Our h- the protagonist is pacing in his holding cell, an "outhouse" with only six feet of floor space, though it doesn't actually have a floor. Instead our hero is trudging through mud caused by the badly leaking roof, and there isn't even a dry spot fit to lie down on. Yellow Hair can only stretch out in the chilled muck when exhaustion claims him, unable to steer his thoughts away from food - he thinks about the rain, he remembers bison drowning in the spring rivers, he thinks about the armed guards outside, he thinks about using a rifle to hunt. He's been hungry for so long that he's surprised that he hasn't gotten used to a gnawing, empty stomach, he once chewed on his buckskin shirt in a moment of desperation, and just that afternoon he spent hours watching a dog in the fort's yard, hoping it would come close enough to his cell that he could grab it through a crack in the wall and eat it raw.
So he's not doing too hot, in other words.
Chilled by the rain and mud, "starved and weak and gaunt," Yellow Hair's thoughts turn toward those he left a seventy days' travel away, and wonders if Bright Star is still waiting for him back in Nameless Pikuni Village. Our narration tells us it "was a tribute to the love he bore for the slender, graceful girl" that he can imagine the two of them sitting in a big lodge "with robes stacked all about him." I think the narration is setting the bar a little low.
"Give me my pipe, beautiful one," he would say.
"Here it is, my lord, packed and fired for you. Do you wish me to send Magpie to invite White Fox and Bear Claws in for the evening?"
"No, I like to sit here and smoke and watch you. I could do nothing all the rest of my life but look at you."
"Ah, my great warrior husband, but if you did that how would we gain our food? If you did not hunt . . . ?"
And then he starts hallucinating a cooking pot (presumably imported from evil white men). But what a cozy domestic fantasy, eh? A perfect, servile wife beautiful enough to stare at all day while she fetches your stuff and orders about your Tushepaw slave boy on your behalf.
With a bit of concentration Dream Bright Star comes back and explains how she ignored everyone's wishes for her to marry Long Bow, despite his robes and horses and good looks-
"Handsome? Long Bow handsome? When he drinks from a stream he has to close his eyes."
I think this would be funnier if we had actually seen Long Bow at any point in the book.
But Yellow Hair swears to Dream Bright Star that, by the "sacred Beaver Roll" he will never leave her again, and wonders what possessed him to do so in the first place (if memory serves, it was Bright Star's taunting.) He's jolted out of the dream by more hunger pangs but concentrates to chase it some more, until he's telling Dream Bright Star how he and White Fox and going to put on a reenactment of "the battle of the white fort," complete with some other warriors agreeing to smear themselves with white paint so they can play the baddies.
My first guess was that this is referring to that farcical fight at Fort Chesterfield, but the narration tells us that Yellow Hair sprang to his feet in excitement after this "wonderful omen" even though, the narration points out, it came from his mind through Dream Bright Star's lips. So maybe he's fantasizing about his life after escaping this prison and wrecking his bloody revenge, rather than the life he'd be living now if he hadn't run off like an idiot. At any rate, he swears to the hallucination that he'll come back to her in just a bit, then presses his eye to the wall of his cell and scans the grounds through the crack. Yes, Yellow Hair is about to escape.
After half a year in captivity.
That's my big question - why did we need to fast forward all the way to autumn? Did Hubbard need some dangerous conditions during the journeys that follow, or wanted to add the element of danger from the onset of winter? If so, does that make up for all the downsides of skipping six months?
It's a bit hard to believe that Yellow Hair survived without adequate food or shelter for this long, when hunger has already reduced him to nibbling on his own clothing or wanting to eat raw dog. And what about any diseases from those at York Factory? Yellow Hair may have white genetics on his side, but he probably hasn't been exposed to the same stuff as those fellows, or built up some crucial immunities.
And this timeskip also makes both Yellow Hair and Father Marc look incompetent. With Marc at least we're told that he tried a few times before last chapter to explain what really happened, but for this to go on for half a year suggests that he was slamming his head against that wall again and again until Nameless Governor finally ran out of patience But why hasn't Yellow Hair, Hubbard Action Hero that he is, tried to escape at any point before tonight?
Especially given how easy it'll be to break out, as we'll see shortly.
Back to Chapter 17