« PreviousContinue »
neither came to plunder nor imprison ; and if indeed such had been their object, it must have proved totally abortive; for there were no temples to sack, and no princes to rob of their jewels. I have always deemed it fortunate for the Indians, in this quarter, that these discoverers and visitors were not titled men, either of the m army, who entertained at that age high notions of the prerogatives of their reigning sovereigns, and might have driven the natives to acts of hostility. On the contrary, the leaders in this region appear to have been subordinates, who sought to introduce christianity, and establish trade. Limited in their desires, and simple in their mode of living, they were accompanied by the common peasantry, who were pleased with the novelties of Indian life, and the abundance of animal food, and unhesitatingly married the Indian females, and settled down among them. They were thus at once adopted into the nation, and laid the foundation of a friendship, which three centuries have not broken
up. Poor themselves, and without a knowledge of letters, they did not miss the absence of wealth and books, among
the natives, whom they regarded as a brave, proud, and noble race.
Tradition points to these shores as the former seat of Indian power, and indicates the existence of a religion which imposed the worship of fire, and was upheld by standing ceremonies, which would indicate the descent of this people from the Ghebir tribes. Even so late as the fall of the French power, in 1759, Chigoimegon was regarded as the principal centre of the northern population and trade, and a race of chiefs, of rather more than ordinary influence and talents, resided there, and extended their conquest west and north-east to the sources of the Mississippi. Wahi Odjeeg, one of the most noted of these, flourished during the revolutionary war, and died about 1795, in the meridian of his fame as a bold and politic warrior. The question of the worship of fire, by the Odjibwas, is one that has been but little examined, and our deductions should therefore be drawn with caution. There is a mysterious respect paid to fire by all our tribes, bordering perhaps, in some instances, on reverence, but there is now no public or acknowledged worship of it. Sacred fire is undoubtedly intended to be procured for lighting the pipe of peace or war, from the use of the flint, and in other ceremonies ; but am inclined to believe that it is rather the medium than the object of sacrifice by them; that it is regarded as of superior or purificative efficacy in making the offerings to the 'Great Gezha Monedo,' and is hence used as a type in various ceremonies but is deemed to be material in its nature, and is never confounded with the spiritual existence, referred to, under this generic term. Whether a Mudjeekiwis ever swayed these widely extended bands with a joint ,kingly and priestly power, constitutes a problem which I shall not take up the reader's time to discuss. The Mudjeekiwis, is the eldest born son of the ruling chief, and as such would consequently succeed his father, whether a priest or a king. The term indicates only priority in the male line, and like all the other political terms in the Indian vocabulary, had a primary relation to the family circle. We passed our first evening on the lake, amidst reflections akin to these ; and after gazing upon the waters, the sunset, and the sky, till • darkness brooded over the face of the deep,' we sought repose, rather overpowered and excited, than satisfied with the immensity of the scene before and around us.
THE STORY OF THE CALIPH STORK.
Chasid, Caliph at Bagdad, sat comfortably upon his sofa, on a beautiful afternoon. He had slept a little, for it was a hot day, and he seemed very cheerful after his nap. He smoked from a long pipe of rose-wood, sipped now and then a little coffee, which a slave poured out for him, and stroked his beard each time contentedly, as though he relished it greatly. It was plain, in short, that the Caliph was in a good humor. About this ho!ır, one could very easily speak with him, for he was always then very mild and affable; on which account, it was the custom of his Grand Vizier, Manzor, to visit him every day about this time. He came indeed, on this afternoon, but he seemed thoughtful, which was very unusual with him. The Caliph took his pipe a little from his mouth, and said : ‘Grand Vizier, why is thy countenance so troubled ?'
The Grand Vizier crossed his arms over his breast, bowed himself before his lord, and answered : “My lord, whether my countenance is troubled, I cannot say; but below the castle there stands a merchant, who has such fine wares, that I am vexed, because I have so little money to spare.'
The Caliph, who for a long time past had desired to confer a favor upon his Grand Vizier, despatched his black slave to bring up the merchant. The slave soon returned with him. The merchant was a little stout man, with a dark brown face, and in ragged attire. He carried a chest, in which he had various kinds of wares; pearls and rings, richly inlaid pistols, goblets and combs. The Caliph and his Vizier looked them all over, and the former purchased, at last, some beautiful pistols for himself and Manzor, and a comb for the wife of the Vizier. As the merchant was about to pack up his chest again, the Caliph espied a little drawer, and asked, whether there was also merchandise in that. The merchant drew out the drawer, and showed therein a box filled with a blackish powder, and a paper with strange writing upon it, which neither the Caliph nor Manzor could read. "I received these things from a merchant, who found them in the streets of Mecca,' said he 'I know not what they contain. They are at your service for a trifling price, for I can do nothing with them. The Caliph, who liked to have old manuscripts in his library, even if he could not read them, purchased box and writing, and dismissed the merchant. But it occurred to the Caliph, that he would like to know the meaning of the writing, and he inquired of the Vizier whether he knew any one who could decipher it. Most worthy lord and master,' answered the latter, 'near the great mosque, there dwells a man who understands all languages; he is called 'Selim the Wise ;' send for him; perhaps he can interpret these mysterious characters.'
