Algonquin Indian Tales
by Egerton R. Young
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse







DEAR FRIEND: Your book of stories gathered from among my tribe has very much pleased me. The reading of them brings up the days of long time ago when I was a boy and heard our old people tell these tales in the wigwams and at the camp fire.

I am very glad that you are in this way saving them from being forgotten, and I am sure that many people will be glad to read them.

With best wishes, KECHE CHEMON (Charles Big Canoe), Chief of the Ojibways.


In all ages, from the remotest antiquity, the story-teller has flourished. Evidences of his existence are to be found among the most ancient monuments and writings in the Orient. In Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon, and other ancient lands he flourished, and in the homes of the noblest he was ever an honored guest.

The oldest collection of folklore stories or myths now in existence is of East Indian origin and is preserved in the Sanskrit. The collection is called Hitopadesa, and the author was Veshnoo Sarma. Of this collection, Sir William Jones, the great Orientalist, wrote, "The fables of Veshnoo are the most beautiful, if not the most ancient, collection of apologues in the world." As far back as the sixth century translations were made from them.

The same love for myths and legends obtains to-day in those Oriental lands. There, where the ancient and historic so stubbornly resist any change—in Persia, India, China, and indeed all over that venerable East—the man who can recite the ancient apologues or legends of the past can always secure an audience and command the closest attention.

While the general impression is that the recital of these old myths and legends among Oriental nations was for the mere pastime of the crowds, it is well to bear in mind that many of them were used as a means to convey great truths or to reprove error. Hence the recital of them was not confined to a merely inquisitive audience that desired to be amused. We have a good example of this in the case of the recital by Jotham, as recorded in the book of Judges, of the legend of the gathering of the trees for the purpose of having one of them anointed king over the rest. Of this legend Dr. Adam Clarke, the commentator, says, "This is the oldest and, without exception, the best fable or apologue in the world."

The despotic nature of the governments of those Oriental nations caused the people often to use the fable or myth as an indirect way to reprove or censure when it would not have been safe to have used a direct form of speech. The result was that it attained a higher degree of perfection there than among any other people. An excellent example is Nathan's reproof of David by the recital of the fable of the poor man's ewe lamb.

The red Indians of America have justly been famous for their myths and legends. We have never heard of a tribe that did not have a store of them. Even the hardy Eskimo in his igloo of ice is surprisingly rich in folklore stories. A present of a knife or some other trifle that he desires will cause him to talk by the hour to his guest, whether he be the daring trader or adventurous explorer, on the traditions that have come down to him. The interchange of visits between the northern Indians and the Eskimos has resulted in the discovery that quite a number of the myths recited in Indian wigwams are in a measure, if not wholly, of Eskimo origin. On the other hand, the Eskimo has not failed to utilize and incorporate into his own rich store some that are undoubtedly of Indian origin.

For thirty years or more we have been gathering up these myths and legends. Sometimes a brief sentence or two of one would be heard in some wigwam—just enough to excite curiosity—then years would elapse ere the whole story could be secured. As the tribes had no written language, and the Indians had to depend entirely upon their memory, it is not to be wondered at that there were, at times, great divergences in the recital of even the most familiar of their stories. We have heard the same legend given by several story-tellers and no two agreed in many particulars. Others, however, were told with very slight differences.

We have adopted the course of recording what seemed to us the most natural version and most in harmony with the instincts and characteristics of the pure Indian. The close scientific student of Indian folklore will see that we have softened some expressions and eliminated some details that were non-essential. The crude Indian languages, while absolutely free from blasphemy, cannot always be literally translated. Verbum sat sapienti.

The method we have adopted, in the presentation of these myths and legends in connection with the chatter and remarks of our little ones, while unusual, will, we trust, prove attractive and interesting. We have endeavored to make it a book for all classes. Here are some old myths in new settings, and here are some, we venture to think, that have never before been seen in English dress. These will interest the student of such subjects, while the general style of the book will, we hope, make it attractive to young readers.

Nanahboozhoo, the personage who occupies the principal part in these myths, is the most widely known of all those beings of supposed miraculous birth who played such prominent parts in Indian legends. He does not seem to have been claimed by any one particular tribe. Doubtless legends of him were transmitted down from the time when the division of tribes had not so extensively taken place; when perhaps the Algonquin, now so subdivided, was one great tribe, speaking one language.

The variety of names by which he is known is accounted for by these tribal divisions and the rapid changes which took place in the language owing to its having no written form to maintain its unity.

What his original name was, when legends about him first began to be told, is of course unknown. However, since the white race began to gather up and record these Indian myths he has been known as Misha-wabus, Manabush, Jous-ke-ha, Messou, Manabozho, Nanahboozhoo, Hiawatha, Chiabo, Singua-sew—and even some other names have been heard. We have given him in this volume the name of Nanahboozhoo as that was the one most frequently used by the Indians among whom we lived or visited.

There is more unanimity about his origin, among the tribes, than about his name. The almost universal report is that he was the son of Mudjekeewis, the West Wind. His mother was Wenonah, the daughter of Nokomis.

The author desires very gratefully to record his indebtedness, for assistance or hints received in the pleasant work of here clustering these Indian folklore stories, to many friends, among them such Indian missionaries as Revs. Peter Jones, John Sunday, Henry Steinham, Allan Salt, and also to his Indian friends and comrades at many a camp fire and in many a wigwam. He also wishes in this way to express his appreciation of and indebtedness to the admirable Reports of the Smithsonian Institution. He has there obtained verification of and fuller information concerning many an almost forgotten legend.

In regard to a number of the finest of the photographic illustrations in the volume the author gratefully acknowledges his obligations to the Canada Pacific Railway Company, without whose assistance it would have been impossible to reach many of the sublime and romantic places here portrayed; until very recently known only to the adventurous red Indian hunter, but now brought within the reach of any enterprising tourist.


Introductory Note


The Children Carried Off by the Indians—The Feast in the Wigwam—Souwanas, the Story-teller—Nanahboozhoo, the Indian Myth—How the Wolves Stole His Dinner, and Why the Birch Tree Bark is Scarred—Why the Raccoon has Rings on His Tail.


The Children's Return—Indignation of Mary, the Indian Nurse—Her Pathetic History—Her Love for the Children—The Story of Wakonda, and of the Origin of Mosquitoes.


More about Mary and the Children—Minnehaha Stung by the Bees—How the Bees Got Their Stings—What Happened to the Bears that Tried to Steal the Honey.


The Love Story of Wakontas—His Test of the Two Maidens—His Choice—The Transformation of Misticoosis.


The Startling Placard—What Happened to the Little Runaways—The Rescue—Mary Tells Them the Legend of the Swallows—How Some Cruel Men were Punished who Teased an Orphan Boy.


Souwanas Tells of the Origin and Queer Doings of Nanahboozhoo—How He Lost His Brother Nahpootee, the Wolf—Why the Kingfisher Wears a White Collar.


The Legend of the Bad Boy—How He was Carried Away by Annungitee, and How He was Rescued by His Mother.


Happy Christmas Holidays—Indians Made Glad with Presents—Souwanas Tells How Nanahboozhoo Stole the Fire from the Old Magician and Gave It to the Indians.


Kinnesasis—How the Coyote Obtained the Fire from the Interior of the Earth.


The Christmas Packet—The Distribution of Gifts—A Visit by Dog Train, at Fifty-five Below Zero—Souwanas Tells How the Indians First Learned to Make Maple Sugar.


Mary Relates the Legend of the Origin of Disease—The Queer Councils Held by the Animals Against Their Common Enemy, Man.


The Naming of the Baby—A Canoe Trip—The Legend of the Discovery of Medicine—How the Chipmunk Carried the Good News.


In the Wigwam of Souwanas—How Gray Wolf Persecuted Waubenoo, and How He was Punished by Nanahboozhoo.


The Pathetic Love Story of Waubenoo—The Treachery of Gray Wolf—The Legend of the Whisky Jack.


A Novel Race: the Wolverine and the Rock—How the Wolverine's Legs were Shortened—A Punishment for Conceit.


The Legend of the Twin Children of the Sun—How They Rid the Earth of Some of the Great Monsters—Their Great Battle with Nikoochis, the Giant.


Souwanas Tells of the Queer Way in which Nanahboozhoo Destroyed Mooshekinnebik, the Last of the Great Monsters.


Welcome Springtime in the Northland—How Nanahboozhoo Killed the Great White Sea Lion, the Chief of the Magicians—The Revenge—The Flood—Escape of Nanahboozhoo and the Animals on the Raft—The Creation of a New World.


Among the Briers and Wild Roses—Why the Roses have Thorns—Why the Wild Rabbits are White in Winter.


Passing Hunters and Their Spoils—The Vain Woman—Why the Marten has a White Spot on His Breast.


Shooting Loons—Why the Loon has a Flat Back, Red Eyes, and Such Queer Feet—Nanahboozhoo Loses His Dinner—Origin of Lichens—Why Some Willows are Red—The Partridge.


Nanahboozhoo's Ride on the Back of the Buzzard, who Lets Him Fall—A Short-lived Triumph—Why the Buzzard has No Feathers on His Head or Neck.


A Moonlight Trip on the Lake—The Legend of the Orphan Boy—His Appeal to the Man in the Moon—How He Conquered His Enemies.


