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THE STORY OF THE FIRST CORN
C. S. B. Adapted by special permission of Houghton,
Mifflin & Co., from Longfellow's "Hiawatha."
THERE was once, in the land of the Indians, a brave
young warrior named Hiawatha. In all the tribe there
was no one able to run as fast as he, or shoot as far.
No one else could build so strong a canoe. No one
understood as well as he the songs which the wind sang
and the calls of the birds. The beasts of the forest
were all his little brothers, and he could tell
 how the beavers built their lodges, and where the
squirrels hid their acorns, how the reindeer ran so
swiftly, and why the rabbit was so timid. Yet Hiawatha
was not selfish and proud because of all his knowledge;
and he wished, always, that good should come, not to
himself, but to all the tribe.
So Hiawatha, when it was the pleasant springtime, left
his people and went far away to the forest, that he
might be alone and ask of the Great Spirit a good gift
for his people. He built a wigwam by the shining sea,
and he ate no food for seven days, but fasted and
He wandered through the leafy woods and watched all the
shy creatures which live there—the deer that jumped
from the thicket, the rabbit in his burrow, the
squirrel rattling his hoard of acorns, the pigeon
building her nest among the pine trees, and the wild
geese flocking northward. But still Hiawatha found no
gift great enough for his people.
He went down through the meadow and saw the wild rice,
the blueberry, the strawberry, and the gooseberry
growing, and the grape vine which trailed over the
elder bushes and filled all the air with its fragrance.
He watched the river where the sturgeon leaped,
scattering the drops of water like beads of wampum; the
yellow perch swam about like a sunbeam in the water,
and the herring and crawfish leaped past. But the
Indians had found all these treasures of the forest.
In the winter the water would be covered with ice, and
the meadows would yield no berries. The rabbit would
sleep in his burrow. It was a new gift which Hiawatha
wished to find.
So Hiawatha lay in his wigwam, upon his couch of
 leaves and branches, quite exhausted because he had
eaten no food; yet still he prayed the Great Spirit to
send a good gift to the Indians.
One evening as he watched the shining water and the
setting sun, he saw a stranger coming through the
woods. He was dressed in garments of green and yellow,
and his hair was soft and golden. There were nodding
green plumes upon his head, which bent down over his
forehead, and he seemed to be walking straight from the
sunset through the purple twilight to Hiawatha's
wigwam. He came nearer, until he stood in the open
doorway and looked with pity upon Hiawatha—so worn with
fasting. In a voice as soft as the sighing of the
south wind in the tree-tops, the stranger said:
"Your prayers are heard in heaven, O, my Hiawatha. You
have not asked for greater skill in hunting, or greater
craft in fishing, nor for triumph in the battle, but
for a good gift for the tribe. I am your friend,
Mondamin. Rise and wrestle with me, Hiawatha!"
So Hiawatha, very faint with fasting, came from his
wigwam and wrestled with Mondamin until the darkness
settled down upon the forest and he heard the heron
crying her night song from her nest in the spruce tree.
And as Hiawatha struggled, he grew each minute
"It is enough," cried Mondamin, "but to-morrow, at the
sunset, I will come again to try you." And he slipped
away as softly as the rain sinks into the earth or the
mists rise from the water.
On the next day, and the next, Mondamin came, and
Hiawatha wrestled bravely with him. And again, upon
the sixth day, Mondamin came, standing tall and
 beautiful in his green and yellow garments, with
the nodding green plumes upon his head, and he said:
"You have wrestled bravely, Hiawatha! To-morrow you
shall conquer me, and your fasting and struggle will be
done. Make a bed for me in the earth, where I may lie
and feel the sun and the rains upon my head. Strip
these garments, green and yellow, and these nodding
plumes from me. Let no one disturb my slumber; no
weed, or worm, or raven come near me. Only come
yourself, Hiawatha, and watch me until I wake and leap
into the sunshine."
So the seventh day Mondamin came and stood in the door
of the wigwam and beckoned; and Hiawatha wrestled more
nobly than before until he stood alone on the green
sward and Mondamin, with torn garments and tattered
plumage, lay at his feet.
Then Hiawatha dug a bed in the earth and stripped the
green and yellow garments from Mondamin, and laid him
down to sleep, with the earth very soft and light above
him. And Hiawatha went home once more, but he did not
forget the place where Mondamin lay sleeping in the rain
and the sun, with his gay plumes and garments fading on
the ground above him. Every day Hiawatha went to
watch, and soften the earth about it, and drive away the
weeds, the insects and the King Raven.
At last a small green feather shot slowly up from the
earth, and then another and another. Before the summer
was over, where Mondamin had slept, there stood the
corn in all its beauty, with its shining robes of green
and its soft, yellow tresses.
"It is my friend, Mondamin," cried Hiawatha; "he has
given me a good gift for my people!"
And when the autumn came, and the soft, green
 leaves were yellow, Hiawatha gathered the ripe ears
full of juicy kernels, and he stripped the husks from
off them—just as once he had stripped Mondamin—and he
called a great feast, to make known to his people the
beautiful gift of the first corn.