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- Lady Mary and her Nurse - 3/22 -
plant stakes, over which they stretch the matting at a certain height above the fire. On this they spread the green rice, stirring it about with wooden paddles, till it is properly parched; this is known by its bursting and showing the white grain of the flour. When quite cool it is stowed away in troughs, scooped out of butter-nut wood, or else sewed up in sheets of birch-bark or bass-mats, or in coarsely made birch-bark baskets."
"And is the rice good to eat, nurse?"
"Some people like it as well as the white rice of Carolina; but it does not look so well. It is a great blessing to the poor Indians, who boil it in their soups, or eat it with maple molasses. And they eat it when parched without any other cooking, when they are on a long journey in the woods, or on the lakes. I have often eaten nice puddings made of it with milk. The deer feed upon the green rice. They swim into the water, and eat the green leaves and tops. The Indians go out at night to shoot the deer on the water; they listen for them, and shoot them in the dark. The wild ducks and water-fowls come down in great flocks to fatten on the ripe rice in the fall of the year; also large flocks of rice buntings and red wings which make their roosts among the low willows, flags, and lilies close to the shallows of the lake."
"It seems very useful to birds as well as to men and beasts," said little Lady Mary.
"Yes, my lady, and to fishes also, I make no doubt; for the good God has cast it so abundantly abroad on the waters, that I dare say they also have their share. When the rice is fully ripe, the sun shining on it gives it a golden hue, just like a field of ripened grain. Surrounded by the deep blue waters, it looks very pretty."
"I am very much obliged to you, nurse, for telling me so much about the Indian rice, and I will ask mamma to let me have some one day for my dinner, that I may know how it tastes."
Just then Lady Mary's governess came to bid her nurse dress her for a sleigh-ride, and so for the present we shall leave her; but we will tell our little readers something more in another chapter about Lady Mary and her flying squirrel.
SLEIGHING--SLEIGH ROBES--FUR CAPS--OTTER SKINS--OLD SNOW-STORM--OTTER HUNTING--OTTER SLIDES--INDIAN NAMES--REMARKS ON WILD ANIMALS AND THEIR HABITS.
"Nurse, we have had a very nice sleigh-drive. I like sleighing very much over the white snow. The trees look so pretty, as if they were covered with white flowers, and the ground sparkled just like mamma's diamonds."
"It is pleasant, Lady Mary, to ride through the woods on a bright sunshiny day, after a fresh fall of snow. The young evergreens, hemlocks, balsams, and spruce-trees, are loaded with great masses of the new-fallen snow; while the slender saplings of the beech, birch, and basswood are bent down to the very ground, making bowers so bright and beautiful, you would be delighted to see them. Sometimes, as you drive along, great masses of the snow come showering down upon you; but it is so light and dry, that it shakes off without wetting you. It is pleasant to be wrapped up in warm blankets, or buffalo robes, at the bottom of a lumber-sleigh, and to travel through the forest by moonlight; the merry bells echoing through the silent woods, and the stars just peeping down through the frosted trees, which sparkle like diamonds in the moonbeams."
"Nurse, I should like to take a drive through the forest in winter. It is so nice to hear the sleigh-bells. We used sometimes to go out in the snow in Scotland, but we were in the carriage, and had no bells."
"No, Lady Mary: the snow seldom lies long enough in the old country to make it worth while to have sleighs there; but in Russia and Sweden, and other cold Northern countries, they use sleighs with bells."
Lady Mary ran to the little bookcase where she had a collection of children's books, and very soon found, in one of Peter Parley's books, a picture of Laplanders and Russians wrapped in furs sleighing.
"How long will the winter last, nurse?" said the child, after she had tired herself with looking at the prints; "a long, long time--a great many weeks?--a great many months?"
"Yes, my lady; five or six months."
"Oh, that is nice--nearly half a year of white snow, and sleigh-drives every day, and bells ringing all the time! I tried to make out a tune, but they only seemed to say, 'Up-hill, up-hill! down-hill, down-hill!' all the way. Nurse, please tell me what are sleigh-robes made of?"
"Some sleigh-robes, Lady Mary, are made of bear-skins, lined with red or blue flannel; some are of wolf-skins, lined with bright scarlet cloth; and some of racoon; the commonest are buffalo-skins: I have seen some of deer-skins, but these last are not so good, as the hair comes off, and they are not so warm as the skins of the furred or woolly-coated animals."
"I sometimes see long tails hanging down over the backs of the sleigh and cutters--they look very pretty, like the end of mamma's boa."
"The wolf and racoon skin robes are generally made up with the tails, and sometimes the heads of the animals are also left. I noticed the head of a wolf, with its sharp ears, and long white teeth, looking very fierce, at the back of a cutter, the other day."
