20.THE FIVE WATER-SPIRITS

Once upon a time a gray, old man lived on the top of a mountain, where he could see glimpses of the sea. He had a cabin made of birch bark that shone like silver in the sun.

He had five beautiful daughters, whose names were Su, Mi, Hu, Sa, and Er.

One day the youngest said, “My sisters, come and we will go and play near the broad, blue sea, where the waves beat against the rocks.” So away they ran out of the cabin and down the mountain side. They were all dressed in robes of snow-white foam, that fluttered far behind them as they ran. Their sandals were made of frozen water-drops, and their wings of painted wind. On they scampered over valley and plain, until they came to a tall, bare rock as high as a mountain.

Then the youngest cried, “Sisters, here is a dreadful leap, but if we are afraid, and go back, our father will laugh at us.” So, like birds, they all plunged with a merry skip down the side of the rock. Then “Ha-ha,” they cried, “let us try again.” So up to the top they climbed, laughing with joy, and down once more they went, nor ever stopped, laughing like girls on a holiday.

The day wore on till sunset, and still they laughed and played. The round moon came up, and by its silvery light they sprang from the tall, bare rock, and climbed joyously up its side again.

Next morning, when the sun arose, the rock was no longer bare. Over its stony side poured great sheets of foaming water, and in the foam still played the five sisters. They never reached the sea, and there they still play, giving to us the beautiful Niagara Falls. Sometimes, if you look closely, their forms may be seen in the white foam, but always in the sunny spray you may see their sandals and their wings.

 

[1] Su, Superior; Mi, Michigan; Hu, Huron; Sa, St. Clair; Er, Erie.