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Wa-pee Moos-tooch
Chapter XII
Nagos Becomes Queen of His Lodge


SHORTLY after this these camps separated, and that of White Buffalo went eastward and north into its own country. Autumn was approaching, and the next moon would be the time when White Buffalo would go north, and hoped to meet the North Wind Maker and claim Nagos as his bride. Snake Skin was rejoicing for his friend's sake. Often, when on the hunt, he would pretend to call his friend back to the present. "Do not let your spirit wander so far away, my friend. Stay with us now, I beseech you. Let us hunt the elk today, and tomorrow the moose, and by and by, in due time, we will go north into the home land of the Little Mother," and humming a love song, he would say: "Oh, Nagos, the beautiful, our Little Mother, the good, wait a while and let White Buffalo remain with us, his own people. The days and the nights will soon pass and he will be all yours." And thus bantering his much-loved friend, Snake Skin himself was anxiously waiting the time when once more he would accompany White Buffalo over the divide and down into the forest land of the north. Secretly but continuously, White Buffalo was preparing for his journey. Indeed, he had been doing this in thought and deed all these moons, trying himself, testing himself, and in measure he was satisfied. Neither heart nor nerve nor head, nor yet physical strength had failed him in his trying moments. For all this he was thankful, and in all he had undertaken he was profoundly grateful to have had the manifestation and evident approval of his Pawakun, the spirit of his dream. And now, with all he had gone through at his back, and thoroughly won into his life, he felt that he could creditably go into the presence of his beloved, and claim her from her parents and people.

Blushingly he told his mother that in a few nights he was going away, and when he came back he hoped to bring her another child to love; and his mother answered: "If she is worthy of you, my son, she shall have a big place in my heart."

The day came, and White Buffalo and Snake Skin were ready, and with the Big Grey richly caprisoned, and two ordinary ponies for to ride at times, our travellers took their course into the north country. White Buffalo's mother sent to Nagos a beautiful robe, with a belt of bead work across it. She had dressed and worked the robe while her son was away on one of his war expeditions, and now brought it forth, and gladdened his heart with this expression of her motherly thoughtfulness. She said:

"My heart goes with you, my son, and may you find her you long for in health and happiness awaiting your coming." Snake Skin was jubilant for his friend's sake, and gayly sang as they travelled. Now it was a war song, now one of thanksgiving, arid again he broke out into ardent strains of love, and White Buffalo's heart responded to his comrade's spirit, and in bright hopes they kept on their way towards the star that never moves. Snake Skin was never happier than when he was with his leader, and to be his confidant and bosom companion was to him supreme satisfaction, and now to be the chosen ally in this romantic and delightful embassy gave him great joy. As usual, our travellers were not burdened with a provision outfit. They were both good hunters, and in this White Buffalo was more than ordinary. With bow and quiver and snare, they foraged and feasted as they journeyed. Having the horses with them, they could not travel as direct as on foot, and it was not until the fourth day they came in view of the arranged spot of meeting with the North Wind Maker and his camp. White Buffalo, the brave, cool hunter, and warrior and scout, whose nerves were like fine steel, whose experience had been to fear neither men nor beasts, was now trembling with excitement, as he and his comrade reached the height from which the smoke of the camp might be seen. He was strongly moved, and both eagerly scanned the forest land for some sign of human life.

Presently White Buffalo saw a faint, hazy smoke, and pointed it out to his companion, and his eyes shone as he looked into Snake Skin's, and Snake Skin answered: "She is there, my friend, and soon you will behold her."

Even then White Buffalo knew that Nagos was seeking him in spirit and he answered: "I am coming, my beloved, I am coming."

Away down in the valley the maiden was busy with her work, but every little while she lifted her eyes, and sent her glance outward, and said to herself: "He is coming; White Buffalo is coming."

"Nagos, you will burn those skins if you are not more careful," was her mother's gentle admonition, and the girl's spirit came back to the work of smoking the skins she had in hand. But she was rejoicing in heart, for her lover was near.

These were the days when as yet the telegraph and telephone and the monthly and weekly and daily mails had not been thought of among these people, and therefore the spiritual sense had not become so dense as when these inventions came to abound. To see afar, to hear from the distance, to feel the approach of either friend or foe, and to distinguish between these were the frequent experiences of these nomadic tribes.

