Robbery and murder revenged
A Micmac Legend
Two men once lived together in one wigwam in the woods, on the borders of a lake. The name of one was Plawej (Partridge); and that of the other was Wejek (Spruce Partridge). These two men were always associated together, and they lived by the chase.
One day Plawej was walking along the shore in the winter-time, and he discovered three girls seated on the ice, arranging and braiding their hair. He stole up towards them in order to spring upon them and seize one or more; but they were too spry for him, and plunged all together into a hole in the ice, and thus effected their escape. Shortly after this he saw them again, and this time he was more cautious. He took some fir boughs and concealed himself behind them, and slowly creeping along he came so near, before the girls took the alarm, that in her haste one of them dropped the string with which she fastened her hair, the sakulobee. This he picked up and carried home with him, and tied down to the place where he usually sat and slept in the wigwam. It was not long before the girl who had dropped her hair-string returned to search for it. She proceeded to the wigwam where it was fastened, and quietly decided to remain and be the wife of him who had thus wooed and won her.
After this, Plawej her husband (her "old man" is the term usually applied, and is, contrary to our notions, a term not of disrespect, but of honor) goes away into the forest to search for game. In the mean time his comrade returns, and to his surprise finds a woman installed in the place of female authority. He quietly sits down by her. But soon after, his friend arriving, he is informed that he has made a mistake; that he must not sit there, but march over to the opposite side of the wigwam, as the woman is his (Plawej's) wife. This is done without dispute or delay, and everything goes smoothly on.
On their next hunting-excursion the two men go away together, and leave the woman in charge of the establishment. Her husband charges her to keep the door closed, and to suffer no one to enter, - not even her own nearest relatives, not brother or sister, father or mother; for should she open to any one, she would be carried off and murdered. She promises obedience, and the two men depart. They are to be gone all night, and she prepares to take care of the house, and to take care of herself, as directed. She carefully closes the door and fastens it, and lies down to rest.
But at midnight she is awakened by a call outside; some one is asking to be allowed to come in: Pantahdooe! - "Open the door for me!" But she pays no heed to the call. It is a magician, - a Pouin (a Powwow), - and he can imitate the voice of her relatives with spirit-rapping accuracy. There are several of her relatives there. She soon hears, as she supposes, her own brother calling, Pantahdooe! - "Open the door for me!" Still she remains firm to her promise; she pays no heed to the call. After a little she hears, or seems to hear, her own mother call, 'Ntus ("My daughter"), pantahdooe ("open the door for me")! Still she stirs not, answers not. Shortly after, she hears her father call, 'Ntus, pantahdooe; loke cyowchee ("I am very cold")! Her resolution now gives way; she cannot refuse to let in her old father; she cannot resist his earnest pleadings for admission. She rises and opens the door. Alas for the poor thing! There stands the wily wolf in the form of a man possessed of magical arts and powers, who carries her off, and finally kills her.
Wejek' comes in from his hunting, and is surprised to find the woman gone. He goes in quest of her. He soon comes among the scoundrels who have carried her off, and is himself overpowered and killed.
Finally, Plawej' arrives home, and perceives that his wife and his friend are both among the missing. He cannot tell what has become of them, but he has some skill in magic, and puts this skill in practice, first, to ascertain what has become of his wife and his friend, and next, to discover and punish the robbers and murderers. The mode of procedure is this: he takes a wooden dish and fills it half full of water, and places this carefully close to the back part of the wigwam just opposite the door, this being the chief seat or place of honor (as in the Syrian house). Then he lies down on his face and sleeps.
In the morning, on awaking, he examines the wolvtes, the wooden dish, and finds it half full of blood. He knows by this that his wife and his comrade have been murdered. He now resolves on revenge. He will seek out and kill those who have robbed him and killed his friends. He gathers up his weapons and equips himself for the expedition. He takes his hatchet, his spear, his bow, and flint-headed arrows, and starts. He goes on a long distance, carefully reconnoitering and examining every unusual appearance. Soon he sees a man's knee protruding from a high cliff, the owner of the knee being apparently embedded in the solid rock. He knows what this means. The fellow is trying to hide, but is displaying unconsciously a vulnerable part. One blow from the hatchet severs the knee close to the rock, and leaves its possessor hard and fast. A short distance farther on he discovers a fellow's foot sticking out from the face of the cliff. The chopping process is repeated; the foot is severed, and the wretch is killed. A little farther on he discovers a poor little squirrel crawling along half dead, and he takes it up and puts it in his bosom, and talks to it. "You must fight today, my brave little fellow," he says, "but I will be near to aid you. When I tap you on the back, you will bring forth your young."
