Friday, March 30, 2012

From the Vaults: Susa Young Gates' "The Courtship of Kanosh"

This is something I uncovered recently during my research.  It's a 1905 short story by Susa Young Gates, early Mormon novelist and daughter of Brigham Young. The story tells of Sally, a thirteen-year-old Native American, who lives with a white Mormon family in Salt Lake City and is the object of desire of two Native American men: the "noble" Kanosh and the "savage" Walkara.

The story is of interest for several reasons. First, for BYU students and Provoans (?), it draws upon local Provo folklore and stages its climactic showdown between Kanosh and Walkara in Rock Canyon beneath the towering Squaw Peak. Second, and far more importantly, it's an interesting and problematic text about Mormonism, race, and gender. Scholars who wish to study more about Mormon literature's historic treatment and representation of the racial other, as well as its handling of issues like interracial marriage and the Lamanite curse, should not overlook "The Courtship of Kanosh." In fact, I read this story as a kind of precursor to texts like Arianne Cope's "White Shell" and The Coming of Elijah, which are very much in conversation with the kind of racism expressed within and through Gates's story.  

The Courtship of Kanosh:
A Pioneer Indian Love Story
By Susa Young Gates.
Improvement Era, Novemeber 1905

The few tins and coppers in Mrs. Mary's pioneer log cabin twinkled and flashed in the light of the blazing logs upon the great hearthstone, that chilly afternoon in September, 1848. Every article in that meagerly furnished room was clean and free from a housekeeper's reproach. The white chief's wife had gone across the fort with her baby, leaving the thirteen-year old Indian maiden, Sally, in full possession of the cozy log-cabin.

And lo, Sally had a lover! There he sat, on the door step, his great blanket folded about his arms and muffling his chin; his neck was sunk low in his drooping shoulders, and his attitude expressed either sadness or anger.

Sally paid no attention whatever to him. It was not that Kanosh lacked in rugged Indian manliness and strength, nor was he without a certain dark beauty, the beauty of primal nature, full and free. For his limbs were carved in heroic mold, and his dark, proud face was a model of Indian power and sagacity.

Kanosh had first seen Sally two months before, when he had visited the big white chief in company with Walker, Sowiette and a great band of Utah and Shoshone Indians.

The Indian chiefs had come in to the fort to learn what were the white men's intentions, and to make some sort of treaty for their own advantage, as well as to trade horses for food and firearms.

At the close of the long conference, in which Kanosh had accepted old Sowiette's position of conciliation, the chiefs had been invited to break bread with the white chief, their friend and brother.

On entering the large room of the central log cabin in the fort, Kanosh, a little in advance of the others, saw a maiden of his own blood assisting in the service of their dinner. Her long hair still hung down her back, but it was neatly braided in two broad plaits, and although her plump form looked somewhat awkward in the "civilized" dress which replaced the Indian blanket, the dark eyes were very soft and bright, and the lips were full of love and laughter.

The girl saw Kanosh quite as soon as he saw her, but no answering flash sparkled in her brown eyes. Instead, she coolly set the dish of meat she was carrying upon the table, and walked back to the inner room with a gesture that would have been a toss of the head in a white maiden.

Poor young chieftain! Although he tried to listen to the important discussions which his fellow chiefs were carrying on with the white Father, through the interpreter-and although there was very much that was novel and startling in this first civilized meal of which he had partaken-he could not listen, he could not attend, he could not eat. Fate, the hag, had thrust out her time-worn hand and had seized his quivering heart between her relentless fingers.
 
With true Indian directness, he had at once sought the white Father, at the conclusion of the meal and its ceremonies, and had offered six ponies for Sally. He wanted her for his wife.

To his surprise and disgust, he was informed that Sally was not for sale. She formed one of the white chief's family, and as such she should follow the custom of the white maidens and choose her own husband, when and how she would.

Ten ponies, a whole band of them, with a cherished Spanish saddle thrown in, failed to move the white Father.

