THE FIRE-BRINGER





There was a Boy of the tribe who was swift of foot and keen of eye, and he

and the Coyote ranged the wood together. They saw the men catching fish in

the creeks with their hands, and the women digging roots with sharp

stones. This was in summer. But when winter came on, they saw the people

running naked in the snow, or huddled in caves of the rocks, and most

miserable. The Boy noticed this, and was very unhappy for the misery of

his people.



"I do not feel it," said the Coyote.



"You have a coat of good fur," said the Boy, "and my people have not."



"Come to the hunt," said the Coyote.



"I will hunt no more, till I have found a way to help my people against

the cold," said the Boy. "Help me, O Counsellor!"



Then the Coyote ran away, and came back after a long time; he said he had

found a way, but it was a hard way.



"No way is too hard," said the Boy. So the Coyote told him that they must

go to the Burning Mountain and bring fire to the people.



"What is fire?" said the Boy. And the Coyote told him that fire was red

like a flower, yet not a flower; swift to run in the grass and to destroy,

like a beast, yet no beast; fierce and hurtful, yet a good servant to keep

one warm, if kept among stones and fed with small sticks.



"We will get this fire," said the Boy.



First the Boy had to persuade the people to give him one hundred swift

runners. Then he and they and the Coyote started at a good pace for the

far away Burning Mountain. At the end of the first day's trail they left

the weakest of the runners, to wait; at the end of the second, the next

stronger; at the end of the third, the next; and so for each of the

hundred days of the journey; and the Boy was the strongest runner, and

went to the last trail with the Counsellor. High mountains they crossed,

and great plains, and giant woods, and at last they came to the Big Water,

quaking along the sand at the foot of the Burning Mountain.



It stood up in a high peaked cone, and smoke rolled out from it endlessly

along the sky. At night, the Fire Spirits danced, and the glare reddened

the Big Water far out.



There the Counsellor said to the Boy, "Stay thou here till I bring thee a

brand from the burning; be ready and right for running, for I shall be far

spent when I come again, and the Fire Spirits will pursue me."



Then he went up to the mountain; and the Fire Spirits only laughed when

they saw him, for he looked so slinking, inconsiderable, and mean, that

none of them thought harm from him. And in the night, when they were at

their dance about the mountain, the Coyote stole the fire, and ran with it

down the slope of the burning mountain. When the Fire Spirits saw what he

had done they streamed out after him, red and angry, with a humming sound

like a swarm of bees. But the Coyote was still ahead; the sparks of the

brand streamed out along his flanks, as he carried it in his mouth; and he

stretched his body to the trail.



The Boy saw him coming, like a falling star against the mountain; he heard

the singing sound of the Fire Spirits close behind, and the labouring

breath of the Counsellor. And when the good beast panted down beside him,

the Boy caught the brand from his jaws and was off, like an arrow from a

bent bow. Out he shot on the homeward path, and the Fire Spirits snapped

and sang behind him. But fast as they pursued he fled faster, till he saw

the next runner standing in his place, his body bent for the running. To

him he passed it, and it was off and away, with the Fire Spirits raging in

chase.



So it passed from hand to hand, and the Fire Spirits tore after it through

the scrub, till they came to the mountains of the snows; these they could

not pass. Then the dark, sleek runners with the backward streaming brand

bore it forward, shining starlike in the night, glowing red in sultry

noons, violet pale in twilight glooms, until they came in safety to their

own land.



And there they kept it among stones and fed it with small sticks, as the

Counsellor advised; and it kept the people warm.



Ever after the Boy was called the Fire-Bringer; and ever after the Coyote

bore the sign of the bringing, for the fur along his flanks was singed and

yellow from the flames that streamed backward from the brand.





THE FIR-TREE THE FIRST CHRISTMAS-TREE facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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