely incidental significance, and may be picked up in anything from a swimming match to a battle. And as a matter of fact, Big Hard Face was not called by that grim name because he was ugly. His naming was a matter which had to do with the untimely month in which he was born, the very last month of the year, when the vast prairies were covered with wind-furrowed snows.

Three or four other children were born into that group of the tribe in the same month, but they all died, because the winter mortality among the plains Indians used to be a fearful thing. But Big Hard Face, or December, as it may be better to call him, lived through the winter and grew fat and boisterous in the warm spring suns, to the delight of his parents and of the whole tribe. Because so many others had been taken during his infancy, it was felt that their lost good fortunes in war and in peace might accompany the new boy.

Big Hard Face did not disappoint the good prophets. There was only one serious mishap in all of his early life, and that was when he was six years old. The colt which he was riding bucked him off and then trampled across his face. They picked up December with his face an indistinguishable mass of blood and disarranged gristle and bone. Thereafter, above the eyes, he was as likely an Indian as you could ever wish to see, and if you watched him wrapped almost to the forehead in his buffalo robe, when he had gained manhood, you would have picked him as the handsomest of his entire tribe.

But when the robe was removed from the lower part of his face, you changed your mind, be sure, with much speed. For Big Hard Face wore a dismal mask that had very little relation to a human countenance. Here and there you could make out something that should be a human feature. That was the chin, surely, that lopsided thing. And the broad, misshapen slit was the mouth, of course. The nose was not in evidence, but he breathed through two smashed holes. And all the good copper of his skin was altered and slashed across with white hollows and sharp white ridges of scar tissue.

The Pawnees are a brawny and hard-minded race of fellows, but it is creditably reported that when they saw Big Hard Face charging, that ghastly slab of a face distorted with a war cry, a band of fifty of them had taken to their heels and fled for their lives, convinced that the devil in person was after them.

However, beauty is not everything.

Big Hard Face, or December, was strong, brave, and silent, as a youth. He listened when the old men talked. And so, in turn, men were willing to listen to him when he wished to make himself heard.

As he grew older, he counted no fewer than seven coups, and he was known to have slain with his own hand five enemies in full battle, and their scalps dried in his tepee. Such feats of arms were not unaccompanied by other manifestations of worth. He was generous, giving freely of those things which he had about him. His lodge was open to the poor and the sick. Among the braves of the tribe, he was not boastful except when it became a good Cheyenne, for the sake of his tribe, and to impress lessons of Indian virtue upon the younger tribesmen.

But with all of this, he had such goods wits, and he knew so eminently well how to use them, that he was able to amass a considerable fortune. He had a fine herd of horses, all selected ponies, and his clothes, and robes, and his household equipment in general, were such as even a chief would have been proud to own.

There was, however, a flaw in his life and in his fortune. It was to be noticed that whereas the other middle-aged braves among the Cheyennes frequently went out to watch the games of the children, or to see the boys racing, or swimming, or wrestling, Big Hard Face was never to be seen in such assemblies.

And often, when it was necessary for him to pass through a group of the boys, he would draw a fold of his buffalo robe across his face.

People wondered at this, but there were some of the oldest and the wisest men in the tribe who understood. For Big Hard Face, as he drew toward the end of middle age and his marriageable days, was without children to honor his declining years. And for children, and above all for a son, he yearned with a mighty passion.

Woe to the man who cannot keep a woman in his house, for he will go all his life with the fear of death staring in his face, and no comfort in his prospect.

So there were no children in the lodge of poor December. It was in vain that he had thrice married. Thrice he had paid a high price for a wife, and thrice, he had treated her with all the kindness of which he was capable, and he was above all a kind man. Yet in each case within a month or two, one day he came home and found his lodge empty.

His home was cared for by an aunt, an old woman with a crooked back but with hands as capable as the hands of a man, and wonderfully skilled in cookery.

