The Windigo

A poem by William Henry Drummond

Go easy wit' de paddle, an' steady wit' de oar
Geev rudder to de bes' man you got among de crew,
Let ev'ry wan be quiet, don't let dem sing no more
W'en you see de islan' risin' out of Grande Lac Manitou
Above us on de sky dere, de summer cloud may float
Aroun' us on de water de ripple never show,
But somet'ing down below us can rock de stronges' boat,
W'en we 're comin' near de islan' of de spirit Windigo!

De carcajou may breed dere, an' otter sweem de poole
De moosh-rat mak' de mud house, an' beaver buil' hees dam
An' beeges' Injun hunter on all de TĂȘte de Boule
Will never set hees trap dere from spring to summer tam.

But he 'll bring de fines' presen' from upper St. Maurice
De loup marin an' black-fox from off de Hodson Bay
An' hide dem on de islan' an' smoke de pipe of peace
So Windigo will help heem w'en he travel far away.

We shaintee on dat islan' on de winter seexty-nine
If you look you see de clearin' aroun' de Coo Coo Cache,
An' pleasan' place enough too among de spruce an' pine
If foreman on de shaintee is n't Cyprien Palache.

Beeg feller, alway watchin' on hees leetle weasel eye,
De gang dey can't do not'ing but he see dem purty quick
Wit' hees "Hi dere, w'at you doin' ?" ev'ry tam he 's passin' by
An' de bad word he was usin' , wall! it offen mak' me sick.

An' he carry silver w'issle wit' de chain aroun' hees neck
For fear he mebbe los' it, an' ev'ry body say
He mus' buy it from de devil w'en he 's passin' on Kebeck
But if it 's true dat story, I dunno how moche he pay.

Dere 's plaintee on de shaintee can sing lak rossignol
Pet Clancy play de fiddle, an' Jimmie Charbonneau
Was bring hees concertina from below St. Fereol
So we get some leetle pleasure till de long, long winter go.

But if we start up singin' affer supper on de camp
"Par derriere chez ma tante," or "Mattawa wishtay,"
De boss he 'll come along den, an' put heem out de lamp,
An' only stop hees swearin' w'en we all go marche coucher.

We 've leetle boy dat winter from Po-po-lo-be-lang
Hees fader an' hees moder dey're bote A-ben-a-kee
An' he 's comin' , Injun Johnnie, wit' some man de lumber gang
Was fin' heem nearly starvin' above on Lac Souris.

De ole man an' de woman is tryin' pass de Soo
W'en water 's high on spring tam, an' of course dey 're gettin' drown',
For even smartes' Injun should n't fool wit' birch canoe,
W'ere de reever lak toboggan on de hill is runnin' down.

So dey lef' de leetle feller all alone away up dere
Till lumber gang is ketchin' him an' bring him on de Cache,
But better if he 's stayin' wit' de wolf an' wit' de bear
Dan come an' tak' hees chances wit' Cyprien Palache.

I wonder how he stan' it, w'y he never run away
For Cyprien lak neeger he is treat heem all de sam'
An' if he 's wantin' Johnnie on de night or on de day
God help heem if dat w'issle she was below de secon'tam!

De boy he don 't say not'ing, no wan never see heem cry
He 's got de Injun in heem, you can see it on de face,
An' only for us feller an' de cook, he 'll surely die
Long before de winter 's over, long before we lef' de place,

But I see heem hidin' somet'ing wan morning by de shore
So firse tam I was passin' I scrape away de snow
An' it 's rabbit skin he 's ketchin' on de swamp de day before,
Leetle Injun Johnnie 's workin' on de spirit Windigo.

December's come in stormy, an' de snow-dreef fill de road
Can only see de chimley an' roof of our cabane,
An' stronges' team on stable fin' it plaintee heavy load
Haulin' sleigh an' two t'ree pine log t'roo de wood an' beeg savane.

