But while the warriors were working themselves up into a fine frenzy of eloquence in trying to remind the old chief of their bygone deeds of daring, an Indian maiden was paddling a canoe swiftly and silently toward the middle of the Lake. Nona, the chief’s daughter understood no more than the rest why her lover had not been dropped into the Lake, nor why the ong had acted so queerly, but she knew that she could die with her lover. She took her own frail canoe because it was so light and easy to row, though it was made for her when a girl, and would scarcely support her weight now. It mattered nothing to her if the water splashed over the sides; it mattered nothing how she reached her lover. She kept saying his name over softly to herself, “Tahoe! My darling Tahoe!”
When the council was finished, the women went to her hut to bid her come and hear the decision her father was about to render. The consternation caused by her disappearance lasted until the rosy dawn tinged the Washoe peaks and disclosed to the astounded tribe the body of the ong floating on the waters above its nest, and beside it an empty canoe. In the foreground, and gently approaching the shore was the strangest craft that ever floated on water! It was one of the great ong’s wings, and the sail was the tip of the other wing! Standing upon it, clasped in each other’s arms, were the young brave, Tahoe, and the daughter of the chief. In the shouts of the tribe, shouts in which warriors and women and children mingled their voices with that of the chief, Tahoe was proclaimed the hero of heroes! The decision was rendered, but the ong’s nest remains, and the drowned never rise in Lake Tahoe.
THE VARIOUS NAMES OF LAKE TAHOE
We have already seen that Fremont, the discoverer of Lake Tahoe, first called it Lake Bonpland, after Humboldt’s scientific co-traveler. That name, however, never came in general use. When the great westward emigration began it seemed naturally to be called by its Indian name, Tahoe.
In Innocents Abroad Mark Twain thus petulantly and humorously expresses his dislike of the name, Tahoe, and sarcastically defines its meaning.