Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 179


On the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior dwelt an Ojibway woman, a widow, who was cared for by a relative. This relative was a hunter, the husband of an agreeable wife, the father of two bright children. Being of a mean and jealous nature, the widow begrudged every kindness that the hunter showed to his wife—the skins he brought for her clothing, the moose's lip or other dainty that he saved for her; and one day, in a pretence of fine good-nature, the old woman offered to give the younger a swing in a vine pendent from a tree that overhung the lake.

The wife accepted, and, seating herself on the vine, was swayed to and fro, catching her breath, yet laughing as she swept out over the water. When the momentum was greatest the old woman cut the stem. A splash was heard—then all was silent. Returning to the lodge, the hag disguised herself in a dress of the missing woman, and sitting in a shadow, pretended to nurse the infant of the household. The hunter, returning, was a little surprised that his wife should keep her face from him, and more surprised that the old woman did not appear for her share of the food that he had brought; but after their meal he took his little ones to the lake, to enjoy the evening breeze, when the elder burst into tears, declaring that the woman in the lodge was not his mother, and that he feared his own mother was dead or lost.

The hunter hurled his spear into the earth and prayed that, if his wife were dead, her body might be found, so he could mourn over it and give it burial. Instantly a bolt of lightning came from a passing cloud and shot into the lake, while the thunder-peal that followed shook the stones he stood on. It also disturbed the water and presently something was seen rising through it. The man stepped into a thicket and watched. In a few moments a gull arose from the lake and flew to the spot where the children were seated. Around its body was a leather belt, embroidered with beads and quills, which the hunter recognized, and, advancing softly, he caught the bird—that changed at once into the missing woman. The family set forth toward home, and as they entered the lodge the witch—for such she was—looked up, with a start, then uttered a cry of despair. Bending low, she moved her arms in both imprecation and appeal. A moment later a black, ungainly bird flew from the wigwam and passed from sight among the trees. The witch never came back to plague them.


An Indian who lived far in the north was so devoted to the chase that he was never at home for the whole of a day, to the sorrow of his two boys, who liked nothing so much as to sport with him and to be allowed to practise with his weapons. Their mother told them that on no account were they to speak to him of the young man who visited the lodge while their father was away, and it was not until they were well grown and knew what the duty of wives should be that they resolved to disobey her. The hunter struck the woman dead when he learned of her perfidy. So greatly did her spirit trouble them, however, that they could no longer abide in their old home in peace and comfort, and they left the country and journeyed southward until they came to the Sault Sainte Marie.

As they stood beside the falls a head came rolling toward them on the earth—the head of the dead woman. At that moment, too, a crane was seen riding on the surface of the water, whirling about in its strongest eddies, and when one of the boys called to it, "O Grandfather, we are persecuted by a spirit; take us across the falls," the crane flew to them. "Cling to my back and do not touch my head," it said to them, and landed them safely on the farther shore.

But now the head screamed, "Come, grandfather, and carry me over, for I have lost my children and am sorely distressed," and the bird flew to her likewise. "Be careful not to touch my head," it said. The head promised obedience, but succumbed to curiosity when half-way over and touched the bird's head to see what was the matter with him. With a lurch the crane flung off his burden and it fell into the rapids. As it swept down, bumping against the rocks, the brains were pounded out and strewn over the water. "You were useless in life," cried the crane. "You shall not be so in death. Become fish!" And the bits of brain changed to roe that presently hatched to a delicate white fish, the flesh whereof is esteemed by Indians of the lakes, and white men, likewise. The family pitched a lodge near the spot and took the crane as their totem or name-mark. Many of their descendants bear it to this day.


Among the lumbermen of Alger, Michigan, was William Cloud, an Indian, usually called Cloudy, who was much employed on a chute a mile and a half out of the village. The rains were heavy one spring, and a large raft of logs had been floated down to the chute, where they were held back by a gate until it was time to send them through in a mass. When the creek had reached its maximum height the foreman gave word to the log-drivers to lower the gate and let the timber down. This order came on a chilly April night, and, as it was pitchy dark and rain was falling in sheets, the lumbermen agreed to draw cuts to decide which of them should venture out and start the logs. Cloudy drew the fatal slip. He was a quiet fellow, and without a word he opened the door, bent against the storm, and passed into the darkness. An hour went by, and the men in the cabin laughed as they described the probable appearance of their comrade when he should return, soaked through and through, and they wondered if he was waiting in some shelter beside the path for the middle of the night to pass, for the Indians believed that an evil spirit left the stream every night and was abroad until that hour.