Well, you have probably guessed that those bears did not eat me after all. You can tell by the fact that I am writing this bit in plain English – not squiggly worm-writing – and also because I am writing it in a new Ledger Book. A lot happened which I will try to recount here, even though it is painful to do so.
After Pa died, I did something I cannot remember doing in my whole life.
I was crying for my pa.
But once I started crying, I could not stop. I cried for Ma Evangeline & Pa Emmet, for my dead Indian Ma & for Dizzy the stagecoach driver.
I even cried for those two Reb Road Agents, especially the curly-haired one who had looked up at the stars.
I confess I also cried for myself as I would soon be eaten by bears.
Dawn was lightening the sky.
By and by, all that crying tuckered me out. I curled up on the dirt floor of the cave near the body of my poor dead pa. While I was down there I realized that part of the ground was too flat & hard.
I pushed myself up on one elbow & squinted down with swollen eyes. I thought I saw wood. I brushed at the earth.
Then I brushed a tad more.
There was wood under there.
A crate was buried with a little dirt sprinkled over it.
It was treasure.
But not gold.
Inside the crate was a bag of coffee, a bag of sugar, a wooden spoon & another tin coffee pot. When I opened the lid I saw a big lump of fresh honeycomb. There was also a half-full bottle of whiskey.
I swallowed hard.
If I had found that box of honey & coffee & whiskey earlier, could I have saved my pa’s life?
I dipped my finger in the liquid honey around the comb & licked it off.
That honey was about the best thing I have ever tasted.
It was like the honey Jonathan ate while fighting the Philistines near Michmash in 1 Samuel chapter 14. I dipped in my finger again & sucked off the honey & ‘mine eyes were enlightened’.
Suddenly, I realized why the bears had been a-prowling and a-growling all night long.
They were not hungry for me: a poor skinny 12-year-old half-Sioux Misfit.
They had a hankering for that honey!
Bears have real good noses. They must have got a whiff of it even though it was closed up in a tin coffee pot & boxed up in a crate & sprinkled with earth.
That is why the Dead Reb Road Agents buried the honey and not the gold. Bears will do almost anything to get at honey, but they are not bothered about gold.
I tested my theory by tossing that sticky lump of honeycomb as far out into the clearing as I could. Sure enough, I saw those two bears come out of the trees and lumber after it. I licked the rest of the honey off my throwing hand while I watched them circle it for a spell, with gruntings & growlings & roarings. Then one of them finally grabbed it in his jaws and vamoosed towards Carson City with the other one in hot pursuit.
I was safe for the moment.
But my discovery had been too late for Pa.
I looked down at his body.
I reckoned it was my duty to bury him, lest the bear who did not get the honeycomb return for a consolation snack of carrion.
There was a spade over by the oyster cans & empty bottles, near the pit those Dead Reb Road Agents used as a latrine.
I went to the latrine & while I was there I used it. Then I got the shovel & came back & dug a hole. In the forest around me, woodpeckers had started tapping & some chickadees were conversing & the early morning sunbeams were slanting through pine boughs. It was a frosty morning but digging warmed me up so much that I took off my velvet sacque. When I finished I got cold so I put it on again.
I went back to the cave and looked down at Pa’s body.
‘I am sorry I let you down, Pa,’ I said. ‘I will try to be a good detective. If you are looking down from heaven, I will make you proud of me.’
I drug his stiff & spiritless corpse out of the cave until it was lying next to the grave. I was about to roll him into his last resting place when it occurred to me that he might have some personal effects on his body. Such objects might help me remember him when I was older. I patted him down.
In the right hand pocket of his trowsers, I found his Smith & Wesson No. 2 & also his wife’s handkerchief with CP embroidered on the corner.
In the left-hand pocket of his trowsers were some paper dollars, some Lucifers, a pouch of Lucy Hinton & his Lion-face Meerschaum pipe. I took out the pipe and looked at it. The lion’s chalky face, which had looked fierce before, now appeared stricken by grief.
I thought, ‘I will have to take all these things to Chicago and give them to his grown up sons who are my half-brothers.’
Then I found the Letters.
That was when I realized I had made the biggest mistake of my life.