Tradition of the Comox.
(Dictated by Qâ'sElas, a Mâ'di
lbê woman; recorded by George Hunt.)
The ancestors of the Comox were living at a place called Pentlatch. The prince of the chief had for his wife the princess of another chief, a chief of the Ê'êqsE?n. The woman had four brothers, and the name of the woman was Nä'dExwomat, and Nä'dExwomat had a young man for her lover. The man, husband of the woman, was always jealous of the young man on account of his wife. In vain the woman asked her husband to accompany her, getting cedar-bark in the woods. Her husband just sent her to go by herself.
At once the woman got ready and as soon as she was ready, she started. Her husband watched her and her lover. As soon as the woman had been out some time, her husband went also to search for his wife's lover, but he never found him, and therefore he discovered that he had gone with his wife; and so the man came back, returned to his house, and lay down on his back.
In the evening, however, his wife came home. His wife just put down the great amount of cedar-bark that she carried on her back in front of the house, and came in. As soon as she sat down in the house, she began
to make the noise "Hwo!" but the woman said at once, "I had really hard work" At once her husband spoke angrily, and said, "Indeed, you are not tired, for you were accompanied by your lover." Thus he said.
The man had not been silent long when he spoke again, and said to his wife, "Let us wash ourselves with hemlock-branches in the woods." Thus he said. At once the woman agreed to go, and the couple arose at once and went out of their house to a pond behind the village. As soon as they arrived there, the man spoke to his wife, and said, "O mistress! let us go to a pond farther back." Thus he said. At once they started again, and they arrived at another pond. Then the man spoke again to his wife, and said again, "O mistress! let us go to a pond farther back." Thus he said.
The woman started at once, for she did not guess the thoughts of her husband. They started again; and they had not been walking long before they arrived at another pond; and the man spoke again, and said, "O mistress! let us go to a pond farther back, so that we may really purify ourselves." Thus he said.
Immediately the woman just passed the pond, and they did not walk long before they arrived at another pond. Its name is Tsâ'wilaxu. Immediately the man sent his wife to break off hemlock-branches, and the woman at once tried to break off the lower branches of a hemlock-tree. Her husband requested her to climb higher up the tree and to break off the hemlock-branches (there). Then the woman climbed on, and tried to break (branches). As soon as the woman began to break the branches of
the hemlock-tree, the man spoke again, and requested her to go higher up the tree. Immediately the woman climbed again, and went halfway up the tree. As soon as the woman was high up, the man followed her and also began to climb. He said that he was going to help his wife.
As soon as he arrived at the place where his wife was, he requested her to go to the top of the tree. The woman tried to go on, but she was tired and her strength was gone. That was just the reason why the man carried his wife to the forked top of the tree; and he placed his wife in the forked top of the tree and tied her to it. As soon as he had done so, he pulled off the bark of the tree as he came down, and he cut off all the branches. As soon as the man had come down, he went home to his house and lay down on his back. In vain the man's mother called him to come and eat. The man just said that he did not feel hungry.
Now, let us talk about the four brothers of Nä'dExwomat, the wife of that man. When the woman started to go with her husband, her four brothers went out paddling, for they were sea-hunters. They had gone to harpoon seals at the island in front of Pentlatch, which is named K*!ô'la. In the evening the four brothers of Nä'dExwomat came to the place Shelter Point when it was really calm. Then the youngest one heard something saying, "Listen, brothers, I have been sitting for a long time in the forked top of this tree, brothers, and I am beginning to be weak on account of the heat." Thus said what was heard by them.
Immediately the youngest one spoke, and said, "O brothers! listen to what I hear! It sounds just like our elder sister." Thus he said. Then they kept quiet, and
they heard the sound again, repeating the former words. Immediately the brothers paddled to the place where the sound they had heard came from. Then they listened together, and heard plainly when they arrived at the harbor at the village of the ancestors of the Comox. As soon as they arrived at the village, the brothers stepped out of the canoe and went on the trail, and followed it. In the morning, when day came, they arrived at Tsawî'laxu, that lake. Then they discovered at once their elder sister standing on top of the tree in the fork of the tree which stood by the lake. Nä'dExwomat was still alive when they arrived.
