MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
RED PROPHET (Chapter 1: Hooch)
Not many flatboats were getting down the Hio these days, not with pioneers aboard, anyway, not with families and tools and furniture and seed and a few shoats to start a pig herd. It took only a couple of fire arrows and pretty soon some tribe of Reds would have themselves a string of half-charred scalps to sell to the French in Detroit.
But Hooch Palmer had no such trouble. The Reds all knew the look of his flatboat, stacked high with kegs. Most of those kegs sloshed with whisky, which was about the only musical sound them Reds understood. But in the middle of the vast heap of cooperage there was one keg that didn't slosh. It was filled with gunpowder, and it had a fuse attached.
How did he use that gunpowder? They'd be floating along with the current, poling on round a bend, and all of a sudden there'd be a half-dozen canoes filled with painted-up Reds of the Kicky-Poo persuasion. Or they'd see a fire burning near shore, and some Shaw-Nee devils dancing around with arrows ready to set alight.
For most folks that meant it was time to pray, fight, and die. Not Hooch, though. He'd stand right up in the middle of that flatboat, a torch in one hand and the fuse in the other, and shout, "Blow up whisky! Blow up whisky!"
Well, most Reds didn't talk much English, but they sure knew what "blow up" and "whisky" meant. And instead of arrows flying or canoes overtaking them, pretty soon them canoes passed by him on the far side of the river. Some Red yelled, "Carthage City!" and Hooch hollered back, "That's right!" and the canoes just zipped on down the Hio, heading for where that likker would soon be sold.
The poleboys, of course, it was their first trip downriver, and they didn't know all that Hooch Palmer knew, so they about filled their trousers first time they saw them Reds with fire arrows. And when they saw Hooch holding his torch by that fuse, they like to jumped right in the river. Hooch just laughed and laughed. "You boys don't know about Reds and likker," he said. "They won't do nothing that might cause a single drop from these kegs to spill into the Hio. They'd kill their own mother and not think twice, if she stood between them and a keg, but they won't touch us as long as I got the gunpowder ready to blow if they lay one hand on me."
Privately the poleboys might wonder if Hooch really would blow the whole raft, crew and all, but the fact is Hooch would. He wasn't much of a thinker, nor did he spend much time brooding about death and the hereafter or such philosophical questions, but this much he had decided: when he died, he supposed he wouldn't die alone. He also supposed that if somebody killed him, they'd get no profit from the deed, none at all. Specially not some half-drunk weak-sister cowardly Red with a scalping knife.
The best secret of all was, Hooch wouldn't need no torch and he wouldn't need no fuse, neither. Why, that fuse didn't even go right into the gunpowder keg, if the truth be known--Hooch didn't want a chance of that powder going off by accident. No, if Hooch ever needed to blow up his flatboat, he could just set down and think about it for a while. And pretty soon that powder would start to hotten up right smart, and maybe a little smoke would come off it, and then pow! it goes off.
That's right. Old Hooch was a spark. Oh, there's some folks says there's no such thing as a spark, and for proof they say, "Have you ever met a spark, or knowed anybody who did?" but that's no proof at all. Cause if you happen to be a spark, you don't go around telling everybody, do you? It's not as if anybody's hoping to hire your services--it's too easy to use flint and steel, or even them alchemical matches. No, the only value there is to being a spark is if you want to start a fire from a distance, and the only time you want to do that is if it's a bad fire, meant to hurt somebody, burn down a building, blow something up. And if you hire out that kind of service, you don't exactly put up a sign that says Spark For Hire.
Worst of it is that if word once gets around that you're a spark, every little fife gets blamed on you. Somebody's boy lights up a pipe out in the barn, and the barn burns down--does that boy ever say, "Yep, Pa, it was me all right." No sir, that boy says, "Must've been some spark set that fire, Pa!" and then they go looking for you, the neighborhood scapegoat. No, Hooch was no fool. He didn't ever tell nobody about how he could get things het up and flaming.
There was another reason Hooch didn't use his sparking ability too much. It was a reason so secret that Hooch didn't rightly know it himself. Thing was, fire scared him. Scared him deep. The way some folks is scared of water, and so they go to sea; and some folks is scared of death, and so they take up gravedigging; and some folks is scared of God, and so they set to preaching. Well Hooch feared the fire like he feared no other thing, and so he was always drawn to it, with that sick feeling in his stomach; but when it was time for him to lay a fire himself, why, he'd back off, he'd delay, he'd think of reasons why he shouldn't do it at all. Hooch had a knack, but he was powerful reluctant to make much use of it.
But he would have done it. He would have blown up that powder and himself and his poleboys and all his likker, before he'd let a Red take it by murder. Hooch might have his bad fear of fire, but he'd overcome it right quick if he got mad enough.
Good thing, then, that the Reds loved likker so much they didn't want to risk spilling a drop. No canoe came too close, no arrow whizzed in to thud and twang against a keg, and Hooch and his kegs and casks and firkins and barrels all slipped along the top of the water peaceful as you please, clear to Carthage City, which was Governor Harrison's high-falutin name for a stockade with a hundred soldiers right smack where the Little My-Ammy River met the Hio. But Bill Harrison was the kind of man who gave the name first, then worked hard to make the place live up to the name. And sure enough, there was about fifty chimney fires outside the stockade this time, which meant Carthage City was almost up to being a village.
He could hear them yelling before he hove into view of the wharf--there must be Reds who spent half their life just setting on the riverbank waiting for the likker boat to come in. And Hooch knew they were specially eager this time, seeing as how some money changed hands back in Fort Dekane, so the other likker dealers got held up this way and that until old Carthage City must be dry as the inside of a bull's tit. Now here comes Hooch with his flat-boat loaded up heavier than they ever saw, and he'd get a price this time, that's for sure.
Bill Harrison might be vain as a partridge, taking on airs and calling himself governor when nobody elected him and nobody appointed him but his own self, but he knew his business. He had those boys of his in smart-looking uniforms, lined up at the wharf just as neat as you please, their muskets loaded and ready to shoot down the first Red who so much as took a step toward the shore. It was no formality, neither--them Reds looked mighty eager, Hooch could see. Not jumping up and down like children, of course, but just standing there, just standing and watching, right out in the open, not caring who saw them, half-naked the way they mostly were in summertime. Standing there all humble, all ready to bow and scrape, to beg and plead, to say, Please Mr. Hooch one keg for thirty deerskins, oh that would sound sweet, oh indeed it would; Please Mr. Hooch one tin cup of likker for these ten muskrat hides. "Whee-haw!" cried Hooch. The poleboys looked at him like he was crazy, cause they didn't know, they never saw how these Reds used to look, back before Governor Harrison set up shop here, the way they never deigned to look at a White man, the way you had to crawl into their wicky-ups and choke half to death on smoke and steam and sit there making signs and talking their jub-jub until you got permission to trade. Used to be the Reds would be standing there with bows and spears, and you'd be scared to death they'd decide your scalp was worth more than your trade goods.
