The back of the little rail is very concave, or hollow. The Indians tell us that it became so in the following manner:—
STORY OF THE LITTLE RAIL, OR Poule d’Eau
There is supposed, by most of the Northwestern tribes, to exist an invisible being, corresponding to the “Genie” of Oriental story. Without being exactly the father of evil, Nan-nee-bo-zho is a spirit whose office it is to punish what is amiss. He is represented, too, as constantly occupied in entrapping and making examples of all the animals that come in his way.
One pleasant evening, as he walked along the banks of a lake, he saw a flock of ducks, sailing and enjoying themselves on the blue waters. He called to them:
“Ho! come with me into my lodge, and I will teach you to dance!” Some of the ducks said among themselves, “It is Nan-nee-bo-zho; let us not go.” Others were of a contrary opinion, and, his words being fair, and his voice insinuating, a few turned their faces towards the land—all the rest soon followed, and, with many pleasant quackings, trooped after him, and entered his lodge.
When there, he first took an Indian sack, with a wide mouth, which he tied by the strings around his neck, so that it would hang over his shoulders, leaving the mouth unclosed. Then, placing himself in the centre of the lodge, he ranged the ducks in a circle around him.
“Now,” said he, “you must all shut your eyes tight; whoever opens his eyes at all, something dreadful will happen to him. I will take my Indian flute and play upon it, and you will, at the word I shall give, open your eyes, and commence dancing, as you see me do.”
The ducks obeyed, shutting their eyes tight, and keeping time to the music by stepping from one foot to the other, all impatient for the dancing to begin.
Presently a sound was heard like a smothered “quack,” but the ducks did not dare to open their eyes.
Again, and again, the sound of the flute would be interrupted, and a gurgling cry of “qu-a-a-ck” be heard. There was one little duck, much smaller than the rest, who, at this juncture, could not resist the temptation to open one eye, cautiously. She saw Nan-nee-bo-zho, as he played his flute, holding it with one hand, stoop a little at intervals and seize the duck nearest him, which he throttled and stuffed into the bag on his shoulders. So, edging a little out of the circle, and getting nearer the door, which had been left partly open, to admit the light, she cried out,—
“Open your eyes—Nan-nee-bo-zho is choking you all and putting you into his bag!”
With that she flew, but Nan-nee-bo-zho pounced upon her. His hand grasped her back, yet, with desperate force, she released herself and gained the open air. Her companions flew, quacking and screaming, after her. Some escaped, and some fell victims to the sprite.