Page:Life among the Apaches.djvu/276

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particular pains to impress them with the importance of remembering what I said, as it was my intention to demand from them a repetition of my words, or their tenor, in a few days from that time. They were also requested to convey the substance of my remarks to those who were not present, as I intended to investigate for myself the value of oral tradition. Three days subsequently I collected Gian-nah-tah, Klo-sen, Nah-tanh, and one or two other leading men, and taking each one aside separately, I asked him to repeat what I had said on the occasion referred to above. Some of them came very near stating the tenor of my remarks, while others gave very erroneous versions; but when it came to questioning the parties who had received my speech second-hand from those who had heard it, I could scarcely recognize my own offspring. Having listened carefully to all their statements, I again read the original production, which was immediately acknowledged as genuine.

Now, said I, you can comprehend the unreliability of your traditions. If you cannot remember, for even three days, the substance of so short an address, and if it becomes so mangled by being related from one to another that its original meaning is entirely perverted, what faith can be placed in those traditions which you say came down to you through so many generations? This question, enforced as it had been by a notable example, was unanswerable, and it was followed up by pointing out the difference between oral and written tradition. This paper, I said, holding up the manuscript of my speech, will remain for generations exactly as it is now, and should it be preserved for a thousand years, it will read, at the expiration of that time, precisely as you have just heard it read.

My hearers were wonderfully impressed with the truth