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The Punishment of the Stingy and Other Indian Stories, by George Bird Grinnell, [1901], at

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Nothing Child

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Nothing Child

LONG time ago there lived in the Blackfoot camp a young man who did not like company. He preferred to be alone. He had a wife but no children, and one young brother who lived with him. This was his only close relation. This man had a tame bear, which he had caught when it was a little cub. During the day he went hunting, and set traps and snares for game, and at night, when he returned to the camp, he did not go about visiting at the other lodges, but stayed at home by himself.

One day he thought he would move away from the village and camp alone—just his own lodge. They started, the man and his wife, and the young brother and the bear. They went up towards the mountains, and camped in the timber. The man hunted and killed plenty of game, and they stayed there for a long time,

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[paragraph continues] While the older brother was hunting, the younger one used to stay at home, making arrows and shooting with them, and at length he became a very good shot.

After a time the younger brother had grown big, and he was a handsome boy, and the woman fell in love with him, but he took no notice of her.

One day, while the young brother was sitting in the lodge making arrows, and the woman was outside tanning a hide, she called to him and said, "Oh, brother, come out and kill this pretty bird that is here," but the boy was busy smoothing his arrows, and paid no attention. Pretty soon she asked him again, and then a third time, and when she called him the fourth time he got up and went outside and killed the bird and gave it to her, and then went into the lodge again and kept on working at his arrows. He did not stop and talk with her. Pretty soon the boy went off into the timber to try his arrows. The bear was lying by the door of the lodge.

The woman was angry at the boy because he took no notice of her, and she made up her mind that she would be revenged on him. So

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while he was gone she scratched and bruised her face and tore her hair.

At night her husband came home, and when he looked at his wife he saw that her face was scratched and swollen and her hair all pulled about. He sent out his young brother to hang up the meat that he had brought in, and the boy went leaving arrows lying by the fire to dry. While he was gone the woman said to her husband, "Your brother has beaten me because I asked him to shoot a pretty bird for me." She showed her husband the scratches and bruises she had made on herself, and said, "See how he has used me."

When the man heard this he was angry, but he said nothing. When the boy came back from hanging up the meat, he looked for his arrows but did not see them. Then he asked, "Where have you put my arrows?" but no one answered, and at length he saw the ends of them among the ashes, for his brother had thrown them into the fire. When the boy saw that his arrows had been burned he cried, and taking his robe and his bow and what arrows he had left, he went out of the lodge. He made up his mind that he could not live here with his brother

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any longer, and decided to go away. The bear, which all this time had been lying by the door of the lodge, listening, was angry at the lies the woman had told, and at what her husband had done, and he got up and went out and followed the boy. They travelled for a while and then slept, and the next day went on again, going towards the mountains.

For two days they travelled, and on the third day, as they were going along, the boy saw sitting in a tree-top a bird that was white as snow, and different from any bird that he had seen before. He took an arrow from his quiver and shot the bird, and as it fell, it caught among the branches and lodged there. He threw sticks at it, but could not knock it down, so he made up his mind that he would climb the tree and get the bird and his arrow. When he had tightened his belt and was just about to climb the tree, the bear spoke to him and said: "You had better not do this. If you go up there something bad may happen. It will be better to let the things go." But the boy was very anxious to get that bird and his arrow, and would not listen to the bear's words, but began to climb the tree.

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He reached the branch where the arrow was, but when he stretched out his hand to take it it moved up a little higher, just beyond his fingers. So he climbed higher and again reached for the arrow, and again it moved up a little higher. He kept climbing and climbing, with the arrow always moving in front of him, until at last he climbed out of sight.

For the rest of the day the bear stood at the foot of the tree, looking upward and whining and moaning for his friend, but he saw nothing of him. About sundown all the boy's clothing came tumbling down together, but nothing was seen of the boy. The bear would not leave the tree. He waited there, hoping to see what had become of the boy, but that was the last of him. He saw him no more.

