Copyright, the Estate of B. M. Cryer, 1949.
This authorised internet edition was published with the permission
of Beryl Cryer's granddaughter, Marilyn Montgomery, in 2005.
It is illegal to reproduce this work without permission.
THE FLYING CANOE:
Legends of the Cowichans
B. M. CRYER
Illustrated by Betty Campbell Newton
In offering to the public the typical Cowichan Legends included in this little work, Mrs. B. M. Cryer is doing a real service to British Columbia.
It was my privilege, a few years ago, to offer some encouragement to Mrs. Cryer, in the collecting of Indian Legends. In this work she achieved great success when the stories were published in the Victoria "Daily Colonist." They were not only true to native tradition, but were presented with real sympathy and understanding.
I am pleased indeed, that Mrs. Cryer has decided to publish a few of these most excellent legends.
She is to be congratulated on having as illustrator, Miss Betty Newton, whose work is seen in the Provincial Museum Occasional Paper, "A Corner Stone of Canadian Culture."
It is very fortunate, and at the same time a testimonial to the fine workmanship of the author, that Mr. William Newcombe, the foremost ethnologist, and authority on British Columbia Indians, has given valuable advice as to details in the illustrations.
It is with the utmost pleasure that I commend "The Flying Canoe" to every lover of aboriginal lore.
B. A. MCKELVIE.
"Tzlah-Mia held up one wrinkled, brown finger."
I KNOW a lovely, sandy beach, with tall Fir trees growing at one end, and at the other, a little green clearing with one old Maple tree in the middle.
Under this tree there is a tumbledown little house, and in the house there lives–who do you think?
A PRINCESS! Not the kind of princess you think about and picture to yourself, but an Indian Princess.
She is not a bit like a princess, for she is very, very fat, and very, very old, and I'm afraid, quite poor.
Long ago, her father was a great Chief of the Cowichan Tribe, and Tzlah-Mia, (for that is her name) was their princess, but now her father is dead, and she lives all alone in her tiny house under the Maple tree.
She is never lonely, for she has lots of grandchildren. There are always fat, brown babies playing under her tree, or splashing in the water in front of her house.
In the evening, if it is warm, Tzlah-Mia builds a fire of drift-wood, on the beach. There she sits making rush mats, or spinning soft, white wool for her knitting, while she tells stories to her grandchildren.
One evening, I went to the beach to see Tzlah-Mia and to hear some of her Indian stories.
Her fire was blazing gaily, and two of her grandchildren were piling logs upon it, making the sparks fly up, up, until they seemed to join the stars in the sky.
It was very quiet on the beach, only the soft lap, lap of the water as the tide came over the stones.
Then, far back in the woods a little Owl called, and was answered by his mate.
"Ha—a, Haa aaaaaaa." Soft and clear it came, over and over again.
* Tzlah-Mia held up one wrinkled brown finger.
"Hear that?" she asked. "Those two talk to each other. I can't tell what they say now." She shook her head sadly. "Long ago my people knew, because in those days, all the birds, and animals, and fish, could take off their coats of feathers and fur, just as we take off our clothes, and they would walk and talk just like men and women!"
"To-night I will tell you some stories about those long ago days, when only Indians lived in this land, and all the people, and birds, and animals, lived together like good friends."
Tzlah-Mia's fingers were busy amongst her clams which she had dug that morning. She had laid them on hot stones beside the fire, to make them open. Now she was taking them from the shells and was threading them on thin Cedar sticks, which she stuck in the ground before the fire, drying them for the winter.
As she worked, she told us the stories which I have put into this book, hoping that you may enjoy them as much as I did.
COPYRIGHT APPLIED FOR, 1949
All rights reserved, including rights to reproduce this book
or portions thereof in any form.
"Let's make some of these people live again."
LONG, long ago, the Indian people had no canoes. They had never heard of such things. If they wanted to go anywhere across the water, they had to paddle along on logs, which was a very slow business and not very safe.
This story is about the first canoe makers that the Indians had, and the wonderful canoe that they made.
There were once two brothers who lived alone in a little house of skins, beside a beautiful beach. The biggest boy was called Smok-Wah, and his little brother's name was Khy-Sty.
They had no father nor mother, and very few friends, for they were naughty, mischievious boys, always getting into trouble and having to be punished.
One day they were so naughty, that the rest of the Indian Band would have no more to do with them.
"Go away!" called the people. "Go and find a new home. We don't want such naughty boys living in our village!" They turned the boys out of their house and drove them away.
The boys started off to find a new home for themselves.
They went back, back into the woods, tumbling over logs and stones, climbing up high hills, and then scrambling down into shady, mossy valleys, where birds peeped out of their cosy nests and called to them.
"Where are you going, oh boys?"
The boys called back. "We are going far away to make a new home. Which way shall we go?"
The birds told them. "Walk straight on, and in time you will find a good place."
On they went, under big, shady trees where soft eyed deer were nibbling the grass.
"Where are you going?" asked the deer softly. "Where are you walking in such a hurry?"
"We are going to a new home. Is this the right way?"
"Go straight ahead, straight ahead!" said the deer and they wiggled their ears and twitched their tails, and went on eating.
At last the boys came to a silvery lake with tall, dark trees growing beside it.
"We must swim across," said Smok-Wah. So into the water plunged the boys, and as they swam along, all the fish in the lake followed after them, calling in their funny, bubbly voices–
"Where are you swimming and how far are you going boys?"
The boys answered, "We are swimming to the other side, for we are looking for a place to make a new home."
"Swim across and climb the mountain," called the fish, and with a flick of their tails they swam away.
At the very edge of the lake the boys found a high, rocky mountain. Up this they climbed and climbed until they got to the top.
They were terribly tired after climbing so far, and, although it was only afternoon, they lay down on the soft, brown moss and were soon fast asleep.
It was very quiet up there on the mountain top. Not a bird singing, no deer munching the sweet, juicy grasses, not even a cricket chirping in the bushes. It seemed as though all the world must be asleep.
Suddenly there was a noise! It echoed through the trees, waking the birds from their sleep.
With one jump Smok-Wah and Khy-Sty were on their feet.
"What was that? Did you hear it?" whispered Smok-Wah.
"Shhh! Shhh! Don't move!" said Khy-Sty, holding up one finger, and moving closer to his brother.
Not daring to breathe, they crouched in the moss waiting for the sound to come again.
"Ah, there it is!" Scraape–Scraape–Scraape. Over and over it came. The air was filled with the curious noise.
Not a thing moved in the bushes. There was no sign of any living creature, except a gentle twitter or two as a mother bird hushed her babies back to sleep.
Very, very carefully the boys crept forward, peeping under logs and behind bushes, until at last, following the sound, they crawled through a clump of ferns and lay with their eyes nearly popping out of their heads, their hands held tightly over their mouths, so that they would make no sound; for there in front of them was the strangest sight that they had ever seen.
Smok-Wah and Khy-Sty found they were lying at the edge of a big, cleared space in the woods, and there stood an old, old man. The boys had never seen anyone quite so old. His face was wrinkled and his back was bent over, and the boys saw that he was blind.
He held something in his hands. The boys leaned forward and stared and stared, for they had never seen any thing like it before.
"Whatever can that thing be for?" whispered Khy-Sty, "and how does it make that dreadful noise?"
