London, Published by Colburn & Bentley, April 1830.
TRADITIONS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS:
A SECOND AND REVISED EDITION OF
"TALES OF AN INDIAN CAMP."
JAMES ATHEARN JONES.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
LONDON: HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET. 1830. F. SHOBERL, JUN., LONG ACRE.
VOL. I. PAGE.
Frontispiece to face the title The Wahconda's Son 159
Frontispiece to face the title Caverns of the Kickapoo 204
Frontispiece to face the title Garanga 204
CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
Page. Legends of the Creation. I. The Two Chappewees. A Tradition of the Dog-Rib Tribe 1 II. Sakechak, the Hunter 21 III. The Bird of Ages 35 IV. The Great Hare 43 V. The Six Nanticokes 49 VI. The Universal Mother 93 The Coming of Miquon 99 The Funeral Fire 115 The Portioning of the Sons 125 The Maiden's Rock 131 The Expedition of the Lenni Lenapes 141 Gittahee Gauzinee 181 Ampato Sapa 189 The Caverns of the Kickapoo 201 The Mountain of Little Spirits 207 The Valley of the Bright Old Inhabitants 223 The Legend of Moshup 261 The Phantom Woman. A Tradition of the Winnebagoes 273 The Two Ghosts 285 The Vision of the Abnakis Chief 303
TALES OF AN INDIAN CAMP.
LEGENDS OF THE CREATION.
I. THE TWO CHAPPEWEES. A TRADITION OF THE TRIBE OF THE DOG-RIBS.
Upon a narrow strait, between two tempestuous and stormy seas, lived the young man Chappewee, whose father, the old man Chappewee, was the first of men. The old man Chappewee, the first of men, when he first landed on the earth, near where the present Dog-ribs have their hunting-grounds, found the world a beautiful world, well stocked with food, and abounding with pleasant things. There is nothing in the world now which was not in it then, save red clay, a canoe with twelve paddles, and the white man's rum. Then, as now, whales were disporting in the liquid element; musk-oxen filled the glades, and deer, and bears, and wolves, were browzing on the hills, or prowling about the forest. But there was at that time no canoe, for there was nobody to paddle it; no rum, for who would drink it? and red clay was not found till a long time afterwards, when the young man Chappewee's nose bled, and coloured the earth, a portion of which has since been red.
When the old man Chappewee came upon the earth, he found no man, woman, or child, upon it. Knowing that it was not good to be alone, he created children. To these children he gave two kinds of fruit, the black and the white, but forbade them to eat the black. Having issued his commands for the government and guidance of his family, and laid up plenty of provisions for them, he took leave of them for a time, to go into a far country where the sun dwelt, for the purpose of conducting him to the world, which was yet unvisited by his beams. So, taking with him three thousand large roasted porpoises, oceans of black fish, thirty large whales, and a good deal of tobacco, that he might do by the way those necessary things, eat and smoke, he departed for the residence of the sun. After a very long journey and a long absence, he returned, bringing with him the glorious orb, which ever since has lighted the earth, in some countries, for a portion of the hours of each day, and, in other countries, for a part of the days of each year. When he returned, he found to his great joy that his children had remained obedient; had eaten only of the white fruit; and were therefore, as yet, beyond the reach of disease and death. So he left them again, to go on another distant expedition. He saw that the great luminary he had given the world lighted it only for a part of the hours of each day; and, in the frozen regions of the North, only for a portion of the days of each year. Now, in the land from which the old man Chappewee fetched the sun, he saw another orb, formed to be the lamp of the dark hours. It was to conduct this second sun to the borders of his land, that he again bade adieu to his children and dwelling, and departed upon the second expedition.
While the old man Chappewee was absent on his first expedition, his children ate up all the white fruit, and he forgot, before he left them on the second, to replenish their stock. For a long time they resisted the imperious calls of hunger, but, at length, their cravings for food became so importunate, that they devoured the forbidden gift—the black fruit. Chappewee soon returned, bringing with him the beautiful bright round moon, the lamp of the dark hours, and the glory of the season when the sun is away. He had no sooner come, than he saw in the eyes of his children that they had transgressed his commands, and had eaten the fruit of disease and death. He saw it in the countenance of one stretched out on the bed of sickness; there was speedy death written in the eyes of another; and the slighter pains incidental to the human frame on the brow of a third. He was very much displeased with them, and told them, that in future the earth should produce bad fruits; that sickness should lay them on beds of leaves, and pains rack their bones; that their lives should be lives of fatigue and danger, and their deaths, deaths of doubt and agony—penalties which have attached to his descendants to this day.
Having brought the sun and moon to the earth, the old man Chappewee rested from his labours, and made no more distant expeditions. Many, very many, years he lived, and death came not to him. But, to all around him, the consequences were what he denounced, and he had the unhappiness to see his prediction verified. The earth produced bad fruits; the cranberry and the whortleberry rotted on the frost-nipped bushes, and the strawberry shrivelled on the mildewed vine. He saw trees grow up crooked, that, before the disobedience of his children, grew only straight; and animals, which before were only sleek and round, now were poor and emaciated. He saw sickness lay his children on beds of leaves, and pains rack their bones; he saw their lives, lives of fatigue and danger; and their deaths, deaths of doubt and agony. He saw their spirits again in the mist of the Falls, and heard the music of their voices, while their bodies lay in the sacred shed. Still death came not to him. He had now lived so long, that his throat was worn out, and he could no longer enjoy life, but he was unable to die. His teeth had rotted out, and had been renewed a hundred times; his tongue had been repeatedly chafed out, and replaced; and of eyes, blue, white, and grey, he had had very many pair. Finding that life was a gift which he could not part with easily, perhaps, not without some stratagem, he called to him one of his people—it was not his son, nor his son's son; no, nor one of the twentieth generation—all these had passed away.
"Go," said he, "to the river of the Bear Lake, and fetch me a man of the Little Wise People.[A] Let it be one with a brown ring round the end of the tail, and a white spot on the tip of the nose. Let him be just two seasons old, upon the first day of the coming Frog-Moon, and see that his belly be not too big, and see that his teeth be sharp. And make haste, that I may die."
[Footnote A: Little Wise People, the Beavers, so called by the Assiniboins. The Indians, though they kill this animal whenever they can, nevertheless esteem him scarcely inferior to man in wisdom. A bit of his skin, or his paw, or any part of him, is esteemed a very powerful "medicine" or amulet.]
The man did as he was directed. He went to the river of Bear Lake, and brought a man of the Wise Four-Legged People. He had a brown ring round the end of his tail, and a white spot on the tip of his nose. He was just two seasons old, upon the first day of the Frog-Moon, and his teeth were very sharp, as any one would find that put his fingers between them. He brought him by force, for he was very unwilling to come to the old man Chappewee, who gave the following directions for his treatment.
"Take the Wise Four-Legged Man," said he, "to the head of the Coppermine river, and dip his four paws in the bubbling spring which gives it birth. Give him a little neshcaminnick to drink, and comb his hair, and scratch his belly, to put him in good temper. Whisper in his ear words of encouragement. Tell him not to disgrace himself, nor shame the heroism of his race by cries, nor tears, nor groans, but bear pain like a man. And, when you have spoken the words of comfort, pull from his jaws seven of his teeth."
So they did as the old man Chappewee bade them. They went to the Beaver, and spoke to him thus:
"Wise Little Man of the Four-Legged Race, the old man Chappewee has commanded us to dip your four paws in the bubbling spring, which gives rise to the Coppermine, to give you to drink a little cup of the pleasant juice of the neshcaminnick, and to put you in good temper by combing your hair and scratching your belly. And he begs that you will not disgrace yourself, nor shame the boasted sagacity of your race, by cries, nor tears, nor groans; but bear pain like a man, as you are. And we are directed, after our words of peace have been spoken, to pull out seven of your teeth."
To this speech the beaver replied, as every other man in captivity replies. He professed himself "much pleased to part with seven of his teeth to oblige the old man Chappewee, and had no objection to dip his paws in the head waters of the Coppermine, provided he were carried thither. A draught of neshcaminnick none but a fool would refuse; and the having his head combed, and his belly scratched, was almost as good as a feast." Which was all mere stuff, as every body knows.
