Promises come as readily to the lips of an Indian lover as trustfulness does to the heart of the woman who listens to them; and the Deer-killer was believed.
Wanska had been often at the Fort, and she had seen the difference between the life of a white and that of an Indian woman. She had thought that the Great Spirit was unmindful of the cares of his children.
And who would have thought that care was known to Wanska, with her merry laugh, and her never-ceasing jokes, whether played upon her young companions, or on the old medicine man who kept everybody but her in awe of him.
She seemed to be everywhere too, at the same time. Her canoe dances lightly over the St. Peter’s, and her companions try in vain to keep up with her. Soon her clear voice is heard as she sings, keeping time with the strokes of the axe she uses so skilfully. A peal of laughter rouses the old woman, her mother, who goes to bring the truant home, but she is gone, and when she returns, in time to see the red sun fade away in the bright horizon, she tells her mother that she went out with two or three other girls, to assist the hunters in bringing in the deer they had killed. And her mother for once does not scold, for she remembers how she used to love to wander on the prairies, when her heart was as light and happy as her child’s.
When Wanska was told that the Deer-killer loved Wenona, no one heard her sighs, and for tears, she was too proud to shed any. Wenona’s fault had met with ridicule and contempt; there was neither sympathy nor excuse found for her. And now that the Deer-killer had slighted Wenona, and had promised to love her alone, there was nothing wanting to her happiness.
Bright tears of joy fell from her eyes when her lover said there was a spell over him when he loved Wenona, but now his spirit was free; that he would ever love her truly, and that when her parents returned he would bring rich presents and lay them at the door of the lodge.
Wanska was indeed “the Merry Heart,” for she loved the Deer-killer more than life itself, and life was to her a long perspective of brightness. She would lightly tread the journey of existence by his side, and when wearied with the joys of this world, they would together travel the road that leads to the Heaven of the Dahcotahs.
She sat dreaming of the future after the Deer-killer had left her, nor knew of her parents’ return until she heard her mother’s sharp voice as she asked her “if the corn would boil when the fire was out, and where was the bread that she was told to have ready on their return?”
Bread and corn! when Wanska had forgot all but that she was beloved. She arose quickly, and her light laugh drowned her mother’s scolding. Soon her good humor was infectious, for her mother told her that she had needles and thread in plenty, besides more flour and sugar, and that her father was going out early in the morning to kill more game for the Long Knives who loved it so well.