The Under Land





When the Chatas looked into the still depths of Bayou Lacombe, Louisiana,

they said that the reflection of the sky was the empyrean of the Under

Land, whither all good souls were sure to go after death. Their chief,

Opaleeta, having fallen into this bayou, was so long beneath the water

that he was dead when his fellows found him, but by working over him for

hours, and through resort to prayers and incantations of medicine men,

his life returned and he stood on his feet once more. Then he grieved

that his friends had brought him back, for he had been at the gates of

the Under Land, where the air is blithe and balmy, and so nourishing that

people live on it; where it is never winter; where the sun shines

brightly, but never withers and parches; and where stars dance to the

swing of the breezes. There no white man comes to rob the Indian and

teach him to do wrong. Gorgeous birds fly through changing skies that

borrow the tints of flowers, the fields are spangled with blossoms of red

and blue and gold that load each wind with perfume, the grass is as fine

as the hair of deer, and the streams are thick with honey.



At sunset those who loved each other in life are gathered to their

lodges, and raise songs of joy and thankfulness. Their voices are soft

and musical, their faces are young again and beam with smiles, and there

is no death. It was only the chiefs who heard his story, for, had all the

tribe known it, many who were old and ill and weary would have gone to

the bayou, and leaped in, to find that restful, happy Under Land. Those

who had gone before they sometimes tried to see, when the lake was still

and dappled with pictures of sunset clouds, but the dead never came

back--they kept away from the margin of the water lest they should be

called again to a life of toil and sorrow. And Opaleeta lived for many

years and ruled his tribe with wisdom, yet he shared in few of the

merry-makings of his people, and when, at last, his lodge was ready in

the Under Land, he gave up his life without a sigh.





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