One day Badger and his brother were sunning themselves in a meadow when along came two flighty girls of the Micmac tribe. They had been sent to pick blueberries but, idling their time away in talk, they had little to show for their morning's work. Badger saluted the girls and asked what luck they were having.
"None at all," said the elder sister, preferring the stranger to think the fault lay in the scarcity of berries and not in themselves.
"You're not looking in the right place," said Badger, hiding a grin. "You should follow the sun to its going-down place. There you will find more blueberries than you ever imagined."
"Quick!" cried the younger girl, who was even more foolish and impetuous than her sister. "Let us find them before someone else does," and away they went.
How Badger laughed, and Little Brother too.
"When they find the sun's going-down place," he told Little Brother, "it will be too dark to see blueberries or any thing else!"
The two foolish girls followed the sun all afternoon and when it dipped below the treetops, they looked for berries. In the dusk, of course, they could hardly see anything, and not a berry could they find. Then, at last, they realized how they had been fooled and knew they must build a lodge where they were for the night, since it was too dark to travel.
Luckily, even very young girls are taught in the Wabanaki land how to build a wigwam, for amongst the Indians that is a woman's work. The sisters stripped young birches of their boughs and thrust them into the ground to form a cone. Then they laid birch bark over the cone and laid poles on the outside to hold the bark in position. Finally, they made beds of thick spruce boughs and lay down with their heads to the door, so they could look out at the sky.
"If you could marry a star," asked the younger girl sleepily, "which one would you choose? That large bright star or the small twinkling one?"
The elder girl yawned.
"The large bright one," she murmured, and fell asleep.
"I should like the little one," said her sister, and then she too drifted into slumber.
In the morning, the elder sister was first awake, and cried out with surprise at the sight of a young man with large lustrous eyes, standing within the wigwam.
"You wished for me," he said, "and here I am."
Beside him stood an older, smaller man, who looked at the other girl with little twinkling eyes.
"We are tired of living alone," he said.
Now the two astonished Indian maids did not remember their idle wishes of the night before, but they understood the men wished to marry them. They thought the men looked kind and that it would be very nice to have husbands to love and care for them, so they agreed to go and live with the men in their own country.
"Turn around three times," said the younger man, "with your eyes tightly closed." The girls did so, and on opening them, discovered they were in a strange new land. It was wide and open, without trees or water, and with a blue haze over everything. The girls thought it beautiful and settled down happily with their husbands in one large wigwam. The men were kind to them and gave them all they wanted, but warned them never to look under a certain flat stone which stood near the wigwam. Now, of course, this immediately aroused the girls' curiosity. Time after time, they looked at the stone and asked each other "What can be under it?" and "Why can't we look?"
At last, one day when their husbands were off hunting, the younger sister could bear it no longer.
"I must take just a tiny peep," she said, and lifted the stone.
To the sisters' amazement, they found themselves staring through a peephole at the earth itself! As if they were eagles, they could look down on green forests and lakes and rivers, their own land! Now at last they knew where they were-- in the sky, with stars for husbands. At once they were homesick.
That night, when the husbands came home, they saw that the girls had been crying and guessed the reason. As they feared, the earth women now longed to return to their own people.
"Very well," said the star men sadly. "If you wish to go, we will show you the way."
"Go to sleep," said the younger man, "and when you wake, you will find yourselves where you were when you first wished for star husbands."
"Wait till you hear the chickadee sing," said the older man, "but do not open your eyes. Wait till the red squirrel sings, but even then, do not open your eyes. Wait till you hear the gray phoebe sing--then you may open your eyes."
The star wives slept for a long time, until at last they began to hear the familiar sounds of the forest. With closed eyes, they heard the chickadee sing. "Don't move," whispered the elder sister. Then the red squirrel sang. And the younger girl could wait no longer. Eagerly, she threw off her blanket.
"No, no!" cried her sister. "Wait till the gray phoebe sings!" But the younger star wife had already opened her eyes.
The star wives were no longer in the sky, but not on the ground either. They were on the topmost branch of a pine tree, halfway up to Sky and halfway down to earth, because they had not waited. Moreover, for their disobedience, they had been turned into weasels.
The elder girl wished very much to scold her younger sister for her impatience, but she knew that would not help. They must get down to the ground.
"There is Team the Moose," said she. "Let us ask for his help."
"Team, Team!" cried the younger sister. "Help us!"
"What will you give me if I do?" asked Team.
"Anything! You may even choose one of us to marry."
But Team shook his head disdainfully.
"No, thank you. I'm married already," and he passed on.
Next came Mooin the Bear.
"Oh, Mooin, save us and one of us will marry you!"
"I was married in the spring," said Mooin and passed on. Then came Abistanooch the Marten, and he just laughed at them. "I don't fancy marrying a weasel," he said. "I shall choose a mate from my own kind," and he, too, passed on.
