THE INDIAN GIRL AND HER MESSENGER-BIRD

BY GEORGE W. RANCK
ONCE upon a time, there was an Indian who lived in a big wood on the banks of a beautiful river, and he did nothing all day long but catch fish and hunt wild deer. Well, this Indian had two lovely little daughters, and he named one Sunbeam, because she was so bright and cheerful, and the other he called Starlight, because, he said, her sweet eyes twinkled like the stars.

Sunbeam and Starlight were as gay as butterflies, and as busy as bees, from morning till night. They ran races under the shady trees, made bouquets of wild flowers, swung on grape-vine swings, turned berries and acorns into beads, and dressed their glossy black hair with bright feathers that beautiful birds had dropped. They loved each other so much, and were so happy together, that they never knew what trouble meant until, one day, Starlight got very sick, and before the big moon came over the tree-tops the sweet Indian child had closed her starry eyes in death, and rested for the last time upon her soft, little deerskin bed. And now, for the first time, Sunbeam's heart was full of grief. She could not play, for Starlight was gone, she knew not where; so she took the bright feathers out of her hair, and sat down by the river and cried and cried for Starlight to come back to her. But when her father told her that Starlight was gone to the Spirit-land of love and beauty, and would be happy for ever and ever, Sunbeam was comforted.

"Now," said she, "I know where darling Starlight is, and I can kiss her and talk to her again."

Sunbeam had heard her people say that the birds were messengers from the Spirit-land. So she hunted through the woods until she found a little song-bird, that was too young to fly, fast asleep in its nest. She carried it gently home, put it into a cage, and watched over it and fed it tenderly day after day until its wings grew strong and it filled the woods with its music. Then she carried it in her soft little hands to Starlight's grave; and after she had loaded it with kisses and messages of love for Starlight, she told it never to cease its sweetest song or fold its shining wings until it had flown to the Spirit-land. She let it go, and the glad bird, as it rose above the tall green trees, poured forth a song more joyful than any that Sunbeam had ever heard. Higher and higher it flew, and sweeter and sweeter grew its song, until at last both its form and its music were lost in the floating summer clouds.

Then Sunbeam ran swiftly over the soft grass to her father, and told him, with a bright smile and a light heart, that she had talked with dear Starlight, and had kissed her sweet rosy mouth again; and Sunbeam was once more her father's bright and happy little Indian girl.