“The next day when he drew near to the fasting lodge, he heard someone talking within it.
“‘My father has asked too much,’ said a voice which sounded like, and yet unlike, the voice of his son. ’I am not strong enough. He should have waited until I became older and stronger. Now I shall die.’
“‘It was not the will of the Man-i-to,’ said another voice, ’that you should become a great warrior. But you shall not die. From this time you shall be a bird. You shall fly about in the free air. No longer shall you suffer the pain and sorrow which fall to the lot of men.’
“The old chief could wait no longer. He opened the door of the lodge and looked within. No one was there, only a brown bird with a gray breast flew out of the door and perched upon a branch above his head.
“The old chief was very sad, but the bird spoke to him and said, ’Do not mourn for me, my father, for I am free from pain and sorrow. It was not the will of the Man-i-to that I should become the greatest warrior of the tribe. But because I was obedient to you and did the best I could, he has changed me into a bird.
“’From this time, as long as the world shall last, I shall be the friend of man. When the cold winds blow and ice covers the streams, I shall go away to the warm land of the South. But in the spring, when the snows begin to melt, I shall return. And when the children hear my voice, they shall be happy, knowing that the long, cold winter is over. Do not mourn for me, my father. Farewell!’
“Ever since then, when the Indian children hear a robin singing, they say, ‘There is O-pee-chee, the bird that was once an Indian boy.’ And no Indian boy ever hurts a robin.”
When the robin had finished his story, little Luke thought for a moment. Then he said, “That’s a very interesting story. But there is one thing about it I don’t understand.”
“What is that?” asked Father Redbreast.
“Why,” said the little boy, “you said that O-pee-chee’s breast was gray. How does it come that yours is red?”
“That is another story,” answered Father Redbreast.
“I should like very much to hear it. Please tell me about it,” said little Luke.
* * * * *
“Once upon a time,” said Father Redbreast, “long after the days of the first robin, old Mah-to the great White Bear dwelt alone in the far Northland. He was the king of all the bears and was very cunning and cruel. He was so selfish that he did not like anybody else even to come into his country.
“If a hunter wandered into the region where he lived, he would lie in wait for him and kill him. One stroke of his mighty paw and the man would fall, to rise no more. He killed so many of them that the hunters began to be afraid to go into that land. As for the beasts and birds, they all feared him and kept as far away from him as they could.