She filled the lodge, but she did not fill the heart of poor December. And it was after the lodge had for the third time known the presence of a wife, and had for the third time been emptied, that Big Hard Face turned his head from his people and went off by himself in the wild ocean of the plains. Because he knew that if he remained among his people, the women would smile when they passed him.

After each of these un-marriages, he had gone forth and performed a deed worth relating. Now he was determined to perform a feat greater than any that he had ever attempted before, though what it might be, he hardly was able to determine.

However, when he left the village and started on his voyage with two traveling ponies and a running horse of the finest, he set his face toward that point of the compass where the greatest and the strangest dangers might be expected.

The Cheyennes were now encamped on the most southerly and easternmost extremity of their range, and Big Hard Face aimed his course still farther south and east.

He did not ask advice before he started on his journey. He made his own medicine, and the sign it gave him was good, and so he started upon the inland voyage leisurely, as one prepared to take his time over a great distance, and keep his horses in excellent condition for a swift retreat, pursued by the enemy.

What that enemy might be, he only realized dimly.

Now and then he had had to do with cunning, sharp-minded white traders for the buffalo robes which were dressed in his lodge. But there were tales of a vast country to the East where the white faces roamed as thick as the buffalo themselves, and he had heard tales of cities into which the whole Cheyenne nation might be poured. He knew that these stories were lies, because it was certain that the Cheyennes were the favorites of the Sky People, and the greatest and most powerful and warlike race on earth. Nevertheless, it would be well to see what the truth about the white man was.

And above all, it would be well to return with a white scalp.

He left the treeless plains; he journeyed across green lands. Rivers grew more frequent. Rain clouds hung heavy in the sky, the heat and the humidity grew oppressive. And the new moon which had watched him from the edge of the western sky when he departed had now passed through three phases.

And then he came to a region of cultivated fields. There were houses everywhere, and the barking of dogs surrounded him, day and night, and the crowing of roosters like thin trumpets prophesying danger. He gave up travel beneath the sun. He went forward only in the hours of darkness, feeling his way from point to point.

He saw strange sights in this land, as he crept forward out of the forest after sunset and came close to the verge of towns where the lodges of the warriors were built of stone and of wood, and where myriads of lights gleamed from the tepees. And a dozen times he had a deed presented to his hand, when he came in the woods upon single wanderers, or groups of two or three–all so high headed and unsuspecting of danger that he could have butchered them, and taken their scalps.

But still he held his hand, for he had not yet found a deed suited to his mind. Just what that deed should be, he had no idea, but he felt some great thing growing to fruition within his heart, and he was willing to wait until the voice of God told him what to do.

Now Big Hard Face traveled late one night, and the next morning when he wakened he was on the edge of a wood, and beyond the wood there was a green lawn, and beyond the lawn there was a great lodge, all built of brick and wood, and three columns of smoke came from its roof, and there was a sense of many people within. In the fields near by, there roamed such horses as he had never seen before–horses long of leg and gaunt of belly and mighty of heart and long of neck, horses which looked to have the speed of the wind.

They were fenced in, but the fence ran deep into the edge of the wood, and in the heat of the day the horses came there to rest. He went closer to watch. He went closer still. He had a vast desire to touch these glimmering creatures, and when he showed himself, they did not whirl away and flee. They merely raised their heads and watched him out of great, kind eyes.

So the soul of Big Hard Face grew hungrier and hungrier.

There were a score of these animals. With a faultless instinct, he chose a glorious stallion, a rich, dark chestnut. It submitted to his touch, and his lariat, merely sniffing curiously at the unfamiliar odors on his clothes. He took this treasure through the bars and away among the trees and there his hands went ceaselessly over the wonderful horse, until he had seen it with the tips of his fingers, like a blind man.

But one horse grows old and dies.

He went back. How should he choose, where all were flawless? But he picked at last three mares, beautiful as music, gentle past belief. He led them into the woods, also, and began to wait impatiently for night.

He did not know that the crowning feat of all was still to come.

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