He had now, when dusk was approaching, two charges of assault and one of cattle-killing to make, and it would not be prudent to remain upon the reservation during the night with anybody he arrested. The Indians were in a sullen, threatening mood; it was difficult to extract any information, and Flett was alone. He was, however, not to be daunted by angry looks or ominous mutterings, and by persistently questioning the injured men he learned enough to warrant his making two arrests; though he decided that the matter of the hide must be dropped for the present.
It was in a state of nervous tension that he mounted and drove his prisoners on a few paces in front of him. If he could get them into the open, he thought he would be safe, but the reservation was, for the most part, a tract of brush and bluff, pierced by ravines, among which he half expected an attempt would be made to facilitate their escape. For all that, he was, so far as appearances went, very calm and grim when he set out, and his prisoners, being ahead, did not notice that he searched each taller patch of brush they entered with apprehensive glances. Nor did they see his hand drop to his pistol-butt when something moved in the bushes as they went down the side of a dark declivity.
There was, however, no interference, and he felt more confident when he rode out into the moonlight which flooded the glittering prairie. Here he could deal with any unfavorable developments; but it was several leagues to the nearest shelter, and the Indians did not seem inclined to travel fast. The half-frozen constable would gladly have walked, only that he felt more master of the situation upon his horse. Mile after mile, they crossed the vast white waste, without a word being spoken, except when the shivering man sternly bade his prisoners, “Get on!”
Hand-cuffed as they were, he dare not relax his vigilance nor let them fall back too near him; and he had spent the previous night in the bitter frost. At times he felt painfully drowsy, but he had learned to overcome most bodily weaknesses, and his eyes only left the dark, plodding figures in front of him when he swept a searching glance across the plain. Nothing moved on it, and only the soft crunch of snow broke the dreary silence. At last, a cluster of low buildings rose out of the waste, and soon afterward Flett got down with difficulty and demanded shelter. The rudely awakened farmer gave him the use of his kitchen, in which a stove was burning; and while the Indians went to sleep on the floor, Flett, choosing an uncomfortable upright chair, lighted his pipe and sat down to keep another vigil. When dawn broke, his eyes were still open, though his face was a little haggard and very weary.
He obtained a conviction for assault; but, as the charges of cattle-killing and being in possession of liquor had to be dropped, this was small consolation. It left the men he considered responsible absolutely untouched.