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Wassamo was living with his parents on the shores of a large bay on the east coast of Lake Michigan. It was at a period when nature spontaneously furnished everything that was wanted, when the Indians used skins for clothing, and flints for arrow heads. It was long before the time that the flag of the white man had first been seen in these lakes, or the sound of an iron axe had been heard. The skill of our people supplied them with weapons to kill game, with instruments to procure bark for their canoes, and they knew to dress and cook their victuals.
One day, when the season had commenced for fish to be plentiful near the shore of the lake, Wassamo's mother said to him--
"My son, I wish you would go to yonder point, and see if you cannot procure me some fish. You may ask your cousin to accompany you."
He did so. They set out, and, in the course of the afternoon, arrived at the fishing-ground. His cousin attended to the nets, for he was grown up to manhood, but Wassamo had not yet reached that age. They put their nets in the water, and encamped near them, using only a few pieces of birch-bark for a lodge to shelter them at night. They lit a fire, and, while they were conversing together, the moon arose. Not a breath of wind disturbed the smooth and bright surface of the lake. Not a cloud was seen. Wassamo looked out on the water towards their nets, and saw that almost all the floats had disappeared.
"Cousin," he said, "let us visit our nets. Perhaps we are fortunate."
They did so, and were rejoiced, as they drew them up, to see the meshes white here and there with fish. They landed in good spirits, and put away their canoe in safety from the winds.
"Wassamo," said his cousin, "you cook that we may eat."
Wassamo set about it immediately, and soon got his kettle on the flames, while his cousin was lying at his ease on the opposite side of the fire.
"Cousin," said Wassamo, "tell me stories, or sing me some love-songs."
The other obeyed, and sang his plaintive songs. He would frequently break off, and tell parts of stories, and would then sing again, as suited his feelings or fancy. While thus employed, he unconsciously fell asleep. Wassamo had scarcely noticed it in his care to watch the kettle, and, when the fish were done, he took the kettle off. He spoke to his cousin, but received no answer. He took the wooden ladle to skim off the oil, for the fish were very fat. He had a flambeau of twisted bark in one hand to give light; but, when he came to take out the fish, he did not know how to manage to hold the light, so he took off his garters, and tied them tight round his head, and then placed the lighted flambeau above his forehead, so that it was firmly held by the bandage, and threw its light brilliantly about him. Having both hands thus at liberty, he began to take out the fish. Suddenly he heard a laugh.
"Cousin," said he, "some one is near us. Awake, and let us look out."
His cousin, however, continued asleep. Again Wassamo heard the laughter, and, looking, he beheld two beautiful girls.
"Awake, awake," said he to his cousin. "Here are two young women;" but he received no answer, for his cousin was locked in his deepest slumbers.
Wassamo started up and advanced to the strange women. He was about to speak to them, when he fell senseless to the earth.
A short while after his cousin awoke. He looked around and called Wassamo, but could not find him.
"Netawis, Netawis (Cousin, cousin)!" he cried; but there was no answer. He searched the woods and all the shores around, but could not find him. He did not know what to do.
"Although," he reasoned, "his parents are my relations, and they know he and I were great friends, they will not believe me if I go home and say that he is lost. They will say that I killed him, and will require blood for blood."
However, he resolved to return home, and, arriving there, he told them what had occurred. Some said, "He has killed him treacherously," others said, "It is impossible. They were like brothers."
Search was made on every side, and when at length it became certain that Wassamo was not to be found, his parents demanded the life of Netawis.
Meanwhile, what had happened to Wassamo? When he recovered his senses, he found himself stretched on a bed in a spacious lodge.
"Stranger," said some one, "awake, and take something to eat."
Looking around him he saw many people, and an old spirit man, addressing him, said--
"My daughters saw you at the fishing-ground, and brought you here. I am the guardian spirit of Nagow Wudjoo (the sand mountains). We will make your visit here agreeable, and if you will remain I will give you one of my daughters in marriage."
The young man consented to the match, and remained for some time with the spirit of the sand-hills in his lodge at the bottom of the lake, for there was it situated. At last, however, approached the season of sleep, when the spirit and his relations lay down for their long rest.
"Son-in-law," said the old spirit, "you can now, in a few days, start with your wife to visit your relations. You can be absent one year, but after that you must return."
Wassamo promised to obey, and set out with his wife. When he was near his village, he left her in a thicket and advanced alone. As he did so, who should he meet but his cousin.
"Netawis, Netawis," cried his cousin, "you have come just in time to save me!"
Then he ran off to the lodge of Wassamo's parents.
"I have seen him," said he, "whom you accuse me of having killed. He will be here in a few minutes."
All the village was soon in a bustle, and Wassamo and his wife excited universal attention, and the people strove who should entertain them best. So the time passed happily till the season came that Wassamo and his wife should return to the spirits. Netawis accompanied them to the shores of the lake, and would have gone with them to their strange abode, but Wassamo sent him back. With him Wassamo took offerings from the Indians to his father-in-law.
The old spirit was delighted to see the two return, and he was also much pleased with the presents Wassamo brought. He told his son-in-law that he and his wife should go once more to visit his people.
"It is merely," said he, "to assure them of my friendship, and to bid them farewell for ever."
Some time afterwards Wassamo and his wife made this visit. Having delivered his message, he said--
"I must now bid you all farewell for ever."
His parents and friends raised their voices in loud lamentation, and they accompanied him and his wife to the sand-banks to see them take their departure.
The day was mild, the sky clear, not a cloud appeared, nor was there a breath of wind to disturb the bright surface of the water. The most perfect silence reigned throughout the company. They gazed intently upon Wassamo and his wife as they waded out into the water, waving their hands. They saw them go into deeper and deeper water. They saw the wave close over their heads. All at once they raised a loud and piercing wail. They looked again. A red flame, as if the sun had glanced on a billow, marked the spot for an instant; but the Feather-of-Flames and his wife had disappeared for ever.
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