It was a large stone, and it was shaped and made sharp at one edge. As they watched, the boys saw the man take the stone, and leaning over a big tree that lay on the ground beside him, he drew this queer stone along it, cutting large pieces from the side. As he did this, they heard again the loud scraape—scraape that had frightened them so badly.
Behind the man was another tree lying on the ground, but this had been cut on the outside and the inside had been taken away, so that it was hollow.
"Now, what can that tree be for?" whispered Smok-Wah. "How can he have knocked down such a fine tree, for it is not old and rotten but quite young and green?"
"And why has he spoiled it by cutting out all the inside?" whispered back Khy-Sty.
For a long time the boys crouched there, watching the old man, and by and by they saw another sharpened stone lying beside him, but this stone was different, for it had a stick fastened to it for a handle.
"Look!" whispered Smok-Wah. "There is the thing he knocks the trees down with. Let's steal it, for he can't see us!"
Very, very carefully and slowly they crept forward to steal the tools. Not a twig snapped under their feet, not even a leaf touched their bodies, and yet, in some wonderful way, that old man heard them, for he turned his head quickly and called–
"What do I hear? Where are you? Who are you?"
He waited, listening, with his head turned to one side, and the boys crouched low on the ground, for they felt that somehow or other he must be able to see them.
"Are you thieves come to steal my tools?" called the old man. "Wait, whoever you are! Don't steal my treasures! They would be of no use to you, for you don't know how to use them. Come and speak to me, and I will teach you how to knock these big trees down to the ground, and how to make canoes in which you can ride on top of the water. I will give you a poison that will kill, and better still, a medicine that will make the dead live again."
When the boys heard that, they came out from their hiding place, and went up to the man.
"If we leave your treasures alone, will you truly teach us all that you say?" asked Smok-Wah.
"Oh yes! Yes!" said the man. "Only stay and help me, and I will teach you all that I know, and when you are ready to leave I will give you a canoe, and knives to fight with, besides all the other things of which I told you."
"Of course we'll stay" said Khy-Sty. "But where can we live, and what is there for us to eat, away up here?"
"Come and live with me," said the man. "I have a fine big house, and lots of good deer meat to eat. Oh I'm so happy! SO HAPPY!" He took a hand of each of the boys and shook them up and down, up and down.
"Deer meat?" shouted Khy-Sty and Smok-Wah together. "Oh come on–come on!" and they ran ahead of the man, trying to make him hurry, for they were hungry, and tired of sleeping under logs and trees, and the thought of a warm house and a good meal of deer meat made them anxious to get there as quickly as they could.
"There's my house!" said the man, pointing through the trees, and Khy-Sty and Smok-Wah stopped and stared.
They had never dreamed of such a house. Their own houses were made of dried skins stretched over sticks, but this house was made of wood! Thick planks cut from trees with those wonderful tools the man had been using, and what a size it was! High, HIGH, even higher than a man could reach! It was MOST WONDERFUL! It was MAGIC!
They walked round and round the house, looking at it and feeling it.
"How FINE it is," they said. "How STRONG! This house will live for ever!"
"Now come inside," said the man, and he took them into the house. There they found the man's wife cooking some meat over a fire that was burning in the middle of the floor.
"Have you brought friends?" she called when she saw them. "That's good!" "Now we will have someone to talk to, and they will help you cut down the trees."
She took Khy-Sty's hand and made him sit beside the fire with Smok-Wah. Soon they were all eating the good food that she had cooked.
The boys were very happy in their new home, but they were always thinking of their lovely beach, and of the people in their village.
Every day they went out with the man and he taught them to use the tools, and how to make the canoes that would ride on water, and how to use the medicine he had made.
At last their canoe was finished!
Oh it was a beautiful canoe! The sides were so rounded and smooth, the ends so pointed, with carving along them, and the two paddles were just right. They thought it was the loveliest thing they had ever seen!
They were ready to leave, when suddenly a dreadful thought came to them.
"How are we going to get the canoe down to the water?" asked Khy-Sty. "Why, oh WHY, have we built it on top of a high mountain?"
"Oh how stupid we are!" exclaimed Smok-Wah. "Here is our lovely canoe up on top of this mountain, and it's not a bit of use to us, for we can never carry it all the way down to the sea! What can we do?"
The poor boys were nearly crying, but the old man, who had heard what they were saying; began to laugh.
"Get in!" he called. "Get in and I will teach you how to sing to your canoe!"
The boys carried the precious canoe to some open ground, and there they propped it up with stones to keep it steady. Then very, very carefully, so that it wouldn't tip over, they got in and sat down, Smok-Wah at one end and Khy-Sty at the other, and when they were settled, the man got in and sat in the middle.
"Sit quietly," the man told them, "and listen to me. Don't talk, you must learn to do as I do."
He took a paddle in his hands, and putting it over the side, began to tap–tap–tap. Tap–tap, on the edge of the canoe, and as he tapped, he sang a soft, swinging sort of song.
Softly, softly, he tapped and sang his song to the canoe. Gradually the tapping got quicker and quicker, and the old man's voice grew stronger and stronger, until the music of it filled the woods with sweetness.
Suddenly he stopped.
"It is good," he said. "I cannot teach you any more. Now go, and sing to your canoe as I have taught you!"
He climbed out of the canoe, and taking the poison and the medicines in their bags of skin, he put them in the bottom of the canoe.
"Good-bye, Good-bye!" called Smok-Wah and Khy-Sty, waving their paddles. "Good bye and thank you for all you have taught us and given us. We will come and see you before long!"
"Good-bye! Good-bye!" answered the man and his wife. "Don't forget us, but come soon and help us to make more canoes!"
Now the boys put their paddles over the side of the canoe as they had been taught. Then, so softly it could scarcely be heard, they tap, tap, tapped on their canoe, and softly their voices rose in the swinging song.
Then I wish you could have been there to see what happened next. As the song swelled louder and stronger, so the tapping grew quicker and quicker, and then!–the canoe began to tremble from one end to the other, and slowly, smoothly as a bird flies, IT ROSE FROM THE GROUND!
Up, up, it flew, until looking down, the boys could scarcely see the man and his wife.
Ah! Then they beat hard with their paddles, and their voices rose louder and stronger, as the canoe flew still higher and higher, until it was away above the tree tops, and birds sitting among the branches sang out to them. "Where are you flying, oh boys? What is that queer bird you are flying in?"
On and on they went, over the mountain and over the lakes, and then down–down–down, right on to their own beach.
As they flew over the village where they had lived, the people came running out, and looking up they called–"Look, there are those boys we drove away! See! They are flying through the air like birds!"
They gathered up stones and threw them at the canoe, but the boys took their basket of medicine and sprinkled it on the people so that they turned into stone.
On flew the canoe, until it came to their own home. Here everything was changed. The house of skins had been torn down and burned, and grass and brambles had grown over everything.
"We must get busy," said Smok-Wah. "There's lots to be done here!"
They took their tools, and before long had chopped down some trees and cut them into planks, with which they built a fine new house. When the house was finished, they wandered about looking at all the people they had turned into stone, and Smok-Wah said to his brother * "Let's make some of these people live again, for when they see what good houses we can make, they won't drive us away!"
They hurried back to the canoe and took out the medicine that would make people alive again, and they shook it on the people and at once they were alive.
The boys showed them the wonderful house of planks that they had made, and the tools that would knock down trees, and all the people laughed and shook their hands and sang for joy.
