ONE day, when the Indian boy Waukewa was
hunting along the mountain-side, he found
a young eagle with a broken wing, lying at the
base of a cliff. The bird had fallen from an aery
on a ledge high above, and being too young to fly,
had fluttered down the cliff and injured itself so
severely that it was likely to die. When Waukewa
saw it he was about to drive one of his sharp
arrows through its body, for the passion of the
hunter was strong in him, and the eagle plunders
many a fine fish from the Indian's drying-frame.
But a gentler impulse came to him as he saw the
young bird quivering with pain and fright at his
feet, and he slowly unbent his bow, put the arrow
in his quiver, and stooped over the panting eaglet.
For fully a minute the wild eyes of the wounded
bird and the eyes of the Indian boy, growing gentler
and softer as he gazed, looked into one another.
Then the struggling and panting of the
young eagle ceased; the wild, frightened look
passed out of its eyes, and it suffered Waukewa to
pass his hand gently over its ruffled and draggled
feathers. The fierce instinct to fight, to defend its
threatened life, yielded to the charm of the tenderness
and pity expressed in the boy's eyes; and
from that moment Waukewa and the eagle were
Waukewa went slowly home to his father's
lodge, bearing the wounded eaglet in his arms.
He carried it so gently that the broken wing gave
no twinge of pain, and the bird lay perfectly still,
never offering to strike with its sharp beak the
hands that clasped it.
Warming some water over the fire at the lodge,
Waukewa bathed the broken wing of the eagle
and bound it up with soft strips of skin. Then
he made a nest of ferns and grass inside the lodge,
and laid the bird in it. The boy's mother looked
on with shining eyes. Her heart was very tender.
From girlhood she had loved all the creatures of
the woods, and it pleased her to see some of her
own gentle spirit waking in the boy.
When Waukewa's father returned from hunting,
he would have caught up the young eagle and
wrung its neck. But the boy pleaded with him so
eagerly, stooping over the captive and defending
it with his small hands, that the stern warrior
laughed and called him his "little squaw-heart."
"Keep it, then," he said, "and nurse it until it is
well. But then you must let it go, for we will not
raise up a thief in the lodges." So Waukewa
promised that when the eagle's wing was healed
and grown so that it could fly, he would carry it
forth and give it its freedom.
It was a month—or, as the Indians say, a moon—before
the young eagle's wing had fully mended
and the bird was old enough and strong enough
to fly. And in the meantime Waukewa cared for
it and fed it daily, and the friendship between the
boy and the bird grew very strong.
"THE YOUNG EAGLE ROSE TOWARD THE SKY"
But at last the time came when the willing captive
must be freed. So Waukewa carried it far
away from the Indian lodges, where none of the
young braves might see it hovering over and be
tempted to shoot their arrows at it, and there he
let it go. The young eagle rose toward the sky in
great circles, rejoicing in its freedom and its
strange, new power of flight. But when Waukewa
began to move away from the spot, it came
swooping down again; and all day long it followed
him through the woods as he hunted. At
dusk, when Waukewa shaped his course for the
Indian lodges, the eagle would have accompanied
him. But the boy suddenly slipped into a hollow
tree and hid, and after a long time the eagle
stopped sweeping about in search of him and flew
slowly and sadly away.
Summer passed, and then winter; and spring
came again, with its flowers and birds and swarming
fish in the lakes and streams. Then it was
that all the Indians, old and young, braves and
squaws, pushed their light canoes out from shore
and with spear and hook waged pleasant war
against the salmon and the red-spotted trout.
After winter's long imprisonment, it was such joy
to toss in the sunshine and the warm wind and
catch savory fish to take the place of dried meats
Above the great falls of the Apahoqui the
salmon sported in the cool, swinging current,
darting under the lee of the rocks and leaping full
length in the clear spring air. Nowhere else were
such salmon to be speared as those which lay
among the riffles at the head of the Apahoqui rapids.
But only the most daring braves ventured to
seek them there, for the current was strong, and
should a light canoe once pass the danger-point
and get caught in the rush of the rapids, nothing
could save it from going over the roaring falls.
Very early in the morning of a clear April day,
just as the sun was rising splendidly over the
mountains, Waukewa launched his canoe a half-mile
above the rapids of the Apahoqui, and floated
downward, spear in hand, among the salmon-riffles.
He was the only one of the Indian lads
who dared fish above the falls. But he had been
there often, and never yet had his watchful eye
and his strong paddle suffered the current to
carry his canoe beyond the danger-point. This
morning he was alone on the river, having risen
long before daylight to be first at the sport.
The riffles were full of salmon, big, lusty fellows,
who glided about the canoe on every side
in an endless silver stream. Waukewa plunged
his spear right and left, and tossed one glittering
victim after another into the bark canoe. So absorbed
in the sport was he that for once he did not
notice when the head of the rapids was reached
and the canoe began to glide more swiftly among
the rocks. But suddenly he looked up, caught his
paddle, and dipped it wildly in the swirling water.
The canoe swung sidewise, shivered, held its own
against the torrent, and then slowly, inch by inch,
began to creep upstream toward the shore. But
suddenly there was a loud, cruel snap, and the
paddle parted in the boy's hands, broken just
above the blade! Waukewa gave a cry of despairing
agony. Then he bent to the gunwale of
his canoe and with the shattered blade fought desperately
against the current. But it was useless.
The racing torrent swept him downward; the
hungry falls roared tauntingly in his ears.
Then the Indian boy knelt calmly upright in
the canoe, facing the mist of the falls, and folded
his arms. His young face was stern and lofty.
He had lived like a brave hitherto—now he would
die like one.
Faster and faster sped the doomed canoe toward
the great cataract. The black rocks glided
away on either side like phantoms. The roar of
the terrible waters became like thunder in the
boy's ears. But still he gazed calmly and sternly
ahead, facing his fate as a brave Indian should.
At last he began to chant the death-song, which
he had learned from the older braves. In a few
moments all would be over. But he would come
before the Great Spirit with a fearless hymn upon
Suddenly a shadow fell across the canoe.
Waukewa lifted his eyes and saw a great eagle
hovering over, with dangling legs, and a spread
of wings that blotted out the sun. Once more
the eyes of the Indian boy and the eagle met; and
now it was the eagle who was master!
"HE AND THE STRUGGLING EAGLE WERE FLOATING OUTWARD AND DOWNWARD"
With a glad cry the Indian boy stood up in his
canoe, and the eagle hovered lower. Now the
canoe tossed up on that great swelling wave that
climbs to the cataract's edge, and the boy lifted his
hands and caught the legs of the eagle. The next
moment he looked down into the awful gulf of
waters from its very verge. The canoe was
snatched from beneath him and plunged down the
black wall of the cataract; but he and the struggling
eagle were floating outward and downward
through the cloud of mist. The cataract roared
terribly, like a wild beast robbed of its prey. The
spray beat and blinded, the air rushed upward as
they fell. But the eagle struggled on with his
burden. He fought his way out of the mist and
the flying spray. His great wings threshed the
air with a whistling sound. Down, down they
sank, the boy and the eagle, but ever farther from
the precipice of water and the boiling whirlpool
below. At length, with a fluttering plunge, the
eagle dropped on a sand-bar below the whirlpool,
and he and the Indian boy lay there a minute,
breathless and exhausted. Then the eagle slowly
lifted himself, took the air under his free wings,
and soared away, while the Indian boy knelt on
the sand, with shining eyes following the great
bird till he faded into the gray of the cliffs.