“Lay the rushes here, beside me,” she continued. “And now, little Timid Hare, tell me about The Stone. Is she good to you? And Black Bull—does he treat you well?”
Sweet Grass was tender as a sister as she asked these questions and many others. And Timid Hare’s tongue slowly became brave. She told of the hard work which The Stone made her do. She showed scars on her hands which the work had left. And—yes—there were also scars on the little back from the cruel touch of The Stone’s switch.
But Black Bull—poor Black Bull! The child spoke of him with loving pity. “I am sorry for him,” she said. “He has only his dog to make him happy.”
“Would you like to live with me?” asked Sweet Grass, when the story was finished.
“Oh-h!” The little girl drew a long sigh of wonder and delight. If only it were possible!
“We will see. I will talk to my father by-and-by. And now you must run home. Good-by.” The young girl bent over her work and Timid Hare ran swiftly out of the lodge and back to The Stone who was angrily waiting.
“You must have stopped on the way, you good-for-nothing. Sweet Grass could not have kept you all this time,” she scolded.
The little girl made no answer.
“Hm! has the child won the heart of the chief’s daughter?” she muttered. “And next it would be the chief himself. That must not be. Moreover, no bear meat was sent me. Ugh!”
That afternoon the sun shone brightly. It was a beautiful day of the late Indian summer. Sweet Grass, taking the mat she was weaving, left the lodge and sought a pleasant spot near the spring to go on with her work.
The Stone had been skulking about near the chief’s lodge for several hours. She wanted to catch Sweet Grass alone and yet as if she had come upon her by accident.
She stealthily watched the young girl as she made her way to the spring, but did not appear before her for some time. When she did, she held some fine rushes in her hands.
“I have just found more. You will like them, Sweet Grass,” she said, trying to make her harsh voice as soft as possible.
The chief’s daughter had never liked The Stone; and now, after hearing Timid Hare’s story, it was not easy to act friendly.
“For the child’s sake, I must not show my dislike,” she thought quickly. So she smiled, and looking at the rushes, said, “These are good, very good. I can use them for my mat.”
She turned to her work while The Stone stood silent, watching her. Then, suddenly, the old squaw bent over her and said, “Sweet Grass, listen to me. I sent the child of the Mandans to you this morning. She is bad—lazy—very lazy. Your father gave her into my keeping and I will train her, though it is hard. No one else would be patient with her wicked, lying ways. No one!”