THE BOOK OF NATURE MYTHS
BY FLORENCE HOLBROOK
PRINCIPAL OF FORESTVILLE SCHOOL, CHICAGO
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
BOSTON . NEW YORK . CHICAGO . DALLAS SAN FRANCISCO
The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT 1902 BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Riverside Press CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A
In preparing the Book of Nature Myths the desire has been to make a second reader which would be adapted to the child's interest, ability, and progress.
The subject-matter is of permanent value, culled from the folk-lore of the primitive races; the vocabulary, based upon that of the Hiawatha Primer, is increased gradually, and the new words and phrases will add to the child's power of expression. The naive explanations of the phenomena of nature given by the primitive races appeal to the child's wonder about the same phenomena, and he is pleased and interested. These myths will gratify the child's desire for complete stories, and their intrinsic merit makes them valuable for oral reproduction.
The stories have been adapted to youthful minds from myths contained in the works of many students of folk-lore whose scholarship is undisputed. Special acknowledgment is due Miss Eva March Tappan for her valuable assistance in the final revision of the text.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST HUMMING-BIRD.
Part I. The Great Fire-mountain 1
Part II. The Frolic of the Flames 4
Part III. The Bird of Flame 7
THE STORY OF THE FIRST BUTTERFLIES 10
THE STORY OF THE FIRST WOODPECKER 13
WHY THE WOODPECKER'S HEAD IS RED 15
WHY THE CAT ALWAYS FALLS UPON HER FEET 19
WHY THE SWALLOW'S TAIL IS FORKED 23
WHY THE WHITE HARES HAVE BLACK EARS 28
WHY THE MAGPIE'S NEST IS NOT WELL BUILT 31
WHY THE RAVEN'S FEATHERS ARE BLACK 34
HOW FIRE WAS BROUGHT TO THE INDIANS.
Part I. Seizing the Firebrand 36
Part II. The Firebrand in the Forest 40
Part III. The Firebrand in the Pond 41
HOW THE QUAIL BECAME A SNIPE 43
WHY THE SERPENT SHEDS HIS SKIN 47
WHY THE DOVE IS TIMID 50
WHY THE PARROT REPEATS THE WORDS OF MEN 52
THE STORY OF THE FIRST MOCKING-BIRD 56
WHY THE TAIL OF THE FOX HAS A WHITE TIP 60
THE STORY OF THE FIRST FROGS 64
WHY THE RABBIT IS TIMID 68
WHY THE PEETWEET CRIES FOR RAIN 70
WHY THE BEAR HAS A SHORT TAIL 72
WHY THE WREN FLIES CLOSE TO THE EARTH 76
WHY THE HOOFS OF THE DEER ARE SPLIT 79
THE STORY OF THE FIRST GRASSHOPPER 83
THE STORY OF THE ORIOLE 86
WHY THE PEACOCK'S TAIL HAS A HUNDRED EYES 89
THE STORY OF THE BEES AND THE FLIES 93
THE STORY OF THE FIRST MOLES 96
THE STORY OF THE FIRST ANTS 98
THE FACE OF THE MANITO 103
THE STORY OF THE FIRST DIAMONDS 107
THE STORY OF THE FIRST PEARLS 111
THE STORY OF THE FIRST EMERALDS 114
WHY THE EVERGREEN TREES NEVER LOSE THEIR LEAVES 118
WHY THE ASPEN LEAVES TREMBLE 122
HOW THE BLOSSOMS CAME TO THE HEATHER 125
HOW FLAX WAS GIVEN TO MEN 128
WHY THE JUNIPER HAS BERRIES 133
WHY THE SEA IS SALT 135
THE STORY OF THE FIRST WHITEFISH 138
WAS IT THE FIRST TURTLE? 142
WHY THE CROCODILE HAS A WIDE MOUTH 145
THE STORY OF THE PICTURE ON THE VASE 150
WHY THE WATER IN RIVERS IS NEVER STILL 155
HOW THE RAVEN HELPED MEN 160
THE STORY OF THE EARTH AND SKY 165
HOW SUMMER CAME TO THE EARTH.
Part I. 169
Part II. 172
THE STORY OF THE FIRST SNOWDROPS 175
WHY THE FACE OF THE MOON IS WHITE 179
WHY ALL MEN LOVE THE MOON 184
WHY THERE IS A HARE IN THE MOON 188
THE CHILDREN IN THE MOON 193
WHY THERE IS A MAN IN THE MOON 197
THE TWIN STARS 200
THE LANTERN AND THE FAN 204
THE BOOK OF NATURE MYTHS.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST HUMMING-BIRD.
PART I. THE GREAT FIRE-MOUNTAIN.
Long, long ago, when the earth was very young, two hunters were traveling through the forest. They had been on the track of a deer for many days, and they were now far away from the village where they lived. The sun went down and night came on. It was dark and gloomy, but over in the western sky there came a bright light.
"It is the moon," said one.
"No," said the other. "We have watched many and many a night to see the great, round moon rise above the trees. That is not the moon. Is it the northern lights?"
"No, the northern lights are not like this, and it is not a comet. What can it be?"
It is no wonder that the hunters were afraid, for the flames flared red over the sky like a wigwam on fire. Thick, blue smoke floated above the flames and hid the shining stars.
"Do the flames and smoke come from the wigwam of the Great Spirit?" asked one.
"I fear that he is angry with his children, and that the flames are his fiery war-clubs," whispered the other. No sleep came to their eyes. All night long they watched and wondered, and waited in terror for the morning.
When morning came, the two hunters were still watching the sky. Little by little they saw that there was a high mountain in the west where the light had been, and above the mountain floated a dark blue smoke. "Come," said one, "we will go and see what it is."
They walked and walked till they came close to the mountain, and then they saw fire shining through the seams of the rocks. "It is a mountain of fire," one whispered. "Shall we go on?" "We will," said the other, and they went higher and higher up the mountain. At last they stood upon its highest point. "Now we know the secret," they cried. "Our people will be glad when they hear this."
Swiftly they went home through the forest to their own village. "We have found a wonder," they cried. "We have found the home of the Fire Spirit. We know where she keeps her flames to help the Great Spirit and his children. It is a mountain of fire. Blue smoke rises above it night and day, for its heart is a fiery sea, and on the sea the red flames leap and dance. Come with us to the wonderful mountain of fire."
The people of the village had been cold in the winter nights, and they cried, "O brothers, your words are good. We will move our lodges to the foot of the magic mountain. We can light our wigwam fires from its flames, and we shall not fear that we shall perish in the long, cold nights of winter."
So the Indians went to live at the foot of the fire-mountain, and when the cold nights came, they said, "We are not cold, for the Spirit of Fire is our good friend, and she keeps her people from perishing."
PART II. THE FROLIC OF THE FLAMES.
For many and many a moon the people of the village lived at the foot of the great fire-mountain. On summer evenings, the children watched the light, and when a child asked, "Father, what makes it?" the father said, "That is the home of the Great Spirit of Fire, who is our good friend." Then all in the little village went to sleep and lay safely on their beds till the coming of the morning.
But one night when all the people in the village were asleep, the flames in the mountain had a great frolic. They danced upon the sea of fire as warriors dance the war-dance. They seized great rocks and threw them at the sky. The smoke above them hid the stars; the mountain throbbed and trembled. Higher and still higher sprang the dancing flames. At last, they leaped clear above the highest point of the mountain and started down it in a river of red fire. Then the gentle Spirit of Fire called, "Come back, my flames, come back again! The people in the village will not know that you are in a frolic, and they will be afraid."
The flames did not heed her words, and the river of fire ran on and on, straight down the mountain. The flowers in its pathway perished. It leaped upon great trees and bore them to the earth. It drove the birds from their nests, and they fluttered about in the thick smoke. It hunted the wild creatures of the forest from the thickets where they hid, and they fled before it in terror.
At last, one of the warriors in the village awoke. The thick smoke was in his nostrils. In his ears was the war-cry of the flames. He sprang to the door of his lodge and saw the fiery river leaping down the mountain. "My people, my people," he cried, "the flames are upon us!" With cries of fear the people in the village fled far away into the forest, and the flames feasted upon the homes they loved.
The two hunters went to look upon the mountain, and when they came back, they said sadly, "There are no flowers on the mountain. Not a bird-song did we hear. Not a living creature did we see. It is all dark and gloomy. We know the fire is there, for the blue smoke still floats up to the sky, but the mountain will never again be our friend."
PART III. THE BIRD OF FLAME
When the Great Spirit saw the work of the flames, he was very angry. "The fires of this mountain must perish," he said. "No longer shall its red flames light the midnight sky."
The mountain trembled with fear at the angry words of the Great Spirit. "O father of all fire and light," cried the Fire Spirit, "I know that the flames have been cruel. They killed the beautiful flowers and drove your children from their homes, but for many, many moons they heeded my words and were good and gentle. They drove the frost and cold of winter from the wigwams of the village. The little children laughed to see their red light in the sky. The hearts of your people will be sad, if the flames must perish from the earth."
The Great Spirit listened to the words of the gentle Spirit of Fire, but he answered, "The fires must perish. They have been cruel to my people, and the little children will fear them now; but because the children once loved them, the beautiful colors of the flames shall still live to make glad the hearts of all who look upon them."
Then the Great Spirit struck the mountain with his magic war-club. The smoke above it faded away; its fires grew cold and dead. In its dark and gloomy heart only one little flame still trembled. It looked like a star. How beautiful it was!