The things which Chappewee asked being all performed, they brought the seven sharp teeth of the Wise Four-Legged Man to the old man Chappewee. He bade them call all his descendants around him; and, when they were gathered together, he thus addressed them:—
"I am old—the old man Chappewee indeed. My throat is worn out, and I can no longer enjoy life; my tongue has repeatedly been chafed out, and renewed; my teeth have been replaced a hundred times; and I have looked upon the beautiful things of the earth, and the glorious ones of the sky, upon trees, and flowers, and fruits, and the bright stars, and the pale moon, and the glorious orb of day, with eyes of many different colours. But I am tired of life, and wish to sleep the sleep of death. When I look upon the beings and things around me, and see the pain, and sickness, and sorrow, and want, which have become the bitter portion of all, since the disobedience of my children, I lose the wish for a new pair of eyes, nor ask longer use of the fading vision of those which are now in their sockets. I will go hence. Take the seven teeth of the Wise Little Four-Legged Man, and drive them—one into each temple, and one into the middle of my forehead, one into each breast, one into the hollow of my back, and one into the great toe of my right foot." They did as he bade them, and drove the teeth into his body at the appointed places. The old man gave three groans when the tooth was driven into his great toe, and then he died.
* * * * *
Upon a narrow strait, between two noisy and tempestuous seas, lived the young man Chappewee, whose ancestor was the old man Chappewee, and with him resided his family. He lived by hunting and fishing, but more by the latter, because of the great ease with which he caught the various kinds of fishes, which travelled from one sea to the other, through the narrow strait. He had but to cast his net into the water, and to draw it out full; his spear, thrown at random into the strait, might almost be said to be sure of attaching to it a good fat fish. Once upon a time, having constructed a weir to catch fish, such a vast quantity were caught, that the strait was choked up, and the water rose and overflowed the whole face of the earth. To save himself and his family from the dreadful deluge, he embarked them all in his great canoe, taking with him all manner of beasts and birds. The water covered the earth for many moons, and their food was nearly exhausted, a few roasted sharks, and a little boiled sea-ooze, being all that was left them. Still there was no sign of the abating of the victorious element from the face of the conquered earth. No land was visible, and the sun, which sometimes by his beams upon the waves indicates where land lies sunk beneath the ocean, gave not now the evidence of subsiding waters. The young man Chappewee, finding how matters were going, said to his family, "We cannot live thus, we must find land again, or we shall die; we and all the animals we have with us." So he called a great council of all the creatures, and proposed that one of them should dive into the great abyss, and fetch up some mud to make a world of. The ox, being asked to undertake the hazardous service, declined, because, he said, his tail was in the way; the mammoth refused because of his trunk; the elk and deer pleaded their horns; the legs of the musk-ox, were 'too short'; in fact, all the animals made some excuse except the beaver. He professed his willingness to encounter a risk, which must be encountered by some one, and, without any ado, down he went, amidst the applauses of all the animals. Soon his carcase was seen floating on the surface of the waters, and they knew that he had fallen a victim to his courage and intrepidity.
Another attempt was necessary, and, after much persuasion, the musk-rat was induced to make it. He was gone a long, very long time, and was supposed by them to have met the same fate as the unfortunate beaver; but, just as they had given him over, and were preparing to chuse by lot a third animal for the same errand, he appeared, nearly dead with fatigue, but he had a little earth in his paws. The sight of the earth very much rejoiced the young man Chappewee; but his first care was about the safety of his faithful servant, the rat, which he rubbed gently with his hands, and cherished in his bosom until it revived. He next took up the earth, and, moulding it with his fingers into a ball, he placed it on the waters, where it increased by degrees, until it formed a little island in the ocean. His next care was to furnish this island with man, beast, and bird. A wolf, which he was anxious to put out of the way, he being a sad snarler, was the first animal which the young man Chappewee placed on the infant earth; but the weight of the creature was so great, that it began to sink upon one side, and was in danger of turning over. To prevent this accident, the wolf was directed to keep moving with a quick step round the island, which he did for a whole year; and, in that time, the earth increased so much in size, that all on board the canoe were able to disembark upon it. After a long and perilous drifting of the canoe hither and thither, its voyagers were at length able to lay their heads down at night upon solid land, and to sleep unrocked by the tempestuous billow.
Chappewee, on landing, saw that there were no trees on the earth: he would have some. He stuck a piece of a stick into the ground; it became a fir-tree, and grew with such amazing rapidity, that its top soon reached the skies. Once upon a time, Chappewee being out hunting, saw a squirrel, and gave chase to it. The nimble animal ran up the fir-tree, pursued by the hunter, who endeavoured to knock it down, but he could not overtake it. He continued the chase, however, until he reached the country of the stars. As he went, he saw many curious things, meteors, comets, departed friends dancing their dances in the Northern sky; clouds of every kind and colour; spirits flying about the air. Now he felt keen winds, and now warm breezes; now he passed a company of storms marching down upon the earth; or a lightning or two straggling back again to the skies; or a thunder riding a cloud; or a troop of hail rushing to battle with a deal of bluster and fury; or a crowd of snows looking for colder weather and a roosting-place. At last, he reached the country of the stars. He found a land far more beautiful than that he had left behind him, upon the narrow strait, between the two tempestuous and stormy seas. He found it one vast plain, over which led a wide and smooth-beaten road, but he did not see the squirrel. After feasting his eyes awhile upon the surrounding splendours, and regaling his ears with soft music, which came he knew not whence, nor from whom, he bethought him of setting, in the road, with a view to catch the squirrel, a snare made of his sister's hair. This done, he descended the tree till he came to the earth. The next morning the sun appeared as usual in the heavens; but, at noon, it was caught by the snare which Chappewee had set for the squirrel, and the sky was instantly darkened. This, never having happened before, created much surprise and consternation among the people that dwelt at the narrow strait, between the two tempestuous and stormy seas. Chappewee's wife said to him, "You must have done something very wrong when you were up the tree, for we no longer enjoy the light of the day. The glorious orb, which the old man Chappewee brought to us, before his children ate of the black fruit, has disappeared. Alas, for us, who have lost our best friend, the sun! Alas, for us, who, it may be, are involved in a night that will never know an end!"
The young man Chappewee replied to his wife, "I have indeed done something very wrong, but it was not intentionally. I see through the whole business. The sun is caught in the snare I set for the squirrel. It must be liberated, and enabled again to light our steps, for a certain number of the months of the year, and a portion of the hours of each day."
With a view to repair the fault he had committed, he called to him the carcajou, and bade him go up the tree, and release the sun by cutting the snare.
The courageous cat of the mountains readily obeyed, but the heat of that luminary was so intense, that it reduced him to ashes. After him the bear, the wolverine, the wolf, and the panther, were severally sent, but they all experienced the same fate. The efforts of the more active animals being thus frustrated, Chappewee knew not what to do, nor could any one in the great council tell him. After a long period of silence, the ground-mole got up, and said he would make the attempt. Whereupon, there was a loud and general titter among all the beasts, that such an awkward and grovelling creature as he was should propose to himself such a dangerous and distant task. The wolf laughed in the shape of a hideous growl; the fox chuckled as much as if he had committed a successful theft; the horse neighed and kicked, as usual with him in moments of extravagant joy or anger; and the bear shook his sides till they nearly split.
"Week, week, week, what a fool!" squeaked the pig.
"Bah, what a nincompoop!" cried the sheep.
"Bow, wow, wow, where's my tail?" cried the dog, running round to find it, as he always does when much delighted. All the animals, in some way or other, testified their scorn of the good little creature who had kindly made the offer. But, awkward and grovelling as he was, and much as they laughed at him, he succeeded in performing it, by burrowing under the road in the sky, until he reached and cut asunder the snare which bound the sun. He lost his eyes, however, the instant he thrust his head into the light, and his nose and teeth have ever since been brown, as if burnt. During these transactions, Chappewee's island had continued growing, till it had increased to the present size of the great island.
And now the young man Chappewee prepared his island for the residence of creatures. He first traced out the courses of the rivers, by drawing his fingers through the earth, and scraped out the lakes with his spoon. When he came to the mountains, he made a stop. "What shall I do with these heaps of earth?" demanded he of himself. After reflecting a long time upon the labour which would attend their removal, he concluded to let them remain. Hitherto, all the animals, beasts, fishes, &c. had dwelt indifferently on the land or in the water. The shark and the porpoise, though very clumsy and easily tired, could nevertheless walk some, and the whale, though his waddling gait would have made you laugh, yet contrived to go over a considerable piece of dry ground in a short time. Chappewee now allotted to the quadrupeds, birds, and fishes, their proper stations and habitations, and, endowing them with certain capacities, he told them that they were in future to provide for their own safety, because man would destroy them whenever he found their tracks; but, to console them, he said to them kindly, "when you die, you shall be as a seed of grass, which, when thrown into water, springs again into life." The animals objected to this arrangement, and the hog who did the talking said, "No, let us when we die be as a stone, which, when thrown into a lake, disappears for ever from the sight of man." So it was ordered that the ceasing of the beast to breathe should be his utter annihilation, and that the dog only should be the companion of man after death.
