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Full Online Book HomeShort StoriesThe Amazing Adventures Of Master Rabbit
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The Amazing Adventures Of Master Rabbit Post by :Jack_Hughes Category :Short Stories Author :Charles G. Leland Date :July 2011 Read :2779

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The Amazing Adventures Of Master Rabbit

(AMAZING ADVENTURES OF MASTER RABBIT WITH THE OTTER, THE WOODPECKER GIRLS, AND MOOIN THE BEAR ALSO A FULL ACCOUNT OF THE FAMOUS CHASE, IN WHICH HE FOOLED LUSIFEE, THE WILD CAT)


I. How Master Rabbit sought to rival Keeoony, the Otter.

Of old times, _Mahtigwess_, the Rabbit, who is called in the Micmac tongue _Ableegumooch_, lived with his grandmother, waiting for better times; and truly he found it a hard matter in midwinter, when ice was on the river and snow was on the plain, to provide even for his small household. And running through the forest one day he found a lonely wigwam, and he that dwelt therein was _Keeoony_, the Otter. The lodge was on the bank of a river, and a smooth road of ice slanted from the door down to the water. And the Otter made him welcome, and directed his housekeeper to get ready to cook; saying which, he took the hooks on which he was wont to string fish when he had them, and went to fetch a mess for dinner. Placing himself on the top of the slide, he coasted in and under the water, and then came out with a great bunch of eels, which were soon cooked, and on which they dined.

"By my life," thought Master Rabbit, "but that is an easy way of getting a living! Truly these fishing-folk have fine fare, and cheap! Cannot I, who am so clever, do as well as this mere Otter? Of course I can. Why not?" Thereupon he grew so confident of himself as to invite the Otter to dine with him--_adamadusk ketkewop_--on the third day after that, and so went home.

"Come on!" he said to his grandmother the next morning; "let us remove our wigwam down to the lake." So they removed; and he selected a site such as the Otter had chosen for his home, and the weather being cold he made a road of ice, or a coast, down from his door to the water, and all was well. Then the guest came at the time set, and Rabbit, calling his grandmother, bade her get ready to cook a dinner. "But what am I to cook, grandson?" inquired the old dame.

"Truly I will see to that," said he, and made him a _nabogun_, or stick to string eels. Then going to the ice path, he tried to slide like one skilled in the art, but indeed with little luck, for be went first to the right side, then to the left, and so hitched and jumped till he came to the water, where he went in with a bob backwards. And this bad beginning had no better ending, since of all swimmers and divers the Rabbit is the very worst, and this one was no better than his brothers. The water was cold, he lost his breath, he struggled, and was well-nigh drowned.

"But what on earth ails the fellow?" said the Otter to the grandmother, who was looking on in amazement.

"Well, he has seen somebody do something, and is trying to do likewise," replied the old lady.

"Ho! come out of that now," cried the Otter, "and hand me your _nabogun_!" And the poor Rabbit, shivering with cold, and almost frozen, came from the water and limped into the lodge. And there he required much nursing from his grandmother, while the Otter, plunging into the stream, soon returned with a load of fish. But, disgusted at the Rabbit for attempting what he could not perform, he threw them down as a gift, and went home without tasting the meal.

 

II. How Mahtigwess, the Rabbit Dined with the Woodpecker Girls, and was again humbled by trying to rival them.

Now Master Rabbit, though disappointed, was not discouraged, for this one virtue he had, that he never gave up. (Footnote: It will be seen in the end that this great Indian virtue of never giving in eventually raised Rabbit to power and prosperity. _Il y a de morale ici_.) And wandering one day in the wilderness, he found a wigwam well filled with young women, all wearing red head-dresses; and no wonder, for they were Woodpeckers. Now, Master Rabbit was a well-bred Indian, who made himself as a melody to all voices, and so he was cheerfully bidden to bide to dinner, which he did. Then one of the red-polled pretty girls, taking a _woltes_, or wooden dish, lightly climbed a tree, so that she seemed to run; and while ascending, stopping here and there and tapping now and then, took from this place and that many of those insects called by the Indians _apchel-moal-timpkawal_, or rice, because they so much resemble it. And note that this rice is a dainty dish for those who like it. And when it was boiled, and they had dined, Master Rabbit again reflected, "La! how easily some folks live! What is to hinder me from doing the same? Ho, you girls! come over and dine with me the day after to-morrow!"