The Great Spirit looked upon the little flame. He saw that it was beautiful and gentle, and he loved it. "The fires of the mountain must perish," he said, "but you little, gentle flame, shall have wings and fly far away from the cruel fires, and all my children will love you as I do." Swiftly the little thing rose above the mountain and flew away in the sunshine. The light of the flames was still on its head; their marvelous colors were on its wings.
So from the mountain's heart of fire sprang the first humming-bird. It is the bird of flame, for it has all the beauty of the colors of the flame, but it is gentle, and every child in all the earth loves it and is glad to see it fluttering over the flowers.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST BUTTERFLIES.
The Great Spirit thought, "By and by I will make men, but first I will make a home for them. It shall be very bright and beautiful. There shall be mountains and prairies and forests, and about it all shall be the blue waters of the sea."
As the Great Spirit had thought, so he did. He gave the earth a soft cloak of green. He made the prairies beautiful with flowers. The forests were bright with birds of many colors, and the sea was the home of wonderful sea-creatures. "My children will love the prairies, the forests, and the seas," he thought, "but the mountains look dark and cold. They are very dear to me, but how shall I make my children go to them and so learn to love them?"
Long the Great Spirit thought about the mountains. At last, he made many little shining stones. Some were red, some blue, some green, some yellow, and some were shining with all the lovely colors of the beautiful rainbow. "All my children will love what is beautiful," he thought, "and if I hide the bright stones in the seams of the rocks of the mountains, men will come to find them, and they will learn to love my mountains."
When the stones were made and the Great Spirit looked upon their beauty, he said, "I will not hide you all away in the seams of the rocks. Some of you shall be out in the sunshine, so that the little children who cannot go to the mountains shall see your colors." Then the southwind came by, and as he went, he sang softly of forests flecked with light and shadow, of birds and their nests in the leafy trees. He sang of long summer days and the music of waters beating upon the shore. He sang of the moonlight and the starlight. All the wonders of the night, all the beauty of the morning, were in his song.
"Dear southwind," said the Great Spirit "here are some beautiful things for you to bear away with, you to your summer home. You will love them, and all the little children will love them." At these words of the Great Spirit, all the stones before him stirred with life and lifted themselves on many-colored wings. They fluttered away in the sunshine, and the southwind sang to them as they went.
So it was that the first butterflies came from a beautiful thought of the Great Spirit, and in their wings were all the colors of the shining stones that he did not wish to hide away.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST WOODPECKER.
In the days of long ago the Great Spirit came down from the sky and talked with men. Once as he went up and down the earth, he came to the wigwam of a woman. He went into the wigwam and sat down by the fire, but he looked like an old man, and the woman did not know who he was.
"I have fasted for many days," said the Great Spirit to the woman. "Will you give me some food?" The woman made a very little cake and put it on the fire. "You can have this cake," she said, "if you will wait for it to bake." "I will wait," he said.
When the cake was baked, the woman stood and looked at it. She thought, "It is very large. I thought it was small. I will not give him so large a cake as that." So she put it away and made a small one. "If you will wait, I will give you this when it is baked," she said, and the Great Spirit said, "I will wait."
When that cake was baked, it was larger than the first one. "It is so large that I will keep it for a feast," she thought. So she said to her guest, "I will not give you this cake, but if you will wait, I will make you another one." "I will wait," said the Great Spirit again.
Then the woman made another cake. It was still smaller than the others had been at first, but when she went to the fire for it, she found it the largest of all. She did not know that the Great Spirit's magic had made each cake larger, and she thought, "This is a marvel, but I will not give away the largest cake of all." So she said to her guest, "I have no food for you. Go to the forest and look there for your food. You can find it in the bark of the trees, if you will."
The Great Spirit was angry when he heard the words of the woman. He rose up from where he sat and threw back his cloak. "A woman must be good and gentle," he said, "and you are cruel. You shall no longer be a woman and live in a wigwam. You shall go out into the forest and hunt for your food in the bark of trees."
The Great Spirit stamped his foot on the earth, and the woman grew smaller and smaller. Wings started from her body and feathers grew upon her. With a loud cry she rose from the earth and flew away to the forest.
And to this day all woodpeckers live in the forest and hunt for their food in the bark of trees.
WHY THE WOODPECKER'S HEAD IS RED.
One day the woodpecker said to the Great Spirit, "Men do not like me. I wish they did."
The Great Spirit said, "If you wish men to love you, you must be good to them and help them. Then they will call you their friend."
"How can a little bird help a man?" asked the woodpecker.
"If one wishes to help, the day will come when he can help," said the Great Spirit. The day did come, and this story shows how a little bird helped a strong warrior.
There was once a cruel magician who lived in a gloomy wigwam beside the Black-Sea-Water. He did not like flowers, and they did not blossom in his pathway. He did not like birds, and they did not sing in the trees above him. The breath of his nostrils was fatal to all life. North, south, east, and west he blew the deadly fever that killed the women and the little children.
"Can I help them?" thought a brave warrior, and he said, "I will find the magician, and see if death will not come to him as he has made it come to others. I will go straightway to his home."
For many days the brave warrior was in his canoe traveling across the Black-Sea-Water. At last he saw the gloomy wigwam of the cruel magician. He shot an arrow at the door and called, "Come out, O coward! You have killed women and children with your fatal breath, but you cannot kill a warrior. Come out and fight, if you are not afraid."
The cruel magician laughed loud and long. "One breath of fever," he said, "and you will fall to the earth." The warrior shot again, and then the magician was angry. He did not laugh, but he came straight out of his gloomy lodge, and as he came, he blew the fever all about him.
Then was seen the greatest fight that the sun had ever looked upon. The brave warrior shot his flint-tipped arrows, but the magician had on his magic cloak, and the arrows could not wound him. He blew from his nostrils the deadly breath of fever, but the heart of the warrior was so strong that the fever could not kill him.
At last the brave warrior had but three arrows in his quiver. "What shall I do?" he said sadly. "My arrows are good and my aim is good, but no arrow can go through the magic cloak."
"Come on, come on," called the magician. "You are the man who wished to fight. Come on." Then a woodpecker in a tree above the brave warrior said softly, "Aim your arrow at his head, O warrior! Do not shoot at his heart, but at the crest of feathers on his head. He can be wounded there, but not in his heart."
The warrior was not so proud that he could not listen to a little bird. The magician bent to lift a stone, and an arrow flew from the warrior's bow. It buzzed and stung like a wasp. It came so close to the crest of feathers that the magician trembled with terror. Before he could run, another arrow came, and this one struck him right on his crest. His heart grew cold with fear. "Death has struck me," he cried.
"Your cruel life is over," said the warrior. "People shall no longer fear your fatal breath." Then he said to the woodpecker, "Little bird, you have been a good friend to me, and I will do all that I can for you." He put some of the red blood of the magician upon the little creature's head. It made the crest of feathers there as red as flame. "Whenever a man looks upon you," said the warrior, "he will say, 'That bird is our friend. He helped to kill the cruel magician.'"
The little woodpecker was very proud of his red crest because it showed that he was the friend of man, and all his children to this day are as proud as he was.
WHY THE CAT ALWAYS FALLS UPON HER FEET.
Some magicians are cruel, but others are gentle and good to all the creatures of the earth. One of these good magicians was one day traveling in a great forest. The sun rose high in the heavens, and he lay down at the foot of a tree. Soft, green moss grew all about him. The sun shining through the leaves made flecks of light and shadow upon the earth. He heard the song of the bird and the lazy buzz of the wasp. The wind rustled the leafy boughs above him. All the music of the forest lulled him to slumber, and he closed his eyes.
As the magician lay asleep, a great serpent came softly from the thicket. It lifted high its shining crest and saw the man at the foot of the tree. "I will kill him!" it hissed. "I could have eaten that cat last night if he had not called, 'Watch, little cat, watch!' I will kill him, I will kill him!"
Closer and closer the deadly serpent moved. The magician stirred in his sleep. "Watch, little cat, watch!" he said softly. The serpent drew back, but the magician's eyes were shut, and it went closer. It hissed its war-cry. The sleeping magician did not move. The serpent was upon him—no, far up in the high branches of the tree above his head the little cat lay hidden. She had seen the serpent when it came from the thicket.
She watched it as it went closer and closer to the sleeping man, and she heard it hiss its war-cry. The little cat's body quivered with anger and with fear, for she was so little and the serpent was so big. "The magician was very good to me," she thought, and she leaped down upon the serpent.
Oh, how angry the serpent was! It hissed, and the flames shot from its eyes. It struck wildly at the brave little cat, but now the cat had no fear. Again and again she leaped upon the serpent's head, and at last the creature lay dead beside the sleeping man whom it had wished to kill.
When the magician awoke, the little cat lay on the earth, and not far away was the dead serpent. He knew at once what the cat had done, and he said, "Little cat, what can I do to show you honor for your brave fight? Your eyes are quick to see, and your ears are quick to hear. You can run very swiftly. I know what I can do for you. You shall be known over the earth as the friend of man, and you shall always have a home in the home of man. And one thing more, little cat: you leaped from the high tree to kill the deadly serpent, and now as long as you live, you shall leap where you will, and you shall always fall upon your feet."
WHY THE SWALLOW'S TAIL IS FORKED.
This is the story of how the swallow's tail came to be forked.