The family of the young man Chappewee complained of the penalty of death, entailed upon them by the old man Chappewee for eating the black fruit, and they petitioned for an alteration of the sentence; on which he granted, that such of them as dreamed certain dreams should be men of medicine, capable of curing certain diseases and of prolonging life. In order to preserve this virtue, they were directed not to tell their dreams until a certain period had elapsed. To acquire the power of foretelling events, to gain the eye which should see the dark secrets of futurity, to hear the words of fate in the cry of the winds, and to see the character of unknown things in the aspect of the heavens, they were ordered to insert a live ant under the skin of the left hand, without letting any one know that they had done so. And, whenever they felt it stirring in the flesh, they were commanded to bind over their eyes the skin of a young badger, lay down their heads upon a bundle of the leaves of the black hornbeam, and sleep as soon as possible. The first dream which they should have thereafter would always prove true.
For a long time, Chappewee's descendants were united as one family, but at length, some young men being killed in a game, a quarrel ensued, and a general dispersion of mankind took place. Some—a great many—went beyond the mountains, which the young man Chappewee neglected to level. Others went to the brink of the ocean, where the walrusses dwelt; others again to the lands which have the beams of the sun from the Buck-Moon till it comes again. Some went to the shores of the sea that is never thawed; and some to the brink of the waters that never freeze. One Indian fixed his residence on the borders of the Great Bear Lake, taking with him only a dog big with young. In due time, this dog brought forth eight pups. Whenever the Indian went out to fish, he tied up the pups, to prevent the straying of the litter. Several times, as he approached his tent, he heard noises proceeding from it, which sounded like the talking, the laughing, the crying, the wail, and the merriment of children; but, on entering it, he only perceived the pups tied up as usual. His curiosity being excited by the noises he had heard, he determined to watch and learn whence those sounds proceeded, and what they were. One day he pretended to go out to fish, but, instead of doing so, he concealed himself in a convenient place. In a short time he again heard voices, and, rushing suddenly into the tent, beheld some beautiful children sporting and laughing, with the dog-skins lying by their side. He threw the dog-skins into the fire, and the children, retaining their proper forms, grew up, and were the ancestors of the Dog-rib nation.
II. SAKECHAK, THE HUNTER.
There was, in the land of the Caddos, a good and devout hunter and fisherman, named Sakechak, or "he that tricks the otter." He dwelt with his family upon the little hill Wecheganawaw, on the border of the lake Caddoque. He was a tall man, spare in flesh, but very active, and able to endure more fatigue than the wolf or the wild cat—able to live six days without food, and feast the next six days without intermission. None had eyes like Sakechak to follow the trail of a light-footed animal over the frozen earth; none like him could strike, unerringly, a salmon at twice the depth of a man. Nor was this hunter without the qualities of a warrior. When the Padoucas came, with hostile intent, to the borders of the lake Caddoque; among those who first took down the spear, and braided the scalp-lock, was Sakechak, the hunter of the little hill Wecheganawaw. He it was who first sounded the war-whoop; he it was who took the first Padouca scalp; he it was who pursued farthest the retreating enemy, and he who returned from the weary pursuit to dance longest the dance of Triumph. And Sakechak was as wise as brave, and as good as wise. Never was he caught suffering his feelings to escape from his controul or management; his word was esteemed in the council as the word of wisdom; his warning of danger was regarded as the cry of the owl. Never did he mock the wretched, or laugh, or scoff at the insane; he was always respectful to the aged; and he daily cried to the Master of Life, from the high grounds, with clay spread thick upon his hair, and at every successful hunt offered, to the same Great Judge and protecting guide of man, the best part of the animals he had caught. That Great Being regarded him with more love than he regards other mortals, and showed it by many signs. The fish he speared were always fatter than those taken by other hunters; the deer that lay at the foot of the wife of Sakechak could not be lifted like other men's by a mere boy. The thunder that shattered, and the wind that prostrated, the forest-trees in other places were never known to do the like by the tall oaks that sheltered the hill Wecheganawaw. The corn of this good hunter came out of the ground two suns sooner than other men's, and the tobacco in his garden was ripe, yellow, and fit for use, while that of his neighbours was green, and food for the worm. The Caddoques, and the other Indians, might have seen enough of the rewards bestowed upon goodness, in the person of Sakechak, to have made them leave off their wickedness. But no, they kept on sinning, until the Great Being deemed them unfit longer to live upon the earth which he had created for their use.
Once upon a time, as Sakechak was about to rest his limbs for the period of darkness, he felt the stirring of the ant which lay under the skin of his left hand, and, binding over his eyes the hide of the young badger, he laid his head upon a bundle of the leaves of the black hornbeam, and slept as soon as possible[A]. His dream was strange and wonderful, and it was accomplished. He saw the Master of Life, being the first Caddoque who had ever seen him. He was a very tall and big man, shaped like an Indian in all save his hands, which were each a sharp spear of terrible proportions, and his tongue was an immense arrow. His eyes were bright as the sun, and each much larger; his hair was very long, and swept the earth, and he wore a great white hat[B]. Each of his feet was larger than the lake Caddoque. He spoke to the dreamer in his lowest whisper, which, nevertheless, was louder than the loudest thunder, and his words were these:—
[Footnote A: See this superstition in the last tale.]
[Footnote B: The Indians always give a corporeal form to the Supreme Being, and, in every instance that I have heard of, when supposing him to have a human form, imagine him with some kind of covering upon his head. Since their introduction to the white people, they have invariably supposed this covering to be a hat.]
The hunter replied, "I hear."
"The world is getting very wicked, Sakechak."
"I know it," answered the hunter.
"I hear no longer the voices of men supplicating me for favours—soliciting my lightnings to cool the air, nor my rains to refresh the earth, nor my suns to ripen the harvest. They no longer thank me for the fat bears, and mooses, and deer, and bisons, which I send to their hunting-grounds, nor the salmon, and other juicy fish, which I bid to their waters, nor the corn which I command to grow tall and sweet for their use, nor the rich grapes which I make to bow their vines to the earth. I must sweep, and wash, and purify, the earth; I must destroy all living creatures from off the face of it."
Then Sakechak said, "What have I done, Master of Life! that I should be involved in this general destruction? Have I not offered thee the best of my spoils?—Have I ever neglected to solicit thy favour upon my labours, or to thank thee for the rich gifts thou hast showered upon me and my family—health, plenty, and cheerful hearts?"
The Master answered, "No, Sakechak, thou hast indeed been a good servant; it hath never been my purpose to destroy thee; I will except thee from the general doom: but I will thee to assist in the destruction of thy brethren. Listen!
"Go now, and cut thee a young hemlock, from the spot which my lightnings struck in the last Fever-Moon. Let it be not more than ten seasons old—straight, well-grown, a finely-proportioned trunk, with thriving branches, full of cones, and with leaves of dark green. Knock off the cones, and bring them, together with the trunk and leaves, to the bottom of the hill Wecheganawaw, when the sun of the morning is tinging the eastern clouds with his brightness. Burn them in a fire made of the dry branches of the oak, kindled with the straw of the wild rice. When the heap is completely reduced to ashes, take the ashes, and strew them in a circle around the hill Wecheganawaw. Nothing need be gathered within the circle of the hill, for the living creatures will, of themselves, retreat to it for safety; and, when this is done, take the trunk of the hemlock, divested of its branches, and strike it into the earth, at the spot where the large tuft of green grass is seen growing on the dry and barren hill. There lies the great fountain of the waters; and when the staff is struck into the earth, the fountain shall burst forth, and the earth be swept, and washed, and purified, by the great deluge that shall overwhelm it. Sakechak and his family shall alone, of all the inhabitants of the earth, be saved, and the creatures he assembles around him on the little hill Wecheganawaw be alone those exempted from the all-sweeping destruction."
