Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete
Page: 197As Harpstenah went back to the village her prospective bridegroom ogled her as he sat smoking before his lodge, his face blackened and blanket torn in mourning for an enemy he had killed. She resolved to heed the appeal of the manitou. When Red Deer heard how she had been promised to the old conjurer, he was filled with rage. Still, he became thoughtful and advised caution when she told him of the water spirit's counsel, for the dwellers in the lakes were, of all immortals, most deceitful, and had ever been enemies of the Dakotas. "I will do as I am bidden," she said, sternly. "Go away and visit the Tetons for a time. It is now the moon of strawberries" (June), "but in the moon when we gather wild rice" (September) "return and I will be your wife."
Red Deer obeyed, after finding that she would not elope with him, and with the announcement that he was going on a long hunt he took his leave of the village. Harpstenah made ready for the bridal and greeted her future husband with apparent pleasure and submissiveness. He gave a medicine feast in token of the removal of his mourning, and appeared in new clothing, greased and braided hair, and a white blanket decorated with a black hand—the record of a slain enemy.
On the night before the wedding the girl creeps to his lodge, but hesitates when she sees his medicine-bag hanging beside the door—the medicine that has kept its owner from evil and is sacred from the touch of woman. As she lingers the night-breeze seems to bring a voice from the water: "Can a Dakota woman want courage when she is forced to marry the man she hates?"
She delays no longer. A knife-blade glitters for an instant in the moonlight—and Cloudy Sky is dead. Strange, is it not, that the thunder birds flap so heavily along the west at that moment and a peal of laughter sounds from the lake? She washes the blood from the blade, steals to her father's lodge, and pretends to sleep. In the morning she is loud in her grief when it is made known to her that the medicine-man was no more, and the doer of the deed is never discovered. In time her wan face gets its color and when the leaves begin to fall Red Deer returns and weds her.
They seem to be happy for a time, and have two sons who promise to be famous hunters, but consumption fastens on Red Deer and he dies far from the village. The sons are shot by enemies, and while their bodies are on their way to Harpstenah's lodge she, too, is stricken dead by lightning. The spirit of Cloudy Sky had rejoined the thunder birds, and the water manitou had promised falsely.
The going of white men into the prairies aroused the same sort of animosity among the Indians that they have shown in other parts of the country when retiring before the advance of civilization, and many who tried to plant corn on the rolling lands of Iowa, though they did no harm to the red men, paid for the attempt with their lives. Such was the fate of a settler who had built his cabin on the Wyoming hills, near Davenport. While working in his fields an arrow, shot from a covert, laid him low, and his scalp was cut away to adorn the belt of a savage. His little daughter, left alone, began to suffer from fears and loneliness as the sun went lower and lower, and when it had come to its time of setting she put on her little bonnet and went in search of him. As she gained the slope where he had last been seen, an Indian lifted his head from the grass and looked at her.