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- Northern Lights, Volume 1. - 2/13 -


the seen, and was happy that they two were alone together--that was the joy of it all, so much alone together; for Swift Wing did not live with them, and, like Breaking Rock, she watched her daughter's life, standing afar off, since it was the unwritten law of the tribe that the wife's mother must not cross the path or enter the home of her daughter's husband. But at last Dingan had broken through this custom, and insisted that Swift Wing should be with her daughter when he was away from home, as now on this wonderful autumn morning, when Mitiahwe had been singing to the Sun, to which she prayed for her man and for everlasting days with him.

She had spoken angrily but now, because her soul sharply resented the challenge to her happiness which her mother had been making. It was her own eyes that refused to see the cloud, which the sage and bereaved woman had seen and conveyed in images and figures of speech natural to the Indian mind.

"Hai-yai," she said now, with a strange touching sigh breathing in the words, "you are right, my mother, and a dream is a dream; also, if it be dreamt three times, then is it to be followed, and it is true. You have lived long, and your dreams are of the Sun and the Spirit." She shook a little as she laid her hand on a buckskin coat of her man hanging by the lodge-door; then she steadied herself again, and gazed earnestly into her mother's eyes. "Have all your dreams come true, my mother?" she asked with a hungering heart. "There was the dream that came out of the dark five times, when your father went against the Crees, and was wounded, and crawled away into the hills, and all our warriors fled--they were but a handful, and the Crees like a young forest in number! I went with my dream, and found him after many days, and it was after that you were born, my youngest and my last. There was also"--her eyes almost closed, and the needle and thread she held lay still in her lap--"when two of your brothers were killed in the drive of the buffalo. Did I not see it all in my dream, and follow after them to take them to my heart? And when your sister was carried off, was it not my dream which saw the trail, so that we brought her back again to die in peace, her eyes seeing the Lodge whither she was going, open to her, and the Sun, the Father, giving her light and promise--for she had wounded herself to die that the thief who stole her should leave her to herself. Behold, my daughter, these dreams have I had, and others; and I have lived long and have seen the bright day break into storm, and the herds flee into the far hills where none could follow, and hunger come, and--"

"Hai-yo, see, the birds flying south," said the girl with a gesture towards the cloudless sky. "Never since I lived have they gone south so soon." Again she shuddered slightly, then she spoke slowly: "I also have dreamed, and I will follow my dream. I dreamed"--she knelt down beside her mother, and rested her hands in her mother's lap--"I dreamed that there was a wall of hills dark and heavy and far away, and that whenever my eyes looked at them they burned with tears; and yet I looked and looked, till my heart was like lead in my breast; and I turned from them to the rivers and the plains that I loved. But a voice kept calling to me, 'Come, come! Beyond the hills is a happy land. The trail is hard, and your feet will bleed, but beyond is the happy land.' And I would not go for the voice that spoke, and at last there came an old man in my dream and spoke to me kindly, and said, 'Come with me, and I will show thee the way over the hills to the Lodge where thou shalt find what thou hast lost.' And I said to him, 'I have lost nothing;' and I would not go. Twice I dreamed this dream, and twice the old man came, and three times I dreamed it; and then I spoke angrily to him, as but now I did to thee; and behold he changed before my eyes, and I saw that he was now become--"she stopped short, and buried her face in her hands for a moment, then recovered herself--"Breaking Rock it was, I saw before me, and I cried out and fled. Then I waked with a cry, but my man was beside me, and his arm was round my neck; and this dream, is it not a foolish dream, my mother?"

The old woman sat silent, clasping the hands of her daughter firmly, and looking out of the wide doorway towards the trees that fringed the river; and presently, as she looked, her face changed and grew pinched all at once, and Mitiahwe, looking at her, turned a startled face towards the river also.

"Breaking Rock!" she said in alarm, and got to her feet quickly.

Breaking Rock stood for a moment looking towards the lodge, then came slowly forward to them. Never in all the four years had he approached this lodge of Mitiahwe, who, the daughter of a chief, should have married himself, the son of a chief! Slowly but with long slouching stride Breaking Rock came nearer. The two women watched him without speaking. Instinctively they knew that he brought news, that something had happened; yet Mitiahwe felt at her belt for what no Indian girl would be without; and this one was a gift from her man, on the anniversary of the day she first came to his lodge.

Breaking Rock was at the door now, his beady eyes fixed on Mitiahwe's, his figure jerked to its full height, which made him, even then, two inches less than Long Hand. He spoke in a loud voice:

"The last boat this year goes down the river tomorrow. Long Hand, your man, is going to his people. He will not come back. He has had enough of the Blackfoot woman. You will see him no more." He waved a hand to the sky. "The birds are going south. A hard winter is coming quick. You will be alone. Breaking Rock is rich. He has five hundred horses. Your man is going to his own people. Let him go. He is no man. It is four years, and still there are but two in your lodge. How!"