Not anymore. Now they didn't have a single weapon among them. Now their tongues just hung out waiting for likker. And they'd drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and whee-haw! They'd drop down dead before they'd ever stop drinking, which was the best thing of all, best thing of all. Only good Red's a dead Red, Hooch always said, and the way he and Bill Harrison had things going now, they had them Reds dying of likker at a good clip, and paying for the privilege along the way.
So Hooch was about as happy a man as you ever saw when they tied up at the Carthage City Wharf. The sergeant even saluted him, if you could believe it! A far cry from the way the U.S. Marshalls treated him back in Suskwahenny, acting like he was scum they just scraped off the privy seat. Out here in this new country, free-spirited men like Hooch were treated most like gentlemen, and that suited Hooch just fine. Let them pioneers with their tough ugly wives and wiry little brats go hack down trees and cut up the dirt and raise corn and hogs just to live. Not Hooch. He'd come in after, after the fields were all nice and neat looking and the houses were all in fine rows on squared-off streets, and then he'd take his money and buy him the biggest house in town, and the banker would step off the sidewalk into the mud to make way for him, and the mayor would call him sir--if he didn't decide to be mayor himself by then.
This was the message of the sergeant's salute, telling his future for him, when he stepped ashore.
"We'll unload here, Mr. Hooch," said the sergeant.
"I've got a bill of lading," said Hooch, "so let's have no privateering by your boys. Though I'd allow as how there's probably one keg of good rye whisky that somehow didn't exactly get counted on here. I'd bet that one keg wouldn't be missed."
"We'll be as careful as you please, sir," said the sergeant, but he had a grin so wide it showed his hind teeth, and Hooch knew he'd find a way to keep a good half of that extra keg for himself. If he was stupid, he'd sell his half-keg bit by bit to the Reds. You don't get rich off a half keg of whisky. No, if that sergeant was smart, he'd share that half keg, shot by shot, with the officers that seemed most likely to give him advancement, and if he kept that up, someday that sergeant wouldn't be out greeting flatboats, no sir, he'd be sitting in officers' quarters with a pretty wife in his bedroom and a good steel sword at his hip.
Not that Hooch would ever tell this to the sergeant. The way Hooch figured, if a man had to be told, he didn't have brains enough to do the job anyway. And if he had the brains to bring it off, he didn't need no flatboat likker dealer telling him what to do.
"Governor Harrison wants to see you," said the sergeant.
"And I want to see him," said Hooch. "But I need a bath and a shave and clean clothes first."
"Governor says for you to stay in the old mansion."
"Old one?" said Hooch. Harrison had built the official mansion only four years before. Hooch could think of only one reason why Bill might have upped and built another so soon. "Well, now, has Governor Bill gone and got hisself a new wife?"
"He has," said the sergeant. "Pretty as you please, and only fifteen years old, if you like that! She's from Manhattan, though, so she don't talk much English or anyway it don't sound like English when she does."
That was all right with Hooch. He talked Dutch real good, almost as good as he talked English and a lot better than he talked Shaw-Nee. He'd make friends with Bill Harrison's wife in no time. He even toyed with the idea of--but no, no, it wasn't no good to mess with another man's woman. Hooch had the desire often enough, but he knew things got way too complicated once you set foot on that road. Besides, he didn't really need no White woman, not with all these thirsty squaws around.
Would Bill Harrison bring his children out here, now he had a second wife? Hooch wasn't too sure how old them boys would be now, but old enough they might relish the frontier life. Still, Hooch had a vague feeling that the boys'd be a lot better off staying in Philadelphia with their aunt. Not because they shouldn't be out in wild country, but because they shouldn't be near their father. Hooch liked Bill Harrison just fine, but he wouldn't pick him as the ideal guardian for children--even for Bill's own.
Hooch stopped at the gate of the stockade. Now, there was a nice touch. Right along with the standard hexes and tokens that were supposed to ward off enemies and fire and other such things, Governor Bill had put up a sign, the width of the gate. In big letters it said
and in smaller letters it said
CAPITAL OF THE STATE OF WOBBISH
which was just the sort of thing old Bill would think of. In a way, he expected that sign was more powerful than any of the hexes. As a spark, for instance, Hooch knew that the hex against fire wouldn't stop him, it'd just make it harder to start a fire up right near the hex. If he got a good blaze going somewhere else, that hex would burn up just like anything else. But that sign, naming Wobbish a state and Carthage its capital, why, that might actually have some power in it, power over the way folks thought. If you say a thing often enough, people come to expect it to be true, and pretty soon it becomes true. Oh, not something like "The moon is going to stop in its tracks and go backward tonight," cause for that to work the moon'd have to hear your words. But if you say things like "That girl's easy" or "That man's a thief," it doesn't much matter whether the person you're talking about believes you or not--everybody else comes to believe it, and treats them like it was true. So Hooch figured that if Harrison got enough people to see a sign that named Carthage as the capital of the state of Wobbish, someday it'd plumb come to be.
Fact is, though, Hooch didn't much care whether it was Harrison who got to be governor and put his capital in Carthage City, or whether it was that teetotaling self-righteous prig Armor-of-God Weaver up north, where Tippy-Canoe Creek flowed into the Wobbish River, who got to be governor and make Vigor Church the capital. Let those two fight it out; whoever won, Hooch intended to be a rich man and do as he liked. Either that or see the whole place go up in flames. If Hooch ever got completely beat down and broken, he'd make sure nobody else profited. When a spark had no hope left, he could still get even, which is about all the good Hooch figured he got out of being a spark.
Well, of course, as a spark he made sure his bathwater was always hot, so it wasn't a total loss. Sure was a nice change, getting off the river and back into civilized life. The clothes laid out for him were clean, and it felt good to get that prickly beard off his face. Not to mention the fact that the squaw who bathed him was real eager to get an extra dose of likker, and if Harrison hadn't sent a soldier knocking on his door telling him to hurry it up, Hooch might have collected the first installment of her trade goods. Instead, though, he dried and dressed.
She looked real concerned when he started for the door. "You be back?" she asked.
"Look here, of course I will," he said. "And I'll have a keg with me."
"Before dark though," she said.
"Well maybe yes and maybe no," he answered. "Who cares?"
"After dark, all Reds like me, outside fort."
"Is that so," murmured Hooch. "Well, I'll try to be back before dark. And if I don't, I'll remember you. May forget your face, but I won't forget your hands, hey? That was a real nice bath."
She smiled, but it was a grotesque imitation of a real smile. Hooch just couldn't figure out why the Reds didn't die out years ago, their women were so ugly. But if you kind of closed your eyes, a squaw would do well enough until you could get back to real women.
It wasn't just a new mansion Harrison had built--he had added a whole new section of stockade, so the fort was about twice the size it used to be. And a good solid parapet ran the whole length of the stockade. Harrison was ready for war. That made Hooch pretty uneasy. The likker trade didn't thrive too good in wartime. The kind of Reds who fought battles weren't the kind of Reds who drank likker. Hooch saw so much of the latter kind that he pretty much forgot the former kind existed. There was even a cannon. No, two cannons. This didn't look good at all.
