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The Chief's Daughter

from The Strange Story Book





Raven's wife had died, and as he felt very lonely he soon determined to
marry a second, but it was not very easy to find a girl to suit him, for
she was obliged to be of noble birth as the other had been. And to add
to the difficulties, a mischief-maker called Tsagwan was also seeking a
wife of the same kind, and wherever Raven went Tsagwan flew after him,
and told untrue stories about Raven, so that fathers refused to give him
their daughters. At last Raven discovered this and went straight to the
chief of the town.

'I know what has happened,' said he. 'And you will suffer for it. If I
had married your daughter, you would have had a great name in the world,
but now your daughter will marry someone whom no one ever heard of, and
if they speak of you among men it will be as The-Chief-with-no-name.'
When he heard this the chief trembled, for he knew it would be shameful.

So Raven left him and continued his journey till he reached the house of
an old man who lived alone.

'Do you know the young daughter of the chief who lives not far from
here?' he asked.

'Yes, I know her.'

'Well, why don't you marry her?'

'Oh, it is quite impossible that I should marry her, so I don't see the
good of trying.'

'Don't be so faint-hearted,' said Raven, 'I will give you a medicine
which will cause her to fall in love with you.'

'But I have no slaves, and she will expect slaves,' said the old man.

'Oh no, she won't,' answered Raven, 'she will take a liking to you and
no one will be able to help it. She will marry you, and her father will
lose half his property.'

And Raven kept his word and his medicine made the old man look young
again, and Raven bestowed feathers on him to put in his hair, and a robe
of marten skin to throw over his shoulders. When he was dressed the man
looked very handsome and was greatly pleased with himself. But his face
fell when Raven said to him:

'Remember you are not going to be like this always; it is only for a day
or two.'

Then the man got into his skin canoe and paddled over to where the girl
lived, and he did not go to ask her father's consent but sought her out
when she was alone, and she fell in love with him although she had
refused to listen to many other men besides Raven, and this was Raven's
revenge.

'Yes, I will marry you,' she said, 'and I will go with you, even if my
father kills me for it.'

So she married him, and after that her father and mother were told of
it. But the chief, instead of being unkind to his daughter, gave her
rich fur robes; 'for,' said he, 'if she is already married there is no
use in my being angry; and besides, her husband is a handsome fellow and
is plainly of high birth.' And he and the husband talked together of his
daughter's suitors and especially of the man who had been cruel to his
first wife, but the husband did not know that the chief meant Raven.

* * * * *

The new husband was anxious to get back to his own home, as he was
afraid that his fine clothes might drop off him on the way. Therefore he
lost no time in saying, 'My father told me I was to return at once in my
canoe; let us hasten, but do not you, my wife, take any furs with you
except those you want to keep you warm on the journey, for I have more
than enough in my house.' The wife obeyed him, and only took with her a
marten skin and a fox robe.

Now the girl lay in the canoe with her eyes shut, and she lay there for
a long while till she thought that they must be near home. Then she sat
up and looked out, and caught sight of her husband's face, which looked
quite different from when she had seen it before. For now it was full of
wrinkles, and the hair was thin and grey. And at the sight her heart
beat so fast it seemed as if it would jump out of her body, and she
cried very bitterly, because she was frightened and angry.

As soon as the canoe ran upon the beach she sat upon the rocks weeping
while the old man went from house to house throughout the village,
begging them to take her in, as she was a high-born girl and he had no
place that was fit for her. But they would not, and at last his sister,
who was still older than he, came down to the beach and took the girl
back to her house, which was dirty and shabby. The girl went, but she
was very miserable, and every day the people stopped as they were
passing, and mocked at her and her husband.

* * * * *

Curious to say, the chief and his sons had been quite deceived by the
fine clothes of the daughter's husband, and resolved to make him
presents suited to his rank. Therefore one day the people of the village
beheld a procession of canoes paddling over the sea, one filled with
furs, another containing the father and brothers of the girl, and a
third, in which sat the slaves with green feathers in their hair, taken
from the heads of drakes. The old man saw them likewise, and called to
some boys to come and help him clean up the house. But they only
answered, 'Clean up yourself, for you are dirty enough.'

'Well, at least carry up the strangers' goods; they are now landing,'
said he, but the boys replied as they had done before, 'Carry them
yourself.' In the end, it was the strangers who carried them and put
them down where they could; and they noticed that the old man's sister
was crying, and the strangers felt sorry for her.

The old man soon found that he would get no help from anybody, for they
were all angry with him for having married a chief's daughter. If he
asked them to lend him a basket for his guests to eat off, they told him
to use his own; if he begged them to fetch water, they bade him get it
himself, and even when he took a very dirty old basket to fill at the
stream, as he stooped down the water moved a little further away and
then a little further still, as if it also had a spite at him. Indeed,
it did this so often that at last he found himself in the mountains,
where it vanished into a house. Once more he followed it and beheld a
very old woman sitting inside.

'What is the matter?' said she. 'Is there anything I can do for you?'

'You can do a great deal for me if you only will,' answered he. 'I am
very poor and have married a noble wife, whose father and brothers have
come to visit me. I have nothing to give them, and my neighbours will
not help.'

