Mountain Wild: Chapter 5: Page 15

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Even though Emma had spoken in English, the Blackfoot seemed to understand her meaning. He looked down at the willow hoops of stretched beaver skins, his face still undecided.

Emma retrieved every beaver pelt she could lay her hands on, and then offered them to the Blackfoot.

"No," a voice rasped in defiance. Everyone looked at the man yanked to one side by his scalp. "You won't git a single beaver from me!"

Fearful that he was about to seal his own fate, Emma swiftly kicked Josiah.

The Blackfoot Indians laughed. The man with the knife released Josiah's hair, letting the mountain man dangle by his wrists from the tree limb. Sheathing his knife, the Blackfoot man looked Emma over with an appreciative eye.

"Don't you touch her!" Josiah barked hoarsely.

A rifle quickly appeared from Grandpap's winter robe, its barrel aiming straight at the man's belly. Grandpap said some things in Blackfoot, and Emma looked to Cora to interpret.

"'She is not for you,'" translated Cora. "'You have had your revenge, and it is enough.'"

Emma gasped. "Is he the wronged husband?"

Cora nodded that he was.

The Blackfoot cast Josiah a parting glare before retrieving his newly acquired horses from the corral.

While the men collected Josiah's beaver pelts, another Blackfoot inspected Josiah's prized Hawken. Yanking wildly at the tree limb, Josiah struggled in vain to get free. Every time his knees buckled, the sinew cut even deeper into his wrists.

The man looked over the Hawken and admired its craftsmanship, for such rifles were rare in these mountains. When the Blackfoot looked as though he were going to take it, Grandpap muttered something, and the disappointed Indian dropped it back on the ground.

Taking away every single beaver pelt, the three ponies, Josiah's buffalo coat, the two heavy traps he had carried with him on the trip, his Bowie knife-- and even Josiah's snowshoes-- the Blackfoot Indians departed with their revenge.

Confronted with the pity on Emma's face, Josiah turned his bloody back to her and motioned to Grandpap with his chin. "Cut me down."

Silently thanking God for sparing Josiah's life, Emma gazed at the half-dressed man bound to the tree. His torn hunting shirt was dangling from his arms, and blood trickled down his back, staining the white snow beneath him.

When Grandpap cut away the sinew, Josiah's body dropped to the ground.

"Stinking savages!" swore Josiah.

"You should be grateful they did not kill you," Cora scolded her son.
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