L ONG ago two Indian boys lived in the Canadian forest with their parents. One boy was much older and larger and stronger than the other. He forced his little brother to do all the hard work about the place. He stole from him all the good things his parents gave him and often he beat him until he cried with pain. If the little boy told his parents of his brother's cruelty, his brother beat him all the harder, and the little boy found that it was more to his comfort not to complain. But at last he could stand the cruelty no longer, and he decided to run away from home. So one morning he took his bow and arrows and an extra pair of moccasins, and set out alone to seek his fortune and to find a kinder world.
Although the boy was small and young, he could run very fast. He could run so fast that when he shot an arrow from his bow, he could outstrip the arrow in its flight. So he ran along very quickly, and when night came on he was very far from home. He was lonely, too, for he thought of the bright warm camp fires in the twilight at home, and of his father and mother, and he wished he was back again in his own soft bed. He was frightened too by the strange noises, and every sound startled him. At last when he was about to cry in his loneliness, an old man came along. The man was very old but he had a kindly face, all wrinkled and weather-beaten, and twinkling eyes that told of a merry heart. "Hello," he said to the boy, "where are you from, and where are you going?" "I have come a long way," said the boy, "and I am very tired and lonesome and far from home, and I don't know where I am going. I am looking for a pleasant land." "You look like a good boy," said the old man; "you say you have come a long way, but I have come much farther than you, and from a very pleasant place. When I began my journey I was young like you. I have never stopped, and now you see that I am very old and bent and wrinkled, while there is not a line in your face. I have travelled a very long road, the road of Long Life." Then the boy said, "I want to go to the place you came from, since it is pleasant." But the old man answered, "You can never reach it; it is the Land of Youth; the Childhood Land, men call it, and those who leave it never go back. It is a land of wonderful sights and sounds and dreams. It can be reached only from the road on the other side; you have passed that road and it is too late for you now to go back to it." Then they were silent for a long time, and the boy looked at the old man and wondered. He saw that the old man's shoes were worn out from his long journey and that his feet were sore and weary. So he gave him the extra pair of moccasins he carried. The old man was very thankful. He gave the boy a little box he had in his pocket and he said, "Take this box; you will find it will help you in times of need, and it will be useful to you in your travels. I am near the end of my journey, and I shall need it no more. You have a long journey before you." The boy put the box in his pocket and lay down to sleep. Then the old man went on his way, and the boy never saw him again.
The next morning, before the boy began his day's journey, he wondered what was in the box the old man had given him. He took it out and opened it. Inside was a little man no bigger than his own thumb, dancing as hard as he could. As soon as the cover was opened and light entered the box, the little man stopped dancing and called to the boy, "What do you want?" The boy knew then that the old man had given him a little fairy to help him in his need. He closed the box and answered, "I wish to be carried far away to a beautiful land where I can get a lovely girl for a comrade, for I am very lonely." At once darkness came upon him and he slept. When he awoke he found he had been asleep but a few seconds, but he was now in a large village in a beautiful land. It was a land of trees and flowers and wonderful streams, where many birds were singing. He came to a house on the border of the village and entered it. Inside was a very old woman; she was the only person in the house. When she saw the boy, she began to cry. He asked her why she was weeping. She answered, "I know why you have come here. I knew from a dream that you were coming. You have come to seek a very lovely girl as your wife and comrade. She lives in the village. Her father is very rich. He is a great Chief. He asks that each man who seeks to win his daughter must do very hard and dangerous and impossible tasks. If they fail they are put to death. The girl has had many suitors, but all have failed to do her father's tasks and all have been killed. You too will fail and you will surely die." Then the old woman cried louder than before. But the boy said, "I can do any task he sets for me. He cannot kill me." For the boy knew that the dancing fairy would save him.
Soon the boy went to the Chief's house to ask him for his lovely daughter. The Chief told him the conditions on which she could be won. He said that all her suitors had to try to do hard tasks. If they failed they were put to death; the suitor who succeeded should win his daughter. The boy agreed to do as he wished. The Chief said, "The mountain before my house keeps me from seeing the sun in the mornings. You must take it away before you can win my daughter. If you fail you shall be put to death." The boy said he would take away the mountain that night, but the Chief did not think he could do it.