So saying, the Great Being retreated from the vision of the sleeping hunter, who awoke with the dream fixed on his mind, and, in obedience to the orders he had received, prepared to do his part towards its accomplishment. He went to the spot which the Master had pointed out—the place which the lightnings had stricken in the last Fever-Moon—and he cut from the grove of hemlocks a young tree, full of cones, with a finely shaped trunk, and with thriving branches and dark green leaves. This trunk, with the leaves, he brought to the hill Wecheganawaw, when the sun of the morning was tinging the eastern clouds with his brightness. He burnt them all, save the trunk, in a fire made of the dry branches of the oak, kindled with the straw of the wild rice. When the heap was completely reduced to ashes, he took the ashes and strewed them in a circle around the hill Wecheganawaw.—Then he took the staff, or trunk of the hemlock divested of its branches, and struck it deep into the earth, at the spot on the hill where the large tuft of green grass sprung up amidst barrenness. When he did so, the great fountain was broken up, and the waters burst out in a mighty volume. Slowly and gradually the element began to cover the earth, while the hunter and his family looked on. Now the low grounds appeared but as they appear in the season of showers, here a little water, and there a little water; soon they became one vast sheet. Now a little hill sunk from view, then the tops of the trees disappeared; again a tall hill was observed to be hiding its summits in the overmastering water. At length the waves rose so high that Sakechak could see nothing more: he stood as it were in a well. The waters were piled up on every side of him, restrained from harming him, or his, by the magic belt of hemlock ashes. While the waters had been rising, the animals in the vicinity of the hill had been running to it for shelter; and there now stood gathered around him a pair of each of the different species of animals.
"Sakechak!" said a voice, which the hunter knew to be that of him he had heard in his sleep.
The hunter answered, "I hear."
"When the Moon is exactly over thy head, Sakechak, she will draw the waters on to the hill Wecheganawaw. She is angry with me because I flogged a comet to whom she had taken a liking, and wishes to be revenged on me. I cannot prevent that unless I destroy her, which I cannot do, for she is my wife, and bore me many sons, which are the stars thou seest, and she is besides necessary to the existence of the world, which shall re-appear swept, and washed, and purified, for the use of thee and thy descendants. Sakechak!"
The hunter answered, "I hear."
"Bid every living creature which is on the hill take off the nail from the little finger of his right hand, if a man; if a bird, or beast, of the right foot or claw. When each has done this, bid him blow in the hollow of the nail with the right eye shut, pronouncing these words—'Shake Tebe skahpeshim ose,' that is, 'Nail become a canoe, and save me from the wrath of the moon.' The nail so besought will become a large canoe, and in this canoe will its owner be safe."
The Master of Life ceased speaking, and the hunter rose to see that his commands were obeyed, both by his family and the beasts. Soon was each supplied with a vehicle of safety, by the side of which he stood as the influence of the mother of the stars caused the waters to flow in upon the hill Wecheganawaw. The canoes rose buoyant upon the element, and soon floated upon the surface of the waters which covered the face of the earth. That they might not be dispersed Sakechak caused them all to be bound together by thongs of buffalo-skin.
They continued floating for a long time upon the surface of the waters, till at last Sakechak said, "This will not do—we must have land. Go," said he, to a raven which sat in her canoe near him, "and fetch me a little earth from the bottom of the abyss. I will send a woman, because the eyes of a woman are so curious, and searching, and inquisitive, that if it is wished to find anything hidden in utter darkness, and lost to all else, a woman will be sure to find it before you have counted your fingers over twice."
The raven, proud of the praise bestowed on her sex, answered, that she had no objection to undertake the commission. So, leaving her tail-feathers at home, she dived into the abyss. She was gone a long time, but, notwithstanding her being a woman, she returned baffled of her object. Whereupon Sakechak said to the otter, "My little man, I will send you to the bottom, and see if your industry and perseverance will enable you to accomplish what has been left undone by the wit and cunning of the raven." So the otter departed upon his dangerous expedition.
He accomplished its object. When he again appeared on the earth, he held in his paw a lump of black mud, as large as the tip of the thumb of a full-grown man. This he gave into the hands of Sakechak. But the hunter of the hill Wecheganawaw was without the wisdom which would make the mud avail to the re-production of the world. He fell on his knees, and besought the Great Master of all to endow him with the knowledge which should lead to the re-establishment of things as they were before the deluge. The Master answered not; but his intentions to communicate his wishes to the good hunter were made known by the ant. So Sakechak slept and dreamed, and this was his dream:—
He saw again the Great Master, who bade him divide the lump of mud into five portions. The central portion—that which came out of the middle of the lump—he was commanded to take into the hollow of his hand, to wet with spittle, and to mould into a cake, a little highest in the middle, and flattened all around the edges. He was commanded, when he had done this, to blow a bubble upon the water, and set the little cake afloat in the bubble; with these words:—I-yah ask-ke—"I make an earth." He was not to suffer the little world to break away, but was to attach it to his canoe by a string formed of the sinews of the mud-turtle. As it increased in size, he was to strew upon it the remaining portions of mud, which he was enjoined to be very careful to crumble fine, and rub thoroughly to dust. The voice told him, that in less than three moons the lump would be so swelled that he might disembark upon it, he and all the creatures that were with him.
Sakechak did as the voice of the Master bade him. He divided the lump into five portions, and that which came out of the middle of the lump he moulded into a cake, a little highest in the middle, and flattened all around the edges. He blew the bubble upon the water, and he set the cake afloat in the bubble, having first fastened it to his canoe with a string formed of the sinews of the mud-turtle. As it increased in size, he strewed upon it a part of the remaining portions of the lump, first crumbling them very fine, and rubbing them thoroughly into dust. The wind, which was high at the time, blew the yellow dust, which was lightest, into his eyes, and thence the eyes of the Indian have always been tinged with yellow. The little cake increased rapidly in size. One day, as Sakechak had taken up the third portion of the mud to prepare it, by crumbling and rubbing, for strewing upon the earth, his wife discovered a star—the first which had been seen since the breaking up of the fountain. The loud shout of joy which burst from her, and her cry "A star! a star!" so discomposed Sakechak, that he forget what he was about, and threw down the lumps, unrubbed or uncrumbled. This carelessness occasioned the unevenness of the earth; the mountains and the rocks which are now found upon it are the lumps which he threw down unrubbed. He, however, strewed upon it the remaining portion, which is the reason why rocks are found so far below the surface. And the earth, so formed from the mud brought up by the otter, grew so fast that, upon the seventh sun of the third moon, the hunter Sakechak, and his family, and all the beasts, birds, and other living things which were with him, left their canoes for the dry and stable earth, which thenceforth became, and has since continued, their residence.
Upon the earth thus created trees soon sprung up; but they were only trunks destitute of branches. But the wit of Sakechak soon gave them what they wanted. He shot arrows into the trunks, and these became branches, and took the nature of the trunks. Each became an oak, or a pine, or a tulip, or a sweet gum, following the nature of the trunks. Many seasons passed away, however, before the hills were all clothed with trees, or the dense cloud of leaves hid the bosom of the valleys.
The earth was re-peopled from the loins of Sakechak; from him, from one family of Caddos, are all men descended. No matter whither they have been carried; whether they have covered their tent with leaves beneath the warm sky of the south, or built it of ice, where the earth never thaws; whether they are red like myself, or white like the wise man at whose bidding we are gathered together; they are descended from one man, the hunter Sakechak, of the hill Wecheganawaw.
III. THE BIRD OF AGES.
The waters were spread over the face of the earth; there was nothing to be seen but one vast and entire ocean, save the mighty Bird of Ages, which had lived from the beginning of time, whose eyes were fire, whose glances were lightning, and the clapping of whose wings was thunder. He had lived long in the skies above the stars; but, when he heard the rushing and dashing about of the waters, he descended from his seat to the ocean, and touching it, the earth instantly rose, and remained on the surface of the water. It rose of its present size, covered with verdure, as the low grounds which have been flooded by winter rains are green when these rains are withdrawn from them. The mountains, then as now, towered to the skies, and the valleys were deep, and the rivers rushed impetuously over the steeps which attempted to impede their course. Winters locked up a portion of the earth, and the summer suns beamed fiercely and intensely upon another portion. The stars shone by day, and the beams of the moon gladdened the hours of darkness. Winds swept the vast expanse of ocean, and a part of the time was calm as a part of the time is now. The world was very like what it is at this day, save that, within its mighty boundaries, over all its far limits, neither on mountain, hill, valley, tree, nor bush, in den nor burrow, in water nor air, dwelt a living creature. No gentle song of bird arose to break the stillness of morning, no cry of wild beast to disturb the unbroken hush of midnight; the noise of the winds chasing each other over the vast waste was all that was heard breaking the monotonous repose of the earth.
"This will not do," said the bird, talking to himself; "here is a fine world and nobody to occupy it. Here are stars, beautiful as anything can be; a moon, that sheds her mild light on—what?—and a sun so bright that not even the Bird of Ages can look steadily on his beams—with that bird alone to behold him or them. How balmy is the air which I feel fanning my feathers!—but it cannot breathe to revive the human heart after sickness or toil, or gladden the spirit of the beast which lies panting in the shade from excessive heat. It is lost, wasted, and so are the beams of the sun, the moon, and the stars; and so are the sweet fruits that grow spontaneously about the earth, and the beautiful flowers that waste their fragrance on the desert air. This must not be," repeated the Bird.