Sure enough, they have arrived! He has come These are the exclamations from the people of North Wind Maker's camp. This, at this time, is not the lone lodge of the previous summer, but a group of lodges.

The friends of the North Wind Maker and his family were here to see for themselves this wonderful Cree from the south country, and to judge if he were worthy to mate with their Nagos. Here they were, these fine stalwart young men, White Buffalo and Snake Skin, and keenly were they watched and weighed and not found wanting. And their horses were objects of profound interest. These great "big dogs" were new animals to canoe and dog train people. The docility of the horses, the beauty and bigness of the gray, were greatly admired by the whole camp, and when Snake Skin led the grey up, and said to Nagos, "Come and speak to your own horse, come and see how kind and friendly he is," and she blushed, and stepping up patted the big fellow and he seemed to know that here was his mistress, and then Snake Skin remarked:

"Why, he knows you already, Nagos. White Buffalo has told him so often about you, the Little Mother, he knows you as his friend." And Nagos blushed all the more, and put her arm over the grey's neck, and talked to him in her own sweet way, and the most happy, and yet withal the most embarrassed fellow in all the camp at this time was our hero, White Buffalo.

The North Wind Maker welcomed the young men into his lodge, and his wife and himself made them feel at home.

"You are true to your word, young man," was his greeting to White Buffalo, and to Snake Skin he said:

"We are glad to see you again, and will rejoice to have you tell us all about your country and people, since you were with us last winter."

Truly, here was a field in which Snake Skin could glorify his friend, and thus having a free hand he made good use of it, and those northern peoples listened to his vivid descriptions of life on the plains, and the great war expeditions, and the lone trip of his friend, and how White Buffalo had saved their home camp, and what took place at the races. Snake Skin was endowed by nature with memory and perception and language, and here was his chance of an admiring audience and a most interested congregation.

Thus Snake Skin moved in and out of these mooseskin lodges and won the friendship of these northern people for his friend and himself. And it was while doing this his quick glance fell on a maiden who to him was a surprise, and a glorious revelation, and he said to himself: "Ah, she is wonderful, and touches my heart as no woman has ever done. Who is she, where does she come from? Let me find out."

And thus communing, and with stirred interest, Snake Skin went to Nagos, and in his own way found out from her that this was Achakosis, the Little Star, and that her father was a younger brother of the North Wind Maker, and she was the cousin, or in this case the younger sister of Nagos, the children of brothers being considered as of one family by these Cree peoples.

"My little sister is good, and we all love her," said Nagos to Snake Skin; and while he did not say so, he thought, "And I am also getting to love her." And he began to feel even as his friend had felt twelve or thirteen moons ago on this very spot. Presently Naps woke up to Snake Skin's thought, and with a smile said to him, "The Little Star is very bright," and he quickly answered:

"You will help me, Nagos," and she said, "You need no help," but he knew that he had a friend.

That night the North Wind Maker said to White Buffalo: "I know where there are some moose, and I would be glad if you would go with me tomorrow to hunt them." The older man had somewhat to say to the younger, and thus desired the opportunity to speak his mind.

White Buffalo cheerfully assenting, it was arranged for the hunt the next day. There were many peculiar feelings stirring the hearts and minds of the inmates of this lodge that night. The father and mother were now face to face with the very hard trial of parting with their dearly-loved daughter. During the summers and winters of her childhood and growing maidenhood, she had been as the apple of their eye, and now the man of her choice had come to claim her at their hands, to take her far away into a strange land, one of war and bloodshed. But they had given their word, and it was plainly evident that their daughter had given her heart to this man. And truly he was a choice man. This they could see for themselves, and it must be done, this parting with Nagos. But oh, it filled their hearts with sorrow to think of it. And Nagos, she was alternating between great joy and sorrow. But she had to confess to herself the joy predominated. He had come, he was here, the one she had been thinking of, and dreaming of, and sighing for, was now here, and had come to claim her as his own. She loved her parents and brother much, very much, but she loved White Buffalo more. She was willing to go with him anywhere; she felt she belonged to him, and he was hers. She knew that his heart was hers, and a rich sense of possession filled her whole being with a great healthy joy.