"Teach us how to knock down great trees!" they shouted. "Stay with us and show us all the wonderful things that you have learned."
So Smok-Wah and Khy-Sty stayed with their people and showed them everything the old man had given them.
Best of all they taught them how to make canoes that would ride on the top of the water, and the Chief of the Tribe named them CANOE MAKERS.
"Tsah-Pulus would enjoy going with you," said his mother.
ESQ the Seal was enjoying herself. She had found a lovely warm pool with smooth rocks beside it. After rolling about in the water for a time she had crawled up on the rocks and was having a sun-bath all by herself.
"I ought to go home," she thought. "Goodness knows what the children will be doing. Up to all sorts of mischief I suppose!" She rolled over for just one more little nap, when she heard someone calling her.
"Good morning Esq!" said the voice. "Good morning!"
Seal sat up and looked about her. There on a floating log, stood Spaal the Raven, nodding his head up and down and flapping his big black wings.
Seal wasn't very fond of Raven. As a matter of fact Raven had very few friends, but Seal had been taught to be polite to everyone, so she smiled and wished him "Good morning."
"I'm surprised to find you out so early," said Raven. "My wife never gets out. She is always so busy with the children."
Seal tossed her head. "I have a family too," she told him proudly.
"Have you really? I had no idea. How many children have you?"
"Two boys." Seal smiled to herself as she thought of those two dear little boys she had left at home. "Well," she slid off the rock and began to swim away. "Good-bye Spaal, I must hurry home now or the children will think I'm lost."
Raven waved a wing and bowed to her. "Good-bye Esq," he called. " I'm coming to see you one of these days. I want to see those boys of yours. Good-bye!"
As he flew away Spaal kept thinking of those two fat, little boy Seals. If only he could catch them, how juicy and tender they would be!
A few days later, Seal heard a knock at her door. There was Raven, his feathers trimmed and shining. He had come to call.
"Oh do come in Spaal," said Seal. "The children and I have been putting some clams to dry for the winter."
"Clams?" Raven licked his lips. "I haven't eaten a good clam for ages!"
"Let me get some for you" said Seal politely. She called to Tsah-Pulus her fattest little boy, to bring a dish of clams.
As Seal handed them to Raven she said "Let me fix them for you as we like them." She held her fingers over the dish, and big drops of oil fell from the tips of her fingers onto the clams.
"Now eat them," she said, "and see how nice they are."
Raven ate every clam. He thought he had never eaten anything so good.
"I must get my wife to dig some clams!" he exclaimed. "But ours won't be as good as yours for we have no oil to put on them."
"I'll give you some of our clams," said Seal. "We really have more than we need." She got a basket and filled it with big, white clams for Raven.
"What a lovely lot!" he exclaimed, when he saw the clams. "I'm afraid the basket is too heavy for me to carry by myself. Do you think one of your boys would help me?"
* "Tsah-Pulus would enjoy going with you," said his mother. "He is so fat and strong, he can easily carry the basket for you."
So Spaal and Tsah-Pulus started off together. The little boy Seal swimming and carrying the basket, and Raven flying close beside him.
Soon they came to a log floating on the water, and Spaal said, "Let's get on this nice log and float to my house. You must be tired, carrying that heavy basket."
So they climbed on the log, and sat with the basket between them, until they came in sight of Raven's house.
Raven gave a loud shout, and his wife, who had been looking out of her window, came running to the beach.
"See who has come to visit us?" shouted Spaal. "Esq gave me this beautiful basket of clams, and her little boy has helped me bring them home. Take him up to the house, and give him something nice to eat!" The naughty bird winked at his old wife.
Mrs. Raven caught poor little Tsah-Pulus by the hand, and before he had time to say one word, had hurried him up to the beach and into the house. She shut him up in a dark cupboard and ran back to get the clams.
"That fat little Seal will make a fine feast, when we have eaten all these clams!" chuckled Raven. "Keep him in the house and give him lots to eat, then he will be fatter than ever when we are ready for him."
"What can have happened to Tsah-Pulus?" wondered Seal, as the Sun went behind the mountain, and still her fat little boy hadn't come home.
She kept going to the window and looking out to see whether he was coming. At last she grew so worried that she put on her shawl, determined to go and hunt for him.
"You go to bed dear," she told Sahts-Qunim, her thin little boy. "I will lock the door so that you will be quite safe." She took the big door key from the hook where it always hung behind the kitchen stove, and locked the door behind her.
Poor Esq swam along as quickly as she could, but there was no sign of her little fat boy. At last she came to Spaal's house.
Spaal was sitting on his doorstep, and Esq called to him.
"Spaal, what have you done with my little fat Tsah-Pulus?"
"I was just going to wake him," said Spaal. "He was so tired after carrying that heavy basket for me, that we gave him some supper, and he lay down on the bed and fell asleep. I do hope you haven't been worrying?" he asked.
Just then Mrs. Raven came out with a dish of clams for Esq.
"Let the little boy sleep a bit longer," she said, "and do have a few of these good clams you gave us. I'm sorry we have no fat to put on them," she added, "but perhaps you could drip some from your hands. Have you any oil left?"
"I always have oil," laughed Esq. "I would enjoy a few clams if you can spare them. Then I must take my boy home."
She held her fingers over the clams so that the oil might drip on them, but as she did so, great blisters came on her fingers, and no oil dripped onto the clams.
"Oh! Oh!" cried Seal, "What has happened to my hands?"
She put her hands up to her face. At once the blisters spread all over her face, so that her eyes shut and she was quite blind.
When Raven saw that she was blind, he pushed her into the room with the little fat boy, and Seal was so glad to find him safe and sound, that she forgot for a little while to worry about being caught by Raven.
Suddenly Tsah-Pulus began to cry.
"What are you going to do?" he sobbed. "We must get away from Spaal, or he will eat us!"
"Don't cry," said his mother, wiping away the tears that were running down his fat little face. "Your little brother will get tired of waiting for us, and he will call our friends to come and save us."
The next morning Raven flew off to Seal's house. "For," he said to his wife, "as we have Esq and Tsah-Pulus, we might as well have the little thin boy too."
As he flew down beside Esq's house, Sahts-Qunim peeped out of the window and saw him. He ran into the kitchen and hid under the table.
"Where are you little boy?" called Raven, in what he hoped was a kind-sounding sort of voice. "I have a message for you from your mother."
When the little Seal heard that, he opened the window and asked Raven to come in that way, as his mother had the door key.
Raven flew in and settled himself in Esq's own comfortable chair beside the stove.
"Where is my mother?" asked Sahts-Qunim. "Where is my brother, and what is the message you have for me?"
"Your mother and brother are both staying with us for a little visit," Raven told him, "I have come to take you to them. If you will pack your things, we had better start back at once."
Sahts-Qunim was so excited to think that he was going on a visit. He hurried off to pack his clothes, and was back in one minute with his little bag.
Raven hurried him along, and when they got to the beach, Mrs. Raven took the poor little Seal and shut him up with his mother and brother.
"Tomorrow," she said, licking her lips, "We will have a feast!"
Now, several of Esq's friends had seen bad old Raven visiting her, and some of them had seen the Seal family going back with him. They couldn't understand why Esq should be so friendly with Raven.
Then Crab told his friend Prawn, that he had passed Esq's house and had heard poor little Sahts-Quinm crying for his mother and brother. He was sure there must be something the matter–perhaps they were ill!
