The Boy Who Worried Tomorrow

Once in the days of Glooscap there lived a happy-go-lucky Indian boy named Chebec, who was always getting into trouble because he rushed about with his head in the air, never looking where he was going. He would dash along, chasing a bird or a butterfly, never looking at the path in front of him, and fall splash into a brook! That was Chebec, always plunging ahead without thought. He just never looked ahead.

Why, there were times when he looked no further than his nose-- like the day he blundered into a wasps' nest and the angry wasps chased him all the way home. However, in spite of all such adventures, Chebec somehow survived and grew up to be a man who was just as thoughtless. One fine day, he decided all on the instant to leave home.

"You have a good place here," his family argued. "You will be lonely without your own people."

Chebec laughed as he shouldered his bundle.

"Perhaps," he said, "but I'll worry about that tomorrow." And off he went.

On the first day of his journey, Chebec felt light and carefree, striding along in the warm sunlight wondering what adventures lay ahead. He slept that night in a warm wood, and dreamed happy dreams.

But on the following day, the woods thinned out and looked strange to him, and as the sun went down the air grew chill. On both sides of the path lay bog land, offering no resting place for the night.

Chebec began to feel very lonely and frightened, and thought longingly of his home and family. An owl hooted menacingly overhead, and for a moment Chebec was tempted to turn and run back the way he had come, but pride prevented him. He pressed on into the darkness with a quaking heart, until with a start of joy he saw lights ahead -- a campfire!

Chebec dashed towards the light in his usual headlong fashion, not stopping to wonder if the people were friends or enemies. Fortunately, they were Penobscots like himself and made him welcome.

Chebec was happy again to be amongst friends, but as he ate the food brought to him, he grew conscious of some thing strange about the village. It seemed to him that an air of sadness hung over it. The people never smiled, and there were no children. This was strange, for Indians are fond of children and proud to be the fathers of many sons. There were few women about, and the ones he saw were mostly old. There was only one who was as young as himself, and this was the girl who waited on him and smiled at him shyly. Chebec thought her the prettiest girl he had ever seen. Indeed, her name Kaloosit, which means "pretty woman," described her exactly. By the time the meal was over, Chebec was head over heels in love with Kaloosit.

So, in his usual impulsive way, he rushed to the father of Kaloosit and said, "Sir, I am tired of living alone!"

Kaloosit's father shook his head.

"Nothing would please me more," he said mournfully, "than to have a son-in-law, for I grow old and wish grandchildren before I die. But no one can marry in this village." Then he told Chebec how, whenever a couple in the village were wed, a giant Chenoo came straight way and stole the bride, carrying her off to his cavern in a high cliff, around which a storm always raged, and where pointed rocks like the teeth of hungry foxes waited and glittered in the sea below. And nobody could kill the Chenoo, because he took care to keep his soul in a secret place.

By soul, you understand, the Wabanaki meant that mysterious power that makes men live. They thought of it as something that had shape and size and color, and believed that a man could not be killed if his soul, or seat of life, was not in his body. The soul of the evil Chenoo, it appeared, was kept in a locked box on top of a high mountain which no man could climb. Moreover, the key to that box was hidden in another box at the bottom of the sea.

However, Chebec could not be bothered worrying about such far-off things. All he wanted was to marry Kaloosit.

"With your permission," he said, "I shall marry your daughter tomorrow." And he closed his ears to all the older man's arguments. When Kaloosit added her persuasion and the girl's father saw that the two young people were determined to marry, he threw up his hands.

"Very well! But you will surely lose her."

"I'll worry about that tomorrow," said Chebec.

In the morning he presented himself at the door of the lodge, while all the people stood about watching.

"Come up to the highest place, my son-in-law," said the father of Kaloosit, and these words meant they were now man and wife. Yet, even as the old man spoke the words, there came a great rush of air into the wigwam, and a great roaring voice cried:

"A-hah! Another bride for me!"

And there in their midst stood the awful Chenoo, so tall his head touched the roof of the wigwam, so fierce that Chebec quailed before him, and so strong he picked Kaloosit up like a feather and carried her away to his cave to join his other brides. Now there was great weeping and wailing in the village.

"What did I tell you?" groaned Kaloosit's father. "Now you have lost your bride and I, my daughter."

"Never mind," said Chebec staunchly. "I shall go at once to the Chenoo's cave and bring her back."

"The Chenoo will kill you!" the people cried.

Chebec shrugged.

"I'll worry about that later," said he, and off he went.

Now, on his way to the giant's home, Chebec had to cross a small stream. Hearing a small voice wailing, he paused.

"Save me, save me," the voice cried.

Then Chebec saw a tiny fish caught in a tangle of twigs and stones at the edge of the brook.

"Get me out, get me out!" wailed the fish. "Put me back in the water or I shall die."