Then Kanosh learned the pitiful story of Sally; how she was one of a party of Bannock prisoners brought into the Valley eight months before by a roving band of Ute Indians. They had already slain two little girls, and were about to kill Sally, when a white man bought her and took her home to his sister. After two days trading and bantering, the Indians departed.

Kanosh allowed his friends to leave for the mountains, but he could not get away from the laughing lips and brown eyes of Sally.

He sat now in the doorway, gloomily watching the girl as she stood ironing at the table. She saw and felt the eager affection in her wild, untamed conquest, but with the capriciousness born of youth and maidenhood, she would have none of it.

"If Laughing Lips will lay her hand in mine and go up into my wickiup in the hills, no hand will dare molest her, and she shall have a couch of skins, a full pouch of wild meat day by day, and her heart shall answer to her lips' laughter when her papooses come to lie in her arms," said Kanosh, as he lifted the corner of his blanket from his stern, pain-set lips.

Sally only laughed in reply. Why should she seek safety and food when she had youth, plenty, and freedom, 'neath her white Father's roof.

"My love is hot within me," cried he. And Sally, moved by a rude instinct of mischief, ran to him, and, laying her flat iron lightly on the tips of the fingers which held his blanket, answered jeeringly, "It burns-it burns, like that!"

With a proud gesture, he seized her hand, with the flat iron in its clasp, and, turning its surface to his bare breast, he held it there with stoic calmness while it seared the flesh. Then, flinging her hand away, he strode out into the twilight with stern anger.

Sally saw no more of Kanosh for a year. A busy year filled with crowding history for both dark and white men.

Sally was not without ambitions. The association with the nimble-fingered white women, their intelligence and skill, had roused in her primitive breast a desire to do and be the same! "What has come over Sally?" asked the white Father, one day when he saw her dressing for church. "She has not forgotten her love for colors, but she has actually taken to wearing a hat. And her red-striped shawl is folded exactly like your own, my dear, in a three-cornered piece, instead of being stretched straight around her."

"I suppose she is becoming civilized. She certainly takes more interest in housework than she used to take, and I believe she will really finish up by being a good cook."

"Does she ever get homesick for the hills, do you think?"

"I am sure of it. Sometimes she has a fit of sulks for days at a time; but I know it is only her natural craving for the life she once lived, so I try to be patient with her. Do you know, I really think she is trying to catch a beau. She makes a painful if not laughable effort to imitate the girls in their association with the young men."

"What nonsense, Mary! Don't put any such notion into Sally's head, nor allow it to stay if it is already there. Indian girls are not proper wives for our young men."

"Why do you say that? Some of our brethren are quite pronounced in their teachings that that is the way that the Lamanites will be redeemed and become a white and delightsome people."

"Men get foolish notions in their heads. Intermarriage is never, and was never, a solution of race difficulties. Men as individuals may do as they please, but such doctrine and practice is contrary to the principles of the Church. Let the Indians be civilized and educated, but don't try to mix oil and water."

In the spring of '49, the first Indian war had occurred in Utah Valley. Sally heard that Kanosh was with the Indian warriors, although it had been reported to the white Father that Kanosh was not in sympathy with Elk and Walker. But when the fighting occurred he had taken a brave if rash part therein.

Mrs. Mary rallied Sally a little, on her lover's desertion of his suit, and his participation in the attack on Fort Utah. Sally replied, somewhat sulkily, "Me no care. He no beau to me. He Indian!"

The tone of contempt in which this last word was uttered by Sally opened Mrs. Mary's eyes to some of the thoughts which lay in the deep, dark pool of Sally's mind. But the thing she would have given much to know was how far the unsettling conditions of civilization had warped Sally's primitive mind, and how lasting these impressions and impulses were.

The next news that reached Sally was in the early fall, at the close of the Utah county Indian war. It was to the effect that Kanosh had induced a number of his friends to make peace with the whites, and that he and they were now inmates of the southern fort, busily engaged in studying the arts of peace.

When Sally heard this she merely grunted.

