LIVING STATUE was a great magician of the Ottawas, who lived on the shores of Lake Huron. His wigwam was of skin that had been scrubbed and bleached until it shone like snow when the sun falls upon it; and it could be seen at a great distance. From the lodge pole downwards it was covered with paintings, some done by the magician and others by his friends, each telling a wonderful tale of his magic.
His couch was of white buffalo skins, which are very rare and precious. His pipes were the admiration of all who saw them, for they were ornamented with red feathers from the breast of the robin, blue from the jay, purple from the neck of the pigeon, and green from the throat of the drake. His moccasins of rabbit skin, dyed scarlet, were the softest that could be made. They were worked with beads brought by a messenger from a far-distant tribe, who had received them from the Pale-faces that came across the Big Salt Lake. But the most wonderful thing about these moccasins was that they were magic shoes; for every stride he took in them carried him over a mile of ground.
His flute was a reed cut in the swamp forest. When he blew a loud note upon it the distant rocks answered him, and the little vanishing men who danced in the moonlight, took up the music and laughed it back to him. When he breathed softly upon it no Indian heard him; for the sound went straight into the heart of the flowers. The fairies hearing it crept forth and balanced themselves on the petals of the flowers that they might hear the better.
The magician's sister, Sweet Strawberry, whose fawn-skin robe may be seen in the moon on bright nights, sometimes rested on the topmost branches of the tall trees to listen. She had once lived with him, but the Moon Prince had taken her to be his bride, and all the tribe mourned for her as for one dead.
Living Statue talked with the birds and the squirrels, who laid down and died and rolled out of their skins when he asked for them. He was the friend of all the rabbits, who were proud to have him eat them. When he had finished the meal, he read the story of the animal's life in its bones, and if it had been good in its time he stroked its skin and it came to life again, and could nevermore be caught.
One day, as Living Statue Was walking across the plain near the edge of the forest, he met a little man no higher than his knee. The dwarf was dressed all in green, and wore a green cap with a red plume in it.
"Fight me, fight me," said the dwarf, placing himself directly in front of the magician.
Living Statue tried to kick him out of his path. Thereupon his foot began to swell so that he could hardly move.
"Fight me, fight me," said the dwarf, who again danced in front of him.
Living Statue stooped and took hold of him, intending to throw him to one side, but he found the dwarf too strong for him. He strove in vain to lift him, so he wrestled with him till his arms were tired; but the dwarf was not overcome. At last, by a great effort he pushed him from him, then rushed at him with all his might and succeeded in throwing him to the ground. He sprang quickly upon him, and taking out his knife prepared to scalp him.
"Hold, hold," said the dwarf; "I see the Ottawa magician is a brave warrior, as well as a great wizard. He has fought and conquered me, though not by magic. I will show him greater magic than any he has ever known."
When he had done speaking he threw himself backwards and was changed into a crooked ear of corn, which rolled over and lay at the magician's feet.
"Take me," said the ear; "tear off the wrapper that is drawn so tightly about me and leave nothing to hide my body from your eyes. Then pull my body to pieces, taking all the flesh from the bones and throw the flesh upon different parts of the plain. Cover me with earth that the ravens may not feast upon me. My spine you shall break in pieces no larger than your thumb and shall scatter them near the edge of the forest. Go back to your village when you have done this and return to this place after one moon."
Living Statue did exactly what the dwarf had told him to do, but he said nothing to the Ottawas about his adventure. It was not for them to understand magic; they might try to do what he alone understood and the spirits would be offended.
When the hot moon had come Living Statue went back to the plain where he had wrestled with the dwarf, and there he saw a field of long, green plumes waving in the sunlight. They were smooth and glossy and dropped almost to the ground. In color they were like the robe of the dwarf, only bright and shining.
While he was looking and wondering, the dwarf suddenly sprang out of the broadest stalk and said, "You have done well. Let one moon pass and another appear before you come again. Then you will find a new food for the Ottawas, better than the wild rice, sweet as the blood of the maple, and strength-giving as the flesh of the deer."
At the time appointed, Living Statue went again to the spot and there he found the gift of the corn. He brought his tribe to witness, and to gather it. Then he and three other magicians painted their bodies with white clay and danced round the kettle in which it was being prepared, which done, they took out the ears and burnt them as a sacrifice. They then put out the fire and lighted a fresh one, with which they cooked "the spirits’ berry" for themselves.
One night when Living Statue lay asleep, he heard the curtain of his tent flap, and presently two dwarfs entered and crept up to his couch. One climbed upon his legs and sat astride them; the other mounted to his breast and began feeling his throat.
"Choke him! choke him!" said the dwarf at his feet.
"I can't; my hands are too small and weak," said the other.
"Pull his heart out! Pull his heart out!" said the first.
The second dwarf began pounding and tugging at the breast of the sleeper. At this the one astride his legs gave his companion a vicious kick, and said in a hoarse whisper, "You stupid! pull it out through his mouth."
So the dwarf forced open the teeth of Living Statue and thrust his fingers far down his throat. Now, this was just what the magician thought he would do; so when the fingers were inside his mouth, he shut his teeth together quickly and bit them off. Then, slowly raising himself, he threw the dwarf who was on his legs, clear to the door of the wigwam.
"Oh! oh!" cried the one whose hand was bitten, and he howled like a dog.
"Oh! oh!" cried the other, and he howled like a wolf as the two disappeared in the darkness.
The magician kept very still, then crept to the door, raised the curtain and put his head outside to listen, so that he might know in what direction they went. He heard them hurrying through the forest towards the lake. There was a soft splash, as of water when a canoe bends to it beneath the weight of a man, and all was still.
In the morning Living Statue found that the fingers he had bitten off were long wampum beads, greatly prized by the Indians, and so valuable that they made him very rich. He had no trouble in following the trail of the dwarfs, for it was marked by drops of blood that were changed into wampum beads. He had enough to make a coat, a cap and leggings, so that ever after he was known to all nations as the Prince of Wampum.
When he reached the lake he saw a stone canoe which was four times the length of his prow and white as the waves when the strong wind races with them to the shore. Two men were seated in it, one at the bow and the other in the stern. They were bolt upright, with their hands upon their knees, and did not look towards him. On going closer he saw that they were the dwarfs turned into stone. The boat was filled with sacks of bear skin, in which was treasure such as the magician had never before seen or imagined.
As he was about to take some of it away, the dwarf whose fingers he had bitten off, spoke to him and said: "In this manner the canoes of your people shall be loaded as they go past these shores, and no enemy shall be able to rob them."
The magician took the statues to his wigwam and afterwards they were set up in the sacred lodge of the tribe, the white canoe being placed between them.
Many chiefs wished to give the Prince of Wampum their daughters in marriage, but he chose a star maiden, and they went to live in the fields of the sky, near the white, misty road of the dead.