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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Under Land

Title:     The Under Land
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

When the Chatas looked into the still depths of Bayou Lacombe, Louisiana, they said that the reflection of the sky was the empyrean of the Under Land, whither all good souls were sure to go after death. Their chief, Opaleeta, having fallen into this bayou, was so long beneath the water that he was dead when his fellows found him, but by working over him for hours, and through resort to prayers and incantations of medicine men, his life returned and he stood on his feet once more. Then he grieved that his friends had brought him back, for he had been at the gates of the Under Land, where the air is blithe and balmy, and so nourishing that people live on it; where it is never winter; where the sun shines brightly, but never withers and parches; and where stars dance to the swing of the breezes. There no white man comes to rob the Indian and teach him to do wrong. Gorgeous birds fly through changing skies that borrow the tints of flowers, the fields are spangled with blossoms of red and blue and gold that load each wind with perfume, the grass is as fine as the hair of deer, and the streams are thick with honey.

At sunset those who loved each other in life are gathered to their lodges, and raise songs of joy and thankfulness. Their voices are soft and musical, their faces are young again and beam with smiles, and there is no death. It was only the chiefs who heard his story, for, had all the tribe known it, many who were old and ill and weary would have gone to the bayou, and leaped in, to find that restful, happy Under Land. Those who had gone before they sometimes tried to see, when the lake was still and dappled with pictures of sunset clouds, but the dead never came back--they kept away from the margin of the water lest they should be called again to a life of toil and sorrow. And Opaleeta lived for many years and ruled his tribe with wisdom, yet he shared in few of the merry-makings of his people, and when, at last, his lodge was ready in the Under Land, he gave up his life without a sigh.

[The end]
Charles M. Skinner's short story: Under Land