The Indian Tree- part II

(Cont. from here)

All through that winter and for most of the following spring, the Stranger stayed among the 5  Cahokians families near the great lake. When summer reared its humid and hot head, he moved further inland to visit the major cities of Shigaugogoa. Everywhere he went, he was welcomed with a friendliness  that was characteristic of the people. He was with the children during their play and with the elders at their chores. And although later on, they could never tell what exactly he did, they always felt that the most sedate games and mundane chores were somehow different with him present. Wherever the stranger went he always seemed to bring about a subtle change. At first it was hardly noticeable, maybe just a new thought or a strange feeling that had no name. But by insensible degrees, these materialized into ideas or coalesced into new and specific emotions.

By the time the year rolled round to a close, even the King became aware of the Stranger. No one mentioned the Stranger to him, for after all, every summer there are plenty of strangers in town. But, nevertheless, the King knew deep down in some forgotten corner of his consciousness that things were changing. He wasn’t sure if or even what he should do about it  and that frightened him. Nevertheless he asked the Stranger to be brought to his palace. And so one crisp autumn day, the Stranger was brought to the King’s presence and the King said,

” Welcome to my kingdom, Stranger. How do you find your stay so far?”

“Very well, O King” said the stranger bowing.

“Are my people treating you with the kindness due to a visitor? Are you in need of anything at all?”, tried the King again.

“Yes, they are, thank you, King. I have no needs”.

Stymied, the King could think of nothing else to say or ask without sounding rude. For to ask someone news about themselves, like where they are from or what they are doing here, was considered very rude in Shigaugogoa, you see. Nobody had ever asked anyone anything personal for as long as …well…anyone could remember, really. Only from the littlest of children or those of unsound mind were  these questions tolerated, and even then, they were quickly silenced and the subject changed. The Cahokians were very proud of their manners and would consider it a great insult to themselves to act in any unmannerly way. Thus the King could gain no information from the Stranger and was still as uneasy as before he met him.

Finally, the King decided that the best he could do was to ask the advice of the Manitou. Now the King was a great favorite of the wind and water Manitou, you see. During the great fire of twenty years ago (caused by the drought of 20 years ago as I told you earlier, remember?), he had paid great homage to these Manitou. He had prayed for 3 days and 3 nights at a stretch while the fire raged around him. He ate nothing, saw on one and  his whole body was concentrated on the great spirit of Kitchesmanetoa. At last, at the end of the third day, the Kitchesmanetoa, relented and sent the wind and water Manitou to his aid. By the grace of these Manitou, the wind that fanned the fire died down and the heavens opened and water poured down to extinguish the flames. In the dense smoke that covered the whole of Shigaugogoa after that, legend has it that people saw the human  embodiment of the two Manitou head into the temple where the King was still in prayer. They came back out of the temple with the King, they say, and at the sign of the King, the wind rose again and the smoke was blown away across the great lake. From that day forth, every year the rains were plentiful and at appropriate times, so that the crops planted by the Cahokians flourished, the plains-land beasts like the bison and deer grew fat and numerous and the people never went hungry again.

So the night of his meeting with the Stranger, the King went to his temple and knelt on the ground. He bowed his head and prayed for the wind and water Manitou to help him. To advice him on what was going to happen to his kingdom and what he should do to keep his Kingdom safe from these changes. But the wind just blew on and the water gurgled away in the stream and the King got no response. But the King did not give up. Everyday after that, once he was done with the day’s duties he would go to the temple and pray for advice until the next day dawned. He was sure he will get an answer.

Meanwhile, the Stranger remained in their midst, spreading change where ever he went. And the changes took various forms, some  subtle like the children inventing new games of their own that their parents could never understand, the women teaching each other the skill of the abrader and people coming from far away to learn the art and in some cases even to buy it. The age-old division of labor between the men and the women started to blur. Some men became proficient in cooking, while some women hunted the best and greatest beasts. Slowly people started making new tools to ease their work, animals were domesticated to help in household chores and new names were invented to go with the new innovations.


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