Gray Archway


- Squamish -

"Yaada was the loveliest daughter of the Haida tribe. Young braves from all the islands, from the mainland, from the upper Skeena country came, hoping to carry her to their far-off lodges, but they always returned alone. She was the most desired of all the island maidens, beautiful, brave, modest, the daughter of her own mother.

"But there was a great man, a very great man -- a medicine man, skillful, powerful, influential, old, deplorably old, and very, very rich; he said, 'Yaada shall be my wife.' And there was a young fisherman, handsome, loyal, boyish, poor, oh! very poor, and gloriously young, and he, too, said, 'Yaada shall be my wife.'

"But Yaada's mother sat apart and thought and dreamed, as mothers will. She said to herself, 'The great medicine man has power, has vast riches, and wonderful magic, why not give her to him? But Ulka has the boy's heart, the boy's beauty, he is very brave, very strong; why not give her to him?'

"But the laws of the great Haida tribe prevailed. Its wise men said, 'Give the girl to the greatest man, give her to the most powerful, the richest. The man of magic must have his choice.'

"But at this the mother's heart grew as wax in the summer sunshine -- it is a strange quality that mothers' hearts are made of! 'Give her to the best man -- the man her heart holds highest,' said this Haida mother.

"Then Yaada spoke: 'I am the daughter of my tribe; I would judge of men by their excellence. He who proves most worthy I shall marry; it is not riches that make a good husband; it is not beauty that makes a good father for one's children. Let me and my tribe see some proof of the excellence of these two men -- then, only, shall I choose who is to be the father of my children. Let us have a trial of their skill; let them show me how evil or how beautiful is the inside of their hearts. Let each of them throw a stone with some intent, some purpose in their hearts. He who makes the noblest mark may call me wife.'

"'Alas! Alas!' wailed the Haida mother 'This casting of stones does not show worth. It but shows prowess.'

"'But I have implored the Sagalie Tyee of my father, and of his fathers before him, to help me to judge between them by this means,' said the girl. 'So they must cast the stones. In this way only shall I see their innermost hearts.'

"The medicine man never looked so old as at that moment; so hopelessly old, so wrinkled, so palsied: he was no mate for Yaada. Ulka never looked so god-like in his young beauty, so gloriously young, so courageous. The girl, looking at him, loved him -- almost was she placing her hand in his, but the spirit of her forefathers halted her. She had spoken the word -- she must abide by it. 'Throw!' she commanded.

"Into his shriveled fingers the great medicine man took a small, round stone, chanting strange words of magic all the while; his greedy eyes were on the girl, his greedy thoughts about her.

"Into his strong, young fingers Ulka took a smooth, flat stone; his handsome eyes were lowered in boyish modesty, his thoughts were worshipping her. The great medicine man cast his missile first; it swept through the air like a shaft of lightning, striking the great rock with a force that shattered it. At the touch of that stone the 'Gray Archway' opened and has remained opened to this day. "'Oh, wonderful power and magic!' clamored the entire tribe. 'The very rocks do his bidding.'

"But Yaada stood with eyes that burned in agony. Ulka could never command such magic -- she knew it. But at her side Ulka was standing erect, tall, slender and beautiful, but just as he cast his missile the evil voice of the old medicine man began a still more evil incantation. He fixed his poisonous eyes on the younger man, eyes with hideous magic in their depths -- ill-omened and enchanted with 'bad medicine.' The stone left Ulka's fingers; for a second it flew forth in a straight line, then as the evil voice of the old man grew louder in its incantations the stone curved. Magic had waylaid the strong arm of the young brave. The stone poised an instant above the forehead of Yaada's mother, then dropped with the weight of many mountains, and the last long sleep fell upon her.

"'Slayer of my mother!' stormed the girl, her suffering eyes fixed upon the medicine man. 'Oh, I now see your black heart through your black magic. Through good magic you cut the 'Gray Archway,' but your evil magic you used upon young Ulka. I saw your wicked eyes upon him; I heard your wicked incantations; I know your wicked heart. You used your heartless magic in hope of winning me -- in hope of making him an outcast of the tribe. You cared not for my sorrowing heart, my motherless life to come.' Then, turning to the tribe, she demanded: 'Who of you saw his evil eyes fixed on Ulka? Who of you heard his evil song?'

"'I,' and 'I,' and 'I,' came voice after voice. "'The very air is poisoned that we breathe about him,' they shouted. 'The young man is blameless, his heart is as the sun, but the man who has used his evil magic has a heart black and cold as the hours before the dawn.'

"Then Yaada's voice arose in a strange, sweet, sorrowful chant: My feet shall walk no more upon this island, With its great, Gray Archway.

My mother sleeps forever on this island, With its great, Gray Archway.

My heart would break without her on this island, With its great, Gray Archway.

My life was of her life upon this island, With its great, Gray Archway.

My mother's soul has wandered from this island, With its great, Gray Archway.

My feet must follow hers beyond this island, With its great, Gray Archway.

"As Yaada chanted and wailed her farewell, she moved slowly towards the edge of the cliff. On its brink she hovered a moment with outstretched arms, as a sea gull poises on its weight -- then she called: "'Ulka, my Ulka! Your hand is innocent of wrong; it was the evil magic of your rival that slew my mother. I must go to her; even you cannot keep me here; will you stay, or come with me? Oh! my Ulka!"

"The slender, gloriously young boy sprang toward her; their hands closed one within the other; for a second they poised on the brink of the rocks, radiant as stars; then together they plunged into the sea."

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