He swung on his heel with a chuckle in his throat, for he thought he had said a good thing, and that in truth he was worth twenty white men. His quick ear caught a movement behind him, however, and he saw the girl spring from the lodge door, something flashing from her belt. But now the mother's arms were round her, with cries of protest, and Breaking Rock, with another laugh, slipped away swiftly toward the river.

"That is good," he muttered. "She will kill him perhaps, when she goes to him. She will go, but he will not stay. I have heard."

As he disappeared among the trees Mitiahwe disengaged herself from her mother's arms, went slowly back into the lodge, and sat down on the great couch where, for so many moons, she had lain with her man beside her.

Her mother watched her closely, though she moved about doing little things. She was trying to think what she would have done if such a thing had happened to her, if her man had been going to leave her. She assumed that Dingan would leave Mitiahwe, for he would hear the voices of his people calling far away, even as the red man who went East into the great cities heard the prairies and the mountains and the rivers and his own people calling, and came back, and put off the clothes of civilisation, and donned his buckskins again, and sat in the Medicine Man's tent, and heard the spirits speak to him through the mist and smoke of the sacred fire. When Swift Wing first gave her daughter to the white man she foresaw the danger now at hand, but this was the tribute of the lower race to the higher, and--who could tell! White men had left their Indian wives, but had come back again, and for ever renounced the life of their own nations, and become great chiefs, teaching useful things to their adopted people, bringing up their children as tribesmen--bringing up their children! There it was, the thing which called them back, the bright-eyed children with the colour of the brown prairie in their faces, and their brains so sharp and strong. But here was no child to call Dingan back, only the eloquent, brave, sweet face of Mitiahwe. . . . If he went! Would he go? Was he going? And now that Mitiahwe had been told that he would go, what would she do? In her belt was--but, no, that would be worse than all, and she would lose Mitiahwe, her last child, as she had lost so many others. What would she herself do if she were in Mitiahwe's place? Ah, she would make him stay somehow--by truth or by falsehood; by the whispered story in the long night, by her head upon his knee before the lodge-fire, and her eyes fixed on his, luring him, as the Dream lures the dreamer into the far trail, to find the Sun's hunting- ground where the plains are filled with the deer and the buffalo and the wild horse; by the smell of the cooking-pot and the favourite spiced drink in the morning; by the child that ran to him with his bow and arrows and the cry of the hunter--but there was no child; she had forgotten. She was always recalling her own happy early life with her man, and the clean-faced papooses that crowded round his knee--one wife and many children, and the old Harvester of the Years reaping them so fast, till the children stood up as tall as their father and chief. That was long ago, and she had had her share--twenty-five years of happiness; but Mitiahwe had had only four. She looked at Mitiahwe, standing still for a moment like one rapt, then suddenly she gave a little cry. Something had come into her mind, some solution of the problem, and she ran and stooped over the girl and put both hands on her head.

"Mitiahwe, heart's blood of mine," she said, "the birds go south, but they return. What matter if they go so soon, if they return soon. If the Sun wills that the winter be dark, and he sends the Coldmaker to close the rivers and drive the wild ones far from the arrow and the gun, yet he may be sorry, and send a second summer--has it not been so, and Coldmaker has hurried away--away! The birds go south, but they will return, Mitiahwe."

"I heard a cry in the night while my man slept," Mitiahwe answered, looking straight before her, "and it was like the cry of a bird-calling, calling, calling."

"But he did not hear--he was asleep beside Mitiahwe. If he did not wake, surely it was good luck. Thy breath upon his face kept him sleeping. Surely it was good luck to Mitiahwe that he did not hear."

She was smiling a little now, for she had thought of a thing which would, perhaps, keep the man here in this lodge in the wilderness; but the time to speak of it was not yet. She must wait and see.

Suddenly Mitiahwe got to her feet with a spring, and a light in her eyes. "Hai-yai!" she said with plaintive smiling, ran to a corner of the lodge, and from a leather bag drew forth a horse-shoe and looked at it, murmuring to herself.

The old woman gazed at her wonderingly. "What is it, Mitiahwe?" she asked.

"It is good-luck. So my man has said. It is the way of his people. It is put over the door, and if a dream come it is a good dream; and if a bad thing come, it will not enter; and if the heart prays for a thing hid from all the world, then it brings good-luck. Hai-yai! I will put it over the door, and then--"All at once her hand dropped to her side, as though some terrible thought had come to her, and, sinking to the floor, she rocked her body backward and forward for a time, sobbing. But presently she got to her feet again, and, going to the door of the lodge, fastened the horseshoe above it with a great needle and a string of buckskin.

"Oh great Sun," she prayed, "have pity on me and save me! I cannot live alone. I am only a Blackfoot wife; I am not blood of his blood. Give, O great one, blood of his blood, bone of his bone, soul of his soul, that he will say, This is mine, body of my body, and he will hear the cry and will stay. O great Sun, pity me!" The old woman's heart beat faster as she listened. The same thought was in the mind of both. If there were but a child, bone of his bone, then perhaps he would not go; or, if he went, then surely he would return, when he heard his papoose calling in the lodge in the wilderness.


Northern Lights, Volume 1. - 2/13

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