Life And Love Return
( Originally Published 1921 )
HYMEN COMES WITH SPRING
"My SON, it is ever thus, when spring is on the way," rniled Oo-koo-hoo, as Granny entered with glee and displayed a new deerskin work-bag, containing needles, thread, thimble, and scissors; a present from Shing-wauk The Little Pine—Neykia's lover.
"Now that Spring and Love are going to hunt together," further remarked the Indian, " the snow will run away, and the ice begin to tremble when it hears the home-coming birds singing among the trees. Ah, my son, it reminds me of the days of my youth," sighed The Owl, "when I, too, was a lover."
"Tell me," I coaxed.
"It was many years ago, at the New Year's dance at Fort Perseverance that I first met Ojistoh. She was thirteen then, and as beautiful as she was young. . . . No; I shall never forget those days . . . When she spoke her voice was as gentle as the whispering south wind, and when she ran she passed among the trees as silently and as swiftly as a vanishing dream; but now," added Oo-koo-hoo, with a sly, teasing glance at his wife, "but now look at her, my son . . . She is nothing but a bundle of old wrinkled leather, that makes a noise like a she-wolf that has no mate, and when she waddles about she goes thudding around on the split end of her body like a rabbit with frozen feet."
But Granny, saying never a word, seized the wooden fire-poker, and dealt ber lord and master such a vigorous blow across the shoulders that she slew his chuckle of laughter the moment it was born. Then, as the dust settled, silence reigned. A little Iater, as Granny put more wood upon the fire, she turned to me with twinkling eyes and said :
"My son, if you could have seen the old loon when he was courting me, it would have filled your heart with laughter. It is true he was always a loon, for in those days Oo-koo-hoo, the great hunter, was even afraid of his own shadow, for he never dared call upon me in daylight, and even when he came sneaking round at night he always took good care that it was at a time when my father was away from home. Furthermore, he always chose a stormy evening when the snow would be drifting and thus cover his trail; and worse still, when he came to court me he always wore women's snowshoes; because, my son, he had not courage enough to come as a man."
This sally, however, only made Oo-koo-hoo smile the more as he puffed away at his brier.
"Did he always bring your grandmother a present?" I enquired.
"No, my son, not always, he was too stingy," replied the old woman, "but he did once in a while, I must grant him that." "What was it)"
"Oh, just a few coils of tripe."
But Granny, of course, was joking, that was why she did not explain that deer tripe filled with blood was as great a delicacy as a suitor could offer his prospective grandmother-in-law; for among certain forest tribes, it is the custom that a marriage-able daughter leaves the lodge of her parents and takes up her abode with her grandmother that is, if the old lady is living within reasonable distance.
Shing-wauk The Little Pine had come that day, and had been invited to sleep in Amik's tepee; yet he spent the greater part of his time sitting with Neykia in her grandmother's lodge. As there are no cozy corners in a tepee, it is the Ojibway custom for a lover to converse with his sweetheart under cover of a blanket which screens the lovers from the gaze of the other occupants of the lodge. Early in the evening the blanket always hung in a dignified way, as though draped over a couple of posts set a few feet apart. Later, however, the posts frequently lost their balance and swayed about in such a way as to come dangerously near colliding. Then, if the old grand-mother did not speak or make a stir, the blanket would sometimes show that one support had given away. Accordingly, the old woman was able to judge by the general contour of the blanket just how the courtship was progressing, and being a foxy old dame she occasionally pretended to snore just to see what might happen.
One night, however, Granny's snoring was no longer pre-tense, and Ns hen she woke up from her nap, she found that both supports of the blanket were in immediate danger of collapsing. Seizing the stick with which she used to poke the fire, she leaped up and belaboured the blanket so severely that it lost no time in recovering its proper form.
Kissa Pesin (The Old Moon)—February, and Mikesewe Pesim (The Eagle Moon)—March, had flown and now Niske Pesim, (The Goose Moon) April, had arrived; and with it had come the advance guard of a few of those numerous legions of migratory birds and fowls that are merely winter visitors to the United States, Mexico, and South America; while Canada is their real home the place where they were born. Next would follow Ayeke Pesim (the Frog Moon) of May, when love would be in full play; then a little later would come Wawe Pesim (The Egg Moon) otherwise June, when the lovers would he living together or nesting.
Yes, truly, the long-tarrying but wonderous Goose Moon had at last arrived, and at last, too, the spring hunt was on. It was now a joyous season accompanied with charming music rendered by the feathered creatures. Overhead the geese where honking, out upon the lake the loons were calling, near the shore the ducks were quacking, while all through the woods the smaller birds were singing. Now, even among the shadows, the snow was slinking away; while the river ice, plunging along with a roar, ran down to the lake where it rested quietly in a space of open water.
Now, too, it so happened that day, that Neykia, she of woodland grace and beauty, was strolling in the sunshine with her Little Pine; while on every side the trees were shaking their heads and it seemed gossiping about the hunting plans of that reckless little elfin hunter, Hymen, who was hurrying overland and shooting his joyous arrows in every direction, till the very air felt charged with the whisperings of countless lovers. It made me think of the shy but radiant Athabasca, and I wondered was her lover with her now?
THE SPRING HUNT
The Indians divide their annual hunt. for fur into three distinct hunting seasons: the fall hunt frorn autumn until Christmas; the winter hunt from New Year's Day until Easter; and the spring hunt from Easter until the hunters depart for their tribal summer camping ground. At the end of each hunting season if the fur-runners have not traded with the hunters and if the hunter is not too far away from the post he usually loads upon his sled the result of his fall hunt and hauls it to the Post during Christmas week; likewise he hauls to the Post the catch of his winter hunt about Easter time; while the gain from his spring hunt is loaded aboard his canoe and taken to the Post the latter part of May. Easter time, or the end of the winter hunt, marks the closing of the hunting season for all land animals except bear; and the renewing of the hunting season for bear, beaver, otter, mink, and muskrat, all water animals save the first.
Meanwhile, the canoes had been overhauled: freshly patched, stitched, and gummed, their thwarts strengthened, their ribs adjusted, and their bottoms greased.
A few days later, loading some traps and kit among which was the hunter's bow and quiver of arrows aboard his small canoe, Oo-koo-hoo and I set out at sunrise and paddling around the western end of Bear Lake, entered Bear River. It was a cold but delightful morning, and the effect of the sun shining through the rising mist was extremely beautiful. We were going otter- and muskrat-hunting; and as we descended that charming little stream and wound about amid its marshy flats and birch- and poplar-clad slopes, every once in a while ducks startled us by suddenly whirring out of the mist. Then, when long light lines of rippling water showed in the misty screen we knew that they were nothing but the wakes of swimming muskrats; and soon we glided into a colony of them; but for the time being they were not at home the still-rising spring freshet had driven them from their flooded houses.
The muskrat's little island lodge among the rushes is erected upon a foundation of mud and reeds that rises about two feet before it protrudes above the surface of the water. The building material, taken from round the base, by its removal helps to form a deep-water moat that answers as a further protection to the muskrat's home. Upon that foundation the house is built by piling upon it more reeds and mud. Then the tunnels are cut through the pile from about the centre of the over-water level down and out at one side of the under-water foundation, while upon the top more reeds and mud are placed to form the dome-shaped roof, after which the chamber inside is cleared. The apex of the roof rises about three feet above the water. In some localities, however, muskrats live in dens excavated in the banks of rivers or ponds. To these dens several under-water runways lead.
Muskrats feed principally on the roots and stalks of many kinds of sub-aqueous plants. In winter time, when their pond is frozen over, and when they have to travel far under water to find their food, they sometimes make a point of keeping several water-holes open, so that after securing their food, they may rise at a convenient hole and eat their meal without having to make long trips to their house for the purpose. In order to keep the water-hole from freezing, they build a little house of reeds and mud over it. Sometimes, too, they store food in their lodges, especially the bulbous roots of certain plants.
