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THE JUNIOR CLASSICS

 

THE INDIAN WHO LOST HIS WIFE

Retold by Andrew Lang

ONCE upon a time there was a man and his wife who lived in the forest
far from the rest of the tribe. Very often they spent the day in
hunting together, but after awhile the wife found that she had so many
things to do that she was obliged to stay at home; so he went alone,
though he found that when his wife was not with him he never had any
luck. One day, when he was away hunting, the woman fell ill, and in a
few days she died. Her husband grieved bitterly and buried her in the
house where she had passed her life; but as the time went on he felt so
lonely without her that he made a wooden doll about her height amid
size for company and dressed it in her clothes. He seated it in front
of the fire and tried to think he had his wife back again. The next
day he went out to hunt, and when he came home the first thing he did
was to go up to the doll and brush off some of the ashes from the fire
which had fallen on its face. But he was very busy now, for he had to
cook and mend, besides getting food, for there was no one to help him.
And so a whole year passed away.

At the end of that time he came back from hunting one night and found
some wood by the door and a fire within. The next night there was not
only wood and fire, but a piece of meat in the kettle, nearly ready for
eating. He searched all about to see who could have done this, but
could find no one. The next time he went to hunt he took care not to
go far and came in quite early. And while he was still a long way off
he saw a woman going into the house with wood on her shoulders. So he
made haste and opened the door quickly, and instead of the wooden doll
his wife sat in front of the fire. Then she spoke to him and said:

"The Great Spirit felt sorry for you because you would not be
comforted, so he let me come back to you, but you must not stretch out
your hand to touch me till we have seen the rest of our people. If you
do I shall die."

So the man listened to her words, and the woman dwelt there and brought
the wood and kindled the fire, till one day her husband said to her:

"It is now two years since you died. Let us now go back to our tribe.
Then you will be well and I can touch you."

And with that he prepared food for the journey, a string of deer's
flesh for her to carry and one for himself; and so they started. Now,
the camp of the tribe was distant six days' journey, and when they were
yet one day's journey off it began to snow, and they felt weary and
longed for rest. Therefore they made a fire, cooked some food, and
spread out their skins to sleep.

Then the heart of the man was greatly stirred and he stretched out his
arms to his wife, but she waved her hands and said:

"We have seen no one yet. It is too soon."

But he would not listen to her and caught her to him, and behold! he
was clasping the wooden doll. And when he saw it was the doll he
pushed it from him in his misery and rushed away to the camp and told
them all his story. And some doubted, and they went back with him to
the place where he and his wife had stopped to rest, and there lay the
doll, and besides, they saw in time snow the steps of two people, and
the foot of one was like the foot of the doll. And the man grieved
sore all the days of his life.


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