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Fish-Hawk and Scapegrace

A Micmac Legend

Two men met and talked: one was Fish-Hawk, the other was Scapegrace. Now the Fish-Hawk can fly higher than any other ocean bird, and he is proud and particular as to his food; he is only beaten by the eagle. When he dives and takes a fish the eagle pursues him; he lets it drop; the great sagamore of the, birds catches it; but to less than the chief he yields nothing. But the Scapegrace will eat anything; he is heavy in flying; he is slow and of low degree.

So when the Scapegrace proposed to the Fish-Hawk that they should become partners the proud bird was angry in his heart, but said nothing, as he was crafty, and as it occurred to him that he could punish the other; and this he was the more willing to do because the Scapegrace actually proposed to fly a race with him! So he said, "Let us go together to a certain Indian village." And they went off together.

The Fish-Hawk arrived there far before the other. And on arriving he said, "Beware of him who will come after me. You will know him by these signs: he is ugly and heavy; he will bring with him his own food. It is coarse and common; in fact it is poison. He wishes to kill you; he will offer it. Do not eat of it, or you will die."

Then having been very well entertained himself, he took his departure. Scapegrace soon appeared, but was treated with great reserve. He offered his food, and the people pretended to eat it, but took good care to quietly throw it away. Then he told the chief that he was seeking a wife, and asked if there were girls to marry in the town. To which the chief replied, "Yes, there is a mother with several daughters, of the Amalchooywech' or Raccoon tribe."

He went to see the girls. A bad name had gone before him. One of them stood before the lodge. She saw him, and cried, "Mahgwis wechooveet!" "Scapegrace is coming!" They received him as if he had been Sickness. He was welcomed like filth on fine clothes. They cried out, "Ulummeye!" "Go home!" He asked the mother if she had daughters. She answered, "Yes." He asked her if she would give him one. She replied, "I will not." So he went his way.

Now when he had gone Fish-Hawk came again, and asked if Scapegrace had been there. He inquired if all had passed as he predicted. They said it had. Then it occurred to him to pass himself off for a great prophet, a wise magician, well knowing that he could make much of it. So he said, "It is well. Remember that you would have all died but for my foresight. That wizard would have poisoned you all. But have no fear. In future I will watch over you."

Then he said to a man of the people that if at any time he should see a large bird flying over the village it would be an omen of great coming danger. "Then," he said, "think of me; call on me, and I will come." So he departed.

The man thought it all over for a long time. He was shrewd and wise. "He foretold the coming of Scapegrace," he reflected. "Now he pretends to be a very great sorcerer. We shall see!"

Sure enough, in a few days he saw a bird flying on high. "That," said he, "must be the Wis-kuma-gwasoo." He called him, and he came. "You spoke," he said, "of danger to our town. What is it?"

"There is great danger. In a few days your town will be attacked by a Kookwes. Unless you save yourselves you will all be devoured."

"What shall we do to be saved?" asked the man. "When will he come?"

"In seven days," replied the Fish-Hawk. "Before that time you must take to your canoes and flee afar. You may get beyond his reach, but you cannot before that time get beyond the horrible roar of his voice. And all who hear it will drop dead."

"How can we escape this second danger?" asked the man.

"You must all close your ears, so that you can hear nothing. When the time is over you may return."

The man's name was Oscoon. He led the people away. He closed their ears; he did not close his own. Once he heard a far-away whoop. It was not very terrible. But he said nothing. After a time the scouts who were sent out returned. They reported that the Kookwes had departed. They had not even seen him. It was a great escape.

The people thought much of Oscoon. They made him their chief. In a few days the Fish-Hawk returned. He spoke to Oscoon: "Did the giant come?" "He did." "You escaped?" "By following your advice, we did." "And in which direction did he go?" "Surely you, who know so much about him, must know that better than we do." Then the Fish-Hawk saw that he was found out. He flew away, and never returned to the town to play the prophet.

He who would cheat must watch his words well.

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