ONCE upon a time, when there were no large cities in the western world, all the land being forest or prairie, five young men set out to hunt. They took with them a boy named White Cloud. He was only ten years old, but he was a swift runner and his sight was keen, so there were many ways in which he was useful to them.
They started before daylight, and had traveled a long way when, on reaching the top of a high hill, the sun suddenly burst forth. The air was free from mist, and there being but few trees or tall bushes near, the brightness dazzled then as it had never done before, and they exclaimed, "How near it is!"
Then one of them said, "Let us go to it," and they all agreed. They did not wish to take White Cloud with them, but he insisted upon going. When they continued to refuse he threatened to tell their parents and the Chief, who would surely prevent them from undertaking such a journey. Finally they consented, and each went home to make preparations. They shot some birds and a red deer on the way so as not to arouse the suspicions of their friends.
Before they parted they agreed to get all the moccasins they could and a new suit of leather apiece, in case they should be gone a long time and might not be able to procure clothes.
White Cloud had most difficulty in getting these things, but after coaxing to no purpose, he burst out crying and said, "Don't you see I am not dressed like my s companions, they all have new leggings?" This plea was successful, and he was provided with a new outfit.
As the party went forth the next day they whispered mysteriously to one another, taking care that such phrases should be overheard as "a grand hunt," and "we'll see who brings home most game." They did this to deceive their friends.
Upon reaching the spot from which they had seen the sun so near on the previous day, they were surprised to find that it looked as far away as it did from their own village. They traveled day after day, but seemed to come no nearer. At last they encamped for a season and consulted with one another as to the direction in which they should go. White Cloud settled it by saying, "There is the place of light (pointing towards the east), if we keep on we must reach it some time."
So they journeyed toward the east. They crossed the prairie and entered a deep forest, where it was dark in the middle of the day. There the Prince of the rattlesnakes had his warriors gathered round him, but the eldest of the party wore a "medicine" of snake-skin, so he and his companions were allowed to go through the woods unharmed.
They went on day after day and night after night through forests that seemed to have no end. When the Morning Star painted her face, and when the beautiful red glowed in the west, when the Storm-fool gathered his harvest, when the south wind blew silver from the dandelion, they kept on, but cane no nearer to their object.
Once they rested a long time to make snowshoes and more arrows. They built a lodge and hunted daily until they had a good store of dried meat, as much as they could carry, and again they went on their way.
After many moons they reached a river that was running swiftly towards the east. They kept close to it until it flowed between high hills. One of these they climbed and caught sight of something white between the trees. They hurried on and rested but little that night, for they thought surely the white line must be the path that leads to the splendid lodge of the sun.
Next morning they came suddenly in view of a large lake. No land was on any side of it except where they stood. Some of them being thirsty, stooped to drink. As soon as they had tasted, they spat out the liquid, exclaiming, "Salt water!"
When the sun arose he seemed to lead forth out of the farthest waves. They looked with wonder, then they grew sad, for they were as far away as ever.
After smoking together in council, they resolved not to go back, but to walk around the great lake. They started towards the north, but had only gone a short distance when they came to a broad river flowing between mountains. Here they stayed the night. While seated round their fire, some one thought to ask whether any of them had dreamed of water.
After a long silence the eldest said, "I dreamt last night that we had come wrong, that we should have gone towards the south. But a little way beyond the place where we encamped yesterday is a river. There we shall see an island not far out in the lake. It will come to us and we are to go upon it, for it will carry us to the lodge of the sun."
The travelers were well pleased with the dream and went back towards the south. A few hours’ journey from their old camp brought them to a river. At first they saw no island, but as they walked they came to a rise of ground and the island appeared to them in the distance. As they looked, it seemed to approach.
Some were frightened and wanted to go away, but the courage of White Cloud shamed them, and they waited to see what would happen. They saw three bare trees on the island, such as pine trees that have been robbed of their leaves by fire. As they looked, lo! a canoe with wings that flapped like those of a loon when it flies low down to the lake, left the island.
It came swiftly over the water, and when it touched the land, a man with a white face and a hat on, stepped upon the shore and spoke to them, but they could not understand what he said. He motioned to them to mount the bird canoe, which they did, and were carried to the island.
