Could she provoke with impunity the anger of the spirits of the dead? Would not the Great Spirit bring terrible vengeance upon her head. Ready to sink to the earth with terror, the words of the fairy of the waters reassured her. “Can a Dahcotah woman want courage when she is to be forced to marry a man she hates?”
The tumult within is stilled—the strong beating of her heart has ceased—her hand is upon the handle of her knife, as the moonlight falls upon its glittering blade.
Too glorious a night for so dark a deed! See! they are confronted, the old man and the maiden! The tyrant and his victim; the slave dealer and the noble soul he had trafficked for!
Pale, but firm with high resolve, the girl looked for one moment at the man she had feared—whose looks had checked her childish mirth, whose anger she had been taught to dread, even to the sacrificing of her heart’s best hopes.
Restlessly the old man slept; perchance he saw the piercing eyes that were, fixed upon him, for he muttered of the road to the land of spirits. Listen to him, as he boasts of the warrior’s work.
“Many brave men have made this road. The friend of the Thunder Birds was worthy. Strike the woman who would dare assist a warrior. Strike—”
“Deep in his heart she plunged the ready steel,” and she drew it out, the life blood came quickly. She alone heard his dying groan.
She left the teepee—her work was done. It was easy to wash the stains on her knife in the waters of the lake.
When her mother arose, she looked at the pale countenance of her daughter. In vain she sought to understand her muttered words. Harpstenah, as she tried to sleep, fancied she heard the wild laugh of the water spirits. Clouds had obscured the moon, and distant thunder rolled along the sky; and, roused by the clamorous grief of the many women assembled in the lodge, she heard from them of the dark tragedy in which she had been the principal actor.
The murderer was not to be found. Red Deer was known to be far away. It only remained to bury Cloudy Sky, with all the honors due to a medicine man.
Harpstenah joined in the weeping of the mourners—the fountains of a Sioux woman’s tears are easily unlocked. She threw her blanket upon the dead body.
Many were the rich presents made to the inanimate clay which yesterday influenced those who still trembled lest the spirit of the dead war-chief would haunt them. The richest cloth enrobed his body, and, a short distance from the village, he was placed upon a scaffold.
Food was placed beside him; it would be long before his soul would reach the city of spirits; his strength would fail him, were it not for the refreshment of the tender flesh of the wild deer he had loved to chase, and the cooling waters he had drank on earth, for many, many winters.
But after the death of Cloudy Sky, the heart of Harpstenah grew light. She joined again in the ball plays on the prairies. It needed no vermilion on her cheek to show the brightness of her eye, for the flush of hope and happiness was there.