February 11, 2012

White Face Woman: 7 of 8

The evening White Face Woman made her getaway, she asked her escort who he was and why he broke the rules of the Night Dance by going outside the dance hall to pick her for a partner. “You have caused me terrible trouble, unpardonable trouble, that I should make you pay for with your life,” she said, this in anger, after pondering over the affair all day. She might have killed the young man had she thought of it before.
          But he had come to believe that she loved him, too, as he loved her, because she so readily accepted his attentions. He was a handsome fellow of twenty-five summers, with a powerful and graceful build, but he was as shy as could be. For awhile, he lost the power of his tongue, surprised, and shocked at White Face Woman’s temper and questions.
          Finally he spoke. “My name is Calling Elk. I am twenty-five summers now. My father’s name is Red Eagle. He is head of the Tribal Lodge. My mother’s name is Scented Wind. I beg your forgiveness for what I have done to you. The reason I did what I have done is because of my immeasurable love—to save you form a hard and lonely life, because I love you. We Dakota people are not certain of tomorrow. Your sister and brothers, for whom you traded yourself, a thing he had rightly guessed, may be forced to flee to the open spaces tomorrow—if so, do you think you could remain behind with that chief of the Red Coats?”
          No answer came from White Face Woman, so he continued. “I am diseased with an incurable sickness—shyness. I have never spoken to, or courted a girl in my life. I could not go near you, though I loved you. But yesterday I lot my head completely and did what I did.”
          Calling Elk had his head partly turned from the woman as he spoke, so he did not see her amused smile. “Another reason,” he continued, “is because the Great Spirit made us Indians as common men, a flock to band together, to be picked and chased by another flock. So I did what I did because I love you.
          “I will not try to win you by trickery and lies. You see what I am—the outer part of me. I have nothing to interest you, but I did what I did because I love you.” The speaker cleared his throat to speak again when White Face Woman burst into loud laughter. Calling Elk flushed, his face as red as blood.
          Very early in the morning, Calling Elk awakened the woman and set before her roasted venison and a bowl of saskatoons. They were near Eagle Flock (the Plentywood, Montana country, in a direct line to the Black Hills of South Dakota, the location of the Oglala Sioux Reservation. It was safe for daylight traveling, there being rough country ahead.
          General Miles was patrolling the boundary country, on the watch for Sitting Bull. Secret Indian war parties were moving everywhere. The country was still dangerous. Calling Elk had to be more careful than usual with this woman in his care. Although the country he was crossing was new to him, he had learned the lay of all the large creeks and rivers on his route and was confident of his way. General Miles’ scouts were Indians who knew the country thoroughly and they were to be found.
          About the end of July, White Face Woman reached to the end of her trail, the Oglala Sioux Reservation. There she found her relations who lived as treaty Indians. Calling Elk, too, found relatives and went to live with them.
          White Face Woman never met Calling Elk till at the Night Dance—had never even heard his name. Yet in her haste to escape from her husband, she called on him to escort her out of the country.
She knew the moral laws of her people. Once a girl parted from her people with a man, she was considered a loose woman and nothing on earth would change their point of view. Yet, under the circumstances, in the heat of her anger and shame, hurt and desire for revenge, she did not stop to reason. Or did she have an independent mind of her own?
          Calling Elk was handsome, quiet, sensible, pleasing. She found him master of himself, a very proud looking person, but the appearance of pride was deceiving. The Indian ruled the world by a socialist form of government and wealth accumulation could not fit in. A man was considered independent when he was strong of arm, able to put an arrow deep into a buffalo and own a good fast pony. Calling Elk possessed all these—he had made a name for himself as a warrior.
Little by little, White Face Woman learned to know the man who suddenly changed her lie and she found herself drawn to him slowly., Two years later, the marriage of Constable Calling Elk, of the US Indian Police Service of the Oglala Reservation and White Face Woman was announced.
          A little adobe house stood a mile from the agency. Beside it was a garden—in the yard a flock of children. A woman dressed in calico, wearing an apron, moved busily about the home, humming a song:
          “I married him without love
           For that I suffered greatly—
           I am leaving him for you.”

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