One day the Great Spirit asked all the animals that he had made to come to his lodge. Those that could fly came first: the robin, the bluebird, the owl, the butterfly, the wasp, and the firefly. Behind them came the chicken, fluttering its wings and trying hard to keep up. Then came the deer, the squirrel, the serpent, the cat, and the rabbit. Last of all came the bear, the beaver, and the hedgehog. Every one traveled as swiftly as he could, for each wished to hear the words of the Great Spirit.
"I have called you together," said the Great Spirit, "because I often hear you scold and fret. What do you wish me to do for you? How can I help you?"
"I do not like to hunt so long for my food," said the bear.
"I do not like to build nests," said the bluebird.
"I do not like to live in the water," said the beaver.
"And I do not like to live in a tree," said the squirrel.
At last man stood erect before the Great Spirit and said, "O Great Father, the serpent feasts upon my blood. Will you not give him some other food?"
"And why?" asked the Great Spirit.
"Because I am the first of all the creatures you have made," answered man proudly.
Then every animal in the lodge was angry to hear the words of man. The squirrel chattered, the wasp buzzed, the owl hooted, and the serpent hissed.
"Hush, be still," said the Great Spirit. "You are, O man, the first of my creatures, but I am the father of all. Each one has his rights, and the serpent must have his food. Mosquito, you are a great traveler. Now fly away and find what creature's blood is best for the serpent. Do you all come back in a year and a day."
The animals straightway went to their homes. Some went to the river, some to the forest, and some to the prairie, to wait for the day when they must meet at the lodge of the Great Spirit.
The mosquito traveled over the earth and stung every creature that he met to find whose blood was the best for the serpent. On his way back to the lodge of the Great Spirit he looked up into the sky, and there was the swallow.
"Good-day, swallow," called the mosquito.
"I am glad to see you, my friend," sang the swallow. "Are you going to the lodge of the Great Spirit? And have you found out whose blood is best for the serpent?"
"The blood of man," answered the mosquito.
The mosquito did not like man, but the swallow had always been his friend. "What can I do to help man?" he thought. "Oh, I know what I can do." Then he asked the mosquito, "Whose blood did you say?"
"Man's blood," said the mosquito; "that is best."
"This is best," said the swallow, and he tore out the mosquito's tongue.
The mosquito buzzed angrily and went quickly to the Great Spirit.
"All the animals are here," said the Great Spirit. "They are waiting to hear whose blood is best for the serpent."
The mosquito tried to answer, "The blood of man," but he could not say a word. He could make no sound but "Kss-ksss-ksssss!"
"What do you say?"
"Kss-ksss-ksssss!" buzzed the mosquito angrily.
All the creatures wondered. Then said the swallow:—
"Great Father, the mosquito is timid and cannot answer you. I met him before we came, and he told me whose blood it was."
"Then let us know at once," said the Great Spirit.
"It is the blood of the frog," answered the swallow quickly. "Is it not so, friend mosquito?"
"Kss-ksss-ksssss!" hissed the angry mosquito.
"The serpent shall have the frog's blood," said the Great Spirit. "Man shall be his food no longer."
Now the serpent was angry with the swallow, for he did not like frog's blood. As the swallow flew near him, he seized him by the tail and tore away a little of it. This is why the swallow's tail is forked, and it is why man always looks upon the swallow as his friend.
WHY THE WHITE HARES HAVE BLACK EARS.
In the forest there is a beautiful spirit. All the beasts and all the birds are dear to him, and he likes to have them gentle and good. One morning he saw some of his little white hares fighting one another, and each trying to seize the best of the food.
"Oh, my selfish little hares," he said sadly, "why do you fight and try to seize the best of everything for yourselves? Why do you not live in love together?"
"Tell us a story and we will be good," cried the hares.
Then the spirit of the forest was glad. "I will tell you a story of how you first came to live on the green earth with the other animals," he said, "and why it is that you are white, and the other hares are not."
Then the little hares came close about the spirit of the forest, and sat very still to hear the story.
"Away up above the stars," the gentle spirit began, "the sky children were all together one snowy day. They threw snowflakes at one another, and some of the snowflakes fell from the sky. They came down swiftly between the stars and among the branches of the trees. At last they lay on the green earth. They were the first that had ever come to the earth, and no one knew what they were. The swallow asked, 'What are they?' and the butterfly answered, 'I do not know.' The spirit of the sky was listening, and he said, 'We call them snowflakes.'
"'I never heard of snowflakes. Are they birds or beasts?' asked the butterfly.
"'They are snowflakes,' answered the spirit of the sky, 'but they are magic snowflakes. Watch them closely.'
"The swallow and the butterfly watched. Every snowflake showed two bright eyes, then two long ears, then some soft feet, and there were the whitest, softest little hares that were ever seen."
"Were we the little white hares?" asked the listeners.
"You were the little white hares," answered the spirit, "and if you are gentle and good, you will always be white."
The hares were not gentle and good; they were fretful, and before long they were scolding and fighting again. The gentle spirit was angry. "I must get a firebrand and beat them with it," he said, "for they must learn to be good."
So the hares were beaten with the firebrand till their ears were black as night. Their bodies were still white, but if the spirit hears them scolding and fighting again, it may be that we shall see their bodies as black as their ears.
WHY THE MAGPIE'S NEST IS NOT WELL BUILT.
A long time ago all the birds met together to talk about building nests.
"Every Indian has a wigwam," said the robin, "and every bird needs a home."
"Indians have no feathers," said the owl, "and so they are cold without wigwams. We have feathers."
"I keep warm by flying swiftly," said the swallow.
"And I keep warm by fluttering my wings," said the humming-bird.
"By and by we shall have our little ones," said the robin. "They will have no feathers on their wings, so they cannot fly or flutter; and they will be cold. How shall we keep them warm if we have no nests?"
Then all the birds said, "We will build nests so that our little ones will be warm."
The birds went to work. One brought twigs, one brought moss, and one brought leaves. They sang together merrily, for they thought of the little ones that would some time come to live in the warm nests.
Now the magpie was lazy, and she sat still and watched the others at their work.
"Come and build your nest in the reeds and rushes," cried one bird, but the magpie said "No."
"My nest is on the branch of a tree," called another, "and it rocks like a child's cradle. Come and build beside it," but the magpie said "No."
Before long all the birds but the magpie had their nests built. The magpie cried, "I do not know how to build a nest. Will you not help me?"
The other birds were sorry for her and answered, "We will teach you." The black-bird said, "Put the twigs on this bough;" the robin said, "Put the leaves between the twigs;" and the humming-bird said, "Put this soft green moss over it all."
"I do not know how," cried the magpie.
"We are teaching you," said the other birds. But the magpie was lazy, and she thought, "If I do not learn, they will build a nest for me."
The other birds talked together. "She does not wish to learn," they said, "and we will not help her any longer." So they went away from her.
Then the magpie was sorry. "Come back," she called, "and I will learn." But by this time the other birds had eggs in their nests, and they were busy taking care of them, and had no time to teach the lazy magpie. This is why the magpie's nest is not well built.
WHY THE RAVEN'S FEATHERS ARE BLACK.
Long, long ago the raven's feathers were white as snow. He was a beautiful bird, but the other birds did not like him because he was a thief. When they saw him coming, they would hide away the things that they cared for most, but in some marvelous way he always found them and took them to his nest in the pine-tree.
One morning the raven heard a little bird singing merrily in a thicket. The leaves of the trees were dark green, and the little bird's yellow feathers looked like sunshine among them.
"I will have that bird," said the raven, and he seized the trembling little thing.
The yellow bird fluttered and cried, "Help, help! Will no one come and help me!"
The other birds happened to be far away, and not one heard her cries. "The raven will kill me," she called. "Help, help!"
Now hidden in the bark of a tree was a wood-worm.
"I am only a wood-worm," he said to himself, "and I cannot fly like a bird, but the yellow bird has been good to me, and I will do what I can to help her."
When the sun set, the raven went to sleep. Then the wood-worm made his way softly up the pine-tree to the raven's nest, and bound his feet together with grass and pieces of birch-bark.
"Fly away," whispered the wood-worm softly to the little yellow bird, "and come to see me by and by. I must teach the raven not to be cruel to the other birds."
The little yellow bird flew away, and the wood-worm brought twigs, and moss, and birch-bark, and grass, and put them around the tree. Then he set them all on fire. Up the great pine-tree went the flames, leaping from bough to bough.
"Fire! fire!" cried the raven. "Come and help me! My nest is on fire!"
The other birds were not sorry to see him flutter. "He is a thief," said they. "Let him be in the fire."
By and by the fire burned the grass and the pieces of birch-bark that fastened his feet together, and the raven flew away. He was not burned, but he could no longer be proud of his shining white feathers, for the smoke had made every one of them as black as night.
HOW FIRE WAS BROUGHT TO THE INDIANS.
PART I. SEIZING THE FIREBRAND.
Oh, it was so cold! The wind blew the leaves about on the ground. The frost spirit hid on the north side of every tree, and stung every animal of the forest that came near. Then the snow fell till the ground was white. Through the snowflakes one could see the sun, but the sun looked cold, for it was not a clear, bright yellow. It was almost as white as the moon.
The Indians drew their cloaks more and more closely around them, for they had no fire.
"How shall we get fire?" they asked, but no one answered.
All the fire on earth was in the wigwam of two old women who did not like the Indians.
