Invisible One Story
A Favorite Story
There was once a large Indian village situated on the border of a lake. At the edge of the village was a lodge, in which dwelt a being who was always invisible. He had a sister who attended to his wants, and it was known that any girl who could see him might marry him. Nearly all the girls in the village made an attempt.
Towards evening, when the Invisible One was supposed to be returning home, his sister would walk with any girls who came down to the shore of the lake. She could see her brother, since to her he was always visible, and upon seeing him she would say to her companions, "Do you see my brother?" And they would mostly answer, "Yes."
And then the sister would say, "Of what is his shoulder-strap made?" But sometimes she would inquire other things, such as, "With what does he draw his sled?" And they would reply, "A strip of rawhide," or "A green withe," or something of the kind. And then she, knowing they had not told the truth, would reply quietly, "Very well, let us return to the wigwam!"
As they entered the place she would bid them not to take a certain seat, for it was his. After they had helped to cook the supper they would wait with great curiosity to see him eat. They saw proof that he was a real person, for as he took off his moccasins they became visible, and his sister hung them up; but beyond this they beheld nothing not even when they remained all night, as many did.
There dwelt in the village an old man, a widower, with three daughters. The youngest of these was very small, weak, and often ill. Her sorry condition did not prevent her sisters, especially the eldest, from treating her with great cruelty. The second daughter was kinder, and sometimes did not bother the poor abused little girl, but the oldest would burn the youngest's hands and face with hot coals; yes, her whole body was scarred with marks made by torture, so that people called her the rough-faced girl. And when her father, coming home, asked how it was that the child was so disfigured, her sister would promptly say that it was the fault of the young girl herself, because having been forbidden to go near the fire, she had disobeyed and fallen in.
Now it came to pass that it entered the heads of the two elder sisters of this poor girl that they would go and try their fortune at seeing the Invisible One. So they clad themselves in their finest and strove to look their fairest. They found the Invisible One's sister at home and so walked down to the water with her.
Then when He came, being asked if they saw him, they said, "Certainly," and also replied to the question of the shoulder-strap or sled cord, "A piece of rawhide." In saying which, they lied, like the rest, for they had seen nothing, and got nothing for their pains.
When their father returned home the next evening, he brought with him many of the pretty little shells from which wampum was made, and they were soon busy stringing them.
That day poor little burnt-faced girl, who had always run barefoot, got a pair of her father's old moccasins and put them into water that they might become flexible to wear. And begging her sisters for a few wampum shells, the eldest just called her "a lying little pest," but the other gave her a few. And having no clothes beyond a few rags, the poor creature went into the woods and got a few sheets of birch bark, of which she made a dress, putting some figures on the bark. She also made a cap, leggings, and handkerchief. Having put on her father's great old moccasins, which came nearly up to her knees, she went forth to try her luck. For even this little thing would try to see the Invisible One in the great wigwam at the edge of the village.
She had to overcome one long storm of ridicule and hisses, yells and hoots, from her own door to that of the Invisible One. Her sisters tried to shame her, and told her to stay home, but she would not obey; and all the idlers, seeing this strange little creature in her odd clothes, cried, "Shame!" But she went on, for she was greatly resolved; it may be that some spirit inspired her.
Now this poor small wretch in her mad attire, with her hair singed off and her little face as full of burns and scars as there are holes in a sieve, was most kindly received by the sister of the Invisible One. His sister was very noble and knew more than the mere outside of things as the world knows them. And as the brown of the evening sky became black, she took her down to the lake. And soon the girls knew that He had come.
Then the sister said, "Do you see him?" And the other replied in awe, "Truly I do, and He is wonderful."
"And what is his sled string?" "It is," she replied, "the Rainbow." And great fear was on her.
"But, my sister," said the other, "what is his bow-string?" "His bow-string is the Milky Way.", she responded.
"You have truly seen him," said the sister. And, taking the girl home, she bathed her. As she washed, all the scars disappeared from face and body. Her hair grew again; it was very long, and like a blackbird's wing. Her eyes were like stars. In all the world there was no such beauty. Then from her treasures she gave her a wedding garment, and adorned her. Under the comb, as she combed her, her hair grew. It was a great marvel to behold.
Then, having done this, she told her to take the wife's seat in the wigwam, that by which her brother sat, the seat next to the door. And when He entered, terrible and beautiful, he smiled and said, "So we are found out!"
"Yes," was her reply. So she became his wife.
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