Near the shore of Hockomocko,
Where the limpid, deep blue water
Shows no ripple on its surface,
Can be seen a pile of pebbles,
Worn and smoothed by many a winter.
Countless storms have moaned above them,
Since the red men mutely dropped them
One by one upon the bottom.
When the waters murmur softly
In the early evening shadows,
If you listen, you will gather
From the plaintive half-heard whispers,
Fragments of an old tradition,
Of a simple Indian legend.
Long ago by Hockomocko
In the wigwam of her father
Lived a maid, the fair Iano,
Loved by many a youthful warrior,
Loved by Sassacus, the chieftain,
Loved and hated by Wequoash.
For the maiden, heedless ever,
Favor showed to bold Wequoash,
Wore the wreath his hand had woven
And the furs his bow had captured,
Roused in him a mighty passion,
Left him lightly for another,
Sassacus, the young men’s idol,
Sassacus, the whole tribe’s hero.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Nearer crept the marriage evening,
Then the gay, the fair Iano,
Like the wild folks of the forest,
Fled from out the dusky wigwam,
Playing truant to her lover
To the shore of Hockomocko,
Laughing ran the fair Iano;
Searched for a moment in the bushes
For her light canoe of birch bark,
Pushed it gaily to the water,
Darted from the shore like lightning.
O’er the tranquil surface skimming,
Flew the boat and flew the maiden,
Towards that spot by Hockomocko
Where a willow, huge and aged.
Mantled by a drooping grapevine,
Formed an arbor cool and quiet,
Called by all “Iano’s bower.”
When the shore lay far behind her,
Lo! The harvest moon in glory
Rose above the dusky pine boughs,
Silver light upon her rested
As she glided o’er the water.
From the shore, the bold Wequoash,
Hastening homeward from his hunting,
Saw the light canoe of birch bark,
Watched it skimming o’er the surface,
Watched the moonlight on the paddle,
Listened to the stroked so even,
Spoke with vengeance in his bosom:
“‘Tis Iano, the false hearted.
She alone can dip her paddles
With the lightness of the sea-gull,
She alone can bend so lightly,
She alone would gleam so brightly,
In the silver of the moonbeam.”
Silently, he dropped his weapon,
Silently, his robe discarded,
Softly swam beneath the surface,
Till he neared the fair Iano,
As she paddled towards the willow.
Close above the gleaming water,
Of a swift pursuer fearful,
Bent Iano, listening breathless,
At her folly laughing softly,
Wondering if her friends had missed her,
Wondering how upon the morrow,
Sassacus, the brave would greet her.
Suddenly, the bold Wequoash,
Seized her gleaming tresses lightly,
Drew her down beneath the water,
Hushed her shrieks an quelled her struggles,
Then his hold upon her loosened
Till she sank like lead beneath him,
All her charms and sweetness vanished.
Months slipped by: the bold Wequoash,
Still unsatisfied in spirit,
Still with vengeance in his bosom,
Poisoned Sassacus, the chieftain,
Ruled the tribe himself with glory,
But the harvest moon returning,
Brought him memories of Iano,
He would leave his loyal warriors,
And upon the shore would wander,
Or would crouch upon a tree stump,
Pondering o’er his deeds of darkness,
Then a flame would rise before him
Streaming from the dark blue water,
Twice this happened; then a whisper –
“Once again, O bold Wequash.”
When the year once more had waned,
All his warriors came before him,
Summoned at their chieftain’s bidding,
Then he told the sad, dark story:
How that Sassacus, the mighty,
And the lovely maid, Iano,
Both had perished through his hatred.
Awed they sat and watched their chieftain,
While he paddled o’er the water
To the spot where fair Iano
On that dreadful night had vanished.
Straightway rose a form to greet him.
Sassacus, in robes of blackness,
Had returned to bid Wequoash
Leave the haunts of men behind him,
On the spirit road to wander.
Lightnings flashed and thunders pealed,
Darkness fell o’er all the water,
Hushed the hardy warriors waited
Till the fearful storm was over;
Then made promise that thereafter
When they passed the spot of terror,
Each a stone should drop in mourning,
Each should sigh for fair Iano,
Should lament for bold Wequoash
And for Sassacus, the mighty.
Thus we see by Hockomocko,
When the limpid, dark blue water
Shows no ripple on its surface,
Still the pile of shiny pebbles,
Worn and smoothed by many a winter,
Witness of the old tradition,
Of that simple Indian legend.
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