"They shall not have it," said the old women, and they watched night and day so that no one could get a firebrand.
At last a young Indian said to the others, "No man can get fire. Let us ask the animals to help us."
"What beast or what bird can get fire when the two old women are watching it?" the others cried.
"The bear might get it."
"No, he cannot run swiftly."
"The deer can run."
"His antlers would not go through the door of the wigwam."
"The raven can go through the door."
"It was smoke that made the raven's feathers black, and now he always keeps away from the fire."
"The serpent has not been in the smoke."
"No, but he is not our friend, and he will not do anything for us."
"Then I will ask the wolf," said the young man. "He can run, he has no antlers, and he has not been in the smoke."
So the young man went to the wolf and called, "Friend wolf, if you will get us a firebrand, I will give you some food every day."
"I will get it," said the wolf. "Go to the home of the old women and hide behind a tree; and when you hear me cough three times, give a loud war-cry."
Close by the village of the Indians was a pond. In the pond was a frog, and near the pond lived a squirrel, a bat, a bear, and a deer. The wolf cried, "Frog, hide in the rushes across the pond. Squirrel, go to the bushes beside the path that runs from the pond to the wigwam of the two old women. Bat, go into the shadow and sleep if you like, but do not close both eyes. Bear, do not stir from behind this great rock till you are told. Deer, keep still as a mountain till something happens."
The wolf then went to the wigwam of the two old women. He coughed at the door, and at last they said, "Wolf, you may come in to the fire."
The wolf went into the wigwam. He coughed three times, and the Indian gave a war-cry. The two old women ran out quickly into the forest to see what had happened, and the wolf ran away with a firebrand from the fire.
PART II. THE FIREBRAND IN THE FOREST.
When the two women saw that the wolf had the firebrand, they were very angry, and straightway they ran after him.
"Catch it and run!" cried the wolf, and he threw it to the deer. The deer caught it and ran.
"Catch it and run!" cried the deer, and he threw it to the bear. The bear caught it and ran.
"Catch it and fly!" cried the bear, and he threw it to the bat. The bat caught it and flew.
"Catch it and run!" cried the bat, and he threw it to the squirrel. The squirrel caught it and ran.
"Oh, serpent," called the two old women, "you are no friend to the Indians. Help us. Get the firebrand away from the squirrel."
As the squirrel ran swiftly over the ground, the serpent sprang up and tried to seize the firebrand. He did not get it, but the smoke went into the squirrel's nostrils and made him cough. He would not let go of the firebrand, but ran and ran till he could throw it to the frog.
When the frog was running away with it, then the squirrel for the first time thought of himself, and he found that his beautiful bushy tail was no longer straight, for the fire had curled it up over his back.
"Do not be sorry," called the young Indian across the pond. "Whenever an Indian boy sees a squirrel with his tail curled up over his back, he will throw him a nut."
PART III. THE FIREBRAND IN THE POND.
All this time the firebrand was burning, and the frog was going to the pond as fast as he could. The old women were running after him, and when he came to the water, one of them caught him by the tail.
"I have caught him!" she called.
"Do not let him go!" cried the other.
"No, I will not," said the first; but she did let him go, for the little frog tore himself away and dived into the water. His tail was still in the woman's hand, but the firebrand was safe, and he made his way swiftly across the pond.
"Here it is," said the frog.
"Where?" asked the young Indian. Then the frog coughed, and out of his mouth came the firebrand. It was small, for it had been burning all this time, but it set fire to the leaves and twigs, and soon the Indians were warm again. They sang and they danced about the flames.
At first the frog was sad, because he was sorry to lose his tail; but before long he was as merry as the people who were dancing, for the young Indian said, "Little frog, you have been a good friend to us, and as long as we live on the earth, we will never throw a stone at a frog that has no tail."
HOW THE QUAIL BECAME A SNIPE.
"It is lonely living in this great tree far away from the other birds," said the owl to herself. "I will get some one to come and live with me. The quail has many children, and I will ask her for one of them."
The owl went to the quail and said, "Will you let me have one of your children to come and live with me?"
"Live with you? No," answered the quail. "I would as soon let my child live with the serpent. You are hidden in the tree all day long, and when it is dark, you come down like a thief and catch little animals that are fast asleep in their nests. You shall never have one of my children."
"I will have one," thought the owl.
She waited till the night had come. It was dark and gloomy, for the moon was not to be seen, and not a star twinkled in the sky. Not a leaf stirred, and not a ripple was on the pond. The owl crept up to the quail's home as softly as she could. The young birds were chattering together, and she listened to their talk.
"My mother is gone a long time," said one. "It is lonely, and I am afraid."
"What is there to be afraid of?" asked another. "You are a little coward. Shut your eyes and go to sleep. See me! I am not afraid, if it is dark and gloomy. Oh, oh!" cried the boaster, for the owl had seized him and was carrying him away from home and his little brothers.
When the mother quail came home, she asked, "Where is your brother?" The little quails did not know. All they could say was that something had seized him in the darkness and taken him away.
"It crept up to the nest in the dark," said one.
"And oh, mother, never, never go away from us again!" cried another. "Do not leave us at home all alone."
"But, my dear little ones," the mother said, "how could you have any food if I never went away from our home?"
The mother quail was very sad, and she would have been still more sorrowful if she had known what was happening to her little son far away in the owl's nest. The cruel owl had pulled and pulled on the quail's bill and legs, till they were so long that his mother would not have known him.
One night the mole came to the quail and said, "Your little son is in the owl's nest."
"How do you know?" asked the quail.
"I cannot see very well," answered the mole, "but I heard him call, and I know that he is there."
"How shall I get him away from the owl?" the quail asked the mole.
"The owl crept up to your home in the dark," said the mole, "but you must go to her nest at sunrise when the light shines in her eyes and she cannot see you."
At sunrise the quail crept up to the owl's nest and carried away her dear little son to his old home. As the light grew brighter, she saw what had happened to him. His bill and his legs were so long that he did not look like her son.
"He is not like our brother," said the other little quails.
"That is because the cruel owl that carried him away has pulled his bill and his legs," answered the mother sorrowfully. "You must be very good to him."
But the other little quails were not good to him. They laughed at him, and the quail with the long bill and legs was never again merry and glad with them. Before long he ran away and hid among the great reeds that stand in the water and on the shores of the pond.
"I will not be called quail," he said to himself, "for quails never have long bills and legs. I will have a new name, and it shall be snipe. I like the sound of that name."
So it was that the bird whose name was once quail came to be called snipe. His children live among the reeds of the pond, and they, too, are called snipes.
WHY THE SERPENT SHEDS HIS SKIN.
The serpent is the grandfather of the owl, and once upon a time if the owl needed help, she would say, "My grandfather will come and help me," but now he never comes to her. This story tells why.
When the owl carried away the little quail, she went to the serpent and said, "Grandfather, you will not tell the quail that I have her son, will you?"
"No," answered the serpent, "I will keep your secret. I will not whisper it to any one." So when the mother quail asked all the animals, "Can you tell me who has carried away my little son?" the serpent answered, "I have been sound asleep. How could I know?"
After the quail had become a snipe and had gone to live in the marsh among the reeds, the cruel owl looked everywhere for him, and at last she saw him standing beside a great stone in the water.
She went to the serpent and said, "Grandfather, will you do something for me?"
"I will," hissed the serpent softly, "What is it?"
"Only to take a drink of water," answered the owl. "Come and drink all the water in the marsh, and then I can catch the quail that I made into a snipe."
The serpent drank and drank, but still there was water in the marsh.
"Why do you not drink faster?" cried the owl. "I shall never get the snipe."
The serpent drank till he could drink no more, and still the water stood in the marsh. The owl could not see well by day, and the serpent could not see above the reeds and rushes, so they did not know that the water from the pond was coming into the marsh faster than the serpent could drink it.
Still the serpent drank, and at last his skin burst.
"Oh," he cried, "my skin has burst. Help me to fasten it together."
"My skin never bursts," said the owl. "If you will drink the water from the marsh, I will help you, but I will not fasten any skin together till I get that snipe."
The serpent had done all that he could to help the owl, and now he was angry. He was afraid, too, for he did not know what would happen to him, and he lay on the ground trembling and quivering. It was not long before his old skin fell off, and then he saw that under it was a beautiful new one, all bright and shining. He sheds his old skin every year now, but never again has he done anything to help the owl.
WHY THE DOVE IS TIMID.
A spirit called the manito always watches over the Indians. He is glad when they are brave, but if they are cowardly, he is angry.
One day when the manito was walking under the pine-trees, he heard a cry of terror in the forest.
"What is that?" said he. "Can it be that any of my Indian children are afraid?"
As he stood listening, an Indian boy came running from the thicket, crying in fear.
"What are you afraid of?" asked the manito.
"My mother told me to go into the forest with my bow and arrows and shoot some animal for food," said the boy.
"That is what all Indian boys must do," said the manito. "Why do you not do as she said?"
"Oh, the great bear is in the forest, and I am afraid of him!"
"Afraid of Hoots?" asked the manito. "An Indian boy must never be afraid."
"But Hoots will eat me, I know he will," cried the boy. "Boo-hoo, boo-hoo!"
"A boy must be brave," said the manito, "and I will not have a coward among my Indians. You are too timid ever to be a warrior, and so you shall be a bird. Whenever Indian boys look at you, they will say, 'There is the boy who was afraid of Hoots.'"
