The Child of the Evening Star (cont. again)
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The feast was spread, and all made merry but Osseo. He sat like one in a dream, neither eating nor drinking. From time to time he would press Oweenee's hand, and speak a word of comfort in her ear. But for the most part he sat there, gazing through the door of the tent at the star-besprinkled sky.
Soon a silence fell on all the company. From out of the night, from the dark, mysterious forest, came the sound of music—a low, sweet music that was like, yet unlike, the song sung by the thrush in summer twilight. It was magical music such as none had ever heard, coming, as it seemed, from a great distance, and rising and falling on the quiet summer evening. All those at the feast wondered as they listened. And well they might! For what to them was only music, was to Osseo a voice that he understood, a voice from the sky itself, the voice of the Evening Star.
These were the words that he heard: "Suffer no more, my son, for the evil spell is broken, and hereafter no magician shall work you harm. Suffer no more, for the time has come when you shall leave the earth and dwell here with me in the heavens. Before you is a dish on which my light has fallen, blessing it and giving it a magic virtue. Eat of this dish, Osseo, and all will be well."
So Osseo tasted the food before him, and behold! The tent began to tremble and rose slowly into the air; up, up above the tree-tops—up, up toward the stars. As it rose, the things within it were wondrously changed. The kettles of clay became bowls of silver, the wooden dishes were scarlet shells, while the bark of the roof and the poles supporting it were transformed into some glittering substance that sparkled in the rays of the stars. Higher and higher it rose. Then the nine proud sisters and their husbands were all changed into birds. The men became robins, thrushes and woodpeckers. The sisters were changed into various birds with bright plumage; the four who had chattered most, whose tongues were always wagging, now appeared in the feathers of the magpie and bluejay.
Osseo sat gazing at Oweenee. Would she, too, change into a bird, and be lost to him? The very thought of it made him bow his head with grief; then, as he looked at her once more, he saw her beauty suddenly restored, while the color of her garments was the color only to be found where the dyes of the rainbow are made.
Again the tent swayed and trembled as the currents of the air bore it higher and higher, into and above the clouds, up, up, up—till at last it settled gently on the land of the Evening Star.
Osseo and Oweenee caught all the birds and put them in a great silver cage, where they seemed quite content in each other's company. Scarcely was this done when Osseo's father, the King of the Evening Star, came to greet them. He was attired in a flowing robe, spun from star-dust, and his long white hair hung like a cloud upon his shoulders.
"Welcome," he said, "my dear children. Welcome to the kingdom in the sky that has always awaited you. The trials you have passed through have been bitter, but you have borne them bravely, and now you will be rewarded for all your courage and devotion. Here you will live happily, yet of one thing you must beware."
He pointed to a little star in the distance—a little, winking star, hidden from time to time by a cloud of vapor.
"On that star," he continued, "lives a magician named Wabeno. He has the power to dart his rays, like so many arrows, at those he wishes to injure. He has always been my enemy; it was he who changed Osseo into an old man and cast him down upon the earth. Have a care that his light does not fall upon you. Luckily, his power for evil has been greatly weakened, for the friendly clouds have come to my assistance and form a screen of vapor through which his arrows cannot penetrate."
The happy pair fell upon their knees, and kissed his hands in gratitude.
"But these birds," said Osseo, rising and pointing to the cage. "Is this also the work of Wabeno, the magician?"
"No," answered the King of the Evening Star. "It was my own power, the power of love, that caused your tent to rise and bear you hither. It was likewise by my power that the envious sisters and their husbands were transformed into birds. Because they hated you and mocked you, and were cruel and scornful to the weak and the old, I have done this thing. It is not so great a punishment as they deserve. Here in the silver cage they will be happy enough, proud of their handsome plumage, strutting and twittering to their hearts' content. Hang the cage there, at the doorway of my dwelling. They shall be well cared for."