Waukewa's Eagle

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf


One day, when the Indian boy Waukewa was hunting along the

mountain-side, he found a young eagle with a broken wing, lying at the

base of a cliff. The bird had fallen from an aerie on a ledge high

above, and being too young to fly, had fluttered down the cliff and

injured itself so severely that it was likely to die. When Waukewa saw

it he was about to drive one of his sharp
arrows through its body, for

the passion of the hunter was strong in him, and the eagle plunders many

a fine fish from the Indian's drying-frame. But a gentler impulse came

to him as he saw the young bird quivering with pain and fright at his

feet, and he slowly unbent his bow, put the arrow in his quiver, and

stooped over the panting eaglet. For fully a minute the wild eyes of the

wounded bird and the eyes of the Indian boy, growing gentler and softer

as he gazed, looked into one another. Then the struggling and panting of

the young eagle ceased; the wild, frightened look passed out of its

eyes, and it suffered Waukewa to pass his hand gently over its ruffled

and draggled feathers. The fierce instinct to fight, to defend its

threatened life, yielded to the charm of the tenderness and pity

expressed in the boy's eyes; and from that moment Waukewa and the eagle

were friends.

Waukewa went slowly home to his father's lodge, bearing the wounded

eaglet in his arms. He carried it so gently that the broken wing gave no

twinge of pain, and the bird lay perfectly still, never offering to

strike with its sharp beak the hands that clasped it.

Warming some water over the fire at the lodge, Waukewa bathed the broken

wing of the eagle and bound it up with soft strips of skin. Then he made

a nest of ferns and grass inside the lodge, and laid the bird in it. The

boy's mother looked on with shining eyes. Her heart was very tender.

From girlhood she had loved all the creatures of the woods, and it

pleased her to see some of her own gentle spirit waking in the boy.

When Waukewa's father returned from hunting, he would have caught

up the young eagle and wrung its neck. But the boy pleaded with him so

eagerly, stooping over the captive and defending it with his small

hands, that the stern warrior laughed and called him his "little

squaw-heart." "Keep it, then," he said, "and nurse it until it is well.

But then you must let it go, for we will not raise up a thief in the

lodges." So Waukewa promised that when the eagle's wing was healed and

grown so that it could fly, he would carry it forth and give it its


It was a month--or, as the Indians say, a moon--before the young eagle's

wing had fully mended and the bird was old enough and strong enough to

fly. And in the meantime Waukewa cared for it and fed it daily, and the

friendship between the boy and the bird grew very strong.

But at last the time came when the willing captive must be freed. So

Waukewa carried it far away from the Indian lodges, where none of the

young braves might see it hovering over and be tempted to shoot their

arrows at it, and there he let it go. The young eagle rose toward the

sky in great circles, rejoicing in its freedom and its strange, new

power of flight. But when Waukewa began to move away from the spot, it

came swooping down again; and all day long it followed him through the

woods as he hunted. At dusk, when Waukewa shaped his course for the

Indian lodges, the eagle would have accompanied him. But the boy

suddenly slipped into a hollow tree and hid, and after a long time the

eagle stopped sweeping about in search of him and flew slowly and sadly


Summer passed, and then winter; and spring came again, with its flowers

and birds and swarming fish in the lakes and streams. Then it was that

all the Indians, old and young, braves and squaws, pushed their light

canoes out from shore and with spear and hook waged pleasant war against

the salmon and the red-spotted trout. After winter's long imprisonment,

it was such joy to toss in the sunshine and the warm wind and catch

savory fish to take the place of dried meats and corn!

Above the great falls of the Apahoqui the salmon sported in the cool,

swinging current, darting under the lee of the rocks and leaping full

length in the clear spring air. Nowhere else were such salmon to be

speared as those which lay among the riffles at the head of the Apahoqui

rapids. But only the most daring braves ventured to seek them there,

for the current was strong, and should a light canoe once pass the

danger-point and get caught in the rush of the rapids, nothing could

save it from going over the roaring falls.

Very early in the morning of a clear April day, just as the sun was

rising splendidly over the mountains, Waukewa launched his canoe a

half-mile above the rapids of the Apahoqui, and floated downward, spear

in hand, among the salmon-riffles. He was the only one of the Indian

lads who dared fish above the falls. But he had been there often, and

never yet had his watchful eye and his strong paddle suffered the

current to carry his canoe beyond the danger-point. This morning he was

alone on the river, having risen long before daylight to be first at the


The riffles were full of salmon, big, lusty fellows, who glided about

the canoe on every side in an endless silver stream. Waukewa plunged his

spear right and left, and tossed one glittering victim after another

into the bark canoe. So absorbed in the sport was he that for once he

did not notice when the head of the rapids was reached and the canoe

began to glide more swiftly among the rocks. But suddenly he looked up,

caught his paddle, and dipped it wildly in the swirling water. The canoe

swung sidewise, shivered, held its own against the torrent, and then

slowly, inch by inch, began to creep upstream toward the shore. But

suddenly there was a loud, cruel snap, and the paddle parted in the

boy's hands, broken just above the blade! Waukewa gave a cry of

despairing agony. Then he bent to the gunwale of his canoe and with the

shattered blade fought desperately against the current. But it was

useless. The racing torrent swept him downward; the hungry falls roared

tauntingly in his ears.

Then the Indian boy knelt calmly upright in the canoe, facing the mist

of the falls, and folded his arms. His young face was stern and lofty.

He had lived like a brave hitherto--now he would die like one.

Faster and faster sped the doomed canoe toward the great cataract. The

black rocks glided away on either side like phantoms. The roar of the

terrible waters became like thunder in the boy's ears. But still he

gazed calmly and sternly ahead, facing his fate as a brave Indian

should. At last he began to chant the death-song, which he had learned

from the older braves. In a few moments all would be over. But he would

come before the Great Spirit with a fearless hymn upon his lips.

Suddenly a shadow fell across the canoe. Waukewa lifted his eyes and saw

a great eagle hovering over, with dangling legs, and a spread of wings

that blotted out the sun. Once more the eyes of the Indian boy and the

eagle met; and now it was the eagle who was master!

With a glad cry the Indian boy stood up in his canoe, and the eagle

hovered lower. Now the canoe tossed up on that great swelling wave that

climbs to the cataract's edge, and the boy lifted his hands and caught

the legs of the eagle. The next moment he looked down into the awful

gulf of waters from its very verge. The canoe was snatched from beneath

him and plunged down the black wall of the cataract; but he and the

struggling eagle were floating outward and downward through the cloud of

mist. The cataract roared terribly, like a wild beast robbed of its

prey. The spray beat and blinded, the air rushed upward as they fell.

But the eagle struggled on with his burden. He fought his way out of the

mist and the flying spray. His great wings threshed the air with a

whistling sound. Down, down they sank, the boy and the eagle, but ever

farther from the precipice of water and the boiling whirlpool below. At

length, with a fluttering plunge, the eagle dropped on a sand-bar below

the whirlpool, and he and the Indian boy lay there a minute, breathless

and exhausted. Then the eagle slowly lifted himself, took the air under

his free wings, and soared away, while the Indian boy knelt on the sand,

with shining eyes following the great bird till he faded into the gray

of the cliffs.