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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Keusca Elopement

Title:     The Keusca Elopement
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

Keusca was a village of the Dakota Indians on the Wisconsin bluffs of the Mississippi eighteen hundred miles from its mouth. The name means, to overthrow, or set aside, for it was here that a tribal law was broken. Sacred Wind was a coquette of that village, for whose hand came many young fellows wooing with painted faces. For her they played the bone flute in the twilight, and in the games they danced and leaped their hardest and shot their farthest and truest when she was looking on. Though they amused her she cared not a jot for these suitors, keeping her love for the young brave named the Shield--and keeping it secret, for he was her cousin, and cousins might not wed. If a relative urged her to marry some young fellow for whom she had no liking, she would answer that if forced to do so she would fling herself into the river, and spoke of Winonah and Lovers' Leap.

She was afraid to wed the Shield, for the medicine-men had threatened all who dared to break the marriage laws with unearthly terrors; yet when the Shield had been absent for several weeks on the war-path she realized that life without his companionship was too hollow to be endured--and she admired him all the more when he returned with two scalps hanging at his belt. He renewed his wooing. He allayed her fears by assurances that he, too, was a medicine-man and could counteract the spells that wizards might cast on them. Then she no longer repressed the promptings of her heart, but yielded to his suit. They agreed to elope that night.

As they left the little clearing in the wood where their interview had taken place, a thicket stirred and a girl stole from it, looking intently at their retreating forms. The Swan, they had named her; but, with a flush in her dusky cheeks, her brows dark, her eyes glittering, she more recalled the vulture--for she, too, loved the Shield; and she had now seen and heard that her love was hopeless. That evening she alarmed the camp; she told the parents of Sacred Wind of the threatened violation of custom, and the father rose in anger to seek her. It was too late, for the flight had taken place. The Swan went to the river and rowed out in a canoe. From the middle of the stream she saw a speck on the water to the southward, and knew it to be Sacred Wind and her lover, henceforth husband. She watched until the speck faded in the twilight--then leaning over the side of the boat she capsized it, and passed from the view of men.

[The end]
Charles M. Skinner's short story: Keusca Elopement