STORY OF SHEE-SHEE-BANZE.
THERE was a young man named Shee-shee-banze (the Little Duck), paddling his canoe along the shore of the lake.
Two girls came down to the edge of the water, and seeing him, the elder said to the younger, "Let us call to him to take us a sail."
It must be remarked that in all Indian stories where two or more sisters are the dramatis personæ, the elder is invariably represented as silly, ridiculous and disgusting -- the younger, as wise and beautiful.
In the present case the younger remonstrated. "Oh! no," said she, "let us not do such a thing. What will he think of us?"
But the other persevered, and called to him, "Ho! come and take us into your canoe." The young man obeyed, and approaching the shore, he took them with him into the canoe.
"Who are you?" asked the elder sister?
"I am Way-gee-mar-kin," replied he, "the great Chief."
This Way-gee-mar-kin was something of a fairy, for when surrounded by his followers, and wishing to confer favors on them, he had a habit of coughing slightly, when there would fly forth from his mouth quantities of silver brooches, ear-bobs and other ornaments, for which it was the custom of his people to scramble, each striving, as in more civilized life, to get more than his share.
Accordingly, the elder sister said, "If you are Way-gee-mar-kin, let us see your cough."
Shee-shee-banze had a few of these silver ornaments which he had got by scrambling, and which he kept stowed away in the sides of his mouth in case of emergency. So he gave some spasmodic coughs and brought forth a few, which the girl eagerly seized.
After a time, as they paddled along, a fine noble elk came forth from the forest, and approached the water to drink.
"What is that?" asked the spokeswoman; for the younger sister sat silent and modest all the time.
"It is my dog that I hunt with."
"Call him to us, that I may see him."
Shee-shee-banze called, but the elk turned and fled into the woods.
"He does not seem to obey you, however."
"No, it is because you inspire him with disgust, and therefore he flies from you."
Soon a bear made his appearance by the water's edge.
"What is that?" "One of my servants."
Again he was requested to call him, and as the call was disregarded, the same reason as before was assigned.
Their excursion was at length ended. There had been a little magic in it, for although the young girls had supposed themselves to be in a canoe, there was, in reality, no canoe at all. They only imagined it to have been so.
Now Shee-shee-bauze lived with his grandmother, and to her lodge he conducted his young friends.
They stood outside while he went in.
"Grandmother," said he, "I have brought you two young girls, who will be your daughters-in-law. Invite them into your lodge."
Upon this, the old woman called, "Ho! come in," and they entered. They were made welcome and treated to the best of everything.
In the meantime, the real Way-gee-mar-kin, the great chief made preparations for a grand feast. When he was sending his messenger out with the invitations, he said to him, "Be very particular to bid Shee-shee-banze to the feast, for as he is the smallest and meanest person in the tribe, you must use double ceremony with him, or he will be apt to think himself slighted."
Shee-shee-banze sat in his lodge with his new friends, when the messenger arrived.
"Ho! Shee-shee-banze," cried he, "you are invited to a great feast that Way-gee-mar-kin is to give tonight, to all his subjects."
But Shee-shee-banze took no notice of the invitation. He only whistled, and pretended not to hear. The messenger repeated his words, and finding that no attention was paid to them, he went his way.
The young girls looked at each other, during this scene, greatly astonished. At length the elder spoke.
"What does this mean?" said she. "Why does he call you Shee-shee-banze, and invite you to visit Way-gee-mar-kin ?"
"Oh!" said Shee-shee-banze, "it is one of my followers that always likes to be a little impudent. I am obliged to put up with it sometimes, but you observed that I treated him with silent contempt."
The messenger returned to the chief, and reported the manner in which the invitation had been received.
"Oh!" said the good-natured chief, "it is because he feels he is poor and insignificant. Go back again -- call him by my name, and make a flourishing speech to him."
The messenger fulfilled his mission as he was bid. "Way-gee-mar-kin," said he, pompously, "a great feast is to be given tonight, and I am sent most respectfully to solicit the honor of your company!"
"Did I not tell you?" said Shee-shee-banze to the maidens. Then nodding with careless condescension, he added, "Tell them I'll come."
At night, Shee-shee-banze dressed himself in his very best paint, feathers and ornaments -- but before his de.-parture he took his grandmother aside.
"Be sure," said he, "that you watch these young people closely until I come back. Shut up your lodge tight, tight. Let no one come in or go out, and above all things, do not go to sleep."
These orders given, he went his way.
The grandmother tried her best to keep awake, but finding herself growing more and more sleepy, as the night wore on, she took a strong cord and laced across the mat which hung before the entrance to the lodge, as the Indians lace up the mouths of their bags, and having seen all things secure and the girls quiet in bed, she laid down and soon fell into a comfortable sleep.
The young girls, in the meanwhile, were dying with curiosity to know what had become of Shee-shee-banze, and as soon as they were sure the old lady was asleep, they prepared to follow him, and see what was going on. Fearing, however, that the grandmother might awake and discover their absence, they took two logs of wood, and putting them under the blanket, so disposed them as to present the appearance of persons sleeping quietly. They then cut the cords that fastened the door, and, guided by the sounds of the music, the dancing, and the merry-making, they soon found their way to the dwelling of Way-gee-mar-kin.