Souwanas's Love for Souwanaquenapeke—How Nanahboozhoo Cured a Little Girl Bitten by a Snake—How the Rattlesnake got Its Rattle—The Origin of Tobacco—Nanahboozhoo in Trouble.


The Dead Moose—The Rivalry Between the Elk and the Moose People, and Their Various Contests—The Disaster that Befell the Latter Tribe—The Haze of the Indian Summer.



The rabbit tells Nanahboozhoo of his troubles

With the children cuddled around, Souwanas began

The wild and picturesque Ka-ka-be-ka Falls

They howled with rage and terror

The startling placard

While her mate stood beside her

Surrounding them were fierce Indian dogs

The beautiful reflections in the water

They tumbled the tall ghost over

Their dog trains were in constant demand

Where the fire was stolen

The coyote was too quick for them

Across a single log at a dizzy height

Which white men now call Cathedral Mountain

Their babies with them

Gave him such a terrible beating

The big rock was surely gaining on him [note: not in actual text]

Sun dance lodge of the Blood Indians

They both threw their magic sticks

He took a leap into the open mouth

He ran away west, to the great mountains

Wigwams and Indians

The Indian story-teller

Nanahboozhoo then mounted on the back of the great buzzard

With Mary and Kennedy in the birch canoe

Nanahboozhoo gave him a great push

They were excited at his coming

Algonquin Indian Tales


The Children Carried Off by the Indians—The Feast in the Wigwam—Souwanas, the Story-teller—Nanahboozhoo, the Indian Myth—How the Wolves Stole His Dinner, and Why the Birch Tree Bark is Scarred—Why the Raccoon has Rings on His Tail.

Without even knocking at the door there noiselessly entered our northern home two large, unhandsome Indians. They paid not the slightest attention to the grown-up palefaces present, but in their ghostly way marched across the room to the corner where the two little children were playing on the floor. Quickly but gently picking them up they swung them to their shoulders, and then, without a word of salutation or even a glance at the parents, they noiselessly passed out of that narrow door and disappeared in the virgin forest. They were pagan Saulteaux, by name Souwanas and Jakoos.

The Indian names by which these two children were called by the natives were "Sagastaookemou," which means the "Sunrise Gentleman," and "Minnehaha," "Laughing Waters."

To the wigwam of Souwanas, "South Wind," these children were being carried. They had no fear of these big Indians, though the boy was only six years old, and his little sister but four. They had learned to look with laughing eyes even into the fiercest and ugliest of these red faces and had made them their friends.

So even now, while being carried away among the dense trees, they merrily laughed and shouted to each other. The bright patches of sunshine on the ground, the singing birds, and the few brilliant-hued summer flowers, brought forth their exclamations of delight, while all the time the grave, silent Indians hurried them on deeper and deeper into the forest. Yet carefully they guarded their precious loads, and as the antlered deer in passing through the thick woods and under the low branches never strike trunk or bough, so these sons of the forest glided swiftly on without allowing any hurt to come to the children of the paleface, even if at times the faint trail led them over slippery rocks and under low intertwining branches.

The wigwam of Souwanas was pitched in a beautiful spot at the edge of the great forest near the sandy, rocky eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg. This great lake is well called The Sea, which is the meaning of its Indian name. It is about as long as Lakes Ontario and Erie combined and in some places is eighty miles wide.

At the entrance of the wigwam, which was made of a couple of tanned reindeerskins, the children were carefully lifted down from the men's shoulders and then taken into this Indian abode. Coming in suddenly from the bright sunshine it was some time before they could see distinctly. The door flap of deerskin had dropped like a curtain behind them. All the light there was came in through the hole in the top, where the poles of the wigwam crossed each other. Presently, however, they were able to see a circle of Indian children gathered around a small fire that smoldered on the ground in the center of the tent. It was now in the pleasant summer time, but the fire was needed for something else than warmth, as the little Sagastao and Minnehaha discovered before long. They were soon seated in the circle with the red children, who, young though they were, were a wee bit startled at seeing these little palefaces. The white children, however, simply laughed with glee. This outward demonstration seemed very improper to the silent red children, who were taught to refrain from expressions of their gladness or sorrow.

The Indians had brought the white children for a characteristic reason. They had said among themselves, "If the white father and mother love us as they say they do we will test them by taking away their children without asking permission." They also wished to show their own love for the children, and so had really brought them to a children's feast.

It was perhaps as queer a tea party as you ever heard of. There was no table on which to put the good things prepared for the feast. No plates, no cups and saucers, no knives, no spoons, not even a chair! There were no cakes, no tarts, no jam, no pies, not even any bread and butter!

"Well, what a feast!" you say. "Without any place to sit, or good things to eat!" Not too fast! There were both of these. There was the lap of mother earth, and so down on the ground, with bearskins and deerskins on it for rugs, the children sat. Then the deerskin door was again opened and in came Indians with birch-bark dishes, called rogans, in which were nicely prepared wild ducks, rabbits, and partridges. But as they were uncooked they could not yet be eaten by the now expectant, hungry children.

Then began the preparation of the feast. Some of the Indians added dry wood to the fire until there was a hot, smokeless blaze. Others took out their sharp hunting knives and cleverly cut up the ducks, rabbits, and partridges. Then these pieces were spitted on the ends of sharp points of hard wood and skillfully broiled or toasted in the hot flames. As fast as the dainty bits of meat were cooked and a little cooled they were given to the children in their fingers, and in that way the little ones had their feast.

Now, please don't turn up your noses at such a feast. Think of it: out in a wigwam in the lovely forest, where the wild birds sing and the squirrels chatter, where is heard the music of the waves playing on the shore but a few yards away, with great friendly Indians as your waiters! The very air of that northern summer gives you an appetite ready for anything.

Those little people, red and white, soon became the jolliest of friends, and as the white children could speak the Indian language as well as their own they were soon all chattering away most merrily while they daintily picked the bones. Of course this way of eating was hard upon their hands, faces, and clothing, but what healthy child ever gave a second thought—if a first—to any of these things?

After a time this feast, as all feasts must, came to an end. Then the question was, "What shall we do next for the children?" for the whole day had been planned by the grown-up Indians for the entertainment of the little people. Canoes had been collected on the shore of Winnipeg, handy if it should be decided that they all should go for an afternoon outing on the water. However, Souwanas, who had gone out to look at the sky and observe the winds and waves, now came in and reported that he thought they would better put off the canoe trip to some time when the lake was more calm. It was then suggested that the children be asked what would please them most. The little folks, white and red, were not slow in giving their decision.

"Tell us a story about Nanahboozhoo."

"Who shall be the story-teller?"

There was a hearty call for "Souwanas!"

On coming in from investigating the weather, but a few minutes before, Souwanas had seated himself on a robe and was now enjoying his calumet, or pipe. Stoical though he was, his dark eyes flashed with pleasure at the unanimous call of the children, but, Indianlike, it would have been a great breach of manners if he had let his delight be known. Then, again, Indianlike, it would never have done to have seemed to be in a hurry. The Indian children well knew this, but who ever heard of white children that could sit like statues, grave and dignified, while the story-teller took time to finish smoking a large pipe of tobacco?

So it was in this case. In their wild excitement and eagerness to have the story begin, both Sagastao and Minnehaha sprang up and, rushing toward Souwanas, vied with each other in seeing which could first pluck the half-smoked calumet from his mouth. Such audacity appalled the Indian children and fairly took the breath away from the older Indians. For was not Souwanas a chief, and the calumet almost a sacred thing while between his lips?

Souwanas, however, was greatly delighted. Here was a new experience, and the very boldness of the children of the palefaces was an evidence of their unbounded confidence and love. To little Sagastao the calumet was surrendered, and, with the children cuddled around him, Souwanas began his story:

"Now, you must know that Nanahboozhoo was a queer fellow. He could make himself as tall as a tree or as small as a turtle or snake. Nothing could kill him. He could not be drowned even if dropped hundreds of feet into the lake, nor burned to death even if he tumbled into the fire. He often met with accidents, but he always came up right again and was ready for some other adventure in some new shape. He has left his marks on the rocks and trees, leaves and flowers. Almost anywhere we look we see signs that Nanahboozhoo has been around. As his temper was very uncertain he sometimes caused trouble and injured the appearance of things which were once more beautiful than they are now. But in general he was the friend of our race and worked changes that were for our good.

"One day, as Nanahboozhoo was walking along on a sandy shore, he felt very hungry. It was now in the autumn of the year. As he wandered on he saw an object moving toward him. He had not long to wait before he saw that this object was a great black bear. He pulled up a young tree by the roots and hid himself, preparing to kill the bear when he should come near. When the bear came near Nanahboozhoo made a big jump out of his hiding place and killed the bear with one blow. Then he built a big fire, and having singed all the hair off the bear he cut him up and nicely roasted him. When the meat was cooked Nanahboozhoo cut it up into fine pieces, for he intended to enjoy his feast by eating leisurely.

