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THE FAITHFUL LOVERS

 

There once lived a chief's daughter who had many relations. All

the young men in the village wanted to have her for wife, and were

all eager to fill her skin bucket when she went to the brook for

water.

There was a young man in the village who was industrious and a good

hunter; but he was poor and of a mean family. He loved the maiden

and when she went for water, he threw his robe over her head

while he whispered in her ear:

"Be my wife. I have little but I am young and strong. I will

treat you well, for I love you."

For a long time the maiden did not answer, but one day she

whispered back.

"Yes, you may ask my father's leave to marry me. But first you must

do something noble. I belong to a great family and have many

relations. You must go on a war party and bring back the scalp of

an enemy."

The young man answered modestly, "I will try to do as you bid me.

I am only a hunter, not a warrior. Whether I shall be brave or not

I do not know. But I will try to take a scalp for your sake."

So he made a war party of seven, himself and six other young men.

They wandered through the enemy's country, hoping to get a chance

to strike a blow. But none came, for they found no one of the

enemy.

"Our medicine is unfavorable," said their leader at last. "We

shall have to return home."

Before they started they sat down to smoke and rest beside a

beautiful lake at the foot of a green knoll that rose from its

shore. The knoll was covered with green grass and somehow as they

looked at it they had a feeling that there was something about it

that was mysterious or uncanny.

But there was a young man in the party named the jester, for he was

venturesome and full of fun. Gazing at the knoll he said: "Let's

run and jump on its top."

"No," said the young lover, "it looks mysterious. Sit still and

finish your smoke."

"Oh, come on, who's afraid," said the jester, laughing. "Come on

you--come on!" and springing to his feet he ran up the side of the

knoll.

Four of the young men followed. Having reached the top of the

knoll all five began to jump and stamp about in sport, calling,

"Come on, come on," to the others. Suddenly they stopped--the

knoll had begun to move toward the water. It was a gigantic

turtle. The five men cried out in alarm and tried to run--too

late! Their feet by some power were held fast to the monster's

back.

"Help us--drag us away," they cried; but the others could do

nothing. In a few moments the waves had closed over them.

The other two men, the lover and his friend, went on, but with

heavy hearts, for they had forebodings of evil. After some days,

they came to a river. Worn with fatigue the lover threw himself

down on the bank.

"I will sleep awhile," he said, "for I am wearied and worn out."

"And I will go down to the water and see if I can chance upon a

dead fish. At this time of the year the high water may have left

one stranded on the seashore," said his friend.

And as he had said, he found a fish which he cleaned, and then

called to the lover.

"Come and eat the fish with me. I have cleaned it and made a fire

and it is now cooking."

"No, you eat it; let me rest," said the lover.

"Oh, come on."

"No, let me rest."

"But you are my friend. I will not eat unless you share it with

me."

"Very well," said the lover, "I will eat the fish with you, but you

must first make me a promise. If I eat the fish, you must promise,

pledge yourself, to fetch me all the water that I can drink."

"I promise," said the other, and the two ate the fish out of their

war-kettle. For there had been but one kettle for the party.

When they had eaten, the kettle was rinsed out and the lover's

friend brought it back full of water. This the lover drank at a

draught.

"Bring me more," he said.

Again his friend filled the kettle at the river and again the lover

drank it dry.

"More!" he cried.

"Oh, I am tired. Cannot you go to the river and drink your fill

from the stream?" asked his friend.

"Remember your promise."

"Yes, but I am weary. Go now and drink."

"Ek-hey, I feared it would be so. Now trouble is coming upon us,"

said the lover sadly. He walked to the river, sprang in, and lying

down in the water with his head toward land, drank greedily. By

and by he called to his friend.

"Come hither, you who have been my sworn friend. See what comes of

your broken promise."

The friend came and was amazed to see that the lover was now a fish

from his feet to his middle.

Sick at heart he ran off a little way and threw himself upon the

ground in grief. By and by he returned. The lover was now a fish

to his neck.

"Cannot I cut off the part and restore you by a sweat bath?" the

friend asked.

"No, it is too late. But tell the chief's daughter that I loved

her to the last and that I die for her sake. Take this belt and

give it to her. She gave it to me as a pledge of her love for me,"

and he being then turned to a great fish, swam to the middle of the

river and there remained, only his great fin remaining above

the water.

The friend went home and told his story. There was great mourning

over the death of the five young men, and for the lost lover. In

the river the great fish remained, its fin just above the surface,

and was called by the Indians "Fish that Bars," because it bar'd

navigation. Canoes had to be portaged at great

labor around the obstruction.

The chief's daughter mourned for her lover as for a husband, nor

would she be comforted. "He was lost for love of me, and I shall

remain as his widow," she wailed.

In her mother's tepee she sat, with her head covered with her robe,

silent, working, working. "What is my daughter doing," her mother

asked. But the maiden did not reply.

The days lengthened into moons until a year had passed. And then

the maiden arose. In her hands were beautiful articles of

clothing, enough for three men. There were three pairs of

moccasins, three pairs of leggings, three belts, three shirts,

three head dresses with beautiful feathers, and sweet smelling

tobacco.

"Make a new canoe of bark," she said, which was made for her.

Into the canoe she stepped and floated slowly down the river toward

the great fish.

"Come back my daughter," her mother cried in agony. "Come back.

The great fish will eat you."

She answered nothing. Her canoe came to the place where the great

fin arose and stopped, its prow grating on the monster's back. The

maiden stepped out boldly. One by one she laid her presents on the

fish's back, scattering the feathers and tobacco over his broad

spine.

"Oh, fish," she cried, "Oh, fish, you who were my lover, I shall

not forget you. Because you were lost for love of me, I shall

never marry. All my life I shall remain a widow. Take these

presents. And now leave the river, and let the waters run free, so

my people may once more descend in their canoes."

She stepped into her canoe and waited. Slowly the great fish sank,

his broad fin disappeared, and the waters of the St. Croix

(Stillwater) were free.