And having accepted this invitation, all the guests came on the day set, when Master Rabbit undertook to play woodpecker. So having taken the head of an eel-spear and fastened it to his nose to make a bill, he climbed as well as he could--and bad was the best--up a tree, and tried to get his harvest of rice. Truly he got none; only in this did he succeed in resembling a Woodpecker, that he had a red poll; for his pate was all torn and bleeding, bruised by the fishing-point. And the pretty birds all looked and laughed, and wondered what the Rabbit was about.

"Ah!" said his grandmother, "I suppose he is trying again to do something which he has seen some one do. 'T is just like him."

"Oh, come down there!" cried Miss Woodpecker, as well as she could for laughing. "Give me your dish!" And having got it she scampered up the trunk, and soon brought down a dinner. But it was long ere Master Rabbit heard the last of it from these gay tree-tappers.

 

III. Of the Adventure with Mooin, the Bear; it being the Third and Last Time that Master Rabbit made a Fool of himself.

Now, truly, one would think that after all that had befallen Master _Mahtigwess_, the Rabbit, that he would have had enough of trying other people's trades; but his nature was such that, having once set his mighty mind to a thing, little short of sudden death would cure him. And being one day with the Bear in his cave, he beheld with great wonder how _Mooin_ fed his folk. For, having put a great pot on the fire, he did but cut a little slice from his own foot and drop it into the boiling water, when it spread and grew into a mess of meat which served for all. (Footnote: Mr. Rand observes that this is evidently an allusion to the bear's being supposed to live during the winter by sucking his own paws.) Nay, there was a great piece given to Rabbit to take home to feed his family.

"Now, truly," he said, "this is a thing which I can indeed do. Is it not recorded in the family wampum that whatever a Bear can do well a Rabbit can do better? "So, in fine, he invited his friend to come and dine with him, _Ketkewopk'_, the day after to-morrow.

And the Bear being there, Rabbit did but say, "_Noogume' kuesawal' wohu_!" "Grandmother, set your pot to boiling!" And, whetting his knife on a stone, he tried to do as the Bear had done; but little did he get from his small, thin soles, though he cut himself madly and sadly.

"What can he be trying to do?" growled the guest.

"Ah!" sighed the grandmother, "something which he has seen some one else do."

"Ho! I say there! Give me the knife," quoth Bruin. And, getting it, he took a slice from his sole, which did him no harm, and then, what with magic and fire, gave them a good dinner. But Master Rabbit was in sad case, and it was many a day ere he got well.

 

IV. Relating how the Rabbit became Wise by being Original, and of the Terrible Tricks which he by Magic played Loup-Cervier, the Wicked Wild Cat.

There are men who are bad at copying, yet are good originals, and of this kind was Master Rabbit, who, when he gave up trying to do as others did, succeeded very well. And, having found out his foible, he applied himself to become able in good earnest, and studied _m'teoulin_, or magic, so severely that in time he grew to be an awful conjurer, so that he could raise ghosts, crops, storms, or devils whenever he wanted them. (Footnote: The three previous chapters of the Rabbit legend are from the Micmac. The rest is Passamaquoddy, as told by Tomah Josephs, who in his narration not only often interpolated jocose remarks, but was wont to ejaculate "By Jolly!" especially in the most striking scenes. I think that with him the interjection had become refined and dignified.) For he had perseverance, and out of this may come anything, if it be only brought into the right road.

Now it came to pass that Master Rabbit got into great trouble. The records of the Micmacs say that it was from his stealing a string of fish from the Otter, who pursued him; but the Passamaquoddies declare that he was innocent of this evil deed, probably because they make great account of him as their ancestor and as the father of the Wabanaki. Howbeit, this is the way in which they tell the tale.

Now the Rabbit is the natural prey of the Loup-Cervier, or Lusifee, who is a kind of wild cat, none being more obstinate. And this Wild Cat once went hunting with a gang of wolves, and they got nothing. Then Wild Cat, who had made them great promises and acted as chief, became angry, and, thinking of the Rabbit, promised them that this time they should indeed get their dinner. So he took them to Rabbit's wigwam; but he was out, and the Wolves, being vexed and starved, reviled Wild Cat, and then rushed off howling through the woods.

Now I think that the Rabbit is _m'teoulin_. Yes, he must be, for when Wild Cat started to hunt him alone, he determined with all his soul not to be caught, and made himself as magical as he could. So he picked up a handful of chips, and threw one as far as possible, then jumped to it,--for he had a charm for a long jump; and then threw another, and so on, for a great distance. This was to make no tracks, and when he thought he had got out of scent and sight and sound he scampered away like the wind.