"While he was thus busy preparing his feast he was annoyed by a strange sound among the tree tops that rubbed together when the wind blew. Nanahboozhoo was very quick-tempered, and as the noise continued he determined to stop it. So he left his feast on the ground and climbed away up one of those trees to the spot where the other pressed against it. He was endeavoring to pull the two great trees apart when one of his hands got caught between them and was firmly held. While struggling to get loose he heard a pack of wolves running toward his bear meat. This made him struggle the harder to get his hand free. The fierce wolves soon scented the food and had a good time devouring it, in spite of the shoutings of Nanahboozhoo.

"When Nanahboozhoo at length got his hand free and came down he found nothing left of his feast but the skull of the bear. He was very angry, not only at the wolves that had eaten his feast but also at the trees that had held him, the great Nanahboozhoo, in so tight a grip. As the wolves had run away he could not, at present, punish them, but he resolved that he would so punish these great birch trees that they would never give him such a squeeze again. So he prepared a great whip and with it he severely thrashed the trees. Up to this time the birch had been the most beautiful of trees. Its great trunk was of the purest white, without any blemish or blotch upon it. But ever since the thrashing Nanahboozhoo gave it it has had to carry the marks of that terrible whipping; and that is why the white birch tree is so covered with scars.

"When Nanahboozhoo had ceased thrashing the trees he found himself so very hungry that he resolved to eat the brains that were in the head of the bear, that had been overlooked by the wolves. However, he found the skull very hard. So he transformed himself into a little snake, and in this way got inside of the bear's skull and enjoyed his feast. In fact he enjoyed it too much, for when he was through with his eating he could not get out of the skull, he was so full. However, he was able to roll along, skull and all, but as he could not see where he was going he bumped along in a very erratic manner until at length he tumbled into a big lake and sank at first deep down under the waves.

"When he came up to the surface he just put a part of the head of the bear out of the water, as does the bear when swimming. Then he listened intently. It was not long before Nanahboozhoo heard voices saying:

"'Look! There is a bear swimming. Let us kill him."

"So there was a chase on the lake, and it was not long before the Indians came up, in their canoe, and one of them with his stone ax struck the bear's head such a blow that he split open the skull.

"This just suited Nanahboozhoo, and instantly he sprang out and made for the shore.

"Then Nanahboozhoo journeyed on and again he began to feel very hungry. The brains of the bear were not much to one who had had his mind set on eating the whole carcass. It was not long before he met the raccoon awkwardly carrying a birch rogan that he had stolen from a couple of blind men. Seeing the merry smile on the raccoon's face, Nanahboozhoo bade him a good day, and asked him what was amusing him.

"The raccoon, who did not know that it was Nanahboozhoo with whom he was talking, told him how he obtained the dish. When Nanahboozhoo heard this he was very angry at the raccoon for his heartless trick.

"It seems that there was quite a large settlement of people who had among them a couple of blind men. As these Indians were hunters they had to be on the move a good deal of the time following the game. As the other people were kind-hearted, instead of killing these old blind men, now that they were unable to hunt, they arranged for them a wigwam in a safe, quiet place, near the lake. Then they gave them a kettle and bowl and other necessary things and cut a large pile of wood and placed it close at hand. In order that they might be able to get water for their cooking and yet not stumble into the water their friends fastened a rope, for their guidance, from the door of the wigwam to a post on the edge of the lake.

"The old men were now quite comfortable. Their friends came frequently with abundant supplies of food and the blind men were able to do their own work and were happy together. They divided the day's work so that one day one would be the cook while the other would bring in the wood and go for the water. Next day they would change about. It gave each enough to do, and not too much.

"For a long time the two men lived contented and happy. But it happened that one day the raccoon was out prowling along the shore, looking for something to eat, when he happened to find the end of the rope that was tied to the post at the water's edge.

"Now you must know," said Souwanas, "that, next to the wolverine, the raccoon is the biggest mischief in the woods. He is full of tricks, but he is very cunning and suspicious. So before he interfered with the rope he cautiously followed it up and found that its other end was at the wigwam of these two old blind men. Hearing no noise, he cautiously peered into the wigwam and saw them both sleeping near the fire. There was a smell of something good to eat, and the raccoon decided to wait around to see if he could not get hold of it.

"While he was thus waiting the old men woke up, and one said to the other, 'My brother, I am feeling hungry; let us prepare our dinner.'

"'Very well,' said the other; 'it is your turn to go to the lake for water while I make the fire.'

"When the raccoon heard this he ran down to the lake and quickly untied the rope from the stake and, drawing it back, tied it to a clump of bushes on the land. When the old man with the kettle felt his way along the rope until he reached its end he tried to dip up the water as usual, but all in vain. There was nothing but the dry earth and bushes. Not finding any water he returned to his brother with the sad news that the lake had dried up, and that already bushes were growing where yesterday there was plenty of water. When his brother heard this doleful story he laughed at it, and said:

"'Why, that cannot be possible. No bushes could grow up in such a short time.'

"However his brother declared it was the case, and so the other one said, 'Well, let me go, and see if I can find some water.'

"When the tricky raccoon heard this he hurried back and at once untied the rope from the bushes and refastened it to the post near the water. When the second brother came along he easily found the water, and filling the kettle he returned to the wigwam where he vigorously accused his brother of lying. He, poor fellow, could not understand it and was much perplexed.

"The preparation of their dinner went on, and soon it was ready. There was, however, another one present that the blind men had no suspicion of, and that was the raccoon, who had now noiselessly come into the wigwam and greedily sat watching the preparations. This dinner consisted of eight pieces of meat which, when cooked, were placed in their rogan, or wooden bowl. When ready they sat down with this bowl between them and began to eat. Each took a piece of meat, and they talked of various things while they ate.

"The raccoon now noiselessly took four of the pieces of meat out of the bowl and began eating them. Soon one of the men reached into the bowl, to get another piece of meat, and finding only two pieces left, he said:

"'My brother, you must be very hungry, to eat so fast. I have only had one piece of meat, and there are only two left.'

"'I have not taken them,' was the reply, 'but I suspect that you are the greedy one who has eaten them.'

"This made the other brother very angry, and as they thus went on arguing, the raccoon, to make matters worse, and to have, as he told Nanahboozhoo, some more sport with the old blind fellows, hit each of them a smart blow on the face. The poor old men, each believing that the other had struck him, began to fight; and so they upset the rogan and lost the rest of their dinner and nearly set the wigwam on fire.

"The raccoon then seized the two remaining pieces of meat and the bowl, and, with shouts of laughter, rushed out of the wigwam. The old men, hearing this, perceived that they had been fooled, and they at once stopped fighting and apologized to each other.

"The raccoon's rascally trick made Nanahboozhoo very angry. Indeed he had had a good deal of trouble to keep from letting the raccoon know who he was. So just as soon as the raccoon had finished he said:

"'I am Nanahboozhoo. Those old blind men are my brothers, and I'll teach you a lesson you will never forget!'

"So he seized the raccoon and killed him, and carried his body back to the tent of the blind men and made out of it a great feast for them, and declared that in future the old raccoons should have to carry as many circles on their tails as pieces of meat that had been stolen out of the rogan of the blind men."

"Good for Nanahboozhoo!" shouted Sagastao. "Mr. Raccoon couldn't play any tricks on him. Now tell us another story."

But here Minnehaha interposed.

"I think," said she, "we had better go home now, for father and mother may begin to think they have lost their little ones."

"Let us wait until dark," said Sagastao, "and then Mary won't see our dirty clothes!" For their greasy fingers had soiled them badly.

The wishes of the little girl, however, prevailed, and so it was not long ere the Indian salutations, "Wat cheer! Wat cheer!" were shouted to all, and once more the two children were hoisted upon the shoulders of the big Indians, and in the same manner in which they had been brought to the wigwam in the forenoon they rode home in the beautiful gloaming.

Very tired were they, yet not so weary but that they were able with their little hands to rub some of the paint off the faces of their big stalwart carriers and daub it on their own. The effect was so ludicrous that their merry laughter reached the ears of their expectant parents even before they emerged from the gloom of the forest.


The Children's Return—Indignation of Mary, the Indian Nurse—Her Pathetic History—Her Love for the Children—The Story of Wakonda, and of the Origin of Mosquitoes.

In reaching home the children were quietly received by their parents, who, understanding Indian ways, had no desire to lessen their influence by finding fault with them for carrying off the children. They treated the matter as though it were one of everyday occurrence.

Mary, the Indian nurse, however, did not regard the incident so calmly. When the children were brought back dirty, greasy, bedaubed, and so tired that they could hardly hold up their little heads, her indignation knew no bounds, and as she was perfectly fearless she couched her sentiments in the most vigorous phrases of the expressive Cree language.

The history of Indian Mary was very strange. Indeed there was an incident in her life so sad that from the day of her recovery she was considered to be under the special care of the Good Spirit, so that even the most influential chiefs or hunters had a superstitious fear of showing any temper, or making any bitter retort, no matter what she might say.

Years before this time Mary was the wife of a cruel pagan Indian who bore the English name of Robinson. Although she was slight of figure, and never very strong, he exacted from Mary a great deal of hard work and was vexed and angry if, when heavily burdened with the game he had shot, she did not move as rapidly along on the trail as he did, carrying only his gun and ammunition.

