Cries from the Earth

Free Cries from the Earth by Terry C. Johnston

Book: Cries from the Earth by Terry C. Johnston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Terry C. Johnston
bring a blush to the soldier chief’s neck, that color climbing up his bearded cheeks like a swell of storm clouds.
    Cut-Off Arm said, “This is very bad advice you give the others, old man—so you best shut up. On account of your bad words, I am going to send you to Indian Territory. Look here, Joseph and White Bird appear to have good hearts, but it is plain your heart is very bad. You will be punished in the hot land of the Indian Territory until you have a good heart again, even if it takes years and years—”
    â€œDo not threaten me with your faraway land!” Toohoolhoolzote interrupted the soldier chief that instant a translation was made. “This is my land—where I was born, where I will fight, and where I will die if need be. Not in some hot, faraway—”
    â€œWhen I heard you were coming, I feared you would make trouble for the rest of these leaders,” the soldier chief grumbled peevishly. “You say you are not a medicine man, but you talk strongly on behalf of your religion. I think these people can see no good while you are their spokesman. You are telling them to resist what is law, telling them to fight what will be, to lose their horses and cattle and have unending trouble because of your hard-headed foolishness.”
    As the interpreter was translating, Howard stepped past Toohoolhoolzote and stopped before the other chiefs to say, “Will Joseph, White Bird, and Looking Glass go with me to pick out their land on the reservation? This old man will not go, so he must stay here with soldier chief Perry.”
    With the half-breed’s translation, Toohoolhoolzote stomped up to the soldier chief’s empty sleeve and demanded, “Are you trying to scare me about my physical body?”
    Cut-Off Arm glared down at him, turning squarely on the squat chief with his left hand raised into a claw, as if he intended to seize the old man as he growled, “For now I am going to leave your body right here with soldier chief Perry!”
    With that threat Toohoolhoolzote lunged backward, bent at the knees, clearly prepared to knock the soldier chief’s hand aside should Cut-Off Arm make his advance.
    Instead, the bearded white man wheeled around to shout orders to the other soldiers gathered there, most of them getting on their feet, too.
    â€œWhat did he just say to them?” Joseph demanded of the half-breed Reuben, unable to understand a word of that flurry of English.
    Reuben gulped. “He told them to bring a guard, so the guard can take the old man to the small iron house.”
    â€œSmall iron house?” Joseph repeated. “What is that?”
    â€œIron bars cover the windows, bars on the doors,” Reuben explained with fear in his eyes as they darted back and forth between Joseph’s and Toohoolhoolzote. His fingers started to pantomime the iron bars on the doors and windows. “But, hold on, now the soldier chief won’t wait for a guard to come—”
    At that instant Cut-Off Arm whirled on his heel and with his one hand clamped a lock on Toohoolhoolzote’s elbow, jerking the tewat into motion. “I will take you to the guardhouse myself!”
    The stunned chiefs sat frozen as the other white men and soldiers parted their ranks for Cut-Off Arm and the shaman. A few of the soldiers fell in behind their leader as he dragged the old chief away. A tense, stony silence settled over the council.
    Later, by the time Joseph spotted Cut-Off Arm returning across the open meadow that lay between the fort’s buildings, some of the women had quietly begun to keen behind their leaders. Closer and closer the soldiers came until Cut-Off Arm stopped once more, directly in front of Joseph and the other chiefs.
    Cut-Off Arm quickly glanced over the leaders, then spoke to his interpreter.
    â€œNow, I want you to ask these leaders if they are going to listen to that old troublemaker I took to the guardhouse myself …

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