Kayuta And Waneta





The Indians loved our lakes. They had eyes for their beauty, and to them

they were abodes of gracious spirits. They used to say of Oneida Lake,

that when the Great Spirit formed the world his smile rested on its

waters and Frenchman's Island rose to greet it; he laughed and Lotus

Island came up to listen. So they built lodges on their shores and

skimmed their waters in canoes. Much of their history relates to them,

and this is a tale of the Senecas that was revived a few years ago by the

discovery of a deer-skin near Lakes Waneta and Keuka, New York, on which

some facts of the history were rudely drawn, for all Indians are artists.



Waneta, daughter of a chief, had plighted her troth to Kayuta, a hunter

of a neighboring tribe with which her people were at war. Their tryst was

held at twilight on the farther shore of the lake from her village, and

it was her gayety and happiness, after these meetings had taken place,

that roused the suspicion and jealousy of Weutha, who had marked her for

his bride against the time when he should have won her father's consent

by some act of bravery. Shadowing the girl as she stole into the forest

one evening, he saw her enter her canoe and row to a densely wooded spot;

he heard a call like the note of a quail, then an answer; then Kayuta

emerged on the shore, lifted the maiden from her little bark, and the

twain sat down beside the water to listen to the lap of its waves and

watch the stars come out.



Hurrying back to camp, the spy reported that an enemy was near them, and

although Waneta had regained her wigwam by another route before the

company of warriors had reached the lake, Kayuta was seen, pursued, and

only escaped with difficulty. Next evening, not knowing what had happened

after her homeward departure on the previous night--for the braves deemed

it best to keep the knowledge of their military operations from the

women--the girl crept away to the lake again and rowed to the accustomed

place, but while waiting for the quail call a twig dropped on the water

beside her. With a quick instinct that civilization has spoiled she

realized this to be a warning, and remaining perfectly still, she allowed

her boat to drift toward shore, presently discovering that her lover was

standing waist-deep in the water. In a whisper he told her that they were

watched, and bade her row to a dead pine that towered at the foot of the

lake, where he would soon meet her. At that instant an arrow grazed his

side and flew quivering into the canoe.



Pushing the boat on its course and telling her to hasten, Kayuta sprang

ashore, sounded the warwhoop, and as Weutha rose into sight he clove his

skull with a tomahawk. Two other braves now leaped forward, but, after a

struggle, Kayuta left them dead or senseless, too. He would have stayed

to tear their scalps off had he not heard his name uttered in a shriek of

agony from the end of the lake, and, tired and bleeding though he was, he

bounded along its margin like a deer, for the voice that he heard was

Waneta's. He reached the blasted pine, gave one look, and sank to the

earth. Presently other Indians came, who had heard the noise of fighting,

and burst upon him with yells and brandished weapons, but something in

his look restrained them from a close advance. His eyes were fixed on a

string of beads that lay on the bottom of the lake, just off shore, and

when the meaning of it came to them, the savages thought no more of

killing, but moaned their grief; for Waneta, in stepping from her canoe

to wade ashore, had been caught and swallowed by a quagmire. All night

and all next day Kayuta sat there like a man of stone. Then, just as the

hour fell when he was used to meet his love, his heart broke, and he

joined her in the spiritland.





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