Now, as I said, when the wolves got to Master Rabbit's house and found nothing, they smelt about and left Wild Cat, who swore by his tail that he would catch Rabbit, if he had to hunt forever and run himself to death. So, taking the house for a centre, he kept going round and round it, all the time a little further, and so more around and still further. (Footnote: While telling this, Tomah described a spiral line. It is evident that if the volute were only continued long enough it must inevitably end in finding any trail, if the point of departure be only known. This device is familiar to all Indians, and it is mentioned in other stories.) Then at last having found the track, he went in hot haste after Mr. Rabbit. And both ran hard, till, night coming on, Rabbit, to protect himself, had only just time _to trample down the snow a little, and stick up a spruce twig on end and sit on it_. But when Wild Cat came up he found there a fine wigwam, and put his head in. All that he saw was an old man of very grave and dignified appearance, whose hair was gray, and whose majestic (_sogmoye_) appearance was heightened by a pair of long and venerable ears. And of him Wild Cat asked in a gasping hurry if he had seen a Rabbit running that way.

"Rabbits!" replied the old man. "Why, of course I have seen many. They abound in the woods about here. I see dozens of them every day." With this he said kindly to Wild Cat that he had better tarry with him for a time. "I am an old man," he remarked with solemnity,--"an old man, living alone, and a respectable guest, like you, sir, comes to me like a blessing." And the Cat, greatly impressed, remained. After a good supper he lay down by the fire, and, having run all day, was at once asleep, and made but one nap of it till morning. But how astonished, and oh, how miserable he was, when he awoke, to find himself on the open heath in the snow and almost starved! The wind blew as if it had a keen will to kill him; it seemed to go all through his body. Then he saw that he had been a fool and cheated by magic, and in a rage swore again by his teeth, as well as his tail, that the Rabbit should die. There was no hut now, only the trampled snow and a spruce twig, and yet out of this little, Rabbit had conjured up so great a delusion.

Then he ran again all day. And when night came, Master Rabbit, having a little more time than before, again trampled down the snow, but for a greater space, and strewed many branches all about, for now a huge effort was to be made. And when Wild Cat got there he found a great Indian village, with crowds of people going to and fro. The first building he saw was a church, in which service was being held. And he, entering, said hastily to the first person he saw, "Ha! ho! have you seen a Rabbit running by here?"

"Hush--sh, sh!" replied the man. "You must wait till meeting is over before asking such questions." (Footnote: Though this story is very old, the incident of the church (_sogmoye wigwam_, or chief house) is manifestly modern.) Then a young man beckoned to him to come in, and he listened till the end to a long sermon on the wickedness of being vindictive and rapacious; and the preacher was a gray ancient, and his ears stood up over his little cap like the two handles of a pitcher, yet for all that the Wild Cat's heart was not moved one whit. And when it was all at an end he said to the obliging young man, "But _have_ you seen a Rabbit running by?"

"Rabbits! Rabbits!" replied the young man. "Why, there are hundreds racing about in the cedar swamps near this place, and you can have as many as you want." "Ah!" replied Wild Cat, "but they are not what I seek. Mine is an entirely different kind." The other said that he knew of no sort save the wild wood-rabbits, but that perhaps their Governor, or Chief, who was very wise, could tell him all about them. Then the Governor, or Sagamore, came up. Like the preacher, he was very remarkable and gray, with the long locks standing up one on either side of his head. And he invited the stranger to his house, where his two very beautiful daughters cooked him a fine supper. And when he wished to retire they brought out blankets and a beautiful _white bear's skin_, and made up a bed for him by the fire. Truly, his eyes were closed as soon as he lay down, but when he awoke there had been a great change. For now he was in a wet cedar swamp, the wind blowing ten times worse than ever, and his supper and sleep had done him little good, for they were all a delusion. All around him were rabbits' tracks and broken twigs, but nothing more.

Yet he sprang up, more enraged than ever, and swearing more terribly by his tail, teeth, and claws that he would be revenged. So he ran on all day, and at night, when he came to another large village, he was so weary that he could just gasp, "Have--you--seen a Rab--bit run this way?" With much concern and kindness they all asked him what was the matter. So he told them all this story, and they pitied him very much; yea, one gray old man,--and this was the Chief,--with two beautiful daughters, shed tears and comforted him, and advised him to stay with them. So they took him to a large hall, where there was a great fire burning in the middle thereof. And over it hung two pots with soup and meat, and two Indians stood by and gave food to all the people. And he had his share with the rest, and all feasted gayly.