Once, when they were out in the woods some miles from his wigwam, he shot a full-grown deer and ordered her to bring it into the camp on her back. Picking up his gun he started on ahead, and being a large, stalwart man, and moving with the usual rapidity of the Indians on the homeward trail, he soon reached his wigwam. Unfortunately for him—and, as it turned out, for Mary also—he found some free-traders[1] at his abode awaiting his return. They had few goods for trade in their outfit, but they had a keg of fire water, which has ever been the scourge of the Indians.

[Footnote 1: Fur buyers who were not agents of the Fur Company.]

Robinson informed them of his success in shooting the deer and that it was even now being brought in. The traders not only purchased what furs Robinson had on hand but also the two hind quarters of the deer which Mary was bringing home. Robinson at once began drinking the fire water which he had received as part payment.

He was naturally irritable, and short-tempered even when sober, but he was much more so when under the influence of spirituous liquors. The unprincipled traders, knowing this, and wishing to see him in one of his tantrums, began in a bantering way to question whether he had really shot a deer, since his wife was so long in coming with it.

This made him simply furious, and when Mary did at length arrive, laboring under the two-hundred-pound deer, she was met by her husband now wild with passion and the white man's fire water. Little suspecting danger she threw the deer from her shoulders, where it had been supported by the carrying strap across her forehead. Weary and panting, she turned to go into the wigwam for her skinning knife, but ere she had gone a dozen steps she was startled by a yell from Robinson which caused her instantly to turn and face him. The sight that met her eyes was appalling. Before her stood her husband with an uplifted gleaming ax in his hands and curses on his tongue. Seeing that there was no chance to fly from him she threw herself toward him, hoping thereby to escape the blow. She succeeded in saving her head, but the ax buried itself in her spine.

Mary's piercing screams speedily brought a number of Indians from neighboring wigwams. When they found poor Mary lying there in agony, with the ax still imbedded in the bones of her back, their indignation knew no bounds.

Indians, as a rule, have great self-control, but this sight so stirred them that there was very nearly a lynching. Robinson, now sobered by his fears, clearly foresaw that terrible would be his punishment, and while the Indians and traders turned to attend to Mary's wounds the wretched husband stealthily slipped away into the forest and was never again seen there. Rumors, however, at length reached Mary that he had fled away to the distant Kaministiquia River, where for a time he lived, solitary and alone, in a little bark wigwam. One day, when out shooting in his canoe, he was caught in some treacherous rapids and carried over the wild and picturesque Ka-ka-be-ka Falls, about which so many thrilling Indian legends cluster.

For seven years Mary was a helpless invalid. When she did recover her back had so curved that she looked like a hunchback. As she was poor, and utterly unable either to hunt or to fish, we helped her in various ways. She was always grateful for kindness, and in return was very willing to do what she could for us. She was exceedingly clever with her needle, and with a little instruction was soon able to assist with the sewing required. However, what especially won her to us and gave her a permanent place in our home, was her great love and devotion to our little ones.

Little Sagastao was only a few months old when she installed herself as his nurse, and for years she was a most watchful and devoted as well as self-sacrificing guardian of our children in that Northern home. She seemed to live and think solely for them. At times, especially in the matter of parental discipline, there would be collisions between Mary and the mother of the children; for the nurse, with her Indian ideas, could not accept of the position of a disciplined servant, nor could she quietly witness the punishment of children whom she thought absolutely perfect. Hence, if she could not have things exactly as she wanted them, Mary would now and then allow her fiery temper to obtain the mastery, and springing up in a rage and throwing a shawl over her head she would fly out of the house and be gone for days.

Her mistress paid no attention to these outbursts. She well knew that when Mary had cooled down she would return, and it was often amusing to see the way in which she would attract the children's attention to her, peering around tree or corner, and then come meekly walking in with them as though they had only been for a pleasant outing of an hour or so.

"Well, Mary," would be the greeting of her mistress, while Mary's quiet response would be the Indian greeting of, "Wat cheer!"

Then things would go on as usual for perhaps another six months, when Mary would indulge again in one of her tantrums, with the same happy results.

She dressed the children in picturesque Indian costumes—coats, dresses, leggings, moccasins, and other articles of apparel of deer skin, tanned as soft as kid, and beautifully embroidered with silk and bead work. Not a spot could appear upon their garments without Mary's notice, and as she always kept changes ready she was frequently disrobing and dressing them up.

When Souwanas and Jakoos came that morning and picked up the children Mary happened to be in another room. Had she been present she would doubtless have interfered in their movements. As it was, when she missed the children her indignation knew no bounds, and only the most emphatic commands of her mistress restrained her from rushing after them. All day long she had to content herself with muttering her protests while, as usual, she was busily employed with her needle. When, however, the two stalwart Indians returned in the evening with the children on their shoulders the storm broke, and Mary's murmurings, at first mere protests, became loud and furious when the happy children, so tired and dirty, were set down before her. The Indians, knowing of the sad tragedy in Mary's life, would not show anger or even annoyance under her scathing words, but, with the stoical nature of their race, they quietly endured her wrath. This they were much better prepared to do since neither of the parents of the white children seemed in the slightest degree disturbed by their long absence or the tirade of the indignant nurse. With high-bred courtesy they patiently listened to all that Mary had to say, and when the storm had spent itself they turned and noiselessly retired.

The children were worn out with their day's adventure, and their mother intimated that Mary ought at once to bathe them and put them to bed. This, however, did not satisfy Mary. It had become her custom to dress them up in the afternoons and keep them appareled in their brightest costumes during the rest of the day; therefore now the weary children, after being bathed, were again dressed in their best and brought out for inspection and a light supper before retiring. The bath and the supper had so refreshed them that when Mary had tucked them into their beds they were wide awake and asked her to tell them a story. But sleep was what they needed now more than anything else, and she tried to quiet them without any further words, but so thoroughly aroused were they that they declared that if she refused they knew somebody who would be glad to have them visit him again, and that he would tell them lots of beautiful things.

This hint that they might return to the wigwam of Souwanas was too much for Mary, who very freely gave utterance to her sentiments about him. The children gallantly came to the defense of the old Indian and also of Nanahboozhoo, of whom Mary spoke most slightingly, saying that he was a mean fellow who ought to be ashamed of many of his tricks.

"Well," replied Sagastao, "if you will tell us better stories than those Souwanas can tell us about Nanahboozhoo, all right, we will listen to them. But, mind you, we are going to hear his Nanahboozhoo stories too."

"O, indeed," said Mary, with a contemptuous toss of her head, "there are many stories better than those of his old Nanahboozhoo."

"Won't it be fun to see whose stories we like the best, Mary's or Souwanas's!" said Minnehaha, who foresaw an interesting rivalry.

Mary had now committed herself, and so, almost without realizing what it would come to, she found herself pitted against Souwanas, the great story-teller of the tribe. However, being determined that Souwanas should not rob her of the love of the children, she was tempted to begin her story-telling even though the children were exhausted, and so it was that when the lad asked a question Mary was ready.

"Say, Mary," said Sagastao, "the mosquitoes bit us badly to-day. Do you know why it is that there are such troublesome little things? Is there any story about them?"

"Yes. Wakonda, one of the strange spirits, sent them," said Mary, "because a woman was lazy and would not keep the clothes of her husband and children clean and nice."

"Tell us all about it," they both cried out.

Mary quieted them, and began the story.

"Long ago, when the people all dressed in deerskins, there was a man whose name was Pug-a-mah-kon. He was an industrious fellow, and had often to work a good deal in dirty places. The result was that, although he had several suits of clothes, he seemed never to have any clean ones.

"It was the duty of his wife to scrape and clean his garments and wash and resmoke them as often as they needed it. But she neglected her work and would go off gossiping among her neighbors. Her husband was patient with her for a time, but at length, when he heard that Wakonda was coming to pay a visit to the people, to see how they were getting along, he began to bestir himself so as to be decently attired, in clean, handsome apparel, to meet this powerful being, who was able to confer great favors on him, or, if ill-disposed, to injure him greatly.

"He endeavored to get his wife to go to work and remove the dirt that had gathered on his garments. She was so lazy that it was only from fear of a beating that she ever did make any attempt to do as he desired. She took the garments and began to clean them, but she was in a bad humor and did her work in such a slovenly and half-hearted way that there was but very little change for the better after the pretended cleaning.

"When the news was circulated that Wakonda was coming, the husband prepared to dress himself in his best apparel, but great indeed was his anger and disgust when he found that the garments which he had hoped to wear were still disgracefully grimy.

"While the angry husband was chiding the woman for her indolence Wakonda suddenly appeared. To him the man appealed, and asked for his advice in the matter.

"Wakonda quickly responded, and said: 'A lazy, gossiping wife is not only a disgrace to her husband, she is annoying to all around her; and so it will be in this case.'

"Then Wakonda told her husband to take some of the dirt which still clung to his garments, which she was supposed to have cleansed, and to throw it at her. This the man did, and the particles of dirt at once changed into mosquitoes. And so, ever since, especially in the warm days and nights of early summer when the mosquitoes with their singing and stinging come around to trouble us, we are reminded of this lazy, slovenly woman, who was not only a trial to her husband, but by her lack of industry and care brought such a scourge upon all the people."

"Didn't Wakonda do anything else?" murmured the little lad; but that blessed thing called sleep now enfolded both the little ones, and with mutterings of "Nanahboozhoo—Wakonda—Souwanas—Mary"—they were soon far away in childhood's happy dreamland.


