“What can have happened to me?” said little Luke aloud. All the creatures in that strange assembly stirred slightly and looked at Wa-poose the big Rabbit. Wa-poose hopped forward a step or two and stood up on his hind legs. His ears were stretched straight up over his head, his paws were crossed in front of him, and he looked very queer.
[Illustration: The magic speech flower]
Then to little Luke’s surprise, he spoke. “Man Cub,” said Wa-poose, “a wonderful thing has happened to you. You have found the Magic Speech Flower and tasted its blood. By its power you are able to understand the speech of all the wild folk of field and forest. This great gift has come to you because your heart has been full of loving kindness toward all the creatures that the Master of Life has made.
“Only he can find the Magic Flower who, between the rising and the setting of the sun, has done five deeds of mercy and kindness toward the wild folk of forest and field. These five deeds you have done.”
Wa-poose paused. For a moment there was silence. All the wild folk looked steadfastly at the little boy, who in turn gazed at them with wonder-filled eyes. Then he spoke. “Five deeds! What five deeds have I done?” he asked, forgetting all about his morning’s work.
“This morning you saved my child from the fierce jaws of Klaws the House Cat. You drove off Mee-ko the thieving Red Squirrel when he was trying to steal the eggs from the nest of O-pee-chee. You helped Ah-mo escape from the trap of wicked old Ik-to. You saved Chee-wink’s fledglings from the cruel fangs of A-tos-sa, and you put the young one back into O-loo-la’s nest safely.
“Two things you must remember if you wish to keep this magic power. You must never needlessly or in sport hurt or kill any of the wild creatures that the Master of Life has made and you must tell no one what has happened to you. If you give heed to these two things, we will all be your friends. When you walk abroad, you shall see us when no one else can, and we will talk with you and teach you all the wisdom and the ways of the wild kindreds.”
Just then the sound of footsteps was heard coming down the trail. The gray mist rose again before little Luke’s eyes and he heard someone say, “Wake up, little boy, it is almost noon. Your Aunt Martha will have dinner on the table before you can get back to the farmhouse.”
Little Luke looked up and there was Old John the Indian, who lived in a lonely cabin on the other side of the mountain, and sometimes came to the farmhouse to sell game he had killed or baskets that he had woven.
Little Luke sprang up and rubbed his eyes. Not one of the wild folk was to be seen. But he held in his hand a broken and crumpled flower. He put the flower into his pocket and went along down the trail toward the farmhouse with Old John.