STONE-SHIRT was a terrible giant who wore a shirt of shells so fastened that no arrow could pierce it. He lived with his three daughters on the shore of the Big Sea Water.
His daughters were not bad or hardhearted, but they were forced to do all sorts of evil to protect their father. They had magic arrows which went wherever they wished and found their way straight to the hearts of their enemies, though shot' without aim.
Stone-shirt, while out hunting one day, saw a beautiful woman gathering flags. "Who are you?" said he to her.
She was afraid of him, and said "I am Spear-mint."
"You are not," roared the giant, "you are Mouse, the wife of the Crane. I will kill him and you shall live with me. Kill your child before I return or I will dash him to pieces before your eyes."
Mouse picked up the boy, and as soon as the giant was out of sight she ran quickly with it to its grandmother's. Then she went back and smeared the stones with the blood of some fresh bear's meat which she threw into the lake.
She could not warn her husband, for he had gone hunting soon after sunrise, and she did not know which way he went or when he would be likely to return. Search as she might there was no escape.
The giant was not long gone, and when he returned he carried the scalp of the Crane, whom he had met on the way back to his wigwam. Seizing Mouse by the hair, he shook the scalp in her face, and then dragged her through the forest.
The deer had shed his horns many times when the baby boy, now grown to be a fine lad, went with his grandmother to dig flag-roots. They took a sharp flint knife with which to cut the ground, for the roots are hard to pull.
When they had been some time in the swamp, they found that the roots came up easily and then more easily till at last they had only to take hold of a flag to have it at once loosened from the earth. The old woman said, "Surely something strange is going to happen. Let us go home, I do not care to dig any more to-day."
The boy took an armful of flags to the place where he had put the others, but the pile was gone. He called to his grandmother and asked her if she had moved the roots.
"No, my child," said she, "perhaps some giant has stolen them, let us go home."
The boy looked around and soon spied a man sitting under a tree not far off. He felt sure it was he who had stolen the flags, and taking up some small stones, threw them at him, calling him, ''Thief, coward."
The man did not move. At last a stone larger than the others struck his leg and broke it. He lifted up the leg, bound it tightly with a strip torn from his coat and again sat down under the tree. Then he beckoned to the boy, and pointing to some bones in front of him, asked: "What bones are these?"
The boy answered promptly, "Elk or deer."
"No," said the man," these are the bones of your father. Has not the old woman told you how he was killed by Stone-shirt and his bones left to rot like those of the wolf?"
"No," said the boy.
"Has she not told you of your mother whom Stone-shirt carried off?"
"No," said the lad again; but the man saw he would fight the giant, so he said no more, but disappeared as suddenly as he had come.
The boy went back to his grandmother and told her what he had heard. She knew at once that he must have seen a spirit. When the boy blamed her for keeping the story of his father's death a secret, she cried and said, "You are my only hope. If you go to fight Stone-shirt, he will kill you and I shall be alone."
The boy made no answer, but went and lay down on his couch of skins, for he felt a heavy sleep coming over him. He slept three days and three nights. When he awoke he refused food and said: "I am going to all nations to enlist warriors in my cause," and passed out of the wigwam.
The boy was tall and well-formed, and while he slept he had taken on the face of a young man. He traveled many moons, and wherever he went the chiefs listened to him, and the young men of the different tribes took up their bows and arrows and declared themselves ready to follow him. Among them were two magicians, the Wolf and the Rattlesnake.
These two went with him some distance, and the three entered his grandmother's wigwam. After they had eaten a meal which the old woman gladly prepared for them, the young man took a stone axe and handing it to her asked her to cut him in two.
She refused, but he persisted, and at last commanded her to do as he said, and in such a tone that she dared not disobey.
She struck the blow tremblingly, hitting the red deer's tail that he wore, when lo! each half of his body took form, and instead of one handsome young warrior, there were two who were so much alike that one could not be distinguished from the other.
The One-Two, as they called themselves, went out to meet the people who were now advancing through the forest. The number of them was so great that it was a day's march from the foremost men to those at the end of the trail.