Muskrats, like beavers, use their tails for signalling danger, and when alarm causes them to dive they make a great noise, out of all proportion to their size. Thus the greenhorn from the city is apt to take the muskrat's nightly plunges for the sound of deer leaping into water; and just in the same way does the sleepless tenderfoot mistake the thudding footfalls of the midnight rabbit for those of moose or caribou running round his tent.
Muskrats are fairly sociable and help one another in their work. They mate in April and their young are born about a month later. The Indians claim that they pair like the heaver, and that the father helps to take care of the children. The young number from three to eight. When they are full grown their coats are dark brown. In length muskrats measure about eighteen inches, while in weight they run from a pound and a half to two pounds.
Except in autumn, their range is exceedingly small, though at that season they wander much farther away from their homes. If danger threatens they are always ready to fight, and they prove to be desperate fighters, too. While stow on land, they are swift in water; and such excellent divers are they that in that way they sometimes escape their greatest enemy the mink; though wolves, fishers, foxes, otters, as well as birds of prey and Indians are always glad to have a muskrat for dinner.
But to return to our muskrat hunt: Oo-koo-hoo, stringing his bow and adjusting an arrow, let drive at one of the little animals as it sat upon some drift-wood. The blunt-headed shaft just skimmed its back and sank into the mud beyond; the next arrow, however, bowled the muskrat over; and in an hour's time The Owl had eleven in his canoe. When I questioned him as to why he used such an ancient weapon, he explained that a bow was much better than a gun, as it did not frighten the other muskrats away, also it did not injure the pelt in the way shot would do, and, moreover, it was much more economical.
Occasionally Oo-koo-hoo would imitate the call of the muskrats; sometimes to arrest their attention, but more often to entice them within easy range of his arrows. If he killed them outright while they were swimming, they sank like stones; but when only wounded, they usually swam round on the surface for a while. Once, however, a wounded one dived, and, seizing hold of a reed, held on with its teeth in order to escape its pursuer; Oo-koo-hoo, nevertheless, eventually landed it in his canoe.
In setting steel traps for them the hunter placed the traps either in the water or on the bank at a spot where they were in the habit of going ashore, and to decoy them to that landing Oo-koo-hoo rubbed castoreum on the branches of the surrounding bushes just in the same way as he did for mink or otter. Another way he had of setting traps was to cut a hole in the side of a muskrat's house, so that he could thrust in his arm and feel for the entrance to the tunnel, then he would set a trap there and close up the hole.
One day when he was passing a muskrat house that he had previously opened for that purpose and closed again, he discovered that the hole was again open. Thinking that the newly added mud had merely fallen out, he thrust his arm into the hole to reach for the trap, when without the slightest warning some animal seized him by the finger. It was a mink that had been raiding the house; and in the excitement that followed, the brute escaped. The hunter, however, made Little of his in-jury; chewing up a quid of tobacco, he placed it over the wound and bound it securely with a rag torn from the tail of his shirt.
Oo-koo-hoo explained that in winter time, when there was little snow, he often speared muskrats through the ice. The spear point is usually made of quarter-inch iron wire and attached to a seven-foot shaft. Much of the spearing he did at the rats' feeding and airing places those little dome-shaped affairs made of reeds and mud that cover their water-holes. The hunter, enabled by the clearness of the ice, followed their runways and traced them to where the little fellows often sat inside their shelters. knowing that the south side of the shelter is the thinnest side, The Owl would drive in his spear and impale the little dweller.
HUNTING THE OTTER
That afternoon Oo-koo-hoo set a number of traps for otter. When placed on land otter traps are set as for fox, though of course of a larger size, and the same statement applies to dead-falls; while the bait used for both kinds of otter traps is the same as that used for mink. The otter is an unusually playful, graceful, active, and powerful animal; but when caught in a trap becomes exceedingly vicious, and the hunter must take care lest he be severely bitten. Oo-koo-hoo told me that on one occasion, when he was hunting otters, he lost his favourite dog. The dog was holding an otter prisoner in a rocky pocket where the water was shallow, and the otter, waiting to attack the dog when off guard, at last got its chance, seized its adversary by the throat, and that was the end of the dog.
The otter is not only easily tamed, but makes a charming pet, as many a trader has proved; and it is one of the few animals that actually indulge in a sport or game for the sheer sake of the thrill it affords. Thus the otter is much given to the Canadian sports of tobogganing and "shooting the chute," but it does it without sled or canoe; and at all seasons of the year it may be seen sharing its favourite slide sometimes fifty or a hundred feet in length with its companions. If in summer, the descent is made on a grassy or clayey slope down which the animals swiftly glide, ami plunge headlong into deep water. If the sport takes place on a clay bank, the wet coats of the otters soon make the slide so slippery that the descent is made at thrilling speed. But in winter time the sport be-comes general, as then the snow forms a more convenient and easier surface down which to slide. The otter, though not a fast traveller upon land, is a master swimmer, and not only does it pursue and overtake the speckled trout, but also the swift and agile salmon.
Otters den in the river or lake bank and provide an under-water entrance to their home. They mate in February and the young never more than five, but more often two are born in April; and though their food includes flesh and fowl muskrats, frogs, and young ducks it is principally composed of fish.
Though slow on land an otter often travels considerable distances, especially in winter time, when it goes roaming in search of open water. If pursued it has a protective way of diving into and crawling swiftly beneath the surface of the snow, in such a way that though its pursuer may run fast, he more often loses his quarry; I know, because I have experienced it.
The otter not only has its thick, oily, dark-brown fur to keep it warm, but also a thick Iayer of fat between its skin and body; and thus, seal-like, it seems to enjoy in comfort the coldest of winter water. Otters measure three or four feet in length and in weight run from fifteen to thirty pounds.
The Indians of the Strong Woods are very susperstitious in relation to the otter. They not only refuse to eat the flesh, but they don't like to take the carcass home, always preferring to skin it where it is caught. Even then they dislike to place the skin in their hunting bag, but will drag it behind them on the snow_ Also, Indian women refuse to skin an otter, as they have a superstition that it would prevent them from becoming mothers.
One afternoon, when Oo-koo-hoo and I were sitting on a high rock overlooking the rapids on Bear River, he espied an otter ascending the turbulent waters by walking on the river bottom. We watched the animal for some time. It was an interesting sight, as it was evidently hunting for fish that might be resting in the backwaters behind the boulders. Every time it would ascend the rapids it would rise to the surface and then quietly float down stream in the sluggish, eddying shore currents where the bushes overhung the bank. Then it would again dive and again make the ascent by crawling up the river bottom.
"My son, watch him closely, for if he catches a fish you will see that he always seizes it either by the head or tail, rarely by the middle, as the fish would then squirm and shake so violently that the otter would not like it. Sometimes, too, an otter will lie in wait on a rock at the head of a rapid, and when a fish tries to ascend to the upper reach of the river by leaping out of the water and thus avoiding the swift current, the otter will leap, too, and seize the fish in mid-air. It is a thrilling sight to see him do it."
The snow was going so rapidly and the water running so freely that Oo-koo-hoo felt sure the bears had now all left their dens, otherwise water might he trickling into their winter beds. So, for the next few days, the hunter was busily engaged in setting traps for hears, beavers, otters, minks, and muskrats; and thus the spring hunt went steadily on while the Goose Moon waned and then disappeared, and in its place the Frog Moon shone.
LITTLE PINE'S LOVE SONG
One sunny morning, while I was strolling along the beach, I heard the sound of distant drumming, and presently a youthful voice broke into song. It was The Little Pine singing to his sweetheart.
Now it was Maytime in the Northland. Tender grasses were thrusting their tiny blades from under last year's leaves and here and there the woodland's pale-green carpet was enriched with masses of varying colours where wild flowers were bursting into bloom. Yet the increasing power of the sun had failed to destroy every trace of winter for occasional patches of snow were to be seen clinging to the shady sides of the steepest hills and small ice floes were still floating in the lake below. But as summer comes swiftly in the Great Northern Forest, spring loses no time in lingering by the way. Already the restless south wind was singing softly to the "Loneland" of the glorious days to come.
