Shonkeek-moonkeek





This is the Mohegan name of the pretty lake in the Berkshires now called

Pontoosuc. Shonkeek was a boy, Moonkeek a girl, and they were cousins who

grew up as children commonly do, whether in house or wigwam: they roamed

the woods and hills together, filled their baskets with flowers and

berries, and fell in love. But the marriage of cousins was forbidden in

the Mohegan polity, and when they reached an age in which they found

companionship most delightful their rambles were interdicted and they

were even told to avoid each other. This had the usual effect, and they

met on islands in the lake at frequent intervals, to the torment of one

Nockawando, who wished to wed the girl himself, and who reported her

conduct to her parents.



The lovers agreed, after this, to fly to an Eastern tribe into which they

would ask to be adopted, but they were pledged, if aught interfered with

their escape, to meet beneath the lake. Nockawando interfered. On the

next night, as the unsuspecting Shonkeek was paddling over to the island

where the maid awaited him, the jealous rival, rowing softly in his wake,

sent an arrow into his back, and Shonkeek, without a cry, pitched

headlong into the water. Yet, to the eyes of Nockawando, he appeared to

keep his seat and urge his canoe forward. The girl saw the boat approach:

it sped, now, like an eagle's flight. One look, as it passed the rock;

one glance at the murderer, crouching in his birchen vessel, and with her

lover's name on her lips she leaped into her own canoe and pushed out

from shore. Nockawando heard her raise the death-song and rowed forward

as rapidly as he could, but near the middle of the lake his arm fell

palsied.



The song had ended and the night had become strangely, horribly still.

Not a chirp of cricket, not a lap of wave, not a rustle of leaf.

Motionless the girl awaited, for his boat was still moving by the impetus

of his last stroke of the paddle. The evening star was shining low on the

horizon, and as her figure loomed in the darkness the star shone through

at the point where her eye had looked forth. It was no human creature

that sat there. Then came the dead man's boat. The two shadows rowed

noiselessly together, and as they disappeared in the mist that was now

settling on the landscape, an unearthly laugh rang over the lake; then

all was still. When Nockawando reached the camp that night he was a

raving maniac. The Indians never found the bodies of the pair, but they

believed that while water remains in Pontoosuc its surface will be vexed

by these journeys of the dead.





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