After the boy and the bear had left the camp, the older brother kept thinking of what had taken place. When they did not come back he felt lonesome and sad, and began to fear that something would happen to his young brother, and at last he made up his mind that he would start out and learn what had become of him. He left his lodge and set out in the direction the two had taken. He found their

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trail and followed it, and after two days came to the tree and there saw the bear, standing on his hind feet and resting his paws against the tree. The man asked the bear what had become of the boy, but the bear would not reply to him. He asked him the same question again, and a third and a fourth time, and then the bear answered and said: "All this trouble has come upon us through your fault, because you listened to the lies your woman told you. Your brother has climbed this tree and has gone out of sight, and now for three days I have stood here, waiting for him to come down. His clothing has fallen down from up above, but he does not return." They waited by the tree longer, but the boy did not come down, and at length the man said to the bear: "My brother is gone. He will never come back. We had better go back to the camp where we can live." The bear went back with him.

On their way the bear told the man how it really had been, and that it was not the boy who had hurt the woman, but that she had done it herself, and in this way had caused his brother to lose his life. Then the man was angry, and when they came near to the lodge

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he took an arrow from his quiver and shot his wife, and her shadow went to the sand-hills.

That night the man said to the bear, "Well, we are only two now, and for myself, I have decided to stay here and starve to death, and as for you, you had better leave me and go your way and make your living as all bears do." So the bear went away and did not return.

One night while the man was lying asleep, he dreamed of the bear; and the bear spoke to him and said: "My brother, listen to the words that I speak to you, and do now what I tell you to. Go back to the old camp of your people, to the cliff where they drive the buffalo, the pis´ kun, and wait there. A camp of your people is moving towards that place. They are very poor and have but little to eat. It may be that you can help them. Be sure to do exactly as I tell you from this time on, and in the days to come you will be unhappy no longer, but will have plenty of everything and will have full life. Now I wish you to-morrow, when you awake, to eat up your lodge and everything that is in it. This seems to you like a hard thing, something that cannot be done,

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but, by the power that I give you, you will be able to do it."

When the man awoke, in the morning, he thought for a long time over what the bear had said to him in his sleep, and how it had said that in the time to come he would be poor no longer, but would have full life, and how it had said that it would give him that power, and he made up his mind to do as the bear had told him. He tore down his lodge and began to eat it, and found that this was not a hard thing to do. He ate the lodge and the lining, his clothing, his wife's things—everything that he could find in the lodge, and then took his bow and arrows and started to go to the cliff as the bear had told him to.

Now since the bear had left, the man had had no food to eat, and on his journey he found himself getting weak and growing smaller. When he reached the cliff there was no camp there, so he waited, and all the time he kept getting weaker, and smaller and smaller, until he was no bigger than a year-old child. He thought now that he would surely die, and hid himself under a bunch of rye grass.

The next day the people moved in and camped

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at this place. An old woman went out to get some grass for her bed, and while she was gathering it, she heard a sound as if a little child were crying. She went in the direction of the sound, and under a bunch of rye grass she found a little child. She carried him into the camp and took good care of him. When the chief of the camp heard of how she had found the child, he said to the old woman, "Take good care of that child; he was put there for some good purpose."

As time passed the child grew fatter and stronger, and the old woman grew fond and proud of him. They called him Kis´ tap i pokau (Nothing Child.)

Near this camp stood a tree, and every day an eagle came and alighted in the tree. The chief had tried many times to kill this eagle, and so had other men, but no one could kill it. When they found that no one could kill it, they wanted it all the more. The chief had two very pretty daughters, and at length he said that he would give his daughters to any one who would kill this eagle. When this was called out through the camp by the old crier, all the young men came out to try to kill the eagle,

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but no one could do it. At last Nothing Child said to the old woman, "Grandmother, make me some arrows so that I can kill the eagle." The old woman laughed when he asked her this, but she was very fond of him, so she tied a string to a deer's rib for a bow and made him some little arrows, and he set out to kill the eagle. When the young men who had been shooting at the eagle saw the child coming with the tiny bow, they laughed and made fun of him, but Nothing Child fitted a little arrow on the string of his bow, and shot and killed the eagle. Then all who were standing by were astonished, but they said, "It must have been a chance shot." The eagle was taken to the chief's lodge, and they told him it had been killed by the Nothing Child. So he told his daughters to go and marry the found boy.

