On an arm of an oak hangs the prize
for the swiftest and strongest of runners
A blanket as red as the skies,
when the flames sweep the plains in October.
And beside it a strong, polished bow,
and a quiver of iron-tipped arrows,
Which Kapóza's tall chief will bestow
on the fleet-footed second that follows.
A score of swift runners are there
from the several bands of the nation,
And now for the race they prepare,
and among them fleet-footed Tamdóka.
With the oil of the buck and the bear
their sinewy limbs are annointed,
For fleet are the feet of the deer
and strong are the limbs of the bruin.
Hark! the shouts and the braying of drums,
and the Babel of tongues and confusion!
From his teepee the tall chieftain comes,
and DuLuth brings a prize for the runners
A keen hunting-knife from the Seine,
horn-handled and mounted with silver.
The runners are ranged on the plain,
and the Chief waves a flag as a signal,
And away like the gray wolves they fly
like the wolves on the trail of the red-deer;
O'er the hills and the prairie they vie,
and strain their strong limbs to the utmost,
While high on the hills hangs a cloud
of warriors and maidens and mothers,
To see the swift-runners, and loud
are the cheers and the shouts of the warriors.
Now swift from the lake they return
o'er the emerald hills of the prairies;
Like grey-hounds they pant and they yearn,
and the leader of all is Tamdóka.
At his heels flies Hu-pá-hu,[AA]
the fleet the pride of the band of Kaóza,
A warrior with eagle-winged feet,
but his prize is the bow and the quiver.
Tamdóka first reaches the post,
and his are the knife and the blanket,
By the mighty acclaim of the host
and award of the chief and the judges.
Then proud was the tall warrior's stride,
and haughty his look and demeanor;
He boasted aloud in his pride,
and he scoffed at the rest of the runners.
"Behold me, for I am a man![AB]
my feet are as swift as the West-wind.
With the coons and the beavers I ran;
but where is the elk or the cabri?
Come! where is the hunter will dare
match his feet with the feet of Tamdóka?
Let him think of Taté[AC] and beware,
ere he stake his last robe on the trial."
"Ohó! Ho! Hó-héca!"[AD] they jeered,
for they liked not the boast of the boaster;
But to match him no warrior appeared,
for his feet wore the wings of the west-wind.
Then forth from the side of the chief
stepped DuLuth and he looked on the boaster;
"The words of a warrior are brief,
I will run with the brave," said the Frenchman;
"But the feet of Tamdóka are tired;
abide till the cool of the sunset."
All the hunters and maidens admired,
for strong were the limbs of the stranger.
"Hiwó Ho!"[AE] they shouted
and loud rose the cheers of the multitude mingled;
And there in the midst of the crowd
stood the glad-eyed and blushing Winona.
Now afar o'er the plains of the west
walked the sun at the end of his journey,
And forth came the brave and the guest,
at the tap of the drum, for the trial.
Like a forest of larches the hordes
were gathered to witness the contest;
As loud as the drums were their words
and they roared like the roar of the Ha-ha.
For some for Tamdóka contend,
and some for the fair, bearded stranger,
And the betting runs high to the end,
with the skins of the bison and beaver.
A wife of tall Wází-kuté
the mother of boastful Tamdóka
Brought her handsomest robe from the tee
with a vaunting and loud proclamation:
She would stake her last robe on her son
who, she boasted, was fleet as the cabri,
And the tall, tawny chieftain looked on,
approving the boast of the mother.
Then fleet as the feet of a fawn
to her lodge ran the dark-eyed Winona,
She brought and she spread on the lawn,
by the side of the robe of the boaster,
The lily-red mantel DuLuth,
with his own hands, had laid on her shoulders.
"Tamdóka is swift, but forsooth,
the tongue of his mother is swifter,"
She said, and her face was aflame
with the red of the rose and the lily,
And loud was the roar of acclaim;
but dark was the face of Tamdóka.
They strip for the race and prepare,
DuLuth in his breeches and leggins;
And the brown, curling locks of his hair
down droop to his bare, brawny shoulders,
And his face wears a smile debonair,
as he tightens his red sash around him;
But stripped to the moccasins bare,
save the belt and the breech-clout of buckskin,
Stands the haughty Tamdóka aware
that the eyes of the warriors admire him;
For his arms are the arms of a bear
and his legs are the legs of a panther.
The drum beats, the chief waves the flag,
and away on the course speed the runners,
And away leads the brave like a stag,
like a bound on his track flies the Frenchman;
And away haste the hunters once more
to the hills, for a view to the lakeside,
And the dark-swarming hill-tops, they roar
with the storm of loud voices commingled.
Far away o'er the prairie they fly,
and still in the lead is Tamdóka,
But the feet of his rival are nigh,
and slowly he gains on the hunter.
Now they turn on the post at the lake,
now they run full abreast on the home-stretch:
Side by side they contend for the stake
for a long mile or more on the prairie
They strain like a stag and a hound,
when the swift river gleams through the thicket,
And the horns of the riders resound,
winding shrill through the depths of the forest.
But behold! at full length on the ground
falls the fleet-footed Frenchman abruptly,
And away with a whoop and a bound
springs the eager, exulting Tamdóka
Long and loud on the hills is the
shout of his swarthy admirers and backers,
"But the race is not won till it's out,"
said DuLuth, to himself as he gathered,
With a frown on his face, for the foot
of the wily Tamdóka had tripped him.
Far ahead ran the brave on the route,
and turning he boasted exultant.
Like spurs to the steed to DuLuth
were the jeers and the taunts of the boaster;
Indignant was he and red wroth
at the trick of the runner dishonest;
And away like a whirlwind he speeds
like a hurricane mad from the mountains;
He gains on Tamdóka, he leads!
and behold, with the spring of a panther,
He leaps to the goal and succeeds,
'mid the roar of the mad acclamation.
Then glad as the robin in May
was the voice of Winona exulting;
Tamdóka turned sullen away,
and sulking he walked by the river;
He glowered as he went and the fire
of revenge in his bosom was kindled:
Dark was his visage with ire
and his eyes were the eyes of a panther.