Tales of the North American Indians
Bluejay And His Companions
Bluejay and his chief, with Land Otter, Beaver, and another man, used to go out seal-hunting together. In the same house with them, but at the other end, lived Grouse, who was a widower with a lot of children, and he spent most of his time in the woods building a canoe. Every trip that the five men made, they caught five seals, very fat ones; but they gave nothing but the poor, lean parts to Grouse. Bluejay was at the bottom of this, and kept saying that fat was too good for Grouse; and he poked fun at him and sneered at him whenever he was about. Grouse never said a word, but took what was given him without complaining.
One day Grouse made a wooden seal, carving it out of cedar, and burning it until it was black. Then he talked to the seal, and told it what it was to do; and it dived down into the water and went out to sea.
Next day before daylight, the five men started out, and about sunrise came upon a big seal, and speared it. The seal dived, and swam to the westward, dragging the canoe after it until they were out of sight of land. The spearman tried to get rid of it, but could not; and when night came they were still rushing westward, and when they waked in the morning they were still going, but not so fast. Not long afterward the line slackened, and they heard something butting against the canoe. Bluejay looked over, and saw a wooden seal with the harpoon sticking into it just behind the flipper. Then his chief began to scold Bluejay, and said, “I know this is Grouse’s work. He is angry because we gave him no fat, and because you talked to him so much.” Bluejay could only hang his head and say nothing.
They cut the line and began to paddle back, but had no idea where they were going. Three days and two nights they paddled, and the third night they all fell asleep from exhaustion. When they waked in the morning, the canoe was stuck fast and they thought they were ashore, and one of them, the fifth man, jumped out, but he sank and was drowned; and, then they saw that they were not ashore, but that the seaweed was so thick that they had stuck fast in it. So now there were only four of them, and they paddled on. On the fourth night they did not feel like sleeping, for they thought they could see the hills back of Quinault. In the morning they could discern the coast plainly, and after paddling all day they reached the shore, and landed at a place quite strange to them. Next morning they went on again in what they thought was a southerly direction, and suddenly, as they rounded a point, came upon a village. Several canoes came out through the surf and helped them ashore, and they were taken up to the village.
In the centre of the village was a tall smooth pole which the people said was Squirrel’s pole, which he used for climbing; and they said that Squirrel would like to have a climbing-match with Bluejay. Bluejay’s master said to him, “Now don’t get frightened, but go in and do your best. You know you can climb well, and if you are beaten we may all be killed.” Then both Squirrel and Bluejay took sharp bones, so that if one got ahead he could hit the one behind on the head; and they started to climb. All the people crowded around to see the contest, for the pole was high and the two were well matched. At last the people saw them reach the top, and saw one of them strike the other on the head so that he came tumbling down; and all the people shouted, for they thought it was Bluejay. But when he reached the ground, they found it was Squirrel who had lost. So now, since Bluejay had beaten their best climber, they let him and his companions go.
They paddled on down the coast, and after some time they rounded a point, and come upon another village, much like the first. Here Hair-seal challenged Bluejay to a diving-match, and Bluejay found himself in a difficult position, for he was no diver at all. But his master turned the canoe over and washed it out, leaving the brush from the bottom floating about it on the water. Then he told Bluejay to accept the challenge and dive, but to come up under the brush and lie there concealed, and not to show himself. So both Bluejay and Hair-seal dived; and Bluejay came up immediately under the brush, and floated there where no one could see him. He waited until he shivered so with the cold that the brush moved with his shaking, and his master began to be afraid the people would notice it: so he rocked the canoe and made waves to conceal the motion of the brush, and no one suspected that Bluejay was hidden there. Now, they had agreed, that, when the sun had passed from one tree to another not far off, each was to have the right to hit the other in the head with a sharp bone. So, when Bluejay saw that the sun had reached the second tree, he dived down, and found Hair-seal lying with his head down close to the bottom. Bluejay jabbed him with the bone before Hair-seal knew what was happening, and Hair-seal came floating up to the surface. All the people shouted, “Bluejay’s up!” But it turned out to be Hair-seal, while Bluejay went back under the brush without showing himself There he waited about half an hour longer, and then came out shouting and laughing, and saying that he felt splendidly and not tired at all. In that way Hair-seal was beaten, and the people let Bluejay and his party go on again.