The forest and all her creatures, hearing the song of spring time, were astir with joyous life. Among the whispering trees the bees were humming, the squirrels chattering, and many kinds of birds were making love to one another.
No wonder Shing-wauk The Little Pine sang his love song, too, for was not his heart aflame with the spring time of life? Perched high among the branches of a pine the youth was relieving the monotony of his drumming by occasionally chanting. At the foot of the thickly wooded hillside upon which the pine stood the indolent waters of Muskrat Creek meandered toward Bear Lake. On the bank near the river's mouth stood the Iodges, but neither Oo-koo-hoo nor Amik seemed to be at home; and the rest of the family may have been absent, too, for the dogs were mounting guard.
Again the boy beat his drum; louder and louder he sang his love song until his soft rich voice broke into a wail. Presently the door-skin of Granny's lodge was gently pushed aside, and Neykia stepped indolently forth.
Shading her eyes with her hand, the girl gazed at the hillside, but failed to discern her Iover in the tree top. She listened awhile and then, upon hearing once more the love song above the beating of the drum, yielded to the dictates of her heart and began to climb the hill. Little Pine saw her coming, ceased his drumming, and slid down to hide behind the tree trunk.
A faintly marked woodland path led close by, and along it the maiden was advancing. As she came abreast of the tree the youth, in fun, gave a shout, and the maid evidently pretending bashful alarm took to flight.
Though fleet of foot, she suffered him to overtake her soon and catch her by the arm, and hold her while she feigned to struggle desperately for freedom. That won, she turned away with a laugh, sat down upon a bank of wild flowers, and with shyly averted face, began plucking them. Little Pine sat down beside her. A moment later she sprang up and with merry laughter ran into the denser forest, and there, with her lover swiftly following her, disappeared from view.
At sunset that evening Oo-koo-hoo and his wife sat smoking beside their fire; and when the hermit thrush was singing, the whippoorwill whippoorwilling, the owl oo-koo-hooing, the fox barking, the bull frog whoo-wonking, the gander honking, the otter whistling, the drake quacking, the squirrel chattering, the cock grouse drumming, and the wolf howling each to his own chosen mate, the hunter turned to me and smiled :
"Do you hear Shing-wauk singing?"
I listened more attentively to the many mingling love songs of the forest dwellers, and sure enough, away off along the shore, I could hear Little Pine singing to his sweetheart. It was charming.
THE LOVE DANCE
" My son," sighed Oo-koo-hoo, "it reminds me of the days when I, too, was a boy and when Ojistoh was a girl, away back among the many springs of long ago."
"Yes, Narpim," smiled Granny for an Indian woman never calls her husband by his name, but always addresses him as Narpim, which means "my man."
"Yes, Narpim, don't you remember when I heard that drumming away off among the trees, and when I, girl-like, pretended I did not know what it meant, but you, saying never a word and taking me by the hand, led me to the very spot where that handsome little lover was beating his drum and making love to so many sweethearts?"
"Yes, I remember it well, when I took little Ojistoh, my sweetheart, by the hand and we hurried to find the little drummer." Then, turning to me, the hunter continued: "My son, one never forgets the days of his youth, and well can I recall picking our way in and out among the trees and undergrowth, tiptoeing here and there lest our moccasined feet should break a fallen twig and alarm the drummer or the dancers. For it was the love dance we were going to see. As the drumming sound increased in volume, our caution increased, too. Soon we deemed it prudent to go down upon our hands and knees and thus be more surely screened by the underbrush as we stealthily approached. Creeping on toward the sound, slowly and with infinite precaution, we discovered that we were not the only ones going to the dance: the whirring of wings frequently rustled overhead as ruffed grouse skimmed past us in rapid flight.
"Once, my son, we felt the wind from a hawk's wing swooping low from bush to bush, as though endeavouring to arrive unheralded. Twice we caught sight of a fox silently and craftily stealing along. Once we saw a lynx a soft gray shadow slinking through the undergrowth ahead. It seemed as if all the Strong Woods dwellers were going to the love dance, too, and, I remember, Ojistoh began to feel afraid. But," smiled Oo-koo-hoo, "she was devoured with curiosity; and, besides, was not her young lover with her? Why need she fear?
"When we carne to the foot of a ridge the drumming sounded very near. With utmost wariness we crawled from bush to hush, pausing every now and then, and crouching low. Then, judging the way still clear, we crawled forward, and finally gained the top of the ridge. With thumping hearts we rested a moment in a crouching posture, for we had at last arrived upon the scene. Slowly and breathlessly raising our heads, we peered through the leafy screen and beheld the love dance in full swing.
"And there, my son, on a clear sandy opening in the wood, twenty or thirty partridge hens were dancing in a semicircle, in the centre of which, perched upon a rotten log, a beautiful cock partridge drummed. He was standing with his small head thrust forward upon a finely arched neck which was circled by a handsome outstanding black ruff, fully as wide as his body. His extended wings grazed his perch, while his superb tail spread out horizontally.
"'Chun—chun-shun—chun -chun-n nnnnrumnnnnnnn,' he hissed slowly at first, but with steadily increasing rapidity. His bill was open; his bright eyes were gleaming; his wings were beating at such a rate that the forest resounded with the prolonged roll of his drumming. Again and again he shrilled his love call, and again and again he beat his wondrous accompaniment. Every little while the whirring of swiftly moving wings was heard overhead as other hens flew down to join in the love dance. To and fro strutted the cock bird in all his pride of beauty his wings trailing upon the log, his neck arched more haughtily than ever, his ruff rising above his head, and his handsome fan-like tail extended higher still.
"Meanwhile, my son, the hens, too, were strutting up and down, and in and out among their rivals; some, with wings brushing upon the ground; others, with a single wing spread out, against which they frequently kicked the nearest foot as they circled round each other. A continuous hissing was kept up, along with a shaking of heads from side to side, a ceremonious bowing, and a striking of bills upon the ground. But though the cock was doing his best to dazzle them with the display of his charms the hens appeared unconscious of his presence and indifferent to his advances.
"There Ojistoh and I were gazing in silent admiration at the scene before us, when without the slightest warning, and as though dropped from the sky another cock landed in the midst of the dancers. Immediately the cock of the dance rushed at the intruder and fiercely attacked him.
"But the newcomer was ready. My son, you should have seen them. Bills and wings clashed together. In a moment feathers were flying and blood was running. But the hens never paused in their love dance. Again and again the feathered fighters dashed at each other, only to drop apart. Then, facing each other with drooping wings, ruffled plumes, extended necks, lowered heads, and gaping bills, they would gasp for breath. A moment later they would spring into the air and strike viciously at each other with bill and wing, then separate again. The sand was soon strewn with feathers and sprinkled with blood, yet the belligerents kept renewing the deadly conflict. Unconcernedly, all the while, the stupid hens tripped to and fro in the evolutions of their love dance.
"Already the intruder's scalp was torn; the left wing of the cock of the dance was broken; and both were bleeding copiously. It was a great fight, my son, and the end was near. At the next rush the intruder knocked the cock of the dance down, and leaping upon him, drove his bill into his skull, killing him.
"After a brief rest to recover breath, the victor jumped over his late rival's body, took a short leap into the air, gave a back kick of contempt, flew up on the log, and looked round as though seeking for female applause. But the hens, with apparently never a thought of him, still kept up their dancing. Presently he, too, sounded his love call and drummed his accompaniment. Then, strutting up and down, he inspected the dancers. When he had made up his mind as to which was the belle of the dance, he made a rush for her.
"But, my son, at that very moment a lynx sprang through the air, seized him by the neck, and bounded off with him among the bushes. In the confusion that followed, the hens flew away and I, seizing Ojistoh, kissed her. Startled, she leaped up, and with laughter ran away, but in hot pursuit I followed her."