When they entered, they saw the chief seated on a throne, surrounded by light and splendor. Everything was joy and amusement. Crowds of courtiers were in the apartment, all dressed in the most brilliant array. The strangers looked around for their friend Shee-shee-banze, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Now and then the chief would cough, when a shower of silver ornaments and precious things would fly in all directions, and instantly, a scramble would commence among the company, to gather them up and appropriate them. As they thus rushed forward, the brides elect saw their poor little friend crowded up into a corner, where nobody took any notice of him, except to push him aside, or step on him whenever he was in the way. He uttered piteous little squeaks as one and another would thus maltreat him, but he was too busy taking care of himself to perceive that those whom he had left snug at home in the lodge were witnesses of all that was going on.
At length the signal was given for the company to retire, all but the two young damsels, upon whom Way-gee-mar-kin had set his eye, and to whom he had sent, by one of his assistants, great offers to induce them to remain with him and become his wives.
Poor Shee-shee-banze returned to his lodge, but what was his consternation to find the door open!
"Ho! grandmother," cried he "is this the way you keep watch?"
The old woman started up. "There are my daughters-in-law," said she, pointing to the two logs of wood. Shee-shee-banze threw himself on the ground between them. His back was broken by coming so violently in contact with them, but that he did not mind -- he thought only of revenge, and the recovery of his sweethearts.
He waited but to get some powerful poison and prepare it, and then he stole softly back to the wigwam of Way-gee-mar-kin. All was silent, and he crept in without making the slightest noise. There lay the chief, with a young girl on each side of him.
They were all sound asleep, the chief lying on his back, with his mouth wide open. Before he was aware of it, the poison was down his throat, and Shee-shee-banze had retreated quietly to his own lodge.
The next morning the cry went through the village that Way-gee-mar-kin had been found dead in his bed. Of course it was attributed to over indulgence at the feast. All was grief and lamentation. "Let us go and tell poor Shee-shee-banze," said one, "he was so fond of Way-gee-mar-kin."
They found him sitting on a bank fishing. He bad been up at peep of day, to make preparation for receiving the intelligence.
He had caught two or three fish, and, extracting their bladders, had filled them with blood, and tied them under his arm. When the friends of Way-gee-mar-kin saw him, they called out to him,
"Oh! Shee-shee-banze, your friend, Way-gee-mar-kin, is dead!" With a gesture of despair, Shee-shee-banze drew his knife and plunged it, not into his heart, but into the bladders filled with blood that he had prepared. As he fell, apparently lifeless to the ground, the messengers began to reproach themselves:
"Oh! why did we tell him so suddenly? We might have known he would not survive it. Poor Shee-shee-banze! he loved Way-gee-mar-kin so.
To their great surprise, the day after the funeral, Shee-shee-banze came walking toward the wigwam of the dead chief. As he walked, he sang, or rather chaunted to a monotonous strain* the following:
Way-gee-mar-kin is dead, is dead,
All the village was aroused. Every body flew in pursuit of the murderer, but he evaded them, and escaped to a place of safety.
Soon after, he again made his appearance, mincing as he walked, and singing to the same strain as before,
If you wish to take and punish me,
It seemed a good idea, and the young women were recommended to go and entice the culprit into the village, so that the friends of the deceased could lay hold of him.
They went forth on their errand. Shee-shee-banze would suffer them to approach, then he would dance off a little -- now he would allow them to come quite near; anon he would retreat a little before them, all the time singing,
Come, pretty widows, come and catch me.
Thus he decoyed them on, occasionally using honied words and flattering speeches, until he had gained their consent to return with him to his lodge, and take up their abode with him.
The friends of the murdered chief were scandalized at such inconstancy, and resolved to punish all three, as soon as they could catch them.
They surrounded his lodge with cries and threatenings, but Shee-shee-banze and his two brides had contrived to elude their vigilance and gain his canoe, which lay in the river, close at hand.
Hardly were they on board, when their escape was discovered. The whole troop flew after them. Some plunged into the stream, and seized the canoe. In the struggle it was upset, but immediately on touching the water, whether from the magical properties of the canoe, or the necromantic skill of the grandmother, they were transformed into ducks, and flew quacking away.
Since that time, the water-fowl of this species, are always found in companies of three -- two females and a male.
The Canard de France, or Mallard, and the Brancheuse, or Wood Duck, are of different habits from the foregoing, flying in pairs. Indeed, the constancy of the latter is said to be so great that if he loses his mate he never takes another partner, but goes mourning to the end of his days.
* The Indians sing these words to an air peculiar to themselves.
Mrs. John H. Kenzie, Wau-Bun, the "Early Day" in the Northwest. Chicago : D. B. Cooke & Co., 1857. p. 377-386.
From the Memorial Library Department of Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison.