Tales of the North American Indians
The Deceived Blind Men
There was a large settlement on the shore of a lake, and among its people were two very old blind men. It was decided to remove these men to the opposite side of the lake, where they might live in safety, as the settlement was exposed to the attack of enemies, when they might easily be captured and killed. So the relations of the old men got a canoe, some food, a kettle, and a bowl and started across the lake, where they built for them a wigwam in a grove some distance from the water. A line was stretched from the door of the wigwam to a post in the water, so that they would have no difficulty in helping themselves. The food and vessels were put into the wigwam, and after the relations of the old men promised them that they would call often and keep them provided with everything that was needful, they returned to their settlement.
The two old blind men now began to take care of themselves. On one day one of them would do the cooking while the other went for water, and on the next day they would change about in their work, so that their labors were evenly divided. As they knew just how much food they required for each meal, the quantity prepared was equally divided, but was eaten out of the one bowl which they had.
Here they lived in contentment for several years; but one day a Raccoon, which was following the water’s edge looking for crawfish, came to the line which had been stretched from the lake to the wigwam. The Raccoon thought it rather curious to find a cord where he had not before observed one, and wondered to himself, “What is this? I think I shall follow this cord to see where it leads.” So he followed the path along which the cord was stretched until he came to the wigwam. Approaching very cautiously, he went up to the entrance, where he saw the two old men asleep on the ground, their heads at the door and their feet directed toward the heap of hot coals within. The Raccoon sniffed about and soon found there was something good to eat within the wigwam; but he decided not to enter at once for fear of waking the old men; so he retired a short distance to hide himself and to see what they would do.
Presently the old men awoke, and one said to the other, “My friend, I am getting hungry; let us prepare some food.” “Very well,” replied his companion, “you go down to the lake and fetch some water while I get the fire started.”
The Raccoon heard this conversation, and, wishing to deceive the old man, immediately ran to the water, untied the cord from the post, and carried it to a clump of bushes, where he tied it. When the old man came along with his kettle to get water, he stumbled around the brush until he found the end of the cord; then he began to dip his kettle down upon the ground for water. Not finding any, he slowly returned and said to his companion, “We shall surely die, because the lake is dried up and the brush is grown where we used to get water. What shall we do?”
“That can not be,” responded his companion, “for we have not been asleep long enough for the brush to grow upon the lake bed. Let me go out to try if I can not get some water.” So taking the kettle from his friend he started off.
So soon as the first old man had returned to the wigwam, the Raccoon took the cord back and tied it where he had found it, then waited to see the result.
The second old man now came along, entered the lake, and getting his kettle full of water returned to the wigwam, saying [Page 61] as he entered, “My friend, you told me what was not true. There is water enough; for here, you see, I have our kettle full.” The other could not understand this at all, and wondered what had caused the deception.
The Raccoon approached the wigwam and entered to await the cooking of the food. When it was ready, the pieces of meat, for there were eight of them, were put into the bowl and the old men sat down on the ground facing each other, with the bowl between them. Each took a piece of meat, and they began to talk of various things and were enjoying themselves.
The Raccoon now quietly removed four pieces of meat from the bowl and began to eat them, enjoying the feast even more than the old blind men. Presently one of them reached into the bowl to get another piece of meat, and finding that only two pieces remained, said, “My friend, you must be very hungry to eat so rapidly; I have had but one piece, and there are but two pieces left.”
The other replied, “I have not taken them, but suspect you have eaten them yourself”; whereupon the other replied more angrily than before. Thus they argued, and the Raccoon, desiring to have more sport, tapped each of them on the face. The old men, each believing the other had struck him, began to fight, rolling over the floor of the wigwam, upsetting the bowl and the kettle, and causing the fire to be scattered. The Raccoon then took the two remaining pieces of meat and made his exit from the wigwam, laughing ha, ha, ha, ha; whereupon the old men instantly ceased their strife, for they now knew they had been deceived. The Raccoon then remarked to them, “I have played a nice trick on you; you should not find fault with each other so easily.” Then the Raccoon continued his crawfish-hunting along the lake shore.