22.THE OLD STUMP
Long ago there was an old woman called Grizzly Bear. She had neither husband nor children, and lived all alone in a cabin on the hillside.
As the days went by, she became very lonely, and so she made up her mind to find a daughter for herself. She took some pitch and made a girl out of it. Then she put this figure out beside the river, and it began to move and speak.
“You are my daughter now,” Grizzly Bear said to the girl, “and you shall live with me in my cabin. Every day you can bathe in the river, but, when you have finished, you must come at once into the shade of the cabin, instead of drying yourself in the sunshine.”
The girl promised to do this and for three days she obeyed her mother’s commands, but on the fourth day she thought she would see what would happen to her, if she sat on the bank in the sunshine. So, when she had finished bathing, she seated herself on a stone by the river. The sun was very hot, and in a few minutes the young girl had melted and disappeared.
When Grizzly Bear learned what had happened, she felt very sad, but she was still determined to find another daughter for herself.
This time she took some clay and made a girl from it. When the girl moved and spoke, she told her she could bathe in the river every day and seat herself in the sunshine to dry, but she must not rub herself while in the water. This command the girl obeyed for three days. On the fourth day, she thought she would see what would happen to her if she rubbed herself while she was in the water. So, when she went in to bathe, she began to rub herself and at once broke into pieces and melted away.
When Grizzly Bear saw what had happened, she again was very sad, and this time she made up her mind to make a daughter who could not destroy herself. So, taking a block of wood, she made a girl from it. When the wood came to life, Grizzly Bear told her that she could bathe every day in the river and bask in the sun if she liked.
The daughter did this for three days, and on the fourth, as she was standing by the riverside, she saw a large trout leap out the water.
“What a beautiful trout,” said the girl to herself. “How I wish I had it.”
Three times the trout leaped out of the water, and the fourth time it landed on the shore by her feet. At once it changed into a handsome, young man.
“Come with me,” he said to the girl. “I have a beautiful home beneath the water. Come with me and be my wife, and you shall live happy all the rest of your days.”
The girl said she would go. Then he told her to get on his back and to shut her eyes as he leaped into the water. She must keep them shut until he told her to look. She promised to obey him, but, scarcely were they beneath the water, when she opened her eyes to see where they were. At once she found herself alone on the bank of the river.
The next day the same thing happened. She opened her eyes before they had reached the underwater world, and again she found herself alone on the bank. This happened once more on the third day, but on the fourth she succeeded in keeping her eyes closed until her husband told her to open them.
She found herself in a beautiful country, much like the one she had come from. There were homes and gardens and children here, and she knew she would be very happy.
As the years went by, two children were born, a boy and a girl. One day they came to their mother and told her that the other children had taunted them for having no grandmother.
“Yes, you have a grandmother,” she replied. “She lives in a cabin near the river. You may go above the water today and visit her home, but you must make sure first that she is digging roots on the hillside, for she must not see you.”
The children promised and went at once above the water. They saw the cabin, and an old woman digging roots. Very quietly, they made their way to the home of their grandmother. They found some food on the table and helped themselves. Then they went back to tell their mother all they had seen.
Three days they did this, but Grizzly Bear had missed the food each day, and knew that no one but grandchildren would enter her cabin this way and take her food. So, the fourth day, she commanded an old stump to look like an old woman digging roots, and to move as the children passed. Going back to her cabin, she prepared some powerful medicine, and then hid herself behind some deerskins.
In a little while the children entered and began to eat the food. The old woman quickly sprang out and threw the medicine over them. The boy was completed covered with it, while only a few drops fell on the girl. At once the boy changed into his proper form, and was a handsome young Indian; while the girl was changed into a little black dog.
Grizzly Bear told the boy that she was his grandmother, and that he must live with her now, but she did not tell him that the dog was his sister. She only said, “You must take great care of this little dog, and never beat or ill use it.”
The boy promised, and every day he would go forth with his bow and arrows to shoot birds, while the little dog ran beside him. One day he was shooting red-headed woodpeckers. Three times he had killed a bird, and the little dog ran ahead and ate it before he could reach her. The boy became very angry at this, and, when she did it for the fourth time, he struck her a hard blow with his arrow.
At once the dog cried, “Why are you treating me this way. Aren’t I your sister?” As soon as she had said this, she ran away. The boy followed, but before he could catch it, the dog had turned into a chickadee and had flown away. The sád boy returned to his grandmother, and told her everything that had happened.
“Why did you not tell me that the dog was my sister?” he asked.
“If I had told you,” she replied, “you would have been sadder than you are now.” Then she added, “Listen to me, my grandson; when you are shooting, if an arrow should land in a tree where it is too high for you to reach, do not climb to get it.”
The boy promised to remember this command, and three times when an arrow pierced a tree above his reach, he gave it up as lost, but the fourth time he forgot the command. Seeing his arrow only a few inches above his head in the bark of the tree, he began to climb for it. Just as his hand touched it, the arrow moved farther up. He climbed higher and, as he reached it, again it moved up. This went on until the arrow and the boy were out of sight in the clouds.
Neither the boy nor his sister was ever seen again, and Grizzly Bear, who had been watching from the ground, was left there all alone. And there she still stands, looking just like the stump of an old tree, but the Indians know who it is, and as they pass by, they place an offering on the withered stump.