Harrison's office wasn't in the mansion, though. It was in another building entirely, a new headquarters building, and Harrison's office was in the southwest corner, with lots of light. Hooch noticed that besides the normal complement of soldiers on guard and officers doing paperwork, there were several Reds sprawling or sitting in the headquarters building. Harrison's tame Reds, of course--he always kept a few around.
But there were more tame Reds than usual, and the only one Hooch recognized was Lolla-Wossiky, a one-eyed Shaw-Nee who was always about the drunkest Red who wasn't dead yet. Even the other Reds made fun of him, he was so bad, a real lickspittle.
What made it even funnier was the fact that Harrison himself was the man who shot Lolla-Wossiky's father, some fifteen years ago, when Lolla-Wossiky was just a little tyke, standing right there watching. Harrison even told the story sometimes right in front of Lolla-Wossiky, and the one-eyed drunk just nodded and laughed and grinned and acted like he had no brains at all, no human dignity, just about the lowest, crawliest Red that Hooch ever seen. He didn't even care about revenge for his dead papa, just so long as he got his likker. No, Hooch wasn't a bit surprised to see that Lolla-Wossiky was lying right on the floor outside Harrison's office, so every time the door opened, it bumped him right in the butt. Incredibly, even now, when there hadn't been new likker in Carthage City in four months, Lolla-Wossiky was pickled. He saw Hooch come in, sat up on one elbow, waved an arm in greeting, and then rocked back onto the floor without a sound. The handkerchief he kept tied over his missing eye was out of place, so the empty socket with the sucked-in eyelids was plainly visible. Hooch felt like that empty eye was looking at him. He didn't like that feeling. He didn't like Lolla-Wossiky. Harrison was the kind of man who liked having such squalid creatures around--made him feel real good about himself, by contrast, Hooch figured--but Hooch didn't like seeing such miserable specimens of humanity. Why hadn't Lolla-Wossiky died yet?
Just as he was about to open Harrison's door, Hooch looked up from the drunken one-eyed Red into the eyes of another man, and here's the funny thing: He thought for a second it was Lolla-Wossiky again, they looked so much alike. Only it was Lolla-Wossiky with both eyes, and not drunk at all, no sir. This Red must be six feet from sole to scalp, leaning against the wall, his head shaved except his scalplock, his clothing clean. He stood straight, like a soldier at attention, and he didn't so much as look at Hooch. His eyes stared straight into space. Yet Hooch knew that this boy saw everything, even though he focused on nothing. It had been a long time since Hooch saw a Red who looked like that, all cold and in control of things.
Dangerous, dangerous, is Harrison getting careless, to let a Red into his own headquarters with eyes like those? With a bearing like a king, and arms so strong he looks like he could pull a bow made from the trunk of a six-year-old oak? Lolla-Wossiky was so contemptible it made Hooch sick. But this Red who looked like Lolla-Wossiky, he was the opposite. And instead of making Hooch sick, he made Hooch mad, to be so proud and defiant as if he thought he was as good a man as any White. No, better. That's how he looked--like he thought he was better.
Then he realized he was just standing there, his hand on the latch pull, staring at the Red. Hadn't moved in how long? That was no good, to let folks see how this Red made him uncomfortable. He pulled the door open and stepped inside.
But he didn't talk about that Red, no sir, that wouldn't do at all. It wouldn't do to let Harrison know how much that one proud Shaw-Nee bothered him, made him angry. Because there sat Governor Bill behind a big old table, like God on his throne, and Hooch realized things had changed around here. It wasn't just the fort that had got bigger--so had Bill Harrison's vanity. And if Hooch was going to make the profit he expected to on this trip, he'd have to make sure Governor Bill came down a peg or two, so they could deal as equals instead of dealing as a tradesman and a governor.
"Noticed your cannon," said Hooch, not bothering even to say howdy. "What's the artillery for, French from Detroit, Spanish from Florida, or Reds?"
"No matter who's buying the scalps, it's always Reds, one way or another," said Harrison. "Now sit down, relax, Hooch. When my door is closed there's no ceremony between us." Oh, yes, Governor Bill liked to play his games, just like a politician. Make a man feel like you're doing him a favor just to let him sit in your presence, flatter him by making him feel like a real chum before you pick his pocket. Weil, thought Hooch, I have some games of my own to play, and we'll see who comes out on top.
Hooch sat down and put his feet up on Governor Bill's desk. He took out a pinch of tobacco and tucked it into his cheek. He could see Bill flinch a little. It was a sure sign that his wife had broke him of some manly habits. "Care for a pinch?" asked Hooch.
It took a minute before Harrison allowed as how he wouldn't mind a bit of it. "I mostly swore off this stuff," he said ruefully.
So Harrison still missed his bachelor ways. Well, that was good news to Hooch. Gave him a handle to get the Gov off balance. "Hear you got yourself a white bed-warmer from Manhattan," said Hooch.
It worked: Harrison's face flushed. "I married lady from New Amsterdam," he said. His voice was quiet and cold. Didn't bother Hooch a bit--that's just what he wanted.
"A wife!" said Hooch. "Well, I'll be! I beg your pardon, Governor, that wasn't what I heard, you'll have to forgive me, I was only going by what the--what the rumors said."
"Rumors?" asked Harrison
"Oh, no, you just never mind. You know how soldiers talk. I'm ashamed I listened to them in the first place. Why, you've kept the memory of your first wife sacred all these years, and if I was any kind of friend of yours, I would've known any woman you took into your house would be a lady, and a properly married wife."
"What I want to know," said Harrison, "is who told you she was anything else?"
"Now, Bill, it was just loose soldiers" talk; I don't want any man to get in trouble because he can't keep his tongue. A likker shipment just came in, for heaven's sake, Bill! You won't hold it against them, what they said with their minds on whisky. No, you just take a pinch of this tobacky and remember that your boys all like you fine."
Harrison took a good-sized chaw from the offered tobacco pouch and tucked it into his cheek. "Oh, I know, Hooch, they don't bother me." But Hooch knew that it did bother him, that Harrison was so angry he couldn't spit straight, which he proved by missing the spittoon. A spittoon, Hooch noticed, which had been sparkling clean. Didn't anybody spit around here anymore, except Hooch?
"You're getting civilized," said Hooch. "Next thing you know you'll have lace curtains."
"Oh, I do," said Harrison. "In my house."
"And little china chamber pots?"
"Hooch, you got a mind like a snake and a mouth like a hog."
"That's why you love me, Bill--cause you got a mind like a hog and a mouth like a snake."
"Keep that in mind," said Harrison. "You just keep that in mind, how I might bite, and bite deep, and bite with poison in it. You keep that in mind before you try to play your diddly games with me."
"Diddly games!" cried Hooch. "What do you mean, Bill Harrison! What do you accuse me of!"
"I accuse you of arranging for us to have no likker at all for four long months of springtime, till I had to hang three Reds for breaking into military stores, and even my soldiers ran out!"
"Me! I brought this load here as fast as I could!"
Harrison just smiled.