"We ought to have stayed with our star husbands," moaned the elder sister. "We have been very foolish."
"Yes," said the younger, who was also learning wisdom.
"It is better to live in the Sky than in a tree."
"Look!" cried the first one. "There is the rascal who tricked us in the first place!"
Sure enough, it was Badger, looking up at them with a mocking grin. However, he did not recognize the girls he had fooled. To him they looked like ordinary weasels.
"What will you give me," he asked, "if I help you down?"
The girls said they had only themselves to give, and Badger said that was just what he wanted. What he had in mind, though, was two roasted weasels, not live ones--one for himself and one for Little Brother.
"Tie your hair string around the branches," the elder star wife whispered, not trusting Badger this time. "I shall do the same with mine." Indian women wear strings of thin rawhide to bind their hair, and even though the girls were now weasels they still had their hair strings.
Badger carried the elder sister down first, and she told him that after he had brought her sister down, he must go up the tree again and bring down the hair strings which were very valuable and had magic in them. "Meanwhile," she said, "my sister and I will prepare the wigwam for you."
Badger willingly went up the tree since, if those hair strings were valuable, he wanted them for himself. But they were tied in many hard knots, and it took him a long time to get them free. While he was busy at this, the sisters were busy building and furnishing the wigwam.
At last, hearing Badger descend, they crept out the back way and ran for their lives.
"The fun is over," cried Badger, drawing his knife. "Now for a good dinner of young weasel," and he strode into the wigwam. "Ouch!" he cried, as sharp thorns ran through his moccasins, and "Help!" he shouted as he bumped into a hornet's nest and the angry insects stung his face. "Oh, oh, oh!" moaned Badger as he stumbled over an anthill and the ants ran over him and bit him. The girls had prepared the wigwam well!
Now by the time Badger had escaped from the wasps and the ants and washed his stinging body in the brook, he was a very angry Indian indeed. He made up his mind that no matter what happened, he would find those weasels and punish them, and it was a simple matter to discover their track through the forest.
Meanwhile the two star wives, out of breath, had arrived at a broad river, too wide and too deep for two weasels to swim. Knowing Badger would soon be after them, they were very frightened and stared longingly at the other side. A croaking voice spoke behind them.
"Do you wish me to fly you across the river?"
It was Tumgwoligunech the Crane, and the girls joyfully accepted his offer.
"Hop on," he said, and away they flew across the water.
As he set them down on the far side, however, the crane spoke in a different voice--a deep and musical voice full of wisdom and authority.
"Would you indeed like to be star wives again and live in the Sky?"
The star wives were dumbfounded. How did he know?
"Sometimes men call me the Trickster," said the crane with meaning, and then the girls knew it was Glooscap.
"Oh yes, Master," they cried. "If our husbands will have us back, we would very much like to live again in the sky. We don't like being weasels at all!"
"Very well," said Glooscap, and he told them to turn around three times with their eyes tightly closed, until they heard the voices of their husbands. The weasels did so, obeying his instructions, and only opened their eyes when they heard their husbands crying, "Welcome home!" And if you look carefully at the night sky in midsummer, you may see four small stars around a piece of sky the shape of a wigwam. They are the two sisters and their husbands shining happily up there to this day.
Back on earth, Glooscap flew back across the river to deal with Badger. Presently the mischief-maker came running out of the woods.
"Here, you Tumgwoligunech," he shouted, "have you seen two weasels pass this way?"
"I just carried them over to the far side," said Glooscap in the crane's hoarse voice.
"Then take me over too!" demanded Badger. "And be quick about it."
The crane, however, was in no hurry. He smirked and fluffed up his feathers proudly. "Tell me," he said, "do I not have lovely smooth feathers?"
"Smooth--and dusty!" mocked Badger.
"But have I not a long, straight neck?"
"Very long," laughed Badger, "and no straighter than this winding river.
"Confess at least," the crane pleaded, "that my legs are very long and red."
"Oh, bother!" cried Badger, losing patience. "As long as your tongue, you old chatterer. Take me across!" And he jumped on the crane's neck.
Saying no more, the crane launched himself into the air and flew with Badger high over the river until, half way across, he gave himself a shake.
"Help!" cried Badger, as he tumbled off and fell down, down, down into the water with a tremendous splash.
Glooscap watched Badger struggle with all his might to gain the shore. At last--wet, tired and breathless--Badger dragged himself from the water. Then he looked up--and waved.
"Thanks!" he shouted with a weak grin. "Just what I wanted--a refreshing swim!"
And Glooscap smiled. For he loved an indomitable spirit and, for all Badger's faults, he never gave in!
Now again, kespeadooksit--the story ends.