The Child of the Evening Star (cont.)
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Little did they know that the poor, despised Osseo had really descended from that star. And when he, too, stretched out his arms toward it, and murmured words they could not understand, they all made sport of him.
There came a time when a great feast was prepared in a neighboring village, and all of Oweenee's kinsfolk were invited to attend. They set out on foot—the nine proud sisters, with their husbands, walking ahead, much pleased with themselves and their finery, and all chattering like magpies. But Oweenee walked behind in silence, and with her walked Osseo.
The sun had set; in the purple twilight, over the edge of the earth, sparkled the Evening Star. Osseo, pausing, stretched out his hands toward it, as if imploring pity, but when the others saw him in this attitude they all made merry, laughing and joking and making unkind remarks.
"Instead of looking up in the sky," said one of the sisters, "he had better be looking on the ground. Else he may stumble and break his neck." Then calling back to him, she cried: "Look out! Here's a big log. Do you think you can manage to climb over it?"
Osseo made no answer, but when he came to the log he paused again. It was the trunk of a huge oak-tree blown down by the wind. There it had lain for years, just as it fell, and the leaves of many summers lay thick upon it. There was one thing, though, the sisters had not noticed.. The tree-trunk was not a solid one, but hollow, and so big around that a man could walk inside it from one end to the other without stooping.
But Osseo did not pause because he was unable to climb over it. There was something mysterious and magical in the appearance of the great hollow trunk, and he gazed at it a long time, as if he had seen it in a dream and had been looking for it ever since.
"What is it, Osseo?" asked Oweenee, touching him on the arm. "Do you see something that I cannot see?"
But Osseo only gave a shout that echoed through the forest and leaped inside the log. Then as Oweenee, a little alarmed, stood there waiting, the figure of a man came out from the other end. Could this be Osseo? Yes, it was he—but how transformed! No longer bent and ugly, no longer weak and ailing, but a beautiful youth—-vigorous and straight and tall. His enchantment was at an end.
But the evil spell had not been wholly lifted, after all. As Osseo approached he saw that a great change was taking place in his loved one. Her glossy black hair was turning white, deep wrinkles lined her face; she walked with a feeble step, leaning on a staff. Though he had regained his youth and beauty, she in turn had suddenly grown old.
"O, my dearest one!" he cried. "The Evening Star has mocked me in letting this misfortune come upon you. Better far had I remained as I was; gladly would I have borne the insults and laughter of your people rather than you should be made to suffer."
"As long as you love me," answered Oweenee, "I am perfectly content. If I had the choice to make, and only one of us could be young and fair, it is you that I would wish to be beautiful."
Then he took her in his arms and caressed her, vowing that he loved her more than ever for her goodness of heart, and together they walked hand in hand, as lovers do.