Hooch kept his look of pained outrage--it was one of his best expressions, and besides it was even partly true. If even one of the other whisky traders had half a head on him, he'd have found a way downriver despite Hooch's efforts. It wasn't Hooch's fault if he just happened to be the sneakiest, most malicious, lowdown, competent skunk in a business that wasn't none too clean and none too bright to start with.
Hooch's look of injured innocence lasted longer than Harrison's smile, which was about what Hooch figured would happen.
"Look here, Hooch," said Harrison.
"Maybe you better start calling me Mr. Ulysses Palmer," said Hooch. "Only my friends call me Hooch."
But Harrison did not take the bait. He did not start to make protests of his undying friendship. "Look here, Mr. Palmer," said Harrison, "you know and I know that this hasn't got a thing to do with friendship. You want to be rich, and I want to be governor of a real state. I need your likker to be governor, and you need my protection to be rich. But this time you pushed too far. You understand me? You can have a monopoly for all I care, but if I don't get a steady supply of whisky from you, I'll get it from someone else."
"Now Governor Harrison, I can understand you might've started fretting along in there sometime, and I can make it right with you. What if you had six kegs of the best whisky all on your own--"
But Harrison wasn't in the mood to be bribed, either. "What you forget, Mr. Palmer, is that I can have all this whisky, if I want it."
Well, if Harrison could be blunt, so could Hooch, though he made it a practice to say things like this with a smile. "Mr. Governor, you can take all my whisky once. But then what trader will want to deal with you?"
Harrison laughed and laughed. "Any trader at all, Hooch Palmer, and you know it!"
Hooch knew when he'd been beat. He joined right in with the laughing.
Somebody knocked on the door. "Come in," said Harrison. At the same time he waved Hooch to stay in his chair. A soldier stepped in, saluted, and said, "Mr. Andrew Jackson here to see you, sir From the Tennizy country, he says,"
"Days before I looked for him," said Harrison. "But I'm delighted, couldn't be more pleased, show him in, show him in."
Andrew Jackson. Had to be that lawyer fellow they called Mr. Hickory. Back in the days when Hooch was working the Tennizy country, Hickory Jackson was a real country boy--killed a man in a duel, put his fists into a few faces now and then, had a name for keeping his word, and the story was that he wasn't exactly completely married to his wife, who might well have another husband in her past who wasn't even dead. That was the difference between Hickory and Hooch--Hooch would've made sure the husband was dead and buried long since. So Hooch was a little surprised that this Jackson was big enough now to have business that would take him clear from Tennizy up to Carthage City.
But that was nothing to his surprise when Jackson stepped through the door, ramrod straight with eyes like fire. He strode across the room and offered his hand to Governor Harrison. Called him Mr. Harrison, though. Which meant he was either a fool, or he didn't figure he needed Harrison as much as Harrison needed him.
"You got too many Reds around here," said Jackson. "That one-eyed drunk by the door is enough to make a body puke."
"Well," said Harrison, "I think of him as kind of a pet. My own pet Red."
"Lolla-Wossiky," said Hooch helpfully. Well, not really helpfully. He just didn't like how Jackson hadn't noticed him, and Harrison hadn't bothered to introduce him.
Jackson turned to look at him. "What did you say?"
"Lolla-Wossiky," said Hooch.
"The one-eyed Red's name," said Harrison.
Jackson eyed Hooch coldly. "The only time I need to know the name of a horse," he said, "is when I plan to ride it."
"My name's Hooch Palmer," said Hooch. He offered his hand.
Jackson didn't take it. "Your name is Ulysses Brock," said Jackson, "and you owe more than ten pounds in unpaid debts back in Nashville. Now that Appalachee has adopted U.S. currency, that means you owe two hundred and twenty dollars in gold. I bought those debts and it happens that I have the papers with me, since I heard you were trading whisky up in these parts, and so I think I'll place you under arrest."
It never occurred to Hooch that Jackson would have that kind of memory, or be such a skunk as to buy a man's paper, especially seven-year-old paper, which by now should be pretty much forgot. But sure enough, Jackson took a warrant out of his coat pocket and laid it on Governor Harrison's desk.
"Since I appreciate your already having this man in custody when I arrived," said Jackson, "I am glad to tell you that under Appalachee law the apprehending officer is entitled to ten percent of the funds collected."
Harrison leaned back in his chair and grinned at Hooch. "Well, Hooch, maybe you better set down and let's all get better acquainted. Or I guess maybe we don't have to, since Mr. Jackson here seems to know you better than I did."
"Oh, I know Ulysses Brock all right," said Jackson. "He's just the sort of skunk we had to get rid of in Tennizy before we could lay claim to being civilized. And I expect you'll be rid of his sort soon enough here, too, as you get the Wobbish country ready to apply for admission to the United States."
"You take a lot for granted," said Harrison. "We might try to go it alone out here, you know."
"If Appalachee couldn't make a go of it alone, with Tom Jefferson as President, you won't do any better here, I reckon."
"Well maybe," said Harrison, "just maybe we've got to do something that Tom Jefferson didn't have the guts to do. And maybe we've got a need for men like Hooch here."
"What you have need for is soldiers," said Jackson. "Not rummers."
Harrison shook his head. "You're a man who forces me to come to the point, Mr. Jackson, and I can calculate right enough why the folks in Tennizy sent you on up here to meet with me. So I'll come to the point. We've got the same trouble up here that you've got down there, and that trouble can be summed up in one word: Reds."
"Which is why I'm perplexed that you let drunken Reds sit around here in your own headquarters. They all belong west of the Mizzipy, and that's as plain as day. We won't have peace and we won't have civilization until that's done. And since Appalachee and the U.S. alike are convinced that Reds can be treated like human beings, we've got to solve our Red problem before we join the Union. It's as simple as that."
"Well, you see?" said Harrison. "We already agree completely."
"Then why is it that you keep your headquarters as full of Reds as Independence Street in Washington City? They have Cherriky men acting as clerks and even holding government offices in Appalachee, right in the capital, jobs that White men ought to have, and then I come here and find you keep Reds around you, too."
"Cool down, Mr. Jackson, cool right down. Don't the King keep his Blacks there in his palace in Virginia?"
"His Blacks are slaves. Everybody knows you can't make slaves out of Reds. They aren't intelligent enough to be properly trained."
"Well, you just set yourself there in that chair, Mr. Jackson, and I'll make my point the best way I know how, by showing you two prime Shaw-Nee specimens. Just set down."
Jackson picked up the chair and moved it to the opposite side of the room from Hooch. It made something gnaw in Hooch's gut, the way Jackson acted. Men like Jackson were so upright and honest-seeming, but Hooch knew that there wasn't no such thing as a good man, just a man who wasn't bought yet, or wasn't in deep enough trouble, or didn't have the guts to reach out and take what he wanted. That's all that virtue ever boiled down to, so far as Hooch ever saw in his life. But here was Jackson, putting on airs and calling for Bill Harrison to arrest him! Think of that, a stranger from Tennizy country coming up here and waving around a warrant from an Appalachee judge, of all things, which didn't have no more force in Wobbish country than if it was written by the King of Ethiopia. Well, Mr. Jackson, it's a long way home from here, and we'll just see if you don't have some kind of accident along the way.
