28.THE LEGEND OF MACKINAC ISLAND

Many years ago, a party of wild Ojibwa Indians were resting on the shore of Lake Huron. The story-tellers of the tribe were telling many of their magic tales. One of them spoke, and said, “A wigwam stands in the deep. At the bottom of the lake a big turtle lies asleep in this wigwam. Around him swim white fish and trout, and the slow-worm goes creeping by. The scream of the sea gull and the shouts of the rovers do not waken him. Nothing can disturb his slumber but the magic song.”

Then one of the Indians spoke, “Let us sing the magic song. Let us waken this big turtle from his long sleep.”

So they all began to sing a strange, wild song. The sound floated out over the quiet waters of the lake. Suddenly the waves began to rise and roll to the shore, although there was no wind blowing. The centre of the lake seemed to rise higher; then slowly there appeared above the waters the curved back of the big turtle called Mishini-Makinak, toiling up to answer their call. Then the dragging tail appeared like a fleshy cape, and the jowl like a headland of dark rock. The Indians stood along the shore, staring in frightened surprise, as the monster arose like an island in the midst of the waves.

As the days went by, the turtle called his children from their silent homes to come and play around him. Up the lake and down over the falls came the dappled trout and the white fish, to play in the silvery tide, and by night the fairies danced on the rocky cliffs. For many days the red men watched eagerly, afraid to go to the magic island, but at last they paddled their birch-bark canoes across the waves to the pebbly beach. From that time Mishini-Makinak was their home.