More about Mary and the Children—Minnehaha Stung by the Bees—How the Bees Got Their Stings—What Happened to the Bears that Tried to Steal the Honey.

The next morning while Mary was dressing them the children told her of their adventures in the wigwam of the Indians. Mary was really interested, though she pretended to be disgusted at the whole thing, and professed, in her Indian way, to be quite shocked when they both confidentially informed her that they had had such a good time that they were going again even if they had to run away and be whipped for it.

This was terrible news for Mary, and placed her in an awkward position. To tell the parents of the children's resolve was something she would never do, as it might bring down upon them some of the punishment which was quite contrary to her principles. Yet, on the other hand, to let them go and to give no information might cause more trouble than she liked to think of.

Neither could she bear the thought of the two children returning from another day's outing with their neat clothing and pretty faces soiled and dirty. Do as they might, she had never once informed on them, and she had no mind to begin now. She earnestly pleaded with them not to carry out their resolve. The little ones were shrewd enough to see that they had thoroughly alarmed her, and they were in no hurry to surrender the power which they saw they had over her.

Mary never said a word in English. She understood a good deal that others said, but she never expressed herself in other than the Indian language. Hence both little Sagastao and Minnehaha always talked with her in her own tongue.

Minnehaha, seeing Mary's anxiety at their determination to run away to the Indians, thought of compromising the matter by insisting that Mary should tell them more tales. If she would do this they "would not run away very soon;" especially did she emphasize the "very soon." This was hardly satisfactory to Mary, but as it was the best promise she could get she was obliged to consent.

Little Sagastao, who was Mary's favorite, once more unsettled her when he said, "Now, Mary, remember, we have only promised not to run away very soon. That means that we intend to do it some time."

It seems that the little conspirators had talked it all over in the morning in their beds, and had decided how they would get stories out of Mary without really promising not to run away to the wigwam of Souwanas.

The children, being dressed, were taken down by Mary to prayers and breakfast, after which an hour was allowed in summer-time for outdoor amusement before the lessons began. Little Sagastao generally spent his hour, either with his father or some trusty Indian, playing with and watching the gambols of the great dogs, of which not a few were kept at that mission home. Minnehaha was with her mother, and was interested in the bestowal of gifts to the poor widows and children who generally came at that hour.

Owing to the isolated situation of the mission, and the fact that there were no organized schools within hundreds of miles, some hours of the forenoon were devoted to the education of the children in the home. The afternoons, according to the season, were devoted to reading and amusement.

Mary, the nurse, while able to read fluently in the Cree syllabics, had no knowledge of English. As the children's education progressed they wanted to teach Mary. She stubbornly resisted, however, declaring that if they taught her to read English they would want to make her talk it.

The mother noted the unusual expectancy manifested by the children during the day, and on inquiring the reason was promptly informed that Mary had promised to tell them a story, or legend, and "had got to do it."

"Why has she got to do it?" said the loving mother, struck with the emphasis which they had placed on the word.

The little mischiefs were cunning enough to see that they had nearly run themselves into trouble, and were wisely silent. Mary also noticed this, and at once her great loyalty to the little folk manifested itself, and quickly turning to her mistress she said, with an emphasis which was quite unusual:

"Mary has promised them a story, and as she always keeps her word she has got to tell it."

Saying this she quickly sprang from the floor, where she had been sitting, and taking a child by each hand she marched with them out of the room.

"Hurrah for you, Mary! you saved us that time," said little Sagastao.

Mary would not have been sorry if in some way the parents received an inkling of what was in the minds of the children, yet she had such peculiar ideas that she would never herself be the one to convey that information.

During the brief summer months the pleasantest walks were along the shores of the lake. Many were the cosy little cave-like retreats where Mary often led the children. There, with the sunlit waters before them, and the rippling waves making music at their feet, the old nurse crooned out many an Indian legend or exciting story about the red men of the past. To-day, however, she was perplexed by the attitude of the children and could not select any story that she thought of sufficient interest to divert their minds from Souwanas and Nanahboozhoo. So for a time they wandered on along the pleasant shore, or turned aside to gather the brilliant wild flowers.

A scream of pain from Minnehaha interrupted their pleasure. In gathering some wild lilies she was stung on both hands by some honey bees that were in the flowers. Mary quickly made a batter of clay and bound up the wounded hands in it. Then she sat down and took the child in her lap.

"Naughty bees to sting me like this," said Minnehaha, with tears streaming down her cheeks. "I was not doing them any harm."

"Yes, you were, and so were we all," said the brother. "We were carrying off the flowers from which they get their honey, which is their food."

"Well, they might let us have a few flowers without stinging us," replied Minnehaha.

The intense pain of the stings rapidly abated under Mary's homely but skillful treatment, and as the child still retained her place in Mary's lap she said,

"Can you tell us why such pretty little things as bees have such terrible stings? My hands felt as if they were on fire when I was first stung, and I could not help crying out with the pain."

"Well," said Mary, "there was a time when the bees had no stings, and they were as harmless as the house flies. They were just as industrious as they are now, but they had any amount of trouble in keeping their honey from being stolen from them, for every creature loves it.

"In vain they hid their combs away up in hollow trees and in the clefts of high rocks. The bears, which are very fond of honey, were ever on the lookout for it, and were very clever in getting it when once they found where it was hidden away. Birds with long beaks would suck it out, and even the little squirrels were always stealing it. The result was that whole swarms often starved in the long winters, because all their honey, which is their winter food, was stolen from them. The bees were in danger of being destroyed. They gave up working in great numbers together, and scattered into little companies, and in the most secret places tried to store away a little honey, just enough to keep them alive from season to season. But even these little hives were often discovered and the honey devoured.

"Things had come to such a pass with them that they had almost given up hope of lasting much longer.

"Fortunately for them, word was circulated that Wakonda, the strong spirit—the one who sent the mosquitoes—was coming around on a tour, to see how everything was progressing. He was greater than even Nanahboozhoo, and was perhaps a relative of his, but he very seldom appeared, or did anything for anyone. However, it happened that he had this year left his beautiful home at Spirit Lake and was journeying through the country, and he was willing to help all who were in real distress.

"So the bees resolved to apply to him for help. Wakonda received them very graciously, and ate heartily of the present of beautiful honey which some of them had made and had succeeded in keeping out of the way of bears and their other enemies.

"When his feast of honey was over he listened to their tales of sorrow and woe. He was indignant when he heard of the numbers of their enemies, and of the persistency of their attacks upon such industrious little creatures.

"For a time Wakonda was uncertain as to the best method to adopt to help them. He dismissed them for that day, and told them to come again on a day he mentioned, saying that by that time he would know just what to do—for help them he would. The bees were so delighted with this news that they could not keep it to themselves but must go and tell their cousins, the wasps and hornets, and even bumblebees.

"When the appointed time arrived the bees were on hand—and so were the wasps, hornets, and bumblebees. Wakonda welcomed the bees most kindly, but was a little suspicious about their visitors, and he asked some sharp questions. But the bees were in such good humor about the help that was coming that they did not refer to the bad habits of their cousins at all. Then Wakonda made a speech to the bees, and told them how much he loved them for their industrious habits, which he wished all creatures had. He praised them for the fact that, instead of idly wasting the summer days, they used them in gathering up food for the long, cold winter.

"Then he proceeded to give them the terrible stings which they have had ever since, and as the wasps and hornets claimed to be their cousins Wakonda was good-natured enough to give them the same sort of weapons. Some people, especially boys, think this was a, great mistake, and would be very glad if Wakonda had refused to give stings to the yellow wasp and the black hornet."

"Well, what happened after the bees got their stings?" said Sagastao.

"A good deal happened," said Mary, "and that very soon. A lot of them, without as much effort to conceal their nest as formerly, selected a tall, hollow tree, and using a big knot hole as the door began secreting their honey in it. They had made the combs, and were now filling them, when along came a couple of bears. These animals, as you have been told, are great honey thieves, but they always had hard work to find where the timid bees had cunningly hid it away, and now they could hardly believe that right here before them was a great swarm of bees filling the air with their buzzing as they flew in and out of the knot hole.

"With saucy assurance they at once began climbing the tree, expecting to be able to put their long paws into that big hole and draw out the combs. But they never reached that knot hole. The noise they made in their climbing alarmed the bees. Out they came in great numbers, and now, instead of flying around in a panic, like so many house flies, and seeing their honey devoured, they at once flew at their enemies, the bears. They stung them on their noses and about their eyes and lips, and indeed in every spot where they could possibly reach them with their terrible new weapons.

"The bears could not make out what the trouble was. They howled with rage and terror, yet they were resolved to get that honey, and still tried to crawl up higher on the tree. But at length the bees mustered in such vast numbers—for those away gathering honey, as they returned, joined in the attack—that the bears became wild with pain and fear, and had to give up their effort and drop to the ground. Even then the bees gave them no peace, and continued to sting them until they were obliged to run into the dark forest for relief.

"Thus it happens now that almost all creatures that bother the bees are similarly treated."

"Well," said Minnehaha, "they need not have stung me because I was picking a few flowers; but, after all, I am glad they have their stings or I suppose we should never have any honey."