THE WAYS OF THE FEMALE
"Ah, my son," commented Granny with a smile and a shake of her head as she drew her pipe from her mouth, "Narpim has always been like that . . . but he was worse in the days of his youth . . . fancy him taking a little girl to see the love dance . . . the old rabbit!"
"The old rabbit . . . indeed?" Oo-koo-hoo questioned. "Why, it was just the other way round. It was you who wanted me to take you there; it was your hypocritical pretence of innocence that made me do it; and though, as you said, I took your hand, it was you who was always leading the way."
Then was renewed the ancient and never-settled question as to who was at fault, the old Adam or the old Eve; but as Granny usually got the better of it by adding the last word, Oo-koo-hoo turned to me in disgust and grunted: "listen to her . . . why, my son, it has always been the female that did the courting _ . . all down through the Great, Great Long Ago, it, has ever been thus . . . and so it is to-day. Look at the cow of the moose, the doe of the deer, the she of the lynx, the female of the wolf, the she of the bear, the goose, the duck, the hen, and the female of the rabbit. What do they do when they want a mate? .
They bellow and run, they meow and bow, they howl and prance, they twitter and dance . . . just as women have always done. And when the male comes, what does the female do? She pretends indifference, she feigns innocence, she runs away, and stops to listen, afraid lest she has run too far; and then, if he does not follow, she comes deceitfully back again and pre-tends not even to see him. Remember, my son, that though the female always runs away, she never runs so fast that she couldn't run faster; and it makes no difference whether the female has wings or fins, flippers or feet, it is all the same . . . the female always does the courting."
No doubt, had they ever met, Oo-koo-hoo and George Bernard Shaw would have become fast friends; for George, too, insists on the very same thing. But does not the average man, from his great store of conceit, draw the flattering inference that it is he and he alone who does the courting, and that his success is entirely due to his wonderful display of physical and mental charm; while the average woman looks in her mirror and laughs in her sleeve less gown.
Though for some time silence filled the tepee and the dogs were asleep beside the door, the pipes still glowed; and Oo-koo-hoo, stirring the fire, mused aloud :
"But, perhaps, my son, you wonder why the hen partridges dance that way and why the cock drums his accompaniment?" " It does seem strange," I replied.
"But not, my son, if you know their history. It is an old, old story, and it began away back in the Great, Great, Long Ago, even before it was the custom of our people to marry. It happened this way : Once there was an old chief who used oftentimes to go away alone into the woods and mount upon a high rock and sing his hunting songs and beat his drum. Since he was much in favour, many women would come and listen to his songs; also, they would dance before him to attract his attention.
"Now it came to pass on a certain day that a young chief of another tribe happened by chance upon that way. Hearing the drumming, he resolved to find out what it was about. Deep into the heart of the wood he followed the sound and came upon an open glade wherein were many women dancing before a huge boulder. Wondering, with great admiration, the young chief gazed upon their graceful movements and comely figures, and determined to rush in and capture the most beautiful of them. Turning thought into act, he bounded in among the dancers, and, to his amazement, discovered the old chief, who, at sight of him, dropped his drum, grasped his war club, and leaping down from his rocky eminence, rushed upon the young interloper in a frenzy of jealous fury. The women made no outcry; for, like the female moose or caribou, they love the victor. So to the accompaniment of the men's hard breathing and the clashing of their war clubs, they went unconcernedly on with their love dance. In the end the young chief slew the older one, and departed in triumph with the women. But, my son, when the Master of Life learned what had happened, he was exceeding wroth; insomuch that he turned the young chief and the women into partridges. That is why the part-ridges dance the love dance even to this day."
HUNTING WILD FOWL
Next morning, while Oo-koo-hoo was examining a muskrat lodge from his canoe, he heard a sudden "honk, honk," and looking up he espied two Canada geese flying low and straight toward us; seizing his gun, he up with it and let drive at one of the geese as it was passing beyond him, and brought it down. He concluded that they had just arrived from the south and were seeking a place to feed. Later, we encountered at close range several more and the hunter secured another.
As they were the first geese he had killed that season, he did not allow the women to touch them, but according to the Indian custom, dressed and cooked them himself; also, at supper time, he gave all the flesh to the rest of us, and saved for himself nothing but the part from which the eggs came. Further, he cautioned us not to laugh or talk while eating the geese, otherwise their spirits would be offended and he would have ill-luck for the rest of the season. And when the meal was finished he collected all the bones and tossed them into the centre of the fire, so that they would be properly consumed instead of allowing the dogs to eat them; and thus he warded off misfortune.
As we sat by the fire that night Oo-koo-hoo busied himself making decoys for geese, by chopping blocks of dry pine into rough images of their bodies, and fashioning their necks and heads from bent willow sticks; as well as roughly staining the completed models to represent the plumage. And while he worked he talked of the coming of the birds in spring.
"My son, the first birds to arrive are the eagles; next, the snow-birds and the barking crows (ravens) ; then the big gray (Canada) geese, and the larger ducks; then the smaller kinds of geese and the smaller kinds of ducks; and then the robins, blackbirds, and gulls. Then, as likely as not, a few days later, what is called a 'goose winter' a heavy, wet snowstorm followed by colder weather may come along and try to drive the birds all back again; but before the bad weather completes its useless work a timely south wind may arrive, and with the aid of a milder spell, will utterly destroy the 'goose winter'
Then, after that, the sky soon becomes mottled with flying birds of many kinds: gray geese, laughing geese, waveys, and white geese, as well as great flocks of ducks of many kinds; also mud-hens, sawbills, waders, plovers, curlew, pelicans, swans, and cranes, both white and gray. Then another great flight of little birds as well as loons, And last of all may come the little husky geese that travel farther north to breed their young than do those of any other kind."
The next day the hunters built a "goose stand" on the sandy beach of Willow Point by making a screen about six feet long by three feet high of willow branches; and, as the ground was wet and cold, a brush mattress was laid behind the screen upon which the hunters could sit while watching for geese. The site was a good one, as Willow Point jutted into the lake near a big marsh on its south side. Beyond the screen they set their decoys, some in the water and others on the sand, but all heading up wind. When they shot their first geese, the hunters cut off the wings and necks together with the heads and fastened them in a natural way upon the decoys.
Oo-koo-hoo told me that when one wished to secure geese, he should be in readiness to take his position behind the stand before the first sign of morning sun. Furthermore, he told me that geese were usually looking for open water and sandy beaches from eight to nine o'clock; from ten to twelve they preferred the marshes in order to feed upon goose grass and goose weed, as well as upon the roots and seeds of other aquatic plants. Then from noon to four o'clock they sought the lakes to preen themselves; while from four to six they returned to the sandy beaches and then resorted to the marshes in which to spend the night. That was the usual procedure for from ten to fifteen days, then away they went to their more northern breeding grounds where they spent midsummer.
Seeing a hawk soaring overhead, Oo-koo-hoo said it reminded him of a hawk that once bothered him by repeatedly swooping down among his dead-duck decoys, and each time he had to rush from his blind to drive the hawk away or it would have carried away one of his dead ducks; and being short of am-munition, he did not care to waste a shot. But he ended the trouble by taking up all his dead ducks save one. Then he removed the pointed iron from his muskrat spear, and ramming the butt of the iron into the sand, left it standing up beside the duck as though it had been a reed. The next time the hawk swooped down, he let it drive with full force at the dead duck, and thus impale itself on the muskrat spear.
But one day, after the geese had passed on their northward journey, Oo-koo-hoo began making other decoys of a different nature, and when I questioned him, he replied that he was going to kill a few loons with his bow and arrow, as Granny wished to use the skins of their necks to make a work-bag for the Factor's wife at Fort Consolation. After shaping the decoys, he mixed together gunpowder, charcoal, and grease with which to paint the decoys black save where he left spots of the light-coloured wood to represent the white markings of those beautiful birds. When the decoys were eventually anchored in the bay they bobbed about on the rippling water quite true to life and they even took an occasional dive, when the anchor thong ran taut.