They paddled on as before until they came to another village, and there the people challenged the four wanderers to go into a sweat-house with four of their people and see which could stand the most heat. So four of the village people went into one corner of the sweat-house, and the four travelers into the other. Then the door was closed so that it was pitch dark, and soon it became very hot. But Beaver and Land Otter began to dig, and in a very short time they had tunnelled to the river. Then all four got into the water and were as comfortable as could be, while the four men from the village were nearly baked. When the time was up, Bluejay and his friends came back into the sweat-house, and when the door was opened they all jumped out. Bluejay and his friends were as fresh as possible, while the four men from the village were nearly cooked, and their eyes were all white from the heat. So, having beaten the people at their own game, they were allowed to go on, and, paddling as hard as they could, before they knew it they had rounded another point, and come upon a village as before. They ran the canoe clear up on the beach and tied it, and, taking their paddles, went into one of the houses.
The people immediately challenged the new arrivals to sit up five days and five nights without sleeping, against four of their own number. The friends were afraid not to accept, so they started the match. One party sat on one side of the house and the other on the other. The men from the village had spears, and when any one of them was falling asleep, they would prod him with a spear and wake him. They kept calling out to each other all night, “Are you awake? Are you still awake?” And they reviled each other constantly. Bluejay did all the talking for his side, and was hardly quiet a minute. All the next day they jeered at each other, and so they did the next night. Bluejay and the spokesman of the other side kept talking back and forth the whole time. The next day they did the same thing, and so on the third night; and the fourth day and the fourth night it was still the same. On that night the men from the village nearly went to sleep; but Bluejay’s men were all right as yet. Bluejay himself was almost done up; but his master would pull his ears and kept him awake, for Bluejay’s master was the best man of them all. The fifth night the men of the village went to sleep, and Bluejay’s master told Land Otter and Beaver to dig so that they could get out. They did so, and fetched four pieces of old wood with phosphorescent spots on them; and they placed the pieces where they had been sitting, one piece for each man; and the spots looked like eyes. Then, while the other crowd was still sleeping, they got out, and, taking everything they could lay their hands on, they stole away in the canoe. Just before daylight one of the other four waked, and called Bluejay several times, but got no answer. So he waked the others, and, taking their spears, they speared what they thought were their rivals. But when daylight came, they saw that they had been fooled, and that their spears were sticking into wood.
There was great excitement, and the people decided to give chase, and, making ready their canoes, they started after the fugitives. Along in the afternoon, Bluejay’s master said, “I feel sure some one is following us,” and, looking back, they saw a lot of canoes in pursuit. Then they paddled with all their might; and Bluejay’s master paddled so hard that at every stroke he broke a paddle, until he had broken all they had, and they floated helpless. Then the others turned to Bluejay and said, “You are always talking about your tamanous. Make use of him now, if you have one, for we are in a bad fix.” But Bluejay could only hang his head, for he had no tamanous. Then Land Otter called on his tamanous, and a little wind arose. Then Beaver called upon his, and the wind became a little stronger; but all the time the other canoes were drawing closer. Then Bluejay’s master called upon his tamanous, and there swept down a great storm and a fog. The storm lasted only a short time, and when it had passed, they looked about them and saw hundreds of capsized canoes, but not a man living; for all the people had been drowned. They went around and gathered up all the paddles they wanted, and went on, and at last reached the Quinault country, and were among good people. The people who had pursued them were probably Makahs, for they are a bad lot. Finally they reached their home near Damon’s Point, and after that, whenever they came in from sealing, they were careful to give Grouse the biggest and fattest seal.