The boy's cloak of deerskin fell off, and feathers came out all over his body. His feet were no longer like a boy's feet, they were like the feet of a bird. His bow and arrows fell upon the grass, for he had no longer any hands with which to hold them. He tried to call to his mother, but the only sound he could make was "Hoo, hoo!"
"Now you are a dove," said the manito, "and a dove you shall be as long as you live. You shall always be known as the most timid of birds."
Again the dove that had once been a boy tried to call, but he only said, "Hoo, hoo!"
"That is the only sound you will ever make," said the manito, "and when the other boys hear it, they will say, 'Listen! He was afraid of Hoots, the bear, and that is why he says Hoo, hoo!'"
WHY THE PARROT REPEATS THE WORDS OF MEN.
In the olden times when the earth was young, all the birds knew the language of men and could talk with them. Everybody liked the parrot, because he always told things as they were, and they called him the bird that tells the truth.
This bird that always told the truth lived with a man who was a thief, and one night the man killed another man's ox and hid its flesh.
When the other man came to look for it in the morning, he asked the thief, "Have you seen my ox?"
"No, I have not seen it," said the man.
"Is that the truth?" the owner asked.
"Yes, it is. I have not seen the ox," repeated the man.
"Ask the parrot," said one of the villagers. "He always tells the truth."
"O bird of truth," said they to the parrot, "did this man kill an ox and hide its flesh?"
"Yes, he did," answered the parrot.
The thief knew well that the villagers would punish him the next day, if he could not make them think that the parrot did not always tell the truth.
"I have it," he said to himself at last. "I know what I can do."
When night came he put a great jar over the parrot. Then he poured water upon the jar and struck it many times with a tough piece of oak. This he did half the night. Then he went to bed and was soon fast asleep.
In the morning the men came to punish him.
"How do you know that I killed the ox?" he asked.
"Because the bird of truth says that you did," they answered.
"The bird of truth!" he cried. "That parrot is no bird of truth. He will not tell the truth even about what happened last night. Ask him if the moon was shining."
"Did the moon shine last night?" the men asked.
"No," answered the parrot. "There was no moon, for the rain fell, and there was a great storm in the heavens. I heard the thunder half the night."
"This bird has always told the truth before," said the villagers, "but there was no storm last night and the moon was bright. What shall we do to punish the parrot?" they asked the thief.
"I think we will no longer let him live in our homes," answered the thief.
"Yes," said the others, "he must fly away to the forest, and even when there is a storm, he can no longer come to our homes, because we know now that he is a bird of a lying tongue."
So the parrot flew away sorrowfully into the lonely forest. He met a mocking-bird and told him what had happened.
"Why did you not repeat men's words as I do?" asked the mocking-bird. "Men always think their own words are good."
"But the man's words were not true," said the parrot.
"That is nothing," replied the mocking-bird, laughing. "Say what they say, and they will think you are a wonderful bird."
"Yes, I see," said the parrot thoughtfully, "and I will never again be punished for telling the truth. I will only repeat the words of others."
THE STORY OF THE FIRST MOCKING-BIRD.
Far away in the forest there once lived the most cruel man on all the earth. He did not like the Indians, and he said to himself, "Some day I will be ruler of them all." Then he thought, "There are many brave warriors among the Indians, and I must first put them to death."
He was cunning as well as cruel, and he soon found a way to kill the warriors. He built some wigwams and made fires before them as if people lived in each one.
One day a hunter on his way home heard a baby crying in one of the wigwams. He went in, but he never came out again. Another day a hunter heard a child laughing. He went in, but he never came out again. So it was day after day. One hunter heard a woman talking, and went to see who it was; another heard a man calling to people in the other wigwams, and went to see who they were; and no one who once went into a wigwam ever came out.
One young brave had heard the voices, but he feared there was magic about them, and so he had never gone into the wigwams; but when he saw that his friends did not come back, he went to the wigwams and called, "Where are all the people that I have heard talk and laugh?"
"Talk and laugh," said the cunning man mockingly.
"Where are they? Do you know?" cried the brave, and the cunning man called, "Do you know?" and laughed.
"Whose voices have I heard?"
"Have I heard?" mocked the cunning man.
"I heard a baby cry."
"Cry," said the cunning man.
"Who is with you?"
Then the young brave was angry. He ran into the first wigwam, and there he found the man who had cried like a baby and talked in a voice like a woman's and made all the other sounds. The brave caught him by the leg and threw him down upon the earth.
"It was you who cried and talked and laughed," he said. "I heard your voice and now you are going to be punished for killing our braves. Where is my brother, and where are our friends?"
"How do I know?" cried the man. "Ask the sun or the moon or the fire if you will, but do not ask me;" and all the time he was trying to pull the young brave into the flames.
"I will ask the fire," said the brave. "Fire, you are a good friend to us Indians. What has this cruel man done with our warriors?"
The fire had no voice, so it could not answer, but it sprang as far away from the hunter as it could, and there where the flames had been he saw two stone arrowheads.
"I know who owned the two arrowheads," said the brave. "You have thrown my friends into your fire. Now I will do to you what you have done to them."
He threw the cunning man into the fire. His head burst into two pieces, and from between them a bird flew forth. Its voice was loud and clear, but it had no song of its own. It could only mock the songs of other birds, and that is why it is called the mocking-bird.
WHY THE TAIL OF THE FOX HAS A WHITE TIP.
"I must have a boy to watch my sheep and my cows," thought an old woman, and so she went out to look for a boy. She looked first in the fields and then in the forest, but nowhere could she find a boy. As she was walking down the path to her home, she met a bear.
"Where are you going?" asked the bear.
"I am looking for a boy to watch my cows and my sheep," she answered.
"Will you have me?"
"Yes, if you know how to call my animals gently."
"Ugh, ugh," called the bear. He tried to call softly, but he had always growled before, and now he could do nothing but growl.
"No, no," said the old woman, "your voice is too loud. Every cow in the field would run, and every sheep would hide, if you should growl like that. I will not have you."
Then the old woman went on till she met a wolf.
"Where are you going, grandmother?" he asked.
"I am looking for a boy to watch my cows and my sheep," she answered.
"Will you have me?" asked the wolf.
"Yes," she said, "if you know how to call my animals gently."
"Ho-y, ho-y," called the wolf.
"Your voice is too high," said the old woman. "My cows and my sheep would tremble whenever they heard it. I will not have you."
Then the old woman went on till she met a fox.
"I am so glad to meet you," said the fox. "Where are you going this bright morning?"
"I am going home now," she said, "for I cannot find a boy to watch my cows and my sheep. The bear growls and the wolf calls in too high a voice. I do not know what I can do, for I am too old to watch cows and sheep."
"Oh, no," said the cunning fox, "you are not old, but any one as beautiful as you must not watch sheep in the fields. I shall be very glad to do the work for you if you will let me."
"I know that my sheep will like you," said she.
"And I know that I shall like them dearly," said the fox.
"Can you call them gently, Mr. Fox?" she asked.
"Del-dal-halow, del-dal-halow," called the fox, in so gentle a voice that it was like a whisper.
"That is good, Mr. Fox," said the old woman. "Come home with me, and I will take you to the fields where my animals go."
Each day one of the cows or one of the sheep was gone when the fox came home at night. "Mr. Fox, where is my cow?" the old woman would ask, or, "Mr. Fox, where is my sheep?" and the fox would answer with a sorrowful look, "The bear came out of the woods, and he has eaten it," or, "The wolf came running through the fields, and he has eaten it."
The old woman was sorry to lose her sheep and her cows, but she thought, "Mr. Fox must be even more sorry than I. I will go out to the field and carry him a drink of cream."
She went to the field, and there stood the fox with the body of a sheep, for it was he who had killed and eaten every one that was gone. When he saw the old woman coming, he started to run away.
"You cruel, cunning fox!" she cried.
She had nothing to throw at him but the cream, so she threw that. It struck the tip of his tail, and from that day to this, the tip of the fox's tail has been as white as cream.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST FROG.
Once upon a time there was a man who had two children, a boy and a girl, whom he treated cruelly. The boy and the girl talked together one day, and the boy, Wah-wah-hoo, said to his sister, "Dear little sister, are you happy with our father?"
"No," answered the girl, whose name was Hah-hah. "He scolds me and beats me, and I can never please him."
"He was angry with me this morning," said the boy, "and he beat me till the blood came. See there!"
"Let us run away," said Hah-hah. "The beasts and the birds will be good to us. They really love us, and we can be very happy together."
That night the two children ran away from their cruel father. They went far into the forest, and at last they found a wigwam in which no one lived.
When the father found that Wah-wah-hoo and his sister were gone, he was very unhappy. He went out into the forest to see if he could find them. "If they would only come again," he said aloud, "I would do everything I could to please them."
"Do you think he tells the truth?" asked the wolf.
"I do not know," answered the mosquito. "He never treated them well when they were with him."
"Wolf," called the father, "will you tell me where my children are?"
Wah-wah-hoo had once told the wolf when a man was coming to shoot him, and so the wolf would not tell where they were.
"Mosquito," said the father, "where are my children?"
Hah-hah had once helped the mosquito to go home when the wind was too strong for him, and so the mosquito would not tell.
