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The Fire-Plume
by [?]

Wassamo was living with his parents on the shore of a large bay, far out in the north-east.

One day, when the season had commenced for fish to be plenty, the mother of Wassamo said to him, “My son, I wish you would go to yonder point and see if you can not procure me some fish; and ask your cousin to accompany you.”

He did so. They set out, and in the course of the afternoon they arrived at the fishing-ground.

The cousin, being the elder, attended to the nets, and they encamped near by, using the bark of the birch for a lodge to shelter them through the night.

They lit a fire, and while they sat conversing with each other, the moon arose. Not a breath of wind disturbed the smooth surface of the lake. Not a cloud was seen. Wassamo looked out on the water toward their nets, and he saw that the little black spots, which were no other than the floats, dotting the lake, had disappeared.

“Cousin,” he said, “let us visit our nets; perhaps we are fortunate.”

When they drew up the nets they were rejoiced to see the meshes shining white, all over, with the glittering prey. They landed in fine spirits, and put away their canoe in safety from the winds.

“Wassamo,” said the cousin, “you cook that we may eat.”

Wassamo set about the work at once, and soon had his great kettle swung upon its branch, while the cousin lay at his ease upon the other side of the fire.

“Cousin,” said Wassamo, “tell me stories or sing me some love-songs.”

The cousin obeyed, and sung his plaintive songs; or he would frequently break off in the midst of a mournful chant, and begin to recite a mirthful story, and then in the midst of Wassamo’s laughter he would return to the plaintive ditty–just as it suited his fancy; for the cousin was gay of spirit, and shifted his humor faster than the fleecy clouds that appeared and disappeared in the night-sky over their heads. In this changeful pastime the cousin ran his length, and then he fell away, murmuring parts of his song or story, into a silvery sleep; with the moon gliding through the branches and gilding his face.

Wassamo in the mean while had lost the sound of his cousin’s voice in the rich simmer of the kettle; and when its music pleased his ear the most, as announcing that the fish were handsomely cooked, he lifted the kettle from the fire. He spoke to his cousin, but he received no answer.

He went on with his housekeeping alone, and took the wooden ladle and skimmed the kettle neatly, for the fish were very plump and fat. Wassamo had a torch of twisted bark in one hand to give light, and when he came to take out the fish, there was no one to have charge of the torch.

The cousin was so happy in his sleep, with the silver moon kissing his cheeks, as though she were enamored of his fair looks, that Wassamo had not the heart to call him up.

Binding his girdle upon his brow, in this he thrust the torch, and went forward, with the light dancing through the green leaves at every turn of his head, to prepare the evening meal.

He again spoke to his cousin, but gently, to learn whether he was in truth asleep. The cousin murmured, but made no reply; and Wassamo stepped softly about with the dancing fire-plume lighting up the gloom of the forest at every turn he made.

Suddenly he heard a laugh It was double, or the one must be the perfect echo of the other. To Wassamo there appeared to be two persons at no great distance.

“Cousin,” said Wassamo, “some person is near us. I hear a laugh; awake and let us look out!”

The cousin made no answer.

Again Wassamo heard the laughter in mirthful repetition, like the ripple of the water-brook upon the shining pebbles of the stream. Peering out as far as the line of the torchlight pierced into the darkness, he beheld two beautiful young females smiling on him. Their countenances appeared to be perfectly white, like the fresh snow.