Now, when they had done eating, the old Governor, who was very gray, and from either side of whose head rose two very venerable, long white feathers, rose to welcome the stranger, and in a long speech said it was, indeed, the custom of their village to entertain guests, but that they expected from them a song. Then Wild Cat, who was vain of his voice, uplifted it in vengeance against the Rabbits:--


"Oh, how I hate them! How I despise them!
How I laugh at them! May I scalp them all!"


Then he said that he thought the Governor should sing. And to this the Chief consented, but declared that all who were present should bow their heads while seated, and shut their eyes, which they did. Then Chief Rabbit, at one bound, cleared the heads of his guests, and drawing his _timheyen_, or tomahawk, as he jumped, gave Wild Cat a wound which cut deeply into his head, and only fell short of killing him by entirely stunning him. When he recovered, he was again in snow, slush, and filth, more starved than ever, his head bleeding from a dreadful blow, and he himself almost dead. Yet, with all that, the Indian devil was stronger in him than ever, for every new disgrace did but bring more resolve to be revenged, and he swore it by his tail, claws, teeth, and eyes.

So he tottered along, though he could hardly walk; nor could he, indeed, go very far that day. And when, almost broken down with pain and weariness, he came about noon to two good wigwams. Looking into one, he saw a gray-haired old man, and in the other a young girl, apparently his daughter. And they received him kindly, and listened to his story, saying it was very sad, the old man declaring that he must really remain there, and that he would get him a doctor, since, unless he were well cared for at once, he would die. Then he went forth as if in great concern, leaving his daughter to nurse the weary, wounded stranger.

Now, when the Doctor came, he, too, was an old gray man, with a scalp-lock strangely divided like two horns. But the Wild Cat had become a little suspicious, having been so often deceived, for much abuse will cease to amuse even the most innocent; and truly he was none of these. And, looking grimly at the Doctor, (Footnote: This cross-examination of the Doctor is taken from an Abenaki version, narrated by a St. Francis Indian to Miss Alger. This Indian is the well-known Josep Cappino.) he said: "I was asking if any Rabbits are here, and truly you look very much like one yourself. How did you get that split nose?" "Oh, that is very simple," replied the old man. "Once I was hammering wampum beads, and the stone on which I beat them broke in halves, and one piece flew up, and, as you see, split my nose." "But," persisted the Wild Cat, "why are the soles of your feet so yellow, even like a Rabbit's?" "Ah, that is because I have been preparing some tobacco, and I had to hold it down with my feet, for, truly, I needed both my hands to work with. So the tobacco stained them yellow." Then the Wild Cat suspected no more, and the Doctor put salve on his wound, so that he felt much better, and, ere he departed, put by him a platter of very delicate little round biscuits, or rolls, and a beautiful pitcher full of nice wine, and bade him refresh himself from these during the night, and so, stealing away softly, he departed.

But oh, the wretchedness of the awaking in the morning! For then Wild Cat found himself indeed in the extreme of misery. His head was swollen and aching to an incredible degree, and the horrible wound, which was gaping wide, had been stuffed with hemlock needles and pine splinters, and this was the cool salve which the Doctor had applied. And as a last touch to his rage and shame, thinking in his deadly thirst of the wine, he beheld on the ground, still left in the snow, a last summer's pitcher-plant, half full of what might indeed pass for wine by the mere sight thereof, though hardly to the taste. While seeking for the biscuits on a platter, he found only certain small pellets, such as abound about a rabbit warren. And then he swore by all his body and soul that he would slay the next being he met, Rabbit or Indian. Verily this time he would be utterly revenged.