So he flew up to the highest pinnacle of the Mountain of the Thunders, and there fell to musing, the while scratching the side of his head with his mighty claw. At last he bethought himself of a spell or charm, which was taught him by his father, who lived before time was, and survived its commencement many ages. He recollected that this venerable and wise bird, who did not die till his claws were rotted off, and his feathers all dispersed to the winds, told him that if one of his descendants were to eat nothing for seven days, and to quench his thirst with the dew which should lie upon the mountain-laurel, he would enjoy the power to accomplish that which ought to be done. "Nothing can be clearer," said the Bird of Ages to himself, "than that the world ought to be inhabited. Now I, by fasting seven days, and quenching my thirst with the dew of the mountain-laurel alone, shall, according to the word of my father, be enabled to see this earth tenanted by beautiful creatures; the seeds, which now lie dormant in the earth, will spring up to furnish food for innumerable creatures, and those innumerable creatures will enjoy the bounties spread out in such profusion before them! How delightful it will be to see and hear the birds of soft notes and splendid plumage, singing and hopping about on bush and tree; and the kid, and the fawn, and the lamb, gambolling on the sunny hill-side, and the fishes disporting in their own element; and Man, the lord of all, painted on his cheek and brow with the ochre of wrath, and wearing the gallant scalp-lock, decked with the plumes of the eagle; and to hear his cry of battle, rising from the gathering place of warriors, and to mark the pole of red scalps, and better yet the resolution of the captive, when the torments are inflicted upon him, when the pincers tear his flesh, when the hot stones sear his eye-balls. All these pleasures will delight the eyes and ears of those who shall live on this beautiful world, when I shall have done what I conceive ought to have been done."
So he commenced his fast. Seven days he ate no food, and quenched his thirst with only the dew which lay upon the mountain-laurel. Upon the morning of the eighth day he began his task. "There ought to be a vast number of fishes," said he, "and of different sizes, for each must feed upon the other and smaller." So he called into existence all the fishes that people the waters. Then he said to the quadrupeds and four-footed beasts, to worms and snakes, and every thing else which are not fishes, "Be, for you ought to be;" and they were. So the earth became peopled and inhabited. All were called into existence then, and in that manner, except the Chepewyans, and they had their origin ages after, from the loins of a dog; which was performed thus:
There was among the Crees a man, whose upper lip was split, displaying the upper teeth to every one that saw him; he was not a courageous man, but feared every thing in the shape of danger; even the cry of beasts and the singing of birds, and the growl of the bear, and the song of the bittern, alarmed him. He was very fond of dogs, and possessed the power of transforming them into the shape of men, though he was without the power to make them continue in that shape for a longer period than that between sun and sun. He could make a wolf-dog step into the form of a handsome hunter; he could clothe an old cur with the skin of a very wise powwow. After his charm was spoken over a spaniel sneaking with his tail between his legs, you would see, in his stead, a white man doing the very same mean act of cowardice, with his back upon his enemy. A hoity-toity little she-puppy would become in a twinkling a very pretty girl; and an ugly old snarling she-wolf, a crabbed and sour old squaw. But, when the sun arose, the handsome hunter became again the wolf-dog; and the very wise powwow, the old cur; and the white man running from his enemy, the spaniel sneaking off with his tail between his legs; and the very pretty girl, the hoity-toity little she-puppy; and the crabbed and sour old squaw, the ugly and snarling old she wolf-dog. He would have been very glad to have made them retain the form of human beings, but he possessed not the power. At last, he bethought himself of the mighty Bird of Ages, who dwelt among the lofty peaks of the Mountain of Thunders. To this bird he repaired, and telling him what he had come for, he received the command to go to the Lake of the Woods, and bring thence a flat, white stone, which lay upon the southern shore of that lake. It possessed, the mighty Bird said, the power to enable almost any thing to be done which should be asked of it by men of the Cree nation; by the great ancestor of which it had been endued with its present power.
The man did as he was bidden. He went to the southern shore of the Lake of the Woods, and brought away the great white memahoppa, or medicine-stone, which has ever since remained with the Crees. Having placed this stone in the corner of his cabin, and addressed it as his tutelar deity, he proceeded to make the transformation of a fine, handsome, courageous, young dog into the shape of a man. When this was effected, he led the man to the memahoppa, and first praying the sacred stone to protect him against the power of change, he placed the man upon it. The charm was effective. The wonderful properties of the medicine-stone operated to keep the man a man. And this man married a woman of the Crees, and from them are the Chepewyans descended.
When the mighty Bird of Ages had finished his work of calling into existence the different creatures, he made a great arrow to be the sign of the deeds he had done; with the command that it should remain lodged in the great council-house of the Chepewyans, until time should be no more. As long as they should obey this command, they should ever be victorious over their enemies, and fortunate in all their hunting expeditions; their word should be law to all the tribes and nations, from the Frozen Sea to the land of the Shawanos, from the towns of the Iroquois to the Mountains of Thunder. But, whenever they should by carelessness lose it, they should be doomed to encounter their full share of the losses and defeats, and difficulties, and disappointments, which belong to other and less favoured tribes. They should sometimes be overcome by a force of inferior numbers; and often seek the beasts of the chace for many weary days without finding them. And, saying thus, he gave the arrow into the hands of the chief man of the Chepewyans.
For many, very many ages, the Chepewyans scrupulously remembered the injunctions of the mighty Bird respecting the arrow, and kept it treasured up in the house of the great council. While they did so, they were the most fortunate tribe on the earth, and became lords over all, conquerors in every battle, and the most fortunate hunters the world has ever known. But, at length carelessness got the better of prudence, and they suffered the arrow to be stolen; the sacrilege so enraged the Bird of Ages, that he quitted the earth, and winged his way to the place he inhabited before he descended from above. He has never been seen on earth since; but the Chepewyans, and other tribes whom this tale has reached, believe that the thunder of the hot moons is the clapping of his wings, and the lightning which accompanies it, the glancing of his eye. When a dark cloud that has no rain crosses the earth, they say he is flying between it and the sun; and they believe that the snow of the winter is the down which he strips from his breast.
IV. THE GREAT HARE.
Michabou, or the Great Hare, sat upon the face of the waters—he, and his creatures, which were all four-legged. The form of this Being was unlike that of any thing ever seen on the earth, before or since. He had four legs, or rather two legs and two arms, but he used them all as if they were legs, and he used the two arms for purposes for which legs could not be used to advantage. So he had four legs and two arms, and yet there were but four in all. Each of his creatures was unlike the others: all were known and distinguished by something which did not belong to another. Some had but one leg, some had twenty; some had no legs, but many arms; and some had neither legs nor arms. The same diversity prevailed with regard to the eyes, and mouth, and nose, and ears. Indeed they were a strange crowd of creatures, and not the least strange of all was Michabou himself, the head chief, or rather great father of all the creatures which moved over the face of the mighty waters.
Michabou was married to a woman quite as odd and deformed as himself, who bore him many children, of strange and various shapes. When the time had come for her to bring forth her one thousandth child, she had a strange dream. She dreamed that the child within her refused to see the light, till he had something firm and stable to stand upon—something which would permit him to enjoy rest undisturbed by motion. She told this dream to her husband, whom it puzzled very much. At length he made out that he was to create a world. He knew before, that the bottom of the ocean was covered with sand. So he dived down, and brought up from thence a glittering grain to serve as the germ of the world.
Having taken this grain of glittering sand into the hollow of his hand, Michabou blew upon it until it so expanded, that it became a little earth. He then set it afloat upon the waters, where it continued increasing in magnitude, until it was large enough to sustain, without sinking, the child which the wife of the great chief, after bearing about her for forty seasons, brought forth to the light of day. This child, upon being born, had the form of a man, and was placed upon the earth thus created. He was the first being which had ever borne the form of a man, and the first occupier of the earth. They gave him the name of Atoacan, which signifies the "great father, or beginner of a race." When he was born, he was larger in stature than any man that has been born since, and he increased in size, until his head towered above the tallest woods.
