The warriors have looked on, admiring those who were beautiful and graceful, and laughing at the ugly and awkward.
But Wenona cared little for the prizes. She was a chief’s sister, and she was young and beautiful. The handsomest presents were given her, and she hardly looked at the portion of the prizes which fell to her lot.
Smarting with pain from the blow she had received, (and she spoke falsely when she said Wenona had struck her,) stung with jealousy at the other party having won the game, Harpstenah determined on revenge, “If I am old,” she said, “I will live long enough to bring misery on her; ugly as I may be, I will humble the proud beauty. What do I eat? the worthless heads of birds are given to the old woman for whom nobody cares, but my food will be to see the eye of Wenona fall beneath the laugh of scorn. I will revenge the wrongs of my life on her.”
Commend me to a Dahcotah woman’s revenge! Has she been slighted in love? blood must be shed; and if she is not able to accomplish the death of her rival, her own life will probably pay the forfeit. Has disgrace or insult been heaped upon her? a life of eighty years is not long enough to bring down vengeance on the offender. So with Harpstenah. Her life had not been a blessing to herself—she would make it a curse to others.
In the preparations for the deer hunt, the ball-play has been forgotten. The women are putting together what will be necessary for their comfort during their absence, and the men are examining their guns and bows and arrows. The young girls anticipate amusement and happiness, for they will assist their lovers to bring in the deer to the camp; and the jest and merry laugh, and the words of love are spoken too. The ball-play has been forgotten by all but Harpstenah.
But it is late in the afternoon; and as they do not start till the morning, something must be done to pass the long evening. “If this were full,” said a young hunter, kicking at the same time an empty keg that had once contained whiskey, “if this were full, we would have a merry night of it.”
“Yes,” said Grey Iron, whose age seemed to have brought him wisdom, “the night would be merry, but where would you be the day after. Did you not, after drinking that very whiskey, strike a white woman, for which you were taken to the fort by the soldiers, and kept as a prisoner?”
The young man’s look of mortification at this reproof did not save him from the contemptuous sneer of his companions, for all despise the Dahcotah who has thus been punished. No act of bravery can wipe away his disgrace.
But Wenona sat pale and sad in her brother’s wigwam. The bright and happy looks of yesterday were all gone. Her sister-in-law has hushed her child to sleep, and she is resting from the fatigues of the day. Several old men, friends of Little Crow’s father, are sitting round the fire; one has fallen asleep, while the others talk of the wonderful powers of their sacred medicine.