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Wahconah Falls






Category: TALES OF PURITAN LAND

Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

The pleasant valley of Dalton, in the Berkshire Hills, had been under the
rule of Miacomo for forty years when a Mohawk dignitary of fifty scalps
and fifty winters came a-wooing his daughter Wahconah. On a June day in
1637, as the girl sat beside the cascade that bears her name, twining
flowers in her hair and watching leaves float down the stream, she became
conscious of a pair of eyes bent on her from a neighboring coppice, and
arose in some alarm. Finding himself discovered, the owner of the eyes, a
handsome young fellow, stepped forward with a quieting air of
friendliness, and exclaimed, Hail, Bright Star!

Hail, brother, answered Wahconah.

I am Nessacus, said the man, one of King Philip's soldiers. Nessacus
is tired with his flight from the Long Knives (the English), and his
people faint. Will Bright Star's people shut their lodges against him and
his friends?

The maiden answered, My father is absent, in council with the Mohawks,
but his wigwams are always open. Follow.

Nessacus gave a signal, and forth from the wood came a sad-eyed,
battle-worn troop that mustered about him. Under the girl's lead they
went down to the valley and were hospitably housed. Five days later
Miacomo returned, with him the elderly Mohawk lover, and a priest,
Tashmu, of repute a cringing schemer, with whom hunters and soldiers
could have nothing in common, and whom they would gladly have put out of
the way had they not been deterred by superstitious fears. The strangers
were welcomed, though Tashmu looked at them gloomily, and there were
games in their honor, Nessacus usually proving the winner, to Wahconah's
joy, for she and the young warrior had fallen in love at first sight, and
it was not long before he asked her father for her hand. Miacomo favored
the suit, but the priest advised him, for politic reasons, to give the
girl to the old Mohawk, and thereby cement a tribal friendship that in
those days of English aggression might be needful. The Mohawk had three
wives already, but he was determined to add Wahconah to his collection,
and he did his best, with threats and flattery, to enforce his suit.
Nessacus offered to decide the matter in a duel with his rival, and the
challenge was accepted, but the wily Tashmu discovered in voices of wind
and thunder, flight of birds and shape of clouds, such omens that the
scared Indians unanimously forbade a resort to arms. Let the Great
Spirit speak, cried Tashmu, and all yielded their consent.

Invoking a ban on any who should follow, Tashmu proclaimed that he would
pass that night in Wizard's Glen, where, by invocations, he would learn
the divine will. At sunset he stalked forth, but he had not gone far ere
the Mohawk joined him, and the twain proceeded to Wahconah Falls. There
was no time for magical hocus-pocus that night, for both of them toiled
sorely in deepening a portion of the stream bed, so that the current ran
more swiftly and freely on that side, and in the morning Tashmu announced
in what way the Great Spirit would show his choice. Assembling the tribe
on the river-bank, below a rock that midway split the current, a canoe,
with symbols painted on it, was set afloat near the falls. If it passed
the dividing rock on the side where Nessacus waited, he should have
Wahconah. If it swerved to the opposite shore, where the Mohawk and his
counsellor stood, the Great Spirit had chosen the old chief for her
husband. Of course, the Mohawk stood on the deeper side. On came the
little boat, keeping the centre of the stream. It struck the rock, and
all looked eagerly, though Tashmu and the Mohawk could hardly suppress an
exultant smile. A little wave struck the canoe: it pivoted against the
rock and drifted to the feet of Nessacus. A look of blank amazement came
over the faces of the defeated wooer and his friend, while a shout of
gladness went up, that the Great Spirit had decided so well. The young
couple were wed with rejoicings; the Mohawk trudged homeward, and, to the
general satisfaction, Tashmu disappeared with him. Later, when Tashmu was
identified as the one who had guided Major Talcott's soldiers to the
valley, the priest was caught and slain by Miacomo's men.





Next: Knocking At The Tomb

Previous: The Forest Smithy



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