There was a horrible noise and rattle like that made by the magician when he conjures the evil spirit from a sick man, then white wings sprang from the bare tree trunks, and they felt themselves moving over the water, as the deer bounds across the trail in the forest.
The night came and they saw the familiar stars above them, so they lay down to sleep, fearing nothing.
When the day dawned, they could see no shore anywhere, only the water of the lake. The Pale-faces were kind, and gave them food and drink, and taught them words, such as they said to one another.
One moon had passed and another had come and nearly gone, when the Pale-face Chief said they would soon find the shore, and he would take them to his Prince, who would direct them to their journey's end.
The Prince lived in a beautiful lodge of white stone. The walls were of silver, hung with silver shields and arrows. His throne was of white horn carved with many figures. His robe was ermine, and he had many sparkling stones in his headdress.
He talked to White Cloud and listened to the story of their wanderings, their dreams and their disappointments, and spoke gently, trying to persuade them to' give up their purpose. "See," said he, "here are hunting-grounds, and fat deer, and game and fish enough for you, and none shall make war or trouble you, why go farther?"
But they would not stay. Whereupon, the Prince proved himself a magician, for he told them in what direction they should go, and what would befall them. At the last they would come to the wigwam of the great wizard, Tangled Hair. They would hear his dreadful rattle three days before they reached his lodge, and the wizard would do his best to destroy them.
The Prince tried again to keep them, but as they would not stay, he gave them presents of food and clothing, and his warriors led them to the end of his country.
They went through many forests, but the trees were strange to them. They saw flowers springing in their path and vines upon the rocks and about the trees, but none were those they knew. Even the birds were strange, and talked in voices which they could not understand. But all this made them believe they wire getting nearer to the Sun-Prince.
After many moons the clothing which the Prince of the Pale-faces had given was worn out, so they put on their leather dresses again. Hardly had they done this, when they heard a fierce rattle and knew that they were near the wigwam of the wizard. The noise was dreadful and seemed to come from the centre of the earth.
They had traveled far that day. The ground had been rough and stony and in many places covered with water through which they had been obliged to wade. They lighted a fire and sat down to dry their clothes and to rest. The noise of the rattle continued and increased so much that they broke up their camp and went toward the place which they knew must be Tangled Hair's lodge.
It was not a wigwam, but a lodge with many fireplaces, and it had eyes which glared like their camp fire. Two of the travelers wished to go back or to try to get around the lodge, but White Cloud said, "Let the wizard see we are no cowards." So they went up to the door.
There they were met by Tangled Hair himself, who said, "Welcome, my grandsons!"
When they were seated in his lodge, he gave each some smoking mixture, and as they sat and smoked he said that he knew their history, and had seen them when they left their village. He took the trouble to do this so that they might believe what he was about to say.
"I do not know that all of you will reach your journey's end, though you have gone three-fourth's of the way and are very near the edge of the earth. When you reach that place you will see a chasm below you and will be deafened by the noise of the sky descending upon the world. It keeps moving up and down. You must watch, and when it lifts you will see a little space. You must leap through this, fearing nothing, and you will find yourselves on a beautiful plain."
The wizard then told them who he was and that they had no need to fear him if they were brave men. He was not permitted to help weak men and cowards.
When the first arrow of daylight came into the lodge, the young men started up and refused to rest longer, so Tangled Hair showed them the direction they were to take in going to the edge of the world. Before they left he pointed out a lodge in the shape of an egg standing upon its larger end and said, "Ask for what you want and he who lives in that lodge will give it to you."
The first two asked that they might live forever and never be in want. The third and fourth asked to live longer than many others and always to be successful in war. White Cloud spoke for his favorite companion and for himself. Their wish was to live as long as other braves and to have success in hunting that they might provide for their parents and relatives.
The wizard smiled upon them and a voice from the pointed lodge said, "Your wishes shall be granted."
They were anxious to be gone, more especially when they found that they had been in Tangled Hair's lodge not a day, as they had supposed, but a year.