No, no, no, Hooch told himself silently. Getting even don't amount to nothing in this world. Getting even only gets you behind. The best revenge is to get rich enough to make them all call you sir, that's how you get even with these boys. No bushwhacking. If you ever get a name for bushwhacking, that's the end of you, Hooch Palmer.
So Hooch sat there and smiled, as Harrison called for his aide. "Why don't you invite Lolla-Wossiky in here? And while you're at it, tell his brother he can come in, too."
Lolla-Wossiky's brother--had to be the defiant Red who was standing up against the wall. Funny, how two peas from the same pod could grow up so different.
Lolla-Wossiky came in fawning, smiling, looking quickly from one White face to the next, wondering what they wanted, how he could make them happy enough to reward him with whisky. It was written all over him, how thirsty he was, even though he was already so drunk he didn't walk straight. Or had he already drunk so much likker that he couldn't walk straight even when he was sober? Hooch wondered--but soon enough he knew the answer. Harrison reached into the bureau behind him and took out a jug and a cup. Lolla-Wossiky watched the brown liquid splash into the cup, his one eye so intense it was like he could taste the likker by vision alone. But he didn't take even a single step toward the cup. Harrison reached out and set the cup on the table near the Red, but still the man stood there, smiling, looking now at the cup, now at Harrison, waiting, waiting.
Harrison turned to Jackson and smiled. "Lolla-Wossiky is just about the most civilized Red in the whole Wobbish country, Mr. Jackson. He never takes things that don't belong to him. He never speaks except when spoken to. He obeys and does whatever I tell him. And all he ever asks in return is just a cup of liquid. Doesn't even have to be good likker. Corn whisky or bad Spanish rum are just fine with him, isn't that right, Lolla-Wossiky?"
"Very so right, Mr. Excellency," said Lolla-Wossiky. His speech was surprisingly clear, for a Red. Especially a drunken Red.
Hooch saw Jackson study the one-eyed Red with disgust. Then the Tennizy lawyer's gaze shifted to the door, where the tall, strong, defiant Red was standing. Hooch enjoyed watching Jackson's face. From disgust, his expression plainly changed to anger. Anger and, yes, fear. Oh, yes, you aren't fearless, Mr. Jackson. You know what Lolla-Wossiky's brother is. He's your enemy, and my enemy, the enemy of every White man who ever wants to have this land, because sometime this uppity Red is going to put his tommy-hawk in your head and peel off your scalp real slow, and he won't sell it to no Frenchman, neither, Mr. Jackson, he'll keep it and give it to his children, and say to them, "This is the only good White man. This is the only White man who doesn't break his word. This is what you do to White men." Hooch knew it, Harrison knew it, and Jackson knew it. That young buck by the door was death. That young buck was White men forced to live east of the mountains, all crammed into the old towns with all their lawyers and professors and high-toned people who never gave you room to breathe. People like Jackson himself, in fact. Hooch gave one snort of laughter at that idea. Jackson was exactly the sort of man that folks moved west to get away from. How far west will I have to go before the lawyers lose the trail and get left behind?
"I see you've noticed Ta-Kumsaw. Lolla-Wossiky's older brother, and my very, very dear friend. Why, I've known that lad since before his father died. Look what a strong buck he's grown into!"
If Ta-Kumsaw noticed how he was being ridiculed, he showed no sign of it. He looked at no person in the room. Instead he looked out the window on the wall behind the governor. Didn't fool Hooch, though. Hooch knew what he was watching, and had a pretty good idea what Ta-Kumsaw was feeling, too. These Reds, they took family real serious. Ta-Kumsaw was secretly watching his brother, and if Lolla-Wossiky was too likkered up to feel any shame, that just meant Ta-Kumsaw would feel it all the more.
"Ta-Kumsaw," said Harrison. "You see I've poured a drink for you. Come, sit down and drink, and we can talk."
At Harrison's words, Lolla-Wossiky went rigid. Was it possible that the drink wasn't for him, after all? But Ta-Kumsaw did not twitch, did not show any sign that he heard.
"You see?" said Harrison to Jackson. "Ta-Kumsaw isn't even civilized enough to sit down and have a convivial drink with friends. But his younger brother is civilized, isn't he? Aren't you, Lolly? I'm sorry I don't have a chair for you, my friend, but you can sit on the floor under my table here, sit right at my feet, and drink this rum."
"You are remarkable kind," said Lolla-Wossiky in that clear, precise speech of his. To Hooch's surprise, the one-eyed Red did not scramble for the cup. Instead he walked carefully, each step a labor of precision, and took the cup between only slightly trembling hands. Then he knelt down before Harrison's table and, still balancing the cup, sank into a seated position, his legs crossed.
But he was still out in front of the table, not under it, and Harrison pointed this out to him. "I'd like you to sit under my table," said the governor. "I'd regard it as a great courtesy to me if you would."
So Lolla-Wossiky bent his head almost down into his lap and waddled on his buttocks until he was under the table. It was very hard for him to drink in that position, since he couldn't lift his head straight up, let alone tip it back to drain the cup. But he managed anyway, drinking carefully, rocking from one side to the other.
All this time, Ta-Kumsaw said nary a word. Didn't even show that he saw how his brother was being humiliated. Oh, thought Hooch, oh, the fire that burns in that boy's heart. Harrison's taking a real risk here. Besides, if he's Lolla-Wossiky's brother, he must know Harrison shot his daddy during the Red uprisings back in the nineties sometime, when General Wayne was fighting the French. A man doesn't forget that kind of thing, especially a Red man, and here Harrison was testing him, testing him right to the limit.
"Now that everybody's comfortable," said Harrison, "why don't you set down and tell us what you came for, Ta-Kumsaw."
Ta-Kumsaw didn't sit. Didn't close the door, didn't take a step farther into the room. "I speaking for Shaw-Nee, Caska-Skeeaw, Pee-Orawa, Winny-Baygo."
"Now, Ta-Kumsaw, you know that you don't even speak for all the Shaw-Nee, and you sure don't speak for the others."
"All tribes who sign General Wayne's treaty." Ta-Kumsaw went on as if Harrison hadn't said a thing. "Treaty says Whites don't sell whisky to Reds."
"That's right," said Harrison. "And we're keeping that treaty."
Ta-Kumsaw didn't look at Hooch, but he lifted his hand and pointed at him. Hooch felt the gesture as if Ta-Kumsaw had actually touched him with that finger. It didn't make him mad this time, it plain scared him. He heard that some Reds had a come-hither so strong that didn't no hex protect you, so they could lure you off into the woods alone and slice you to bits with their knives, just to hear you scream. That's what Hooch thought of, when he felt Ta-Kumsaw point to him with hatred.
"Why are you pointing at my old friend Hooch Palmer?" asked Harrison.
