X. THE STORY OF O-PEE-CHEE THE FIRST ROBIN
One day little Luke heard Old John the Indian speak of redbreast as Little Brother O-pee-chee. He wanted to ask the old man about the name, but did not get a chance. So the next morning he went down to the apple tree in the meadow and asked Father Redbreast about it.
“That,” answered redbreast, “is an old tale which both the Red Men and our people know. According to the story, the first redbreast was an Indian boy, and that is why he calls us Little Brothers.”
“Tell me about it,” said the little boy.
* * * * *
“Long, long ago,” began Father Redbreast, “there was a tribe of Indians which dwelt in the distant Northland. Their chief, who was a wise man and a brave warrior, had an only child, a little son. The boy was a bright little fellow, but not very strong. Somehow he was not so big and hardy as the other Indian boys. But his father loved him more than anything else in the world and wanted him to become the wisest man and the greatest warrior of his tribe.
“‘My son,’ said the old chief one day, ’you are about to become a warrior. You know the custom of our tribe. You must go apart and fast for a long time. The longer you fast, the greater and wiser you will become. I want you to fast longer than any other Indian has ever fasted. If you do this, the Good Man-i-to, the Master of Life, will come to you in a dream and tell you what you must do to become wise in council and brave, strong, and skillful in war.’
“‘Father,’ said the boy, ’I will do whatever you bid me. But I fear that I am not able to do what you wish.’
“‘Make your heart strong,’ answered the father, ’and all will be well. Most of the young men fast only four or five days. I want you to fast for twelve days, then you will have strong dreams. Now I will go into the forest and build your fasting lodge for you. Make yourself ready, for to-morrow you must begin your fast.’
“The little boy said no more and on the morrow his father took him to the fasting lodge and left him there. The boy stretched himself upon a mat, which his mother had made for him, and lay still.
“Each day the old chief went and looked at his son and asked him about his dreams. Each time the boy answered that the Man-i-to had not come.
“Day by day the boy became weaker and weaker. On the eleventh day he spoke to his father.
“‘Oh, my father,’ said he, ’I am not strong enough to fast longer. I am very weak. The Man-i-to has not come to me. Let me break my fast.’
“‘You are the son of a great warrior,’ said the father sternly; ’make your heart strong. Yet a little while and the Man-i-to will surely come to you. Perhaps he will come to-night.’
“The boy shook his head sadly and his father went back to his wigwam.