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Women and the World of Dime Novels


Example of:
The brokenhearted wife

Featured in:
Esther: A Story of the Oregon Trail


Waupee is the wife of Black Eagle, a Sioux chief. When Black Eagle decides to set aside Waupee, planning to replace her with Esther Morse, a young woman traveling west, Waupee pursues Esther to warn her of Black Eagle's intent to kidnap her.

"What mystery—what new fear is this? …"
"The Black Eagle of the Sioux is flying swiftly upon the trail of the pale-face he would have for his mate!"

When Esther is taken captive, Waupee tries to help her and even gives her a dagger for protection. But she cannot stop Black Eagle from taking Esther to a meeting with a Mormon named Elelu Thomas. When fighting breaks out at the meeting and Esther escapes, Black Eagle returns to the Indian camp, only to plot her recapture. Waupee, furious and heartbroken over her husband's treatment of her and his new devotion to Esther, attempts to murder Black Eagle in his sleep. However, she is unable to carry through with her plan.

She was a savage, but could not stain her innocent hand in blood, wronged though her love had been. The pure, womanly gold triumphed over the base alloy of passion. Once she had loved him; once he had been kind to her once … and she flung the knife from her with a shudder, bowed herself beside the sleeping man, and wept piteously. (77-78)

Waupee flees from the Indian camp and meets Waltermyer, a man sent to rescue Esther. Waupee explains her flight from her people and her attempt to murder her husband, Black Eagle. When she explains that her husband left her for a white woman, Waltermyer realizes that Waupee is talking about Esther. Waltermyer promises to look after Waupee and enlists her help in tracking Esther. They soon encounter Esther and Osse'o, an Indian who has befriended her. Shortly after this happy meeting, the four companions are forced to hide in the brush to escape notice by both Black Eagle and Elelu, the Mormon. These two men fight, and Black Eagle kills Elelu. Osse'o runs to confront Black Eagle, and Black Eagle fires an arrow at him before falling into a canyon. Osse'o and Waltermyer bury Black Eagle, and Waupee stands vigil at his grave during the night. When her companions come to wake her in the morning, they find her dead on her husband's grave.

She had passed from earth calmly, and apparently without a struggle, for no traces of pain lingered on the pale face, upturned, as if looking at the blue heaven above. With a broken heart she had followed her husband to the happy hunting-grounds, faithful even in death. By his side she was buried. (97)