Beneath this world there were four other worlds. The people who live here now once lived in each of those other worlds. In each one of them they did wrong, and from each one of them they were driven forth.
The first world was red, and the people who lived in it had wings and were something like our locusts and dragon flies. All such insects, as we know them now, are related to those people who began life in the first world. When they were driven forth, they all took to their wings and flew in circles upward until they reached the sky. In the sky they found a hole, and they went through it to the surface of the second world.
The second world was blue, and in that world the Swallow People lived. Their houses, rough and lumpy, lay scattered all around. The houses were pointed at the top and in the point was the hole for entrance. The people from the first world and the Swallow People became good friends and lived together pleasantly and happily. But after a short time the people from the first world again did wrong and again were driven forth. Again they rose in circles to the sky, found the hole in it, and went up through it to the third world.
The third world was yellow, and the Grasshopper People lived there. They lived in holes in the ground along the banks of a great river. The Grasshopper People were kind to their visitors until they found out how bad they were. Then the people from the first world were driven forth, and for the third time were obliged to seek another world. They rose in circles to the sky, found the hole in it, and went up through it to the fourth world.
The fourth world was black and white, mixed. Here lived strange men who cut their hair square in front, dwelt in houses in the ground, and cultivated the fields. 1 They also were very kind to the people from the first world, and gave them pumpkins and corn to eat. The people from the first world then held a council and made up their minds to be very good, and to do nothing to make their new friends angry.
Here it was that, late in the autumn, the first man and the first woman were made. The people who had come up from the first world had bodies like the gods, but the teeth, feet, and claws of insects. The gods wished to make some people more like themselves. They made the first man from an ear of white corn, and the first woman from an ear of yellow corn. The wind blew upon them and gave them life. It is the wind that conies out of our mouths now that gives us life. When it stops blowing, we die. In the skin at the tips of our fingers we see the trail of the wind; it shows us the way the wind blew when our ancestors were created. First Man and First Woman had many children, who married the people of the fourth world, so that soon there was a large tribe. First Man was a chief among them.
One day all the men except Coyote went out hunting. Coyote had hurt his foot and could not go. He limped over to First Woman's lodge, and went in to see her. She gave him a piece of dried meat to eat.
"This is fine meat," said Coyote, gobbling it. "You know how to prepare meat. It must cost you much labor." "Yes, so it does," said First Woman. "You men do not know how much time it takes to cut and stretch and dry the meat, to say nothing of cooking it and scraping the hides." She was sharpening her stone knife as she spoke.
"You have the worst of it," said Coyote. "You have to stay at home and watch the fire and sharpen the knives and collect the wood, while the men have the pleasure of the hunt. This day with you is teaching me much." Coyote was not married. First Woman went out for wood, and came in again with a load on her back. She had been thinking over Coyote's words.
"It is so," she said; "no one counts the labor of women. Now First Man has a few days in the forests and moun tains, hunting. For many days afterward he will lie before the fire smoking, while I work to preserve the meat he brings. Far into the winter I shall be sewing on the skins. He will eat the food and wear the clothes and think his share in the labor of procuring them has been the greater."
Coyote shook his head as he ate another piece of meat. "He does not know what a good wife he has," said he.
When the men returned from the hunt First Woman silently took the venison, cut it up with her sharp knife, and cooked it. When it was eaten she told First Man what Coyote had said. She showed him the corn she had been grinding for many days. She pointed to the pile of meat, and told him how hard she must work to prepare it for winter. First Man grunted. He was very tired. He thought he had done well in the hunt. First Woman grew angry, and at last First Man became angry too.
"Perhaps you think, then," said First Man, "that you women can live without the men? Perhaps it was a woman who killed that deer?"
"Certainly we can live without the men," answered First Woman. "We can live on the produce of our fields and on the roots and berries we collect."
First Man was so angry that he jumped over the fire to the other side of the lodge, and would not speak to her again for the rest of the night.
Next morning he called all the men to him, but bade the women stay away. He told the men what his wife had said, and added: "Let us see if they can hunt game and till the fields without our help! Let us see what kind of a living they can make by themselves! Let us go across the river and leave them!"
Some of the young men cried when they were ordered to go and leave their wives behind. Two of them as yet had no wives, but among the women were two maidens whom they loved. These men were ashamed to let their tears show; they swallowed them, but the taste was bitter in their hearts. The maidens, too, had their grief, but they clung together. One of them whispered to the other: "It is good they have no women with them."
"Yes, that is good," said the other maiden.
At first the crowd of women made merry together. They spent long hours in talking and singing. They told each other how good it was to cook only when it pleased them, and not to be obliged to hurry to make ready for the men returning from the hunt or the field. They kept together most of the time, and braided each other s hair and taught each other pretty tricks of embroidery and weaving. Their laughter rang over the river in the twilight as they sat sewing and talking together. They sat where the men could see them. They had plenty of corn and pumpkins, grown in the fields the men had planted. Almost all they had to do was to go and gather them. There was plenty of wild fruit, also, and they went together to pluck it.
