She must have slept a long time, for when she awoke the sun had set, and in the gathering darkness, she was aware of a man’s face with fierce dark eyes bent over her own.
“Ugh! Ugh!” the man was muttering. “It is a daughter of the Mandans. A good prize!”
As he spoke he rose to his feet and Swift Fawn, shaking with fear, knew that he was beckoning to others to draw near. A moment afterwards she was surrounded by a party of warriors. They were taller than the men of her own tribe, and were straight and noble in shape, but their faces were very stern.
“They must belong to the ‘Dahcotas,’” thought the child. “And they are our enemies.”
Many a tale had Swift Fawn heard of the fierce Dahcotas, lovers of war and greatly to be feared. It was a terrible thought that she was alone and in their power, with the night coming on.
“Ugh! What shall we do with her?” the brave who had discovered her said to the others.
“She is fair to look upon,” replied one.
“But she is a Mandan,” was the quick answer of another. As he spoke he looked proudly at the scalp lock hanging from his shoulder, for he and his companions has just been out on the war path.
“Let our Chief decide,” said the first speaker. “It is best that Bent Horn should settle the question.”
“Ugh! Ugh!” grunted the others, not quite pleased at the idea. However, they said nothing more, and turned away, moving softly with their moccasined feet to the place where their horses were restlessly waiting to go on with the journey.
Swift Fawn’s captor now seized her hand, saying gruffly, “Get up.”
Dragging her to his horse’s side, he lifted her up, bound her to the animal’s back, leaped up after her and a moment afterwards the whole party were galloping faster and faster into the night.
Hour after hour they traveled with never a stop. At last, by the light of the stars. Swift Fawn knew that she was nearing a large camp, made up of many tent-homes.
BEFORE THE CHIEF
As the party entered the camp the dogs came out to meet them, barking in delight at their masters’ return. Swift Fawn’s captor rode up with her to the largest of the tents, or tepees as the Dahcotas called them. Springing from his horse, he unbound the little girl, and again seizing her hand, drew the scared child into the lodge.
A bright fire was blazing in the fireplace, for the night was cold.
Beside it squatted a noble-looking brave, wrapped in a bear-skin robe, and with eagles’ feathers waving from the top of his head. Chains of wampum hung around his neck and his face was painted in long, bright lines.
Not far from him sat a beautiful and richly-dressed young girl, his daughter. She looked kindly at Swift Fawn as if to say: “Do not fear, little girl.”
“Behold, a child of the Mandans. I give her into your hands, great Chief,” said Swift Fawn’s captor to the brave by the fireside.