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Cyrus Macmillan

The Bad Indian's Ashes

I N the old days when giants roamed along the North Pacific Coast, there lived on the banks of a great river a poor Indian woman. She was the daughter of a dead chief—a great man—but she had fallen on evil days. Against her parents' wishes, she had married a worthless fellow; he was lazy and useless, and she was very poor and unhappy. One night a son was born to her. It was a wild stormy night; the winds roared, the thunder crashed, and terrible lightnings forked the sky. The boy was born with strange marks upon him, and on his head were horns like sharp arrow-points. The wise men of the place shook their heads and said, "No good can come from him; he will come to a bad end."


the bad indian.

As the boy grew up, it was seen that the prophecy of the wise men would surely come true. He was very wicked, and he soon became known for his bad deeds. He was the terror of all the country on the Pacific Coast. But his mother loved him well, for he was her only child, and she petted him like a baby, even after he was a big boy. He did not take kindly to his mother's caresses, and when she petted him he always grew angry and said, "Don't pet me, I am not a baby." One day as she petted him, he became very cross as was his habit, and in his rage he ran the arrow-points of his head into her breast and killed her. Then he took to the woods, and lived as an outlaw in the forest. He robbed all who came his way, until he had a great store of goods hidden in a secret place. His hand was against everybody's, and everybody's was against his.

Soon the tale of his crimes spread all over the North Pacific Coast, and he was held in great fear. The Chief of the people called a meeting of his wise council to decide what should be done. They resolved that he must be killed and the land rid of his terrors. So they drew lots to see who should seek him in the forest. The lot fell to his uncle—the brother of his mother—a very brave man. And the uncle set out into the woods to seek his wicked nephew, who was known as "the arrow-headed one."


so they drew lots to see who should seek him in the forest.

The outlaw had found a cave in the forest, and there he lived in security. He killed everybody who came near it, and he marked on his spear a notch for each one he killed. In a very short time the notches on his spear numbered fifty. He heard of the council of the wise men and of their effort to capture him, and that his uncle had drawn the lot for the task. He resolved to defend himself against an attack, and he made his cave as strong as he could. He thought that his uncle would come to the cave in search of him.

But his uncle was a very wise old Indian. He knew better than to attack his nephew's stronghold. Instead, he too selected a cave and turned it into a fort. He took bundles of dry grass and leaves, and shaped them like men, and stood them up around his cave like soldiers always on guard. And he told all the people of the village to stay in hiding until "the arrow-headed one" was killed. Then he waited alone in his cave.

For several nights "the arrow-headed one" stayed in his cave waiting for his uncle's attack. But no attack was made. Then he grew tired of waiting, and in a spirit of recklessness and daring he resolved to attack his uncle, for he knew that he was in the cave hardby. He took his spear and bow and arrows, and went to his uncle's cave to kill him. He took with him his helping evil spirit in the form of a small bird about the size of a robin. When he came to the cave, he thought that one of the dummy grass men was his uncle and he hurled his spear at it. And while he was about it, his uncle, hidden behind a rock, shot a poisoned arrow at him and wounded him so badly that he fled back to his own cave. The small bird sucked the poison from his wound, but the wound left him very weak. His uncle had followed in his tracks, and soon came upon him. But "the arrow-headed one," tired out because of his wound, had little stomach for a fight, and when his uncle entered the cave, he pleaded with him not to kill him. "Do not kill me," he said, "I have a great store of goods hidden in the cave. If you spare me, I will give you all and make you rich. And I will never kill another person."

But his uncle resolved to put him to death because he had killed his mother and had so many notches on his spear. So he killed him and dragged his body outside and burned it. Then he went home. "Fear no longer," he said to the villagers, " 'the arrow-headed one' is dead." But the evil that the bad Indian had done lived after him. The four winds drove his ashes from the spot where his body was burned. The ashes blew everywhere, and were changed into the little black flies whose descendants to-day torment people in the summer in the northern woods of Canada. And the bad Indian's wickedness still lives in the black flies that came from his ashes.