Meanwhile, Rides-at-the-door sits at his usual place near the entrance to his lodge. He quietly thinks that he has always tried to do the right thing as far as his people were concerned but he has failed with his own son. Running Fisher has lost his honor. “Honor is all we have,” he thinks, “that and the blackhorns. Take away one or the other and we have nothing.”
Rides-at-the-door’s statement implies that he really has nothing. The blackhorns are waning under the Napikwan invasion and now Running Fisher has dishonored his lodge. By comparing Running Fisher’s dishonor to the loss of blackhorns, the seriousness of his offense is clear.
Kills-close-to-the-lake enters the lodge and Rides-at-the-door feels the same sadness he felt when Striped Face first told him of her betrayal. He feels guilty for bringing Kills-close-to-the-lake into his family and questions his reasons for doing so. Perhaps it was his own desire to appear wealthy to other members of the tribe. He usually is angered when other men behave in such ways, but now he believes that he was subconsciously motivated by the very same means.
Rides-at-the-door’s subconscious belief that he married Kills-close-to-the-lake to appear wealthy reflects the patriarchal nature of the tribe. More wives mean more power, and Rides-at-the-door has been greedy. He has put his own desire for wealth before Kills-close-to-the-lake’s best interests.
Running Fisher enters the lodge and sits. He openly admits to his affair with Kills-close-to-the-lake and Rides-at-the-door feels sadness enter his body—part of him had hoped that his son would deny Striped Face’s accusations. Rides-at-the-door says that their betrayal is his punishment for being greedy and taking a young wife when he knew it was wrong. He asks Kills-close-to-the-lake to forgive him but says that he does not forgive them. They have brought dishonor to his lodge.
This is further proof of Rides-at-the-door’s shame for putting his own needs before Kills-close-to-the-lake’s—and Running Fisher’s, for that matter. His third marriage has not been fair to any member of Rides-at-the-door’s lodge, including his other wives and Fools Crow.
Rides-at-the-door reminds Kills-close-to-the-lake that to dishonor a husband is the worst offense a woman can make. Most bands cut the noses from unfaithful women or kill them and send them to wander the Shadowland. Instead, Rides-at-the-door gives her freedom and tells her that she is no longer his wife, provided they tell no one of what they have done.
When Rides-at-the-door gives Kills-close-to-the-lake her freedom, he rejects the traditional Pikuni custom of multiple wives—especially young, beautiful ones—as a form of wealth and a reflection of power.
As Kills-close-to-the-lake listens to her punishment, her thoughts wander to Fools Crow. “She would have gladly committed this offense with him and accepted the punishment,” but now she feels only “emptiness.” She stands and quietly walks out of the lodge.
Kills-close-to-the-lake feels empty because she has always been in love with Fools Crow. Running Fisher and Rides-at-the-door are merely substitutes for what she can’t have.
Rides-at-the-door looks to Running Fisher. He tells him that he is to travel north to the people of the Siksikas. Double Strike Woman and Striped Face have family there, and they will take him in. He is not, under any circumstances, to tell them what he has done. Running Fisher agrees. “I knew I was a nothing-one,” he says.
Again, moving north is the safest course of action, and it means that Rides-at-the-door and Running Fisher may be a family again someday, although neither know this yet.
Running Fisher tells his father that he lost his courage the day they invaded the Crows to avenge Yellow Kidney. Sun Chief hiding his face had terrified him, and instead of entering the village and fighting with the other men, he lingered on the outskirts, alone with his shame. He has grown to resent Fools Crow for his wealth and respect, and it is “with great effort” that he keeps from “hating his own brother.”
Ironically, it is Running Fisher who possesses weak medicine. Rides-at-the-door had always been worried that Fools Crow would be a coward, and instead it is Running Fisher. Running Fisher has isolated himself within the tribe and has contributed very little to their way of life.
Rides-at-the-door knows that he should banish his son completely, but he can’t bring himself to do it. That will cause Running Fisher to be full of hatred, much like Fast Horse. He tells his son that if he makes it to the Siksikas and manages to purify himself with the help of their many-faces man, he may be able to return. Running Fisher agrees. He will leave tonight, he says.
Rides-at-the-door’s confidence that Running Fisher can be purified by a many-faces man is evidence of his spirituality, and his refusal to formally banish his son is proof of his dedication and commitment to his family and their way of life.
That night, Double Strike Woman mourns the loss of her sons. She is sure neither will return, and even though Rides-at-the-door tells her that it is not time to mourn, she finds it difficult to believe. She gathers her best elkskin robe and a small-bone breastplate, and together, she and Rides-at-the-door place the items near the tree line outside, offering prayers and the gifts to Sun Chief.
Double Strike Woman and Rides-at-the-door’s offerings to Sun Chief reflect their spirituality and appreciation for the natural world, which in turn is essential for their way of life.
Rides-at-the-door is certain that their prayers will be answered. He is convinced that his people will go on. “As long as Mother Earth smiles on her children,” he thinks, “we will continue to be a people. We will live and die and live on. It is the Pikuni way.” He is certain that moving north is the best course of action.
The “Pikuni way” is yet another reflection of the Pikunis’ spirituality and connection to nature. Their way of life is dependent on their relationship with “Mother Earth.”