And our hero was beside himself with happiness. Nagos was well; Nagos was more beautiful than ever. Nagos had made him feel that he was very welcome. A few words had passed between them. He had given her the robe his mother had sent her. He had made her a present of the Blackthigh, the big grey. She had thanked him sweetly and looked into his eyes for once, and he saw her heart was his. And thus he lay beside Snake Skin and was full of thankfulness. He wondered and speculated on what the North Wind Maker might have to say to him on the morrow. But he had no fear of losing Nagos; no, his faith in this was sublime. The moons had come and gone, and his love for Nagos was manifold stronger, richer, truer now than ever. He had tested himself and was satisfied.

And Snake Skin beside him was glad, supremely glad for his friend's sake. He had a part in this good work of securing a queen for his hero's lodge and life. He knew that all their camp would rejoice when they saw Nagos. And, moreover, his own heart was keenly touched for he had seen the Little Star, and the halo of her presence was with him now. And the morning came, and the hunters started, and Snake Skin sought to cultivate the people of the camp, and to watch for and if possible become acquainted with the beautiful Little Star. In this matter during the day Nagos helped him, and arranged that Snake Skin bring up the Big Grey, and she would invite her sister to come and see him. Thus she kindly played into Snake Skin's hands, and gave him opportunity in her own way to talk to the Little Star and interest her in horses and buffalo and the strange country and the distinct life of his people. All this time he was drinking in her charm and grace, and saying to himself:

"She shall he mine; even if I have to wait many moons and travel long distances, she shall be mine."

And Nagos watched and thought that in due time her little sister might come south also, even as she was going south.

Away out on the hunt, things were also moving. The hunters had not gone very far when they came upon the track of a large buck moose. These were now in their prime. White Buffalo suggested to the North Wind Maker that the older man take his course for a certain ridge in sight, and he would go on the track of the moose. "For," said he, "when I start him, that is where he will run to." The older man was struck with the younger man's knowledge, and felt that White Buffalo was wise in hunting lore. In the meantime the young hunter had bounded away on the bull's track, and as he had expected, because of the dense thicket, started his game without being able to fire an arrow. Then the chase began, and so hard did he press the huge brute that by the time they were rising the summit of the ridge he was close upon the moose, and coming to a clearer space he got his chance to send an arrow into the big fellow. This slowed him up, and White Buffalo sent another which finished him, and the elder man coming to the ridge saw the track and soon was in at the kill. Here, again, he was astonished at the shortness of the run, for generally it took the swiftest runner a long stern chase to run down a bull moose. Surely this was no ordinary man who had come wooing his daughter. And now as they skinned the monster and cut up the meat, North Wind Maker had his opportunity to talk to White Buffalo. Said he:

"Young man, at this time last summer, we had not seen you; we did not know such a man as you lived. Then you found us, and when you returned to your own people, you took our daughter's love with you. Her mother and myself saw this, but we did not know you, and thought perhaps you might never come again. Then you came with your friend in the winter to our camp still further distant, and we knew you were in earnest, and having watched our daughter we also knew that you were always in her thoughts. So I said to you that if neither of you changed your minds, and you again came to us at this time of the season into this part of the country, we would give you our daughter to wife. You have come even as you said you would. Now I want you to promise me two things. One is that you will always treat my daughter kindly. She is good and very kind herself, and we want to think of her as your wife, the mistress of your lodge, and being kindly treated and loved by you. The other is, that for some seasons you will bring her to meet us at this point, so that we may see her and you, for we are old, and do not think of ever going out to your country. Will you promise me these two things, young man?"

Then White Buffalo did answer:

"My friend, what you ask of me is easy for me, if I live, to do. I love your daughter with all my heart. We were made for each other. I did not know where I was going, or to whom I was coming, when I found you and your daughter last season. I was led as by the hand, and when I saw your wife and your daughter, and listened to them talking, then I knew why I had been brought to your camp in this distant part which I had never seen. My heart went out to Nagos, and my whole being was glad, and when you told me that when I came here at this time you would give me your daughter as my wife, I rejoiced with all my soul, and ever since I have been striving to make myself fit to be her husband. Yes, I will always do as you wish, and treat Nagos kindly. This will truly be easy, for I love her with all my heart. The other matter you ask is also easy. We will come here at this season of the year to meet you and your wife and friends. This will be a pleasure for us, and we will look forward to our coming here. Perhaps my father and mother may come with us, for I would like them to meet you." Then the elder man answered:

"I believe you, my friend, and now with a good heart, though sorrowing, we will give you our daughter, and may the Great Good Spirit bless your union."

