The Fire Plume





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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