At that hour, hundreds of miles away, on a hill overlooking

the valley of the Little Bighorn River, two hundred twenty-five

bodies lay in the scorching afternoon sun. Beside them lay their

dead horses, shot to provide some protection from the thousand

Sioux and Cheyenne warriors who had swarmed the hill like ants

at a picnic. One of the chiefs later remarked that it had taken less

time to kill those soldiers than it usually took to eat a meal. The

massacre over, the warriors had left the scene in search of other

companies of soldiers, companies led by Captain Benteen and

Major Reno.

At that hour, a mere observer would not have been able to

tell that these bodies had been members of five companies of the

Seventh Cavalry. Indian women and children combed the hill for

the spoils of war, taking the wool uniforms, which would provide

warmth for their men in cold weather. Rations were gobbled up

by the hungry or saved for another time. Here a Sioux woman

confiscated a gold watch, charmed by its shine in the sunlight.

Over there, another looked with some interest at pictures of a wife

and children, then tossed them aside. Everywhere the hot breeze

picked up pieces of green paper for which the Indians had no use,

the last pay the soldiers would ever get.

But, mercifully, the women in Libbie Custer's parlor that

Sunday afternoon could see none of this. As painful as this day

was, there would come a time when the women would long to

return to its uncertainty. It would be ten more days before they

knew the truth. Ten days during which they could still hope, still

pray. Ten days before their lives would change forever.