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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.





Next: The Artichoke And The Muskrat

Previous: The Rabbit And The Grouse Girls



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