So off went Seal's friends to call on her. They knocked and hammered on the door, but there was no answer.
Crab opened a window and crawled into the kitchen. There was no one there! The house was empty.
Now they were certain that Esq was in trouble, and they all started off to Raven's house to find her.
What a procession there was!
Big Crabs and little Crabs, Prawns of all sizes, Clams and Starfish, all washing along through the waves. Then Sea-Gull saw them and she and all her friends joined in, and best of all, Sea-Lion swam along beside them.
When Raven and his wife saw them all coming, they were so frightened that they flew away, quite forgetting to lock the door behind them. In a minute Seal and her two boys were outside with their friends, and away they all went, back to Esq's home.
The next day the PEOPLE WHO LIVE UNDER THE SEA held a meeting, and all decided that Raven must be punished, or none of their lives would be safe. So they made plans to catch him just as soon as he came back again.
For a long time no one saw Raven or his wife. Then one morning as Prawn was sitting in her doorway, she saw him coming.
She called her children to her and told them her plan, and what they were to do and say while Raven was in her house. Then she sent them out to play.
"Good morning Spaal!" she called as he flew down beside her. "It's a long time since you last visited me!"
"I've been waiting for a nice low tide," said Raven. "I don't like getting my feathers wet."
"Will you come in?" asked Prawn, holding her door open.
"Thank you, but I think I'd better sit outside where I can watch the tide," said Raven. "I mustn't get caught by the water, or I'll be drowned."
"Oh!" laughed Prawn. "The children will watch and tell you when the water is coming in," and she called her biggest boy and said to him, "Watch the tide dear, and be sure to tell us when it begins to come in, for Spaal cannot swim and mustn't be caught."
"Now," she said, opening the door, "we can sit inside in comfort, for the children will watch."
For a long time they talked of the weather and fishing, and at last Raven said, "It must be getting very late. I do hope the tide hasn't come in!"
"I will ask the children." said Prawn, and she called through the closed door. "How high is the tide children?"
"Oh the water is a long way off, and the sun is hot in the sky!" answered the children.
"Please don't hurry!" laughed Prawn. "You heard what the children said. You needn't be afraid, they are watching!"
"Well, I'll stay just a little longer," said Raven, settling into his chair again. "I'm enjoying this visit so very much."
After a time, one of the boy Prawns called to his mother.
"Oh mother! The tide is coming in now!"
"I'll be off at once," said Raven, and opening the door he took one step out–Only one step, and he was caught up by the waves and washed here and there, and far away out of sight.
"Now we will be safe from Spaal and his family!" called Prawn, "for none of them will ever dare to hurt Esq or any of us again!"
"Quickly now! Pull it out!" cried Sea-Gull.
SEA-GULL had a secret. Anyone could tell that, by the way she went tip-toeing about with such a knowing look on her face. Her little black eyes were brighter and more twinkly than ever. What is more, she had a mysterious bulge under her left wing.
What could it be? All the birds she met stared at her and wondered amongst themselves why she was putting on such airs, for she passed even her best friends with a mere nod and a toss of her head.
Crow reported that the bulge under her wing was hard. He had felt it as he passed close to her, and it had a sharp edge. What was she carrying about with her?
At last Raven heard of Sea-Gull's secret, and made up his mind to find out for himself what it could be.
Now I must tell you that at that time, there was no light in the world where these people lived. They didn't really mind, for they had never seen light, and so had learned to see in the dark. But things didn't look very clear to them. It was rather as though there was a fog over everything.
For several days Raven watched Sea-Gull and tried to make friends with her, but she wouldn't have anything to do with him.
One day he saw her walking up and down the beach looking for food. Every time she jumped to catch a little fish, she missed it, for the Thing under her wing got in her way.
"What a fine Salmon that was I saw this morning!" said Raven in a quiet, thinking sort of voice, just as though he were talking to himself. "I wonder whether Crow would like a good dinner of Salmon?" He looked sideways at Sea-Gull, but she wasn't looking.
"Well, I may as well call on Crow," said Raven, in a little louder voice, "or perhaps Eagle would help me eat the fish." Then he gave a big jump, for there was Sea-Gull close beside him.
"How you surprised me Sea-Gull," he exclaimed. "I didn't know you were on the beach. I was just looking for someone to help me eat a fine Salmon I have found washed up on the rocks. Would you like a little?" he asked, with his best smile.
Sea-Gull nodded her head eagerly. "Thank you very much," she said quickly, "I'd love some Salmon. Which way do we go?" she added, hurrying ahead of Raven, for she was a very greedy person.
As they hopped along together Raven kept close to her and felt the bulge under her wing. Yes, it was quite hard.
"If I give you some of my fish, will you tell me what you are carrying under your wing?" he asked.
Sea-Gull shook her pretty grey head. "You would tell everyone you met," she said, "and this is my very own secret!"
"I won't tell one person," said Raven. "I can keep a secret. I have known about my Salmon for two days, and haven't told anyone. I'll tell you what I'll do!" he exclaimed. "If you will tell me your secret, I'll tell you mine. If you won't tell me, then no Salmon for you Mrs. Sea-Gull."
Poor Sea-Gull was terribly hungry; she felt she must have some of that Salmon; so she leaned closer to Raven and whispered.
"Well, if you promise not to tell a soul, I'll trust you with my secret–look!" She took a tiny box from under her wing. It was beautifully made of brown, shiny wood, and it was locked with a tiny, shiny key.
"Where did you get it?" whispered Raven.
"I found it, floating on the water," whispered back Sea-Gull. It's mine," and she popped it back under her wing.
"But what's inside the box?" asked Raven. "Have you opened it?"
Sea-Gull nodded. "I opened it a teeny way," she said. "It's full of something bright and shiny. I could only look at it for half a minute."
"Why?" asked Raven.
"It hurts my eyes," explained Sea-Gull. "It was so bright!"
Raven's eyes opened very wide. "I know what you've found!" he exclaimed. "You've found DAYLIGHT. Once when I was flying far away, I heard of LIGHT, but I've never seen it. Do let me look!"
Sea-Gull held her soft grey wing closer and closer over the little box. "No, No!" she shook her head. "It's my own beautiful treasure. No one must ever see it. It's all mine."
"All right," laughed Raven. "I don't really want to see inside. Let's go and eat the Salmon."
The two hopped along the sandy beach together. But Raven was not speaking the truth. He did want to see the shiny thing in the box. As he hopped along he thought of a plan by which he might see it.
He led Sea-Gull over a piece of sand that had a lot of thorny branches on it, and just as he had hoped, Sea-Gull got a thorn in her foot.
"Oh! Oh!" she sobbed. "Raven, please try and pull it out!"
She stood on one leg and cried with the pain, for it was a big thorn, and had gone right in the middle of her foot.
Raven sat down on the sand and took Sea-Gull's foot in one hand. He pretended to try and pull the thorn out, but he really pushed it deeper into her foot.
"I can't see," he said. "If only I had a little more light. You will have to hop home on one foot, and find someone with better eyes than mine." Again, half to himself, he said, "If only I had a better light I could do it."
Very, very slowly, Sea-Gull pulled the little box from under her wing, and very, very slowly, she turned the shiny key.
"I'll just open it a crack," she whispered. Slowly and carefully she lifted the lid–just the tiniest crack. At once a blazing light shone out; so bright that the two birds had to shut their eyes.
