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THE FIRE-LEGGINGS

THERE had been a sudden change in the weather.
A cold rain was falling, and the night comes
early when the clouds hang low. The children
loved a bright fire, and to-night War Eagle's
lodge was light as day. Away off on the plains
a wolf was howling, and the rain pattered upon
the lodge as though it never intended to quit.
It was a splendid night for story-telling, and
War Eagle filled and lighted the great stone pipe,
while the children made themselves comfortable about the fire.
A spark sprang from the burning sticks,
and fell upon Fine Bow's bare leg.
They all laughed heartily at the boy's antics to
rid himself of the burning coal; and as soon as
the laughing ceased War Eagle laid aside the pipe.
An Indian's pipe is large to look at, but holds little tobacco.
"See your shadows on the lodge wall?" asked the old warrior.
The children said they saw them, and he continued:
"Some day I will tell you a story about them,
and how they drew the arrows of our enemies,
but tonight I am going to tell you of the great fire-leggings.
"It was long before there were men and women on the world,
but my grandfather told me what I shall now tell you.
"The gray light that hides the night-stars was creeping
through the forests, and the wind the Sun sends to warn
the people of his coming was among the fir tops.
Flowers, on slender stems, bent their heads out of
respect for the herald-wind's Master, and from the
dead top of a pine-tree the Yellowhammer beat upon
his drum and called 'the Sun is awake, all hail the Sun!'
"Then the bush-birds began to sing the song of the
morning, and from alders the Robins joined,
until all live things were awakened by the great
music. Where the tall ferns grew, the Doe waked her Fawns,
and taught them to do homage to the Great Light.
In the creeks, where the water was still and clear,
and where throughout the day, like a delicate damaskeen,
the shadows of leaves that overhang would lie, the
Speckled Trout broke the surface of the pool in his
gladness of the coming day. Pine-squirrels chattered gayly,
and loudly proclaimed what the wind had told;
and all the shadows were preparing for a great journey
to the Sand Hills, where the ghost-people dwell.
"Under a great spruce-tree - where the ground was
soft and dry, Old-man slept. The joy that thrilled
creation disturbed him not, although the Sun was near.
The bird-people looked at the sleeper in wonder,
but the Pine squirrel climbed the great spruce-tree
with a pine-cone in his mouth. Quickly he ran out on
the limb that spread over Old-man, and dropped the
cone on the sleeper's face.
Then he scolded Old-man, saying: 'Get up - get up
lazy one - lazy one, get up - get up.'
"Rubbing his eyes in anger, Old-man sat up and saw
the Sun coming - his hunting leggings slipping through
the thickets - setting them afire, till all the Deer
and Elk ran out and sought new places to hide.
'Ho, Sun!' called Old-man, 'those are mighty leggings you wear.
No wonder you are a great hunter. Your leggings set
fire to all the thickets, and by the light you can
easily see the Deer and Elk; they cannot hide.
Ho! Give them to me and I shall then be the great
hunter and never be hungry.'
"'Good,' said the Sun, 'take them, and let me see you wear my leggings.'
"Old-man was glad in his heart, for he was lazy,
and now he thought he could kill the game without much work,
and that he could be a great hunter as great as the Sun.
He put on the leggings and at once began to hunt the
thickets, for he was hungry. Very soon the leggings began
to burn his legs. The faster he travelled the hotter
they grew, until in pain he cried out to the Sun to come
and take back his leggings; but the Sun would not hear him.
On and on Old-man ran. Faster and faster he flew through
the country, setting fire to the brush and grass as he passed.
Finally he came to a great river, and jumped in.
Sizzzzzzz -- the water said, when Old-man's legs touched it.
It cried out, as it does when it is sprinkled upon hot
stones in the sweat lodge, for the leggings were very hot.
But standing in the cool water Old-man took off the
leggings and threw them out upon the shore,
where the Sun found them later in the day.
"The Sun's clothes were too big for Old-man, and his work too great.
"We should never ask to do the things which Manitou
did not intend us to do. If we keep this always in mind
we shall never get into trouble.
"Be yourselves always. That is what Manitou intended.
Never blame the Wolf for what he does. He was made to do such things.
~END~