An' I travel off wan day me, wit' Cyprien Palache
Explorin' for new timber, w'en de win' begin to blow,
So we hurry on de snow-shoe for de camp on Coo Coo Cache
If de nor' eas' storm is comin', was de bes' place we dunno,

An' we 're gettin' safe enough dere wit' de storm close on our heel,
But w'en our belt we loosen for takin' off de coat
De foreman commence screamin' an' mon Dieu it mak' us feel
Lak he got t'ree t'ousan' devil all fightin' on hees t'roat.

Cyprien is los' hees w'issle, Cyprien is los' hees chain
Injun Johnnie he mus' fin' it, even if de win' is high

He can never show hese'f on de Coo Coo Cache again
Till he bring dat silver w'issle an' de chain it 's hangin' by.

So he sen' heem on hees journey never knowin' he come back
T'roo de rough an' stormy wedder, t'roo de pile of dreefin' snow
"Wat 's de use of bein' Injun if you can 't smell out de track?"
Dat 's de way de boss is talkin' , an' poor Johnnie have to go.

If you want to hear de musique of de nort' win' as it blow
An' lissen to the hurricane an' learn de way it sing
An' feel how small de man is w'en he 's leevin' here below,
You should try it on de shaintee w'en she 's doin' all dem t'ing!

W'at 's dat soun' lak somet'ing cryin' all aroun' us ev'ryw'ere?
We never hear no tonder upon de winter storm!
Dey 're shoutin' to each oder dem voices on de air,
An' it 's red hot too de stove pipe, but no wan 's feelin' warm!

"Get out an' go de woodpile before I freeze to deat'"
Cyprien de boss is yellin' an' he 's lookin' cole an' w'ite
Lak dead man on de coffin, but no wan go, you bet,
For if it 's near de woodpile, 't is n't close enough to-night!

Non! we ain't afraid of not'ing, but we don 't lak takin' chance,
An' w'en we hear de spirit of de wil' A-ben- a-kee
Singin' war song on de chimley, makin' all dem Injun dance
Raisin' row dere, you don't ketch us on no woodpile -no siree!

O! de lonesome night we 're passin' w'ile we 're stayin' on dat place!
An' ev'rybody sheever when Jimmie Char bonneau
Say he 's watchin' on de winder an' he see de Injun face
An' it 's lookin' so he tole us, jus' de sam' as Windingo.

Den again mese'f I 'm hearin' somet'ing callin', an' it soun'
Lak de voice of leetle Johnnie so I'm passin' on de door

But de pine stump on de clearin' wit' de w'ite sheet all aroun'
Mak' me t'ink of churchyar' tombstone, an' I can't go dere no more.

Wat's de reason we 're so quiet w'ile our heart she 's goin' fas'
W'y is no wan ax de question? dat we're all afraid to spik?
Was it wing of flyin' wil' bird strek de winder as it pass,
Or de sweesh of leetle snow-ball w'en de win' is playin' trick?

W'en we buil' de Coo Coo shaintee, she's as steady as a rock,
Did you feel de shaintee shakin' de sam, she's goin' to fall?
Dere's somet'ing on de doorway! an' now we hear de knock
An' up above de hurricane we hear de w'issle call.

Callin', callin' lak a bugle, an' he's jompin' up de boss
From hees warm bed on de corner an' open wide de door,
Dere's no use foller affer for Cyprien is los'
An' de Coo Coo Cache an' shaintee he'll never see no more.

At las' de morning's comin', an' storm is blow away
An' outside on de shaintee young Jimmie Charbonneau
He's seein' track of snowshoe, 'bout de size of doulbe sleigh
Dere's no mistak' it's makin' by de spirit Windigo.

An' de leetle Injuin Johnie, he's all right I onderstan'
For you'll fin' heem up de reever above de Coo Coo Cache
Ketchin' mink and ketchin' beaver, an' he's growin' great beeg man
But dat's de las' we're hearin' of Cyprien Palache.

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