After supper, when we were talking about old customs, I questioned Oo-koo-hoo as to how the Indians married before it was the custom to go to the Post to get the clergyman to perform that rite; and in reply he said :
"My son, Ojistoh and I were married both ways, so I don't think I can do better than to tell you how our own marriage took place. It was this way, my son: one night, when old Noo-koom, Ojistoh's grandmother, became convinced that we lovers had sat under the blanket long enough, she decided that it was time we sat upon the brush together, or were married. Accordingly, she talked the matter over with Ojistoh's parents. They agreed with her, and Ojistoh's father said: 'It is well that Oo-koo-hoo and Ojistoh should be married according to the custom of our people, but it is also well that we should retain the friendship of the priest and the nuns. On our return to Fort Perseverance, therefore, the children must be married in the face of the Church; but I charge you all not to let any one at the Post know that Oo-koo-hoo and Ojistoh have already been married after the custom of our people. It is well that we should live according to the ways of our forefathers, and it is also well that we should seem to adopt the ways of the white man. Now call Ojistoh, and let me hear what she has to say.'
"When Ojistoh came in, her father told her that I was a good boy; that I would certainly make a successful hunter; and that, if she would sit upon the brush with me, they would give her plenty of marrow grease for her hair and some porcupine quills for her moccasins. They might even buy her some ribbon, beads, and silk thread for fancy work. Furthermore, they said I would be given enough moose skins to make a lodge covering.
"Ojistoh chewed meditatively upon the large piece of spruce gum in her mouth, while she listened with averted eyes and drooping head. But old Noo-koom, evidently supposing Ojistoh to be in doubt, interposed: 'You must sit upon the brush with him, because I have promised that you would. Did we not eat the fat and the blood, and use the firewood he left at our door?'
"The remembrance, no doubt, of all that dainty eating decided Ojistoh, and she gave her word that she would sit upon the brush with me if they would promise to buy her a bottle of perfume when they returned to Fort Perseverance. When Ojistoh left the lodge, her father said to me:
"'Listen, my boy, Noo-koom tells me that you have been sitting under the blanket with my daughter Ojistoh. She is a good girl and will make you happy; for she can make good moccasins.'
"'Yes,' I replied, 'I know the girl and I want her.'
"'Tomorrow, then,' said her father, 'you must sit upon the brush with her. I will tell the women to prepare the feast.'
"Next morning Ojistoh sat waiting in her Iodge for me to come. Already she wore the badge of womanhood, for not having a new dress she had simply reversed her old one and buttoned it up in front instead of the back. For it is the custom of Ojibway girls to button their dresses behind and for married women to button theirs in front.
"My son, you should have seen me that morning, for I was bedecked in all my finery, and upon entering Noo-koom's lodge, I seized Ojistoh by the hair of her head, and dragged her out. Her struggles to escape from me were quite edifying in their propriety. Her shrieks were heartrending or rather, they would have been had they not alternated with delighted giggles. By that time the wedding march had begun; for as we struggling lovers led the way, the children, bubbling with laughter, followed; and the old people brought up the rear of the joyous procession. We, the happy couple, tussled with each other until we reached a spot in the bush where I had cleared a space and laid a carpet of balsam brush beside a fire. There I deposited her. With a final shriek she accepted the new conditions, and at once set about her matrimonial duties, while the others returned to their lodges to put the finishing touches to the wedding breakfast.
"Oh, yes, my son, those were happy days," continued the hunter. "There, beside a great fire in the open, was laid a carpet of brush, in the centre of which a blanket was spread, and upon it the feast. There were rabbits, partridges, and fish roasted upon sticks. In a pot, boiled fresh moose and caribou meat; in another, simmered lynx entrails, bear fat, and moose steak. In a third, stewed ducks and geese. In a fourth, bubbled choice pieces of beaver, muskrat, lynx, and skunk. Besides, there were caribou tongues, beaver tails, bear meat, and foxes' entrails roasted upon the coals. Strong tea in plenty, fresh birch syrup, forest-made cranberry wine, a large chunk of dried Saskatoon berries served with bear's grease, frozen cranberries, and a little bannock made of flour, water, and grease, completed the fare.
"Then, too, Ojistoh sat beside me and ate out of my dish. She even used my pipe for an after-dinner smoke. Then, after an interval of rest, dancing began, by the dancers circling the fire to the measured beat of a drum. Round and round we moved in silence. Then, breaking into a chant, we men faced the women, and from time to time solemnly revolved. But the women never turned their backs upon the fire. It was rather slow, monotonous measure, only relieved by the women and children throwing feathers at one another. Between each dance the company partook of refreshments, and so the festivity proceeded until daylight. Next morning Ojistoh's father gave us some wholesome advice and then we set up housekeeping on our own account, and, as you see, have continued it even to this day; haven't we, my little Ojistoh? " smiled the old hunter at his wife.
One Sunday morning, when spring was all a-dance to the wondrous wild music of the woods, I sat in the warmth of the sun and thought of my Creator. Later, I learned that Oo-koo-hoo and Amik were also thinking of Him; for in the wilderness one often thinks of The Master of Life. That morning I thought, too, of the tolling of village church bells and of cathedral chimes, and I contrasted those metallic sounds with the beautiful singing of the birds of the forest; also I contrasted the difference of a Sunday in the city with a Sunday in the wilderness; and my soul rested in supreme contentment. Yet the ignorant city dwellers think of the wilderness as "God-forsaken." Hunt the world over, and could one find any more holy places than some of Nature's sanctuaries? I have found many, but I shall recall but one, a certain grove on the Alaskan border.
It was in one of the wildest of all wild regions of the northern world. "God-forsaken" . . . indeed? In truth, it seemed to be the very home of God. There, between the bases of two towering perpendicular ranges of mountains, mantled by end-less snows and capped by eternal ice, lay the wildest of all box-canons: one end of which was blocked by a barrier of snow hundreds of feet high and thousands of feet thick the work of countless avalanches; while the other end was blocked by a barrier of eternal ice thousands of feet in width and millions of tons in weight a living and growing glacier. And there, away down at the very bottom of that wild gorge, beside a roaring, leaping little river of seething foam, grew a beautiful grove of trees; and never a time did I enter there but what I thought of it as holy ground far more holy than any cathedral I have ever known . _ . for there, in that grove, one seemed to stand in the presence of God.
There, in that grove, the great reddish-brown boles of Sitka spruces four and five feet in diameter towered up like many huge architectural columns as they supported the ruggedly beamed and evergreen ceiling that domed far overhead. High above an altar-like mass of rock, completely mantled with gorgeously coloured mosses, an opening shone in the gray-green wall, and through it filtered long slanting beams of sunlight, as though coming through a leaded, sky-blue, stained-glass window of some wonderful cathedral. While upon the grove's mossy floor stood, row upon row, a mass of luxuriant ferns that almost covered the velvet carpet, and seemed to form endless seats in readiness for the coming of some congregation. But on only one occasion did I ever see a worshipper there.
Weary from the weight of a heavy pack seventy-five pounds of dynamite I had paused to rest a moment in that wonderful place which so few human beings had ever discovered; where, too, on passing through, it was always my custom to remove my hat just as any one would do on entering a church. There that day, as I stood gazing at the glorious sunbeams as they filtered through the great chancel window, I listened to the enchanting music of the feathered choir high overhead, that seemed to be singing to the accompaniment of one of Nature's most powerful organs the roaring river that thundered aloud, as, with all its force, it wildly rolled huge boulders down its rocky bed. Then, lowering my eyes, I discovered the one and only worshipper I ever saw there. He was standing near a side aisle in the shadow of an alcove, and he, too, was gazing up at those radiant sunbeams and listening to the choir; moreover, notwithstanding that he was a big brown bear, he appeared too devout even to notice me perhaps because he, too, felt the holy presence of "The Great Mystery". . our God.