Now Mahtigwess, the Rabbit, had almost come to an end of his _m'teoulin_, or wizard power, for that time, yet he had still enough left for one more great effort. And, coming to a lake, he picked up a very large chip, and having seamed it with sorcery and magnified it by magic threw it into the water, where it at once seemed to be a great ship, such as white men build. And when the Wild Cat came up he saw it, with sails spread and flags flying, and the captain stood so stately on the deck, with folded arms, and he was a fine, gray-haired, dignified man, with a cocked hat, the two points of which were like grand and stately horns. But the Wild Cat had sworn, and he was mindful of his great oath; so he cried, "You cannot escape me this time, Rabbit! I have you now!" Saying this he plunged in, and tried to swim to the ship. And the captain, seeing a Wild Cat in the water, being engaged in musket drill, ordered his men to fire at it, which they did with a bang! Now this was caused by a party of night-hawks overhead, who swooped down with a sudden cry like a shot; at least it seemed so to Wild Cat, who, deceived and appalled by this volley, deeming that he had verily made a mistake this time, turned, tail and swam ashore into the dark old forest, where, if he is not dead, he is running still. (Footnote: This expression, very common among the Indians, appears to have been taken from the Canadians, _Il court encore_ ends many of their stories. This was related to me by Tomah Josephs, September 2, 1882. I have four versions of it. In one, the Chippewa, given by Schoolcraft, the wretched efforts to rival the woodpeckers and bear are attributed to a no less personage than Hiawatha, or Manobozho, himself, when under a cloud. But Hiawatha as a poem deals only with the better part of the hero's character. In the Rand manuscript, the most amusing portion of the adventures of the Rabbit, or those with the Wild Cat, are much abbreviated. Tomah's tale supplies this missing portion, but consists of nothing else. The Abenaki tale is slightly different in its beginning: "Rabbit was making maple-sugar in the woods, but he was very pious, and rested on the Sabbath. While praying on this day by his hearth, there came a great black fierce man, who glared at him, but Mahtigwess kept saying 'Peace! peace! peace!' for that is the way the Rabbit prays. Then the stranger was angry because he would not cease praying and talk to him, but the Rabbit said, 'Would you have me break the Sabbath?' Then he went and brought the stranger, who was a Wild Cat, refreshments." These refreshments were the same as those given by the Doctor. Here the chase begins.

There is probably much more of this story.)

 

V. How Master Rabbit Went to a Wedding and Won the Bride.

Chee mahtigwess, or the Great Rabbit, was once very stout or large of body, having a very long tail. And one day in the old times, as he sat on the rock, with his fine long tail trailing afar into the bushes, an old man came by who asked the way. And Master Rabbit, being as usual obliging, offered to show it to him. So they talked together and grew intimate, but as the old man went very slowly, while Rabbit was always running, he said, "Go on before, and I will follow." So the guide was soon out of sight, and then the old man, hurrying without heeding, fell down into a deep pit or chasm, where he cried out aloud for help, but was not heard. After a time, Rabbit, missing his follower, turned back and tracked him till he found the pit. Yet they could not between them manage to bring the traveler up again, until Rabbit said, "Catch hold of my tail;" and when this was done he gave a jump, but alas! the fine tail broke off short within an inch of the root.

One would think that by this time Master Rabbit must have had enough of helping, but all the stories of him show that he never gave up anything which he had once begun. So he simply said to the old man, "Catch hold of me round the waist;" and when this was done he gave another leap, and brought the prisoner out. But the man, being heavy, had slipped down, and almost broken Rabbit's back. So it came to pass that since that day Master Rabbit has had a very short tail and a slender waist.

The old man was on his way to marry a young girl. But she was in love with Mikumwess, the forest fairy. However, the old man married her, and invited Master Rabbit to the dance, which in old times made the ceremony. And the guest dressed for the occasion by putting ear-rings on his heels--for Rabbits or Hares dance on their tip-toes--and a beautiful bangle round his neck, and he danced opposite the bride. Now the bride had on only a very short skirt, and in crossing a brook it had got wet. So that as she danced, it began to shrink and shrink, until Master Rabbit, pitying the poor girl, ran out and got a deer-skin, and hastily twisted a cord to tie it with. But it seemed as if Master Rabbit's efforts to oblige people always got him into trouble, for he twisted this string so rapidly and earnestly, holding one end of it in his teeth as he did so, that he cut his upper lip through to the nose, for which reason his descendants all have hare-lips to this day.

Now having dressed the bride, she was so grateful to Rabbit that she danced with him all the night. The old man, seeing this, was so angry at her fickleness that, without saying a word, he walked away, and left her to Mahtigwess, with whom she lived very happily until she ran away with Mikumwess; with whom, if she has not run away again, she is living yet. This story is at an end.

 

VI. How Master Rabbit Gave Himself Airs.

It happened once that Lox was living in great luxury. He had a wigwam full of hundreds of dried sea-ducks, moose meat, maple sugar, and corn. He gave a dinner, and among the guests invited Marten and Mahtigwess, the Rabbit.

Now it is a great weakness of Master Rabbit that he is much given to hinting at one minute, and saying pretty plainly the next, that he has been in better society than that around him, and has lived among great people, and no one was quicker than the Marten to find out that wherein any one was foolish or feeble. So when Master Rabbit, smoothing down his white fur, said it was the only kind of a coat worn by the aristocracy, Marten humbly inquired, "if that were so, how he came by it."

"It shows," replied Master Rabbit, "that I have habitually kept company with gentlemen."

"How did you get that slit in your lip?" inquired Marten, who knew very well what this Indian really was.

"Ah!" replied the Rabbit, "where _I_ live they use knives and forks. And one day, while eating with some great sagamores, my knife slipped, and I cut my lip."

"And why are your mouth and whiskers always going when you are still? Is that high style?"

"Yes; I am meditating, planning, combining great affairs; talking to myself, you see. That's the way _we_ do."

"But why do you always hop? Why don't you sometimes walk, like other people?"

"Ah, that's _our_ style. We gentlemen don't run, like the vulgar. _We_ have a gait of our own, don't you know?"

"Indeed! Well, if you don't mind a question, I would like to know why you always scamper away so suddenly, and jump so far and so rapidly when you run."

"Aw! don't you know? I used to be employed in very genteel business; public service,--in fact, diplomatic. I carried dispatches (_weegadigunn_, Micmac; _wighiggin_, Pass.)--books, letters, papers, and so I got in the way of moving nimbly. Now it comes naturally to me. One of my old aristocratic habits." (Footnote: This droll dialogue occurs in the middle of the Micmac story of Lox, or Badger, and the Ducks and Bear, where it evidently does not belong, or has been interpolated to make length. In the original, Marten carries his inquiries much further into certain physiological details, all of which Master Rabbit naively explains as the result of the delicate diet and the wine to which he as a gentleman had been accustomed.)

Upon this Marten gave it up. He had seen something of good society himself, as he lived habitually with Glooskap, but Master Rabbit was too much for him.

 

VII. the Young Man Who Was Saved By a Rabbit and a Fox.

There dwelt a couple in the woods, far away from other people,--a man and his wife. They had one boy, who grew up strong and clever. One day he said, "Father and mother, let me go and see other men and women." They grieved, but let him go.

He went afar. All night he lay on the ground. In the morning he heard something coming. He rose and saw it was a Rabbit, who said, "Ha, friend, where go you?" The boy answered, "To find people." "That is what I want," replied the Rabbit. "Let us go together."

So they went on for a long time, till they heard voices far off, and walking quietly came to a village. "Now," said the Rabbit, "steal up unseen, and listen to them!" The boy did so, and heard the people saying that a _kewahqu'_, a cannibal monster, was to come the next day to devour the daughter of their sagamore. And having returned and reported this to the Rabbit, the latter said to the boy, "Have no fear; go to the people and tell them that you can save her." He did so, but it was long before they would listen to him. Yet at last it came to the ears of the old chief that a strange young man insisted that he could save the girl; so the chief sent for him, and said, "They tell me that you think you can deliver my daughter from death. Do so, and she shall be yours."

Then he returned to the Rabbit, who said, "They did not send the girl far away because they know that the demon can follow any track. But I hope to make a track which he cannot follow. Now do you, as soon as it shall be dark, bring her to this place." The young man did so, and the Rabbit was there with a sled, and in his hand he had two squirrels. These he smoothed down, and as he did so they grew to be as large as the largest sled-dogs. Then all three went headlong, like the wind, till they came to another village.

The Rabbit looked about till he found a certain wigwam, and then peered through a crevice into it. "This is the place," he said. "Enter." They did so; then the Rabbit ran away. They found in the cabin an old woman, who was very kind, but who, on seeing them, burst into tears. "Ah, my dear grandchildren," (Footnote: The terms grandchildren, grandmother, etc., do not here signify actual relationship, but only friendship between elderly and young people.) she cried, "your death is following you rapidly, for the kewahqu' is on your track, and will soon be here. But run down to the river, where you will find your grandfather camping."