In the two short years in the Valley, much had been accomplished. Mrs. Mary had had an adobe house built for her, outside the fort, surrounded by a pole fence; a very comfortable vegetable garden had been planted by her own and Sally's hands. There was ample time, and a superabundance of vigorous, pioneer vitality vouchsafed these two in which to cultivate their garden plot, as well as to keep the small cabin in order.

The sound of hammer and saw sung out from the four corners of the compass; and teams and men rolled and hurried by as the hum of civilization beat the desert air with strange sounds.

The Indian girl had found it hard to toil incessantly, very hard to be neat and orderly, and when the spring had reddened the tiny squaw-berries, and brought up the mellow sego lily bells from their winter's sleep, her whole being had cried out for the hills and the pungent smell of the sage-brush campfire. But where could she go and what could she do? Her people, the Bannocks, were in the ice-girt valleys of the north, and the cruel Utes had slain her little sister-would they not serve her the same, or even worse? Yet no, an Indian might kill, he rarely dishonored, a woman.

The spring rose up and kissed the burning summer's passionate lips, and the sego lilies died on the breast of spring, while the cottonwoods tossed their feathery spray on City Creek's face as the wind shook them in mild laughter.

Sally loved to go to the creek for water; and she always hurried away up to the mouth of the canyon, where she could pull off her moccasins and dabble her tired feet in the cool, sparkling water. She was often scolded by Mrs. Mary, on her return, after these loitering trips, but she only sulked silently for reply.

Once in the twilight, while sitting on a great rock and paddling her bare feet in the noisy stream, she was with her keen native instinct suddenly conscious that some one was near.

Sally made no quick movement; but, cautiously raising her eyes, she saw a dark face in a clump of bushes across the brawling stream. She knew in a moment it was Walkara, or Walker, the foe of her people, and the treacherous friend of the white man.

With a leap, she was on her feet, and, bounding, barefoot and without her precious sunbonnet, she flew toward her home.

She felt her pursuer behind her, but the noise of the stream drowned the sound of his steps.

With a gasp, she reached the fence of her own home, and waited not to reach the gate, but sprang over the low rails, and up to the house.

She knew she was safe then, for not even Walkara would follow her into Mrs. Mary's house. But Sally had learned her lesson. She said nothing of her adventure, but after that, whenever she was sent to the creek for water, she unchained the great bull-dog, Jack, kept by the white Father, and took him along for her protection.

Two days later, while Sally was gone out on an errand, Mrs. Mary was surprised to see Walkara stalk through her door, and demand biscuit. She went to the box, and quietly gave him two of the three biscuits there.

Walkara harshly demanded more. She gave him the other one; and still he demanded more. The white woman gravely told him they were all gone.

With a wicked leer in his eyes, he raised his bow, and pointing an arrow at her heart, he said, "More!"

The terrified woman looked into his eye, and read there the hatred and murder which burned in the brain beyond.

A soft scratching, and a low whine at an inner door, quieted Mrs. Mary's ears. Instantly remembering, she motioned, as if to answer his demand, and walked to the door of the woodshed beyond, as if to get the food he required.

With a turn of her wrist, she pulled open the door, and hissed, "Sic' him!"

A bound, a flash of shining grey, a low growl, and Walkara found himself pinned to the floor by a grim vengeance, whose fangs met in his quivering thigh. With a shriek of agony, the savage cowered to the earth.

The woman saw the dog trying to reach the wretch's throat; without a moment's hesitation, and with the fine instinct of pure Christianity, she sprang to the assistance of her savage enemy.

Grasping the bow and arrows, she flung them on the bed, then, with voice and hands, she called off her brute friend from her savage foe, and, at last, released him from certain death.

With heavenly forgiveness and pity, she seized the wash basin, poured hot water in it, and, with a soft cloth, she carefully bathed the wounded, naked thigh, and then applied some of the famous Yankee sticking plaster, which always stood handy upon her chimney shelf.

Walkara, with what gratitude his sullen, murderous spirit would allow, departed from the cabin, minus his bow and arrows, a wiser if not a braver Indian.

