Neither McGlincy or Luberly are showing much sign of the proto-Hubbard Action Sequence that happened last chapter - Luberly's swollen jaw is concealed by his wild beard, and at most there's some spilled whiskey on McGlincy's coat. Being rough-and-tumble frontiersmen they're not really concerned about the physical aspect of the fight, they're just "intensely annoyed" that some damned savage started one without provocation. McGlincy is already retconning the events of last chapter, insisting that Yellow Hair was petrified with terror when the major was looming over him. Luberly says nothing but looks around to make sure Father Marc is out of earshot.
I'll admit it, I smirked.
Luberly then voices some concerns about that "half-breed" they now have in custody, concerns that aren't shared by his boss.
"What do I care about that?" snarled McGlincy.
An unaccountable thought flashed through Luberly's greasy head: McGlincy didn't have to care. When a reprisal came, McGlincy would be far away and Luberly would be left holding the sack---or rather, Yellow Hair. Luberly did not have enough intelligence to realize how completely he hated this despot; he did not philosophically decide that a show of fawning adoration and flattery is sometimes employed to cover hate and distrust. He simply realized that McGlincy was not in the least bit worried about the fate of one Brock Luberly and certain associated bullies and voyageurs.
I'm not sure if I like this paragraph or not. I'm all for insulting unlikeable characters, but do we lose anything if Luberly is just smart enough to realize he doesn't really like his boss, but that it's in his best interests to act otherwise? And why do characters have to have "unaccountable" thoughts? Are they so stupid that they can't figure out how they drew their own conclusions?
Anyway, Luberly explains why the Blackfoot are trouble, and tells a story about how one night the fur traders treated some visiting natives to some booze...
McGlincy snorted again. "Nothing new about that."
"The heads of the tribe," pursued Luberly with caution, "had, as usual, told Franklin not to hand our spirits to their people."
"The people drink 'em, don't they? What did Franklin care about a flock of dirty niggers?"
Not sure whether this novel is accurately capturing the casual racism of 1806 or 1937.
Well, one of the braves decided to have a drink anyway, and accused this Franklin of stealing his furs "when any trader can tell you that it's policy to put out the whiskey first and that this Indian certainly wasn't robbed," so they put some laudanum in the guy's drink to make him have a nap. But they got the dose wrong and the man died, the Blackfoot had a meeting about it, and decided it was an act of murder, "Can you imagine that?" Those impertinent Indians besieged the fort, so Franklin waved the truce flag, got them to approach, and then blasted them with grapeshot from the fort's cannon. The only reason the survivors didn't burn the fort down was because the fur traders outnumbered them.
McGlincy likes the story and approves of the clever treachery regarding the truce flag, but beats me to the punch and asks what the point of it was. Luberly was just trying to explain that if the Blackfoot find out about the guy they just arrested, there'll be hell to pay. See, he knows that even though Yellow Hair is a half-breed, those "bloodthirsty devils" would burn the fort down if they knew he'd been hurt. I guess Luberly somehow figured out that they're up against the story's hero. It was probably the white hunting shirt.
But McGlincy already knows this, see, that's why he had Yellow Hair imprisoned instead of shot.
All this seemed to imply McGlincy's benevolence. Luberly smiled in warm congratulations and appreciation.
So I guess Luberly is being fooled? Even though McGlincy just explained that he doesn't want to provoke the ire of the Blackfoot, Lubelry still thinks his boss spared Yellow Hair out of the goodness of his heart?
McGlincy grinned, showing broken, yellow fangs.
Oh no, now Luberly has malaria! ...Seriously, Hubbard, it's the very start of the Nineteenth Century. You can't rely on using physical deficiencies to prove people's evilness in a setting that hasn't heard of modern dentistry or warm showers.
McGlincy repeats his observation that his fellow fort leaders were a bit crude in their attacks on the rival Hudson's Bay Company, and even though the distant courts don't mean anything, it may be smart to be careful. So when McGlincy makes his move against the HBC, he'll do it in a way that won't implicate Fort Chesterfield. See, those HBC dogs are gonna be scalped.
McGlincy taps his nose while saying this, and the author interrupts some vital exposition with a paragraph explaining that this gesture, meant to show that McGlincy is in the know, is also a Blackfoot gesture that in one of those amazing coincidences means "idiot." But McGlincy doesn't realize this because "His mind was on beaver pelts, was always on beaver pelts and always had been until it seemed likely that his skull itself was fur-lined." So now you can properly appreciate the irony of someone using a nose-tapping hand gesture to attempt to signal his intelligence when in a nearby culture it denotes the opposite.
Luberly is confused as to how McGlincy plans on getting the Blackfoot to do his dirty work for him, so McGlincy has to explain that no, his brigades will do the scalping. And then Luberly objects that the HBC will be mad and get them all hanged, so McGlincy has to explains some more that they'll scalp them in a way that implicates the Indians. They keep the half-breed around, dose him with some laudanum, then hang the scalps on his belt so he thinks he did it and gets all the blame. The Nor'Westers can even earn some brownie points by handing this fugitive over to their rivals and colonial government.
The beautiful light of admiration shone upon Luberly's face. Stunned by McGlincy's brilliance, he could only sit and marvel at the greatness of the man. Overcome, Luberly could only wipe his nose on his sleeve and snuffle very loudly.
So does nobody have a pack of cards at this fort? Has Luberly never played poker or any card game involving a bit of deceit? Or is he simply an honest and straightforward fellow at heart with no experience with such deception?
But there's our plot, I guess. A big bad colonial figure out to get rich by exploiting America's natural resources, and who has a drinking problem and isn't as smart as he thinks he is, is attempting to use one of the natives to further his own ambitions, while said native (who happens to be white and physically perfect) is also hoping to turn things around and learn the methods of his captors so he can drive them out.
So, am I talking about Buckskin Brigades or Battlefield Earth? At least McGlincy's scheme won't backfire and lead to the destruction of Canada and England. Probably.
Back to Chapter 6, part 2