white wolf - part 23

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my dear, I love you and when you're not with me I am sad. Do you feel the same way about me? "She nodded and said "John I have been in love with you for many years but as the husband of my sister I could not do anything about it. Now I want to be with you all the time." He leant into her, held her face and gently kissed her again. "I was holding back from committing to you because I felt I was betraying your sister but now I am ready to look to the future and that future is you," explained John. As he stroked her hair he added "I will talk to Little Wolf and ask for permission to marry you. I think we should be married as soon as we reach the summer camp, what do you think?" For once she couldn't talk and the tears of joy streamed down her face.

They arrived at the usual summer camping ground just as a fierce dust storm hit. The clouds of dust and grit caused many to cough and splutter and made it hard to see more than a dozen feet in front of you. John tied a bandana across his face, peering out through the top of it to see where he was going. The whole group stayed at the more sheltered southern end of the valley, waiting patiently until the storm passed. Afterwards they quickly and expertly assembled their camp well before it was dark. It was fortunate they were almost in the valley when the storm hit, otherwise it would have caused many more problems. To be caught out in the open would not have been pleasant so at least they were thankful for that.

Preparations for the wedding were advanced and the general opinion among the people was favourable towards the pairing. The Cheyenne were a very practical people so it only natural White Wolf and the youngest daughter of the chief were married. To them it was of no consequence Smiles-a-lot was the sister of Morning Light, it only mattered that the couple loved each other and wanted to be married.

The first part of the Cheyenne word for 'Smiles-a-lot' sounded very much like 'Sally' in English so it wasn't long before John was referring to his bride-to-be as Sally. It was a nick name she liked, especially when he told her the letters of her name also spelt 'Sal' and how this was a short version of Sally. Most of the time from then, he called her Sal or Sally.

A week before the big day, Crazy Axe and his entourage suddenly appeared in the valley. The big solidly built warrior rode through the camp on a massive pie-balled stallion and following him were a motley looking lot of warriors. Most were Arapaho but there was a sprinkling of Kiowa, Cheyenne and Sioux,  in total a group of 24 warriors. Some of the group were carrying injuries and several were forced to ride two on a horse. To John's experienced eye they appeared to have recently been in battle.

John carefully watched the leader as he leapt from his horse and proudly marched through the village. He carried his rifle over his shoulder and was wearing a soldier's hat like he was the general of an army. The big man also wore a soldier's style sword on his hip and an ammunition belt strapped around his waist. He swaggered up to the Chief and the two men talked briefly before Crazy Axe and his gang wandered off to corral their ponies and wash in the lake.

It was Standing Bear who told John to expect trouble as Crazy Axe was asking about the Chief's youngest daughter. John had already anticipated this possibility and was armed with the colt and his tomahawk. He sat quietly by the tepee not far from Smiles-a-lot and kept a wary eye and ear out for trouble. It wasn't long coming because he heard a raised voice then noticed a small group of the visitors heading his way. Storming along at the front of this group was the leader who carried his rifle like a club.

Rising to meet the group, John greeted Crazy Axe and tried to appear calm and unfazed.  The warriors with Crazy Axe fanned out behind him but John kept his attention firmly on the big red faced leader. "I hear you are to marry Smiles-a-lot, this will not happen. White Wolf I challenge you to battle, with the winner to claim the Chief's daughter as the prize," yelled Crazy Axe. John remained quiet for a moment then stepped to within a few feet of the angry man and whipped out his colt holding the muzzle to the temple of the big Indian. This tactic took the Arapaho by surprise, not only wasn't he expecting John to advance at him but he was stunned by the rapid draw.

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