That night when all the village was asleep the boy went to the foot of the mountain. It was a high granite hill, with great trees growing on its top. The boy took out his box and opened it. The little fairy was dancing as hard as he could, but when he saw the light he stopped and said, "What do you want?" And the boy said, "I want you to take away this mountain before morning." "It shall be done," said the little man. Then the boy closed the box and lay down and went to sleep. He slept soundly all night. When he awoke in the early morning the mountain was gone. All around was only a level meadow. The sun was still low in the eastern sky, but all the village could see it. When the Chief awoke, he wondered greatly. He thought he had lost his daughter at last. But he decided to set another hard task for the boy to do.
that night when all the village was asleep the boy went to the foot of the mountain.
Soon the boy went to the Chief to claim his bride. But the Chief said, "You must do another task for me. Not far away there is a village where my enemies live. They have caused me great trouble. You must destroy the village and drive all the people away before you can win my daughter. If you fail to do it to-night, you shall be put to death to-morrow." The boy agreed to do as he wished. And the Chief thought the boy would surely be killed in making the attempt.
That night the boy set out for the distant village. He ran very fast and soon reached the border of it. Then he took out his box and opened it. The fairy stopped dancing and said, "What do you want?" "I want you to destroy this village to-night and drive all the people away," said the boy. "It shall be done," said the fairy. Then the boy closed the box and went to sleep under a tree. He slept soundly all night. In the morning when he awoke, there was no village in sight. All around him was silence; not a sound of life came to him but the sounds of the forest; the village had been destroyed in the night and all its people were now far away. Then the boy went back and told the Chief that he had done the deed. The Chief sent a messenger to see if the boy spoke the truth, and the messenger came back and said that the task had been done. Then the Chief knew that he was beaten. He knew that the boy had very great power which he could not understand, and he said, "You may take my lovely daughter." So the boy took the girl as his wife and comrade. The Chief gave them a great lodge to live in and servants to wait on them, and they were very happy.
But their happiness was soon ended for a time. One day the boy went away with many others to hunt far in the forest. He put on a hunting suit, but he forgot to take his magic box along with him. He left it behind in the pocket of his coat. In the house was a wicked servant who wanted the boy's possessions for himself. One day he had seen his master opening the box and talking to it. He wondered what his master meant and what was in the box. When his master had gone hunting, the servant went to hang up his clothes. He found the box in the coat pocket. He took it out and opened it. Inside, the little man was dancing as hard as he could. When he saw the light, he stopped and said, "What do you want?" The servant knew that at last he had found the secret of his master's power. "What do you want me to do?" repeated the little man. The man-servant said, "I want you at once to remove this house and all it contains to some place far away." Then he closed the box. At once there was darkness, and when light came again in a few seconds, the house and all in it were far away in the depths of the forest. The servant was very pleased.
Soon the hunters came back. They had taken much game. When the boy came to where his home had been, he found that his house was gone, and his wife and servants and all his possessions were gone with it. He knew at once what had happened. But he knew how to overcome his wicked servant. He took a magic bow and arrow that his mother had given him before he left his old home long before. Then he went out and shot his arrow into the woods. He ran as fast as he could, following the arrow. He ran so fast that he could follow it in its flight. And he kept under the arrow as it sped on and on. When the arrow dropped far in the forest, the boy stopped. Not far in front of him he saw his own house. He hid among the trees until night came. Then he crept softly to the house. There was not a sound. Every one was asleep. He went in, and there, sure enough, was his coat hanging on a peg. He slipped it on, and in the pocket he found the magic box. He opened it, and there was the little man dancing as hard as he could. When the cover was lifted, the little man stopped and said, "What do you want?" The boy said, "I want you at once to take this house and all it contains back to the village where it was before." The little man said, "It shall be done." Then the boy went to sleep. He awoke in the morning before the others were up, and sure enough the house was back in the village. Then the boy asked the little man in the box to punish the wicked servant. And the servant was sent far away to be a wanderer on the face of the earth; and he wanders about to this day, and he is always looking for something that never comes, and he has always beautiful dreams that never come true.
After that, the boy and his wife lived happily. The boy never again left the box behind him; he kept it always with him. And when he wanted anything, the little fairy always brought it to him. Soon the old Chief died, and the boy became Chief in his place. He travelled the road of Long Life over which the wrinkled old man had come. When he grew old, he asked the fairy in the box to bring him back to the Land of Youth, but that was the one thing the dancing fairy could not do. So at the end of the long road the old man disappeared over the hill and left his box behind him with the great deeds it had done.