* "Quickly now! Pull it out!" cried Sea-Gull, and held her breath, waiting for the pain that would come when Raven pulled the thorn. But the naughty bird again pushed it deeper into her foot.
"I still can't see!" he said. "Open the box wider!" and he gave the thorn a great push.
"Oh! OH!" shrieked Sea-Gull. In her pain she opened the box as wide as it would go.
Ah–then, what a wonderful light there was. The whole world seemed filled with it. The air grew warm, and flowers blossomed amongst the mosses that grew close to the beach. Little birds flew from their nests to lie with their feathers fluffed out, in the lovely, warm light.
Sea-Gull found it so beautiful, she forgot her pain, and hopped about holding out her wings, so that every bit of her body might feel the soft warm air. Then she noticed a strange noise coming nearer and nearer, as through the woods and down to the beach raced all the birds and animals, beetles and butterflies, and all the living things from the forest.
"What has happened?" they called. "What is this warm feeling in the air? Why does everything look so beautiful and bright?"
"I DID IT!" said Sea-Gull proudly. "It was my secret! I had it in this little box. Raven and I let it out and now we can never shut it up again!" She strutted about on the sand in front of them all.
"I DID IT ALL MYSELF!" she repeated, even more proudly, and nodded her pretty head up and down, up and down.
All the creatures crowded about her, telling her how clever she was. They thanked her for giving them such a BEAUTIFUL LIGHT! until she felt terribly conceited and prouder than ever.
Now you know why Sea-Gull always walks so proudly, with her head in the air, sometimes nodding it up and down, up and down. You look, the next time you see her!
"Speak, or I will jump into your mouth and kill you!"
ONCE upon a time there was a beautiful river that flowed down from the mountains and through the woods, until it reached the sea.
All along its banks there were big, tall trees, and under the biggest and tallest tree, there was the tiniest little house you ever saw. It was made of the skins of animals, stretched over sticks, and in the middle of the floor a fire was always burning.
In this little house there lived two of the smallest people you can imagine! Just about the size of your middle finger!
There was a wee, old woman, with a wrinkled face and long, white hair. Her name was Tcheeah. With her lived her grandson Thum, who was even smaller than Tcheeah, but he was quite grown up and very strong and brave. He was also a great fisherman.
When the summer days came, with birds singing in the trees, and bees and butterflies gathering honey from the roses and honeysuckle that grew along the river bank, Thum would spend all his time down the stream, fishing for salmon.
When he had caught as many as he could carry, he would take them home to his grandmother.
While he lay resting beside the fire, Tcheeah would clean the salmon and put them on sticks to stand in the smoke from the fire, until they were hard and dry. Then they were ready to be put away for their winter food.
When the days grew colder, Thum would go to the river every evening with one of the dried salmon. He would put it in the water, with a big stone on top, so that it couldn't wash away. In the morning when he went to get it, the fish would be soft and ready for Tcheeah to cook.
The two little people lived like this for many years. Then came a winter that was longer and colder than any they had ever known.
The wind whistled through the big Cedar tree, making the branches swing and bow as though they were dancing.
The tiny house shivered and shook, whilst Tcheeah and Thum crouched close to their fire trying to keep warm.
Long icicles hung down from the trees, and Thum had to break a hole in the ice on the river, before he could put the salmon to soak.
"It's a good thing you are such a good fisherman, Thum." said Tcheeah. "We have plenty to eat, even if we can't keep very warm." She looked at the big pile of salmon that filled one end of the house, and smiled proudly at her grandson.
The next day a TERRIBLE thing happened!
When Thum went to the river to fetch the salmon, IT WAS GONE! There was the hole in the ice, and there was the big stone, but there was no salmon.
Poor little Thum. Up and down the river he hunted, breaking holes in the ice and peeping in and moving frozen sticks and stones. It was of no use. There was no salmon.
"What are you doing, little Thum?" called the birds as they flew down beside him. "Why aren't you keeping warm in your nice, cosy house?"
"Oh my friends!" said Thum. "I have lost the salmon that was to have been our food to-day! Have you seen it anywhere?"
"No, we haven't seen your fish," the birds told him. "We'll help you look for it," and they hopped about, hunting for the salmon.
There wasn't a sign of it, and the thief had left no tracks, for the ground was frozen hard as a stone.
Poor Thum went back to the house, and told his grandmother what had happened.
"Well," said Tcheeah, with a sigh. "We must go hungry to-day. To-night, when you put out the fish, pile more stones on it, then no thief will be able to steal it."
So Thum put his salmon in the water and piled stones all over it. Not a bit of it could be seen, but the next morning, when he went to the river, he found the stones moved away, and the fish gone!
Each day it was the same. In the evening, Thum put the salmon in the river, and in the morning it would be gone!
The fine pile of salmon grew smaller and smaller. Poor little Tcheeah and Thum grew thinner and thinner, until the day came when Thum took their last fish to the river.
As he went slowly along the trail to their home, a few soft, snow flakes began to fall. When he looked out the next morning, everything was hidden under a shining blanket of snow.
"Well Tcheeah!" said her grandson. "I will go and look for the last of our salmon. There are none left to put in the river to-night."
Before he started out, Thum put on his deer-skin leggins and he took his spear, for he hoped that if the thief had stolen the salmon, he would have left a trail behind in the snow
It was hard work for the tiny man to plough his way through the deep snow. At last he came in sight of the river.
Suddenly he stopped. His little heart beat wildly.
There in the soft snow at his feet, were the tracks of some huge animal!
Thum was terribly excited. He wasn't a bit afraid.
Taking a firm grip of his spear, he hurried on, following the big tracks through the snow, right to the edge of the river.
There, right in front of him, stood a most ENORMOUS ELK! with the tail of Thum's last fish hanging from his mouth!
I have told you that Thum was very brave. Well, I wish you could have seen him then!
He marched up to the great beast, and shouted in his loudest voice.
"Who are you? Whose fish are you eating?"
The Elk didn't say a word. He just stood chewing away at the fish, and staring down at the tiny man beside him.
"Answer me!" shouted Thum. He hammered on the Elk's foot with the handle of his spear. * "Speak, or I will jump into your mouth and kill you!"
Still there was no answer from the Elk. He just chewed and chewed. He just stared and stared, and then he smiled a little to himself.
Thum was terribly angry. He clutched his little spear as tightly as he could. Took one deep breath, and jumped, right into the great open mouth of the Elk!
Oh, the HUGE teeth that it had! They were like high mountains to poor little Thum.
He didn't stop to look at them, but, holding his spear in both hands, he climbed down–down the big throat.
Just as it began to get very dark inside the huge animal, Thum saw something blocking the way in front of him.
"I must kill that thing," he said to himself. "If I leave it hanging there, I won't be able to get past."
Climbing as close as he could to the thing, he stabbed and stabbed at it with his tiny spear.
Suddenly everything began to shake and sway, and poor Thum tumbled this way and that. Bump! Bang! he went against the sides of the Elk. Then just as suddenly, all was quiet. Then there came a loud THUD! Thum lay where he fell, thinking he must surely be broken in a million pieces.
For several minutes there wasn't a movement!
Thum scrambled to his feet, and stood listening.
There wasn't a sound!
Thum's little heart began to beat madly. Had he really killed the Elk?
Again he listened, but no sound of breathing came from the great animal.
HE HAD KILLED IT!