But the young men were not satisfied with this decision. They said that it was not fair, that the boy had made a chance shot, and they asked the chief to try their skill in some other way. So the chief told the young men that they might again try their luck for the young girls, and that whoever killed a white wolf with a black tail should have his daughters. All the

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men went out from the camp and built their wooden traps, and Nothing Child also went out and made a wooden trap. The next morning they all went out to visit their traps, and in almost all the traps they found something—wolves, foxes, badgers, and other animals. Some of the wolves were white all over, and some were white with gray tails, but no one had a white wolf with a black tail. The Nothing Child, with his grandmother, went out from the camp to his trap in a different direction from the rest, and in their trap they found a white wolf with a black tail. They took it into camp and to the chief's lodge, and when he saw it he said that this was the wolf he wanted.

Now all the young men in the camp were jealous of the Nothing Child, for it was certain that he would get the chief's daughters for his wives. So they went to the chief and asked him to try his people once more, that they thought that the Nothing Child had not killed the wolf fairly. So the chief now said: "Whoever will bring me a white fox with a black-tipped tail shall have my daughters. This will be the last trial, and after this no one need complain."

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The young men set their traps all over the prairie, but Nothing Child asked his grandmother to go with him, and he went to a place far from all the others and there set his trap. The next morning the young men all went out to look at their traps. Some had foxes and some had other animals, but when Nothing Child went to his trap, he found in it a white fox with a black-tipped tail, and when it was taken to the chief's lodge he said that this was the fox he meant, and he told his daughters to get ready and go and marry the Nothing Child. The youngest girl was willing to do what her father ordered, but the elder was not.

They put on their finest clothing and left their father's lodge and started for Nothing Child's home. As they walked along, the elder girl said to her sister, "I am not going to marry this child, to be laughed at by everybody." The younger sister said, "I am going to do what my father told me to. It is better to do so. Besides that, the Nothing Child must be a very powerful person. See how many wonderful things he has done." The elder girl said, "Well, I am not going to his lodge. I am going to marry Masto pau (Raven Arrow)." This

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was a young man who had the power to turn himself into a raven whenever he wished. So the elder girl went her way to Raven Arrow, but the younger kept on towards Nothing Child's lodge.

When the girl came to the lodge and went in, the old woman told her to sit down. Nothing Child was playing at the back of the lodge. The girl said, "My father sent me to sit beside the person who killed the eagle, the white wolf with the black tail, and the white fox with the black-tipped tail." Nothing Child said, "I am the person who did that, but I do not want any woman to sit beside me." The girl answered: "My father sent me to sit beside you, and I shall stay here. I am not going home any more." When the boy saw that the girl was resolved to stay, he said, "Very well, you shall be my wife." So she stayed, and was pleasant and nice with the boy and played with him, and he liked her. She saw that he was very poor, but she seemed to take no notice of that.

At this time the camp was very short of food. The young men scouted far and near over the prairie, but could find no buffalo. It was a

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hard time; everybody was hungry. One day Nothing Child said to his wife: "Now you stay here for a while. I am going away for a time. I am going to try to find a band of buffalo and bring them into camp." He made ready for his journey and started. After he had travelled a long way he came to a wet, marshy place near the mountains, where in summer many buffalo had been. Here he gathered up buffalo chips, and made great piles of them in a row, and when he had finished, he went back some way, and then came running and shouting towards the piles of chips. When he got close to them he stopped, and then went back again, and again came running and shouting upon the chips, but nothing happened. He repeated this a third and a fourth time, and the fourth time, when he got near the piles, the chips turned into buffaloes and rushed off over the prairie, and Nothing Child ran them towards the camp and drove them over the cliff into the pis kun, so that once more the camp was supplied with meat.

