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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 255

A miracle spring flowed in the old days near the statue of the Virgin at White Marsh, Maryland.

Biddeford Pool, Maine, was a miracle pond once a year, for whoso bathed there on the 26th of June would be restored to health if he were ill, because that day was the joint festival of Saints Anthelm and Maxentius.

There was a wise and peaceable chief of the Ute tribe who always counselled his people to refrain from war, but when he grew old the fiery spirits deposed him and went down to the plains to give battle to the Arapahoe. News came that they had been defeated in consequence of their rashness. Then the old man's sorrow was so keen that his heart broke. But even in death he was beneficent, for his spirit entered the earth and forthwith came a gush of water that has never ceased to flow—the Hot Sulphur Springs of Colorado. The Utes often used to go to those springs to bathe—and be cured of rheumatism—before they were driven away.

Spring River, Arkansas, is nearly as large at its source as at its mouth, for Mammoth Spring, in the Ozark Mountains, where it has its rise, has a yield of ninety thousand gallons a minute, so that it is, perhaps, the largest in the world. Here, three hundred years ago, the Indians had gathered for a month's feast, for chief Wampahseesah's daughter—Nitilita—was to wed a brave of many ponies, a hundred of which he had given in earnest of his love. For weeks no rain had fallen, and, while the revel was at its height, news came that all the rivers had gone dry. Several young men set off with jars, to fill them at the Mississippi, and, confident that relief would come, the song and dance went on until the men and women faltered from exhaustion. At last, Nitilita died, and, in the wildness of his grief, the husband smote his head upon a rock and perished too. Next day the hunters came with water, but, incensed by their delay, the chief ordered them to be slain in sacrifice to the manes of the dead. A large grave was dug and the last solemnities were begun when there was a roaring and a shaking in the earth—it parted, and the corpses disappeared in the abyss. Then from the pit arose a flood of water that went foaming down the valley. Crazed with grief, remorse, and fear, Wampahseesah flung himself into the torrent and was borne to his death. The red men built a dam there later, and often used to sit before it in the twilight, watching, as they declared, the faces of the dead peering at them through the foam.

During the rush for the California gold-fields in the '50's a party took the route by Gila River, and set across the desert. The noon temperature was 120, the way was strewn with skeletons of wagons, horses, and men, and on the second night after crossing the Colorado the water had given out. The party had gathered on the sands below Yuma, the men discussing the advisability of returning, the women full of apprehension, the young ones crying, the horses panting; but presently the talk fell low, for in one of the wagons a child's voice was heard in prayer: "Oh, good heavenly Father, I know I have been a naughty girl, but I am so thirsty, and mamma and papa and baby all want a drink so much! Do, good God, give us water, and I never will be naughty again." One of the men said, earnestly, "May God grant it!" In a few moments the child cried, "Mother, get me water. Get some for baby and me. I can hear it running." The horses and mules nearly broke from the traces, for almost at their feet a spring had burst from the sand-warm, but pure. Their sufferings were over. The water continued to flow, running north for twenty miles, and at one point spreading into a lake two miles wide and twenty feet deep. When emigration was diverted, two years later, to the northern route and to the isthmus, New River Spring dried up. Its mission was over.


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