Carefully putting the meat away, and preparing two light packs of the nose and briskit and entrails, they returned to camp, the North Wind Maker having secured the assurances he wanted, and also having further proof of this man who sought to be his son-in-law. And White Buffalo, now feeling secure of his object, and having the parent's assurance that the daughter loved him. No wonder that on beholding Nagos he looked upon her with a sense of gratified proprietorship, and Nagos in turn had been told so much about her lover during this fay that she said to her heart:

"Be still, he is yours; White Buffalo is mine." Thus she looked upon him with great pride, and no wonder, for he was already, though so young, a great hunter, a brave warrior, and a true patriot, and withal a good man. According to his environment, he was a splendid man, physically, mentally and spiritually he was more, far more than ordinary. Then, Nagos, you do well to dearly appreciate White Buffalo.

On the other hand, he felt that all this paled in the presence of his beloved. She was really and truly his queen.

That afternoon and evening the North Wind Maker made a feast, the meat of moose, and elk, and caribou, and the fat of the bear and beaver, pounded meat and marrow-fat, and dried berries and moose nose, and beaver tail. This was the bill of fare. All partook and were happy. Then in the midst of the festivity the North Wind Maker addressed the crowd and spoke as follows:

"My friends, some thirteen moons since my family and myself were camped in this place, and one day there appeared a stranger in our midst. We were astonished at his presence. He came alone and almost at once we loved him. We did not know who he was, but our hearts went out to this young stranger. The next day he was gone. Again while the strong winter moon was shining he came with his companion and friend, and hunted us up in our camp away north of the mouth of the big Saskatchewan. We were glad to see these young men, for somehow we had been looking for the coming of the strange guest who had been in our camp in the autumn. We knew our daughter's heart had followed him away, and we felt the times when her spirit was travelling with him in the far southern country. And while glad to see him come again, we were not surprised. At that time he saved my life, and revealed himself to us as a great hunter, and a very brave man, and when he asked me for our Nagos, our much-loved daughter, I told him, I the North Wind Maker, who have always kept my word, I told him that if his mind changed not and he came here at this time of the season, we would give him our daughter Nagos to wife. He said he would be here if alive. He is here, and now we will do even as we promised and give him Nagos."

And the crowd of relatives and friends answered:

"Yes, this is fitting. Nagos, the Little Mother, is altogether worthy of such a man. May they both live long, and be much blessed!"

Such was the marriage of White Buffalo and Nagos. No church nor priest, no bridesmaids nor costly pomp nor ceremony. The blessing of their parents, and the assurance of their own hearts, and they were man and wife. No bells rang out, but the birds sang, and the forest animals gambolled and mated, and the leaves tinted and the waters of the stream rippled, and the earth was glad. And Snake Skin sang and danced, and greatly rejoiced in his friend's pure happiness. He improvised and sang:

The north and the south have come together,
White Buffalo and Nagos have met each other,
Hi-he-ya ho-he-yo-yo-yo.
The north wind and the south wind are mingling,
The plains people and the lake people are singing
Hi-he-ya ho-he-yo-yo-yo.
We are one, we are one, and the Great Spirit smiles.
Hi-he-ya ho-he-yo-yo-yo.

All the people very soon caught onto his thought and sang with him, and White Buaffalo and Nagos in the quiet of the North Wind Maker's lodge held each other's hands and sat and communed, and were full of the greatness of earthly joy.

A few days were spent in hunting and feasting, and becoming better acquainted, and now the time came for the parting.

The wily Snake Skin had won over the young brother of Nagos to accompany them south. "For," said he, "I will come with you to seek your people, when the winter is here." Every day had made him to feel that the Little Star was in this case the brightest and best in his firmament, and if possible he would win her. He had a good friend in Nagos, who warmly appreciated his ardent true friendship for her beloved White Buffalo. The brother who was to accompany our party on its homeward journey was named Niska, the Goose, he having come in the late autumn when the fowl were taking their southern flight. And his mother said, let us call him the Goose, for he has come with them out of the north. Niska was eager for this trip to the unknown, and then he knew it would not be for a long time anyway, for he saw through the purpose of Snake Skin.


 


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