Read Proud Wolf's Woman Online

Authors: Karen Kay

Proud Wolf's Woman

BOOK: Proud Wolf's Woman
12.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
<

Dedication

To Santee Baird,

whose friendship has always remained constant.

 

And to my good friend, Jeanne Miller.

/body>

Acknowledgments

Special acknowledgment to Ella Deloria and her novel
Water Lily.
Many of the Lakota customs I mention, especially the kinship appeal, is carefully documented in her book; a work which, though fictitious, has preserved many Lakota traditions.

And oft by day upon a distant rise

Some naked rider loomed against the glare

With hand at brow to shade a searching stare,

Then like a dream dissolved in empty sky.

 

JOHN G. NEIHARDT,
The Song of the Indian Wars

To the Reader

The beginning half of this novel uses many Cheyenne words which might prove a little difficult to pronounce. In view of this, I have included a small guideline to help with the pronunciation of this language.

Please note the following rules:

 

1. Every letter is pronounced.

2. The (’) that you see here in the pronunciation guide is used to denote a stop. Because of differences in computers, certain letters and whisper marks (a dot over certain letters) were omitted entirely.

3. When a vowel is used to end a word, it is whispered.

 

For ease in reading, all marks were omitted from the words in the text. I am including a guide here to help in the pronunciation of some of these names.

As a note: Neeheeowee’s name is pronounced Neehee-o-wee. It is a shortened version of the name Neehee-o-ee-wo-tis, an actual Cheyenne chief who was painted in the 1830s by artist George Catlin.

 

CHEYENNE NAMES

Ma’hoohe

Voese’e

Aamehe’e

Se’eskema

He-see-he’e

 

LAKOTA NAMES

Wah-ta-pah

Ta-his-ka

Min-ne-con-jou

Wo-was-te

Cik-a-la Pe-ta

Ke-ya

Ko-ko-mi-kee-is

Ca-pa Tan-ka

Shon-ka

Ma-to Was-te

Og-le Sa

Prologue

Fort Leavenworth

Autumn 1833


Y
ou dropped a stitch there, Kristina.”

Kristina Bogard grimaced. “I’m afraid it’s not the first. I can’t concentrate on our quilt. I can’t help wondering what they’re talking about. I feel it bodes ill for me.”

Julia nodded, her long, dark brown hair falling around her shoulders as she glanced up at her friend.

The two young women were seated in the small parlor in Fort Leavenworth’s largest home, while upstairs Kristina’s Boston-bred mother spoke with a Mr. Carpenter, the owner of a wagon and team of horses recently arrived at the fort. Julia saw her friend’s nervous glance toward the doorway, saw that Kristina worried.

“I wouldn’t give it too much thought,” Julia encouraged, smiling. “It’s not as if your mother is planning to whisk you away today. I mean, you have plenty of time to try to find… Oh, Kristina,” Julia broke off, seeing Kristina’s reaction. “Forgive me. In attempting to ease your mind, it seems I have only reminded you…”

“No, no. It’s all right. You’ve only stated the obvious. It’s just…” Kristina choked on the words. “It’s just that I don’t know how much longer I can keep putting her off
.
My mother tells me every day that she plans to return to Boston and take me with her. You know how painful it would be for me to leave here, if I never were to see…” Kristina sighed. “I worry, Julia. I’m afraid someday I might give in to her from sheer exasperation. And then…”

Julia frowned, shaking her head. “Somehow I doubt that. You’re too strong-willed. Besides…” Julia said, concentrating on a particularly stubborn stitch. When she chanced to look up at her friend, Julia gasped. Kristina was crying, tears streaming down her face.

At once Julia dropped her grip on the quilt, reaching out to take her friend’s hand in her own. Julia closed her eyes for a moment.

What could she say? Julia had feared from the start that it might come to this. She’d known way back in the beginning of what could only be termed a clandestine affair, that what Kristina did could either bring tremendous happiness or estrangement…forever. Julia had warned Kristina of this, tried to discourage her from her unorthodox flirtation…at first. But Kristina had not listened, would not listen. And Julia had been lulled, herself, over several months into believing her opinion was wrong, hoping that she had incorrectly viewed Kristina’s situation.