For a long time Wah-wah-hoo and his sister were really happy in the forest, for there was no one to scold them and to beat them, but at last there was a cold, cold winter. All the earth was covered with snow. The animals had gone, and Wah-wah-hoo could find no food. Death came and bore away the gentle Hah-hah. Wah-wah-hoo sat alone in the gloomy wigwam wailing for his sister. Then in his sadness he threw himself down from a high mountain and was killed.
All this time the father had been looking for his children, and at last he saw his son lying at the foot of the mountain. Then he too wailed and cried aloud, for he was really sorry that he had treated them so cruelly. He was a magician, and he could make his son live, but he could not make him a boy again.
"You shall be a frog," said he, "and you shall make your home in the marsh with the reeds and the rushes. There you shall wail as loud as you will for your sister, and once every moon I will come and wail for her with you. I was cruel to you and to her, and so I must live alone in my gloomy wigwam."
Every summer night one can hear the frog in the marsh wailing for his dear sister Hah-hah. Sometimes a louder voice is heard, and that is the voice of the father wailing because he was so cruel.
WHY THE RABBIT IS TIMID.
One night the moon looked down from the sky upon the people on the earth and said to herself, "How sorrowful they look! I wish I knew what troubles them. The stars and I are never sad, and I do not see why men should be troubled." She listened closely, and she heard the people say, "How happy we should be if death never came to us. Death is always before us."
The path of the moon lies across the sky, and she could not leave it to go to the earth, but she called the white rabbit and said, "Rabbit, should you be afraid to go down to the earth?"
"No," answered the rabbit, "I am not afraid."
"The people on the earth are troubled because death is before them. Now will you go to them and whisper, 'The moon dies every night. You can see it go down into the darkness, but when another night comes, then the moon rises again,'—can you remember to tell them that?"
"Yes," said the rabbit, "I will remember."
"Say this," said the moon: "'The moon dies, but the moon rises again, and so will you.'"
The rabbit was so glad to go to the earth that he danced and leaped and sprang and frolicked, but when he tried to tell the people what the moon had said, he could not remember, and he said, "The moon says that she dies and will not rise again, and so you will die and will not rise again."
The moon saw that the people were still troubled, and she called the rabbit and asked what he had said to them.
"I said that as you die and do not rise, so they too will die and not rise," said the rabbit.
"You did not try to remember, and you must be punished," said the moon, and she fired an arrow tipped with flint at the rabbit.
The arrow struck the rabbit's lip and split it. From that time every rabbit has had a split lip. The rabbit was afraid of the moon, and he was afraid of the people on the earth. He had been brave before, but now he is the most timid of animals, for he is afraid of everything and everybody.
WHY THE PEETWEET CRIES FOR RAIN.
"Come to me, every bird that flies," said the Great Father. "There is work to be done that only my birds can do."
The birds were happy that they could do something to please the Great Father, for they remembered how good he had always been to them. They flew to him eagerly to ask what they should do for him. "O Great Father," they sang all together, "tell us what we can do for you."
"The waters that I have made know not where to go," said the Father. "Some should go to the seas, some should go to the lakes in the hollows among the mountains, and some should make rivers that will dance over the rocks and through the fields on their way to the sea."
"And can even as small a bird as I show them where to go?" asked the sparrow eagerly.
"Yes," said the Father, "even my little humming-bird can help me."
Every bird that flies had come to the Father, but the peetweet had come last because he was lazy.
"I do not really wish to fly all over the earth," said he, "to show the waters where to go."
"Oh, I wish I were a bird," said a butterfly. "I should be so glad to do something for the Father."
But the peetweet went on, "I should think the lakes could find their way into the hollows of the mountains by themselves."
The Father heard the lazy peetweet, and he said, "Do you not wish to show the waters where to go?"
"They never showed me where to go," said the lazy bird. "I am not thirsty. Let whoever is thirsty and needs the water help the lakes and rivers."
The other birds all stood still in wonder. "He will be punished," they whispered.
"Yes, he must be punished," said the Father sadly. Then said he to the lazy peetweet, "Never again shall you drink of the water that is in river or lake. When you are thirsty, you must look for a hollow in the rock where the rain has fallen, and there only shall you drink."
That is why the peetweet flies over river and lake, but ever cries eagerly, "Peet-weet, peet-weet!" for that is his word for "Rain, rain!"
WHY THE BEAR HAS A SHORT TAIL.
One cold morning when the fox was coming up the road with some fish, he met the bear.
"Good-morning, Mr. Fox," said the bear.
"Good-morning, Mr. Bear," said the fox. "The morning is brighter because I have met you."
"Those are very good fish, Mr. Fox," said the bear. "I have not eaten such fish for many a day. Where do you find them?"
"I have been fishing, Mr. Bear," answered the fox.
"If I could catch such fish as those, I should like to go fishing, but I do not know how to fish."
"It would be very easy for you to learn, Mr. Bear," said the fox. "You are so big and strong that you can do anything."
"Will you teach me, Mr. Fox?" asked the bear.
"I would not tell everybody, but you are such a good friend that I will teach you. Come to this pond, and I will show you how to fish through the ice."
So the fox and the bear went to the frozen pond, and the fox showed the bear how to make a hole in the ice.
"That is easy for you," said the fox, "but many an animal could not have made that hole. Now comes the secret. You must put your tail down into the water and keep it there. That is not easy, and not every animal could do it, for the water is very cold; but you are a learned animal, Mr. Bear, and you know that the secret of catching fish is to keep your tail in the water a long time. Then when you pull it up, you will pull with it as many fish as I have."
The bear put his tail down into the water, and the fox went away. The sun rose high in the heavens, and still the bear sat with his tail through the hole in the ice. Sunset came, but still the bear sat with his tail through the hole in the ice, for he thought, "When an animal is really learned, he will not fear a little cold."
It began to be dark, and the bear said, "Now I will pull the fish out of the water. How good they will be!" He pulled and pulled, but not a fish came out. Worse than that, not all of his tail came out, for the end of it was frozen fast to the ice.
He went slowly down the road, growling angrily, "I wish I could find that fox;" but the cunning fox was curled up in his warm nest, and whenever he thought of the bear he laughed.
WHY THE WREN FLIES CLOSE TO THE EARTH.
One day when the birds were all together, one of them said, "I have been watching men, and I saw that they had a king. Let us too have a king."
"Why?" asked the others.
"Oh, I do not know, but men have one."
"Which bird shall it be? How shall we choose a king?"
"Let us choose the bird that flies farthest," said one.
"No, the bird that flies most swiftly."
"The most beautiful bird."
"The bird that sings best."
"The strongest bird."
The owl sat a little way off on a great oak-tree. He said nothing, but he looked so wise that all the birds cried, "Let us ask the owl to choose for us."
"The bird that flies highest should be our king," said the owl with a wiser look than before, and the others said, "Yes, we will choose the bird that flies highest."
The wren is very small, but she cried even more eagerly than the others, "Let us choose the bird that flies highest," for she said to herself, "They think the owl is wise, but I am wiser than he, and I know which bird can fly highest."
Then the birds tried their wings. They flew high, high up above the earth, but one by one they had to come back to their homes. It was soon seen which could fly highest, for when all the others had come back, there was the eagle rising higher and higher.
"The eagle is our king," cried the birds on the earth, and the eagle gave a loud cry of happiness. But look! A little bird had been hidden in the feathers on the eagle's back, and when the eagle had gone as high as he could, the wren flew up from his back still higher.
"Now which bird is king?" cried the wren. "The one that flew highest should be king, and I flew highest."
The eagle was angry, but not a word did he say, and the two birds came down to the earth together.
"I am the king," said the wren, "for I flew higher than the eagle." The other birds did not know which of the two to choose. At last they went to the oak-tree and asked the owl. He looked to the east, the west, the south, and the north, and then he said, "The wren did not fly at all, for she was carried on the eagle's back. The eagle is king, for he not only flew highest, but carried the wren on his back."
"Good, good!" cried the other birds. "The owl is the wisest bird that flies. We will do as he says, and the eagle shall be our king." The wren crept away. She thought she was wise before, but now she is really wise, for she always flies close to the earth, and never tries to do what she cannot.
WHY THE HOOFS OF THE DEER ARE SPLIT.
The manito of the Indians taught them how to do many things. He told them how to build wigwams, and how to hunt and to fish. He showed them how to make jars in which to keep food and water. When little children came to be with them, it was the manito who said, "See, this is the way to make soft, warm cradles for the babies."
The good spirit often comes down from his happy home in the sky to watch the Indians at their work. When each man does as well as he can, the manito is pleased, but if an Indian is lazy or wicked, the spirit is angry, and the Indian is always punished in one way or another.
One day when the manito was walking in the forest, he said to himself, "Everything is good and happy. The green leaves are whispering merrily together, the waves are lapping on the shore and laughing, the squirrels are chattering and laying up their food for winter. Everything loves me, and the colors of the flowers are brighter when I lay my hand upon them."
Then the manito heard a strange sound. "I have not often heard that," said he. "I do not like it. Some one in the forest has wicked thoughts in his heart."
Beside a great rock he saw a man with a knife.
"What are you doing with the knife?" asked the manito.
"I am throwing it away," answered the man.
"Tell me the truth," said the manito.
"I am sharpening it," replied the man.
"That is strange," said the manito, "You have food in your wigwam. Why should you sharpen a knife?"
The man could not help telling the truth to the manito, and so he answered, but greatly against his will, "I am sharpening the knife to kill the wicked animals."
"Which animal is wicked?" asked the manito. "Which one does you harm?"
"Not one does me harm," said the man, "but I do not like them. I will make them afraid of me, and I will kill them."
"You are a cruel, wicked man," said the manito. "The animals have done you no harm, and you do not need them for food. You shall no longer be a man. You shall be a deer, and be afraid of every man in the forest."
The knife fell from the man's hand and struck his foot. He leaped and stamped, but the knife only went in deeper. He cried aloud, but his voice sounded strange. His hands were no longer hands, but feet. Antlers grew from his head, and his whole body was not that of a man, but that of a deer. He runs in the forest as he will, but whenever he sees a man, he is afraid. His hoofs are split because the knife that he had made so sharp fell upon his foot when he was a man; and whenever he looks at them, he has to remember that it was his own wickedness which made him a deer.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST GRASSHOPPER.
In a country that is far away there once lived a young man called Tithonus. He was strong and beautiful. Light of heart and light of foot, he hunted the deer or danced and sang the livelong day. Every one who saw him loved him, but the one that loved him most was a goddess named Aurora.
Every goddess had her own work, but the work of Aurora was most beautiful of all, for she was the goddess of the morning. It was she who went out to meet the sun and to light up his pathway. She watched over the flowers, and whenever they saw her coming, their colors grew brighter. She loved everything beautiful, and that is why she loved Tithonus.
"Many a year have I roamed through this country," she said to herself, "but never have I seen such bright blue eyes as those. O fairest of youths," she cried, "who are you? Some name should be yours that sounds like the wind in the pine trees, or like the song of a bird among the first blossoms."
The young man fell upon his knees before her. "I know well," said he, "that you are no maiden of the earth. You are a goddess come down to us from the skies. I am but a hunter, and I roam through the forest looking for deer."
"Come with me, fairest of hunters," said Aurora. "Come with me to the home of my father. You shall live among my brothers and hunt with them, or go with me at the first brightness of the morning to carry light and gladness to the flowers."
So it was that Tithonus went away from his own country and his own home to live in the home of Aurora.
For a long time they were happy together, but one day Aurora said, "Tithonus, I am a goddess, and so I am immortal, but some day death will bear you away from me. I will ask the father of the gods that you too may be immortal."
Then Aurora went to the king of the gods and begged that he would make Tithonus immortal.
"Sometimes people are not pleased even when I have given them what they ask," replied the king, "so think well before you speak."
"I have only one wish," said Aurora, "and it is that Tithonus, the fairest of youths, shall be immortal."
"You have your wish," said the king of the gods, and again Tithonus and Aurora roamed happily together through forest and field.
One day Tithonus asked, "My Aurora, why is it that I cannot look straight into your eyes as once I did?" Another day he said, "My Aurora, why is it that I cannot put my hand in yours as once I did?"
Then the goddess wept sorrowfully. "The king of the gods gave me what I asked for," she wailed, "and I begged that you should be immortal. I did not remember to ask that you should be always young."
Everyday Tithonus grew older and smaller. "I am no longer happy in your father's home," he said, "with your brothers who are as beautiful and as strong as I was when I first saw you. Let me go back to my own country. Let me be a bird or an insect and live in the fields where we first roamed together. Let me go, dearest goddess."
"You shall do as you will," replied Aurora sadly. "You shall be a grasshopper, and whenever I hear the grasshopper's clear, merry song, I shall remember the happy days when we were together."
THE STORY OF THE ORIOLE.
The king of the north once said to himself, "I am master of the country of ice and snow, but what is that if I cannot be ruler of the land of sunshine and flowers? I am no king if I fear the king of the south. The northwind shall bear my icy breath. Bird and beast shall quiver and tremble with cold. I myself will call in the voice of the thunder, and this ruler of the south, his king of summer, shall yield to my power."
The land of the south was ever bright and sunny, but all at once the sky grew dark, and the sun hid himself in fear. Black storm-clouds came from the north. An icy wind blew over the mountains. It wrestled with the trees of the southland, and even the oaks could not stand against its power. Their roots were tough and strong, but they had to yield, and the fallen trees lay on the earth and wailed in sorrow as the cruel storm-wind and rain beat upon them. The thunder growled in the hollows of the mountains, and in the fearful gloom came the white fire of the forked lightning, flaring through the clouds.
"We shall perish," cried the animals of the sunny south. "The arrows of the lightning are aimed at us. O dear ruler of the southland, must we yield to the cruel master of the north?"
"My king," said a little buzzing voice, "may I go out and fight the wicked master of the storm-wind?"
The thunder was still for a moment, and a mocking laugh was heard from among the clouds, for it was a little hornet that had asked to go out and meet the power of the ruler of the north.
"Dear king, may I go?" repeated the hornet.
"Yes, you may go," said the king of the south, and the little insect went out alone, and bravely stung the master of the storm-wind.
The king of the north struck at him with a war-club, but the hornet only flew above his head and stung him again. The hornet was too small to be struck by the arrows of the lightning. He stung again and again, and at last the king of the north went back to his own country, and drove before him the thunder and lightning and rain and the black storm-clouds and the icy wind.
"Brave little hornet," said the king of the south, "tell me what I can do for you. You shall have whatever you ask."
Then said the little hornet, "My king, on all the earth no one loves me. I do not wish to harm people, but they fear my sting, and they will not let me live beside their homes. Will you make men love me?"
"Little hornet," said the king gently, "you shall no longer be a stinging insect feared by men. You shall be a bright and happy oriole, and when men see you, they will say, 'See the beautiful oriole. I shall be glad if he will build his nest on our trees.'"
So the hornet is now an oriole, a bird that is loved by every one. His nest looks like that of a hornet because he learned how to build his home before he became an oriole.
WHY THE PEACOCK'S TAIL HAS A HUNDRED EYES.
Juno, queen of the gods, had the fairest cow that any one ever saw. She was creamy white, and her eyes were of as soft and bright a blue as those of any maiden in the world. Juno and the king of the gods often played tricks on each other, and Juno knew well that the king would try to get her cow. There was a watchman named Argus, and one would think that he could see all that was going on in the world, for he had a hundred eyes, and no one had ever seen them all asleep at once, so Queen Juno gave to Argus the work of watching the white cow.
The king of the gods knew what she had done, and he laughed to himself and said, "I will play a trick on Juno, and I will have the white cow." He sent for Mercury and whispered in his ear, "Mercury, go to the green field where Argus watches the cream-white cow and get her for me."
Mercury was always happy when he could play a trick on any one, and he set out gladly for the field where Argus watched the cream-white cow with every one of his hundred eyes.
Now Mercury could tell merry stories of all that was done in the world. He could sing, too, and the music of his voice had lulled many a god to sleep. Argus knew that, but he had been alone a long time, and he thought, "What harm is there in listening to his merry chatter? I have a hundred eyes, and even if half of them were asleep, the others could easily keep watch of one cow." So he gladly hailed Mercury and said, "I have been alone in this field a long, long time, but you have roamed about as you would. Will you not sing to me, and tell me what has happened in the world? You would be glad to hear stories and music if you had nothing to do but watch a cow, even if it was the cow of a queen."
So Mercury sang and told stories. Some of the songs were merry, and some were sad. The watchman closed one eye, then another and another, but there were two eyes that would not close for all the sad songs and all the merry ones. Then Mercury drew forth a hollow reed that he had brought from the river and began to play on it. It was a magic reed, and as he played, one could hear the water rippling gently on the shore and the breath of the wind in the pine-trees; one could see the lilies bending their heads as the dusk came on, and the stars twinkling softly in the summer sky.
It is no wonder that Argus closed one eye and then the other. Every one of his hundred eyes was fast asleep, and Mercury went away to the king of the gods with the cream-white cow.
Juno had so often played tricks on the king that he was happy because he had played this one on her, but Juno was angry, and she said to Argus, "You are a strange watchman. You have a hundred eyes, and you could not keep even one of them from falling asleep. My peacock is wiser than you, for he knows when any one is looking at him. I will put every one of your eyes in the tail of the peacock." And to-day, whoever looks at the peacock can count in his tail the hundred eyes that once belonged to Argus.
THE STORY OF THE BEES AND THE FLIES.
There were once two tribes of little people who lived near together. They were not at all alike, for one of the tribes looked for food and carried it away to put it up safely for winter, while the other played and sang and danced all day long.
"Come and play with us," said the lazy people, but the busy workers answered, "No, come and work with us. Winter will soon be here. Snow and ice will be everywhere, and if we do not put up food now we shall have none for the cold, stormy days."
So the busy people brought honey from the flowers, but the lazy people kept on playing. They laughed together and whispered to one another, "See those busy workers! They will have food for two tribes, and they will give us some. Let us go and dance."
While the summer lasted, one tribe worked and the other played. When winter came, the busy workers were sorry for their friends and said, "Let us give them some of our honey." So the people who played had as much food as if they, too, had brought honey from the flowers.
Another summer was coming, and the workers said, "If we should make our home near the lilies that give us honey, it would be easier to get our food." So the workers flew away, but the lazy people played and danced as they had done before while their friends were near, for they thought, "Oh, they will come back and bring us some honey."
By and by the cold came, but the lazy people had nothing to eat, and the workers did not come with food. The manito had said to them, "Dear little workers, you shall no longer walk from flower to flower. I will give you wings, and you shall be bees. Whenever men hear a gentle humming, they will say, 'Those are the busy bees, and their wings were given them because they were wise and good.'"