His next adventure was with a flock of wild geese sporting in a lake, - magicians they were in reality who had assumed the form of Senumkwak'. He assails them with his bow and arrows, and kills them all. He ties them together by their heads, strings them across his shoulders, and pursues his course in search of more enemies.
The next one he discovers is in the guise of an ordinary mortal. He is quietly seated in a wigwam, which our hero enters without ceremony, according to Indian custom. He gets a very cool reception. The usual invitation, Kutakumoogwal' ("Come up higher"), is not given. The owner of the establishment is sulky and taciturn. He cooks some food, however, and divides it, dipping out a portion for his unwelcome guest. But just as the stranger reaches out his hand to receive it, he twitches it away from him and tells him in a grossly insulting tone that he would rather give it to his dog. He offers it to him again, and again twitches it away with the same insulting remark. He then inquires, "Have you met with any adventures today?" "I have," is the answer: "I saw a fellow's knee sticking out from a cliff, and I chopped it off; a little farther on I saw a fellow's foot sticking out in the same way, and I chopped it off. Then I fell in with some wild geese in a lake, and I shot them, and have brought them to your wigwam; just step out of doors, and you will see them."
"Come on, then," he replies; "our dogs must fight." "All right!" is the answer. "Bring out your dog! " This is done, when, lo! instead of a dog (l'múj) there comes forth a large, formidable, savage beast called a weisum.
Plawej produces his 'dog,' - a great contrast to the other, - a tiny squirrel, and half dead at that, which he lays carefully before the fire. But soon the little thing begins to move and stretch and shake itself and grow larger, until its dimensions almost equal those of its antagonist. The conflict now commences, and rages with unabated violence for some time, when the weisum begins to get the better of his antagonist. Then the master steps up and gives her a tap on the back, and she immediately brings forth two young ones, that grow up in a twinkling, and are as large, as strong, and as active as their mother. They rush in and mingle in the fray, tearing away with tooth and nail at the poor weisum. He is soon overpowered, and his master begs for his life, owns that he is beaten, and entreats the other to call off his dogs. "Friend," says he, "let us part our dogs; this is not my own dog, but my old grandmother's. "That is the last thing in the world Plawej' would think of doing. He pays no attention to the entreaties of his antagonist, and the weisum is soon stretched lifeless upon the ground. Whereupon his owner expresses great regret, but not so much professedly on his own account as on account of his poor grandmother, who set a store by her "dog," and will take it grievously to heart that he has been overcome, and has fallen in the fray.
He then proposes an excursion upon the river in a canoe. This is agreed to, and the two launch the fragile "vessel" and set sail. They are soon out into the middle of the river, and are borne rapidly down by the current. Presently they reach a high perpendicular cliff, against which the water is dashing with great violence. It is soon discovered that there is a passage through these rocks, and that the water goes thundering through. Into this narrow, dark passage-way, amidst the boiling surges, the canoe is driven and forced furiously on. Plawej' maintains his seat and steadies the "bark," as it flies; but looking round he sees that he is left alone, his wily companion having leaped ashore just as the canoe was about entering this horrid hole. Soon, however, he emerges out into the light, and finds the water calm and smooth, - so smooth and still that he can scarcely discover any current at all. He now begins to use his paddle, and moves quietly on. He soon discovers a smoke near the shore, and lands. The smoke issues from a cave, and standing near the door he hears the voices of parties within engaged in earnest conversation: some one is relating to another the adventures of the day. He soon ascertains that it is his "host," who has deserted him so unceremoniously in the hour of danger, telling his grandmother of the death of the several worthies who had fallen under the superior "magic" of Plawej'. When he relates how the last magician who had assumed the form of the weisum, her special friend and favorite, is killed, the old lady's wrath knows no bounds. "If he were only still alive," she asseverates, "and would come this way, I would roast him alive, - that I would." "But he is not alive," replies her friend. "I sent him where he'll not see the light again very soon, I can assure you."
Their conversation is now interrupted by our hero's stepping boldly in and presenting himself before them. "But I am alive," he says, "after all, old boy; now come on" (addressing the old lady), Baksikboksooe', "roast me to death!" The old woman gives him a hideous scowl, and says nothing, and he takes his seat. She is of the porcupine "totem," and shows her quills. She begins to rouse up the fire. She has formidable piles of hemlock bark all dried for the purpose, and she piles it on with an unsparing hand. The fire blazes, crackles, and roars, and the heat becomes intense; but he does not stir until they have exhausted their supply of fuel. It is now his turn. He goes out and collects fuel, and bestows it unsparingly upon the fire, and then closes and fastens the entrance to the cave. He hears them calling for compassion, but he is deaf to their cries. The roof and sides of the cavern glow and crack with the heat, and by and by the fire goes down and all is still. The last of the robbers and murderers are killed and burned to cinders.
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