Up the big throat he climbed, and out of the huge mouth. Then he jumped to the ground and looked at the Elk.
There it lay, just as dead as could be! Tiny Thum held his spear high in the air, and danced up and down beside it. Then along the trail to the little house he went, shouting his hunting song and calling to Tcheeah, to tell her what he had done.
Out hobbled poor old Tcheeah, to hear what all the shouting was about. When she heard Thum's song, how excited she was.
"Ah my grandson!" she called. "What a great hunter you are. Now we will have plenty to eat! Let's get our knives and we will skin this animal and get some good meat to roast over our fire, and we will eat the marrow that is in the bones, for I like that best of all!"
The two little people got their stone knives, and started off. I wish you could have seen them tumbling through the snow, down to the river where the big Elk lay.
How they did work getting the Elk skinned! But at last it was done. They cut off as much meat as they could carry, and hurried home again.
Thum made a fine, hot fire, and Tcheeah put pieces of meat on sharp sticks which she stuck in the ground close to the red ashes. When the meat was cooked on one side, she turned the sticks round so that the other side might be cooked.
Oh how good that meat did smell! What a feast those hungry little Indian people had!
They ate until they couldn't eat another bite. Then they broke the bones with a stone hammer, and lay beside the fire sucking the juicy marrow from them.
Suddenly a sharp piece of bone stock in Tcheeah's throat.
She clutched her neck with her tiny hands, and, opening her mouth, she made a loud, harsh sort of noise.
"Khaaaark!" "Khaaaaaaaark!" she cried.
Thum stared at her in surprise. "Whatever is the matter Granny?" he asked. "Why are you making such a funny noise?"
Tcheeah couldn't answer, only, over and over again, she made the same noise. "Khaaark!" "Khaaaaark!"
"Oh, do be quiet!" scolded Thum. "If you keep making that noise, all the birds and animals will think you are silly and will laugh at you!"
Poor Tcheeah still went on making the noise, and at last, Thum got angry. Making his Magic, he pointed his finger at her and shouted.
"Go away from here! As you keep making a noise like a bird, a bird you must be!"
As he spoke, his granny began to change. Her nose grew long and pointed, soft blue feathers covered her body, and a shiny, crest stood up on her head.
She began to lift her lovely blue wings up and down, up and down. Just before she flew away, she made her Magic too.
Pointing a little black claw at Thum, she croaked.
"If I'm a bird, you must be one too. Turn into a bird Thum!"
Just one minute later, the door of the tiny house opened, and out there flew a beautiful blue bird. It was Tcheeah–the First of the Blue Jays. Behind her fluttered a little brown bird, with the softest black head. Thum, the first little black-capped Oregon Junco.
"He put out his little horns and GLARED at Raven."
ONE fine summer morning, Crow woke very early. She lay in her nest stretching first one wing and then the other, fluffing out her feathers in the sunshine, that came peeping through the leaves of the Maple tree, where she lived, and running her beak along her tail feathers, making them smooth and shiny.
"Now what shall I do to-day?" she asked herself. She lay with the tip of one tail feather in her beak, whilst she thought about it.
The days seemed long and sometimes a bit lonely, now that the children had grown up and flown out of the nest. She often wondered where they were, and whether they remembered everything that Father Crow and she had taught them. That reminded her of something else. Yesterday, Father Crow had flown away. Now she was all alone and could do just what she liked. "Well," she said to herself, "I think I'll go and pick some berries."
She finished her feathers, and thought a little more about the berries.
"The sun has been shining for three days," she thought, "There must be a lot of ripe berries. I'll see whether any other birds would like to get some."
She stood on the edge of her nest and called across to her friend Blue Jay.
"Good morning Blue Jay! I am going to pick blackberries a little later on. Will you come with me?"
Up popped Blue Jay's head out of her nest.
"Oh Crow, how early you are. I was fast asleep when you called. I'd love to pick some blackberries. What time are you starting?"
"I think we'd better go as soon as we've had some breakfast," called back Crow.
"Shall we take some lunch with us, and have a picnic?" said Blue Jay, dancing about on the edge of her nest, and nearly falling out in her excitement.
"Oh, yes, that would be fun! and let's ask some of the other birds, and tell them to bring their lunch too. Then it will be a big picnic!"
"It will be a party!" laughed Blue Jay, and she gave herself a good shake and ran her beak over her soft blue feathers, until each feather was lying in its place, just as smooth and neat as could be.
Crow flew off to ask the other birds to join the party. Then she got herself some breakfast. She had two little crabs, which she found under a piece of bark on the beach, and three plums that were growing in an orchard near by. Then she put some food in a small basket, and sat down to wait for the other birds.
As she sat warming herself in the sunshine, who should come crawling out from under a log, but Snail.
"Where are you going?" asked Snail, eyeing the little basket. He crept slowly up onto the stone where Crow was sitting.
"I'm going berry picking," said Crow. "We are going to have a picnic, and I've got my lunch in my basket."
Snail gave a little sniff. "Nobody ever asks me to go on a picnic," he said in a sad little voice. "I've got just the right sort of basket to put a lunch in, but nobody ever asks me to bring it. I like to pick berries too," he added. "But no one ever asks me to go picking berries with them, and to bring my basket with a lunch in it!"
He began to crawl very slowly off the stone. "Well, I'll go on my way," he said sadly. "I can't even say I'll go home, like other people do, because I always am 'home'. I can't get away from my house."
Crow watched Snail crawling sadly away. She said to herself, "Poor little Snail, he does have a dull time. He never goes anywhere. Even if he starts out, he never gets anywhere; he is too slow. He would love to go on this picnic with us."
She called out–"Snail, would you like to come with us?"
Little Snail couldn't believe his ears. "Did you say something to me?" he asked, looking back over the top of his house.
"Yes!" laughed Crow. "I asked you whether you would come with us to get some berries?"
"Oh yes, YES!" shouted Snail. "I mean, thank you very much, kind Mrs. Crow. I would love to go with you! Shall I get my basket?" He started crawling away as quickly as he could.
"Don't be too long!" called Crow.
Very soon a great chattering, laughing and fluttering could be heard, as the birds hurried to the beach where Crow was waiting for them. There was Grouse, and Woodpecker, Blue Jay and Lark, and, coming slowly along far behind everybody, was little Snail, carrying his tiny basket.
All together they pushed the canoe into the water. They were just getting into it, when there was a loud "squark," and Raven flew down beside them.
Now, they were none of them very fond of Raven. He was a greedy, unkind bird; so when they saw him right beside the canoe, they weren't very pleased.
"Where are you all off to?" croaked Raven. He flapped his great black wings, putting his head on one side, while his bright little eyes looked at their baskets, as though he were trying to see what was inside them.:
"We are going berry picking," Crow told him. "I am sorry we can't ask you to come with us. As you see, the canoe is full now, and when our baskets are filled with berries, it will be a tight squeeze for everyone to get in."
Raven laughed–a horrid, croaking sort of laugh.
"Oh, you can all move over a little," he said, "then there will be plenty of room for me! Just wait one minute," he added. "I'll hurry and get my lunch basket, as I see you all have yours."
The birds didn't like to be rude to Raven, so they sat and waited, and when he came back with his basket, they all squeezed up together, leaving him lots of room.
Raven's basket seemed to be very full of–something–He had put a little mat over the top, so that the birds couldn't see what he had brought, but Blue Jay whispered to Woodpecker, "Raven must have a very big appetite, if his basket is full of food!"
