Her determination is soon made; her form is seen as she flies to the woods. Death is the refuge of the friendless and the wronged.
But as night came on the relatives of Wenona wondered that she did not return. They sought her, and they found her lifeless body; the knife was deep in her heart. She knew she was innocent, but what did that avail her? She was accused by a warrior, and who would believe her if she denied the charge?
And why condemn her that she deprived herself of life, which she deemed worthless, when embittered by unmerited contempt. She knew not that God has said, “Thou shall do no murder.” The command had never sounded in her ears.
She trusted to find a home in the House of Spirits—she may have found a heaven in the mercy of God.
The fever of the following summer spared neither age nor youth, and Red Cloud was its first victim. As the dying Harpstenah saw his body carried out to be placed upon the scaffold—“He is dead,” she cried, “and Wenona was innocent! He hated her because she slighted him; I hated her because she was happy. He had his revenge, and I mine; but Wenona was falsely accused, and I told him to do it!” and the eyes were closed—the voice was hushed in death.
Wenona was innocent; and when the Virgin’s Feast shall be celebrated in her native village again, how will the maidens tremble as they approach the sacred ring! Can they forget the fate of their beautiful companion?
And when the breath of summer warms to life the prairie flowers—when the long grass shall wave under the scaffold where repose the mortal remains of the chief’s sister—how often will the Dahcotah maidens draw near to contrast the meanness, the treachery, the falsehood of Red Cloud, with the constancy, devotion, and firmness of Wenona!
“Tell me,” said, Hiatu-we-noken-chah, or ‘woman of the night,’ “the Great Spirit whom you have taught me to fear, why has he made the white woman rich and happy, and the Dahcotah poor and miserable?” She spoke with bitterness when she remembered the years of sorrow that had made up the sum of her existence.
But how with the missionary’s wife? had her life been one bright dream—had her days been always full of gladness—her nights quiet and free from care? Had she never longed for the time of repose, that darkness might cover her as with a mantle—and when ’sleep forsook the wretched,’ did she not pray for the breaking of the day, that she might again forget all in the performance of the duties of her station? Could it be that the Creator had balanced the happiness of one portion of his children against the wretchedness of the rest? Let her story answer.
Her home is now among the forests of the west. As a child she would tremble when she heard of the savage whose only happiness was in shedding the blood of his fellow creatures. The name of an “Indian” when uttered by her nurse would check the boisterous gayety of the day or the tedious restlessness of the night.