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How One Of The Partridge’s Wives Became A Sheldrake Duck
by [?]

How One of the Partridge’s Wives Became a Sheldrake Duck, and Why her Feet and Feathers are Red.

N’karnayoo, of the old time, there was a hunter who lived in the woods. He had a brother, [Footnote: The word brother is so generally applied in adoption or friendship that it cannot here be taken in a literal sense. The brother in this case seems to have been a goblin or spirit.] who was so small that he kept him in a box, and when he went forth he closed this very carefully, for fear lest an evil spirit (Mitche-hant) should get him.

One day this hunter, returning, saw a very beautiful girl sitting on a rock by a river, making a moccasin. And being in a canoe he paddled up softly and silently to capture her; but she, seeing him coming, jumped into the water and disappeared. On returning to her mother, who lived at the bottom of the river, she was told to go back to the hunter and be his wife; “for now,” said the mother, “you belong to that man.”

The hunter’s name was Mitchihess, the Partridge. When she came to his lodge he was absent. So she arranged everything for his return, making a bed of boughs. At night he came back with one beaver. This he divided; cooked one half for supper and laid by the other half. In the morning when she awoke he was gone, and the other half of the beaver had also disappeared. That night he returned with another beaver, and the same thing took place again. Then she resolved to spy and find out what all this meant.

So she laid down and went to sleep, wide awake, with one eye open. Then he quietly rose and cooked the half of the beaver, and taking a key (Apkwosgehegan, P.) unlocked a box, and took out a little red dwarf and fed him. Replacing the elf, he locked him up again, and lay down to sleep. And the small creature had eaten the whole half beaver. But ere he put him in his box he washed him and combed his hair, which seemed to delight him.

The next morning, when her husband had gone for the day, the wife sought for the key, and having found it opened the box and called to the little fellow to come out. This he refused to do for a long time, though she promised to wash and comb him. Being at length persuaded, he peeped out, when she pulled him forth. But whenever she touched him her hands became red, though of this she took no heed, thinking she could wash it off at will. But lo! while combing him, there entered a hideous being, an awful devil, who caught the small elf from her and ran away.

Then she was terribly frightened. And trying to wash her hands, the red stain remained. When her husband returned that night he had no game; when he saw the red stain he knew all that had happened; when he knew what had happened he seized his bow to beat her; when she saw him seize his bow to beat her she ran down to the river, and jumped in to escape death at his hands, though it should be by drowning. But as she fell into the water she became a sheldrake duck. And to this day the marks of the red stain are to be seen on her feet and feathers. [Footnote: Related to me by Noel Josephs, a Passamaquoddy. Notwithstanding its resemblance to Blue Beard, it is probably in every detail a very old Indian tradition. It bears a slight resemblance to several far western legends, which refer to peculiarities in the duck. It is partly repeated in a Lox legend.]