E-text prepared by Al Haines
[Illustration: Cover Art]
[Frontispiece: Buffalo Rib was a Handsome Youth.]
THE LITTLE CAPTIVE
MARY H. WADE
Author of “Little Cousin Series”, etc.
Whitman Publishing Co.
Racine — Chicago
List of Color Plates
“Sweet Grass, Listen to Me” [Missing from book]
“Help Me, Great Spirit” [Missing from book]
Swift Fawn sat motionless on the river-bank.
“Lap, lap,” sang the tiny waves as they struck the shore. “Lap, lap,” they kept repeating, but the little girl did not heed the soft music. Her mind was too busy with the story White Mink had told her that morning.
After the men had started off on a buffalo hunt Swift Fawn had left the other children to their games in the village and stolen away to the favorite bathing place of the women-folk.
“No one will disturb me there,” she had said to herself, “and I want to be all by myself to think it over.”
After she had been there for sometime. Swift Fawn drew out from the folds of her deerskin jacket a baby’s sock, and turned it over and over in her hands curiously. Never had she seen the like of it before. How pretty it was! Who could have had the skill to weave the threads of scarlet silk in and out of the soft wool in such a dainty pattern? Was it–the child whispered the word–could it have been her mother?
White Mink had always been so good to her, Surely no real mother could have been more loving than the Indian woman who had watched over her and tended her, and taught her from the time when Three Bears had brought her, a year-old baby, to his wife. Where he found the little one, he had never told.
And so she was a white child. How strange it was! Yet she had grown up into a big girl, loving the ways of the red people more and more deeply for eight happy years.
“Surely,” thought the child, “I could not have loved my own parents more than I do White Mink and Three Bears.”
“I wish–oh, so hard!” she added with a lump in her throat, “that White Mink had not told me. I don’t want to remember there ever was–something different.”
With these last words Swift Fawn lifted the little sock and was about to hurl it into the water, when she suddenly stopped as she remembered White Mink’s last words.
“I give this shoe into your keeping,” the woman had said solemnly. “I have spoken because of my dream last night, and because of its warning I bid you keep the shoe always.”
With a little sigh, Swift Fawn drew back from the edge of the stream and replaced the shoe in the bosom of her jacket. Then she stretched herself out on the grassy bank and lay looking up into the blue sky overhead. How beautiful it was! How gracefully the clouds floated by! One took on the shape of a buffalo with big horns and head bent down as if to charge. But it was so far away and dreamlike it was not fearful to the child. And now it changed; the horns disappeared; the body became smaller, and folded wings appeared at the sides; it was now, in Swift Fawn’s thoughts, a graceful swan sailing, onward, onward, in the sky-world overhead.
The little girl’s eyes winked and blinked and at last closed tightly. She had left the prairie behind her and entered the Land of Nod.
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.