"They are not big enough to have much sense," replied Sagastao, "and so they go for everyone that gets in their way."

Mary now carefully removed the clay poultices, which had effectually done their work. A wash followed, in the waters of the lake which rippled at their feet, and soon not the slightest trace of the sting remained. By the time they reached home both pain and tears were well-nigh forgotten.

That evening before the children were sent to bed they overheard Jakoos, who had come to the house with venison to sell, telling in the kitchen a story that he had heard from Souwanas about a naughty fellow, called Maheigan, who tried to capture a beautiful kind-hearted maiden, Waubenoo, and of how Nanahboozhoo thrashed him, and then afterward, because of some naughty children not holding their tongues, Waubenoo was turned into the Whisky Jack.

What the little children overheard had very much excited their curiosity, and so when Mary was putting them to bed they demanded from her the full story.

As this was one of the Saulteaux Indian legends, while Mary was a Cree, she was not familiar with it. She told the children that she knew nothing about it, but this by no means set their curiosity at rest.


The Love Story of Wakontas—His Test of the Two Maidens—His Choice—The Transformation of Misticoosis.

A few days later Mary was annoyed by having the children tell her frankly that they did not think she was a first-class story-teller. For if she had been she ought to have been able to answer Minnehaha's question about what Nanahboozhoo did to Maheigan when he tried to catch Waubenoo.

Mary was vexed at herself that she was unable to answer the question, for she well knew that the children would not rest satisfied until they had the story told them by some one, possibly Souwanas himself. Indeed, knowing them so well, she had fully resolved to post herself from one of the noted story-tellers who have all the Indian legends at their tongue tips. But as yet she was ignorant in this matter, and therefore fell considerably in the children's estimation. Alary was somewhat hurt by noticing, perhaps for the first time, Sagastao and Minnehaha whispering confidentially to each other. The children conversed with Mary only in her own language, which at that time they perhaps understood better than they did English. Now, much to Mary's annoyance, their confidential whisperings were carried on in English. Being sensitive and quick-tempered, when she saw this sudden break in their affections toward her she was inclined to resent it, and asked the reason why she was not allowed to know what they were talking about.

Blunt little Sagastao spoke up at once:

"Minnehaha and I have talked it over, and have decided that unless you tell us better stories, and ones which you know all about, we're going to run away to the wigwam of Souwanas."

This was humiliating and distressing news. Mary fancied she had told them a good story, and that with a few others like it she could satisfy their curiosity and keep them at home until the brief summer would have passed. Not so, however, thought the children. They saw their advantage and were resolved to keep it, and when their lessons were over and they were left entirely in the charge of Mary they taxed the little woman in a way that obliged her to exercise all her gifts as a story-teller, and she was far from being a poor one.

One day she took them out in a graceful birch canoe among the picturesque islands. They landed on one of these islands, and spent some time in exploring its beauties and resting where grew a profusion of the fragrant Indian grass. They were for a time much interested in the various wild birds that then were so numerous and fearless. Beautiful gulls of different varieties were there nesting, and by following Mary's directions the children were delighted to find that they could approach very near to the nests of some of them without disturbing the mother bird while her mate, in fearless confidence, stood on guard beside her.

"Now, Mary, hurrah for a story!" cried the children, as they sat at lunch.

While Mary was wondering what she would tell them, Minnehaha, with all the restless, inquisitive spirit of childhood, noticing the ceaseless rustling movements of the leaves in the stately northern poplar while the leaves of all the other trees were so still, said:

"Why is it, Mary, that even while the leaves on the other trees are so quiet those almost round ones are ever stirring?"

Mary knew the Indian legend, and at once proceeded to narrate it.

"It is believed by our people," said Mary, "that there are other persons just as clever as Nanahboozhoo, and as able to do wonderful things, but they are very seldom heard of. Some of them were the children of Wakonda, the powerful spirit who dwelt in the region of Spirit Lake, where they say it is always sunshine. Many strange things have been told about them, but everybody says they are kind-hearted, and never did anything to injure any of our people unless it was well deserved. The story is that long ago one of these sons of Wakonda, whose name was Wakontas, could not find a wife to suit him in his own beautiful country, and so he came to the regions where the Indians dwelt.

"For a long time he wandered throughout great regions of country before he found anyone who interested him. However, in his journeyings Wakontas went into the wigwam of some Indians where there were two lovely maidens, so very beautiful that he fell in love with both of them. He was in the disguise of a very fine-looking young hunter. So clever was he in the use of his bow and arrow that at the end of every hunting excursion he returned laden with the richest spoils of the chase. He fell more and more in love with the two girls, and knowing, of course, that he could only get one of them he found a great difficulty in making his choice. He had already gone to the girl's father, and after finding out from him the price demanded for his daughter, without mentioning which one, very quickly by his magic powers he obtained the heavy price and laid it at the father's feet. Both of the girls seemed equally pleased with him, and each one secretly hoped that she might be the object of his choice. Still he hesitated, and although he tried many experiments yet they so nearly equaled each other in cleverness and beauty that he was still undecided. However, there was a great difference in their dispositions. While one was proud and jealous, and had a very bitter tongue, the other was just the opposite; while one was very selfish, the other was generous and kind-hearted. But Wakontas was not able to find this out at first, and after he had considered various plans he decided that he would put on one of his many disguises and thus try them.

"So he started off as though going on a hunting expedition, but soon after he was out of sight he quickly assumed the form of a poor and aged Indian, and came to the home of these two beautiful sisters, and asked for assistance. Wakontas chose a time when he knew the rest of the family were away from the wigwam, in order that he might see how the two sisters would act toward him.

"When he walked into the wigwam, for nobody ever knocks at an Indian tent, the maidens were a little startled at thus suddenly seeing this rough-looking old beggar-man in their midst. The selfish, proud girl, whose name was Misticoosis, at once began assailing him, and cried, 'Auwasta kena!' (Get out; go away, you!)

"In vain he pleaded that he was aged and hungry. She would not listen to him.

"Omemee, the other young Indian maiden, who had not said a word, but had been pitying him from the first moment she saw how feeble and sad he looked, now interfered, and remonstrated with her sister, whose tongue kept up a constant stream of abuse. Taking the old man to her side of the wigwam she seated him on a rug of deerskins and then built up before him a bright fire. Then she quickly brought in venison, cooked it nicely, and gave him the broth for drink and the meat for food. He thanked her gratefully, but she checked his words and said that her greatest joy was in making others happy. Not satisfied with what she had done, and noticing that his shoes were old and worn, she took out of her beaded workbag a pair of splendidly worked moccasins, and put them on his feet.

"All this time, while this good-hearted, generous Omemee was treating the poor old man so kindly, the proud, selfish Misticoosis was talking as hard and as fast as she could against such deeds of kindness to all old people. In her opinion, when they had got so old and helpless as that old fellow was, they ought to be killed by their relatives.

"The old man again expressed his thanks to the kind sister, and then went his way.

"Soon the girls began to think of arraying themselves for the return of their friend and lover. The proud, selfish Misticoosis spent all the time in fixing herself up in the most elaborate manner. She had lately become quite jealous of her sister, and she was resolved to so outshine her in appearance that the handsome young hunter would surely prefer her. But Omemee (a name which means a dove) thought to herself:

"'My father and mother and the rest of the family will soon be returning to the wigwam, tired and hungry, and the best thing I can do will be to have a good dinner ready for them all.' So, only taking time to comb and brush her luxuriant hair and make herself neat and tidy for her work, she set about cooking the meal. She skillfully prepared venison and bear's meat, and the finest of fish.

"Hardly had she finished her work and seen everything nicely cooked before she heard the happy shoutings of her younger brothers, and the sweet birdcalls of her little sisters.

"As Omemee and her sister Misticoosis hurried out to greet them they were surprised to see the handsome stranger gliding along in his beautiful canoe alongside of the larger one of the family. Of course, the sight of their lover excited the two girls. Misticoosis, who had spent all the hours in arraying herself in her finery and adornment, boldly thrust herself to the front, and crowded out the modest Omemee, who was flushed by the busy work of cooking the dinner, and was wisely dressed in a costume which harmonized with her face and with the work in which she had been engaged so industriously.

"The instant the handsome young Indian landed—fancy the amazement of the two girls to notice that he had on his feet the same beautiful moccasins that, not many hours before, Omemee had given to the aged feeble man! Before anyone could utter a word he came striding up to the girls, and said:

"'As an old, weary man, I came to your wigwam a few hours ago. Misticoosis gave me nothing but abuse, yet my only crime was that I was old. Her tongue went on and on without stopping, and all of her words were words of abuse for the old man and anger that he should have been left to live so long. But Omemee, kind-hearted Omemee, pitied the poor old man. She made him sit down on a couch of deerskins, that he might rest his tired limbs. She built a fire and warmed him. She took of the best of the venison, and made him food and drink, and then ere he left she put on his feet the most beautiful of her moccasins. All her gifts to the unknown old man were the best she had.

"'See the beautiful moccasins, the gift of Omemee!

"'I was that old man—I am now the lover long seeking a bride. I have made my choice. Two beautiful maidens for a time divided my heart. There is no division now. By testing them I have found out that only one is lovely within.