But it didn’t help to remember this now. It certainly wouldn’t aid Kristina to mention such things. Which left Julia to do what?

Julia shook her head. She didn’t know. These matters were simply beyond her experience. She raised her eyes to the ceiling as if she might find an answer there, and sighed deeply when nothing materialized.

It didn’t matter anymore. The damage was done.

Her friend Kristina had committed a terrible faux pas, one that would ostracize her from the “best” social circles—one that, if the deed were known, could cause Kristina tremendous heartache.

Kristina had married—married an Indian. The circumstances of it didn’t matter anymore: that Kristina hadn’t known the meaning of the ceremony; that Kristina wouldn’t, on her own, have married the Indian. It didn’t matter because Kristina was so much in love with the man now that, if he asked her, Kristina would gladly leave all behind her to follow him.

But when her Indian husband had left the fort this last time, he hadn’t asked Kristina to follow him. In truth, the two lovers had parted on angry words. And it took no genius to know that what truly bothered Kristina was far removed from her problem with her mother and the newly arrived Mr. Carpenter.

Kristina worried. Had her husband, Tahiska, grown intolerant? Had he left Kristina without even a goodbye? Did he throw away all the good that had been between them?

Julia sighed. She had to do something, say something. Anything.

She squeezed her friend’s hand. “Something has happened to delay Tahiska,” she said at last. “I’m sure that’s it, Kristina. You only need to keep heart. I saw the way Tahiska looked at you. I saw the tenderness in his eyes. It was as though he treasured you above life itself. And I swear I don’t believe he would leave you. Besides, his two friends, Wahtapah and Neeheeowee.” Julia paused, swallowing hard against the sudden lump in her throat. “They wouldn’t just walk away without giving you word of him, would they?”

Julia held her breath, wondering if Kristina could read her own thoughts. But Kristina merely glanced around the room, her attention seemingly centered inward, and Julia breathed a momentary sigh of relief: Kristina hadn’t guessed…didn’t realize…

“Perhaps we credit them with too much.” Kristina’s words interrupted Julia’s thoughts. “What do we know of their culture, really? As you once said, Julia, they’re Indian. Lakota Indian, or as the people call them here, Sioux. Perhaps you were right from the beginning. Perhaps I should have listened to you and never become so involved, not fallen so much in love, not believed and wished so hard that it could work.”

“No.” It was all Julia said. But the force of the word, her conviction in it, carried over into her voice. She waited a moment, then, at length, she whispered, “I don’t think so. I, too, grew to know them, gave them my trust, my heart…friendship. I…” She bit her lip and glanced quickly to Kristina. Had her friend heard that last?

Kristina, however, didn’t appear to notice. She merely brushed a finger over the tears which had fallen onto her cheeks before turning to look toward Julia. And there she attempted a weak sort of smile. “You’ve changed,” Kristina said at last. “You now see the Indians as people, not as you first thought, as savages. Tell me, Julia, do you agree that we’ve made some wonderful friendships?”

“Yes.” Julia quickly looked down. She wasn’t prepared to tell her friend that there could be more than simple friendship between herself and a particular Indian. Julia knew she must guard herself well. And so she kept her gaze hidden, her eyes focused on the floor. “Yes,” Julia said again. “And I cringe to think I almost passed up the opportunity to get to know them. Without your influence, Kristina, I would have judged the Indians as savages without even giving them a chance. I’ll never do that again.”

“What does Kenneth think of your friendships with the Indians?”

Julia grimaced, bringing a picture to mind of her fiancé, Kenneth Wilson. That he compared badly when put up against the Indians, against one particular Indian, did not bear careful scrutiny. “He doesn’t know,” Julia said at length. “There’s no reason to tell him. It’s not as if we are married, yet. Besides, he has no right to dictate my feelings.”

“Ah, I see and…”

“Sh!” Julia jumped at the chance to divert the conversation onto something else. “I hear something. Kristina, I think your mother is coming.”

Julia saw Kristina sit up straighter, pinch her cheeks to draw color into her pale face, and rub away any trace of tears, while Julia became at once quiet and reserved.

