Ahneah the Rose Flower
An Iroquois Legend
Once in a forest there gushed from the hollow of a rock, a wonderful spring known to all Red Men. It possessed mysterious power and was watched over by two Spirits.
From sunrise until noon Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree was its guardian. And during those hours, all who drank of its sparkling water were cured of sickness, and filled with a nameless joy.
But when the slanting shadow of the afternoon touched the spring, Ochdoah the Bat swooped down on his leathery wings and brooded over its water. Then the sparkle died out of its tide, and a sluggish poison ran forth from the rock, killing all men and beasts who drank.
Ahneah the Rose Flower, the loveliest of Indian maids, went, one Summer morning, from her lodge to the spring to fetch water in her elm-wood bowl. She set the bowl down by the rock, and, sitting in the cool shade of the trees, wove sweet-smelling grass into baskets. And while she braided the strands, she sang the Firefly song of her people. She was as happy as she was lovely, and forgot the passing hours. She did not see that the slanting shadow of afternoon was nearing the spring. It glinted on the rock just as she finished her weaving.
Then leaning over the spring, she plunged her elm-wood bowl into the sparkling water. But something held the bowl fast, and the beautiful face of a youth smiled up at her from the ripples. It smiled and nodded as it floated from side to side. Then it vanished for a moment, only to return, and with its enchanting smile woo the fast-beating heart of the maid.
And while she was gazing entranced, lo, the slanting shadow of afternoon passed over the spring. Then the beautiful face of the youth faded away, and Ochdoah the Bat, who had been hovering in the shadow, swooped down and seized the trembling maid. He bore her swiftly upward, and with fast wing left even the wind behind. Onward he flew, then suddenly descended and plunged into a roaring cataract. And there Ahneah the Rose Flower was nearly lost in the swirl of the mad torrent. And there she saw near her a face terrible and frowning. And as she turned from it with a shudder, the fierce water cast her up on the shore.
The horrible face appeared again, and led her down beneath the Earth. Into a cavern it led her, glaring with flames, around which danced many Witches. Something pushed her into the circle of dancers, and she fell fainting to the ground.
But suddenly she felt herself breathe new air, and she opened her eyes. And, lo, it was sunrise, and she stood by the spring in the hollow of the rock. And by her side was a young warrior clad for the hunt. He bore in his hand a branch of the Spruce Tree, and on his head were two wings,- one of the Eagle and the other of the Owl.
And as Ahneah gazed on the young warrior, she saw the face of the beautiful youth who had smiled at her from the spring. He took her hand, and told her his story. He was Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree, who guarded the spring from sunrise to noon. With his Eagle wing he could fly to the Sun, and with his Owl wing he wandered through the whole forest in the night. He had seen the evil Ochdoah the Bat hovering in the shadow, as he waited to seize the maid. So Ohsweda had held fast her bowl, and tried to warn her. But all too late, for the slanting shadow of afternoon had passed over the spring, and Ochdoah the Bat, swooping down, had borne away the trembling maid.
Then Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree, on his Eagle wing, had followed swiftly after. He had entered the dread cavern beneath the Earth, and snatched Ahneah the Rose Flower from the Fire Dance of the Witches. In his arms he had carried her back to the spring, and at sunrise, with the healing water, had caused her to open her eyes.
All this did Ohsweda the Spirit of the Spruce Tree relate to the maid. Then with a happy heart she filled her elm-wood bowl, and sped quickly to her lodge.
But as day by day passed, Ahneah the Rose Flower faded. And one Summer morn, at the vanishing of the dew, her lodge was empty. When her people entered its door, they heard the rustle and whirr of wings, then a strange silence filled the lodge. And by the side of the couch, where Ahneah the Rose Flower had lain, were two fallen feathers. One was of the Eagle, and the other of the Owl.
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