"'That no man may have to put up through life with the unceasing clatter of the tongue of Misticoosis, she will be from this time the unbeautiful aspen tree, while her tongue shall be the leaves that will never again be still even in the gentlest breeze. The leaves of other trees shall rest at times, but the aspen leaves, now the tongue of Misticoosis, shall ever be restless and unquiet.'

"And even while he was speaking, Misticoosis, who was amazed and ashamed at the words he spoke, became rooted to the ground, and gradually turned into an aspen tree.

"Then, turning from her to the maiden of his choice, he exclaimed:

"'But Omemee, the loving, the tender, the kind-hearted, thou art my heart's choice!'

"Saying this, the handsome hunter opened his arms, and Omemee sprang toward him. For a moment he held her in his arms; then he said:

"'I am Wakontas, and to the beautiful home of Wakontas thou shalt be taken.'

"Then there was a wonderful transformation; as quickly as a butterfly bursts from its chrysalis, so suddenly was Omemee transformed into a beautiful dove and the hunter as quickly assumed the same lovely form. Together they arose into the air, and flew away to the unknown but beautiful home of Wakontas, in the land of perpetual sunshine."


The Startling Placard—What Happened to the Little Runaways—The Rescue—Mary Tells Them the Legend of the Swallows—How Some Cruel Men were Punished who Teased an Orphan Boy.

When Mary entered the children's bedroom one bright, pleasant morning she was amazed at finding both of the beds empty and a piece of foolscap paper pinned to the dressing table. The writing on it was beyond her power to read. She remembered now that the children had begged her not to come very early in the morning to wake them up, and as their requests were as a law she had lingered as long as she dared, and indeed had only gone to call them when her mistress had asked the reason for their nonappearance. Not until she had shown the paper, with its inscription, to the kitchen maid, who could read English, did its full meaning burst upon her. Of course, she was very much troubled, and yet such was her loyalty to the children that she hesitated about letting the parents know what had occurred. She was fully aware that she could not long keep the startling news from them, and yet she was still resolved that never should any information be imparted by her that might bring down upon them any punishment, no matter how much deserved.

It was a long, rough trail through the primitive forest to the wigwam of Souwanas. How long the children had been away she could not tell. Mary, with Indian shrewdness, had felt their beds, and had found them both quite cold, so she knew the little mischiefs had been off at least an hour. She interrogated not only the maid in the kitchen but also Kennedy, the man of all work, outside. Neither of them had seen or heard anything of the children, and as they did not share Mary's ideas the escapade of the children was soon known.

The parents were naturally alarmed when they heard the news. At once the father, accompanied by Kennedy and the dogs, Jack and Cuffy, started off on the trail of the runaways. The intelligent dogs, having been shown a couple of garments recently worn by the missing boy and girl and being told to find them, at once took up the trail in the direction of the wigwam of Souwanas, running with such rapidity that if they had not been restrained by the voice of their master they would very quickly have left him and his Indian attendant far behind.

At length, with a sudden start, both dogs, growling ominously, dashed off ahead, utterly regardless of all efforts made by their master to restrain them. This suspicious conduct on the part of the dogs of course alarmed the father and his Indian companion, and as rapidly as the rough trail would allow they hurried on in the direction taken by the dogs. Soon their ears were greeted by a chorus of loud and angry yelping. Fear gave speed to both the men, and soon they dashed out from the forest into the opening of an Indian's clearing. Here was a sight that filled them with alarm, and almost terror. Standing on a pile of logs were little Sagastao and Minnehaha. Sagastao erect and fearless, with a club about as large as an ordinary cane, while behind him, leaning against a high fallen log, was Minnehaha. Surrounding them were several fierce, wolfish Indian dogs, among whom Jack and Cuffy, wild and furious, were now making dire havoc. One after another, wounded and limping, the curs skulked away as the two men rushed up to the children.

"Ha! ha! hurrah for our Jack and Cuffy; aren't they the boss dogs!" shouted the fearless little runaways, and now that the victory was won they nimbly sprang down from their high retreat and, apparently without the slightest fear, congratulated both their father and the Indian on the superiority of their own dogs.

Trembling with anxiety, the anxious father, thankful at the narrow escape of his children, as he clasped them in his arms could not but be amazed at the indifference of the little ones to the great danger from which they had just escaped. After petting Jack and Cuffy for their great bravery and courage the return journey was begun, much to the regret of the children, who pleaded hard to be allowed to resume their trip to the wigwam of Souwanas to hear the stories of Nanahboozhoo.

The father was perfectly amazed at this request, and of course it was sternly refused. He had started off in pursuit of the runaways with a resolve to punish them for this serious breach of home discipline, but his alarm at their danger and his thankfulness for their escape had so stirred him that he could not punish them nor even chide them at the time. All he could do was to bring them safely home again and, as usual in such emergencies, turn them over to the tender mercies of their mother.

Sturdily the children marched on ahead for a while, then Kennedy, the Indian, took Minnehaha in his arms. He had not carried her many hundred yards before the weary little one fell fast asleep, softly muttering as she slipped off into the land of dreams, "Wanted to hear about Nanahboozhoo."

Great was the excitement at home when the party returned. Sagastao rushed into the arms of his mother, and without the slightest idea of having done anything wrong began most dramatically to describe how "our Jack and Cuffy thrashed those naughty Eskimo dogs" that chased Minnehaha and him upon that great pile of logs. Mary in the meantime had taken from Kennedy's arms the still sleeping Minnehaha, and almost smothered her with kisses as she bore her away to bed.

There was great perplexity on the part of the parents to know just what to do to impress upon the little ones that they had been very naughty in thus running away, for it was very evident from the utterances of both that they had not considered the matter in that light. Now, in view of the weariness of Minnehaha, it was decided to leave the matter of discipline in abeyance until a little of the excitement had passed away.

In the meantime Sagastao was ready to talk with everybody about the whole affair. It seems that he and Minnehaha had decided that Mary was "no good" in telling stories. He said her stories neither frightened them nor made them cry, but Souwanas was the boss man to tell Nanahboozhoo stories. He said they got up before anybody was stirring, that morning, and dressed themselves so quietly that nobody heard them. They remembered the trail along which Souwanas and Jakoos had carried them. After they had walked for some time they came to where there was a larger trail, and they turned into it, and came upon a lot of dogs that had been chasing some rabbits. Soon the rabbits got away from the dogs, when they reached those trees that had been chopped down. Minnehaha was the first to notice that the dogs had turned back, and were coming after them, and she shouted:

"'O, look! those dogs think we are rabbits, and they are coming for us!'"

"When I saw they really were coming," said Sagastao, "Minnehaha and I jumped up on the logs, and we climbed up as high as we could, and I took up a stick, and then I stood up with Minnehaha behind me, and I shook the stick at them, and—and I shouted:

"'A wus, atimuk!'" (Get away, you dogs!)

"They came so near on the logs that I hit one or two of them, while all of the others on the ground kept barking at us. But I kept shouting back at them, 'A wus, atimuk!' My! it was great fun. Then all at once we heard Jack and Cuffy, and, I tell you! soon there was more fun, when our big dogs sprang at them. Every time an Eskimo was tackled by Jack or Cuffy he went down, and was soon howling from the way in which he was shaken. And they had nearly thrashed the whole of them when papa and Kennedy came rushing up. I wished they had been there sooner, to have seen all the fun."

Thus the lad's tongue rattled on, while it was evident he was utterly unconscious of the danger they had been in.

After some deliberation it was decided that, in view of this runaway being the first offense of the kind, the punishment should be confinement to their own room the next day, until six o'clock in the evening, on a diet of bread and water. At this Mary was simply furious. She well knew, however, that it was necessary for her to control herself in her master's and mistress's presence. She managed to hold her tongue, but her flashing eyes and an occasional mutter, which would come out as she went about her usual duties, showed the smoldering fire that was burning inside. The children had been duly lectured for their breach of discipline and then, that evening, consigned to their room for their imprisonment which was to last until the next evening. That night Mary took up her mattress and blankets and went and slept on the floor between the two beds of the children, and in spite of orders, so the maid said, she secretly carried up a goodly sized bundle from the kitchen.

The day was one of unusual quietness, as the lively pair, who generally kept the house full of music, were now supposed to be away in humiliation and disgrace. All regretted that the punishment had to be inflicted and the children made to realize their naughtiness in thus running away, and all were looking forward to the hour of six o'clock with pleasant anticipation. When it arrived word was sent to the children that their hours of imprisonment were over, and that they were to present themselves in the library. Quick and prompt was the response, and noisily and hurriedly the two darlings came rushing down the stairs, followed by Mary. They were arrayed in their most beautiful apparel, and were evidently prepared by their nurse to go with her for a walk.

The father, feeling that it was necessary, began to make a few remarks expressive of regret that he had thus been obliged to punish them, when he was interrupted by little Sagastao with the honest and candid remark, spoken in a way which, while perfectly fearless, was yet devoid of all rudeness or impertinence:

"O, father dear, you needn't feel badly about us at all, as Mary has been with us all day and has told us lovely stories."

"And Mary brought us taffy candy," broke in darling Minnehaha, with equal candor; "and some currant cakes and other nice things, so we got on very well after all."

