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Two Indian Children Of Long Ago Part 16

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THE GIFT OF CORN

A tribe of Indians once lived on the beautiful islands of a large lake. They were driven from their homes by hostile tribes. Men, women, and children left everything they owned and paddled their canoes westward to the mainland.

But Manabush, the bravest of the warriors, remained behind. It was his purpose to keep close watch of the enemy, and to send warning in time to prevent surprise.

Every day he paddled his birch canoe close to the shore, hiding in nooks and bays. He had with him two boys, and with their aid the canoe was hauled every night into the thick woods.

As they walked, they carefully covered their footprints with sand.



Each day Manabush thought of his suffering people, whose supplies of food had been stolen by the enemy. The brave warrior prayed to the spirits of earth and air, asking that food be given to his tribe.

One morning Manabush rose early, leaving the two boys asleep. He went out from the tent and walked in the forest, where he could not be seen.

Suddenly he came out upon an open plain. Approaching him was a handsome youth dressed in garments of green and yellow. In his hair he wore a red plume.

Truly this stranger must come from skyland, he thought. What answer does he bring?

"I am Mondamin," said the strange man. "Your prayers are heard, for you pray, not for yourself, but for your people. I have come to show you how by labor and struggle you can gain what you have prayed for.

You must wrestle with me."

Long they strove together. The man of the red feather was strong and active, but at last he was thrown to the earth.

[Illustration]

"I have thrown you! I have thrown you!" shouted Manabush.

"You have gained a great gift for your people," said Mondamin, "for I am the spirit of the corn."

Even as he spoke, a wonderful change took place. Gone was the man who had wrestled with such strength. His garments had turned into green and yellow corn husks, and his body to a ripe red ear of corn. But the red plume was still waving.

Again the voice of Mondamin was heard from the ground. "Take from me my covers. Scatter my kernels over the plain. Break my spine and throw it all about you.

"Make the earth soft and light above me. Let no bird disturb me, and let no weed share my resting place. Watch me till I stand once more tall and beautiful. Then you shall have food for your people."

Manabush obeyed all that the voice had commanded. On the way back to his canoe he killed a deer, but he said no word to his companions of his strange adventure with the man of the red feather.

When the new moon hung like a bow in the west, he visited the field alone. What were the wide grass-like blades making green the plain?

What were the vines that sent their runners all about?

Carefully he tilled the field. The stems grew strong, and the broad leaves gleamed in the sunshine. Still he kept the secret, spending many hours in watching for his enemies.

When summer drew near its close, Manabush paddled his canoe to the shore nearest the wrestling ground. He found the corn clad in green and yellow, with red plumes waving. And great yellow pumpkins were ripening on the green vines.

As he picked the ripe red ears he heard a voice from the field, saying: "Victory has crowned your struggles, O Manabush. The gift of corn is to your people, and will always be their food."

THE MAGIC CANOE

One night, as Manabush was lying on the ground in the thick woods, he heard strange voices. "This is no common enemy," he said to himself.

But he lay motionless and listened.

The evil spirits were plotting to take his life. By his magic power he was able to defend himself from their attacks, and they slipped away unseen.

In the morning he went to the open shore. There he saw a canoe drawn up on the beach. Coming near, he found a man in the bow and another in the stern. They had been changed into stone images as a punishment for their wicked deeds.

The canoe was the largest and finest that Manabush had ever seen. It was full of bags of the most beautiful clothing and stores of the rarest food.

Manabush carried all the treasures into the wood and concealed them in a cave. Then he took the magic canoe and hid it among the rocks.

[Illustration]

A voice was heard from one of the stone images: "In this way will the canoes of your people be loaded when they pass again along this coast."

Manabush returned to his two young companions, bidding them arise and cook. He showed them the abundance of meat and fish, the bags of maple sugar and dried berries, and other foods liked by the Indians.

Then he thought of his aged father and mother, who had fled far from their homes. Danger seemed past, and he wished them to return and share his gifts.

Westward he sailed in the magic canoe. He needed no paddles, for his wishes guided him, and the boat flew through the water with amazing speed.

Before daylight he was at the lodge of his parents. He found them asleep, and he carried them to his canoe so gently that they did not awaken.

When they awoke in the morning, they could hardly believe their eyes.

They had left behind hunger and a barren lodge. They found themselves in their own country, with abundance all about them.

Food was placed before them. Then the bags were opened. There were beaded dresses for the mother and war bonnets for the father. There were moccasins and warm blankets. There were skins as soft as the most skilled work could produce.

Manabush built his parents a lodge near the cornfield and filled it with every comfort. Then he brought ears of corn and pumpkins and laid before them. He told them of his wrestling with Mondamin, and he showed them the field where the corn stood in its garments of green and yellow, waving its red plumes.

The secret of the magic canoe, the stone images, and the wonderful gifts was shared by Manabush with his father and mother.

When spring returned a large cornfield grew and prospered. The exiled tribe came back, and from that time they were noted for their fine crops of maize.

THE HAPPY HUNTING GROUNDS

All who leave the earth must follow the death trail. Each walks alone--warrior, squaw, or child. All but papoose. The good spirits carry papoose.

The trail goes on and on to the place where the sun slips over the edge of the earth plane. There it comes to a deep, rapid stream, and the only bridge is a slippery pine log.

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