“Hello, young ladies.” Margaret Bogard, Kristina’s mother, spoke from the parlor’s entrance, with Mr. Carpenter, or so Julia assumed, standing at her elbow. “Kristina, I have some good news for you.”

Kristina glanced up then, pretending indifference. “How nice,” was all she said before she bent her head once again over her work.

“Mr. Carpenter and I have been discussing arrangements to return home,” Margaret Bogard announced, seemingly not at all put out by Kristina’s lack of enthusiasm. The older lady swept into the room, escorted by the gentleman. “I’ve rented Mr. Carpenter’s carriage and horses to return us to St. Louis. From there we can book passage home. And this kind gentleman has agreed to start out within the week. Just think, dear, within only a few months we can be back in Boston, away from this horrible place and these terrible savages.”

Julia’s head jerked up. She glanced at her friend, but Kristina said nothing. Julia wondered at her thoughts. Was she, too, remembering the ‘savages’? Their constant friendship which demanded nothing in return? Their devotion and honesty…? Their love?

Slowly Kristina smiled and Julia drew a deep breath.

At last Kristina spoke, saying, “I know you’ve gone to much trouble, Mother, but I am already home. I don’t wish to leave.”

“Nonsense, you just don’t know your…”

“No!” Kristina’s voice was harsh at first, but then she smiled. “I love this land,” she said softly. “I love these people. I belong here, not back East. You go ahead. You’ve always wanted to return to Boston, so you go on. We can write, you and I.”

“Why I never…I mean I couldn’t possibly…”

The sound of stampeding horses interrupted Mrs. Bogard’s shocked reply. All glances swung to the window, and, at the sound of high-pitched war whoops, Kristina looked to Julia. Both women espied the look of surprise on the other’s face. Both women grinned, quickly forgetting Mrs. Bogard, Mr. Carpenter, and the quilt as they jumped to their feet and raced toward the window.

“They’ve returned, Kristina!” Julia turned to her friend, catching hold of her arm at the same time Kristina reached out for her. The two friends hugged, smiling.

But Kristina looked back out the window. “I don’t see him, Julia. I only see Wahtapah and Neeheeowee. What if he’s not with them, what if he’s…”

“He’s here. I’m sure of it.”

“Will you come outside with me?”

Julia smiled. “Of course.”

Ignoring Kristina’s mother and Mr. Carpenter, both Julia and Kristina stepped quickly to the door, pulling on the handle and swinging the large, wooden door open. Both women peered outside.

What a sight.
Julia grinned. Three Indians, each one seated atop fine-looking mustangs, herding what must have been fifteen to twenty ponies, all brought to the front of Kristina’s military home.

People and soldiers outside milled around the Indians and their horses, shouting out orders, everyone talking at once. There was laughter, wonderment, disbelief, and Kristina grabbed Julia’s arm as though to steady herself.

He was there: Kristina’s lover and husband, Tahiska. Julia saw him and smiled. She had been right. The Indian loved his woman, Kristina. He would never leave her. These things were easy to read, for someone who knew these Indians well. And Julia had certainly come to understand them over the past few months, learning to value their quiet strength, their soft-spoken advice, their friendship. Julia saw the way Tahiska gazed at Kristina and marveled at it.

Yes, the Indian loved his golden-haired bride; and within his look was a devotion to her that was as beautiful as it was fervent. And Julia, witnessing it, almost swooned.

Sitting astride a gray pony, the Indians presented a magnificent image of wild pride and splendor. Julia’s gaze skipped over toward one particular Indian—toward Neeheeowee, before she turned quickly away. Proud, she thought, as she fixed her gaze upon a spot far away. It was a description that came easily to mind in connection with that warrior, whose namesake, Wolf, was so obviously befitting. Neeheeowee evoked the image of a fierce, proud wolf.

BOOK: Proud Wolf's Woman
12.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Istanbul Express by T. Davis Bunn
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer
The Sharp Time by Mary O'Connell
Totally Joe by James Howe
The Poet by Michael Connelly
Four Scraps of Bread by Hollander-Lafon, Magda; Fuller, Anthony T.;