N OLD CHIEFTAIN sat in his wigwam, quietly smoking his favourite pipe, when a crowd of Indian boys and girls suddenly entered, and, with numerous offerings of tobacco, begged him to tell them a story, and he did so.
There was once a time when this world was filled with happy people; when all the nations were as one, and the crimson tide of war had not begun to roll. Plenty of game was in the forest and on the plains. None were in want, for a full supply was at hand. Sickness was unknown. The beasts of the field were tame; they came and went at the bidding of man. One unending spring gave no place for winter--for its cold blasts or its unhealthy chills. Every tree and bush yielded fruit. Flowers carpeted the earth. The air was laden with their fragrance, and redolent with the songs of wedded warblers that flew from branch to branch, fearing none, for there were none to harm them. There were birds then of more beautiful song and plumage than now. It was at such a time, when earth was a paradise and man worthily its possessor, that the Indians were lone inhabitants of the American wilderness. They numbered millions; and, living as nature designed them to live, enjoyed its many blessings. Instead of amusements in close rooms, the sport of the field was theirs. At night they met on the wide green beneath the heavenly worlds--the ah-nung-o-kah. They watched the stars; they loved to gaze at them, for they believed them to be the residences of the good, who had been taken home by the Great Spirit.
One night they saw one star that shone brighter than all others. Its location was far away in the south, near a mountain peak. For many nights it was seen, till at length it was doubted by many that the star was as far distant in the southern skies as it seemed to be. This doubt led to an examination, which proved the star to be only a short distance away, and near the tops of some trees. A number of warriors were deputed to go and see what it was. They went, and on their return said it appeared strange, and somewhat like a bird. A committee of the wise men were called to inquire into, and if possible to ascertain the meaning of, the strange phenomenon. They feared that it might be the omen of some disaster. Some thought it a precursor of good, others of evil; and some supposed it to be the star spoken of by their forefathers as the forerunner of a dreadful war.
One moon had nearly gone by, and yet the mystery remained unsolved. One night a young warrior had a dream, in which a beautiful maiden came and stood at his side, and thus addressed him: "Young brave! charmed with the land of my forefathers, its flowers, its birds, its rivers, its beautiful lakes, and its mountains clothed with green, I have left my sisters in yonder world to dwell among you. Young brave! ask your wise and your great men where I can live and see the happy race continually; ask them what form I shall assume in order to be loved."
Thus discoursed the bright stranger. The young man awoke. On stepping out of his lodge he saw the star yet blazing in its accustomed place. At early dawn the chief's crier was sent round the camp to call every warrior to the council lodge. When they had met, the young warrior related his dream. They concluded that the star that had been seen in the south had fallen in love with mankind, and that it was desirous to dwell with them.
The next night five tall, noble-looking, adventurous braves were sent to welcome the stranger to earth. They went and presented to it a pipe of peace, filled with sweet-scented herbs, and were rejoiced that it took it from them. As they returned to the village, the star, with expanded wings, followed, and hovered over their homes till the dawn of day. Again it came to the young man in a dream, and desired to know where it should live and what form it should take. Places were named--on the top of giant trees, or in flowers. At length it was told to choose a place itself, and it did so. At first it dwelt in the white rose of the mountains; but there it was so buried that it could not be seen. It went to the prairie; but it feared the hoof of the buffalo. It next sought the rocky cliff; but there it was so high that the children, whom it loved most, could not see it.
"I know where I shall live," said the bright fugitive--"where I can see the gliding canoe of the race I most admire. Children!--yes, they shall be my playmates, and I will kiss their slumber by the side of cool lakes. The nation shall love me wherever I am."
These words having been said, she alighted on the waters, where she saw herself reflected. The next morning thousands of white flowers were seen on the surface of the lakes, and the Indians gave them this name, wah-be-gwan-nee (white flower).
This star lived in the southern skies. Her brethren can be seen far off in the cold north, hunting the Great Bear, whilst her sisters watch her in the east and west.
Children! when you see the lily on the waters, take it in your hands and hold it to the skies, that it may be happy on earth, as its two sisters, the morning and evening stars, are happy in heaven.