"Oh, I reckon nobody likes me today," Hooch said. He laughed, but it didn't dispel his fear after all.
"He bring his flatboat of whisky," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"Well, he brought a lot of things," said Harrison. "But if he brought whisky, it'll be delivered to the sutler here in the fort and not a drop of it will be sold to the Reds, you can be sure. We uphold that treaty, Ta-Kumsaw, even though you Reds aren't keeping it too good lately. It's got so flatboats can't travel alone down the Hio no more, my friend, and if things don't let up, I reckon the army's going to have to take some action."
"Burn a village?" asked Ta-Kumsaw. "Shoot down our babies? Our old people? Our women?"
"Where do you get these ideas?" said Harrison. He sounded downright offended, even though Hooch knew right well that Ta-Kumsaw was describing the typical army operation.
Hooch spoke right up, in fact. "You Reds burn out helpless farmers in their cabins and pioneers on their flat-boats, don't you? So why do you figure your villages should be any safer, you tell me that!"
Ta-Kumsaw still didn't look at him. "English law says, Kill the man who steals your land, you are not bad. Kill a man to steal his land, and you are very bad. When we kill White farmers, we are not bad. When you kill Red people who live here a thousand years, you are very bad. Treaty says, stay all east of My-Ammy River, but they don't stay, and you help them."
"Mr. Palmer here spoke out of turn," said Harrison. "No matter what you savages do to our people--torturing the men, raping the women, carrying off the children to be slaves--we don't make war on the helpless. We are civilized, and so we behave in a civilized manner."
"This man will sell his whisky to Red men. Make them lie in dirt like worms. He will give his whisky to Red women. Make them weak like bleeding deer, do all things he says."
"If he does, we will arrest him," said Harrison. "We will try him and punish him for breaking the law."
"If he does, you not will arrest him," said Ta-Kumsaw. "You will share pelts with him. You will keep him safe."
"Don't call me a liar," said Harrison.
"Don't lie," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"If you go around talking to White men like this, Ta-Kumsaw, old boy, one of them's going to get real mad at you and blast your head off."
"Then I know you will arrest him. I know you will try him and punish him for breaking the law." Ta-Kumsaw said it without cracking a smile, but Hooch had traded with the Reds enough to know their kind of joke.
Harrison nodded gravely. It occurred to Hooch that Harrison might not realize it was a joke. He might think Ta-Kumsaw actually believed it. But no, Harrison knew he and Ta-Kumsaw was lying to each other; and it came into Hooch's mind that when both parties are lying and they both know the other party's lying, it comes powerful close to being the same as telling the truth.
What was really hilarious was that Jackson actually did believe all this stuff. "That's right," said the Tennizy lawyer. "Rule of law is what separates civilized men from savages. Red men just aren't advanced enough yet, and if you aren't willing to be subject to White man's law, you'll just have to make way."
For the first time, Ta-Kumsaw looked one of them in the eye. He stared coldly at Jackson and said, "These men are liars. They know what is true, but they say it is not true. You are not a liar. You believe what you say."
Jackson nodded gravely. He looked so vain and upright and godly that Hooch couldn't resist it, he hottened up the chair under Jackson just a little, just enough that Jackson had to wiggle his butt. That took off a few layers of dignity. But Jackson still kept his airs. "I believe what I say because I tell the truth."
"You say what you believe. But still it is not true. What is your name?"
Ta-Kumsaw nodded. "Hickory."
Jackson looked downright surprised and pleased that Ta-Kumsaw had heard of him. "Some folks call me that." Hooch hottened up his chair a little more.
"Blue Jacket says, Hickory is a good man."
Jackson still had no idea why his chair was so uncomfortable, but it was too much for him. He popped right up, stepped away from the chair, kind of shaking his legs with each step to cool himself off. But still he kept talking with all the dignity in the world. "I'm glad Blue Jacket feels that way. He's chief of the Shaw-Nee down in Tennizy country, isn't he?"
"Sometimes," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"What do you mean sometimes?" said Harrison, "Either he's a chief or he isn't."
"When he talks straight, he is chief," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"Well, I'm glad to know he trusts me," said Jackson. But his smile was a little wan, because Hooch was busy hotting up the floor under his feet, and unless old Hickory could fly, he wasn't going to be able to get away from that. Hooch didn't plan to torment him long. Just until he saw Jackson take a couple of little hops, and then try to explain why he was dancing right there in front of a young Shaw-Nee warrior and Governor William Henry Harrison.
Hooch's little game got spoiled, though, cause at that very moment, Lolla-Wossiky toppled forward and rolled out from under the table. He had an idiotic grin on his face, and his eyes were closed. "Blue Jacket!" he cried. Hooch took note that drink had finally slurred his speech. "Hickory!" shouted the one-eyed Red.
"You are my enemy," said Ta-Kumsaw, ignoring his brother.
"You're wrong," said Harrison. "I'm your friend. Your enemy is up north of here, in the town of Vigor Church. Your enemy is that renegade Armor-of-God Weaver."
"Armor-of-God Weaver sells no whisky to Reds."
"Neither do I," said Harrison. "But he's the one making maps of all the country west of the Wobbish. So he can parcel it up and sell it after he's killed all the Reds."
Ta-Kumsaw paid no attention to Harrison's attempt to turn him against his rival to the north. "I come to warn you," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"Warn me?" said Harrison. "You, a Shaw-Nee who doesn't speak for anybody, you warn me, right here in my stockade, with a hundred soldiers ready to shoot you down if I say the word?"
"Keep the treaty," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"We do keep the treaty! It's you who always break the treaties!"
"Keep the treaty," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"Or what?" asked Jackson.
"Or every Red west of the mountains will come together and cut you to pieces."
Harrison leaned back his head and laughed and laughed. Ta-Kumsaw showed no expression.
"Every Red, Ta-Kumsaw?" asked Harrison. "You mean, even Lolly here? Even my pet Shaw-Nee, my tame Red, even him?"
For the first time Ta-Kumsaw looked at his brother, who lay snoring on the floor. "The sun comes up every day, White man. But is it tame? Rain falls down every time. But is it tame?"
"Excuse me, Ta-Kumsaw, but this one-eyed drunk here is as tame as my horse."
"Oh yes," said Ta-Kumsaw, "Put on the saddle. Put on the bridle. Get on and ride. See where this tame Red goes. Not where you want."
"Exactly where I want," said Harrison. "Keep that in mind. Your brother is always within my reach. And if you ever get out of line, boy, I'll arrest him as your conspirator and hang him high."
Ta-Kumsaw smiled thinly. "You think so. Lolla-Wossiky thinks so. But he will learn to see with his other eye before you ever lay a hand on him."
Then Ta-Kumsaw turned around and left the room. Quietly, smoothly, not stalking, not angry, not even closing the door behind him. He moved with grace, like an animal, like a very dangerous animal. Hooch saw a cougar once, years ago, when he was alone in the mountains. That's what Ta-Kumsaw was. A killer cat.
Harrison's aide closed the door.
Harrison turned to Jackson and smiled. "You see?" he said.