These candid utterances on the part of the two children not only amazed but amused the parents, and were another revelation of Mary's wonderful love for the children and her defiance of disciplinary measures which she thought might cause the slightest pain or sorrow. And here she stood in the open door, and as soon as their father's words and their own rather startling "confessions" were ended she called them to her and away they went for a long walk along the beautiful shore of the lake, leaving their parents to conjecture whether the punishment that had been inflicted would produce any very salutary results.

When the children were gathered that evening in the study with their parents little Sagastao said:

"Papa, Minnehaha and I have been talking it all over with Mary and she has shown us that it was naughty on our parts to run away as we did; and we are sorry that we did anything that caused you and mamma sorrow and anxiety about us, and so, ... Well, we know you will forgive us." And as the four little arms went twining around the parents' necks there was joy and gladness all round, and it was evident that there was no danger of the escapade being repeated.

The following are a couple of the legends that Mary told them while they were prisoners in their own room that day.


"Long ago," said Mary, "there were some Indian families who lived on the top of a very high hill, like a mountain. They had quite a number of small children, and I am sorry to say they were very naughty and would often disobey their parents. One of their bad deeds was to run away, and thus make the father and mother very unhappy until they returned. Their parents were very much afraid that some of the Windegoos or wild animals would catch them when they thus ran away by themselves, with no strong man to guard them.

"So the parents tried to make their homes as nice as possible for them. They made all sorts of toys for them and gave them nice little bows and arrows, and other things, that ought to have amused them and kept them happy at home. All the efforts of their parents, however, were of no use. They soon were tired of their home amusements, and when their parents' backs were turned they would run away.

"At length their conduct became so bad, and the parents found themselves so powerless to prevent it, that they decided to appeal to the Indian Council for assistance. For a time the stern commands of the Chief were listened to and obeyed. Then they neglected his words, and about as frequently as ever they were found playing truant from their homes and parents.

"At length, on one occasion when they had all run away and had been off for several days and could not be found, their fathers and mothers called upon Wakonda to look for them and to send them home. Wakonda was very angry when he heard about these naughty children running away so much, and so he set off in a hurry to find them. After a long search he discovered them on the bank of a muddy river making mud huts and mud animals. He was so angry at them that he at once turned them into swallows, and said, 'From this time forward you will ever be wanderers and your homes will always be made of mud,' and so it has been."

"I say, Mary, did you remember that yarn because Minnehaha and I ran away?" said Sagastao.

"Well, we were not making mud huts," said Minnehaha.

Mary was not to be caught, however, even if she did love them so much, and she did not answer Sagastao's question, although in her heart she was not sorry if he saw something in the legend that would deter him from again running away.


"There was once an old grandmother who was left alone with only an orphan grandson. All of her other relatives were dead. This boy was a very industrious little fellow, and did all that he could to help his grandmother. They both had to work very hard to have sufficient to keep them from starving. Together they would go out in their canoe and catch fish. They also set many snares in the forest to catch rabbits, partridges, and other small game.

"Because they were so poor the clothing of this orphan boy was made partly of rabbitskins and partly of the skins of birds. When he was not busy helping his grandmother he, like other little boys, was pleased to go out and play with the other children of the village. Some of the men of the village were very fond of teasing him, and some were even cruel to him, because of the poor clothing he had to wear. Often the poor boy would return to the wigwam of his grandmother crying and weeping because the men of the village had not only teased him on account of his poor clothing but had almost torn his coat into pieces. His grandmother entreated the men to stop teasing the poor boy, who could not help his poverty. She would patiently mend his poor torn clothes and try to cheer him up with the hope that soon these foolish, cruel men would see how wrong it was to treat him thus.

"But they only seemed to get worse instead of better, and so the grandmother got very angry at last and determined to have it stopped.

"So she went off to Wakonda and told him all about it. Wakonda was very busy just then, but he gave her some of his magical powers and told her what to do when she reached her home.

"When she arrived there she found her grandson almost naked from the abuse of the cruel men, who, finding that she was absent, had been more cruel than ever to him. She then informed him that she was able now to put a stop to all their cruel actions. So she told him to dive into a pool of water that was near at hand. He did as she had commanded, and there he found an underground channel that led out into the great lake.

"When he came up to the top of the water in the lake he found himself transformed into a beautiful seal. He at once begun playing about in the waves as seals are often seen doing.

"It was not long before he was seen by the people of the village, and, of course, the men were very anxious to secure this valuable seal. Canoes were quickly launched and away the men paddled with their spears to try and capture it. But the boy, now transformed into the seal, quickly swam away from them, as instructed by his grandmother, and so kept them busy paddling on and on farther from the shore. When they seemed almost discouraged the seal would suddenly dive down, and then reappear in the water just behind them. Then, before the men could turn around and spear him, he as suddenly dived under the water again. The pursuit was so exciting that these cruel men did not notice how far out from land they had now come. They did, however, after a time see their danger, for suddenly a fierce gale sprang up, and the waves rose in such fury that they upset the canoes and all of the wicked men were drowned. When the old grandmother saw this she once more exerted the magical powers with which she had been intrusted by Wakonda, and calling to her grandson to return home he instantly complied with her request. He speedily swam back to her, and she at once transformed him into his human form.

"Thus freed from his tormentors, he very rapidly grew up to manhood and became a great hunter, and was kind to his grandmother as long as she lived."


Souwanas Tells of the Origin and Queer Doings of Nanahboozhoo—How He Lost His Brother Nahpootee, the Wolf—Why the Kingfisher Wears a White Collar.

"Who was this Nanahboozhoo that we are hearing so much about?"

Thus was the old story-teller addressed by Sagastao, who always was anxious to learn about those who interested him.

The old man began in this way:

"When the great mountains are wrapped in the clouds we do not see them very well. So it is with Nanahboozhoo. The long years that have passed since he lived have, like the fogs and mists, made it less easy to say exactly who he really was, but I will try to tell you. Nanahboozhoo was not from one tribe only, but from all the Indians. Hence it is that his very name is so different.

"The Ojibway call him Mishawabus—Great Rabbit; the Menomini call him Manabush. He had other names also. One tribe called him Jouskeha, another Messou, another Manabozho, and another Hiawatha. His father was Mudjekeewis, the West Wind. There was an old woman named Nokomis, the granddaughter of the moon, who had a daughter whose name was Wenonah. She was the mother of twin boys, but at their birth she died and so did one of the boys. Nokomis wrapped the living child in soft dry grass, laid it on the ground at one end of her wigwam, and placed over it a great wooden bowl to protect it from harm. Then in her grief she took up the body of Wenonah, her daughter, and buried it, with the dead child, at some distance from her wigwam. When she returned from thus laying away her dead she sat down in her wigwam, and for four days mourned her loss. At the end of that time she heard a slight noise in her wigwam, which she soon found came from that wooden bowl. Then as the bowl moved she suddenly remembered the living child, which she had forgotten in her great grief at the loss of its mother. When she removed the bowl from its place, instead of there being the baby boy she had placed there she beheld a little white rabbit, and on taking it up she said, 'O my dear little rabbit, my Manabush!' Nokomis took great care of it and it grew very rapidly.

"One day, when Manabush was quite large, it sat up on its haunches and hopped slowly across the floor of the wigwam, and caused the earth to tremble.

"When the bad Windegoos, or evil spirits who dwell underground, felt the earth to thus tremble they said, 'What is the matter? What has happened? A great Munedoo (spirit) is born somewhere.' And at once they began to devise means by which they might kill Manabush, or Nanahboozhoo, as he was now called, when they should find him.

"But Nanahboozhoo did not long continue to look like a rabbit. As he was superior to other people he could change himself to any form he liked. He was most frequently seen as a fine strong young Indian hunter. He called the people his uncles. When he grew up he said to his grandmother, the old Nokomis, that the time had come when he should prepare himself to go and help his uncles, the people, to better their condition. This he was able to do, seeing he was more than human, for his father was the West Wind and his mother a great-granddaughter of the moon. Sometimes he was the beautiful white rabbit; then he would be a wolf or a wolverine; then he would be a lovely bird. He could even change himself to look like a dry old stump or a beautiful tree. Sometimes he would be like a little half-frozen rabbit; then he would be a mighty magician, and often a little snake. He was just as changeable in his disposition as in his outward appearance. Sometimes he was doing the best things imaginable for his uncles, the Indian people, and at other times he was full of mischief and trickery. But on the whole he was a friend, and although quick-tempered and fiery yet he did lots of fine things for the people, for he was really one of the best of the Munedoos of the early times.

"When the time came for him to leave his grandmother's wigwam he built one for himself, and then he asked Nokomis to prepare for him the sacred magical musical sticks which she alone could make. His grandmother made him four sticks, and with these he used to beat time when singing his queer songs. Some of them were very queer, and ended up with 'He! he! ho! ho! ha! ha! hi! hi!' Others were in reference to some special benefits he would confer on his uncles. In one of them, referring to his going to steal the fire for them, he sings:

"'Help to my uncles I'm bringing, Their sorrows I'll change into singing. From their enemies the fire I'll steal, That its warmth the children may feel.

"'Disguised will be Nanahboozhoo, That his work may the better be done; But his jolly deeds ever will tell who Has been sporting around in his fun.'

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse