19.THE ENCHANTED MOCCASINS

Once on Mackinac Island there lived a little Indian boy and his sister. They saw only the birds and animals, for no human beings were there but themselves. The little boy, instead of playing with his sister, used to go into the forest and think. She thought that he would grow up to be a very wise man and do some wonderful deeds. She called him Onwe Bahmondoong, which means, the boy that carries a ball on his back.

As he grew up, he was very anxious to know where the people lived. His sister told him that many miles away there was a village, where hundreds of warriors and hunters lived. He asked her to make him six pairs of moccasins, so that he could go and find the village. He then put some food in a bag, took his war-club, and, when the moccasins were finished, set out on his journey. As he was saying goodbye to his sister, she told him that one pair of the moccasins was enchanted.

On he went quickly, over miles of prairie, across little streams, and through the bush. When he grew tired, he would lie down and sleep. When he was rested, he would get up and go on. So he travelled many days, and when one pair of moccasins wore out, he put on another pair.

At last he came to a wigwam, in which sat an old woman. When she saw him, she called, “Come in, my grandchild.”

He entered, and sat down at her feet.

“Where are you going?” she asked him.

“I am going to find the village of the hunters,” he answered.

“Oh, beware, my child,” she cried. “Many a brave one of your tribe has tried to find that village, and none has ever come back. Take care they do not kill you, also.”

“I am not afraid,” the boy replied, his eyes shining.

“Well, listen to me,” she said in a low voice. “I shall give you two bones which the medicine men use. They will help you very much.” Then she told him many things which he was to do when the time came. When she had finished, he thanked her, and went his way.

He travelled for two days more, and at last came in sight of the hunters’ village. It looked as the old woman told him it would. In the centre of the village stood a cabin, where the chief, lived. In front of this cabin, a tall tree grew. This tree was stripped of its bark and branches, and hanging from it, about halfway up, was a small cabin, where the chief’s two daughters lived. It was in this small cabin that all the Indians had been killed, after they had found the village.

The boy remembered what the old woman had told him, so he changed himself into a squirrel. He ran up the smooth side of the tree. But when he had nearly reached the cabin, the tree shot quickly up into the air, carrying the little house with it. The boy climbed up higher. Again the tree shot up in the air. And the higher he climbed, the higher the tree went, until at last it stopped. It could go no farther, for it had reached the arch of heaven.

When the boy saw this, he changed himself from the squirrel back into a boy, and entered the cabin. The two sisters were squatted on the floor. He asked them their names. The one on the left said hers was Azhabee, which means, one who sits behind. The girl on the right said hers was Negahnahbee, which means, one who sits before. When he spoke to the girl on the left, the tree began to sink down. Then when he spoke to the other sister, it began to shoot up into the air again. When he noticed this, he continued talking to the girl on the left, and the tree kept on sinking lower, until at last it was down as it had been at first. Then the boy drew out his war-club.

“I am going to kill you,” he said to the sisters, “for you have been so cruel to all my relatives.” Swinging his club, he brought it down on their heads and killed them both. Then he jumped from the cabin to the ground.

As he stood there, he remembered that these two sisters had a brother and a father, who would be sure to kill him, when they found what he had done. So he turned, and ran very quickly. He had not gone far, when the father and brother returned. When they saw the dead girls, they were very angry. The father told the brother to follow the boy.

“It must be that boy who killed them,” he said, “for he is the only stranger here. Follow him, and do not eat until you have killed him. If you eat, your power is gone.”

The brother started off, running even faster than the boy. When the boy heard him coming, and knew that he would be caught, he climbed a tree. Then he began to shoot magic arrows back at the brother. But this did not seem to hurt him. So the boy got down from the tree, and ran on again. Now he could tell that the brother was very close to him. So he changed himself into a dead moose, and lay down on the grass. He drew out the enchanted moccasins, and whispered to them, “Travel on and on till you come to the end of the earth.” Away they went, because they were enchanted, leaving their marks behind them.

When the brother came up he saw only a dead moose, with footmarks leading away from him. He followed on, until he came to the end of the earth. Then he saw that he had been fooled, that he had been following only a pair of moccasins. He was so very angry that he did not know what to do. And he felt tired and hungry. He thought surely he must eat now. Then he remembered his dead sisters, and said, “No, I shall find that boy yet, and kill him.” So he turned back till he came to the spot where the dead moose had been. To his surprise it was gone, and footsteps led away in the opposite direction.

He followed them until he came to a beautiful, old garden, with fruit trees and flowers in it. In the garden stood an old house covered with vines, where a very old man lived. He was so very old that his two daughters did everything for him. Now this old man was really the boy, who had changed himself this way. The daughters saw the brother coming.

“Father,” they said, “there is such a tired-looking traveller coming up the road. May we ask him in?”

“Yes, invite him to enter,” answered the father, “and give him something to eat.”

The daughters called to the brother, and invited him in. He was glad to enter the cool, shady garden. They cooked him some hot food and other nice things, and when he smelt the meal, he could not refuse to eat, for he had been without food for such a long time, and had travelled so many miles. He ate the food, and as he did so, he forgot all about his dead sisters, forgot even his home. A strange, sleepy feeling came over him, and he fell into a sound sleep.

When the old man saw this, he changed himself back into a boy, and the garden, house, and daughters disappeared. Only the sleeping brother lay there. The boy quickly drew the ball around from his back, which turned out to be a magic war-club. With this he put an end to the brother. As he journeyed homewards through the forest he heard the sound of footsteps behind him. Turning, he saw nothing; but the sound was coming nearer. In a moment a pair of moccasins appeared on the path. It was the enchanted moccasins returning from the ends of the earth. The boy quickly picked them up and put them in his bag. Then he continued gladly on his way and soon reached the cabin, where his sister came out to meet him. She was very proud of his brave deed, and she and the boy always treasured the enchanted moccasins.