As he stalked away, Sally stole out from the woodshed, where she had witnessed the most of the scene, and where some new lessons in life had been taught her. It was she who had untied Jack, and she who had scratched lightly at the door.

Mrs. Mary was pale and weak, and her Indian maid shared every throb of her own emotions.

"He bad Indian," Sally muttered low. "All bad Indians!"

Mrs. Mary had no trouble after that in keeping Sally at home; indeed the Indian girl could scarcely be persuaded to leave the house, even for the briefest errand, except in company with some white man or woman.

The days sped by, and time and work helped both Sally and her mistress to forget most of their fears of Indians. But Sally had no eyes nor thoughts for her own race, and scarcely for her own self. Her primitive mind was sorely troubled in trying to adjust itself to new conditions, new ideals. She vaguely felt, at times, as if the elements of her mind were in a state of chaos and gloom which no future could pierce and no hope illumine.

There had been developed within her the instinct of rude affection and crude honor; the principle of virtue had been taught her from her birth; but conceptions of a finer, more delicate, code of morals than the rough foundation principles inherited from her progenitor, the proud Laman, only confused poor Sally, and made her doubtful of all men.

She found infinite comfort in listening to the profoundly simple tale of her own people's doings and misdoings, read to her by Mrs. Mary, on quiet Sunday afternoons. And she labored hard to grasp the meaning of the strange black lines and curves which spelled out this wonderful story, on the printed page of the Book of Mormon. But her fear and dislike of her own race seemed rather to increase than to abate.

Pretty, plump, little Mrs. Mary was surprised, one Saturday afternoon, a few weeks after this, to see in the fading sunlight across her doorstep a tall, somber Indian, clad in rude buckskin breeches, with a very ugly, "civilized" cotton shirt surmounting it, with the tail of the garment flapping shamelessly, and in Indian fashion, about his loins. His face was washed clean of paint and grease, and an old tattered hat was drawn over the head. It took several glances to prove that this disfigured, grim travesty of civilization was the Indian chieftain who had hung about her home mourning after Sally, a year before.

Sally herself knew him the moment he appeared, and it was her loud laugh of derision and contempt which first gave Mrs. Mary the clue to his identity.

Sally's own appearance was not without elements of absurdity. Her dark hair, once so natural and becoming in its free, flowing braids, now was pinned and twisted into a huge, unshapely knot at the back of her head. Her dress, of checked red home-spun, colored and spun by her own slow fingers, betrayed the natural shape of her wild body, in the ungraceful, tightly-drawn outlines. And the crocheted collar about her neck was too round and deep for her full neck and shoulders, thus giving her a clumsy appearance. Sally was all unconscious of her own deficiencies, although keenly alive to the forlorn spectacle made by her whilom lover.

After her long, scornful merriment, she turned her back on him, and would not again look at him.

Mrs. Mary found that Kanosh had picked up some English words, and she managed to hold a somewhat extended broken conversation with the discomfited suitor. But Sally would not even look around.

The slow, resentful mind of the Indian chief worked around gradually to the conviction that he was being scorned-nay, not only scorned, but ridiculed-laughed at, and by a squaw. True, it was the squaw he loved, but she was still a squaw. And the man also recognized the subtle fact, that her scorn was not the simple scorn of a coy Indian maiden; the laughter sprung from a more complicated, deeper source; there was an under-current of supposed superiority-the superiority of quasi-civilization-in Sally's laughter, that stung the proud man to the quick. For a moment he hated her-hated his sweetheart.

He walked up close to her scornful back, and hissed in broken English, "You laugh now. Next time I see you, you cry!"

But Sally laughed on, for she was safe in Mrs. Mary's home. And the man strode out of the door, and turned his face southward. In the fall months, rumors of the depredations of Indians, led by Elk and Walker, came thick and fast from Utah valley.

At last the white Chief was called upon to go south, quickly, that he might direct matters, now become so serious, among the white settlers gathered upon Provo river.

