ADVENTURES OF AN INDIAN BRAVE
(From the Journal of the Anthropological Institute.)
A long, long way off, right away in the west of America,
there once lived an old man who had one son. The
country round was covered with forests, in which dwelt
all kinds of wild beasts, and the young man and his companions
used to spend whole days in hunting them, and
he was the finest hunter of all the tribe.
One morning, when winter was coming on, the youth
and his companions set off as usual to bring back some
of the mountain goats and deer to be salted down, as he
was afraid of a snow-storm; and if the wind blew and the
snow drifted the forest might be impassable for some
weeks. The old man and the wife, however, would not
go out, but remained in the wigwam making bows and
It soon grew so cold in the forest that at last one of
the men declared they could walk no more, unless they
could manage to warm themselves.
‘That is easily done,’ said the leader, giving a kick to a
large tree. Flames broke out in the trunk, and before it
had burnt up they were as hot as if it had been summer.
Then they started off to the place where the goats and
deer were to be found in the greatest numbers, and soon
had killed as many as they wanted. But the leader killed
most, as he was the best shot.
‘Now we must cut up the game and divide it,’ said
he; and so they did, each one taking his own share; and,
walking one behind the other, set out for the village.
But when they reached a great river the young man did
not want the trouble of carrying his pack any further,
and left it on the bank.
‘I am going home another way,’ he told his companions.
And taking another road he reached the village long
before they did.
‘Have you returned with empty hands?’ asked the old
man, as his son opened the door.
‘Have I ever done that, that you put me such a
question?’ asked the youth. ‘No; I have slain enough
to feast us for many moons, but it was heavy, and I left
the pack on the bank of the great river. Give me the
arrows, I will finish making them, and you can go to the
river and bring home the pack!’
So the old man rose and went, and strapped the
meat on his shoulder; but as he was crossing the ford
the strap broke and the pack fell into the river. He
stooped to catch it, but it swirled past him. He clutched
again; but in doing so he over-balanced himself and was
hurried into some rapids, where he was knocked against
some rocks, and he sank and was drowned, and his body
was carried down the stream into smoother water when
it rose to the surface again. But by this time it had lost
all likeness to a man, and was changed into a piece of
The wood floated on, and the river got bigger and
bigger and entered a new country. There it was borne
by the current close to the shore, and a woman who was
down there washing her clothes caught it as it passed,
and drew it out, saying to herself: ‘What a nice smooth
plank! I will use it as a table to put my food upon.’ And
gathering up her clothes she took the plank with her into
When her supper time came she stretched the board
across two strings which hung from the roof, and set upon
it the pot containing a stew that smelt very good.
The woman had been working hard all day and was very
hungry, so she took her biggest spoon and plunged it
into the pot. But what was her astonishment and
disgust when both pot and food vanished instantly
‘Oh, you horrid plank, you have brought me ill-luck!’
she cried. And taking it up she flung it away from her.
The woman had been surprised before at the disappearance
of her food, but she was more astonished
still when, instead of the plank, she beheld a baby.
However, she was fond of children and had none of her
own, so she made up her mind that she would keep it
and take care of it. The baby grew and throve as no
baby in that country had ever done, and in four days he
was a man, and as tall and strong as any brave of the
‘You have treated me well,’ he said, ‘and meat shall
never fail in your house. But now I must go, for I have
much work to do.’
Then he set out for his home.
It took him many days to get there, and when he saw
his son sitting in his place his anger was kindled, and
his heart was stirred to take vengeance upon him. So
he went out quickly into the forest and shed tears, and
each tear became a bird. ‘Stay there till I want you,’
said he; and he returned to the hut.
‘I saw some pretty new birds, high up in a tree
yonder,’ he remarked. And the son answered: ‘Show me
the way and I will get them for dinner.’
The two went out together, and after walking for
about half an hour the old man stopped. ‘That is the
tree,’ he said. And the son began to climb it.