Yes, my friend, it is my belief that if there is any place on earth that is "God-forsaken," it is not to be found in even the wildest part of the wildest wilderness, but in that cesspool called a city.
GOING TO THE POST
After half of May had passed away, and when the spring hunt was over, Oo-koo-hoo and Amik, poling up the turbulent little streams, and following as closely as possible the routes of their fur trails, went the round of their trapping paths, removed their snares, sprung their deadfalls, and gathering their steel traps loaded them aboard their canoes. That work completed, packing began in readiness for the postward journey; there, as usual, they would spend their well-earned holidays with pleasure upon their tribal summer camping grounds.
So, when all was in readiness, the deerskin lodge coverings were taken down, rolled up, and stored out of harm's way upon a stage. Then, with hearts light with happiness and canoes heavy with the wealth of the forest, we paddled away with pleasant memories of our forest home, and looked forward to our arrival at Fort Consolation.
Soon after entering Bear River the canoes were turned toward the western bank and halted at a point near one of their old camping grounds. Then Naudin—Amik's wife—left the others, and took her way among the trees to an opening in the wood. There stood two little wooden crosses that marked the graves of two of her children one a still-born girl and the other a boy who had died at the age of three. Upon the boy's grave she placed some food and a little bow and some arrows, and bowed low over it and wept aloud. But at the grave of her still-born child she forgot her grief and smiled with joy as she placed upon the mound a handful of fresh flowers, a few pretty feathers, and some handsome furs. Sitting there in the warm sunshine, she closed her eyes as she told me afterward and fancied she heard the little maid dancing among the rustling leaves and singing to her.
Like all Indian women of the Strong Woods, she believed that her still-born child would never grow larger or older; that it would never leave her; that it would always love her, though she lived to be a great-grandmother; that when sorrow and pain bowed her low this little maid would laugh and dance and talk and sing to her, and thus change her grief into joy. That is why an Indian mother puts pretty things upon the grave of her still-born child, and that is why she never mourns over it.
As our journey progressed those enemies of comfort and pleasure, the black flies, appeared, and at sunrise and sunset caused much annoyance, especially among the children. Then, too, at night if the breeze subsided, mosquitoes swarmed from the leeward side of bushes and drove slumber away.
One afternoon, while resting, we observed signs of beaver and Oo-koo-hoo, being reminded of an incident he once witnessed, related it to me:
"Once, my son, while paddling alone, I rounded the bend of a river, and hearing a splash just beyond the turn, silently propelled my canoe beneath a screen of overhanging branches. After waiting and watching awhile, I saw an otter fishing in the stream. A moment later I beheld a heaver evidently a female swimming just beyond the otter, and pursued by two other beavers evidently males. The males, perceiving the otter swimming in the direction of the female, probably carne to the conclusion that he was about to pay his court to her, for they suddenly swerved from their course and attacked the innocent otter. Ile dived to escape his assailants, and they dived after him_ When he rose for breath, they came up, too, and made after him; so he dived again. Evidently, they were trying to wind their quarry, for whenever he came up for breath they endeavoured to reach him before he got it. In a short time they had so exhausted him that he refused to dive again before he gained his breath. He made for the shore. The beavers rushed after him, overtook him, and just as he gained the hank, ripped his throat open. Then I shot one of the beavers and tossed it into my canoe along with the otter."
The journey to the Post was a delight all the way save when the flies were busy. One night those almost invisible little torments, the sand flies, caused us or rather me much misery until Granny built such a large fire that it attracted the attention of the little brutes, and into it they all dived, or apparently did just as she said they would for in less than half an hour not a single sand fly remained.
On our way to God's Lake we had considerable sport in the way of shooting white-water. One morning we landed at the head of a portage, and, as the rapid was not a dangerous one, Oo-koo-hoo and Amik determined to run it, but first went ashore to examine the channel. On their return Oo-koo-hoo instructed the others to follow his lead about four canoe-lengths apart, so that in case of mishap they could help each other. Down the canoes plunged one after the other. The children wielded their little paddles, screaming with delight as they swiftly glided through the foaming spray past shores still lined here and there with walls of ice.
As the canoes rounded a sharp bend in the rapid Oo-koo-hoo descried a black bear walking on the ice that overhung the eastern bank. The animal seemed as much surprised as any of us, and, instead of making off, rose upon its haunches and gazed in amazement at the passing canoes. But as we swept by there was no thought of firing guns. The sight of the bear reminded Oo-koo-hoo of an experience some friends of his once had with a black bear; and when we reached slack water he told it to me.
The friends in question were a mother and her daughter, and late one afternoon they were returning from berry picking. As they rounded a bend in the river the daughter in the how suddenly stopped paddling, and without turning her face toward her mother in the stern excitedly whispered: "Muskwa! Muskwa!"
Then as the older woman caught sight of a dark object fifty paces away, she uttered a few hurried commands. Both fell to paddling with all their might. With straining backs, stiffened arms, and bending blades, they fairly lifted the canoe at every stroke; and the waters gave a tearing sound as the slashing blades sent little whirlpools far behind. Their hearts were fired with the spirit of the chase, and though their only weapons were their skinning knives they felt no fear. On they raced to head the bear, who was swimming desperately to gain the shore. They overhauled him. He turned at bay. The daughter soused a blanket in the water and threw it over his head. The mother in the stern reached over as the canoe glided by, seized him by an ear as he struggled blindly beneath the smothering mantle, and drove her knife into his throat. A broad circle of crimson coloured the water round the blanket. The canoe was quickly brought about; the mother slipped a noose over his head, and in triumph they towed the carcass to their camp.
On the last morning of our trip there was a flutter of pleasant excitement among our little party; and by the time the sun appeared and breakfast was over, everybody was laughing and talking, for we had made such progress that we expected to reach Fort Consolation by ten o'clock that forenoon. Quickly we loaded the canoes again, and away we paddled. In a few hours the beautiful expanse of God's Lake appeared before us. When we sighted the old fort, a joyous shout rang out; paddles were waved overhead, and tears of joy rose to the eyes of the women and of some of the men.
Going ashore, we quickly made our toilets, donning our very finest in order to make a good appearance on our arrival at the Fort -as is the custom of the Northland. Bear's grease was employed with lavish profusion, even Oo-koo-hoo and Amik and the boys using it on their hair; while the women and girls greased and wove their tresses into a single elongated braid which hung down behind. The men put on their fancy silk-worked moccasins; tied silk handkerchiefs about their necks the reverse of cowboy fashion and beaded garters around their legs; while the women placed many brass rings upon their fingers, bright plaid shawls about their shoulders, gay silk handkerchiefs over their heads, and beaded leggings upon their legs. How I regretted I had not brought along my top-hat that idiotic symbol of civilization for if I could have worn it on that occasion, the Indians at Fort Consolation would have been so filled with merriment that they would have in all probability remembered me for many a year as the one white man with a sense of humour.
For in truth, it is just as Ohiyesa (Charles A. Eastman) the full-blooded Sioux, says in his book on Indian Boyhood : "There is scarcely anything so exasperating to me as the idea that the natives of this country have no sense of humour and no faculty for mirth. This phase of their character is well understood by those whose fortune or misfortune it has been to live among them day in and day out at their homes. I don't believe I ever heard a real hearty laugh away from the Indians' fireside. I have often spent an entire evening in laughing with them until I could laugh no more."
CONTEST OF WITS
When we arrived at Fort Consolation, Oo-koo-hoo and his party were greeted by a swarm of their copper-coloured friends, among whom were The Little Pine and his father, mother, and sister. Making his way through the press, The Owl strode toward the trading room to shake hands with Factor Mackenzie; but the trader, hearing of Oo-koo-hoo's arrival, hastened from his house to welcome the famous hunter; and The Owl greeted him with :
"Quay, quay, Hu-ge-mow" (good day, Master).