The next day Nothing Child told his wife to go to her father's lodge for the day, and not to return until night. After the girl had gone

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he spoke to his grandmother and said: "Grandmother, you have seen what strange things I have done, and you can see that I have some power. That power which I have was given to me by a bear that has helped me, and because I have done just what he told me to I have been able to accomplish the things that you have seen me do. I do not know the secret of my power, but I know that I have it. Now, Grandmother, I want you to do something for me. I want you to take a rope and tie me by the feet to the lodge poles, so that I may hang head downward from the poles. I am little, and you can easily hold me up." The old woman did as he had told her, and he hung there head downward. Pretty soon he opened his mouth, and a little piece of cowskin stuck out. Nothing Child took hold of this and began to pull on it, and more and more came out, and at last he had pulled out the whole of his old lodge, and then he pulled out the lining, and afterwards many of his old belongings. When he had eaten all these things they had been old, but now they were new and white, and finely ornamented. The lodge was painted, the woman's clothing was beautifully worked

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with porcupine quills; there was a new full set of war clothing for himself—all very fine.

After he had done this Nothing Child asked the old woman to untie him, and when he was on his feet again it was seen that he was no longer a child, but a full-grown man, very handsome. He told the old woman to set up the new lodge, and she did so. When his wife returned she was surprised to see all the new things. They looked strange to her. Also her husband, who, when she last saw him, was a small boy and rather ugly, was now a big, fine-looking man. The girl was pleased with the change, and now they lived together for a long time very happily.

After a time Raven Arrow became jealous of Nothing Child because of his power, but Nothing Child did not notice this, and, because Raven Arrow was poor, he asked him to come and live with him in his lodge. He did so, and they lived together for some time, and now the elder daughter of the chief was sorry that she had not done as her father, had told her to.

One day, in the early summer, Nothing Child's wife said to him, "Oh, how much I would like some fresh berries to eat!" He said

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to her: "Do you want some fresh berries? Well, now, go out and gather a lot of sarvis berry branches and bring them to me here in the lodge." The woman did as he had told her, and brought in the bushes and threw them down on the floor of the lodge. Then Nothing Child took a tanned elk-skin and covered the bushes with it. In a short time he told his wife to take the skin off the brush, and when she did so she was astonished, for she found the twigs loaded with fine ripe berries, as though they were growing.

Now, when Raven Arrow's wife saw this she felt that she too would like some berries, and she asked her husband if he could do this. But he said: "No. It is useless for me to try to do things that I know I cannot do. I can change myself into a raven and can do many other things, but I cannot make ripe berries grow in the spring, nor can I do many other things that Nothing Child does."

After some time it happened that food again became scarce in the camp, and the chief sent word to his son-in-law, asking him if he could not again bring the buffalo into the camp, as he had done before. The hunters had been out

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and had travelled far over the prairie, but they could see nothing. Nothing Child sent word back that this was a hard thing he was asked to do; he feared he could not do it, but he would try.

He made ready for his journey and started, travelling a long way looking for the buffalo, but he found none. He then went to the marsh where he had made buffalo before, and again made many little piles of buffalo chips in rows, and again went back some distance and then came charging down on the piles running and shouting. And the fourth time he did this the piles of chips changed into real buffalo and started running. And Nothing Child ran the herd over the cliff, as he had done before, and again the camp was supplied with meat. In this herd was one white buffalo. His wife met him at the cliff, and he told her that this white buffalo was hers. That she must be careful of the skin when she had taken it off.

His wife told her husband that Raven Arrow had changed himself into a raven, and had flown away to look for buffalo, saying that if he found any he was going to drive them out of the country. This made Nothing Child

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angry, but he said nothing and waited. One day, as he was sitting by the fire, Raven Arrow, in the shape of a white raven, flew into the lodge and lit on the ground by him. When Nothing Child saw him he seized him and tied him by the feet to a lodge pole high up in the smoke and kept him there until he was nearly dead from the smoke. At last Nothing Child asked him if he would promise never again to drive the buffalo away from the people. Raven Arrow promised that he would never again do so, and Nothing Child untied him and let him down, when he changed into a man again. Up to that time ravens had always been white, but ever since the smoking that this raven got they have been black.

Nothing Child and his wife lived to full age and always had plenty of everything.

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