He asked his wife to go along, and gave his consent, reluctantly, however, for Sally to accompany them as cook and assistant. A large party of riflemen were to accompany them.

Sally herself feared to go, and feared to stay. But she went, sulkily, it is true. Yet, as the swift-footed mules drew them out of the small new city, in the cool, dim, early morning dawn, she felt a new impulse stirring within her. It was the first time she had been out of Great Salt Lake City since her capture, and she had never seen the southern valleys.

As they rode along the dusty road, the white Father explained to her many interesting facts of the scenes about them, of the truths in the book of her people's history, and of their future destiny. He was as a kind, great-hearted father, who stood far above her; but she could love him with a sort of child-worship, and she did. Sally said little, but that little showed her white guardian that the poor maiden was not without noble impulses and some glimmer of mental awakening. But her bitterness towards her own race, living in the vales of Utah, was a mystery to the white Father.

Once, when Sally asked to walk awhile up the steep, long slope leading to the Point of the mountain, Mrs. Mary took occasion to tell her husband of the rude courtship of Kanosh, and referred to the fright both she and Sally had received from Walkara. But even Mrs. Mary knew nothing of the incident up City Creek; nor of the reason why Walkara had sought the white woman out to threaten her.

The beautiful view from the Point of the mountain enchanted Mrs. Mary. And afterwards, the loveliness of Utah valley, which, even then, with its many streams, its broad, gleaming lake, flanked by meadows and cottonwoods, was like a Titan-jeweled landscape framed by circling mountains, threw the white woman into raptures. She begged her husband to halt, again and again, while she feasted her eyes on the rare green of the meadows, the glistening blue of the lake, and the flame-colored mountains about them. For the Indian summer was brooding over mountain and valley, filling all the gorges and canyons with purple and scarlet.

'Twas a strange experience for Sally! to have her inmost emotions of vague delight dragged out of her quivering heart, and named and minutely described by the vivid imagination of the white woman beside her. Even the colors she loved so well were classified and called, and she had scarcely before separated them in her own thoughts.

As they rode over the long bench across the valley, the white Father told them about the long, beautiful canyon through which flows Provo river; and then, farther along, he pointed out Squaw rock, on the frowning edge of the stony parapet, which guards the entrance to another smaller, blind canyon called Rock canyon.

And he told them the story, told by the Indians themselves, of the young Indian mother, captured in battle, who, with her babe slung on her back, fled up the long hill, pursued by a wicked chief who sought to dishonor her; and of how she reached, at last, the rie where the eagles mothered their young. Then, as her enemy's head appeared above the bushes below, still in determined pursuit, she turned, and with an unearthly scream, which even now sometimes moans about the wind-swept crags, she dashed herself down the precipice, down, down, hundreds of feet in a single line, and was crushed to sudden, cruel death, on the sharp rocks below.

Sally shuddered, as she saw the jagged, gloomy outlines of that fateful crag, and listened in silence to Mrs. Mary's sad comments on the pitiful story.

There were some things Sally had learned to hate in her own life, and some things she had learned to appreciate in the new life about her. She hated, with a woman's hatred, the strife and commotion of the Indian life, and she loved, with a woman's understanding, the comparative peace and safety of the white woman's sheltered life. But Sally's altered tastes and ideals were somewhat beyond the scope of her own powers of thorough assimilation.

As the cavalcade drew near the fort, a delegation of settlers met the white Father and escorted him into the fort.

It was discovered in council that night that there was a very large band of Indians outside, led by Walkara, and bent on mischief, as many incidents proved. Sowiette and Kanosh were south, and Walker and Elk were in full command.

The white Father cautioned the council to keep everybody inside the fort after sundown, and to keep plenty of scouts on the lookout. As ever, his efforts and counsel were for peace and conciliation, and he was very sorry to find Sowiette away on a southern hunting trip. That evening was a crisp, sparkling one, yet clouds hung in the sky; and the great moon, coming up like a mammoth disc of silver over the far off southeast mountains, even before the purple of the sunset had faded from Squaw's point; the beauty of that scene led the feet of poor, restless Sally down from the fort and out into the fields beyond.

