The Rainbow-Pilgrimage

by Grace Greenwood

One summer afternoon, when I was about eight years of age, I was standing at an eastern window, looking at a beautiful rainbow that, bending from the sky, seemed to be losing itself in a thick, swampy wood about a quarter of a mile distant. We had just had a thunder-storm; but now the dark heavens had cleared up, a fresh breeze was blowing from the south, the rose-bushes by the window were dashing rain-drops against the panes, the robins were singing merrily from the cherry-trees, and all was brighter and pleasanter than ever. It happened that no one was in the room with me, then, but my brother Rufus, who was just recovering from a severe illness, and was sitting, propped up with pillows, in an easy-chair, looking out, with me, at the rainbow.

"See, brother," I said, "it drops right down among the cedars, where we go in the spring to find wintergreens!"

"Do you know, Gracie," said my brother, with a very serious face, "that, if you should go to the end of the rainbow, you would find there purses filled with money, and great pots of gold and silver?"

"Is it truly so?" I asked.

"Truly so," answered my brother, with a smile. Now, I was a simple-hearted child who believed everything that was told me, although I was again and again imposed upon; so, without another word, I darted out of the door and set forth toward the wood. My brother called after me as loudly as he was able, but I did not heed him. I cared nothing for the wet grass, which was sadly drabbling my clean frock; on and on I ran; I was so sure that I knew just where that rainbow ended. I remember how glad and proud I was in my thoughts, and what fine presents I promised to all my friends out of my great riches.

So thinking, and laying delightful plans, almost before I knew it I had reached the cedar-grove, and the end of the rainbow was not there! But I saw it shining down among the trees a little farther off; so on and on I struggled, through the thick bushes and over logs, till I came within the sound of a stream which ran through the swamp. Then I thought, "What if the rainbow should come down right into the middle of that deep, muddy brook!" Ah! but I was frightened for my heavy pots of gold and silver, and my purses of money. How should I ever find them there? and what a time I should have getting them out! I reached the bank of the stream, and "the end was not yet." But I could see it a little way off on the other side. I crossed the creek on a fallen tree, and still ran on, though my limbs seemed to give way, and my side ached with fatigue. The woods grew thicker and darker, the ground more wet and swampy, and I found, as many grown people had found before me, that there was rather hard travelling in a journey after riches. Suddenly I met in my way a large porcupine, who made himself still larger when he saw me, as a cross cat raises its back and makes tails at a dog. Fearing that he would shoot his sharp quills at me, and hit me all over, I ran from him as fast as my tired feet would carry me.

In my fright and hurry I forgot to keep my eye on the rainbow, as I had done before; and when, at last, I remembered and looked for it, it was nowhere in sight! It had quite faded away. When I saw that it was indeed gone, I burst into tears; for I had lost all my treasures, and had nothing to show for my pilgrimage but muddy feet and a wet and torn frock. So I set out for home.

But I soon found that my troubles had only begun; I could not find my way; I was lost. I could not tell which was east or west, north or south, but wandered about here and there, crying and calling, though I knew that no one could hear me.

All at once I heard voices shouting and hallooing; but, instead of being rejoiced at this, I was frightened, fearing that the Indians were upon me! I crawled under some bushes, by the side of a large log, and lay perfectly still. I was wet, cold, scared,—altogether very miserable indeed; yet, when the voices came near, I did not start up and show myself.

At last I heard my own name called; but I remembered that Indians were very cunning, and thought they might have found it out some way; so I did not answer. Then came a voice near me, that sounded like that of my eldest brother, who lived away from home, and whom I had not seen for many months; but I dared not believe the voice was his. Soon some one sprang up on to the log by which I lay, and stood there calling. I could not see his face; I could only see the tips of his toes, but by them I saw that he wore a nice pair of boots, and not moccasins. Yet I remembered that some Indians dressed like white folks. I knew a young chief who was quite a dandy; who not only

"Got him a coat and breeches,
And looked like a Christian man,"

but actually wore a fine ruffled shirt outside of all. So I still kept quiet, till I heard shouted over me a pet name, which this brother had given me. It was the funniest name in the world.

I knew that no Indian knew of the name, as it was a little family secret; so I sprang up, and caught my brother about the ankles. I hardly think that an Onondaga could have given a louder yell than he gave then; and he jumped so that he fell off the log down by my side. But nobody was hurt; and, after kissing me till he had kissed away all my tears, he hoisted me on to his shoulder, called my other brothers, who were hunting in different directions, and we all set out for home.

I had been gone nearly three hours, and had wandered a number of miles. My brother Joseph's coming and asking for me had first set them to inquiring and searching me out.

When I went into the room where my brother Rufus sat, he said, "Why, my poor little sister! I did not mean to send you off on such a wild-goose chase to the end of the rainbow. I thought you would know I was only quizzing you."

Then my eldest brother took me on his knee, and told me what the rainbow really was: that it was only painted air, and did not rest on the earth, so nobody could ever find the end; and that God had set it in the cloud to remind him and us of his promise never again to drown the world with a flood.

"O, I think God's promise would be a beautiful name for the rainbow!" I said.

"Yes," replied my mother, "but it tells us something more than that he will not send great floods upon the earth,—it tells us of his beautiful love always bending over us from the skies. And I trust that when my little girl sets forth on a pilgrimage to find God's love, she will be led by the rainbow of his promise through all the dark places of this world to 'treasures laid up in heaven,' better, far better, than silver or gold."