Cascades Of The Columbia
: ON THE PACIFIC COAST
: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land
When the Siwash, as the Northwestern Indians called themselves, were few,
Mount Hood was kept by the Spirit of Storms, who when he shook his robe
caused rain or snow to fall over the land, while the Fire Spirit flashed
his lightnings from Mount Adams. Across the vale between them stretched a
mighty bridge of stone, joining peak to peak, and on this the Siwash laid
his offering of salmon and dressed skins. Here, too, the tribal fest
were kept. The priestess of the arch-Mentonee, who fed the fire on the
tribal altar unimpassioned by a mortal throb--had won the love of the
wild tamanouses of the mountains, but she was careless alike of coaxing
and threats, and her heart was as marble to them.
Jealous of each other, these two spirits fell to fighting, and, appalled
by the whirl of fire and cloud, of splintering trees and crumbling rocks,
the Indians fled in terror toward the lowlands, but she, unhurt and
undaunted, kept in her place, and still offered praise to the one god.
Yet she was not alone, for watchful in the shadow of a rock stood a
warrior who had loved her so long, without the hope of lovers, that he,
too, had outgrown fear. Though she had given him but passing words and
never a smile, his own heart was the warmer and the heavier with its
freight, and it was his way to be ever watching her in some place where
she might not be troubled by the sight of him.
The war waxed fiercer, and at last the spirits met at the centre of the
arch, and in roar and quake and deluge the great bridge swayed and
cracked. The young man sprang forward. He seized Mentonee in his arms.
There was time for one embrace that cheated death of sorrow. Then, with a
thunder like a bursting world, the miles of masonry crashed down and
buried the two forever. The Columbia leaps the ruins of the bridge in the
rapids that they call the Cascades, and the waters still brawl on, while
the sulky tamanouses watch the whitened floods from their mountain-tops,
knowing that never again will they see so fair a creature as Mentonee.