(By permission of the Author)
(From "My Life as an Indian," by J. W. Schultz)
This story of No-Heart gives a realistic and kindly picture of life in an Indian village. The heroine, a young girl nearing womanhood, had been caught with her family in a terrible thunderstorm. When it was over all were dead but herself. In the village she had no other kinsfolk; thus she was left alone in the world:
Kind friends buried the dead, and the many different ones asked the girl to come and live with them; but she refused them all. "You must go and live with some one," said the chief. "No one ever heard of a young woman living by herself. You cannot live alone. Where would you procure your food? And think of what people would say, should you do so; you would soon have a bad name".
"If people speak ill of me, I cannot help it," said the girl. "They will live to take back their bad words. I have decided to do this, and I will find a way to keep from starving".
So this girl lived on alone in the lodge her parents had built, and with no company save her dogs. The women of the camp frequently visited her and gave her meat and other food, but no man, either young or old, ever went in and sat by her fire. One or two had attempted it, but only once, for she had told them plainly that she did not wish the society of any man. So the youths gazed at her from afar, and prayed the gods to soften her heart. She was a handsome young woman, a hard and ceaseless toiler; no wonder that the men fell in love with her, and no wonder that they named her No-Heart.
One young man, Long Elk, son of the great chief, loved the lone girl so much that he was nearly crazy with the pain and longing for her. He had never spoken to her, well knowing that her answer would be that which she had given to others. But he could not help going about, day after day, where she could always see him. If she worked in her little bean and corn patch he sat on the edge of the river-bank nearby. If she went to the timber for wood, he strolled out in that direction, often meeting her on the trail, but she always passed him with eyes cast down, as if she had not seen him. Often, in the night, when all the camp was fast asleep, Long Elk would steal out of his father's lodge, pick up a water skin, and filling it again and again at the river, would water every row in No-Heart's garden. At the risk of his life he would go out alone on the plains where the Sioux were always prowling, and hunt. In the morning when No-Heart awoke and went out, she would find hanging in the dark entrance way, choice portions of meat, the skin of a buffalo or the deer kind. The people talked about this, wondering who did it all. If the girl knew she gave no sign of it, always passing the young man as if she did not know there was such a person on earth. A few low and evil ones themselves hinted wickedly that the unknown protector was well paid for his troubles. But they were always rebuked, for the girl had many friends who believed that she was all good.
In the third summer of the girl's lone living, the Mandans and Arickarees quarreled, and then trouble began, parties constantly starting out to steal each other's horses, and to kill and scalp all whom they could find hunting or traveling about beyond protection of the villages. This was a very sad condition for the people. The two tribes had long been friends; Mandan men had married Arickaree women, and many Arickaree men had Mandan wives. It was dreadful to see the scalps of perhaps one's own relatives brought into camp. But what could the women do? They had no voice in the councils, and were afraid to say what they thought. Not so No-Heart. Every day she went about in the camp, talking loudly, so that the men must hear, scolding them and their wickedness; pointing out the truth, that by killing each other the two tribes would become so weak that they would soon be unable to withstand their common enemy, the Sioux. Yes, No-Heart would even walk right up to a chief and scold him, and he would be obliged to turn silently away, for he could not argue with a woman, nor could he force this one to close her mouth; she was the ruler of her own person.
One night a large number of Arickarees succeeded in making an opening in the village stockade and, passing through, they began to lead out the horses. Some one soon discovered them, however, and gave the alarm, and a big fight took place, the Mandans driving the enemy out on the plain and down into the timber below. Some men on both sides were killed; there was both mourning and rejoicing in the village.
The Arickarees retreated to their village. Toward evening No-Heart went down into the timber for fuel, and in a thick clump of willows she found one of the enemy, a young man badly wounded. An arrow had pierced his groin, and the loss of blood had been great. He was so weak that he could scarcely speak or move. No-Heart stuck many willow twigs in the ground about him, the more securely to conceal him.
"Do not fear," she said to him, "I will bring you food and drink".
She hurried back to her lodge and got some dried meat and a skin of water, put them under her robe, and returned to the wounded one. He drank much, and ate of the food. No-Heart washed and bound the wound. Then she again left him, telling him to lie quiet, that in the night she would return and take him to her home, where she would care for him until he got well. In her lodge she fixed a place for him, screening one of the bed places with a large cow skin; she also partly covered the smoke hole and hung a skin across the entrance, so that the interior of the lodge had but little light. The women who sometimes visited her would never suspect that any one was concealed, and especially an enemy in a lodge where for three summers no man had entered.
It was a very dark night. Down in the timber there was no light at all. No-Heart was obliged to extend her arms as she walked, to keep from running against the trees, but she knew the place so well that she had little trouble in finding the thicket, and the one she had come to aid. "Arise," she said in a low voice. "Arise, and follow me".