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Tahan
Chapter VIII The Indian Girls’ Games


THE girls as well as the boys, played at things which they expected to do in earnest when they grew up. So they imitated their mothers. They played at housekeeping. They set up tiny tepees made of pieces of robes or blankets. They built little fires, broiled bits of meat and feasted together as the grown-ups feasted.

One of their most popular games was “Hunt the Baby." A girl took a doll out to the edge of the camp and dropped it in the grass, when her companions were not looking. At a signal the hunt began. The finder of the baby was called the mother, and was honoured' with a little feast by her playmates.

One day when the sky was smiling, and the breezes were shaking the perfume from the prairie flowers, a company of little girls were busy with their doll-game.

We boys were looking about for some new diversion, and we made up our minds those girls should furnish it.

We crept up around the tepees, keeping out of sight lest they take alarm, find refuge with their mother? and spoil our sport. With wild whoops and in a bod> we dashed upon our prey. Uttering their girl-cries, they ran like young partridges towards the tepees. But we were too quick for them. We surrounded them and danced among them, brandishing our arms, our yells adding to their confusion.

One of the larger boys singled out the “mother” of the game, and snatching the doll-baby from her, began to tear it to pieces, greatly to the grief of the little “mother.”

Now I had a particular fondness for that little maid, and an intense dislike for the boy, who, a short while before, had held my head under water until I was nearly drowned. Although he was larger than I, I rushed upon him, seized his scalp-lock and gave it a jerk—an insult no boy would stand. For that lock of hair was to be his badge of manhood when he arrived at this longed-for estate. He, therefore, turned his attention at once to me.

We met in furious combat, to the delight of our companions who suddenly lost all interest in the girls. They thronged around us and with voice and gesture encouraged each of us to do his best.

My husky foe dealt me a severe pummelling, besides sundry scratches which blood-smeared my face. But I fought on until I succeeded in turning him onto his back. Then, astride of him, I chugged his head against the ground until he, at least, was satisfied.

As I rose triumphantly, my eyes fell upon the little “mother.” She was sitting huddled down on the ground with one of her playmates—a most interested and delighted witness of my victory.

I called to her in the most manly voice I could command.

“Come, Nacoomee! I go to the lodge now.” Proudly I walked on, she following close behind. At the lodge waited the mother, who had been a witness of the bloody struggle. As I turned my charge over to her, the little maid, looking coyly into my blood-stained face, exclaimed,

“How brave and strong you are, Tahan!“

And,” added the mother, smiling at the marks of the scrimmage, “he will be a great warrior some day.” I went on my way proud that I had played such a part for the little maiden, and naturally unconscious that she was destined to play an important part for me in later years.


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