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Native American Legends

The Spring Beauty

A Chippewa Legend

An old man was sitting in his lodge, by the side of a frozen stream. It was the end of Winter, the air was not so cold, and his fire was nearly out. He was old and alone. His locks were white with age, and he trembled in every joint. Day after day passed, and he heard nothing but the sound of the storm sweeping before it the new-fallen snow.

One day while his fire was dying, a handsome young man entered the lodge. His cheeks were red, his eyes sparkled. He walked with a quick, light step. His forehead was bound with sweet-grass, and he carried a bunch of fragrant flowers in his hand.

"Ah, my Son," said the old man, "I am happy to see you. Come in. Tell me your adventures, and what strange lands you have seen. I will tell you my wonderful deeds, and what I can perform. You shall do the same, and we will amuse each other."

The old man then drew from a bag a curiously wrought pipe. He filled it with mild tobacco, and handed it to his guest. They each smoked from the pipe, and then began their stories.

"I am Peboan, the Spirit of Winter," said the old man. "I blow my breath, and the streams stand still. The water becomes stiff and hard as clear stone."

"I am Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring," answered the youth. "I breathe, and flowers spring up in the meadows and woods."

"I shake my locks," said the old man, "and the snow covers the land. The leaves fall from the trees, and my breath blows them away. The birds fly to the distant land, and the animals hide themselves from the cold."

"I shake my ringlets," said the young man, "and the warm showers of soft rain fall upon the Earth. The flowers lift their heads from the ground, and the grass grows thick and green. My voice recalls the birds, and they come flying joyfully from the South-land. The warmth of my breath unbinds the streams, and they sing the songs of Summer. Music fills the groves wherever I walk, and all Nature rejoices."

And while they were thus talking, a wonderful change took place. The Sun began to rise. A gentle warmth stole over the place. Peboan, the Spirit of Winter, became silent. His head drooped, and the snow outside the lodge melted away. Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring, grew more radiant, and rose joyfully to his feet. The Robin and the Bluebird began to sing on the top of the lodge. The stream murmured past the door, and the fragrance of opening flowers came softly on the breeze.

The lodge faded away, and Peboan sank down and dissolved into tiny streams of water, that vanished under the brown leaves of the forest.

Thus the Spirit of Winter departed, and where he melted away the Indian children gathered the first blossoms, fragrant and delicately pink, - the modest Spring Beauty.

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