The Killing Of Cloudy Sky





In the Dakota camp on the bank of Spirit Lake, or Lake Calhoun, Iowa,

lived Cloudy Sky, a medicine-man, who had been made repellent by age and

accident, but who was feared because of his magic power. At eighty years

of age he looked for a third wife, and chose the daughter of a warrior,

his presents of blankets and calicoes to the parents winning their

consent. The girl, Harpstenah (a common name for a third daughter among

the Sioux), dreaded and hated this man, for it was rumored that he had

killed his first wife and basely sold his second. When she learned what

had been decided for her she rushed from the camp in tears and sat in a

lonely spot near the lake to curse and lament unseen. As she sat there

the waters were troubled. There was no wind, yet great waves were thrown

up, and tumbled hissing on the shore. Presently came a wave higher than

the rest, and a graceful form leaped from it, half shrouded in its own

long hair.



Do not tremble, said the visitant, for Harpstenah had hidden her face.

I am the daughter of Unktahe, the water god. In four days your parents

will give you to Cloudy Sky, as his wife, though you love Red Deer. It is

with you to wed the man you hate or the man you love. Cloudy Sky has

offended the water spirits and we have resolved upon his death. If you

will be our agent in destroying him, you shall marry Red Deer and live

long and happily. The medicine-man wandered for years through the air

with the thunder birds, flinging his deadly fire-spears at us, and it was

for killing the son of Unktahe that he was last sent to earth, where he

has already lived twice before. Kill him while he sleeps and we will

reward you.



As Harpstenah went back to the village her prospective bridegroom ogled

her as he sat smoking before his lodge, his face blackened and blanket

torn in mourning for an enemy he had killed. She resolved to heed the

appeal of the manitou. When Red Deer heard how she had been promised to

the old conjurer, he was filled with rage. Still, he became thoughtful

and advised caution when she told him of the water spirit's counsel, for

the dwellers in the lakes were, of all immortals, most deceitful, and had

ever been enemies of the Dakotas. I will do as I am bidden, she said,

sternly. Go away and visit the Tetons for a time. It is now the moon of

strawberries (June), but in the moon when we gather wild rice

(September) return and I will be your wife.



Red Deer obeyed, after finding that she would not elope with him, and

with the announcement that he was going on a long hunt he took his leave

of the village. Harpstenah made ready for the bridal and greeted her

future husband with apparent pleasure and submissiveness. He gave a

medicine feast in token of the removal of his mourning, and appeared in

new clothing, greased and braided hair, and a white blanket decorated

with a black hand--the record of a slain enemy.



On the night before the wedding the girl creeps to his lodge, but

hesitates when she sees his medicine-bag hanging beside the door--the

medicine that has kept its owner from evil and is sacred from the touch

of woman. As she lingers the night-breeze seems to bring a voice from the

water: Can a Dakota woman want courage when she is forced to marry the

man she hates?



She delays no longer. A knife-blade glitters for an instant in the

moonlight--and Cloudy Sky is dead. Strange, is it not, that the thunder

birds flap so heavily along the west at that moment and a peal of

laughter sounds from the lake? She washes the blood from the blade,

steals to her father's lodge, and pretends to sleep. In the morning she

is loud in her grief when it is made known to her that the medicine-man

was no more, and the doer of the deed is never discovered. In time her

wan face gets its color and when the leaves begin to fall Red Deer

returns and weds her.



They seem to be happy for a time, and have two sons who promise to be

famous hunters, but consumption fastens on Red Deer and he dies far from

the village. The sons are shot by enemies, and while their bodies are on

their way to Harpstenah's lodge she, too, is stricken dead by lightning.

The spirit of Cloudy Sky had rejoined the thunder birds, and the water

manitou had promised falsely.





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