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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 117

When he awoke it was broad day and the earth was fresh and bright from its bath. After dressing he passed into the other room, finding the table still set, the chair before it without its cushion, the fire out, and nobody in or about the house. The smithy was deserted, and to his call there was no response but the chattering of jays in the trees; so, shouldering his pack, he resumed his journey. He opened his pack at a farm-house to repair a clock, when he discovered that his watches were gone, and immediately lodged complaint with the sheriff, but nothing was ever seen again of Ainsley, his wife, or the rough stranger. Who was the thief? What was in the cushion? And what brought the stranger to the house?





WAHCONAH FALLS

The pleasant valley of Dalton, in the Berkshire Hills, had been under the rule of Miacomo for forty years when a Mohawk dignitary of fifty scalps and fifty winters came a-wooing his daughter Wahconah. On a June day in 1637, as the girl sat beside the cascade that bears her name, twining flowers in her hair and watching leaves float down the stream, she became conscious of a pair of eyes bent on her from a neighboring coppice, and arose in some alarm. Finding himself discovered, the owner of the eyes, a handsome young fellow, stepped forward with a quieting air of friendliness, and exclaimed, "Hail, Bright Star!"

"Hail, brother," answered Wahconah.

"I am Nessacus," said the man, "one of King Philip's soldiers. Nessacus is tired with his flight from the Long Knives (the English), and his people faint. Will Bright Star's people shut their lodges against him and his friends?"

The maiden answered, "My father is absent, in council with the Mohawks, but his wigwams are always open. Follow."

Nessacus gave a signal, and forth from the wood came a sad-eyed, battle-worn troop that mustered about him. Under the girl's lead they went down to the valley and were hospitably housed. Five days later Miacomo returned, with him the elderly Mohawk lover, and a priest, Tashmu, of repute a cringing schemer, with whom hunters and soldiers could have nothing in common, and whom they would gladly have put out of the way had they not been deterred by superstitious fears. The strangers were welcomed, though Tashmu looked at them gloomily, and there were games in their honor, Nessacus usually proving the winner, to Wahconah's joy, for she and the young warrior had fallen in love at first sight, and it was not long before he asked her father for her hand. Miacomo favored the suit, but the priest advised him, for politic reasons, to give the girl to the old Mohawk, and thereby cement a tribal friendship that in those days of English aggression might be needful. The Mohawk had three wives already, but he was determined to add Wahconah to his collection, and he did his best, with threats and flattery, to enforce his suit. Nessacus offered to decide the matter in a duel with his rival, and the challenge was accepted, but the wily Tashmu discovered in voices of wind and thunder, flight of birds and shape of clouds, such omens that the scared Indians unanimously forbade a resort to arms. "Let the Great Spirit speak," cried Tashmu, and all yielded their consent.


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