"What am I supposed to see, Mr. Harrison?"
"Do I have to spell it out for you, Mr. Jackson?"
"I'm a lawyer. I like things spelled out. If you can spell."
"I can't even read," said Hooch cheerfully.
"You also can't keep your mouth shut," said Harrison. "I'll spell it out for you, Jackson. You and your Tennizy boys, you talk about moving the Reds west of the Mizzipy. Now let's say we do that. What are you going to do, keep soldiers all the way up and down the river, watching all day and all night? They'll be back across this river whenever they want, raiding, robbing, torturing, killing."
"I'm not a fool," said Jackson. "It will take a great bloody war, but when we get them across the river, they'll be broken. And men like that Ta-Kumsaw--they'll be dead or discredited."
"You think so? Well, during that great bloody war you talk about, a lot of White boys will die, and White women and children, too. But I have a better idea. These Reds suck down likker like a calf sucks down milk from his mama's tit. Two years ago there was a thousand Pee-Ankashaw living east of the My-Ammy River. Then they started getting likkered up. They stopped working, they stopped eating, they got so weak that the first little sickness came through here, it wiped them out. Just wiped them out. If there's a Pee-Ankashaw left alive here, I don't know about it. Same thing happened up north, to the Chippy-Wa, only it was French traders done it to them. And the best thing about likker is, it kills off the Reds and not a White man dies."
Jackson rose slowly to his feet. "I reckon I'll have to take three baths when I get home," he said, "and even then I still won't feel clean."
Hooch was delighted to see that Harrison was really mad. He rose to his feet and shouted at Jackson so loud that Hooch could feel his chair shake. "Don't get high and mighty with me, you hypocrite! You want them all dead, just like I do! There's no difference between us."
Jackson stopped at the door and eyed the governor with disgust. "The assassin, Mr. Harrison, the poisoner, he can't see the difference between himself and a soldier. But the soldier can."
Unlike Ta-Kumsaw, Jackson was not above slamming the door.
Harrison sank back down onto his chair. "Hooch, I've got to say, I don't much like that fellow."
"Never mind," said Hooch. "He's with you."
Harrison smiled slowly. "I know. When it comes to war, we'll all be together. Except for maybe that Red-kisser up in Vigor Church."
"Even him," said Hooch. "Once a war starts, the Reds won't be able to tell one White man from another. Then his people will start dying just like ours. Then Armor-of-God Weaver will fight."
"Yeah, well, if Jackson and Weaver would likker up their Reds the way we're doing ours, there wouldn't have to be a war."
Hooch aimed a mouthful at the spittoon and didn't miss by much. "That Red, that Ta-Kumsaw."
"What about him?" asked Harrison.
"He worries me."
"Not me," said Harrison. "I've got his brother here passed out on my floor. Ta-Kumsaw won't do nothing."
"When he pointed at me, I felt his finger touch me from across the room. I think he's maybe got a come-hither. Or a far-touch. I think he's dangerous."
"You don't believe in all that hexery, do you, Hooch? You're such an educated man, I thought you were above that kind of superstition."
"I'm not and neither are you, Bill Harrison. You had a doodlebug tell you where firm ground was so you could build this stockade, and when your first wife had her babies, you had a torch in to see how the baby was laying in the womb."
"I warn you," said Harrison, "to make no more comment about my wife."
"Which one, now, Bill? The hot or the cold?"
Harrison swore a good long string of oaths at that. Oh, Hooch was delighted, Hooch was pleased. He had such knack for hotting things up, yes sir, and it was more fun hotting up a man's temper, because there wasn't no flame then, just a lot of steam, a lot of hot air.
Well, Hooch let old Bill Harrison jaw on for a while. Then he smiled and raised his hands like he was surrendering. "Now, you know I didn't mean no harm, Bill. I just didn't know as how you got so prissy these days. I figured we both know where babies grow, how they got in there, and how they come out, and your women don't do it any different than mine. And when she's lying there screaming, you know you've got a midwife there who knows how to cast a sleep on her, or do a pain-away, and when the baby's slow to come you've got a torch telling where it lays. And so you listen to me, Bill Harrison. That Ta-Kumsaw, he's got some kind of knack in him, some kind of power. He's more than he seems."
"Is he now, Hooch? Well maybe he is and maybe he ain't. But he said Lolla-Wossiky would see with his other eye before I laid a hand on him, and it won't be long before I prove that he's no prophet."
"Speaking of old one-eye, here, he's starting to fart something dreadful."
Harrison called for his aide. "Send in Corporal Withers and four soldiers, at once."
Hooch admired the way Harrison kept military discipline. It wasn't thirty seconds before the soldiers were there, Corporal Withers saluting and saying, "Yes, sir, General Harrison."
"Have three of your men carry this animal out to the stable for me."
Corporal Withers obeyed instantly, pausing only to say, "Yes sir, General Harrison."
General Harrison. Hooch smiled. He knew that Harrison's only commission was as a colonel under General Wayne during the last French war, and he didn't amount to much even then. General. Governor. What a pompous--
But Harrison was talking to Withers again, and looking at Hooch as he did so. "And now you and Private Dickey will kindly arrest Mr. Palmer here and lock him up."
"Arrest me!" shouted Hooch. "What are you talking about!"
"He carries several weapons, so you'll have to search him thoroughly," said Harrison. "I suggest stripping him here before you take him to the lock-up, and leave him stripped. Don't want this slippery old boy to get away."
"What are you arresting me for!"
"Why, we have a warrant for your arrest for unpaid debts," said Harrison. "And you've also been accused of selling whisky to Reds. We'll naturally have to seize all your assets--those suspicious-looking kegs my boys've been hauling into the stockade all day--and sell them to make good the debt. If we can sell them for enough, and we can clear you of those ugly charges of likkering up the Reds, why, we'll let you go."
Then Harrison walked on out of his office. Hooch cussed and spit and made remarks about Harrison's wife and mother, but Private Dickey was holding real tight to a musket, and that musket had a bayonet attached to the business end; so Hooch submitted to the stripping and the search. It got worse, though, and he cussed again when Withers marched him right across the stockade, stark naked, and didn't give him so much as a blanket when he locked him into a storage room. A storage room filled with empty kegs from the last shipment of likker.
He sat in that lock-up room for two days before his trial, and for the first while there was murder in his heart. He had a lot of ideas for revenge, you can bet. He thought of setting fire to the lace curtains in Harrison's house, or burning the shed where the whisky was kept, starting all kinds of fire. Cause what good is it to be a spark if you can't use it to get even with folks who pretend to be your friends and then lock you into jail?
But he didn't start no fires, because Hooch was no fool. Partly, he knew that if a fire once got started anywhere in the stockade, there was a good chance it'd spread from one end to the other inside half an hour. And there was a good chance that while everybody's rushing around to save their wives and children and gunpowder and likker, they might not remember about one whisky trader locked up in a storage room. Hooch didn't hanker to die in a fire of his own setting--that wasn't no kind of vengeance. Time enough to start fires when he had a noose around his neck someday, but he wasn't going to risk burning to death just to get even over something like this.