No one had thought to caution her, and, although she knew there was great danger, the terrible struggle going on in her mind between the past and the future, absorbed her every slow, sombre thought. She was only a few rods from the stockade gates, looking up through the yellow cottonwood leaves at the quiet, familiar stars, picking out their world-old patterns on the blue background of the sky. There was a soft rustle in the brush at her feet, as if a snake had stirred the leaves. Sally stooped to see what it was. In an instant, a great blanket was thrown over her head, her call for help was stifled, and she was carried swiftly away in the cool darkness.

And then, a flight on a horse behind a warrior, around whose naked body her aching hands were tightly bound!

No need for a blanket now. Clouds, and the trees along the path, hid everything from poor Sally's eyes. She longed, with a dull throb, to know who this was, who thus dealt with her as her people sometimes did. Was it the brave who loved her, and at whom she had laughed, or was it the savage enemy she hated and feared, the one who had nearly slain a white woman in his spiteful revenge at her? She could not tell. She could only dimly, dumbly suffer and try to remember a prayer to the white Spirit she had been taught by her white friend and mistress.

It was hours after when the Indian paused, and, untying her hands, lifted her to the ground. Not a word was said. But Sally was led into a large wickeup, and almost thrown down on a couch of wild skins. The Indian girl knew the uselessness of either speech or attempted flight. A small camp fire was soon lighted outside, and Sally saw from her couch stealthy forms creeping about in the bushes. But she could get no glimpse of her captor's face.

Was it love, or a far meaner, deadlier passion, which had brought her here? For even an Indian woman learns the darkness of the gulf between the two.

Terrified as she was, she was still weary-and very healthy! She slept! The sun was streaming down the valley ramparts, but had not yet reached Sally's retreat, when she awoke, sore with her flight, and still in mortal terror.

Her eyes at once caught the figure of an Indian, sitting at the wickeup door, his blanket drawn about his huge shoulders, for the cold canyon breeze swept through the hill's crevice like a knife. Sally was not a coward. She was a woman, and therefore timid. But she could die, and without cringing!

She sprang up, and, as she ran to the opening in the skin tent, the man stood up, and dropped his blanket from his face.

It was Walkara! Cold, cruel, crafty Walkara! She recognized him with an inward groan of terror and hatred. But she steeled her face into Indian stoicism, and looked him squarely in the eye. They were at the edge of Rock canyon, and right above her, across the stream, looking down with frowning gloom, rose Squaw rock. The wickeup was planted against a huge semi-circle of a rock, and below them dashed a turbid mountain stream. Not a foot of room lay between her and the stream below, and the rock frowned above her. She knew her helplessness and her danger.

Walkara came towards her, and, catching her hands in the vice-like clasp of his own, he grunted in his own tongue, "You are my squaw now!" All the primeval instincts of her own Indian training, all the new and fresh ideals, hovering like clouds above the deeps of her nature, gathered in horror about her heart, at thought of her fate. O, that she could reach the Squaw-rock above her, but the slope thereto was miles to the north.

The flaming glory of sumac and oak clothed the towering rocks which led straight up to the gleaming sky. The stream would not drown her, the short fall from where she stood would only bruise her body.

With a wild, inarticulate cry, she struggled with her captor. Up from the path below sounded a savage warwhoop, as if in response. She knew it was the friendly Shoshone call! She tried to answer. But she was flung to the rocks, and lay stunned and bleeding, while above her two savage men fought fiercely around her prostrate body.

As her senses came back, she crawled out of the way, and as she drew herself out of their range, she set up a shrill squaw cry for help. This time a dozen men, painted braves of the Shoshones, dashed up the narrow path, led by a huge chieftain, with a musket in his hand.

He soon parted the fighting furies, and flung Walkara aside, as if he were a rat. Then, telling them both to stand upon their feet, he said, in his own tongue, "Why do you fight?"

