12. The Mayamah

The people had all left their camp and gone away to attend a borah which was an initiation ceremony for boys. Nothing was left in the camp but one very old dog, too old to travel. After the tribe had been gone about three days, one night their enemies came, the Gooeeays, intending to surprise them and kill them.

The Gooeeays came painted in all the glory of their war-paint, their hair tied in top-knots and ornamented with feathers and kangaroos’ teeth. Their waistbands of grass, melon, and kangaroo rat skins cut in strips were new and strong, holding firmly some of their boomerangs and clubs, which they had stuck through them.

But prepared as they were for a fight, they found only a deserted camp containing nothing but one old dog. They asked the old dog where the tribe had gone. But he only shook his head. Again and again they asked him, and again and again he only shook his head. At last some of the men raised their spears and clubs saying, “If you do not tell us where they are gone, we shall kill you.”

Then the old dog spoke, saying only, “Gone to the borah.”

And as he spoke every one of the Gooeeays and everything they had with them was turned to stone. Even their waistbands, the top-knots on their heads, and the spears in their hands, even these turned to stone. And when the tribe returned to their camp long afterwards, when the borah was over they saw their enemies, the Gooeeays, standing round their old camp, as if to attack it. But instead of being men of flesh, they were men of stone—they, their weapons, their waistbands, and all that belonged to them, stone.

And at that place are to be found stones of great beauty, striped and marked and coloured as the men were painted.