The learned Selim was soon brought. 'Selim,' said the Caliph, “they say thou art very learned; peep now into this writing, to see whether thou canst read it; if thou canst, thou shalt have a rich new garment; if thou canst not, thou shalt have twelve blows upon the ear, and five-and-twenty upon the soles of the feet; for in that case,
thou art without the right to be called 'Selim the Wise.' Selim bowed himself and said, “Thy will be done, my lord.'
For a long time he considered the writing, then suddenly exclaimed: • That is Latin, my lord; or may I be hanged !' 'Say what it means,' commanded the Caliph, 'if it be Latin.'
Selim commenced to translate : 'Oh man, thou who findest this, praise Allah for his goodness! Whoever snuffs of the powder of this box, and says thereupon, ' Mutabor,' will have the power to change himself into any animal
, and will understand also the language of animals. If he wishes again to return to his human form, he must bow himself three times toward the east, and repeat the same word; but beware, when thou art transformed, that thou laughest not, otherwise the magic word will disappear completely from thy memory, and thou wilt remain a beast.'
When Selim the Wise had read this, the Caliph was delighted beyond measure. He made the sage swear that he would disclose the secret to no one, presented him with a rich garment, and dismissed him. But to his Grand Vizier, he said : “ That I call a good purchase, Manzor. I can scarcely restrain my delight, until I am a beast. Early to-morrow morning, come thou hither; we will go together into the field, snuff a little out of my box, and then listen to what is said in the air, and in the water, in the wood and in the field.'
On the following morning, the Caliph had scarcely breakfasted, and dressed himself, when the Grand Vizier appeared, to accompany him upon his walk, as he had commanded. The Caliph placed the box with the magic powder in his girdle, and having directed his train to remain bebind, he set out alone with his Grand Vizier. They went first through the spacious gardens of the Caliph, and looked around, but in vain, for some living thing, that they might try their trick. The Vizier at last proposed that they should go farther on, to a pond, where he had often seen many of those animals called storks, which, by their grave appearance, and their continual clacking, had always excited his attention.
The Caliph approved the proposal of his Vizier, and they went together to the pond. When they had arrived there, they saw a stork walking gravely up and down, looking for frogs, and now and then clacking away something to himself. At the same time they saw also, far above in the air, another stork, hovering over the place.
'I wager my beard, most gracious master,' said the Grand Vizier, that these two long-footed fellows are about carrying on a fine conversation with one another. What if we should become storks ?'
• Well said !' replied the Caliph. “But first let us consider, once more, how we are to become men again. True! three times must we bend toward the east, and say, Mutabor; then I am Caliph again, and thou Vizier. But for heaven's sake, do not laugh, or we are lost !'
While the Caliph was thus speaking, he saw the other stork hover over their heads, and slowly descend toward the earth. He drew the box quickly from his girdle, took a good pinch, offered it to the Grand Vizier, who also snuffed it, and both called out, • Mutabor!'
Their legs then shrivelled up, and became thin and red; the beautiful yellow slippers of the Caliph and of his companion were changed into ill-shapen stork's feet; their arms were turned into wings; their necks were lengthened out from their shoulders, and became a yard long; their beards had disappeared, and their bodies were covered with soft feathers.
You have a beautiful beak,' said the Caliph, after a long pause of astonishment. By the beard of the Prophet ! I have never seen any thing like it in my life!'
* I thank you, most humbly,' returned the Grand Vizier, while he made his obeisance ; .but if it were permitted, I might assert that your highness looks even more handsome as a stork, than as a Caliph. But come, if it please you, let us listen to our comrades yonder, and find out whether we actually understand the storkish language.'
In the meanwhile, the other stork had reached the ground. He trimmed his feet with his beak, put his feathers in order, and advanced to his companion. The two new storks hastened to get near them, and to their surprise, overheard the following conversation :
* Good morning, Lady Longlegs! Already so early upon the meadow ?'
Thank you, dear Clatterbeak! I have had only a slight breakfast. You would like, perhaps, a piece of a duck, or the leg of a frog ?'
Much obliged, but I have no appetite to-day. I have come upon the meadow for a very different purpose. I am to dance to-day before some guests of my father's, and I wish to practice here a little, quietly by myself.'
The young stork immediately jumped about the field, with singular motions. The Caliph and Mansor looked on with wonder ; but as she stood in a picturesque attitude upon one foot, and fluttered her wings gracefully, they could no longer contain themselves; an irresistible laughter burst forth from their beaks, from which they could not recover themselves for a long time. The Caliph first collected himself.
* That was a joke, now,' he exclaimed, 'that is not to be purchased with gold! Pity that the foolish animals have been frightened away by our laughter; otherwise, perhaps, they might even have sung !'
But it now occurred to the Vizier that laughter had been forbidden them, during their transformation. He imparted his anxiety to the Caliph. 'Odds, Mecca and Medina ! It would be a bad joke, if I must remain a stork! Bethink thyself of that stupid word; I cannot bring it out.'
· Three times must we bow toward the east, and then say, “Mu, mu, mu
They turned toward the east, and bowed and bowed, so that their beaks almost touched the earth; but alas ! the magic word had escaped them. However often the Caliph bowed himself, and however anxiously the Vizier called out thereupon, ‘ Mu, mu,' — all recollection of it had vanished, and the poor Chasid and his Vizier remained storks.
MOURNFULLY wandered the enchanted ones through the fields.