Walkara pointed to Sally.

The chief frowned, and said, "Why do you not come out in the valley, and fight with honor, as our people should?"

Kanosh folded his arms, and said sternly, "Walkara stole her from the white man who bought her with full ransom money. He would steal his nest, like the cookoo. He is a coward."

Walkara plunged madly forward at the insulting words, and again Sowiette interposed.

"Who is she, and why does she wear the white squaw's dress?"

Kanosh explained briefly; and then, adjusting his arrows and bow, he turned as if to go down the path.

Sally looked at him, with terror in her eyes. He saw the look, but could not guess as to its meaning.

Sowiette turned to Walkara, and said, "Come down into the valley, and let this matter about the squaw be decided as is our custom."

But Kanosh turned back, and said, harshly, "The maiden belongs to the white Chief, and he has sworn she shall choose her own husband. We have no right to contend for her."

Walkara's lip curled in a vile sneer: "The great Shoshone has learned to be a coward while he dwelt under the roof of the white man. He is afraid to fight in open warfare for the maiden he loves."

Flinging himself in front of Walkara, Kanosh cried, "Thou art a dog!" and, catching Walkara's tomahawk from his belt, he flung it into the stream below.

Sowiette again separated the young braves, and contemptuously bade Walkara recover his tomahawk and follow the party.

Sally accompanied them with a heavy heart. The brave she hated was determined to have her by fair means or foul. While the man who had once loved her, and who had so recently saved her honor, and perhaps her life, looked upon her with scorn and contempt. Her white friends were far away, and unable to help her in the crisis of her life.

Kanosh followed the party gloomily.

Arrived on the lowlands, the party soon formed themselves into two files, and, as was their custom, prepared to fight out their claims for the squaw to the death finish, if need be.

Kanosh stood aside, and would not join either side. He stood with arms across his brawny breast, his tomahawk sleeping in his belt, his flashing eyes now somber and maddened almost with anger and grief. And his face was as the face of the dead.

Walkara seized the unwilling hand of the Indian girl, and began his slow, taunting march up and down the long, murmuring files of Indian braves.

The mutterings grew louder and fiercer, the chanting higher and more piercing, when suddenly, a young brave stepped out of the line, and Walkara at once seized him and the fierce fight began. Sally's skirts flapped about her heels, and tangled around about her, she was pushed and pounded and scratched by both warriors; another, and still another assayed to oppose Walkara, but he fought like a raging demon, for he dared to do nothing else. He was a bully-and therefore a coward. But he was determined to have Sally, and he knew how to fight in savage fashion.

Sally was forced to the ground, and lay there half dead, when Kanosh once more sprang to her help, and he, too, fought with almost superhuman strength.

It was a cruel sight. But to Sowiette it was simply a custom among his people.

But when, at last, Kanosh dragged the fainting girl from under the senseless body of the brute, Walkara, whom he had felled to the earth, his own primitive ideals came up in revolt within his heart.

Sowiette helped him to lay the girl on a bear skin, and while the kindly old chief rubbed her wrists, Kanosh brought water from the stream. "She is your squaw now, Kanosh," said the old man, "you have won her twice."

"I don't want her for myself. She laughs at me and mocks my desire. She must be taken back to the white Chief, who bought her with ransom money. He will be very angry with Walkara for carrying her away."

Without more words, except to charge Sowiette to convey the girl safely to the fort, Kanosh walked quickly away, and was soon lost to view.

* * * * * * * *

Sally was back again, in safety, with Mrs. Mary, in the fort. But not at peace.

The white Chief held a long conference with Sowiette and Kanosh that day, and even Walker had been forced by the elder chief into the treaty of peace.

Sowiette and Kanosh lingered near the fort, after the other braves had left the council circle, and assured the white Father of their determination to hold Walker to the peace treaty.

It was twilight-and the shadows crept across the meadows, and stole with long, soft, grey fingers up to the very tips of the sun-purpled mountains. The council had been held in a grove of cottonwoods, on the river bottoms, and just outside the stockade.

