Tales of the North American Indians
The White Cat
Thunder was a great chief who lived in the sky, and he had three daughters, whom all the young men from the earth wished to marry’ but could not get; for whenever a suitor came to ask Thunder for one of his daughters, Thunder would kill him.
[Page 223] He would tell the young man to go into the house to get food, and would open the door for him, and the young man would go inside; but the house was really a bear’s den, and the bears would kill him. Finally there came a young man to try for one of the daughters; and as he came near the house, he saw a small lake in which the three women were bathing. The man hid himself, and stole over to where the women’s clothes were lying, and sat down upon them; and the women were ashamed and would not come out. So they sat down in the water and began to parley. The oldest woman said he could have the youngest sister if he would give back the clothes; but the young man declined. Then she said he could have both her sisters; but the young man said he wanted her herself. So at last the woman said, “Well, I am a poor woman, but if you will give back our clothes, you may have me.”
The young man agreed, and turned his back while they dressed. Then they started together for their father’s house; and on the way the women told him of how Thunder killed men, and what he had to do to escape. When they came to the house, Thunder told the young man to go into the house and get some food. He went in just like the other suitors; but there was a door on the other side of the room, and he ran quickly across, and got out before the bears could catch him. His wife was waiting for him, and together they went to her house and spent the night. Early in the morning he rose and went to Thunder’s house, and Thunder said to him, “My house is too old. If you will make me a new one, you can have my daughter.” The young man sat down and covered his head and thought hard. Pretty soon he uncovered his head, and there was a fine house all built. But Thunder refused to give him the girl. Then Thunder said to him, “My garden is in very bad condition; it is full of stones and weeds. If you will clear it out, you can have my daughter.” So the young man sat down and covered his head and thought, and in a little while he uncovered, and there was the garden all cleared. Still Thunder refused to give him his daughter.
Every night the young man went to the woman’s house and slept with her, and she told him all the ways in which her father killed men, but all the time she feared that her husband would get caught. At last she proposed that they should run away together to his home. So they took all their clothes and goods [Page 224] and filled several houses; but the young man turned them all into a small roll and put it in his blanket, and they started for home. Next day Thunder discovered that the young man had stolen his daughter, and started in pursuit; and they heard him coming a long way off and were frightened.
They came to a great lake, and turned themselves into ducks and swam across. And when Thunder came to the lake, he saw nothing but two ducks, and went back home, while the young man and his wife turned back to their proper shapes on the other, side and started on. Thunder came home and told his wife what had happened, and she laughed at him and told him that the ducks were the man and the woman. Then Thunder was angry, and started in pursuit again. Again the fugitives heard Thunder coming. The young man looked all about for a way of escape, and, seeing an owl, both he and the woman hid themselves under the owl’s wing. When Thunder came up, he saw no traces of them. Then, seeing the owl, he caught it and felt it all over, and picked over all the feathers; but he forgot to look under the wing, and so failed to find them, and went back home, while the young man and his wife started on again.
Finally they came near home. When they were only a little way off, the woman said, “I will wait here while you go on and tell them we are coming.” As soon as the young man had gone, the woman made four houses, and, pulling the roll from her blanket, she filled them all with clothes and goods. And one of the houses she made ready for the young man’s mother. Not long after that, they heard Thunder hunting for them again; and when he came up, he was very angry, and wanted to kill all the people in the village. But his daughter made a great crack in the ground, and Thunder fell in up to his waist, and stuck fast. Then his daughter built a tent over his head, and used to feed him through a hole in the tent. There he staid for two years. But at last he grew tired, and told his daughter if she would let him out he would go home and not trouble them any more. So she freed him, and he went away; and after that the young man and his wife lived in peace.