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The Bewitched Ball-Sticks
by [?]

The fire would show, too, how gayly bedight and feather-crested was Amoyah, wearing a choice garb of furs;–often, so great was his vanity, his face was elaborately painted as if for some splendid festive occasion, a dance or the ball-play, instead of merely to impress with his magnificence this simple domestic circle. Tus-ka-sah dated the events that followed from one night when this facial decoration of his rival was even more fantastic than usual. Like a fish was one side of the young Cherokee’s profile; the other in glaring daubs of white and black and red craftily represented the head of a woodpecker. The effect in front was the face of a nondescript monster, that only a gleeful laughing eye, and now and then a flash of narrow white teeth, identified as the jovial Amoyah, the Pigeon of Ioco.

The snow lay on the ground without, he said as he shook a wreath of it from a fold of his fur and it fell hissing among the coals. The shadows were long, he told them, for the moon was up and the world was dimly white and duskily blue. The wind was abroad, and indeed they could hear the swirl of its invisible wings as it swooped past; the boughs of the trees clashed together and ice was in the Tennessee River. The winter had come, he declared.

Not yet, Tus-ka-sah pragmatically averred. There would be fine weather yet.

For the snowfall so early in the season was phenomenal and the red leaves were still clinging to the trees.

Had they been together among men Amoyah would not have cared enough for the subject to justify contention, but in the presence of women he would suffer no contradiction. He must needs be paramount,–the infinitely admired! He shook his head.

The winter had surely come, he insisted. Why, he argued, the bears knew,–they always knew! And already each had walked the round with his shadow.

For in the approach of winter, in the light of the first mystic, icicled moon, the night when it reaches its full, a grotesque pageant is afoot in that remote town of the bears, immemorially fabled to be hidden in the dense coverts of the Great Smoky Mountains,–the procession of the bears, each walking with his shadow, seven times around the illuminated spaces of the “beloved square.”

The bears knew undoubtedly, the “second man,” the man of facts and method and management, soberly admitted. But how did Amoyah know that already they had trodden those significant circles, each with his shadow? He smiled triumphant in his incontrovertible logic.

And now Amoyah’s face was wonderful to view, whether as a fish on one side or a woodpecker on the other, with that most human expression of surprise and indignation and aversion as distinctly limned upon it as if in pigments, for he loved the “second man’s” facts no more than the “second man” loved his fancies. How did he know, forsooth? Because, Amoyah hardily declared, he himself had witnessed the march,–he had been permitted to behold that weird and grotesque progress!

He took note of the blank silence that ensued upon this startling asseveration. Then emboldened to add circumstance to sheer statement he protested, “I attended the ceremony by invitation. I had a place in the line of march–I walked beside the Great Bear as his shadow!”

For, according to tradition, each bear, burly, upright in the moonlight, follows the others in Indian file, but at the side of each walks his shadow, and that shadow is not the semblance of a bear, but of a Cherokee Indian!

Now, as everybody has heard, the bears were once a band of Cherokee Indians, but wearying of the rigors and artificialities of tribal civilization they took to the woods, became bears, and have since dwelt in seclusion.

The thoughts, however, persistently reach out for the significance of the fact that in the tradition of this immemorial progress each creature is accompanied by the shadow, not of the thing that he is, but of the higher entity that he was designed to be.