Now a strange thing happened. The higher the young
man climbed the higher the birds seemed to be, and when
he looked down the earth below appeared no bigger than
a star. Still he tried to go back, but he could not, and
though he could not see the birds any longer he felt as
if something were dragging him up and up.
He thought that he had been climbing that tree for
days, and perhaps he had, for suddenly a beautiful country,
yellow with fields of maize, stretched before him, and he
gladly left the top of the tree and entered it. He walked
through the maize without knowing where he was going,
when he heard a sound of knocking, and saw two old
blind women crushing their food between two stones.
He crept up to them on tiptoe, and when one old woman
passed her dinner to the other he held out his hand and
took it and ate it for himself.
‘How slow you are kneading that cake,’ cried the
other old woman at last.
‘Why, I have given you your dinner, and what more
do you want?’ replied the second.
‘You didn’t; at least I never got it,’ said the other.
‘I certainly thought you took it from me; but here is
some more.’ And again the young man stretched out his
hand; and the two old women fell to quarrelling afresh.
But when it happened for the third time the old women
suspected some trick, and one of them exclaimed:
‘I am sure there is a man here; tell me, are you not
‘Yes,’ answered the young man, who wished to please
her, ‘and in return for your good dinner I will see if I
cannot restore your sight; for I was taught the art of
healing by the best medicine men in the tribe.’ And with
that he left them, and wandered about till he found the
herb which he wanted. Then he hastened back to the
old women, and begging them to boil him some water, he
threw the herb in. As soon as the pot began to sing he
took off the lid, and sprinkled the eyes of the women the
sight came back to them once more.
There was no night in that country, so, instead of going
to bed very early, as he would have done in his own
hut, the young man took another walk. A splashing
noise near by drew him down to a valley through which
ran a large river, and up a waterfall some salmon were
leaping. How their silver sides glistened in the light,
and how he longed to catch some of the great fellows!
But how could he do it? He had beheld no one except
the old women, and it was not very likely that they would
be able to help him. So with a sigh he turned away and
went back to them, but, as he walked, a thought struck
him. He pulled out one of his hairs which hung nearly
to his waist, and it instantly became a strong line, nearly
a mile in length.
‘Weave me a net that I may catch some salmon,’ said
he. And they wove him the net he asked for, and for
many weeks he watched by the river, only going back to
the old women when he wanted a fish cooked.
At last, one day, when he was eating his dinner, the old
woman who always spoke first, said to him:
‘We have been very glad to see you, grandson, but
now it is time that you went home.’ And pushing aside a
rock, he saw a deep hole, so deep that he could not see
to the bottom. Then they dragged a basket out of the
house, and tied a rope to it. ‘Get in, and wrap this blanket
round your head,’ said they; ‘and, whatever happens,
don’t uncover it till you get to the bottom.’ Then they
bade him farewell, and he curled himself up in the
Down, down, down he went; would he ever stop going?
But when the basket did stop, the young man forgot what
he had been told, and put his head out to see what was
the matter. In an instant the basket moved, but, to his
horror, instead of going down, he felt himself being drawn
upwards, and shortly after he beheld the faces of the old
‘You will never see your wife and son if you will not
do as you are bid,’ said they. ‘Now get in, and do not
stir till you hear a crow calling.’
This time the young man was wiser, and though the
basket often stopped, and strange creatures seemed to
rest on him and to pluck at his blanket, he held it tight
till he heard the crow calling. Then he flung off the
blanket and sprang out, while the basket vanished in the
He walked on quickly down the track that led to the
hut, when, before him, he saw his wife with his little son
on her back.
‘Oh! there is father at last,’ cried the boy; but the
mother bade him cease from idle talking.
‘But, mother, it is true; father is coming!’ repeated the
child. And, to satisfy him, the woman turned round and
perceived her husband.
Oh, how glad they all were to be together again! And
when the wind whistled through the forest, and the snow
stood in great banks round the door, the father used to
take the little boy on his knee and tell him how he caught
salmon in the Land of the Sun.