But the main reason he didn't start a fire wasn't fear, it was plain business sense. Harrison was doing this to show Hooch that he didn't like the way Hooch delayed shipments of likker to jack up the price. Harrison was showing him that he had real power, and all Hooch had was money. Well, let Harrison play at being a powerful man. Hooch knew some things, too. He knew that someday the Wobbish country would petition the U.S. Congress in Philadelphia to become a state. And when it did, a certain William Henry Harrison would have his little heart set on being governor. And Hooch had seen enough elections back in Suskwahenny and Pennsylvania and Appalachee to know that you can't get votes without silver dollars to pass around. Hooch would have those silver dollars. And when the time came, he might pass around those silver dollars to Harrison voters; and then again he might not. He just might not. He might help another man sit in the governor's mansion, someday when Carthage was a real city and Wobbish was a real state, and then Harrison would have to sit there the rest of his life and remember what it was like to be able to lock people up, and he would grind his teeth in anger at how men like Hooch took all that away from him.
That's how Hooch kept himself entertained, sitting in that lock-up room for two long days and nights.
Then they hauled him out and brought him into court--unshaven, dirty, his hair wild, and his clothes all wrinkled up. General Harrison was the judge, the jury' was all in uniform, and the defense attorney was--Andrew Jackson! It was plain Governor Bill was trying to make Hooch get mad and start in ranting, but Hooch wasn't born yesterday. He knew that whatever Harrison had in mind, it wouldn't do no good to yell about it. Just sit tight and put up with it.
It took only a few minutes.
Hooch listened with a straight face as a young lieutenant testified that all Hooch's whisky had been sold to the sutler at exactly the price it sold for last time. According to the legal papers, Hooch didn't make a penny more from having kept them waiting four months between shipments. Well, thought Hooch, that's fair enough, Harrison's letting me know how he wants things run. So he didn't say a word. Harrison looked as merry as you please, behind his magisterial solemnity. Enjoy yourself, thought Hooch. You can't make me mad.
But he could, after all. They took 220 dollars right off the top and handed it over to Andrew Jackson right there in court. Counted out eleven gold twenty-dollar coins. That caused Hooch physical pain, to see that fiery metal dropping into Jackson's hands. He couldn't keep his silence then. But he did manage to keep his voice low and mild-sounding. "If don't seem regular to me," he said, "to have the plaintiff acting as defense attorney."
"Oh, he's not your defense attorney on the debt charges," said His Honor Judge Harrison. "He's just your defense attorney on the likker charges." Then Harrison grinned and gaveled that matter closed.
The likker business didn't take much longer. Jackson carefully presented all the same invoices and receipts to prove that every keg of whisky was sold to the sutler of Carthage Fort, and not a speck of it to any Reds. "Though I will say," said Jackson, "that the amount of whisky represented by these receipts seems like enough for three years for an army ten times this size."
"We've got a bunch of hard-drinking soldiers," said Judge Harrison. "And I reckon that likker won't last six months. But not a drop to the Reds, Mr. Jackson, you may be sure!"
Then he dismissed all charges against Hooch Palmer, alias Ulysses Brock. "But let this be a lesson to you, Mr. Palmer," said Harrison in his best judicial voice. "Justice on the frontier is swift and sure. See to it you pay your debts. And avoid even the appearance of evil."
"Sure enough," said Hooch cheerfully. Harrison had rolled him over good, but everything had worked out fine. Oh, the 220 dollars bothered him, and so did the two days in jail, but Harrison didn't mean for Hooch to suffer much. Because what Jackson didn't know, and no one else saw fit to mention, was that Hooch Palmer happened to have the contract as sutler for the U.S. Army in Wobbish Territory. All those documents that proved he hadn't sold the likker to the Reds really showed that he sold the likker to himself--and at a profit, too. Now Jackson would head on home and Hooch would settle down in the sutler's store, selling likker to the Reds at extortionate prices, splitting the profits with Governor Bill and watching the Reds die like flies. Harrison had played his little joke on Hooch, right enough, but he'd played an even bigger one on old Hickory.
Hooch made sure to be at the wharf when they ferried Jackson back across the Hio. Jackson had brought along two big old mountain boys with rifles, no less. Hooch took note that one of them looked to be half Red himself, probably a Cherriky half-breed--there was lots of that kind of thing in Appalachee, White men actually marrying squaws like as if they was real women. And both those rifles had "Eli Whitney" stamped on the barrel, which meant they was made in the state of Irrakwa, where this Whitney fellow set up shop making guns so fast he made the price drop; and the story was that all his workmen was women, Irrakwa squaws, if you can believe it. Jackson could talk all he wanted about pushing the Reds west of the Mizzipy, but it was already too late. Ben Franklin did it, by letting the Irrakwa have their own state up north, and Tom Jefferson made it worse by letting the Cherriky be full voting citizens in Appalachee when they fought their revolution against the King. Treat them Reds like citizens and they start to figure they got the same rights as a White man. There was no way to have an orderly society if that sort of thing caught on. Why, next thing you know them Blacks'd start trying to get out of being slaves, and first thing you know you'd sit down at the bar in a saloon and you'd look to your left and there'd be a Red, and you'd look to your right and there'd be a Black, and that was just plain against nature.
There went Jackson, thinking he was going to save the White man from the Red, when he was traveling with a half-breed and toting Red-made rifles. Worst of all, Jackson had eleven gold coins in his saddle pouch, coins that properly belonged to Hooch Palmer. It made Hooch so mad he couldn't think straight.
So Hooch hotted up that saddle pouch, right where the metal pin held it onto the saddle. He could feel it from here, the leather charring, turning ash-black and stiff around that pin. Pretty soon, as the horse walked along, that bag would drop right off. But since they was likely to notice it, Hooch figured he wouldn't stop with the pouch. He hotted up a whole lot of other places on that saddle, and on the other men's saddles, too. When they reached the other shore they mounted up and rode off, but Hooch knew they'd be riding bareback before they got back to Nashville. He most sincerely hoped that Jackson's saddle would break in such a way and at such a time that old Hickory would land on his butt or maybe even break his arm. Just thinking about the prospect made Hooch pretty cheerful. Every now and then it was kind of fun to be a spark. Take some pompous holy-faced lawyer down a peg.
Truth is, an honest man like Andrew Jackson just wasn't no match for a couple of scoundrels like Bill Harrison and Hooch Palmer. It was just a crying shame that the army didn't give no medals to soldiers who likkered their enemies to death instead of shooting them. Cause if they did, Harrison and Palmer would both be heroes, Hooch knew that for sure.
As it was, Hooch reckoned Harrison would find a way to make himself a hero out of all this anyway, while Hooch would end up with nothing but money. Well, that's how it goes, thought Hooch. Some people get the fame, and some people get the money. But I don't mind, as long as I'm not one of the people who end up with nothing at all. I sure never want to be one of them. And if I am, they're sure going to be sorry.
RED PROPHET Copyright © 1988 by Orson Scott Card