It was a lovely morning for a picnic. The sun shone down on the party, making the birds fluff out their feathers, so that the warmth could reach their bodies. Poor Snail thought it just a little bit too hot. He had to lie on the bottom of the canoe and stay inside his shell. He found this terribly annoying, as every few minutes someone would call, "Oh look! there's a fish!"–or–"Who is that flying over there?" and Snail, who was eager to see all that he could, would slowly put his head out of his house, and slowly, slowly, crawl up the side of the canoe. Of course, by the time he arrived at the edge of the canoe, there would be nothing to see, and he would crawl back to the bottom again, grumbling away to himself "People are always getting excited about nothing. Why can't they let a Snail rest quietly inside his shell!"
Well, they paddled and paddled, and at last they came to the berry-picking place.
There was a nice shady beach; behind that, a flat piece of country with tall ferns and great clumps of bright pink Fire-Weed growing everywhere. Under the ferns were long, trailing brambles, covered with great big Blackberries.
The birds scrambled out of the canoe, with their baskets, and started off to pick berries, but lazy Raven gave a great yawn, stretched himself, and lay down on a sandy spot on the beach.
"The sun has made me so sleepy," he said, with another big yawn. "I don't think I'll bother to pick berries." "Anyway" he added, "I heard this morning, that some of our enemies, the Yucultaw Indians, are about. I think I had better stay and keep guard over the canoe, just in case they come this way."
"How kind you are Raven," said Crow. "It would be dreadful if those Yucultaw people stole our canoe! How ever would we get home?" and she thought to herself that really, no one could be kinder than Raven. She must have been mistaken when she thought he was not a nice bird.
Now, I must tell you that when Raven went home to get his basket and some lunch for the picnic, he didn't get any lunch. No, not one bite to eat did he get! He only filled his basket with a lot of moss!
He had thought of a plan by which he could get all the berries that the birds picked, for himself.
As soon as the birds were out of sight, running here and there, hunting for the best and biggest berries, Raven took the mat from the top of his basket, took out a big handful of moss, and began rolling it into small bundles.
When all the moss was rolled up, Raven made his Magic, so that when the bundles of moss touched the water, they would turn into war canoes filled with fighting men.
When he had finished making the Magic, he put the moss back into his basket, and waited.
The birds were having a lovely time! They darted about under the ferns, picking the biggest and juiciest berries, and when their baskets were full, they sat down beside a tiny stream and ate their lunches. Even Snail crawled up and ate his lunch with them, and showed them his little basket, nearly full of berries.
When they had finished lunch, they picked a few more berries, and then went back to the beach.
As soon as Raven saw them coming, he ran to meet them, calling out in great excitement, "Oh, I'm so glad you've come back! What a good thing that I stayed here! Do you know what happened?"
"What has happened?" called all the birds together. "Are you all right?"
Raven waited until they were all close beside him, everyone hopping up and down, eager to hear what had been happening.
"Quick! Quick! Tell us, Raven!" They crowded closer and closer. Raven puffed out his chest and looked very proud.
"Well," he began in a very important sort of voice. "You had only just gone out of sight, when I saw, far out on the water, a lot of WAR CANOES! They saw me walking up and down beside the canoe, and they were afraid to come near! It's a good thing I didn't go picking berries, or we would have had the canoe stolen!"
"Oh Raven!" said Crow. "How brave you are! I don't know what we would have done without you!" "But" she added, looking at his empty basket, "you have no berries!"
"I know what we'll do!" said Woodpecker. "Let's each give brave Raven some of our berries, when we get back, shall we?"
"Yes! Yes!" called all the birds together. All, that is, except Snail. He didn't say anything. He just looked at his tiny basket, and he thought, "If I give any berries away, I won't have any for myself!" and he crawled on top of his basket and tried to spread himself over it, hoping that if no one saw it, they would forget he had a basket of berries.
"I think we had better hurry home," said Crow. "Those Indians might come back. Then what would we do?"
Into the canoe tumbled all the birds with their baskets of fruit. Little Snail found a corner for himself at the very bottom where he wouldn't be noticed.
As they paddled towards home, Raven, who was sitting in the stern of the canoe, began to drop his bundles of moss over the side. As soon as they touched the water, his Magic began to work, and at once they turned into war canoes with Yucultaw Indians ready to fight!
None of the birds noticed them. They were all too busy chattering about their berries, and all the things they had seen.
Suddenly Raven jumped up and shouted–
"Paddle as hard as you can! Yucultaw canoes are after us!"
How those birds did paddle! Raven paddled harder than any of them, and, as he dipped his paddle, he gasped–for he was getting out of breath.
"Paddle to the shore. When we get there, jump out and run and hide in the woods! I will stay and fight these people!"
In a moment they were at the beach. Out the birds jumped, and back into the woods they raced, leaving their berries in the canoe.
As they ran they could hear Raven shouting to the Yucultaws— "You had better not come near me. I am a great fighter! I will put my spear into every one of you! Go on your way peacefully, and I won't hurt you!"
As soon as the birds were out of sight, Raven used his Magic again. He turned the canoes back into moss, then sitting down beside the baskets of berries, he began to eat.
"What a feast I'm going to have!" chuckled the naughty bird, as he put his head right in amongst the fruit. He ate and ate until he could scarcely move. Then he took the berries that were left, and rubbed them all over his feathers, until he was in a terrible mess. After that he lay down in the bottom of the canoe.
Bye and bye, he heard the birds coming back, and he began to roll about and to groan and cry, as though he were in great pain.
When the birds saw that the Yucultaws were gone, they ran down to the beach, and as they got near, they heard Raven's groans and cries.
"Oh poor Raven!" they cried. "Those wicked people have hurt him!"
Crow looked into the canoe, and saw Raven lying there covered with red juice. She called to the others.
"See what they have done to him! He is covered with blood! Oh how he has fought to save our canoe for us!"
She hopped into the canoe, and took Raven's head on her knee.
"Get me some water!" she called. "I must bathe his wounds!"
The birds ran up and down the beach looking for shells to put water in, and just then, Snail came crawling down to the canoe.
"Yes!" he laughed. "Get some water, but don't bathe his wounds. He hasn't got any–Just wash him! Just wash him–Wet all his feathers!" He laughed and laughed.
"What do you mean?" asked Grouse. "Can't you see how he is bleeding? How can you be so cruel?"
She dipped her wings in the water, and sprinkled it over Raven.
"Listen to me, and I'll tell you why I laugh!" said Snail. "When you all ran into the woods, I couldn't crawl so far, so I got under a big log here on the beach. Every now and then, I peeped out to see how Raven was getting on with those Yucultaws. Well, I soon saw that he had used Magic! That they weren't real Yucultaws! As soon as you were out of sight, he turned all the canoes into moss! Then he ate all your berries, and put the juice on his feathers!"
Snail was so excited, his voice grew shriller and shriller. * He put out his little horns, and GLARED at Raven.
The birds could scarcely believe their ears, when Snail told them of Raven's wicked trick.
They caught him by the legs, and swished him up and down in the water. You should have seen the berry juice come out of his feathers! And you should have heard how he shouted for mercy! But the birds wouldn't listen to him. They gave him a last ducking and then threw him far out in the water. Then they got into their canoe and paddled home, leaving the naughty bird to splash ashore, and get home as best he could.
