He Dresses in an Old Man's Skin

     Then he set out, leaping, and he reached Many Palms. The crocodile there said to him, "Maybe you are tired of living or worn out with sighing, that you come here? Yesterday a hundred cattle and a thousand men tried to cross here but did not cross. And you alone want to cross here?" And Ibonia said, "I am going to cross." He jumped in. The crocodile caught him, but he struck the crocodile with the back of his hand. Then the crocodile said, "Very well, get on my back." Ibonia got up on the crocodile's back, and when they had gone some way, the crocodile said, "My part ends here, Ibonia. The shark will take you the rest of the way." (105)

     Ibonia left him, and the shark came and said, "You will not cross here. Yesterday a hundred cattle and a thousand men tried to cross here but did not cross. And you alone want to cross here?" And Ibonia said, "To cross, yes." The shark came to seize him, but quickly he jumped on to the shark's back and broke his bones. The shark said, "Very well, get on my back." And all the water animals did the same, so that Ibonia crossed the ford to Many Palms.

     Ibonia did not go directly into the village. He went to look for Old Man, who was the keeper of Stone Man's fields. There was a well in the field, with a big rock; Ibonia climbed up on it. Old Man came to draw water. Looking into the water in the well, Old Man saw Ibonia's face in the water, but did not see his body up on the rock. Then Old Man said, "I look so fine. Should I be drawing water?" Then, they say, Old Man broke the water jug and left, going back to his house. (106) There he took a mirror and looked in it. But what he saw was different, not what he saw in the water.

     Old Man went back to the well and looked around. He saw Ibonia up on the rock and said, "You are looking for trouble. What are you doing here, my lord? Stone Man does not like good people. He is envious and kills them all, the good people who come to Many Palms." "Yes, Father, but you and I can talk like family," said Ibonia. "How many wives has Stone Man?"
     Old Man said, "There is Not-Unaffected-by-the-Shrimp, (107)
          Silver Stripe,
          Forged One,
          Fern Shoot,
          and Joy-Giving Girl."
     Ibonia said, "Which one does Stone Man love best?"
     Old Man said, "He likes each and every one, but it is Joy-Giving Girl he loves best." (108)
     And Ibonia said, "When you go to visit the prince, Old Man, what do you carry with you?"
     Old Man answered, "What should I take, grandchild, but ripe bananas, seeds for herbs, herbs, citrus plants, and other little things?"
     Ibonia said, "What is the first place you go when you get there?"
     Old Man said, "To the east of the open space, to the house of Handsome Gray-Eyed Man."
     Ibonia said, "Which house does he sleep in at night, Old Man?"
     Old Man answered, "East of the open space, at Joy-Giving Girl's house. He goes there to sleep because he gets sweet food and choice dishes."
     Ibonia said, "Old Man, let us go, like kinsmen, to your house and prepare some food."
     Old Man said, "Come along." (109) And like a son [following Ibonia] he started for his house. Ibonia said, "You go first, Old Man." And Old Man went first, while Ibonia watched his way of walking. When he understood Old Man's walk, he seized Old Man by the hair, they say, and struck him down, threw away his bones and flesh, and took his skin to dress in. (1 10)

Previous Section Next Section