Short Stories » The Dance of the Little People
The Dance of the Little People - Page 5 of 6
"'It happened that some of us were careless. We nibbled deeper than we ought, and made holes in the moon. For this we were hurled down to the earth. Many of us were killed; others fell upon soft ground and lived. We do not know how to work. We can only nibble other people's things and carry them away to our hiding-places. For this we are hated by all creatures, even by the working mice of our own nation. But we still retain our power to stay upon moving bodies, and that is our magic.'
" ' Ho, ho, ho!' was the response of all present. They were obliged to respond thus, but they were angry with the little mouse, because he had shamed them.
" It was therefore decreed in that medicine-lodge that all the animals may kill the Hetunkala wherever they meet them, on the pretext that they do not belong upon earth. All do so to this day except the bear, who is obliged to keep his word."
" Q-o-o-o!" shouted the shaggy-haired boy, who was rather a careless sort in his manners, for one should never interrupt a storyteller.
" It is almost full moon now, grandfather," he continued, "and there are nice, open, sandy places on the shore near the mouse villages. Do you think we might see them dancing if we should watch to-night?"
"Ho, takoja! Yes, my grandson," simply replied the old man.
The sand-bar in front of the Indian camp was at some little distance, out of hearing of the occasional loud laughter and singing of the people. Wetaota was studded with myriads of jewel-like sparkles. On the shadowy borders of the lake, tall trees bodied forth mysterious forms of darkness. There was something weird in all this beauty and silence.
The boys were scattered along in the tall grass near the sand-bar, which sloped down to the water's edge as smooth as a floor. All lay flat on their faces, rolled up in their warm buffalo-robes, and still further concealed by the shadows of the trees. The shaggy-haired boy had a bow and some of his best arrows hidden under his robe. No two boys were together, for they knew by experience the temptation to whisper under such circumstances. Every redskin was absorbed in watching for the Little People to appear upon their playground, and at the same time he must be upon the alert for an intruder, such as Red Fox, or the Hooting- owl of the woods.
"It seems strange," thought Teola, as he lay there motionless, facing the far-off silvery moon, ; 'that these little folk should have been appointed to do a great work," for he had perfect faith in his grandfather's legend of the Moon-Nibblers.
"Ah-h-h!" he breathed, for now he heard a faint squeaking in the thick grass and rushes. Soon several tiny bodies appeared upon the open, sandy beach. They were so round and so tiny that one could scarcely detect the motion of their little feet. They ran to the edge of the water and others fol- lowed them, until there was a great mass of the Little People upon the clean, level sand.
" Oh, if Hinhan, the owl, should come now, he could carry away both claws full!" Teola fancied.
Presently there was a commotion among the Hetunkala, and many of them leaped high into the air, squeaking as if for a signal. Teola saw hundreds of mice coming from every direction. Some of them went close by his hiding-place, and they scrutinized his motionless body apparently with much care. But the young hunter instinctively held his breath, so that they could not smell him strongly, and at last all had gone by.