THE MANHOOD OF WHY-WHY.
As time went on our hero developed into one of the most admired braves of his community. No one was more successful in battle, and it became almost a proverb that when Why-Why went on the war-path there was certain to be meat enough and to spare, even for the women. Why-Why, though a Radical, was so far from perfect that he invariably complied with the usages of his time when they seemed rational and useful. If a little tattooing on the arm would have saved men from a horrible disease, he would have had all the tribe tattooed. He was no bigot. He kept his word, and paid his debts, for no one was ever very “advanced” all at once. It was only when the ceremonious or superstitious ideas of his age and race appeared to him senseless and mischievous that he rebelled, or at least hinted his doubts and misgivings. This course of conduct made him feared and hated both by the medicine-men, or clerical wizards, and by the old women of the tribe. They naturally tried to take their revenge upon him in the usual way.
A charge of heresy, of course, could not well be made, for in the infancy of our race there were neither Courts of Arches nor General Assemblies. But it was always possible to accuse Why-Why of malevolent witchcraft. The medicine-men had not long to wait for an opportunity. An old woman died, as old women will, and every one was asking “Who sent the evil spirit that destroyed poor old Dada?” In Why-Why’s time no other explanation of natural death by disease or age was entertained. The old woman’s grave was dug, and all the wizards intently watched for the first worm or insect that should crawl out of the mould. The head-wizard soon detected a beetle, making, as he alleged, in the direction where Why-Why stood observing the proceedings. The wizard at once denounced our hero as the cause of the old woman’s death. To have blenched for a moment would have been ruin. But Why-Why merely lifted his hand, and in a moment a spear flew from it which pinned his denouncer ignominiously to a pine-tree. The funeral of the old woman was promptly converted into a free fight, in which there was more noise than bloodshed. After this event the medicine-men left Why-Why to his own courses, and waited for a chance of turning public opinion against the sceptic.