“The Whirlpool” is seated on the ground smoking; gazing as earnestly at the bright coals as if in them he could read the future or recall the past; and his young wife, whose face, now merry, now sad, bright with smiles at one moment, and lost in thought the next, gained for her the name of “The Changing Countenance,” is hushing her child to sleep; but the expression of her features does not change now—as she looks on her child, a mother’s deep and devoted love is pictured on her face.
In another, “The Dancing Woman” is wrapped in her blanket pretending to go to sleep. In vain does “The Flying Cloud” play that monotonous courting tune on the flute. The maiden would not be his wife if he gave her all the trinkets in the world. She loves and is going to marry “Iron Lightning,” who has gone to bring her—what? a brooch—a new blanket? no, a Chippeway’s scalp, that she may be the most graceful of those who dance around it. Her mother is mending the mocassins of the old man who sleeps before the fire.
And we might go round the village and find every family differently employed. They have no regular hours for eating or sleeping. In front of the teepees, young men are lying on the ground, lazily playing checkers, while their wives and sisters are cutting wood and engaged in laborious household duties.
I said Good Road had two wives, and I would now observe that neither of them is younger than himself. But they are as jealous of each other as if they had just turned seventeen, and their lord and master were twenty instead of fifty. Not a day passes that they do not quarrel, and fight too. They throw at each other whatever is most convenient, and sticks of wood are always at hand. And then, the sons of each wife take a part in the battle; they first fight for their mothers, and then for themselves—so that the chief must have been reduced to desperation long ago if it were not for his pipe and his philosophy. Good Road’s second wife has Chippeway blood in her veins. Her mother was taken prisoner by the Dahcotahs; they adopted her, and she became the wife of a Dahcotah warrior. She loved her own people, and those who had adopted her too; and in course of time her daughter attained the honorable station of a chief’s second wife. Good Road hates the Chippeways, but he fell in love with one of their descendants, and married her. She is a good wife, and the white people have given her the name of “Old Bets.”
Last summer “Old Bets” narrowly escaped with her life. The Dahcotahs having nothing else to do, were amusing themselves by recalling all the Chippeways had ever done to injure them; and those who were too lazy to go out on a war party, happily recollected that there was Chippeway blood near them—no farther off than their chief’s wigwam; and eight or ten braves vowed they would make an end of “Old Bets.” But she heard of their threats, left the village for a time, and after the Dahcotahs had gotten over their mania for shedding blood, she returned, and right glad was Good Road to see her. For she has an open, good humored countenance; the very reverse of that of the first wife, whose vinegar aspect would frighten away an army of small children.