A long time ago in the land of the Pueblo Indians, an Indian girl and her brother lived with their father and step-mother in an Indian village beside a river. The brother and his father were away from home most of the time looking after their sheep and cattle; so the little girl, Poh-ve, was left alone with her step-mother, who was not very kind to her. She was not happy except when her brother, Pah-day, was at home. These two were devoted to each other, but since Pah-day was rarely ever at home, Poh-ve was very sad.
One afternoon Poh-ve’s step-mother sent her down to the river with a pretty Indian jar to get water. “Get out of my sight,” she said, “and when you come back bring me some water!” Poh-ve found several other little girls down at the river, so she set the jar down and played with them all afternoon. Late that afternoon when she picked up her water jar to go home, it fell on a stone and broke into pieces. Her step-mother was very angry when Poh-ve returned home so late and without the jar, so she punished her severely.
“I did not mean to break the jar,” thought Poh-ve, “and I shall run away and leave my unkind step-mother tomorrow.”
So early the next morning Poh-ve went down to the river. She walked up and down along the river’s edge until she found a place that she could wade across. Then she went across the river for the first time. She looked around that strange country until she found a path, which she followed. The path led on and on until she reached a lake. She did not know how to cross the lake; but she was determined not to go back to her mean step-mother. Just then a fox came along with a bow and arrow: “Good-day, little Miss, where are you going?” asked Mr. Fox.
“I do not know where I am going,” replied Poh-ve. “My step-mother is very mean to me, so I am going away to live. I do not know where I am going, but I must go somewhere.”
“Well, there is an Indian village on the other side of the lake. The Governor of that village is a good man. You will find him in his corn field on the west side of the village. Take this arrow and shoot it across the lake. Then go to this Governor and tell him your story, and he will take you home to live with his little girls.”
So Poh-ve took the arrow and shot it across the lake. The waters separated all along the path of the arrow, so that Poh-ve could cross on the bottom of the lake. She found the Governor just as the fox had told her and told him her story. He took her home to his house, where she was happy with his little girls.
Many days later when Pah-day came home from minding the sheep, he asked his step-mother, “Where is Poh-ve?”
“I do not know,” she said, “she left home many days ago and I have not been able to find her since.”
Pah-day was grieved and frightened, so he set out to hunt for her. After a long time he found her tracks down by the river and saw where she had gone across. He crossed the river, too, and found the same path; but when he reached the lake he did not know what to do, for there was no way to get across. “Surely, Poh-ve could not have gotten across this lake! Where shall I go now?” and Pah-day sat down to think.
Then a voice beside him said, “Good-day, young man, what makes you so sad?” He looked up and saw the fox with his bow and arrow.
“I am sad,” answered Pah-Day, “because I have lost my sister and I do not know where to look for her.”
“What is she like and when did you lose her?” asked Mr. Fox.
Then Pah-day told the fox what Poh-ve was like and when she had gone away.
“There is a village on the other side of this lake,” said Mr. Fox, “Take this arrow and shoot it across the lake. Then go to the house of the Governor of that village and you will find your sister.”
So Pah-day shot the arrow across the lake, and again the water separated along the path of the arrow, so that he could go across on the bottom of the lake. He went to the Governor of the village just as the fox had told him to do. He told the Governor about his sister and asked, “Is she here?”
“I think she is,” replied the Governor, “Go into the house where all the village girls are grinding corn and see if you can find her. If she wishes to go home with you, you may take her.”
So Pay-day went into the room where all the girls were grinding corn. Poh-ve saw him coming, so she held her head down. She knew he had come for her, and she did not want to go home to be alone with her step-mother again. Pah-day looked at all of the girls, but he did not see his sister because her head was down. Then he sat down and mournfully sang:
“When I come back from my hunting
And when I come back with the sheep,
There is no one to greet me or feed me
So I fall on my face and weep.”
He sang so sadly and looked so grieved that Poh-ve ran to him.
“I ran away from our mean step-mother, Pah-day,” she said, “and I do not want to return to her, but I love you and I will go back with you.”
And the two set out for home together. When they reached the lake the fox was waiting for them.
“Here are the bow and arrow,” said he.
Pah-day shot the arrow across the lake and all three of them went across together.
“You may have your choice of my cattle, Mr. Fox, for helping me find my sister.”
So they took the fox and gave him a fat calf to eat, and he went away smacking his lips. When they crossed the river their father and step-mother ran to meet them. They were so glad to find Poh-ve alive that even the step-mother was pleased and treated her kindly ever after.