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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 227

Safe? No; for the fiend men in advance took the leap and came beside him. The tormented one could thrash any two of them at once, but he was not equal to a thousand. He brandished his weapon once more and it fell with a crash. Earth shook, dust arose in clouds, and a deeper cleft than before yawned through the valley. Again the fiend men tried to reach him, and, though the gap was bigger and many fell into it, hundreds made the jump and overtook him. He must make one more attempt. The tail revolved for a third time, and with the energy of despair he flailed the ground with it.

A third ravine was split through the rock, and this time the earth's crust cracked away to the eastward, giving outlet to the sea, which came pouring through the canon, breaking rocks from mountains and grinding them to powder in its terrific progress. Gasping with fatigue, the unhappy one toiled up a hill and surveyed his work with satisfaction, for the flood engulfed the fiend men and they left no member of their race behind them.

When they had all been happily smashed or drowned, the devil skipped lightly over the channels he had cut and sought his family, though with a subdued expression of countenance, for his tail—his strength and pride—was bruised and broken beyond repair, and all the little imps that he fathered to the world afterward had little dangling tails like monkeys' instead of megatheriums', and in time these appendages disappeared. But what was the use of them? The fiend men they had fought against were dead and the rising race they could circumvent by subtler means. The inland sea drained off. Its bed is now the prairie, and the three strokes of the devil's tail are indelibly recorded in the bed of the Columbia at the Dalles. And the devil never tried to be good again.





CASCADES OF THE COLUMBIA

When the Siwash, as the Northwestern Indians called themselves, were few, Mount Hood was kept by the Spirit of Storms, who when he shook his robe caused rain or snow to fall over the land, while the Fire Spirit flashed his lightnings from Mount Adams. Across the vale between them stretched a mighty bridge of stone, joining peak to peak, and on this the Siwash laid his offering of salmon and dressed skins. Here, too, the tribal festivals were kept. The priestess of the arch-Mentonee, who fed the fire on the tribal altar "unimpassioned by a mortal throb"—had won the love of the wild tamanouses of the mountains, but she was careless alike of coaxing and threats, and her heart was as marble to them.

Jealous of each other, these two spirits fell to fighting, and, appalled by the whirl of fire and cloud, of splintering trees and crumbling rocks, the Indians fled in terror toward the lowlands, but she, unhurt and undaunted, kept in her place, and still offered praise to the one god. Yet she was not alone, for watchful in the shadow of a rock stood a warrior who had loved her so long, without the hope of lovers, that he, too, had outgrown fear. Though she had given him but passing words and never a smile, his own heart was the warmer and the heavier with its freight, and it was his way to be ever watching her in some place where she might not be troubled by the sight of him.


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