But Atoacan was alone, and life soon became a burthen to him. He was solitary and sad, and found no pleasure in the beautiful things which were daily, hourly, springing up on the earth. He saw the flowers bloom, and scent the air, but they afforded no pleasure to his eyes, no refreshment to his soul. Sweet fruits were bending the bushes to the earth, or clustering on the boughs, but they were tasteless; for it was in his nature to enjoy nothing, prize nothing, unless participated in by another—the counterpart of himself. So he put clay upon his head, and cried loud to his father, the Great Hare, for a companion. Michabou, perceiving that he and his strange-shaped creatures would be supplanted in power by the son whom he had begotten, the new creature man, had ascended to the heavens: he heard the prayer of his son, and listened to it.
There was among the people of the skies a beautiful maiden, whose name was Atahensic. She was fairest of all the daughters of the air, beautiful as the sun, mild as the moon, and sportive as the stars. Michabou asked her if she would descend to the earth, and become the companion and wife of his son; and she, delighted as women always are, at the prospect of a journey, no matter whither, consented. So Michabou made a long string of the sinews and tendons of the various land animals, and by this string he lowered Atahensic into the arms of his delighted son.
The man, no longer solitary, but furnished with the being, intended by the constitution of nature and the Great Master of all for the companion and comfort of his life, set about appropriating to his use the various things he saw. He was no longer solitary, but met the difficulties which spring up in the path of human life, and the labours which he is compelled to bestow upon the procuring of food, with cheerfulness and alacrity. He now went in the morning to the forest glade to hunt the red deer, and his toils were not thought of, because, when they were ended, when the woods, made dark by the coming shades of night, rang shrill with the lay of the fire-bird, and his shafts were all spent, he could bear home the spoils they had won, and be rejoiced by the smiles of his companion and wife.
Atahensic bore her husband two children, a son and a daughter. These two married, and built themselves a lodge far from their parents. They had many children, but Michabou, who came down now and then, to see how things were going on, observing the slow rate at which the world was peopling, determined to adopt another plan. So he told Atoacan that, upon the death of every animal, he must skin it. He must burn the skin, drop a drop of his own blood upon the carcase, and cover it up carefully with dry leaves from the forest trees. Upon the fourth day after he had covered it with leaves, if he would remove the leaves, he would find beneath them a sleeping infant, which, upon waking, would utter a cry of surprise, at finding itself no longer a beast but a human being. Each of these beings would possess the power to assist in the like multiplication of the species, but be denied other power of procreation. Having thus left directions for the speedy peopling of the world, Michabou again ascended to the heavens, which he has not left since.
Atoacan and his son carefully obeyed the commands which had been laid upon them, and of every beast or four-footed creature that died he formed a human being. These human beings were gifted with the qualities and passions which belonged to them in life: these they have retained, and thence it is that, at this day, the dispositions of men are so various. We see one crafty and subtle—he has the blood of the fox; another cruel, malicious, blood-thirsty—he is descended from the wolf. The red skin is courageous—the horse was his father; the white man is a coward—his mother was a sheep. One is full of sprightliness and agility—he is of the blood of the mountain-cat; another is clumsy—the musk-ox was his father. Strange and various are the dispositions which men have—cunning, subtle, sly, wise, brave, prudent, careless, cowardly, peaceable, blood-thirsty. These are qualities derived from the beasts, which died as beasts, and became men and the ancestors of the tribes living on the earth.
V. THE SIX NANTICOKES.
Once upon a time, there was a very bright and sunny day on the earth, and, upon this day so bright and sunny, a strange thing happened. It was in the country inhabited by the tribe of Nanticokes, and upon the borders of the Great Lake. It was in the morning of the day, and the moon was the moon in which the shad, leaving the waters which are salt, make their journey to those which are fresh. Beautiful was the day; the salt and bitter waters lay as motionless as a little child sleeping on the bosom of its mother. The winds were hushed in the caverns of the earth, and the beams of the sun fell gladdening and refreshing every thing beneath them. They shone upon field and forest, hill and valley; upon bird and beast, and fish and reptile, and many other things, beautiful or ugly, curious or strange; but they fell not upon man, for he was not. The tall and erect form, which commands obedience from all other creatures, was not then seen walking among the glades of the forest, with the firm step and haughty eye which distinguishes him. Beasts were many, birds were many, fishes were many, but of men, the lords of all, there were none.
Before the sun descended behind the mountains of the West, he shone upon man also. Six Indians, the first men that were ever on earth, and the ancestors of the tribe of Nanticokes, all at once, they knew not how, nor by what means, found themselves sitting upon the same shore, upon the verge of the ocean. Whether they were created on the spot, or came from some other place beyond the seas; whether they had swum up from the waters, or crawled out of the mud, or bounded from the depths of the forest, or alighted from the regions of the air, and were changed into men, receiving a gift to forget their former state, they knew not, or if they dropped from the skies, and forgot whence they came through dizziness and the violence of the fall. But this they knew, that they found themselves sitting on the shores of the Great Lake, in the country now inhabited by the Nanticokes, on the latter part of a warm and pleasant day, in the moon in which the shad leave the waters which are salt, and make their journey to those which are fresh. And they knew that there were six of them, and this was all they knew.
These six Indians were all men; there was not amongst them, nor on the earth, a single woman. The song-sparrow, and the mocking-bird, and the dove, and the crested wren, and the spotted lynx, and the gorgeous woodpecker, and the fish with shining scales, and all the other beautiful creatures that have since lived, and now live, were then upon the earth, even in greater numbers, and possessed of greater beauty than now; but woman, more beautiful than any, the most glorious thing that walks the earth, lived not then. It was soon that these Indians found out their wants, and began to provide themselves with food and clothing by means of hunting. They built themselves canoes, and made them bows and arrows, wherewith they took the spoils of land and water; and they set springes for birds, and traps for those creatures which live alike on the land and water. And they cultivated the various plants which they found growing spontaneously—corn, and tobacco, and roots; and gathered ripe grapes, and abundance of delicious berries. They lived well enough, and had they been wise would have sought no further; but they took it into their heads, that they could not live without women. So, led by the gloomy and solitary feeling of a vacant heart, they left the cabins which they had built, and wandered forth in search of the coveted objects. That their chance of success might be greater, they agreed to separate, and each to travel on different paths, and so they parted. One went towards the clime of the snows, another towards the land of the summer winds, the third sought the distant east, the fourth bent his steps towards the mountains of the setting sun, the fifth descended into the bowels of the earth, and the sixth climbed a sunbeam. Before they separated, they agreed that those who were living when the Moon of Grapes again came round, should repair to the same great tree in the shade of which they were then sitting, and there, while the pipe of friendship was passing around, recount their adventures.
The Moon of Grapes again came round, and found, upon one of its pleasantest days, these six Nanticokes sitting beneath the great tree, on the bank of the river which gives its name to the tribe. With them sate six beautiful women, and laughing, and sporting, and rolling about on the green and grassy sod at their feet, lay six beautiful children. The six Indians and their wives appeared very happy, and while they passed the pipe about, laughed and talked very loud and joyfully, and were very, very merry, as though they had been drinking something much stronger than water. At last, one of them, whose name was Sinipuxent, rose and said:
Brothers! it was in the Moon of Grapes of the last year, that we found ourselves sitting on the shore of the Great Lake, endued with the faculties that we now exercise. It was in the Moon of Grapes, that we departed in quest of the beloved beings who are now the light of our eyes. And we agreed, that those who were living when the next Grape-Moon came round should repair to the same great tree, beneath whose shade we then sate, and there, while the pipe of friendship was passing round, we should relate what had befallen us. The Great Spirit has permitted our return to that spot, and the beautiful beings, whom we have brought with us from countries so far apart, are proofs that adventures have befallen us, which are worth recounting. Brothers, you shall hear of what befel Sinipuxent, who left you to climb the sunbeam.
When he parted from his five brothers, he climbed a sunbeam for many days, until he came to the land where the glorious luminary of the earth, the Sun, takes his refreshment of sleep and rest during the dark hours. It was in the morning of the day, and the great light of the world had risen from his couch, and set out upon his journey, but his wife and his children were all, save one, stretched out in profound sleep. That one, the most beautiful of all creatures—look at her, and say if she is not!—sat bathing her lovely cheeks and stately neck in the morning dew, and brushing off the stray drops with the white lily of the lake. Her little feet were carelessly thrust into the clear stream gliding by her, beneath which they glittered like the sparkling sands washed from the mountains into the river of the Nanticokes. Her long bright hair, coloured by the beams of her father, the Sun, lay floating over her naked shoulders and bosom, more beautiful—but ye behold her. Beautiful creature! she saw not the Nanticoke till he stood at her side. When she raised her head, and found a stranger standing near her, she would have fled, but he detained her gently with these words:
"Beautiful creature! what is it thou fearest? I am not he that would harm thee. On the contrary, I would encounter any risk, brave any peril, rather than harm one of the glossy hairs that is straying over thy beautiful brow. My heart tells me, gentle creature, that thou art the object for which my soul hath panted, ever since I first knew that I was. I love thee, deeply and fervently, and wish thee to be mine. I ask thee to leave the clime of thy father, and go with me to the pleasant land and beautiful river of the Nanticokes. Though its skies be not so bright as those in which thou wert born, yet are they mellower. And the waters of the land are clear, cool, and sweet, and the shades are refreshing. The vines are bending to the earth with rich ripe grapes, berries are loading every bush, and the earth is covered with flowers. Thou shalt become my companion in the cabin I have built me beside the Nanticoke; and even as that river, when unvexed by the swell of rains, glides along in the months of summer, so shall our lives pass away. Thou shalt be the wife of my bosom, and together will we live, till we are called to the land revealed to us by our dreams as the land of souls."
