Short Stories » The River People
The River People - Page 3 of 6
"At last mother and father bound two drift-logs together with willow withes. We all helped, as none of us ever think of being idle. Upon the logs we made a rude nest, and here we all slept and ate as we floated down the stream.
"After several days we came to a heavily timbered bottom where there was a very large fallen tree. The roots held firmly to the bank and projected over the water. We all let go of our raft and climbed upon it; there were bushy branches at the top. We trimmed the trunk of the tree leading to dry land and built a temporary nest upon the bushy top, until the water should go down and we could find a good place to build. Mother and father went down the stream the next night to explore for a new home, and I was left in the nest with two brothers. We, too, explored the shores and little inlets near us, but we all came back to the nest that morning except mother and father. I have never seen them from that day to this.
“I and my two brothers slept together in the warm nest. All at once I felt a slight jar. I opened my eyes, and there lay upon the trunk of our tree a fierce Igmu, ready to fish us out with his strong arm and hooked claws.
' Kerchunk ! I dropped into the deep stream to save my life. I swam a little way, and then came to the surface and peeped back. Ah, I saw him seize and violently dash one of my brothers against the tree, but the other I did not see. Perhaps he did as I did to save himself.
" I went down the Bad River until I came to the Big Muddy. Ice was floating in huge cakes upon the brown flood. I wanted to go, too, for I had heard of a country far to the sunrise of the great river. I climbed upon a floating ice-cake, and I moved on down the Muddy Water.
' I kept a close watch on the shores, hoping to see father and mother, but I saw no sign of them. I passed several islands, but the shores were loose sand. It was not the kind of soil in which our people build, so I did not stop, although there were fine tall cotton woods and all the kinds of trees that we eat. Besides, I did not care to go to shore or up the mouths of any of the creeks unless I should discover signs of our tribe. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been alone.
" So I kept on my ice-boat until I was out of food, and then I stopped at an island. I swam near the shore to find a good landing, and when I reached the bank I saw the foot- prints of a beaver man. My heart beat hard, and I could hardly believe my eyes. Some one had cut down a fresh sapling, and as I ate of the delicious bark and twigs I was watching for him every moment. But he did not come.
' Then I went back to the water's edge to study the trail and see where he went. I found to my disappointment that he had gone back to the water. As my mother had taught me every beaver sign, I knew he was a traveller, come to take food, as I was. Hoping to overtake him, I hurried back to another floating cake of ice, and again I found myself going down the big stream.
' When I came in sight of another island, I watched carefully and saw some one moving on the shore. I was not hungry then, but I landed and began to nibble a twig at the water's edge. Presently I saw a beautiful young man coming toward me with a fine sapling in his mouth. I think I never saw a nicer looking beaver man than Kamdoka! He, too, was so glad to see me, and brought me the sapling to eat.
' We were soon so devoted and absorbed in each other that we forgot all about our journey. Kamdoka proposed that we should never leave one another, and I agreed. He at once built a rude house right under a high bank, where a tree had fallen over the water and its roots still held firm. On each side he planted double rows of sticks, and plastered the whole with mud. The narrow door was concealed by the tree-trunk, and led directly into the water. This was our first home. It was only for a few days, for we soon discovered that we could not live there.