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Reading

The Comrades Native American Lore

Mashtinna, the Rabbit, was a handsome young man, and, moreover, of a kind disposition. One day, when he was hunting, he heard a child crying bitterly, and made all haste in the direction of the sound. On the further side of the wood he found one tormenting a baby boy with whips and pinches, laughing heartily meanwhile and humming a mother's lullaby. "What do you mean by abusing this innocent child?" demanded the Rabbit; but the other showed a smiling face and replied pleasantly: "You do not know what you are talking about! The child is fretful, and I am merely trying to quiet him." Mashtinna was not deceived, for he had guessed that this was Double-Face, who delights in teasing the helpless ones. "Give the boy to me!" he insisted; so that Double-Face became angry, and showed the other side of his face, which was black and scowling. "The boy is mine," he declared, "and if you say another word I shall treat you as I have treated him!" Upon this, Mashtinna fitted an arrow to the string, and shot the wicked one through the heart.

He then took the child on his arm and followed the trail to a small and poor teepee. There lived an old man and his wife, both of them blind and nearly helpless, for all of their children and grand- children, even to the smallest and last, had been lured away by wicked Double-Face. "Ho, grandfather, grandmother! have brought you back the child!" exclaimed the Rabbit, as he stood in the doorway. But the poor, blind old people had so often been deceived by that heartless Double-Face that they no longer believed anything; therefore they both cried out: "You liar! we don't believe a word you say! Get away with you, do!" Since they refused to take the child, and it was now almost night, the kind-hearted young man wrapped the boy in his own blanket and lay down with him to sleep. The next morning, when he awoke, he found to his surprise that the child had grown up during the night and was now a handsome young man, so much like him that they might have been twin brothers. "My friend, we are now comrades for life!" exclaimed the strange youth. "We shall each go different ways in the world, doing all the good we can; but if either is ever in need of help let him call upon the other and he will come instantly to his aid!" The other agreed, and they set out in opposite directions.

Not long after, the Rabbit heard a loud groaning and crying as of some person in great pain. When he reached the spot, he found a man with his body wedged tightly in the forks of a tree, which the wind swayed to and fro. He could not by any means get away, and was in great misery. "I will take your place, brother!" exclaimed the generous young man, upon which the tree immediately parted, and the tree-bound was free. Mashtinna took his place and the tree closed upon him like a vise and pinched him severely. The pain was worse than he had supposed, but he bore it as long as he could without crying out. Sweat beaded his forehead and his veins swelled to bursting; at last he could endure it no longer and called loudly upon his comrade to help him. At once the young man appeared and struck the tree so that it parted and Mashtinna was free. He kept on his journey until he spied a small wigwam quite by itself on the edge of a wood. Lifting thedoor-flap, he saw no one but an old blind man, who greeted him thankfully. "Ho, my grandson! you see me, I am old and poor. All the day I see no one. When I wish to drink, this raw-hide lariat leads me to the stream near by. When I need dry sticks for my fire, I follow this other rope and feel my way among the trees. I have food enough, for these bags are packed with dried meat for my use. But alas, my grandson, I am all alone here, and I am blind!" "Take my eyes, grandfather!" at once exclaimed the kind-hearted young man. "You shall go where you will, and I will remain here in your place." "Ho, ho, my grandson, you are very good!" replied the old man, and he gladly took the eyes of the Rabbit and went out into the world. The youth stayed behind, and as he was hungry, he ate of the dried meat in the bags.

This made him very thirsty, so he took hold of the raw-hide rope and followed it to the stream; but as he stooped to the brink, the rope broke and Mashtinna fell in. The water was cold and the bank slippery, but after a hard struggle he got out again and made his way back to the teepee, dripping wet and very miserable. Wishing to make a fire and dry his clothes, he seized the other rope and went to the wood for sticks. However, when he began to gather the sticks he lost the rope, and being quite blind he did nothing but stumble over fallen logs, and bruise himself against the trunks of trees, and scratch his face among the briers and brambles, until at last he could bear it no longer, and cried out to his comrade to come to his aid. Instantly the youth appeared and gave him back his eyes, saying at the same time: "Friend, be not so rash in future! It is right to help those who are in trouble, but you must also consider whether you are able to hold out to the end."