To the other tribe the manito said, "You shall be flies, and you, too, shall have wings; but while the workers fly from flower to flower and eat the yellow honey, you shall have for your food only what has been thrown away. When men hear your buzzing, they will say, 'It is good that the flies have wings, because we can drive them away from us the more quickly.'"
THE STORY OF THE FIRST MOLES.
A rich man and a poor man once owned a field together. The rich man owned the northern half, and the poor man owned the southern half. Each man sowed his ground with seed. The warm days came, the gentle rain fell, and the seed in the poor man's half of the field sprang up and put forth leaves. The seed in the rich man's half all died in the ground.
The rich man was selfish and wicked. He said, "The southern half of the field is mine," but the poor man replied, "No, the southern half is mine, for that is where I sowed my seed."
The rich man had a son who was as wicked as himself. This boy whispered, "Father, tell him to come in the morning. I know how we can keep the land." So the rich man said, "Come in the morning, and we shall soon see whose land this is."
At night the rich man and his son pulled up some bushes that grew beside the field, and the son hid in the hole where their roots had been.
Morning came, and many people went to the field with the rich man. The poor man was sorrowful, for he feared that he would lose his ground.
"Now we shall see," said the rich man boastfully, and he called aloud, "Whose ground is this?"
"This is the ground of the rich man," answered a voice from the hole.
"How shall I ever get food for my children!" cried the poor man.
Then another voice was heard. It was that of the spirit of the fields, and it said, "The southern half of the field is the poor man's, and the northern half shall be his too."
The rich man would have run away, but the voice called, "Wait. Look where the bushes once stood. The boy in the hole and his wicked father shall hide in the darkness as long as they live, and never again shall they see the light of the sun."
This is the story of the first moles, and this is why the mole never comes to the light of day.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST ANTS.
"This jar is full of smoked flesh," said one voice.
"This has fish, this is full of honey, and that one is almost running over with oil," said another voice. "We shall have all that we need to eat for many days to come."
These are the words that a villager coming home from his work heard his mother and his sister say.
"They have often played tricks on me," he said to himself, "and now I will play one on them." So he went into the house and said, "Mother, I have found that I have a wonderful sense of smell, and by its help I can find whatever is hidden away."
"That is a marvelous story," cried the sister.
"If you can tell me what is in these jars," said his mother, "I shall think you are really a magician. What is it now?"
"This is flesh, this fish, this honey, and this jar is full of oil," said the man.
"I never heard of such a marvel in all my life," cried the mother; and in the morning she called her friends and said, "Only think what a wonderful sense of smell my son has! He told me what was in these jars when they were closed."
It was not long before the people all through the country heard of the wonderful man, and one day word came that the king wished to see him at once.
The man was afraid, for he did not know what would happen to him, and he was still more afraid when the king said, "A pearl is lost that I had in my hand last night. They say you can find things that are lost. Find my pearl, or your head will he lost."
The poor man went out into the forest. "Oh, how I wish I had not tried to play tricks," he wailed. "Then this sharp sorrow, this dire trouble, would not have come upon me."
"Please, please do not tell the king," said two voices in the shadow of the trees.
"Who are you?" asked the man.
"Oh, you must know us well," said a man coming out into the light. "My name is Sharp, and that man behind the tree is named Dire, but please do not tell the king. We will give you the pearl; here it is. You called our names, and we saw that you knew us. Oh, I wish I had not been a thief!"
The man gave the pearl to the king, and went home wishing that no one would ever talk to him again of his sense of smell.
In three days word came from the queen that he must come to her at once. She thought his power was only a trick, and to catch him she had put a cat into a bag and the bag into a box.
When the man came, she asked sharply, "What is in this box? Tell me the truth, or off will go your head."
"What shall I do?" thought the man, "Dire death is upon me." He did not remember that he was before the queen, and he repeated half aloud an old saying, "The bagged cat soon dies."
"What is that?" cried the queen.
"The bagged cat soon dies," repeated the man in great terror.
"You are a marvelous man," said the queen. "There is really a bag in the box and a cat in the bag, but no one besides myself knew it."
"He is not a man; he is a god," cried the people, "and he must be in the sky and live among the gods;" so they threw him up to the sky. His hand was full of earth, and when the earth fell back, it was no longer earth, but a handful of ants. Ants have a wonderful sense of smell, and it is because they fell from the hand of this man who was thrown up into the sky to live among the gods.
THE FACE OF THE MANITO.
Many years ago the manito of the Indians lived in the sun. Every morning the wise men of the tribe went to the top of a mountain, and as the sun rose in the east, they sang, "We praise thee, O sun! From thee come fire and light. Be good to us, be good to us."
After the warm days of the summer had come, the sun was so bright that the Indians said to their wise men, "When you go to the mountain top, ask the manito to show us his face in a softer, gentler light."
Then the wise men went to the mountain top, and this is what they said: "O great manito, we are but children before you, and we have no power to bear the brightness of your face. Look down upon us here on the earth with a gentler, softer light, that we may ever gaze upon you and show you all love and all honor."
The bright sun moved slowly toward the south. The people were afraid that the manito was angry with them, but when the moon rose they were no longer sad, for from the moon the loving face of the manito was looking down upon them.
Night after night the people gazed at the gentle face, but at last a night came when the moon was not seen in the sky. The wise men went sorrowfully to the mountain top. "O manito," they said, "we are never happy when we cannot gaze into your face. Will you not show it to your children?"
The moon did not rise, and the people were sad, but when morning came, there was the loving face of the manito showing clearly in the rocks at the top of the mountain.
Again they were happy, but when dark clouds hid the gentle face, the wise men went to the foot of the mountain and called sadly, "O manito, we can no longer see your face."
The clouds grew darker and fell like a cloak over the mountain, the trees trembled in the wind, the forked lightning shot across the sky, and the thunder called aloud.
"It is the anger of the manito," cried the people. "The heavens are falling," they whispered, and they hid their faces in fear.
Morning came, the storm had gone, and the sky was clear. Tremblingly the people looked up toward the mountain top for the face of the manito. It was not there, but after they had long gazed in sorrow, a wise man cried, "There it is, where no cloud will hide it from us." In the storm the rocks had fallen from the mountain top. They were halfway down the mountain side, and in them could be seen the face of the manito.
Then the people cried, "Praise to the good manito! His loving face will look down upon us from the mountain side forever-more."
For a long time all went well, but at last trouble came, for they heard that a great tribe were on the war-path coming to kill them. "Help us, dear manito," they cried but there was no help. The warriors came nearer and nearer. Their war-cry was heard, "O manito," called the people, "help us, help us!" A voice from the mountain answered, "My children, be not afraid." The war-cry was still, and when the people looked, for the warriors, they were nowhere to be seen. The people gazed all around, and at last one of the wise men cried, "There they are, there they are!"
They were at the foot of the mountain, but the people no longer feared them, for now they were not warriors but rocks. To keep from harm those whom he loved, the manito had made the warriors into stone. They stood at the foot of the mountain, and to-day, if you should go to that far-away country, you could see the rocks that were once warriors, and above them, halfway up the mountain side, you could see the face of the manito.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST DIAMONDS.
The chief of an Indian tribe had two sons whom he loved very dearly. This chief was at war with another tribe, and one dark night two of his enemies crept softly through the trees till they came to where the two boys lay sound asleep. The warriors caught the younger boy up gently, and carried him far away from his home and his friends.
When the chief woke, he cried, "Where is my son? My enemies have been here and have stolen him."
All the Indians in the tribe started out in search of the boy. They roamed the forest through and through, but the stolen child could not be found.
The chief mourned for his son, and when the time of his death drew near, he said to his wife, "Moneta, my tribe shall have no chief until my boy is found and taken from our enemies. Let our oldest son go forth in search of his brother, and until he has brought back the little one, do you rule my people."
Moneta ruled the people wisely and kindly. When the older son was a man she said to him, "My son, go forth and search for your brother, whom I have mourned these many years. Every day I shall watch for you, and every night I shall build a fire on the mountain top."
"Do not mourn, mother," said the young man. "You will not build the fire many nights on the mountain top, for I shall soon find my brother and bring him back to you."
He went forth bravely, but he did not come back. His mother went every night to the mountain top, and when she was so old that she could no longer walk, the young men of the tribe bore her up the mountain side in their strong arms, so that with her own trembling hand she could light the fire.
One night there was a great storm. Even the brave warriors were afraid, but Moneta had no fear, for out of the storm a gentle voice had come to her that said, "Moneta, your sons are coming home to you."
"Once more I must build the fire on the mountain top," she cried. The young men trembled with fear, but they bore her to the top of the mountain.
"Leave me here alone," she said. "I hear a voice. It is the voice of my son, and he is calling, 'Mother, mother.' Come to me, come, my boys."
Coming slowly up the mountain in the storm was the older son. The younger had died on the road home, and he lay dead in the arms of his brother.
In the morning the men of the tribe went to the mountain top in search of Moneta and her sons. They were nowhere to be seen, but where the tears of the lonely mother had fallen, there was a brightness that had never been seen before. The tears were shining in the sunlight as if each one of them was itself a little sun. Indeed, they were no longer tears, but diamonds.
The dearest thing in all the world is the tear of mother-love, and that is why the tears were made into diamonds, the stones that are brightest and clearest of all the stones on the earth.