Sowiette parted with Kanosh after the white men had gone into the Fort, and Kanosh plunged into the shadows of the river path to seek his own camp and wickiup, for his own band of Shoshones were awaiting the result of this council at the foot of the hills on the east.

As his foot pressed the soft yellow carpet of autumn leaves, once and again, he thought he detected a footstep behind him. He paused, but heard no sound. The steps so nearly matched his own, that he decided he was mistaken. And yet with the unerring instinct and ear of the Indian, he was sure he was being followed. Yet, he was not afraid. If he had a foe, he was not fearful, even with his back to him.

However, he silently drew his tomahawk, and resolved to face his enemy as soon as he should reach the open glade in the clear moonlight beyond.

He stepped quickly, and soon the lighted space was reached. He made sure the steps were still following him, as he crossed the lighted space. Then, swinging suddenly, and silently, he faced his pursuer.

It was a woman! Sally!

The glossy hair shone in even braids adown on either side of the dusky cheek, now flushing deeply red in the silver moonlight. The brilliant shawl was taken from its prim, threecornered folds, and was fastened straight and long about the maiden's plump body. It was held in place, however, with the gold brooch at her neck, and her "civilized" skirt still covered her limbs. But the freedom of shawl and flowing hair restored her wild comeliness, and the raised tomahawk in the chieftain's hand fell with a thud to the ground. Again he folded his arms across his breast, and again his eyes were dark with pain.

The girl saw the look and gesture, and she bowed herself to the earth and murmured: "My chieftain!"

He trembled at the softness of the tones, but still he doubted.

"I am your squaw!" she sighed.

"Nay, the white man bought you first."

The girl hesitated, then again she cried, "But the white Father said I should choose," and her lips curved into smiles, half mocking, half alluring.

"I have chosen," she said with a half pout.

He sprang to her and crushed her up against his beating breast as if he would defy life or death with her on his heart.

But she pushed him away with her frailer grasp, and he released her.

Then looking up into his softly gleaming eyes, she whispered, "Will you take me to the white Father and let him put his blessing over our heads before I become your squaw?"

He stood for a moment, uncertain of her meaning, for marriage to him meant only choice and capture; but as she explained, he drew his arm around her, and bent his head above her with a protecting gesture. Yes, he would go.

Together they traversed the shadowy river path back to the fort. And as they walked, he said softly, "And you will come to my wickiup in the southern hills?"

And she answered, "Will you not build me a white man's cabin of trees, and glass?"

And he half assented. For he, too, felt the stirrings of new ideals. "And you shall have a couch of softest bearskin."

Then she told him of the wonderful little shining needle, and of all she had learned to fashion with its point. And she told him of the changes she would make in their native life. Yet should they live in the hills, and hear the running water pass their door.

Then, "And your laughter shall be bound upon your heart when your papooses lie upon your breast."

The quick words died upon her lips, at the rapture of the picture which he painted, and she faltered and would have stumbled, but that he caught her and bravely stilled her own and his tremblings.

The white Father was amazed to see them walk into his room, in the late evening, and to hear Sally's coy laughter as she tried to explain in broken English the reason for their being there. He had sent a searching party out for Sally as soon as she was missed.

He was glad to marry them with due solemnity, for he felt Kanosh would make Sally far happier than any white man could.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

All that happened many years ago, but I knew Sally quite well, and who does not remember Kanosh?

I have visited Sally in her southern home, and her neat surroundings always testified to the training she had received in the white woman's house.

Not Sally, nor Kanosh, but their children and children's children shall fulfill the prophecies of the wonderful Book which always lay upon Sally's table. How often in the twilight Sally would stumble over the simple story told by the black lines and curves in the Book, and then both she and Kanosh would look out into the West and wonder when the time should come for them to become a white and delightsome people.

1 comment:

  1. .

    I haven't read this yet, but I will. It's in line with some research I'm doing myself. Nice find.

    ReplyDelete