9.THE DAUGHTERS OF THE STAR
There once lived, in a deep forest, a hunter named Waupee, or the White Hawk. Every day he returned from the chase with birds and animals which he had killed, for he was very skilful.
One day he walked through the forest till at last he reached the edge of it, and there before him lay the wide prairie. The grass was so soft and green, and there were so many flowers, that he wandered on for a while. He could see that no one lived there, as no trace of footsteps was to be seen. Suddenly he came to a circle on the prairie. It looked as if people had run around in a ring until the grass was trampled down. As he could see no marks of footsteps leading away from the ring, he wondered very much whose feet could have marked out the circle. Then he made up his mind to hide, so that he might see if any one came.
After awhile, he heard the sound of beautiful music. It seemed to come from the sky. As he looked up he saw something coming down through the air, and the music sounded like the singing of girls. As the object came closer, he saw that it was a wicker basket, and in it were twelve beautiful maidens. When the basket reached the ground, they all jumped out and began to dance around the circle. They were all very beautiful, but Waupee picked out the youngest as the one he liked best. He watched them as long as he could, then ran out to clasp the youngest in his arms. But as soon as the maidens saw the figure of a man, they ran to the basket, jumped in, and were at once drawn up to the sky.
Waupee was left alone on the prairie, and he felt very sad to think he had frightened away the beautiful maidens. He went back slowly to his cabin, but could not rest all night. The next day he came again to the magic circle.
This time he changed himself into an opossum. He had not waited long when the wicker basket again floated down. The sisters jumped out and began the same dance. Waupee crept towards them; but when they saw him, they at once ran to the basket and climbed in. It began to ascend, but stopped when a short distance up.
“Perhaps,” said the oldest sister, “he has come to show us the way the mortals dance.”
“Oh, no!” said the youngest; “let us go up quickly.” They all began to sing their sweet song, and the basket rose out of sight.
Again Waupee was sad, but he made up his mind that the next day he would act more wisely. So, when he came back, he found the stump of a tree where a family of mice lived. He moved the stump over near the circle and changed himself into one of the mice. Again the sisters came, and began their dance.
“Look,” said the youngest sister, “that stump was not there before.” But the other sisters laughed at her and ran over to it. Then out came all the mice, Waupee among them. The sisters began to chase and kill the mice, and at last only one was left alive. The youngest sister ran after it, and was just about to hit it, when it changed into Waupee. He clasped her in his arms, while the other sisters sprang for the basket and were drawn up to the sky.
The maiden wept at being left alone, but Waupee wiped away her tears and took her home to his little cabin. He was very good to her and at last she grew very happy. But a few years afterwards, when her little son was able to walk, she took him to the magic ring. She felt very lonely when she thought of her sisters and of her father, the Star. So she made up her mind to go back to them. She made a basket of reeds, and putting her little son in it, she seated herself and began to sing the old chant. The basket at once rose in the air and floated out of sight.
When Waupee was coming home, he heard this sweet song. He knew it was one the sisters used to sing, so he ran at once to the magic circle, but the basket had almost disappeared. He called and called, but no answer came down to him, and at last it was gone.
He threw himself down on the ground and wept. Then, when night came, he rose and went home to his empty cabin.
As the years went on the maiden was very happy in her old home, but the son wished to go and see his birthplace. The grandfather heard him, and said to the maiden, “Go down to the earth and show your son his birthplace, and when you are coming back, bring your husband with you. But when he comes, tell him to bring a part of each kind of bird and animal he has killed.”
This the maiden did. Waupee was delighted to have them return, and at once set to work to hunt and kill one of every kind of bird and animal. It took him many days to do this, but at last all were gathered. He took a claw of some birds, a wing of others, a tail of some animals, and the feet of others. Then they all stepped into the basket and it took them up to the sky.
The Star grandfather was so pleased with Waupee’s gift, that he called all his people to a feast. After it was over, he told them to choose what they liked best from the earthly things. Some chose a wing, others a paw, and so on, and as they did so they were at once changed into an animal or bird like the one they had chosen.
Waupee was pleased with this idea and chose the feather of a white hawk. His wife and son chose the same, and all were changed into these graceful birds. They slowly spread out their white wings and floated away towards the earth.
Passing through the clouds they found themselves above the snow-capped mountains. They flew on, until at length they saw the green tops of trees far below them. In great circles they began to descend, and in a few minutes alighted in the topmost branches of a tall tree.
Waupee then spoke: “We shall build our nest in this tree, and into it we shall weave parts of our old cabin, where we lived so happily together. Let us go now and gather these; then we shall begin our nest.”