They went, and were joined by the Rabbit, who had spent the time in making many divergent tracks in the ground. The kewahqu' came. The tracks delayed him a long time, but at last he found the right one. Meanwhile the young couple went on, and found an old man by the river. He said, "Truly you are in great danger, for the kewahqu' is coming. But I will help you." Saying this, he threw himself into the water, where he floated with outstretched limbs, and said, "Now, my children, get on me." The girl feared lest she should fall off, but being reassured mounted, when he turned into a canoe, which carried them safely across. But when they turned to look at him, lo! he was no longer a canoe, but an old Duck. "Now, my dear children," he said, "hasten to the top of yonder old mountain, high among the gray rocks. There you will find your friend." They fled, to the old gray mountain. The kewahqu' came raging and roaring in a fury, but however he pursued they were at the foot of the precipice before him.

There stood the Rabbit. He was holding up a very long pole; no pine was ever longer. "Climb this," he said. And, as they climbed, it lengthened, till they left it for the hill, and then scrambled up the rocks. Then the kewahqu' came yelling and howling horribly. Seeing the fugitives far above, he swarmed up the pole. With him, too, it grew, and grew rapidly, till it seemed to be half a mile high. Now the kewahqu' was no such sorcerer that he could fly; neither had he wings; he must remain on the pole; and when he came to the top the young man pushed it afar. It fell, and the monster was killed by the fall thereof.

They went with the squirrel-sledge; they flew through the woods on the snow by the moonlight; they were very glad. And at last they came to the girl's village, when the Rabbit said, "Now, friend, good-by. Yet there is more trouble coming, and when it is with you I and mine will aid you. So farewell." And when they were home again it all appeared like a dream. Then the wedding feast was held, and all seemed well.

But the young men of the village hated the youth, and desired to kill him, that they might take his wife. They persuaded him to go with them fishing on the sea. Then they raised a cry, and said, "A whale is chasing us! he is under the canoe!" and suddenly they knocked him overboard, and paddled away like an arrow in flight.

The young man called for help. A Crow came, and said, "Swim or float as long as you can. I will bring you aid." He floated a long time. The Crow returned with a strong cord; the Crow made himself very large; he threw one end of the cord to the youth; by the other he towed him to a small island. "I can do no more," he said; "but there is another friend." So as the youth sat there, starving and freezing, there came to him a Fox. "Ha, friend," he said, "are you here?" "Yes," replied the youth, "and dying of hunger." The Fox reflected an instant, and said, "Truly I have no meat; and yet there is a way." So he picked from the ground a blade of dry grass, and bade the youth eat it. He did so, and found himself a moose (or a _horse_). Then he fed richly on the young grass till he had enough, when the Fox gave him a second straw, and he became a man again. "Friend," said the Fox, "there is an Indian village on the main-land, where there is to be a great feast, a grand dance. Would you like to be there?" "Indeed I would," replied the youth. "Then wait till dark, and I will take you there," said the Fox. And when night came he bade the youth close his eyes and enter the river, and take hold of the end of his tail, while he should draw. So in the tossing sea they went on for hours. _Thought_ the youth, "We shall never get there." _Said_ the Fox, "Yes, we will, but keep your eyes shut." So it went on for another hour, when the youth _thought_ again, "We shall never reach land." _Said_ the Fox, "Yes, we shall." However, after a time he opened his eyes, when they were only ten feet from the shore, and this cost them more time and trouble than all the previous swim ere they had the beach under foot.

It was his own village. The festival was for the marriage of his own wife to one of the young men who had pushed him overboard. Great was his magic power, great was his anger; he became strong as death. Then he went to his own wigwam, and his wife, seeing him, cried aloud for joy, and kissed him and wept all at once. He said, "Be glad, but the hour of punishment for the men who made these tears is come." So he went to the sagamore and told him all.

The old chief called for the young men. "Slay them all as you choose," he said to his son-in-law; "scalp them." But the youth refused. He called to the Fox, and got the straws which gave the power to transform men to beasts. He changed his enemies into bad animals,--one into a porcupine, one into a hog,--and they were driven into the woods. Thus it was that the first hog and the first porcupine came into the world.

This story, narrated by Tomah Josephs, is partly old Indian and partly European, but whether the latter element was derived from a French Canadian or a Norse source I cannot tell, since it is common to both. The mention of the horse and the hog, or of cattle, does not prove that a story is not pre-Columbian. The Norsemen had brought cattle of various descriptions even to New England. It is to be very much regretted that the first settlers in New England took no pains to ascertain what the Indians knew of the white men who had preceded them. But modern material may have easily been added to an old legend.


(The end)
Charles G. Leland's short story: Amazing Adventures Of Master Rabbit

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