Immediately the eldest brother tried to climb up, but he did not reach very high when he slipped down. Then the one next to him tried. He hardly reached higher than his elder brother when he also came slipping down. Then the third brother also tried, and he hardly reached higher than his elder brothers when he also slipped down. Then the youngest one took cedar-bark and twisted it, and he tied the ends together for his feet to stand on; and as soon as he had finished his work, he put what he had made on his feet. Then he began to climb, and he got to the place where his sister was standing. As soon as he reached his sister, she died. In vain he wished to carry his dead sister down on his back. He discovered that she was dead, and therefore his elder brothers just said that he should throw her down. The youngest one at once obeyed their words, and he threw her down. The young man also came down.
As soon as the youth arrived, the eldest one spoke, and said, "O brothers! let us take revenge on this one's husband. Take off her bracelets and her anklets and try them on our middle brother." Thus he said. "And also
her apron." Thus he said. Immediately these were taken off by the one next to the eldest brother, and were put on the third brother. When they had finished, he did not look just like his past sister. They took the bracelets and the anklets and the apron off again and put them on the youngest brother. As soon as they had done so, they pulled out his eyebrows; and the eldest brother took the scalp off of their dead sister's head and put it on the head of the youngest brother. Now he looked really like their dead sister.
Then the eldest brother gave his youngest brother a knife, and said, "Oh, my dear! go and sit down on the ground behind the house of our former brother-in-law, and pretend to look for lice on your apron; and as soon as you are seen by some of the younger sisters of our former brother-in-law, and as soon as you are called in, enter the house and pretend that you are not well, and that you are just able to walk, and hide this knife to cut the throat of our former brother-in-law when he sleeps." Thus he said.
As soon as they had finished, they came out of the woods. At once the youngest brother went behind the house of their former brother-in-law and sat down on the ground. He had not been sitting there long, looking for lice on his apron, when the younger brother of his brother-in-law came out. The child went back into the house at once and told his elder brother, and said, "O master! go and look at your wife. She is sitting there behind the house, looking for lice on her apron." Thus he said. Immediately he was sent to call her. The child went back out of the house at once to call the man who pretended to be a woman. Immediately the woman arose and followed the child, and she went straight to the place
where her pretended husband was lying on his back, and sat down by his side.
Immediately her mother-in-law spoke, and said, "Welcome! for your husband has just been lying on his back since yesterday, and he was never willing to eat." Thus she said, and immediately she grave fern-root to her daughter-in-law. The pretended woman took the fern-root and scorched it; and after she had scorched it, she pounded it with a pestle. Then the child, the younger brother of the pretended husband, spoke, and said, "Oh, my dear! master, why has your wife such a man's hand?" But the woman at once stopped her child, and the pretended woman gave her pretended husband fern-root to eat. After he had eaten, the man at once tried to play with his wife, but the pretended woman pushed him away and said that she was not strong enough to play with him. Then the man gave it up.
Then the younger brother of the man spoke again, and said, "Oh, my dear! master, why has your wife such a man's hand?" Thus he said. His mother said at once that he should not talk so much. Thus she said.
It was evening and the night was fast coming. Then the pretended woman went into her bedroom and lay down, and the man also went to lie down. At once he tried to embrace his wife; but the pretended woman pushed him away, saying that she felt weak, and that she was sleepy. Then the man gave it up, turned his face backward, and began to sleep; and it was not long before he began to snore, and he slept.
After some time the pretended woman turned round and pinched the shoulder of the man. He never moved. Then the pretended woman arose and cut the throat of his ugly brother-in-law, and he twisted off his head, and covered up the neck of his ugly brother-in-law with the bed-cover. Then he went out through the back door of the house, carrying the head of his ugly brother-in-law.
As soon as he had gone out, he discovered his elder brothers hiding behind the house, waiting for him. Then they all went to their hunting-canoe, which lay on the beach, and went aboard, and paddled away in the night, going to the south side of the bay of Pentlatch. As soon as day came, they arrived at the point. Then they, stepped out of the canoe, carrying the cut-off head. Then the eldest brother took a long pole and stuck the head on it. Then he stood it up on the point.
As soon as they had finished, they went home. No talking at all was heard when the brothers arrived at the house. Then a little girl, the younger sister of the one whose head was cut Off, was sent by her mother to wake her elder brother and his wife. It was not long before she came back, and the girl said to her mother, "O mistress! the wife of my master is menstruating; much blood is running out of the bedroom!" Thus she said. Immediately the woman entered the bedroom of her son. She lifted the bed-cover, and discovered that his head was cut off. Then she cried aloud, and the girl also cried; and then she said to her mother in vain, "I told you that the wife of my master had a man's hands." Thus she said. Then he was just buried, and the ancestors of the Comox never had a war about this. That is the end.