On their way to the Indian shop they passed the canoe shed, where skilled hands were finishing two handsome six-fathom canoes for the use of the Fur Brigade; and they stopped to examine them.
The building of a six-fathom or "North" canoe generally takes place under a shed erected for the purpose, where there is a clear, level space and plenty of working room. Two principal stakes are driven at a distance apart of thirty-six feet, the length of the craft to be. These are connected by two rows of smaller stakes diverging and converging so as to form the shape of the canoe. The smaller stakes are five feet apart at the centre. Pieces of birch bark are soaked in water for a day and no more, sewn together with mat-tap the roots of cedar or spruce gathered in spring placed between the stakes with the outer side down, and then made fast. The well-soaked ribs are then put in place and as soon as they are loaded with stones the bark assumes its proper form. The gunwales, into which the ends of the ribs are mortised, are bound into position with wat-tap. The thwarts are next adjusted. The stones and stakes are then removed; the seams are covered with a mixture of one part grease to nine parts spruce gum; the craft is tested, and is then held in readiness for its maiden voyage.
On entering the Indian shop or trading room, Oo-koo-hoo was ready to talk about anything under the sun save business, as he wanted to force the Trader to solicit his patronage; but as the Factor was trying to make the hunter do the same thing, they parted company a little later without having mentioned the word "trade."
No wonder the Indians are glad to return to their tribal summer camping grounds; for it is there that they rest and play and spend their summer holidays. It is there, too, that the young people enjoy the most favourable opportunity for doing their courting; as every event such as the departure or the return of the Fur Brigade calls for a festival of dancing which not infrequently lasts for several days. Also, in many other ways, the boys and girls have chances of becoming acquainted. Since young hunters often claim their sweethearts (hiring the winter, marry "marriages" take place after the Indian fashion. On their return to the Post, however, the young couples are generally married over again, and this time after the white man's custom "in the face of the Church." The way the young people "keep company" at the summer camping grounds presents no feature of special interest. It is during the winter season in the forest many miles beyond the Post that the old customs have full sway. The re-marrying the young couples "in the face of the Church" frequently demands extreme vigilance, for in the confusion of the matrimonial busy season when the Indians first come in the little papoose is apt to be christened unless the clergyman is very careful before the parents have had time to arrange for their church wedding.
Meanwhile, the women having erected the canvas lodge and put in order one of their last-year's birch-bark wigwams, called upon the Factor's wife and presented her with a hand-some work-bag made of beautifully marked skins from the necks of the loons Oo-koo-hoo had shot with his bow and arrow for that purpose.
After leaving the Indian shop, the hunter returned to his camp to talk matters over with Amik and the women. lie told them that he intended selling most of his furs to the Company, but that he thought it wise to stay away from the Factor until next day. But as Granny, being a Roman Catholic, wanted to have Father Jois marry Neykia and The Little Pine, she suggested that Oo-koo-hoo go and call upon the priest at once. Notwithstanding that her mother was a Presbyterian, Neykia had joined the Roman Catholic Church and when asked why she had done so, she said it was because she thought the candles looked so pretty burning on the altar.
Though The Owl was not in the least interested in any one of the white man's many religions, nor in the priest, the clergy-man, or the minister of the three different denominations rep-resented at the Post, he now called upon the priest as his wife wished him to. During the course of their conversation the priest said:
" My son, that was a beautiful silver fox you sold the Company three years ago. I, myself, would have paid you well for it."
"Would you look as well upon a black fox?" asked Oo-koo-hoo in surprise, as it is an unwritten law of the country that missionaries are not to carry on trade with the Indians.
"Yes. Have you one? " questioned the priest.
"I have never seen a finer," replied the hunter.
"But do either of the traders know you have it?" asked the priest.
"No," answered Oo-koo-hoo, with a shake of his head.
Later, when the priest saw the skin, he was delighted with it, and a bargain was soon made. Oo-koo-hoo was to get one hundred "skins " for the black fox, and he was told to call next day. But after returning to camp, he grew impatient and went back to the priest to demand his pay. The priest said he would give him a tent and a rifle worth more than fifty skins and that he would say ten masses for him and his family, which would be a very generous equivalent for the other fifty skins. But Oo-koo-hoo, suddenly flaring up, began to storm at the priest, and demanded the black fox back. But the priest sternly motioned for silence with upraised hand, and whispered: "This is God's House. There must be no noise or anger here." And without another word he withdrew to get the rifle and the tent. When he returned with an old tent and a second-hand rifle, Oo-koo-hoo would not deign to touch them. Without more ado, he turned on his heel and walked away.
On reaching camp, the old hunter learned from the children that the women had gone to pay a visit to the nuns; so he followed them, and, without even speaking to the Sisters, ordered the women to come home. On the way he eased his wrath by telling them that never again would he buy prayers or masses from the priest with black fox skins, and that if they ever wanted masses, he would pay for them with nothing but the skins of skunks. He did not see why he had to pay for masses, anyway, when Free Trader Spear had made them a standing offer of all the prayers they wanted free of charge, provided that he, Oo-koo-hoo, would trade with him. He added that he had half a mind to accept Spear's offer, just to spite the priest.
So after meditating for a while upon his steadfast belief that any fool of an Indian is better than a white man, and that the only good white men are the dead ones, he got into his canoe and paddled across the lake to interview the opposition trader.
When he told Spear what a splendid black fox he had, and how the priest had already offered him a hundred skins for it, the Free Trader said:
"I'll give you a hundred and ten for it," and the old repro-bate added, "and I'll throw into the bargain half-a-dozen prayers for the women."
The offer was at once accepted. On handing over the goods to Oo-koo-hoo, the trader asked where the black fox w as, and was told that it was in keeping of the priest. So without delay Mr. Spear paddled back with The Owl to get the skin. When the priest learned how the hunter had stolen a march on him, he was righteously indignant; but he dared not complain, since he was not supposed to deal in furs. There was nothing to do but hand over the magnificent skin to the Free Trader although he knew right well that in London or Paris it would bring twenty times the price paid for it.
Next day old Granny came crying to Oo-koo-hoo and complaining that the priest had refused to officiate at the wedding on the day agreed upon. The nuns had told her that his refusal was due to his determination to discipline The Owl for his rudeness and irreverence. That seemed to worry the hunter considerably, for, though he cared nothing for the priest's benediction, he did want the wedding to come off upon the day appointed. It touched his pride to be balked in his plans. He had already invited all the Indians at the Post to the ceremony. Great preparations were being made. If the wedding were put off even a single day, everybody would be curious to know why; and sooner or later it would be known that he had had to bow to the will of the priest. The thought rankled. So he went to the Factor and told him the whole affair.
"Ma brither," said the Factor, "we are auld freens; it is weel that we shud staun' thegither. If ye will trade a' yir furs wi' me this day, I'll get the meenister o' the Presybyterian Kirk tae mairry yir gran'dochter. He'll be gled eneuch tae gi'e Father Jois a clour by mairryin' twa o' his fowk. Sell me yir furs, an' I'll warrant ye yell hae the laff on Father Jois."
MISSIONARIES AND INDIANS
That settled it. Factor Mackenzie got all the furs Oo-koo-hoo and his family possessed. The Factor and the hunter were now the best of friends, and they even went so far as to exchange presents and that's going some . . . for a Scotsman.
Should the foregoing amuse the Protestant reader, the following may be of interest to the Roman Catholic. One winter, while halting at a certain Hudson's Bay post, I met a Protestant clergyman, who having spent a number of years as a missionary among the natives on the coast of Hudson Bay excited my interest as to his work among the Indians. That night, after supper, I questioned him as to his spiritual work among the "barbarians" of the forest, and in the presence of the Hudson's Bay trader, he turned to me and, with the air of being intensely bored by the subject, he replied : "Mr. Heming . . . the only interest I ever take in the Indian . . . is when I bury him."
