Short Stories » The Dance of the Little People
The Dance of the Little People - Page 3 of 6
Padanee was an ordinary looking old Indian, except that he had a really extraordinary pair of eyes, whose searching vision it seemed that nothing could escape. These eyes of his were well supported by an uncommonly good memory. His dusky and furrowed countenance was lighted as by an inner flame when once he had wound the buffalo-robe about his lean, brown limbs and entered upon the account of his day's experience in the chase, or prepared to relate to an attentive circle some oft - repeated tradition of his people.
" Hun, hun, hay !" The old savage cleared his throat. A crowd of bright-eyed little urchins had slipped quietly into his lodge. "Teola tells me that you had all set out to hunt down and destroy the Little People of the Meadow, and were only stopped by seeing their chief go by. I want to tell you something about the lives of these little creatures. We know that they are food for foxes and other animals, and that is as far as most of us think upon the matter. Yet the Great Mystery must have had some purpose in mind when He made them, and doubtless that is good for us to know."
Padanee was considered a very good savage school-teacher, and he easily held his audience.
"When you make mud animals," he continued, "you are apt to vary them a little, perhaps for fun and perhaps only by accident. It is so with the Great Mystery. He seems to get tired of making all the animals alike, for in every tribe there are differences.
" Among the Hetunkala, the Little People, there are several different bands. Some live in one place and build towns and cities like the white man. Some wander much over forest and prairie, like our own people. These are very small, with long tails, and they are great jumpers. They are the thieves of their nation. They never put up any food of their own, but rob the store-houses of other tribes.
"Then there is the bob tailed mouse with white breast. He is very much like the paleface always at work. He cannot pass by a field of the wild purple beans without stopping to dig up a few and tasting to see if they are of the right sort. These make their home upon the low-lying prairies, and fill their holes with great store of wild beans and edible roots, only to be robbed by the gopher, the skunk, the badger, who not only steal from them but often kill and eat the owner as well. Our old women, too, some- times rob them of their wild beans.
' This fellow is always fat and well-fed, like the white man. He is a harvester, and his full store-houses are found all through the bottom lands."
" Ho, ho ! Washtay lo !" the boys shouted. "Keep on, grandfather!"
"Perhaps you have heard, perhaps not," resumed the old man. " But it is the truth.
These little folk have their own ways. They have their plays and dances, like any other nation."
" We never heard it; or, if we have, we can remember it better if you will tell it to us again!" declared the shaggy -haired boy, with enthusiasm.
"Ho, ho, ho!" they all exclaimed, in chorus.
"Each full moon, the smallest of the mouse tribe, he of the very sharp nose and long tail, holds a great dance in an open field, or on a sandy shore, or upon the crusty snow. The dance is in honor of those who are to be cast down from the sky when the nibbling of the moon begins; for these Hetunkala are the Moon-Nibblers."
As this new idea dawned upon Padanee's listeners, all tightened their robes around them and sat up eagerly.