"Nurse, that must have looked very droll. Do you know, I saw a gentleman the other day, walking with papa, who had a fox-skin cap on his head, and the fox's nose was just peeping over his shoulder, and the tail hung down his back, and I saw its bright black eyes looking so cunning. I thought it must be alive, and that it had curled itself round his head; but the gentleman took it off, and showed me that the eyes were glass."
"Some hunters, Lady Mary, make caps of otter, mink, or badger skins, and ornament them with the tails, heads, and claws."
"I have seen a picture of the otter, nurse; it is a pretty, soft-looking thing, with a round head and black eyes. Where do otters live?"
"The Canadian otters, Lady Mary, live in holes in the banks of sedgy, shallow lakes, mill-ponds, and sheltered creeks. The Indian hunters find their haunts by tracking their steps in the snow; for an Indian or Canadian hunter knows the track made by any bird or beast, from the deep broad print of the bear, to the tiny one of the little shrewmouse, which is the smallest four-footed beast in this or any other country.
"Indians catch the otter, and many other wild animals, in a sort of trap, which they call a 'dead-fall.' Wolves are often so trapped, and then shot. The Indians catch the otter for the sake of its dark shining fur, which is used by the hatters and furriers. Old Jacob Snowstorm, an old Indian who lived on the banks of the Rice Lake, used to catch otters; and I have often listened to him, and laughed at his stories."
"Do, please, nurse, tell me what old Jacob Snow-storm told you about the otters; I like to hear stories about wild beasts. But what a droll surname Snow-storm is!"
"Yes, Lady Mary; Indians have very odd names; they are called after all sorts of strange things. They do not name the children, as we do, soon after they are born, but wait for some remarkable circumstance, some dream or accident. Some call them after the first strange animal or bird that appears to the new-born. Old Snow-storm most likely owed his name to a heavy fall of snow when he was a baby. I knew a chief named Musk-rat, and a pretty Indian girl who was named 'Badau'-bun,' or the 'Light of the Morning.'"
"And what is the Indian name for Old Snow-storm?"
"'Be-che-go-ke-poor,' my lady."
Lady Mary said it was a funny sounding name, and not at all like Snow-storm, which she liked a great deal better; and she was much amused while her nurse repeated to her some names of squaws and papooses (Indian women and children); such as Long Thrush, Little Fox, Running Stream, Snow-bird, Red Cloud, Young Eagle, Big Bush, and many others.
"Now, nurse, will you tell me some more about Jacob Snow-storm and the otters?"
"Well, Lady Mary, the old man had a cap of otter-skin, of which he was very proud, and only wore on great days. One day as he was playing with it, he said:--'Otter funny fellow; he like play too, sometimes. Indian go hunting up Ottawa, that great big river, you know. Go one moonlight night; lie down under bushes in snow: see lot of little fellow and big fellow at play. Run tip and down bank; bank all ice. Sit down top of bank; good slide there. Down he go splash into water; out again. Funny fellow those!' And then the old hunter threw back his head, and laughed, till you could have seen all his white teeth, he opened his mouth so wide."
Lady Mary was very much amused at the comical way in which the old Indian talked.
"Can otters swim, nurse?"
"Yes, Lady Mary; the good God, who has created all things well, has given to this animal webbed feet, which enable it to swim; and it can also dive down in the deep water, where it finds fish and mussels, and perhaps the roots of some water-plants to eat. It makes very little motion or disturbance in the water when it goes down in search of its prey. Its coat is thick, and formed of two kinds of hair; the outer hair is long, silky, and shining; the under part is short, fine, and warm. The water cannot penetrate to wet them,--the oily nature of the fur throws off the moisture. They dig large holes with their claws, which are short, but very strong. They line their nests with dry grass and rushes and roots gnawed fine, and do not pass the winter in sleep, as the dormice, flying squirrels, racoons, and bears do. They are very innocent and playful, both when young and even after they grow old. The lumberers often tame them, and they become so docile that they will come at a call or whistle. Like all wild animals, they are most lively at night, when they come out to feed and play."
"Dear little things! I should like to have a tame otter to play with, and run after me; but do you think he would eat my squirrel? You know cats will eat squirrels--so mamma says."
"Cats belong to a very different class of animals; they are beasts of prey, formed to spring and bound, and tear with their teeth and claws. The otter is also a beast of prey, but its prey is found in the still waters, and not on the land; it can neither climb nor leap. So I do not think he would hurt your squirrel, if you had one."
"See, nurse, my dear little squirrel is still where I left him, clinging
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