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It was blowing a gale and snow was being driven
in fine flakes across the plains when we went to
the lodge for a story.
Every minute the weather was growing colder,
and an early fall storm of severity was upon us.
The wind seemed to add to the good nature of our
host as he filled and passed me the pipe.
"This is the night I was to tell you about the
Birch-Tree, and the wind will help to make you
understand," said War Eagle after we had finished smoking.
"Of course," he continued, " this all happened in
the summertime when the weather was warm, very warm.
Sometimes, you know, there are great winds in the summer, too.
"It was a hot day, and Old-man was trying to sleep,
but the heat made him sick.
He wandered to a hilltop for air, but there was no air.
Then he went down to the river and found no relief.
He travelled to the timberlands, and there the heat
was great, although he found plenty of shade.
The travelling made him warmer, of course,
but he wouldn't stay still.
"By and by he called to the winds to blow, and they commenced.
First they didn't blow very hard,
because they were afraid they might make Old-man angry,
but he kept crying: "'Blow harder, harder, harder!
Blow worse than ever you blew before, and send this
heat away from the world.'
"So, of course, the winds did blow harder than
they ever had blown before.
'Bend and break, Fir-Tree!' cried Old-man,
and the Fir-Tree did bend and break.
'Bend and break, Pine-Tree!' and the Pine-Tree
did bend and break. 'Bend and break, Spruce-Tree!'
and the Spruce-Tree did bend and break.
'Bend and break, O Birch-Tree!' and the Birch-Tree
did bend, but it wouldn't break-no, sir!-it wouldn't break!
'Ho! Birch-Tree, won't you mind me? Bend and break! I tell you,'
but all the Birch-Tree would do was to bend.
"It bent to the ground; it bent double to please Old-man,
but it would not break.
'Blow harder, wind!' cried Old-man, 'blow harder and
break the Birch-Tree.'
The wind tried to blow harder, but it couldn't,
and that made the thing worse,
because Old-man was so angry he went crazy.
'Break! I tell you.. break!' screamed Old-man to the Birch-Tree.
"'I won't break,' replied the Birch; 'I shall never break
for any wind. I will bend, but I shall never, never break.'
"'You won't, hey?' cried Old-man, and he rushed at the
Birch-Tree with his hunting-knife.
He grabbed the top of the Birch because it was touching the
ground, and began slashing the bark of the Birch-Tree with the knife.
All up and down the trunk of the tree Old-man slashed,
until the Birch was covered with the knife slashes.
"'There! that is for not minding me. That will do you good!
As long as time lasts you shall always look like that, Birch-Tree;
always be marked as one who will not mind its maker.
Yes, and all the Birch-Trees in the world shall have
the same marks forever.'
They do, too. You have seen them and have wondered why
the Birch-Tree is so queerly marked. Now you know.