Last Updated on February 4, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1190
Spring, 1923. A feeling of hope comes with the spring. Belle Graycloud performs the corn ceremony in the old way; few young people still plant corn, but those who do scoff at the ceremony until Belle's corn begins to grow and theirs does not, at which point they ask for her help. Lettie, however, does not share the feeling of renewal, still devastated over the death of Benoit.
The Indians are returning to the old ways. Afraid of the white world, they are becoming "peyote men" again. Joe Billy resigns from the Baptist church and takes his wife, Martha, to live in a cave. Belle is encouraged, until one day a white man who works for Hale arrives and begins putting up a buffalo fence on her land. Belle protests but is told that she should have "improved" her land. Hale brings a herd of buffalo to graze on the land.
In April, a white man in a convertible brings Lionel Tall to Ona Neck's house. He is seeking Stace Red Hawk because he has heard the Indians are in trouble, and he has brought sacred stones and other items to perform a ceremony of healing. Ona sends for Lettie, telling her that spirits might come forward with information about the deaths of Grace and Sara. The ceremony is attended by many, including Deputy Sheriff Willis, Michael Horse, Floyd, and Cal. Ona's unmarried son, Jim, sits next to Lettie.
A voice speaks to Lettie, telling her to "dig deep in the center of the field of corn." Michael Horse sees an image of where his horse, Redshirt, has gone: a place near Sorrow Cave. Lionel Tall also tells Lettie to dig in the cornfield but does not know what is there.
In the hotel, Lionel Tall tells Stace the news of his people at home and asks when he will return from Washington. Stace says he will return soon. He explains that because none of the murders have happened on Indian land, his hands are slightly tied. He stays at the hotel in Lionel's room, and Lionel reminisces about the day when his family were massacred by cavalry and left to freeze in the snow.
Belle wakes to the drone of bees and finds that her bees, distressed by the buffalo, have attacked her chickens. She has to move them to a new position near the river.
Stace tells his boss, Ballard, that he needs time to think. Levee does not want to take sides when Ballard suggests that this is ridiculous. Eventually Ballard concedes and gives Stace his paycheck to buy a horse. Stace worries that Ballard will pin the case on anyone simply to close it. He buys a horse and rides into the bluffs.
Someone steals the clothes from Belle's scarecrow, and three holes appear in the cornfield, which worries Belle. Nola arrives with Will, and Belle intuits that she is pregnant. Rena is happy to see her friend and has the same thought that she is pregnant. As such, she is distressed when Nola falls on her stomach in the creek; her foot becomes stuck, and when she is pulled out, there is oil in the river. Floyd and Moses, not wanting anyone to know about the oil, stem its flow with stones.
Stace encounters Horse in the wilderness, trying to capture Redshirt again. The pair eat together in the cave; Horse shows him the notes he has been making. The "hog priest," Father Dunne, appears to shelter from the rain, and they all sleep in the cave together. Horse explains about the explosion at Benoit's...
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house and notes that Sara would have received Grace's money, followed by Benoit, and that Nola will inherit when she reaches her majority.
Stace's own horse, startled by Redshirt, has run off, and Stace considers how to recapture it. In the morning when he wakes, he finds that the priest has written in the dirt: "One man was not in jail the night another man was killed." Stace leaves. Meanwhile, Horse finds an extra room in the cave, which contains a medicine bag that had belonged to Joe Billy's father. There is also a bag containing bats, which represent the old ways.
The laws are changed to render full-blood Indians "incompetent," while mixed-blood Indians cannot receive oil payments because of their white blood. The wealthy Indians are therefore assigned legal guardians, and their possessions are gradually taken from them for "legal fees." Lettie begins walking to Sara's cornfield to dig. On the way back, she sees John Stink, crying because his dog has drowned, and feels the same unhappiness herself.
A few days later, Belle sees Lettie returning from Sara's cornfield, thinking she has been digging the holes in Belle's field, but Lettie explains and shows her a Buick key she has found. Confusingly, it fits the Grayclouds' own car.
Lionel Tall holds another ceremony. It is interrupted by white police, looking for moonshine. Floyd empties the illegal rum in his own house, to Louise's anger. Stace returns to the hills to help Horse recapture Redshirt and to recapture his own horse. When he goes back to town, Levee says he will be fired if he doesn't return, but Stace says he thinks he is onto something.
Belle stakes out her cornfield and captures Cal, drunk and in her scarecrow's clothes, digging. He is looking for hidden treasure.
Ben, searching for Cal, sees Louise and Floyd dancing. They have become "marathoners," dancing for money. Meanwhile, China has ridden off to South Dakota with Lionel's driver.
Michael Horse moves back to the settlement, as he is becoming lonely. Martha Billy has "become a dreamer" and dreams of bats, which Joe says is a sign. They leave their home and go to Sorrow Cave and then beyond to the Indian settlement where Michael Horse is typing his notes. Joe brings an offering of corn kernels to the people, and the corn begins to grow. The priest, Father Dunne, eventually comes to the settlement; he has lost his Catholic faith and learned after a snakebite failed to kill him that "the snake is our sister"—he believes in the Indian ways now.
Nola has morning sickness. She has become afraid of her husband, following the discovery of oil on Graycloud land and the discovery of what his father has done with her money. Everybody else feels sure that Will adores Nola, but Nola is retreating from him.
The agents—Levee, Stace, Ballard, Hale's employee Luke, and an insurance underwriter—meet. Levee explains he had received letters from Walker and John Thomas. Ballard notes that most people who wrote letters have been killed; they do not know where Horse is and suspect he, too, is dead. Stace doesn't venture any information about Horse and asks instead about Moses Graycloud. Ballard says a guard will be posted to his land to protect him from those who might now try to take it from him. Ballard thinks there is a leak somewhere and asks Luke to write a letter saying he has information on the deaths; they will then follow Luke to see what happens.