Chebec carefully moved away the twigs so as not to hurt the small creature, and finally managed to release it.

"Thank you, thank you," cried the small fish joyfully. "Take a scale from my back, and if ever you should need my help, warm it with your hand and I will gladly serve you."

Chebec smiled to himself, thinking it unlikely he'd ever need the help of a small fish. However, he did not care to hurt the creature's feelings, so he put the scale away in his belt and hurried on. He was still a long way from the Chenoo's cave when he heard a plaintive cry among the trees. He turned off the path and found a small caribou with its horns caught in the branches of a hawthorn tree.

"Please let me out of here," wailed the caribou. "I'm caught!"

It took Chebec some time to free the animal's antlers, and when he had done so, the caribou thanked him warmly. "Take a tuft of hair from my tail," he said, "and if ever you are in trouble, warm it in your hands and I will come." So Chebec took the hair and tucked it into his belt with the scale, and went on.

Soon he was delayed once again, this time by a small hawk caught in a rabbit snare.

"Dear me," sighed Chebec, "if it isn't one thing it's an other," but he felt sorry for the bird and took time to release it.

"Many thanks," cried the hawk. "Now take a feather from my crest and when you are in trouble, warm it with your hand and I will come." Chebec thanked the hawk and hurried on.

Now at last, in the distance, Chebec saw the giant's home. The great cliff rose steeply out of the sea, and dark clouds hung over it. As Chebec drew close, a great storm began to rage about him. The wind shrieked and tore his hair, the rain lashed at him, and the sea's spray filled his mouth.

Chebec plunged bravely into the thick of the storm and began to climb the face of the cliff, looking for the opening to the Chenoo's cave. Wet and cold, buffeted by the wind, he scrambled all over the cliff, finding no hole or crevice larger than his hand. Chebec sank down at last on a ledge near the sea, in despair.

He heard, but scarcely noticed, the honking of a Canada Goose overhead. Then there was the beating of great wings and the goose fluttered down beside him. Chebec stared at it, amazed. This was certainly the largest goose he had ever seen, and it looked into his face without fear. Then the great goose spoke to Chebec in his own tongue.

"Chebec, my son, see what happens when you don't look ahead." And Chebec knew it was the voice of Glooscap.

"O Great Chief, that is true," cried poor Chebec, "but it is too late to think of that now. I must save my wife."

And Glooscap answered, "Since you have shown kindness to the caribou, the fish and the hawk, I will help you just this once." And suddenly a tomahawk appeared in the air before Chebec. He grasped it eagerly. "Use it to cut a door in the cliff. But before you use it--" Glooscap paused significantly, "stop and think a moment." Then with a whirr of his powerful wings, the Canada Goose flew off into the storm.

Now in his eagerness and haste, Chebec began to hack at once at the cliff, until suddenly he remembered Glooscap's last words. For the first time in his life, Chebec sat down quietly and thought things over. He would now be able to enter the giant's cave. However, once inside, how could he destroy the giant? He had no way of finding the giant's soul. He could not swim to the bottom of the sea. He could not climb that high mountain. Ah, but wait! What about the friends he had made on his journey?

Taking the scale, the hair and the feather from his belt,Chebec warmed them in his hands, and at once the fish, the caribou and the hawk were beside him. Chebec explained his trouble.

At once, the fish swam off and found the Chenoo's box on the bottom of the ocean and brought it back. The caribou forced open the locked box with his horns, and there inside lay the key to the other box. The hawk flew off to the high mountain which no man could climb, and brought back the box containing the Chenoo's soul. Chebec seized the key and turned it in the lock. Inside the box lay the Chenoo's soul in the shape of a giant pine cone!

Now Chebec took Glooscap's magic tomahawk and cut a door in the rock, crying out, "Kaloosit--come!"

The door flew open and out ran his bride, closely pursued by the giant. Chebec put his wife behind him and waited as the giant rushed toward him. Clutching the giant's soul in his hand, he trembled as he felt the giant's breath upon his face. He squeezed the cone with all his might and felt it grow smaller in his hand.

"Look," cried Kaloosit, "the Chenoo is shrinking!"

It was true. Just like the cone in Chebec's hand, the giant was growing smaller and smaller and smaller, until--

"Stop, stop!" moaned the Chenoo in a tiny voice. "Don't kill me. I can't harm you now."

Chebec dropped the cone. Joyfully, the little Chenoo picked it up and ran. And no one has ever seen him from that day to this.

When Chebec got back to the village with Kaloosit, and all the other lost brides as well, the people acclaimed him a hero and made him Chief of the tribe. And, in order to keep this high position, Chebec was obliged at last to think before he spoke, to look before he leaped, and always to look a little further than his nose!

Thus, kespeadooksit--the story ends.

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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