"Stop," cried Tangled Hair, as they prepared to depart, "you who wished to live forever shall have that wish granted now." Thereupon he turned one of them into a cedar tree and the other into a gray rock.
"Now," said he to the others, "you may go."
They went on their way trembling, and said to one another, "We were fortunate to get away at all, for the Prince told us he was an evil spirit."
They had not gone far when they heard the beating of the sky. As they went nearer and nearer to the edge it grew deafening, and strong gusts of wind blew them off their feet. When they reached the very edge everything was dark, for the sky had settled down, but it soon lifted and the sun passed but a short distance above their heads.
It was some time before they could get courage enough to jump through the space. White Cloud and his friend at last gave a great leap and landed on the plain of which they had been told.
"Leap, leap quickly," called White Cloud to the others, "the sky is on its way down."
They reached out timidly with their hands, but just then the sky came down with terrific force and hurled them into the chasm. There they found themselves changed into monstrous serpents which no man could kill, so their wish was granted.
Meanwhile, White Cloud and his companion found themselves in a beautiful country lighted by the moon. As they walked on all weariness left them and they felt as if they had wings. They saw a hill not far off and started to climb it, that they might look abroad over the country.
When they reached it, a little old woman met them. She had a white face and white hair, but her eyes were soft and dark and bright in spite of her great age.
She spoke kindly and told them that she was the Princess of the Moon, that they were now half way to the lodge of her brother, the Sun-prince. She led them up a steep hill which sloped on the other side directly to the lodge of the Sun.
The Moon-princess introduced them to her brother, who wore a robe of a rich, golden color, and shining as if it had points of silver all over it. He took down from the wall a splendid pipe and a pouch of smoking mixture, which he handed to them.
He put many questions to them about their country and their people, and asked them why they had undertaken this journey. They told him all he wished to know, and in return asked him to favor their nation, to shine upon their corn and make it grow and to light their way in the forest.
The Prince promised to do all these things, and was much pleased because they had asked for favors for their friends rather than for themselves.
"Come with me," he said, "and I will show you much that you could not see elsewhere."
Before starting he took down from his walls arrows tipped with silver and with gold, and placed them in a golden quiver. Then they set out on their journey through the sky.
Their path lay across a broad plain covered with many brilliant flowers. These were half hidden many times by the long grass, the scent of which was as fragrant as the flowers it hid. They passed tall trees with wide spreading branches and thick foliage. The most luxuriant were on the banks of a river as clear as crystal stone, or on the edge of little lakes which in their stony trails looked like bowls of water set there for the use of a mighty giant. Tribes of water-fowl flew about, and birds of bright plumage darted through the forest like a shower of arrows. They saw some long, low lodges with cages filled with singing birds hanging on the walls, but the people were away.
When they had traveled half across the sky, they came to a place where there were fine, soft mats, which the young men discovered were white clouds. There they sat down, and the Sun-prince began making preparations for dinner.
At this place there was a hole in the sky, and they could look down upon the earth. They could see all its hills, plains, rivers, lakes and trees, and the big salt lake they had crossed.
While they were looking at a tribe of Indians dancing, something bright flew past them, downwards through the hole in the sky and struck the merriest dancer of them all, a young boy, son of a great chief.
The warriors of his tribe ran to him and raised him with great cries and sounds of sorrow. A wizard spoke and told them to offer a white dog to the Sun-prince.
The animal was brought, and the master of the feast held the choicest portion above his head, saying: "We send this to thee, Great Spirit," and immediately the roasted animal was drawn upwards and passed through the sky. Then the boy recovered and went on dancing.
After White Cloud and his companion had feasted with the Sun-prince, they walked on till they saw before them a long slope that was like a river of gold, flowing across silver sands.
"Keep close to me," said the Sun-prince, "and have no fear. You will reach your home in safety."
So they took hold of his belt, one on either side of him, and felt themselves lowered as if by ropes. Then they fell asleep.
When they awoke they found themselves in their own country, and their friends and relatives were standing near them, rejoicing over their return. They related all their adventures, and lived many years in honor and in plenty, the Sun-prince smiling upon them in all their undertakings.