But while I have cited two types of clergymen I have known the name of the priest being, of course, fictitious merely to point out the kind of missionaries that should never be sent among the Indians, I not only wish to state that they are very much the exception to the rule, but .I also want to make known my unbounded respect and admiration for that host of splendid men and women of all denominations, who have devoted their lives to the spiritual welfare of the people of the wilderness, and some of whom have already left behind them hallowed names of imperishable memory.
But the lot of the missionary among the Indians is not altogether a joyous one. In his distant and isolated outpost there are privations to endure and hardships to suffer. Frequently, too, it happens that he is placed in a position exceedingly embarrassing to a man of gentle breeding and kindly spirit.
A well-known Canadian priest was being entertained by an Indian family. The hospitable old grandmother undertook to prepare a meal for him. Determined to set before the "black-robe" a really dainty dish something after the fashion of a Hamburg steak and possessing no machine for mincing the meat, she simply chewed it up nice and fine in her own mouth. After cooking it to a turn, she set it before her honoured guest, and was at a loss to understand why the good man had so suddenly lost his appetite.
But there is often a brighter and also a graver side to the missionary's life among the red men. Incidents occur which appeal irresistibly to his sense of humour.
One Sunday afternoon a certain noted bishop of the English Church in Canada, who had spent most of his life as a missionary in the far Northwest, was discoursing at considerable Iength to a band of Dog-rib Indians camped at the mouth of Hay River on Great Slave Lake. His Lordship dwelt earnestly upon the virtue of brotherly love, and enlarged upon the beauty of the Divine saying— "It is more blessed to give than to receive." After the service an old Indian walked up to the preacher, piously repeated the sacred text, and intimated that he was prepared to become the humble instrument for bringing upon his reverence the promised blessing. To that end he was willing to receive his lordship's hat.
The good bishop was taken aback. Realizing, however, that there was nothing else for him to do, he took off his hat and bestowed it with commendable cheerfulness upon his new disciple.
Another red man, jealous of his brother who was now parading in all the splendour of the bishop's hat, claimed upon the same ground the prelate's gaiters, and received them.
The two Indians, envious each of the other's acquisition, began to discuss with growing anger the comparative value of the articles. Unable to arrive at an agreement, they resolved to put up the hat and gaiters as a stake and gamble for them.
The impressive head-gear and antique gaiters of an Anglican bishop never appeared to greater advantage than they did upon the old Indian, the winner of the game, when he proudly strutted before his dusky, admiring brethren, displaying on head and bare legs the Episcopal insignia, and having for his only other garment an old shirt whose dingy tail fluttered coyly in the summer breeze.
At ten o'clock, on the morning of Neykia's wedding, a motley mass of natives clothed in many colours crowded about the little church, which, for lack of space, they could not enter. Presently the crowd surged back from the door and formed on either side of the path, leaving an opening down the centre. A tall half-breed with a shock of wavy black hair stepped from the doorway, raised his violin, and adjusting it into position, struck up a lively tune to the accompaniment of the wailing of a broken concertina played by another half-breed who preceded the newly married couple. Neykia wore a silk handkerchief over her head, a light-coloured cotton waist open at the throat, a silk sash over one shoulder, and a short skirt revealing beaded leggings and moccasins. Behind the bride and groom walked Oo-koo-hoo and the fathers of the bridal couple, then the mothers and the rest of the relations, while the clergy and the other guests brought up the rear. As the little procession moved along, the men, lined up on either side of the path, crossed their guns over the heads of the wedding party, and discharged a feu de joie.
On reaching a certain log-house the procession broke up. The older people went in to partake of the wedding breakfast, while the bride and groom went over to one of the warehouses and amused themselves dancing with their young friends until they were summoned to the second table of the marriage feast. Everybody at the Post had contributed something toward either the feast or the dance. Out of respect for Oo-koo-hoo the Factor had furnished a liberal stock of groceries and had, in addition, granted the free use of the buildings. The clerk had sent in a quantity of candies and tobacco. The priest had given potatoes; the clergyman had supplied a copy of the Bible in syllabic characters; and the minister had given the silver-plated wedding ring. The nuns had presented a supply of skim-milk and butter. Mr. Spear provided jam, pickles, and coal-oil for the lamps. The Mounted Police contributed two dollars to pay for the "band" the fiddle and the concertina and ammunition enough for the feu de joie. The friends and relations had given a plentiful store of fresh, dried, and pounded fish; and had also furnished a lavish supply of moose, caribou, and bear meat; as well as dainty bits of beaver, lynx, muskrat, and skunk.
The bridal party having dined, they and their elders opened the ball officially. The first dance was as it always is the Double Jig, then followed in regular order the same dances as those of the New Year's feast. After a frolic of several hours' duration some of the dancers grew weary and returned to the banquet room for refreshments. And thus for three days and three nights the festivities continued.
TILE WEDDING SPEECHES
During a lull in the dancing on the afternoon of the wedding day Little Pine's sister went up to him and said: "Brother, may I kiss you? Are you ashamed?" He answered: "No." She kissed him, took his wife's hand, placed it in his with her own over both, and addressed the young wife :
"As you have taken my place, do to him as I have done; listen to him, work for him, and, if need be, die for him." Then she lowered her head and began to cry.
Ne-Geek, The Otter, Neykia's oldest brother, then went up to Little Pine and asked:
"Are you man enough to work for her, to feed her, and to protect her?"
"Yes," replied the new-made husband.
The Otter put the husband's hand on his sister's hand, and looking him straight in the eyes . . . shook his clenched fist at him and said in a threatening tone . . . "Be-ware!"
In the midst of one of the dances Oo-koo-hoo walked up to the "band" and knocked up the fiddle to command silence. Pulling his capote tightly about him, he assumed a dignified attitude, slowly looked round the room to see that he had the attention of all present, and began to address the assemblage :
"The step which Shing-wauk has taken is a very serious one. Now he will have to think for two. Now he must supply the wants of two. Now he will realize what trouble is.
But the One who made us . . . The Great Mystery . . . The Master of Life . . . made us right. The man has his work to do, and the woman has hers. The man must hunt and kill animals, and the woman must skin and dress them. The man must always stand by her and she by him. The two together are strong . . . and there is no need of outside assistance. Remember . . . my grandchildren . . you are starting out together that way . . .
To illustrate his meaning, he held up two fingers parallel, and added:
"If your tracks fork . . they will soon be as far apart as sunrise is from sunset . . . and you will find many ready to come in between. Carry on in the way you have begun . . . for that is the way you should end. And remember . . . if your tracks once fork . . . they will never come together again . . . my grandchildren . . I have spoken."
After Little Pine's father, as well as several of the guests, had made their remarks, Naudin, Neykia's mother, rose to address her daughter. Overcome with nervousness, she pulled her shawl so far over her face as to leave only a tiny peep-hole through which to look. Hesitatingly she began:
"My daughter, you never knew what trouble is, now you will know. You never knew what hard work is, now you will soon learn. Never let your husband want for anything. Never allow another woman to do anything for him; if you do . . . you are lost. When you have children, my daughter, and they grow up, your sons will always be sons to you, even though they be gray-headed. But with your daughters it will not be so; when they marry, they will be lost to you. Once married, they are gone for ever."
She stepped up to her daughter, kissed her, and sank to the floor, weeping copiously.
Then Amik rose to speak. He beckoned to his daughter.
She advanced and knelt down, holding the fringe of his legging while he addressed her:
"Neykia, my daughter, you have taken this man. Be good to him, work for him, live for him, and if need be, die for him. Kiss me, Neykia, my daughter; kiss me for the last time."
She kissed him, and he added :
"You have kissed me for the last time : henceforth never kiss any man but your husband."
Raising his hand with untutored dignity, he pronounced the words :
"Remember . . . I have spoken."