How the hunter became a Partridge
A Passamaquoddy Legend
One day in late autumn a hunter in the Micmac country traveled through the woods, and he heard in the distance the sound of footsteps beating on the ground. He hastened to the spot whence the noise came, and found a man and his wife dancing around a tree. And on the tree, high among the boughs, was a Raccoon. The man and his wife had danced so long that they had worn a trench in the earth; indeed, they were in it up to their waists.
"Why are you dancing in this strange manner?" asked the hunter.
"We are hungry," they answered, "and we are trying to dance the tree down to the ground, so that we may catch the Raccoon."
"If I show you a better way than that," said the hunter, "will you give me the Raccoon's skin?"
"We will give you the skin," answered the others, "if you will catch him for us."
So the hunter took his hatchet, and cut down the tree, and caught the Raccoon. After which he took the skin and went his way.
He had not gone far along the trail before he met a strange man carrying on his head a large Birch wigwam of many rooms. The hunter was astonished and frightened at such a sight. But the stranger stopped, and putting down the wigwam, seated himself on the ground, and invited the hunter to smoke and talk with him.
They smoked and talked together for a while. Then the stranger pointed to the Raccoon's skin in the hunter's belt, and said, "That is a fine skin; where did you get it?"
"I got it from the dancing man and his wife," replied the hunter.
"Sell it to me," said the stranger, "and I will give you my belt in exchange."
"I will not have your belt," said the hunter.
"Sell it to me, and I will give you my bow," said the stranger.
"I will not have your bow," said the hunter.
"Sell it to me, and I will give you my Birch wigwam," said the stranger.
"But I cannot carry your wigwam," replied the hunter.
"Lift it upon your head, and see," said the stranger.
The hunter lifted the wigwam, and placed it on his head, and found it as light as an empty basket. So he gave the stranger the Raccoon's skin, and, carrying the wigwam, went on his way.
And when night came he set the wigwam upon a grassy ridge by the side of a stream, and entering he looked about. Every room was hung with fine blankets and rich furs, and furnished beautifully. The hunter found one room in which was a bed covered with a White Bear's skin. Now this was a magic skin, but the hunter did not know it. As the bed was soft, and he was weary, he lay down and went to sleep.
And when he woke in the morning he saw to his wonder and delight that above him hung all sorts of good things to eat-dried Venison and Ducks, strings of Indian Corn, and baskets of red berries and Maple Sugar.
He stretched out his arms, and gave a spring toward the food, when, lo! the White Bear's skin melted away, for it was only a heap of snow. The wigwam was only a Birch Tree, and the food that hung above were the early buds of the Birch. The hunter's arms grew spreading like wings, his body was covered with feathers, and he flew up to the Birch Tree. And he was no longer the hunter, but Pulowech the Partridge.
And he had been wintering under the snow, as the Partridge does, and was now come forth to greet the beautiful Spring and the Summer.
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