Their way lay through a barren place, and they traveled all day without seeing trees or water. The next morning they began to grumble, for they suffered from thirst. As the day wore on they grumbled more and more and began to threaten the One-Two, though no one had been compelled to follow.
The Rattlesnake, who had much wisdom, said, "One-Two, now is the time to bring out your magic cup."
This cup was a large bowl of polished bass-wood. It could be held in the hand, and yet when one looked inside it one could not see the bottom. One-Two had received it from a magician when he first set out on his journey. He had sealed it as he had been told, with a water-lily leaf and the balsam of the fir, and kept it to use when in great distress.
The brothers consulted together and decided to take the Rattlesnake's advice. They handed the cup from one to another. As soon as one had taken all that he wanted, even to what might have been half that it held, the cup was full again. But before it could be passed to the Wolf he was dead.
Then the people grumbled again, for the Wolf was brave and gave them courage. The brothers paid no attention to the complaints; but one held the cup while the other took some water from it and with it he sprinkled the Wolf.
Wolf arose and cried: "Why did you disturb me? I was having such pleasant dreams."
They gave him the cup and he drank all that there was in it; but when he handed it to the brothers it did not refill.
They had brought but little food with them, and no animals crossed their path in the barren place; so they were hungry, and on the third day began again to grumble and to accuse the brothers.
The One-Two said nothing, but towards evening they said to the Wolf, who was keen of sight and of scent, "Is not that an antelope in the distance?"
"Yes," said the Wolf, "but it is the goat with many eyes, the watchman of Stone-shirt. Nevertheless I will go and kill it."
Then the Rattlesnake said, "Let me go, for the antelope will see you and will run away."
But the One-Two sent the Wolf, for they knew him to be the braver. He started at once, going in and out so as to hide in the bushes,
After he had gone, the Rattlesnake said to the brothers, "Do you see me?"
"No," was the answer, and they began to search for him. They looked in vain till the Rattlesnake chose to show himself, although they were standing in an open space where there was no place for him to hide.
The Rattlesnake again asked to be allowed to hunt the antelope. The brothers told him he might go, and in a few hours he returned with the game on his shoulders.
The Wolf saw him as he passed, and at first was very angry, but afterwards he said to himself, "What does it matter, so long as the people get food?"
Again they were without water; so the One-Two changed themselves into doves, took the magic cup and flew with it towards the lodge of Stone-shirt, which they knew was on the edge of a lake.
The daughters of Stone-shirt bathed in the lake every morning; and having been annoyed by birds peeping at them from the bushes, they set a snare for them.
The One-Two, knowing nothing of this, were caught, and the maidens carried them to a lodge. Stone-shirt looked at them with suspicion, for he knew no such birds lived thereabouts, and he feared they were spies. His daughters, however, persuaded him not to kill them. They stroked them and fed them and in the morning let them fly away.
The brothers went back to the bushes where they had dropped the cup, filled it and flew with it to their camp.
The next day they ventured near Stone-shirt's lodge in their natural form. This time they saw their mother. She did not believe their story at first, for she had left only one child. But when they explained how everything had happened, she begged them not to fight Stone-shirt, and told them about his armor and his daughters’ arrows.
But they could not be persuaded. They told her they would surely fight the giant the next day, and warned her not to go down to the lake for fear she might be hit by a stray arrow.
That night the One-Two disguised themselves as mice and crept into the wigwam of Stone-shirt, where they nibbled the strings of all his bows. The Rattlesnake went with them and hid himself behind a rock on which Stone-shirt sat every morning.
When the giant appeared as usual, the Rattlesnake bit him. He leaped high in the air and exclaimed, "We are betrayed!"
His daughters seized their bows and arrows, but found them useless, as the strings had been gnawed.
The cry of Stone-shirt had roused the warriors who, having advanced in the night, were lying in ambush near his lodge. They let fly a shower of arrows and then rushed from their hiding-place.
Both the maidens were struck; and waving their hands to their enemies to fall back, they sang a death-song and fell dead across the path that led to the lodge.
One-Two were very sorry, for the maidens had been kind to them. They buried them with great mourning; but the bones of Stone-shirt were left to rot as he had left those of their father, the Crane.