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.‘Why should it concern me if every white man in this camp dies and lies rotting on the ground, as my people lay among our tents and rotted along the banks of the Platte when the white man’s fever came through our homeland? You destroy what you touch, white man, including one another.One day you will destroy the land itself.’He turned and walked from the square shade of the stretched cover, back upriver toward their distant camp.‘Hard point to dispute,’ murmured Shaw, who had materialized as quietly as a shadow at the rear of the fly.‘Though, mind you, I didn’t care for that business about how maybe there’s a couple more deaders up the gullies.You think some of your in-laws might be prevailed on, Sefton, to go have a look ’fore night comes on? I think between keepin’ things orderly here, an’ makin’ sure Seaholly ain’t left for ten seconds by hisself in the store tent – Clopard’s in there with him now – I think we’re here ’til mornin’ at least.’‘Do we bury our friend come morning?’ January had been using a pine bough to switch away the flies that swarmed around the old man’s face, but knew that by morning, in the July heat of the high mountain valley, the maggots that had been laid before the corpse had been discovered would start to hatch.There were other unpleasant symptoms of mortality as well, and the ants no one could do anything about.Night would bring complications of its own.‘I’d say we gotta.Though I would like to keep him around as long as we can today, as there’s folk we ain’t heard from yet.None of you’s seen Manitou Wildman, have you?’Hannibal shook his head.‘Nor the Beauty and Groot, though they’ll be halfway to their secret.Ah.’ He stopped, as if recalling Jed Blankenship’s initial accusation, and why it would have been the first thing anyone in the camp thought of.‘Hem.Yes.’‘You boys see what you can put together, of who went out playin’ Leatherstocking in the woods last night, an’ of them, who’s back in camp now.Get Prideaux an’ Veinte-y-Cinco to help.They knows everybody in the camp.’Shaw slouched his hands in his pockets, spit into the thickets of huckleberry that the camp-setters had hacked back in order to set up the fly.Liquor wasn’t the only white man’s vice too dangerous to indulge away from the protection of the camp; January smiled a little to himself, at the quickness with which Shaw had sought out ‘Missouri manufactured’ – as it was called – on his return.‘I don’t think it was our friend Boden that did for the old boy – since he didn’t try to blame it on the Indians.But hanged if I can see how one feller headin’ for the rendezvous alive an’ disappearing, an’ another feller appearin’ at the rendezvous dead out of nowhere, can’t have somethin’ to do with each other somehow.I better go ask that pusillanimous skunk Titus if’fn one of his AFC boys don’t know how to put together a coffin.If Grey shows up again.’‘Madre de Dios,’ cried a young man’s voice from the front of the fly, hoarse with shock.January, Shaw, and Hannibal all swung around, just as Blankenship pushed his way through the crowd to seize the arm of the youth who had gasped the words – one of his camp-setters, January saw.What was his name? Poco.A half-breed boy from Santa Fe, small and wiry—‘He has come after me,’ whispered Poco, and crossed himself.‘I never thought that it was true, that if you rob the dead they would come to you, demanding their own back.’—small and wiry and wearing a handsome pair of black wool trousers that would have fit the dead man perfectly.ELEVEN‘That’s horseshit,’ said Blankenship.‘I robbed more dead men than I got friends livin’—’‘We few, we happy few,’ quoted Hannibal irreverently.‘—an’ not a one of ’em ever come around askin’ for his plunder back.’But Poco was already unbuttoning the trousers.He stepped out of them and held them out to Shaw: ‘I am truly sorry.It is not that I wished to rob the dead, but they were so much better than my own.’‘Hannibal,’ said Shaw, ‘you go mind the store.’Poco’s story was a simple one.He had waited until his master left the camp the previous night – shortly before the onset of the rain – and made his way across Horse Creek alone, aided by a dark-lantern for which he’d traded what remained of his tobacco ration, for the moon, on those rare occasions when the clouds parted, was but two days past new.‘My cousin works for Señor Groot,’ he explained.‘He told me that day, that if I wanted work with his party I should meet them at Rotten Draw, that runs into Horse Creek from the hills, when it was fully dark—’‘An’ you didn’t think to tell me this?’ Blankenship, who had refused to be turned out of the fly, smote the boy with his wolfskin hat [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]