The lovely maiden heard the words of the Nanticoke, and answered that she knew not well what she should say. She knew not where the land of the Nanticokes lay, nor did she know who was he that spoke to her. But she timidly confessed that she loved him, and would become the wife of his bosom, if the consent of her father and mother could be obtained. So he asked the mother, who gave her consent at once, if that of her husband could be procured.
When the Sun came home at night, his wife said to him, "One of the six Indians that dropped from the North Star, on the shores of the Great Lake in the Frog-Moon, has come hither, and demanded our daughter Atahensic in marriage. He appears to be a bold and handsome youth, and our daughter loves him."
"But he shall not have her," answered the fiery father; "the blood of the Sun shall not mingle with the blood of the beings of the earth."
Then he called the Nanticoke to him, and spoke to him thus: "Thou canst not have my daughter—thy blood cannot mingle with mine.—Depart."
The Nanticoke, who, like all the others of that tribe, was brave and fearless, but prudent, held his peace, but departed not. When the Sun was asleep he wooed the maiden; when he was awake, and his eyes were peering into every spot however obscure, and every dingle however dark, he hid himself where even those rays could not penetrate. And often was the beautiful maiden of his love prevailed upon to hide herself with him. But he had suffered himself to forget the consequences of a mutual and unrestrained love. The beautiful Atahensic gave evidence that she should in due time become a mother. The quick-eyed father soon discovered what had happened, and heard the whole from the lips of his weeping daughter. Nothing could equal the rage of the mighty king of the skies, when he learned the disgrace inflicted upon his family. In the frenzy of the moment, he seized both the daughter and her lover, and hurled them from the highest part of the skies to the region where the land of the Nanticokes lay. But the kind mother protected both from the consequences of the fall, and the earth, by her command, received them unhurt upon her lap. Brothers, I am that Nanticoke, and the beautiful Atahensic is the woman by my side, and the child at her feet is the child of our love. I have no more to say.
* * * * *
When the first Nanticoke had finished his story, the second, whose name was Conestogo, rose, and thus addressed his brothers:
Listen, said he, and you shall hear of what befel Conestogo, who left you to travel into the bowels of the earth.
When he parted from his five brothers, he went to the deep cavern which lies among the mountains west of the river of the Nanticokes, and into this cavern he entered at the time of nightfall. After having groped his way for many days through deep darkness, over rocks and many other obstructions, living on the dried meat he had taken with him, all at once, upon passing through a small door or opening, he came to a great chamber, vaulted like the rooms which are unfolded to our eyes, when we enter those great houses in the City of the Rock, where men dressed in glittering robes, and little boys clothed in white, call upon the Great Spirit, and sing loud songs to his praise. Around the sides of this great room were tall pillars, which looked liked icicles, and glittered like them when they are visited by the beams of the sun. Over-head was a vast field of ice, of many different colours, green, red, white, yellow; the reflection of which on the floor of the mighty building occasioned a strange blending of rays. Beautiful, wonderful, was the appearance of this room, and of all within it.
But the most beautiful, wonderful things of the cavern remain to be spoken of. In the further corner of this spacious apartment was a company of beautiful maidens, clothed in robes of the same colours as those which glittered on the roof and walls of the building; the dazzling beauty of their dress may be guessed, but who shall paint their own charms? who shall describe their bright black eyes, long black locks, and voice like the music of the streams in spring? their beautiful necks, and little feet and hands, their swelling bosoms, and graceful footsteps? When I entered they were employed in chasing each other around the apartment, and amongst the lofty pillars; but, when they saw a stranger invade their retirement, they uttered a shrill cry of terror, and fled along the vaulted passages. The Nanticoke pursued them until he came to an inner range of apartments, all glittering like that he had left, but smaller in dimensions; there were a great many little recesses, and behind those pillars he saw many little heads peering out, which he knew to be those of the beautiful maidens who had escaped from the room of mighty pillars. He could see upon their countenances that they were not so fearful as they pretended to be; but when they hid, always preferred to be found. There was an arch smile upon their beautiful little faces, and their red lips were pursed up in affected contempt of the Nanticoke. He, whom nature quickly taught the best means of winning woman's love, which was not to seem over-anxious to obtain it, said nothing; but, seating himself upon a broken pillar, leisurely drew out his pipe and fell to smoking, rightly judging that if the fair creatures were not sought they would seek. It was not long that they remained hidden. First one contrived to put forth her little hand or foot; then a head became visible; still the Nanticoke affected to see neither. At last, finding that Conestogo would not play their childish game, one stepped forth, then another, and soon the whole stood visible. They now came up to the hunter, and, with many soft smiles, bade him welcome. Seating themselves upon the smooth floor around him, they commenced asking questions. "Who was he? what was he? how old was he? where did he come from? how far was he going? who was his father? what was the name of his mother? how many brothers had he? how many sisters? was his grandmother living? how long would he stay with them? to what place would he go when he left them?" and many other questions, which, fortunately for him, were asked with so little pause, that he had no opportunity to answer one of them. Nor did they seem to expect an answer, but appeared to ask, only that they might have the pleasure of talking. All were not so talkative, however. There was one beautiful creature, the most beautiful of all the company, who sat apart from the rest, said nothing with her tongue, but spoke a language with her downcast eyes, which the smitten Nanticoke interpreted into that of bashful love. While the rest were talking and laughing, displaying their white teeth, and shaking their black hair over their polished foreheads, he was thinking only of the silent woman, and contrasting her modest and quiet deportment with the noisy and boisterous mirth of her sisters. When she saw that the stranger bent his eyes a great portion of the time on herself, and that their expression denoted the same sentiment in him as filled her own bosom, she turned her face away to fix them in listless gaze upon a distant object.
After the beautiful maidens had laughed, and chattered, and questioned, as much as they would, they left the Nanticoke to enjoy his slumbers. The silent maiden retired last, and the look which she gave him, as she left the little chamber, did not quit his soul till more than half of the hours of darkness had run through. The next morning he rose early, and wandered about till he came to a little spring, which rattled over a bed of pebbles, and fell into a cavern beneath; it was a beautiful little spring, and its waters were cold and sweet, and as clear as the sky. He had just placed himself by the side of this little stream, when the silent maiden came thither also. The Nanticoke sat hidden from observation by one of the pillars, while she whispered her soft tale of love to the echoes of the cavern. She told them that she loved the stranger with the black hair, and sunny eyes, and proud mien; that she wished them to carry to the Great Spirit her wishes that he should ask her to become his own—his companion—his wife. More she would have said, but the Nanticoke caught her gently in his arms, preventing her slight screams with the kiss of love. "Thou shalt become my own—my companion—my wife," said he. "Lovely, and gentle, and dearly beloved creature! I had feared thou hadst no tongue, because to hear thee silent for a little while was something so new and strange in thy sex. But thou hast found a tongue to tell the echoes what thy bashful lips would not have dared tell me. I thank the Great Spirit that I overheard thy soft confession; it has removed those impediments which thy bashful timidity would else have interposed to our immediate union. Lovely maiden! with the black hair, and the bright forehead, and the slender waist, and the beautiful hand and foot, and the white teeth, what prevents thy accompanying me at once—to-day—this minute, to the land where I have taken up my abode, the pleasant and fruitful land of the Nanticokes? Again thou art silent, but the soft smile upon thy features tells me that thou art not averse to my proposal. I see in the look of thy sunny eye, in thy decreasing hesitation, and yielding reluctance, that thou wilt become the star of my pleasant cabin, the hope, the solace, and the joy of my life. Let us go then; ere ten suns be passed, thou shalt find thyself seated upon a bank, whose flowers are only less sweet than thyself. Thou shalt listen to a stream whose voice is only less musical than thine own, and see the beautiful night lit up by its very many glorious lamps.