When they got to their beach, they helped little Snail out of the canoe, and everyone told him how brave and clever he was. Snail felt very proud of himself. He stuck out his horns and thanked them all. Then gaily and proudly he crawled away with his house on his back.
For he was a HERO, and that was all that mattered.
"Clyaa-Tum-Qua-Ur-Tsul?" (What sweet smell is passing?)
"AH-Hi-Ha!" "Ho-Hi-Ha!" Tchee-Tchee-Ken the Mink, sat up in bed with a jump. "What was that funny noise? Sounded like someone calling, or were they singing perhaps?" He listened. Then he yawned, for he hadn't half finished his sleep. He leaned out of his door. It was really a hole in a big rock. There, only a few feet away, were two men paddling a great big canoe, and as they dipped their paddles, they sang the song that had awakened Mink.
It was still very early. The sun had not yet come over the top of the mountain. Only two old Herons were to be seen, walking slowly and solemnly along the edge of the beach, looking for tiny fish to eat.
Tchee-Tchee-Ken gave another great yawn. He was just going to turn over for one more nap, when he sniffed the air, and sat up in his bed once more.
"What was that smell?"
He put his little pointed nose in the air and sniffed again and again.
"My! What a good smell!"
Quite forgetting that he had meant to have another sleep, he jumped from his bed, ran out on to the ledge of rock that he called his 'Look-Out', and from there he watched the canoe pass from sight around a point.
The canoe was gone, but that delicious smell was still in the air. Oh, it was so good. "I must find out what it is!" said Tchee-Tchee-Ken, and he ran as quickly as he could to a hill, from where he could look out over the water.
Now the two men in the canoe had been away digging Camas, or Spainoke as the Indians call it. Camas, you know, is a beautiful blue flower that grows on our rocky slopes. It has a small bulb which the Indians dig, in May, and which they cook and eat. They think it is very nice, but I don't know whether we would care for it. It has a very sweet smell when it is cooked, and it was this smell that Mink noticed when he first woke up.
The Indians had cooked themselves a big pan of Camas, and were carrying it with them in their canoe.
When Mink ran up the hill, he had cut across the point round which the canoe had disappeared. Now he could see it coming nearer and nearer. He could smell that sweet smell better than ever.
"What can it be?" he wondered. "Would those people give me some if I asked them?"
He ran down to the beach, and getting up on a high rock called, * "Clyaa-Tum-Qua-Ur-Tsul?" which means, "What sweet smell is passing?"
"Yes, we do smell sweet!" called back the man. "We will give you a little if you like!" They paddled to the shore, and gave Mink a little of their Camas.
Tchee-Tchee-Ken ate a little, and he licked his lips and laughed.
"This is better than anything I have ever tasted!" he said to himself. "I must have some more. They didn't give me much!"
He hid what he had left under a big log. Running quickly through the woods, he was soon in front of the canoe once more, and sat down on the sand to wait for it.
Little fat crabs were scurrying about on the sand beside him. At any other time he would have pounced on them, and enjoyed eating them, but this morning he could only think of the delicious food that the men had given him, so the crabs ran about quite safely.
When the canoe was near enough, he stood up and called. "What sweet smell is passing?"
"There is someone else smelling our Camas," said one of the men. "Oh, we'll give him just a little!" So again they paddled to the beach, and gave naughty Mink some of the sweet smelling food.
"Well, that was easy!" laughed Tchee-Tchee-Ken, as the men paddled away. "I'll try again!"
He once more hid the Camas; this time under a mossy rock, and started to run ahead. Bye and bye, he saw a tree that had been burned quite black. He stopped in front of it, thinking hard.
"That's a good idea!" he whispered to himself, and he rubbed his little paws on the burnt black wood, and then rubbed them all over his face! He stood up and rubbed his lovely, glossy, furry front up and down on the back. Then he turned and rubbed his back in the same way, until he was covered with the burnt wood. Oh, what a mess he was in!
"Now they won't know me!" he thought. "They'll think I'm some strange animal. Perhaps they'll give me more than before."
He had to run as quickly as he could to get in front of the canoe again. Just as he began to think he would never be able to beat them, one of the men stopped paddling, so Mink was able to get ahead.
In just a minute, the canoe came along, and Tchee-Tchee-Ken, taking care to change his voice to a high little squeak, called,
"Hallo! What sweet smell is passing?"
The men were getting tired of giving their food away, and one said, "We've given away too much already, let's paddle past, and not answer!" But the other said, "Oh well, let's give a little, just this once more." So they paddled to the beach, and gave the little black animal some of the Camas.
"I might as well get all I can!" thought greedy Mink. "I will make myself clean, and they will again think I am someone else!"
So after he had hidden the Camas, he rolled on the moss, jumped in the grass, and he rubbed little branches up and down his front until he thought he must be clean. Then he ran as hard as he could to get in front of the canoe once more.
He had been rolling so hard, trying to get clean, that the canoe had got far ahead of him, and it took him some time to get in front again. He ran to the beach, just as the canoe was passing.
Ah, that smell was good! He sniffed and sniffed, and with each sniff it seemed more delicious than ever. He took a big breath and shouted, "Ah! Ah! What sweet smell is passing? I am so hungry. I haven't been able to catch any food for days!" He walked up and down the beach pretending to limp a little, and trying to look thin and hungry. As he was rather a fat little Mink, he didn't succeed very well.
The men in the canoe were getting tired of hearing that call. They had given most of their Camas away, and wanted the little that was left for their supper.
They paddled to the beach, to see what animal it could be that was calling for their Camas, in the very same words that the others had used. When they saw the dirty, untidy little creature, limping about over the sand, they stared with amazement.
"What is it?" said one man.
"It looks something like that little Tchee-Tchee-Ken we gave our Camas to a long way back," said the other, "but he was a smart little fellow, with a shiny brown coat."
"Just see how dirty and black this thing is!" said the first man. "Let's catch him and see what he is!"
They jumped out of the canoe, caught Tchee-Tchee-Ken, and held him up by the back of his neck.
How he did kick and struggle, but the man held tightly, and no matter how hard he fought, he couldn't get away.
The men looked at him. Then together they shouted. "It is that greedy Tchee-Tchee-Ken! See how he has blackened himself to trick us! Getting all our good Camas! What shall we do with him?"
"We'll teach him a lesson!" said the biggest man. They took a stick and beat naughty Mink, until you couldn't see him for the black dust that came out of his coat.
"Let me go! Let me go!" cried poor Mink. "I'll never do it again! I'll never be greedy again!" He squeaked and wriggled until they threw him into the bushes, then, getting into their canoe, paddled away.
For a long time Tchee-Tchee-Ken sat in a huddled up heap in the bushes, until he was sure the canoe was out of sight. Then he scrambled out on to the beach and looked at his coat. Instead of the glossy brown coat of soft fur that he always saw, there was a horrid mat of tangled grass and burs, and the tiny bits of fur that he could find, were a dirty black with little bits of burnt wood sticking to them.
Oh, he WAS in a MESS!
His nose twitched and two tears rolled down his cheeks, for he was very proud of his lovely coat. Now it would be weeks before he could make it fit to be seen again.
Suddenly he remembered the Camas that he had hidden. "I might as well eat it" he thought, "but never again will I be so greedy!"
He tidied himself as well as he could, and set off to find the Camas. But he had learned his lesson.
Never would he be so greedy again, nor would he try to trick people.