Then would the two maidens leave the trail and wander in the depths of the woods, sighing and mourning for those whom they loved. But they dared not show their grief. Now and then through the trees they saw some lonely woman gliding along, looking upon the ground. From her eyes dropped shining tears. The maidens hastened to hide themselves; nor did they tell of what they saw.
Day after day went by, and year after year. And though the women huddled so close together and made so much of loving one another, they were very lonely. They wondered if the men across the river were as brave and busy as they looked. They saw them every day going out to hunt, or plowing the fields, or harvesting, or lying around the fire, smoking and resting. Did all this satisfy the hunger of their hearts, the women wondered? Some of them knew it did not; but they sat silent. It was they who crept through the woods and wept. It was they whose husbands had wept on leaving them. It was they whom the two maidens envied, as they watched them beneath their eyelids.
The women did not till the fields well, and year by year their crops grew smaller, while across the river the crops grew larger. The women wandered farther and farther for their berries, and came home tired and hungry. They longed for meat ; they could hardly sleep for longing. The sweet taste of the berries was flat in their mouths.
The men had plenty. They shot fine deer, and ducks, and squirrels. As they roasted them before the fire, each one thought of his wife and wanted her all but First Man. Such times reminded him of First Woman s unjust scolding, and he grew angry again.
Four years passed in this way. In the fourth year the fields of the men once more stood ready for harvest. There was more food than they could store away. Corn and pumpkins lay untouched upon the ground. They wanted to give them to somebody, but there was no one to whom to give them except their wives across the river. They looked across. There was only a little field there, poorly tilled; not a single yellow pumpkin brightened the gray scene. The women no longer sang, nor gathered upon the river bank. They kept themselves hidden in their lodges. At night, when the air was black, the sound of crying floated across the river. The women were starv ing, and the winter was coming on.
The men could not bear this. First Man himself began to consider the consequences. They held a council and decided to send a message to the women. If they were ready to yield, the men would bring them across the river, hold a great feast, and start new homes. That night the men all dreamed of eating the food the women had cooked.
Next morning the men rose early, but the lodges on the other side of the river were silent and smokeless. The women slept late to forget their hunger and their sorrow. The white air of the morning was beginning to be blue with noon when a few of them crept forth and went about gathering brushwood for the fires. They were bent with weakness and their steps were slow.
Two of them wandered off into the woods back of the village. These were the two maidens. They went to gather acorns and berries for breakfast. For a long time they had done this for the other women. They liked to do it, because in this way they could be alone. The berries near the village had all been picked. Now they had to go far to find any. Thus it happened that the two maidens were in the distant woods when First Man sent his mes senger to the river bank to call the women.
The messenger s cries rose above the noise of the river. The wind carried them to the eager ears of the women, who for four years had listened for such a sound. They all trooped down to the bank to hear what the messenger said all but First Woman. She stayed in her lodge. Her heart longed to go, but she was still proud. Where is First Woman?" called the messenger across the river. "Does she still live?" First Woman heard him. Her heart swelled until it filled her throat. So she was of some importance, after all!
"Yes, she is here," cried the women, all together, their high voices sailing across the river like birds. They went for First Woman. They pulled her along with them, crying and laughing, scolding and coaxing her. First Woman hung back, but not with all her strength. At last she stood on the river bank facing the messenger. By this time all the men, except First Man, were behind him. First Woman saw at once that he was not there.
Could he be dead? Her heart sank, and with it some of her pride fell.
" First Woman," called the messenger, "we do not like to see you starving. We would like to help you. But perhaps you do not want our help? Perhaps you think you can get along without us?" "Where is First Man?" asked First Woman. Her voice was sharp, and it shook a little as it cut its way across the river. "Does he still live?" "Yes," the messenger shouted, so loud that he started the echoes. "Yes, yes," they all said, all up and down the river.
The women strained their eyes, each searching for one face among those of the men on the other shore. "Can you get along without us?" called the messenger. "Say no! Say no!" begged the other women of First Woman. First Woman was wondering why First Man was not there with the rest. "No, no!" she called. "No, no!" the women called, together. "No, no!" the echoes repeated all down the river. Everything seemed to be saying it. The men said it over and over, laughing and jumping about like boys. " No, no, they can t get along without us ! " they shouted. The cheeks of some of them were wet. They rushed down to the great raft they had made and hidden among the rushes. As they stepped upon it, First Man joined them. He could wait no longer. So they all went across and gath ered up the women, and brought them to their new homes. When the two maidens came back from the forest, staggering under their light loads of berries, they found the houses empty and the fires gone out. From the oppo site bank came the sound of laughter and singing, but all the people were inside their houses.
" They have gone away and left us!" cried the maidens. They looked across the river. They looked and looked, until the longing in their hearts drew their bodies toward the other shore. They crept down the river bank, still looking; they stepped into the cold water, still looking. Their hearts were so hot with grief and shame, they did not feel the cold of the river. No one came to the opposite bank to look for them. The water grew deeper; they had to swim. Their arms were weak, their bodies heavy. Their heads sank beneath the water. But then they could not watch the shore; so with a mighty effort they forced their heads up again, to look and look- Thus it was that the Water Monster caught them.
Out in the middle of the river, where the water was swift and deep, he caught them both about the body with his thick furred arms and pulled them down to his home beneath the waves.