The waters closed over the fairy as he disappeared, and the waves beat harder against Harpstenah’s feet. She awoke with the words echoing in her heart, “Can a Sioux woman want courage when she is to be forced to marry a man she hates?” “The words of the fairy were wise and true,” thought the maiden. “Our medicine-men say that the fairies of the water are all wicked; that they are ever seeking to do harm to the Dahcotahs. My dream has made my heart light. I will take the life of the war chief. At the worst they can but take mine.”
As she looked round the teepee, her eye rested upon the faces of her parents. The bright moonlight had found its way into the teepee. There lay her father, his haughty countenance calm and subdued, for the “image of death” had chased away the impression left on his features of a fierce struggle with a hard life. How often had he warned her of the danger of offending Cloudy Sky, that sickness, famine, death itself, might be the result. Her mother too, had wearied her with warnings. But she remembered her dream, and with all a Sioux woman’s faith in revelations, she determined to let it influence her course.
Red Deer had often vowed to take the life of his rival, though he knew it would have assuredly cost him his own. The family of Cloudy Sky was a large one; there were many who would esteem it a sacred duty to avenge his death. Besides he would gain nothing by it, for the parents of Harpstenah would never consent to her marriage with the murderer of the war chief.
How often had Red Deer tried to induce the young girl to leave the village, and return with him as his wife. “Have we not always loved each other,” he said. “When we were children, you made me mocassins, and paddled the canoe for me, and I brought the wild duck, which I shot while it was flying, to you. You promised me to be my wife, when I should be a great hunter, and had brought to you the scalp of an enemy. I have kept my promise, but you have broken yours.”
“I know it,” she replied; “but I fear to keep my word. They would kill you, and the spirits of my dead brothers would haunt me for disobeying my parents. Cloudy Sky says that if I do not marry him he will cast a spell upon me; he says that the brightness would leave my eye, and the color my cheek; that my step should be slow and weary, and soon would I be laid in the earth beside my brothers. The spirit that should watch beside my body would be offended for my sin in disobeying the counsel of the aged. You, too, should die, he says, not by the tomahawk, as a warrior should die, but by a lingering disease—fever should enter your veins, your strength would soon be gone, you would no longer be able to defend yourself from your enemies. Let me die, rather than bring such trouble upon you.”
Red Deer could not reply, for he believed that Cloudy Sky could do all that he threatened. Nerved, then, by her devotion to her lover, her hatred of Cloudy Sky, and her faith in her dream, Harpstenah determined her heart should not fail her; she would obey the mandate of the water god; she would bury her knife in the heart of the medicine man.