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How The Story Of Glooskap And Pook-jin-skwess, The Evil Pitcher, Is Told By The Passamaquoddy Indians

Categories : Passamaquoddy , Passamaquoddy Stories

There was a village of Indians who were all Black Cats, or Po'gum'k. One of them, the cleverest and bravest, went forth every day with bow and arrow, tomahawk and knife, and killed moose and bear, and sent meat to the poor, and so he fed them all. When he returned they came to him to know where his game lay, and when he had told them they went forth with toboggins and returned with them loaded with meat. And the chief of the Black Cats was by his mother the son of a bear.

Pook-jin-skwess, the Witch, was a Black Cat. She was a woman or a man as she willed to be; but in these days she was a man. And she, being evil, hated the chief, and thought long how she could kill or remove him, and take his place. Now, one day when all the camp had packed what they had, being about to travel, Pitcher asked the chief to go with him, or with her, as you may will, down to the water-side to gather gulls' eggs. And then they went far out in a canoe, and very far, and still farther, till they came to an island, and there they landed, and while Pogumk (who was Glooskap) sought for eggs, the false-hearted Pitcher stole away in the akwéden (Passamaquoddy: canoe), and as she paddled she sang a song--

"Nikhed-ha Pogumk min nekuk,
Netswil sa_ga_mawin!"

"I have left the Black Cat on an island,
I shall be the chief of the Fishers now!"

So she came to the village, and the next day they all departed through the woods; there was not one of them left save the one who was worth them all. And at night they camped, expecting every day that the chief would come to them, and till then Pitcher was in his place.

Now on the thirtieth day the chief remembered his friend the Fox, who had m'téoulin, or magic power. And he sang a song, and the Fox heard it, although he was miles away, beyond forests and mountains. And thus knowing all, he went to the shore and swam to the island, where he found the chief. At this time the Black Cat could not swim such a distance, but the Fox offered to take him to the mainland. Then they waded into the water, and the Fox said, "Close thine eyes and hold fast to my tail as tightly as thou canst, and be of good faith, oh, my elder brother, and we shall soon gain the shore." Saying this, he swam away and his friend followed. And it went well with them, but the chief grew weary, and he opened one eye a little, and saw that they were not ten feet from the shore. And being of little faith he thought, for he spoke not aloud, "We shall never get to land." But the Fox replied, "Do not believe it." But the journey lasted long, for what seemed to Pogumk to be ten feet was ten miles, and the wind was high and the waters were wild, for Pitcher had called forth a storm. So they swam all day and all the evening before they landed. "And now, my elder brother," said the Fox, "you may go your way." And he went to the camp of the Black Cats.

When he came to the camp it was cold, and there were only ashes, for the people had gone on. So he followed them, and in one day came near them. And the first whom he overtook was his mother, bearing his younger brother Sable (Passamaquoddy: 'Nmmok-swess) on her back, so that while she looked forward he looked behind. And as Pogumk peeped out from among the leaves, Sable saw him, and said, "Here comes my brother!" And she turned, but saw nothing, for the chief suddenly hid himself behind a tree. Then they went on, and Sable cried again, "Indeed, mother, I behold my elder brother!" And this time the mother, glancing quickly, caught him, and they all laughed for joy, and she threw Sable down in the leaves, like a stick. Then the chief bade Sable run to the camp. "And when you are there," he said, "build up a great fire of hemlock bark, and take Pitcher's babe, even the babe which she loves, and which you tend, and throw it into the fire, and run to me as fast as you can, for verily thou wilt be in dire need to do so."

And as he commanded it was done; and when the fire was hot, Sable threw the babe into it, and it was burned to death. And Pitcher, being, as one may well believe, maddened at such a sight, pursued him as a starving wolf pursues a rabbit. Then Sable, in great fear, cried aloud, "Oh, my elder brother, my brother!" And Pitcher screamed, "Call aloud to him, for you must run as far as the island where Pogumk is, to save yourself!" And at that word Pogumk stepped forward and confronted her, and said, "Truly, she need not ran so far."

And seeing him and hearing this, fear came upon her; but she laughed aloud to hide it, and said, "I did but chase him in sport, for I love Sable." But Pogumk: replied grimly, "I know thee and thy tricks, thou the evil one." Then, as his magic had come to him, he used his power, and put Pitcher with her back against a tree; and there she stayed, stuck to it, unable to get away. But the chief and Sable went to the camp. Now Pitcher had a hatchet and wedge, and with much ado she cut herself away, and the Black Cats heard her pounding and chopping all night long. And in the morning she came to them, and there was a great piece of wood sticking to her back, and they laughed her to scorn, and sang at her,

"He who made the chief
Stay on a distant island,
He is stuck by the chief
Fast with his back to a tree."

Now Pitcher the Witch, being mad with shame and spite, fled from the face of man, and ran through the woods like a wild wolf. And so she came to Bar Harbor (Passamaquoddy: Pes'sonkqu'), and sat down on a log and said, with her heart full of bitterness and malice, "I would that I could become something which should torment all men." And as she said this she became a mosquito (Passamaquoddy: T'sis-o), and so it came to pass that mosquitoes were made. And to this day men see that wherever the Black Cat is, there too is the Sable not far away.

Of this Pook-jin-skwess it was said that she had children of her own, begotten by sorcerers and giants and monsters; but as they were all ugly she stole from the Indian women their fairest babes, and brought them up as if they were her own, that she might not be entirely put to shame because of her children. And once she had thus stolen a boy, and when he grew up some one said to him that he should not believe that she was his mother, but should question her as to it. Now the youth, reflecting on this, observed that his brothers and sisters were all as ugly as evil beasts and no better behaved, while he himself was comely and good. Then he asked her what this might mean. And she replied, laughing, "Because they were all begotten (or born) in the night-time, but you are a child of the day and of light."

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