'Is that all?' she said.

'Yes, all! Is it not enough?' But the old woman only smoothed his hair
with her hand, and in a moment it was thick and black as it had been in
his youth, and his rags became handsome garments. Even the very basket
changed into a beautiful new one.

'Go and dip the basket into the spring that is in the corner,' said she,
and when he drew it up it was full of water and of shells.

The man made all the haste he could down the mountain, but nobody
recognised him except his wife, and those who had seen him when he went
to marry her. He refreshed them all with water and gave them handfuls of
the shells, which they prized greatly, in return for the slaves and furs
his father-in-law had presented to him, for it is the custom of that
tribe that, if a man receives a gift from a father-in-law, he shall pay
it back with something of much greater value. And he soon grew so rich
that the people made him chief of the town.

Now that happened which was bound to happen. The people who had mocked
him when he was poor were ready to bow down to him when he was rich,
while he and his wife grew harder and prouder every day. They built
themselves a large house where they gave magnificent feasts, but they
passed most of their time on the roof of the house, watching all that
went on below.


THEM!]

One fine spring evening they were sitting there as usual, when a flock
of swans flew across the sky from the south-east. 'What beautiful birds!
I should like to marry one of them!' exclaimed the wife, as the swans
gradually disappeared in the distance. Of course she did not mean
anything, any more than when she repeated the same words on seeing the
sand-cranes overhead, or the brants which presently came past. But the
brants did not know this, and as soon as they heard her they flew down
and carried her off on their wings. Her husband ran after them but he
never reached them, only now and then she let fall some of the loose
clothes that covered her. By and bye--for they found she was heavier
than they expected--the brants let the woman fall too. Luckily they were
then over the sandy beach so she was not hurt, but she was quite naked
and even her hair had been rubbed off. She got up and walked quickly,
crying as she went, to some trees which had large leaves, and these she
twisted together till she had made a kind of apron. Then she wandered
along the beach not knowing where she was going, and thinking sadly of
her home and her husband, till she came to a house with an old woman
sitting in it. The sight gladdened her heart, and she entered and held
out the head of a red snapper which she had picked up on the shore,
saying, 'Let us cook this red snapper head for dinner.'

'Yes, let us cook it,' answered the old woman, and after they had eaten
it she bade the chief's wife go back to the beach and try to find
something else. This time the girl brought in a fish called a sculpin,
and it was cooked also; but while they were eating it the chief's wife
heard the noise of boys shouting, though she could see no one.

'Take the tray with the food out to that hole,' said the old woman, and
as the chief's wife did so she beheld many hands sticking up out of the
ground. She placed the tray in the hands, and waited as it disappeared.
In a moment it rose to the surface again, with two fine fox skins on it,
which she carried back to the old woman.

'Make yourself some robes out of them,' said she, and the girl did so.

When she was dressed, the old woman spoke to her again, and said:

'Your father and mother live in a salmon creek, a little way along the
beach. It might be well for you to go and pay them a visit.' So the girl
went, and after a time she saw her father out in a canoe spearing
salmon, and her mother was with him. The girl ran quickly down to the
water's edge in order to meet them, but when her father saw her he cried
out:

'Here comes a fox; where are my bow and arrows?' And his daughter heard
him and ran as fast as she could to the woods.

After a while she stopped running, for she knew she was safe, and then
she made her way to the old woman.

'Why are you crying? Did you not see your father?'

'Yes, and he took me for a fox.'

'Why, what else do you think you are?' asked the old woman in surprise.
'But return at once to your father who will want to kill you; and be
sure you let him do it.'

'Very well, I will do your bidding,' answered the girl, though the order
seemed strange to her.

The next day the girl went down to the beach and saw her father fishing
still closer to the shore.

'Why, here is that big fox again,' cried he, and she did not move, but
waited while he fitted an arrow to his bow and shot her in the heart.
Then his wife got out of the canoe and began to skin the fox, and as she
did so she found something on its foreleg which made her start.

'Surely that is my daughter's bracelet,' said she. 'Yet that is not
possible!' And she continued her work. By and by she came to the throat,
and there lay a necklace. 'Surely that is my daughter's necklace,' she
repeated, and then she called to her husband, saying:

'I found our daughter's necklace and bracelet in this skin. Something
that we know not of must have turned her into a fox.' And they both
cried, for they remembered how the fox had run to meet them instead of
going away.

But Indians are learned in things of which other people are ignorant,
and they quickly set to work and laid the fox's body on a mat, and
covered it with bags of eagle's down which every tribe has ready to use,
and over all they placed a mat, weeping as they did so. After that they
fasted and cleaned up their houses, and the girl's relations fasted
likewise and cleaned up their houses. For many days they did this, and
at length, at midnight, the father and mother felt their house shaking
beneath them, and heard a noise coming from the room where the body lay.
Taking a burning stick, the mother hastened to the room, and found her
daughter in her own shape, having become a doctor or shaman. Happy
indeed were they to behold her thus; but, curious to say, the girl's
husband at that moment lost all his wealth and was as poor as ever.

[Tlingit Myths.]





Next: The Boyhood Of A Painter
Previous: Mrs Veal's Ghost



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