Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Buckskin Brigades - Chapter 39 - The Noble Indians Defeat the Evil White Men, Forever

Let's end the book with one last little timeskip, for old times' sake.  It's now sunset, Fort Chesterfield has finished burning down, all its loot is sitting on the shore waiting to be taken home with the Blackfoot, Motley has heard McGlincy's confession and has pledged his goodwill to Yellow Hair and his tribe, and the Nor'Westers have taken off for home in disgrace.  All in all, a pretty productive day.

It was quiet as the twilight came on and Yellow Hair had slowly lost all elation of his victory.  Ay, he had triumphed over McGlincy.

Kind of felt hollow, though.  I was expecting the two to at least interact during the final battle, maybe even have a proper duel to the death or something.  Instead McGlincy scampered off, Yellow Hair aimed a cannon at him, and made his nemesis grovel for a bit before doing the Cruel Mercy thing.

Though "nemesis" may be stretching it.  Yeah, McGlincy framed Yellow Hair and set most of the book into motion, but Yellow Hair didn't seem all that interested in this rivalry.  He took no action against McGlincy during the weeks or months spent at Fort William, and made no effort to clear his name either.  Maybe the Mustache is a better choice for Yellow Hair's nemesis since his lordship at least made a personal attempt to kill the renegade, except no, Strathleigh isn't even mentioned in this denouement.  Hmm.

He had delivered his tribe's ultimatum to the whites.

Well, some whites.  Or does Yellow Hair really expect McGlincy and the Mustache to take their message all the way to the King of Canada or whoever?  And that king represents every white man, everywhere?

And what does this ultimatum actually accomplish?  The Nor'Westers didn't invade the Blackfoot's territory, Fort Chesterfield was five days away from Nameless Pikuni Village.  Unless that did count as an inexcusable encroachment, in which case why is Motley's fort still standing?  Or if this is all about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, why are you complaining to the people who had absolutely nothing to do with it?

He had secured the guns and ammunition he had originally been sent for, and a great deal more than anyone had expected.

Even Yellow Hair said that the original plan was to learn the language and customs of the fur traders, so the rest of the tribe could continue to exchange furs for weapons until they were ready to drive them out.  But I suppose skipping the intervening steps and just expelling the whites some of the whites counts as success.

But anyway, it's a total, glorious victory, and Yellow Hair knows that the Council will shower him with prizes - already Low Horns and Long Bow have promised him their favorite robe and horse, respectively.  But while White Fox has (nonverbally) indicated that Yellow Hair has earned a big lodge of his own, and Father Marc has (off-camera) praised Yellow Hair for his mercy, they knew him well enough to keep their distance.  Yellow Hair is moody.  "Revenge is a useless thing," after all, and won't give him back what he's lost.

The long years he had been away flitted fitfully across his mind.

Just as fast as they flitted across these pages.

Bad years they had been.

What brief parts we saw, anyway.

But they might serve at some later time.

Gaunt years.  Sobering years.

He was glad they would not come again.

Guess he knew Hubbard had no plans for a sequel.

Ay, he had returned.  To an empty lodge.  Too long he had been gone.  Too long.

Yes, Yellow Hair figured out the truth behind Bright Star's disappearance - instead of being forced to marry someone she didn't love, she chose to strike out for a life on the plains.  Yellow Hair considers it a "sensible rule on the whole," even though it means some maidens "killed themselves" like Bright Star has.  Man, if only Hubbard's Blackfeet practiced what Wikipedia's Blackfoot did and let females choose whether or not to accept their husbands.

So that's it.  Yellow Hair has won the war, but lost any chance at domestic happiness. 

He could not sit here through the night.  He could not show them the darkness of his spirits...

Something touched his shoulder.

Hands were sliding down his arms.

Abruptly he was pulled backwards and into the soft grass and there---there against the sky!  It was Bright Star!

It's a good thing Yellow Hair disabled his ninja reflexes from Chapter Six and didn't spin around and kick her in the jaw or anything.

But yeah, um, she's alive.  This character whose off-camera disappearance and presumed demise was related to us four chapters ago turns out to not be dead after all.  What a surprise.  What a relief.  While Bright Star and Yellow Hair do that thing where a couple rolls around in the grass laughing and hugging each other, Bright Star explains - or it's narrated that she explains - how she and Magpie and "a girl slave" all hid out along the Marias River for months, doing just fine on their own.

Hyai, what a wife she would make him!  She would become the greatest sits-beside-him woman in the whole Pikuni camp!

Hyai, but let him try to stop her.

I'm not sure who's not-talking here.  If it's Yellow Hair, then his only expressed reaction to Bright Star's return isn't a declaration of love or confession of what her absence did to him, it's the sentiment that she'll be an excellent prop to sit next to him during council meetings.  If it's Bright Star, then she's one of those disappointing females who defines her ideal existence as belonging to a particular man.

But hooray and all that.  Father Marc materializes, "his uneasy conscience" making him say the magical Latin words to make Yellow Hair and Bright Star man and wife.  A laughing Long Bow throws a robe at them, awfully good sport that he is, then goes back to camp to spread the good news.  And the lovebirds more or less ignore them both.  Also, there's no mention of Father Marc taking his leave after doing the priest thing, so if you want you can imagine Yellow Hair and Bright Star embracing or even giving in to their pent-up passions while Marc awkwardly stands nearby.

Black night but stars bright in the sky---the gentle whisper of the river down below---

He had come home.


Note that Yellow Hair was last mentioned by name a full page ago, and two other male characters have appeared since then, so we're ending this book on ambiguous syntax.  Which feels appropriate.

Back to Chapter 38 

1 comment:

  1. So the author lied all those chapters ago when he said McGlincy's head was going to get blown off?