"Brothers, I am that Nanticoke, and the beautiful maiden is she that sits by my side, and the child that rolls about on the green sod is the child of our love. I have no more to say."
* * * * *
The story of the second Nanticoke being finished, the third, whose name was Appomattox, rose, and thus addressed his brothers:—
Listen, said he, and you shall hear what befel Appomattox, who left you to travel eastward.
When he parted from his five brothers, he crossed the Great Arm[A] of the Salt Lake, and, in consequence of the revelations made by the spirit of a dream, pursued his journey towards the land of the cold spring-storms. He travelled fast, till he had wearied himself out, and then, building a small hut of bark to protect him from the rains and night-dews, he laid himself down to repose. He had not slept long, for the moon, that was a far way up when he sunk to sleep, had not reached the highest part of the heavens, when he heard a voice crying, "Appomattox! Appomattox!"
[Footnote A: Chesapeak Bay.]
"Here I am," answered the Nanticoke. As he spoke, he raised himself up from his couch of leaves, and saw standing at his feet a strange-looking creature, whom the beams of the moon revealed to be a little, ugly, squat, brown man, not much higher than an Indian's hip. His shape was odd and singular, beyond anything the Nanticoke had ever seen. His legs were each as large as his body, and his feet were quite as much out of proportion. But his arms and hands were not larger than the arms and hands of the child which is playing at my feet, and his head was of the size of the head of a small dog, and similarly shaped. His eyes were red as the leaf of the maple in autumn; his skin was green as the bosom of the meadow in spring; yellow hair, as coarse as rock-moss, fell over his shoulders; and his nose was turned up till it reached his forehead; his ears were scarce larger than a man's thumb-nail, and his mouth than the blade of a pipe. It would have been a matter of wonder with the Nanticoke, how he could get the victuals into such a little mouth, if he had not been employed in noting the odd actions of the strange creature, and in listening to the tones of his voice, which resembled those of a cat when you tread upon its tail.
"Who are you!" asked the strange creature, and then gave a jump, turning himself head over heels, and stood upon his feet as before.
"I am a Nanticoke—one of the six who found themselves, in the morning of a clear day, in the Frog-Moon, standing upon the shores of the Great Lake, in the country where we have built cabins, and planted corn and tobacco. We know not how we were carried thither. We were, when we first knew we were—that is all we know. And who are you?"
"And that is as much as anybody knows," squeaked, or rather snarled, the strange creature, and again he took his tumble. "Wherever you came from, you seem a fine fellow, and I don't doubt wish for a wife. Come, go home with me. I live in a cave, in the hill close by, and will give you some fine fat toads, stewed with greens, for supper—or, if you like better, you shall have a roasted rabbit. As to who I am, I don't know myself. I only know that I am an odd sort of a fish."
The Nanticoke, who had not tasted food for many days, liked the offer of the rabbit very well, though he felt no relish for the stewed toads. So he went home with the strange creature to his dwelling in the hill. When they came to the the door of the cabin, the creature gave a knock with his foot, when the door was opened by a creature, stranger, if possible, than that which had conducted him to the cave. Upon entering, he beheld, scattered about the floor, a great many little children, quite as ugly and misshapen as the parents. Here lay one with a large leg and a little one, a full arm and a shrunken one, one-handed, or one-footed, or one-eyed. One had no hair: one was completely enveloped in it—in truth, the shapes were most various and singular. But all were not thus. Upon a bench, upon one side of the cave, sat a very little maiden—ye see how very little, and ye see how beautiful. When the Nanticoke entered, she drew her furred mantle around her, and pretended to hide her face, but she hid not her eyes, which were bent on the stranger youth. He had seen enough of her countenance to judge that she was very beautiful, and he loved her slight form, which he saw was light and graceful as the young fawn. He now entered into conversation with the old man, and they talked of many matters—he conversing quite like a sensible man, except that now and then he would take his strange tumble. At length, victuals were placed before them, and they sat down. The beautiful little maiden—with the usual pride of woman—dressed herself, and her black locks, with much care, and then came and placed herself at the table at which they were eating. Soft and fond glances were interchanged; and, before they had finished their meal, each had as good as said "I love." When they had done eating, the old man and woman arose, and under some pretence or other left the room, carrying with them the whole brood of odd and beast-like creatures. So the Nanticoke was left alone with the beautiful little maiden, to press her soft little hand, and to say in her ears those affectionate things which are always held sweeter by lovers for being told in whispers. Not much persuasion was necessary to obtain her consent to leave her father's house, and go with Appomattox to the spot where he had taken up his abode—to the cabin he had built beside the beautiful river Nanticoke. Their journey thither was not long—upon the sixth sun, they sat down upon the little plat of grass before the door of the cabin, and plucked the ripe grapes from the vines that leant upon its roof, and drank of the crystal stream which rattled over the pebbly bottom to the gentle river, and gathered the delicious berries that hung on every bush. And they saw the glorious sun illumine the earth, and the moon and stars lighting up the night, and the northern skies red with the dance of departed friends, and both blessed the moment that carried the Nanticoke to the hut of the very odd fish.
Brothers, I am that Nanticoke; and the beautiful little creature is she that sits at my side, and the little child that rolls about on the grass is the child of our love. My story is told.
* * * * *
And then the fourth Nanticoke rose, and told his story in the following words:
When I left my five brothers, said he, I crossed the river that glides by my cabin, and travelled towards the mountains which are called by Indians the Backbone of the Great Spirit. Upon the sixth day, I came to the hither part of the mountain, and sat down upon its eastern edge to rest my wearied limbs. It was near the hour of evening; the sun had not retired from the earth, but the lofty peaks of the mountains hid his beams from those who sat in the shade of those peaks, making it night to them. At length the sun set, and a thick veil of darkness was cast over the face of the earth. The ugly bat came forth, the mournful night-bird began his song, the wise owl hooted on the limb of the tree, and the dazzling little fire-fly twinkled in the glades, and among the trunks of the giant oaks. Then it was that a distant sound of music came to the ears of Apaumax the Nanticoke, who is myself. He listened, and caught the words, of a song issuing from a valley near the hillock upon which he sate. Softer than the plaintive cry of the dove, sweeter than the love-notes of the song-sparrow, was that song. Presently other voices could be heard laughing or singing, singly, or in concert. The Nanticoke was so greatly charmed with those notes that he determined to know whence they issued, and whose were the voices that sang them. So, descending the hill, he approached cautiously the spot where he had heard them, until he came suddenly upon a company of strange women who were dancing upon a green spot in the valley. They were the greater part of them very small, many being not taller than the sprout of three moons; but there were others, whose stature arose to the height of a full-grown person. Of the latter there was one whom the whole seemed to obey, the tallest woman of the group, and the most beautiful. She did not seem very youthful; at least her features spoke not of youth, nor did they imply age, but the period of life when woman is like a ripe grape, the sweetness of which is diminished by being suffered to hang a single day more on the vine untasted. She had a pale skin—ye see how pale—her cheeks were red as the flower that blooms among thorns, and her eye shone like the little flower which emulates the blue of the sky. Her lips were red and pouting, and her teeth whiter than the lily. Beautiful creature! lovely and beloved woman!
Cautiously did the Nanticoke approach the merry dancers, and, seating himself upon the earth where they could not observe him, he watched their sprightly and rapid motions. Nothing could exceed the beauty of the dances, or the grace of the dancers, or the sweetness of the tunes to which they danced. At last, one of the little maidens, in a fit of frolic, ran out of the circle of dancers, and by chance came to the spot where the Nanticoke had seated himself; a loud scream told him that he was discovered. When they found that a stranger had hidden near them, and witnessed their mystic dances, they were filled with great wrath, and all, as one, rushed up to the spot where he had concealed himself. He, knowing no fear, stood up boldly amongst them, and suffered them to scrutinize his person, rightly judging that nothing would so soon mollify their anger as to look upon his handsome and finely proportioned form. When they had gazed as much as they liked, she, the tallest, the one whom all obeyed, spoke in a stern voice, and asked, why he had dared to steal upon them while they were dancing the Sacred Dance of Darkness, and singing the Spirit's Song of Midnight? Did he not know that they were Spirits, the Spirits of the Mountain, who, for many hundred years, had nightly come, while summer lasted, to this green spot, to hold their joyous carousals, mixing music with mirth, and drinking the sweet drink which they found in the cups of the flowers and mottling the leaves of the rose. What had he to say why death should not be inflicted upon him?