Short Stories » Wechah The Provider

Wechah The Provider - Page 4 of 6

They went over the snow-clad Minnetonka towards Crane Island, and the famished girl was scarcely able to run upon snow-shoes, although ordinarily it was an easy task for her. Her people had been living upon rose-berries and roots. Wechah, with a light foot, ran ahead of her into the thick woods.

No sooner was he out of sight of home than all his native cunning vividly returned to him, and the desire to find whatever was in his way. Through the frosty air and among the snow-clad multitudinous trees he swiftly ran. His ancient calling thrilled him through and through. Now and then he ran up a tree, leaped far into the soft snow, and away he glided again. Not yet do the wild inhabitants of the woods come out for their guest, at least not upon Crane Island, for Wechah had not crossed a single trail.

Deep in the forest at last the little Striped Face gave his signal-call, according to the custom of his people. Wasula turned in the direction of the sound and peered sharply through the snow-laden boughs. There he stood upon a large limb, anxiously awaiting her coming.

He leaped from his high perch toward her, struck the ground like a pillow, and made the soft snow fly up like loose feathers.

"I see I see your deer-track,"' she laughed at him. 'We shall try to get one! You must now follow me, Wechah. It is Wasula's turn to lead."

The maiden's bow was carefully examined, and she picked out one of her best arrows. Instead of following the trail, like a true hunter she started with the wind and ran along for some distance, then described a circle, coming just inside of her starting-point. Again she made another circle within the first, but no deer had crossed her track. Upon the third round she spied them hiding behind a large, fallen oak, whose dead leaves afforded some shelter. As she described another circle to get within arrow-shot, the doe stretched out at lull length upon the snow, laying her ears back, rabbit-like, to escape detection. Wasula knew the trick of holding her. She did not pause for an instant, but ran along until she gained an opening for a shot. Then she turned quickly upon the quivering doe and let her swift arrow fly.

Instantly the doe and her two full-grown fawns got up and sprang away through the woods and out of sight. Wasula had seen her arrow enter the doe's side. She examined the trail it showed drops of blood and immediately the huntress followed the trail.

In a few moments she heard Wechah give his shrill, weird 'coon - call. Through an alley between rows of trees she saw him standing proudly upon the dead body of Takcha.

"Oh, I thank thee, Great Mystery! I thank you, Wechah, for your kind guid- ance," Wasula spoke, in a trembling voice. She took her hunting-knife from her belt and skinned the legs of the doe up to the knee- joints. Having unjointed them, she drew the fore-legs backward and fastened them securely; then she put her hunting-strap through the under- jaw and attached her carrying-straps. Thus she proceeded to drag the body home.

Wechah was as happy as if he had shot the deer himself. Wasula realized that her people were starving and she ran as fast as she could, but before she was half-way across the lake her companion was in camp. As she approached the shore, the stronger of the women came running to meet and relieve her of her burden. They were overwhelmed with joy. She slipped off her shoulder- straps and ran to her mother, while two of the others hitched themselves to her carrying-lines and ran with the deer. "Wasula, heroine, huntress! The gracious and high- minded!" In such wise the old people sang her praises.

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